An Act to amend the Criminal Code (personating peace officer or public officer)

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

Earl Dreeshen  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 establish that personating a police officer or a public officer for the purpose of committing another offence must be considered by a court to be an aggravating circumstance for sentencing purposes.

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.

Private Members' BusinessOpening Of The Second Session Of The 41St Parliament

October 16th, 2013 / 6:10 p.m.
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Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I would like to make a statement concerning private members' business.

As hon. members know, our Standing Orders provide for the continuance of private members’ business from session to session within a Parliament.

In practical terms, this means that notwithstanding prorogation, the list for the consideration of private members' business established at the beginning of the 41st Parliament shall continue for the duration of this Parliament.

As such, pursuant to Standing Order 86.1, all items of private members' business originating in the House of Commons that were listed on the Order Paper at the conclusion of the previous session are automatically reinstated to the Order Paper and shall be deemed to have been considered and approved at all stages completed at the time of prorogation.

All items will keep the same number as in the first session of the 41st Parliament. More specifically, all bills and motions standing on the list of items outside the order of precedence shall continue to stand. Bills that had met the notice requirement and were printed in the Order Paper but had not yet been introduced will be republished on the Order Paper under the heading “Introduction of Private Members' Bills”. Bills that had not yet been published on the order paper need to be recertified by the Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel and be resubmitted for publication on the notice paper.

Of course all items in the order of precedence remain on the order of precedence or, as the case may be, are referred to the appropriate committee or sent to the Senate.

Specifically, at prorogation there were three private members' bills originating in the House of Commons adopted at second reading and referred to committee.

Therefore, pursuant to Standing Order 86.1, Bill C-458, an act respecting a national charities week and to amend the Income Tax Act (charitable and other gifts) is deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Finance.

Bill C-478, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (increasing parole ineligibility), is deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Bill C-489, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (restrictions on offenders) is deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Accordingly, pursuant to Standing Order 97.1, committees will be required to report on each of these reinstated private members’ bills within 60 sitting days of this statement.

In addition, prior to prorogation, nine private members' bills originating in the House of Commons had been read the third time and passed. Therefore, pursuant to Standing Order 86.1, the following bills are deemed adopted at all stages and passed by the House: Bill C-217, an act to amend the Criminal Code (mischief relating to war memorials); Bill C-266, an act to establish Pope John Paul II day; Bill C-279, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (gender identity); Bill C-290, an act to amend the Criminal Code (sports betting); Bill C-314, an act respecting the awareness of screening among women with dense breast tissue; Bill C-350, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (accountability of offenders); Bill C-377, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (requirements for labour organizations); Bill C-394, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the National Defence Act (criminal organization recruitment); and Bill C-444, an act to amend the Criminal Code (personating peace officer or public officer).

Accordingly, a message will be sent to the Senate to inform it that this House has adopted these nine bills.

Consideration of private members’ business will start on Thursday, October 17, 2013.

As members may be aware, among the items in the order of precedence or deemed referred to committee, there are four bills standing in the name of members recently appointed as parliamentary secretaries who, by virtue of their office, are not eligible to propose items during the consideration of private members' business.

Bill C-511, an act to amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act (period of residence) and Bill C-517, an act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons) were awaiting debate at second reading in the order of precedence at the time of prorogation.

Bill C-458, An Act respecting a National Charities Week and to amend the Income Tax Act (charitable and other gifts), and Bill C-478, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (increasing parole ineligibility), were in committee at the time of prorogation and, as stated earlier, have been returned there.

This is in keeping with the principle expressed at pages 550-551 and 1125 of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, which provides that bills remain on the order of precedence since they are in the possession of the House and only the House can take further decision on them.

These items are therefore without eligible sponsors but remain in the possession of the House or its committees. If no action is taken, at the appropriate time these items will eventually be dropped from the Order Paper, pursuant to Standing Order 94(2)(c).

Hon. members will find at their desks a detailed explanatory note about private members’ business. I trust that these measures will assist the House in understanding how private members' business will be conducted in this session. The table officers are available to answer any questions members may have.

I thank all members for their attention.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

June 14th, 2013 / 1:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am humbled to rise today to wrap up this debate on Bill C-444, my private member's bill.

It is not often we get to work specifically on behalf of a constituent in such a significant way, by making a change to the Criminal Code of Canada. First and foremost, I want to thank the brave young woman and her mother who inspired me to table this bill. There are also many folks on the Hill I would like to thank for the support and encouragement they have extended to me along the way, as well as for the personal work they have put into our debates on this bill. This also includes my wonderful staff, here in Ottawa as well as back in Red Deer.

As I have said, this bill is about sentencing. It speaks to the need for tougher penalties for personating peace officers and public officers, and it is in line with the fundamental sentencing principle of proportionality, which is stated in section 718 of the Criminal Code. We must preserve the trust and respect that citizens have for police officers. When citizens see a police uniform, they trust the authority that comes with it. We are giving the tools that they need to deliver harsher sentences to criminals who breach this trust to cause harm.

Within the parameters of the maximum sentence for this particular offence, the decision of what sentences are appropriate will still rest with sentencing courts. We know that a number of factors come into play in a sentencing decision, such as the criminal record of the offender or the severity of harm caused to a victim.

