An Act to amend the Criminal Code (mischief relating to war memorials)

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.

This bill was previously introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session.

Sponsor

David Tilson  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill.

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 provide for the offence of committing mischief in relation to a war memorial or cenotaph.

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.

Votes

Oct. 31, 2012 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

February 2nd, 2012 / 5:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to add a few words in regard to Bill C-217.

It is a bill that we can support in principle in terms of having it go to committee. The Liberal Party critic did get the opportunity to address the bill and we do have some concerns. The member made reference to some of the concerns that would be there. At the end of the day we want to ensure that, if something does happen to one of these war memorial sites, we do not end up sentencing someone to 25 years behind bars. I think it needs to be reasonable. I am not implying that is what this bill is suggesting, but I am sure members can appreciate that sometimes the Conservatives do tend to overreact on some of these minimum sentences.

I will now spend a few minutes talking about the principle of the bill. It is something worthy of supporting. I had the opportunity to serve in the Canadian Forces and met with a good number of individuals who actually fought or participated in war. Especially around the month of November, when I was in the forces, we would participate in parades, go to the legions and hear all sorts of interesting and some very scary stories that were being raised at the time. This gave me a better appreciation of the situation.

For me, that is the reason I believe it is so important that we not only have debate inside the House but that there is an educational component going out to other parts of our communities, such as schools and community centres, educating people in terms of exactly why it is that we have war memorials and the sacrifices made.

I can recall having a discussion a number of years ago with one individual who had been captured and held as a prisoner of war. As a POW, he talked about the starvation that was endured and the types of inhuman treatments that were there would surprise most. To have been able to have someone share that directly, not through a third party, with myself was fairly compelling. It gave me a very real impression.

I have had people talk to me about others not far from them falling in their place after being shot. Again, being able to hear those types of stories expressed on a one-on-one, not through a third party, has a fairly compelling impact on individuals as they try to get a better understanding of what it means to serve one's country.

I served for just over three years, which was not a great length of time, but I can say that it was a memorable time. I appreciate both those who have served in the past and those who are serving today in our forces. Afghanistan and other places throughout the world have had our military forces provide security and support in different ways. Members of our forces have sadly lost their lives providing that service.

That is why when I had the opportunity to be able to share a few words on this, I thought it would be nice just to be able to highlight that.

One incident that was quite touching for myself was inside the Manitoba legislature. We had an opportunity to have some of the war vets on the floor of the chamber and around the back. For me, I had a back row seat. From where I stood and spoke, I could reach out and touch the knee of a WW II vet.

It is because of those efforts that we are in these places today, whether it is in our national institution of the House of Commons, or in the provincial legislatures across Canada. It was a very important symbolic message and it generated a lot of attention in our province.

There are many different ways in which that is done. Sergeant Prince is a wonderful mentor for many people who live in Winnipeg's north end. There is a beautiful mural that has been put in place to honour the sergeant because of his efforts in the war. It is great to see. I especially like the murals for the simple reason they send a very strong message to people walking or driving by. This mural is in the heart of Winnipeg North. A great number of young people are influenced when they see the mural of Sergeant Prince and the efforts he made. It gives a sense of pride.

Whether it is a wall mural or the many decorations in legions, these all send very strong, positive messages. The National War Memorial, which hundreds of thousands of people visit every year, and on special days, gets a great deal of attention. The unnamed soldier is buried there. We take a great deal of pride in these memorials, as we should. A vast majority of Canadians appreciate the efforts that our forces have played in the past and in the modern era. We have all attended legion events or marches.

Last November, I was at the McGregor Armoury, where I witnessed first-hand tributes to those who had fallen in war. It is through this that we never forget. It is important that we go through these times of reflection and we would like to encourage citizens as a whole to participate.

When we look at this bill, it is hard to imagine and why some individuals would think about defacing or causing any form of damage to murals or monuments. It is hard to understand why someone would do such a thing.

I was a chair of a youth justice committee for a while. Sometimes young people do things which are silly and stupid and they do not really realize the consequences. I am not talking about the 10% who cause a lot of issues in terms of public safety. It could be anyone's son or daughter who does something and then a deal of remorse follows. Those youth did not necessarily mean to be disrespectful.

There has to be a balance. That is what we are looking for in Bill C-217. We want a bill that is balanced, that respects our memorials. At the same time, we want to appreciate the Canadian Forces and all those who have sacrificed their lives and much more.

We do not have a problem with Bill C-217 going to committee.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

February 2nd, 2012 / 5:25 p.m.
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NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak to Bill C-217, which deals with the important issue of mischief related to war memorials. I thank the member for Dufferin--Caledon for turning our attention to this important problem.

This is a topic with which I am personally familiar, as there are a large number of war memorials in my riding of Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca. The most significant of those is the cenotaph in Memorial Park in Esquimalt. This memorial was unveiled in 1927 to honour the dead from the Great War of 1914-1918. Over time plaques have been added on to this memorial. It now also honours the dead of World War II, Korea and those who died in peacekeeping missions. With its central position in our town, right next to a major bus stop and bus route, it is unfortunately often the target of graffiti. I would argue that has almost always, if not always, been out of ignorance rather than a specific targeting. It is simply a large surface for taggers and is very close to high traffic areas.

As a former city councillor, I am very familiar with the costs of these incidents. The municipality maintains this memorial and pays the cleanup costs for the graffiti that regularly appears there. However, I am also very aware of the cost in terms of the indignity to the veterans and the hurt it causes in Esquimalt, which is very much a military community.

