Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Motion No. 161, which calls for a study of the impacts on people with a criminal past who seek a record suspension, formerly known as a pardon. It is a term perhaps more familiar to those who are watching the debate at home, but a term that the previous Conservative government removed to reflect that this was not a purging of their past, but rather a recognition of their efforts to change and live productive lives within our communities.
More specific, the motion, if passed, will instruct the public safety committee to undertake an examination of how record suspensions can help those reintegrate into society, to look at the fees associated with the application for record suspensions and whether they should be changed and, finally, a catch-all directive to identify any improvements to better support applicants through this process.
lt is interesting that the motion is being debated in the House rather than being simply moved to the committee itself, which could be a much quicker option.
lt is also interesting that this comes on the heels of the debate on Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.
While Bill C-83 and the motion we are discussing today are different in substance, at the heart of these two items is the watering down or perhaps the repeal of the previous Conservative government's Bill C-10, the Safe Streets and Communities Act. Bill C-10 enhanced victim's rights and enhanced the safety of Canadians, which lengthened the crime-free waiting period to 10 years before a serious offender could apply to suspend indictable convictions and to five years from three for summary offences. It disqualified anyone with more than three convictions for an indictable offence from ever being able to apply and disqualified those convicted of child sex offences from ever being able to apply.
A review of the fees associated with the applications for record suspensions is in order, particularly if the fees are hindering the rehabilitation of individuals back into their community, as the hon. member for Saint John—Rothesay has indicated. However, if this is another attempt by the Liberal government to prioritize the rights of criminals ahead of the rights of victims, that is something Canada's Conservatives will not accept.
Motion No. 161 instructs the public safety committee to look at how suspending a criminal's record would assist in the reintegration into society. The hon. member for Saint John—Rothesay included this in his speech. He also included references to people convicted of minor offences, like theft under. The member mentioned that these people were having difficulty finding jobs because of their criminal records and that they could not afford to apply for record suspensions. This in effect hindered their ability to reintegrate into their community and effectively raise themselves out of poverty.
As I indicated earlier, a review in this narrow context at committee I feel is more appropriate. However, I say narrow because the examples used by the hon. member in his speech are narrow in scope as well. The motion does not say those convicted of minor offences, as we might believe from the examples the member for Saint John—Rothesay has used in his speech.
I refer to the speech by my hon. colleague, the member for Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, which he gave in the House a short time ago. He said, “Record suspensions should not be something that anyone with a criminal past can get. Some crimes can and should remain forever on someone's record.” He continued, “serious criminals and repeat offenders that are generally the concern, not one-time shoplifters. The fact is that one-time shoplifters are usually dealt with by means of alternative measures.”
Let me be clear. Canada's Conservatives do not want criminals like Terri-Lynne McClintic getting their records suspended for their heinous crimes. We must enure that those who commit crimes against children will never be able to volunteer at a children's day care centre, for example. The shocking indifference for victims and a disturbing compassion for criminals that the Liberal government has demonstrated over the past weeks needs to be re-examined by the Prime Minister.
As I mentioned earlier, it is interesting that the member chose to raise this matter through a motion in the House, rather than the more expeditious route of presenting a motion to a committee, for example. Obviously, I am not a member of that standing committee. I sit on the natural resources committee. I do not know the public safety committee's agenda, what studies are being conducted and what studies it plans on doing in the future. The committee members themselves are best placed to determine how the study fits within the current pressing public safety or national security issues of, say, gang violence, illegal border crossers, cybersecurity, threats by foreign states or extremist attacks, and yet we are being asked to set the agenda for this committee.
Also, considering this draw, not every MP in this House will have the opportunity to bring forward such legislation. for the benefit of those watching at home, I am referring to the procedure by which we choose the order in which private members can bring private members' business to this House. While I recognize that this motion would impact the hon. member's constituents, it could, as I have said earlier, more appropriately have been dealt with at committee, which would have allowed the member to raise another substantive legislative concern for his constituents.
While it may raise questions for the constituents of Saint John—Rothesay, the member is perfectly within his right to do so. As a result, I have some recommendations for the committee during any review that it may have down the road.
I would encourage the members of the public safety committee to remember that they are the public safety committee, when reviewing this motion.
I recommend that the committee consider the difference between someone who steals a pair of jeans and someone with a record of a serious crime, like sexual assault, child abuse, trafficking, homicide and other violent crimes. It may come as a shock to some of my Liberal colleagues, but there is a difference.
I also recommend that the committee consider the concept that deterrence is also an important factor that could be considered in the prevention of crime. The last message we want to send is that when people steal a pair of jeans and get caught, all they need to do is pay a pittance and there will be no record of their crime. Having a record creates a deterrent and reminds us that crime is not welcome in our communities.
Let us not forget that with every crime there are also multiple victims. I strongly urge the committee not to recommend a reversal of important provisions found in Bill C-10 that put community safety first, and were grounded in a philosophy that victims matter. I recommend not allowing criminals like child predators and repeat offenders with three or more indictable offences to be eligible to receive record suspension. I recommend not altering the required number of years that people with serious criminal convictions, like violent and sexual crimes, have to demonstrate their rehabilitation, before they can apply.
I ask the committee to consider the balance Bill C-10 struck between recognizing the role record suspensions play in facilitating reintegration, ensuring the protection of our communities, particularly the most vulnerable, and placing victims rights at the forefront. We need to ensure that record suspensions do not become a right for criminals. We need to ensure that criminals cannot buy a pass on their criminal behaviour. We need to ensure that a record means something, and we need to ensure that rehabilitation is still the overarching factor in the record suspension process.
The Liberals have demonstrated, in the past few weeks, a concerning preference to coddle criminals rather than champion the safety of the public and respond to the victims. Whether it was giving a convicted cop killer Chris Garnier veterans benefits, despite spending not one second in the Canadian Armed Forces and, something Chris Garnier openly claims, despite the fact that he contracted post-traumatic stress disorder in the process of committing his crime when he murdered a female police officer; whether it was deciding to move a child killer from behind bars to a healing lodge with no fence and with children living inside; or whether it is a lack of transparency in the Liberals' plan on dealing with returning ISIS terrorists, the trend must stop there.