Budget Implementation Act, 2006
An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on May 2, 2006
This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in October 2007.
This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in October 2007.
Jim Flaherty Conservative
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.
Part 1 amends the Excise Tax Act to implement, effective July 1, 2006, the reduction in the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and the federal component of the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) from 7 to 6 per cent. It also amends the Act to provide transitional rules for determining the GST/HST rate applicable to transactions that straddle the July 1, 2006, implementation date, including transitional rebates in respect of the sale of residential complexes where transfer of ownership and possession both take place on or after July 1, 2006, pursuant to a written agreement entered into on or before May 2, 2006. The Excise Act, 2001 and the Excise Act are amended to increase the excise duties on tobacco and alcohol products to offset the impact of the GST/HST rate reduction. The Air Travellers Security Charge Act is amended to ensure that rates for domestic and transborder air travel reflect the impact of the GST/HST rate reduction. Those amendments generally apply as of July 1, 2006.
Part 2 implements income tax measures proposed or referenced in Budget 2006 to
(a) reduce personal income taxes;
(b) increase the child disability benefit;
(c) increase the refundable medical expense tax credit;
(d) eliminate capital gains tax on charitable donations of publicly-listed securities and ecologically-sensitive land;
(e) reintroduce the mineral exploration tax credit for new flow-through share agreements entered into before April 2007;
(f) expand the eligibility criteria for the disability tax credit;
(g) expand the list of expenses eligible for the disability supports deduction;
(h) expand the list of expenses eligible for the medical expenses tax credit;
(i) clarify the eligibility of home renovation and construction expenses for the medical expenses tax credit;
(j) double the amount of disability-related and medical expenses that can be claimed by a caregiver;
(k) introduce a tax credit in respect of adoption expenses;
(l) introduce a tax deferral for shareholders of agricultural co-ops;
(m) reduce corporate income taxes;
(n) eliminate the federal capital tax; and
(o) extend the carry-over period for non-capital losses and investment tax credits.
Part 3 amends Schedule I to the Excise Tax Act to repeal the excise tax on clocks, items made from semi-precious stones and items commonly known as jewellery, effective May 2, 2006.
Part 4 amends the First Nations Goods and Services Tax Act to facilitate the establishment of taxation arrangements between the government of specified provinces and interested Indian Bands situated in those specified provinces. It also amends the Yukon First Nations Self-Government Act to provide transitional income tax measures consistent with negotiated agreements.
Part 5 amends the Excise Tax Act, the Excise Act, 2001, the Air Travellers Security Charge Act and the Income Tax Act to harmonize various accounting, interest, penalty and related administrative and enforcement provisions. These amendments will apply based on an implementation date that is the later of April 1, 2007, and Royal Assent. It also amends the Excise Tax Act to confirm that debt collection services that are generally provided by collection agents to financial institutions are not financial services for GST/HST purposes and are therefore taxable for GST/HST purposes.
Part 6 enacts the Universal Child Care Benefit Act to assist families by supporting their child care choices through direct financial support to a maximum of $1,200 per year in respect of each of their children who has not attained the age of six years. It also makes consequential and related amendments to the Income Tax Act, the Employment Insurance Act, the Children’s Special Allowances Act and the Old Age Security Act.
Part 7 amends the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act to determine the amount of the fiscal equalization payments to the provinces and the territorial formula financing payments to each of the territories for the fiscal years beginning after March 31, 2006 and to authorize the Minister of Finance to make an additional fiscal equalization payment to British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador, and to make an additional territorial formula financing payment to Yukon and Nunavut, for the fiscal year beginning on April 1, 2006.
Part 8 provides for a total payment of $650,000,000 to the provinces and territories for the fiscal year 2006-2007 in respect of early learning and child care. It provides for payments to the territories for the fiscal year 2006-2007.
Part 9 authorizes the Minister of Finance to enter into an agreement to provide protection to mortgagees in respect of mortgage insurance policies that are provided by a mortgage insurer that is approved by the Superintendent of Financial Institutions to sell mortgage insurance in Canada. It also fixes the maximum amount of such protection and determines how that amount can be changed.
Part 10 extends the sunset provisions of financial institutions statutes by six months from October 24, 2006 to April 24, 2007.
Part 11 amends the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act, Public Service Superannuation Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act to change the existing formula by which adjustments are made to a contributor’s annuity.
Part 12 enacts the Mackenzie Gas Project Impacts Act, the purpose of which is to create the Corporation for the Mitigation of Mackenzie Gas Project Impacts. The corporation will provide contributions to regional organizations that will fund projects that mitigate the existing or anticipated socio-economic impacts on communities in the Northwest Territories arising from the Mackenzie gas project. The Part also provides that a payment of $500,000,000 may be made to the corporation and adds the name of the corporation to the schedule of certain federal Acts.
Part 13 amends the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development Agreement Act to permit the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to carry out its purpose in Mongolia and to allow the Governor in Council to amend, by order, the schedule to that Act. It amends the Freshwater Fish Marketing Act to increase the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation’s legislative borrowing limit from thirty million dollars to fifty million dollars. It also amends the Public Sector Pension Investment Board Act to create share capital for the Public Sector Pension Investment Board
November 18th, 2013 / 5:30 p.m.
Ted Hsu Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON
Jobs and Growth Act, 2012Government Orders
November 29th, 2012 / 3:15 p.m.
Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS
Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to the Conservatives' latest omnibus budget legislation, Bill C-45, at report stage.
I will focus my remarks today on: one, how the New Democrats worked closely with and supported, helped, aided and abetted the Conservatives in their ramming of this omnibus bill through committee; two, a very dangerous precedent that was set at finance committee during the study of Bill C-45; and, three, some of the flaws in Bill C-45 that were identified by Canadians during the committee's study.
As members know, Bill C-45 is a mammoth bill. It is over 400 pages long and would amend over 60 different laws. It includes a large number of provisions that simply do not belong in a budget bill: rewriting the laws protecting Canada's waterways; redefining aboriginal fisheries, without even consulting first nations peoples; and eliminating the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission. These are just a few examples of what is in Bill C-45 and examples of measures that would really have nothing to do with the fiscal situation of the country.
Canadians overwhelmingly disapprove of the Conservatives' use of omnibus budget bills to ram a large number of unrelated measures through Parliament without sufficient study or debate. A recent poll by Forum Research shows that 64% of Canadians oppose the Conservatives' omnibus legislative approach. Even a majority of Conservative supporters oppose the Conservatives' use, overuse and abuse of omnibus bills.
The Prime Minister once opposed the use of omnibus bills, but under his watch we have seen a clear trend toward the use of omnibus legislation. In fact, Bill C-13 in 2006 was 198 pages; Bill C-28 in 2007 was 378 pages; Bill C-10 in 2009 was 552 pages; Bill C-9 in 2010 was 904 pages; Bill C-13 in 2011 was 658 pages; and Bill C-38 earlier this year was 452 pages.
To put this in context, the largest Liberal budget bill was Bill C-28 in 2003, which was 144 pages in length, and it focused on fiscal measures, not on unrelated measures.
I will also speak about the NDP in this case. The NDP actually helped the Conservatives in passing Bill C-45 as quickly as possible through committee. The New Democrats say that they oppose Bill C-45 and they say that they oppose closure. However, their actions speak louder than their words. While they talk the talk, they do not walk the walk when it comes to actually standing up to the Conservatives and their abuse of Parliament. Instead of standing up to the Conservatives and providing any real opposition to Bill C-45, the New Democrats have actually been helping the Conservatives.
Here are a few examples. The New Democrats voted with the Conservatives to impose time allocation to limit the debate on Bill C-45 at committee. The New Democrats voted with the Conservatives to overrule the finance committee chair, the member for Edmonton—Leduc, a chair who is respected by all members of the House for his judgment. To have him rebuked by his own colleagues was bad and it was terrible to see the New Democrats gang up with the Conservatives against the member for Edmonton—Leduc. The New Democrats voted with the Conservatives to throw out the rules at committee and to shut down opposition to Bill C-45. The New Democrats then gave up one of their votes at finance committee and worked out a schedule with the Conservatives so the finance committee could get through Bill C-45 as quickly as possible. The New Democrats voted with the Conservatives almost 2,000 times at the finance committee to oppose measures that could have delayed certain parts of Bill C-45.
May 30th, 2012 / 9:30 p.m.
Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB
It's important that I clarify this because that's the problem with people who have outside interests. I just ask that we be very clear about both sides of the story.
When we talk about third-party delivery, I appreciate that Mr. Bergevin said he doesn't take issue with that, as long as there are rules. The rules are there. The inspectors are accredited. There are no two ways about it. That is clear.
I also want to correct the record with regard to the size of the budget bill. Let's get to the facts. Bill C-10, which was Budget 2009, was bigger than this one. Bill C-9, Budget 2010, BIA number two, was 880 pages. Bill C-13, Budget 2011, BIA number one, was 644 pages. They were all bigger than this one. This is not unusual in any way, shape or form.
These studies are done over years. One of the witnesses mentioned that. I just want to make that clear so Canadians understand the full picture on some of these issues.
Criminal CodeGovernment Orders
April 17th, 2008 / 3:20 p.m.
Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-13, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (criminal procedure, language of the accused, sentencing and other amendments).
I should note that the bill was originally introduced as Bill C-13 in the first session of the 39th Parliament. It passed all stages in the House of Commons, was sent to the other place and is back here now with some amendments, which I and my colleagues believe enhance the bill. I will be supporting the bill, and I expect my colleagues on this side will as well.
We support the bill because it would a number of positive things to improve and enhance our criminal justice system. Some of these matters are quite procedural and technical in their nature, but, nonetheless, they are very important to ensure the system in the country works efficiently, effectively and brings justice to all.
Some of the aspects of the bill, for example, increase the maximum fine that can be imposed for a summary conviction offence from $2,000 to $10,000. The $2,000 limit had not been changed for some 30 years. The bill also calls for the suspension of a conditional sentence order or a probation order during an appeal. That enhances this law as well.
The proposed bill also provides the power to delay the sentencing proceedings so an offender can participate in a provincially approved treatment program. That is very important. In many cases we can lock people up and throw away the key, but eventually they will get out and have to be functioning and responsible citizens of our country. Therefore, if we can help someone deal with drug or alcohol abuse or some other social problem, this is to be very much encouraged.
In the case of a person serving a youth sentence who has received an adult sentence, the bill clarifies that the remaining portion of the youth sentence is converted to an adult sentence. This follows through on some of the changes that were made previously to the Youth Criminal Justice Act and something I think many Canadians often do not fully comprehend.
There is an impression that young people can commit crimes at will, flaunt the system and do not receive the types of sanctions that many Canadians think they should. However, we need to understand that if we put young people in jail, they can become hardened criminals. If they are not rehabilitated or given the appropriate treatment, in jail they will become even worse criminals. When they get out, they will offend again.
It is important that all criminals be rehabilitated while they are serving their time. At the same time, the youth criminal justice changes we made when we formed government allow a judge, at his or her discretion, to sentence a young person as an adult if, in the view of the judge, that young person deserves to be sentenced as an adult.
If I recollect correctly, the cutoff is age 14, and that is a very young. When people tell me that the age should be reduced further, I tell them that it is not something I would advocate. In fact, 14 is young enough. I think many judges would not be inclined to impose an adult sentence on someone of those young years unless the circumstances warranted it in the view of the judge. Nonetheless, it is important to have that provision so a judge can have the flexibility to do things like that.
One aspect that is not in the bill, although I hope it will come at some point in time, is an initiative that our government started. After two years of serving as government, I am surprised the Conservatives have not really acted upon it. It has to do with the modernization of investigative techniques.
I notice in the bill there are amendments which call for the use of telecommunications to forward warrants for the purpose of endorsement and execution in a jurisdiction other than the jurisdiction where the search warrant was obtained. Therefore, there are measures in the bill dealing with telecommunications, but we still do not have legislation to modernize investigative techniques for our law enforcement personnel. Let me describe what that is.
If we look at our Criminal Code today, if law enforcement officers can convince a judge that there are significant grounds, the judge can execute a search warrant. However, the search warrants and the wiretapping warrants are tailored to technologies that have been superceded, although not completely, and replaced by other types of media, other types of technology.
For example, wiretapping warrants on our books today, in terms of law, deal mostly with land phone lines. We know criminals today use wireless devices. They use cellphones, computers and the Internet. The problem is our laws are archaic in the sense that the police cannot tap these types of technologies. The problem, again, is criminals have moved ahead of law enforcement. In fact, some criminals will make a few calls on a cellphone and then chuck it away. They will do the same for other kinds of wireless devices.
When we were the government, we began a process to modernize these investigative techniques. It raised some concern in certain quarters that this was calling for a change in the ability or the power of the police to seek out a wiretap. The reality is it changed nothing in that regard. Law enforcement would still have to convince a judge that the wiretap was necessary. The only thing that it would do is it would allow the wiretap to be executed against a cellphone number, or a BlackBerry, or an Internet account, or some other telecommunications device.
While there is some confusion and some angst among citizens and others about what this type of legislation would do, in fact, it would do nothing more than what is on the books right now. It would not give the police the power or the authority to wiretap someone's line without a duly executed warrant by a judge.
The Conservative government talks about how it is getting the job done and how there has been 13 years of inaction. Here is something upon which the government should be acting.
There are a couple of other issues with telecommunications companies and servers. There are costs associated with adapting this technology or being in a state of readiness. If a warrant is executed by law enforcement officers, they need to have the capability and capacity, the technology within their own shops. There are costs associated with that.
There are also costs on a going forward basis if we require these telecommunications companies, like a server or mobile phone company, to retrofit to ensure their technologies are capable of putting these wiretaps on this technology. If this law were passed, companies would have to ensure the technology was engineered in such a way that if a warrant were executed, they could implement the wiretap on a cellphone, or on a BlackBerry, or on an Internet account. I believe this is holding the government back from doing something on this initiative, and that is a wrong reason.
Why should we be compromising the safety and security of Canadians because some telecommunications companies are anxious and nervous about the costs they would be faced with to adapt and execute this type of technology?