Aggravating circumstances are just one more factor that sentencing judges are required to consider when the Crown is successful in a conviction. Sentencing achieves a number of results, and one of them is support for victims. The rights of victims need to be protected. They must know that there are serious consequences for criminals who have hurt them.

I extend my heartfelt condolences to any Canadian who has been a victim of someone maliciously personating a police officer to do further harm. I dedicate this work to those victims.

I thank my colleagues for their support. If I still have a moment, I would like to thank the following members for their contribution to debate: the Minister of Justice; the members of the Standing Committee on Justice for their thoughtful study and debate, and their support; the seconders, the members for Sault Ste. Marie and Oxford; the members who contributed their time in speaking here in the House, the members for Gatineau, Mount Royal, Montcalm, Brome—Missisquoi, Charlottetown, Beauport—Limoilou, British Columbia Southern Interior, Vaudreuil-Soulanges, Louis-Hébert, Nanaimo—Cowichan, Chambly—Borduas, Northumberland—Quinte West, Edmonton—St. Albert, Windsor—Tecumseh, and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, as well as the Associate Minister of National Defence.

There is a special symbolism of having every member present in this House stand to show their support, not just for a bill but for victims and police officers throughout this great nation.

However, because of the uncertainty that surrounds the closing days of any session, I would be proud to use this opportunity to stand on behalf of all members and to accept unanimous consent if the House so chooses.

The House resumed from May 31 consideration of the motion that Bill C-444, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (personating peace officer or public officer), be read the third time and passed.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (personating peace officer or public officer)Private Members' Business

May 31st, 2013 / 2:25 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by acknowledging that New Democrats will be supporting this private member's bill. I want to commend the member for Red Deer for being so persistent in bringing it forward. I know he has worked on it for a number of years. I also think it speaks to the fact that we as parliamentarians do respond to our constituents. My understanding is that the member for Red Deer brought this forward as a result of an incident in his riding.

Others have mentioned it, but what Bill C-444 does is to propose to amend article 130 of the Criminal Code, to establish that personating a police officer or public officer for the purposes of committing another offence must be considered by a court to be an aggravating circumstance for sentencing purposes. A number of other members have pointed this out, but I think it bears repeating. It is essential that the public have absolute confidence and are able to trust that when dealing with a police officer, the person is actually a police officer.

Many of us, as parents, have told our children that if they are in trouble or get lost when they are out and about, they should go to a police officer. We need to have confidence that it is police officers we are sending our children to.

One reason that confidence and trust is important is the fact that we have vulnerable populations. I know the member for Red Deer specifically talked about a young girl. I also want to touch on seniors because my riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan has a higher than provincial average of seniors. It is a very popular place for people to retire to. Sometimes seniors end up becoming part of the vulnerable population because people who have less than honourable intentions target them specifically for criminal activities. Unfortunately, people personating police officers go to their doors.

I went to the Vancouver Police Department's website and read its tips for seniors when dealing with people at the door. The website pointed out that for most crimes, seniors are the least victimized, so I would reassure seniors that they are not often a major target for criminal activity. However, it adversely affects seniors in a way that does not affect others in the population because seniors are often on a fixed income and have much greater difficulty replacing money or property when they have been targeted for criminal activity.

There are a couple of tips that the Vancouver Police Department suggest. When someone goes to a senior's door, the first thing they should do is to look through the peephole or a glass window that may be on the side of the door to verify who is on the doorstep. If it is somebody purporting to be a police officer and they have any discomfort at all, they should call 911 or contact the police department to verify he or she is actually an officer.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (personating peace officer or public officer)Private Members' Business

May 31st, 2013 / 2:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by once again thanking the member for Red Deer for the work he has done to bring the issue of the personation of peace officers to the attention of the House. As he and others have correctly pointed out, there have been a number of offences committed in recent years in which the offender personated an officer in order to facilitate illegal activity, and these instances have the profoundly troubling consequence of undermining public trust in the police and other officials.

I would also like to acknowledge the courageous appearance before the justice committee of Laurie Long and her daughter Jordan, whose 46-hour ordeal at the hands of a man who pretended to be a police officer evokes in all of us the utmost compassion and outrage. Jordan's determination to not only overcome this trauma but to speak openly about it in an effort both to encourage other victims to come forward and to prevent others from being victimized truly merits the term “heroic”.

Accordingly, I will be supporting Bill C-444 as a statement of the seriousness with which Parliament regards the crime of personation. I can support it because the member for Red Deer has wisely not included a mandatory minimum sentencing provision and, as such, this legislation would be unlikely to have the unintended negative consequences of other Conservative justice bills that have come before us.

However, at the same time the bill is unlikely to have the meaningful positive impact that we all desire, indeed, that which the member for Red Deer desires, mainly fewer instances of personation. The bill would establish that for offenders who personate a peace officer in order to facilitate another offence, this intention would be considered an aggravating factor with respect to the sentence for personation. Yet, as I outlined at second reading, Canada already allows for longer sentences for personation than many comparable jurisdictions, and there has been no suggestion that Canadian judges have been ignoring material aggravating factors when meting them out.

Furthermore, even if some judges were moved by this legislation to issue longer sentences than they otherwise would have, the offenders would still be unlikely to spend more time in prison because the sentence for personation would generally be served concurrently with a longer sentence for the crime it was intended to facilitate. Indeed, while the member for Red Deer outlined at committee certain exceptional hypothetical scenarios in which his bill could conceivably impact the length of a prison term, these scenarios constitute exceptions that prove the rule, which is that the bill will have less of the impact than the member for Red Deer would himself wish on sentencing and prison terms.

