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House of Commons Hansard #150 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was afghanistan.

Topics

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

John Cummins Conservative Delta—Richmond East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the problems that I outlined with access to information were problems that could essentially be described as problems where politicians had taken over. Politicians had set up a screening process to ensure that the minister or the government would not be embarrassed by any response.

The issue I would like to address now relates to the “leaky condos”. It is a huge issue in British Columbia and it has been an issue as well in Newfoundland and Labrador. It would appear that rather than the ministers or their agents acting to confuse the issue, the bureaucrats seem to be protecting their own interests.

On the leaky condo issue, the access to information coordinator for CMHC, D.V. Tyler, is also the general counsel. As general counsel, Mr. Tyler acts on behalf of CMHC with regard to the wet wall syndrome or what is commonly referred to as leaky condo problem.

While Mr. Tyler is acting on behalf of CMHC in court on leaky condos, he is at the same time, in his capacity as access to information coordinator, withholding leaky condo documents from me under the Access to Information Act and drafting answers for the minister to my letters and parliamentary questions on leaky condos.

Mr. Tyler's direct involvement as counsel to CMHC in a B.C. leaky condo case, his involvement in the preparation of the minister's response to my letters and his involvement in the preparation of a response to my parliamentary questions undermines and taints the administration of the Access to Information Act at CMHC.

At the same time, Mr. Tyler has an interest in ensuring that the complete story of CMHC's transgression remains hidden from public scrutiny. As access to information coordinator at CMHC, he is ruling as to what can be released to me on the leaky condo issue. At the same time, he is a major player in the leaky condo file at CMHC, both in making decisions and providing advice to the corporation. He can hardly put himself in the position of ruling on which of his own documents or documents in which he had an interest should be released to me.

The Information Commissioner must have authority over the administration of the Access to Information Act in any department or agency in government. There is no one in government who has a direct interest in ensuring that the Access to Information Act operates effectively, except for the Information Commissioner, yet he lacks such authority.

We should remember that there is no real advantage for anyone in government to ensure that the public has access to government records. Common sense and the practice I have outlined today would suggest that there is every reason to believe that it is natural for governments to want to limit access to their records and the scrutiny that such access brings.

This access to information bill obviously needs fixing. It is a cart that is broken. The biggest problem is the failure of the government to act in a proper manner and ensure that our rights as parliamentarians are not impacted and the rights of the average citizen are not impacted by the government's desire to protect itself from criticism.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Merrifield Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak to the motion to amend the Access to Information Act.

I want to come at this one from a bit of a different angle. I have listened to the debate all afternoon. The minister was up a few minutes ago talking about whether the committee did or did not do its work, and committee members tried to challenge that.

I want to get back to why this needed to be brought to the House at this time and debated. Why are we discussing this amendment, when it could have been done long before this time?

I congratulate my colleague from Regina--Lumsden--Lake Centre for bringing the motion forward because it is important. It focuses the House on one of the big problems we have at the present time, which is accountability and transparency of the government. It is one of the reasons why the government is on its eleventh hour, or maybe a little beyond that, of its reign, a very short one as a result of Justice Gomery's report on the sponsorship scandal. It is all fresh in our minds and will continue to be fresh in our minds because it is so important.

The report laid out the facts which showed this was something that happened under the government's reign. It set up, ran and used the program to move money from the public purse into the Liberal Party of Canada. This was a theft of millions of dollars from the public treasury. It set up a culture of entitlement.

The government has had four consecutive wins. I guess if there is a lesson there for Canadians, it is that we should not leave any government in office too long. If this is what happens, that is not in the best interest of the public. Woe to our country if we give it five wins because it will send the wrong message. It would say that what the government has done is okay.

The electorate will have a choice. It will either condemn the actions of the government or it will condone it. A vote for the Liberals will be complicit. It will say that it is okay to be corrupt. I do not believe that reflects the values of Canadians. I think the government is about to learn that lesson. I would implore every Canadian to think very soberly. It is not about whether they grew up under a political banner of the Liberals, Conservatives or the NDP. They need to understand what is at risk in this election, which is the democracy on which our country was founded. We need to stand and protect that.