One of the most serious incidents occurred on a Sunday in July of 2008, when a vigilant citizen actually noticed suspicious activity in Memorial Park at about 10:30 p.m. This citizen called the police and a 14 year-old youth was apprehended and released on a promise to appear in court on a charge of mischief. On Monday morning a group of community volunteers, known as ETAG, Esquimalt Together Against Graffiti, was out cleaning the graffiti off that memorial. This volunteer group strives very hard to ensure the prompt removal of graffiti from all public and private property, to take away the thrill that taggers get from seeing their tag in existence in the community. ETAG is very effective. It is a very large group of very hard-working volunteers. Long term chair, Peter Justo, who just retired as chair of that group, and Emmy Labonte and others are out within 24 hours removing graffiti.

They were working on a very large amount of graffiti on this very important war memorial. In fact, not only did the volunteers against graffiti step up, the president of the Esquimalt Legion, Mr. Ken Levine, stepped forward. He called for what he characterized as appropriate punishment for the youth. He did not call for jailing the youth. I think members opposite will be interested in what he thought was the proper solution. He said that the youth ought to have to come to the legion on a regular basis, meet with veterans and hear their stories of sacrifice on his behalf. He felt that when the youth had that re-education, he would then be very much committed to talking to other youth who were taggers to try to avoid tagging the war memorials.

This is the president of my local legion who took a very progressive stance. Again, when we think of a 14 year-old youth, what probably is most awful about that is regularly scheduling his time to meet with old people and listen to them. It would not be as if the youth would feel he was getting off lightly.

Very interestingly, the two police officers involved also publicly called for using this form of restorative justice for this youth rather than see him face a term in some youth custody facility, perhaps putting him in touch with other youth that might lead him further astray, when really the problem was an isolated incident of tagging, with no intention of insulting veterans.

The president of the legion identified the real problem, and that is the failure of youth to understand the great sacrifices that have been made on their behalf by members of the Canadian forces. I believe, in calling for restorative justice, he identified the real solution to this kind of problem.

Some three months after Remembrance Day, it is a good time for all of us to reflect on what more we can do to help build that public education and public consciousness of the sacrifices members of the military have made. I am sure all hon. members attended Remembrance Day events, as I did. One of the most encouraging things I have seen in the past five years is the increasing numbers of youth who show up at those Remembrance Day ceremonies, and not just those who are in cadets, or scouts, or other programs, but simply youth in the crowd paying respect for what has happened in the past.

We are making progress in raising that consciousness of the great contribution the Canadian military makes, but we can do more to try to make it part of our common culture as Canadians to have this respect on an everyday basis and not just on Remembrance Day.

There are many other ways this could be done and I want to single out a grant by Heritage Canada to the Museum of Strathroy-Caradoc. Why would I know about a grant to a museum in Ontario? It created a travelling exhibition on the life Sir Arthur Currie, one of our great generals, who was born in Strathroy but started his military career with the militia in Victoria. This exhibition has been travelling around Canada, with the support of Heritage Canada, trying to make Canadians aware of one of our great heroes, a person not without controversy but a person who made an enormous contribution during the Great War.

We can also promote the work of authors like Tim Cook, a prominent military historian, whose book called The Madman and the Butcher, which I just finished reading, chronicles the unfortunate conflict between the war minister Sam Hughes and the brilliant general Sir Arthur Currie. The more Canadians know our history and the great things that have happened in the past, the fewer problems we will have with the kinds of things addressed in the bill.

We can also go beyond symbolism and support policies that really show respect for our 728,000 or more veterans. We can support policies that would help end the shame of veterans at food banks, in particular the food bank in Calgary which had to be set up to address the needs of 200 veterans and their families. We can support the efforts to end the shame of homeless veterans in our country. It is very difficult to get a number since most veterans do not wish for people to know that they are homeless. They do not wish their families or friends to know. We can support programs that address the suicide rate for veterans, which is quite shockingly high in our country, some 46% higher than other Canadians.

One very important action the government could take is to fully implement the NDP's veterans first motion, which passed in the House in 2006. This would mean doing several things.

It would mean eliminating the unfair reduction in long-term disability payments for injured Canadian Forces personnel and eliminating the clawback of retirement pensions for Canadian Forces and RCMP members who happen to also receive CPP benefits. It would mean eliminating the marriage after 60 rule that prevents spouses from receiving pension and health benefits after the deaths of their veteran spouses if they happen to marry after the age of 60. It would also mean extending the veterans independence program to all widows and veterans so veterans could stay in their homes, take care of themselves and not become a burden on the public, which is something I know all veterans wish to avoid.

Once again, I want to thank the member for bringing our attention to this problem. I know all members share a concern about mischief related to war memorials. However, I am not sure that the government penchant for thinking everything can be solved with a jail term is the right solution to the problem, and that is the solution proposed in the bill.

The solutions lie in restorative justice. They lie in making the perpetrators of these acts of vandalism aware of the harm they cause both the specific people honoured in those memorials and their families and to the larger community. They lie in public education about our military history and the important contribution the Canadian Forces have made, not just in defending Canada but as a part of international peacekeeping missions around the world.

In my career I happened to have the distinct privilege of being in East Timor when the Canadian Forces were there and saw the great work they were doing in rebuilding houses in a country that had been destroyed through civil conflict. I also had the privilege of serving in Afghanistan as an international human rights observer and again was able to see the Canadian Forces in the field attempting to do very positive, difficult and dangerous work there. The more the public and young people know about these kinds of contributions, the fewer problems we will have.

I also think, as I said, that the solution lies in demonstrating respect for veterans in a concrete way by governments all across the country to ensure we do not end up with veterans, who have served their country well, living in poverty, having to go to food banks and ending up homeless on our streets.

