Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak to this bill today.
I will be using the full 10 minutes that I have. It is not that I do not want to proceed to the vote, but I do believe that it is important to highlight my colleague's hard work. This proves to victims that we are here to listen to them and that all we want is to be able to help them get through those extremely difficult times.
All too often, a bill's shortcomings emerge only after a family finds itself in a certain situation. In the case of Bill C-489 introduced by my colleague, the shortcomings and problems related to the role of victims in the justice system will become known only after a particular case that will unfortunately reveal the work that still needs to be done and the steps that need to be taken to improve the legislation and enhance the role of victims in our justice system.
If I am not mistaken, the member who introduced Bill C-489 had the idea after meeting with families and people in his riding who went through extremely difficult situations. I commend him for wanting to change things.
I also commend him for listening to these families and making their voices heard in Parliament, because that is why we are here. Parliament is here to give a voice to the people who are too often silenced, people who are not necessarily heard or who feel no one is listening to them. I want to tell them they were very lucky to have elected a member who could speak up for them here. We are very pleased to be able to support his bill.
I would like to give a brief overview of the bill's provisions and the amendments that have been proposed. I think the amendments made the bill even better. There were a few gaps that we were able to address in committee. That is why we are here today and will support Bill C-489.
The bill amends both the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.
I will refer to sections and subsections, but since I do not have their precise wording, I apologize in advance for speaking in vague terms. For example, section 161 deals with the prohibition order and conditions that may be imposed by a judge when someone is convicted. Subsection 732.1(2) addresses probation and section 742.3 concerns the conditional sentence order, commonly called house arrest. This can be thought of as an offender serving his or her sentence in the community. Finally, we have subsection 810.1(3.02), which deals with conditions of recognizance.
Since Parliament has not passed the bill yet, it is currently at the discretion of courts to issue one of these four orders. They have complete discretion as to whether to impose or not impose conditions.
Once Bill C-489 is passed and enacted, it will be mandatory to issue one of these orders, except in certain circumstances. Therefore we are still leaving some discretion to the courts and judges, but they will have the obligation to pay closer attention to this aspect and to issue one of these orders.
This provides the courts with some leeway to not impose this condition in exceptional circumstances.
Nonetheless, it is important to show that we want to fill the legislative gaps in order to protect victims and defend their rights without encroaching on the discretion of the courts. This is a good bill because it gives judges the room to justify their decisions. As legislators, we are telling them to take certain conditions into account, except in exceptional circumstances.
Bill C-489 amends the Criminal Code to that effect, and the second part of the bill amends the Corrections and Conditional Release Act in exactly the same way. It tells the courts to impose one of these conditions except in exceptional circumstances.
This bill amends the law and gives the courts and judges the discretion to impose certain conditions or not to do so in exceptional circumstances.
It is very important to mention that this bill came out of a number of situations, but one in particular, which received a lot of media attention. In that situation, a family had to live across the street from the person who assaulted their young daughter. They had to deal with this nightmare day after day. Implementing a mandatory distance measure is what this bill is all about.
When an offender is found guilty of a sexual offence involving a minor, the courts will be required to make an order prohibiting the offender from being within two kilometres of his victim. They will have the discretion to decide whether there are exceptional circumstances making it inappropriate to impose the condition.
I think this is a very important measure. That is why we are passing a bill that defends victims and prevents them from having to deal with extremely difficult situations. We are allowing them to cope with their ordeal in their community without any added stress on their daily lives.
I cannot speak from experience, but I can appreciate how stressful it must be for families who have to live so close their child's attacker. I do not have any children, but I can imagine how I would feel if I did.
This bill helps victims, defends their interests and gives them their rightful place in the justice system, all without unduly restricting the courts. That is what makes this such an excellent bill.
I would like to thank my colleague for bringing the voice of his constituents here to Parliament. However, there is a caveat. It is important that the government invest in our justice system so that victims are given their rightful place. For that to happen, we need funding, we need to lessen the burden and we need to respond to provincial requests.