House of Commons Hansard #109 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was person.

Topics

Citizens Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Madam Speaker, in my own riding of Cape Breton—Canso, we had a rash of break-ins over a period of time in the Howie Centre, Sydney Forks area. We were fortunate. A member of the community, Seana Niedzielski, called a community meeting. There was a very good turnout. In conjunction with the Cape Breton Regional Police Services, she set up a neighbourhood watch program.

I am nervous about this piece of legislation because of something shared with us that evening. Police officer Paul Ratchford said that when people see someone trying to steal their barbecue, their initial reaction is to go out and confront the person. However, if someone is stealing something out of the backyard, he or she is probably not a very rational person. The individual may be high on drugs, such as cocaine or crystal meth. Those who confront these people are putting themselves at risk.

My question to my colleague is, should there be an education piece to go along with this legislation so that we do not unleash vigilantes across the country? There is a proper response for someone who sees a crime being perpetrated on his or her property. There is a rational process that should be pursued.

Citizens Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen Welland, ON

Madam Speaker, I agree. It is an issue of what a reasonable person should do when faced with the situation, as my colleague has expressed. What do we do with someone who has indeed—

Citizens Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Citizens Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Order please. There was a question raised and the hon. member is answering.

Citizens Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen Welland, ON

Madam Speaker, I know my colleague from Cape Breton. It is a wonderful part of the world. Next to my homeland of Scotland, it reminds me of being home when I come to Cape Breton. I have been there many times.

As the member described, if someone came into my backyard to steal my barbecue, he is right that the first response sometimes is to head to the door and prevent it. However, as I said earlier, I ought to take half a step back and question why I would go out. The person is bigger than me. Perhaps as was described, he or she may indeed be under the influence of a substance or may have a weapon. Therefore, the first response should be to dial 911 and have the police come. We should not take it upon ourselves when indeed we do not have to because we are not being physically confronted.

The issue is different if we are in a business and someone comes into that business or our home and attacks us or one of our family members. That is a huge difference. If someone is outside our home stealing property, such as in my case when folks decided to help themselves to the material in my big shed, that is a different situation altogether.

Therefore, I would implore Canadians not to take action themselves when indeed the action they should be taking is to have the police forces take the action on their behalf. That is why we have them. They do a good job. They are well trained and well prepared to take that type of action.

Citizens Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC

Madam Speaker, I appreciated the hon. member for Welland's speech. I support and share his rather serious concerns about the fact that corner store owners and others can decide to take justice into their own hands.

In committee, we heard from representatives of the Association of Professional Security Agencies. Most of their presentation involved asking the government to give the association more authority in order to allow the police to take care of more important matters.

I would be curious to hear my colleague's opinion in this regard. It seems to me that the training security guards receive is not necessarily the same as that received by police officers. This is one of our concerns about this bill—it allows a witness or the person he appoints to make an arrest in lieu of the police. Are we therefore not allowing many other people to take on a peace officer role?

Citizens Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen Welland, ON

Madam Speaker, clearly we do not want to create another quasi police force. We have a police force, whether it be the RCMP, regional police or provincial police, depending on the province and where we live across this great country. Day in and day out, we have officers who do the hard work that we ask them to do.

We need to ensure that the folks who are in security agencies make sure that the property is secure, that folks are not trespassing, that the doors are locked at night, that parking lots are clear, and that if folks get hurt or fall ill they call the appropriate authorities. In the case of a crime being perpetrated, their call to the appropriate authorities would be 911 to have the police come. They should not become an adjunct police force looking for additional powers to take on the role of a police officer, when indeed we have them available to us, as do they.

This bill should be about the unintended consequences for me as an individual when I do not have a security person looking after my house. When someone enters my door and I am confronted, I have the choice to either fight or flee. In all cases, when one can flee, one should flee.

Citizens Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu Surrey North, BC

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Winnipeg Centre. I actually prefer to speak before him, rather than after him, because I know he has a great speech.

