Madam Speaker, I rise today to address Bill C-343, and perhaps take a different approach on it.
I believe all members of the House understand that tragedies take place in all regions of our country. When there are victims, we want to extend whatever we can to assist them in whatever manner we can. For a number of years, when I sat in opposition, I would often talk about victims, understanding that when an offence took place, there needed to be a consequence. We have to be very sensitive to victims.
I served for many years as the chair of the Keewatin youth justice committee. We dealt with young offenders in the communities we represented, in a volunteer capacity. One of the things that sparked a great deal of interest was how we could assist victims. We had great discussions about restorative justice, believing this was one way to do that. The victim and the individual who has committed the offence are brought together and we try to build some sort of consensus as to what kind of consequence that youth should have to pay to make the victim feel there has been some justice. Even though we really did not get too heavily involved in that area, there was a great desire to pursue it.
When I have the opportunity to address issues of this nature, I always like to highlight that there are different ways to work with and support victims, understanding and appreciating in many ways some of the things victims have to go through. Therefore, I have a great deal of sympathy in dealing with these types of issues.
We should be looking at ways to prevent victims from becoming victims in the first place. We can do that through different types of programs and promotions, for example, getting young people more involved in different types of programs. We all have a responsibility, as local members of Parliament, to encourage and promote this, and to get citizens involved as much as possible.
I was always a very strong advocate for community policing and programs like the neighbourhood watch. In fact, we have the Bear Clan in Winnipeg's north end. It is well served by that group of outstanding citizens, who are volunteers and committed to improving conditions and making our communities a safer place, and thereby, in many ways, preventing individuals from becoming victims. Other groups are working within our communities, and most often it is in a volunteer capacity. I truly applaud their efforts and the types of things they do to make their communities safer.
With respect to Bill C-343, I did get the opportunity, back in April or May of last year, to make reference to the fact that there was a cost to the implementation of the bill. Both Conservative members have attempted to address that issue. From the government's perspective, there is a significant cost factor to what has been proposed, and it would require a royal recommendation. Collectively, we need to be somewhat concerned about that. If we say that bills that have a cost to them do not require royal recommendation, we open up a whole new window. We know the former prime minister and House leadership team of the Conservative Party would never have supported that.
This is something we have seen as a parliamentary tradition in the House. Therefore, I think it is legitimate to raise concern with respect to that issue.
It is also important to get a sense of what it is we are talking about with respect to the bill, and what is being asked by the member opposite. The current Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime was established back in 2007.
The current ombudsman was appointed by Governor in Council. We know that. The ombudsman currently deals with complaints of victims regarding compliance with the Corrections and Conditional Release Act; promoting awareness of the needs and concerns of victims, and the laws that benefit victims of crime; identifying and reviewing emerging and systemic issues, including those related to services and programs administered by the Department of Justice and Public Safety Canada that impact negatively on the victims of crime; and facilitating access of victims to federal programs and services by providing information and referrals. It also includes things such as examining any matter that relates to his or her powers, duties or functions, which is like a catch-all.
My colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety, questioned if there has ever been any sort of an analysis done. Where does the member across the way get the information to say that this office should now become an agent of Parliament? I do not think that she has made the case as to why that should happen.
If we look at the numbers, there are a significant number of files that the ombudsman has ultimately looked at and reviewed. All in all, I believe that the office has done a fairly decent job at representing the interests of victims, and no doubt will continue to do so. However, I do not believe there has been an argument with respect to why it is that the office should become an agent of Parliament, given the fact that it has been there for almost a decade.
From what I understand, there has not been any thorough analysis, report, or ask for that to be the direction for that office to move in. That is something that would definitely be warranted before we want to move forward. That is not to minimize the thoughts of the member opposite on the issue, but to say there needs to be a lot more work done on the issue. We need to have a better understanding of what is taking place, and an appreciation of the actual numbers, as has been pointed out with respect to the correctional investigator.
As there are other ombudsman offices out there, what about the potential crossover of responsibilities? That is something we feel has not really been addressed. The member should be looking at some of those numbers. For example, we know that in one year there were 453 contacts for which there were files opened. Half of those files, some 224, involved some form of a complaint. If we look at the Office of the Correctional Investigator, it responded to 25,600 contacts, over 6,500 complaints from federal offenders, and it conducted over 2,000 offender interviews.
It is really important that we get a better understanding of the role the member across the way is envisioning, but for now it is best that maybe we not see the bill go further but rather for the member to give it—