Protecting Canada's Seniors Act
An Act to amend the Criminal Code (elder abuse)
Rob Nicholson Conservative
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
April 22nd, 2013 / 3:55 p.m.
Earl Dreeshen Red Deer, AB
Further to the comment on denouncing the crimes, I think that's up to all of us as parliamentarians. I think that is the work each and every one of us will be doing if this bill is supported and it goes to the next stage, and then we can convince the Senate to move it on. I think that's something all of us as parliamentarians have a responsibility to do.
The other aspect is that when I took a look at Bill C-36, and we talked about the elder abuse aspect of it, in the discussions we had on Bill C-576, people said to me that this was dealing with something where people are vulnerable. I believe there was support all throughout with that. This is simply another case of assessing vulnerability and moving our legislation so the courts can make those decisions and that determination.
I think it's important. Bill C-36 was a shining example of what we can do when we work together. When we saw this gap that I've described, based on the difference between perceived versus real as far as the authority of abuse of power is concerned, that was something I tried to address.
April 22nd, 2013 / 3:55 p.m.
Joyce Bateman Winnipeg South Centre, MB
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I'm going to ask a question continuing along the lines of the aggravating circumstances piece, and then I'm going to be sharing my time with my colleague Blaine Calkins.
It's very nice to see you in this role, Mr. Dreeshen. This is a treat.
Following on the discussion you've had on aggravating circumstances, as you know, Parliament recently passed Bill C-36, which was our Conservative government's bill on elder abuse. With that passage into law, a very important amendment to the Criminal Code, adding a new aggravating circumstances piece to section 718.2, applies to any offence against elder Canadians.
Bill C-444 would require a sentencing court, upon conviction of the offence of impersonating a peace officer or a public officer under section 130 of the Criminal Code, to consider as an aggravating factor the fact that the offender impersonated the officer in order to facilitate the commission of another offence.
While the sentencing court—and I just want clarification—already has the discretion, as you spoke to in your opening remarks, to consider such a circumstance as an aggravating factor, do you think making consideration of that factor mandatory would enable Parliament to specifically denounce such crimes?
Private Members' Business
January 30th, 2013 / 6:55 p.m.
Earl Dreeshen Red Deer, AB
moved that Bill C-444, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (personating peace officer or public officer), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to speak today to my private member's bill, Bill C-444, which seeks to amend section 130 of the Criminal Code by adding a sentencing provision for the offence of personating peace officers or public officers. The amendment would make personating an officer for the purpose of committing another offence an aggravating circumstance.
I would like the thank the hon. member for Oxford for seconding my bill. He served 30 years with the Woodstock police service in his past life and 10 of those were as chief of police. He is a great Canadian who continues to proudly serve our country.
I was moved to research and table the bill following a horrible crime that took place in my riding. Flashing lights and a police uniform were used as weapons to abduct a 16-year-old girl. She had just earned her driver's licence and was driving alone, as many of us do. She was held captive for 46 hours and brutally assaulted before she managed to escape from her attacker. She was brave. She survived.
The offender was charged, tried, convicted and sentenced with six offences, one of which was section 130 of the Criminal Code, which deals with personation of a peace officer or public officer.
The cold fact of the matter was that she was abducted only because she thought she was doing the right thing. When confronted by someone she thought was a police officer, she did what she had been taught to do. She stopped and she followed instructions. In this case, she ultimately lost any opportunity she might have had to protect herself.
This is one case that happened in my riding, but unfortunately this is a crime that is occurring in all regions of Canada and most often it is for the purpose of tricking a victim into thinking that they are under the control of a real officer so that another crime can also be committed.
When I began researching this issue, I found that what had happened in Penhold and Red Deer was happening in small towns and large cities all over Canada. Criminals are using authentic police lights and dressing in police uniforms to commit crimes such as auto theft and fraud in Kelowna; highway robbery in Oakville, Barrie and Brampton; assault and robbery in Ottawa; abductions in Scarborough and Calgary; break and enter and subsequent assaults in Sydney Mines and Oshawa; intimidation in Mississauga; unlawful confinement in Lethbridge; and fraud in Kings Country, Brantford and Toronto.
