Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague from Mississauga—Erindale for his speech and, in particular, for mentioning the improvements that our city, Mississauga, has seen through various economic action plans over the years. He has been in the House longer than I have, so I think he knows a bit more about the history, but I do see every day, when travelling through my riding and the hon. member's riding next to mine, that there have been many benefits to Mississauga.
Could the member perhaps give us a few more details about some of the infrastructure projects and some of the improvements that the economic action plans over the years have given to Mississauga?
Mr. Speaker, I remember being in the House during a debate, and it was mentioned at that time that there was inaction by the government in matching dollar for dollar and in engaging the Syrian community. At the time, the member for Mississauga—Erindale called those comments absurd.
To this day, the government has not engaged the Syrian community, which is still waiting to meet with the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. To this day, the government has not matched dollar for dollar what the NGOs and the Syrian community have raised. They have raised millions of dollars. To this day, the absurd thing is that the government has had its head stuck in the sand and does not want to listen. I was wondering if my colleague could shed some light on how her party sees the situation of the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism is not meeting with the community and is not matching dollar for dollar.
I will quote a letter I received from abroad. It is from the manager at the embassy in Amman, Jordan. When I asked him if we were running a special program for Syrian refugees, he said, “At this time, there are no special programs for Syrian refugees”. Yet the parliamentary secretary travelled with the minister to Turkey and said we have a special program. They—
Mr. Speaker, Syrians are facing an increasingly desperate situation. More than 80,000 Syrians have been killed so far. Some 4.25 million people have been internally displaced, and over 1.4 million have become refugees. The situation ranks as one of the worst humanitarian disasters on the planet.
In our view, the best and perhaps the only hope to end the suffering of all Syrians is a political solution that would see Assad go, his regime making way for an inclusive Syrian-led transition to a new Syria in which all Syrians' rights are protected and where stability and democracy can thrive.
This ideal is a long way from becoming a reality at this time. It requires a united opposition that will be able to extend its authority over all actors inside Syria, an opposition that is inclusive of minorities, rejects terrorism and extremism, and is committed to building a stable, democratic, pluralistic state for all Syrians.
However, again, that is a long way off. As the Minister of Foreign Affairs noted earlier, the arrival of Salafists, jihadists and people with links to al Qaeda from other countries in even greater numbers only makes the challenge more difficult.
The Syrian Opposition Coalition, or SOC, has made some progress in its attempt to safeguard pluralism and a role for all citizens. The SOC was formed in November of last year in an effort to unite the main factions of the political opposition in a structure that could speak with a single voice. It is an important interlocutor for the international community and is slowly taking steps to bring order out of chaos in parts of Syria it claims to control.
However, much more needs to be done. The SOC continues to struggle with disunity and internal cohesion. In particular, moderates and ethnic and religious minorities do not yet feel adequately represented in the SOC. This is a matter of great concern to Canada.
If the opposition is to turn the page on the tyranny of the Assad regime, it must demonstrate to members of Syria's minority communities that they have a place in the Syrian opposition, that they will have a place in the new Syria, and that their rights will be protected.
Canada also urges the SOC to do more to condemn terrorism and extremism unequivocally.
The proliferation of extremist groups on the ground and an influx of foreign fighters have been of growing concern since the conflict in Syria began. Most deadly among these groups is Jabhat al-Nusra, or JN. Just last month, al Qaeda in Iraq, AQI, announced its merger with JN. We had long been aware of JN's links to AQI, but these had never previously been declared publicly. There is little sympathy among the people of Syria for JN's extreme brand of Islam. In fact, JN was quick to deny the merger, although it still pledged allegiance to al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my colleague for Mississauga—Erindale.
Radical jihadists from across the region and around the world are taking advantage of the current crisis so they can establish a new base for—
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to have this opportunity to speak about economic action plan 2013, which was put forward by the Minister of Finance last week.
As we all know, we are on track and continue to focus on economic growth, job creation and long-term prosperity while keeping our promise to balance the budget by 2015. We are quite proud of that.
I want to note that many Canadians may have heard of the 950,000 new jobs created since the economic downturn of 2009, but they may not be aware that most of those jobs are full-time, well-paying jobs with almost 80% of them in the private sector. I want to note that as a bit of a success story.
