House of Commons Hansard #80 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was judiciary.

Topics

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

To be fair, again, this question and comment period will collapse at 5:30 p.m. and I would like to give time to the New Democratic Party for a question. I recognize the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot.

I ask that the response be brief.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, my Liberal colleague is entirely correct. What they are trying to do is simply copy the Americans. In the United States, where such a policy was brought in, here is what happened. The American rate of incarceration is seven times higher. There are three times more homicides in the U.S. than in Canada, and four times more than in Quebec.

Why would we copy such a policy here, when it clearly does not work and accomplishes nothing? Despite my colleague's indignation, I still insist that this measure is completely ridiculous. Its sole purpose is to make the Conservatives look good in the eyes of Canadians and deliver on their promises, which are completely ridiculous.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Winnipeg Centre will recognize that there is less than a minute for both the question and the answer.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague, the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, for his eloquent and thoughtful remarks. I will dwell only on the one issue that he raised.

In my earlier comments, I said that in fact the Conservatives are being soft on crime on the issue of reverse onus as it pertains to the proceeds of crime. It was a Bloc Québécois initiative that said in situations of organized crime why should we not be able to seize the luxury homes and assets and have organizaed crime prove that it earned that money legally and it was not purchased through the proceeds of crime.

Is it not the Conservatives who are going soft on that policy? They are not going after organized crime nearly as stiffly as was recommended by our colleague Richard Marceau from the Bloc Québécois?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

November 9th, 2006 / 5:30 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague and NDP friend for this question.

Reverse onus for the proceeds of crime is not the only amendment to the Criminal Code introduced by the Bloc Québécois. There were three others, and they were all major.

One of them, for example, is what led to operation springtime 2001 and its outcome, which targeted criminal biker gangs and made it easier to prove someone's membership in a criminal gang. We followed up with reverse onus. These are real tools, unlike the nonsense being presented here today. And those real tools were the Bloc Québécois' contribution.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

The House resumed from September 26 consideration of the motion that Bill C-279, An Act to amend the DNA Identification Act (establishment of indexes), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

DNA Identification Act
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-279, An Act to amend the DNA Identification Act (establishment of indexes).

I want to congratulate the member for Burlington for bringing this forward. If I guess right, he probably inherited this from the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, perhaps in a somewhat different form. The member for Saanich—Gulf Islands is now the Minister of Natural Resources. My colleague, the hon. member for Burlington, has picked up this important initiative and I congratulate him for doing that.

I worked with the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands in the previous Parliament to get this bill enacted. The federal Liberal government at the time was supportive of developing a missing persons index and in fact launched a public consultation process that was completed last year. There are some issues the member knows about, none of which I believe are insurmountable, and I think we need to move toward a missing persons index.

There are some issues around privacy and jurisdiction along with some technical issues, and that is why the government at the time launched the public consultation process. That was completed last year. It was taken to the federal, provincial and territorial ministers of justice in November 2005. There were further working groups established and I believe it is on the agenda for the meeting coming up in November 2006, if my knowledge is right.

The officials were asked to look at various issues around cost, privacy, legal implications and to bring forward recommendations. Perhaps this bill has all the answers in it, that I do not know. I suspect not. The processes may be somewhat out of sync, but there are ways to deal with that. It is a very worthwhile initiative.

We definitely empathize with those who have relatives or friends who have gone missing. It is a horrible thing to have to go through. We know this happens with some frequency. A lot of people go missing and are subsequently located. The number, for example, of long term missing persons in Canada is less than 5,000 and an average of 270 new long term cases are recorded each year.

The Canadian Police Information Centre currently records a total of 286 partial sets of unidentified human remains. It is a challenge to find a match. People who are missing perhaps could be linked back to a crime scene or some other event with a DNA match. In the case of a person who is deceased, it would bring closure to that case and at least allow people to get on with their lives. They would know their missing relative or friend was located at a crime scene and that is the end of it.

There are, though, other situations where, for example, young people leave home and disappear. In some cases it may be because of some mischievous event. It might be a voluntary move on a person's part to leave home to travel and go under the radar. It raises some privacy issues with respect to DNA.

In a case such as that the relatives would be approached or there would be some interaction with relatives to identify DNA through personal belongings, et cetera. What happens, for example, if relatives themselves are involved in a crime? Do they have any privacy rights? If it is a deceased person, it is fairly straightforward, but if the police are able to match the DNA of a missing person with the DNA of a person at a crime scene who was either at large or convicted or a victim, what privacy rights would that person have?

