That, given that, after eight years of this government's soft on crime policies,
(i) violent crime has increased by 32%,
(ii) gang-related homicides have increased by 92%,
(iii) violent, repeat offenders are obtaining bail much more easily,
(iv) increasing daily acts of crime and violence are putting Canadians at risk,
(v) five Canadian police officers were killed in the line of duty in just one year,
the House call on the government to enact policies that prioritize the rights of victims and law-abiding citizens, namely:
(a) fix Canada's broken bail system by immediately repealing the elements enacted by Bill C-75, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, which force judges to release violent, repeat offenders onto the streets, allowing them to reoffend;
(b) strengthen Canada's bail laws so that those who are prohibited from possessing firearms and who are then accused of serious firearms offences do not easily get bail; and
(c) ensure that Canada's justice system puts the rights of law-abiding Canadians ahead of the rights of violent, repeat offenders.
She said: Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
There are two reasons we are here today talking about bail reform and violent crime.
The first reason is that Canadians across the country are growing increasingly alarmed by the violent crime wave impacting every major community and our rural communities across the country. Canadians are waking up every day to headlines of violent crime, police officers being murdered and people being murdered on public transit. That is why we are here. We hear their concerns and are here to represent them and demand change.
The second reason we are here today is to demand change from the Liberals, which have done absolutely nothing to address the violent crime surge in this country. They have taken no responsibility. They have made no commitments to Canadians that they are taking this seriously and will do anything about it. They have brought forward no new ideas on how to address the need for immediate bail reform in this country, address the violent crime surge in this country and address the repeat violent offenders who are being caught and released by police over and over again and who are wreaking havoc on our communities on a daily basis.
That is why we are here today. We want to talk about bail reform and crime for our Conservative opposition day motion, which was just outlined.
What I would say to Canadians is that it is not just in their heads that violent crime is going up. It is going up. In fact, it is up 32% in the last eight years under the Liberal . More than that, gang murders have almost doubled. They have gone up 92% in the eight years that the Liberal Prime Minister has been at the helm.
We have also seen, as I mentioned earlier, that police officers are being murdered on the job. There were five in the last number of months, particularly over the holidays. A young new constable in the Ontario police, Greg Pierzchala, was murdered by a violent repeat offender who was out on bail. He was shot and murdered by that man. That man also had a weapons prohibition order. He was deemed too dangerous to possess a firearm by our law system and had a long rap sheet of harming people in his community. This repeat violent offender was let out on bail, and then he murdered a young, innocent police officer over the holidays. That story, unfortunately, is becoming less and less unique in this country.
This is not just happening in Toronto. Of course, folks from Toronto will know better than I do that public transit is becoming less and less safe. In fact, increasingly, women are concerned about riding the subway because people are being murdered. There are teenagers swarming people and stabbing them to death. People are being lit on fire. People are being assaulted and pushed to the ground. We just saw a CBC reporter get assaulted and die. Four days earlier, an elderly woman had the same thing happen in Toronto. They were just walking down the street minding their own business and were murdered.
In Vancouver, the community is facing serious drug issues, with people face down in the street overdosing. It is horrible. I think everyone agrees that we need immediate action on that. We are also seeing terror inflicted on that community, on the most vulnerable communities and in Vancouver at large by a very small group of people. In fact, last year, 40 people were arrested 6,000 times. That means each of those 40 people was arrested 150 times in one calendar year. That is every two or three days, or sometimes multiple times a day. Police say they are sometimes arresting the same person committing violent acts twice in one day. Forty people were arrested 6,000 times. I think that is astounding, so I will keep repeating it. What kind of justice system do we have if 40 people can wreak havoc and commit 6,000 crimes in one year?
The bail system is broken in this country, and it is not just the Conservatives saying this. The Conservatives have been saying we need bail reform for quite some time, but it is also a non-partisan issue. It is also said by every single premier in Canada. It is all three premiers of the territories and all 10 premiers of the provinces, representing Conservatives, the NDP and Liberals. This is a non-partisan issue.
They all signed a historic letter to the in the last couple of weeks demanding bail reform. Do members know how difficult it is to get every region of the country to sign on to one letter and agree on a specific policy? It is pretty rare and very difficult, and they did that on their own volition. They came together, signed the letter and demanded bail reform from the . One would think we would have heard the Prime Minister call a press conference and say he is going to do something about this as every region in the country is concerned about it, but there were crickets. Nothing is happening on the Liberal benches.
Liberals have made no announcement and no commitment to bring in bail reform. When we have asked questions in question period, the , the man tasked with the responsibility for the Criminal Code, says that is on police and provinces, blaming police and provinces for the issues in this country.
The says they are open to ideas. There is an idea right here from the premiers, every single premier in this country, in fact, and more ideas, if the Liberals would like them, from the Toronto police, the epicentre of violent crime in this country. The Toronto police penned a letter, on their own, to the of this country proposing three measures concerning bail. In fact, police associations across the country and municipal police forces are saying bail reform will save lives. That is what police are saying. Those are the frontline people putting their lives at risk for community safety, the ones dealing with violent repeat offenders, saying that we need bail reform and Canadian lives will be saved.
The data tells us that as well. I recently heard from Chief Myron Demkiw of the Toronto police, who said there were 44 murders by shooting in Toronto last year, 44 innocent lives taken by violent criminals using guns. Of those 44 murderers, 24 were out on bail. If our bail system was a little tougher on repeat violent offenders, 24 people would still be alive. Therefore, the data shows that the police are correct that bail reform would save lives, and yet there is nothing from the Liberal benches. They are not taking this seriously. They are taking no responsibility, and people are dying. I do not understand it. They are tasked with public safety.
The spent the better part of January touring the country and talking to hunters about taking away the tools they use because the Liberals are getting tough on guns, as they say, gun control, on duck hunters, farmers and sport shooters. He spent considerable time and resources going to talk to hunters about taking their firearms away. Meanwhile, police officers are being murdered in Toronto. People are being murdered on the subway. Why was the public safety minister of Canada not touring our cities to talk to police about what they are facing on a daily basis? Where are the time and resources on that?
This is a Liberal government that is going to spend billions and billions of dollars going after people like me, people on these benches who have firearms legally and lawfully, who hunt and shoot with their families. That is what the Liberals are focused on. That is what all the resources are being focused on by the Liberal government when it comes to guns, for the most part. Meanwhile, people are being murdered by repeat violent offenders who continue to get bail. That falls at the feet of the Liberal government.
We can look at Bill , a bail reform bill the Liberals brought forward a few years ago. When we talk to police, all those changes in policies that made it easier for repeat violent offenders to get bail are coming home to roost now. That is what we are hearing from the brave frontline police officers in this country.
We need to repeal the most harmful aspects of Bill . That would be leadership from the : to get tough on crime, tough on the 40 people being arrested 6,000 times for violent crime in Vancouver, and ensure that we save 24 people in Toronto next year. The statistics are about the same every year in Toronto: Over half of the shooting murders are by people who are out on bail. Let us save those lives next year. That could be done in the next few months. That could be announced today by the Liberal government.
To conclude, the Conservatives have a tough-on-crime record. In fact, under Stephen Harper, in the 10 years he was Prime Minister, crime went down 26%. They brought forward 80 criminal justice bills. It was a top priority for Stephen Harper. In the eight years that the Liberal has been at the helm and in power in this country, violent crime reversed and went up 32%. There is a clear difference in approach to dealing with crime, and a Conservative government will be the one to save lives in Canada, get tough on crime, treat law-abiding citizens with respect, put victims' rights first and ensure that repeat violent offenders stay off our streets.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today on what is a very important and pressing issue in our country today.
Our justice system under the Liberals is broken. Everybody knows it. All 13 premiers have gotten together to demand change. Our bail system is the responsibility of the federal government. Those provisions are in the Criminal Code. It is this Parliament that has jurisdiction over the Criminal Code. Our bail system is badly broken.
Some of the recent stats that we have seen out of Toronto will absolutely amaze members. We have heard from police associations across the country. We have heard from the Ontario Provincial Police. We have heard from the Toronto police. We have heard from police officers, and my fellow members have probably heard in their own ridings, about the dangers of our current catch-and-release bail system: the same individuals being caught for a crime and being let back on the street.
In Toronto, and I find this amazing, there were 44 shooting-related homicides last year. Of those 44 perpetrators, the accused, 24 were on bail. Our system is broken. That stat alone will tell us that our system is badly broken, when over half of the homicides in Toronto are committed by people on bail. There are people walking the streets in our community whom we had in custody. The police did their job. They caught them after committing a crime. They charged them, but because of a broken Liberal bail system, they are back out on the street.
This other one, again, amazes me, from the Toronto police: In 2021, 47 individuals were let out on bail. Who are these 47 individuals? They were individuals who were arrested for a firearms offence but were given bail. They committed a firearms offence, but now they are out on the street. They were re-arrested for another firearms offence, and 47 of them were given bail again, given bail twice for firearms offences. The system is broken.
Now we look at the tragic death of a police officer that has galvanized police organizations and has galvanized the premiers, every premier in our country. As my colleague just said, it is hard to get multiple parties from multiple provinces, different premiers, to all agree on something. We do not expect, in Canada, that we would all agree on something, but every single premier in this country, of every province and every territory, agrees that we need bail reform. They are saying that repeat violent offenders who commit gun crimes should not be let out on the street. That is not too much to ask.
Two days after Christmas, a young police officer was gunned down by an individual who was on bail, an individual who had a lifetime firearms prohibition order against him. If someone with a lifetime firearms prohibition commits a firearms-related offence and we cannot keep them in custody, the system is badly broken.
Who broke the system? It was the Liberals. In 2019, Bill made it far more difficult for offenders who should be behind bars to be kept behind bars. Bill C-75 was a sweeping bail reform by the Liberal government that established a catch-and-release system that ensured that even repeat violent offenders who use guns to commit their crimes would be back out on the street.
It gets worse. The Liberals like to say that the Conservatives' “tough on crime” does not work. The fact of the matter is that it does work. Violent crime went down when we were in government. What is happening with crime now? Crime is up 32% in Canada since the Liberals took government. Gang-related crime and gang-related homicides nearly doubled since the Liberals took government, less than eight years ago. To lay this at the feet of the Liberals is entirely appropriate. It is their system.
What does Bill do? It removes mandatory minimum sentences for crimes like extortion with a firearm, robbery with a firearm and for drive-by shootings. It allows house arrest for individuals who burn down homes, arsonists. They burn down someone else's house, but they get to serve their sentence from the comfort of their own house. Those who commit sexual assault are now able to serve their sentence from their home and possibly in the same community as their victim.
When we say the Liberal justice system is broken, it absolutely is. Liberals will often talk about the tough-on-crime approach of the Conservatives. If someone is a repeat offender and commits robbery with a firearm in this country, if someone walks into a store or into someone's home with a firearm and robs them, they do not need to be out on the street. They need to be in jail.
