Mr. Speaker, in my opinion the justice minister should have intervened with the Supreme Court of Canada to request a suspension of the decision or the application of the decision. The justice minister should have asked for a reasonable suspension in terms of time so we would not have to ram the bill through and we would be able to call witnesses from both sides of the equation and fully flesh out all aspects of the bill.
It has been a trademark of the justice department to bring in bills against a deadline that has denied members of the House an opportunity to fully express their views and concerns on such bills, to have witnesses appear before the standing committee, to determine the constitutionality of all aspects of the bill, and to satisfy members on both sides that the bill would do what the government and the people of the country want.
At the beginning of debate on Bill C-16 I point out that it is unfortunate our new justice minister seems to be following in the footsteps of the former justice minister when it comes to bills such as Bill C-45 that was brought in against a deadline. We on this side certainly remember that had Bill C-45 been brought in on time it may have stopped the likes of Olson from getting his full court press before a judge and jury.
It was brought in against a deadline, exactly as this bill is being brought in against a deadline. We have to hurry it through to meet the deadline of the November 22. Otherwise, as the officials who briefed the news media and ourselves yesterday pointed out, it could cause very serious concerns and an extension. That cost would have to be requested from the Supreme Court of Canada.
I point to the approach and the modus operandi the government is using which are unsuitable to the parliamentary system. We ought to have an unrushed opportunity to examine the bill carefully. I am hoping we will have time to do so and that the bill will reach the other place in time for the deadline.
I repeat that it should have been the justice minister and not the attorney general from British Columbia that intervened with the Supreme Court of Canada requesting the suspension. Why not make it 8 months or 10 months? Why not make it sufficiently long enough so that we would have the time to express our concerns and examine the bill carefully?
We support the bill but we decry the supreme court decision which made the bill necessary. The Feeney decision undermines the traditional powers of the police. The bill is designed to deal with a decision that undermines the traditional tools and powers of the police to investigate crime, bring perpetrators of crime into the courts and to justice, and thereby create and maintain the safety of society.
Now let us look at the Feeney decision. It is an horrendous decision when it comes to the impact it has had upon law enforcement. What happened? An 84 year old man was beaten to death. At the scene of the crime the police officer found blood spattered all over the place and had reason to believe that blood would be on the assailant. What did he do? In his investigation he approached the residence of Mr. Feeney, knocked on the door and there was no answer. He opened the door, did not kick it in, and found Mr. Finny lying on the bed, his shirt covered in blood.
Judge Sopinka, speaking and writing on behalf of the majority, said that it was an unlawful entry, an unlawful arrest and therefore all evidence gathered as a result was not admissible in court.
What did that mean? That decision of the five Canadians sitting in the Supreme Court of Canada, according to the legal opinions we have heard, will allow the man to walk free.
What does this say to the people of Canada with regard to their faith in our courts and our justice system? What does it say to the people who live in that community? What are they saying and how do they feel about the decision rendered by five people sitting in judgment who are there to protect the rights and safety of society?
We always look for a reasonable balance. I noticed that in the supreme court decision article 1 of the Constitution, the override clause, was not used. It was not even mentioned. I wonder why. In the decision the majority said that in general Mr. Feeney's privacy interest in the dwelling house outweighs the interest of the police.
What does “outweighs the interest of the police” mean? What interests do the police have if not our interest and the interest of society? It is the interest of the police but it means the interest of the safety of society. What are the jobs, sworn duties and responsibilities of the police? They are to protect society. How? It is by gathering evidence sufficient to warrant an arrest for a full and fair hearing before a court of competent jurisdiction.
When the majority in this case says that in general Mr. Feeney's privacy interest in his dwelling house outweighs the interests of the police, it is really saying it outweighs the interests of society.
What is the interest of society in a case like this? According to the Supreme Court of Canada what do the police do if they knock on the door and there is no answer? They spend hours surrounding the place like they did in the Kitimat case after this decision, and five hours later when the warrant to enter finally arrives they find that the suspect has gone. This is what the bill attempts to deal with.