Finally, even if this bill were in rare cases to cause certain offenders to spend more time in prison, it has been well established that longer prison terms do not result in less crime. As such, the goal of reducing the occurrence of personation would not be furthered in any event. As I suggested at second reading, preventive measures, such as restricting the availability of authentic looking police attire and equipment, would do more to protect Canadians than this somewhat less than consequential amendment on the matter of sentencing guidelines might do.

I know that the member for Red Deer explained at committee, and today, that his primary purpose in bringing this bill forward was not to increase the length of prison terms, or even to have a direct impact on the incidence of this offence, but rather to raise awareness about the crime of personation. This is a laudable objective, and in fact I have spent much of my own work seeking to raise awareness on various issues, including crimes committed both in Canada and abroad.

While I am on the topic, I will take this opportunity to extend my appreciation to those members from all parties who have participated in the context of Iran accountability week in efforts to raise awareness about the threat posed by the Iranian regime, both to other countries and particularly to its own people. Raising awareness can undoubtedly be an important first step on the road to tangible change.

However, the Criminal Code is an inappropriate tool with which to engage in an awareness campaign. For one thing, I am somewhat uneasy about the precedent of making additions to it that are primarily of a symbolic nature. The Criminal Code functions best when it is simple, efficient, clear and accessible to ordinary Canadians. Amendments to the Code are appropriate when it is determined that there is a fault or a gap in the law, but if we make a habit or a practice of amending it simply for the purpose of signalling concern, however valid a given concern might be— and, again, I applaud the member for Red Deer in his expression of concern—we risk unnecessarily complicating a document that is already dense and complex, not to mention risking unforeseen and undesired consequences in unforeseeable cases.

More importantly, perhaps, the Criminal Code is simply not an effective means of raising awareness. I appreciate that this bill has brought the matter of personation of peace officers to the attention of Parliament, although that goal could have been achieved just as well by way of a motion. However, surely we must seek not only to alert parliamentarians to this problem, but the Canadian public as well. To that end, adding an aggravating sentencing factor to the Criminal Code, especially one that is unlikely to have any real consequential effect, may achieve little, as very few Canadians are conversant in the sentencing guidelines of section 130.

Indeed, the government itself has acknowledged on several occasions that amending the Codes does not, on its own, raise awareness.

Last fall, for example, Parliament unanimously passed Bill C-36 which, similarly to the bill before us, added an aggravating sentencing factor, this one designed to increase penalties for those who target seniors.

At that time, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice stood in this House and said:

This government recognizes the concern expressed by witnesses...who noted that Bill C-36 could not serve as the only response to the problem of elder abuse.

He went on to explain that the bill was intended to complement an awareness and advertising campaign already in place.

Another example is Bill C-26, the citizen's arrest and self-defence act, which received royal assent on June 28 of last year. At committee, Catherine Kane, who was then director general and senior general counsel of the criminal law policy and amendments section in the Department of Justice, and I congratulate her on her appointment since to the Federal Court, referred to the government's plan for educating the public regarding the bill's provisions saying, “we will also be embarking on some public education materials so we can explain to various audiences what these changes mean”.

I regret that I have yet to see any such educational materials in the 11 months since the bill received royal assent. I might add, parenthetically, that while a backgrounder published by the Department of Justice in conjunction with the coming into force of the legislation on March 11 of this year speaks of two guides on the department's website, “What you need to know about making a citizen's arrest” and “Technical guide to self defence and defence of property reforms”, the links to both are broken.

Nevertheless, my point is that even the government has in word, if not always in deed, recognized that education and raising awareness should be conducted outside the Criminal Code. Regrettably, the bill before us does not do likewise. There has been no mention, for instance, of education programs to inform individuals about their right to ask a police officer for identification. Indeed, there has not even been any suggestion that the very change wrought by the bill will be publicized in any way.

Simply having this provision rest as one of many in the Criminal Code that most Canadians only encounter when they are either charged with a crime or fall victim to one does not constitute effective education or awareness-raising, and neither is it a strategy that will prevent, deter or dissuade anyone from engaging in what we all agree is reprehensible behaviour.

Fundamentally, the 2,074 pages of legal language in the Criminal Code are neither a billboard nor a public service announcement. Any attempt to use them as such, however well intentioned, cannot be expected to succeed.

As I said at the outset, I will support this bill so as to join with the member for Red Deer in seeking to make this statement on an important issue. Again, I commend the member for this initiative. However, if we are to protect Canadians from those who would abuse their trust by disguising themselves as peace officers in order to do harm, we must devise concrete measures that can be more effective at both raising awareness and preventing this intolerable crime.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (personating peace officer or public officer)Private Members' Business

May 31st, 2013 / 2:10 p.m.
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NDP

Denis Blanchette NDP Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-444.

I will begin by quoting Anne Frank: “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” I think this resonates with the hon. member for Red Deer, who has had to wait three years to get to third reading stage of his bill. In fact, this is a reincarnation of a bill that unfortunately died on the order paper. Such is life.

