Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
An Act to amend the Criminal Code (citizen's arrest and the defences of property and persons)
Rob Nicholson Conservative
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
March 20th, 2013 / 3:40 p.m.
David Wilks Kootenay—Columbia, BC
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you, Minister, for being here today. I think that you and your department have done a great job over the years to ensure that we recognize victims of crime over those who are behind bars.
Having said that, on March 11, 2013, you announced that Bill C-26, , the Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act, had come into force. This was great news for all Canadians. At our committee we had heard from many witnesses who urged the swift passage of Bill C-26, and congratulate this government on its work to better victims' rights.
Could you please explain how this particular bill will enhance victims' rights in our country?
Transboundary Waters Protection Act
Private Members' Business
February 8th, 2013 / 1:40 p.m.
Jamie Nicholls Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to the bill introduced by the hon. member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound. Our party intends to support this legislation, and I commend my colleague opposite for bringing it forward. However, I particularly want to thank all the activists in Canada who have been urging the government for several years to protect our most precious resource, namely our water.
Bill C-383 amends the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act to strengthen the prohibitions against bulk water removal and to improve current protections. It targets all boundary waters between Canada and the United States, the waters flowing from Canada into the United States, and the rivers flowing into the United States.
In my opinion, this is an important piece of legislation that would help protect our resources. As a member of the Standing Committee on Natural Resources, protecting Canada's waters is a major concern of mine. Therefore, I appreciate this opportunity to debate the bill, to stress its positive aspects, and to also discuss its limitations.
First, it is important to point out that the bill proposed by the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound is quite similar to the legislation presented by the Conservative government in 2010. Indeed, a bill was introduced following promises made by the Conservatives in the 2008 and 2009 throne speeches to introduce legislation to ban bulk water transfers or exports from Canadian freshwater basins.
As hon. members know, the bill presented by the Conservatives was never passed because it never went beyond first reading stage. Of course, it was not a government priority. The reason I am discussing the similarities with the old legislation is not just to underline the Conservatives' inaction to this day, but also because one of the positive aspects of Bill C-383 is that it addresses a major flaw that existed in Bill C-26. Indeed, the latter did not protect Canadian waters from its most serious threat, that is transfers from a water basin that is neither a boundary nor transboundary water body from Canada into the United States.
As for Bill C-383, it proposes to amend the International River Improvements Act to prohibit the issuing of permits for projects that link non-boundary waters to an international river when the purpose of such projects is to increase the annual flow towards the United States. This is an important change that would prohibit the issuing of a permit to build, operate or maintain a canal or pipeline transporting Canadian water to an international river.
Like its predecessor, Bill C-383 has one major flaw: it does not prohibit all bulk water exports. That is why the NDP believes the legislation needs to go further. It must provide greater protection to this precious resource, water. We are hoping for legislation that provides for the protection of all surface water in Canada, the development of a plan coordinated with the provinces to implement the ban on bulk water removal, and the signing of binational agreements that would prevent the United States from acting unilaterally to import water.
Finally, the NDP especially wishes that the federal government will commit to addressing the threat posed by NAFTA to the sovereignty of Canada's water resources.
For those who may not know that, under NAFTA, Canadian water is both a service and an investment.
NAFTA defines water as a product. The definition of water as a good could weaken or invalidate provincial and federal legislation and regulations on the protection of our water.
In this regard, the Council of Canadians reminded us of the worrisome example of California's SunBelt Corporation. In 1990, SunBelt entered into an alliance with Canadian company Snowcap Waters to export bulk water from British Columbia to the United States.
On March 18, 1991, the Government of British Columbia imposed a moratorium on water exports. That moratorium was followed by the provincial government passing the Water Protection Act, which banned water exports for good.
After the British Columbia government passed this legislation, SunBelt filed a lawsuit against Canada under NAFTA provisions and demanded $10 billion in compensation.
At last report, the matter was still unresolved.
In order to deal with such threats, former NDP MP Bill Blaikie introduced, in 1999, an opposition motion that led to the moratorium on bulk water exports. The motion, which was adopted by the House, also tasked the government with introducing legislation to prohibit bulk freshwater exports and interbasin transfers. Furthermore, the motion stated that the federal government should not be a party to any international agreement that would compel Canada to export freshwater against its will.
The day after the motion was adopted, the Liberal government of the day announced a strategy to prohibit bulk water removal, including exports, in Canada's major basins. However, as was the case with many other grand Liberal announcements, the government did nothing tangible.
Needless to say, the NDP has not given up on its efforts to protect water. In June 2007, the NDP member for Burnaby—New Westminster moved a motion asking the government to initiate talks with the U.S. and Mexican governments to ensure that water is excluded from NAFTA. The motion was adopted by the House, but the government has not yet had serious discussions with these countries.
