I also want to thank my colleague Diane for her kind introduction and her exemplary work in making our great country even greater.
Ladies and gentlemen, I would be remiss if I neglected to mention the presence of members of AFPAD, the Association of Families of Persons Assassinated or Disappeared.
This organization, l’AFPAD, and its founder, Senator Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu, do remarkable work on behalf of families of victims of crime.
Your organization is doing remarkable work with families of crime victims.
Your presence here today is greatly appreciated.
I also want to thank Senator Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu, one of the Association's founders and a great defender of victims' rights.
Pierre-Hugues, your story has touched all Quebecers.
You have survived the unthinkable.
You have founded an association that helps people who have also experienced a tragedy like yours.
When you were appointed a senator, you told me you had a number of ideas you wanted to put forward.
And it is in that spirit, Pierre-Hugues, that you have fought and continue to fight for the recognition of the rights of victims in Canada.
Pierre-Hugues, I want to tell you that our government will always be beside you.
You are doing an extraordinary job, and you deserve a warm round of applause!
National Victims of Crime Awareness Week is almost here.
It will provide a good opportunity to reflect on issues affecting victims of crime.
For a number of years now, Senator Boisvenu and victims' groups have been calling on the federal government to provide financial assistance to the parents of murdered or missing persons.
Often and understandably, parents are unable to return to work immediately after losing their children because of criminal acts.
They are obviously grappling with a tragedy that has turned their lives upside down.
All the victims who are here with us today can testify to that.
And our government wants to help you.
It gives me great pleasure to announce that parents of missing or murdered children will henceforth be eligible for a brand new measure that will provide them with much needed financial support.
Thanks to that support, those who are unable to return to work will receive financial assistance for 35 weeks.
That financial assistance will not give them justice.
But it will help to give victims' parents the chance to regain control of their lives.
We will also propose changes to the Canadian Labour Code in order to ensure that employees of federally regulated companies can preserve their job security while they are on an extended leave.
These are concrete measures in response to the concerns and calls of victims groups, it is also a promise we made in our election platform last year, and I am glad to report that our Government is honouring the promise it made to parents of victims.
As you know, too often, victims have the impression that it is the criminals who have all the rights.
Victims' suffering is aggravated by a sense of injustice and the impression that they have been abandoned by the legal system.
And it is through tangible measures that we can reverse that trend and restore victims' trust in our society.
Ever since we came to office in 2006, we have sought to restore balance between the rights of victims and those of criminals.
We have listened to victims and brought in tougher sentences for perpetrators of the most serious crimes.
For example, we have eliminated the faint-hope clause,
which forced victims to relive terrible events
by having to testify once again – in our view, once too often.
Our government has also brought in mandatory minimum sentencing for sex offenders who prey on our children.
Those criminals will now have to serve their sentences in prison, and not in the comfort of their living rooms.
These new measures are a sign of our government's commitment to hold criminals responsible for their actions.
But that's not all.
Our Conservative government has also shown
that we are committed to once again making the victim
a central focus of the criminal justice system.
That's why we established the position of Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime: to finally give victims a stronger voice.
We have also invested in the Federal Victims Strategy.
We have set up Child Advocacy Centres.
We have also enhanced the Victim Assistance Fund.
My friends, these are all concrete measures.
They are measures that make a difference in the lives of victims and their families.
Victims have come a long way since our government came to office.
We are on the right track.
But we still face substantial challenges ahead.
And that's why I'm so pleased to have Senator Boisvenu on our team.
Pierre-Hugues, keep up the good work.
And to all of you, victims of crime, rest assured that our government will never let you down.
Thank you very much!