An Act to amend the Criminal Code and other Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in November 2003.


Martin Cauchon  Liberal


Not active, as of Oct. 30, 2003
(This bill did not become law.)


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 30th, 2003 / 4:10 p.m.
See context


Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for giving me another opportunity, perhaps the last one, to comment on this bill.

I want to take this opportunity to thank Roch Gilbert, a local police officer who made these tables possible, in co-operation with the Maison des jeunes, SOS Jeunesse and all the community stakeholders.

I congratulate Roch Gilbert for his visits to the schools. When he enters a classroom, he does not stand in front of the students but sits down with them. He explains his background and asks young people to give their opinion and tell him what they would like him to be with them. This approach is quite different from everything we have ever seen.

When I was young, I would not go near a police officer because I was so afraid. He had a gun and uniform, and he looked very strict. Mr. Gilbert has a new approach. He is the deadpan type. He speaks about tragic situations in a way young people can relate to and with humour.

Humour helps to get messages across. We should have more humour in this House to play down the heavy topics we have to deal with. Bill C-32 deals with very complex and serious issues, like serious situations in aircrafts and the use of traps.

We do not dare make light of it because we think it would sometimes be unparliamentary. But we should use more humour in a way that is acceptable in Parliament. Maybe we would not need an official poet, then, because we would all be poets.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 30th, 2003 / 3:40 p.m.
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Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak today on Bill C-32.

Before I begin my speech, I would like to congratulate my three colleagues. Congratulations are in order when people make excellent contributions. Throughout the process around this bill, they have had positive contributions to make.

I wish to congratulate my colleague, the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot. As we know, about six years ago there was a lot of criminal activity in his area. Pot was being planted in cornfields. Our colleague denounced the authors of this crime publicly, and was a target of personal threats afterward. He did not back down, however, and continued his efforts, to the benefit of the population, the various levels of government, and the law enforcement agencies, who were at a disadvantage because there was no law that contained provisions to help them under these circumstances.

My colleague was greatly worried about the activities of the criminal community, but his activities were also a great worry to them. Thanks to his actions, society started to ask questions. As a result, the parliamentarians, who need to heed what their constituents want, could not do otherwise than to examine their consciences and decide that the law needed to be changed, in order to beef up the sentences for such crimes.

So I congratulate my colleague. In his region, as in all other regions of Quebec, we still need to invest a great deal of energy in the battle against the criminal element, with its multitude of ways to get around the law and get rid of people they do not want around.

I congratulate him and ask him to keep up his work with the people in his area, so that all parts of Quebec can draw on their experience and start up their own programs to deal with what is going in their area.

I also congratulate the hon. member for Joliette, whose speech was excellent. He has told us that this bill was going to have more teeth because of the proposed amendment to the Criminal Code. Unfortunately, the Canadian government has submitted a proposal to the Solicitor General to do away with RCMP detachments in certain specific regions of Quebec, and if this were acted on, it would be most regrettable.

We must think of all the energy that has been expended by the Quebec provincial police, the RCMP, the municipal police forces, the municipal and school board officials, specific schools and the general public. They have sat down together to pool their efforts in order to get a clear idea of the situation in their region, as well as to make the battle against crime more effective.

The RCMP is a very important institution. As all these offences come under the Criminal Code, the RCMP is mandated to intervene in these cases. By not having these stakeholders at the table, we have just impacted on the work done in the areas concerned.

That is not what I call listening to taxpayers. All of us here pay taxes. And Quebec and the other provinces pay taxes to the federal government.

I would ask the Solicitor General to reconsider his decision because this is very important. Organized crime generates a lot of money, and there is certainly no shortage of money to keep them busy. I do not know where they get all this money from, but there is an abundance of it. As far as we are concerned, most of the time it is volunteers, people who are not paid, who help us in our efforts to fight the reprehensible acts committed by the criminal world. The Solicitor General must act to meet the needs of the nine regions in Quebec, including Lanaudière, that will be affected by the elimination or closure of the RCMP detachments.

I also want to commend my colleague from Repentigny, who represents the region of Lanaudière and is affected by this. He told us how important it is.

In my riding, we have many police officers who get involved and who are no longer just coercive. They sit down to talk with young people and the community. They are partners in preventing crime. They talk to young people and parents. We have an association of parents of teenagers that works closely with the police. They talk with young people and ask what needs to be done to make our society better in the future.

People always say that society has become complacent. That is not true. There are community organizations and they need funds to be able to fight crime. They are succeeding because they have the support of the RCMP and the Sûreté du Québec, which have the money and the training to fight crime.

Giving such a signal to these people indicates that we are not interested in them. These people want to improve social conditions for everyone. We must not forget that when such criminals set traps in a field, it is not only the farmer who may get hurt. There are hikers in the woods and near the farmers' fields. There are children who play there. These people may have accidents, even fatal ones.

By informing people, we can fight crime. However, without some funding and some experts with the means to intervene, we are putting handcuffs on our constituents' goodwill.

Therefore, the Bloc Quebecois will support this bill. As my colleague from Repentigny said, we are not here just to say no. We are here to make progress on issues that affect each and every one of our constituents. When there is something positive and the time has come to act, and the government opens the door for us, we are there to examine the legislation. When a bill, like Bill C-32, provides solutions to the problems of all Quebeckers and Canadians, we will not oppose it.

We must, however, watch carefully as this legislation is implemented, since nothing is perfect. When enforcement guidelines are issued, sore points sometimes develop. The Bloc Quebecois will be very attentive, because this bill can improve society. I think we must support all measures that can improve society and we must say so aloud.

This bill makes interesting amendments to the Criminal Code, particularly with respect to the new offence concerning traps.

Earlier, I said that in my riding as well, there are many farmers' fields being targeted by organized crime. Pot has begun to grow in those fields. These criminals have a lot of money at stake. Consequently, they protect themselves by installing many traps around their crops, to safeguard their pot of gold. These people are organized.

By including in this bill a stiffer penalty for setting traps, we are finally doing something positive.

It has to be done. The underworld puts coercive pressure on people. Therefore, our legislation must put coercive pressure on the underworld, on organized crime. These criminals must be stopped.

Most of the time, all these substances, like marijuana, are targeted to a young clientele. We see that in schoolyards. These people are very well organized. They always have drug dealers working for them. And they recruit young kids. In most cases, these young kids will agree to do it because of the money they can make. I met a young boy who was no more than eight or nine years old and he was making up to $300 or $400 a week by selling pot. People of any age can be attracted by the prospect of making easy money.

We need coercive measures, issue tables and laws that enable us to take action. In the past, police forces were more than willing to do their part, but the Criminal Code did not provide them with the necessary tools. This bill changes that.

This bill also allows the use of reasonable force on board aircraft. This was mentioned earlier. All my colleagues who spoke to Bill C-32 talked about it. They referred to what we saw on September 11. People returning from trips by plane often have stories to tell about incidents that happened on board the aircraft. Sometimes, some people drink too much too fast and do regrettable things.

This bill will clarify the fact that any person on board an aircraft can intervene to contain on overly enthusiastic passenger. This is a positive measure. Moreover, when people engage in reprehensible behaviour on board an aircraft, it causes harm.

Some people have psychological problems. Some do not like to fly but they have to. If something happens on board, it can be very disturbing for them. I think that these provisions will reassure those who are afraid to fly. They will know that people will no longer be allowed to do whatever they want on board an aircraft.

The bill also modifies the provision dealing with the provision of information on oath in relation to weapons. It also creates an exemption to the offence of intercepting private communications in order to protect computer systems. That was a key point I was concerned about when we heard about this new bill. Indeed, we all know that with the emergence of the Internet just about anybody can surf the net. Accessing data banks is easy. We can talk to anybody we want around the planet. My colleague behind me often uses his laptop in the House. He often does research on the Internet. If my colleague can do it, many others can do it too.

The bill contains provisions to make sure the wording of clauses is consistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We know that today our protection ends where somebody else's protection starts. Without the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms, I believe there would be abuses. We have that protection.

We must use it and protect privacy.

It is in the bill. However, the Bloc Quebecois said during the clause by clause review of the bill that the wording of that clause was not clear. We will ensure the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is respected.

One of the clauses mentions that a peace officer must have reasonable grounds to apply for a warrant. This is a real problem. In my family there are a number of lawyers, police officers, peace officers and paramedics. I have a very large family where just about every profession is represented. We get together quite often. We are a tight-knit family. When we are gathered around the table we quite often talk about these topics. Whenever someone mentions an issue, someone else says that such or such a bill is inadequate. We talk a lot about justice issues in my family.

The bill we are dealing with right now will add some fuel to the discussion we had last year during the Christmas holidays. My relatives will be able to say that Bill C-32 improves the means we have to deal with criminal offences and the negative impact of organized crime's activities on society in Canada and Quebec.

