Madam Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to thank my hon. colleagues from all sides for participating in the debate on this important piece of legislation.
Bill C-394 is the legislation that Canada needs in order to make our streets and communities safer for everyone to enjoy.
This is not about politics or partisanship. It is my belief and hope that when it comes to protecting our youth and our most vulnerable citizens, we are all on the same side. Our youth are our future, and it is our responsibility to provide an environment in which they can reach their greatest potential. This bill is a necessity in today's environment.
Recently, the necessity for this bill has been made even more clear. Two heartbreaking and tragic examples of gang activity have instilled horror and fear in communities across this country.
The tragic shooting which took place at the Eaton Centre in Toronto seems to have been fuelled by an internal gang rift. The shooting claimed two lives and injured numerous others. The shooter's father said that his son was changed by his involvement in gangs at an early age.
This incident put the security and safety of law-abiding citizens in jeopardy. My most heartfelt and deepest condolences go out to the families and loved ones of those affected by this horrific violence.
This week Canadians were horrified by the story of a 16-year-old girl from Winnipeg. This young girl was taken around to different lawyers' offices by a street gang in hopes of her signing a sworn statement falsely pinning the blame of operating a crack house solely on her.
This highlights the brazen lengths to which gangs will go to manipulate our most vulnerable citizens without a care for their well-being, safety or future. Gangs have absolutely no regard for the lives of innocent Canadian citizens. We need to do something about this, and the time is now.
It has been noted by the RCMP, CSIS and front-line service workers that gang recruitment is a growing problem in our neighbourhoods. These entities have cautioned that Canada's gang population will continue to grow as a byproduct of aggressive recruitment.
While restorative and preventive programs and measures are needed, there is a legal void that needs to be filled. Bill C-394 would fill that void. There are far too many youth today who are coerced, manipulated and at times forced to join gangs.
The realities of the gang lifestyle are heartbreaking. Death, guns, drugs, violence, substance abuse, criminal activity and prostitution are all too common in this environment. It is a lifestyle in which no person should ever find himself or herself, yet far too many do.
It is our responsibility not only as elected representatives but as citizens of this country to work together in an effort to make our future safe for all.
This proposed legislation is an important tool that our criminal justice system needs in order to address this growing concern. The act of gang recruitment does not just affect those directly involved, but it also is a danger to families, communities and the safety of every Canadian.
Young Canadians, regardless of where they grow up, should be able to grow and explore their potential in a safe environment. It is an unfortunate and disheartening reality that youth today are targeted by active and violent gangs. The means by which these gangs recruit our youth are inhumane and life altering.
This reality necessitates the quick passage of Bill C-394, because one person recruited into a gang is one person too many. It is time to take action so that families do not need to live in fear in communities across this country and can enjoy the safety and security that we all deserve.