I call on the members on the other side to think very seriously about the solutions they propose when the bill gets to committee and to think about changing the solution that is in this bill to something that reflects the need for restorative justice, public education, fairness and fair treatment of our veterans rather than seeking jail sentences as a solution to this problem. I look forward to further discussion of the bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

February 2nd, 2012 / 5:35 p.m.
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NDP

Matthew Kellway NDP Beaches—East York, ON

Madam Speaker, I am rising today to speak in opposition to Bill C-217. I do so somewhat reluctantly. I have come to know the member who sponsored this bill in his capacity as chair of the citizenship and immigration committee on which I sit. I can say half jokingly that he treats us all with a kind of even-handed impatience. I know that his intentions in putting forward this bill are no doubt noble and stem from a profound respect for the veterans of this country. I also say “reluctantly” because I share that profound respect for our veterans.

I have had the opportunity and privilege to tell the House before that I am the son of a World War II veteran, and the grandson of a veteran who was very seriously injured in the First World War but survived and went on to have a career as a diplomat on behalf of his home country, Australia. My father had the privilege of growing up the son of a diplomat in New York City. When he turned 18, he had a choice to make. He was free to join the forces and fight in the Second World War. That was a choice that he made. I realize it is a choice that hundreds of thousands of young men and women make and I want to be clear how much respect I have for the choice that all of those folks make.

Lastly, in terms of my reluctance to oppose this bill, I want to talk about the importance of war memorials. There is no question that they serve and should serve as important symbols in our public life. They are not symbols that celebrate war but in fact mark the terrible tragedies which occur in war. One hopes that in building war memorials as well as assembling before them that the tragedy of war is felt deeply by so many. I think that in our society war memorials can really serve as markers on the road to peace. I hope that is the service they provide to society. For that reason, I feel they need to be protected.

However, running through this private member's bill and frankly so much of the government's legislation is a common thread. There is a tendency to respond with intolerance, never with the humility that recognizes the very human tendency for all of us to err, and never in a fashion that recognizes the real human capacity that most of us have to redeem ourselves if given the opportunity.

It seems that all transgressions under government and private members' bills coming from the other side seem to end with someone getting incarcerated, as if incarceration is a redeeming and ennobling exercise.

I want to tell a story that demonstrates why this approach to the bill is wrong-headed. It is a story that spans a great many years, but I will shorten it for the House. It is centred in my riding of Beaches--East York. At the centre of the story is the Malvern Collegiate War Memorial, a war memorial I have spoken about here before. It was built in 1922 to honour the sacrifice of the 25 “Boys of Malvern”, all graduates of that high school who fought and died in World War I.

About 25 years ago, the memorial was moved to accommodate some renovations to the school and in that process it lost an arm. It stayed that way for a long time. In its centennial year, the school's alumni association decided to restore the monument to its former glory. It took about seven years of hard work and considerable fundraising and the memorial was beautifully restored November 4 of last year. I attended the rededication of the memorial and spoke on behalf of the Minister of Veterans Affairs because that ministry had provided some funds for the restoration. There were about 400 people in attendance at that rededication. It was very much a well-attended event in my riding. The war memorial itself had a lot of national media coverage. It was something of a celebrated war memorial.

It was at that event that I met a woman, Dr. Vandra Masemann. She was there to speak at the rededication as both the president of the school's alumni association and also as the chair of the war memorial restoration committee. It was a very proud day for a large number of people involved in this restoration process. The national media turned out, as did many local and regional media outlets as well.

It was a wonderful day, a very proud day for so many people. However, within 36 hours the memorial had been vandalized. The video evidence showed four young men getting out of a car in the dark of night, climbing the monument and wrapping it in blue duct tape. In the process they caused a couple thousand dollars' worth of damage to the memorial. The national media returned to the scene to cover the event and the outrage of so many people who lived in the neighbourhood and contributed financially and with their hard work to the restoration project.

I met Vandra a couple of weeks later. We were sitting on the stage beside each other at the high school's graduation ceremony. During the ceremony she leaned over to me and said, “I want you to know that I oppose that bill.” She was referring to Bill C-217. I followed up with her after the ceremony. She asked me for a bit of time to put her thoughts into writing for me about why she opposed the bill, having put so much work into the restoration and being so proud of what she had accomplished.

Vandra's characterization of the vandalism was very clear and concise. She said that this was indeed a desecration of the war memorial. In spite of this, she had a very firm opinion in opposition to this bill. I want to quote her at length. She wrote to me:

I ponder on who are going to be the ones that do these things--young males around 18-24. These boys are the same as the Boys of Malvern who died and who are remembered on that monument. We cannot rescue those boys who died, but we can rescue the ones who have done such a foolish and stupid thing as to vandalize a war memorial.

We need to be much more creative about the kind of consequence that will teach them the awful significance of what they have done. Giving them a criminal record and letting them learn nothing from the experience is of no redemptive significance whatsoever. It is imperative that they understand the nature of the act they have committed, and surely their cell-mates will not be able to do this. I am in favour of a fine proportional to the cost of repairs as well as an educational experience that ensures they will never even dream of committing such an act again. It could be community service with a veterans' group or hospital, with the War Amps program or with projects that aim to gather the memories of the soldiers that are still living. It needs to be concluded with a public apology and an expression of atonement for having committed such a crime. Surely our lawmakers can come up with more imaginative solutions than 2-4 weeks in jail. Lastly, several of those who have commented have noted that this act could also be construed as a “prank”. Many may disagree with this assessment, but a jail term will not convince the perpetrators that it wasn't. Only a serious attempt at re-education will show them the error of their ways.

If members tend to think that this is all wrong-minded, let me bring Reverend Jim McKnight into this story. Reverend Jim saw the news about the desecration of the Malvern War Memorial. He is an alumnus of Malvern and came forward to admit publicly that 43 years earlier he, along with a couple of other buddies who have remained nameless, desecrated the very same monument with a can of white paint.

