Evidence of meeting #34 for Justice and Human Rights in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was masks.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Tony Hunt  General Manager, Loss Prevention, London Drugs Limited
  • Steve Rai  Inspector in Charge, District Three, Operations Division, Vancouver Police Department
  • Paul Champ  Legal Counsel, BC Civil Liberties Association
  • Lincoln Merraro  Senior Security Manager, Cadillac Fairview Corporation Limited
  • Michael Byers  Professor and Canada Research Chair, Department of Political Science, University of British Columbia, As an Individual

May 3rd, 2012 / 12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Kitchener Centre, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

My thanks to the witnesses for your evidence. It's always thought-provoking at this committee, and yours was no exception.

I would like to begin with Mr. Champ.

You are, I assume, aware that a great many of the protesters during the Vancouver riots were masked. Are you aware of that?

12:50 p.m.

Legal Counsel, BC Civil Liberties Association

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Kitchener Centre, ON

Are you aware that in fact all charges that the police wish to lay in British Columbia must be approved by prosecutors?

12:50 p.m.

Legal Counsel, BC Civil Liberties Association

Paul Champ

I'm not aware of that specifically, but I know that's the practice in some provinces, that the prosecutors must approve the charges.

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Kitchener Centre, ON

Let me just say that it's my understanding that this is what happens in British Columbia.

Are you aware that of the 226 approved charges arising out of the Vancouver riot, there were only two charges under subsection 351(2) of wearing a mask with intent to commit an indictable offence? Are you aware of that?

12:50 p.m.

Legal Counsel, BC Civil Liberties Association

Paul Champ

Well, that's what I'd heard, but that doesn't surprise me entirely.

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Kitchener Centre, ON

All right. That's good, because I want to ask you, as a former prosecutor, why you think it is that the police were only able to lay two charges under subsection 351(2) in the case of the Vancouver riots, where there were so many people walking around with masks on committing offences. What's the barrier there that prevented them?

12:55 p.m.

Legal Counsel, BC Civil Liberties Association

Paul Champ

It's obviously identifying the criminal, there is no question. But this bill is not going to change that. If someone is wearing a mask—

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Kitchener Centre, ON

Just a moment. I'm not asking you about this bill; I'm asking you about section 351.

So your answer is that the reason is identifying criminals.

12:55 p.m.

Legal Counsel, BC Civil Liberties Association

Paul Champ

That's correct.

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Kitchener Centre, ON

Suppose I suggested to you that one of the reasons why there are so few approved charges under section 351 is the high bar set by the requirement to prove a specific intent to commit an indictable offence.

12:55 p.m.

Legal Counsel, BC Civil Liberties Association

Paul Champ

Again, I didn't review the files. I don't have the criminal files. I would have thought it would have been the difficulty in identifying people. As I understand it, most or many of the people identified as committing offences during the Stanley Cup riots were due to cameras and whatnot. Obviously it would be difficult to identify those people if they were wearing masks.

I don't think it's an intent issue, but again, I'd have to see the specific fact pattern on what the person had done.

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Kitchener Centre, ON

As a former prosecutor, then, you think it's an easy thing to prove that someone has the specific intent of committing an indictable offence.

12:55 p.m.

Legal Counsel, BC Civil Liberties Association

Paul Champ

Well, I think that's the problem with this particular bill rather than what's happened with the section you spoke about, because—

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Kitchener Centre, ON

I want to keep us on section 351 for a moment.