We have heard about the innovative initiative put forward in economic action plan 2013 for skills training. This initiative would address the demand for skilled labour, something I have heard about many times in Mississauga South. I heard about it when we were holding pre-budget consultation meetings and local economic round table meetings. I heard about it when I met with the Port Credit BIA and small business owners, who told me that they had skilled labour shortage issues in their businesses. I heard it again when the Minister of State for Finance spoke with Mississauga Board of Trade businesses, and the minister heard it as well. The hon. members for Mississauga—Streetsville, Mississauga—Erindale and Mississauga East—Cooksville held a town hall meeting where we heard the same thing. We in Mississauga are especially pleased to hear about the Canada jobs grant because it will help Canadians to become apprentices. It will help both the unemployed and the underemployed. We are talking about 130,000 people who will be helped through community colleges and other training institutions. This is good news.
What I want to talk about today are the initiatives in the budget that would affect certain people who have been contacting my office, people in Mississauga South in particular. I went through the budget in search of these types of examples and found my favourite page numbers from budget 2013. I would like to tell the House what they are.
I am going to start with tax relief for home care services. Lucie Shaw in Mississauga South runs Nurse Next Door. These individuals drive around in little pink Volkswagen Beetles and help people who live in their homes. We see on page 222 that the Minister of Finance has decided to expand tax relief for home care services by extending the GST and HST exemption for homemaker services to include personal care services to individuals who, due to age, infirmity or disability, require this kind of assistance at home. This change was effective last week. I am particularly pleased about that.
I also want to tell the House about page 243, which is a good page for two reasons. The first reason is this government will continue to support the Nature Conservancy of Canada with $20 million in 2013-14 to allow it to continue to serve ecologically sensitive land under the natural areas conservation program. Each federal dollar will be matched by $2 in new funding from other sources, leveraging additional funds for the conservation of Canada's natural environment.
The government is also working on the development of a national conservation plan, and I was a proud member of the environment committee when we studied the recommendations for the minister for the national conservation plan. It included a very strong component on urban conservation. To me and to my constituents in Mississauga South, which sits on Lake Ontario and has the beautiful Credit River running through it as well, these kinds of initiatives to protect and conserve our environment are very important.
On the same page and in the same line of thought is also a new initiative for improving the conservation of fisheries through community partnerships. Budget 2013 proposes $10 million over two years to improve the conservation of fisheries by supporting partnerships with local groups. In Mississauga South these local groups would be groups such as the Credit River Anglers Association and the Port Credit Salmon and Trout Association, which do great work in my riding. One would not think of this, because Mississauga South is obviously an urban riding and is right next to Toronto, but the constituents of my riding care very much about our lake, our river and our environment. This is a great way for this government to show what a high priority we put on conserving our natural environment.
I would like to draw attention to page 226, where the topic is financial literacy for seniors. In particular, this budget will support efforts to make public awareness a priority to improve financial literacy, because sometimes older Canadians can be vulnerable to financial abuse. It will help them make more informed decisions about protecting their financial interests in the future.
I sat on the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, which studied, voted on and tabled a report on elder abuse. This was one of the topics that we did not expect to come up, but financial abuse of seniors is actually quite a serious problem. In addition to improving awareness and improving financial literacy, we have also adopted Bill C-12, which helps to combat financial abuse of seniors by allowing banks to report suspected fraud to the police and other social service agencies.
The Protecting Canada's Seniors Act, which received royal assent in December 2012, protects seniors better by considering age and other personal circumstances as aggravating factors in applying tougher sentences for those who take advantage of the elderly. I am proud that we are supporting our most vulnerable in society through this budget.
With regard to innovation, in particular there is mention on page 201 of a business by the name of Electrovaya, which is located in Mississauga South. It was able to take advantage of Sustainable Development Technology Canada, SDTC, which the government is going to continue supporting with $325 million over eight years for the development and demonstration of new clean technologies that create efficiencies for businesses and contribute to sustainable economic development. Clean technology and efficient practices can save businesses money, create high-paying jobs, drive innovation and improve the productivity of Canada's natural resources. Electrovaya, which produces batteries for cars, energy storage and smart grid power is a great example.
I thank the Speaker for allowing me to tell the House about my favourite pages in budget 2013.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to support a number of petitions referring to Canada's 400-year-old definition of human being and asking Parliament to bring that into the 21st century. The petitioners are asking Parliament to stand up for the principle that every human being is created equal and every human being has an inherent worth and dignity.