In 1968 Reverend Jim was a top student, editor of the school newspaper and president of the United Way committee. That night he was, in his words, as quoted in the Toronto Star, “giving society the finger.” The school's principal caught him but the police were never called in. Reverend Jim's punishment was a lifetime of regret. As he put it:

I didn't think it was a big deal; I thought it was just some statue till I saw the newspaper....I remember the words, 'Memorial desecrated'. Something about 'desecrated' threw me for a loop. Then, an older math teacher pulled me aside. He was visibly shaken. His big brother had been killed;...his name was on the memorial. That really got my attention.

Reverend Jim never spent time in jail, never even paid a fine. It was the math teacher, who was a fellow Malvern alumnus who spoke of being in Malvern in the 1940s, of empty desks, of friends being killed overseas. These are the experiences that helped a kid who gave society the finger one night appreciate the courage and sacrifice of our veterans. That is all it takes, a little life experience, a little education, a couple of conversations, to accomplish what this bill seeks to accomplish with fines and incarceration.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

February 2nd, 2012 / 5:50 p.m.
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Conservative

David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Madam Speaker, I would first like to thank all members who participated in the debate on this bill, which recognizes the importance of honouring and respecting the memory of our country's brave men and women of the Canadian Forces.

Bill C-217 seeks to amend the Criminal Code by adding significant penalties for any person convicted of mischief against a war memorial, cenotaph or other structure honouring or remembering those who have served in our Canadian Forces and those who have died as a consequence of war. The bill seeks to impose a minimum penalty of a fine not less than $1,000 for a first offence, prison not less than 14 days for a second offence and prison not less than 30 days for all subsequent offences. These minimum sentences are not overly harsh. Instead, they are necessary to put an end to such disrespectful acts against those who died for our country.

A great number of examples of such heinous acts have already been presented to the House, bringing light to a growing yet hidden problem. Such examples of insolence cannot go unpunished. An apology or a small donation is not enough. These vandals must know what they have done is completely unacceptable and Canadians will not tolerate this disrespectful attitude.

When I first addressed the House on the bill on November 3, 2011, I cited many examples of desecrated war memorials and cenotaphs. Therefore, it saddens me to bring forward new examples today, one of which was just referred to by my colleague. However, it underscores the seriousness of the problem and the need for concrete action by the House.

Days before this past Remembrance Day, a war memorial in Calgary had graffiti painted on it. Concerned citizens and veterans alike expressed their outrage and disgust, voicing feelings of disrespect and lack of acknowledgement for the sacrifice of Canada's fallen.

Then, as my colleague has just said, in November of 2011, just hours after Malvern Collegiate in Toronto rededicated its war memorial to soldiers who had attended the school and following a $44,000 restoration, the monument was vandalized. The monument was wrapped in blue duct tape and three letters were knocked off it in what the school described as a planned and deliberate act of vandalism. The vandals then remained at the site and they chatted and took pictures before they left the site. All of this was caught on tape and, as expected, they failed to display any signs of remorse or regret. The damage will now cost the school nearly $2,000, all of which will have to be community funded. The school principal explained that in her eight years at the school, the memorial has been defaced, painted, dressed in rival school clothing, all acts of vandalism and disrespect.

The 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 is quickly approaching, as well as the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I. With the upcoming anniversaries of two historical events, it is of utmost importance that such amendments be put in place to protect the dignity and respect of those being honoured and remembered.

Bill C-217 would remind Canadians that the sacrifices of soldiers will never be forgotten or unappreciated. Canada will continue to honour its fallen through the protection of such important structures and will punish those who disrespect them.

The opposition has provided examples where vandals have expressed regret and disgust with their own acts of dishonour and now devote their time to protecting these sacred memorials. The opposition unfortunately sees this as an example of why minimum punishments should not be added to the Criminal Code. However, these vandals, although remorseful, committed a form of disrespect so great that new-found regret does not compensate for the immense and unforgettable damage done to the memorial and the community where it stands. The opposition has suggested rehabilitation as an appropriate response to those who committed these horrific acts.

Bill C-217 is not opposed to such a response, but seeks punishment first for those who displayed such great disrespect for war memorials and cenotaphs to ensure they recognize the gravity of their deplorable acts. Such amendments to the Criminal Code force potential vandals to also think twice before they act, due to the knowledge and fear of the criminal sanctions to come for their actions, rather than responding with rehabilitative efforts after the irreversible damage has been done to a memorial and its community.

Bill C-217 sends a clear message that vandalism and desecration of any Canadian cenotaph or war memorial will not be tolerated. We owe it all to the men and women who have fought and continue to fight in the Canadian Forces of our great country.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

November 3rd, 2011 / 6:25 p.m.
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Conservative

David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

moved that Bill C-217, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (mischief relating to war memorials), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of my constituents of Dufferin—Caledon to open the debate on my private member's bill, an act to amend the Criminal Code, which is mischief related to war memorials.

The bill seeks to add significant penalties for anyone convicted of mischief against a war memorial, cenotaph or other structure honouring or remembering those who have served in our armed forces and those who have died as a consequence of war. The timing of this debate is particularly significant, given that we pause to honour our fallen and our veterans next week on Remembrance Day.

Vandalism and defacement of a war memorial should not be tolerated in our great country. It is a duty of every Canadian citizen to respect those who have sacrificed their lives for our country. For those who do not share the same revered respect for members of our armed forces, there must be punishment.

Bill C-217 would amend the Criminal Code to make a conviction punishable by a fine of not less than $1,000 on a first offence, imprisonment of not less than 14 days on a second offence and imprisonment of not less than 30 days on subsequent offences. Unfortunately, I feel these increased measures are necessary due to the increased amount of mischief against Canada's cenotaphs and monuments.

