House of Commons Hansard #58 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was property.


Canadian Bill Of RightsPrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.


Bill Gilmour Reform Comox—Alberni, BC


That, in the opinion of this House, the government provide a greater measure of protection for individual property rights by amending the Canadian Bill of Rights to read:

"1. Subject to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society, every person has the right to the enjoyment of that person's personal and real property and the right not to be deprived thereof unless the person

(a) is accorded a fair hearing in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice, and

(b) is paid fair compensation in respect of the property, and the amount of that compensation is fixed impartially, and is paid within a reasonable amount of time after the person is deprived of their property.

  1. Any person whose rights, as set out in section 1, have been infringed or denied may apply to a court of competent jurisdiction to obtain such remedy as the court considers appropriate and just in the circumstances".

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to introduce my private members' motion today for the first hour of debate.

The purpose of my motion is very basic. It proposes to strengthen and protect individuals' property rights. Motion M-205 reads:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government provide a greater measure of protection for individual property rights by amending the Canadian Bill of Rights to read:

"1. Subject to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society, every person has the right to the enjoyment of that person's personal and real property and the right not to be deprived thereof unless the person

(a) is accorded a fair hearing in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice, and

(b) is paid fair compensation in respect of the property, and the amount of that compensation is fixed impartially, and is paid within a reasonable amount of time after the person is deprived of their property.

  1. Any person whose rights, as set out in section 1, have been infringed or denied may apply to a court of competent jurisdiction to obtain such remedy as the court considers appropriate and just in the circumstances".

In brief, the motion asks the government to amend the Canadian Bill of Rights by adding two sections. The first section would allow citizens the right to their property unless the person receives a fair hearing in accordance with principles of fundamental justice. The second section gives individual property owners the right to fair compensation for their property within a reasonable amount of time.

Canadians are fortunate to have an abundance of rights in this country. Many of our rights are guaranteed in the Constitution. Our Constitution guarantees language rights, native rights, women's rights; however, it does not cover property rights.

Section 7 of the charter of rights and freedoms provides that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice. Life, liberty and security of the person are clearly basic values fundamental to all Canadians; however, the protection of individual property rights is also of major importance to Canadians. It affects all of us and is a fundamental part of Canadian law and society.

Canadians believe in a free and democratic society. They believe in fundamental justice and in the necessity for fairness. These are values that unite Canadians. Most believe that property rights are also among those basic rights in Canada. Yet property rights is one value that does not have protection.

The protection of property is an important guarantee of freedom. This right must be protected so that government cannot infringe on that right without due process and without providing compensation for the property. There is simply no reason that government should have the freedom to expropriate private property without fair, just and timely compensation. Yet there is no requirement in Canadian constitutional law that removal of private property be covered by a fair procedure to deal with compensation to the owner. There is no guarantee of fair treatment by the courts, tribunals or officials who

have the power over individuals or corporations. Motion M-205 addresses these concerns.

In the past there have been many attempts to deal with property rights concerns. In 1960 John Diefenbaker introduced and passed the Canadian Bill of Rights. The bill of rights includes property rights, yet the guarantee of protection is only marginal at best.

Section 1(a) of the Canadian Bill of Rights states: "The right of the individual to life, liberty, security of the person and enjoyment of property, and the right not to be deprived thereof except by due process of law". As well, section 2(e) provides that no federal law is to be construed or applied so as to deprive a person of the right to a fair hearing in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice for the determination of his rights or obligations. In short, property rights are given very marginal protection under the Canadian Bill of Rights.

I am talking about two documents. There is the Canadian Bill of Rights and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Members should pay attention to the one I am talking about because each has a different application in law.

There is no guarantee that private property will not be removed for public use and there is no provision that government must pay just compensation when it expropriates property. Without rights of due process and fair compensation, individual property rights are quite meaningless.

There have also been attempts to entrench property rights in the charter of rights and freedoms. Prime Minister Trudeau argued vigorously and repeatedly for inclusion of property rights in the charter of rights and freedoms. When Mr. Trudeau was justice minister in 1968 he tabled a Canadian charter of human rights which included the protection of property rights. The next year, as prime minister, Trudeau wrote that the charter should protect the right of the individual to the enjoyment of property. Then in 1978, Trudeau's constitutional amendment bill included a clause representing fundamentally the same protection he had suggested 10 years earlier. In 1980 Trudeau attempted to include a property rights clause in the proposed charter.

In addition, as Minister of Justice, our current Prime Minister supported Trudeau's attempts to include property rights in the charter of rights and freedoms. The Prime Minister described property rights as "a central value of our society and an essential ingredient for the charter, a right which all Canadians should have regardless of where they live in our country". I hope the Prime Minister will stand by his words and give full support to this motion.

Finally in 1981 Pierre Trudeau made a last gasp attempt to include property rights in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In the end, after 13 long and frustrating years, property rights were left out of the charter and Canadians were denied property rights when the Constitution was repatriated in 1982.

The issue did not end there. In 1988 the House voted overwhelmingly to support a motion that proposed the 1982 Constitution Act be amended in order to recognize the right of enjoyment of property and the right not to be deprived thereof, except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice and in keeping with the tradition of the usual federal-provincial consultative process. This was passed in this House with a majority of 108 who supported the motion versus 16 members who opposed it. Property rights were subsequently proposed for inclusion in the revamped charter of rights and freedoms in 1992.

The government proposed amendments to the charter to guarantee property rights and to ensure that individual Canadians were allowed to own and hold property and not have it taken away without due process of law and without fair compensation. Yet we were again denied justice when property rights were removed from the Charlottetown accord against the wishes of many Canadians. The Charlottetown accord, as we all know, subsequently failed to pass.

All of these attempts to entrench property rights in the charter failed. The reason for their failure is that property rights are considered by many to be a provincial responsibility. Legislation of ownership of property is a civil matter and is the responsibility of provincial governments.

In response, several provinces objected to entrenching property rights in the charter as they felt it would step on areas of provincial jurisdiction. Provinces such as Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island objected to federal intrusion into provincial jurisdiction over property and civil rights granted to them in the BNA Act. These provinces feared it would limit their power to make decisions and the cost of fair and just compensation to individuals may have prohibited or restricted provincial decision making power. I am talking about the charter here; my bill would amend the bill of rights.

Provinces such as Prince Edward Island voiced concerns that if they were forced to compensate individuals for their property to build a road, a municipal park, expand a building or perhaps build a casino as was the case in Ontario, then the costs of fair compensation to the person who owns the land may limit the government's ability to act.

However there is a silver lining. The good news is that Motion M-205 avoids concerns about federal interference and interprovincial jurisdiction because it applies to federal law and operations of the federal government. It binds only the federal government and holds it to a reasonable standard of fair and just compensation in exchange for personal property. By amending the Canadian Bill of

Rights as opposed to the charter which applies only to federal law, matters of provincial jurisdiction remain untouched.

Most provinces however support entrenchment of property rights. Provinces such as British Columbia, Ontario and New Brunswick have passed resolutions supporting inclusion of property rights in the charter.

A 1987 Gallup poll showed 87 per cent support for increased property rights protection. Canadians considered the right to own and enjoy property of all kinds a fundamental right that should be entrenched in law. In the poll, property rights were considered equally as important as the right to life, liberty and security of the person.

I am confident that if we conducted a poll today it would show national support for guaranteed property rights protection at levels at least as strong as they were nine years ago. Canadians have grown more aware and have been more concerned for their rights in the past few years than ever before.

As well many national organizations have also come out in favour of greater protection of property rights. These organizations include the Canadian Bar Association, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Real Estate Association, to name but a few.

In addition, the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, signed by Canada in 1948, commits Canada to protection of property rights. Article 17 reads: "Every one has the right to own property alone, as well as in association with others. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his or her property".

Obviously property rights are fundamental to good government. When people are treated fairly in accordance with principles of fundamental justice and are fairly compensated for their property when it is taken for the common good, then Canadians should receive the respect and dignity fundamental to good government.

A number of other democratic countries, including the United States, Germany, Italy and Finland have already taken the lead in property rights legislation. For example, the fifth amendment to the United States constitution adopted in 1791 provides that the federal government cannot deprive anyone of life, liberty or property without due process of law. It also stipulates that private property cannot be taken for public use without just compensation. The 14th amendment to the U.S. constitution adopted in 1868 extended these restrictions to state governments.

Canada is one of many countries with a high percentage of home owners and land owners, yet Canada alone among the industrialized nations does not grant some form of constitutional protection to property ownership. The time has come for Canadians to be afforded the protection agreed to almost 50 years ago in the UN. Individual Canadians must be allowed to own and hold property and not have it confiscated without due process of law and without fair compensation.

Property rights are not just some kind of abstract idea for debate on the floor of this House. Property rights for many in rural areas means holding on to the family farm. When government expropriates property from individuals, owners must have the right to be compensated at fair market value.

Motion No. 205 considers giving Canadians the security that their home and their possessions are theirs and theirs alone. This motion is about giving Canadians the rightful protection of their own property. As it stands, these rights are only protected by common law. However, common law can be superseded by a statute at any time. The government can easily pass a law requiring certain lands or houses or goods to be surrendered to the state and that no compensation be paid. If one owned one of these properties, one would have no recourse if the government were to take it away.

Any valid statute can expressly say that no compensation is payable when property is expropriated. This is wrong. There is no constitutional guarantee for compensation and the power of government in this area is absolutely unlimited. As it stands, the rights of the individual are secondary to the powers of the state and that is wrong.

Without the guarantees provided in my motion, the law gives governments the right to pass legislation which removes private property without providing compensation in return. The fundamental protection of property and contract rights must take precedence over government powers. Federal laws must not override individual property rights. The government must not be able to compensate for private property without fair compensation.

