House of Commons Hansard #209 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was agreement.

Topics

Coastal Fisheries Protection Act
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Charlie Power St. John's West, NL

Madam Speaker, there is no longer a balance in our ecosystem. Strangely enough, long before we joined Canada, long before Canada became Canada, there were seal and cod fish all along the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. Recorded history tells us that they were there as long ago as 500 years, but I suspect they were there tens of thousands of years before that.

We finally got the two hundred mile limit in 1997 and Canadian control and management. We have Ph.D.s in biology and in ecosystem science. We have all kinds of educated scientists. We have all kinds of people with masters degrees in business to manage the resource. We have all kinds of guardians and wildlife people to look after it. Why, after barely 25 or 30 years, do we have a system that is so totally mismanaged and out of control?

The problem now is that because it is so mismanaged and because we have so many seals and so few fish, we are going to lose. We have seen seven years of devastation in Atlantic Canada, particularly in Newfoundland. There has been an out-migration of 30,000 people in the last three years alone from a lot of towns like Trepassey. It used to have close to 2,000 people and it now has close to 800 people. We are losing our young people. We are losing our brains. A lot of it is because our fishery resources have been totally mismanaged.

Now we have another problem facing the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Government of Canada square in the face every day. We have six million or seven million seals. They are eating well over one million tonnes of food per year. As a result, the cod stocks are not coming back. The $3 billion invested by the Government of Canada to allow the resource to come back is going to be wasted.

All we are saying is that there has to be a balance. The Government of Canada now has enough scientific data and certainly enough evidence from all of our fishers and people living on our coast that it is really time to do something with the seal herd. Unless it is done, as the member says, the seals will eat themselves out of house and home. There will be a mass depopulation of seals by natural reasons. Everybody will be poorly served with respect to cod fish and seals, especially the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Coastal Fisheries Protection Act
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Bonavista—Trinity—Conception
Newfoundland & Labrador

Liberal

Fred Mifflin Minister of Veterans Affairs and Secretary of State (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency)

Madam Speaker, I certainly appreciate this debate. I know I have about a minute, so I will not get into a long dissertation.

It is an interesting debate and it is a subject that is very close to the hearts of all Atlantic Canadians and Quebecers who are involved in the very difficult business of the management of fish stocks.

I do not really think this is a political issue and I do not think there is much disagreement. I have to remind my hon. friend and colleague from St. John's West that management of fish stocks is not an easy issue. He will recall that a few years ago, on the nose and tail of the bank, while many members of the Conservative government at that time actually agreed that we needed to take some action, the political will was not there to do so. In fact, the minister of the day, Mr. John Crosbie, said as much on television when this government did take action.

That aside, my comment is that the management of fish stocks is a very difficult issue. In the case of seals, I understand what the hon. member is saying and I think eventually we are going to have to do something to address this issue. What that something is going to be he knows is a very complex issue.

Coastal Fisheries Protection Act
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Charlie Power St. John's West, NL

Madam Speaker, I thank the minister for his comments. I know he has been very active in trying to manage the very complicated resources in our oceans.

However, we have to be careful in this case that the seal issue does not become political. When the present Minister of Fisheries and Oceans said to the provincial ministers of fisheries in Quebec City the other day that the reason he cannot increase the seal cull or seal quota this year is because of international trade ramifications, we then begin as politicians to manage the resource based on public relations and politics. That is what happened.

I agreed fully in the 1980s with the other governments and the other ministers. If we go back to that with seals we are going to repeat the problem. We may repeat history, but we should not repeat current events.

Coastal Fisheries Protection Act
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphan Tremblay Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, I am please to take part in this debate today. I would like to deal with the details of the UN agreement.

First of all, I would like to quote part of the preamble:

Recognizing the need for specific assistance, including financial, scientific and technological assistance, in order that developing States can participate effectively in the conservation, management and sustainable use of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks,

Convinced that an agreement for the implementation of the relevant provisions of the Convention would best serve these purposes and contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security,

Affirming that matters not regulated by the Convention or by this Agreement continue to be governed by the rules and principles of general international law,

Have agreed as follows:

I would also like read the general provisions of article 1, which deals with use of terms and scope.

For the purposes of this Agreement:

(a) The word “Convention” means, of course, the United Nations convention on the law of the sea of 10 December 1982.

It is very important that we know the details of the UN agreement.

(b) The expression “conservation and management measures”, means measures to conserve and manage one or more species of living marine resources that are adopted and applied consistent with the relevant rules of international law as reflected in the Convention and this Agreement.

(c) The term “fish” includes molluscs and crustaceans except those belonging to sedentary species as defined in article 77 of the Convention.

(d) The term “arrangement” means a co-operative mechanism established in accordance with the Convention and this Agreement by two or more States for the purpose, inter alia, of establishing conservation and management measures in a subregion or region for one or more straddling fish stocks or highly migratory fish stocks.

  1. (a) The term “States Parties” means States which have consented to be bound by this Agreement and for which the Agreement is in force.

(b) This Agreement applies mutatis mutandis to:

(i) any entity referred to in article 305, paragraph 1 (c), (d) and (e), of the Convention and

(ii) subject to article 47, to any entity referred to as an “international organization” in Annex IX, article 1, of the Convention which becomes a Party to this Agreement. To that extent “States Parties” refers to those entities.

