Bill C-32 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Criminal Code and other Acts
This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in November 2003.
Martin Cauchon Liberal
(This bill did not become law.)
October 30th, 2003 / 4:10 p.m.
Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for giving me another opportunity, perhaps the last one, to comment on this bill.
I want to take this opportunity to thank Roch Gilbert, a local police officer who made these tables possible, in co-operation with the Maison des jeunes, SOS Jeunesse and all the community stakeholders.
I congratulate Roch Gilbert for his visits to the schools. When he enters a classroom, he does not stand in front of the students but sits down with them. He explains his background and asks young people to give their opinion and tell him what they would like him to be with them. This approach is quite different from everything we have ever seen.
When I was young, I would not go near a police officer because I was so afraid. He had a gun and uniform, and he looked very strict. Mr. Gilbert has a new approach. He is the deadpan type. He speaks about tragic situations in a way young people can relate to and with humour.
Humour helps to get messages across. We should have more humour in this House to play down the heavy topics we have to deal with. Bill C-32 deals with very complex and serious issues, like serious situations in aircrafts and the use of traps.
We do not dare make light of it because we think it would sometimes be unparliamentary. But we should use more humour in a way that is acceptable in Parliament. Maybe we would not need an official poet, then, because we would all be poets.
October 30th, 2003 / 3:40 p.m.
Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak today on Bill C-32.
Before I begin my speech, I would like to congratulate my three colleagues. Congratulations are in order when people make excellent contributions. Throughout the process around this bill, they have had positive contributions to make.
I wish to congratulate my colleague, the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot. As we know, about six years ago there was a lot of criminal activity in his area. Pot was being planted in cornfields. Our colleague denounced the authors of this crime publicly, and was a target of personal threats afterward. He did not back down, however, and continued his efforts, to the benefit of the population, the various levels of government, and the law enforcement agencies, who were at a disadvantage because there was no law that contained provisions to help them under these circumstances.
My colleague was greatly worried about the activities of the criminal community, but his activities were also a great worry to them. Thanks to his actions, society started to ask questions. As a result, the parliamentarians, who need to heed what their constituents want, could not do otherwise than to examine their consciences and decide that the law needed to be changed, in order to beef up the sentences for such crimes.
So I congratulate my colleague. In his region, as in all other regions of Quebec, we still need to invest a great deal of energy in the battle against the criminal element, with its multitude of ways to get around the law and get rid of people they do not want around.
I congratulate him and ask him to keep up his work with the people in his area, so that all parts of Quebec can draw on their experience and start up their own programs to deal with what is going in their area.
I also congratulate the hon. member for Joliette, whose speech was excellent. He has told us that this bill was going to have more teeth because of the proposed amendment to the Criminal Code. Unfortunately, the Canadian government has submitted a proposal to the Solicitor General to do away with RCMP detachments in certain specific regions of Quebec, and if this were acted on, it would be most regrettable.
We must think of all the energy that has been expended by the Quebec provincial police, the RCMP, the municipal police forces, the municipal and school board officials, specific schools and the general public. They have sat down together to pool their efforts in order to get a clear idea of the situation in their region, as well as to make the battle against crime more effective.
The RCMP is a very important institution. As all these offences come under the Criminal Code, the RCMP is mandated to intervene in these cases. By not having these stakeholders at the table, we have just impacted on the work done in the areas concerned.
That is not what I call listening to taxpayers. All of us here pay taxes. And Quebec and the other provinces pay taxes to the federal government.
I would ask the Solicitor General to reconsider his decision because this is very important. Organized crime generates a lot of money, and there is certainly no shortage of money to keep them busy. I do not know where they get all this money from, but there is an abundance of it. As far as we are concerned, most of the time it is volunteers, people who are not paid, who help us in our efforts to fight the reprehensible acts committed by the criminal world. The Solicitor General must act to meet the needs of the nine regions in Quebec, including Lanaudière, that will be affected by the elimination or closure of the RCMP detachments.
I also want to commend my colleague from Repentigny, who represents the region of Lanaudière and is affected by this. He told us how important it is.
In my riding, we have many police officers who get involved and who are no longer just coercive. They sit down to talk with young people and the community. They are partners in preventing crime. They talk to young people and parents. We have an association of parents of teenagers that works closely with the police. They talk with young people and ask what needs to be done to make our society better in the future.
People always say that society has become complacent. That is not true. There are community organizations and they need funds to be able to fight crime. They are succeeding because they have the support of the RCMP and the Sûreté du Québec, which have the money and the training to fight crime.
Giving such a signal to these people indicates that we are not interested in them. These people want to improve social conditions for everyone. We must not forget that when such criminals set traps in a field, it is not only the farmer who may get hurt. There are hikers in the woods and near the farmers' fields. There are children who play there. These people may have accidents, even fatal ones.
By informing people, we can fight crime. However, without some funding and some experts with the means to intervene, we are putting handcuffs on our constituents' goodwill.