In November 2008 in my constituency of Dufferin—Caledon, a cenotaph was desecrated within a week of its rededication. The town of Orangeville, the community where the cenotaph is located, spent nearly $2,000 repairing the newly restored monument just days before the annual Remembrance Day services.

Regrettably this is not the only case of mischief against cenotaphs and monuments. This type of vandalism occurs all over the country and it is for the 41st Parliament to take action. It is most concerning that in the past few years there have been numerous incidents of war memorial vandalism across the country. It is time to take a stand against this desecration of our sacred memorials and punish those responsible for this type of destruction.

Bill C-217 would place stiffer penalties on the vandalism of war memorials and hopefully force potential vandals to seriously reconsider defacing these important Canadian symbols of pride and honour. By allowing the Criminal Code to remain unchanged, we are doing a disservice to all those who have served in our wars and to all those who have sacrificed their lives so that our great country may remain free. The desecration of our war memorials must not continue. Vandals must face a harsher punishment to ensure that they will think twice before committing this type of violation.

The following are some examples of this.

In Kirkland Lake a teenager was charged with urinating on the Memorial Wall, but was able to attend a diversion program to allow the mischief charge to be dropped.

In Ottawa, our nation's capital, a man was found urinating on the National War Memorial on Canada Day. The charge was withdrawn after the culprit issued a written apology to Canadian veterans, completed community service and donated a mere $200 to charity. After this unacceptable conduct, this criminal did not even have a mischief charge against him. This is simply unacceptable.

It is obvious that these vandals do not think about what they are doing and have not thought about the blatant disrespect they display for these memorials. We must give them something to think about. Significant fines and weeks of imprisonment will complete this objective in a way that simple apology letters and deferment programs do not.

Canadian citizens should be proud of their history and remain proud of the monuments honouring those who have given their lives so that we may remain free and not fearful that their monuments will be desecrated by thoughtless individuals.

In Toronto vandals hooked up a chain to a concrete cross and using an all-terrain vehicle, pulled it from its perch on a cenotaph. This was the second time the cross had been stolen in less than a year.

A very disturbing story was someone in Beamsville broke into the Konkle Mausoleum and empted an urn of ashes onto the ground. Though three people are buried in the mausoleum, it is likely that the ashes belonged to a War of 1812 veteran.

In Waterloo police arrested three young people, ranging in age from 12 to 18, who were responsible for toppling between 300 and 400 graves, many of which were graves of war veterans.

We have heard of multiple cases in which our cherished war memorials and cenotaphs have been vandalized and disrespected. We must discourage such behaviour. Explicit punishments must be written into the Criminal Code for mischievous conduct to address these atrocious crimes. We have a duty to protect the memories of those who have sacrificed their lives so that we may continue to live freely in our great country. These memorials and what they represent command our utmost respect and efforts to preserve and protect them. Canadian citizens also deserve to know that conduct as this will not be tolerated in any way.

In a most disturbing case, on the morning of this past September 25, a Canadian Forces veteran who served in Afghanistan discovered fresh sprayed-painted graffiti tags on the monument at Girouard Park on Sherbrooke Street in Montreal's Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine neighbourhood. This was the second time in less than 18 months this beautiful monument had been defaced. What a slap in the face for the Canadian Forces member to have been the one to discover such disrespect. City workers later had to remove the offending graffiti at a cost of several thousand dollars.

Our country's bravest deserve much better. They have fought and died for our country and, therefore, deserve our utmost respect. We have an obligation to protect and preserve their dignity. Canadians as a whole deserve to know that we take our war memorials seriously and that we understand the significance they embody.

It is time for Parliament to take a stand against mischief relating to war memorials. The use of fines and imprisonment will convey this message to those who appear to have no respect for our armed forces' veterans and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Anyone who wilfully damages or desecrates a war memorial should face stiff consequences. We owe it to our men and women in uniform to protect these revered memorials.

The 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 will be upon us next year. As Canadians, we are extremely proud of the role that our great country played and we will soon be celebrating this important anniversary, often at the feet of our war memorials and cenotaphs. We must ensure that these memorials will still be beautiful for our ceremonies rather than desecrated by vandals on the eve of the services.

Following the anniversary for the War of 1812, the 100th anniversary of World War I will occur. Canada played an immense role in this war and this anniversary will be a time to remember all those who died defending our country and democracy. Numerous memorials throughout the country have been erected to honour those who fought in World War I. Parliament must help to ensure that these memorials remain untouched by vandalism.

With these important events around the corner, this is an opportune time to pass this legislation to protect and preserve those symbols to the best of our ability and this bill would do just that.

We all know someone who has fought for our great country: a father, a grandfather, a son, a daughter, a husband, a wife, a friend. We appreciate these men and women for the dedication they have shown to our country and for their willingness to fight abroad for our freedom here at home. Memorials in our communities are dedicated to those people and none of us should want to see them damaged or defiled. Harsher penalties will keep this from happening. They will make potential vandals think twice before acting against memorials, which so many of us consider sacred.

As all members know, this past summer the Canadian Forces wound down combat operations in Afghanistan. This was Canada's longest-ever combat mission, a mission in which our country lost 157 brave men and women of the Canadian Forces. As a result, our memorials and cenotaphs have a renewed sense of purpose and value, especially in communities which lost one or more of their own. Indeed, that conflict continues and only this past weekend Canada lost another brave soldier to a suicide attack on a NATO convoy in Kabul.

We owe so much to our men and women in uniform. Indeed, it is widely agreed that Canada came of age as a nation on the muddy battlefields of France during the First World War. Our participation in that great conflict was out of proportion to our population and we overcame challenges that had defeated other nations. Our mettle was tested, to enormous loss of life and many of our brave soldiers sacrificed everything in the defence of freedom.