  1. This Agreement applies mutatis mutandis to other fishing entities whose vessels fish on the high seas.

Article 2 reads, and I quote:

  1. The objective of this Agreement is to ensure the long-term conservation and sustainable use of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks through effective implementation of the relevant provisions of the Convention.

Article 3 deals with the application and reads:

  1. Unless otherwise provided, this Agreement applies to the conservation and management of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks beyond areas under national jurisdiction, except that articles 6 and 7 apply also to the conservation and management of such stocks within areas under national jurisdiction, subject to the different legal regimes that apply within areas under national jurisdiction and in areas beyond national jurisdiction as provided for in the Convention.

  2. In the exercise of its sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks within areas under national jurisdiction, the coastal State shall apply mutatis mutandis the general principles enumerated in article 5.

  3. States shall give due consideration to the respective capacities of developing States to apply articles 5, 6 and 7 within areas under national jurisdiction and their need for assistance as provided for in this Agreement. To this end, Part VII applies mutatis mutandis in respect of areas under national jurisdiction.

And I continue:

Nothing in this Agreement shall prejudice the rights, jurisdiction and duties of States under the Convention. This Agreement shall be interpreted and applied in the context of and in a manner consistent with the Convention.

Now, moving on to the second part:

Part II. Conservation and management of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks.

Article 5. General principles

In order to conserve and manage straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks, coastal States and States fishing on the high seas shall, in giving effect to their duty to co-operate in accordance with the Convention:

(a) adopt measures to ensure long-term sustainability of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks and promote the objective of their optimum utilization;

(b) ensure that such measures are based on the best scientific evidence available and are designed to maintain or restore stocks at levels capable of producing maximum sustainable yield, as qualified by relevant environmental and economic factors, including the special requirements of developing States, and taking into account fishing patterns, the interdependence of stocks and any generally recommended international minimum standards—

The agreement is intended to assess the impacts of fishing, other human activities and environmental factors on target stocks and species belonging to the same ecosystem or associated with or dependent upon the target stocks.

Article 5 (e) reads as follows:

(e) Adopt, where necessary, conservation and management measures for species belonging to the same ecosystem or associated with or dependent upon the target stocks, with a view to maintaining or restoring populations of such species above levels at which their reproduction may become seriously threatened;

Article 5 (f) concerns pollution and reads as follows:

(f) minimize pollution, waste, discards, catch by lost or abandoned gear, catch of non-target species, both fish and non-fish species, —and impacts on associated or dependent species, in particular endangered species, through measures including, to the extent practicable, the development and use of selective, environmentally safe and cost-effective fishing gear and techniques;

Articles 5 (g) to (l) read as follows:

(g) protect biodiversity in the marine environment;

(h) take measures to prevent or eliminate overfishing and excess fishing capacity and to ensure that levels of fishing effort do not exceed those commensurate with the sustainable use of fishery resources;

(i) take into account the interests of artisanal and subsistence fishers;

(j) collect and share, in a timely manner, complete and accurate data concerning fishing activities on, inter alia, vessel position, catch of target and non-target species and fishing effort, as set out in Annex I, as well as information from national and international research programmes;

(k) promote and conduct scientific research and develop appropriate technologies in support of fishery conservation and management; and

(l) implement and enforce conservation and management measures through effective monitoring, control and surveillance.

Next comes application of the precautionary approach.

  1. States shall apply the precautionary approach widely to conservation, management and exploitation of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks in order to protect the living marine resources and preserve the marine environment.

  2. States shall be more cautious when information is uncertain, unreliable or inadequate. The absence of adequate scientific information shall not be used as a reason for postponing or failing to take conservation and management measures.

The agreement also states, at article 6, paragraph 3, which deals with implementing the precautionary approach:

  1. In implementing the precautionary approach, States shall:

(a) improve decision-making for fishery resource conservation and management by obtaining and sharing the best scientific information available and implementing improved techniques for dealing with risk and uncertainty;

(b) apply the guidelines set out in Annex II and determine, on the basis of the best scientific information available, stock-specific reference points and the action to be taken if they are exceeded, of course;

(c) take into account, inter alia, uncertainties relating to the size and productivity of the stocks, reference points, stock condition in relation to such reference points, levels and distribution of fishing mortality and the impact of fishing activities on non-target and associated or dependent species, as well as existing and predicted oceanic, environmental and socio-economic conditions; and

(d) develop data collection and research programmes to assess the impact of fishing on non-target and associated or dependent species and their environment, and adopt plans which are necessary to ensure the conservation of such species and to protect habitats of special concern.

  1. States shall take measures to ensure that, when reference points are approached, they will not be exceeded. In the event that they are exceeded, States shall, without delay, take the action determined under paragraph 3 (b) to restore the stocks.

  2. Where the status of target stocks or non-target or associated or dependent species is of concern, States shall subject such stocks and species to enhanced monitoring in order to review their status and the efficacy of conservation and management measures. They shall revise those measures regularly in the light of new information.

