Mr. Speaker, I am humbled to rise today to wrap up this debate on Bill C-444, my private member's bill.
It is not often we get to work specifically on behalf of a constituent in such a significant way, by making a change to the Criminal Code of Canada. First and foremost, I want to thank the brave young woman and her mother who inspired me to table this bill. There are also many folks on the Hill I would like to thank for the support and encouragement they have extended to me along the way, as well as for the personal work they have put into our debates on this bill. This also includes my wonderful staff, here in Ottawa as well as back in Red Deer.
As I have said, this bill is about sentencing. It speaks to the need for tougher penalties for personating peace officers and public officers, and it is in line with the fundamental sentencing principle of proportionality, which is stated in section 718 of the Criminal Code. We must preserve the trust and respect that citizens have for police officers. When citizens see a police uniform, they trust the authority that comes with it. We are giving the tools that they need to deliver harsher sentences to criminals who breach this trust to cause harm.
Within the parameters of the maximum sentence for this particular offence, the decision of what sentences are appropriate will still rest with sentencing courts. We know that a number of factors come into play in a sentencing decision, such as the criminal record of the offender or the severity of harm caused to a victim.
Aggravating circumstances are just one more factor that sentencing judges are required to consider when the Crown is successful in a conviction. Sentencing achieves a number of results, and one of them is support for victims. The rights of victims need to be protected. They must know that there are serious consequences for criminals who have hurt them.
I extend my heartfelt condolences to any Canadian who has been a victim of someone maliciously personating a police officer to do further harm. I dedicate this work to those victims.
I thank my colleagues for their support. If I still have a moment, I would like to thank the following members for their contribution to debate: the Minister of Justice; the members of the Standing Committee on Justice for their thoughtful study and debate, and their support; the seconders, the members for Sault Ste. Marie and Oxford; the members who contributed their time in speaking here in the House, the members for Gatineau, Mount Royal, Montcalm, Brome—Missisquoi, Charlottetown, Beauport—Limoilou, British Columbia Southern Interior, Vaudreuil-Soulanges, Louis-Hébert, Nanaimo—Cowichan, Chambly—Borduas, Northumberland—Quinte West, Edmonton—St. Albert, Windsor—Tecumseh, and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, as well as the Associate Minister of National Defence.
There is a special symbolism of having every member present in this House stand to show their support, not just for a bill but for victims and police officers throughout this great nation.
However, because of the uncertainty that surrounds the closing days of any session, I would be proud to use this opportunity to stand on behalf of all members and to accept unanimous consent if the House so chooses.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table petitions about the restoration of the Great Lakes water levels. There are over 400 names on this petition from southern Ontario; western Ontario; northern Ontario, including Sault Ste. Marie and North Bay; B.C.; and Alberta.
As members may be aware, this spring the International Joint Commission tabled its study on the international Great Lakes and it should be noted that the IJC made some pretty strong recommendations to the federal government for actions to investigate the restoration of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron levels. It is not just about the ecological concerns, but also about the economic and safety concerns.
The petitioners are asking that the Canadian federal ministers of Natural Resources; the Environment; Fisheries and Oceans; and Transport, Infrastructure and Communities increase their efforts significantly to halt and reverse the ongoing loss of water in the Great Lakes, especially Lake Huron.
moved that Bill C-444, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (personating peace officer or public officer), be read the third time and passed.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Sault Ste. Marie for seconding this third reading debate for the bill. I appreciate all of my colleagues' support, which has brought us to where we are today, as well as the support of the people of central Alberta. I have been working on this bill for three years. I first introduced it during the last Parliament, but it died on the order paper when the election was called. I am very pleased that we are here today at third reading.
Three years ago, I met a brave young lady and her mother who were seeking help. This young woman had been the victim of a vicious crime, so she and her mother asked me to help them make a change to the Criminal Code of Canada. They understood that a bill in Parliament would have no effect on the criminal proceedings that they were involved in. Yet they expressed their desire to help others who might find themselves in this same situation.
I admire people who fight for and support changes to the Criminal Code, knowing full well they cannot make a difference in their own situation but will help others down the road. They seek positive change for a greater good. This was evident to my colleagues on the justice and human rights committee when my constituents appeared as witnesses and recounted this horrendous ordeal.
In addition to the support of my colleagues, I would also like to specifically thank the Minister of Justice's staff and his department for the support that they have extended to me for my proposed amendment. I am also no less grateful for the support that I have received from serving and retired police officers, including our Conservative law enforcement caucus.