With all it did, the Bloc Quebecois has been very active in improving this bill. The Bloc Quebecois pointed out that this was a first step but that we had to go further. This is important. Sometimes, legislators are lagging behind instead of taking the lead.

We all know that when a bill is passed, it is not reviewed annually. Bill C-32 is currently relevant, but it lacks elements for the future. Tomorrow is already here. Numerous amendments should have been adopted. However, life is not perfect, particularly when we are dealing with the criminal world. Those who operate in the criminal world are quite sharp and they always succeed in circumventing the law.

The central elements of this bill allow us to ensure security through new offences with regard to placing traps. Other provisions deal with the use of force on aircraft. The Bloc Quebecois had also requested new measures on the anti-gang legislation.

An anti-gang bill was introduced a few years ago. The situation did get better, but the bill did not go far enough. We hope that the government will listen to us and will act promptly to adopt stronger anti-gang legislation.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 30th, 2003 / 3:35 p.m.
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Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, like most members of the House, my party and I are in support of the amendments to the Criminal Code that are contained in Bill C-32.

As individual members I think we have all heard horror stories from constituents in our home ridings around the use of traps by certain members of our society, mostly the criminal elements of our society, which has put lives in danger, particularly the lives of our emergency service workers, whether they be police, firefighters, ambulance drivers or people who work in those areas.

We think of this almost exclusively in terms of the police officer crashing through a door and being met with a trap in the floor or a shotgun pointed at the door and triggered by the breaking in of the door. However, it usually is something less dramatic than that but equally dangerous, perhaps even more so because the police officer going in is well aware of the risks that he or she may be facing. It could be the ambulance driver going in simply to pick up somebody who is injured or is suffering from ill health who is confronted with this type of trap.

What the bill does in terms of trying to deal with this type of anti-social and outright criminal behaviour is increase the penalties for anybody who either has established that trap or is knowingly in possession of property and real estate wherein those traps are contained. It runs from increasing sentences from what might have been a 10 year sentence to one of 14 years and, in some cases such as situations where death results from the use of these traps, to life imprisonment. It bodes well for all members of the House to support that part of the bill.

Another point that we felt was important and were happy to see come forward is the whole issue of making restitution easier for people who have been victims of crime. The existing situation requires in effect a whole separate civil proceeding under some circumstances, that is, one actually has to start an application to the courts in order to obtain a court order from the civil courts, which would then allow one to collect on the restitution order that would already have been made by the criminal courts. There are amendments in the bill that will make that process much easier, much simpler and much less expensive for victims of crime.

There are some technical amendments around the use of warrants for going in and seizing weapons. This issue rose to the Ontario Court of Appeal in Regina v. Hurrell. The court in effect struck down the warrant used in those circumstances in that it offended the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

What we are doing here is recognizing the limitations that the court of appeal put on the use of these warrants. We are now including those limitations in the bill but still allowing, under the proper set of circumstances, for police officers to go in on reasonable grounds and seize weapons where they are concerned that the weapons may be used for violent crimes. Again, it is a very useful mechanism to be made available to our police forces in the way of preventing crime and is therefore a good use of the Criminal Code in that regard.

The final point I would like to address, which has drawn some attention because of September 11, 2001, is redefining what is reasonable force, specifically on air flights. To make that clear, we have redefined in the amendments what a flight is.

More specifically spelled out in the bill is the right of any individual to use reasonable force in a situation where violence is either in the process or anticipated aboard air flights. Given the circumstances of September 11, this is a timely amendment which will provide clear direction to all members of society on what is acceptable and permissible and perhaps even recommended in those circumstances.

Based on those comments, the NDP is quite pleased to support the bill, particularly the amendments I have mentioned.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 30th, 2003 / 3:10 p.m.
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Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my friend and colleague, the hon. member for Joliette, for his well-chosen words on Bill C-32. I am pleased to speak to this bill on behalf of my party.

Today, once again, we are going to cause sorrow among our colleagues opposite by explaining in a very rational way, with reasoned arguments, why we oppose the amendments, the bills and the ideas, that the government party brings before us.

Nevertheless, this time, we are going to support Bill C-32. The Minister of Justice will certainly be pleased to see his friends in the Bloc Quebecois once again supporting a government bill, and I shall explain the four primary reasons.

These are the four themes we think are very important, and I quote:

This enactment amends the Criminal Code by

(a) establishing more serious offences for placing, or knowingly permitting to remain in a place, a trap, device or other thing that is likely to cause death or bodily harm to a person;

(b) permitting the use of as much force as is reasonably necessary on board an aircraft to prevent the commission of an offence that would be likely to cause immediate and serious injury to the aircraft or to any person or property in the aircraft;

(c) modifying the provision dealing with the provision of information on oath in relation to weapons;

In a moment I will explain why we are also supporting this amendment. The final theme, which, in my opinion, may be the most important, is this:

(d) creating an exemption to the offence of intercepting private communications in order to protect computer systems.

It amends the Financial Administration Act in order to authorize the federal government to take necessary measures to protect its computer systems.

In 2003-04 electronic communications and transactions are increasingly numerous. Many citizens make transactions over the Internet using their credit cards. Unfortunately, sometimes—too often—someone steals their credit cards by stealing the personal identification numbers. Later, fraud is committed through illegal use of the information networks.

If, through this bill or other legislation, we can correct this situation and give more protection to electronic transactions and transfers made by our citizens, it seems to me that we must, as parliamentarians, encourage such amendments and make as many of them as we need.

On this particular bill and on other bills—I want to emphasize that for my colleagues on the government side—we could draw on a bill recently passed in the United States dealing with unsollicited e-mails.

If I correctly understood the intent of the legislation in the United States, people can add their name to a national register and ask not to receive any promotional material from all major media and big corporations using telemarketers or computers for this purpose.

The big corporations have to consult the national registry every day and to delete the names of all those who do not want to be on the mass mailing lists anymore. According to the latest data that I have, some 50 million Americans have added their names to the national register to avoid receiving all this correspondence trying to sell products all equally miraculous and claiming to make them rich and famous, to educate them and to solve all of their health or financial problems.

I think that it would be perfectly legitimate to look carefully at this aspect in Bill C-32 or in a similar bill that would draw from this American legislation and to see if we can apply it to Canada in order to allow people to regain control over their computer and their personal lives.

When you are quietly sitting at home and the phone rings constantly with someone trying to sell a heat pump, a vacuum cleaner or a wonderful encyclopedia, it is a form of pollution. It disturbs our privacy and infringes on the leisure time we want to spend with our family. In our bills, we should be sensitive to that and try to improve the situation.

I talked about the four reasons for which we support Bill C-32. The main reason is that this bill creates a more serious offence for those who set traps or other devices in places kept or used for the purpose of committing crimes.

Let me explain why we agree with this principle. The offence of placing a trap already exists in section 247 of the Criminal Code. The proposed amendments would replace that section. We want to make it more specific and then add more offences.

Right now, setting or placing a trap with intent to cause death or bodily harm to a person is an offence punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of five years, wherever the trap or the device is placed. This provision would remain, but with minor changes.

New offences are also being established. First of all, if the trap or the device does cause bodily harm, the term of imprisonment will be 10 years. It will be 5 years for placing a trap, but if it is used and someone is accidentally injured, imprisonment will be for a period of 10 years.

If someone sets a trap in a place kept or used for the purpose of committing a crime, the maximum term of imprisonment is 10 years. If the trap is set in a place kept or used for the purpose of committing a crime and that trap causes bodily harm, it will be possible to extend the term to 15 years.

Finally, if a death is caused by a trap, a bear trap or anything of the kind—I will explain that later—the person caught committing the offence of setting the trap or device will be liable to life imprisonment.

This may seem a bit crazy, but I want to explain. This has happened recently in fields in Quebec. My hon. colleague from Joliette talked about people taking over tobacco or other fields belonging to farmers. So as not to get caught cultivating marijuana, members of organized crime rings place bear traps and other traps so that if the farmer gets too close to where the marijuana is being grown, he will get caught in the trap and can get hurt or even die from his injuries.

This is also true when buildings in industrial areas are rented and used to grow illegal plants. Bear traps or other traps are placed to prevent security or police officers from checking, or intruders or others from entering and discovering their stash.

In Quebec, some people have been very seriously injured by this kind of protection used by organized crime rings to protect the proceeds of their crime. It is understandable and legitimate, given the evolution in the use of these kinds of traps, to amend and clarify the scope of section 247 to provide even harsher sentences for those resorting to such abominable tactics to protect the proceeds of their crime.

The Minister of Justice said on Radio-Canada radio last April 13, “Currently, organized crime rings are placing traps in areas used for criminal activities. For example, areas where cannabis is cultivated. The firefighters association had been requesting this for some time”. This is why section 247 needs to be amended.

What happens when there is a fire and firefighters arrive on the scene? They might wind up in a bear trap because they cannot see through the smoke. It is perfectly legitimate to protect the lives of those protecting us and give them the tools they need and a safer environment in which to do their jobs.

