House of Commons Hansard #139 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was arrest.

Topics

12:35 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I said at the beginning of my speech, using a story in the news to amend the Criminal Code is always dramatic. An NDP member did that. She proposed an amendment to the Criminal Code regarding citizen's arrests and the Liberal Party did the same. This is part of our job as parliamentarians. The real problem is that the Conservative Party took advantage of the demands of the NDP and the Liberals to put its own twist on things. It is taking the opportunity to expand the notion. I realize what the member is asking me, but I would say that an NDP colleague opened the door. Now we must do everything in our power to curb the right-wing Conservatives' appetite and their ideology that is focused on the individual rather than on the common good. All of our colleagues will have to work on that in committee.

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-60. I have been watching this issue, like the rest of us have, for some time now. In fact, my colleague, the member for Trinity—Spadina, took the initiative and presented Bill C-565 in the House, which was a private member's bill designed to deal with this issue. I give her full credit for responding to her constituent. I suggest that this man is not alone in what he went through. There are many similar cases across the country every year. It is serious and important that this Parliament respond to these situations.

Mr. David Chen, as many of us now know, is the owner of the Lucky Moose Food Mart. He caught a thief who had repeatedly stolen from his store. Mr. Chen was charged with forcible confinement, assault and kidnapping because he caught the criminal an hour later outside he store and held him until the police arrived.

As was indicated by the member for Trinity—Spadina, many store owners in her constituency have had a similar experience as the Lucky Moose owner. She also mentioned at least nine other similar examples. The amendment in her bill would allow the owners to arrest criminals without warrant so that they could be turned over to the police. I believe she presented a petition signed by 10,000 people.

We need to consider what the store owner has gone through. My notes indicate that he has 20 to 40 cameras in the store, which is certainly a large expense for his small business. It sounds to me like he is constantly under attack by people stealing from his store. When Mr. Chen apprehended the thief, he had to go through at least nine months, perhaps longer, of stress and legal bills. I think the prosecution perhaps over-reacted, which is why we have this bill before us in the first place. If the prosecution had been reasonable and not charged him with all of these offences, I do not think we would see the bill we have in front of us today. However, that is the genesis of why this bill has come to the fore.

The government, never wanting to miss an opportunity given an election may be forthcoming, charged onto the scene. The Prime Minister, with the Minister of Justice and the press in tow, rolled into Mr. Chen's store and announced that he would adopt the provisions of the bill.

I believe the Liberal member for Eglinton—Lawrence has a similar bill that was later produced. The government was going to incorporate these bills into his bill. Of course, as we have seen from the government, when its bills come out they do not exactly mirror 100% what the other bills do. There are some considerations and concerns that we have with respect to Bill C-60, which is why we are interested in seeing this bill proceed to committee where some amendments can be made at that time.

As indicated, our party is recommending support for splitting the bill. We want to pass the amendments to section 494 of the Criminal Code at all stages without additional debate. Then we would like to refer the additional changes to the committee for a detailed study. The minister this morning and other members have indicated that we are dealing with five sections from the original Criminal Code of 1892. These five separate provisions create distinct defences and they all depend on the type of property and severity of the offences. So we are talking about something here that is going to need more detailed study at committee.

If we could split the bill, pass the amendments to section 494 of the Criminal Code at all stages without additional debate, and then refer the additional changes to the committee for study, that would be the way to proceed.

In terms of the amendments to section 494(2) of the Criminal Code, dealing with citizen's arrest, to permit arrest without warrant within a reasonable period, we would want to change the present wording. This change was originally proposed by the NDP and by the member for Trinity—Spadina in her private member's bill, Bill C-565, as a result of the “Lucky Moose” situation, which I have explained.

The amendment to section 494 of the Criminal Code has been supported in principle by the chiefs of police and the prosecutors and defence counsels. However, there has been no significant call for the additional changes by those who enforce and prosecute the law. That is why we would like to have this looked at further in terms of those provisions.

We would also recommend splitting the bill because Bill C-60 proposes compressing sections 34-42 of the Criminal Code which deal with: the defence of the person, sections 34-37; and property, sections 38-42 into two new parts. The stated rationale being:

--to clarify the laws on self-defence and defence of property so that Canadians--including the police, prosecutors and the courts–can more easily understand and apply the law.

