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House of Commons Hansard #59 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was code.

Topics

Fisheries and OceansOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

That will bring to a conclusion the question period for today.

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Bernard Patry Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1), I have the honour of presenting to the House, in both official languages, the report of the interparliamentary delegation of the Canadian section of the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie, which met with officials of the Secrétariat général of the APF in Paris, on May 19, 2006, and which travelled to Amman in Jordan, Jerusalem in Israel, Ramallah on the West Bank and Damascus in Syria, from May 21 to 26, 2006.

Access to Information, Privacy and EthicsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Tom Wappel Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the first report of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics.

It is a succinct report that is very short. It says that further to the testimony of the Minister of Justice and the Information Commissioner, the hon. John Reid, before the standing committee, the committee recommends that the government introduce in the House, no later than December 15, 2006, new strengthened and modernized access to information legislation based on the Information Commissioner's work, as promised by the Conservatives during the election campaign.

Date Rape DrugsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

James Moore Conservative Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition signed by a number of Canadians from across the Lower Mainland, Abbotsford, my constituency, Richmond, West Vancouver and elsewhere.

The petition deals with an issue on which I have fought hard for the past six years as a member of Parliament and that is to have tougher laws to fight the cowards who use date rape drugs to abuse women.

I present this petition to be sent to the justice committee.

PedophilesPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Boshcoff Liberal Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am presenting a petition containing 119 names. The petitioners want to protect children from sexual predators.

The petition comes from various people throughout my riding which extends from the Manitoba border to Lake Superior, a wide range of territory.

Child CarePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am presenting a petition signed by a number of people in my riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan who ask for annual funds to build high quality, accessible and affordable community based child care systems.

TransportationPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present a petition from hundreds of residents in Langley.

The petitioners ask that traffic issues in the riding be dealt with. They recommend that there be a development of a long range, 50-year master transportation plan for the Lower Mainland assisting Langley in determining whether alternate safe routes for the bulk and container traffic that travels through Langley is warranted, that the federal government provide adequate funding for rail and road separation projects and potential alternate routes, and assist Langley to secure efficient, workable and affordable transportation systems, including light rail at surface levels with growth capacity as required.

Age of ConsentPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Ron Cannan Conservative Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise on behalf of my constituents to present a petition to the House to support the raising of the age of protection from 14 years of age to 16 years of age, something I fought very hard for in my nine years at city council. The city of Kelowna and the mayor have expressed great support for this particular initiative. The measure would go a long way to show some protection against the scourge of sexual predators in our society.

AutismPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I rise to table a petition regarding autism spectrum disorder. The petitioners request that the Canada Health Act be amended to include specialized therapy for treatment of autism and for increased educational resources to train more persons to treat autism.

The petition has 56 signatures from my riding of Western Arctic, from the communities of Fort Smith and Yellowknife. I support this petition fully.

MarriagePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present two petitions calling upon Parliament to re-open the issue of marriage in this Parliament and to repeal or amend the Marriage for Civil Purposes Act in order to promote and defend marriage as the lawful union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. There are many signatures on these two petitions.

Age of ConsentPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of 342 constituents. This is the third petition that has been tabled on this subject today.

The petitioners pray that the government, assembled in Parliament, take all measures necessary to immediately raise the age of consent from 14 years to 16 years of age.

MarriagePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Maurice Vellacott Conservative Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am tabling a couple of petitions in which the petitioners are calling on Parliament to re-open the issue of the definition of marriage and to repeal or to amend Bill C-38 and recommit itself to the real definition of marriage as between one man and one woman. These petitioners are from British Columbia. I have a similarly worded petition from the Halifax West riding in the province of Nova Scotia.

SudanPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Maurice Vellacott Conservative Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Mr. Speaker, in this petition the petitioners are urging the government to appeal to the United Nations to provide international peacekeepers from European and North American countries to stop the bloodshed in Darfur.

They are also appealing to the United Nations to send aid directly to the marginalized people and not through the government of Sudan, and that the Canadian people appeal to the United Nations that those who have committed human rights violations in Darfur be brought before international courts to be tried in such a context. The petition is from a number of people across the province of Alberta.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

October 4th, 2006 / 3:10 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all notices of motions for the production of papers to allowed to stand.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from October 3 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.