I will take advantage of this theme of traps and snares to state that the Bloc Quebecois had asked for certain tools in the antigang legislation to be corrected and changed. Two of these have not yet been acted upon. We feel the bill could have gone further. First of all, with Bill C-24 in the last session, the government refused to criminalize passive membership in a gang. This would have made it possible to fight organized crime more effectively, and that is what we want to do here. Had membership in a gang been recognized as a criminal offence, it would have helped in the battle against organized crime.

The other measure we were calling for was reversal of the burden of proof. In Canadian law it is essential to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that an accused has accumulated wealth by committing a series of specific and identifiable offences. We need only think of the Hell's Angels megatrials. When someone has a job and reports an annual income of $19,000 when filing income tax returns, but is living in a house worth $265,000 with a Jaguar and a Porsche parked out front, I do not know how that person manages his budget, but certainly not like you or I do.

Perhaps we ought to introduce the reverse burden of proof in order to get these people to tell us how to legally manage our affairs so efficiently. But, all joking aside, I think that people who belong to an organized gang ought to be required to show how they amassed their wealth. We would not be the first country to adopt this reversal of the burden of proof for this specific situation. Canada would not be breaking new ground and the world's legal system would not be destroyed.

I would remind hon. members that Australia, Austria, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland and the United Kingdom have changed their legislation for these very specific cases, reversing the burden of proof.

One of the other reasons we support Bill C-32 is its authorization of the use of reasonable force to prevent criminal activity on board an aircraft in flight that could endanger persons or property—indeed could lead to their death.

Under the current Canadian legislation, the use of reasonable force to prevent the commission of an offence is permitted. The same applies on board an aircraft in Canadian airspace. The bill will amend the Criminal Code to explicitly recognize that any person on board an aircraft in flight is justified in using reasonable force if he or she believes that the use of such force is necessary to prevent the commission of an offence which could endanger the safety of the aircraft or its passengers.

The bill will also clarify that this justification also applies on board any Canadian registered aircraft in flight outside Canadian airspace, and not only in Canadian airspace.

The amendment will ensure the full effect of the Tokyo Convention On Offences and Certain Other Acts Committed on Board Aircraft.

Canada is signatory to many conventions and belongs to many international institutions such as the ICAO and the UN.

Meetings are held regularly in certain countries. For example, the ICAO deals with aviation safety. Countries are asking themselves how they can contribute to the improvement of aviation safety.

As a sovereignist, I have a lot of respect for the sovereignty of states and their right to independence. However, in this era of globalization, there are decisions that cannot be made strictly within our borders, whether on land, on the sea or in the air. There is a constant flow of people, information and money. Financial transfers abound. Therefore, we must sign more and more international conventions, and this is why the sovereignty of states is important.

When we sign an international convention, if our own legislation is inadequate, incomplete or incorrect, we must amend it. In this part of Bill C-32, we are amending the Criminal Code with regard to the use of force on board aircraft. We are doing this to comply with the Tokyo convention. We must also prevent serious crimes like we saw in the United States in 2001, when terrorists hijacked airplanes and used them as weapons against civilian populations.

We consider it essential that passengers and peace officers on aircraft know that they are covered by legislation if ever they feel it necessary to use force to ensure the safety of both those onboard the aircraft and those who could become the victims of the use of this aircraft for terrorist or criminal purposes, as happened in New York City.

I am therefore convinced that the amendment of section 117.04 of the Criminal Code will ensure greater safety for the crew as well as for people who travel by plane either for business or pleasure.

Our third reason for supporting Bill C-32 is the provision on warrants to search for and seize weapons. Section 117.04 of the Criminal Code deals with that. It sets out the procedure for a peace officer to apply for a warrant to seize weapons, prohibited devices, ammunition, explosives, and so on.

In this respect, one only has to think of family violence situations and the restriction put on police officers to apply for a warrant before entering a home when there are weapons on the premises. Here again, we must make the work of those ensuring our safety easier by allowing us to ensure theirs.

To conclude, as I said at the beginning of my remarks, let me stress again the importance of creating an exemption to the offence of intercepting private communications in order to protect computer systems. A growing number of Canadians are using computer systems to transact business and communicate at all levels. These computer activities must be protected.

As I said earlier, we should take advantage of this window of opportunity to go one step further and develop something based, for once, on what the U.S. is doing. They can do good things in the U.S. A national registry of people could be developed in Canada, and we could tell the big companies which spam us to take our name off their list. This way, our quality of life would be improved.

As you can see, the Bloc Quebecois once again considered with all due diligence this bill before us. For these four main reasons, we will support the bill.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 30th, 2003 / 3:05 p.m.
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Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Jonquière for her question. It takes us back into the debate on Bill C-32, which the Bloc Quebecois supports.

In closing, I said there was something somewhat contradictory about the fact that a number of penalties have been increased, which we support, especially those targeting organized crime, while RCMP detachments are being pulled out of several regions in Quebec—and I imagine the same must be true across Canada.

In the Lanaudière area, we have a detachment based in Joliette. I explained that it was supposed to be staffed by 13 officers. Due to the transfer of officers who have not been replaced over the past years, there are now only four officers left to look after the whole area of Lanaudière, which is not enough.

In spite of that, these four RCMP officers are working in close cooperation with the QPF and especially with the municipal police of greater Joliette.

If this detachment of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were to go to Saint-Jérôme and to Trois-Rivières, all of Lanaudière would be unprotected. In this regard, in his speech, the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot talked about the situation in his area, where a number of fields were taken over from farmers for the illegal production of marijuana or cannabis.

Unfortunately, we have the same situation in our area. It is a area where tobacco is grown and where there is also a great amount of corn. Unfortunately, these crops facilitate the hiding of this illegal production by the organized crime.

Thus, by neglecting Lanaudière to concentrate RCMP personnel in Saint-Jérôme and Trois-Rivières, the government will totally abandon Lanaudière to the organized crime and the taking over of these fields.

I also explained that, fortunately, citizens have taken action to promote an Info-Crime line, 1-800-711-1800. It allows citizens to anonymously and confidentially report crimes they have witnessed.

Of course, once they have called in, the police must build a case. Thus, if the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is no longer in Lanaudière, the work this group of citizens has done and is still doing will be in vain. There will be no use calling this Info-Crime line to report a crime if no one is able to act upon the information.

I remind the House that the RCMP, within the divisions in the different police forces, particularly in Quebec, plays a very important role in search and seizure to gather evidence on organized crime issues.

It is also important to point out another element. The Commission scolaire des Samares, which serves the north of Lanaudière, also has a number of people who work with the commission to ensure that drug traffickers do not use our schools and school yards to recruit consumers and also possible young drug dealers.

These people were hired by the school board and by Thérèse Martin school, Barthélemy Joliette school and even a private school, the Académie Manseau, and are working in cooperation with the Joliette RCMP detachment. If the solicitor general followed up on the RCMP internal management report, and its recommendation to close down nine detachments in Quebec, we will have to do without a detachment in the Lanaudière area. As citizens and as taxpayers, we are entitled to the same services the RCMP is providing to other areas in Quebec and throughout Canada.

The hon. member for Repentigny will agree with me. This issue affects him directly also, even though the detachment is not located in Repentigny, but in Joliette.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

October 30th, 2003 / 3 p.m.
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Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario


Don Boudria LiberalMinister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon we will return to consideration of Bill C-32, the Criminal Code amendments, followed by Bill C-54. If we get through this, we will proceed to consideration of Bills C-19 and C-6, two bills on first nations. If we have time, we will also look at Bill C-51.

If that is a bit too ambitious, the first item for consideration tomorrow will be Bill C-6, the specific claims legislation. After oral question period, we will come back to Bill C-54, which we debated this morning, concerning fiscal arrangements. If there is time, this will be followed by Bill C-46, the market fraud bill, and Bills C-19, on first nations, and S-13, concerning the Statistics Act.

Next week, we will continue to consider bills that have not been completed, beginning on Monday with Bill C-46, on financial institutions. We will add to that list Bill C-23, the sexual offenders legislation.

By mid-week, we hope to be in a position to consider Bill C-52, the radio communications bill, and Bill C-20, the child protection legislation, as mentioned by the Minister of Justice during oral question period.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 29th, 2003 / 5:30 p.m.
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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Unfortunately there is no time left. The hon. member for Joliette will have 10 minutes for questions and comments when debate resumes on Bill C-32.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 29th, 2003 / 5:10 p.m.
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Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Quebecois supports this bill. It contains useful amendments to the Criminal Code. Moreover, those amendments are along the same lines as the suggestions the Bloc Quebecois has been making for a number of years regarding organized crime, in particular the new offence with regard to traps placed by organized crime to protect its illegal activities.

I think it is important to remind those who are listening that the bill not only proposes more serious offences with regard to an individual who places a trap that is likely to cause death or bodily harm to a person, but also contains provisions allowing the use of as much force as is reasonably necessary on board an aircraft to prevent the commission of an offence that would be likely to cause injury to the aircraft or to any person aboard.