In circumstances where it is necessary for an individual to surrender property, this motion would ensure that property could not be taken except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

It is my hope that the provinces will take responsibility within their jurisdictions to guarantee Canadians living within their borders the rights and freedoms that I am offering at the federal level. Canadians can rest assured that this motion will strengthen individual property protection.

Motion No. 205 will not diminish rights Canadians already have or prevent the government from carrying out its duties for the common good of the nation. Government is supposed to be there to serve the people. Too often the reverse is the case and people are put in the position of serving government. My motion sets right

this wrong to ensure that individual rights are there and they are protected.

Government has the ability to protect people, but often the will to protect those people is not there. It is long overdue for this government to set the record set and put the individual Canadian first.

The right to hold and enjoy property provides one of these checks against undue concentration of power in government at any level. Government must defend the rights of the people, not take them away.

Motion No. 205 would not protect individuals from expropriation. However, it would guarantee that expropriation would be carried out in a fair and reasonable manner. It would protect against government deciding arbitrarily what compensation should be paid, if any.

With my motion, implementation of property rights' protection would be straightforward. It would give Canadians their rights and protection without requiring a formal constitutional amendment. Amending the charter of rights and freedoms would require the support of two-thirds of the provinces and 50 per cent of the population, which is clearly tough. However, by amending the Canadian Bill of Rights it could be done right here in this House.

As we have said in the past, property rights cross all party lines and are represented on all sides of the House as a value to be cherished and to be protected. Protection of these rights have been supported by all sides of the House. Canadians are concerned now more than ever that their individual property rights must be protected.

In conclusion, the protection of individual property rights is a fundamental freedom which must be protected. This is not a partisan issue but a matter of fundamental justice. It is my hope that members of the House will give representation to their constituents when they vote for this motion and vote for property rights.

Canadian Bill Of RightsPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Prince Albert—Churchill River Saskatchewan


Gordon Kirkby LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak on this motion brought forward by the hon. member for Comox-Alberni.

The motion proposes that the Canadian Bill of Rights be changed by modifying the existing provisions on property rights. The Canadian Bill of Rights currently contains provisions protecting property rights. Section 1 recognizes the right of the individual to life, liberty, security of the person, the enjoyment of property and the right not to be deprived thereof except by due process of law.

This right is already protected by the Canadian Bill of Rights. It is also protected at the federal level by statute and common law. It is important to remember that the Canadian Bill of Rights applies only to the federal government, unlike the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which applies to all levels of government.

It is also important to remember that the Constitution assigns much of the responsibility for regulating property to the provinces. In fact, section 92(13) of the Constitution Act provides that the provinces may exclusively make laws relating to property and civil rights in the province.

That is not to say that the federal government cannot legislate in ways that affect property, but its jurisdiction is limited in these respects. Federal statutes do not regulate the disposition of property. However, these statutes have been designed to ensure that people are treated fairly. These laws provide for fair procedures and for fair compensation where property rights are affected.

In addition, common law provides innumerable protections for property rights. Property rights are a fundamental part of our legal system and the law provides, in many ways, for their recognition.

For example, there is the common law presumption of compensation where someone is deprived of property. On the whole, the average person in Canada enjoys a very high level of protection for property rights under the statutes and common law applicable at the federal level, including the provisions of the Canadian Bill of Rights. I venture to say that this is generally true at the provincial level as well.

In support of the motion, the hon. member for Comox-Alberni mentioned that in the protection of property rights one would be protecting the family farm and one's home, but these are clearly areas that would be regulated by provincial legislation, as is done at this time.

All this protection of property rights reflects the value that Canadians place on property rights. The right to own a home, a car, other possessions is very basic to our way of life. The right to use and dispose of property is also fundamental, although we recognize these are not unlimited rights, something I will come back to later.

Property rights are ingrained in our legal system. In fact, one of the premises of our legal system is the right to own and dispose of property. Our laws, whether legislated or judge made, are replete with examples of rules concerning the ownership and use of property. For example, laws concerning real property, that is lands and buildings, contain many rules protecting both purchasers and vendors. In most provinces these rules have been built into statutes regulating the purchase and sale of property.

When I consider the broad range of legislation and judicial precedent that protects property rights, it is not clear to me that

further protections are necessary in the Canadian Bill of the Rights. Taking that into account, it is important to reflect on what the proposed amendment would actually do.

It would single out property rights from all other rights in the Canadian Bill of Rights for special protection. It would only amend the property rights provision, not the other rights protected in the Canadian Bill of Rights. I do not understand why we would want to do this, why we would want special protection for one set of rights and not for others that are also basic to life in Canada.

It would establish a hierarchy of rights in the Canadian Bill of Rights which I do not think would be appropriate. Each of the rights in the Canadian Bill of Rights is of equal importance.

The Canadian Bill of Rights is historically significant. It represents one of the first steps toward a constitutionally entrenched bill of rights. Just over 20 years after the Canadian Bill of Rights was enacted constitutional protections were provided in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Since then our energies have been focused on it.

I do not think we should be revisiting the Canadian Bill of Rights. If we do we would be inviting all other kinds of amendments. We spent a great deal of time debating the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We saw fit to adopt the charter and I do not think we should let ourselves be drawn back into these debates in the context of the Canadian Bill of Rights.

The charter has had significant impact on Canadian society and will continue to do so. We should continue to focus our energies on the charter and its implementation.

I spoke earlier about how the right to own and dispose of property is not an unlimited right. I also mentioned that we have many laws that regulate the ownership and use of property in Canadian society. Municipal laws, environmental laws, laws regulating incorporation and the operation of limited companies, laws regulating the division of family property, succession and estate planning laws, personal property security laws are just some of the myriad of laws that affect either the ownership or the use of property.

It is difficult to think of laws that do not affect or touch on property in one way or the other. When we realize this it is incumbent on us to think carefully about the implications of amending the property rights protection in a general human rights document.

The United States has had considerable experience with property rights. Its early experience was not very good. Constitutional property rights were used to prevent socially useful legislation such as laws regulating the hours of work.

Later the courts adopted a more enlightened view. Still, attempts to regulate the environment, trade in endangered birds and land use have met with court challenges based on a conflict with property rights and their bill of rights. This sort of general provision complicated the regulation of a whole variety of areas very germane and necessary to the public interest.

Another problem we can identify from the American context and experience is that American courts have extended the concept of property to embrace things not conceived of when property rights were adopted.

It seems licences and government jobs are interpreted as forms of property to which property rights provisions of the U.S. Bill of Rights apply. Of course, Canadian courts have demonstrated they will go their own way in interpreting the provisions of the charter and are other human rights laws.

This is evident by many rulings of our courts across the land in conjunction to applying the charter of rights and freedoms to the Criminal Code and other statutes. It is apparent the Canadian courts have taken a distinctly Canadian approach to the charter and basic human rights laws.

However, the proposed amendments would leave us with uncertainty about the meaning of property rights as they are presently put forward by the member for Comox-Alberni and the effect on a wide variety of laws that touch on property in one way or the other.

At the federal level we have environmental laws, land use laws, laws providing for establishment and operation of corporations and the ownership and disposition of shares, laws on banking, laws on bankruptcy and copyright laws.

Each of these laws touches in some way on the ownership and use of property. Each of these laws serves an important public purpose. I am concerned about what effect a general and broad provision for property rights may have on these laws. I am concerned that socially important legislation may be challenged in the courts. If these are issues about design and the operation of such legislation, they should be addressed by Parliament.

I recognize the good intentions behind this motion. Like the hon. member for Comox-Alberni, I feel strongly about the importance of property rights in our society and legal system.

However, as far as I am concerned we have more than adequate protections in our statute law and in the common law for property rights. I do not see the necessity for the proposed amendments specifically to the Canadian Bill of Rights. Rather, I am concerned about its impact.

In light of the American experience, it is not clear how it would be interpreted. It is far better that we continue to rely on the extensive protections of property rights that already exist in our law.

For reasons I have stated, whether it be concern of how a very broad or loosely worded statement of rights would be interpreted by the courts, whether it is the other concerns I have mentioned, I respectfully disagree with this motion, although in general I share the concern and support for property rights.

Canadian Bill Of RightsPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Maurice Bernier Bloc Mégantic—Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to speak to this motion put forward by the hon. member for Comox-Alberni, which deals with property rights, essentially demanding that these rights be included in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Before getting into the substance of this motion, I will say that I am somewhat surprised to see our colleagues from the Reform Party bring back this debate for the second time in this House. Not that the debate on property rights or the rights themselves are not important, quite the contrary. I will get back to this. In a way, this motion shows the priorities of the so-called Reform Party, which would deny the right of individuals to be what they are, be they black or gay, as we saw during the debate on Bill C-33.

Denying this right would, for example, make it impossible for some individuals recognized as gay or lesbian to work or cause them to lose their jobs. Yet, if this gay individual manages to work without anyone knowing his or her sexual orientation and to own some property, our friends in the Reform Party will move heaven and earth so that his or her property rights are recognized and defended in the face of all opposition. So I am somewhat puzzled as to that party's priorities.

That said, the property rights referred to in the motion are, of course, important rights that have been recognized for centuries, I would say, in our society. They lie at the very foundation of how our society works in several areas, if one considers, among other things, property taxes or the fact that the right to vote in school council elections is linked to property rights, which have been recognized and set out, again for several decades, in the laws enacted by provincial legislatures. However, before we include these rights in the charter of rights and freedoms, there are questions we must ask. We must question the real intentions, the motives behind this proposal.

If we include property rights in the charter of rights and if these rights become immutable, it would not be a step forward but rather a setback for our society. It would, in a way, bring us back to the mentality prevailing in the last century, when property rights could be used to thwart social progress or to prevent most members of a group or population from moving forward.

I am convinced these property rights were demanded on several occasions by wealthy landowners in South America and elsewhere in the world. In three or four countries, most of the land was owned by these people. I guess that, when the people in those countries or regions rose up against this situation, landowners used their property rights to argue that they had to keep the lands they owned, thus forestalling any social progress for these groups of people.

