Bill C-321 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Farm Income Protection Act (crop damage by gophers)
This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2002.
Leon Benoit Canadian Alliance
Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)
Introduction and First Reading
(This bill did not become law.)
Private Members' Business
October 22nd, 2001 / 11:25 a.m.
Suzanne Tremblay Rimouski-Neigette-Et-La Mitis, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address request P-3 for the tabling of documents, submitted by the Canadian Alliance member for Lakeland, which reads as follows:
That an Order of the House do issue for copies of all studies that were done prior to the banning of the 2% and 5% solutions of strychnine to show the effect that the banning of these solutions would have on Canadian farmers.
Let us first look at the background for this issue. Strychnine is a pesticide that helps, among things, control gophers that attack crops in western Canada. It seems that the product used by farmers is effective provided it contains 2% to 5% of strychnine. However, this product is also criticized because of its harmful effects on water, air and soil. Moreover, it is said to also threaten the health of animals that are not pests and of human beings.
In 1992, the federal government restricted, through regulations, the use of liquid strychnine by Canadian farmers. Now, they can only use a concentrated premixed liquid version of the product that contains a maximum of 0.4% of strychnine.
The Canadian Alliance member for Lakeland is very interested in this issue. He tabled Motion No. 13, which was debated in the House for one hour. That motion asked the government to compensate farmers for damage done to livestock and crops by gophers resulting from the banning of effective concentration of strychnine, thereby removing the ability of farmers to control gophers on their lands.
On March 28, 2001, he tabled Bill C-321, an act to amend the Farm Income Protection Act (crop damage by gophers). I am taking this opportunity to say that the French translation should be revised. While we could write the term “gaufre” with the letters “ph” instead of an “f”, it would be best to choose a more appropriate term.
Indeed, the English term “gopher” was translated in French by “gaufre”, which is “a crisp pancake cooked between two hinged metal pans with a grid pattern” and which is often eaten with maple syrup but, I might add, without strychnine. We are a long way from the ground squirrels called gophers, which are rodents causing the same damage as our groundhogs in Quebec.
Finally, our colleague, the hon. member for Lakeland, is asking that certain studies that the federal government has in its possession be made public. These studies, which were done prior to the strychnine ban, could reveal that the Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food banned this pesticide knowing the devastating effect that such a measure would have on western farmers' crops, yet took no steps to compensate them.
The Bloc Quebecois therefore supports this request for documents. The government that has been running this country since 1993 suffers from acute secrecy syndrome. And the debate over this request is an opportunity for me to highlight the federal Liberal government's chronic lack of transparency.
Every day, democracies are tempted to take the secret way out. These democracies, which are accused of being slow, view secrets as an easy way to speed things up, as a sort of pragmatic art, which cuts short futile discussions. The temptation is understandable. What is less understandable is that so many democrats fall victim to it, because democracy loses its meaning the moment it loses its transparency.
This government, which promised during the 1993 election campaign to be transparent in managing the affairs of the state, probably has the worst dirty habit of hiding things in the entire political history of this country. These are a few examples.
I would like it if the hon. member for Joliette could tell us himself how many times he had to rise in the House to ask the government to make public the FTAA texts. It took us a long time to get them.
When the multilateral agreement on investment, the MAI, was involved, once again no documents were forthcoming. It took a leak via the Internet, originating with the government of France and certain individuals with a strong interest in the matter, before we could finally get our hands on a document, and it was absolutely abominable. Negotiation of this agreement had to be abandoned.
As for the Canada-Costa Rica free trade agreement, which we have just experienced, that most recent agreement, namely Bill C-32, we were again asked to pass it without seeing the texts. We are presented with them, but once again we are confronted with a fait accompli. Once again, we are being asked for a blank cheque. We were not consulted at all on the discussions relating to the agreement.
Going back a little in time, hon. members will recall the sad story of the contaminated blood. After creating a commission of inquiry into contaminated blood, the federal government did its utmost to stop the commission from unearthing the full story and naming names.
Let us also recall the Minister of Finance's budget surplus. Once again, there was a whole set of secrets that had been systematically concealed since the government found the path to a balanced budget.