  3. For new or exploratory fisheries, States shall adopt as soon as possible cautious conservation and management measures, including, inter alia, catch limits and effort limits. Such measures shall remain in force until there are sufficient data to allow assessment of the impact of the fisheries on the long-term sustainability of the stocks;

Therefore, if a natural phenomenon has significant detrimental effects on the status of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks, states must adopt, as soon as possible, conservation and management measures so that fishing activities do not make these detrimental effects even worse.

That is what I had to say on this subject.

Coastal Fisheries Protection Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Pursuant to the order made earlier today, all questions necessary to dispose of the third reading stage of Bill C-27 are deemed to have been put and the recorded division deemed demanded and deferred until Tuesday, April 20, 1999, at the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders.

It being 1.30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's order paper.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

April 16th, 1999 / 1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge, ON

moved that Bill C-440, an act to amend the Criminal Code (flight), be read a second time and referred to a committee.

I am very happy to be here today to speak to Bill C-440.

This bill would not have been here today had it not been for the co-operative efforts of my co-sponsor, the member for Leeds—Grenville, who will be speaking to this bill.

It is an honour for a member of parliament to be given the opportunity not only to speak on his or her bill, but to also know that a subcommittee of our peers has deemed it worthy by the fact that it is votable. It is for that reason that I am here today with those of us who have supported the bill. I am hopeful that it will be moving ahead in the near future.

I cannot emphasize enough how I believe an issue like this really transcends the usual partisan barriers that might sometimes inhibit bills.

I have many people to thank for getting the bill here in terms of being able to tell people what it is all about. I have been most impressed with the help of the Minister of Justice, who has been extremely sensitive to this issue, and for the support that the parliamentary secretary and members on this side have given to this initiative.

Having a couple of votable bills before the House of Commons, but particularly this one, says a lot about the necessity for filling a gap which I believe exists and that I think most reasonable people in Canada believe exists in the Criminal Code.

I would have preferred to have entitled this bill, Evading Police, for that is the issue: a wanton, reckless and at times tragic act by an individual using a motor vehicle to escape the police. Sadly, the act often leads to the death or injury of either the individual committing it, the police officers who are trying to fulfill their duty to protect the public, or some innocent bystander who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I introduced this bill sometime back in October on the heels of several incidents that took place in my community, the greater Toronto area, whereby the police, in simply doing their jobs, were often confronted with situations whereby the wanton acts of those who would flee placed the safety of the public at greater risk, often winding up with injury or death.

Since the bill has been introduced, there have been a number of tragedies that have hit closer to home for me. About four weeks ago, a very well-known leader in my community of Pickering, Father Ilce Miovski, was killed as he was attending to his vehicle. It happened as a result of someone taking the liberty of exceeding speeds that would not otherwise be normal. The driver went out of control and hit Father Miovski's car, killing a man who was not just a leader in terms of the community, but a leader in the Macedonian community.

I speak for all of parliament, as I have before on this very subject, in sending out our heartfelt sorrow to that community which lost its leader during the Lenten period of the Macedonian community.

I also want to speak to another personal situation that occurred in Brampton with the death of Sarah Bowman, again due to a reckless act of somebody trying to evade a peace officer. Sarah was only 21 years of age. I know her family is probably listening and looking on today.

I hope that what we have to say here today is not lost on the necessity to fill the void that, if nothing else, serves as a lesson or a message to those who, for a simple reason such as perhaps a suspended licence, would wilfully flee from a police officer and endanger the public.

The House could send that kind of message over time with the help and the expertise that is available to us both in committee, which I hope the bill will eventually reach, and the input from thousands of Canadians who have something to say about this, in an effort to ensure that many Canadians down the road are not victims of our neglect.

I introduced Bill C-440 as a private members' bill on October 7, 1998. Simply put, the bill seeks to amend the Criminal Code by creating a specific offence with severe penalties for anyone who, while using a motor vehicle, fails to stop for the police.

At first view the bill seems to be the product of common sense. To some it may even appear odd; that the Criminal Code should already had a provision that specifically prohibits this act. The truth is it does not. Currently, section 249 of the Criminal Code, the dangerous operation of motor vehicle provisions, are used to combat the act of evading police.

When Constable Richard Sonnenberg of the Calgary police lay down a spike belt to stop a speeding car that would not pull over, was that due to some person overreacting? Was it due to panic or from the driver being scared? Was it a case of dangerous driving or was there really more to it?

Most people would think that a person driving at speeds of 160 or 170 kilometres per hour goes beyond dangerous driving. It was clear the individual did not want to stop for the police and was prepared to do quite a bit to get away from them. Surely that very act of avoiding the police should be a specific criminal offence with a specific penalty.

Most engineers would view the act for what it was, a large projectile hurtling at excessive speeds and the excess weight of some 3,000 pounds moving down a highway. Most normal people would view this projectile as being driven by an individual who has no regard whatsoever for human life.

The debate, however, is of little consequence to Constable Sonnenberg. He was killed when that car struck him while trying to avoid the spike belt. The consequence of this was that the driver of the car was charged with criminal negligence causing death and received a sentence of six years in jail. Simply six years. Was justice served? Did that individual pay for his actions and for the taking of another person's life? I really do not think so.

In the current Criminal Code the penalties for dangerous driving are as follows: the act itself is punishable by either imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years or summary conviction; if the act causes injury, the penalty is imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years; and if the act causes death, the penalty is imprisonment for a term not exceeding 14 years.