The call came again in the Second World War, when once again tens of thousands of brave young Canadians went to the aid of our allies in the cause of freedom. That conflict reshaped our world and Canada played no small part in its outcome. From the Battle of the Atlantic to Juno Beach, from Italy to Hong Kong, Canadians were at the forefront in that conflict.

In Korea and on to the birth of UN peacekeeping with the Suez crisis, Canadians Forces continued to place their lives on the line for freedom and democracy. Through dozens of peacekeeping missions and during the long years of the Cold War, our young men and women in uniform have always been ready and willing to put country before self.

In the first Gulf War, in the Balkans, then Afghanistan and now Libya, the best of our young men and women have shown time and time again their willingness to defend Canada and our values. All too often that willingness has cost them their lives.

To honour the memory of these young men and women, our communities erect memorials and cenotaphs, and rightly so. We create honoured spaces in our cities, towns and villages where we can gather to remember them. Whether it is on Remembrance Day or any other day of the year we might choose to pause and reflect, these spaces and those memorials signify the cost of our democracy, freedom and way of life.

Those of us who enjoy the hard-won freedoms that are part of modern Canada owe it to those who have paid in blood and life to keep those honoured spaces free from harm or insult. We have a solemn duty as citizens and residents of our wonderful country to protect and preserve our memorials and cenotaphs in the memory of those who have fallen.

When vandalism occurs in one of these honoured places, we are all diminished. An act of such disrespect is offensive not only to our local veterans, but it is offensive to all those who care about those veterans and everyone who cares about the sacrifices they have made.

Bill C-217 delivers a clear message. The vandalism and desecration of any Canadian cenotaph or war memorial will not be tolerated. We are compelled to protect these revered places. We owe it all to the Canadian men and women who have fought in our armed forces.

In consultation with the Minister of Justice, I propose to move an amendment at committee, should Bill C-217 carry in second reading, that would increase the minimum penalty under indictment from my proposed five years to ten years. This is a technical amendment which would simply ensure that this new offence would be consistent with the current similar Criminal Code offence of section 430(1)(a), which criminalizes the wilful destruction or damage of property. Without this amendment, we would be creating inconsistencies within the existing legislative framework.

I urge all of my colleagues to consider the adoption of Bill C-217. The desecration of war memorials is something that can happen in any community at any time. We all owe it to the constituents of our ridings, especially to the veterans of our respective ridings, to support the passage of the bill. This amendment to the Criminal Code would help protect Canada's war memorials and cenotaphs from vandalism, defilement and damage. Those who have fought and died in our great country deserve to know that the 41st Parliament is working to protect the monuments and memorials erected in their honour.

As I said at the outset, all colleagues in the House will join millions of Canadians next week on Remembrance Day as we honour those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to keep Canada the true north strong and free. Our long and proud tradition of standing up to defend freedom and democracy and to defend our values is one of the things that makes Canada the greatest country in the world today. We are a free, open and democratic society that prides itself on the rule of law. Those who would disrespect our honoured community spaces that are dedicated to the remembrance of the fallen through vandalism or other such acts must be held to account under the law. The debt we owe our veterans and the fallen soldiers requires that we look upon any disrespect to our cenotaphs and war memorials as a deeply grave matter with very serious consequences.

I believe that the passage of Bill C-217 is necessary to ensure that those who would damage our honoured places think twice before they act to desecrate our war memorials and cenotaphs. I encourage all of my colleagues in the House to join me in taking decisive action on this important issue.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

November 3rd, 2011 / 6:55 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in support, in principle, of Bill C-217, which is an act to amend the Criminal Code, particularly with respect to mischief relating to war memorials, which was introduced by the member for Dufferin—Caledon on June 15.

The bill would effectively create a new crime, where a person commits mischief in relation to war memorials and similar monuments honouring those who died during the war, by introducing a new paragraph to section 430 of the Criminal Code.

As the member for Dufferin—Caledon put it, this debate takes place at an appropriate moment of remembrance. It takes place on the eve of our commemoration of Remembrance Day, where we remember those who are no longer with us; where we remember those who, as the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore put it in this House, gave the greatest gift of all, the gift of life, so that we may live and so that we may enjoy our liberty; where we pay tribute to the veterans among us, and their families, who reflect and represent the sacrifice of those who are no longer with us, and we honour them; and where we pay tribute to our men and women in uniform across this world who are protecting our fundamental rights, who are safeguarding our democracy, who are protecting our human security or, indeed, who are protecting our international peace and security.

In effect, in 2005, when I was minister of justice and attorney general, I, at that point, developed a national justice initiative with respect to combatting hatred and racism which spoke with respect to the danger of this kind of assault on our war memorials, of those kinds of hate crimes that end up being an assault on the inherent dignity of every human being, and an assault on our equal dignity and, indeed, on our character as a multicultural society.

Section 430 of the Criminal Code currently outlines the definition of mischief and associated penalties. The section also includes specific provisions for mischief relating to data, religious and cultural property, and their associated penalties.

Bill C-217 would add another specific provision; this one for mischief, as I said, related to war memorials. It would also outline possible sentences for a person convicted of such a crime and it would create, as well, mandatory minimum sentences.

It is important to recall that the member for Ottawa South, at the time, in 2006, first proposed that the newly-elected Conservative government pass a law to make damage done to war memorials a specific offence. This push to protect monuments came in the wake of an incident on Canada Day in 2006, in which a man and two youths were observed urinating on Canada's National War Memorial in Ottawa. The man involved in the incident has since had his mischief charged dropped after partaking in voluntary community service.

I mention this because it would seem to me that the appropriate response with respect to that kind of vandalism is not to institute a mandatory minimum but to respond by way of community work, by way of education, by way of having to meet with veterans and confronting exactly the nature of the outrage that was committed and thereby learning from that. That would be a more appropriate remedy than introducing a mandatory minimum.

