House of Commons Hansard #58 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was sudan.


An Act to Amend Certain Acts in Relation to DNA IdentificationGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from the Bloc Québécois for his question.

There is no system that can ensure that the RCMP or other police force operates without making mistakes. However, we can establish rules to control them.

My colleague has raised a good point as one of the suggested amendments to this bill would allow police officers and the DNA bank to provide genetic information to foreign police. This would be a first and could give rise to a potential problem that we will be studying in committee.

Once again, there is no system that is absolutely perfect. Yet, we will continue to try.

An Act to Amend Certain Acts in Relation to DNA IdentificationGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Fundy Royal New Brunswick


Rob Moore ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I have the great pleasure today of speaking in favour of Bill C-18 and in favour of sending Bill C-18 to the committee for further study.

The National DNA Data Bank is a great Canadian success story. It has assisted the police in their investigations of thousands of serious crimes. It is making an invaluable contribution to the safety of all Canadians. This bill can only increase that success.

Much of what I will say will be familiar to those who were involved in the debate on former bill C-13 in the last Parliament, and in particular, to members who were on the standing committee during its hearings into the bill because, as the minister stated, this bill paves the way for the proclamation of former Bill C-13. Nevertheless, it is important to outline for all members the way the legislation and the DNA system work.

The National DNA Data Bank carries out four principal functions and assists law enforcement agencies in solving crimes by one, linking crimes together where there are no suspects. The DNA data bank would advise the police forces involved so that they can compare notes on their respective investigations.

Two, it helps to identify suspects. When the DNA data bank provides a match between a crime scene profile and a convicted offender profile, the police agency is advised and it can focus its investigations on that identified offender.

Three, it assists by in fact eliminating suspects where there is no match between crime scene DNA and a profile in the data bank. This is often overlooked in debate about the DNA registry or amendments to the legislation impacting on the DNA registry, but a DNA registry has been used to eliminate suspects and in fact exonerate people. A lack of a match tells the police that none of the 100,000 convicted offenders whose DNA is in the data bank was involved.

Last, the DNA data bank is used to determine whether a serial offender is involved. The DNA bank would advise the police force that several crimes appear to have been committed by the same person. This is a very important fact indeed when police are assessing a certain criminal act as it is certainly helpful in their investigation to know whether it is someone who is acting in a repetitive or serial way.

As David Griffin, an executive officer of the Canadian Police Association, told the standing committee during hearings on former Bill C-13:

DNA analysis has proven to be a breakthrough technology in policing and the administration of justice. It is a science that assists in detecting and convicting offenders and acquitting the innocent. In serious police investigations, the cost savings in reducing the time spent on investigations and in identifying and confirming or eliminating suspects can be extraordinary. This is particularly important in crimes such as child abductions by strangers, where precious hours can be critical to finding the victim alive.

DNA orders can only be made against an offender for a limited number of offences. Judges retain a discretion to refuse to make an order in all but the most serious cases. The use of the information is strictly limited to the investigation of criminal offences. That again is an important fact that is often overlooked by those who would criticize the national DNA data bank, that it is only used for the investigation of criminal offences.

Bill C-18 does not change the fundamentals of the Criminal Code DNA provisions and the DNA Identification Act. The five year parliamentary review that is yet to begin is the proper form for considering more far-reaching changes. This bill is limited to technical improvements to the existing system.

The minister has already spoken of the ringing endorsement of the present legislation by the Supreme Court in the Rodgers case. Members can be assured that this bill is consistent with the charter. Moreover, the strong protections for privacy which are built into the scheme are also unchanged.

Canada has probably the strongest protections against the misuse of our DNA profiles, stronger in fact than any other country. In particular, the legislation provides that bodily samples collected pursuant to a DNA data bank authorization for inclusion in the National DNA Data Bank may only be used for forensic DNA analysis. Unused portions of bodily samples are required to be safely stored at the National DNA Data Bank.

Further, it is a criminal offence to use bodily samples or results of forensic DNA analysis obtained under a DNA data bank authorization other than for the transmission to the National DNA Data Bank. A breach of that provision is a hybrid offence that is subject to a maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment when prosecuted by indictment.

Use of DNA profiles and bodily samples at the National DNA Data Bank is strictly limited to the narrow purposes of comparing offender profiles with crime scene profiles. Any use of stored information or bodily samples or communication of information that they may contain is strictly limited to the narrow identification purposes of the act. Again, this is something that is often lost on those who are critical of the data bank. In fact, any breach of those provisions is a criminal offence subject to a maximum of two years' imprisonment.

Communication of information as to whether a person's DNA profile is contained in the offenders index may only be made to appropriate law enforcement agencies or laboratories for investigative purposes or to authorized users of the RCMP automated conviction records retrieval system.

Although the seized bodily samples are retained for safekeeping in the DNA data bank after analysis, they may only be used for further forensic DNA analysis where significant technological advances have been made since the time the original DNA profile was derived. The results of such subsequent DNA analysis and any residue of the bodily sample are subject to the same rigid controls as the original profile and the original sample.

The sharing of DNA profiles with foreign governments and international organizations is only allowed for legitimate law enforcement purposes and only pursuant to specific agreements that must include safeguards to protect the privacy of the personal information disclosed.

I repeat that these legal protections are untouched by Bill C-18. All of those protections that protect the rights of Canadians against any possible misuse of the DNA data bank or any use outside of aiding our police in the protection of Canadians and society as a whole is unchanged and untouched by Bill C-18. In practice, they are buttressed by the procedural safeguards developed by the National DNA Data Bank.

By international agreement the DNA analysis process used by the data bank and other data banks in the world examines only a small segment of the entire human DNA blueprint. Scientists internationally have chosen 13 loci to analyze because there is a wide variation in those among the world's population. The DNA that is analyzed is often called anonymous DNA because apart from the ability to identify gender, there is no link to physical or medical attributes. Therefore, the profile generated by the DNA data bank will not reveal a person's hair, skin or eye colour.