Under Bill C-440, anyone who operates a motor vehicle to evade a police officer is guilty of an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years. Anyone who commits this offence and in the process injures another person is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years. Anyone causing the death of another person in committing this act will be liable to imprisonment for life.

I believe these penalties are sufficient and I believe it is time the Criminal Code had a specific provision dealing with using a motor vehicle to evade police. I am not alone in that belief.

As many in the House know, last week in my province, the province of Ontario, the solicitor general issued the much awaited guidelines dealing with regulations on police conduct in matters of criminal evasion; better known in the public as simple evasion of police or police chases. I think that is a bit of a stretch. Yes, it is a chase, but I do not think we can actually say the police are chasing people because they find it is particularly interesting or because it is something they do in their spare time. They are doing it because they are upholding the law.

While these regulations are important—and I give some credit to the solicitor general for them—without a response at the federal level with respect to the Criminal Code, we are in effect regulating the police while letting those who evade police off scot-free.

On November 16, 1998 I wrote to the minister, and the minister is extremely interested in the issue. I know that for those of us who have spent a lot of time on this issue there will be some point down the road when we will be dealing with it more specifically and more appropriately before the committee. I look forward to that.

I am very pleased to have received the support of several associations, obviously the Canadian Police Association, victims' rights groups and of course the CAA.

I am interested in what has occurred with respect to recent editorials in various papers across the country. We see that some are shifting or swinging to the left while others are a little bit to the right. However, it seems there is a consensus evolving in all corners of the media and all regions of the country that we cannot continue to inhibit our peace officers, our thin blue line, from being able to do their job.

Police officers know full well who the people are who should be apprehended, who are breaking the law, who are fleeing the public and who are engaging in reckless and wanton acts, but impunity is the current state of the laws.

When I appeared before the subcommittee on Private Members' Business, I read some letters that were very cogent to this issue. The letters were from Syd Bowman, Jenny Bowman and Karen Kalverda, the sister of Sarah Bowman.

We have an opportunity with this bill to right a wrong. If it means the saving of one single life, or the deterrent that might avoid someone receiving an injury that could maim them for life, then we have indeed done well and discharged our duty here in the House of Commons.

I am honoured to have had the opportunity to bring this bill forward, but this is not the Dan McTeague bill, it is the House of Commons bill. This is a bill that belongs to all members of the House. If anybody has any idea how I could move this bill forward more quickly, I am certainly game.

I believe the bill rightly corresponds to a need in the public today. It is a void that exists within our midst and within our judicial system. I do not believe there is a lack of will to respond to this. The responses we are seeing at the federal and provincial levels among concerned groups are putting us in a situation where I think we are going to see a very quick response to the issue. Hopefully we will have the necessary legislation to really send a message out: “For God's sake, if you are going to try to flee a police officer simply because you are worried, think about the consequences. If you are not going to think about the consequences to society in general, think then about the selfish consequences to yourself”.

I am not in a position right now to speak freely about those I know who have been injured. I know there is a time for compassion, but there is also a time to ensure that legislation we provide to the House, and which hopefully will wind up in the other place, will stand the test of time and will not be struck down. While the bill is a very strong starting point, my expectation is to encourage the House to try to develop a bill that will meet the standard and tests of not just deterrence, but also protecting a single life.

There is another aspect to the bill that I think members may not have considered. At first glance some people may say this is simply retribution. Throw them in jail and let us not worry about why they did it. However, there is another aspect that may be lost but which should be considered by all hon. members in the House as we deliberate on this important bill that affects us in each of our ridings.

Perhaps in the act of the chase, in the act of evasion, it is possible that the peace officer may ascertain the identity of those who would flee and therefore commit, under this act, an offence punishable by certain indictable terms in prison. One of the things that could come out of that is simply the identification of the person who is fleeing and, if necessary, not only have to worry about stopping the vehicle, but if it is not a very serious offence, wait until the person has run out of gas or until the person is somewhere else and then apprehend them. In effect, this would give the police a tool of not necessarily having to engage in a risky chase that might otherwise endanger other lives.

Goodness knows, there is not a single peace officer in the country who wishes to endanger another life in order to uphold the law. However, split second decisions have to be made by these fine people who are doing their jobs day in and day out and who basically ensure that we have peace, order and good governance and who safeguard our laws.

This is really my first foray in the House to explain the bill. In the very short time since it was introduced, the deliberation of the subcommittee and the interest shown by parliament is something for which I am deeply honoured.

A huge consensus is developing in the House. This is not a perfect bill but it is a good bill and I believe it will fit the task with perhaps some modification and some change.

I ask and urge the House to move as expeditiously and quickly as possible to ensure that we do not have another Father Ilce Miovski, another death in the community; that we do not have another fatality like the young lady, Sarah Bowman; and that we do not continue the carnage and place our police officers in the unenviable position of being damned if they do and damned if they do not.

I sincerely hope that with the elocution and speeches of my many colleagues here today and down the road, we consider Bill C-440 a new and necessary piece of legislation that will restore what is fundamentally absent in our Criminal Code.

Again I want to thank the hon. member for Leeds—Grenville without whom this bill could not have been possible. I hope we will hear from him a little later on.

