An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act and the Identification of Criminals Act and to make a consequential amendment to another Act

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in December 2009.


Rob Nicholson  Conservative


In committee (House), as of Nov. 27, 2009
(This bill did not become law.)


This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

The enactment amends the Criminal Code, the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act and the Identification of Criminals Act and makes a consequential amendment to the Canada Evidence Act.

Among other things, the amendments

(a) provide greater access to the telewarrant process for peace officers and public officers;

(b) reform the expert evidence regime to give parties more time to prepare and respond to expert evidence;

(c) allow the provinces to authorize programs or establish criteria governing the use of agents by defendants who are individuals;

(d) authorize the fingerprinting of, photographing of or application of other identification processes to, persons who are in lawful custody for specified offences but who have not yet been charged;

(e) expand the jurisdiction of Canadian courts to include bribery offences committed by Canadians outside Canada;

(f) expand the list of permitted sports under the prize fighting provisions;

(g) make minor corrections to the pari-mutuel betting provisions, delete unnecessary provisions and update the calculation of pool payouts;

(h) update the provisions on interceptions of private communications in exceptional circumstances;

(i) reclassify six non-violent offences as hybrid offences;

(j) create an offence of leaving the jurisdiction in contravention of an undertaking or recognizance; and

(k) delete provisions of the Criminal Code that are no longer valid, correct or clarify wording in various provisions and make minor updates to others.


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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 27th, 2009 / 10:35 a.m.
See context

Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles Québec


Daniel Petit ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to offer my strong support for Bill C-31, which would amend the Criminal Code and other acts, in order to make our justice system more efficient.

To fight crime and ensure the safety of Canadians, we need a justice system that reflects our reality, that allows us to use technology effectively, that adapts to scientific advances, to changes in the nature of evidence and scientific procedures, and that operates as efficiently as possible, while still remaining fair and equitable.

This bill is another concrete measure that demonstrates our government's ongoing commitment to fighting crime in the most effective and advanced way possible.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Minister of Justice for his continued efforts and for recognizing that making minor changes and reforming outdated procedures can also make a difference.

I would also like to take this opportunity to look at what effect some of these proposals would have on the work of the public servants who also help provide security and protection for Canadians.

Public officers are not police officers. Their primary responsibility is the enforcement of non-criminal offences covered by federal legislation other than the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. One proposed amendment would give public officers the same authority as police to deal with goods seized under section 489.1, bearing in mind that they both have the same authority to conduct searches.

At present, subsection 489.1(1), which deals with the return of seized goods, only applies to peace officers and allows them to return the goods seized directly to a person when there is no dispute as to ownership of the goods and if the goods do not need to be kept as evidence.

Subsection 489.1(2) applies to anyone who is not a peace officer and requires that they bring the goods seized before a justice of the peace or that they retain them until the justice orders that they be returned to the lawful owner.

Under these sections, a peace officer can seize an item in situ, or on the spot, in order to examine it and return it to the owner, if he is convinced that the item need not be retained as evidence.

In the same circumstances, a public officer exercising his authority under section 487 would have to bring the item before a justice or retain it until it can be reported to a justice or until the justice authorizes its return. In situ seizure under a warrant is becoming an increasingly common practice in a regulatory context because search warrants are used to investigate quasi-criminal matters often pertaining to equipment that is impossible to move in an industrial workplace or similar setting.

Another amendment would specify that the peace officer or public officer who fills out report 5.2, the report to a justice of the peace, can have another person file it under subsection 489.1(1). When the peace officer has seized items and has subsequently returned them to the lawful owner, he must report it to a justice of the peace, on Criminal Code form 5.2.

This addition will save a great deal of time for an administration that has employees in the court house, because they will be in a position to file the documents in question rather than the peace officer or public officer who completed them.

The bill also includes a new provision that will permit the release of any items seized by the police for scientific examination before the trial. The current provisions allow for the release of such items for scientific examination only at the trial stage, which often delays the trial, and is particularly difficult and inefficient in cases of trial by jury.

The new provision will allow items seized to be released before the trial with the court's permission and on the condition that appropriate measures are taken to ensure that they are properly preserved.

The provisions of the Criminal Code regarding prize fights must also be amended in order to exclude legitimate amateur sports, specifically, karate, judo, tae kwon do and wushu, which have emerged since the last amendment in 1932. Some of these sports are included in the International Olympic Committee program, which means that the international, national and provincial sports organizations in question are dedicated to the values and requirements of the IOC in matters of safety. From now on, amateur sports included in the IOC program will be excluded from the definition of “prize fighting” and the provinces can impose conditions on holding fights for these sports if they so choose.

Furthermore, the provinces could exclude any other amateur sport from the application of section 83 and could also impose conditions on holding fights for these sports. These amendments are the result of extensive consultations with the provinces and territories in 2003 and 2004, as well as consultations with national sports organizations at various times since 1998 when the issue was first brought to the government's attention.

In addition, amendments to the pari-mutuel provisions will clarify the federal government's responsibility for permitting and monitoring legitimate pari-mutuel betting on horse races. These amendments will eliminate the unnecessary power to limit the number of races on which bets can be placed at a race-course in Canada. The amendments will also allow race-courses to harmonize their method of calculating payouts with others in the “foreign race pool” when they accept bets on horse races that take place outside of Canada.

These amendments will enable Canadians to place lower bets than what is currently permitted, which will improve their chances of winning without having to spend more money.

The bill also contains an amendment to better preserve the impartiality of jurors by allowing the court to exclude jurors—on application or on its own motion—from the court room in the case of a challenge for cause. Currently, only the defence can make such an application.

This bill also amends telewarrant provisions. For example, three changes will be made to the current telewarrant system. First, the convenience criterion has been removed, except for telewarrants requested orally—in other words, by means of telecommunication that does not produce a writing. Second, access to telewarrants will be expanded. Third, public officers will now be permitted to use telewarrants.

We have also proposed eliminating the convenience criterion in the case of requests submitted in writing because of technological progress and the reliability of modern means of telecommunication. The telewarrant system enables more efficient use of justice system resources, especially the police. These amendments will save time by making it unnecessary for police officers to go to court to submit a warrant request in person, thereby giving them more time to spend on investigations.

With respect to oral telewarrants, our provincial and territorial partners have observed that requiring police officers to express their reasons in writing promotes the provision of complete and well-organized information for the judge's consideration.

It will now be possible to obtain the following warrants: warrants respecting the seizure of weapons, ammunition and explosive devices; search and seizure warrants in offences related to gambling, betting and stolen minerals; production orders for documents and business records; tracking warrants; and warrants with respect to number recorders.

Police and public officials could request a greater number of warrants by using this process, which would no doubt be beneficial to them. This will be particularly useful for federal public officials, who would otherwise have to make special arrangements in order to show up in person at various locations across the country to secure warrants. This makes the job easier.

This bill also proposes reclassifying certain Criminal Code offences as hybrid offences. This reclassification would convert an offence punishable by summary conviction or indictment under the Criminal Code into a hybrid offence. This allows the prosecution to proceed either by indictment or by summary conviction, whichever it deems most suitable under the circumstances of the case.

We feel that these changes are necessary and quite useful since they give the prosecution more latitude by allowing it to choose the most appropriate procedure for the case at hand. This will considerably simplify the administration of justice and deliver on the government's commitment to make Canada's criminal justice system more efficient.

I would also like to mention that reclassification has no impact on the seriousness of the offences in question. All it does—and I want to stress this—is allow the Crown to choose the procedure for prosecuting the alleged offender. For example, a criminal offence that becomes a hybrid offence can still be prosecuted by indictment if, under the circumstances, a more complex procedure, including a preliminary inquiry and a jury trial, is warranted. However, when the facts of the case do not warrant the full procedure or a heavier penalty, it is possible to prosecute the offence by summary conviction.

It is important that the procedure used reflect the seriousness of the offence and that we make the best use of the court's time and resources. Reclassification offers greater flexibility, making it possible to choose the most appropriate procedure under the circumstances and to increase the efficiency of our criminal justice system. The defence will still have the right to a preliminary inquiry or a jury trial where a full procedure is warranted.

This bill also includes changes to the expert witness regime. Once again, these changes are necessary because the time currently set out in the Criminal Code for communicating expert reports is sometimes not enough to allow the other party to respond appropriately to what is frequently becoming complex and highly technical evidence.

To respond to expert witness evidence, it is generally necessary to find and hire an expert in the particular field, brief that person on the case, obtain transcripts and so on. The changes make various improvements to the regime. First, to encourage compliance with the notice requirements in the Criminal Code, the bill provides for a mandatory 10-day adjournment if these requirements are not met. Second, so that all the parties are prepared to respond to expert evidence, the bill provides for a discretionary adjournment when the notice requirements have been met, but the other party has not had enough time to prepare.

Third, the Criminal Code will contain a list of factors the court must consider in deciding whether to grant an adjournment or to lengthen or shorten an adjournment that has already been granted. These factors are meant to reflect the challenges associated with a trial involving expert testimony.

Lastly, the court will have to explain if it refuses to grant an adjournment or reduce the period of adjournment. The new measures will also help the courts in rendering decisions. These changes would enable the courts to make enlightened decisions that are adapted to different cases of non-compliance and would encourage parties to adhere to the notice provisions.

