House of Commons Hansard #16 of the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was crime.

Topics

Criminal Code and Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Madam Speaker, I congratulate my colleague, as well, on being elected and being here in the House of Commons.

As Conservatives, if we want to see a reduction in the overrepresentation of minorities, including indigenous Canadians and Black Canadians, in our criminal justice system and in our jails, we believe the best approach is to help people before they find themselves in a life of crime, whether it is by helping with addictions and mental health, or with support in communities. Those are the areas where support needs to be happening. Our concern is that—

Criminal Code and Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

Resuming debate, the hon. parliamentary secretary to the government House leader.

Criminal Code and Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, before I provide my comments on Bill C-5, I want to take a moment to congratulate the Bombers on their performance yesterday in the Grey Cup. I, along with hundreds of thousands of Canadians from coast to coast to coast, take in the annual festivities of the Grey Cup, which is a great Canadian tradition, and we are very proud in Winnipeg of how the Bombers performed. The coaching staff, players and administration all did an outstanding job, winning the Grey Cup for the second consecutive year, although there was a one-year pause in the CFL. I am very proud of the team, and I know I speak on behalf of all residents of Manitoba and Bomber fans in all regions of our country.

Having said that, I am often reminded there is a great divide between the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party when it comes to justice-related issues. I approach it with a bit of a different bias, having had an opportunity in different capacities to get a sense of young people's interactions with the law.

I was the chair of the Keewatin youth justice committee for a number of years in my local community and was also a justice critic. I had the good fortune of being an MLA for a number of years and had the opportunity to be a justice critic in the province of Manitoba.

I look at Bill C-5 as positive legislation that would make a difference. Back when I was the chair of the justice committee a gentleman by the name of Gary Kowalski, who was a colleague of mine and represented the Maples, opened my eyes to what justice committees were all about.

There are youth in all our communities who at times do things maybe they should not. They will fall on the other side of the law. In many of these cases, especially in the early nineties, often 16-year-olds or 14-year-olds would go to local stores, pick up something and decide not to pay for it. They were often first-time offenders. As opposed to having local police enforcement, in particular the Winnipeg police department, lay charges against those youths, they were provided the alternative of going before a youth justice committee. If the youths agreed to participate and fulfill the disposition of whatever the youth justice committee came up with, they would not be registered as having committed that criminal offence.

I was amazed when I found out about the group and wanted to know how we could get more people engaged and what sort of level of interest there would be. When I advertised it in the community of Inkster, which was the provincial area I represented at the time, no shortage of people were interested in being these quasi-judicial probation officers, because that is in fact what we were. We were honorary quasi-judicial probation officers.

At the first meeting, we probably had 40-plus residents. The average justice committee was under 20 people, so we had to decide who would be the most interested in moving forward. Some of the personalities on the committee were fairly hard: There were harsh individuals there. When we started to see young people come before the committee, even the harshest of them all had a much better appreciation and understanding. We would see youths who stole something from a store, and as a direct result they would have to do X, Y and Z and go through the courts.

One can talk about individual youths. One could also talk about the costs to society, such as court costs and so forth. I would argue that the cases we were receiving, at least in the first number of years, were best dealt with by our justice committee.

The committee was dealing with youth who were committing offences in the community. I believe that really had an impact. I remember a librarian at one of our local schools who got to know some of the youth. The dispositions that were typically given were for community service. Whenever we met with a 14-year-old or someone under the age of 18, and that was all of the time, we also had a parent come forward. It was amazing when we saw that 14-year-old without peer pressure, without his or her friends around, sitting in a chair with a guardian who was usually a mom or a dad. That young person would kind of shrink into the chair, head down, often breaking into tears. We got that sense of remorse. There was an appreciation of the terms of the crime committed and the circumstances around it.

We all knew what impact peer pressure can have on a young mind when going into a store with a friend. It does not make it right, but hopefully we could be a little more sympathetic as a community. I would argue that because we took that community approach, we said to our young people coming before us that we genuinely cared for them, and that they had fallen on the wrong side but we wanted to help them get on the right side. I know first-hand that some of the youth who went through our program ultimately ended up working in jobs and made reference to the positive impact of the dispositions given to them. There is an alternative.

When the Minister of Justice was talking, he said that the bill was all about low-risk offenders. However, listening to some of the rhetoric coming from the Conservative benches one would think that a cold-blooded murderer was going to be let go. The Conservatives seem to have this tough-on-crime mentality, whether it is better or healthier for our communities or not. I saw that in opposition and I am seeing it again today. The Conservative Party needs to better understand that people who become incarcerated, generally speaking, are going to be released some day. It is important that our justice system is there to protect the public. The issues of public safety and rehabilitation need to be factored in. The closer we get to doing everything right, the safer our communities will be.

