House of Commons Hansard #26 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was rcmp.


Employment Equity ActPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


Jim Pankiw Reform Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK


That, in the opinion of this House, the Employment Equity Act should be repealed since it is costly, unnecessary, and in contravention of the merit principle with respect to hiring and promotion.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to lead off the debate on Motion No. 104 which reads as follows:

That, in the opinion of this House, the Employment Equity Act should be repealed since it is costly, unnecessary, and in contravention of the merit principle with respect to hiring and promotion.

As the House is aware, the Employment Equity Act applies to the public service, crown corporations and federally regulated employers that have 100 employees or more. The act's stated purpose is to achieve equality in the workplace and to correct conditions of disadvantage experienced by certain groups.

However, the assumption that conditions of disadvantage exist has not been established and in fact there is evidence to the contrary. Therefore, my first point is that the act is unnecessary and should be repealed based on the following evidence.

A study entitled New Faces in the Crowd was published by the Economic Council of Canada in 1991. The study concluded that in the Canadian workplace there is no observable tendency to discriminate against minorities.

In the summer of 1995 Stats Canada reported that minorities were just as likely to be employed as anyone in professional occupations. Stats Canada also stated that minorities enjoy rates of employment and wages similar to that of other Canadians. This flies in the face of complaints by special interest groups that minorities experience discrimination in the workplace. These special interest groups argue that statutes, such as this act, are necessary to ensure that the workplace reflects the composition of Canadian society.

However, the special interest groups are wrong because the truth is that the workplace reflects the make-up of our society. According to 1995 data, visible minorities occupy 8% of jobs covered under this act while they comprise 9% of the total workforce. Furthermore, women hold 45% of the jobs covered under this act and they constitute exactly 45% of the workforce.

Therefore, since conditions of disadvantage do not exist, as the special interest groups have attempted to lead us to believe, we must question the necessity of this act.

I would also like to point out that while we can count on the information and the statistics from Stats Canada as being accurate, the information which has been gathered under this act is not. The statistics gathered under this act are unreliable because the act relies on self-identification. People identify themselves as a member of one of four designated disadvantaged groups.

The Stentor group, while testifying before the Standing Committee on Human Rights on Bill C-64, the Employment Equity Act, stated “Employee data collected by means of the self-identification process is unreliable”. Therefore, even supporters of this act cannot bring forward any reliable data that indicates what impact, if any, this act has had, is having or will have.

It seems that this flawed act is not about bringing equity to the workforce but rather about bringing particular interest groups into the government tent. If there is one thing that this Liberal government knows how to do, it is to pander for votes.

Unfortunately, this legacy of pandering and catering to special interest groups comes at a very significant cost to the Canadian taxpayer. The Employment Equity Act is no exception. In 1992 the Conference Board of Canada conducted a survey of companies to determine the cost of employment equity legislation.

When preparing our minority report on Bill C-64, Reformers obtained the assistance of the Library of Parliament in extrapolating the findings of the Conference Board of Canada to cover all Canadian businesses with 50 or more employees. We determined that if all these businesses were subject to the Employment Equity Act, the total annual direct costs would be $1 billion. While it is not possible to give an exact figure, there is no doubt that a very significant cost is associated with complying with this act.

Furthermore, the government has employment equity branches in both the Department of Human Resources Development and Treasury Board. Each department writes an annual report on the progress of employment equity measures within the public service and within federally regulated firms.

Repealing the act would not only eliminate these branches of the bureaucracy but it would also eliminate a lot of costs and a lot of red tape which federally regulated companies must now face in order to comply with the act.

When I appeared before the subcommittee, there was a bit of confusion about what the process was supposed to be because its members had a guideline that was to be followed when I made my presentation, whether this should be deemed votable or not.

Because there was confusion about what kind of information they required, it was deemed not votable. I was told afterward that there was some regret about that. Considering the amount of interest that exists concerning this motion, I seek the unanimous consent of the House to have this motion deemed votable.

Employment Equity ActPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The member for Saskatoon—Humboldt has asked for the unanimous consent of the House to have his motion deemed votable. Does the House give its consent?

Employment Equity ActPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.

Some hon. members


Employment Equity ActPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Resuming debate.

Employment Equity ActPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.


Jim Pankiw Reform Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, that is unfortunate. My final and most important point is that we must consider what impact this act has on the concept of the merit principle, that the best person for the job gets hired or promoted.

All Canadians support the merit principle, but the Employment Equity Act is a direct assault on that principle. The result of this act is not to promote or to hire the best person for the job but to promote or hire people based on their race or their sex. The merit principle takes a back seat.

Employment equity is about placing qualifications second and putting race and gender upfront in order to meet quotas. The government will say that there are no quotas, that there are just numerical targets but numerical targets are quotas. Let there be no mistake.

I would suggest that a majority of Canadians believe that this is wrong. Furthermore, the merit principle is not only disregarded through hiring and promotion, it is also of secondary concern when companies downsize as a result of this act.

The CBC stated in the Employment Equity Act 1996 report that it had retention strategies for designated group numbers during workforce reduction. In short, the CBC already has plans on how to lay off certain employees while keeping others based solely on their appearance. Incredible but true.

The most recent attack on the merit principle has come from the RCMP. They have announced their intention to relax the physical abilities test because too many women were failing the test. They have no choice but to change the test because the Employment Equity Act says that they must hire more women and more visible minorities.

The RCMP says the physical test is meant to simulate something a police officer may be called upon to do, such as chase a suspect or carry an injured victim from an accident scene. These job requirements go out the window now because of this Employment Equity Act.

It no longer matters if you can do the job. It no longer matters if public safety is threatened. It no longer matters if lives are lost because unqualified officers are on the force. All that matters now is whether you have met your quota. Government says “Give us a head count. Do not give us excuses about safety or competence or anything like that. We just want a head count”. That is wrong.

There are those who would argue that repeal of this act will open the door to discriminatory practices and particular groups in Canada will be left without protection. That is simply not true.

Every Canadian has access to the Canadian Human Rights Commission if they have been discriminated against in any way. Furthermore the Public Service Employment Act states at section 12(3) that “the commission shall not discriminate in its selection process”.

These effective but passive measures that offer protection from discrimination are not satisfactory to the social engineers here in Ottawa. They need active measures like quotas which have been established under the Employment Equity Act. Under this act quotas are paramount and the merit principle becomes secondary when it comes to hiring, firing and promoting. That is why it must be repealed and that is why I brought forward Motion 104.

This act sets people apart based on their appearance. The effect of this act is that based on your appearance, you must be hired, promoted or retained. Is that the way to promote equity in the workplace? I think not.

This act stigmatizes people. It categorizes them as victims and it falsely tells them government is their saviour. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Canadians support the merit principle and special treatment for none. That is why I encourage all members of this House to speak in favour of this motion.

Employment Equity ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Caroline St-Hilaire Bloc Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would never have dreamed that the day would come when I would have to argue on the relevance of the Employment Equity Act.

To begin with a brief historical review, the Employment Equity Act was assented to in December 1995, and became law in October 1996. It reinforced and replaced another act with the same name, passed in 1986. We can, therefore, say that we have had employment equity legislation for about 10 years. That said, I would like to point out that Canada was behind the times, even when the first legislation was passed, when it came to concrete measures in this area.

Let us recall that the purpose of the legislation was “to achieve equality in the work place so that no person shall be denied employment opportunities or benefits for reasons unrelated to ability”. It tends to correct the conditions of disadvantage in employment experienced by four designated groups: women, aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities and members of visible minorities.

The act applies to private sector employers who are under federal regulation, Crown agencies with fewer than 100 employees, and the public service. The main sectors affected are banks, communications, and international and interprovincial transportation.

The tabling in 1984 of the report of the Abella commission on employment equity laid the foundations for the present equity policies. The Abella Report spoke, among other things, of the need to pass special measures to guarantee everyone equal opportunity, regardless of their sex, race, ethnic origin or handicap.

The figures available indicate that the legislation is producing results. Experts agree that the gap is beginning to close. Although the percentage increase is small, we can see a stronger representation of all the groups. Some gains cannot be denied, including those made by women and by visible minorities in the private sector. The act has not produced the same results across the board, but progress has been noted.

Obviously, the public service is not yet a totally equitable workplace for all of the four designated groups. Clearly there is quite a way to go yet. One thing is for sure, however. We will not improve things by revoking the act.

I would like to quote the latest annual report of the Human Rights Commission, which states, and I quote:

The notions of employment equity and equal pay for work of equal value are not some bureaucratic add-ons to our anti-discrimination laws; they are among the most effective proofs that we mean what we say where equality and fairness are concerned.

