House of Commons Hansard #21 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was arrest.


PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.


Diane Ablonczy Reform Calgary North, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to introduce on behalf of constituents of Calgary North a petition bearing over 1,000 signatures, requesting that the government ban in Canada the sales of a serial killer board game.

The object of the game is that the person killing the most babies wins. This game is repugnant to Canadians. The petitioners pray that the government will ban the importation of the game.

We commend our colleague, the hon. member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, who introduced a private member's bill aimed at banning the importation of this terrible game.

I submit the petition on behalf of my constituents. I support them wholeheartedly in their request of the government.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.


Bob Mills Reform Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the privilege of presenting to Parliament a petition signed by some 1,900 people in my constituency.

In this petition my constituents state their concerns regarding the relocation of the RCMP training centre from a location near Bowden, Alberta.

The police dog service has been in central Alberta since 1965. The centre is open for public tours and trains police dogs for service across Canada. The services resulting from the training centre are a very important part of our local economy as well as the surrounding area. In addition their role as goodwill ambassadors is much appreciated in our community and we do not want to lose them.

Therefore the petitioners humbly pray and I support their call on Parliament to urge the government not to move the RCMP dog training centre.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario


Peter Milliken LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Shall all questions stand?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members


The House resumed consideration of the motion.

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3:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I believe the member for Scarborough-Rouge River has nine minutes left in his address.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

February 14th, 1994 / 3:05 p.m.


Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I certainly will not need that amount of time. When we recessed for question period I was near the end of an intervention dealing with amendments to the Criminal Code and the amount of force police officers may be permitted to use in apprehending individuals fleeing arrest.

The amendment also deals with changes to the Criminal Code, specifically the circumstances of penitentiary guards. Their circumstances are a little different. Now the code will recognize the ability of penitentiary guards and corrections officers to have access more quickly to the use of force than would otherwise be the case for police officers and peace officers.

At the end of that amendment there is a section dealing with the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act. I had made note of the reference in the amendment to an authority to be given by the House to the Governor in Council, that is cabinet, in prescribing regulations establishing the procedures in accordance with which and the extent to which a fisheries protection officer is permitted to use the force referred to in the subsection.

For the record I wanted to impress upon the House what we are doing here without saying it is right or wrong. At the end of the day it is probably the most expedient procedure. We are giving over to the Governor in Council, to cabinet, the ability to prescribe and define the precise definition between times when the force may be used and when the force may not be used. In essence, we are giving them the right to define what is an offence and what is not an offence. Over time this is not something a parliament would ordinarily do. It is our job in the House to define clearly and consistent with the charter what is and what is not an offence.

As we delegate this regulatory power in the statute I want the House to know I am confident the joint Standing Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations will take a little closer look at the regulations passed, if any, under this section. I want the House to be aware that as a rule we should not get into the habit of delegating to cabinet regulatory making powers whenever we find it difficult on our part to do it with precision.

I regard this as a bit of an exception for use on the high seas or within our territorial waters when a vessel is fleeing our territorial waters. That would complete my remarks.

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3:10 p.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the House for the opportunity to discuss this bill. Being a lawyer by trade, it is quite the experience to see the other side of the coin and it is also very enlightening.

Bill C-8 proposes to amend two acts, one of which is the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act. My colleague from the Bloc discussed this aspect. I will comment on the amendments which concern the Criminal Code. Since I am the Official Opposition

critic on matters regarding the Solicitor General of Canada, I will only discuss clause 1 of Bill C-8.

At first glance, this clause seems to meet most of the stakeholders' expectations regarding the use of force by peace officers against fleeing suspects and prisoners trying to escape.

However, to appreciate the proposed amendments and assess the implications of delegating such power to officers, i.e. persons in authority, and also to be able to make constructive criticisms, it is useful to remember that section 25 is part of the general provisions of the Criminal Code, more specifically in the chapter dealing with the protection of people responsible for implementing and enforcing the law.

The general provisions of the Code are certainly the best known, and perhaps the most used, provisions of this act, and that is true even for policemen who do not necessarily often go to court.

Consequently, it is essential that these general provisions be very clear, understandable and defined.

