House of Commons Hansard #25 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was decision.


Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 31st, 1997 / 12:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The hon. member for Charlesbourg has about 25 minutes left to finish his speech.

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12:05 p.m.


Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg, QC

Mr. Speaker, don't worry, I will not take anywhere near the 25 minutes I have left. I will continue the debate from where I left off before the brief interruption.

After a brief overview of the key clauses in the bill in question, Bill C-16, it is now important to state that we have certain reservations about the bill in question.

It will, first of all, be necessary to discuss the “discretionary” powers assigned to peace officers in relation to the reasonable and probable grounds to believe. There is a need for a thorough discussion of this aspect.

We also want to listen—we do not want to be rushed by the government—and we want to give both sides a chance to be heard. As I said a while ago, but it bears repeating now, this is a fundamental debate on the balance between individual rights and freedoms on the one hand and the powers of the state on the other. It is a debate that needs to be carried out in a leisurely and thorough manner. We want to hear the proponents of both sides, those in favour of this bill and those opposed to it, with the reasons for their positions. It will also be very important to hear from the men and women who will have to put this bill into application, or in other words from the police officers across Canada.

Given the respect the Bloc Quebecois holds for privacy, given the duty the state has to respond to situations that require it to intervene in the private sphere of individuals in order to protect the public interest, and given as well that the action of the state is subordinate to the rules set out in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and more specifically section 8 in this case, given the importance of the amendments proposed to improve the administration of justice, given the Supreme Court judgment in the Feeney case, and the examination of precedents in the matter, and given that the amendments proposed seem—I use that word advisedly, as this will need verifying—to respond to the requirements of the jurisprudence, we in the Bloc Quebecois declare that we are in favour of Bill C-16. That is the end of my statement.

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12:10 p.m.


Chris Axworthy NDP Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to discuss Bill C-16 and to express the views of the New Democratic Party.

I would like to echo some of the comments which have been made to date about the haste with which this bill is being pushed through the House of Commons. I will speak to some specific concerns about that in a moment, but this is not a very effective way to achieve law reform and, in particular, criminal law reform because of the concerns Canadians have, quite rightly, of their sense of security in their homes and in their communities.

I want to congratulate the parliamentary secretary for setting out clearly the provisions of Bill C-16. Those who were watching and those who will read the proceedings will not be left in any doubt exactly what the government is attempting to do.

The bill is a response to the ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Feeney case. The proposed amendments to the Criminal Code would enable the police to obtain a warrant from a judge to enter a private home to arrest or apprehend a person. Also the legislation is intended to clarify that authorization from a judge is not needed in urgent circumstances where it is not practical to obtain a warrant.

In the Feeney case the Supreme Court ruled that in order to protect the privacy rights of Canadians under the charter, police must obtain a warrant before they enter a private home to arrest or apprehend someone. Of course, the ruling caused concern among the police across Canada and victims' organizations, concerns that perhaps public safety was being put at risk in certain circumstances as a consequence of the delay which was being suggested by the Supreme Court of Canada in order to obtain a warrant to enter the premises.

Considerable concerns were voiced in the law enforcement community across Canada, as well as by the many Canadians who are concerned about their security.

Generally, police officers obtain a warrant authorizing entry before they enter a private home to arrest someone. This legislation is intended to provide procedures to obtain such a warrant. It also allows the police to obtain a warrant by telephone or by any other means of telecommunication where presenting themselves to a judge is simply not possible.

It also makes the obtaining of warrants more straightforward, somewhat easier, and will be particularly useful, the government contends, for those working in remote locations or when it would not be possible to both monitor a suspect and appear before a judge to apply for the warrant to enter.

It will not have any effect on the common law which permits police and other peace officers to enter private homes to arrest a suspect when they are in hot pursuit of that suspect.

The question that arises is whether this legislation strikes a reasonable balance between the powers available to the police to protect our safety and the privacy rights of Canadians. The government, of course, contends that it does. We will have to wait to see what the Supreme Court of Canada decides on that particular matter.

It does pose another problem, which is generated by rushing this legislation through the House with insufficient time to consider these provisions.

I was interested to hear the Reform Party praise the attorney general of British Columbia who led the way in successfully applying to the Supreme Court of Canada to suspend its judgment for six months so that Parliament could respond and so that the uncertainty within the law enforcement community could be addressed. It is a rare day indeed when the Reform Party commends the attorney general of British Columbia for anything. I want to note the Reform Party did that.

This legislation is before us as a result of the Feeney case. It is close to the deadline. I believe November 22 is the deadline for this legislation to be implemented in accordance with the recommendation of the Supreme Court of Canada. As has been said many times, it does not give members very much time or opportunity to look into the specific provisions to see whether the legislation answers the concerns raised by the Supreme Court of Canada. It gives little time to look into whether this legislation is a response which will enable the police forces across Canada to do their jobs effectively.

We know that from time to time the Supreme Court of Canada has taken the point that the old way of doing things prior to the charter is no longer appropriate, bearing in mind the contents of the charter. This is one of those examples. It serves to remind us that it would be better if the government took a more holistic and complete approach to criminal law reform. It could look through a number of the issues which the supreme court and other courts have raised with regard to the application of criminal law in the light of the charter of rights and freedoms.

The police association has raised some concerns about this legislation, among others. These concerns could have been dealt with had we had more time to consider the provisions of the legislation in depth. The police have concerns with regard to the statutory authorization of entry at the time of the warrant issue. As we know, it is not always possible to be fully cognizant of where somebody who has escaped from prison or a halfway house might be. Yet it is clearly in the public interest that such persons be apprehended as quickly as possible. It deserves to be considered in more detail how this legislation affects that possibility.

