Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak on third reading of Bill C-350, and I am pleased to reaffirm that the NDP will be supporting this bill in the final vote.
This is a bill which has the worthy objective of supporting offenders and taking responsibility for the consequences of their actions. However, before I give the wrong impression to the public, let me stress that this is a very narrow bill, which will affect only a very small group of offenders. It applies only to that small group who receive funds as a result of a court-ordered settlement against the Crown. During the course of the debate on this bill, no one has been able to provide an accurate number of those offenders who receive such settlements. However, the sponsor of the bill, the witnesses before committee and the parliamentary secretary have all assured us that this number is very low.
From the beginning, on this side of the House we have said the bill sets out an order of priorities for disbursing such funds. Limited as they might be, it is an order that we can support. The first priority is spousal and child support. I was very pleased to hear the hon. member acknowledge that there are, in addition to the direct victims of crime, often other indirect victims, who are the families and children of those who commit criminal acts. They often lose their main source of income and then end up losing their homes and all kinds of other things, through no fault of their own. The second is payments to victims as a result of restitution orders. Of course, on this side of the House we have always supported offenders having to fulfill their duties under restitution orders. The third is the payment of any victim surcharges that are owing. Finally, fourth is the payment of any civil judgments against offenders. New Democrats can support this order of priorities, and for that reason we can support this bill.
Obviously, getting additional resources to victims and families of offenders, who both often find themselves in dire straits as a result of criminal acts, is a good thing to do. Yet, we still have some doubts about the constitutionality of this bill with respect to federal-provincial jurisdiction. We are supporting the bill based on the assurances from the government as to the legal advice it has received on this point, but we expect to hear further from the provinces, perhaps in debate in the Senate.
We in the NDP would not be supporting this bill had the government not agreed to bring forth one very important amendment. That amendment, which we originally proposed in committee, was to exempt payments from the Crown made under the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. We felt it was very important to recognize that aboriginal people who might receive payments as a result of abuse suffered in residential schools would be revictimized, if such payments were taken from one victim and transferred to another. We must recognize that the experience of physical, psychological and sexual abuse in the residential schools was very often the source of the involvement of those offenders with the legal system in the first place.
We are supporting this bill, recognizing its good intentions. We are cognizant of its very limited scope in providing assistance to victims, and while we appreciate the government's support for this private member's bill, we would call on the government to turn its attention now to the full recommendations of the victims ombudsman from last February. That is, not just the increase to the victim surcharge before the House now, and not just this bill, but the full range of recommendations from the victims ombudsman.
Let me conclude today by saying that we will be voting for this bill with the full knowledge that, at best, it will make only a small contribution to repairing the damage resulting from criminal acts. We do so while continuing to look forward to seeing further initiatives from the government to provide more extensive and effective assistance to victims of crime.