What party in this House can boast of not defending a notion as fundamental as that of equality? I would remind you that equality does not involve only healthy white men. No way. The dictionary defines equality as the enjoyment of equal rights and equality before the law. Equality is a fundamental principle in any self-respecting society. This principle must be more than just wishful thinking; it must be accompanied by specific measures, and the Employment Equity Act is one such measure.

According to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the combination of programs and initiatives can produce significant results. Furthermore, beyond the legislation, there are things like public awareness, vigilance and most importantly agreement by all representatives of the people on the need to ensure fair access to work.

Each and every one of us in this House represents women, aboriginal peoples, visible minorities and people with disabilities, too. This motion's sponsor seems to think that the act was designed to replace one form of discrimination by another, when it was in fact designed to correct injustices in employment at the federal level. In addition, there is no mention anywhere in this act of imposed quotas.

I would like to quote from a speech made in October 1995 by a member of the Reform Party at third reading of Bill C-64 on employment equity, a bill which his party opposed.

Speaking on the principle of the bill, the hon. member stated, and I quote:

The foundation is that somehow or other Canadians are a mean, regressive, racist, discriminating people. Canadians are nothing of the sort. We are not like that. No such discrimination exists in the workplace.

Either this is naivety, pure and simple, or they are completely denying the problem and hiding their heads in the sand. Take your pick. If there is any member who believes that no such discrimination exists in the workplace, I suggest he take off his tie, put on a skirt and then try to get a job when an employer has a choice between him and an equally skilled guy wearing a tie. Good luck and welcome to the real world.

I wonder what gives this motion's sponsor the right to contravene as fundamental a principle as equity, and particularly to go against the advice of stakeholders and experts who agree that concrete action is necessary.

I know that the Reform Party thinks the market, not the government, should determine how things work in the workplace. It is a matter of ideology. On the other hand, he cannot be against the purpose of equal treatment, which is what this act is all about. I do hope each and every one of us is in favour of equity, and that we only differ on the means of achieving it.

Of course, this kind of motion does not come as a surprise from a party that wrote in its program that a Reform government would put an end to federal affirmative action and employment equity programs. That is outrageous. I am surprised however at their lack of imagination, since an almost identical motion was presented by the same party on May 30, 1995. What imagination!

To conclude my comments against the notion that the Employment Equity Act is costly, unnecessary and in contravention of the merit principle with respect to hiring, let me stress that the act is a protective measure against systematic discrimination. We must be proactive.

How can it be claimed that an act is unnecessary when even the Canadian Human Rights Commission says the contrary? How can it be said it is costly when it gives one of society's poorest segments fair access to employment? And how can it be claimed that it contravenes the merit principle with respect to hiring when it expressly applies to people with equal skills?

Beyond the numbers, there is the human factor. For many if not most people, work is much more than a way to earn a living. It is a way to realize their potential and improve their self-esteem. Dignity is priceless.

Hon. members should remember that to be tolerant is to respect differences.

Employment Equity ActPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


Stan Dromisky Liberal Thunder Bay—Atikokan, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to address this House regarding Motion No. M-104 proposed by the hon. member for Saskatoon—Humboldt. This motion advocates that the Employment Equity Act should be repealed since it is costly, unnecessary and in contravention of the merit principle with respect to hiring and promotion. The Employment Equity Act is an act which embodies the principles of fairness, justice and equality for all, an act which is a beacon to disadvantaged groups in our society.

First I will point out that the Employment Equity Act has its foundation in the Constitution of this country. In 1982 the charter of rights and freedoms constitutionally affirmed the right to equality in employment. Canadians believe in fairness. This is why our Constitution enshrines the fundamental right to equality for all. Canadians believe in giving a helping hand to those who need it. This is why section 15(2) of the charter clearly sanctions the creation of laws, programs and activities designed to improve the condition of disadvantaged groups which is what employment equity does.

Equity means fairness and that is exactly what this legislation is all about. Fairness in employment means the removal of barriers to real equality of opportunity in the workplace. Fairness in employment means a workplace where differences are respected, valued and accommodated, not penalized. Fairness in employment means a workplace where individual talents and abilities are given the opportunity to grow, where they are utilized to their fullest. Fairness in employment means hiring based on ability to do the job, not on outmoded and false stereotypes which have been hurdles to real equality of opportunity for much too long.

The intent of this act is not to provide preferential treatment. It is designed to ensure equal access to opportunities for all qualified Canadians regardless of their race, physical attributes or gender. It is about removing, not erecting barriers to employment.

The act was not created overnight. It was a product of a comprehensive review of the Canadian workplace in 1984 by the Royal Commission on Equality in Employment headed by Judge Rosalie Abella. In the course of its review the commission looked closely at affirmative action programs in the United States. Canadian commissioners wanted to learn from the American experience in order to avoid some of the problems associated with that legislation.

Judge Abella quite correctly concluded that Canadians would resist the American approach given its overly interventionist government policies and the imposition of quotas. She recommended instead that Canadians adopt the employment equity model which focuses on the elimination of discriminatory employment barriers.

Our approach to achieve equality is far more progressive than the American model. It has led to greater partnerships among groups pursuing fair access to employment opportunities and has also led to far greater success. For example, often workers, union leaders and employers will work together in unison to establish a fair equity plan. In this way employment equity works as much to the advantage of employers as it does for the members of the designated groups. Organizations that take advantage of and capitalize upon the rich composition of Canadian society will come out ahead, way ahead.

Employment equity policies exist in this country because they are needed. I wish this were not so. I wish we could say that equality of opportunity is already a reality in our society, that nobody is denied employment opportunities or benefits for reasons unrelated to their ability, but we know that unfortunately this is not yet the case. Statistics show very clearly that certain groups in our society continue to experience significant disadvantage in employment.

The member for Saskatoon—Humboldt knows as well as I do that unemployment rates among aboriginal people and persons with disabilities are way beyond acceptable levels.

Women and members of visible minorities tend to be concentrated in lower paying jobs with fewer chances for advancement. About two-thirds of the women in the workforce covered by the Employment Equity Act are employed in clerical work. Members of visible minorities represent only a small proportion of upper level management positions. Aboriginal men and women earn substantially less than other employees.

Let there be no doubt, this legislation is in response to a social need.

Since 1990 two parliamentary committees have studied our employment equity legislation. It is highly significant that both committees have recommended strengthening the legislation, not discarding it.

This is not surprising. Employment equity represents a win-win solution which will benefit all Canadians, not just members of designated groups. Employment equity promotes sound human resource practices.

The record shows that employers support this legislation and realize that it is good for business. During parliamentary committee hearings on this legislation in 1995 numerous business organizations testified that employment equity means good business sense. For example, the executive vice-president for human resources of the Canadian Bankers Association told the parliamentary committee: “We think employment equity not only had a positive impact on the way our organizations manage their workforces, but also it has proven to be good for our business”.

The vice-president of the Business Council of British Columbia declared:

In our experience, successful businesses implement employment equity programs because it makes good business sense, not because of some legislative compulsion. With an increasingly global or international marketplace, smart businesses have workforces that are reflective of their marketplaces. It's no longer a moral issue; it is now a strategic issue.

The point is simply that the Employment Equity Act is very much in sync with the views and attitudes of the progressive employers in this country who do not see it as onerous or costly. Quite the contrary, these employers know very well that a diverse workforce representative of their community gives them an enormous boost in their efforts to remain competitive.

Despite the claims made by the hon. member for Saskatoon-Humboldt, fairness in employment need not be too costly. For example, a recent study done in the United States by the Job Accommodation Network revealed that when companies made adjustments in the workplace to assist persons with disabilities, the cost to the employer was less than $500 in more than 70% of the cases.

Even more compelling is the fact that the return of the company averaged more than $28 for every dollar spent on such accommodation.

All these considerations serve to bear out the premise of Robert Reich, former U.S. secretary of labour, who said social justice is not incompatible with economic growth, but essential to it.

What about the merit principle? Is employment equity indeed in conflict with merit, as the Reform Party would have us believe? This is perhaps the most baffling of the allegations made by the member. A simple reading of the legislation itself ought to clear up such misconceptions.

Two separate provisions in the act expressly protect the merit principle and clearly state that employment equity does not mean hiring or promoting unqualified persons.

Far from being in conflict with the merit principle, employment equity is in fact a commitment to merit, as echoed in the title of the 1990 report of the parliamentary committee which studied this legislation. The notion that employment equity is in—

Employment Equity ActPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The hon. member's time has expired. Resuming debate, the hon. member for Dartmouth.

Employment Equity ActPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


Wendy Lill NDP Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak out against the motion on the floor to abolish the Employment Equity Act.

I believe it is time to strengthen the Employment Equity Act, not dismantle it. In a statement in the House a month ago I drew attention to the fact that the number of persons with disabilities working for the government today is lower than it was 10 years ago. We have over four million disabled persons in this country and over two million have no work. A shamefully small number of them work for the federal government.

