The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased today to rise to speak to Bill .
However, before I do that, I want to wish my constituents a happy and merry Christmas and a safe holiday season. I also want to relay those best wishes to my colleagues here in the House. It is great to work with them. It has been a privilege and an honour to discuss and debate things like this bill.
I think Canadians are very happy. In fact, the latest polls show that they think this government is going in the right direction and they applaud us for the work we are doing.
I trust we will all have a good time back in our ridings and will be able to talk to our constituents about pieces of legislation such as this one, Bill .
This piece of legislation is one of balance. I think balance has always been the key around this piece of legislation. It is trying to get the balance right.
If we get the balance right in this legislation, I think a lot of radio talk show hosts would be out of work or would not have the old safety net of, “What do I talk about today? Let's talk about victims of crime. Let's talk about people who make citizen's arrests and then become the person who is convicted”.
That is what constituents are asking. If I were to go back to the riding of , which I represent, and talk to constituents, that is how they would instruct me when it comes to looking at victims of crime or balancing--or, in this case, rebalancing--the right of citizens to defend themselves or their property.
It is interesting that when we talk about public security and the ability to defend ourselves, those terms have different connotations depending upon where we are in the world. If we go down to the States and talk about the right to protect ourselves and our property, we envision somebody stepping inside the door and meeting a nasty end. That is not what we are doing here in Canada. That is not even close.
If we go to some other parts of the world, such as Central or South America, where public security is always an issue, they would like to see what we are doing here today. They would think this would be a reasonable and balanced approach and they would like to see their police forces up to the level of our forces here Canada.
I also want to remind members that we are not proposing to remove the police force. We understand the role of the police force. If someone is in an unfortunate situation and is going to be a potential victim of crime or if someone sees a crime taking place, we would recommend that the first response should be to dial 9-1-1. I do not think anybody is debating that. I think everybody is saying that we should involve the police as quickly as possible.
However, there are always circumstances in which that is just not possible. There are always situations in which people just cannot get a speedy response. I am not blaming the police; it is just the reality of the vast geography of our country.
In my hometown of Canwood, Saskatchewan, if the police officer on duty that night is at the far end of his area and something is going on at the farm or we see somebody stealing gas, we can call 9-1-1. However, the reality is that it is going to take him probably 15, 20 or 25 minutes to get to my farm just because of geography. It does not matter how fast he drives; that is what it is going to take.
When we talk to farmers or people in rural Canada, they are not talking about revenge. They are not talking forming a posse and tracking down people who commit crimes. The John Wayne scenario of the westerns of the 1800s is not what we are talking about here either. Nobody would accept that. What we are talking about is just balance, simple balance.
When that farmer comes across a guy stealing a quad out of his shop and is able to apprehend him and hold him, he should not be charged with kidnapping. He should not be charged with assault. He should not be charged at all, especially when we look at the situation and the facts around the situation. That is all we are doing: trying to clarify for the courts and the police when they should lay a charge and when they should not. We are trying to balance that out.
I know the opposition members talk about amendments that they want to bring forward. I would encourage them to bring them forward in committee. That is how we end up with good pieces of legislation. I trust these amendments are ones that their constituents want to see in the bill. When those amendments come forward in committee, the committee will look at them. I trust the committee will study all those amendments and make suggestions back to this House. Then we will stand to vote, based upon what our constituents want. That is how our government works.
Therefore, when it comes to amendments, I would encourage members to take their amendments forward at committee. I would encourage members to bring them forward, make their passionate arguments, state their case and then let the committee members and members of Parliament decide their fate at that point in time.
The different types of crime that go on in ridings represent a very sad state. Nobody ever wants to be a victim of crime. Nobody ever asks for that. If a farmer in rural Saskatchewan has somebody drive into the yard at two o'clock in the morning, go up to his gas tank and proceed to break the valve and steal gas, the farmer did not ask for that. That farmer should not be penalized when he goes out and apprehends that person. That farmer should not be penalized when he confines that person.
That is what happening in the courts today. As the member for said earlier, people who go about their day-to-day lives are put in a situation they did not create, and then all of a sudden, they end up in the courts. They have to defend themselves in court. They did not bring this on themselves; they did not ask for that person to come to their farm and steal gas. Why should these people have to go through a six-month legal battle?
That is all we are looking for in this piece of legislation. That is what this legislation does. The word is balance.
The legislation proposes a clarifications of the law. We are basically providing the police with some clarification about when they should or should not lay a charge. We are basically clarifying for the courts when it would be appropriate to pursue a charge or not.
If a person is using excessive force to restrain somebody or is being vindictive, or is planning to be, we expect that person to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. This legislation will not be a licence to blow somebody away because he showed up on your property. That is not what we are doing here. What we are doing is finding a balance, and people will not have a licence or a blank cheque to do whatever they want if somebody enters their land. They will not have that. What is acceptable and what is not acceptable is very clear in the legislation. Again, balance is the word.
That is the theme in this piece of legislation. The word “balance” should be repeated over and over again. If we get the balance right on this legislation, I think Canadians will be very happy with the government and with Parliament because we will have tackled an issue that has annoyed Canadians for years.
That is one thing my constituents will say when I go back to the riding during the break. They will say, “At least the Conservative government did stuff. You went to Ottawa, you made promises and you kept your promises. You did what we wanted. The Conservative government delivered on what Canadian constituents wanted”. They will respect and thank us for that.
As we go back to our ridings on the break and as this piece of legislation moves forward, I would encourage all members to talk about this piece of legislation with their constituents. What we are trying to do should be properly explained.
Members who want to can distort it or rile people up if they want to. Anybody can do that. However, we should sit down and explain that we do not want another situation like the one we saw with Mr. Chen. How do we properly balance that so that it does not happen again? How do we make sure that a farmer who is wakened in the middle of the night by somebody stealing his gas is not in front of the courts for eight months just because he stopped that person from stealing it?
That is the balance our constituents want; that is the balance Canadians need, and that is what we are doing in this piece of legislation. If constituents have suggestions to make this bill better, then members should bring those suggestions to committee as amendments. They should trust the committee to come forward with what they think is the best work to develop this piece of legislation.
I do know one thing: what we have today is not working. When we have people who are the victims of crime being convicted or being pursued harder than the guy who actually commits the crime, then we know something is out of balance. We know something is not correct.
I will close with that comment, and just remind my colleagues as they go back to their ridings that they should talk to their constituents about balance and about appropriate levels of security for public safety. It will be interesting to see the response that members get.
If we get this right, as I said when I started, a lot of talk show radio hosts will suddenly lose a topic to talk about over the next two or three years.
Madam Speaker, the bill before us, Bill , epitomizes the old adage “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”.
Although the intention of the bill is valid, questions remain about its application and, unfortunately, its results. We are talking about allowing people to arrest wrongdoers who commit crimes against property, which in and of itself is commendable. In the absence of police officers, it is almost a civic duty to uphold the spirit of the law and to ensure that people who commit crime are held accountable and brought to justice. We accept allowing citizens to uphold justice. However, things start to get a little complicated when we allow a person to use physical force or commit an act of violence against another person to make an arrest. Everything else flows from that. What is reasonable and what is not?
With regard to self-defence, there is a great deal of expertise contained in the Criminal Code itself and in the relevant case law to ensure that a person who was assaulted and took action truly acted in self-defence and that his actions were measured, proportionate and acceptable from a legal perspective. There is a reason the legal system takes into consideration criteria such as the aggressor's age, health and size, as well as whether the aggressor was armed and whether he clearly indicated his intentions to physically assault the victim or simply insulted the victim. All of these factors are taken into consideration in determining whether the victim had a legitimate right to self-defence.
Then, a second question is asked: was the response proportionate? If a five year old threatens someone with a stick and the person responds by firing a shotgun, we cannot expect the law to turn a blind eye. It is crystal clear that the person will have serious problems with the law.
I think that everyone, no matter what their political affiliation, can agree that this would be a serious breach of the law. That case does not involve an act of justice but, rather, an act of disproportionate violence. That is the problem we are facing with regard to people who commit property crimes. No life is in danger in such cases. I would even go so far as to say that, by making an arrest, the person is putting his health at risk. The person is even risking his life in the unfortunate situation where the aggressor is better armed.
