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39th PARLIAMENT, 1st SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 156

CONTENTS

Thursday, May 17, 2007





CANADA

House of Commons Debates

VOLUME 141 
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NUMBER 156 
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1st SESSION 
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39th PARLIAMENT 

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Speaker: The Honourable Peter Milliken

    The House met at 10 a.m.

Prayers



ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

[Routine Proceedings]

  (1005)  

[English]

Government Response to Petitions

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to one petition.

Committees of the House

Citizenship and Immigration 

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 14th report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration entitled, “Recommendations to the Minister--Immigration and Refugee Board Appointments”.

Living Donors Reimbursement Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank my colleague, the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, for his tremendous long-standing assistance on this issue. I also wish to thank my colleague, the member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River, for seconding the bill.
    The living donors reimbursement act is an important step in increasing living organ donations in Canada. Thousands of individuals in Canada are currently waiting for an organ. Living donors are a vital part of Canada's organ donation system, as organs from living donors are typically healthier, function better and last longer.
    We as a federal government must do more to ensure that living organ donors, who are truly giving the gift of life to others, are reimbursed for their out of pocket expenses and lost income.
    The bill would amend the Employment Insurance Act to allow those who are convalescing from their organ donation to claim loss of their wages.
    The bill would also appoint a national organ transplant coordinator to lead the efforts to coordinate and match potential donors with recipients.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

[Translation]

Income Tax Act

    He said: Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to introduce this bill today on behalf of thousands of retirees who have been cheated because their employer failed to assume its obligations with respect to their retirement plan, or because it stopped fulfilling those obligations.
    In particular, there is the case of retirees from the Jeffrey mine in Asbestos, in my riding, Richmond—Arthabaska, and retirees from Aciers Inoxydables Atlas in Sorel-Tracy, in the riding of my colleague from Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, whom I would like to thank for his support in this matter.
    I would also like to thank my colleague from Chambly—Borduas, who met with these retirees, and drafted this bill with them—which is important to note—to provide a refundable tax credit for the loss of retirement income.
    Of course, I hope to have the support of all members of this House to help these retirees, who have become victims, recover part of the money they have lost.

    (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

[English]

National Dystonia Awareness Week Act

    She said: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the 50,000 Canadians who suffer from the disabling neurological movement disorder known as dystonia, I am pleased to introduce an act respecting National Dystonia Awareness Week.
    Dystonia is not well understood and is an often misdiagnosed disease that affects certain regions of the brain responsible for involuntary movement and can manifest itself through a variety of symptoms.
    The purpose of the bill is to get greater awareness of the disease, especially of its severity and long term chronic symptoms, by designating the week commencing on the first Sunday in June as National Dystonia Awareness Week.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Standing Orders

    Mr. Speaker, there have been extensive consultations among the parties and I believe you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

[Translation]

    That, for the year 2007 only, Standing Order 28(2)(a) be amended in column A, replacing the words “The Friday preceding Remembrance Day” with Friday, November 2, 2007, and replacing the adjacent sentence in column B with ”Tuesday, November 13, 2007”.

[English]

    Does the hon. government House leader have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Speaker: The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    (Motion agreed to)

  (1010)  

Petitions

Justice  

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I have the honour to present a petition on behalf of a number of citizens in my riding of Palliser, as well as citizens across Canada.
    The petitioners call upon the government to proceed with changes to the criminal justice system so that those convicted of serious criminal code offences serve their time consecutively and not concurrently, and that those convicted of multiple criminal code offences have their time served for parole eligibility with those convictions counted consecutively.
    The petitioners want to ensure that the victims of violence crime see justice done in our Canadian criminal justice system. I would like to commend the efforts of Lorne Ridgway of Avonlea, Saskatchewan, whose family was touched by a terrible violent crime, who spearheaded this petition.

Questions on the Order Paper

    Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

Government Orders

[Government Orders ]

[Translation]

Olympic and Paralympic Marks Act

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-47, Olympic and Paralympic Marks Act.
    Today I would like to talk about the importance of sport and the importance of supporting it. I will of course address the importance of the Olympic Games and, above all, the importance of protecting Olympic marks from ambush marketing and trademark theft.
    According to the Olympic Charter, established by Pierre de Coubertin, the goal of the Olympic movement is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practised without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play. What an excellent example and lesson for our youth.
    The Bloc Québécois supports Bill C-47 because we believe in the Olympic ideal. We do not think it is outdated. On the contrary, we believe it is important to promote the movement. Furthermore, as we have seen in this House, the Standing Committee on Health has tabled bills concerning obesity rates among our youth. Sport is a good way to tackle that problem.
    Problems of hyperactivity among young people, the majority of them boys, can be resolved by involvement in sports. It is therefore important for our society to support sports, and the Olympic Games provide an excellent opportunity to focus on sports and increase activity.
    We had an example of this after the Montreal Olympics of 1976, as generations of young people acquired a taste for sports in general, Olympic sports in particular. It is a matter of health and of well-being.
    We became aware, however, at the same time, that funding was both difficult and fraught with peril, and this is why Bill C-47, is so important. This bill makes possible the funding of the Olympic Organizing Committee, which is essential. We need to keep in mind that we are talking of $700 million in connection with Vancouver and with marks. Forty percent of the Olympic Games budget is linked to sponsors, whose ability to use Olympic marks is what will be able to fund those games.
    This bill deals with the protection of Olympic and Paralympic marks, and with protection against certain misleading business associations between a business and the Olympic Games, the Paralympic Games or certain committees associated with those Games.
    It is therefore important for us to provide real support, but for a limited time. This bill is about special protection, but for a limited time, of intellectual property rights, words and symbols relating to the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.
    The Bloc Québécois is in favour of Bill C-47. We note, however, that the Conservative government may be moving quickly to protect Olympic marks, but it is taking far more time to protect intellectual property adequately. At the present time, in fact, the Standing Committee on Industry, Sciences and Technology is looking at the issue of counterfeiting and intellectual property, a major problem for our economy.
    Even the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights is hard at work to find ways of dealing with film pirating. This committee has, moreover, adopted a motion, thanks to the efforts of the hon. member for Hochelaga, the Bloc Québécois justice critic, which is about proceeding with an examination of this matter.
    Canada has, unfortunately, already been faulted for its inaction on film pirating by just about every country on the planet, and rightly so. No fewer than 20% of films pirated by videotaping in a movie theatre originated in Canada.
    So what about intellectual property? Generally, the notion of intellectual property covers rights related to intellectual activity in the industrial, scientific, literary, or artistic fields. Intellectual property rights include patents, trademarks, copyright, industrial drawings, integrated circuit arrangements, plant breeders' rights and so on.

  (1015)  

    All of these are considered intellectual property. We know that if intellectual property is not protected, not only will creativity and inventiveness be suppressed, but the cost to our economy will be enormous. This is becoming a disaster of epic proportions.
    The Olympic mark, which we are discussing today, includes all names, phrases, marks, logos and concepts related to the Olympic movement. If we do not protect Olympic marks, why would major sponsors want to invest in these Olympic Games? It is critical that any unauthorized use of the Olympic mark be prevented because it could undermine the entire sponsorship system, the way the Olympic Games organizing committee awards licences and the committee's ability to raise the money needed for these games. Products, sponsorship and licences are truly essential to the success of the Olympic Games, and that is why we really support this bill.
    This bill criticizes ambush marketing. What is ambush marketing? Users, individuals, retailers and people selling all kinds of products could claim to own Olympic marks and use them to sell their goods. They would use the marks to appeal to the public so they can sell their fake Olympic logo products.
    This bill is really aimed at protecting these Olympic marks. Not protecting them will reduce the value of sponsorship rights. Why would major sponsors pay top dollar for sponsorship rights if they are worthless because the marks are used by everyone? For viable Olympic Games, the trade-marks must be well protected. Every time the Olympics are held, a new bill must be introduced, because the Olympic marks are extremely valuable.
    Canadian and foreign organizations have always invested a great deal of money because we have been able to guarantee the Olympic marks. Unauthorized use of Olympic marks must be illegal and carry severe penalties. With this bill, we are not trying to prevent companies from doing business, but it is important to protect the rights of major sponsors who are supporting sport and the building of facilities that will stay in Vancouver and promote sport, which is what happened in Montreal.
    For example, under this bill, it would be illegal to use the Olympic rings, the Olympic torch, the logo of the 2010 Olympic Games or the mark Vancouver 2010 on a website or sign, in a written document or on an item, or to use the Olympic mark in a corporate or company name or a trade-mark. The Olympic Organizing Committee is responsible for protecting the Olympic mark, but it is prepared to take legal action if necessary to protect that mark. This could include orders to seize unauthorized wares and recover damages.
    What sorts of activities are considered ambush marketing? They include the unauthorized use of the Olympic mark or similar marks or names in connection with a business, organization, event or commercial Internet site; an Olympic contest, including offering a trip or tickets to the Olympics as a prize in a program or promotion; “good luck” advertisements or advertising or prizes to congratulate the Olympic athletes; and references to the Olympic movement, the Olympic Games or the athletes in advertising or marketing.

  (1020)  

     There are also the merchandise, posters and stickers distributed in connection with the Olympic Games, publications in connection with the Olympic Games, including programs, guides, magazines, maps and supplements, books, personal journals and calendars, and visitor services in connection with the Olympic Games.
     One question often asked by promoters is whether Olympic Games tickets can be given as prizes in a contest or promotion. There are specific conditions attached to Olympic Games tickets that expressly prohibit using them for commercial, advertising and promotional purposes, including as prizes in contests. A person who obtains Olympic Games tickets in a manner that violates the applicable conditions can be refused access to the games site or be asked to leave the premises.
     So the Conservatives’ haste to defend the Olympic trademarks stands in some contrast to their lack of haste in defending athlete development in Canada and Quebec. On that point, it seems to me that introducing this bill should be an occasion for the Conservative government to give more thought to how it supports sport. We cannot support sport in Canada and Quebec only when the Olympic Games are being organized. We should be doing that all the time, and it should be a requirement, for public health. In our opinion, it is important that more Canadians, in all segments of society, take part in sports activities of every variety.
    After the 1976 Olympic Games, the Government of Quebec did a lot for sport. In my riding, there was a very important initiative: the creation of the Les Estacades Sports Complex, in which $8.5 million was invested. And what is this sports complex? It is a strategic centre for sports development, not only for young people who are involved in a program combining sport with academic work, but for all adults and young people in the riding, who can all use the sports complex, which has also received substantial funding from the Mouvement Desjardins. This will make it possible to build an indoor soccer field and an Olympic-sized arena, to open around about December. There will be a range of facilities that everyone in the riding will be able to use.
     We are increasingly realizing that soccer is an expanding sport, and one that calls for little expenditure. As a mother, I have seen my sons play a lot of soccer. The youngest still plays. This is a very democratic sport, in the sense that it does not involve astronomical costs for parents. Every family can let their children get involved in this sport, which genuinely contributes to improving our young people’s health.
     In conclusion, I will say that we support this bill, to ensure, obviously, that there is adequate funding for Olympic sports and to support amateur sport.

  (1025)  

[English]

     Is the House ready for the question?
    Some hon. members: Question.
    The Deputy Speaker: The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Deputy Speaker: I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology.

    (Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

Criminal Code

     He said: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to lead off the third reading debate on Bill C-10.
    During the last federal election, the Conservative Party of Canada laid out clear plans to make our streets and communities safer for Canadians. We promised to target criminal enterprise and the gangs that profit from violence, drugs and fear and undermine people's sense of personal security and their confidence in the Canadian criminal justice system.
    Canadians listened to our message of hope and responded by granting us the privilege of forming the government, so today I am very proud to stand in the House as Minister of Justice to follow through on our promises to deliver on our core promises to tackle crime.
    In order to make our communities safer, we introduced several criminal justice bills aimed at getting violent, dangerous criminals off our streets.
     We introduced Bill C-22, the age of protection bill, to protect 14 year olds and 15 year olds from adult sexual predators.
    We introduced Bill C-27 to improve the process for keeping violent and repeat offenders in prison, and Bill C-9, which aims to put an end to house arrest for serious and violent offenders and which, I am pleased to say, has passed this House.
    These are just a few of our recent initiatives.
    Bill C-10, the bill that we have before us at third reading, is an important piece of legislation that specifically targets gun and gang violence.
     I am very pleased that we have received the support of a majority of members of the House to restore the bill, and while the bill we debate today is amended somewhat from its original form, it still contains tough mandatory minimum penalties for serious offences involving firearms.
    More specifically, Bill C-10, as amended, proposes escalating penalties of five years' imprisonment on a first offence and seven years on a second or subsequent offence for eight specific serious offences involving the actual use of firearms. Those offences are: attempted murder, discharging a firearm with intent to injure a person or prevent arrest, sexual assault with a weapon, aggravated sexual assault, kidnapping, hostage taking, robbery, and extortion.
    I should point out that these tough penalties will apply when the offence is committed in connection with a criminal gang or if a restricted or prohibited firearm is used.
    Who can be against that? Who can be against those provisions? This is what we talked about with the Canadian public in the last election and I believe there is widespread support for a bill of this nature.
    Bill C-10 defines what will constitute a prior conviction with respect to these use offences, that is, the use of firearms. This means that any prior conviction in the last 10 years, excluding the time spent in custody, for using a firearm in the commission of an offence will count as a prior conviction and will trigger the enhanced mandatory penalty for repeat offences.
    Also, I should point out that Bill C-10 now proposes penalties of three years on a first offence and five years on a second or subsequent offence for four serious offences that do not involve the actual use of a firearm. Those offences are: illegal possession of a restricted or prohibited firearm with ammunition, firearm trafficking, possession for the purpose of firearm trafficking, and firearm smuggling.
    For the non-use offences it is important to note that the prior convictions for both the use offences and the non-use offences will trigger the higher mandatory minimum penalties applicable in repeat offences.
    The bill, as amended, also creates two new offences dealing specifically with the theft of firearms. Breaking and entering to steal a firearm and robbery to steal a firearm now are made indictable-only offences, subject to life imprisonment.
    Therefore, as we can see, this bill targets serious gun crimes with a particular focus on when such crimes are committed by criminal organizations, which of course includes gangs.

  (1030)  

    It sends a very clear message to the public that this Conservative government is serious about dealing with this type of crime. I am very pleased and proud that we are introducing this piece of legislation and seeing it through to its conclusion.
    I should point out the manner in which Bill C-10 was amended at report stage is an example of this government's willingness to make this minority Parliament work. Together with members of the New Democratic Party we dealt with a problem and we found a solution that responded to our respective concerns and priorities. I am pleased that we had their support and that of several other hon. members of this House.
    I saw, I believe, about five members of the Liberal Party who broke ranks with their own party. I want to tell the House how much I welcomed that and certainly appreciated their support. I think they received the message on this. I am very pleased to have that support at third reading. I would welcome more support from other members of the opposition.
    I should point out that Bill C-10 has the support of other important stakeholders as well. Police officers and prosecutors are supportive of this government's attempt to pass this tough on crime legislation. They have said that tougher mandatory penalties are needed to target the specific new trend that has emerged in many Canadian communities, and that is the possession and use of firearms, usually handguns, by street gangs and drug traffickers.
    In that regard, I point out the support that this approach received from the attorney general of Ontario. He pointed out in a Globe and Mail article on March 6 that he liked this approach of getting tougher. He called on his federal colleagues in the Liberal Party to get behind legislation of this type because he believed this was the way to go.
    Mr. Speaker, the safety and security of Canadians are not partisan matters. If we want to see progress in tackling gun crime, we will all have to do our part.
    Police officers have to do their part in investigating and apprehending those who commit crimes. Crown attorneys have to do their part in ensuring that accused persons are effectively prosecuted, and of course, judges have their part to do in imposing sentences.
    As parliamentarians we have a strong role to play as well. We set the laws. We signal to the courts what we consider to be appropriate penalties for specific crimes.
    There are a number of opposition members who say they cannot support Bill C-10, but many of these same members have already supported mandatory penalties in the past, and particularly for firearms offences. In fact, it was the Liberal government that introduced a number of mandatory penalties in the mid-nineties and proposed a very modest increase to some of the gun-related crimes in the last Parliament.
    This government does not believe a one year increase is going to make enough of a difference. We want to send a clearer message. We need to ensure that the appropriate stiff penalties are imposed on gun traffickers and gang members who use guns in such serious offences as attempted murder, hostage taking, robbery and extortion.
    We believe that the proposals in Bill C-10, as amended, are both tough and reasonable. As I have already indicated, the proposals are restricted to the key areas that are a growing concern to people across this country.
    There certainly is evidence to support the problems associated with the current level of gun crime. Crime statistics, police, and several other experts in this area, point to a growing problem with respect to guns and gangs. While the national trends show an overall decrease in some crime over the past few decades, it is not the case with violent crimes such as homicide, attempted murder, assault with weapons, and robbery, especially in larger urban areas across the country.
    Statistics also show that while crimes committed with non-restricted guns are down, handguns and other restricted or prohibited firearms have become the weapon of choice for those who use firearms to commit crimes.
    Toronto's rate of firearm homicides in recent years has frequently been reported by the press. Statistics Canada data shows that it is not just a problem unique to central Canada. The rate in Edmonton has also recently increased and Vancouver has consistently had higher rates over the last decade.

  (1035)  

    Gang-related homicides and the proportion of handguns used in violent crimes have become a major cause for concern and gun crime with restricted weapons or guns used by gang member is an increasing problem in urban communities.
    Organized criminals are fuelling much of the crime problem and the government's justice agenda aims to curtail this problem by increasing the mandatory minimum penalties for crimes committed with guns, ending house arrest for those convicted of serious violent crimes and sexual offences, and other significant crime, such as major drug offences.
    As I mentioned earlier, Bill C-10 includes a number of sentences for both use and non-use firearms offences with the stiffest penalties. The bill targets serious gun crimes committed by gangs or organized crime and the prohibitive weapons that they use.
    In addition to this legislation, the federal government of course has a role to play in making funds available to help prevent crime before it happens. I am happy that the government has made investments in crime prevention and specifically to help at risk youth from becoming involved in criminal gangs, guns and drugs.
    Funding is available to allow communities to examine issues surrounding gang involvement, create awareness of youth gang recruitment, prevention and intervention strategies, identify service gaps and best practices, and develop program responses.
    Several activities have already started to fulfill the government's commitment to work with the provinces and territories to help communities provide hope and opportunity for our youth and end the cycle of violence that can lead to broken communities and broken lives.
    I would like to speak for a moment on how the bill is consistent with the sentencing principles provided in the Criminal Code and charter rights. The Criminal Code provides that it is a fundamental principle of the Canadian sentencing regime that a sentence should be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender.
    It also provides that the purpose of sentencing is to impose sanctions on offenders that are just, in order to contribute respect for the law and the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society.
    Accordingly, the objectives in sentencing are to denounce unlawful contact, deter the offender and others from committing offences, and separate offenders from society where necessary, as well as assist them in rehabilitating and accepting responsibility for their actions while repairing the harm they have caused to victims and their community.
    The manner in which the higher mandatory penalties will apply under Bill C-10 is intended to ensure that they do not result in disproportionate sentences contrary to the charter. The higher levels of seven years for using a firearm and five years for non-use offences are reserved for repeat firearms offenders.
    If an offender has a relevant recent history of committing firearms offences, it is not unreasonable to ensure that the specific sentencing goals of deterrence, denunciation and separation of serious offenders from society are given priority by the sentencing court.
    The government considers that the mandatory penalties proposed in Bill C-10 are not only just but are also appropriately targeted at the specific problem which they seek to address; that is the new trend that has developed with respect to guns and gangs.
    At the beginning of my remarks I mentioned that the government is determined to make Canadian streets safer, communities safer and to stand up for victims. The good news on this front is that we are only just getting started.

  (1040)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am amazed that our Conservative colleague is speaking of progress.
    He feels that Bill C-10 is a sign of progress. The Bloc Québécois believes that it is reactionary and that it is reminiscent of 19th century thinking whereby those who commit crimes must be punished.
    However, history has shown that those who commit crimes do not give a second thought to the fact that they may spend their lives, or many long years, in prison. This has been documented by studies conducted by universities and prevention groups.
    I suggest that my colleague travel a bit and that he come to Quebec, where he will see that we think in terms of prevention rather than repression.
    What does he have against prevention? Why does he always think about repression? Is it because he is mired in the reactionary thinking of 19th century morality?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member made a very interesting point. He said that people who commit crimes do not think about the consequences. Certainly, I believe they should think about the consequence. One of the good things about this bill is that we are going to give them the opportunity to think about them.
    So, if individuals did not get the chance to think about the consequences or did not get a chance to think about the victims or what they are doing to their community or their family, it would be my sincere hope that with a mandatory five years in a federal penitentiary those individuals would have that time to reflect and think about where they had gone astray and how they have messed up their life.
    As I said, one of the good things about this bill is that extra opportunity. If these individuals did not have enough time to reflect and to change their ways, and wanted to commit another serious crime with a restricted firearm in an attempt, for instance, to shoot or wound somebody, those individuals then would have seven years in a penitentiary to think about it. So then, again, that time for reflection would certainly be there.
    However, as I said to the hon. member and as I pointed out in my remarks, I am certainly interested in intervening with these individuals who do not reflect on the consequences of what they do and I am very much in favour of programs and, quite frankly, funding.
     I indicated a number of the areas in which the government is taking action. I think it is very impressive. I would let the member know that $16.1 million--
    Order, please. I am sorry but the Minister of Justice has gone on for some time and there are others who want to ask questions.
    The hon. member for Vancouver East.
    Mr. Speaker, I have just heard the Minister of Justice say that he wants to intervene earlier, and he has talked a little bit in his comments about Bill C-10 about crime prevention and community-based programs.
    Following up on the comments made by the member from the Bloc, it seems that we have seen a huge amount of emphasis from the Conservative government on its crime agenda and that it is very willing to grab the Criminal Code and say, “What are we going to do to toughen up the Criminal Code and bring in more penalties?”
    In certain circumstances, that is obviously an appropriate thing to do, but I think it begs the question as to what is the government's agenda in terms of crime prevention?
    We have virtually had no debate on this. We have seen no initiatives from the Conservatives. I think that most people in local communities would agree that certainly law enforcement and penalties are very important measures.
    However, the real building block of healthy and safe communities is around dealing with proper housing and dealing with substance abuse in a way that is actually helping people, from a health point of view, and not simply just throwing people in jail because of a health issue and a substance use issue.
     I would really like to ask the minister this question. Although he made the briefest of references to crime prevention, where is the government's agenda on crime prevention and supporting strong and healthy communities? We have really seen that it does not exist from what the government has brought forward in terms of the budget and other legislative initiatives. I would like to ask him to comment on that.

  (1045)  

    Mr. Speaker, in her opening remarks the hon. member said the government places a huge emphasis on its criminal law agenda. I agree with that. This is actually one of the pillars upon which this government rests.
    We made it very clear to people in the last election that we want people to have confidence in the criminal justice system, we want safer streets, we want safer communities, we want less crime, and we are prepared to take steps in that direction.
     I do not want there to be any misunderstanding from anyone on this. This is one of the very important items that this government promised when it came into office and we are prepared to stand on.
    That being said, the hon. member made the very good point that everyone has a stake in intervening and trying to prevent crime in our communities and she said I only made the briefest of reference. Of course, I was running out of time at that point, but I certainly believe in that.
    That is why I was indicating that there was funding. Just in the last budget, there have been initiatives introduced by my colleague, the Minister of Public Safety, and me to tackle the problem of youth gangs and to intervene at an earlier point to try and get those individuals.
    Certainly, over the years I have supported those programs that work with young people and try to get them off a track, so that we are addressing those individuals who, as my colleague from the Bloc said, commit these offences, but they do not think about the consequences. Obviously, we want to work with the provincial authorities, the municipal authorities, interested--
    Order, please. The hon. member for Alfred-Pellan.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I listened to the speech by the Minister of Justice, who is quite concerned with safety. However, I strongly believe that not allowing judges to decide on the appropriate sentence for each individual who commits a crime is not the right approach for ensuring safety.
    With automatic sentencing, more people will go directly to jail. We know from experience that prison is a school for criminals. Thus, we will be training more criminals, unless the Minister of Justice introduces a bill that imposes a life sentence on anyone using a small firearm at some point in their life. With the minister's bill, more criminals will be turned loose. They will offend again and our cities will be even less safe.
    Has he given some thought to this point in his bill?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is upset that we are proposing to send these individuals to prison. I must point out again who we are talking about. These are individuals who have used a restricted firearm for the crimes of attempted murder, sexual assault with a weapon, aggravated sexual assault, hostage-taking, robbery and extortion.
    The hon. member asks why there is no other alternative. Believe me, if I thought that sending these people to camp or sending them away on a vacation somewhere was the solution to this, I would go along with that. However, it seems to me that when individuals commit these serious crimes, and do them repeatedly, because the bill talks about escalating penalties, when people cannot get the message that this type of activity is abhorred in Canadian society, then one of the options proposed in this legislation is imprisonment.
    I will give the Bloc Québécois credit for being consistent. It consistently opposes these efforts to toughen up the Criminal Code. We have a break coming up and I would ask the hon. member to go back and talk to some of his citizens, explain these offences that I am talking about here of people using restricted firearms, using a pistol in an attempted murder, and see if they agree with me. I bet they will. I think they will say that the Conservatives are on the right track and that maybe those individuals should be in prison and not sent to summer camp in those instances.

