Madam Speaker, it brings me no great joy to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C‑5.
The first thing I want to point out is that this bill is an exact copy of Bill C‑22, which was introduced and debated in the previous Parliament. Then there was an election, so now we have to start over. On second thought, maybe starting over is not such a bad thing, because if Bill C‑22 had been adopted in its entirety a few months ago, the mandatory minimum sentences for a number of important offences would have been reduced. At least now we have a chance to change things.
The main reasons that led me to become a Conservative MP have to do with public order, national defence, public safety and sound economic management. More than anything else, it was the Conservative approach to public order that really prompted me to become a Conservative MP. I was elected for the first time in 2015, but, unfortunately for my party, the Liberals won that time around and have been in power ever since.
Since 2015, we have witnessed drastic and tragic changes to how public safety issues are addressed. Victim protection has changed, and criminals have been given more rights. That really worries me.
Personally, I blame the Liberals, of course, but also the New Democrats, who, unfortunately, systematically support the Liberal approach. The Bloc Québécois tends to do that as well. As a Quebecker, I often have a hard time understanding how my Bloc colleagues can be so far to the left on these issues, but that is another debate. As I see it, the approach in Bill C‑5 is totally ideological and utterly incomprehensible.
Here are some examples of crimes for which Bill C-5 will reduce minimum sentences: robbery with a firearm; extortion with a firearm; weapons trafficking; importing or exporting an unauthorized firearm; discharging a firearm with intent; using a firearm in the commission of an offence; possession of a prohibited firearm; possession of a prohibited or restricted firearm with ammunition; possession of a weapon obtained by the commission of an offence; possession for the purposes of weapons trafficking; and discharging a firearm.
If Canadians and Quebeckers were listening carefully to that list of the various crimes involving firearms, most people would say that that does not make sense and that reducing the penalties for such offences is out of the question. If people had a clear understanding of what is being debated today, if people were polled, the vast majority would say that this makes no sense and that there is no reason to reduce the sentences of criminals who commit these kinds of offences. That is what the average person on the street would say.
Of course, each member has a duty to represent their constituents, about 100,000 people on average. The Liberals are going to say that this is what people want, and the NDP will support them. Unfortunately, we Conservatives are in a minority. However, I can guarantee that if we asked Canadians about this, the majority, over 50% of them, would surely say they are against this type of measure.
We also must remember that the Liberals have had a change of heart. The offences I just listed were included in the Criminal Code in 1976 under the Liberal government at the time, which was led by Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, the current Prime Minister's father. Back then, the left and right saw crime very differently, and we can all agree that these were important measures that did the trick.
Today, over 40 years later, we are trying to understand why Pierre Elliott Trudeau's son has a totally different perspective on this issue and is taking his government in a direction that puts public safety in jeopardy.
What is more, Bill C‑5 deals on one hand with firearms and on the other hand with drugs. Let us be clear: We are talking about sentences for traffickers, not addicts or drug users. This is not at all about managing people who use drugs for various reasons and all the risks that entails. This is truly about traffickers, those who sell, produce and traffic in drugs such as heroin, cocaine, fentanyl and crystal meth.
On that, I would like to read what my colleague from St. Albert—Edmonton said in the House yesterday. I find it very relevant when we are talking about fentanyl. He said the following:
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.
That is the main issue, that ideological and philosophical approach to criminals.
As my colleague from St. Albert—Edmonton so wisely pointed out yesterday, how are Canadians supposed to agree with eliminating harsh sentences for drug traffickers, the people who are responsible for the fentanyl that kills 20 Canadians a day? Where is the logic there? I cannot wrap my head around it, and neither can most of my colleagues.
I would like to hear my colleagues from other parties, like the Bloc Québécois members and even some from the Liberal Party, acknowledge that the Conservatives are right and that the government is going too far with Bill C‑5.
This is not the right way to tackle the problem. As I was saying, this has nothing to do with addicts. When speaking about people who use for various reasons, a Bloc member said earlier that we should be proactive in tackling this problem. To be proactive, to help drug users, we would have to go after the traffickers who get those drugs onto the streets and whose actions lead to the death of 20 Canadians every day.
What is worse, the Prime Minister appears to think all of this is okay. He does not seem to grasp the problem, and the government does not seem to be able to find the right approach. If this were based on facts or on some logic that people could get on board with, it would be fine, but no, the government seems to think its ideology is perfect. This is unacceptable.
I remind members that Bill C‑5 would reduce minimum penalties for crimes that involve the use of a firearm. There has been talk in Montreal about firearms and the trafficking of guns through the United States for several weeks now. People are bringing in weapons from all over the place and selling them on the black market. There are 14- 15- or 16-year-old kids using these weapons on Montreal streets. Toronto has had the same problem for many years. Quebec is now grappling with this issue, as firearms are becoming increasingly prevalent in Montreal.