Like my colleague from the Liberal Party, I pointed out that property rights are important, basic rights that must be preserved and which are indeed protected under our current legislation.

Take expropriation, for instance. Our provincial legislation provides a mechanism governing expropriation. Under this mechanism, the government is required to give sufficient notice to those being expropriated so they can assert their right to a fair and equitable assessment of their property-this decision can be challenged before the courts-and thus obtain fair compensation. These are precisely the considerations set out in the motion put forward by the hon. member for Comox-Alberni. All this already exists, is already being done.

I have not seen, in my riding or in Quebec, anyone take to the streets or what not to ask for the property right to be strengthened.

As I said at the beginning of my speech, to oppose or compare the property right to other fundamental rights enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, such as the freedom of conscience and religion, the freedom of expression, the freedom of association, the right to dissent, the right to vote, the right to life, the right to equality, which are all rights designed to protect the identity of individuals, is not really sound and valid.

How is a person's identity affected by the property right per se? Does the fact of having property, or how much this property is worth, give someone's identity greater value? I think distinctions ought to be made between these fundamental rights.

I would also like to mention out that, as our friend from the Reform Party pointed out, this idea of including the property right in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom was raised on several occasions in the past. In 1968, the former Prime Minister of Canada, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, had made it his thing. In 1978, the idea resurfaced when a motion pertaining to Bill C-60 at the time was defeated.

Again, in 1980, the federal government tried to introduce a new guarantee regarding the property right. Once again, objections were raised, which remain perfectly valid today. I am referring, of

course, to the objections raised by the provinces. The fact of the matter is that all provinces are opposed to incorporating the property right in the charter of rights and freedoms, since this would considerably restrict their capability to legislate in this area.

Take, for example, the environment: How could a provincial government legislate in the environment sector if property rights are enshrined in the Constitution? This would greatly impede provincial action in this area. There are already enough constitutional, administrative and federal-provincial hurdles as it is. The Reform Party regularly raises these issues. I do not see the need to add to this by passing such a motion.

Including property rights in the charter of rights could also have enormous consequences on the legislation concerning marriage, as was pointed out during a debate in this House two years ago.

For example, what would happen in the case of a divorce if the man went before the courts to have his property rights enforced, thus going against Quebec's legislation which stipulates that, in the case of a separation, the goods must be divided equally between the man and the woman? Various applications of such a provision could considerably affect the way our society currently operates.

These are, in short, the reasons why, two years ago, the official opposition opposed the motion then tabled before this House, and why we will again vote against this motion today.

Canadian Bill Of RightsPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


John Duncan Reform North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, we are here today to debate and ideally to support and pass Motion No. 205 respecting individual property rights.

While this is not a novel undertaking, its time may have come, given that Canadian parliamentarians and others have been trying to entrench a property rights amendment in the bill of rights and/or in the charter of rights and freedoms going back to at least 1968.

While I find it difficult to follow in the footsteps of Pierre Trudeau, it is not difficult to support what is the logical extension of the bill of rights by amending it and providing a greater measure of protection for individual property rights.

I can see no logical reason not to support the motion. Quite simply, it transcends partisan politics. The history behind the motion speaks to its non-partisan, apolitical past.

As it now stands there is little protection for a person's right to own, use and enjoy property. What little protection there is can be found in the Canadian Bill of Rights, Mr. Diefenbaker's historic document.

The beauty of this motion is that it does not threaten some provinces and special interest groups which argue against including property rights in the charter of rights and freedoms because they feel it intrudes into areas which are the exclusive jurisdiction of the provinces. By using the bill of rights this issue is avoided and provincial concerns are assuaged.

It is time to raise this issue from its dormancy, remove the fears of some, particularly the New Democratic Party which can extrapolate concerns where there are none, and give Canadians a basic protection which for far too long has eluded us.

Pierre Trudeau tried several times to include property rights in the bill of rights, then again in the proposed charter of human rights, and then again he proposed them in a constitutional amendment bill. This was all followed by a motion introduced in the House of Commons by Tory MP John Reimer in 1987 on property rights which the House supported in a major way with a vote of 108 to 16.

In 1982 a property rights resolution was passed unanimously by the B.C. legislature, followed by very similar support with a resolution in the New Brunswick legislature in 1983 and the Ontario legislature in 1986.

In 1987 the Canadian Real Estate Association commissioned a poll which found that 81 per cent of Canadians considered property rights were either very or fairly important. In a follow-up paper in 1991 the real estate association called for an amendment to the charter to include property rights.

The deficiency in the bill of rights, let alone the charter, is glowing in its lack of recognition of property rights. If we compare this with the fifth amendment to the United States constitution which calls for due process of the law and compensation with respect to private property, we are primitive in Canada and sadly unconscious of this basic fundamental right. Why we have deprived Canadians of this inherent right confounds many observers, among them constitutionalists and the courts.

If our concern is generated by a lack of a definition of property we could only go to the Canadian law dictionary to help define it for us. The dictionary breaks property into two forms: real property, lands, tenements or any interest in buildings erected or affixed to the land; and personal property, goods, chattels, effects and the like.

As it now stands, the government's power to pass legislation through which it takes private property without providing compensation is unlimited. Government can arbitrarily step in to take private property without any kind of compensation. This is outright scary in a country like Canada.

This has come home to roost twice in recent times, specifically Bill C-22, now called Bill C-28, the Pearson airport debacle, and Bill C-68, the firearms act. These two examples of trampling on personal property rights would never have seen the light of day if we had a property rights amendment.

It is inherently one's right to enjoy one's personal and real property and the right not to be deprived of it unless the person is accorded a fair hearing and is paid fair compensation for it. This is hardly a radical concept, and should these two elements be infringed it is not too much to ensure remedy through the courts.

This would be a check and balance against the tyranny of concentrated power in government. There is a fundamental interdependence between personal rights and liberties and the personal rights in property. Property rights are a cornerstone of any civilized society, the notion that you own yourself and your labour.

This motion will enrich Canadian society, protect individual freedoms and protect the environment. People protect the environment around them, their personal property. Governments weigh political benefits of protecting the environment and consequently personal property. It seems so patently unfair to deprive Canadians of this fundamental premise in life. Let us not allow this opportunity to slide by once again.

It is so fundamental an issue that it is difficult not to get repetitive in debate on this issue. The opponents of entrenching property rights will extrapolate potential scenarios unreasonably to make their case. The crucial issue is to define property in a practical working definition.

The fifth amendment to the constitution of the United States specifically protects private property. Americans have lived with this definition for over 200 years and it has stood the test of time.

Canada has every opportunity to define private property in a Canadian context to bring us up to the same standard of protection of private property as other western democracies. There is no requirement in Canadian constitutional law that compulsory taking of property be effected by a fair procedure or that it be accompanied by fair compensation to the owner.

This motion would have the effect of extending private property rights to non-natural persons such as corporations. For the federal government to pass legislation such as the Pearson airport package, which has the effect of nullifying contracts and agreements without compensation, would require a vote of at least two-thirds of the members of the House of Commons. The net effect would be that the Liberal government could not single handedly achieve this Pearson bill without other parties' support. This is an enlightened provision on so fundamental an issue.

In summary, I quote words presented in October 1995 to the Canadian Real Estate Association. Mr. Speaker, you may recognize the words because they are yours, the member for Edmonton Southeast:

In countries where such rights are weak or non-existent, the arbitrary power and special privileges of the elite increase and the power of the common man or woman is diminished. Without the protection of due process, the ordinary citizen is powerless in the face of a state that exists only to perpetuate and strengthen it and/or its elite.

In the Soviet Union, for example, the individual can never say to the state or its officers `this is mine and you cannot take it away from me'. Due process and fundamental justice are but dreams to the residents of the U.S.S.R.

We know there has been a passage of time since that statement was made. However, I think this is a very essential bill. There is a reason the Reform Party has brought this up more than once.

Canadian Bill Of RightsPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


Roger Gallaway Liberal Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to this motion. The hon. member for Comox-Alberni has proposed a motion that provides for a greater measure of protection for individual property rights with an amendment to the Canadian Bill of Rights. We should acknowledge the Canadian Bill of Rights is part of Canada's longstanding commitment to human rights.

The bill of rights already protects an individual's right to the enjoyment of property. Origins of Canada's human rights movement can be traced to the desire to ensure that the atrocities that occurred to millions of Jews, members of ethnic minorities, political dissidents, people with mental and physical disabilities and homosexuals could not occur in Canada.

People were stripped of their property rights, ghettoized, imprisoned, forced into labour camps and murdered by the Nazis. These terrible events had a profound impact on the social conscience of the world and Canadians in particular. In response, the United Nations drafted the UN Declaration of Human Rights and the Parliament of the day enacted the Canadian Bill of Rights.

The Canadian Bill of Rights is a statute that has a quasi-constitutional status. Many of the provisions of the bill have been overtaken by specific provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As the charter does not have an explicit section on property rights it can therefore be argued this provision of the bill of rights still operates to protect property rights.

The Canadian Bill of Rights states:

It is hereby recognized and declared that in Canada there have existed and shall continue to exist without discrimination by reason race, national origin, colour, religion or sex, the following human rights and fundamental freedoms, namely:

(a) the right of the individual to life, liberty, security of the person and enjoyment of property, and the right not to be deprived thereof except by due process of law.

It can be argued this provision provides the protection the hon. member seeks. An individual cannot be deprived of property rights except by due process of law. It should be remembered the bill of rights applies only to federal laws. Unlike the charter, it does not apply to provincial laws.

In addition to the protections offered to property rights through the bill of rights, we have developed elaborate laws regulating and protecting the ownership and enjoyment of property. For example, real and personal property laws regulate the acquisition and disposition of all kinds of property. These laws protect individuals from fraud and other mistakes that may result in loss of property.

