Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House to speak. This could quite possibly be the last speech I make in the 42nd Parliament. I certainly have a number of things to say about Bill C-75.
Bill C-75 amends criminal law. It is a justice bill. When we look at bills that fall into this area, it is important to remember what we are trying to achieve with bills in the criminal justice system. The first thing we are trying to do is define for Canadians what unacceptable behaviour is. Once we have set that standard, then we are trying to assign penalties suitable to deter people from committing that crime. In Canadian federal prisons, we do not do a lot of rehabilitation, so really the main part of the criminal justice system is to assign a penalty that both is commensurate with the crime that was committed and also is a deterrent to keep people from committing that crime, and then to prosecute that charge in court with a fair and due process.
I would like to look at Bill C-75 and compare it to those criteria to see how it measures up.
First, I will talk about defining unacceptable behaviour. I am not sure that the Liberals understand what unacceptable behaviour is. I say that because we are talking about a Prime Minister who is the first prime minister to break a law, which he did when he took a private helicopter to billionaire island. The member for Brampton East was involved in allegations of money laundering. We are currently seeing the member for Steveston—Richmond East in several instances of money laundering, as well as being disbarred. There have been multiple ethical lapses and cases of sexual harassment that caused some members to be out of the caucus, but I would argue there are still some members within the caucus. There is a tolerance for things that, in the minds of Canadians, shows that maybe there is not a good moral compass in the Liberal Party to define what unacceptable behaviour is.
With respect to assigning penalties suitable to deter people from committing the crime, one of the most egregious things about the changes in Bill C-75 is that the Liberals have taken a number of crimes that Canadians would consider to be very heinous and reduced them to a summary conviction of two years or a fine. It is important to look at the list of the kinds of crimes we are talking about, so that people can convince themselves whether this is appropriate.
The most heinous crime on the list has to be the forcible confinement of a minor. In the minds of all Canadians, we value our children and we want to protect our children. If somebody kidnapped and forcibly confined a child, I do not think most Canadians would think it is okay to get off with a fine for doing that. That is unacceptable.
Also on the list is forced marriage and forced marriage of children. I am not sure this should be allowed at all in Canada, but I know one thing. If we are talking about forced marriage and marriage for people who are under 16, that is rape. It is clear that it is rape. Therefore, to put that as a summary conviction of less than two years or a fine is unacceptable. We can see in this country that rape is on the increase. One in three women will experience sexual violence in her lifetime. Therefore, it is clear that we do not have the right deterrent to reduce the crime that is happening.
I was the chair of the status of women committee when we studied violence against women and girls in Canada. We had testimony from quite a number of countries, and I was interested to look around and see which countries were doing a better job in the area of rape. There are countries that do not have a big issue with rape. I asked the witnesses why that was, and they said the penalty for the crime was 10 to 15 years in prison, so they have a deterrent for people not to commit that crime. There is also an awareness of the fact that it is illegal. We have a lot of people coming to Canada from places that have a different culture in many cases and have a different tolerance for things like rape. It is important that we educate people who come to this country about those issues. We should be setting punishment for this crime that is commensurate with it, and a fine is not acceptable.
Assault with a weapon is on the list. We sadly saw what happened today at the Raptors parade with people getting shot. This seems to be an event that is on the rise. I think about the Danforth shooting. I think about a number of shootings that have happened. Assault with a weapon should not be less than two years in prison or a fine. That is not acceptable. That is not a deterrent, and I think most Canadians would agree with that.
Originally, there were a number of items on the list that had to do with participating in terrorism activities, or leaving Canada to participate in the activities of terrorist groups. There was some walk-back within Bill C-75 on that issue, but we are still not in the place we need to be on that.
Canadians are concerned about terrorism. A number of events happen but we do not receive any information. I am thinking about the two fellows in Ontario who were caught with explosives and the FBI was investigating. Everyone says there is nothing to see here; all is fine. There is the Danforth shooting, the guy who drove a van and killed multiple people in Toronto. There is the return of ISIS fighters and people not knowing what is happening with them. Are they walking around? How do we know that the public is safe? There is a concern among Canadians that we should take a hard line on terrorism. I am glad to see some walk-back on that, but I want to keep an eye on it.
Another thing on the list is municipal corruption. Corruption in government of any kind is not something that should ever be reduced to a fine. We have seen lots of corruption in the existing Liberal government, lots of scandal. The fact that the Liberals have reduced the severity of the crimes on this list is indicative of the lack of moral compass on the other side.
Maybe “assisting prisoner of war to escape” is not a current issue, but how about “obstructing or violence to or arrest of an officiating clergyman”? This one is particularly egregious to me. I remember when Bill C-51 came from the Liberal government and tried to take what is today considered a crime, to attack or threaten a clergyperson, and remove that altogether. I remember the concern from churches in Sarnia—Lambton and across the country. They wondered why the Liberals wanted to take a protection away from the clergy, especially when cases of that nature had been prosecuted.
As a result of the public outcry and a swing in the polls, the Liberals backed off that, but here it is, showing up again, and this should be a flag to people who are watching tonight. What we see with the Liberals again and again is that they try something and when there is a public outcry, they back off, but as soon as they get another chance to sneak it in, it comes back.
