Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I would like to say that I will be splitting my time with the member for Trois-Rivières.
Today I rise in the House to speak to Bill C-53, which we will oppose. First though, since this is probably my last speech in the House for this 41st Parliament, I would like to thank all of the staff who have supported us over the past four years: House of Commons staff and the people working in my riding office and my parliamentary office, the interpreters, who do amazing work, the pages, and the people who work for my caucus.
A special thanks goes to my constituents in Rivière-des-Mille-Îles for placing their trust in me over the past four years. It was a tremendous privilege and an honour for me to meet them and talk to them about their concerns. I hope that they will support me again during the next Parliament.
Today we are talking about Bill C-53, a justice bill that was introduced by the government in power. This bill represents yet another step backward. I will digress for a moment to talk about this government's record on justice over the past few years.
First, let us talk about the issue of the missing and murdered aboriginal women. The current government is refusing to conduct an inquiry into this phenomenon, even though aboriginal groups across the country have been calling for such an inquiry. We know that an inquiry is necessary to put a stop to this terrible phenomenon in Canada. The NDP has already committed to conducting a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women. That is a priority for us, and it is one of the first things that we are going to do if we take office.
The Conservative government also introduced Bill C-51, which undermines our fundamental freedoms and violates our right to privacy. I received a number of letters on this subject from my constituents, who spoke out against the approach the government took with Bill C-51.
The NDP took a stand based on conviction and principles. Of the three main parties in the House, we are the only one that opposed this bill, which seriously infringes on the freedom of Canadians.
We can say that the Conservatives have fallen short when it comes to street gangs, whether it be in Montreal or Surrey, British Columbia. I talked with my colleagues from British Columbia about how a big a problem street gangs are. This is a serious and urgent problem that the government continues to ignore.
Bill C-53 is broadly based on misinformation and electioneering. What is more, we know that the Conservatives used this bill to stir up fear in order to raise more funds for their party. Right after this bill was introduced, the Conservative member for Scarborough Centre sent a fundraising email on behalf of the Conservative Party. The subject line was “Murderers in your neighbourhood”. That is obviously a campaign to spread fear and then capitalize on that fear to generate more support for the Conservative Party. That is the desperate act of a tired and ineffective government that is jeopardizing Canadians' safety.
The Conservatives should tell Canadians the truth. In the current system, the most dangerous criminals who pose a threat to public safety never get out of prison.
That is the current reality. We in the NDP want to protect victims and create an approach that puts victims first. We also believe in evidence-based policy. Any reforms made to the sentencing regime should focus on improving public safety, not playing political games. That is what the Conservatives are doing right now.
Decisions regarding people being released from custody must be based on an assessment of the risk each individual poses to the community and to public safety. The Conservatives introduced this bill, which, in fact, gives the minister control over these decisions. The Conservatives want to politicize the release process. We believe that this is a step backward for Canada.
The Attorney General has a duty to ensure that all of the bills put forward by the government are constitutional. As we know, since the Conservative Party has been in power, it has introduced a number of bills that could be considered unconstitutional. Once again, Bill C-53 will probably wind up being challenged in the courts. In other words, the Conservatives have introduced yet another problematic bill that is really much more about playing politics, instead of working to find solutions to the real problems.
Currently, if an offender gets parole, he will live the rest of his life under the conditions of his parole and the supervision of a CSC parole officer. Offenders who are sentenced to life never enjoy total freedom, since they have committed an offence resulting in a life sentence. Not all offenders who are given a life sentence get parole and some never will because of the high risk of recidivism they continue to present. We know that in the current system, there is legislation already in place to protect public safety and keep our neighbourhoods safe.
We know that the Conservatives are playing politics with this bill. The fact that they have been talking about this bill since 2013 further proves that point. They waited until just a few months before the election was called to introduce a real bill in the House. We know that this is an election bill. It has been criticized by eminent lawyers and experts because it is a complete botch-up.
In the past few days, we have had to discuss other bills that the Conservatives introduced in the House at the last minute. That is very undemocratic because we do not have enough time to debate these bills before the House rises at the end of the parliamentary session.
We also know that this same government invoked closure for the 100th time a few weeks ago in order to limit debate in the House. That move was strongly condemned by this side of the House, because Canadians want their MPs to do their homework, do their job and carefully study these bills. However, the Conservatives want to ram their platform down Canadians' throats without discussion and clear debate.
At present, it is the Parole Board of Canada, the PBC, an independent administrative tribunal free from political interference, that decides whether to grant or not grant parole. Taking this power away from independent experts and putting it in the hands of government is tantamount to turning back the clock 50 years. With this Conservative government we are going backwards.
The Parole Board of Canada was established in 1959, and Canadians rejected the politicization of the administration of justice a long time ago.
Canadians deserve better. They deserve a government that will take public safety seriously rather than using it for political purposes.