Let us recall the secrecy surrounding the location of transgenic crops in Canada. Ottawa refuses to reveal the location in one or more provinces where there are experimental GM wheat crops. The Canadian Wheat Board has attempted to obtain a list of these from the Canada Food Inspection Agency, but to no avail.
Let us recall the Access to Information Act, which is nothing more than a toothless watchdog. This act, which is supposed to guarantee access to any document of public interest is as full of holes as Swiss cheese, and totally ineffectual against the Liberal government's propensity toward secrecy. This is why there are complaints from both journalists and MPs, both in opposition and in government. Even the information commissioner is very concerned.
The Liberal member for Ancaster--Dundas--Flamborough--Aldershot decided he had had enough of the way the present government was treating the Access to Information Act. He feels it is far too easy for the government and departmental officials to conceal information of a public nature.
But the bad example comes from the top. In his annual report published in March 2001, Information Commissioner John Reid said that he himself no longer had access to certain documents considered secret. According to the report, the Prime Minister and his closest advisers and ministers keep on ignoring the Access to Information Act. Worse still, the member for Saint-Maurice will not allow the commissioner to see his agendas and has gone all the way to the supreme court to prevent Mr. Reid from doing so.
This sort of attitude at the top encourages the entire bureaucracy throughout the country to make the commissioner's life difficult by putting up fierce resistance to requests, said the same report.
The Prime Minister fell back on this “secret way out” when he refused to testify regarding the demonstration staged in Vancouver for the arrival of the president of Indonesia, thus putting a lid on an essential element of the investigation--whether or not the order to the police to use force came from his office. Doubt breeds mistrust, and all politicians are paying the cost of this lack of transparency.
The Bloc Quebecois finds it unacceptable that the government is behaving in this way, when it had promised the public transparency. The member for Lakeland is calling for the release of documents which would, to a certain degree, compromise the previous government, because the decision was taken in 1992. It would not cost much to release the documents, but it would fulfill one of the 1993 election promises regarding transparency.
Farm Income Protection Act
March 28th, 2001 / 3:25 p.m.
Leon Benoit Lakeland, AB
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-321, an act to amend the Farm Income Protection Act (crop damage by gophers).
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate being given a second chance today on this bill because it is an important bill to farmers, ranchers and others in western Canada.
The bill entitled “an act to amend the Farm Income Protection Act (crop damage by gophers), would hopefully lead to restoring the effective poison that really works to control gophers, but which costs farmers tens of millions of dollars a year. It is an important bill for farmers, ranchers and others. I am sure the House will fully support the bill.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)
Private Members' Business
March 13th, 2001 / 6:10 p.m.
Michel Bellehumeur Berthier—Montcalm, QC
Madam Speaker, I too must congratulate the member on his tenacity when it comes to this issue because, in an earlier parliament, he introduced a similar bill. He made certain amendments in response to comments made in the House.
Today, we have a bill that is, all in all, very acceptable. I would immediately say to the member that he has the full support of the Bloc Quebecois in his efforts to have the criminal code amended.
I am the third member to speak. Those members of the House who are listening are aware of the bill and the amendments. I just want to remind them, and I will do this quickly, that the primary purpose of the bill is to protect some very vulnerable people, children, from actions of adults which are completely unacceptable.
I think that, of all the offences mentioned in the criminal code, those involving child pornography, using children for sexual purposes, are the most serious. Amending the criminal code to permit the seizure of any thing used by the offender for child pornography, for these very reprehensible actions, has my full support.
As the Canadian Alliance member noted, many of Canada's statutes, including the criminal code, provide for the seizure of certain property in certain cases.
I will give an example familiar to everyone, from the Tobacco Act. When people smuggle cigarettes, when they have contraband cigarettes in a vehicle, the vehicle is seized because it was being used to break the law, to seek to commit an offence.
Why not apply this to computer equipment, since more and more people have computers, and computers are more and more powerful, and can yield far more information? Why not allow police forces and the justice system to seize these assets?
Was a mistake made when the government amended section 163 in a previous parliament without allowing such a seizure? Perhaps it was, and perhaps not. At that time, I did not consider it a priority or a goal in itself to seize computers that had been used to view images of child pornography. Today, however, I think we need to conclude that yes, seizing these assets that have been used by the offender would be a normal thing to do.
