Bill C-51 (Historical)
Appropriation Act No. 4, 2001-2002
An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the public service of Canada for the financial year ending March 31, 2002
This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2002.
Lucienne Robillard Liberal
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament.
Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act
April 12th, 2002 / 10:45 a.m.
Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North Centre, MB
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased on behalf of my caucus to participate in this debate on Bill C-33 and, in particular, the amendment being proposed by the Government of Canada.
At the outset I will reiterate the position of our party on the bill and echo the words of my colleague, the aboriginal affairs critic, the member for Winnipeg Centre, who has worked long and hard with other members in the House on advancing the bill and pushing for an expeditious resolution of this matter.
As my colleague has noted on numerous occasions, the bill is long overdue. It is well noted in the House that in fact there were several predecessors to this bill, specifically Bill C-51 in the 35th parliament in 1996, and then again in the 36th parliament, Bill C-62. Both those bills died on the order paper despite the fact that there has been a long recognized need for legislation in this area and despite the fact that the people of Nunavut have called persistently for action from the government.
It is clear, and I am sure the member for Nunavut acknowledges, realizes and lives with this on a day to day basis, that the people of Nunavut have waited patiently for a very long time to see a bill finally come through all stages in the House of Commons. Obviously we are committed to and interested in seeing this process come to an end and seeing the action taken that is so desperately needed.
Clearly the whole issue of Nunavut land claims settlement in the areas of land use, water and environmental assessment boards is paramount and critical. It is in fact scandalous that nothing has happened since June 1993. Of course we want to see the bill move through the House and action taken. However, we are concerned today with the announcement from the government that in fact a very important clause in Bill C-33 is recommended for deletion to the House of Commons.
I have listened carefully to the debate and have tried to understand the rationale for the deletion of this clause and have yet to appreciate any significant rationale for this initiative. I listened to the member for the Alliance suggesting that in fact this is in the best interests of the people of Nunavut and that this deletion of the non-derogation clause is according to their wishes and intent.
My understanding of the situation is that in fact the people of Nunavut would like to see some form of a non-derogation clause in the bill. Perhaps the wording of this one before us today poses some difficulties, but I think it would still be concluded that it is better than nothing. My colleague from Winnipeg Centre indicated that this issue was discussed thoroughly at committee stage and he was pleased to see that there was at least something in the bill around non-derogation.
I think it is particularly important that we understand the historical basis for such a clause and appreciate the reasons for the need to include a provision like this in a bill of this nature, especially today when we are on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the charter of rights and freedoms entrenched in our constitution in section 35, part of the Constitution Act. It is a very important development in the history of Canada which actually recognized that aboriginal rights are part of our history and must be entrenched in the constitution and that those inherent rights cannot be signed away by any document. It was felt that a bill of this nature should surely include a non-derogation clause. It has become standard practice in legislation dealing with aboriginal and treaty rights.
To quote from the speech of my colleague from Winnipeg Centre, he noted for the House that:
In anything dealing with aboriginal rights, a non-derogation clause has become standard practice, in that nothing in this newly signed agreement will derogate or in any way diminish rights that are inherent within the charter of rights and freedoms or the constitution. The inherent rights that aboriginal people enjoy cannot be signed away by any document.
That is the spirit behind this amendment.
It was noted at committee that the wording of the particular clause dealing with non-derogation was problematic. I think the leadership of Nunavut did indicate problems with that non-derogation clause. There was an attempt to change it to be more acceptable and responsive to the wishes of the people of Nunavut and in fact it was recommended that the clause should actually be rephrased to state:
Nothing in the bill should derogate from any existing aboriginal or treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada under the Constitution Act, 1982.
That proposed amendment was in keeping with the wishes of the delegations from Nunavut. It was simple and straightforward but unfortunately did not succeed at committee stage. We are left with the non-derogation clause as outlined in Bill C-33 which is now being proposed for deletion. That represents a concern for us and does temper our support for Bill C-33.