For political purposes, for the three-inch headlines, Conservatives have a mentality that gives the impression that as a caucus they are tough on crime, that there is a consequence for crime, and that criminals are going to go to jail for a long time. That is the impression the Conservatives want to give. What is worse, they then try to give false impressions. Their first speaker, the critic, talked about how the Liberals were saying that if people committed certain crimes they would not have to go to jail: there would be no problem with it. The legislation would pass and people would not have to go to jail.

One of the fundamental differences between Liberals and the Conservative Party is that we have more faith in our judicial system and the independence of our judges. When judges have been appointed at the federal and provincial levels, especially in the last six years, we have been very diligent in ensuring that judicial appointments were done in a way that Canadians could be very proud of. We are saying that when a judge is appointed, that judge is in a far better position than any one of us to give a disposition in the best interests of the communities we represent and of the individual who committed a crime. That is what this legislation is really about, from my perspective.

Judges are well equipped to deal with low-risk offenders and the circumstances surrounding the offences, but if we listen to the Conservative rhetoric on the other side, one gets the impression that Liberals want these people to be set free: that we want to let them go. We are saying we have confidence in our judges. We are saying that we need to recognize that systemic racism is real, it is there and we need to do something.

The Conservative Party talks about truth and reconciliation and how important it is to the party. As a government over the last number of years, we have passed laws whether on language, children, the statutory holiday or more, all dealing with the calls to action. I keep my little book with me in the chamber that talks about the importance of truth and reconciliation. In fact, it has the 94 calls to action in it.

The member from the Green Party referred to call to action 32. I will read it. It states:

We call upon the federal government to amend the Criminal Code to allow trial judges, upon giving reasons, to depart from mandatory minimum sentences and restrictions on the use of conditional sentences.

The government has enacted a number of the calls to action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. We are acting upon somewhere around 75% to 80% of the ones we are responsible for or have shared responsibility for. It is in progress. It is not like we can click our heels and they are all done. We recognize that. That is the reason we feel it is important to get this bill passed.

Many government members would love to see the bill passed sooner as opposed to later, and we understand the Conservatives will have some concerns with regard to the legislation. I would challenge members of the Conservative Party in particular, as an opposition party, to talk to me about truth and reconciliation and call to action 32, and to tell us how and why they believe this legislation goes against it. I suggest the bill supports call to action 32. That is one of the reasons it is getting the support it is receiving, at least from the government and members of the Liberal caucus. When we talk about truth and reconciliation and establishing that relationship, which I know is so important to the Prime Minister of Canada, this is the type of legislation that will make a difference.

If members were listening to the Minister of Justice, he gave us some percentages, and so did the parliamentary secretary. I made a quick note. The parliamentary secretary said that the Black community makes up 3% of Canada's population, yet when we look at federal institutions, it makes up 7%. When we look at indigenous communities across Canada, which make up around 5% of the overall population of our country, they make up close to 30% of federal inmates. That is 30%, based on 5% of the population.

How can we not look at this call for action and react to it? Some of my colleagues across the way said that some of these minimum sentences were put in during other administrations, the odd one even referencing Liberal administrations. It is important to recognize that we have been in government for just over six years. How time goes by.

Criminal Code and Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

An hon. member

It feels like 20 years.

Criminal Code and Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, I am inclined to say that it is hopefully for a lot longer yet.

Let us take a look at some of the things we have been able to accomplish. On the special relationship with indigenous people, that is something I am very proud of. I know we can do a lot better.

Driving around the north end of Winnipeg, the area I represent, people can see a lot of signs saying that every child matters. We see that. I saw that particularly when I was going door to door during the last election, but it does not even have to be during the election; we still see it.

Inside this chamber, I have made reference to the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls and the hundreds who have gone missing. It is well over 1,000. There are woman and girls who are still going missing today. I made reference to a red dress on Jarvis. Whenever I go downtown and take Jarvis, there is that reminder, and there are also the ribbons that are tied to the bridge.

Our communities are aware that we need to take action. That is what this bill does. It provides hope for people who want to see the government deal with issues like systemic racism, move forward with reconciliation and call for action number 32, and make our communities safe, especially when it is the low-risk offenders we are talking about. Contrary to the impression the official opposition is trying to give, our judges would be empowered if we passed this legislation.

