Interventions in the House of Commons
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View Bardish Chagger Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Bardish Chagger Profile
2019-06-19 21:56 [p.29445]
Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties, and I think if you seek it, you will find unanimous consent for the following motion.
I move:
That, notwithstanding any Standing or Special Order or usual practice of the House:
(a) the motion respecting the Senate Amendments to Bill C-91, An Act respecting Indigenous Languages, be deemed adopted;
(b) the motion respecting the Senate Amendments to Bill C-92, An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families, be deemed adopted;
(c) Bill C-98, An Act to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act and the Canada Border Services Agency Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be deemed to have been concurred in at the report stage, and deemed read a third time and passed;
(d) Bill C-101, An Act to amend the Customs Tariff and the Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act, be deemed to have been concurred in at the report stage, and deemed read a third time and passed on division; and
(e) when the House adjourns on Thursday, June 20, 2019, it shall stand adjourned until Monday, September 16, 2019, provided that, for the purposes of any Standing Order, it shall be deemed to have been adjourned pursuant to Standing Order 28 and be deemed to have sat on Friday, June 21, 2019.
View Ralph Goodale Profile
Lib. (SK)
View Ralph Goodale Profile
2019-03-01 10:04 [p.26003]
moved that Bill C-83, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another Act, be read the third time and passed.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I am very glad that we have reached together the third reading stage of Bill C-83, legislation that would significantly strengthen our federal corrections system in a variety of important ways. It would make institutions safer both for employees and for inmates. It would enhance support for the victims of crime. By improving the ability of the Correctional Service of Canada to successfully rehabilitate and safely reintegrate people who have broken the law, this legislation will better protect Canadians in communities across the country.
The bill's main feature is the replacement of the current practice of administrative segregation with structured intervention units, or what is commonly known as SIUs. This is a new system that would allow inmates to be separated from the rest of the institution when that needs to happen for safety reasons, while giving them more time out of their cells, more meaningful contact with other people and greater access to mental health care and other rehabilitative interventions.
I would like to thank the members who participated in the meetings of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, as well as the many individuals who appeared as witnesses or submitted briefs. The bill was reviewed in meticulous detail, and the participants were, by and large, motivated by a sincere desire to strengthen our correctional system.
In response to witness testimony, committee members made a number of important amendments. Strangely, the opposition has been arguing that this is somehow a bad thing. We make no apologies for being receptive to feedback and willing to let legislators legislate. It is a testament to the strength of our parliamentary process that at least one amendment was accepted at committee stage from every party that made a submission during the committee's study of Bill C-83. There were even situations where an amendment was proposed by a member of one party and then subamended by a member of another party and then supported by both of them together. This stands in stark contrast to the way that things worked during the Harper days in Parliament. The Conservative government generally operated as though its bills were immaculately conceived and good-faith amendments were dismissed as heretical.
An hon. member: It is true.
Hon. Ralph Goodale: The opposition has correctly noted that is not our government's approach, and I am very proud of the fact that we have worked together on amendments.
Most of the amendments made at the committee responded directly to various questions that were raised by witnesses about whether the SIUs would work as intended. For example, there were concerns that the opportunity for time out of the cell might be offered in the middle of the night, which would obviously be unreasonable. Therefore, the bill now prohibits that.
There were concerns that inmates' interactions with other people would only occur through the doors or through the meal slots. The bill now makes clear that this is to be a truly exceptional practice.
Some witnesses thought that the provision relieving the Correctional Service, in exceptional circumstances, of the obligation to provide time out of the cell could be too broadly construed. Therefore, the bill now includes a specific list of the kinds of extraordinary circumstances that provision is meant to respond to, like natural disasters.
While the bill already allowed medical professionals to recommend that an inmate be removed from the SIU, some witnesses wanted greater assurance that such a recommendation would in fact be taken seriously. Therefore, the bill now requires that if the warden disagrees with the recommendation, the matter would be immediately elevated to a senior panel external to that particular institution.
These and other amendments preserve the fundamental objectives of Bill C-83, while providing more clarity and confidence that the new system would function as planned and accomplish the transformation that is intended.
There is one other thing that happened at committee that I would like to highlight.
Along with their amended version of the bill, committee members sent this House a specific recommendation, that as we go about replacing segregation, particular attention should be given to the circumstances at women's institutions. Under the existing system, women tend to be housed in segregation less frequently and for shorter periods of time than men, and there is almost always a serious mental health issue involved. Also, while segregation cells and regular cells are quite similar at men's institutions, the same is not the case for women.
I am, therefore, pleased to report that in line with the committee's recommendation, the Correctional Service is taking a gender-informed approach to the implementation of SIUs. The service has confirmed that it will be engaging stakeholders, such as the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, as it develops plans to implement the new law in a way that is appropriate for women's corrections.
Having completed a brief overview of the work that was done at the committee, I would now like to turn to the report stage debate that has occurred in this House in recent days. One notable outcome of the report stage process was the addition of an external oversight mechanism, thanks to an amendment proposed by the member for Oakville North—Burlington. As I mention that particular member, let me also congratulate her on becoming the new Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health.
SIU placements now, thanks to that amendment, would be subject to binding review by independent external decision-makers. This process would kick in if, for whatever reason, an inmate in an SIU does not get his or her minimum hours out of a cell or minimum hours of meaningful human contact for five straight days or for 15 days out of 30. At that point, the independent decision-maker would determine if the Correctional Service has taken all reasonable steps to provide those hours out of the cell and may make corrective recommendations. If after a week, the decision-maker is not satisfied, he or she can order the inmate removed from the SIU.
The independent decision-maker would also get involved if the Correctional Service is keeping an inmate in an SIU despite the recommendation of a health care professional. A review would be conducted of each SIU placement after 90 days and every 60 days thereafter. That is in addition to internal reviews that would be done by warden and the commissioner. Importantly, the determinations of the independent external decision-makers would be appealable to the Federal Court by both the inmate and the Correctional Service of Canada in accordance with section 18 of the Federal Courts Act.
Independent oversight is something that has been advocated by a number of stakeholders, including The John Howard Society, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the BC Civil Liberties Association and Aboriginal Legal Services, as well as the correctional investigator. I was, therefore, a bit surprised during the third reading proceedings to see the NDP join with the Conservatives to oppose adding independent oversight to the bill.
At committee, the NDP member for Beloeil—Chambly said that he indeed wanted independent oversight in the legislation, and the NDP member for Salaberry—Suroît made several calls for independent oversight in this place on Tuesday of this week during the debate. However, on Tuesday night, for some reason, the NDP voted against independent oversight and in favour of keeping all the reviews of SIU placements internal to the Correctional Service. That was an absolutely baffling turn of events, and I would be very interested to hear NDP members explain it during the course of the debate today.
There were a couple of other points made during the report stage debate that are worth touching upon. First, Conservative members accused us of not putting any resources toward the implementation of Bill C-83. I suppose none of them have had the opportunity to read the fall economic statement, which allocated in fact $448 million over six years to “support amendments to transform federal corrections, including the introduction of a new correctional interventions model to eliminate segregation.”
I suppose that the Conservative members of the public safety committee did not actually read the written response that was provided to them by my department in November outlining the breakdown of that funding.
As was set out in that document, we are putting nearly $300 million over six years, with $71.7 million ongoing, towards staffing and other resources required to run the SIUs. The other approximately $150 million over six years, with $74.3 million ongoing, will be devoted to enhancing mental health care both within SIUs and throughout the correctional system.
All of that is on top of the nearly $80 million for mental health care in corrections that was provided in the last two federal budgets.
In my meetings with the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers and the Union of Safety and Justice Employees, a key point of emphasis has been the importance of having the staffing levels and other resources needed to safely implement this legislation. The new investments that I have just outlined will in fact ensure that is the case.
That brings me to the matter of staff safety, which has also come up repeatedly during this debate, as indeed it should. The success of our corrections system relies on the skills and dedication of correctional officers, parole officers, program officers, medical professionals, elders, aboriginal liaison officers, chaplains, support staff and a great many other employees and volunteers.
Ensuring that they have a safe work environment is a prerequisite for everything that the Correctional Service of Canada is mandated to do. That is why Bill C-83 allows inmates who pose a security risk to be separated from the general inmate population. The enhancements to mental health care and rehabilitative interventions are also important for staff safety, because staff will be safer when inmates make correctional progress and when their mental health issues are under control.