Employment equity legislation needs to be strengthened. It is time shore up our employment equity legislation and not rip the guts out of it, which is being recommended in this motion today.

The reason behind employment equity legislation is simple. The legislation covers those people from groups which have been historically denied equal job opportunities of a result of discriminatory practices.

Who are these people and groups we are talking about? Let us start with black Nova Scotians, many of whom I have the privilege of representing here. It is no secret where I come from that black Nova Scotians have been excluded for centuries from educational and job opportunities. They have been segregated in coloured only schools. They have been allocated leftover land. They have had their traditional homestead of Africville bulldozed for development. They have watched generations of their children come up against stonewalls in the workplace and school settings.

Preston and East Preston, two dynamic and fiercely proud black Nova Scotian communities, face unemployment rates of over 60%. The recent events occurring at Cole Harbour school in my riding indicate how far we still have to go in terms of living in a community where everyone feels welcome and on equal footing. These are the people who have been historically denied equal job opportunities because of discrimination.

Native people in Canada still face the highest unemployment rate, the highest suicide rate, the highest incarceration rate of any population in the country. Centuries of racial discrimination in government and church policy of assimilation have robbed native people of their language, their religion and their heritage. It is an incredible tribute to the strength of their culture and their traditions that they are still out there fighting for equity, for self-government, for the right to have a say in the way this country is shaped. These are people who have been historically denied job opportunities because of discrimination.

I think it is time to challenge those people out there who want to ditch employment equity. These are the kind of comments I hear from them: “I do not think our customers would relate to him very well, he has a bit of an accent”, or “our corridors would be a bit crowed with a wheelchair and she probably hates being in people's way”.

There are a thousand and one excuses for not considering, never mind hiring, members of under represented groups for jobs. Employment equity bashers usually start out with “just for the record I am not racist or sexist but—”. Employment equity bashers usually say this at the outset to comfort their listeners. Yet those words are never motive free. Nor merely by being uttered do they make tirades against employment equity credible, logical or fair. Anybody can claim not to be prejudice but it takes courage to examine our deep seeded biases. Only then do we know how completely we have bought into the sterotypes and patterns that make systemic racism.

I am sure members have heard “our company needs to stay competitive and it cannot do that if employment equity promotes mediocrity by raising incompetents beyond their abilities”. Any good employment equity law is based on the principles of merit first. Qualified applicants who belong to under represented groups bring an additional qualification to the job. They bring diverse skills that discrimination would prevent employers from even considering.

I am sure members have heard “designating people does not help them, it becomes reverse discrimination and stigmatises them”. Let us look at that.

Take women, for example. I think we are averaging about 52% of the population right now, hardly a special interest group. Far from reversing discrimination, employment equity reversed long standing injustices like the fact that even though women account for two-thirds of the labour force growth in Ontario, they are still clustered in 20 of 500 occupations and 71% of the part time jobs.

Then there is the fact that racial minorities have to make three times as many applications as white people to get one interview. Aboriginal and disabled persons face unemployment rates of 60% to 80%.

Imagine the odds stacked against someone who falls into any combination of those categories. That is stigmatization.

I would like to quote from a member of the government's former ranks who has now fled these northern climes to take up a position in Boston. She addressed the other argument which is quite prevalent, the white male argument. She said that despite the fears of some of our colleagues in opposition, white males get 50% of the federal government jobs. They get 60% of the jobs nationally in the private and public sectors combined. Even more overwhelming, white males get 90% of the promotions. With figures like that I believe it would be safe to say, and I do not think anyone would argue with me, the white male is not exactly an endangered species in this economic climate.

The former member for Halifax went on to say: “I don't understand what it is people fear from legislation that is clearly put on the books to ensure fairness for people who have for generations, thousands of years, been systemically discriminated against because they are black, they are aboriginal, they are female or disabled. Why do people fear legislation that promotes fairness?”

There may be precious few things with which I find myself in agreement with the former member, but this is one of them.

We cannot afford to lose the skills and abilities of this great country's diverse population because of discrimination. Employment equity is a program which needs to be strengthened, it needs to be expanded.

In closing I would like to mention a couple living in my riding. Two years ago they immigrated to Dartmouth from Sri Lanka. Both of them are eminently qualified for work in the legal and banking professions but they cannot even get past the door in interviews. Instead they are trying to contribute to their community through coaching soccer and volunteering in their children's school. They want to be part of our community. Employment equity legislation needs to be strengthened even further to allow them to do that. If this wonderful family is to contribute fully to their new home we need stronger employment equity.

It is time to strengthen employment equity, to reaffirm our commitment to fairness and justice, not to take giant steps backwards into the darkness.

Employment Equity ActPrivate Members' Business

November 3rd, 1997 / 11:40 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative Charlotte, NB

Mr. Speaker, I want to remind the House that the member for Saskatoon—Humboldt introduced this motion today with regard to employment equity. I want to let the House know that we fundamentally disagree with some of what the member had to say, but not entirely.

Our position would be that the act does not have to be reintroduced, nor a new act created. We have to fine tune the existing legislation that we presently have. I think that would be a benefit to all sides. The process that the Reform member is suggesting is a lengthy process and could be a very expensive process, and we disagree on that.

The other point I wish to make is with respect to the charter of rights. The charter protects all of us, and that is something none of us wants to lose. But it is a very lengthy process for anyone engaged in the pay equity dispute. It is one that few of us would ever go through to its finality. It becomes very expensive.

In terms of the pay equity dispute presently ongoing between the federal government and its employees I want to put a few facts on the record. There are approximately today 190,000 public servants who would receive the pay equity allowance.

Most of the 190,000 public servants are women but they are not the highest paid in the public service. I wanted to point that out because if I go through the list of the six groups that dominate the issue of pay equity, they are not the highest paid public servants in the country. The principal groups involved are clerks, secretaries, typists, data processors, librarians, hospital staff, hospital service staff and educational support staff. We are not talking about employees who make $100,000 a year. We are basically talking about a group of people who want fairness in the system.

We in the Conservative Party believe in equal pay for equal value of work done. I do not think anyone would disagree with that. Fundamentally the government simply has to open up the dialogue among all major groups and come to the realization there are problems that have to be addressed. I believe it should do that.

With regard to the back pay owed to the women of Canada who are public servants and have done their jobs for the country, they could simply say “Yes, let us negotiate a settlement because it will end a lengthy laborious legal process which becomes very time consuming”.

Let us take a look at some of the numbers so we will know what we are talking. The numbers really speak to the issue. The offer would mean a lump sum settlement of $27,037 for the employees involved. For the largest group, which currently makes around $30,000 a year, the lump sum would be about $15,000 and future annual adjustments would account for about another $2,184 a year.

When we get back to the issue of the union because there are union people involved in the whole issue, the best thing they could do at this point is take the issue back to the membership. The House is the place where we debate with different points of view various bills, motions, private members' bills and government bills. With regard to the union, the single best thing it could do at this point is simply refer it back to the membership. If it goes any further than what it already has, the delay could be counted not in months or weeks but in years.

This goes back to the fundamental reasons unions are there in the first place: to represent their workers. In all fairness, if they are representing their workers in the most democratic fashion, the best thing they could do today is simply settle with the government after consulting the membership. The membership should decide the issue. It should be consulted.

The treasury board president was quoted on September 10 as saying with regard to the latest offer “This is our latest offer. It is not only generous but it is a bit more than what we can afford”. That also has to be considered by the union. I know some union activists to the left of me are hollering a little loudly at this point. I do not blame them. I think they at the end of the plank on this one. I do not think I would want to be walking that plank now if I were a union activist.

I will repeat my statement to the member for Dartmouth. They should take it back to the union, the membership, the people who have been paying union dues for many years.

Getting back to the motion itself, we disagree with the Reform member who introduced it because we do not think more legislation or more laws are needed.

Our position is simple. At present the legislation is there. We have problems with it. They are minor in terms of what other countries are saddled with. If we are to make changes to the law we should identify the specific changes. Some could be brought about by legislation, not by the introduction of a new bill.

I am pleased to have taken part in the debate today. I respect the positions of the Reform and the NDP. However, let us examine the issue a little more carefully to see if we can bring about the changes through regulation. With regard to the pay equity situation, let the unions speak.

Employment Equity ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, just by way of comment to the previous member about letting the unions speak, I suggest the union is representing its members. It was chosen by its members just as we were chosen by our constituents.

On a personal note, I have spoken with many union members. The member mentioned a figure of 27,000. Previous governments including the Tory government of a few years back stalled the whole process of pay equity, in spite of the fact that the human rights commission indicated the government should be paying fairly. That is indication that we need a strengthening of employment equity and pay equity. When the Government of Canada does not abide by the rules it gives businesses the option of saying that they do not have to pay fairly for equal work.