I want to register those concerns and to indicate that we will be listening closely throughout the remainder of the debate for a better understanding of why such an amendment is being proposed. It would seem to us that anything we can do as a House of Commons to recognize the long struggle of aboriginal peoples to pursue the fundamental notion of their inalienable rights being entrenched in the constitution and to encapsulate the spirit of that constitutional provision is absolutely vital and must be pursued.
Message from the Senate
The Royal Assent
March 27th, 2002 / 11:40 a.m.
The Deputy Speaker
I have the honour to inform the House that when the House went up to the Senate chamber, the Deputy Governor General was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, the royal assent to the following bills:
Bill C-51, an act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the public service of Canada for the financial year ending March 31, 2002— Chapter No. 5.
Bill C-52, an act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the public service of Canada for the financial year ending March 31, 2003— Chapter No. 6.
Bill C-39, an act to replace the Yukon Act in order to modernize it and to implement certain provisions of the Yukon Northern Affairs Program Devolution Transfer Agreement, and to repeal and make amendments to other acts—Chapter No. 7.
Bill C-30, an act to establish a body that provides administrative services to the Federal Court of Appeal, the Federal Court, the Court Martial Appeal Court and the Tax Court of Canada, to amend the Federal Court Act, the Tax Court of Canada Act and the Judges Act, and to make related and consequential amendments to other acts—Chapter No. 8.
Bill C-49, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on December 10, 2001—Chapter No. 9.
It being 11.50 a.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday, April 8, 2002, at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Orders 28 and 24.
(The House adjourned at 11.50 a.m.)
Supplementary Estimates (B), 2001-02
March 19th, 2002 / 6 p.m.
Supplementary Estimates (B), 2001-02
March 19th, 2002 / 6 p.m.
Order, please. House in committee of the whole on Bill C-51.
(On clause 2)
Supplementary Estimates (B), 2001-02
March 19th, 2002 / 6 p.m.
Supplementary Estimates (B), 2001-02
March 19th, 2002 / 5:55 p.m.
Budget Implementation Act, 2001
March 11th, 2002 / 4:20 p.m.
John Bryden Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON
Mr. Speaker, budget debates are a time traditionally when members of parliament can raise other issues in the House that bear some relationship to things fiscal and financial. I am particularly pleased to see the member for Elk Island here today in the House as I make my speech because the member for Elk Island was on of two members of parliament in this House who raised the issue of gambling and criticized gambling as a problem that is afflicting Canadian society, during a debate in 1998 that had to with controlled substances.
It was Bill C-51 and that also included the government's proposal that the criminal code be amended so that casino gambling could take place onboard ships. The member took the opportunity to raise the issue to express his concern that gambling in general had become a problem across the United States certainly but across Canada.
The member for Winnipeg--Transcona also raised the issue during that debate. He has a particular interest in it because there are two casinos in Winnipeg and gambling in general in Manitoba is an example where people are genuinely suffering.
The problem is that no one wants to talk about it any more. Nobody is talking about it at all other than these two instances in the House but gambling has become a scourge, an affliction that is doing all kinds of social damage to Canadians at every economic level in society.
Six hundred thousand to a million Canadians are problem gamblers. We have situations where people are losing their houses. They are losing all their worldly goods. They are going to the casino or sometimes the bingo halls, usually the casinos or even worse the video lottery terminals, and they are losing hundreds if not thousands of dollars in a single event. There is a relationship between this occurrence and an increase in certain areas of crime because of course these people have to pay for their habits.
I should help you recall, Mr. Speaker, that up until 1969 the criminal code forbade gambling and under pressure from the provinces the federal government amended the code to allow lotteries, and you will remember Lotto Canada started in 1969. Only a year later the provinces persuaded the federal government to offload the responsibility or the right to raise money by gambling through lotteries to the provinces. That was done in exchange for some $30 million. That was the revenue that the federal government was to get in exchange for giving this right to the provinces.
That has never changed except through inflation. The federal government's total take on gambling across the country after these amendments to the criminal code, and most of the gambling is conducted by the provinces, is only $43 million but the total take of the provinces is $9 billion. That is not the figure that really should concern us. The total money spent by people in casinos, at video display terminals and at the track is $27 billion.
