House of Commons Hansard #126 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was information.

Topics

Criminal Code
Government Orders

December 6th, 2001 / 3:05 p.m.

Vancouver Quadra
B.C.

Liberal

Stephen Owen Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, the two amendments passed by the other place would maintain the essential strong elements of Bill C-24. I will summarize these. First, the bill would provide an enhanced definition of criminal organization and create a new offence to target involvement with criminal organizations.

Second, it would improve measures to protect people from intimidation who play a role in the justice system. This would include members of the news media investigating organized crime.

Third, it would create an accountable process to protect law enforcement officers from criminal liability for certain otherwise illegal acts committed in the course of an investigation. This element of the bill is the subject of the two amendments from the other place.

Fourth, the bill would broaden powers to forfeit and seize proceeds of crime and property used in a crime.

The two amendments which I urge members of the House to support wholeheartedly deal with greater accountability in the lawful justification sections of the bill.

First, they would provide that when the minister designates officers to be under this protection he does so on an individual rather than a group basis as had been provided for in the bill passed by the House.

Second, they urge that the designation only take place in a jurisdiction of Canada where there is civilian oversight of police activities and a body to investigate public complaints concerning them.

The two amendments are immensely important. They would maintain and enhance the elements of the bill as passed in the House. I urge all members of the House to vote in favour of them.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

3:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, as indicated by the parliamentary secretary, the import of the amendments is to increase clarity and independent review with respect to the designations of public officers.

The amendments are timely. They are born of the rapid succession of bills brought forward by the government to deal with public security matters. There is a growing unease among Canadians that the government is not concerned about debating the principles or details of bills it brings forward. The unease has increased as a result of the Liberals' imposition of closure with respect to Bill C-36.

While the position of my party vis-à-vis the Senate, the other place, is clearly in favour of democratic reform and accountability, it is ironic that non-elected members of that house have more freedom to take steps to safeguard the security and traditional liberties of Canadians.

This is because of the shameful conduct of the Prime Minister. It is shameful that the House is no longer permitted to vote in accordance with the values of Canadians. The Prime Minister and the government consistently use the dispensation of political favour or the withholding of political favour to ensure government members vote in accordance with the Prime Minister's personal wishes.

I am prepared to recommend support for the amendments, perhaps as a result of the troubling conduct of the government over the past few months. The amendments are more necessary now than they were a few months ago.

Bill C-24 still has serious shortcomings. It is procedurally cumbersome. It would do nothing to streamline prosecutions. It would require substantial expenditures on the part of provincial and local police authorities. At the same time the federal government demonstrates increasing reluctance to fund the operations and prosecutions flowing from the legislation it passes.

Law enforcement in the country is being crippled by cumbersome legislation and inadequate resources. It is ironic that the member opposite stands and talks about improved definitions. We have seen this type of legislation add detail to the process without an appreciable increase in security.

I am prepared to recommend the amendments born of the concerns raised in the Senate. I urge the government to review this type of legislation and re-examine the principles underlying many of the bills it is passing. They are not effective. Nor do they do anything to enhance civil liberties in the country.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

3:10 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address Bill C-24, but I will be very brief.

I will briefly discuss the background of Bill C-24, which seeks to fight organized crime. The Bloc Quebecois repeatedly asked the government to take measures. We will not go so far as to say that we are the sponsors of this bill, but we pressured the government regarding several clauses in this bill. Indeed, we were relentless in asking the government to provide Canada with proper tools to fight gangs, including criminal biker gangs.

We worked very hard to propose some changes. We also made gains. When I say we, I mean Quebec, since Quebec was among those asking for major legislative changes.

So, the House passed Bill C-24, which was then sent to the other place. Senators examined it and felt the need to propose amendments. I took a close look at these amendments—we are not against them—but I sincerely think that the bill would have been very acceptable without these changes.

