Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-444.
I will begin by quoting Anne Frank: “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” I think this resonates with the hon. member for Red Deer, who has had to wait three years to get to third reading stage of his bill. In fact, this is a reincarnation of a bill that unfortunately died on the order paper. Such is life.
I want to commend the hon. member for Red Deer on resisting the urge to suggest a minimum sentence. He took another approach in considering personating an officer an aggravating factor in the crime committed, for the purpose of sentencing.
This is a wise approach. It respects judicial independence and it suits the opposition. It shows that we can achieve rapid success if things are done properly. I thank him for that.
By taking this approach we are showing victims that during the trial, the courts will take into consideration the circumstances in which the crime was committed. That is important because the appearance of justice is just as important as justice itself. For these victims, it is very important to take into consideration the way in which the crime was committed, as well as their story, as painful as it may be. We have to take that into account.
This bill will help prevent people from mistrusting peace officers, something that should never happen. This is not insignificant. In terms of prevention, this is important.
When someone personates an officer, they make others vulnerable. Someone who personates an officer and takes advantage might put someone else who is not necessarily a victim in a vulnerable position. When we trust people, we lower our guard. It is human nature and that is good.
Taking advantage of this vulnerability is absolutely wrong. I think everyone here, on both sides of the House, agrees on that. In many cases people actively try to make others vulnerable. Much has been said about naturally vulnerable people, such as young children and the elderly. Everyone intuitively understands that.
However, some people can exploit the vulnerability of others for their own benefit through lying or misrepresentation. Bullying is a typical case. Someone uses a supposedly superior position to achieve certain ends. Whether it involves physical or psychological abuse, bullying is bullying regardless of the individual or group of people targeted.
People who use their knowledge of the law, for example, to take advantage of others who do not have this knowledge are also doing something reprehensible. This human failing can take several forms.
Let me tell you about something that happened to me once. I was walking my dog outside. There were some homeless people not far from my house.These were people without much of a future and who did not have a lot in life. I saw a homeless person talking to someone, almost as poor, who was offering a warm place to sleep for one night. In return, this individual was asking the homeless person sleeping on the street to give up the only thing he had, which was a watch. When I saw that, I was absolutely shocked.
Continually trying to exploit a weakness, whatever it is, for example through personation, as addressed in the bill, is something that always infuriates me because everyone deserves respect.
I would like to tell the member for Red Deer that I really appreciate his approach. I really appreciate the example he sets for the entire House on how to work together, as my colleague from Vaudreuil-Soulanges mentioned. He went about it in a way that made it possible for everyone to agree. He makes it possible for us to say that if people of good will sit down together to acknowledge an obvious problem, there are ways to solve it without discord and still advance the ideals of justice. I would like to thank him again for that.
In closing, I hope that the Conservatives are prepared to consider not including minimum sentences in their future bills. In the past, and since I became a member of the House, we have opposed bills or expressed serious reservations about certain bills, not because they were not good bills in their own right, but because they did not recognize the autonomy of judges.
The member for Red Deer took this into account in this bill and that is important. For that reason, I am pleased to support this bill.