Mr. Speaker, criminal justice reform, after 10 years of the previous government, is badly needed. I see the impacts of it in the city that I represent daily, monthly, and yearly. As we move forward with a new approach to criminal justice, we will see collections of bills move forward under the Minister of Justice.
One of the issues I am concerned about is the arbitrariness with which judges are being treated and some of the mandatory minimum sentences that would remove the ability of judges to do what they are paid to do, which is to listen to evidence and make decisions based on evidence presented in court, not ideology presented on the floor of Parliament. It does not mean that all mandatory sentences are bad. In extraordinarily serious cases, we know there are standards that society expects us to sustain. However, in my city, there is a situation where, quite often, young people charged with having guns are on a five-year cycle of going into jail and coming out together. We can almost guess, neighbourhood by neighbourhood, year by year, which community is going to be impacted, because five years earlier there was a raid in that community. Everyone goes into prison together, everyone comes out together, and there has been very little reform.
We also know that in the criminal justice system a lot of the programs were cancelled. It was not just the prison farms that were cancelled, a lot of the reform practices in the Canadian penitentiary system were stripped as part of budget cuts, and it has left inmates coming out of prison, having served their time, in a horrible state. We know there need to be changes in a whole series of those fronts.
We also know that in Ontario, in particular, the incarceration rate for Canadians of African descent, black Canadians, is off the chart. Young people in our cities who are of Caribbean or African descent and have been here for 200 to 300 years are being charged differently, sentenced differently, and do their time differently. We know that criminal justice needs to be reformed.
I look forward to conversations with the committee, which is clearly working well, and to the amendments that I know the justice minister is working on, to bring forward some of these changes so that our criminal justice system not only protects Canadians, but also reforms criminals to prevent us from having to deal with repeat offenders. We need to make sure we get smart on crime, not just tough on crime. The previous government was so convinced that it could punish its way into a safer Canada that, quite frankly, it lost sight of the fact that we need to reform prisoners and change their behaviour, because they will get out at some point.
The way people go through the prison system also needs to be changed, and that involves not having mandatory minimum sentences necessarily, but the appropriate sentences with the appropriate reforms and appropriate rehabilitation put in place so that we protect people and also protect society in the long run. When I hear the opposition talking about a collaborative process and a process of consensus, it makes me very happy that the conversations are going to be rich ones and will bring the full experience of all Canadians to the table when decisions are made.
I look forward to the legislation that the member is talking about being further debated, as well as other changes to the Criminal Code moving forward, because, as I said, we need to get smart on crime, not just tough on crime. We need to make Canada safe, but we also need to make sure we keep Canada safe by making sure the prison system does not create more criminals.