These changes will not generate any additional obligations on the defence. Both parties' obligations will remain the same. The changes would simply improve the expert evidence regime in the Criminal Code to ensure that the parties can respond appropriately to the expert testimony, by providing new measures that the court can take if there is insufficient time, and to encourage parties to adhere to the notice provisions in the Criminal Code.

We know that the Identification of Criminals Act does not authorize police officers to fingerprint or photograph individuals in lawful custody until they have been charged or convicted, which often results in unnecessary delays.

Some people have called for the enforcement of this legislation to be simplified and clarified. That is what our proposed changes would do. The proposed amendments would streamline this process by adding the authority to fingerprint and photograph an individual who is in lawful custody following an arrest, but not yet charged.

For example, if the individual is not charged with an offence, if the charges are dropped or if the individual is acquitted, we know that many police forces destroy fingerprints and photographs at the request of the person involved, if the person is not found guilty. The courts have ruled that it is not unreasonable for police forces to retain fingerprints if no request is made for them to be destroyed or returned after charges are dropped.

I have listed some examples covered by this bill. It is important to note that the bill includes about 40 amendments that will all help improve, streamline and modernize our justice system. I urge all members to fully support this bill.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 27th, 2009 / 12:20 p.m.
See context


Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-31.

As a follow up to the minister's final comments when he seemed to suggest that it has to be left up to the accused to request the destruction of the fingerprints if no charges are laid, I cannot really agree with what he is proposing. I think what will happen over time is that the accused will simply forget to do it and the police will basically build a database. We have to make it a requirement.

Perhaps we could do both. We could make it a requirement that the police do it, but also have some sort of reminder for the accused to do the same. It would be a pincer movement to make sure it is done two ways. If one does not work, the other one will.

Bill C-31 is quite large. There are 39 pages to it. It is an omnibus bill. Normally we do not like omnibus bills. History shows that omnibus bills are something that governments tend to use. I am aware of one government in Manitoba a number of years ago that was great at bringing in omnibus bills. It would put in a bunch of things we liked and it would stick in some poison pills that we did not like. It was certainly a real conundrum as to how to vote on those types of bills.

That was my first experience with omnibus bills. I am sure they have been around for many years, but certainly that was one government that used them very effectively. The Conservative government has managed to do the same. In the year I have been here I have seen them a couple of times.

The NDP justice critic informs me that in the case of making legal changes, an omnibus bill approach is a good idea. As a matter of fact, he has suggested that he would actually like to see the government do more of these things. I do not think I am going to become a convert any time soon on the idea that the government should be encouraged to bring in more omnibus bills, but evidently, and I know there are a lot of learned lawyers in the chamber, in the area of crime, the NDP justice critic thinks it is a good approach.

We are dealing with some 40 changes. I want to say at the outset that we will be supporting sending this bill to committee. There is one major issue where I can see that all of the opposition parties are going to have a problem. The government probably would have known that in advance. It is the whole issue of fingerprinting. I have been reading over some of the previous speeches on the bill and pretty much everybody has focused on the fingerprinting parts of the bill. Perhaps the committee will resolve that issue with some amendments.

There are a couple of sleeper amendments that I personally would be not too happy about. They do not seem to have drawn a lot of ire from other members at this point, but there may be members in the opposition or even in my own party who may dislike some of the other provisions of this bill and may want to make some amendments.

The whole idea of the bill is to modernize the criminal justice procedures. We want to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the criminal justice system as an integral part of the Government of Canada's commitment to ensuring the safety and security of communities across Canada.

Through continual modernization of criminal procedures, the Government of Canada is creating a justice system that can respond to changes in criminal activity and constant evolution of technology, and certainly that is a point. We are dealing with that in the computer areas, struggling with this issue in the child pornography bill that we have just sent to committee as well as in Bill C-27 that is coming up. There is this whole area of technology, the huge changes in technology, and with it the criminals seem to just simply adapt. Sort of like the viruses, they adapt to the new realities, the new environment. They actually improve on their techniques, and crime continues. So, we do have to update the law. It is a constant battle.

As a matter of fact, the entire Criminal Code is probably in for a rewrite. It is quite ancient, quite old and it certainly needs a lot of work done on it. Perhaps rather than just simply constantly working on a piecemeal basis, the member opposite, who I know is listening right now, I am sure would be agreeable to get together. We are in a minority Parliament here. Perhaps the government should announce a plan to rewrite the whole Criminal Code with a view that in two or three years, or however long it would take, at the end of the day we could come up with a new, modernized Criminal Code that would perhaps be a little more understandable to people in the country.

The government has worked closely with its provincial and territorial partners to create 40 legislative amendments.The fact of the matter is that working with the provinces is a very important part. I know that on a government-to-government basis it is oftentimes very difficult to work with the provinces, because we are dealing with 10 different points of view, and sometimes that can lead to a lot of problems. It is easier for a federal government to simply bring in its own initiatives, even for provinces. However, sometimes in a province, when we bring in an initiative, it then causes a problem, a spillover effect into the next jurisdiction.

So, as much as possible, it is very important for provinces to get together as groups or to co-operate with the federal government. That, by necessity, often results in a very slow and bogged-down process, although I have seen some big improvements, certainly in the last couple of years in Manitoba with the Manitoba justice minister Mr. Chomiak and with Gord Mackintosh actually taking a very strong position on various crime initiatives and driving the agenda through their provincial associations and actually getting results here in Ottawa. That, to me, was proof that one little province, if it is determined and wants to push a certain agenda, can actually get results, even with Ottawa.

So, I do commend the government for actively working with the provinces. I think it should continue to do that, because out of that process, we have developed quite a few good initiatives, even over the last couple of years.

The proposed amendments to the Criminal Code, the Identification of Criminals Act, the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act and the Canada Evidence Act will all help to ensure that Canada's laws continue to protect Canadians.

The flight offence is an interesting one. Basically this is a new offence that would target individuals who leave a jurisdiction in violation of the bail conditions. This would create a clear deterrent to fleeing a jurisdiction and would establish a record of such behaviour. Having access to this record would help prevent the release of an accused person who has, in the past, failed to abide by conditions to stay within a jurisdiction. As well, the onus would be placed on the accused to justify why he or she should be subsequently released on bail. In addition, more time may be made available for the arranging for the return of the accused to the originating jurisdiction for trial.

What that really means is that a certain area of the country, in this particular case British Columbia, and I have this in my notes, has, I believe, 700 people hanging out who are wanted on outstanding warrants in other parts of the country. I remember seeing on television and reading in the papers in the last couple of years how authorities had developed this program through which they were providing people with bus fares and sending them back to Ontario or wherever they came from. Now they have a program backed by the business community to return the people to the jurisdictions that they came from, but I believe they are turning them over to the police force. Before they would just put them on a bus and get them out of B.C. They could, of course, simply hide where they went to as well, but this would turn them over to authorities.

What was happening was that a lot of the warrants the police had for the people they were finding in B.C. covered a very limited area. The warrant was written out, for example, for shoplifting and it applied perhaps within a radius of 50 miles of Brockville or Belleville, but of course now the person was in B.C. The authorities looked at this warrant and found they could not do anything about it because they were outside the jurisdiction. So this is probably a very good provision. As I said, it is a new offence and hopefully it will take care of some of this because we should not be tolerating people shoplifting and doing other crimes and then just simply heading out of the province to hide, hoping they never get caught.

These amendments, as I indicated, are the result of an initiative led by British Columbia in a federal-provincial-territorial working group that was endorsed by ministers responsible for justice, in September 2008. That was just September 2008, and we are only a year down the road and already dealing with legislation. Who says that a minority government cannot work? I say that to the government members, but we also have the element of the Senate to deal with, so that is a different issue.

The next part of the bill deals with the identification of criminals. The Identification of Criminals Act does not currently authorize police officers to fingerprint or photograph individuals in lawful custody until they are charged or convicted. This often results in unnecessary delays, according to the police and the government, and can prolong an accused individual's stay at the police station.

The proposed amendments would streamline the process by adding the authority to fingerprint and photograph an individual who is in lawful custody involving an arrest but who is not yet charged. So once again, this is extremely controversial. It will perhaps be amended or deleted at committee, but at a bare minimum, it would have to be amended so that the police themselves would be required to destroy fingerprints that were taken. If doing that is not required, and it is left up to the accused, over time people are going to forget about this and it is not going to be done. If we have time at the end we will come back to this fingerprinting issue, because there are 40 parts to this bill and I am probably halfway through my allotted time at this point.

As for telewarrants, this sounds like a fairly reasonable position. The telewarrants will allow police officers to apply for search and seizure-related warrants by providing information to a justice of the peace on oath via telephone or other means of telecommunications. This is going to save the travel and wait time it would take if the officer had to apply in person. I can certainly see that in the northern parts of the country this should be a huge improvement, rather than having to drive 100 miles at 3 a.m. to get a warrant. The telewarrant system probably should be in place.

Under the current system, telewarrants are available only when it is impractical for the officer to appear in person and are available only on certain types of warrants, so once again, if the officer can drive the 100 miles, then that is what he or she is required to do. This change is going to make doing that optional, so that the officer can simply get the telewarrant instead.

The proposed amendments would eliminate the need to satisfy the impracticality requirement in cases where the telewarrant request is submitted in writing. The amendments would also expand the availability of telewarrants to public officers. These are officials who enforce federal non-Criminal Code legislation but who are not police officers.

Then there are provisions with regard to expert witness evidence. Certainly there is another provision dealing with the use of non-lawyers, and I might spend a minute or two talking about that.