We also have serious concerns about the overreaching nature of these changes and the possible unintended consequences that may result. There are already press reports concerning this bill and this incident which would give rise to some of the concerns mentioned by my colleagues. The members for Nanaimo—Cowichan; Skeena—Bulkley Valley; and the Western Arctic have all indicated concerns about how far things could develop in terms of vigilantism and how this would be communicated through the press.

As I said, we barely have the bill before Parliament and I have numerous press clippings indicating those very concerns, and perhaps exaggerating the case, because that is how we sell newspapers in this country. This could be misinterpreted by certain people who might feel that somehow the law has been changed and there is no limitation on what they can do to arrest a person.

The reality is we are simply providing that the person will have the power of arrest but on the basis that should there be a police officer available or if one can be reached then he or she must turn that person over to the police in short order. This is not designed to let people become vigilantes and mete out their own justice when and where they like. They will have to deal with the situation as it exists right now.

Another reality is that the bill has come about because of prosecution misjudgments. There is no other way to describe it. We have had prosecutions, such as this case, where a person has been charged with kidnapping. When the prosecution overreacts like that, then it is reasonable to have a law in place to specify that there is some leeway. However, on the other side of the coin, how far do we take this? These are some of the concerns that our colleagues and other members have indicated in their questions.

In terms of Bill C-60 itself, the legislation would:

--expand the legal authority for a private citizen to make an arrest within a reasonable period of time after they find that person committing a criminal offence either on or in relation to their property, ensuring the proper balance between the powers of citizens and those of the police. It would also bring much-needed reforms to simplify the complex Criminal Code provisions on self-defence and defence of property, and clarify where reasonable use of force is permitted in relation to the above.

I did mention that the Criminal Code was promulgated in 1892. The original Criminal Code has these five separate provisions from 1892. They are all in separate sections and vary depending on the distinct defences. However, those depend on the type of property and severity of the offences.

It sounds like a very confusing mess to try to sort out. Pulling these things together in one area is probably the way that we should resolve the issue. But as I had indicated, we want to ensure that we spend some time looking at that and the fact that particular aspect of it is not something that has been the subject of a lot of concern to the police forces and those applying the law. It gives us more reason to want to take a closer look at it. Perhaps it is something that had not been considered.

The proposed amendments to section 494(2) of the Criminal Code on citizen's arrest would:

--authorize a private citizen to make an arrest within a reasonable period of time after he or she finds someone committing a criminal offence that occurs on or in relation to property. This power of arrest would only be authorized when there are reasonable grounds to believe that it is not feasible in the circumstances for the arrest to be made by a peace officer--

That deals with the concern that somehow people would just simply ignore the police. They would still have to contact the police and turn the person over to the police as quickly as possible.

In terms of reasonable use of force, the legislation will make it clear by a cross-reference to the Criminal Code that the use of force is authorized in the citizen's arrest, but there are limits placed on how much force can be used. One cannot arrest a shoplifter and take him out back and beat him unrecognizable. That is unacceptable and would get one into a lot of trouble. However, one would be able to simply make the arrest using reasonable force knowing that he or she would not be charged with kidnapping or have to defend themselves in court for a couple of years and run up huge legal fees as a result.

In essence, the laws permit the reasonable use of force taking into account all of the circumstances of a particular case. That is how the courts look at it. They look at all of the circumstances, not just one.

That is why reading press reports is not always a very accurate way of understanding what really happened. The press view is simply one person trying to fit the story into two or three columns, once again, wanting to sell newspapers, there could be a sensational element thrown into the case. People should not believe everything they read in the press.

A person is not entitled to use excessive force in a citizen's arrest. That is very clear. I want to repeat that, a person is not entitled to use excessive force in a citizen's arrest. It can only be reasonable force.

In terms of other important considerations, a citizen's arrest is a very serious and potentially dangerous undertaking. Unlike a peace officer, a private citizen is neither tasked with the duty to preserve and maintain the public peace nor, generally speaking, properly trained to apprehend suspected criminals.

We do not want people who may be watching too many movies thinking that somehow they are going to be able to go out there and take on knife-wielding criminals, trying to stop them. We want people to do exactly what they are doing right now, reporting incidents to the police and getting them on the scene as quickly as possible.

In most cases an arrest consists of either actually seizing or touching a person's body with a view to detaining them, or by using words whereby the person submits to the arrest. Citizen's arrests made without careful consideration of the risk factors may have serious unintended physical or legal consequences for those involved.