The bill would also amend the provision dealing with the provision of information on oath in relation to weapons. It would also create an exemption to the offence of intercepting private communications in order to protect computer systems.

Bill C-32 would make other amendments to the Criminal Code. It would also amend the Financial Administration Act in order to authorize the federal government to take necessary measures to protect its computer systems. The bill would also amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the Canada Evidence Act, the Security of Information Act and the Criminal Code in order to make corrections which are basically technical but which are of interest nonetheless. In particular, the bill would make corrections in relation to equivalence between the two official language versions. You know how important it is—and I think you share this point of view—that the two languages be treated equally in federal institutions.

Therefore, this bill addresses several aspects. Clearly, for several of my colleagues—and I believe that the speech given earlier by my colleague, the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, was rather eloquent in that regard—the new offence with regard to placing traps is somewhat symbolic, because it is in line with the amendments that we have asked for to fight organized crime.

Placing a trap is already an offence under section 247 of the Criminal Code. The proposed changes would make the provision more explicit and establish new offences. Currently, this section establishes a maximum five-year term of imprisonment for anyone who sets a trap with intent to cause death or bodily harm to persons, no matter where it might be.

This offence, with some minor changes, can still be found in Bill C-32. New offences are established. First, if a trap actually causes harm, there would be a 10-year sentence instead of the current 5-year sentence.

If a person sets a trap in a place used for a criminal purpose, the maximum sentence would be 10 years. If a trap set in a place used for a criminal purpose actually causes harm, the maximum sentence would then be 15 years.

Finally, if the trap causes death, wherever it is set, the maximum sentence would be life imprisonment.

The hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot clearly explained how important this new provision is, especially when fields are used to grow marijuana or cannabis despite the efforts of both the public and the police. Such crops are taking over the land of farmers. They are a threat to the farmers, to their property and to their families. We have seen cases where a farmer realizes members of a criminal organization are growing cannabis in his fields. He faces a terrible dilemma: either keep silent to protect his family, which would make him an accomplice, or endanger his family, his life and his assets.

Sometimes, criminal organizations will leave a small envelope with money, so that the person will be indirectly guilty of being involved in this activity.

Consequently, a number of things must be done. The amendment concerning the placing of traps is one of them. However, as the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot was mentioning, some elements should be added. The Bloc Quebecois has already proposed these elements, particularly with regard to membership in a criminal organization, even in a so-called passive way, so charges may be laid against these people.

The other measure we are also calling for concerns the reversal of the burden of proof. I think the member explained it well earlier.

That being said, I would like to put this in the context of consistency. The member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot mentioned this earlier. In his region, citizens and stakeholders took action. Indeed, they created a committee to promote the Info-Crime line 1-800-711-1800, if memory serves. It is a little like 911. This time, it is 711.

People can anonymously report crimes that they witness. Police will do the work of gathering the evidence. At least, police forces will be tipped off. Often, this is also a way for a community to solve a problem. For example, a drug injection site in a neighbourhood can cause a whole lot of problems for families living in this neighbourhood, with regard to children's safety. It is not always easy for someone to call the police, to give one's name, to see the police car arrive at one's home, to see the officers get out and ring the door bell, while one's neighbour across the street has a drug injection site. Consequently, with this Info-Crime number, this can be done anonymously and confidentially. Then, police forces do their job and build the case.

In the region of Lanaudière, following what was done in Montérégie, particularly in the region of Saint-Hyacinthe, a committee promoting the Info-Crime line was also created. However, this has produced a number of results that are perhaps not as good as those the member has mentioned. Unfortunately, the number of fields taken over for marijuana production has certainly not been reduced by 80% in the region of Lanaudière, but it is obvious that this has had an effect.

I have a hard time understanding that while private citizens are tackling the problem, the federal government is letting the RCMP pull out. A report by RCMP internal management suggests that nine detachments out of 22 in Quebec be eliminated in order to concentrate the workforce in a few major cities.

In the Lanaudière area, for example, we have a detachment with four officers in Joliette. That is not a big detachment. On the RCMP website, we read that the Joliette detachment has 13 officers. I phoned, and I was surprised to learn from one the officers there that there are only four of them left. The tactic used by the federal government and the RCMP is rather simple. The officers are offered transfers to other regions. When they agree to a transfer, the position they are leaving behind is not filled. That is how the Joliette detachment, in the Lanaudière area, has been reduced to just four officers, when it should have 13.

Even those this detachment is too small, it does a crucial job backing up the municipal police in Joliette and elsewhere, and the Sûreté du Québec. The RCMP has the expertise to search premises and build cases, something other police forces are not in a position to do right now in the Lanaudière area.

Indeed, if the RCMP's administrative report is ever implemented by the Solicitor General in the Lanaudière area, it will be a disaster. If the area is looked after from Saint-Jérôme and Trois-Rivières, with no RCMP detachment locally, it will be a field day for those taking over farm land.

In this regard, the government is being inconsistent. Today, in Bill C-32, we are being presented with an initiative to protect the life of innocent people, but at the same time, the government is making decisions for reasons that make no sense, since the government is still raking in substantial surpluses.

This year, there is talk of a $7 billion surplus, which is more than double the $3 billion surplus that was announced.

It seems to me that, to be consistent, the government must ensure that the Joliette detachment and the other eight that could be closed not only maintain their personnel but have it brought up to the level where it should be. In our case, four is not enough. That number should be increased to 13.

The RCMP also does very important work with school boards to build files on drug dealers who use our schoolyards or the vicinity of our schools to approach kids who have just started high school or sometimes have not even finished grade school and transform them quickly into dealers themselves.

As you know, drugs are expensive. First they get the kids hooked on drugs. Then they tell them that if they start selling drugs in their school, they will make enough money not only to buy drugs for themselves, but also to buy some luxury items.

Without concerted action on the part of school boards, municipal police forces, the Sûreté du Québec and the RCMP, organized crime will make inroads into our schools. Also, as I mentioned, with regard to organized crime taking over farmland to cultivate marijuana, we will lose whatever gains had been made in the region of Lanaudière.

I would expect a minimum of consistency on the part of the government and more concrete assurances than what we have had these last few days. In a planted question asked by a Liberal member, the Solicitor General was not even able to give us the assurance that there would not be any follow-up to that report. All he said was that no decision had been made yet.

Fortunately there is an election coming. I think I can keep the detachment in Joliette at least until the election, and I will make it an election issue. In fact, I have launched a campaign directed at public sector decision-makers, including mayors, reeves, school principals and school board officials, to offer my support in order to keep the RCMP detachment in Joliette.

It is not that I want a federal presence in the Lanaudière area. But since we are paying too much in taxes to the federal government, we want our money's worth. As long as we pay taxes to the federal government, I expect to have the same services in the Lanaudière area as those provided elsewhere in Quebec and in Canada.

If the federal government were to decide that the RCMP presence is no longer required in the Lanaudière area and throughout Quebec, then the money should be transferred to us and I am sure the Sûreté du Québec, with an increase in staff, will be able to take over. However, as long as we keep paying taxes to Ottawa, as long as the people of Lanaudière keep paying taxes, we want to have access to the services paid for by our taxes, especially following any RCMP reorganization.

Now, the offences for placing traps are, as we have indicated several times, a step in the right direction, although we expected a lot more. As the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot pointed out, we will see how the upcoming megatrials turn out, and the Bloc Quebecois will come up with appropriate enhancements to the Criminal Code.

Let me now turn to the use of force on board an aircraft.

Under the current Canadian legislation, the use of reasonable force on board an aircraft to prevent the commission of an offence is permitted. It also explicitly recognizes that everyone on board any aircraft in Canadian airspace or on board any aircraft registered in Canada in flight outside Canadian airspace is justified in using reasonable force when he or she believes it is necessary.

The clauses introduced by the legislator in Bill C-32 do not create a new right since criminal law already recognizes an individual's right to use reasonable force to prevent the commission of a crime. However, as departmental representatives stated, the new provision makes this principle explicit and expands it.

We support the principle behind this provision for two reasons. First, we all remember the terrible attacks on the U.S. on September 11, 2001. This showed us how vulnerable we are to violence in an airplane. Obviously, a plane is an enclosed space. First, there is the cockpit, with the pilots and a set of extremely sensitive technical devices; a group of people is confined in this enclosed space. Therefore, we must ensure that passengers have all means at their disposal to protect themselves and their loved ones.

Even if there is a slim chance that this clause may help prevent an attack, the victims must not become the criminals. It is common sense to ensure that the Criminal Code protects those individuals using force to prevent a crime. Furthermore, we support the principle behind this amendment since it aims to fulfill Canada's obligations under the Tokyo convention on offences and certain other acts committed on board aircraft.