In particular, I have a petition with almost 300 signatures from the riding of Mississauga—Erindale. I have a petition with almost 400 signatures from Calgary, Saskatoon, Vancouver Island, London and Bruce Grey. I have petitions from the riding of Scarborough—Rouge River, which together accomplish almost 1,200 signatures, many of whom are women. I have a petition from the riding of Markham—Unionville, which together have almost 1,300 signatures. I have a petition to the same effect from the riding of Oak Ridges—Markham with 300 signatures. I also have a petition from the riding of Scarborough—Agincourt with almost 300 signatures.
I have received petitions from all across the country with thousands of signatures but I will stop there for today.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to present a number of petitions on a related subject close to my heart.
First, I present a petition from residents of the riding of Burlington who begin by saying that whereas Canada's 400-year-old definition of a human being says a child does not become a human being until the moment of complete birth, contrary to 21st century medical evidence, and whereas Parliament has a solemn duty to reject any law that says some human beings are not human, they therefore call upon the House of Commons and Parliament assembled to confirm that every human being is recognized by Canadian law as human by amending section 223 of our Criminal Code in such a way as to reflect 21st century medical evidence.
The second petition is from constituents in the riding of Westlock—St. Paul. In substantially the same terms, it also suggests to the House that human rights are universal and that every human being's human rights should be recognized, and it calls upon the House to confirm that every human being is recognized by Canadian law as human by amending section 223 of our Criminal Code in such a way as to reflect 21st century medical evidence.
The next petition is from the riding of Mississauga—Erindale. Constituents in that riding are asking the House of Commons and Parliament assembled to confirm that every human being is recognized by Canadian law as human by amending section 223 of our Criminal Code in such a way as to reflect 21st century medical evidence. They do not want members of Parliament to turn their eyes away from 21st century medical evidence on this point.
The last petition has 202 signatures from the riding of Oakville. Constituents of that riding are affirming that Parliament has a solemn duty to reject any law that says some human beings are not human and, in so doing, to affirm that human rights are universally respected in Canada and that every human being is a human being. They are asking the Parliament of Canada to confirm that every human being is recognized by Canadian law as human by amending section 223 of our Criminal Code in such a way as to reflect 21st century medical evidence.
I would be happy if Parliament would not shut its eyes and would conduct a study of the evidence on this point, as is its duty.
Mr. Chair, I am going to ask my colleague a question that I asked the member for Mississauga—Erindale earlier, who basically refused to answer it and went on about what he felt the government had done. That was with respect to Rights & Democracy.
The member for Mississauga—Erindale mentioned that although the government was not supporting Rights & Democracy anymore, it was supporting religious rights and freedoms and there is an organization in the process of being put together. Rights & Democracy has been a great Canadian institution and has been promoting human rights protection and democratic development. It is already familiar with the groundwork and has already proven that it can do the job. Why would the government cut the funding and undermine its capacity given the fact that we have seen over and over again, especially in the past few years, the crises that have been occurring in places like Syria?
Madam Chair, I would like to ask my colleague the question I put earlier to the hon. member for Mississauga—Erindale about the funding of Rights & Democracy. Of course, he did not answer the question. He talked about a lot of things, but he did not answer the question. However, he did say that the government is setting up another organization and funding it. I am wondering why we should close off an organization that already provides effective services and resources to countries undergoing major transformations.
I would like his comments on Rights & Democracy. The organization really is an excellent Canadian institution responsible for promoting the protection of human rights and democratic development. What does he think about the fact that the Conservative government has cut funding to that organization in its budget for this year?
Mr. Speaker, the Coptic Christian minority has suffered the wrath of Islamic terrorist thugs who are slaughtering innocent women and children. It is the responsibility of the Egyptian government to finally protect all citizens, regardless of religion.
Thanks in part to the good work of the Conservative member for Mississauga—Erindale, this government is working to establish a new office of religious freedom. This is but one of the early steps that this government is taking in the great tradition of our country to stand on the side of those who are persecuted, to give voice to the voiceless, defence to the defenceless.
We will stand in solidarity with the Coptic Christian minority, as they fight for their rights for freedom of religion, for peace and for harmony in Egypt.
Mr. Speaker, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs serves a very important position which requires professionalism and discretion.
Recent events have become a distraction. There are unanswered questions about the parliamentary secretary's judgment and potential security concerns.
My question is, will the parliamentary secretary step aside from his responsibilities until the situation is investigated?