When individuals are charged with summary offences, which are less serious offences that involve fewer procedural requirements, it is important that they have access to adequate representation. The proposed amendments would give each province the power to authorize programs and establish criteria outlining when an agent or non-lawyer can represent a defendant charged with a summary offence.

These amendments would allow for different approaches, depending upon the maximum term of imprisonment associated with the offence, among other things. The proposed amendments would, however, allow agents to appear on behalf of defendants to seek an adjournment of summary proceedings, regardless of the maximum term of imprisonment.

I do want to spend some time talking about the prize-fighting amendments to this bill. Under the current law, it is an offence to have any involvement in prize fighting, defined as an encounter or fight with fists or hands, except for amateur boxing, under the authority of the province. Once again, here we are dealing basically with the devolution of letting the provinces decide.

Many amateur sports, even those without monetary prizes, are technically included in the offence. The proposed amendments would expand the list of permitted exceptions to the prize-fighting offence so that the amateur combative sports such as judo and karate, currently in the Olympic program, would be allowed. The amendments would also permit a province to decide whether to expand the list of sports permitted to take place within the province and authorize specific contests.

Now we get to the issue of mixed martial arts fighting, which many members have seen take off in North America. It is a big deal and is certainly popular. I believe most provinces still ban it, but by approving this legislation, what we are doing is giving the provinces the right to approve these mixed martial arts. Senator John McCain once described mixed martial arts, which is a whirlwind mix of jiu-jitsu, judo, karate, boxing, kick-boxing and wrestling, as human cockfighting, so he obviously did not like it.

Just before I run out of time, a news report talked about Canada's love of hockey brawls. The company that promotes this fighting claimed that men between the ages of 18 and 35 have attention spans that are too short to watch 15 rounds of boxing, so mixed martial arts have bouts that usually last no more than 15 minutes, which are made for today's video culture.

Just before I finish, I just want to point out that with football players today, we are finding traumatic brain injuries. We are finding that football players are dying in greater numbers at young ages after they retire. We are finding, for example, that some wrestlers have the demented brains of 80-year-olds.

Clearly there are a lot of things we have to look at here within our existing sports, without promoting even more sporting activities like this, which could have even worse consequences.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 27th, 2009 / 12:45 p.m.
See context


Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by pointing out that I am not a lawyer, but as people so often say, ignorance of the law is no excuse. Anyone who has observed the debates that have been taking place here, particularly for some time now, on the subject of order, justice and the law can see why so many lawyers get into politics. It is obvious. However, we sometimes need good accountants too—that was my previous profession—to help the government with its finances. That is an important thing to do.

In lawyer speak, it was “on or about” May 15, 2009, that the Minister of Justice introduced Bill C-31 for first reading in the House of Commons. The enactment amends the Criminal Code, the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act and the Identification of Criminals Act and makes a consequential amendment to the Canada Evidence Act.

There are a lot of things to talk about here. The bill contains nearly 40 amendments. I am going to run through a number of points, then come back to talk about some of them in greater detail. This bill deals with the telewarrant system, as some of my colleagues mentioned earlier. It proposes a mandatory 10-day adjournment when requirements for notice have not been fulfilled. It sets out criteria for determining when a representative can represent a defendant charged with a summary conviction offence. It authorizes fingerprinting and photographing and any other identification measure for persons who are in lawful custody but have not yet been charged. We will have to come back to that point.

It expands the jurisdiction of Canadian courts to include bribery offences committed by Canadians outside Canada. The bill creates an offence of leaving the jurisdiction in violation of bail conditions. It permits the list of permitted exceptions to the prize fighting offence to be expanded. It also updates Canada's pari-mutuel betting provisions. It updates the provisions on interceptions of private communications in exceptional circumstances. It reclassifies six non-violent offences as hybrid offences. This is another case where, sometimes, even though everyone is supposed to know the law, there can be some problems in how it is interpreted. That is what we are trying to clarify, of course. The bill also deletes provisions of the Criminal Code that are no longer valid, corrects or clarifies wording in various provisions and makes minor updates to other provisions.

That was a quick rundown of what this bill addresses, updates or amends. We do hope this will improve the situation. As I was saying earlier, when I asked my colleague a question, the government claims to have collaborated with its provincial and territorial partners to develop these legislative amendments in order to deal with the gaps in the legislation.

However, we, in the Bloc Québécois, intend to hear testimony from one or more representatives from Quebec to determine how much collaboration there in fact was and whether the conclusions are satisfactory to Quebec. Needless to say—but I will say it again nonetheless—the Bloc Québécois is here, in this House, primarily to defend the interests of Quebec and to promote its sovereignty in every jurisdiction of a sovereign government.

I will now to talk about the Bloc's position on Bill C-31. This bill makes a number of amendments, which I just listed. Although some of the amendments are interesting, namely on providing greater access to telewarrants or on bribery offences committed outside Canada, other amendments cause us some concern.

I am thinking, for instance, about the attempt to regulate in a roundabout way the legal profession, which falls within Quebec's jurisdiction, particularly by allowing the application of identification processes to detained individuals who have not yet been charged.

In the face of a bill that contains some good and some bad, the Bloc Québécois will maintain its approach. We will review the bill carefully and in good faith in committee, put forward amendments as required and, then, determine whether or not to support the bill in its final form.

An analysis of the bill makes it evident that several substantive and technical changes are being made to the Criminal Code.

Let us take a moment to get into a few specific aspects.

Regarding telewarrants, clause 2 of the bill introduces the telewarrant procedure for the purpose of seizing weapons. The procedure is outlined for issuing telewarrants whether the application is made by a means of telecommunication that produces a writing or not.

The use of telewarrants is also introduced with respect to offences in connection with to disorderly houses, gaming and betting, special minerals and production orders.

With respect to another aspect, namely fleeing to another province, clause 5 of the bill creates a distinct offence for persons who are at large on an undertaking or recognizance and flee outside their province of residence.

Then, there is the 10-day adjournment, which was explained in greater detail earlier. Clause 30 of the bill amends the current rules on the requirement for one party to notify the other of its intent to call an expert witness. Subclause 2 of the provision amending subsections 653.3(4) and 653.3(5) of the Criminal Code sets at 10 days the minimum period of adjournment ordered by the court whenever the prescribed notice has not been given. This time period may be reduced by consent of the parties.

Coming back to agents other than counsel, clauses 31, 32 and 33 of the bill amend the rules on the ability of an agent other than counsel to appear, examine and cross-examine witnesses for and on behalf of the defendant.

The proposed amendments would give each province the power to establish criteria outlining when an agent, or non-lawyer, can represent a defendant charged with a summary offence, a less serious offence that involves fewer procedural requirements. These amendments would allow different approaches depending on the maximum term of imprisonment associated with the offence, among other things. The proposed amendments would, however, allow agents to appear on behalf of defendants to seek an adjournment of summary proceedings, regardless of the maximum term of imprisonment.

As I said earlier, the provinces and Quebec are responsible for regulating professions. Furthermore, Quebec and the provinces also have jurisdiction over professional regulations for lawyers, as part of the administration of justice in the provinces and in Quebec. This is something, as I mentioned before, that the Barreau du Québec is concerned about.

According to the Department of Justice, under current law, it is an offence to have any involvement in prize fighting, defined as an “encounter or fight with fists or hands”, except for amateur boxing under authority of the province.

Many amateur sporting events, even those without monetary prizes, are technically included in this offence. The proposed amendments would expand the list of permitted exceptions to the prize-fighting offence so that amateur combative sports such as judo and karate, which are now Olympic events, would be allowed. The amendments would also permit a province to decide whether to expand the list of sports permitted to take place within that province and authorize specific contests.

Another thing the Barreau du Québec is worried about is the identification of individuals who have not been charged. Clause 39 of the bill amends paragraph 2(1)(a) of the Identification of Criminals Act, which authorizes the fingerprinting and photographing of persons who are in lawful custody but who have not yet been charged or convicted of a specific offence, which means that such information regarding someone who has been detained but not charged would be on file.

The Identification of Criminals Act stipulates that law enforcement officials can take photographs, fingerprints and measurements of only certain categories of individuals. Those categories are set out in subsection 2(1) of the act:

The following persons may be fingerprinted or photographed or subjected to such other measurements, processes and operations having the object of identifying persons as are approved by order of the Governor in Council:

(a) any person who is in lawful custody charged with or convicted of

(i) an indictable offence, other than an offence that is designated as a contravention under the Contraventions Act in respect of which the Attorney General, within the meaning of that Act, has made an election under section 50 of that Act, or

(ii) an offence under the Security of Information Act;

I would like say something here as an aside. There is a principle that ignorance of the law is no excuse. However, when we read excerpts of legislation, we realize they can be rather difficult to understand. It takes some careful reflection. That is in fact what we want the committee to do, when it receives the bill.

The Bloc Québécois has full confidence in its representatives on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, both the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin and the member for Vaudreuil-Soulanges. We fully trust them to interpret things that often sound like mumbo jumbo to us.

I will continue reading the list of people specified in the act:

(b) any person who has been apprehended under the Extradition Act;

(c) any person alleged to have committed an indictable offence, other than an offence that is designated as a contravention under the Contraventions Act in respect of which the Attorney General, within the meaning of that Act, has made an election under section 50 of that Act...

I will skip a short passage, because I fear I will not get to a very important part, regarding the concerns expressed by the Barreau du Québec.