It is not helping anyone. We are not helping the victims. We are not helping our communities. We are not even helping the offender. How does putting an offender back on the street help them? Under the Conservatives, if someone committed robbery with a firearm, they went to jail for a minimum of four years.
Under Bill , which recently passed into law, the Liberal Bill that is soft on crime, there is no longer a mandatory jail sentence for committing a robbery with a firearm. There is something interesting I heard the say many times. He said that tough on crime is not constitutional.
Less than a week ago, just yards from here, the Supreme Court of Canada said the mandatory penalty of four years for robbery with a firearm is constitutional. It was a seven-to-two decision. The Supreme Court of Canada said that a mandatory penalty of five years for robbery with a prohibited weapon is constitutional. What a surprise. That was a seven-to-two decision. Those were two separate cases.
Soft on crime does not work. Canadians know it. Conservatives know it. Premiers of all political stripes know it. The only people in this country who like this approach would be the Liberals and repeat offenders. That is poor company to keep.
We have to take action on behalf of victims. I do not know how we can look a victim's family in the eyes and say the system does work. Then we say that the person who was out on bail for a firearms crime, who had a lifetime firearms prohibition, was able to murder their loved one and the system is working. The system is not working.
We need strong changes. We need to repeal Bill . We need to that ensure if someone robs another with a firearm they go to jail. We need to ensure that if someone burns someone's house down or commits sexual assault, they are not serving their sentence from the comfort of their own home. We need to ensure that a repeat firearms offender serves their time in jail.
We need to make sure that when the police catch someone who has a firearms prohibition order and who has committed another firearms-related crime, like a drive-by shooting or robbery with a firearm, it is not too high a bar to meet to say that while that person is awaiting trial, for the safety of the victims, the community and our frontline police officers, they are going to be held behind bars.
That is appropriate. It is reasonable. It is what all premiers are calling for. It is what the police are calling for. It is what Canadians are calling for. Unfortunately, for three days in a row, we have asked the government, in good faith, to do something and correct the mistake it made. Will it change the bail laws so individuals, who should absolutely not be roaming our streets, committing crimes and murdering people, are held behind bars? It is crickets over there.
The Liberals said if the opposition wants to come up with something, they will consider it. They are almost victim blaming by saying the police and the provinces have a role. No, the Criminal Code is their job. We are calling on them and demanding that they do something to reform our broken Liberal bail system. They have to do it today.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time today with the hon. .
I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak to the important issue of bail and a possible reform in Canada. I know that Canadians are concerned about this issue. Making sure that our laws are effective and fair and that they protect Canadians is certainly a priority for my government.
First, I would like to express my condolences to the families of Constable Greg Pierzchala and Michael Finlay and Katie Nguyen Ngo, and of all victims of the disturbing incidents of violence across this country that we have seen in recent months. Each has been a personal tragedy and a blow to our communities.
Canada has a strong and effective criminal justice system, including its bail laws, but we all know that things could always be improved. Canadians deserve to be and to feel safe, and we have a role to play in protecting our communities. I want to reassure Canadians that, if someone poses a significant threat to public safety, the law tells us they should not be released on bail.
I am disappointed that the official opposition is using tragedies to try to score political points. Canadians know that these are serious and complicated issues, and there are no quick or easy solutions. That is why we have been working hard for months, in collaboration with our provincial and territorial counterparts, to find solutions that would ensure the long-term safety of our communities.
Canada is not broken, despite what the would like people to think. Indeed, data from Toronto shows that between 2019 and 2021, there was a decrease, both in the percentage of individuals granted bail and the number of people rearrested while on bail.
That being said, our government is always looking for ways to improve public safety and the efficiency of our justice system. At the federal-provincial-territorial meeting in October, the and I committed to continue working with our counterparts on the issue of bail. This work is well under way. We also received a letter from the premiers about bail and we are carefully reviewing their proposals and other options.
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of meeting with my B.C. counterpart, Minister Sharma. Minister Sharma and I agreed that the best way to address the complicated issue of bail reform is by working together. I am hopeful that all of my provincial and territorial counterparts will agree.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation out there on the old Bill . Bill C-75 is the result of a lengthy collaborative effort with the provinces and territories. It codified the bail principles set out in binding Supreme Court of Canada rulings.
I want to reiterate that Bill C-75 did not make any fundamental changes to the bail system. It did not change the criteria under which an accused can be released by the court. On the contrary, Bill C-75 made it harder to get bail for certain offences, such as violence against intimate partners, by reversing the onus of proof.
I trust that the hon. member for will also be reassured to learn that there is already a reverse onus where an accused subject to a weapons prohibition is charged with a firearms offence, exactly as his motion calls for. That means the accused would be denied bail unless they can prove to the court that their release would not pose a significant risk to public safety or undermine the public's confidence.
I also know the hon. member for well enough to be sure he was not deliberately trying to mislead the House on the recent Supreme Court decision, which actually confirmed everything we did in Bill . The minimum mandatory penalty we struck down, the court struck down as unconstitutional, and the minimum mandatory penalties we chose to retain in that bill have been upheld by the court. I would suggest the member read the Supreme Court decision a bit more closely.
One of the calls in the letter from the premiers is to establish a reverse onus for additional offences. I can assure the House that I am giving this serious consideration, and the work is well under way. We have also heard calls for law enforcement reform. I am grateful for their recommendations based on frontline experience. Work is under way to develop legislative and non-legislative options to address the particular challenges of repeat violent offenders.
We also know that it will take more than a legislative reform to completely fix this problem. The police need the necessary resources to monitor offenders who are out on bail and to arrest those who breach their release conditions.
We have already provided significant funding and we are open to providing more where it is needed. There has to be support and care for mental health, as well as for addictions treatment. There needs to be a social safety net. The previous government cut social programs and now we are seeing the very real and serious consequences of those cuts. As a government, we have made unprecedented investments in mental health, including $5 billion for the provinces and territories to increase access to care.
I commend our partners in B.C. for the action they took on bail in November as part of their safe communities action plan. I encourage all provinces to use the many existing tools at their disposal to ensure bail laws are applied safely, fairly and effectively. Yesterday I was happy to see the Premier of Ontario commit to action in this space, and I will reach out to my counterpart in coming days to discuss how we can collaborate.
Addressing the particular challenges posed by repeat violent offenders requires a comprehensive approach that crosses jurisdictions and levels of government. We will be acting at the federal level, and I hope my provincial counterparts will do the same. The only way to solve this problem is by working together. To this end, as has been planned since our last meeting in October, in the coming days I will be reaching out to justice and public safety counterparts to convene an urgent FPT meeting to continue our important work on bail.
I am hopeful that together we can review the product of months of joint work by federal and provincial officials and agree on a comprehensive path forward.
We know there is no easy solution to such a complex problem. We strongly believe that we need to protect Canadians.
At the same time, we must ensure that any measures taken will not exacerbate the overrepresentation of indigenous peoples and Black and racialized Canadians in our jails. We must not further marginalize vulnerable people, including those struggling with mental health issues and addiction, and we must also ensure that everything we do is compliant with the charter.
I look forward to sincere debate in this House today, and I will happily take any good-faith suggestions made by members of Parliament. I discourage members from wasting this opportunity with empty rhetoric designed to inflame the fears of Canadians. Let us debate real solutions and focus our energy on offering ideas for how the system can be changed to better keep Canadians safe while respecting our fundamental rights and values.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleagues for the opportunity to have this important debate about bail reform. Before I come to the remarks that have been prepared for me in advance, I want to take a few moments to acknowledge the grief, trauma, loss and the sense of suffering being felt by communities across the country. I had the chance to visit with many communities, whether it was out west in Vancouver or out east in the Atlantic communities with the families and the victims in Portapique and Truro.
More recently, it was in Quebec City, with all the families and survivors at the commemoration of the sixth anniversary of the mosque shooting.
It is also in my hometown, where we are seeing a recent spate of violence in our public transit system. It is imperative that we have a thoughtful discussion based on a number of pillars. Yes, we need to take a look at our policies and our laws.
I want to commend the for many of the reforms he has advanced to improve the administration of justice so that we can focus on serious offenders who do, in many instances, need to be separated from the community for protection. Also, I want to underline the work that he and our government are doing to address many of the systemic challenges that have led to overrepresentation in federal incarceration facilities, as well as provincially, when it comes to indigenous peoples and racialized Canadians. We cannot have these discussions in isolation.
I have grieved with families. I have grieved with the community of law enforcement officers who have lost five of their own. We owe it to them and to every single Canadian to make sure we are informing our discussion on the basis of principles that are underlined in the charter, but equally by the experiences of those who have suffered. It is in that spirit that I hope we can have this debate today.
My colleague, the , has spoken about an openness to receiving proposals with regard to the bail system. I have worked on the front lines of the criminal justice system. I have seen how these laws are applied in a very real, practical and tangible way. Even as we navigate the proposals being put forward by the various constituencies, including the law enforcement community, I hope all members will appreciate that there is no one cure-all for the challenges we face. We need to take a look at the entire suite of laws and policies, not only with regard to bail but also with regard to how we are tackling gun violence.
There is a bill currently being studied by the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, Bill , which would equip law enforcement with additional tools to tackle gun violence by raising maximum sentences against hard traffickers and by giving law enforcement additional surveillance tools to interdict the organized criminal networks that would seek to traffic illegally firearms that make their way into our country, potentially to be used in violent crime to terrorize our communities.
We also need to take a look at the other investments the government is making to support law enforcement in keeping our communities safe, including a $450-million allocation over the last few years for CBSA. That will enable law enforcement agencies to acquire the resources, the technology and the techniques that they need to build on the progress that they have made in the last two years where they have seized a record number of illegal firearms.
Beyond those investments, I do think it is important as well to talk about prevention. One of the challenges I find around the debate on public safety is that we place great emphasis on laws and policies. We talk about Bill . We talk about the acts that have been passed, and led and shepherded by my colleague, the . We talk about Bill , which, by the way, was a piece of legislation aimed at addressing the systemic and chronic backlogs in our court system so we could focus on the most serious offenders who commit the most serious crimes and pose the most serious risk to public safety. That was the genesis of Bill C-75.
The purpose of Bill was to reduce the case completion times.
To hear some colleagues from the Conservative Party mis-characterize that bill as catch-and-release legislation does a disservice to this debate. We do not need slogans; we need concrete solutions. I would submit to the chamber that this is precisely what the and this government have been doing. I would also say the same thing with respect to Bill .
We heard a colleague from the NDP point out that the last time the Conservative government had the reins of government, it introduced a number of policies that were reviewed and then struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada. We do not need a return to the failed policies and overreach, which detract and diminish from the independence of the judges to assess on the merits and based on the facts and circumstances of each offender who comes before them. What we need is a thoughtful, constitutional approach to this matter, and that was the point of Bill . It was not to promote catch-and-release policies, which has been overly simplified and distilled. That may play well on YouTube or in social media, but, again, it does a disservice to the complexity of the challenges that are faced when it comes to keeping our community safe.