We also know there is some concern about failure in the legislation to define exigent circumstances. When is it appropriate for the police to respond in the old way based upon an urgent situation in which they have no choice but to go and apprehend immediately? With uncertainty, the police will not always know what their responsibilities are or how best to protect the public safety in certain circumstances.

It might also have been better to have included in the preamble provisions which would make it clear the government's response should there be a section 1 argument under the charter presented to the legislation.

There are some other provisions that could have been addressed in a more comprehensive review of the legislation in committee if this bill had been put forward a little earlier than it has been. Clearly we have to respond to the Feeney case and the Supreme Court of Canada's suggestions that Parliament act. The government has acted with Bill C-16. As has been mentioned, there is all party support for this response to the supreme court.

I merely want to point out that if we had this legislation in a more timely way, we could have had more opportunity to resolve whatever potential difficulties there might be. Those concerns have been voiced by police associations across the country which have the responsibility for enforcing this legislation and for protecting Canadians in their homes and in their communities.

There are aspects of criminal law reform that can only be done in a piecemeal way. We do not have a full view of the future. We cannot guess what the Supreme Court of Canada might consider needs to be addressed as a result of the charter affecting our criminal law.

As Canadians we deserve a more cohesive, more fully informed, more forward looking approach to criminal law reform than we have had in either this or the last Parliament. It is possible to predict in many respects, and it is possible to see what the Supreme Court of Canada has said we should do.

It would be better for all of us if the government took criminal law reform more seriously and did it in a more complete way.

That being said, we will support this legislation.

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12:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party to speak to a bill introduced in the House to amend the Criminal Code and the Interpretation Act, specifically referring to the powers of arrest to enter into a dwelling house.

A key objective of Bill C-16 is to provide police across the country with the power to enter a home and effect an arrest of an individual. This came about as a result of The Queen v. Feeney case in the Supreme Court of Canada on May 22, 1997. In the delivery of the decision in The Queen v. Feeney the court ruled that as a general rule police require a warrant to enter a private dwelling to effect an arrest.

This decision overturned a longstanding existing string of case law that did not require police to obtain a warrant to enter a home in arresting an individual if that police officer had reasonable and probable grounds to effect that arrest or, prior to entering the home, indicated in the presence of the accused that the authority and reason for entry was part of the normal process.

The Supreme Court of Canada found that in this situation the privacy of Canadians under the charter was not adequately protected.

The charter has been given broad interpretation by our courts and in this instance the police have been curtailed in their ability to carry out their duties as it refers to arrest. No doubt this ruling causes great concern among the police community and victims' organizations that public safety may be put at risk in certain circumstances as a consequence of the delay required to obtain a warrant.

Many members have spoken concerning this bill. I listened with great interest to the comments of the opposition parties as well as the government. There are various perspectives that have significant bearing on the issue.

One of the concerns I have is the issue of hot pursuit in a situation where a person suspected of a serious criminal offence is being pursued into a residence or business and the ability of police officers to carry out their duties by effecting an arrest. There are also concerns that tie into that with respect to the preservation of evidence and the overall issue of protection of the public through preventive measures that police officers are charged with in their daily duties.

The attorney general of British Columbia joined with other provinces and the federal government and successfully applied to the Supreme Court of Canada to suspend the judgment that was issued in Feeney for a period of six months to give Parliament the time needed to address the effects of this ruling and to fill the void left by The Queen v. Feeney.

In the meantime, police feel they are in limbo on this issue and are anxiously awaiting definitive direction and action to be taken by the government.

Today we are looking at the government's response to the supreme court decision. I acknowledge in essence—and I want to put this clearly on the record—that it is a positive position the government has taken on this decision. It is the government's attempt to fill the gap left by The Queen v. Feeney case. However I want to put comments forward with respect to the bill and I say again that I support it in principle.

The Feeney decision could not be left to stand, lest effective law enforcement, including the arresting of individuals committing crimes would be jeopardized with the existing situation were it left as it is.

Before going into the substantive effect of the bill, I would point out to the House and to the government, with the greatest respect, one of my concerns. The government's response was somewhat slow to the situation and the timeframe that was allotted by the supreme court. Six months is certainly sufficient time to respond. Obviously the country went through a federal election in that time but the business of the day has to be carried out regardless of the fact that the country is going through an election. I would suggest that a matter that is certainly of significant importance to the law enforcement community could be addressed within that time period.

In a press release dated October 30, 1997, the Minister of Justice is quoted as saying that the bill “strikes a reasonable balance between the powers available to the police to protect their safety and the privacy rights of Canadians”.

I am pleased to hear this pronouncement and this assessment by the minister regarding the legislation. However considering the fundamental implications of Bill C-16, and those implications on the rights of individual Canadians, I hope that the minister will take into account the need for the justice committee to properly and openly discuss the impact of the bill. All indications are that this will be moving to the justice committee this week. I am encouraged by that.

To be quite frank, I am unsure that this House has enough time left, with 11 sitting days, both to pass the legislation and fulfil the commitment to Canadians to act thoughtfully and responsibly with their best interests in mind. However, we are used to working under pressure in trying to respond quickly and I am pleased to say that we are going to endeavour to do this with the time allotment we have.