Therefore, the Bloc Quebecois will support this bill. As my colleague from Repentigny said, we are not here just to say no. We are here to make progress on issues that affect each and every one of our constituents. When there is something positive and the time has come to act, and the government opens the door for us, we are there to examine the legislation. When a bill, like Bill C-32, provides solutions to the problems of all Quebeckers and Canadians, we will not oppose it.
We must, however, watch carefully as this legislation is implemented, since nothing is perfect. When enforcement guidelines are issued, sore points sometimes develop. The Bloc Quebecois will be very attentive, because this bill can improve society. I think we must support all measures that can improve society and we must say so aloud.
This bill makes interesting amendments to the Criminal Code, particularly with respect to the new offence concerning traps.
Earlier, I said that in my riding as well, there are many farmers' fields being targeted by organized crime. Pot has begun to grow in those fields. These criminals have a lot of money at stake. Consequently, they protect themselves by installing many traps around their crops, to safeguard their pot of gold. These people are organized.
By including in this bill a stiffer penalty for setting traps, we are finally doing something positive.
It has to be done. The underworld puts coercive pressure on people. Therefore, our legislation must put coercive pressure on the underworld, on organized crime. These criminals must be stopped.
Most of the time, all these substances, like marijuana, are targeted to a young clientele. We see that in schoolyards. These people are very well organized. They always have drug dealers working for them. And they recruit young kids. In most cases, these young kids will agree to do it because of the money they can make. I met a young boy who was no more than eight or nine years old and he was making up to $300 or $400 a week by selling pot. People of any age can be attracted by the prospect of making easy money.
We need coercive measures, issue tables and laws that enable us to take action. In the past, police forces were more than willing to do their part, but the Criminal Code did not provide them with the necessary tools. This bill changes that.
This bill also allows the use of reasonable force on board aircraft. This was mentioned earlier. All my colleagues who spoke to Bill C-32 talked about it. They referred to what we saw on September 11. People returning from trips by plane often have stories to tell about incidents that happened on board the aircraft. Sometimes, some people drink too much too fast and do regrettable things.
This bill will clarify the fact that any person on board an aircraft can intervene to contain on overly enthusiastic passenger. This is a positive measure. Moreover, when people engage in reprehensible behaviour on board an aircraft, it causes harm.
Some people have psychological problems. Some do not like to fly but they have to. If something happens on board, it can be very disturbing for them. I think that these provisions will reassure those who are afraid to fly. They will know that people will no longer be allowed to do whatever they want on board an aircraft.
The bill also modifies the provision dealing with the provision of information on oath in relation to weapons. It also creates an exemption to the offence of intercepting private communications in order to protect computer systems. That was a key point I was concerned about when we heard about this new bill. Indeed, we all know that with the emergence of the Internet just about anybody can surf the net. Accessing data banks is easy. We can talk to anybody we want around the planet. My colleague behind me often uses his laptop in the House. He often does research on the Internet. If my colleague can do it, many others can do it too.
The bill contains provisions to make sure the wording of clauses is consistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We know that today our protection ends where somebody else's protection starts. Without the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms, I believe there would be abuses. We have that protection.
We must use it and protect privacy.
It is in the bill. However, the Bloc Quebecois said during the clause by clause review of the bill that the wording of that clause was not clear. We will ensure the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is respected.
One of the clauses mentions that a peace officer must have reasonable grounds to apply for a warrant. This is a real problem. In my family there are a number of lawyers, police officers, peace officers and paramedics. I have a very large family where just about every profession is represented. We get together quite often. We are a tight-knit family. When we are gathered around the table we quite often talk about these topics. Whenever someone mentions an issue, someone else says that such or such a bill is inadequate. We talk a lot about justice issues in my family.
The bill we are dealing with right now will add some fuel to the discussion we had last year during the Christmas holidays. My relatives will be able to say that Bill C-32 improves the means we have to deal with criminal offences and the negative impact of organized crime's activities on society in Canada and Quebec.
With all it did, the Bloc Quebecois has been very active in improving this bill. The Bloc Quebecois pointed out that this was a first step but that we had to go further. This is important. Sometimes, legislators are lagging behind instead of taking the lead.
We all know that when a bill is passed, it is not reviewed annually. Bill C-32 is currently relevant, but it lacks elements for the future. Tomorrow is already here. Numerous amendments should have been adopted. However, life is not perfect, particularly when we are dealing with the criminal world. Those who operate in the criminal world are quite sharp and they always succeed in circumventing the law.
The central elements of this bill allow us to ensure security through new offences with regard to placing traps. Other provisions deal with the use of force on aircraft. The Bloc Quebecois had also requested new measures on the anti-gang legislation.
An anti-gang bill was introduced a few years ago. The situation did get better, but the bill did not go far enough. We hope that the government will listen to us and will act promptly to adopt stronger anti-gang legislation.
October 30th, 2003 / 3:35 p.m.
Joe Comartin Windsor—St. Clair, ON
Mr. Speaker, like most members of the House, my party and I are in support of the amendments to the Criminal Code that are contained in Bill C-32.