There is a reason why my distinguished government colleagues have insisted on the fact that an honest citizen's initial reaction should be to call the police and not to risk his life to protect his property. However, sometimes it can be done, which raises the question: what is considered reasonable violence leading to an arrest?
Must the members be reminded that people can commit crimes without being criminals? There is the defence of necessity. We have all heard of someone who got stuck in a snowstorm and committed a break and enter to take shelter from the storm and avoid freezing to death. We have all heard of someone who stole a car to drive a person who was seriously ill to the hospital. These types of situations involve the defence of necessity, which is accepted in our legal system.
We can understand that, in Canada, many people with mental health issues, who are no longer receiving the proper care, find themselves living in the streets and committing crimes. Unfortunately, this situation is becoming increasingly common. These people are not responsible for their actions. They do not belong in prison or on the streets. They need health care.
Unfortunately, these people commit crimes. Do they deserve to suffer a serious injury when they are arrested or questioned about the situation? No one wants that.
Everyone knows that when police officers make an arrest, they do not have the right to use unreasonable force. Police officers are trained to use a minimum of force. They are not the judge or the executioner. Their job is to make arrests and to tell people that they must appear before a judge to explain themselves. That is quite reasonable.
We do not find reasonableness or proportionality in this bill. Many stakeholders came to tell the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights that there was a problem in that regard and that the bill really should be amended. In its current form, this bill has serious problems and if enacted would not stand up in court.
The intention is to protect people who make arrests. Therefore, it would be unreasonable to find ourselves passing a bill that, when first applied, would be considered ultra vires because it violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. There can be no just and reasonable sentence when there is violence. We would find ourselves in exactly the same situation, as if the law did not exist. This requires legislation. It is important for people who make an arrest to be protected to some extent by the law, and they should be permitted to help police.
Sometimes, police officers patrol alone in their cruisers and have to arrest two or three suspects. They may call for backup, but it may not get there quickly, especially in rural areas. In such cases, it would be helpful for honest citizens to be good Samaritans and help these police officers. Therefore, it is reasonable that they be protected by legislation.
What is unreasonable is that we are basically permitting any type of violence, especially in the defence of property. Earlier members said that we must not replicate what happens in the United States. The member for expressed a very sensible reservation in this regard, a reservation that is quite warranted.
I want to remind members of a very unfortunate case of defence of property in Arizona, with no criteria for reason or proportionality. A young man who was going to meet friends got the wrong address. He showed up at the wrong place and the owner of the property shot him in the back when the young man was walking away. The American justice system found this man not guilty because it determined that the man was defending his property and that the young man had not been invited onto that property. We do not want to see similar incidents happening in Canada.
In addition, I do not want to see us applying Judge Lynch's principle. Lynch was an administrative law judge in Virginia during the American Revolution in 1776. He established the principle that if a number of individuals decide to enforce justice, this act becomes justice. The term “lynching” was named after this sorry individual. These kinds of things are now prohibited. Now, individuals generally cannot spontaneously declare that they will enforce justice. Any members of the public who want to enforce justice must do so in accordance with the law and not in accordance with a tradition or tolerance by the legal system. Therein lies the problem, since the text of this bill seems to indicate some tolerance for violence by the legal system, when this violence is disproportionate.
These things are important. We will soon have a law about the national flag. That bill must not enable people to use this legal right to violence in an inappropriate way.
Madam Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to Bill . It is important that we revisit why we are debating this bill. It is, of course, because this government saw things happening in Canada, in particular a couple of incidents where the laws concerning a citizen's power of arrest, self-defence and defence of property, that needed clarification. That is exactly what Bill would do.
It does not introduce new concepts with regard to the Criminal Code. It clarifies what powers citizens have and their responsibilities. We always talk about what rights we have but we do not talk about responsibilities. Living in a civil society places responsibilities on every citizen and part of those responsibilities is to ensure that the world in which we live is kept safe so we can all go about our day-to-day lives with a reasonable amount of peace and tranquility.
About a month ago, the introduced Bill . The purpose was to expand and simplify the laws with respect to self-defence, the defence of property and to expand the circumstances in which law-abiding Canadian citizens can make arrests. The reason Bill was introduced is that our government is committed to putting real criminals behind bars. Canadians who have been victims of crime should not be re-victimized.
My mind goes back to instances where people acted in defence of their property and, because the law was not clear enough, police felt it necessary to arrest those people who we, in retrospect, and the courts found there were sufficient reasons that these people should not be convicted of the crimes for which they were arrested. The government and I believe everyone in the House wants to ensure the victims of crime do not themselves end up being re-victimized by finding themselves before the courts.
The purpose, as I mentioned before, would be to build on existing legislation that would authorize an owner or a person in lawful possession of property or a person authorized by the owner to arrest a person within a reasonable amount of time after having found an individual committing a criminal offence either on the owner's property, for example, if the offence occurs in the owner's yard or within his or her place of business, or if property is stolen from a public parking lot or some place like that.
In referring back to my years in policing, I never came across a circumstance where there was a grey area. It was relatively well defined. However, I had a chance to read some journals that we researched where people went above and beyond that. That is why this government wanted to ensure it was inserted in the bill that people need to be found committing offences on someone's property or property for which a person has responsibility.
We know that maintaining public order is a responsibility. We must always remember this. Every citizen and all legislators in this place must remember that there are trained law enforcement professionals who have a duty to maintain public order. However, we also know there is not a policemen on every corner of our streets, every 10 yards, 10 miles or 10 kilometres down the road. Again, I go back to the fact that all citizens have a duty and a right to protect their property and the persons for whom they are responsible.
That is why the government introduced these clarifications to the citizen' power of arrest. The reason I am repeating this is that some people believe that this would give additional powers and it is not. This power only exists if there are reasonable grounds to believe that it is not feasible for a police officer to make the arrest. What does that mean? It means that if the citizen does not make that arrest, the perpetrator of this crime will probably never be found. In other words, the citizen did not get a licence number of the car, a description of the person or the offence was happening so fast that the person did not have a chance to get a sufficient description or even a name or possible address for that person. Therefore, it would be necessary to stop the crime or additional crimes from being further committed and to apprehend the person so that as soon as practicable police officers can be summoned to the scene to continue the arrest and begin legal procedures,such as charging the person for the offence that he or she is responsible for.
It is important to say that in all cases a citizen's arrest is a very serious and potentially dangerous undertaking. I heard mention in other presentations before us today the fact that a person who is of limited physical ability should not, nor would any member of this place or any police officer recommend that a person with limited physical ability try to institute an arrest. Is there any property that we own worth our life or worth having some serious injuries or injury? The answer to that is obviously that it is not.
Therefore, before people institute their right to protect their property, et cetera, they should have regard for their safety and the safety of those around them. If someone has a firearm and is committing an offence and there are many people in the area, it would be foolish to try to institute that arrest. The responsibility is on the citizen, who is not trained like law enforcement officers, to assess the situation before he or she actually institute an arrest. The government is recommending that no one should take any chances but that, if people feel there is an ability to apprehend that person, they may do so because that is what this law says, this clarification of existing legislation.
It was mentioned here before about people's right to defend their property and to defend their person. Once again, it is important to reiterate that these proposed amendments to the defences would simplify the provisions and make it easier for police and prosecutors. That is very important because we want to make the enforcement and the adjudication of our laws simpler so that prosecutors, police officers and the courts, as well as citizens, understand and are better able to determine their rights and responsibilities with regard to their property.
Of course, the words of caution we have used here time and time again is “where it is reasonable” and therefore could provide a defence to a criminal offence. Police officers have powers of arrest but those powers have limitations and they are trained to know what those limitations are. Average people need to know there are limitations to their powers and that is why we were careful to say found committing a criminal offence in relation to their property and the property for which they have a responsibility.
The defence of property provisions have been greatly simplified because of the instances that stimulated the government and actually brought the situation to light. The stories were in all our newspapers. We were bombarded with them every day. We saw the need to clarify this law because a person who found someone committing an offence against his property all of a sudden found himself before the court charged with an offence. We, as a government, must respond to the needs of our community and of Canada. We saw that it was necessary to clarify and simplify the law concerning a citizen's power to arrest in relation to his or her property and in relation to--
Madam Speaker, I am proud to speak to this bill which will introduce reforms to the Criminal Code so we can have the clarifications required in the courts to know when it is appropriate to make a citizen's arrest and when it is appropriate to conduct self-defence.