Clause 39 of Bill C-31 aims to amend this situation by replacing subsection 2(1)(a) of the Identification of Criminals Act with the following:

any person who is in lawful custody after being arrested for [that is the part being added], charged with or convicted of

I will not read out the offences as I did earlier.

In short, with this bill, which primarily addresses this sphere of activity, the government is trying to circumvent the requirement for a person to be charged or convicted by bringing in a far less restrictive criterion stating that the person need only be arrested. As such, identifying information may be taken from a person arrested for an offence other than an offence designated as a contravention before that person is even charged with anything.

I would like to discuss the main issues, which are the concerns expressed by the Barreau du Québec. The Barreau du Québec's criminal law committee reviewed Bill C-31 and submitted its observations and comments on, among other things, telewarrants. To sum up, it said that this system would completely reform and modernize the criminal law process in Canada, which is what the government wants to achieve. However, even though the Barreau du Québec supports the introduction of this measure, it is concerned about how the government is going about it. For example, it believes that it would have been better to amend the section of the Criminal Code that deals with issuing search warrants to state that telewarrant rules apply in all cases, rather than making piecemeal changes.

I will now talk about agents other than lawyers. The Barreau says that regulating professions is a provincial responsibility. In addition, regulating the legal profession is also part of the provinces' responsibility for the administration of justice at the provincial level. The Barreau du Québec states that under the Act respecting the Barreau du Québec, pleading or acting for others before any tribunal is the exclusive prerogative of the practising advocate. There is already a jurisdictional problem here, and the Barreau is afraid that the proposal, as written, will create confusion as to the meaning of “agent” and could give rise to prosecutions for practising law illegally.

The Barreau du Québec also has serious concerns about identification. It is worried about the possibility of keeping a record on someone who is in custody but has not yet been charged. The Barreau considers this an extraordinary power that is currently used only in cases of terrorism. It is also concerned about the real risk that fingerprints taken under such circumstances could be used for purposes other than the ones for which they were intended. The legislative proposal broadens the use of other identification processes, but does not control the use of digital fingerprints before charges are laid and does not set rules for keeping and destroying such information. With regard to genetic fingerprints, I would remind the House that a mechanism for automatically destroying identifying material on innocent people has been introduced.

The Barreau considers that keeping a record on someone has consequences and that that is why such treatment is currently reserved for individuals who have been charged or convicted. Of course, the Barreau du Québec has concerns.

Although the Bloc Québécois sees good things in this bill and is in favour of some of the amendments, it also sees some more biased elements. We will be sure to work with the committee to amend and clarify the bill as needed so that Quebeckers are better protected against crime, but also against the Conservative government.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 27th, 2009 / 1:05 p.m.
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Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member knows that there is a new offence being put in this Bill C-31.

The new offence is called “leaving the jurisdiction”. It has been created to target people who leave the jurisdiction in violation of bail conditions. I guess the problem is fairly big in B.C. with several hundred people hanging out in Vancouver. When they are approached by police officers, they find a huge number. I actually had the statistics, but I cannot find them right now. Of these 700 people had outstanding warrants in other provinces. Because the warrants are written up in such a way that they only cover a certain radius from where the crime occurred, they are unable to be sent back.

I would like to know, what does the member think of that particular idea, and has that been a problem in his riding in Quebec over the last number of years?

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November 27th, 2009 / 1:10 p.m.
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Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to add a few comments to this very important debate on Bill C-31. It is a rare omnibus bill before the House.

My colleague and our justice critic, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, spoke on this matter and praised the government for finally bringing forward an omnibus bill dealing with a number of serious issues that ought not to be presented on an individual basis but, in fact, presented for collective consideration.

He has made the point on numerous other occasions that some of the bills introduced by the Conservative government should have been part of an omnibus bill and that it did not make sense to use the time of the House to bring forward very individual, specific pieces to this big puzzle that we are all trying to grapple with, which is how to best crack down on crime in this country and do so responsibly.

We stand in the House so often and hear Conservative members across the way accusing members on this side of the House of being soft on crime every time we dare question or debate a particular item. I hope they are learning from today's debate, both on Bill C-58 and now on Bill C-31, that the New Democratic Party gives very serious consideration to each bill that is before us. We analyze them thoroughly and make constructive suggestions.

On the basis of our analysis, we then choose whether to support a bill or not. If the positives outweigh any negatives and if we cannot get the perfect bill, we usually hold our noses and support the government of the day. In this case, we have said that this is a good bill. It addresses many important issues, but there is one area that has been identified by New Democrat members and also by members of the Bloc that needs to be reconsidered. It has to do with fingerprinting.

We are hoping that, by raising these concerns today in a very serious way with substantial backing and evidence, the government will consider our proposition and ensure that we can deal with this matter at committee.

In the past, members have given their support for the competition about the most wisest MP among us. Members in the House have collectively shown that they agree that the member for Windsor—Tecumseh is the most wise and knowledgeable among us. In fact, he has come to the House on numerous occasions with very wise suggestions and other members have listened to him many times.

Today has to be one of those times. He makes the very important point that we in the House should not be supporting legislation that allows for the taking of fingerprints before a person is charged. I want to quote from his speech. He said:

The taking of fingerprints and this point of not being allowed to take fingerprints unless our police are going to charge an accused person goes way back. It has been in the Criminal Code for more than half a century, since shortly after we had the technology of fingerprinting. It goes way back into the last century.

I think the amendment that we will be proposing at committee needs to be taken very seriously. I am sure that the Bloc will be doing the same. In fact, we hope that will be considered on an expeditious basis because none of us want to see this bill held up. We know that it deals with numerous important issues like providing greater access to the telewarrant process for peace officers. It provides for a mandatory 10-day adjournment where notice provisions have not been followed.

It empowers each province to authorize programs and establish criteria outlining when an agent or a non-lawyer can represent a defendant. It expands the jurisdiction of Canadian courts to include bribery offences committed by Canadians outside Canada. It creates an offence of leaving the jurisdiction in violation of bail conditions. It permits a province to expand the list of permitted exceptions to the prize fighting offence. It updates the legislative language of parimutuel betting provisions.

It updates the provisions on interceptions of private communications in exceptional circumstances. It reclassifies six non-violent offences as hybrid offences. Finally, it deletes provisions of the Criminal Code that are no longer valid or correct, and clarifies wording in various provisions and makes minor updates to others.

That is a long list of important issues. We support 99.9% of this list. We want to see the bill passed to committee and implemented quickly.

We would like the government to seriously recognize the wisdom of my colleague from Windsor—Tecumseh and others in the House for making an amendment on fingerprinting.

In the few minutes that I have remaining I want to talk just generally about the issue of crime and the approach that needs to be taken.

Too often, as I said earlier, we are accused of not giving prompt and swift attention to every procedure and every program presented to us by the Conservative government. Our biggest concern has to do with the fact that the government continues to take a narrow approach to the issue of crime and justice in our society today.

There is nothing wrong with putting dangerous offenders in jail and making sure they serve proper time. There is nothing wrong with making sure that we actually do everything possible to cut down on gang behaviour, drug dealing, the sex trade, and child pornography, which we just dealt with this morning, every issue that is offensive to our sense of what should and ought to be part of any kind of a civil society. Too little time in this place is spent on the root causes of crime.

I want to commend to all members in the House a study that was done in Winnipeg by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives entitled “If You Want to Change Violence in the 'Hood, You Have to Change the 'Hood: Violence and Street Gangs in Winnipeg's Inner City”. It was written by Elizabeth Comack, Lawrence Deane, Larry Morrissette and Jim Silver. What they say in one very brief phrase is that we must look at the root causes of crime as well as have the harsh consequences in place for those who commit the crime. All of the gang members who spoke to these researchers said repeatedly that we need to look at what caused them to get into a life of crime in the first place.

If we can start to look at the lack of inclusion, the poverty, the insecurity, the despair, the previous sexual violence that had been committed, and the root causes of crime, then we will have made a real difference.

I look forward to the government's approach on this very difficult and serious issue.

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November 24th, 2009 / 12:40 p.m.
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Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, in my career as a criminal lawyer, my most important client was always the one in front of me, whom I had to defend before the court. It is worth repeating: justice issues are very important. I do not mean to denigrate the work of other members, because I respect what they do, but this work is very important because it gives people their freedom. We must give this the attention it deserves.

As a parliamentarian and a lawyer, when someone forgets—I was going to use another word, but I will avoid it so as to avoid a point of order—deliberately or not, to hand over documents or to give us the information we need to make decisions, I take exception to that. In fact, I think I should take exception more often.

Bills C-52, C-42, C-36, C-31 and C-32 need to be studied immediately. Should they be studied quickly? No, we will take our time and give them the careful consideration they deserve, as we should and as we are expected to do. Then we will see.

For now, the issue that concerns me is Bill C-36. In my opinion, we must take time to give it the consideration it deserves. The Conservatives must stop forgetting to give us the documents needed to study this bill.

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November 24th, 2009 / 4:05 p.m.
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Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured and humbled to participate in the debate concerning Bill C-31, an important piece of substantive criminal legislation, with procedural paragraphs as well, that seeks to modernize the criminal procedure and make the justice system more efficient and effective.

Crime in Canada is constantly evolving. It is crucial that our criminal justice system evolves with it. The amendments proposed in Bill C-31 are the latest steps in our continuing commitment to tackling crime and ensuring the safety and security of our communities.