The variations mean that except for identical twins, every person's DNA is unique. It is this power to identify a person beyond a shadow of a doubt that makes the DNA data bank and data collection such a valuable tool for law enforcement. It can identify an individual beyond a doubt.

The RCMP has developed internal procedures to ensure that there is no manipulation of the data. Upon receipt of a kit, the data bank separates the genetic material from the personal data. The biological sample and the identifying information are given the same unique bar code. The data bank keeps the biological sample and analyzes it. The personal information and full set of fingerprints of convicted offenders are sent to the Canadian Criminal Records Information Services, which retains them under strict security provisions. Therefore, the data bank has no idea whose sample it is analyzing or, in the case of a match, which convicted offender is linked to the crime scene.

It is important to emphasize that we have gone to great lengths to separate the information contained in the DNA sample and the information attributed to the person to whom that DNA belongs. It simply advises Canadian Criminal Records Information Services of the bar code and the service retrieves the identifying information and sends it to the laboratory that uploaded the profile to the crime scene index. It is of course not possible for unauthorized persons to enter the data bank or the Criminal Records Information Services to view or retrieve data.

The National DNA Data Bank's website has a wealth of information about how it actually operates and about the history and science behind it. I also hope that the members of the standing committee who have not had the opportunity to tour the National DNA Data Bank will arrange to do so. I know the staff would be most happy to show them how the system works and to answer all their questions. Certainly a tour of the data bank made it much easier for members who were considering former Bill C-13 to understand the submissions of the witnesses and to formulate their recommendations for amendments.

Finally, I remind the House that a National DNA Data Bank Advisory Committee has been established by regulation. Its membership includes eminent scientists, specialists in privacy and human rights law, and a former justice of the Supreme Court. The committee's duties encompass any matter related to the establishment and operation of the DNA data bank.

Members will find much wisdom in the reports that the advisory committee has made over the years. Members of the advisory committee will, I trust, be witnesses when the parliamentary review of the legislation gets under way.

I now wish to turn to some of the specifics of Bill C-18. Fundamentally, the effectiveness of the National DNA Data Bank depends on three factors: one, the number of profiles from crime scenes; two, the number of profiles from convicted offenders; and three, the resources of the police to pursue leads generated by the data bank.

Upon passage of Bill C-18 and the proclamation of former Bill C-13, there will be many more offenders eligible for a DNA data bank order and the police will be able to upload many more crime scene profiles to the National DNA Data Bank. This will undoubtedly lead to more matches between crime scene samples and the convicted offender samples and more matches between crime scenes. That is ultimately the goal of the DNA data bank, to provide those matches.

As for the resources of the police, we earmarked $15 million over two years to increase the capacity of the National DNA Data Bank to process convicted offender samples and the capacity of the regional laboratories to process crime scene samples. Without these additional resources and without the changes proposed in Bill C-18, the proclamation of former Bill C-13 would be largely ineffective in achieving Parliament's purpose.

Former Bill C-13, however, contained flaws that required correction. The previous government introduced former Bill C-72 to correct problems in Bill C-13. That bill would have one, re-enacted the definition so as to make the various amendments fit together in a logical order; two, changed the forms to reflect the changes made in the procedures for obtaining an order in retroactive proceedings; three, ensured that the commissioner provided further information regarding a possible match only at the request of the laboratory or police; and finally, corrected a difference in the French and English versions of the section authorized in the international sharing of DNA profiles.

Former Bill C-72 contained many other changes to the drafting of Bill C-13 and two procedural changes requested by the provinces to reduce cost: a provision to permit retroactive hearings by video; and a simpler defective order procedure that would have eliminated the application to a court of appeal for the order to be quashed and substituted certification by the attorney general. These changes are reintroduced in Bill C-18 which is before us today. It contains, as the minister has said, many further clarifications and improvements that have been suggested by officials since former Bill C-72 was tabled.

Members should be aware that it will take several months for the provinces to be ready. They have to train their prosecutors, police, court administrators and clerical staff in the new procedures. Understandably, they will not begin that process until the bill has received royal assent.

We believe the House should move swiftly to send Bill C-18 to committee and it is therefore with pleasure that I urge the House to give Bill C-18 second reading.

An Act to Amend Certain Acts in Relation to DNA IdentificationGovernment Orders

4 p.m.


Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I want to compliment the hon. member on his comments in support of the bill.

There is, as he will know as parliamentary secretary an as a member of the House, a private member's bill proposed by the member for Burlington who is proposing that the DNA registry or a form of the DNA registry be used with the hope that the families of the disappeared victims might be able to bring closure to their unhappy family circumstances.

The parliamentary secretary will also know that the government of which he is a part has suggested in the House that a royal recommendation would be required for that bill. Therefore it might seem unlikely that the government is in support of helping victims' families bring closure or perhaps find persons who are missing.

Does he see a way in committee or otherwise that this bill or a homologue might be the way to go. As parliamentary secretary for the department, I would suggest that much of what goes on in that department is under his able stewardship.

Does he see a way that the two objectives of maintaining privacy and therefore the vent against self-incrimination possibilities on the one hand, and on the other hand attempting to have families bring closure to what must be very painful circumstances, the latter of which the government does not appear to be supporting?

I would ask for his comments on those questions.

An Act to Amend Certain Acts in Relation to DNA IdentificationGovernment Orders

4 p.m.


Rob Moore Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe for his question and for his work on the justice committee which will be considering Bill C-18 when we vote as a House to send it to committee.

On this side of the House, we are certainly in favour of the goals of reuniting potentially lost children with their families. That is a laudable and commendable goal. It is I believe something that should be investigated.