It is worth remembering that in 2014, the head of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers at that time said, “We have to actively work to rid the Conservatives from power.” He said that because he felt that the Harper government's policies and budget cuts were endangering correctional officers.
Those cuts were deep. During their last term in office, under their deficit reduction action plan, the Conservatives cut $846 million from the Correctional Service of Canada. Those cuts had a considerable impact on institutional and public safety. For example, they resulted in a freeze of transfers to the organizations that run halfway houses, which play a key role in the safe reintegration of former inmates. That freeze is finally ending this year.
Conservative cuts resulted in the near elimination of the CoSA program, an initiative that has been shown to dramatically reduce the recidivism rates of sex offenders. We restored funding for that effective program in 2017.
The Conservative cuts caused the closure of prison farms, which serve important rehabilitative and vocational purposes. The work to reopen the farms is now under way.
When I met recently with parole officers, they explained how cuts to so-called administrative functions can affect public safety. For instance, when the people fired are those who handle billing and travel arrangements, that work has to get done by parole officers, who then have less time to spend with the inmates whose rehabilitative progress they are supposed to be supervising.
There is naturally more work to be done to compensate for the decade of Conservative cuts and policies that treated rehabilitation as the opposite of public safety. In fact, one cannot have one without the other.
I am pleased with the work we have been able to do so far. Bill C-83 is a vital step as part of that.
I will close with this. Court rulings finding the existing segregation regime unconstitutional are due to take effect in coming months. The courts have recognized explicitly that simply ending segregation without having a new system in place to replace it would put correctional workers, employees and inmates at greater risk.
The replacement we are proposing in this legislation is clearly a major improvement, with double the time out of the cell, a focus on mental health care and rehabilitation, independent external oversight and the investments to make it all work. Just to make sure, I will be appointing an advisory committee to monitor the implementation of the new SIU system. This committee will comprise experts with a diversity of relevant experience in areas such as corrections, rehabilitation and mental health care. Its role will be to advise the commissioner on an ongoing basis and to alert me directly if anything is not proceeding as it should.
Bill C-83 is legislation I hope we can all support. I thank the hon. members who engaged in a thoughtful study of the bill and proposed constructive amendments. I want to thank the witnesses who provided the informed and useful feedback that led directly to some of those specific amendments.
I want to thank in advance the correctional employees who will be charged with implementing this new system, and who work hard every day in very, very challenging circumstances, to effect successful rehabilitation, safe reintegration and the protection of Canadians and our communities.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2019-03-01 13:04 [p.26032]
Mr. Speaker, it is nice to see that this legislation is at third reading stage. I had the opportunity to express a number of thoughts on the legislation at second reading in particular, and I suspect that if we were to check, I likely would have implied, because I know the minister's approach to legislation quite well, that the government is always open to looking at ways to change legislation. My colleague and friend from Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, who spoke just before me, referenced some amendments. That is a nice way to start my comments.
We have this wonderful process that allows us to go through second reading and into committee stage, and often amendments are brought forward at committee stage. What is interesting about this legislation is that it exemplifies how open this government really is to opposition amendments. My understanding is that amendments from the opposition provided additional strength to the legislation before us. That tells me, in good part, that committees can be constructive and effective in improving legislation, in dealing with reports and even in discussion. It is a question of having confidence in our standing committees and allowing them to do the fantastic work they can do. Today, Bill C-83 is a good example of legislation being enhanced, and as a direct result, all Canadians will benefit.
Bill C-83, to me, is a good example of how this government has approached the whole crime and safety issue, recognizing just how important it is that no matter where one lives in Canada, there is an expectation that government is going to do what it can to make our communities safer places to be.
This is legislation that would do that, and I do not say that lightly. The majority of people incarcerated in our jail facilities, we have to realize, will leave at some point in time. When they leave, we want to ensure as far as possible that they have the opportunities to succeed and never return to a prison setting. If we are successful in doing that, it means that in Winnipeg North and all over Canada there will be fewer crimes. With fewer crimes, there are fewer victims.
There should be no doubt that when people are guilty of something, yes, there needs to be a consequence for inappropriate behaviour. That is why we have jails, probation and an array of consequences for individuals who commit offences. We also need to recognize that one way we can improve safety in our communities is by ensuring, wherever we can, that there is a sense of responsibility by providing programming and services to minimize the number of repeat offenders. That is what I like about Bill C-83 more than anything else.
There are other aspects to the legislation that would also make a difference. One example is body scanners. I had the opportunity to tour provincial facilities and even some federal facilities in my days as an MLA. Some provincial facilities use scanning technology, from what I understand, and with this legislation, we would better enable body scans to take place in our federal institutions.
I think that is a good thing, because we often hear of drugs, among other things, being smuggled into facilities. This is one of the ways we will be able to reduce that kind of smuggling. It will be a safer environment.
We not only hear about this from individuals in the Ottawa bubble, if I can put it that way, but, more important, we hear it from our constituents and correctional officers. These types of things can really make a difference.
At times, the Conservatives can be somewhat misleading. I am trying to put it as kindly as I can. When they say we are not providing the funds necessary, it is important to recognize that the government is committing almost a half-billion dollars over the next six years to ensure correctional officers and inmates have the supports they need and our system will have a safer environment.
I find it a little odd that the Conservative Party and New Democratic Party do not necessarily support legislation that a sound majority of our constituents would want us to support. There is some really good stuff in here, like the one about audio recordings. I have used the example of someone who is a victim of a sexual assault and whose perpetrator will now go to a hearing. Under the current law, the victim is unable to receive the audio of that hearing. I am sure members of all sides can appreciate the emotions a victim of a sexual assault would feel when put in the same room as the perpetrator. Why would we not allow for that individual to have a copy of the audio recording at a later date? This legislation would allow that.
On the one hand, some very obvious things within the legislation would have a very positive impact. Then some wonderful little things would make a real difference for victims. Whether it is this legislation or the legislation on military justice, when we talked about the Victims Bill of Rights, there are really encouraging things in the legislation.
We are moving forward on a number of different fronts as we modernize. Whether it is the military justice or civil justice, at the end of the day, we want our communities to feel safe. We want to work toward minimizing the number of victims by preventing crimes from taking place whenever we can. We want to ensure there is a consequence to criminal activities. That is why we have different tools to ensure that takes place. I am encouraged by the attitude of the government, in particular, in trying to ensure we are moving forward on this front.
When it comes to the issue of segregation, it is interesting to hear the contrast between the Conservatives and the NDP. The NDP says there is no change in the segregation and the Conservatives say we are going too far on this issue. The reality is that this is a response to the Supreme Court's decision, and we are complying with that decision with the new system we will be putting in place.
Those structured intervention units are in fact a progressive way forward that will ensure that we meet the Supreme Court's requirements, while at the same time allowing more services to be made available. Again, we will hopefully minimize the repeat offenders. We do not want people who are leaving our institutions to be committing more crimes.
We want safer communities, and that is really what all of this is about, trying to get communities across Canada to be safer, more harmonious places to live. It is with great pleasure that I support Bill C-83.
View James Bezan Profile
View James Bezan Profile
2019-02-22 10:29 [p.25672]
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand to speak at third reading of Bill C-77, the amendments to the National Defence Act to add some new guidelines and strengths within the military justice system. The Conservatives have been calling for this for some time.
The Conservatives are committed to standing up for the rights of victims and ensuring that victims have a more effective voice in the criminal justice system. It was our previous Conservative government that enacted the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights. We support enshrining those rights for victims in our military justice system. That is why, in the last Parliament, we introduced Bill C-71. That really is the foundation that Bill C-77, which we are debating today, is based upon.
The Conservative Party will always stand up for the rights of victims, and that is why are supportive of seeing Bill C-77 passed and enacted.
We have to ensure we restore the rights of victims and ensure they are at the heart of our justice system. That is why the Victims Bill of Rights would now be mirrored in military law, once it is passed through Senate.
I hope that some of the questions I still have about the bill, as well some of the questions we just heard about self-harm, may be addressed when the bill goes for further study and debate over in the other place.
I am the vice-chair of the Standing Committee on National Defence. At committee we heard from numerous witnesses. Those who support victims were very loud in their support of the legislation. It would give the victims: enhanced access to information through the appointment of a victim liaison officer, which is welcomed by victims in the Canadian Armed Forces; enhanced protection for those victims through new safety, security and privacy provisions, so victims do not have to be concerned about their information being used inappropriately through a violation of their privacy; enhanced participation by allowing victims to read impact statements at the time of sentencing of those who committed a crime against them; and, when possible, enhanced restitution through the court martial process consideration to provide restitution for the order of the losses to those who were victimized.
