Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Shoker Act

An Act to amend the Criminal Code

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.

Sponsor

Rob Nicholson  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

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

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to allow a court to require that an offender or defendant provide a sample of a bodily substance on the demand of peace officers, probation officers, supervisors or designated persons, or at regular intervals, in order to enforce compliance with a prohibition on consuming drugs or alcohol imposed in a probation order, a conditional sentence order or a recognizance under section 810, 810.01, 810.1 or 810.2 of that Act.

Elsewhere

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.

June 10th, 2014 / 11:10 a.m.
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Senior General Counsel and Director General, Legal Services, Policy and Research, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

Patricia Kosseim

We are pleased to see that the provision that would have allowed warrantless access to personal information, and especially to subscriber data, has been removed and is no longer on the table. That is clearly an improvement.

However, we did have reservations over some provisions of Bill C-30 that are also part of Bill C-13. I think the commissioner has done a good job of presenting our concerns.

June 10th, 2014 / 11:10 a.m.
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NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Excellent, thanks.

You, at the office of the commissioner, probably analyzed Bill C-30 at the time. How does Bill C-30 compare to Bill C-13?

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

February 25th, 2013 / 5:30 p.m.
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NDP

Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe NDP Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to take part in the debate on Bill C-55, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, also known as the Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse Act.

Before I speak in more detail to Bill C-55, I would like to provide some background on the reasons for this bill.

In its ruling in R. v. Tse, the Supreme Court stated that section 184.4 of the Criminal Code, entitled “Interception in exceptional circumstances”, which was enacted in 1993, was unconstitutional because it did not include any accountability measures. The court gave Parliament until April 13, 2013, to amend the provision and make it constitutional.

Parliament has until April 13, 2013. That leaves 19 days until the deadline imposed by the Supreme Court of Canada, 19 days during which Parliament will sit and can work on this bill. I will come back to that point, but it is important in terms of the context of this debate.

What is section 184.4 of the Criminal Code? What exactly does it cover? What is the problem? Here is what the section states:

A peace officer may intercept, by means of any electro-magnetic, acoustic, mechanical or other device, a private communication where

(a) the peace officer believes on reasonable grounds that the urgency of the situation is such that an authorization could not, with reasonable diligence, be obtained under any other provision of this Part;

(b) the peace officer believes on reasonable grounds that such an interception is immediately necessary to prevent an unlawful act that would cause serious harm to any person or to property; [and here we are talking about serious harm, and I will come back to that]

(c) either the originator of the private communication or the person intended by the originator to receive it is the person who would perform the act that is likely to cause the harm or is the victim, or intended victim, of the harm.

In other words, section 184.4 of the Criminal Code allows a peace officer to intercept certain private communications without prior judicial authorization if the officer believes on reasonable grounds that the interception is immediately necessary to prevent an unlawful act that would cause serious harm, and provided that judicial authorization could not be obtained with reasonable diligence.

We are dealing with something that is pertinent, and we believe it is important. If a peace officer has—first—serious reasons for believing that—second—serious harm may occur and that waiting for authorization to intercept conversations could prevent the officer from intervening in time to prevent the harm, then we are dealing with something very important.

We agree that some peace officers must have this latitude in certain circumstances. However, Bill C-55 must strike a balance between, on the one hand, allowing peace officers to do their very important job, which is to protect society and the community, and, on the other hand, guaranteeing the right to privacy and not to be wiretapped without prior knowledge, or without knowing the reason. We doubt the bill can do so because no one can say whether or not a peace officer has reasonable cause for intercepting a communication.

That is the dilemma. How far can peace officers go in doing their job while protecting the individual's right to privacy?

The Conservatives' first response to this dilemma was Bill C-30. We have heard all about it because it caused an outcry from the public, the media, corporations, entrepreneurs and a number of public safety organizations. In short, there was a huge protest against the Conservatives' Bill C-30. They were forced to drop it because evidently it was very troubling and there was cause to be troubled.

The problem persisted. Section 184.4 violated a section of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This issue definitely needed to be addressed and a solution needed to be found.

I am going back a bit. Section 184.4 threatens the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms because it does not provide for a monitoring mechanism and particularly because it does not require that notice be given to individuals whose private communications have been intercepted. Such a violation cannot be validated by the application of section 1 of the charter.

This is similar to what I was saying earlier: we are looking for that balance. Here, a section of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is dear to the hearts of all Canadians, is being violated by a provision of the Criminal Code, and that cannot be allowed to continue.

That is how we have come to be debating Bill C-55. An excerpt of the bill reads as follows:

(a) requires the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the Attorney General of each province to report on the interceptions of private communications made under section 184.4...

We have here a sort of regulation requiring reporting on any interceptions. The bill goes on to say:

(b) provides that a person who has been the object of such an interception must be notified of the interception within a specified period...

The individual does not necessarily have to be notified the following day or the following week. This bill would once again regulate this potential surveillance by stating that it must be declared and that individuals under surveillance must be notified within a specified period.