Always mindful of protecting Canadians' interests, the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster did not abandon the cause. In 2011, he tried again by once again introducing his motion calling for a national water strategy, Motion No. 5:
That, in the opinion of the House, the government should develop and present a comprehensive water policy based on public trust, which would specifically: (a) recognize that access to water is a fundamental right; (b) recognize the UN Economic and Social Council finding, in General Comment 15 on the International Covenant on Economic, Cultural, and Social Rights (2002), that access to clean water is a human right; (c) prohibit bulk water exports and implement strict restrictions on new diversions; (d) introduce legislation on national standards for safe, clean drinking water; (e) implement a national investment strategy to enable municipalities and aboriginal communities to upgrade desperately needed infrastructure without resorting to privatization through public-private partnerships; (f) oppose measures in international agreements that promote the privatization of water services; and (g) commit to ensure water does not become a tradable commodity in current and future trade deals.
I would like to commend the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster for showing the type of practical steps that must be taken. We must do what is necessary to make it law.
Message from the Senate
June 28th, 2012 / 2 p.m.
The Speaker Andrew Scheer
I have the honour to inform the House that when the House did attend His Excellency the Governor General in the Senate chamber, His Excellency was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, the royal assent to the following bills:
Bill C-288, An Act respecting the National Flag of Canada—Chapter 12, 2012.
Bill C-278, An Act respecting a day to increase public awareness about epilepsy—Chapter 13, 2012.
Bill C-310, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons)—Chapter 15, 2012.
Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, the Marine Transportation Security Act and the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Act—Chapter 17, 2012.
It being 2:15 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday, September 17, 2012, at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Orders 28(2) and 24(1).
Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
May 1st, 2012 / 11:55 a.m.
Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB
Madam Speaker, I too am rising to speak to Bill C-26. The origin of the bill is the Lucky Moose case. A shopkeeper, believing that the same accused was continuing to shoplift in his shop and frustrated that he was not getting action in apprehending this person, chose to detain and essentially arrest and confine this person. The shop owner was arrested, charged and convicted. However, there was a lot of controversy around this case. It was appealed and the conviction was overturned. The court at the appeal level raised concerns with the current provisions in law specific to property protection. The court found the provisions inconsistent and meriting clarity.
I would like to congratulate the government and commend it for responding to the courts. It is a refreshing change. There have been a number of rulings by the courts where the government has snubbed the judiciary. One example is the case of the Wheat Board. In another example, in a series of cases, the Minister of the Environment has refused to exercise his authority properly to consider impacts to aboriginal peoples' lands and waters. I commend the government. It has listened to the courts and it is trying to move in the direction of improving the law.
This bill was triggered by the actions of my colleague, the member for Trinity—Spadina. Everyone in the House congratulates her in her initiative to bring forward a private member's bill in the last Parliament. The government is to be commended for responding to a private member's bill. One of the powers of all the members in this House is to bring forward activities in a private member's bill. Members may or may not have their bill go through the entire parliamentary process and have it accepted and adopted. However, by simply tabling a bill, members can signal to the government that this may be an action they want to pursue.
It is, however, important when we are making amendments to the Criminal Code that we avoid one-offs. There has been a propensity for one-offs by the current government, particularly in the area of public safety. Some members in the House have raised concerns as to whether the bill goes too far or not far enough and why the House has not accepted amendments brought forward by groups such as the Canadian Bar Association, representing our defence counsel, or the Elizabeth Fry Society. In some cases, the members of the committee and the House have considered these proposals for change. Some have been made and others not. We would hope that, if this law should pass and then go on to the Senate and pass and be law, the authorities that oversee this amendment to the Criminal Code, including the courts, the Canadian bar, defence counsel and prosecutors, parliamentarians and the committee, consider reviewing how this law is being applied in the field, whether it was a good idea to amend and whether it has gone far enough or should be reined in.
We sought amendments to improve the bill. We always try to take a proactive, constructive approach. Some of the amendments were accepted and some were not. I am advised we recommended a change to section 34 to additional criteria for consideration, whether the use of force was reasonable, to consider the state of mind or the circumstances perceived by the person, an example being the battered spouse syndrome. For example, if people have been continually battered they may perceive that they are going to be harmed seriously and react in a very serious way. That should be considered. Unfortunately, that amendment was not accepted.
I suggest that, while efforts have been made to clarify this law at the request of the courts and the public, it still remains highly subjective. As a lawyer, I always look to the law to see if we are providing clarity so people know what the law says and what their rights and obligations are, and so that the courts can make a fair ruling. One of the examples I would give is the proposal for amendment to subsection 494(3) regarding the use of force or detaining a person in the case of property being impacted, that the owners may arrest if they find the person is committing a criminal offence.