Based on past experience, we can assume that police officers will use that new section. Fortunately, in the vast majority of cases, they will do so to protect themselves. However, experience also tells us that we must be very careful when it comes to granting increased power to persons in authority. These powers and their use must be defined in a very clear and specific way to avoid any gap between the objective of such delegation of power and its routine use by the persons in authority.

For at least ten years, the federal legislator has been pondering the issue, and that illustrates the importance of amendments such as the ones contained in Bill C-8.

In recent years, the review of this issue intensified and, in September 1991, the federal government proposed, at a meeting of ministers of justice, to amend subsection 25(4) of the Criminal Code, in order to better circumscribe the use of force by peace officers and prison guards.

The objective was therefore to better circumscribe the use of force by the police, while protecting the public and the police itself.

The Minister of Justice of the time, the very transient Kim Campbell, presented in August 1992 a discussion paper on the question of fleeing suspects.

The study was progressing when, in April 1993, the Douglas Lines case, already mentioned, brought to the fore this question of necessary force. I will give a short synopsis of the case, because I think it will help us understand what is involved in amending section 25.

In the Douglas Lines case, a young white police officer in Toronto was chasing a black 19-year-old suspected of having tried to snatch the purse of a woman some time before.

The police officer ordered the suspect to stop, which of course he did not do, so the police officer shot six bullets in the direction of the suspect who was hit twice. The police officer said that he believed that the suspect was armed.

In fact, upon searching the suspect, they only found a knife which was probably the weapon used in the attempted theft.

The police officer was charged with dangerous use of a firearm.

However, as was said before, he was acquitted by a Toronto judge, and the ratio decidendi tended to suggest that subsection 25(4) of the Criminal Code was unconstitutional.

I have already mentioned that amending subsection 25(4) has been under consideration for about 10 years.

The judge also said-and maybe that was to force the government into action-that he suspended for six months the application of the judgment to give the federal government time to review the clause in question. The ball was in the government court, so to speak, and something had to be done.

Let us study clause 1 of Bill C-8 to see how it amends the various subsections of section 25 of the Criminal Code.

Bill C-8 proposes changes which deserve an in-depth analysis, because of their implications for the various police forces and the area of law enforcement in general.

Let us take the section we are looking at. We can see that subsection 25(3) confirms the possibility for anyone to use force intended or likely to cause death or grievous bodily harm if that person believes on reasonable grounds that it is necessary for the purpose of preserving himself or herself or any one under his or her protection from death or grievous bodily harm.

Therefore, according to this subsection, the use of force is not unwarranted; it is clearly justifiable and well-defined legally.

Subsection 25(4) as rewritten in Bill C-8, and that is the point I want to comment, leaves me puzzled. I do not question the necessity of such a subsection-I think the Toronto judge did not leave the legislator any choice-but the wording of it. It allows a peace officer to use force that is intended or is likely to cause death or grievous bodily harm in order to arrest a person taking flight provided he-the peace officer-respects certain conditions.

However, we must admit, and give credit where credit is due, that these conditions are spelled out clearly and in full detail in

paragraphs (a), (b), (c), (d) and (e) of the subsection; that certainly does credit to the legislator who wrote it.

Paragraph (a) reads: "the peace officer is proceeding lawfully to arrest with or without warrant". It creates no problem. Neither does paragraph (b) which reads: "the offence for which the person is to be arrested is one for which that person may be arrested without warrant". Paragraph (c) reads: "the person to be arrested takes flight to avoid arrest". That is the very purpose of the law. Paragraph (d) reads: "the peace officer or other person using the force believes on reasonable grounds that the force is necessary for the purpose of protecting the peace officer, the person lawfully assisting the peace officer or any other person from imminent or future death or grievous bodily harm". This is the one paragraph I would like to comment; I will come back to it later on. Finally, paragraph (e) reads: "the flight cannot be prevented by reasonable means in a less violent manner". That is self-evident.

We see that the legislator added the words "imminent or future" in paragraph (d) of this new section, contrary to the previous section which did not provide for any timeframe. It said that the provisions applied under given circumstances, but with no mention of the words "imminent or future", as in the proposed section.