Since the member for Ottawa South introduced his proposal, there were other incidents involving monument vandalism, including an incident of a cross being torn from the cenotaph at a Royal Canadian Legion in Bell Ewart. At the time, in 2006, the then justice minister was not yet prepared to accept the proposal of the member for Ottawa South.

That leads us to where we are today with a related initiative to the recent passing of Bill C-442, An Act to establish a National Holocaust Monument, a monument which is intended for us to recall and remember horrors too terrible to be believed but not too terrible to have happened.

The importance, therefore, of protecting war memorials and the dignity of the individuals they represent and the values of freedom, democracy and human rights are omnipresent in this regard.

I support the need for an initiative to have a specific law protective of war memorials to express the condemnation of society of those who deface those monuments and memorials that are dedicated to our veterans, to our soldiers, and to the victims of mass atrocities, both domestic and international. But I caution as to the use of a mandatory minimum with respect to a remedial approach regarding this offence.

I support the bill in principle. I trust that the member for Dufferin—Caledon may perhaps be open to amending the bill with respect to removing the mandatory minimum, whereby we proceed in terms of alternative forms of punishment. I trust that a further discussion of the bill could lead us in the direction of where we could support the principle, certainly, which is very compelling.

I commend the member for introducing this private member's bill, but that we tailor the remedy with respect to the offence to the individual and do so in a manner that we can achieve an outcome that may be more appropriate in that regard while still achieving the objective which we seek.

Again, may I close by saying it is an appropriate initiative on the eve of Remembrance Day.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

November 3rd, 2011 / 7:05 p.m.
See context

Mississauga—Brampton South Ontario

Conservative

Eve Adams ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to support Bill C-217, which was introduced in the House by the hon. member for Dufferin—Caledon on June 15 of this year. When the hon. member introduced the bill, he said that he did so in an effort to add significant penalties for anyone convicted of mischief against a war memorial, cenotaph, or other structure intended to honour or remember those who had died as a result of war.

Anyone who intentionally damages or defiles a war memorial should face severe consequences. Respect for those who have given the ultimate sacrifice so that we may live in peace is the responsibility of every Canadian. We owe it to our men and women in uniform to protect these revered memorials. I suspect that many Canadians would share these sentiments.

While some Canadians may question why Parliament should create this new Criminal Code offence when the code already contains similar provisions dealing with mischief against property generally, I commend the hon. member's effort to create a new offence specifically relating to war memorials and cenotaphs.

Through my remarks today, I intend to explain why the creation of the new criminal offence that distinguishes war memorials and similar structures from other property is justified and should be supported by all members of the House.

War memorials have an especially important place in Canadian society. Their desecration disrespects the memory of Canadians who gave the ultimate sacrifice for freedom and disrespects Canadians who continue to serve our country today.

As members may know, the National War Memorial here in Ottawa was unveiled in 1939 by King George VI on the eve of the second world war to symbolize the response of Canadians in the first world war that ended on November 11, 1918. Of course, it has since come to commemorate the sacrifice of all Canadians who have served in times of war.

Under the Criminal Code, a person commits mischief who: wilfully destroys or damages property; renders property dangerous, useless, inoperable, or ineffective; obstructs, interrupts, or interferes with the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property; or obstructs, interrupts, or interferes with any person in the lawful use, enjoyment, or operation of property.

Where a property that is the object of the mischief has a value greater than $5,000, the Criminal Code provides that where the Crown proceeds by indictment, the maximum penalty is 10 years imprisonment, and where the Crown elects to proceed by way of summary conviction, the maximum penalty is six months imprisonment. There is no mandatory minimum penalty for mischief.

Bill C-217 proposes the creation of a new hybrid Criminal Code offence of mischief committed in relation to property that is a building, structure, or part thereof, that primarily serves as a monument to honour persons who were killed or died as a consequence of war, including a war memorial or a cenotaph. The bill further proposes that this new offence would be punishable by a maximum of 18 months imprisonment on summary conviction and five years imprisonment when prosecuted by indictment.

Members will note that the bill also proposes the creation of mandatory minimum penalties. There would be a $1,000 fine for a first offence that would be the same whether the Crown proceeds by indictment or by way of summary conviction. I think this perhaps addresses some of the concerns that we have heard from the opposition.

This $1,000 minimum offence in real terms would be about 100 hours of work at the current minimum wage in Ontario. I do not think it is unreasonable if someone has desecrated a war memorial to ask them to go and work for 100 hours in as much as we do ask them to go out and provide volunteer community services. In addition to that, if a judge wanted to ask the perpetrator to go out and speak to Legions, I think that would be eminently reasonable.

What we are debating today, and which I fully support, is the fact that we would separately and uniquely honour our war memorials and cenotaphs.

On a second offence, there would be a minimum of 14 days of imprisonment and 30 days imprisonment for a third or subsequent offence. These mandatory minimum penalties are similar to some that already exist in the Criminal Code.

For example, section 255 of the Criminal Code also provides for mandatory minimum penalties that would be the same whether the Crown proceeds by indictment or by way of summary conviction. Under that provision the offender is liable to a $1,000 fine for a first offence, 30 days imprisonment for a second offence, and 120 days imprisonment for a third and subsequent offence.

In preparing for today's debate, I had a quick look at some incidents that could come within the scope of this new legislation. Members will be aware that there have been a number of high-profile incidents involving the desecration of monuments and war memorials in the recent past. While these incidents are relatively rare, they have nevertheless been very disturbing to Canadians.

A war memorial in Coniston, Ontario, has been the target of vandals a number of times over the years. The memorial originally consisted of five walls. There was a wall for the navy, one for the merchant navy, one for the army, one for the air force and one for the RCMP. At one point the monument had 11 flagpoles; only six remain now, and these too have been vandalized. The tops have been broken off and the flags have been stolen. Vandals also tore plaques off the central wall and knocked down the navy's wall. Two plane propellors that stand guard by the air force wall of the memorial had previously been spray painted.

