Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on Bill C-489. I would think that all members would support the intent of the legislation in principle, the necessity for those who have been victimized to be assured of some degree of security that the offender will maintain a certain distance from them.
The question that was often raised during discussions of the legislation at committee was whether the legislation, as drafted, was necessary and would withstand a constitutional challenge.
We have increasingly seen that the courts are beginning to respond negatively to the blank mandatory minimum sentences that the government has been imposing on virtaully any and all offenses.
No one argues that in some cases mandatory minimums are not required. No intelligent person argues, given the current government's use of this practice, that a full review of those sentences should not be conducted.
When the sponsor of the bill was asked in the House during second reading about his consultations prior to the bill's introduction as to whether the amendments proposed in the bill would meet a court challenge related to the charter, the member indicated that he had consulted, but he provided no evidence as to whom he had consulted. That I did find troubling.
Changes to public policy, and especially changes to the Criminal Code, should be done to meet a specific and widely held need. This is national legislation that would impact all Canadians. It is not a bylaw in a community or one that might apply to a specific part of a small community. It is the Criminal Code of Canada, and amendments to it should be based on evidence and due diligence.
In that regard, I would put on the record the following exchange. It does not minimize the impact of criminal activity on any individual but places in context the wider concern, which may not exist, according to the member who proposed this legislation.
On November 5, 2013, the following question was posed to the member:
Do you have any numbers on how many people who would be impacted by this bill specifically have found themselves in a situation of having the offender within two miles of their residence?
The answer from the member for Langley was “no”.
Again, the intent of the bill is worthy of support, but what remains troubling is that no evidence as to the extent of the problem is apparently available, and it should be.
Extending from these issues is that the bill itself was subject to a number of amendments in key areas that were of concern to members and witnesses. As a case in point, the bill in its original form mandated that an offender could not reside within two kilometres of the victim and that there would be a requirement that the offender be obligated to have knowledge of the residency of the victim or where the victim could be present.
When asked how the two kilometres was reached, the member indicated that his intent had originally been to set it at five kilometres, and it was reduced to two kilometres to take into account smaller community situations. However, the two kilometres appears now to have been arbitrarily set, the same way five kilometres was. The bill has now been amended in regard to both provisions.
On strict adherence to the two kilometres, government members, on behalf of the government, eliminated the mandatory two-kilometre restriction, allowing judges the discretion, which they currently have under the Criminal Code, to allow, and I will quote the member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe at committee, who moved the amendment, “the courts to impose greater or lesser geographic restriction where it is reasonable to do so”.