Safer Witnesses Act

An Act to amend the Witness Protection Program Act and to make a consequential amendment to another Act

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2013.

Sponsor

Vic Toews  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

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

This enactment amends the Witness Protection Program Act to, among other things,

(a) provide for the designation of a provincial or municipal witness protection program so that certain provisions of that Act apply to such a program;

(b) authorize the Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to coordinate, at the request of an official of a designated provincial or municipal program, the activities of federal departments, agencies and services in order to facilitate a change of identity for persons admitted to the designated program;

(c) add prohibitions on the disclosure of information relating to persons admitted to designated provincial and municipal programs, to the means and methods by which witnesses are protected and to persons who provide or assist in providing protection;

(d) specify the circumstances under which disclosure of protected information is nevertheless permitted;

(e) exempt a person from any liability or other punishment for stating that they do not provide or assist in providing protection to witnesses or that they do not know that a person is protected under a witness protection program;

(f) expand the categories of witnesses who may be admitted to the federal Witness Protection Program to include persons who assist federal departments, agencies or services that have a national security, national defence or public safety mandate and who may require protection as a result;

(g) allow witnesses in the federal Witness Protection Program to end their protection voluntarily;

(h) extend the period during which protection may, in an emergency, be provided to a person who has not been admitted to the federal Witness Protection Program; and

(i) make a consequential amendment to another Act.

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.

Votes

  • June 3, 2013 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
  • May 30, 2013 Passed That, in relation to Bill C-51, An Act to amend the Witness Protection Program Act and to make a consequential amendment to another Act, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration of the third reading stage of the Bill; and that, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration of the third reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the Bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.
  • May 23, 2013 Passed That Bill C-51, An Act to amend the Witness Protection Program Act and to make a consequential amendment to another Act, be concurred in at report stage.
  • Feb. 12, 2013 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.

Bill C-51—Time Allocation
Safer Witnesses Act
Government Orders

May 30th, 2013 / 10:30 a.m.
See context

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

moved:

That, in relation to Bill C-51, An Act to amend the Witness Protection Program Act and to make a consequential amendment to another Act, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration of the third reading stage of the Bill; and that, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration at third reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the Bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.

Bill C-51—Time Allocation
Safer Witnesses Act
Government Orders

May 30th, 2013 / 10:35 a.m.
See context

NDP

Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, what a surprise to arrive here this Thursday morning to find another time allocation motion. I have lost track of how many there have been. That will be part of my question for the Minister of Public Safety because we have lost count.

This has become a habit. This is the fifth time allocation motion on as many bills that the government has moved and tried to ram down our throats.

I would like to read something to the minister. One of his former colleagues said:

A columnist wrote something interesting today. He wrote that in his view the decision to invoke closure on the bill represented in some ways the death of the true meaning of parliament. Parliament is the ability to gather together as elected representatives to talk, discuss, debate and hopefully do things that can enrich the lives and in this case the safety and security of Canadians. The federal Liberal government has failed Canadians.

That was Stockwell Day in the House of Commons on November 28, 2001.

I wonder what has changed with the guys in front of me. They seem to have forgotten all of the basic rules of democracy. The fact is that a party might support a bill that is, by the way, long overdue. I am sure the minister will use that fact to say that if it is long overdue, we should adopt it quickly. Just because they have suddenly realized the urgency or the need of something does not mean that they have to shortcut democracy.

Does he not feel a bit ashamed to say to the people of Gatineau, let us say, or Sherbrooke or people from the Conservative side that he is not interested in hearing examples that we have concerning the witness protection program? We have crimes that cannot be solved. We have situations because we cannot have access because it is not funded enough. The bill is not perfect.

Maybe the minister needs to hear these things, but no. They shut down debate. If it was not urgent in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 or 2013, why is it urgent now? At what number are we on those closure issues?

Bill C-51—Time Allocation
Safer Witnesses Act
Government Orders

May 30th, 2013 / 10:35 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am not too sure exactly what it is that could be said that would be a little bit different in regard to commenting on time allocation, for the simple reason that I have now stood in my place more than 30 times to talk about the issue of time allocation.

If we think about it, the government has invoked time allocation more than any other government before it, in a very short window. Ever since it has had a majority Conservative government, it has had a new attitude. It is an attitude that is shameful in regard to what takes place inside the House of Commons. It is very anti-democratic.

We have spent more time on invoking time allocation than we have on the bills for which time allocation has been invoked. We are quickly approaching 40 hours of time allocation.

I recognize that I put my question to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, but he is so predictable now that we know he will not even answer the questions I am going to pose. Therefore, I recognize that it will be a different minister standing up to answer my question.

I reflect on the days of Clayton Manness, Jim Ernst and Jim McCrae , individuals with whom I negotiated in my former life as a member of the Manitoba Legislature. There was a sense of House leaders getting together and working on a legislative House agenda to try to pass things through in a normal fashion, so that closure would not have to be introduced.

