Madam Speaker, I would have thought the Conservatives would be a bit more excited about the fairly comprehensive changes in Bill C-75 that would serve our country well.
Prior to the last election, our government made some commitments, and we are seeing some of those commitments fulfilled within this legislation. That is a positive thing.
I want to pick up on the bigger picture of justice. If we were to canvass Canadians and many different stakeholders about their expectations of the judicial system, I would suggest that they would have three big expectations.
The first would be keeping our communities safe, which is also very important to this government, and I would like to think important to all members. This legislation makes significant strides towards keeping our communities safe.
A second would be protecting victims. When it comes to our justice system, one would like to think there is a vested interest in protecting victims. When I say “protecting victims”, I mean that we should be going out of our way to prevent having any victims in the first place. I will comment briefly on that shortly.
The third priority, or expectation, is accountability for offenders.
These three priorities would be accepted by all Canadians. Bill C-75 moves the ball further ahead on these three principles.
There is a difference between the Conservatives' approach to justice issues and this government's approach. Put differently way, there is a difference between the Stephen Harper approach to justice issues and the approach this Liberal government has taken on justice-related issues, whether in this or previous legislation.
We need to recognize that a vast majority of incarcerated individuals will leave our jails. They will go back into our communities. As such, we have a responsibility to ensure that our system allows for better integration. If we are successful at that, we will prevent having further victims in the future. We on this side of the House recognize that.
Listening to speeches given by members on the other side of the House, whether about this or other legislation, one gets the impression that once someone enters our jail system, that person is never going to return to our communities. There is a very good chance that many of those individuals will not return.
However, we must have a system that will work for Canadians by keeping our communities safe, by ensuring that we protect our victims, and ensuring that there is offender accountability.
It is just wrong for the Conservatives to give the impression that this government is looking at ways of minimizing the consequences for serious crimes.
Under this legislation, opposition members say that we would hybridize too many crimes. As a result, they are trying to give the false impression that there would be less serious impacts for those offenders when it came to the weight of the law and incarceration, fines or whatever it might be.
It is important to recognize that we have summary convictions and indictable offences. However, within this proposed legislation, there would be a third component, that being hybridized. We are saying that here is a list of crimes for which the Crown would have some discretion to help determine whether an offence would be an indictable offence.
During second reading, I had the opportunity to listen in on some of the debate. I recall one intervention that bears repeating, because I think most people who are following the debate could relate to the differences. This is what we mean by discretion. At second reading, I recall a Conservative member, and Hansard will reflect this, saying that “kidnapping is kidnapping” and is a serious crime, end of story. It is indictable, so lock up the person and put him or her away for many years.
There is no doubt that kidnapping is a very serious crime. Canadians recognize it as a serious crime. We as a government recognize it as a serious crime. The Conservatives ask why we would hybridize that particular crime. Let me give members a tangible example. I think the constituents I serve would understand why it is important that this be one of those hybridized crimes.
When we think of kidnapping, the first thing that comes to mind is an individual at a school playground identifying a potential victim, putting the victim into a van and disappearing and taking all sorts of horrific actions or maybe kidnapping an individual for the sex trade. There are all sorts of horror stories about kidnapping. I, for one, want those individuals locked up. However, there is a “but”.
For example, divorces occur every day, and some of those divorces are very emotional and involve young children. At times, with a divorce, there are all sorts of issues a child will often have to deal with. There might be a situation where a child has a bad week or a bad day and decides not to go home to the parent who has 100% custody but goes to the non-custodial parent. The other parent then says that the child has disappeared and has been kidnapped. One parent did not have the right to have custody of that child at that time, but the child went to that parent's home, perhaps in tears, or whatever the circumstances were. The point is, the child should not have been at that parent's house, and as a direct result, there is now a kidnapping charge.
I would like to think there is a big difference between that situation and the first situation I described. If members believe that what I just said is accurate and takes place in real life, they should acknowledge that there is a need to support the idea that for certain crimes, for certain actions, we need to incorporate hybridized crimes.
I have a great deal of confidence in our Crowns and the ability of our judicial system to make good decisions. What we are saying is that if a kidnapping like the first example came before the judicial system, I would suggest that the Crown would say that it was an indictable offence and the individual would have to go through a process where, ultimately, there could be years of incarceration, versus another case where it could be classified as a summary conviction. We have seen a number of those crimes that are now eligible, and I suspect that arguments could be made for each and every one.
When we looked at the legislation, one of the major concerns raised by the Conservative Party was the issue of hybridization. Hopefully they now have a better understanding. They raised the issue at second reading and then brought it to the committee stage.
I am actually quite pleased that we are at third reading today, in the sense that it has been a long process to get to this point. The Minister of Justice has demonstrated very clearly that this has been a project of consultation, working with a wide variety of stakeholders, from the beginning right up to the standing committee. Maybe I should expand on that point for a moment.
Our justice system is a joint responsibility. We do not have sole responsibility for judicial matters in Canada. We have shared responsibilities with the provinces. That means that the minister, with the assistance of the parliamentary secretary, and others, no doubt, canvassed and worked with the different provinces and territories to establish priorities that needed to be changed. Those changes, those priorities, are fairly well reflected in this legislation. The minister even went beyond that, in terms of consultations with indigenous people and other stakeholders, to formulate Bill C-75 so that it was ready for first reading, followed by second reading and committee.
That is where I interjected. My interjection was to comment that even when we, in opposition, brought it to committee, a number of changes were introduced by members after listening to the committee presentations. The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights amended Bill C-75 at committee to, for example, remove the provisions regarding routine police evidence, which had laudable intentions but had some undesirable and unintended consequences, particularly for unrepresented accused. It removed the terrorism and advocating genocide offences from the list of those being reclassified. That is the amendment I thought of when I was talking about hybridized offences.
The Conservatives presented that issue in the form of an amendment, and we accepted it, which was completely foreign when Stephen Harper was prime minister. The Conservative Party never ever accepted an opposition motion. Not only—