It is true, as the Canadian Alliance member said, that it is a bit funny that the other, unelected, chamber seems to have more power than duly elected representatives of the people, those who were actually chosen in a very democratic ballot.

But that is how the system is. As people know, the Bloc Quebecois would like out of this system. But, for now, we are still part of Canada. We therefore live with the rules dealt us. The Senate has put forward amendments. Do we have a major objection in this regard? No. Should this bill be passed quickly? Yes. Are we already late passing it? Yes again.

I will conclude with this. Before even studying Bill C-24, before even studying the bill which is intended to do something about the problem of criminal biker gangs, the Senate preferred to start out in September by looking at Bill C-7, which is intended to something about the problem of young offenders, instead of assuming its responsibilities and doing something about organized crime, so that Canada will have the legislation it needs.

We are past the point of worrying about commas, dropping periods and fussing over wording. We have reached the point where we must pass this bill. We must do so quickly so that the public knows that we have taken action, so that people feel safe as well, but especially so that the police and the system will have the legislative tools they need to combat organized crime for once and for all.

The government has taken so long reacting that even before Bill C-24 becomes law, organized crime has already examined the legislation and is getting ready to challenge it. That is how very slow the system is, with its two chambers, among other things. The bill has therefore come back here and we will have to pass it again, and then it must receive royal assent. Some of Bill C-24's provisions probably already no longer apply.

We will still be very vigilant. Yes, it is a step in the right direction. Yes, we must pass Bill C-24 quickly. Yes, the Bloc Quebecois will continue to be vigilant and push the government to take appropriate action if ever any provisions of this bill are no longer adequate to deal with the present organized crime and biker gang situation. It is no to violence, no to intimidation and yes to Bill C-24. We must act quickly.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I agree with my colleague from the Bloc Quebecois on the role of the Senate in this debate and on the amendments to Bill C-24.

It is odd indeed that the very things we tried to achieve in committee, which could not be achieved because of a docile Liberal majority on the committee, can now be achieved because presumably we have a less docile Liberal majority in the Senate. These things have come back to us to address concerns that needed to be addressed, and which were raised in the House of Commons, the elected Chamber, but were not dealt with because of the excessive ego of the government when it came to its legislation and the excessive docility of government members.

Very briefly, we welcome these amendments. They address concerns we had about Bill C-24. We hope that from here on in this bill, even though there are problems with it, can proceed expeditiously and we can find out the extent to which this legislation will or will not be effective against organized crime in the country.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, like my colleagues from other parties, I will be keeping my remarks on these amendments quite brief. I rise on behalf of the coalition to add some thoughts on this issue.

As others have said, there is more than just a touch of irony that the unelected other place was successful in getting these two substantive amendments to Bill C-24, despite the best efforts of opposition members, especially at the justice committee, to get similar amendments through in the House of Commons. Unfortunately that speaks volumes to the attitude of the government in its approach to legislation, specifically its approach to the consideration of amendments to its legislation.

Unfortunately something very similar transpired with Bill C-36 more recently, despite assurances from the government, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice that adequate consideration, and a common sense approach, would be given to representations from individuals, groups, opposition MPs and its own backbenchers. Once again we saw a flawed process brought to a very speedy close with the use of time allocation.

I would like to congratulate the Senate for bringing forward these two amendments to Bill C-24, the organized crime legislation. I refer specifically to the one increasing independent review or civilian oversight. That is especially appropriate, but not only for this legislation.

Similar concerns were put forward not only by opposition members of parliament, but by groups concerned about the rights and privileges of individual Canadians and the risk of abuse by police forces in how they would implement the new powers contained in Bill C-36. Very serious efforts were put forward by a number of organizations, including the PC/DR, to have an independent oversight agency or individual hold the police and law enforcement agencies that would have the new powers, such as CSIS, accountable rather than individuals going to court to hold the government and law enforcement agencies accountable, if they felt their powers were being abused.

