House of Commons Hansard #110 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was inequality.

Topics

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

April 25th, 2012 / 3:35 p.m.

Provencher
Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the support from the opposition for this particular bill. I did note a comment made by the member and I will make this observation. He indicated this is a bill that will in fact help individuals as opposed to other law and order types of bills. This is typical of the NDP approach: let us make sure we can arrest them, but when they are arrested, simply let them go.

In fact, our government's approach is that when someone is arrested, by a citizen or police officer, there are consequences to breaking the law. That is what our legislation does, even if the member opposite does not support it.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that the minister himself is responding to my comments. If we take further what the hon. member has said, we all know that the Conservative idea of a balanced justice system is to just throw someone in jail, throw away the key and then tell everybody that the streets have been made safe. The fact of the matter is that for all the people who go into jail, the overwhelming majority are coming out again. If we do not pay some attention to what is happening when people are incarcerated, yes, I stand by the statement that under some of the government's laws, things will be worse, the streets will be less safe and people will not have the justice that I am saying does exist within this bill.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, we know how misdirected the government has been on criminal justice issues. It slashed crime prevention programs, which we know actually reduce the crime rate. It is willing to spend billions of dollars on prisons even though the crime rate is coming down. We have seen a variety of justice legislation that seems to be written on the back of a napkin and thrown into the House.

Could the member for Hamilton Centre talk a bit more about the fact that this particular piece of legislation is much better because it was essentially drafted by New Democrats? The NDP member for Trinity—Spadina actually did the work. It is because of that we have a bill that is worth getting the stamp of approval of the House of Commons.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, indeed, every one of us here, certainly on this side of the House, has given credit to the member for Trinity—Spadina, in whose riding Mr. Chen lived and where the incident happened. It was her initiative and credit needs to be given. I said yesterday that I hoped somewhere in Hansard there was a quote from someone in the government who also recognized the leading role of the member for Trinity—Spadina.

In the time I have, I want to acknowledge what I said in the beginning. The government has finally found a way to work with the opposition, to get into the Criminal Code and deal with it in a real way as opposed to the political spin that is around every single law and order item that it brings forward. Therefore, I am prepared to acknowledge that, with the leadership of the member for Trinity—Spadina, it took the cooperation of members in the official opposition and the government. We only wish that the government would take this approach more consistently, because it is a heck of a lot more progressive and positive in terms of making changes to our Criminal Code than the way the government normally conducts itself on matters like this.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Dan Harris Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the member was just saying, there is perhaps a lack of collegiality or cooperation on the government benches. I would be interested in hearing more about that. Perhaps the member has an idea to pass along to the government.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, it was not that long ago in a minority setting that the government did not really want to, but was forced to, work with other members. We did get things done. The government has had from the beginning the attitude that it has a majority and somehow 39% of the votes give it 100% of the power. The Conservatives believe that they can just rule at will. Their whole demeanour changed once they received that majority. It is a shame, because Bill C-26 is an example of how working together benefits all of us politically, but more important, provides better legislation, better laws and ultimately safer streets.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Hamilton Centre for his very eloquent speech. It gives us an appreciation for the situation and the work that has been done on Bill C-26.

The thing that strikes me is the spirit of co-operation that has allowed the House and the committee involved to achieve what we could call an optimal result. It may not be perfect, but perfection is unattainable. So it goes and we can live with that.

However, I think this is a start, or at least a shining example compared to other very unfortunate cases where the government decided to embark on its own path, alone. We have seen some of the consequences of that approach.

I would like the hon. member to say more about this spirit of co-operation that we wish for in order to achieve results that benefit everyone since, after all, we are all representatives of the Canadian population as a whole.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, it was important that the member said the House and committees. All of us in this place know that the real work, the roll up our sleeves, get down to work, no one is watching, just do plain work, happens at committee.

We first started to see the government's approach to committee work when we were setting up the rules, when we were talking about how committees would be structured, how often people would be allowed to talk, all those basic and fundamental fairness rules. We watched the way that the Conservative government just rolled in like a bulldozer and attempted to get every advantage it could, believing again that its 39% of the votes gave it an entitlement to 100% of the power and everything that goes with that.

The member himself answered appropriately in focusing on committee, because that is where the work happens, that is where the tone is set. The work that was done in committee that led us to Bill C-26 was successful. I am willing to bet that if we looked at the transcript we would find that people cooperated, people worked together to find solutions rather than working to find divisions based on partisanship.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I rise during this discussion with great disappointment in my colleagues in the NDP. Many of the things that they have said today are absolutely not factual, not based on any kind of a study that has been done.

Having almost 19 years of police experience tells me that victims across this country are screaming for governments across the country to do the right thing and to support them in their efforts to find justice. This is another example of where the NDP has it wrong. Those members continually support judicial discretion for offenders.

