House of Commons Hansard #140 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was code.

Topics

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

Noon

NDP

Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, this legislation arises out of a bill that was proposed by my colleague from Trinity—Spadina, who took early and decisive action to put a very worthwhile idea before the House. My colleague has suggested that shopkeepers and small business people not be criminally charged if they are attempting to defend their property after the commission of a crime.

The Criminal Code currently permits a citizen to make an arrest during the commission of a crime, but there seems to be a gap in the law whereby if a person takes that step within a reasonable time after the commission of the offence, he or she could be charged, as Mr. Chen was in Toronto.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague what his position is with respect to amending our law to allow shopkeepers to conduct a citizen's arrest within a reasonable time after the commission of an offence, provided that person does not break the law or is otherwise overzealous or aggressive in doing so.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

Noon

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I know my colleague from Vancouver Kingsway has issues in his riding about what we sometimes call petty crime, or theft under $5,000.

As my colleague correctly said, the idea raised in this bill originates with the member for Trinity—Spadina who has worked long on the issue of how to treat a citizen's arrest. This bill applies not just to shopkeepers and small business owners but to homeowners as well. New Democrats put forward this idea to a government that spends the vast majority of its time talking about crime issues.

There is a gap in the law. What happens when a citizen makes an arrest outside the immediate event itself? If an hour or several hours have gone by, the law changes. It does not allow for the same citizen's arrest.

Sometimes when a crime is committed the store owner or the homeowner sees the person who committed the crime but no police are available. It is important for people to understand that if police are available or there are reasonable grounds to expect a police officer to be available to make the arrest, that is the preferred course. Police officers are paid and trained to do that type of work. It is a dangerous thing to make a citizen's arrest. It is provocative. It can be very intense. It can also be quite physically dangerous for both parties involved. It is not ideal.

We are suggesting that if the government wants to make this change, we will allow the bill to be split and fast-track this part immediately through Parliament. We have not heard from the other parties yet as to whether or not they are interested in doing this, but it is critical. The part that we want to fast-track is the piece that we all agree on. It does not need further study. We are suggesting that if a citizen's arrest is not made in the process of the crime being committed but sometime after that, it would still be permissible for a citizen to make an arrest without fear of being charged with assault or confinement or whatnot.

We again plead with the government that if it wants to get something done, this is an opportunity to do it.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

Noon

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I too am concerned about the lack of response on this particular issue in terms of splitting the bill and moving it forward in a decent fashion that would permit some serious reflection.

The government pushes crime bills forward willy-nilly without thinking about them and without careful reflection on the views of experts in the field. Are we offering this compromise so that some of the important work can get done and so we can carefully scrutinize at committee the work the government has proposed?

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

March 7th, 2011 / 12:05 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, people should understand that there are three main parts to this bill. We are suggesting fast-tracking the third part through the process because there is little debate around it. The experts agree this is something we could do, which would be to allow more time to elapse between the crime being committed and the citizen's arrest being made. The first two parts of the bill are in need of study. That is what is likely to happen with this bill.

I have not heard too many of the opposition members speak, but the bill is likely to get through second reading. However, with the way laws work and the process we have in Parliament, that is going to take some time. The government is thereby jeopardizing its own bill, which was based on the work by the member for Trinity—Spadina. Within the next couple of weeks we will be facing a federal budget, which hangs in the balance. We do not know if it will pass or not. We do not know if there will be an election in a few weeks.

If the government is sincere about doing something about this issue, New Democrats have offered it a path forward. If it does not do that, then it is the government's choice.

However, the government says it wants to make some change happen for average ordinary Canadians. Canadians read the morning newspaper and ask why Mr. Chen in Toronto, or some other shopkeeper, was charged with wrongful confinement, kidnapping essentially, for having wrestled to the ground a fellow who came back a second time to steal more from Mr. Chen's shop. If the government really wants to make that change happen, let us do something about it. It is an error in the law and we can correct that error.

The other two parts of the bill need study. We would be happy to study those parts and bring in witnesses.

