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Home > Speeches > Bill C-10

June 6, 2006


Speech:  Bill C-10 Speech on
Mandatory Minimum Penalties

Hon. Carol Skelton (Minister of National Revenue and Minister of Western Economic Diversification, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour and a pleasure to rise today on behalf of my constituents of Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar.

In this past election I was elected for a third time, which was very humbling. We all come here to represent thousands of our neighbours. It really means a great deal when they ask us to do it not once, not twice, but for a third time. I would really like to thank my entire campaign team for their tireless work. I would especially like to thank my husband, Noel, and the rest of my family for their encouragement and their support.

I rise today because of my family: my police officer son-in-law, my daughters, my granddaughters, my sons, my husband and my mother. I also have the same concerns as my neighbours when it comes to safety and security. Unfortunately, the justice system under the Liberals only allowed problems to grow and ignored the solutions.

Today I am proud to be part of a government that is willing to take a tough stand against violent criminals, a government that places the priority on law-abiding citizens and their protection.

The Minister of Justice has worked extremely hard to bring this government priority forward as legislation in such a short time. The minister must be commended for his tireless efforts in this regard.

This legislation is one of our five priorities. As the Prime Minister has stated on many occasions, this Conservative government will have a clear focus and clear priorities.

Aside from reducing the GST, providing parents with a choice in child care, bringing accountability to government, and providing health care guarantees, we promised to strengthen criminal sentencing. We are delivering on this promise.

This bill that calls for mandatory minimum penalties is one of the three important pieces of crime legislation. The other two are just as important, especially the bill to raise the age of sexual consent to 16 years of age.

Bill C-10 would amend the Criminal Code to increase minimum penalties for serious offences involving firearms. Other members have already talked about how the bill specifically targets street gang members or drug traffickers who use illegal firearms, including prohibited and restricted firearms, to conduct their business. That kind of activity often involves organized crime offences.

The Criminal Code provides that any indictable offence committed for the benefit of, or at the direction of, or in association with a criminal organization constitutes a criminal organization offence. It appears that many of the recent shootings in streets, buses, parking lots and other public areas in Toronto were committed as part of attempts to bring down rival gang members.

Often these actions have as their innocent victims bystanders who have no part of the dispute. All crime with guns is troubling, but the toll on our society among innocent bystanders and those who see these crimes occur is absolutely unacceptable. This kind of criminality has also manifested itself in Quebec due to the presence of certain well known motorcycle gangs.

In its 2003 “Annual Report on Organized Crime in Canada”, Criminal Intelligence Service Canada noted that targeted measures taken by law enforcement agencies have had a direct impact on some of the traditional organized crime groups in Quebec and other parts of Canada.

On the subject of firearms and organized crime, the report also stated that all organized crime groups are involved in illicit firearm activities in some manner and individual gang members often possess numerous firearms.

CSIS reports that in the country's urban centres, criminal gangs possess illicit firearms, particularly handguns, which they use for intimidation and acts of violence. These criminal organizations use handguns and restricted firearms as the tools of their trade. They are the tools by which these gangs profit from trade in narcotics and other illicit items, and there is a thriving business in buying and selling these illegal weapons themselves.

The bill aims to attack those who are members of these organizations and who engage in the traffic of guns and drugs.

We have to get tough on firearms offences committed by street gangs and criminal organizations. The phenomenon of armed street gangs is a growing concern in Canada. It is not just the large urban centres like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver that are suffering.

Organized crime is everywhere in Canada since it has direct control over the market for illegal drugs. I has reached an impact that is felt all across Canada. As their reach expands these organizations bring the tools of their trade with them and the blight of handgun crime continues to expand.

Furthermore, firearms smuggled from the United States or stolen within Canada remain the primary source for illicit firearms. A vast amount of Canadian territory borders the United States. The availability of firearms in the United States is a major problem. The firearms are often purchased by legitimate buyers or straw purchasers who then sell them over to others who smuggle them across the border. That black market is one of the businesses of criminal organizations. We must fight back with everything we have at our disposal through targeted law enforcement measures of course, but also through the kind of legislation measures proposed in Bill C-10.