That said, Bill C-18 deals with streamlining the current DNA databank. It deals with addressing shortfalls that have been discovered in time as we work with this new technology, and as more information becomes available through working with the registry. That is what the bill does. It streamlines the process by which DNA orders are made. It streamlines and assists our police in obtaining orders and enforcing orders.

There is going to be a wide ranging review of the DNA database and I would suggest at that time, that would be the more appropriate venue to discuss any further changes to the databank beyond what is contained in Bill C-18.

An Act to Amend Certain Acts in Relation to DNA IdentificationGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

There are six minutes left in the question and answer period, and there are three questioners. To be fair, I would like the questions to be no more than a minute each, so that we can have answers of no more than a minute each. The hon. member for Berthier—Maskinongé.

An Act to Amend Certain Acts in Relation to DNA IdentificationGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.


Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Conservative member. Hon. members know that the international sharing of similar profiles is an issue that concerns the Bloc Québécois.

As hon. members also know, the bill would enable the RCMP commissioner to communicate similar genetic profiles internationally, in the absence of a perfect match. The previous bill on DNA identification also authorized the sharing of imperfect matches, but only between Canadian police forces.

We feel that the risk of allowing even more genetic information to be shared internationally is the increased possibility of things getting out of hand and foreign police forces being put on the trail of individuals whose genetic profile does not match the DNA samples found on the scene of a crime.

I would like the hon. member who just spoke to indicate what means, amendments, or strategies can be used, as far as the RCMP and an amendment to the bill are concerned, to prevent such situations when information from Canada is communicated internationally. I feel the margin of error is—

An Act to Amend Certain Acts in Relation to DNA IdentificationGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.


An Act to Amend Certain Acts in Relation to DNA IdentificationGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.


Rob Moore Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, I fairly succinctly set out in my speech some of the safeguards that are in place. In fact, contrary to what some might think about a DNA databank, there is no personal information attributable to the DNA sample actually held in the same place as the databank. The data, the DNA sample and the personal information are in fact kept separately.

I would encourage the hon. member, if he gets the opportunity, to visit the DNA databank and see the great lengths that it goes to protect privacy. We value that protection of Canadians' legitimate rights.

I should note that when it comes to international sharing, only the profile and not the stored bodily samples are ever shared with foreign governments, and specific agreements are in place that include safeguards to insure the privacy--

An Act to Amend Certain Acts in Relation to DNA IdentificationGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Nanaimo--Cowichan.

An Act to Amend Certain Acts in Relation to DNA IdentificationGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.


Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary referenced the review that is coming of the DNA databank, and I am wondering why the government has chosen not to go ahead with the review.

The member for Windsor—Tecumseh also referenced the need for an overall reform of the Criminal Code, and I wonder if the parliamentary secretary could comment on that.

An Act to Amend Certain Acts in Relation to DNA IdentificationGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.


Rob Moore Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, there is a review of the DNA databank system. We certainly have a system here that has been of great value to Canadians. It has been one that has been used not only to solve crime but also to exonerate individuals, and there is going to be a comprehensive review of the process. That should answer the hon. member's question.

This bill, quite simply, is addressing shortfalls in the system. That is the goal of Bill C-18. It is a DNA registry corrective act and it is designed to address shortfalls, streamline it, and make it more effective, not to make some fundamental change to the system.

An Act to Amend Certain Acts in Relation to DNA IdentificationGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.


Myron Thompson Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, when the Canadian public watches the debate on CPAC throughout the country, a number of them do really get confused when we are talking about Bill C-18. We are referring to what is happening with Bill C-13 and how it relates to Bill C-72. It gets a little confusing and I would like specific direction on this issue.

As the member knows, for the many years that I have been here, I have been fighting very hard to see tougher strategies to look after crimes against children, particularly for those who sexually assault children and pornographers.

I wonder if the member could comment specifically how Bill C-18 will affect those particular crimes.

An Act to Amend Certain Acts in Relation to DNA IdentificationGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.


Rob Moore Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, the DNA databank is a complicated science. It is extremely complicated, but the end result is protection for Canadians and the ability for us to identify a sample and hopefully put someone behind bars who otherwise would not be, including those offenders who abuse children.

I commend the member for Wild Rose for his efforts in that vein, in the protection of children, and the DNA databank does just that. The samples that we receive in the DNA databank can be used to prevent future crimes from taking place.

Bill C-18 also provides for automatic DNA orders with no exceptions for a subcategory of what we consider the 16 most serious offences, so we are including more serious offences where there would be a mandatory DNA sample taken.

An Act to Amend Certain Acts in Relation to DNA IdentificationGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.


Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak about Bill C-18.

I was just thinking two thoughts by way of introduction. The member for Wild Rose is right. The viewing public might think with the numbers C-18, C-72 and C-13 that this is just a well-dressed bingo game that we are playing, but it is actually very serious material.

The combination of these bills will culminate in a better method and tool for police officers and the police forces to do their jobs both in inculpating, finding the people who have done crimes, but also as my speech will indicate, exculpating people when they are actually not guilty.

I also might give my friend from Fundy Royal compliments on his good speech. I think that people in our community, he and I share an undefended border between Westmorland County and Albert County, share the same belief system and the same community values.

The people in Albert and Westmorland counties might think that the member for Fundy Royal and I are dominating the debate. I think it is just because we are on the committee together and we work on these subjects, not always together but certainly with the same view. That view is to make the laws of Canada better and more effective.

With that I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to Bill C-18, a law designed to help implement the DNA databank legislative reforms. It does, however, and it must be said, build on the good Liberal Bill C-72. This was an excellent effort of the previous government to clean up some of these outdated and, frankly, awkward and lugubrious anomalies that exist in the current system.