If members believe in our judicial system, our judicial independence and the importance of keeping it independent, then let us understand that legislation of this nature is a win-win-win for all the stakeholders out there.

If we cut back on the rhetoric, look at the facts and take a better appreciation of what has been taking place over the last number of years, members will find that this legislation would make a difference. I would ask my colleagues to rethink the judicial sentencing options that are there for our judges and our communities. I am all about making our communities safer, and if I did not believe this legislation would make them safer, I would not be standing here in support of it.

Criminal Code and Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

Before we go to questions and comments, it is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Brantford—Brant, The Economy; the hon. member for Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, Housing; and the hon. member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.

Criminal Code and Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Madam Speaker, I listened to all of the hon. member's remarks, and most of them were about someone who steals something from a store. They did not involve armed robbery or serious firearms offences. However, that is what this bill is about. We are seeing the Liberals trying to soft-sell what is in the actual legislation.

The penalties were put in place by previous Liberal governments for robbery with a firearm, extortion with a firearm and weapons trafficking. Does the member think that individuals who are doing those things in his riding should go to jail or not?

Criminal Code and Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, I believe that if a person commits a crime, there needs to be a consequence for that crime. However, the difference between the member and myself is that I have more faith in the judicial system than he does, and in having a judge with the discretionary authority to ensure that both the safety of the community and the individual who has committed the crime are taken into consideration. I have more faith in that judge than I do in mandatory minimum sentences for the simple reason that, quite often, it can also be used as a shortcut and prevent other sorts of potential plea bargaining. There are many reasons, but I did not have enough time to provide the type of detail I would have liked to on the many reasons it makes sense.

Criminal Code and Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Bloc

Sylvie Bérubé Bloc Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. Inmates, indigenous or not, can cost the system up to $100,000 a year. Does my colleague agree that the money the government will save by abolishing mandatory minimum penalties should be reinvested in youth awareness campaigns, rehabilitation, education or reintegration, for example?

Criminal Code and Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, it is very important for us to recognize when we think of judicial matters that Ottawa is working, in particular, with provincial and territorial jurisdictions and indigenous leaders so that we can actually prevent crimes from taking place in the first place, and that means by investing. However, I do not think we should look at it in terms of saving money here and investing over there. Wherever we can come up with the investments that are necessary in order to prevent crimes from happening, we should encourage that investment, but it also means that we need to get all levels of government working together. If we are successful at doing that, I believe at the end of the day that we will have safer communities.

Criminal Code and Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Heather McPherson NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague and congratulate him on the Grey Cup win in his community.

However, by removing mandatory minimums instead of decriminalizing possession of small amounts of drugs being used for personal use, the Liberal government is taking half measures. It is not actually protecting people who are suffering from a medical condition. As we all know, addiction is a medical issue and not a criminal issue, but the government is still making those people take part in the criminal system. I wonder why it is always a halfway step.

I wonder if the member would agree that what we really need to do is decriminalize possession of small amounts of drugs and ensure a safe supply on our streets, because that is actually how we are going to save lives.

Criminal Code and Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, one of the positive things within the legislation is that, if passed, it would give our police forces yet another tool in their tool belt to deal with this issue. It might not necessarily cater to all the needs the NDP would like to see, but at this point I would encourage the member to at least sit down with the appropriate minister. The issues she has raised could also be dealt with through Public Safety and the Department of Health. There may be a more holistic approach with respect to what she is suggesting, but we are providing additional tools for our law enforcement officers, which is a strong and positive thing within this legislation.

Criminal Code and Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Winnipeg North, particularly for his comments about the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. That was an amazing game last night.

We have talked a lot about what is in the legislation, but not about what is not in it. The member across the way for Portage—Lisgar talked about firearms and the long-gun registry. This legislation would not repeal aggravated sexual assault with a firearm, attempted murder with a firearm, manslaughter with a firearm, extortion with a firearm, robbery with a firearm that is restricted or prohibited, or the discharge of a firearm with intent. The legislation addresses public safety.

Maybe the hon. member could talk about how this legislation would maintain safety while at the same time keeping in place legislation that protects against the use of firearms in crimes.

Criminal Code and Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, that is a good question. One thing I have learned relatively quickly in the House is that the Conservatives grossly exaggerate on the rhetoric file at times, so if we want accurate information we should not necessarily buy into what they say or the propaganda emails they send out.

This is good, solid legislation. Canadians should feel comfortable knowing that we want our communities to be safe and we recognize the importance of positive judicial reform and legislation.