When we were the government, there were a lot of discussions and negotiations back and forth. My recollection is that there was some compromise, some meeting of the minds, as to how to move forward in this particular environment.
If my memory serves me correctly, these companies indicated a willingness on a going forward basis to build in the technologies and infrastructure needed so they would be in a state of readiness for warrants like this to be executed. I am not sure where those discussions went finally, but it is a matter of negotiation.
As for retrofitting, that is a bigger issue. It is a question of making the law come into force so the companies would have to retrofit all their technology, which is a big ticket item, and that is a matter for negotiation with the government.
However, I am surprised that it has taken two and a half years to negotiate something that would be reasonable in the circumstances. With the passage of time, the safety and security of our citizens have been put at risk. I do not think that is acceptable.
In fact, when we had the new civilian Commissioner of the RCMP, Mr. Bill Elliott, come to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, I asked him if the tools he needed to deal with this type of technology were there to make sure we were up to date with the technologies the criminals were using. He indicated that it would be an improvement if enabling legislation were in place so that we could beat the criminals at their own game.
Therefore, I encourage the government to bring forward legislation such as this, which would modernize our investigative techniques and give the police the same tools that criminals have. Does it make any sense for police officers to be using land line phones when the criminals are using not land lines but other technologies? It seems to me that this is an initiative that could have been incorporated into this bill, but it was not. I do not know where that particular item is.
We find in this bill that there are some improvements in the process that deal with our justice system. As I said earlier, I think some of them are more housekeeping in nature, but it is important housekeeping. It is something that I would encourage this House to support.
As an example, the amendments say that a summary conviction trial with respect to co-accused can proceed where one of the co-accused does not appear.
Another feature introduces changes to the process with respect to the challenge of jurors to, among other things, assist in preserving their impartiality.
It also brings in other amendments with respect to language rights provisions of the Criminal Code. This is a very important part of this legislation.
It means that an accused is informed of the right to be heard by a judge or a judge and jury who speak the official language of Canada that is the language of the accused, or both official languages of Canada. The amendments to this bill codify the right of the accused to obtain a translation of the information or indictment on request.
These are very important elements. We live in a bilingual country. We value our bilingualism. It is part of our national heritage. It is part of our strength as a nation. We also respect the right of individuals to be heard and listened to in the official language of their choice, one of the official languages of this country. I think that is also a very important part of Bill C-13.
I encourage the House to get on with this bill. It has been here before, it has been in the other place and it is back. Again, while sometimes the members in the other place are criticized, or that institution itself is criticized, there are many fine and competent people over there who can add value to legislation. In this case, I think they have done that.
I would encourage members of this House to support Bill C-13 in its current form. I certainly will be voting for it.
Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders
June 14th, 2007 / 6:45 p.m.
Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-58 on behalf of the Bloc Québécois.
I will summarize this briefly for the benefit of our constituents who are listening. The main purpose of this bill is to clarify the Transportation Act and strengthen the existing provisions that protect shippers against any abuse of the commercial power of the railways. It relates mainly to western Canada and has to do with grain producers and grain transport. Although this has less to do with what goes on in Quebec, the Bloc Québécois stays informed about various situations across Canada. We are always interested in participating in the debate so that we can stand up for anyone who is oppressed by the commercial power of the railways, as an example.
Today, we have two fine examples of this. Earlier, the representative of the government who gave a speech about Bill C-58 said that the bill was one of three pieces of legislation to modernize the Transportation Act. Today, we discussed Bill C-11. The idea was to modernize the Transportation Act in relation to the noise pollution and vibration produced by the railway companies. The Conservative government has caved in to the power of the railway lobby. The lobby had its standard bearer, the Senate, which decided to carry the torch for the interests of the poor little railway companies.
And the end result is that the government supported an amendment to the bill that had been passed unanimously, Bill C-11. In committee, the noise pollution provisions and the bill had been supported unanimously, clause by clause, by all parties.
Today, the Conservatives have caved in to the Liberal position adopted in the Senate. I hope that we will not see the same thing happen with Bill C-58, that we will not see the Conservatives caving in to the Liberal majority in the Senate if the Senate decides to amend the bill.
Bill C-58 is an attempt to strike a better balance between the power of the railway companies and the people who produce and ship products, including grain producers, who do not own the rails and who have to get their hopper cars to destinations all over Canada. They feel oppressed by the railway companies.
The purpose of this bill is to strike a balance. The proposed amendments respond to the concerns of shippers, and particularly western Canadian grain producers, about prices and railway service, while also providing the railways with regulatory stability. The amendments to Bill C-58 will deal with arbitration, charges for incidental services, notices of changes of tariff, sidings for producers' railway cars, leased railway lines and obligations in respect of the level of service. It is time we had some balance, in the interests of those who use the railway system, including grain producers, to get the railway cars that belong to them to their destinations.
The Conservative government and the Liberals have this strong tendency to let the free market do as it wishes. In such conditions producers are over-exploited. That is what this bill seeks to correct. When we refer to the various amendments, we refer, among others, to arbitration. The objectives of the Transportation Act, prior to these amendments, require that the Agency take into account the matter of substantial commercial harm. Bill C-58 proposes that the reference to substantial commercial harm be removed because whenever we hear from the railway companies there is always some substantial commercial harm. In the end, those who do not own the rails lose every time. The railway companies always succeed in proving substantial commercial harm where there is none. That will now be subject to arbitration, which will be a means of settling disputes between a shipper and the railways involving the rates and conditions of transportation service.
If merchandise is shipped by railway under a confidential contract, the matters subject to confidentiality cannot be submitted to arbitration without the consent of all parties. Still, there are some safeguards. It will be possible to make a joint submission for arbitration to settle a dispute concerning the rates and conditions for movement of goods, where the matter submitted to arbitration is common to all the shippers.
Finally, all those who are experiencing the same problem will have recourse to arbitration. They can join in a class action and the Transportation Agency can hear the case and render a decision.
The bill also provides for suspension of any arbitration proceedings if the two parties agree to accept mediation. In fact, this will also encourage use of mediation. That is one reason the Bloc Québécois is in favour of these amendments.
The rates charged for incidental services will be discussed. The railways earn most of their income from the rates charged for transporting goods, such as the carloads of grain from the Prairies to Vancouver, but charges also have to be paid for services that are incidental to the conveyance of goods or that are not directly related. These are known as incidental or associated charges; the cost of parking, additional charges to a shipper who requires more than the scheduled time, the cost of cleaning and or stocking cars and weighing the goods are examples of incidental costs.
In recent years, the rates charged by the railways have become a burden to shippers. However, the means of dealing with this problem are limited, since arbitration does not apply as a distinct remedy for incidental charges or associated conditions. The act will be amended to permit the agency to investigate a complaint from any shipper who is subject to a general application tariff that provides for rates and conditions. Finally, incidental charges invoiced by the railways could be subject to arbitration.
There is also the notice of change of tariff. The act defines the tariff as being a schedule of rates, charges, terms and conditions. At present it requires that the railway publish any changes to this tariff at least 20 days before raising rates. Such notice is not required for rates pertaining to incidental services or related conditions in the section on tariffs. This will be amended. The act will be amended so as to extend the period of notice from 20 to 30 days so that shippers can receive sufficient notice of any increase in the rates for transportation. Notice is therefore extended and incidental charges will be included.
There are also the sidings for producer cars. During the consultations, some parties asked for tighter regulation on abandonment of sidings used for loading grain or loading producer cars on the Prairies. Sidings are not subject to the provisions of the act on discontinuing a line. Complaints about the closing of sidings used for loading cars arise in part from the fact that shippers do not know which sidings are in service, since at present the railways are not required to inform those concerned.
The act will be amended so as to require the railways to publish the list of sidings available for loading grain producer cars and to give 60 days’ notice before putting a siding out of service.
All this means that, on their own lines, the railway companies used to operate as though they were the only ones using them. That was the problem. As far as I am concerned, the federal government failed in its original mission. Over the past 20 years, it has got rid of all the railway tracks that belonged to it and transferred them to private companies: to Canadian Pacific and Canadian National. Today we realize that that has created a problem. The people to whom they were transferred, often for paltry sums, are today making incredible profits. In the end they regard this asset as their own. When the time comes to make the rails available to other users, they know that tracks cannot be laid just anywhere. There needs to be a corridor across Canada and such a thing cannot be created on a whim. The government, as far as I am concerned, made a mistake in this regard. It should have kept them.
There is also the example of the bridge at Quebec City that we are having so much difficulty getting painted. The Quebec bridge belongs to Canadian National and it says it does not have the money to get it painted. That does not matter very much. The Liberals tried legal proceedings to force CN to paint the Quebec bridge, especially in view of the 400th anniversary. It will be great to show visitors Quebec, the oldest city in America, with a rusty bridge. But that is how it is.
When the Liberals were in power, they fell flat on their faces. They could not get anything done and instituted legal proceedings. The Conservatives, thinking themselves more intelligent, said that they would set the legal proceedings aside and change the legislation. But no, the minister had to do the same thing six months ago. He too launched legal proceedings to try to force CN to paint the Quebec bridge. I predict that it still will not be painted in 2008. They will not get it done, unless they pay what CN has been asking since the very beginning. If they want it painted, they should get out their money and pay for it. That is the hard truth.
Today, once again, the federal government has given up. The free flow of goods and services between the provinces is a federal responsibility. This always makes me laugh because we have been trying for decades to get a new bridge built right here between the Quebec Ontario banks of the river. I have always wondered what use a Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities is if we cannot get goods, services and people moving freely between provinces. No new bridge or new infrastructure is being built to join the two banks.
The federal Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities cannot serve as an referee or as anything at all. He dare not get involved because he is powerless. The problem today is that they are trying to give some powers by means of the Canada Transportation Act. It is good that we are here because one day they got rid of the railways and now they are forced to regulate a bit or else the railway owners are going to decide to operate their way and, often, raise rates without warning. That is what we are telling the House now.
In all these regards, it is evident that the Bloc Québécois is very sensitive to the problems of farmers, including western grain growers on the prairies.
We have always been very sensitive to the problems of Quebec farmers. That is why we always defend supply management so staunchly. If the Conservative government defended the supply management interests of Quebec farmers as fiercely as it defends the transportation of grain in hopper cars, they would probably be doing pretty well. The problem is that there is always a double standard in this country. There is one standard now for western farmers and another for eastern farmers, especially those in Quebec.
We in the Bloc Québécois do not make such distinctions and when we feel that our constituents are being exploited by private enterprise, we do not hesitate to take action. That is why the Bloc Québécois will support Bill C-58 in order to help the western grain producers and shippers.
March 1st, 2007 / 9:05 a.m.
Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice
The scope of Bill C-13 has been broadened to add to the list murder and one of the sexual offences. For example, all persons having dangerous offender status are included in this list. Manslaughter has also been added.
The bill also adds to the list attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
Under the current act, the person must be serving a two-year sentence for the offence in question. The legislation only says that the person must be in the process of serving the sentence. These sentences are only rarely handed down, in fact, there are only about twenty cases. Overall, the offender may be serving a 15-year sentence for kidnapping or some other crime, and three sexual assaults. However, the judge will only add one year to the sentence for each sexual assault. This individual will now be subject to the new regime.
With BillC-18, approximately 200 more people will now be subject to the retroactive provisions of Bill C-13, which is already in effect and which targeted 4,000 individuals.
March 1st, 2007 / 9:05 a.m.
Greg Yost Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice
Just give me a few seconds to find the relevant provision in Cournoyer.
Bill C-13 adopted by the previous Parliament created 16 offences of such an egregious nature that the judge has no choice but to make on order. Subsection 1(5) on page 2 of this bill lists these primary designated offences of an egregious nature: living off the avails of prostitution of a person under the age of eighteen years; murder; manslaughter; attempt to commit murder; causing bodily harm with intent -- firearm; causing bodily harm with intent -- air gun or pistol; administering noxious thing with intent to endanger life or cause bodily harm; overcoming resistance to the commission of an offence; assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm aggravated assault; unlawfully causing bodily harm; sexual assault with a weapon, threats to a third party or causing bodily harm; aggravated sexual assault; kidnapping; robbery; and extortion.
These are the 16 designated offences for which there would be no judicial discretion to refrain from making a DNA order.
March 1st, 2007 / 9:05 a.m.
The Chair Conservative Art Hanger
I'd like to call the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to order, pursuant to the order of reference of Wednesday, October 4, 2006, regarding Bill C-18, An Act to amend certain Acts in relation to DNA identification.
We'll be going through clause-by-clause as a committee this morning. We have witnesses on standby: Mr. Bird, senior legal counsel for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police; and from the Department of Justice, Mr. Greg Yost.
I believe everyone has the agenda before them as well as any explanations dealing with many of the clauses. I see there was an additional information form passed around on Bill C-13 and Bill C-18, as to how they are connected to one another, should anyone have any further questions.
I'm not sure if there are any questions or comments on the bill, but to date, no amendments have been received by the chair.
I would ask if the committee members wish to vote on all clauses at once, given the fact that there are no amendments.
Bank ActGovernment Orders
February 27th, 2007 / 12:15 p.m.
Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC
Mr. Speaker, before I begin my remarks on Bill C-37, I would like to add a few comments on the issue of public finance.
The Liberal finance critic who just spoke reminded hon. members that the Mulroney years were extremely disastrous as far as public finance was concerned, with major deficits including the last one of $42 billion.
Nonetheless, I want to provide a few facts for the public's information and so that everyone knows the whole story. The first deficit recorded in 1975 was run by a Liberal finance minister, John Turner. Then a whole series of deficits followed until 1993-94. The Liberal solution was to offload the problem to the provinces, Quebec in particular, by creating the fiscal imbalance. If we look at the true public finance story of the past 20 or 30 years, neither side has anything to teach us.
Let us come back to Bill C-37 , An Act to amend the law governing financial institutions and to provide for related and consequential matters. The Bloc Québécois will obviously be in favour of this essentially technical bill and we will have no problem supporting it.