By adding these, the legislator introduces a time difference between subsections (3) and (4) of the same section. Given the two interpretation tenets known by any lawyer, to the effect that first, any piece of legislation is to be interpreted as a whole, and second, everything in the law has a meaning, the words "imminent or future" could lead to a very loose interpretation on the part of peace officers. We should not create a new problem while attempting to solve one.

If the noble objective was to restrict the use of force on the part of peace officers and prison guards, such force should not be allowed to be used on a continuous basis, without any time limit.

I humbly submit that the words "imminent or future" can lead to abuses. Sometimes, in a piece of legislation, a single term, a word, an expression have a definite purpose, but in the present case the expression "imminent or future" makes an already complete text cumbersome.

The legislator did not see fit to add the words "imminent or future" to subsection 25(3) while it is doing so in paragraph 25(4)(d), under similar circumstances. Why? Is it that he wants to provide greater protection to peace officers than to citizens? Does he believe that one would be more prone than the other to abuse such a wider use of force? The answer is anybody's guess.

Unfortunately in both cases there are and always will be excessive people who will abuse a given provision.

Why then open the door to such a broad use of force over time? Good judgment and the appraisal of the situation at a given time, on the part of the peace officer, his or her assistant, or a citizen, must prevail, as stated in subsection 25(3).

Therefore, I will suggest to the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs, on which I sit, to remove the words "imminent or future" from the last part of paragraph 25 (4)(d) and thus prevent any possible ambiguity.

Moving on to section 25(5) of the Criminal Code, I think that in this case, the legislator was well advised to take into consideration the special situation faced by peace officers in a penitentiaries. I believe that circumstances warranted such a provision and I approve of it.

The fact of the matter is that in penitentiaries, it is practically impossible for the correctional personnel reacting to an attempted escape to tell whether the inmate in question will pose a threat to society if his attempt is successful. Not only is it unlikely in such a situation that the peace officer would know the inmate attempting to escape but chances are he would not know what enabled the inmate to make such an attempt at a given time on a given day. It was therefore important-and the legislator understood it well-to give this power to the peace officer in case of escape, and section 25(5) does just that.

However, we will have to make sure that the use of force that is intended or is likely to cause death or grievous bodily harm would be authorized only as a last resort, when every other means that could be used under the circumstances to tell the inmate to stop his escape attempt, such as a warning shot, had failed.

Of course, these section of the Criminal Code will be supervised, that is to say that control will be exercised by superior court judges in Canada to determine whether or not the person, peace officer or citizen, used excessive force under section 25(4)-25(5) in the case of peace officers-and over time, through jurisprudence, through the decisions made by the judges, we will be able to determine if these provisions go far enough or not, or whatever.

First of all, I think we can say here in the House that, concerning Bill C-8, and clause 1 in particular, the government is on the right track. After ten years and many consultations, as the minister said this morning, subsections 25(4) and 25(5) meet the expectations of Canadians as well as those of peace officers.

Two words in the bill are important. They are "imminent or future". Why add these words if they are meaningless, if they are not intended to give more time, if they are not meant to give

officers permission to use force much later on? We could consider making some changes to these provisions later on in committee. We will make these observations then.

You have understood, Mr. Speaker, that as my colleague said a moment ago, we will support this bill, but we will move amendments before the appropriate committee.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Vancouver South B.C.


Herb Dhaliwal LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice has outlined to the House what this bill is all about. He has done so with the clarity, directness and forcefulness that comes naturally to the minister. Before his appointment he was one of Canada's leading trial lawyers. In his speech the minister dealt principally with the amendments to the Criminal Code. He dealt briefly with the amendments to the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act.

I will seek to provide the House with more detail on this latter topic.

The amendments to the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act provide authority to use disabling force against a foreign fishing vessel that is fleeing so as to arrest the person commanding the vessel. This legislation relates to foreign fishing vessels, it does not relate to Canadian vessels.

The reason is simple. Canadian vessels operate from Canadian ports, thus the person in command of a Canadian fishing vessel can be arrested when he returns to port. This is not true, of course, for foreign vessels.

No new powers would be granted by this legislation. The amendment to the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act is necessary to avoid any uncertainty that may be created by the proposed amendment to subsection 25(4) of the Criminal Code.