The success of the DNA databank is impressive. It has provided critical evidence leading to convictions in nearly 2,300 serious crimes. It has been crucial in helping police solve over 300 armed robberies, 1,200 break and enters, 200 murders, and the member for Wild Rose might want this statistic, and 400 sexual assault cases in Canadian communities from coast to coast to coast. These are impressive numbers.

It is an extraordinary success. In addition, the national DNA data bank is one of the most powerful tools available to the country's police forces and courts. Even more importantly, the national DNA data bank makes it possible to exonerate innocent people and punish the real criminals.

We forget too often in the law and order rhetoric of the other side that there are people who have been falsely accused and falsely convicted of crimes. One of those falsely accused and falsely convicted cases is one too many. Not only is the DNA databank a great success story, it is an amazing example of technological use in the betterment of our justice system by providing indisputable evidence.

That is why I am pleased to see that the Conservative minority government introduced Bill C-18 and this is largely, as I indicated, based on former BillC-72 presented by the Liberal government.

The new modifications proposed by Bill C-18, and as they were in Bill C-72, will enable a number of modifications and ameliorations to the DNA databank in accordance with the proposed Liberal reform of the DNA databank included in Bill C-13 which received royal assent in May 2005. These improvements are eagerly awaited for by the police departments, the provinces and territories, and they cannot come too soon.

I must echo at this time two comments made by the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh. One of them is that the Criminal Code of Canada, a large document that is roughly incoherent notwithstanding that it was created by a Conservative justice minister in the late 1800s, has been added to like a big overgrown shrub that needs pruning and frankly needs to be completely redone. Those sentiments are not just those of the member for Windsor—Tecumseh. The hon. members for Fundy Royal and for Wild Rose will know that the esteemed professor from the University of Ottawa, David Paciocco, suggested that to us just recently at the standing committee.

In the beautiful province of Quebec, respected professor Daniel Grégoire has also called for these reforms.

The second point about the need to pass the bill, which is why we are in favour of it, is that the justice committee is bogged down with so many justice bills right now that we have to be sure the government is sincere. I have heard the expressions of sincerity from the hon. members of the committee, whom I know well. I take it that the committee is sincere in passing the bill, in getting it through committee and back to the House and into effect. Since we all agree on its raw and innate goodness, let us get it through the committee quickly and get it passed into law.

Once again, the current minority government is trying to show, however, that its great legislative agenda is its own. In fact, any bill that comes before us that has more than three pages was probably one that was introduced by the Liberal government and died on the order paper, not one of the new bills produced by the Conservative department of haste in bills. I call it the hasty bill writing department that the government must have over there.

For those keeping score, this is one of the good bills. This was a Liberal bill that a new number has been attached to. We will happily call it a Conservative bill for now, if we can just get it through committee. That being said, the DNA data bank, just as any other governmental program or legislative measure, raises concerns about privacy.

As many examples have shown in the past, personal information can travel fast over the legal borders that exist and over all the limitations that we think exist as well. This is why I stress the need to strike a balance between all citizens' rights to privacy, including suspects, and the need to protect our society as a whole from crime and criminality.

The respect of privacy has been so far protected in the DNA data bank by ensuring that the identity of all suspects is kept confidential to ensure fair treatment. We must ensure that the proposed changes do respect the boundaries of the current privacy provisions in the law of Canada.

The technology used in DNA identification has proven itself on many occasions over the years. DNA identification can play a vital role in convicting or exonerating people suspected of major crimes including murder, as well as other crimes that caused the death of innocent victims.

The changes currently proposed by Bill C-18 will allow even more law-abiding citizens to be exonerated of charges and will strengthen the current legislation on DNA sampling.

In fact, attempting to escape or avoid having a DNA sample taken seems to me to be sufficient reason for doubt about the motivations and motives of a suspect.

There is certainly reason to wonder why a potential suspect would do everything possible to avoid having a DNA sample taken when, in fact, the sample could lift all suspicion from that person, if he is innocent, of course.

Since the DNA data bank is a fairly recent tool, it is understandable that it needs to be tweaked and bettered to ensure that it reaches its maximum potential.

This is why adding attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder to the offences covered by the retroactive provisions makes sense. The law is organic and it must grow with what is occurring out there in our communities.

Those added offences are serious. They are important. Those individuals, dangerous as they may be, should contribute a DNA sample to the DNA data bank to ensure that other crimes they might have committed in the past, or could commit in the future, will be linked to them and their DNA.

It is important for us on this side of the House to underline that we are a party, and I think all parliamentarians would agree, that respects and wants a rule of law in this country. We are a party--and I think as parliamentarians as well we could join in this statement--that wants a safer community. If the DNA data bank, improved as it would be by this bill, helps us catch more criminals who have done harm or who will do harm, this is a good thing.

Furthermore, I do believe that law-abiding citizens' rights to live peacefully should always be the first objective of all proposed legislation. It would not make sense to actually protect criminals from other criminal offences, and this is why it simply and clearly makes sense to ensure that information provided by the DNA data bank should be used, and needs to be, to investigate all criminal offences. Canadians will in the end benefit from criminals being better investigated, and perhaps having them linked to accusations and criminal offences as alleged would be a good thing as well.

Of course, these measures have to work both ways. Although law enforcement agencies should be able to use the DNA data bank information to investigate all criminal offences of certain individuals, it should not create some sort of tightly secured DNA data bank from which no information can be deleted. There is, in fact, a time limit to the efficacy of the DNA data bank.

Accessing and destroying specific information from the DNA data bank is essential to ensure errors can be corrected and true justice can be served. This is why simplifying the procedure for destroying samples also makes sense and is a very important part of an efficient DNA data bank.

As the DNA bank continues to grow with each sample taken, the usefulness of this extraordinary tool also continues to grow. It will make Canada a place where Canadian justice—as well as our police forces and investigators—is as fair and equitable as it can be.

