Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill S-10. This is an important bill which amends the National Defence Act, the DNA Identification Act and the criminal code.
The purpose of the bill is to include in the DNA data bank created in December 1998 the genetic profiles of offenders convicted under the military justice system. At present the DNA Identification Act affects only offenders who are convicted by the civilian court system and not the military. It also makes a number of minor changes to the existing act.
For us it only makes sense that this happen. It brings the military rules more in line with civilian rules and the circumstances with which civilians must deal. It is somewhat in line with the recent court decision which determined that military officers have the right to refuse questionable medication in the same way that civilians do. The military is going to have to treat the DNA process the same way as civilians do and we certainly support that. We support the total merging of the two systems into one.
In recent years the courts have seen high profile convictions, such as that of Paul Bernardo, and eventual acquittals, such as that of Guy Paul Morin, due to the use of DNA evidence. It is but the latest tool for law enforcement to use in the protection of Canadian society.
Bill S-10 allows for a more broad, equal use of the DNA data bank while being careful not to trample on an individual's privacy rights. It is a good piece of legislation brought about by the hard work of the hon. senators. The PC Party would like to commend their efforts by stating that we will be supporting Bill S-10 when it comes to voting time.
The DNA tool is a powerful tool in conducting criminal investigations. It began as a result of the warrant for taking DNA samples, the 1995 criminal code amendment to allow for DNA samples to be taken under a warrant to facilitate the conduct of certain police investigations and identification of suspects. The second stage was Bill C-3, a 1997 bill on DNA identification which set the structure and administration for a national DNA data bank containing the DNA profiles of those convicted of serious criminal offences and of the DNA samples found at the scenes of unsolved crimes.
The data bank should be operational by June 2000 and will be administered by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police which at present administers six forensic laboratories in the country. We can only hope that the federal government will come through with adequate funding for the DNA data bank.
The solicitor general proudly stated recently that public safety would continue to be the Liberals' number one concern as he announced funding of $115 million for the data bank. Sadly, many RCMP experts who will have to use this technology stated they needed $280 million for the data bank to combat crime in the 21st century. Once again the Liberal actions were nowhere near the Liberal rhetoric and law enforcement has been given short shrift.
In 1998 during the Senate meetings dealing with Bill C-25, an act to amend the National Defence Act which was to reform the military justice system, the then defence minister and his staff were enlightened to the fact that members of the military who were charged or convicted under the new National Defence Act enforced by the military police would not be subject to the provisions of Bill C-3 because it was enforced by the RCMP. For cases of sex offences involving members of the military, the RCMP would not have the jurisdiction needed to do the job of taking and storing DNA samples. By law it was supposed to do so but in cases of offences only involving the military, it could not.
Along with this apparent problem, a 1998 Senate report concerning the DNA data bank said that such access might affect the privacy of Canadians in an unprecedented and unintentional way. In addition the committee believed that the nature of the information contained in the proposed data bank necessitated the strict monitoring of any process that would allow for the release of this information to governments or agencies outside Canada. The report recommended that the government strengthen the legislation concerning the administration of the DNA data bank and the security of the information in that bank.
To ensure the passage of Bill C-3 the solicitor general committed to draft a new bill which is the bill we are talking about today. The bill would allow for, first, the jurisdiction of the DNA data bank to be extended to offenders convicted in the military justice system.
Second, the commissioner of the RCMP would be required to report on the operation of the DNA data bank as part of his annual report to the minister and then it would be tabled in parliament.
Third, a provision would be included in the new bill for parliamentary review every five years to address the concerns of members of the committee about the highly sensitive nature of the information contained within the data bank and the rapidity of technological change in this field.
Fourth and finally, the Senate and the House of Commons committees would have the same power to do a five year review as provided for in the new bill.
The solicitor general then asked that the bill be introduced in the Senate before being tabled in the House of Commons so that the senators could ensure that all of the points of concern had been properly addressed.
The amendments proposed in Bill S-10 include under the National Defence Act that the DNA profiles of offenders subject to the code of service discipline who are convicted for serious and violent offences will be included in the DNA data bank for the first time. The code would apply to military personnel, the reserves and some civilians who accompany military personnel abroad. As in the case of the existing provisions of the DNA Identification Act, Bill S-10 provides that both samples and the results of analyses must be transmitted to the commissioner of the RCMP and stored in the data bank.
The new bill also provides that the provisions to be included in the National Defence Act concerning authorization for taking DNA samples, the handling and storage of samples, the results of the DNA analyses and the respective privacy will be identical to the provisions set out in Bill C-3.