We just went through a Remembrance Day ceremony where we honoured our veterans for going to war and risking their lives to secure the democracy and the rule of law and justice. Yet we see it eroding before our very eyes. We in the House, where we come to protect and promote it, have seen that eroded. I see members of Parliament from all sides of the House failing to stand and fight to continue the battle to protect our democracy. This is very important. The amendments that have been brought forward shine the light on the lack of accountability and transparency by the government.

One thing that really amazes me is we have a motion before us, we will vote on it and if it passes, how many members in the House feel the government will act on it. I can think of votes in the House giving direction to the government of the day and the government has totally ignored them. That not only shows the amount of corruption, but it shows a lack of respect for the democracy of the land and for the will of the public, by extension through individual members of the House.

Some of these motions have been pretty significant such as the hepatitis C file. I remember when that came to the House. It was an issue we had been fighting for many years. It was a directive by the members of the House of Commons to the government that those individuals outside of the 1986 to 1990 window should be compensated. Yet not one cheque has been signed to comply with that motion.

We saw the same thing with another one that I brought forward to the House on the sale of pharmaceuticals to the United States on Internet pharmacies. It was a directive by 288 members to zero in the House. Yet we have seen absolutely nothing from the government to give us any confidence that this will happen.

This happens all the time. This will be the 15th time. We will vote on this, the House will agree with the motion and the government will ignore it. That is contempt of Parliament if I ever saw it, and it has to stop.

Why is it so important for us to deal with the Access to Information Act? I think it has to be examined because there is a question here. How does the government think it is in the interests of Canadians to take their money and put it into foundations, for example, which already have $9 billion in them, setting it aside so it can be hidden from them? Foundations are outside the purview of the Auditor General and outside access to information. It is as if the money the government puts into foundations has nothing to do with public money. It is as if it is Liberal money that the government is just sliding into a separate fund.

In light of the sponsorship scandal and the dollars we see going into foundations, we have to ask this question. What government in its right mind would take that amount of money and put it outside the Access to Information Act and the Auditor General's ability to investigate? I believe the government will have a difficult time answering that question.

I asked the Auditor General that question when she came to the health committee a little over a year ago. I was interested in one of those foundations, Canada Health Infoway Inc., which has $1.2 billion. I asked the Auditor General if she was not concerned about the number of dollars being spent or not being spent in Health Infoway. She said she was concerned and would like to take a look at it, but it was outside her ability to do so. She said she was just as concerned about the other eight foundations that were set up by the government.

Nine billion dollars of taxpayers' money is sitting in these foundations. I am speaking of foundations like Genome Canada, the millennium scholarship fund and many others. Why would a government not set up foundations so the House and Canadian taxpayers can understand what is in them?

Therein lies the reason we sought two changes, one under a minority government, which was the ability for the Auditor General to access a bit of crack in the accountability of these foundations. We were able to get Bill C-43 passed, which provides the Auditor General with the ability to look at foundations. Hopefully she will be able to look at them, although I am not sure that will actually happen. It is supposed to. The other change is the motion before us today. We will see whether the government will actually comply with it. I believe we will win. I believe there will be another motion on the floor. We will see how that vote goes. But I do not think anybody is too convinced that it is actually going to happen.

Why is Canada Health Infoway so important? This is not just about money or accountability. The Health Infoway money is about the loss of lives. The Baker-Norton report estimated that 24,000 deaths occur in Canada's acute care centres because of a lack of information or medical errors. If Health Infoway had medical records following patients, that would go a long way toward saving many lives.

This is not just about a government that is trying to hide money for its own self-interest. This is not just about the foundations that were set up inappropriately and our inability to access information. This is about government accountability.

What do we have to do to fix this? Accountability measures will be brought in by the Conservative Party when we become the government after the next election. We will have to change the rules of the House, unfortunately, because they are not stiff enough. The Liberal government does not understand what it means to be a servant of the public.

