Madam Speaker, as I was saying, it is very important that we have strong mechanisms to hold those in law enforcement roles accountable. I think that everyone would agree on that. These are the individuals who we empower to enforce law and order, so we need to have an equally powerful oversight body to ensure that there are no abuses of that power.
Before I go into the rest of this, I do want to very sincerely thank all of the men and women in the country who wear a uniform to keep Canadians safe.
It is very important that, as parliamentarians, when we talk about oversight, we also talk about the incredible sacrifices that RCMP and CBSA officers make. RCMP officers, with their families, are carted around the country to various small towns, often in rural and northern Canada. We need those officers to keep those communities safe, and they make a lot of sacrifices for their families. We know that CBSA officers, as well, are often in border towns or border communities that are far away from where a CBSA officer would normally live. There is a lot of movement around and a lot of weeks away from home.
As we know, CBSA officers and our RCMP officers are consistently putting themselves in danger, again, to keep us safe, so I thank all of the officers out there who don a uniform and do that for our country.
Certainly, as I was saying, the oversight body is very important. Particularly, we have been talking a lot about CBSA in recent years and their role in preventing things such as gun violence, for example.
It has been discussed with many policing bodies the great threat of having, frankly, the largest undefended border in the world with a country that owns more firearms than they have people, which is just part of their culture and their history, and that is not up for debate in the House, but what is up for debate is how it impacts Canada and the important role that CBSA has in ensuring that none of those firearms make their way into Canada illegally.
Unfortunately, in cities such as Toronto and Montreal, we are seeing significant issues, and deaths and murders, from evil criminal elements and gangs that take advantage of our porous border and smuggle into the country firearms that are not just restricted, but prohibited. They are using them illegally, possessing them illegally and really damaging, particularly, our vulnerable communities in Montreal, Toronto and other cities across the country.
It is not just those neighbourhoods that are particularly vulnerable. We are seeing gun violence across the country in rural Canada. We are seeing it leak into suburbs, which normally feel very secure and safe from these types of elements. That is what is happening with the criminal elements in our cities, and they are being fuelled by what seems to be the ability to quite easily smuggle or drone in guns, either at our border and at our ports of entry.
We also know that this is deeply tied to drug smuggling and drug trafficking across our border as well. CBSA has a huge role to prevent that as well. We are depending on our CBSA officers to prevent significant criminal activity that can contribute to death and mayhem in our cities. We are empowering them to do that. We need to make sure that they have the resources, equipment and training to fulfill those important duties for Canadians.
Unfortunately, we do not hear nearly enough about it from the government. It is far too focused on going after law-abiding, trained, tested and vetted Canadian firearms owners than it is on the issue of our border. Perhaps that is a debate for another time. Given that we are talking about oversight of the CBSA today, I think it is worthwhile to bring in the important work that it does and how much we need to prioritize resources to the border to ensure that we are keeping Canadians safe from the impacts of gun smuggling and drug smuggling.
We have also been talking a lot in recent weeks and, frankly, months about the RCMP. We know that the RCMP is facing a significant recruitment and retention issue. I have a lot of RCMP and Winnipeg police officers in my riding. They are incredible men and women, but they are saying morale is quite low. Where is the oversight and the responsibility from the government, and other levels of government, to ensure that RCMP and civic police officers are feeling valued in their role?
That is something that deeply concerns me. We are facing a deficit of police officers when, frankly, there has been a 32% rise in violent crimes since the Liberals formed government seven years ago, since the Prime Minister became the Prime Minister of Canada. Another stat I would like to share is that there were 124,000 more violent crimes last year than there were in 2015 when the Liberals came into power. The need for police to keep our communities safe is greater than ever, yet we are facing serious retention issues.
We are talking about oversight of our RCMP, but we also need to be talking about policies that ensure our RCMP members are adequately supported. What happens when we have overworked police officers and when there are not enough of them, so they are being spread thinner and thinner and their workload is going up higher and higher? We get fatigue. We get depression. We get accelerated impacts of PTSD from the things they see. If we do not have officers who can rest and take care of their mental health, then we have serious impacts on their ability to adequately do their jobs and keep themselves safe, keep their fellow officers safe and ensure they are doing their duty to keep communities safe.
Any time we are talking about RCMP, CBSA or armed forces members, there needs to be an equal conversation about ensuring we are adequately supporting those officers and those members so that they are feeling valued and being supported enough so that they can adequately do their jobs to the best of their mental and physical abilities. Mistakes get made when they are tired. Mistakes get made when they are demoralized, frustrated, irritated and overworked. That is when the biggest mistakes happen. I think if we are going to talk about oversight, we have to talk about better support for our police officers and our officers at the border.
