Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak to Bill C-16, an act to amend the Contraventions Act. The amendments to this act are the result of consultations and discussions with the provinces.
I would like to thank the critic for the Reform Party and the critic for the Bloc Quebecois for agreeing to expedite the proceedings of this bill and for treating it in a non-controversial fashion. I appreciate the co-operation. The end result will be an effective and harmonious contraventions system throughout Canada.
This bill is but another example which clearly demonstrates this government's willingness to work with its provincial partners and to avoid unnecessary duplication in federal and provincial activities.
To understand the bill, it is important to understand the act which it amends. The Contraventions Act was given royal assent in 1992 but it is not in force yet. It creates a contraventions scheme for federal offences. Currently those who are charged with an offence under federal statute or regulations are treated in the same way as those who are charged under the provisions of the Criminal Code.
The Contraventions Act provides for the establishment of a contraventions scheme as an alternative procedure to the Criminal Code. It will permit enforcement authorities to issue tickets to persons who are charged with an offence designated as a contravention under the act. Individuals who wish to plead guilty and pay a fine could do so, thus avoiding a formal court process and a formal court appearance.
There are three objectives to the contraventions scheme. The first is the decriminalization of certain federal offences. Decriminalization in effect means that a person convicted of a contravention will be subject to both civil and administrative sanctions without criminal stigma. Certain traditional criminal consequences of conviction such as finger printing, having a criminal record and being denied a passport will not apply.
The second objective is to ease the court's workload. The courts are presently administering all federal regulatory offences. Taking most of these cases out of the court system will reduce costs. The defendant will still have the option of taking the matter of contravention to trial for a hearing.
The final objective of the contraventions legislation is the improved enforcement of all federal regulations and legislation. It is much more efficient and effective to have enforcement authorities enforcing the law rather than spending a great deal of time testifying in courtrooms and getting ready for trial in order to bring a conviction.
The Contraventions Act is a great tool to achieve compliance with rules that protect Canadians. The act and amendments which are before us are designed to provide Canadians with a fairer, more
efficient and more practical process for federal offences. It will ease the workload of courts, prosecutors and enforcement officers.
Over the years the provinces have developed expertise in handling tickets for offences under provincial legislation. Some provinces have central agencies capable of dealing effectively and at a reasonable cost with a large number of tickets. Quebec and Ontario for example have central computerized systems that deal with all their provincial tickets. These systems will be able to handle the federal tickets issued on their territory.
Using the provincial systems would avoid the creation of a complex federal administrative structure. Also, the provinces have indicated they prefer that we use their respective offence schemes rather than establish a federal structure in duplication of their own. Indeed it is simpler for Canadians to know one system within a province.
The government is dedicated to finding solutions with its provincial partners. The current bill would allow us to accept the provincial offer and use their systems. This bill would allow federal contraventions to be dealt with under the ticketing procedure and process of each province.
In other words, the Ontario Provincial Offences Act, the Quebec Code de procédure pénale and the Manitoba Summary Convictions Act would apply to designated federal offences committed in their respective jurisdictions. Therefore an Alberta resident who has contravened federal regulations will face the same administrative and judicial system as if that resident had committed a provincial infraction.
It is important to note that fines levied for federal contraventions will be the same across Canada for the same offence. Some provinces impose court costs and administrative fees in addition to the fine. Bill C-16 would permit these provinces to continue to collect these costs and fees.
The bill would also authorize the Minister of Justice to enter into revenue sharing agreements with the provinces. Under these agreements part of the fine revenues collected by the provinces would be used to compensate provincial costs and efforts. This I believe is a very reasonable approach.
Some provinces are ready to proceed immediately with the implementation of the Contraventions Act while others would need more time. Bill C-16 would allow us to bring the legislation in force province by province and provide the flexibility required for the smooth implementation of the Contraventions Act across the country. Federal departments and enforcement authorities are waiting for these changes to help them with their workload.
This bill reflects our government's willingness to co-operate with our provincial partners. It demonstrates flexibility and understanding of the realities of Canadians and Canadian society. It has the support of the provinces and I would urge all members of the House to support this initiative.
Once again I would like to thank the Reform Party and the Bloc Quebecois for providing their assistance in expediting passage of this important bill.