An Act to amend the Criminal Code (personating peace officer or public officer)

This bill was previously introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session.

Sponsor

Earl Dreeshen  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

In committee (Senate), as of Feb. 11, 2014

Subscribe to a feed of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-444.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to establish that personating a police officer or a public officer for the purpose of committing another offence must be considered by a court to be an aggravating circumstance for sentencing purposes.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Business of the House
Opening Of The Second Session Of The 41St Parliament

October 16th, 2013 / 6:10 p.m.
See context

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I would like to make a statement concerning private members' business.

As hon. members know, our Standing Orders provide for the continuance of private members’ business from session to session within a Parliament.

In practical terms, this means that notwithstanding prorogation, the list for the consideration of private members' business established at the beginning of the 41st Parliament shall continue for the duration of this Parliament.

As such, pursuant to Standing Order 86.1, all items of private members' business originating in the House of Commons that were listed on the order paper at the conclusion of the previous session are automatically reinstated to the order paper and shall be deemed to have been considered and approved at all stages completed at the time of prorogation.

All items will keep the same number as in the first session of the 41st Parliament. More specifically, all bills and motions standing on the list of items outside the order of precedence shall continue to stand. Bills that had met the notice requirement and were printed in the order paper but had not yet been introduced will be republished on the order paper under the heading “Introduction of Private Members' Bills”. Bills that had not yet been published on the order paper need to be recertified by the Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel and be resubmitted for publication on the notice paper.

Of course all items in the order of precedence remain on the order of precedence or, as the case may be, are referred to the appropriate committee or sent to the Senate.

Specifically, at prorogation there were three private members' bills originating in the House of Commons adopted at second reading and referred to committee.

Therefore, pursuant to Standing Order 86.1, Bill C-458, an act respecting a national charities week and to amend the Income Tax Act (charitable and other gifts) is deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Finance.

Bill C-478, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (increasing parole ineligibility), is deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Bill C-489, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (restrictions on offenders) is deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Accordingly, pursuant to Standing Order 97.1, committees will be required to report on each of these reinstated private members’ bills within 60 sitting days of this statement.

In addition, prior to prorogation, nine private members' bills originating in the House of Commons had been read the third time and passed. Therefore, pursuant to Standing Order 86.1, the following bills are deemed adopted at all stages and passed by the House: Bill C-217, an act to amend the Criminal Code (mischief relating to war memorials); Bill C-266, an act to establish Pope John Paul II day; Bill C-279, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (gender identity); Bill C-290, an act to amend the Criminal Code (sports betting); Bill C-314, an act respecting the awareness of screening among women with dense breast tissue; Bill C-350, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (accountability of offenders); Bill C-377, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (requirements for labour organizations); Bill C-394, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the National Defence Act (criminal organization recruitment); and Bill C-444, an act to amend the Criminal Code (personating peace officer or public officer).

Accordingly, a message will be sent to the Senate to inform it that this House has adopted these nine bills.

Consideration of private members’ business will start on Thursday, October 17, 2013.

As members may be aware, among the items in the order of precedence or deemed referred to committee, there are four bills standing in the name of members recently appointed as parliamentary secretaries who, by virtue of their office, are not eligible to propose items during the consideration of private members' business.

Bill C-511, an act to amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act (period of residence) and Bill C-517, an act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons) were awaiting debate at second reading in the order of precedence at the time of prorogation.

Bill C-458, An Act respecting a National Charities Week and to amend the Income Tax Act (charitable and other gifts), and Bill C-478, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (increasing parole ineligibility), were in committee at the time of prorogation and, as stated earlier, have been returned there.

This is in keeping with the principle expressed at pages 550-551 and 1125 of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, which provides that bills remain on the order of precedence since they are in the possession of the House and only the House can take further decision on them.

These items are therefore without eligible sponsors but remain in the possession of the House or its committees. If no action is taken, at the appropriate time these items will eventually be dropped from the order paper, pursuant to Standing Order 94(2)(c).

Hon. members will find at their desks a detailed explanatory note about private members’ business. I trust that these measures will assist the House in understanding how private members' business will be conducted in this session. The table officers are available to answer any questions members may have.

I thank all members for their attention.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

June 14th, 2013 / 1:40 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am humbled to rise today to wrap up this debate on Bill C-444, my private member's bill.

It is not often we get to work specifically on behalf of a constituent in such a significant way, by making a change to the Criminal Code of Canada. First and foremost, I want to thank the brave young woman and her mother who inspired me to table this bill. There are also many folks on the Hill I would like to thank for the support and encouragement they have extended to me along the way, as well as for the personal work they have put into our debates on this bill. This also includes my wonderful staff, here in Ottawa as well as back in Red Deer.

As I have said, this bill is about sentencing. It speaks to the need for tougher penalties for personating peace officers and public officers, and it is in line with the fundamental sentencing principle of proportionality, which is stated in section 718 of the Criminal Code. We must preserve the trust and respect that citizens have for police officers. When citizens see a police uniform, they trust the authority that comes with it. We are giving the tools that they need to deliver harsher sentences to criminals who breach this trust to cause harm.

Within the parameters of the maximum sentence for this particular offence, the decision of what sentences are appropriate will still rest with sentencing courts. 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 when the Crown is successful in a conviction. Sentencing achieves a number of results, and one of them is support for victims. The rights of victims need to be protected. They must know that there are serious consequences for criminals who have hurt them.

I extend my heartfelt condolences to any Canadian who has been a victim of someone maliciously personating a police officer to do further harm. I dedicate this work to those victims.

I thank my colleagues for their support. If I still have a moment, I would like to thank the following members for their contribution to debate: the Minister of Justice; the members of the Standing Committee on Justice for their thoughtful study and debate, and their support; the seconders, the members for Sault Ste. Marie and Oxford; the members who contributed their time in speaking here in the House, the members for Gatineau, Mount Royal, Montcalm, Brome—Missisquoi, Charlottetown, Beauport—Limoilou, British Columbia Southern Interior, Vaudreuil-Soulanges, Louis-Hébert, Nanaimo—Cowichan, Chambly—Borduas, Northumberland—Quinte West, Edmonton—St. Albert, Windsor—Tecumseh, and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, as well as the Associate Minister of National Defence.

There is a special symbolism of having every member present in this House stand to show their support, not just for a bill but for victims and police officers throughout this great nation.

However, because of the uncertainty that surrounds the closing days of any session, I would be proud to use this opportunity to stand on behalf of all members and to accept unanimous consent if the House so chooses.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (personating peace officer or public officer)
Private Members' Business

May 31st, 2013 / 1:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

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 third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Sault Ste. Marie for seconding this third reading debate for the bill. I appreciate all of my colleagues' support, which has brought us to where we are today, as well as the support of the people of central Alberta. I have been working on this bill for three years. I first introduced it during the last Parliament, but it died on the order paper when the election was called. I am very pleased that we are here today at third reading.

Three years ago, I met a brave young lady and her mother who were seeking help. This young woman had been the victim of a vicious crime, so she and her mother asked me to help them make a change to the Criminal Code of Canada. They understood that a bill in Parliament would have no effect on the criminal proceedings that they were involved in. Yet they expressed their desire to help others who might find themselves in this same situation.

I admire people who fight for and support changes to the Criminal Code, knowing full well they cannot make a difference in their own situation but will help others down the road. They seek positive change for a greater good. This was evident to my colleagues on the justice and human rights committee when my constituents appeared as witnesses and recounted this horrendous ordeal.