Thousands of officers enforce Canadian criminal law every day, putting their lives on the line to do so. For our men and women in uniform, there may be times when some are reluctant to express judgment on proposed legislation because their job is to enforce, not to legislate. However, in this case, I am grateful for the positive feedback that I have received from police officers. They understand that my amendment does not seek to affect enforcement of section 130 of the Criminal Code. It is a sentencing provision. However, from their perspective, the police I have consulted with recognize that this particular crime jeopardizes their public reputation, which is essential for them to be able to do their jobs.
I want to be clear that I understand the significance of amending the Criminal Code. The changes that we as parliamentarians make to the laws found within Canada's Criminal Code have a profound effect on people's lives. However, as parliamentarians, we should also remember that the Criminal Code of Canada is a working document. It must continue to be updated to reflect the protections and justice that Canadians need and expect, and that our freedoms depend on.
I am proud to be part of a government that has been so committed to respecting the rights of victims. There are plenty of important issues that we tackle every day for Canadians, but I am especially proud of the accomplishments that our Prime Minister has delivered to Canadians in reforming our justice system.
I represent an area of Canada that has no tolerance for those who commit crimes against either persons or property. The citizens that I represent support a tough justice system that includes incarceration to punish criminals and to protect law-abiding Canadians. When an offender personates a police officer as a cover to commit another crime, this is a severe instance of personating an officer. It can have serious and long-lasting effects on a victim. Victims must be assured that there will be consequences for criminals who have hurt them. The sentence for this kind of malicious deceit must denounce this unlawful conduct and also reflect the significant impact that the crime has on victims' lives. It is not only the victim that this crime affects. It can affect an entire community, even to the extent that people are fearful of real police.
We have seen recent media reports from Calgary of a vehicle driven by a person who is trying to pull people over, with flashing red and blue emergency lights on its dashboard. This is an ongoing mystery in Calgary, as there have been a number of reports of this happening over the past few years but no arrests have yet been made. The Calgary police have issued numerous warnings to motorists to use caution if they are unsure of the authenticity of a police car.
The Calgary Sun recently reported, on April 25, that Staff Sergeant Guy Baker said the police are concerned about public paranoia and a loss of trust in police if the culprits are not caught. He was quoted as saying:
We want to maintain the respect of the community and don’t want the public unduly harassed.
This is a crime that could have grave consequences for an entire community and the police who try to protect it. Therefore, sentences that are handed down for section 130 offences should reflect the seriousness of the crime.
Bill C-444 has one basic objective, to make personating a peace officer or public officer in the commission of another offence an aggravating circumstance that would be part of the consideration for sentencing purposes.
It would add one clause to the Criminal Code, following section 130, to say:
If a person is convicted of an offence under section 130, the court imposing the sentence on the person shall consider as an aggravating circumstance the fact that the accused personated a peace officer or a public officer, as the case may be, for the purpose of facilitating the commission of another offence.
When we look at some of the aggravating circumstances that currently exist in the code, there is a common denominator among them, the vulnerability of the victims: crimes against children, crimes against the elderly, crimes involving firearms, or crimes that abuse the position of trust or authority in relation to the victim. These are all circumstances that Parliament has required judges to consider when sentencing. They are legislated as aggravating circumstances because offenders have taken advantage of the vulnerable position that the victims are in.
When citizens see a police uniform, they trust the authority that comes with it. When confronted by someone who looks like a police officer, people will rationally do what they have been taught to do; they will stop and follow instructions.
Personating an officer is a serious breach of the public's trust, and it has the same effect as using a weapon. It forces the victim to submit. If they are under the control of someone pretending to be an officer, they will ultimately lose any opportunity that they might otherwise have to protect themselves. We have been taught to respect and trust the men and women who wear uniforms. When criminals start using this trust as a weapon, we need to treat it within the Criminal Code for what it is.
The bill will instruct judges to consider it an aggravating circumstance to personate a peace officer or public officer as a cover for other criminal activity. This would apply regardless of the age of the victim.
My amendment would achieve three results. It will recognize the disarming effect that personating an officer has on a victim and the vulnerable situation that it puts them in. It will support victims of this crime by strengthening the reparation provided to them. It will preserve the trust that Canadians have in peace officers and public officers.
Within the maximum sentence for personating an officer, the appropriateness of a sentence would still rest with the sentencing court. However, it is up to us, as legislators, to establish sentencing provisions in the Criminal Code.
Judges have the discretion to consider any factors they feel may have constituted aggression on the part of an offender, but there are also some circumstances that judges are explicitly required to consider when sentencing. They are in the code because Parliament has said they should always be taken into consideration by a judge.
As I have mentioned, one of the aggravating circumstances prescribed in the code is that of an abuse of a position of trust or authority in relation to a victim. This would apply in situations where an offender has an existing relationship with the victim, such as a teacher or coach or as a bona fide police officer. However, those who assume a position through deceit do not fall into this category. Offenders who personate officers have not abused a position of authority, for they do not have that position to begin with.