Our previous Conservative government took significant steps to protect Canadians and to stand up for victims of crime. We understand that the highest priority for any government must be to ensure the safety of its citizens, including those who are serving in the Canadian Armed Forces. It is a responsibility of government. As a Conservative government, we took that seriously. I am glad to see the minister has taken it seriously with the amendments in Bill C-77.
Putting the rights of victims back at the heart of the justice system is important and it is crucial to ensure fairness, to ensure that our justice system is compassionate and that it provides a balance, both to the rights of the victims and the rights of those convicted. It is about courtesy, compassion and respect, and that has to be included at every stage of the justice process, whether it is in civilian courts or military courts.
Our previous Conservative government was committed to reversing that trend and keeping our streets and communities safe for Canadians and their families. We had taken concrete steps to see that offenders accounted for their actions.
All of us on this side of the House were proud of our previous government's record, a record that includes the Safe Streets and Communities Act, the reform of not criminally responsible legislation, laws against sexual exploitation and, of course, cyber intimidation and bullying.
We, as Conservatives, believe that for far too long the criminal justice system was about the rights of criminals. We believe the victims have to be placed at the very heart of the justice system. They deserve, and should have, the right to information, the right to protection, the right to participation and, where possible, the right to restitution. That is encompassed in the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, which is landmark legislation that will be reflected now in the National Defence Act as it applies to our military.
Many people wonder why we have a dual system, one for civilians and one for our military members. I would like to use a quote that came from Maurice de Saxe, who used to be the marshal general of France in 1732. In writing about the science of warfare, he said:
...military the soul of armies. If it is not established with wisdom and maintained with unshakeable resolution you will have no soldiers. Regiments and armies will only be contemptible, armed mobs, more dangerous to their own country than to the enemy...
We have witnessed that in modern times in other countries around the world. That is why in 1950 the National Defence Act was enacted to established a military justice system.
We already have what I consider the best of the best who serve in the Canadian Armed Forces. Because they are the best of the best and because they are given the order to use lethal force when necessary in defending Canada and Canadians and those who cannot defend themselves around the world, they have to be held to a higher standard. We need to have a military justice system in place that reflects the law of the land in Canada, but still hold to that same standard, values and principles when they are deployed abroad.
As the minister already pointed out, some of the changes in Bill C-77 build upon the code of service conduct and Operation Honour in particular. We want to ensure we have effective ways to stomp out sexual misconduct, to eliminate harassment within the Canadian Armed Forces and to deal with intolerance.
The Gladue decision of the Supreme Court a number of years ago has been put into the decision-making process through the court martial system as well as through the summary hearings that have been put in place. We want to ensure that the ongoing defence of parallel military justice systems that has been supported by the Supreme Court of Canada continues.
In the Généreux case in 1992, the MacKay case and more recently in the Moriarity case of 2015, they have consistently held up that the National Defence Act and the criminal justice system is for the maintenance of discipline, efficiency and morale of the Canadian Armed Forces. It stands by section 11(f) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is that there is an exemption given to members of the Canadian Armed Forces and to the chain of command to carry out military justice on a parallel track.
I raised concerns at committee and when the bill was at second reading about the recent Court Martial Appeals Court decision in the Beaudry case, in which the judge advocate general requested to have that stand at this point in time so they could take that case to the Supreme Court and have it pass a decision on it. Again, we continue to see some people who do not believe the military should have its own justice system and that cases should be tried in civilian court except when they are deployed.
Overall, we need to continue to have that chain of command, the enforcement of the Queen's rules and orders and that those regulations are reflective of some of the concerns that were brought up at committee.
A number of very powerful witnesses appeared at committee. One person was Jean-Guy Perron, a retired colonel, He was a JAG officer and also sat as a justice on the court martial court. We also had compelling testimony given by the Barreau du Québec. It raised a number of concerns where there could be charter challenges down the road if we did not get this right.
One thing that was very evident was that the change of summary trial to summary hearing may reduce the burden of proof. Right now, the burden of proof is the same as it is in civil court, which is that it has to be beyond a reasonable doubt. That has been modified somewhat and the accused could fact even more difficulty going forward.
I will quote retired Lieutenant-Colonel Jean-Guy Perron. He said:
Although a summary infraction is not an offence under the NDA and a summary hearing is not a court martial or a service tribunal; the failure “without lawful excuse, the proof of which lies on the person, to appear” as ordered, or to remain in attendance before an officer conducting a summary hearing, as a person charged with having committed a service infraction can lead to an accusation under s. 118.1 (Failure to appear or to attend), a trial by court martial and possibly a criminal conviction.
This is all in relationship to the summary hearings process. He went on to say:
Would “minor sanctions” be identical or quite similar to “minor punishments”? Most probably and, if so, the punishments of confinement to ship or barracks and extra work and drill raise concerns....COs can confine to ship or barracks for up to 21 days....This deprivation of liberty can be very strict and would be similar to conditional sentence of imprisonment (“house arrest”).
Since that would now be considered imprisonment through a summary hearing without actually having a court martial process, would the rights of that individual be violated by not having the right to a fair trial because it has been dealt with through the chain of command at a summary hearing?
Essentially, he is saying that house arrest or confinement to barracks is full incarceration as put by the Supreme Court of Canada.
I mentioned burden of proof earlier. Bill C-77 keeps the same sentencing objectives and principles as found in a criminal proceeding, most probably the same procedure for summary hearings as presently exists for summary trials in chapter 108 of the Queen's Regulations and Orders, and increases the punishment power, such as higher finds, of an officer conducting the hearing, while reducing the threshold of conviction from beyond a reasonable doubt to a balance of probabilities.
We had a lot of debate on the difference between “beyond a reasonable doubt” and “a balance of probabilities”. I feel somewhat confident that the JAG officers who were present did a good job of explaining the difference and that through the regulations of Bill C-77, when we get to enacting those, coming through the gazetting process, we should be able to mitigate the charter challenge risk and ensure that the rights of those who have been charged will be considered appropriately.
Perron goes on to say:
Under C-77, the accused is liable to be sentenced to a more severe punishment...based on a lower threshold of conviction. The summary hearing under C-77 offers less protections to the accused than what was present in C-71 and what is actually present in the summary trial process.
Therefore, I stress for the minister that now that we heard a very similar concern raised by the Barreau du Québec along with Mr. Perron, we need to incorporate those concerns in the regulation process. We had assurances at committee that this would be done. We brought forward amendments that were not accepted at that stage on how we dealt with it. However, I was glad to see at least one of our amendments that would to clarify the rank structure on who could do a summary hearing and who would review which officers, or NCOs or other enlisted members.
The one thing, which we have already discussed, is that we never did get to fully debate paragraph 98(c), which deals with self-harm. It was ruled out of order by the chair, but I want to thank the member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke for bringing it forward. We had Sheila Fynes and her family at committee. They lost their son Corporal Stuart Langridge to suicide in 2008. He served in Bosnia and in Afghanistan. They feel very passionate that paragraph 98(c) of the National Defence Act, which deals with self-harm, adds to the stigmatization, such that those who want to hurt themselves will not come forward for help because they could be charged under the National Defence Act and at the very least be put in front of a summary hearing or could get a full court martial.
We were assured by all the witnesses that this section of the National Defence Act is rarely ever used.
For those who are concerned about those who malign themselves, those who literally go out and shoot themselves in the foot so they do not have to be deployed or who purposely sprain an ankle so they do not have to go on an exercise and carry an 80-pound rucksack and march for 40 miles over the next day, those who try to avoid service, avoid exercises, who do not want to go into theatre, there are plenty of other avenues under the National Defence Act to hold those people to account and bring them to justice for not following orders.
However, when it comes down to the mental health of our servicemen and women who are suffering with PTSD, who are dealing with anxiety and have been in theatre and have witnessed some horrific abuses and atrocities and violations against humanity, those individuals need help, and the last thing we want to do is stigmatize it and send the message that they will be charged under paragraph 98(c) of the National Defence Act for self-harm.