My hon. colleague from Western Arctic is right. The government is loath to bring forward evidence. On other crime bills, we ask for two things. We ask the government to show us any research to show it is going to be effective, because that is important, and we also ask what it is going to cost. Those questions are seen as reasonable ones to Canadians: is it going to work and what is the bill going to cost?

The government does not do that when it comes to crime bills. When we bring forward issues around repairing the social safety net or improving environmental regulations in this country, all the Conservatives want to know is what it will cost, but when it comes to crime, they seem to forget that mantra. They do not seem to care. We find that offensive to the intelligence of Canadians.

Those are two simple questions on any bill: is it going to work and what is it going to cost?

On crime, those guys have their blinkers on. It is ideology over any kind of intellect. That has to change for the government to gain any kind of support from other parties.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
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12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure today to add my comments on Bill C-60, a bill that I believe does have considerable support in the chamber. It is only a question of time before the bill passes second reading. I suspect there will be a number of speakers and we look forward to that happening.

However, as much as there is principle and thought behind putting the bill together as something that receives considerable support, there is a need for us to review the bill and be very diligent in having discussions with some of the stakeholders in regard to the bill at committee stage. There is a great deal of concern in terms of some of the details, but the principle is something that is very good. I understand why the idea of extending the amount of time it takes in order to make an arrest has come about, in particular in reference to an incident that occurred in Toronto in 2010.

I want to pick up on the point that was just talked about by my New Democratic colleague. That is the issue of why it is we have the bill before us today. My understanding is the government wants to come across as being tough on crime and this is going to be one of those tough on crime bills that the government is no doubt going to talk about whenever the next election occurs. It is appropriate to raise the issue of the timing of this particular bill. The idea of extending the amount of time is not new. It has now been talked about for virtually a year as the New Democrats and the Liberal Party each have a bill to address the issue in part. The Liberal Party has been talking about it for a long time now. I believe it was in June 2010 when the member for Eglinton—Lawrence brought forward a bill that in part addressed this issue.

It is interesting in terms of the government's response to private member's bills. It wants to try to give the impression to the public that it is bringing in legislation that is going to have an impact on the issue of crime. At the same time, when opposition parties, in particular when the Liberal Party brings forward a bill that would go a long way toward providing assurances and improve our system so that victims and their concerns are addressed, the government sits back and does nothing. Instead of adopting a good idea from the Liberal Party, the government chooses to sit back, do nothing and wait until it feels it is time to bring forward the same type of legislation. One could question the government's motives in terms of why it has decided to wait so long in responding to what was a very sensitive issue. It is something that is not just sensitive to the city of Toronto.

In my constituency, an incident occurred in 2010 where there was no citizen's arrest per se, but it spoke volumes in terms of police availability. The incident happened right beside my constituency office, where there is a small retail store. A couple of youths, both under age 14, and one of them might have been only eight or nine years old, walked into the store. The clerk was asked if there was ice cream. She went to the front of the store into the freezer where she was jumped from behind by the child. The child had, I believe, scissors and stabbed her in the neck. Because of the screaming that followed, the children were scared and fled the store. The clerk had to go to the hospital to get stitches.

At the end of the day, in the discussions that I have since had with the clerk, there is a sense of frustration with some of the crimes that take place and the need to take action. There were some individuals not too far from the scene who were not too sure as to exactly what they could have done. There is a general lack of knowledge with regard to citizen's arrest.

Only a number of days later there was a young individual on the top of the roof of my building threatening to stab or kill someone with scissors, a violent act. The landlord was quite concerned and did not know what he could do in terms of a citizen's arrest. The youth left the building and made a run for it. We knew who the child was and could ultimately make an identification.

We need to have confidence that the police are going to be there for us when we need them. It is an issue of resources. In many situations we find that individuals, shop owners, or concerned citizens find themselves in a position where they are able to take some form of action in the form of a citizen's arrest. If done appropriately, it is a wonderful thing.

At times, a citizen's arrest can be very dangerous. We have to make sure there is proper legislation to support it and yet not necessarily encourage individuals to be overly abusive physically with someone who is stealing a chocolate bar or something of that nature. There has to be a common sense component to it. That is why I say sending the bill to committee would be a good thing. I look forward to that happening.

