The House resumed from December 14 consideration of the motion that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Madam Speaker, I am really pleased to participate today in the continuing debate on Bill , an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
A great deal of time has already been spent describing the objectives of the bill, its proposed reforms and the expected impacts of it. I support these changes and really believe they will make a significant, positive contribution to our criminal justice system and contribute to efforts to address the disproportionate impacts that existing criminal laws have had on certain communities in Canada.
We know certain communities in Canada and in other countries are involved in the justice system at higher rates than others. In Canada, the over-incarceration of indigenous persons and Black Canadians is very well documented. Many of these reasons are systemic, including our laws on sentencing. It is clear the issue of over-incarceration must be addressed by revisiting our existing sentencing laws. That is exactly what Bill proposes to do.
Canada is not alone in recognizing the increased and indiscriminate use of mandatory minimum penalties, or MMPs, has proven to be a costly and ineffective approach to reducing crime. Indeed, many jurisdictions around the world are moving away from this approach to the criminal justice system. While MMPs can be a forceful expression of government policy in the area of criminal law, we know they do not deter crime and can result in unjust and inequitable outcomes, which contradicts the purpose of our justice system. The Supreme Court of Canada has very been clear about these issues.
Criminal justice policy is not developed in a vacuum. Evidence-based policy is informed by relevant research, including comparative studies from other countries. By examining a particular policy's successes and failures, we can develop reforms that build on what we know works and addresses what we know does not work.
For instance, while the United States, both at the federal and the state levels, has historically made great use of MMPs, in the last decade many states have moved toward reducing or eliminating mandatory sentences, with a particular focus on non-violent and drug-related charges. These trends reveal a shift motivated by, among other things, a need to address high levels of incarceration and the corresponding social and fiscal costs. This is being done by governments of all political stripes in the United States, and I encourage all parties in the House to recognize the true impacts of MMPs and work to continue to improve our justice system.
Some in the U.S. have termed the removal of MMPs as being a “smart on crime” movement. This approach recognizes the need to address high levels of incarceration of young Black and Hispanic Americans who are disproportionately negatively impacted by the use of mandatory minimum sentencing laws in the U.S., particularly, as I have noted, for non-violent, drug-related offences.
Some have also pointed out that mandatory minimum sentencing actually encourages cycles of crime and violence by subjecting non-violent offenders, who could otherwise be productive members of society, to the revolving door of the prison system.
Recently, the President of the United States indicated his intention to repeal MMPs at the federal level and provide states with incentives to repeal their mandatory minimums as well.
Other countries have made similar changes. For example, in 2014, France repealed certain MMPs, predominantly citing evidence showing the reconviction rate had more than doubled between 2001 and 2011, increasing from 4.9% to 12.1%.
When we examine the trends in like-minded countries, we can see a clear policy shift toward limiting the use of mandatory minimum penalties to the most serious of cases and restoring judicial discretion at sentencing.
While international comparisons cannot be the only lens through which we develop sentencing policy in Canada, particularly given our unique cultural traditions and diversity, such comparisons provide a useful backdrop to which we assess the adequacy of our own sentencing laws.
Currently, the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act provide MMPs for 73 offences, including for firearms offences, sexual offences, impaired driving, kidnapping, human trafficking, sex trade offences, murder, high treason and drug-related offences such as trafficking, import/export and production of certain drugs such as cocaine and heroin. Thirty offences have been amended in the last 15 years, almost entirely by the Harper government, to increase existing MMPs or to impose new ones.
Bill would reverse that trend and in so doing it would make the criminal justice system fairer and more equitable for all. It would repeal MMPs for 20 offences, including MMPs for all drug-related offences as well as for some firearms ones.
These reforms should not be viewed as a signal from Parliament that drug and firearms offences are not serious or are not noteworthy of important denunciatory sentences in appropriate cases. They can be very serious, and I have full confidence in our courts to impose those appropriate penalties.
I realize that I am running out of time, but I have a lot more to add to this. It is a very interesting debate and I look forward to this discussion continuing.
Madam Speaker, because this is my first speech in the 44th Parliament, I hope the House will indulge me to spend a minute to thank the good people of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford for again putting their trust in me and sending me to this place for a third time. It is a privilege to be here, and I carry that trust on my shoulders every day. I could not be here if it were not for an amazing campaign team, an army of volunteers and the support of my family. Being here, I really feel the weight of the responsibility of being the voice for approximately 100,000 people on beautiful Vancouver Island.
I am very pleased to be rising today to speak to Bill , which tries to start the conversation on serious criminal justice reform. It is a conversation that we have been waiting for in Canada for quite some time, and it begs a question: Why are we here as members of Parliament?
I am not here to make a fancy video for an email fundraiser. I am not here to launch serious attacks against the government or for a great clip. When it comes to a subject as weighty as this, we each have a responsibility to treat the subject matter before us with the seriousness and responsibility it deserves.
In the 42nd Parliament, I was honoured to serve as my party's justice critic. When dealing with subject matters involving the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act or the Criminal Code of Canada, and when we know that the decisions we make and the reforms we pass in this place have real-world consequences for people, it adds another layer of gravity to the debate and the deliberation.
When I look at Bill , I see the intent of the government. It also had an intention in the previous Parliament, which was interrupted by an unnecessary election call, but it honoured that part of its mandate to bring forward criminal justice reform. As to whether it goes far enough, that is the question before us. I would argue no, it is indeed an important first step, but this bill makes me realize there is so much more that could have been done.
We talk about low-hanging fruit. This fruit is almost on the ground compared to what could have been achieved. The Liberals should find it in themselves to seize the moment and be bold, because I do not think they realize that a significant percentage of Canadians out there are asking us as parliamentarians to seize that moment, to make that once-in-a-lifetime change that would have a significant effect on people's lives.