Let me outline when disabling force could be used. The legislation sets out three conditions. A duly authorized Canadian official referred to as a protection officer is proceeding lawfully to arrest the person in command of a foreign fishing vessel. The vessel takes flight to avoid the arrest and the protection officer believes on reasonable grounds that force is necessary to make the arrest. Thus, Parliament would define in the legislation when disabling force could be used.

The government would decide how disabling force would be used. This would be done in regulations, the authority for which is granted in the legislation. As the Minister of Justice indicated, these regulations would be consistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Disabling force would only be used following ample warning. This would give a fleeing vessel the opportunity to stop. It would also allow the crew of the fleeing vessel to leave the part of the vessel to be fired upon. Disabling force should be a last resort. Every opportunity should be provided to avoid its use.

When it is used, every effort should be made to avoid casualties. Yet, a credible threat of disabling force is necessary to act as a deterrent.

In general terms the regulations would provide for the use of disabling force at sea in compliance with international practice. A foreign vessel has fished contrary to Canadian laws. Various methods of warning the vessel are used. Internationally accepted flags are hoisted to request communication with the vessels and to order the vessel to heave to. Flashing lights and whistles are used to order the master to stop his vessel. Internationally accepted codes are used to signal the vessel to heave to. Repeated orders to stop are also made via radio communication. Only if these are unsuccessful-I repeat, unsuccessful-are warning shots fired.

If all of those attempts to get the vessel to stop are failed, those aboard the vessels are told that disabling force will be used. They are told the part of the vessel that will be fired upon and they are told to leave that part of the vessel. Additional opportunity is given for the vessel to stop or for the crew to leave that part of the vessel. Only then would disabling force be used and only as much force as would be necessary to stop the vessel and make the arrest. This follows international practice in the use of disabling force at sea.

It has always been important for Canada to protect its fish resources. This is critical today off our Atlantic coast where cod and flounder stocks face possible commercial extinction. We must take all measures necessary, domestic and international, to protect them.

The greatest threat to stocks of cod and flounder that straddle the 200-mile limit is from the vessels fishing in international waters and flying flags of convenience. These are flags of countries like Panama, Honduras, Belize and Sierra Leone. These vessels continue to harvest fish stocks that are at dangerously low levels. They fish without quotas. They harvest whatever they can catch. They use small mesh gear. They target undersized fish. In short, they break every conservation rule in the book. For the owners of these vessels, profit comes first and conservation is never considered. They simply do not care.

The Government of Canada will no longer stand by and watch this happen. These vessels will not be allowed to take the last of the breeding stock of cod or flounder before moving on to overfish somewhere else in the world. For too long these vessels have hidden behind obscure technicalities in international law. For too long they have claimed the protection of countries that neither the vessels nor their crews have ever seen. We will not

let the technical niceties shield them any more. Their time is almost up. Canada is going to stop their overfishing.

Canada has never used disabling force against a foreign fishing vessel. We hope we will never have to, but we must be prepared to do so where circumstances warrant.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.


Yvan Bernier Bloc Gaspé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to what the member opposite had to say, but I am not sure I understand his point of view. So, I would like to give him the opportunity to go over it again, just to make sure I understand what he is saying. From what I gathered, the strengthening measures proposed in this bill would be, as far as the hon. member is concerned, one way to put an end to what he called foreign overfishing outside the 200-mile limit, on the nose and tail of the Grand Banks east of Newfoundland. However, I must remind him that the nose and tail of the Grand Banks in Newfoundland are outside the 200-mile limit and consequently not under Canadian jurisdiction. The strengthening or controlling measures put forward in this bill will not help to solve the issue.

I would now like to address another issue. According to the hon. member, foreign fishermen use smaller mesh gear than the Canadian industry and harvest smaller fish. I would like to point out that the Canadian groundfish industry, the cod industry, is very different from the European industry. The two industries are very different because fish consumption in Europe differs from our own. Whereas here, in Canada, when we eat cod, we usually want at least an eight-ounce filet as a main course, the smaller cod harvested by foreigners-what they call cabillaud for fresh cod in France-is usually served as a first course.