I found it interesting when I read some of the quotes from Mr. Chen and what had taken place in Toronto. It reinforces a couple of the points that I want to emphasize.

In a report by the CBC, flower store owner Hamid Kheiry stated with regard to the availability of police that even if he calls, nothing happens. This is the prevailing opinion the public has. It is one of the reasons there is a great deal of frustration and people look at ways to be more directly involved. As we all know, the police cannot be everywhere. There is a role for citizens to play with regard to issues of this nature.

In terms of the courts, in his remarks, Justice Ramez Khawly, who presided over this case, stated there was, in part, perceived police inaction. The last thing I would want to imply is that this problem exists today because of our police forces. Our police are most capable and do a phenomenal job with the resources they have.

In the federal byelection in Winnipeg North a great emphasis was put on the issue of crime. The Conservative government said it wanted to address the issue head on. The biggest commitment the Conservatives made with regard to the issue of policing that could have an impact on legislation such as this was to increase the number of police officers.

This has been a hotly debated issue in Winnipeg. It resurfaced the other day in a debate at city council. It was reported in the Winnipeg Free Press. Let there be no doubt, police resources are of critical importance in dealing with issues of this nature. I am suggesting that the case in Toronto is not an exception. I believe there are a good number of citizen's arrests carried out across Canada.

For every citizen's arrest, I truly believe there are many more incidents of frustration. That frustration is because there is a sense that there is no consequence to some of the actions being taken in stores and homes across Canada. As a whole, people want to ensure there is a consequence to these actions.

I believe that if the public were canvassed we would find there is a great deal of support in terms of providing additional resources to our police agencies. I suspect the Conservatives are aware of that. That is the reason they made a commitment for 2,500 more police officers across Canada.

In looking at the Winnipeg Free Press print edition of February 26, there are three specific parts I would like to emphasize. It reads as follows:

Winnipeg officials want to know what happened to their portion of $14 million in federal money to hire 15 more police officers for city streets.

The money was made available in 2008 under the...government's $400 million Police Officers Recruitment Fund, intended to put 2,500 more police officers on the street nationally over the five years.

It states further:

Three years later, city officials say they haven't received the money to hire the additional officers.

I do believe that the legislation we have before us and the type of actions we see from the government speak of two different things. One, the government recognizes the value of trying to be perceived as being tough on crime, so it wants to bring forward legislation. Two, the government wants to be able to recognize the value of having additional police resources, so it talks a great deal about that. The government has suggested it has brought forward the necessary funds.

I would question the government on those two issues.

I started off my comments by talking about the government not recognizing the Liberal Party's bill on the issue of citizen's arrest. A member from the New Democratic Party also brought forward a bill, but it became an issue of timing.

The Conservative government ignored those bills and did nothing, in favour of waiting until the timing was right for it to bring in its own bill. It did not care in terms of the other bills being proposed. The government wanted to take the credit. That is what it was about. It wants the credit for trying to look as if it is tough on the crime front.

On the second issue of policing, the government recognized the value in the public wanting to ensure there are adequate police resources in our communities. It said it was going to provide more policing. Then there is the question in terms of the follow-through on it. Why is it that years after the government made that commitment, the city of Winnipeg has not seen those additional police officers on the street?

Money can be transferred over, but, at the end of the day, if those police officers are not materializing, a promise has been broken. When the government says that it is tough on crime, we can review not only this legislation, but other legislation that the government has failed on in this measure. It has not delivered, in a timely fashion, on many pieces of legislation that have been put forward, even from the opposition benches.

Sometimes the government throws in other complications to legislation to try to prevent or slow down legislation from ultimately passing. For example, if the government really wanted to get legislation such as Bill C-60 passed quickly, then to what degree did the government work with the official opposition, the Liberal Party, the New Democrats and to a certain degree the Bloc Party to address Mr. Chen's story, which is duplicated by many other shopkeepers across the country? How can we pass the legislation in a more timely fashion?

The Liberal Party was prepared to take action on this issue before the summer break in July 2010. It could have been done prior to the summer of 2010 if the government had the same interest it claims to have today in wanting to pass Bill C-60. However, it did not meet the government's agenda, which is not necessarily in the best interest of the public. Ultimately, that is what I would argue.