The bill contains some 40 amendments, developed in consultation with our provincial and territorial partners, and other stakeholders in the criminal justice system who have helped us identify processes in need of updating and issues that require attention to keep the criminal law modern and up to date with more and more sophisticated criminals.

Given the limited resources available in the criminal justice system, it has become abundantly clear that we need to find better and more efficient and effective ways to respond to crime, and make better use of those sometimes scarce resources.

I would like to take the opportunity to highlight some of the amendments that the government is proposing in Bill C-31.

First is with regard to agents. With respect to the use of agents, or non-lawyers, the bill would allow the provinces to further monitor the quality of representation by agents of defendants charged with summary conviction offences.

Currently, agents who are not lawyers may appear and may examine and even cross-examine witnesses on behalf of defendants charged with summary conviction offences that carry a maximum term of imprisonment of six months or less.

For summary offences carrying a maximum term of imprisonment of more than six months, agents may represent defendants only if they are authorized to do so in accordance with a provincially- or territorially-approved program.

Agents perform a valuable function, particularly, in northern and remote areas of Canada where native court workers acting as agents for defendants frequently provide assistance to defendants.

We must keep in mind, however, that serious consequences can arise even from a criminal conviction, and many criminal cases involve a significant degree of complexity.

In order to further promote adequate representation for defendants, who choose to be represented by non-lawyers, changes to the rules regarding agent representation would allow the provinces and the territories to set criteria and approve programs for the full panoply of summary conviction offences.

Amendments to the Criminal Code would allow jurisdictions to set criteria or approve programs which would serve as pre-conditions to representing defendants charged with summary offences that carry a maximum jail term of six months or less.

However, in jurisdictions where no programs have been approved and no criteria have been set for this category of offences, agents would still be authorized to represent defendants, as is the case currently.

The situation would also remain unchanged with respect to summary offences that carry a maximum jail term of more than six months. It would continue to be open to jurisdictions to approve programs or set criteria that serve as pre-conditions to representing defendants charged with these more serious offences. However, no agent would be authorized to represent defendants in jurisdictions where no programs have been approved or criteria have been set.

Finally, for any summary offence, it would always be open to agents to appear on behalf of defendants to request an adjournment in summary conviction proceedings.

Second, the bill deals with expert witness evidence.

Amendments in the area proposed in the bill are intended to improve the current regime to ensure that all parties have the opportunity to adequately respond to what is frequently becoming complex and highly technical evidence.

When expert evidence is to be presented at trial, the bill would create new remedies designed to encourage parties to comply with the regime's notice requirements, as well as better address situations of non-compliance.

Proposed new provisions also contain a list of factors which the court must consider in deciding whether to grant adjournments. Where the court refuses to grant an adjournment or reduce its duration, the proposed amendments would require the court to provide reasons. The bill, thus, would send a clear message as to the numerous considerations and significant challenges associated with properly responding to expert evidence.

Hybridization of an offence is the legislative process of converting a straight summary offence or a straight indictable offence into a hybrid offence. This process affords the Crown the flexibility to elect whether to prosecute an offence by way of summary conviction procedure or by indictment. Proceeding by summary conviction offers an expedited trial process and a lower penalty range, whereas prosecuting by indictment involves the possibility of holding a preliminary inquiry as well as a jury trial, and offers a higher penalty range.

The proposed amendments would allow the Crown to select the most appropriate procedure in light of all of the circumstances surrounding the case for six non-violent and specified offences, three of which are currently straight indictable offences and three are straight summary conviction offences.

Hybridization offers a means of ensuring that we make the best use of our courts' limited resources and that more elaborate proceedings involving preliminary inquiries and jury trials are reserved for only the most serious offences.

The hybridization of current straight indictable offences also benefits the accused as it allows the Crown, where appropriate, to proceed summarily in a more expeditious trial process and therefore a lower penalty range.

With respect to leaving the jurisdiction while under an order not to, individuals who flee a province in violation of a bail condition requiring them to remain in that jurisdiction creates special concerns for law enforcement and the entire criminal justice system. Their flight delays and in some cases defeats the course of justice.

The current response to this behaviour is the generic offence of failure to comply with conditions of release charges as enumerated under section 145(3) of the Criminal Code. However, this charge does not differentiate between these bail violations and other bail violations such as a simple breach of curfew.

In order to create a transparent criminal record and emphasize the aggravated nature of this type of bail violation, we propose to create a specific offence of failing to remain in the jurisdiction when ordered to do so.

The creation of this offence is but one part of the response required to the broader issue of enforcing so-called non-returnable warrants. It is not intended to solve the very real challenge of returning accused persons to face trial if they are arrested some distance from where an alleged offence occurred.

The challenge of distance is a practical one and is faced within large jurisdictions as well as within a single province. It comes down to the cost of moving people to where they need to be to stand trial for what they are accused of doing. This is an issue that must be addressed by the provinces under their responsibility for the administration of justice.

Our government is working with our provincial and territorial counterparts to develop practical solutions to address the broader issue of returning accused persons to the jurisdictions where a warrant has been issued against them.

In the meantime, the creation of this new offence is a step in the right direction. The proposal for the creation of this offence is the result of extensive discussions among federal, provincial and territorial officials led by British Columbia. The proposal was discussed and endorsed by the federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for justice and public safety at their meeting in September 2008.

The broader issue of non-returnable warrants is complex and a comprehensive solution will likely entail the allocation of significant resources and the development of best practices by provinces rather than further legislative amendments.

Federal, provincial and territorial officials are examining best practices to maximize the efficient use of available resources. Federal officials will continue to work with their provincial and territorial counterparts to identify long-term solutions to this very serious problem.

Currently, the telewarrant procedure is available only for certain warrants, authorizations or orders in respect of searches or seizures. Furthermore, the Criminal Code provides that telewarrants are only available where it would be impracticable for the police officer to appear personally before a justice or justice of the peace to make the application.

Given advances in technology and the trend over the past several years to introduce more technology into the justice system to allow, for example, remote appearances and the electronic filing of documents, expanding the number of warrants which can be obtained through the use of telecommunications simply makes good sense. It contributes to greater efficiency in the use of the criminal justice system's limited resources.

I would rather see police on the streets patrolling and working on investigations than travelling long distances to make an application in person for a warrant before a justice or a justice of the peace.

Included in the list of warrants we propose to make available through telewarrants are tracking warrants, number recorders, as well as production orders for documents and financial records.

In order to streamline the telewarrant process and to make it even more efficient, we are also proposing to remove the requirement that the officer demonstrate why appearing in person would be impracticable in situations where the telewarrant request produces a “writing”. The impracticable requirement will remain where the request is made orally by the police officer.

Next is access to telewarrants by public officers. Through this legislation we are proposing that provisions of the Criminal Code that authorize the obtaining of warrants by telecommunications be amended to include public officers in addition to peace officers. The police who are by definition also peace officers are solely responsible for the enforcement of the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. While they may also enforce other federal legislation, the primary responsibility for the enforcement of non-criminal offences is typically given to individuals who are not police officers but who are designated under individual statutes either as peace officers or sometimes as public officers.

While the powers that can be exercised by these officers are limited to the context of the legislation under which they are appointed, the powers themselves are typically derived from the Criminal Code. The most commonly used power in this context is the search warrant under section 487. Pursuant to this section a warrant may be obtained by either a peace officer or a public officer whose duties include the enforcement of any act of Parliament.

Even though both peace officers and public officers enforcing legislation other than the Criminal Code may obtain warrants pursuant to section 487, the ability to obtain such a warrant by means of telecommunications is limited only to peace officers. As a result, public officers frequently find themselves in a disadvantaged situation in which they require search warrants but are not able to appear before a justice in a timely manner to obtain one. Examples include officers from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in remote agricultural areas and officers appointed to enforce the Canada Labour Code conducting investigations in relation to health and safety issues on offshore oil platforms.

The ability of such officers to obtain warrants under section 487 is the same as their counterparts who are designated as peace officers and their need to obtain them by telecommunications in a timely manner is equally compelling.

The proposed amendment will not in any way expand the powers that may be exercised by public officers but rather will give them access to the same means for obtaining authorizations for the exercise of those existing powers as is available to other officers able to exercise those same powers. It is in the interest of all Canadians to facilitate the efficient and effective enforcement of our laws by the people that we empower to do so.

Next is the Identification of Criminals Act, fingerprinting, photographing and other measurements. Bill C-31, when passed, would provide an amendment to allow the taking of fingerprints and to conduct other identification processes with respect to a person arrested for a serious offence as specified in the Identification of Criminals Act where that person is subsequently kept in lawful detention. Currently, the act provides that these powers may be exercised where the person is in lawful custody and is charged with or convicted of an indictable offence listed in the act.

A number of conditions must be met for the proposed amendment to come into play. First, the arrest, as any other, must be based on reasonable grounds to believe that the person committed or is about to commit an indictable offence. Second, the police officer must believe, on reasonable grounds, that it is necessary and in the public interest that the person be detained in custody until brought to appear before a justice. Only in these limited circumstances will police be permitted to proceed with the identification process without having to wait for the formal laying of the charge. In most situations the proposed amendments will only affect the point in time where the identification processes are performed.

If the person is ultimately not charged with an offence, or charges are withdrawn or as a result of an acquittal, police services will usually destroy fingerprints and photographs at the person's request. It is important to note that the courts have stated that it is not unreasonable for the police to retain prints where no request is made for their destruction or return.