That is an important amendment to Bill C-24 made by the other place. Hopefully, something similar will be included in Bill C-36. The same concerns are being expressed about Bill C-42, which we are just now beginning to debate.

The fact that the system had to ultimately rely upon the Senate to bring forward amendments successfully points to a serious flaw, as other members from other parties have said, at the committee level and in the House of Commons. We do not have a system of free votes. I would argue very strenuously that if we had that, much better legislation would be passed in this place. That legislation would then go to the Senate and it might not be required to make amendments that should have made here originally.

Hopefully it is something the government will consider in the future. It is hoped the government will free up its members to vote more independently, especially when dealing with something as common sense as amendments being put forward to legislation at the committee stage. It could ultimately have the effect of parliament being more democratic and also of the House of Commons operating much more efficiently and effectively.

Legislation would come back from committee properly amended. I suspect there would be fewer amendments put forward at report stage on the floor of the Chamber. In many cases that is one of the few tools the opposition members have to draw public attention through the television cameras to what they feel is flawed legislation. They bring their amendments forward at report stage in the Chamber.

Obviously the legislation, as has been said before, is targeted at organized crime, specifically at some of the horrific activities of biker gangs, especially in the province of Quebec. We are all aware of those activities. We do not need to rehash those ongoing issues. We want to ensure that our law enforcement agencies have the necessary resources, powers and the tools to combat organized crime wherever it occurs.

On that one specific issue, concern has been expressed by the coalition and by other parties about the financial resources available to our law enforcement agencies. In the eight year history of my involvement as a member of parliament I have spoken many times about the need to ensure adequate resources for the RCMP.

As the previous speaker for the Canadian Alliance alluded to, the legislation once it goes into effect can easily involve substantial expenditures by our police forces. That obviously would be at the local or city police level, provincial police forces or the RCMP, or presumably even an agency such as CSIS, in combating organized crime. It is much similar to the need for all those same agencies to wage the successful war against terrorism.

We want to ensure that we provide the tools that these agencies and law enforcement organizations require to do the job, to go head to head with organized crime and terrorists. We want to ensure that they have the adequate financial resources as well.

It is little help to them if we only say that we will make the necessary legislative changes to ensure that they have the power to do their jobs effectively and hold those individuals to account, whether those individuals are in organized crime, or undertake terrorist activities, or encourage others to undertake terrorist activities. It is simply not enough to give them the necessary legislative tools without giving them the financial resources.

Obviously all of us in this place and all Canadians will be watching with great interest the presentation of the finance minister's budget on Monday. We will be watching to see what financial resources will go hand in hand with the legislative tools to ensure that our law enforcement agencies have the resources and funds necessary to take on organized crime and terrorists wherever they may be lurking and hiding and conducting their filthy business in our country.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

The Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

The Speaker

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to, amendments read the second time and concurred in)

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-15B, an act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms Act, as reported (with amendments) from the committee.

An act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

The Speaker

There are nine motions in amendment on the notice paper at report stage of Bill C-15B.

Motions Nos. 2 and 3 will not be selected by the Chair as they are identical to motions proposed and defeated in committee. All remaining motions have been examined and the Chair is satisfied that they meet the guidelines expressed in the note to Standing Order 76.1(5) regarding the selection of motions and amendments at report stage.

Motions Nos. 1 and 4 to 9 will be grouped for debate. The voting pattern is available at the table.

I shall now propose Motions Nos. 1 and 4 to 9 to the House.

An act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant McNally Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There have been discussions with all parties and I believe that if you seek it, you would find unanimous consent that the report stage motions standing in the name of the member for Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough be now put in the name of the member for Prince George--Peace River.

An act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

The Speaker

Is it agreed?

An act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

An act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Howard Hilstrom Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. In attempting to make amendments to the bill, I was attempting to have the name of the bill changed. I have been advised that is not entirely possible. I would ask the Chair if that is the case or not.