I stand today to ask a simple question of my hon. colleague from the NDP. Will he stand and simply tell Canadian victims that he will support victims over offenders and join the government in its efforts to do so through its legislation? Will he support victims here and now? Will he state that to Canadians so that they know clearly that the government and opposition members are trying very hard to do what is right for all victims across the country?

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do thank the parliamentary secretary for her time and her involvement. Let me say at the outset that I have great respect for the service she provided in uniform as a Canadian police officer. I share some experience in the policing world, having been the Solicitor General of Ontario, as well the civilian head of the OPP. I was also responsible for corrections.

I know that the job does not end when we arrest someone. When somebody does something wrong, then our justice system needs to kick in. However, this notion that somehow from that moment forward whatever the crime, the individual no longer has a useful role in society is not an approach that we believe in.

The fact of the matter is that these are our family members, neighbours, co-workers, and at some point in their sentencing they are coming back out. If we do not do something to make it different for those individuals, they are going to come out and make it worse because they know of nothing else.

We believe in balance. While we must make sure that we impose the justice system as we need it, support police and support our justice courts, we must also be sure that we are fair to the people who are in there, recognizing that we want them to have a positive future, not just throw it away.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Laurin Liu Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Timmins—James Bay.

Today, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-26 which deals with citizen's arrest and the defence of property, and clarifies the concept of self-defence.

The bill amends the Criminal Code in order to enable a person who owns or has lawful possession of property, or persons authorized by them, to arrest within a reasonable time a person whom they find committing a criminal offence on or in relation to that property. It also amends the Criminal Code to simplify the provisions relating to the defences of property and persons.

First of all, we will be supporting this bill, which is essentially modelled after a bill previously introduced by our NDP colleague for Trinity—Spadina. I would like to congratulate her for her efforts in this regard.

You will recall that it all began in her riding back in May 2003, when the owner of the Lucky Moose Food Mart, David Chen, arrested a man who stole something from his store.

The Criminal Code allows the owner of property to arrest someone only if the presumed perpetrator is caught red-handed. In the case of Lucky Moose Food Mart, the owner arrested the thief one hour after the incident, when the criminal returned to the scene of the crime. As a result, the police charged the store owner with kidnapping, carrying a concealed weapon, assault and forcible confinement.

The charges of kidnapping and carrying a concealed weapon were dropped by the Crown, and Mr. Chen and his two co-accused did go to trial. They were acquitted of the charges of forcible confinement and assault in October 2010.

In order to protect citizens like David Chen from criminal prosecution, our colleague from Trinity—Spadina introduced a private member's bill to allow people to make arrests without warrant within a reasonable period. We are pleased to see that it has been reintroduced by the government.

It is important to note that the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police supports Bill C-26. When he appeared before the committee, Superintendent Greg Preston said:

...CACP does support the passage of Bill C-26. We think it's important that citizens be recognized, that when they do act, they have self-defence available to them. We believe that this will assist the police in understanding, to be able to better determine whether or not somebody who does act does so lawfully.

...we'd prefer if we were on every street corner, but that's not the reality of the world. It is inevitable, and as such we certainly support the idea that they would be recognized for that.

It is important to understand that Bill C-26 does not reinvent the wheel. In Canada, the power granted to citizens to arrest without warrant is defined in section 494 of the Criminal Code. With regard to citizen's arrest, the only thing Bill C-26 does is to allow citizens to make an arrest without a warrant “within a reasonable time”.

Bill C-26 also includes amendments to provisions of the Criminal Code related to self-defence and the defence of property. These amendments will lead to long-awaited reforms that will simplify the complex provisions of the Criminal Code on self-defence and the defence of property.

In committee, Nicole Dufour, a lawyer and the coordinator for the Barreau du Québec's Criminal Law Committee, had this to say about self-defence:

The Barreau du Québec would like to offer its congratulations on the effort to simplify the legislation relating to self-defence, which has been criticized by the courts and by law enforcement bodies. In our opinion, these amendments do not alter the current case law, since the proposed provisions address the conduct and actions of a person who uses force, and not the outcome, for deciding whether the use of force in the circumstances is reasonable and lawful.

In committee, Hamish Stewart, a law professor at the University of Toronto, also pointed out the efforts to simplify the provisions on self-defence. He said:

The existing provisions of the Criminal Code have often been criticized for being unclear, for overlapping in ways that are not always clear, and for being difficult to explain to juries. There has been a long stream of criticism from lawyers, judges, and academics about the difficulty of interpreting and applying the existing provisions. So the attempt to take all these ideas of self-defence and put them into one section that would be clear and that would apply to all potential crimes I think is very welcome.

