Mr. Speaker, I started by saying that I wanted to congratulate the new Minister of Justice and his parliamentary secretary on their appointments. I will have the pleasure of working with them over the coming months and the coming years. I hope we can improve the lot of our people, in Quebec and in Canada, particularly in the area of criminal law.
It is no secret, as people have been saying for a while, that the Liberal government's lax attitude has allowed senseless situations to drag on. I find that unfortunate. I will come back to that.
I look this morning at what is happening with our colleagues in the official opposition and I find that just as unfortunate. What I see is that the official opposition is against everything, except the leader. They falsely claim that the Bloc Québécois supports the creation of a carbon tax when, contrary to the leader of the official opposition's claims, there is a carbon exchange in Quebec. We are not subject to the carbon tax.
For all kinds of good or bad reasons that are their own and that I do not wish to discuss, provinces have decided not to take part in a carbon exchange and prefer to see the carbon tax applied. That is a debate between the Prime Minister of western Canada, who invested in oil in order to be understood, and the leader of the official opposition. They can debate between themselves the rate at which they wish to impose the carbon tax but, in Quebec, we have a carbon exchange. However, the leader of the official opposition does not take that into account.
The leader of the official opposition says that it is thanks to him that hunting rifles were removed from Bill C‑21. We will have to reread the transcripts of the House and committees. The official opposition opposed Bill C‑21, just like it opposes anything that comes from anyone other than the leader of the Conservative Party.
Who worked on getting Bill C‑21 passed and getting rid of the lists that prohibited hunting rifles? It was us, the Bloc Québécois. It was my colleague from Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia who stepped up to ensure that the original version of Bill C‑21 was not adopted. She did this extensive and exhausting work day and night for weeks and months. I commend her on that. I am truly grateful for her. The Conservatives kept filibustering to stop our work. It bothers them to see us work.
In the House, the Conservatives are prepared to say just about anything against the party in power, and against the Bloc Québécois and the NDP as opposition parties. I have not heard their thoughts on the Green Party, but I would not be surprised to hear the Conservative leader speak out against the Green Party. The Conservatives are against everything.
That is unfortunate, because there are some Conservatives I really respect. Some of them are excellent members, smart people who would be able to get things done and help us pass bills that would be good everyone and move Quebec and Canadian society forward. They are hamstrung, though. They have to support an ideological leader, a leader who is not interested in concessions and who is against any ideas but his own. What a shame. That is the Canada we are stuck with, and we, the people of Quebec, hope to get out of it ASAP.
Let us get back to Bill C‑48. It is not perfect by any means, but we have to take action. For years now, the Bloc Québécois has been asking the Liberals to make our streets safe and make things better for people in Quebec and the rest of Canada. Yes, the Conservatives supported us on that, but they were so incompetent and ideological about it, not to mention completely uninterested in compromise or discussion. It was unproductive and actually did more harm than good.
Yes, we have been fighting for that. We have been demanding it. We in the Bloc Québécois believe that having firearms in our streets is plain wrong, except in certain circumstances. I have no problem with armed police officers, but we do not want people walking around with illegal, restricted or prohibited firearms.
We have been asking the government to do something about this for a long time. Finally, today we have this bill. It was tabled last spring, just before the House rose for the summer, in late May or early June. I do not remember the exact date. Here we are, at any rate, with this bill before us today. It will not fix everything, but it somewhat does address the issue of offenders who are out on bail and who are not always adequately supervised.
I am more than willing to work on that, but that will not solve everything. It is only part of the problem. The real issue with firearms is that they go through the border as easily as going in and out of a Walmart.
We are asking for the creation of a joint task force to counter gun trafficking, made up of officers from the RCMP, the Sûreté du Québec, the OPP, the Akwesasne police service, or peacekeepers, and the American FBI. We believe we have to get serious about this because guns come in and out across the river and through Akwesasne's territory. The federal government does not seem to think it is that bad. Last year, Quebec invested $6 million to create a surveillance task force to patrol the river and stop gun trafficking. The federal government has done nothing while guns keep circulating. How many more files like this one is the government failing to act on?
Regarding bail, the issue is what we do with people who get arrested before they are found guilty or not guilty. Do we keep these people behind bars, or do we let them go with or without conditions? The bill is looking to get tough on crimes committed with restricted or prohibited firearms. Offenders will be automatically held in custody unless they can show that they pose no threat to society and that they can be set free until their trial. The onus is reversed, which seems to me like a good idea. We are going to get tough on people who carry firearms, who commit robberies for the purpose of stealing firearms or who engage in acts of intimate partner or interpersonal violence. This seems reasonable to me. However, again, the government has done nothing about gun trafficking.
Nothing has been done about the appointment of judges either. We know that the justice system in Quebec and Canada has had to operate under rules set by the Supreme Court in the Jordan decision. Trials now have to take place within specific time frames. Are these time frames reasonable? The Supreme Court, in its wisdom, has decided that they were, and I accept that.
Saying so is just the beginning, though. Judges have to be appointed if those trials are going to be held within the reasonable time frame set by the Supreme Court. If judges are not appointed, if the provinces do not get funding for better administration of justice, then we end up where we are now. There are no courtrooms. There are no clerks. There are no judges. What then? People are being released before their trial even starts. Has the Liberal government saved us from gun-related problems on our streets? I think not. On the contrary, I think the Liberal government has been negligent for years. As people were saying earlier, the Liberal Party has been in power for eight years, but it has been ignoring these problems for years.