For the young woman in my riding, and all of these victims, the police uniform no longer represents safety and security. With time, they will cope with this fear and will hopefully regain their trust in authority. However, every time we hear of these types of incidents, one more person has this trust shattered. This is a concern for all of us, but it is a great concern for police who are out there trying to do their jobs.
The police who I have spoken to in my riding, RCMP veterans and serving members, have encouraged me in my mission to add this sentencing provision to section 130. It would not affect their enforcement of the offence, but they recognize that this amendment would help ensure that sentencing for this crime would reflect the significant impact that it has on our country.
There was a case in Calgary where a man personated a police officer and used flashing lights to attempt to pull over and abduct young females. CBC News quoted a sergeant with the Calgary Police Force who stated that the false representation of a police officer was “a very serious offence”. He went on to say, “We cannot have our confidence in the public eroded. It is very important that we are able to conduct our jobs, and if people do not trust the police or they are worried, it can make our jobs very difficult”.
I previously introduced the bill during the last Parliament. It had been reported back to the House by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. The unanimous support that I received from the House was extremely encouraging, and I look forward to that same level of support from this Parliament.
As I describe the specific points of the bill, let me start by explaining the definition of peace officers and public officers in the Criminal Code.
The Criminal Code defines police officers as Canadian officers of customs and excise, immigration, corrections, fisheries and the Canadian Forces. It includes pilots in command of an aircraft, mayors, wardens, reeves, sheriffs, justices of the peace and, of course, police officers.
A public officer is defined as an officer of customs or excise, an officer of the Canadian Forces, an officer of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and any officer while the officer is engaged in enforcing the laws of Canada relating to revenue, customs, excise, trade or navigation.
The bottom line is that these are all occupations that demand a significant amount of trust from the Canadian public. Anyone who falsely represents members of these occupations in order to commit a crime against a person is committing a serious breach of that person's trust, and that of all of us.
However, this bill is about sentencing. It speaks to the need for tougher penalties for this particular crime, in line with the fundamental sentencing principle of proportionality, which is stated in section 718 of the Criminal Code. The bill has a basic objective. It would make impersonating a peace officer in the commission of another offence an aggravating circumstance to be considered for sentencing purposes. It would add one clause to the Criminal Code following section 130.
Because it is short, I would like to read my bill into the record. It states that the Criminal Code is amended by adding the following after section 130:
130.1 If a person is convicted of an offence under section 130, the court imposing the sentence on the person shall consider as an aggravating circumstance the fact that the accused personated a peace officer or a public officer, as the case may be, for the purpose of facilitating the commission of another offence.
That is all. It does not seek to effect any interpretation of the crime. My bill would simply direct a sentencing court to consider this as one factor when dealing with someone convicted of impersonating a peace officer or a public officer.
We know that a number of factors come into play in a sentencing decision, such as the criminal record of the offender or the severity of harm caused to a victim. Aggravating circumstances are just one more factor that sentencing judges are required to consider that do not guarantee, but tend to increase, the severity of a sentence.
There are aggravating circumstances defined in section 718 that apply to all criminal offences. There are also aggravating circumstances attached to specific offences within the code. To be clear, the bill seeks to add the special aggravating circumstance to a sentencing court to consider the crime of impersonating a peace officer or public officer.
When we look at aggravating circumstances that apply to all offences, one of them is evidence that the offender, in committing an offence, abused a position of trust or authority in relation to the victim. This would apply in situations where an offender has an existing relationship with a victim, such as a teacher, a coach or a bona fide police officer. However, those who impersonate officers do not fall into this category. Offenders who impersonate peace or public officers have not abused a position of authority, for he or she does not have that position to begin with. This circumstance in section 718 cannot then be used, since this would apply to real police officers who have abused their position of trust. It does not apply to those who are posing as police officers.
