Debates of April 24th, 2012
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.
- Question Period
- Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims Act
- Questions on the Order Paper
- Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
- National Victims of Crime Awareness Week
- Buckland Cup Hockey Championship
- Dominique Maltais
- Lynne's Legacy Run
- Canadian Unity
- Government Programs
- Tobique-Mactaquac volunteer firefighters
- Earth Day
- Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky
- Healthy Schools Day
- Liberal Party of Canada
- New Democratic Party of Alberta
- New Democratic Party of Canada
- National Defence
- National Defence
- Elections Canada
- 41st General Election
- Royal Canadian Mounted Police
- 41st General Election
- Search and Rescue
- Railway Transportation
- Public Safety
- Foreign Affairs
- The Environment
- Fisheries and Oceans
- Agriculture and Agri-Food
- Air Canada
- Natural Resources
- Public Safety
- Language of Work in Quebec
- Citizenship and Immigration
- Foreign Affairs
- Presence in Gallery
- Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky
- Ways and Means
- Citizens Arrest and Self-defence Act
- Message from the Senate
- Citizens Arrest and Self-defence Act
- Criminal Code
Ways and Means
The Speaker Andrew Scheer
I declare the motion carried.
John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON
Mr. Speaker, I take this opportunity to rise with respect to the probable and plausible contempt motion put forward brilliantly and succinctly by the member for Toronto Centre on April 5, just prior to the House rising.
Representatives of the Green Party and Bloc immediately concurred and associated themselves with his remarks, and just today the NDP did as well.
However, in my judgment, the Conservatives have made some largely irrelevant comments.
The hon. member for Toronto Centre made a compelling case for truthfulness—
Some hon. members
The Speaker Andrew Scheer
Order. The Chair is trying to hear the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood. I would invite members who need to carry on conversations with their colleagues to do so in the lobby.
John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that the chamber needs to clear before we carry on.
Nevertheless, the hon. member for Toronto Centre made a compelling case for truthfulness in this chamber.
He quoted Speaker Fraser from the Debates of May 5, 1987, when he said, “the protection of absolute privilege because of the overriding need to ensure that the truth can be told”, that is, we have our privileges because truth needs to be paramount in this chamber.
He went on to quote Speaker Milliken, who said:
—members have argued that the minister has made statements in committee that are different from those made in the House or provided to the House in written form. Indeed, these members have argued that the material available shows that contradictory information has been provided. As a result, they argue, this demonstrates that the minister has deliberately misled the House and that as such, a prima facie case of privilege exists.
He then went on to quote Speaker Jerome from March 21, 1978. This is the test for use. He stated:
—the Speaker should ask himself...could it reasonably be held to be a breach of privilege, or to put it shortly, has the Member an arguable point? If the Speaker feels any doubt on the question, he should, in my view, leave it to the House.
Some hon. members
The Speaker Andrew Scheer
Order. I hate to interrupt the hon. member. I will just ask one more time that members who need to carry on conversations do so in the lobbies. The member is addressing a question of privilege and the Speaker would like to hear the points being raised.
John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON
Mr. Speaker, there are two versions of the F-35 costs, and Parliament and, by extension, the people have been left confused by the various versions of these costs.
In 2011, the Parliamentary Budget Officer presented a report estimating full life cycle costs at $29 billion. The definition of full life cycle costs is found in the GAO Cost Estimating and Assessment Guide at page 32, chapter 3. Without going into a lot of detail, it states:
Life cycle can be thought of as a “cradle to grave” approach to managing a program throughout its useful life. This entails identifying all cost elements that pertain to the program from initial concept all the way through operations, support, and disposal.
This is the definition that the Americans use, that the Parliamentary Budget Officer uses, that the Auditor General uses and that other nations use. Apparently, everyone uses this definition except the Minister of National Defence, the Prime Minister, the Associate Minister of National Defence and the Minister of Public Works and Government Services. The Parliamentary Budget Officer, using this definition, estimated the cost of the F-35 fighter at $29 billion and the Auditor General at $25 billion. The Department of National Defence, however, had two sets of books: the minister's version and the internal version. On the minister's version, which was for public consumption only, the cost was $15 billion. For internal purposes, however, DND estimated the full life cycle cost to be $25 billion. Hence, the $10 billion deceit.