As individual members I think we have all heard horror stories from constituents in our home ridings around the use of traps by certain members of our society, mostly the criminal elements of our society, which has put lives in danger, particularly the lives of our emergency service workers, whether they be police, firefighters, ambulance drivers or people who work in those areas.
We think of this almost exclusively in terms of the police officer crashing through a door and being met with a trap in the floor or a shotgun pointed at the door and triggered by the breaking in of the door. However, it usually is something less dramatic than that but equally dangerous, perhaps even more so because the police officer going in is well aware of the risks that he or she may be facing. It could be the ambulance driver going in simply to pick up somebody who is injured or is suffering from ill health who is confronted with this type of trap.
What the bill does in terms of trying to deal with this type of anti-social and outright criminal behaviour is increase the penalties for anybody who either has established that trap or is knowingly in possession of property and real estate wherein those traps are contained. It runs from increasing sentences from what might have been a 10 year sentence to one of 14 years and, in some cases such as situations where death results from the use of these traps, to life imprisonment. It bodes well for all members of the House to support that part of the bill.
Another point that we felt was important and were happy to see come forward is the whole issue of making restitution easier for people who have been victims of crime. The existing situation requires in effect a whole separate civil proceeding under some circumstances, that is, one actually has to start an application to the courts in order to obtain a court order from the civil courts, which would then allow one to collect on the restitution order that would already have been made by the criminal courts. There are amendments in the bill that will make that process much easier, much simpler and much less expensive for victims of crime.
There are some technical amendments around the use of warrants for going in and seizing weapons. This issue rose to the Ontario Court of Appeal in Regina v. Hurrell. The court in effect struck down the warrant used in those circumstances in that it offended the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
What we are doing here is recognizing the limitations that the court of appeal put on the use of these warrants. We are now including those limitations in the bill but still allowing, under the proper set of circumstances, for police officers to go in on reasonable grounds and seize weapons where they are concerned that the weapons may be used for violent crimes. Again, it is a very useful mechanism to be made available to our police forces in the way of preventing crime and is therefore a good use of the Criminal Code in that regard.
The final point I would like to address, which has drawn some attention because of September 11, 2001, is redefining what is reasonable force, specifically on air flights. To make that clear, we have redefined in the amendments what a flight is.
More specifically spelled out in the bill is the right of any individual to use reasonable force in a situation where violence is either in the process or anticipated aboard air flights. Given the circumstances of September 11, this is a timely amendment which will provide clear direction to all members of society on what is acceptable and permissible and perhaps even recommended in those circumstances.
Based on those comments, the NDP is quite pleased to support the bill, particularly the amendments I have mentioned.
October 30th, 2003 / 3:10 p.m.
Benoît Sauvageau Repentigny, QC
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my friend and colleague, the hon. member for Joliette, for his well-chosen words on Bill C-32. I am pleased to speak to this bill on behalf of my party.
Today, once again, we are going to cause sorrow among our colleagues opposite by explaining in a very rational way, with reasoned arguments, why we oppose the amendments, the bills and the ideas, that the government party brings before us.
Nevertheless, this time, we are going to support Bill C-32. The Minister of Justice will certainly be pleased to see his friends in the Bloc Quebecois once again supporting a government bill, and I shall explain the four primary reasons.
These are the four themes we think are very important, and I quote:
This enactment amends the Criminal Code by
(a) establishing more serious offences for placing, or knowingly permitting to remain in a place, a trap, device or other thing that is likely to cause death or bodily harm to a person;
(b) permitting the use of as much force as is reasonably necessary on board an aircraft to prevent the commission of an offence that would be likely to cause immediate and serious injury to the aircraft or to any person or property in the aircraft;
(c) modifying the provision dealing with the provision of information on oath in relation to weapons;
In a moment I will explain why we are also supporting this amendment. The final theme, which, in my opinion, may be the most important, is this:
(d) creating an exemption to the offence of intercepting private communications in order to protect computer systems.
It amends the Financial Administration Act in order to authorize the federal government to take necessary measures to protect its computer systems.
In 2003-04 electronic communications and transactions are increasingly numerous. Many citizens make transactions over the Internet using their credit cards. Unfortunately, sometimes—too often—someone steals their credit cards by stealing the personal identification numbers. Later, fraud is committed through illegal use of the information networks.
If, through this bill or other legislation, we can correct this situation and give more protection to electronic transactions and transfers made by our citizens, it seems to me that we must, as parliamentarians, encourage such amendments and make as many of them as we need.
On this particular bill and on other bills—I want to emphasize that for my colleagues on the government side—we could draw on a bill recently passed in the United States dealing with unsollicited e-mails.
If I correctly understood the intent of the legislation in the United States, people can add their name to a national register and ask not to receive any promotional material from all major media and big corporations using telemarketers or computers for this purpose.
The big corporations have to consult the national registry every day and to delete the names of all those who do not want to be on the mass mailing lists anymore. According to the latest data that I have, some 50 million Americans have added their names to the national register to avoid receiving all this correspondence trying to sell products all equally miraculous and claiming to make them rich and famous, to educate them and to solve all of their health or financial problems.