That decision means the police may now have to obtain a warrant to enter, a warrant to arrest in certain circumstances and a warrant to search. If the police have a warrant to enter but not to search, they can gather whatever evidence is obvious before them, but they cannot search the attic, the basement or the rooms beyond their vision. They can only gather the evidence that is obvious before them. They will have to go through this rigmarole.
In the bill is the authority for telewarrants. What is a telewarrant? A police officer phones a justice of the peace or a judge in the middle of the night and says “I am Constable Joe Blow and I need a warrant. Here are the facts”. Given the attitude of supreme court expressed in this decision, will a telewarrant system stand a charter challenge? Not a hope.
I am speaking in the best interest of the safety of society. Should we not consider that article 1 of the charter, which states that the rights of the individual can be overridden if the interest of society is an overriding concern, should be applied and can be applied? Are we to ignore that? I saw no mention in the decision of the supreme court of the override clause. Perhaps for some reason or other the supreme court considered it was not applicable.
Let us take a look at the dissenting opinion that was written by Madam L'Heureux-Dubé. What did she say? What did the supreme court judges say? They said the entry was legal. They said the arrest was legal. They said the gathering of all the evidence was legal.
Had one more justice agreed we would not be here today and we would not need this bill. The common law tools and powers of peace officers prior to the Feeney decision would still be in force. The police would have the tools to move as quickly and as expeditiously as possible to protect society against someone who brutally murdered an 84 year old man.
Yes, we will support this bill. We want to hear witnesses. We want to understand the fullness of the bill. The main thrust of the bill everyone will support. We have to do something to deal with the Feeney decision which was brought down by the Supreme Court of Canada.
However, when we examine bills there are always details that we want to ensure are included. We want to understand the bill so that all members from all parties can make recommendations and bring forward amendments which they think will strengthen it.
We must restore these tools for the police so that they can maintain safety within our society and deal with those who are a threat to society, particularly individuals like Mr. Feeney. This man was convicted of murdering an 84-year old man and he is on the loose. According to legal opinions he will continue to be on the loose because they are saying that the evidence gathered after the arrest is not admissible in court.
What does Madam Justice L'Heureux-Dubé say about it? It is very interesting what she said about the decision to deny the admissibility of that evidence, even though it is DNA evidence. She said that the police should be commended, not rebuked, for their actions. She said:
—perhaps it is time to recall that public respect and confidence in the justice system lies not only in protection against police abuse, but also in the system's capacity to uncover the truth and ensure that, at the end of the day, it is more likely than not that justice will have been done.
Let us ask that question. Let us apply that test to the Feeney case. What have we got?
We have evidence cast out which conclusively in the lower courts convicted Feeney for the murder of an 84-year old senior citizen.
I stand with Madam Justice L'Heureux-Dubé. She is expressing the common sense of the vast majority of Canadians.
When that police officer entered the trailer, what did he do that hurt anyone? What did he do that was not an act in the defence of the safety of society? What did he do that was outrageous in the discharge of his duties and responsibilities to protect the community in which he lived and served? What did he do? I do not see anything that he did which was horrendous or wrong or a deviation from normal police practices, established on the basis of common sense.
This bill was designed over the summer. It has been introduced too late. It may not meet the deadline.
In the bill there is not a definition of hot pursuit. They are saying that the police could have entered that place if they were in hot pursuit. What does that mean?
During the briefing yesterday, Stephen Bindman from the Ottawa Citizen asked more than once why is there not in this bill a definition of hot pursuit so that police officers would know where they stand. Why is it not in the Criminal Code? That is a fair question. It is not there.
What is the difference between hot pursuit and fresh pursuit? We do not know. The police do not know. Is there a precedent? Is there a legal precedent that will guide them? We do not know.
Inasmuch as we do not place it in the law, and we do not create legislation to explain what hot pursuit and fresh pursuit mean, we are leaving it up to the courts to decide. The Supreme Court of Canada will have to decide what hot pursuit is.
There is case law that deals with hot pursuit, but why not put it in the Criminal Code? Why not legislate it so that we are telling the courts what we the people believe hot pursuit and fresh pursuit mean? What we the people want is police officers to have the tools to protect us from people like Mr. Feeney and others who will attack people, commit assaults, murders, rapes and so on.
This decision of the Supreme Court of Canada has reduced the safety of society by placing a greater burden on our police officers.