As we focus on laws and policies, we do not talk enough about the underlying root causes. We do not talk enough about the need to provide additional support for mental health care, homelessness and poverty. We do not talk enough about the need to provide additional skills, experience and confidence to those who are most at risk of being exposed to criminal elements, which I have seen across the country and in my own community.
When I had the chance to travel to James Smith Cree Nation and grieve with those families, community members told us that they knew their own, that they knew how to ensure they could take care of them and put them on the right footing. It is only through collaboration and partnership with those communities through initiatives like the building safer communities fund, a $250-million federal initiative that is administered out of Public Safety Canada, that we can start to address these challenges at the root cause so we can stop crime before it starts.
In the context of the debate we are having today, we need to put as much emphasis on looking at preventative strategies, which we can work together on to advance, to see crime come down. No matter which side of the debate we are on, no matter which party we belong, no matter which constituency we represent in the chamber, the one thing I am assured of is that all Canadians are unified behind the common cause of wanting to reduce gun crime, wanting to reduce any kind of violent crime, which may find its stem in the systemic challenges that I have discussed. We need to come together to have that debate and not resort to slogans, bumper stickers or any of the other catchy phrases that we heard in the to and fro of the heated debate in the chamber, but have an actual and thoughtful debate that is based on facts and constitutional principles. That is precisely what I hope we can do today.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you a happy new year. I know that February is a bit late, but this is one of the first times we have seen each other this year. I would also like to wish my constituents, the people of Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, a happy new year. I will begin by saying I will be sharing my time with the member for .
I am very pleased to speak to this issue, which I believe is exceptionally important. Law and order is obviously an area that we, as members of Parliament, are concerned about.
I agree with my Conservative colleagues on several aspects of this motion. In the past eight years, violent crime has increased by 32% and gang-related homicides by 92%. The number of violent crimes has skyrocketed, inevitably jeopardizing Canadians' safety. Five police officers were killed in the line of duty in just one year. That is enormous when compared with previous years.
In Ontario, 44 police officers were killed in the line of duty between 1961 and 2009. That is about one per year, and, in my opinion, that is one too many. In 2022, five police officers died while on duty. That is not just too many, that is totally unacceptable. The people who undertake to protect the public should never pay with their lives.
In this respect, I am in complete agreement with my colleagues, and I must say that the efforts made by the Liberal Party in recent years to prevent violence, limit the number of firearms in circulation and help break up gangs have been less than stellar.
It would be wise to try not to get lost in the statistics. There are many statistics out there, and they support some of the facts included in the Conservatives’ motion. Overall, the number of crimes reported by police in Canada in recent years shows an alarming increase.
Hate crimes have increased by 72%. These are mainly crimes motivated by hate towards a religion, sexual orientation or ethnic origin.
Gun crimes have risen 25% in the past 10 years. As I was saying earlier, there were more murders in Montreal in 2021 than in any of the previous 10 years. Some 37 murders were committed, compared with 28 in 2020, with 25 being the result of a dispute or settling of scores within organized crime and 12 involving Canadians between the ages of 12 and 24.
In 2021, police reported 34,242 cases of sexual assault. That is about 90 cases of sexual assault for every 100,000 citizens, keeping in mind that only about 6% of sexual assaults are reported to police.
Let us not fool ourselves: This increase in violence is not just a big-city problem. In my own rural riding in the Gaspé, in Eastern Quebec, a man was arrested for weapons trafficking in Pointe à la-Croix barely three weeks ago. He allegedly supplied illegal weapons and narcotics to Montreal street gangs. In 2021, a raid in Gaspé led to the seizure of multiple illegal firearms, more specifically, 50 long guns, 10 handguns, bullet-proof vests and ammunition of every calibre. Last August, shots were heard in a residential neighbourhood in Gaspé, and an individual was arrested.
The picture we are painting here is pretty grim. The government must take concrete and legitimate measures to address Canadians’ concerns and to ensure their safety.
In its motion, the Conservative Party calls on the government to repeal the elements enacted by Bill . Although it is true and entirely legitimate to point out that certain elements of the bail reform are problematic, as we have seen in the news recently, the fact remains that the wording of the motion is also problematic. Some elements are simply false.
Let us be clear: No changes made by Bill C-75 require any judge to release violent repeat offenders. With all due respect, saying otherwise, intentionally or not, is more of an opinion than a proven and verified fact.
To say that the bail system is no longer working is also not entirely true. The bail system is based on the art of finding a balance between public safety and the presumption of innocence, which is protected by something that is quite dear to the Conservatives, specifically, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The Bloc Québécois had a number of good reasons to vote in favour of Bill , even though, as we said, given recent events, we can now see that the legislation has its flaws. I am sure that my colleague from will elaborate on this idea because she is an extremely competent and seasoned legal expert. I will be happy to just go over some of the facts that were checked and quantified.
While the convicted offender population has been gradually declining in recent years, the number of people held in pre-trial detention almost tripled in the past 35 years. This increase occurred while the overall prison populations remained relatively stable during the same period. In fact, the crime rate had been falling since the 1990s.
Under the law, there were more innocent people held on pre-trial detention than actual offenders serving custodial sentences, after being convicted, in provincial and territorial correctional facilities since 2004-05. This data is widely available. It comes from an analysis conducted by the Department of Justice in 2015 in connection with Bill C-75. My colleagues should therefore be able to obtain the report and base their decisions on those facts, which were checked.
We must keep in mind that, financially speaking, a growing population in pre-trial detention will result in considerable additional costs for governments at every level. This only places more pressure on already limited resources.
The debate surrounding the bail system is perfectly legitimate, and it is a good thing. On this point, once again, I agree with my Conservative colleagues. Bill C-75 has several flaws, as the provincial premiers unanimously pointed out to the federal government. Basically, they are asking for the same thing as one of the elements included in today’s motion. They claim that it is justifiable to strengthen bail laws so that people who are prohibited from possessing firearms and are then accused of a serious firearm offence cannot easily get bail. I think that some work could be done in this area.
This inevitably leads me to the actions that the government should take to prevent gun crime. We have said it often enough: Bill does not necessarily fix the problem of the proliferation of firearms. I was happy to be able to discuss this with the minister. Other actions must be taken in other areas.
More specifically, we need more border controls and prevention measures in large cities. Obviously, financial investments must be made, and the government always enjoys showing off its financial record in this area. However, there are other things that can be done, and the Bloc Québécois has presented several options, for example, collaborative efforts between the various police forces. There are a lot of things that can and should be done.
Although we agree with the Conservatives on several aspects of this motion, the idea of strengthening legislation is rooted in the ideology of law and order. Right now, the proliferation of firearms in our major cities is a problem, we cannot say it often enough. Although this reflex reaction is understandable, a number of experts, including Carolyn Yule, a professor of sociology and anthropology at the University of Guelph who studies the bail system, claim that there is no evidence to suggest that a harsher approach to bail would improve public safety. I think that is something to think about.
Given that the text of the motion moved today includes elements that may not have been fact-checked and that could potentially turn out to be false, it is impossible for the Bloc Québécois to support this motion, unfortunately. As I said, we agree with several aspects, and the government must do more. It is true that crime has increased in recent years, but unfortunately, because of certain elements in the motion, we cannot support it.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to take a few seconds to wish you a happy new year, good health, happiness, love and anything else your heart desires. I want to also send that message to my constituents in Saint-Jean, as this is the first time I have spoken in the House this year.
I am not going to put the Conservatives on trial for their motion today. I would like to believe that this idea stems from a genuine desire to reduce violent crime and prevent the proliferation of illegal firearms. I hope that I will not be put on trial either, despite the fact that I am going to describe the problems with this motion. In my opinion, it does not provide a solution. I will be disappointed if I hear, yet again, during question and comment period, that the Bloc Québécois has helped put dangerous criminals back on the street and refuses to admit that there is a problem. I hope that does not happen, but I will be sure to manage my expectations.
There are a few problems with the motion, and I will go through them one at a time. For instance, no distinction is made between correlation and causation. Some members have presented statistics showing an increase in certain crimes and said that this is caused by Bill . That is correlation. There is a theory about that, known as the hemline economy theory. According to this theory, when short skirts are in fashion, the economy is doing well, and when long skirts are in fashion, the economy is doing poorly. If we were to rely solely on this index, we would probably all make some very poor choices in the stock market. Similarly, if a temporal correlation is the only correlation that exists between an increase in crime and the passage of Bill C‑75, then we are probably overlooking the real solutions to a multi-faceted problem.
Another problem is that some of the “whereas” clauses and demands in the motion are based on somewhat fallacious arguments, and some are not supported by any evidence. I will come back to that aspect when I go through the motion in greater detail.
The arguments raise another problem. We are hearing a lot of references to the case of Randall McKenzie, who allegedly killed a police officer in December while out on bail. If we look at this case more closely, we might find that it is not just him being out on bail that is the problem. Randall McKenzie had already been locked up and was released on bail with some of the strictest conditions possible. He was on house arrest 24 hours a day, he wore an electronic tracking device and he was allowed to leave home only for medical reasons or to get legal advice from his lawyer. The question is, what happened? How did he end up out in public when the company monitoring the GPS device should have sent an alert to have him immediately apprehended? There may be a problem there too. No one has raised that issue yet, but the analysis should go beyond the simple issue of bail.
I heard it said that if Randall McKenzie had not been out on bail, the police officer would still be alive. I am sorry, but we have still not heard all of the evidence in this case. The authorities are not certain that he is the one who pulled the trigger. There is a co-accused in the case, so the argument is perhaps a little thin. This is only a secondary point, I only wanted to mention it. However, it is perhaps a stretch to say that a life would have been saved if bail had not been awarded.
I would like to point out a fourth problem with the motion. Making it more difficult to obtain bail in the case of illegal arms possession will not dissuade people from procuring illegal arms. The motion will not have an impact on first offences with a firearm. Adopting the motion could leave us with a false sense of security.
I will quickly review some of the points in the motion.
The motion states, “That, given that, after eight years of this government's soft on crime policies, (i) violent crime has increased by 32%”. According to Statistics Canada, this number includes sexual assaults.
In recent years, thanks to greater awareness among other things, there has been an increase in the number of crimes reported, which contributes to the increase in this number. When we talk about violent crime in general, we are not necessarily referring to violent gun crime or cases in which the accused was awarded bail. That, however, is how the question for the government is being framed.
The motion states that “violent, repeat offenders are obtaining bail much more easily”. I still have not heard a clear explanation of whether this is true, and, especially, if it is related to the repeal of certain aspects of Bill requested in the motion.
The motion also states that “five Canadian police officers were killed in the line of duty in just one year”. That is both deplorable and tragic. We should do something about that. However, no connection is made between the murder of these police officers and the bail system. Statistics are used to justify strengthening bail provisions, but there is not necessarily a rational link between the statistics and what the motion is asking for. That is deplorable. I think that the Conservatives could have been more thorough in presenting their motion.