I think that it would be perfectly legitimate to look carefully at this aspect in Bill C-32 or in a similar bill that would draw from this American legislation and to see if we can apply it to Canada in order to allow people to regain control over their computer and their personal lives.
When you are quietly sitting at home and the phone rings constantly with someone trying to sell a heat pump, a vacuum cleaner or a wonderful encyclopedia, it is a form of pollution. It disturbs our privacy and infringes on the leisure time we want to spend with our family. In our bills, we should be sensitive to that and try to improve the situation.
I talked about the four reasons for which we support Bill C-32. The main reason is that this bill creates a more serious offence for those who set traps or other devices in places kept or used for the purpose of committing crimes.
Let me explain why we agree with this principle. The offence of placing a trap already exists in section 247 of the Criminal Code. The proposed amendments would replace that section. We want to make it more specific and then add more offences.
Right now, setting or placing a trap with intent to cause death or bodily harm to a person is an offence punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of five years, wherever the trap or the device is placed. This provision would remain, but with minor changes.
New offences are also being established. First of all, if the trap or the device does cause bodily harm, the term of imprisonment will be 10 years. It will be 5 years for placing a trap, but if it is used and someone is accidentally injured, imprisonment will be for a period of 10 years.
If someone sets a trap in a place kept or used for the purpose of committing a crime, the maximum term of imprisonment is 10 years. If the trap is set in a place kept or used for the purpose of committing a crime and that trap causes bodily harm, it will be possible to extend the term to 15 years.
Finally, if a death is caused by a trap, a bear trap or anything of the kind—I will explain that later—the person caught committing the offence of setting the trap or device will be liable to life imprisonment.
This may seem a bit crazy, but I want to explain. This has happened recently in fields in Quebec. My hon. colleague from Joliette talked about people taking over tobacco or other fields belonging to farmers. So as not to get caught cultivating marijuana, members of organized crime rings place bear traps and other traps so that if the farmer gets too close to where the marijuana is being grown, he will get caught in the trap and can get hurt or even die from his injuries.
This is also true when buildings in industrial areas are rented and used to grow illegal plants. Bear traps or other traps are placed to prevent security or police officers from checking, or intruders or others from entering and discovering their stash.
In Quebec, some people have been very seriously injured by this kind of protection used by organized crime rings to protect the proceeds of their crime. It is understandable and legitimate, given the evolution in the use of these kinds of traps, to amend and clarify the scope of section 247 to provide even harsher sentences for those resorting to such abominable tactics to protect the proceeds of their crime.
The Minister of Justice said on Radio-Canada radio last April 13, “Currently, organized crime rings are placing traps in areas used for criminal activities. For example, areas where cannabis is cultivated. The firefighters association had been requesting this for some time”. This is why section 247 needs to be amended.
What happens when there is a fire and firefighters arrive on the scene? They might wind up in a bear trap because they cannot see through the smoke. It is perfectly legitimate to protect the lives of those protecting us and give them the tools they need and a safer environment in which to do their jobs.
I will take advantage of this theme of traps and snares to state that the Bloc Quebecois had asked for certain tools in the antigang legislation to be corrected and changed. Two of these have not yet been acted upon. We feel the bill could have gone further. First of all, with Bill C-24 in the last session, the government refused to criminalize passive membership in a gang. This would have made it possible to fight organized crime more effectively, and that is what we want to do here. Had membership in a gang been recognized as a criminal offence, it would have helped in the battle against organized crime.
The other measure we were calling for was reversal of the burden of proof. In Canadian law it is essential to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that an accused has accumulated wealth by committing a series of specific and identifiable offences. We need only think of the Hell's Angels megatrials. When someone has a job and reports an annual income of $19,000 when filing income tax returns, but is living in a house worth $265,000 with a Jaguar and a Porsche parked out front, I do not know how that person manages his budget, but certainly not like you or I do.
Perhaps we ought to introduce the reverse burden of proof in order to get these people to tell us how to legally manage our affairs so efficiently. But, all joking aside, I think that people who belong to an organized gang ought to be required to show how they amassed their wealth. We would not be the first country to adopt this reversal of the burden of proof for this specific situation. Canada would not be breaking new ground and the world's legal system would not be destroyed.
I would remind hon. members that Australia, Austria, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland and the United Kingdom have changed their legislation for these very specific cases, reversing the burden of proof.
One of the other reasons we support Bill C-32 is its authorization of the use of reasonable force to prevent criminal activity on board an aircraft in flight that could endanger persons or property—indeed could lead to their death.
Under the current Canadian legislation, the use of reasonable force to prevent the commission of an offence is permitted. The same applies on board an aircraft in Canadian airspace. The bill will amend the Criminal Code to explicitly recognize that any person on board an aircraft in flight is justified in using reasonable force if he or she believes that the use of such force is necessary to prevent the commission of an offence which could endanger the safety of the aircraft or its passengers.