The bill attempts to get around that or at least provides a legal avenue to continue to allow police officers to enter dwellings but not without another burden on them. They are going to have to wait in order to get a search warrant unless there is hot pursuit.
They may have to get a warrant to arrest as well as to enter the premises. As I indicated earlier, if they want to search the entire building they may have to get a third warrant to do that very thing.
This may all sound well, fine and nice in an ivory tower but what about these remote conditions as in northern B. C. where this incident took place? What about some of these other areas where tele-warrants are impossible? What about that?
We are going to support this bill but we want it fleshed out. We want hear people from both sides, those who oppose the opinion and the decision of the supreme court that brought about the bill. We want to hear those who support it. We want to understand as much as possible whether this bill truly strikes a balance that the decision on the Feeney case by the Supreme Court of Canada has demanded.
Those are some of my concerns. Those are some of my thoughts. I guess that my greatest concern is that we in this House should not pass legislation that leaves interpretation open to the courts. We should be telling the courts what we want done by the legislation that we pass and it should not be open ended. If it is open ended we are going to be back over and over again to deal with this kind of situation where the Supreme Court of Canada decides. Instead of the elected representatives of the people acting in the best interest of the people we are going to have the courts deciding really what is the law.
We are hearing it over and over again and we heard it yesterday during the briefing that it is not the elected representatives of the people who are making the law. It is nine unelected people in the Supreme Court of Canada who are doing that for us. The warning was clear yesterday that we must stand on guard over this particular issue.
I point out that during July of this year an Angus Reid poll indicated that over 50% of Canadians have little faith in our courts, not in just our justice system. I could understand if they said it about the overall justice system. We know how they feel about the YOA, the faint hope clause and all these ridiculous situations that have been created by our law and our justice system. I could understand if the majority had lost faith in just the justice system but that is not the case in this poll. They have lost faith in our courts.
What does that mean? They have lost faith in the decisions being made by our judges. This is the question that went through my mind as soon as I read the Feeney case. Does the decision by the Supreme Court of Canada enhance or reduce the faith the people of Canada have in our courts and in our justice system?
I know what the answer would be if we go back to the scene of the crime and ask the neighbours of the victim of Mr. Feeney what they think this decision has done in terms of enhancing or reducing their faith in our court system and in the decisions our judges are making.
This is a very troubling matter and it lies at the heart of this whole bill and the decisions made by the Supreme Court of Canada.
If we read the decisions and the case law from the Supreme Court of Canada with regard to the absolute need to ensure that all that can be done is done to maintain the faith and the trust of Canadians in our courts and our judicial system, we will see why there is need for alarm and concern. These kinds of decisions make it more difficult for the police to protect us, our families and our children.
We have no alternative but to support this bill and to fight to restore the powers and the tools which the police lost to a certain extent. To a large extent the old common law tools that they had are gone. Why? The Supreme Court of Canada says in general the individual's privacy, Mr. Feeney's privacy interest in his dwelling house outweighs the interest of the police, the interest of society, the safety of society. That is why we are here debating this bill.
The government will receive support from members from all parties for this bill. I suggest that all members better stand on guard to protect the balance that we need between the right of the individual and the right of members of society to adequate police protection, protection from the courts and protection from the administration of our justice system.
This is the alarm bell which is ringing. We had better be very careful in the way in which we design our laws so that we are telling the courts what we want done on behalf of the Canadian people and not have the courts do that for us.
We leave opened ended things like hot pursuit. This is what Stephen Bindman was talking about. Why leave it in doubt? Why do we not tell the courts what we think on behalf of the Canadian people what hot pursuit means? Where do fresh and hot pursuit begin and end? Is it fresh pursuit? Is it hotter than hot pursuit or is it the other way around? We do not know. Do the police know? They should be able to open the Criminal Code and see their authority. But they do not have that.
There are some areas in the bill on which we will be asking not only the justice officials to give us their opinion but also some of the witnesses who are players on both sides of the issue in courts of law.
I conclude my remarks by reiterating that I am of the sincere opinion that it is unfortunate that this bill had to be brought forward in the first place. I stand with Madam L'Heureux-Dubé in supporting our police officers in their need for reasonable tools to do their job.