Mr. Speaker, although this is a private member's bill, the NDP supports it going to committee. We have some reservations. We hope they can be resolved at committee or perhaps even before it gets to committee.
I want to follow up on some of the comments made by my colleague from the Bloc, who made a number of points about the frustration he and I have both shared with regard to this legislation. I know it is certainly a frustration shared by the mover of the bill and the Minister of Natural Resources, who had authored a similar bill, I believe Bill C-240, in the last Parliament.
In spite of the fact that we had reasonable support for the concept from certain individual members of the Liberal Party, it was frustrating. When the Liberal Party was in government, it would not address this issue, which was unfortunate. At the time, two pieces of legislation were before the justice committee. One was kind of a last minute thing. This concept could have easily been included at that time. If not then, it could have been addressed in the mandatory review of the DNA system established under the code almost five years ago now. That review was supposed to have been completed over a year ago and still has not been.
There is a need for this type of system where family members can assist in identifying another family member, whether it is a sibling or a child, who has been killed or died as a result of other trauma. This would be a major step forward in giving the surviving family relief by knowing what happened to a loved one. There is no question we need to do this.
My colleague from the Bloc has raised the constitutional issue. It is quite clear, and I think all of us agree, that there is a problem. In the last Parliament, the current Minister of Natural Resources went out of his way to get correspondence from all of the provinces, indicating they wanted to have the system put in place.
Unfortunately, that is not the end of it. The system could still be challenged if it were established, as suggested in this bill, as purely a federal system. It could be challenged by individuals who are being followed as a result of this. I will come back to this in a minute. It is not simply good enough to say we have an agreement between the provinces and the federal government. How that agreement is put into play is very crucial because it could be challenged under the Constitution.
I believe there are answers to that question and hopefully we will be able to resolve it at committee. For that reason, the NDP supports it going to committee, perhaps with some significant amendments at that point to address the constitutional problem.
In addition to that, there are some other problems with the legislation. I do not believe it goes far enough in dealing with privacy issues that could come up. Although the bill is very clearly intended to only deal with DNA samples of deceased individuals, it is not the end of it. The bill does not prohibit, as extensively as it needs to, getting at the DNA sample and comparing it to another sample of a person who is still alive and may be the subject of some investigation by the police. That is clearly not what it is intended to do, but it is open to that kind of use by the state. We have to build some additional amendments into the bill to prevent that from happening.
My final concern is the privacy issue. We have the potential scenario of sexually abusive parents attempting to trace their offspring, who has run from the home because of the abuse, and is using it as a methodology to do so. Under the bill as it is presently composed, they can offer their sample. If the sample is then compared to one that is found at a crime scene or if it gets into the hands of police officers in some other fashion, that would be an indirect methodology of tracing that person.
In the previous bill and again in this bill there have been specific attempts to thwart that from ever happening. I do not think it goes quite far enough and I will be proposing some amendments to deal with that more specifically when it gets to committee, assuming the House see it appropriate to do so. Those amendments would shut the door on any invasion of privacy in that regard. I believe it can be done with further amendments to the bill and perhaps amendments to our Evidence Act, which would prevent that from occurring and prohibit police forces from ever using it in that way.
There is one additional problem, about which we learned when we went to the laboratory in Ottawa. There is a problem with destroying DNA samples. The way we collected samples in the current system, a number of them are put on one sheet. If we destroy one of them, we almost inevitably destroy the whole sheet or a great number of them. The people in the lab were still working on that problem about a year ago. I do not believe they resolved it. It is a problem under the current system because we have outstanding court orders that DNA samples that were taken improperly are to be destroyed and they cannot do it. The system does not allow for it.
It may be possible to create and store the samples in a different fashion, but right now that is not possible. That is a concern under the legislation. The final part of the legislation that is being proposed speaks specifically about the need to destroy samples in proper circumstances. That is the final point that needs to be addressed.
I expect most of my caucus will be supporting the bill. However, we have concerns around the constitutional and privacy issues. We also have concerns about its potential abuse and the ability of the system to be able to destroy samples. All those issues, with the exception of perhaps the last one, can be resolved at committee. We will have to hear additional evidence on the issue of whether the samples can be destroyed.
In summary, the bill is long past due. I will be critical of the former government because it was not dealt with in the last Parliament, and it should have and could have been. I hope we will be able to get this through. I hope the government will come on side and make it a government bill rather than a private member's bill.