Mr. Yvan Loubier (Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, BQ)
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on this bill. I may not be a lawyer, but I have enough brains to read bills. I can tell whether a bill is in tune or not with the reality. My 13 years of experience as a member of Parliament and lawmaker in this place have taught me the difference between good bills and bills that do nothing for society in Quebec or Canada.
Bill C-27 before us does strictly nothing to help fight crime, reduce crime or discourage potential criminals from offending. This is a totally pointless bill which does not meet these objectives.
I listened earlier to the hon. member from the Conservative Party according to whom being against this bill is to be against the victims of crime. What demagoguery.
Bills like this, which do no good, may in fact interfere with the normal court process. Judging by the experience of the Americans in recent years, after they introduced similar legislation, this is the kind of bill that can hamper crime-fighting efforts instead of providing additional tools to fight crime. No study has shown that this three strikes and you are out policy can do any good.
In the United States, where the crime rate is the highest in the world, experience has shown in recent years that having that kind of policy in place does not make the crime rate go down. There are mostly studies that establish a connection between the likelihood of reoffending and the length of incarceration. That is the exact opposite of what we have just heard in relation to this bill.
In addition, this bill ignores a basic legal principle: the presumption of innocence. Even before a criminal commits another offence, he has to prove that he is not a dangerous offender and that he should not be incarcerated indefinitely. The offender has the burden of proof. I do not believe that giving an individual such a responsibility in the justice system is the right approach or that it is in keeping with the principle that every individual should be given a chance. This reverse onus is not in the tradition of British law, except in certain specific cases, such as proceeds of crime.
Recently, through the efforts of the Bloc Québécois, we passed a bill under which, after being convicted, an individual who has taken part in organized crime activities must prove that he acquired all his property legally: the Mercedes, the house, the secondary residence. This type of exception is what we should have, when we look at all the organized crime rings.
Opération printemps 2001 showed us what it cost in legal resources and tax dollars to prove that all the property belonging to the Nomads, Hells Angels and other organized crime rings had been acquired illegally.
When we look at this bill, we can see that it can even undermine the legal process. I was listening to my Conservative colleague earlier. He said that he had received calls from his constituents asking him why we should wait for the third time before declaring someone a dangerous offender and incarcerating that person indefinitely.
I would ask him the same question in reverse.
Why wait for the third offence when today, depending on the seriousness and brutality of a crime, a crown prosecutor can ask that someone be declared a dangerous offender after the first crime?
It is not necessary to wait for the third time. If the first crime is particularly brutal, the crown prosecutor can ask that the individual be declared a dangerous offender. The judge may grant the request and declare the individual a dangerous offender after the first offence.
Why wait for the third offence to be committed when, in the current system, with the flexibility afforded lawyers and judges, we can use intelligence and discernment to determine, right from the first offence, if rehabilitation is possible based on the nature, seriousness and brutality of a crime?
I said earlier that the United States experimented with this type of policy. Their prisons are full. It has been said that the Prime Minister is a carbon copy of George W. Bush. The government wishes to copy the Americans not only in military and economic policies, and support for oil companies, for example, but also in the changes it wants to make to the current justice and correctional systems in place in Canada.
In the United States, prisons are bursting at the seams. The rate of incarceration is sevenfold that in Canada. Yet, even with a policy of “three crimes makes a dangerous offender”, the US homicide rate is triple that in Canada and four times greater than Quebec's rate. That must mean something. When a system does not work, for example in the United States—a country with one of the highest rates of criminalization—we must not copy that system and we should try something else. We must not duplicate the American system. To make themselves look good, the Conservatives have introduced this type of legislation while acting as though they alone can guarantee the safety of individuals, the prosecution of criminals to the bitter end, as though they alone will ensure that justice is served in this country. This is a completely twisted claim with respect to the discourse and the content of the bill.
As lawmakers, we bear enormous responsibility. This responsibility certainly includes the treatment of victims, both the past victims and potential victims of criminals. We need to look after them, but to do so, we need to have the right tools. In the last 10 years, serious crime in Canada has gone down. So they should not come to us with just the 2004-05 data and say that the situation is absolutely frightful and so terrible that something must be done. Certainly it should, but not through measures that are out of touch with reality, like these.
We need real action, but that is not what the Conservatives are offering. It is just the appearance of action. They want to show that they made some political promises that made no sense at all during the last election campaign, including this policy of three crimes equals a dangerous offender. So they introduce this bill. I cannot make head or tail of it. It has no relation to reality and adds nothing. It does not add any tools for fighting serious crime in Canada.
Among the things that should be done—but which they have not done—is the essential tool of firearms control. We just received the most recent data from Statistics Canada. We are not making this up; it is Statistics Canada. It tells us that Quebec and Prince Edward Island have crime rates that are much lower than the rest of Canada. The city with the highest crime rates and most serious crimes is Edmonton. Calgary takes second place. That is significant.
When people come from a region where the crime rate is the highest, could they not be a little bit more intelligent and find some way to deal with crime? Firearms control and the firearms registry are what we need. Yesterday, for example, they were saying on the news that 80% of the crimes in Edmonton were committed with unregistered firearms. Therefore, 20% of the arms were registered. Is that not a sign that controls should be tightened? We need to have a well managed registry.
Topic: Government Orders
Subtopic: Criminal Code