  (1050)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to address the House on Bill C-10, an act to amend the Criminal Code or, more specifically, an act to implement minimum penalties for offences involving firearms.
    I would like to say at the outset that this bill does not allow judges to impose stiffer penalties. The maximums are still the same. For serious offences, the same maximums can be imposed on criminals by judges and they will continue to impose maximums in serious cases.
    I would like to remind people that we have a committee system. When a proposal comes to Parliament we have a committee meeting. A number of members from each party go to the meeting to hear expert witnesses in the field. We look at bill after bill day in and day out and obviously members of Parliament cannot be experts on all of them. Therefore, we bring people who have spent their careers in these fields before committee and, based on their knowledge, expertise and input, we wisely make our decisions.
    I do not think, in this particular case, a single committee member would not admit that the overwhelming evidence from a vast majority of experts indicates that mandatory minimums do not work. I am sure it would be self-condemnation of the cognitive abilities of any member to actually suggest that was not the case from the expert witnesses that came before committee.
    It is in true conscience, using the system as it is meant to be used, that one could take the expertise and overwhelming advice in this particular case. Quite often in committees there is a lot of conflicting advice from both sides but in this case there was some on the other side but very little.
    I agree with the Minister of Justice that this is a non-partisan issue and I will be doing that in my speech today. In order to be non-partisan, I will only refer to things that witnesses before committee have said. I will put their testimony on the record so that other members of Parliament can hear what some of the people who have devoted their lives to this type of work have said.
    First, I will present some comments from the Canadian Bar Association, a national association that represents 37,000 jurists, including notaries, law teachers and students across Canada. The association's primary objectives include improvement of the law and the administration of justice. In fact, I believe the government's justice minister would have been a member of this association in his previous life.
    The CBA consistently opposes the use of minimum penalties. It supports measures to deter the illegal use of firearms but stresses that such measures must be consistent with the fundamental sentencing principles in the Criminal Code with constitutional guarantees and following the well-established guidance offered by Canada's common law. This is the position of the CBA, representing 37,000 individuals. It is opposed to this legislation. Surely. it must have good reasons and information for making such an important decision.
    The CBA's opposition can be summed up in four points. First, unlike what many people may think on the surface:
    Mandatory minimum penalties do not advance the goal of deterrence. International social science research has made this clear. Canada's own government has stated that:
    The evidence shows that long periods served in prison increase the chance that the offender will reoffend again...In the end, public security is diminished, rather than increased, if we “throw away the key”.
    Basically, this law would make society more dangerous. I know that is not what appears to be what happens on the surface but, as the social science experts and the government's own report suggests, this would make society more dangerous.
    The second reason the Bar Association brings forward is:
    Mandatory minimum penalties do not target the most egregious or dangerous offenders, who will already be subject to very stiff sentences precisely because of the nature of the crimes they have committed. More often, the less culpable offenders are caught by mandatory sentences and subjected to extremely lengthy terms of imprisonment.

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    What happens is that these serious offenders are already given long sentences and the people who should not have long sentences because of the circumstances are the ones who are unfairly caught by these minimums once discretion is taken away from the judge.
    The third reason the Bar Association provided is:
    Mandatory minimum penalties have a disproportionate impact on those minority groups who already suffer from poverty and deprivation. In Canada, this will affect aboriginal communities, a population already grossly over represented in penitentiaries, most harshly.
    The fourth reason the Canadian Bar Association provided is:
    Mandatory minimum penalties subvert important aspects of Canada's sentencing regime, including the principles of proportionality and individualization, and reliance on judges to impose a just sentence after hearing all facts in the individual case.
    Another important criticism from the CBA comes from its interpretation of section 718.1 of the Criminal Code. CBA states:
    Section 718.1 of the Criminal Code states that the fundamental principle of sentence is proportionality, requiring that a “sentence must be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender”.
    Bill C-10 would require the same mandatory minimum sentence to apply to all offenders, even though offences and the degrees of responsibility vary significantly. I think anyone would agree that that would not be fair.
    Proportionality reflects the delicate balance that must be achieved in fashioning a sentence. Common sense and fairness require an individualized proportional sentence. The Canadian Bar Association believes this is why minimum sentences have been severely criticized in many important studies, including Canada's own sentencing commission report.
    Further, the Criminal Code contains a statutory acknowledgment of the principle of restraint, stating that the purpose of sentencing is to separate offenders from society where necessary.
     I will now quote the final words of the address from the Canadian Bar Association. It says:
    The mandatory minimum sentences proposed by the Bill would focus on denunciation and deterrence to the exclusion of other legitimate sentencing principles, and too often lead to injustice. Ultimately, it is unlikely to enhance public safety, but likely to instead further erode the public's confidence in the fairness and the efficacy of the Canadian justice system.
    I will now quote some other witnesses we had before the committee who also provided evidence and the expertise from years of experience in this field as to why this is flawed legislation, and by flawed I mean flawed in the view of the expert witnesses who came before committee.
    One of the witnesses, Paul Chartrand, a professor of law at the University of Saskatchewan, told us that if we wish to “promote a just and tolerant Canada...then, with respect to Bill C-10, is minimum mandatory sentencing a legitimate means to address the problem? My answer is no.”
    Professor Chartrand went on to ask, “Will mandatory sentencing work? Once again the answer is no.” In his opinion, the way to combat crime is to combat the root causes of crime: assist children through children's benefits; assist families through community services, recreation and so on.
    Professor Chartrand also told us that the federal government could not do it alone. He said that it would need to work not only with the provinces and territories, but with municipal governments as well.
    Another witness, Mr. Alan Borovoy, general counsel, Canadian Civil Liberties Association, told us about the flaw within Bill C-10. This is taken from the minutes of our justice committee meeting on November 29, 2006. He said:

  (1100)  

    I have another case to illustrate the nature of the injustices this is capable of producing. In 1994 the Ontario Court of Appeal reduced the jail sentence of a prisoner who had been convicted of discharging a firearm with intent to cause harm. They reduced this sentence from 12 months to six months because in the opinion of the court he had an exemplary record previously and he was acting in a situation of high stress that required split-second decision-making. The prisoner, it turns out, was a police officer. The person at whom he unloaded his firearm was a burglar he was chasing. He grazed his arm.
    If that man had come up for sentencing today under the provisions of Bill C-10 he would serve no less than four years, and I am certain that the Conservative Party is definitely in support of our police officers and would not let such an egregious offence against justice occur. There would be all sorts of other situations when the conditions would mandate a sentence that is different from a minimum sentence.
    As I said, the maximum sentences are not changed here. Very stiff penalties are available in the justice system. They are not increased in the bill and are still there for the judge to use under this particular bill.
    Thanks to the grace of Bill C-10, this police officer, who was doing the best he could, might have had to serve five years. I find it inconceivable that even the most ardent proponents of mandatory minimum sentences would wish that kind of outcome on that police officer.
    How does that happen? It is because simplistic solutions like mandatory sentences inevitably encounter a complex reality. We cannot always make them fit. That is why this bill is such an abomination.
    Once again, those words were from testimony before the justice committee on Bill C-10 by Mr. Alan Borovoy, general counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
    Let us go on to another witness so that members do not think this is about just one or two people, although we have had the reference from an organization that represents 37,000 people in the legal community in Canada.
    We will go on to Mr. Graham Stewart, the executive director of the John Howard Society of Canada. He left us with the following message to mull over:
    Respect for the criminal justice system will never be achieved by measures that breed distrust of our judiciary. Measures that would eliminate the discretion of the court and replace it with one that is inherently arbitrary cannot generate public confidence in either the judicial or the political systems.
    Mr. Stewart also outlined this grim reality, an offshoot of Bill C-10:
    Harsh penalties encourage greater recidivism. When the impact of Bill C-10 runs its course, the same number of gun offenders will be released each year from prison as is the case today. Having served longer sentences, those being released from our prisons will likely be much more difficult to reintegrate into society. We will have fewer resources to either prevent crime or rehabilitate offenders. They will be more likely to offend again.
    There we are hearing the same message that we have heard before. When we put people in prison for longer sentences, especially when under the circumstances those sentences are not just, offenders actually tend to reoffend. Our criminal justice system has actually failed in that respect. Most of the crimes in society are not first offences, so the way to stop them, as the witnesses said, is to first of all deal with the root causes and, second, with the treatment in the jails, or alternative sentencing, which another bill tried to eliminate a lot of, but fortunately Parliament would not allow that to occur.
    That is why I was somewhat apprehensive when the justice minister said in his speech that there is much more to come after these bills.
    Another witness explained that when we put people in jail for a longer time, in that university of criminals, they come out worse. They come out more likely to reoffend and then society's recidivism problem is worse. Thus, we are going to increase crime in society because people are more likely to offend when they come out. Once we get caught up on the years, we are going to have the same number of people being released.

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    People have to remember that all these criminals get released. Everyone we are dealing with under the bill gets released. There are a few dangerous offenders, but there is another bill that keeps them in forever. Under this bill, everyone gets out.
     If we want to do justice to the victims in our society, if we want to do justice to innocent people so they are not re-victimized or are not victimized for the first time, we want society to be safer. We want people who are coming out of prison to be less likely to reoffend because they are the ones who actually create most of the crimes.
    How are they going to be less likely to offend? The statistics, the social scientists and the experts who came to committee showed that the actual facts are that they are less likely to reoffend if they have had shorter sentences and the appropriate treatment.
    Mr. Stewart also asked this key question, which no one on the government side could respond to, when he said:
    The introduction of new mandatory penalties will be increasingly difficult to control. If mandatory minimums work for one offence, why not all offences?
    I would like to go on to yet another witness who came before the committee. I guess people listening at home and the many members of Parliament here are beginning to understand why the public perceptions on crime are different from what we might have thought. I think that is one of the reasons why the committee system serves Parliament well. People thought that in general crime was going up, but violent crime is going down.
    In fact, I have to commend the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. In about two weeks, it will have a session specifically on crime, on the fact that violent crime is going down, and on what the role of the media is to ensure that people get the right perception.
     Similarly, a number of people coming to committee would have thought that on the surface this type of bill is common sense. That is why I think the testimony from so many witnesses, who were called to the committee by all parties, changed the minds and the understanding of a number of people in regard to what is a very complex situation. It has to be complex or we would have solved it long ago and obviously we have not.
    I will go to the second last witness I want to speak about and that is Ms. Debra Parkes, member of the board of directors of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, which of course has tremendous experience in this area. She said:
--we're seeing a moving away from this approach [of harsher sentences] by other jurisdictions that have taken this approach in a very concerted effort. A number of American states, as well as jurisdictions in Australia, are starting to move away from imposing mandatory minimum sentences, precisely because they come at great human and fiscal cost, as well as not delivering on the promise of deterrence.
    Once again, although we would not think it, intuitively it turns that yet another witness has explained that this approach is not a deterrent.
    Also, Kim Pate, executive director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, summed up the association's position by saying:
--the public would be best served by the withdrawal of this bill and not proceeding any further with mandatory minimum sentences provisions of this nature.
    As I mentioned at the start of my speech, these were the people who appeared before the justice committee hearings on Bill C-10.. The overwhelming majority of witnesses advised the government not to proceed with this legislation, reminding the government that the vast majority of information and their extensive experience indicate this policy will not succeed, and the government would best serve the interest of Canadians by directing its attention at other and more successful ways of deterring crime.
    In conclusion, I think it is the objective of all members of the House of Commons to reduce crime. I think members of the House are very good listeners in their role. Hopefully they will listen very carefully to the evidence, to the facts and to the experts as they search their hearts in making their final decision on what is actually best and what will make Canada safer, and hopefully they will take into consideration the years of expert testimony that I have just presented for the members of the House of Commons.

  (1110)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the member opposite if he has been involved in any altercations that involved armed robberies. As a criminal lawyer practising in northern Alberta, I remember, for instance, one individual who took an axe, believe it or not, into a convenience store and held it up. He was a relatively young man. It was his second offence. He had been out on I think a fairly light sentence on a previous offence. Indeed, when he held up that convenience store, he traumatized the clerk behind the counter, quite frankly, and also the other individuals who were there.
    I know that we often speak of criminals and the rights we should give them, but I am wondering if the member actually has been a victim or has talked to victims who have been involved in this type of altercation and what his interests are in that. Could he see himself supporting a bill that allows people to be traumatized, that allows people to continue to be aggressive in robberies or situations like that, and that allows people to not be deterred? Because there is evidence on both sides of the equation to say that these types of bills indeed do deter people from committing crimes like that.
    I am wondering if he has talked to victims' groups or has been involved with groups of people who have suffered as a result of these kinds of crimes.
    Mr. Speaker, I have not been involved with that type of firearm, although I have been shot at by artillery when I visited our troops in Afghanistan.
    On the case in question, we leave that decision to a judge. This bill does not give out more severe penalties than could be given to that person. That person would be provided the severe penalties by a judge who has heard all the witnesses and who is an expert in this field of making those decisions as to what is deserved.
    As I said, in certain cases this bill could put a person in for longer than they reasonably should be in jail, therefore making them more dangerous when they come out. This would make it more likely that person the member talked about who was so upset would be reoffended against by a criminal coming out in a worse state and being more likely to reoffend.
    Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my hon. colleague's points in his presentation. I was taken by the story about the policeman. What I am considering now is that right across this country we are arming more of our peace officers, our park wardens and our border guards. I am thinking to myself that in reality these people must uphold the law at least to the extent that every other Canadian citizen must. In the case of those who are empowered to carry a firearm, they must act with complete regard for the law.
    I am thinking of the case of a police officer who shot at someone and was charged for it. He obviously had done it outside the law. He grazed the person, but he could well have killed somebody there, and there has to be some deterrent for that as well. There has to be some understanding that leniency is not given simply because one is in a position of authority in this country. There is no leniency given to endangering other people's lives.
    The effects of this law are going to be profound for people who carry lawful firearms, but there are important considerations that we must take into account as well in the protection of our citizens and their rights.
    Does the hon. member across not consider that whether a policeman shoots somebody unlawfully or an ordinary person shoots somebody unlawfully, the end result is the same, with the victimization of both the person who was shot and his or her family?

  (1115)  

    Mr. Speaker, I agree completely, and that is why the police officer received a jail sentence. Whether it was a police officer or not, the judge felt in this case that it was a high tension situation, the person had to act quickly and there should have been some leeway for him to give a just sentence.
    The member mentioned people who carry firearms for the protection of Canadians. Will these people be deterred from using their firearms given the fact that they could get lengthy unjust sentences? Will they be less likely to discharge their firearm in the line of duty to protect innocent citizens, allowing more innocent citizens to be in danger or hurt in a particular situation? People should think about that ramification.
    I hoped the member would talk about aboriginal people because we both have them in our ridings. I did not get a chance to emphasize a point that one of the witnesses made, which is the fact that we already have a disproportionate number of aboriginal people in our justice system. A number of the bills that the government has brought forward will exacerbate this situation. I do not want to just chastize the government and its agenda, but there has been no effort by Parliament to deal with that problem.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Yukon for his clear and concise presentation. I very much appreciate him mentioning the committee that could not find expert witnesses in favour of this bill. I also appreciated it when he talked about the 37,000 jurists from the Canadian Bar Association who are opposed to this bill.
    This leads me to my question for the hon. member. Is this not a vote-seeking bill? The minister seemed to be saying earlier that the Conservatives introduced this bill because they promised they would. That seems very much like electioneering to me.
    With this kind of bill, judges no longer have free will. Could the hon. member for Yukon tell us—in aboriginal communities in particular—how a judge can truly assess a person's situation when he is forced to impose minimum sentences under the law? We keep hearing exactly the same thing, but I think the hon. member could give us a different and clearer explanation.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, first, unfortunately the member is right. Some people will vote on this because of what they said during the election campaign. In true fairness, to be wise and just legislators, we sometimes have to eat crow if expert witnesses show us we are doing the wrong thing. That is why we have a committee system.
    The member's second point was very important. The Criminal Code of Canada specifically allows under sentencing that the special circumstances of aboriginal people be taken into account, specifically because they are incarcerated disproportionately in numbers.
    The member is exactly right. How can the judge look at that situation if he has no option. This may actually be unconstitutional. It may be against the provisions of sentencing in the Criminal Code because it does not allow special consideration for aboriginal people. They are automatically assigned a minimum sentence. The government has set up a conflict by having these very long mandatory minimum sentences.
    Mr. Speaker, when we track criminals and their histories, research has shown that if we support parents and their newborns and young children from say the ages of five, six and seven, this can prevent them from ending up in the criminal justice system to a much lesser degree.
     What can we do in those early years so we do not end up having this same discussion five or ten years from now? I am interested in the member's comments on the early prevention side.

  (1120)  

    Mr. Speaker, a couple of witnesses definitely talked about the root causes. They said that the solution was to deal with those, including early childhood development.
     We have to deal with the problem early on and resources should go toward addressing that. However, it has been proposed that the resources go toward incarcerating more people, which will cost more, make them more likely to reoffend and make society more dangerous.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I have been listening to what has been said because this is not the first time we have talked about this bill. The more I listen, the more I realize this is nothing but smoke and mirrors and that the government wants to implement a bill to try to bolster its image and make people believe that minimum sentences are the only solution to making them safe at home, in their town, province and country.
    If we look at everything going on around us, we see that truly tragic events occur, like the one at Dawson for example. I doubt that the prospect of a minimum sentence would have stopped this young man from committing that crime. I doubt that the prospect of a minimum sentence would have stopped Mr. Lépine from killing so many young women at the École polytechnique.
    Most of the tragic events of this kind are unplanned crimes committed by a deranged individual, and minimum sentences would not change a thing.
     A number of American states, unfortunately, still have the death penalty. But still a lot of crimes, murders and homicides, are committed in those states. This means that it does not work very well, despite the death penalty. We should wake up and look at who the people are in the U.S. prison system who have been sentenced to death. They are not white collar workers, or millionaires, or people who have had an easy life. There is always a small percentage of incorrigibles, of course, people who can never be helped to reintegrate into society or turn their lives around. Unfortunately, these people do exist. The devil exists. I know personally that he exists.
     Earlier, one of my colleagues asked the hon. member in the Liberal Party whether he had ever been victimized by a criminal act. If so, he would know and understand what it is to be afraid of being victimized. Personally, I have been victimized. Several times I have found myself in dangerous situations where I was facing firearms and knew the end might be nigh.
     I had a job in a restaurant and, very late one evening, a young man put a gun on his table because I did not want to serve him and so he tried to threaten me. I know, therefore, what it is to be threatened. However, the fact that crimes are committed does not mean that all the people who commit them are habitual criminals. That is not true. Many people can be reintegrated into society and can go on to make a great contribution. We see it every day and we know some of these people. I would not want to see these people’s lives permanently blighted because they made a mistake when they were young. But that is exactly what minimum sentences do.
     Under the Canadian legislation, there are already 29 acts that can result in a minimum sentence. Does the system work better because we have all these provisions? Are there fewer people in prison?
     As my colleague in the New Democratic Party just said, if we really want to combat crime, I think we should attack the root causes, which are poverty and a lack of human contact, human warmth and communications, as a result of which many of our young people find themselves isolated and without anyone to guide them.

  (1125)  

     I believe that if we paid more attention and ensured that people have real jobs and real salaries perhaps it is possible that we would have less crime. I am not talking about cheap labour, about seasonal jobs, or jobs where a woman who works 35 hours, 40 hours or 60 hours is compelled to remain on the employer’s premises and can not go out. It has been proven that imposing minimum sentences does not reduce crime. Many studies have been done on this subject.
     I found a study conducted by Nicole Crutcher and Thomas Gabor. It is a study that was carried out over a period of 20 years. Twenty years is not insignificant. A study carried out over 20 years is a serious study.
     This study showed that minimum sentences accomplish nothing and do not help in any way. It is simply a way of making people believe that because we put more people in prison and give them minimum sentences that there will be less crime. That is not true. That is not the way it works.
     According to this study, only a small proportion of offenders committed to prison are of the calculating type who carefully weigh the pros and cons of committing a crime. They also said that many offenders prefer to go to prison rather than serve community-based sentences. They do not consider the difference between a sentence of three years, five years or ten years. They do not make that distinction. When they commit a crime, they do not think of the sentence they might receive. The only thing they think about is not getting caught. Publicizing the penalties will not make them think about them any more, believe me.
     It would be better to reinstate the gun registry and ensure that we do not just give young people the tools to commit crimes.
     Yesterday, on television, I heard that a grandfather had obtained a gun permit for his two-year-old grandson. Two years old. Is that what our colleagues of the Conservative party want to see? Is that what should happen? Do we need weapons to defend ourselves? That is what was claimed in the United States during the shooting some weeks ago. Is that what we want? Do we all need to have weapons so that the law can come after us every time we use them to commit a crime? There are no weapons in my house. Most people do not want them either. We will not prevent people from owning weapons through minimum sentences. Rather, let us arrest the real criminals and put them in prison.
     Very often, young people who are members of a street gang commit small crimes. That is unfortunate. Let us deal with the problem of street gangs. We should not think that minimum sentences will stop young people from becoming members of a street gang. That is not the way things work.
    When criminals commit crimes, they do not think, “I might get caught and be put in jail for three years, so I had better not use a weapon. Instead, I will just give the victim a little piece of paper that says I am about to commit a crime”. They do not think that. Once they have decided to commit a crime, they do it regardless of the minimum sentence associated with it.

  (1130)  

    For example, if a young man without a record gets caught doing the kind of thing teenagers do to impress their peers or if the only thing he knows how to do is to be the baddest of the bad, he could wind up in jail for a long time. He could be lost to our society. That would be very unfortunate.
    Now, instead of getting rid of the methamphetamines, ecstasy and hard drugs that hurt our children, instead of conducting raids all over the place to wipe the drug problem out, the government wants to give people minimum sentences. That makes no sense. That is not how our society works.
    I know that teenagers are often easily influenced. We have to keep an eye on them constantly. The most easily influenced teenagers are the ones who fall through the cracks. The rate of incarceration among young people from aboriginal and visible minority communities is high. Why? Because poverty is even more prevalent in those communities than elsewhere. Would it not be a better idea to provide social housing and affordable housing, to offer young people decent jobs and to build community centres? Would it not be better to give them the opportunity to work in the summer and in their communities rather than cut youth employment assistance programs? That is not what the government is doing.
    Under the pretext of wanting to ensure public safety, the government has introduced legislation that will help very few people, and will fill up our jails with even more people. What will they do once our jails are full? They are already full. Will they build more jails? Perhaps they want Canada to become a military state. Do we want to live in the kind of country where the only thing the government does is make sure that nobody ever commits a crime? We have to get serious. The government does not govern for itself. It governs for the people it represents.
    We were accused earlier of not consulting the people we represent. It is precisely because we consulted them that we refuse to adopt such a philosophy. It is precisely because we consulted them that we know that this is not what people want. On the contrary, people are asking us to restore the gun registry. Police forces are asking us, and so are abused women and other groups. That is what people want to ensure real security. That is what we need. We need tools. We do not need stringent legislation that will put more people behind bars without giving them the opportunity and the chance to otherwise rehabilitate themselves. That is not what we need. That is not what people want.
    My colleagues from the Bloc Québécois, the NDP and the Liberal Party have also made their position very clear. We want humane measures, measures that allow people who have lost their way to get back on the right track, to start over and participate in society, instead of being sent to the dungeons for 10, 15 or 20 years, where they will certainly not learn anything.
    When these people are released from prison, they certainly will not be out to do good, because they will have only one thing in mind, and that is what they learned on the inside to avoid being sent back. When a person is released after 10 or 15 years, a person who was young going in, what have they learned about society? What have they learned about living in society? What have they learned about involvement, sharing or integration? Nothing. They have learned only how to survive. Is that what we want, a population of survivors? That is not what I want.
    I am convinced that many members in this House will agree with me. Survivors are like rats and will do anything to get by. That is frightening.

  (1135)  

    It is scary. But with progressive and humane laws that take into account all the factors, enabling judges to hand down informed sentences, we can move forward. As a society, with such laws we can be proud because our children will not fall through the cracks. I am sure of this, because all the studies say so and prove it. It is not Nicole Demers saying it. I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, but I am allowed to name myself. Hundreds of experts say so. The proof is that in the United States, in states where there are mandatory minimum sentences, there is more crime than in other states.
    So what does the government need to see the light? What does it need to open its eyes? I do not know. Instead of using smoke and mirrors, the government should listen to real people and stop holding little focus groups that give the answers they want to hear, instead of real answers from real people who live in the real world. That is what it should do.
    I hope that this bill will not be adopted. I really hope so because if that is the direction we are going, it will be a serious mistake that will affect our children, grandchildren and the society we live in. That is for sure.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I was listening to that speech but I thought it was somewhere between a rant and a ramble. I was not exactly sure where the member was coming from. She was all over the map, talking about wanting to represent the people and then bringing out some studies and focus groups to support her opinions.
     The legislation that we adopt in this place is about representing the people. Canadians are asking for tougher sentences. It is fairly simple. We are giving them tougher sentences because that is what Canadians want. We know that these things are a deterrent.
    The previous speaker, the member for Yukon, was talking about how prison actually makes people worse. He would argue there be no prison at all under those circumstances.
     The opposition members' comments on this kind of legislation is that they have no real position other than they would like to hold these people by the hand and the poor little darlings are the victims rather than the perpetrators of the crime. It is time that we said that criminals are criminals and they deserve to be punished accordingly--it is that simple--rather than to hold them by the hand, pat them on the head and tell them, “Be a nice little person. Please, do not do it again”.
    I would hope that all members of this House would recognize that Canadians want a judicial system that works, that applies punishment, that makes sure our streets are safe. This kind of legislation is resonating with the general public.