One of the things the House is being called to do is the following:
(a) fix Canada's broken bail system by immediately repealing the elements enacted by Bill C‑75...which force judges to release violent, repeat offenders onto the streets, allowing them to reoffend;
As my colleague mentioned, there is a fallacy in this paragraph. There is nothing in Bill C‑75 or the Criminal Code forcing judges to release people. In fact, when we get right down to it, the only thing that forces judges to release people is the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
There are two fairly specific rights in the following paragraphs of section 11 of the Charter:
Any person charged with an offence has the right...
(d) to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal;
(e) not to be denied reasonable bail without just cause;
The charter, not the former Bill C‑75, sets out that requirement for judges. The charter and the sections that allow for bail have established criteria.
Custody of an accused is only justified by the Criminal Code in certain cases, for example, “(a) where the detention is necessary to ensure his or her attendance in court”, such as someone with dual citizenship who is afraid of losing citizenship in another country, or “(b) where the detention is necessary for the protection or safety of the public”.
There are pre-existing criteria that judges can use to maintain institutional custody. Where “(c) the detention is necessary to maintain confidence”, the judge has the discretion to keep an accused in custody.
Section 515 of the Criminal Code also provides terms and conditions. For example, consideration must be given to “(iii) the circumstances surrounding the commission of the offence, including whether a firearm was used”, which we already do, and “(iv) the fact that the accused is liable, on conviction, for a potentially lengthy term of imprisonment or, in the case of an offence that involves, or whose subject-matter is, a firearm, a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of three years or more.”
The Conservatives are saying that they want to, and I quote:
strengthen Canada's bail laws so that those who are prohibited from possessing firearms and who are then accused of serious firearms offences do not easily get bail;
However, that is already included in section 515 of the Criminal Code. Will that really change anything? It is a fair question. When we talk to criminal lawyers about the gun problem, we see that it is getting harder and harder to get bail when a firearm was used to commit a crime, so the motion contains some things that are already covered.
The motion seeks to repeal the former bill without really explaining what it is about. It attacks Bill , which actually does some other worthwhile things. For example, it creates a reverse onus for domestic violence. The accused must prove that they will not be a danger to the public if they are released on bail, whereas for other crimes the opposite is true. With regard to gun violence, the onus is already on the accused, or in other words, it is up to them to prove that they do not pose a risk to society.
As I mentioned, although this motion addresses a real and serious problem, it may not be the right solution. As I also mentioned, if a person makes their stock market decisions based on the hemline index, then they will likely make poor choices.
I think the same applies here. We need to have conversations about the best way to proceed so we do not opt for a bad solution to a real problem.
Mr. Speaker, as members of the House know, I am always pleased to rise to talk about issues of criminal justice and public safety. My background, before I came here, was 20 years as an instructor in this field. I am also always pleased to talk about this as a former member of a municipal police board. Of course, right now, I am particularly pleased to get to address this question as a member of a community that, like many others across the country, has seen a rise in public disorder, which is of great concern to citizens and, I have to say, specifically small businesses in my riding, which quite often bear the brunt of that public disorder.
I am also pleased, as always, to get to talk about solutions, and that is why I am not so pleased to be discussing the Conservative motion before us today.
As I mentioned earlier in a question, something perplexes me a bit. On Monday, we came together in the justice committee on a very reasonable motion put forward by the member for , which I supported and which the government eventually supported, to agree that the committee should work on practical solutions to the real problems that have been raised by municipal leaders, the public and premiers to find practical and effective solutions that would increase public safety by changes to the bail system.
There we were on Monday getting ready, and we have actually scheduled those hearings to start within two weeks, so we are moving rapidly, for the House of Commons, to try to find those solutions. I must say that we are moving more rapidly in the Commons than the government has moved. These issues were presented to the government months ago by the premiers, and we have not seen much happen. However, I am optimistic, I and was very optimistic on Monday, yet here we are, three days later, with the Conservatives bringing forward a very divisive motion full of inflated rhetoric, sensational statistics and claims about the bail system that are really not true.
As I said before, it makes me wonder which is the real Conservative Party on this issue? Is it the one that is doing this sensational motion, which I cannot help but conclude is about motivating its base and fundraising, or is it the party that put forward a reasonable motion that we could all agree on, the Liberals, the Bloc and the NDP, to work together in the justice committee to find practical solutions to the real concerns Canadians have about the bail system?
I guess the proof will be in the pudding when we get to the committee, where we will see if the Conservatives will work with the rest of us to find those practical solutions, because this motion really does fan the flames of public fear rather than make a contribution to solutions to the problem.
New Democrats agree that we need to find ways to address the problem created by certain violent criminals who have been previously charged and convicted of serious offences and who have ended up receiving bail. We need to look at how we tighten up the system in that aspect.
At the same time, we are also concerned about the public order questions. We know that there is probably not an easy legislative fix to those public order problems. They create real fear among citizens, rightfully so, but we know that most of those public order problems are rooted in things such as mental health issues, addiction and poverty.
Until we as a society address the poverty, the addictions and the mental health questions, and until the federal government actually delivers on its promises to provide more funding for those kinds of programs and to the provinces, then I do not think we will have a real solution to the public order problems before us.
At the heart of what we are talking about today is something that is sometimes lost, and that is the presumption of innocence. In any just society, those who are accused of a crime have the right to be presumed innocent, which is enshrined in our charter, until they are found guilty.
In our system, we do have a presumption against pretrial detention. We really believe that we should not be penalized by being detained before one has actually been convicted of anything.
It is quite disturbing to me to look at our system and find that up to two-thirds of people in provincial detention centres, on any given day, have never been convicted of anything. They are there awaiting trial. That is a very large number.
When we hear people talk about our bail systems as a catch-and-release system, it is not a catch-and-release system. We detain very large numbers of Canadians before trial. Who ends up being detained? Who does not end up getting the benefit of bail? It tends to be indigenous people, racialized Canadians, new Canadians and low-income Canadians.
Why is that? It is because for people to get bail, we demand certain things. We say that people must have a stable job, a stable address and someone who can supervise them while they are out on bail. Of course, the people who have the least resources in society have the least ability to meet those fundamental conditions for getting bail. If they do somehow get bail, they also have the least resources for meeting the conditions that might be imposed on them.
I know someone quite well who worked with an individual with mental health challenges who was required to report to their bail supervisor on a regular basis, but they could not get it together to do that because of their mental health challenges. Those people risk ending up with bail violations, with another offence, even if they were not guilty of what they were charged with in the first instance. What we have, honestly, operating in our system contributes to the overincarceration of indigenous people, racialized people and poor people in this country, starting with the bail system.
While, yes, we acknowledge there are some problems with the bail system that we need to look at, New Democrats would expand that to take a look at what we can do to make sure we are not penalizing people unnecessarily by putting them into detention for long periods while awaiting trial.
Most upsetting to me in this bill is the misuse of statistics by the Conservatives. We all know that the overall rate of crime in this country has been on a 30-year decline. That is still the general trend. We know, though, that in the past five years there has been a spike in public order crimes, violence on the streets and serious violent crime.
Where does that come from? We need to take a serious look at what causes those increases. We have had some unusual things happening in the world and in this country in the past five years. Therefore, some of it is related to the pandemic; some of it is related to the mental health challenges that we honestly failed to deal with, which resulted from the pandemic. When we are talking about finding solutions to these problems, it is not good enough for me to look at a spike in statistics and say we must make general changes in our system. That is really throwing out the baby with the proverbial bathwater.
We have specific problems we need to address, and we need to look very carefully at those problems and find effective solutions that really contribute to public safety.
As I mentioned earlier, provincial and territorial ministers of justice brought concerns forward at the justice ministers' meeting in Nova Scotia last October. They had concerns about serious violent offenders and the bail system and about the public order crisis at the community level, and the promised to review the bail system. I am told again and again that the government is working on this. Maybe we need a faster gear; this is something we often hear from the New Democrats when we are talking about the Liberals. Yes, they have said the right thing; now let us actually complete that task.
In January, after the high-profile murder of an Ontario Provincial Police constable, where one of the accused was on bail, the premiers had heard nothing specific from the Liberal government. They drafted a letter making a very specific suggestion to the that reversing the onus for additional serious and violent offences should be considered as a reform to the bail system. This is something I take very seriously, and I think New Democrats are quite prepared to look at it.
To be clear, reversing the onus for bail means that one would need to demonstrate why one should be released rather than the prosecution demonstrating why one should be retained in custody, which is the norm. There is a list of offences already for which there is reverse onus for bail, including murder and serious violent firearms offences. This also includes something Bill did, which was reversing the onus in domestic violence cases. The presumption is now that those who are charged and have been previously charged or convicted with domestic violence offences need to show why they should be released rather than the prosecution showing why they should stay in jail.
Considering this issue means hearing from some experts, police and prosecutors about how we can fix the problems and what we specifically need to do. What offences should be added to that list?
Again, there is a bit of irony. We tend to hear the Conservatives as defenders of firearms owners, but in this motion, they are saying that any firearms offences should get a reverse onus, that it should get a restriction on bail.
That seems peculiar to me coming from the Conservatives because my concern is about serious violent offences, not technical violations of gun laws. Therefore, when they say we should get rid of all of Bill , it begins to sound like this was a bill about bail reform. Actually, it was an omnibus criminal justice bill that had many things the New Democrats supported and many things that I had long advocated for, including reversing the onus on bail in domestic violence cases. However, the claim that Bill somehow forces judges to do things is simply false. The claim in this motion is not true.
What Bill did was put into law the Supreme Court decision from 2017, called R. v. Antic. In that decision, the Supreme Court was very clear that fundamental justice and the charter require that those who are awaiting trial be released at the earliest reasonable opportunity and under the least onerous conditions in order to respect the principle of the presumption of innocence. Are there some unintended consequences of that decision in Bill ? Perhaps there are. I am looking forward to the committee looking at the specifics of what we can do if we have those unintended consequences. However, as the member for so rightly pointed out, repealing Bill would not change anything about the law on bail because the charter and the Supreme Court decision would still exist. Therefore, to single out Bill for repeal is really not realistic as a solution to the problems.
What is it I want as a New Democrat and a member of Parliament? I want us to do that hard work at committee to figure out how we can reassure Canadians that those who are accused of serious violent crimes and already have a record of serious violent crime do not get bail before a trial for another offence.
I also want us to take a look at that broader question of how we make sure that changes in the bail system do not inadvertently contribute to the denial or inordinate detention of indigenous people, poor people or racialized Canadians. We cannot make sweeping changes to that system and still respect the need to make the justice system fair for all Canadians.
With that, I am going to conclude my remarks today. I want to say that I am disappointed with this motion, and for that reason, New Democrats are voting against it. However, it remains obvious that there is at least a part of the Conservative Party that came to the justice committee on Monday prepared to work seriously on these issues and find real solutions to the concerns that the public has about public disorder and violent crime. They are prepared to find things that are effective in increasing public safety as a way of addressing those, and not a motion like this, which sensationalizes the problem and provides no real solutions.