I have said what I had to say. I wait patiently and attentively to hear what my hon. colleagues have to say about it as well.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Reform

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, I congratulate my colleague, the member for Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge for putting this bill forward. This individual has repeatedly put forth private members' bills and motions to this House that are constructive, which have advanced the debate and are for the benefit of the public at large. I take my hat off to him for once again putting forth a welcome bill. It deals with a very serious situation which he articulated so well in his speech.

Death is never welcome, but never more so when it happens in a senseless form and takes away an innocent person. My colleague mentioned it has been a massive problem in his province in particular, but also in the rest of the country. Many people have been killed or maimed when somebody fleeing from the police has caused a crash.

To put the cold hard statistics on the table, between 1991 and 1997, there were 39 people killed, six of whom were innocent people, and 198 people were injured. I can say as an emergency room physician that people get injured very badly in high speed accidents. Many of those people to this day still suffer. They are scarred by the trauma that has been inflicted upon them because of the high speed chases.

Let us put some names to the statistics. In February 1999, Sarah Bowman, 20, of Brampton was hit by a man fleeing from police on Queen Street and died of massive internal injuries. On November 15, 1998 Mr. John Gibbons, 47, of Oshawa, a father of four, died after his car was broadsided by a pick-up truck being chased by the police. On June 18, 1993, Patricia Cavanaugh, 23, of Markham died when a stolen mini-van being chased ran a light and crashed into her car. It would take me all day to go through this list, but I am not going to. The point has been made.

This situation needs to be rectified. The current penalties for committing such an offence are inadequate. I have worked in jail both as a correctional officer and as a physician. I can say that many of the people who commit traffic offences such as fleeing from police and drunk driving scoff at what they have done. There are people with offence lists as long as their arms for repeatedly committing offences for drunk driving and other traffic offences such as fleeing from police. They laugh because the penalties are not there.

Some may criticize this bill for dealing with punitive actions. Some may argue that punitive actions do not work, but I can say that if the penalty fit the crime, those people would not be wilfully and negligently jeopardizing the lives of innocent people.

There currently are penalties in the Criminal Code. A person who is sentenced to dangerous driving and is convicted is punishable by either imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years or a summary conviction. Summary convictions are nothing. If a person causes injury, the penalty for imprisonment is for a term not exceeding 10 years. If the act causes death, the penalty for imprisonment is a term not exceeding 14 years.

Certainly those are significant penalties. What the public may not understand is that when people are sentenced, they do not serve the actual time.

There is no truth in sentencing. In point of fact someone who is sentenced for committing an act, outside of first degree murder, serves only one-sixth of the sentence before they are eligible for parole. What kind of penalty is it for somebody to be sentenced to six years for killing someone and serves only one year for that offence? What kind of message does that send? If somebody takes a life, they need to pay with a commensurate penalty. And they need to pay that price in our jails.

Bill C-440 provides for good penalties. If someone is not injured, the maximum penalty is extended to two years but if someone is hurt, it is a maximum of 10 years. These are conservative and should run consecutively, not concurrently.

A concurrent sentence is one which runs in conjunction with another. The person receives no extra penalty. Absolutely none. Nothing. There is no penalty. Criminals know that. Furthermore criminals also recognize that in the commission of multiple offences the penalties are plea bargained away. What kind of message is that?

We do not want to lock everybody up but there are certain offences that show a wilful negligence for the health and welfare of the Canadian public. The minister needs to put herself in the shoes of those family members who are bereaved by the loss of a loved one. The minister has to look at this from both sides. That is all we ask.

Support comes from many quarters, from the public, from the solicitor general of Ontario and from the police. The police are asking for help. It is not their fault. The police are doing their duty yet in the commission of their duty their hands are often tied. The justice system is not supporting the police in this country today. It is causing an erosion of the morale of our police officers whom we rely upon and trust to keep us safe. We have to give them the same consideration they give us.

The penalties in Bill C-440 are needed. We would like increased penalties for drunk driving. We also want truth in sentencing. If a person is sentenced to two years, they should serve two years. If a person is sentenced to 10 years they should serve 10 years. If sentenced to life, the person should not get out after 15 years but after 25 years. This is why our party has been fighting for the removal of the so-called faint hope clause, section 745.

We want to make sure that the police have our support. This includes financial support. We have been seeing for a very long time that the RCMP and police forces are not getting the support to do their job.

The RCMP training facility has been closed. How can we close down the training facility for the RCMP? It is ridiculous. How can we have police officers trying to do their jobs if they are not given the hours to prosecute the people they are arresting? People are being arrested but then they are released. They cannot be prosecuted because the police forces do not have the manpower, the time nor the resources to do so.

Governments have repeatedly made our legal system so complicated. The conviction process and the process of doing police work are convoluted, complex and inefficient. It takes a police officer many hours to do a job that would have taken much less time years ago. It presently takes two to three times the time to formulate and process a conviction. It is estimated that it takes six hours of office work for a police officer to process a simple drunk driving conviction.

How can police officers do their work with the complexity the government and other governments have engineered? If the Minister of Justice wants to do something along with supporting Bill C-440 she needs to work with her provincial counterparts to simplify the system now.