What has happened is that the provincial governments and the charities indeed have become addicted themselves to revenues from gambling. They pay no attention to the social costs. I invite you to do as I have done. I go across the country. I am not a gambler, but I go to every casino that I can and it is amazing to see the social differences in casinos. In the casino in Montreal, for example, it is mostly high stakes tables. In the casino in Winnipeg it is nickel slot machines.
We can see the clientele in the casino in Winnipeg. The people are on social assistance and are senior citizens. What we cannot see and what the few studies that we do have are pointing out is that this scourge of gambling is reaching into the middle class as well. What is happening is the people who are well educated, people who have university degrees and who have good jobs, are now going to these casinos and to these video lottery terminals and are spending money.
The irony is that we are destroying people's lives through these gambling institutions that every province is now supporting and most charities are supporting. We are destroying lives and we are giving nothing in return. There is almost no money being spent on trying to rescue people who have been afflicted by gambling.
Every one of us knows that we do not need fabulous studies to see in our communities people whose lives have been destroyed by gambling. The irony is that if it was not for the fact that the federal government amended the criminal code, if it was not for the fact that the provinces have set up casinos and VLTs wherever they can, these people would not be victims of the disease that afflicts them. We know that gambling is very like alcoholism. It is a weakness we are basically born with, and when the temptation is presented, some people, no matter what their best intentions, are going to fall victim to it.
We are doing nothing about it. All we are doing is pocketing the money and it is basically the provinces that are pocketing the money.
I will give you an example, Mr. Speaker. Federally we spend $90 million a year on the tobacco reduction strategy. We spend nothing to help problem gambling across the country. There is the odd $100,000 here or there to some social agency that has it as part of its mandate, but there is no plan, no strategy, at the federal level and nothing at the provincial level to actually address the problem of problem gamblers.
We are talking about 4% to 6% of all the people who have access to gambling venues. These are the ones who are problem gamblers who cannot control their habit, or pathological gamblers, where they go and go and they will rob banks and will do anything that is necessary in order to feed their habit. This is a very serious affliction.
I feel very strongly that the House has to address the problem of gambling, because it is not going to come from the provinces. I will give the example of Ontario. Ontario takes in $2 billion in profit from gambling. It says “Ah well, this money is going to be used for charity”, but it gives only 5%, that is 5%, to the Trillium Foundation of that $2 billion. That is the charitable component. Instead, the rest of the money goes to enable the provincial government not to raise taxes.
Mr. Speaker, I will tell you that if gambling is the source of revenue that replaces raising taxes, then what you are doing is raising taxes on the weak and the poor and you are taking advantage of people's weaknesses. I only have contempt for charities that take that money, take the $100 million from the Ontario government and purport to use it in the public interest when in fact, in a very real sense, if the money comes from casino gambling or VLTs and charities are using it, then in every sense it is blood money.
We have to, as a parliament, do something about this.
Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act
November 2nd, 2001 / 10:15 a.m.
Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to take part in the debate at third reading on Bill C-33. The NDP caucus has been quite supportive of the bill from its onset. We welcome the opportunity to lend our support to the very important issue of helping the newly formed territory of Nunavut take its independence and control over water management, land use and other associated issues.
Members of the New Democratic Party have followed the debate with great interest. We have followed it much farther back than when it was introduced in the House as Bill C-33. We note with interest that as long ago as 1996, in the 35th parliament, a similar bill was introduced, Bill C-51, which, unfortunately, died on the order paper. In the 36th parliament, Bill C-62 was introduced, which was largely the same in scope and content and sought to achieve the same goals, but it too died on the order paper. In other words, the people of Nunavut have been waiting patiently for a long time to see this bill finally come through all the stages of the House of Commons.
It is worth noting that the Nunavut land claims agreement called for land use, water and environmental assessment boards to be established as institutions of public government within two years of the ratification of the agreement. That was in June 1993. It is scandalous that nothing has happened.
The surface rights issues were to have a similar institution within six months of the June 1993 ratification. We are almost a decade late in implementing this important enabling legislation which essentially hands over to the Nunavut water board the jurisdiction to make important determinations as to the use of water and putting waste into water in the territory of Nunavut.