I hope the minister will take this forward and consider it and find a way to bring it quickly back to the House in a different bill, if that is possible. I am sure he would get unanimous consent at all three stages to delete that section of the act. Since it was found to be outside the scope of Bill C-77, I would suggest that we find a different avenue to do it and that we do it as quickly as possible and as compassionately as possible and in a way that will more than help those who struggle with the thought of suicide to step forward.
We have an incredible Canadian Armed Forces. One thing that we recommended through the defence policy review a few years ago, which is reflected in the Liberal defence policy now, is that the number one source of pride within the Canadian Armed Forces is their personnel, and we want to ensure that we give them the tools to do their job. Whether they serve in the Canadian Army, the Royal Canadian Navy or the Royal Canadian Air Force, these brave men and women do incredible work to keep us safe here at home. They stand on guard 24/7. Written on the wall in NORAD, whether down in Colorado Springs or at its Canadian operations in Winnipeg, is a motto that says, “We Have The Watch”, and they are on the watch 24/7.
We often forget that there are all sorts of threats coming at us, whether airborne, seaborne or even potentially on the ground, and because we have troops deployed across this country and around the world, we are safer here at home because they are standing on the wall in places like Latvia, Mali and Ukraine, along with many other locations. They are ensuring that we can continue on with our business, oblivious to what is going on in the world and to potential threats such as cyber-hacking, knocking down our financial systems or our energy sector and blocking off our naval routes to ship our goods back and forth over the sea. Our economy, our safety and our prosperity are built upon us as Canadians, but more importantly, they are defended by those who serve in the Canadian Armed Forces.
On behalf of all Conservative members and all members of the House, I thank them for serving, because they keep us, the true north, strong and free.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2018-11-28 16:58 [p.24114]
Madam Speaker, I would have thought the Conservatives would be a bit more excited about the fairly comprehensive changes in Bill C-75 that would serve our country well.
Prior to the last election, our government made some commitments, and we are seeing some of those commitments fulfilled within this legislation. That is a positive thing.
I want to pick up on the bigger picture of justice. If we were to canvass Canadians and many different stakeholders about their expectations of the judicial system, I would suggest that they would have three big expectations.
The first would be keeping our communities safe, which is also very important to this government, and I would like to think important to all members. This legislation makes significant strides towards keeping our communities safe.
A second would be protecting victims. When it comes to our justice system, one would like to think there is a vested interest in protecting victims. When I say “protecting victims”, I mean that we should be going out of our way to prevent having any victims in the first place. I will comment briefly on that shortly.
The third priority, or expectation, is accountability for offenders.
These three priorities would be accepted by all Canadians. Bill C-75 moves the ball further ahead on these three principles.
There is a difference between the Conservatives' approach to justice issues and this government's approach. Put differently way, there is a difference between the Stephen Harper approach to justice issues and the approach this Liberal government has taken on justice-related issues, whether in this or previous legislation.
We need to recognize that a vast majority of incarcerated individuals will leave our jails. They will go back into our communities. As such, we have a responsibility to ensure that our system allows for better integration. If we are successful at that, we will prevent having further victims in the future. We on this side of the House recognize that.
Listening to speeches given by members on the other side of the House, whether about this or other legislation, one gets the impression that once someone enters our jail system, that person is never going to return to our communities. There is a very good chance that many of those individuals will not return.
However, we must have a system that will work for Canadians by keeping our communities safe, by ensuring that we protect our victims, and ensuring that there is offender accountability.
It is just wrong for the Conservatives to give the impression that this government is looking at ways of minimizing the consequences for serious crimes.
Under this legislation, opposition members say that we would hybridize too many crimes. As a result, they are trying to give the false impression that there would be less serious impacts for those offenders when it came to the weight of the law and incarceration, fines or whatever it might be.
It is important to recognize that we have summary convictions and indictable offences. However, within this proposed legislation, there would be a third component, that being hybridized. We are saying that here is a list of crimes for which the Crown would have some discretion to help determine whether an offence would be an indictable offence.
During second reading, I had the opportunity to listen in on some of the debate. I recall one intervention that bears repeating, because I think most people who are following the debate could relate to the differences. This is what we mean by discretion. At second reading, I recall a Conservative member, and Hansard will reflect this, saying that “kidnapping is kidnapping” and is a serious crime, end of story. It is indictable, so lock up the person and put him or her away for many years.
There is no doubt that kidnapping is a very serious crime. Canadians recognize it as a serious crime. We as a government recognize it as a serious crime. The Conservatives ask why we would hybridize that particular crime. Let me give members a tangible example. I think the constituents I serve would understand why it is important that this be one of those hybridized crimes.
When we think of kidnapping, the first thing that comes to mind is an individual at a school playground identifying a potential victim, putting the victim into a van and disappearing and taking all sorts of horrific actions or maybe kidnapping an individual for the sex trade. There are all sorts of horror stories about kidnapping. I, for one, want those individuals locked up. However, there is a “but”.
For example, divorces occur every day, and some of those divorces are very emotional and involve young children. At times, with a divorce, there are all sorts of issues a child will often have to deal with. There might be a situation where a child has a bad week or a bad day and decides not to go home to the parent who has 100% custody but goes to the non-custodial parent. The other parent then says that the child has disappeared and has been kidnapped. One parent did not have the right to have custody of that child at that time, but the child went to that parent's home, perhaps in tears, or whatever the circumstances were. The point is, the child should not have been at that parent's house, and as a direct result, there is now a kidnapping charge.
I would like to think there is a big difference between that situation and the first situation I described. If members believe that what I just said is accurate and takes place in real life, they should acknowledge that there is a need to support the idea that for certain crimes, for certain actions, we need to incorporate hybridized crimes.
I have a great deal of confidence in our Crowns and the ability of our judicial system to make good decisions. What we are saying is that if a kidnapping like the first example came before the judicial system, I would suggest that the Crown would say that it was an indictable offence and the individual would have to go through a process where, ultimately, there could be years of incarceration, versus another case where it could be classified as a summary conviction. We have seen a number of those crimes that are now eligible, and I suspect that arguments could be made for each and every one.
When we looked at the legislation, one of the major concerns raised by the Conservative Party was the issue of hybridization. Hopefully they now have a better understanding. They raised the issue at second reading and then brought it to the committee stage.
I am actually quite pleased that we are at third reading today, in the sense that it has been a long process to get to this point. The Minister of Justice has demonstrated very clearly that this has been a project of consultation, working with a wide variety of stakeholders, from the beginning right up to the standing committee. Maybe I should expand on that point for a moment.
Our justice system is a joint responsibility. We do not have sole responsibility for judicial matters in Canada. We have shared responsibilities with the provinces. That means that the minister, with the assistance of the parliamentary secretary, and others, no doubt, canvassed and worked with the different provinces and territories to establish priorities that needed to be changed. Those changes, those priorities, are fairly well reflected in this legislation. The minister even went beyond that, in terms of consultations with indigenous people and other stakeholders, to formulate Bill C-75 so that it was ready for first reading, followed by second reading and committee.
That is where I interjected. My interjection was to comment that even when we, in opposition, brought it to committee, a number of changes were introduced by members after listening to the committee presentations. The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights amended Bill C-75 at committee to, for example, remove the provisions regarding routine police evidence, which had laudable intentions but had some undesirable and unintended consequences, particularly for unrepresented accused. It removed the terrorism and advocating genocide offences from the list of those being reclassified. That is the amendment I thought of when I was talking about hybridized offences.
The Conservatives presented that issue in the form of an amendment, and we accepted it, which was completely foreign when Stephen Harper was prime minister. The Conservative Party never ever accepted an opposition motion. Not only—
Mr. Glen Motz: That is because you did not have any good ones. Those were horrible.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: Madam Speaker, we had plenty of amendments, and they went absolutely nowhere with Stephen Harper. Under this government, there have been many amendments, even from the official opposition. This is yet another example of an amendment actually being accepted. Therefore, I believe that the Conservatives accept the principle of what is being suggested when we talk about hybridized crimes and the importance of that. It is a major aspect of the legislation.
The other aspect is preliminary trials. It is interesting to hear the Conservatives and NDP saying the same thing about preliminary trials. What caught me was what the critic for the Conservative Party said today. He said it was not really going to reduce waiting times. I do not believe that. The member opposite said he could quote X or Y, who are somewhat suspicious of it reducing waiting times. I do not believe it. Maybe the member across the way will have to do a little more convincing.