The National DNA Data Bank is an impressive and wonderful resource. It is one of the most powerful investigative tools the justice system has ever had. Bill C-18 would make it even more efficient.

It is very important to underline for us on this side of the House that none of these bills being proposed by the government will work unless there are adequate resources to back them up. The only program statements that have been made with respect to justice in the past couple of weeks have been cuts.

Whether they are cuts to the judicial contestation program or cuts in the RCMP budget for a trial method of catching people at the roadside who are committing violations of our Criminal Code while impaired from drug abuse, these are the actions that back up the words of the government with respect to its law and order agenda.

I can only hope that through discussions such as these and the discussions that might happen at committee the government can see the folly of pronouncing grand statements about how the Conservatives are the stewards of law and order when they do not back that up with the allocation of resources necessary to put in effect the laws the Conservatives so proudly pronounce from every church steeple, city hall and mall encounter.

In short, and in conclusion, the Liberal Party and I, as a member of the justice committee, will in good faith give our word to support this bill in principle, to work diligently at committee to improve it and, more important, to move it along to put it into law, because after all, it is just Bill C-72 in new clothing. It was our idea. We put it together. Perhaps once, in a non-partisan way, I can say we do not care if the government gets the credit for it, because we know in our hearts that we put it into place.

An Act to Amend Certain Acts in Relation to DNA IdentificationGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Fundy Royal New Brunswick


Rob Moore ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, the thoughtful speech of the hon. member for Fundy Royal is correct in saying that we on this side of the House are taking justice issues seriously. We have listened to Canadians.

We are busy in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, of which he and I are both members. By way of example, we are dealing with Bill C-9, which deals with conditional sentencing and ending the possibility of conditional sentences when a serious crime is involved, with Bill C-10, which deals with mandatory minimum penalties for gun crimes, and with Bill C-19 on street racing, which I and the hon. member spoke to yesterday. We are going to be dealing with other issues that deal with protecting Canadians.

I am proud to say that we are backing up our legislative action with resources. Our budget provided funding for 1,000 new RCMP officers. We are providing funding to train and hire new municipal police officers. They are the essential resources that must be in place to add teeth to our legislative agenda.

In light of the fact that the hon. member does support Bill C-18 and improvements to the DNA data bank and recognizes the importance of the DNA data bank, will he work within his party to move Bill C-18 along as quickly as possible? Recognizing that we are busy in the justice committee, will he take steps within his own party to see that Bill C-18 moves even straight through to the Senate considering that many of the issues dealt with in Bill C-18 have already been debated?

An Act to Amend Certain Acts in Relation to DNA IdentificationGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.


Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, while I have tons of respect for the hon. member, his comments on providing resources to back up the alleged intent of the government to be the law and order government are quite laughable.

In fact, in our community, which we share, the RCMP is the municipal police force and is without adequate funding. It has no hope on the horizon of receiving more funding to patrol our streets to effect some of the laws that are being passed here.

Foremost in my mind are the comments that have been made in this House regarding the eradication of the Law Commission and how these laws might have been made better had we had a Law Commission going forward.

Finally, cutting $4.6 million from the RCMP budget for trial roadside detection of impaired drivers is enough to make any good-feeling citizen on the law and order agenda, and the people of MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, even madder.

On the principal question, he will recognize that the comments made by all members on this side indicate that we are interested in moving good bills forward and stopping bad bills. That is what we will continue to stand for.

An Act to Amend Certain Acts in Relation to DNA IdentificationGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.


Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure today of speaking in favour of sending Bill C-18 to committee.

As has already been stated, the National DNA Data Bank is a great success. I understand that the DNA data bank came in on time and on budget. It works closely with the forensic laboratories, not only those of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police but also with the Centre of Forensic Sciences in Toronto and the Laboratoire de sciences judiciaires et de médecine légale in Montreal. In turn, the laboratories work closely with local law enforcement.

Biological samples from convicted offenders are collected by police who have been specifically trained to do so. These biological samples include blood, which is the preferred substance to analyze and accounts for more than 98% of samples submitted for analysis. Buccal swabs and hair provide the other 2%.

The convicted offender biological samples are collected and submitted to the National DNA Data Bank to be processed into DNA profiles. This profile information is then entered into the combined DNA index system, or CODIS, a software package that stores and compares the profiles. CODIS was developed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Justice and provided to the NDDB at no cost. The software is the universally accepted standard for forensic laboratories, which allows the NDDB to participate in the sharing of information consistent with signed international agreements.

The police and forensic scientists also attend at crime scenes. When they find DNA and they have a suspect, they can apply to a judge for a DNA warrant to confirm or disprove that the crime scene DNA and the suspect's DNA are the same.

Every day suspects are being cleared by DNA. We must not underestimate the benefit that this provides to the Canadian justice system. It is unimaginable now, in a case such as that of Steven Truscott, that DNA would not be used. Avoiding a miscarriage of justice is vital to maintaining the confidence of Canadians in the justice system.

When police do not have a suspect but they have DNA, the forensic laboratories analyze it and upload the DNA profile to the crime scene index, which is a separate electronic database. The NDDB retains this electronic information as well as basic details such as the date, location of donor laboratory and a unique number identifier that allows information to be compared by the donor laboratory in the event of a future match.

The hits that the NDDB generates can be to a crime scene where the DNA profile has been in the crime scene index for many years. Of course, the match is not the end of the story. It is only the beginning and police must follow up on the match and build their case. Depending on where the DNA was found, there may be an innocent explanation. However, there is also the potential for convicting an offender years later.