It is my position that this bill should be carefully studied at the committee level. That is why I raise the issue of delay. I know that the minister and her officials are prepared to hear the response of the opposition parties as well as witnesses at the justice committee level.

Those witnesses I would suggest will include the Canadian Police Association, bar associations throughout the country and crown prosecutors who will be given an opportunity to testify and give their very important and insightful views on the bill and their suggestions on how this bill might be further tightened up.

This is the time and the place to fix this bill and draft legislation that is going to effectively fill the gap left by Feeney and we should try to get it right the first time.

In order for the standing committee on justice to do all of this, the time issue is a factor and I hope we will be successful in our efforts to respond before the deadline of November 22.

By having tabled the bill today and with the debate on second reading, it would be easy to demonstrate to the supreme court that Parliament has already started serious study with respect to the work that has to be done. A suspension could be requested if required and there is precedent for this. It has happened in the past. We may have to make this request should the justice committee have insufficient time or the witnesses not be permitted sufficient time to speak to this issue.

I want to turn briefly to the bill and its objectives. What does this bill do and what should it do? Without any doubt, and I think it is common ground, the first objective should be to help to protect and serve the community. We also have to recognize that the police officers, the rank and file, the individuals with the badges that are on the beat, have to be given assistance when it comes to effecting arrest and carrying out their duties.

Does Bill C-16 do all this? Does it accomplish this and can it be improved? Again, these are questions that members of the justice committee and hopefully those bringing forward testimony are going to help us answer.

I had an opportunity to be involved in a number of cases that included search warrants and individual rights, and the balance that must be struck between the protection of the public and those individual rights was always at issue. Certainly any piece of legislation that addresses issues of arrest where police officers are entering into private dwellings or places of business to effect arrest has to be viewed in a very, very serious light.

Businesses of course enjoy a different degree of privacy than a private dwelling. Certainly the police, as in many of the situations they face on a daily basis, have to be entrusted with the greatest of discretion. We can never ever ignore the fact that police officers are looking for direction from the Criminal Code of Canada and those legislators who have input into the process.

The specific concerns I raised at the outset surrounding hot pursuit are issues which I hope will be the subject of lively discussion at the committee level.

Domestic violence and the need for all police agencies to address this will be better served when the issue is completely ironed out. Police officers are called upon daily to intervene in issues of domestic violence. They must be given the utmost support and assistance if they are to effectively combat this very, very serious problem in our country.

Drug searches are another area where the bill will have an impact. Police officers are facing an epidemic of rampant drug use throughout the country. They must be given the discretion to enter into a dwelling house or areas where drugs are suspected to be housed.

Police are always working in a pressure filled environment and there is more and more attention drawn to police and the job they are entrusted with. In my experience I have seen police exercise very good judgment and act responsibly and lawfully in the majority of instances.

Having said that, the principles that underscore the bill are sound. At present, police officers throughout the country are working under a system which is somewhat cumbersome and ineffective without a substantive position being put forward in the Criminal Code. Some of the proposals in this bill would certainly clarify it and would help the police do their job more expeditiously and would give them the knowledge that they are acting on solid ground.

I would suggest however that the bill needs to be amended or at least tinkered with in some areas. This would include when police officers are seeking an arrest warrant and the authorization to enter into a dwelling house and their ability to tell a judge about a specific residence they want to enter to effect an arrest. This information is not always available. Again it ties into the immediacy of the situation where they may be in pursuit or they may be faced with an emergency situation where they have to act immediately to prevent further injury, to prevent hiding or disposing of evidence. This is something the bill does not address effectively.

True, I certainly acknowledge that it is possible at times to speculate where a suspect may be, but this information is not always predictable. Surely in the public interest the apprehension of a suspected criminal where the police have reasonable and probable grounds to believe that an offence has been committed outweighs the concerns about entering a hideout or a safe house where the criminal may be harbouring the proceeds of crime, drugs or weapons that may have been involved in the offence of which he is accused.

Another concern I have is with respect to the resources available to police officers when it comes to effecting a search warrant. There is really no mention whatsoever in the bill about the availability of justices of the peace or judges with respect to the issuance of such warrants. This I would suggest is a glaring omission. Without the resources it is really nothing more than lip service. If we have a very specific procedure in place as to how a search warrant can be obtained but we do not have the justices or the judges available to sign those warrants and allow the police officers to carry them out, then all is for nought.

Another concern that does arise from the decision itself, and an attempt has been made by Bill C-16 to address it, is the further definition of exigent circumstances which is the language that is used in the majority decision of Feeney. It is not clear, I would suggest, to this point what those exigent circumstances would include. The police I think are looking for further clarification on this.

True to form as in all legislation there are going to be challenges. Certainly the government cannot simply be responsive to the fact that this is going to be challenged and therefore try to anticipate every single charter challenge that may arise but clarification is needed on that definition.

Another point with respect to the listing of multiple dwellings within a search warrant and entry authorizations, the Interpretation Act seems to infer that singular means plural and vice versa within that act as the wording is set out in the current bill. I would suggest that there is still some vagueness surrounding the language as it pertains to multiple listings for residences or hideouts where a suspected criminal may be staking out.

In conclusion, I do want to say that we in the Conservative Party are supportive of this bill. I would also like to indicate that the Minister of Justice has done the right thing in responding in a timely fashion in this sitting of the House, keeping in mind my earlier remarks with respect to the work that has been done thus far to see that the bill is brought to fruition in the House. There is some concern I have in that regard.