Madam Speaker, after eight years of the , everything feels broken. After eight years, we have half of Canadians cutting back on groceries and 20% of them skipping meals because the Prime Minister's carbon tax, with the help of the NDP, has made food prices unaffordable.
After eight years, Bloomberg says we have the fifth-worst housing bubble on planet earth as a nation, and Toronto, according to UBS, is the most overpriced housing market in the world. After eight years of the Prime Minister, rent for the average apartment has gone from $1,000 to $2,000, and the average mortgage payment, from $1,500 to well over $3,000. People's finances feel broken after eight years.
What else is broken? It is our laws, literally broken. Our violent crime laws have been broken 32% more than when the took office eight years ago. There are major parts of our cities that have turned into crime zones after eight years of the Prime Minister. We see this not just in the staggering anecdotes of people being hit in the face with ice picks on transit stations or doused in flammable liquids and lit aflame. We see it in the random attacks on strangers on the streets of Vancouver and Toronto. We see it in the half-dozen police officers murdered, in some cases by multiple offenders who were out on early bail, because after eight years of the Prime Minister bail has become easier and more automatic to get for the violent offenders who do the most crime.
When we speak up against this broken bail system that the Liberals have created, they respond with their typical divide-and-distract. They attempt to convince people to be afraid of the solution rather than solving the problem. They claim that Conservatives want to bring in some kind of Dickensian system of criminal justice, which is actually false. Our approach has not only been tough on the repeat violent offenders, but it has been smart, and now we can all say, having looked at the data, it has been proven right. Let us look at the data.
Actually, before we look at the data, I want to talk about the general principle that guides our approach to criminal justice. Contrary to the false rhetoric of the Liberals and the NDP, and the dishonest reporting from the CBC and other Liberal outlets, our approach narrowly targets the most violent, dangerous offenders. We agree that long criminal sentences are not helpful for a young person who makes a small mistake and wants to start over and rebuild their life. We believe that a young person making such a mistake should get rehabilitation and support.
Also contrary to the false and dishonest reporting of the Liberal media, we do not believe that someone who is suffering from a drug addiction should go to prison; we believe they should go to treatment, something that is not happening today. We believe those who prey upon drug addicts should pay the real penalties and not the addicts themselves.
Finally, we believe that the government, instead of flooding our communities with dangerous and lethal drugs, should put our resources into recovery and treatment, as the Alberta government has done with great success in bringing down the overdose deaths that have afflicted people right across this country. We see the alternative in British Columbia, where there has been a 300% increase in drug overdose deaths since the took office eight years ago. His and the NDP's approach in that province has been a disaster. It has created a living hell in certain communities throughout Vancouver, where addicts lie face down on the pavement, live permanently in encampments, and six people die every single day from overdoses. That is the empirical evidence about the approach the Liberal government has taken.
It is time to rescue our brothers and sisters, our friends and neighbours, to help them: yes, with the medications that reduce the symptoms of withdrawal, and yes, with the medications that reverse overdoses, but also with recovery and treatment and not by flooding our communities with drugs. That has not worked and that is not the way to go.
Now, on to violent offences, there were two different approaches. Conservatives believe that the most violent repeat offenders should serve longer sentences. This is the approach we took when we were in government, which led to both a reduction in crime and, interestingly, a reduction in incarceration numbers.
Let us look at the data on the first point. When the Conservative government left office, there were 382,000 violent crimes, obviously too many, and that was in the year 2015, but that has risen now, after eight years of the , to over 500,000 violent crimes, an increase of 32%. Now, one might assume, listening to the rhetoric from the far-left media, that this is because everyone went to jail. Well, that is false, actually. During the previous Conservative government, the number of people behind bars actually dropped from 238,000 to 201,000, a reduction of roughly 37,000. That is 37,000 fewer people who were behind bars.
How is it possible, then, that we call it “tough on crime”? The answer is that we targeted the worst offenders, the repeat offenders, the frequent flyers, those who come back to commit one crime after another, and we see this phenomenon now reversed as this government has allowed those frequent-flyer criminals to go back out on the street again and again.
Let me turn members' attention to a letter from the B.C. union of mayors, where they highlight the problem we are trying to address today by fixing the broken Liberal bail system. In the letter, they say that the same 40 offenders had 6,000 negative interactions with police in one year. That is 150 interactions per year per offender: on average, about one every two days. Across British Columbia, the same 204 offenders had 11,648 interactions with the police. Most of these, by the way, are arrests. So, again, these same 204 offenders in all of British Columbia had about 50 interactions with police per year per person.
This is what is happening. The same repeat offenders are committing, in many cases, dozens and dozens of offences, and then when police arrest them, they are released on bail the same day, because of the 's catch-and-release policies. They then go out and reoffend the same day and police officers have to arrest them again. Ironically, this does not reduce the incarceration rate. What it means is that the same people are incarcerated, but their incarceration is punctuated by a short-term release during which time they can go out and smash someone's face in, if I can be blunt about it, because that is what is happening with these random attacks.
What we, as Conservatives, propose is that those offenders who have a track record of multiple reoffences, but then are charged again, should be kept behind bars to await trial until such time as they are either acquitted or they complete their sentences. Why? It is because the evidence has shown that they are a danger to public safety, and that is why we want them behind bars. It is not because we hate the offender, but because we love the victims, and we want to protect them from future harm.
As my deputy leader, the member for , will say, as I am splitting my time with her, our purpose in this is to protect public safety, to follow the evidence and the data, and to listen to the true experts, which is to say, the police officers, the prison guards and those who work in rehabilitating and helping those who have been in crime, the real experts who do the real work. Let us listen to them. Let us protect our people. Let us fix what is broken and let us bring safety and security home to our people.
Madam Speaker, it has been eight years of the and thousands of new victims of crime across Canada in those eight years.
I stand here not only as the voice of my constituents in Thornhill, but also as the voice of thousands of people in every corner of the country who want us to start taking the safety of our communities more seriously.
I grew up in the place that I represent in the House of Commons today and I have spent almost my whole life living in the Toronto area. Even though the city is home to millions, we have always been blessed to have a feeling of big-city safety. That is not often found elsewhere. For years, we rode transit without fearing the random attacks. Now all we have to do is open the newspaper, go to Twitter or turn on the news to see violent attack after violent attack throughout the last number of months.
We gathered in public places with our loved ones and we were free to do the things we wanted to do whenever we wanted to do them without fear. We went about our daily lives, safe from criminals and the people who wanted to harm others, for the most part. We used to feel safe in the city. That feeling is fading away. All one has to do is open the newspaper to see it.
With every day that passes comes another story about the out-of-control violence in our streets and the innocent people who are being terrorized by it: stories of people being stabbed in the head and face with ice picks; stories about people being swarmed and beaten, in some cases by teenagers, or pushed in front of moving trains or shoved to the ground; stories about people being set on fire in the biggest city in our country.
All the recent attacks, the ones have outlined a number of times, were random. All of these attacks were in Canada. The GTA is used to making international news, it is a big place, but not international news like this. Last week, it was on the BBC. A few weeks ago, it was in the New York Times. Even my hometown of Vaughan made it onto CNN last December after a horrific shooting.
We are obviously seeing more of this. The rate is rising. The stats are clear. Rising crime is not just something that is tearing into my community and it is not isolated. It is something that is happening in every neighbourhood across the country. It is happening in Vancouver where entire sections of the city are being taken over by out-of-control drug and gang activity. It is happening in rural communities, where only 18% of all Canadians live but 25% of violent crimes take place. Those numbers are shocking.
There were more homicides in our nation in 2019 than in 2018. There were more in 2020 than in 2019. There were more in 2021 than in 2020. That is a pattern and somebody has to say it. Things are not okay because each day we see more suffering in our communities and more inaction or, frankly, not the right action in our Parliament.
While our neighbourhoods are affected by crime, the Liberals are busy telling us, once again, that it is somebody else’s fault or it is somebody else’s job, deflecting blame and denying guilt again. However, the stats are clear; we only need to turn on the news.
While families are grieving the loss of loved ones to violence, the Liberals are busy reducing the penalties for heinous acts like robbery with a firearm, fentanyl trafficking that is ravaging the streets in places like Vancouver, or in smaller places like Peterborough and London or places like right outside the House. Kidnapping is also on the list.
While victims of crime are struggling to get justice, the Liberals are standing by their policies and making it easier for the very people who are responsible for those crimes to go back out in the world and do it all over again. The Liberals are standing by Bill , which is what we are talking about today. It makes it easier to get bail, easier to be let out of custody, easier for criminals to go back to their illegal activities and harm even more people. It is broken. What we are doing is not working and everybody else knows it.
Last year in Toronto, there were 44 shooting-related murders. Seven of those arrested were out on bail already for charges of gun crime and 17 of those were out on bail for other crimes. If people are keeping score that is more than half. Of the 44 murders in the city in which I have spent most of my life, more than half, or 24, of those accused were out on bail; 24 additional families that lost loved ones because of the Liberal broken bail system. Every premier says that the system is broken along with every police union and police chief.
If we listen to everyone else who is talking about it, they say that bail reform could save lives. There are a lot of other things that we can talk about, but not talking about this when we know it can save lives would be irresponsible.
In 2021, 165 people in Toronto, who were out on bail for gun charges, were arrested, including 98 people who were arrested on gun charges. It is broken and what we are doing is not working, and everybody agrees.
Since the Liberals have been in power, violent crime has increased by 32%. Gang-related homicides have increased by a staggering 92%. Car jacking has doubled in Toronto. Property theft has gone up. It has all gone up; it is broken. What we are doing simply is not working. Our laws are broken.
It is shocking that the Liberal member for is a cabinet minister and former Toronto police chief, and he said more about crime in Memphis last week than he has said about crime in his own city. That is disgraceful.
Today, Liberal members continue to insist that everything is fine, that nothing is wrong and that they are working on it. There was a meeting last November where all premiers and the federal government agreed to do something, and there is still nothing.
All 13 premiers have written a demand letter to the to fix our broken bail system. The voices are united. It is police officers, it is frontline officers, it is police unions and it is people on our front lines who are all begging the government to do something about it.
We will always stand on the side of law enforcement in our country. We are also going to stand on the side of victims of crime, and not on the side of criminals. We are going to stand for ending soft-on-crime laws like Bill that put the rights of criminals above those of the victims. That is wrong. All we have to do is open a newspaper to read about it.
We are here today to demand action because if the Liberals will not anything, we will. If they are not prepared to make a change, to do their job and protect Canadians, they should step aside and let somebody else do it.
It is not about some archaic regulation. It is not about political posturing. Everybody agrees. All premiers from different stripes agree. The mayor of my hometown, who just ran for the provincial Liberal leadership, wrote a demand letter to the asking for bail reform.
This is not a Conservative issue. It is an issue that speaks to public safety and to the protection of the rights of victims over the rights of criminals.
Our proposal is simple: prioritize the rights of victims and law-abiding citizens, not the criminals, and fix the broken bail system that lets murderers and repeat offenders out, free to recommit crimes in the community.