I would suggest that is a highly subjective matter. It may be very difficult for a shop owner or property owner to determine whether it is a simple trespass or whether it amounts to a criminal offence. These are the kinds of provisions that I think merit a closer look, and we will await what the determinations of the courts are.
The intent of the government is very sound. It wants to provide clarity around the reasonable actions that people can take to protect their persons or property, but, as we are hearing from members in the House, only so long as the intent is not to go in the direction that some laws have taken in the United States, those being the “stand your ground” and the “shoot first” laws. We have heard some concern in debate, particularly with respect to the use of force against others or as to what kind of action is reasonable when protecting one's property. Hopefully we are not going in the direction of “shoot first”.
It is very important that we put boundaries around citizen enforcement. Some entities, such as the police associations and in some cases the Canadian Bar Association, are raising concerns about greater citizen vigilantism and the potential for people to take the law into their own hands. I would suggest there is a need for training and guidance. Perhaps it could be provided through business associations, or perhaps police officers or members of the bench could come in and explain the boundaries of these provisions in cases where there have been repeat incidents of shopkeepers being robbed or attacked at gunpoint. A good example would be bank branches, where on some occasions, and certainly in my city, there have been repeat robberies at particular branches. That may be important.
When the government brings forward new laws, as a former environmental enforcer I like to encourage it to also table or bring forward new enforcement and compliance policies and strategies at the same time. If the public presumes that the law gives them greater powers to arrest and detain or perhaps use greater force when they feel they are being assaulted or their property is being impacted, we need to provide some guidance. Perhaps the committee could review this and make some recommendations to police forces and community associations.
I would like to commend my own city, Edmonton, for implementing a new program called REACH Edmonton. It recognizes that the police cannot be everywhere. There have been pleas from every municipality and from smaller centres across the country for more money from the federal government for policing. In the interim, because of this change in the law there may be more interventions involving people taking matters into their own hands.
It is very important that we stand back and assess who are committing these kinds of offences. If there are property offences or shoplifting, why these offenses occurring?
In my own riding, we have a number of centres struggling to get the funding to get kids who have been abandoned by their families off the street and give them a safe place to stay and a hot meal so that they do not shoplift, break and enter, and so forth. It is very important that our government give equal consideration to a strategy for public safety to prevent these kinds of circumstances, not just to after-the-fact actions. Therefore, I would encourage the Government of Canada to observe the new programs of the City of Edmonton and give due consideration to also providing assistance for the implementation of community crime prevention programs.
Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
May 1st, 2012 / 11:55 a.m.
André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC
Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her question and comment.
In fact, the Bloc Québécois would not support this kind of bill if the aim were to have people become vigilantes and start running around the streets with weapons to arrest thieves. That is obviously not the case. This was necessary to remedy a flaw that became particularly apparent in 2009.
As I said, I had not heard about a lot of cases. This is not a bill that would necessarily have been brought forward if charges had not been laid against an honest store owner who decided to make an arrest himself. Fortunately, it went well. He arrested the person who had come back an hour later after already committing a theft in his store; he tied him up and he called the police. He did his job. But charges were laid against the store owner, and that is what was unjust.
Bill C-26 simply clarifies the reasonable time a person has for arresting someone. The fact that it happened an hour earlier does not mean that a person has to let a thief who has the gall to come back to their business get away with it. You do not know what they are going to do; you have reason to believe they are going to keep stealing or committing more serious crimes; and you do not know whether they are armed or not.
Therefore it was not proper to lay charges against that store owner, but that is what happened. By clarifying the situation, we will ensure that in future, charges will not be laid against people who are fully entitled to defend their property and their person.
Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
May 1st, 2012 / 11:40 a.m.
André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise on Bill C–26. This is a rare event. For once, the Conservative Minister of Justice has introduced a balanced bill that is realistic and even includes a number of recommendations from the opposition parties. For once, we can be glad to have a bill before us that will probably receive unanimous support. The Bloc Québécois intends to support this bill.
The problem with the current legislation was also identified. Everyone gave the example of what occurred in 2009, in Toronto, when Mr. Chen, a store owner, arrested someone who had stolen from him. It became apparent that the law was problematic when charges were laid against the store owner.
In my opinion, what happened to Mr. Chen is not a frequent problem, but the situation really upset a lot of people, and with good reason. It was important to amend the legislation so that what happened to this store owner would not happen again.
