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House of Commons Hansard #80 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was judiciary.

Topics

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Conservative Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, unlike members opposite, I will not stoop so low as to call members of this House deceitful. A colleague of my friend opposite was not being deceitful. He probably did not read the bill and was not prepared. He made a promise during the election with no intention to keep it and, therefore, felt no need to be prepared.

This bill deals with primary designated offences, offences committed, not once or twice, but three times. We are talking about sexual interference, incest, murder and kidnapping. Unlike what the member opposite suggested, kidnapping does not require a beyond a reasonable doubt defence. I am not suggesting members opposite were being deceitful. I just do not think they are prepared. Given that there is no requirement for a beyond a reasonable doubt defence, it is a balance of probabilities. There is still an opportunity for a judge to intervene in this case.

I would just like to ask the hon. member if he agrees that this is on a balance of probabilities, not on a beyond a reasonable doubt, as was indicated by members opposite who are not properly prepared.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Batters Conservative Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, a comment was made earlier by a member opposite about arson of a dwelling house being removed from Bill C-9. He should have been prepared when he came to the House. The truth is that it is taken out if someone is in their home when it is burnt down. However, if people are not in their homes when someone burns it down, the Liberal and NDP members think the arsonist should be able to serve his or her sentence in the comfort of his or her own living room. The member should have known that before coming into the House.

To answer the hon. member's question, the Minister of Justice has been very successful in striking an appropriate balance. We need to keep in mind that these people have already been convicted and certainly this law will--

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe--Bagot.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on this bill. I may not be a lawyer, but I have enough brains to read bills. I can tell whether a bill is in tune or not with the reality. My 13 years of experience as a member of Parliament and lawmaker in this place have taught me the difference between good bills and bills that do nothing for society in Quebec or Canada.

Bill C-27 before us does strictly nothing to help fight crime, reduce crime or discourage potential criminals from offending. This is a totally pointless bill which does not meet these objectives.

I listened earlier to the hon. member from the Conservative Party according to whom being against this bill is to be against the victims of crime. What demagoguery.

Bills like this, which do no good, may in fact interfere with the normal court process. Judging by the experience of the Americans in recent years, after they introduced similar legislation, this is the kind of bill that can hamper crime-fighting efforts instead of providing additional tools to fight crime. No study has shown that this three strikes and you are out policy can do any good.

In the United States, where the crime rate is the highest in the world, experience has shown in recent years that having that kind of policy in place does not make the crime rate go down. There are mostly studies that establish a connection between the likelihood of reoffending and the length of incarceration. That is the exact opposite of what we have just heard in relation to this bill.

In addition, this bill ignores a basic legal principle: the presumption of innocence. Even before a criminal commits another offence, he has to prove that he is not a dangerous offender and that he should not be incarcerated indefinitely. The offender has the burden of proof. I do not believe that giving an individual such a responsibility in the justice system is the right approach or that it is in keeping with the principle that every individual should be given a chance. This reverse onus is not in the tradition of British law, except in certain specific cases, such as proceeds of crime.

Recently, through the efforts of the Bloc Québécois, we passed a bill under which, after being convicted, an individual who has taken part in organized crime activities must prove that he acquired all his property legally: the Mercedes, the house, the secondary residence. This type of exception is what we should have, when we look at all the organized crime rings.

Opération printemps 2001 showed us what it cost in legal resources and tax dollars to prove that all the property belonging to the Nomads, Hells Angels and other organized crime rings had been acquired illegally.

When we look at this bill, we can see that it can even undermine the legal process. I was listening to my Conservative colleague earlier. He said that he had received calls from his constituents asking him why we should wait for the third time before declaring someone a dangerous offender and incarcerating that person indefinitely.

I would ask him the same question in reverse.

Why wait for the third offence when today, depending on the seriousness and brutality of a crime, a crown prosecutor can ask that someone be declared a dangerous offender after the first crime?

It is not necessary to wait for the third time. If the first crime is particularly brutal, the crown prosecutor can ask that the individual be declared a dangerous offender. The judge may grant the request and declare the individual a dangerous offender after the first offence.

Why wait for the third offence to be committed when, in the current system, with the flexibility afforded lawyers and judges, we can use intelligence and discernment to determine, right from the first offence, if rehabilitation is possible based on the nature, seriousness and brutality of a crime?

I said earlier that the United States experimented with this type of policy. Their prisons are full. It has been said that the Prime Minister is a carbon copy of George W. Bush. The government wishes to copy the Americans not only in military and economic policies, and support for oil companies, for example, but also in the changes it wants to make to the current justice and correctional systems in place in Canada.

In the United States, prisons are bursting at the seams. The rate of incarceration is sevenfold that in Canada. Yet, even with a policy of “three crimes makes a dangerous offender”, the US homicide rate is triple that in Canada and four times greater than Quebec's rate. That must mean something. When a system does not work, for example in the United States—a country with one of the highest rates of criminalization—we must not copy that system and we should try something else. We must not duplicate the American system. To make themselves look good, the Conservatives have introduced this type of legislation while acting as though they alone can guarantee the safety of individuals, the prosecution of criminals to the bitter end, as though they alone will ensure that justice is served in this country. This is a completely twisted claim with respect to the discourse and the content of the bill.

As lawmakers, we bear enormous responsibility. This responsibility certainly includes the treatment of victims, both the past victims and potential victims of criminals. We need to look after them, but to do so, we need to have the right tools. In the last 10 years, serious crime in Canada has gone down. So they should not come to us with just the 2004-05 data and say that the situation is absolutely frightful and so terrible that something must be done. Certainly it should, but not through measures that are out of touch with reality, like these.