The bill will also clarify that this justification also applies on board any Canadian registered aircraft in flight outside Canadian airspace, and not only in Canadian airspace.
The amendment will ensure the full effect of the Tokyo Convention On Offences and Certain Other Acts Committed on Board Aircraft.
Canada is signatory to many conventions and belongs to many international institutions such as the ICAO and the UN.
Meetings are held regularly in certain countries. For example, the ICAO deals with aviation safety. Countries are asking themselves how they can contribute to the improvement of aviation safety.
As a sovereignist, I have a lot of respect for the sovereignty of states and their right to independence. However, in this era of globalization, there are decisions that cannot be made strictly within our borders, whether on land, on the sea or in the air. There is a constant flow of people, information and money. Financial transfers abound. Therefore, we must sign more and more international conventions, and this is why the sovereignty of states is important.
When we sign an international convention, if our own legislation is inadequate, incomplete or incorrect, we must amend it. In this part of Bill C-32, we are amending the Criminal Code with regard to the use of force on board aircraft. We are doing this to comply with the Tokyo convention. We must also prevent serious crimes like we saw in the United States in 2001, when terrorists hijacked airplanes and used them as weapons against civilian populations.
We consider it essential that passengers and peace officers on aircraft know that they are covered by legislation if ever they feel it necessary to use force to ensure the safety of both those onboard the aircraft and those who could become the victims of the use of this aircraft for terrorist or criminal purposes, as happened in New York City.
I am therefore convinced that the amendment of section 117.04 of the Criminal Code will ensure greater safety for the crew as well as for people who travel by plane either for business or pleasure.
Our third reason for supporting Bill C-32 is the provision on warrants to search for and seize weapons. Section 117.04 of the Criminal Code deals with that. It sets out the procedure for a peace officer to apply for a warrant to seize weapons, prohibited devices, ammunition, explosives, and so on.
In this respect, one only has to think of family violence situations and the restriction put on police officers to apply for a warrant before entering a home when there are weapons on the premises. Here again, we must make the work of those ensuring our safety easier by allowing us to ensure theirs.
To conclude, as I said at the beginning of my remarks, let me stress again the importance of creating an exemption to the offence of intercepting private communications in order to protect computer systems. A growing number of Canadians are using computer systems to transact business and communicate at all levels. These computer activities must be protected.
As I said earlier, we should take advantage of this window of opportunity to go one step further and develop something based, for once, on what the U.S. is doing. They can do good things in the U.S. A national registry of people could be developed in Canada, and we could tell the big companies which spam us to take our name off their list. This way, our quality of life would be improved.
As you can see, the Bloc Quebecois once again considered with all due diligence this bill before us. For these four main reasons, we will support the bill.
October 30th, 2003 / 3:05 p.m.
Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Jonquière for her question. It takes us back into the debate on Bill C-32, which the Bloc Quebecois supports.
In closing, I said there was something somewhat contradictory about the fact that a number of penalties have been increased, which we support, especially those targeting organized crime, while RCMP detachments are being pulled out of several regions in Quebec—and I imagine the same must be true across Canada.
In the Lanaudière area, we have a detachment based in Joliette. I explained that it was supposed to be staffed by 13 officers. Due to the transfer of officers who have not been replaced over the past years, there are now only four officers left to look after the whole area of Lanaudière, which is not enough.
In spite of that, these four RCMP officers are working in close cooperation with the QPF and especially with the municipal police of greater Joliette.
If this detachment of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were to go to Saint-Jérôme and to Trois-Rivières, all of Lanaudière would be unprotected. In this regard, in his speech, the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot talked about the situation in his area, where a number of fields were taken over from farmers for the illegal production of marijuana or cannabis.
Unfortunately, we have the same situation in our area. It is a area where tobacco is grown and where there is also a great amount of corn. Unfortunately, these crops facilitate the hiding of this illegal production by the organized crime.
Thus, by neglecting Lanaudière to concentrate RCMP personnel in Saint-Jérôme and Trois-Rivières, the government will totally abandon Lanaudière to the organized crime and the taking over of these fields.
I also explained that, fortunately, citizens have taken action to promote an Info-Crime line, 1-800-711-1800. It allows citizens to anonymously and confidentially report crimes they have witnessed.
Of course, once they have called in, the police must build a case. Thus, if the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is no longer in Lanaudière, the work this group of citizens has done and is still doing will be in vain. There will be no use calling this Info-Crime line to report a crime if no one is able to act upon the information.
I remind the House that the RCMP, within the divisions in the different police forces, particularly in Quebec, plays a very important role in search and seizure to gather evidence on organized crime issues.
It is also important to point out another element. The Commission scolaire des Samares, which serves the north of Lanaudière, also has a number of people who work with the commission to ensure that drug traffickers do not use our schools and school yards to recruit consumers and also possible young drug dealers.
These people were hired by the school board and by Thérèse Martin school, Barthélemy Joliette school and even a private school, the Académie Manseau, and are working in cooperation with the Joliette RCMP detachment. If the solicitor general followed up on the RCMP internal management report, and its recommendation to close down nine detachments in Quebec, we will have to do without a detachment in the Lanaudière area. As citizens and as taxpayers, we are entitled to the same services the RCMP is providing to other areas in Quebec and throughout Canada.