Mr. Speaker, first, I want to say that David Chen of the Lucky Moose Food Mart would never want to assault another human being. Therefore, this whole question of self-defence is a red herring, because he was not being attacked by the person who stole things from his store. It is not a question of self-defence we are dealing with. We are talking about his right to make a citizen's arrest.
Why do we need the part of this bill that deals with citizen's arrest? From coast to coast to coast we have heard from small business owners, not just from the one group the Conservative government spoke of having one or two meetings with. I have in fact met with store owners not just in Toronto but in Vancouver and Montreal also. They are saying that they work long hours, their profit margins are small and, unlike large stores, they have no money to hire security guards and do not want to do so. They really do not have a lot of extra staff on hand. They work such long hours and their profit margins are very low, so every dollar they lose from shoplifting means that they must work many more hours.
Let me describe Mr. Chen's situation. I believe that a large number of Canadians are now familiar with the story.
Mr. Chen works at least 16 to 18 hours a day, seven days a week, every week of the year. Most times he and his wife stay upstairs above the store in order to wake up early in the morning to go to the market to buy the merchandise they sell in their store. They hire a number of employees. However, on average they make around minimum wage, so every $100 they lose means they have to work another 10 or 15 hours. When they noticed that a person was repeatedly coming to their store to steal plants and food items, they wanted to take action. It is not that they wanted to cause any harm to anyone. They called the police several times and yet the police for some reason did not come.
An hour later the thief came back with the intent to steal more plants, because the first time around the thief was unable to carry all the plants that he wanted to take. He came back to steal more, but did not get to do that. David Chen proceeded to give chase and held the person in his van. Once the police arrived, Mr. Chen was charged with the very serious offences of assault, confinement, carrying a concealed weapon, et cetera.
Mr. Chen had difficulty finding the time and financial resources to hire a lawyer to go to court over and over again to defend himself. Members of the community in Toronto organized a fundraising banquet in order to support him because they felt that what had happened to him was unjust.
In my riding, we have noticed that what occurred to David Chen is not an isolated incident. Another store owner in the Kensington market area, Jeff Ing, who sells fruits and vegetables at his store, Jungle Fruit, has lost a lot of business because of the same person who was shoplifting at the Lucky Moose.
I then went with the member for Vancouver Kingsway to talk to other store owners. We walked along Victoria Street with a petition in support of my private member's bill, Bill C-565, that would allow a citizen's arrest to happen, not at a time when the offence is taking place but within a reasonable amount of time after an offence has taken place, with reasonable grounds. Every shop on Victoria Street and every shopper with whom we spoke were willing to sign the petition. They thought it was important that the Criminal Code be amended with a very common-sense amendment and that it was high time for such an amendment to take place.
Some people asked whether the amendment would encourage vigilantism. No, it would not because the code would not be changed in a way that would allow a citizen's arrest to be done in a way that would cause harm. The “arrest” is basically detaining the person while waiting for the police officers to come and make the actual arrest. The amendment would not change any part of the code dealing with using force.
Some may ask if it means that the employees of some stores would be requested to put their lives in danger in order to apprehend shoplifters. Absolutely not. People do not need to detain shoplifters. We encourage people to call the police and wait for them to come. It is only when there is no other choice that they would make a citizen's arrest. No employees would be under any duress, because they are protected by the provincial labour code, to put themselves in any kind of dangerous situation. It would not justify any use of force because that is not what it is all about.
We believe it is up to peace officers, RCMP, provincial police and the local police force to do their job. We need to ensure that community policing is the order of the day. We need to ensure the police are visible in the community, work closely with the communities and the business improvement area so we can reduce shoplifting incidents in the first place, rather than waiting for them to happen and a citizen's arrest having to be made. It is also important that the Conservative government honour its campaign promise to hire more police officers. However, in some cities across Canada, we have not see the increase of police officers as promised.
We must also invest in crime prevention. The person shoplifting should have drug treatment programs to ensure he or she quits the drug habit. The shoplifter admitted to that. For young people who may fall into gang situations, we need to find ways to ensure they have good role models and good employment programs before they start shoplifting in the first place.
Bill C-60, however, is not just about citizen's arrest. Two other portions in Bill C-60 are far more complex. I fail to see why the government would not allow this portion, which has the unanimous support of all parties, to move ahead, which is precisely the request that came from the community.