I come from a rural riding. We know that policing services are often quite well removed from people who live in the country. We have heard a number of members of Parliament speak today to the problems that are often encountered in having the RCMP get to a remote rural location. There are rural detachments that are often 20 miles or 30 miles removed from the communities they serve. Often the individuals who are staffed at those attachments are busy performing other policing services, such as patrolling highways or responding to public safety issues. Therefore, it is important that Canadians know there will be clarification with respect to what they can do to protect themselves, their families and their property.
We have been discussing the case of Mr. David Chen and the issues that he endured as a result of his making a citizen's arrest in Toronto a couple of years ago. When that happened, I went through sections 34 right through to sections 42, 44, 45 of the Criminal Code and read everything that related to self-defence, citizen's arrest and protection of property. I found it extremely confusing.
There has been a number of decisions and judicial commentaries made with respect to the need for a reform of the Criminal Code. This section of the Criminal Code was put in place back when it was first written in 1897. Therefore, it is over 100 years old and does not provide the clarity that prosecutors need or that police officers require to make decisions concerning investigations of criminal activities and the laying of charges. As well, it definitely does not provide the clarity that judges need to make proper rulings. Therefore, this is timely.
When we look at the problems we have in rural Canada, one of the criminal elements being experienced right now is with youth, often those who a lot of us would call “punks”. They coming out to the farms and steal property. They are not after little things. They are not running into the houses and stealing watches and jewellery. They are grabbing quads, trikes and snowmobiles from the garages. They jump on them and drive them down the road.
There was a situation in my riding a couple of years ago where one of my constituents gave chase to a couple of young guys. In his situation, he was able to get an ID, make an apprehension and charges were laid. We definitely do not want people to take unnecessary risks that would cause them to endanger themselves. Nor do we want to see them get involved in vigilante movements. This bill would clarify that this would not be tolerated. We will not have a bunch of posses formed, with people running around doing their own self-policing. We are still telling people to, first and foremost, contact the police, or phone 911, to ensure police officers are aware of the situation so hopefully they can respond quickly.
However, we see a lot of criminal activity especially in rural areas, although we often see it in urban centres as well. As the member for stated earlier, Winnipeg is a dangerous community. We are leading the nation in auto thefts and are near the top with respect to the number of murders, home invasions and sexual offences. Therefore, when citizens are put in harm's way on such a frequent basis because of these criminal elements, we have to empower them so they can take the necessary measures to protect themselves, their families and their properties.
Therefore, I applaud the and our government for bringing forward this legislation.
When we look at the definitions of what the courts will use to determine whether an individual has used excessive force, the current code provides for that clarification. Therefore, we do not need to go into any more detail. If someone is breaking into a house, essentially going in unarmed, we are not going to have people running around shooting these people. That will not be tolerated.
If we have a situation where people come in and every reasonable peaceful means is taken to apprehend the individuals, if people are in peaceable possession of the property and do not want it to be removed, whether it is in a business or a home invasion, those individuals who conduct that activity need to know that Canadians will not tolerate it.
I believe by empowering Canadians in this way, it will send a strong message to offenders who commit these crimes. Canadians will be prepared and willing to take action if they feel they are physically able to protect themselves, their families and their property.
We want those criminals to think long and hard about this type of behaviour. We want to ensure they know they will unable to have some lawyer lay charges against those who try to apprehend them for a citizen's arrest. Criminals need to know they will be held accountable under the new, stronger justice measures that we have instituted, not only through this bill but through Bill and the other criminal justice bills that are being moved into law. They need to know they will be held accountable, that they will do the time for the crime and that this type of behaviour and criminal element will not be tolerated in Canada.
The number one issue for Canadians, from coast to coast to coast, and especially in my riding of Selkirk—Interlake, is they want to be safe in their homes, on their streets and in their neighbours. They do not want young offenders and the criminal element in our society overtaking their lives.
As was pointed out earlier, all we hear about in the news in Manitoba is criminal offence after criminal offence, murders, sexual offences, property damage, gang violence and drug activity. Those elements are there. The police are overwhelmed in dealing with those types of criminal elements in our communities.
Because the police are so overwhelmed and are often well removed from where a criminal offence takes place, it is important that we allow citizens the opportunity to protect themselves, their property and their families.
I personally have not had a situation where I have had to deal with it, but I know in my heart of hearts that if somebody tried to endanger my family or if the person came onto my property to steal, in the absence of police services being available, I would be prepared to take the necessary measures. I would not want to put anybody else into personal harm, but I would make that citizen's arrest. In speaking to so many people in Selkirk—Interlake, I know they are prepared to do the same.
One business has received repeated break and enters and the theft of quads and snowmobiles. Unfortunately the RCMP has been unavailable when those offences have taken place. The business owner has gone through the process of working night shifts, staying at his business to catch those individuals who have repeatedly attacked his property and stolen from him. He knows full well that he will replace that property and the criminals will return and steal again.
I encourage all members of the House to support the bill to ensure that we have the right reforms in the Criminal Code to provide the clarification that the justice system needs so badly.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill . The bill would amend subsection 494(2) of the Criminal Code to enable private citizens who own or have lawful possession of property, or persons authorized by them, to arrest within a reasonable time a person who they find committing a criminal offence on or in relation to that property.
As the Liberal critic said, the Liberals support the bill in principle, but we have some concerns about the scope of the self-defence provisions. They need to be further examined in committee.
I note that in this debate some Conservative members have assured the House that potential amendments will be discussed and considered and maybe incorporated. I want to point out that has certainly not happened in this 41st Parliament so far. All of the bills that have come forward have been rushed through, including Bill , a very substantive bill that needed amendments. Even the minister recognized that amendments were necessary. He tried to put them in later and failed because they were rejected out of hand at committee where they should have been accepted.
We are optimistic that the Conservative government will shift its process of unilaterally pushing through its bills. We are optimistic that the government will start listening to the opposition parties and the diverse voices from different parts of the country.
Bill does not contain any new powers or concepts, as I noted previously in a question in this debate and as was said by the member for .
However, Canada's self-defence laws are complex and out of date. This bill would bring provisions with respect to self-defence that are spread over four sections of the Criminal Code into one defence provision.
The Liberals have some concerns about the bill which we feel need to be thoroughly explored in committee. Our critic, the member for , has laid out those concerns clearly. They boil down to what could be seen as gender discrimination in the bill. The reasonableness of someone's self-defence action refers to size, age and gender of the parties to the incident. We contend that size and age may be critical factors, but gender could reinforce the concept of “the weaker sex”, which is an anachronism in today's world. It is not appropriate. Women are just as capable of wading in as anyone is.
I have a personal incident with respect to a property crime. The member for described his difficult situation, but mine was resolved much easier.
I returned to my company's office late at night, which many parents of young children do after the children are in bed and everything has settled down. This is a large building of 5,000 square feet and contains a number of offices. Clearly it had not been properly alarmed. When I went into the office I encountered a hefty individual probably in his late twenties. He did not belong there. He had been rifling through the petty cash and the drawers and personal effects of my staff. Alone at night in my office, I was completely shocked to encounter this individual. I used a very potent weapon to deal with this situation, my tongue. I reacted by telling him all of the reasons he should leave right away. I told him he had no right to be there as it is a family business where we work hard to provide a good service. Essentially, I succeeded in shaming the individual and he left.
However, I later realized he might have had a gun or a knife. He might have decided he did not want to leave because he had not completed his efforts to secure funds for whatever purpose. He might have resisted and I would have had to take a different measure, which I would have done in defence of my property.
I appreciate that the laws should be clear and that people, who are in situations where they are defending property or persons, should not have to worry that they may be charged under the Criminal Code because of confusion. I support this.
Many of the members on the Conservative benches have talked about their broader approach to crime. I have deep concerns about the Conservative government's broader approach to crime. It is partly because it does absolutely nothing to help prevent these very incidents of property and personal crime for which Bill provides citizens with a recourse.