Maybe they do not want to know about their families anymore for various reasons. There can be a lot of things that go on in families and for whatever reason, they might not want to be associated with their families anymore. What obligations and responsibilities come into play then? Those rules would have to be laid out very clearly and that is not always simple. It is surmountable, but it is not always simple.

There are also issues around jurisdiction. We never like to get bogged down with which jurisdiction has the responsibility, but the fact is that our Constitution lays out certain responsibilities. With respect to criminal law, the federal government has that responsibility; civil law and property rights are provincial. When we are talking about missing persons, that normally comes up in the context of local police work, and until such time as there is some criminality attached to it, or there is a suspicion that there is a crime involved, it is a local issue. These matters are dealt with often by local police and every province and jurisdiction has a different approach with respect to the DNA. That is why it is clearly appropriate for the federal government to be talking with the provinces and the territories to make an assessment of what is being done currently and what could be done with the National DNA Data Bank.

It is interesting to note that not all DNA is collected and kept in the National DNA Data Bank. We might have a missing person's DNA but we would not have necessarily all the DNA in the DNA Data Bank. In fact the last Parliament passed laws that reduced the judicial discretion in terms of feeding DNA to the DNA Data Bank. In this Parliament, there were further enhancements to that so that for major crimes, serious crimes, there is no discretion with respect to the DNA passing to the National DNA Data Bank. It is only applicable at this point, even with those changes, to the most heinous and serious of crimes, such as rape, murder and the like. There is currently no process for systematically gathering and comparing the DNA samples. That is an issue that has to be dealt with.

The consultation paper that involved a number of Canadians sought to get some views from experts and other interested parties on how one could put together this kind of missing person's index. That report is in and in a moment I will go through some of the findings and recommendations that came out of that consultation process.

There are different approaches to the privacy issues. We need to have a good debate around that.

There are different ways of structuring a missing person's index. It could be run at the provincial level and coordinated at the National DNA Data Bank level. It could be run at the National DNA Data Bank level and fed by the provinces and the territories.

There are issues like that which need to be worked on. In fact, this consultation process identified a number of different options for the government to look at and for the provincial, territorial and federal ministers to look at.

I am hoping that we make some progress. I hope that the member can take this to committee and somehow harmonize it with this consultation process and bring it into play, because we need it. It is an important tool that we could all use.

DNA Identification Act
Private Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on behalf of the Bloc Québécois about this private member's bill, Bill C-279, An Act to amend the DNA Identification Act (establishment of indexes).

The summary says:

This enactment amends the DNA Identification Act to provide for the establishment of a human remains index and a missing persons index to help law enforcement agencies search for and identify persons reported missing.

Hon. members know the effort that the Bloc Québécois makes to defend the interests of Quebeckers and, at the same time, defend areas of provincial jurisdiction. Once again, this House is debating this sort of bill. I will read a comment made by an analyst with the Parliament of Canada about Bill C-240, which was introduced during the previous Parliament and covered the same ground as Bill C-279, which is before us today. The analyst told us that the bill introduced by the member in question—who shall remain nameless—was ultra vires Parliament, because it concerned a local area of jurisdiction.

That means simply that this bill does not come under federal jurisdiction.

We can talk and talk in this House, but the government always turns a deaf ear. Before, it was the Liberals; now, it is the Conservatives. The government is always ready to encroach on areas of provincial jurisdiction. It is no wonder so many Quebeckers want to leave Canada and form their own country, Quebec. We are sick and tired of this constant interference. We are tired of investing time, money and energy in areas that do not come under federal jurisdiction. In fact, 23%, 24% or 25% of the money comes from Quebeckers.

The federal government has enough problems with its own areas of jurisdiction, as we can attest. Since the Conservative government was elected, we have watched it invest in the army, in arms, in law and order. The Criminal Code is a federal responsibility. The government has enough problems with its own areas of jurisdiction. It should let the provinces pass their own legislation and their own regulations in their own areas of jurisdiction.

As I said, the Bloc Québécois did not say that, it was a researcher from the Library of Parliament who said that this bill does not come under federal jurisdiction.

Earlier, my Liberal colleague openly admitted that there was a problem with jurisdiction. When there is a problem with jurisdiction, you do not table such a bill. It is simple. That avoids debates and, in the opinion of his colleagues, would avoid giving the Bloc Québécois a reason to argue. Too often, in this Parliament, we are right. In the case of this bill, we find quite simply that this is not a matter falling under federal jurisdiction.