The law already gives people the right to defend themselves and even to arrest somebody they catch committing an offence on or in relation to their property. Bill C-26 allows such arrests to be made within a reasonable time after the offence and even to extend this period of time. That is a big difference. In the case we have been talking about since the beginning of the debate, Mr. Chen made an arrest one hour after the offence had been committed. He noticed the thief when he came back to his shop one hour later. That takes the cake. A person would have to have some nerve. It makes perfect sense that the shop owner decided to catch and tie up the thief and call the police. He did what needed to be done.
Nevertheless, we have to ensure that we do not become a wild west society when it comes to protecting our property. That must always be considered, first and foremost, the job of police officers. It is possible to defend oneself and even to make an arrest without being charged as Mr. Chen was. The bill will correct this situation.
Fortunately, even though charges were laid against Mr. Chen, the judge did his job properly by finding that there were no grounds to charge him with anything. It could therefore be said that justice was done and that the individual was ultimately not charged with making an arbitrary arrest or breaking the law, even though the arrest was made one hour after the crime was committed.
The matter did not finish there, and that is a good thing. It was raised not only by the government, but also by the opposition parties, which introduced bills, made recommendations and acted to ensure the situation did not happen again. In my opinion, Bill C-26 corrects the injustice—and it can be called that—that occurred when charges were laid against a person who was ultimately only defending his property.
The right of self-defence is important, but we should not become vigilantes, and our streets should not become the wild west. By clarifying the law, we are solving a problem that perhaps did not arise frequently, although once is undoubtedly once too often. We are therefore in favour of this bill, although some questions still remain about the actual enforcement of the new provisions of the bill, particularly those respecting the time that may elapse between when the crime is committed and when citizens arrest the offender.
It is normal to allow citizens to protect themselves and their property, if they act in a reasonable manner without using excessive force. Ultimately, this is all a matter of self-defence. Far from promoting a society in which every individual takes justice into his own hands, the Bloc Québécois advocates a measured approach whereby citizens are entitled to defend themselves but are of course encouraged to call upon the police to protect them and to arrest criminals. We do not believe Bill C-26 runs counter to that principle.
As I said earlier, intervening or making an arrest ourselves must be a last resort, because our physical safety and that of those close to us may also be compromised if we decide to take justice into our own hands.
However, there are circumstances in which we have no choice and must absolutely ensure that the person who is attacking our family or our property is stopped. I do not always want to talk about things that happened to me, but when I was younger, three individuals broke into my parents' home. I was alone with my young girlfriend at the time—I believe we have all done that. I say young girlfriend, but I was young too. I was very much afraid at the time, not just for my physical safety, but for that of the person who was with me that evening.
I had a vague feeling that there was more than one person in the house because I could hear them walking and talking. I knew that alone, without a weapon of any sort, there could be a problem. Outnumbered, I could possibly lose a fight, if it came to that. Gripped with fear, I decided to take action. I did not necessarily intend to show myself, to try to confront these people, but I wanted at least to let them know that someone was home, that I was armed and that I would deal with them if they did not get out. I was not armed, but they did not take a chance and they ran away. That was how I handled the situation.
However, what would have happened if these people had looked all around the house? If I had remained silent, they would have ended up in my bedroom. Whether we like it or not, we are all afraid that the people who are with us will be attacked by these individuals. I could have become much more violent and I would have done anything to defend the person who was with me. It is quite normal to react that way. At the time, I also did not have access to a telephone; I could not call the police. I do not know if cell phones existed back then; in any case I did not have one at the time. I was a teenager. It obviously all depends on how you look at it and on the circumstances.
In that sense, there is nothing to suggest that the current legislation was applied inappropriately, as I was saying. Other than Mr. Chen's case, very few cases have been brought to our attention where self-defence came as a delayed reaction. The legislation advocated proceeding with an arrest or an intervention if the perpetrator is caught red-handed. In Mr. Chen's case we know that he reacted an hour later, but what about people who see the same thief who stole from them 24 hours later? I think the justice system needs to find a balance between what is reasonable and what is not, when it comes to how much time passes after the offence.
Let us not forget the case being used to justify this measure, namely that of the Toronto store owner who arrested a thief and then was charged with assault and forcible confinement. The store owner was acquitted, as I was saying earlier. The judge did his job. Nonetheless, Bill C-26 clarifies this situation.
I will not list all the changes in Bill C-26, but there are some important ones that we need to talk about here in this House. The bill completely changes the part of the Criminal Code on self-defence and protection of property. In fact, the bill amends sections 34 to 42 of the Code. Those sections are being replaced by what may be called a simpler system. That is not a bad thing. The bill also significantly amends the right of property owners to make a citizen's arrest under section 494 of the Criminal Code.