An offender's false representation of him or herself as an officer is intended to deceive and breach trust and authority. However, this deceit is not captured by the existing circumstances that speak to these abuses. I hope that my colleagues in the House will recognize this gap in the law and work with me to fill it, as my bill seeks to do. We know that adding a new aggravating circumstance to the Criminal Code is an effective way to ensure that the fundamental sentencing principles are achieved.
As to the relevance of aggravating circumstances, Parliament recently passed an important bill on elder abuse, Bill C-36. With its passage into law we saw a very important amendment to the Criminal Code, adding a new aggravating circumstance to section 718.2 to apply to any offence against elderly Canadians. With this bill we are now seeking to apply this rationale when it comes to sentencing for crimes against Canadians who have been misled into thinking they are dealing with an officer but are then victimized.
The sentence for this kind of malicious deceit must reflect the significant impact that the crime has on the lives of victims. Victims, whoever they may be, must be assured that there will be serious consequences for the criminals who have hurt them.
By supporting the bill, we are also helping to preserve the trust and respect that citizens have for real, bona fide police officers. When citizens see a police uniform, they naturally trust and respect the authority that comes with it. Our laws must reflect this reality.
I note that personation of an officer used to be punishable as a summary conviction and had a maximum penalty of only six months imprisonment. The Conservative government in the previous Parliament passed into law former Bill S-4, which increased the maximum penalty for this offence to five years imprisonment and made it a hybrid offence. I commend the Department of Justice for its work on increasing the maximum sentence for this crime, which came into force two years ago. Now we must give the courts this sentencing tool to exercise the new maximum in the most serious cases.
For 34 years I worked as a teacher of children and young adults. As a teacher, I shared their joys of accomplishment as well as their concerns about the future. I was always there to help them through difficult times when they had to deal with terrible ordeals. Being a receptive ear to their voices gave me an understanding of how difficult and fragile life can be.
As a member of Parliament I have once again heard such a voice. I shared the same concerns as others in our community when I heard of the disappearance of a young girl from Penhold. Prayers were all that I could offer. No one knew why her car was left where it was. There was nothing to indicate that she would have strayed from the errand that she was on. Her parents were frantic and our community of central Alberta empathized while we all waited. Finally the news broke that she had been found.
Only then did the pieces of this horrible ordeal start to make sense. The weapons used by her attacker were flashing lights and an RCMP uniform. That is why the car was left there. Her trust of the uniform and the false sense of safety and authority that it presented to her resulted in the most horrendous 46 hours that anyone could imagine.
The subsequent trial of her abductor forced the girl and her family to relive this ordeal. Finally a verdict and a sentence was rendered, but two things haunted them. First was the knowledge that the crime of personating a peace officer amounted to, in those days, only six months imprisonment, which was the maximum sentence allowed before the passage of Bill S-4. Second was that in the commission of this crime, the weapons used to lure her into a trap would not be recognized for what they really were. She had been deceived by the trust she had in the police and the weapon of deceit was considered more of a side issue than the catalyst for the crime.
The day that this brave young lady and her mother came to me for help was the day I knew they needed the receptive ear that I had while I was a teacher, and it would also be part of my job as a member of Parliament. It is my hope that all of my colleagues can recognize the importance of the bill and will see that it is worth supporting.
Message from the Senate
December 14th, 2012 / 11:30 a.m.
The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin
I have the honour to inform the House that messages have been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed the following bills.
November 27th, 2012 / 4:25 p.m.
Raymond Côté Beauport—Limoilou, QC
When the Standing Committee on Justice examined BillC-36, we looked at the possibility of adding an aggravating factor in order to better protect seniors against abuse. I quote my colleague Mr. Seeback who said that the bill also dealt with reporting the behaviour. That would be very useful: it would be nice to know that that sort of behaviour would be reported in every community in the country.
In his speech in the House, my colleague Mr. Goguen said about Bill C-36 that the change would send a clear zero-tolerance message about elder abuse.