Again, I compliment my colleague, the member for Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge for taking a leadership role with this bill. It is a bill for personal safety. It is a bill for the public good. It is a bill that hopefully will end the carnage on our streets.

If it is acceptable, I seek unanimous consent to pass Bill C-440 at this point in time.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Is there unanimous consent?

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor Palliser, SK

Madam Speaker, I begin by complimenting the member for Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge for introducing this piece of legislation. We too think it will go some distance toward reducing the carnage and tragic accidents on our highways.

I know it was an act of omission rather than commission by the hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca. I too want to remember a very significant, well regarded and well liked high school principal in Rosetown, Saskatchewan, who was killed. He and his wife were killed in Saskatoon just a few months ago as a result of a high speed police chase. Let us call it for what it was. The people of that relatively small prairie community were devastated at the loss.

Under this enactment, every one commits an offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years who operates a motor vehicle while being pursued by a peace officer in order to evade the peace officer and fails to stop the vehicle as soon as is reasonable in the circumstances.

Every one commits an offence referred to above and thereby causes bodily harm to a person or the death of a person commits an offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years or life, respectively.

Section 249 of the Criminal Code deals with the dangerous operation of motor vehicles and aircraft. Under the code anyone who does use a vehicle, vessel or aircraft in a dangerous manner can be guilty of an indictable offence or summary offence.

The private member's bill that has been introduced by the member would add an offence of flight from a police officer when operating a motor vehicle, to be charged and to serve up to two years imprisonment. Anyone who causes bodily harm while in flight from police, could serve up to 10 years. Anyone who causes death while in flight from police could face life imprisonment.

Bill C-440 also provides for the prohibition of operation of a motor vehicle and for a manslaughter charge, if it applied, in the cause of death.

The background to the bill, as has been noted by the two previous speakers, is the recent police chases that have resulted in injury and death. By its nature, fleeing from the police in this manner is presently dangerous use of a vehicle and Bill C-440 singles out that activity for an actual charge.

The justice critic for the New Democratic Party, the hon. member for Sydney—Victoria, has met with the national police association. We know from those conversations that they are very committed to Bill C-440.

On behalf of the New Democratic Party caucus, we are very supportive of this legislation. We extend our congratulations to the hon. member for Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge for bringing this bill forward in the way that he has, working with other members of the House, including the justice minister.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

2 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise today to speak to the important subject of Bill C-440, an act to amend the Criminal Code to strengthen the laws involving criminal flight from police pursuit.

Our party has always supported crime prevention and police forces across the country. We have continually demanded that the government correct the problem of the underfunding that has tied the hands of our overworked police forces as they try to deal with the growing problem of crime in Canada. Through funding cuts to the RCMP, quotas for prisoner release and a weak youth criminal justice act, the Liberals have consistently shown they are soft on crime.

That is why I am especially pleased to see that one of their own backbenchers has actually come up with a piece of legislation that will address certain aspects of real crime. Like the members who spoke before me, I would like to personally thank the hon. member opposite for proposing this legislation and supporting it in a non-partisan effort in the hope that we can actually accomplish something in parliament and see this legislation enacted.

The tragic events in the Toronto area last month are but a sad reminder that the current laws against flight have not been strong enough to deter a criminal from fleeing a pursuing police officer. With the death of Father Ilce Miovski aged 50 on March 21 and the death of Valeri Kovaliv aged 41 on March 27, it is evident that the status quo will no longer suffice. The death of Mr. Kovaliv gave him the most unfortunate title of being the fifth innocent civilian in the Toronto area this year to be killed following a police chase.

We need to enact tough legislation that would deter flight from the police by making an example of these criminals who place innocent lives at risk. Whether it be the lives of the police officers who are probably driving outdated, unsafe police cruisers due to Liberal cutbacks in policing; whether it be the lives of innocent bystanders who could be struck and killed in the midst of a car chase; or whether it be the lives of fleeing criminals, the fact is that our party holds all life sacred.

In respect of human life we need to give the justice system the powers needed to properly deal with those who try to escape from justice. In doing so we will be able to send the message to criminals that this kind of reckless behaviour will no longer be tolerated. It is our opinion that Bill C-440 will accomplish this goal. Under the provisions of the bill suspects who flee police without causing injury will receive a two year sentence. Injuring someone while fleeing could result in up to 10 years in jail. Killing someone during a police chase could mean life imprisonment. The possibility of taking a life and facing life imprisonment due to their flight from a lesser crime will now have to be weighed heavily against the noble route of facing the music.

The more minor aspects of the bill would involve those who cause police chases now being charged with crimes including highway traffic offences which vary by province, dangerous driving or criminal negligence causing bodily harm or death.

There are many who rightfully have questions as to the effectiveness of police chases. There are those who feel police chases only contribute to unnecessary accidents which can lead to injury and death of the innocent general population. These people feel that other means such as road blocks, spike belts or helicopter surveillance equipment would be a more effective method of tracking and eventually apprehending the criminal party. However, we are speaking of police forces that already work with limited resources. Therefore I am not sure these expensive proposals would be at all feasible at this time.

There are experts in the field of law enforcement who say that prohibiting the police from chasing criminals in automobiles will actually create more peril with regard to public safety. Police unions and several prominent police officers have vocally defended their right to chase fleeing offenders.