The federal government obviously has a huge obligation when it comes to the Criminal Code of Canada. The Minister of Justice is certainly the top dog when it comes to effecting change within the Criminal Code.

I look forward to the opportunity of having a direct impact on the final draft of this bill. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House to seeing Bill C-16 through to its final conclusion which will hopefully be put forward in a way that it is going to be very effective in ensuring that police officers are permitted to do their job and to help keep the streets in this country safe and sound.

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12:35 p.m.


Chuck Cadman Reform Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Dewdney—Alouette.

I have been in this place a short while and in that time I am amazed at how it operates. Yesterday the minister tabled legislation in response to a supreme court decision of last May. It took the Department of Justice with all of its resources over five months to prepare a response. Members of Parliament are then provided a day in order to review that response, comprehend the ramifications and attempt a rational comment. No wonder the Canadian public often question proceedings in this place. It may also explain why the courts have been so eager to challenge our legislative power in this country.

Just a few short years ago the courts limited themselves to interpreting the law and they now seem to be making it. It used to be that this placed made the law.

During the last Parliament the former Minister of Justice was known for legislating by panic. He often left mere days to pass essential legislation. I expected more, and Canadians expected more from our present Minister of Justice. As many members of the Liberal backbench have been quoted as saying, the unelected bureaucrats from the PMO really make all the decisions.

Perhaps the Minister of Justice does not control her own agenda and she has been forced to play these political games whereby legislation is introduced with unreasonable timeframes resulting in inadequate review and consultation. We can only hope this government has at least the decency to refer this legislation to committee and then provide sufficient opportunity for proper review and presentation of all concerns.

With respect to the bill, I appreciate that it is almost entirely a reaction to the Feeney case, but I question whether this legislation will address the next case like Feeney. The majority decision of Feeney held that the police did not have reasonable and probable grounds to arrest Mr. Feeney prior to entry into his abode.

So I ask this question. How will a formal process of obtaining a warrant to enter a dwelling make an arrest be obtainable if there are not the grounds to make that arrest? Many critics have sided with the minority position but the fact remains that the majority decided it was wrong for the police to gain entry to the dwelling without a warrant in those circumstances.

The second point concerns the bureaucracy we are placing upon police officers. I have had reason to spend much time with the police in my community over the past few years. I make it a point every few months to ride along with them for a full weekend night shift. If citizens only knew what goes on in their streets while they are snuggled away in their beds.

Perhaps more judges and legislators should do the same before rendering bonehead decisions or penning ill-conceived legislation. Maybe they would come to appreciate the situations faced by these men and women, the ever present threats and the instantaneous decisions required to keep our streets safe.

This legislation at least makes provisions for telewarrants. Not all police officers will be smothered by paperwork. Hopefully in those remote locations and in those circumstances where time is important, the advantages of the telephone will assist our already overworked and understaffed enforcement personnel.

I have not had any experience with telewarrants but I hope they will work as well as anticipated. I cannot help but wonder whether justices of the peace would not be more hesitant to authorize warrants over the telephone rather than when a police officer with proper documentation appears personally.

We should also wonder just how available justices of the peace will be in the wee hours of the morning when our police are out protecting the public and require these dwelling arrest warrants. I would like to hear more evidence of how telewarrants work in practice.

In any case, as a result of this legislation the police now have to be concerned about obtaining proper authorization to enter a dwelling to make an arrest. They quite likely may also have to obtain separate authorization to search those premises. They could well have previously been required to obtain a basic arrest warrant. Is this not something, perhaps up to three warrants just to get an individual into our justice system. After spending all the time and effort to get the individual before the legal process, the police and our communities will continue to be astonished at how quickly the accused will be entitled to bail and release.

I also wonder whether the police will actually utilize these warrant provisions. When they obtain a warrant and enter a dwelling house there is no guarantee the individual will be there. Executing the warrant will likely provide notice of police interest toward that individual. It will provide notice that the accused should attempt to disappear in many cases. In some cases the police will be endangered as desperate accused prepare to protect themselves against arrest.

I am further concerned that in many situations the police may decide to wait to apprehend to when the individual is outside the dwelling house. Of course such a delay in apprehension could result in more occurrences of crime by the individual. We can certainly see how our interest in protecting the rights of our criminals results in added responsibilities to our police and added attacks to our security.

Another issue to be raised concerns the status of other cases before the courts. We know that Feeney is the law as of the date of its decision. It is not clear whether other cases before the courts prior to Feeney will be ruled illegal arrests and evidence ruled inadmissible. It is not even clear whether cases since Feeney will be protected by this legislation.

For some reason I fully expect our present justice system will be just as eager to treat other offenders in the same way as Mr. Feeney, at least those who have committed their crimes and who have been dealt with by the police prior to the passing of this legislation. Otherwise the bleeding hearts will cry that it is not fair that only Mr. Feeney obtained these lenient and controversial allowances.

As members of this place can appreciate, the supreme court raised some interesting new developments in our law. This bill is an attempt to react to those developments. They must be thoroughly and properly addressed. With respect, I wish to remind those listening that the Feeney case involved a vicious beating and death of an 85-year old man. The offender could well go free for this horrendous crime.

Any failures to properly address the inadequacies of our law could result in additional travesties of justice. It places a heavy burden on all of us in this place.

As I stated earlier I hope the government begins to see the light and provides proper opportunity to adequately address these shortcomings. This minister has gotten off to a poor start by leaving the bill to this late date and then starting to rush it through Parliament. We have three weeks until the date set by the supreme court to provide legislation and one of those weeks is a scheduled break week. I do not know if the public will ever understand this place and that is most unfortunate.