Why are we not finding ways to reduce crime? Why is the government actually committing billions of taxpayers' dollars to a crime agenda or regime that goes completely contrary to the evidence and advice from states like Texas and California that have experimented with the kinds of provisions built into the Conservative government's approach to crime? They have failed, they have been costly, they have reduced justice, and they have actually increased crime. The government is going down that road.
As the member for has already said, there are no new concepts or new powers in this bill. It clarifies an existing law that protects citizens in situations where they must defend their lives, and so forth. Furthermore, we are being given the same amount of time to debate this bill as we were given to debate Bill , which included nine bills. Bill C-10 has very serious ramifications that would radically alter how youth are treated by the law. A number of professionals said that it was a bad bill, but we did not have time to debate it in this House, in this 41st Parliament, with the new MPs. Bill is much smaller than Bill C-10 and yet we were allocated the same amount of time for debate in each case.
I want to know why we are not seeing prevention but the warehousing of mentally-ill Canadians and Canadians struggling with drug addictions, who should be provided funding for treatment and prevention. In Vancouver, the youth skills connect program has been cut, so prevention programs for youth are being cut. The balance is completely out of whack and will be tipping over Canada's justice system in a very negative direction.
Liberals support this bill, but certainly not the overall approach to crime by the Conservative government.
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for me to stand in this House to speak to this bill which would clarify in law provisions that many people have been confused about over the last number of years.
As a matter of fact, I should tell members that I represent a large rural constituency. A significant portion of my riding is outside the larger city of Grande Prairie. Right now, I represent, in the province of Alberta, about 20% of the land mass. So, it is a significant territory. In that territory, in my constituency, about 60,000 people live in close proximity to the city of Grande Prairie and the rest of the other 100,000 people live throughout the constituency in small villages and towns and, significantly, in some cases, remote and rural communities.
This bill and its provisions are being welcomed within my constituency because it would clarify in law what is in fact a worrisome consideration for many people who live within my constituency.
Over the last number of years, this House, many members on all sides of this House, have witnessed high profile stories, where individuals who were simply trying to defend their own property or their family's security or their individual businesses have been then victimized themselves by the criminal justice system for doing exactly what I think all of us believe is reasonable, simply defending their property, defending their families, and, in fact, were found to be on the wrong side of the law. That, I think, is what this House seeks to clarify.
Notwithstanding the speeches that we have heard in this House today, I would suggest that there is actually significant support from members in different parties on this because members across this House hear stories from their constituents where they feel that they are not protected by the criminal justice system.
I am fearful that Canadians have become increasingly worried about the criminal justice system. They believe that the criminal justice system has moved from protecting those who are the most vulnerable and those who are innocent to actually working more to protect the criminals. The most evident of those concerns are when people read stories where individual shopkeepers are being arrested because they sought to stop someone from stealing from their store or where individual farmers are arrested for having run people off their property when they were hunting in close proximity to livestock.
These types of things worry people. They send a chill, quite frankly, among those people who really are the most heroic in our communities, those people who would intervene in any circumstance when they saw an injustice happening, those people who would seek to defend their families, defend their businesses, defend their neighbours' property, and defend their neighbours.
It is important that we join together as members across this House and actually support the legislative measures that would clarify this in law.
I mentioned earlier that I represent a rural constituency. Included in this rural constituency are a number of different components and communities. I represent a large agricultural community. Many farmers in my area live some distance from their neighbours and a significant distance from RCMP or police headquarters or dispatch centres. When there is a concern in rural communities of someone stealing from a farmyard, and I should say that in our rural communities we do not have a lot of crime, and we are thankful for that.
However, there are incidents, unfortunately increasingly so, where people come onto farmyards and steal either equipment or tools or, in many cases, gasoline or diesel fuel. There is little that farmers can do if they live hours away from a dispatch centre, other than simply confront the perpetrator and try to hold that person in place until such time as authorities can arrive.
Often, people come unidentified into farmyards. If they do not come with a vehicle, or they come with a vehicle that does not have a licence plate or they come in a stolen vehicle, there are limited identifiers for someone to report the crime and for police forces to follow up. It is important that farmers know that they have the assurance, in law, that they can confront perpetrators who come on their property to steal livestock, tools, gasoline or any other goods, and the farmers will not be found to be in violation of the law by confronting and holding perpetrators until the authorities can arrive.
It should be noted that any time people are intervening in a situation where a perpetrator is committing a crime, obviously what is most important is the safety and security of all people involved, those who are confronting the perpetrator. That is a cautionary note that we should all consider. However, there are circumstances where people's lives are in danger because of the acts of others when they come into a business, a community or a farmyard. It is important that we assure Canadians that if they confront somebody in self-defence, there will be protection for those who are standing up for themselves or their loved ones in a family home.
I represent a large aboriginal population in my constituency. Like my farmers, they are often located in isolated communities. I have heard on a regular basis that they have similar concerns about the necessity and ability to confront a perpetrator in their community and hold that person until such time as the police can intervene. We as a government are working diligently to establish a police presence in communities across this country and increase those resources. However, the police cannot be in all places at all times. I should note that our government recently announced a tripartite agreement in some of my aboriginal communities to see additional police resources in those communities. However, the reality is that these territories are large. Even when the men and women who are responsible to protect our communities, the RCMP members, are on surveillance they can be some distance away from where a crime might be happening. In some cases, their territories cover many miles and it can take hours to get from one side to the other. It is important that these provisions be in place.
What I have heard, and I think all members would recognize, is that there are concerns coming from Canadians. It is not just a rural consideration. One of the more high profile cases where somebody intervened was in downtown Toronto. My colleagues are aware of the story. Many members of Parliament have met with the individuals involved and we know this is not just an isolated circumstance that only occurs in rural communities. It happens likewise in urban centres and therefore it is important that we clarify the law.
I support this legislation. Our government supports this legislation. My constituents support this legislation and I know the constituents of many members across the way support this legislation as well.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today and talk about Bill . This legislature has been preoccupied with a lot of crime initiatives over the last part of the session. The Conservatives have been pushing a whole crime agenda. There is some consensus around this one though. It is nice to see the issue from the member for addressed in this particular bill. I will get into the Lucky Moose Food Mart story later.
This is an amendment to the Criminal Code to deal with modern situations that are taking place and to clarify for the courts not only apprehension of individuals by citizen's arrest, but also protection of private property.
It is important to back up a little though and talk about the overall issue of crime in Canada. We know that crime in Canada is actually down right now. I know that the government's official position is that unreported crime is up. I do not know how unreported crime can be up, but apparently that is the government's position. It seems to know the unreported crime rate. However, we know through statistics that it is not the case. In fact, sometimes when we hear the rhetoric coming from the other side of the House we would be concerned to let our kids out at night. The reality is that Canada is a relatively safe nation and we have good police forces with well-trained men and women who serve the community.
In this particular case we are looking at amending the Criminal Code to deal with some issues that have emerged. The case of David Chen and the Lucky Moose Food Mart is an important one. For those who are not familiar, he was being robbed again by a routine thug. He decided to apprehend the individual to stop the theft because it was too difficult to have that type of atmosphere in his store. Because he detained the individual, he was later charged by the police. Because he had box cutters, which is often the case in a grocery store, he was also charged with a weapons offence.
This was a sad situation that was finally resolved many months later and the case dropped. However, it brought to light the real problem that some people face with restraints on some of our public services, where those services often do not have the capability to respond. I am a former city councillor. I can say that there is not unlimited support to provide our police with the proper time and availability. It becomes challenging, so often some people feel they have no other choice. This is why we saw the apprehension take place and we saw the unfortunate result. This bill would amend the Criminal Code to deal with that.
We have to be careful about whether we want to create a vigilante society. This is one of the things we need to hear from witnesses about at committee. Often, we have seen instances where the replacement of law enforcement by citizens has been a negative thing.
One such case is the Minutemen. The Minutemen have taken over different areas of jurisdiction on the Canada-U.S. border because they feel there is not enough law enforcement and not enough policing of the border. They have organized themselves. I have had debates with Congress officials about these groups because often they are actually armed. Because they are in the United States, they arm themselves. They are looking for people up and down the Canada-U.S. border. They are also on the southern border. There has been quite a lot of talk about what they do and how they do it. There is a lot of concern among law enforcement officials on the U.S. side because the Minutemen are not well trained and they use extreme tactics. Just for crossing illegally or crossing at an area where one is not supposed to cross, there has been violence. We have to be careful about those situations. The Minutemen are a good example of vigilantism going too far.
