Madam Speaker, I should remind members that 2015 is the year the Liberal government was elected.
Being soft on crime does not work. In our rural communities, in our suburbs, in our big cities and across this country, we are seeing people who are victimizing. Whether it is property crime, serious violent crime or sexual offences, we are seeing people who should be approached in a tougher manner being let back out onto the street to commit the same offences, and it has resulted in a 32% increase in violent crime.
This is not me saying that; this is Statistics Canada. It produces statistics on these things. That is evidence, and we should take evidence into account when we look at what works and what does not. I feel, and I know my Conservative colleagues feel, that one of our top priorities as members of Parliament should be the protection of innocent Canadians, the protection of families in our communities and the protection of our communities.
Does that mean we do not think offenders should get the help they need and those struggling with addiction should get the help they need? Of course they should, but we are not doing our communities any favours, and we are not doing offenders any favours, by having zero consequence for serious offences.
Bill S-4 mentions the consent of the offender 10 times. In my own riding, we have a serious story from years ago. A young woman, who was 16 years old, was working in her father's grocery store and was murdered by an offender. The offender received a life sentence.
The victim's father became an advocate for victims of crime. I met with him many times. He was a councillor in one of our communities. He spoke passionately about ways governments could support victims of crime. When we were in government, we acted on some of his recommendations and recommendations from other victims of crime.
His family would travel to Quebec for parole hearings to support the loved one who lost her life all those years ago in the eighties. They would go every two years to these parole hearings. There were times when they would have driven 10 hours, and the offender would cancel the parole hearing. The family would have to go back home not having had the parole hearing. They had many recommendations.
This same case was in the news within the last month when Correctional Service Canada, without notifying the family, said that individual was on the loose and it did not know where they were. Every two years, this family has been there in person trying to keep the individual behind bars where they belong. Obviously that caused great concern for this family. The offender is now back in custody but is still eligible for parole hearings every other year.
Those parole hearings, in person or virtual, continue to revictimize families. That is one of the principal reasons one of the pieces of legislation I am most proud of in my career as a parliamentarian, which we brought forward as a Conservative government, was respect for each individual victim's life in the case of mass murderers.
In Canada, when someone gets a life sentence, some people mistakenly think that a mass murderer or someone who commits first-degree murder is going to be behind bars for the rest of their life. We hear “life sentence” and think they will be in for life, but that is not how it works.
After 25 years, parole eligibility begins. An individual is eligible to be released after 25 years. Let us talk about what that means in the case of a mass murderer, like the individual who took the life of Tim Bosma. His widow, Sharlene, appeared at our justice committee recently to speak about victims of crime.
This is someone who has been through unimaginable pain. She eloquently spoke about her efforts and about the one solace she took. The mass murderer, this individual, was convicted of killing not only her husband, Tim, but also two other people. He had taken three lives. The only solace she took in this whole process was knowing her daughter would never have to attend a parole hearing.
The offender received a 75-year parole ineligibility period thanks to Conservative legislation that allowed consecutive periods of parole ineligibility. This means not just 25 years, but if someone takes three lives, it is 75 years. Before this a family would have to go through the very difficult process of ripping off that band-aid and having to relive the worst events of their life. That was the one solace she took.
As members in the House know, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down those provisions. This affects the individual who took the life of Tim Bosma and the individual who took the lives of three RCMP officers in Moncton, New Brunswick.
I remember that day very well. We were gathered here. We were in the lobby and watching this unfold. Three lives were taken, with a 75-year parole ineligibility period.
Because of the Supreme Court of Canada's decision just a couple of weeks ago, all of those individuals are now eligible for parole after 25 years. Does this mean they are going to be on the streets in under 25 years because they have already been serving their sentences? No, not necessarily. Maybe they will; maybe they will not. However, what this definitely means is that all of these families, including Sharlene Bosma's young daughter, are going to some day have to attend a parole hearing, look at the offender and argue why that individual, who took the life of their loved one, should have to stay behind bars.
Why am I speaking about these things? It is because victims have to be at the centre of all legislation, including Bill S-4. When I see a bill that mentions the consent of the offender 10 times and mentions the consent of the victim zero times, it raises concern for me.
Some of what is in Bill S-4 is necessary. It allows for virtual measures where appropriate, allows police officers to apply for and obtain warrants using telecommunications and conduct fingerprinting of the accused at a later date should fingerprints not previously have been taken, expands the power of courts to make case management rules, expands the ability of the accused and offenders to appear remotely by audioconference and video conference in certain circumstances, allows for the participation of prospective jurors in the jury selection process by video conference if deemed appropriate and allows for the use of electronic or automated means to select jurors rather than the current practice of having the clerk of the court draw names from a box.
Some of these measures make sense. That is why, overall, the Conservatives are supporting Bill S-4. However, there are a couple of things we are looking for. One is a recognition of the role of the victims.
The justice committee is completing a study on victims of crime. There was a Conservative motion asking that we study the impact of the justice system and how we can better serve victims of crime. I spoke already to some of the testimony we heard about how the justice system is stacked toward the offenders. Victims' families are in the dark. Victims are in the dark. These are victims of all kinds of crimes, whether it be property crime or violent crime. Individuals who have had a loved one taken from them are in the dark about the system.
The supports are not there as they should be, so when victims see a bill that mentions the consent of the accused 10 times and mentions victims zero times, it leads them to conclude once again that they are the afterthought in a piece of legislation. That perpetuates a justice system that is out of balance and does not put victims first. One of the things we are looking for is a refocus in this legislation on victims, their rights and making sure that nothing is done in this process that undermines the ability of a victim to feel a sense of engagement and justice to the extent they wish to in the process.
We have heard from other speakers about the urgency of this legislation. The Liberals have been in power for seven years. If we listen to them with respect to this legislation, they say these measures were called for and needed pre-COVID. To be very clear, the justice system was already severely delayed before COVID. Of course, COVID made it worse. I mentioned this in a question to a previous speaker. The Prime Minister reset the clock on this bill when he called an unnecessary and ironically COVID-related election, and here we are today debating this bill.
As Conservatives, we are going to continue to focus on the rights of victims and on making sure we have a justice system that takes serious crimes seriously and protects the interests of victims every step of the way.