In conclusion, I have met with family members of the victim in the Feeney case. I doubt if there is anybody in this place who can even begin to comprehend how this decision has impacted on them. Just think of it, a convicted killer found covered in the blood of your loved one may walk away unpunished because the police were unable to wake him from a drunken stupor before entering his premises to make an arrest.

It is another classic example of how our justice system continues to revictimize. It is another example of how our justice system has been hijacked by those who view life from ivory towers, far above the realities of everyday Canadian life.

Is it any wonder that the majority of Canadians have lost faith in our courts?

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12:45 p.m.


Grant McNally Reform Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Mr. Speaker, we will support Bill C-16. However, the fact that this bill must be brought forward is a symptom of bigger problems with the entire justice system, as my hon. colleague just mentioned.

We often hear the government saying that things are going well, that crime is down and that things are looking better. That is simply not the case.

In my previous capacity as a teacher, we had an acid test for the sign of a good teacher which was whether we would be willing to put our own child in a classroom with a particular teacher. If we were, then we knew that teacher was a good teacher.

The acid test for Canadians is the effectiveness of the justice system. Is this a case about which Canadians are going to say that is a fine finding and they can live with it? In the Feeney case it is obvious that is not the case.

I do not think that Canadians are feeling any safer today than in the past. There is a great deal of trouble with our justice system and Canadians are telling us that.

The travesty here is that Feeney will walk in this case. As my colleague from Crowfoot mentioned earlier, the community in which Feeney lives is certainly not feeling safer. Those people certainly do not feel that the justice system is working well in their area.

What is troubling in this case is the larger problem of the entire justice system. Madam Justice L'Heureux-Dubé, in her dissenting opinion in the Feeney case, stated that the warrantless arrest was justified given that a very violent murder had occurred, that the arrest was made in a field and that it was extremely impractical to obtain an arrest or search warrant. The arrest was in the midst of a fresh pursuit, which was continuous and direct, and there was reasonable fear that the killer would commit further violence. We believe this test should be applicable in all cases.

I would like to tell two short stories about some of my constituents who have told me about the problems they are encountering with the justice system.

One of the stories is about a man whose son, unfortunately, was one of the victims of Clifford Olson. He lives in my community of Maple Ridge, which is the largest city in my riding.

As a young man of 18 I lived in the community in which Olson prowled. That community was Coquitlam. In fact, that very summer I taught a Bible club in the apartment complex where Olson lived. One of Olson's victims was a young man of 18. I was 18. I know the fear that gripped my community when that man committed those heinous acts. It affected not only my community but the surrounding communities and our country as a whole.

I saw the pain and the anguish on a man's face whose life had been changed forever. Mr. Ray King talked to me just before the farcical trial which took place in Vancouver. He told me about all he had been through. His son had been lost. His son had been taken from him. It has ruined his entire life. For 15 years he has remained rather silent but now is starting to speak out for the victims of crime. He is asking for changes to be made to the justice system.

We cannot lose sight of victims. If we do we lose sight of what our justice system is about. It is about the protection of our society. It is about the protection of Canadians.

We saw the lack of foresight and vision when Bill C-45 was introduced by the government in 1996, only eight days before the end of the summer sitting. With further vision and further foresight in correcting the problems of the justice system this could have been brought forward sooner so that Mr. King and the other victims would not have had to go through what happened in Vancouver. They would not have to relive that pain and anguish. It certainly is a sign that there is some trouble with our system.

We support Bill C-16. We support our police. We support their being able to do their job, to have the tools to be able to do their job, to arrest criminals, to protect our society.

I will relate one more short story about one of my constituents who came to tell me his story about the problems he has encountered with the justice system. His father was brutally murdered by his own step-brother in the early 1980s. It was a terrible act, a heinous crime. The individual was convicted of first degree murder. This criminal has been streamed from maximum to medium to minimum security, and now Mr. McGillvary is faced with the fact that the person who committed this crime has been placed in an institution just 20 minutes away from his own home. This inmate, this criminal who committed this act, who had taken Mr. McGillvary's father from him, also threatened Mr. McGillvary's life. Yet now he is placed in an institution just 20 minutes away from his own home in a minimum security institution where there is a great chance he could get away.

There was a case in another minimum security institution setting five minutes from my house a few years back. Inmates left and committed a murder in Seattle. We would hope this is not a place people are going to leave from daily but the fear is there for Mr. McGillvary. He has been through the system to ask for changes. Understandably he is fearful, yet he has been offered counselling services to deal with his irrational fear. I do not see this as irrational. Not at all.

We apply the acid test to that case. What would we do if we were in Mr. McGillvary's case? We would be just as fearful. We ask who holds the keys to the criminal justice system. In Mr. McGillvary's case, he has been told that it would be a problem to transfer this inmate because the inmate could bring a court case against correctional services, a case which he would likely win.

Who holds the keys for where he is going to be? The justice system should have the opportunity to put an inmate where he is deemed to be best placed. We need a balance and the victims need to be remembered. While we support this bill, we point out that the government needs to listen to Canadians and their cries for a substantive overhaul of the criminal justice system, to provide a balance, to provide truth in sentencing, and to restore Canadians' faith in the criminal justice system.

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12:50 p.m.