Over the years there has been an evolution in the definition of property and in the protection of the right of the individual to enjoy property. The federal Divorce Act and provincial and territorial family law acts ensure that women are not deprived of their right to a fair share of matrimonial property and assets regardless of who has legal title.

The term "property" has taken on many meanings. In the United States the constitutional right to the enjoyment of property has been defined to include academic tenure, a driver's licence and disability benefits. I am concerned that defining further individual property rights could affect social benefits and the division of assets under the Divorce Act.

Of course like all other rights the right to enjoy property is subject to some limitations in our society. It is limited by laws that regulate the use of property in the public interest. Land use, planning and zoning laws may limit the type of building that can be placed on residential lots. Environmental laws regulate everything from the disposal of hazardous waste to the removal of trees. Laws regulate the ownership of transactions in shares in limited companies. Other laws regulate bankruptcy and the ownership of land by non-Canadians, and the list goes on.

All of those laws impose real limits on the ownership and the use of property and no one disputes that these are necessary limits. These restrictions on the enjoyment of property must be kept in mind when we look at amending the Canadian Bill of Rights.

The notion of property is far broader than real property. Given the broad meaning that can be applied to real personal property, we must be careful in considering an amendment to the existing protection for property rights in a quasi-constitutional document.

The Americans, we know, have had some unfortunate experiences with property rights in the context of their Constitution. It should also be noted that women's advocacy groups have had a number of concerns with the further entrenchment of property rights. The notion that a man's home is his castle is a disturbing concept to many women who have been denied their share of family assets. It has only been a few years since a woman was denied a share of the family farm she worked on for many years.

We have moved beyond this case in providing statutory protection for women, but we live in a complex society with many interests and competing rights. From the division of the matrimonial home to environmental and zoning bylaws, we must recognize that rights are not absolute.

To conclude, I believe that property rights are adequately protected in Canada in the Canadian Bill of Rights, in other statutes and in the common law. There are more pressing challenges facing the government than the need to provide additional protection for property rights.

The government is committed to protecting our social safety net, including the renewal of our health system while reducing the deficit. It is working on opportunities for youth who are our future. We are concerned with barriers that aboriginal people and people with disabilities are facing. Let us concentrate on the more pressing problems we are facing.

Yes property rights are important, but I believe they are sufficiently protected in existing legislation, particularly in the Canadian Bill of Rights. I cannot support this motion.

Canadian Bill Of RightsPrivate Members' Business


The Deputy Speaker

There is one minute remaining if there is an hon. member from the Reform Party who wishes to speak.

Canadian Bill Of RightsPrivate Members' Business



Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I realize there is only one minute left. It is difficult to summarize today's discussion.

The inclusion of property rights has been a bone of contention for the Reform Party since its inception. We believe that people do have the right to own property and to enjoy it in a peaceful way. It was one reason many people asked those who put together the Charlottetown accord to please consider the rights of law-abiding citizens to enjoy and use their own property without being deprived of it without due process of law.

Members should consider what it means not just to be the master of their own house but the owner of that house, that when they are sitting in their living rooms or cottages, whatever the case may be, to know that they have the right to do that, the right to enjoy their property and the right to own it.

Property rights is one thing people take for granted in Canada. They assume they have it, but this motion would ensure they had it under the protection of the law.

Canadian Bill Of RightsPrivate Members' Business


The Deputy Speaker

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.


Criminal Law Improvement Act, 1996Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

Regina—Wascana Saskatchewan


Ralph Goodale Liberalfor the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved that Bill C-17, an act to amend the Criminal Code and certain other acts be read the second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal affairs.

Criminal Law Improvement Act, 1996Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

Prince Albert—Churchill River Saskatchewan


Gordon Kirkby LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to introduce second reading debate on Bill C-17.

Bill C-17 was originally introduced as Bill C-118 on December 14, 1995. At that time it was pointed out that it completed a series of significant criminal law reforms begun in June 1994 with the introduction of a similar bill, Bill C-42. Most of Bill C-42, now the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1994, was brought into force on February 15, 1995 with the remainder on April 1, 1995.

Historically, bills containing general Criminal Code amendments were introduced on a regular basis. However when Bill C-42 was being debated, it was noted that the last such bill was introduced in 1985. Therefore a commitment was given on behalf of the Minister of Justice at the time by the hon. member for London West to return to the previous pattern of periodically updating the criminal law. Bill C-17 is a product of that commitment.

Bill C-42 was well received and the Minister of Justice was asked by his provincial and territorial colleagues as recently as earlier this month at the annual meeting of federal, provincial and territorial Ministers of Justice to get on with producing the follow up bill to continue the development begun with Bill C-42.

This follow up bill which, if passed, would be known as the criminal law improvement act, 1996, focuses mainly on the Criminal Code. It also contains amendments to the Canada Evidence Act, the National Defence Act, the Seized Property Management Act and the Supreme Court Act.

The summary of the bill indicates that in developing this bill we have taken great care to obtain the input of those who have the greatest knowledge and hands on experience with our criminal justice system. The amendments in the bill originate from proposals made by the criminal law section of the Uniform Law Conference of Canada, from the former Law Reform Commission of Canada, from numerous judges of provincial and federal courts, from members of the bar, from the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, from the Canadian Police Association, the frontline officers, and from federal and provincial justice departments and officials.

There are also amendments which were suggested by other sources. For example in a letter to the Minister of Justice, Child Find Canada noted that authorizations for wiretaps cannot be obtained for certain abduction offences. As a result Bill C-17 will amend the definitions of offence in section 183 of the Criminal Code to include these abduction offences. Wiretaps will then be available.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities adopted a resolution aimed at making it easier for police to enforce the offence of obstructing persons in public places by loitering. As a result Bill C-17 will amend section 175(2) of the Criminal Code to make it easier for police to provide evidence in relation to loiterers who obstruct persons in public places.

The Canadian Bankers Association wrote the Minister of Justice indicating its concerns regarding the increasing number of high tech crimes involving credit cards and computers. The Insurance Bureau of Canada along with the Canadian police community pointed out that passengers in automobiles taken without the owner's consent could not be charged with joy riding as the code is currently drafted.

We appreciate it when concerned citizens tell me the problems they have identified with our criminal law. We are pleased to be able to address some of these concerns in this bill. Responding to the problems pointed out by the criminal justice professionals and the Canadian public can only enhance confidence in our criminal justice system. Indeed enhancing public confidence in our criminal justice system is one of the principal objectives of this initiative and of this government.

In Bill C-17 we also seek to make the Criminal Code provisions more cost-effective and more efficient, to implement or achieve compliance with court decisions, fill perceived gaps in the Criminal Code, to take advantage of advances in computer communications and video technology, to improve court procedures and to ensure greater fairness to the participants in the procedural process.

I am confident these proposals will result in a more cost effective system of criminal justice, without detracting from the fundamen-

tal fairness of our criminal justice system. Modernizing and streamlining our criminal law is particularly important in these times of fiscal restraint. We are all being asked to do more with less. This requires that scarce court resources be allocated wisely. It requires that available resources be devoted only to procedures that serve useful purposes.

We must do what we can to reduce pressures on justice budgets. This applies not just to the costs that police, prosecutors and the courts must bear, but to the legal costs associated with defending criminal charges whether these costs are paid by the accused persons or by legal aid.

In short, we are aiming at a smaller, more focused criminal justice system. The improvements proposed in this bill will take us a long way toward that goal.

One of the ways to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the Criminal Code is to modernize certain in court and out of court procedures. For example, as it stands now, a peace officer who gives a notice or serves a document on an accused person or witness has to seek out a commissioner for taking oaths in order to swear out an affidavit. The only alternative, and it is even worse, is for the officer to appear as a witness in court to testify to that routine procedure. This is necessary, notwithstanding that the action is almost always uncontested in court.

With the amendment proposed in clause 2 of the bill, the peace officer would be able to prove the notice or service simply by making a statement in writing that he or she served the document or gave the notice. One province estimates that this simple amendment may save up to half a million dollars. More important, scarce police resources will be kept out of the court houses so that more time can be spent keeping our homes and streets safe.

Other amendments seek to take advantage of modern technology. For example, we will permit more court proceedings to be carried out using video conferencing technology. For bail hearings and non-testimonial portions of preliminary inquiries and trials, we will permit the proceedings to be conducted using closed circuit television between the place of confinement of the accused and the court.

Bill C-17 also seeks to improve trial procedure. Continual interruptions of the trial to resolve procedural issues can disrupt the orderly flow of evidence. In this age of court TV and all-news networks, most of us know what sidebars are. We know how tedious it can be to send out the jury while the lawyers wrangle with the judge.

Amendments to Bill C-17 will encourage lawyers to sort out more issues at pretrial conferences. For example, clause 73 proposes an amendment to section 625(1) of the Criminal Code to authorize a judge to hold a conference to deal with matters that, to promote a fair and expeditious hearing, would be better decided before the start of the proceedings and to make arrangements for decisions on those matters.

What might these matters be? This amendment reflects a recommendation made by the former Law Reform Commission of Canada in a study called "Trial within a Reasonable Time". The study stated that using the pretrial conference to allow the court to exercise control at an early stage would have clear benefits for bringing cases to trial within a reasonable time.

It suggested that many issues could be dealt with before trial. These included: whether the accused or the prosecutor intended to raise any matter capable of being dealt with by way of pretrial motions and arrangements for determining these motions; whether any party intended to raise any matter that would normally be dealt with in the absence of a jury and arrangements for hearing and determination of these matters; and whether an agreed statement of facts could be prepared or whether either party was prepared to make any admissions. These are examples of things that if sorted out as early as possible would expedite the trial.

Another amendment proposed by the Law Reform Commission would explicitly provide authority for the trial judge to confer with the prosecution and defence on matters that should be explained to the jury and the instructions that should be given to assist the jury in its deliberations. The Law Reform Commission noted there is nothing to prevent judges from doing this now, but it has not been common practice.