An Act to amend certain acts in relation to DNA IdentificationGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Lloyd St. Amand Liberal Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak on Bill C-18, which is a bill to amend certain components of the law pertaining to the DNA Identification Act.

As has been mentioned by other speakers, Bill C-18 impacts the Criminal Code of Canada and the DNA Identification Act as well as the National Defence Act.

Allow me to say at the outset that I am in agreement with government members and other members that the bill should be directed to the justice committee for further scrutiny. It is actually refreshing to speak in favour of a bill that has been introduced by the government, perhaps because this bill is essentially a successor to Bill C-72, which had been introduced by the then minister of justice under the former Liberal government.

Bill C-18 is very similar to Bill C-72 which, as I have mentioned, was introduced by the Liberal government in the last Parliament, the 38th Parliament.

Certain other bills that have been introduced by the government reflect, if I may term it such, a rather simplistic view of the criminal justice system and, by extension, an overly simplistic view of human nature. Would that preventing wrongdoing be as simple as making punishments increasingly harsh for certain offences. Those who advocate such an approach to the criminal justice system, such as those who advocate something akin to “three strikes and you are out”, are creating a false expectation among citizens that the crime rate will automatically be reduced if the punishments for criminal activity are only increased substantially.

Regrettably, that conclusion is reflected to a large extent in the criminal justice system in our neighbour to the south, and the crime rate is actually higher in the United States than it is here in Canada.

When it comes to predicting human behaviour and to taking measures to reduce wrongdoing or criminal behaviour, it is not a simple task, certainly not as simple as imposing considerably harsher punishments in the hope or expectation that criminal activity will therefore decrease.

However much I have difficulty with certain bills which have been or will likely be introduced by the government, Bill C-18 is truly a step forward and, at a minimum, should be sent to committee.

I practised family and criminal law in the city of Brantford and in other centres for a period of some 25 years. In my practice, I had abundant opportunity to represent hundreds of individuals who had been charged with one or a series of criminal offences and, on occasion, had opportunities to prosecute accused persons as a part time crown attorney.

During my years practising law I had an opportunity to work with and to admire the skills of crown attorneys such as Don Angevine, Bob Kindon, George Orsini and others, and to learn a great deal from very distinguished defence counsel in the persons of Gerry Smits, John Renwick and others.

I also had the benefit of observing the balanced, fair approach that was customarily adopted by various judges in the country of Brant, including Justice James Kent, Justice Ken Lenz, Justice Gethin Edward, Justice Lawrence Thibideau and others.

I was and remain acutely aware of the maxim which must necessarily govern any criminal proceeding, that is, “if the criminal justice system renders it too easy to convict the guilty then the system renders it too difficult to acquit the innocent”. Simply put, it is important to ensure that individual rights are protected and that the potentially overwhelming crushing power of the state is harnessed and kept in check by rules of evidence and principles of sentencing that are eminently fair, reasonable and balanced.

As do many others, I well understand the concept of civil liberties, and I am always, through dint of experience, wary or leery of any measure which curtails individual liberties or allows the power of the state to interfere with an individual's rights of freedom and security of the person.

In my view, Bill C-18 strikes a proper balance and is not inappropriately intrusive of individual rights or freedoms. Rather, it strikes the appropriate balance between the maintaining of individual freedoms and the fundamental right of the state or society to take appropriate measures to ensure the safety of all citizens.

There are many offences in the Criminal Code which require an individual accused person to provide samples of his or her fingerprints to the police merely upon that individual having been charged with a criminal offence. In essence, the mere fact that an individual has been charged with a criminal offence, not convicted, allows the criminal justice system to procure his or her fingerprints. Failure on the part of the accused person to provide his fingerprints results in a further criminal charge being laid against him.

This particular section of the Criminal Code has been tested before courts in Canada, and courts have concluded that it is reasonable, in the best interests of all citizens and community safety, to obligate accused persons charged with certain offences to provide their fingerprints to the authorities. I would, and so many others would as individual citizens, be tremendously troubled by any bill which obligated all persons or citizens to provide their fingerprints to the police, as such a requirement would be unnecessarily interfering with the rights of citizens to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.