It seems to me that Bill C-26 no longer separates the various self-defence clauses according to the attitude of the person invoking self-defence, namely whether that person provoked the attack or whether it is a question of an attack against the person citing self-defence or a person under his or her responsibility. Everything has been combined under one section—section 34—which lays down a general rule that reads:
A person is not guilty of an offence if
a) they believe on reasonable grounds that force is being used against them or another person or that a threat of force is being made against them or another person;
b) the act that constitutes the offence is committed for the purpose of defending or protecting themselves or the other person from that use or threat of force; and
c) the act committed is reasonable in the circumstances.
It was important to clarify this measure. These changes were and are adequate. That is why the Bloc Québécois will support Bill C-26.
Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
May 1st, 2012 / 11:25 a.m.
Judy Sgro York West, ON
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak to Bill C-26 on citizen's arrest, an issue in which a lot of us have an interest.
Most of us in the House are familiar with an Ontario man by the name of David Chen. Mr. Chen is a Toronto shopkeeper who faced criminal charges after he subdued and held a shoplifter at his store in 2009. Mr. Chen held a repeat shoplifter after the man stole some plants and then had the nerve to return to the store. This defensive action caused Mr. Chen, unfortunately, to be charged with assault and forcible confinement.
There is a lot of confusion on this issue, which is why I welcome the opportunity to try to clarify it and remove the ambiguity.
While Mr. Chen was eventually acquitted of all criminal charges in this matter, the nature of this case shocked many Canadians. Canadians had a hard time believing that defending one's property could potentially be criminal.
Worse yet, while the notion of a citizen's arrest had been a common law tradition for several decades, this case raised serious concern among police and legal experts. Bill C-26 is the government's response to that surprise and concern.
I accept and believe that Canada's self-defence laws are complex and antiquated and clearly need to be brought into the 21st century. The Chen case has highlighted this fact for many of us. It is time for Parliament to remedy any ambiguity.
Bill C-26 would provide much greater clarity to prosecutors, judges and juries, as well as to private citizens who find themselves in a similar situation as Mr. Chen.
However, I am concerned with comments made by Eric Gottardi, the vice-chair of the Canadian Bar Association's National Criminal Justice Section, in reference to some of those who may use the provisions of this legislation. While referencing non-professional security personnel, Mr. Gottardi said, “Such personnel often lack the necessary range of equipment or adequate training to safely and lawfully make arrests in a manner proportionate to the circumstances”. The proportionality of the response is a key point.
These warnings need to be addressed along with Bill C-26.
For the sake of clarity, it is my intention and my party's intention to support the legislation but I continue to have concerns about the scope of the self-defence provisions of the bill.
Tom Stamatakis, president of the Canadian Police Association, also has concerns about the bill. He indicated that Canadians should leave law enforcement to the professionals. Specifically, he warned, “We should take care that any changes made within this legislation do not have the unintended consequence of broadening the current mandate of private security”.
We need to ensure that political considerations do not override our primary responsibility here in the House of Commons, that being the enactment of responsible and sound laws. One could question whether some of the crime legislation and so on that has been passed through the House was really sound and responsible.
On the matter of the property provisions, the right balance has been struck.
I will tell members the reasons for some of my concerns.
I represent a riding that is inviting, friendly and ethnically diverse. York West is a place that is home to countless different cultures and traditions and I can say, without hesitation, that I believe it is the best riding in Canada. Despite this, like many places struggling with certain negative employment, education and economic factors, combatting crime is a challenge at times. Recently, the local media has reported some criminal occurrences within the neighbourhood, something that has put many of our community members on edge. This heightens people's awareness and edginess and it becomes a concern for some.
A citizen's arrest should never be made without careful consideration of certain factors. First, personal safety and the safety of others should be paramount in these discussions. Second, is reporting the matter to police for its response a better option? Third, is an actual crime occurring and has the suspect been correctly identified? Failure to look at those three factors could lead us down a path that could have very dangerous consequences for many people, including the overall community.
I want to talk a bit about a law that is in force the U.S., in particular, in Florida. It is the “stand your ground” law. We are all quite familiar with the tragic Florida case where Trayvon Martin was shot at close range by an individual named George Zimmerman.
I am not passing judgment with respect to guilt or innocence. Either way, the loss of any young life is tragic. However, it also quite possibly can ruin the life of Mr. Zimmerman as well.
Mr. Zimmerman is a 28-year-old, armed, neighbourhood watch volunteer. It is totally legal in the U.S., especially in Florida. He has admitted to pulling the trigger and killing the 17 year old inside a gated community.