Mike Scott Reform Skeena, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the hon. member. I appreciated his remarks. It is important to remember that what precipitated the current debate and this legislation is a decision of the Supreme Court of Canada.

Canadians need to ask the question of who holds the keys to the criminal justice system in this country. I submit that Parliament is the right institution to hold those keys and not the supreme court. While we respect the supreme court, its current method for appointing judges leaves the public no way of holding any of those justices accountable for the decisions they make. We know that at times there is the appearance that appointments are made on a political basis.

We certainly understand that we as elected parliamentarians are responsible and accountable to the people who send us here. We ultimately are the ones who make and pass the laws and we are, therefore, accountable to the people for the laws that we make, change or amend.

Does the member not agree that a big part of the problem with the Feeney decision is that of a situation where the public is going to have to live with the results of this absolutely unacceptable decision of the Supreme Court of Canada and yet the supreme court is not accountable?

Is there not something wrong with this picture and does it not need to be changed?

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12:55 p.m.


Grant McNally Reform Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. colleague for Skeena for the question.

Yes, I would say that there is a definite problem with the system. We are charged by our electorate to make laws in this place. We are accountable to our constituents. However, when we see the application of law such as in this case, there is a imbalance. There should have been a common sense finding, but there was not. More and more Canadians are wondering why such an obvious case was found the way it was.

There is a body of unelected officials interpreting the law and making decisions on the law which more and more seem to be getting away from what the majority of Canadians would find to be reasonable answers. We need to overhaul the system and look at more accountable ways of appointing judges so that they would be held accountable for their decisions. We respect the supreme court, but in cases such as this we have to question the findings of such a decision.

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12:55 p.m.


Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, the record is fairly complete here today in describing the background of the legislation. I want to acknowledge the anticipated co-operation of colleagues on all sides of the House to dispose of the issue today and allow the matter to go to a committee where it can be treated with a bit more introspection.

However, I do want to address a particular issue. As a bit of a preamble, lot of MPs are curious about why from time to time we in the House have to revisit legislative areas because of decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada. It should not be a surprise. Since the charter was adopted as part of our Constitution we have had to adapt some of our laws to the guidance and interpretation of that court. It was inevitable that some of this was going to happen.

As one legislator, I wish that when the court deals with these things it would assess the impact of its decisions on criminal procedures on Canadian life. In this case, I gather it did not want to make the decision and then the government lawyers had to go back and ask for a stay of six months. We are now at the end of that six month window and we are attempting to correct that area of law.

I regret that the paradigms within which we must work to do this are set by the courts. I would rather we go back to square one and design a procedure that we all believed was appropriate and in compliance with the charter and fair to Canadians. We will probably have a chance to address some of those issues at the committee stage.

In the interests of brevity, I will get to the issue I want to discuss. As a result of this decision there is a gaping hole in the criminal procedure which applies to police entering private dwelling homes for the purpose of arresting someone or securing evidence.

Prior to this decision, before entering a dwelling home without a warrant for the purpose of executing an arrest peace officers had to have reasonable grounds to believe they could arrest someone in the home, someone they had the right to arrest. The person must have been guilty or believed to be guilty of an indictable offence.

In addition to the reasonable grounds peace officers would have to announce their entry: something equivalent to a knock on the door and a statement as to whom they were, followed by the entry. That was the way it was for almost 100 years based on what is called the Landry test. It seems to have worked relatively well.

I am wondering if the following scenario is proper. Let us say an individual is suspected of either a rape or a bank robbery. Three weeks later the victim spots the perpetrator. The person does not know his or her name but the perpetrator is spotted. The victim then goes to the police and says “I have seen the person who raped me” or “I have seen the person who robbed the bank”.

The police officer under the old rules would have said “Let's go and get him” and if he is in a dwelling house he would have made entry. In this case the peace officer has to obtain a warrant if the accused happens to be in a dwelling house even if it is not his own dwelling house.

The only difficulty is the warrant procedure we have just designed in the bill requires that the accused be identified by name. In my scenario we do not have a name. We have an identification. We know he is there but we do not know his name. Therefore we cannot get a warrant with the bill and the peace officer cannot go into the house. In theory the accused can sit there for 30 years while we figure out how we can get into the house.

It may be a problem with the legislation. We will have a chance to address it in due course. I am sure colleagues will co-operate as we address it. I will leave my further remarks on the legislation for committee stage.

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1 p.m.


Philip Mayfield Reform Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Mr. Speaker, Frank Boyle was murdered at Likely which is about one hour's drive, if one drives like heck and does not hit a deer, from Williams Lake where I live. It is on the Quesnel River flowing out of Quesnel Lake. It is an isolated community.

One of the large tasks I have as the member serving Cariboo—Chilcotin is initial telephone hookups, lines to where residents live so they can get on the telephone system.

The question I want to ask is about the telewarrants. I am glad the member raised the question of warrants. The legislation would probably work well in a city where the streets are laid out and the houses are identified. However, how would they work in areas where there are shacks, trailers and accommodations in the bush? People have lived for a long time in these areas. People in isolated circumstances are encouraged not to take the law into their own hands as they have had to do in the past because there have not been police resources or a means of communicating with the police.

How are telewarrants supposed to work when the police undertaking a legitimate investigation are unable to communicate with the justice of the peace, the judge or even their own headquarters in many instances because of isolation?

This seems to be another instance where the laws of our land are dividing rural and urban people. Does the member have a comment to make about telewarrants and their effectiveness in the type of circumstance that happened in Likely?

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1 p.m.


Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member raises a good question. Obviously members at the committee stage will have to make sure the design and procedure work. The committee and the stakeholders will be consulting with the police community. Whether we are talking about telephone authorizations or telewarrants or whatever, we have to make sure when the bill leaves committee and comes back to the House we have a procedure or a mechanism that works and addresses the hon. member's question.

I am ready to go to work on it and I hope he is too.

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1:05 p.m.

Perth—Middlesex Ontario


John Richardson LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak in support of Bill C-16.

Before doing so I would like to thank the Minister of Justice and the officials in her department for their swift and comprehensive leadership on this issue. I also thank the previous minister of justice for the bold leadership he demonstrated during our first mandate.

Our safe homes and safe streets agenda has been a tremendous success. Our accomplishments include sentencing reform, a new national system of screening child sex abusers, amendments to the Young Offenders Act and tighter controls on guns.

The approach of the Liberal government to justice issues has emphasized prevention. Prevention is the underlying philosophy. That is why we established the National Crime Prevention Council which continues to study what leads children into a life of crime and how to stop that pattern.

We have funded a national campaign against family violence. We have also improved peace bonds to make them more effective in keeping abusers away from women and children. To protect children from sexual exploitation we have brought in legislation to get tough on pimps and customers who prey on child prostitutes and prosecute Canadians who exploit child prostitutes in other countries.

Crime is not a simple issue. The Liberal approach avoids fear mongering and the kind of simplistic solutions we often hear in the House such as flogging petty criminals and throwing more and more people into expensive prisons for longer and longer sentences. That is why that policy is doomed to fail.

Let us move to why we are here today. The bill was introduced to correct a procedural flaw in our judicial system, a flaw that has been chipping away at section 8 of the charter. The section is one of the fundamental legal rights Canadians share that many people in other countries are still fighting for. It is the same right many people undertake when they wish to make their points. I remind hon. members that the section reads “Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure”.

The Feeney case presented the problem of whether Canadian police officers should have complete discretion to enter a premises simply because they are investigating an incident and then upon stumbling across incriminating evidence should be allowed to ignore section 8 of the charter and proceed with an arrest. The officer in the case did not believe he had reasonable and probable grounds for the forcible entry. Therefore the court found the law inadequate to allow the police to do their job and to protect citizens privacy rights. I think there is a general consensus in the House on that background.

Our opponents may feel these claims are not strongly founded. However the bill will neither add to nor subtract from the powers of the police. The bill is designed to clarify the process so that the legal rights our opponents take for granted are protected.

Procedures will now be clear. A peace officer will be able to apply in person or by phone to a judge or justice for a warrant authorizing the peace officer to enter a private dwelling to arrest a person, if the judge or justice is satisfied that a warrant of arrest for that person exists and there are reasonable grounds to believe a person is in the dwelling, or authorizing the peace officer to enter a private dwelling to arrest a person whose identity is known or can be identified, if the judge or justice is satisfied there are reasonable grounds for an arrest and to believe the person is in the dwelling.

The proposed legislation would also allow the judge when issuing an arrest warrant to authorize entry into a specific dwelling if the judge is satisfied there are reasonable grounds to believe that the person subject to the arrest warrant is or will be inside.

After explaining this some people will say there will be instances when peace officers will not have enough time to get the warrant. We have provided for that. The bill will allow police officers to enter the private dwelling without a warrant in exigent or pressing circumstances where it is not feasible to obtain one. These would include but would not be limited to situations where there is a reasonable suspicion that entry is necessary to prevent bodily harm or death to anyone, or there are reasonable grounds to believe that entry is necessary to prevent imminent loss or destruction of evidence. In total the bill strikes the right balance between empowering police to do their jobs and protecting the fundamental right of the charter.

The government has consulted with provincial attorneys general, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Canadian Association of Police and the Canadian Bar Association to prepare this legislation. I am pleased to see a broad consensus within the House to support the bill. For that I am truly thankful.

The government has been working tirelessly for safe homes and safe streets. We will continue to fight to preserve the rights of Canadians and to maintain the best justice system in the world.

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1:10 p.m.


Philip Mayfield Reform Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the parliamentary secretary for his comments. I have a question that relates directly to Mr. Feeney and the evidence.

Will the legislation provide for Mr. Feeney to be retried using the evidence that the supreme court has already thrown out, or will he go free because the evidence is not admissible in court?

There is no question in anybody's mind, particularly and likely, that Mr. Feeney is guilty as hell. The blood is on his hands. If that blood cannot be used in the subsequent court appearance, what good is it? Justice is being denied. Justice is not being served. The law must serve justice and not simply the legal system.

Will the government build in retroactive provisions so that Mr. Feeney can be tried, using the evidence that the police have already collected to convict him?

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1:10 p.m.


John Richardson Liberal Perth—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, the questions brought forward by the hon. member are sound. The place for him and members of his party to ask those questions is in debate in committee to see if those kinds of things can be worked through and a consensus can be brought forward. I think the recommendations are worth while.

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1:10 p.m.


Reed Elley Reform Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the hon. member.

As I have talked with Canadians over the past little while, it seems to me they have some sense there are three untouchables in our society over which they have very little control. Perhaps one would be the media. The second would be the banking system. The third would be the judiciary.

Does the hon. member have any thoughts on how we might be able to bring some kind of real reform to the judiciary that would make it more accountable to the people in general and somehow accountable to enforcing the law as passed in this Chamber?