  (1140)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, as usual, our Conservative colleagues are not listening. They do not listen to us and they do not listen to the people. So those comments do not surprise me.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I actually found the member's overview to be quite eloquent and substantive. It is funny how members can sit in this place and draw different conclusions and inferences, but that is mine.
    I would also like to make clear that in terms of mandatory minimums what is being offered up and the amendments that have been proposed by the opposition, in particular this party, are very close. In fact, there is only a difference of about a year in terms of the discretionary capacity. We really are not arguing from hugely different perspectives.
    My area of York South—Weston in Toronto is one of 13 neighbourhoods that are at risk. At a public meeting I was told that we are treating the symptoms and not the disease when we come down heavily with respect to our criminal justice system. My son is a lawyer and he has told me that judges have indicated that they do not have a lot of flexibility with respect to people in the criminal justice system who in fact return to prison.
    What tools are available within the criminal justice system, in particular in the prisons, for effectively dealing with those who have to go to prison? It is not that we want them to go to prison, but that is where they end up. How can we ensure that when these people, in particular the young people, get out they can be productive members of society?
    Could the member perhaps give us a bit of insight as to what tools and programs the government could establish that would make sure that we are not creating further problems for our community when people do come out of prison?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, certainly, with rehabilitation services in our prisons, we would be further ahead. In Quebec, we have a number of programs designed to rehabilitate our young people and prisoners. If we really wanted to tackle crime, we would tackle the problem of excessively early parole. That legislation has no teeth. If we really want to deal with this problem, that is what we should do.
    At present, we have education, information and awareness programs in our prisons, especially in Quebec. Groups such as Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous and religious groups visit prisoners and meet with them to talk with them, try to understand them and see how they can get back into society when they leave prison.
    A great deal of prevention is done as well. Other groups promote discussions where victims meet with criminals and talk about their experience as victims. Even if that particular criminal was not directly involved with these particular victims, the victims can still explain how crimes affected them.
    This raises awareness. When someone becomes more aware, I think we have to look at what point that person has reached in his or her own life. Often, these people are quite desperate and not very spiritual. In my opinion, with this sort of approach, which is much more humane, we may be able to bring these people out of the misery they are living in, so that they will not go back to prison but choose to re-enter our society.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, in reality, what we clearly need to do in this Parliament in the near future is to concentrate on crime prevention.
    The continuation of some of the things we do in this country as a result of the ill-fated war on drugs that has been going on for the past 30 years has driven up the crime rate to an unbelievable extent. It centres around the activities of human beings and their needs and desires. It has created a situation where we built the criminal industry to a degree that is unprecedented for one particular substance or another in our society.
    Does the hon. member not think that in the future we in Parliament should be looking at crime prevention? Should we not be looking at ways to take the oxygen out of the criminal industry and look at ways that we can rationalize the behaviour of people in society so that the use of heavy sentences is not the prime consideration of Parliament?

  (1145)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, my colleague is quite right. This government's prime consideration is not really getting rid of crime. The government has slashed funding for every area where money is needed to prevent people from turning to crime. It has cut funding for prevention and information and for programs to help the illiterate, who do not have much opportunity to improve their lives and are easily influenced by others. The government has turned its back on every area where continued funding is needed. It has abandoned aboriginal communities, women, children and seniors.
    In so doing, it has set the stage for even more crime.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend the hon. member for Laval on her fine presentation on the human side of this issue, which is important to the Bloc Québécois. I am proud to have the hon. member for Laval representing the riding next to mine.
    I would like her interpretation, among other things, of the fact that the government is cutting $10 million from the summer career placements program. Students need this additional income in the summer in order to pursue their studies. I find it inconsistent to invest this $10 million in maximum sentences that will result in more incarceration. I would like my colleague to say a few words on that.
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague is absolutely right. In this matter, not only has there been a financial cut, but the method has also changed. Now one major centre has the opportunity to decide, for the surrounding regions, who will get the summer jobs programs. This is being done without any regard for the area, the social stakeholders who need this money, or for what has been done in the past. Now an impersonal, administrative approach is being used in a big office. These are administrative cuts and an administrative approach is being used without any regard for the impact these cuts will truly have in these areas.
    In my riding, four agencies were doing exceptional work; one agency in particular. They were working in a multi-ethnic area that has a high crime rate with youth who cannot necessarily rely on their parents for help with their school work, people who do not have many job opportunities. Unfortunately, racism still exists today and a person whose skin is a different colour than the local people sometimes has a hard time finding work.
    These young people, through agencies working in the area with people from the area, could be assured that at least for the summer they could gain self-confidence, become involved and stay motivated. This no longer exists.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise in this House today to speak to Bill C-10.
    This is a bill that would improve the safety of all Canadians by ensuring that violent criminals who use firearms to commit their offences will receive serious prison time consistent with the gravity of their offences.
    This bill addresses two groups of offences. First of all, there is one group which involves offences in which a firearm is used in the commission of another crime. We call that the use offence, where it is actually being used in the commission of a crime. The second group involves the possession of illegal firearms, and we call those non-use offences.
    Let me deal with the first group. Bill C-10 will impose mandatory minimum penalties where a gun is used in the commission of a serious Criminal Code offence. These offences would include such things as attempted murder, discharge of a firearm with intent, sexual and aggravated sexual assault, kidnapping, hostage-taking, robbery and extortion.
    If a restricted or prohibited weapon is used in the commission of any of these offences or if such guns are used in relation to gang activity, which of course is a very real problem in Canada, a first time offender will receive an automatic five year prison sentence. Penalties escalate to seven years on a second and subsequent offence for the same or similar type of gun crime.
    Clearly, this bill targets repeat violent offenders who must be kept off the streets for the good of our communities. It also provides a deterrent to youths who are involved in gangs, forcing them to weigh the consequences of their actions before engaging in crime.
    The second group of offences of course involves the illegal possession of a restricted or prohibited firearm, and some of the offences that would be targeted under this particular section would be firearms trafficking, stealing a firearm, possession of a firearm for the purposes of trafficking in narcotics, making an automatic firearm, and also firearms smuggling. For these non-use offences of course there are going to be mandatory minimum sentences as well.
    This legislation is aimed directly at, among other things, the gun trafficking industry. Virtually all gang-related crime we see across Canada is committed not by those who purchase their firearms legally and register them, but by people who purchase them illegally on the black market or steal them from legitimate gun owners.
    In my home province of British Columbia, it is estimated that gang-related shootings or murders occur on average of once every month, sometimes more often than that. The rate of increase in gang activity in B.C. is astonishing. Most of it, of course, is fueled by the drug trade, mainly high grade marijuana, and it is carried out by young people with illegal firearms who have complete disregard for the safety and the lives of those around them.
    In my home riding of Abbotsford, we are known to be a beautiful community. It is a safe community, relatively speaking. It is in a beautiful setting, nestled between 10,000 foot Mount Baker and the Fraser River. We are a community of elderly, young families, singles and students who all enjoy Abbotsford because of the quality of life it offers. It consistently scores high in all of these areas. In fact, it was recently named as the most generous community in all of Canada, and that is backed up by a number of different studies, both Statistics Canada and other studies within British Columbia.
    However, the blight has crept into Abbotsford. Gangs and guns are increasingly common, usually in connection with the drug trade. Although the gangs in my area are quite fluid and frequently travel throughout the lower mainland, we have seen our share of unimaginable pain and grief caused by shootings.
    The 2006 year end statistical report from the Abbotsford Police shows that 126 firearms offences took place in my riding. Some of these include robbery; assault; a sexual assault with a weapon; drive-by shootings, which are very common now; and home invasions. This is happening in Abbotsford and it is happening right across the country in communities that all of us live in.

  (1150)  

    On September 26, 2006, the Abbotsford Times reported that the police responded to a 25-year-old man who had been shot and was in serious condition. The man was known to police who believed he was purposely targeted.
    Just last Friday, May 11, the CBC reported a shooting on Commercial Drive in Vancouver in a popular cafe. This man was shot several times in the stomach and transported to hospital for emergency surgery.
    An 18-year-old Abbotsford native, Yulian Limantoro, was gunned down when he got caught in the crossfire of a drug deal gone sour and that was in Surrey on March 3, 2006.
    On October 28, 2005, a 40-year-old woman in Port Moody was struck by a stray bullet while watching television in her living room. The bullet lodged itself in her brain but luckily she survived.
    Of course, none of us can forget the string of violent crimes the city of Toronto suffered in 2005. By mid-September 40 people had been slain in the city. All of us were shocked and horrified especially by the senseless death of grade 10 student, Jane Creba, on Boxing Day 2005. Jane was gunned down on busy Yonge Street along with six others who were injured in the crossfire. The 15-year-old was the 52nd murder in Toronto in 2005.
    Going back to 2006, police in B.C. recorded that over 1,000 firearms were used in crimes or kept illegally in the lower mainland. Anyone who still thinks gun crime is an American phenomenon need only look at British Columbia.
    Between 2001 and 2006, 195 British Columbians died in gun-related homicides. In 2006 alone police recovered 379 semi-automatic pistols, 28 revolvers, 139 other handguns, 76 rifles, 66 shotguns, 88 assault rifles and 12 modified weapons.
    The current mandatory minimum penalties for gun crimes are not sufficient. We need to discourage these criminals by making it costly to buy, sell or use firearms in the commission of offences. The way we do that is by taking away their freedom to commit such crimes and making the penalties for subsequent offences escalate in severity.
     Bill C-10 will not only send a clear message that gun activity will be met with serious consequences, it will also take these criminals off the street for longer periods of time.
    To place this into context, I want to stress that the bill does not represent an across the board increase in mandatory minimum sentences. Rather it targets crimes that are specifically related to gang activity and repeat and violent offences.
    Going back to my community of Abbotsford, as the House knows, Abbotsford shares the border with the United States and it is part of a complex web of organized crime on the lower mainland of British Columbia. Drugs, such as high grade marijuana, meth amphetamines, crystal meth are regularly exchanged for firearms from the U.S. These are the same firearms being used to commit the wide range of violent gang related crimes we are witnessing today.
    Although both American and Canadian border security officials are quite vigilant in protecting our borders and stopping the cross-border gun trade, there is only so much that they can do with limited resources when the same people go to prison for short periods of time and are turned back onto those very streets only to take up crime once again. Of course, usually that is violent crime.
    The gun and drugs trade are quite lucrative industries. Unfortunately, there are many young people that are into the gang lifestyle. These mandatory minimum penalties that we are proposing should go a long way in discouraging youth from taking up this behaviour.
    Our Conservative government is also concerned with preventing young people from getting involved in the crime lifestyle in the first place through community initiatives. That is why in our 2006 budget the government invested $20 million in a plan for communities. This money will be focused on preventing youth crime and helping young people stay away from guns and gangs.
    I believe that both this bill and our other prevention initiatives will work together to reduce the number of gun-related crimes and deaths in Canada.

  (1155)  

    If we do not send a clear message to criminals that the consequences of using handguns to carry out a crime will far outweigh the benefits, I believe these gun crime numbers will only increase. The clear message we are sending is this. Criminals should be prepared to go to prison if they commit a serious gun offence, period.
    I believe these penalty schemes will also be an important tool for police officers who must place themselves in potentially deadly situations on a daily basis. They will now know that should they send an offender to prison for committing a firearms offence listed in Bill C-10, that offender will not be back on the streets for a long time. When we take those offenders off the streets and put them behind bars for longer periods of time, they do not represent a crime threat during that period to ordinary, hard-working, law-abiding citizens. At the same time, police officers can focus their efforts on other criminals in our communities.
    It is clear that our communities across the country are suffering from violent gun crime, yet the previous Liberal government, over 13 years, did absolutely nothing to address this scourge in our country. Sadly, the Liberal and the Bloc opposition parties have done everything in their power to try to thwart our attempts to pass Bill C-10.
    In fact, when this bill went to committee, it was essentially gutted, leaving it meaningless. It had no teeth to it anymore. It was only with the support of the NDP that we were able to reintroduce the mandatory minimum sentence provisions of the bill, a five year mandatory minimum sentence for the first offence and seven years for a second and subsequent offence. Even so, the 10 year mandatory prison sentence that we had proposed for a third and subsequent offence was removed. The bill, as drafted, is better than nothing at all. Canadians are demanding this kind of legislation.
    It would be comical, if it were not so serious, how the Liberals have managed to flip-flop on the issue of gun crime. The House may recall that through a deathbed conversion late in the election campaign, the Liberals suddenly agreed to get tough on crime and specifically promised to introduce and support tough mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes. They suddenly got religion so to speak.
    These were promises that were made to Canadians about their personal safety, yet here we are. The Liberals are asked to defend Canadians against an ever increasing cycle of gun violence, and what do they do? They have done a 180° turn and have fought against our Bill C-10. Shame on them. The Liberal Party of Canada has rightly earned its title of being soft on crime.
    In order to end the cycle of gun violence, our new Conservative government is committed to filling our election promise to get tough on serious criminals. We owe nothing less to the Canadian public than to protect it to the fullest, and I believe this bill is the way to do that. Effective deterrents, including escalating minimum jail terms, are an important step in reducing crime on our streets, as is choking off the supply of illegally acquired handguns.
    That is why we have these two facets to the bill. One deals with the use of firearms in an offence. The second is the illegal possession of firearms. Typically, if a drug trafficker's car is stopped, guns will be found in that car, so it is easy to prosecute these individuals.
    British Columbians and residents of Abbotsford are tired of watching criminals execute violence and get off with a slap on the wrist. Finally, we have a government that is committed to the right of law-abiding citizens to live in safety and security. That is a promise we made during the election and one on which we are fully following through.
    I trust the House will do the right thing, protect Canadian families the way we promised to do.

  (1200)  

    Mr. Speaker, I sincerely tried to listen to and absorb the remarks of the hon. member. However, in the end I found his remarks to be partisan, simplistic and misleading in many respects. I am not saying everything he said is misleading, but simplistic to be sure. As a result, they are not credible and I will ask him a couple of things.
    He said that the proposed new sentencing will cause gangs or criminals to reconsider if they really want to go ahead and do the crime. Has he ever been to one of these crime meetings where they sit down and consider if they really want to do the crime? Do they use a calculator? Do they have a lawyer come in and tell them what the sentencing might be if they are convicted? Do they have a chart on the wall and a road map that tells them exactly what the sentence will be?
     I have not heard of these meetings, these deliberations, so maybe he could inform the House about where these meetings take place and what they consider. It is a revelation to me that criminals or potential criminals sit down and go through the deliberation about whether they will really do the crime and measure up what the penalty will be.
    The second thing I want to ask the hon. member, and he is really being quite misleading, is this. He said, “The Liberal government, in 13 years, did absolutely nothing to address the issue of firearms crime”. I will not use the harsh words, but what he said is absolutely untrue and misleading. The member clearly omits to mention that the House, under a Liberal government, did enact additional penalties, mandatory minimum penalties of one year and four years for firearm crimes. That does not equal absolutely nothing.
    The member should be careful about what he says. Could he answer those two questions, please?

  (1205)  

    Mr. Speaker, the member referred to my speech as partisan and simplistic. Quite frankly, that is exactly the kind of double-talk that Canadians have come to expect from the Liberal Party of Canada.
     For years the Liberals have been promising to get tough on crime. What the hon. member does not explain is why, during the last election, they promised to impose tougher mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes and now have done a complete flip-flop. That is embarrassing. Canadians expect more than that.
    Am I being partisan? You bet, Mr. Speaker, I am being partisan. I am standing up for Canadians who deserve to be protected against gangs, drug criminals and those who use guns in committing crimes. They are not only targeting people who are involved in the drug trade, but are impacting innocent bystanders who are being killed and permanently maimed.
    I ask the member to reconsider his position, as a party. The Liberal Party should come on side and do what is right for Canadians. I would be ashamed to be a Liberal today. I would be ashamed to stand up and say “We promised to get tough on these gun criminals, but today we are changing our minds and we hope Canadians forget about it”.
    I encourage the member to re-evaluate his party's position on this issue. This is an issue that is critical to Canadians.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, at the time I thought the member for Abbotsford was speaking about prevention. I would like to point out to him that, just before, the Minister of Justice also spoke about prevention. He said that the Conservative government was very interested not only in being tough on crime, but also in establishing prevention programs.
    When the minister said that, I wondered why current projects on the table and accepted by the provinces are subject to cuts when they get to the federal level? Cuts have been made to all prevention projects, even those that are inexpensive.
    I believe that the member for Abbotsford provided the answer. He said that the government was providing $20 million for prevention. Imagine, $20 million in prevention for all of Canada. The Canada summer jobs program injected $95 million and now has been reduced to $85 million. It is a prevention program because it keeps young people busy, teaches them a trade, and gives them something to do.
    The experts estimate that between $400 and $500 million are needed for a solid prevention program to be implemented in Canada. Yet, we are talking about only $20 million. What can we do with this amount? That is a pittance.
    In view of their election promise—since that is what the Conservative Party always goes back to—I am asking the member for Abbotsford why he does not think he could support a bill that calls for prevention rather than repression.

  (1210)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, in fact, we do have a plan for prevention. I want to remind the hon. member that on January 23, 2006, Canadians elected a new Conservative government, certainly not a Bloc government and not a Liberal government. Why? One of the reasons was the Liberals were known to be soft on crime.
    To specifically to address the member's question, I remind him, just from my own experience in British Columbia, that our Conservative government does take a balanced approach to the issue of crime in our country, ensuring that our youth are not enticed into a life of crime in the first place.
    In fact, let me give him an example. We have taken action by giving almost $2 million to British Columbia's anti-gang initiative, which is called “Preventing Youth Gang Violence in British Columbia”. It is going to be implemented in Abbotsford, my hometown, as well as in Vancouver, Surrey, Richmond, Kamloops, and we hope to expand that in the future. It aims to reduce gang involvement through public forums that discuss issues that are relevant to the community, education and awareness campaigns, after school recreation programs, youth mentoring programs, intervention programs, parent education and youth outreach programs.
    Do we have a balanced approach to this? Yes. It is not all about getting tough on crime. That is part of it as is Bill C-10. However, we are also addressing the underlying causes of crime.
    Mr. Speaker, given that the purpose is over time to ensure that we have fewer people facing the criminal system and in the position of being incarcerated and given that we know what happens in the early years is the single biggest determinant about whether youth and then adults will be involved in crime, other than the $100 a month for families, could the member tell me why slashing child care programs and programs that support parents to do a good job at raising their children will be of assistance in this way?
    Mr. Speaker, I have appreciated getting to know the member over this past year and a half, another colleague from British Columbia, although we sometimes share different perspectives.
    I remind her that it is not only the universal child care benefit that our government has delivered. We have delivered many other family friendly initiatives such as the $500 sports tax credit for families. We have also delivered just recently the family tax credit, which provides an extra incentive for families to take the money and apply it to the children rather than paying it to the tax man.
    I want to also mention that the focus of Bill C-10 is not just deterrence. In fact, in my mind deterrence is probably the least of it. For me, it is important that we get the violent offenders out of society so our police can focus in on some of the underlying petty crime that our youth tend to get into. By allowing them to focus their efforts on the criminals who perhaps are on the cusp of becoming lifetime criminals, we are going to do an excellent job of moving forward, ensuring that our youth are encouraged to be upright, responsible citizens.
    Mr. Speaker, as I begin my remarks I thought I should refer to the remarks made by the Minister of Justice who spoke earlier. He clearly was speaking in an effort to articulate good politics as opposed to good public policy. What the minister was articulating was in part lousy public policy but, from his point of view, good politics.
    He said that the government wanted to send a message. I think he meant the government was trying to send a message to criminals on the assumption that we have in every case identified who those criminals are. He wants to send a message to criminals, but really what the Minister of Justice and the government are trying to do is send a political message to Canadians. It is political. It is not good public policy. The whole exercise smacks of politics and not public policy.
    My colleague from Yukon mentioned a list of witnesses who appeared before the justice committee, the vast majority of whom had good public policy reasons not to agree with the mandatory minimum sentencing regime proposed in this bill.
    One of the assumptions underlying mandatory or harsh sentencing is that it will deter. There is a sense that the higher the sentence, the higher the deterrence. There may be some logic in that, but statistics, sociologists and criminologists now consistently tell us that it is not the severity or length of the sentence which deters, it is the prospect of being caught that is the major component of deterrence in society.
    Whether it is a potential life sentence or a two day sentence, the person who may or may not commit a premeditated crime is thinking more about the prospect of getting away with it as opposed to what sentence might be imposed later. It is false logic to presume that by increasing sentencing or imposing a mandatory minimum sentence there will be a direct linkage into the mind of a potential criminal.
    By the same token, my party and I readily accept that there are envelopes within the Criminal Code, components of activity where society needs to denounce the criminal activity in a way that requires the use of a mandatory minimum.
    I will point out for the sake of reference that the Criminal Code was amended relatively recently, just in the last three or four years, to impose one year mandatory minimums for firearm offences and a four year mandatory minimum sentence for a robbery with a firearm. I believe that is section 344. We also have mandatory minimums for drunk driving, particularly on a second offence. If someone reoffends, the offender will do time. Parliament, government and Canadians accept the existence of mandatory minimum penalties.
    The false logic underlying this bill, however, is that by creating and delivering a whole raft of mandatory minimum penalties, it will cause a direct response and a reduction in crime. This is not the way it works. I do not think any credible witness at the committee that reviewed this bill was prepared to accept that if we bump all these sentences into mandatory minimums, the crime rate is going to drop. There might have been a feel good part in putting criminals away.

  (1215)  

    I will quote the Minister of Justice. I found it hard to believe, but the Minister of Justice said that the criminals will have time to think about it in jail. The question raised by the member from the Bloc Québécois was whether or not the potential offender might have thought about it before he or she committed the offence. The minister's logic was the person would have time to think about it afterward. That is like the horse going out the barn door; once the act is done, it is done. There is no deterrence there. I regretted that logic and I regretted the fact that the minister did not want to address the logic pattern that was introduced by the member from the Bloc.
    The minister was also, in my view, trying to send a message and another example of that messaging is a quite inappropriate use of the term “house arrest”. House arrest actually has nothing to do with the bill that we are debating. Bill C-10 deals with mandatory minimum penalties. The minister was referring to Bill C-9, the bill dealing with conditional sentences. Purely for the sake of a twisted messaging, the Minister of Justice, the Attorney General of Canada, resorted to a street term that is not used in the Criminal Code and he referred to the concept of house arrest.
    Most Canadians would ask what is house arrest, does it have something to do with bail or prison? Anyway, if the minister wants to use these silly street terms instead of the proper terms, that is his business. He also referred to “sending the offender to camp”. What nonsense. We are hearing this from the Minister of Justice. Surely he could use terms that are properly in use in the Criminal Code instead of using street terms to try to send some subliminal message to the public.
    Anyway, I thought that his use of the terms “house arrest” and “sending people to camp” was really a disingenuous and dishonest attempt to deprecate our current corrections procedures. I personally do not like that coming from a government minister, but that is his business and if he were here now, we would probably have a little debate on it. Having had an opportunity to address the minister's remarks on this bill, I will now get to some of my own.
    An hon. member: Maybe you should.
    Mr. Derek Lee: Well, maybe I won't. The member does not like my remarks about the minister but this is a public forum.
    Mr. Ed Fast: That is shameful.
    Mr. Derek Lee: There is nothing shameful about this. This is a House of free speech.
    In any event, I want to note that throughout the country there is a perception that there has been an increase in violent crime. In the statistical data if we look back into the 1960s and forward to the present, we can see an increase in crime. Many criminologists say it is actually an increase in reported crime. The criminal activity of the 1960s and early in the 1970s, was in fact arguably under reported so that our data was a little bit lower than it actually should have been. In any event, the trend line was there. We can see the material increase from the 1960s right up to 1992.
    In 1992 things changed sociologically. I do not believe it was anything government did or did not do. We were in a bit of an economic recession at the time but we can see the trend line. After that point in time, all criminal activity starts to drop. I still accept that there is a perception in society, that people see a lot more crime. They are certainly getting a lot more media. We have more television, more newspapers and more Internet. If there is something happening out there in crime, people are going to hear about it and that may exacerbate the public policy problem.
    I am not saying there is not any crime. There is a truckload of it and it is a social issue, but it is not increasing in the way that people are being led to believe that it is. In Toronto there was a sense that we had of a very serious firearm problem about two years ago. That was true. There was a clear spike and increase in the number of shootings and firearm incidents in Toronto. As I am going to point out a little later, that year 2005 turns out to be spike, a spike up and down. Things are actually quite different now.

