Mr. Speaker, I have been here for three plus years and this will be the last week for many of us in this beautiful building. I hope all 338 of us take the time to walk around each of the sections of this wonderful building and soak them in: the Railway Committee Room, the Reading Room, the Library of Parliament and the House of Commons. This is one of the great institutions of our country. We all felt it coming to the House of Commons tonight, with the Christmas lights. We are so privileged, over 300 of us, to call this our home.
A good number of us will not be here when it reopens, whether it is in 12 years, 15 years, 20 years, whatever the case may be. Hopefully, we all take pictures. This is a great facility and such an honour. I had a distinguished 40-year career in broadcasting. The iconic curtains in the House of Commons have been here for so long. Come Wednesday or Thursday, we should treat this place like a basketball court, cut them down and each get a piece of the curtains.
I am here tonight to speak on Bill C-51. The stated purpose of this bill is to streamline the Criminal Code of Canada by removing certain provisions that no longer have any relevance in contemporary society. The Conservative Party is very supportive of Bill C-51 strengthening the provisions of the sexual assault legislation and has led the way for supporting victims of sexual assault by, among other things, Bill C-337 by my former Conservative colleague Rona Ambrose, which is one such measure.
Bill C-337 would make it mandatory, as we have heard in the House throughout the day, for judges to participate in sexual assault training and be aware of the challenges sexual assault victims face. The bill was designed to hold the Canadian judiciary responsible for the ongoing training of judges and the application of law in sexual assault trials. It would require that lawyers also receive training in sexual assault as a criterion of eligibility for a federally appointed judicial position. As members will recall, Bill C-337 was passed in the House of Commons and appears to be well on its way to royal assent in the Senate, although Ms. Ambrose, like the rest of us, is waiting patiently for the results.
Bill C-51 would expand the rape shield provisions to include communications of a sexual nature or communications for a sexual purpose. These provisions would provide that evidence of a complainant's prior sexual history cannot be used to support the inference that the complainant was more likely to have consented to the sexual activity in issue or that the complainant is less worthy of belief. The bill also provides that a complainant would have the right to legal representation in rape shield cases, which I believe is very important, but also creates a regime to determine whether an accused could introduce a complainant's private records at trial that would be in his or her possession. This would complement the existing regime governing the accused person's ability to obtain complainants' private records when those records would be in the hands of a third party.
There are some aspects of Bill C-51 that Conservatives were opposed to, such as the removal of section 176 of the Criminal Code, the section of the code that provides protection for religious services and those who perform religious services. It was absolutely ludicrous to remove this section of the Criminal Code when we have seen such a startling increase in attacks on mosques, synagogues and even churches as of late.
It should be noted that, according to Statistics Canada, over one-third of reported hate crimes in this country are motivated by hatred of religion, and removing section 176 would remove valuable protection for our faith leaders in this country.
I received many calls in my riding of Saskatoon—Grasswood over the removal of this section from the Criminal Code. This was brought up on June 5 here in the House, and a couple of weeks later when we recessed for the summer, I had many phone calls in my office in Saskatoon. I remember one phone call came from Pastor Eldon Boldt of Circle Drive Alliance Church. He was terribly concerned by this and was going to start a petition. He wanted the current government to know that this was wrong. He was concerned not only for his own well-being but for other religious leaders across the country.
In Quebec City, we had six people killed in a mosque attack. Our Conservative caucus at the time of that attack was just leaving Quebec City and returning to Ottawa. Also, 26 people were killed at the First Baptist Church in Texas. This is just a short list of what has gone on in this world.
Our religious freedoms are protected, and section 176 of the Criminal Code is certainly part of that protection. Religious freedoms are fundamental to all Canadians, and Conservatives are clearly proud to be among the first to stand and support religious freedoms of all faith.
I should add some words from the Right Hon. John G. Diefenbaker, Canada's prime minister from 1958 to 1962, who hails from my province of Saskatchewan, in fact, Prince Albert. He said:
I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.
If members come to my city of Saskatoon, I will take them to the Diefenbaker Centre where these words are etched onto the wall. It is very important, and these are great words from former prime minister John G. Diefenbaker.
There was a large public outcry against this amendment, and, thankfully, the Liberal members of the justice committee listened to all Canadians and voted to keep section 176 of the Criminal Code.
To summarize, I am pleased to participate in this debate on Bill C-51, which covers a broad range of amendments to the Criminal Code. Our current Prime Minister, of course, talked about omnibus bills being undemocratic. We talked about this in the House. I remember door-knocking back in 2015 as our former Conservative government was blamed, and maybe rightfully so at times, for the omnibus bills created in the House from 2011 to 2015. However, we see now that the bill before us, introduced by the current government, could also be considered an omnibus bill, because it has so many sections to the Criminal Code that we are dealing with. It is a promise, actually a pattern of promises, not kept by the Liberal government.
However, there are some amendments to the Criminal Code addressed in Bill C-51 that are quite necessary and really common sense. For example, we fully support all changes in the bill that clarify and even strengthen the sexual assault provisions in the Criminal Code. These changes would help support all victims of sexual assault crimes.
Conservatives have always stood up for the rights of victims in this country. We have a proud record of introducing the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights and the passing of Bill C-337, which would make it mandatory for all judges to participate in sexual assault training. Both of these actions are in support of victims. Sometimes we forget all too much about the victims in this country, and they certainly need to be supported.
I think the Conservative Party has supported victims very well in the past number of decades.
Additionally, we support repealing or amending sections of the code that have been ruled unconstitutional by the courts. The removal of obsolete or even redundant provisions makes common sense. There is really no need for provisions about witchcraft or duelling in the streets. They are just not part of today's society.
However, an area of this bill which caused great concern for all Canadians was the government's removal of section 176 of the Criminal Code. We have talked about that. Thanks to the work of an effective opposition on this side, and the voices of all Canadians who spoke up in the summer of 2017 to challenge the government, the Liberals have decided to back down from these changes.
That just about wraps up my time. I just want to wish everyone who is in the House and who is watching the House of Commons on CPAC tonight all the best in the holiday season. As this could be the final time that I rise in 2018, I wish everyone a merry Christmas and a happy new year.