Madam Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-5, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
In the six years that I have been a member of Parliament, I have never seen a greater disconnect between how a bill has been advertised and what is in the substance of the bill. The Liberals today have been doing a good job of patting themselves on the back, touting Bill C-5 as landmark progressive legislation. The bill has been advertised as legislation that addresses systemic racism. The Liberals claim that it would help address Black, indigenous and marginalized groups that are caught up in Canada's criminal justice system. They claim that the bill would help persons who are suffering from drug addictions to stay out of jail and get the help they need. If, in fact, the substance of the bill did what the the Liberals have advertised the bill to be, it would be a supportable bill and it would be a laudable bill. The problem is that the bill would do none of those things. Simply put, Bill C-5 is not as advertised.
Let us unpack that for a moment and in that regard, let us look at the issue and the claim that the bill supposedly would help persons suffering from addictions.
I could not agree more that it is important to help persons suffering from addictions to get treatment, to rehabilitate so they can become happy and contributing members of society again. I certainly agree that when it comes to minor possession, it is not appropriate in most circumstances to prosecute. Indeed, it historically has been rare for persons found with minor possession of drugs to be prosecuted solely on that minor possession.
Today, those prosecutions do not happen because of a directive issued by the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, which provides that in cases of minor possession, prosecutions shall not proceed except where there are public safety concerns. This bill would not change that. It is true that the bill would codify that in law, and that is fine. It is probably the only reasonable aspect of the bill. However, it would not change the status quo, namely that today in Canada persons are not charged and are not prosecuted for minor possession. The question then becomes this. What exactly would the bill do for persons who are suffering from issues of addictions?
When one actually reads the text of the bill, one would be surprised that the Liberal solution to helping persons suffering with addictions is to help criminals who prey on persons suffering from addictions. The bill would roll back sentences for some very serious drug offences. It would roll back mandatory sentencing for drug trafficking and it would roll back sentencing for the serious crime of importing and exporting drugs.
Any reasonable person can distinguish, very clearly, between drug trafficking and importing and exporting drugs compared to that of a vulnerable person who might be suffering from mental health issues or other issues who happens to be caught with a small amount of drugs. There is a world of difference, and yet for such marginalized people, the bill would do nothing to help them, but it would help drug dealers and drug pushers. Remarkably, one of the offences that is rolled back in the bill is with respect to producers, manufacturers of schedule 1 drugs, including hard drugs, such as cocaine and heroin as well as fentanyl and crystal meth.
We have an opioid crisis in Canada today. Every day, approximately 20 Canadians lose their lives to an opioid overdose. It has increased by 88% since the onset of COVID, 7,000 Canadians a year. The Liberal government's solution is to roll back mandatory sentencing for the very people who are putting this poison on our streets, endangering lives and killing 20 Canadians a day.
If I were someone who was suffering with a drug addiction issue and that was a solution the Liberal government had to help me, I would tell it that I did not need its help, that I did not want its help because it would be completely counterproductive. It is completely the opposite of what the government claims the bill is about. When it comes to supporting persons who are suffering from drug addictions, simply put, Bill C-5 is not as advertised.
What about the claim that the bill would tackle systemic racism, that it would really help Black, indigenous and marginalized groups of Canadians? I know the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice spent some time on that topic this morning. There is absolutely nothing concrete in the bill to tackle systemic racism. There is absolutely nothing in the bill for Black, indigenous and other marginalized groups of Canadians.
What there is in this bill is the rolling back of some very serious firearms offences. What kinds of offences? We are talking about robbery with a firearm, extortion with a firearm, weapons trafficking, discharging a firearm with the intent to injure, using a firearm in the commission of a crime and many other serious offences that the bill would roll back. How does that help address systemic racism? How does that help Black, indigenous and other marginalized Canadians? The answer is that it would do nothing.
It is outrageous, beyond shameful, that the government has used vulnerable Canadians, marginalized Canadians, as cover for the real objective of the bill, which is to pursue a Liberal ideological agenda of going soft on criminals. It is also ironic because we heard, during the very recent federal election campaign, a lot of rhetoric from the Liberals about how firearms posed a significant threat to public safety and the security of our communities. Then, within three and a half weeks of the House reconvening following the election, what does the government do? It introduces legislation not to get tough on firearms offences, but to help people who use firearms and put the lives of people at risk to stay out of jail and in the community.
It is hardly a surprise given the record of the government. In the last Parliament, my former Conservative colleague, Bob Saroya, introduced a private member's bill, Bill C-238. That bill would have increased penalties for persons who were convicted of knowingly being in possession of a smuggled firearm. Why was that an important bill? If the government were serious about tackling firearms crime, it would recognize that 80% of firearms offences in Canada are committed with a smuggled firearm. It would logically follow that a bill like Bill C-238 would be welcome, but instead, one by one, the Liberals, with the help of the NDP, voted to defeat that bill.
It shows that when it comes to actually coming up with solutions to tackle firearms crime, the government is just simply AWOL. However, when it comes to firearms, I have to give it some credit, perhaps backhanded credit, for being consistent. The Liberals have been consistently tough on firearms, tough on law-abiding firearms owners. That is when they really get tough. However, when it comes to people who commit crimes with firearms, it is a whole different story. The Liberals in that case are more interested in giving criminals a free pass. It really highlights what a misplaced set of priorities the government has.
We hear a lot of rhetoric over there about evidence-based decision-making. Going after law-abiding firearms owners while at the same time rolling back sentences for people who commit crimes with firearms is ideological decision-making, not evidence-based decision-making.
Again, when it comes to helping marginalized and disadvantaged Canadians, Bill C-5 is simply not as advertised.
The Minister of Justice, in the press release he issued announcing the introduction of Bill C-5, was noted as saying that serious criminals should face serious punishment and be separated from our communities. I could not agree more with the Minister of Justice with respect to his comment. However, consistent with a bill that is not as advertised, when one opens up Bill C-5, one learns that it does exactly the opposite of what the minister claims to be concerned about. He says that we should keep serious criminals out of our communities, but the bill drastically opens up conditional sentencing orders for serious crimes, including kidnapping, kidnapping a minor, human trafficking, arson for a fraudulent purpose and aggravated assault with a weapon. What this bill means is that those convicted of these serious offences may not have to spend a single day in jail. Instead, they will have an opportunity to serve their sentence in the community and maybe even next door to their victim.
The minister talks about the fact that serious criminals should face serious punishment, but does he not consider arsonists, kidnappers and persons convicted of sexual assault to be serious criminals? I challenge him to say that, because I think any reasonable person would say that such criminals are serious criminals. They pose a threat to public safety and they should be doing time behind bars, not out on the streets.
Despite all the ways the government has tried to sell this bill, what is completely lacking is any support for marginalized Canadians. This bill does nothing to provide training, counselling or other supports. We on this side of the House strongly believe in reducing recidivism. It was, in fact, a Conservative member of Parliament, the hon. member for Tobique—Mactaquac, who introduced Bill C-228 in the last Parliament, a framework to reduce recidivism. Bill C-5 offers nothing in that regard.
In closing, Bill C-5 puts the rights of criminals first and the rights of victims last. It endangers public safety while doing nothing to help marginalized and vulnerable Canadians. If the Liberals were honest and advertised this bill truthfully, they would advertise it as the soft-on-crime, do-no-time bill. This bill needs to be defeated.