Debates of Oct. 29th, 2003
House of Commons Hansard #146 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was criminal.
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Motions for Papers
Geoff Regan Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Madam Speaker, would you be so kind as to call Notice of Motion for the Production of Papers No. P-42 in the name of the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre.
That an Order of the House do issue for copies of any papers pertinent to, or describing deliberations particular to changes to Canada's meteorological service announced on March 13, 2003 by Environment Canada, including, but not limited to: (a) the assessment of the impacts of these changes; (b) cost-benefit analyses relating to all aspects of these changes; and (c) alternatives to these changes that were considered.
Motions for Papers
Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS
Madam Speaker, Environment Canada advises that the broad range of the request would render it prohibitively expensive in labour and money to produce this information. In addition, the collection of the material could not be done in a reasonable timeframe.
Madam Speaker, I think you would find that the Minister of Canadian Heritage would agree to have this put over for debate.
Motions for Papers
October 29th, 2003 / 3:40 p.m.
Sheila Copps Minister of Canadian Heritage
Madam Speaker, I ask that the motion be transferred for debate.
Motions for Papers
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)
The motion is transferred for debate pursuant to Standing Order 97(1).
The House resumed from October 27 consideration of the motion that Bill C-32, an act to amend the Criminal Code and other acts, be read the third time and passed.
Vic Toews Provencher, MB
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to participate in today's debate on Bill C-32, an act to amend the Criminal Code and other acts.
Some of the things the Minister of Justice has proposed in the bill are long overdue, and although I believe that elements in the bill could be improved, we in the Alliance are overall in agreement with the changes.
I am pleased to see that the bill would create a Criminal Code offence of setting a deadly trap in a place used for criminal purposes. This would protect first responders, such as firefighters, police officers or other law enforcement officials, who respond to an incident by going there first and then falling into that trap. The lives of these firefighters and police officers are endangered by entering such places in the performance of their duties. Therefore, it is our responsibility to protect them.
Under the new legislation, the maximum sentence for this offence depends on the outcome of the situation. It is generally 10 years. If injury occurs, the maximum sentence is 14 years. If death occurs, the maximum sentence is life imprisonment. Currently section 247 of the Criminal Code provides for the offence of setting a trap with a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment.
The House will recall that in 2001 the Canadian Alliance member for Surrey Central introduced Motion No. 376, which called upon the government to amend the Criminal Code to expand the definition of first degree murder to include the death of a firefighter acting in the line of duty, and to add language that addressed the death or injury of a firefighter engaged in combating a fire or an explosion that was deliberately set.
I am pleased to see the government is finally addressing this important issue through Bill C-32. However, by raising the maximum penalties without instituting any minimum penalties, the government is stopping short of giving first responders the protection they need. The government knows that the courts will not respond to these kinds of amendments, so the effect is primarily symbolic. We have seen no evidence in cases where governments increased maximum penalties that courts act correspondingly. They simply carry on with what they have been doing in terms of sentencing.
We are talking about a case in which someone is deliberately setting traps, knowing they are likely to cause injury or death. If the government were truly serious about protecting our firefighters, there would be mandatory prison sentences for people who do this to our firefighters.
Bill C-32 also proposes to amend the firearms search and seizure warrant provisions of the Criminal Code to bring the law into line with the recent Ontario court of appeal decision in R v. Hurrell. In that decision, weapon searches under this section of the Criminal Code were ruled unconstitutional. The court found that the warrant application section did not include enough protection of individual rights since it was not clear that a peace officer had to have reasonable grounds to make an application for the warrant.
The bill amends the Criminal Code to require that an officer must have reasonable grounds to believe that a person is in possession of a weapon and that it is not in the interests of the person to possess the weapon before a warrant may be issued.
The bill also provides for the civil enforcement of restitution orders. On occasion, offenders convicted of a crime are ordered to make restitution to their victims. Often this involves an order to pay a certain amount of money as compensation for the wrong committed or the injury suffered.
Currently, criminal restitution orders are only enforceable by civil court action if the order is separate from the sentencing order. The amendment would allow for civil enforcement of all restitution orders. This would make it easier to collect money owing under an order.
However I still have concerns that this process shuffles the problem off to the civil courts and on to the victim. I would like to see the law amended so that the court has jurisdiction to enforce the restitution order through the criminal court and, where the restitution is not paid, it will result in a criminal breach and is a criminal offence. We cannot do this under the present legislation.