Precisely because this is a technical bill, it does not address the substantive questions that we would have expected the Conservative government to provide us with some answers to, some possible solutions, or even that it raise issues. I am thinking, for example, of the entire question of electronic transactions. There is absolutely no reference to that, apart from cheque imaging, which I will come back to.
We know that this is a major issue in the economic development of Canada and Quebec and all of our economies. Failing to address this question, failing to provide solutions, at least in terms of regulation, means that we run the risk of hitting a ceiling over the next few years in terms of electronic transactions. The regulatory framework is inadequate. We would therefore have expected that this question be addressed in Bill C-37.
The same is true of bank fees. It may be appropriate for there to be fees for certain transactions. But do fees need to be charged for all transactions? Some transaction charges are surely somewhat questionable. An example might be a cash withdrawal at an ATM that belongs to a bank other than the one that the person ordinarily does business with. There are relatively high fees for that transaction. This might at least have been given some thought.
In fact, the Minister of Finance will be meeting with the banks in a few days to discuss these questions. It would have been useful, before they are discussed with the banks, if we could have had a substantive discussion at the Standing Committee on Finance, based on various information that both the Department of Finance and the Minister of Finance could have provided to us. But no, the question had to be raised by one of the members of the Standing Committee on Finance and the committee had to take it upon itself to initiate a study of bank fees.
Once again, on questions of this type, we must not take an ideological approach, whether on the right or on the left. We must first try to understand why banks charge these fees, what they are for, and to establish rules or limits, to regulate this practice based on information and facts, and not based on preconceived notions.
The work on this will be done by the Standing Committee on Finance. We would have expected, however, in a bill to revise the Bank Act, something that happens only every five years, that these subjects, which have been widely debated in Canadian and Quebec society, would have been addressed.
There is another matter that should have been included in this bill. That is the entire question of reinvesting in the community. We know that discriminatory practices sometimes occur on the part of our banking institutions. I would say that they are not even committed intentionally. It is simply a certain way of doing things that is referred to as systemic discrimination.
Here is an example. Every year, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, which is hardly a left-wing institution, as we know, speaks out against the discrimination that women entrepreneurs suffer, particularly small and medium-sized business owners. March 8 will be International Women's Day, and they will probably speak out against it again this year.
This is a known fact that even the business community recognizes, and we must therefore find ways to counter this systematic discrimination.
In the United States, community re-investment is a practice that forces financial institutions to take stock of their loan and credit applicants, and how the banks approve the applications. If it appears that certain groups are under-represented despite their applications, a special fund makes money available to those investors who have been discriminated against by the banks based on their profile. It is even better when there is no discrimination and the financial institutions take stock of the ratio of loan applications and approved loans.
However, I repeat, this is common practice in the United States, and this forces the financial institutions to re-invest in the community, in those groups that have the greatest difficulty obtaining credit, in particular, to start up a business.
Another question should have been addressed during the examination of Bill C-37 and that is the issue of tax havens. How is it that Canadian banks are such frequent users of tax havens? The Bank of Nova Scotia comes to mind, among others, since I discovered that it has locations in nearly all the tax havens in the West Indies, including Bermuda and the Bahamas. Why? Is it simply because it does not have the choice, given the global economy? We would like to know. The question has not even been asked. Is it because Canadian laws and regulations are not stringent enough? The Standing Committee on Finance began examining one possibility and will delve further into this over the coming weeks.
People will remember some interesting debates we had in the House on how companies like Canada Steamship Lines Inc. were using tax havens to avoid their responsibilities as good corporate citizens. As I was saying, we should at least have touched on this, although we still can. The Bloc Québécois intends, by the way, to introduce a motion in the next few weeks that the committee should pursue its work on tax havens.
Another aspect is identity theft. We know now that criminals can access our entire profile using social insurance cards. There are about five million too many of them in circulation.
With a certain amount of credit information, these people can go to a financial institution, take out a mortgage on someone’s house and disappear with the money. Unfortunately, these things happen every day. There is nothing about this crime, which is still not recognized as such. Sometimes people discover from one day to the next that they are indebted to the banks.
Who is responsible when this kind of thing happens? Are the banks not responsible for ensuring that when someone comes to them with certain information, he or she is the right person?
I think that we could have an interesting debate on this. We did touch on it when Bill C-37 was being studied. However, the department officials told us that it would have to be listed first as a crime in the Criminal Code before it could be included in the Bank Act.
We should have suggested a number of possibilities. The opposition parties, the Bloc Québécois and the NDP, have obviously tried to fix some things. However, most of their amendments were deemed out of order because they went beyond the bill before us.
As I was saying, this bill severely restricted parliamentarians’ ability to do their job and review the Bank Act. Unfortunately, this opportunity only presents itself every five years. I hope that the department, the minister and the Conservative government will not wait five years to do something about these issues of considerable concern to the public.
Some other things too would have deserved further consideration, such as the question of the bank ombudsman, for example.
I quite liked the debate that started up where bank representatives explained what this system was and why the banks financed it. These representatives also explained that the ombudsman is quite independent and the banks have complied with fully with his decisions since the position was created.
Nevertheless, some consumer associations and individual consumers still appeared before the committee and said they did not think they had the protection they needed to proceed with some of the outstanding legal actions between consumers and the banks.
I for my part will not prejudge the issue. However, it seems to me that we should have pursued this further. Even after Bill C-37 has gone through the study phase, consumer associations will continue to think, whether rightly or wrongly, that the Bank Act does not protect consumers sufficiently. I think that they are right at least in regard to the fact that we have not studied this issue enough and did not go into it further. To this extent, their questions remain unanswered.
As I mentioned earlier, Bill C-37 is very technical and has limited debate on a number of questions. Furthermore, this bill was studied very quickly, I must confess. The committee did this work in three sessions. I do not think that the members of the committee needed a great many more sessions, given the technical framework of the bill. However, in my opinion, in future, when we study a bill like this one, we should have much more substantial debates, especially since the Bank Act is only reviewed every five years.
As I have already mentioned, the Bloc Québécois will vote in favour of this bill. Although it does not affect the big societal debates surrounding banking institutions and the Canadian banking system as a whole, Bill C-37 will nevertheless introduce a number of measures on which the Bloc agrees. For example, it will introduce mechanisms for conveying information to consumers, and this will enable them to get more information so that they can make informed decisions regarding their use of bank services. This is a step in the right direction. More remains to be done, but we are headed in the right direction.
Also, a regulatory framework allowing the use of digital data in the processing of cheques has been introduced, and this will reduce the length of time cheques are held by banking institutions.
There too I do not think anyone will complain about the fact that, instead of their cheque being frozen for ten days or seven days, as provided under the voluntary agreement between the banking institutions and the Department of Finance, the funds will only be frozen for four days, if I remember correctly. I will come back to this. The members of the committee nevertheless wondered why the banks were continuing to freeze the funds of deposited cheques for more than 24 hours, in spite of all the electronic means at our disposal.
We will have to wait till digital imaging is put in place. We have not had any answers on this.
The time during which such funds are frozen must be reduced to a minimum. This creates a lot of problems, particularly for small investors and small and medium-sized businesses. Still, the possibility of imaging will be there. Let us hope that the banks will use it to reduce waiting times for releasing funds as much as possible.
There is a provision for reducing the regulatory burden on foreign banks, credit unions and insurance companies in order to make the regulatory approval regime more efficient. Obviously nobody wants regulations for the sake of having regulations. Everyone agreed that this was a good step, especially for the credit unions.
Facilitating the establishment of foreign banks in Canadian and Quebec markets can only be beneficial for consumers. We know that our banking market is extremely concentrated in Canada, with only five major players. Despite the efforts that have been made to create competition, in particular with the passing of Bill C-8 a few years ago, we have to acknowledge that there is not much competition, particularly in the regions.
In the case of Quebec, for example, it could be said that, in the regions, the Desjardins movement practically has a monopoly because the major financial institutions have decided to desert this market as it is not lucrative enough for them.
We find ourselves in a situation where competition does not have all the results expected and the arrival of foreign banks and credit unions provides an opportunity for real competition in the financial sector, which is quite desirable.
Regulations governing mortgage loans are also revisited: the insurable portion of a mortgage will be reduced. At present, up to 75% of a mortgage does not have to be insured; the remainder does. Naturally, that leads to additional costs for consumers who wish to purchase a home. The uninsured portion is being increased to 80%. Reducing by 5% the portion to be insured will make it easier for a number of individuals to purchase property and lower the cost of borrowing. We obviously cannot be against this measure.
Various other matters were also reviewed. They relate to the proportion of equity of a bank held by a single shareholder or groups of shareholders. This should make it easier for small banks to enter the market. That is desirable. As I mentioned, past legislation adopted has not yet led to the desired competitiveness in the financial market.
Therefore, we will support this bill. In the time allotted to me I would like to talk in more detail about certain matters found in Bill C-37.
My presentation will address the bill's objectives.
The first objective covers all matters affecting the interests of consumers. A certain number of measures in this regard were taken by Bill C-37. As I mentioned, we do not go far enough; however, some measures are headed in the right direction.
The second objective is to improve legislative efficiency and there are a certain number of measures in this regard in Bill C-37.
The last objective pertains to a group of varied measures in Bill C-37.
The first key objective, which is enhancing the interests of consumers, includes a first main element, namely to improve the system of disclosing information to consumers. I talked about it earlier, in my introduction. This will help consumers make informed decisions about the investment vehicles that they choose.
It was decided to set higher standards for disclosure of charges and obligations. Penalties that apply to various accounts and investment vehicles are also heavier. Moreover, once the act is passed, it will require institutions to clearly disclose this information in all their branches, through the Internet, and also in writing to any individual who requests it.
Some might think that it goes without saying, but these provisions were not yet included in the Bank Act. Since one can hardly be opposed to virtue itself, we will support this measure.
There is a second element in this key objective of enhancing the interests of consumers. It is, as I mentioned, the change made to the regulatory framework to provide for the introduction of electronic cheque imaging. This will allow financial institutions to reduce the hold period on cheques. That is also a change that was asked for.
As for legislative efficiency, I already talked about reducing the regulatory burden for foreign banks and for credit unions. We will have to streamline the regulatory approval process, and provide a more flexible framework for credit unions.
Finally, as regards the other measures, the most important one is, as I mentioned, to increase from 75% to 80% the loan-to-value ratio for which insurance is mandatory on residential mortgages.
In conclusion, as I said at the outset, the Bloc Québécois will support Bill C-37.
February 27th, 2007 / 10:10 a.m.
Senior Legal Counsel, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
The DNA Identification Act does not prescribe where crime scene profiles will come from. It simply obliges the commissioner to deal with what he receives for entering into the convicted offender index, and as a matter of policy and as a matter of the amendments to Bill C-13, that analysis would need to be done by the commissioner himself or someone he would contract to. However, at this time my understanding is that it is done entirely by RCMP officials, and I understand there's no policy change to permit this information, for the convicted offender index, to be contracted out.
With respect to the crime scene profiles, the problems are really related to policy on the use of the CODIS system to transmit information to the National DNA Data Bank. The labs' use of the CODIS system--this is a combined DNA analysis system that the FBI have developed and allow the world to use--allows for a consistent transfer of information, at least domestically, and that's essentially the system we use for exchanging information with the 27 other countries--I believe--that use the FBI system.
It makes for an easier transfer of information internationally, but that's not the primary purpose of it. It's really to allow the internal domestic data bank to operate effectively from the network of labs in Canada. So you have labs in Quebec and Ontario, separate from the RCMP labs, all using the same system to transmit their profiles to the DNA data bank.
My understanding is that if a private lab were to do this work, it would require, under the CODIS rules, that one of the official provincial labs or the RCMP lab validate the results of the research that was done, but that research would not go the other way. You would not be seeing information in the DNA data bank being sent to private labs for their use.
All the information is sent to the National DNA Data Bank, and once it's there, it's under the restrictions that allow for the communication of profiles. The convicted offender index could not be used to transmit information out, except in the case of a moderate match when there's a discussion between perhaps contractors of the police to determine whether or not they have a convicted offender match, but it would be used only for that purpose.
Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON
Mr. Bird, again, address my question. Where does that prevent Bill C-13 from being used?
Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON
Let me use conspiracy. We've added conspiracy as a new one. What does that do to correct any problems we had with Bill C-13?
February 27th, 2007 / 9:35 a.m.
Senior Legal Counsel, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
My understanding is that we should be reflecting the intent of the original Bill C-13. It's simply a matter of reformatting it to ensure that we've got the intent properly.
Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON
Okay. But the additional offences that we're moving into primary and the new ones that we're moving into secondary don't do anything to correct the problems we had with Bill C-13. This is an increase in the mandate.
Let me make this statement to you so you can see the context I'm coming from. I see part of Bill C-18 as simply being mandate creep, that we're expanding the use of the DNA in certain offences.... I understand that's what we're doing. I don't see that this does anything to correct any of the problems we had in Bill C-13.
The problem with Bill C-13was that when we looked at it, we didn't have the drafting authority to go that much further before it got to you. The end result was that it mirrored the old regime for international but not for the current recognized need to do moderate matching internationally as well. Without that, we will not effectively be able to share information abroad. That's one of the reasons Bill C-18 was put in place.
A number of issues were found with respect to the changes to the retroactive scheme and the forum surrounding DNA orders because of the new changes to “not criminally responsible” and associated reasons for making such orders. You'll see that there are a number of changes to the forum. These are small technical changes that we saw as being required. Then there are a number of other.... As we look at this, as Mr. Thompson pointed out, it's not a simple series of understandings that you have to go through to interrelate the requirements of the Criminal Code, as to what's a designated offence, with all the qualifying offences that are now in place. A number of changes are being put in place to make it clear what a mandatory order is, what a discretionary order by the judge is, and which has to be done by the prosecutor.
We try to make it clear and make the forums clear so that we have a coordinated approach between the amendments proposed by the committee that expanded the scope of the DNA qualifying offences by virtue of the amendments the committee recommended. That happened at that time before the committee, so we had to go back and make consequential changes to make this flow clearer and take care of technical problems with respect to definitions.
Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON
But that doesn't correct anything in Bill C C-13. It simply expands the use of it.
Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON
Okay, but Bill C-13could have been proceeded with for domestic purposes?
I'll do my best.
When Bill C-13 first arrived, its purpose was really to deal with the problem of what we call non-designated offences being sent in by courts. Those offences were kept in the data bank unanalyzed, but undestroyed, because we had a valid court order. But on the face of it, they looked defective to the Commissioner of the RCMP, and he didn't want to put offences into the data bank that didn't qualify, and he had no real way to deal with them. So a number of amendments were brought in to allow the commissioner to send those cases back to the attorney general of a province for review. Part of that was to allow the attorneys general to seek advice from the courts--in other words, to have the order quashed and dealt with.
After consultation with the attorneys general, they were of the view they could give advice to the RCMP commissioner without having to go back to a court to quash all of these orders. They said, in their opinion, if they confirmed the opinion of the commissioner this was a non-designated offence, the commissioner should be able to destroy it based on that advice.
So that change was put into the legislation.
The other issue was to deal with—
Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, gentlemen and madam, for being here.
Mr. Bird, I'll go to you first, because we didn't get to ask this question at the last session when the minister was here. We're being told that Bill C-13, now chapter 25, has not been put to use because of technical purposes, and that Bill C-18 corrects those. I don't see that. I don't see where Bill C-18 does anything to advance Bill C-13, so could you point out to us where it does that?
February 27th, 2007 / 9:10 a.m.
Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC
Did you take into account the fact that in Bill C-13's proposed subsection 487.051(2), which removes the judicial discretion to determine whether or not on conviction a DNA sample should actually be removed, would increase, obviously, the number? Had that been taken into account in your business case?
February 15th, 2007 / 10:20 a.m.
Senior Legal Counsel, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Thank you, Minister.
I should clarify that there are two aspects to international DNA exchanges. One is at the request of Canadian law enforcement agencies, who would ask that the crime scene DNA profile they've derived, and for which they have no suspect or answer, would be sent abroad for comparison with international profiles. This would be sent through Interpol to any country the investigating law enforcement agencies had asked or requested the RCMP to send it to—subject to the conditions we explained. They would only be permitted to use that profile for the investigation or prosecution of a criminal offence. They'd have to agree to that particular condition.
At this time, internationally, this is the only way to send a DNA profile—and only the DNA profile, not the sample or the stain that could be analyzed for all the other genetic propensities. These are the 13 loci that were derived, or nine, in some cases, with the RCMP labs, that are sent abroad for comparison. All they would have would be those double numbers that you saw on your tour yesterday. It would be the two, or sometimes only one, at each of those sites they send, those alleles. The foreign country to which it was sent by the RCMP through Interpol would then be able to respond back as to whether or not they have a match with their database for their investigative procedures. This would then be referred to the law enforcement agency, which would use the normal means of communication to identify what information in their investigation matched the foreign information. This would not be done through the national DNA data bank, but directly between the two law enforcements agencies involved—the one in the foreign country and the RCMP.
With respect to foreign requests, when they send a DNA profile here for a search, only now are we able to tell them whether or not we have a match, as a result of the changes in Bill C-13 . We could not tell them and give them a copy of our DNA profile at all. It would simply say, yes, we have a match, are you interested in the personal information? Then they would have to agree to accept the personal information we have through the criminal records section of the RCMP that identified the person. That information would then be subject to the same international Interpol agreement, and we would insist that the information only be used for the investigation or prosecution of a criminal offence.
The problem in many cases is that we don't know whether we have a match, because different systems are used abroad to analyze DNA. They use what we call different analysis kits. Kits are, as I understand them, and I'm not a technical expert, designed so that certain enzymes in those kits produce the DNA profiles from specific engineered zones in the DNA. Certain countries use different zones than we do. In many respects, all we can do is find out that we have a match at three, four, five, or six of the zones of our normal 13, and we don't know whether they match the rest. So in regard to our international exchanges, there is a great propensity for us not to be in a position to tell them definitively whether we have a match, unless we send them the other profiles so they can potentially re-analyze them or examine their information to determine whether we in fact have a match.
So what we're proposing in Bill C-18 is to allow us to do what we can now do domestically in Canada under Bill C-13 , which is to actually send them a profile and ask them if it really matches theirs, or if the profiles are potentially the same because they're close. We'd ask, did you make a mistake in your analysis, or did you report a number inversely and get them mixed up? Then we could say, there was a clerical, technical, or scientific error, and would you re-analyze them? They might be dealing with a mixture of samples. Which profile were they reporting on in their crime scene? Was it correct in their crime scene? There may be a number of reasons, such as a degraded sample that didn't amplify as strongly as it might have. It's for that kind of reason we want to be able to send a profile abroad. We can now do that domestically under Bill C-13 , and we're simply asking for the same power to do it internationally, to ensure that in the many cases that might arise internationally, we can be certain we have a match. Once we know there's a match, we would then go to the normal rules we have in place.
That's all the information that would be sent; it wouldn't be any other genetic information. The sample wouldn't be sent. They wouldn't be able to do a separate analysis, other than what they have on their own files and in their own labs. They would only have this information saying there's the potential of a probable match, and we want to show you our profile to see whether or not it matches yours. The people doing this comparison would not know the personal information; they would not decide to send any personal information about the individuals that we have until they've concluded there is in fact a match that could be sent abroad.
February 15th, 2007 / 10:15 a.m.
Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice
If you're referring to the national DNA data bank, they receive the blood samples on those nice clean cards and they put them to the robotics, and they usually have them uploaded within a week. They have no backlog. Their capacity was originally set for 30,000 and they're receiving about 18,000, so they have excess capacity at the national DNA data bank. Clearly, if we begin to get more samples coming in, there will be some extra costs, but they have the equipment, etc., so that's not a problem.
The issue, and I'm certainly not the expert, and I'd certainly want to defer to Public Safety on this one, is at the forensic labs where they're doing the crime scene work. When Bill C-13 as amended by Bill C-18 comes into force, we hope the scope of things that are considered as designated offences will be greatly expanded, because all of those offences punishable by five years become designated offences. They're secondary, but that's still sufficient.
The police could, if they had the resources, go out and get many more samples and submit them to the labs. If the labs had more resources, they could analyse them and produce more leads. You heard yesterday of the efforts being made by the RCMP to reorganize, etc. There is definitely a seemingly insatiable demand for more DNA analysis to be done, but there is a very limited supply of people who are capable, who have the training, and who are able to do that.
On the convicted offender side, we're quite confident that Bill C-13 will be handled within the resources of the national DNA data bank. It will present challenges to the forensic labs.
February 15th, 2007 / 10:10 a.m.
Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice
I'll take a shot at answering that. The original legislation required that the DNA be taken as soon as a sentence was pronounced, which rapidly turned out to be inefficient, ineffective, with police having to be around at all times. It simply could not be done.
Bill C-13 contains in it a provision to allow the judge to set a time and place for the hearing. One of the improvements that the committee of officials suggested, and which is now to be found in this bill--it was actually in Bill C-72 as well--is a right to issue a warrant for a person's arrest. We also have introduced a new provision in this Bill C-72, which will allow the police department that is authorized to do it to authorize any other police department to do it on their behalf. So if the Toronto police were authorized and the person was picked up in Vancouver, we don't have to bring him back to Ontario; they can authorize him over there. This, we think, will make it a lot easier to collect the DNA.
Normally the orders are made to peace officers of a province because that's where the provincial court judge has authority. Some have apparently been making it through just a specific police department, but this amendment will cover all of those problems.
February 15th, 2007 / 9:55 a.m.
Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON
That's good to know.
I think you started off, and I may have missed the translation, by asking what is the rush for moving forward on this. It's not so much a rush as it is basically to get a piece of legislation in place that will help us to proclaim the previous legislation that was passed. As you know, because you were in Parliament, a bill was introduced to try to correct and bring into line some of the provisions from the old Bill C-13, but because of the election, we lost that.
In any case, it seems to me this is a well-thought-out bill. I think it has to be taken in the context of the technology and science in this area moving very quickly. I think most people would recognize this is a very important tool for our law enforcement community to have, and I think it works out well for the individuals who might be wrongly charged or wrongly convicted, so to that extent it has....
Now, in terms of the designations between primary and secondary offences, first of all, I can tell you that 172 new offences have been added. It's an attempt—and it's never a perfect attempt—to separate out the crimes or offences in terms of seriousness. It's never a perfect match, as I know from having tried to work with amendments to the Criminal Code over the years. Obviously within the primary designated offence list you have some of the most serious crimes in the Criminal Code, and there are two categories within that.
But again, it was an attempt basically to get a new law on the books without precluding a review. You'll notice in my later comments that I said, please, if you want to take this up and have a look at it, I would certainly welcome any improvements, because this is not the last word on DNA, I can tell you that. In coming forward with these amendments when the technology and science are changing so rapidly, we can appreciate that times change and that the bills have to change--just as when Bill C-13 originally came in, we knew it had to be changed.
So I certainly look forward to any input—
February 15th, 2007 / 9:30 a.m.
Niagara Falls Ontario
Rob Nicholson ConservativeMinister of Justice
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I apologize if there was a bit of a mix-up. I had this on my schedule for 10 o'clock; this actually works out better. I'm now subject to House duty. This is a function that I didn't have as House leader or whip. I was always impressing upon others the importance of House duty, and now I have it myself. So this will work out very well.
I'm glad to be joined here by two colleagues who are experts on this particular piece of legislation, and I'm glad to have them at the table with me.
It's a pleasure for me, Mr. Chairman, to appear before you today to discuss a bill that addresses concerns that we all share about how to make better use of DNA to assist law enforcement, a bill that has been supported at second reading, I'm pleased to say, by all parties within the House.
As members are aware, the last Parliament passed Bill C-13, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the DNA Identification Act and the National Defence Act. As introduced, Bill C-13 included an expansion of the retroactive scheme to include persons convicted of a single murder and also of a single sexual offence committed at different times. There were some additions to the list of primary offences, including robbery and break and enter of a dwelling, and some additions to the secondary offence list, including criminal harassment and uttering threats.
Bill C-13 was the first opportunity Parliament had to consider the DNA scheme since it had come into force in June 2000. It was always recognized that the DNA legislation, which was pioneering, would have to be revisited in light of experience with its provisions, judicial considerations of the legislation, and developments in the rapidly developing DNA science and technology. Indeed, the legislation itself required a parliamentary review within five years, and I will come back to that point in a minute.
Even though Bill C-13 was never intended to replace the review, the hearings were quite extensive. Major amendments were made to the bill in committee that greatly extended the reach of the DNA databank provisions, including creating a new category of offences where judges would have no discretion and including all offences that are prosecuted by indictment and are punishable by five years under the Criminal Code as secondary designated offences.
The fact is, Mr. Chairman, most of Bill C-13 is not in force. There are technical glitches that must be addressed before it comes into force to make its provisions more effective in carrying out Parliament's intention.
The previous government recognized the need to make changes and introduced Bill C-72 in November 2005. Bill C-72 died on the order paper, and we have now introduced Bill C-18 to make the changes proposed in Bill C-72, along with other technical improvements in the legislation that were identified by federal and provincial officials after Bill C-72 was introduced into the House.
Bill C-18 is complicated in its drafting because some sections amend the former Bill C-13, so that when Bill C-13 is proclaimed, the new provisions will work better. I'm pleased to have the officials here with me who will be able to answer any questions you may have on how these two bills will work together.
To assist the committee, my department has prepared an unofficial consolidation to show how the Criminal Code DNA provisions will read if Bill C-18 is passed and then Bill C-13 is proclaimed, and I have provided copies to the clerk. There's also an excellent summary of the bill, including its background, which has been prepared, I understand, by the parliamentary information and research service.
Colleagues, as members know, DNA has had an immense impact on our criminal justice system. It has exonerated many people who were innocent but were convicted on the basis of witness testimony and circumstantial evidence. It has led to thousands of convictions where accused, who might have been able to go undetected in the past, are identified through DNA matches to known persons, thereby giving police the lead they need.
Moreover, cases in the past that might have gone to trial with the defence casting doubt on the accuracy of the victims' and other witnesses' recollections of events now are resolved by a guilty plea because the defence knows it cannot explain away the DNA evidence or cast doubt on the reliability of the science.
In the late eighties and early nineties, prosecutors began to use DNA, but it was only in 1995 that the Criminal Code first allowed for a judge to compel a person to provide a sample for DNA analysis, a provision that was unanimously upheld as constitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada.
It was in 1998 that Parliament passed the legislation necessary to take DNA samples from convicted offenders and to create the national DNA data bank to compare those samples with DNA samples found at crime scenes. I understand that members of the committee were able to tour the national DNA data bank yesterday. I'm sure you were impressed by the facility, and especially by the dedication and professionalism of the staff. It is certainly a most cost-effective institution, of which all Canadians can justly be proud.
The effectiveness of the data bank depends on the number of profiles in the convicted offenders index and the number in the crime scene index. The passage of this bill, and the subsequent proclamation of Bill C-13, will increase the number of samples in the convicted offenders index in a number of ways.
Firstly, it will create a new category of 16 extremely serious offences for which a judge will have no discretion not to make the data bank order. There are cases where persons convicted of these offences have not been required to provide a DNA sample for analysis.
Secondly, this bill will move some offences—most importantly, break and enter into a dwelling place and all child pornography offences—from the secondary designated offence list to the primary designated offence list, so that there will be a far greater likelihood that an order will be made.
Thirdly, this bill will add many more offences to the secondary designated offence list, including offences under the Criminal Code and under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act that are prosecuted by indictment and that have a maximum sentence of five years or more.
Fourthly, it will provide many procedural changes to make it more likely that an order will be executed, for example, by allowing a judge to set a time and place for a person to appear to provide a DNA sample rather than having to do it at the time of sentencing, and providing for a warrant to be issued for the person's arrest if the person fails to show.