I just want to call your attention to the various customs and ways of eating fish throughout the world. Some people may think they are right while their opponents are wrong, but what they believe should not contribute to an escalation of violence. To make sure that what we believe is true does not clash with what our opponents think is true, I came up with a draft amendment this morning. I urge the hon. member to reflect on this and to reconsider his position.

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3:35 p.m.


Herb Dhaliwal Liberal Vancouver South, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for bringing those questions forward. I would like to inform him that the minister of fisheries will be in Brussels from the 15th to the 17th to discuss overfishing beyond the 200-mile limit with the NAFO organization. This law does not deal with beyond the 200-mile limit.

As the minister has repeatedly stated in the House we are very concerned but we want to work within the international laws, both through the UN and NAFO to ensure conservation beyond the 200-mile radius on the high seas. We have to comply with the international laws on the high seas but we will work very hard to change that. The minister has indicated in the House many times that he has serious concerns about overfishing beyond the 200-mile radius but we must work within the international laws.

We are very confident that through NAFO and the United Nations we can get greater conservation. Right now the minister is informing NAFO to take the same action that Canada has. We have a moratorium on the cod in 3NO. The same type of conservation we have inshore can be had offshore as well as on the high seas.

In terms smaller mesh nets it is not a question of values or truths, it is a question of conservation. We want to ensure we have good conservation practices and that is the reason it is mentioned.

The hon. member understands the serious problem of fishing beyond the 200-mile radius and that we have to work within the international law. If we are not able to do that, then we have to take tougher decisions. This government is willing to do that the same as was done on the Pacific treaty commission on the west coast. We have told the Americans that equity must be on the table and that we are not willing to discuss management of the salmon until we discuss equity which has not been discussed and put forward each time it is brought forward.

I thank the hon. member very much for the question.

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3:40 p.m.


John Cummins Reform Delta, BC

I do not have much difficulty with the disabling force. It is necessary and we have to take strong action to protect our fisheries. However I am concerned about the provision dealing with the use of force against fleeing suspects.

Fisheries officers are peace officers and they do carry weapons and have occasion to use them. On the west coast, and I am sure on the east coast of this country we do at times have problems with poaching. Poaching is an exercise which takes place at night and as a rule in secluded areas. Fisheries officers quite often can get into predicaments where weapons may have to be produced.

The difficulty with this legislation as I see it is that in such a circumstance if a weapon is produced and shots are fired and someone engaging in illegal activity is shot, the fisheries officer not only will have to deal with the trauma and horror of having shot someone, but he will also have to deal with the horror of interrogation by the system he represents.

I would like my friend the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to comment on that please.

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3:40 p.m.


Herb Dhaliwal Liberal Vancouver South, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for that question. I would like to bring to his attention that this deals with foreign vessels and the use of force against foreign vessels. This does not in any way talk about Canadian vessels. We can arrest Canadian vessels when they come into port. We do not need to use force against them. This deals with foreign vessels.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.


John Cummins Reform Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I should have prefaced my remarks and probably forewarned the parliamentary secretary that my question was to be directed to him, but as I stated I do agree with the disabling force portions of the legislation. I do not have any difficulty with that and I understand that this disabling force will be used only against foreign vessels.

My concern is with the provisions for use of firearms with suspects fleeing from arrest. As I indicated fisheries officers are police officers. They do carry weapons. In instances in which poaching is going on it occurs at night as a rule and in secluded areas. Weapons have been produced and people have been shot. Sooner or later by the law of averages someone could end up dead.

The problem as I see it is that these are very trying times when these sorts of things happen. These police officers or fisheries officers are working alone or with a very small group of people in very isolated areas. Things happen quickly in the dark of night. Yet if someone is killed these people not only will have to live with their actions but they will also have to deal with an interrogation and possible court appearance. They will be taken to task by the very people who are supposed to be their bosses for enforcing the law of the land. I find that rather curious.

Could the parliamentary secretary please comment on that particular aspect of the law.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.


Herb Dhaliwal Liberal Vancouver South, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his question.

