Madam Speaker, I rise today in the House to address some grave concerns that the Conservatives have with regard to Bill C-75,, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other acts and to make consequential amendments to other acts.
However, we agree with at least one of the sections of bill, the intimate partner violence reforms. I liked the idea of reversing the onus on someone looking for bail if they have already been convicted of assaulting their spouse. The reverse onus on bail, I think, is a good idea.
I like the idea that we are looking into the possibility of restricting the number of preliminary hearings, but we have serious reservations about other things. Again, this is with respect to the intention of the government to reduce penalties by adding summary conviction as a prosecutorial option, which can result in a penalty as minor as a fine.
Let me be clear. These offences are for some very serious crimes, and currently they are listed as indictable offences with a maximum penalty of up to 10 years. I will touch on some of these offences today to make Canadians aware of the massive changes the government is planning to implement and how adversely these changes will impact the health and welfare of all Canadians.
Some of the offences included, but not limited to, are participation in the activity of a terrorist group, leaving Canada to participate in the activity of a terrorist group, punishment of a rioter, concealment of identity, breach of trust, municipal corruption, selling or purchasing office, influencing or negotiating appointments or dealing in offices, prison breach, assisting prisoners of war to escape, obstructing or violence to or arrest of officiating clergyman, causing bodily harm by criminal negligence, impaired driving causing bodily harm, failure or refusal to provide blood samples, trafficking, withholding or destroying documents, abduction of a person under the age of 16 as well as abduction of a person under the age of 14, forced marriage, marriage under 16 years of age, advocating genocide, arson for fraudulent purposes, and participation in the activities of a criminal organization.
Just reading this list is mind-boggling. Offering a judge of the courts the option of lighter sentences or even fines will inevitably result in lenient sentences for some very dangerous crimes.
The Liberals say they have introduced this legislation as their response to the crisis in the judicial system, which they, in large part, have created by not appointing the necessary number of judges to the bench. I should know. In my six and a half years as justice minister, not once did I ever encounter a shortage of qualified candidates to fill vacant positions on the bench anywhere, and in Alberta in particular. At the beginning of this month, there were 11 vacancies on the Queen's Bench and three on the Court of Appeal. What is the problem? There are qualified people in the Province of Alberta who can and should be appointed to the bench. Now, they have started to get some in May, but this is something that has to be ongoing all the time.
Getting back to the bill, Canadians know that watering down some very serious criminal offences by offering the prosecutorial option of summary offence is not an adequate deterrent, and that the perpetrators of major felonies will not have paid the full price for their offence.
Another Canadian who knows only too well the harm this proposed legislation could cause is Sheri Arsenault, Alberta director of Families For Justice. Sheri lost her son to an impaired driver in 2011. Last fall, she testified before the justice committee with a heart-wrenching account of how her son's life was cut all too short after he and two other friends were struck and killed by an impaired driver. The three boys had just graduated from high school and, of course, had a very promising life in front of them.
In a recent letter to the government she wrote in part the following:
As a victim, a mother that lost my 18 year old son, I have since been working very hard in advocating for all victims of serious offences. All my work seems to have fallen on deaf ears and is all in vain when I thoroughly read the contents of Bill C-75. I cannot understand why our current Government does not consider impaired driving a serious crime when it is the #1 cause of criminal deaths in Canada. It is also the cause of an enormous number of injuries and devastates thousands of families every year.
The public safety of all Canadians should be a priority for all levels of Government regardless of their political stripe or ideology. The safety of all Canadians should be your priority and all Canadians should expect a punishment that is fitting to the seriousness of certain crimes to not only to deter others from committing the same crime but to also deter offenders from recommitting and some sense of justice to the victims and our communities. Summary convictions neither deter nor hold offenders accountable, they also re-victimize the victims again. Victims are being ignored in this Bill. Our justice system should be strengthened rather than weakened and the “rights” of victims and communities should have precedence over the treatment of offenders and criminals.
That is the letter that she wrote to the government with her analysis of Bill C-75, and she has it right.
I am quite sure that we are going to hear from people who have been gravely concerned about impaired driving and all the consequences of that. I am going to welcome them. I hope they come before the justice committee and let the government know how they feel about this. The statement by that victim could not have been put more succinctly.
Bill C-75 in its present form would not protect Canadians. It would put them at greater risk, as dangerous offenders can be set free without rehabilitation and without having paid the full price for their offence.
Ms. Arsenault made the point that lenient sentences often lead to re-offences being committed, with terrible consequences. She cited for instance the tragic impaired driving case from 2010 that illustrates this point very well.
Surrey resident Allan Simpson Wood was driving at nearly twice the speed limit when he crashed head-on into Bryan McCron's car on Colebrook Road in Surrey in July of 2010, killing Mr. McCron and injuring his 17-year-old son Connor. He then assaulted the teenage boy who was calling 911 in an attempt to save his dying father. Mr. Wood previously had an impaired driving charge in 2002.
If Bill C-75 is allowed to become legislation in its present form, more tragedies such as this will occur, as the possible sentence under Bill C-75 will not serve, in my opinion, and I am sure in the opinion of many Canadians and all of my colleagues here, as an adequate deterrent to the crime.
Future stories like this need not be the case if the Liberal government would listen to reason and not go forward with the reckless clauses in this legislation.
Another issue with regards to impaired driving is that as of last fall, there were only 800 trained drug recognition experts across the nation. With the onset of marijuana being legalized in Canada, police services from across Canada anticipate a spike in the number of impaired driving charges. Indeed, just last fall, the justice committee heard that we would need 2,000 trained drug recognition experts. Ontario police sounded the alarm bell last week, stating that the lack of funding for the impaired marijuana legislation is worrying. It is evident that the government has not been giving this serious issue proper consideration. T
There are so many troubling offences that Bill C-75 would deem as a possible summary infraction, it is difficult to know exactly which ones to highlight.