Fifthly, persons who are found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder will be brought within the scheme.
Sixthly, a new procedure will allow a judge to set a date for a hearing to consider whether to make a DNA order within 90 days of imposing a sentence. This is intended for the situations that inevitably occur in our busy courts, where a trial is concluded and a sentence is imposed but nobody remembered that a DNA order could be made in the particular case.
We cannot be certain how many more samples from convicted offenders will be submitted to the data bank for analysis and for uploading to the convicted offenders lists as a result of these changes. Much depends on the courts, prosecutors, and police. We trust they will use the new provisions to the fullest extent.
It seems certain, however, that these changes will at least double, and could triple, the number of samples coming in. I believe this legislation will have a similar effect on the number of samples being uploaded to the crime scene index. Certainly, the changes to the definitions of primary and secondary designated offences mean that samples from many more crimes could be uploaded, because the DNA data bank only uploads samples from those crime scenes involving a designated offence. For example, it will be possible, when the legislation comes into force, to upload samples from drug offences.
However, as I believe members are aware, the forensic DNA laboratories across Canada are struggling to meet the workload they now have. The advances in DNA technology mean that scientists can now extract DNA from small samples, such as the saliva that moistened glue on an envelope. Since police do not know which items found at a crime scene may have DNA, they may want dozens of items analyzed—chewing gum, beer cans, cigarette butts, clothing and sheets—in the hope of finding the one that has the offender's DNA.
Crime scene analysis is a labour-intensive process. Every step of the process has to be meticulously documented because the successful prosecution of an offence based on DNA evidence will require the police and the lab to show they did not mix up the samples or allow contamination of the sample. This is not work that can be done by untrained personnel or that lends itself to robotics. Accordingly, there is an almost insatiable demand by the police for DNA analysis and there is a limited supply of persons competent to do the crime scene analysis.
In conclusion, Mr. Chair, I would make two observations.
First, I believe it is urgent that Parliament pass Bill C-18 so that we can begin to feel its benefits. Certainly it may be possible that more extensive changes, then, are proposed in either Bill C-13 or Bill C-18 and can be made, particularly in light of the endorsement of the DNA legislation by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Rodgers case last April. However, such changes should be made after a full hearing of all the stakeholders and should not be grafted onto Bill C-18.
My second observation, Mr. Chairman, deals with how we might consider major changes to the DNA system. As members know, Parliament was supposed to have begun the parliamentary review no later than June 30, 2005. We are now more than 18 months past that date. Bill C-13 was intended to address the problems in the system identified in the first two years of the operation of the DNA data bank. It followed consultations undertaken in 2002, and at that time the consultation paper specifically stated that the consultations led by the Department of Justice in cooperation with the Department of the Solicitor General of Canada are part of the government's ongoing commitment to review and refine existing laws in response to evolving experience and stakeholder feedback. They are intended to support a parliamentary review scheduled for June 2005.
Many respondents to that consultation made it clear they wanted the whole system rethought and looked forward to the parliamentary review. The Canadian Association of Police Boards, for example, before answering the 12 questions in the consultation paper, stated:
The CAPB believes that at this juncture, the core issue is whether the incremental approach, such as is signalled in the consultation paper, remains appropriate, or whether legislators should instead be considering a much more comprehensive and wide scale use of DNA testing and collection.
How can we best advance the consideration of a comprehensive review that the CAPB and many others have been waiting for? Officials of the Department of Justice, the Department of Public Safety, the RCMP, and the national DNA data bank have all been ready for the beginning of the hearings since 2005. I understand they had prepared a discussion paper on the issues and a series of questions. Of course, Parliament was dissolved before the committee was able to conduct the review and the paper prepared by the officials has languished ever since. The paper could be quickly updated and form the basis of a consultation by the Department of Justice and the Department of Public Safety. The consultation could probably be completed by September, and the results of the consultation would form the basis for recommendations by government on how to change the legislation. Hearings on those recommendations would allow for a focused review on the use of DNA in the criminal justice system to begin late this year or early in 2008.
As always, I would appreciate the views of the committee on whether this would be an appropriate way to proceed.
Mr. Chairman, thank you very much for the opportunity to appear again before this committee.
Budget Implementation Act, 2006, No. 2Government Orders
October 26th, 2006 / 10:30 a.m.
Pierre Lemieux Conservative Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON
Mr. Speaker, I would like to split my time with my colleague from Edmonton Centre.
I am very pleased to have this opportunity to rise and speak on behalf of Bill C-28, the budget implementation act, which, as the title indicates, is designed to implement certain measures outlined in our budget 2006.
On January 23, Canadians voted for change: a change in government, a change in fiscal accountability, and a change in fiscal management. These are changes to the benefit of all Canadians.
With that change came the direct support for our new government's five priorities. These priorities were outlined in the Speech from the Throne as well as in budget 2006, delivered by the finance minister on May 2.
On June 22, Bill C-13, the first budget implementation act, was given royal assent and many of our fiscal promises were fulfilled. These measures included reducing the GST from 7% to 6% and introducing a $1,200 per year universal child care benefit for parents of children under the age of six.
We introduced other tax cuts as well, tax cuts that Canadians have not seen before. Our first budget cut taxes by an incredible $20 billion over two years. Yes, $20 billion over two years. Our budget offered more in tax cuts than the four previous Liberal budgets combined.
Canadians are very happy with our budget, and I am happy to say that not one of the opposition parties opposed our budget when it came to a final vote, not one. They grumbled at first, but then they studied our budget and saw the great benefit of our government's budget to Canadians. In the end, they did not oppose it, so our budget has the support of Canadians and of the opposition.
I am pleased to be here today supporting the second budget implementation act, Bill C-28. We want to keep rolling out the tax cuts for Canadians and, in doing so, show Canadians that when we make a promise, we keep it.
The action taken with Bill C-28 will cut taxes for pensioners, families, students, users of public transit, and each and every worker in Canada. These measures will make a real difference to Canadians by focusing on their priorities, priorities like lowering taxes for working families, assisting small and medium sized businesses achieve real growth, and helping tradespeople, students, families and seniors.
In short, Bill C-28 delivers on our budget and delivers real tax relief for Canadians. This government recognizes that Canadians pay too much tax. As a colleague of mine previously reported, according to the Fraser Institute, while the average family's income has gone up 1,100% since 1961, its taxes have shot up a whopping 1,600%, outstripping the growth in income.
As I mentioned, this is a new government with a new respect for our fellow Canadians. We need only look at the measures in Bill C-28 to see exactly how we are putting more money back into the pockets of hard-working taxpayers.
Working Canadians are the foundation of Canada's economic growth. However, choosing to work also means additional costs, costs for everything from uniforms and safety gear to computers and various supplies. For some, particularly low income Canadians, these additional costs can impose a barrier to joining the workforce. For others, work related employment expenses are another factor that limits the rewards of their hard work.
In recognition of this, budget 2006 introduced the Canada employment credit, a new employment expense tax credit for employees' work expenses. A credit on employment income of up to $500 will be provided effective July 1, 2006. The amount of employment income eligible for credit will rise to $1,000 effective January 1, 2007.
Budget 2006 also recognizes that creating an environment for more and better jobs and for strong economic growth depends on having a competitive tax system. The engines of our economy, our wealth creators, are businesses, both small and large, and they should not have to face the heavy burden of overtaxation. The businesses that feel this burden most are small and medium sized businesses. They create jobs and are the backbone of our country's economy.
In my riding of Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, small and medium sized businesses are essential. They are the economic backbone of my riding: farms, farm equipment retailers, manufacturing, industry, pharmacies, grocers, et cetera. Without their success, ridings like mine would struggle. Many of us are employed by them. Small to medium sized business is responsible for the majority of all new jobs created in Canada. Whether we live in an urban riding or a rural riding, all of us turn to small businesses for services, and our future economic growth will depend a great deal on their success.
An important way that Canada's federal income tax system supports the growth of small businesses is through a lower tax rate on the first $300,000 of qualifying income earned by a Canadian-controlled corporation. This helps these small businesses retain more of their earnings for reinvestment and expansion, thereby helping to create jobs and promote economic growth in Canada.
With the passing of Bill C-28, and effective January 1, 2007, the threshold for small businesses will be increased from $300,000 to $400,000. In concert, the 12% rate for eligible small business income will be reduced to 11.5% in 2008 and then down to 11% in 2009. It is estimated that these changes will reduce government taxation on these businesses by $10 million in 2006-07 and $80 million in 2007-08.
There is more.
Hon. members from all ridings know that Canada is facing a serious shortage of tradespeople: carpenters, plumbers, electricians, cooks and others. Our government is taking action to encourage apprenticeships and to support apprentices in their training.
Specifically, we will help companies hire apprentices with a new apprenticeship job creation tax of up to $2,000 per apprentice. We will create a new apprenticeship incentive grant of $1,000 per year for the first two years of a red seal apprenticeship program and other programs.
Through these actions, our Conservative government will be investing more than $500 million over the next two years, which will help approximately 100,000 apprentices.
We will also help apprentices and tradespeople with the heavy burden of buying the tools they need to do their jobs. Our government will invest $155 million over the next two years for a cost of tools deduction, which will help approximately 700,000 tradespeople in Canada.
In regard to our seniors, members will no doubt agree that some seniors struggle to live on a small fixed income. As I travel throughout my riding, I often hear seniors ask, “Why does the government not do something to help seniors, those of us on a fixed income?” I am always pleased to state that this is exactly what we are doing. We are providing real tax relief to seniors.
The most important measure involves a doubling to $2,000 from $1,000 of the amount on which the pension income credit is calculated. A deduction for the first $1,000 was introduced in 1975, but since its introduction the amount has remained unchanged. That is unbelievable.
It took our new Conservative government to do something for our seniors to rectify this problem. We recognize and understand the difficulty faced by seniors on fixed pension incomes. To provide greater tax assistance to those who have saved for their retirement, budget 2006 increased to $2,000 the maximum amount of eligible pension income that can be claimed under the pension income credit, effective for 2006 and subsequent taxation years.
The measure will benefit nearly 2.7 million taxpayers receiving eligible pension income, providing up to $155 per pensioner, but not only that, it will remove approximately 85,000 pensioners from the tax rolls. This is real action to the benefit of our seniors.
In regard to Canadian families, they are the very foundation of our society and they play a vital role in the development of our communities. This is why it is important that we reduce their tax burden as much as possible.
One of the ways we are doing this is with the children's fitness tax credit. The health and fitness of our children is very important. As the government, we want to promote physical fitness among children and we want to do it by supporting families directly.
We take families seriously and we take physical fitness seriously. Budget 2006 provides a children's fitness tax credit effective January 1, 2007. The credit will be provided on up to $500 of eligible fees for programs of physical activity for each child under the age of 16.
I am the father of five children. They are involved in fitness activities such as soccer, basketball and highland and Celtic dance. I am pleased to state that finally we have a government that listens to families, that works together with families and that helps families with their real expenses. This is a great tax credit for families. It encourages and supports physical fitness and it is my sincere hope that the opposition parties will support it.
Lastly, I would like to highlight what we are doing for students. We believe that our post-secondary students need to be supported in their hard work in pursuit of academic excellence. Currently, the first $3,000 in scholarship, fellowship and bursary income received by a post-secondary student is not taxed, but any amounts above $3,000 are taxed. Students do not need this. They do not need to be paying tax on scholarships, fellowships and bursaries. They need to use that money toward their education.
I am very pleased to highlight that our new government understands the financial challenges that post-secondary students face and that we are on their side. We want them to succeed in their studies by alleviating financial pressures, which is why Bill C-28 proposes a complete exemption for scholarship income received by students.
An Act to Amend Certain Acts in Relation to DNA IdentificationGovernment Orders
October 3rd, 2006 / 4:40 p.m.
Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-18, An Act to amend certain Acts in relation to DNA identification.
Bill C-18 is largely a technical bill but it builds on some initiatives from the last Parliament before it was dissolved when Parliament passed Bill C-13, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the DNA Identification Act and the National Defence Act. This was the Liberal government's original DNA data bank legislation. There was some keen interest to have this legislation passed quickly and efficiently for a couple of reasons.
There were a number of high profile people being detained in penitentiaries who were about to be released, and without this legislation in place they would have been able to have left the penitentiary without giving a DNA sample.
DNA samples are very helpful to law enforcement to solve crimes and to prevent crimes. That was one of the imperatives that led to a very speedy passage with all-party agreement in the House and I think all-party agreement in the other place and royal assent in the last Parliament. It was done very quickly.
There were amendments made at the committee level that were quite complicated. I think in the rush to get the bill through, there were some slip-ups in some of the language in the bill. This bill is designed to correct some of those technical problems with original BillC-13.
Bill C-13 in the last Parliament was a very good example of how parliamentarians of all stripes in the committee worked together. The Liberal government had a minority government at the time, but at committee we worked together to make changes to the bill, which I think improved the bill and helped its speedy passage through the House of Commons and the other place.
To give some background, before the bill came to Parliament and to committee, the RCMP were reporting that only about 50% of the DNA samples that were meant to be going to the RCMP DNA data bank were actually getting into the data bank. This was a cause for concern by myself and others. At the time I happened to have the honour to serve as parliamentary secretary to the minister of public safety and emergency preparedness, so it was an issue that I took up with the justice department and others. I could not quite understand why only 50% of the DNA samples were finding their way into the DNA data bank.
It turns out that the way the law was written, the judges had discretion as to what DNA would be passed on to the DNA data bank and what DNA would not be passed on to the DNA data bank. I found this quite puzzling because I could not ascertain under what circumstances the judge in his or her wisdom would decide that it was not in the public interest to pass the DNA of a convicted person to the DNA data bank.
In fairness to all concerned, following the establishment of the DNA data bank, there was some confusion among the crown prosecutors and judges. The DNA order has to be an order that is presented to the trial judge asking the judge to order that the DNA sample be taken and passed to the DNA data bank and there was a lack of communication or a lack of education on what DNA had to be passed over to the RCMP DNA data bank.