In addition to the support of my colleagues, I would also like to specifically thank the Minister of Justice's staff and his department for the support that they have extended to me for my proposed amendment. I am also no less grateful for the support that I have received from serving and retired police officers, including our Conservative law enforcement caucus.

Thousands of officers enforce Canadian criminal law every day, putting their lives on the line to do so. For our men and women in uniform, there may be times when some are reluctant to express judgment on proposed legislation because their job is to enforce, not to legislate. However, in this case, I am grateful for the positive feedback that I have received from police officers. They understand that my amendment does not seek to affect enforcement of section 130 of the Criminal Code. It is a sentencing provision. However, from their perspective, the police I have consulted with recognize that this particular crime jeopardizes their public reputation, which is essential for them to be able to do their jobs.

I want to be clear that I understand the significance of amending the Criminal Code. The changes that we as parliamentarians make to the laws found within Canada's Criminal Code have a profound effect on people's lives. However, as parliamentarians, we should also remember that the Criminal Code of Canada is a working document. It must continue to be updated to reflect the protections and justice that Canadians need and expect, and that our freedoms depend on.

I am proud to be part of a government that has been so committed to respecting the rights of victims. There are plenty of important issues that we tackle every day for Canadians, but I am especially proud of the accomplishments that our Prime Minister has delivered to Canadians in reforming our justice system.

I represent an area of Canada that has no tolerance for those who commit crimes against either persons or property. The citizens that I represent support a tough justice system that includes incarceration to punish criminals and to protect law-abiding Canadians. When an offender personates a police officer as a cover to commit another crime, this is a severe instance of personating an officer. It can have serious and long-lasting effects on a victim. Victims must be assured that there will be consequences for criminals who have hurt them. The sentence for this kind of malicious deceit must denounce this unlawful conduct and also reflect the significant impact that the crime has on victims' lives. It is not only the victim that this crime affects. It can affect an entire community, even to the extent that people are fearful of real police.

We have seen recent media reports from Calgary of a vehicle driven by a person who is trying to pull people over, with flashing red and blue emergency lights on its dashboard. This is an ongoing mystery in Calgary, as there have been a number of reports of this happening over the past few years but no arrests have yet been made. The Calgary police have issued numerous warnings to motorists to use caution if they are unsure of the authenticity of a police car.

The Calgary Sun recently reported, on April 25, that Staff Sergeant Guy Baker said the police are concerned about public paranoia and a loss of trust in police if the culprits are not caught. He was quoted as saying:

We want to maintain the respect of the community and don’t want the public unduly harassed.

This is a crime that could have grave consequences for an entire community and the police who try to protect it. Therefore, sentences that are handed down for section 130 offences should reflect the seriousness of the crime.

Bill C-444 has one basic objective, to make personating a peace officer or public officer in the commission of another offence an aggravating circumstance that would be part of the consideration for sentencing purposes.

It would add one clause to the Criminal Code, following section 130, to say:

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.

When we look at some of the aggravating circumstances that currently exist in the code, there is a common denominator among them, the vulnerability of the victims: crimes against children, crimes against the elderly, crimes involving firearms, or crimes that abuse the position of trust or authority in relation to the victim. These are all circumstances that Parliament has required judges to consider when sentencing. They are legislated as aggravating circumstances because offenders have taken advantage of the vulnerable position that the victims are in.

When citizens see a police uniform, they trust the authority that comes with it. When confronted by someone who looks like a police officer, people will rationally do what they have been taught to do; they will stop and follow instructions.

Personating an officer is a serious breach of the public's trust, and it has the same effect as using a weapon. It forces the victim to submit. If they are under the control of someone pretending to be an officer, they will ultimately lose any opportunity that they might otherwise have to protect themselves. We have been taught to respect and trust the men and women who wear uniforms. When criminals start using this trust as a weapon, we need to treat it within the Criminal Code for what it is.

The bill will instruct judges to consider it an aggravating circumstance to personate a peace officer or public officer as a cover for other criminal activity. This would apply regardless of the age of the victim.

My amendment would achieve three results. It will recognize the disarming effect that personating an officer has on a victim and the vulnerable situation that it puts them in. It will support victims of this crime by strengthening the reparation provided to them. It will preserve the trust that Canadians have in peace officers and public officers.

Within the maximum sentence for personating an officer, the appropriateness of a sentence would still rest with the sentencing court. However, it is up to us, as legislators, to establish sentencing provisions in the Criminal Code.

Judges have the discretion to consider any factors they feel may have constituted aggression on the part of an offender, but there are also some circumstances that judges are explicitly required to consider when sentencing. They are in the code because Parliament has said they should always be taken into consideration by a judge.

As I have mentioned, one of the aggravating circumstances prescribed in the code is that of an abuse of a position of trust or authority in relation to a victim. This would apply in situations where an offender has an existing relationship with the victim, such as a teacher or coach or as a bona fide police officer. However, those who assume a position through deceit do not fall into this category. Offenders who personate officers have not abused a position of authority, for they do not have that position to begin with.

Aggravating circumstances in the code acknowledge the particularly forceful or dangerous way in which some offenders commit their crimes. Therefore, personating an officer to commit a crime is certainly an aggressive action on the part of an offender, similar to existing aggravating circumstances, and it should be recognized in the code as such.

I would like to quickly address the issue of my amendment having any effect on actual time served. I know this is a question that has come up in debate, as well as in my conversations with some of my colleagues.

I want to stress that my focus is on amending section 130 to add this sentencing provision, regardless of the length of sentences received for other convictions and whether or not they would be served concurrently. We can only speculate on what type of crimes may be committed alongside section 130 violations; how individual cases would be committed, tried and sentenced; how much evidence the crown may have in any particular case; or all of the mitigating or aggravating factors that may affect an offender's sentences.

However, our role as legislators is to ensure that the maximum sentences and sentencing factors prescribed in the Criminal Code for each offence serve the purpose and principles of sentencing.

I am asking Parliament to add a sentencing provision to the crime of personating peace officers and public officers to ensure that future sentences for this crime adhere to the purposes and principles of sentencing, which are listed in the code. As for the types of crimes that are committed in concert with personation, what aggravating or mitigating factors might apply to an offender, or how an offender's total time served might pan out, those decisions remain in the hands of the sentencing court.

Speaking briefly to incarceration, it is meant to denounce unlawful conduct, deter others from committing offences, separate offenders from society and assist in rehabilitating offenders. These are all listed in the Criminal Code as purposes of sentencing. There is also another purpose of incarceration that is listed in the code, which is to provide reparations for harm done to victims or the community.

Whatever the terms of a sentence for any offender may be, even if served concurrently with another sentence it is my goal to ensure that sentences for section 130 offences acknowledge the harm done to victims. The rights of victims need to be protected. They must know that there are serious consequences for the criminals who have hurt them.

Last weekend, I had the privilege of attending the Silver Lake RCMP detachment's Regimental Ball, which was an excellent event that raised funds for the RCMP's victim services program. The people who work in victim service programs and rape crisis centres provide compassion and direction to people in need. When I relayed the circumstances of this case and the purpose of my bill to RCMP members and victim service program attendees, they too gave me their unqualified support.

These people, these great Canadians who work in victim service programs, deserve our thanks and recognition. Day in and day out, they see the worst that society has to offer, and they continue to help people in their time of distress.

At any time, any one of us could be blindsided by crime. It is very difficult to navigate and make decisions when in a state of shock. Victims services are a vital resource in our country, and they deserve our recognition and support.

For many victims, no amount of incarceration can ever make up for the hurt that has been inflicted upon them, but it does provide some comfort and indeed protection when an offender is locked up. As I have said, this bill is about sentencing; it speaks to the need for tougher penalties for this particular crime. Victims must be assured that there will be serious consequences for the criminals who have hurt them. We need to preserve the trust and respect that citizens have for real police officers.