  (1220)  

    However, in looking at crime statistics from across the country, I can see that not every city, not every urban area or every rural area is in the same position. There are cities in Canada that have crime rates almost double what they are in Toronto or Montreal. That may seem counterintuitive to many of us, but while big cities do have crime, small cities also have crime. In some cases the rates of crimes, not necessarily the raw incidents, are significantly higher than some of our other urban areas.
    In these places across Canada, citizens definitely have an issue. I represent a Toronto area riding. It is impossible for me to speak about this issue without acknowledging that in various parts of the country, the north, the east, the west, the south, there are different takes, different perceptions of just how bad or how good or where the level of criminal activity is.
    Before going on any further, on the sentencing that is currently in the Criminal Code, including the existing mandatory minimums that I mentioned earlier for firearms, my party in the last election campaign did undertake to increase the mandatory minimum penalties. The member opposite makes that point, but the increases that were proposed were an increase of the one year and four year penalties that were there.
    What the government had proposed in Bill C-10 was a whole regime of increasing mandatory minimums, an escalating scheme of mandatory minimums that ran three, five, seven and up to 10 years. That is a much different kettle of fish than what the Liberal Party had proposed, of targeted, specific, reasonable mandatory minimum adjustments in the Criminal Code. Maybe we could put that debate to rest. Was it discussed in the election? It sure was, but I wanted to be clear about what my party had proposed.
    We are not talking about creating a new offence. This bill does not create new offences. This bill does not create new sentences. All of that is already in the Criminal Code. What the bill does, and I could say only, is create a mandatory minimum sentence at the bottom end. Judges in this country are charged with sentencing and they can give the appropriate sentence and they do. Ninety-nine per cent of the time they give the right sentence. They can sentence to more than the mandatory minimum and sometimes they do, but it depends on a whole number of criteria set out in the Criminal Code. We legislated them here about 10 years ago.
    In my view the criminal justice system from the point of view of the sentencing regime is working quite well. Once in a while there is an aberration. Once in a while there is a circumstance in a court and a judge and a set of facts that looks a little odd. A newspaper, a television station, a reporter will see it and think it looks strange, that a penalty looks a little stiff, or that a penalty looks a little light and it becomes a public issue, but those cases are far and few between. We just see a lot more of them now because we have a lot more media. If it is a story, it is a story.
    In one of the comments on this bill earlier today there was a scenario that I found very compelling at the committee. It relates to sentencing in the rural areas, in the north, the west and the east of the country, but generally in the north. We have to remember that before someone is actually sentenced, there has to be an investigation, the person is charged, convicted in a trial and then is sentenced.

  (1225)  

    A witness at the committee made this point in a very compelling way. When there is a conviction in a northern community for an offence, even if a violent one, the only prospect for rehabilitation and reintegration of an offender from those northern communities is if he or she is able to be in that community.
    It is just not possible to take offenders from a northern community, yank them out, send them to some place in the south and hope that they can rehabilitate or reintegrate. They are not from the south. They are citizens of our north.
    Instituting a mandatory minimum regime of sentences over two years essentially ensures a federal sentence. All sentences over two years are served in federal penitentiaries. Sentences under two years are served in provincial penitentiaries. By imposing mandatory minimums way beyond the two years, this type of sentencing would remove individuals from their northern communities and place them in a federal penitentiary, which could be a thousand miles away or two thousand miles away, but not even close to their communities.
    It is generally accepted that prisons are simply warehouses for offenders, where young people actually learn better how to become criminals. Prisons are not the best location. I accept that we need them to protect society, at least as a clearing house, but the witness from the north said that the existence of these new sentencing regimes with mandatory minimums greater than two years would make it virtually impossible to rehabilitate and reintegrate offenders from those northern communities. In other words, we are creating lost causes before we even begin.
    Members may ask me what I would propose for someone who has committed a serious crime and needs to do serious time. The criminal justice system has already provided for that with a regime of sentencing options and a skilled judge who will make the decision on what an appropriate sentence for that convicted offender will be, taking into consideration all aspects of the case, including the circumstances of the victim, previous criminal record, propensity to reoffend and prospects for rehabilitation. That is what we ask our judges to do. The escalating sentencing regime contained in this bill would, practically speaking, remove all of those options from a sentencing judge. If the bill passes, that will be the case. I regret that but that is the way it is.
    In the remarks of my friend opposite, he referred to the spike this year in Toronto of gun crimes. I am pleased to report that while in 2005-06 the incidents of shootings were at about 87 and 81, this year the number of shootings to date is at 60, which is a drop of over 25%. The reason for that is good policing. However, I do not have time to go into the details. One shooting is too many but if we have a huge city with a few million people, we will have incidents, and I am saying that there has been a 25% drop. The perceived increase in these firearm incidents is not there, and these decreases have occurred under current laws. I just wanted to get that on the record. I give a lot of credit to the Toronto police and their new policing methods.

  (1230)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on Bill C-10.
    I will point out to my colleague that in the province of Quebec—my province—there is a body, namely the Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec, which has an obligation to protect citizens and in particular to make recommendations to the federal government, since we are responsible for the Criminal Code, on harsher sentences for alcohol-related offences.
    My response to my colleague's theory is as follows. When I started practising law, the fine for someone who had consumed alcohol was only $300. We subsequently created three different levels with different penalties for each of the first three offences. This is called the progressive system. If we had heeded my colleague at that time, today there would be but a single $300 offence, and everybody would be fine with that. The criminals would be protected but the victims left out.
    I would like to ask a question of my colleague, my fellow committee member, whom I appreciate for his good advice on procedural matters. Even if his party is opposed to the bill, I know very well that his fellow citizens will agree with us, because the people of Canada do want to see victims protected before criminals.
    Why does my colleague not agree with imposing progressive penalties for criminal acts, particularly in these specific cases where extremely serious offences are involved? We are not talking about minor situations, but extremely serious ones. We have been doing that same thing for over 20 years, and the most clear example of this is section 259 of the Criminal Code which, as my colleague is well aware, sets progressive sanctions for criminal acts.

  (1235)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I did say in my remarks that I support, as does my party, the existence of mandatory minimum penalties for drunk driving offences. Those penalties, of course, start off with a mandatory fine and then the offender will do time after a second offence. The person will not do seven years, but the person will do a few weeks, although I do not recall exactly how many weeks. The point is that with the mandatory minimum the offender will do time. There is an escalator for a third offence and the offender will do more time. However, we are talking about doing time as opposed to doing years and years of time.
    The reason I would object to the escalating three, five, seven and ten-year type escalation is that the three, five, seven and ten years have never been shown to provide any more public safety. If it is necessary to keep the individual in jail because the person is a very violent offender, then the judge should impose a lengthy sentence of that nature.
    However, I object to the automatic, structured, built-in, no exception mandatory minimum in the bill running up to seven years.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's comments but I was somewhat disturbed with his approach to Bill C-10. He has acknowledged that the perception among Canadians is that we have a crime problem and, quite frankly, I concur with that perception. I believe there is statistical evidence to support that.
    What really jumped out at me was his statement that “the sentencing regime is working quite well”. In other words, business as usual, no change is required and even though Canadians misunderstand, everything is okay.
    I do not know whether he has spoken to victims. He may have but I would be surprised if he had. I have. Has he spoken to police officers? I have spoken to police officers in Abbotsford and they do not concur with the assessment that the system is fine and working well. It is a revolving door justice system right now and rank and file police officers will tell him that.
    The member then accused the minister of having twisted messaging, subliminal messaging and of twisting the facts. That is disrespectful language toward a member of this House of Commons who has been a lawyer for many years, has served as crown counsel, as attorney general in Manitoba and is now serving as justice minister here. He should not make such demeaning references to what is an attempt to protect Canadians.
     If Canadians have the perception that our justice system is not serving their needs for safety and security, how is it that the member can justify taking the approach that everything is okay and that the current sentencing scheme is actually acceptable?

  (1240)  

    Mr. Speaker, I did not say that everything was A-okay. I said that the current sentencing regime in the Criminal Code was generally working all right. However, there has never been a time in the history of the human race when there has not been a problem with crime, let us say, ever since Cain killed Abel. There also has never been a time when we have not found the need to alter the Criminal Code. We are always adjusting. I have been here for 19 years and I can hardly recall a year when there was not a Criminal Code amendment on the order paper somewhere. There are 15 of them now.
    The point is that it is one thing to respond to public perception that there is a problem but it is another thing to analyze it from a public policy point of view to see exactly what the problem is and what the best response is. A whole bunch of knee-jerking, increase the sentencing and get tough on crime things, without dealing with the public policy issue in detail and with precision is not my way of doing things.
    If a problem is seen, I really do want to address it. If a weak sentence in a particular case or systemically is a problem for society, if we saw one place where we, as a society, had to really firm up, like we did with drunk driving and with firearm offences three years ago, and as we might need to do in other things in society, I am prepared to do that.
    What I do not support is the approach in the current bill that simply lists about 20 different things and says that we will now impose an escalating three, five, seven, ten-year thing where we know statistically, based on corrections' social science, there is no payback unless we need to keep an offender in because he or she is a danger.
    Mr. Speaker, although I did not hear the full debate and just caught the last comments of the member, I share a number of his concerns about an over-reliance on the Criminal Code to fix problems around crime instead of having a balanced approach around crime prevention and building healthy communities.
    From the point of view of minimum mandatory sentences, I would remind the member that it was the former Liberal government that, I believe, had brought in about 60 such new offences in terms of minimum mandatories.
    Our justice critic has made it very clear that where we can use it in a very specific way, and the issue of drunk driving would be one of those instances, it can be very effective. However, in actual fact we already have a history, as a result of the previous government, of using minimum mandatory sentences.
    I believe that in the last election the then Liberal leader made a commitment that he would double the minimum mandatory sentences for this particular offence that would go actually beyond where the current bill is. It would have been a doubling of the sentence and would have taken us beyond where we are now. I just wanted to remind the member of that in terms of the history.
    Mr. Speaker, the reference to doubling the mandatory minimums was with respect to the now existing one year mandatory minimums, which were applied to quite a broad spectrum of firearm offences and which exist in the code now.
    It is one thing to double one year to two years or two years less a day. There is one offence--

  (1245)  

    No, it is four to eight.
    Mr. Speaker, I hope the member is not suggesting that there is a whole bunch of four year mandatory minimum sentences in the code, because there is only one. It is section 344 and it is robbery with a firearm. Robbery with a firearm currently has a four year mandatory minimum.
    All the other offences to which the hon. member has made reference are the one year mandatory minimums which currently exist in the code and which the Liberal Party in the last election said it would double. Making a one a two or two years less a day is a far cry and much different from three, five, seven and 10. That is the difference. That is a huge difference.
    Mr. Speaker, I do not know how much time I have, but I will not be taking up a lot of time. I will start and see where we end up.
    I was listening to the debate on the monitor in my office for the entire morning and trying to get a lot of things done, but I could not help but come over and try to get involved with the debate to some degree because there are a few things that I would like to point out.
    Just very recently we heard a speech from the member for Abbotsford that was what I considered to be a talk that was coming from the hearts, the souls and the minds of ordinary people in his riding. A lot of ordinary people are out there wondering what is going on and what is happening.
     I have a lot of respect for lawyers, I really do, but they seem to approach things with a totally different idea than a lot of us do. I say that simply because it is difficult to understand them when they begin their lingo. Their language becomes so legalistic that it is difficult to know exactly where they are at and their comeback always is that the problem with people like me, the member for Abbotsford and others is that we are just too simplistic. I have heard that term so many times that it just about drives me crazy.
    It is a simplistic answer, they say, when what we are doing is expressing this in terms as best we can, as every member can, and I know that you are the same, Mr. Speaker. We listen to the people in our ridings. They are really fed up with some of the things that are happening in our justice system. They want a truly good justice system. It appears to have turned into more of a legal system, where we are constantly engaging in debates as to what this term means and what that term means, et cetera, such that we lose sight of some things, that is, the public is not happy with the way that the justice system is operating. That is it, pure and simple. The public is not pleased.
    Members can check any poll, or if they like they can conduct their own in their own riding. Even the Liberal member who just spoke can do that in his own riding with just ordinary people out there. Members can forget about those ordinary people being simplistic. Members should just remember that they are the people who are thriving in this country, who are working and paying their taxes, and they want the services rendered by this government to be efficient and effective.
     One of the best things we can do to answer a lot of their concerns is provide a system that will make society as safe as possible and will protect society as a whole. One of the most elemental duties that we have as members of Parliament is to come up with legislation that will do that. I think we all try hard to do that, even in our own way of thinking, which too often is referred to by too many people in this House as simplistic.
    The day that I really started getting more concerned than I ever had in the past was the day I saw 14 farmers, and prior to that another two, hauled away from a court, in shackles and chains, and going off to jail to serve consecutive sentences. Consecutive sentences meant that for each crime they had to serve a specific amount of time before they began to serve the next one. The courts do not usually sentence people consecutively; they sentence them concurrently. Clifford Olson, for example, is serving a life sentence for the death of 11 people, but he is only serving one. He probably should be serving 11 life sentences.
    These farmers were hauled off to jail. They were taken to jail in shackles and chains, in most cases in front of their wives and children. For what? For selling their own grain, their own product that they raised on their farms with their own hard-working hands. They broke the law because they went across the border and tried to sell their grain. Nobody is denying that it was a disobedient thing to do and nobody is denying that maybe there should have been some charges. That is not the question.
    The question is this: how did the punishment fit the crime? How well did we do in that department? We had farmers who worked hard to raise their own crops and who, in a form of civil disobedience, made a move to try to make more money, more profit, for their farms, which are struggling all the time. How well did we do when the Liberal government in power at the time did nothing about the fact that all these people were hauled off to jail?
    Mr. Ed Fast: That's the Liberal way.
    Mr. Myron Thompson: That is the Liberal way. That is what I was thinking. This is not right. There is something wrong with that picture.

  (1250)  

    Of course, somebody might say that is a simplistic way of thinking, but it is not. The punishment should fit the crime. I see nothing wrong with that philosophy. Yet when we check on various other aspects of sentencing, we see that offenders actually receive house arrest or community service when they commit a violent offence. All of this was going on at the same time that those 14 farmers were hauled off to jail for selling their own grain. But that is probably simplistic talk.
     Millions of Canadians are wondering when we are going to stop all this nonsense and start addressing crime. They want us to send out a strong, loud and clear message that it is not acceptable for criminals to hurt people or their property or do something that is against the law. It blows my mind that some members cannot grasp that concept.
    Yet on one occasion a bunch of farmers were hauled off to jail in shackles and chains for selling their own grain. They were hauled off in front of their crying wives and kids. I was there and I saw it. I talked to the wives and the children after the event was over and those farmers were locked up and the doors were slammed shut. It was that day that I vowed we had to get some common sense into the minds of the people here in the House of Commons. We need to realize that this kind of activity is not right.
    So we prepared legislation. We want to get tough on crime so we brought in minimum mandatory sentencing for the use of a gun in the commission of a crime. We are trying to send the message that it is not acceptable to use guns for the purpose of committing crimes. We are telling criminals that it is not going to be tolerated. We are going to get tougher. We are telling criminals that minimum mandatory sentences will be the result.
    Is this going to deter criminals? As people say, it probably will not go through the minds of a lot of them. I do not disagree with that. That is not the point. The point is this: is the punishment going to fit the crime? Is it going to match up? Yes, we are starting to take serious action, particularly against people in cases of violence and who use guns in the commission of a crime.
    There are a lot of examples out there. There is not a member in this House of Commons who cannot think of one particular instance where house arrest or community service was the punishment for a crime of violence. It is a shameful disgrace to this place. Unfortunately, many of the crimes I know of were crimes against children, the most vulnerable in our society, who are treated with the least respect.
    We are trying to bring forward a piece of legislation that will send a message that this House of Commons is not going to tolerate violent crimes. We are going to do our very best to make certain that criminals pay the price for their crimes, that they get a penalty they deserve.
    Yes, at the same time, we have to work very hard with earlier programs and prevention activities. I was in a schoolhouse for 30 years and 90% of my time was spent trying to prevent kids from getting into trouble. However, they learned after a period of time, and they knew that once they crossed the line they were going to be held responsible for their actions. They knew that the punishment would not be pleasant. I was trying to send out a message that I did not tolerate the activity that took place and I wanted it to cease.

  (1255)  

    I find it really discouraging when we get a debate going in the House of Commons and the best argument I keep hearing is, “I listened to the speech by the fellow from Abbotsford and he was far too simplistic”. Good grief, he is talking the hearts and minds of the people in his riding who discuss these very issues day in and day out with every one of us.
    I will be frank. I am pretty simplistic and I will be as simplistic as I can. I am sick and tired of this nonsense. I am really sick and tired of it. I have acquaintances, friends of mine, who have lost loved ones and have had no real closure because the perpetrator is going to be released on parole very soon who took the life of an individual. They do not understand why their loved one is gone forever and the perpetrator, who committed the most sadistic crimes of sexual assault and murder, is going to be released back into our society soon.
    We can all rub our hands together and say we have done a wonderful job. I want us to think about that just a little, just start thinking about it a little more. Does the punishment fit the crime? If it does not, then let us do something about it.
    I am proud of the Minister of Justice who brought this bill forward and wants to do something about it. None of us has any magic answers as to what we can do that will make it better, but we have to concentrate on all the possibilities.
    In the meantime, when individuals cross the line and use a gun in the commission of a crime, the penalty will be stiff. It will be tough. If that does not work, we may have to make it tougher. We have to get a message out that this is not the society we want to live in.
    If it takes a few million dollars more to build another penitentiary to keep people like that off the streets, then let us do it. What is wrong with that? I always thought keeping criminals behind bars was a wise thing to do.
    There are small communities in rural Alberta that do not have police on every corner or do not have access to police. There are small businesses and little grocery or hardware stores in small towns where it would take a policeman half an hour to get to once a crime has been committed.
    How do they live? They live behind bars. They have bars on every window and door. They are doing everything they can to protect their property and keep criminals from coming in. They unlock their doors, enter their businesses, slam their doors and work throughout the day behind bars because they are afraid of the people on the street running free. There must be too many of them because there are constant troubles of breaking and entering and destroying property. Hopefully, they do not run into any these people while they are at work because it could be dangerous.
    I hope that people do not believe that I am being too simplistic. I have lots of friends and relatives who all work hard and pay their taxes. The least I can do for them while I am here, I hope, is to make certain that we have people in this place who are willing to decide that criminals are not a good thing in our society and we are going to do the very best we can do take care of it. Then we get into these legal matters and opinions which most of us, including me, do not understand when conversations are engaged in with witnesses in committee. When the Bar Association representatives have discussions with members who have law degrees, they lose me most times. I admit that.
    I listened to one speech today about the expert witnesses who are against this bill. I do not know why they are considered to be expert witnesses when people who agree with the bill, like the police and many others, are not referred to as expert witnesses. In other words, if witnesses agree with that member's idea of what the bill should look like, then they are experts and if they do not, they must not be experts.
    The police made a very good presentation in regard to their support for this bill and others associated with it. It made very good sense.

  (1300)  

    We certainly did not get into any legal wrangling because they would lose me, but we can converse and society as a whole can converse. I simply say “Wake up, folks, wake up”. The public out there is not satisfied with the way the justice system is working.
    If people do not believe me, get on those little computers and newspapers and put out all kinds of polls and ask: “Folks in my riding, are you satisfied with the way our justice system operates, yes or no”? Then people will see how satisfied Canadians are.
    Canadians are not satisfied. They are paying for something they are not satisfied with. I say let us work hard to give them something that they are paying for and that they will be satisfied with. I believe in satisfying the customer.
    If that is too radical or too extreme for some members of the House, then that is too bad. That is the way it ought to be. That is the way people are telling me in my riding it ought to be. As long as I can stand on my two feet in this place I am going to expound that. That is the way it ought to be.
    Wake up and do the right thing and support Bill C-10 to indicate to the public out there that we are taking crime a little more seriously. Let Canadians know that we are not being simplistic about it, but that we are sincere about it. If people think I am not sincere then give me a test.
    I do not know if I have any time left, but I do not think I need to say any more. I have just about said all I want to say and all I can say. For the love of me, I cannot understand what goes through the minds of individuals who simply say that the punishment fitting the crime is not right.
    I will revert once again to that day that I saw farmers hauled off in shackles and chains for selling grain. I do not think there was a person in the entire public society of Canada that cheered that day, not one. “Yes, we are going to teach those farmers a lesson”.
    They say it is not a deterrent to do these other things, but they certainly thought that would be a deterrent. It is not about deterrents. It is about punishment fitting the crime, letting society know as a whole that it is not acceptable to hurt people in this country, that it is not acceptable to destroy their property or steal from them. It is a wrong thing to do. It is a very wrong thing to do and we are going to take tough action.
    I am thankful that we have a minister sitting in that seat that wants to do just that. I thank the House for the time. I did not intend to speak today, but I could not resist after hearing many of the things that I heard this morning.
    I hope people will give this bill a second thought before they react to the bill with such negativism and criticism that says we are too simplistic because we mean what we say and we are going to get the job done. It has not been done for years. Now is the time to get it done.
    Mr. Speaker, I would never second-guess the hon. member in articulating on behalf of his constituents, or for that matter, any MP here. That is what we are here to do. I have worked with the member on the justice committee. We do not always agree, but most of the time we do and it has been a good run over a number of years.
    However, I wanted to ask two questions. The first one is really a comment. In the matter involving the grain farmers who were ultimately jailed, as I recall it, I believe they were fined by the court. When they came back to court, not having paid their fines, not because they could not afford to but because they refused in protest to pay the fines, I believe the court had no alternative but to resort to either imprisonment or contempt. The court resorted to the short jailing. So the member is correct. It happened, but the sequence involved more than just selling grain and going to jail. It was more complex than that.
    Does the member not think that in this House from time to time we are forced by reason of the federal jurisdiction to focus on only two things when it comes to response to criminal activity? The only thing we can do federally is write the Criminal Code and from time to time set the sentencing range. That is all we get to do.
    With criminal activity there has to be an offence, an investigation, it may need police intelligence gathering, a charge, a conviction, and a sentence, but we only write the law and deal with the sentencing. The provinces and the cities do the policing, the investigation, and the prosecution is done by the provinces. So, we actually may be kind of frustrated from time to time that we do not have a greater role on the ground in the components.
    Does the member not think that out of frustration from time to time we federally may tend to overemphasize our role in that whole complex thing with just the law and the sentencing?

  (1305)  

    Mr. Speaker, first of all, I want to comment once again with regard to the farmers. It is strange that such things as house arrest, community service or those kinds of penalties did not enter the minds of the court. It was jail. The farmers did not comply. Jail.
    I am talking about the punishment fitting the crime. They did not pay a fine. Jail. I guess the Liberals do not get the picture. It is not the idea of how much more was involved in it. That was the event that took place. Did the punishment fit the crime? The answer in Canadian society was no, not even close. Unfortunately, the answer is also no in society when we ask if the punishment fits the crime in so many of our violent crimes that take place. The answer is still no.
    As legislators, we write the laws and what is wrong with providing sentences that we believe, from our discussions with our constituents, are more in line with the thinking of society as a whole which pays for a system that it wants to work on its behalf. We must write laws that make it possible.
     We have many laws. Sometimes I do not think we need to write any more laws. I look at the maximum penalties on some of these charges and my goodness, when is the last time we ever had a maximum penalty issued in Canada? So, I guess the judges need a little nudging from minimum penalties to nudge them toward a little more severity in their sentencing.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to what my colleague from Wild Rose had to say. I can assure him that I do not think anyone tolerates crime. I understand that he is impatient and fed up with the crimes being committed.
    I do not feel that the solution proposed in the bill is the right one. For example, in the United States, more criminals are incarcerated and the crime rate is much higher than it is here. It has been proven that the homicide rate is three times higher in the United States than in Canada. Maximum or additional prison time does not have the desired results. I do not believe that anyone here thinks that people in big cities such as New York or Chicago feel safer because more people are put in jail.
    Instead, I would direct my colleague to the budget cuts the government is making to get to the source of the problem. The summer career placement program was cut by $10 million this year. The are not consulting those who live in the communities, and decisions are made by civil servants who are not necessarily aware of the needs. Young people absolutely need these jobs. The government's budget cuts could leave these kids with nothing to do, and perhaps they will become criminals.
    I would like to know what my colleague thinks about that. Should the government not get to the source of the problem, rather than further punishing the criminals?