I want to walk through sections of Bill , and I am going to start with the part that deals with mandatory minimum reform. I have sat through a significant part of the debate on Bill C-5 on Monday, yesterday and today, and I have to disagree with the Conservatives' position. I am hearing terms like “hug a thug” or “criminal-first agenda”, and they not do justice to the seriousness of the subject matter before us.
If we here to follow evidence-based policy-making, the evidence all around us, in peer-reviewed journals and examples from countries all around the world, shows that mandatory minimums simply do not achieve their stated objective. They do not deter crime. They do not reduce rates. In fact, they have been such an abject failure in terms of expanding prison populations, many states around the world have started to roll them back, even in Texas. Texas has decided that system does not work.
We do not know what motivates people to commit crimes. The reasons are as varied as the individuals themselves. Do we think that someone who is about to commit a crime will stop for a single moment to think they had better not do it because they could possibly being put in jail for 14 years as punishment? No. The punishment is not a deterrent. The heat of the moment is often what motivates people to commit crime.
I think that the approach of mandatory minimums, its philosophical underpinning, is a lack of trust in judges to make the right decision. In our corner of the House, we believe that judges are the only ones who understand the facts of the case, the unique circumstances of the individuals and the factors surrounding the crime that was committed.
The Criminal Code, lest we forget, already has provisions which allow judges, through subsection 718.2, to take aggravating factors into account. Judges can look at the severity of the crime, whether it was perpetrated because of racially motivated hatred or whether it was against a person with a disability. They can take all of those factors into account and can increase or reduce the sentence as necessary.
We cannot have a one-size-fits-all approach to criminal justice because no two cases are the same, and no two individuals who appear before a judge are the same. I have every faith that, if a hardened criminal who has not learned his or her ways and is again appearing before a judge for a similar crime, that the judge is going to be fully capable of looking at the individual's record and doling out the appropriate punishment.
I will leave it at that because the part I really want to focus my attention on is the part that would amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
Bill would add a declaration of principles, and a warning and referrals section. In my mind, these are good, important first steps, but they come nowhere near the importance of actually moving towards full decriminalization.
My home province of British Columbia is the epicentre of the opioid epidemic. Communities in my riding of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, particularly Duncan, are seeing the effects of this every day. It is an epidemic that, over the last six years, has left a wake of carnage. It has destroyed families, and loved ones are gone forever, for something that we had the power to prevent through good policy-making, but have so far failed to do so. That is what I was talking about when I referred, in my opening remarks, to missed opportunities and not seizing the moment to implement bold policy.
Warnings, referrals and a declaration of principles is in no way a replacement for the decriminalization that we need to go. I am very thankful that I am in a caucus with members such as the member for , who today introduced a bill to do just that, because, if the Liberals are not going to go that way, we are going to show Canadians the path we could have taken had they elected a New Democratic government.
The reason this is a problem is that, last year, the public safety committee released a report on systemic racism in policing in Canada. The bill before us would give far too much discretion to police officers, and there are so many racialized Canadians, Black and indigenous people in Canada, who have a fundamental distrust of the police. They are still having problematic interactions with the police. However, the bill would give police officers the ability to make the decision as to whether to engage in a warning or a referral, or to press criminal charges. I do not believe that is right. The City of Vancouver, the Province of British Columbia, the City of Toronto and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police all support decriminalization, and they are calling for this bold move.
To conclude, I would like to see the government take the bold step of referring Bill to committee before we get to the second reading vote, which would allow the committee to study the bill and possibly expand it beyond its current mandate. If we have a second reading vote and then refer the bill to committee, the mandate of the committee will be severely limited. I am asking government members to allow this to happen so we can hear from the experts, expand the scope of the bill and truly get ahead with the bold criminal justice reform this country so desperately needs.
Madam Speaker, because this is my first time rising in this Parliament to give a substantial speech, if my colleagues allow me I would like to thank my riding of Pickering—Uxbridge and all of the residents for once again putting their faith in me.
I would also like to thank my team of volunteers, my riding association, my family and my mom, who is probably at the door. If anyone thinks I am tough, they have not met my mother.
I would also like to thank my parliamentary family who are here, too: the member for and the . My grandfather was not here for this due to COVID. He is in Newfoundland but his MP, the MP for , is behind me here. My thanks to all for that.
I am proud to rise today to speak on Bill . I have listened to this debate through the course of the week. The Conservative arguments have been incredibly disappointing and frankly disconnected from reality. I want to speak on this because I think it is incredibly important that we speak in facts about the reality in this country and what is going to keep Canadians safe. Conservatives love the idea of mandatory minimum sentences because they feel safe, but they do not actually keep Canadians safe.
I enjoyed listening to the speech of the hon. member before me. I enjoy hearing where we could improve things further, but we must stop continuing the failed, so-called tough-on-crime policies that we know do not work. They do not keep Canadians safe. They do not reduce crime, and they certainly do not help those individuals who could be rehabilitated.
I think it is really important to talk about some of the things I have heard over the course of this debate this last week. Something that Conservatives talked about was a rise in crime. They tried to blame that on Liberal policies, but in fact their Conservative so-called tough-on-crime policies were in effect when they quoted previous years of high crime rates. They do not understand that criminals are not wondering who is sitting in power on this side of the House and whether they should commit a crime. They do not realize that the actual laws of the land were the Conservative policies that were not based in the reality of reducing crime. In jurisdictions such as the Netherlands, for example, they have seen that by implementing rehabilitation there have been significant decreases in crime rates. They have seen people be rehabilitated and, in some cases, jails standing empty because they are able to deal with the social issues that in a lot of cases undermine this.