The collaboration of the laboratories has had great benefits for Canada. The more crime scene samples that are uploaded to the data bank by the forensic laboratories and the more convicted offender samples there are in the data bank, the more successful the entire DNA system will be. According to the latest annual report of the national DNA data bank, there were only 25 forensic hits in the first fiscal year that the data bank was open. In 2005-06 there were 2,323 forensic hits, almost a hundredfold increase.

The National DNA Data Bank continues to increase the pace at which it makes forensic matches. In the past six months, it has provided police with investigative leads in some 50 murders, 18 attempted murders, 110 sexual assaults and 80 robberies.

Let me give a real life example of the value of one of the DNA matches. This case is taken from the 2005-06 report of the National DNA Data Bank.

On April 23, 2002, the family of a 29-year-old man reported him missing in Dawson Creek. Police determined that he was last seen nine days earlier at a local pub with two unidentified men. The two men were tentatively identified and associated to a nearby residence. When police arrived at the residence, however, it was abandoned.

Finding bloodstains in several places throughout the home, police suspected foul play and sent the evidence for DNA analysis. They also obtained biological reference samples from the missing man's parents to help with identification. The RCMP forensic laboratory services completed the analysis and confirmed that some blood at the residence matched to the missing man, and there was also blood from another unknown person.

The unknown DNA profiles obtained from the crime scene were uploaded into the National DNA Data Bank's crime scene index. Unsure of the man's fate, police continued to follow all clues to find him and his assumed assailants. In their pursuit of the two men last seen with the missing man, police were led to an abandoned vehicle in Mayerthorpe, Alberta. Several blood soaked household items were found in the vehicle, along with the missing man's knapsack. These items were sent to a regional forensic laboratory for analysis. A comparison of the crime scene DNA profiles with that of the missing man yielded match. This supported the evidence that the police were dealing with a homicide and not a missing persons case.

Shortly after, a man walking down the street in Saskatoon was violently assaulted by two individuals who were apprehended and charged with attempted murder. DNA collection warrants were executed for the suspects in this case. The NDDB linked the DNA profile of one of the suspects in Saskatoon to the unknown DNA profile from the abandoned residence in Dawson Creek.

It was confirmed that the missing man left the pub with the two suspects and proceeded to the residence. An argument had ensued and the victim was stabbed to death and dismembered. During the attack, one of the suspects cut himself, which became the key clue that allowed the NDDB to link the suspects to the crime scene. The suspects in Saskatoon were charged and convicted of second degree murder.

Undoubtedly, the early apprehension of offenders such as these made possible by DNA matching has prevented thousands of crimes. Truly, DNA makes an almost unequalled contribution to the safety and security of Canadians.

As an aside, I am rereading a classic by Truman Capote titled In Cold Blood. It would have been interesting to see in the novel how DNA would have affected that case.

In the last Parliament, relatively modest improvements to the DNA system were presented to the government in Bill C-13. The standing committee held extensive hearings and considered a wide range of issues. Major amendments were adopted by the House standing committee on May 5 and 10, 2005. The amendments reflected a compromise that secured the support of all parties for its passage. The bill was then adopted by the House on May 12 and because of the impending budget vote, rushed through.

The provisions of the bill dealing with the expansion of the retroactive scheme, which makes about 4,400 more offenders eligible to be sampled, the procedure for dealing with DNA orders that appear on their face to have been improperly made, for example, defective orders, and the procedures for dealing with moderate DNA matches came into force on royal assent. Because of the rush to have the bill passed, the normal opportunity to scrutinize the amendments, consider necessary consequential amendments, determine the full implications of the changes and make corrections at report stage on third reading or in the Senate were not available. The bill as passed, therefore, contains serious problems that should be resolved prior to proclamation.

In the minister's speech, he set out the many important provisions of Bill C-13, which are not yet in force. Undoubtedly, the most important are the changes in the definitions of primary and secondary designated offences. When they come into force, there should be a great increase in the number of offenders who are ordered to provide a DNA sample and the number of crimes for which DNA profiles can be uploaded to the crime scene index. As we know, the more profiles in the data bank, the more matches it will generate.

It is therefore important that we give this bill thorough but swift consideration. I do not believe that there is a real divide on this bill in the House, just as there was not a real division over Bill C-13. All of us want to make as much use of DNA in solving crimes as we can while respecting the charter and privacy rights of Canadians.

I also believe there is a desire to proceed soon to the full review of the DNA system that was often alluded to in the debates and hearings on Bill C-13 as being the proper forum for consideration of major changes.

For example, in the United Kingdom, the Forensic Science Service in 2004-05 reported that it had 40,000 new detections, including 165 homicides, 100 attempted murders, 570 rapes, 5,600 burglaries and 8,500 auto crimes. The laws under which it operates are far different from ours. The British take DNA at the time of fingerprinting and keep DNA profiles regardless of the outcome of the criminal prosecution just as we keep fingerprints but not DNA.

In Canada, by contrast, DNA orders can only be made against a convicted offender for a limited number of offences and judges retain the discretion to refuse to make the order.

Bill C-18 does not change these fundamentals of the Criminal Code DNA provisions and the DNA Identification Act. As I have said, the five year parliamentary review, which has yet to begin, is the proper forum for considering far-reaching changes. Bill C-18 is limited to technical improvements to the existing system.

I would like to conclude with just a few words about the attitude of the courts to DNA. I believe it has been evolving rapidly as the courts become ever more aware of the benefits of DNA and the certainty it provides in identifying perpetrators. The minister has already spoken of the ringing endorsement of the present legislation by the Supreme Court in the Rodgers case

While Rodgers was a case dealing with the retroactive provisions of the DNA bank scheme, there can be little doubt that the existing scheme is in its entirety constitutional. I am informed that over the past five years there have been dozens of challenges to the DNA legislation at the trial court level and appeals to the courts of appeal of almost all provinces.