This legislation creates a number of restrictions which outline in detail when force can be used. If anything this legislation will deter the use of weapons. With respect to the situation the hon. member talks about in which someone might be shot, this legislation reduces the times where firearms can be used by the police and enforcement officers. This is very good legislation and will reduce incidents such as the hon. member has brought forward.

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3:45 p.m.


Art Hanger Reform Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, the government has tabled a very important and in my opinion a somewhat problematic piece of legislation. I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to this legislation from the point of view of a police officer with 22 years experience on the force. As a policeman I have experienced what it means to have to make that judgment, the judgment that all police officers fear, whether or not to use deadly force. I also believe that attention must be paid to public opinion as it relates to criminal justice matters.

Before I speak to this bill I would like to interject a few appropriate words for what is in effect my maiden speech in the House. I would like to congratulate the Deputy Speaker on his appointment and the election of the Speaker of the House. I have not taken the time to offer my thanks to those people who made my presence in this House possible nor introduced the community of Calgary Northeast. I hope the House will permit me a few moments for this purpose.

I am indebted to all those people who played a vital role in my election. The first are my campaign volunteers who sacrificed so much time, gave so much effort and demonstrated such a civic commitment. They deserve the highest praise and I thank them all.

I would also like to express my sincerest appreciation to my wife Margaret and my three children, Laura, Mitch and Jason. Their love and support have provided a source of strength that is unfailing and which I depend on from day to day. I would like to extend my thanks and appreciation to all the good people in my riding of Calgary Northeast.

Calgary Northeast is a riding as diverse as any in Canada. It is made up of people from all ethnic groups, religions, educational and work backgrounds. During my campaign I was fortunate enough to have spoken to and received valuable input from a great many constituents. I am proud to claim the support of many new Canadians, first and second generation immigrants who have contributed so much to my riding.

Calgary Northeast is an economically diverse riding. Jobs come from service industries as well as oil and gas. Because the riding is so diverse both demographically and economically it is especially noteworthy that the people of Calgary Northeast are united in their desire for real, fundamental and lasting reform. They expressed to me their disillusionment with politics, politicians and business as usual in Ottawa and they urged me to communicate in Ottawa the need for political, economic and judicial reform.

Crime is a constant and growing concern in my riding as it is in many other communities across Canada. I am pleased to see the government is addressing the issue of judicial reform.

However, in Bill C-8, the bill to amend the Criminal Code provision dealing with the use of deadly force, I am concerned that the government has its priorities backwards. I have some real misgivings regarding this bill and I shall now turn to those reservations.

As I previously mentioned the criminal justice system is an area in which my constituents have expressed passionate opinions. Communities all over Canada have become concerned and

alarmed at growing crime and the apparent inability of the judicial system to adequately respond to and prevent crime.

Canadians are concerned about the safety of their families and they have reason to be concerned. Rates of violence across the country increase yearly and are reported daily. Confrontations between police officers and law breakers, many of whom are increasingly well armed and aggressive, are becoming more and more frequent.

Historically, the public has felt secure and satisfied with Canada's police forces and their handling of crime and criminals. However, in response to a charter case heard before an Ontario court, a case prompted by an incident that was more of a political problem than a procedural one, the government is tabling a bill that seeks not so much to address a problem with police as an artificial problem created by charter arguments.

In an Ontario court case in which a suspect was shot, a charter argument called into question the breadth of the current law regarding the use of deadly force. The court found that the law was too broad, since in theory-and this is a part of the Ontario decision-doughnut thieves could be shot by police if they fled from the scene of a crime. A brief to the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police stated that the current law was out of date and noted that a literal reading of the rule could justify a use of force which could cause death or grievous injury against a shoplifter.

In a news release earlier this month the government announced it intended to introduce more restrictions on the use of deadly force by police officers attempting to capture fleeing suspects. The release said that deadly force should only be the last resort.

While I agree, along with everyone in this House, I am sure, that police officers must be held accountable for their actions, especially when those actions include the use of deadly force, we must bear in mind that there is ample case law already on the books dealing with this issue. Stare decisis has long functioned as a mechanism by which the use of deadly force is judged.