Let us not be naive. Of course there are criminals who commit egregious crimes and absolutely need to be held accountable for them. Anyone who commits a crime needs to be held to account for it. What I have heard over the course of this debate from my colleagues, as well as from those in the NDP, is that there are judges to determine extenuating circumstances and the nature of a crime. Sitting here in this chamber, this place of extreme privilege, we cannot paint everyone with the same brush. It would be fundamentally wrong. We are not here to make a determination on each granular situation of each crime that has been committed in this country. We have in place a legal system that allows the prosecution to present its case and the defence to present its case, as well as a judge and a jury in many cases to determine the facts of a case, rather than a group of parliamentarians who do not have all the details. We are to set a framework of what we think is fair and reasonable for the criminal justice system.
It has been proven time and again in multiple jurisdictions that mandatory minimum sentences do nothing to discourage crime. All they do is overpopulate the criminal justice system with marginalized, racialized and indigenous communities.
On that point, for example, in 2020, even though indigenous people represented only 5% of the overall Canadian adult population, they represented about 30% of incarcerated inmates. That is the fact. It is shocking to me because Conservatives behave as if justice is blind and anyone who is in jail has committed a crime.
Once again, I recommend that those who think that way ought to think about their own privilege. We do not think about the fact that there are many individuals in this country who come from a place of privilege, who may have committed or been charged with crimes and who could afford the best legal defence team that money could offer. Maybe they are not faced with historical trauma or systemic racism as they go into the judicial system and may never find themselves facing the harshest penalties, because of that privilege.
Not all Canadians have that privilege. In our justice system, this is why we see an overrepresentation of people who have mental health issues, who are from racialized communities or indigenous populations. Anyone who suggests that there are not systemic barriers or systemic racism in our justice system probably does not have a very good grasp on the reality of how a lot of people live in this country. I fully recognize my own privilege in making these statements.
However, I believe, fundamentally, as the previous speaker said, that as a parliamentarian, our job is to move forward on legislation to help Canadians, even if it means lending my privilege to speak up for those who do not sit in this place, who do not have that opportunity to share their experience of how the justice system is not fair and equitable for all people across this country, and to share how mandatory minimums further create those barriers and the inability for some people to have that chance to be rehabilitated and get out of the cycle of crime and poverty.
I would also like to speak about the examples the Conservatives keep raising of heinous crimes I know Canadians would be quite upset about. They are suggesting that this bill would somehow mean that those crimes would go unpunished. That could not be further from the truth. In fact, crimes could still come with harsh penalties and consequences for individuals' actions. However, the point of this legislation is to fix past wrongs, as I just spoke about, and the systemic barriers and racism in the criminal justice system, while still allowing judges to hear from victims, to hear the facts of a case, to hear if offenders are repeat offenders, and to govern themselves accordingly to make the most appropriate determination in sentencing.
I know I am running out of time, and will just conclude with the following. This would allow for the ability to actually rehabilitate people, in particularly younger adults or those who have lived a life of poverty, and would actually provide them with the opportunity to turn their life around, instead of what Conservatives would like, which is for us to turn our backs on them.
We owe it to Canadians across this country to start breaking down systemic barriers and the systemic racism in our criminal justice system while keeping Canadians safe, and actually doing so in ways that give us positive results.
Madam Speaker, I have not given a lot of speeches as I have been here only two years, but as some of my colleagues will know, I try to be as non-partisan as possible. I find it to be getting more and more difficult, the longer I am here.
One of the things I like to do with every piece of legislation that is put forward is to try to find what I can support or what I think is good in that bill or piece of legislation, and what I think needs to be improved upon. Unfortunately, when I look at Bill , I cannot find a single thing in it that I think is worth supporting.
I came to this Parliament, that is, I ran for elected office and I got elected, to solve problems, not to create new ones. I find it somewhat hypocritical of the government. It said we needed this urgent election, to come here, dissolve Parliament and have an election, because we needed to deal with things concerning COVID and deal with this pandemic. However, one of the first bills the Liberals have introduced is one that would basically make it easier for criminals to stay out of jail and on the streets. This is not for first-time offenders. This is not for simple crimes. This is for serious crimes, and I will get into that later.
This should be about public safety and victims, and dealing with the root causes of the problems we have with gun violence and the increase in violence across this country. We should be addressing poverty, drugs, gangs and criminals, not focusing on making it easier for criminals. This bill eliminates mandatory prison time for drug traffickers and those who commit acts of violence, and makes it possible to put criminals under house arrest versus doing time in prison. Ultimately, it is going to put victims at risk.
I want to read into the record, and I know it has been done before, exactly what Bill is going to eliminate from the mandatory minimum perspective related to gun crimes: robbery with a firearm, extortion with a firearm, weapons trafficking excluding firearms and ammunition, importing or exporting knowing that it is unauthorized, discharging a firearm with intent, using a firearm in the commission of an offence, possession of a firearm knowing its possession is unauthorized, possession of a prohibited or restricted firearm with ammunition, possession of a weapon obtained by commission of an offence, possession for the purpose of weapons trafficking, and discharging a firearm recklessly.
The issue is we have seen the government in the previous Parliament bring in an order in council that targeted the most law-abiding citizens in the country, our legal firearms owners, and made it more difficult for our hunters, farmers and sport shooters. However, at the same time, the government introduced, in the last Parliament, Bill . This bill is identical to that previous bill, which makes it easier for criminals to get off those charges.
The previous speaker indicated that these are policies that were failing that were brought in by previous Conservative governments. No, these 14 mandatory minimums that would be repealed via this bill, of the 67 that exist, are ones that were brought in by prime ministers Pierre Elliott Trudeau and Jean Chrétien. These are not bills that were brought in under former prime minister Stephen Harper. These bills were brought in by previous Liberal prime ministers.
