Madam Speaker, I begin by complimenting the member for Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge for introducing this piece of legislation. We too think it will go some distance toward reducing the carnage and tragic accidents on our highways.
I know it was an act of omission rather than commission by the hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca. I too want to remember a very significant, well regarded and well liked high school principal in Rosetown, Saskatchewan, who was killed. He and his wife were killed in Saskatoon just a few months ago as a result of a high speed police chase. Let us call it for what it was. The people of that relatively small prairie community were devastated at the loss.
Under this enactment, every one commits an offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years who operates a motor vehicle while being pursued by a peace officer in order to evade the peace officer and fails to stop the vehicle as soon as is reasonable in the circumstances.
Every one commits an offence referred to above and thereby causes bodily harm to a person or the death of a person commits an offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years or life, respectively.
Section 249 of the Criminal Code deals with the dangerous operation of motor vehicles and aircraft. Under the code anyone who does use a vehicle, vessel or aircraft in a dangerous manner can be guilty of an indictable offence or summary offence.
The private member's bill that has been introduced by the member would add an offence of flight from a police officer when operating a motor vehicle, to be charged and to serve up to two years imprisonment. Anyone who causes bodily harm while in flight from police, could serve up to 10 years. Anyone who causes death while in flight from police could face life imprisonment.
Bill C-440 also provides for the prohibition of operation of a motor vehicle and for a manslaughter charge, if it applied, in the cause of death.
The background to the bill, as has been noted by the two previous speakers, is the recent police chases that have resulted in injury and death. By its nature, fleeing from the police in this manner is presently dangerous use of a vehicle and Bill C-440 singles out that activity for an actual charge.
The justice critic for the New Democratic Party, the hon. member for Sydney—Victoria, has met with the national police association. We know from those conversations that they are very committed to Bill C-440.
On behalf of the New Democratic Party caucus, we are very supportive of this legislation. We extend our congratulations to the hon. member for Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge for bringing this bill forward in the way that he has, working with other members of the House, including the justice minister.