Preliminary hearings consume a great deal of court time. I am not a lawyer, but I used to be the justice critic in the province of Manitoba, and I can recall many of the frustrations of provincial and other Crowns in dealing with preliminary trials. I can remember a discussion I had with a judge on the issue. It was fairly well received by a good number of people who recognized that it would reduce delays.
The NDP and Conservatives said they were highly suspicious that delays would be reduced. The Conservatives were a little more affirmative in saying that they would not be reduced. They said it would only be 3% of cases going before the courts, so what good was it? Three per cent is thousands and thousands of hours. That would make a real difference.
Preliminary trials might have been needed years ago, but this emphasizes why it was so important for this government to do what it made a commitment to do, which was overhaul and improve the system. To give the impression that minimizing the number of preliminary trials will not reduce court delays is just wrong. I believe it is wrong, based on what limited experience, and I underline the word “limited”, I have on this issue. When I look at that number, 3% is a significant number of court cases, not to mention thousands of hours. I believe it would make a difference.
The Conservatives should be supporting this legislation because this is the type of legislation Canadians want. It would keep our communities safer. It would ensure that there was more justice for victims. It would ensure—
View Kelly McCauley Profile
View Kelly McCauley Profile
2018-11-28 17:18 [p.24116]
Madam Speaker, I am a big fan of departmental plans. These are the plans that every single department has to publish at the same time the estimates come out. These plans are signed off by the minister. The plans provide the departmental priorities for the year. They lay out the goals and the priorities.
My colleague across said that the number one priority of the government is keeping communities safe. I would like him to comment on the fact that in the public safety departmental plan, which has been signed off by the Minister of Public Safety, there is something called the “crime severity index”. Under the current government, it is increasing compared to the previous government.
There is another line there that shows the percentage of Canadians who think that crime in their neighbourhood has decreased. My colleague mentioned the priority is keeping communities safe, when the government's own plan calls for a 33% decrease in the number of Canadians who feel their community is safe.
My colleague's second comment was that another priority is protecting victims. In the departmental plans for both public safety and justice, victims are not mentioned once.
My question for my colleague across the way is this. Was he misinforming the House when he said that was a Liberal priority or were the ministers of justice and public safety misinforming the House when they tabled their departmental plans? Which is it?
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2018-11-28 17:20 [p.24116]
Madam Speaker, I talked about a comprehensive approach to deal with the issue of justice. For example, members will find that there is some legislation we have brought in that enshrines victims rights. They will find legislation we have brought in that will ensure mental health services are being provided in our institutions. At the end of the day, the priority areas are keeping our communities safe, ensuring protection for victims, and from my own personal perspective preventing victims in the first place, and ensuring there is a sense of accountability for offenders. To me, those are very much high priorities that we on this side of the House believe in. If we look at not only this piece of legislation but all the different actions the government has taken to date, we will find that we are going to have safer communities.
View Ralph Goodale Profile
Lib. (SK)
View Ralph Goodale Profile
2018-09-20 10:30 [p.21573]
Madam Speaker, the practice was changed by the previous Conservative government in 2012. Actually the law was changed so that this became a voluntary provision. The law now says the vendor simply has to have “no reason to believe that the transferee is not authorized to acquire and possess that kind of firearm.” In other words, they do not have to ask. They can ask, but they do not have to ask.
Of course, vendors have that option, and all the reputable ones that I know actually ask the question to determine that the licence is still valid. Most businesses probably behave in that way. It is just common sense. However, if someone without a PAL is looking to get a shotgun, for example, that person is more likely to try to buy it from a vendor known not to run the licence check.
Bill C-71 would make it an offence not to verify the licence. This is not only important to stop those who have never had a licence from acquiring a non-restricted firearm. If a gun shop is dealing with a regular customer, the sales clerk might be tempted not to check the licence that he or she has probably seen many times before on previous transactions. However, if that customer had recently lost their PAL due to a court order, the sales clerk would have no way to know that unless he or she actually checked its validity with the registrar. Customer service will be important so that verification can be done in a quick and efficient manner.
On firearms record-keeping, Bill C-71 proposes to make record-keeping of non-restricted firearms a requirement for all businesses. With proper authorization, police will then be able to better trace the origins of firearms found at crime scenes. This was a requirement for businesses from 1979 until 2005. It is also a standard requirement across virtually all of the United States. It is simply a good business practice commonly applied already by major retailers like Cabela's, Canadian Tire and many others.
Some people have suggested that this will amount to a new long-gun registry. Of course, for such an argument to be logical, it would also mean that Canada first had a long-gun registry back in 1979. Obviously, that would be nonsense. To make this point crystal clear, the Conservatives moved an amendment in the committee, which reads as follows: “For greater certainty, nothing in this Act shall be construed so as to permit or require the registration of non-restricted firearms.” That amendment was supported unanimously by all members of the public safety committee, who were in total agreement that nothing in Bill C-71 remotely resembles a long-gun registry. That point is now beyond all doubt.
In addition to meeting our platform commitments, we are currently reviewing other options to ensure that firearms do not fall into the wrong hands. For example, we are examining the regulations relating to the safe storage of firearms, especially after hours on commercial premises. Firearms theft from such premises have been steadily rising, and we should try to prevent that trend from getting worse.
We are examining firearms advertising regulations to see if they are appropriate to prohibit the glorification of violence and anti-personnel kinds of paramilitary conduct. We are examining the issue of whether there should be some flagging system with respect to large transactions or bolt sales that may trigger questions on the part of police forces. We are also examining the possibility of enabling medical professionals to flag when they feel a patient may pose a significant risk to the safety of themselves or others.
I would point out that in 2012, Quebec passed what is known as Anastasia's law, which banned firearms in places like schools and relieved physicians of their usual obligations with respect to doctor-patient confidentiality when they felt that someone under their care who owned a firearm might be a danger to themselves or to others. It is a concept that other provinces may wish to examine, and it will be discussed at federal, provincial and territorial meetings this fall.
I will be working with the new Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction on these supplementary measures as well. As members know, the new minister has also been mandated to lead an examination of a ban on handguns and assault weapons in Canada, while not impeding the lawful use of firearms by Canadians. That consultation will be going forward this fall.
When taken together, this strategy represents a responsible firearms package that will help make our communities safer. It will help police forces investigate the illegal use of firearms. At the same time, these measures taken together will not overburden legitimate firearms owners in exercising their legitimate rights.
View Pierre Paul-Hus Profile
Madam Speaker, I rise again today to speak about the logical absurdity at the heart of Bill C-71, an act to amend certain acts and regulations in relation to firearms. We on the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security have read and worked on the text of the bill. The conclusion is inescapable: the Liberals are trying to look like they are fighting crime, but in reality, they seem to be favouring the rights of criminals over those of law-abiding citizens. This is nothing new. Canadians are all too familiar with the Prime Minister's track record. I do not need to persuade anyone that the Prime Minister has an overly liberal attitude towards terrorists and street gangs.
Bill C-71 proves my point. We have been debating this bill for some time in the House, but I can guarantee you that thousands of citizens have been continuing the discussions across Canada. Yesterday, my colleague from Lethbridge presented a petition signed by 86,000 law-abiding Canadians — certainly not criminals — calling for Bill C-71 to be scrapped.
The Prime Minister likes to brag every chance he gets about working for reconciliation with first nations. This has been yet another failure, since there have been no discussions with first nations. Maybe he thought it would be too difficult to have a conversation with them, so he did not bother.
Firearms are a way of life for many indigenous peoples. They hunt every day, as it is part of their ancient traditions, and we understand that. However, they were not able to share their views, except in committee, and only because the Conservatives requested that first nations witnesses appear. Those representatives said they did not deem that Bill C-71 applied to them and they had no need for it. They therefore have no intention of obeying it. That is a pretty serious problem.
As I said earlier, we have not debated Bill C-71 for quite some time. I would therefore like to remind Canadians what the bill is all about. Let me remind Canadians that this bill does nothing to fight street gangs and organized crime. I would also remind Canadians that the bill is an attempt by the Prime Minister to impose a gun registry and yet another burden on law-abiding citizens for no good reason.