Common law has held that in order to use deadly force a police officer must have reasonable and probable grounds. Of course, in some instances there have been errors in judgment made on the part of individual police officers but the law has provided a basis for consideration of whether or not those judgments were proper ones. The current law lets police officers who are forced to make instant life and death decisions rely on their thorough training, their knowledge of the situation and their assessment of danger.

Upon examining the proposed new sections of the Criminal Code contained in Bill C-8 I have to ask the following question. Will an officer who has felt the necessity to use deadly force still be given the same consideration, and will the same precedent apply during an examination of an incident? Or will this revised law open up the door for consideration of external issues surrounding each incident, issues that do not bear directly on the decision to use deadly force?

The court case that caused the present law to come into question was precisely that sort of occurrence. As a police officer I dread any law that might have the effect of forcing officers to weigh political implications of the use of force in situations in which officers feel that either they or the innocent public are in imminent danger. Will this new law force such detailed examination by police officers? Will it place the onus of defence, not unlike criminal defence, directly on our police officers?

I believe the Canadian people want the police to have greater authority in dealing with crime and criminals, and less legal charter based restrictions upon their ability to defend the public. Will this law force a police officer who would already be suffering enormous trauma after having been forced to use deadly force to undergo an equally traumatic political defence of his actions?

Instead of giving police the authority and freedom that they need to properly defend our communities, are we ironically constraining them with the very charter which is supposed to protect law-abiding Canadians and their families?

If the law does not give a degree of latitude to officers, if the law constrains the freedom of police officers to make instant decisions backed up by training, dedication and common sense, then that law actually puts the lives of police and innocent bystanders at risk for the sake of protecting fleeing dangerous criminals.

Do Canadians want their police officers to have the freedom and authority to perform their duties even if that means having, in some tragic situations, to use deadly force?

I believe the answer to that question is a resounding yes. Does the public feel the need for a law that would restrict police officers, put more onus on the police and less on criminals? The answer to that would be a resounding no.

I understand that a court has issued a challenge to the current law, and I realize that some laws deserve to be challenged. But I am not sure this is one of those situations. Canadians have had enough of special interests groups that come up with government funded challenges to good, tested, working law simply because our charter gives them an opportunity for 15 minutes of fame. Laws should come from people, not from the courts, whose only role should be interpretation. Our police are finding themselves increasingly unable to perform their duty to serve and protect the public. Is the House aware that in some jurisdictions police officers are issued firearms but must keep them locked in the trunks of their cars?

Similarly, federal fisheries protection officers, although armed, are prohibited from making arrests. They are instructed to observe, record and report a crime but may not take action to stop it.

The public is enraged every time a police officer is killed in the line of duty. The public is enraged every time an innocent child is killed or molested. The public is enraged when the courts grant asylum to the likes of Charles Ng.

These are clear messages and the government is not heeding them. Instead it introduces a bill which casts doubt on legitimate use of force by police. This reflects very misplaced priorities indeed.

In closing, this bill is court inspired rather than people inspired. The court decision it stems from has no basis in common sense. When was the last time anyone heard of a doughnut thief or shoplifter being summarily executed by police? What nonsense. The cliche holds true: hard cases make bad law.

Further, as my hon. colleagues will point out, there has not been adequate bottom up consultation with those whose lives will be directly affected by this bill.

Last, why has the government chosen to make its first priority in criminal reform a restriction on police and not on criminals?

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3:55 p.m.


Morris Bodnar Liberal Saskatoon—Dundurn, SK

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the hon. member on his speech. It was clear and certainly put his point across.

I would like to ask him two question with respect to points he raised. He is concerned that police may not be protected sufficiently by the proposed legislation and made a reference to consultation not being adequate or at all. My first question of two is whether the member is aware that there has been considerable consultation with the provinces and with different police groups within the last year with respect to this legislation?

Second, the hon. member criticized the proposed legislation and commented that there should be a requirement for an increased degree of latitude for police officers, et cetera, but he made no concrete suggestion as to what changes should be made in the proposed legislation. What changes would the hon. member make to the legislation that is being proposed?

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3:55 p.m.


Art Hanger Reform Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question.

It is important to point out that historically there has been case law, founded in common law, supporting police officers in these situations. I believe there have been several cases in Canada where police officers have shot individuals and have been exonerated through the courts for their actions.

