Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my friend and colleague, the hon. member for Joliette, for his well-chosen words on Bill C-32. I am pleased to speak to this bill on behalf of my party.
Today, once again, we are going to cause sorrow among our colleagues opposite by explaining in a very rational way, with reasoned arguments, why we oppose the amendments, the bills and the ideas, that the government party brings before us.
Nevertheless, this time, we are going to support Bill C-32. The Minister of Justice will certainly be pleased to see his friends in the Bloc Quebecois once again supporting a government bill, and I shall explain the four primary reasons.
These are the four themes we think are very important, and I quote:
This enactment amends the Criminal Code by
(a) establishing more serious offences for placing, or knowingly permitting to remain in a place, a trap, device or other thing that is likely to cause death or bodily harm to a person;
(b) permitting the use of as much force as is reasonably necessary on board an aircraft to prevent the commission of an offence that would be likely to cause immediate and serious injury to the aircraft or to any person or property in the aircraft;
(c) modifying the provision dealing with the provision of information on oath in relation to weapons;
In a moment I will explain why we are also supporting this amendment. The final theme, which, in my opinion, may be the most important, is this:
(d) creating an exemption to the offence of intercepting private communications in order to protect computer systems.
It amends the Financial Administration Act in order to authorize the federal government to take necessary measures to protect its computer systems.
In 2003-04 electronic communications and transactions are increasingly numerous. Many citizens make transactions over the Internet using their credit cards. Unfortunately, sometimes—too often—someone steals their credit cards by stealing the personal identification numbers. Later, fraud is committed through illegal use of the information networks.
If, through this bill or other legislation, we can correct this situation and give more protection to electronic transactions and transfers made by our citizens, it seems to me that we must, as parliamentarians, encourage such amendments and make as many of them as we need.
On this particular bill and on other bills—I want to emphasize that for my colleagues on the government side—we could draw on a bill recently passed in the United States dealing with unsollicited e-mails.
If I correctly understood the intent of the legislation in the United States, people can add their name to a national register and ask not to receive any promotional material from all major media and big corporations using telemarketers or computers for this purpose.
The big corporations have to consult the national registry every day and to delete the names of all those who do not want to be on the mass mailing lists anymore. According to the latest data that I have, some 50 million Americans have added their names to the national register to avoid receiving all this correspondence trying to sell products all equally miraculous and claiming to make them rich and famous, to educate them and to solve all of their health or financial problems.
I think that it would be perfectly legitimate to look carefully at this aspect in Bill C-32 or in a similar bill that would draw from this American legislation and to see if we can apply it to Canada in order to allow people to regain control over their computer and their personal lives.
When you are quietly sitting at home and the phone rings constantly with someone trying to sell a heat pump, a vacuum cleaner or a wonderful encyclopedia, it is a form of pollution. It disturbs our privacy and infringes on the leisure time we want to spend with our family. In our bills, we should be sensitive to that and try to improve the situation.
I talked about the four reasons for which we support Bill C-32. The main reason is that this bill creates a more serious offence for those who set traps or other devices in places kept or used for the purpose of committing crimes.
Let me explain why we agree with this principle. The offence of placing a trap already exists in section 247 of the Criminal Code. The proposed amendments would replace that section. We want to make it more specific and then add more offences.
Right now, setting or placing a trap with intent to cause death or bodily harm to a person is an offence punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of five years, wherever the trap or the device is placed. This provision would remain, but with minor changes.
New offences are also being established. First of all, if the trap or the device does cause bodily harm, the term of imprisonment will be 10 years. It will be 5 years for placing a trap, but if it is used and someone is accidentally injured, imprisonment will be for a period of 10 years.
If someone sets a trap in a place kept or used for the purpose of committing a crime, the maximum term of imprisonment is 10 years. If the trap is set in a place kept or used for the purpose of committing a crime and that trap causes bodily harm, it will be possible to extend the term to 15 years.
Finally, if a death is caused by a trap, a bear trap or anything of the kind—I will explain that later—the person caught committing the offence of setting the trap or device will be liable to life imprisonment.
This may seem a bit crazy, but I want to explain. This has happened recently in fields in Quebec. My hon. colleague from Joliette talked about people taking over tobacco or other fields belonging to farmers. So as not to get caught cultivating marijuana, members of organized crime rings place bear traps and other traps so that if the farmer gets too close to where the marijuana is being grown, he will get caught in the trap and can get hurt or even die from his injuries.
This is also true when buildings in industrial areas are rented and used to grow illegal plants. Bear traps or other traps are placed to prevent security or police officers from checking, or intruders or others from entering and discovering their stash.
In Quebec, some people have been very seriously injured by this kind of protection used by organized crime rings to protect the proceeds of their crime. It is understandable and legitimate, given the evolution in the use of these kinds of traps, to amend and clarify the scope of section 247 to provide even harsher sentences for those resorting to such abominable tactics to protect the proceeds of their crime.