Certainly, when we are talking about the RCMP as well, there have been a lot of discussions of how we can better serve the vulnerable communities that are seeing the most impacts from violent crime. We could talk about the revolving door that also exhausts police officers. About five years ago, the Liberal government brought forward a bill, Bill C-75, that instituted bail reform. This is something I have been looking into in recent weeks and months, and I have been discussing with police officers the impacts they have seen with these bail reform changes.
It would seem that, quite significantly, Bill C-75 has contributed to the revolving door of crime. Those who are looking to break the law and perhaps harm others are in and out of jail over and over again. Police are encountering the same people, week after week, committing the same types of crimes. It is often just petty theft and petty crime, but often it could also be more significant crimes, like stabbings, shootings, rapes or other types of assault.
Can members imagine being police officers and risking their lives to arrest the same person over and over? What does that do to those police officers? What does it do to their morale and their ability to consistently keep their spirits up and do their jobs, when it is the same people over and over again? If we want to talk about oversight, we have to talk about adequately equipping our police officers with the resources they need, and that goes back to our criminal justice system and how it ensures the people they arrest in the first place stay in jail if they are a threat to society.
Then we have things like Bill C-5, which our party has really talked about a lot in terms of our belief in the threat it is going to pose, particularly to vulnerable communities. To refresh the memories of those watching, Bill C-5 would eliminate mandatory prison time for serious firearm offences, like assaulting a police officer with a weapon or drive-by shootings, so firing a gun with the intent to injure someone with a bullet would no longer mean mandatory prison time under the current Liberal government.
It would also allow that, for serious offences, rather than having a mandatory minimum sentence, there would be the option to serve house arrest. Therefore, in a vulnerable community, for example, if there are people who are criminals or part of a gang doing very bad things to those in that community, rather than going to prison, they could be serving house arrest in the community they have terrorized. I do not think that is fair to those communities. I do not think they want those criminal elements in their communities. It also would not provide any opportunity for rehabilitation, which is provided in our penitentiary system. In my opinion we should have far more rehabilitation opportunities in our penitentiaries, but that is a conversation for another time.
We also have a lot of concerns with leadership in the RCMP. I asked the minister today if this bill would provide any oversight to the RCMP commissioner, given the recent scandal and accusations, with corroborating evidence, that the RCMP commissioner politically interfered with the worst mass killing in Canadian history, notably the Nova Scotia 2020 mass killing. This is a very serious matter the Conservatives, together with the Bloc and the NDP, have been investigating for five months. Although the bill would improve the oversight of the RCMP, I do not think that would translate to the top leadership of the RCMP, unfortunately, though it is desperately needed.
In committee just the other day we were talking to the commissioner of the RCMP, and this was the second time she came to committee about the same interference scandal. She also went to the Mass Casualty Commission to discuss this as well, and it was quite a challenging experience. I was hoping for some sentiment that she was remorseful she had handled the situation the way she had or any sort of legitimate explanation that we could understand that would provide us some relief that she did not do this. Unfortunately, we did not get any of that.
Our only ability to hold her accountable is through the public safety committee, at least as the opposition. The government could fire the commissioner, but it has not taken those steps. We believe it should. Bill C-20 is talking about oversight; however, there is no oversight mechanism in it, that I am aware, for the RCMP commissioner in this circumstance.
Just to recap, a few years ago during the heat of the fallout, about 10 days into the tragedy that took 22 lives, including the life of a pregnant woman, we found out through the evidence we built through the MCC, that the RCMP commissioner, first and foremost, warned the government that sharing the weapons information about the evil killer in that situation, who, again, killed 22 people plus a pregnant women, would jeopardize the criminal investigation. She made it very clear that it should not be shared beyond the minister and the Prime Minister.
Unfortunately, a few days later she turned around. We now had an audio recording where she was reprimanding her Nova Scotia deputies on the ground for not sharing the information that she warned her bosses not to share. We asked her and the MCC asked her what changed her mind. She has not provided a single coherent answer about what changed her mind. We have theories, but she has not provided a single coherent response.
What we found out from the audio recording, and what was certainly corroborated before we got that audio recording by the Nova Scotia deputies and their meticulous notes, was that the commissioner was connecting the Liberals' forthcoming gun control policies. She did this because she wanted to help usher along the Liberal government's gun control policies.