Now I will go over some of the finer points of the bill to illustrate to what extent the Liberals have lost their way. The following are some of the gaps in Bill C-71: the proposed legislation would remove the reference to the five-year period that applies to background checks for permit applications, thereby eliminating any time restriction on those checks. What is more, every time there is a transfer of ownership of a non-restricted firearm, the purchaser and vendor will have to check whether the licence is valid. Retailers will also be required to keep records of their inventories and sales at their own expense. The current wording of the bill repeals parts of our former Bill C-42, an act to amend the Firearms Act and the Criminal Code and to make a related amendment and a consequential amendment to other acts, which gives parliamentarians, not the RCMP, the power to classify firearms. Under this bill, specific transport authorization would be required every time a restricted or non-restricted firearm is transported across communities, except when a firearm is transported between a residence and an approved shooting range, as the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness said.
In his speech, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness mentioned that the amendments of all the recognized parties had been accepted. However, we proposed 44 amendments and only one was accepted. The members of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security worked extremely hard. We took off our jackets, rolled up our sleeves and worked for hours to make this bill more logical. We proposed 44 amendments to improve the bill. They were not ideological amendments. The Liberals rejected all of them except for one.
One of our amendments proposed that the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness be the one to change the classification of firearms based on recommendations from the manufacturer and the RCMP. This amendment would have prevented the RCMP from having a complete monopoly over the classification of firearms and ensured that consultations would precede any reclassification. That would have ensured public accountability by forcing the minister to provide his reasons for the reclassification in the Canada Gazette. The Liberals rejected that amendment.
We also proposed an amendment that would have made it unnecessary to conduct background checks on people seeking to renew a firearm licence or firearm owners the year of the first background check since the continuous eligibility process involves daily checks. The amendment sought to simplify the process without reducing the number of checks. Of course, we all agree that background checks must be conducted.
We wanted to improve the bill so as to make it a little simpler, but we were rebuffed. We also proposed that people on indigenous reserves or in remote areas who live off hunting be exempt from the regulations on firearms transfers, but once again we were told no.
We are now at third reading stage, and I believe it is important to remind Canadians of the Conservative Party's position on this matter. Canada's Conservatives believe that Canadians' safety should be the top priority of any government. Talk is not enough; action and specific measures are needed. Unfortunately, this law does not have any new measures to tackle the gang violence in Surrey or Toronto and the increased crime rate in Canada's rural communities.
We cannot trust the Liberals when it comes to firearms legislation, because they are not cracking down on criminals who use weapons to commit violent crimes, and they are treating law-abiding gun owners like criminals.
The Conservatives will continue to advocate for real action to keep Canadians safe, and we will focus our efforts on the criminal causes of gun violence.
Our leader was very clear yesterday when he said that next year, in 2019, when the Conservatives form government, we will repeal Bill C-71 and replace it with a law that targets criminals and street gangs, not law-abiding Canadians.
We have concerns about Bill C-75, another bill introduced around the same time. The government claims that Bills C-71 and C-75, which were introduced in tandem, are meant to combat gun violence. However, as we have said, Bill C-71 will criminalize law-abiding gun owners. Bill C-75 is even worse. It will turn certain criminal offences, such as participating in an activity of a terrorist group, administering a noxious substance, like the date rape drug, advocating genocide, or participating in organized crime, into offences that could be punishable by a fine. It makes absolutely no sense for the government to do this.
Criminals are criminals. Unless the government stops trying to please and mollify interest groups every time it decides to do something, it will never be able to introduce meaningful, relevant measures that really tackle the problem.
Under Bill C-75, what are now certain criminal offences could become punishable by mere fines. They say their goal is to relieve pressure on the justice system. If the justice system is a problem, fix it. Criminal sanctions should not be downgraded just because the government has a problem.
We will take care of this next year.
In addition to making life difficult for law-abiding individuals, Bill C-71 is telling business owners, people who work hard for their money, to keep records about clients and firearms. They are being forced to keep those records for 20 years. They will have to have a computer system. The government is forcing them to do more, but they do not have the money to do it. Any costs associated with record-keeping will be their problem, unless there is something else we have not heard about.
I would now like to talk about the difference between the work of elected officials in the House of Commons and that of public servants or bureaucrats. Once again, the government is putting Canadians' safety in the hands of bureaucrats instead of allowing elected officials to decide what is important for Canadians. For example, the government is giving the RCMP total control over firearms reclassification. It is now up the RCMP to decide whether an individual is a criminal for owning a firearm that the RCMP now deems to be unacceptable.
We think we should be playing that role, even though it is true that no one here is an expert in the matter. We would need to get accurate information and advice from manufacturers and the RCMP. Then, the minister would make a decision based on the evidence. It is up to us to tell Canadians that after holding consultations or conducting checks, we decided to change the classification. Why would we not be able to do that?
Why let the RCMP make those decisions on our behalf? Once again, the government is giving power to bureaucrats who are not accountable to anyone, who can sit in their offices and decide to change the rules and prohibit a firearm without us having any say in the matter. What are we doing here? This is our job. We are not perfect, but that is why we would need to listen so that we could understand the situation properly and make an informed decision.
With regard to the registry, this is the second time that the Liberals have tried to punish law-abiding citizens. The first time was in 1993. Twenty-five years ago, the “little guy from Shawinigan” introduced a registry and told us not to worry because it would cost only $2 million. Shortly after that, we learned it would cost $2 billion, and we all know what happened next.
Now the Liberals are introducing a bill that requires retailers to collect data and send it to the government if their business shuts down, but they deny that this is a gun registry. That is what they want us to believe. As the saying goes, they are taking us for fools. They are trying to tell us in every possible way that this is not a gun registry. As soon as someone enters data on a computer, and businesses are required to send that data to the government if they shut down, what is that? It means that information on citizens and on guns is being shared. That is a kind of registry.
Getting back to indigenous peoples, I asked a question on that topic after the minister's speech. He replied simply that this pertains to section 35 of the Constitution. The minister just said directly that, from the standpoint of national security and harmonizing security across Canada, there is a constitutional problem. In its current form, Bill C-71 is unconstitutional if it applies to indigenous peoples. Indigenous representatives told us that themselves, and the minister just confirmed it. Now what is happening? The Liberals are pushing ahead, and once again, the first victims they go after are our law-abiding hunters and sport shooters. We have no shortage of laws in Canada. This is not the United States. It currently takes eight months to get a licence, and there are quite a few hoops to jump through.
I realize that the Constitution gives indigenous peoples certain rights. Still, as I said when I asked the minister my question, people who own guns are human beings, citizens, on an equal basis as other Canadians. Why would we impose a law on one group of individuals that would not apply to another group under the Constitution? That will not work.
I know this is complex, but I think law-abiding citizens are entitled to wonder why this bill is targeting them instead of criminals. The Liberals have yet to answer that question, and they cannot always claim it is because of the Constitution. When it comes to safety and security, that answer is not good enough. The government cannot just fool around with safety and security by simply saying that the Constitution protects its decision and that is that. That is not going to work.
The Conservatives are being told that we are all talk and no action. I just want to remind the House of what our government did to fight crime. When we were in government from 2006 to 2015, we fought tirelessly to keep Canadians safe. For example, we passed the Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act. This act simplified the licensing system while strengthening firearms prohibitions for people who had been convicted of an offence involving domestic violence. We also passed the Tackling Violent Crime Act, which strengthened bail provisions for people accused of serious offences involving firearms.
The legislation we passed to tackle organized crime and ensure protection in the justice system provided police officers and justice officials with new tools that would go a long way in fighting organized crime. We supported the national crime prevention strategy. We funded initiatives across the country to advance Canada's crime prevention and community protection objectives under the national crime prevention strategy.
We created the northern and aboriginal crime prevention fund under the national crime prevention strategy in order to meet the needs of northern and aboriginal communities when it comes to crime and community safety.
We created the youth justice fund. In December 2006, the guns, gangs and drugs component of the youth justice fund was put in place to help rehabilitate young offenders.
We also created the youth gang prevention fund in 2006 to support community groups that work with troubled youth in order to prevent them from joining gangs by addressing the risk factors associated with gangs.
In other words, we kept our promises and worked for law-abiding citizens, not against them.
Let no one doubt our determination to fight crime. The Liberals, on the other hand, promised $327 million almost a year ago, but not a single penny has surfaced so far. The Liberals say they want to fight crime, they promise money, but we have yet to see a single penny.
Crime and gangs do not take time off. Gangs keep on committing crimes. The current government is spending a lot of money on a lot of silly things. They promised money to fight gangs and we agree with that, but now one year has gone by and we have yet to see a single red cent. That is outrageous. We need action now.