Do you think that the bill as presented would allow us to reach the same or similar objectives? I am talking about the amendments to the Criminal Code.
Protecting Canada's Seniors Act
November 6th, 2012 / 6 p.m.
The House resumed from November 5 consideration of the motion that Bill C-36, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (elder abuse), be read the third time and passed.
Protecting Canada's Seniors Act
November 5th, 2012 / 6:05 p.m.
Pierre Jacob Brome—Missisquoi, QC
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel for her very instructive speech.
Unfortunately, I must again burst the Conservatives' bubble and tell them that their solution, that is, Bill C-36, is only a very partial response to a very complex problem. Once again, they are putting the cart before the horse. By focusing on punishment alone, they are not really attacking the problem. We want to minimize the number of victims. A comprehensive strategy is needed.
I would like the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel to tell me how a comprehensive solution could prevent elder abuse.
Protecting Canada's Seniors Act
November 5th, 2012 / 5:45 p.m.
Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC
Mr. Speaker, I would first like to thank my colleague, who has also done wonderful work to promote a senior's right to a decent standard of living in our great country.
I agree with everything she said in her speech. She is concerned that this bill might lead to harsher sentences. I would be tempted to tell her about my own concern, which is that Bill C-36 will be a total waste of time and will not achieve its goal. I would like her to comment on that.
The bill talks about a significant impact on the victim. Crown prosecutors will rarely use that section; they will not demonstrate that the offence had a significant impact on the elderly victim. The seriousness of the offence and the fact that it targeted an elderly person will be totally pushed aside, because prosecutors will be unable to prove there was a significant impact on the victim.
It is not worrisome to see another fine effort that will accomplish absolutely nothing, yet again, despite all the work the committees have done on seniors issues?
Protecting Canada's Seniors Act
November 5th, 2012 / 5:35 p.m.
Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel.
Bill C-36 deals with the complex and challenging subject of elder abuse. It is difficult to paint elder abuse with one brush because it comes in many forms: physical, sexual, financial and psychological. The scale of the abuse can vary dramatically. It can be something that has been happening over a lifetime or occur when a senior becomes frail and vulnerable. The source of the abuse can be caregivers, spouses, children or even strangers looking to take advantage of a vulnerable, lonely person. Often the abuse is hidden, not spoken of, and this is a great tragedy.
One program or one measure cannot address the varying needs of our older loved ones who are suffering from abuse. We need a comprehensive plan that will address the needs of all seniors and in particular those who are being abused.
That being said, I want to speak in support of Bill C-36. The bill is not perfect but it is a step in the right direction. New Democrats had proposed something similar to this in the 2011 election campaign and I am glad to see that Conservatives are taking some of our suggestions.
However, what we had proposed to tackle elder abuse was a complete package, some points of which we see in the bill. We need something more comprehensive, including an elder abuse hotline; the creation of elder abuse consultants, modelled on a Manitoba government initiative; and changes to the Criminal Code of Canada to ensure appropriate sentences for perpetrators of elder abuse. This package would involve working with the provinces in order to develop, implement and fund such proposals.
Unfortunately, Bill C-36, as it stands, will not have the desired impact on reducing elder abuse without the other steps that need to be taken. By merely adding on to the Criminal Code an aggravating factor for sentencing when a crime impacts someone due to their age and other personal circumstances, we are missing an important opportunity to create a system of support for seniors facing abuse.
The key to addressing elder abuse in Canada is not stiffer sentences but addressing the root causes. The best way to combat elder abuse is to give seniors control over their own lives and ensure they have the finances to live in dignity. I have been listening to seniors and meeting with seniors organizations. I have heard over and over again how there is a desperate lack of funding for programs and a very real and legitimate fear that Canada is not prepared for the rapidly rising senior population.
The most important issue voiced over and over by seniors is that they want to stay, for as long as possible, in their own homes. They want to be in their communities, near their friends and family. I really do not think this is asking too much. It is very clear that we need a home care plan, a plan that ensures seniors can stay in their homes and that any modifications that need to be done to those homes are available at an affordable rate.