With regard to the private member's motion, it does not take a lot of thought to understand what Canadian businesses and the Canadian workforce were like over the past few decades. There were fewer women and people with disabilities in the workforce. We have made some forward movement but we have not reached the point where we are being entirely fair to all people in society.

All we need to do is look at the rules in place in the RCMP. It was suggested by the member that there should not be a need for the RCMP to relax its requirements. I ask all members to remember when one of the requirements to join the RCMP was that a person had to be six feet or six foot one. The member who presented the bill would have been so vertically challenged he would not have been able to become a member of the RCMP.

We went through great arguments in Canada over the type of hat an RCMP member should wear because, God forbid, he would not be able to do his job if he did not have the proper hat. I suggest there is more to being a member of the RCMP than being able to bench press 200 pounds. There is more involved in the job than brawn.

Throughout history different arguments have been used for discriminating against various groups. The time has come to strengthen pay equity and employment equity so that there is no discrimination.

Employment Equity ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Since this is Private Members' Business, the hon member for Saskatoon—Humboldt could have the opportunity, by consent of the House, to speak. He would have five minutes and this would terminate the debate. Does the hon. member have the consent of the House to speak?

Employment Equity ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

Some hon. members


Employment Equity ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


Jim Pankiw Reform Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, I do not know when I have heard such a load of garbage in my life. Let the record show that every party, the Conservatives, the Liberals, the Bloc and the NDP, spoke against my motion. They did not give unanimous consent to allow it to be votable because they do not want to vote on it. They do not want the record to show their prejudices and discriminatory views on matters.

Let us go through them one at a time. The hon. member for Charlotte, the Conservative, said that they fundamentally disagreed with the Reform Party. He then went on to say that the process would be too lengthy and costly.

How could it be lengthy and costly to repeal legislation? That would be the end of it. It is costly to let it continue the way it is going.

Then he went into a lengthy diatribe about pay equity. He is totally confused about the difference between the two.

Let us switch to the NDP. The member wanted to strengthen it, make it even worse, and suggested that if somebody with an accent came in the people who subscribe to the view that it should be based on merit would discriminate against him.

They are the ones who are prejudiced. They are the ones who are saying that merit or qualifications do not matter. They are saying they have quotas to be met. That comes first. That is primary. That is prejudice. That is discrimination.

Now they want to strengthen the legislation to enforce their discriminatory views and ideas even further. Then they go on to talk about merit. Talk about hypocrisy; it is complete contradiction.

The member for Churchill railed against white males. I have a friend living in Toronto who has been trying for six years to get into the fire department. He cannot because he is a white male. That is the single thing that prevents him from getting the job. He is qualified in every other way. He was told that. Finally he has given up and gone on to something else.

How fair is that to people forced to go down the road to another job instead of doing what they were more qualified to do and wanted to do but could not because of the discriminatory policies of governments like this one? It makes me sick.

The Liberal member went on to talk about the fundamental rights of equality for all. Why then do we have employment equity legislation? There are no rights to equality there. That legislation says it will look at the colour of skin, at gender and use them to judge. Is that equality? Is that fairness? They should get their head out of the sand and maybe have it examined.

I really want this to go on record with as much strength and force as possible. The Reform Party is the only party standing up for the equality of all Canadians, and Canadians ought to know that.

The Liberal member said that he was against interventionist measures of governments and quotas. Why does he support employment equity legislation? That is what it is all about. There is some degree of confusion there.

He also said that the legislation worked to the advantage of employers. How on earth could that be the case? If I have a federally regulated firm of over 100 employees and I am subject to the legislation, how is it to my advantage to say to people that I have too many with the same skin colour in the position they are applying for? Although they are the best qualified I have to give it to somebody else because of the colour of their skin. That is prejudice and discrimination. It is the kind of thing they are promoting.

Finally we move to the statements of the member from the Bloc Quebecois. She said that Canada was behind the concrete measures taken by other countries in this area, but there is no evidence to back up what she is saying. She was not listening to my speech.

I listed statistics to show there is equity already. We do not need measures that have been legislated and rammed down the throats of Canadians. They want us to stand in favour of equality for all Canadians.

Employment Equity ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The time provided for Private Members' Business has now expired and the order is dropped from the order paper.

The House resumed from October 29 consideration of the motion.

Dna Identification ActGovernment Orders



Jack Ramsay Reform Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-3 is a continuation of Bill C-104, which is now part of the Criminal Code. That bill allowed peace officers under the authority of a warrant to obtain a DNA sample from individuals suspected of committing an offence under a list of offences in the Criminal Code. Another condition in Bill C-104 is that there must be found at the scene of a crime samples of hair, blood or tissue that would connect an accused with the crime scene.

Bill C-94, the forerunner to this bill, was brought in too late to be passed at the last sitting and Bill C-3 is almost identical to that bill.

What does this bill authorize the police to do? What greater tools are they going to have? From my understanding this bill will allow the police to obtain DNA samples from those convicted of a series of offences. It does not mean there is any connection between them and a crime scene that would allow the police to get a warrant to obtain a sample. It means that after being convicted of one of a series of offences listed, the police can obtain a DNA sample from those individuals.

The Canadian Police Associated, representing the front line police officers, are very much concerned that this bill does not go far enough. They would like to see the same application of the DNA tool as we now have with fingerprints, that a fingerprint can be obtained from anyone arrested for an indictable offence.

The debate on the bill is whether a proper balance is being struck between the rights of the accused and the rights of society as represented by law enforcement agencies charged with the responsibility and duty to bring criminals to justice, investigate crimes and have a sufficiently strong record in terms of success that it would be a deterrent to those who plan and commit premeditated acts against an individual.

The bill will go to committee and we will hear witnesses on that. I am sure we will hear further from the Canadian Police Association.

Bill C-104, which is now part of the Criminal Code, allowed for the taking of three different DNA samples. One was a swab of saliva, another was a blood test and the third was a hair sample. The hair sample has been struck down by a superior court judge in Ontario as being unconstitutional. Judge Casey Hill found that forcibly removing hair is unreasonable and threatens bodily integrity. Judge Hill went to state “Since viable alternatives exist and the degree of uncertainty is so high, the procedure violates the charter of rights and freedoms' guarantee against unreasonable search and seizure”.

I find this judgment confusing. If the police are allowed to take a blood sample, which is far more intrusive than taking a hair sample, then I do not know how the judge can maintain the right of the police to take a blood sample. He stated that it was unconstitutional to take a hair sample. It is confusing to me and probably to the public as well. Nevertheless it has been struck down at least at that level of the Ontario court system.

The government is experiencing difficulties with a number of the laws it has brought to the House. They have been challenged or struck down as being unconstitutional. Recently in Alberta a judge struck down the whole of the rape shield law, not just part of it. It followed a decision in Ontario that struck down part of that rape shield law. Why is legislation being brought to the House that the courts deem to be unconstitutional?

The constitutionality of Bill C-68 is being challenged by four provinces and two territories. The conditional sentencing portion of Bill C-41 is a real mess in the courts. Crown prosecutors across Canada are appealing the manner in which the courts are using that law. We are urging the government to deny the courts the right to use that law when it comes to violent offenders. So far the government has refused to do that yet there are hundreds of cases where courts are allowing violent offenders, including convicted rapists, to walk free.

Why is the justice department bringing forward laws that are being struck down by our court? Why is the justice department not doing its job? Tomorrow the Feeney bill, Bill C-16, will come before the courts. The government had all summer to get that bill ready. Now we are ramming it through against a deadline that need not have been there if the justice officials had done their jobs.

Perhaps if the justice officials looked after their own business instead of interfering with the judicial independence of the courts, as Ted Thompson did with Judge Jerome, we would have better laws passed through this House. They would not be successfully challenged as being unconstitutional and creating a real problem within the justice system.

I have some concerns about the extent of this bill. Does it go far enough? Does it provide the police with reasonable tools, bearing in mind the balance between the rights of the accused and the safety of society?

Does the bill go far enough? We in the Reform Party say it ought to go further. It ought to be treated the same as the police demanding fingerprints from those who are arrested for indictable offences.

This will be explored further when it reaches committee. We will be pressing the witnesses to determine where they believe that balance should fall.

Dna Identification ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Guy St-Julien Liberal Abitibi, QC

Mr. Speaker, the DNA Identification Act provides for the establishment of a national DNA data bank to be maintained by the RCMP.

The new act authorizes the courts to force those convicted of certain designated offences to provide biological samples for genetic analysis. The resulting genetic profiles will be stored in the convicted offenders index of the genetic data bank.

The data bank will include a crime index containing genetic information collected at the scene of solved and unsolved crimes, and a convicted offenders index containing the genetic identification profiles of adults and teenagers convicted of specific offences under the Criminal Code.