While the amendment is a nice step, it does not address the problem with a victim having to become involved in the enforcement directly because most of the victims simply forgo that. Can anyone imagine asking a victim to talk to a member of an organized crime gang to see if that person can collect the restitution and when that request is denied, that the individual would actually have to civilly sue a member of an organized crime gang to get the restitution?
It is a shame that the government insists on doing that. It should be put back into the criminal courts. If restitution is not paid, there should be a criminal breach and the court would enforce that order through the criminal process, not have the victim be re-victimized in the courts again.
The justice department officials at the committee promised to take the issue under consideration and consult with the provinces to possibly report back to the committee at a future date. I look forward to hearing the results of their findings. I can hardly think of a province that would not want the criminal courts to enforce these orders rather than have the victim be re-victimized by the courts again.
Bill C-32 also amends the Criminal Code to explicitly recognize that everyone on board an airplane in Canadian airspace is justified in using reasonable force when he or she believes it is necessary to use force to prevent the commission of a criminal act that could endanger the safety of the aircraft or its passengers. The amendment would ensure the full effect of the Tokyo convention on offences and certain other acts committed on board aircraft.
Finally, Bill C-32 also contains amendments that may prove to be somewhat controversial due to perceived infringements on an individual's privacy.
Amendments to the Criminal Code and the Financial Administration Act would allow information technology managers, in both government and the private sector, to disclose the contents of private communications intercepted by intrusion detection systems, also called IDS, in certain circumstances.
The Criminal Code amendments would allow for the disclosure of intercepted private communications if the disclosure is necessary for the protection of a computer system and if the disclosure is made appropriately.
Intrusion detection is an essential part of information technology management intended to protect computers, networks and data, and to ensure quality of service. A number of systems or products exist to detect attacks on computer systems by hackers, viruses or worms, and to alert human operators. We have all experienced that type of problem with computer systems.
Some systems protect networks by identifying and intercepting suspicious electronic communications, including some that may be private communications. Those messages can be analyzed to determine if they contain a malicious program code such as a computer virus that could attack a computer system and the data it contains.
Statistics confirm that cyber crime is growing and has a global reach that affects large corporate giants, government agencies, as well as small companies and individuals at home.
The amendments to the Criminal Code and the Financial Administration Act would allow information technology managers to protect their computer systems from electronic communications that could be harmful to them.
The Criminal Code amendment would create exceptions to the offence of intercepting private communications and of disclosing its contents to ensure quality control in the communications industry.
The provisions of the bill relating to setting traps, use of force on airplanes and civil enforcement of restitution orders are all causes worthy of support, despite some of the concerns and shortcomings that I have identified.
The provisions regarding disclosure of private communications may prove to be controversial but the Criminal Code already provides for several exceptions where private communication can be intercepted and disclosed. The protection of computer systems is an important objective for governments and businesses.
The safety and security of Canadians and their property is the stated objective of the Canadian Alliance policy. We recognize the rights of victims of crime. We have promised to introduce programs of financial restitution from the offender to the victim as a component of sentencing and parole.
I believe that many of these objectives of the bill are consistent with what our policies have long called for. The justice committee has reviewed Bill C-32 and although it made two minor amendments, it has approved the bill.
We agree that this legislation should move forward at this time.
Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC
Madam Speaker, I listened carefully to the speech by my colleague from the Canadian Alliance.
We agree on several aspects of this bill, which has certain virtues. However, since he only mentioned this aspect of the bill, nothing more, I would like him to explain how this bill can truly contribute to protecting privacy.
I would like him to elaborate further on what I believe is a crucial issue.
Vic Toews Provencher, MB
Madam Speaker, what I stated is that I specifically acknowledged there would be some intrusion upon private communications.
In Canada we respect the privacy of communications between individuals. Only in certain specific statutorily authorized situations can those private communications be intercepted.
Looking at the specific goal of the proposed legislation, in order to protect the integrity of the computer system, there is an appropriate goal that warrants intervention into some private communications. The private communications are done on an objective basis. There are safeguards in place. I do have concerns about the moving in this direction but I feel that at this time I am not in a position to add additional conditions that would balance any more favourably the interests of protecting the privacy of Canadians and on the other hand ensuring the integrity of the computer system.
That is my position on that.
Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC
Madam Speaker, I would like my colleague to indicate whether he has already started to consider some amendments that could be made to the provisions on privacy protection. If so, could he give us a few examples of what such amendments might include in order to truly protect privacy during the interception of private communications?