This is an issue that most people are able to relate to. In fact, ever since we have been putting codes of conduct on paper or codes of practice into writing, we have dealt with water rights. The Magna Carta in 1215 referred specifically to water rights and water use issues. It is something that every democracy and every free society has to wrestle with and has to establish because it is so critical. People downstream deserve the courtesy of fair treatment from those living upstream, and water being an essential commodity.
After working with the people of Nunavut, members of the NDP did try to move amendments at the committee stage. The people of Nunavut actually came to the committee and made compelling arguments for things they sought to achieve in the bill. The one improvement in the bill that I will point out, and which I readily concede is actually an improvement over Bill C-51 and Bill C-52, is that at least Bill C-33 contains a non-derogation clause. This is important. In anything dealing with aboriginal rights, a non-derogation clause has become standard practice, in that nothing in this newly signed agreement will derogate or in any way diminish rights that are inherent within the charter of rights and freedoms or the constitution. The inherent rights that aboriginal people enjoy cannot be signed away by any document.
However, we were critical, and it was one of our amendments, that the non-derogation clause that was chosen for Bill C-33 differs from other non-derogation clauses in recent aboriginal legislation. We were suspect, as were the people of Nunavut, as to why it varied. It was only natural for the Nunavut people to assume that this clause was deliberately changed for a specific purpose.
A person can be presumed to have intended the probable consequences of his or her actions but, by the same token, the government can be presumed to have intended something of the literal meaning of what they have put forward and chose to deviate.
We recommended that the non-derogation clause in Bill C-33 should state as follows:
Nothing in the bill should derogate from any existing aboriginal or treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada under the Constitution Act, 1982.
The amendment was simple and straightforward but unfortunately it did not succeed at committee.
We went further than a non-derogation clause. At committee stage, members of the NDP recommended that we go farther and put in a positive interpretation clause, not just a non-derogation clause but a positive interpretation clause so in the event of some ambiguity in the bill it would always be interpreted in the best possible light for aboriginal people. We felt that was important. It was a safety fallback position that would give some comfort to the people of Nunavut in the event the bill was challenged in the courts or in the event there were two points of view over a particular clause. The interpretation clause would give some guidance to arbitrators down the road to view the people of Nunavut in a more positive light. That too failed at committee stage and we were disappointed and critical of that.
We also point out that Bill C-33 is essentially a step toward self-government for Nunavut, for control and jurisdiction over its own land and water use. However, within the bill, the minister still has the right or the ultimate sign-off to any licences or permits that are granted within Nunavut. In other words, the Nunavut water board can issue a licence to Echo Bay Mines, or whatever the institution is that seeks a water licence, but it has to be signed off by the minister. In other words, Ottawa, the central federal government, still has the ultimate control, the right to veto anything the people of Nunavut do.
We suggested in an amendment that the powers of the minister under that section should sunset on the 10 year anniversary of the signing of the agreement, not the signing of this bill but the signing of the Nunavut land use agreement in June 1993. In other words, in June 2003 the powers of the minister would no longer exist and the people of Nunavut would make their own determination about their own land and water use in that territory. I thought that was a very reasonable amendment and I expected the support of my colleagues even on the other side, especially the member from Nunavut who sits on that committee. I thought she would have had a very real interest in seeing that step toward true self-government and true self-determination take place. That also failed as an amendment. We were trying to be reasonable and we did not succeed in any of these.
The last thing we sought to achieve in Bill C-33 we again failed to achieve. The Government of Canada can still levy a fee or a charge to any user of water in Nunavut. There are no exemptions to this. We moved an amendment that would have allowed the government to charge a permit or licence fee to Echo Bay Mines or any other user group, but we wanted to make sure it did not intend to charge the people of Nunavut for using water that flows through their own land. That is exactly what is contemplated in this agreement. If the people of Nunavut wanted to start a water bottling company as an economic development agency, they would have to pay a fee to Ottawa to use their own water. Is that self-government? Is that self-determination? Is that control over one's own resources and territory? That struck me as absurd.