We also need to ensure that seniors can access services without having to travel great distances, especially as mobility becomes more challenging. A network of community hubs would be an effective way to ensure that access is there for them. This would also help combat the solitude that affects so many seniors, especially single seniors or those caring for their partners or another loved one.
Our seniors are asking for affordable and appropriate housing that will meet their needs as they age. As abilities change, our older loved ones need appropriate care within the community or residence in which they live. Access to families and their social networks is key to the health, well-being and safety of our seniors.
In addition to physical security is the need for financial security. Seniors fear losing control over their finances and over their personal choices. Family and those with power of attorney can take control and take choice away. They can, in fact, can take that senior's dignity away.
Our elders can be forced into housing they do not want and can be told to hand over those finances. Too often we allow this to happen for the sake of convenience or for our own fears for a senior's safety. Yet older Canadians should have a say and they should be able to determine the direction they wish to take. This, I believe, is the most important factor in eliminating elder abuse. With control over their own independence and finances, seniors remain in control of their lives, which makes them significantly less vulnerable.
The World Health Organization has recognized elder abuse as an important problem that needs to be addressed. Globally, the World Health Organization estimates that between 4% and 6% of elderly people have experienced some form of abuse in the home. The organization argues that a number of situations appear to put the elderly at risk of violence.
In some cases, strained family relationships may worsen as a result of stress and frustration as the older person becomes more and more dependent. In others, a caregiver's dependence on the older person for accommodation or financial support may be a source of conflict and vice versa. Social isolation is a significant risk factor to an older person suffering mistreatment. Many elderly people are isolated because of physical or mental infirmities or through the loss of friends and family members.
In Canada, seniors are most likely to be abused by someone they know. Canadians seem to understand that. In an EKOS survey in 2009, respondents felt that most frequent abusers were a family member other than a spouse at 62%, and paid caregivers in an institution at 46%.
Knowing what we know about elder abuse and its prevalence, I am wondering what the government plans to do to actually prevent the abuse from happening in the first place. We do indeed need a plan to ensure that our seniors are able to live in dignity and have the financial security to make the choices that determine how they want to live their lives. The government did have a program in place, the elder abuse awareness initiative. While not addressing the root causes of elder abuse, it at least attempted to bring the issue to the forefront. However, the program has ended now and we are left only with the bill on the table before us.
I want to make it perfectly clear that the bill alone would do very little to prevent elder abuse in Canada. It is a step in the right direction and I suppose no matter how small that is it is a good thing. However, without other initiatives such as an elder abuse hotline, elder abuse consultants and a strategy to deal with the root causes of elder abuse, I am afraid the bill would only allow for harsher sentencing and not prevent the abuse in the first place.
In addition to the fallacy of harsher sentencing is the reality that abusers are rarely caught. We need better training for police officers to be able to spot abuse in the first place. Seniors are very hesitant to speak of what is happening to them, often because they fear identifying someone in their family or circle of friends as the abuser.
We heard from law enforcement officials that police officers need better training to allow them to secure the trust of an abused senior so that real remedies can be pursued. Prevention should be our first goal. For starters, prevention is much less expensive than the mounting costs of emergency health care, courts, lawyers and jails. Crass numbers aside, our main concern must be for the dignity of human life and preventing anyone from facing the long, hard road of abuse.
We owe it to our elders to ensure they have a retirement that has dignity. They have worked so hard building this country and are continuing to shape its future. How we treat our elders is indicative of who we are as a society. If we treat our elders poorly, then we are doing a disservice to Canada and Canadians. Our seniors deserve better. Our families deserve better.
I thank the House for its time and indulgence this evening and will reiterate what is required: financial security. That means not reducing OAS by eliminating the age of retirement at 65, and introducing affordable home care and accessible long-term care. In other words, it means all of the things that are not happening in this country.