The hon. member for Repentigny will agree with me. This issue affects him directly also, even though the detachment is not located in Repentigny, but in Joliette.
Business of the House
Oral Question Period
October 30th, 2003 / 3 p.m.
Don Boudria Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, this afternoon we will return to consideration of Bill C-32, the Criminal Code amendments, followed by Bill C-54. If we get through this, we will proceed to consideration of Bills C-19 and C-6, two bills on first nations. If we have time, we will also look at Bill C-51.
If that is a bit too ambitious, the first item for consideration tomorrow will be Bill C-6, the specific claims legislation. After oral question period, we will come back to Bill C-54, which we debated this morning, concerning fiscal arrangements. If there is time, this will be followed by Bill C-46, the market fraud bill, and Bills C-19, on first nations, and S-13, concerning the Statistics Act.
Next week, we will continue to consider bills that have not been completed, beginning on Monday with Bill C-46, on financial institutions. We will add to that list Bill C-23, the sexual offenders legislation.
By mid-week, we hope to be in a position to consider Bill C-52, the radio communications bill, and Bill C-20, the child protection legislation, as mentioned by the Minister of Justice during oral question period.
October 29th, 2003 / 5:30 p.m.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)
Unfortunately there is no time left. The hon. member for Joliette will have 10 minutes for questions and comments when debate resumes on Bill C-32.
October 29th, 2003 / 5:10 p.m.
Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC
Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Quebecois supports this bill. It contains useful amendments to the Criminal Code. Moreover, those amendments are along the same lines as the suggestions the Bloc Quebecois has been making for a number of years regarding organized crime, in particular the new offence with regard to traps placed by organized crime to protect its illegal activities.
I think it is important to remind those who are listening that the bill not only proposes more serious offences with regard to an individual who places a trap that is likely to cause death or bodily harm to a person, but also contains provisions allowing the use of as much force as is reasonably necessary on board an aircraft to prevent the commission of an offence that would be likely to cause injury to the aircraft or to any person aboard.
The bill would also amend the provision dealing with the provision of information on oath in relation to weapons. It would also create an exemption to the offence of intercepting private communications in order to protect computer systems.
Bill C-32 would make other amendments to the Criminal Code. It would also amend the Financial Administration Act in order to authorize the federal government to take necessary measures to protect its computer systems. The bill would also amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the Canada Evidence Act, the Security of Information Act and the Criminal Code in order to make corrections which are basically technical but which are of interest nonetheless. In particular, the bill would make corrections in relation to equivalence between the two official language versions. You know how important it is—and I think you share this point of view—that the two languages be treated equally in federal institutions.
Therefore, this bill addresses several aspects. Clearly, for several of my colleagues—and I believe that the speech given earlier by my colleague, the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, was rather eloquent in that regard—the new offence with regard to placing traps is somewhat symbolic, because it is in line with the amendments that we have asked for to fight organized crime.
Placing a trap is already an offence under section 247 of the Criminal Code. The proposed changes would make the provision more explicit and establish new offences. Currently, this section establishes a maximum five-year term of imprisonment for anyone who sets a trap with intent to cause death or bodily harm to persons, no matter where it might be.
This offence, with some minor changes, can still be found in Bill C-32. New offences are established. First, if a trap actually causes harm, there would be a 10-year sentence instead of the current 5-year sentence.
If a person sets a trap in a place used for a criminal purpose, the maximum sentence would be 10 years. If a trap set in a place used for a criminal purpose actually causes harm, the maximum sentence would then be 15 years.
Finally, if the trap causes death, wherever it is set, the maximum sentence would be life imprisonment.
The hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot clearly explained how important this new provision is, especially when fields are used to grow marijuana or cannabis despite the efforts of both the public and the police. Such crops are taking over the land of farmers. They are a threat to the farmers, to their property and to their families. We have seen cases where a farmer realizes members of a criminal organization are growing cannabis in his fields. He faces a terrible dilemma: either keep silent to protect his family, which would make him an accomplice, or endanger his family, his life and his assets.
Sometimes, criminal organizations will leave a small envelope with money, so that the person will be indirectly guilty of being involved in this activity.
Consequently, a number of things must be done. The amendment concerning the placing of traps is one of them. However, as the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot was mentioning, some elements should be added. The Bloc Quebecois has already proposed these elements, particularly with regard to membership in a criminal organization, even in a so-called passive way, so charges may be laid against these people.
The other measure we are also calling for concerns the reversal of the burden of proof. I think the member explained it well earlier.
That being said, I would like to put this in the context of consistency. The member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot mentioned this earlier. In his region, citizens and stakeholders took action. Indeed, they created a committee to promote the Info-Crime line 1-800-711-1800, if memory serves. It is a little like 911. This time, it is 711.