We have also seen in North America, and even in my constituency of Windsor West at one point, the Guardian Angels patrolling the streets. There were issues with the way some of them apprehended people. Not all of them, there is no doubt about that, but there have been situations where these chapters have come and gone.
A bill like this can feed into the frenzy of the idea that we do not have a safe community or that crime is rampant in Canada. The government has done that with its crime omnibus bill, which will not pass in this session of Parliament, ironically because the government refused to move the necessary amendments for it to be legal. Now we have consequences as well with the upcoming budgetary allocation for the bill.
We need to recognize that resources will be stretched. This goes back to groups like the Guardian Angels. They were formed in Los Angeles. They went across the United States and then chapters came to Canada. However, they have not sustained themselves, and there are lots of reasons for that.
This bill would amend the Criminal Code in a way that would provide some clarity for specific situations. That is the big difference. I look at this bill, and maybe other members do as well, as being able to help people like David Chen. It will help representatives, like the member for , to address issues such as those that took place at the Lucky Moose.
As well, there is the protection and private property. That is an important factor. There have been a number of cases that have come forward under the Criminal Code. Chief Justice Lamer stated that sections 34 and 35 were unclear with regard to private property. We want to see greater clarity about what will happen and who is responsible. At the same time, we want to know if there will be some reciprocity to the individual when that takes place.
When we move this bill forward, it will be interesting to listen to witnesses who come forward. In my opinion, it will be important for the government to be open to the consideration of amendments. We want to ensure that there will be balance in this. The bill proposed by the member for is balanced. There is some more clarity required on the private property element.
However, to be realistic, we need to ensure that we do not make people feel they are no longer safe in Canada, that rampant crime has taken place across the country. It is just not the truth. The truth is that crime is down in Canada, but we need to modernize some tools. This is one thing we can do, which will not be at a cost to the Criminal Code.
Interestingly there are no mandatory minimums in the bill. There are no automatic penalties. However, the bill does give clarity. That is an important difference with this bill versus the government's current omnibus bill, which will come with a hefty price tag. There are lots of issues with it.
As a former coordinator at the multicultural council, I worked with youth at risk. We found that if they were given an opportunity, they looked forward to a job or an education rather than repeating an offence. It is critical that we have those types of programs in place. We had 16 youth at risk, 8 who were new to the country and 8 who were long-term Canadians. The eight who were long-term Canadians had made bad mistakes, whether it was shoplifting, assault, some small crime, maybe a charge related to drugs or some other small theft. We mixed them with new Canadians and put them in programs to fight racism issues and to promote community programs.
With that program, we had a success rate of over 90%. We have found that those kids with problems understood that the new Canadians just needed to learn the process to advance in their lives. They knew the system and they would teach new Canadians about a number of different things. There would be a program with resume writing, skills development, life skills and a whole series of things. That was much more progressive, and we had a 90% success rate. We found that people did want to get jobs.
I will conclude by thanking the member for for raising this issue in the House of Commons. It is important to note that, for a change, we will see the government working in consensus, trying to improve the system, as opposed to conflict.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill . I have heard a number of my colleagues speak on both sides of the House. At the risk of repeating some of the things we have heard today, I want to highlight the things that are unique to this bill and that would be great for Canadians.
From the perspective of a person who represents a vast rural riding, the Yukon Territory, there are geographical gaps in terms of the ability to police to have appropriate numbers of officers in such a vast riding. That is no different across rural Canada in general. When crimes occur and there are citizens available to act on them, it is a tremendous shame that people who do so find themselves on the opposite side of the law. As one of my colleagues pointed out, these heroes have stepped forward to protect Canadians and property and to what is right. This bill seeks to clarify that when people act as heroes, people who step forward and do what is right to prevent crimes, we ensure they are not punished for those responsible steps they take as Canadian citizens.
A number of programs across Canada already celebrate the role citizens play in crime prevention, programs like Crime Stoppers, Neighbourhood Watch and Citizens on Patrol. These programs are examples of encouraging average citizens to become the eyes and ears for police. Without their assistance, police officers have a very difficult time doing their jobs and completing their required tasks, given the responsibilities they have, the vast distances they need to travel and the limited resources they have in certain regions of our country. They rely heavily on these exceptional programs.
We see advertisements in Canadian newspapers that provide Crime Stoppers tips and ask for the help of Canadians. They publish pictures of people who are wanted for various offences. When they do that, they are obviously asking for the public's assistance from the perspective of not necessarily looking for these people, but to observe, record and report what they see to try to get police to situations as quickly as possible. That is certainly something our government is continuing to promote.
I have definitely heard the word “vigilante” on both sides of the House today and the fear that people will all of a sudden, with this new-found authority, engage in vigilantism, as if Canadians do not have better things to do than run around the streets and pretend they are police officers. I do not think any expanded authority or protection, which might be the more appropriate term for people who act as heroes versus expanded authority for them to go out on Canadian streets and act as police officers, is not the intention of this bill. We are encouraging all Canadians to utilize police as the first line of protection, the agency that is mandated to protect Canadian streets and deal with crime in our country, and that Canadians observe, record and report to police when they see crimes occurring.
Whether it is during statements by members or in debate on other bills and issues, I hear members on both sides of the House say that they want to stand up against bullying and impaired driving in our country, that they denounce violence against women and domestic assault and that we cannot tolerate this. The bill would allow the protection for people who have the skills, knowledge, ability and at times just the courage to step forward to stop that. It would prevent them from becoming victims of an unclear legislation.
Can anyone imagine any of us walking along our community streets and hearing a cry for help and, in this current day, being concerned that our intervention, if physical intervention were required, could get us arrested when we were merely trying to do the right thing and help somebody?
We know today that one of the most effective ways to prevent bullying from occurring is to step up and speak out. However, imagine if we stepped up and spoke out and then ended up having to use a reasonable level of force for intervention to protect a fellow citizen, but then being arrested and charged for it. This has happened in our country, which is a shame because it discourages Canadians from doing the right thing. It discourages them from stepping forward, not just to be a hero but to do what is right, what is expected and what we should do as Canadians.
It is a little ironic that we are brave and courageous here in the House to say that we will not tolerate bullying, impaired driving, domestic abuse or violence against women but we allow laws to exist on our books that criminalize Canadians who do have the courage, skill, knowledge and ability to step forward.
I draw the House's attention to a marvellous book written by Amanda Ripley called, The Unthinkable. In her book she talks about the first person most likely to be involved in saving another person's life. She says that, whether in an urban or a rural setting, the first person will be one's fellow citizen, the average Joe walking the streets. It does not matter if one is in a big city or rural Canada.
We heard a member on this side of the House talk about fire prevention as an example. It does not matter if one's house is burning, if one is injured and requires ambulance services or if there is a crime, the first person most likely to intervene or be there to do or say anything about it will not be the fireman, will not be the paramedics and will not be the police. The first responders will be average Canadian citizens who are, day in and day out, the heroes saving lives, whether it is a fire, a medical emergency or a criminal offence. We want to ensure that we have a body of legislation that reflects the role we expect, want and hope Canadians to play without making them a criminal in the situation.
I recognize the concern on both sides of this House that this may encourage vigilantism but I do not necessarily see that being the case. I do not think people will read into the legislation that they have an expanded authority. As I said, I do not necessarily see this as being an expanded authority for Canadians. I see it as being an important level of protection that we need to provide Canadians.
We already have sections under the Criminal Code that talk about the use of force and where force is justified. Under section 37, everyone is justified in using force to defend themselves or anyone under their protection from assault if they use no more force than is necessary to prevent that assault or repetition of it. That exists now but we need to ensure that it is clear so that we do not see vigilantism and abuse of that authority. I believe the bill would allow us to do that.
Mr. Speaker, without straying too far from the specific bill we are here to debate, I will say that the work we are doing in crime prevention is exceptional.
I have talked in this House in the past about not operating in silos, not just focusing on crime bills, but looking at what we do across all streams of government.
Our investment in the health portfolio, for example, $565 million that goes toward education programs, anti-gang prevention programs and health initiatives. We make investments in education and in sport and recreation. All those things combined are crime prevention strategies: healthy communities, healthy neighbourhoods, healthy people. I always say that in sport and fitness, healthy mind, healthy body. Those are all strategies designed to reduced crime.