My question, in a rhetorical sense to the previous speaker, is why they did not get rid of all mandatory minimums, the other 53 mandatory minimums, if that is the case. They are keeping the ones the previous Conservative government strengthened under Stephen Harper and eliminating the ones that have been around for decades.
I just want to make that clear. They are eliminating those mandatory prison times for criminals who commit robbery with a firearm, weapons trafficking and drive-by shootings, and they are basically doing this because they view the laws as unfair. They are more interested in standing up for the criminals versus the victims and keeping our communities safe.
The next aspect of the bill is eliminating that mandatory prison time for drug dealers. There are six mandatory minimums that they are eliminating that target drug dealers: trafficking or possession for the purpose of trafficking, importing and exporting or possession for the purposes of exporting, and the production of a substance schedule I or schedule II drug; i.e. heroin, cocaine, fentanyl or crystal meth.
Again, we have talked about this, and I fully acknowledge that it happens in my community. We have heard from communities right across this great nation about the opioid crisis and the need to help Canadians who are struggling with addiction. I have family members who have struggled with addiction issues, and I full appreciate that. However, they are not producing drugs, they are not running these meth labs, they are not trafficking drugs and they are not enabling the crisis in this country. There are other people we should be locking up, and we should make sure they serve the appropriate time without letting them off easy.
The next part of the bill talks about conditional sentencing. I am going to read the offences out, because it is beyond me why we would not want these criminals punished. These are not first-time offenders who have committed a theft because they are struggling to get by or do not have food. These are people who are doing serious things. We are talking about prison breach, criminal harassment, sexual assault, kidnapping, trafficking in persons, abduction of a person under 14, motor theft, theft over $5,000, arson for fraudulent purposes, etc.
I have an eight-year-old daughter. The last thing I want to see is for some hardened criminal who kidnaps my daughter, or the daughter or son of any Canadian for that matter, to be let off and not get the appropriate punishment because of this potential change in legislation.
I want to address the issue of simple possession. This is not what we are dealing with. Police officers already have a load of tools at their disposal to make a determination as to when charges should be laid. My colleague from spoke earlier and he is a former Crown attorney. There are some people here with a lot of knowledge who understand the justice system better than me, and I will trust them on how to address this stuff. However, my point, from a simple Canadian perspective, is that this bill would not do anything to make our communities safer and address support for victims.
I want to expand on the conditional sentencing orders, which allow judges to use their judgment when sentencing. I personally do not think there should be a reduction in penalties and a soft-on-crime approach when it comes to gun crime or repeat offenders. It is important that we do not forget the component of public safety when we consider our aim of reducing the overrepresentation of visible minorities in our prisons. We should be considering how to provide the right help and treatment for those suffering with addiction and mental health issues.
As long as I am a member of Parliament, I will continue to advocate for common-sense policies that keep criminals off our streets and respect law-abiding Canadians. I am committed to fighting for policies that keep our communities safe while ensuring that those who are suffering are getting the best help possible. I will not sacrifice public safety, and I will continue to fight for justice and proper resourcing to help those who most need it.
In conclusion, like many of my colleagues and I think the majority of Canadians, I believe serious violent offences committed with firearms deserve mandatory prison times. It is shameful that a bill is being brought here that would weaken the firearms laws in this country. I have serious concerns with this legislation, and I really think we can do better. I hope the government will do better.
Madam Speaker, we are here on the eve of the holiday season to discuss, at second reading, Bill , an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, which was sponsored by the member for , our justice minister.
Bill C-5 takes action on two legislative fronts. First, it seeks to scrap around 20 mandatory minimum penalties, or MMPs, that apply to firearm and drug offences. Second, it introduces the principle of diversion for simple drug possession.
I will focus more on the MMPs, and my esteemed colleague from will address the diversion aspect later and in greater detail.
I am particularly interested in this bill because I have a background in criminology as well. My first university degree was in criminology in the mid-80s, which more or less gives away my age. I therefore rise today in this House to speak to this bill partly from the perspective of a humble criminology graduate from the Université de Montréal.
Incidentally, what do criminologists do? They analyze crimes, penalties and risk thresholds, being as objective as possible in their analysis. Prevention, rehabilitation, support, assistance and, obviously, intervention are all in a criminologist's wheelhouse.
I believe in rehabilitation, unlike some Conservative colleagues. I believe that we can reduce crime and so does the Bloc Québécois. That is why we will support Bill C‑5.
Black Canadians represent 3% of the total population, but 7% of the prison population. Indigenous people represent 5% of Canada's total population but 30% of the prison population. That number jumps to 45% for indigenous women, who represent around 2.5% of the total population, if I am not mistaken. That is appalling. It is like a bad social novel, and it is shocking and unacceptable.
Fortunately, repealing some mandatory minimum penalties can do a lot to correct this unacceptable imbalance without, in my view, compromising the safety of Quebecers and Canadians in any way.
Mandatory minimum penalties carry few benefits and introduce a number of problems, such as the overrepresentation of indigenous and Black communities in prisons. They also cost the system a lot of extra money, and yet they do not have the slightest impact or deterrent effect on crime. The Bloc Québécois therefore supports the principle of repealing some of these MMPs, once again. We agree on the substance of the bill.
However, I would like to express some reservations about the timing of the announcement of this bill to repeal mandatory minimum penalties, especially in relation to firearms. Is it not a bit inappropriate for the government to introduce this bill when we are seeing one tragedy after another in Montreal?