It is not that there are not some good debates. Solving the fiscal imbalance is a good debate. It is a debate that we should have in this Parliament. We would be pleased to have members from the other parties table private members' bills in order to deal with the fiscal imbalance. Some would say that they cannot table such bills because they entail expenditures and therefore require royal recommendation.

However, this small bill, C-279, also requires royal recommendation given that it entails expenditures to create an index. When fellow members table bills requiring royal recommendation,they know that entails expenses and requires additional authorization. That also means that it requires supplementary budgets and that it is not a sure thing that it will be adopted. That is what it means.

Thus, the members should work on solving the problem of Quebeckers, namely the fiscal imbalance. The Bloc Québécois has never hidden the fact that the amount needed to resolve the fiscal imbalance is $3.9 billion. It is that simple. Any colleague from the other parties can table a private member's bill and ask for resolution of the fiscal imbalance, which is $3.9 billion for Quebec and some $12 billion for all of Canada. They would be helping one another out, they would be helping the citizens of their provinces and, at the same time, would perhaps ease some of the tension that exists between Quebec and the rest of Canada.

Members will have gathered from what I said that the Bloc Québécois will oppose Bill C-279. The reason for that is quite simple: the establishment of a registry for DNA identification or the establishment of indexes do not fall under federal jurisdiction; it is an area of provincial jurisdiction.

We are very respectful of the Constitution of Canada. As members know, Quebec has not signed the new Constitution. The ROC, the rest of Canada, gave itself a Constitution and cannot even abide by it. It is no wonder that Quebec did not sign it: that document was unacceptable to the people of Quebec.

I hope that everyone has noted the Bloc Québécois' desire to clarify its position. The Bloc Québecois is finding increasingly intolerable the introduction of bills having to do with areas of provincial jurisdiction. So, this is a nice, friendly warning to our colleagues and friends from other Canadian provinces: they have to respect provincial jurisdictions in the private members' bills they introduce.

I will repeat to make sure that it is clear. I am not the one saying this, because I am repeating what the analyst from the Library of Parliament said about Bill C-240, which was identical to Bill C-279. The analyst said that Bill C-240 was ultra vires the powers of Parliament as it would deal with a matter of local concern. The same is therefore true of Bill C-279, and that is why we have not requested any specific analysis from the Library of Parliament staff. We already had their analysis on Bill C-240.

So, it will come as no surprise to the hon. member who introduced Bill C-279 that the Bloc Québécois will be voting against that bill. I realize that this may sound persnickety and that the Bloc Québécois may appear to be fussy about this point. But if we want each level of government, both the federal government and the provinces, to have their jurisdictions respected, the first thing to do is to read the Constitution over. It is all set out very clearly in there. It was very clear to the analyst, and I hope it will be very clear as well to my hon. colleagues, that Bill C-279 does not fall under federal jurisdiction.

This brings me to the issue of the federal government's jurisdiction. As we know, some money was spent and more will be spent in the future. We can also see that this Conservative government, guided by its right-wing republican conservative vision, is investing a lot of money in the military and in defence material. Of course we cannot blame the government for doing that, because this area comes under its jurisdiction. The federal government is responsible for looking after the army. I think the Conservative government has clearly understood that, and this is why Canada is investing increasingly more in this area.

The problem is that we do not have debates in this House on the kind of armed forces that we want. When missions are sent to Afghanistan, there is no debate in the House, and the government does not seek the advice of hon. members. For example, when we go to Kenya to represent the Government of Canada and talk about the environment, as is the case now, there is no debate. Yet, the Bloc Québécois asked for a debate. The leader of our party rose in this House and asked the Prime Minister for a true debate, so that we can at last state our position to the Minister of the Environment, who will arrive in Kenya without the Canadian government's position.

This is not the first time the Government of Canada does not have a position. When the Liberals were in power, they did not have one either. The problem is, some might say we were lucky because at least they showed up. It is true that the current Conservative government has often been absent from major international meetings and during international talks.

I see that I have only one minute remaining, so I will wrap things up.

So Canada will show up in Kenya with empty pockets and empty hands because the Canadian government does not have a position and does not want to respect the Kyoto protocol. Obviously, the Conservative government is on the oil company payroll. This probably comes as no surprise to the people who watch and listen to what goes on in this House—they know the Conservative government is under the oil companies' collective thumb.