As I recall, the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Justice mounted a program to get the word out to the judiciary and to the prosecutors that this order had to be prepared by the crown prosecutors and presented to the judge before the DNA could be taken and submitted to the DNA data bank.
When the bill was sent to committee, these questions were asked. As a result of a lot of collaboration among all parties, the Bloc Québécois, the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party and the NDP, we made some significant amendments to the bill.
We started out with a very long list of crimes where the judge would not have any discretion, where the DNA would automatically have to be taken and sent to the DNA data bank. There was much discussion around this point with the Department of Justice. The view was that there was a possibility if we included all crimes, this would be challenged under the charter and the good parts of the bill would be tossed out with the parts that would be turfed out in any sort of challenge under the charter.
At committee we put a little water in our wine and we said that for the most heinous of crimes there had to be no discretion, in the judgment of the committee members. For acts such as murder and rape, what the bill did when it was amended was it removed any judicial discretion so that the DNA automatically had to go to the DNA data bank.
That was a very proud moment for me. It really pointed out that even though there was a lot of discussion that the minority Parliament was not working at a certain level, I felt that at the committee level, certainly at the justice subcommittee level, there was a lot of good cooperation. I think we improved the legislation in front of the committee. We did some other work with respect to child pornography. Subsequently Parliament was dissolved and we had an election. But for Canadians this committee was working very well.
I was very proud that we were able to pass Bill C-13 which received royal assent. There were some technical matters which came to light through the Department of Justice later and that is what the current bill is meant to reflect. Bill C-13 was a follow-up on our Liberal government's commitment to law and order to give the police the tools they need to fight crime.
That is why I am sorely disappointed that the Conservative government is seeking the scrapping of the gun registry. We know the gun registry is working very efficiently, very effectively. Yes it is true that it cost too much to develop, but those are sunk costs. Anyone who knows anything about economics or finance knows that once there is a sunk cost there is not really much point in going back and analyzing what to do about that cost because it is historic. The question before us is whether the gun registry performing today a useful purpose, and the answer is a resounding yes.
For example, law enforcement officers are making something in the order of 6,000 inquiries per day on the gun registry data bank. Do law enforcement officers have the time to sit around and tinker away on the computer if it is not relevant information for them? They are very busy people. They have many different competing priorities. They have to decide which call to take. They have to rationalize that. Do we think they sit at a computer keyboard and tinker around for the fun of it? Of course not. We know for sure that especially in domestic violence situations the police find this to be a very useful tool.
Does it mean if they go to the gun registry and the registry shows that there are no guns registered at a particular residence that they can stroll in and be happy campers and not worry? Of course not. Police officers across Canada are not so naive, but by the same token, if they go to the gun registry data bank and discover there are guns in that residence, it helps them establish their modus operandi of how they are going to approach that situation.
I will give another example of why DNA and the gun registry are so important in terms of law enforcement. The gun registry supports something in the order of 7,000 or 8,000 affidavits to date that they have signed which has helped crown prosecutors obtain convictions. The gun licensing component of the Firearms Centre screens out many individuals who would otherwise like to have a gun but because of certain instabilities or criminal records in their past, they are precluded from owning a gun. In fairness to the Conservative government, it is not suggesting that we ban or do away with gun licensing, but it is making a serious mistake with respect to the long gun registry.
The other myth I would like to focus on again today is that some would argue that long guns are not involved so much in criminality, that they are owned by people in rural parts of Canada. The facts are just the opposite. Long guns are involved in more homicides and suicides in Canada, or in just as many as are handguns. Handguns are more of a problem in the urban centres and long guns are a problem in the rural parts of Canada.
I certainly will be supporting the DNA bill because Bill C-13 was very important in terms of law enforcement and law and order in Canada. This bill tidies up some of the language, some very important language, so that the bill can be that much more effective.
I will expand a bit on Bill C-13 and the list of those offences which the committee and ultimately Parliament and the other place approved in this legislation. The offences that were put on the list of those where a judge would have no discretion with respect to the DNA that would have to go into the DNA data bank, we included crimes like murder, manslaughter and aggravated assault. Internet luring of children, child pornography and organized crime offences were also added to the list of designated offences for a data bank order. This is absolutely necessary so that the DNA can be used by law enforcement agencies to either solve crimes or prevent crimes.
I was very proud of the work of that committee. Now I am very happy to speak in support of this bill because it makes the technical changes that are needed to make the original bill even more efficient and more effective.
By way of example, Bill C-18 makes it an offence to fail to appear for DNA sampling. It is an important part. The court can order a DNA sample, but if the individual does not appear, how could one possibly get a DNA sample? There are sanctions for not appearing for a DNA sample.
The Conservative government, and frankly I support what it is doing here, has also added some additional heinous crimes to the list where a judge would have no discretion but to send the DNA sample to the DNA data bank. Those offences include attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Those also are covered by the retroactive provisions which apply to offenders convicted of a single murder, sexual offence or manslaughter prior to June 30, 2000 when the legislation that enabled the creation of the national DNA data bank came into force.
It sounds like a lot of gobbledygook, but in fact these are very important technical changes and I am hoping the House will support them. The purpose of the bill is that the government is trying to capture as much DNA as possible to get into the data bank so that law enforcement can use that DNA to fight crime and to prevent crime.
Another example of one of the technical fixes to the legislation is that it ensures information provided by the national DNA data bank can be used to investigate all criminal offences. It may sound somewhat obvious, but if it is not written in the legislation, then someone will argue that the DNA could be used to investigate certain offences but not other offences. It makes this particular point crystal clear.
I will go back for a moment to the list of crimes where the judge has no discretion. The committee at the time had somewhat of a debate on that issue. Frankly, I support a certain level of judicial discretion but if, for whatever reason, the Parliament of Canada believes judicial discretion is not being exercised in a way that is appropriate in the judgment of parliamentarians, then I think it is quite appropriate for Parliament to remove that judicial discretion.
This is not for petty crime where the DNA must go to the data bank. This is not for shoplifting, nor is it for someone who is caught speeding. This is for murder, rape, attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder and a whole list of other heinous crimes. I think it is quite appropriate that judges are required without discretion to ensure the DNA goes to the DNA data bank.
Another example of one of the technical amendments to this bill that is before us today is to simplify the procedure to destroy samples taken from those convicted of an offence not intended to be included in the DNA data bank. Again, it is somewhat a procedural but an important procedure so that samples can be destroyed if they are not intended to be included in the data bank.
When we get into DNA there is often this debate, a debate we had in committee as well, about the privacy issues of Canadians. Privacy is an important aspect that we need to consider as parliamentarians.
I do not pretend to reflect the views of all Canadians on this point, but if someone wants to take a follicle of my hair and put it into a DNA data bank, frankly, I say go to it. However, I understand and respect that some people might see this as impacting their privacy, which is why the legislation that we bring before Parliament needs to be mindful of those considerations. We need to ensure that only DNA that is required by legislation and that meets certain tests of Parliament is actually proceeded with.
Another example of one of the technical changes in this bill is to help to ensure that the DNA data bank orders can be carried out even when, for logistical reasons, it may not be possible to take the sample at the precise time set out in the order. Again, this is somewhat procedural. Unfortunately, there is a whole body of jurisprudence and lawyers who will try to find reasons why their client should not be required to submit a DNA sample. They might say that they could not comply with the order in the timelines provided in the order.
This provision makes it clear that even though it is not at the precise time that is laid out in the order, the DNA must be presented.
It also clarifies definitions in procedures for obtaining a DNA data bank order and for sharing information with international law enforcement partners. There is a whole range of sharing of information that goes on between Interpol and other law enforcement agencies around the world and one has to be mindful of the privacy concerns of Canadians. This amendment makes it clear what the rules are for the sharing of that sort of information.
I hope the House passes this bill. It would be helpful to our law and order agencies to prosecute and prevent crimes. I am sure our party will work with all sides of the House to ensure the speedy passage of this bill. I will be supporting the bill and I hope others will as well.
An Act to Amend Certain Acts in Relation to DNA IdentificationGovernment Orders
October 3rd, 2006 / 4:30 p.m.
Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB
Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure today of speaking in favour of sending Bill C-18 to committee.
As has already been stated, the National DNA Data Bank is a great success. I understand that the DNA data bank came in on time and on budget. It works closely with the forensic laboratories, not only those of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police but also with the Centre of Forensic Sciences in Toronto and the Laboratoire de sciences judiciaires et de médecine légale in Montreal. In turn, the laboratories work closely with local law enforcement.
Biological samples from convicted offenders are collected by police who have been specifically trained to do so. These biological samples include blood, which is the preferred substance to analyze and accounts for more than 98% of samples submitted for analysis. Buccal swabs and hair provide the other 2%.
The convicted offender biological samples are collected and submitted to the National DNA Data Bank to be processed into DNA profiles. This profile information is then entered into the combined DNA index system, or CODIS, a software package that stores and compares the profiles. CODIS was developed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Justice and provided to the NDDB at no cost. The software is the universally accepted standard for forensic laboratories, which allows the NDDB to participate in the sharing of information consistent with signed international agreements.
The police and forensic scientists also attend at crime scenes. When they find DNA and they have a suspect, they can apply to a judge for a DNA warrant to confirm or disprove that the crime scene DNA and the suspect's DNA are the same.
Every day suspects are being cleared by DNA. We must not underestimate the benefit that this provides to the Canadian justice system. It is unimaginable now, in a case such as that of Steven Truscott, that DNA would not be used. Avoiding a miscarriage of justice is vital to maintaining the confidence of Canadians in the justice system.
When police do not have a suspect but they have DNA, the forensic laboratories analyze it and upload the DNA profile to the crime scene index, which is a separate electronic database. The NDDB retains this electronic information as well as basic details such as the date, location of donor laboratory and a unique number identifier that allows information to be compared by the donor laboratory in the event of a future match.
The hits that the NDDB generates can be to a crime scene where the DNA profile has been in the crime scene index for many years. Of course, the match is not the end of the story. It is only the beginning and police must follow up on the match and build their case. Depending on where the DNA was found, there may be an innocent explanation. However, there is also the potential for convicting an offender years later.
The collaboration of the laboratories has had great benefits for Canada. The more crime scene samples that are uploaded to the data bank by the forensic laboratories and the more convicted offender samples there are in the data bank, the more successful the entire DNA system will be. According to the latest annual report of the national DNA data bank, there were only 25 forensic hits in the first fiscal year that the data bank was open. In 2005-06 there were 2,323 forensic hits, almost a hundredfold increase.
The National DNA Data Bank continues to increase the pace at which it makes forensic matches. In the past six months, it has provided police with investigative leads in some 50 murders, 18 attempted murders, 110 sexual assaults and 80 robberies.
Let me give a real life example of the value of one of the DNA matches. This case is taken from the 2005-06 report of the National DNA Data Bank.
On April 23, 2002, the family of a 29-year-old man reported him missing in Dawson Creek. Police determined that he was last seen nine days earlier at a local pub with two unidentified men. The two men were tentatively identified and associated to a nearby residence. When police arrived at the residence, however, it was abandoned.
Finding bloodstains in several places throughout the home, police suspected foul play and sent the evidence for DNA analysis. They also obtained biological reference samples from the missing man's parents to help with identification. The RCMP forensic laboratory services completed the analysis and confirmed that some blood at the residence matched to the missing man, and there was also blood from another unknown person.
The unknown DNA profiles obtained from the crime scene were uploaded into the National DNA Data Bank's crime scene index. Unsure of the man's fate, police continued to follow all clues to find him and his assumed assailants. In their pursuit of the two men last seen with the missing man, police were led to an abandoned vehicle in Mayerthorpe, Alberta. Several blood soaked household items were found in the vehicle, along with the missing man's knapsack. These items were sent to a regional forensic laboratory for analysis. A comparison of the crime scene DNA profiles with that of the missing man yielded match. This supported the evidence that the police were dealing with a homicide and not a missing persons case.
Shortly after, a man walking down the street in Saskatoon was violently assaulted by two individuals who were apprehended and charged with attempted murder. DNA collection warrants were executed for the suspects in this case. The NDDB linked the DNA profile of one of the suspects in Saskatoon to the unknown DNA profile from the abandoned residence in Dawson Creek.
It was confirmed that the missing man left the pub with the two suspects and proceeded to the residence. An argument had ensued and the victim was stabbed to death and dismembered. During the attack, one of the suspects cut himself, which became the key clue that allowed the NDDB to link the suspects to the crime scene. The suspects in Saskatoon were charged and convicted of second degree murder.
Undoubtedly, the early apprehension of offenders such as these made possible by DNA matching has prevented thousands of crimes. Truly, DNA makes an almost unequalled contribution to the safety and security of Canadians.
As an aside, I am rereading a classic by Truman Capote titled In Cold Blood. It would have been interesting to see in the novel how DNA would have affected that case.
In the last Parliament, relatively modest improvements to the DNA system were presented to the government in Bill C-13. The standing committee held extensive hearings and considered a wide range of issues. Major amendments were adopted by the House standing committee on May 5 and 10, 2005. The amendments reflected a compromise that secured the support of all parties for its passage. The bill was then adopted by the House on May 12 and because of the impending budget vote, rushed through.
The provisions of the bill dealing with the expansion of the retroactive scheme, which makes about 4,400 more offenders eligible to be sampled, the procedure for dealing with DNA orders that appear on their face to have been improperly made, for example, defective orders, and the procedures for dealing with moderate DNA matches came into force on royal assent. Because of the rush to have the bill passed, the normal opportunity to scrutinize the amendments, consider necessary consequential amendments, determine the full implications of the changes and make corrections at report stage on third reading or in the Senate were not available. The bill as passed, therefore, contains serious problems that should be resolved prior to proclamation.
In the minister's speech, he set out the many important provisions of Bill C-13, which are not yet in force. Undoubtedly, the most important are the changes in the definitions of primary and secondary designated offences. When they come into force, there should be a great increase in the number of offenders who are ordered to provide a DNA sample and the number of crimes for which DNA profiles can be uploaded to the crime scene index. As we know, the more profiles in the data bank, the more matches it will generate.