The proposed changes to the Identification of Criminals Act will result in streamlining the identification process and avoid having to detain the person for an extended period of time while waiting for the actual charge to be laid before proceeding with the much need identification processes.

Now to corruption of foreign public officials and bribery. Finally, in support of Canada's international obligations, the bill contains amendments to the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act, the Criminal Code and the Canada Evidence Act.

One of the amendments would give nationality jurisdictions to Canada for offences of foreign bribery. Most of the time, these offences are committed in a foreign country. Currently, Canada exercises territorial jurisdiction. This allows Canada to prosecute an offence committed in a foreign country when there is a “real and substantial link” between the offence committed in the foreign country and the country of Canada.

Nationality jurisdiction would allow Canada to prosecute offences of foreign bribery committed outside Canada by Canadians, permanent residents of Canada and Canadian corporations without having to provide evidence of a link between Canada and the offence. This would facilitate prosecutions of foreign bribery cases.

In addition, we propose to add the word “selected” to the definition of the word “official” in section 118 of the Criminal Code, which applies to corruption provisions. Currently, this regime applies only to persons appointed or elected.

The Federal Accountability Act provides that the appointed process for some members of the public service include consultations with Parliament. Under this process, the name of a person “selected” for an office is made public before the person is actually appointed but the person is not an official under the current definition and, therefore, not subject to the bribery provisions until the legal appointment.

In addition, the Organization of American States, or the OAS, and the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption, which Canada ratified in 2001, requires the criminalization of bribery to officials “who have been selected, appointed or elected”. The proposed amendments would correct this gap in the current law.

The bill contains many other amendments, such as those that would update the outdated prizefighting and parimutuel betting as recommended through consultations with our federal, provincial and territorial stakeholders, and other levels of government.

I trust that all members will give this bill the support that it requires. The amendments would contribute to the significant improvements in the efficiency and effectiveness of the criminal justice system that all Canadians are asking for. Criminals are evolving and becoming more complicated and sophisticated and the law must evolve to keep up.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 24th, 2009 / 4:25 p.m.
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Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not wish to repeat what the committee member just said, but I have the same question as the member for Moncton. I think that the member who just answered has never practised criminal law. In Canada, criminal law is based on the presumption of innocence. I will come back to that idea shortly.

We asked the minister this question. Furthermore it is one of the reasons we are so reluctant to support Bill C-31. I will come back to that during my remarks.

I would like to know why they want to make something a law when it is already working. The presumption of innocence exists, and one is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt. We also need to know how long an individual's anthropometric records will be kept on file.

Why do they want to make this a law? Have police services asked for this? Did someone, somewhere, ask for fingerprinting?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 24th, 2009 / 4:30 p.m.
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Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-31 is a very interesting bill.

I am pleased to be here today to say a few words about the challenges related to justice.

As hon. members know, I am a member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. It was a great pleasure for me to join that committee following my first election in 2006.

In the riding of Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, many concerns have been expressed about the victims of crime. Sometimes the law works, but other times, it does not.

It is in the interest of the entire country and the general public that I want to say a few words about Bill C-31.

I speak to people in general about this bill and about the system of justice in general, because it does not matter what riding one is from, people have concerns. Whether it is about victims of crime, whether it is about crime rates, or whether it is about the safety of their community in general, they look to the justice system for explanations.

I have been here since January 2006. I have never known government; I have never known what it is like to be on the government side. I have never been in the government lobby to even know what it looks like. The promised land, I have not seen.

I do know, however, what the new Conservative government in 2006 did with respect to justice issues and it did not lessen the anxiety. As a team, the Conservative justice group did not lessen the anxiety of the general public In Canada. It did not make Canadians feel safer. In fact what it did, which really has not stopped, with a series of nightly television station visits, it has put the public into a state of anxiety beyond anything that ever existed before.

I know this is not a controversial bill. I am saying that with respect to a fairly non-controversial bill, nine-tenths of which I think I could support. Imagine what I would say with some of the legislation that was clearly designed for the five o'clock drive-by photo op and had very little to do with fundamental change to our criminal law that would give everybody in the House and the people they represent a higher sense of security.

There is one truth in all of these justice issues that is so self-evident it needs not be said. Every member in this House wants his or her community and all Canadians to feel safe. Every member of this House wants an increase in the perception and reality of public safety.

Mr. Speaker, what would you do if you were in charge of the criminal laws of Canada? Most people would expect that you would listen to law enforcement. Most people would expect that you would talk to the attorneys general and premiers of the provinces and territories. Of course you would talk to the people and you would talk to committees and all that sort of thing.

Police forces across the country have been asking for various things, but at the top of their list, they have been asking for more police officers. It really has not been delivered by the government.

Attorneys general across this country have been asking for modernization of the Criminal Code in general, and specifically with the tools of investigation for crimes across the country.

The aspect of Bill C-31 which is wonderful is the modernization of the telewarrant aspect. It is a great thing, but if I look at the big clock of years, I have been here three years and ten months, and it was evident three years and ten months ago that attorneys general were asking for that modernization, and here we are almost four years later.

According to the words in the government's lead-off speech, the member for Edmonton—St. Albert mentioned that the government is enacting recommendations in part from a conference of territorial and provincial attorneys general with the Minister of Justice of Canada in 2008. We are still moving very slowly on what are very important amendments to the Criminal Code.

I remember very well just this spring that Wally Oppal, the attorney general of British Columbia, made the plea for much more modernization of the Criminal Code to give those in law enforcement the tools they need.

I opened my debate on this bill by saying that much of this we can support. Much of it has been much needed. Why did it not come sooner? People in Canada are wondering why.

The government prefers to go to an evening television station to talk about a law that it may introduce instead of getting to the boardrooms of the attorneys general across this country and putting into effect simple modernization of the criminal law. Why not sooner for the modernization of telewarrants?

As I say, there are some very good points in this bill and there are a great deal of items that are housekeeping in nature.

I am going to give a brief overview of some of the highlights of the bill. I am also going to spend some of my time floating some very serious questions about the aspects of fingerprinting and about the aspects of the enforcement of warrants in extraterritorial jurisdictions.

I am also going to highlight some new areas in which people not so much in law enforcement but in the tourist industry and in the municipalities across the country are looking for modernization. Those are the definition of prize fighting and parimutuels.

I was the mayor of a city. I know how important it is on the one hand to secure a community, keep it safe, keep the feeling of safety with respect to police and the laws, but also with respect to tourists and civic activity issues.

It is interesting to see that this bill has a number of items that can be seen as housekeeping, that can be seen as good for the economy, that can be seen as modernizing language. Then, almost as is done in the United States, there is a multi-clause bill and hidden in it is a big truck.

The truck is the issue of fingerprinting anyone who has been arrested and disguising it as somehow being a convenience to the person who has been arrested. Never mind being a good citizen, the person will be fingerprinted and photographed. Those records will stay in the database forever. This is a means of making sure that the good citizen is not inconvenienced in the evening. The good citizen may go home and enjoy the rest of his or her life being part of a public record. Obviously, I am talking about the fingerprinting aspect of the bill.

It seems passing strange to me because we have just had a fairly rigorous preliminary debate with respect to the elimination of the long gun registry.

Many of the people in my riding who were not fans of registering guns I do not think would be fans of having an extension of the government's arm into aspects of fingerprinting and photographing people who have been arrested for an offence and subsequently acquitted, let go or not charged.

It would seem to me that the same people that many of the Conservatives on the other side call ordinary good folk in general would believe in is the concept that one is innocent until proven guilty, that big brother should not in an Orwellian sense keep records forever of people who have never been charged with anything. That strikes me as something that Conservatives cannot believe in.

We are going to test it at committee. We are going to see what exact allegations, crimes or the actual offences are that would allow the police to do this. This is what committees are for. Contrary to some of the discussion in Parliament today about the justice committee, the justice committee works very well. I think the committee will dig into this. Perhaps we will schedule some offences. Maybe we will say that it is important to do this in terms of someone who might be a flight risk, someone who might escape the confines of the country. Maybe that is a good idea, I do not know.

However, I have seen nothing in the legislative summary, the bill itself and I was certainly not reassured by the words of the member for Edmonton—St. Albert that it will not apply to every offence, that in every case where someone is arrested and before the person is charged there will be a photograph and a set of fingerprints taken of the person.

It strikes me that if there is not an explanation as to the seriousness of those types of offences or the extenuating circumstances, then this is something that we as a party cannot support.

There may be an argument given by the government on this and we are yet to hear from it on this in full, that we should move to a system that every citizen in Canada, every visitor to Canada, every person here on a visa should submit records of their fingerprints and a photograph for the easy identification by government officials of who they are, where they have been and what they are doing. I cannot see this as something that Conservative members would really jump up and embrace. I would like to see them go home to their constituencies and say that the government is going to start fingerprinting and photographing everyone just so the government knows where everyone is. I cannot see it, but we will see in committee.

I wonder why in this large canvass of Bill C-31 it has been decided to insert this Trojan horse of fingerprints for all. Perhaps “fingerprints are us” could be the justice department's new motto, its internal slogan.

On fingerprinting we certainly have had some objections already. It is not just me who would suggest that there is some concern.

There are concerns. Clayton Ruby, a member of the Ontario Bar Association and someone who is well known in Toronto, said in an article, and I quote:

Providing fingerprints is self-incrimination and the Constitution protects us from this. The line that is drawn is when you are charged. And to allow police to compel you to incriminate yourself before that moment is open to abuse.

