Mr. Speaker, first let me say that we support the motion by the member for Saint John—Rothesay, though we do want to raise a few points. We are disappointed that the Liberal government is dragging its heels on this and would rather do more studies than take action on a file that has already been studied.
I will also address a few of the points raised by my Conservative colleague who just spoke. Today we are talking about record suspension. The first thing I want to point out is that, contrary to what the member just said, record suspension is not permanent. What it does is make it easier for an individual who committed a non-violent crime, such as drug possession or something like that, to reintegrate into society and get a job. Many employers use Canadian police databases to find out if an individual has a criminal record. It can be extremely difficult for anyone with a record to get a job and reintegrate into society.
The statistics speak for themselves. The fact is that since 1970, 96% of rehabilitated offenders successfully reintegrated into society and did not reoffend. When we are looking at achieving the public safety goals the previous Conservative government claimed to want to achieve, there is nothing more important than having a program of record suspensions, or pardons as they used to be called, that works properly. After all, offenders who do not reoffend is the ultimate achievement of our justice and corrections system, and will ensure public safety by not seeing the circle of perpetual crime taking place.
That is one thing. That is without even getting into the fact that, as the member who presented the motion correctly pointed out, all too often the types of crimes we are looking at with regard to this program are being committed by people who are in difficult and desperate situations and who need the kind of support this kind of program could offer. Then, when they have paid their dues, when they have done their time and have gotten out and have been successfully rehabilitated, they can become productive and welcome members of a community once again.
The Liberals acknowledged that some of the Conservatives' changes were in need of fixing. That includes the higher cost, which is a barrier to access. The Conservative member we just heard from said that the financial burden should fall squarely on the person who committed the crime. Because of that approach, just filing an application for a record suspension, also known as a pardon, went up from $50 or $100 to $631. That does not include the cost of getting a pardon, which bears mentioning. A person who is rehabilitated, who wants to reintegrate into society, and who is looking for a job obviously does not have enough income to cover such a huge expense. That person can forget about it. Plus, the $631 fee applies regardless of the outcome of the application, which can easily be rejected.
As all members know, whenever people have dealings with the federal government, whether in the area of public safety or any other, they might tick the wrong box or forget a comma somewhere, and they will be penalized as a result. That is the kind of situation we are talking about here, except that in this case such mistakes are very expensive.
This is something we need to address as a society. By reversing the changes made by the previous government, some of the cost could be absorbed by taxpayers. Once again, this could also help us achieve some important public safety objectives.
These are all things that the Liberals recognized in the last election, which during debates about public safety issues, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness committed to fixing, so much so that the minister has done exactly what the member wants to do, which is to have the public safety committee, which I am vice-chair of, study this very issue. However, the fact is the Minister of Public Safety has already undertaken this very study to see what Canadians think, to see what the different positions are, to understand that there is support in civil society from exactly the groups that were enumerated by the sponsor of the motion earlier in his speech and in response to questions and comments.
During the minister's study of this issue, an important fact came out. Three-quarters of Canadians support easier access to record suspension in the event that the person applying has paid his or her dues, both in the literal and philosophical sense, and has been properly rehabilitated. Canadians recognize that in order to ensure public safety, we need to achieve the rehabilitation goals that our system sets out to achieve. One of the most important ways to do that and to lead to reintegration is to allow easier access to the labour market, which requires this sort of record suspension.
It is important to note, contrary to some of the fearmongering we just heard by a member bringing up the attack on Parliament Hill in 2014 and other forms of violent crimes and terrorism, that this is not what is before us. What we have before us are non-violent crimes, things like drug possession, and shoplifting has been used as an example, that lead, and rightly so in many cases, others less so, to having a criminal record.
We could have a debate another time over the criminalization of drug possession and the decriminalization of that, and the fact that the government, while legalizing marijuana has sent mixed messages about pardoning those who have criminal records, in particular, those who obtained those criminal records during the debate in this very place about the legalization of marijuana for simple possession.
Putting that aside for a moment, we are not talking about people who have committed terrorist acts. We are talking about people who have committed minor offences, who have done their time, who have paid their dues, who have been properly rehabilitated, and who have waited a period of time that is prescribed by this program to then apply, and even through that application, without any guarantee that they will seek the record suspension.
Let us put that fearmongering aside and look at the very real public safety goals that could be achieved by making a record suspension easier to access. Contrary to what the member who just spoke said, yes, a criminal record is a deterrent, but the folks we are talking about here have already been deterred because they have been rehabilitated and gone through a long and arduous process that has led them to be able to apply.
Those are the facts before us. That being said, I recognize that the minister has studied this issue, a Liberal member is proposing this motion, and this is already something that the Liberals have committed to do. Therefore, I would wonder why, instead of having another study, instead of asking a committee that is tasked with some very heavy files, with legislation, with a calendar that is completely booked for the next several months at the very least, the government would not just act and bring forward the necessary legislative change to make sure that we are achieving the very real public safety goals that can be achieved by making it easier to access this program.
Why not simply do something?
Once again, the government wants to study this situation ad nauseam. Meanwhile, there are citizens who deserve to be pardoned, who have done their time, who have paid their fines, who are rehabilitated and can now reintegrate into our society and begin contributing to our communities. It is well known that they will not reoffend, since the statistics from the past 45 years prove it. A very low rate of recidivism is the ultimate goal of our public safety system.
I therefore congratulate the member and I support his motion. I have to wonder, though, what is actually being done and, even if the committee undertakes such a study, how much longer we have to wait for the Liberal government to fulfill a commitment.