The member from Mississauga—Erindale, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, was in receipt of suggestions for a private member's bill from the community with the precise wording that both myself and other members of Parliament have submitted. The community was interested in the citizen's arrest portion of the Criminal Code.
Adding in the defence of property and self-defence muddies the water. If the Conservatives are not willing to split the bill and do a quick consent for citizen's arrest, then the bill will go to the justice committee where it must go through a very detailed study of the two portions.
Some elements that modernize the Criminal Code may be worthy of support but some of the other amendments may have unintended consequences. For example, removing the requirements on the use force in self-defence could lead to troubling incidents and may result in the escalation of violence. I certainly hope not but we do not know.
The guideline right now is very straightforward in that ordinary Canadians are not allowed to use force that could result in the death of the attacker unless they believe their life is at risk. The use of force must be proven in order to defend oneself. If the definition of the type of threat is removed, then unintended consequences may result for people who believe they are under any kind of threat. In the Criminal Code now, the amount of force needed to repel an attack should be used, but not more. Why do we need to change that aspect of it?
This part of the bill is quite complex and causes some unease in terms of what precisely the Conservative government is trying to do, which is why we are calling upon the Conservatives to immediately split the bill and allow the other two portions of the bill to undergo careful examination. If the government is not willing to do so, then it is playing politics with incidents like David Chen's incident at the Lucky Moose Food Mart. Instead of working with other parties to get results and make Parliament work, the Conservatives want to take this incident and play partisan games with it, which is most unfortunate.
I hope that is not the government's intention, and I do not detect that intention. I sense a willingness of all parties to work together to ensure that incidents, like David Chen's incident, never happen again.
Perhaps all members of Parliament have heard the petitioners from coast to coast to coast who have petitioned Parliament to take action. I recently submitted 10,000 names to Parliament of people urging us to take immediate action.
This debate on amending the Criminal Code for citizen's arrests has been requested by the community for over a year and a half. The incident that led to this discussion, David Chen's incident, occurred in May 2009. It is not as if this just occurred. We have had a long time to look at the Criminal Code and a long time to discuss what needs to be done. On my private member's bill, which came forward in September of last year, there were numerous discussions on the citizen's arrest portion. A lot of store owners from Montreal have talked about this and they want us to work together.
It is my sincere wish that we do not muddy the water with the other two portions of this bill and allow the citizen's arrest portion to move ahead. There is no doubt that the whole notion of self-defence and protection of property in the Criminal Code, which was written a long time ago, will eventually need some kind of adjustment and amendment with more modernized wording so that the different sections can be compressed into a few sections. I understand why that is necessary but to tack it on to Bill C-60 is unfortunate.
The other element of this is that we do not know whether the Conservative government will bring forward a budget that is supportable by all parties. If the budget comes forward and one of the opposition parties makes a decision not to support it, then Parliament will not survive past the end of March. If that is the case, then all the work that has been done to amend the Criminal Code, specifically on citizen's arrests, will not occur.
We are in early March and there are only a few weeks before the coming budget. For this bill to get through second reading today or tomorrow, then go to the justice committee where it has a large number of justice bills in front it, and then, assuming it passes there, to come back to the House of Commons at report stage and then third reading will take quite a bit of time. After that, it still needs to go to the Senate for approval.
Leaving this bill so late, in terms of the upcoming budget, is most unfortunate. I do hope the government will work with the opposition members of Parliament to split the bill and allow the citizen's arrest portion to move ahead with unanimous consent.
moved that Bill C-60, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (citizen's arrest and the defences of property and persons), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I am excited to get going on Bill C-60, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (citizen's arrest and the defences of property and persons). Bill C-60 represents a responsible expansion of a citizen's power of arrest as well as the simplification of the self-defence and defence of property provisions in the Criminal Code.
I want to thank the initiatives of a number of people and one of them is certainly the member for Mississauga—Erindale who is also my parliamentary secretary. He has been a champion of the reform in this law. I am pleased to join with my colleague, the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound. I thank him and my colleagues who are in the House with me. They have been very supportive of our justice legislation.
Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that all Canadians are grateful for all the support that you have given us on these bills.
The bill before us today is balanced and necessary. In describing the particular amendments contained in this bill, the bill will focus on three main areas: first, what the law currently provides for; second, the policy rationale for reform; and third, most important for statutory interpretation purposes, the legislative intent behind the elements of the reforms.