Criminal Code and Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2021 / 4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Pat Kelly Conservative Calgary Rocky Ridge, AB

Madam Speaker, I listened to the member's speech and it was almost entirely a gross mischaracterization of the Conservative position, with zero relevance or comment on the bill itself. Therefore, I have two questions: Did he read the bill, and did he listen to the opposition critic when he made his speech?

Criminal Code and Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, I am familiar with the bill and I listened to the opposition speak to the legislation, unfortunately or fortunately, depending on what side of the House one is on. I also listened to the minister who introduced the bill. I would hope the member who posed the question listened to what the minister had to say, because no doubt it would have alleviated a lot of the concerns being brought forward by the Conservative Party.

Sometimes I find the Conservatives have scripted talking points and it does not really matter what the minister has to say, because the facts go out the window and they stick to the script.

Criminal Code and Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Greg McLean Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, I have a question for the member on the other side after listening to him. I note that he spoke ad lib on this. I am not sure he has read the bill. I am not sure he has spoken to anybody in the criminal justice system or anyone who might be affected by this legislation. Therefore, I would encourage him to take a look at and comment in this House on the concept of broken windows.

As members know, years ago several successful American cities had to revert back to rather stringent legislation in order to stop crimes from escalating, because they were not dealt with appropriately enough at certain stages. That caused a very successful outcome, where they had less crime in the city. Would he like to comment on the eventual outcome and what he would see at the end of this legislation?

Criminal Code and Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, if the member wants to get a really good understanding of what the legislation is proposing, he can familiarize himself with it, as I have done. He can also listen to what the Minister of Justice has said on the legislation, as I have done. He can even listen to the Conservative critic on the legislation, who no doubt has had some role in the creation of the speaking notes provided to the Conservatives.

Criminal Code and Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Bardish Chagger Liberal Waterloo, ON

Madam Speaker, when I think about the community I have been elected to represent, I think about Community Justice Initiatives, which uses restorative justice to create a just society. I think about Youth in Conflict with the Law, which is working with young people to ensure they have better interactions and better outcomes. I think about Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council.

I would like to hear from the member as to what people are doing in Winnipeg to ensure we are building leaders rather than creating criminals.

Criminal Code and Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, restorative justice is a wonderful opportunity for victims meet with the individuals who victimized them. If we can get the two sides working together, we often will get a very positive outcome.

Criminal Code and Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

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.

Criminal Code and Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Scarborough—Rouge Park Ontario

Liberal

Gary Anandasangaree LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I want to put some facts on the table. With respect to addressing the issues of systemic racism, in 2018 and 2019 I had the opportunity to go to many communities across Canada, and one thing that came up over and over again as we developed the national anti-racism strategy was the impact of mandatory minimum penalties on racialized communities, particularly indigenous and Black communities. If we look at many of the court decisions that have resulted in this bill, we see court after court striking down many of the mandatory minimum penalty provisions in the Criminal Code.

That is why we are here today. We are responding to the facts of systemic racism within the criminal justice system. It is a very important step in ensuring that everyone is able to get justice, particularly those who are racialized and who have been impacted disproportionately by the overall criminal justice system.

I ask my friend opposite to comment on that.

Criminal Code and Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary spoke about court decisions. Well, perhaps he should read the Hills decision from the Alberta Court of Appeal. That decision upheld as constitutional subsection 244.2(3) on the reckless discharge of a firearm. Notwithstanding that it has been upheld by the Alberta Court of Appeal, the federal government saw fit to include it among the mandatory sentences that it is repealing.

This is not about judicial decisions. It is about an ideological agenda from an ideological government that simply believes criminals ought to be given a free pass.

Criminal Code and Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Heather McPherson NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, the speech by my neighbour from St. Albert—Edmonton was very interesting to me. I will agree with him on many points he made, particularly around the fact that the Liberals have not done enough to stop the illegal importation of guns into this country. However, I did not hear a lot of solution building from his comments today, nor proposals on what would be done if the Conservatives were to form government. When I look back, I see that the Harper government made cuts to the CBSA of almost $150 million. The member stood up today and talked about what the Conservatives would do to protect people from the illegal importation of guns, but when they were in government, they did not do anything. In fact, they made the situation much worse.

How can we trust that they would not make things worse if they were in government again?

Criminal Code and Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Mr. Speaker, I did put forward a recommendation. It was that we would support legislation like the bill introduced by my former colleague Bob Saroya, Bill C-238, to increase penalties for gun smugglers and those who are in knowing possession of smuggled firearms. Also, we have advocated for increasing funding for the CBSA. It is vital, and it was in our platform.