I am very proud of some of the investments our government has made across departments, not just focused on what the Department of Justice does, but what all departments do in an effort to make strong and health communities that ultimately lead to positive interaction with one another and a reduction in crime rates.
I certainly agree that any efforts we make, as long as we do not fixate in silos, across these departments to reduce crime are excellent initiatives. I know our government is taking tremendous steps across our departments to do that.
Mr. Speaker, I rise here in the House today to support Bill at second reading.
This bill comes as a result of the events that took place at the Lucky Moose grocery store. I am sure that all members are aware of what happened, but I will briefly go over the events anyway. Mr. Bennett stole a plant from Mr. Chen's grocery store. Mr. Chen had already been the victim of several thefts from his business. Using a camera, he was able to identify Mr. Bennett. An hour later, Mr. Bennett returned to the Lucky Moose. At that time, Mr. Chen and two of his relatives arrested Mr. Bennett with a knife and tied him up in the back of a truck, if I am not mistaken. It is important to emphasize that during the trial that ensued, Mr. Bennett admitted that he had returned to Mr. Chen's grocery store with the intention of stealing something else.
After detaining Mr. Bennett, Mr. Chen called the police so that officers could come and take the thief into custody. However, when the police arrived, they arrested not only Mr. Bennett, but Mr. Chen and his family members, too. They were charged with the kidnapping, assault and forcible confinement of Mr. Bennett, given that, according to the police officers, Mr. Bennett was not in the process of stealing from him when Mr. Chen arrested him. This arrest drew a great deal of media attention and people felt that Mr. Chen was being treated unfairly. I would like to repeat that this was a case of a small business owner who arrested a thief who was stealing from him and taking away his livelihood.
The idea for this bill arose out of the feelings of injustice shared by the entire country. The hon. member for was the first to react with her private member's bill, a bill that was introduced in this House in the last Parliament.
I would like to express my sense of solidarity with Mr. Chen and small business owners across the country. They work hard to provide essential services to their community and to earn a living. Small businesses and the families who run them are particularly vulnerable to the type of theft committed by Mr. Bennett. They have to resign themselves to the small profit they earn since they have far fewer goods and much less capital than corporations, which can afford to be more competitive. These small businesses are at the heart of the communities in our country. We must give them the means to survive.
My riding of has many small businesses similar to Mr. Chen's, and much of our economic wealth comes from the work of the small business owners. It is important to me to listen to them and understand their needs, their fears and the difficulties they are facing. I can understand how any theft, no matter how minor, can affect the modest income of Mr. Chen and his family and how important it was for them to stop Mr. Bennett when no police officer was there.
The reason I support this bill at second reading is based on this sense of solidarity with small businesses. The current legislation did not successfully defend the interests of Mr. Chen. He was the victim of repeated thefts and then the victim of our legal system since the law was insensitive to his case.
In cases like this, where we recognize that the status quo is unbalanced, it is our responsibility as politicians to do something about it. We have an obligation to think this through and strike a new legitimate and fair balance. That is why I support the principle of this bill at second reading.
That being said, I am eager to examine this bill more closely in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. It is imperative to focus on some aspects of this bill that merit further discussion.
First, we must recognize that this bill must not become an invitation for small business owners to use this type of arrest because that is not their job. In this regard, we must be very careful about the message this bill sends. When we talk about citizen's arrest and establishing flexibility regarding the time when the arrest becomes legal—something that is introduced in this bill—we must emphasize that this right must be exercised only in exceptional and extreme cases.
I repeat that this bill must not be an incentive or public invitation for just anyone under any circumstances to exercise the right to arrest someone who is suspected of theft. This bill is simply a response to the double injustice experienced by Mr. Chen and that could be experienced by other small business owners who may find themselves in a similar situation.
We do not want to put the grocery store owners, such as Mr. Chen, into risky situations. We must, therefore, do more to encourage other types of community policing and other measures that could help to reduce the proclivity some people have to steal.
I would also like to emphasize that this bill absolutely must not open the door for a person who makes a citizen's arrest to treat the person he arrested in any manner he chooses while he waits for the police to arrive. I hope that the committee will examine this issue in greater depth.
I would like to make one last point in closing. I am not really familiar with Mr. Bennett's life story, but I would truly like to emphasize the fact that, in order to protect people like Mr. Chen, it is our duty as politicians to examine the human and social factors and determinants that drive people like Mr. Bennett to commit crimes. I am not saying that there will never be thieves in our society, and we must ensure that we have laws to protect Canadians from theft. I am simply saying that the unfortunate incident that occurred at Mr. Chen's grocery store should not give us carte blanche to categorize people as good or bad.
We need to remember that reality is much more complex. In order to make our streets safer for our families and for businesses like Mr. Chen's, we must think about the reasons behind Mr. Bennett's actions. We must protect all Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour and a privilege for me to rise in the House today to speak to this issue, one that is taken very seriously by my constituents. It arises from an incident that happened a few years ago near the small rural community of Tees, Alberta. That community is located approximately a 45-minute drive from the nearest RCMP detachment. That particular RCMP detachment would be involved.
On that particular evening, the resident who lives there was awoken in the middle of the night, one o'clock in the morning roughly. I do not know all the details as I was not there, but based on the various media reports and information that I have, he was awoken. I believe his spouse was outside checking on the farm. He has young children present and he noticed three individuals trying to steal a quad from his yard. They were actually using his own truck to do so.
Being at a remote farmhouse, the individual in question grabbed some tools and went outside, and started pursuing these individuals down the road. He ended up using his own car to knock the truck off the road and, of course, knocked the quad into the ditch. There were some ensuing calls to neighbours and a roundup began to catch these individuals. They had been captured and then took off again inside one of the vehicles. Without going into too much detail about all that happened, it ended up that some force was used.
The individual who was defending his own property ended up having more charges laid against him than those who conspired to go out and steal his private, personal property that he worked hard for. As a law-abiding citizen he paid his taxes and used his after-tax dollars to buy this property. He did everything by the rules, played by the rules. He is actually one of these individuals who, if an RCMP or police officer needed help or support, would come to the aid of a police officer. Yet, because of the confusion surrounding citizen's arrest and the levels of force that could be applied, more charges were laid against the individual in the defence of his property.
This is outrageous. This has outraged so many people in the community that so much money was raised, and I have never seen a better reason for fundraising to happen in a particular community. A defence fund was set up for this individual. Tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars was donated by concerned property owners, law-abiding citizens who thought it was an egregious miscarriage of the interpretation of the rules of justice that the individual in question would have more charges laid against him than those who perpetrated the crime. After dispensing some of the trials, the three individuals who conspired to go out there and steal his property faced a grand total, among the three of them, of 45 days in jail and $400 in fines.
The individual who was defending his own property went through the process of plea bargaining and so on with his defence fund and his lawyers, looked at the situation, and made his own determination. I am not going to presuppose what the rationale was, but he pleaded guilty to one charge and the other charges were dropped. This particular individual was then sentenced to a total of 90 days in jail. So, for the defence of his own property, the individual, who did not follow or there was not clarity in the rules of the defence of property and in the laying of citizen's arrest and so on, ended up getting a greater charge than those who conspired to go out and steal the property from this individual in the first place.
This offends the sensibilities of the voters I represent in the constituency of to no end. Without going into the details, were there mistakes made on both sides? Absolutely, there were some mistakes that were made. However, I want to put no doubt into anybody's mind that some serious changes needed to be made when it came to these charges
In a previous career, prior to becoming a member of Parliament, I had the honour and privilege of serving as a law enforcement officer. I was not a police office. I was a conservation officer, a national park warden, for a short time, so I do understand some of the nuances surrounding some of the difficulties that law enforcement officers face. We cannot be everywhere all the time. We cannot be there to serve the needs or to prevent all crimes all the time.
However, what has happened in our society and even though those who purport to say that crime rates are on the decrease, the reality is there is so much minor property crime going on, which I hear all the time in my constituency, that it simply becomes a matter that is more civil than criminal.
