Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-489, introduced by the hon. member for Langley. This important bill certainly addresses a number of problems that many people have raised, including the ombudsman for victims.
The New Democratic Party does not play political games with bills amending the Criminal Code. We feel it is better to address serious issues and solve serious problems in a logical way that is consistent with the Criminal Code.
Since I like to get straight to the point, I will say to the member opposite that we are going to support his bill at second reading. We believe that everyone in the House should be concerned about victims, not for a political purpose, but because we really want to help them on the path to recovery—if there is such a path, because it is not always clear. Some horrible crimes cause such terrible harm that, regardless of what we can do to mitigate things, regardless of anything we can do, it will never go away.
To follow up on the question I asked my colleague about Bill C-489, I think the study by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights will help us see if the bill can pass the charter compatibility test. When the Subcommittee on Private Members' Business was studying the bill, the clerk said that it was not clearly unconstitutional, but that it could be susceptible to a constitutional challenge. That sends a message. The committee will determine if this passes the compatibility test.
When she asked her excellent question, my colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue clearly said that, for a number of reasons, it might be difficult to apply Bill C-489 in some cases. For one thing, it would prevent someone from moving to an area near the victim. That implies that the criminal serving a sentence would know where the victim lives, which seems problematic to me. Something about that bothers me.
However, as I told my colleagues when we were studying Bill C-489 before recommending that it be supported at second reading, I appreciate that some discretion was left to the courts. The committee will also have to verify whether the courts will be able to fully exercise their discretion.
This discretion should not be seen as some undefined power. The public sometimes sees it as being soft on criminals, to the detriment of victims. Here, it simply means that judges will look at the facts of each individual case.
In some circumstances, it may be difficult to set certain conditions. For example, it may be more difficult in a town than in a city, where the offender could live 5, 6 or 7 kilometres away.
I appreciate how my colleague from Langley crafted his bill. He did not strip the courts of all discretionary power, as the government opposite so often does. That approach jeopardizes bills, even those that the Conservative government passes, because there is a large black cloud hovering over their heads, and it leads defence lawyers to challenge certain provisions.
We cannot allow this legal game to even get started. We need to make it clear that the facts will be looked at on a case-by-case basis. Therefore, the best sentence will be applied in each situation, once the person is found guilty. The judge is in the best position to do that, or the jury in certain circumstances.
That is why this bill is so important. We have been saying that all along, despite what is being said at press conferences. I am tired of hearing it, particularly from the Minister of Justice. In my opinion, he should rise above the fray. The justice minister and Attorney General of Canada is not simply a political partisan, he is the keeper of Canadian laws. In that context, I feel that always bringing the debate back to “we're tough on crime, they're soft on crime” demeans his public office. It is a question of respect for the law.
All the NDP justice critics have taken this position. I would have liked to name them, but since I am not allowed to do so, I will just say that I am talking about the hon. member for St. John's East and his predecessor. I can never remember the riding names. What matters is that I remember the name of my own riding.