(c) narrows the class of individuals who can make such an interception;

This is also important. We must clearly define who may conduct such surveillance.

Lastly:

(d) limits those interceptions to offences listed in section 183 of the Criminal Code.

This is another measure that regulates interceptions.

I will support Bill C-55 at second reading, for all the reasons I have mentioned, so that it can be examined in committee.

There is a problem. The Supreme Court of Canada has given Parliament a deadline to correct things. So let us get to it and carefully examine Bill C-55.

Earlier I spoke about Bill C-30, which became a scandal across Canada. I would like to say that Bill C-55 is nothing like Bill C-30. What we have before us is different, and that is encouraging.

This bill gives us, as parliamentarians, a better foundation to work with so we can fix the part of the Criminal Code that the Supreme Court of Canada has asked us to fix.

However, investigations must absolutely include oversight mechanisms and accountability measures. That is what the court said. I agree, as does my party, the NDP. We must ensure that Bill C-55 respects the rule of law, the Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

That is why we think it is necessary to carefully examine this bill in committee. We must ensure that Bill C-55 is not another Bill C-30 and that all of the provisions are addressed properly.

Earlier, the minister told us not to worry, that Bill C-55 respects the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Constitution. But he did not tell us how he verified that. I hope that he did not take the same measures he took for Bill C-30. We can take little comfort if he did.

Who was consulted? What measures were taken to ensure that Bill C-55 respects the Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

That is important, and not just hypothetically speaking. It is important because this would not be the first time the Conservatives have introduced a bill without listening to the experts and without following democratic processes and procedures. Such bills must then be dismantled, shelved, debated, reworked and re-introduced. It is a waste of time for parliamentarians and it is an inefficient way to work. The Conservatives introduce flawed bills that anger the people and sometimes scare them as well.

We need to examine Bill C-55 seriously and ensure that the work is done well, in the interest of all Canadians.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

February 25th, 2013 / 4 p.m.
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NDP

Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, in contrast with Bill C-30, this bill clearly took out the term “peace officer” and replaced it with “police officer” and “other person”.

However, it is not clear who the “other person” is that has the right to use wiretaps. Is it military, immigration, customs or Coast Guard personnel? “Other person” is not defined.

Does my colleague feel it would be appropriate for a parliamentary committee to clearly define who the “other person” is that has the right to use wiretaps under the law?

Business of the HouseOral Questions

March 24th, 2011 / 3:05 p.m.
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Conservative

John Baird Conservative Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

When members are called smug, they all cheer and applaud.

As for the business of the House, I believe the minister responsible for the Status of Women has a motion that she would like to move after I have concluded my response to the Thursday question. Following that, without anticipating the outcome of any vote of the House, there seems to be an appetite to allow members who will not be running in the next election to have two minutes each to make statements. Following these statements, we will continue with day one of the budget debate.

Tomorrow we will consider the last allotted day in this supply period. I do not know why the opposition coalition is talking about ending this very productive Parliament to force an unwanted and unnecessary election. Recent weeks have led me to conclude that this is the most dysfunctional Parliament in Canadian history.

Yesterday our Conservative government achieved royal assent for the following bills: Bill S-6 to eliminate the faint hope clause; Bill C-14 to provide hard-working Canadians some fairness at the gas pumps; Bill C-21 to crack down on white collar crime; Bill C-22 to crack down on those who would exploit our children through the Internet; Bill C-30, R. v. Shoker; Bill C-35 to crack down on crooked immigration consultants; Bill C-42 to provide aviation security; Bill C-48 to eliminate sentencing discounts for multiple murderers; Bill C-59 to get rid of early parole for white collar fraudsters, a bill the Liberal government opposed but the Bloc supported; Bill C-61, the freezing of assets of corrupt regimes; and Bill S-5, safe vehicles from Mexico. What a legacy for the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.

The work of this Parliament is not done. There are a number of key and popular government bills that Canadians want. Next week, starting on Monday, we will call: Bill C-8, the Canada-Jordan free trade agreement; Bill C-46, the Canada-Panama free trade agreement; Bill C-51, investigative powers for the 21st century; and Bill C-52, lawful access.

Does the Minister of Justice ever stop fighting crime? He gets more and more done. In many respects, as House leader I am like the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Justice.

Of course, we need to complete the budget debate to implement the next phase of Canada's economic action plan, a low tax plan for jobs and growth. Therefore, Tuesday we will debate day two of the budget, Wednesday we will debate day three of the budget and on Thursday we will debate day four of the budget. We have lots to do and I suggest to the members across that we turn our attention back to serving the interests of the public.

While I am on my feet, I would like to serve those interests by asking for unanimous consent for the following motion. I move that, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, Bill C-49, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act and the Marine Transportation Security Act shall be deemed to have been read a second time, referred to a committee of the whole, deemed considered in committee of the whole, deemed reported without amendment, deemed concurred in at report stage and deemed read a third time and passed.