While the $9 billion sounds like a significant amount of money--and it is--keep in mind that it is amortized over a 25-plus-year period of time.
He was even misleading his own members.
In response to a question before the Standing Committee on National Defence on March 13, 2012, the Associate Minister of National Defence stated:
I think the only factual answer that can be given at this point in time is that the Canadian government has allocated $9 billion to ensure that our men and women in the air force and in the military are afforded the best equipment possible to do their jobs.
In testimony before the Standing Committee on National Defence on September 15, 2010, at which the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of Public Works and Government Services appeared, the following statement was provided to the committee by the assistant deputy minister of the Department of National Defence, Materiel, who stated:
...it's important to recognize that the quoted $9-billion program cost includes a lot more than the cost of 65 aircraft. The $9 billion also includes almost $2 billion in contingency and currency escalation, as well as elements such as the integrated logistics support, weapons, infrastructure simulation, etc., all of which would be intrinsic in any fighter that you chose to acquire.
This was presented as it appears, an all-inclusive cost, hardly representative of the findings of the Auditor General.
The contention of the Auditor General is that the facts concerning the procurement of the F-35s were not, to be charitable, accurately presented to Parliament. In his report, he clearly expressed concerns over the fact that parliamentarians were not given full and complete information. He said, on page 30, paragraph 2.76, “Some costs were not fully provided to parliamentarians”. I submit that is the understatement of the year.
To reinforce this revelation by the Minister of National Defence that he knew the costing was at least $10 billion higher than had been publicly reported by the government to Parliament, the Auditor General has confirmed that fact subsequent to his appearance before the public accounts committee, a fact that the Speaker must take into account as it related directly to the question of privilege.
It was reported that, according to the Auditor General, senior members of the Conservative government would have known that the cost of the aircraft had shot up to $25 billion by the time the 2011 election was to take place, but publicly stuck to a lower estimate of $15 billion.
The Toronto Star on April 6, 2012, the Auditor General stated:
I can’t speak to individuals who knew it, but it was information that was prepared within National Defence, and it’s certainly my understanding that that would have been information that, yes, that the government would have had.
Furthermore, the Minister of National Defence appeared on CBC's Question Period on April 8 stating that he had been well aware that the costs associated with the F-35 were in fact $10 billion beyond the figures made available by the government prior to the Auditor General's report. What should be noted is that the minister did not make the statement either in the House or apparently before the standing committees of Parliament any time prior to April 5, 2012.
The government has, in part, responded to this by claiming that the discrepancy in numbers is simply a difference in accounting. It claims that the costs it provided to the House of Commons was a lower number merely because it had chosen not to include the full life cycle cost.
However, in the fall 2010 Auditor General's report on the acquisition of military helicopters on page 41, paragraph 6.74, in a response to the recommendation the Department of National Defence pledged to make it a policy to include, in the future, life cycle cost estimates when procuring military equipment. DND pledged to make full life cycle cost part of its presentation on any future procurement.
Therefore, this is not a rounding error. This is not a mere difference in accounting. The policy of including life cycle costs was clearly understood by all parties, the department and the minister. This was a clear and deliberate attempt to mislead the members of the House.
If the ring around from ministers has not made our heads spin yet, just wait. On page 3 of the Auditor General's spring 2012 report, which examined the bungled F-35 procurement, under “The departments have responded” section, we get the following:
National Defence, Industry Canada, and Public Works and Government Services Canada have accepted the facts presented in the chapter. Both National Defence and Public Works and Government Services Canada disagree with the conclusions set out in paragraphs 2.80 and 2.81.
The department agrees with the facts but disagrees with the conclusions. I have no idea what that means. Mr. Speaker, if you are not as confused as I am yet, just wait until we get to the ministers' responses.
The Associate Minister of Defence, the Minister of Defence and the Minister of Public Works all said:
We do in fact accept the conclusions of the Auditor General, and we will in fact implement his recommendations.