I am pleased to continue this discussion here today.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (personating peace officer or public officer)
Private Members' Business

May 31st, 2013 / 1:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jamie Nicholls Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I will be talking about Bill C-444, An Act to amend the Criminal Code.

The bill makes a slight amendment to the Criminal Code about personating a police officer or a public officer. This is a change for the better, so the official opposition will support the bill. I am pleased that we can work with the government to pass Bill C-444 quickly.

This bill establishes that personating a police officer or a public officer for the purpose of committing another offence must be considered by a court to be an aggravating circumstance.

How does that change the existing law? Currently, personating a police officer is an offence. That will not change. What would change is that the courts would no longer consider personation to be a stand-alone offence. In other words, if this crime is committed for the purpose of committing another offence, it will be considered an aggravating circumstance with respect to the primary offence. Until now, the two offences were considered separately.

Today, if a man is convicted of disguising himself as a police officer for the purpose of committing an assault, the court will hand down separate sentences for the assault and for personating a police officer. This bill will give the judge a way to connect the assault and the personation that enabled the assault. It will be easier for the judge to account for the outcome of personating a public officer. Guilty parties will receive more appropriate sentences.

It seems clear to us that, in such cases, the personation is part of the plan to commit the assault, so it would not make sense to separate the two crimes. I hope that the law will soon reflect logic and common sense.

There is another reason I wholeheartedly support this bill. Like my colleagues, I am pleased to support it because, in addition to its logical approach, Bill C-444 is balanced. By that, I mean that it respects judicial independence and sidesteps the trap of mandatory minimum sentences.

Courts will be able to assess sentences once they can consider personation to be an aggravating circumstance. Judges will be able to take all aggravating and attenuating circumstances into account.

We need to remember that each case is different. Legislators must provide the justice system with the means to hand down appropriate sentences. The very principle of minimum sentencing goes against that idea. We are quite pleased that this bill does not propose minimum sentences.

I hope that this bill has helped my colleagues on the other side of the House realize that when the Conservative government presents a reasoned approach to a real issue and proposes sensible solutions, the NDP will work with it to ensure that bills move forward more quickly. I should also say that collaborating on Bill C-444 gave us the opportunity to reiterate our support for victims and for those who keep our democratic institutions running.

Our first thought should always be of the victims. In particular, I am thinking about the young girl who was sexually assaulted by a police impersonator in Alberta. There are also drivers who have paid bogus fines and seniors who were scammed by criminals posing as public servants. All of these examples have one thing in common: there was an abuse of the victims' trust.

In each of those cases, the culprits took advantage of that trust in public authority. Thinking they were dealing with a public official, the victims let down their guard. They thought they could trust the person standing before them.

Making the connection between personation and the crime it enables more accurately reflects the reality of the abuse. It gives a better picture of the wrongs the victim has suffered, and that is what is important.

The bill more accurately reflects the abuse by helping us to put ourselves in the victim's shoes and to better understand what he or she went through. This allows us to show respect for victims and to punish offenders more appropriately.

The bill will also make it possible to better protect the integrity of our most fundamental institutions. When people see a police uniform, they tend to trust the person wearing it. Personating a peace officer is a serious breach of the public's trust. This type of false representation also has a negative impact on our institutions, which need the public's trust to operate properly.

We refuse to allow Canadians to lose confidence in our institutions because of the actions of a handful of criminals. By disguising themselves as police officers or public officials in order to commit crimes, these offenders are attacking our institutions. They are tarnishing the reputation of public officials who make it possible for us to live in a society where everyone's rights are respected, including the right to live in safe communities.

By passing this bill today, we will be sending a clear message to anyone who might be tempted to impersonate a police officer or a public officer for the purpose of committing a crime. If they do, they will be punished. The court will take that into account and their sentence will be lengthened as a result. Dissuading criminals from committing crime remains the best way to protect Canadians.

If the bill passes, it will help improve our justice system considerably. It will protect the integrity of our institutions by deterring potential criminals from misappropriating the public authority. It will allow for more appropriate punishments, because the courts will be able to appreciate the circumstances of a crime. Furthermore, it will do greater justice to victims, because the outcome will better reflect what they suffered.

I hope this bill will serve as an example to show that when the Conservatives introduce a bill based on a logical and balanced approach, as is the case with this bill, and it does not impose mandatory minimum sentences, we can work together. This co-operation helps push the bill through the legislative process faster in order to benefit Canadians sooner.

To conclude my speech, I would like to talk briefly about something the hon. member for Red Deer said. He began his speech by saying that he represents a riding that has no tolerance for those who commit crimes. I sincerely hope the member was not implying that some ridings in this country do tolerate crime. Everyone knows that in all of our ridings, our fellow Canadians do not tolerate it. However, we could also say that there are criminals in every riding.

Honest Canadians want to see parliamentarians working together to pass logical, good legislation. They are disappointed to see that criminal activity exists even here, in the Senate, for example. We need to prove to Canadians that no riding in the country tolerates crime. That is certainly the case in Vaudreuil—Soulanges. My constituents want parliamentarians to protect victims and strengthen our laws. They want us to get truly serious about reducing crime across the country so that we can keep our communities safe and so that they can have faith in their institutions.

We will make sure that all Canadians are safe, from coast to coast to coast.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (personating peace officer or public officer)
Private Members' Business

May 31st, 2013 / 2 p.m.
See context

Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe
New Brunswick

Conservative

Robert Goguen Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today in support of Bill C-444, an act to amend the Criminal Code (personating peace officer or public officer).

The bill is basically identical to the previous bill, Bill C-576, which died on the order paper when the last Parliament ended.

Bill C-444 was reported without amendment from the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights on April 24, 2013.

The bill deals with the existing offence of personating a peace officer or public officer. Specifically it would make it an aggravating factor on sentencing if the offence of personating a peace officer or public officer was committed for the purpose of facilitating another offence.

Prior to 2009, pretending to be a peace officer or public officer was a straightforward summary conviction offence. At that time it carried a maximum of six months in prison, a maximum fine of $5,000 or both.

In 2009, this government hybridized the offence and increased the penalty to a maximum of five years when prosecuted on indictment, in former Bill S-4, also known as the identity theft bill. That legislation came into force on January 8, 2010.

The maximum sentence of five years reflects the fact that the offence only requires that a person pretend to be a peace officer or public officer. It does not require that they have a specific malicious purpose for doing so or that they accomplish something malicious by doing so.

Some people may impersonate the police for the thrill of feeling powerful or for other relatively minor objectives, such as obtaining information or gaining access to a place. Simply pretending to be a peace officer or public officer so that others may believe that person is in fact one, without any other motive, is enough to result in a conviction. Such cases may still be dealt with by way of summary conviction proceedings, based on the Crown prosecutor's assessment of all the relevant circumstances.

However, the five-year maximum penalty enacted in 2010 ensures that law enforcement and Crown prosecutors have the tools to appropriately address serious incidents of this behaviour, preserving public confidence in our peace officers and public officers.

Police personation can be closely associated with other offences. It can, in fact, be used as a tool to make the commission of other offences easier. Because we live in a society where most citizens are trusting of the police, members of the public may acquiesce to the authority of someone they believe to be a police officer or a public officer. The exploitation of citizens' trust in the police demonstrated by this kind of situation is the most troubling form of offence. It is especially deserving of condemnation by sentencing courts, as well as by Parliament.