The joint task force must be created. Arms trafficking must be stopped. Judges must be appointed. That seems pretty straightforward to me. A selection committee does the lion's share of the work. It sends a list of five or six names to the Minister of Justice, and the minister picks one. How can that possibly take months? Sooner or later, judges have to be appointed and the government has to transfer money to the provinces for the administration of justice. If that does not happen, we wind up where we are now.
People are saying that Bill C‑48 will solve the problem once it it is passed, but it will not. It will solve part of the problem. It will deal with people who are released even though they should not be. The committee will rework the bill, and I am glad we have come this far, but I am really disappointed that this is as far as it goes.
I would like my colleague, the Minister of Justice, to tell us what he is going to do about judicial appointments. In the coming weeks, can we expect judges to be appointed and all vacant positions to be filled, not 10%, 50% or 80% of these positions?
That is all the federal government has to do. The administration of justice is a provincial responsibility. The only thing the federal government has to do is appoint judges. The other thing it has to do, in terms of substantive law, is to adopt the Criminal Code and amend it. Can it do some serious work on this?
I hope that my colleagues in the Conservative official opposition will finally stop filibustering and allow the work to unfold in committee. I hope it will not take 20 years to get Bill C‑48 passed. We will not be here 20 years from now. This Parliament has only a year or two left to run, at most. It is really sad to see the Conservatives keep griping that the Liberals are doing nothing, but then turn around and filibuster when the Liberals do try to do something. I want to get going on this issue. Back home, in Rivière‑du‑Nord, people are fed up with crime. So am I, and I am sure that the same is true everywhere, across both Quebec and Canada. We need to address the situation.
Section 515 of the Criminal Code currently provides that an accused or someone who is charged with an offence will be detained only if necessary to ensure their attendance in court, for the protection or safety of the public or to avoid undermining the public's confidence. These rules strike me as entirely reasonable and sensible.
However, now the government is going to modify these rules by saying that, in certain cases, such as crimes committed with firearms or involving the theft or manufacture of firearms, the crimes will trigger a reverse onus. In the future, the accused will have to prove that they are not a danger to society and that they can be released without fear of failing to return to court, presenting a threat to public safety or undermining public confidence.
I would like to dwell for a moment on the issue of undermining public confidence. It may seem trivial, but it is the basis of our democracy. If the people of Quebec and Canada no longer have confidence in the justice system, it opens up the possibility of serious disorder with lasting effects. I do not want to see people take the law into their own hands. We already have problems with people leaving hospitals without getting treatment because they are tired of waiting so long. They go home, which only makes their condition worse. The same thing must not happen with the justice system.
This is Parliament's job. We must ensure that the rules are reasonable and that everyone, or the vast majority at least, abides by them. We must ensure that the law is applied in a reasonable and satisfactory manner to prevent citizens from “revolting” against the justice system.
It is true that Bill C‑48 will provide a better framework for bail and ensure that people at risk of reoffending are not released back into society while awaiting trial. That said, judges must also be appointed to ensure that these trials are held. Whether or not someone is detained pending trial, if there is no trial, the work will all have been for naught. Judges need to be appointed, and trials need to be held within a reasonable time frame. I think that is just as important.
It is important to recognize that not all accused persons are guilty, as we have already discussed. This is enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and other statutes. There are rules to indicate that people are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Section 6 of the Criminal Code affirms this, as does section 15 of the charter and, implicitly, section 7.
The principle of presumption of innocence must be respected. There are countries where that is not the case, and I would not want to live in those places. I am happy to live here, in Quebec, which is unfortunately in Canada, but at least the same rules of presumption of innocence apply. As we often say, and as the courts have even affirmed, it is better that a guilty person go free than that an innocent person be imprisoned. This can be very discouraging because, for victims, the fact that a guilty person is out on the street makes no sense. However, that is the choice our society has made, and I am willing to accept and uphold that principle.
The decision to release an accused person must be taken very seriously. Bill C-48 seems reasonable to me, but, I as I said, trials must also be held. This requires judges and funding. Is my colleague, the new Minister of Justice, serious about this? Does he intend to do his job properly and appoint as many judges as it takes over the next few weeks to fill all the vacancies? I hope so.
In closing, Bill C‑48 responds to a request made by the 13 provincial and territorial premiers in January 2023. It is now September 2023. I know that things can sometimes take years. In this case, it did not take years because it is still 2023, but the bill has not yet been passed, and perhaps it never will be if my Conservative colleagues oppose it. Regardless, from January of one year to May of the following year is still a rather long time. The government could have acted more quickly, but I still applaud this decision.
I repeat that the Bloc Québécois will work seriously with the government any time its work supports Quebeckers' interests and values. I believe that Bill C-48 does just that, and we support it. We will see what happens after the bill is examined in committee, but we will support it.
However, that will not stop us from continuing to demand that this government get serious about appointing judges, among other things. It will also not stop us from asking our official opposition colleagues to stop obstructing the work of the House when a bill is in line with their interests and those of both their constituents and ours. We are asking the members of the official opposition to take their job seriously and to act responsibly.