The Minister of Defence said, “We have said that we accept his conclusions”.
The Associate Minister of National Defence said, “We accept the conclusions of the Auditor General”.
I say to the member that our government believes very strongly that the Auditor General's recommendations and conclusions were accurate, and we agree with them.
This government has clearly expressed, through the ministers here, the views we have that we accept the findings of the Auditor General and the recommendations.
The Government House Leader attempted to explain this inconsistency yesterday by disassociating himself with his previous remarks. He stated:
I invite the Chair to take a comprehensive and complete reading of chapter 2 of the Auditor General's report. From that, one will see that it contemplates a distinction between the departments and their officials on the one hand, being National Defence and Public Works and Government Services, and the government or ministers on the other.
That statement should send a chill through the spine of every parliamentarian and, indeed, all Canadians and government agencies and departments. On the surface, the government House leader, speaking for the Prime Minister and the government, has clearly decided that ministerial responsibility has its limits and that the limit occurs when the Conservative government is caught misleading Canadians and this Parliament.
The government House leader would be well advised to read O'Brien and Bosc's House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, 2009, or at least have someone read it for him, as there is a very clear definition of what constitutes ministerial responsibility contained in that volume.
At page 32 it reads:
The principle of individual ministerial responsibility holds that Ministers are accountable not only for their own actions as department heads, but also for the actions of their subordinates; individual ministerial responsibility provides the basis for accountability throughout the system. Virtually all departmental activity is carried out in the name of a Minister who, in turn, is responsible to Parliament for those acts. Ministers exercise power and are constitutionally responsible for the provision and conduct of government; Parliament holds them personally responsible for it.
In a ruling by Speaker Milliken on April 27, 2010, at page 2041 of Debates, reference was made to a letter from an assistant deputy minister from the Department of Justice to the law clerk and parliamentary counsel dated December 9, 2009, concerning the obligation to submit documents to parliamentary committees, which stated in part that “government officials...are agents of the executive”. Clearly, government officials are not free agents. They act on behalf of their respective ministers.
One could cite numerous authorities to support this statement but I do not believe that is necessary. What is interesting is that this avoidance of ministerial responsibility was not always articulated by the government.
The following is a series of statements from the current Minister of Foreign Affairs made before the access to information and ethics committee on June 10, 2010, at page 4, concerning the committee's efforts to have ministerial staff appear before the committee to testify to illegal interference with access to information release. It reads:
...ministers are accountable and answerable to Parliament for government policies, decisions, and operations, and ministerial staff are accountable to their ministers. If anything, there is an attempt, I think, to strengthen accountability by having ministers take full responsibility for the actions of the members of their political staff in their office.
On the same matter, on June 8, 2010, the Prime Minister stated, at page 3553 of the Debates, “...in our system, ministers are accountable to Parliament for their actions”.
Later that day, the then parliamentary secretary to the minister stated, at page 3553 of the Debates, with respect to ministerial responsibility:
...for hundreds of years, the principle of ministerial accountability has been paramount here in the House and in its committees. We will continue to respect that principle in order to improve and build a Canada where politicians are accountable.
The reasons for this firm belief and declaration of the principle of ministerial responsibility by the same government were made in an overt attempt to shield members of ministerial staff from having to testify before committees of this House to answer for illegal acts for which those staff members were identified.
I would submit that the citation from O'Brien and Bosc and the statements made by the members of the government regarding ministerial responsibility run completely counter to the argument made by the government House leader in this place on April 4 in an attempt to place blame on departmental officials for failures associated with the accurate costing of the F-35 procurement and the presentation of inaccurate information before this Parliament.
Before we get too confused, I will do a review.
Point one, truthfulness is a cornerstone of parliamentary democracy.
Point two, the universal definition of life-cycle costing, cradle to grave, is set out in the GAO Cost Estimating and Assessment Guide.
Point three, the PBO used that definition when filing its report in 2011.
Point four, the finance committee demanded a full life-cycle costing based upon that definition, which led to a non-confidence motion and the government's defeat.