I doubt this is news to anyone. However, given the serious global warming problem we are facing, it is time to set aside our personal interests, take into account the common good and stand up for the best interests of all Quebeckers and Canadians who want the federal government to have a real agenda to meet the Kyoto protocol targets, rather than pass bills like C-279.

DNA Identification Act
Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Patrick Brown Barrie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I ask for the consent from all my colleagues in the House, on behalf of the member for Burlington, the sponsor of the bill, for this item to be designated to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.

DNA Identification Act
Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House?

DNA Identification Act
Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

DNA Identification Act
Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

An hon. member

No.

DNA Identification Act
Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Patrick Brown Barrie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak, in the second hour of debate, to Bill C-279, an act to amend the DNA Identification Act.

I am pleased the Government of Canada is committed to tackling crime and to ensuring its law enforcement officers have the tools and resources needed to do their jobs. I am proud that the government also remains committed to working in collaboration with provincial and territorial partners to develop effective tools to fight crime.

The bill proposed by the hon. member for Burlington suggests that the new index be added to the National DNA Data Bank. The new index would be used to hold the DNA profiles of both missing persons and unidentified human remains.

The bill proposes that these profiles should be cross-checked against each other and against the convicted offender and crime scene indices. The purpose of the cross-check would be to identify human remains. The government fully understands the principles behind this private member's bill. We are also sympathetic to the issues it raises.

DNA is an incredibly valuable tool for law enforcement. It is understandable that it could be seen as a way to aid in the investigation of missing persons. If we were to create a missing person index, we would be aiding a humanitarian aspect to the DNA data bank.

The question we must address, and one of the reasons why I have risen today in the House to be part of this debate, is should the National DNA Data Bank be used not only to help solve serious crimes, but also for compassionate and humanitarian reasons, to help solve often lengthy and emotionally charged missing persons cases?

I will give my hon. members in the House some background about how the Government of Canada already uses DNA to fight crime in our country. Here is some data for context.

There are currently between 500 and 600 sets of unidentified human remains in Canada. Approximately 100,000 missing person reports are made to police each and every year. Most cases are resolved quickly. I was pleased to learn that an estimated 95% of missing persons are located within 30 days. However, there are approximately 6,000 ongoing missing person cases recorded on the Canadian police information centre. Each year about 420 cases of people who have been missing for at least one year are added to this number.

My hon. colleagues may be wondering what the Government of Canada's role is in this issue.

First, officials from various federal departments are working with their counterparts in the provinces and territories to identify areas that can be improved in the National DNA Data Bank. Second, the RCMP operates the National DNA Data Bank on behalf of the Canadian law enforcement organizations.

Furthermore, there is federal legislation in place under the DNA Identification Act and further related provisions in the Criminal Code of Canada. DNA is used to solve crimes, assist police investigations by matching DNA profiles from individuals contained in two National DNA Data Bank indexes: the crime scene index and the convicted offender index. Related laboratory analysis of samples is done at the RCMP operated laboratories and in the provincial laboratories of Ontario and Quebec.

The addition of the missing persons index has been a work in progress for a number of years now. Let me provide a bit of background on its development.

It was during public consultations that proceeded the passage of the DNA Information Act in 1998 that the possibility of establishing a DNA missing person index was first raised. It was considered that such a national index would allow the DNA profile of a missing person or close biological relative to be compared to the DNA of found, unidentified human remains from jurisdictions across Canada. It was stated that a match could provide family members with confirmation of the death of a missing loved one and could assist with such issues as inheritance and insurance.

In 2003 the federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for justice directed officials to further explore the issues involved in the possible creation of a national, principally humanitarian missing persons index.

In mid-2005, a federal, provincial and territorial working group on the missing persons index conducted consultations that revealed broad support among the public for a national missing persons index that would be managed by the RCMP.

During the same year federal, provincial and territorial ministers confirmed their continue commitment to developing options for an effective nationally, principally humanitarian missing persons index that would fit within the existing criminal law regime. They directed officials to complete their work by examining the cost, the privacy and the legal implications of a missing persons index. These officials were tasked to bring forward recommendations.

Federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for justice met in October to review the recent progress of the working group. Ministers noted that the work was well advanced and directed the working group to focus on outstanding issues relating to cross-matching, jurisdiction and cost. At the time provincial and territorial ministers indicated their support for the establishment of a missing persons index, but expressed some concern about the proposals in Bill C-279.

