Mr. Chairman, it is a good question. The Minister of Justice and Attorney General holds a place apart in any cabinet. He is a politician by definition but he has another responsibility as well: to be the guardian of the Constitution and the rule of law.
He or she is there to focus issues of principle on questions of politics, to borrow a phrase from Ian Scott who served with such distinction as Attorney General of Ontario for five years. I can tell the hon. member that I have considered that question at every stage of this process. I can tell him with honesty that in my view this is good law. It is needed. It is good policy.
I can tell him that if the request from the province of Quebec had come under different circumstances at a different time, I would respond in the same way. Within two days of getting a call from the minister of public security, I was in Quebec City to meet with him and 14 mayors of the region because I was aware of the depth of their concern and the extent of the problem.
I promised to look immediately at the proposal they gave to me. I did and I concluded it was unacceptable, but I also put something else on the table. I said: "Here are tools that we think are legal but that will make a difference". I solicited the involvement of others in the process I have already described in terms of consultation.
What we produced is before members now in Bill C-95. It is an urgent response to a very difficult and serious problem. I believe focusing issues of principle on questions of politics is the right thing to do.
Two years ago, members were kind enough to look carefully at Bill C-104 which had to do with adding DNA testing to the criminal law. We went through a similar process. I was here in this chair in committee of the whole, on clause by clause study for Bill C-104.
We passed that bill in a day. It went on to the other place and was adopted very quickly. It became law. Again, it did not go through the long, extensive process that we associate with legislation. We did it because we came to the common view that here was something that was needed and was not already in the criminal law. There was a case to be made that it was going to make a difference to police inquiries so we went ahead and acted quickly. There was no election pending; it was not as though the House was going to rise and we were all going to go on the hustings. It was two years ago, in the middle of our mandate.
My point is that there are times, quite apart from elections, when the need arises and circumstances require that we act quickly. I believe this is one of those cases. As a general rule, as I said in connection with Bill C-104, it is better to take the extended period. On this bill, with the facts and with this law we are in a position to act quickly and it is in the public interest to do so.