This is precisely the situation that Bill C-444 targets. Bill C-444 would make it a mandatory aggravating factor on sentencing for the crime of personating a peace officer or public officer if the offence was committed for the purpose of facilitating the commission of another offence. It is frightening even to imagine how people could be influenced to comply with directions or the assertion of authority by someone they believed to be a police officer.

We are taught from our earliest interactions with our parents and teachers that police officers are safe persons we can rely on, especially in difficult or dangerous situations. It is thus not surprising that the vast majority of Canadians instinctively respect police officers' authority and follow their instructions, as we rightfully believe they are acting to keep us safe.

When criminals take advantage of this trust to defraud us or worse, that bond is jeopardized. This not only causes a great deal of anguish for individual survivors of these offences but also acts to make it more difficult for police officers or public officers to do their jobs effectively and keep our communities safe. Fortunately this is a rare occurrence, but its extreme seriousness can justify express condemnation in the Criminal Code.

It is also important to recall that in determining a fit sentence, the court must in all cases take into account all relevant aggravating and mitigating factors. Paragraph 718.2(a) of the Criminal Code describes a number of aggravating factors that apply to all offences. These include, for instance, evidence that the offender, in committing the offence, abused a position of trust or authority in relation to the victim. However in addition to these factors that are specifically listed, the sentencing court always retains discretion to determine if additional circumstances revealed by the evidence are aggravating or mitigating factors that should affect the sentence.

It is already the case in our law that a sentencing judge can take into account the aggravating nature of this form of police personation. What Bill C-444 would do is essentially codify this practice in the context of the criminal law.

Bill C-444 merits support because it addresses a truly horrific form of criminality which has so many negative consequences on the public at large, on the ability of the police to carry out their functions, and especially on any individuals whose trust in public institutions and authorities was used against them to facilitate their victimization. There have been a number of incidents of this form of conduct reported in the papers in the last few years. Just this past April it appeared that at least two more incidents of personating peace officers have occurred.

In Calgary there are recent media reports that a man driving a silver sedan with unauthorized red and blue lights pulled over two vehicles, scaring the innocent drivers. Fortunately, the victims realized that something was not right about the impostor and got in contact with the real authorities to report the situation. Luckily, nobody was harmed. However, this act has surely shaken Canadians' trust and their belief in who is or is not a police officer.

On the east coast, the Halifax Chronicle Herald reported criminals had been personating local police officers via telephone in order to fraudulently solicit donations for a bogus charity. The scam artists claimed that they were police officers fundraising to help combat youth suicide. This disgraceful conduct not only preys on generous citizens, but also makes it more difficult for real officers to give back to their communities through legitimate fundraising activities, which is a long-standing tradition in police services across our country.

Of course, there was the tragic case in the sponsoring member's riding, which saw a devastating abduction and sexual assault of a teenage girl near Penhold, Alberta. This incident clearly influenced the proponent's decision to bring this legislation forward.

During the most recent committee study of the bill, members heard the courageous testimony of the survivor of that offence as well as that of her mother. I applaud the immense strength of that young woman's courage to travel to Ottawa and assist the committee by sharing her story with members of Parliament as well as with all Canadians. She rightly explained to the committee that there should never be shame or stigma in reporting or speaking out against sexual violence.

By passing this legislation we would send a clear message that the courts must give serious weight during sentencing to the enduring harm that is caused when criminals personate police officers or public officers for the purpose of committing other criminal acts, including sexual assault and kidnapping.

All Canadians should be concerned about these cases and should be encouraged to take the appropriate steps to avoid being duped by this very deceptive form of criminality. In particular, citizens should continue to trust the police but they should also recognize that criminals are not above exploiting their trust.

It is a difficult balance to achieve. The exercise of a bit of caution is a good thing. It is reasonable to ask to see the badges of individuals who appears to be police officers, especially if being requested to go with them or to allow them to enter the premises, or if they appear to be soliciting donations. This kind of verification process must be done respectfully and cautiously. If an impostor flees when asked for identification, immediately call 911, report the incident and attempt to provide an accurate description of the person and any associated vehicle while the encounter is still fresh in memory.

We as parliamentarians can help educate and inform Canadians about these risks, which many may be unaware of. In terms of Bill C-444, we can also vote to support this legislation and express our unified condemnation of those who would use our best natures as citizens against us.

I hope all members will join me in supporting this worthwhile legislation.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (personating peace officer or public officer)
Private Members' Business

May 31st, 2013 / 2:10 p.m.
See context

NDP

Denis Blanchette Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-444.

I will begin by quoting Anne Frank: “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” I think this resonates with the hon. member for Red Deer, who has had to wait three years to get to third reading stage of his bill. In fact, this is a reincarnation of a bill that unfortunately died on the order paper. Such is life.

I want to commend the hon. member for Red Deer on resisting the urge to suggest a minimum sentence. He took another approach in considering personating an officer an aggravating factor in the crime committed, for the purpose of sentencing.

This is a wise approach. It respects judicial independence and it suits the opposition. It shows that we can achieve rapid success if things are done properly. I thank him for that.

By taking this approach we are showing victims that during the trial, the courts will take into consideration the circumstances in which the crime was committed. That is important because the appearance of justice is just as important as justice itself. For these victims, it is very important to take into consideration the way in which the crime was committed, as well as their story, as painful as it may be. We have to take that into account.

This bill will help prevent people from mistrusting peace officers, something that should never happen. This is not insignificant. In terms of prevention, this is important.

When someone personates an officer, they make others vulnerable. Someone who personates an officer and takes advantage might put someone else who is not necessarily a victim in a vulnerable position. When we trust people, we lower our guard. It is human nature and that is good.

Taking advantage of this vulnerability is absolutely wrong. I think everyone here, on both sides of the House, agrees on that. In many cases people actively try to make others vulnerable. Much has been said about naturally vulnerable people, such as young children and the elderly. Everyone intuitively understands that.

However, some people can exploit the vulnerability of others for their own benefit through lying or misrepresentation. Bullying is a typical case. Someone uses a supposedly superior position to achieve certain ends. Whether it involves physical or psychological abuse, bullying is bullying regardless of the individual or group of people targeted.

People who use their knowledge of the law, for example, to take advantage of others who do not have this knowledge are also doing something reprehensible. This human failing can take several forms.

Let me tell you about something that happened to me once. I was walking my dog outside. There were some homeless people not far from my house.These were people without much of a future and who did not have a lot in life. I saw a homeless person talking to someone, almost as poor, who was offering a warm place to sleep for one night. In return, this individual was asking the homeless person sleeping on the street to give up the only thing he had, which was a watch. When I saw that, I was absolutely shocked.

Continually trying to exploit a weakness, whatever it is, for example through personation, as addressed in the bill, is something that always infuriates me because everyone deserves respect.

I would like to tell the member for Red Deer that I really appreciate his approach. I really appreciate the example he sets for the entire House on how to work together, as my colleague from Vaudreuil-Soulanges mentioned. He went about it in a way that made it possible for everyone to agree. He makes it possible for us to say that if people of good will sit down together to acknowledge an obvious problem, there are ways to solve it without discord and still advance the ideals of justice. I would like to thank him again for that.

In closing, I hope that the Conservatives are prepared to consider not including minimum sentences in their future bills. In the past, and since I became a member of the House, we have opposed bills or expressed serious reservations about certain bills, not because they were not good bills in their own right, but because they did not recognize the autonomy of judges.

The member for Red Deer took this into account in this bill and that is important. For that reason, I am pleased to support this bill.

