Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-37.
I will remind members of what our critic, the member for Gatineau, has stated. We support the bill at second reading. We are anxious to see it move forward to committee where we will give the matter more examination.
There is no question that members of the official opposition support victims of crime and their families. We recognize the value of provincial and federal services that have been provided to victims of crime and their families. However, there is a concern whether these services are adequate and sufficiently funded. I certainly have not heard an adequate explanation from the government whether this additional surcharge would ensure that those services are properly funded. If we are going to provide services to victims and their families to try to address some of the impact of the crimes to which they have been affected, then the support needs to be there and it needs to be properly funded.
We have raised our concern with the idea that the discretion of the courts has been removed in terms of deciding whether the surcharge creates an undue burden and hardship on the offender. This goes to the point that the Conservative government seems to continually move in on the jurisdiction of the judiciary to remove the learned discretion the courts have earned over many decades. This is a concern. In other words, the government is moving into an area in which, frankly, it has no business being. The Conservatives seem to be cherry-picking to restrain the judiciary in areas they think are politically advantageous to them.
There is certainly no evidence as to whether this achieves any positive outcome in terms of addressing crime and making our communities and Canadians any safer. They appear to continually penalize the people who are trying to ensure there is a balance of fairness in restitution and rehabilitation within the system, which has been shown to be much more responsive to the demands that we ensure that our communities are safer for Canadians.
I have some experience with the Nova Scotia victim fine surcharge and its implementation. It is an important measure, but I have not heard the government talk about the consultations it has had with provincial jurisdictions. Is there a standard application for the victim fine surcharge across the country?
I have not heard if the government has worked in any way to make sure that there is some standardization across the country or that the application of this victim fine surcharge is being applied in a uniform fashion across the country and that it complements what already exists in provincial jurisdictions. That is an important question. Certainly it is one members on this side will be pursuing at committee and in further debate in this chamber.
We recognize that more has to be done. We are concerned that members opposite are looking for an easy fix, for measures that would appear to be having some impact. They could be doing more in a substantive way to get at the issues of crime and punishment, to ensure that victims are properly compensated, that services are in place to deal with the impacts of the crimes on victims and their families in the most effective way possible. As we have said, the intent of the bill, which is to ensure that services for victims of crime are properly funded, is laudable and is something we support. Whether this increase would properly fund those programs, we have not heard as yet. These questions will be forthcoming.
I have not heard anything from government members during the second reading debate to answer some of our questions. I am not the first member to raise these questions, but we have not heard anything in response. They are important questions. We are not here simply to pass laws that fulfill a political objective. We are here to ensure the laws of this land do what they are supposed to do, that they are properly thought out and have the intended impact.
It is unfortunate that we are dealing with a piece of legislation in this House when there does not seem to have been an attempt to coordinate it with what exists at the provincial level. There is Bill C-350 and there are some conflicts between it and Bill C-37. Those things have to be clarified. We have to ensure that the work we are doing here is adding in a positive and constructive way to the laws of this land and not creating more conflict. We have already seen that legislation passed by the government, as it deals with crime and justice, has been challenged in various jurisdictions. Various provisions have been struck down by the courts. I suggest that these things happen because the legislation is not well thought out and members of this House who have much experience and knowledge to bring to bear are not given the opportunity to fully engage in debate and examination of legislation.
In conclusion, we on this side will be supporting this bill in principle to send it to committee. However, we have a number of outstanding questions that we will be pursuing. I hope members opposite will recognize the need to co-operate to ensure that this legislation, if it passes this House at the end of the process, is the best piece of legislation it can possibly be.