On a website, as reported recently in The Province newspaper, it was said:

The proposed amendment requires anyone who has their fingerprints and pictures taken to apply to have them destroyed. It does not require the police to comply with the request, nor do they have to explain why they have declined.

So, once you're on record, it's basically permanent. Those who fall back on the pathetic excuse of, “well, the cops wouldn't have arrested you if you didn't do something wrong,” wake up.

That is not an esteemed member of the bar, but it is a person out there who has seized the sense in perhaps slowing down the process of the Conservative aim to have us all fingerprinted and photographed.

There is another element to a person having his or her fingerprints and photograph taken upon arrest. There is the aspect of retention. My friend from Edmonton—St. Albert again, when the question was put to him directly, could not give us a comforting answer that those records would be released or expunged in the event that there were no charges. What he did was cite courts of appeal cases that said courts are allowed by law to keep those records. They have no obligation to give them back. It is really not a question of once they have them; the question is, why did they get them in the first place? We have to give this a very thorough examination at committee.

Enough on fingerprints. There is one other disturbing element that I will raise now, but as I say, I am generally in favour of the legislation. This element has to do with the aspect of people under warrant for arrest who have been accused of a crime. They are charged in New Brunswick and they are under warrant for arrest in New Brunswick for not having attended at a court date in New Brunswick. Let us say they go to British Columbia. Perhaps economic reasons propel them to go there. Perhaps they are under some mistaken belief; maybe they had a lawyer who did not inform them properly, but they are under a warrant. They show up in British Columbia. This new piece of legislation will not only ensure that people in large urban centres will be sent back to face what they are accused of in their home province, which is all fair and just, but it will ensure that they will have a penalty on top of that.

I understand and sympathize with, for instance, Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu who has said that the main effect this would have is a disincentive for people to leave. That may be the case.

I am looking at the committee to examine the incidences of this happening. In Vancouver alone, statistics suggest, for instance, that 53 people have been arrested in Vancouver and 35 were sent back to their provinces since the Vancouver Police Department instituted a program dubbed as Con Air. This allows the Vancouver Police Department to gather up people under warrant, and ensure that those warrants will be enforced by sending them back to the provinces in question.

The unintended consequence of this in a time of budgetary recession is that Vancouver, Calgary and other places might incur fairly extensive expenses by making people return to the jurisdictions from which they came or in which they were charged. There has been no discussion on this bill or at any intergovernmental level of who would pay the costs of that.

There is a reason I have some preliminary worry about this. I mentioned the example of the fairly innocent person who is probably facing a larger offence by ignoring the warrant than the actual offence from which it came. I am concerned by comments particularly from the Conservative side throughout my time in being interested in politics that go toward not having respect for people who come from other parts of Canada. I do not need to talk about the former mayor of Calgary. I do not need to talk about comments from the Prime Minister with respect to a culture of defeat. I am a very proud maritimer, an Atlantic Canadian. It is very insensitive for any politician to say anything disrespectful about people from other parts of this country. When leaders say those things, it is very disheartening and it does not make the country meld together the way it should.

This aspect of the extraterritorial warrant has to be handled at committee with respect and with good back-up evidence as to why this should be done. The efficacy of it has to be certainly examined. With that caveat, we will look at that aspect very thoroughly.

Some of the modernizations I spoke of earlier go to what may not seem like a justice issue, but to the updating of definitions with respect to prize fights. It may be interesting only to a lawyer that the definition of prize fight comes just before the sections on terrorism in the Criminal Code. In any event, people may not know that prize fights, as defined by the Criminal Code, are not permitted in the provinces unless they are part of an exception.

Last night in Moncton, New Brunswick, over 12,000 people attended our new outdoor stadium to receive the Olympic flame. It was a wonderful event. Moncton is the Indianapolis of Canada in promoting sports activities. We have a fourplex arena, the largest and the best east of Montreal, and a coliseum that houses our Moncton Wildcats. It is known as a sports venue place.

The competition that brings Canadians together is evident in the House when members of the Quebec Junior Hockey League, coming from outside Quebec, can beat teams from Quebec City proper. That is a wonderful thing about Canada, that the Moncton Wildcats can beat teams that come from other parts of Canada, including Quebec, in the Quebec Major Junior League.

The definition with respect to prize fight must be modernized to understand that we do not live in the Marquess of Queensberry rules. I am looking at some members now who probably know all about altercations, but we are talking about serious altercations involving the hand and the foot. Often politicians use the foot but in a different way.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 24th, 2009 / 4:50 p.m.
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Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I look forward to debate at committee if in fact the bill does get to justice committee. Maybe a separate committee will be established to look at this because many different issues are addressed in the bill.

I appreciated the member's general support of the intent of the legislation. I believe the process at committee will be helpful in discerning whether some of the fingerprinting initiatives that we hope to move forward are what Canada needs.

My question for my colleague is on the last point he raised, and that has to do with looking at the whole issue of prize fighting. The provisions in the Criminal Code are hopelessly out of date and he has as much as admitted that.

Has he had a meeting with representatives of the UFC, which represents the new type of martial arts fighting? Has he had a chance to look at its proposals for legislative reform, which it hopes the committee will look at when we deal with Bill C-31? Does he approve of the proposals that the UFC has brought forward in terms of revising the definition of prize fighting?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 24th, 2009 / 5 p.m.
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Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, in brief, no. When I arrived here in 2006, we used to insist on departmental briefings. Some bills are pretty short. This is a pretty large bill. I can only take my friend the chair across the way as speaking a bit for the government, suggesting there might be a legislative committee, which is a bit like putting the cart before the horse.

We should have had a briefing. I hope we will before we get to this. Bill C-31 is not on our work plan before Christmas. The hon. member's usual sage advice will be taken into consideration when we meet.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 24th, 2009 / 5 p.m.
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Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise here to speak to a bill for the second time today, but first of all, I must say I will probably be less critical of Bill C-31 than I was, and I will continue to be, of Bill C-36, if that bill ever comes back to the House. That being said, this is an interesting bill, and the Bloc Québécois will support it so it can be referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for a more thorough study.

I hear some Conservative Party members applauding. I invite them to save their applause for five or ten minutes from now. I am not sure if they will still want to applaud, but for now, I cannot help but notice their applause, and I think it is interesting.

I do not know why, but the Conservatives tend to insert what we call a poison pill into an interesting bill. We were reading the bill, which has about 30 pages and 40 clauses, and everything was going well until we got to clause 39, which would amend the Identification of Criminals Act. I will come back to this. Our criminal law includes a very important principle, which the Supreme Court has reiterated on a number of occasions, and that is the presumption of innocence. A person is presumed innocent until found guilty by a jury or a judge who knows the law, on the basis of evidence introduced before his peers. The Supreme Court has said this time and time again. I would remind the members that we do not believe that subsection 2(1) of the Identification of Criminals Act can be amended, because that would go against the presumption of innocence.

I will take this argument further. The main downside to this bill is one small paragraph on the last page of the bill that seeks to amend paragraph 2(1)(a) and that reads as follows:

(a) any person who is in lawful custody after being arrested for...

That means that this paragraph would apply to everyone who is arrested for any reason. People could be fingerprinted and photographed from now on. It is clear that, if the government maintains its position and insists on amending this section, we will fight to the finish to vote against this bill and against this clause, and it is clear that we will try to have this clause removed from the bill in committee. We hope to do so with the support of the Liberals and my NDP colleague.

Why remove this clause? Because it would open the door to all sorts of abuses. My colleague from Edmonton—St. Albert can say what he likes, but you have to know the territory, as we say, you have to have argued cases and know criminal records to know that the police have a tendency to go overboard. Often, they are willing to keep a record on anyone for anything. Obviously, this is not always true, and it is not true of all police officers. But there are safeguards in place, and one of them says that a person cannot be fingerprinted until he or she is charged with or convicted of an offence. That means that at present, an individual who is convicted or who is charged—because the person has to be charged—can be photographed and fingerprinted.

In general, this is how it works. A person receives a summons requiring them to appear in court. They must plead guilty or not guilty and then they may be fingerprinted and photographed.

This process must not change and we will do everything in our power to ensure that it does not change because it is the fundamental right of an individual to be presumed innocent until found guilty. This presumption of innocence is extremely important in our criminal law.

It is unfortunate because it overshadows good intentions. I come from an area 600 km north of Ottawa that is regularly visited by the itinerant court. I also argued before this court when I was a lawyer. The itinerant court travels to Inuit and Cree villages on the shores of James Bay, Hudson Bay and Ungava Bay as well as in regions such as ours.

I will return to the main point of Bill C-31: telewarrants. We believe that the process must be modernized. Police forces are quite right to ask that telewarrants be easier to obtain and that they be made available more quickly.

For the benefit of our audience, telewarrants are search warrants or other types of warrants. The first example that comes to mind is this. Someone is stopped after a motor vehicle accident. The police approach the vehicle and smell alcohol. The person is in his car and unable to give his consent because he is unconscious or too drunk. In any event, he must be taken to hospital. The police accompany him to hospital and obtain a telewarrant over the phone. A justice of the peace, located in an office somewhere in Quebec, will authorize the taking of a blood sample from the individual to determine his blood alcohol level. We agree with the legislator that this telewarrant process should be retained and made more accessible.

The police are right. At present, in 2009, if they suspect that a criminal act has been or is about to be committed, and if they must quickly obtain a search warrant, they have to go before a judge, have him sign a document and then proceed with the search.

