House of Commons Hansard #68 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was person.

Topics

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to respond to the two key points that I think the member tried to raise.

One is the whole issue of the big jails mentality. The member must not have been listening to my speech when I pointed out the prevention and rehabilitation aspects that our government is heavily involved in. I hope he has read the transformation agenda on the Correctional Service of Canada website. It clearly outlines the government's preventive, restorative and rehabilitative efforts. It is important that we keep that message clear.

Bill C-10 did not address these issues; that is not what Bill C-10 was about. Bill C-10 was a compilation of five years of work on the part of this government. The bill's individual components had been before the House and committee many times. I do not know the total number of hours, but they had received intense scrutiny. Yes, this government was open to the input of committee members at every stage along the line. Does that mean the government automatically accepts, endorses and implements amendments to the legislation? Of course not. That is not the function of government. Government needs to hear all the evidence, weigh the evidence and upon the best information take action. That is the responsibility of the government.

I am proud to be part of this government that has taken decisive action to restore balance to our criminal justice system.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Simcoe—Grey
Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Madam Speaker, there has been a considerable amount of debate and public concern with respect to the apparent limitations around the scope of citizen's arrest. The Minister of Justice is quoted as saying:

Our government is committed to putting real criminals behind bars. Canadians who have been the victim of a crime should not be re-victimized by the criminal justice system.

I appreciate my colleague's comments and what he had to say about some of those real life experiences that he and his constituents have experienced.

I would ask the member to walk us through the citizen's arrest reforms that are embedded in this piece of legislation.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her good work in helping us to implement some of the changes requested by citizens in every one of the ridings of members, and not just on this side of the House. Our colleagues across the way would tell us that they have been contacted by constituents in their ridings asking them to take action on behalf of victims. For far too long the victims of this country have been ignored as it relates to the criminal justice system.

In direct response to my colleague's question, it is important to note the two key elements of the changes in the bill. The citizen needs to make the arrest at the time the offence occurs or make that arrest within a reasonable amount of time after the citizen has found the person committing a criminal offence and must have reasonable grounds that it was not feasible to call the police in those circumstances.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to follow up on the question from my colleague from Winnipeg North. He asked whether the government would look at potential amendments based on merit.

The answer he received was that Bill C-10 had been widely discussed and amendments were considered. Of course, we know that zero amendments were accepted. In fact, there were several amendments put forward by my colleague from Mount Royal that were rejected out of hand at the committee railroading process, which later the minister decided actually were worthwhile. The minister tried to bring them forward at report stage but the amendments were rejected by the Speaker because they should have been done at committee stage.

This is exactly what we want to avoid. We want those reasonable amendments to be considered, discussed and potentially accepted in committee where it should happen. Will the member advocate for that with his minister and colleagues?

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Madam Speaker, in direct answer to that question I can say without any reservation that every member on this side of the House listens carefully to those ideas that are put forward by members of the opposition. However, I do not serve on the justice committee and I cannot speak for that committee. Each committee is the master of its own destiny.

I can assure the member that on this side of the House we listen to members on the opposite side in this House of Commons. As important, we listen to the constituents in our ridings who have been the victims of many of these offences that have literally destroyed the lives of our young people, whether it is a sexual offence, or getting hooked on drugs, or it is a violent crime that has injured them or, in too many cases, ended their lives.

We are listening. We will work with our opposition partners to get the best action for Canadians.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Before resuming debate, I would like to advise the House that from here on the interventions will be of 10 minutes, followed by questions and comments of five minutes.

The hon. member for Winnipeg Centre.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I can barely introduce what I want to say in 10 minutes, but at least I will try to make the most of what little time I have.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

John Baird

You had better ask for unanimous consent to go over the time.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Well maybe I will carry on. Unanimous consent, perhaps, would be a consideration if I do have more things to say than time permits.

As we approach the end of this parliamentary session of the 41st Parliament, I appreciate the tone and the content of the debate we are having in the House of Commons today. It has actually been a meaningful exchange for the most part on a very thorny question, a question that deserves the attention of Parliament.