In Ontario police will face charges if they break the new high speed chase laws. These laws include among other things a mini test the officers will be asked to perform in their heads to decide whether or not the chase is worth the risk. They will be asked to consider the neighbourhood and then the likelihood of an innocent civilian being injured. They will be told to strongly consider those options such as the aforementioned use of spike belts to stop fleeing motorists.

Following similar rules led to the tragic death of a police officer. On October 8, 1993, Calgary police constable Richard Sonnenberg was told to lay down a spike belt to stop a car that had failed to stop for police. The car was driving at speeds of approximately 170 kilometres per hour. While attempting to deploy the belt the constable was killed instantly by the car that had veered into the officer to avoid hitting the spike belt.

This is why many police officers continue to be in favour of police chases. Mr. Norm Gardner, head of the Toronto Police Services Board, warned of the following:

—the public sometimes gets sold the wrong bill of goods. And they think that we won't have these things happen if the police do not pursue. And I can guarantee you, there would be a hell of a lot more danger and a lot more tragedy without pursuits.

The death of Constable Sonnenberg was one of these tragedies. The criminal who killed Constable Sonnenberg could also have easily killed a child or an elderly person. This person could have escaped altogether and gone on to commit other horrible crimes that could have been prevented through immediate incarceration following a successful police pursuit.

I would like to add that another crime was committed as the man who killed Constable Sonnenberg was only sentenced to six years for criminal negligence causing death. Under the provisions of Bill C-440 this reckless criminal would have received life imprisonment.

Police pursuit is not the answer to correcting the problem of flight and the subsequent police chase. Nevertheless, it is the most effective means of criminal apprehension that we currently have. Because of honest completion it effectively ends a criminal's threat to the general public.

What I suggest is that if we allow for police pursuit in addition to the enforcement of Bill C-440, we will be legislating a strong deterrent to the criminal population. This strong deterrent may force second thoughts in the minds of criminals involved in the aforementioned crimes. Such thoughts may have prevented these tragedies and the victims who lost their lives might still be with us today.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Jordan Leeds—Grenville, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to join the chorus of members congratulating the member for Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge for his work on this issue. I sense a bit of a consensus building here. I am optimistic that can be motivated and activated to get the bill passed as quickly as we possibly can.

Essentially Bill C-440 would make it a criminal offence to use an automobile while being pursued by a peace officer in order to evade a peace officer and fail to stop as soon as it is reasonable to do so. A person who does that would face a prison term not exceeding two years. In addition, anyone who uses an automobile to evade police in the process and injures another person would be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years. Anyone causing death would be liable to imprisonment for life. Those are certainly very serious consequences, but they are warranted because the act of evading police is a very serious action.

Since 1992 in Ontario alone there have been 30 people killed as a result of people using automobiles to evade police pursuit. In the example that has been alluded to of Constable Richard Sonnenberg in Alberta, it should be pointed out that the person that hit him was fleeing police because his licence was under suspension. It is a situation where in the mindset of people it is acceptable to do whatever it takes to evade police independent of or not accepting that there are any consequences to that action.

The decisions that have to be made in police chases are very complex. They are impacted in a sense because of the very short time line in which they have to be made. I feel we are doing a great disservice to the police, the men and women who are attempting to preserve and safeguard the public, if we fail to clearly acknowledge that the responsibility for these accidents and the subsequent deaths and countless injuries belongs to the felon who is wilfully evading the law. The focus of Bill C-440 is the activity of evasion.

To quote the hon. member for Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge, who put it so eloquently, it is “a wanton, reckless and at times tragic act by an individual using a motor vehicle to escape from the police”. We are talking about focusing on the act of fleeing and making sure that act has consequences which would force people to consider them before they engage in that very dangerous activity.

It is certainly true that any time a driver fails to stop for a police officer there is the potential for a dangerous situation to unfold. Individuals who choose to flee from police by means resulting in a high speed chase cause inordinate risk to the safety of the public and the police, meriting special criminal sanction. That is what Bill C-440 is trying to do.

Police pursuits cannot be completely eliminated. The hon. member talked about the issue surrounding that. They are no easy solutions; they are complex matters. They cannot be regulated or controlled by policing statutes to the point where motorists will never be at risk. There will always be situations where this type of police response will be appropriate.

Licensing and other forms of provincial control and regulation do not provide a sufficient deterrent. Current dangerous driving provisions of the Criminal Code are inadequate to deal with this action. Criminal records resulting from such conviction do not specifically relate to the relevant fact of the nature of the offence and the offender's specific intent to flee the police. As has been pointed out, criminal sanctions for current offences involving police pursuits are also inadequate.

There are many any factors in the decision to begin or continue a pursuit which is always made with public safety in mind. All too frequently incidents do occur where police officers and members of the public have been seriously harmed or killed because someone failed to stop. Policies and procedures governing police chases are the responsibility of individual police agencies and provincial governments. While those policies are not under the jurisdiction of the federal government, again as has been pointed out, putting this legislation in the Criminal Code provides the teeth that provincial governments need to put in place their regulations.

The bill is about recognizing the rule of law in society. I have lived in countries where this is not the case. I can assure hon. members that respect and trust for the authority of the police are critical for a well functioning society.