However, this government bill, Bill C-18, does no such thing, and again, I am in support of the bill being referred to the justice committee for further consideration.

As members in this chamber will know, the science of DNA has been advanced considerably over the last 10 or 12 years, and experts have concluded that the analysis of DNA has become a very exact science. Certainly the public has come to accept DNA evidence as very significant, representing proof beyond a reasonable doubt, for instance, in criminal proceedings.

Such was not always the case. I think back in particular to the case of O.J. Simpson in or around 1995. It is difficult to know what was in the minds of the jury that ultimately acquitted Mr. Simpson. Mr. Speaker will know that jurors in the United States are at liberty to comment on their deliberations and their verdicts, unlike the system in Canada as it pertains to our juries.

Many analysts at that time commented that the evidence against Mr. Simpson was quite overwhelming and that the DNA evidence in particular was compelling and persuasive. However, the jury ultimately acquitted Mr. Simpson, which caused legal commentators to state that the members of the jury in acquitting Mr. Simpson and in seemingly ignoring the DNA evidence was the equivalent of a jury a century ago acquitting an accused person even though a photograph of the accused person committing the crime had been introduced as evidence.

A hypothetical jury of a century ago was suspicious of evidence which had been obtained by the use of, at that time, a newfangled device called a camera. One can only presume that the jury which found Mr. Simpson not guilty was suspicious of the DNA evidence which had been gathered and suspicious of the science behind the DNA.

We know differently now. DNA has come to be accepted as a very valuable tool in fighting crime and in determining the real wrongdoer or culprit.

Arguably, but for DNA evidence which was ultimately used to exonerate them, David Milgaard's name would never have been cleared, and Guy Paul Morin, wrongfully convicted of murdering Christine Jessop some years ago, would still be languishing in a penitentiary. DNA was used in those cases, and in many others, to exonerate an individual who had been, as it turned out, wrongfully convicted of a serious crime.

In that sense, DNA evidence assists each citizen of Canada as it can be used to eliminate innocent persons as well as potential suspects. For that reason, I have no difficulty, either personally or professionally, with Bill C-18.

As has been noted by others in their comments on the DNA Identification Act, “this Act is to establish a national DNA data bank to help law enforcement agencies identify persons alleged to have committed designated offences, including those committed before the coming into force of this Act”.

Certainly, the National Data Bank follows strict guidelines, as specified in the DNA Identification Act, and the biological samples collected from convicted offenders and the resulting DNA profiles can only be used for law enforcement purposes.

I believe it is beyond dispute that the National DNA Data Bank assists law enforcement agencies in various ways to solve crimes by, first, helping to identify suspects, second, eliminating suspects when there is no match between the DNA found at the crime scene and a DNA profile in the national data bank, and third, linking crimes together when there are no suspects.

Simply put, we on this side believe that this legislation is a vital tool to protect the safety of Canadians. It is for that precise reason--

An Act to amend certain acts in relation to DNA IdentificationGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I am sorry to interrupt. The hon. the chief government whip on a point of order.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I humbly apologize for interrupting the hon. member's remarks. I hope that any time taken up with this procedure will be added to his time so he does not suffer unduly for this interruption. There have been discussions among all the parties and if you were to seek it I believe you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That, in relation to its studies on the Canadian seal hunt and grey seals, 12 members of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans be authorized to travel to St. Anthony, Gander, Cap-aux-Meules and Yarmouth in November 2006, and that the necessary staff do accompany the committee.

(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.

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

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Lloyd St. Amand Liberal Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, simply put, we on this side believe that Bill C-18 is a vital tool in protecting the safety of all Canadians. It is for this precise reason that our government, many months ago, originally introduced a bill very similar to the bill now before the House; that is, we introduced a bill dealing with the DNA data bank.

When it comes to fighting crime and to ensuring that our communities are as safe as possible, partisanship should not rear its head. I know, in that vein, members opposite will agree that this bill was essentially a parroting of a bill which had been introduced previously by the Liberal government.