The Bloc Quebecois always believes that clauses under a multilateral framework must be respected. This is true of the Tokyo convention, but we have encouraged the government to ratify all major international conventions. There was the Kyoto protocol, the International Criminal Court, and more generally, foreign affairs policy. Canada has not yet signed, however, the Cartagena protocol on biosafety.

As you know, in the whole debate surrounding the U.S. military action in Iraq, the Bloc Quebecois argued in favour of multilateralism, especially through the UN. We are pleased that the pressure we, the people of Quebec in particular, and the people of Canada in general, brought to bear resulted in Canada not joining the American government in this unilateral action. Members will understand therefore that signing a convention like this one is definitely in keeping with the directions the Bloc Quebecois is developing at this level as well as others.

Other provisions deal with how peace officers should apply for a warrant to search for and seize weapons, prohibited devices, ammunition, explosives, and related licences, authorizations or registration certificates out of concern for public safety.

For such a warrant to be issued, a peace officer must satisfy a justice that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the person possesses these items and that it is not desirable in the interests of the safety of this person or of any other person for this person to possess these items. As we know, in a decision rendered in July 2002, the Ontario Court of Appeal found that the wording of section 117.04 of the Criminal Code violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This section sets out the procedure for a peace officer to apply for this kind of warrant. The court approved the purpose of legislation, which is to prevent deaths and bodily harm, particularly in the context of family violence, but found that the section dealing with the application for a warrant did not afford sufficient protection to individual rights under the Charter.

The new wording of the section provides clarification. Members will understand that, while it considers that Quebec's Charter of Rights ought to have precedence over the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Bloc Quebecois nonetheless supports the principle of complying with the charters with respect to rights and freedoms.

Unfortunately, I have run out of time to address intrusion detection systems. Perhaps another time.

For all these reasons, the Bloc Quebecois will support Bill C-32.

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October 29th, 2003 / 5 p.m.
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Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

The member mentions the Le Dain commission.

The reality is that we should not hide away from the debate. Many people can offer sound solutions. I am one who does not believe that if a 17 year old uses a joint in an indiscretion, or on an experimental basis or whatever, that individual should have a criminal record for life. Should that person be smoking marijuana? No. Should we educate individuals to inform them of the harm of marijuana or of any other drug use? Absolutely. To give them a criminal record is simply not going to do it. That has not worked in over 40 years. What makes us think it is going to work now?

The reality is that this type of legislation, along with a drug policy that is effective and educational, where we can see results with timelines, is the way to go. If we think a zero tolerance policy would work, we can just look at what happened in the United States with Reagan. It was a complete, absolute, abject failure.

So yes, we should encourage debate on this, but I remind the House that we have had this type of debate for a long time. On the particular aspects of Bill C-32, we support some of the initiatives to get it into committee so we can improve it. However, I fear that this bill, like most bills before the House of Commons, will die if the House prorogues, and we will probably end up having this conversation very soon in the near future.

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October 29th, 2003 / 4:50 p.m.
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Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague for this speech concerning Bill C-32. It was clear and it also highlighted the fact that firefighters, in particular, are facing this kind of danger every day, especially in the case of illegal drug operations.

However, I believe that my colleague also feels that this does not concern only firefighters. Police officers and ordinary citizens may also be the victims of criminals who place these traps to protect the millions of dollars that their operations represent.

When we talk about such examples of wrongdoing, we are talking about those who commit them, that is those who place traps and are involved in illegal activities. When we look at the Criminal Code, we think there are two things that should be included in it.

First, the mere fact of belonging to a criminal organization should be grounds for a jail sentence. This would make things much easier, because everyone knows that drug production and trafficking are the work of organized criminals, not ordinary citizens. Criminal organizations are necessarily involved.

Second, the reversal of the burden of proof would not make criminal activities easier and this would prevent these criminals from continuing to engage in wrongdoing that has cost the lives of a number of firefighters, police officers and ordinary citizens.

Would the member agree that we include both these elements in the Criminal Code, that is the reversal of the burden of proof and membership in a criminal organization as subject to criminal sentences?

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October 29th, 2003 / 4:30 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Inky Mark Canadian Alliance Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure this afternoon to take part, on behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party, in the debate at the third reading stage of Bill C-32, an act to amend the Criminal Code.

The bill would establish a more serious offence for placing or knowingly permitting to remain in place a trap, a device or other thing that are likely to cause death or bodily harm to a person. It would also permit the use of as much force as is necessary aboard an aircraft to prevent the commission of an offence that would seriously harm those onboard or the aircraft. It would also make a number of other amendments to the code.

The Progressive Conservative Party supports Bill C-32, legislation that is long overdue. However, like all legislation, there are shortcomings to this bill as well.

I would like to begin by commending the International Association of Fire Fighters for the work it has done in pushing the Liberal government to implement much needed changes in the Criminal Code regarding this matter. In Canada they are over 17,000 members strong, and we cannot say about the work they do.

Those on the frontline need the support of government, and positive changes to the Criminal Code would send a strong message to those who would willingly or unwittingly endanger the lives of these brave men and women.

In fact I would like to take time to applaud the firefighters and the emergency service workers in my own riding of Dauphin—Swan River. I know the majority of these individuals, probably 95%, are all volunteers. If it were not for the volunteer firefighters, there is no doubt that communities across the country would certainly be at risk.

Let me preface my remarks by saying there is no property in good ideas and strong legislation that can act as a deterrent in crimes of this nature is long overdue.

I am reminded of a private member's bill introduced last October by the member for Nepean—Carleton. His bill seeks to give greater protection to firefighters by creating two new offences of aggravated assault and first degree murder when the victim is a firefighter acting in the course of his or her duties. It fits nicely with what the current Minister of Justice is trying to achieve with this legislation.

On a daily basis, Canadian firefighters put their lives at risk to save our lives. It is important that we recognize the sacrifice they are willing to make on our behalf. I am sure that statement is supported by all Canadians across this great land.

Let me make some comments on the trap and criminal offences provision of this bill. Currently, section 247 of the Criminal Code provides that:

Every one who, with intent to cause death or bodily harm to persons, whether ascertained or not, sets or places or causes to be set or placed a trap, device or other thing whatever that is likely to cause death or bodily harm to persons is guilty of an indictable offence...

Persons convicted of placing traps are liable to a maximum prison term of five years.

Now this offence applies also to people who occupy or own a place and knowingly permit the placement of such a device.

Although clause 6 of the bill retains this provision, it creates two new criminal offences to curb this dangerous practice. The government wants harsher sentences for those setting traps, causing bodily harm or death.

Accordingly, everyone who commits an offence under the existing section 247 and causes bodily harm to a firefighter or a police officer is liable to up to 10 years in prison. Should this offence cause death, a first degree murder penalty of life could apply.

To ensure better protection for firefighters or police required to enter premises used in the production of cannabis, or marijuana for example, Bill C-32 provides that everyone who commits an offence, as provided in section 247, in a place kept for the purpose of committing another indictable offence is liable to imprisonment of 10 years. If the device causes bodily harm or death, the sentence is 14 years in prison, in the case of the former or life, in the case of the later.

I should also mention that subclause 7(2) of Bill C-38, an act to amend the Contraventions Act and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, establishes a series of factors that the court is to take into consideration when sentencing in a matter involving the product of cannabis plants.

Courts will have to consider the fact that a person accused of such an offence had placed--in or near the place the offence occurred-- traps likely to cause bodily harm or death. When this fact is proven, the court is to choose the prison term provided by the law. Should it decide otherwise, reasons must be provided.

This point is very important. The House is currently undertaking the study of Bill C-38 which is the decriminalization of marijuana. I have previously said in the House that the government is sending the wrong message in terms of the use of marijuana in this country.

There is no doubt that if Bill C-38 were to pass, and I do not think Bill C-38 will see the light of day, it would increase the demand for the product. As a result, we will have increased grow operations across the country which will put extra pressure on the police forces the dollars that they spend.

Currently, we spend over half a billion dollars a year on the supply reduction side by federal police forces and agencies. We sometimes wonder if this is money well spent if on the other hand we are going to pass a bill which will promote the use of marijuana and increase its market demands.

I will now return to Bill C-32. The main portion of the bill, as I indicated, would amend the Criminal Code by creating a new offence targeting those who would set traps in a place used for a criminal purpose. Currently, under section 247 of the Criminal Code, the offence of setting a trap in any place carries a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment.

The new offence raises the bar providing for significantly more stringent penalties. Proposed subsection 247(2) states:

Every one who commits an offence under subsection (1) and thereby causes bodily harm to any other person is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years.

If someone should commit an offence under proposed section 247 that causes injury, the penalty would increase to a maximum of 14 years and if that offence causes death, the offender could receive a sentence of life imprisonment.

This legislation is aimed directly at illegal drug operations which pose a myriad of dangers to firefighters. Many of these illegal drug operations are rigged with hidden devices, such as crossbows and explosives, designed to kill or maim anyone who interferes with the operation. Other dangers include: illegal electrical wiring which poses the additional risk of fire, electrical doorknobs and cutaway floorboards.