In closing, I would like to quote the Tao Teh Ching. I hope the member for Red Deer will like it. It says that one can “accomplish great things by taking a series of little steps”.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (personating peace officer or public officer)
Private Members' Business

May 31st, 2013 / 2:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by once again thanking the member for Red Deer for the work he has done to bring the issue of the personation of peace officers to the attention of the House. As he and others have correctly pointed out, there have been a number of offences committed in recent years in which the offender personated an officer in order to facilitate illegal activity, and these instances have the profoundly troubling consequence of undermining public trust in the police and other officials.

I would also like to acknowledge the courageous appearance before the justice committee of Laurie Long and her daughter Jordan, whose 46-hour ordeal at the hands of a man who pretended to be a police officer evokes in all of us the utmost compassion and outrage. Jordan's determination to not only overcome this trauma but to speak openly about it in an effort both to encourage other victims to come forward and to prevent others from being victimized truly merits the term “heroic”.

Accordingly, I will be supporting Bill C-444 as a statement of the seriousness with which Parliament regards the crime of personation. I can support it because the member for Red Deer has wisely not included a mandatory minimum sentencing provision and, as such, this legislation would be unlikely to have the unintended negative consequences of other Conservative justice bills that have come before us.

However, at the same time the bill is unlikely to have the meaningful positive impact that we all desire, indeed, that which the member for Red Deer desires, mainly fewer instances of personation. The bill would establish that for offenders who personate a peace officer in order to facilitate another offence, this intention would be considered an aggravating factor with respect to the sentence for personation. Yet, as I outlined at second reading, Canada already allows for longer sentences for personation than many comparable jurisdictions, and there has been no suggestion that Canadian judges have been ignoring material aggravating factors when meting them out.

Furthermore, even if some judges were moved by this legislation to issue longer sentences than they otherwise would have, the offenders would still be unlikely to spend more time in prison because the sentence for personation would generally be served concurrently with a longer sentence for the crime it was intended to facilitate. Indeed, while the member for Red Deer outlined at committee certain exceptional hypothetical scenarios in which his bill could conceivably impact the length of a prison term, these scenarios constitute exceptions that prove the rule, which is that the bill will have less of the impact than the member for Red Deer would himself wish on sentencing and prison terms.

Finally, even if this bill were in rare cases to cause certain offenders to spend more time in prison, it has been well established that longer prison terms do not result in less crime. As such, the goal of reducing the occurrence of personation would not be furthered in any event. As I suggested at second reading, preventive measures, such as restricting the availability of authentic looking police attire and equipment, would do more to protect Canadians than this somewhat less than consequential amendment on the matter of sentencing guidelines might do.

I know that the member for Red Deer explained at committee, and today, that his primary purpose in bringing this bill forward was not to increase the length of prison terms, or even to have a direct impact on the incidence of this offence, but rather to raise awareness about the crime of personation. This is a laudable objective, and in fact I have spent much of my own work seeking to raise awareness on various issues, including crimes committed both in Canada and abroad.

While I am on the topic, I will take this opportunity to extend my appreciation to those members from all parties who have participated in the context of Iran accountability week in efforts to raise awareness about the threat posed by the Iranian regime, both to other countries and particularly to its own people. Raising awareness can undoubtedly be an important first step on the road to tangible change.

However, the Criminal Code is an inappropriate tool with which to engage in an awareness campaign. For one thing, I am somewhat uneasy about the precedent of making additions to it that are primarily of a symbolic nature. The Criminal Code functions best when it is simple, efficient, clear and accessible to ordinary Canadians. Amendments to the Code are appropriate when it is determined that there is a fault or a gap in the law, but if we make a habit or a practice of amending it simply for the purpose of signalling concern, however valid a given concern might be— and, again, I applaud the member for Red Deer in his expression of concern—we risk unnecessarily complicating a document that is already dense and complex, not to mention risking unforeseen and undesired consequences in unforeseeable cases.

More importantly, perhaps, the Criminal Code is simply not an effective means of raising awareness. I appreciate that this bill has brought the matter of personation of peace officers to the attention of Parliament, although that goal could have been achieved just as well by way of a motion. However, surely we must seek not only to alert parliamentarians to this problem, but the Canadian public as well. To that end, adding an aggravating sentencing factor to the Criminal Code, especially one that is unlikely to have any real consequential effect, may achieve little, as very few Canadians are conversant in the sentencing guidelines of section 130.

Indeed, the government itself has acknowledged on several occasions that amending the Codes does not, on its own, raise awareness.

Last fall, for example, Parliament unanimously passed Bill C-36 which, similarly to the bill before us, added an aggravating sentencing factor, this one designed to increase penalties for those who target seniors.

At that time, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice stood in this House and said:

This government recognizes the concern expressed by witnesses...who noted that Bill C-36 could not serve as the only response to the problem of elder abuse.

He went on to explain that the bill was intended to complement an awareness and advertising campaign already in place.

Another example is Bill C-26, the citizen's arrest and self-defence act, which received royal assent on June 28 of last year. At committee, Catherine Kane, who was then director general and senior general counsel of the criminal law policy and amendments section in the Department of Justice, and I congratulate her on her appointment since to the Federal Court, referred to the government's plan for educating the public regarding the bill's provisions saying, “we will also be embarking on some public education materials so we can explain to various audiences what these changes mean”.

I regret that I have yet to see any such educational materials in the 11 months since the bill received royal assent. I might add, parenthetically, that while a backgrounder published by the Department of Justice in conjunction with the coming into force of the legislation on March 11 of this year speaks of two guides on the department's website, “What you need to know about making a citizen's arrest” and “Technical guide to self defence and defence of property reforms”, the links to both are broken.

Nevertheless, my point is that even the government has in word, if not always in deed, recognized that education and raising awareness should be conducted outside the Criminal Code. Regrettably, the bill before us does not do likewise. There has been no mention, for instance, of education programs to inform individuals about their right to ask a police officer for identification. Indeed, there has not even been any suggestion that the very change wrought by the bill will be publicized in any way.

Simply having this provision rest as one of many in the Criminal Code that most Canadians only encounter when they are either charged with a crime or fall victim to one does not constitute effective education or awareness-raising, and neither is it a strategy that will prevent, deter or dissuade anyone from engaging in what we all agree is reprehensible behaviour.

Fundamentally, the 2,074 pages of legal language in the Criminal Code are neither a billboard nor a public service announcement. Any attempt to use them as such, however well intentioned, cannot be expected to succeed.

As I said at the outset, I will support this bill so as to join with the member for Red Deer in seeking to make this statement on an important issue. Again, I commend the member for this initiative. However, if we are to protect Canadians from those who would abuse their trust by disguising themselves as peace officers in order to do harm, we must devise concrete measures that can be more effective at both raising awareness and preventing this intolerable crime.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (personating peace officer or public officer)
Private Members' Business

May 31st, 2013 / 2:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by acknowledging that New Democrats will be supporting this private member's bill. I want to commend the member for Red Deer for being so persistent in bringing it forward. I know he has worked on it for a number of years. I also think it speaks to the fact that we as parliamentarians do respond to our constituents. My understanding is that the member for Red Deer brought this forward as a result of an incident in his riding.

Others have mentioned it, but what Bill C-444 does is to propose to amend article 130 of the Criminal Code, to establish that personating a police officer or public officer for the purposes of committing another offence must be considered by a court to be an aggravating circumstance for sentencing purposes. A number of other members have pointed this out, but I think it bears repeating. It is essential that the public have absolute confidence and are able to trust that when dealing with a police officer, the person is actually a police officer.

Many of us, as parents, have told our children that if they are in trouble or get lost when they are out and about, they should go to a police officer. We need to have confidence that it is police officers we are sending our children to.