The concern is that now every time a situation occurs in which a police officer has to use deadly force he will be evaluated totally on a charter basis. What other issues could be brought into such situations? Are there going to be political ramifications if a community says: "We feel that he erred in his judgment prior to the incident" or "Police in general have not been handling themselves properly in the community and as a result certain individuals feel they are being picked on?" Are these points going to be brought up in the hearings of police officers? That is my question.

I would like to have these matters specifically addressed by the minister. That has not happened thus far.

I am aware that the Canadian Police Association has been addressed and two submissions have been forwarded over the last two years. I realize that this legislation is part of what the Conservatives started. Again, let us be realistic. The Canadian Police Association and its representatives are rather on the political side themselves. Many of their arguments have been presented on that basis.

I think if we go into the practical evaluation of this piece of legislation that we will find that many police forces have not discussed this matter and have never heard of it. This is news to them even to the point of reading about it in the news. An honest evaluation and practical discussion about how this will affect policing has not been done.

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4 p.m.


Judy Bethel Liberal Edmonton East, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my understanding that the police services in general, and certainly the Edmonton police services, are in favour of this particular amendment because it clarifies the situation for police officers and thereby makes it easier.

I am wondering if the hon. member has any comment. I would be interested to know how his Calgary police services feel about this particular bill.

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4 p.m.


Art Hanger Reform Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her question.

I would like to inform the hon. member that certainly the chiefs of police of all the police departments in the country undoubtedly have been consulted. At least there has been a brief presented to them. I have not seen the replies that came back from all those departments or from the chiefs for that matter. Often these matters are just discussed at an association level.

I did consult members of the Calgary police department. Let me state that I am not a police officer. I would like to correct the statement that I made earlier. I am a former police officer. Yes, the matter has been discussed but only after seeing it in the news.

The use of deadly force again is an issue that should be thoroughly discussed not only at police association levels-I think we should move away from that-but on the level of public debate. The whole matter should be presented for the people to

really analyse and then tell Parliament what they would like to see as a piece of legislation that would make police officers most effective in defending their rights in society.

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4 p.m.


Shaughnessy Cohen Liberal Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the hon. member for Calgary Northeast on his maiden speech.

I point out to him that this legislation was not undertaken without consultation with police forces. I would seek to correct what I think is simply an error in his address when he indicated that front line police officers were not consulted. It is indeed the purpose of the Canadian Police Association to represent front-line officers and not to represent chiefs of police. In fact those officers have been consulted through that association and support has been given.

I would also like to comment that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is in place for the benefit and for the protection of all citizens of this country. The fact that the charter does not produce results with which members opposite may from time to time agree or disagree does not make it any less a valuable tool.

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4 p.m.


Art Hanger Reform Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her question and for her congratulatory remarks.

It is interesting when we talk about the charter and its effects on law. Certainly there has been an analysis done by many people. I believe there is one that is presently in circulation that was completed by an RCMP officer and chief superintendent. He clearly points out the shortfalls that have occurred over the last 10 years to allow police to effectively police.

In fact in his opening statement his analysis was that the charter has literally forgotten about truth and in effect has directed the investigations police do on the basis of how well the investigation is done. The courts have analysed it in this way. They are more concerned about how well the investigation was done as to whether or not it violated the rights of an accused rather than seeking the truth. I think this is where the breakdown has occurred.

As we get more into the discussion of this particular piece of legislation we are going to see exactly what the charter has done to policing across the country because we are talking about that very thing. It is how police handle themselves and the law in protecting the people. The reflection I am getting from the community is that they realize the hands of police are tied, they cannot do anything about it and want something changed in that area.

As for the consultation process with front line officers through the Canadian Police Association, I will rise to that particular challenge and say that we should talk to individual officers on the street. If it comes out of the association per se, then that is a politicized statement of the police associations and not rank and file officers in this country. I think police should be consulted on a rank and file level and not through some association.

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4:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The member for Markham-Whitchurch-Stouffville indicated earlier that he wished to rise on a question of privilege. Is that correct?

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4:05 p.m.


Jag Bhaduria Liberal Markham—Whitchurch-Stouffville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will make my statement tomorrow morning.