February 17th, 2011 / 10:05 a.m.
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Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

I'm asking on Bill C-4, Bill C-5, Bill C-16, Bill C-17, Bill C-21, Bill C-22, Bill C-23B, Bill C-30, Bill C-35, Bill C-37, Bill C-38, Bill C-39, Bill C-43, Bill C-48, Bill C-49, Bill C-50, Bill C-51, Bill C-52, Bill C-53C-54, Bill C-59, Bill SS-6, Bill S-7, Bill S-10.

What are the costs? What are the head counts? What are the implications? Why won't you give them to Parliament?

February 2nd, 2011 / 4:35 p.m.
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Acting General Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice

Carole Morency

The amendment that you see in clause 15 replaces the word that is currently.... For example, currently section 172.1—luring a child—talks about someone who, using “a computer system within the meaning of subsection 342.1(2) communicates with”. This is replacing the language there and in the new offences with “telecommunication”, because this is the language that's also being proposed more broadly in what is currently Bill C-51, which was previously Bill C-46, the Investigative Powers for the 21st Century Act. So it's a consistency to broaden the capture of the types of communications that are at play.

Bill C-54 still uses the terminology “Internet”, as you'll see in the offence. We use language for definition of the Internet here that is consistent with Bill C-30, I believe it is—the Copyright Act, which also has that language.

So the intention here is not.... The bill still does use “Internet”, but the use of “telecommunications” would be consistent here with its use in Bills C-51 and C-52.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 10th, 2010 / 10:40 a.m.
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Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

That concludes the debate on this bill.

Pursuant to order made Tuesday, December 7, 2010, Bill C-30, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, is deemed read a second time, deemed referred to a committee of the whole, deemed reported without amendment, deemed concurred in at report stage, and deemed read a third time and passed.

(Bill read the second time, considered in committee, reported without amendment, read the third time and passed)

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 10th, 2010 / 10:10 a.m.
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NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Shoker bill is a response to a decision by the Supreme Court of Canada that came down in February 2006. The government is finally getting around to dealing with this almost five years after the ruling.

The ruling, even in 2006, was not a surprise because it started at the trial level, went to the Court of Appeal and then the Supreme Court of Canada. In each case, as I recall, the rulings were the same all the way up to the Supreme Court of Canada.

It was interesting to listen to the parliamentary secretary in response to a question from the opposition side saying that the government needed three years to consult before it could even draft the bill. I have a hard time with that. The reality is that it has decided that this bill and correcting the problem are not very important because it does not do the usual thing that its crime bills do. There are no easy victims that it can trot out for photo ops and push its ideological agenda with regard to crime.

On the other hand, for our police forces in particular, and our prosecutors and judges who deal with the criminal justice system, this is a very important problem for them. The solution is quite clear. I am not suggesting that the government could have turned this around overnight but almost five years after the fact is way too long.

In terms of the constant false accusations that we hear from the Minister of Justice about opposition parties delaying crime bills, this bill is before the House only because I asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice a couple of weeks ago why we were bothering with this bill going through its normal process.

It is a technical bill and, even though the bill is fairly lengthy, it is quite simple. We are responding to the Supreme Court of Canada decision. It was only before the House earlier this week and today for debate on the agreement of all parties that we will limit debate and send it through all stages today once I finish my speech.

What it really says is that the government has a priority around crime but only where it benefits it from a partisan political standpoint, and this bill does not do that. I want to go back to just how important this bill is for the police officer on the street. I will put it in context.

I cannot remember how long this goes back, but for a long time people have signed recognizances when they are initially charged and they are sometimes released with financial bail but usually just on conditions and most often those conditions are for the individual to abstain from the consumption of alcohol or, at the very least, drugs and other illicit substances of that nature. There are many cases of where people have been convicted within the criminal justice system and put on probation or, as part of their parole when they come out of incarceration, the same conditions, which are no consumption of alcohol or drugs.

What has been a practice for about 20 to 30 years that I am aware of is that if police officers, in their normal course of duty, came across individuals who were subject to a recognizance, probation order or parole order, including these conditions, and became suspicious that they were breaching those conditions, they would demand a sample, usually urine but sometimes blood, and if the analysis of the substance was that there was alcohol or drugs present, they would lay a charge against the individuals for breach of recognizance, probation or parole and the courts would then deal with it, with the analysis being the principal piece of evidence against the individual.

Around 2004, the Shoker case came before the courts on a charge of breach of probation. The defence counsel raised, for the first time in Canada, that there was no authority anywhere in our criminal laws that allowed the police to demand the sample. Even though accused people, convicted people in most cases, had probably breached their terms of probation or parole, there was no way police officers could demand what in effect was the proof they needed.

As I said earlier, it was found that this was the case, that there was no authority for the police to do this. It went through the Court of Appeal and on up to the Supreme Court of Canada, all confirming there was no authority and unless the federal government set in place provisions within the Criminal Code and a system as to how those samples would be dealt with, the practice had to cease, and that has happened.

The result of that is we have substantial frustration within our police forces. If police officers have a very solid suspicion that a person has breached these conditions, the consumption of alcohol or drugs, they are prohibited to act on that. Unless police officers actually catch the person in the process of consuming alcohol or drugs, which is rare for them to do, there are no effective means of proving the person has broke his or her parole conditions. When police officers catch people who they are suspicious of doing this, they have to turn a blind eye and let the person go.

