House of Commons Hansard #20 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was victims.

Topics

Canada Account
Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Sydney—Victoria
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Mark Eyking Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade (Emerging Markets)

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Minister of International Trade, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the Canada Account's annual report of 2002-03, prepared by EDC, Export Development Canada.

Export of Military Goods
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Sydney—Victoria
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Mark Eyking Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade (Emerging Markets)

Mr. Speaker, I also have another report to table on the export of military goods from Canada, 2002.

Competition Act
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Fredericton
New Brunswick

Liberal

Andy Scott for the Minister of Industry

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-19, an act to amend the Competition Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Fredericton
New Brunswick

Liberal

Andy Scott Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-20, an act to provide for real property taxation powers of first nations, to create a First Nations Tax Commission, First Nations Financial Management Board, First Nations Finance Authority and First Nations Statistical Institute and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

November 2nd, 2004 / 10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, thousands of Canadians, because of no fault of their own, now possess unregistered firearms. Any individual who now tries to register a firearm is under threat of federal prosecution.

The petitioners are calling upon Parliament, the Department of Justice and the Government of Canada to call an immediate amnesty for all unregistered firearms or, in the absence of an amnesty, scrap the firearms registry completely.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Beauséjour
New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Take Note Debate
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, discussions have taken place among all parties concerning tonight's take note debate on hepatitis C and I believe you would find unanimous consent for the following motion:

That when the House begins the debate on Government Business No. 3 pursuant to Standing Order 53.1 later this day, no quorum calls, dilatory motions or requests for unanimous consent shall be entertained by the Speaker; and that if a member wishes to divide his or her speaking time, he or she may do so by indicating this to the Chair.

Take Note Debate
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Take Note Debate
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed from November 1 consideration of the motion.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Northumberland—Quinte West
Ontario

Liberal

Paul MacKlin Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, picking up from where I left off last evening, the second change that would enhance safety is the inclusion of those individuals found not criminally responsible by reason of mental disorder within the DNA data bank scheme. We currently have in the House Bill C-10 which proposes important changes to the provisions of the Criminal Code dealing with the mentally disordered offender.

While Parliament rightly does not submit persons who have a mental disorder conviction to imprisonment because of their diminished responsibility, we must remember that these persons have been found beyond a reasonable doubt to have done the act that constitutes the physical element of the offence. It is clear they may be very dangerous and so they are made subject to the jurisdiction of a provincial review board.

By making it possible for a judge to order that their DNA profiles be included in the DNA data bank, we may be solving crimes that they have committed in the past. As well, if they should be released and commit a crime where they leave their DNA, we will solve that crime.

Members should remember, however, that having their DNA in the data bank could be a benefit to a mentally disordered offender who has been released into the community. In the event of a crime similar to the one for which they were tried being committed near where they reside, they are likely to be suspects. However, if their DNA does not match the DNA from the crime scene, the police will know they were not involved and leave them undisturbed.

Another important change is creating a process for compelling the offender to attend at a specified time and place to provide a DNA sample. The current legislation requires that a DNA sample be taken at the time the person is convicted or as soon thereafter as is feasible. This has proven unworkable on the ground in some jurisdictions. The police cannot always have a trained officer attending at every court and so the courts have been ordering offenders to present themselves at the police station at a specified time. Unfortunately, this procedure was not foreseen by the Criminal Code so there is no express provision for issuing a warrant to arrest the person if he or she does not show up. Some offenders who should be in the data bank have not shown up and the police need the tools to make the court order effective.

Bill C-13 would permit a judge to make an order for the taking of a DNA sample at a time other than the imposing of the sentence. It also provides a warrant for the arrest of the person if the person fails to appear for that DNA sampling. As a result of consultations with the provinces, the warrant will be for the purpose of taking a sample rather than for the more usual arrest and bringing the offender back to the court that made the order. This means that an offender convicted in Toronto who skips and then is subsequently arrested in Vancouver will not have to be flown back at great expense to have the finger pricked for that test. The Vancouver police will be able to do it under the DNA data bank order.

While it is not known how many offenders have failed to show up, I understand this is a major concern for the police. We should move swiftly to fix this problem.

The most important changes proposed by Bill C-13 are the changes in the list of designated offences covered by the DNA data bank scheme. The list of designated offences is the lynchpin of this legislation. A DNA warrant can only be granted for a designated offence and the crime scene index only contains DNA found at the scene of or on the victim of a designated offence.

It is very important that the members of the House consider sending the legislation immediately to the committee so that we can put in place those issues that I have been outlining here today. They are of great concern to the police, the provinces and those of us in the House.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to participate in the debate on Bill C-13. The purpose of the legislation before us today is to broaden the provisions governing the national DNA data bank.

In 1998, Bill C-3, an act representing DNA identification, was enacted. This legislation created a new statute governing the establishment and administration of a national DNA data bank and amended the Criminal Code to permit a judge to make a post-conviction DNA data bank order. These orders authorized the taking of bodily substances from a person found guilty of designated Criminal Code offences in order to include the offender's DNA profile in the national DNA data bank.

The DNA data bank, which was officially opened on July 5, 2000 here in Ottawa, is maintained by the RCMP.