Point five, the Auditor General used that definition.
Point six, DND pledged to use that definition in 2010, which it did but only for its own internal use.
Point seven, DND, Public Works, etcetera, agree with the facts but not the conclusions.
Point eight, ministers agreed with the facts and the conclusions.
Point nine, the government House leader agrees with neither the facts nor the conclusion and blames it on the department.
Point 10, the Minister of Foreign Affairs accepts the premise of ministerial responsibility for his staff and his department.
What do we make of this confusion, the Keystone Kops' exercise in accountability? If this is not misleading, I do not know what it is.
When misleading, incorrect or incomplete information is provided to the members in the House of Commons, it then becomes difficult, if not impossible, to adequately hold the government to account. This is viewed as such a serious offence that the 34th edition of Halsbury's Laws of England states at page 558:
Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament are expected to offer their resignation to the Prime Minister and such an offence might also be proceeded against as a contempt.
I would argue that the case before you today, Mr. Speaker, is one of the most serious, egregious and clear cases of contempt that this House has ever seen. Over the past two years we have not only seen minister after minister but also the Prime Minister knowingly and purposefully repeat misleading and false statements to the House of Commons and to the Canadian public.
Even with the release of the Auditor General's report, which confirmed what members of the House of Commons, the press, procurement experts and essentially anyone outside of the Conservative caucus already knew, that the numbers we were given were false, the government continued to try to confuse and mislead members by offering up contradictory responses to the report.
The significance of this cannot and should not be underestimated. Page 201 of Erskine May cites a British resolution that clearly outlines ministerial accountability.
...that, in the opinion of this House, the following principles should govern the conduct of Ministers of the Crown in relation to Parliament:
(1) Ministers have a duty to Parliament to account, and to be held to account, for the policies, decisions and actions of their Departments...;
(2) It is of paramount importance that Ministers...give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity. Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the Prime Minister;
(3) Ministers should be as open as possible with Parliament...
It is this resolution that gets to the crux of the problem we are facing here today. Mr. Speaker, you rightly call us to account if we call any member in this House a liar. You do this to preserve the dignity and tone of the debate and to prevent ad hominem attacks. Instead, debate in the House of Commons is intended to be based on fact rather than personality and on evidence rather than speculation.
As the arbiter of this institution, Mr. Speaker, we are also required to speak through you. As we are expected to speak truth through you, it is a time-honoured tradition based on trust and honesty, one that is fundamental to our system.
Here we have an instance where a number of ministers have spoken absolute falsehoods through you, Mr. Speaker, no ifs, ands or buts. The question is then: What must be done? If we cannot hold members to speaking the truth, then the entire premise of this institution is eroded. As members, our duty to constituents is to hold the government to account, but if we are not given full and proper information and are misled by the government, how can we fulfill this role?
On page 510 of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice it states:
The Speaker ensures that replies adhere to the dictates of order, decorum and parliamentary language. The Speaker, however, is not responsible for the quality or content of replies to questions.
However, Speaker Milliken stated in his ruling on a similar question of privilege on February 10, 2011:
This is not to say, however, that there are not circumstances when the Chair could determine, given the proper evidence, that statements made to the House have indeed breached the privileges of the House.
According to Parliamentary Practice in New Zealand, third edition, at pages 653 to 654, in order to establish a prima facie finding that a breach of privilege and contempt has occurred, the requirements are clear: first, it must be proven that the statements were misleading; second, it must be established that the member at the time knew the statement was incorrect; and third, in the making of the statement, the minister intended to mislead the House.
The government knew as early as June 2010 that the cost of the F-35s would be significantly higher than expected and yet chose to provide inaccurate and incomplete information to members of Parliament. When members of Parliament asked for clarification on these numbers, the government chose not to clarify the confusion. We know as a result of the Auditor General's report that the statements were misleading, but it is also very easy to conclude from this series of events that the government knew its statements would be misleading and that it intended to mislead.
