Mr. Speaker, as my colleague said, it is a first step, and we have to start somewhere when we want to change things in this country. All political parties in this place develop visions and ideas for how to change things. The Liberals, the NDP, the Greens, and Forces et Démocratie all have their ideas about how they want to change things. We develop political policy proposals, usually in the run-up to election campaigns.
In all honesty, I looked at every political party in my youth and growing up. I studied platforms and whatnot, and a lot of times promises are made to Canadians that are not quite fleshed out. All parties do it. They promise things and do not quite flesh out all the details, but they give a vision and a promise and a hope to Canadians, and I think that was the intention of the government when it came up with this bill. It had the hope of making things better for victims. It promised to make things better for victims eight years ago, and it ran on that promise.
Canadians hope that when they support a vision or a promise, there will be follow-through on it. Most of my colleagues today have said, as I will now, that the follow-through has been inadequate. When something is promised to somebody, it has to be followed through on and delivered. It is all well and good to develop nice visions and give hope to people, but follow-through has to take place, details have to be fleshed out, and it has to be backed up with real, concrete goals and objectives and actions. As my other colleague said, New Democrats will support this bill, but we believe there needs to be a more robust policy than what is on offer. There has to be more follow-though.
Earlier in the debate, my colleague from Sudbury mentioned the concept of restorative justice. CSC has a program called the restorative opportunities program. I should explain for members of the House and Canadians who do not quite know what restorative justice is that it is a system of justice that emphasizes healing, hears victims' stories in detail, and incorporates victims into the whole process of justice. It also incorporates people who have committed crimes. The end result, hopefully, is the healing of all parties involved.
As I said, Canada has a program called the restorative opportunities program, but it is a post-sentencing program. It is not fully integrated into our justice system. There are places in the world that offer restorative justice systems that are integrated into every level of their justice systems. Norway is an example. Restorative justice is incorporated into the judicial process itself. Victims' testimonies are not necessarily counted as evidence, but this system allows victims a forum to express themselves and share their experiences as victims as a way of getting to a point of healing.
Society participates in this process, so the process ends up being more inclusive of victims and society at large. Lack of inclusiveness is a complaint about our current retributive system of justice that commonly comes forward from victims. If we look at validators of the idea of better incorporating victims into the justice system, we see that the first victims ombudsman said, “I see nothing here”—meaning this legislation—“that will make the process go speedier and part of that is because the trial process is really not about the victim. It is about the accused.” That was said by the first victims ombudsman.
The idea behind that is that the trial process focuses on the accused and leaves victims out of the process, often as passive observers, when they want to be included in the justice process.
In terms of involving greater society, the l'Association québécoise Plaidoyer-Victimes validates that position. This is what it said about the CSC and this legislation.
They must concern themselves with the fate of all victims and not just those who are already implicated in the justice system.
That points to involving greater society in the process as victims. Sure, people who have crimes committed against them are direct victims, but there are also indirect victims of crime. Those people also deserve to be heard. They have a right to be heard. People who have actually been touched by crime have validated wanting to be more included in the justice system. They are people like Sharlene Lange, the mother of a victim of crime. She said:
Beyond the sentencing stage of the process, the victims basically fall off the face of the earth.
Rights need to go beyond the criminal process for this bill to even be a bill of rights.
What she is pointing to is that unless we include victims in the process from start to finish, and they feel that they are active participants, they will feel that they do not have rights under this system.
The current model we have, the CSC restorative opportunities program, needs work and development. It needs to be better incorporated into the justice system to take victims' rights into consideration. It is a post-sentencing program. It is voluntary, which is understandable, because it is not integrated into the justice system. Victims might not want to participate in a voluntary post-sentencing program that does not have the resources to back up its goals.
The second thing I want to get to is the financial cost to victims in our society. We have seen that the cost to victims is as high as, I believe, $99 billion a year. I am not sure. Perhaps my colleagues would be able to confirm that.
Unfortunately, in our country, when we measure things like economic growth, we use GDP as an economic indicator. Over 400 U.S. economists, including Alan Greenspan, have said that the major weakness of GDP is that it cannot measure social welfare in a society. What they mean by that is that when a bad thing happens, such as a crime, and it is costly to a victim, and a victim has to spend a lot of money because of being a victim of a crime, that registers as positive economic growth. That is problematic.
I hope members and Canadians listening to this debate will start to question that. When we look at indicators of economic growth using an indicator such as GDP, it registers these negative costs to our society. It does not register social welfare. There have been alternative tools proposed, such as the genuine progress indicator.
This is a good first step. It speaks to the hopes and aspirations our party has for increasing victims' rights and including victims in the justice process, but as we have said, it does not quite go far enough. There is not enough follow-up and there is a lot of work to be done.