I want to commend the hon. member for Red Deer on resisting the urge to suggest a minimum sentence. He took another approach in considering personating an officer an aggravating factor in the crime committed, for the purpose of sentencing.

This is a wise approach. It respects judicial independence and it suits the opposition. It shows that we can achieve rapid success if things are done properly. I thank him for that.

By taking this approach we are showing victims that during the trial, the courts will take into consideration the circumstances in which the crime was committed. That is important because the appearance of justice is just as important as justice itself. For these victims, it is very important to take into consideration the way in which the crime was committed, as well as their story, as painful as it may be. We have to take that into account.

This bill will help prevent people from mistrusting peace officers, something that should never happen. This is not insignificant. In terms of prevention, this is important.

When someone personates an officer, they make others vulnerable. Someone who personates an officer and takes advantage might put someone else who is not necessarily a victim in a vulnerable position. When we trust people, we lower our guard. It is human nature and that is good.

Taking advantage of this vulnerability is absolutely wrong. I think everyone here, on both sides of the House, agrees on that. In many cases people actively try to make others vulnerable. Much has been said about naturally vulnerable people, such as young children and the elderly. Everyone intuitively understands that.

However, some people can exploit the vulnerability of others for their own benefit through lying or misrepresentation. Bullying is a typical case. Someone uses a supposedly superior position to achieve certain ends. Whether it involves physical or psychological abuse, bullying is bullying regardless of the individual or group of people targeted.

People who use their knowledge of the law, for example, to take advantage of others who do not have this knowledge are also doing something reprehensible. This human failing can take several forms.

Let me tell you about something that happened to me once. I was walking my dog outside. There were some homeless people not far from my house.These were people without much of a future and who did not have a lot in life. I saw a homeless person talking to someone, almost as poor, who was offering a warm place to sleep for one night. In return, this individual was asking the homeless person sleeping on the street to give up the only thing he had, which was a watch. When I saw that, I was absolutely shocked.

Continually trying to exploit a weakness, whatever it is, for example through personation, as addressed in the bill, is something that always infuriates me because everyone deserves respect.

I would like to tell the member for Red Deer that I really appreciate his approach. I really appreciate the example he sets for the entire House on how to work together, as my colleague from Vaudreuil-Soulanges mentioned. He went about it in a way that made it possible for everyone to agree. He makes it possible for us to say that if people of good will sit down together to acknowledge an obvious problem, there are ways to solve it without discord and still advance the ideals of justice. I would like to thank him again for that.

In closing, I hope that the Conservatives are prepared to consider not including minimum sentences in their future bills. In the past, and since I became a member of the House, we have opposed bills or expressed serious reservations about certain bills, not because they were not good bills in their own right, but because they did not recognize the autonomy of judges.

The member for Red Deer took this into account in this bill and that is important. For that reason, I am pleased to support this bill.

In closing, I would like to quote the Tao Teh Ching. I hope the member for Red Deer will like it. It says that one can “accomplish great things by taking a series of little steps”.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (personating peace officer or public officer)Private Members' Business

May 31st, 2013 / 2 p.m.
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Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe New Brunswick

Conservative

Robert Goguen ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today in support of Bill C-444, an act to amend the Criminal Code (personating peace officer or public officer).

The bill is basically identical to the previous bill, Bill C-576, which died on the order paper when the last Parliament ended.

Bill C-444 was reported without amendment from the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights on April 24, 2013.

The bill deals with the existing offence of personating a peace officer or public officer. Specifically it would make it an aggravating factor on sentencing if the offence of personating a peace officer or public officer was committed for the purpose of facilitating another offence.

Prior to 2009, pretending to be a peace officer or public officer was a straightforward summary conviction offence. At that time it carried a maximum of six months in prison, a maximum fine of $5,000 or both.

In 2009, this government hybridized the offence and increased the penalty to a maximum of five years when prosecuted on indictment, in former Bill S-4, also known as the identity theft bill. That legislation came into force on January 8, 2010.

The maximum sentence of five years reflects the fact that the offence only requires that a person pretend to be a peace officer or public officer. It does not require that they have a specific malicious purpose for doing so or that they accomplish something malicious by doing so.

Some people may impersonate the police for the thrill of feeling powerful or for other relatively minor objectives, such as obtaining information or gaining access to a place. Simply pretending to be a peace officer or public officer so that others may believe that person is in fact one, without any other motive, is enough to result in a conviction. Such cases may still be dealt with by way of summary conviction proceedings, based on the Crown prosecutor's assessment of all the relevant circumstances.

However, the five-year maximum penalty enacted in 2010 ensures that law enforcement and Crown prosecutors have the tools to appropriately address serious incidents of this behaviour, preserving public confidence in our peace officers and public officers.

Police personation can be closely associated with other offences. It can, in fact, be used as a tool to make the commission of other offences easier. Because we live in a society where most citizens are trusting of the police, members of the public may acquiesce to the authority of someone they believe to be a police officer or a public officer. The exploitation of citizens' trust in the police demonstrated by this kind of situation is the most troubling form of offence. It is especially deserving of condemnation by sentencing courts, as well as by Parliament.

This is precisely the situation that Bill C-444 targets. Bill C-444 would make it a mandatory aggravating factor on sentencing for the crime of personating a peace officer or public officer if the offence was committed for the purpose of facilitating the commission of another offence. It is frightening even to imagine how people could be influenced to comply with directions or the assertion of authority by someone they believed to be a police officer.