  (1310)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I understand the question and I would not mind getting into a debate with him some day on the cuts that took place and on the that things we are doing. However, I hope everything that is being done is being done in the best interests of Canadian society. I trust it is, but I am not going there today. We are talking about Bill C-10.
     All I am saying is that as part of the justice system, we must provide tools for our courts to allow them to move more toward penalties that Canadian society would expect for the kinds of crimes criminals commit. We will work on all kinds of aspects of preventing crime, and we should at every chance we get. The debates on the cuts will take place and they should take place.
     When he compares us to the states, I have been in many of the penitentiaries in the states, visiting and finding out what is going on. They have some penitentiaries that are releasing inmates who are having no recidivism. They are run in a manner that we would not even consider in Canada because it seems to be too draconic.
    Maybe our prison system needs to be looked at when we release them. What are we doing in the penitentiaries other than letting the inmates call the shots?
    Mr. Speaker, I followed the logic and the desire of my hon. colleague, the member for Wild Rose, to be simplistic, but it does not seem to follow in terms of crime.
    His party has insisted on continuing a war on drugs when we know does not work. It just creates more crime, more criminals, more shootings and more trouble in the homes and the neighbourhoods of this nations. An enormous percentage of the population makes choices about what kinds of substances they indulge in and we make crimes against some of them. We make it criminal for some of those things, so we create crime.
    Does the hon. member agree with me that we should look at our laws to see if they are working to reduce crime or to eliminate it? When we take those choices, then we can also look at how tough we can enforce the—
    The hon. member for Wild Rose has approximately 30 seconds for his reply.
    Mr. Speaker, 30 seconds is a tough amount of time to answer a question like that.
     I am pleased we are continuing to work on the war on drugs. I have attended at least seven funerals of students of mine who died because they were involved in drugs. It is an activity that needs to be stopped. I do not know how we stop it, but it has to be stopped. If a person starts saying that legalizing it makes it better, that is absolute nonsense. I will not even go there.
    There you go, you lose your simplistic argument.
     I knew I would get a reaction like that from an NDP. After all, if we would legalize everything that is immoral or evil against society, then it would not be used. I guess that is what he is thinking.
    I will use my last three seconds to defend the war on drugs, and I hope we become victorious in that one.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I hope that my colleague from Wild Rose will listen to what I have to say to him because I want to start by pointing out that my intention is not to say that he is a simplistic member. I do not believe he is, for a number of reasons.
     I have had the opportunity to see the member for Wild Rose at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, and he is a reflection of many people in Canada: people are asking serious questions about crime and how to put a stop to it.
    I would never dream of telling the member for Wild Rose for whom I have enormous respect, that he is a simplistic person and has simplistic solutions. We are dealing with the extremely complex problem of crime here. My colleague and I do not look at things the same way when it comes to fighting crime.
     In the few minutes I am allotted, I will try to show that the way to fight crime is not to increase minimum sentences. I know that I will not show this to the satisfaction of the member for Wild Rose, but I hope that some in this House will understand.
     I was a lawyer for 25 years. For the last 15 years, I worked exclusively in criminal law, as a criminal defence lawyer. I have seen virtually all the amendments that members have adopted in the House of Commons in the last 15 years, to amend the Criminal Code. Because I have been here only since 2004, I had nothing to do with the amendments to the Criminal Code made by this House. We criminal lawyers, however, worked with those major changes to the Criminal Code.
     I want to point out to my colleague from Wild Rose and all his colleagues in the Conservative Party that from 1991 to 2000—I am not going back very far, and I have the same figures as my colleague has—crime dropped by nearly 26% in Canada. Crime has fallen and is still falling.
     But even better, the number of violent crimes—homicide, attempted murder, assault, assault with a weapon, sexual assault, kidnapping and robbery—fell year over year between 1992 and 2004. In 1992, there were about 1084 violent crimes, the ones I have just listed, per 100,000 population in Canada. But in 2004 there were only 946. That is a drop of 13%.
     Violent crime fell by 13%, but crime overall fell by 25%. Quebec and Canada are safe countries. These are good places to live. So where is the problem?

  (1315)  

     There is a fundamental principle, one that has been stated by the Supreme Court of Canada. I hope that the 308 members in this House respect that institution. The Supreme Court of Canada has said, and reiterated, that when sentence is to be passed, one of the essential factors is the individualization of sentences. What that means, in words that are easy to understand, is that when a person comes before the court, the judge must impose a sentence that fits the person standing before the judge. I know that, unfortunately, these are not words that the member from Wild Rose and a majority of the Conservative Party members want to hear. They should go and read the Supreme Court’s decisions. I am not the one who wrote them. Personally, I have enormous respect for the Supreme Court and what it has said, which I repeat: the sentence must be individualized and must fit the individual.
     What that means is that when an individual receives a sentence, we must tell that person or make him or her understand that the crime is serious and that society condemns that crime. However, in the sentence that the judge is about to render, an important factor must be considered: the possible rehabilitation of the individual. On that point, once again, I address myself to the member for Wild Rose and his colleagues in the Conservative party. Following recent amendments, the court must take into account the impact of the crime on the victim. In English, that is known as an impact statement. The victims come into the court and give testimony to explain the impact of the crime on them.
     I would say to the member for Wild Rose and his colleagues in the Conservative party that since this measure came into force less than 10% of victims come before the court. It is not because we do not want to hear them; it is because, very often, they do not want to have any more to do with the justice system. Why is that? There are a lot of questions to be asked.
     In the Bloc Québécois, we think that introducing minimum prison sentences is not the way to solve the problem. The member for Wild Rose and his colleagues in the Conservative party should realize that perhaps the problem lies not at the entrance to the court or prison but at the exit. What we are saying is that an individual who receives a sentence must serve time in prison and, if he or she serves a prison sentence, that person should be eligible for parole. Could someone be paroled too quickly? That is a debate that we should have soon in this House. However, we will not solve this problem by tying the hands of judges with minimum sentences. That is false.
     Once again, I address the member for Wild Rose. He was present at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights when the former justice minister came to testify. We asked him questions. We asked him if there were studies; whether any investigations had shown that increasing minimum prison sentences had reduced crime. The answer is no. It is no.
     Therefore, we cannot vote in favour of a bill that does not solve the problem. I will try to explain to the member for Wild Rose and his colleagues in the Conservative party what will happen if this bill is adopted. We will have an accused person, who initially faces a minimum prison sentence of five years, for example.

  (1320)  

     So on his lawyer’s advice, he will plead not guilty, choose trial by jury, and ask for a preliminary hearing in order to drag out the proceedings as long as possible. Then he will try to plea bargain.
    I invite the hon. member for Wild Rose to come to some court houses with me, whether in Calgary, Vancouver, Toronto or Montreal. Anyone who has done any criminal law will tell him that plea bargaining goes on, and the Bar came and told us that Bill C-10 will only cause it to increase.
     This means that people will come before the judge, talk to the crown attorney, and ask him to withdraw a charge in exchange for them not dragging out the proceedings forever. We have seen it on many occasions.
     I believe that the hon. member for Wild Rose and several of his colleagues were present here in the House when the Supreme Court of Canada determined that a minimum sentence of seven years in prison for importing narcotics was cruel and unusual punishment. I did not make up the Charter. However, we have had a Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms since 1982, and it is applied.
     What I am trying to say, not only to the hon. member for Wild Rose but many of his colleagues as well, is that we are not getting at the root of the problem. Increasing minimum prison sentences will just jam the courts with legal procedures. We even have some figures. The hon. member for Wild Rose will agree with me on this because we saw figures in committee showing that we will have to spend nearly $22 million a year just to deal with the additional inmates in the prison system.
    If they want to build prisons, they can build them, but that will not solve the crime problem. There are deep-seated reasons for crime. We do not want to get into this debate right now, but there are deep-seated reasons for delinquency and violence. I hope that the hon. member for Wild Rose and his colleagues are familiar with them. It is poverty. That much we know.
     As I was studying this situation, a question occurred to me. If the hon. member Wild Rose is so much in favour of Bill C-10, why are crimes committed with hunting weapons not included? They are not in the bill. We have a problem, though, because 35% of the homicides in Canada are committed with hunting weapons. So little holes are starting to appear in this, and soon little holes become big holes.
    This bill will not solve the problem. What I mean—and I want the hon. member for Wild Rose to be very aware of this—is that this bill tries to condemn people who walk around with revolvers shooting at anyone at all in the streets. On this point, I totally agree with him. We need to get rid of that. But what is going to happen? Instead of committing armed robbery with revolvers, people will do it now with a 12, 410, 22 or 303 calibre weapon.
    This is what I have to say to the hon. member for Wild Rose. This aspect is not in the bill. I put the question to the minister. If the member for Wild Rose was at that committee meeting—like his colleagues, he did not miss many—he knows that I asked the minister. The minister replied that it was not necessary because it could lead to the imprisonment of aboriginal and Inuit people. How ridiculous. We have a problem here. We are in the process of creating a second justice system, and that is unacceptable.

  (1325)  

    I would add that there are three times more homicides in the United States than in Canada, and four times more than in Quebec. There is a real problem here. This bill does not solve the problem of violent crime. That is what I want the members opposite to understand.
    The Bloc Québécois believes that it is perhaps the parole system that poses a problem. I leave it to the hon. member for Wild Rose to pass along this message, because he knows the Minister of Justice very well.
    I would like to return to what the member for Wild Rose said in response to my hon. colleague from the Liberal Party. Perhaps judges must be given instructions. In my opinion—at least, I hope this will be the case—there will always be courts of appeal and the Supreme Court to review, study and analyze the appropriateness of a sentence, and to confirm if it was handed down in accordance with the sentencing rules governing the courts. That is what I would like the members opposite to understand, as well as those who are about to vote in favour of a bill that not only is incomplete and fails to solve the problem of violent crime, but will only exacerbate the existing backlogs in our court rooms. If this bill passes, there will be more backlogs. Criminal defence lawyers will make a pile of money. I can guarantee it.
    What I find regrettable as well as that huge investments are also planned for the prisons. The hon. member for Wild Rose has visited a number of penitentiaries. I too have been inside on a number of occasions to visit clients, unfortunately. Penitentiaries are schools for crime. No one in this House can convince me otherwise. Programs need to be set up to provide help to people who want to take control of their lives.
    Throughout my career, I asked my clients questions, as did others when they were inside. What I asked is whether they would have thought twice about committing such a crime, had they known there was a minimum three year jail time for it. They said no. When a person has made up his mind to commit a crime, he will do anything to make sure he does. We must stop holding on to this belief that crime will be reduced if prison time is increased. It is a false belief.
    What we must do is to work as quickly as possible at solving the problems that are the causes. What must be done in particular is to start thinking seriously that there may be a problem at time of release. What I mean by that is that people may be getting out a bit too soon. On this point , I agree with the hon. member for Wild Rose, who shares that opinion and has often expressed it in committee. Inmates are getting out too soon. They get three years jail time and are out on the street in six months. That may be one part of the problem, but it is not going to be solved by tying the judges' hands and telling them they have to impose this or that minimum sentence. On the contrary.
    Mr. Normandeau, a Université de Montréal criminologist who has examined most of the files at the Montreal Palais de Justice, reports that the result of having minimum penalties was that lawyers plea bargained to get their clients charged with offences not carrying a minimum sentence. So what will happen next?

  (1330)  

    It is not difficult to figure out. They will go to court and say to the crown attorney: “Withdraw this charge and I will plead guilty to a slightly more serious charge, armed robbery”. They will then be given a two-year sentence and the problem will be solved.
    In closing, I invite the member for Wild Rose and his colleagues in the Conservative Party to think twice about a bill that does not solve the problem of crime. Probably the best thing to do is to admit that they made a mistake, withdraw the bill and to do what it takes to find other means of dealing with crime.

  (1335)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I should be honoured because I felt that the entire speech was dedicated to the member for Wild Rose. Although I appreciate the member's speech and his opinion, I could not disagree with him more. I am encouraged more than ever to support these kinds of legislation and I will continue to do so.
    The member constantly insists, as do other members, that poverty is the major cause of crime and that if we did not have poverty there would be no crimes.
     I would like to remind the member that in all the crime statistics from the dirty thirties, the poorest time on the North American continent, that was when crime was the lowest in the history of the North American continent.
    I will not say that poverty does not contribute to crime because it probably does. However, on my tour throughout the country visiting all the penitentiaries, when I asked the inmates how they ended up in prison, I would say that close to 70% to 75% of the inmates said that it was because they drank alcohol and got drunk a lot. They said that if it had not been for booze they would not be there.
    Most of the guards and the wardens agreed that our prisons would be quite empty if it were not for booze. Evidently booze is a major cause of crime. What does the member suggest we do about that?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to say to the member for Wild Rosethat I respect his opinion. I respect what he said because he is talking about real, everyday life. He is a worldly man and I know that he has been in this House since 1993. He is experienced. However, we do not have the same perspective and I respect that.
    Yet, I would say to the hon. member that the best sentence—and I can speak about this out of experience—is the one that our client accepts and that he is willing to serve. I know that what I am saying is difficult to accept.
    This is what I mean. When we tell a client that he has committed a crime while under the influence of alcohol, we explain that the judge has no choice but to impose a sentence. Let us take, for example, impaired driving causing bodily harm. Until the accused recognizes that he has a problem with alcohol, there is nothing we can do. We could put him away for centuries, but that will not solve the problem. He must come to the realization that he has a problem, he must accept it and take steps to deal with it. Then, rehabilitation can begin.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from the Bloc for his speech. I have a few points to raise.
    We, the Liberals, intend to vote against Bill C-10 at third reading stage because we are against the escalating minimum sentences as proposed by the government, with the support of the NDP.
    The Bloc sat in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights throughout all the meetings for consideration at second reading stage, and the experts were all but unanimous that, generally speaking, minimum sentences are not effective. Nonetheless, under very specific circumstances, this could be acceptable, but escalating minimum sentences should never be implemented. Since 2003, some 25 U.S. states have experimented with this type of program and have cancelled it.
    I am still rather stunned to see that the NDP, after hearing all these expert witnesses, has decided despite everything to form an alliance with the Conservatives—such a regressive party and government—and support this bill and the amendments the government reinstated at report stage. What does the hon. member think about that?

  (1340)  

    Mr. Speaker, I have a very simple answer. I can understand the Conservatives because this is part of their platform. I respect that. I am trying to get them to change their minds and to explain this to them. However, I cannot understand the NDP. The only explanation I can come up with is that they are quite simply playing politics. Often those who play politics do not ask too many questions. Nonetheless, I am utterly convinced that the NDP members will vote in favour of this bill even though they are fundamentally against it. I highly recommend to them that they call in sick and not come to the House because, with all due respect, I would have a hard time understanding the New Democrats thereafter.
    I spoke to them. I did everything I could to make them understand that it does not make any sense to pass such a bill, unless they are getting ready to join the Conservative Party, which I doubt. Either that, or they are playing more politics. In a matter as important as fighting crime, we should avoid playing politics, which only serves a small group and will truly deny many people their rights.
    That is all I can say. With all due respect to my NDP colleagues, I would invite them to reconsider their position. That being said, I understand the Conservatives. I tried to explain things to them at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights several times, but I did not succeed.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, during the member's speech, thankfully, because I have heard many members from his party speak to this issue, he at least mentioned victims. He talked about victims' impact statements and about victims being involved in this. He said that victims' statements should be part of sentencing, and that would be good, but that only a limited number of victims got involved in the victims' impact statement process.
    I might suggest that the reason for that is the limited time they see the person who committed a crime against them getting. They may not want to be involved in sitting across the table with the person who victimized them so that the person could get out early and victimize them again.
    He also said, in answer to the question asked by the member for Wild Rose, that the best sentence was the sentence that the client accepts. I love it that we are judging the sentences on how well the criminal likes them and that we should tailor the sentence to fit the individual. Again, we should set sentences based on what the perpetrator should say.
    He went on to say that perhaps we should look at the parole system in closing off the end of it so that if people were not getting out early we could probably accomplish what we are trying to accomplish by putting them in for longer
    I am not certain how opening or closing either end of this works but I will just quickly get to how we protect the victim. One of the greatest ways is to have the person incarcerated at the time when they might have committed the crime and then the crime would not occur at all. What we are suggesting by mandatory minimums is that people are actually in jail rather than out perpetrating crimes.

  (1345)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, there might have been a communication problem somewhere. I have a lot of respect for the interpreters, so it cannot have been a bad translation.
    I will try to speak slowly. We respect the victims. Anyone who takes the time to listen to me will understand that.
    Recently, victim impact statements were introduced. Victims can go to court to explain things in their own words. That is important.
    I hope the members will listen carefully to all of what I have to say. I never said, and I will never say, that we have to impose a sentence at the request of a rapist, an individual who committed armed robbery or a murderer. With all due respect to my colleague, that is not what I said.
    I am talking about a sentence that will be accepted by the individual. If I tell my client that he will get three years in jail, that that is to be his sentence, he will be prepared for a three-year sentence and will serve out those three years in jail. But if he gets a minimum sentence that he was not expecting, that is dangerous because basically, it means he is going to crime school—
    I am sorry to interrupt the member, but his time is up.
    The hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine.
    This bill has been brought back to the House with significant changes after being reviewed by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. But behind the scenes, an unholy alliance has developed between the reactionary minority Conservative government and the NDP. Together, these two parties put back a series of regressive provisions, ruining the good work of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. I think that the newly amended bill is simply not good legislation.
    However, I am happy that this bill has shed some light on the debate on mandatory minimum penalties.
    So I am proud to speak, and I invite my fellow members to follow the lead of the Liberals and vote against the bill as newly amended.
    The bill the government initially introduced proposed heavier minimum sentences for repeat offences, despite the views expressed by experts on the fight against crime. In addition, the bill even went so far as to add offences unrelated to the crime in question to the previous convictions.
    It is important to remind this House why the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights so substantially amended the initial bill. The opposition members on the committee were very reluctant to introduce escalating minimum sentences depending on the number of previous convictions.

[English]

    In undertaking this tack, the committee members were simply agreeing with most of the expert evidence they heard. In the opinion of all the experts, and it is perhaps rather surprising, there is no proof that minimum terms of imprisonment deter offenders who commit serious crimes.
     In certain cases, in California, for example, the method seems to have actually been counterproductive. The annual rate of serious crime has risen since this type of sentencing was introduced. This is the conclusion of the recent report by a commission set up to study the California correctional system.
    In January 2005, the Little Hoover Commission submitted to the governor of California its report on what it called “California's corrections crisis”. The report highlights the major failure of the Californian “three strikes and you're out” system. It raises serious questions about the Californian model of sentencing, which there is called “determinate sentencing”. Here in Canada, it is called “minimum mandatory penalties”. In other words, its determinate sentence is the U.S. equivalent of the mandatory minimums that the Conservative government wishes to not implement, but to make even harsher and escalating here in Canada.
    The report of the Little Hoover Commission of California is clear:
    Despite the rhetoric, thirty years of “tough on crime” politics has not made the state safer. Quite the opposite...
    California has one of the highest recidivism rates in the nation. Furthermore, Governor Schwarzenegger himself described the California prison system as a powder keg.
    Is it not absurd that at the very moment that Americans are trying to fix their flawed system, Canada, under the Conservative minority retrograde government, is trying to copy the American's old and utterly proven to be inefficient model?
    The American model of escalating minimum mandatory sentences is a failed model. Why in God's name, for heaven's sake, would Canadians want to follow a failed model? We want to follow models of excellence. The American model of determinate sentencing, and in particular escalating determinate sentencing, which is the equivalent of the Canadian mandatory minimum sentencing or penalties, is a failed model. In fact, since 2003, some 25 American states have eliminated their lengthy minimum mandatory penalties and their escalator penalties.
    Criticisms of mandatory minimum sentencing are based on very sound arguments. It has more than its share of drawbacks. Often, and because of the excessively serious consequences it can have, what happens is charges are withdrawn or pleas are modified to get the charges changed and diminished. Equally often, the threat of a mandatory minimum sentence will discourage an accused person from pleading guilty, which obviously results in greater costs and delays for the system.
    As well, this type of measure can also make a jury hesitate to convict, not because of the accused's actual guilt or innocence, because the sentence strikes the jury as being unjustly harsh, given the crime committed, given the accused, given the victim and given the real and proven impact on the victim and the community.
    Also, it is known that mandatory minimum sentencing seems, as evidenced by the Australian and American experiences, to hit harder at members of certain ethnocultural communities, blacks and aboriginals. That certainly is not an outcome that Canada should be seeking.

  (1350)  

[Translation]

    Paradoxically, the increase in mandatory minimum sentences suggested in the newly amended bill would have cost Canada's justice system an exorbitant amount of money. Does this government realize that, by proposing to increase the number and length of minimum sentences and decrease the number of conditional sentences, it would have added a huge number of inmates to our already overcrowded penitentiaries, according to its own Minister of Public Safety?
    According to Neil Boyd of Simon Fraser University, Canada would have to build no fewer than 23 new prisons to house all these new inmates. At $82,000 a year per inmate, the bill this government initially introduced would have cost Canadian taxpayers an additional $220 million to $245 million over five years.
    In addition, this new obsession with sending people to prison systematically will obviously lead to other additional costs, because it is reasonable to assume that, with this attitude, appeals and lengthy trials will become increasingly common. Mandatory minimum sentences are therefore not the best way of dealing with crime in Canada. They restrict judges' discretionary power to look at the particular circumstances of a case. We should use mandatory minimum sentences very sparingly to target specific offences and, above all, we should limit them to first offences. That is what Bill C-82, introduced under the former Liberal government, sought to do.

  (1355)  

[English]

    The whole point of minimum sentencing is its effect on an individual committing a first offence, taking into consideration the impact on the victim of that offence and on the community where the offence took place. It is designed to take the person guilty of serious wrongdoing out of his or her community for awhile in order to prevent that person from committing other crimes, while at the same time ensuring the community is not put at risk again. In such cases, this kind of sentencing serves its purpose very well.
    The problem with escalating minimum mandatory sentencing, proposed in the newly amended version of Bill C-10, was that they applied to repeat offenders. What was initially proposed would have forbidden judges, in the case of a recidivist, to tailor an appropriate sentence that took into account the criminal, himself or herself, the particular circumstances and nature of the new crime, the impact on the victim and the community and the background situation and the possibility of rehabilitation.
    In the case of a repeat offence, a judge needs to be able to consider all these factors in order to determine an appropriate sentence. With escalating minimum sentences, this is impossible. With this bill, as it has been amended at report stage by the government with the collusion of the NDP, it will now be impossible.
    The newly amended bill shows that the government wants to bring its so-called crime fighting strategy into line with the repressive approach favoured in the United States by the very right wing. The Conservative Party is proposing to emulate a model that does not work.
    I might add that the NDP's support for this style of justice is baffling, at the very least. Once again the NDP is sacrificing its progressive roots for short term political gain and being the enabler of the right wing agenda of the Prime Minister.
    Let us look at a few facts. The difference in rates of serious offences between our two countries is astonishing. For example, according to Statistics Canada, and that is not a left wing organization, the rates for robberies are 59% higher in the United States than in Canada. What about the rates for aggravated assault? They are 85% higher in the United States than in Canada. What about the murder rates? The murder rates are 275% higher south of our border than they are in Canada.
    I am sure my hon. colleagues will be interested to learn that a Calgary resident is 840% less likely to be the victim of murder than a resident of Dallas. If we want to compare the degree of safety of our two capital cities, a resident of Washington, D.C. is 2,700% more likely than his or her Ottawa counterpart to be the victim of a serious crime.
    I do not know where the government wants to lead us with its copycat, tough on crime strategy, but one thing is certain. These numbers show—
    The hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine will have seven minutes at the end of question period, but now we will move on to statements by members.

STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[Statements by Members]

[English]

Science Fair

    Mr. Speaker, I stand in the House today to recognize the achievements of Barrie students who are participating in the Canada-wide science fair in Truro, Nova Scotia.
    I am proud to stand today and state that of the 459 students competing in this national competition, five are from Barrie.
    These remarkable whiz kids include Cameron Armstrong who will be presenting his project on the effects of carbon dioxide on global warning.
    Matt Shwed has used his love of physics to create a project called “Cosmic radiation”.
    Alexandra Milak created a project called “Forget me not” which tests the emotional memory of Alzheimer's patients.
    Luke Regier has a project called “Blowing down the walls of Jericho” that conducts tests to determine the best ways to get volume and bass in sound and music.
    Sergio Morales created a project called “Insect immigration to Canada” which explores the relationship between insects, fruit and pesticides.
    These talented students have worked hard and I, along with all Barrie residents, wish them best of luck at the Canada-wide science fair.

  (1400)  

[Translation]

Court Challenges Program

    Mr. Speaker, despite the Conservatives' threat, the Liberal members and the other opposition members have formed an official languages advisory committee to take control of the work and to continue to respect the country's linguistic minorities. We showed respect by listening to representatives of the court challenges program and members of the SOS Montfort committee, including Gisèle Lalonde.
    Ms. Lalonde clearly summed up the situation by stating that the elimination of the court challenges program is outrageous. The connection is clear. Mike Harris' Conservatives tried to violate the rights of minority language communities by threatening to close the Montfort hospital. Now, the same party has eliminated the court challenges program, which helped all communities, including those in Madawaska—Restigouche.
    When will the Conservatives respect the right of minorities to ensure their rights are respected? They must listen to the people now and reinstitute the court challenges program today.

The Conservative Government

    Mr. Speaker, I rise to criticize the current government, which is trampling on democracy and has no respect whatsoever for Quebec voters.
    The Conservatives are calling all the shots in the committees. They even went as far as cancelling the Standing Committee on Official Languages. They have appointed unilingual anglophones to positions that require bilingualism. They have reduced French requirements for senior military officers. They have made it impossible for minorities to go to court to defend their rights.
    They have no respect for the unanimous demands of Quebec's National Assembly and they believe that giving Quebec fewer seats in this House is fair to the Quebec nation. They do not even honour majority votes in this House. How many times do we have to remind them that they are a minority government?
    The Bloc Québécois will continue to take responsible action in the best interest of Quebec and will always demand that democracy be respected.

[English]

Canadian Heritage

    Mr. Speaker, as the Conservatives strip the capacity of the federal government, Canada's heritage and culture are key casualties.
    Heritage buildings hold special places in the history and life of our communities. The Work Point Officer's Mess, a good example, the oldest wooden building in the Victoria area, was taken down despite pleas to the Conservative minister about its value to the community.
    Victoria's heritage tax incentive program stimulates the rehabilitation of heritage buildings into hundreds of units of rental housing downtown. Yet, the federal government actively undermines the program by charging GST on the increased value to land and buildings.
    Culture is a defining element of Victoria with its local arts and festivals, yet federal support is now mired in partisan politics.
    I call on the government to do its part and stop leaving municipalities to struggle alone in preserving Canadian heritage and culture.