Let me begin by recognizing and acknowledging Mr. David Chen, the owner of the Lucky Moose Foodmart in Toronto, which I suppose was the catalyst for the whole debate that we are having today. A hard-working new Canadian running a small corner grocery store was being repeatedly victimized by shoplifters and thieves, et cetera, and in a moment of frustration took action into his own hands, and apprehended and detained one of those who was knowingly and repeatedly stealing from him.

It is a matter of competing rights that we are wrestling with today. I will confess that I am not a lawyer. I have been somewhat of a bunkhouse lawyer over the years as a union leader on job sites where I have had to perhaps wrestle with this matter of competing rights, but I am glad to hear and I am glad to see that there are very competent and knowledgeable members of Parliament present today who are intervening with meaningful contributions to this debate. As I say, by and large, it has been civil, it has been interesting, and it has been meaningful.

I also confess some bias in my own personal experience. I had occasion to catch two people breaking into my home one time as I came home from work. I found two teenagers, who had just broken into the house next door and drank all the booze, who were now breaking into the rear lower windows of my house. As I pulled into the driveway, my headlights shone on these kids kicking in my window.

I tried to stop them and apprehended one, but while I was doing that, the other one grabbed my four-year-old son by the hair and started dragging him down the street, and told me he would trade me my kid for the kid I was holding.

As any parent would, I saw red. I dropped the one youth and sprinted after the one who had kidnapped my son, and ended up giving him a fairly sound thumping, which I thought was well-deserved at the time. My wife participated as well. If you have ever tried to wrestle down a 15-year-old, Madam Speaker, all hopped up on hooch, it is not as easy as it might look, even if you are a fit carpenter

To make a long story short in what little time I have, I ended up in court for the next six months for assaulting this young man who was trying to break into my house. It took six months of legal appearances and an awful lot of time and energy for the Crown prosecutors to finally drop the charges against my wife and I, and apply the charges where they belonged, to the break and enter.

I confess to a bias that I am sympathetic to the bill, and I also want to acknowledge and pay tribute to the member for Trinity—Spadina, who is the member of Parliament who represents the neighbourhood where the Lucky Moose Foodmart resides. I believe she has done a good job in advocating on behalf of her constituent, whom I believe the law did not serve well.

The Crown dropped the charges for kidnapping and carrying a dangerous weapon, which turned out to be a box cutter that any store owner would normally carry with him anyway, but charges were proceeded with against Mr. Chen of forcible confinement and assault for apprehending this thief who was stealing from his store

When he went to court months later, after the great cost and expense of having to defend himself, these charges were dropped, but it pointed to the inconsistencies, ambiguities and overlapping provisions in the Criminal Code to deal with these two competing rights. That is always the difficulty.

I should share with the House that whenever I canvass and survey the constituents of my riding as to what their top of mind concerns are, overwhelmingly, by a factor of four to one, the number one top of mind concern is crime and safety on their streets. People have a right to walk their streets without fear of being assaulted or molested. They take that very seriously in the inner city of Winnipeg where, I am not proud to say, crime and safety are often legitimate concerns.

They also want more steps taken to get guns off the streets. There are families in my riding that will not sleep in the outside rooms of their houses for fear of the gun play that occurs every night. They are afraid of stray bullets going through their homes. They want guns off the street. They want tougher measures and controls on crime and safety issues. They want less guns in their communities, and fairness in the administration and application of justice.

There are times, especially in an area that is plagued by a disproportionate amount of crime and violence, when homeowners have to take things into their own hands to protect themselves and their families. They should not be arrested and prosecuted for what is, by any reasonable objective third party's point of view, legitimate self-defence and defence of their property.

If people tuned in to watch the proceedings of the House of Commons today, this is the kind of bill that Canadians would agree Parliament should be seized with and it is the tone, content and type of debate they would be pleased we are having. My only criticism is that it is highly unlikely any amendments will be contemplated or tolerated during the consideration of this bill. I can say this with some certainty because in the entire 41st Parliament, the government has never accepted a single amendment on a single piece of legislation since May 2 when Parliament began.