The approach will be twofold in the case of the convicted offenders index. Designated offences will be classified under two headings: primary offences and secondary offences. The list of primary designated offences will include serious violent offences including aggravated sexual assault, which are the types of offences for which DNA evidence can be most useful. Except under exceptional circumstances, at the time of sentencing for this type of offence, the court will order that samples of bodily substances be taken for the data bank.

The person found guilty of a secondary designated offence can be ordered by the court, at the request of the crown, to provide a sample for the data bank, if the court is satisfied that it is in the best interests of the administration of justice to do so.

How can the creation of a national DNA data bank help the police and the courts? Such a bank will help police forces to conduct their investigations and will assist the authorities in identifying and arresting more quickly individuals who commit serious offences, such as sexual offenders and violent repeat offenders.

This will help police identify and arrest repeat offenders by comparing DNA information found at the crime scene with the information in the convicted offenders index. This will also help authorities determine if a series of offences has been committed by a single person or by more than one person. It will help to establish links and to resolve cases involving several jurisdictions by giving investigators access to information which otherwise would not be available. It will also help guide investigations by eliminating suspects whose DNA profile does not match what was found at the crime scene. It will also dissuade offenders from committing other crimes by increasing their chances of being arrested.

There will, however, be restrictions on access to samples and to DNA data. Strict rules will apply to the taking of samples and to the use and storage of biological specimens and DNA profiles. The bill clearly states that all samples must be used only for DNA analysis and for forensic purposes. Access to the DNA profiles in the convicted offenders index and to the samples will be limited strictly to those directly involved in the normal maintenance of the DNA data bank. Only identifying information, such as a person's name, will be communicated to appropriate agencies, those implementing the legislation for the purpose of investigations and proceedings resulting from criminal charges. There are provisions for criminal penalties in order to prevent the misuse of samples of bodily substances or DNA profiles.

Many people, in news bulletins and in the newspapers in our region of Abitibi are asking us what DNA is. DNA stands for a molecule known as deoxyribonucleic acid—quite a mouthful—which is considered to be the basic unit of life, the body's genetic fingerprint. Humans, like animals and plants, are composed of billions of cells. Each cell has a nucleus containing 46 chromosomes divided into 23 pairs. The DNA molecule is inherited from the father and the mother and is present in these chromosomes. It is identical in all the cells of all parts of the body, except in the case of identical twins, where each has his or her own particular DNA molecule.

In the forensic context, the expression DNA analysis generally means various techniques of molecular biology that can be used for identification purposes in the direct analysis of specific sites on the DNA molecule.

DNA analysis requires very little genetic material and samples of bodily substances can be taken relatively discreetly.

DNA analysis is an excellent means of comparative identification. We are particularly familiar with its use in identifying the perpetrators of violent crimes by comparing biological samples taken from suspects with bodily substances left directly or indirectly at the scene of the crime by the person who committed it, or taken away from it by that person, for example blood or saliva.

Since its introduction into the legal system in Canada in 1988-89, DNA analysis has led to the conviction of hundreds of persons who have committed violent crimes, ranging from assault to homicide. As well, it has made it possible to prove the innocence of suspects and to exonerate and release individuals who were already convicted. Genetic fingerprint analysis for forensic purposes is practiced everywhere in the world. In recent years, the U.S., Great Britain, Norway and New Zealand have adopted legislative measures to create genetic data banks for forensic purposes.

What is the government's strategy with respect to DNA? Prior to July 1995, DNA evidence had been presented before Canadian courts for some time, but there was no specific legislative framework to govern recourse to such evidence. In order to clarify the situations in which genetic samples could be taken as part of a criminal investigation, legislative amendments were adopted in July 1995, with a view to allowing the police to obtain a warrant authorizing them to take biological samples before, during or after a suspect's arrest.

As part of Phase II of the government's DNA strategy, a consultation document, “Establishing a National DNA Data Bank” was published in January 1996. The groups consulted across Canada, the law enforcement community in particular, were strongly in favour of the creation of a national DNA bank. A “summary of consultations” was released on February 28, 1997.

In closing, I must say that this is a step forward and that we must move ahead in order to help our police officers to do their job.

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12:15 p.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, the bill before us this morning truly combines science and new techniques, permitting a fairer society in which as many crimes as possible will be solved.

Why do I say it is a bill that really reflects improvements in science? It is because deoxyribonucleic acid existed all along, but either we were not aware of it or we did not know how much it could contribute to clearing up cases. It is better known as DNA.

For our viewers, DNA, to describe it very simply, involves the chromosomes found in the living cells of the human body and are like a sort of fingerprint. Everyone has their own unique DNA, and as the member who spoke before me said, even identical twins, triplets or quadruplets will have different DNAs, because of their chromosomes, just as in the case of fingerprints. In all the years they have been fingerprinting criminals, no two individuals have been found to have the same prints. According to science, it would never—or at least so it appears—be possible to find two individuals with the same DNA.

At first glance, this bill has an important function: to modernize police techniques and use this discovery to benefit justice.

At the outset, the Bloc supports this action. As it did in the 35th Parliament, it will co-operate in the 36th Parliament with the aim of producing a bill that is as effective and wide-ranging as possible while at the same time respecting the fundamental rights of Canadians and Quebeckers, who would have it no other way even in the case of DNA legislation.

The important thing in a bill such as this one is to achieve a balance between the fight against crime and the respect of individual rights and freedoms, particularly with procedures involving the collection of bodily substances. In terms of the principle underlying the legislation, it goes without saying that the crime rate and the number of unsolved crimes can never be too low. The work performed by the police deserves our attention and support, so we can help the police be increasingly more successful in their work.

However, there is something that absolutely must be said. The public hears all kinds of things. DNA testing is an extremely useful tool. However, given its serious nature—it is basically genetic fingerprinting—and given that it is a very specific procedure, it must not lead to abuse, and police officers must not be allowed to collect genetic samples for just about any offence.

In this respect, the bill has the merit of providing a list of designated offences for which ordinary people would agree that police officers and the judicial system should be allowed to use DNA testing and to collect samples of blood, saliva or other bodily substances from an individual.

I will just mention a few of these offences, but there is a whole list of them. They are all similar and have one thing in common: they are serious offences. They include the use of explosives, sexual touching, invitation to sexual touching, sexual exploitation, incest, murder, homicide, aggravated assault, assault with a weapon, torture, rape and arson. With this very specific list of designated offences drafted by the lawmakers, police officers will know precisely when they can collect DNA samples. They will not be allowed to do so for just any offence or reason, but only under very specific circumstances.

That having been said, while continuing to support this kind of bill as we did in the past, we do have some concerns and hope that, in committee, witnesses or the government will be able to reassure us on a number of issues. Playing with the physical integrity of individuals and their genetic identity may lead—and I am not saying it will necessarily happen—to the possible misuse of this new technology.

In terms of confidentiality, this is very important. We do have concerns about the bill as it stands right now. For instance, a question comes to mind about the storage of bodily substances collected under the provisions of clause 10: Why keep samples after the DNA information has been obtained? The police will not be working from the sample afterwards, but from the information provided through analysis of the bodily substances.

Nevertheless, the DNA profile will be stored in one of the two data banks: one for things found at the scene of a crime or of a designated offence—saliva, a strand of hair, blood or whatever is found there goes into a specific index—and another one, the offenders index, for the DNA profiles of individuals convicted of a designated offence under the Criminal Code.

So, why in either case, and particularly in that of the offenders index, keep bodily substances when the DNA profile has been found and is in the computer? I wonder what this sample will be used for? This is not to say I am dead against it. I just want the minister or anyone who will come before the justice and human rights committee to answer this question, which I feel is extremely important, given how serious this bill is, as I mentioned earlier.

Another concern is the taking of samples. We should consider whether any police officer can take such samples. There is no problem in the case of fingerprints. Any officer with the proper training can fingerprint anyone. However, not all police officers can take samples of blood or saliva. I have at least three friends who are police officers and I would never allow them to take a blood sample from me. They are better with a gun than with a needle.

Perhaps it is in that area that the bill should be improved. It is a bit like the people using breathalyzers at police stations. These people have received special training. Perhaps we should specify that only specially trained officers can take samples.

Interestingly, section 17 of the bill stipulates that the person required to provide a sample can choose between blood, hair or any other bodily substance.

I have another concern for which I hope to receive a reply from the government, and it is the communication of a DNA profile to other countries. Of course, we can make regulations in Canada. However, in the case of DNA information concerning a Canadian or a Quebecker that we provide to the United States, to a European country or to any other country, I would like to know and especially to be reassured by the minister that the country who will be receiving this information will treat it in the same manner that it is treated in Canada or, in other words, that it will not be possible to do indirectly what the law in Canada prohibits. For instance, if a sample or a DNA profile is to be destroyed in Canada because the person was found not guilty or for any other reason as outlined in the bill, will the United States, for example, agree to Canada's request to also destroy that information at the same time so that it will not come back to Canada through a friendly country or any other country? I think the government should also provide greater clarification in this regard.