We think that the bill is a good idea, because it would modernize the Criminal Code. Even though I am a criminal lawyer, I think that we need to make it easier for police officers to do their jobs and gather evidence. One way of doing this is through telewarrants.

We feel that improving access to telewarrants is a good thing. Police officers must have the possibility of obtaining telewarrants, whether or not they are written or used.

This bill deals with many other things, such as fleeing to another province, and the amendment in response to the Supreme Court ruling in R. v. Six Accused Persons, which amends section 184 of the Criminal Code. There were a number of amendments to be made to the Criminal Code.

There are many details. This bill is long and very technical, but it is interesting. However, there are two main points I want to talk about. The first is representation by an agent, or non-lawyer.

I have a hard time accepting that an agent could represent a client in court, when the client is being charged with a summary offence. The Bloc Québécois has a hard time agreeing with this proposal for a number of reasons.

Representation by a lawyer is extremely important, especially in criminal law. When it comes to appearing, we could probably make some concessions. But I have some serious problems with having an agent question and cross-examine witnesses for and on behalf of the defendant.

I have the same concerns as the Quebec bar, which has provided us with information on this subject, saying:

The Barreau du Québec is concerned that this proposal, as written, causes confusion about the meaning of “agent”, and could lead to lawsuits against individuals for illegally practising the profession.

I am also very worried about this proposal. In Quebec, lots of people have acted as lawyers and have represented individuals, such as claimants before Quebec's occupational health and safety commission. The same thing has happened at the Canada Employment Insurance Commission. People with no legal skills whatsoever have represented others before the board of referees because, they said, they were friends of the claimants. If that same system were to apply to the Criminal Code, we would start having serious problems.

I am very surprised that the government would propose such a thing at the provinces' request. I can confirm that the Quebec bar does not support this proposal. I would be very surprised to hear that the Government of Quebec requested this kind of third-party representation. I believe that the committee will have to pay special attention to the issue of representation by lawyers when it comes time to study this bill.

The other point I want to raise has to do with the amendment to section 2 of the Identification of Criminals Act. I want to discuss this because I think it is important not to create this option. Above all, we must not give the police unrestricted power to take a person's fingerprints and photograph, because there is no telling where that information might end up. Such records, known in our jargon as anthropometric records, could make their way to the Canadian border, to customs, or elsewhere.

If that happened, an individual who has never been charged with anything might be prevented from leaving Canada. The police might go so far as to arrest people for dangerous driving or a highway safety code violation, and tell them to go to the police station for fingerprinting and photographing. The police might even have photographic and fingerprinting equipment with them at the scene of the arrest. I think this goes very, very far. We have to create a process for destroying the fingerprints and photos of people who are not charged with anything and will never be charged, people against whom no complaint or charge will be filed.

At present, not only do we have an individual's fingerprints and photograph—the anthropometric record also included that information—but we know that genetic records can be kept on people who have given a drop of blood, saliva or a single hair for the purposes of DNA identification. We must not forget that.

However, section 10 of the DNA Identification Act contains a provision for the destruction of genetic material.

We think this clause needs to be amended to include the destruction of photos and anthropometric records if no charges are laid within a given timeframe.

One needs to have practised criminal law to understand that it is very rare for clients to come back to us when no charges are laid to ask that their fingerprints and photos be destroyed, even when they have been lawfully taken.

When someone is acquitted of the charges laid against him, his fingerprints and photos should be destroyed automatically, but that is not the case at this time. That is not what happens. Needless to say, this certainly is not more likely to happen if we allow the Identification of Criminals Act to be amended.

We believe that the title of the legislation says it all. It is called the Identification of Criminals Act. So why should someone who has not yet been declared a criminal be forced to submit his photos and fingerprints? In our opinion, this makes no sense, and we find this extremely prejudicial for someone who is arrested.

We think this bill is important. It is an interesting bill and I will close by talking about fighting. I listened to my colleague from Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe and also to my colleague from Windsor. They asked a very important question. There is prizefighting and now throughout the United States there is this type of extreme fighting where violence is involved, of course, but also bets and so forth.

However, we have to be careful because there is very well organized fighting. We know about boxing, but in terms of the Olympic movement, judo and karate have now been introduced. These are extremely interesting sports that are gaining in popularity in Canada.

Judo and karate events are organized under the supervision of national and international agencies. International agencies including the International Olympic Committee, the International Judo Federation, and the World Karate Federation have asked us to ensure that the Criminal Code is amended. I will give an example related to this type of fighting. Canada cannot host the world cup of karate or judo because under the Criminal Code, such fighting is illegal.

We think it is important that this be amended in the Criminal Code. That is what a number of provinces and Quebec are asking for. Judo-Québec, the Fédération québécoise de karaté, the National Karate Association of Canada and Judo Canada, following representations by the International Olympic Committee, which would like to hold major competitions in these two sports, cannot take part.

I see that my time is almost up, but I will close by saying that this is an interesting bill that we will have to address in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. There are two points, and I have mentioned them, but I think it is important that we respond to the requests and modernize the Criminal Code

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 24th, 2009 / 5:25 p.m.
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Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member does good work on the justice committee and, more often than not, we disagree on the bills that are before us, but he is a hard-working member of the committee and he did raise the issue of prizefighting and the fact that Bill C-31 would modernize how we deal with prizefighting in Canada.

As members know, that portion of the Criminal Code has not been revised for decades. The member knows that from his own province of Quebec heralds a world champion of mixed martial arts, Georges St-Pierre. The member also referred to the fact that the Olympics include judo and karate. He forgot wrestling but that is also one of the elements of mixed martial arts.

The member was not able to clearly state whether he supported changes that would allow mixed martial arts to take place in Canada, so I would ask him if he could clarify that and take a position on it here in the House.

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November 24th, 2009 / 5:30 p.m.
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Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, we should tell my colleagues that they cannot ask any questions, because I will not finish my speech before time runs out, not that I could not handle any of their tough questions, of course.

I rise on Bill C-31. There is general agreement among all political parties that the provisions of this bill are long past being needed. A number of the amendments will bring us into the 21st century with regard to processes that our police forces are required to go through in laying or prosecuting charges. There is general support for this bill. We will be supporting it at second reading. It will go to the justice committee along with lots of other bills and we will get to it eventually.

I want to say this, because I always attack the government on this. In the four years that the government has been in place, this is realistically the first bill that has been prepared in a proper way to deal with the problems we have with the Criminal Code. By that, I mean that it is the first bill of any consequence that one could call an omnibus criminal law bill. There have been a couple of other ones that have involved two or three sections of the Criminal Code, but this is the first one that is an omnibus bill.

I am emphasizing this point because if the government had done this in a number of other cases and had brought a whole bunch of individual bills together into one, we could have expedited a number of the amendments that we have in fact passed, oftentimes with all-party support over the last four years, and we would probably be at least a couple of years ahead of where we are right now.

I want to praise the government for finally listening to me in this regard. I want to encourage it to follow my advice more extensively in the future so that we will have other bills, because there are a number of other provisions in the Criminal Code that need amending and, in particular, modernizing so that our police officers, prosecutors and judges can use the Criminal Code more effectively than they can now. There are all sorts of conflicts in the Criminal Code as it stands right now, as well as those sections of the Criminal Code that are just clearly out of date. I urge the government to take my advice more regularly as it has taken it on this particular bill.

With regard to the contents of the bill, members from both the Liberals and the Bloc and I have serious concerns about the provisions that deal with the issue of the taking of fingerprints before a person is charged. The taking of fingerprints and this point of not being allowed to take fingerprints unless our police are going to charge an accused person goes way back. It has been in the Criminal Code for more than half a century, since shortly after we had the technology of fingerprinting. It goes way back into the last century.

Again, as we heard from my colleague from the Bloc, the need to have a charge laid before fingerprints are taken is in keeping with that significant presumption of innocence that underlies a great deal of our criminal justice system. This is really cutting away at that principle of presumption of innocence. I in no way want to cast aspersions on our police forces, but we know from time to time that we have individual police officers in particular who abuse their authority and power.

Unfortunately, if this amendment were to go through, it would allow for the potential for abuse of that kind by a police officer. It is wide open to being used as a fishing expedition. Our courts in the past have said quite clearly that it is offensive to practice within our criminal justice system and, more specifically, to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

I have great concerns as to whether the clause as presented to the House in this regard would survive a charter challenge. I do not think it would. I believe it is clearly a breach of the charter and the only way that could be overcome is, under article 1, by demonstrating that it is necessary in a free and just society to infringe those fundamental rights in the charter.

Again, as I said in one of my questions earlier, I have spoken with police officers and chiefs of police, and the only explanation I have had is that this is convenient for them. Quite frankly, even when I explore that, I do not understand the explanations I get as to how it is convenient and how it is going to make their jobs easier. I do not see how they are going to meet the charter test, but, of course, that will be explored much more extensively when this bill goes to committee.

We have heard a fair amount today as well that one of the highlights of the bill involves the amendments to the prizefighting section of the code, section 83, and that this bill will modernize that. There are some concerns about it. Having listened to members of the other parties, I would say it sounds as though we have all been lobbied on this issue, but I know that the province of Ontario has some serious reservations about expanding the definition. I am not sure they are justified, I have to say, because I have looked at the section, but it is something that we will need to explore.

What has not been raised here is the parimutuel amendments, the betting amendments in the code. I will address those more extensively and perhaps go back to the prizefighting issue as well either tomorrow or the next day when this bill comes before the House again.