I want to emphasize the significance of what this has meant in one area. In trying to combat the street gangs, a few years ago Police Chief Blair in Toronto, the chief in Halifax more recently and I believe in Calgary as well will charge an individual who the police are suspicious of is part of a street gang, oftentimes a violent street gang. In most cases that person will get out on bail, but he or she will be under these conditions.

Police forces have been targeting specific areas of their cities. They have been going to the houses of those people every day to check on them, particularly if they are on a curfew. If they have breached their conditions under that recognizance, then they will charge them, and in most cases those people will then be incarcerated until their trial.

It has been a very effective tool. There are areas in the city of Toronto with I am fairly familiar. There are two areas in particular where the crime rate among the youth gangs dropped by 30%, 40% and 50% because of this tool. We have no way of proving this, but we can argue that if Shoker did not apply and if we had Bill C-30 in place, it would be even more effective. In cases where police officers are suspicious of drug or alcohol consumption prohibited by the signing of a recognizance order, they have no way to charge them because they cannot prove it.

We were speculating in the earlier debate on this that the number of cases where the police have been unable to charge people clearly has to be in the thousands over the last five or six years. Again, it is not an issue that the government felt was important enough to deal with, but it has certainly been a very important one for our front-line police officers.

I will go back to the decision by the Supreme Court. It was made very clear that there had to be a clear regime of how the samples would be demanded, how they would be treated and how they would ultimately would be disposed of. I acknowledge that the government has done this, which is a bit surprising given some of the other things it does with crime bills.

The government made it quite clear, and I suppose it was because the Supreme Court would have ruled this ultimately, that any of the samples could only be used for the purposes of proving the breach. The samples could not be used in any other criminal charges.

The importance of that is to be very clear to the Canadian public generally that we understand, the courts understand and the criminal justice system understands that asking for a bodily fluid sample is an invasion of that person's general rights to privacy. Therefore, we had to be very careful, and the Supreme Court made this clear in its decision, in upholding the lower court ruling. That was the major reason for doing it. It said that this was a major incursion into an individual's rights of privacy.

I want to make it clear that this is no reflection on the average police officer. However, some police officers, who were either overly zealous or abusive of their authority, would make unreasonable demands. Therefore, it wants to be very clear that if these demands are made, they are made for a very limited purpose in compliance with that court order or recognizance or parole condition and only for that purpose, thereby reducing the potential for those demands to be made unreasonably or abusively.

That section is in Bill C-30 and it is one that is in keeping with both the wording and the spirit of the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in R. v. Shoker.

As well, I want to be quite clear on the fact that the bill deals with the three separate areas where it is used. I made reference to the recognizance. The majority of cases where the police will attempt to enforce this are probably the recognizance cases. Again, when individuals are charged but not yet convicted or found innocent, if they do not want to be incarcerated pending their trials, they are required sign this recognizance, which in effect is a court order at that point.

There are very standard clauses in the recognizance right across the country. The abstinence from alcohol and drugs is a very common one. Not associating with certain people is also a very common one. Being subject to a curfew between certain hours, not being out on the street, having to be in their residence and having to maintain a regular residence, is very standard. Those are the most common ones that I can think of just off hand. The one on alcohol and drugs is really important.

It is hard to perhaps make the case without talking about the methodology and the mechanism that was used in New York to reduce the amount of crime. Generally the chief of police, but also Mayor Giuliani, really insisted on this. We can look to other communities in the U.S., and in some cases now Canada because of the current administration, where they use legislative responses to high crime rates.

Any number of studies in the United States and some here have shown that a legislative response generally is much less effective in dropping the crime rates than it is using these kinds of tactics. I mentioned the ones that Chief Blair used in Toronto and the ones that chief in Halifax uses currently. I believe other chiefs have done it as well.

New York City went after the little crimes. We talk about them cleaning up the graffiti. One of the areas that it went after was breaches of conditions, and the alcohol and drug one was the major one. Again, much was done in Toronto, this was widespread across the city. If people were caught consuming alcohol or drugs when they were prohibited to under the recognizance, they ended up back in jail.

The effect was the serious crime rate for crimes such as drug trafficking and serious violent crimes, not the graffiti, not consumption of illicit drugs, dropped dramatically because the person was incarcerated and was physically removed. It also it gave the message to that crime element in New York City that it would not longer be tolerated. If people did something like this, they would be caught.

It comes back to everything I learned in law school, in my law practice and in all the work that I have done here as a member of Parliament. It completely reaffirms, every time, that we could have a safe society, as safe as we can make it, by saying to that criminal element, those people who are so anti-social that they will commit crimes, and by convincing them that if they commit that crime, they will be caught. If we have a society where the vast majority of crimes are identified and prosecuted successfully, we very much drive crime rates down and we protect our citizens, which is our fundamental responsibility as parliamentarians.