Following the tabling of the Auditor General's report, the government again made false and misleading statements. It posited that it had accepted the recommendations of the Auditor General after statements were clearly made in the report that indicated that the departments did not agree with a number of the conclusions. One can only assume that, by providing such contradictory responses, the government intended to mislead members of Parliament and Canadians.
With the evidence I have laid out before you today, Mr. Speaker, I am adding my own voice to support the member for Toronto Centre's case for a prima facie finding of contempt.
When members are allowed to lie in the House, it degrades not just our reputation and the reputation of the party they represent, but also your reputation, Mr. Speaker, my reputation and the reputation of this institution as a whole. I am not willing to stand for that, Canadians are not willing to stand for that and I hope and trust you will not be willing to stand for that.
Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE
Mr. Speaker, I will be short. I felt moved to speak to this question of privilege after listening to the House leader yesterday try to refute the arguments of the question of privilege.
Yesterday, the government House leader told the House, at page 7025 of Debates:
...because ministers have taken a posture different from that originally taken by bureaucrats, in respect of chapter 2 of the...[Auditor General's report], Parliament is being misled.
I would remind the Speaker of the statement made in the House by the Minister of National Defence, who was adamant about the existence of a contract and the costs associated with the procurement of F-35s. He stated:
Mr. Speaker, let us look at the actual contract. What the Canadian government has committed to is a $9 billion contract for the acquisition of 65 fifth generation aircraft. This includes not just the [cost of the] aircraft, but also includes the onboard systems, supporting infrastructure, initial spares, training simulators, contingency funds. This is a terrific investment for the Canadian Forces.
That was from the December 13, 2010, Debates on page 7130.
The following statement from page 3 of the Auditor General's report, chapter 2, should be of concern to you, Mr. Speaker, with respect to the issue of question of privilege. It states:
National Defence likely underestimated the full life-cycle costs of the F-35. The budgets for the F-35 acquisition (CAN$9 billion) and sustainment (CAN$16 billion) were initially established in 2008 without the aid of complete cost and other information. Some of that information will not be available until years from now.
Note the date referred to by the Auditor General, 2008. What makes that statement by the Auditor General significant is that the current Minister of National Defence, who deliberately misinformed the House as to the total costs on December 13, 2010, has been the Minister of National Defence since 2007, which means throughout the period the Auditor General is concerned about. It was this minister who was the minister of the department responsible.
It is my belief, having been a member of cabinet, that it is this minister and the current government that, in a matter relating to costing, deliberately misled Parliament.
With respect to the Prime Minister, I would make the following submission.
On November 3, 2010, at page 5751 of Debates, the Prime Minister, while attempting to berate the opposition for questioning the manner in which the government was handling the contracts, stated the following:
We are going to need to replace the aircraft at the end of this decade, and the party opposite knows that....
It would be a mistake to rip up this contract for our men and women in uniform as well as the aerospace industry.
The Prime Minister was clear. It is reference to a contract to acquire the F-35s to replace the CF-18s. There was no reference to any other kind of contractual agreement with anyone for anything other than for the replacement of the CF-18s.
Yet on April 5, 2012, at page 6948 of Debates, after the Auditor General's report the Prime Minister had changed his tune, declaring that the government “has not signed a contract”.
One of those statements is misleading and a falsehood. That constitutes a breach of the privileges of all members of this place.
I know a fair bit of time has been spent on this and I would love to talk about the House leader's rendition of ministerial responsibility in the House yesterday, but I will leave that.
The fact is the Minister of National Defence and the government generally were responsible for what has been stated in this place, not officials. The responsibility is that of the ministers. The fact is simple enough. What the House was told by members of the government does not accord with the findings of the Auditor General and that constitutes a deliberate misleading of the House, I believe, on both fronts, the contract and what my colleague, the member for Toronto Centre said in his first question of privilege.
The Speaker Andrew Scheer
I thank both hon. members for their further submissions on this question.
The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-26, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (citizen's arrest and the defences of property and persons), be read the third time and passed.
Citizens Arrest and Self-defence Act
Malcolm Allen Welland, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-26, an act pertaining to what civilians can or cannot do when it comes to crimes that are perpetrated against them or their property.
