Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by saying that we will oppose this Conservative bill. This bill does nothing for victims, it is unconstitutional and against the charter, and it threatens the integrity of our justice system.
This is a bad bill that the Conservatives are using just to appeal to their electoral base.
I have no doubt in my mind that the member for Okanagan—Shuswap felt morally right to bring this forward in the House and I welcome the debate on this subject. It is something that we should debate. I do believe that the government does not do enough for victims and that the member for Okanagan—Shuswap felt he was doing the right thing in presenting the bill to the House to improve victims' rights.
While I do not think the government is doing enough, I do not think this law exactly responds to victims in the way that it should. I believe the member has presented this in good faith, but I also believe that there are electoral purposes to this that he might not have imagined and that the cabinet of his party agrees with.
In all dealings in the House and in society, we hope that things are done with reason and that we are not led by emotion, especially when we are changing or making laws. When members think about murders, such as that of Leslie Mahaffy, and look at the horrific details, they understand the complexity and horror of these awful crimes and are understandably appalled. Our emotions are touched by the disgusting nature of these crimes. However, I do not think what is being presented here will help the victims of these families, because punishment alone is not what helps heal. I think what the member for Okanagan—Shuswap really wanted to do in presenting the legislation was to get to the main problem of repairing the harm done by a crime.
When horrendous murders are committed, there are tremendous harms done to the families of victims but also to society at large. I remember looking at all the details of the Bernardo case. To think that another Canadian could do that to someone is deeply troubling to us as a society, to the families, and I contend that over the passage of time it is troubling to the criminals as well, even though that is not necessarily apparent right at the time of sentencing.
I believe that we have to start going down a road of contemplating how to heal the harm done by a crime. For that, I would like to bring up the concept of restorative justice. It is an idea that is not based on retribution but rather on the healing of all parties, and not just the healing of the criminal, which is often the knee-jerk reaction, that one just cares about the criminals. It is the healing of the families of victims, the healing of society, and hopefully, eventually, the healing of the criminals. When somebody does something horrendous, we hope they will eventually realize that their actions were wrong and seek some sort of redemption for what they have done. New Democrats believe that with the frame of restorative justice, there is that possibility.
There is a famous proverb that says that hate has never been stopped by hating. This is a truth. Hate never stops through hate. In one who hates, hatred never ceases. Hatred is countered by love. In one who loves, hatred eventually ceases. This is a classic proverb that has been with us for over 2,000 years.
I can hear members on the other side laughing about this. Perhaps they think that I am naive. I am here to try to better our society, to try to heal victims who have been hurt by crime. I do not laugh at the families of these victims. I think they are deeply hurt inside. Their souls are hurt by what has been done to their loved ones.
In looking at restorative justice, I would like to look at a piece written by Max Fisher in the The Atlantic Monthly. He looks at the case of Anders Breivik who killed 77 people in Norway. What happened during Breivik's trial was that he was sentenced to 21 years and it can continue after those 21 years. We can debate the length of the sentence, but the idea is that in Norway there is this idea of restorative justice. In the trial itself the families of the victims were able to testify and share their stories and exchange with each other the damage that was done to them. In so doing, rather than adopting a passive punishment model, those families had the chance to express themselves, how they felt, what the crime did to them, what they lost. They had the solidarity amongst themselves to exchange those stories in a public forum. The fact that it was public allowed Norwegian society to start the healing process.
I am not saying that we should take the model from Norway and just plunk it down here, but I think we should start thinking about these issues carefully. Behind every crime legislation we do, we should be thinking about how we can repair the harm done by a crime. From what I have seen of the Conservative approach, it creates an animosity, with hard on crime, or smart on crime as the Liberals say. I do not actually know what they are talking about when they say smart on crime because they so rarely define their policies on things, but I think we have to get to the heart of the matter, which is how can we reduce the harm done by crime.
Putting someone in jail for 25 years or 40 years will never bring back the loved ones of those families. Those families never had a forum to express themselves during the trial. Because of our system of retribution in the trial system, the families never had the chance to express themselves in a formalized setting and therefore were denied the chance to start the healing process.
I do not believe that just increasing sentences from 25 to 40 years will get to the heart of the harm done by these crimes, because basically the idea is still on the retributive model and still on punishment. In the restorative justice model it is not just about proving or disproving guilt, it is about exorcizing the victim's suffering. I think that is really what the member for Okanagan—Shuswap wanted to do with the bill.
One place we could start is that we could stop demanding that victims go to parole hearings when there is no chance that the perpetrator will get parole. We can change parole legislation instead of sentencing legislation. We can change the forum for parole to make it so that the victims' families do not have to go and relive all the details one more time. I think that would be a better place to start. I suggest the member for Okanagan—Shuswap introduce legislation like this and I would be happy to support it.
The fact is that it is not passive punishment that makes a criminal actively take responsibility for making things right with victims and the community. Once criminals are punished they feel that the sentence has been passed and there is no incentive for them to rehabilitate. However, in the restorative model, as we see in Norway, the victims have that forum during the trial process to exchange stories and let the criminal truly know how he or she has hurt the families of the victims. I think it is a better model. It causes criminals to think about what they have done, to contemplate it right from the beginning of the process of when they are sentenced and go to prison.
The restorative justice model only works if we do not believe or consider retribution to be its own inherent good. Personally, I do not believe retribution to be its own inherent good. I believe that the reason we separate people from society is to keep society safe but also for those people who have done wrong to contemplate what they have done wrong and to try to make things better.
For those reasons, I will not be supporting the bill at this reading.