Mr. Speaker, I am extremely pleased to rise in support of Bill C-48 today.
I did not think we would get the bill to this stage as quickly as we have in this Parliament. One of the reasons we did so is that the justice committee recognized the public concern about repeat violent offenders and problems with bail. It conducted hearings last year and came up with a series of recommendations that helped inform this bill. Therefore, today, we have something before us that the justice committee has already considered, that the premiers have been calling for and support, and that has broad support in the law enforcement community.
Today, we have heard many people talk about things other than bail reform. However, when we talked about bail reform, we heard the minister say that the government is prepared to proceed expeditiously. We have heard the Leader of the Opposition say that the official opposition supports the bill. I heard some more ambiguous things from the last speaker from the Bloc Québécois, but he still said that the Bloc supports the bill. Therefore, the question I have been asking in this session is this: Since we have this broad support for the bill, are we serious about moving expeditiously? Maybe the bill does not have everything that everyone wants, but certainly there is broad support, as well as an urgent need to make the public more confident in our bail-reform system.
Since the leader of the official opposition personally gave me credit for a crime wave on Vancouver Island, I have to take a moment to say that I have dedicated my entire life to working to help keep communities safe. I say that as someone whose professional career was in teaching criminal justice before I came here. Therefore, for him to say that I have somehow supported measures in a deliberate manner that provoke criminality or a crime wave is really quite personally offensive.
What we get from the Leader of the Opposition is talk about common sense. I want to point out a piece of common sense that contradicts most of what he was saying today. Over the last 30 years, we have tripled the number of people in pretrial detention in this country. If detaining more people caused a decrease in crime, we would have way less crime than we have today. Therefore, common sense would tell us that detaining three times as many people does not solve the problem.
Bill C-48 would not cast a broad brush, as the Conservatives are asking for. Rather, it has some narrow and targeted measures aimed at repeat violent offenders; New Democrats are in support of those measures. This means that it would insert a definition of “repeat violent offender” into the Criminal Code so that we would know whom judges should be looking at when it comes to denying bail. It would also create some additional reverse onus categories. “Reverse onus” is a technical term meaning that when it is proposed to put someone in pretrial detention, in certain cases, that person has to show why they should not be detained.
Therefore, the bill would add to the list of offences. It would not create a new category; there are already lots of reverse onus provisions in bail. However, it would add illegal weapons, including handguns. That is an important provision, which I definitely support. People have to go to a lot of trouble to possess an illegal weapon; they do not accidentally possess a handgun. Therefore, if someone has a charge that involves a handgun, they should have to show the judge why they should be released and why they are not a threat to the public.
In addition, the bill would increase the reverse onus in cases of intimate partner violence. Again, we know that when there has been intimate partner violence, it is usually not a one-time incident. When people are charged more than once, this bill would make it much tougher for the offender in an intimate partner relationship to get released, which is something that New Democrats definitely support. It goes along with our proposal, which is now a private member's bill, Bill C-332, sponsored by the member for Victoria.
Bill C-3s32 calls for making coercive and controlling behaviour in intimate partner relationships a criminal offence. That would move the goal posts in the Criminal Code; instead of having to wait for broken bones and bruises, a pattern of behaviour that leads to such violence would be a criminal offence. This would allow earlier intervention and prevent much of that violence from happening in the future.
Therefore, this bill goes together with our proposal on coercive and controlling behaviour to help provide better protections for those who suffer violence in intimate partner relationships. In this country, we continue to lose women to violence; every six days, one woman is killed by an intimate partner. This is part of the urgency of this bill and why I believe that we should deal with it expeditiously.
There is a third piece in this bill that I think no one else has talked about today. It is a piece that came up in the hearings we held at the justice committee. In addition to the real problem we have with repeat violent offenders getting bail, which this bill I believe will solve, we have the problem that we detain way too many people in Canada and at far higher rates than any comparable countries around the world. Why is this a problem? There are two reasons it is a problem.
One is the injustice. One-third of the people who are detained before their trial are never convicted but found innocent. What happens to people who are detained and held in jail before the trial? Most often they lose their job. Often they lose their housing. They lose custody of their kids. There are all kinds of negative impacts for people who are not found guilty of anything. Therefore, we need to improve our systems so we are detaining the people who need to be detained and not detaining other people. Who are the people who are over-detained? Disproportionately they are poor, women, indigenous or racialized Canadians.
This bill adds a provision that would require judges to look at community-based bail supervision programs, which are very successful. The John Howard Society has been running them in Ontario. I am looking through my notes, but I am pretty sure I am right. The success rate of the John Howard Society programs, as limited as they are in Ontario, is about 90%. What does a 90% success rate mean? It means that those people who are on community-based bail supervision have a caseworker assigned to them, they will not commit another offence while they are on bail and they will show up in court when they are supposed to. In the meantime, they can maintain their jobs, housing and custody of their kids. Even if they are eventually found guilty, they may not serve prison time. Therefore, having a community-based bail supervision program would help maintain that coherence of families.
Here is the kicker in all of this. Those who serve even limited time in custody before trial are far more likely to reoffend. If we are actually worried about public safety, one of the best things we could do is get people into community-based bail supervision programs where they are put in touch with the services they need, whether mental health services, substance abuse programs or upgrades to their education. If people are in a community-based bail supervision program, they can get that assistance, which will help lead them out of whatever problems they were in to begin with. When they are in pretrial custody, they are in the provincial system and there are no programs available to them. There are no mental health programs, no addiction programs and no education programs while they wait, with the current delays in our trial system, up to six months for a trial. If we are really interested in public safety, we need to put more people into community-based bail supervision programs, which Bill C-48 would now mandate as an option to be considered by the judge. That would require the Liberal government to provide the upfront funding to get community-based bail supervision programs more widely available across the country.
Now all members will say that the New Democrats are demanding more spending, but guess what? It costs about one-third the amount to put people into community-based bail supervision compared to putting them into custody. Therefore, we need upfront start-up funds for community-based bail supervision, which ultimately would produce huge savings in addition to better public safety outcomes and avoid injustice to those who are eventually found not guilty of the offence for which they were charged.
These are the reasons that I think we need to proceed expeditiously on this bill. We need to get a commitment from the government to help fund community-based bail supervision programs.
I know this bill is going to pass. We had the hearings. The hon. member for Rivière-du-Nord who spoke before me said that he wants to examine the bill. The bill is the result of the hearings we already held at the justice committee, so I do not think there is a need for that detailed examination. Maybe the other opposition parties will decide we have to go to committee and do it all over again, and I am prepared to do that, but we could proceed expeditiously, get this bill passed and get a better start on making Canadians safer.
I am not saying that the concerns that Canadians have about repeat violent offenders are unjust. There are many tragic examples that all too often are exploited in this House for political reasons, and I have sympathy for those families, but we have to pass Bill C-48 to prevent the release of violent offenders.
Let me say the other part of this. New Democrats continue to call for on-demand mental health and substance abuse programs.
When the Conservatives like to talk about the 6,000 rolling, revolving-door incidents in Vancouver, those are not violent crimes. Those are people who are poor, who shoplift, who are drug-addicted or who have mental health issues. If we could get, first of all, better support in this time of increasing costs for all Canadians who are poor, if we could get better mental health programs and if we could get better substance abuse on-demand records, then we will have progress in making communities safer.