Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Motion No. 161, which seeks a review of the record suspension program as amended in Bill C-10, the Safe Streets and Communities Act, enacted by the previous Conservative government. I would like to thank the member for Saint John—Rothesay for introducing the motion and providing me the opportunity to recall some of the excellent work done in the realm of justice and law and order by the previous government.
The Safe Streets and Communities Act introduced many important and necessary changes to how our criminal justice system worked and focused on protecting victims of crime. The bill was thoroughly vetted, with over 200 hours of debate between committee and the House. By the time Bill C-10 was introduced, Conservatives had done much to reform the justice system. We passed mandatory minimum sentences for gang-related murders and drive-by shootings. We eliminated the shameful practice of giving two-for-one credit for time served in pretrial custody. We strengthened the national sex offender registry and passed legislation ensuring that drug dealers were not let out of prison after serving a mere one-sixth of their sentences, not to mention the outstanding track record our government had on crime prevention.
Bill C-10, as just one of the over 25 bills we passed to reform our Justice system, continued in the tradition of those Conservative measures to crack down on crime by legislating many new and improved measures. Some of those measures included increasing the penalties for sexual offences against children. lt targeted organized drug crime by toughening sentences for narcotics trafficking. lt protected foreign workers who were at risk of becoming victims of human trafficking or exploitation. Notably, Bill C-10 enacted the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act, which allowed the victims of terror attacks to sue both the individual responsible and those who supported that individual. lt granted broader leeway for the Minister of Public Safety to decide if someone who committed crimes overseas, including acts of terror, should be allowed to come back to Canada.
These are points of particular interest now as a comparison to the Liberal government's record on terrorists, their victims and the victims of crime overall. The Liberal government has sought to bring ISIS fighters back into Canada. The Liberals willingly wrote a cheque for $10.5 million to convicted terrorist Omar Khadr. Where is the respect for the victims of terrorist attacks? Where is the respect for their families, for Tabitha Speer?
Compare and contrast the record of the previous Conservative government to the Liberal government on any of these issues and it quickly becomes clear that the previous Conservative government was focused squarely on protecting the rights of victims, while the Liberal government is focused on protecting the rights of criminals. I understand this is a bold statement to make, but I have a hard time seeing the changes the government is making to our justice system in any other way. While the previous Conservative government ensured that criminals faced the consequences of their actions, the Liberal government has introduced Bill C-75, a bill that opens the door to shockingly lenient sentences for crimes such as abducting children, advocating genocide, impaired driving causing bodily harm and even engaging in terrorist activities.
I am bringing these issues into focus in this debate today to make a point. The Liberal government has an appalling track record on this file. It has continually weakened the protections for victims of crime, while making life easier for criminals. I believe it is crucial to remember the government's record while discussing the question underlined in the motion.
There are certain individuals who would be greatly pleased to use this motion as an opportunity to call for the wholesale repeal of Bill C-10. Engaging in that discussion would be a mistake. I am always willing to discuss and debate the merits of particular and fine points of the legislative track record of our former government; however, Bill C-10 was clearly a step in the right direction in that it placed the emphasis on the role of the victim in our justice system and ensured that criminals faced the consequences for their actions.
Let me be clear. I believe it is important to review the impacts of changes to a law. ln fact, I welcome reviews of legislation, as too often governments of all stripes pass laws with the very best of intentions, which may result in an end very different than what the government had in mind.
Given the bill became law nearly six years ago, it may be a good idea to ensure that the changes made to the record suspension program are accomplishing that which they were intended to do. ln fact, my hon. colleague for Saint John—Rothesay states it very clearly in the early part of the motion before us today, which reads:
That the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security be instructed to undertake a study of the Record Suspension Program to: (a) examine the impact of a record suspension to help those with a criminal record reintegrate into society;
There is the line “reintegrate into society”.
The ideal outcome of a prison sentence is not merely for offenders to face the consequences of their bad actions, but for them to reform into productive members of society. However, there must be a clear litmus test to ensure offenders have indeed reformed their ways.
We have a system of criminal records to protect citizens from the possibility of becoming unwitting victims of a previous offender. However, in a just society, a society founded on Judeo-Christian principles, there ought to be an opportunity for redemption. This is why the record suspension program exists, to give another chance to those who have proven themselves reformed.
ln order to access this program, however, the litmus test I alluded to earlier must be met. Bill C-10 set the standard as 10 years lived crime-free for serious crimes or five years for summary offences. lt also disqualified those who proved themselves too dangerous, by including those convicted of sexual offences against children and those convicted of three indictable offences, from ever being eligible to apply. Bill C-10 ensured that offenders would pay their own way through this system and increased the record suspension application fee to reflect that belief.
ln crafting the bill, the previous government believed that this standard would best protect the community, respect the rights of victims and provide those who had proven themselves deserving a second opportunity. Now, perhaps enough time has passed for the results of the these changes to be reviewed.
I am sure that all of us in this place wish to ensure that the process of the record suspension program is not hindering long-rehabilitated individuals from becoming productive members of society. However, let me again state the importance of retaining the focus on this aspect of Bill C-10. The Safe Streets and Communities Act placed the focus squarely on the rights of victims.
Listening to those who wish to repeal the bill would be a step backward for our justice system. I remain cautiously optimistic that the motion before us today will provide the opportunity to further strengthen our justice system.