Three reasons were given for this proposal. First, it would enable counsel to fully inform the judge of its views of the facts and the law. Second, it would permit counsel to prepare its arguments based on the legal principles on which the jury would be instructed. Third and perhaps most important, it would reduce counsel's objections to the charge, thereby reducing objections after the fact both at trial and on appeal. This change would accelerate the trend to develop standard jury instructions, which many believe will reduce the number of successful appeals.

Bill C-17 contains another amendment relating to jury trials. Jury trials are becoming lengthier and more complex. If during a trial a juror becomes indisposed or for any other reason is unable to continue, the code provides that the trail can continue as long as the number of jurors does not fall below 10.

What happens if a juror becomes indisposed or otherwise is unable to continue before the trial, that is before the jury has begun to hear evidence? Presently the only options are to stop the proceedings and hold another trial or to continue the trial and hope the other jurors do not become indisposed. This bill will provide a welcomed alternative. It will permit the replacement of a juror as long as the jury has not begun to hear evidence.

Bill C-42 made some changes aimed at improving efficiency through the use of technology. This bill continues that trend. I have already mentioned that provisions which will broaden the use of closed circuit television or similar technology on other proposed amendments take advantage of modern technology by permitting more warrants to be obtained using telephone or fax machine. It will also be possible for peace officers to lay informations by fax, and fax copies such as summons, warrants or subpoenas will be admissible as if they were the originals.

More changes of this kind are anticipated. My officials are working with provincial officials to determine what changes are needed to allow cases to be processed as much as possible outside the courtroom and to permit procedural functions to be carried out in a less labour intensive fashion.

A number of proposals in Bill C-17 relate to arrest, pretrial release and other matters involving police practices and procedures. These will enable the police to make better use of our shrinking police and court resources. For instance, we will permit police to release an arrested person on certain conditions relating to firearms, alcohol and drug use and reporting. If the police believe these conditions are needed the accused must be detained in custody until a hearing before the justice of the peace can be arranged. However, there is often agreement between the prosecutor and defence counsel on conditions, and the justice simply affirms the conditions accepted by the accused.

There is another extension of amendments adopted in Bill C-42 which permitted the release of an accused who was prepared to abide by certain other conditions. The earlier changes have reduced unnecessary pretrial custody for many accused persons. Police are able to spend more time on the beat preventing crime or detecting offenders rather than waiting in the corridors of courtrooms or police station lock-ups.

Court costs and legal aid costs have also been reduced. However, it has been observed that Bill C-42 provisions are not being used as often as they could be due to the absence of the three conditions now being proposed.

Another kind of change that will lead to a more effective, more efficient and less expensive criminal justice system is directed at trial procedures applicable to certain offences.

Presently the offences of unlawful confinement, break and enter of a non-dwelling house, being unlawfully in a dwelling house, forgery and uttering a forged document are indictable offences solely. This means that regardless of the seriousness of the offence or the circumstances of the offence the case will be tried in a superior court. It means that a preliminary inquiry will be held. It means a police officer will have to appear not only for the trial but for the preliminary hearing. It means witnesses will have to appear twice. As a result, the time and expense of dealing with these offences frequently are completely out of line with the severity of the offence.

For example, forgery could involve merely a forgery of a $50 cheque. Nevertheless, to convict the accused, the system permits a preliminary inquiry and makes all the related demands on the police and witnesses. As a result, the police tell us they expend huge resources to deal with minor offences. Therefore, in light of their need to allocate resources wisely these offences may not even be pursued.

In Bill C-17 the choice of trial procedure, summary conviction or indictable, would be given to the crown for these offences. With this change the crown will be able to select a procedure more in tune with the likely sanction. This will keep more cases in provincial courts and relieve court congestion in the superior courts. Witnesses, particularly victims, will have to testify only once. The time needed to deal with these cases should be reduced, which is important in order to adhere to the requirements of the charter of rights and freedoms which mandates a trial within a reasonable time.

The sentences given in most cases for convictions of these offences are well within the summary conviction range. For example, 18 months for an unlawful confinement offence and 6 months for the others. Although the present maximum term of imprisonment for forgery offences will be reduced from 14 to 10 years, we do not anticipate that any of these changes will reduce the sentences for these offences. It is our view that having a statutory maximum sentence more in line with the sentences actually imposed increases the respect for the judicial system because it reduces the feelings of the convicted that they have gotten away with something after receiving a sentence so far removed from the maximum available.

A number of proposed amendments have to do with searches and seizures. With the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms the courts are increasingly scrutinizing actions by law enforcement personnel in investigations relating to offences. Perhaps the area most subject to attention relates to searches and seizures. Often whether a conviction or an acquittal will result depends on whether the court will admit evidence seized in a search. The charter guarantees everyone the right to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure.

With these amendments in Bill C-17 we seek to ensure that the police are able to do their jobs in a way which will conform to the charter. Some proposals would adjust provisions applicable to the property seized under a warrant or other statutory or common law authority. These are aimed at reducing the administrative burden on law enforcement agencies and persons from whom property has been seized.

Other proposals clarify that warrants for searches of computer systems can be obtained. They are modelled after provisions found in other statutes which explicitly deal with searches in relation to computers.

As mentioned already, other proposals would make it possible to obtain warrants using fax or telephone communications.

There are other proposals codifying the circumstances under which police and others performing statutory duties can search and seize without a warrant. For example, where exigent circumstances clearly exist, evidence of criminal activity in the plain view of police and others with law enforcement responsibility carrying out their lawful functions would also be subject to seizure and control under the criminal code.

When it would be necessary to execute a search warrant at night the justice would be able to authorize this only when satisfied there are reasonable grounds to do so. A justice would also have the authority to permit the sale or destruction of perishables or other things which depreciate rapidly.

Finally, a warrant would be available to obtain any handprint, fingerprint, footprint, foot impression, teeth impression or other print or impression provided that the criteria generally needed to obtain a search warrant exist and that it would be in the best interests of the administration of justice to do so. This provision fills in a gap between the warrant for tangible evidence and the DNA warrant provided for in Bill C-104, which was enacted last session.

Obviously this bill is very wide ranging. It covers a wider range of matters than I have indicated in these remarks. Over 140 clauses of this bill contain many provisions that are technical and may not attract attention in the course of this debate, but along with those outlined they are all aimed at improving the administration of criminal justice in Canada and the confidence the public must have in our criminal law.

This bill has very broad support, including the provinces and territories, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Canadian Police Association. It implements recommendations brought to the attention of the Minister of Justice by many disparate groups of Canadians, including judges, child care authorities and the Uniform Law Conference of Canada.

Therefore I call on all parties in the House to support Bill C-17 to improve the administration of criminal justice in Canada.

Criminal Law Improvement Act, 1996Government Orders

12:25 p.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, right off the bat I am going to make a liar of all those who say that the opposition is here for the sole purpose of criticizing and tearing apart the government's bills because, on the whole, the official opposition is in agreement with the amendments made to Bill C-17.

In effect, this bill amends the Criminal Code and several related acts, such as the Canada Evidence Act, the Customs Act, the Excise Act, the Food and Drugs Act, the Foreign Extraterritorial Measures Act, the Narcotic Control Act, the National Defence Act, the Seized Property Management Act and the Supreme Court Act. Clearly, this is an extremely broad bill, a bill that brings a breath of fresh air to a number of the aforementioned acts.

The proposed amendments range from a minor correction to the creation of new offences, particularly with respect to fraudulently using credit cards or fraudulently obtaining computer services. They complete the update of the Criminal Code undertaken by Bill C-42, passed on December 15, 1994.

Other measures are designed to modernize the legal system, by allowing general use, under certain conditions, of modern means of communication, such as closed circuit television, the telephone and the telecopier or fax machine. They will also help to reduce the cost of justice and increase the effectiveness of the courts by making it unnecessary to move inmates around, for example, or by making it easier to obtain search warrants.

This bill, as I have already said, creates mixed or hybrid charges, that is to say ones which could involve either summary conviction or indictment. These new hybrids are: break and enter into a place other than a dwelling-house, forceable confinement, unlawful presence in a dwelling house, forgery and uttering. This will have the effect of eliminating the necessity of a preliminary investigation prior to the hearing, when the Attorney General's prosecutor has opted to proceed via summary conviction. This will result in substantial savings of time and money, particularly legal aid fees. Pre-trial delays will also be reduced.

I feel that these are amendments which will be welcomed by all Canadian and Quebec taxpayers, since it is obvious that the longer a procedure takes, the more it will cost. The purpose of this bill is to shorten these delays.

As well, the indictment approach will be reserved for only the most serious crimes, as decided by the crown prosecutor. Thus, jury trials will be less common and the process will be shortened for cases deemed to be of lesser severity.

Some of the proposals, however, immediately raise some questions, but I must point out immediately that these criticisms do not jeopardize our support of this bill, they merely raise certain legitimate concerns. It is, for instance, proposed to amend the provisions of the Criminal Code concerning impaired driving, in

order to make it harder to use a defence that contests breathalyser readings.

From now on, if the amendment is passed by this House, the defence will have to produce evidence to show that the blood alcohol levels of the accused at the time the offence was alleged to have been committed did not exceed 80 milligrams of alcohol in one hundred millilitres of blood. In other words, the reversal of proof as we now know it. This amendment would put the onus on the accused to prove his innocence. This position raises questions about the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In his effort to prevent people from driving with a alcohol reading over 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood, is the minister not running the risk of having innocent people charged?

It may be impossible for someone charged to establish that his blood alcohol level was below 8o milligrams and thus avoid the consequences of conviction, such as the loss of his driver's permit for a year, as is the case in most provinces. Here again, is this amendment justified?

This provision would certainly be contested in the courts, right up to the Supreme Court, because the consequences are extremely serious. We have only to look at the number of court cases and legal challenges to this provision. If the past is any indication of the future, clearly there will be cases in the lower courts that will go as high as the Supreme Court for clarification of this provision of the bill, if the bill is passed as it stands, of course. Rest assured that we will follow the consequences in law of this amendment with great interest.