When deciding if a citizen's arrest is appropriate, a person should consider whether a peace officer is available to intervene at that time. If their personal safety or that of others will be compromised by attempting an arrest, they should report information about the crime to the police instead of taking action on their own. If they have the reasonable belief regarding the suspect's criminal conduct and identity, then they can turn over the suspect to the police without delay once an arrest is made.

I have been in the insurance business for 32 years and we have had instances of robbery. Many other agencies have as well. Our staff has been instructed by the police force to just simply give up the money. We do not want people being heroes. We do not want people trying to attack the person who is holding up the office. Whether they can see a gun, or a knife, or whether it is just a fake gun, the fact of the matter is the police do not want staff in businesses or offices taking action against these people because of the possibility that things could go wrong. It is not worth losing one's life over $100 out of a till. We instruct our staff to simply turn over whatever money they have to the thief, then phone the police afterwards and let things develop as they might.

In some ways things will not change. The practices we have will simply continue as they have before. The police will be called, the police will do the arrests. In those few cases where the store owners, shop owners or homeowners take action on their own, at least they are not going to be faced with kidnapping or confinement charges and all the other ridiculous charges that this man was charged with, as well as the cost and stress of having to fight it.

I have quite a number of other points to make. I will simply defer to questioners and perhaps will answer some more points there.

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like some clarification. It is my understanding that as the law exists today, if somebody walks into a store and commits an offence, the shopkeeper is allowed to arrest that person. However, the difference with this bill is that this could now take place subsequent to the fact. According to our current law the person cannot wait for three or four hours and then when he sees that person on the street arrest him or her. That is my understanding of what happened to this poor gentleman in Toronto.

I would like my hon. colleague to clarify this. Is the difference in what is proposed in the law basically the time period? In other words, now there is no time period, so this person could be arrested subsequent to committing the act.

March 4th, 2011 / 12:55 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, we will send the bill to committee for clarification. We will have witnesses make presentations on the bill and deal with the various aspects of it.

We want people to do what they have done before. When a robbery is in progress, we want them to report it immediately to the police and not put themselves at risk. We want them to give the thief the money and protect their lives. We do not want to see examples of people trying to be heroes, whether they are chasing down the suspects at the time of the burglary or chasing them out of the store and apprehending them an hour or two later.

We do not want to encourage that kind of activity because police officers are paid to do a job. They are trained to do a job and they know how to do it. We want people to report the issue to the police. We want more action from the police. That is what frustrates these store owners. They phone and police officers do not show up or they do not show up quick enough.

That is why this law is good. It is will complement what is missing right now.

1 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Elmwood—Transcona for laying out the situation that resulted in at least part of the bill and then some of the concerns with it.

I specifically reference section 3 of the bill. Subsection 3.(2) states:

—a person...may arrest a person without a warrant if they find them committing a criminal offence on or in relation to that property and

(a) they make the arrest at that time; or

(b) they make the arrest within a reasonable time after the offence is committed and they believe on reasonable grounds that it is not feasible in the circumstances for a peace officer to make the arrest.

That section of the bill directly comes from the member for Trinity—Spadina's private member's bill as a result of what happened with the Lucky Moose Food Mart store owner. The bill is more than just that section. The bill would add some additional sections to supposedly clarify the laws on self-defence and defence of properties.

We have some additional sections that would amend the Criminal Code. It seems, from input that we are receiving already from people, there has been undue haste in proposing these extra amendments to the Criminal Code.

Could the member comment on what he sees as a problem with putting forward proposed amendments where we do not know what the consequences of those would be?

1 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member raises a very valid point. The original provisions she talked about were from the original 1892 Criminal Code. Somehow we have gone from 1892 to where we are now and nobody has seen a reason to make these changes until now, just before the election.

It is not that we are opposed to these. Our critic has explained that we are talking about five separate provisions and there are these very different defences in each one of these provisions. Then it ties in and relates to the types of property and the severity of offences. It is almost like a Rubik's cube. To rush this through like the government wants to, there is a possibility that things will be missed. That is why we say we are prepared to deal with the one part of the bill in a reasonably expeditious way to support the government on that issue.

However, with regard to the other parts of the bill, we want to take a little closer look at them. Once again, we have not had any real objections on the part of those bills in the last 100 years and the police officers who enforce the laws have not really brought that to our attention as being a top-of-mind concern. Maybe there are some concerns, but we want a better explanation.

We will deal with that when we get into the committee, and I hope we can get the bill in there fairly soon.