It is therefore important that we give this bill thorough but swift consideration. I do not believe that there is a real divide on this bill in the House, just as there was not a real division over Bill C-13. All of us want to make as much use of DNA in solving crimes as we can while respecting the charter and privacy rights of Canadians.
I also believe there is a desire to proceed soon to the full review of the DNA system that was often alluded to in the debates and hearings on Bill C-13 as being the proper forum for consideration of major changes.
For example, in the United Kingdom, the Forensic Science Service in 2004-05 reported that it had 40,000 new detections, including 165 homicides, 100 attempted murders, 570 rapes, 5,600 burglaries and 8,500 auto crimes. The laws under which it operates are far different from ours. The British take DNA at the time of fingerprinting and keep DNA profiles regardless of the outcome of the criminal prosecution just as we keep fingerprints but not DNA.
In Canada, by contrast, DNA orders can only be made against a convicted offender for a limited number of offences and judges retain the discretion to refuse to make the order.
Bill C-18 does not change these fundamentals of the Criminal Code DNA provisions and the DNA Identification Act. As I have said, the five year parliamentary review, which has yet to begin, is the proper forum for considering far-reaching changes. Bill C-18 is limited to technical improvements to the existing system.
I would like to conclude with just a few words about the attitude of the courts to DNA. I believe it has been evolving rapidly as the courts become ever more aware of the benefits of DNA and the certainty it provides in identifying perpetrators. The minister has already spoken of the ringing endorsement of the present legislation by the Supreme Court in the Rodgers case
While Rodgers was a case dealing with the retroactive provisions of the DNA bank scheme, there can be little doubt that the existing scheme is in its entirety constitutional. I am informed that over the past five years there have been dozens of challenges to the DNA legislation at the trial court level and appeals to the courts of appeal of almost all provinces.
As the Ontario Court of Appeal held in a case called Briggs, the state interest in obtaining DNA profile from an offender is not simply law enforcement by making it possible to detect further crimes committed by this offender. Rather, the provisions have much broader purposes, including the following: to deter potential repeat offenders; promote the safety of the community; detect when a serial offender is at work; assist in the solving of cold crimes; streamline investigations; and, most important, assist the innocent by early exclusion for investigative suspicion or in exonerating those who have been wrongly convicted.
I believe we, in the House, recognize the benefits of DNA evidence and we should do everything we can to foster its use. In the short term, I believe we must pass Bill C-18. In the long term, we must work together, through the parliamentary review, to determine the best possible system for Canada and then proceed to make whatever changes the committee may suggest.
I am pleased to urge the House to pass Bill C-18 at second reading.
An Act to Amend Certain Acts in Relation to DNA IdentificationGovernment Orders
October 3rd, 2006 / 4:05 p.m.
Myron Thompson Conservative Wild Rose, AB
Mr. Speaker, when the Canadian public watches the debate on CPAC throughout the country, a number of them do really get confused when we are talking about Bill C-18. We are referring to what is happening with Bill C-13 and how it relates to Bill C-72. It gets a little confusing and I would like specific direction on this issue.
As the member knows, for the many years that I have been here, I have been fighting very hard to see tougher strategies to look after crimes against children, particularly for those who sexually assault children and pornographers.
I wonder if the member could comment specifically how Bill C-18 will affect those particular crimes.
An Act to amend Certain Acts in relation to DNA IdentificationGovernment Orders
October 3rd, 2006 / 1:15 p.m.
Sue Barnes Liberal London West, ON
Mr. Speaker, I rise today on Bill C-18, An Act to amend certain Acts in relation to DNA identification. Bill C-18 impacts the Criminal Code, the DNA Identification Act and the National Defence Act.
I, along with many in this chamber, was a member of the House when the DNA Identification Act was created in 1998. The act came into force on June 30, 2000.
Section 13 specifically provides that within five years of the coming into force of the act a review of the provisions and operations should be undertaken by a committee of the House, the Senate, or by both. This review has not yet taken place and the current Minister of Justice by letter earlier this year states that the review “should begin as soon as possible after this bill receives royal assent”.
I believe for many reasons that the review should happen as soon as possible. I would like to know from the minister if his assurance for the mandated review really means only after more of his so-called law and order bills come before the House or if the review can take place within the next year in a reasonable amount of time. Where exactly is the review on the list of priorities of the minority government?
In a letter which I believe was sent to all members of the justice committee, the minister identified various issues he wished to be discussed and they are important areas for discussion. Among them are: having only one list of designated offences; the scope of judicial discretion with respect to making an order; taking DNA under the Identification of Criminals Act; international sharing; the one I just mentioned moments ago, kinship analysis; volunteer samples; victim samples; and exoneration.
The current Minister of Justice whom we have just heard from has urged that the amendments in Bill C-18 are needed to give the benefits of changes made under the former government's Bill C-13 passed recently. Former Bill C-13 was adopted on May 19, 2005 and only some parts of Bill C-13 are currently in force.
For people who may have not been part of that legislative process, it may be useful to set out the purpose of the DNA Identification Act. Section 3 states:
The purpose of this Act is to establish a national DNA data bank to help law enforcement agencies identify persons alleged to have committed designated offences, including those committed before the coming into force of this Act.
The principles of the act are contained in section 4 and include:
(a) the protection of society and the administration of justice are well served by the early detection, arrest and conviction of offenders, which can be facilitated by the use of DNA profiles;
(b) the DNA profiles, as well as samples of bodily substances from which the profiles are derived, may be used only for law enforcement purposes in accordance with this Act, and not for any unauthorized purpose; and
(c) to protect the privacy of individuals with respect to personal information about themselves, safeguards must be placed on
(i) the use and communication of, and access to, DNA profiles and other information contained in the national DNA data bank, and
(ii) the use of, and access to, bodily substances that are transmitted to the Commissioner for the purposes of this Act.
The use of DNA analysis in solving crime has emerged as one of the most powerful tools that is currently available to law enforcement agencies for the administration of justice in our land. This has taken place in just over a decade. Actually it is remarkable. Its impact is akin to the introduction of fingerprint evidence in court over 100 years ago.
In the science of police investigation, DNA evidence is a major enhancement for the safety of Canadians. What is the value of DNA to public investigations? We should know that biological samples collected from a crime scene can either link a suspect to the scene or rule the suspect out as a donor of the DNA. Evidence from different crime scenes can be compared to link the same perpetrator to multiple offences, whether they occurred next door, across the country, or halfway around the world. It can also identify a victim through DNA from close relatives.
DNA is referred to often as the blueprint of life. It is a fundamental building block of a person's complete and entire genetic makeup. DNA is found in virtually every tissue in the human body. Experts tell us that the DNA in a person's blood is the same in the skin cells, the saliva, the hair and other bodily parts. Highly discriminating other than with respect to identical twins, it is a powerful tool for identification. Every person's DNA is unique to them, again with the exception of identical twins.
The DNA molecule itself can last significant environmental challenges. It is very stable. This enables the forensic experts to obtain new information from very old biological evidence, or establish important data from very badly degraded samples, which can occur when say a body is found or a crime scene is unearthed long after the fact of incidence.
The stability of the molecule and the fact we have very discriminating features of individual DNA and the accuracy of the analysis techniques that the current DNA people use make this a very efficient and strong human identification technology. It is a most vital component of most of our police investigations today of a very serious nature.
I should state that the national data bank respects the considerations, as it should, of the genetic privacy of individuals and follows strict guidelines as specified in the DNA Identification Act. The biological samples that are collected from convicted offenders and the resulting DNA profiles can only be used for law enforcement purposes. Thus, the National DNA Data Bank assists the law enforcement communities in solving crimes by linking crimes together where there are no suspects, by helping to identify suspects or conversely by eliminating suspects where there is no match between the crime scene DNA and the DNA profile in the national data bank. Further, it assists in determining whether a serial offender is involved.
By statute, the national data bank, which is located here in Ottawa, is responsible for two principal indices. The first is a convicted offenders index, which is an electronic index that has been developed from DNA profiles, collected from offenders convicted by designated primary and secondary offences identified in section 487.04 of the Criminal Code. I believe, as of mid-May 2006, the convicted offender index had nearly 100,000 entries.
The second is the crime scene index, which is a separate electronic index composed of DNA profiles obtained from crime scene investigations of the same designated offences addressed under the act. Thus we have several thousands, as the minister said, of the DNA samples from convicted offenders, which are included in the National DNA Data Bank along with the samples from various crime scenes across the country.
Large numbers of police officers from every province and territory jurisdiction in Canada have been the recipients of specific and proper training on how to collect and forward the DNA samples, which are then sent to the data bank in Ottawa for the proper analysis.
We know that the National DNA Data Bank has recorded over 5,200 crime scene to offender matches and more than 750 crime scene to crime scene matches. As everyone should appreciate, this developing science has to be managed very appropriately and properly to safeguard people's constitutional rights.
We have had, though, over the last number of years continuous consultations with provinces and territories and the public at large. They all have been instrumental in developing the amending legislation over the last couple of bills. Again, under the former Liberal government in Bill C-13, changes were made to improve the public safety and the approach of the bill continued to respect the constitutionally protected rights of individuals and their privacy interests. This is the problematic challenge area of concern for many.
When the bill was before committee the last time, the Privacy Commissioner was there expressing some concerns. It is right that these types of debates happen. That is why it is totally necessary we have the overall review and, hopefully, that will not be delayed.
Under the act, we currently have both primary and secondary designated offences. The primary designated offences are considered the most serious criminal offences. They are, for example, sexual offences, murder and manslaughter. The significant but relatively less serious offences would come under the threshold of secondary designated offences in the act. Two examples that have been shown would be assault and arson.
For people to understand the practical difference, a judge who convicts a person of a primary designated offence is required to make an order for the collection of the DNA sample from the offender, unless the offender can convince the court otherwise, under a specific section, subsection 487.051(2) of the Criminal Code. It is usually mandatory unless there are strict criteria.
With a secondary designated offence, and this is the difference, a DNA sample collection order may be granted if the court, upon application of the Crown, is satisfied that it is in the best interests of justice to do so. It should be noted that if a person was convicted or discharged of any designated offence after June 30 of the year 2000, but the act was committed before that date, then the same criteria for granting an order under the secondary designated offence would apply.
Bill C-13 moved a number of previously listed secondary designated offences and the new offence of Internet luring of a child to the primary list. Also Bill C-13 proposed additions to the list of secondary designated offences. Examples of certain offences that moved to the primary list included child pornography and robbery.
Bill C-13 also made changes to the National Defence Act to ensure that the military justice system would remain consistent with the civilian justice system.
The former Liberal government also introduced Bill C-72 in November 2005, less than a year ago. That bill had a series of amendments to help implement the DNA data bank references that were endorsed by Parliament under Bill C-13, which I have just discussed. These technical amendments were to clarify definitions and procedures for obtaining a DNA data bank order and for sharing information. There was a provision to help DNA data bank orders to be carried out, even when, for logistical reasons, it may not have been possible to take the sample at the precise time as set out in the original order.
Bill C-72, which also died when the government fell last year, would have also simplified the procedure to destroy samples taken from those convicted of an offence not intended to be included in the DNA data bank. This is a whole specialized area. There is a lot of concern about whether samples ever really get destroyed or whether we just do not do the matching any more and we lose the ability to match properly.
Among other issues, Bill C-72 was to allow for hearings by video to reduce costs and security associated with two party and greater numbers of offenders eligible for a retroactive sampling as a result of Bill C-13. Therefore, Bill C-72 essentially picked up on some of the issues identified by the stakeholders during the consultations on the implementation of Bill C-13 and also from the committee debate. It was intended to have the technical amendment made under Bill C-72 come into force before the coming into force of the unproclaimed provision of Bill C-13 in order to increase the efficiency of the data bank system and reduce costs.
This has been a somewhat dry and truncated history of the legislation, but it puts us where we are today with the sections.
Bill C-18, introduced by the government based on the work of the former government, is supposed to represent a reincarnation of Bill C-72. Upon looking at the bill, amended forms, which were not ready for Bill C-72, have now been included in Bill C-18. As mentioned previously, we are now further behind the overall review of the legislation. We are again being asked by the Minister of Justice to do the technical amendments before the broader policy and review.
Bill C-18 has some substantive provisions also. I am not going to go through all of them today, that is what we have committee for, but I will give an example. It will make it an offence to fail to appear for DNA sampling. This is similar to the situation in the code where we have an offence for failing to show up for fingerprinting. This seems entirely logical to me. It also proposes to add attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder to the offences covered by the retroactive provisions.
Also, there are simple, or not so simple, procedural changes in Bill C-18. Examples of these amendments include allowing a DNA order to be made within 90 days after the sentence is pronounced and allowing the law enforcement agency authorized to take a DNA sample to authorize another law enforcement agency to do it on its behalf when the offender has moved or been incarcerated outside of the jurisdiction. This would save time and money. As opposed to moving the offender back and forth, we would do the sampling in another jurisdiction, as long as all the orders had been properly made.
These are practical amendments that would assist in an efficient process and rectify some of the on the ground problems that are being experienced by people who have to deal with the various systems, from the justice system courthouse, all the way to the analysis here at the data bank.
For the most part, Bill C-18 is an enhanced version of previous government bills. Since we have last had the occasion to discuss DNA legislation, the Supreme Court of Canada, in R. v. Rogers, has held, among other things, that the collection of DNA samples for data bank purposes from designated class of offenders is reasonable, reasonable as an infringement in our constitutional sense of the word.
In conclusion, I believe it is very appropriate to send the bill to committee for careful consideration. I will restate that I also think it is very appropriate that the House, our Parliament and some of the committees consider a full review so we can have a proper discussion about further emerging areas that need to be addressed, not only those outlined in the Minister of Justice's letters, but maybe some of the concerns of some of the other stakeholders. I think that would be a useful thing to do.
An Act to amend Certain Acts in relation to DNA IdentificationGovernment Orders
October 3rd, 2006 / 12:50 p.m.