The fact that we have been unable to do this for the last four or five years has resulted in more crimes being committed that otherwise would not have been. We would have had these people either getting the message clearly that they would not get away with this, or they might be incarcerated and not available to commit crimes. That is why this is so important.

The other point I want to make is with regard to those individuals who have been convicted, whether they are on provincial probation orders from the courts or they are under a parole order from our corrections authorities at the federal level. The availability of this right to demand samples and to use them is a key ingredient for those people, such as the social workers and corrections officers, who supervise people who are out on probation or subject to a parole order.

It is one of the key ways they have of being able to say to people that they are engaged in lives very actively, that they want to ensure they do not commit a crime again. This is the message that goes to people who have been incarcerated but who are now out. The message is they are very closely monitoring their conduct. If they are subject to an order that requires them to abstain from alcohol or drugs and they identify or become suspicious that they have breached that, then they will insist the samples be given. If they are correct in their suspicions, those people will be charged.

It is the ability of the corrections officers to use that tool in their monitoring and supervision that makes their jobs a lot easier. That is not the only consideration, but the major consideration is it makes their jobs much more effective. The enforcement of the probation orders and the enforcement of the parole conditions are much easier if they know they have the ability to turn to the police and say that they are suspicious, that they believe the person whom they have been supervising has breached his or her conditions and that they want to use the provisions of Bill C-30 and take the sample. If the person has breached the condition, then the individual will be charged. This technique makes their jobs much more effective.

Again it begs this question. How many people out on probation, who were not caught quickly enough, who have deviated from the path they were supposed to following, get into more serious crimes? We do not know. I have had comments from other members who have worked in this area in the past and it has to be in the thousands. Therefore, a lot of crimes may have been prevented had this been in effect.

The bill will go through the House today. It will get to the Senate. Hopefully it will not play any of its delaying tactics and we will have this before the courts for use in the next few weeks.

The House resumed from December 8 consideration of the motion that Bill C-30, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Business of the HouseBusiness of the HouseOral Questions

December 9th, 2010 / 3:05 p.m.
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Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I will start with the hon. member's last question first.

The member is right, that was an extremely long question. I pointed out to this place that the Liberals were making it a common practice of writing questions that should be divided into several questions rather than just one. The question that I read into the record of this House took over 15 minutes to read. It is an attempt by the Liberal Party, continuous attempts by the Liberals, to obfuscate, to delay the proceedings of this House and to, quite frankly, impede the ability of government departments to get on with important government legislation.

Mr. Speaker, I hope that you, in your wisdom, will rule on that very important point of order as quickly as possible.

With respect to the business today, we will continue with the Liberal opposition motion and business of supply. Tomorrow we will hopefully complete the final stage of C-30, Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Shoker Act. Following Bill C-30, we will call, at report stage, Bill S-6, Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act.

On Monday, we will continue with any business not concluded this week, with the addition of Bill C-43, Royal Canadian Mounted Police Modernization Act, and Bill C-12, Democratic Representation Act.

On Tuesday, we would like to complete the third reading stage of Bill C-21, Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime Act.

Next week, we will also give consideration to any bills that are reported back from committee. Further, if time permits, we would also debate next week Bill C-38, Ensuring the Effective Review of RCMP Civilian Complaints Act; Bill C-50; Bill C-51, Investigative Powers for the 21st Century Act; Bill C-53, Fair and Efficient Criminal Trials Act; and Bill C-19, Political Loans Accountability Act.

Finally, on Tuesday evening, we will have a take-note debate on the trade agreement with the European Union, and on that subject, I would ask my colleague, the chief government whip, to move the appropriate motion.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 8th, 2010 / 5:25 p.m.
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Bloc

Serge Ménard Bloc Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, we have agreed with many of the bills introduced recently in the House.

The Minister of Justice is always saying that it is the opposition's fault that his bills take so long to pass. He is lying outright, and this is a case in point. Here is a bill meant to fill a gap identified by the Supreme Court of Canada in October 2006. I believe the Conservatives were in power in October 2006. It took them three years to draft a bill to respond to that Supreme Court ruling, as its title indicates.

The government introduced an initial bill in October 2009. Then it prorogued Parliament, thereby killing the bill. So the government had to introduce it again. When the House resumed, the government did not introduce the bill right away. There is not one iota of difference between the current Bill C-30 and Bill C-55, which died on the order paper. I did not count the days like my colleague who spoke before me, but the government did not introduce the bill currently before us until May 31, 2010.

And yet the minister is always complaining that we delay his bills, that the opposition is preventing him from doing his work again. Just 15 minutes ago, he was in front of the cameras blaming the opposition for once again impeding the progress of his bills. This example is concrete proof that his incompetence and idleness are to blame. At his pace, he would have a hard time winning a race with a bunch of snails.

He introduced his bill on May 31, 2010, and this is the first time he has invited us to debate it in order to refer it to committee. No one can say that the opposition is to blame for the fact that the gap in the Criminal Code identified by the Supreme Court still has not been addressed over four years later.