The wording would, I believe, allow this to dovetail very nicely with the section of the criminal code. It is also in keeping with the philosophy of the criminal code and related legislation allowing police and crown prosecutors to impose a sentence on the individual who has been found guilty, to impose a fine, but, more importantly, it sends a fairly strong signal that computers are not intended for such purposes and that individuals caught using them for those purposes stand to have their computer confiscated.
The important point the member has added in his bill, from the remarks made in the House when Bill C-321 was introduced, concerns the restrictions on the assets of third parties in order to protect people who lend their computer to a friend or employers who are not aware what employees are doing at lunch with office equipment. Just like that, because the individual is caught at child pornography sites, the computer loaned by a friend or belonging to the employer is confiscated.
Subsection 163.2(2) included in the bill provides a restriction to the effect that the equipment or computers will not be seized because they belong to a third party who was unaware of the use being made of them.
At the time, when we debated the bill in the House, this was our greatest concern. Today, we note that, on the whole, the remarks and adjustments made in this clause with respect to the amendment of the criminal code fully satisfy the concerns of the Bloc Quebecois.
Accordingly, we offer the hon. member our full co-operation and support this approach. We hope that we will find these amendments in the criminal code one day.
Private Members' Business
March 13th, 2001 / 6:05 p.m.
John Maloney Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the second reading debate of Bill C-247, an act to amend the criminal code, forfeiture of property relating to child pornography crimes. I share the hon. member's concern about child pornography and I congratulate him for introducing the bill.
I can assure the hon. member that the concern about protecting children from predators is also of primary concern to the government. The Speech from the Throne was clear on that point. In the Speech from the Throne our government stated its full intention to “act to safeguard children from crimes, including criminals on the Internet” and to “take steps to ensure that our laws protect children from those who prey on their vulnerability”.
We all recognize that our children are the most vulnerable members of our society and we must do all we can to protect them from harm. No one will deny that child pornography seriously harms children. It does so in at least two ways. It creates a permanent record of the sexual abuse of children and it perpetuates the message that children are appropriate sexual objects. Indeed, they are not.
Child pornography was specifically prohibited by an amendment to the criminal code enacted in 1993. This amendment, which is now 163.1 of the criminal code, creates new offences for the production, importation, distribution, sale, possession for purposes of sale or distribution and simple possession of child pornography. All these offences carry a greater penalty than the offences prohibiting obscene materials involving adults.
These criminal code provisions against child pornography were enacted to respond to the prevailing practices at the time. These practices were still primarily paper oriented and involved mechanical production and physical distribution practices.
Although the current offences have been successfully applied to electronic practices relating to child pornography, no one in 1993 anticipated the technological advances that were experienced in the last five years. No one anticipated how quickly new technologies would be embraced by such a large portion of the population, particularly young people. In particular, it was not anticipated at the time that computer systems, including the Internet, would become the instruments of choice for trading child pornography.
The Internet has made it easier to communicate valuable information and carry on discussions on all kinds of subjects with people who share similar interests. Unfortunately, it has made it easier to disseminate and collect images of child pornography.
Perhaps the time has come to take a close look at the child pornography provisions in order to determine whether they still apply to current practices.
The purpose of Bill C-247, like the purpose of Bill C-321 introduced by the hon. member for Lethbridge in the previous parliament, is to create an additional deterrent to the commission of a child pornography offence. The bill would add a component to the sentence currently available under the criminal code and deprive the person convicted of the offence of all tools and instruments that were used to commit the offence. The bill would provide for the forfeiture of these instruments to the crown.
I note the hon. member has added to the bill an element that was lacking in Bill C-321. It now specifies that an order cannot be made in respect to a thing that is not the property of a person who is not a party to the offence. It also specifically excludes the forfeiture of communications facilities and equipment.
I recognize that these changes make the bill more sound. However I have some questions on the working of the provisions as drafted.
For instance, while the bill provides that the judge should not order forfeiture when the person guilty of the offence is not the owner of the thing, it does not provide for the manner in which the owner would have his or her right to the property recognized.
I commend the hon. member for introducing the bill. It is a step in the right direction in our fight against child pornography. I support the principle of the bill. However more must be done if we want to adequately protect our children against sexual exploitation.
The Minister of Justice has a bill currently on notice. The hon. member might be pleasantly surprised when he sees it after introduction.