It reminds me of my colleague, the member for Trinity—Spadina, and her constituent who was arrested after a perpetrator, who committed crimes against his particular business, was apprehended by him in a citizen's arrest.
When we look at the bill in the sense of what we should do on a go forward basis, it reminds me that we always need to think about many things when we suggest to citizens or when we try to protect them from charges against them when they try to protect themselves or their property.
I am always cautious around that type of action. Citizens need to be careful that they do not push the limits in what they do to protect themselves and their property when perhaps leaving the situation would be more advantageous. They could be either attacked or hurt when a situation could be defused.
Clearly we want to help them protect their property, their families and themselves from unwanted criminal acts that are perpetrated against them, but by the same token, we do not want to mislead them into believing that somehow, all of a sudden, they should become some form of adjunct police force.
As much as we support the bill, I would caution folks that if they are faced with the predicament of being attacked or their property being broken into and they are unable to move away, they should take reasonable precautions to ensure their property or their family is protected in a safe way that will not inflame or injure themselves or put them or their families at an even greater risk. It is not wrong to protect one's property, one's family or one's self from the perpetrator of a crime.
However, we do not want to give that false sense that individuals should be police officers because they live out in the country. I live out in the country, and to be honest, there really are no police officers in the neighbourhood for any of us who live in rural parts of Canada. The officers are quite far away, and that is as it should be. There are not many of us there and we cannot have an officer for half a dozen houses if they are miles and miles apart. It quite often takes a period of time for folks to get there.
Many of us have been victims of folks who have taken our property. I was the unwilling victim. It happens in rural Ontario, and I am sure it happens to rural constituents across this great land of ours, those who have nice sheds. When I say a shed, it is not the ones we get at Canadian Tire, 7x12 with flimsy stuff. These are great big sheds that hold full tractors, lawn tractors, lawn implements or other implements. We get a rash of folks coming across the rural constituencies who simply decide to load up their trucks with our goods.
In my case it was the famous whipper-snipper and chain saws. The only fortunate part was that whoever the perpetrators were, they could not figure out how to get the lawnmower tractor to move. They did not know that if they yanked on the little lever on the back, it would free-wheel and they would be unable to move it because the transmission was locked, fortunately, so I did not lose that. However, I lost a whole pile of other things.
Unfortunately for me, after I decided to bolt things up and chain them all together after I had replaced them, about four months later they decided to pay me another visit and scooped more stuff, but still could not get the tractor. I have to thank my dad for that, albeit he is no longer with us. As a millwright, he left me great big 10 and 20 foot lengths of chain with the great big locks he used to have when he was an industrial millwright, which would take one heck of a heavy bolt cutter to get through if an individual wanted to do that. These folks do not have bolt cutters. They do not really come equipped with that type of tool. Therefore, they could not get the additional stuff from me.
If I had been home at the time and witnessed the fact that those folks were entering my property and stealing valuable tools from me, which I need for the purposes of looking after my property, I certainly would have been at the window, yelling at them. Depending on the circumstances of what was going on, I may have been reluctant to actually go out and physically confront them. If there were more than one of them, and I was by myself, that may not have been what I would have wanted to do. I certainly would have been on the phone to 911. I may have been marking down their licence plate number and then allowing those sorts of things to go on. I certainly would have been protecting my property from that perspective.
In all cases it is not as simple as that, because the person might have been trying to come in through the door of my house. If I happened to be home with my family, that would present a different and unique danger.
If I am protecting myself and my family from a perpetrator who is intruding into my property, with malicious intent, whether that is to physically harm me or my family, or to do damage to my property just by simply being a malicious individual, do I deserve the right to then try to protect my property? The answer to that is yes, in the perspective of understanding what one needs to do.
People need to take caution, as I suggested earlier, and establish what the situation truly is. If it is perhaps younger people, who may be more afraid of the victim than the victim is of them, the victim might be able to get them off the property. Then again, it could be a person who is well-armed. It could be more than one person. People need to look at the situation and decide how to protect themselves and property. There should be no cost to victims who protected their property by charging them rather than the person who tried to invade their property.