It is easy to understand the objectives of the bill with respect to computer communications. However, perhaps there is a way to focus more on protecting privacy.
Vic Toews Provencher, MB
Madam Speaker, I am indeed open to reasonable suggestions that continue what I consider to be a fair balance between the privacy interests of Canadians and the interests of maintaining the integrity of the computer systems. I do not have any additional amendments to offer in this respect, but I would certainly look favourably if the member brought forward any amendments that would assist in this respect.
Generally speaking, the committee worked together on this particular issue. There are some difficulties. Most of us are lay people when it comes to computer systems and how these situations work. I think we all have a passing familiarity with the computer systems.
I was satisfied in my mind that there is not the same level of subjective interception by human beings in terms of intercepting those communications. Rather, this is done through a program that identifies on a more objective mechanical basis, if I can use that term, whether or not there is some virus or worm existing in the computer. The criteria engaged when that is discovered are sufficient, or certainly from my understanding of the matter are an appropriate balance between privacy interests and the integrity of the computer system.
If the member brought forward a motion that perhaps balanced it even better and respected with greater certainty the integrity of private communications, I would certainly consider that and look favourably upon a balanced amendment such as that.
Charlie Penson Peace River, AB
Madam Speaker, I listened with interest to my colleague from Provencher. What I got from his comments, and I would like him to confirm that is where we are headed here, is that it is important to strike a balance between people's civil liberties, their privacy, and the security interests of Canadians.
We live in a very different world than we did a couple of years ago because of September 11. There is a lot of new technology that is being harnessed for information purposes which we embrace. It gives us a lot of freedom and an easier chance to communicate, but it also gives the opportunity for it to be misused.
The important part would be if there are amendments needed in the future to keep that balance in place, if we find that we have gone too far one way or the other, that we reserve the opportunity to go back and restructure it as necessary. Does my colleague feel that Bill C-32 gives us that opportunity as we need it in the future?
Vic Toews Provencher, MB
Madam Speaker, I do not see anything in the bill itself that would preclude making timely amendments when certain shortcomings are identified. That is part of the problem we struggled with. With technology developing so quickly, the conditions we put into place in law become outdated fairly shortly. I have seen it in many aspects of the legal field.
When I started out in prosecution and was trying to prosecute frauds in banks, the whole idea about computer recording of information as opposed to paper recording of information was a huge problem for the courts and for people trained in the legal system. How would we make that leap from paper to assuring judges that the information contained on computer records was the best available document and also was accurate? That caused us all kinds of problems.
My colleague from Calgary has said that I am dating myself. Perhaps I am.
That happened in a very short period of time. I remember going away on a sabbatical for a year and coming back and someone explaining to me how a fax machine worked. It was actually possible to put a piece of paper into a machine and an exact duplicate of that paper would come out from another machine in another building. This was in 1985 or 1986. I could not believe it until I did it myself and saw that it worked.
Many of the younger clerks and pages might be smiling at that. Indeed, maybe some of the younger MPs are smiling at that.
I have learned in my career as a lawyer that things develop. The law needs to keep pace with these developments.
We have seen the problem in the area of child pornography. We are fighting a vicious battle against people who want to destroy our children in the 21st century and we are fighting them with 19th century evidentiary tools. It is a horrible problem.
I respect the concerns that are being brought forward today in respect of privacy. I want to assure the member that I will monitor this as best I can as an MP and a member of the justice committee to ensure that as changes come along, for good or for bad, that we consider them in legislation and act quickly.
Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC
Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise to speak on this bill because there is a provision in the new section 247 of the Criminal Code that I have been feeling strongly about for a number of years already. In my presentation, I will have the opportunity to point out along the way its many merits, which I will gladly explain to my hon. colleagues in this House.
Bill C-32 adds a number of new provisions to the Criminal Code to strengthen it. First, penalties will be increased for the setting or placing of traps in places used for the purpose of committing indictable offences such as the illicit production of cannabis, indoors or outdoors.
Other provisions deal with the use of force on aircraft. Since the events of September 11, I think we are more aware of the fact that force can be used on an aircraft when there are grounds to believe that criminal acts that could jeopardize the life of the passengers or pose a threat to the physical integrity of the aircraft are likely to be committed. Under the Criminal Code, the use of force may be necessary to subdue anyone who is likely to cause injury to the aircraft or to any person.
This was already provided for in the Criminal Code. I am taking a little time on this provision because I will not be coming back to it later. It clarifies the law by stating explicitly that force may be used on aircraft both in Canadian airspace and outside. This does make it clear that the use of force may be justified.
