Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-75. This is a very large, very complex bill that touches on many important issues related to our justice system.
Obviously, I will not have enough time today to cover every element of the bill, so I will just focus on the aspects that interest me the most. However, I want to start by giving some background on the events that led to this bill and how it concerns my constituents.
As we know, Bill C-75 is a response to the Jordan decision, in which the courts ruled that there were unacceptable trial delays and that proceedings would now be terminated after a certain time frame. This was concerning to my constituents and to all MPs, especially those from Quebec, because we have seen several troubling cases in Quebec. In some cases, people charged with horrific crimes have been freed because of Jordan. These have been sordid and disturbing cases for the affected communities.
The Jordan decision seeks to address major issues, particularly with respect to services to indigenous peoples and the administration of justice. This is essential for maintaining public confidence in the justice system, especially the confidence of people who have asked me about many disturbing, high-profile cases. It is essential because the justice system cannot function properly without maintaining public confidence.
If I can wear my public safety critic hat for a moment, I would say the same is true in many situations involving public safety. This is not just about the justice system, but also the correctional system and police forces or national security agencies, which also play a role here.
Given the importance of maintaining public confidence, this bill had to be thoroughly reviewed. On that I want to commend my seat mate, the hon. member for Victoria, who was one of the finalists in the hardest working category of the Parliamentarians of the Year Awards, and rightly so. It is not difficult to understand why when we read a bill like this one, because these are extremely complicated matters that require rigorous review.
We must also exercise caution in political debate. To prevent undermining public confidence, we do not want the procedures and the implementation of these measures to be tainted by partisanship. This cannot be repeated often enough.
In this context, the objective of the bill in question is primarily to reduce legal delays. There are several positive elements, but some flaws as well, and although my time is limited, I would like to address some of them.
The first element, mandatory minimum sentencing, is the most important. This type of sentencing became singularly common during the last Parliament under the majority Conservative government. However, this policy failed, not just in Canada, but in the United States as well, where even very right-wing Republican legislators realized that it did nothing for public safety.
Mandatory minimum sentencing is imposed on judges by law to punish all sorts of crimes, which are often horrible. This creates a number of problems. The first obvious problem is that it eliminates judicial discretion, which weakens our judicial system. Also, mandatory minimum sentences are often intended to punish crimes that are driven by other social factors. We are therefore exacerbating troubling social phenomena, such as the overrepresentation of members of racialized populations or indigenous people in the prison and legal systems.
Some crimes, like drug possession and use, are public health issues and not law and order issues. We cannot minimize how important these issues are.
The facts, from Canada and elsewhere, show three things. First is obviously the social impact, as I just explained. Second is that, on several occasions, the courts struck down some of the legislation that was passed during the previous Parliament. For example, they threw out the Conservative provisions around mandatory minimums. Third, the mandatory minimums did not achieve the goals of increasing public safety, putting dangerous criminals behind bars and reducing recidivism rates.
I brought up this issue in reference to the previous government. What does this have to do with this bill introduced by the current Liberal government? During the previous Parliament, a number of Liberal members spoke out against such policies. At the time, the Minister of Justice and other members of the current government said loud and clear that this was an issue that needed to be fixed quickly. Now, we see that Bill C-75, which they already took far too long to introduce, does nothing to address this issue, even though the Liberals have been in government for three years.
My colleague from Edmonton Strathcona raised the issue with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice earlier today. The parliamentary secretary responded that it was an issue the government was seized with. The time for considering this issue is long past, which has become a trend with this government. This policy was doomed to fail even before the Liberals were elected, because it penalizes the people we want to help out of poverty so that they can contribute to their communities and our society. The Liberals missed an opportunity to fix this very important issue that has been around for a long time.
Certain U.S. states that lean heavily Republican, commonly known as red states, have observed over the course of many years that this policy is doomed to failure. If they have been able to see this, I think a supposedly progressive government should be able to see it too. These judicial reforms have been too long in the making, and I hoped this bill would take care of the problem, but sadly not. As has happened far too often since this government was elected, we will have to look to the Senate for a solution. An excellent bill has been proposed by Senator Kim Pate to address the issue of mandatory minimum sentences. That bill is one to keep an eye on. All in all, the government has missed an opportunity.
I want to talk about another element of the bill, namely hybrid offences. This is a very important part of the bill because it should help speed up the administration of justice. However, we have learned that this measure could increase the burden on the provinces. It is important to remember that the provinces are responsible for the administration of justice.
Representatives of the Quebec bar told the committee that it is not so concerning for them, because Quebec already has a very robust justice system that gives the prosecutor significant discretion. The Crown works hard to assess cases appropriately in order to prevent a backlog and minimize delays in the justice system.
When we are placing an additional burden on the provinces and have to rely on the provincial governments' goodwill, it is a sign that the federal government has a lot of work to do to make all this easier. Obviously, Bill C-75 does not really achieve that objective.
Unfortunately, it looks like my time is up. There were other elements I would have liked to address. This is, of course, a very large and complicated bill. The Liberals missed an opportunity to carry out the necessary administrative reforms to our justice system.