It gets to the nub of the situation of the rights of an individual who is about to become a victim. Clearly, that is what happens to those of us who are either on our property or perhaps are even attacked in the street while walking, for instance. We are victims of a crime and we are simply trying to defend ourselves from an attack of some description.
What it amounts to is the law should not be making a person a victim a second time. The individual has already been victimized the first time. The victim has already perhaps lost property or has had property damaged, or has received some sort of physical harm.
At the very least, people having had their property taken away from them is an emotional violation, whether they are harmed or touched in any particular way. Even though people may not be there at the time, there is a certain value to losing property, whatever that happens to be. In my case it amounted to a few thousand dollars. Those are things that a person has had for a period of time. In some cases, a person's house may have unique value or a person may have intrinsic thoughts that hearken back to loved ones. Maybe it was a prized possession that grandma left for the person. If the person loses that, the emotional violation is always there.
Any time people are victims of crime, the last thing that should happen is that they are victimized again, or at least feel as if they are victim again. They have already been victimized by someone who has decided, in a malicious way, to do damage to their property, to them and their family.
We would all want and hope that folks would not perpetrate this type of violence or crime against other folks, but it would be naive in the nth degree to think that somehow all crime will just end. That is not the case. As we all know, crime is perpetrated, albeit we know it is on the decline.
Based on that, we have to look at what we can do to ensure that crime continues to decline. Albeit my colleagues across the way and I disagree about how to handle crime and punishment and rehabilitation or how to meet the balance. This is about folks who perpetrate crimes against others and the consequences of doing that, and there should be consequences.
What should the consequences be? What do we do to ameliorate that situation because the vast majority of those who perpetrate crimes eventually come out of incarceration or remand, depending on how it is done, or will be in the general society? How do we deal with that particular situation? How do we keep folks from taking other people's property? Ultimately, it really is an issue of how to move forward on crime.
This is about ensuring that the victim does not become another victim. That is the last thing New Democrats want. It was our colleague, the member for Trinity—Spadina, who in the last Parliament asked how one could protect oneself. Is it fair and just and right to use the powers that are available to citizens to ensure they protect their property, their person or family without crossing the line and committing a criminal act?
What is that line? How do we make that line broad enough so folks do not inadvertently trip over it because they did not understand it? How can we continue to move forward and allow them to act in a responsible way because they are a victim?
The folks this legislation would cover are the unwilling and unintended victims of a crime. They had no knowledge that a crime would be perpetrated against them. This was not a contrived act that the victim knew about. The victim had no sense that a crime would be perpetrated against him or her. This really was about an unintended situation happening to the victims, not unintended by those who attacked them. An intended act is when one decides to kick down someone else's door and ransack the house.
Ultimately, what are the consequences on people who receive that intentional act? They have to understand what the law will allow them to do. They have to understand that they can protect themselves or their property knowing in the full light of day that they will not have to worry about being criminally charged because of some unintended act based on an intended act by someone else who broke into their home and attacked them, their family or their property.
Again, it really has to be a cautious act. I would not want folks to think that this becomes a carte blanche bill that would allow one to set up some form of quasi judicial force or, for those of us who live rurally, would allow one to set up some sort of adjunct police force that is not the auxiliary police force.
We already have auxiliary police officers throughout the country, in Ontario and in my region. We have many of them because we do not have enough police officers. These auxiliary police officers are used at special events and parades. They are used extensively for the Labour Day Parade to help with crowd control and traffic. In my neck of the woods there are some great hills for cyclists. The auxiliary police officers control the intersections so that the regular officers can be out doing the work they are empowered to do under the law. We do not want to see another adjunct to the auxiliary officers such that, for example, the member for Welland will now have a group, and not just a neighbourhood watch.
A neighbourhood watch is a good thing. It is a neighbourly thing when one looks after a neighbour's property by simply paying attention when the neighbour is away. In my case, when I travel here, I know that my neighbour, Dave, who lives down the street—and I will put a plug in for my neighbour—and owns Longlack Poultry comes to plow my driveway, which is greatly appreciated. He has been doing this for a number of years now. My partner appreciates when the driveway is done and she is not waiting for me to get back from Ottawa to do it. I want to thank Dave for that. He helps out with my property and keeps an eye out, as do other neighbours because we do not live next door to one another as people do in the city.