My last point concerns the power of the RCMP commissioner to decide how this information should be used and whether it should be made available to other police forces throughout Canada and Quebec. The bill should include a section requiring the commissioner to publish the name of all those who use this information, so that everything is clear.

That being said, and since my time has run out, I wish to add that I offer my complete cooperation to the government and to the opposition parties so that we can work on making this bill the most practical and the best possible for society.

Dna Identification ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Carmen Provenzano Liberal Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Madam Speaker, I also rise to speak on Bill C-3, the DNA identification act. The reintroduction of this important piece of public safety legislation speaks well about this government's commitment to toughen the fight against crime and to protect Canadians from criminal activity. It also shows our government has taken the findings of our country-wide consultations on this matter very seriously.

It is my belief that if enacted, Bill C-3 will serve two very important functions in our justice system. First, it will give our law enforcement agencies a valuable tool in the investigation of certain violent crimes. Second, it will help shield the innocent from wrongful accusation and conviction.

Bill C-3 will build on legislation passed in the last Parliament which allows police to obtain DNA samples from suspects in criminal investigations by the use of warrants. It calls for the creation of a national DNA data bank which many Canadians will be happy to know includes a convicted offenders index. DNA samples could be obtained from those convicted of a specified offence or who were previously convicted as dangerous offenders and repeat sexual offenders.

By sharing this information, law enforcement agencies would be better equipped to track and bring repeat offenders to justice. These agencies would be in a better position to quickly identify the work of a violent criminal who, after eluding prosecution for a criminal offence in one part of the country, might seek to violate the peace of another part of the country by the commission of further criminal offences.

The DNA data bank would play an invaluable role as a warehouse of potential evidence which could be used to solve countless unsolved crimes and put Canada's most heinous criminals behind bars. This is so because extensive scientific research has shown that with the exception of twins, no two people have the same DNA. Simply put, DNA is a biological fingerprint that can be as redemptive to the innocent as it is damning to the guilty.

Take the examples of David Milgaard and Guy Paul Morin. I believe all Canadians know of the lengthy struggles these men mounted to restore their good names and reclaim their freedom. Mr. Morin last week described the horrors of prison and the heartache of being mistaken for a murderer. The case of Mr. Milgaard who spent over 20 years in prison for a murder he did not commit is equally moving. Yet if not for the introduction of DNA evidence, it is likely that both of these men would still be in prison today.

Having said this, it should also be noted that the establishment of a national DNA bank is a delicate matter which requires Parliament to balance issues of public safety and those of personal privacy. I therefore applaud the solicitor general and his predecessor for the fine work they have done in achieving this balance.

Time does not permit detailed reference to sections of the bill, but I will highlight the following aspects of the legislation.

Under this bill access to DNA profiles in the convicted offenders index will be given only to those directly involved in the operation of the data bank. These are the agencies that at present have access to the existing criminal records database maintained by the RCMP.

Accompanying revisions to the Criminal Code would ensure stiff criminal penalties are assessed for any abuse of the system. Furthermore Bill C-3 guards against abuse right at the collection stage.

In the absence of a special warrant, only those convicted of designated offences can be required to provide DNA samples for forensic analysis. The right balance has been struck between public safety and personal privacy.

Some members across the way may argue that Bill C-3 goes too far and on the other hand not far enough, as we have already heard today, but we are confident that most Canadians will agree with our reasoned approach to this delicate and extremely important matter. To all hon. members, I would ask that when deciding the merits of the legislation, they think of the irrefutable and unbiased nature of the science involved. Also think of the efficiencies that will be realized in criminal data collection and court proceedings as a result of the provisions outlined in Bill C-3.

Most of all think of how far this legislation will go toward strengthening the Criminal Code and ensuring the safety of all Canadians.

Dna Identification ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative Charlotte, NB

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to take part in the debate on Bill C-3, the DNA identification act.

DNA is basically the next generation of fingerprinting. Since 1988 trial judges have allowed DNA evidence from the accused to be introduced in several criminal prosecutions. Indeed forensic DNA analysis has been instrumental in securing convictions in hundreds of violent crimes and has resulted in the release of wrongfully convicted people.

During the early days of DNA evidence, there existed a vacuum in regulating the collection and use of DNA evidence. In a number of cases the judges even allowed DNA samples which were taken from accused individuals who did not consent to having their DNA collected. Organizations such as the Canadian Police Association had warned the government that legislation would be needed to ensure the proper and effective use of DNA evidence.

During a 1993 meeting with the then Minister of Justice and in 1994 with the solicitor general, representatives of the Canadian Police Association raised the urgent need of updating evidence laws to include DNA technology. Despite these warnings of the men and women on the front lines of keeping Canada safe, the Liberal government decided to wait. It dragged its heels until the Supreme Court of Canada intervened in 1994, much the same way as it dragged its heels on the Young Offenders Act.

The supreme court ruled that in the absence of federal legislation, the police did not have any lawful means to obtain a search warrant for the seizure of bodily substances for the purposes of DNA typing. This lack of legislation led the supreme court to determine that DNA evidence obtained without the consent of the accused risked being excluded at trial.

The government finally took the first step in 1995 for the legal framework of DNA. That bill gave the police the right to seek a warrant that, if approved by a provincial court judge, authorized the collection of bodily substances for DNA analysis. Bill C-104 also legislated criteria for judges to consider when reviewing DNA warrant applications. Police officers, lawyers and judges finally had some guidelines, albeit very broad ones, to govern the collection of DNA evidence.

With Bill C-104 in place, the obvious question arose: What would the government do with DNA samples once they were collected? The logical answer was the creation of a national DNA data bank in which collected DNA samples could be stored for future reference in criminal investigations or trials.

Even the Minister of Justice at the time when not preoccupied with cracking down on law-abiding gun owners—another contentious issue obviously—or launching politically motivated witch-hunts, conceded the importance of a national DNA data bank. He felt it was so important that when Bill C-104 was approved, he promised complementary data bank legislation for the fall of 1995.

That promise as we know bit the dust when the government started consulting on the January 1996 discussion paper entitled “Establishing a National DNA Data Bank”. Interestingly enough the cover note and news release which accompanied that discussion paper at the time stated that the government would bring in DNA data bank legislation in the coming year.

We all know what happens to promises. The coming year stretched into 16 months and obviously it died on the Order Paper, but it was included in the Liberal's red book two during the election. I will say the Liberals at least did not use the election as an excuse to delay the importance of this legislation. Obviously it is on the floor of the House now.

With the exception of some minor changes the technical language in Bill C-3 is what we are talking about today. The solicitor general has outlined many of the positive elements in this bill of which there are several.

The DNA data bank to be managed by the RCMP will consist of two main components: a crime scene index that will contain DNA profiles obtained from unresolved crime scenes; and a convicted offenders index that will contain DNA profiles of adult and young offenders convicted of designated Criminal Code offences.

Because police officers will be able to cross reference data from certain convicted offenders with unresolved crime scenes, the DNA identification act is an improvement over the vacuum which previously existed in terms of storing DNA data. But will this national data bank as established under Bill C-3 provide our police officers with an effective tool to solve crimes and keep our streets and communities safe? That is the question.

The police officers through the Canadian Police Association say no. In fact the police association which has been at the front of the lobbying movement to establish the data bank is so concerned about the effectiveness of Bill C-3 that it is opposed to the legislation.

The major concern of the police association is with the timing of DNA collection. According to the CPA, a national DNA data bank will only be successful if the collection of DNA from a person charged with an indictable offence is done at the time of the arrest. Why is this the case? Because the only guaranteed opportunity to obtain the DNA evidence from individuals charged with an indictable offence is when police actually have custody of the person charged.

The proposed convicted offenders index while somewhat useful would not help police identify unknown murderers and rapists. It might even encourage suspected offenders to skip bail as most people charged with offences are released pending trial. In fact if we look at it, in Canada bail is granted to 95% of all people charged with all criminal offences. According to Juristat more than 66,000 people in 1995 either broke bail or failed to appear as required. Therein lies the problem.

What would happen for example if someone was arrested for an offence related to juvenile prostitution which is a designated offence for DNA collection under this legislation but in this case the individual may have also committed an unsolved murder from which the offender's unidentified DNA was collected. It is pretty obvious the person would know that if he is convicted of the juvenile prostitution charge, the DNA analysis would be obtained and cross referenced with the crime scene index. Then that person would be up on a murder charge.

It does not take a rocket scientist to conclude that under the current bill many offenders would choose to skip bail instead of risking a murder charge. How would that help police in this case solve the mystery of an unsolved crime?

As it now stands Bill C-3 has a loophole and that loophole is big enough to drive a truck through. If there is one thing our legal system does not need at this time, it is more loopholes.