For those who have not followed the story, this was a young man who was going to visit his father. He was carrying a bag of Skittles, some sort of candy, and was talking on the phone with his girlfriend. He was unarmed, a good student and a young man whose parents were very proud of, not someone who was into crime and all the rest of it. He was wearing a hoodie. That right away alarmed the individual.
Therefore, guilt or innocence aside, I believe this entire matter is a consequence of an emboldened volunteer, with inadequate training, acting as though he was a law enforcement professional. Again, a proportionate response was not present. He was told to turn around and leave, that police officers were on their way. However, he thought he could do far more than what he should have done. Now his life has been ruined. There is also the loss of the life of a young 17 year old.
My point is that tough on crime means to be smart on crime. The two of them have to go together.
Protecting one's home or business is important, but it has to be tempered with responsible action. The proportionality of any response to criminal behaviour is essential. We do not need any more instances like the Trayvon Martin case because too many young lives are already lost to crime.
Police officers are there and that is their job to protect us. Not everyone can or should be a police officer. Police officers are psychologically tested and professionally trained on how to best protect and preserve life and property. They should always be the first call in any case of a suspected crime.
Laws should give citizens the option to act in the most extreme of circumstances. I am hopeful that Bill C-26 will strike that balance.
I recall a few years ago, when I was a city councillor, one of my constituents heard someone breaking into his house. He was a hunter and had a rifle. He got the rifle and shot the intruder. The intruder was not seriously injured but, in the meantime, my constituent was charged, much as Mr. Chen was. He was defending his own property. As in the case of Mr. Chen, my constituent was charged and had to go through a court process, which then was dismissed. However, that cost him a lot of money, a lot of aggravation and left him very fearful of some of the things that were ongoing.
Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
May 1st, 2012 / 11:10 a.m.
Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in this House to speak to Bill C-26. A number of my colleagues who have spoken thus far have raised interesting points. I will not be using my time to repeat what has already been said, even though they are important points. However, there are some things that should be highlighted. I mentioned a few in the questions that I was able to ask this morning about this bill.
One of the important aspects of this bill is that it renews or updates some elements of an older law that does not necessarily reflect today's realities. I am referring to the provisions on self-defence, which need to be updated. This bill accomplishes that.
Concerns have been raised and, in my opinion, they are legitimate. When laws are created or amended, we sometimes venture into unknown territory. However, I am generally very satisfied with the committee's work on the proposed amendments. Naturally, we would have liked to have achieved some of the amendments that we, the official opposition, had proposed and that were highlighted earlier by my colleague from British Columbia.
However, in its current form, the bill addresses some of our concerns that were first raised by the member for Trinity—Spadina pertaining to a very specific situation. My neighbour from the riding of Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup also mentioned the case of David Chen.
However, there are other cases that illustrate the need to protect the people who defend themselves and defend their property. I will not rehash Mr. Chen's case, but there was another specific case that caught my attention and also upset me, quite frankly. In a rural region of Ontario, last August, a man woke up in his house to find three masked men outside who were starting to throw Molotov cocktails at his house. The individual grabbed a firearm and fired off two or three shots in order to protect himself—we all agree that a Molotov cocktail is an extremely dangerous weapon for the property and also for the individual. The police arrived and charged the individual with possession and use of a dangerous firearm.
Again we have a situation where the law does not protect individuals like Mr. Chen or this person from rural Ontario, when they want to protect themselves or protect their property.
The issue of whether the use of force is proportional to the offence is important. I think this bill addresses that quite well. Clearly, if a person commits an offence against property, such as shoplifting at a convenience store, then deadly force is not appropriate. The bill as worded does not propose that. In fact, it is a fine and properly worded bill.
In my opinion, the proportional force aspect is central to the proposed changes here. It makes the bill well balanced. According to the text of the bill, “the nature and proportionality of the person’s response to the use or threat of force” is a factor in determining reasonableness. Thus, deadly force cannot be used to protect property.
There is another point I also raised in my questions, and I would like to come back to that point in my presentation. The current version of the bill does not give greater powers to what are known as vigilantes, that is, groups of people who create watch committees to protect their territory. That is not the case. That is not what this bill proposes, which is good, because we know that this can ultimately lead to abuse.
Furthermore, it is important to point out that the bill allows individuals to protect themselves and their property and allows other authorized, delegated people to also do so. Thus, one cannot witness an offence involving someone else and take action as a result. That is what watch groups or vigilantes would be doing.
It is important that we have a bill like this one in order to clarify the situation of security guards in big box stores, for instance.
The way things are going, and as demonstrated by the fact that Mr. Chen was charged in the first place—although the charges were dropped—as was that person in Ontario, it seems that security guards in big box stores can, in their role, detain people who have shoplifted, for instance.