A number of things have been like that. I am thinking of the tax that the Liberals were going to put on dental and health care. They backed off, but I bet it will reappear. It is the same thing with the small business tax on passive assets. As soon as there was an outcry, the Liberals backed off, but this is something to watch for if they get another chance.
Impaired driving causing bodily harm is on the list. This is quite concerning as well. We can think about the amount of work that organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving have done to raise awareness, to try to get stiffer penalties for impaired driving causing bodily harm. We can think of the tragedy of many parents who have lost children or loved ones who have been killed by somebody driving impaired. To reduce this to a conviction of less than two years or a fine is totally unacceptable, especially from a government that legalized marijuana, knowing that Colorado and Washington saw a doubling of traffic deaths due to impaired driving. This is a step in the wrong direction and should be reconsidered.
There is another one in the bill that talks about polygamy, and I am not sure why this one made the list. Polygamy has been illegal in Canada for quite some time and culturally, we would like to preserve that. I am not sure why we would want to lessen the severity of the crime for that.
There is arson for fraudulent purposes. These acts are clearly serious crimes. If I go back to the original premise that says the reason we have a criminal justice system is to assign penalties suitable to deter people from committing a crime, I think we could admit that diluting the penalty in the way Bill C-75 does is not going to help us move forward or deter crime in this country.
I want to read quotes of what people have said about Bill C-75. Ms. Markita Kaulius, the president of Families for Justice, said, “Bill C-75 is a terrible bill for victims and for public safety.” Stephanie DiGiuseppe, a litigation lawyer in Toronto specializing in criminal and constitutional law, said, “Bill C-75 is a massive step backwards for justice reform in Canada.” Christian Leuprecht, a professor at the Royal Military College of Canada, said, “the signal that [Bill C-75 is] sending is that these offences are no longer as serious as they were before.” It has been recognized across the country that this bill is not going to be good for the criminal justice system and it is not going to accomplish what we need to accomplish.
If I were a criminal in Canada, I would be saying it is a great time to be a criminal with the Liberal government in place because it always protects the rights of criminals instead of the rights of victims. There is a move to decrease punishments. We talk about some of the things that Bill C-75 was hoping to accomplish. One was that the court system is overloaded right now. One way of offloading the courts is to get rid of all the people in line by fining them instead of making them go through the court process. One way to prevent the courts from being clogged up is to hire enough judges to adjudicate the cases.
In the four years the Liberal government has been in place, the court is missing about 60 judges, at last count. That never happened under the previous Conservative government. There was always an adequate number of judges to process the cases in the courts. Therefore, reducing sentences and letting everybody off the hook is not the answer. We do not say that since there are too many people in line, we should allow the murderers and rapists go free, but that is essentially what is happening now because there are cases are waiting too long. According to Jordan's principle, after two years, those cases are thrown out of court. During the reign of the Liberals, murderers and rapists have gone free in Canada. Clearly, understaffing the judiciary is part of the problem and part of the solution is replacing them.
When it comes to enforcing punishments, there has been a bit of a lackadaisical attitude. I remember when we first heard that Terri-Lynne McClintic had been sent to a healing lodge that had no security. She had been convicted of brutally murdering a child and was supposed to be imprisoned with a lot of security until 2030. When we raised the issue, those on the other side did not understand why we were raising it because they thought it was no big deal. It took a public outcry for the government to recognize that this was a big mistake and people who commit serious crimes, like murdering a child, need to be behind bars. The punishment needs to fit the crime. Again, there is lack of a moral compass on the other side.
However, there are lots of protections for people in prison. Mental health supports were announced in the budget for folks in prison. I am not saying that criminals do not deserve mental health supports. I am just saying that since mental health supports are very much lacking for the rest of Canadians, why are we putting prisoners first? There is a program to provide free needles and we are moving to providing free illegal drugs to prisoners. I am not sure why the government is in the business of doling out illegal drugs; we do not provide free syringes and drugs to people with diabetes or everyone who has cancer.
I would certainly argue that when it comes to priorities, the government appears to be putting a priority on criminals, instead of victims and the rest of Canadians. I do not think that is the right priority, and the government should re-evaluate it.
The current Minister of Justice talked about the Senate amendments and the ones that should be included. He talked about the victim surcharge in one of the amendments. The victims surcharge was put in place because victims services were expensive. This was a way of recouping some of the costs, people who had done the harm had to do some remediation of the harm.
I am not sure, then, why the government would remove the requirement to have this victims service charge and to leave it to the discretion of judges. First, they have to remember that they can apply a victims surcharge. Then we leave it to their discretion as to whether they will apply it.
My experience has always been that when it is left to the discretion of judges, we see sentences becoming smaller and smaller over time. It is heartbreaking to me. I think about some of the stories I have heard of rape and been involved with them. In Sarnia—Lambton, for example, there was a case recently, where a 13-year-old girl was gang raped by two men who received prison sentences of months. We absolutely cannot have this kind of thing.
