Mr. Speaker, I will try to slow down. I think I see some smoke coming out of the translator's booth.
The opportunity to speak to this Senate bill, Bill S-10, an act to amend the National Defence Act, the DNA Identification Act and the Criminal Code, puts me in a bit of a quandary.
On one hand, I do not agree that we should be dealing with legislation that comes from the unelected and unaccountable other place. On the other hand, I have to agree with much of the intent of the legislation. It illustrates once again how the government has failed to do its job properly.
Just a couple of years ago we dealt with DNA legislation. In fact this is at least the third time we have dealt with DNA legislation in the past five years. I suppose the government was embarrassed about its previous failures to adequately address all that was necessary. That may explain why it brought Bill S-10 through the back door, so to speak, through the Senate once again instead of through the House of Commons. Surely the government will get it right one of these days.
In the meantime, while Canadians want legislation to address failings in our youth justice system, while Canadians are dying through failures in our health system through lack of funding and through the lack of a plan to address the failings of our national health program, and while victims of crime continue to wait for legislation from the solicitor general, we are forced to once again spend time in this place dealing with DNA.
Do not get me wrong. I believe DNA technology is one of the greatest tools for law enforcement and our justice system. All I am saying is that it is unfortunate that we have to take three or four kicks at the can just on DNA legislation when there are so many other issues of importance to our citizens. It is a travesty that the government wastes time and money trying again and again to get something right.
I remember the last time we discussed DNA legislation. When we were dealing with Bill C-3 just two years ago, the government played politics instead of sufficiently supporting our police officers.
When our police are asking for tools to help them solve hundreds of unsolved murders and rapes, the government goes only halfway. The government is more concerned with inconveniencing our criminals than it is with protecting our communities and ensuring that our more dangerous predators are removed from the streets.
Perhaps after a number of our incarcerated criminals succeed in getting back onto the streets, only to recommit additional crimes, will we then be able to obtain their DNA samples to help the police with past unsolved serious crimes. Maybe then we will once again be back in here dealing with yet another attempt to properly legislate on this issue of DNA and the DNA databank once and for all.
Bill S-10 amends the National Defence Act to authorize military judges to issue DNA warrants to assist in investigations of National Defence personnel. The bill also authorizes military judges to order military offenders convicted of a limited number of offences to provide samples of bodily substances for the purpose of the DNA databank. Essentially all this legislation is doing is including similar provisions for the national defence justice system that we provided under the criminal code through Bill C-104 in 1995 and Bill C-3 in 1998. As a side note, hon. members will also be aware that Bill C-3 was a prime example of just how little the government really considers its law enforcement officers and its citizens.
Bill C-3 was passed in September 1998 to set up the DNA databank so that evidence left at crime scenes for very limited types of offences could be compared to the DNA samples taken from some of our more dangerous criminals. I say some of our more dangerous criminals because the government decided to severely limit just who had to provide samples of saliva or blood.
For example, individuals who have only been convicted of one murder do not have to provide a DNA sample. Furthermore, Canadian citizens will be surprised to know that such a valuable and highly effective justice tool is not even in force yet. As I say, it was passed in September 1998. It will not be in effect until next month.
The RCMP have been quoted as saying:
—it's the single most important tool added to crime-fighting since discovery of fingerprint identification.
It has taken over a year and a half to come into being. Typically there are indications that it may take our correctional service another couple of years to fulfil its responsibilities under the legislation and to provide samples of those offenders presently incarcerated or serving sentences within the community. Should Bill S-10 pass this place I can only wonder how far down the road it will take before it too is actually in effect.
As I have previously stated in debate, it is most unfortunate that our DNA databank legislation is not much broader to include most, if not all, indictable offences. We all know that the vast majority of our more dangerous criminals start their life of crime with the lesser offences and move up to the more heinous criminal activity. Once a criminal commits an indictable offence that criminal should be included within the databank so that he will show up should he ever leave DNA evidence at the scene of a subsequent crime. The government seems to think that it should be a game between the criminal and our law enforcement personnel.
I keep hearing about the government's concern for balanced legislation. Seeing its legislation and seeing its political endeavours, I often wonder whether part of its aim toward balance is ensuring that our criminals have a fair chance against getting caught and receiving punishment for their crimes. It is often more concerned for the interest of the criminals than it is for the safety of our citizens and the efforts of our police officers.
Before the listener gets the impression that this DNA databank and DNA warrant process will only bring our criminals to justice, I should point out that it is most important to also prove the innocence of some accused. We are all familiar with how DNA evidence was used to exonerate Guy Paul Morin and David Milgaard. They provided bodily samples to prove that the evidence left at the scene of the crimes did not match their DNA, so this whole DNA revolution is probably more important or at least just as important to prove innocence as to prove guilt of an individual.
I have not said much about Bill S-10 specifically. As I have said, it brings to the military what we have done for our primary criminal justice process. It only makes sense that our military system operates on the same footing. Yes, it is an inadequate footing overall but at least it is a start.
I will be supporting the legislation. It is my hope that it will not take as long to come into force. For some reason the government does not seem to realize the importance of each day it delays the implementation of legislation such as this. It may result in another day that victims have to live with not knowing who was responsible for the crime. It may result in another day that an individual is falsely accused of a crime. It may result in a day that a criminal gets away with a crime, to say nothing of the added expense to the taxpayer of added investigation by our police and additional legal argument within our courts as both the innocent and the guilty make their appeals.
To sum up, DNA is a valuable tool to separate the guilty from the innocent. It will greatly assist the police. It will provide greater certainty to our justice system. It will protect our citizens. Some of us may question the necessity to separate our justice system from our military in this time of peace, but it only makes sense that we provide a similar regime for that process for the same reasons we have provided it within the civil justice system.