Bill C-32 also amends the provision concerning warrants to search for weapons. It also creates a new exemption in connection with the interception of private communications for the purpose of protecting computer systems. In this respect, I think that the discussion I had with my colleague from the Canadian Alliance emphasized the positive aspects of this provision dealing with computer communications, as well as the threat and potential abuse in terms of privacy.
We are all aware that in order to fight computer viruses or worms we must—and the bill recognizes this specifically—make certain sacrifices regarding the freedom on personal communications. I believe that the work to be done in committee regarding this provision will enable us to strike a better balance between the need to maintain the integrity of our communications networks and the protection of privacy.
The bill also amends provisions found in other acts, particularly the Financial Administration Act, in order to authorize the federal government to take steps to protect its informatics networks. This bill makes consequential amendments to other acts, particularly with respect to the French wording, to the Security of Information Act, the Criminal Code and other related acts.
Let me take a moment to look at the first provision, the proposed amendment to section 247 of the Criminal Code.
The existing section 247 says that it is criminal offence to set traps or other devices with intent to cause bodily harm to persons, or worse, to set traps or other devices with intent to cause death.
This is indictable under the Criminal Code but intention is important. It says, essentially, that if someone has intent to cause bodily harm or death, even if bodily harm or death do not occur, this person is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.
The new version of section 247 makes the remedies and sentences related to this offence more explicit. Why am I particularly pleased with this provision? In my riding, six years ago, I had the experience with some other people of watching organized crime squat illegally on lands and forests belonging to farmers. Organized crime was growing cannabis in these fields. It is still happening today, but through our efforts, there is much less of it. We will return to that in a moment, because it is a good example for several regions of Quebec and of Canada. Through our efforts, organized crime is less present in the fields and woods of the region. The citizens decided to take matters in hand themselves. I will have an opportunity to explain how it was done, especially over the past two and a half years.
Let us come back to the new provisions of section 247. This does not apply to my region because of what the people did, but it was not uncommon, at the time, for a farmer to arrive in his field and woods and have to deal with traps that had been laid by organized crime to protect illegal crops of cannabis. At full growth, a plant can be 2.5 m high and be worth $3,000 to $4,000. In addition, at that height, any resin that can be used to produce hashish, for instance, is worth a fortune on the black market.
In order to protect their crops, members of organized crime set traps. This could consist of what is commonly referred to as a 45 gallon barrel, in metal, cut in thirds. Two triangles are traced on the cover with scissors and pushed in. These barrel thirds are buried at the foot of the cannabis crop and the trap is set.
Imagine, someone who goes to that part of a farmer's field, without knowing there is such a trap there. He steps into, or his legs go into the trap and when he tries to step out, both parts of the metal cover, cut into triangles, lift up. He would be trapped. Either he would have to sacrifice his leg, or stay put and hope that someone would come along to rescue him.
The trouble is, at the end of October, a corn field is like a tropical forest. There is hardly any room between the corn plants, let alone the cannabis plants, and except for the farmer himself or the criminals, people seldom walk through corn fields at that time of year. The risks of walking into such a trap were real and still are in many fields in Quebec and Canada, particularly in southeastern Ontario.
Obviously, it was placed in order to cause bodily harm or even death. If a person got his leg caught in that kind of trap and did everything possible to get his leg out, he would injure his leg. If that person were not found within 24 hours, he would die from blood loss. This is barbaric but a reality in fields throughout Quebec and Canada. Such traps can also be found in the woods, particularly in areas where communities have closed their eyes to the activities of organized crime.
In the past six years, I have seen other kinds of traps, commonly called booby traps during the Vietnam war. They are made by attaching fishing line to something similar to a rifle trigger.
Should anyone attempt to steal or destroy any cannabis plants, they would trip on the fishing line and get shot in the legs. This is very real.
Currently, this is the kind of danger facing our farmers and other people, like hunters, for example, who build blinds in the woods in the fall. Hunters are in danger from criminals who are illegally cultivating cannabis in a section of the woods. They risk walking into similar traps.
People hiking in the woods also risk falling into traps such as the 45-gallon barrel or walking into traps such as the booby traps, as I mentioned earlier. Their purpose is to cause bodily injury or kill.