When I say that we live next door to one another we are about a half mile away from each other. The neighbourhood watch is really about noticing a suspicious vehicle. Unfortunately, that is how my material was lost. That is how folks in rural Canada lose material. Trucks pull up and look like moving vans, but they take all of one's stuff. However, we do not want to see people in a neighbourhood watch who think that they somehow have the power of the police to interfere in situations and act as if they are members of a quasi police force. I do not believe the bill intends for that. I would caution folks that is not the way we would like to see this go. The police forces have a legitimate role and they do it in a very effective way. We congratulate and thank them for all of their hard work.
This reminds me of when I was on the community policing association committee for my neighbourhood. I used to ask the sergeant about the number of police cars in the neighbourhood when we had break-ins. He would say that they were re-evaluating and would place a car here and there. I remember a complaint from a constituent that a car was not in our neighbourhood. There were none in the town at all. When I asked the sergeant why there was no car within the area, he told me that there was a stabbing in Niagara Falls. He asked if I would prefer the police car to be in my town or somewhere else. I said that I would prefer it there was not a stabbing at all. There was no car in my area because he had to allow the car to go to a very serious situation. Someone had been violently attacked and stabbed.
I will finish by saying that as New Democrats we certainly appreciate the bill coming forward. We have made an amendment to it and we would like to see that happen. However, I will say to the folks out there, whenever one is in danger, be careful, call the police and try to ameliorate the situation so that more harm is not perpetrated on oneself or one's family.
Citizens Arrest and Self-defence Act
Brad Butt Mississauga—Streetsville, ON
Madam Speaker, I want to thank my hon. friend from Welland for a very thoughtful speech about the importance of this bill. I think most members of this House will be supporting this bill in the end, even though some people may have one concern or another.
One of the reasons I am supporting this bill is for the small businesses in the Streetsville business improvement area in my riding. These are hard-working local merchants, often one person working in a store, and they have been victimized. There has been a robbery, an assault or something. Quite often we find in these cases that the perpetrators return. They realize it was a good place to try to commit another robbery because it worked well previously. They can escape around the back quickly. However, sometimes the shop owner is able to get a picture of the perpetrators on video or maybe a glimpse of them. Then the perpetrators come back.
Would the member not agree that this bill is perhaps designed to help out that type of small merchant in communities all across Canada to be able to take some action if perpetrators return, and not be subject to charges as could presently be the case?
Citizens Arrest and Self-defence Act
Malcolm Allen Welland, ON
Madam Speaker, my hon. colleague is absolutely right about the small business owners. There are many in my community.
As the member knows, although my community is more than just Welland. I love to give a plug to my riding of Welland, which is Welland, Port Colborne, Wainfleet, Thorold and parts of St. Catherines. There are small communities, like Port Colborne, Wainfleet and Thorold that have small business owners.
I think of a merchant like Elio's Foot Comfort Centre where people can get custom-made shoes and orthotics. I would encourage the member for Mississauga—Streetsville to come down and get those. If so, maybe he could get a pair of cowboy boots just like my good friend, Peter Kormos, the retired MPP from Welland. That is where he bought his good Canadian cowboy boots.
Clearly, the reason for this bill, as was said by the member for Trinity—Spadina, was what happened to Mr. David Chen in her riding. This was a small business owner who had acts of violence and robbery perpetrated against him not once but twice. We do not wish to see hard-working folks who own small businesses be victims of crime on multiple occasions, as in Mr. Chen's case, by the same person.
It is bad enough when an act is committed against a business owner or an individual, but it seems to me it is worse when the person who committed the crime comes back and perpetrates another crime against that business owner or individual. That is brazen beyond belief, that the same person would come back and try to victimize someone again.
Clearly that is why my colleague, the member for Trinity—Spadina introduced the legislation in the last House, to make sure that that did not happen.