It should also be recognized that all too often these illegal residential grow operations put at risk the lives of those in a community when the fire spreads from one house to another. Innocent families can lose their homes, their valuables, and even their lives when criminals rig the wiring in their homes. Anything we can do as legislators to put a stop to this criminal behaviour is a step in the right direction.

These types of incidents are not new to those on the front line. They have occurred in the past. For example, there are multiple cases of Canadian firefighters who have been injured and nearly killed while responding to illegal drug operations. A British Columbia firefighter received a severe electrical shock while responding to a blaze. In Brampton, Ontario, a firefighter's life was at risk when he fell through the floorboards that had been cut away.

The International Association of Fire Fighters has pushed for this legislation. I am encouraged to see the government finally recognizing the contribution members of the IAFF play in the daily lives of Canadians.

It is important that we recognize the dangers Canada's firefighters face as a result of illegal drug operations. As I noted earlier, this legislation would amend the Criminal Code by adding provisions to the existing section of the Criminal Code that deal with setting a trap. The legislation would add provisions for setting a trap used in a place kept for a criminal purpose, that is likely to cause bodily harm, with a 10 year maximum prison sentence.

If a trap used in a criminal enterprise such as a drug operation causes bodily harm, the legislation would call for a 14 year maximum sentence and life imprisonment if a trap causes death.

Front line firefighters must be protected from this growing danger. The nature of these criminal activities creates a risk of fire with volatile chemicals used in drug labs and electrical power stolen through unsafe meter bypasses. If firefighters and police officers are put at risk, injured or killed by traps set to defend these criminal enterprises from law enforcement or rival gangs, those who set the traps must feel the full weight of the law.

In another case earlier this year, Oshawa firefighters had to back away from a residential fire when they discovered that it was an illegal drug lab loaded with dangerous chemicals. The home was allowed to burn.

While the problem has been most serious in British Columbia and Ontario, illegal drug operations are found in all parts of Canada and pose a growing threat to firefighters in every province. As we heard from our last speaker, the member from the Bloc talked about the illegal grow operations in Quebec and the danger they present to citizens in that province.

We should be cognizant of the fact that a large portion of firefighters in Canada are volunteer firefighters who give up their spare time on weekday evenings and weekends to volunteer in their communities and to take courses which ultimately help them protect our property and lives. They are the ones who are spread throughout Canada in all the little towns, hamlets, small communities and small cities that cannot afford to have a full time professional firefighting staff.

Amendments to the Criminal Code of this sort are long overdue. I would encourage the government to take a closer look at other initiatives brought forth by the International Association of Fire Fighters.

A $500,000 annual investment, a fraction of the cost of the Prime Minister's luxury jets, would give firefighters access to hazardous materials training. Currently, military reaction is hours, if not days, away. Firefighters are on the scene in minutes. Training is necessary for their protection and ours.

Liberal cuts to ports policing, the Coast Guard and the military put at risk the safety and security of Canadians. The real threat of bioterrorism, delays in response time and inability to board planes could cost lives. On these and other important issues the government pays lip service. What firefighters need to do their job is action and resources. The lives of our firefighters, and those who they so selflessly serve and protect, deserve no less.

The government also needs to listen to the IAFF when it talks of support in the area of pensions and compensation for those who have been injured in the line of duty.

The minister said he was happy to see that his government was finally addressing the important issue of setting deadly traps. He told us the number of deaths and injuries sustained by firefighters continues to rise in Canada. That is a true tragedy when these events occur.

Using statistics, he noted there were 13,724 arson fires in Canada last year and 30% of the fires in his own riding were a result of arson. He acknowledged that firefighting is four times as hazardous as any other occupation. It is a job that commands the highest public trust and respect, more than any other profession.

In fact, a poll released by the Canadian Press and Léger Marketing in February of this year showed that 96% of Canadians trust firefighters, the highest level of trust among 20 occupations included in the survey. Need I say what the numbers were for politicians? I think we already know the answer.

It is time that the minister and the government truly recognized the sacrifice made by those on the front lines in substantial ways. Firefighters, professionals and volunteers need the support of the federal government in the area of pensions, and compensation for spouses and children.

The Liberals should act today and begin a process of establishing a national public safety officer compensation fund. I hope they do not follow the lead they have already started with the way they are dealing with widows of veterans in this country.

The argument that the majority of firefighters are employed municipally and therefore are not the responsibility of the federal government is hollow, and one I do not believe sits well with Canadians. Canadians know how valuable all firefighters, including volunteers, are to their safety.

As the IAFF has stated on a number of occasions, the Canadian government continues to avoid addressing the need for the establishment of a national compensation fund. Families of the nation's firefighters stand to endure financial hardship in addition to the grief of losing a loved one.

I have been in the House since 1997. We continue to receive lobbies from firefighters annually for compensation for the loss of loved ones. In fact, I asked the parliamentary secretary this past week about doing the right thing for the firefighter community, which means establishing a national public safety officer compensation fund. The government could certainly lead the way by doing exactly that.

It is time for the federal government to stop using jurisdictional arguments and implement a national public safety officer compensation fund to benefit the families of Canadian firefighters killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty.

In my remaining time I would like to make a couple of comments about weapons and firearms searches as the bill has an impact and does make some changes.

Under section 117.04 of the Criminal Code, a justice may issue a warrant authorizing the seizure of weapons or explosives if there are reasonable grounds to believe that it is unsafe for a person to possess such items.

In Regina v. Hurrell on July 19, 2002, the Ontario Court of Appeal found the procedure unconstitutional since it required neither a police officer to have reasonable grounds to believe it likely that weapons would be found on a person or in a premises to be searched, nor the justice issuing a warrant to accept the reasons of the peace officer making the request.

Justice Moldaver wrote:

These gaps, in my view, are serious because in its present form, s. 117.04(1) allows for sweeping searches of persons and private premises in circumstances where the police may have no reason to suspect, let alone believe, that the person of concern has any weapons or other dangerous items in his or her possession.

This provision contravenes the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which protects Canadians from unreasonable search or seizure.

To not impede the work of the police and to ensure society's protection against the risks involved in the use of weapons and explosives, the court suspended the application of the decision for six months to enable Parliament to bring the provision into conformity with the principles of the charter.

Clause 3 of Bill C-32 aims to correct the significant shortcomings identified by the Ontario Court of Appeal. A justice wishing to issue a search warrant will now have to be satisfied by information given under oath by a peace officer that there are reasonable grounds to believe a person possesses a weapon or explosives in a house, building or other location identified by the forces of order.

In closing, the PC Party will support the bill.

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October 29th, 2003 / 4:25 p.m.
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Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Joliette for his question. Indeed, my 20 minutes went so fast that I did not have time to address this issue, but he is giving me the opportunity to do so.

Six years ago, in the Saint-Hyacinthe area, we were in a situation where organized crime had literally taken over farm land. There were plantations of up to 4,000 plants in corn fields, and these were controlled by the Hell's Angels, to name them. Having flown over the region in an helicopter, I could see how terrible it was; not a single field had been spared.

Behind all that, people were living real tragedies. Some farmers and their families were terrorized by organized crime. They were constantly living under the threat of physical harm or death. They had their farm machinery vandalized. We were faced with that problem and we began to think.

Almost three years ago, we created a committee of citizens. It is a regional committee linked to Info-Crime Québec. The only purpose of this committee is based on a very simple idea: to promote a telephone number. People who call that number can report, anonymously and confidentially, any crime that they may have witnessed. It is totally confidential and totally anonymous. It is a wonderful tool.

In the past few years, this tool has made it possible to seize millions of dollars worth of drugs. For example, the most recent seizure at Sainte-Christine, which led to 14 arrests, took place thanks to a tip from someone who was fed up with being bullied by organized crime.

The citizens committee met with representatives of all the municipalities making up the rural municipality of Maskoutains. We also met with the local media. All stakeholders decided to join forces with us. We had such wonderful cooperation from everyone that, some three years after the creation of the Info-Crime committee, the Saint-Hyacinthe region, while still having some production, has seen an 80% drop in grow ops. The huge operations with up to 4,000 plants we saw six years ago are no longer around.

The situation has not, however, changed in neighbouring regions, Centre-du-Québec in particular, and also in the vicinity of Sorel, which is Hell's Angels territory. What is the difference between our two areas? The difference is that one region, mine, decided to strike a committee made up of farmers, the chairman of the school board, business leaders, young people and people from the CLSC. We decided to take action, to take control of our destiny. We decided to tell organized crime that enough was enough, that we were tired of being intimidated. People can improve things when they make up their minds to do so.

The new provision in Bill C-32 relating to sentences for traps is a good example of an improvement. The Bloc Quebecois was one of those who spoke out against the minimal sentences imposed on drug traffickers who kept watch over fields and set traps in them. The situation is constantly improving, though not everything is perfect yet.