The party that I represented at the time Bill C-3 was enacted was firmly committed to restoring confidence in our justice system by providing law enforcement agencies with the latest technological tools to quickly detect and apprehend criminals. We did not support Bill C-3 because we believed that it blatantly denied police the full use of the technology that was available at the time.

In 1998, there were literally hundreds of unsolved rapes and murders outstanding in the country. However, because Bill C-3 did not allow for the retroactive taking of samples from incarcerated criminals, other than designated dangerous offenders, multiple sex offenders and multiple murderers, these cases remained unsolved.

Fortunately, Bill C-13, the bill before us today, does expand the retroactive provisions for DNA sample collection orders.

If enacted, Bill C-13 will allow judges to order that DNA be taken from anyone convicted of one murder and one sexual offence committed at different times before the DNA data bank legislation came into force.

To illustrate the importance of DNA technology, especially involving old murder cases, and to encourage the government to expand the list of designated offenders from which retroactive samples can be taken, I would like to read a portion of an article that appeared in the Ottawa Citizen on July 15, 2004. It states:

Sometime in the early hours of Aug. 27, 1991, Richard Mark Eastman broke into the Mississauga apartment of Muriel Holland...a 63-year-old former playright and model.

Eastman, 48, raped and strangled Holland while her 95-year-old father slept in the next room. Although Peel Region police obtained a partial thumbprint and a DNA sample from the crime scene, their investigation into this brutal attack led nowhere for a decade.

The key break in this cold case would have to wait until after June 30, 2000. Then, after years of debate and false starts, parliament proclaimed a bill that would create a national DNA data bank.

The article went on to state:

Peel Region investigators didn't know it at the time, but the timing of the bill meant they were involved in what would become a landmark case. They sent a DNA sample from Holland's rapist to the new data bank on Nov. 28, 2000. The sample was stored in a database that indexes DNA evidence obtained, but not yet identified, at crime scenes.

Separately, the DNA data bank maintains profiles of serious criminal offenders. A sample from Eastman, who had been convicted in 1995 of sexual assault, was forwarded to the data bank on May 4, 2001. Within hours, data bank scientists matched Eastman's DNA profile to the Holland case.

Two days later, Peel Region police charged Eastman with murder--making this the first homicide case that emerged as a result of a cross-match between the two main databases in Canada's DNA data bank.

I would like to point out that there would have been many more matches if in 1998 the Liberals had seen the wisdom in expanding the retroactive provisions for the DNA collection orders as recommended by our party and as recommended by the Canadian Police Association.

The Canadian Police Association recommended the list of convicted offenders, from which retroactive samples could be taken, be greatly expanded.

The CPA, with our full support, also strongly advised that DNA samples be taken at the time of arrest as opposed to the time of conviction to prevent potentially dangerous offenders from fleeing before their court date.

The CPA also expressed concern about a provision within Bill C-3, which allowed judges to exempt offenders from having a DNA sample taken if the judge believed that it would impact an individual's privacy and security.

This unnecessary and dangerous exemption has not been removed under the new legislation, nor have the other issues raised by the police officers all across the country. Those issues similarly have not been addressed in the legislation.

I would therefore suggest that the concerns raised by the Canadian police in 1998 should be raised again. Their concerns I am sure will be nothing more than dismissed by the Liberal justice minister.

On a final matter, I have serious concerns that the legislation does not address the backlog within the RCMP evidence recovery units.

In August 2003, I received some information, which I relayed to the then solicitor general, regarding the closure of the RCMP recovery units in Regina and Edmonton at the end of 2004, as well as the closure of the Halifax unit in March 2005. I expressed my concerns about these closures because of the serious and detrimental effect these closures would have on the timely examination of criminal evidence, especially DNA. My concern was based on the evaluation of the auditor general regarding the large case backlog within the RCMP laboratory system.

Since 1997, the RCMP forensic laboratories have been undergoing changes with the introduction of the DNA technology. Limited funding, insufficient resources and an increased workload due to this new technology resulted in a backlog in 2001 of 900 cases requiring DNA examination being stalled. This backlog prompted the auditor general to recommend a reorganization in order to gain increased efficiencies.

Unfortunately, the Liberal government took this to mean the closure and centralization of evidence recovery units, which will, in my opinion, complicate the process not ease the backlog.

My concerns, although never properly addressed by the solicitor general, were confirmed by a news article in the National Post on October 9, 2003 which read:

Joe Buckle, the RCMP's assistant commissioner in charge of forensic laboratory services...acknowledged, however, that the RCMP's forensic labs have not received a funding increase in the past five years.

Moreover, he did not dispute that in the first eight months of this year, 74% of the RCMP's most serious DNA cases failed to meet the Mounties' own 15-day analysis deadline.

Scientists familiar with the RCMP's six forensic labs paint a much different picture. They say the lab system is in such disarray, and the DNA case backlogs so overwhelming, that serious criminal investigations involving homicide, sexual assault and threats to national security have been delayed for months at a time, potentially jeopardizing the chances of arrests and convictions.