This government is also in the habit of blaming judges. Not only does it blame them, but it speaks about them insultingly. I will demonstrate that in just a moment, but first, let us see what the Supreme Court decided.

The Supreme Court did not decide that a right should be taken away, contrary to what the parliamentary secretary said in his press releases. The court found that this right never existed and that it was important that it be established through legislation, not by police or the courts. It is up to Parliament.

Clearly, if conditions can be imposed prohibiting offenders from using certain substances, there needs to be some means of monitoring those conditions, even if it is not through testing. That is obvious. It is so obvious that the legislators at the time did not see it and did not provide for the obligation to provide samples.

That is what the Supreme Court found in 2006. Paragraph 732.1(3)(c), which allows a condition to be imposed that prohibits the use of certain substances, defines a criminal offence. But simply creating an offence does not result in enforcement powers. This is common sense and should have been obvious to the legislators at the time. Even though it is clear that the authority to require samples of a bodily substance and the resulting analyses would help enforce a condition prohibiting the use of certain substances imposed under paragraph 732.1(3)(c), that is not enough to conclude that this authority is implied.

That seems to me to be quite a sensible legal ruling. The court made the following suggestion:

Where Parliament authorizes the collection of bodily samples, it uses clear language and sets out standards and safeguards for collecting these samples.

The court is saying that things should not be done haphazardly.

Parliament has not provided a scheme under s. 732.1(3) for collecting bodily samples and such a scheme cannot be judicially enacted.

The fact that it cannot be judicially enacted is why the government introduced a 16-page bill. The law cannot go messing with people's bodies as it sees fit. There must be assurances that analyses will be carried out medically and correctly. But it is not up to the court to enact that. It is up to Parliament. That is what Parliament was told in 2006. But it was not until 2009 that the Conservatives introduced their first bill. Then they let it die with prorogation. They reintroduced it on May 31, 2010. Then they did not raise the subject again until now. Here we are debating it in December 2010, more than four years after the Supreme Court of Canada's comments.

This government is in the habit of demonstrating its scorn for the Canadian judicial system in all kinds of ways. I would like to read from the minister's press release about Bill C-30. In the last paragraph on the first page, it says:

The amendments being introduced today are an effective response to the Supreme Court of Canada's decision that made it impossible for law enforcement officials to fully monitor individuals under court order prohibiting them from using drugs or alcohol.

That is not what the court did. The court did not make it impossible. It was not provided for in the law. And the court decided that because it was not provided for, it was not the court's job to determine, in 16 pages, how the samples could be taken to ensure their accuracy or that conclusions could be drawn that might deprive people of their freedom.

We are so proud to be a country that respects rights and freedoms. This is part of how we respect people's freedom. Before putting them in jail on technical evidence, we have to ensure that the evidence is solid.

The Minister of Justice also began criticizing us for another reason recently. He laughed at us because we do not accept his alternative titles. In this case, I can tell him that we will agree with his title, which is “Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Shoker Act”. Now that is how to objectively describe, without using propaganda, the bill that is currently before us.

This is one case where he did not fall back into his bad habits. Unfortunately, not all bill titles are like this. The best example is the Minister of Justice's new trick, which involves inserting his campaign propaganda into the legislation. Since he is likely somewhat unsure of the value of the legislation, he starts by spewing his propaganda, which is an insult to the judiciary. One example is Bill C-16, Ending House Arrest for Property and other Serious Crimes by Serious and Violent Offenders.

Has there ever been a ruling in Canada ordering house arrest for serious and violent offenders? If so, it is contrary to the current legislation, which states: “[if the court] is satisfied that the service of the sentence in the community would not endanger the safety of the community...”

Thus, the first condition for house arrest is that it does not endanger the safety of the community.

That should go without saying. If we stop detaining violent and dangerous offenders and release them, that will jeopardize public safety. The minister never said that that was happening anywhere in Canada. And if this was the case with one out of the thousands and tens of thousands—if not more; I think that the number of sentences handed down every year in Canada is in the six figures—, there is recourse and it can be taken to the Court of Appeal. The case can be appealed on the basis that the offender is violent and dangerous.

It is a ruse, a trap to eliminate more cases in which house arrest could be used. The Conservatives do not like house arrest. This happens in almost every country in Europe. It is extremely useful with an offender who has committed a first offence. By imposing some conditions, we can turn them away from crime. We can force them to take courses and support a family, we can impose a curfew, monitor him and impose an addiction treatment if he has a substance abuse problem.

Keep the person at home. It is a lot less expensive and much more effective than sending him to do time, when he will likely lose his job if he has one, interrupt his studies and meet other criminals who will teach him tricks to commit other crimes. We know that prison is not a very good school. In civilized countries, prison is reserved for truly dangerous people. Here, we are following the model used in the United States, a country with the highest incarceration rate in the world: between 730 and 760 incarcerations per 100,000 inhabitants. Our rate is 120 per 100,000. I do not know how much the Conservatives want to increase that number by, but at 120, we are average. Out of 155 countries, we rank about 50th. Our rate is even higher than that of almost every European country, except one country in the United Kingdom.