What normally would have happened is the individual, instead of taking matters into his own hands and pursuing the thief, doing what a good Canadian citizen should have done, and by the way, as a law enforcement officer, most of the serious charges that I laid did not come about as a result of any on the ground policing or patrols I was doing, they came as a result of information that I received from citizens reporting crimes, poachers and so on.
Police officers rely on the general public to have that information so that they can respond. They rely on the testimony of these individuals in order to lay charges because police cannot be everywhere all the time.
In this case, the individual responded and took the matters into his own hands, as a good citizen would do, knowing that the alternative would be to phone and wait for the police, knowing it would take 45 minutes to an hour at best, to respond if they had someone who could actually go to the scene.
All that would have happened is they would have filled out a report. The property owner would have then taken the report to his insurance company which would have taken off the deductible, and the individual would then be responsible for replacing the property out of his own tax dollars. The thieves would likely not have been caught and everyone's insurance premiums would have gone up slightly in order to compensate for this seemingly revolving situation of minor property theft. I hear this story all too often. It happens all of the time particularly when it comes to things like quads and recreational vehicles.
Being the good citizen that he was, my constituent pursued these individuals and as a result ended up in more trouble. What I really want to stress is the offence of the sensibilities of my constituents, but the clarification that we needed in this legislation. That is what happens in this case.
This legislation proposes several changes. One change is rather than, as the existing law states, a private citizen having to actually catch someone during the commission of the offence, he or she cannot lose touch with them. It means that if I am going to lay a citizen's arrest, I have to follow in hot pursuit. I cannot, under the current legislation, do anything other than catch someone in the commission of an offence or in pursuit of that person after witnessing a particular offence.
This leads us to the case where Mr. Chen knew that a person had come into his store several times and committed offences. It was great that he was acquitted, but the offence of the sensibilities of the Canadian citizens was that he was charged in the first place. That is what this legislation seeks to change and I believe there is support around the House to do that. That is a great thing.
The other change in the legislation is to clarify the defence of property which is now spread out over three or four sections in the Criminal Code. This change seeks to consolidate that information into something that is more clear.
I cannot stress enough how important it is that members of the House get behind this piece of legislation. I said it before and I will say it again, as a former law enforcement officer, I know all too well how much I depended, needed and relied upon information from the public. We rely on the public to serve law enforcement officers with the ability to have the information, to lay complaints, to lay charges with the extension of the protection of property and the clarification of the rules when it comes to individuals laying charges as private citizens for people who they know have committed an offence within recent history.
That is the language that will have to be tested, but it would only seem to make sense that it would be a natural extension of the vast majority of law-abiding Canadian citizens who would be comfortable assisting the RCMP, their local police department, or whatever local law enforcement agency they would happen to be working with by getting actively involved beyond just phoning the police or phoning Crime Stoppers, but actively engaging in that and assisting police. We know that the job is hard enough. We know there is enough out there that police officers face on a day to day basis. It only makes sense for society to have a more active and participative role in that.
Mr. Speaker, as this is the last occasion I am going to have to speak in the House before the break, I would like to wish you, the pages, my colleagues at both ends of the House and on the other side of the House a very merry Christmas and a happy new year.
I would like to wish the people of Nickel Belt a very merry Christmas and happy new year.
I would like to summarize Bill . Bill C-26 amends subsection 494(2) of the Criminal Code dealing with citizen's arrest to provide greater flexibility. The changes would permit citizen's arrest without a warrant within a reasonable period. The key words are “reasonable period”. Currently subsection 494(2) requires a citizen's arrest to occur while the offence is being committed. Sometimes that is impossible.
Bill also includes changes to the sections of the Criminal Code related to self-defence and defence of property. According to the government, these changes would bring much needed reforms to simplify the complex Criminal Code provisions on self-defence and defence of property. They would also clarify where reasonable use of force is permitted.
Since half of the bill proposes measures that the NDP member for had previously called for, it follows that we would support this bill at least at second reading. This part of the bill amends subsection 494(2) of the Criminal Code dealing with citizen's arrest to permit arrest without warrants within a reasonable period. Again there is that term “a reasonable period”.
The other half of the bill seeks to clarify sections of the Criminal Code pertaining to self-defence and defence of property. We support in principle improving language in legislation for the purpose of clarity, especially since the courts have indicated a problem with the lack of clarity. Further study will be needed to see if the bill does in fact clarify these sections, and the consequences of the clarifications are acceptable to us. This is the type of work we can do at committee stage.
Also, we would not be supportive of anything that would encourage vigilante justice or that would encourage people to put their own personal safety at risk. While that does not appear to be the purpose of this bill, we understand there are concerns about these matters in relation to citizen's arrest, self-defence and defence of property. Again, this is why we need to carefully study this bill at the committee stage.
I will provide some background on this bill. On May 23, 2009, David Chen, owner of the Lucky Moose Food Mart in Toronto, apprehended a man, Anthony Bennett, who had stolen from his store. Bennett was initially caught on security footage stealing from the store, and he returned an hour later. At that time, Chen, who was 36, and two employees tied up the man and locked him in the back of a delivery van.
When the police arrived, they charged Chen with kidnapping. It is hard to believe, but that is what they did. He was charged with kidnapping, carrying a dangerous weapon, a box cutter which most grocery store workers would normally have on their person, assault and forcible confinement.
Most of the members who have spoken today have talked about an event that has happened to them personally. I would like to relate one of my own experiences. Someone stole two items from my shed. One of those items was my toolbox. I am not Tim the tool man by any stretch of the imagination, but I like to put up things in my house and to do some work. One of the jobs that I hate the most, and I do not know why I hate it, is putting up curtains.
When I went to my shed to get my power tools to put up curtains for my wife, my drill was gone. That could be good and that could be bad. It could be devastating because I had lost my power tool, but it could also be good because I hate putting up curtains. There is give and take. In this case I was kind of relieved, because I really do not like putting up curtains.
The other thing that was stolen was my golf bag. That can be devastating. I do not get the chance to golf very much any more, but I am sure everyone can imagine how I felt when I noticed that my golf bag was gone. That can hurt, especially when the golf clubs are in the bag. That is really bad, especially when it is 75° on a Saturday morning and my chums are going golfing and my golf bag and clubs are gone. That can be really painful, more painful than losing the power tools, although golf clubs are a tool also, a tool for enjoyment.
Returning to the case of Mr. Chen, the crown prosecutors dropped the kidnapping and weapons charges but proceeded with the charges of forceable confinement and assault.
According to the Criminal Code as it is currently written, a property owner can only make a citizen's arrest when the alleged wrongdoer is caught in the act.
In some cases that is okay, if it is a Walmart store, where there are security guards who can arrest people. However, the owners of corner stores cannot afford security guards. If they see somebody stealing their property, they have to take action.
On October 29, 2010, Mr. Chen and his two co-accused were found not guiltily of the charges of forceable confinement and assault. Anthony Bennett pleaded guilty in August 2009 to stealing from the store and was sentenced to 30 days in jail, and rightfully so.
That case caused a lot of controversy. Some of it had to do with whether there was sufficient policing in the area.
My riding of is huge. To go from Foleyet which is in the west to Garden Village which is in the east could take seven hours, and to go from Killarney in the south to Capreol in the north could take another four or five hours. We do not have policemen readily available 24/7, although we do have a fine police station and police officers. Because the territory is so big, it is difficult for a police officer to be at the scene of a crime within a few minutes. We have to take that into consideration.
I have only one minute left, so I will conclude by saying that we will support the bill at second reading. We want it to have careful consideration, which is code for not rushing it through. We want to hear from people who have practised criminal law. We want to hear from experts from the Department of Justice, the Canadian Bar Association and others. We need to examine the bill very carefully. Also, we should rely not just on ourselves but on the expertise of people who have analyzed these provisions, studied all the cases, and who can help us ensure that we are doing the right thing.
Having said that, we will support the bill at second reading, but we want it to be given extremely careful consideration at committee.
Mr. Speaker, like my colleague who spoke before, I am not a lawyer, which often helps on the campaign trail, actually. That is my little gift to some of my colleagues here. I thought I would just throw that over there and see what we can get going here today.
I have had some experience in matters relating to policing, et cetera, during my stint as the Solicitor General in Ontario, so I am at least somewhat familiar with some of the issues that come up in criminal law and its enforcement.