As the Ontario Court of Appeal held in a case called Briggs, the state interest in obtaining DNA profile from an offender is not simply law enforcement by making it possible to detect further crimes committed by this offender. Rather, the provisions have much broader purposes, including the following: to deter potential repeat offenders; promote the safety of the community; detect when a serial offender is at work; assist in the solving of cold crimes; streamline investigations; and, most important, assist the innocent by early exclusion for investigative suspicion or in exonerating those who have been wrongly convicted.

I believe we, in the House, recognize the benefits of DNA evidence and we should do everything we can to foster its use. In the short term, I believe we must pass Bill C-18. In the long term, we must work together, through the parliamentary review, to determine the best possible system for Canada and then proceed to make whatever changes the committee may suggest.

I am pleased to urge the House to pass Bill C-18 at second reading.

An Act to Amend Certain Acts in Relation to DNA IdentificationGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.


Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-18, An Act to amend certain Acts in relation to DNA identification.

Bill C-18 is largely a technical bill but it builds on some initiatives from the last Parliament before it was dissolved when Parliament passed Bill C-13, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the DNA Identification Act and the National Defence Act. This was the Liberal government's original DNA data bank legislation. There was some keen interest to have this legislation passed quickly and efficiently for a couple of reasons.

There were a number of high profile people being detained in penitentiaries who were about to be released, and without this legislation in place they would have been able to have left the penitentiary without giving a DNA sample.

DNA samples are very helpful to law enforcement to solve crimes and to prevent crimes. That was one of the imperatives that led to a very speedy passage with all-party agreement in the House and I think all-party agreement in the other place and royal assent in the last Parliament. It was done very quickly.

There were amendments made at the committee level that were quite complicated. I think in the rush to get the bill through, there were some slip-ups in some of the language in the bill. This bill is designed to correct some of those technical problems with original BillC-13.

Bill C-13 in the last Parliament was a very good example of how parliamentarians of all stripes in the committee worked together. The Liberal government had a minority government at the time, but at committee we worked together to make changes to the bill, which I think improved the bill and helped its speedy passage through the House of Commons and the other place.

To give some background, before the bill came to Parliament and to committee, the RCMP were reporting that only about 50% of the DNA samples that were meant to be going to the RCMP DNA data bank were actually getting into the data bank. This was a cause for concern by myself and others. At the time I happened to have the honour to serve as parliamentary secretary to the minister of public safety and emergency preparedness, so it was an issue that I took up with the justice department and others. I could not quite understand why only 50% of the DNA samples were finding their way into the DNA data bank.

It turns out that the way the law was written, the judges had discretion as to what DNA would be passed on to the DNA data bank and what DNA would not be passed on to the DNA data bank. I found this quite puzzling because I could not ascertain under what circumstances the judge in his or her wisdom would decide that it was not in the public interest to pass the DNA of a convicted person to the DNA data bank.

In fairness to all concerned, following the establishment of the DNA data bank, there was some confusion among the crown prosecutors and judges. The DNA order has to be an order that is presented to the trial judge asking the judge to order that the DNA sample be taken and passed to the DNA data bank and there was a lack of communication or a lack of education on what DNA had to be passed over to the RCMP DNA data bank.

As I recall, the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Justice mounted a program to get the word out to the judiciary and to the prosecutors that this order had to be prepared by the crown prosecutors and presented to the judge before the DNA could be taken and submitted to the DNA data bank.

When the bill was sent to committee, these questions were asked. As a result of a lot of collaboration among all parties, the Bloc Québécois, the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party and the NDP, we made some significant amendments to the bill.

We started out with a very long list of crimes where the judge would not have any discretion, where the DNA would automatically have to be taken and sent to the DNA data bank. There was much discussion around this point with the Department of Justice. The view was that there was a possibility if we included all crimes, this would be challenged under the charter and the good parts of the bill would be tossed out with the parts that would be turfed out in any sort of challenge under the charter.

At committee we put a little water in our wine and we said that for the most heinous of crimes there had to be no discretion, in the judgment of the committee members. For acts such as murder and rape, what the bill did when it was amended was it removed any judicial discretion so that the DNA automatically had to go to the DNA data bank.

That was a very proud moment for me. It really pointed out that even though there was a lot of discussion that the minority Parliament was not working at a certain level, I felt that at the committee level, certainly at the justice subcommittee level, there was a lot of good cooperation. I think we improved the legislation in front of the committee. We did some other work with respect to child pornography. Subsequently Parliament was dissolved and we had an election. But for Canadians this committee was working very well.

I was very proud that we were able to pass Bill C-13 which received royal assent. There were some technical matters which came to light through the Department of Justice later and that is what the current bill is meant to reflect. Bill C-13 was a follow-up on our Liberal government's commitment to law and order to give the police the tools they need to fight crime.

That is why I am sorely disappointed that the Conservative government is seeking the scrapping of the gun registry. We know the gun registry is working very efficiently, very effectively. Yes it is true that it cost too much to develop, but those are sunk costs. Anyone who knows anything about economics or finance knows that once there is a sunk cost there is not really much point in going back and analyzing what to do about that cost because it is historic. The question before us is whether the gun registry performing today a useful purpose, and the answer is a resounding yes.

For example, law enforcement officers are making something in the order of 6,000 inquiries per day on the gun registry data bank. Do law enforcement officers have the time to sit around and tinker away on the computer if it is not relevant information for them? They are very busy people. They have many different competing priorities. They have to decide which call to take. They have to rationalize that. Do we think they sit at a computer keyboard and tinker around for the fun of it? Of course not. We know for sure that especially in domestic violence situations the police find this to be a very useful tool.

Does it mean if they go to the gun registry and the registry shows that there are no guns registered at a particular residence that they can stroll in and be happy campers and not worry? Of course not. Police officers across Canada are not so naive, but by the same token, if they go to the gun registry data bank and discover there are guns in that residence, it helps them establish their modus operandi of how they are going to approach that situation.