I think of Rehtaeh Parsons who was raped by multiple people. As a result of the ensuing shame that was put on her for over a year and a half, she took her life. It was a wrist slap for the people who were involved in that crime.
We do not have the right balance, and Bill C-75 does nothing to address it.
I want to talk about the previous Conservative government and its record on crime. The Conservatives are known, in general, to uphold criminal justice, to take the rights of the victim, rather than the rights of the criminal, and to try to impose stiff penalties for violent and heinous crimes. People will have a choice in the fall election. They will have a choice to move away from protecting the criminals' rights and move into the space of protecting the victims' rights. That will be important.
One of the interesting parts of the Senate amendments was the Senate trying to add different offences. The Senate decided it would add neglect or interference with a dead body to the list of things we might want to give a fine for or a summary conviction. The Senate wanted to make infanticide, killing a baby, a less than two years sentence or a fine. I do not think that is where Canadians are.
Setting traps, obtaining credit from false pretense, stock manipulation, gaming, fraud, falsification of documents, dealing in counterfeit money, on all of these things, the everyday Canadian would say they are crimes and people should go to prison when they do these things. They should not be given a fine or a summary conviction. I do not think it is right.
The government promised to uphold the rights of Canadians and to protect them. This is another example of where the government has not kept its promise to Canadians. It promised a lot of things. The Liberals promised small deficits. They promised to balance the budget by 2019, and here we are in 2019. They promised open and transparent government, but we have seen gag orders and cover-ups. The privacy legislation, which we just talked about, clearly is not hitting the mark.
We were told 2015 would be the last election under first past the post, another broken promise. We were told there would be no omnibus bills, another broken promise. We were told they would restore home mail delivery. The Liberals have broken 75% of their promises. When people are listening to what Liberals are promising this year, they should keep that in mind, that three-quarters of what is going to be said is never going to happen. We have seen that with the pharmacare promise. The Liberals promised that in 1997, 2004 election and again in the last election.
Then there is the wrong approach to guns. Assault with a weapon has been added to the list in Bill C-75 that will get a slap on the wrist. However, we see an increasing number of crimes involving guns. In fact, 95% of the gun crime in Canada is caused by illegal guns or guns used illegally. The government has not come up with a plan to address that. Our leader has come with a comprehensive plan that will address the real problem, which is guns used illegally by gangs, and bring the right penalties to deter bad behaviour. However, the Liberals are not on that page. They are as always taking the side of the criminals on these things, and we see a further move to decriminalize other behaviours.
I know there is a real push on for the Liberals to decriminalize all drugs. We just did a study at the health committee on the meth problem. We visited across the country. When we went to Winnipeg, we saw the problem with methamphetamine addiction. The response of the Liberals was to decriminalize it and give people free methamphetamine. Police officers are saying that these people are committing a lot of crimes, they are breaking into people's houses and there are all kinds of violent acts going on. Therefore, we have to be doing something that balances the protection of Canadians with the care that we have for folks who are addicted. However, that has not been addressed.
On Bill C-75, I received numerous petitions. I know people across the country are paying attention to this. I received a lot of information from the member for Niagara Falls, who was a former justice minister, as well as the member for Milton, who is very educated in these areas.
I heard the current Minister of Justice talk about indigenous people being overrepresented in the criminal justice system, and that is true. We need to get to the root cause of that, but I do not think reducing penalties for serious crime is the way to go about it.
I looked at some of the points that were made on reducing intimate partner violence. It is a great thing to reduce intimate partner violence, but forced marriage is intimate partner violence, especially when it is a child. There is a bit of hypocrisy in the way the bill was brought forward.
I did not hear a lot of conversation from the Minister of Justice on the modernization and simplification of the bail system and I would like to hear more. There is definitely room for improvement, but, again, modernization and simplification cannot mean abdication of responsibility in the criminal justice system.
On allowing a preliminary inquiry, which originally was allowed for serious crimes that carried life imprisonment, and I believe 70 infractions would meet that criteria, the bill would open that up to another 393 that could have access to a preliminary inquiry if one party or the other demanded it. Again, this will take more court resources. If the whole purpose of Bill C-75 is to try to help offload the courts and if the Liberals would let some more serious crimes go with a less than two-year conviction or a fine but then load up the court system again with a bunch of preliminary inquiries for a greater realm of offences, I am not sure that would achieve what they want to achieve.
Overall, when I look back to what we want to do in the criminal justice system, we want to define unacceptable behaviour, and certainly there is a good list, but we also want to assign penalties suitable to deter people from committing the crime. The Liberals missed the mark on that with Bill C-75.
We want to prosecute in court with a fair and due process. I do not think Bill C-75 would do that. I do not think it is fair to the victims to have these very serious crimes punished with a slap on the wrist, which is essentially what a fine or a less than two year summary conviction is. I do not think we will increase the cycle time through the courts, because, again, judges are still missing, which is a key part of it. Now the bill would increase the number of preliminary inquiries. Therefore, I do not believe Bill C-75 will hit the target.
The bill should not go forward. I know the government is rushing it through in the dying days of of the 42nd Parliament, but I will not support Bill C-75 and I know my constituents and those across the country will not support the bill or the government.