The bill will take this tool away from judges in first offence cases. When I was public safety minister in Quebec, I was told—and this was consistent with my experience after more than 25 years practising criminal law—that up to 90% of people who are brought before the court are brought there only once in their life. It is the other 10% that causes us major problems.

In any event, we have already said we agree that the Supreme Court was right to shed light on this anomaly. We can prohibit someone from consuming certain substances without giving the court the power to order a technical and scientific verification that the person is complying with these conditions. This is a lot like drinking and driving, a more common crime, and one that is even committed by people who do not have a criminal record or other criminal behaviour.

When I first started pleading cases, it was quite funny to listen to those cases because police officers had observed, in the accused, the symptoms that the Supreme Court had defined as symptoms of drunkenness in a case in 1926: eyes glazed over, slurred speech, staggering gait. The police would say that the accused was staggering and his speech was slurred and that was how they established whether a person was drunk or not. It was rather ridiculous and that is why we were finally able to get objective evidence with the breathalyzer. There has been a dramatic drop since this objective measure has been in place.

In this case, I think this legislation was necessary. Personally, I think six months should have been plenty of time to draft such a bill following the Supreme Court ruling. It should not take three years to do so. The minister, who is supposedly thinking of the potential victims, could have sped things up a little. Fortunately, he has no problem tooting his own horn. He concluded his November 30 news release by saying that the government, “is standing up for victims of crime, and putting the rights of law-abiding citizens ahead of the rights of criminals”.

I do not know why he said that. It must have been out of habit. In this case, the provision was suggested by the Supreme Court, which he does not like. I do not see how this puts the rights of law-abiding citizens up against the rights of criminals. In any case, nearly all sentences that come with probation orders do in fact include abstinence conditions.

I do not believe that all of these people are criminals. Indeed, just because someone commits a single offence or has a drug problem at one time in his life does not make him a criminal for the rest of his days. It seems perfectly reasonable to me that if an abstinence condition is imposed because the offender has a drug problem, there should be some scientific way to verify his compliance. If it were obvious—

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December 8th, 2010 / 4:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I cannot express how pleased I am to finally be speaking about this bill here in the House at second reading. I have been waiting for four years, almost five, for the government to make a move on this issue. Anyone who knows House procedure knows that the government controls its own agenda.

I can accept the reasons given in the House by the parliamentary secretary to explain why the government waited three years after the Shoker decision to introduce this bill for the first time. However, that explanation became irrelevant once the bill was introduced for the first time.

As I mentioned during questions and comments, the government introduced its bill in 2009. This bill concerning the R. v. Shoker decision was stalled at first reading for 62 days. The government had 62 days to move debate at second reading, but it did not do so. The Liberals cannot do it. The Bloc cannot do it. The New Democratic Party cannot do it. According to the Standing Orders, only the government can move the motion to begin debate at second reading. But for 62 days in 2009, the government decided not to move debate at second reading.

And what did the government do? The Prime Minister, in his wisdom, decided to prorogue the House and Parliament. He shut and locked Parliament's doors from December 2009 to the beginning of March 2010. That brought cries of protest from hundreds of thousands of Canadians who were shocked by this undemocratic move by this Conservative Prime Minister.

I am almost there. The throne speech was read on March 2, 2010. The government could then have reintroduced its bill concerning the Shoker ruling. The NDP asked the following question: how many offenders subject to conditions requiring them to abstain from the consumption of illegal drugs or alcohol are no longer required to comply with these conditions to provide samples of bodily substances as a result of the Shoker ruling? The Conservative parliamentary secretary was unable to answer the question. However, we know that the answer is several thousand.

The government introduced its bill for the first time in the fall of 2009, but killed it with prorogation. Subsequently, in the new parliamentary session that began in March 2010, instead of introducing the bill right away—to ensure that it would be adopted as quickly as possible and to allow the courts to set conditions requiring offenders to provide samples of bodily substances to determine whether they were complying with conditions to not consume alcohol or illegal drugs—the government waited 90 days after the throne speech before again introducing the same bill. A comparison of Bill C-30 and the bill introduced in the first session of the 40th Parliament, in the fall of 2009, shows that not one word or comma was changed.

The government waited 90 days before introducing it again. The government introduced the bill on May 31, 2010.

The House was sitting. We sat until the end of June. With the consent of the official opposition—the Liberal Party of Canada—, with the consent of the Bloc Québécois and the NDP—the three opposition parties had already indicated that they were in favour of the bill and that they had no problem with it—the government could have done what it is trying to do today. The same day that it introduced its bill, May 31, 2010, it could have moved debate at second reading, as we are doing today, and then, with the unanimous consent of the House, the bill could have been deemed debated and passed at all stages and immediately sent to the other chamber.

What did the government do instead? People who were convicted of a crime or who were on parole awaiting trial were subject to court-ordered conditions to refrain from consuming alcohol or illegal drugs. What did the Conservative government do to ensure that judges and courts have the legal power to force offenders to provide bodily samples? The government that brags every day about taking care of victims of crime and about combatting crime, what did it do? It waited 191 days before moving debate at second reading. Today is the 192nd day.