The Conservative Party will change those rules so that no corporate money will go to any political organization or political party. We have to limit to $1,000 any money going to a political organization.

We have to make sure there is whistleblower legislation so public civil servants know when they see corruption within government that they will have the opportunity to blow the whistle without losing their jobs or being disciplined.

We have to make sure that the rules regarding lobbyists change. Parliamentarians must not be impacted by those who have become lobbyists for five years after they have worked on the Hill or as senior bureaucrats or as members of Parliament.

We also have to give the Auditor General more power.

All of these measures have to be brought in. Why? Because we have to keep reminding the House, and now forcing the House, to understand that the job of members of Parliament is to represent the people who put them into office, not the people who lobby them or give them funds. That has to change in the House or we will not have democracy in this country. That is why it is so important that we change the act now. That is why we are going into an election: to have Canadians deal with this corrupt government.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have to disagree with the member. I want to lay out first of all that there is nobody in this place who does not agree that the Access to Information Act has to be modernized. The minister just spoke and laid out all of the ways in which he has been attempting to put that foundational framework proposal before the committee to have a pre-consultative process prior to a bill. That is the only delay. The committee did not get around to it. I am sorry.

I cannot support the motion because it has some serious problems. It says that we should extend the coverage of the Access to Information Act to all crown corporations, yet the member knows specifically that there are some like the Export Development Corporation, which has private information about other businesses that is of a competitive nature. It could not possibly be attractive to those businesses to have that competitive information exposed. This cannot be for all corporations. There have to be some exceptions. The motion does not provide for exceptions.

The motion refers to all officers of Parliament. The member knows that there is much private information. Let us take the Ethics Commissioner, who obviously has some very sensitive information. This motion says that has to be made available to the public. That may be of interest to the public, but it is not, however, in the public interest.

There are many other things here, but all we have to do is pick one. That is why I think it is unfortunate that the motion did not deal with the issue on a broader base. The member knows full well that we are talking about a motion which should be read in the context of “consider the advisability...”. It is not incumbent on the government to implement specifically the motion but to take the House's advisement with regard to the matter, provided it is in the best public interest.

In this particular case, the motion concludes on a number of details which certainly cannot be acceptable, even under an act that we would have to vote on.

I would also point out to the member with regard to many of the foundations that the federal government is not the only funder. There are other problems in terms of jurisdictional things and even having all organizations that spend taxpayers' money here. That would include every provincial government and every group and organization across the country that gets any grant or some sort of subsidy. It is a flawed motion. It has to be defeated.

Would the member not agree that the motion would have been better if it had simply said that the Access to Information Act should be modernized with full recognition of the public need to know and the right to know, but with appropriate exclusions or exemptions?

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Merrifield Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question because it begs another question. He asked me whether it is worded properly, but I would say the question is this: why do we need to have it at all? When honourable people act honourably with the public purse, this is not needed. What we have is a government that has been caught with its hand in the cookie jar.

He talked about some of the foundations. He mentioned those to which he did not think this should apply, but he forgot to mention those like the Mint and what we saw with the affair of Mr. Dingwall. He did not mention Canada Post and what we saw happen at that foundation. He did not talk much about his sponsorship responsibility and the sponsorship scandal. He has not talked about a gun registry that went from $2 million to $2 billion. He has not talked about the HRDC scandal that went to $1 billion. On and on it goes.

The reason we need to have some of the responsibility and accountability is that the government has inappropriately handled the public purse. My hon. colleague should be ashamed of himself. He should stand up and apologize to Canadians and he should not be saying that he does not know if he likes the wording of this one and cannot actually support it because it is flawed in its language.

I think it is right in its intent. The only reason that it has to be there is that the intent is to deal with the problem of corruption within a Liberal government that has to be defeated. I believe the electorate of Canada will understand that full well and will deal with the Liberals at the appropriate time.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to deal specifically with two issues in this important motion by the member for Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre.

One is clause (a) about expanding coverage of the act to all crown corporations, all officers of Parliament and all foundations. It is the foundations I want to focus on. Then there is clause (c) about establishing a duty on public officials to create the records necessary to document their actions and decisions.

