Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate that intervention.
As I was saying, I believe that my colleague, the member for Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, proposes this measure in good faith and attempts to tackle an important issue.
The bill's intention appears to be to improve support and fairness for victims of crime and their families and to ensure offenders meet their obligations to society. That is something I know all members of this House support.
Victims of crime must, of course, be treated with compassion, dignity and respect. They need and deserve the support of their community and the support of their government. The government has an obligation to listen to and respond to the needs of victims, but the Conservative government's record on that score leaves a great deal to be desired.
My colleagues opposite spin a good yarn about defending and supporting victims, but when it comes to concrete action, they obstinately, and flying in the face of all evidence, pursue policies that will increase crime levels, increase recidivism and make our streets less safe than they are today.
From its omnibus crime legislation, which experts expect will actually create many more victims of crime, to the shameful decision to end the gun registry and destroy the attendant records, the Conservative government continues to promote policies that victims of crime oppose.
In fact, it is pretty clear that the government has about as much respect for the views of crime victims as it has respect for facts and evidence in public policy-making, that is, none.
The government fails to provide adequate supports for victims of crime and fails utterly to understand and address the root causes of crime. That is a fundamental difference between our approach and the approach of members opposite.
We want to help victims recover and to offer them every support we possibly can. We want to provide the necessary resources to help them heal and to put their lives back together after enduring experiences that, in some cases, are more terrible than any of us here can imagine.
I think any victim would tell us that among the best things we can do as legislators is to work towards a more effective criminal justice system and do everything in our power to prevent criminal behaviour in the first place.
The economically and socially responsible approach is to invest in crime prevention by investing in Canadians and in our communities. We can begin by committing to develop a coherent and robust national housing strategy and put in place a sensible plan to address homelessness. This country has as many as 300,000 homeless people on our streets, yet we remain the only country in the G8 that lacks a national housing strategy.
We must ensure that all Canadians have access to primary health care, including mental health treatment facilities and addiction programs.
We must ensure that aboriginal Canadians have access to the housing, health care and education resources necessary to build strong and vibrant communities.
We must ensure that young Canadians have opportunities through early learning, post-secondary education and apprenticeship programs to participate fully in our economy and become engaged, contributing members of society.
We must build and support a functional corrections system that offers effective rehabilitation programming that reduces the risk of reoffending when prisoners leave the criminal justice system.
What we have seen instead from the government is an abdication of responsibility for providing the kinds of social supports, that is, housing, health care, education and jobs, that are the foundations of an effective crime prevention strategy. We have also seen a complete failure on the part of the Conservative government to live up to its promise to put more police on the streets.
In fact, the government has failed crime victims. It has failed the criminal justice system. It has failed communities. But that is what happens when governments pursue public policy on the basis of ideology rather than evidence.
During the Senate committee hearings on Bill C-10, the Conservatives' omnibus crime bill, the Minister of Public Safety told senators to ignore the facts when it comes to public safety. He said, “I don't know if the statistics demonstrate that crime is down. I'm focused on danger.”
This is not the first time we have been told to ignore the facts by the Conservatives. In response to questions about Bill C-10, the Minister of Justice said, “We're not governing on the basis of the latest statistics.”
Indeed, the blind pursuit of ideology, and a dogged determination to dismiss facts and evidence as inconveniences, is a deeply troubling hallmark of the Conservative government. It is unacceptable, and frankly, Canadians have had enough. Canadians deserve better and victims deserve better.
I regret that the legislation before us today is not part of the comprehensive, evidence-based, long-term view of Canada's criminal justice system that we need. However, I can broadly support the intended purpose of the bill, and it raises some issues that deserve closer examination. Victims deserve to be better supported and this bill may be one way to take a step in that direction.
I also support recommendations 12 and 13 of the Ombudsman for Victims report “Toward a Greater Respect for Victims of Crime in the Corrections and Conditional Release Act“, which calls for an amendment to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to ensure offenders will fulfill their court ordered sentences, including restitution and victim fine surcharges, and authorizing Correctional Services Canada to deduct from an offender's earnings reasonable amounts for restitution or victim fine surcharges orders.
I do have some concerns with the bill. It would seem there are jurisdictional issues that may prove difficult to overcome. As my colleague, the member for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, pointed out, the bill appears to be designed to create two civil law systems, one for prisoners and another for the rest of society. However, the protection of the law applies to all citizens, including prisoners.
As well, I am unaware of any existing problems with judgments being paid. I wonder if the bill really represents a solution to a problem, or whether it is in fact an exercise in wedge politics.
If the government is genuinely interested in providing effective and meaningful support for victims of crime, why does it not reinstate federal funding for criminal injuries compensation programs? These programs have largely collapsed because of a lack of funding. There are countless victims of crime who are suffering today, with no support, with no restitution, because the offenders have no money. Why does the government continue to ignore those crime victims?
Despite these significant shortcomings, I am willing to take a closer look at the bill to see where and how the broader objectives, the better intentions, can be supported.
I want to take this opportunity to encourage the members across the way to help make all conversations that we have in this place about victims more productive. I would encourage the members across to put aside ideology and to instead pay attention to facts, to evidence, to expertise and experience when it comes to developing policies on public safety. This means supporting and promoting proven and effective crime prevention strategies, which make both financial and practical sense, so we can work together toward reducing the number of victims of crime in our country.