We need to bring back penalties and punishments that actually fit the crime, particularly for violent repeat offenders. We need to fight crime where it exists, at our borders and in gangs, not in the home of law-abiding firearm owners or hunters.
It is time to go back to the time when people felt safe in their communities, where people can walk on the streets without being randomly attacked, where criminals are punished for the crimes they commit, where Canadians have the right to travel wherever they want whenever they want and be free of fear on public transit, to go out in public with their families and feel safe.
I hope all members, on behalf of their communities, their constituents and their loved ones, stand up for those rights. We can do that by passing this motion today. I hope hon. colleagues in the House see that too.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to the motion brought by the hon. member of Parliament for . I would like to split my time with the member for .
First and foremost, I would like to acknowledge the tragic and disturbing events involving the recent deaths of several police officers in this country. It is beyond words to describe how that profoundly shocks our communities when those who dedicate their lives to serve and protect others from harm become the victims of horrendous acts of violence. It is also unimaginable what grief the families of these officers must be experiencing, and my heartfelt thoughts and condolences go out to them.
I recently had an in-depth and substantial conversation with our chief of police in Peel and his team to talk about what kinds of issues really concern our communities, especially mine in Mississauga—Erin Mills. The number one issues that we touched on and talked about were gender-based violence, the use of guns within our communities, car thefts and how we can prevent all of those. We talked about the limitations that the police force faces in terms of providing that support.
One thing that really struck me was the conversation about what exactly we are trying to do when we serve and protect our communities. What perspective are we taking in terms of creating a legal framework and providing the administration of justice in our country at the base of our communities? Are we trying to punish offenders, casting a wide net and then take in all of them without keeping in mind what rehabilitation means in our communities? How are we going to, for example, impact young offenders and rehabilitate them to become fully functioning members of our society? Are we going to talk about how the indigenous community is impacted by access to justice, bail regulations and laws within our Criminal Code?
This debate, this conversation, this topic of issue is a lot more substantial than the unfortunate fearmongering that we are experiencing with the opposition party. We have to talk about how it is that we are going to have a harm reduction principle embedded within our criminal justice system. More importantly, we have to also understand, in the context of the federal, the provincial and the regional governments, how justice is administered and how that whole bail regime is instilled within our communities and our societies. How do we protect our communities by working together with all levels of our government?
Therefore, putting together an opposition motion and asking for certain things that just do not make sense, when we take in the full context of how it is that our justice system works, is a little disingenuous. I will take some time today to discuss the bail system in Canada and the critical role that it plays in promoting public safety, in maintaining confidence in the administration of justice, and in ensuring that our criminal justice system upholds the rights that are enshrined in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
I will start by saying a few words about Canada's criminal justice system and the importance of that institution. It is a system that is the cornerstone of our democracy. It is a key component in maintaining law and order in society and the overall prosperity of Canada. The federal government continues to make efforts to ensure that Canada is a just and law-abiding society with an accessible, efficient and fair system of justice.
Our criminal laws make and help Canadians feel safe in our communities and have confidence in their justice system, which in turn improves their quality of life as well as their contribution to Canada's prosperity. Unlike the opposition, I do not believe that our institutions are broken. Are they perfect? No, nothing is perfect. Our job is to attempt to improve them, but we should not give in to fearmongering rhetoric. Instead, we should seek constructive solutions the way that our government is doing, by working with all levels of government on this issue, as we heard our say earlier today.
The criminal justice system is a shared responsibility among the federal, provincial and territorial governments, and the regional governments are involved. While the federal government is responsible for establishing the criminal law, which includes bail provisions in the Criminal Code, provincial governments are responsible for the administration of justice. That includes conducting bail hearings and enforcing bail conditions, as well as investigating and prosecuting most of the Criminal Code offences within their respective jurisdictions. A successful criminal justice system is dependent on each level of government successfully carrying out its areas of responsibility in co-operation and collaboration with one another.
At the federal government level, we continue to work very closely with provincial and territorial partners to examine ways to further improve the criminal justice system, including the bail regime, and to make it stronger and more efficient. For example, our government is carefully considering the specific concerns raised about repeat and violent offenders and about bail. These have been identified by the premiers of Canada, and our government is actively working with provincial and territorial partners to make improvements to the bail system.
When I was sitting on the justice committee, this was an issue that we did deeply dive into to see how we can better provide protection, support for communities and better access to justice across the country. We learned from witnesses and experts from across the country that we need to take an approach that is contextualized by all of those equity-seeking groups to ensure that whatever system we are trying to improve is fair for everybody. Hence, this goes back to our Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the importance of it within our criminal justice system.
Canada's bail system contributes to enhancing public safety and confidence in the criminal justice system by allowing the pretrial detention of accused persons in cases where there is just cause to do so. I emphasize that the bail system, as set out in Canada's Criminal Code, is intended to ensure that the accused persons charged with a criminal offence will attend court to answer the charge and will not pose a risk to public safety prior to their case being heard or being tried, and that confidence in the criminal justice system is maintained with respect to whether the accused is detained.
If there are concerns that an accused person who is released after being arrested would compromise those objectives, police can detain the accused and bring them before a justice, where they will have the right to a bail court hearing to determine whether they should be released. Pretrial detention of an accused person is justified where it is necessary for the protection or safety of the public, including if there is a substantial likelihood that, if released from custody, the accused would commit a criminal offence.
Where an accused person is released, police or courts are empowered to impose certain conditions that the accused is required to follow until their case has been resolved or the end of their trial. For example, the court can impose any reasonable conditions it considers desirable or necessary to ensure the safety and security of any victim or witnesses to the offence. For certain specific offences, largely offences involving violence, the court is required to impose a condition prohibiting the accused from possessing a firearm, a prohibited or restricted weapon or ammunition, unless it considers that such a condition is not required in the interests of the safety of the victim, the accused or any other person.
In order for us to tackle the issues of a just, viable and fair justice system, we have to take into account our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We have to take into account how the administration of justice by provinces is taking place. Also, importantly, we need to take into account how we are supporting those on the front lines. Do they have the resources they need? For example, in my region, for Peel police we are trying to ensure that the officers have the ability to access mental health supports. How does that play into it?
I would appreciate it if colleagues in the House, from all aisles, were able to work on that full context of what a bail reform looks like with all levels of government.
Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to the Conservative fundraising motion. Why do I say that? It is not that I do not think this is an extremely serious issue. I do, and I will get to that in a second, but I feel as though the Conservative Party is taking a serious issue and exploiting it for its own gain.
We all know the Conservatives pretty much came into the room knowing this motion would not be supported by a majority of parliamentarians, but they are looking forward to the opportunity to use it in a fundraising email blast, probably later this evening, or something of that sort. It is extremely disingenuous when we treat the House of Commons this way. I do not think it was ever intended to be used this way, but unfortunately we see the Conservatives doing that more and more.
To start, bail reform, as we know and as we have been hearing from leaders throughout the country, is a very important thing we need to tackle. That is why the met with leaders back in October and committed to working with them. That is why he is meeting with them again in February. That is why he will work with them to make the genuine reforms they are looking for and need in order to increase public safety. In my opinion, he is genuinely working toward an objective of trying to make Canada a better place and improve the quality of life of all Canadians.
I am disheartened by this motion because, for starters, the first resolve paragraph in it specifically speaks to Bill and directs the government to make changes to Bill C-75. The irony, though, is that Bill C-75 was brought in to fix Harper Conservative legislation on mandatory minimum sentences. At least three pieces of legislative have been struck down by the courts at this point. By bringing in Bill C-75, we mirrored what the courts were saying. The courts were saying that the law infringes upon people's charter rights, that it cannot be imposed on people and that it must be changed.
What would the Charter of Rights look like for the Conservatives? If they continually brought in legislation that was found to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, would that not imply they would rather have a different Constitution with a different Charter of Rights in it, a Charter of Rights that did not give what ours currently gives? I cannot understand how we could land on any other assumption than that.
In his address today to the House, the specifically talked about the Conservative approach. He outlined what the Conservative approach would be. However, what he did not talk about was that this approach has been struck down repeatedly by the Supreme Court. He has to come clean with Canadians and say how he would deliver on his approach. Would he use the notwithstanding clause to override the Supreme Court? Would he change the Charter or Rights so that it does not look how it looks now? How else would we effectively get the Conservative approach to become legislation that could be upheld and deemed constitutional by the Supreme Court?
I find it very confusing and very disingenuous when a motion like this comes in. It has to do with a genuine concern being brought forward by leaders throughout our country, but the Conservatives are utilizing it and piggybacking off it to try to exploit something else they are doing. They are trying to exploit fears and anxiety in order to raise money. That is the only conclusion I can come to. That is why I said that I cannot see the purpose of this motion being anything other than a fundraising tool for the Conservative Party.
The Conservatives talked a lot about Bill making bail easier. That is not what Bill C-75 was about. As a matter of fact, one of the changes in Bill C-75 made it more difficult for people to get bail. It put the onus on the accused to explain why they should be getting bail. That was specifically related to intimate partner violence.
I keep coming back to this point: Why would the Conservatives intentionally exploit these fears if it was for nothing other than political gain? Time after time, we see this narrative coming forward from the Conservatives. We see them standing up in this House and suggesting that this government is directly responsible for some of the things that were put in Bill , specifically as they relate to reforms, which were only needed because the former Conservative government that put in legislation did so in a way that infringed upon people's charter rights, if we are willing to accept the ruling of the court.
As I said, Bill did not change the criteria of when an accused person can be released by police, a judge or a justice of the peace. It is important to point that out because we have heard repeatedly from the Conservatives today that this is the case. In fact, as I indicated, we made it harder for some individuals to get bail, especially as it relates to intimate partner violence.
Bill also imposed what is called a reverse onus, as I indicated, for bail imposed on an accused charged with certain firearms offences. This means that the accused will be detained pending trial unless they can prove that bail is justified.
Bill was adopted following a binding Supreme Court decision, so the Conservatives' first resolve paragraph in the motion asking that we immediately repeal the elements of Bill C-75 is disingenuous at best, because we were replying to what the court was telling us. The Supreme Court of Canada was telling us this had to be done in order to maintain people's charter rights.
I come back to where I started: What is it going to be? Do the Conservatives believe in the charter? Do they believe in those rights? They keep bringing forward legislation that imposes upon them. Do they believe in them, or would they like to see the charter changed? If they do want to see the charter changed, what would they have it look like? I am very curious about what the Charter of Rights would look like per the definition of the Conservatives and per the legislation they have been bringing forward. What do they see for those rights? It is a legitimate question. We have to get to the bottom of that because it is the underpinning and fundamental document upon which the vast majority of challenges are made.
I will continue to listen to the debate today. I am obviously opposed to this motion, and I am glad to see that the majority of colleagues in the House are coming from the same position. It is the responsible thing to do. We need to make sure we continue to have very important conversations about bail reform with leaders throughout our country who are asking for it. We have to have them in an honest way that genuinely impacts Canadians' lives and makes the lives of Canadians safer in the process.