One reason that confidence and trust is important is the fact that we have vulnerable populations. I know the member for Red Deer specifically talked about a young girl. I also want to touch on seniors because my riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan has a higher than provincial average of seniors. It is a very popular place for people to retire to. Sometimes seniors end up becoming part of the vulnerable population because people who have less than honourable intentions target them specifically for criminal activities. Unfortunately, people personating police officers go to their doors.

I went to the Vancouver Police Department's website and read its tips for seniors when dealing with people at the door. The website pointed out that for most crimes, seniors are the least victimized, so I would reassure seniors that they are not often a major target for criminal activity. However, it adversely affects seniors in a way that does not affect others in the population because seniors are often on a fixed income and have much greater difficulty replacing money or property when they have been targeted for criminal activity.

There are a couple of tips that the Vancouver Police Department suggest. When someone goes to a senior's door, the first thing they should do is to look through the peephole or a glass window that may be on the side of the door to verify who is on the doorstep. If it is somebody purporting to be a police officer and they have any discomfort at all, they should call 911 or contact the police department to verify he or she is actually an officer.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

February 14th, 2013 / 5:15 p.m.
See context

Delta—Richmond East
B.C.

Conservative

Kerry-Lynne Findlay Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, when I was speaking to this before, I commented on the problems that could arise with police personation because it offends a natural trust, which we would like to think is ordinarily well-founded, that could be exploited and abused by criminals for their own purposes. Every time someone pretends to be a peace officer or a public officer with the intent of deceiving the public or a particular person, damage is indeed done to society's overall ability to trust in the uniform and the other identifiable tools and equipment that such officers would normally carry.

This leads to the second conclusion about this offence. No matter what the purpose of the personation is, or even if there is no purpose at all, it is dangerous and criminal conduct. Public trust in the police and other public institutions is critical to public order and stability.

Returning to Bill C-444, the legislation addresses the most serious forms of the offence of personating a peace officer or a public officer. I would pause to note that the offence under section 130 applies to personation of both peace officers and public officers, both of which are defined in the Criminal Code.

Bill C-444 proposes an aggravating factor that also addresses the personation of a peace officer and a public officer. This is a reasonable approach when one takes into account the definitions of those terms. “Peace officer” is defined in section 2 of the Criminal Code and includes holders of particular offices, most important, police officers and corrections officers. The term “public officer” is also defined in section 2 of our Criminal Code and includes, for instance, customs officers and officers in the Canadian Forces. There is some overlap between the terms and therefore it is sensible to include both.

The personation of a peace officer or a public officer, and most especially the police, is the most troubling circumstance. Pretending to be a peace officer or a public officer is serious, regardless of the purpose for which it is done, as I said, or even if there is no purpose at all. However, when a person's trust in the police is exploited in order to make it easier to commit another crime, and in particular, a crime against the person who was made to believe they were dealing with a police officer in the first place, that is extremely blameworthy conduct. Bill C-444 aims to ensure that individuals who would do exactly this are punished accordingly.

We are fortunate in Canada to have a society in which citizens, on the whole, trust their law enforcement. This trust leads citizens to want to accept the authority of anyone who appears to be a police officer. A police personator can exploit this trust and use it to more easily approach, interact with and assert physical authority over others.

Peace officer or public officer personation is, in general, quite rare, and thankfully, this more blameworthy form of it is even rarer. Unfortunately, however, it does still take place. Bill C-444 aims to identify this situation as one that aggravates the crime and should lead to a harsher sentence than that which would otherwise be imposed on the offender.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Red Deer for introducing Bill C-444, and allowing us, as parliamentarians, to discuss this serious problem, and in doing so, educate Canadians on these very real risks.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

February 14th, 2013 / 5:20 p.m.
See context

NDP

Pierre Jacob Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-444, introduced by the hon. member for Red Deer.

This bill would amend the Criminal Code to establish that personating a peace officer or public officer for the purpose of committing an offence must be considered by a judge to be an aggravating circumstance for sentencing purposes.

This bill is a good, balanced response to this real problem, and I support it at second reading.

It reproduces what was in Bill C-576, which died on the order paper during the 40th Parliament, and it adds the notion of personating a public officer.

The purpose of this bill is to sanction such actions. I commend my hon. colleague from Red Deer who worked on this issue. During previous debates, he mentioned a number of sad stories from across the country in which criminals have used this scheme to commit offences ranging from theft to forcible confinement.

The hon. member for Red Deer also mentioned the fact that Canadians' trust in peace and public officers must be protected. He said in the House:

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.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice clearly explained the importance of this relationship of trust, and the bill seeks to strengthen that relationship between citizens and police officers.

I would also like to comment briefly on the reservations the hon. member for Mount Royal has about this bill.

Although he agrees with the objective and supports the bill, the hon. member doubts that the bill will have the desired effect, namely, of making it possible to impose longer prison sentences. He also mentioned the efficacy of the deterrent effect of longer prison terms. This is a very interesting debate, and I will have the pleasure of talking to him more about it when this bill is sent to committee.

We must recognize that, for once, a bill that amends the Criminal Code is a good thing.

There is no reference to minimum sentences, the independence of the justice system is not being challenged and respect for victims is being made a priority. These things do not happen often enough in this Parliament, and it is important to point it out.

Too often, the Conservatives do not take a logical approach to justice, and I always criticize bills that are sent to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights that either seriously undermine judicial independence or add standards to the Criminal Code that weaken its legal logic.

I would like to commend the hon. member who worked long and hard on this issue and introduced this bill on September 27. I will vote in favour of it.

I would like to come back to the valid statements made by the hon. member for Mount Royal, who brought up some things to think about as we work to solve this rather uncommon problem of personating a peace officer or public officer.

The hon. member brought up the problem of access to police uniforms and equipment. It is true that that is a concern. Restricting access to this sort of clothing and other equipment could be worth looking into.

My hon. colleague also suggested that there be a campaign to raise awareness about police identity cards. These are two interesting possibilities that in no way diminish the merits of the bill. I would like to talk about another point that the bill sheds light on, the fact that people have lost trust in our police institutions.

The member for Red Deer insisted that this was something he thought about when drafting his bill. Therefore, it is essential that people who are approached by police officers for whatever reason know who they are dealing with.

I will come back to my colleague's comments, which echo the member for Mount Royal's suggestion concerning badges, which could be explored:

This is an opportunity to encourage people to think about why they are being stopped, to make sure they ask to see a badge and look for the number. The police are prepared to do that. When I spoke with police officers they said it was common practice. I know a lot of times we think that if we ask for the number, it will cause more concern, but that certainly was not an issue in my discussions with the members I spoke with.

This quote shows that some people are intimidated by the police and do not dare make this legitimate request. The bill brings this out into the open.

I would also like to congratulate my colleague from Gatineau, who provided a good explanation of how the judge and crown prosecutor determine the sentence when the offence is punishable by indictment or by summary conviction.

In closing, I would like to recognize the work of the member for Red Deer and give him my full support for his bill, because it respects the victim and also the independence of the judiciary, and provides appropriate punishment for the offender. This is a well thought out and balanced approach. If a similar approach is taken again, I would be happy to collaborate.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

February 14th, 2013 / 5:25 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Sean Casey Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to Bill C-444, presented by the Conservative member for Red Deer. According to the bill, its enactment amends the Criminal Code to establish that impersonating a police officer or a public officer for the purpose of committing another offence must be considered by a court to be an aggravating circumstance for sentencing purposes.

