Mr. Speaker, we are debating Bill C-54, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the National Defence Act (mental disorder), at third reading.
The whole issue of mental health and crime is a very emotional subject. We saw this when we were examining it in committee. This subject really moved us.
I would especially like to thank my colleague from Gatineau, our justice critic, for all of her hard work on this bill.
Few of us are extremely familiar with the topic of mental health. We sometimes generalize. People have a certain idea of what this entails. However, we do not know everything we need to know.
One of the problems we noted in committee was the Conservative government's failure to consult with experts in the field with regard to this bill.
One example I have is from our committee on June 5. Chris Summerville, from the Schizophrenia Society of Canada, mentioned that nine associations were not consulted. We are talking about the Canadian Psychiatric Association, the Canadian Psychological Association, the Canadian Mental Health Association, the Mood Disorders Society of Canada, the Canadian Association of Social Workers, the Canadian Association of Suicide Prevention, the National Network for Mental Health, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, the Schizophrenia Society of Canada, and further, 19 members of the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health, all of which are members and none of which were consulted either.
When I asked why, they did not understand. They are the first ones on the ground. They are the people who actually have the knowledge. It is very unfortunate that the government only decided to consult with them when we were working on and dealing with the bill, and then, when we had amendments, those amendments were not accepted by the government.
This is a very sensitive issue and victims have asked us not to make it a partisan issue. They have asked us not to play politics. Unfortunately, that is what the Conservatives are doing.
Jenni Byrne, the 2011 national campaign manager, sent an email dated May 29 that reads:
You probably remember the story of Vince Li—a man who, five years ago, beheaded and cannibalized a fellow passenger on a Greyhound bus. He was found to be not criminally responsible for his actions—and was even granted escorted leave in to the community by the Manitoba Criminal Code Review Board. This is an insult to his victim—and this is not what Canadians expect from their justice system.
She then asks for a donation to the Conservative Party.
This is the type of petty politics that we find very disappointing. It is absolutely deplorable to see the government use victims in order to raise money. In addition to what I was saying about the lack of consultation, the fact that the government keeps using cases like this is just as deplorable when it comes to stigmatization. The public does not necessarily understand mental illness. I encourage all Canadians to talk about it. In the House, I have talked about a friend of mine who committed suicide. It is important to talk about it. I think we need to talk about every aspect of mental illness.
Using high-profile cases to raise money is serious. It is not what responsible parliamentarians should do, but it is what the current government is doing. We are asking the Conservatives to show more respect.
Our approach to the bill is simple: this bill is important for victims. As the Conservatives have mentioned, this bill will provide a way to help us inform victims about what is going on with offenders. All the witnesses we heard from agree with this, including the Barreau du Québec, the Canadian Bar Association and mental health associations.
We support this bill and we did even more than that. What is surprising is that the Conservatives accepted one of our amendments to inform victims of the offender's place of residence. Once the offender is released from prison, the victim should be aware of everything that is going on. All of the victims we consulted asked for this. We therefore thank the government for accepting the NDP's amendment to ensure that these victims are better informed.
We are very sensitive to this situation, and we were touched by the victims who came to testify. I want to acknowledge these victims, who showed extraordinary courage. Talking about their problems and their experiences was very difficult for them. As I said, it is very emotional for members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to hear people share their stories, but that is what pushes us to keep going.
One of the problems is the lack of consultation from a legal standpoint. The government proposed changes, but it is reassuring to know that the court will have the last word. That is why we supported some of the amendments proposed by the government. However, we would have appreciated it if the government had considered more of our amendments.