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
Canada's bail system is broken. Why do we say it is broken? It is because it is not working for law-abiding citizens who fear for their safety, and it certainly is not working for victims. Cities in B.C., including my hometown of Surrey, are facing an onslaught of crime, including gang activity, property damage and violence. It is no wonder why.
In 2019, the Liberals passed legislation, Bill , that directed a “principle of restraint” when imposing bail conditions. Under this soft-on-crime policy, police are forced to release known criminals on a promise that they will show up in court, a practice known as catch-and-release. This approach is not working in British Columbia, nor anywhere else in Canada.
Let us look at the tragic murder of Constable Shaelyn Yang. She was stabbed to death while on duty by a man previously arrested for assault. He was released on the condition that he would appear in court, something which he failed to do. A warrant was issued for his re-arrest, but when found living in a tent in a Burnaby park, he took the life of Constable Yang. He stabbed her to death.
Sadly, crimes of this violent nature are becoming commonplace in British Columbia. A tourist was stabbed multiple times in the back while waiting in line at a Tim Hortons in Vancouver. His assailant was the subject of a Canada-wide warrant for failing to follow the conditions of his release.
Last December in Surrey, a man with a criminal record, which included 23 convictions for assault, attacked a mother and her 11-month-old child. Last year, a man stole a ferry vessel from Victoria harbour. He was arrested, released and was later caught shattering the windows and doors of local businesses.
In Vancouver, and we have heard about this before but it bears repeating, 40 offenders accounted for 6,000 arrests last year. That is an average of 150 arrests each. No one should pretend that this is acceptable. In Kelowna, one man is responsible for 346 complaints to local police in the last six years, which led to 29 convictions for assault and property crimes.
The rates of crime, especially violent crime, have reached a crisis point in B.C. The BC Urban Mayors' Caucus has sounded the alarm bells and is calling for action to prevent this cycle of crime. In its letter to the premier, it states that its cities have to divert precious resources away from other public safety priorities to deal with repeat offenders.
Even NDP Premier David Eby, who was here just the other day, signed a joint letter with all premiers to the federal government calling for the broken bail system to be fixed. The letter states, “The justice system fundamentally needs to keep anyone who poses a threat to public safety off the streets. And this starts with meaningful changes to the Criminal Code..., an area solely within the federal government's jurisdiction.”
The Surrey Board of Trade, an organization normally associated with economic development in my region, is expressing its concern with crime on the streets. It recently said, “The economic development of any community relies upon its reputation as a safe, viable region in which to locate and do business”.
The breakdown of public safety has hit my community of South Surrey—White Rock, but the problem extends far beyond B.C. It is a national mess. This past summer, we all watched with horror the mass killing on the James Smith Cree first nation in Saskatchewan. The perpetrator had previously been charged with over 120 crimes, but none of that prevented him from taking 10 indigenous lives.
Following that senseless tragedy, the stood in the House pleading for change. He said:
The James Smith Cree Nation was not only the victim of a violent criminal, but also the victim of a broken criminal justice system.... A system that allows a violent criminal to reoffend over and over again with impunity does not deserve to be called a justice system. Leaving victims vulnerable to repeat attacks by a violent felon is not criminal justice. It is criminal negligence.
I agree that the broken bail system needs to be fixed. For someone who makes one mistake, of course they should be given every opportunity to build a productive life for themselves and others, but dangerous, violent, repeat offenders cannot be allowed to terrorize our streets.
Bill would make the problem worse. The Liberals rewrote sentencing for serious crimes, putting dangerous criminals back on the street sooner than they deserved to be. They lowered sentences for crimes such as assault with a weapon, abduction of a minor and participation in the activities of a criminal organizations, making these crimes eligible for summary convictions. They expanded house arrest for other serious offences, including sexual assault, kidnapping, human trafficking, motor vehicle theft and arson. Imagine how victims feel marginalized, how their suffering is ignored.
The Liberals eliminated mandatory prison time for serious gun crimes, including robbery or extortion with a firearm, weapons trafficking, discharging a firearm with intent, using a firearm in commission of a crime, and reckless discharge of a firearm. While the is letting drive-by shooters and gunrunners back into our community, he is going after law-abiding hunters and sport shooters.
Meanwhile, in the middle of the opioid crisis, he eliminated mandatory prison time for drug dealers. Over 31,000 Canadians have lost their lives to overdose since the Liberals took office eight long years ago. Now the crime of producing heroin, cocaine, fentanyl or crystal meth is not subject to a mandatory minimum sentence. The same goes for drug smuggling and drug trafficking.
The blame for this mess lies at the feet of the and his Liberal Party, but in a minority Parliament, he cannot act alone. The NDP are complicit. Thirteen NDP MPs from B.C. voted for the reckless erosion of the justice system, and they too must be held to account. They changed the justice system to cater to the sensibilities of left-wing activists who want to defund the police rather than provide safe streets for our citizens, and now five police officers have been murdered in the past year.
The new justice system puts the criminal first and the victim last, and offenders first and the needs of the community last. It frees the felon while tying the hands of law enforcement. What is the result after eight years? Violent crime is up 32%, homicides are up 30%, gang-related murders up 92% and sexual assaults have increased by 61%.
Next election, voters in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island can count on Conservatives to clean up the mess made of our cities and our rural communities. We will fix Canada's broken bail system by repealing the elements enacted by Bill , which forced judges, some of whom are now publicly complaining, which is very unusual for an independent judiciary, to release violent repeat offenders onto the streets, allowing them to reoffend.
We will strengthen Canada's bail laws so that those who are prohibited from possessing firearms and who are then accused of serious firearm offences do not easily get bail, as they do now. We will target violent repeat offenders and ensure that Canada's justice system puts the rights of law-abiding Canadians first. We will restore safe streets and protect our citizens from violent crime.
Canadians are hurting in so many ways under these Liberals. They do not care, but the Conservatives do.
Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to our motion, which is very important. I will begin by saying that I have been here for eight years, the same amount of time that this Liberal government has been in power. Under this 's reign—and I say “reign” because the Prime Minister behaves like a king who is not accountable to anyone, whether the decisions are good or bad—it has become clear that this government and this Prime Minister are very sympathetic to criminals.
This is evidenced by several decisions that have been made and several legislative changes that have been introduced over the past eight years. Whether those decisions are in relation to prisons, Bill or Bill , we find that they are always oriented towards helping criminals, not victims.
In the eight years since the Liberal government came to power, we have seen an increase in crime with all these legislative changes that favour crime. This is particularly true when it comes to bail. I remember the debates we had on Bill C‑75 quite clearly. The Conservative Party was very critical of what was proposed in that bill, because it made no sense.
Today, four years later, we see the result. I want to make it clear to my colleagues on the Liberal side who are here, and even to my colleagues from the Bloc who endorsed Bill C‑75 at the time but who may have changed their minds by now, that today's motion is very specific. We are asking the government to urgently review certain elements of Bill C‑75.
In particular, we want to review the provisions regarding criminals who use firearms and who, unfortunately, because of Bill C‑75, are able to obtain bail too easily. We had evidence of this just before Christmas, when a Toronto police officer was murdered on his first day working solo. This young police officer was murdered by a repeat offender who should never have been released on bail.
This is the most serious type of crime in Canada right now. We are not here today to table a sweeping motion to revamp Bill in its entirety. We want to target this problem specifically, as requested by all the premiers of all the provinces and territories of Canada, as requested by the police associations, and as requested on January 23 by Pierre Brochet, president of the Quebec association of police chiefs. He urged the government to change the way it deals with the worst criminals of all, repeat offenders, who commit violent crimes over and over again.
We are seeing that now. British Columbia has published reports. My colleagues love talking about reports, so let me point out that a report from British Columbia said that 40 offenders were arrested 6,000 times in just one year. That is mind-boggling. The same individual could be arrested and released three times in the same day. That is hard for anyone to understand, but it is one of the harmful effects of Bill C‑75, and that is what we want to fix.
We want to fix this very specific problem. Today's motion is aimed at that. Earlier, I heard my Bloc colleague speak about young offenders. We are not talking about that. All we want to do is close the loophole in Bill regarding violent criminals, those who commit dangerous offences over and over day after day and got a 28-year-old police officer killed just before Christmas.
When we talk about lax Liberal policies, the facts speak for themselves. All the changes that have been made over the last eight years have led to the 32% increase in crime we are seeing these days. There has also been a 92% increase in murders committed by street gangs.
Why is that happening, if not because, as I said at the start, criminals are no longer afraid? Criminals are thumbing their noses at the justice system. In the streets of Montreal, criminals were eagerly waiting for Bill to be passed.
I hear my Liberal colleague on the other side saying “come on”. I would invite him to go meet with—
Madam Speaker, things always get emotional when we talk about crime, but facts are facts.
The streets of Montreal would be safer had Bill not been passed, for example.
Last week, we saw one of the harmful effects of Bill C‑5, which was passed before Christmas. An individual who committed aggravated sexual assault eight years ago was sentenced last week. There were many delays related to the court process, and Bill C‑5 was passed in the midst of all that. The sentence that the judge handed down was 20 months to be served in the community, whereas, in the past, that individual would have been jailed. Seeing what the judge had done, the Crown prosecutor said that the and the had a lot to answer for to the victims.
Ever since this government took office eight years ago, I have been astounded by its total lack of sympathy for victims.
The Canadian Victims Bill of Rights was enacted during the Conservative era. My colleague, Senator Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu, then prime minister Stephen Harper, then minister of justice Peter MacKay, and Steven Blaney, who was also a minister, created the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights as a way to give victims of crime the right to be protected and informed. We know victims have been totally overlooked in recent years. Criminals are laughing at the justice system because they know that justice is much weaker now and they can commit crimes over and over without fear of prison time. It is victims who are living in fear, too scared to even file a complaint anymore because they know that nothing will come of it. The Liberals can say what they want, but facts are facts.
On this day of debate on our motion, we are not addressing the problem in a partisan way at all. When the premiers of all 13 provinces and territories ask for exactly the same thing and the police associations in Canada all ask for exactly the same thing, I would say it is because there is a problem.
I hope my colleagues in the Bloc Québécois will understand the approach we are taking today. As I said earlier, if anyone reads our motion carefully, they will clearly see that we are specifically targeting firearms offences, among others.
Say a criminal who commits an offence and is charged with a firearms offence is able to get parole easily and goes on to commit another firearms offence. If we asked Canadians if they thought that was okay, they would all say no. One of the problems with Bill is that it allows criminals to be released too easily. That is what we want to be fixed. We are asking that the situation that was created by passing Bill C‑75 be resolved to prevent recurring crimes.
As I said earlier, in British Columbia, 40 individuals were arrested 6,000 times in one year. That is unbelievable. In Canada, the group we are targeting amounts to a few hundred individuals. We are talking about 1,000 criminals at most. We are not talking about applying a law to every person in Canada who is facing any kind of charges. Rather, we are focusing specifically on the problem of criminals who commit firearms offences and dangerous repeat offenders. That is all we want, and we would like the Liberal government to show some understanding.