Not long ago it was not considered serious to consume alcohol and jump into a vehicle and drive home. I spent the Easter break talking to students in various schools. I can assure the House there has been a fundamental value shift in the minds of young people in Canada that drinking and driving is no longer seen as an acceptable option. We need a very similar value shift with regard to fleeing the police. We need to instil in the minds of Canadians that the act of fleeing the police is a criminal offence with criminal consequences.

In conclusion, too many police officers and civilians have been injured or killed because someone chose to flee from the police. While there is not a single solution to this problem, making such behaviour a criminal offence will deter some and send a strong message to others that such dangerous behaviour will not be tolerated.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today and to take this opportunity to speak to Bill C-440, introduced by the hon. member for Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge.

I have to say this bill strikes a chord with me just like it does for many Canadians. All opinion polls in Canada show clearly the great trust Canadians have for our police forces throughout Canada. These polls show a level of trust that is perhaps one of the highest in the western world.

The issue of fleeing the police is one that our Criminal Code does not address sufficiently. I think my colleague from Leeds—Grenville, who just finished speaking, stated it quite eloquently when he described how the Criminal Code dealt with individuals driving motor vehicles whom the police were attempting to intercept; what happened when accidents occurred, when injuries were caused and in some cases death; and how the Criminal Code was unfortunately lacking in that regard.

Bill C-440 is an act to amend the Criminal Code with respect to using a motor vehicle and failing to stop for a police officer, or in legal terms flight, as has already been mentioned by other members on both sides of the House.

As has already been stated, the act of fleeing often leads to death or injury to the individual committing it, to the police officers who are trying to fulfil their lawful duty to protect the public, or in many cases to innocent bystanders who just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

At first view the bill may seem to be the product of common sense. It is to me and, as we have heard in the House, to many other members. To some it may even appear to be odd that our Criminal Code should already have a provision to deal precisely with this. It does not.

I have had personal experience, not by having been injured by someone fleeing the police and driving a motor vehicle, obviously not by having been killed, but in my former life before entering politics I was deputy commissioner for police ethics for the province of Quebec. In that role, for over nine years I had to deal with a significant number of complaints from families who had a family member who was a victim or was killed because of the precise event that is described in this legislation and which this bill attempts to deal with. They were very upset that the police did not bring stronger criminal charges against the individual who was operating the motor vehicle and was attempting to flee police who in the performance of their lawful duties were attempting to intercept them.

As deputy commissioner I had the legal obligation to inform those complainants time after time that unfortunately the police and the justice department had done exactly what they were lawfully authorized to do under the Criminal Code in the manner in which they dealt with that suspect who had fled. It was very difficult to have to tell a family who had had a family member injured or killed that that was the only way in which the justice department and the police force could deal with the individual who had caused that injury or death.

It is not something I enjoyed doing, obviously. It is one of the reasons why I am very happy to support the bill of the member for Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge.

I want to come back specifically to the bill. It has been mentioned in the House that since 1991 at least 39 people have been killed under the circumstances that this bill addresses. Thirty-nine people are a lot. Were these cases of dangerous driving, or was there more to it? Most people in Canada think that when someone is driving at speeds that pass the legal limit in an attempt to flee police officers who are within their legal right to intercept them goes beyond what we would consider to be dangerous driving.

It is also clear when someone is not interested and is not willing to stop when a police officer attempts to intercept them and they know it is a police officer. We are not talking about someone who thinks it is an unidentified car that is attempting to intercept them. They have no idea. They may think a car jacking is under way and they attempt to save themselves. We are not talking about those circumstances.

We are talking about circumstances where the police are clearly identified and the individual operating the motor vehicle knows beyond a reasonable doubt that it is a police officer who is attempting to intercept them and that individual continues to attempt to flee or refuses to stop. Those are the circumstances we are talking about. We cannot term that as simply dangerous driving. It goes beyond that. It is wilful disrespect and disregard for human life, which is something no Canadian shares.

We talk a lot about Canadian values. One of the highest Canadian values is precisely the respect and regard for human life. We can link it with what I said when I talked about the fact that poll after poll after poll has shown that Canadians enjoy a high trust of our police services. The very act of wilfully fleeing a police officer in the lawful performance of his or her duty in attempting to intercept an individual requires the strongest response on the part of our government, on the part of Canadian society and on the part of our institutions, including our justice institutions, through our Criminal Code.

It would be very difficult to find an ordinary Canadian on the street who would say that this bill is not justified and that this bill does not really address the issue and who would not support this bill.

I would like to take this opportunity to commend the Canadian Police Association for its support for this bill.

I am not aware if the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police supports this bill, but I have to say, knowing many police chiefs across Canada, I believe I could be safe in saying that there is probably support for this bill.

I am someone who is known both within my riding and beyond its boundaries in matters of justice to be a proponent of prevention, rehabilitation and in the last resort, retribution. However, I feel that this is a bill which needs to be supported. This is a bill whose time has come and I support it.

As I conclude my remarks on this, Madam Speaker, I believe you would find consent in the House to have the motion for second reading of Bill C-440 deemed adopted, allowing said bill to proceed to committee.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

2:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Is there unanimous agreement to proceed in such a way?