Landmines

    Mr. Speaker, while Jane Taber of The Globe and Mail did not find the reception I hosted with Mines Action Canada on cluster bomb awareness compelling, the 60 members of Parliament plus their staff from all parties who attended the event may argue otherwise.
    In fact, the international community, comprised of more than 46 states including Canada, may also argue otherwise. More important, innocent civilians who have been socially, economically and personally affected by these weapons may argue that Ms. Taber just does not get it.
    I would like to thank Mines Action Canada for all its hard work and dedication toward a vital cause, as well as a special thank you to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and International Trade for her immeasurable support and leadership toward a cause that affects the lives of thousands of innocent civilians every day.
    I commend the Canadian government for its leadership in Oslo and look forward to its continued leadership in Lima next week.

Greenvisions

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to recognize a new charity in my riding called Greenvisions. Greenvisions is dedicated to lobbying for more parks and green spaces in Brampton, especially in the new subdivisions of Gore and Castlemore.
    The green spaces and environmentally sensitive land in the Castlemore area are vital to future generations. There are deer, fox, and many other animals and plants that depend on this sensitive land for survival.
    According to Greenvisions, in just six years from 2001-07, the ratio of park land to developed land in Brampton has decreased by almost 20%. This is why during the last election the Liberal Party committed to expanding the protection of national parks.
    Personally, I am also strongly committed to protecting wildlife habitat to maintain a high quality of life for my constituents. I strongly urge all residents of Brampton to take part in protecting our green spaces.

  (1405)  

Biotech Competition

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Ted Paranjothy, a grade 12 student at Fort Richmond Collegiate in Winnipeg.
    This incredible 17-year-old has won a triple crown in high school science, achieving first place in regional, national and international biotech competitions. His project researches a potential alternative to chemotherapy by killing cancer cells without harming cells themselves.
    He hopes that one day his research will be, in his words, a commercially available and cost efficient therapeutic alternative to conventional chemotherapy.
    At such a young age, Ted has already accomplished much. He is an example to every Canadian and demonstrates what the youth of Canada have to offer our country.
    I was able to personally thank him when he received his award at the Chateau Laurier earlier this week. Congratulations Ted. He makes us all proud.

[Translation]

Aness Dominique

    Mr. Speaker, May 20 to 25 is Aboriginal Awareness Week and I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to Aness Dominique. He was baptized Ernest by a priest so that he would have a French name and not an aboriginal one. In the Inuit alphabet, there is no letter “r”. His family and friends were not able to pronounce his name, so his grandmother renamed him Aness.
    A painter for 20 years, he has dedicated himself to raising awareness of his culture's roots. His works highlight the oral tradition that has been lost over the years. It is clear that this artist embodies the vitality of aboriginal culture.
    My colleagues and I salute Mr. Dominique's efforts to advance aboriginal culture, and congratulate him for his presence on the national and international stage.

[English]

Archbishop of Ottawa

    Mr. Speaker, this week we welcomed Ottawa's 10th bishop in 160 years. In that time Ottawa has had 66 mayors and Canada has had 37 prime ministers.

[Translation]

    Pope Benedict XVI named His Grace Terrence Prendergast of the Society of Jesus. Our new archbishop is an exemplary teacher and spiritual father.

[English]

    Our new archbishop will minister to half a million Christians. He will also be an inspiration to this capital city and to parliamentarians of all faiths.
    At a time of social upheaval, the Church must instruct the faithful, minister to the needy, and strengthen the family as an anchor for hope for future generations.

[Translation]

    I know that His Grace will have the strength to follow the advice of Saint Paul: “—preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction”.
    We offer these best wishes to our new Father: Ad multos et faustissimos annos.

[English]

Komagata Maru

    Mr. Speaker, May 23 will mark the 93rd anniversary of the arrival of Komagata Maru in British Columbia, carrying 376 South Asian immigrants to our shores, only to be met with injustice and denial of the right to land.
    I would like to recognize the tremendous work of Mr. Sahib Thind and the Professor Mohan Singh Memorial Foundation of Canada as well as those Canadians who have worked so hard to bring this issue to national attention.
    This was truly a Canadian tragedy. I call upon the government to formally acknowledge this with an apology.

[Translation]

Celebration of Love

    Mr. Speaker, last Saturday, May 12, 2007, I had the pleasure of attending the reception to mark the Fête de l'Amour in Lac-Saint-Charles. The Fête de l'Amour is an event for couples in the Lac-Saint-Charles area who are celebrating their anniversary, in multiples of five years.
    During this annual celebration, which was organized again this year by Maurice Cooper and his amazing team of tireless volunteers, I had the pleasure of meeting several couples from my riding of Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles who have been married for 50 or 55 years. The event is a wonderful celebration of life and love. I offer my congratulations to these extraordinary couples and wish them continued happiness and long life.
    I would like to send special congratulations to the two couples attending the reception who celebrated their 55th anniversary this year: Ludger Rhéaume and his wife, Jacqueline Renaud, and Laurent Lepire and his wife, Patricia Lepire.
    They are a model of sharing, love and harmony to those around them and an example to us all.

  (1410)  

[English]

International Day Against Homophobia

    Mr. Speaker, New Democrats are proud to mark the International Day Against Homophobia.
    Canada has made progress combating the various forms of negative behaviours that target gay, lesbian, bisexual, two-spirited, trans and intersex people.
    This year's theme is “Taking Action in Schools”. We pay tribute to the many gay-straight alliance groups that meet in schools across Canada, groups that provide safe places for youth to discuss sexuality and plan action supporting equality.
    In my riding, I have visited gay-straight alliance groups at Burnaby Mountain, Burnaby North and Moscrop Secondary Schools. Whether straight, gay, lesbian, bi, trans or questioning, group members are learning to be themselves and to stand up for human rights.
    On this day we also remember that transsexual and transgender Canadians face daily discrimination and must be explicitly protected by our human rights laws.
    Canada's foreign and international human rights policies must also reflect the Montreal declaration and the Yogyakarta principles, which call for worldwide action on equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual and intersex people.

International Day Against Homophobia

    Mr. Speaker, today is International Day Against Homophobia.
    In some ways there is much to celebrate. Canada has made great strides in ensuring equality under the law for gays and lesbians.
    I am proud to have played a role in bringing about these significant legislative changes under the last Liberal government.
    However, much of the credit must go to the activists within the GLBT community itself. They fought long and hard to bring the bitter realities of their inequality to the attention of Canadians, using the court challenges program to demand their minority rights under the charter.
    Today, other minority groups such as transgendered persons, who still face discrimination in law, have no such recourse.
    The new Conservative government, like the old Conservative government, cancelled the Liberal initiated court challenges program, effectively denying disadvantaged groups in Canada access to justice.
    On this International Day Against Homophobia, we need to remind ourselves that in today's Canada minority groups can no longer take their rights for granted.

[Translation]

Quebec

    Mr. Speaker, this government claims that Bill C-56 does not threaten its relations with Quebec. However, it should consider the concerns expressed by the National Assembly, which yesterday introduced and unanimously adopted a joint motion calling on the Parliament of Canada to withdraw Bills C-56, which will change the number of seats in the Parliament of Canada, and C-43 on the Senate.
    The National Assembly is so concerned over the latest events involving the French language that it adopted another motion reiterating the importance of defending and promoting French as an official language of Canada and calling on the government to take action in response to the latest report by the Commissioner of Official Languages.
    The Bloc Québécois is here to defend the interests of Quebec. The Conservatives had better watch out, because we will always demand that the decisions of the National Assembly be honoured.

[English]

Memorial Cup

    Mr. Speaker, hockey fans across Waterloo region are ecstatic with the recent announcement that Kitchener has been selected to host the Canada Hockey League's 2008 Memorial Cup.
    Kitchener loves hockey. It will be a thrill for hockey fans to watch the best of Canada's young players on the ice at the Aud for our biggest major junior hockey tournament.
    We can be sure the Kitchener Rangers will make us proud and Kitchener will turn out in droves to support the hometown team. Already volunteers are signing up to support the Memorial Cup. There is no doubt that all of Kitchener will benefit from hosting this prestigious event.
    The Rangers last hosted the Memorial Cup in 1984 and in 1975. The Rangers won it in 1982 and 2003.
    I ask the House to join me in congratulating the Kitchener Rangers and the city of Kitchener on being awarded this enormous opportunity. I invite hockey fans to plan to attend Kitchener May 16 to 25, 2008, for the 90th anniversary of the Memorial Cup championship.

  (1415)  

Liberal Party of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, first a Liberal called for a new national energy policy. Now Liberal candidate for Papineau, Justin Trudeau, is panning capitalism and millions of jobs it creates. Like father, like son.
    Two days ago the Liberals went from zero to Bill C-288 in 43 seconds to kill the auto industry. Now Trudeau muses about ending capitalism in the automotive capital of Canada, built by capitalists like Ford and Chrysler. Perhaps Trudeau is revealing a deep dark secret Liberal agenda dating way back to his dad?
    The weak Liberal chief will not rein him in like he refused to with his other star mouth, Elizabeth May, for her Nazi hysterics. I guess he concedes no capitalism and no jobs are his Liberal Party's position, and to prove it, the Liberals voted against budget measures to make it easier for industry leaders, a.k.a. capitalists, to create more Canadian jobs.
    With his star candidate, the Liberal so-called leader has gone back to the Trudeau days of deep recession and high inflation to chart their future. Canadians just cannot afford the Liberals again.

ORAL QUESTIONS

[Oral Questions]

[Translation]

Court Challenges Program

    Mr. Speaker, this morning, at the official languages committee meeting held in exceptional circumstances, we heard a great deal of poignant and moving testimony, including the words of Gisèle Lalonde, the great franco-Ontarian who helped to save the Montfort Hospital. She said: “The end of the court challenges program is an assault on the weakest members of our society. If that program had not been there, we, the francophone minority communities, would not be here today”.
    Is the Prime Minister not moved by that testimony? Will he reinstate the court challenges program?
    Mr. Speaker, as the Leader of the Opposition well knows, the program is the subject of proceedings in the courts and no comment will be made on it.
     That being said, an additional $30 million has been allocated for promoting the linguistic duality of Canada. The Leader of the Opposition and his party voted against that additional $30 million.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to object to the false figures that the minister has just given.
     The action plan for official languages is $750 million. In the budget, the government falsely stated that it was $640 million, to which it added $30 million, which means it has been cut by $80 million.
     Will the minister do the right thing and put back the missing $80 million?
    The budget allocated to the action plan for official languages provides for $642 million. The $100 million the Leader of the Opposition is talking about was money that had been reallocated. The new money is the $642 million. That is what we kept in place, and we have added $30 million.
    Mr. Speaker, $80 million has been cut and taken away from official languages communities. That is the truth.
     But the official languages communities are not the only victims of the government’s hard-heartedness. Parents of students, unilingual Canadians, women, people with disabilities, racial minorities, the economically disadvantaged and the sick were able to get justice under this program.
     Why is the government working so hard to deprive minority groups of access to the protections in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?
    Mr. Speaker, here is where we see a genuine generous intention when it comes to minority communities: $30 million additional dollars for the communities. This very morning, with my colleague from Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, I announced funding of up to $195,000 for L'écho d'un peuple. These are concrete actions to promote the linguistic duality of Canada.

[English]

Official Languages

    Mr. Speaker, the Globe and Mail reports today that Conservatives want to think small. Doing big things makes Canadians uncomfortable they say. This small-mindedness exposes a government that has simply run out of gas and worse, does not understand who Canadians are.
     The Conservatives failed to appoint an ombudsman for crime victims--
    An hon. member: We appointed one.
    Mr. Michael Ignatieff: --the ombudsman does not speak French.
     They appointed a chairman of the national commission of a bilingual region who is not actually bilingual.
    When will the government stop dividing Canadians, think big instead of small, and start understanding who Canadians are?

  (1420)  

    Mr. Speaker, I could understand the member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore, the deputy leader of the Liberal Party, having trouble understanding what a real Canadian is since he spent 30 years outside of Canada, in the United States recently.
    Let me tell the House what a real Canadian is. A real Canadian is somebody who stands up for middle class taxpayers, who helps working families with lower taxes, who stands behind our troops in Afghanistan, and who does what he said he would do. That is what real Canadians are, and those are Conservatives.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday members of the National Assembly called on the federal government to take action in response to the latest report of the Commissioner of Official Languages.
    This is a call from Quebec for leadership from the federal government to defend linguistic duality in Canada.
    I have a very simple question: will the government promise today to adopt all the commissioner's recommendations?
    Mr. Speaker, we took good note of the motion passed yesterday at the National Assembly, just as we took good note of the motion passed by the National Assembly calling on us to correct the fiscal imbalance. And that is what we have done.

Democratic Reform

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister unleashed a wave of discontent in the rest of Canada when he recognized that Quebec forms a nation. To seek forgiveness, he has announced democratic reform that favours western Canada and Ontario over Quebec, which will see a reduction in its political weight.
    What reason can the Prime Minister give for reducing the political weight of Quebec except to show his electoral base that recognizing the Quebec nation does not have any real and practical consequences for him?
    Mr. Speaker, that is not true. Bill C-56 guarantees Quebec's level of representation. I will quote an article by Gilbert Lavoie published in Le Soleil:
    There is nothing really new about the [Conservative] government's Bill C-56. The federal government is required, as are the provinces, to review Canada's electoral map after each census and to adjust ridings to reflect demographic changes. As a founding nation, Quebec has a constitutional guarantee: it will never have fewer than 75 members in the House of Commons in Ottawa, even if its population were to decrease.
    Mr. Speaker, the member should read the same paper and look at the unanimous motion of the National Assembly. I think he would understand something.
    This government's Quebec ministers have done nothing to defend the political weight of their nation, the Quebec nation. None have spoken to the motion adopted unanimously in their National Assembly, that of Quebec, which asks this government to withdraw this bill. Only the Bloc Québécois is here to defend the interests of the Quebec nation.
    What is this minister waiting for to rise and ask the Prime Minister to withdraw the bill, as requested by all elected members of—
    Mr. Speaker, before the hon. colleague gets carried away, I would like to say this to him: I do not think he has a great deal of experience in the National Assembly. I can say that I have sat in the National Assembly with other members who are here today.
    With regard to defending Quebec's interests, I believe that they are very well served in this House.
    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has indicated in the past that he respected the will of the National Assembly, which is the supreme body of the nation of Quebec. Yesterday in that assembly, federalists and sovereignists alike voted unanimously against Bill C-56, which would dilute Quebec's political weight in the House of Commons. Quebec is therefore calling on the government to withdraw the bill.
    If the Prime Minister truly respects the nation of Quebec and the decisions of its National Assembly, what is he waiting for to withdraw the bill?

  (1425)  

    Mr. Speaker, as I have already said, the bill includes guarantees for Quebec. The Leader of the Bloc Québécois invited me to continue to read, so I will continue to read the article in Le Soleil.
    But the old principle of “one person, one vote” calls for an increase in the number of ridings, and therefore the number of members, in parts of the country experiencing high demographic growth. That is the same principle currently forcing Quebec to review its electoral map, to the great displeasure of regions like the Gaspé or the Lower St. Lawrence, that fear their representation will be diminished—
    The hon. member for Papineau.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to address the ministers and members from Quebec in this government who claim to be defending Quebec. I challenge every one of them to rise and tell us that our National Assembly was wrong to call for the withdrawal of this bill.
    Is there a single member of this government who would dare rise and say he does not accept reducing the political weight of our nation in Canada? Is there a single one who has the courage to do so?
    Mr. Speaker, the Conservative members from Quebec have risen. However, the Bloc Québécois has never been able to do anything for the province of Quebec.
    I will continue to read the article:
    On the federal scene, it is entirely normal for the provinces, where populations are increasing, to see their representation in the Commons increase. In fact, this is a requirement under section 42 of the Constitution, which establishes the principle of proportional representation of the provinces.
    We have guarantees with proportional representation. Quebec's representation is fully guaranteed.

[English]

Industry

    Mr. Speaker, the government is running on empty as we sit here today. All it has got left is petty vindictiveness, bullying procedural tactics, filibustering, shutting down opposition debate on important issues. The government is winding down and terminating the good work of committees.
    What should the Conservatives be doing? They should be standing up and protecting Canadian industries that have increasingly become the target of foreign takeovers. They should be telling Alcoa that it cannot takeover Alcan unless it guarantees that all of the jobs are protected and unless it moves its world headquarters to Canada. Will they do it?
    Mr. Speaker, I understand it when I hear it from the Liberals, but I am surprised when the NDP members start being concerned about the way that things are being conducted. They think that an hour or two of debate in a committee by a Conservative is a delay and an obstruction.
    Let me talk about delay and obstruction. Let me talk about some bills that were at the justice committee. Bill C-10 on mandatory penalties for gun crimes was there for 252 days. That is obstruction and delay. Let us talk about, for example, the criminal procedure bill, Bill C-23. That was at committee for 213 days. Let us talk about the age of protection bill, Bill C-22. That was held up at committee by the opposition for--
    The hon. member for Toronto—Danforth.
    Mr. Speaker, clearly the government does not care a bit about the takeover of our key industries in this country and that is a sad fact.

[Translation]

    The government is responsible for protecting Canadian jobs. Alcoa's takeover of Alcan can be subject to conditions. It would be in Canada's interest and in the interest of workers because Alcan is a Canadian industry flagship.
    Is the Prime Minister prepared to ask Alcoa to protect jobs and to make the takeover conditional upon Alcoa moving its headquarters to Canada?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, as the member knows full well, we have legislation in place that ensures that the best interests of Canada are protected in any such case.
    His alarmist approach to concern about takeovers simply is not represented by the facts. There were in fact 660 deals in 2005-06 in which Canadian companies were taken over by foreigners. During the same time there were more, 790 deals, where it was Canadians taking over foreign companies.
    We are part of a global economy. I know the NDP would like us to be a little island unto ourselves, but we are a trading nation. We are an international country. We are part of the world. We are doing well because of that. That is why we have got the strongest economy in Canadian history.

  (1430)  

Summer Career Placement Program

    Mr. Speaker, every summer in my riding 45 to 65 autistic children attend the Yes I Can day camp. For years the summer career placement program has provided up to 30 students working as counsellors at Yes I Can camp.
    This week the executive director of the camp learned that the government has rejected its application for the $38,000 it needs to hire the students. No money, no students, so no camp this summer for 45 children.
    Will the minister explain this decision to the parents of those children?
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for the question. It is an important question.
    I want to point out that the same amount of money that was provided last year for not for profit groups is being provided this year. I think that is an important point. Thousands of young people are getting jobs as a result.
    This is an important issue. It has come to my attention that some very worthy groups have not been funded. I am asking my department to get to the bottom of it.
    Mr. Speaker, for 20 years both the Saint John Y and the Rotary Boys and Girls Club have received funding for summer career training. This year? Denied. More than 50 other Saint John not for profits were denied.
    Will the Prime Minister instruct his minister to come to New Brunswick next Tuesday for a meeting about why that meanspirited party is denying students? Why has the Prime Minister let his minister for buzz cuts pull a full monty on our students and our not for profit communities?
    Mr. Speaker, I simply have to point out that the Liberals' record is that in the past they cut summer career programming for students many times.
    I want to point out that this government has preserved every cent of funding for the not for profit sector. In the member's riding there has been funding for: the Canadian Red Cross; Athletics New Brunswick; ONE Change; the Canada Games Aquatic Centre; the Heart and Stroke Foundation of New Brunswick; the Atlantic Centre of Excellence; the Saint John YMCA; the Victorian Order of Nurses; the Ruth Ross Residence; Hospice Saint John, and many others.
    Mr. Speaker, the decision of the Conservative government to cut $55 million from the Liberal summer student placements program is affecting more than 120 organizations in Vancouver. Many of these organizations employ students and train them and still have not heard. Semesters have ended and university students still have not heard. High school students still have not heard if they are going to get jobs.
     Silence, that is all the government has for them. How long is the government going to let incompetence and ideology hurt real people?
    Mr. Speaker, I will set aside the irony of hearing that member talk about incompetence.
    The fact is that we have preserved every cent of funding to the not for profit sector. It is that member who should apologize for misleading the House with respect to the amount of funding that is going to the not for profit sector. Every cent has been preserved. The member should explain why her government repeatedly cut funding to students.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the devastating effects of this government's decision to cut the summer employment program for students are already being felt in Hull—Aylmer.
    Many requests were simply rejected this year. Organizations whose requests were turned down include the Aylmer Museum, Entre deux roues, which helps people in wheelchairs, and the Outaouais seniors' foundation.
    What is the government hoping to accomplish with this move? What does it have against students, people with disabilities, seniors and culture? What does it have against the Outaouais' community organizations?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, there is something the member does not understand. Groups do not automatically receive funding. They apply every year. If they meet the criteria and provide students with good summer jobs, that funding will flow, and it has. It will flow to the tune of $77.3 million for the not for profit sector this year alone.
    I wish the member really would find the integrity to tell the truth about this program.

  (1435)  

[Translation]

Official Languages

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Quebec National Assembly passed another unanimous motion demanding that decisive action be taken to defend and promote French. An example of such action that had proven its worth was most assuredly the court challenges program.
    Will the minister, who claims to concern herself with the conditions facing francophones, reinstate that program, which would be a good start?
    Mr. Speaker, with all due respect for my colleague from the Bloc Québécois, the fact remains that concrete action will come from this side of the House and certainly not from the benches of the Bloc Québécois, who will never be able to do anything for official language minority communities outside Quebec and within Canada. We allocated $30 million in additional support to the program for the promotion of linguistic duality. This morning, funding of $195,000 was announced for L'écho d'un peuple.
    I invite hon. Bloc members to get out of Quebec and see this fabulous—
    The hon. member for Gatineau.
    Mr. Speaker, we must stop taking Canada's Acadians and francophones hostage. They have rights because they exist, and not because Quebec is part of Canada.
    Gisèle Lalonde said that she could never have saved the Montfort Hospital, the only French speaking hospital in Ontario, without the help of the court challenges program.
    Will the minister please stop telling francophones that their rights matter, but they are about to lose their means of defending them?
    Mr. Speaker, we are giving official language minority communities additional means for concrete action. This is a great deal more than the Bloc Québécois can do for communities outside Quebec. The Bloc has never put pressure on the Parti Québécois to bring Quebec to the table of the ministerial conference of the Francophonie, which would have been useful to communities outside Quebec.

Aboriginal Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, a document prepared by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development in 2006 but never made public by the government reports that there is a shortfall of $938 million for basic services for first nations for 2007-08.
    In light of this, can the minister explain why the budget does not include this $938 million when we know the abysmal state of many aboriginal communities across Canada?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to review any document that my hon. colleague might have in his possession, but as he well knows, the budget this year for the Government of Canada includes $10.2 billion in expenditures for aboriginal programs and services. This is $1 billion more than any previous budget on the part of the Government of Canada.
     Those are the facts. I would be pleased to discuss this further with him.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I invite the minister to look again at the documents in his file. I am talking about basic services like primary education, drinking water, infrastructure, income support and housing. These are basic needs.
    How can the minister knowingly deprive the first nations of $938 million when we know the deplorable conditions in which aboriginal communities are forced to live because of this minister's mismanagement?
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the questions from the hon. opposition member, but we disagree with him on this issue.
    This year, the budget includes $10 billion for federal aboriginal programs. This government is working with Canada's aboriginal peoples under many programs for women, youth and other aboriginal individuals.

  (1440)  

Summer Career Placement Program

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives do not seem to understand that their cuts to the summer career placement program have had serious repercussions on a number of organizations.
    In my riding, the Fondation de la Maison des arts de Laval, the Musée des Enfants de Laval and Tourisme Laval will all feel a major impact. What does the government have to say in response to the letter from the president of the Musée des Enfants de Laval, who asks: “How can anyone have so little regard for children, culture and education?”

