Mr. Speaker, before beginning my speech, I would like to give a short preamble. The bill was introduced following numerous acts of vandalism a few years ago against Canadian war memorials. Let us be clear: we condemn these acts and all such acts.
Like all my colleagues who spoke before me, I have the deepest respect for our veterans. At Remembrance Day ceremonies, we will all be taking part in a number of different events in our respective constituencies. It will be an opportunity to show our support and recognition for our soldiers and our veterans.
The fact that Canadians visit war memorials indicates just how deeply the people of Canada feel about the men and women of the Canadian Forces and about those who fell in the field of battle. Whenever a war memorial is desecrated, we can only condemn such a gesture.
However, I would like to distance myself from the comments made by my hon. colleague from Dufferin—Caledon about the scope of this bill. As noted by my hon. colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore, the official opposition critic for veterans, those who desecrate a war memorial do so carelessly. For that reason, I believe that the penalties provided in this bill are too severe. Moreover, adding minimum sentences would likely have a negative impact on the already high cost of our correctional system.
Veterans and active members of the Canadian Forces deserve decent services from the government. New Democrats believe that the best approach would be to show unconditional, concrete and strong support. This means an appropriate use of resources and proper support to ensure that people who have served Canada can live well and prosper in society. Furthermore, the Criminal Code already provides general forms of remedy.
For all these reasons, we will not be supporting C-217, An Act to amend the Criminal Code.
To conclude, allow me to mention something I learned from my experience as a teacher and criminologist: it is important never to forget that education is the most powerful form of prevention. I will not support this bill because it is too repressive and gives very little consideration to prevention.