While police, judges and the justice system try to find a way to control this problem, here in Ottawa we are debating a bill that, ultimately, tells gun traffickers that they need not worry, and that if they are arrested, they will not be sentenced and that everything will be fine; that it is no big deal if they sell guns; and that there is nothing to worry about if they buy and use guns. Bill C‑5 sends the message that traffickers should not worry, they can do what they want, they will only get a little slap on the wrist and it will not really be that bad.
The same goes for drugs. Usually, in a society where the rule of law, law and order, is important, people who are considering selling drugs should say to themselves that they will be put in jail for some time if they are caught, so they should perhaps reconsider.
Instead, the government is telling them that there is no need to worry, that they can sell drugs to young people and that it is not serious if 20 people die every day. In my view, it defies logic.
The bill also refers to conditional sentences and house arrest. It is as though the Liberals want to empty jails completely by sending inmates to serve their sentences at home.
The bill contains a long list of crimes for which sentences will be decreased, including criminal harassment, sexual assault, abduction of a person under 14, trafficking in persons, motor vehicle theft, and breaking and entering, all of which are not minor crimes. Instead of being jailed, offenders who commit these crimes will be told to stay home and celebrate. That means a person who has committed a sexual assault could be under house arrest in a neighbourhood close to the victim. That is just ridiculous.
Let us get back to firearms. Last month, the media reported that the integrated RCMP Cornwall border integrity team had commenced a firearms smuggling investigation after a boat crossed the St. Lawrence River and made landfall near Cornwall, Ontario. The criminals unloaded three large bags from the boat into a vehicle and departed the area. The RCMP conducted a roadside stop of the vehicle and seized a large number of firearms, including prohibited and restricted weapons and high-capacity magazines. Inti Falero-Delgado, a 25-year-old man from Laval, Quebec, and Vladimir Souffrant, a 49-year-old Montrealer, were placed under arrest.
Under Bill C‑5, the two individuals involved in this arms trafficking and smuggling incident would not receive minimum sentences. It is unlikely either of them would go to prison. They would probably get a conditional sentence or, at worst, serve their sentence at home. That is how it works in real life because, in real life, criminals always think about the possible consequences of their crimes.
Criminals are aware that the government keeps reducing the penalties. That is why there has been a 20% increase in violent crime in Canada since the change of government in 2015. Criminals who want to commit a crime or live a life of crime will benefit from the measures the government is proposing. The hardened criminals will influence the younger ones and tell them not to worry because the Prime Minister's government made sure that things would not be so bad for them.
The other point I would like to raise has to do with systemic racism, which the government claims this bill will help to combat. It is not relevant to say that this will have an impact on Black and indigenous communities and other racialized groups. These groups may be proportionally overrepresented in prisons, but the notion of crime should not be related to race because that does not change anything. A crime is a crime, regardless of the skin colour of the person committing it, whether they are Caucasian, Black or indigenous. As soon as a crime is committed with a weapon, then race should no longer be a factor. The government is pulling the wool over people's eyes by saying that this bill will combat systemic racism. It is a false debate. There is no connection there.
We need to consider other solutions when it comes to incarceration and overrepresentation. Reducing sentences will not solve this problem. On the contrary, it will give just about any group more leeway to commit crimes, since they will be less concerned about the fear of incarceration.
I have a very concrete example of this. Three or four years ago, Bill C-71 was introduced to enhance gun controls. I was a member of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security at the time, and I was the one who asked representatives from indigenous groups to come and share their thoughts on the bill. I would remind the House that it is because of Bill C‑71 that gun owners are now required to apply for a number from Ottawa to sell a gun or transfer it to someone else.
That approach to public safety is debatable, but that is what we have, so that is fine. I asked indigenous people to appear before the committee to tell us what they thought. They were very clear that they felt it was irrelevant. The indigenous representative from Saskatchewan made it clear that there was no way a father wanting to follow tradition and pass his gun on to his son would contact Ottawa and ask for an authorization number. No one would do that.
My first reaction was this: Any time someone has two hands and picks up a gun, it is a public safety issue, regardless of whether the person is indigenous, White or Black. In my view, race has nothing to do with public safety. The fact remains that, until we hear otherwise, Bill C-71 does not apply to indigenous people. I had asked the former minister of public safety, but he did not have an answer.
They want to play with these ideas to get a message of openness across in the media. However, when I am talking about public safety, I prefer to have the facts: When someone picks up a gun and shoots, race becomes irrelevant. These are very sensitive issues, and I hate when the Liberals use them to try to score political points and make themselves out to be the best and most open of the parties. In reality, that is just not true.
I will finish by saying that Bill C‑5 is a bad bill because it is trying to pull the wool over Canadians' eyes and make them believe that it will solve systemic racism. In fact, all it will do is help criminals commit more crimes, and it will do nothing to help Canadians.