1 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, after the justice minister made his speech today, we put forward a proposal. We are in a minority parliament situation and just a couple of weeks away from a budget and its potential failure and therefore a potential election. If the government is serious about making some changes in the lives of Canadians, particularly around the question of timeliness, when an alleged infraction happens, or someone steals something or there has been some sort of violation, we have suggested, and this came from the member for Trinity—Spadina, that the government extend the time in which a citizen's arrest is permissible. I think we can find common agreement in the House on this.

There are two other parts to the bill which we may need to look into, and that is what we want to do in committee. However, if the government is interested in moving this part forward, making things different, we have offered the option to fast track it. The minister and the government have often complained, sometimes incorrectly, about us stalling legislation. In this case, we are actually encouraging moving it forward. Why is the government refusing that request?

In this period of uncertainty as to whether this Parliament will still be here three weeks from now, why not move something forward on which all parties could agree? Why not extend the time allowed for a citizen's arrest to be made, which is essentially immediate and in the moment, to something more reasonable, such as a few hours? Why is the government refusing to act on behalf of victims?

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, we have seen this kind of positioning before by the Conservatives, where they are willing to cut off their noses to spite their faces. Although, with respect to the case of Karla Homolka, they were willing to separate that off and get it through in one or two days. It did work there. If it worked there, then why do we not try the same thing here?

We have made it clear that we are prepared to be expeditious with this part of the bill because it is essentially what is in Bill C-565, sponsored by the member for Trinity—Spadina. We have no problem with expediting that part of the bill because it is fairly straightforward. We would simply be extending the timeline for a citizen's arrest.

As I indicated, all those other points may or may not be valid amendments. By insisting that we keep these things bundled will basically slow the whole process down too much. Then the committee process will take an excessive amount of time and we may be unable to get the bill done as expeditiously as we could if we separated out that provision.

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, as my colleagues have said, now they get to ask me the grilling questions.

First, I have to recognize and honour the work of the member for Trinity—Spadina. I know she is watching now. She has been engaged in this from day one. Nobody in the House has done more than the member for Trinity—Spadina.

It is of value to all of us to recognize that there is an important role we all play as members of Parliament in responding to our constituents, particularly at a time like this. A shopkeeper in her part of the world was unduly charged with some pretty serious offences, like kidnapping, for having made a citizen's arrest, but not in the time that the law prescribes.

Her reaction was twofold. One was to meet with the citizen and find out exactly what had happened, speak with police and prosecutors and, more than that, start to design the solutions. It is one thing in opposition to criticize. It is an even more important role when we are able to provide proposals to the government, which is what she did. The government has taken that acorn of a good idea and put it into Bill C-60.

The NDP has suggested to the government that if it were truly serious about this issue, it could work with us. It could talk with us now and we could fast track the element that is most critical to the question of citizen's arrest, which is timeliness. When something happens, how much time does a citizen have to make the arrest or must the arrest be made only in the act and commission of the alleged crime?

It is important for people watching to understand that the situation. That person had in fact stolen from Mr. Chen at the Lucky Moose and then ran down the street. The individual came back several hours later, quite audaciously, and attempted to steal again. If he had in fact stolen something the second time and had been grabbed by Mr. Chen, everything would have been fine and we would not even be talking about this. However, the man failed in his second attempt at theft.

Mr. Chen, recognizing it was the same fellow trying to do the same thing he had done just a few hours earlier, made a citizen's arrest, which under our Criminal Code is permissible. The problem was he had waited too long. Some number of hours had passed since the first crime.

When all of this came to light and went to the crown prosecutor, Mr. Chen was charged with a whole series of crimes. I believe assault was one, as well as confinement, which is essentially kidnapping. He was charged with kidnapping in a situation like that. When Canadians read this story or watch it on the evening news, they were offended that he was made a criminal. Somebody was attempting to defend his property and to do right, which was to arrest the individual because police officers were not available. The last thing members want to do with any legislation, guidance and laws that we establish in this place is to make somebody who started as a victim into a criminal, especially if something the person did was not criminal.

This is the point where we have to pause, following all of our discourse in this place and after talking to Canadians, and not give in to the temptation of oversimplifying what we talk about or suggest that a citizen's arrest is easy, safe and should be done on a daily basis. Any police officer will say that arresting somebody in the commission of a crime or after the fact is a dangerous thing to do. The criminals that people try to arrest could be violent or armed. For a citizen to do this is a very risky thing.