I strongly support the measures proposed in this bill. Once the people involved in these types of crimes have been brought before our courts by our police and law enforcement agencies, they will face stiffer penalties. These penalties will deter people from crimes with firearms and ensure that people who commit serious crimes involving firearms will be sentenced to longer terms of imprisonment. This is the only way that we are going to win our ongoing fight against organized crime.

This legislation has the full support of my constituents. Recently, I sent our a survey and the results were clear: 95% of the respondents felt that mandatory minimum sentences would improve public safety and 86% indicated that they were concerned about safety in their neighbourhood and community. When 86% of my constituents in Saskatoon--Rosetown--Biggar are concerned about their safety and their own neighbourhood, that tells me we have a major problem.

I have listened to my constituents. I read the responses of every single survey that comes in and would like to share some of their comments with the House.

Hugh in Rosetown says, “I agree with mandatory sentences for drug dealing, growing or trafficking and mandatory sentences for any offence involving a gun or a knife”. Hugh lives in Rosetown, a rural Saskatchewan town, and yet he knows the dangers and lives with the same concerns as those in downtown areas of our major cities.

Clearly, Hugh has seen that we need to be tougher on violent criminals, especially those who use a weapon. In fact, this legislation calls for tougher mandatory minimum penalties for the following serious Criminal Code offences involving the use of a firearm: attempted murder, discharging a firearm with intent, sexual and aggravated sexual assault, kidnapping, hostage taking, robbery and extortion.

If a restricted or prohibited firearm, such as a handgun, is used in the commission of these offences or if the offence is committed in connection with a gang, the mandatory minimum sentences would be 5 years on the first offence, 7 years if the accused has one prior use conviction or 10 years if the accused has more than one prior use conviction.

Based on his comments, I know Brent, from my own hometown of Harris which has a population of about 250 people, that is if everyone is at home, could not agree more with these proposed changes.

He says, “I feel sentencing should be strong and made as a deterrent to all ages. Many seem to feel that because they're young they'll go easy on them or that they have had a difficult upbringing. By the age of eight you know the difference between right and wrong. People need to know there are consequences to their actions”.

Consequences are important and many feel that in the absence of serious consequences many criminals and would-be criminals develop a cavalier attitude when it comes to obeying the law. The government will ensure that there is a new respect for the law and reward those law-abiding citizens by dealing more seriously with the criminals.

When I read the comments sent in by Bud in Saskatoon, I honestly feel he echoes many of the comments I heard going door to door in the election campaign asking people what they wanted from a new Conservative government.

Bud said, “Crime crackdown, more serious sentencing for all criminals, no bail for serious crimes, no exceptions”. He could not be more clear in what he wanted and I am proud to say we are delivering for Bud, his neighbours and all of Saskatoon.

I know there are a lot more things Canadians want to see done with the justice system. When Carol R. of Saskatoon wrote to me, she raised another set of criminal justice issues that I have spoken about in the past. Carol said, “Our justice system needs to be revamped. People who commit horrible crimes seem to get away with it. Something needs to be done on the young offenders Act. Stricter sentences for those involved in pornography and child abuse”.

While we cannot solve every problem in one day or one piece of legislation, Carol can be assured that we also want to continue with our improvements to the justice system in Canada. Along with these proposed reforms dealing with mandatory minimum penalties, the government is introducing legislation that will prohibit the use of conditional sentences for serious and violent crimes.

These reforms will help keep our streets and communities safer by ending the use of conditional sentences, including house arrest for serious offences. The reforms will help ensure a cautious and more appropriate use of conditional sentences, reserving them for less serious offences that pose a low risk for community safety.

This legislation will help improve public confidence in the use of conditional sentences by helping to ensure criminals face penalties that match the seriousness of their crimes. I honestly believe that any member of Parliament who has gone door to door in his or her riding will have heard the same message as I did. It was astounding to hear the same issues come up in both the rural and urban areas of my riding.

Community safety is clearly a shared concern right across Canada. I have heard the message. I hope my colleagues opposite have heard the same and I look forward to seeing them rise to give their support to these important and long overdue changes.

I would like to thank my constituents for granting me the privilege of representing them once again in the House of Commons. I will be home soon and look forward to seeing them all again.

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