We must remember that the weapons used to kill our young people in the streets of Montreal and other cities come from somewhere. They are mostly weapons that enter the country illegally through our porous borders. Scrapping MMPs without firm measures from the federal government to counter the illegal importation of firearms sends the wrong message to the public.
To be clear, we are in favour of eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for a first offence, but not for a second or third offence. Generally speaking, I am a big believer in second chances, but when people reoffend, that calls for a different approach. It is called accountability. Maintaining mandatory minimum sentences in such cases is important to Quebeckers. We do not want people to lose faith in our justice system.
We think it makes sense to abolish mandatory minimum sentences for firearms possession, but we have concerns about doing so for discharging a firearm with intent and robbery and extortion with a firearm. We do not support eliminating mandatory minimums in situations like that.
To sum up, there are benefits to eliminating some mandatory minimum sentences. Obviously, it would reduce the financial and administrative burden on the prison system. It would promote alternatives that support reintegration of offenders from Black and indigenous communities, who, as we know, are overrepresented in the prison system. Last but not least, these sentences do not tend to work. There is no empirical evidence to show that they influence a person's decision as to whether or not to commit a crime with a firearm.
When it comes to drugs, we saw the abject failure of the so-called “war on drugs” in the United States during the Nixon era. It was a failure. They filled the prisons, but accomplished nothing. Harsh sentences have not made so much as a dent in the brisk drug trafficking business, but they have added an enormous financial burden to our system and have had a tragic impact on the lives of many low-level offenders. Former Prime Minister Harper probably admired this tough-on-crime approach, the same way many Conservatives here do. However, the Bloc Québécois is against it. We believe in rehabilitation, prevention, and alternative, adapted sentences. Fines, therapy and community work are examples of other options that would adequately replace MMPs in many cases.
Before I wrap up, I just want to mention again that my esteemed colleague from will elaborate further by focusing more on the issue of diversion programs.
For all these reasons, the Bloc will obviously support Bill . I also want skeptics to know that this support does not mean that we are minimizing gun crimes. Quebeckers are more aware than anyone of the threat that guns currently pose to social peace.
For months, the and his have sat on their hands instead of tightening the border. They have to get going and act on the Bloc's recommendations. Until then, Bill C‑5 is a step in the right direction, and we will support it.
Mr. Speaker, I wish you happy holidays.
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to speak to Bill , an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. I have numerous concerns about the legislation that directly affects my constituents.
By proposing this legislation, the Liberals have illustrated just how out of touch they are with the long-lasting effects of criminal activities on Canadians. Their commitment to protecting the rights of criminals tramples on the legal rights afforded to victims of crime and does little to address systemic inequities, including the overrepresentation of indigenous peoples, Black and marginalized Canadians in the criminal justice system. Instead, Bill would reduce the accountability of violent offenders and encourage their release back into the community instead of facing legal consequences that are proportionate to the crimes they have committed.
My Conservative colleagues have spoken at length about the impacts of the bill on firearm-related offences and weapons trafficking. Has the Liberal government forgotten how gun violence impacts people and communities across Canada?
Violent crime involving firearms is a growing threat to public safety in our communities. Even with the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, my constituents still rank rural crime and gun violence as one of their main concerns. These crimes continue to rise, and almost half of Canadians feel that gun violence is a threat to their community.
Bill would do nothing to stand up for Canadians. It instead chooses to weaken our laws and empower criminals. It would give more liberties to criminals who have guns than law-abiding Canadians who own guns.
When we look at the text of Bill , we see that it actually would help those who prey on the vulnerable. It would reduce sentencing for drug trafficking, for gun crime and for importing drugs. I believe the average Canadian can clearly distinguish the difference between drug trafficking and someone who is suffering from addiction issues being caught with a small amount of drugs.
This bill would not help the latter. It instead would roll back the offences for the producers and manufacturers of schedule 1 drugs. It uses vulnerable Canadians to cover the true intent of this bill, which is to soften accountability for criminals.
On Monday, my Conservative colleague was attacked for not mentioning systemic racism in his remarks, as if to imply that Bill has anything to do with correcting racial injustices in our legal system. It is important to point out that in the six years that the Liberals have been in power, the proportion of federal prisoners who are indigenous rose from 24% to 30%.
I am also compelled to bring attention to the fact that the group of Canadians who are disproportionately affected as victims include women and girls, visible minorities, LGBTQ people, children and youth, lower-income families, those living in poverty, and people in northern and remote communities.
Bill does not mention the victims of crime. Instead the government wants us to believe that racial inequality exists only when we discuss offenders. Bill C-5 would decrease criminal accountability and ignores issues such as addiction, poverty and mental health issues. It ignores that the communities that experience higher levels of crime are most adversely affected themselves.
I would like to talk about the expansion of conditional sentences for crimes such as sexual assault. It is a complete affront to combatting violence against women by a government that hides behind the optics of feminism. Sexual assault victims already face a litany of traumas in our justice system, as they must contend with disclosing information that is intensely personal and private, which could result in victim blaming and often shame.
The bill would add even more obstacles to those trying to heal from sexual assault by allowing sexual offenders to serve their sentence at home. People on house arrest are generally not limited to constantly staying at home, as they can be permitted to leave for certain pre-approved locations and activities. Their movement and freedom may be controlled and monitored, however, unlike being incarcerated, house arrest allows them the ability to continue participating in society and at home.
I want to focus for a moment on the selected phrase “continue participating in society”, because I am unable to understand why sexual predators should be allowed this privilege, when the victims of their crime are not afforded the same respect.
There is no shortage of information about sexual assault survivors and the challenges our legal system faces in prosecuting it, not to mention the traumatization and re-traumatization of survivors throughout the process. Law reform and policy changes have brought about some necessary improvements to the way the criminal justice system processes sexual assault cases, but Bill is not one of those. It would violate a victim's right to protection, diminish the strength of our court system and may even be responsible for impeding a survivor's reintegration and participation in society.