Earlier, my hon. colleague talked about this provision and said that firefighters had lobbied to have it included in the Criminal Code. It is not just the firefighters. The police, farmers, hunters and hikers also lobbied the government. For the past six years, the Bloc Quebecois has also been asking for harsher sentencing for criminals who place such traps, which can cause bodily harm or death, in areas used by others.
There have been instances in recent weeks of police officers and firefighters coming to private residences to carry out a search or respond to a call, where these premises are used by organized crime for greenhouse or hydroponic operations. These houses are often overloaded electrically and a fire breaks out. When the firemen arrive, they often encounter booby traps installed by the gang members to protect their grow ops. These are rigged in such a way as to cause injury or even death to fire or police personnel who have to enter the premises.
For example, firemen have come upon huge holes in the floor in hydroponic grow ops. As a result, the firefighters responding to a call have quite simply fallen through this booby trap, set up by the criminals to protect their crop from rival gangs or from seizure by police or others.
I am pleased to see this new provision, which steps up the sentences for members of organized crime, other criminals or people forced to turn to a life of crime, but also for those who might install such traps with the potential to cause injury or even death.
Sentences can run as high as life imprisonment, if the trap used in a criminal enterprise such as a drug operation causes bodily harm or death. Now these are explicitly life sentences. Moreover, if the intent to harm is there, but no actual bodily harm or death has occurred because of these traps, there can be up to 14 years' imprisonment, depending on the severity of the act committed on the premises where the traps were set and where illegal activities are being carried out by criminals or criminal gangs.
Which leads me to say that, since 1995, the Bloc Quebecois has done much to improve and strengthen the Criminal Code.
I remember that the hon. member for Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier proposed that the $1000 bill be taken out of circulation. Why? Because these $1000 bills were very useful in drug trafficking transactions.
We know that the volume represented by the number of $100 bills needed to cover a transaction of several million dollars is considerable. But if this amount were in $1000 bills, the volume would be much smaller. By withdrawing the $1000 note, we can make drug trafficking a little more difficult for organized crime.
The anti-gang legislation has also been strengthened. The Bloc Quebecois was the instigator of two significant amendments to the Criminal Code that target biker gangs in particular.
In contrast, since 1994, two of our demands ought to have been included in the Criminal Code. We were hoping that, with the passage of Bill C-32, these demands would have been reflected in the Criminal Code.
Moreover, one of the demands we would have liked to have seen included in Bill C-32 is the one which would have meant that the mere fact of belonging to a criminal group, even passively, to a gang that is recognized as a criminal gang, would be a punishable offence under the Criminal Code. We would have liked to have seen that. We would have liked to have seen mere passive membership in these groups, which are not optimist clubs or Kiwanis clubs, but are known criminal groups such as the Hell's Angels, the Bandidos—let us name them all—punishable by imprisonment or sentences under the Criminal Code.
We have been asking for this for years. This would have the ideal opportunity to include this provision in the bill, but unfortunately, it is not there.
The other measure we would have liked to have seen addressed by Bill C-32 concerns the reversal of the burden of proof with respect to the proceeds of criminal activities. In many countries the burden of proof is reversed and criminals have to provide evidence themselves to prove that the wealth they have accumulated is not the fruit of criminal activities. Australia, Austria, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland and Great Britain all do this.
This is one of FATF's main recommendations. FATF is the financial action task force on money laundering. It was created by the OECD to better fight organized crime, drug trafficking and money laundering, and thereby reverse the burden of proof.
We would have liked to see such a reversal. Obviously, this is not in keeping with our legal tradition. However, in light of exceptional circumstances and of megatrials that are costing taxpayers dearly, it would have been a good idea for criminals breaking this legislation to have to prove beyond all reasonable doubt that their assets are not the proceeds of criminal activity.
This would have been the perfect time to do this. Nevertheless, the debate on Bill C-32 also ensures that illegal activities are not trivialized, particularly marijuana cultivation. Because all these criminal activities can and do have terrible consequences.
I am pleased with the provision to reinforce sentences for placing traps, because this shows common sense. But there is still much work to be done to fight organized crime and prevent the use of narcotics. Communities turning a blind eye to the activities of organized crime must be made aware of the dangers, as traps causing bodily harm could be placed in the area.
As a result, we will vote in favour of this bill.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)
Order, please. It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, Softwood lumber; the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst, Ethics.
Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC
Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot for his testimony, because that is exactly what it was. I would like him to add to what he said since he mentioned in this speech that the people in his area have decided to take action. I would like him to tell us about the work that he himself and other stakeholders in his area have done and that has had an impact throughout Quebec.