Breach of prison is one of such infractions and brings to mind the case of Benjamin Hudon-Barbeau, a former Hell's Angel associate convicted of two murders, two attempted murders, and a series of crimes in 2012 related to a drug turf war in the Laurentians. He once escaped from a Quebec prison in a helicopter and is currently serving 35 years.
However, under Bill C-75, not only would this present breach be a possible summary conviction, but so would his involvement in a criminal organization. He has been labelled as a dangerous offender, but had he committed these crimes under this new legislation, the sentence could be much shorter. The thought that these are not serious enough to be taken and prosecuted as indictable offences is completely unacceptable. A fine is not appropriate for this. It is not appropriate for these types of offences.
It is unconscionable for us to think that the government could put the health and safety of Canadians at risk for a quick fix to a problem that it has helped create.
The justice committee recently travelled across Canada, studying the horrific effects of human trafficking. Material benefit from trafficking is another terrible crime. Should Bill C-75 pass in its present form, it would include the trafficking of persons in Canada for material benefit, making it a possible summary conviction. Imagine someone being in the business of making money trafficking human beings, knowing he or she might get off with a fine. People in the business of making money in this would happily hand over $1,000.
The Liberals have also slipped in getting rid of consecutive sentences for human trafficking. The idea that a crime does not get worse if someone is continuously trafficking human beings is completely unconscionable. I truly believe Canadians agree with us in the Conservative Party that it is absolutely wrong.
As I have stated before in the House, thousands of Canadian children are being trafficked between the ages of nine and 14. Although, unfortunately, many of these crimes go unreported, non-governmental organizations inform us that this is taking place. Our most precious resource, our children, are being violated, and at an alarming rate. This abhorrent form of modern-day slavery is very real and knows no social or economic boundaries.
As I mentioned previously, the target age now for the sex industry is getting younger. As the demand for paid sex increases, supply increases, and our children and the vulnerable are even greater targets for sexual consumption.
During the justice committee hearings on human trafficking, we heard from former human trafficker Donald. He testified that if the government were to be lenient on the sentencing of convicted human traffickers, it would be like a carte blanche for traffickers to expand this despicable industry and further harm Canadian children.
Our former colleague and member of Parliament, Joy Smith, testified that 23,000 children were trafficked in our country every year, with many of them ending up dead. This is a grievous epidemic and the government is not helping at all when it offers more lenient sentences for those who make money off of these despicable crimes. The duty of lawmakers is to protect the vulnerable, not make it easier for them to be targeted. It is our moral obligation. The government is failing the citizens of Canada by not keeping the present safeguards in place in the Criminal Code and by lessening the protection of our children.
Clearly, the government has not thought this thoroughly through. By offering the option of lenient sentences, it is encouraging the exploitation of our children. How can it rationalize light sentences for some of the most appalling crimes? Human trafficking is not, and should never, be considered a minor offence. The hybridization of these serious offences is simply an ill-thought-out idea and it is unfathomable that the government does not see the damage that the passage of Bill C-75 could do to the welfare and security of all Canadians.
Clearing up the backlog in the criminal justice system should never done at the expense of victims. Nor should it compromise the safety and well-being of our children. I will reiterate that this is a crisis that the Liberals have helped create.
On the eve of the Easter long weekend, the Liberals introduced this 302-page omnibus legislation. I bet they hoped Canadians and the public would not take the time to read it in its entirety, but that was a mistake. Canadians across the country are hearing about this and voicing their concerns about the legislation. I recently did a Facebook video on this. Canadians need to be aware of the severe implications the legislation could have on families and their communities.
The Conservatives have always strongly believed that the rights of victims should be the central focus of our justice system, along with the protection of Canadians. This is why we introduced the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights while we were in government.
Among the four principle rights provided in the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights is the right for protection of victims of crime. I would argue that Bill C-75 in its present form does not provide protection of victims of crime. In fact, it would do the opposite. Instead of providing reassurance and the right to live in a society that is safe, secure, and stable, the bill could create a society that would be under the threat and harm of offenders who would not have had the opportunity, quite frankly, to be rehabilitated by serving a sentence that adequately would fit the crime they committed.
Another one of the many offences in the bill is that it encompasses participation in a terrorist group or leaving Canada to participate in terrorist activity. I have to ask this question. What is it about this that there should be a minor offence when a person is leaving Canada for the purposes of participating in terrorism? The Liberals read the papers too. Have they not noticed that this has become more and more of a problem in the world? Their idea to solve that is to make this a summary conviction offence, that these guys will get the message if they get a fine, that if they get a very small penalty, they will not to do this again.
I do not buy that. The price that Canadians could pay with this legislation is incalculable. I call upon the Liberal government to stop this and keep the current provisions of the Criminal Code that helps Canadians from being further re-victimized. Under Bill C-75, this would not happen.
I ask all members to stand with me to ensure Canadians are and remain fully protected within the Criminal Code. We will not stand for a crime that gets off with the lightest of possible sentences. This bill is bad legislation.
Therefore, I move:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after “That” and substituting the following:
“the House decline to give second reading to Bill C-75, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, since the bill fails to support victims of crime by, among other things: (a) changing the victim surcharge; (b) removing the requirement of the Attorney General to determine whether to seek an adult sentence in certain circumstances; (c) removing the power of a youth justice court to make an order to lift the ban on publication in the case of a young person who receives a youth sentence for a violent sentence; and (d) delaying consecutive sentencing for human traffickers.“
I hope this gets the support of all members of the House.