The Liberals say that they are helping addicts and communities, but they actually would be reducing sentences and eliminating accountability for traffickers and manufacturers, while continuing to punish law-abiding firearm owners. My rural constituents continue to be the target of restrictive gun laws, while the government supports weakening the consequences for weapons trafficking.
The Conservatives believe we must take strong action to prevent criminal activity. We stand for victims of crime and we fight to defend their rights. Shorter sentences and house arrest are not a deterrent for sexual assault or firearms offences. The Liberals have promised that conditional sentences, such as house arrest, would never be considered over public safety. If so, why would they offer this sentencing option for sexual assault charges? I am unsettled at the thought that they believe there is a need for legislation that would allow sexual predators to serve their sentences within their community.
Conditional sentencing, as presented in Bill , would not advocate for restorative justice; it instead would give offenders the opportunity to not only escape consequences for their actions, but would cross the line into revictimizing survivors of sexual assault, kidnapping and human trafficking. How can we expect to feel safe and protected when the government is advocating for offenders who are kidnapping 13-year-old children to serve their sentences in our neighbourhood? How is this any regard for public safety?
The government needs to work with its provincial counterparts to combat the increase in rural crime, not pass sweeping legislation that would lessen the penalties for the criminals.
There is nothing in Bill that explains how eliminating mandatory minimum sentences would undo the systemic racism the government claims plagues our justice system. It would blatantly miss its mark. It would endanger public safety, while doing nothing to help vulnerable Canadians in our criminal justice system struggling with addiction and mental illness.
Bill C-5 ignores the fact that, on its face, minimum mandatory sentencing is unbiased. There is ample administrative law jurisprudence that defines that where the statute gives discretion to decision-makers and they come to an unfair decisions, the problem is the “maladministration” of the statute rather than the statute itself. If the LIberal government believes that mandatory minimum sentences perpetuate systemic racism because of the prevalence of racist policing and improper use of prosecutorial discretion, then why are they not introducing solutions to this problem?
It is disingenuous to say that this bill is being put forward to address the over-incarceration rate of marginalized Canadians. It is also false that Bill considers public safety over the rights of criminals. Punishing criminals and holding them accountable is only part of the Conservative Party's response to crime. We must also ensure that crime victims and survivors are treated with respect.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my good friend, neighbour and colleague for for his excellent speech.
As this is my first opportunity to deliver a speech on behalf of the constituents of Red Deer—Lacombe in the new Parliament, I want to thank all of my volunteers and my family. Of course, I thank the voters of Red Deer—Lacombe for sending me here for a sixth term. My commitment to them is to do my best in representing the issues and values that we hold deer in central Alberta. One of those is addressed in this proposed legislation.
Many of the hard-working people in central Alberta are law-abiding firearms owners. They get up every day, go to work, follow all the rules, follow the law, work hard and pay their taxes. In return, they simply want to be treated with dignity and respect by their government. They want their tax dollars used effectively and efficiently, and none of them feel very good right now about the direction that our country is heading, particularly when it comes to the legislative agenda of this current government. They are very concerned and very worried about government's approach, which is soft on violent and dangerous crime.
Bill is another iteration of Bill , which appeared just before the election was called in the last Parliament, and the bill is absolutely abhorrent, I believe, in the minds of most of my voters back in Red Deer—Lacombe.
I am a law-abiding firearms owner, and I am a former law enforcement officer in the conservation law enforcement field. My job was to go into situations and deal with law-abiding hunters and firearms owners on a daily basis. I would go into situations as a conservation officer or as a national park warden where virtually every person I dealt with had an axe because they were camping; a knife because they were fishing; or a firearm, bow or crossbow because they were hunting.
I did this with complete confidence that the people I was going to deal with and work with were going to be honest and forthright people for the most part, and I had nothing to fear and nothing to worry about from law-abiding hunters and firearms owners in this country. I am proud to say that I safely did my job with a respectful group of hunters, anglers, campers and outdoor enthusiasts for a number of years before I ended up in this place.
These are good people, and they do not deserve to be demonized by this current government. They certainly do not deserve to be taken to task or held accountable for dangerous, violent criminals who are operating under the auspices of organized crime in our large urban centres, such as Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary. Even in one of the largest cities that my colleague for and I share, Red Deer, Alberta, which is a beautiful city full of good, honest, hard-working people, there is the odd one that causes problems. We need to be focusing on the ones that cause problems, which is the problem with the legislation before us today.
Ladies and gentlemen of Canada, and ladies and gentlemen of Toronto, who are watching need to know the crimes the people they voted for are actually reducing and eliminating mandatory minimum penalties for. One is robbery with a firearm. We would think that in a city such as Toronto, where there are virtually daily shootings being reported, that somebody would say, “Robbery with a firearm is a fairly serious thing and people should probably go to jail for that”, but not according to a Liberal member of Parliament members from that city.
Another is extortion with a firearm, which must be a pleasant experience for the victim. Why do we not do what Liberals do and get rid of any mandatory minimum prison sentences for somebody who is being extorted with a gun to their head? the thirds is weapons trafficking, excluding firearms and ammunition. Weapons trafficking is the illegal movement, sale and acquisition of firearms. This is the problem.
We know from people like professor emeritus Gary Mauser from Simon Fraser University that a person is very unlikely to be a victim of crime from a law-abiding firearms owner. In fact, when we take a look at the statistics from Statistics Canada going back to 2012, we know that 0.6 in 100,000 murders in this country were committed by law-abiding firearms owners. That is less than the average of 1.8 murders per 100,000 in the country.