I understand the fears of individuals such as Canada's privacy commissioner, but I believe there are ways to deal with some of the privacy concerns without compromising collection of samples and the ability to solve the most serious of unsolved crimes.

When the previous minister introduced the first incarnation of the DNA identification act, he stated the importance of getting the data bank correct the first time.

Our officers do not believe that Bill C-3 is the most appropriate measure to collect and store DNA evidence. And if they do not, we should take a serious look at amending this legislation at the committee level.

I support the goals and objectives of this bill, but our police officers and courts need an effective DNA data bank as soon as possible. If we allow for modifications of Bill C-3 at the committee level, I believe we can make an effective DNA data bank a reality.

I would therefore urge my colleagues, especially the solicitor general, and the justice committee to be flexible and consider the reasonable suggestions put forward by organizations such as the Canadian Police Association. We need to plug those loopholes such as the ones highlighted by the CPA and other organizations.

I will conclude by simply stating that if the Liberal government or any other party decides to refuse these amendments to Bill C-3 at the committee level, our caucus will be obligated to re-evaluate its position on this legislation.

Dna Identification ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.


Paul Forseth Reform New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, BC

Madam Speaker, I have been given only a few minutes to make some quick observations about Bill C-3, an act respecting DNA identification. The bill would make consequential amendments to the Criminal Code and other acts and has been brought forward by the solicitor general.

In the last Parliament we passed provision 487 of the Criminal Code for obtaining a search warrant to seize a bodily substance for the purpose of forensic DNA analysis. This was in respect of a limited list of offences to be used in the course of an investigation. I truly hope that this bill fully extends and complements those provisions.

The bill establishes a national databank for DNA profiles, containing a crime scene index and a convicted offenders' index, including samples derived from some who are currently serving sentences.

Technology marches on. Twenty years ago no one would have guessed that we would be capable of sending such a large amount of data through a telephone line. Today we can use e-mail and the Internet to talk. We can send information via e-mail and post data via the Internet with moving pictures. It seems now that instead of exchanging phone numbers we exchange e-mail addresses. Soon ordinary camera film and the old dedicated TV sets will also be obsolete.

I came across an article recently by Sheryl Mercer, who is a Toronto writer, which provided me with some insight into our history. She said that when it was introduced, fingerprint evidence caused as much controversy and furor as DNA is doing today. When photography was first introduced, people seriously questioned whether pictures could be used as evidence in a criminal case. Today it is commonplace to use security video camera evidence of a crime.

In 1908 an order in council sanctioned the use of fingerprints under the Identification of Criminals Act of 1898. Like the Internet and photography, fingerprinting was considered revolutionary.

The history of fingerprints is applicable to Bill C-3 and the whole issue of DNA and DNA banking.

Argentina was the first country to adopt fingerprinting. The country also was the first to solve a murder by fingerprint evidence. In 1892 Francesca Rojas murdered her two sons so that she could marry a lover. Her bloody fingerprint was left at the scene of the crime. After identifying the print as that of Rojas, she confessed to the murders.

In 1905 police inspector Edward Foster, a fingerprinting pioneer, was assigned to fingerprint prisoners at the Kingston penitentiary. The project was scrapped because of a lack of funding and political will.

It is noteworthy that Foster's revolutionary work was even scoffed at by politicians of the day. In 1910 a prisoner, Joe Chartrand, escaped from Kingston. Chartrand, a cop killer, was soon captured. When the public heard that he had never been photographed and fingerprinted they were outraged at the callous inattention. The public was ahead of the politicians.

Soon after the Kingston escape, Edward Foster was promoted by the justice minister to be in charge of the new Canadian criminal identification bureau. The police created a Canadian fingerprint repository in 1911.

In 1914 Peter Daracatch and Gregory Parachique, who broke into a Canadian Pacific Railway station, were the first to be convicted in Canada based on fingerprint evidence.

In our time, in 1985, a British scientist discovered that certain sections of the body's genetic material found in DNA differentiated individuals from one another and today we are discussing whether Canada should have a national databank, containing DNA profiles of convicted offenders and unsolved crime scenes.

Through this century Canadians have wanted governments to do whatever they could to make our streets safer. We want incorrigibles behind bars. We need safer communities. We want efficient trials and fair justice administration which we can trust. However, people preoccupied with their version of human rights are up in arms over this type of legislation. They believe that the rights of some will be violated.

That is not the case in this instance. Nevertheless, striking the right balance among competing principles is very important. Unfortunately, instead of sincerely seeking that balance, Liberals too frequently find these situations requiring a kind of legislative courage not often found in their ranks. In our ranks we are looking for the complete normalization of DNA evidence without convoluted exceptions.

In 1988 the supreme court dealt with the privacy of fingerprinting. In his ruling, Justice La Forest stated “a person who is arrested on reasonable and probable grounds that he has committed a serious crime—must expect a significant loss of personal privacy”. La Forest also pointed out the purpose of setting up a fingerprint registry was to establish the identity and criminal record of the accused, to discover if there are outstanding warrants against the accused and to determine if the accused is an escapee.

The same can be said with DNA evidence. However, a 1994 supreme court ruling disagreed. The ruling stated that police had no lawful means to obtain a search warrant for the seizure of bodily substances for the purposes of DNA typing and that any such evidence was in jeopardy of being excluded at trial. It is hoped that Parliament's response to this problem, the new 487 clause in the Criminal Code, will endure all tests.

With a history of these references over, I want to speak specifically about Bill C-3. When we are elected as representatives, it is our duty to create legislation that is in accordance with the basic aspirations of Canadians.

I have travelled from coast to coast. I have talked to many groups, some who support the policies of the Reform Party and others who do not. Nevertheless, the general consensus is always the same. People say not to go half way against crime. People tell me that if we are going to create legislative capacity, not to tinker here and there, having only the appearance and form without operational substance. Be honest with Canadians. Do what is right rather than what seems to be convenient to the various competing voices.

Unfortunately it appears that Bill C-3 does not go the distance. The Liberals are afraid of going all the way. They are more concerned with the privacy rights of the accused and less concerned with innocent victims.

The bill does not contemplate the collection of DNA until after the accused is convicted. It is easy for the accused to skip bail and commit another crime. If further crimes are committed the chance of linking the crimes becomes a lot more difficult.

In the bill it is rightly an offence to use DNA samples for purposes other than those of the act. DNA obtained under the Criminal Code provision should not be used for medical research or other purposes not related to solving crime. Opponents of DNA banking should consider the relief it would bring to victims, such as if a rapist is convicted because of DNA based on perhaps charges of breaking and entry arising several years earlier. The improved certainty that DNA profiles can bring to the justice system is most welcomed.

Fingerprinting was once seen as intrusive on the privacy of individuals. So was taking a breath sample for impaired driving. I am certain the statistics are overwhelming of how many crimes have been solved using fingerprint evidence. There was a a long process to advance the technical and ethical context of fingerprinting. Need we go through the same things with DNA?

Simply put, a DNA sample should be collected from all persons accused of serious crimes in the same way that fingerprints are collected. Although the technical capacity is somewhat different, the ethical and legal issues are basically the same. The DNA profile should then remain on file for a indeterminate amount of time. If the accused is released from all charges, it should be his or her responsibility to appeal to have the record removed.

Why make a distinction between fingerprints and DNA profiles? Let us get on with it and have basically the same rules for DNA as there are for fingerprints. It took decades to sort out fingerprinting and taking breath samples for drunk driving. A lot of unnecessary pain and death occurred while lawyers resisted, argued, game played and ignored the public interest.

DNA not need go down the same winding road. The Reform Party supports amending the Criminal Code so that police can, on the basis of probable cause, demand DNA samples from suspects of serious crime. The government has created a very convoluted bill that will not technically work very well and all the permutations and the mistakes will eventually be revealed in the application. It is likely that Parliament will have to come back and fix the bill. The technocrats, of course, are understandably proud of their work and they will defend it. The real problem is the lack of political leadership and resolve from the Liberal cabinet.

In conclusion, we can learn from the past so that we can boldly go forward. The community expects no less. I am pleased that the government has finally addressed the topic of DNA. However, I had hoped for a much bolder approach. I have confidence that we have the legal talent in Canada to write a simple, ironclad law that works and appropriately balances individual and community concerns. I urge the government to have more resolve to respond to crime. May we work together to make Canada a safer place to live.

Dna Identification ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Rob Anders Reform Calgary West, AB

Madam Speaker, I speak today with regard to the DNA databank that is being proposed. Those who are innocent will applaud this legislation and this change. Those who are guilty will oppose it.

Today the Reform Party is proposing to make the bill more effective. We generally support the goals and objectives in setting up a DNA databank. The Reform Party was in favour of this before the election and even offered to fast track this bill before the election because Reform members saw it having significant importance in being able to identify criminals.