History is repeating itself. In 1993, the Liberals created the gun registry to make it look like they were fighting crime. Twenty-five years later, the Liberals are pulling out the same old strategy in the hope that Canadians will again be fooled by the smoke and mirrors of the Prime Minister and his team. They tell us that they are looking after us and will help up. In reality, Canadians are not fools. That was demonstrated by my colleague's petition this week. People understand that this is not the way to fight crime. We will deal with the problem next year.
View Matthew Dubé Profile
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2018-09-20 11:13 [p.21579]
Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles for their speeches.
The issue of gun control is never an easy one to debate. After all, there are law-abiding gun owners. However, victims of gun crimes have told us tragic and horrible stories. We cannot just lump everything together. We have to respect both sides of the debate, which can be very emotional.
Unfortunately, over the course of the past 15, 20 and 25 years, the debate has been politicized, and that does not serve public safety nor the making of good public policy. The debate on Bill C-71 is proof of that. After this bill was introduced, the Liberals sent out fundraising emails. In the House, we also heard Conservative members whisper their thanks to the Liberals for providing a quote to be included in their solicitations. Political fundraising on the backs of victims of gun crimes and gun owners who simply want an acknowledgement of their views can lead to problems and does not advance public safety and public policy.
Let us put this aside and consider the facts before us.
Notwithstanding Bill C-71, I want to start by recognizing something that everyone in this House agrees on, which is this disturbing trend we are seeing in particular in urban centres, in Canadian cities. It is a trend that is so problematic we have seen violence in Toronto, Surrey and other communities such as those.
I was proud to work with our leader, Jagmeet Singh, in writing a letter to the Prime Minister recognizing that more needs to be done to address the root causes of what is causing this violence, whether it is the radicalization of young vulnerable people who are facing all sorts of issues, mental health issues, extreme poverty, victims of the housing crisis, who are being recruited into gangs, their vulnerability being preyed upon by these types of organizations, or whether it is the fact that cities want to see the federal government do more. What form that will take remains to be seen. We will be very engaged in that debate. However, the fact of the matter is that there is a serious issue in this country that needs to be addressed. When I hear what the Conservatives say, the Liberals say, and we as New Democrats say, it is something we all agree on and will be moving forward on in the following months.
As pleased as I am to hear the minister raise the issue of what needs to be done at the border for firearms coming in from the United States, what needs to be done to address the spike in rural crime that is leading to, among other things, the theft of firearms owned by law-abiding firearms owners, or dealing with those issues I mentioned a few seconds ago relating to what is happening in cities notably with regard to gang violence, while the minister is saying the right things and seems to be on the right track, it is clear that more work needs to be done. Arguably, what the government is proposing is not enough. More needs to be done not only to invest in these things but also to tackle them in a more surgical way.
To come back to Bill C-71 specifically, there are several elements I want to discuss.
The first is the least controversial. The way I see it, everyone agrees, or at least should agree, on background checks. There is one thing that I think needs to be cleared up: contrary to what the Conservatives have claimed in committee and in the House, background checks already cover more than the required five-year period, owing to several court rulings. This is already being done by default. The only thing Bill C-71 does is enshrine lifetime background checks in law.
As my colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue just mentioned in her question to the previous speaker, background checks are not meant to punish people or to block someone from buying a gun or getting a licence just because they shoplifted a bag of candy from a corner store 30 years ago. They are meant to identify someone who might have been arrested 15, 20 or 25 years ago on domestic violence charges or for uttering threats against women.
That is the kind of person we want to identify, not someone who was arrested at 16 for simple possession of cannabis or for shoplifting, like the example I just gave. I am talking about much more serious crimes that can represent a major threat to public safety and security. As we learned from the studies that have been presented to us on violence against women and self-inflicted violence, the suicide rate is extremely high, and firearms are a commonly used method. These are the issues we need to seriously examine. We all agree on background checks.
As for the issue of retailers keeping records, the opposition wants to portray this as a backdoor registry. Let me be clear. Such records have been kept in the United States for a very long time, and even in Canada, before the gun registry was created in the 1990s, record-keeping was already required under the law.
As the retailers who appeared before the committee said themselves, every respectable business owner who wants to maintain proper records already does this, for accounting purposes, for example. The bill is only meant to ensure that the few non-compliant businesses—which is a very small minority, I might add—are brought into line. The records also need to be standardized, to make it easier for police officers to do their jobs, which is central to this matter.
When the registry was abolished in 2012 by the Conservative government, there was one witness in particular whose testimony stood out to me. Calgary police chief Rick Hanson, who was brought to committee by the Conservative members, spoke in favour of abolishing the registry. He pointed out two things. The first was that while he was favourable to abolishing the registry, there needed to be more robust PAL verifications, which included background checks. The second was that when one firearm owner is transferring to another, whether through a private sale or otherwise, and I will come back to that in a moment, because that is part of Bill C-71, he stated, “We must reinstate point of sale recording. This existed prior to the gun registry”, which is an important distinction, not that it is another registry but existed prior to the gun registry, “and was useful for two reasons. The first is that it allowed for proper auditing of gun stores to ensure that they are complying with the law requiring them to sell only to those with proper licences. That is a starting point should that gun be identified as being used in a criminal offence.”
One element that someone playing devil's advocate to this point might want to raise is to ask about the costs imposed on a business by doing so. The fact of the matter is, to go back to a point I made earlier and a point that everyone in the House should agree on, all reputable businesses already do this. Apart from some minor tinkering, as the process goes forward through regulation for ensuring that the record-keeping is uniform, for all intents and purposes, any costs associated with this change to the law will be minimal, particularly considering that the law already required this prior to the creation of the gun registry in the 1990s.
This is very important. The police officer I quoted earlier emphasized that. When representatives of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police appeared before the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, they made it very clear that this is an important tool in the work they do. They said that when retailers maintain standardized records, they feel a little more confident when they have to go and talk to a retailer as part of a criminal investigation for a crime involving a firearm.
That brings me to the next point, the question of transferring from one firearm owner to another, in a private sale for example, and the need to verify that the person's licence is valid. One of the concerns that was raised in committee was the generation of more than one reference number during such a transfer, so a reference number for each firearm transfer. For example, if individual X is transferring to individual Y, each firearm would generate an individual reference number. When one read the legislation as it was originally drafted, before being sent to committee, the plural was used. Officials comforted us by saying the plural was always used in drafting legislation and, unless otherwise specified, could mean the singular and therefore only one reference number.
Putting aside all that technicality, I proposed an amendment so that only one reference number would be generated per transfer, regardless of the number of firearms being transferred from one individual to another. That amendment was adopted unanimously by all members of the committee.
To create greater certainty in law, it is not a question of registering the reference number to ensure the individual is respecting their moral and public safety obligations, but now also an obligation under the law to simply verify the validity of another individual's licence. I would argue 99.9% of responsible firearm owners in Canada already do that anyway. It is to make sure that the reference number is not portrayed as some kind of bogeyman, it is simply a tool used by the chief firearms officer to ensure that individual is respecting the law. That amendment is extremely important to make sure we have that certainty and that the intention behind the generation of that number is extremely clear.
Some proposed amendments regarding authorization to transport firearms were not adopted. This was a highly controversial issue. We realize that in the bill that the Conservatives introduced at the time, automatic authorization was almost always a problem. Police forces and other stakeholders brought up these problems.
The government made a change to stop the automatic authorization for every case, even though it still happens in some cases. One important point came up. Currently, there is automatic authorization to transport a firearm from the store to the location where the firearm will be stored, for example, the owner's home. An authorization would also be automatically issued to transport the firearm to a shooting club or range, so that the owner can practice shooting. One important point is missing, which is the transportation of the firearm from the location where it is stored or the shooting club or range to a government-approved businesses that services firearms. This is extremely important because, as we heard, a damaged weapon can be a safety hazard and can be dangerous.
We were told it is important to be able to transport a firearm from the place where it is stored or used legitimately, such as a gun club, to the place where it is to be repaired. Interestingly, an amendment was proposed by a Liberal member, an associate member of the committee who was not present for our deliberations. The New Democratic Party, represented by me, and the Conservative Party supported the amendment, but unfortunately, the Liberals rejected it. That is one aspect of the bill that still needs work.
I want to emphasize that there is an extremely important public safety element here, one we have to take very seriously. I mentioned it earlier in my speech when I talked about tragic situations related to street gang violence and horrific experiences that victims shared with the committee. PolySeSouvient was formed after the horrifying events at École Polytechnique, and in the years since, it has taken on the tremendous task of making sure elected representatives understand the importance of implementing appropriate rules for the use of firearms.