The safest person we can be around in this country when it comes homicide is a law-abiding firearms owner, but we are going to make sure that smugglers and people who traffic firearms and bring these guns into the country would potentially face zero jail time for their actions. There is also importing or exporting knowing that a firearm or weapon is unauthorized, which is called “smuggling”, and it is smuggling firearms across the border.
This is the problem. This is what Liberals in la-la land think deserves no jail time whatsoever. If voters are in Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver, these are the people that they voted for and sent here and this is what they are doing to the community. The Liberals are saying to the people who voted for them that they are going to remove mandatory minimum sentences for people who smuggle guns across the U.S. border and instead blame and conflate issues on law-abiding firearms owners. It is absolutely disgusting.
Discharging a firearm with intent, when does that happen on the streets of Toronto? Daily, but if someone is the one with the gun, apparently in Liberal la-la land, they do not need to go to jail.
With regard to using a firearm in the commission of an offence, holding somebody up, committing a robbery, committing a carjacking, using a firearm, in theft or any of these other types of activities, if people take a firearm along with them, they should not worry if they voted Liberal. The Liberals are looking out for their interests and making sure they spend no time in jail as a result.
On possession of a firearm knowing its possession is unauthorized, these are people that are not getting firearms licences like every law-abiding firearms owner in this country actually does. Canadians might be surprised to know that every single day all 2.1 million of my fellow law-abiding firearms owners are checked by CPIC to make sure that we are eligible to continue to possess firearms.
As a matter of fact, the law is written in this country that people cannot possess a firearm at all. Every firearm is illegal, unless they have a licence to have one. That is what the law currently says. Law-abiding Canadians by the millions in this country follow those rules on a daily basis and we are checked on a daily basis to make sure that we can continue to lawfully possess our property.
Instead of harassing people like me, the government is going to make life easier for people who are unlicensed. If people are found in possession of a basketful of handguns in downtown Toronto, they should not worry; they do not have an RPAL, the guns were smuggled and they might even be the smuggler. Guess what? They have the option of going home and sitting in their house and thinking hard about how bad they are because that is the Liberal solution to organized crime in our country. This is absolutely ridiculous.
On possession of a prohibited or restricted firearm with ammunition, these are guns we are not even allowed to have, so now we are talking about illegal owners. They should not worry; the Liberal Party of Canada has their back. If they have one of these, they do not have to go to jail, here is a “get out of jail” card just like in the Monopoly game; they do not have to face the consequences.
Possession of a weapon obtained by commission of offence is theft. That is someone who comes into my home and steals my gun. That is someone who comes into a rural property in the County of Red Deer, the County of Lacombe, the County of Ponoka, or any one of our communities, steals from us and may be purposefully there trying to steal our firearms. The Liberal response is because our disarmament policy for law-abiding Canadians is not working, they are going to let thieves out of jail for free for stealing a law-abiding citizen's property.
This legislation is absolutely ridiculous. It flies in the sensibilities of everybody. On these mandatory minimums just on the firearms, and not getting into the drugs and all of the other things that the government is reducing or limiting minimum penalties for, in this legislation, virtually all of them except for one, guess who introduced these pieces of legislation in the Criminal Code? Was it Stephen Harper or Brian Mulroney? One of them happened under the government of Stephen Harper. The other dozen of these provisions in the Criminal Code were put in place by none other than Pierre Elliott Trudeau and Jean Chrétien. Today's Liberals are certainly not yesterday's Liberals, ladies and gentlemen. Our country is not any safer with these guys at the helm.
Mr. Speaker, as this is my first time rising to give a speech as a member of the 44th Parliament, I want to take a moment to thank the people of Lambton—Kent—Middlesex for re-electing me to this place on their behalf. It is a responsibility, honour and privilege that I do not take lightly. I am really grateful to them for sending me back here.
My re-election was made possible by everyone who supported my campaign, believed in me, had my back and helped me through this journey. With the dedication and professionalism of my team, the passion and commitment of our volunteers, the generosity and sacrifice of our donors and, of course, the love and support of family and friends, we were able to share our positive Conservative vision. I am grateful beyond words.
I would not be here without my amazing campaign team. I thank my campaign manager David Sverginsky, my official agent Doug Plummer, and the rest of my core team and staff without whom I would not be here. They are Russ Kykendall, Tony Reznowski, Yvonne Hundey, Anna Marie Young, Todd Gurd, Cheri Davies and Kim Heathcote; and the group of volunteers who canvassed with me almost every day: Archie Nugteren, Mark Etienne, Gerry Rupke, Steve Stellingwerff, Marius, Juliette, Hannah Kurjanowicz, Brandon MacDougall, and my predecessor, Bev Shipley.
I would also like to thank Julie, Angela, Holly, Candice and Jennifer for always being there and for their steadfast support throughout my political journey.
The sign crew put up over 3,000 signs. I thank them for their hard work and dedication.
A special thanks to my parents, Diane and Theo Rood, for their love and support. My dad took on the enormous task of installing the signs, removing them and just being there for me throughout this.
I thank my brothers Jeremy Rood and Steele Leacock, and my grandma, Helen Jamrozinski, for their love and support throughout this journey.
Going on to the bill that is before us, it should come as no surprise when I say the Conservatives are the party of law and order. We are the party that stands with victims of crime and their loved ones. We are the party that applies common sense and outcome-based principles to protect innocent Canadians from violent criminals who would harm others. We are the party that understands that it is criminals who are committing these crimes, not law-abiding firearms owners, anglers, hunters and sports shooters.