Associated with this bill is the issue of policing. It is referenced in the courts in terms of the shopkeepers and the perception of the public has a whole. The government said that it recognized that and would make a commitment, but it failed to follow through on that commitment.

A very high percentage of the population in Winnipeg North is overwhelmingly concerned about the issue of crime and safety, more so than most constituencies across Canada. Members will excuse me if I am sensitive on the issue of having more police on our streets and in our community police offices. Winnipeg North has seen community policing and police in community police offices go down. Over the same period of time that the Conservatives have been in office, community policing has gone down in service stations.

The Conservatives have done nothing to support those community police offices. The federal government does have a role to play. Through community police offices, we are able to better educate the population in regards to prevention.

There is a wonderful website that I went to when I had some public safety meetings a few weeks ago. It is about crime and safety in Winnipeg North. There is one at St. John's High School and one at Northwood Community Club on how to prevent crime from taking place. Individuals I had a chance to chat with talked about the issue of citizen arrests and how that could occur. Community policing and education play a role in making our communities safer.

As much as it is great to see the bill today, I look forward to it going to committee. I think Canadians as a whole would support the principle of extending the amount of time for arrest.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Mississauga—Erindale
Ontario

Conservative

Bob Dechert Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his declaration of support for what is very good and necessary legislation. I listened intently to his speech and that of the member of the NDP who spoke about the timing of the bill.

I met with members of the shop corners community immediately following the incident Mr. Chen was involved in before the hon. member was a member of the House. They told me that not only were they concerned about the timing of arrest, but what they were allowed to do in order to protect their property and themselves if they were threatened with personal physical harm.

Typically, the two opposition bills mentioned this morning said nothing about what people could do to defend their property or their person, because those bills were politically motivated. They were brought in simply to score a quick, cheap, political hit, but did not address the whole issue of citizen's arrest, property defence and defence of a person.

Perhaps the member could comment on that.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, we can tell a lot about what the Conservatives hope to really achieve by the way in which they will consult with people. For example, did the minister responsible for the bill have discussions with critics? To what degree were the Conservatives open to having feedback prior to the introduction of the bill? The ultimate goal should be to try to address the issue at hand to the very best of our ability.

We could have passed the bill about the amount of time it would take for a citizen to make an arrest. This is the primary concern, from my understanding, that Mr. Chen and many other Canadians had. That portion of the bill could have passed in June of 2010. Even if it were before committee at that time, we could have reviewed it and maybe looked at ways to improve the bill back then.

There are some good parts in the bill of which we are very supportive. We want to see it go to committee and we are open to other possible amendments, reviewing and giving due diligence to other aspects of the bill itself.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
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12:30 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I notice my hon. colleague mentioned promises that were made by the government a few elections ago about providing 2,500 more police officers across the country.

I was visited by representatives of police boards across Canada in my office last week. They told me that they knew for a fact that those 2,500 officer positions had not been created for a few reasons. One was the federal government had not given long-tern funding commitments that would enable them to provide those positions. Also, the money was transferred to provinces without being tied to the creation of those positions. Therefore, some provinces put portions of that money into general revenue.

Considering that part of the bill is motivated by the fact that police are just not able to respond quickly enough to shop owners or people who find themselves perhaps being the victims of a crime, could my hon. colleague comment on the connection between having enough police officers in our communities and the need to have citizens be able to make their own arrests in the absence of quick, prompt responses by police officers?

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
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12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am a very strong advocate for community policing. For the city of Winnipeg, that promise would have meant 15 additional police officers for the city. Quite frankly, we could have used every one of those police officers in the field as community police officers.

The value of having community police officers going into the different businesses, explaining how citizen's arrests are made, among may other things, has phenomenal values.

Ultimately, the point I was trying to get at, when I made reference to it, was the fact that the government made a promise. It promised to put more police officers on the street. It has failed to follow through on that promise. The city of Winnipeg has still not hired one of those 15 police officers.