We saw the tragedy recently in the southern United States, where a lunatic with a gun shot a bunch of citizens, one of them a congresswoman. In the end, a citizen made the arrest. Along with friends, he was able to tackle the gunman to the ground. The only reason they were able to stop the guy was because he had to reload his gun, which is legal to have. Thankfully, the clip is not legal here. There had been a proposition in Congress earlier to allow guns with even bigger clips. One can imagine that if that law had passed, that fellow could have shot a lot more people that day. I digress, but in that moment a citizen's arrest was made, a highly risky thing to do.

It has been said a number of times by my colleagues in the House that we should not create an environment that promotes anything that looks, smells, tastes or gives the appearance of vigilantism. We have national, provincial and municipal police forces in our country. They do a good job for us. They do a dangerous job for us as citizens. This is how we come together as a society and determine that we will not police ourselves, that we will not have vigilante forces. We will have professional police forces, and that cannot be emphasized enough.

One of the concerns I have with the government is that in its tendency to oversimplify sometimes complicated questions, it wants to put them in eight second sound bytes, thirty second commercials with lots of dark images. On an issue like this, we cannot ever send out a message to Canadians that it is somehow now permissible to start seeking out criminals and forming our own little forces to do what police do because that is what we pay them and train them to do. It is an important consideration.

Some of my colleagues in the Conservative Party think this is not real, but we have incidences of this actually happening in society, so let us just be careful with it. Let us be thoughtful about it. Let us not be jingoistic. Let us not oversimplify the situation. That is what we are calling for in the New Democratic Party and I think it is a reasonable request, because oftentimes when making laws, one of the things we must be cautious about is making a law that applies to everybody based on somebody, one person guiding an entire law. That is a dangerous precedent.

The Conservatives love to hold up a particular case and then run politically on that case and make a sweep of laws, but it also runs the risk of unintended consequences. We make a law for one particular situation and it actually applies quite well, but the discipline of this place is that our laws apply to everybody in all circumstances and all moments.

If the Conservatives were truly serious about changing the situation that happened at the Lucky Moose store and some other situations, which is to allow a greater amount of time for a citizen to make an arrest, the New Democrats have offered to fast-track that. We said that we should get it done today. They could walk across the aisle, meet us halfway and we will do it. We are ready to change the law for the better.

The justice minister did not answer the question when I put that offer to him earlier. We are doing it explicitly publicly and we are doing it privately. We are willing and able to do this if what we are trying to do is make the laws better for Canadians.

The member for Trinity—Spadina made a suggestion to the government, the government took that suggested and added a bunch of other things to it. We are saying that we need to go back to the first principle of this, which is changing the period in which a citizen's arrest can be made. If that were done, the New Democrats would be on side and we would be ready to move. The government has said no to that so far. Perhaps with some quiet sober reflection over the weekend, hopefully sober, the government will decide that it is a sincere and legitimate offer on which it can meet New Democrats and actually get its so-called crime agenda, at least in some part, moved through.

It is also important to recognize that in Bill C-60, which is not a large bill, but the implications of at least two of the pieces, clauses 1 and 2, are things we need to very seriously consider as legislators, and that will require committee work and it will require witnesses. I would hope that the justice minister would also agree that we need to hear from people who understand the implications of law. We need to hear from our police forces. We need to hear from victims groups to ensure all pieces of the bill, as drafted, are right and in order.

I hope the government does not have the arrogance to say that its first draft of this is perfect. I would suggest that it is not. There are some things in the bill that we want to look at, get some research on and actually, for once, get some evidence. Would it not be nice to deal with evidence when dealing with a crime law as proposed by government? We have seen that in this place time and time again when the government has brought forward its crime agenda.

One of the question we have asked is about effectiveness. Do the Conservatives believe the law will be effective in reducing crime? They say yes but when we ask to be shown the proof, they tell us to get lost.

The second question we have asked is about cost. We would think the Conservatives would be preoccupied by cost, that they would be worried that, as they are running the largest deficits in Canadian history, they would also be concerned with the idea of what any proposed legislation would cost.

When we dealt with issues of the environment, they were obsessed with the idea of cost. Every second question from the Conservatives was about the costs, so we costed our bills. They refused to accept those numbers and kept going on about costs. Fair enough, they can ask questions like that, but when the tables were reversed, as they are now and we are asking what their crime agenda costs, they plead ignorance. They plead cabinet confidentiality, that the cost of a piece of legislation is so secretive and so important to national security that Canadians cannot be trusted with that kind of knowledge.