My question is for the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, of course, and I would love to see him actually address the issue. He is the one who is responsible for time allocation. It is he who ultimately has to defend the government.

My question to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons is: Does he feel it is appropriate to make time allocation a part of normal procedure? That is quite the opposite of what they used to argue for in the days when they were in the opposition.

Bill C-51—Time Allocation
Safer Witnesses Act
Government Orders

May 30th, 2013 / 10:40 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, let me just summarize the facts that relate to the procedural aspects of this particular bill, as I understand them.

The NDP and the Liberals have supported the legislation at all stages. More important, no amendments were proposed. It was studied at five public safety committee meetings. This is the fourth day of debate. There are no amendments to debate. There has been support at all stages.

I think it is very clear to Canadians what is happening here. The opposition is simply being obstructive.

Bill C-51—Time Allocation
Safer Witnesses Act
Government Orders

May 30th, 2013 / 10:40 a.m.
See context

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is a very important thing to point out. I see the defensiveness of my colleagues on the other side. Not only do they want to shut down debate, and it was their decision to shut down debate, but they want to dominate what little time is left of the opposition's opportunity.

Canadians know what is going on here. The government is mired up to its neck in scandal. The Conservatives appointed Arthur Porter, a criminal, and then because he gave them money, they appointed him to oversee the spy agency of Canada. The justice minister seemed to think Arthur Porter was a great guy when he was giving money. We have the same situation in the Senate.

The Conservatives are doing everything they can to get out of town as quickly as they can and hide out at their cottages for the summer and hope this issue will go away—

Bill C-51—Time Allocation
Safer Witnesses Act
Government Orders

May 30th, 2013 / 10:40 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I accept your response in regard to the almost exclusive number of questions, but I would ask that they remain relevant.

What we are debating is time allocation on Bill C-51. On one hand, the NDP wants to talk about certain methods of moving it through when they want to expedite it and, on the other hand, now we are hearing about everything other than Bill C-51.

If we are going to have questions, then they should be questions in regard to the debate and to the bill we are discussing.

Bill C-51—Time Allocation
Safer Witnesses Act
Government Orders

May 30th, 2013 / 10:45 a.m.
See context

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like it to be also noted that this is an attempt to walk the clock down and I think that every time the government interferes with our right to speak, the clock should be stopped, because this is an attempt to intimidate members of the House.

I will go back to the issue. The issue here is not the bill, because those members do not want to debate the bill. The issue here is their decision for the 37th or 38th time to shut down debate in the House of Commons. The Conservative government does not believe in accountability. The Conservative government will use the tools of power to undermine basic democratic processes. The government will take convicted fraud artists and put them right into the heart of the Prime Minister's Office and use them for advice.

The government is again shutting down the democratic right of the House. The government spies on people like Cindy Blackstock. The government has shut down numerous independent bodies. Whatever happened to the party that promised accountability, that told us that people like Stockwell Day and Deborah Grey represented accountability? Now we have the member for Nepean—Carleton; that is the government's idea of accountability. Now we have Patrick Brazeau; that is their idea of accountability. Now we have Pamela Wallin and Mike Duffy. The government promised to Canadians that it would bring a standard back to government. The government made a promise to Canadians and it broke it.

Bill C-51—Time Allocation
Safer Witnesses Act
Government Orders

May 30th, 2013 / 10:45 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

The member across the way is chirping, as she usually does, but what I would like to say with regard to the issue of accountability is that the member who just spoke promised his constituents that he would vote to abolish the long gun registry. He promised every one of them whenever he could, because he realized it was a contentious matter. However, when he came back to Ottawa he changed his mind, so I do not need any lessons from that individual about accountability.

Let us get to the issue of this particular bill itself.

The Liberals and the New Democrats have supported this legislation at every stage. They have not proposed one amendment, not even a technical amendment. What they want to do is drag out the clock. Then when we say we should add 20 hours of debate to the week, what is their response? No.

Bill C-51—Time Allocation
Safer Witnesses Act
Government Orders

May 30th, 2013 / 10:45 a.m.
See context

NDP

Jean-François Larose Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, becoming a member of Parliament was a very proud moment for me.

From the time I was child, I had watched the Hill operate as part of a democratic system. I did not always agree with the debates, but there was certainly a process that commanded a great deal of respect. Since I have been here as a member of Parliament, I must say that I am truly ashamed. I am ashamed to see how things work. I am ashamed of the process. I do not understand.

My question for the minister is quite simple. When did he lose faith in debate and decide it was not important? He is talking about a motion. He has some nerve.

When do the Conservatives ever make any sort of effort? When they decide to control the situation, then things go their way. As far as we are concerned, we want to have an ongoing, constructive debate. We are always prepared to work with the government. Unfortunately, they do not listen to anyone. They cut off debate and rhyme off all sorts of excuses every chance they get.

I would like to understand where the minister is coming from because I no longer understand the government. Personally, I think some therapy is in order—for the government, I should say.