People can anonymously report crimes that they witness. Police will do the work of gathering the evidence. At least, police forces will be tipped off. Often, this is also a way for a community to solve a problem. For example, a drug injection site in a neighbourhood can cause a whole lot of problems for families living in this neighbourhood, with regard to children's safety. It is not always easy for someone to call the police, to give one's name, to see the police car arrive at one's home, to see the officers get out and ring the door bell, while one's neighbour across the street has a drug injection site. Consequently, with this Info-Crime number, this can be done anonymously and confidentially. Then, police forces do their job and build the case.
In the region of Lanaudière, following what was done in Montérégie, particularly in the region of Saint-Hyacinthe, a committee promoting the Info-Crime line was also created. However, this has produced a number of results that are perhaps not as good as those the member has mentioned. Unfortunately, the number of fields taken over for marijuana production has certainly not been reduced by 80% in the region of Lanaudière, but it is obvious that this has had an effect.
I have a hard time understanding that while private citizens are tackling the problem, the federal government is letting the RCMP pull out. A report by RCMP internal management suggests that nine detachments out of 22 in Quebec be eliminated in order to concentrate the workforce in a few major cities.
In the Lanaudière area, for example, we have a detachment with four officers in Joliette. That is not a big detachment. On the RCMP website, we read that the Joliette detachment has 13 officers. I phoned, and I was surprised to learn from one the officers there that there are only four of them left. The tactic used by the federal government and the RCMP is rather simple. The officers are offered transfers to other regions. When they agree to a transfer, the position they are leaving behind is not filled. That is how the Joliette detachment, in the Lanaudière area, has been reduced to just four officers, when it should have 13.
Even those this detachment is too small, it does a crucial job backing up the municipal police in Joliette and elsewhere, and the Sûreté du Québec. The RCMP has the expertise to search premises and build cases, something other police forces are not in a position to do right now in the Lanaudière area.
Indeed, if the RCMP's administrative report is ever implemented by the Solicitor General in the Lanaudière area, it will be a disaster. If the area is looked after from Saint-Jérôme and Trois-Rivières, with no RCMP detachment locally, it will be a field day for those taking over farm land.
In this regard, the government is being inconsistent. Today, in Bill C-32, we are being presented with an initiative to protect the life of innocent people, but at the same time, the government is making decisions for reasons that make no sense, since the government is still raking in substantial surpluses.
This year, there is talk of a $7 billion surplus, which is more than double the $3 billion surplus that was announced.
It seems to me that, to be consistent, the government must ensure that the Joliette detachment and the other eight that could be closed not only maintain their personnel but have it brought up to the level where it should be. In our case, four is not enough. That number should be increased to 13.
The RCMP also does very important work with school boards to build files on drug dealers who use our schoolyards or the vicinity of our schools to approach kids who have just started high school or sometimes have not even finished grade school and transform them quickly into dealers themselves.
As you know, drugs are expensive. First they get the kids hooked on drugs. Then they tell them that if they start selling drugs in their school, they will make enough money not only to buy drugs for themselves, but also to buy some luxury items.
Without concerted action on the part of school boards, municipal police forces, the Sûreté du Québec and the RCMP, organized crime will make inroads into our schools. Also, as I mentioned, with regard to organized crime taking over farmland to cultivate marijuana, we will lose whatever gains had been made in the region of Lanaudière.
I would expect a minimum of consistency on the part of the government and more concrete assurances than what we have had these last few days. In a planted question asked by a Liberal member, the Solicitor General was not even able to give us the assurance that there would not be any follow-up to that report. All he said was that no decision had been made yet.
Fortunately there is an election coming. I think I can keep the detachment in Joliette at least until the election, and I will make it an election issue. In fact, I have launched a campaign directed at public sector decision-makers, including mayors, reeves, school principals and school board officials, to offer my support in order to keep the RCMP detachment in Joliette.
It is not that I want a federal presence in the Lanaudière area. But since we are paying too much in taxes to the federal government, we want our money's worth. As long as we pay taxes to the federal government, I expect to have the same services in the Lanaudière area as those provided elsewhere in Quebec and in Canada.
If the federal government were to decide that the RCMP presence is no longer required in the Lanaudière area and throughout Quebec, then the money should be transferred to us and I am sure the Sûreté du Québec, with an increase in staff, will be able to take over. However, as long as we keep paying taxes to Ottawa, as long as the people of Lanaudière keep paying taxes, we want to have access to the services paid for by our taxes, especially following any RCMP reorganization.
Now, the offences for placing traps are, as we have indicated several times, a step in the right direction, although we expected a lot more. As the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot pointed out, we will see how the upcoming megatrials turn out, and the Bloc Quebecois will come up with appropriate enhancements to the Criminal Code.
Let me now turn to the use of force on board an aircraft.
Under the current Canadian legislation, the use of reasonable force on board an aircraft to prevent the commission of an offence is permitted. It also explicitly recognizes that everyone on board any aircraft in Canadian airspace or on board any aircraft registered in Canada in flight outside Canadian airspace is justified in using reasonable force when he or she believes it is necessary.