In closing, I reiterate that we need proper funding. Without better funding and better resources for the RCMP, the forensic labs and police agencies, we are in dire straits. We also need to make sure that we have the ability to bring forward the proper amendments that Bill C-13 needs.

Canada has to restore confidence in our justice system. We have to be able to give the resources to the police agencies. We have to build confidence that we do have a justice system that works. Unless we can make some amendments to the bill, the confidence will not be restored.

When the bill does go to committee I encourage the government to look at some very serious, workable amendments that would make the bill a better bill.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Bloc

Richard Marceau Charlesbourg, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on Bill C-13, which has been introduced by the government. In this day and age, political discourse is often focused on the respect of human rights and freedoms, and I agree with that. We have taken part in some debates that illustrate this, the one on same sex marriage in particular.

It is also important to note that individual rights encompass individual security. In a society based on rule of law, such as ours, the right to personal security is essential. If this is to be more than merely theoretical, and to exist in reality, it is important to provide law enforcement bodies with the tools necessary to fight the crime that so often harms our communities.

The Bloc Québécois will be supporting Bill C-13. We feel that it will provide police officers with more effective investigative tools, which should permit them to resolve more crimes.

Members have examined this bill with care and will have realized that it makes some rather technical amendments to legislation already in place. When the bill is examined in committee, the Bloc Québécois will ensure that the changes proposed represent real improvements to the existing system of DNA testing. In addition, the Bloc Québécois will ensure that the RCMP has the funds to accommodate the expansion of the DNA bank this bill will bring about.

To make a small aside, it is all very fine to announce measures, measures we support, but there must be money attached to them. As hon. members are aware, the RCMP has decided—for financial reasons, or so we are told—to close detachments in numerous locations in Quebec. There has been much opposition to this, from mayors, municipal counsellors and reeves, backed up of course, as is only natural, by myself and my colleagues in the Bloc Québécois.

It does not, therefore, make any sense to talk of increasing the responsibilities, as well as the operating costs, of a police force, the RCMP, while making cuts here and there, including cutting police detachments scattered outside the urban centres.

And so I hope the government will reverse its decision to close these detachments. I believe my hon. colleague's riding of Joliette is affected by the RCMP detachment closures. I know that the mayor, municipal officials and prefect have made him aware of the situation. It is the same in Saint-Hyacinthe. I hope the RCMP will reverse its decision. If it wants to fight crime effectively, the force must be present throughout the area.

Having finished my aside, I return to Bill C-13, which takes up for the most part the provisions of Bill C-35 from the last legislature, the bill to which the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice has referred.

Bill C-13 amends the provisions in the Criminal Code respecting the taking of bodily substances for forensic DNA analysis and the inclusion of DNA profiles in the national DNA data bank. It also makes related amendments to the DNA Identification Act and National Defence Act.

I have five minutes left. That is a very short time to address such a technical bill. That is why we are going to examine it very seriously in committee.

Bill C-13 makes other amendments, which ought at least to be listed in the parliamentary record of debates. It adds offences to the list of designated offences in the Criminal Code for which a judge is required to make an order for the collection of a DNA sample from the offender, unless the offender can convince the court otherwise.

It adds offences to the list of designated offences for which an order for the collection of a DNA sample can be made if the prosecutor so requests and the court agrees.

It provides for the making of DNA data bank orders against a person whohas committed a designated offence but who was found not criminallyresponsible by reason of mental disorder. This ties in somewhat with the subject matter of Bill C-10, which we are also working on.

It creates new provisions for the making of DNA data bank orders against a person who committed one murder and one sexual offence at different times before June 30, 2000, when the legislation on the DNA data bank came into force.

It provides for the review of defective DNA data bank orders and for the destruction of the bodily substances taken under them.

It allows the destruction ofthe bodily substances of offenders who are finally acquitted of a designated offence.

It compels offenders to appear at a certain time and place to provide a DNA sample.

It allows for a DNA data bank order to be made after sentencing.

Finally, it makes related amendments to the National Defence Act to ensure that the military justice system remains consistent with the civilian justice system.

So, this bill proposes many things. I must say that we are somewhat uncomfortable with the retroactive provisions included in this legislation and we hope they will dissipate with the review in committee. Obviously, any retroactive provision, particularly in the criminal justice area, raises serious issues relating to rights and freedoms and to the charters, whether it is the Quebec or Canadian one. In this regard, we are anxious to hear the witnesses and experts, who will tell us whether the bill does indeed respect the charters.

We also wonder why the bill adds participation in the activities of a criminal organization to the list of secondary designated offences, that is to the list of offences for which the taking of a DNA sampling is not mandatory, but optional. We wonder why such offences were not included in the list of primary designated offences. This is an issue on which we want to get an answer as quickly as possible.

All to say this is a very technical bill and it requires a thorough study of its provisions. At this stage, the Bloc Québécois supports its referral to a committee. We will work very seriously, as we always do, to ensure that, on the one hand, enforcement agencies have the necessary tools to fight effectively criminal activities in which the public is all too often the victim, and, on the other hand—and this is important in a society such as ours—to ensure that the rights and freedoms of the accused are respected. As I said earlier, the whole issue of retroactivity will also have to be thoroughly examined.