The Liberals claim to be serious about getting tough on crime, but their hypocritical actions speak louder than words. Last February, in the previous Parliament, the government introduced Bill . The goal of this harmful legislation was to reduce the sentences for illegal gun smugglers and remove mandatory minimum sentences for many serious offences. That bill died when the election was called, but here we are again with the same bill, but with a different number.
Just months before the called an unnecessary election in the middle of a pandemic, my Conservative colleague introduced a private member's bill, which would have imposed tougher sentences for criminals who were caught smuggling or in possession of illegal guns, which is the larger problem.
Brian Sauvé, who is the president of the National Police Federation, has said that policies like what the Liberals are advocating for may be politically popular, but they fail to address the root cause of gun violence. He says:
The narrative is that we need to restrict gun ownership because that will curtail crime, when really the evidence is that illegal gun trafficking leads to criminals owning guns, which leads to crimes with firearms.
Therefore, we need to look at the source of the problem.
Crimes with firearms are exactly what the government claims it wants to stop, yet it voted against a bill and continues to fail to support legislation that will do just that. Does that sound like a government that is serious on tackling gun crime for the people of Lambton—Kent—Middlesex? It sounds kind of hypocritical to me.
Bill is back as Bill , but with the same purpose. This legislation is a revolving door for criminals. It would do nothing to stop crime. It would do the exact opposite. It would repeal the penalties for crimes like weapons trafficking, reckless discharge of a firearm, discharge with intent to wound or endanger and armed robbery. It would also remove conditional sentencing for heinous crimes like sexual assault, kidnapping, child abduction, human trafficking, vehicle theft and arson.
That tells me the Liberal elites in Ottawa do not care about our safety or the safety of our loved ones. Conservatives like myself will always fight against harmful legislation like Bill . Canadians do not want the justice system to be a constantly revolving door. Common sense must prevail for all common good.
I studied criminology in university, and I have friends who are corrections officers, probation and parole officers. I hear the same thing from them all the time. It is the same people revolving through the doors committing the same crimes over and over again. If it is a provincial offence, which is two years less a day, they will not get the kind of help they would need. If they were sent to a federal facility, they would have help for mental health and addictions problems.
The government has a role to play in ensuring that Canadians, victims of crime and their families can exist freely and without fear in our society, but in Bill , the Liberals are telling Canadians that these offenses are no big deal. Is it no big deal that someone could leave prison, steal a car, rob several businesses, assaulting the occupants with a weapon, and then attack a police officer on their way out? Apparently, the Liberal government thinks that scenario only deserves a slap on the wrist, not a guaranteed minimum punishment for harmful criminal behaviour. In fact, what is proposed in this bill would allow someone who did all the above the opportunity to not even spend a single day in jail.
Again, as a Conservative, I have to stand here and attempt to bring common sense to a government that is clearly showing no indication that it has any sense left, common or not. In fact, some days it feels like the Liberals have removed the words “common sense” from the dictionary entirely.
At the end of the day, Bill gets soft on gun crime and gives great relief to criminals and offenders. It is missing any good reasons why this policy cares for, protects or prevents repeat offences against victims of violent crime in Canada. It misses the mark on what should be targeted to stop crime and illegal guns. As Winnipeg police constable Rob Carver said, “When we seize handguns, the handguns are always, almost 100 per cent, in the possession of people who have no legal right to possess them. They're almost always stolen or illegally obtained.” Again, it is not the law-abiding hunters, farmers and sport shooters who are committing serious crimes.
Let us now look at the final part of this so-called landmark progressive legislation. During an unprecedented national overdose crisis, we have a government that is actively trying to enable the criminal proliferation of drug trafficking, importing, exporting and production. Where is the sense in that?
I heard from Louis, a constituent in my riding of Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, who asked me, “Can we address the fact that known drug dealers are getting away with murder? We lost a grandchild.” What Canadians want and need is a compassionate approach to mental health and addictions recovery, and this is not found in Bill . In fact, no part of this bill even attempts to touch on the subject, and it is too busy enabling the pushers.
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health estimates the economic burden of mental illness in Canada at $51 billion per year, which includes health care costs, lost productivity and reductions in health-related quality of life. Addictions and mental health issues have costly and far-reaching impacts in our society and must be given proper attention in legislation to combat the crisis.
When will the government put forward legislation to address this impact instead of using a real crisis to score cheap political talking points at the cost of protecting Canadians? The and the Liberal members across the floor are all talk. They talk big and they make sweet-sounding promises to address serious concerns about gender-based violence, opioid addiction, systemic racism and other forms of discrimination. They make boldfaced claims to be helping Canadians, but then offer nothing of use.
What I see, and what the constituents I represent see when the Liberals grandstand, is hypocrisy. I see before the House a bill that is soft on gun crime and soft on the criminal drug enterprise. Canadians know bills like Bill are contrary to evidence, countless news stories and the testimony of victims. It should be impossible to ignore the madness of the government’s relentless attempts to gaslight Canadians otherwise.
Canadians expect the government to stand up for the rule of law, to protect victims first and to stand up for their rights. The government should be targeting violent criminals, sexual offenders and criminal gangs, and ensuring that the Criminal Code protects Canadians. Any changes should be made in a well-informed manner that protects public safety.
As legislators, we must represent and reflect the values of the average Canadian, and Canadians consider the crimes that Bill relaxes measures against to be extremely serious. By reducing mandatory sentences for serious crimes, Bill C-5 says elected representatives do not need to be accountable to the victims of these crimes. The utter hypocrisy of this bill and those who vote for it is staggering.
To vote in favour of this bill signals a victory for violent criminals who commit some of the most heinous crimes against the most vulnerable victims in Canada. It comes at a cost to victims and their families, present and future, and to the dignity of our great nation. That is a fact I find unacceptable, and it is why I will be voting against the bill.