Another provision proposed would increase the number of people detained. The court may order an accused to be held during proceedings on additional grounds. It will now be permissible to detain an accused for just cause, when detention is necessary, so as not to undermine the public's confidence in the administration of justice. At the moment, detention pending the end of proceedings is permissible only to ensure the accused's presence in court or to protect the public. As we are trying to keep as few people as possible in prison, I raise the question: Is it warranted to add these additional grounds?

Furthermore, it is up to us members to decide the grounds for detention. The expression "just cause" in the bill, like "public interest", opens the door to court interpretation, to a hundred uncertainties that will not be resolved until the Supreme Court establishes the meaning of these expressions. So, why, with this bill before us, not establish more guidelines to limit interpretation and achieve the objective we are aiming for with this bill?

Another proposed amendment will give police forces additional tools to find out who committed a crime by making it possible to get a warrant allowing a peace officer to obtain any handprint, fingerprint, footprint, foot impression, teeth impression or other print or impression of the body in respect of the person, provided, of course, that certain conditions are met.

The law already allows police to take samples of a bodily substance from someone for genetic analysis. These provisions also make it possible for an individual to prove that he or she is innocent. I think this amendment can help the accused prove his or her innocence just as much as it can help the prosecutor.

We suggest that this provision should be improved by making it possible to photograph a person or part of his or her body. This would help establish whether or not, for example, an accused has a tattoo or other distinguishing marks. In a recent sexual assault case-which, I am sure, hon. members remember-some children claimed that their assailant had certain marks on his body.

One simple way to verify if these children were telling the truth would have been to obtain a warrant to photograph part of the accused's body. This would have made it possible to determine if the young people's accusations were justified and, as I said earlier, it would have helped the accused as much as the prosecutor if the information given by the children in this sexual assault case turned out to be false.

Another amendment in this bill is aimed at making it easier to prove that someone helped launder the proceeds from crime. I must say right away that this is a step forward. We in the opposition have sought and continue to seek a major change, or at least a tougher attitude, in this regard, given that several countries consider Canada as an ideal place to launder money. I think this amendment is a step forward, but we will still need to look very seriously into this issue at some point in time, to ensure that Canada does not keep this unenviable title of crime money laundering paradise.

For the time being however, as far as the bill before us, Bill C-17, is concerned, we suggest adding to the list of ways of participating in the laundering of proceeds of crime the fact that a person accepts that money be deposited in an account under his or her name, while knowing or believing this money was derived from a designated offence.

Recently, several people have received letters requesting permission to deposit certain amounts in their banks accounts. Again, this is a current concern. There was a piece on this in L'Actualité a few months ago. Those who accepted later found their bank accounts to have been emptied out. Certainly, there is an element of voluntary blindness in accepting money from some unknown source abroad, under the mere promise of an eventual profit. But it did not pay off in the end, as the defrauder, who had deposited money in their bank accounts, then took it out, along with all their savings. This may be one of the means used to hide and launder proceeds from crime and, as I said, I think it should be provided for and included in Bill C-17.

Other provisions complement existing provisions regarding credit card forgery and unlawfully obtaining computer services. For instance, it will now be illegal to possess or use a computer password to unlawfully obtain computer services. We must keep up with our times, and I think that the Criminal Code was in great need of updating, from a legal point of view, to be in step with new technologies, such as computer services.

Bill C-17 includes many amendments affecting existing acts. It goes without saying that I cannot discuss all of them in the time allotted to me, but I want to mention the main ones.

If the bill goes through, peace officers will be allowed to release a person arrested with or without a warrant by imposing conditions such as to abstain from possessing a firearm, to report at the times specified in the undertaking to a peace officer or other person, and to abstain from consuming alcohol or other intoxicating substances. These conditions would be in addition to those which peace officers may already impose. This provision will make it possible to release more quickly people who normally had to be taken before a justice of the peace within 24 hours, but who often ended up spending the weekend in jail in areas where justices of the peace and Crown attorneys are not readily available on weekends.

This is a fair measure which will benefit people living in regions, including my riding of Berthier-Montcalm. I was a lawyer before becoming a member of Parliament and I know that people in regions are sometimes penalized in that regard. Bill C-17 will improve the situation regarding weekend court appearances in the regions.

These increased powers for peace officers should almost eliminate the need for justices of the peace and Crown attorneys to hold court appearances on weekends for the release of people, when imposing usual conditions would ensure adequate protection of the public.

This will be greatly appreciated by the justiciable, but also by taxpayers since, in the end, they are the ones paying for the costs related to the legal system.

Another good amendment included in the bill would allow an expert to testify by submitting a report, along with an affidavit or a solemn declaration. This exception to the rule prohibiting written testimonies will certainly be welcomed by expert witnesses, who have a busy schedule and who may even have to testify in two different places at the same time.

It will also be welcomed by taxpayers, given that an expert witness if often asked to testify at a certain place and time and that, for some reasons, the trial is postponed. The expert witness then has to come back again, thus increasing costs. Thanks to this amendment, experts will be allowed to submit their report, along with an affidavit, thus saving time and money.

The bill also includes a provision that will please an accused who fails to appear at the time and place stated in a notice for the purposes of the Identification of Criminals Act. From now on, a justice will be allowed to issue a warrant indicating a period during which proceedings are suspended, to allow the accused to voluntarily appear before a judge, thus avoiding arrest and detention until his or her appearance before a justice of the peace.

This procedure should also apply when an accused fails to appear before the court at any stage of the proceedings. Courts currently take the warrant under advisement when the absence of an accused seems justifiable or the situation could easily be corrected. But the legality of this measure of suspending an order is debatable and has the disadvantage that only the judge who ordered the suspension may take the final decision.

Therefore, you can see that on the whole the official opposition supports Bill C-17 now before us. But we have some concerns about a few minor points. I think that in this bill the government has shown itself to be open minded, that it has listened to those who said the Criminal Code should be modernized.

Since we have gone this far, we could perhaps clarify the points raised in order to prevent too broad an interpretation of the wording used, among other things, so that accused cannot take their case to higher courts, and even all the way to the Supreme Court, claiming Charter violations, as I mentioned earlier. For all these reasons, the official opposition will support the bill at this stage.

Criminal Law Improvement Act, 1996Government Orders

12:40 p.m.


Jack Ramsay Reform Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise to address Bill C-17 and I must oppose this bill. Bill C-17 contains a significant number of updates and improvements to the administration of law which are long overdue and the Reform Party supports this portion of the bill.

The efficiency of peace officers and courts would be aided through a number of the amendments contained within Bill C-17. Subclauses 4(6) and (7) of Bill C-17 will allow a peace officer to provide a statement of service without having to seek out a justice of the peace or notary to have the service sworn. This change will improve police officers' efficiency and reduce the workload of justices of the peace and redirect their expertise to where it is needed.

Similarly subclause 145(5) and a number of subsequent clauses of Bill C-17 will permit any peace officer to release an accused on recognizance. Currently only the officer in charge can do so. This

amendment improves police efficiency by negating the necessity to bring in the officer in charge for a mere procedural action.

Reform members support the changes in this bill that would enhance the way the police and the courts would be able to conduct their business. We also support the portion of the bill which strengthens the proceeds of crime legislation by ensuring that criminals do not retain the profits of their crimes, but we cannot support Bill C-17.

We do not support Bill C-17 because we are vehemently opposed to that portion of the bill which lessens the penalty for certain offences. That the justice minister felt it was necessary to slip this into an otherwise supportable bill is very regrettable in my eyes.

We oppose Bill C-17 because it places Canadians at risk through continued Liberal leniency. The Reform Party will only support a judicial system, and changes within that system, that places the punishment of crime and the protection of law-abiding citizens and their property ahead of all other objectives and considerations.

The justice minister has been less than forthright with Canadians about the full impact of Bill C-17. The minister has touted the merits of this bill in that it modernizes the law and streamlines court proceedings, but he has been noticeably silent about the reduction in penalties for certain very serious offences.

Although Reform supports the administrative changes contained within Bill C-17, I would be remiss if I did not say that this bill is a nebulous, inconsequential piece of legislation to the vast majority of Canadians because it will be of little significance to the enhancement of the safety of Canadians, their children and their property.

Canadians are very concerned about their personal security and that of their families. These administrative changes will do nothing to protect Canadians from the murderers, rapists and other sadistic criminals that roam our streets and enter our homes.

Bill C-17 will not stop serial child killer Clifford Olson from applying for early release. Only a bill repealing section 745 of the Criminal Code will keep Olson locked up where he belongs but the minister has not brought in a bill of this nature.

Bill C-17 will not stop Robert Noyes from sexually molesting another child. The former Ashcroft teacher admitted to abusing more than 60 children. As a dangerous offender, he was sentenced to an indefinite period of incarceration on 19 sex related charges and now the justice system is turning him loose. The National Parole Board has granted Noyes escorted temporary leave and if this goes well, in nine months he will be eligible for unescorted leave with day parole following. Only a bill like the one proposed by my colleague from Surrey-White Rock-South Langley requiring the examination of sex offenders by two psychiatrists will keep people like this locked up where they belong.

Bill C-17 will not alleviate Canadian parents' fears that their children could be abducted, sexually molested or killed in any one of our communities or on our streets. The justice minister's news release at the time of the introduction of this bill stated these amendments illustrate further progress on the government's safe home, safe streets agenda. That is absolute nonsense. It is simply not true. How do you make safer streets and safer homes by reducing the penalties for crimes such as the forcible confinement of individuals and being unlawfully in their homes? I simply do not see it.