You, Mr. Speaker, with a hockey background, would understand the analogy that was used at the committee. The people who came to the committee said that if they wanted to flood the hockey rink in their community they would have to pay a fee to Ottawa to pump the water out of their river to flood the ice so their kids could play hockey in a place where there is a great deal of ice and water. It struck us as absurd. On their behalf we moved what we thought was a very reasonable amendment to say that the Government of Canada could charge user fees, service fees or licence fees, except in water on, in, or flowing through Inuit owned land.
In other words, on crown property the government could absolutely charge whomever it wanted whatever it wanted. It could charge whatever the market would bear and ding people for all it could. However it should not charge the people who live there for the right to make a tray of ice cubes in their own fridge. That struck us as ridiculous. It did not succeed either.
We were frustrated at committee. As much as we wanted to support Bill C-33 and agreed with the tone, content and sentiments inherent in the bill, we were terribly frustrated that reason could not have prevailed in those few areas.
Having said that, we must now either move forward with a bill that is not everything the people wanted or delay and deny the people of Nunavut what they have been seeking for many years. Given that choice the NDP caucus will be voting in favour of Bill C-33 at this stage.
Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act
September 26th, 2001 / 4:50 p.m.
Maurice Vellacott Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK
Madam Speaker, it is an honour and a privilege to speak in respect of Bill C-33. My party will be watching the bill very closely in committee. We will scrutinize and vigorously question the witnesses to see if it is workable. We hope it is for the people of Nunavut.
The minister mentioned that at least on the surface the bill would implement the provisions of the 1993 Nunavut land claims agreement relating to the management of waters and the creation of a surface rights tribunal for the territory of Nunavut.
It is my understanding the bill is similar to what is operating in the territories and elsewhere in the country. As mentioned, versions of this bill were before the House of Commons in two previous parliaments; in 1993, Bill C-51 and in 1996, Bill C-62.
What could be better than promoting the conservation and utilization of water, as well as waste disposal, through a licensing system, which would be overseen by a board consisting of people from that part of the country?
Our party will raise in committee the issues of the powers of the minister, the terms of reference of the board, the length of terms for board members and so on. We notice that the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development maintains the right to appoint and release board members. We do not know if they can have indefinite terms. We probably would want to see some limits in respect of that. We will be pressing that in committee.
The minister has the power to issue and rescind licences, as well as to expropriate land. There is a lot of power in the hands of the minister. We will want to know exactly what the checks and balances are in respect to that.
We have been told that the arrangement is similar to the arrangement with other territories. We will be looking more closely at this and no doubt there will be amendments to improve it, to add to it and to increase the value of the bill when it comes before committee.
As a general principle, the Canadian Alliance endorses efforts to decentralize the decision making process, taking it closer to the people, at local level of government, and allowing them to make decisions that affect in this case their water resources. Our intent will be to ensure that the past concerns about the bill have been addressed.
If we go back through the Hansard record and the committee discussions and so on, some of those may in fact have been addressed, but other ones that may require further examination.
Bill C-33 would amend a portion of the Nunavut Land Act. It is not a secret to anyone that our predecessor name, the Reform Party, expressed concern over some of the financial costs and the duplication of services that were involved in the establishment of Nunavut. It is a known fact, and it is on the record, that Nunavut receives $580 million in annual transfer payments. It is projecting in this fiscal year a $12 million deficit. Nunavut receives federal transfer payments of approximately 90% of the territorial budget.
All these matters need to be watched carefully and closely. We believe that if people pay for their own resources through tax dollars and in support their governance, the more they will hold their government accountable because of that vested interest of dollars.
Because of the remoteness of Nunavut, costs of providing a lot of the services are excessive. Some people have criticized this, but fair minded people in the provinces, territories and particularly in the House should ask whether we have too much government in some of these places. We want to be careful and watchful because sometimes there can be over governance, which is not good for any territory or province.
We notice the Nunavut water board will have eight appointed members, plus a chair for a population in the range of 24,000. There is a bureaucracy of some 930 civil service jobs, as set out in the 1992 Coopers and Lybrand report on the establishment of Nunavut, plus 705 public service which were transferred from Yellowknife.