The member for Yellowhead raised some of the issues that I think are germane to this conversation. Earlier, the justice minister talked about a meaningful democratic process and how critical it is to have access to information. When we are talking about democratic process and access to information, a variety of issues enter into this conversation. One of them is transparency. One of them is openness.

One is around the fundamental issue about demonstrating that the Canadian people can have confidence in the fact that their government is a well run government, in the fact that when taxpayers' dollars are being spent they are being spent in a way that is accountable and responsible and is producing the results that are important for Canadians.

The Minister of Justice also referred to the fact that the member for Winnipeg Centre had a private member's bill before the House. There was a discussion around whether the member would put that bill forward. It is the member's understanding and mine as well that the member for Winnipeg Centre had some assurance that if he dropped his private member's bill there would be a bill before the House to deal with this very important matter.

As we talk about access and transparency, I am going to talk about a couple of incidents, although I know my time is short. One is that the health committee currently is dealing with the issue of silicone gel breast implants.

A part of the access to information issues that this motion deals with is the issue of the records that officials keep. There were scientific panel hearings in March. The health committee asked for the minutes from those hearings only to discover that no minutes were kept.

For parliamentarians who want to find out what was conducted in those scientific hearings, which are going to be used to inform the minister's decision, there are no minutes. That is a huge problem. We have information that is germane to a decision and is important for parliamentarians to be aware of and we cannot access it.

It would seem to me that in most organizations when important decisions are being made and important recommendations are being made by key decision makers, there should be a record kept of how those recommendations were arrived at.

That is one example of the lack of information for parliamentarians. There is another example, although it falls loosely outside of the intent of this motion. The committee has also been attempting to get a 1996 cohort study that is being bounced from Health Canada to the Public Health Agency. We really cannot find this study. We cannot get access to this very critical piece of information. Access to information is fundamental to transparency and openness.

The member for Yellowhead talked about the Auditor General . I am going to talk specifically about the 2002 and 2005 reports of the Auditor General. I think it is important that in 2002 the Auditor General said about her findings that:

The essential requirements for accountability to Parliament--credible reporting of results, effective ministerial oversight, and adequate external audit--are not being met....

This is with regard to foundations and such.

The Auditor General also indicated in 2002 that:

Parliament is not receiving reports on independent, broad-scope audits that examine more than the financial statements of delegated arrangements, including compliance with authorities, propriety, and value for money. With a few exceptions, Parliament's auditor should be appointed as the external auditor of existing foundations and any created in the future, to provide assurance that they are exercising sound control of the significant public resources and authorities entrusted to them.

That seems to be a grave gap. We have billions of dollars going to foundations and yet Parliament has no oversight of this.

The Auditor General suggested a couple of key questions which I think are fundamental. It would be perfectly reasonable that parliamentarians and the public would have access to these key questions. The Auditor General suggested four key questions: Is there reasonable assurance that stewardship of public money is sound? Are the terms and conditions of the funding agreements generally respected? Is the arrangement achieving the intended public results? Are the programs and activities of the delegated arrangement consistent and coordinated adequately with related federal programs and activities?

When we are talking about foundations, it would seem that parliamentarians should have access to the kind of information that is laid out in these questions. These are fundamental. How are Canadian taxpayers' dollars being spent? Are they being spent responsibly? Are we getting the results that Canadian taxpayers expect from this kind of spending?

In 2002 we did not see a substantially different kind of circumstance, so here we are three years later hoping to see some sort of change in what is happening with foundations. The main points under the 2005 report again re-emphasize the issue. It states:

Despite a number of improvements to the framework for the accountability of foundations to Parliament, overall progress is unsatisfactory. Important gaps remain in the external audit regimen and ministerial oversight, two of the three areas examined in this audit. There is no provision for performance audits of foundations that are reported to Parliament nor do mechanisms from ministerial oversight adequately provide for the government to make adjustments to foundations where circumstances have changed considerably.

