Mr. Matthew Dubé (Beloeil—Chambly, NDP)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking the sponsor of the motion, the member for Milton. Since I have been working on the public safety file, I have seen the consequences these cases can have on people's lives. If I may, I have more I would like to say on the subject.
I should point out that I support the member's motion. During the previous Parliament, we supported the legislation that was introduced. We had many disagreements with the previous government on matters of law and order and on how to achieve our public safety objectives. We did not agree on how to protect our communities or how to promote rehabilitation. That is also important to achieving our public safety objectives.
In that context, we supported the Victims Bill of Rights. It is also important to understand the impact these crimes have on the victims. In some cases, repercussions can last an entire lifetime, depending on the seriousness of the crime. There are gaps with respect to the enforcement of the act and the resources available to the Parole Board of Canada.
One example comes to mind, and that is the legal obligation to inform victims when there has been a change in the status of an offender who could cause them harm, particularly in the case of the most horrific and violent crimes. In recent years, some high-profile cases have brought to light how badly the law is being enforced. Some victims were not informed or were not informed in a timely manner, which does not respect the spirit of the law that was passed.
The government surely does not intend to change the law, but it must ensure that these organizations have the resources they need to keep victims informed in accordance with existing legal obligations. That is one of the reasons why I support the motion.
It is not easy. In this digital age, there is a 24-hour news cycle and the news is available on television and on our phones. We know that, unfortunately, horrific crimes are being committed in every part of our society.
We need to look at this in several stages. I am sorry that I missed part of the parliamentary secretary's speech. At the end, I heard her talk about crime prevention. That too is important. From what I see and hear, victims often do not want other individuals or families to go through the same grief or trauma as they did.
Another way to show respect for victims is to prevent similar crimes from being committed against other individuals or other groups in our society. Unfortunately, as hon. members know, we have a lot of work to do in that regard. We know there are aggravating factors that can lead to a crime being committed. We need to address the housing crisis, deal with mental health issues and reduce poverty. Sometimes, through no fault of their own, people are in situations where their own illness or their difficult circumstances take them down a very dark path that has significant repercussions on the lives of other innocent Canadians. It is a scourge on our society. I think we can all agree that we need to address all this.
Something else that needs to be considered is the objectives of rehabilitation. Rehabilitation is key to achieving public safety objectives. I have said that several times since the beginning of my speech, but it is important. Unfortunately, that is rarely a popular aspect to address.
There are significant, palpable tensions within our criminal justice system. They reflect the need to understand that these crimes involve victims, who need respect and adequate resources so they can get on with their lives and feel like justice has been done.
At the same time, we also have rehabilitation objectives that, sadly, do not always align with the popular will. Since becoming the NDP critic, I have seen several cases. Listening to the parents of victims, I can only imagine the grief and rage they must be feeling. Those feelings are completely normal. No one here would blame them.
That being said, we need to gear the system towards rehabilitation, not to diminish the impact of crimes on victims or the importance of victims, but to ensure that our society is safe. The issue of record suspensions is a good example, even though the offence in that case is not a particularly heinous crime. In the case we are talking about now, these are people who will be in jail for the rest of their lives and who will never get to seek that kind of relief. However, I still want to cite some statistics, because they are relevant, even though the crimes in this case are very different from the crimes that are eligible for a record suspension.
First, 95% of people who were granted a record suspension did not reoffended. Second, three-quarters of Canadians believe that record suspensions, which allow individuals to reintegrate into society, are a positive thing. As I said, these statistics are about a program that does not necessarily apply to the crimes addressed by my colleague's motion, but I did want to mention them, because we need to acknowledge the importance of rehabilitation.
No matter how serious a crime may be, if the system allows an individual to reintegrate into society, we, as legislators, want this to be done with zero, or almost zero, chance of reoffending. This is also important for other inmates. Prison is often referred to as a crime school, and we obviously want to avoid that.
Since my time is running out, I will get back to the main point and reiterate that we support the motion. We do, however, have many concerns.
First, as I mentioned, we need adequate resources and ministerial direction to ensure that the current law is applied so that victims remain informed.
Second, there are some gaps with respect to the type of information provided, and we believe that the law should be updated in that regard. As the motion states, the government must address this issue to reconcile privacy and victims' needs. For example, the motion speaks about individuals' absences when on conditional release, but they are usually granted for medical reasons. It would be appropriate to inform victims when such absences are granted and to explain the process to them so they are better informed. A victim who is better informed is better able to achieve the desired goals, which is to get their life back on track and to grieve. We want to avoid revictimizing them.
We must consider all these factors, determine whether the law passed in the previous legislature was properly enforced, then think about how we can update it. That would be quite appropriate.
Earlier this week, in another debate on another bill, my colleague from Elmwood—Transcona spoke about an important element that I feel is very pertinent to the motion we are debating. He stated that the laws passed by Parliament often include a review period. Laws are reviewed after three or five years. However, this is often not done, or we seem to think that it is not important. It is our duty, as parliamentarians, especially in the case of a law on victims' rights.
I thank the member for Milton. I support her motion and I urge the government to take this opportunity to ensure that we do all we can so that there is also room for victims in this process.
Topic: Private Members' Business
Subtopic: Parole System