Aggravating circumstances in the code acknowledge the particularly forceful or dangerous way in which some offenders commit their crimes. Therefore, personating an officer to commit a crime is certainly an aggressive action on the part of an offender, similar to existing aggravating circumstances, and it should be recognized in the code as such.
I would like to quickly address the issue of my amendment having any effect on actual time served. I know this is a question that has come up in debate, as well as in my conversations with some of my colleagues.
I want to stress that my focus is on amending section 130 to add this sentencing provision, regardless of the length of sentences received for other convictions and whether or not they would be served concurrently. We can only speculate on what type of crimes may be committed alongside section 130 violations; how individual cases would be committed, tried and sentenced; how much evidence the crown may have in any particular case; or all of the mitigating or aggravating factors that may affect an offender's sentences.
However, our role as legislators is to ensure that the maximum sentences and sentencing factors prescribed in the Criminal Code for each offence serve the purpose and principles of sentencing.
I am asking Parliament to add a sentencing provision to the crime of personating peace officers and public officers to ensure that future sentences for this crime adhere to the purposes and principles of sentencing, which are listed in the code. As for the types of crimes that are committed in concert with personation, what aggravating or mitigating factors might apply to an offender, or how an offender's total time served might pan out, those decisions remain in the hands of the sentencing court.
Speaking briefly to incarceration, it is meant to denounce unlawful conduct, deter others from committing offences, separate offenders from society and assist in rehabilitating offenders. These are all listed in the Criminal Code as purposes of sentencing. There is also another purpose of incarceration that is listed in the code, which is to provide reparations for harm done to victims or the community.
Whatever the terms of a sentence for any offender may be, even if served concurrently with another sentence it is my goal to ensure that sentences for section 130 offences acknowledge the harm done to victims. The rights of victims need to be protected. They must know that there are serious consequences for the criminals who have hurt them.
Last weekend, I had the privilege of attending the Silver Lake RCMP detachment's Regimental Ball, which was an excellent event that raised funds for the RCMP's victim services program. The people who work in victim service programs and rape crisis centres provide compassion and direction to people in need. When I relayed the circumstances of this case and the purpose of my bill to RCMP members and victim service program attendees, they too gave me their unqualified support.
These people, these great Canadians who work in victim service programs, deserve our thanks and recognition. Day in and day out, they see the worst that society has to offer, and they continue to help people in their time of distress.
At any time, any one of us could be blindsided by crime. It is very difficult to navigate and make decisions when in a state of shock. Victims services are a vital resource in our country, and they deserve our recognition and support.
For many victims, no amount of incarceration can ever make up for the hurt that has been inflicted upon them, but it does provide some comfort and indeed protection when an offender is locked up. As I have said, this bill is about sentencing; it speaks to the need for tougher penalties for this particular crime. Victims must be assured that there will be serious consequences for the criminals who have hurt them. We need to preserve the trust and respect that citizens have for real police officers.
I am pleased to continue this discussion here today.
Mr. Speaker, central Alberta's sports teams have seen an excellent start to 2013.
Last week the Red Deer Optimist Chiefs hockey team, coached by Doug Quinn, won the 2013 Telus Cup in Sault Ste. Marie, claiming Canada's 40th national midget championship. The Chiefs also won this championship last year, becoming just the fourth team ever to win back-to-back gold medals at the national midget triple-A hockey tournament.
On April 20, Red Deer skip Rob Armitage won gold for Canada at the world senior curling championships. Rob's team included third Keith Glover, second Randy Ponich, alternate Lyle Treiber, and lead Wilf Edgar, who happens to be a former student of mine. That is right: my former student is a world champion senior curler.
It has been an excellent start to the year for these Red Deer athletes, and with many other winter sports heading into Olympic trials later this year, I am certain that central Alberta's athletes will continue to stand out.
Congratulations to the Red Deer Optimist Chiefs and Rob Armitage's curling team.
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Sault Ste. Marie for a most important question for northern Ontario.
I was speaking this morning to the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum in Toronto to emphasize our approach of proactively engaging first nations groups as well as industry groups and other stakeholders with a view to coming to solutions and ensuring that the 15 departments and agencies of the federal government are working together to facilitate the development of this most important project, which means jobs and opportunity not only throughout northern Ontario but throughout Canada.
This will be a game changer for our economy, and it is a positive development for first nations communities. However, it has to be handled correctly, and we will do our part.
The electoral district of Sault Ste. Marie (Ontario) has a population of 89,028 with 69,272 registered voters and 191 polling divisions.
This action requires you to be logged into Politwitter. No regisrtation is required, just authenticate using your Twitter account.