With all that has happened with the sponsorship scandal and the lack of transparency and openness, we are continuing to see the lack of action in having foundations audited by the Auditor General.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

An hon. member

Millions of dollars go this way.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Billions of dollars. Mr. Speaker, my colleague just pointed out the amount of money that is involved in this.

I would urge all members to support this very important motion so there is transparency and accountability to the Canadian taxpayer.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. It being 5:15 p.m., it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the business of supply.

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

The House resumed from November 14 consideration of the motion, as amended.

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

The Speaker

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the question of privilege in the name of the member for Bourassa.

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion lost.

It being 6:01 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Conservative Wild Rose, AB

moved that Bill C-329, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (arrest without warrant), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, right off the bat I want to make sure that a couple of things are understood. When I was listening to the television not too long ago one of the Liberal pundits was having quite a fit because the member for Wild Rose was going to get up and suggest such a thing as arresting without a warrant. Apparently she did not realize there is already a section in the Criminal Code that deals with arresting without a warrant. It is already there. This is just an attempt to amend that section and to strengthen it, to provide a tool in the toolbox that the police need so desperately in order to do a better job in their mission of providing better safety to our communities.

A major amendment to section 495(1) needs to be made. My bill would amend that section by adding the following paragraph:

(b.2) a person who wilfully fails or refuses to comply with a condition of parole or of an unescorted temporary absence or who, on reasonable grounds, he believes has breached or is about to breach such a condition; or

Maybe I should clarify that. Currently, paragraph (b) states that a peace officer may arrest without warrant “a person whom he finds committing a criminal offence, or”. My bill would strike out the word “or” and would add the following after paragraph (b):

(b.1) a person who has committed the offence described in subsection 733.1(1) or who, on reasonable grounds, he believes has committed or is about to commit the offence;

(b.2) a person who wilfully fails or refuses to comply with a condition of parole or of an unescorted temporary absence or who, on reasonable grounds, he believes has breached or is about to breach such a condition; or

This is probably the fourth time I have introduced this bill and it has always died on the order paper, which very possibly could happen again. I also believe it is such an important measure that needs to be taken that perhaps we might rush it a little bit and it could pass through this place without any hindrances.

The purpose of this bill is simply to give a peace officer the power to arrest without a warrant a person who is in breach of a probation order binding that person, or a condition of that person's parole.

This bill was prompted by a resolution of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police in response to the controversial 1997 Supreme Court decision, R. v. Feeney. Everyone knows about that case. A similar resolution was also proposed by the Canadian Professional Police Association. This suggestion has been brought forward by police officers across the country for quite some time.

Current provisions of existing legislation and policies of Correctional Service Canada do not permit the timely arrest and detention of parole violators. Presently, the police can only notify parole officers when they believe that a person is in breach of a probation order. With a time delay, further crimes could be committed and are often committed. The bill I am presenting would remedy that situation. I think all members in the House would agree that we do not need people who are out on parole committing further crimes.

Let me give some practical examples. One example is if a person who has been convicted of rape is released on parole, one of the terms of his parole is that he is not to go within 1,000 feet of the victim of that rape. When on parole the person convicted of this offence goes to the home of the victim, stands outside, walks back and forth and intimidates that person. The person calls the police. The police react by going to the victim's home. They see that the terms of the parole are being breached, but they do not have a warrant to arrest and therefore, they must go away to try and get a warrant.

To further add to this situation, it may be the time of day. If it is during the night, a warrant may be impossible to get, or if it is in a rural or remote area, the problem is tenfold.

What I am saying is that the officer who observed that parolee breaking the condition of his parole by being within that 1,000 feet restriction should be able to arrest without warrant immediately, take the possible victim out of danger and hold the parolee until such time as the parole officer is contacted.

A second example is when someone has been convicted of murder and part of the terms of his parole is that he have no contact with the witness or witnesses who testified against him. However, in this situation the parolee goes to the home of the witness, which is an intimidating situation. The witness calls the police and asks the police to act. The police come but cannot act without a warrant. The police realize when they get there what the situation is but they cannot do anything until they get that warrant. Once again, I revert to the idea that it might take several hours or even days and by that time it could be too late.