Although we support this bill, we regret that in committee the government rejected our amendment to specify that self-defence includes actions taken under the influence of what is referred to as battered woman syndrome. We wanted the bill to recognize that it is possible that a person who has been a victim of domestic violence might reasonably perceive the perpetrator of repeated acts of violence to be a greater threat than someone without this history might perceive the perpetrator to be.

We believe that the definition of self-defence must take into account the subjective perception of the circumstances rather than a purely objective perception of the situation. We thought that the terms describing the history of the two parties were not specific enough in Bill C-26 and we wanted to ensure that in this type of situation “the act committed is reasonable in the circumstances” from the individual's perspective.

The Canadian Bar Association and the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies recommended this amendment. Unfortunately, this government did not support it.

Eric Gottardi, from the Canadian Bar Association, pointed out that the current legislation does not protect female victims of abuse very well and that it is imperative to correct this situation. In committee, he said:

It's well accepted in our case law that a reasonable person, acting reasonably in the circumstances of the accused, can have honest but mistaken beliefs about a set of facts. So someone might think that they're about to be attacked or they're about to be threatened, and they may act in self-defence. That, in fact, might not be the case. But as long as they honestly believed, and that belief was reasonable, then they are justified in using force to defend themselves, even in advance of an attack or in advance of a threat.

...

We're strongly against violence against women, and we support a law and an amendment to the law of self-defence that protects those women in their subjective belief that they are under imminent threat. It's our concern that subjective belief isn't adequately protected as the law is currently drafted.

I am extremely disappointed that the NDP's amendment was rejected and I can assure you that we will continue to press this issue. Furthermore, I met several times with women from La Mouvance, a women's organization in the riding of Rivière-des-Mille-Îles. These women do extraordinary work with female victims of violence. Unfortunately, they are not receiving any financial support from the federal government. Evidently, this government is not interested in helping women who are victims of violence by supporting the NDP's amendment.

There was a demonstration on the Hill today. We know that tomorrow, the Conservatives will be launching an attack on women in the form of Motion M-312. Canadians have fought for decades to give women the right to make their own choices about their bodies. Clearly, this government is determined to undermine women's rights. The Prime Minister has refused to clarify his government's position on this subject, and that has voters in my riding and across Canada worried.

Throughout our study of this bill, our primary concern has been to ensure that it does not encourage individuals to take justice into their own hands or to endanger themselves.

Personally, I agree with many of the witnesses who appeared before the committee to express concern that this bill gives too much freedom to the private security companies that are proliferating in Canada and Quebec. Even though a number of concerns were raised, we decided that this bill contains acceptable changes and that it will prevent people like Mr. Chen from being charged with a crime for defending their own property.

I am ready for questions from my hon. colleagues.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, a little earlier, as I was listening to the Conservative members' comments, I got the impression that they are somewhat confused about the meaning of standing up for victims and supporting victims.

Unfortunately, we often hear statements to the effect that the NDP is against victims and does not stand up for victims. However, in my opinion, there is a clear difference between more severe sentencing for criminals or revenge for victims and real protection, real support, for victims. For example, victims can be given tools to help them react better or better defend themselves.

Could the hon. member explain, for example, the relationship between the bill to make our streets safer and this bill, which provides real support to victims of theft or other crimes? Could she tell us the difference between the two?

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Laurin Liu Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for those comments.

She raised an excellent point. This government's position on criminal justice creates more victims than it helps. We cannot simply put people in prison without considering what they will do when they get out. Rather than investing in high schools and health, the Conservative Party would rather invest in new cells for prisoners. I find this very troubling.

This is an important point to raise. Rather than putting our young people and adults in prison, we must help them, particularly by addressing problems such as poverty and education.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, we recognize that the bill deals with citizen's arrest, self-defence and so forth, and has received fairly widespread support, whether it is in the House or from the public as a whole.

In part I would like to express what I believe are concerns held by people of Winnipeg North, the area I represent. They want to see more of action to deal with some of the crime issues out there, and ways of dealing with crime.

The member made reference to what I would classify as alternative activities for young people and how government could invest in those types of things and could enhance such things as community policing.

Yes, it is great that we have the bill before us. We know it is receiving widespread support in terms of its ultimate passage through the House today, but would the member acknowledge that we need to do more than just deal with bills such as this and look at other forms of preventing crimes?

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Laurin Liu Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, this piece of legislation is an important step, but of course we need to take other measures.

It is important to note that the rate of crime is in decline in Canada, so the position of the government in terms of criminal justice is not actually based on facts or science. There are no studies that back the position of the government with regard to criminal justice. It is something that will not work in our communities. It is something that will not prevent criminals from committing more crimes.

My constituents are telling me that we should not be putting young people in jail, because they will come out as hardened criminals. That is something the NDP also noted in the House of Commons during debate.