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View Garnett Genuis Profile
Madam Speaker, I was not planning on speaking tonight, but after hearing the words of the parliamentary secretary, I felt it was necessary to respond to some of the things that were said.
I am very pleased to be supporting this initiative by my colleague. I spoke in favour of it at second reading. The arguments that are being used against this bill so badly miss the mark and yet more subtly reveal a very troubling attitude of the government and, unfortunately in this case even the NDP, toward private members' business and toward the way in which we should work together in this House.
It has been pointed out that this bill would make substantial changes to our legal framework. Well, I would like to see more private members' bills that make substantive changes. We have a lot of private members' bills that simply recognize things without changing laws, and that is okay, but let us celebrate the fact that a colleague actually took the time to have detailed legislation. That is what private members' business is for. It is the one avenue where individual members of Parliament can put their ideas before the House that reflect things that they are hearing.
It is not sufficient for a parliamentary secretary to say that this is complex so we need a government-led initiative. We are here representing our constituents. Individual members should use this channel for important, substantial proposals, and it is just not good enough to dismiss it that way. If the Liberals do not like it, they should argue against the substance of it, not simply say that they are going to come up with a government-led initiative later on. This is just disgusting, divisive partisanship. Members should argue against the bill if they do not like it, but they should not dismiss it on that basis.
The parliamentary secretary went through and identified all of the different positive aspects of this legislation without seeming to appreciate the fact that he could have proposed substantive amendments to the legislation, rather than just proposing that it be dismissed in its entirety.
Members of the government and of the NDP have argued against higher mandatory minimums. I only have 10 minutes, so I am not going to go into the mandatory minimums debate. I know it is a complex one. It speaks to deeper philosophical ideas about criminal justice, and yes, that is something addressed in this bill, but there is a critical part of this bill which is mandatory screening that is so important, that we know will save lives. If the government members have an issue with the mandatory minimums section, they could have proposed an amendment in committee, or they could propose a report stage amendment to strike the relevant clauses, but let us have the discussion. Let us move forward on mandatory screening.
Let us remember that this is something that was supported in a previous Parliament by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. It recommended mandatory screening because that committee was able to, through its study, identify that this is an initiative that saves lives. We know that mandatory screening would save lives. We have seen the evidence from a wide variety of jurisdictions. This has been studied by various committees. Now let us move forward with this because we know the impact that it would have.
Going through the arguments that we have heard, it is unbelievable to me. The government said that the process for a government bill involves a more robust parliamentary record and this requires the involvement of government lawyers. There is the opportunity for all kinds of different people to provide that same kind of evidence through the parliamentary process envisioned and created by a private member's bill.
Let us remember also that the member proposing this is a former public safety minister. He is not somebody who is new to this House, although if he were, I still would say the member has a right to bring forward substantive legislation. He is a member who has experience in this area, who has worked with bureaucrats and public servants on these issues. He has more experience in cabinet and more experience directly being responsible for these files than the parliamentary secretary has, who denounced this bill with his mealy-mouthed bureaucratic words that do not actually deal with the substance of the legislation. Let us actually dig into this discussion. Let us actually talk about the bill and let us move it forward.
The best thing the government can come up with are these small, around-the-edges arguments, such as the coming-into-force date is too soon. Well, change the coming-into-force date if that is such a big problem. We are talking about legislation that all the evidence shows will save hundreds of lives. If the government's problem is the coming-into-force date and that is its basis for wanting to tear up an opposition private member's bill, I do not think that is the real reason. What we heard from the parliamentary secretary is that the Liberals are going to have a government-led initiative later on. If this is about taking the political credit for it, then this makes sense from the Liberals' way of thinking. They want to throw out an opposition bill so that they can bring forward government legislation. I do not care who gets the credit for this bill; let us just get it done.
The government has not proposed any legislation yet. If it was in such a hurry on this, if it thought mandatory screening was a good idea, it should have proposed legislation by now. If not, let us move forward with this bill. Let us expedite this bill. We will give the Liberals full credit for supporting this bill if they do the right thing. It is not about who gets the credit. This is too important. It does not matter if it is a government-led initiative or an initiative led by a private member. This is something that needs to get done, because it is going to save lives.
We heard an argument from the NDP that I want to address. My friend from Victoria expressed the concern that added police powers may have a negative impact on minority communities. These are concerns that need to be considered and taken seriously, but there is absolutely nothing about mandatory screening that in any way fundamentally affects those concerns one way or the other. There is the concern now of the possibility of profiling. There will also be a concern afterward about the possibility of profiling, but I would argue that we are better off, even on that score, under this legislation.
Right now, a person can only be legally asked for a Breathalyzer if an officer has a certain degree of suspicion. Is there a worry that certain perceptions, certain negative stereotypes, might inform whether officers think they have probable cause? There is that possibility, but if there is mandatory screening, and everyone who goes through a checkstop is screened, that actually creates a much greater level of equality. That creates an equal playing field. Notwithstanding the importance of those concerns and the need to discuss them in an ongoing way, this bill is actually a positive step with respect to those things. In any event, it certainly does not make things worse. Yes, we need to talk about concerns about profiling, but there is no way in which Bill C-226 changes those dynamics whatsoever.
These are just fundamentally bad arguments we are hearing from the other side, not just arguments I disagree with but poorly formed arguments that talk about issues that are completely unrelated to the substance of the issue. That the parliamentary secretary says the things he says is dismissive of the role of private members, of the legitimate channel of private members' business, and of the real experience of this private member, who is a former public safety minister. He understands these issues. The parliamentary secretary clearly is either not understanding the issues or is glued to talking points he has been given by the minister.
We have to move forward. Again, I do not care who takes the credit here. This is about lives. If there is a government-led initiative, it should have proposed it by now, and if there is not, let us move forward with a piece of legislation that is already on the table. Let us have a vote. I call on members of the government. Clearly, the cabinet members are not going to change their minds, but members of the government, members who have exercised their legitimate rights and independence before, have this opportunity to stand up for the legitimacy of using private members' business to make substantive legislative changes but also to stand up for a simple initiative that is constitutional. Peter Hogg says it is constitutional. It is effective, it is efficient, and we know it will save lives. When this measure comes to a vote, it is up to those members to decide whether we take the action we need to take or not, because lives will depend on how those members vote.
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