A third example is when someone has been convicted of assault of a spouse or a child and part of the terms of the parole is that he or she must stay away from the spouse or child. However, in this situation the parolee intimidates the spouse or the child. The police are called but once again they are unable to take any action since the police cannot act without a warrant.

The bill simply would rectify all these situations and allow a police officer to make an arrest without having to get a warrant. That is called prevention, preventing further crime.

Every member and every party in the House have said time and time again that we need to strengthen the Criminal Code to allow the police to operate, to help them prevent further crimes. I think everyone would agree that is extremely important.

Over the past 12 years there has been a continuous and relatively consistent message for the government to rectify this situation. I have been here for those 12 years and I know that is true, but nothing has been done. On examining the government's response, there seems to be three main objections to giving the police this authority.

The first objection the government always seems to mention is the belief that granting such authority to the police would in some way affect the delegation of authority of the National Parole Board to issue a suspension warrant.

What is being proposed by my private member's bill would not have any such result at all. The police should have the authority to arrest without warrant a person found breaching a condition of his or her parole. After making the arrest the police would be required to contact the CSC duty officer, or the supervising parole officer if he or she is available, who would make the decision whether or not to issue the suspension warrant. The suspension warrant would authorize the continuance of the arrest and would permit the police to deliver the person to the nearest correctional institution.

If the authorized correctional authority determined that the public had not been placed at undue risk by the breach, a suspension warrant would not be issued and the police would release the person unconditionally.

As I see it, an offender's compliance, that is, his following his release conditions, is probably one of the first steps toward demonstrating an intent to become a responsible citizen and change his way of doing things.

Non-compliance with a condition, however, creates an undue risk to the community which remains until it is addressed by the proper authorities. This kind of risk must be acted on immediately. Any delay in acting upon this undue risk could cause some person somewhere to become another victim of that particular person.

The second objection quite often given by the government when these items are talked about is it feels that giving the police this authority would significantly increase their workload. That is not true at all. Currently, if the police find a person in breach of a parole condition, they must let the person go on his way and report the contact to the CSC duty officer of the supervising parole officer. If a suspension warrant is issued, the police have to find the offender again and then execute the warrant and hopefully, it is not too late.

That has been made even more complicated recently due to the legislative requirements arising from the Feeney decision of the Supreme Court of Canada. If the police or parole authorities believe the offender can be found in a residence, they must obtain a special form from a justice to permit the execution of the warrant in the dwelling.

Personally, I think the adoption of this bill would increase the number of apprehensions for violations, thereby decreasing the number of new offences. Cost savings would be achieved by not having to prosecute the offender on new charges if he or she were arrested and suspended for a conditional release violation. More important, fewer people would be victimized.

The third objection I often hear from the government is that the police might abuse this authority and needlessly harass those people on parole who are trying to become responsible citizens. There is no basis for that suggestion whatsoever.

The police are continually expected to do more with less. Resources are stretched to the limit. The police do not have the time or the inclination to actively supervise the parole population. That job is for the parole officer. Usually the police only get involved with those individuals as a result of a complaint or simply a chance meeting.

Every parent in the country would be happy if they knew the police could immediately arrest a released pedophile who was seen near a playground or a school yard, because he was in violation of his parole and was not to be near children. That might give parents a lot more comfort than the way it is now in the Criminal Code. I am saying in the Criminal Code because I know of some jurisdictions that may allow the police to detain these individuals, but it is not in the Criminal Code. The purpose of this bill is to get it in there in order to give the police an extra tool when they are doing their job of protecting society.

The court decision in Feeney has been roundly criticized. It has been noted that in recent years the courts have begun to slowly chip away at the section 8 guarantee in the charter regarding the warrant in the search and seizure area, which is pretty well indicative of society's commitment to community values and to major crime control.

There are currently some sections of the Criminal Code that allow for an arrest without a warrant. A car could be searched under certain circumstances without a warrant, or a suspicious vehicle could be stopped and searched without a warrant.