For example, someone who shoplifts and is caught by a security guard is usually taken to an office in the back of the store until the police arrive. This is a form of citizen's arrest. The security guard has the legal authorization, conferred by the store, to carry out this kind of surveillance and arrest. Thus, there is no abuse happening here.
However, if we went by what happened to Mr. Chen and that other person in Ontario, the legal vacuum that existed at the time could have meant that a security guard who was simply doing his job could have been arrested for kidnapping.
Thus, it was important that the House examine this issue in order to prevent such abuses from being committed simply because that is how the legislation is currently written, since frankly, that would be illogical. It is the duty of this House to propose these kinds of amendments.
I think any objections have been noted. Clearly, we would have liked to see the bill go a little further.
The NDP proposed nine amendments. Seven were rejected and two were accepted. As my colleague said—I think it is worth repeating—we really wanted to see the subjective element in the bill to ensure that the courts can take all of the circumstances surrounding an incident into account.
Of course, the cases members have been mentioning often involve theft, property offences or threats, such as when an individual seeks to harm someone by throwing Molotov cocktails. There are also specific situations that I feel fall into a grey area, such as spousal abuse cases where one spouse has to resort to violence to escape. For cases like these, the courts have to take the history of the relationship and everything that happened into account.
That is why the NDP, at the request of certain groups, proposed the amendment that was rejected.
However, the NDP also proposed another amendment that was accepted. It was one of two that were accepted. The courts will have to take into account the relevant circumstances of the person, the other parties and the act. That definition will be integrated into the bill. We are pleased with that. It does not go quite as far as incorporating the subjective element and is not quite as broad as that would have been, but it is still a commendable and welcome improvement.
The Canadian Bar Association and the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies recommended including a subjective element. Even though the NDP is not completely satisfied with the amendment, it is a good first step toward better protection from abuse and domestic violence.
In that sense, we are satisfied with the bill in general. I am very happy to see that there is widespread agreement among members of the House to support this bill. The NDP will support it, too, and we will gladly vote in favour of the bill at third reading.
With regard to the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands' concerns, they are clearly understood, and I think that they have been well received by the House. Amendments likely should be made. As with any bill, situations will result where we will eventually be able to see whether there are aspects missing in the application of the legislation or whether certain aspects go too far. That is why we are here in this House. We will have the opportunity to address the issues, make changes and propose additional amendments that will put a stop to any problems that may arise.
I am very pleased to support this bill. I would like to reassure people by telling them that the bill does not go too far and that it does not allow groups to take justice into their own hands, which often leads to abuse, as demonstrated by the case that is currently making the headlines in Florida, in the United States. Since this is a well structured bill, we will be happy to vote in favour of it, and we are pleased to see that there is a strong consensus in the House.
Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
May 1st, 2012 / 10:55 a.m.
François Lapointe Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to comment on Bill C-26 which is, at the end of the day, a societal debate among all members of the House.
We are all attempting, collectively, to create civilized societies, but we have all had very chaotic experiences. Even though we have been tremendously successful on some levels, and even though crime rates are much lower than they were a hundred years ago or in the Middle Ages, our relationship with sometimes aggressive and violent situations is still difficult.
The bill specifically deals with this grey area. Unfortunately, some people have violent habits. What must be done about these behaviours?
The NDP intends to support Bill C-26 because it contains a lot of similarities to the bill introduced by my colleague from Trinity—Spadina. Throughout my speech, I am going to focus on the very well-known case of Mr. Chen, who owned a grocery store with his family. This case is what got my colleague from Trinity–Spadina interested in the issue. David Chen was accused of unlawful confinement, kidnapping and assault after having tied up a person who was stealing from his shop. It was not the first time the thief had stolen from his shop.
Mr. Chen tied the person up, he did not beat him, and he certainly did not beat him to death. There are some key words in this situation: he tied somebody up and was dealing with a repeat offender. This situation applies perfectly to the questions being asked today. It is not a simple situation. Somebody tied up, but did not beat up, a repeat offender. It is not a situation involving two people where a shop owner is suddenly threatened by somebody with a machete and has to act. There were a lot of shades of grey. We all understand why our colleague asked at the time that the law help simplify complicated situations, in other words simplify the outcomes for people facing complicated situations involving self-defence.
These very difficult concepts require a lot of distinctions and proper context. Here is a simple example. No one here would want a teenager who stole two cans of Pepsi to be beaten with a baseball bat. However, that is the kind of message, which we do not want to see acted upon, that this bill might send to a small segment of the population. We constantly see concepts such as “reasonable” in the bill. I did a count, and the word “reasonable” came up some 30 times, just in the amendments to the act recommended by Bill C-26. Here again, such terms must always be nuanced.