On this last point, it is crucial for colleagues to be reminded that the debate in this place and the other provides guidance to our courts in finding the legislative intent of the laws we pass and is often cited by our courts in coming to a decision.
I will first deal with citizen's arrest reforms, followed by the defence of property and then self-defence.
With regard to citizen's arrest, it is important to recall that an arrest consists of the actual seizure or touching of a person's body with a view to detention. The pronouncing of words alone can constitute an arrest if the person submits to the request. A power of arrest is found in a range of federal and provincial law but for our purposes we are focused on the power that exists in the Criminal Code.
As members can imagine, there are substantial differences between the power of police and that of a citizen to make an arrest under the Criminal Code.
Currently, under section 495, a peace officer may arrest without a warrant any person whom he or she finds committing a criminal offence, as well as any person whom he or she believes, on reasonable grounds, has committed or is about to commit an indictable offence.
What the courts have told us is that for an arrest to be valid on the basis of reasonable grounds, the arresting officer must personally believe that he or she possesses the required grounds to arrest, and those grounds must be objectively established in the sense that a reasonable person standing in the shoes of the officer would believe that they are reasonable and probable grounds to make that arrest.
In comparison, currently under section 494 of the Criminal Code, the private citizen may arrest those found committing indictable offences, those being pursued by others who have authority to arrest and those committing criminal offences in relation to property.
It is important to note that there is a legal duty under section 494 to deliver an arrested person to the police forthwith, which has been interpreted by the courts to mean as soon as reasonably practical under all the circumstances.
As members can see, there is a clear distinction between the power of arrest for the police and the power given to citizens. There are good reasons for these differences. The focus of Bill C-60 relates to the power of arrest of persons found committing a criminal offence on or in relation to property.
In this regard, the bill would expand 494(2) of the Criminal Code to permit a property owner or a person authorized by the property owner to arrest a person if he or she finds the person committing a criminal offence on or in relation to his or her property, not just at the time when the offence is being committed, which is the current law, but also within a reasonable time after the offence is committed.
It is essential to ensure that the proper balance is maintained between citizen involvement in law enforcement and the role of the police as our primary law enforcers.
To this end, the new measures will include the requirement that before an arrest can be made at some time after the offence is committed, which is the expansion the bill provides for, the arresting person must believe on reasonable grounds that it is not feasible in the circumstances for a peace officer to make the arrest instead.
The intention behind this last requirement is to ensure that citizens use this expanded power of arrest in cases of urgency. Citizens must turn their mind to whether the police are able to make the arrest, which is a far preferable circumstance. However, if people reasonably believe that the police will not be able to respond in time and make the arrest, property owners would be authorized to do it themselves.
The courts are familiar and comfortable with assessing the reasonableness of beliefs and would consider each case on its merits. In practical terms, the court may choose to look at such factors as the urgency of the situation, the safety of the people involved and the location of the incident, whether adequate information to identify the suspect was available and perhaps even the past conduct of the suspect.
In a nutshell, what is the change in the law? I would summarize the essence of the reform in the following way. Under the current law, if people find someone committing a criminal offence, they are only allowed to arrest him or her at that time. Under the proposed change, the arrest can take place later, within a reasonable time of finding the person committing the offence, as long as there are reasonable grounds to believe a police officer cannot make the arrest.
Members may ask what a reasonable period of time is. The phrase is not defined in the bill. The intention behind the phrase is to allow the courts, on a case by case basis, as they have done in so many instances, to examine the facts and circumstances and to make a determination on whether the time was reasonable in that particular case. The courts would likely turn to such factors as the length of delay, the conduct of the suspect and the conduct of the arrester, among other things. Imposing a rigid time limit on an arrest, for example an authority arrest within 12 hours would not be sound policy. The law must provide flexibility, but at the same time, build in safeguards, as Bill C-60 does.
Some may argue that this reform encourages vigilantism. I would completely disagree with that. The bill requires that a person witnesses an offence being committed and provides a degree of flexibility in terms of when an arrest can be effected for that offence. The bill does not change the amount of force that can be used in making an arrest. In short, people must continue to act responsibly.
This reform is being advanced because we have been hearing clearly from Canadians that limitations on citizen's arrests require change. There have been well publicized cases of individuals being charged and prosecuted for citizen's arrests that occurred shortly after an offence was witnessed. The government's goal is, therefore, to provide a balanced extension of the period of time to make an arrest.