We notice that there will be eight members on the Nunavut water board. We will be questioning whether that is necessary. In comparison, the entire Northwest Territories water board currently consists of four. It can go up to nine, but it is normally four. The Northwest Territories has twice the land and twice the population.
Various groups of people in the north have said they want those additional board members to guarantee representation for different population groups, including the Inuit of Nunavut and the Inuit of northern Quebec. We will have to look carefully at those claims and try to get some sense of whether that is merited.
Also a couple of things that have been raised by members of the House thus far and questions will need to be addressed to provide us some assurance. Some have asked if Bill C-33 will affect the water quality and a safe drinking water supply. As we understand it, Bill C-33 refers to water quality, but does not define those water quality standards and regulations. As was mentioned by the minister, they will be developed by the water board.
We would like to know what are the parameters for those regulations. Will they be as good as any other regime or place in the country? Hopefully so or better. Will they be similar to the Northwest Territories regulations?
Also another important question for the economic development of Nunavut is will regulations be cumbersome and stand in the way of sustainable development? Jobs are an important part in all places, especially in Nunavut. Will these regulations stand in the way of sustainable development? We want to be environmentally sensitive, but there needs to be economic development. Frequently, we have heard that some the regulations in the territories and Yukon do stand in the way of seemingly feasible sustainable projects.
Our concern is that we set some parameters. When they set these regulations, the regulations should not hurt the economic opportunity and the development of job opportunities for the people of Nunavut.
A question was raised about the sale of water. We need absolute assurance that, as far as this particular act is concerned, it is a federal jurisdiction. These days there is some controversy around the issue of the sale of bulk water and whether there needs to be some further definition under NAFTA or whatever. We would also want assurances that that is a federal jurisdiction and not something that can be trumped by the Nunavut water board.
Another question is does Nunavut have control over coastal and seabed resources? Our understanding is that Bill C-33 deals with freshwater resources and waste water disposal. We need absolute confirmation and assurance that Bill C-33 does not refer to coastal waters or mineral resources on or under the seabed and that the federal government has control over those coastal waters.
In principle, there are caveats in respect of this, but the intent of local governments making decisions on issues that are of a regional or local nature that is supportable by the Alliance Party, but we want it to be cost effective as well. This is one of the caveats we throw in there. We believe in that.
This is under the purview of the federal bureaucracy, but it may be of a benefit to have it under Nunavut water board. Careful consideration will be given to this in committee.
The Canadian Alliance Party will scrutinize carefully and vigorously query those who present to the committee, so we can hopefully improve and make this better legislation for the people of Nunavut.
Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2001
May 3rd, 2001 / 4:20 p.m.
Anne McLellan Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
moved that Bill C-15, an act to amend the Criminal Code and to amend other acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to begin second reading debate on Bill C-15, an act to amend the Criminal Code and to amend other acts.
As omnibus bills before it, Bill C-15 has a number of diverse elements. Most recently we have seen examples of omnibus bills: Bill C-51 in 1999, Bill C-17 in 1996 and Bill C-42 in 1994. These examples demonstrate that the practice of introducing criminal amendments through an omnibus bill is a longstanding practice and one that has served the criminal justice system well.
The amendments proposed in the criminal law amendment act, 2001 respond to serious crimes against children and other vulnerable members of society, provide additional safeguards for the law enforcement community, strengthen our laws concerning cruelty to animals, make administrative and procedural improvements to the justice system, and make administrative amendments to the Firearms Act.
First I will deal with the proposed amendments to better protect our children. The provisions that deal with protecting children respond to the government's commitment in the Speech from the Throne to safeguard children from criminals on the Internet and to ensure that children are protected from those who would prey upon their vulnerability. They also respond to a consensus of ministers responsible for justice at the last FPT meeting to create an offence of Internet luring.
The Internet is a new technology that can be used to stimulate the communication of ideas and facilitate research, but, as with any instrument, when placed in the wrong hands it can be used for ill and to cause harm. Canadians will not tolerate a situation where individuals, from the safety and secrecy of their house, use the anonymity of the Internet to lure children into situations where they can be exploited sexually.