We are taught from our earliest interactions with our parents and teachers that police officers are safe persons we can rely on, especially in difficult or dangerous situations. It is thus not surprising that the vast majority of Canadians instinctively respect police officers' authority and follow their instructions, as we rightfully believe they are acting to keep us safe.

When criminals take advantage of this trust to defraud us or worse, that bond is jeopardized. This not only causes a great deal of anguish for individual survivors of these offences but also acts to make it more difficult for police officers or public officers to do their jobs effectively and keep our communities safe. Fortunately this is a rare occurrence, but its extreme seriousness can justify express condemnation in the Criminal Code.

It is also important to recall that in determining a fit sentence, the court must in all cases take into account all relevant aggravating and mitigating factors. Paragraph 718.2(a) of the Criminal Code describes a number of aggravating factors that apply to all offences. These include, for instance, evidence that the offender, in committing the offence, abused a position of trust or authority in relation to the victim. However in addition to these factors that are specifically listed, the sentencing court always retains discretion to determine if additional circumstances revealed by the evidence are aggravating or mitigating factors that should affect the sentence.

It is already the case in our law that a sentencing judge can take into account the aggravating nature of this form of police personation. What Bill C-444 would do is essentially codify this practice in the context of the criminal law.

Bill C-444 merits support because it addresses a truly horrific form of criminality which has so many negative consequences on the public at large, on the ability of the police to carry out their functions, and especially on any individuals whose trust in public institutions and authorities was used against them to facilitate their victimization. There have been a number of incidents of this form of conduct reported in the papers in the last few years. Just this past April it appeared that at least two more incidents of personating peace officers have occurred.

In Calgary there are recent media reports that a man driving a silver sedan with unauthorized red and blue lights pulled over two vehicles, scaring the innocent drivers. Fortunately, the victims realized that something was not right about the impostor and got in contact with the real authorities to report the situation. Luckily, nobody was harmed. However, this act has surely shaken Canadians' trust and their belief in who is or is not a police officer.

On the east coast, the Halifax Chronicle Herald reported criminals had been personating local police officers via telephone in order to fraudulently solicit donations for a bogus charity. The scam artists claimed that they were police officers fundraising to help combat youth suicide. This disgraceful conduct not only preys on generous citizens, but also makes it more difficult for real officers to give back to their communities through legitimate fundraising activities, which is a long-standing tradition in police services across our country.

Of course, there was the tragic case in the sponsoring member's riding, which saw a devastating abduction and sexual assault of a teenage girl near Penhold, Alberta. This incident clearly influenced the proponent's decision to bring this legislation forward.

During the most recent committee study of the bill, members heard the courageous testimony of the survivor of that offence as well as that of her mother. I applaud the immense strength of that young woman's courage to travel to Ottawa and assist the committee by sharing her story with members of Parliament as well as with all Canadians. She rightly explained to the committee that there should never be shame or stigma in reporting or speaking out against sexual violence.

By passing this legislation we would send a clear message that the courts must give serious weight during sentencing to the enduring harm that is caused when criminals personate police officers or public officers for the purpose of committing other criminal acts, including sexual assault and kidnapping.

All Canadians should be concerned about these cases and should be encouraged to take the appropriate steps to avoid being duped by this very deceptive form of criminality. In particular, citizens should continue to trust the police but they should also recognize that criminals are not above exploiting their trust.

It is a difficult balance to achieve. The exercise of a bit of caution is a good thing. It is reasonable to ask to see the badges of individuals who appears to be police officers, especially if being requested to go with them or to allow them to enter the premises, or if they appear to be soliciting donations. This kind of verification process must be done respectfully and cautiously. If an impostor flees when asked for identification, immediately call 911, report the incident and attempt to provide an accurate description of the person and any associated vehicle while the encounter is still fresh in memory.

We as parliamentarians can help educate and inform Canadians about these risks, which many may be unaware of. In terms of Bill C-444, we can also vote to support this legislation and express our unified condemnation of those who would use our best natures as citizens against us.

I hope all members will join me in supporting this worthwhile legislation.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (personating peace officer or public officer)Private Members' Business

May 31st, 2013 / 1:50 p.m.
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NDP

Jamie Nicholls NDP Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I will be talking about Bill C-444, An Act to amend the Criminal Code.

The bill makes a slight amendment to the Criminal Code about personating a police officer or a public officer. This is a change for the better, so the official opposition will support the bill. I am pleased that we can work with the government to pass Bill C-444 quickly.

This bill establishes that personating a police officer or a public officer for the purpose of committing another offence must be considered by a court to be an aggravating circumstance.

How does that change the existing law? Currently, personating a police officer is an offence. That will not change. What would change is that the courts would no longer consider personation to be a stand-alone offence. In other words, if this crime is committed for the purpose of committing another offence, it will be considered an aggravating circumstance with respect to the primary offence. Until now, the two offences were considered separately.

Today, if a man is convicted of disguising himself as a police officer for the purpose of committing an assault, the court will hand down separate sentences for the assault and for personating a police officer. This bill will give the judge a way to connect the assault and the personation that enabled the assault. It will be easier for the judge to account for the outcome of personating a public officer. Guilty parties will receive more appropriate sentences.

