Mr. Speaker, upon listening to my speech, members will quickly understand not only my interest in but also my uneasiness—and even my ambiguity—in speaking clearly to the matter before legislators, namely Bill C-642, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (high profile offender).
In October 2009, my cousin Natasha was savagely kidnapped by a repeat offender, a sexual predator. He murdered her shortly after assaulting her. The authorities found her body a few days later. My life, the lives of her close relatives and especially her mother's life were turned upside down forever. When the police caught this high-profile offender, his long list of misdeeds gave pause to our society: hostage-taking, repeated sexual assault, repeated domestic violence—which are all found in Schedule I of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act—and also drunk driving, road rage, drug possession and other offences.
It makes you wonder why he was out on parole. In reality, the real questions this evening are as follows: Would this bill have affected his release? How could the people involved have influenced this decision? I am not really convinced that it would have made a difference.
First, this amendment to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act concerning high-profile offenders is grossly inadequate, meaningless and unfortunate when we examine the scope of its provisions. There is absolutely nothing about their reintegration into society and, more particularly, there is nothing about providing resources to victims. Tracking the comings and goings of an offender in a neighbourhood or community is not going to alleviate the stress of victims of crime, let alone prevent offenders from committing other crimes in a community, regardless of how close by or how far the offender is living.
I will not even comment on the availability of drug treatment programs, mental illness treatment programs, and anger or violence management programs, let alone their effectiveness.
The objective of the bill is to require the Correctional Service of Canada, in certain circumstances, to disclose particulars of the statutory release of a high-profile offender by posting those particulars on the service’s website and to provide a written notice to the victim, but the bill definitely misses the mark. Our police forces already have the discretionary power to disclose all of the relevant information regarding offenders covered in Bill C-642 when they deem it necessary. In the specific case I mentioned, it would have been extremely necessary.
As a result, this objective, while laudable, calls into question the credibility of this bill, especially if we look at the results of the consultations this government has held on these types of issues since 2006. Not once have the Conservatives considered anything important coming from citizens' groups or stakeholders. The minister and his government simply hold phony consultations, which have become old hat now, in order to satisfy their need for control and partisan politics, at the expense of good public policy and good faith that could make our streets and neighbourhoods safer.
In this case, even though all kinds of people testified in committee that it was important to provide prevention programs or other types of programs to someone who is being reintegrated or released, nothing to that effect was included in this bill.
I would remind the House that according to the Correctional Service of Canada's definition, a high-profile offender is an offender whose offence dynamics have elicited or have the potential to elicit a community reaction in the form of significant public or media interest.
When the NDP voted in favour of Bill C-32, the Victims Bill of Rights Act, which provides for a mechanism for communicating information to victims regarding an offender's conditional release, we thought the issue was resolved. Alas, no, this is just more partisanship. The practical political interests of an upcoming propaganda campaign are the impetus for this bill, which serves no legal purpose and does nothing to improve public safety.
Specifically, this bill has to do with high-profile offenders who have committed a schedule 1 offence, as my colleagues have already mentioned. Such offences include causing injury with intent, using a firearm, invitation to sexual touching, child pornography, corruption, criminal negligence causing death, criminal negligence causing bodily harm, as well as dangerous driving, harassment, assault, rape and aggravated assault. Many of those offences were among the ones committed by the criminal I was talking about earlier.
These offences are enough to make Canadians shudder. Nobody wants the people who have committed these crimes anywhere near them. Everyone agrees on that. However, the victims' bill of rights already includes provisions on the disclosure of the comings and goings and all of the information the victims want.
However, victims do not always want that information. They just want to know that these predators are far away from them. Regardless of formal demands, criminals always come back. That is stressful for victims and can cause burnout.
We live in a changing world. People want to live freely, to enjoy health and safety. That is one of the principles that all bills should be based on to ensure they are useful and pragmatic.
It is clear to me that weakening the social fabric by cutting front-line services, such as food banks, education and mental health services, does not help people who are vulnerable and marginalized, nor does it help struggling or single-parent families.
It is our duty to put those who can be redeemed back on the right track. Some can be redeemed, but they need reintegration programs and help. The resources have to be available. This government puts various provisions in place through its bills, but it constantly forgets about resources, both human and financial.
In conclusion, I believe that this bill is futile and useless. It does not achieve the objective of making our society safer, even though that is what Canadians expect. The NDP believes that we must help victims of crime get their lives back by ensuring that they can benefit from all of the services they need, including the full range of legal and health services. We want to work with victims' groups to find real, pragmatic solutions.