The issue is the Conservatives have brought forth the bill and have made this commitment, but they need to follow through with it. They need to turn what they talk about into reality. For Winnipeg North, crime and safety is number one. We need those police officers on the street. We need to have bills like this in some form passed.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
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12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have listened intently to the comments of the member opposite, particularly his assertion about the timing of this bill and his reference to the member for Eglinton—Lawrence on how this could have been handled sooner.

The reality is the member for Eglinton—Lawrence had a choice as well. The order of precedence allows him to move his bill forward quickly. He chose another bill and allowed his particular version of the bill with respect to self-defence to languish, where it would never be debated in Parliament. If the Liberals were truly tough on crime, that bill would have been on the order of precedence.

I remind the member opposite that the member for Eglinton—Lawrence's other bill, the one that he actually thought was a priority, has already been through committee. Would he like to comment on whether he spoke with the member for Eglinton—Lawrence about making this a priority instead of pretending it was a priority?

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
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12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, one of the nice things about the chamber is the ability to get unanimous consent. If in fact the chamber and the Conservatives at any point in time saw the value of that bill and wanted to pick up on the issue, they would have been able to approach the Liberal Party, and vice-versa, the Liberal Party could have approached other members. It is up to the chamber to look for unanimous consent to bring forward a good idea.

At the end of the day, what I know is it would have been wonderful to have seen that bill passed. If the government knew it would bring in legislation of this nature, why would it not approach the Liberal Party and say that it liked the bill, that it would like to see some amendments to it, but it would work with the bill so it could be brought forward to the House? With the unanimous support of the House, it could have been debated back in June, passed and some Conservative amendments could have been made to it. Members of the Liberal Party are very open-minded in having good ideas brought forward, passed and turned into law.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
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12:35 p.m.

Mississauga—Erindale
Ontario

Conservative

Bob Dechert Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on Bill C-60, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, which addresses the issues of citizen's arrest, defence of property and defence of persons.

I would like to begin by addressing the reforms to the law of self-defence and defence of property. Defences arise when a person is alleged to have committed a criminal offence. The availability of a defence means that, although a person did commit an act that would otherwise be a crime, he or she should not be convicted for it because of some other circumstance amounting to a defence at law. If a person is defending themself from an attack or defending their property from being stolen, they might need to behave in a way that would normally attract criminal responsibility, such as an assault against the person threatening them. The defences are the law's way of balancing the generally applicable offences with exceptional circumstances that can validate the commission of crimes.

In the McIntosh case in 1995, the Supreme Court of Canada issued a very stark assessment of the law of self-defence. Here is what former Chief Justice Antonio Lamer had to say:

I would observe that ss. 34 and 35 of the Criminal Code are highly technical, excessively detailed provisions deserving of much criticism. These provisions overlap, and are internally inconsistent in certain respects.... It is to be expected that trial judges may encounter difficulties in explaining the provisions to a jury, and that jurors may find them confusing.

Chief Justice Lamer went on to say:

I am of the view that any interpretation which attempts to make sense of the provisions will have some undesirable or illogical results. It is clear that legislative action is required to clarify the Criminal Code’s self-defence regime.

Confusing law is not just a matter of passing concern; when laws are difficult to understand, there are real consequences. People will not be able to read the law and understand the rules that govern their conduct; and police will have a difficult time assessing whether a person has a valid defence for the conduct and may end up laying charges just to be on the safe side, in the hope that the court will sort out the confusion.

I have spoken with dozens of police officers who have told me that this is exactly what they do. I believe that this is probably what happened in the case of Mr. Chen. The police were faced with a series of confusing provisions in the Criminal Code. Their duty is to uphold the law, and so their duty is to lay a charge and seek the court's determination. That is what they did in this case.

That is why these types of cases and these provisions in the Criminal Code really require very close scrutiny, and that is what Bill C-60 is intended to do.

Prosecutors and defence counsel will spend considerable time making arguments about the meaning and the scope of the law; courts will have tremendous difficulty explaining the law to juries; juries will be asked to apply laws that even lawyers and judges do not fully understand; and even if the jury comes to the right conclusion, there are likely to be grounds for the losing party to appeal, causing delay in the final resolution of the outcome for the person charged, and the cost to the justice system will be significant and unnecessary.