Finally, for greater certainty, the reforms specify that the existing requirements in relation to the use of force in effecting arrests, which are provided for under section 25 of the Criminal Code, apply to citizen's arrests. I think that is only reasonable. There is no change to the rules regarding how much force can be used to make a citizen's arrest. An individual who makes a citizen's arrest is, if he or she acts on reasonable grounds, justified in using as much force as necessary for that purpose.
It is important to highlight that a person making an arrest is never justified in using force intended or likely to cause death or grievous bodily harm unless he or she believes on reasonable grounds that it is necessary for self-preservation or for anyone under his or her protection from death or grievous bodily harm.
These legal standards have been in place for a long time and continue to reflect appropriate policy today. This reform and our discussions of it in this place give us an opportunity to speak directly to Canadians. In this regard, I would like to say that citizen's arrests made without careful consideration of the risk factors may have serious unintended physical consequences, as well as legal consequences for those involved.
When deciding if a citizen's arrest is appropriate, people should consider whether a peace officer is available to intervene, whether their personal safety or that of others would be compromised by attempting the arrest, whether they have reasonable belief regarding the suspect's criminal conduct and identity, and whether they can turn over the suspect to the police without delay once an arrest is made.
In developing these citizen's arrest reforms, we consider a number of options. We examine private members' bills currently before this place as well as the laws of other jurisdictions and certainly the representations that are made to me and to the government on this issue. I submit that we have taken the elements of all these efforts and have developed a proposal which makes sense to Canadians.
I would now like to turn the defence of property contained in the bill. The government decided to couple reform with the defence of property with citizen's arrest reforms because there is a logical and factual connection between the two.
Consider the example of a property owner who sees a theft taking place on his or her property. In this situation, he or she could attempt a citizen's arrest if the desire was to capture the thief so he or she could be charged and prosecuted. However, the person could also desire to get the suspected intruder off the property, without intending to make the arrest. In the latter case, the use of force by the property owner could be justified by a claim of defence of property.
The defence of property, like any defence, is a claim made by a person who is alleged to have committed a criminal offence and who asserts that he or she should not be held responsible for that alleged offence because of some countervailing policy. Defending one's property from a threat is just the kind of circumstance that might justify otherwise criminal conduct, such as the use of force against a would-be thief.
Our Criminal Code, since its inception in 1892, provided a defence for the use of force to protect one's possession of property. However, one of the unfortunate realities about the defence is the way it is worded in the code. There are five separate provisions, sections 38 to 42, of the code that could potentially apply to a defence of property circumstance. The provisions create a distinct defence depending on the precise circumstances, differentiating between types of property and the hierarchy of claims to the property as between the possessor and the person seeking to interfere with the property. They are extremely detailed and, in many cases, overlap with each other. This approach to the Criminal Code is well over a century old and does not meet the needs of Canadians today.
The idea behind the defence of property is simple. A person should not be held criminally responsible for the reasonable use of force to protect property in his or her possession from being taken, destroyed, or trespassed upon.
We cannot find many of these words in the law itself. However, we can find many other words which, rather than help to set out this idea, describe narrow subsets of it. This means that Canadians, including police, prosecutors, judges and ultimately juries, must consider too many words and words which overlap with each other to arrive at what, in essence, is a rather simple idea.
Bill C-60 will demystify and clarify these waters.
The defence of property reforms contained in the bill would replace five separate provisions with one simplified provision that captures the essence of the defence, while providing the same level of protection as the existing law and with some modest enhancements.
There are some essential property-related concepts that must be retained, such as the idea of peaceable possession of property. Because different people can have independent claims to property and because the defence must, to some degree, incorporate notions borrowed from property law, the defence must have some technical components.
One enhancement is that a defence could be raised as a defence to any type of act that otherwise would be criminal. The law justifies the use of force in defence of property, which is basically assaultive behaviour against the property trespasser.
In recognition of the fact that people might engage in other forms of otherwise criminal activity to defend their property, such as discharging a weapon into the air to scare away the trespassers, Bill C-60 would allow the defence to apply so long as the actions are reasonable in the circumstances.
Finally, the reform on defence would clearly deny its application in the cases of lawful police action, such as the execution of a search warrant.
The new law of property, like the current law, does not put any express limits on what can be done to defend property. However, it is absolutely essential to note that courts have unequivocally rejected the use of intentional deadly force in defence of property alone and have stated many times that deadly force cannot ever be justified where human life is in jeopardy.
