Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today in the House to speak to Bill C-26, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Canada Evidence Act and the Sex Offender Information Registration Act, to enact the High Risk Child Sex Offender Database Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.
To begin, I would like to thank the hon. member for Gatineau, the official opposition's justice critic, as well as the hon. member for La Pointe-de-l'Île, who is the deputy justice critic, for the important work they have done on this bill and for all the work they do as part of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.
Many people know that I am a young mother with a 19-month-old baby. Anything that has to do with sexual abuse of children affects me deeply as a parent. It really is a pleasure to speak to this bill and have the opportunity to do so, so that I can share my opinion on what is before us today.
On this side of the House, we have a zero tolerance policy on sexual offences against children. We also respect the principles of jurisprudence and the fundamental laws of our country. We cannot have one without the other. It is very important to mention that. That is why the NDP will be happy to examine this bill very carefully.
As we know, with this Conservative government, the devil is often in the details, and we definitely want experts to let us know whether the measures set out in Bill C-26 will be effective.
I also sincerely hope that the government will not move a time allocation motion on such an important subject as child sexual abuse.
That is extremely important. Why? First, we are in Parliament and we have already had a lot of time allocation motions on important bills. Unfortunately, my colleagues do not often have the opportunity to share their opinions or those of their constituents. However, as parliamentarians, it is our duty to rise in the House and assert those rights.
I sincerely hope that my colleagues on all sides of the House who are members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights are able to take all the time they need to examine Bill C-26 in order to make it the best bill possible and to hear from all of the experts who have an interest in this bill.
It is very important to have a debate and share our opinions here in the House so that we end up with a better bill, which will include suggestions directly related to Bill C-26 from the various experts who are invited to appear before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.
I hope that all my colleagues in the House will be able to work together to stop the sexual abuse of children. Regardless of which side of the House we are on, no one approves of the sexual abuse of children. I do not know of any reasonable person in this Parliament who would approve of that. We must address it and we must do it together in order to make sure that we end up with the best bill possible.
As the deputy critic for public safety, I work hard to understand our prison system. I do a lot of work with our partners, including the members of UCCO-SACC, the people who work directly for Correctional Service Canada in the field or in a management role.
I am thinking of our correctional officers in prisons across the country who are going through really disruptive changes right now. At the same time, they are trying to do pretty incredible work with the resources they have.
When I think of those workers, I also think of the various bills that the Conservatives have introduced in the House, many of which have had a very negative impact on our prison system, unfortunately.
In my riding, in Laval, there are now two federal prisons. There used to be three. Unfortunately, the Leclerc Institute was closed following a back-of-the-napkin decision by the Conservatives. The population of that prison, which is now provincial, is growing because of the Conservatives' laws.
There is also the Montée Saint-François Institution, a minimum security institution that specializes in handling sexual predators. The third prison in our riding is the Federal Training Institution. It used to be a medium security institution, but since the Conservatives' reforms of a few months ago, it has become a medium and maximum security facility. New cells were built, and more and more federal prisoners are being sent there. The Montée Saint-François Institution is also accommodating more inmates, and new units have been built there too.
I am saying this because a lot of money has been invested so that more prisoners can be sent to Laval. Even so, the government decided to dispose of the Leclerc Institute, which is an institution in Laval and one of the nicest federal penal institutions in the country. The provincial government got to take over the facility, but unfortunately, data suggest that the institute's population could grow considerably in coming years because of the government's laws.
The sad thing is that the workers still are not getting more resources because cuts to public safety have affected the correctional service. Workers' rights are under attack. I am thinking about the definition of the word “danger” in the Labour Code. What is more, the government is not investing in the reintegration of inmates, which is very unfortunate.
Experts in the prison system and inmate reintegration agree that this is extremely important. The last thing we want, as parents and citizens, is for an inmate to reoffend after serving his sentence, especially when we are talking about sexual abuse against children. We must make sure that we have extremely solid reintegration programs, instead of punitive laws only.
I am not against punitive measures, on the contrary, but we must not have one without the other. As soon as a person is incarcerated, we must initiate the reintegration process and ensure that the person is surrounded by social support. That person has to have the right tools once he has completed his sentence to ensure that he does not reoffend.
We must examine this bill closely and listen to the experts. Are these the right measures? Will they provide solutions to an extremely serious problem in our society? What will this change within our prison system? Will there be more resources? Will prisoners be forced to double-bunk in shared prison cells? What will this change for our correctional officers? What will this change for the people who work on reintegrating inmates? Will they have the resources to ensure that reintegration is done properly? Many questions currently remain unanswered.
I hope the government across the way is giving serious consideration to these concerns regarding the sexual abuse of children. There are some very good programs in Laval, but unfortunately, there are fewer and fewer resources for reintegration.
In closing, I would like to remind the members opposite that we will be sure to study all the details of this bill. We hope to have the time we need to do so. Zero tolerance is zero tolerance for all sex crimes in this country. Let us work together to ensure that we have the best law possible.