The Minister of Justice said on Radio-Canada radio last April 13, “Currently, organized crime rings are placing traps in areas used for criminal activities. For example, areas where cannabis is cultivated. The firefighters association had been requesting this for some time”. This is why section 247 needs to be amended.
What happens when there is a fire and firefighters arrive on the scene? They might wind up in a bear trap because they cannot see through the smoke. It is perfectly legitimate to protect the lives of those protecting us and give them the tools they need and a safer environment in which to do their jobs.
I will take advantage of this theme of traps and snares to state that the Bloc Quebecois had asked for certain tools in the antigang legislation to be corrected and changed. Two of these have not yet been acted upon. We feel the bill could have gone further. First of all, with Bill C-24 in the last session, the government refused to criminalize passive membership in a gang. This would have made it possible to fight organized crime more effectively, and that is what we want to do here. Had membership in a gang been recognized as a criminal offence, it would have helped in the battle against organized crime.
The other measure we were calling for was reversal of the burden of proof. In Canadian law it is essential to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that an accused has accumulated wealth by committing a series of specific and identifiable offences. We need only think of the Hell's Angels megatrials. When someone has a job and reports an annual income of $19,000 when filing income tax returns, but is living in a house worth $265,000 with a Jaguar and a Porsche parked out front, I do not know how that person manages his budget, but certainly not like you or I do.
Perhaps we ought to introduce the reverse burden of proof in order to get these people to tell us how to legally manage our affairs so efficiently. But, all joking aside, I think that people who belong to an organized gang ought to be required to show how they amassed their wealth. We would not be the first country to adopt this reversal of the burden of proof for this specific situation. Canada would not be breaking new ground and the world's legal system would not be destroyed.
I would remind hon. members that Australia, Austria, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland and the United Kingdom have changed their legislation for these very specific cases, reversing the burden of proof.
One of the other reasons we support Bill C-32 is its authorization of the use of reasonable force to prevent criminal activity on board an aircraft in flight that could endanger persons or property—indeed could lead to their death.
Under the current Canadian legislation, the use of reasonable force to prevent the commission of an offence is permitted. The same applies on board an aircraft in Canadian airspace. The bill will amend the Criminal Code to explicitly recognize that any person on board an aircraft in flight is justified in using reasonable force if he or she believes that the use of such force is necessary to prevent the commission of an offence which could endanger the safety of the aircraft or its passengers.
The bill will also clarify that this justification also applies on board any Canadian registered aircraft in flight outside Canadian airspace, and not only in Canadian airspace.
The amendment will ensure the full effect of the Tokyo Convention On Offences and Certain Other Acts Committed on Board Aircraft.
Canada is signatory to many conventions and belongs to many international institutions such as the ICAO and the UN.
Meetings are held regularly in certain countries. For example, the ICAO deals with aviation safety. Countries are asking themselves how they can contribute to the improvement of aviation safety.
As a sovereignist, I have a lot of respect for the sovereignty of states and their right to independence. However, in this era of globalization, there are decisions that cannot be made strictly within our borders, whether on land, on the sea or in the air. There is a constant flow of people, information and money. Financial transfers abound. Therefore, we must sign more and more international conventions, and this is why the sovereignty of states is important.
When we sign an international convention, if our own legislation is inadequate, incomplete or incorrect, we must amend it. In this part of Bill C-32, we are amending the Criminal Code with regard to the use of force on board aircraft. We are doing this to comply with the Tokyo convention. We must also prevent serious crimes like we saw in the United States in 2001, when terrorists hijacked airplanes and used them as weapons against civilian populations.
We consider it essential that passengers and peace officers on aircraft know that they are covered by legislation if ever they feel it necessary to use force to ensure the safety of both those onboard the aircraft and those who could become the victims of the use of this aircraft for terrorist or criminal purposes, as happened in New York City.
I am therefore convinced that the amendment of section 117.04 of the Criminal Code will ensure greater safety for the crew as well as for people who travel by plane either for business or pleasure.
Our third reason for supporting Bill C-32 is the provision on warrants to search for and seize weapons. Section 117.04 of the Criminal Code deals with that. It sets out the procedure for a peace officer to apply for a warrant to seize weapons, prohibited devices, ammunition, explosives, and so on.
In this respect, one only has to think of family violence situations and the restriction put on police officers to apply for a warrant before entering a home when there are weapons on the premises. Here again, we must make the work of those ensuring our safety easier by allowing us to ensure theirs.
To conclude, as I said at the beginning of my remarks, let me stress again the importance of creating an exemption to the offence of intercepting private communications in order to protect computer systems. A growing number of Canadians are using computer systems to transact business and communicate at all levels. These computer activities must be protected.
As I said earlier, we should take advantage of this window of opportunity to go one step further and develop something based, for once, on what the U.S. is doing. They can do good things in the U.S. A national registry of people could be developed in Canada, and we could tell the big companies which spam us to take our name off their list. This way, our quality of life would be improved.
As you can see, the Bloc Quebecois once again considered with all due diligence this bill before us. For these four main reasons, we will support the bill.