We are right to be concerned about confusing laws. It is Parliament's duty to ensure that the law is accessible and clear to all Canadians. The time has come to do so in regard to these provisions.

When we looked at these provisions, we realized that there were nine provisions in the Criminal Code that were very confusing and, in some ways, contradictory. And when we looked further into it, we realized that these provisions of the Criminal Code had not actually been substantially revised since 1960. Thus it was the right time to do so.

The case of Mr. Chen was certainly a catalyst for change and gave rise to an opportunity for us to examine these provisions. However, when we actually sat down and spoke to shop owners, and here I hope that the member for Winnipeg North who spoke previously had an opportunity to do so in his city, we came to the conclusion that there was a lot more that needed to be fixed than just the timing of the citizen's arrest provision.

Prior to and after the Supreme Court of Canada's pronouncements in the McIntosh case, there were numerous attempts to reform the law.

First, the former Law Reform Commission of Canada proposed in 1987 a re-codified general part of the Criminal Code, the part that contains many general rules, such as the defences and rules surrounding participation in crime. This report included a reformed law of self-defence and defence of property.

The Canadian Bar Association also produced a report in 1992 for a reformed general part of the code and proposed a slightly different, but vastly simpler, defence of the person and defence of property.

Around the same time, the Department of Justice issued a white paper that was a draft of a new general part of the Criminal Code. It included yet another version of a simplified defence for self-defence and defence of person.

Again in 1998, the Department of Justice consulted with Canadians on various ways in which the defences could be simplified and clarified. However, law reform never came until now.

Bill C-60 presents the first legislative response in many decades to the confusing law on self-defence and defence of property. In a nutshell, the legislation seeks to simplify both defences in order to provide clear guidance to Canadians about what they can do in an emergency situation where they are forced by a threat to themselves or their property.

Simpler laws will provide better guidance to police officers who are called to the scene of a crime, who will, as a result, be better able to make appropriate decisions about whether charges are warranted or not. Simpler laws will also allow courts to instruct juries in a sensible manner. This will reduce successful appeals and retrials, saving the justice system unnecessary time and expense.

The proposed new law of self-defence will boil down to a few simple considerations: did the person reasonably perceive that they or another person was being threatened with force, or were they actually being assaulted; did they respond for the purpose of protecting themselves or the other person from that force; did they act reasonably in the circumstances?

These are the key components that permit a person to do what would otherwise be criminal, whether it be using force against force, or doing something else such as breaking into a property to escape an attacker. These components are very similar to those that are currently part of the law of self-defence, but the defence in Bill C-60 provides a single, simple, general rule. The law on the books today, by contrast, is based on the same basic principles but is written in a very complicated and overly detailed way.

Why does the law need to be more complicated than these three principles? The answer is that it does not. One new feature of the defence of persons is the addition of a non-exhaustive list of factors to help guide the judge or jury in determining whether the conduct was reasonable in the circumstances.

Our government believes this additional feature will be welcomed by the courts, which will be called upon to interpret the law and instruct juries on a more simple defence. The factors on the list are well known in the case law dealing with self-defence, because they often arise in all kinds of different cases.

The list will include the nature of the force that was threatened and the proportionality of the response to it, whether there were weapons present and whether the parties had a pre-existing relationship, including in particular whether there were previous incidents of violence.

This last factor will be particularly important in cases where a battered spouse uses force. As the Supreme Court has noted in the landmark case of Lavallee, it is sometimes difficult for a jury to understand how a battered spouse might stay in a relationship or how they might come to understand the patterns of violence of their partner.

The list of factors to consider will help ground the jury's consideration of the facts by clearly identifying this factor, among others, as relevant to its assessment of reasonableness.

The current defence of property scheme has the same flaws as those of self-defence. There are too many overlapping provisions that set out specific situations and they are far too complicated to know which to apply and in what circumstances.

The reform proposed in Bill C-60 would dramatically simplify the law by setting out one single general rule for the defence. The same level of protection that is currently provided by five separate defences would be captured in one simplified defence. In the simplest of terms, a person will be able to do what is reasonable in the circumstances to protect property in their possession from being taken, destroyed or trespassed upon.