Ministers agreed in principle to the concept of a missing persons index and directed the FPT working group to work to resolve key ongoing concerns and report back to FPT deputy ministers at their next meeting in January 2007. Both the Minister of Public Safety and the Minister of Justice agreed to bring forward FPT concerns on a missing persons index and parliamentary discussions of Bill C-279. It seems sensible to encourage any committee hearings to consider hearing from provincial and territorial authorities as witnesses.

Speaking of today's proposal, this brings me to our current examination of this option to help fight crime. As it is proposed, Bill C-279 would amend the DNA Identification Act by creating within the National DNA Data Bank new DNA indices of missing persons and unidentified human remains.

As I noted earlier, the proposed bill also adds to the principles of the act the goal of bringing relief and comfort to relatives of missing persons. It proposes the new indices should be cross-checked both against each other and against the criminal indices maintained by the National DNA Data Bank. This process would help identify found human remains.

The government has identified legal concerns with this use of the DNA data bank. The creation of a missing persons index raises certain jurisdictional, legal and privacy issues as well as jurisdictional and financial questions about which the government would provide the resources to proceed with such an initiative.

The government understands that there may be public support for a national DNA missing persons index program and that there is a chance that it could help law enforcement agencies solve missing persons cases. We also understand this could bring about relief and comfort to the relatives of loved ones of missing persons. However, if this use of the DNA were developed as a tool with which to fight crime, we must consider the implications on the privacy of Canadians.

I would also note that further analysis of Bill C-279 has revealed that other legal concerns would also need to be addressed before the bill was adopted.

This is a worthy initiative. The government is studying ways to ease the emotional burden of Canadian families with loved ones who go missing. We are reviewing the proposal with our colleagues in the provinces and territories. As of this debate, we still need more time to study the matter to see how adding a new index to the DNA data bank can be done effectively in the interest of public safety.

I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to this bill today, and I applaud the member for Burlington for bringing this debate and discussion forward.

DNA Identification Act
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased tonight to speak on Bill C-279 to amend the DNA Identification Act. It is certainly a worthy initiative and one which I will say right off the bat should go to committee for further study.

I am somewhat surprised, however, in reading the comments of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety that the government has not seen fit to be supportive, particularly in terms of an initiative started by this side of the House prior to the last election.

It is important for Canadians to understand that over 100,000 people go missing every year in this country. Six thousand missing persons cases are currently unresolved. Another 450 come online annually.

There are 15,000 samples of unidentified DNA recovered from crime scenes across this country and currently stored in the RCMP's National DNA Data Bank in Ottawa. As well, there are hundreds of unidentified John Does and Jane Does in morgues across this country.

As members know, I am sure, there are current restrictions in terms of dealing with DNA under the DNA Identification Act. It is impossible to match DNA to those thousands of missing persons in the country currently. Given the need for a missing persons index and a DNA Data Bank and the widespread support of Canadians, law enforcement professionals, the provinces and territorial governments, DNA indices for missing persons should be created.

This is obviously an inter-jurisdictional issue. There often will be local law enforcement people at a crime scene and there often will be a provincial coroner involved in these cases, obviously, and therefore those are the kinds of issues that I believe are worthy of examination at the committee level. I think this is important. I think it is something that we should be moving forward on. Clearly there are some issues, which some members have already identified, with regard to this proposal, but I do not think that they should block the movement of this bill to committee.

One of the purposes of a committee is obviously to do more in depth work. I congratulate the mover, the member for Burlington, for the fact that this needs to have a hearing. We need to get in the experts and the witnesses and look at it. I would hope that members of the government, particularly the minister, also will look favourably on this proposal.

Amendments from the committee clearly would need to identify, for example, federal-provincial jurisdictions. The federal government of course has jurisdiction in terms of the Criminal Code, but in terms of cooperation with the provinces and the territories we established a National DNA Data Bank that is used for criminal investigations, as we have just heard from some hon. members.

The creation of this national DNA MPI, or missing persons index, would reassure families of missing persons that current and future unidentified individuals will be checked on a voluntary basis across the country. Missing persons investigations, as I have said, are led by local police forces and of course we have provincial coroners who have jurisdiction over unidentified human remains. Barring an interprovincial or international element in the disappearance of the person who has been found, the matter would be one of local concern and therefore would be within provincial jurisdiction.

I believe that this is certainly a commendable and worthy idea to move forward. We need to deal with the fact that there are many families in this country who clearly are agonizing over whether or not a loved one is in fact deceased. A way to help that clearly is to have this type of legislation in place. I think it would be helpful.

Again, I urge all members to support this bill going to committee, where a good examination of the legislation can be done.