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it is interesting that the member would raise this issue. When she was answering questions on this very issue when she was on this side of the House, she suggested that students should just stay in school as a way of dealing with the cutbacks the Liberals brought in. I can provide the member with the quote.
    The real issue, though, is that every year thousands of groups are denied because there are always more applications than there are resources, but we are preserving every cent of the funding for the not for profit sector and we are ensuring that students are getting a quality work experience.
    Mr. Speaker, for years the Oakville Economic Development Alliance has employed summer students to staff its tourism centre, but yesterday it was told it did not qualify for funding this year.
    This is the first time it has ever been refused funding by the federal government and now it does not know how its centre will be staffed. Just as the tourism season heats up, why has the government left the Oakville tourism centre in the lurch?
    Mr. Speaker, the Canada summer jobs project is part of youth employment strategies designed to get students the best possible work experience they can get, but we are also operating in a context where we have the lowest unemployment rates in just about 40 years.
     We are continuing to make sure that those in the not for profit sector are provided with $77.3 million in funding, which is exactly what that sector received last year. If they guarantee that quality work experience, they get the funding.
    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives strike again, targeting the most vulnerable in society by gutting the Liberals' summer career placements program.
    In my riding of Brampton—Springdale, the family day care centre was denied; Habitat for Humanity, denied; the Bramalea Christian Fellowship Church, denied. Last summer they hired over 60 summer students. This year, under this Conservative government, they have received nothing.
    The students of Brampton—Springdale have a message for this government: “You're fired”.
     Why is this government not standing up for students and non-profit organizations?
    Mr. Speaker, it may not be fair to point this out because the member may not have all the information, but in her riding, St. John Ambulance was approved. As well, there are: Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Peel, approved; Canadian Mental Health Association, approved; Community Environment Alliance, approved; Harvest Worship Centre, approved; and Jesus First Ministries, approved.
    Mr. Speaker, the minister claims that student job money for my province is the same this year as it was last year. He is wrong.
    There are not so many Safeways or Wal-Marts in Newfoundland and Labrador as the minister alludes to, but there is Sir Wilfred Grenfell College, where 25 students last year had high tech jobs in science and technology as research assistants. There were 25 and this year there are none.
    Since those students probably will not be going back to university this fall because of that minister, will he go back to school this fall and rediscover his ABCs, anything but Conservative?
    Mr. Speaker, the first thing I would have to say is stranger in the House.
    I want to point out that in the member's riding we provided funding for: the Newfoundland and Labrador Laubach Literacy Council; the Stephenville Theatre Festival; Big Brothers and Big Sisters; Deer Lake & District Literacy Council; Books for Babies; Baie Verte Peninsula Family Resource Program; the Canadian Cancer Society, West Haven Camp; and the Family Outreach Centres. There is a very long list.
    I want to remind the member that when his government was in power, it actually cut programming for students across the country. He really should be ashamed.

  (1445)  

National Defence

    Mr. Speaker, Canada and the U.S. have long cooperated to maintain mutually beneficial defence trade controls. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, however, the U.S. amended its international traffic in arms regulations to impose stricter rules governing military procurements.
    Despite harmful economic and strategic implications for Canada, the Liberals did nothing to respond. Could the Minister of National Defence update the House on how Canada's new government is protecting Canada's national interests?
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to say that we have a new ITAR agreement with the United States. We are the only country that has secured such an arrangement.
    Unlike the former Liberal government, which ignored the problem, we are getting things done.
    We sought and achieved a solution that supports common security objectives. This is good news for the Canadian Forces, ensuring that we can continue to move forward with the purchase of critical equipment for our troops. This arrangement is the first phase in resolving a complex issue for both governments and industry.

Afghanistan

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives filibustered for two hours today to prevent a wounded veteran and a law professor from testifying at the ethics committee.
    It is more than just human rights reports that are being covered up. The Minister of Public Safety talks about the work that Correctional Service Canada officers are doing in Kandahar, but what he does not mention is that their reports have been censored, totally censored.
    What is it that the government is hiding? Why is it censoring the reports? Canadians have a right to know.
    Mr. Speaker, of course it is always a challenge when members ask questions of three different ministers in one question, but I will do my best on the first part.
    I do not know about the filibuster. I know there was some debate. I know that the witnesses she is concerned about are testifying. At least that is what I have been told, but perhaps she has been told otherwise.
    That is the way we do things on this side of the House. We get the job done. We do not delay justice bills for 270 days or 175 days because we actually do not want to get tough on crime. We try to take action on this side, regardless of a year-long effort by the opposition to filibuster every meaningful part of our government agenda.
    Mr. Speaker, just like it censored and denied access to the human rights reports that were put out by foreign affairs showing that the government was fully aware of the possibility of torture and killings in Afghan prisons, the Department of Foreign Affairs has completely blanked out the report from the corrections officers. It is totally blank. Nothing is in it.
    What is the government hiding? What was in the report? Why is it censoring every report that comes out from Afghanistan?
    Mr. Speaker, nothing could be further from the truth. I dare say that we have the most transparent, open and forthright government that this country has seen in an awfully long time.
    As evidence of that, one only need look at the efforts that have been made by this government to be more transparent. One only need look back to 2002.
    By the way, these reports are for internal circulation and are redacted internally. This is not something that happens at the political level. I can understand the member opposite from the NDP not knowing that but certainly members on the other side of the House did the same thing since 2002 when the mission began.
    Mr. Speaker, the government's incompetent handling of the Afghan detainees has raised its ugly head again.
    Last week the Conservatives tried to prevent witnesses from being called before a committee to answer questions about why foreign affairs first denied the existence of a report on abuse in Afghan prisons and then blacked out much of its disturbing content. Today, Conservative members prevented these witnesses from giving evidence.
    The Prime Minister has said that none of his ministers were responsible for the cover-up. Why are the Conservative committee members now helping out in this cover-up?
    Mr. Speaker, the member opposite would know a lot about cover-ups, of course, with his involvement previously in keeping information private around the sponsorship scandal. However, the process to which he is referring has not changed one iota.
    I know he likes to take up a rarefied air in this auspicious chamber but he knows, having been a government member, that nothing has changed. The process for these reports, which are circulated internally within interdepartmental circulation, has not changed nor has the redaction. The member knows full well that this process took place under his government.

  (1450)  

    Mr. Speaker, next time maybe he can talk about Mr. Schreiber.

[Translation]

    The Prime Minister refuses to admit that he is responsible for the cover-up concerning the Foreign Affairs report on Afghan prisoners. The Minister of Foreign Affairs admits to us that he does not read his mail and says that his staff had nothing to do with it. As for the Minister of National Defence, well, his phone seems to be out of service. We are witnessing a planned cover-up. No one wants the truth about this damning report to get out. Canadians deserve the truth.
    What is the government afraid of?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I invite the member to ask Marc Lalonde about the individual he just mentioned, and I know I can read because I read the book which he has referenced at least 10 times in reference to the sponsorship scandal. I will say it again that the process with respect to redaction and with respect to internal reports has not changed.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order, please. We must have some order. The member for Bourassa has asked a question and the Minister of Foreign Affairs is responding and we need to be able to hear the response. The Minister of Foreign Affairs has the floor and we will have some order, please.
    Mr. Speaker, with respect to the process, we have obviously enhanced the original arrangement where there were shortcomings. We have made these reports available.
     I can also tell the member that I wish him very well in his lawsuit with Mr. Doan.

Foreign Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, we waited several days for an answer from the foreign affairs minister. A few days ago we got one and it was totally unacceptable.
    He said that his government would not bring a foreign affairs subcommittee motion on Iran to the courts because it would give Iran's president a platform to proclaim his noxious views. Why then do we have courts at all?
    If somebody says something repugnant, do we just let him go? Do we not bring him to his proper justice? The more repugnant is the more we do not do anything; that makes no sense. We deserve a far better answer from the foreign minister.
    Mr. Speaker, that question by the member opposite is very reminiscent of his admonition of his leader during leadership debates. They did deserve better.
    With respect to this committee report, clearly the sentiments expressed by the member opposite are shared on this side of the House. We completely condemn the comments of President Ahmadinejad. These are distasteful, disgusting comments that incite hatred.
    This government has done something about that. We have raised this issue at the United Nations. We are prepared to work with members opposite if they will stop with their petty political nitpicking.
    Mr. Speaker, once again the minister is hiding behind a political rant. That was no answer.
    Following his logic, does this mean that we would not bring the great villains of the past to court because of what they might say about the Jews, the Tutsis or the ethnic minorities in Cambodia or Bosnia?
    We do not hide ignorance, we confront it. We get it to expose itself in front of the world, embarrass it and show it for what it is.
    Will the minister and his government support that motion?
    Mr. Speaker, what political posturing, what bombastic baloney from the member opposite.
    This is the government that stood up for Israel during a time of need. This is the government that has repeatedly and consistently stood strong for human rights around the world.
    We will take no lessons from the members opposite, from that past government that shrank in the face of adversity when the human rights of Canadians abroad were at risk.

[Translation]

Canada Summer Jobs Program

    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development claims an intent to better focus the funding of the new Canada summer jobs program. In his remarks yesterday, he attempted to distort reality by trying to run down the groups and activities funded under the old program.
    Does the minister really believe that projects mainly involving organizations working with the disabled, culture, tourism activities and youth camps do not deserve financial assistance?

  (1455)  

[English]

    On the contrary, Mr. Speaker. These groups do tremendous work, and no one questions that. As I said to my colleague across the way, I will look at some of these projects or I will have my department look at some of them.
    However, I would remind the member that Canada summer jobs is part of the youth employment strategy and it is designed to give students the best possible work experience so they can take it and parlay it into successful careers.
    I do not think anyone would argue about that being a very worthy end for a program.

[Translation]

Telecommunications

    Mr. Speaker, on April 30, the CRTC announced a 5% increase in regional telephone charges. The decision by the Minister of Industry to deregulate the telephone services sector is directly responsible for that increase. The Bloc Québécois had predicted that the rural regions would get it in the neck if there were deregulation. And so they have.
    Does the minister realize that there is no other solution, if he wants to avoid penalizing the regions still further, than to backtrack on his decision?
    Mr. Speaker, the decision reached by this government to put the consumer in the forefront of telecommunications reform is a good one. I would like to see support from the Bloc Québécois because, as early as this coming September, in all major Canadian centres we will be seeing lower telephone charges, competition and wider choices for all consumers. This is what the government has done, unlike the Bloc Québécois, which has been sitting on the opposition benches for 13 years now and has done absolutely nothing for Quebec consumers.

[English]

Ministerial Expenses

    Mr. Speaker, last night the Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity boasted that he had attended more than 100 meetings, events and celebrations with dozens of communities and organizations across the country in the four months that he has been on the job.
    Some hon. members: Hear, hear!
    Order, please. The hon. member for Churchill has the floor.
    However, Mr. Speaker, there are no records of any of these trips in the proactive disclosure that he is required to file by law.
    Could the secretary of state tell the House how much his meetings have cost? We will pay for them if he tells us where are they posted.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order, please. I know members like to cheer the minister on but he stood to answer the question and everyone wants to hear the answer. We will now hear from the minister. Order, please.
    Mr. Speaker, I sincerely thank the member opposite for giving me an opportunity to highlight my efforts to ensure that the Government of Canada is close to and listening to our ethnocultural communities in a way that the Liberals never did.
     I want to tell the member that whether it is our redress for the Chinese head tax, cutting the right of landing fee in half or any of our work with these communities, we have delivered more in 15 months than the Liberals did in 13 years.
    As it relates to my expenses, all of them have been submitted and will be posted by departmental officials in full accordance with the rules.

Agriculture

    Mr. Speaker, our government is getting things done for all Canadians. Whether they are anglophones or francophones, urban Canadians or rural Canadians, people right across the country are seeing the results of the hard won efforts of this Conservative government.
    Today the Minister of Agriculture assigned responsibility for the rural and co-op secretariat to the Secretary of State for Agriculture. Would the secretary of state tell us how he plans to help farmers and other rural Canadians?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question.

[English]

    Under the strong leadership of this Minister of Agriculture, farmers throughout the land now have a voice here in Ottawa.

[Translation]

    I am very proud of my new responsibilities for the rural and cooperatives secretariats. I am from a rural region and I want to see our regions succeed.
    Today I announced $3.25 million in funding for agricultural cooperatives producing biofuels.
    We are working for the farmers, we are working for the regions, and we are working for the environment.

[English]

Summer Career Placement Program

    Mr. Speaker, instead of removing politics from the summer jobs program, the Conservatives have removed the funding for the summer jobs. Because of the millions of dollars cut from the summer jobs program, fewer jobs will be created. Canada's most vulnerable youth in communities have been cut off. Museums, parks and a little league programs for disabled children have been rejected.
    Would the minister tell us, for every one job his inadequate program creates, how many more jobs are lost because of his cuts?

  (1500)  

    Mr. Speaker, I reject that characterization. We have maintained every cent of funding for the not for profit sector; $77.3 million. I note from the committee transcripts this morning that the member for Trinity—Spadina actually lauded us on our approach regarding criteria, and I thank her for that support.
     I note that there are sometimes examples of groups that perhaps should receive funding and I have asked my department to get to the bottom of this. We do want to ensure that worthy groups and good students get opportunities, and they will.
    Mr. Speaker, one does not solve the problem by cutting. For every job the minister has cited today, there will be thousands of students left unemployed because of the government. The employers that the minister is rejecting are the backbone of our communities. Everybody loses with these cuts: students, families and the economy.
    Under the Liberals the program was inadequate, but the Conservative government has made it worse.
    Will the minister tell the House how many students will go without work this summer because, with a $10 billion surplus, the government cut funding for student summer jobs?
    Mr. Speaker, the first answer is that many students will not go looking for work this year because we have the lowest unemployment rate in just about 40 years. I think that is pretty important to point out.
    However, we have maintained the funding for the not for profit sector at $77.3 million and we have changed the criteria and some members in the NDP seem to like that idea.
    The member should also have the integrity to acknowledge that the funding has been preserved for the not for profit sector. It does not flatter her when she misleads the House that way.

Points of Order

Oral Questions  

[Points of Order]
    Mr. Speaker, my point of order arises out of question period. During the course of question period, the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development repeatedly referred to and read from a list of projects pertaining to the summer jobs for students program.
    Since he has that list in his hands at this moment and since he referred to it repeatedly and read from it explicitly in question period, would the minister be good enough, under the rules, to table that list now in the House of Commons?
    Mr. Speaker, I have my preparation for question period. I do not think it is the usual practice to share our notes for question period. However, all of this will soon be made public on the Internet. He is certainly free to scan this and use it in whatever way he finds suitable.
    Mr. Speaker, it seems to me that members ought to be entitled to know what summer job grants are being given in their ridings. The minister is here citing from a list he obviously has. Perhaps what he is telling us is that he has not got the complete list with him, but surely he has access to it.
    Why would he be saying that members ought not to have access to that list, that the public ought not to know immediately what are in those lists and what grants have been given out in each of the ridings of all the members of the House?
    Order, please. I do not think I need to hear more on this point. The minister has indicated the list will be made available on the Internet in due course. How soon that is, I do not know, but members can ask the minister questions about that tomorrow in question period and seek to ascertain when the material will become available.
    I will look at the question and examine it to see if this in fact has been made public before and if not making it public at this point constitutes a breach.
    It is time for the Thursday question, then we can move on to other procedural matters, of which I have notice of several.

  (1505)  

Business of the House

[Business of the House]
    Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the government House leader would be good enough to outline the business that he has in mind for tomorrow and for the week of May 28, when the House returns.
    Could he also advise the House of the business specifically that he hopes to see completed in that next sitting period, which would be the last one before the longer summer break? It would be useful for members to know the particular items the government House leader is anxious to see completed in that timeframe.
    Finally, could he enlighten the House as to how he thinks the business of Parliament is expedited by the constant filibustering in a number of committees by members of the government.
    Mr. Speaker, I would be happy to make an effort to answer all those questions. It could go on for a long time, but I will do my best.

  (1510)  

    Don't filibuster.
     I would not do that.
    Tomorrow is an allotted day.
    Next week is constituent consultation week, when the House will be adjourned to allow members to return to their ridings and meet with constituents to share with them the activities of Parliament since the last constituency break.
     For the interest of members, I will quickly review our plan for the context of our overall legislative agenda.
    As he requested, this is currently strengthening the economy week, where a number of financial bills moved forward. The budget bill was sent to committee and, hopefully, it will be reported back tomorrow, or soon, so we can deal with it at third reading when the House returns after the break.
    Bill C-40, an act to amend the Excise Tax Act, was read a third time and sent to the Senate. Bill C-53, an act to implement the convention on the settlement of investment disputes, Bill C-33, the sales tax bill and Bill C-47, the Olympics symbol bill were all sent to committee and we all would like to see those back in the House for report stage and third reading.
    In an earlier week, Bill C-36, the bill that makes changes to the Canada pension plan and the Old Age Security Act, was made into law after receiving royal assent.
    Strengthening accountability through democratic reform week was a success with the consideration of Bill C-43, Senate consultation. We had three new democratic reform bills introduced that week: Bill C-55, to expand voting opportunities; Bill C-56, an act to amend the Constitution Act, democratic representation; and Bill C-54, a bill that would bring accountability with respect to loans. We hope to continue debate on that particular bill later today.
    Bill C-16, fixed dates for elections, was given royal assent and is now law, which I think is the cause of the commotion now in all the committees where Liberals are using procedural tactics. Now they feel they can do it with a free hand.
    Two other democratic reform bills are in the Senate, Bill C-31, voter integrity, and Bill S-4, Senate tenure. I really would like to have the term limits bill from the Senate for an upcoming democratic reform week if the opposition House leader can persuade his colleagues in the Senate to finally deal with that bill after 352 days. We may get 352 seconds in a filibuster, but they have had 352 days so far. They have been stalling for a year.
    During the consultation week, I will be interested in hearing what our constituents think of the plight of Bill S-4 and the irony of those unaccountable senators delaying it.
    We dedicated a good deal of our time focusing on making our streets and communities safer by cracking down on crime. Now that we have had the help of the NDP, we restored the meaningful aspects that the Liberals gutted in committee to Bill C-10, the bill to introduce mandatory penalties for violent and gun crimes. We are continuing to debate that bill today at third reading.
    Bill C-48, the bill dealing with the United Nations convention on corruption, was adopted at all stages.
    Bill C-26, the bill to amend the Criminal Code with respect to interest rates, was given royal assent.
    Bill C-22, the age of protection, was given final reading and sent to the Senate, although it did spend close to, if not in excess of, 200 days in committee where the Liberals were obstructing and delaying its passage.
    We made progress on Bill C-27, the dangerous offenders legislation. We would like to see that back in the House.
    Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conditional sentence of imprisonment) and a host of other justice bills are working their way through the system.
    Members can advise their constituents that when we return, we will be reviving two themes, back by popular demand. Beginning May 28, we will begin again with strengthening accountability through democratic reform with: Bill C-54, political loans; Bill C-55, additional opportunities for voting; and Bill C-56, democratic representation.
    Up next is a second go-round on strengthening the economy week with Bill C-52, the budget implementation bill, which will be called as soon as it is reported back from committee.

[Translation]

    In the near future, we will have the improvement of aboriginal people quality of life week with Bill C-44. This bill will grant first nations residing on Indian reserves access to the Canadian charter of human rights. They have been denied this right for 30 years. Unfortunately, Bill C-44 is being delayed by the opposition. This is another bill being delayed by the opposition in committee.
    After Bill C-44, I intend to debate Bill C-51. The agreement establishes the use and ownership of land and resources and will foster economic development. This bill illustrates Canada's commitment to the North and to settling land claims.

[English]

    I wish all members a productive constituent consultation week and look forward to more progress on the government's legislative agenda when the House returns on May 28.
    Mr. Speaker, once again we have seen the tendency of the government to filibuster itself.
    I point out to the House that when the typical Thursday question is asked, it usually takes the House leader for the opposition something less than one minute, respecting the prerogatives, timing and tradition of the House. I trust in future that the question will be allowed something in the order of five minutes so there can be a little fairness shown, obviously in response to the government's tendency to filibuster everything.
    If the government House leader is looking for an explanation as to why the atmosphere around this place has tended to sour in the last little while, he might just look in the mirror.
    Mr. Speaker, I say in a spirit of generosity, I knew the member was going to ask the context of the legislation that we wished to complete in the balance of our time here. Had that not been held up in committee so long, the list would not have taken so long to read?
    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I find the opposition House leader has asked what is called the usual Thursday question in an attempt to determine the future business of the House for the week to follow.
    The reply of the government House leader I can only describe as disingenuous. He has taken the opportunity to give a speech about virtually the entire government agenda, of which he may be very proud, but which was not the purpose of the question.
    If these kinds of liberties are going to be continued to be taken by the government House leader, it may destroy the whole purpose of the Thursday question. He should take that into account, and I think you should too, Mr. Speaker.
    Mr. Speaker, I cannot help but think the hon. member did not hear the opposition House leader pose his question. He asked, in addition to next week, what other aspects of the government's agenda did we wish to see completed before we finished the session for the summer.
    This happens to be a fairly ambitious agenda. That is the nature of this government. He may not like seeing a government that wants to get things done, but the reality is I was answering the question he asked.

[Translation]

Points of Order

Oral Questions  

[Points of Order ]
    Mr. Speaker, I refer to Standing Order 18, which states: “No member shall...use offensive words against either House, or against any Member thereof”.
    I therefore respectfully submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development attacked my integrity when attempting to answer my question. When I stand up to the Conservative government to defend the interests of students, seniors, the disabled, and the cultural and community organizations of the Outaouais, among others, I am very proud of my integrity.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I did not hear the comment to which the member is referring. He might wish to repeat so we could respond more appropriately. Otherwise, I would ask that we be given an opportunity for the Minister of Human Resources to return to respond to it.
    Certainly, though, when it comes to question period in terms of attacks on integrity and character, I know where they come from mostly.
    We will leave the matter for the moment. I am sure all hon. members will have a look at the record.
    The chair has notice of a question of privilege from the hon. member for Scarborough—Agincourt.

Privilege

Minister's Letter to Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration  

[Privilege]
    Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a point of personal privilege.
    As members of Parliament, we carry out our everyday work following a code and a set of ethics. I have had the good fortune of having been here for almost 19 years. This is my first experience that I have seen a minister telling committee members how to do their work. The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration sent a letter to all members of the committee intimidating us as to how we carry on our work. I would like to refer to a few passages from the letter. It reads:
    Some of the questions during May 2nd appearance related to matters on which public servants cannot testify. For reasons of clarification, and so that all understand the parameters around such appearances, I have taken the step of instructing my Deputy Minister to provide the following information to departmental officials, prior to their next appearance before the Committee.
    Certainly, Mr. Speaker, this is telling civil servants not to be accountable to this House. It continues:
    Public servants are to assist the standing committee by factually answering questions, but are to explain rather than defend or debate policies. Thus, for example, they can provide information on how a particular program or policy is implemented; questions relating to whether the program or policy can or should be changed is the exclusive realm of a Minister.
    The minister is there and taking advice of her bureaucrats. Certainly this does not jibe. It continues:
--I will ask that my Deputy Minister indicate that, if the witnesses have any doubt about answering a question put to them by the Committee members, they should not answer immediately, but provide a response, in writing, at a later date. This may delay the Committee receiving full and complete answers to legitimate questions, but as it is your intention to swear them in, this guidance is for their protection.
    As I said, this is the first time that I have seen a minister act that way, but it is not unusual. It clearly demonstrates that the minister is trying to muzzle the committee.
    As this is a repeated circumstance by the Conservative government in this current Parliament, I would ask, Mr. Speaker, that you investigate this matter. I feel that my privileges have been infringed and trampled upon by the minister. I am asking that you look into this matter and respond back to this House.

  (1515)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to respond to the question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Scarborough—Agincourt.
    The hon. member accused me of instructing witnesses from my department of withholding information. This is a very serious allegation, as intimidation of witnesses is clearly inappropriate.
    I submit that the member's question of privilege is not valid for two reasons. First, there is no evidence that the situation described by the hon. member constitutes a prima facie breach of privilege. At most, this is a debate about the interpretation of facts. Second, this concerns proceedings at the standing committee. Since the standing committee has not presented a report on this matter, this matter cannot be considered in the House as a valid question of privilege.
    Now if I may present the factual situation, Mr. Speaker, the citizenship and immigration committee was hearing witnesses from my department during a committee meeting on May 2, 2007. During this meeting the atmosphere and manner of questioning the departmental witnesses was hostile and some of the witnesses felt intimidated.
    As the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, I wrote to the chair of the committee, copying the members, following this meeting, expressing my concern over the intimidation of witnesses. I informed the chair that I had instructed the deputy minister of the department to instruct any future witnesses from the department that they should put their response in writing at a later date if they were in doubt of information that was required at the time of the questioning. I also instructed the deputy minister to indicate to future witnesses that they should not tolerate instances of inappropriate ways of questioning.
    This was an attempt to ensure the well running of the committee and the well-being of my departmental officials.
    Here is the $10,000 question. It is the procedural point.
    Mr. Speaker, I submit that this cannot be a valid question of privilege at this time since the citizenship and immigration committee has not presented a report to the House on this mattter. Page 128 of Marleau and Montpetit states:
    Speakers have consistently ruled that, except in the most extreme situations, they will only hear questions of privilege arising from committee proceedings upon presentation of a report from the committee which directly deals with the matter and not as a question of privilege raised by an individual Member.
    As the citizenship and immigration committee has not reported on this matter, I submit that this is not a valid question of privilege at this time.