Canadians want substantive change within the justice system. They want legislation that effectively enhances public safety. They want legislation that sends a clear message to criminals that if you are going to commit the crime you must serve the time. Canadians want this legislation in the hope that it will deter ruthless thieves from entering and destroying the sanctity of their homes. Canadians want a bill which repeals section 745 of the Criminal Code. They want the Minister of Justice to vote in favour of victims and victims' rights. They do not want a minister that upholds and protects the rights of criminals to the detriment of the law-abiding, peace loving citizen.

Last year the minister voted against private member's Bill C-26, which would have extinguished the right of first degree murderers to a parole eligibility hearing after serving only 15 years of a life sentence. Canadians do not want the minister giving killers this so-called glimmer of hope. They want killers behind bars and they want them there for a minimum of 25 years as the law originally intended; not 15 years and not 20 years. Canadians overwhelmingly want murderers behind bars for the full length of their life sentences.

What is the value of a human life to the justice minister, the Prime Minister, the Liberal government? Is it just 15 years? That is what they are telling the people of Canada. They are telling Canadians their laws are enhancing public safety. Nothing could be further from the truth.

August 12, the day Clifford Olson is eligible to apply for a parole eligibility hearing, is rapidly approaching and the minister still has not introduced a bill which will deny this serial child killer the right of appeal after serving just 15 years of a life sentence. That is how this justice minister is getting tough on crime. That is how he is making our streets and our homes safer.

Olson is not the only murderer with a glimmer of hope to get out before serving his full sentence. Ralph Ernest Malcolm Power is eligible July 10 to apply for early parole on his first degree murder conviction. In 1981, 28-year old Power, an ex-con out on mandatory supervision, beat 20-year old Sheryl Gardner's face to a bloody

pulp with a hammer. He confessed that he was attempting to stun her just a little so he could rape her. Power was arrested for the murder of Sheryl after attempting to kill another woman.

The Minister of Justice should have brought in a bill that would keep Clifford Olson, Ralph Power and many others behind bars. Why is the Minister of Justice not listening to the victims of violence and the Canadian Police Association? Why has the minister not repealed section 45 of the Criminal Code? The Minister of Justice should be dealing with crime first and then administrative matters, not vice versa.

In the wake of the horrific crimes against Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French, capital punishment is resurfacing as a major issue with Canadians. The evidence is growing that if Canadians were given the opportunity to vote in a binding referendum on capital punishment, an initiative supported by the Reform Party, Canadians would choose to sentence our most ruthless and sadistic killers, like Paul Bernardo and Clifford Olson, to death. The Liberal government refuses to give Canadians this right and this opportunity.

Canadians also want the Minister of Justice to bring in dangerous offender legislation. They want the minister to end statutory release. They want the minister to end the automatic release of prisoners after serving only two-thirds of their sentences even when signs indicate these people will commit further crimes. Melanie Carpenter who was kidnapped, raped and murdered is one of the latest victims of this kind of Liberal thinking and mentality.

The minister has promised to bring in an omnibus bill which will encompass these two initiatives, initiatives which would significantly enhance public safety, but we have yet to see the bill. Instead, all we have been given in the last year is Bill C-2 and Bill C-42 which amend the Judges Act, Bill C-9 which reinstituted the law commission, and now Bill C-17.

Bill C-27, which we support because it deals with child prostitution and stalking, should have pre-empted all of these bills. All Bills C-2, C-42, C-9 and now C-17 do is make life a little easier for those involved in the justice system. They do not and will not make Canadians safer.

In fact, Bill C-17 will give Canadians more reason to be concerned about home invasions because the Liberal government, through Bill C-17, has lessened the punishment for this Criminal Code offence. Bill C-17 reduces maximum sentences and changes strictly indictable offences to dual procedure offences.

The redesignation of offences from indictable to dual procedure permits and encourages judges to consider those offences as less serious and therefore permissive of lesser punishment to include mere financial penalties. While most of these offences are non-violent, with the exception of forcible confinement, they involve intrusion into the sanctity of our homes and forgery which may deprive our most vulnerable citizens, our seniors, of valuable financial assets.

According to Statistics Canada, in 1994 break and enter accounted for 15 per cent of all Criminal Code offences while 25 per cent of all Criminal Code offences were for property offences. Eighty-one per cent of break and enters involved forced entry. Property was damaged in 71 per cent of the cases and property was stolen in 81 per cent of cases.

Instead of expressing concern and outrage over these figures, the Liberal government is now saying these offences deserve a lesser penalty. These offences, which infringe on the financial and mental security of Canadian citizens, are going to be dealt with more leniently because of Bill C-17.

Unbeknownst to Canadians, the Liberal government has been slowly moving in this direction over the course of its mandate, a direction we are opposed to because not only has it not been sanctioned by Canadians, it may very well lead to an increase in crime, not a reduction, which is what we in this party, as most Canadians, seek.

A shift of this magnitude in how we punish-or should I say in a politically correct manner, how we hold criminals accountable for their actions-should be reviewed and then approved by the public. Bill C-41 which passed a year ago introduced alternative to incarceration. This portion of Bill C-41 was overshadowed by the hate crime part of the bill which gave an added protection under the law to a category of citizens, including those classified by sexual orientation.

If asked today I am confident very few Canadians would known that the Liberal government has provided the means for a whole host of criminals, including sex and other violent offenders, to do community work rather than spend time in jail.

It is most unfortunate Canadians were not aware of the full scope of Bill C-41 which was described by the Canadian Police Association in the following manner: "Bill C-41 with few exceptions is unwieldy, complicated, internally self-contradictory, duplicitous and what is worse in all of it, completely unnecessary for anyone of any knowledge of or use for the common law heritage of Canada".

The police went on to say: "While it would attempt to codify basic sentencing principles, eliminating this most basic judicial discretion at that the same time it would bestow huge new discretionary powers to a whole range of persons within the justice system. The common thread in those new powers is that all are to the benefit of the offender in the sense of non-custodial consequences for criminal actions.

"Where sentencing reform calls for protection this bill offers platitudes, where it calls for clarity it offers confusion and outright hypocrisy. It will almost certainly cause the already skyrocketing criminal justice budget to expand further still."

That was a statement made to the standing committee on Bill C-41. I could not have better summarized this Liberal justice bill nor the mentality or thinking behind it which is reflected again in Bill C-17. What better words to use than those of the Canadian Police Association, an authority to which the justice minister readily turned to add credence to his gun registration bill.

Section 717 of Bill C-41, the Liberal's response to the overcrowding in Canadian prisons, was the most contentious part of the bill. Rather than attempt to reduce or prevent crime by dealing with the causes of crime, something Reform has been urging the government to do, the Liberals have decided to turn prisoners loose, a sentiment which has been echoed by the former head of corrections services, Mr. John Edwards and the head of the parole board, Mr. Willie Gibbs.

We would not have objected so vehemently to this section of Bill C-41 if the government had specified which offences may be applicable to alternative measures. We could support the use of alternative measures for specific non-violent offences to reduce expensive court proceedings and incarceration. However, no such specifications appeared in Bill C-41.

The Canadian Police Association and the Victims of Violence recommended section 717 be amended to "restrict the availability of the program to persons who have committed less serious offences and first time offenders". Specifically reflecting the opinions expressed by these witnesses, the Reform Party introduced an amendment during the clause by clause consideration of that bill to limit the use of alternative measures to non-violent offences. Our amendment was defeated by the Liberal majority on that committee.

Alternative measures have been used for years by police officers in this country. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms has cautioned the police to restrictively use their discretion in dealing with offenders.

Fearing they could be violating an offender's right, the police are strictly playing by the book in many cases in arresting, charging and finally convicting an offender, whereas before if they picked someone up for a minor violation, they may have dealt with the matter informally, providing only a stern warning and exposing to them the threat of being charged the next time should they violate the law again.

I agree with the Canadian Police Association. We cannot limit police discretion in this area by creating an expensive unnecessary bureaucracy, such as that imposed by Bill C-41, which will potentially allow violent offenders to go free under the guise of alternatives to incarceration.

We cannot lessen the penalty for criminal offences as proposed by the justice minister in Bill C-17 and say to the people we are getting tougher on crime.

I draw to the attention of the House the sections of Bill C-17 which make it impossible for Reform to support this bill, a very small portion of an otherwise supportable bill.

The existing laws dealing with forceful confinement of a human being makes this offence an indictable offence with a maximum sentence of 10 years which classifies this as a very serious offence. If Bill C-17 passes unamended the severity of this offence will be lowered significantly. The maximum penalty will still be 10 years. However, it will become a dual procedure offence which may be processed by either indictment or summary conviction.

This means that under a summary conviction procedure this offence can be reduced to a maximum sentence of 18 months or only a fine of up to $2,000. The criminals who held in confinement a B.C. woman who was nine months pregnant could receive as little as a fine under this new amendment.

Is this making our streets and communities safer? I do not see it. I do not understand how. This Criminal Code amendment clearly signals to the courts this type of offence is to be treated in a less severe manner than is currently the case.

Admittedly, the Liberals may argue, the decision on whether to proceed by indictment or by summary conviction is made by the crown. The courts will undoubtedly be influenced by this downward trend in sentencing.

Section 348(1)(e) of the Criminal Code regarding breaking and entering for places other than a dwelling house will also be changed to a dual procedure offence. The maximum sentence will be reduced from 14 years to 10 years under indictment. Not only that, it can be tried by summary conviction with a maximum penalty of 18 months or simply a fine. What does this say to society? What does it say to the criminal element?

The offence of being unlawfully in a dwelling house, Criminal Code section 349(1), has also been changed to dual procedure with imprisonment up to 10 years or processed by summary conviction, again with a maximum penalty of 18 months or simply a fine.

Currently unlawfully being in a dwelling house is an indictable offence with a maximum imprisonment of up to 10 years. This is another downward trend in sentencing and flies in the face of the statement made by the justice minister that he is getting tough on crime.

Similarly, section 367 of the code regarding forgery and section 368(1), uttering forged documents, will be amended to dual procedure offences with imprisonment of up to 10 years or processed by summary conviction whereas the current punishment is indictable only with the imprisonment of up to 14 years. This is another unacceptable downward trend in sentencing that lessens

the penalty for serious crime which will not be lost on those who prey on innocent people.