The particular case that prompted this legislation is a case in point. It seems that somehow the judiciary has taken precedence over the laws of the land and Canadians do not have faith in it any more. We need to reverse that. Does the hon. member have any suggestions on how we might change that?

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1:10 p.m.


John Richardson Liberal Perth—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, the process has been so long established that it would require some deep and serious thought about approaching such amendments or changes in the judiciary.

Obviously I am not a lawyer and I am not legally trained. I think there could be a process if some members of Parliament come up with ideas substantiated with solid logic and support for change and have the support of the public of Canada.

At the moment I have no instant answers for the member.

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1:10 p.m.


Val Meredith Reform South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I only have a few minutes to debate the issue. I want to make a few comments and will debate it more fully at third reading if I am given the opportunity.

I want to address a couple of the issues that have been brought before us on the amendment to the Criminal Code with respect to powers of arrest, to arrest and enter dwelling houses. I also want to comment on some of the statements made by members opposite.

One thing that has to be clear is that we are not talking about legalese and how it should be, we are talking about a law that affects the rights and protection of the citizens of Canada.

When we in the House start putting laws in place which will not withstand an interpretation by the courts, then we have a problem. The responsibility is not the courts. It is the responsibility of members of Parliament to make sure that we are very clear in how we put words into legislation, to make sure that we word legislation so it is not open to misinterpretation of our intent by the courts. Therefore, the onus is on this House to make sure that Bill C-16 is very clear in its intent to protect the Canadian public and not to allow the accused criminal to escape justice.

I heard the hon. member opposite say it is in committee that we should make sure that these changes, these rural versus urban concerns, are addressed. It is in committee that we have to address these other issues.

My experience is that committees are not always open to suggestions. They are not always open to suggestions saying we have to be clear, we have to precise, we have to make sure that what we are saying is what the people of Canada are expecting to have written into the legislation. The onus is on us to go into these committees with an open mind, not based on party politics, to make sure that the end product is very clear.

We have seen it in other legislation that has come from this House in the previous Parliament. I use as an example alternative sentencing. Because we were not specific, although some wanted to be, for who these alternative sentences could be used, we see dangerous and serious offenders being released into society without any incarceration because we were not definite and clear in our intent.

I have great expectations that the 36th Parliament will be different, that it will allow real changes to legislation in committee to make sure that the end product is the best product. We have to make sure that the end product is not going to be questioned and challenged in the Supreme Court of Canada and sent back to us to correct matters that should have been changed first time around.

I am hopeful that the evidence which was decided was illegally gained can be used in the next court case. I am hopeful that the committee will ensure that the protection is there for the Canadian public. I am hopeful that the hon. members concerned about rural people not having the same ability to have telephone warrants issued will be addressed in a meaningful and real way so that no Canadian citizen is denied the opportunity of the good that can come from this change in Bill C-16.

I want to impress on all members from all parties that Parliament should show a willingness in committee to have open and honest debate and be receptive to things which will improve legislation.

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1:20 p.m.


Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to say a few things in general on this bill. It is very important to us as Canadians and as Reformers that our justice system do its work, that we have availability of evidence which I believe is the underlying premise of this bill, that evidence which is factual is admissible and that a member of the police force has the ability to do his work.

It is true that when we have an alleged offence we do not want to incorrectly incarcerate a person who is innocent. But at the same time we also want to make sure the person who is guilty is found guilty, is sentenced and is punished so that society is protected. It is very important for our courts to be correct, for our justice system to be correct: to vindicate the innocent, to most certainly convict the guilty. It is very important that we have a justice system that responds to that need.

We very strongly urge the government to take action. We sincerely hope the committee will do its work so the justice system our people are so concerned about can do its work and so we can restore a trust in it which people are now lacking.

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1:20 p.m.


Philip Mayfield Reform Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to say a few words. I want to say them because I know how concerned are the people of Likely about what has happened to one of their neighbours, Mr. Boyle. There has been a travesty of justice. A man has been caught literally with blood on his hands and he has been freed. There is more than indignation in Likely and in the Cariboo—Chilcotin over what has happened.

A long time ago a lawyer told me that the legal system has nothing to do with justice, it has to do with keeping a refined set of rules. In this instance the rules have not served justice. It does not take a genius to know when justice has been denied. In this instance it has been. I call on this Parliament to consider the needs of justice and the needs of Canadians rather than to put the whole emphasis on the legal system and those who support it and operate it. Until we do this the legal system will be held in contempt and often the contempt which it deserves.

I call on Parliament and the justice committee that will be reviewing this legislation to keep in mind that our laws are there to protect the Canadian people. They are there to provide the tools to the police who give us that protection, to call people to account who have broken the law, who have done unjust deeds, who have hurt their fellow men, who have denied their fellow men the justice they have a right to expect. We have to go beyond keeping rules. We have to keep in mind what is right.

Justice must be served. I would call on the government for the sake of Likely, for the sake of Mr. Boyle who lost his life, I call on Parliament to consider first of all the needs of Canadians as they seek justice and to seek to live their lives by a system that provides justice.

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1:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Is the House ready for the question?

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1:20 p.m.

Some hon. members


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1:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

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

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1:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

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1:25 p.m.


Bob Kilger Liberal Stormont—Dundas, ON

Mr. Speaker, I believe if you were to seek the consent of the House that there would be unanimous consent to see the clock as being 1.30 p.m. and the House could proceed to Private Members' Business, as the member is present and ready to begin.

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1:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Is there unanimous consent?