From the outset, I want to reiterate the position put forth by the Liberal Party critic, the hon. member for Mount Royal, that this bill be sent to the justice committee for review. I would also suggest, as did my hon. colleague for Mount Royal, that the bill seems more declaratory than prescriptive. I say this not to in any way impugn the motives of the member, who raises an important issue, but rather to suggest that the effect of the bill, if passed, would be of little consequence. It is already an offence under the Criminal Code to impersonate a police or peace officer. However, I am pleased that the member resisted the temptation to constrain judicial discretion in the bill and that he further resisted the temptation to impose a mandatory minimum sentence. I want to say that the hon. member is providing an opportunity to draw the much needed attention of Parliament and the public to the fact that there are people out there who will impersonate a police officer.

The case that motivated the hon. member for Red Deer to introduce the bill relates to a very tragic and disturbing situation whereby an individual posing as a police officer pulled over a young women. He did so using police-style flashing lights and wearing what appeared to be a police uniform. I would note that this young woman of 16 reacted the way most of us would. Most of us would pull over if we saw flashing lights. The young woman regrettably placed her trust in the hands of someone who caused her great harm, both physically and emotionally. This type of event would naturally cause most of us to stop and wonder how this could happen and what we might do to remedy it in future. Therefore, I understand the motivation behind the bill and applaud the member for his effort.

As mentioned earlier, we should review this bill at committee. We should ensure that the justice committee hears from victims, law enforcement and the legal community. We need to do this to ensure that the bill meets the intended objective of the member and the House. The committee process would also provide an opportunity to highlight the issue of individuals impersonating police officers.

I took the opportunity to read previous interventions on this bill, including the speech given by the member for Mount Royal. In his speech, he correctly indicates the difficulty of deterring an individual intent on impersonating a police officer. For whatever reason, there are obviously troubled individuals who seek to become people they are not. As suggested, an individual impersonating a police officer is not likely to parse through the relevant sections of the Criminal Code to identify the sentencing regimes involved for such and such a crime. Therefore, a higher sentence in a circumstance such as this is unlikely to be a deterrent. What would be of some value is to explore the possibility of limiting or cutting off the ability of individuals to buy and sell paraphernalia that allows criminals to impersonate police officers. In particular, I speak of limiting the ability of individuals to obtain flashing lights and police-like uniforms.

I want to return to the point about public awareness, which to me is the value of the bill. It is important that governments and police at all levels work together and encourage public awareness. We need to tell Canadians that it is okay to ask questions when pulled over or when otherwise engaged by people presenting themselves as police officers. Canadians should know that it is okay to be cautious. It is okay to request a badge number or to call 911 if something seems to be seriously amiss.

I commend the initiative put forth by the hon. member for Red Deer. I would also suggest that in some respects, he is setting himself apart from his Conservative colleagues.

Time and time again, we have seen a right wing ideology emerge in the private members' bills of the Conservative back bench. These so-called tough on crime pet projects are approved by the Prime Minister's Office and the Minister of Justice. Most of them, except the measure before the House today, are rooted in ideology not in reality.

Conservatives have a very loose relationship with facts. They have an even more distant relationship with reality when it comes to crime. Far too often, Conservatives use the Criminal Code as a fundraising tool. Most of us would agree that we must deal with crime in our communities. We must continue to send the message to criminals that there are consequences to committing crime. However, Canadians want a justice system that is evidence-based, cost effective and focused on crime prevention. Therefore, while most members of the Conservative caucus have an approach to crime that lacks evidence and facts, Canadians want and deserve evidence-based policy.

Recent data provided by Statistics Canada tell us that crime rates are going down in Canada. Serious crime, in particular, is down across the board.

Justice must be firm, fair and proportionate. It cannot, however, be arbitrary and punitive. Nonetheless, the government continues to introduce bills that run contrary to evidence and facts. One of the more egregious aspects of their so-called crime agenda is their wilful failure to make a proper connection between addiction, mental health problems, generational poverty and resulting criminal activity. We can never excuse crime but we cannot ignore the role, for example, that poverty and addictions play as key factors in the commission of crime.

The real danger, it seems to me, with these one-off crime bills is the damage they cause to the coherence of the Criminal Code. It is simply not good public policy to cherry-pick the Criminal Code. Changes to the Criminal Code should never be made to satisfy the political interests of the Conservative caucus. Furthermore, the Criminal Code should never be used as a fundraising tool by Conservative operatives. Unfortunately, however, this is what is happening in Canada under the Conservative government.

I will close by saying to the hon. member for Red Deer that this bill is an exception in this regard. I believe that the issue he is raising in this legislation is worthy of review and study, and I salute him for his effort.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

February 14th, 2013 / 5:35 p.m.
See context

NDP

Raymond Côté Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-444.

I will not keep you in suspense and I will tell you right off the bat that I will support this bill at second reading. As for the other stages, we will see, but there is a very good chance that I will continue to support this bill after it is examined in committee.

As my colleagues from all the parties have said, although this bill addresses very specific and relatively rare cases, it still proposes a positive amendment to the Criminal Code. The bill seeks to address a number of needs that have been expressed, particularly by my esteemed colleague from Red Deer. He has legitimate reasons for introducing this bill and I congratulate him for doing so. I congratulate him in particular for choosing to introduce a bill that adds a provision to section 130 of the Criminal Code.

The bill is somewhat based on the notion of making the offence an aggravating circumstance, instead of creating, as some of his colleagues tried to do, a mandatory minimum sentence. This took away the court's freedom to act and even undermined the desired objective of some of my Conservative colleagues.

I had the pleasure of working on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. I will use the example of a bill that my Conservative colleague from Kootenay—Columbia introduced. That bill also had legitimate goals, but the effects were rather worrisome. There were even fears that the purpose intended by my colleague from Kootenay—Columbia would be overridden and that we could end up taking a step backwards because of how the bill was presented. Unfortunately, the bill passed and we hope that it will not have any devastating consequences.

I am pleased to reiterate that I will support Bill C-444. I am so pleased because I have a vested interest in this bill—I will not hide it and want to disclose it in the House. I have a loved one who is an active member of a police force.

I want to mention what the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance and member for Saint-Boniface said during another debate, regarding the public's view of and lack of trust in police forces. It is not true that the public no longer trusts police forces. What we are saying is that because of certain situations, this trust may be wavering, may be fragile, and as elected members of the House, we have a duty to protect it.

Of course, I feel a direct link to this, because I have a loved one who works for a police force. More than anything, I do not want him to become a victim, either of the misconduct of some of his colleagues on the force or another police force in the country, or of any perception, whether legitimate or false, on the part of the public because of problems related to the involvement of police forces.

Although I do not wish to dwell on the issue, I would quickly like to mention the unfortunate case of the now famous Robert Pickton. It is not something that we would have liked to achieve such notoriety. However, as they say, the damage is done. What is important is finding solutions, rather than just pointing the finger. That is what is most important, which is why I am very pleased to see that all members of the House plan to support this bill.

I wish to explore the importance of the authority enjoyed by anyone who wears a uniform or appears to be in a position of authority, that is, when someone steals an identity and takes it on as their own. This is an aggravating factor, so it is very important. Although things change completely whenever a firearm is involved, there is no denying that the authority held by someone in uniform or with a certain title can very easily intimidate and frighten some people who are sensitive to such authority. That is a fact.

The bill introduced by the hon. member for Red Deer sends a clear message to Canadians and builds some level of confidence. The 308 members of this House all have an opportunity to send this message. The level of trust will depend on the means that are developed.

My hon. colleague from Brome—Missisquoi was right to repeat some parts of the speech given by the member for Mount Royal. As the Romans used to say, “dura lex”. The law is strict, indeed—in its existence, in its form and in its message, as well as based on the means put in place to enforce it. These means can take various forms and avenues.