A retired RCMP officer told us the story of her daughter, who was murdered by her ex-spouse. His campaign of harassment turned violent, and a gun was used to commit the crime.
In those situations, it is important to be respectful of those victims and to understand the advocacy work that they are doing to make sure that the gun control that we adopt as legislators is appropriate, ensures public safety and achieves those objectives.
At the risk of repeating what I said at the outset of my speech, for too long there has been a division. Different political parties, which have been in power at different times, have put into confrontation the needs of these victims for better gun control to ensure public safety and the advocacy work they are doing against the advocacy by law-abiding firearms owners, who are simply trying to make sure that the regulations and laws that are adopted do not create an overbearing burden and a cumbersome system on sports shooting, hunting or the different activities that take place in our constituencies. This is not just in rural constituencies, but even in suburban areas such as mine where individuals who will not necessarily be hunting in the riding, but who will go to other areas to engage in sports shooting.
It is important that we stop putting these two groups as being in constant confrontation, that we stop trying to exploit one group or another. If we really want to adopt good public policy and ensure public safety, we need robust background checks to make sure that individuals who have serious mental health issues, those with a history of violence against women and who make misogynous threats of awful violence, do not obtain firearms. We must also listen to individuals who respect the law and are willing to work with government and elected officials to make sure that we are adopting good, sound public policy that does not go in one direction by creating a specific burden that does not enhance public policy. We need to create awareness among elected officials that we are not constantly fighting with one group or another and that we recognize as elected officials that none of that is achieving the objectives that we all say we want to achieve.
We will vote in favour of Bill C-71 for the simple reason that most of the provisions it introduces were already part of the legislation before the registry was created, including provisions on record-keeping by retailers. As far as background checks are concerned, we are simply codifying what is already being done. Lifetime background checks are already being done in some cases. They go back further than five years if there are any red flags. We can support that part of the bill, since these are good measures and they are not that onerous.
However, to truly address the problem of gun violence committed by street gangs or other individuals in major cities and in our communities, such as Toronto and Surrey, we have to acknowledge that a lot remains to be done. We also have to do more to address the suicide rate, which is extremely high, especially since suicides are often committed with firearms. One suicide is one too many. Even though we support Bill C-71, it does not go far enough in that respect.
I urge the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the Prime Minister to acknowledge that there is a lot more work to be done and to work with us and all stakeholders on ending the partisanship that has marred this debate for far too long and prevented Canadians from having a healthy debate on the issue of firearms. That would allow us to adopt effective public policy to ensure public safety.
View Karen Ludwig Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Karen Ludwig Profile
2018-09-20 11:43 [p.21583]
Madam Speaker, I represent the riding of New Brunswick Southwest, a riding with many gun owners. We have at least 30 gun clubs. We also have one of the busiest gun dealerships in Canada.
For owners, guns can mean recreation and, sometimes, a way to put food on the table. For the clubs, sports shooting enhances socializing among those who admire craftsmanship in weapons and accuracy in targeting. For the dealerships, guns provide jobs.
I have discussed this legislation with owners, club members, dealers and other citizens all over my riding of New Brunswick Southwest. I also studied and completed a two-day course in firearms handling. I am proud to say that I now hold a firearms possession and acquisition licence.
I also talked with women's organizations, survivors of gun violence and law enforcement officials. I spoke with the Minister of Public Safety. I brought his parliamentary secretary to my riding to speak directly with gun club presidents.
Along the way, I discussed the bill with a good many members opposite. I enjoyed going to a shooting range near Ottawa with the outdoors parliamentary caucus. I have worked hard to fathom out this legislation and what it means for my constituents and other Canadians.
I conclude the following. I support responsible gun owners. I cannot see that Bill C-71 hurts them. Therefore, I support the legislation because it helps protect gun owners, as it does all citizens.
My riding, with its good, responsible gun owners, is considered a safe area. However, Fredericton and Moncton were also traditionally considered safe areas, too. We all remember the headlines about the tragic shootings in Fredericton in August of this year, and in Moncton in June 2014. It can happen so quickly when guns fall into the wrong hands.
Responsible people should be able to keep their guns without undue hindrance, but good people should be able to live freely in cities, towns and villages without undue risk from gun-carrying criminals or people who have threatened or inflicted harm on others.
Let us all remember the shocking number of tormented souls among us who, even though they were showing signs of mental difficulty, got hold of guns and committed suicide. Whether it is mental health, criminality or threatening behaviour, we should be able to double-check for dangers.
The bill is not a new handgun ban. It is not a long-gun registry. In large part it is not new. There is a commitment in this legislation not to reinstate the long-gun registry. A number of its main features existed before. We lived with those regulations for a long time, and they protected lives.
Then the previous government took them away. Since that time, for various reasons, gun-related deaths in Canada have sharply increased. So has the number of female victims of violent crimes with a firearm present.
Recreating and strengthening sensible legislation can put us back on a better track. For example, authorities will once again be able to require a permit for transporting restricted and prohibited weapons. This does not affect ordinary guns, only those on the higher side of danger.
In another restored regulation, the seller of a firearm will need to verify the purchaser's possession and acquisition licence. This will take a brief phone call. Responsible sellers and buyers will not object to that. Nor will they protest legislation that, as in decades past, required firearms vendors to record what they sold.
The existing law already enables those granting a firearms licence to consider an applicant's criminal offences or mental illness associated with violence or other history of violence, but only for the last five years. Bill C-71 allows taking account of the person's earlier history. That is a sensible change. It derives from a private member's bill put forward by a former Conservative MP.
The legislation incorporates other amendments from other parties in the House.
I hope we can continue to put public safety over partisanship. I am sure none of us want to hurt good people who own guns, but neither do we want guns in the wrong hands to hurt good people.
When all is said and done, this is a good bill for responsible gun owners. At times, strident voices from here and there have tried to paint too many responsible gun owners as villains. Sensible legislation can reassure the public that we are taking reasonable measures to keep guns in good hands and that common sense is prevailing.
I will be splitting my time with the member for Oakville North—Burlington, and I support this proposed legislation.
View Harold Albrecht Profile
View Harold Albrecht Profile
2018-09-20 11:49 [p.21584]
Madam Speaker, in my area I have a number of farmers who need to use guns. I have hunters and sport shooters. The sport shooters obviously go to the shooting ranges, and so this summer I decided to go to two of the shooting ranges in my area and learn about sport shooting. I have a PAL myself, but did not know much about sport shooting. When I went there, I was impressed with the attention to detail that these clubs give to following the rules, safety guidelines, and being 100% sure that people who use these guns are adequately trained.
They are more than happy to follow the rules and make sure that guns do not fall into the wrong hands and to make sure that the background checks are done. However, they object to something like Bill C-71, which would create an extra burden on legitimate firearms owners. They are happy to accept the burden if they could be assured that it would actually increase public safety, but they are convinced that Bill C-71 is a public relations exercise intended to convince the public that this would somehow increase safety when in reality all it would do is target legitimate gun owners and do nothing against violent criminals and gangs.
View Karen Ludwig Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Karen Ludwig Profile
2018-09-20 11:50 [p.21584]
Madam Speaker, certainly when we are looking at enhanced background checks, they are critically important. I know from experience the questions that were asked regarding the five-year background check, which I was pleased with. I think that going deeper with the background checks would present an opportunity not only for public safety but also for prevention from self-harm. We heard from other speakers earlier about the risk of suicide and that 80% of suicides are gun related. There are people who should not have guns and, to me, that is one of the most important pieces of the legislation that we are trying to put forward here.
View Glen Motz Profile
Madam Speaker, I want to provide some context for the misinformation in the member's speech, as well as the rampant rhetoric from the other side. First, no evidence has ever been produced, and I have asked for it, on risks associated with the authority to transport, the ATTs. Not one case has ever been presented, and I have asked repeatedly for this information, showing that when law-abiding gun owners transport their firearms from a gun club to gun shop or to sporting competitions, or anywhere else, it has ever presented an issue. Second, the five-year background checks are not limited to five years but currently go the entire history of an individual.
I went to the member's riding in the summer and spoke to the same people she spoke to. I heard very loudly and clearly that they are not in favour of this proposed gun legislation. I wonder what the member has heard from her community at large in regards to Bill C-71 and their disapproval of the proposed legislation, which does not target criminals.
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