I was amazed at the courage of many of the people who testified before hearings of the Justice and Human Rights Committee in Vancouver last Thursday, April 30. The Committee of MPs which represented all four parties, heard from local mayors, law enforcement officials, victims of crime, and self-confessed criminals.
The committee learned of the tremendous toll that gang violence is taking on the Lower Mainland, in terms of murder and mayhem committed against innocent victims. We learned of the massive economic cost required by increasing law enforcement measures.
It was sobering to learn of the sophistication of gangs, their international reach, and the insidious ways in which they undermine our social norms and prey upon our youth.
As in most dark stories, there were rays of hope. The Committee heard from one outstanding woman, Michelle Miller, from Resist Exploitation and Embrace Dignity.
Ms. Miller lives in the Downtown Eastside, a choice she has made to enable her to stand shoulder to shoulder with prostituted women to help them throw off oppression, and drug dependency.
We also heard from Amir Javid, a young North Shore resident who has turned from a career in gangs to one of campaigning relentlessly among young people persuading them away from gang life.
We also heard from a reformed criminal who has come back from decades in jail to care for homeless people.
The Conservative government has made safe streets a priority. In the past three years, six bills have been enacted to combat crime, including the Tackling Violent Crime Act.
The government now has six new bills before the House, to target gang violence by imposing mandatory minimum sentences for offenders of violent crime; a bill to make sentencing provisions for violent crime more appropriately fit the crime; and a bill intended to deter auto theft.
The law enforcement officers who testified generally applaud the direction of our government. I am confident that this time at least, the Liberals will support our efforts to make our streets safer.
MP West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country