At one point the Legion had a helmet and a gun from the world wars in a shatterproof glass display case at the memorial, yet vandals damaged the case so badly that the items had to be given away to another legion that could safely display them. A stainless steel sword dating back to the 1940s had also been stolen from a nearby cenotaph.

As a result of the most recent incident, the monument now needs to be completely replaced because of the amount of destruction, and I understand that the Legion is not going to repair it.

We must remember that our cenotaphs and monuments are powerful reminders of the sacrifices that generations of Canadians have made for the peace and freedom we enjoy today. I am proud to be a part of a government that understands that cenotaphs and monuments are important gathering places within our communities. As Canadians, we have a duty as a nation to preserve them in honour of our fallen men and women. Our veterans and those who continue to serve Canada today deserve nothing less.

This legislation underscores the importance of monuments and memorials to Canadians as symbols that remind us of our most important values: democracy, freedom and tolerance. I would invite all members of the House to support this important legislation, especially as we approach Remembrance Day.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

November 3rd, 2011 / 7:20 p.m.
See context

Delta—Richmond East B.C.

Conservative

Kerry-Lynne Findlay ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, how privileged we are to live in Canada. Canada is free from the turmoil and strife that we see in so many other parts of the world. Many new Canadians have come to Canada to escape war. Surely they appreciate the freedom and security which we should never take for granted.

Soon it will once again be Remembrance Day, November 11, notably this year, the 11th day of the 11th month of the 11th year of this century. Canadians have a moral duty to acknowledge the courage and sacrifice of those Canadians who placed themselves in harm's way, stood against oppression, and gave their all in the defence of freedom, justice and peace not just for Canada, but for people in foreign lands as well.

Most Canadians are conscious of the great debt we owe to those who contributed so much to preserving Canadian values, like the rule of law and equality. They wear the red poppy as I do this evening with solemn pride.

This is why I am at a loss to understand why there are some people who commit what can only be called despicable acts of vandalism against those memorials that have been erected to honour their sacrifice. I certainly support education, as the member opposite has suggested, but this really is a more straightforward matter.

As an example, in 2006, vandals ripped the cross from the cenotaph at Branch 547 of the Royal Canadian Legion in Belle Ewart, a small hamlet south of Barrie on Lake Simcoe. When we hear of acts of vandalism committed against a war memorial, I think many of us react with a mixture of sadness and outrage.

I would not want anyone to think that this problem is unique to Canada. Unfortunately, I recently have learned that scores of memorials to Britain's brave war dead have been desecrated by callous looters and vandals in the United Kingdom. The contempt for Britain's heroes was highlighted last week when a four foot bronze statue of a Second World War soldier was stolen from the garrison town of Tidworth in Wiltshire.

Brass statues and plaques bearing the names of the fallen are being ripped from their fittings and melted down so they can be sold for scrap. These plaques are often the last personal link with some of the fallen. If they are lost and their names forgotten, then it dilutes everything Remembrance Day stands for.

In the U.K., soaring prices for metals like copper, which has seen a threefold increase in value since 2009, has led to railway lines, phone lines, as well as war memorials and statues being targeted by metal thieves. These are deliberate acts.

In fact, I understand that at least three treasured monuments are looted, vandalized or in fact destroyed every week. This has left communities across the United Kingdom outraged, and rightly so, at the appalling insult to the heroes of two world wars. There are also growing calls for tighter laws to halt the plunder of memorials and tougher sentences for those who wilfully desecrate them in that part of the world.

I would like to invite all hon. members to consider how the families of Canadian service personnel, men and women, must feel when they witness or hear of similar acts of desecration being committed in Canada.

One hopes that all of our institutions, including schools, continue to instil proper appreciation of the role the Canadian Forces have played and are continuing to play in preserving our way of life.

It is my fervent hope that Bill C-217, once enacted, will help deter those who might engage in such outrageous conduct in the future.

I agree with my colleague, the hon. member for Dufferin—Caledon, that it is important to distinguish mischief against a war memorial, cenotaph or other such structure intended to honour or remember those who have died as a result of war from mischief to other types of property. War memorials deserve special recognition.

Bill C-217 provides that where a person has been found guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction, that person is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 18 months.

Furthermore, Bill C-217 proposes that where a person has been found guilty of the indictable offence of mischief committed in relation to a war memorial or cenotaph, that person would be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.

Bill C-217 also provides for mandatory minimum sentences that would be the same whether the Crown proceeds by indictment or by way of summary conviction. That is a very important point.

My colleagues opposite made it sound as though imprisonment would be the automatic minimum sentence in these situations. That is not correct. A first offence would entail a minimum $1,000 fine, no imprisonment. However, for a second offence, the offender would be liable to 14 days' imprisonment. For a third or subsequent offence, if this has happened by the same accused three times, the offender would face a minimum of 30 days' imprisonment.

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

June 15th, 2011 / 3:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-217, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (mischief relating to war memorials).

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today, on behalf of the residents of my riding of Dufferin—Caledon, to introduce an act to amend the mischief provisions of the Criminal Code relating to war memorials and cenotaphs.

I introduce the bill in an effort to add significant penalties for anyone convicted of mischief against a war memorial, cenotaph or other structure intended to honour or remember those who have died as a result of war. Anyone who intentionally damages or defiles a war memorial should face severe consequences.

Respect for those who have given the ultimate sacrifice so that we may live in peace is the responsibility of every Canadian. We owe it to our men and women in uniform to protect these revered memorials.

I would ask that my colleagues support the bill in an effort to keep our war memorials and cenotaphs sacred.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)