Some property-related conflicts do pose a risk to human life, such as home invasions, and deadly force may be justified in these circumstances.
This brings me to the law of self-defence.
Like the defence of property, the self-defence provisions were enacted in Canada's first Criminal Code in 1892 and have remained largely unchanged since that time. Like the defence of property, the law governing self-defence is set out over several separate provisions that describe situation-specific defences which overlap or conflict with each other, depending on the facts of a particular case.
I would submit that this complexity in the law cannot remain, especially when we are delineating the legal tests to be used for people using force in self-defence.
The complexity of the law makes it extremely difficult for the police to assess whether charges should be laid, causes trial counsel to have to devote time and energy to making arguments about which version of the defence should apply and poses challenges for judges on instructing juries how to apply the law. We can only imagine what juries think when the law is read to them.
Described in a general way, the proposed reforms would replace all of the existing defences with a single, general test for the defence of the person. In essence, people would be protected from criminal responsibility if they reasonably believe that they or another person are being threatened with force and they act reasonably for the purpose of defending themselves or another person from that force.
The reforms would also include a list of factors the court could consider in determining whether the person's actions were reasonable, such as a pre-existing relationship between the parties, including any history of violence, and the proportionality between the harm threatened and the response.
The list of factors codifies well-recognized features of many self-defence situations and will help guide judges and juries in applying the new law.
Consistent with the present law and for sound policy reasons, the defence would not be available where the person would be responding to a peace officer or other person who would be acting lawfully for a law enforcement purpose, such as when a person is arrested.
I am pleased to report that the proposed reforms on self-defence are consistent with those agreed to in 2009 by federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for justice based on the collective work of their officials. These reforms also respond to calls for simplification by many criminal justice stakeholders.
The citizen's arrest reforms extend the time in which an arrest can be made for an offence committed on or in relation to property. There is a real need in doing so to keep a clear distinction between the powers of the police and those of citizens. Police officers are rightly cloaked in the duty to preserve and maintain the public peace. They are our first and foremost criminal law enforcement body and with this reform, they continue to be so.
With regard to the defence reforms, at a practical level, very few Canadians would be able to read the many existing provisions and understand what the law allows. The law should be accessible to Canadians, and these reforms will help accomplish that goal.
Bill C-60 represents a responsible expansion of the citizen's power of arrest as well as a simplification of the law relating to the defence of persons and property. I urge all members to support this law and, in doing so, support the calls for reform made by law-abiding Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, today, the Minister of Industry joined the member for Mississauga—Erindale in announcing a $300 million investment into a $1 billion project by Pratt & Whitney to develop lighter aircraft engines with more power, better fuel consumption and improved durability.
Would the Minister of Industry please explain to the House how the government's continued commitment to research and development is keeping Canada at the forefront of the international aerospace industry?
Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Mississauga—Erindale for all the work he does as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice.
It will come as no surprise to members of the House or to that member that in Edmonton I am known as a bit of a justice hawk. Frequently in my householders and occasional 10 percenters I talk about justice issues and the work that this government is doing and the work that I am doing on the justice and public safety committees.
I have consulted widely with my constituents with respect to the corrections system and offender accountability and more broadly with the government's safe streets and safe communities agenda, which puts the protection of society paramount and puts the protection of victims and victims rights at the forefront of the criminal justice system.
I can tell the member and all members of this House without equivocation that my constituents unequivocally support this legislation.
Mr. Speaker, the member from Winnipeg noted the number of car thefts in Winnipeg and the terrible consequences of them. I want to put a B.C. context on this for the member who brought forward this motion, the member for Mississauga—Erindale.
In 2009, thefts of vehicles in British Columbia jumped 71% from the previous year, according to the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia.
The member mentioned in his speech a number of consequences, including increased insurance costs for all Canadians, and costs to individuals injured as a result of the horrendous driving practices of car thieves. In our area, a stolen vehicle was driven out on a railway trestle over a big ravine and the thieves set the vehicle on fire, causing tens of thousands of dollars in damage to the trestle.
I wonder if the member would comment from his experience, because he is very experienced in this file, on the public costs incurred in addition to the costs of the vehicles and the insurance.
The electoral district of Mississauga--Erindale (Ontario) has a population of 143,361 with 99,774 registered voters and 253 polling divisions.
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