The new offence seeks to address what has been reported as a growing phenomenon not only in our country but globally. It criminalizes communicating through a computer system for the purpose of facilitating the commission of a sexual offence against a child or the abduction of a child.
We also want to ensure that those who view, or transmit child pornography to others, will not escape criminal liability by using new technologies.
We will extend the scope of current child pornography offences to make it clearer that actions that constitute an offence when committed with traditional means remain an offence when committed with electronic means.
Bill C-15 seeks to create four new offences: an offence of transmitting child pornography to cover one to one distribution, such as e-mail sent to one person only; an offence of making child pornography available to cover those who post child pornography on a publicly accessible website but take no other steps to distribute it; an offence of exporting child pornography to meet our international obligation; and an offence of accessing child pornography to capture those who intentionally view child pornography on the net but where the legal notion of possession may be problematic. The offence is defined to ensure that inadvertent viewing would not be caught under this offence.
I will now turn to three other proposed measures to better protect vulnerable Canadians. The first measure I wish to mention is the offence of criminal harassment, or stalking as it is sometimes referred to. This is a serious offence that can have a devastating effect upon the emotional and physical well-being of the victim.
In Bill C-15, this government is taking strong measures to ensure that the criminal justice system treats criminal harassment as the serious offence that we know it to be.
The government's response to this issue is twofold: first, to strengthen the existing legislation; and, second, to strengthen enforcement of the law through comprehensive guidelines for criminal justice personnel on criminal harassment.
Bill C-15 responds to our first commitment by proposing to increase the maximum penalty for criminal harassment when prosecuted on indictment from five to ten years. This sends a strong signal to would-be stalkers. Criminal harassment is a serious offence and its sentence would now better reflect this serious nature.
With respect to our second commitment relating to enhancing the enforcement of the criminal harassment provisions, I am pleased to note that together with our federal, provincial and territorial counterparts a handbook for police and crown prosecutors on criminal harassment was developed and released in December 1999. The handbook provides a practical set of guidelines for criminal justice personnel on all aspects of a criminal harassment case, including victim safety.
I now wish to address the difficult issue of home invasions, one that has been raised by a number of my colleagues on all sides of the House. The term home invasion is generally used to describe a robbery or break and enter of a private residence when the perpetrator forces entry while the occupants are at home, and this is key, and the perpetrator threatens to use or does use violence against the occupants.
The proposed amendment to the criminal code would indicate that where the offender's conduct was in the nature of a home invasion the court must consider this to be an aggravating factor when determining the sentence to be imposed. Such an amendment would provide clear direction to the courts and would express parliament's view that home invasion is a grave form of criminal conduct which must be dealt with appropriately during the sentencing process.
Another important measure proposed in Bill C-15 is the new offence of disarming or attempting to disarm a peace officer. This new offence would apply to anyone who tries to take away an officer's weapon when the officer is acting in the course of his or her duties. It is proposed that this new offence carry a maximum penalty of five years to reflect the seriousness of the offence and to send a clear message that taking or attempting to take a police officer's weapon would not be tolerated. The safety of police officers is a priority for the government.
The criminal law amendment act, 2001, would revive amendments introduced in the last parliament dealing with cruelty to animals. The proposed reforms have two primary objectives: to simplify and better organize the existing laws and to enhance the penalties for animal cruelty.
In particular we are increasing the penalties for animal cruelty offences with the highest penalty being five years in prison, up from the current maximum of six months. We would eliminate the current limit of two years maximum duration for an order prohibiting the offender from possessing animals and would include a new power for the court to order as part of a sentence that the offender repay to a humane society the reasonable costs associated with the care of the animal.
I would like to make clear this afternoon that these changes do not in any way negatively affect the many legitimate activities that involve animals, such as hunting, farming, or medical and scientific research. These are regulated activities subject to specific technical rules and regulations and codes of practice. The criminal law is not being used to establish or modify industry standards but rather to prohibit conduct that is grossly unacceptable. Simply put, what is lawful today in the course of legitimate activities would be lawful when the bill receives royal assent.