Our esteemed colleague from Mount Royal rightfully raised concerns about the availability of uniforms, for example, and the fact that although a tough law will be on the books, if we do not take certain measures, the law will come too late, which will defeat the purpose. That is very important to recognize.

I want to talk about section 130 of the Criminal Code. To begin, it states:

130. (1) Everyone commits an offence who

(a) falsely represents himself to be a peace officer or a public officer; or

(b) not being a peace officer or public officer, uses a badge or article of uniform...as the case may be.

It goes on to say:

(2) Everyone who commits an offence under subsection (1)

(a) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years; or

(b) is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

The bill proposes adding section 130.1, which states:

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.

I think it is a major step forward. Once the bill has passed, it will be interesting to see how the courts and the various stakeholders use it and apply it to different types of offences.

Obviously, the member for Red Deer introduced this bill in response to a truly appalling crime, an extreme case. However, the bill has some potential, and it will be fascinating to follow the work of my colleagues on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to see how it could be useful.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

February 14th, 2013 / 5:45 p.m.
See context

NDP

Alex Atamanenko British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, this is a good bill. I would like to thank my colleague, the member for Red Deer, for tabling this piece of legislation. It is identical to Bill C-576, which he tabled in the 40th Parliament and at that time was supported unanimously at second reading. I will beg his forgiveness if I repeat a lot of the information that was already said, but when we are supporting a good bill, there is nothing wrong with repeating the good points about it.

It is my understanding that the bill is a response to a very tragic incident in Red Deer, where a young girl was sexually assaulted by a man disguised as a police officer. Our society should not have to tolerate this kind of abuse of trust. We need to ensure that our citizens can turn to police officers and other public officials when in need and feel safe in doing so. We see in other countries where criminals disguise themselves as police officers in order to commit crimes, many of them very violent crimes against unsuspecting citizens. We cannot allow this to take place in our country.

Bill C-444 amends section 130 of the Criminal Code to establish that personating a police officer or a public officer for the purpose of committing another offence must be considered by a court to be an aggravating circumstance for sentencing purposes.

This is not a very common offence, but the Criminal Code must be amended all the same. We recognize that this offence is not only an attack on its victims, but it also represents an abuse of the institutions in our society that Canadians must be able to trust. Considering false representation as an aggravating factor instead of proposing a minimum sentence allows us to support this bill, because it respects the victim and judicial independence, and punishes the offender appropriately.

We believe that justice for victims is important and we are pleased to have been able to work with the government on this bill. It is not often that we are able to work with the government so closely, and so I am pleased that we were able to do so on this.

As I already said, this bill comes as a result of an incident that happened in Red Deer when a poor young woman was sexually assaulted by a man who had disguised himself as a police officer and had put fake flashing lights on his car. The assailant is now in prison after being sentenced to 18 years, including an additional six months for impersonating a law enforcement officer. My colleague, the hon. member for Red Deer, described this as the equivalent of committing a crime with a weapon, because the victim is forced to submit to a false authority who is committing a violent act.

This bill says nothing about a minimum sentence. Allowing judges discretionary power is very important.

We will therefore support this bill at all stages, as we planned to do for its predecessor in the previous Parliament. We on this side of the House recognize that this type of crime is not only a horrible attack on the victim, but also an usurpation of the power of the forces of law and order, which is very serious. By pretending to represent institutions that Canadians trust and obey, criminals are attacking society as a whole.

This bill will formally codify this offence and achieve justice for those who have been victims of such crimes.

New Democrats are satisfied with this bill, which will fill a void in the Criminal Code. This bill will ensure justice for victims, respect for judicial independence and suitable punishment for offenders.

We agree with my colleague and his party on this bill. It models a logical and balanced approach to justice, and we are happy to support it. I think this is an excellent example for democracy.

Once again, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Red Deer for his hard work and for introducing this bill again.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

February 14th, 2013 / 5:50 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, two days ago Canadians took to the airwaves for the Let's Talk initiative to help bring awareness of those struggling with mental health issues.

Today on this Valentine's Day we recognize the things that play to matters of the heart, and so to that end I would like to say Happy Valentine's Day to my wife. That said, it is fitting that we remember how important it is to talk, to listen and to act by supporting those who are so significant in our lives.

I am honoured to close second reading debate on my private member's bill, Bill C-444. I appreciate the fact that my colleagues from all sides of the House have shown that they too are prepared to talk, to listen and now to act as we take this very important step of moving this bill to committee. I thank everyone for their support.

My bill seeks to amend section 130 of the Criminal Code by adding a sentencing provision to the crime of impersonating peace officers or public officers. There are really three main components of this bill.

First, it is an acknowledgement to those who fall victim to this cowardly act of deceit that society views this crime seriously and that our trust in authority, which has been ingrained in our psyche since childhood, is not to be trifled with. We can do this by recognizing that the personation of an officer in the commission of another offence should be considered an aggravating circumstance at the sentencing of a criminal.

Second, since aggravating circumstances in this case are currently specific to those who abuse a position of trust or power, this bill would create clarity by recognizing that those who pretend to have this position of trust to overpower or disarm a victim should be treated similarly when sentencing occurs. Herein is the key aspect of my bill: the existing aggravating circumstance does not currently apply to offenders who are posing as police officers. I am calling on Parliament to recognize this gap in the law and to work with me to fill it by passing my private member's bill. My bill recognizes this gap in the law and would ensure that this kind of malicious deceit would be dealt with properly.

Third, by making this change to the Criminal Code, we would also show our support to the fine men and women who put their lives on the line and whose public trust is diminished by the actions of these unscrupulous criminals. Our police officers' jobs are difficult as they are, and by highlighting this type of criminal activity we would recognize the damage done by these illegal acts.

Here I will recap some of the issues germane to this bill. Within the maximum sentence for personating an officer, the appropriateness of a sentence would still rest with the sentencing court. Sentencing is a pillar of our justice system and it is up to us, as legislators, to establish sentencing provisions in the Criminal Code. When an offender personates a police officer to further victimize someone, this is a severe instance of personating an officer and can have serious and long-lasting effects on a victim. The sentence for this kind of malicious deceit must denounce this unlawful conduct and reflect the significant impact that the crime has on victims' lives. Victims must be assured that there will be serious consequences for the criminals who have hurt them.

As a further point, the way that section 130 now reads, the crime relates to the deception of the public about a person's status as a police officer. It does not differentiate whether it was for the specific purpose of facilitating another crime, or whether another crime is actually attempted or committed. However, in cases where the deception is intended to and in fact does facilitate the commission of another more serious crime, this is an extremely serious instance of the offence of personating an officer and therefore deserves an appropriately higher sentence. In 2009, we legislated a new maximum sentence for this crime and now we must give the courts this tool to exercise the new maximum in those most serious cases. Personating a police officer to force someone to do something is just as effective as pointing a firearm. It is no less aggravating than breaking and entering with the knowledge that a residence is occupied, nor many of the other situations that fall into the category of aggravating circumstances. Moreover, it is no different to a victim than having been abused by a person who really was in a position of authority.

By supporting this 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 officer's uniform, they naturally trust and respect the authority that comes with it and our laws must reflect this reality. The bill brings to light the support that our police forces need to combat this type of crime.

I would like to once again thank my colleagues for their support. I appreciate that they, too, recognize the timeliness and the necessity of the bill. I look forward to working with the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights where we can further our discussion.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

January 30th, 2013 / 6:55 p.m.
See context

Conservative

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.