This shows the hypocrisy of the Conservative Party of Canada and the hypocrisy of this Conservative government.

If I seem to be angry, it is because I am angry. The government does not cease in saying that it is tough on crime and that it is the only party that is concerned with victims.

How did the government show its concern for victims of all of the crimes that have taken place since the Shoker judgment from the Supreme Court of Canada in 2006 until today and the delays that the government submitted this bill to when it knew that the three opposition parties were prepared to accelerate the movement and adoption of this bill through every stage of this House?

When I was justice critic from January 2007 until January 2008, I personally informed the Conservative government that the Liberals were in favour of this bill and that we would be prepared to accelerate the bill if the government would only bring it forward. Well, the government did not. It only brought it forward in the latter days of 2009. The government knew that the opposition parties were in favour of it, so why did it not move it quickly? Why did it not take advantage of the agreement of all opposition parties to deal with this bill quickly?

I believe it is because the government is not interested in protecting victims. The government is not interested in seeing that we have effective government. The government is interested only in getting political hay from justice files and in sending out thousands of letters begging for donations because only the Conservatives can protect victims.

In fact, when one looks at the actual record of the government, the government does everything not to protect victims. Bill C-30 is the perfect case. It spent 191 days at first reading and waited 98 days between the throne speech and actually re-tabling a bill.

The government is not serious about defending victims because, had it been serious, it would have taken up the offer of the opposition parties to deal with it quickly and this bill would have been the law back in 2009 when the government first tabled it, after waiting almost four years after the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Shoker case.

We would have had thousands of offenders and defendants who would have been submitted to the obligation to provide bodily samples to ensure they were not in breach of the condition not to consume alcohol or use illicit drugs. But, no, the government wanted to play, as it does with virtually every bill, political politics.

Another bill with political politics is the faint hope bill. The parliamentary secretary talked about that bill when he was trying to scramble for a reason that his government waited 98 days, 191 days in this session of the 40th Parliament, and 62 days from tabling first reading in the 1st session of the 40th Parliament, and almost 4 years from the Shoker decision before actually tabling the bill for the first time.

I felt a little sorry for the parliamentary secretary because he seemed to be scrambling to find a reason to justify his government's laxness and lack of seriousness when it comes to protecting victims and ensuring that our justice system is actually effective and ensuring that our law enforcement agencies have the proper tools to keep our communities safe and to keep Canadians safe.

Why was the parliamentary secretary scrambling? He was scrambling because the government, and he knows it, is not serious about protecting victims. What it is serious about is using the issue of criminal justice to gain some political advantage and to raise money. Virtually every December, just before the House breaks for the Christmas break, we see the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Public Safety trot out for a scrum in front of all of the media and talk about how criminal justice is a number one priority for the government, and if only the opposition was not soft on crime and was not trying to back up and delay their bills, all of that would go through.

However, when one looks at the actual record, the party that is slowing down and backing up bills is none other than the Conservative Party of Canada, the Conservative government.

If one looks at the faint hope clause bill, it was actually adopted by the House of Commons in the last session. It was sent to the Senate and the government's unelected, unrepresentative Conservative senators never moved the vote at second reading.

As I explained right at the beginning, opposition does not control the government's agenda, so opposition members, whether it be in the House or in the Senate, cannot move second reading debate or a vote at second reading. The government has to move it but, guess what? The Prime Minister forgot to tell his senators that the faint hope clause was so important to the Conservative government because it is so concerned about victims. He forgot to tell them because they never moved the vote at second reading in the Senate and only it could move it. Is that not interesting?

Then, the government prorogued, killing its own bill. There were two and a half months of prorogation. The House resumed with the new session of the 40th Parliament on March 2 with the throne speech. Did the government, at the very first opportunity permitted by the rules and procedures of either the House of Commons or the Senate, re-table its faint hope clause bill? No, it did not. How many days did it wait before it re-tabled--

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December 8th, 2010 / 4:50 p.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his introduction of what is now Bill C-30.

I was looking at the Supreme Court of Canada decision made in October 2006 and, as the Liberal member pointed out, it has been over four years now that the government has let this situation deteriorate. The parliamentary secretary just explained that it had to go through some procedures, but a proroguing of the House also delayed matters. The fact is that during all of this time there have been many cases that have passed by us by virtue of the government's delaying.

Does the member have any accounting of how many missed cases have gone by now because of this delay of over four years?

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December 8th, 2010 / 4:50 p.m.
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Bloc

Serge Ménard Bloc Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the government member whether the bill is complete this time. Are there provisions in this bill to ensure that a sample will be given to the person from whom the sample was taken, so that they can take it to an analyst they trust to verify whether the government or the police properly carried out the analyses?

When we wanted to be able to force someone to provide an alcohol breath sample when there are reasonable grounds to believe that they are driving while impaired, we made provisions for this. So it is nothing new. Is that provision in Bill C-30?