Who is paying for this little show? It is Canadians of course. With any piece of legislation, there should be an attempt to prove two things: Is it effective in getting done what we want to get done; and, what does it cost to implement. That seems reasonable to us.

The government, which is admittedly going to spend billions of dollars on its crime agenda, would cut programs that prevent crime. This is an offence to the sensibilities of Canadians to say that the only crime reduction program is a jail cell.

We know the importance of jails and prison time in a system of justice, but it is one component of the system and not the whole. The best crime program we could have is where crimes are not created in the first place. We would not hear from those victimized by crime because the crimes would not have happened. We have seen in this country, as well as in many others, that there are programs that work to reduce crime and we should be funding them.

Because Bill C-60 is addressing the needs of victims, the government in its most recent budget, cut grants for victims of crime by more than 30%. That seems strange. The government talks about victims all the time and how it is standing up for victims, but the same government cut the funding for victims by 30%. This is also a government that cut the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime by 98%. I guess they were not doing a good job, but we have no idea, the government has not justified that.

Government members commercials, ads and question period time and again say how the Conservatives are meant to be victims' great protectors, but when they get down to actual spending priorities, the Conservatives cut programs that are meant to support victims.

I am dealing with someone right now in my riding outside of Fraser Lake who tragically lost his daughter to a terrible crime. She was murdered just before Christmas and he is desperately trying to access some kind of funding to get out on the road to talk to parents about what happened in the case of his young daughter so families could avoid that happening to them. This began with Facebook, which was how the initial connection was made with her and the murderer. There is nothing that the government is offering; it is a tin ear, a tragedy and hypocrisy.

I grow weary of the government time and again pretending that it wrote the book and is the sole protectors of victims. However, when we look at budgets and real situations, its interest in victims is purely political and so much less on the moral and ethical side of the question which is of deep interest to New Democrats and has always been.

As a social justice party, we believe that to deter crime takes more than just minimum mandatory sentencing. There is more to the conversation. To become overly fixated on one solution, so that if all one has is a hammer, then every problem would look like a nail. All the government has is the same answer and it needs to expand. It has to mature this conversation.

With Bill C-60, we have offered a solution that the government, to this point, has refused. We hope it reconsiders over the weekend because time is pressing. The member for Trinity—Spadina worked on her legislation months ago.

This bill is not enormous at ten pages, French and English. It is not as if the government had to write some massive document, that is it, but it took months. We are on the eve of an election threat and the government is not willing to fast track or move at all. Again, it is as if the Conservative government is the sole owner of justice and rightness in this country, and that is offensive to Canadians.

At committee we need to talk about what is permissible in defence when making a citizen's arrest. How can we assure that so-called proportionality in the use of force in a citizen's arrest matches the threat of the crime? That is absolutely critical. Otherwise, we could create a situation in which Canadians believe they can use twice or ten times the amount of force to prevent a crime and the courts will refuse them. The government bears a certain responsibility to make sure that impression is not put out into the public because people will end up going to jail and will get hurt.

We must remind folks as often as we can that the citizen's arrest is not meant to be the first option. The bill, thankfully, does not change the order of law in Canada that says if one has a reasonable expectation that a police officer can make the arrest, then one must seek that first because they are better at it. They have guns, handcuffs, a badge and the law. These are important things to have when making a citizen's arrest.

Seeking help of a police officer is first and foremost, and that cannot be pushed to the side, forgiven or dismissed. We need to understand that it continues under Bill C-60. We need to have it confirmed because the government has written more than we have offered.

We believe that offering solutions is what this place should be about for Canadians. We are concerned that some of the standards used in this bill are subjective. They are not hard and fast. We need to understand what “reasonable force” is. We need to understand what “a reasonable amount of time” is. This is critical for us to understand.

Is the government imagining that several hours after a crime someone can still legally make a citizen's arrest? Is it a day later? Is it several days? Are we going to allow the judges and juries to decide what “reasonable” is? These are important things for us to understand.

As the minister noted earlier, some of the laws that we are affecting here are more than 100 years old, and some of them have not seen any substantive changes in 100 years. If we are going to modernize this thing, let us modernize it properly. What will the effects be on the day to day lives of our citizens?