Any reasonable person would have to concede that some of these issues are not straightforward. Some of them need careful deliberation and would benefit from a healthy, robust debate, exchange, and legitimate points of view put forward by members from the opposition. No one has a monopoly on good ideas in the House of Commons or in Parliament. In fact, the way to test the strength of arguments is to subject them to rigorous and robust debate. That tests the merits of the positions people hold.

I believe that this balance is not as it should be yet. There are recommendations for amendments that New Democrats would like in this bill. We support half of the bill at least because much of its origins are from a private member's bill put forward by my colleague from Trinity—Spadina. There are further elements of the bill that give us great concern. There are recommendations from the NDP justice critic, who is a well-respected lawyer and has given both professional and personal considerations to the issues we are dealing with today. They should be treated seriously and incorporated into the bill, so that it will stand the test of time, and stand up to challenges in court and serve Canadians well.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Denis Blanchette Louis-Hébert, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for his speech. Two very important points stood out. On the one hand, he mentioned that both sides of the House want to improve the legislation and this bill helps to some degree. On the other hand, he asked that the bill be improved and pointed out that, despite our best efforts, not one amendment to any bill has been accepted thus far.

I wonder if the member could really emphasize which parts of the bill could be improved. I hope the members opposite will listen carefully to these suggestions.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, our complaint with this bill is similar to that with previous pieces of legislation, that it has not fully matured yet. It has not gestated into a finished product. It is like a cake in the oven that is not yet baked. It still needs work and we are not doing anyone a service by going ahead with incomplete legislation that we would be stuck with for a long time. It is unlikely that these clauses of the Criminal Code will be reopened again in our generation. So it is incumbent on us to get it right.

I point out that sections 34 and 35 of the Criminal Code, which deal with the right to self-defence, have inherent ambiguities that have caused difficulty in the jurisprudence since 1892 and it is only now that we are addressing them in the Parliament of the latter days of 2011.

What we do today has a lasting impact. We want to get it right because it does a great disservice to ordinary Canadians like Mr. David Chen if we do not get it right. Imagine the confusion of a new Canadian, proud to be a small businessman in his chosen country, when this kind of crazy thing happens to him and he winds up being the one accused of wrongdoing when all he is trying to do is protect himself.

We do not want that to ever happen again. We want to ensure that the language we incorporate in the context of this bill precludes that from ever happening again to any Canadian.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech and especially for the very personal story that he started out with. I am sure my colleagues here would agree that most of us find it very difficult to imagine the member becoming angry, but I am so glad that he was forthright in sharing that story because it does illustrate the fact that in the heat of these moments, when people have no option to call the police, they want to take action to protect the person with them or the property.

My colleague shared a number of facts about his riding in Winnipeg, the high crime statistics there, and certainly that is a cause for concern, not just in Winnipeg but across our country especially in our urban areas. I wonder if my colleague would agree that it is time in this country to restore that sense of balance to our criminal justice system that begins to recognize the rights of victims.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

11 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I take my colleague's question very seriously. I would be willing to entertain any measures that actually had the desired results. We know from empirical evidence that the best results to give us safer streets come from more money spent on crime prevention and rehabilitation, and substance abuse treatment centres.

I will give one example. A young woman, a sex trade worker, walked into my office not two months ago. She plies her trade right in front of my office in Winnipeg and she is clearly addicted to crack cocaine. She said she wanted to get off the street, she wanted to change her life. So we started phoning around and finally found a treatment centre that could take her in six weeks. We cannot tell a junky to come back in six weeks. When people are willing to make a change in their life, they need those supports and that help now.

I do not say this in criticism of this government or the provincial government. I am just saying that more attention needs to be put to crime prevention than to crime punishment and we would have safer streets.

Amendments to Community Plans
Routine Proceedings

11 a.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam
B.C.

Conservative

James Moore Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages

Madam Speaker, I would like to table today amendments to community plans for each of the following communities in Canada's national parks: Jasper and Field. These are documents that should have been tabled in routine proceedings, but I do so now.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-26, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (citizen's arrest and the defences of property and persons), be read the second time and referred to a committee.