Vic Toews ConservativeMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
moved that Bill C-18, An Act to amend certain Acts in relation to DNA identification, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak on Bill C-18, An Act to amend certain Acts in relation to DNA identification, and to recommend to the House that this bill be given second reading and referred to committee.
This bill is highly technical. It is necessary, however, to make these technical changes so that we can proclaim former Bill C-13, which was passed in the last Parliament with all party support.
Many members are familiar with the background of this bill because they were here when Bill C-13 was passed, but I will provide a brief background for the benefit of new members.
The National DNA Data Bank, which is operated by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, began operating on June 30, 2000. Basically, it compares DNA profiles of convicted offenders with DNA profiles found at crime scenes. It now contains almost 100,000 profiles from convicted offenders and about 30,000 profiles from crime scenes. The data bank has assisted almost 6,500 police investigations.
In 2001, federal and provincial prosecutors and officials identified a number of deficiencies in the legislation. The Uniform Law Conference, which includes representatives of the defence bar, passed resolutions calling for high priority to be given to remedying seven problems.
The government launched public consultations in the fall of 2002. It was only in May 2004 that former Bill C-35 was introduced to correct the problems that had been identified. The bill died on the order paper when the election was called and was reintroduced as former Bill C-13 in October 2004.
I believe it would be fair to say that while all parties supported the DNA data bank and the changes proposed in the former Bill C-13, many members wanted to make more extensive changes.
There were negotiations among the parties to develop a package of changes that could secure unanimous support for the bill. In May 2005, three key amendments to the bill were adopted.
First was extending the retroactive scheme to cover persons convicted of one murder, manslaughter or sexual assault. I recall that our party, in opposition, was particularly keen in bringing that issue forward.
Second was creating a category of very violent offences where the court would have no discretion to refuse to make the DNA order. Again, this was another initiative of the party that I am in, which made that recommendation in the last Parliament.
Third was extending the definition of secondary designated offences to cover all offences under the Criminal Code or the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act that are punishable on indictment by five years or more.
The bill then moved with lightning speed and with all party support through the House and the Senate because of an impending confidence vote on the budget.
The provisions of former Bill C-13 that came into force upon receiving royal assent were those dealing with the expansion of the retroactive scheme, which makes about 4,400 more offenders eligible to be sampled, the procedure for dealing with DNA orders that appear on their face to have been improperly made, and the procedures for dealing with moderate DNA matches.
The major amendments that have not yet been brought into force are the following.
First is allowing courts to make DNA data bank orders against a person who has been found “not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder”.
Second is adding Internet luring of a child, uttering threats, criminal harassment, and “criminal organization” offences to the list of designated offences.
Third is moving “robbery” and “break and enter into a dwelling house” and child pornography related offences from the list of secondary designated offences to the list of primary designated offences.
Fourth is creating a new sub-category of the primary designated offence list of 16 extremely violent offences for which the courts will have no discretion whatsoever and must make the order.
Fifth is expanding the definition of secondary designated offences to include all offences that are punishable by imprisonment for five years or more.
Most members will agree that these are significant changes that will enhance the ability of the police to use the data bank and to protect Canadians from criminals.
Why, then, are they not yet in force? Federal, provincial and territorial officials, who were preparing for the proclamation of the remaining provisions of Bill C-13, identified a number of serious technical problems that should be corrected prior to proclamation and certain procedures that should be modified to increase efficiency and reduce costs. The former government, therefore, introduced Bill C-72 in November 2005 to make the necessary changes. However, that bill died when the election was called.
Officials have continued their work and they have identified more changes that would clarify Parliament's intent in passing former Bill C-13 and the procedures that should be modified to make the DNA legislation more effective.
As a former provincial crown prosecutor, I know how important it is to have clear procedures set out in the Criminal Code if legislation is to be effective. I am pleased that my department took the initiative of holding a two day meeting with prosecutors, police, forensic scientists and correctional personnel to go over Bill C-13 with a fine tooth comb.
Bill C-18, the present bill, proposes about a dozen changes that were not in the former Bill C-72, and those changes flowed directly from that meeting. Bill C-18 proposes no changes in the underlying policies or procedures already adopted by Parliament. It contains mainly drafting changes, such as the creation of 10 new forms. These changes are not dramatic and they will not grab the headlines, but they will be welcomed by the people in the field who need to make what Parliament passes work.
Bill C-18 also contains some substantive changes that I believe will be supported by all members of the House. In particular, it would add attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder to the offences covered by the retroactive provisions. These are very serious offences that indicate an elevated risk of reoffending and are punishable by life imprisonment, a higher punishment than for the sexual offences that are already included in the retroactive scheme.
It would also permit the Crown to apply for retroactive DNA data bank order where the offender was convicted prior to June 30, 2000 of one of the listed offences and is still under sentence for that offence, rather than requiring that the person be serving a sentence of two years or more.
There are a few cases of persons who, prior to June 30, 2000, received multiple consecutive sentences for various offences, including some of the offences that make an offender eligible for retroactive sampling and who are still under sentence. Although the court clearly considered them to be serious offenders, it did not impose a sentence of two years or more for any one of the relevant offences. It would also allow a DNA order to be made within 90 days after the sentence is pronounced.
It is believed that the main reason orders are not being made in many cases where they are already authorized is that prosecutors are extremely busy and are forgetting to remind the court to consider the issue. This would give both the prosecutor and the judge the time to review the files and, if the matter was simply missed, to have a hearing where the prosecution and the offender can present their arguments to the judge, who will decide whether to make the order.
It would also make it an offence to fail to appear for DNA sampling. It is expected that having a specific offence will better emphasize to the offender the necessity of appearing for sampling and so increase compliance with DNA data bank orders. It would authorize any police force that arrests the person for failing to appear for a DNA sample to take the sample.
It would be very expensive if offenders arrested in one province had to be sent back to the province where the order was made to have the sample taken. It would permit a police agency that has been authorized to take a DNA sample to authorize another police agency to take the sample if that would be less expensive. The police have been hampered in their efforts to execute the orders where the offender has been incarcerated outside its jurisdiction or been conditionally released but resides outside its jurisdiction.
The procedure to have the order transferred to a court having jurisdiction and obtaining another order are time consuming and use up resources unnecessarily.
There are also some changes being made to ensure that the National DNA Data Bank can communicate with the forensic laboratories and with its international partners more effectively.
Parliament certainly wanted to encourage these exchanges, but the amendment, as passed in Bill C-13, is not as clear as it should be. As well, the National Defence Act is being amended so that the DNA regime applicable to the military continues to mirror the civilian regime.
There are many other technical changes of this nature in the bill and I am sure that when the bill gets to committee for detailed consideration, officials will explain them all. I trust this is sufficient, however, for members to realize that the changes proposed by this bill will be very helpful to law enforcement, prosecutors and judges who have to use the legislation on a daily basis.
Passage of this bill will allow for the proclamation of the rest of former Bill C-13 and should ensure that it is implemented smoothly.
It is, of course, not the end of the changes to the DNA legislation. As members are aware, the five year parliamentary review of the DNA legislation should have begun by June 30, 2005. Officials of my department, the Department of Public Safety, the RCMP and the National DNA Data Bank are ready to assist the committee as soon as it is mandated to commence the review.
The delay in beginning the review is not entirely unfortunate. The committee will be able to consider such issues as making the taking of a DNA sample automatic upon conviction, or even more variations in light of the strong endorsement of the existing legislation by the Supreme Court in R. v. Rogers, which was decided in April of this year.
Rogers was primarily a case involving the ex parte nature of retroactive hearings, but Rogers also challenged the constitutionality of the scheme.
It is useful to consider the Supreme Court's detailed reasons upholding the constitutionality of the legislation. I want to quote from this because it is important for our discussions. The Supreme Court stated:
There is no question that DNA evidence has revolutionized the way many crimes are investigated and prosecuted. The use of this new technology has not only led to the successful identification and prosecution of many dangerous criminals, it has served to exonerate many persons who were wrongfully suspected or convicted. The importance of this forensic development to the administration of justice can hardly be overstated. At the same time, the profound implications of government seizure and use of DNA samples on the privacy and security of the person cannot be ignored. A proper balance between these competing interests must be achieved within our constitutional framework.
The court continues to state:
For reasons that follow, I have concluded that the collection of DNA samples for data bank purposes from designated classes of convicted offenders is reasonable within the meaning of s. 8 of the Charter.
That is the section of the charter dealing with the protection against unreasonable search and seizure.
The court continues to state:
Society’s interest in using this powerful new technology to assist law enforcement agencies in the identification of offenders is beyond dispute. The resulting impact on the physical integrity of the targeted offenders is minimal. The potential invasive impact on the right to privacy has carefully been circumscribed by legislative safeguards that restrict the use of the DNA data bank as an identification tool only.
The Supreme Court continues to state:
Unlike the warrant provisions, the DNA data bank provisions do not target suspected offenders in respect of particular offences. Rather, they target offenders who have been convicted of different categories of offences. They do not provide for the gathering of evidence for use in a specific prosecution. Rather, they provide for the collection of samples solely for the purpose of creating DNA profiles for inclusion in the data bank. In any future investigation, a comparison between DNA evidence obtained at a crime scene and the data bank DNA profile will either serve to exonerate or identify a suspect. However, if a crime scene DNA profile matches an existing profile in the data bank, the sample is not released. Usual investigative methods, including DNA warrants, must be resorted to in order to gather evidence in pursuit of the investigation.
The court continues to state:
In my view, in considering the purpose of the DNA data bank provisions, the appropriate analogy is to fingerprinting and other identification measures taken for law enforcement purposes. The purpose of the legislative scheme is expressly set out in s. 3 of the DNA Identification Act, “...to help law enforcement agencies identify persons alleged to have committed designated offences, including those committed before the coming into force of this Act.”
The court continues to state:
The DNA data bank provisions contained in the DNA Identification Act and the Criminal Code are intended to put modern DNA technology to use in the identification of potential and known offenders. The DNA Identification Act is a modern supplement to the Identification of Criminals Act.
I am sure the committee will undertake a full review of the DNA legislation and it will want to consider carefully the implications of this judgment. I hope all parties on the committee will be able to come to an agreement as to the best way to proceed so as to protect Canadians while continuing to respect their charter and privacy rights.
However, we do not know when the committee will be struck, start its hearings or make its recommendations. I am speaking of the committee that will do the entire review that Parliament mandated a committee to do. We should not wait for this longer and broader process to implement changes that are generally acknowledged to be needed right now.
Therefore, I am pleased to recommend that Bill C-18 be given a second reading and sent to the standing committee for its review.
Early Learning and Child Care ActPrivate Members' Business
September 25th, 2006 / 11:05 a.m.
Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan
Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. On May 31, 2006, you invited members to comment on whether Bill C-303 would require a royal recommendation. Without commenting on the merits of this private member's bill, it is the government's view that the bill does require a royal recommendation.
Subclause 5(1) of the bill provides that:
The Minister of Finance may make a child care transfer payment directly to a province or territory in each fiscal year to support the early learning and child care program of the province or territory....
That would happen if certain conditions were met. These conditions are expanded upon in subclauses 5(2) and 5(5) and clause 6. In other words, subclause 5(1) would provide authority for transfer payments.
Some members could argue that a royal recommendation is not needed because the bill defines “child care transfer payment” in clause 2 to mean:
a cash contribution or financial transfer in respect of early learning and child care services that may be provided under an Act of Parliament to a province, territory, institution or corporate entity.
However, the bill would still have an effect on appropriations made to provinces for early learning and child care under any other federal act, including future appropriation acts. It thereby affects the purpose for which those appropriations are made.
Mr. Speaker, you have reminded the House that the principle of the financial initiative of the Crown requires that a royal recommendation be supplied for an appropriation as well as for any change in the financial purpose of an act. This is clearly the case with Bill C-303. Even though it purports not to appropriate money directly, it would alter the purpose of an appropriation granted through another act.
I would also like to raise a second question with regard to the bill, which is that it reopens a question already dealt with by the House in the 2006 budget and the budget implementation bill, Bill C-13, which received royal assent on June 22, 2006, namely, the question of funding for early learning and child care.
It is a well recognized principle that the House cannot be asked to make a decision on a question, such as the second reading of a bill, if it has already voted on the same or a substantially similar question. Standing Order 18 is explicit that:
No Member may reflect upon any vote of the House, except for the purpose of moving that such vote be rescinded.
This bill was introduced seven days after the House adopted ways and means for the Budget Implementation Act, 2006, which provided funds for early learning and child care without strings and which provided explicitly in paragraph 5(c) of part 6 that the funds could not be retained or constrained in any way. The bill is clearly an attempt to reopen that question through the back door.
On this basis, Mr. Speaker, you may also wish to consider whether the bill should be ruled out of order at second reading. We thank you for your attention. We look forward to an early ruling on this matter.
Criminal CodeGovernment Orders
June 6th, 2006 / 10:10 a.m.
The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie
The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-13, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on May 2, 2006, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.
The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-13, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on May 2, 2006, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the motion that the question be now put.
The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-13, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on May 2, 2006, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the motion that this question be now put.
The House resumed from May 18 consideration of the motion that Bill C-13, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on May 2, 2006, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the motion that this question be now put.
The House resumed, from May 15, consideration of the motion that BillC-13, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on May 2, 2006, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the motion that the question be now put.
The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-13, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on May 2, 2006, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the motion that this question be now put.
The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-13, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on May 2, 2006, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the motion that this question be now put.
The House resumed from May 12 consideration of the motion that Bill C-13, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on May 2, 2006, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the motion that this question be now put.
The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-13, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on May 2, 2006, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Budget Implementation Act, 2006Government Orders
May 12th, 2006 / 10 a.m.
Gordon O'Connor Conservative Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON
moved that Bill C-13, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on May 2, 2006, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Budget Implementation Act, 2006Routine Proceedings
May 11th, 2006 / 10 a.m.
Jim Flaherty ConservativeMinister of Finance
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-13, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on May 2, 2006.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)