There is a potential for prosecutorial over-reaction, as it is sometimes called. We get a very enthusiastic public prosecutor coming forward, as we saw in the case of the Lucky Moose, ringing up a whole raft of charges that had little or nothing to do with the actual citizen's arrest in the case in Toronto. That is something that we also need to be concerned about. Government courts often give prosecutorial direction. They give some inclination and direction to those lawyers who work on behalf of Canadians, for the crown, as to what the guidelines for prosecuting a case are. That is important. We do not see those here and those are not meant to be in legislation, but it is certainly something government has to be cognizant of. What kinds of directions will be given to prosecutors to ensure we do not have folks out there hoping to make a name for themselves or who are just reading the law in such a limited and circumspect way that we end up with charges that to Canadians seem out of control and disproportionate to what is going on? We want to ensure that the reasonable time is offered in a succinct way.

We have seen, with the latest budget and, I expect, we will see it in the next budget, how much out of balance the government is by dealing with crime only after it has happened versus trying to prevent it in the first place. I attention is due. It has been so out of whack that billions of dollars have gone into more prisons and prison guards, which is very expensive. A prisoner in maximum security will cost $138,000 per year on average. A female prisoner in the same system will be as much as $178,000 per year. That is a lot of money and this is billions of dollars to build this, much of which is being dropped on the backs of the provinces that had no hand in crafting many of these laws. These are provinces that are not exactly flush with cash.

To not have been properly consulted on the raft of laws the Conservatives have brought forward, but to have a bill attached that the provinces also have to buck up to, for a government that wishes to have peace in the federation, wishes to have some sort of respect for our colleagues who work at the provincial level, it sure is making it difficult on them, straining relations because it is straining the budget. Some provinces have come out and said that they are directly opposed to some of these laws because they will be forced to build more penitentiaries. This is something we need to be careful about when we bring legislation forward.

The New Democrats have offered the government an olive branch. We have said that we are willing to move forward today, particularly on clause 3, all the way through committee and back here because it is something we believe in.

The member for Trinity—Spadina has been front and foremost on this from day one looking for some sort of justice for some of the citizens she represents. It seems incumbent upon the government to listen and entertain a reasonable offer, one that will make positive change in the country, and leave those parts of the bill that need further study to the study they need. However, to leave the entire bill in jeopardy and not listen to the offer made by the New Democrats today, on behalf of the member for Trinity—Spadina, is a mistake. It is hubris, it is arrogance and it is something the government has too much of an inclination toward. If the government wants to make something positive happen, we can do that. We are willing to meet the government half way and hope it will meet us the other half.

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his thoughtful input into not just this bill but with regard to the whole litany of justice bills in which there is an absence of information.

Prevention, punishment, rehabilitation and reintegration are all elements of dealing with crime in our society and yet the government continues to go in the other direction by eliminating parole, creating larger mandatory minimums, building more prisons and then not funding the provinces that must take care of much of this as well. There are some consequences to this.

Does the member see this pattern as a rejection of the long-standing understanding of the criminal justice psychology, and that there has to be a balance in the programs but that, as parliamentarians, we also need to know the costing of various options so we can make good laws and wise decisions.

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, in all of the debates that take place here a certain level of rhetoric happens in trying to make a point, a certain enthusiasm that we all bring to our positions. Ultimately, when we respect one another's attitudes, positions and beliefs this place can work quite well.

One of the principle beliefs that the Conservative Party previously claimed was some sort of prudence when it came to public coffers, that it wanted to be careful with how money was spent, even though history would show Conservative governments fall under the constant addiction of spending more than we have and it is doing it again.

The question of crime and when we ask the cost, the response from the government has been that it if it protects one person then the cost does not matter. The government claims that if one person is protected from a crime then the cost is worth it. This suggests the scenario that multiple billions of dollars to protect one victim of crime would somehow be in the government's interests. It is going to get awfully expensive under those guys, and it already is. We have to get a bit of balance back.

Preventing the crimes in the first place is the best kind of crime prevention program we could possibly have, the best kind of justice reform we could have in this country.

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

It being 1:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-501, An Act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and other Acts (pension protection), as reported (with amendments) from the committee.

Bankruptcy and Insolvency
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

There being no motions at report stage, the House will now proceed without debate to the putting of the question on the motion to concur in the bill at report stage.

Bankruptcy and Insolvency
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

NDP

John Rafferty Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

moved that the bill be concurred in.