Canada is faced with rising crime rates, particularly violent crime, rising fears regarding personal safety, escalating costs to administer justice and to house prisoners and, to top it all off, a growing debt which severely limits spending. The task of the federal Minister of Justice to deal with these problems in unison will be difficult but not insurmountable.

Bill C-17 is not at this time part of the answer. It does not address the increase in crime in Canada and it does absolutely nothing to confront the cause of crime.

Bill C-17 if enacted unamended will lend itself to an increase, not a decrease, in crime thereby threatening, not enhancing, public safety.

Bill C-17 is living proof the justice minister does not-I say this with respect-seem to know what he is doing. On one hand he states he will get tougher on crime, that he will make our streets and homes safer when what he is actually doing is making it easier on criminals by reducing penalties. I cannot do anything other than oppose Bill C-17.

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The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

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Some hon. members


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The Deputy Speaker

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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Some hon. members


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Some hon. members


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The Deputy Speaker

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

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Some hon. members


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The Deputy Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

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Some hon. members


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The Deputy Speaker

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

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The Deputy Speaker

The vote stands deferred until tomorrow at 5.30 p.m.

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Scarborough East Ontario


Doug Peters Liberalfor the Minister of Justice

moved that Bill C-27, an act to amend the Criminal Code (Child prostitution, child sex tourism, criminal harassment and female genital mutilation) be read the second time and referred to a committee.

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Prince Albert—Churchill River Saskatchewan


Gordon Kirkby LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on Bill C-27.

In addition to the provisions of Bill C-119, which died on the Order Paper when the last session was prorogued, this bill includes provisions with respect to child sex tourism.

The government continues to have concerns regarding violence against women and children. These concerns have led us to present the amendments proposed in Bill C-27 addressing child prostitution, criminal harassment and female genital mutilation.

At the ninth U.N. conference on the prevention of crime and the treatment of offenders in Cairo in 1995, member states were urged to adopt effective measures against practices harmful to women and children.

In 1993 the United Nations declaration on the elimination of violence against women and the 1995 platform for action for the fourth world conference on women recognized that violence against women violates their human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Canada has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. This bill will help to fulfil our commitment as set out in the convention to protect children from all forms of sexual exploitation and unlawful sexual practices. These concerns extend to the prostitution of children, whether in or outside Canada.

The improvements proposed in Bill C-27 are a first step in the federal response to the joint federal-provincial-territorial consultation on prostitution. While this consultation is still ongoing, the need to deal with the prostitution of children, that is persons under 18 years of age, has become increasingly apparent.

Our communities are alarmed at the growing number of young people involved in prostitution. Most adult prostitutes state they entered prostitution as youths. Both sex trade workers and professionals suggest the average age of entry is 14. There have been cases of children as young as 8 or 9 being sexually procured.

There have been extensive consultations on the subject of prostitution. There is a general feeling that the involvement of young persons in prostitution is the issue which most urgently needs to be dealt with.

The preamble of Bill C-27 stresses the particular vulnerability of young people and their need for protection. It also stresses how reprehensible it is to involve youth in prostitution related activities and that the sexual exploitation of children is to be treated extremely seriously, including in the sentencing of such crimes.

The changes proposed in the bill are aimed at protecting children from adult predators who seek children for sexual services or to exploit young prostitutes for economic gain. They would make it easier to apprehend customers of young prostitutes by modifying a Criminal Code provision to make it illegal to attempt to procure the sexual services of a person the offender believes is under the age of 18. The evidentiary presumption has specifically been proposed to facilitate the proof of this belief.

One of the main points of discussion during consultations was that traditional policing methods are not appropriate for the enforcement of current Criminal Code provisions and that these provisions have not been very successful in allowing police to bring customers and procurers to justice in many jurisdictions.

These provisions work only when a prostitute gives evidence against a procurer, but in most cases child prostitutes do not wish to appear as witnesses against their pimps.

For the most part, the Criminal Code is enforceable only when the customer is caught in the act of obtaining sexual services from a young person for consideration. The proposed change in the wording of the relevant sections and the addition of a presumption would greatly assist the enforcement of these provisions. A new offence of aggravated procuring would carry a five year minimum sentence. It would also be created for those who for their own profit and while living on the avails of child prostitution use violence or intimidation in carrying out prostitution related activities.

It is our view society should denounce such a crime in strong terms and send a signal of the community's abhorrence of this type of crime by imposing a sentence commensurate with the gravity of the offence. Both public protection and the expression of public revulsion for such conduct would appear to require that a minimum time served in the correctional system be subject to legislative rather than judicial and administrative control.

Some persons believe prostitution is a victimless crime, that youths involved in prostitution are all on the street by choice. This perception might be exacerbated by the fact that only some prostitution related activities, as opposed to prostitution as a whole, constitute crime. This perception is wrong.

It is important to send a strong message of social disapproval with respect to the prostitution of young people. The creation of a mandatory minimum sentence will send the strong message that while procuring youth is never acceptable, as evidenced by the high sentences already included in the Criminal Code, procuring youth with these added serious circumstances is even less tolerable and is to be punished by severe sentences.

The creation of a separate aggravated offence assists in the fulfilling of the spirit of the red book commitment to toughen laws against pimps. Special protections to ease the burden for young persons testifying in court will be made available to child prostitutes testifying against their exploiters. These protections involve testimony from behind a screen and other methods of testifying that are less intimidating than a courtroom testimony such as videotaped evidence or the use of a closed circuit television system. Young prostitutes would have the same protection in this respect as other victims of child sexual abuse.

The bill also proposes to extend the use of devices such as a screen, closed circuit television or videotaped evidence to young victims of child pornography or assault.

Bill C-27 also proposes to allow the courts to make an order restricting the publication or broadcast of the identity of a complainant or witness in a prostitution related case. This will encourage prostitutes, particularly young prostitutes, to testify in these cases.

In addition to the legislative amendments of Bill C-27, efforts are being made to increase the awareness of justice system personnel regarding the exploitation and victimization resulting from prostitution. These include: developing models to provide training for police, prosecutors, judges, social workers who are involved with young prostitutes; encouraging provinces and territories to create strong police, crown and child welfare partnerships to deal with prostitution cases involving children; in co-operation with the provinces, developing an enforcement guide for the use of police and prosecutors in child prostitution cases; and encouraging provincial authorities to dedicate resources to fight child prostitution vigorously and to rigorously enforce the Criminal Code provisions focusing on pimps and customers of child prostitutes.

Bill C-27 also acts on the commitment made by this government in the February throne speech, namely the protection of the rights of children as a Canadian priority.

This bill proposes further amendments to the Criminal Code to enable criminal prosecution in Canada of Canadian citizens and permanent residents who travel abroad to engage in the sexual exploitation of children for money and other considerations. This practice, which is sometimes referred to as sex tourism, can only be stopped by international commitments and collaboration. Bill C-27 recognizes this commitment and sends a very strong message internationally about Canada's intolerance of such practices. With this amendment Canada will join 11 other countries: Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Belgium, France, Germany, Australia, New Zealand and the United States which have already enacted similar legislative measures.

The federal government has made a strong commitment to address the serious problem of violence against women and children. Bill C-27 proposes to strengthen the existing Criminal Code prohibition of criminal harassment or stalking as it is sometimes referred to. These amendments will serve to provide increased protection to women and children who are the primary victims of criminal harassment from such conduct.

These proposals also respond to an earlier commitment the Minister of Justice made in response to recommendations made by the federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for justice and by other partners in the criminal justice system.

Bill C-27 proposes that a person who commits murder while stalking in circumstances where he or she intended to make the victim fear for their safety or the safety of others, for example the victim's children, can be found guilty of first degree murder whether or not it can be proved that the murder itself was planned and deliberate.

First degree murder carries a mandatory penalty of life imprisonment with no eligibility for parole for 25 years. This amendment clearly indicates that murder committed in the course of stalking a victim is an exceptionally serious crime and will be treated as such.

Bill C-27 further proposes that a court imposing a sentence on a person who is convicted of stalking while under a restraining order or peace bond shall treat that as an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes.

Another proposal in this bill concerns the practice of female genital mutilation which involves excising or mutilating the genitals of female infants or children. This practice can cause severe and irreversible health problems. The Department of Justice is currently collaborating with Health Canada, the Status of Women, Canadian Heritage, and Citizenship and Immigration Canada on the development of public legal, health and cultural education and information materials on female genital mutilation.

It has been the government's position, and still is, that female genital mutilation is already covered by the Criminal Code. We are nevertheless proposing an amendment to clarify this prohibition so that it will be very clear that no form of female genital mutilation is permitted by Canadian law. I am confident this clarification together with our collaborative efforts on public education and information will play an important role in protecting Canadian children from the practice of female genital mutilation.

Finally, Bill C-27 contains minor amendments to some prostitution offences with a view to removing archaic terminologies such as references to "house of assignation" or a "person of known immoral character".

As I have said, our Canadian youth matter a great deal. We are demonstrating our leadership by squarely addressing several issues where young people in particular are vulnerable: juvenile prostitution, child sex tourism, female genital mutilation. It is important to send a strong message of social disapproval with respect to the abuse, exploitation and prostitution of young people. Young people deserve our respect. Young people need our protection.

In Bill C-27 we are dealing with the important issue of criminal harassment. Women and children are more frequent victims of stalking. They should be protected. This bill is important for all Canadians. It is in keeping with the ideals of Canadian society, a society which does not tolerate violence against women and children. Bill C-27 will help curb the problem of abuse and violence against women and children.

I would particularly like to commend the efforts of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Justice. Both have worked very hard in these regards and both very strongly, precisely and ably have spoken out to protect those who are most vulnerable in our society.

I seek the support of the House for swift passage of this bill.