After eight years, this Liberal government needs to understand that we need more rules and that what we are talking about right now is a very valid issue. As I said, it is not a partisan issue when 13 provincial and territorial premiers from all parties are saying the same thing. These premiers are Liberals, Conservatives and New Democrats. I think it is perfectly reasonable.
Madam Speaker, at the outset, I would like to inform the House that I will be sharing my time with the member for . I am thankful for the opportunity to join today's debate relating to the criminal justice system, focusing on bail and repeat violent offenders.
I would like to thank the hon. member for for his motion and his long-standing commitment to public safety. His motion provides me with an opportunity to discuss recent reforms to the Criminal Code, specifically former Bill , and reflect on what is happening in my community and what we are doing in Richmond Hill.
Bill was introduced on March 29, 2018, in the House of Commons and subsequently received royal assent on June 21, 2019. The changes enacted by the bill came fully into force in December 2019.
While the reforms were enacted principally to address delays and criminal justice system efficiencies related to the concerns raised by the Supreme Court of Canada in its 2016 Jordan decision and 2017 Cody decision, they also modernized and streamlined Canada's bail regime. These reforms represented the most significant changes to Canada's bail regime since the Bail Reform Act of 1972. Bill also reflected the reasoning of Canada's top court in the 2017 Antic decision. It was a product of significant consultations with the provinces and territories. It was a thoughtful and broad-ranging reform.
With respect to the bail amendments in Bill , they were designed to specifically streamline the bail process by increasing the types of conditions police can impose on accused in order to avoid sending unnecessary cases to court and to reduce the need for unnecessary bail hearings, and by no means were they designed to reduce the conditions assigned during bail; codify a principle of restraint to ensure that release at the earliest opportunity is favoured over detention when appropriate, and I will go into detail on that later; provide guidance so the bail conditions imposed are reasonable, relevant to the offence and necessary to ensure public safety; and finally, require that the circumstances of indigenous accused and of accused from vulnerable populations be considered at bail to better address the disproportionate impact that the bail system has on these populations.
My colleagues suggest that Bill has broken Canada's bail system, that its reform forces judges to release violent repeat offenders back onto the street, and that receiving bail is easier now than ever for violent repeat offenders. By no means does the data support this. These claims are, at best, ill-informed and, at worst, very misleading. We have the data to prove that.
In the past 15 years, more than half of the admissions to adult provincial and territorial facilities were for remands to await trial instead of admissions to sentenced custody. A lot of people were waiting to be sentenced or were waiting to be heard. According to Statistics Canada, the proportion of admissions to remand has increased from 54% in 2006-07 to 67% in 2020-21, despite a constant decrease in the number of adult admissions during the same period.
This increase in the remand population has disproportionately affected indigenous people and persons from vulnerable populations. As a result, Bill enacted in the Criminal Code a requirement that the circumstances of indigenous accused and of accused from vulnerable populations be considered at bail in order to address the disproportionate impact that the bail system has on these populations.
The amendments in the bill sought to reduce the imposition of bail conditions that are unreasonable, irrelevant and unnecessary, which was also a codification of the rules developed by the Supreme Court of Canada. However, the criteria for when accused persons can be released by police or justices were not changed. The law remains clear that detention of an accused person is justified if it is necessary to protect the safety of the public.
We hear so often about the repeat offenders. It is in the hands of the justice system to ensure that it has the tools to be able to detain them. We have not changed that. Moreover, police are required to detain an accused person if there is a risk of reoffending.
The Bill amendments significantly expand protection for victims of intimate partner violence, particularly within the bail regime. The bill created a definition of “intimate partner” that applies throughout the Criminal Code to clarify that it includes a current or former spouse, common-law partner and dating partner.
It also created a reverse onus provision in the Criminal Code for an accused person charged with an intimate violence offence if the accused has an prior conviction for an offence involving violence against an intimate partner. This reverse onus applies regardless of whether it is the same partner, a former partner or a dating partner. What this means is that the presumption that the accused should be released pending trial no longer applies. The accused, not the prosecutor, would have to justify their release to the court. All the tools needed to prevent recidivism are there.
The change to impose a reverse onus reflects what we know about the heightened risk to safety that victims of intimate partner violence face. It also signals to bail court the seriousness of the alleged offences, as well as the increased risk of reoffending in this context.
Bill also added two new factors a judge must consider before making an order to release or detain an accused person. First, in an important change, bail courts now have to consider an accused's criminal record, something that may have occurred but was not mandated by the legislation. Second, the court needs to consider whether an accused has ever been charged with an offence that involved violence against an intimate partner. These two factors help ensure that courts are better informed and have a more a complete picture of prior history of violence that could threaten the safety of a victim or the public at large.
As a result of these changes, bail courts are now required to take these factors into account when making a number of different possible bail-related determinations, including the decision to impose an order not to communicate with a particular victim, witness or other person, a detention order or an order to release the accused on bail.
If the accused is to be released on bail, the court would have to consider whether the alleged offence was against an intimate partner in determining whether bail conditions are necessary and, if so, what type of conditions are appropriate, such as a condition prohibiting contact with the victim.
Requiring bail courts to consider the safety of intimate partners before releasing an accused on bail affords increased protection to victims of intimate partner violence. Bill made changes to the bail system that respond to guidance on bail-related charter rights of the accused as found in the decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada. These changes aimed to help address the overrepresentation of indigenous people and vulnerable populations in the criminal justice system, while also increasing the efficiency of the bail system.
I emphasize that Bill did not change how the bail system should respond to violent or repeat offending, and it made some admirable changes to bail for those charged with offences relating to intimate partner violence.
In closing, contrary to the hon. member's suggestion, Bill has strengthened our bail system and helped protect victims of intimate partner violence.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to enter this very important discussion. I appreciate the concerns raised by the member for about Canada's bail system, and I welcome the opportunity to discuss how bail law operates in Canada, and in particular, how it deals with violent offences and addresses some of the concerns we are hearing from across the aisle.
The bail system in Canada contributes to public safety and confidence in the criminal justice system. It allows accused persons to be remanded in cases where there is just cause to do so, such as when there is a need to protect public safety. I am encouraged to hear that our government is working to strengthen the regime while respecting the rights of Canadians.
Under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, all accused are entitled to liberty and presumed innocent until proven guilty. Paragraph 11(e) of the charter provides that any person charged with an offence has the right not to be deprived of release or reasonable bail without just cause. The Supreme Court of Canada has provided us with important guidance on interim release and relevant charter considerations. For example, the court noted in the St-Cloud decision in 2015 that “in Canadian law, the release of accused persons is the cardinal rule and detention, the exception”. However, such exceptions are important. For example, some offences have what is called the reverse onus for bail, which means the burden is on the offender to make the case for bail. These include firearm offences and some intimate partner violence offences, which were added by our government.
Subsection 515(10) of the Criminal Code sets out the three grounds on which an accused person may be refused interim release.
First, they may be detained when this is necessary to ensure their presence in court. That is known as the main ground.
Second, they may be detained to protect the public, victims and witnesses, particularly when it is likely that the accused will commit another offence or harm the administration of justice if released. This is known as the secondary ground. The protection of the public is certainly central to this ground. Several factors may be taken into account when the court considers this ground, including the defendant's criminal record, whether the defendant was on bail or probation at the time of the charge, the defendant's personal circumstances and any interference with witnesses or evidence. The court may also consider the seriousness of the offence and the strength of the Crown's case, based on the principle that the more serious the offence and the greater the likelihood of conviction, the greater the need for public protection.
Third, the accused may be detained where necessary to maintain confidence in the administration of justice, taking into account particular circumstances, such as the strength of the prosecution's case, the seriousness of the offence, the sentencing range for the offence and whether a firearm was used. This is known as the tertiary ground.
In the St-Cloud decision, the Supreme Court noted that the scope of the tertiary ground has been unduly narrowed by the courts in certain cases. The court affirmed that the tertiary ground is a ground for detention in its own right, independent of the other grounds, and that it should not be interpreted narrowly, applied narrowly or limited to exceptional circumstances. We agree with the court.
The general rule is that, when a Crown prosecutor seeks to detain an accused in custody, they must persuade the court that there are grounds to do so. However, the Criminal Code includes several provisions where the burden of proof shifts to the accused. When these provisions apply, the accused must demonstrate why their detention in custody is not justified based on the primary, secondary or tertiary ground. This is referred to as the reverse onus.
Reverse onus provisions play an important role in the criminal justice system. They balance the right of an accused person to a fair opportunity for bail with the need to protect the safety of all Canadians. To ensure the protection of the public and reduce the rate of recidivism in the criminal justice system, the reverse onus provisions target certain types of reoffending and specific serious offences. For example, where the accused is charged with failing to attend court or failing to comply with a previous bail order, the reverse onus will apply. It also applies when the accused is charged with certain serious offences. One of the best-known reverse onus situations is when someone is charged with murder or attempted murder.
However, other serious offences, such as weapons trafficking, discharging a firearm with intent, sexual assault with a weapon, aggravated sexual assault, kidnapping, hostage-taking, robbery, and drug trafficking, importing or exporting all engage the reverse onus provisions. To protect Canadians from gun violence, the reverse onus provisions are applied to offences involving firearms where the accused is subject to a weapons prohibition order, as is called for by the motion today.
I am happy to say that this is already the law, and I again express concern that the opposition is trying to create fear by implying the law is different than it is. That said, I am aware of the call to expand this to more firearms provisions from provincial and territorial premiers, and I am encouraged to hear that this idea is under serious consideration by our government.
The bail provisions also recognize the need to protect victims of intimate partner violence. For an accused charged with an offence involving intimate partner violence who has previously been convicted of such an offence, the reverse onus will apply. This provision directly targets repeat offenders and strives to ensure the safety of victims of intimate partner violence. I am proud to be part of the government that made this change.
A court must cancel an accused person's previous form of release where it finds that the accused has contravened or is about to contravene their bail conditions or where the accused has committed an indictable offence while being bound by a form of release. When cancelling the previous release, the court must order the detention of the accused unless the accused establishes that their detention is not justified.
The reverse onus provisions give the courts the tools necessary to protect the public from accused persons who fail to attend court or follow bail conditions. They also give the courts the ability to protect victims of intimate partner violence by compelling the accused to demonstrate why they should be released from custody. These provisions reinforce public confidence in the administration of justice with the knowledge that persons accused of serious crimes must convince a judge that their release is justified before they can be released on bail.
The bail system is integral to the proper functioning of our criminal justice system and contributes to a fair and safe society. As the said earlier in the House, we are quickly and carefully reviewing concerns and solutions that have been raised recently by provinces, territories and others. I was also encouraged to hear of the ongoing work and the upcoming federal, provincial and territorial meeting to further explore how we can strengthen our bail system at all levels of government.
In exploring solutions to the concerns raised, I know our government will take the safety of Canadians into account. I look forward to hearing more from both the and his provincial and territorial counterparts.