Since the bill did not pass and is now before us today in the new session, we would like to make some amendments to it. We believe it can be more effective. I will touch on three areas to identify them. First, samples should be taken from all accused; second, samples should be required for all indictable offences; and third, samples and analyses should be retained rather than destroyed.

Some will say that the bill treads on the idea of privacy. This is not as much an issue of personal privacy as it is of victims' rights. For those who argue the issue of personal privacy, surely those persons who are innocent, whether they be proven innocent by DNA, by fingerprints or by breath samples, are encouraged and supportive of these measures because fingerprints or breath samples or DNA are able to set them free if they have not committed the crime. I repeat, the innocent will applaud these changes, the guilty will oppose them.

Obviously DNA identification will be a valuable tool for eliminating a suspect if innocent. That is where the personal privacy aspects are negated. From what we know, DNA is probably the best way of eliminating somebody as a suspect of a crime. In the case of public safety, DNA identification is the most effective way of providing persuasive evidence of guilt. We support the idea of creating a databank for this.

If these changes are made, that is taking samples from all of the accused, requiring samples in all indictable offences and retaining these samples, we ameliorate or lessen the concern about people skipping bail in cases where they know they are guilty, where they suspect they may be found to be guilty so they try to quash their being subject to a DNA analysis which would occur during the case's proceedings. For the sake of justice we do not want to see that happen. That is why we believe it is important that these samples be retained. If people are charged these records will be put on the registry, not only if they are convicted.

If the specific charge collapses then a person's links to other crimes will not be revealed by taking the DNA sample at the time the charge is laid. As a result, it is important to keep a permanent register, that this be done not only in the case of a conviction but also in the case of somebody being charged.

The question on which many people focus is how many murderers and sex offenders have been allowed to remain out on our streets because this bill was not passed when it should have been. The Reform Party wanted to pass this bill before the last election. We support the bill but we would like to see it being more meaningful. We would like to see some slight changes made to the bill so it can have broader implications, and accomplish more of what it aims to do so that it can meet a broader definition in terms of its goals and objectives.

I will summarize by going over some of the three provisions we would like to see in the bill. First, samples should be taken from all of the accused. Second, that samples be required for all indictable offences. Third, that samples and analysis be retained rather than destroyed. With these changes the Reform Party would wholeheartedly support the idea of a DNA databank.

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1 p.m.


Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise also in this debate on DNA identification.

I have to point out just how long it has taken the Liberals to start providing our police officers with more of the technological tools, such as DNA evidence, required to protect Canadians from criminals.

Once again, and this is so typical of the Liberal approach to crime control, the Liberals are more interested in protecting the rights of criminals than the victims of crime.

Let me point out the sections in Bill C-3 that place handcuffs on the police when the government instead should be making it easier for our law enforcement officials to protect Canadians.

First, the taking and storing of DNA samples should be handled as simply and effectively as the RCMP now handle fingerprints. Currently police can fingerprint and photograph all persons who are charged with or convicted of an indictable offence. However, Bill C-3 will allow DNA samples to be taken only from those convicted of, not just charged, with offences.

Considering this, a person charged with robbery could also be wanted for rape but DNA samples cannot be collected with the Liberals' bill until after the person is convicted of robbery. Everyone knows what is likely going to happen. This accused could avoid being charged on the more serious crime of rape by simply skipping bail on the robbery charge.

Second, with Bill C-3 DNA can only be collected for convictions of a select number of designated criminal offences, not for all indictable offences as it is now with fingerprints. Therefore some of these designated offences, like robbery, arson, torture and causing death by criminal negligence, only allow DNA to be collected by court order when with fingerprints it is automatic.

This is not going to help the police to keep our homes safe from burglars and arsonists. This is not going to protect Canadians from assault, hostage takings, hijackings and all the other court order only DNA offences in the Liberals' never ending list. No, designating offences for court order only DNA is only going to give more jobs to the lawyers and the courts, presumably all Liberal friends at the bar.

A third way that Bill C-3 inadequately protects the rights of victims is that the bill would provide for the destruction of DNA at any time that the commissioner of the RCMP believes the sample is no longer required. The rationale of this section is to protect the privacy rights of criminals and the accused. However, Bill C-3 already makes it an offence to use DNA samples for wrongful purposes.

Will Canadians really be outraged if DNA is instead stored and then later used to convict a rapist who was convicted of robbery several years earlier? Whose privacy rights are more important to the Liberals, the privacy rights of the rapist or the privacy rights of the victim of the rape?

Continuing on, though, allow me to illustrate a fourth problem with Bill C-3. I would like to ask the Liberal government why is it that its proposed DNA identification act was not part of the first phase of its DNA legislation in 1995 at which time it allowed the police to get warrants to take DNA samples from suspects. More than two years have gone by since this first phase and in all this time I have to ask how many criminals could have been put behind bars while the Liberals were waiting on introducing a DNA bank.

What is more, how many more innocent Canadians will become victims to criminals until the Liberals' proposed DNA databank begins operating in another two years or so? Yet in an attempt to cover up these delays, the Liberals would like to refer Bill C-3 to committee before second reading.

This procedure no doubt is proposed because of the Liberals' reluctance to give the bill the level of debate it deserves. In other words, the Liberals do not want Reform to point out the bill's many flaws.

This is a bill that needs to be debated in the House. Referring it to committee so soon is an obvious delaying tactic to prevent Canadians from seeing just how much it panders to criminals and ignores victim rights.

Today more than ever we have evidence of the need for a national victims bill of rights that will restore a balance within the criminal justice system by placing the rights of victims above the rights of criminals. All these points about the DNA identification act and its preoccupation on the criminal's versus the victim's rights lead me to the inescapable conclusion about the Liberal government's views of criminals and ordinary Canadians. A criminal is someone to be protected, to have all the rights under the stars, sun and moon, to be set free in most cases but, if detention is necessary, to be given a nice comfortable jail cell with cable TV and all the new channels, along with conjugal visits, good home cooking and parole in a couple of months.

It is clear that Liberals do not want the bad guys in jail, but if they are forced to put them in jail they want them to enjoy their stay. A law abiding Canadian to the Liberals is simply someone whose rights become secondary to criminals in our society.

Bill C-3 reinforces this unacceptable Liberal philosophy toward crime. It does not do enough for victims of crime and it does not do enough to help the police in their job of ensuring our communities are safe places to live.

I endorse the concept of a DNA bank. It is necessary to be able to identify criminals positively and it is important for us to be able to correctly exonerate the innocent and to make certain the guilty are proven to be guilty and are punished for their crimes. This is the only way we will be able to restore true justice to our justice system.

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1:05 p.m.


Jim Pankiw Reform Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, the technology of DNA is available to us. It is probably the most accurate means of being able to identify one human being from another since everyone's DNA code is different. Some people have closer matches than others, but technology has advanced to the point where science can definitely differentiate every human being in the world from one another.

I do not understand the reluctance of anyone to applying the technology available to us in the enforcement of our justice system. Fingerprinting technology is used readily and is part of law enforcement today. Fingerprints can be compared to records and it often results in solving what was previously an unsolved crime.

If someone is arrested and charged with a crime, I do not see why we would not have that person submit to a DNA test and compare it to our DNA databank. If the person is not matched to the bank of a previously unsolved crime and is exonerated of the charges brought against them, their DNA fingerprint could be removed from the databank.

It just seems that it would be in the best interests of our entire society to take advantage of this technology and use it in that respect.

With respect to destroying samples, as I said, if a person has been exonerated and the samples are destroyed there would be no harm done to the person who was falsely accused of a crime.

I was reading through the act and section 2(1) states:

The following persons may be fingerprinted or photographed or subjected to such other measurements, processes and operations having the object of identifying persons as are approved by order of the Governor in Council:

(a) any person who is in lawful custody charged with or convicted of

(i) an indictable offence, other than an offence that is designed as a contravention under the Contraventions Act in respect of which the Attorney General, within the meaning of that Act, has made an election under section 50 of that Act, or

(ii) an offence under the Official Secrets Act;

(b) any person who has been apprehended under the Extradition Act or the Fugitive Offenders Act; or

(c) any person alleged to have committed an indictable offence, other than an offence that is designated as a contravention under the Contraventions Act in respect of which the Attorney General, within the meaning of that Act, has made an election under section 50 of that Act, who is required pursuant to subsection 501(3) or 509(5) of the Criminal Code to appear for the purposes of this Act by an appearance notice, promise to appear, recognizance or summons.

I guess it all comes back to my original point, which was that there would be no reason not to take samples upon a person's being charged with a crime, running them through the databank system, which would ultimately determine whether that person is to be convicted. We should look at the greater good to the Canadian public and the assistance it would give our law enforcement officers.