I want to take a couple of minutes before I speak to the bill to say I had a chance to attend a function on Friday that was organized by some very young people in my riding. It gives me great hope for Canada when I see young people being involved in our community and setting an example for other Canadians. These young people have managed to raise $10,000 in a couple of months for BC Children's Hospital.

I just want to read out their names: Prineet Ghuman, Harmeet Nijjar, Mandy Badwal and Sharon Uppal.

These young people are in high school. I want to thank them for taking a leadership role in our community and raising funds for the BC Children's Hospital.

Citizens Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Citizens Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

April 24th, 2012 / 4:15 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu Surrey North, BC

Madam Speaker, today I rise to speak to Bill C-26, which amends subsection 494(2) of the Criminal Code, dealing with citizen's arrest.

First I want to say that the New Democrats support the bill. It is actually something that my fellow New Democrat, the member for Trinity—Spadina, had been advocating for quite some time.

Half of the bill proposes measures that her private member's bill had previously called for. My colleague introduced that legislation, which was known as the Lucky Moose bill, in response to an incident that happened in the city of Toronto in 2009. David Chen, the owner of the Lucky Moose Food Mart in Toronto, apprehended and restrained a man, Anthony Bennett, a few hours after he had stolen from his store. When police arrived, they charged Mr. Chen with kidnapping, carrying a dangerous weapon—which was a box cutter, which most grocery store workers would carry normally—assault and forcible confinement. Crown prosecutors later dropped the kidnapping charge, but proceeded with the charges of forcible confinement and assault.

According to the Criminal Code as it is currently written, a property owner can only make a citizen's arrest if the alleged wrongdoer is caught in the act. Clearly, this portion of the Criminal Code needed to be changed. My colleague saw that and introduced her private member's bill, and the government followed suit with its own very similar bill.

What surprises me most about this bill is that the Conservatives are proposing something in the realm of public safety that actually makes sense. It is very surprising that they are proposing something that is sensible, because what we have seen from the government, from the Conservatives' crime agenda, certainly does not make any sense at all. Most of the time the Conservatives seem to be living in some kind of alternative reality, completely devoid of factual information and common sense when it comes to crime.

Normally, instead of answering critical questions about a reckless public safety agenda that is destined for failure, the Minister of Public Safety has preferred to hurl accusations and insults across the floor, such as standing in the House and accusing me of supporting child molesters because I questioned the complete failure on the side of the government to estimate the cost of its reckless crime agenda.

Sadly, we know that the facts do not really matter to the government. In Senate committee hearings on Bill C-10, the public safety minister told senators to ignore the facts. He said, “I don't know if the statistics demonstrate that crime is down. I'm focused on danger”.

That was not the first time we have been told to ignore the facts by Conservatives when it comes to crime. In response to questions about Bill C-10, the Minister of Justice said, “We are not governing on the basis of the latest statistics”. When it comes to public safety, ignoring the facts seems to be in the Conservatives' talking points.

Of course they want us to ignore the facts, because the facts are on our side. The facts will tell us that their crime agenda will cripple our criminal justice system and will not make our communities any safer.

I am happy to see that the Conservatives actually support something worthwhile, Bill C-26, but this, unfortunately, is the exception, not the rule, when it comes to the Conservatives' approach to crime. While I support this bill, which has been improved by NDP amendments in committee, I remain very concerned about the safety of our communities across this wonderful country of ours.

The NDP priority in reviewing this legislation was to ensure that it did not encourage vigilante justice or people putting their own safety at risk. While we understand that there are concerns about these matters in relation to citizen's arrest, self-defence and defence of property, we have determined that the bill proposes acceptable changes.

It should be noted that all three of these concepts already exist in the Criminal Code. Therefore, the changes made by this bill would only modify aspects of our current laws and do not introduce anything radically new.

The justice committee heard from a diverse group of witnesses while considering this legislation, including the Canadian Bar Association, the Canadian Police Association, academics and practising lawyers. Although New Democrats have already supported the intent of this legislation, we have brought forward a number of amendments in accordance with recommendations of witnesses. One successful amendment we brought forward will place a greater onus on the courts to consider the history of the relationship between the individuals.