By way of background, the DNA Identification Act was created in 1998 and came into force on June 30, 2000. Section 13 of the act clearly states that within five years of the act coming into force, a review of the provisions and operations of the act should be undertaken by a committee of the House, committee of the Senate, or by both. The review has not yet taken place, though obviously more than five years have passed since the act first came into force.

The current Minister of Justice was quoted earlier this year as stating that the review “should begin as soon as possible after this bill receives royal assent”. Unquestionably, the review should happen as soon as possible and to be candid, the review is already overdue. I hope we will eventually hear from the minister as to when the review will take place, and one hopes that compliance with section 13 is a top priority for the Minister of Justice.

DNA has become so important in the investigation of crime and the pursuit of the criminal element that strict compliance with the act should certainly be the order of the day. It is obvious that the use of forensic DNA analysis in solving crime has emerged as one of the most powerful tools available to law enforcement agencies for the administration of justice. It is not an exaggeration to compare the impact of DNA to the introduction of fingerprint evidence into court more than a century ago.

DNA, often referred to as the blueprint of life, is the fundamental building block of a person's entire genetic makeup and is found in virtually every tissue in the human body. It is a very powerful tool for identification purposes, except with respect to identical twins. The DNA molecule itself is extremely stable and can withstand significant environmental challenges, which allowed authorities, for instance, just a few years ago to locate DNA evidence which exonerated David Milgaard of a murder which took place over 30 years ago.

The National DNA Data Bank, located here in Ottawa, is responsible for two principle indices.

The first index is the convicted offender index, an electronic index which has been developed from DNA profiles collected from offenders who have been convicted of designated primary and secondary offences identified in Canada's Criminal Code. As of May, the convicted offender index had nearly 100,000 entries.

The second index is the crime scene index, a separate index composed of DNA profiles obtained from crime scene investigations of the same designated offences. There are several thousands of DNA samples of convicted offenders, which are included in the national DNA data bank, along with thousands of samples from various crime scenes across the country.

Police officers all across Canada have received extensive training on the process involved in collecting DNA samples and in the process of forwarding those samples for analysis to the National DNA Data Bank. Obviously the data collected as a result of this science has to be managed appropriately. It is fair to say that consultations with the provinces and the territories, as well as members of the public, have been instrumental in developing amending legislation over the past several years.

Under the act as it is currently constituted, there are both primary and secondary designated offences. The primary designated offences are considered the most serious criminal offences such as murder, manslaughter and sexual offences. The secondary designated offences include, for instance, arson and assault.

When an individual is convicted of a primary designated offence, the sentencing judge is automatically required to make an order for the collection of a DNA sample from that convicted individual, unless that individual can convince the court otherwise. With respect to a secondary designated offence, a DNA sample collection order is not automatic, but may be granted if the court, upon application by the prosecution, is satisfied that it is in the best interests of justice to do so.

The previous Liberal government moved a number of previously listed secondary offences to the primary list, including the new offence of Internet luring of a child. Other offences which were moved to the primary list included child pornography and robbery.

In essence, the sentencing judge orders the convicted individual to appear in order to provide a DNA sample. Bill C-18 would make it an offence for that individual to fail to appear for DNA sampling purposes, similar to the offence for failing to show up for fingerprinting. There needs to be some teeth in the law in order to ensure compliance, and Bill C-18 would provide that.

Bill C-18 is essentially an enhanced version of previous government bills. Again, I believe it is appropriate to send this bill to committee for appropriate consideration.

The Supreme Court of Canada in its deliberations has recognized the importance of DNA and DNA legislation and has decided in the case of R. v. Rodgers that the collection of DNA samples for data bank purposes from designated offenders is reasonable. I agree.

The Criminal Code and other related legislation and the criminal justice system under which the legislation operates must do all it can to ensure community safety. Any suggestion by civil libertarians that this legislation is too invasive of a person's freedom or rights, or forces an individual to essentially incriminate himself, are outweighed by the need for community safety, and the passage of legislation which will assist in assuring the safety of the community.

In my view Bill C-18 accomplishes that.