It seems clear to us that, in such cases, the personation is part of the plan to commit the assault, so it would not make sense to separate the two crimes. I hope that the law will soon reflect logic and common sense.

There is another reason I wholeheartedly support this bill. Like my colleagues, I am pleased to support it because, in addition to its logical approach, Bill C-444 is balanced. By that, I mean that it respects judicial independence and sidesteps the trap of mandatory minimum sentences.

Courts will be able to assess sentences once they can consider personation to be an aggravating circumstance. Judges will be able to take all aggravating and attenuating circumstances into account.

We need to remember that each case is different. Legislators must provide the justice system with the means to hand down appropriate sentences. The very principle of minimum sentencing goes against that idea. We are quite pleased that this bill does not propose minimum sentences.

I hope that this bill has helped my colleagues on the other side of the House realize that when the Conservative government presents a reasoned approach to a real issue and proposes sensible solutions, the NDP will work with it to ensure that bills move forward more quickly. I should also say that collaborating on Bill C-444 gave us the opportunity to reiterate our support for victims and for those who keep our democratic institutions running.

Our first thought should always be of the victims. In particular, I am thinking about the young girl who was sexually assaulted by a police impersonator in Alberta. There are also drivers who have paid bogus fines and seniors who were scammed by criminals posing as public servants. All of these examples have one thing in common: there was an abuse of the victims' trust.

In each of those cases, the culprits took advantage of that trust in public authority. Thinking they were dealing with a public official, the victims let down their guard. They thought they could trust the person standing before them.

Making the connection between personation and the crime it enables more accurately reflects the reality of the abuse. It gives a better picture of the wrongs the victim has suffered, and that is what is important.

The bill more accurately reflects the abuse by helping us to put ourselves in the victim's shoes and to better understand what he or she went through. This allows us to show respect for victims and to punish offenders more appropriately.

The bill will also make it possible to better protect the integrity of our most fundamental institutions. When people see a police uniform, they tend to trust the person wearing it. Personating a peace officer is a serious breach of the public's trust. This type of false representation also has a negative impact on our institutions, which need the public's trust to operate properly.

We refuse to allow Canadians to lose confidence in our institutions because of the actions of a handful of criminals. By disguising themselves as police officers or public officials in order to commit crimes, these offenders are attacking our institutions. They are tarnishing the reputation of public officials who make it possible for us to live in a society where everyone's rights are respected, including the right to live in safe communities.

By passing this bill today, we will be sending a clear message to anyone who might be tempted to impersonate a police officer or a public officer for the purpose of committing a crime. If they do, they will be punished. The court will take that into account and their sentence will be lengthened as a result. Dissuading criminals from committing crime remains the best way to protect Canadians.

If the bill passes, it will help improve our justice system considerably. It will protect the integrity of our institutions by deterring potential criminals from misappropriating the public authority. It will allow for more appropriate punishments, because the courts will be able to appreciate the circumstances of a crime. Furthermore, it will do greater justice to victims, because the outcome will better reflect what they suffered.

I hope this bill will serve as an example to show that when the Conservatives introduce a bill based on a logical and balanced approach, as is the case with this bill, and it does not impose mandatory minimum sentences, we can work together. This co-operation helps push the bill through the legislative process faster in order to benefit Canadians sooner.

To conclude my speech, I would like to talk briefly about something the hon. member for Red Deer said. He began his speech by saying that he represents a riding that has no tolerance for those who commit crimes. I sincerely hope the member was not implying that some ridings in this country do tolerate crime. Everyone knows that in all of our ridings, our fellow Canadians do not tolerate it. However, we could also say that there are criminals in every riding.

Honest Canadians want to see parliamentarians working together to pass logical, good legislation. They are disappointed to see that criminal activity exists even here, in the Senate, for example. We need to prove to Canadians that no riding in the country tolerates crime. That is certainly the case in Vaudreuil—Soulanges. My constituents want parliamentarians to protect victims and strengthen our laws. They want us to get truly serious about reducing crime across the country so that we can keep our communities safe and so that they can have faith in their institutions.

We will make sure that all Canadians are safe, from coast to coast to coast.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (personating peace officer or public officer)Private Members' Business

May 31st, 2013 / 1:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer, AB

moved that Bill C-444, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (personating peace officer or public officer), be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Sault Ste. Marie for seconding this third reading debate for the bill. I appreciate all of my colleagues' support, which has brought us to where we are today, as well as the support of the people of central Alberta. I have been working on this bill for three years. I first introduced it during the last Parliament, but it died on the order paper when the election was called. I am very pleased that we are here today at third reading.

Three years ago, I met a brave young lady and her mother who were seeking help. This young woman had been the victim of a vicious crime, so she and her mother asked me to help them make a change to the Criminal Code of Canada. They understood that a bill in Parliament would have no effect on the criminal proceedings that they were involved in. Yet they expressed their desire to help others who might find themselves in this same situation.

I admire people who fight for and support changes to the Criminal Code, knowing full well they cannot make a difference in their own situation but will help others down the road. They seek positive change for a greater good. This was evident to my colleagues on the justice and human rights committee when my constituents appeared as witnesses and recounted this horrendous ordeal.

In addition to the support of my colleagues, I would also like to specifically thank the Minister of Justice's staff and his department for the support that they have extended to me for my proposed amendment. I am also no less grateful for the support that I have received from serving and retired police officers, including our Conservative law enforcement caucus.