When we have the commissioner of the RCMP, with 22 murdered Canadians and the largest criminal investigation in Canadian history in that regard, looking at this as an opportunity to further her political boss's gun control policy, we obviously have a lot of questions and concerns about that. We believe that is political interference. What really tied it back to the Liberal government were her own words saying that they requested that she do this.
The Liberal government has repeatedly denied this. We have her words in an audio recording. We have that corroborated with the Nova Scotia deputies who were in that meeting where she stated those things. They have written notes. They have testified at committee without a doubt in their minds, and given the audio we can see where they are coming from, that the commissioner of the RCMP sought to take advantage of the deaths of 22 people to further the Liberal political agenda. She also said that it was requested by the then-minister of public safety's office.
We have gone through this for five months. The evidence has trickled out and built the case. To us, it seems irrefutable that this happened, yet she still has her position. We find that disgusting and appalling. We do not understand how someone, the head of our law enforcement, could come to committee and worm her way around the facts on the ground, the audio recording that we have, that she directly connects these things. However, she said things like that was just a conversation, that was taken out of context, this is all a misunderstanding or it was just a miscommunication. That is what we were hearing. However, we have the audio recording and we have the testimony from the people who were in the room.
It is quite frustrating that we were not able to fully hold the most powerful RCMP officer in the country accountable. Perhaps that is a shortcoming of my own. Perhaps I could have done a better job. However, if we are going to talk about Bill C-20, the government also needs to talk about holding the RCMP commissioner accountable, which it has so far failed to do.
It would be one thing if it was just in this scenario that she was using that kind of slippery language to make excuses for her behaviour, which was, as we believe, on the order of the Liberal government and its ministers. She also mentioned the PMO in the audio, so perhaps it goes as far as the Prime Minister's Office. However, we were unable to get any further evidence to convince media and others that it is the case. Should any more evidence come up, rest assured, we will be revisiting that issue.
What I would say is that I think the reporters are finally experiencing a bit of what we experienced with the commissioner over the past five months.
Again talking about the oversight of the RCMP, recently a Globe and Mail story came out, which I think was yesterday or the day before, and now it seems that the commissioner is pulling the same sort of behaviour with the Emergencies Act. She apparently was texting with her counterpart at the OPP, the OPP commissioner, back in the height of the convoy when the government invoked the Emergencies Act. As a refresher, the Emergencies Act allows the government to supersede charter rights, which is a very big deal. That is why there is a built-in inquiry to hold the government accountable for doing it, to ensure the very high threshold of the Emergencies Act was met. We are going through that process right now and it is quite riveting.
The commissioner is sort of pulling the same stuff with the media. There are text messages between her and the OPP. The title of the article is, “Top Mountie can’t explain text messages in which she suggested federal government wanted retroactive support for Emergencies Act”. Where is the oversight on this?
She said the following to the OPP commissioner, which is unbelievable, “Has Minister Blair hit you up for a letter to support the EA?” My understanding from the article is that this is after the Emergencies Act was invoked by the Liberals. We have the commissioner of the RCMP asking for a retroactive support letter for the invocation of the Emergencies Act from the OPP commissioner. Two very powerful people are talking about backdating a letter retroactively to show that they are supporting this. That is pretty peculiar. Their integrity is pretty suspect and perhaps shows how desperate, which is speculation, the political bosses in that scenario were to build their case. We know that the Minister of Public Safety said mistruths in this House when he said that the police asked for the emergency powers, when in fact they did not. This is just building on that narrative a little more.
Further, she told reporters she never requested such a letter, yet we have texts that say that she did. How can there be texts that say she requested this letter, when she tells reporters that she did not? This is what we have been going through for five months with the commissioner. We say she said something and she says that is not what that meant, over and over again. We are talking about RCMP oversight. Where is the oversight for the RCMP commissioner?
I will conclude with this, because this is the part that shocked me the most. The head of the RCMP, the commissioner, texted the head of the OPP. Commissioner Lucki's texts show that she twice asked Commissioner Carrique about using a different messaging app that does not store deleted messages. In the context of talking about the emergency powers, is it not peculiar to anyone that the head of the RCMP is texting the head of the OPP saying they need use to an app where their messages can be permanently deleted? Is no one concerned about that?
The heads of law and order are talking about using an app to permanently delete records. That is insane to me and it is unbelievable that the commissioner is still the head of law and order in this country. It is appalling. She should absolutely resign or, better yet, be fired by the public safety minister.