  (1520)  

    The hon. member for Kitchener--Waterloo also gave notice on the same point, I believe.
    Mr. Speaker, my question relates to the same letter dated May 16, 2007 sent to the chair of the committee and copied to all members of the committee.
    My question of privilege flows from an attempt by the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to intimidate the standing committee on the subject by limiting the testimony of witnesses appearing before it.
    The minister's letter dated May 16, 2007 proposes to put in place guidelines and severe limitations on the testimony of witnesses. These proposed limitations are contrary to the law, privileges and customs of Parliament. They amount to a serious breach of my privileges as a member of Parliament and to the privilege of the House itself.
    I want to be clear in stating that the committees are entitled to seek information from witnesses through both testimony and evidence. In this context, where public servants are called upon to testify, there must be a way to ensure that committees obtain the information they require while respecting the public servants' professional duty to the crown.
    The minister will want to look at the appropriate provisions of the Parliament of Canada Act which specifically authorize committees to swear in witnesses. An attempt to deny that part of the law is an assault on my privilege and those of every member of the committee and of the House.
    Furthermore, the language in the minister's letter regarding the style of questioning is nothing short of offensive to the committee and also a breach of my privilege as a member of the committee, in that it claims the committee members harassed, demeaned, belittled, humiliated and embarrassed witnesses. All these qualifiers are grossly exaggerated.
    In fact, in part of my presentation to the committee, I commended one of the witnesses, Mr. Davidson, rather than criticize him. I commended Mr. Davidson for pointing out to the committee that the previous Liberal government had budgeted $20 million for producing a new updated Citizenship Act and how the Conservative government withdrew that funding.
    The principle at stake is the ability of members of Parliament in a standing committee to carry out their legislative work and to fulfill their duties as members of Parliament, independent of the government of the day.
    Upon reviewing the minister's letter and checking the minutes of the standing committee meeting of May 2, 2007, I am sure you will find a prima facie case for breach of privilege, Mr. Speaker.
    I will table the letter in question with you, Sir.
    Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak to the point raised by the member for Scarborough—Agincourt.
    I begin my comments by saying that I am a new member of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. This was in fact the first full meeting that I had attended of that committee. What I found at that committee that day was absolutely shocking.
    First of all, I believe that both members have not presented a prima facie case for a question of privilege. What the minister has done is to instruct junior officials to be careful witnesses and to be careful in the information that they relay to parliamentarians to ensure that members on that committee get good information. Of course they are going to be very careful witnesses because members opposite made a big production about swearing in those junior officials of the department. It was an incredibly intimidating meeting for the junior officials that appeared before our committee.
    The mood of the entire meeting was most distasteful. The junior officials were berated. If anyone is guilty of intimidation of a committee, it is the member for Scarborough—Agincourt. It is also the member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country and also the member for Kitchener—Waterloo.
    I believe, Mr. Speaker, if you were to look at the blues from that committee meeting on that day, you would be shocked and amazed at some of the tactics used by members of the opposition to berate junior officials. These officials are good public servants who go to work every day and do their jobs and pay their taxes and raise their families.
    At that meeting we dealt with lost Canadians. The only motives of these officials were to deal with this matter and to help to identify who falls within the realm of a lost Canadian. They are doing an incredible job, despite receiving tens of thousands of phone calls. I believe they are down to 75 individuals who are in dispute as to whether or not they are lost Canadians. They are doing an incredible job.
    Mr. Speaker, if you were to check the blues from that committee, the word “liar” was thrown out many times by members opposite. The member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country accused the officials of being guilty of a snow job. He said that he knew a snow job when he heard it and they were guilty of creating a snow job that day at committee.
    Those poor officials were berated by members of the opposition. I want to commend the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration for standing up for these good public servants, for standing up for these officials and saying to them that if they are not sure of their answer, to take some time, make sure they get it right and then get back to the committee.
    There were only three people in that room that day that were guilty of intimidation. They are the members opposite that I have already mentioned. I want to congratulate the minister.
     This clearly is not a point of privilege.

  (1525)  

    Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, my colleague only joined the committee that particular day. He is not aware of what happened the first time that the minister came to the committee.
    In the same vein, a question was asked of the minister and also was asked of a senior official, none other than the deputy minister, and the question was very plain, “Have you advertised?” The minister, not knowing, looked at the deputy minister and the deputy minister said, “I assure you we have advertised”.
    Later on the deputy minister sent out a letter apologizing for misleading us. He even sent me a personal letter because I put the question to him, apologizing personally for having misled me.
    The whole thing on this file, and I did not raise the file here today on the report, I raised the request for you, Sir, to take a look at this letter and how it is intimidating.
    Mr. Speaker, I would ask you to examine the blues. If the minister wants to examine the blues and my colleague from Palliser wants to examine the blues, do nothing else but examine the whole thing. This has done nothing else but to trample and infringe on the rights of the members of the committee.
    I am prepared to deal with this matter immediately. I have heard enough. We are getting away off the point of a question of privilege and getting into what happened in the committee which in my view is irrelevant to this issue.
    We have here a case where the minister has sent a letter to all the committee members from the copy that I have received. It is marked “copy” to all the members of the committee. It is addressed to the chairman of the committee. It is dealing with the giving of evidence before the committee.
    It is not a matter of the privileges of the members of the House. It is a matter for the committee to decide whether this directive is something that is satisfactory to the committee. That discussion must take place in the committee and not here on the floor of the House.
    It is not for me to decide what evidence committees hear or what restrictions the committee may put on members or what restrictions the minister may be allegedly putting on witnesses who are appearing before the committee.
    The minister is entitled to give directions to her employees in the department. She is entitled to write to the committee and express her views and pass on to it what she is telling the people in her department. It is for the committee then to make decisions whether or not this is satisfactory to the committee and its members, and not for Speaker on a question of privilege in the House.
    If the committee reports that in some way its ability to do its work has been restricted or impeded, that is another matter and it will be dealt with by the House if such a report should come to the House, as the minister has pointed out.
    However, it is not for me today to make a decision on whether the minister's letter constitutes a breach of members' privileges. It does not, it cannot, unless the committee finds that in some way its ability to do its job has been impeded or impaired. We have had no such finding from the committee.
    I am not going to hear a whole lot more argument about what happened in the committee in terms of answers to questions. That is simply not the business of the Speaker, nor in my view is it the business of the House at least until such time as the House receives a report from the committee indicating some problem.
    I urge hon. members to raise this matter in committee. They can have a fulsome discussion there. The chairman of the committee has the letter. There is nothing secret about it. The discussion can take place in committee and in my opinion, that is exactly where it ought to take place.
    Therefore, I cannot find a question of privilege here today.

Government Orders

[Government Orders]

  (1530)  

[Translation]

Criminal Code

     The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-10, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (minimum penalties for offences involving firearms) and to make a consequential amendment to another Act, be read the third time and passed.
    Prior to oral questions, the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine had the floor. She has seven minutes for her remarks. She now has the floor to speak on this bill.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to resume where I had to interrupt my remarks. The Liberal Party of Canada is not against minimum sentences. However, it considers that they do not represent the best way to combat crime in Canada. That is why we believed that Bill C-10, as amended in committee, constituted an excellent compromise because it dealt in a serious and coherent manner with major crime in Canada. As I have explained, this compromise was destroyed by the deplorable union of the Conservatives and NDP.
     Without trivializing crime and the problem of access to weapons, the bill, newly amended by the Conservatives and the NDP, serves to establish and reinforce the neo-conservative ideology that is trying to impose itself in this House. It promotes increases in mandatory minimum sentences, so generously used but really only effective in very specific circumstances. It is important to mention that the Liberal Party in no way opposes minimum sentences but like a majority of the stakeholders in the criminal law community, it considers that they must be limited in use to already existing offences. They cannot constitute a new response to crime management.
     Finally, I must remind members that the Liberal Party proposed a multitude of amendments designed to improve the original bill during discussion in committee. We tried the same thing at the report stage. Unfortunately, this government and its loyal allies in the NDP obstinately voted against my party’s initiatives on this issue. That is why the value of their joint bill is so diminished
     I therefore invite my fellow members to reject Bill C-10 at third reading, in large part, because of the amendments adopted at the report stage.

[English]

    “The fight against criminals won't be won with more police officers and bigger jails”. That is not only my view and that of my Liberal colleagues. It is a quote from Ben Anderson, spokesman for the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.
    If front line witnesses of crimes, victims of crimes, our police in Canada, consider that crime needs to be tackled through social development in large part, maybe it is time for this government to show leadership in that direction. I suggest that effective justice is more than just a slogan.
    I would like to talk about what a new Liberal government would do.
    We would immediately convene a round table meeting of the federal, provincial and territorial ministers, together with representatives of key organizations representing the police, to commence discussions on developing a long term, sustainable, cost-sharing arrangement for additional police officers. This is a step the Conservatives have refused to take despite their campaign promise to hire more police officers.
    We, a new Liberal government, would give the RCMP money for 400 additional officers to help local police departments deal with guns and gang activity as well as organized crime and drug trafficking.
    We would ensure that more money is made available to the provinces to hire more Crown prosecutors or Crown attorneys. We would continue to support, as we have done, the reverse onus bail hearings for those arrested for gun crimes.
    We would establish a fund that would help at-risk communities cover the costs of security of their places of worship and other gathering places, whether it be schools, community centres, for instance, which was started by the previous Liberal government but which has been abandoned by the Conservatives.
    We Liberals would strive to set up organized crime secretariats, like Ontario's anti-guns and gangs task force, in every province, ensuring that each of the provincial secretariats would be seamlessly integrated across the country, kind of like organized crime is. But the Conservative government does not seem to realize that.
    A Liberal government would also strengthen legislation aimed at preventing Internet luring. While passage of the above-mentioned bill would assist law enforcement in tracking down predators who use new technologies, new offences are needed to address explicit online conversations initiated by adults with children that are intended to groom the child for future attempts at luring the child.
    We would also act on the recommendations of the Privacy Commissioner to update and toughen current legislation to deter and prevent identity theft.
    There were almost 8,000 reports of identity theft in the past year, resulting in losses greater than $16 million. Too often, the victims have been seniors whose lifetime of hard work and savings can vanish in an instant.
    A new Liberal government would also amend the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, PIPEDA, to make it mandatory for organizations to notify people of data breaches involving their personal information. We would act immediately to implement all 22 recommendations made by the federal task force on spam, which have been completely ignored by that Conservative government.
    These recommendations include: introducing legislation that would make it an offence to use false or misleading headers or subject lines, construct false or misleading URLs and websites for the purpose of collecting personal information under false pretenses, and the harvesting of email addresses without consent.
    Those are just some of the initiatives that a new Liberal government has made a public commitment that it would implement immediately upon return to power.
    However, I want to come back to Bill C-10. The Conservatives use retail politics when it comes to the fight on crime. They are not using effective measures that really would result in effective justice because were they doing so, they would be listening to the experts, and the experts, yes, include our law enforcement.

  (1535)  

    What does our law enforcement tell us, whether it be the Association of Canadian Chiefs of Police or the Canadian Police Association? They tell us one thing very clearly. They want the government to invest in our children and to invest more money in targeting our at-risk youth, and our communities, which are at risk of either being victims of crime or being perpetrators of crime.
     One of the ways to do this is by actually investing in the organizations that deal with our youth in those communities where there is a high level of crime, where there is a high percentage of youth being swept up into street gangs or into organized crime. Investments, funding and opportunities need to be provided for the local law enforcement in the field to be able to work with those communities. We have seen it happen.
    I urge every single member in this House to vote against Bill C-10 at third reading because it is not effective justice. It is simply sloganeering.

  (1540)  

    Mr. Speaker, if those are all the wonderful things that the Liberals would do if they formed government again, then my question is somewhat rhetorical. How come they did none of those things in the 13 years when they were government, most of the time a majority government where they could have done whatever they wanted? They did not do it.
     I have one daughter, a daughter-in-law and five grandchildren. I am thinking of the following situation. Someone assaults or rapes either one of my adult female children or one of my grandchildren and that criminal has a gun and/or a knife. Let us say that when the perpetrator was found, it was discovered that this was not his first, not his second, but his third offence. I do not know the family situation of the member opposite. I have never investigated whether she has a daughter or not. If this were her daughter who was brutally attacked by an individual with a weapon who had three previous offences, I wonder what she would do in order to address the situation.
    Mr. Speaker, the member opposite said that if a new Liberal government were prepared to do all of these things, why did it not do it when it was in power? Let me talk about some of the things the previous Liberal government members did when we were in office.
     The previous Liberal government brought in the national strategy on crime prevention, which directed moneys into local communities that needed to work with their youth at risk and to ensure better levels of security. They were able to coordinate with the local law enforcement, community police officers, the health organizations and the schools to bring down to the grassroots real effective programs to ensure we had lower crime rates. That is an example of what a previous Liberal government did.
    The previous Liberal government brought into being the dangerous offenders system. It was not a Progressive Conservative government, it was the Liberal government. It was a Liberal government that brought into existence the long term offender system. It was a Liberal government that recognized minimum mandatory penalties in very targeted areas could send a clear message and could be effective in the sense of removing the offender from the community and ensuring that the victim and the community were not re-victimized.
    We are the ones who brought in minimum mandatory penalties for firearm related criminal acts. It was not a Conservative government. It was not a Progressive Conservative government. It was a Liberal government that brought into effect integrated law enforcement teams. Whether it was for the border enforcement, or for financial money laundering, or for whatever, it was a Liberal government that brought those into effect.
    It was a Liberal government that brought into effect all the new provisions, which are no longer new, to the Criminal Code to create the ability for law enforcement to seize drug money and to define a criminal organization and organized crime.
     The Liberal government did all of that.
    I believe the member opposite should go back to the school benches, learn the actual history and cease taking the rhetoric and sloganeering of his party, which has tried to paint Liberals as not being tough on crime. Tough on crime does not do it. The supreme court of the United States of America recently ruled that its determinant sentencing, under the American federal sentencing guidelines, what it calls mandatory minimum penalties, was unconstitutional and should be used as an advisory only. In other words, in the United States federal mandatory minimum sentencing is considered to be unconstitutional and should only be used as a guideline.
    I am appalled that the Conservative government would want to take a failed model, which is the escalating minimum mandatory sentence system that existed in virtually all of the states in the United States and for which 25 of the states since 2003 have eliminated or severely reduced, and impose it here in Canada.
    Effective justice is not sloganeering. Effective justice is not retail politics. Effective justice means taking the time to educate people. It means putting the taxpayer money where it will reduce crime. It is not pandering. The Conservative government panders and it conducts retail politics. It is not too lofty for the government to stoop to the most base accusations, disinformation, untruths in its quest to try to portray itself as being tough on crime.

  (1545)  

    Being tough on crime means taking the effective measures that will actually make a difference on the ground. We had expert after expert come before the justice committee, whether it was on Bill C-35, or other bills, which the government has lauded to try to make Canadians believe they will make them safer. The experts have said that they could not really oppose them because it would not make any difference.
    The de facto reality is that it already happens. Whether it be reverse onus for bail for gun related crimes, it already happens. If one is accused of a criminal offence and a firearm is involved, judges do not give bail. Therefore, we would simply be codifying an actual de facto practice.
    That is one of the reasons why the Liberals are able to support Bill C-35, but we are unable to support Bill C-10. It is not effective justice. It is retail politics, and shame on the NDP for supporting it.
    The hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine might like to know that the question lasted two minutes and the answer six minutes, so there are two minutes left. Let us hope the question will take about 45 seconds and so will the answer.
    The hon. member for Mississauga South.
    Mr. Speaker, the thrust of Bill C-10 has to do with the subject matter of mandatory minimums. It has been suggested by some members on the government side that the Liberals are opposed to mandatory minimums. I do not believe that is the case. Could the hon. member inform the members of our history?
    Mr. Speaker, it was a Liberal government that brought in mandatory minimum sentencing for firearm related crimes. There is a whole category of them where currently it is a minimum of one year. There is second category of designated offences where currently it is four years. In committee, and again at report stage in the House, the Liberal members attempted to increase the one year to two years and the four years to five years.
     What we oppose is escalating mandatory minimum penalties. That is where if a person reoffends, the judge will have no discretion. The studies have shown and the experts have stated that it does not work.

  (1550)  

    Mr. Speaker, the debate I have heard today is an interesting one. We are involved in a very serious and complex discussion.
    The New Democratic Party is supporting the bill, with the amendments that our justice critic, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, brought forward.
    I realize the Liberals and the Bloc are not supporting it. I heard an earlier comment by the member of the government that it must mean the people approve of criminals. In fairness, I do not think anyone who sits in the House approves of criminals, whether they support the legislation or not. It is not a matter of supporting criminals. However, I do think it is a matter of how we approach it.
    First, I have asked myself some questions. How do I, as the member for Surrey North and as a member of the House of Commons, ensure that the public can have faith in our justice system? I can assure the House that much of the public with whom I speak do not have faith in the justice system. These people have not necessarily found that because someone comes before a judge on a firearms offence, that they are not released on bail. We would have many examples where this was not the case.
    Second, we have to look at what is the appropriate use of this legislation on crimes committed with a gun. In all the debate this morning, if people were sitting at home listening, they would fail to recognize that we are not talking about a general discussion on mandatory minimums. It is a discussion about crimes committed with a firearm. By the way, firearms today are much more technical, much more deadly and much more powerful than the image people might have of firearms that may come from a different place.
    Third, I have to ask myself is what are we doing, other than the sentencing, to reduce gun crime. I have heard many people say either one is tough on crime or soft on crime, depending on where one stands on the bill. I do not think that is the case at all. We talk very much about being smart on crime. It is not hard or soft on crime. It is being smart in the way we approach crime.
    Think about this. When someone picks up a gun to commit a crime, they automatically know there is a risk of someone being killed or critically injured. There is not a question in anyone's mind that this is what a gun will do, unless we are talking about a child picking up a gun. Anyone who is going to commit a criminal act with a gun knows there is an extreme risk to the person who will be the victim of that crime, not that any crime is acceptable.
    I come from the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, from Surrey. Many of the things I have experienced around gun crime do not fit some of the things that I have heard about in the House. I hear people talking a lot about gun crime in inner cities. The gun crime I have seen, some of it certainly is inner city, but much of it has nothing to do with youth raised in inner cities. Some of it has to do with youth raised in affluence.

  (1555)  

    We must be careful not to stereotype this by saying that it is only inner city people who are vulnerable to being involved in a gun crime.
    Over the last 10 or 11 years, 100 young men in the lower mainland and some in Surrey have been killed in a gun crime, which is not an insubstantial number. Is anyone behind bars? No. Was it the person's first offence? I do not know for sure, but I know with some it certainly was not their first offence.
    We must remember that what we are doing is being smart on crime.
    Although I am in support of the bill, with the NDP amendments, and having talked to the parents whose daughters and sons have been killed in a gun crime or critically injured, I do not feel that I have turned into a neo-Conservative. I do not know if anybody has ever called me a neo-Conservative before.
    Mr. Pat Martin: You would remember.
    Ms. Penny Priddy: My colleague said that I would remember. I am absolutely certain that I would remember and perhaps many things that were the opposite of that.
    However, as I talked to the parents of a young teenager who was shot, is in hospital critically injured and no one knows what the outcome will be, they do not think this is a draconian measure.
    There are some things I would say about it that I find interesting, some things we should do and some things we should acknowledge about the public. What does the public see and feel? There is a difference between what the public sees and what it feels. There is a difference between being safe in our community and feeling safe in our community. They are two quite different things.
    I have read the statistics that homicides may not be up. Well, homicides actually are up in some of the groupings of people I am talking about, but the incidents of gun crimes are certainly up. People read about gun crimes in the newspaper about where, in a perfectly ordinary kind of community, a bullet suddenly comes through the living room window and lodges in the living room wall or a bullet comes through a bedroom window and lodges just above the crib of a child. That is random. This is not gang violence. The people in those houses were not even the intended victims. Those were random shootings at the wrong houses, and that is not all that unusual. Those people actually are unsafe.
    However, people also need to feel safe and therefore they need to see their governments, municipal, provincial and federal, doing something so they will feel safe in their communities. The member who just spoke actually talked about this.
    In the last 13 years, 40 to 45 mandatory minimum sentences were created by the Liberal government so I do not think this is somehow a great step off the path the Liberals followed, which was, as I say, 45 more mandatory minimum sentences in the length of time the Liberals were in government.
    I also heard earlier today from a number of parties about sloganeering, about people changing their minds because they were influenced by politics and not by what they believe.

  (1600)  

    Since I entered politics, I have been very clear on what I believe about crime. I talked about mandatory minimums in the last campaign, as did our leader, because we understand the devastating effect it has on our communities. This is not sloganeering and it is not pandering, and to suggest that we are sloganeering to a parent who is crying because of the loss of a family member is actually quite shameful.
    We hear a lot about the conclusions that have been drawn in the United States about whether mandatory minimums work. As I said, some of the amendments we put forward at committee were accepted and now some of those mandatory minimums are not what they were when they were first proposed. Our justice critic worked very hard to get these amendments through and agreed to.
    However, I think in the United States, it is missing a piece that I actually think the Conservative Party opposite is missing as well in some ways, because in any of the literature I have read which has concluded that it does not work, it has used the single-pronged approach, which is simply raising the mandatory minimums, sending people off to jail and then going back and saying that our prisons are about to explode and that they are hot spots.
    I can understand how many prisons in the United States would be hot spots because many of them are quite appalling, but we cannot solve a problem with one single prong. Work still needs to be done in that area and I look forward to the government bringing forward what I would hope would be the second part of what needs to happen here.
    People often say that mandatory minimums do not work and that there is no history of them working at all but that is not true. I want to take people back to when drunk driving became a much more top of mind issue in our country and to the early work by Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The flaw in the United States' studies and what the Conservative government still needs to do is to look into other things that we need to do to ensure this becomes successful.
    I will use the drunk driving issue as an example. Yes, after a certain number of offences there is a mandatory minimum jail time, and people knew that, but that was not all they did. They increased the police resources to deal with drunk driving. In my province we called them BAT mobiles. I do not know what they were called in other places, but police set up to stop cars to see if the drivers had been drinking alcohol while driving. Many of those have been discontinued because the police do not have the additional resources to keep doing that.
     It takes intensives awareness and education, not just doing it once in grade six or grade 10, but continuous awareness all though school about the seriousness of it and the consequences of it.
    Often when I talk to 16, 17 or 18 year olds they know people in gangs who are using guns. Many of them have heard of a mom, a dad or a grandma and sometimes it is themselves who have been left quadriplegic and in a wheelchair as a result of either a deliberate or a random shooting, and when they tell their stories I can see people starting to think differently about the consequences.

  (1605)  

    We need to continue to inform and educate people but somehow we think that if we inform one group of people our work is done. Well, it is not. It does not matter whether we are talking about racism or something else, we must do it continuously. It is like putting a pamphlet on the dangers of alcohol in a doctor's office. If we do not keep putting them there for more people to read then we are not finished doing our jobs.
    The job we have in front of us today is a continuous job. This is not just about passing the legislation. This is a continuous piece of work that involves additional police resources, intensive education and, yes, jail time when necessary. However, I would say, as others have, that this is not a blanket answer, which is why I talked about the other things that were not done in most of the U.S. jurisdictions, where they came to the conclusion that it did not work, and that have yet to come forward from the government.
    I wait with baited breath to see those initiatives come forward because this is not a blanket answer. It is something that should be used sparingly, appropriately and in a focused fashion.
    I will now move on to the part that is critical to all of this. We often wait until somebody gets involved with a gang before we begin worrying and trying to figure out how to get them out of the gang, which, by the way, is using guns. Our leader has talked about things like safe houses because it is very hard for a gang member to get out of the gang safely and to ensure his or her family is safe.
    Let us look at the new baby that comes home wrapped in a blue or pink blanket. I unwrapped the blanket when I brought mine home and there were no instructions. By simply bringing the baby home did not automatically mean that I knew how to parent. It did not mean that I knew how to do all of those things to ensure that my youngster, in the zero to five years, would have the kind of support, education, choices, boundaries and all of those things that we do so that when children start school at five or six they are ready in all of the five areas that they are supposed to be ready in.
    From the longitudinal research on this, we know that those children are far less likely to ever be involved in the criminal system. That is the work that is not here. That is the work that is missing. If that work does not come into place then we will have a problem having this be successful. We need to put into place good child care programs, which we had but which the government slashed, to teach parents how to parent.
    I do not assume that just giving birth makes one a good parent. Those programs have been cut by the provincial government in my province. The provincial government's child care was cut so it just downloaded it and cut the programs that support parents, those parents who are either in the workforce or parents who are parenting at home, who have no place to go for expert advice and resources on just about all those challenges that any of us face as a mom or dad in raising children. Without that, and without those kinds of additional multi-prong initiatives, this has far less chance of being successful.
    However, I can support the bill because: first, I understand that our amendments are there; second, I know what people in my community have been telling me for a long time; and third, because I do have hope that the government will bring forward other initiatives to support this.

  (1610)  

    There is no such thing as a single piece of legislation that is narrow and does not have other issues to support it--
    Order, please. I gave the hon. member a full 20 minutes. I gave her a two minute signal and a one minute signal. Her time is up.
     Questions and comments, the hon. member for Elgin—Middlesex—London
    Mr. Speaker, we have heard from all sides of the House today and I would like to thank the member for Surrey North for bringing her views to this debate today and approaching this more from the victim's point of view and from the view of the faith people need to have in their justice system. I was happy to hear her say that at the beginning and move this debate that way.
    I think that too often we look at this as a crime and punishment issue. I keep having to explain that I am not here to punish anyone. It is not that I want mandatory minimums to punish anyone, but as the member stated in her speech, anyone who picks up a gun knows what it can do and what danger it can inflict.
    This is not about punishing the people who do this. It is about protecting those whom these people may victimize or have victimized. If these people are away for a minimum period of time, perhaps they will victimize no one else while they are away.
    I would like to hear more from the member about the victims she has reached out to, just as I have had to speak to victims in my own riding. They are the victims that this type of legislation will actually help, rather than having them just hearing talk about how hard this will be on the criminals of this country.
    Mr. Speaker, as probably many members in this House do, I see a variety of people who have been affected by gun crime. I must admit that I also talk to parents who, for a variety o