Bill C-60 expands the time in which a property owner can arrest a person who is committing an offence in relation to their property. This change will bring flexibility to the power of citizen's arrest, which will complement the other reforms in the bill by helping Canadians to protect their interests when the situation calls for urgent action.

I think all members can agree that clear and simple defences and a citizen's arrest law that provides flexibility for variations in the circumstances will allow all Canadians to take necessary and reasonable steps when the circumstances leave them with no other reasonable options.

I urge all members to support this important legislation.

If time allows, I would like to distinguish for all of the members present today the difference between Bill C-60 and the two private members' bills.

As I mentioned in my remarks, the government's bill is broader in scope. It clarifies and simplifies the law of self-defence and defence of property, and would expand the provisions governing citizen's arrest. The two private members' bills deal only with citizen's arrest.

With respect to the reforms to the citizen's arrest provisions, the government's bill would expand the time period for a citizen to make an arrest, but in a carefully and articulated way so as not to invite citizens to make such arrests where it is instead feasible and advisable for the police to do so.

Bill C-565, the NDP bill, proposes to allow a person to make a citizen's arrest of another person whom, on reasonable grounds, he or she believes has committed an offence and where the arrest occurs within a reasonable time following commission of the offence.

Bill C-547, the Liberal private member's bill proposed by the member for Eglinton—Lawrence, proposes amendments similar to Bill C-565 but without the reasonable time requirement.

Perhaps the member for Winnipeg Centre may want to read his colleague's bill. He mentioned something about reasonable time for a citizen's arrest, but that is not even included in that bill.

These two private members' bills would allow for a citizen's arrest based on reasonable grounds that an offence has been committed. However, there is no time limit within which this belief must be formed and the time could extend to weeks or months later.

The government's proposal, requiring that the arrester find someone committing an offence and make the arrest within a reasonable time only when it is not feasible in the circumstances for a peace officer to make the arrest, is more limited and more responsible. It does not equate the citizen's arrest power with that of the police.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
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12:45 p.m.

Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo
B.C.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for articulating this important piece of legislation and detailing its different aspects.

The member talked about the difference between the two private members' pieces of legislation and our legislation. I would like him to articulate clearly the important changes in Bill C-60 that were not in those pieces of legislation.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Dechert Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Mr. Speaker, as we heard today, the opposition has proposed two bills that are very limited in scope, without taking the time to look into what is really behind all of the circumstances in these types of cases.

When shopowners are confronted by a shoplifter, as Mr. Chen was, they look at what they need to do both to defend their property and, potentially, defend themself or staff or customers.

All of these provisions are wrapped up together. We cannot simply make a change to the time of a citizen's arrest without examining what people have the right to do to defend themselves or their property. However, that is typical of the opposition when it finally gets engaged in a criminal justice matter. Most of the time the opposition is against criminal justice legislation, and most of the time those members side with the offender not the victim.

In this case the government took the time to look at all of the related provisions and to make the necessary amendments that will clarify the law for all Canadians for decades to come.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was going to thank the hon. member for his speech until he came out with a real cheap shot in saying that we do not believe in justice bills. That is blatantly untrue, and the member should realize that. It is time for those guys over there to work with us to come up with some good legislation, which is what we should be doing here in the House.

I would like to ask the hon. member if he recognizes that my colleague from Trinity—Spadina, with her private member's bill, and the tabler of the Liberal Party's private member's bill, have actually laid the groundwork for this piece of legislation? In other words, would he give them some credit for the fact this issue is being debated?

I wonder if he could outline what he considers to be a reasonable time. It is my understanding that the difference between this bill and what currently exists is that this bill would allow a shopkeeper some leeway, a couple of hours or a day, to apprehend a person, whereas that is not possible now. I would like some clarification on that.

Much of the time we have problems like this owes to inadequate policing. I wonder if my colleague recognizes the fact that we need the federal government to step up to the plate, especially when it concerns the RCMP and our small rural communities, so that we will not have situations where police officers go off duty and are not replaced.