Last night, in the final two minutes of debate of the omnibus crime bill, I managed to get in the last word:
Ms. Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands, GP):
Mr. Speaker, the clock is ticking and this debate is closing far too soon for those of us who believe that we are on the verge of a very large, serious mistake that future parliamentarians will have to struggle to correct.
First, let me say to the hon. government benches and the members here where we agree. I would happily vote for the Victims of Terrorism Act. I would vote to change the Criminal Records Act to replace the word “pardon” with “record suspension”.
However, I will be forced to vote against this legislation if it comes packaged with sections that would cause this country nothing but grief.
I wish to say to all hon. members on the government side whose talking points have repeatedly forced them to say that those who question the flawed premise of mandatory minimum sentences have somehow sided with criminals against victims. Nothing could be further from the truth. Members of my family are involved in law enforcement. People close to me have been murdered.
It is not as though we side with criminals when we recognize a piece of legislation is so egregiously flawed that this place should say “no.” We look at all the evidence from criminologists, not just one or two, but all of them. We look at evidence from our own Department of Justice that studied this matter in 2002. We look at what is happening in the U.S., not only at the fact that its prisons are full of people but its prisons are full of people disproportionately low-income and black.
We also look at what could happen in this country. We have seen the report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples and the report on the Commission on Systemic Racism in the Ontario Criminal Justice System. We know that with this legislation, without a lot of changes in our system, we would disproportionately fill our jails with people who should not be in jail.
We also know that this legislation would cost us billions, which has not been fully costed. Yet, at the end of the day, it may actually result in weaker sentences for those who deserve higher sentences because we would ruin the opportunity for judicial discretion.
Thank you Mr. Speaker.