Thousands of officers enforce Canadian criminal law every day, putting their lives on the line to do so. For our men and women in uniform, there may be times when some are reluctant to express judgment on proposed legislation because their job is to enforce, not to legislate. However, in this case, I am grateful for the positive feedback that I have received from police officers. They understand that my amendment does not seek to affect enforcement of section 130 of the Criminal Code. It is a sentencing provision. However, from their perspective, the police I have consulted with recognize that this particular crime jeopardizes their public reputation, which is essential for them to be able to do their jobs.

I want to be clear that I understand the significance of amending the Criminal Code. The changes that we as parliamentarians make to the laws found within Canada's Criminal Code have a profound effect on people's lives. However, as parliamentarians, we should also remember that the Criminal Code of Canada is a working document. It must continue to be updated to reflect the protections and justice that Canadians need and expect, and that our freedoms depend on.

I am proud to be part of a government that has been so committed to respecting the rights of victims. There are plenty of important issues that we tackle every day for Canadians, but I am especially proud of the accomplishments that our Prime Minister has delivered to Canadians in reforming our justice system.

I represent an area of Canada that has no tolerance for those who commit crimes against either persons or property. The citizens that I represent support a tough justice system that includes incarceration to punish criminals and to protect law-abiding Canadians. When an offender personates a police officer as a cover to commit another crime, this is a severe instance of personating an officer. It can have serious and long-lasting effects on a victim. Victims must be assured that there will be consequences for criminals who have hurt them. The sentence for this kind of malicious deceit must denounce this unlawful conduct and also reflect the significant impact that the crime has on victims' lives. It is not only the victim that this crime affects. It can affect an entire community, even to the extent that people are fearful of real police.

We have seen recent media reports from Calgary of a vehicle driven by a person who is trying to pull people over, with flashing red and blue emergency lights on its dashboard. This is an ongoing mystery in Calgary, as there have been a number of reports of this happening over the past few years but no arrests have yet been made. The Calgary police have issued numerous warnings to motorists to use caution if they are unsure of the authenticity of a police car.

The Calgary Sun recently reported, on April 25, that Staff Sergeant Guy Baker said the police are concerned about public paranoia and a loss of trust in police if the culprits are not caught. He was quoted as saying:

We want to maintain the respect of the community and don’t want the public unduly harassed.

This is a crime that could have grave consequences for an entire community and the police who try to protect it. Therefore, sentences that are handed down for section 130 offences should reflect the seriousness of the crime.

Bill C-444 has one basic objective, to make personating a peace officer or public officer in the commission of another offence an aggravating circumstance that would be part of the consideration for sentencing purposes.

It would add one clause to the Criminal Code, following section 130, to say:

If a person is convicted of an offence under section 130, the court imposing the sentence on the person shall consider as an aggravating circumstance the fact that the accused personated a peace officer or a public officer, as the case may be, for the purpose of facilitating the commission of another offence.

When we look at some of the aggravating circumstances that currently exist in the code, there is a common denominator among them, the vulnerability of the victims: crimes against children, crimes against the elderly, crimes involving firearms, or crimes that abuse the position of trust or authority in relation to the victim. These are all circumstances that Parliament has required judges to consider when sentencing. They are legislated as aggravating circumstances because offenders have taken advantage of the vulnerable position that the victims are in.

When citizens see a police uniform, they trust the authority that comes with it. When confronted by someone who looks like a police officer, people will rationally do what they have been taught to do; they will stop and follow instructions.

Personating an officer is a serious breach of the public's trust, and it has the same effect as using a weapon. It forces the victim to submit. If they are under the control of someone pretending to be an officer, they will ultimately lose any opportunity that they might otherwise have to protect themselves. We have been taught to respect and trust the men and women who wear uniforms. When criminals start using this trust as a weapon, we need to treat it within the Criminal Code for what it is.

The bill will instruct judges to consider it an aggravating circumstance to personate a peace officer or public officer as a cover for other criminal activity. This would apply regardless of the age of the victim.

My amendment would achieve three results. It will recognize the disarming effect that personating an officer has on a victim and the vulnerable situation that it puts them in. It will support victims of this crime by strengthening the reparation provided to them. It will preserve the trust that Canadians have in peace officers and public officers.

Within the maximum sentence for personating an officer, the appropriateness of a sentence would still rest with the sentencing court. However, it is up to us, as legislators, to establish sentencing provisions in the Criminal Code.

Judges have the discretion to consider any factors they feel may have constituted aggression on the part of an offender, but there are also some circumstances that judges are explicitly required to consider when sentencing. They are in the code because Parliament has said they should always be taken into consideration by a judge.

As I have mentioned, one of the aggravating circumstances prescribed in the code is that of an abuse of a position of trust or authority in relation to a victim. This would apply in situations where an offender has an existing relationship with the victim, such as a teacher or coach or as a bona fide police officer. However, those who assume a position through deceit do not fall into this category. Offenders who personate officers have not abused a position of authority, for they do not have that position to begin with.

Aggravating circumstances in the code acknowledge the particularly forceful or dangerous way in which some offenders commit their crimes. Therefore, personating an officer to commit a crime is certainly an aggressive action on the part of an offender, similar to existing aggravating circumstances, and it should be recognized in the code as such.