I will give another example of why DNA and the gun registry are so important in terms of law enforcement. The gun registry supports something in the order of 7,000 or 8,000 affidavits to date that they have signed which has helped crown prosecutors obtain convictions. The gun licensing component of the Firearms Centre screens out many individuals who would otherwise like to have a gun but because of certain instabilities or criminal records in their past, they are precluded from owning a gun. In fairness to the Conservative government, it is not suggesting that we ban or do away with gun licensing, but it is making a serious mistake with respect to the long gun registry.

The other myth I would like to focus on again today is that some would argue that long guns are not involved so much in criminality, that they are owned by people in rural parts of Canada. The facts are just the opposite. Long guns are involved in more homicides and suicides in Canada, or in just as many as are handguns. Handguns are more of a problem in the urban centres and long guns are a problem in the rural parts of Canada.

I certainly will be supporting the DNA bill because Bill C-13 was very important in terms of law enforcement and law and order in Canada. This bill tidies up some of the language, some very important language, so that the bill can be that much more effective.

I will expand a bit on Bill C-13 and the list of those offences which the committee and ultimately Parliament and the other place approved in this legislation. The offences that were put on the list of those where a judge would have no discretion with respect to the DNA that would have to go into the DNA data bank, we included crimes like murder, manslaughter and aggravated assault. Internet luring of children, child pornography and organized crime offences were also added to the list of designated offences for a data bank order. This is absolutely necessary so that the DNA can be used by law enforcement agencies to either solve crimes or prevent crimes.

I was very proud of the work of that committee. Now I am very happy to speak in support of this bill because it makes the technical changes that are needed to make the original bill even more efficient and more effective.

By way of example, Bill C-18 makes it an offence to fail to appear for DNA sampling. It is an important part. The court can order a DNA sample, but if the individual does not appear, how could one possibly get a DNA sample? There are sanctions for not appearing for a DNA sample.

The Conservative government, and frankly I support what it is doing here, has also added some additional heinous crimes to the list where a judge would have no discretion but to send the DNA sample to the DNA data bank. Those offences include attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Those also are covered by the retroactive provisions which apply to offenders convicted of a single murder, sexual offence or manslaughter prior to June 30, 2000 when the legislation that enabled the creation of the national DNA data bank came into force.

It sounds like a lot of gobbledygook, but in fact these are very important technical changes and I am hoping the House will support them. The purpose of the bill is that the government is trying to capture as much DNA as possible to get into the data bank so that law enforcement can use that DNA to fight crime and to prevent crime.

Another example of one of the technical fixes to the legislation is that it ensures information provided by the national DNA data bank can be used to investigate all criminal offences. It may sound somewhat obvious, but if it is not written in the legislation, then someone will argue that the DNA could be used to investigate certain offences but not other offences. It makes this particular point crystal clear.

I will go back for a moment to the list of crimes where the judge has no discretion. The committee at the time had somewhat of a debate on that issue. Frankly, I support a certain level of judicial discretion but if, for whatever reason, the Parliament of Canada believes judicial discretion is not being exercised in a way that is appropriate in the judgment of parliamentarians, then I think it is quite appropriate for Parliament to remove that judicial discretion.

This is not for petty crime where the DNA must go to the data bank. This is not for shoplifting, nor is it for someone who is caught speeding. This is for murder, rape, attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder and a whole list of other heinous crimes. I think it is quite appropriate that judges are required without discretion to ensure the DNA goes to the DNA data bank.

Another example of one of the technical amendments to this bill that is before us today is to simplify the procedure to destroy samples taken from those convicted of an offence not intended to be included in the DNA data bank. Again, it is somewhat a procedural but an important procedure so that samples can be destroyed if they are not intended to be included in the data bank.

When we get into DNA there is often this debate, a debate we had in committee as well, about the privacy issues of Canadians. Privacy is an important aspect that we need to consider as parliamentarians.

I do not pretend to reflect the views of all Canadians on this point, but if someone wants to take a follicle of my hair and put it into a DNA data bank, frankly, I say go to it. However, I understand and respect that some people might see this as impacting their privacy, which is why the legislation that we bring before Parliament needs to be mindful of those considerations. We need to ensure that only DNA that is required by legislation and that meets certain tests of Parliament is actually proceeded with.

Another example of one of the technical changes in this bill is to help to ensure that the DNA data bank orders can be carried out even when, for logistical reasons, it may not be possible to take the sample at the precise time set out in the order. Again, this is somewhat procedural. Unfortunately, there is a whole body of jurisprudence and lawyers who will try to find reasons why their client should not be required to submit a DNA sample. They might say that they could not comply with the order in the timelines provided in the order.

This provision makes it clear that even though it is not at the precise time that is laid out in the order, the DNA must be presented.

It also clarifies definitions in procedures for obtaining a DNA data bank order and for sharing information with international law enforcement partners. There is a whole range of sharing of information that goes on between Interpol and other law enforcement agencies around the world and one has to be mindful of the privacy concerns of Canadians. This amendment makes it clear what the rules are for the sharing of that sort of information.

I hope the House passes this bill. It would be helpful to our law and order agencies to prosecute and prevent crimes. I am sure our party will work with all sides of the House to ensure the speedy passage of this bill. I will be supporting the bill and I hope others will as well.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

October 3rd, 2006 / 5 p.m.


Gerry Ritz Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations and I think you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That, notwithstanding any standing order or usual practices of the House, during debate on the take note debate tonight, the Chair shall not receive any quorum calls, dilatory motions or requests for unanimous consent.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

5 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Some hon. members


Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

5 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Some hon. members


Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

5 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-18, An Act to amend certain Acts in relation to DNA identification, be read the second time and referred to a committee.