I am sure this point has been mentioned before, but I find it interesting that our background notes point out that five of the sections being looked at are from the original Criminal Code of 1892, which screams a couple of things. The first thing it screams is, “Wow, that's a long time for an original bill to still be here”. Second, it also says that there are obviously things in there that, albeit from two centuries ago, are still relevant. That says a lot. I tip my hat to our predecessors way back when and their skill at crafting criminal law that apparently has served Canadians fairly well.
It is interesting that this has become known as the Lucky Moose bill. The only moose reference I had was back when I was in Toronto in the Ontario legislature. There was a rather infamous Loose Moose, which was a whole different kind of scenario. It was a bar, and it probably had a lot of criminal aspects happening within its environs. I do not think I have ever been there, so I am on fairly safe ground, but nonetheless, the Lucky Moose bill it is.
I see my colleague has arrived. I am not sure if he would like me to shorten my remarks or just continue. I am covering his spot and I need some signals from him, because he knows that if he does not tell me to shut up, I will just keep on going.
Mr. Peter Julian: I am certainly enjoying the speech, but I would be pleased to take the floor.
Mr. David Christopherson: Mr. Speaker, I think the House is in for a real treat, because here is someone who has actually done a lot more preparation than I obviously have on this bill, and I am quite prepared to conclude my remarks to allow my colleague to give a more studied presentation.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague, the member for , for bridging the gap between some of the other comments we have had in the House and my speech. Given the events of today, there are a lot of things going on, so I was a few minutes late and I apologize for that.
I appreciate my colleague across the way stating that he wanted to continue to hear the member for . He made that offer not just because the member for is very eloquent but also because he is well aware that I have risen in the House before, and will do so now, to comment very critically on the Conservative Party's so-called justice platform.
We have heard the member for speak very eloquently to this particular bill. Its origin comes from the work of the member of Parliament for . We need to pay tribute to her work, because she put in place many of the aspects of the legislation before us now. It was her constituent at the Lucky Moose Food Mart who was originally charged, so she raised the issue in an effort to clarify how owners of small businesses can protect themselves in this kind of circumstance. It is the member for who put together the foundation of the bill.
The problem arises when we look beyond the bill itself. Although we will be supporting it at second reading, we see that many clauses have been inserted in addition to the work of the member for . As the House knows, NDP members always do their homework. I am sure members have seen the figures showing that 71% of all of the bills before the House come from this caucus of very experienced veterans and very dynamic newcomers. It is by far the strongest caucus in the House. That is why the member for was able to put forward this bill.
Unfortunately, because the Conservatives often write their justice policy on the back of a napkin, at committee we now have to look at the additional clauses that have been inserted, as we always do. We will be doing our homework. We will look at the impact of each one of these additional clauses thrown in by the Conservative government and make the practical and positive suggestions that we always have.
The question is whether the Conservatives will accept those positive suggestions. Time will tell.
However, when we get to the overall thrust of the so-called justice agenda of the Conservative government, we can see that we have very valid reasons to not have confidence in the government.
The Conservatives have put in place a massive unbudgeted prison program. They do not know where the money will come from. The provinces do not know where the money will come from. They wrote the bill out on the back of a napkin with no due regard for the consequences and brought forth one of the most expensive bills in Canadian history.
In addition, the Conservative government has cut back on crime prevention funding. It has to be completely disconnected from communities across this land to gut crime prevention programs that are actually the heart of investing in a smart foundation for building safer communities. That has always been something that the NDP has strongly advocated. The government cut away crime prevention and addiction programs at a time when those are exactly the tools that are needed to ensure that we do not have victims and that we continue to reduce the crime rate. Those are the kinds of measures that need to be taken.
Instead, the Conservative government has thrown in $10 billion or $12 billion--no one on that side even knows--toward building prisons, while gutting crime prevention and addiction programs. What is wrong with this picture? When we look at it, we cannot have confidence in the government to do what is right.
The Speaker well knows, because he has studied this issue even if his colleagues on the other side of the House have not, that from a fiscal point of view, every dollar invested in crime prevention and addiction programs saves the taxpayer $6 in policing costs, prison costs and court costs. It is $1 for $6.
Colleagues on the other side say, “We do not care; we just want to spend money on prisons”, but it cannot be an emotional thing. The Conservatives cannot be emotional. They have accept that they have to think practically. They have to realize that gutting crime prevention and addiction programs is the worst possible thing they could do.
What else have the Conservatives done? Of course, they refused to keep their promise about hiring front-line police officers across the country. We are seeing all kinds of complications in pushing provinces away from agreements with the RCMP. Perhaps most egregious--and this is something I am going to take a moment to talk about, because I feel it very intensely, as do all colleagues on this side of the House--they have refused for five long years to put in place a public safety officer compensation fund.
It is true that was an NDP initiative. It was brought to the House by the NDP, and Conservative members voted for the public safety officer compensation fund. Since 2005, when they made the commitment to establish it, they have pushed off police officers and firefighters who have asked every single year, as their number one request of parliamentarians and government, for such a fund to be established. Why do they make that request? It is because when firefighters and police officers pass away, as they do every year, in some cases they are protected by existing insurance schemes or collective municipal or provincial legislation, but in many cases they are not.
I have spoken to families and I have seen what happens when insurance such as a public safety officer compensation fund is not in place. We are talking about the widows and widowers of firefighters and police officers potentially having to sell their homes. We are talking about children who were getting post-secondary education, but because their firefighter parent passed away saving lives—
Conservatives are laughing at what happens to the children of deceased firefighters and police officers. It is not a laughing matter. The sons and daughters of firefighters and police officers often have to stop their studies because when there is no insurance in place. Widows and widowers have to make sure somehow that food is kept on the table and the mortgage is paid.
For five long years they have been waiting. For five long years they have been telling Parliament the public safety officer compensation program needs to be put in place.
New Democrats are reiterating today that we stand 102 strong in favour of immediately putting in place a public safety officer compensation fund and ensuring that compensation exists when firefighters and police officers pass away in the line of duty. That is a commitment that we will continue to keep. It is a commitment that we stand for. We will continue to push the government to do the right thing.
We are not talking about something that is incredibly complicated. We are talking about a program that can be established for about $3 million a year. As we know, there is a similar program in the United States already in place to provide that compensation.
Because the government has treated firefighters and police officers with such disrespect, New Democrats do not trust them on their legislation. As I said earlier, the fact is that Conservatives are willing to spend billions of dollars on a prison program, yet they refuse to provide firefighters and police officers with compensatory insurance and they have cut back on crime prevention and addiction programs. What is wrong with this picture?
When it comes to Bill , there is a component that New Democrats support. I am willing to continue to speak if my Conservative colleagues want to continue to hear from me. This conversation has been good. I think they are finally learning that their justice policy is wrong and that they should be following the lead of the NDP. That is a good thing, and that is why New Democrats will support the bill at second reading. However, we are going to be doing our homework, and if these poison pills are put in the bill again, there will be fighting at committee.
Mr. Speaker, I will take the opportunity to wish the hon. member for a merry Christmas and a happy new year.
The member's question is a valid one. That is why I said earlier that the heart of the bill comes from the member for , who is a very strong community advocate and has been a very strong advocate on behalf of the businesses in her community in Toronto.
However, the original bill that was put forward by the member for has been salted and the salting of additional clauses are what generally seems to transpire with the government.
We do not know where the Conservatives find these clauses. We certainly looked at some of the amateurism around Bill . We have to say that this stuff must be done in some back room somewhere on the back of a napkin.
The reality is that, although we support the principle since the basis of this legislation comes from the NDP, we are concerned about the impact of a whole range of those clauses, including the clauses that the member for just mentioned. Because of that, we will be going to committee, as we always do, doing our homework, having prepared the impact and ensuring we get the witnesses in who can really speak to the judicial impact of each one of these clauses.
In committee, we have had Conservatives routinely deny witnesses who have great expertise and could help to contribute and reinforce legislation. I certainly hope that does not happen again where the contempt for Parliament that we are seeing repeatedly from the Conservative government means that the committee cannot do its due diligence in looking at every aspect of this legislation, because it does need to be examined and every impact needs to be thoroughly studied. We also need to have due regard from all parties in this House to ensure that what comes out of committee does exactly what the government says that it intends to do.