I would like to quickly address the issue of my amendment having any effect on actual time served. I know this is a question that has come up in debate, as well as in my conversations with some of my colleagues.

I want to stress that my focus is on amending section 130 to add this sentencing provision, regardless of the length of sentences received for other convictions and whether or not they would be served concurrently. We can only speculate on what type of crimes may be committed alongside section 130 violations; how individual cases would be committed, tried and sentenced; how much evidence the crown may have in any particular case; or all of the mitigating or aggravating factors that may affect an offender's sentences.

However, our role as legislators is to ensure that the maximum sentences and sentencing factors prescribed in the Criminal Code for each offence serve the purpose and principles of sentencing.

I am asking Parliament to add a sentencing provision to the crime of personating peace officers and public officers to ensure that future sentences for this crime adhere to the purposes and principles of sentencing, which are listed in the code. As for the types of crimes that are committed in concert with personation, what aggravating or mitigating factors might apply to an offender, or how an offender's total time served might pan out, those decisions remain in the hands of the sentencing court.

Speaking briefly to incarceration, it is meant to denounce unlawful conduct, deter others from committing offences, separate offenders from society and assist in rehabilitating offenders. These are all listed in the Criminal Code as purposes of sentencing. There is also another purpose of incarceration that is listed in the code, which is to provide reparations for harm done to victims or the community.

Whatever the terms of a sentence for any offender may be, even if served concurrently with another sentence it is my goal to ensure that sentences for section 130 offences acknowledge the harm done to victims. The rights of victims need to be protected. They must know that there are serious consequences for the criminals who have hurt them.

Last weekend, I had the privilege of attending the Silver Lake RCMP detachment's Regimental Ball, which was an excellent event that raised funds for the RCMP's victim services program. The people who work in victim service programs and rape crisis centres provide compassion and direction to people in need. When I relayed the circumstances of this case and the purpose of my bill to RCMP members and victim service program attendees, they too gave me their unqualified support.

These people, these great Canadians who work in victim service programs, deserve our thanks and recognition. Day in and day out, they see the worst that society has to offer, and they continue to help people in their time of distress.

At any time, any one of us could be blindsided by crime. It is very difficult to navigate and make decisions when in a state of shock. Victims services are a vital resource in our country, and they deserve our recognition and support.

For many victims, no amount of incarceration can ever make up for the hurt that has been inflicted upon them, but it does provide some comfort and indeed protection when an offender is locked up. As I have said, this bill is about sentencing; it speaks to the need for tougher penalties for this particular crime. Victims must be assured that there will be serious consequences for the criminals who have hurt them. We need to preserve the trust and respect that citizens have for real police officers.

I am pleased to continue this discussion here today.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-444, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (personating peace officer or public officer), as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

April 29th, 2013 / 3:30 p.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Mike Wallace

The other one is for Bill C-444, an act to amend the Criminal Code (personating peace officer or public officer), which we dealt with. That was for witnesses and it was for $3,000. Would somebody move that for me?

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

April 24th, 2013 / 3:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 23rd report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in relation to Bill C-444, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (personating peace officer or public officer).

The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House without amendment.

April 22nd, 2013 / 4:20 p.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Mike Wallace

We're going to call this meeting back to order. We've been joined by our guests, Ms. Laurie Long and Ms. Jordan Knelsen-Long. I want to thank you for joining us as witnesses to Bill C-444.

I'll give the floor over to you for approximately 10 minutes, and then there will be questions from committee members.

Ms. Long, the floor is yours.

April 22nd, 2013 / 4:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

When you began your testimony, Member Dreeshen, you mentioned specifically that this week is the correct week to bring this bill forward to this committee, obviously because this is a week for remembering and becoming more aware of the issues that victims face, so I'd like to focus my questioning specifically on victims.

Section 130 of the Criminal Code is a hybrid offence and it's punishable by a maximum of five years' imprisonment on indictment. Prior to the enactment by the Conservative government in 2009 of Bill S-4 for identity theft and related misconduct, it was a straight summary conviction offence punishable by a maximum of six months' imprisonment.

Obviously your work here on Bill C-444 is a little different from Bill S-4, but do you think that both these bills will ensure that victims are better protected in our country? How do you think that will work?

April 22nd, 2013 / 3:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Joyce Bateman Conservative Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I'm going to ask a question continuing along the lines of the aggravating circumstances piece, and then I'm going to be sharing my time with my colleague Blaine Calkins.

It's very nice to see you in this role, Mr. Dreeshen. This is a treat.

Following on the discussion you've had on aggravating circumstances, as you know, Parliament recently passed Bill C-36, which was our Conservative government's bill on elder abuse. With that passage into law, a very important amendment to the Criminal Code, adding a new aggravating circumstances piece to section 718.2, applies to any offence against elder Canadians.

Bill C-444 would require a sentencing court, upon conviction of the offence of impersonating a peace officer or a public officer under section 130 of the Criminal Code, to consider as an aggravating factor the fact that the offender impersonated the officer in order to facilitate the commission of another offence.

While the sentencing court—and I just want clarification—already has the discretion, as you spoke to in your opening remarks, to consider such a circumstance as an aggravating factor, do you think making consideration of that factor mandatory would enable Parliament to specifically denounce such crimes?