There are difficult concepts here, such as self-defence. There has to be a clear definition of what it is, when it applies and the line beyond which an action no longer constitutes self-defence. Here again, we are in a grey area.
The question is whether an assault is provoked or unprovoked. At what point does an assault become significant enough for a shop owner’s reaction to the attack to be considered provoked? Here again, the distinction is very important.
Several NDP members have advocated an amendment on subjective perception. For example, they talked about battered wife syndrome. That is a term that I do not really like but the understanding is that, even if the assault was perhaps not that “serious”, an energetic reaction might be understood, justified and not be penalized if it came in response to numerous assaults.
Consider the assault on Mr. Chen, the owner, in this context. Say, for example, that I own a business and am assaulted, but not seriously, by a single individual who is lightly armed or totally unarmed, but that my children are in the aisles of my grocery store.
My reaction might possibly be different because I would not simply be protecting myself from someone who is threatening me with a jackknife in order to commit a minor offence. In fact, he would not really be threatening me because I would be relatively well protected behind my counter. And I would know that my children are in the store, since they are in the aisles. So the issue would be this area of perception in which it would be possible for an individual to react more strongly in a context such as that. You have to consider the perception of the situation perceived by the assaulted individual before he reacted.
This places us under an obligation to demand that this government, which has an annoying tendency to avoid giving the committee the necessary time to consider potential amendments, submit to the democratic process in this case and allow the committee to consider all these issues, because they involve a lot of subtle distinctions.
This will prevent us from abandoning a principle as important as our responsibility to ensure public safety. When I analyze all this, I conclude that there is another threat that may weigh on us: that we may abandon our collective responsibility for public safety. The message must not be that we should take justice into our own hands. We must absolutely not get to that point.
Why? Two fundamental reasons seem obvious to me. No one wants to relive the wild west of 1875. It makes no sense. We have become much more civilized since that time. Furthermore, even to people who support taking a tough stance on crime, vigilante justice is fundamentally and systematically unfair.
Let us imagine that my family and I own a store and, tomorrow morning, a teenager or someone panics and steals a box of cereal and threatens me with his fists. Now, if I were behind the counter—and I weigh 225 pounds—I could take the law into my own hands. However, suppose it was my 76-year-old mother behind the counter, with her poor eyesight and bad knees. We would both have the same rights as citizens. We would have the same opportunity to defend ourselves, but no one could claim that the two situations are equal.
We must, therefore, never get to that point. We must maintain the simple notion that our civic duty is to ensure that the panic button under the counter is in working order. That is our only civic duty. If this bill leads us to move away from that goal, collectively, we have a serious problem. People need to be able to ask for help and they need to get the help they need from police forces within a reasonable time frame. That is one aspect that worries me and that relates to the potential consequences of such a bill. Are we collectively abandoning what should be the only goal of civil defence? If it were my mother behind the counter in that situation, unable to defend herself and certainly unable to defend herself the same way I could—or the same way as my colleague who has been practising karate for 25 years—she would deserve the same protection. That should be our collective goal in this House. We must not hide behind principles that would take us back to the wild west.
So I repeat my request that there be no form of closure when the committee examines these issues. Let us allow the committee to work on every nuance in this bill. That is what will ensure an excellent bill, one that can make things easier for people like Mr. Chen in situations like the one he faced at his store.
I would like to make another argument in support of my request to let the committee do its work. There is no need to panic. Yes, under the existing laws, Mr. Chen went through six months of complications from the time he had to defend himself to the time when he and the people working with him were acquitted. Let us hope that this bill will prevent people involved in similar incidents from enduring six months of complications. In the end, they were acquitted.
It is not as though there are hundreds of Canadians coping with great injustice because they acted reasonably in defending their property and businesses. There is no need to panic. I hope that the government will not behave as it did in connection with other public safety bills and tell us that if we question this bill, we must be on the side of thieves and shoplifters.
We will support this bill, but please give the committee members time to study all of the ethical and moral nuances of this bill.
Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
May 1st, 2012 / 10:50 a.m.
Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC
Madam Speaker, as we approach Bill C-26, a lot of members of Parliament are mindful of the notion that hard cases can make bad law. There is the specific case of David Chen and the Lucky Moose. We would have wished that the police on the scene had exercised some common sense and discretion by not prosecuting the individual. Now we have a law where a lot of us are concerned that there could be an increase in injuries, and even deaths, from people trying to take the law into their own hands, feeling empowered by what the House is doing with Bill C-26.
Since I am the only person planning to vote against this legislation, its passage is a certain thing. I ask my friend whether he thinks there is any way the House can send a message to Canadians that they should avoid taking the law into their own hands.