Bill C-51—Time Allocation
Safer Witnesses Act
Government Orders

May 30th, 2013 / 10:50 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

He is their lead critic, as the member for Crowfoot points out.

He said:

Also, of course, we have committed to expediting its passage through the House. We believe it's important legislation. It's something we've been interested in since the time of the Air India inquiry...

They have been on this since the time of the Air India inquiry. What has their response been? Zero amendments.

Bill C-51—Time Allocation
Safer Witnesses Act
Government Orders

May 30th, 2013 / 10:50 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member across the way talked about faith. Something I have faith in is the police forces of our country.

I have a quote from Tom Stamatakis, the president of the Canadian Police Association. He said:

The Canadian Police Association strongly believes that this proposed legislation will enhance the safety and security of front-line law enforcement personnel who are engaged in protective duties.

Unfortunately, the disclosure of identifying details can present a real danger to police personnel themselves as well as their families, and we appreciate the steps being taken today by the government of Canada to address those concerns

He added:

On behalf of over 50,000 law enforcement personnel that we represent across Canada, we ask Parliament to quickly move to adopt this bill.

I wonder if the minister could respond to the necessity. I think there has been a plea. There is agreement in the House that we should pass this bill, but more importantly, there is agreement among the 50,000 law enforcement officers across the country to move this bill forward. It is not because they have something to gain from this, other than their own personal safety and the safety of their families.

I wonder if the minister could speak to the necessity of moving this bill forward quickly so that we can protect the interests, the lives and the safety of over 50,000 law enforcement personnel, as well as their 50,000 families.

Bill C-51—Time Allocation
Safer Witnesses Act
Government Orders

May 30th, 2013 / 10:50 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, while I appreciate the comments, I am not going to get into the specifics of the bill because that is not really the purpose of this discussion.

However, I would note the comments of the Canadian Police Association, which has been very supportive of the initiatives we brought forward as a government. In fact, many of the initiatives we brought forward have been inspired by consultations with the Canadian Police Association and the chiefs of police. We want to thank them very much for that.

Getting back to the comments of the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, he indicated that he had been interested in this file since June 2010, when the Air India commission of inquiry released its report. For three years the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca and his colleagues have been working on this file. They have committed to expedite it. They have said that it is very important and it should be expedited. The government has said, “Fine”. The police also want to move this bill quickly. However, the question that comes to me is this: what substantive changes need to be made, while still respecting the principle of expediency that the NDP is advancing here?

There have been zero amendments proposed by the NDP.

Bill C-51—Time Allocation
Safer Witnesses Act
Government Orders

May 30th, 2013 / 10:50 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Sean Casey Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, here we are debating a motion for closure just after a very passionate presentation by the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands with respect to how these motions for time allocation impact on individual members.

I am a new member of Parliament here, but in my previous career I had occasion to work with the hon. minister when he was general counsel with an insurance company. Back then, one of the principles by which he guided his career was that a negotiated resolution was always better than one imposed.

Given the minister's previous work history, my question for the minister is this: what measures were taken to try to come to a negotiated resolution and try to come to a compromise in terms of debate limits before this draconian measure was imposed yet again?

Bill C-51—Time Allocation
Safer Witnesses Act
Government Orders

May 30th, 2013 / 10:55 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I think that is an important question and one that was very well put.

It is indeed a principle that I have always accepted. We should negotiate when there are differences of opinion in respect to a bill. Mr. Speaker, I think you, as legal counsel, understand the importance of that approach as well.

However, one of the things I found out is that if one side is negotiating and advancing a position and the other side has zero response in terms of objections, it is difficult to negotiate. We can state our position, but when everybody on the other side says that is a great position, then that is the end of the negotiation.

We are not against negotiations, but there has been nothing to negotiate with. There have been no amendments put forward. This is not an issue of the government saying that it does not want to negotiate; this is the other side saying that since 2010 it has wanted this measure to be passed on an expedited basis.

We have waited patiently, but there has been no sound coming from the other side in any substantive amendments. Therefore, we are left with the unsettling feeling that this is not about bona fide negotiations but just an attempt to drag this matter out.

That is my concern here.

Bill C-51—Time Allocation
Safer Witnesses Act
Government Orders

May 30th, 2013 / 10:55 a.m.
See context

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, it saddens me to speak to a time allocation motion yet again. Earlier, my colleague from Gatineau asked how many of these motions we have had to date. It seems that this the 38th.

The minister is interested in debating this particular bill that we are now studying, but we have to keep in mind that this is the 38th time that the Conservatives have cut debate short in order to give members, on both the opposition and government sides, as little time as possible to discuss the bill before voting. As legislators, the least we can do is be conscientious and effective. The Conservatives do not need to cut debate short every time so that as few people as possible can participate.

I was wondering why the government is using this strategy to limit debate for a 38th time, as though everything were urgent? In some of those 38 cases, there was no urgency.