I have alluded to two aspects that should be included in the Criminal Code: reversing the burden of proof, and making the mere fact of being a member of a criminal gang an offence. This would mean imprisonment would be far more likely for those who are doing such great damage, to our young people in particular, those now in primary school.

But progress is being made. I am proud to say that improvements were made thanks to the Bloc Quebecois, Year after year, we pointed out what was wrong with the Criminal Code. We suggested ways to improve things. We not only criticized, but we proposed changes to strengthen the Criminal Code.

Although some issues have yet to be resolved, we are nevertheless glad that a number of proposals are under consideration. What is sad, however, is that we have been raising these issues for years now. It was some time before the government realized that changes to the Criminal Code were needed if we were to mount an effective campaign against organized crime.

Despite the new Criminal Code provisions passed two years ago, following operation springtime 2001, we will probably find new shortcomings in the anti-gang legislation, the anti-gang provisions of the Criminal Code, when new megatrials get underway.

We will unfortunately have to remind the House once again that, if the mere fact of belonging to a criminal organization had been made a criminal offence under the Criminal Code, it would have made things easier for the upcoming megatrials. The government is so slow to react that it takes years to make a point that is simply self-evident.

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October 29th, 2003 / 4 p.m.
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Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise to speak on this bill because there is a provision in the new section 247 of the Criminal Code that I have been feeling strongly about for a number of years already. In my presentation, I will have the opportunity to point out along the way its many merits, which I will gladly explain to my hon. colleagues in this House.

Bill C-32 adds a number of new provisions to the Criminal Code to strengthen it. First, penalties will be increased for the setting or placing of traps in places used for the purpose of committing indictable offences such as the illicit production of cannabis, indoors or outdoors.

Other provisions deal with the use of force on aircraft. Since the events of September 11, I think we are more aware of the fact that force can be used on an aircraft when there are grounds to believe that criminal acts that could jeopardize the life of the passengers or pose a threat to the physical integrity of the aircraft are likely to be committed. Under the Criminal Code, the use of force may be necessary to subdue anyone who is likely to cause injury to the aircraft or to any person.

This was already provided for in the Criminal Code. I am taking a little time on this provision because I will not be coming back to it later. It clarifies the law by stating explicitly that force may be used on aircraft both in Canadian airspace and outside. This does make it clear that the use of force may be justified.

Bill C-32 also amends the provision concerning warrants to search for weapons. It also creates a new exemption in connection with the interception of private communications for the purpose of protecting computer systems. In this respect, I think that the discussion I had with my colleague from the Canadian Alliance emphasized the positive aspects of this provision dealing with computer communications, as well as the threat and potential abuse in terms of privacy.

We are all aware that in order to fight computer viruses or worms we must—and the bill recognizes this specifically—make certain sacrifices regarding the freedom on personal communications. I believe that the work to be done in committee regarding this provision will enable us to strike a better balance between the need to maintain the integrity of our communications networks and the protection of privacy.

The bill also amends provisions found in other acts, particularly the Financial Administration Act, in order to authorize the federal government to take steps to protect its informatics networks. This bill makes consequential amendments to other acts, particularly with respect to the French wording, to the Security of Information Act, the Criminal Code and other related acts.

Let me take a moment to look at the first provision, the proposed amendment to section 247 of the Criminal Code.

The existing section 247 says that it is criminal offence to set traps or other devices with intent to cause bodily harm to persons, or worse, to set traps or other devices with intent to cause death.

This is indictable under the Criminal Code but intention is important. It says, essentially, that if someone has intent to cause bodily harm or death, even if bodily harm or death do not occur, this person is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.

The new version of section 247 makes the remedies and sentences related to this offence more explicit. Why am I particularly pleased with this provision? In my riding, six years ago, I had the experience with some other people of watching organized crime squat illegally on lands and forests belonging to farmers. Organized crime was growing cannabis in these fields. It is still happening today, but through our efforts, there is much less of it. We will return to that in a moment, because it is a good example for several regions of Quebec and of Canada. Through our efforts, organized crime is less present in the fields and woods of the region. The citizens decided to take matters in hand themselves. I will have an opportunity to explain how it was done, especially over the past two and a half years.

Let us come back to the new provisions of section 247. This does not apply to my region because of what the people did, but it was not uncommon, at the time, for a farmer to arrive in his field and woods and have to deal with traps that had been laid by organized crime to protect illegal crops of cannabis. At full growth, a plant can be 2.5 m high and be worth $3,000 to $4,000. In addition, at that height, any resin that can be used to produce hashish, for instance, is worth a fortune on the black market.

In order to protect their crops, members of organized crime set traps. This could consist of what is commonly referred to as a 45 gallon barrel, in metal, cut in thirds. Two triangles are traced on the cover with scissors and pushed in. These barrel thirds are buried at the foot of the cannabis crop and the trap is set.

Imagine, someone who goes to that part of a farmer's field, without knowing there is such a trap there. He steps into, or his legs go into the trap and when he tries to step out, both parts of the metal cover, cut into triangles, lift up. He would be trapped. Either he would have to sacrifice his leg, or stay put and hope that someone would come along to rescue him.

The trouble is, at the end of October, a corn field is like a tropical forest. There is hardly any room between the corn plants, let alone the cannabis plants, and except for the farmer himself or the criminals, people seldom walk through corn fields at that time of year. The risks of walking into such a trap were real and still are in many fields in Quebec and Canada, particularly in southeastern Ontario.

Obviously, it was placed in order to cause bodily harm or even death. If a person got his leg caught in that kind of trap and did everything possible to get his leg out, he would injure his leg. If that person were not found within 24 hours, he would die from blood loss. This is barbaric but a reality in fields throughout Quebec and Canada. Such traps can also be found in the woods, particularly in areas where communities have closed their eyes to the activities of organized crime.

In the past six years, I have seen other kinds of traps, commonly called booby traps during the Vietnam war. They are made by attaching fishing line to something similar to a rifle trigger.

Should anyone attempt to steal or destroy any cannabis plants, they would trip on the fishing line and get shot in the legs. This is very real.

Currently, this is the kind of danger facing our farmers and other people, like hunters, for example, who build blinds in the woods in the fall. Hunters are in danger from criminals who are illegally cultivating cannabis in a section of the woods. They risk walking into similar traps.

People hiking in the woods also risk falling into traps such as the 45-gallon barrel or walking into traps such as the booby traps, as I mentioned earlier. Their purpose is to cause bodily injury or kill.

Earlier, my hon. colleague talked about this provision and said that firefighters had lobbied to have it included in the Criminal Code. It is not just the firefighters. The police, farmers, hunters and hikers also lobbied the government. For the past six years, the Bloc Quebecois has also been asking for harsher sentencing for criminals who place such traps, which can cause bodily harm or death, in areas used by others.

There have been instances in recent weeks of police officers and firefighters coming to private residences to carry out a search or respond to a call, where these premises are used by organized crime for greenhouse or hydroponic operations. These houses are often overloaded electrically and a fire breaks out. When the firemen arrive, they often encounter booby traps installed by the gang members to protect their grow ops. These are rigged in such a way as to cause injury or even death to fire or police personnel who have to enter the premises.

For example, firemen have come upon huge holes in the floor in hydroponic grow ops. As a result, the firefighters responding to a call have quite simply fallen through this booby trap, set up by the criminals to protect their crop from rival gangs or from seizure by police or others.

I am pleased to see this new provision, which steps up the sentences for members of organized crime, other criminals or people forced to turn to a life of crime, but also for those who might install such traps with the potential to cause injury or even death.

Sentences can run as high as life imprisonment, if the trap used in a criminal enterprise such as a drug operation causes bodily harm or death. Now these are explicitly life sentences. Moreover, if the intent to harm is there, but no actual bodily harm or death has occurred because of these traps, there can be up to 14 years' imprisonment, depending on the severity of the act committed on the premises where the traps were set and where illegal activities are being carried out by criminals or criminal gangs.

Which leads me to say that, since 1995, the Bloc Quebecois has done much to improve and strengthen the Criminal Code.

I remember that the hon. member for Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier proposed that the $1000 bill be taken out of circulation. Why? Because these $1000 bills were very useful in drug trafficking transactions.

We know that the volume represented by the number of $100 bills needed to cover a transaction of several million dollars is considerable. But if this amount were in $1000 bills, the volume would be much smaller. By withdrawing the $1000 note, we can make drug trafficking a little more difficult for organized crime.

The anti-gang legislation has also been strengthened. The Bloc Quebecois was the instigator of two significant amendments to the Criminal Code that target biker gangs in particular.

In contrast, since 1994, two of our demands ought to have been included in the Criminal Code. We were hoping that, with the passage of Bill C-32, these demands would have been reflected in the Criminal Code.