The clauses introduced by the legislator in Bill C-32 do not create a new right since criminal law already recognizes an individual's right to use reasonable force to prevent the commission of a crime. However, as departmental representatives stated, the new provision makes this principle explicit and expands it.
We support the principle behind this provision for two reasons. First, we all remember the terrible attacks on the U.S. on September 11, 2001. This showed us how vulnerable we are to violence in an airplane. Obviously, a plane is an enclosed space. First, there is the cockpit, with the pilots and a set of extremely sensitive technical devices; a group of people is confined in this enclosed space. Therefore, we must ensure that passengers have all means at their disposal to protect themselves and their loved ones.
Even if there is a slim chance that this clause may help prevent an attack, the victims must not become the criminals. It is common sense to ensure that the Criminal Code protects those individuals using force to prevent a crime. Furthermore, we support the principle behind this amendment since it aims to fulfill Canada's obligations under the Tokyo convention on offences and certain other acts committed on board aircraft.
The Bloc Quebecois always believes that clauses under a multilateral framework must be respected. This is true of the Tokyo convention, but we have encouraged the government to ratify all major international conventions. There was the Kyoto protocol, the International Criminal Court, and more generally, foreign affairs policy. Canada has not yet signed, however, the Cartagena protocol on biosafety.
As you know, in the whole debate surrounding the U.S. military action in Iraq, the Bloc Quebecois argued in favour of multilateralism, especially through the UN. We are pleased that the pressure we, the people of Quebec in particular, and the people of Canada in general, brought to bear resulted in Canada not joining the American government in this unilateral action. Members will understand therefore that signing a convention like this one is definitely in keeping with the directions the Bloc Quebecois is developing at this level as well as others.
Other provisions deal with how peace officers should apply for a warrant to search for and seize weapons, prohibited devices, ammunition, explosives, and related licences, authorizations or registration certificates out of concern for public safety.
For such a warrant to be issued, a peace officer must satisfy a justice that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the person possesses these items and that it is not desirable in the interests of the safety of this person or of any other person for this person to possess these items. As we know, in a decision rendered in July 2002, the Ontario Court of Appeal found that the wording of section 117.04 of the Criminal Code violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This section sets out the procedure for a peace officer to apply for this kind of warrant. The court approved the purpose of legislation, which is to prevent deaths and bodily harm, particularly in the context of family violence, but found that the section dealing with the application for a warrant did not afford sufficient protection to individual rights under the Charter.
The new wording of the section provides clarification. Members will understand that, while it considers that Quebec's Charter of Rights ought to have precedence over the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Bloc Quebecois nonetheless supports the principle of complying with the charters with respect to rights and freedoms.
Unfortunately, I have run out of time to address intrusion detection systems. Perhaps another time.
For all these reasons, the Bloc Quebecois will support Bill C-32.
October 29th, 2003 / 5 p.m.
Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS
The member mentions the Le Dain commission.
The reality is that we should not hide away from the debate. Many people can offer sound solutions. I am one who does not believe that if a 17 year old uses a joint in an indiscretion, or on an experimental basis or whatever, that individual should have a criminal record for life. Should that person be smoking marijuana? No. Should we educate individuals to inform them of the harm of marijuana or of any other drug use? Absolutely. To give them a criminal record is simply not going to do it. That has not worked in over 40 years. What makes us think it is going to work now?
The reality is that this type of legislation, along with a drug policy that is effective and educational, where we can see results with timelines, is the way to go. If we think a zero tolerance policy would work, we can just look at what happened in the United States with Reagan. It was a complete, absolute, abject failure.
So yes, we should encourage debate on this, but I remind the House that we have had this type of debate for a long time. On the particular aspects of Bill C-32, we support some of the initiatives to get it into committee so we can improve it. However, I fear that this bill, like most bills before the House of Commons, will die if the House prorogues, and we will probably end up having this conversation very soon in the near future.
October 29th, 2003 / 4:50 p.m.
Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC
Madam Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague for this speech concerning Bill C-32. It was clear and it also highlighted the fact that firefighters, in particular, are facing this kind of danger every day, especially in the case of illegal drug operations.
However, I believe that my colleague also feels that this does not concern only firefighters. Police officers and ordinary citizens may also be the victims of criminals who place these traps to protect the millions of dollars that their operations represent.
When we talk about such examples of wrongdoing, we are talking about those who commit them, that is those who place traps and are involved in illegal activities. When we look at the Criminal Code, we think there are two things that should be included in it.
First, the mere fact of belonging to a criminal organization should be grounds for a jail sentence. This would make things much easier, because everyone knows that drug production and trafficking are the work of organized criminals, not ordinary citizens. Criminal organizations are necessarily involved.
Second, the reversal of the burden of proof would not make criminal activities easier and this would prevent these criminals from continuing to engage in wrongdoing that has cost the lives of a number of firefighters, police officers and ordinary citizens.
Would the member agree that we include both these elements in the Criminal Code, that is the reversal of the burden of proof and membership in a criminal organization as subject to criminal sentences?