Madam Speaker, congratulations on your appointment. It is nice to see you in the chair.
I am very pleased to rise today on behalf of the constituents of Newton--North Delta to participate in the debate on Bill C-13, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the DNA Identification Act and the National Defence Act.
In 1998 Bill C-3 enacted a national DNA data bank. The data bank officially opened on July 5, 2000. Bill C-35 in May 2004 introduced minor amendments to the act and now Bill C-13 adds further amendments which still do not address the concerns that I and my colleagues have raised. I have raised them in many speeches in the past.
The bill seeks to strengthen the laws regarding DNA collection and storage. Specifically, it adds more Criminal Code offences, moving some offences from the secondary designated offences list to the primary list. It allows DNA collection from a mentally disordered criminal, expands retroactive provisions, compels an offender to provide a sample, allows an order for a DNA sample after sentencing, and of course, permits the destruction of a sample.
Looking into the background, DNA identification, if used to its full potential, could be the single most important development in fighting crime since the introduction of fingerprints. However, police and provincial attorneys general have long argued that the legislation as enacted denied law enforcement agencies the full use of this wonderful technology.
The DNA Identification Act came into force in June 2000 and established the national DNA data bank which is operated by the RCMP. It allows judges to order the collection of DNA samples from convicted offenders and have the resulting profile stored in a convicted offenders index.
The national DNA data bank also includes a crime scene index containing profiles of DNA samples collected from crime scenes. This allows samples from various crime scenes to be compared with the convicted offenders index.
The act created two types of offences: primary and secondary. Primary designated offences are those which are the most serious, such as sexual offences, murder and manslaughter. Secondary designated offences are less serious, such as an assault or arson. Of course they are serious too but it depends on how one judges them.
For primary offences a DNA sample can be ordered by the court, unless the offender can prove it is not needed. For secondary offences a sample can be ordered if the judge believes it is needed.
Law enforcement agencies are critical of this legislation because, among other reasons, it does not allow for the taking of DNA samples at the time of charge, as fingerprints are. Also it does not permit samples to be taken retroactively from incarcerated criminals other than designated dangerous offenders, multiple sex offenders and multiple murderers.
Unfortunately while Bill C-13 offers some improvements on the original legislation, it does not address many of the concerns raised by police, the provincial attorneys general and the official opposition.
Specifically Bill C-13 does not address the requirement for a judicial order to make a data bank authorization for any offence committed before the law came into force in June 2000.
Police have also asked for the ability to collect a DNA sample at the time of charge, as is done with fingerprints, instead of upon conviction. There is no evidence or jurisprudence suggesting that such provisions would be in violation of the Constitution.
Another major flaw in the bill is that it does not provide for DNA collection upon conviction for all indictable offences, again as in the case of fingerprints.
An additional concern is the ability of a convicted offender to appeal to the court in order to prevent the collection of DNA. The DNA collection should flow automatically upon conviction. This is simply one more unnecessary impediment to effective law enforcement.
Furthermore, the DNA testing system is so backlogged that until sufficient resources are provided, any legislative changes made will not be meaningful. This legislation still does not address the issue of timely production of DNA results to bring dangerous offenders to justice and to ensure the safety of our communities. We need better tools.
For more than a decade the government has failed to provide law enforcement agencies with the tools and resources they need to effectively fight crime. In my riding of Newton—North Delta, marijuana grow ops, organized crime and gang violence are flourishing. Many murders have been committed in the vicinity and remain unsolved.
Past cuts to the RCMP by the government have only served to exacerbate matters. The Canadian Police Association says that the RCMP needs an immediate $250 million cash infusion, but news stories indicate the Liberal government is now considering another $100 million cut. It is shameful. This is just another demonstration of Liberal misplaced priorities.
What does it mean in real terms? Consider as an example Project Snowball. This massive RCMP probe into Canada's largest child pornography investigation tracked more than 2,000 Canadians, including 406 in British Columbia, among them 23 in my constituency in Surrey, suspected of possessing and distributing sexually explicit pictures of children. Remarkably, in over two years we have arrested less than 5% of those suspects. Many police forces in Canada still could not take any action, despite getting a list of suspects in January 2001. They simply do not have the resources nor the officers who are trained to do the job.
Project Snowball also underscored the lack of cooperation between the federal, provincial and municipal police forces in such major investigations. Police say that national cooperation is a nightmare, blaming a lack of resources, a lack of a coordinated national strategy, and laws that exact too light a sentence on pedophiles.
Police also need more help from the courts. They are fed up with the revolving door judicial system. Police work is frequently frustrated when officers are rearresting over and over the same criminals while they are on parole, house arrest and other largely ineffective court sanctions. That is shameful. There must be stiffer penalties for criminals, especially those with lengthy records or those who have committed violent crimes. While some criminals can be rehabilitated, others simply need to be taken off our streets. They should be behind bars.
Canadian police have a daunting task when battling child pornography. It is estimated that more than 100,000 child porn websites are on the worldwide web. This is a serious issue. I have lots of data I could share, but time is short.
Clifford Olson confessed to murdering 11 children. Around 55 women were murdered in British Columbia. All may have been saved if the DNA data bank had been established long ago and the police had more and better resources.
In conclusion, law enforcement must become a higher priority for the federal government. It is our collective responsibility as elected representatives in Parliament to make laws that have teeth. The onus is on the Liberal government to introduce meaningful legislation and accept important, meaningful amendments. So what if they come from the official opposition?
Bill C-13 does not go far enough in addressing the concerns my colleagues and I have raised. Ineffective legislation is good for nothing. This legislation must be strengthened and must be able to provide a powerful tool to fight crime in our communities.