A number of incidents have occurred by people on parole or on probation simply because the police have been left defenceless and unable to prevent those individuals from committing a crime.

I want to emphasize that one more time. There is not one party in this House that has not continually said we must do more to prevent crime. That is exactly what this private member's bill will do. This private member's bill was put together because of the possible and potential victims in our land, and because of the people who are on parole and probation violating those conditions. Once they are seen and once they are spotted by the police, arrest without warrant makes completely good sense. Let us think of the victim, not the criminal.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Casson Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Wild Rose for bringing this important bill forward.

He mentioned quite a few scenarios of some of the people who could be protected if the police were given this power. It is not a parole issue, but I often think of people who have restraining orders against them, who just walk right through those restraining orders and harm someone they know and have some kind of vendetta against.

He also talked about children. He and I worked together recently on a private member's bill to raise the age of sexual consent in Canada. Sadly, that was defeated, but that fight is not over. We will continue that another day.

I would like him to expand on the fact that the main focus of what he is proposing here is to protect Canadians. We all know that the first and foremost job of any government is the security and safety of the citizens of the country. Could he expand on some of the scenarios where he sees that this piece of legislation would help protect Canadians?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Madam Speaker, what I have seen and what I have been told by different police officers all across the country is frightening. Those who have endorsed the proposition through the Canadian Police Association and other organizations to do something about giving the police the authority to stop crime before it happens is phenomenal.

The most frightening scenario that I have heard is police officers saying that it is sad when they see an individual in a schoolyard area or a park, whom they know has been ordered to stay away from children. They have been ordered not to be there. That is frightening.

Let us give the police the authority to arrest him on site and contact the parole officer after. Do not let him go on his way while the police spend time hunting down the parole officer or reporting it to CSC. That is what they want to be able to do. In some jurisdictions, I know that they do that. They are probably doing it illegally because it is not allowed in the Criminal Code.

All I want to do is protect the police officers from being harassed by a government that fails to recognize that arrest without warrant is sometimes essential. I believe that could be extremely essential and that is being reported to me by many police officers.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Casson Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Madam Speaker, the member for Wild Rose has been working on justice issues for the 12 years he has been in the House, which is quite a lengthy session. Before that he worked with children as a school teacher. He is a citizen of Canada now but he was born in the United States. He has quite a history of standing up for people who do not have enough strength to stand up for themselves in some cases.

The issue of this private member's bill, which he just mentioned now, is the fact that it is really not changing what gets done. What he is asking for is a change in the order or precedence where somebody who is seen to be breaking parole can be taken into custody and then the due diligence is followed up after that. However, getting that person away from a dangerous situation where the public is at risk is the idea.

I would like him to explain a little more about the fact that it is not really asking for a huge amendment in the Criminal Code. It is just asking for a different order of precedence when it comes to taking these people back into custody.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Madam Speaker, in paragraph 495(1)(b) of the Criminal Code it simply explains that there are circumstances when police officers have the authority to arrest without warrant. However, it does not provide any opportunity for an officer to arrest someone who is in violation of a parole or probation order, whether it be to stay away from the spouse, from an area, out of the bars or whatever the case might be. When that parolee or individual who is on probation is spotted and reported, the police must first, under the law, contact CSC and a parole officer.

It might be that they are able to do it very quickly, but if it is late at night, it is not going to be very quick or if it is in a rural area or a remote area, I can guarantee it will not be quick. My question is, before the police can properly respond to that situation with a warrant, how much damage would already be done?

Unfortunately, there are too many cases like that where people have reoffended because the police were not able to act. The law would not allow them to. Let us give them that tool. They want to do their job to the best of their ability. They want to protect society, so let us give them all the tools that they need to do that job.

I want to emphasize once more, there is not one party, not the Liberals, not the Bloc, not the NDP, and not the Conservatives, that I have heard say that the best solution to a lot of our problems is to look for those things that can prevent crime. The police believe extensively that this would be a major prevention and would be essential to the safety of our citizens.