Moreover, one of the demands we would have liked to have seen included in Bill C-32 is the one which would have meant that the mere fact of belonging to a criminal group, even passively, to a gang that is recognized as a criminal gang, would be a punishable offence under the Criminal Code. We would have liked to have seen that. We would have liked to have seen mere passive membership in these groups, which are not optimist clubs or Kiwanis clubs, but are known criminal groups such as the Hell's Angels, the Bandidos—let us name them all—punishable by imprisonment or sentences under the Criminal Code.

We have been asking for this for years. This would have the ideal opportunity to include this provision in the bill, but unfortunately, it is not there.

The other measure we would have liked to have seen addressed by Bill C-32 concerns the reversal of the burden of proof with respect to the proceeds of criminal activities. In many countries the burden of proof is reversed and criminals have to provide evidence themselves to prove that the wealth they have accumulated is not the fruit of criminal activities. Australia, Austria, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland and Great Britain all do this.

This is one of FATF's main recommendations. FATF is the financial action task force on money laundering. It was created by the OECD to better fight organized crime, drug trafficking and money laundering, and thereby reverse the burden of proof.

We would have liked to see such a reversal. Obviously, this is not in keeping with our legal tradition. However, in light of exceptional circumstances and of megatrials that are costing taxpayers dearly, it would have been a good idea for criminals breaking this legislation to have to prove beyond all reasonable doubt that their assets are not the proceeds of criminal activity.

This would have been the perfect time to do this. Nevertheless, the debate on Bill C-32 also ensures that illegal activities are not trivialized, particularly marijuana cultivation. Because all these criminal activities can and do have terrible consequences.

I am pleased with the provision to reinforce sentences for placing traps, because this shows common sense. But there is still much work to be done to fight organized crime and prevent the use of narcotics. Communities turning a blind eye to the activities of organized crime must be made aware of the dangers, as traps causing bodily harm could be placed in the area.

As a result, we will vote in favour of this bill.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 29th, 2003 / 3:55 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Charlie Penson Canadian Alliance Peace River, AB

Madam Speaker, I listened with interest to my colleague from Provencher. What I got from his comments, and I would like him to confirm that is where we are headed here, is that it is important to strike a balance between people's civil liberties, their privacy, and the security interests of Canadians.

We live in a very different world than we did a couple of years ago because of September 11. There is a lot of new technology that is being harnessed for information purposes which we embrace. It gives us a lot of freedom and an easier chance to communicate, but it also gives the opportunity for it to be misused.

The important part would be if there are amendments needed in the future to keep that balance in place, if we find that we have gone too far one way or the other, that we reserve the opportunity to go back and restructure it as necessary. Does my colleague feel that Bill C-32 gives us that opportunity as we need it in the future?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 29th, 2003 / 3:40 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to participate in today's debate on Bill C-32, an act to amend the Criminal Code and other acts.

Some of the things the Minister of Justice has proposed in the bill are long overdue, and although I believe that elements in the bill could be improved, we in the Alliance are overall in agreement with the changes.

I am pleased to see that the bill would create a Criminal Code offence of setting a deadly trap in a place used for criminal purposes. This would protect first responders, such as firefighters, police officers or other law enforcement officials, who respond to an incident by going there first and then falling into that trap. The lives of these firefighters and police officers are endangered by entering such places in the performance of their duties. Therefore, it is our responsibility to protect them.

Under the new legislation, the maximum sentence for this offence depends on the outcome of the situation. It is generally 10 years. If injury occurs, the maximum sentence is 14 years. If death occurs, the maximum sentence is life imprisonment. Currently section 247 of the Criminal Code provides for the offence of setting a trap with a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment.

The House will recall that in 2001 the Canadian Alliance member for Surrey Central introduced Motion No. 376, which called upon the government to amend the Criminal Code to expand the definition of first degree murder to include the death of a firefighter acting in the line of duty, and to add language that addressed the death or injury of a firefighter engaged in combating a fire or an explosion that was deliberately set.

I am pleased to see the government is finally addressing this important issue through Bill C-32. However, by raising the maximum penalties without instituting any minimum penalties, the government is stopping short of giving first responders the protection they need. The government knows that the courts will not respond to these kinds of amendments, so the effect is primarily symbolic. We have seen no evidence in cases where governments increased maximum penalties that courts act correspondingly. They simply carry on with what they have been doing in terms of sentencing.

We are talking about a case in which someone is deliberately setting traps, knowing they are likely to cause injury or death. If the government were truly serious about protecting our firefighters, there would be mandatory prison sentences for people who do this to our firefighters.

Bill C-32 also proposes to amend the firearms search and seizure warrant provisions of the Criminal Code to bring the law into line with the recent Ontario court of appeal decision in R v. Hurrell. In that decision, weapon searches under this section of the Criminal Code were ruled unconstitutional. The court found that the warrant application section did not include enough protection of individual rights since it was not clear that a peace officer had to have reasonable grounds to make an application for the warrant.

The bill amends the Criminal Code to require that an officer must have reasonable grounds to believe that a person is in possession of a weapon and that it is not in the interests of the person to possess the weapon before a warrant may be issued.

The bill also provides for the civil enforcement of restitution orders. On occasion, offenders convicted of a crime are ordered to make restitution to their victims. Often this involves an order to pay a certain amount of money as compensation for the wrong committed or the injury suffered.

Currently, criminal restitution orders are only enforceable by civil court action if the order is separate from the sentencing order. The amendment would allow for civil enforcement of all restitution orders. This would make it easier to collect money owing under an order.

However I still have concerns that this process shuffles the problem off to the civil courts and on to the victim. I would like to see the law amended so that the court has jurisdiction to enforce the restitution order through the criminal court and, where the restitution is not paid, it will result in a criminal breach and is a criminal offence. We cannot do this under the present legislation.

While the amendment is a nice step, it does not address the problem with a victim having to become involved in the enforcement directly because most of the victims simply forgo that. Can anyone imagine asking a victim to talk to a member of an organized crime gang to see if that person can collect the restitution and when that request is denied, that the individual would actually have to civilly sue a member of an organized crime gang to get the restitution?

It is a shame that the government insists on doing that. It should be put back into the criminal courts. If restitution is not paid, there should be a criminal breach and the court would enforce that order through the criminal process, not have the victim be re-victimized in the courts again.

The justice department officials at the committee promised to take the issue under consideration and consult with the provinces to possibly report back to the committee at a future date. I look forward to hearing the results of their findings. I can hardly think of a province that would not want the criminal courts to enforce these orders rather than have the victim be re-victimized by the courts again.

Bill C-32 also amends the Criminal Code to explicitly recognize that everyone on board an airplane in Canadian airspace is justified in using reasonable force when he or she believes it is necessary to use force to prevent the commission of a criminal act that could endanger the safety of the aircraft or its passengers. The amendment would ensure the full effect of the Tokyo convention on offences and certain other acts committed on board aircraft.

Finally, Bill C-32 also contains amendments that may prove to be somewhat controversial due to perceived infringements on an individual's privacy.

Amendments to the Criminal Code and the Financial Administration Act would allow information technology managers, in both government and the private sector, to disclose the contents of private communications intercepted by intrusion detection systems, also called IDS, in certain circumstances.

The Criminal Code amendments would allow for the disclosure of intercepted private communications if the disclosure is necessary for the protection of a computer system and if the disclosure is made appropriately.

Intrusion detection is an essential part of information technology management intended to protect computers, networks and data, and to ensure quality of service. A number of systems or products exist to detect attacks on computer systems by hackers, viruses or worms, and to alert human operators. We have all experienced that type of problem with computer systems.

Some systems protect networks by identifying and intercepting suspicious electronic communications, including some that may be private communications. Those messages can be analyzed to determine if they contain a malicious program code such as a computer virus that could attack a computer system and the data it contains.

Statistics confirm that cyber crime is growing and has a global reach that affects large corporate giants, government agencies, as well as small companies and individuals at home.

The amendments to the Criminal Code and the Financial Administration Act would allow information technology managers to protect their computer systems from electronic communications that could be harmful to them.

The Criminal Code amendment would create exceptions to the offence of intercepting private communications and of disclosing its contents to ensure quality control in the communications industry.

The provisions of the bill relating to setting traps, use of force on airplanes and civil enforcement of restitution orders are all causes worthy of support, despite some of the concerns and shortcomings that I have identified.

The provisions regarding disclosure of private communications may prove to be controversial but the Criminal Code already provides for several exceptions where private communication can be intercepted and disclosed. The protection of computer systems is an important objective for governments and businesses.

The safety and security of Canadians and their property is the stated objective of the Canadian Alliance policy. We recognize the rights of victims of crime. We have promised to introduce programs of financial restitution from the offender to the victim as a component of sentencing and parole.

I believe that many of these objectives of the bill are consistent with what our policies have long called for. The justice committee has reviewed Bill C-32 and although it made two minor amendments, it has approved the bill.

We agree that this legislation should move forward at this time.