The law already requires that we treat animals humanely and with respect. These amendments would ensure that the law can adequately deal with those who would wilfully abuse animals. I believe that all members of the House can support this principle. There is no subject on which I receive more mail from Canadians on a weekly basis than on the question of modernizing our laws in relation to cruelty to animals.
I would like to speak now in relation to the proposed amendments concerning firearms. The Canadian firearms program is an example of the preventive approach our government takes to public safety. Moreover, the program is already achieving higher levels of public safety for all Canadians and the facts demonstrate it.
Since December 1, 1998, more than 3,000 licences have been refused or revoked by public safety authorities. The number of revocations is 26 times higher than the total of the five previous years. Overall the licensing compliance rate in Canada is now over 90%.
However, we have learned from the licensing experience. We have also listened to the concerns of gun owners and other Canadians about program efficiency and client service. We are proposing administrative changes to facilitate the registration process and to continue to ensure a high level of service to clients. These administrative changes do not affect the deadline of January 1, 2003, for registration of all firearms nor the government's commitment to public safety.
We are responding to the needs and wishes of Canadians and firearms owners by proposing changes that will make the program more user friendly, more cost efficient and client oriented. We will design a more streamlined system by simplifying the licence renewal process, by redesigning the registration process and by making better use of new and emerging Internet technology, for example, by allowing for registration of firearms online. We also intend to improve efficiency and reduce costs, for example, by staggering firearms licence renewals to avoid a surge of applications in five year cycles.
With these amendments, we will reach a balance between the interests of responsible firearms owners and our shared objective of public safety.
The efficiency of any criminal justice system depends upon its ability to protect the innocent while bringing those who are guilty of crime to justice. Despite all the precautions that our justice system takes to avoid the conviction of an innocent person, no system is infallible. Wrongful convictions can occur and regrettably have occurred in the past. The names Donald Marshall, David Milgaard and Guy Paul Morin make my point.
In such cases our entire justice system finds itself in disrepute. That is why Bill C-15 includes important improvements to section 690 of the criminal code, the conviction review process. It is a final safety net for those who are the victims of wrongful conviction.
In October 1998 we released a public consultation paper seeking submissions on how our conviction review process could be improved. The consultations informed the measures now found in Bill C-15.
The ultimate decision making authority in criminal conviction reviews will remain with the federal Minister of Justice, who is accountable to parliament and to the people of Canada. The Minister of Justice can recognize and maintain the traditional jurisdiction of the courts while providing a fair and just remedy in those exceptional cases that have somehow fallen through the cracks of the conventional justice system.
However, maintaining the status quo is not an acceptable option. Therefore the amendments to section 690 will provide investigative powers to those investigating cases on behalf of the Minister of Justice. This will allow investigators to compel witnesses to testify and documents to be produced.
In order to make the conviction review process more open and accountable, ministers of justice will now be required to provide an annual report to parliament and a website will be created to give applicants information on the process.
I believe that these amendments are the most efficient and effective way to improve the post-appellant extrajudicial conviction review process in Canada.
Let me turn briefly to the area of criminal procedure reform. The Department of Justice has been working closely with the provinces and territories on criminal procedure reform for some years. This work is now in its third phase.
The objectives of phase three are to simplify trial procedure, modernize the criminal justice system and enhance its efficiency through the increased use of technology, better protect victims and witnesses in criminal trials, and provide speedy trials in accordance with charter requirements.
We are trying to bring criminal procedure into the 21st century. This phase reflects our efforts to modernize our procedure without in any way reducing the measure of justice provided by the system.
As I said at the outset, the provinces and territories support these reforms. As they are responsible for the administration of justice, I believe that we should do our best to give them the tools they need to ensure the efficient and effective operation of the criminal justice system.
In conclusion, I am sure the standing committee will give Bill C-15 its usual thorough review and examination. I believe it contains a number of important improvements to the criminal justice system and measures that will contribute to the protection and safety of all Canadians. I call on all members of the House to support the bill.
With consent, I would move that the debate on Bill C-15 do now adjourn.