We recognize the great need for these sections of the Criminal Code to be updated, and although most of our amendments were defeated, we still believe this bill accomplishes an adequate update to the legislation and we support this bill. Also, legal experts the committee heard from were, in general, supportive of the proposed changes to the self-defence and defence of property sections of the Criminal Code. They all acknowledged that these clarifications were absolutely necessary.

In conclusion, I want to thank my colleague from Trinity—Spadina for her work on this issue and for bringing such a worthwhile issue to the House. I also want to thank the minister and members across the aisle for their support to bring this initiative forward. As I have mentioned, we do not often see anything sensible coming from that side of the House when it comes to crime. In fact, when it comes to crime, the Conservatives are usually detached from being sensibile altogether and pursue an approach that has been tried and has failed.

I hope to see the members opposite keen to adopt more New Democratic ideas in the future. We have many that I think make a lot of sense and are aimed at making our communities safer for all Canadians to live in.

Citizens Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, I listened with great interest to my hon. colleague. He expressed a sense of unease that I think many of us feel. Citizens, small business owners and people protecting their property have a right to ensure that they can stop crimes, if possible, but we see the habit of certain right-wing governments to fan the flames, in a sense, as we have seen in the United States, and to create the sense and expectation that citizens can go further. We have heard about the horrific murder of young Trayvon Martin in Florida, thanks to a piece of legislation that not only allowed for vigilantes but said that if vigilantes feel in any way that they need to shoot somebody, they are able to.

That is a far cry from this bill, but the question we are grappling with is how we can ensure checks and balances so that citizens do not get themselves hurt by thinking they should be able to intervene in situations where they should not intervene—police tell us all the time to step back and be careful—but can intervene in a way that will not result in their being unfairly penalized. There is a very narrow line between what is acceptable and not acceptable.

I want to ask my hon. colleague if he feels comfortable that the House understands where that division point is.

Citizens Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu Surrey North, BC

Madam Speaker, I understand the issues that small businesses are facing because I have a small business in Surrey. The member is right, we do not need to fan any flames on this issue. This is a common-sense issue. Businesses and citizens need to ensure that they use the existing services we have to protect themselves. Instead of relying on vigilantism, we need to ensure we use the resources we have, such as calling the police, ensuring their services are used before any measures that individuals may take. It is a tool that will help business owners move forward and protect their properties.

Citizens Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague, who is a member of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. We are very pleased to have the benefit of his knowledge in this matter.

I especially appreciated that my colleague pointed out that Bill C-26—as I mentioned in my speech this morning—is an example of the work we can accomplish, even with the members opposite, when there is a little goodwill, instead of continual gags, time allocation motions and so forth. This bill is a fine example. We were able to discuss it without being told that it had to be passed at all costs in a certain time frame. There were discussions and debates, which were a little heated at times, but it was all done for the well-being of Canadians, the people we represent.

My colleague was also a member of the Standing Committee on Public Safety, where we saw how difficult it can be sometimes to understand this government's reasoning. It accepted the bill introduced by our colleague for Trinity—Spadina. However, does he think that we will ever again have this type of co-operation from the government?

Citizens Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu Surrey North, BC

Madam Speaker, I believe that Canadians expect us to work together across the aisle, and they also expect us to make rules, regulations and laws that are common sense, that protect and help Canadians in their day-to-day lives and that are backed with facts and figures. Unfortunately, my Conservative friends across the aisle have shown in the last number of months that they do not want to look at the facts.

If we want to make our communities safer places to live, they need to look at the facts, see what is needed, and work with the New Democrats and the other parties when they bring in legislation. We have a lot of ideas that can make our communities safer. We need to work together. This was an example of how we can do that, and the idea was from a member of the New Democrats.

Citizens Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Before resuming debate, it is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Vaudreuil-Soulanges, Government Appointments; the hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, Airline Security.

The hon. member for Winnipeg Centre.