We need real action, but that is not what the Conservatives are offering. It is just the appearance of action. They want to show that they made some political promises that made no sense at all during the last election campaign, including this policy of three crimes equals a dangerous offender. So they introduce this bill. I cannot make head or tail of it. It has no relation to reality and adds nothing. It does not add any tools for fighting serious crime in Canada.

Among the things that should be done—but which they have not done—is the essential tool of firearms control. We just received the most recent data from Statistics Canada. We are not making this up; it is Statistics Canada. It tells us that Quebec and Prince Edward Island have crime rates that are much lower than the rest of Canada. The city with the highest crime rates and most serious crimes is Edmonton. Calgary takes second place. That is significant.

When people come from a region where the crime rate is the highest, could they not be a little bit more intelligent and find some way to deal with crime? Firearms control and the firearms registry are what we need. Yesterday, for example, they were saying on the news that 80% of the crimes in Edmonton were committed with unregistered firearms. Therefore, 20% of the arms were registered. Is that not a sign that controls should be tightened? We need to have a well managed registry.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Order, please. The hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot has the floor and the Chair wants to hear what he has to say.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased that you are prepared to hear what I have to say to the end.

When we are faced with a reality such as this, we sit down and pay attention to the crime rate. In some regions of the country it has gone down. Why? In Quebec, emphasis was placed on rehabilitation. There are dangerous offenders, but not many, and before an individual is declared a dangerous offender that person is first considered a long-term offender. This criminal can be supervised for 10 years.

Let us look at the crime rate in Quebec. It speaks for itself. Quebec is the place where there is the least amount of serious crime, but it is also the place where emphasis has been placed on rehabilitation. It is also the place in Canada where people are quite aware of the importance of gun control. This also says a lot. There are predispositions. There is intelligence in an approach.

The Prime Minister and his government have decided to do away with the firearms registry, to remove all controls and now weapons are pouring in from Montana, crossing the Canadian border, which is a real sieve. They are pouring in. Everyone is armed and it is a circus.

This is not how things work. First, we must keep the gun registry. Second, we must improve enforcement along our borders. Let us set up controls at the border, to prevent gun smuggling. One can go anywhere—a bar, a pub, whatever—ask for a handgun and get it very quickly. There is an incredible traffic going on for these weapons. That is the second measure to take, instead of passing cosmetic bills like this one, to make the Conservatives look good, because they want to show that they are the only ones defending justice. My foot!

I just said that these are two important measures, but the Conservatives are totally opposed to them.

Third, how about investing in prevention? We see some very young people—aged 10 to 12 or 13—working with henchmen from criminal organizations. For example, these young people help hand harvest cannabis plantations in Ontario, Quebec or elsewhere, and are paid $20 an hour. They work with organized crime and they learn to make quick money the easy way. Could it be that, as they get older, these young people will continue to deal with the criminal world and become part of it, instead of becoming honest members of our society? The purpose of prevention is to keep them from doing that. It is to ensure that those young people who are at risk can integrate our society and rehabilitate themselves, before they become adults and join the ranks of organized crime.

When do we hear about crime prevention for young people? When do we hear Conservatives talk about rehabilitation? Never.

I will conclude by simply saying that the Conservatives also claim to be great protectors of public funds. Looking at how they manage that money is my pet project. They claim to be great protectors of public funds. However, because of the measures that they want to take, jails will be full of people who, after three offences—regardless of the merits of the case and the good judgment of judges and coroners—will join the inmate population, thus increasing it significantly.

I would like to give you a few figures relating to the cost of rehabilitating a prisoner. In Canada, keeping a person in the prison system costs an average of $88,000. I am not talking about maximum security. Maximum security—incarcerating dangerous offenders—costs $120,000 per year. That is a lot of money.

Do you know how much it costs to supervise an offender? About $26,000 per year. $26,000 compared to $120,000 or $88,000 speaks volumes.

First of all, the Conservatives opted for Criminal Code reforms that provide no new tools for fighting criminals. Second, they did so merely to look good and give people the impression that they are strong supporters of a police state and the victims, even though they are doing nothing to help victims. What they are really doing is creating criminals, promoting recidivism and creating potential victims.

Third, they have not considered prevention and rehabilitation, even though that is what works. Wherever this approach has been used, crime rates have dropped and there have been fewer serious offences. Wherever there is a sense that the people's representatives do not support rehabilitation, we get situations like in Edmonton and Calgary, where the crime rate is sky-high.

Maybe this means something.

Furthermore, these ineffective measures, which are completely useless for protecting potential victims, cost an arm and a leg; they are a huge waste of public funds. As I said, measures like these create fertile ground for recidivism. There are people who go to prison and end up staying there 10, 12, 15 years. Most studies show that when they come out, their risk to re-offend is higher than it would be if they had had access to rehabilitation, as they do in Quebec and other countries. We have to think about this and stop going for the right-wing police approach by claiming to be the only ones fighting for justice. Give me a break.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:20 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 have one comment to make on the whole issue of the opposition's soft on crime stance and one particular question for the hon. member from the Bloc.

The first thing I would comment on is that apparently the opposition members think it is an appropriate sentence to have criminals sit at home watching a 52 inch plasma TV stolen from a house that they just burnt down. That is exactly what these members are saying should be an appropriate sentence as opposed to Bill C-9.

I am absolutely appalled that he would stand in the House and say that for $26,000, that is the reason we cannot afford to designate somebody as a dangerous offender.

In our province there is a man by the name of Peter Whitmore who has just recently abused two 12-year-old boys. It is the sixth or seventh time he has done this. He was not designated a dangerous offender. Had he been so, he would have been in jail.

Why does that member not come to my province and tell the parents of these 12-year-olds that $26,000 is more than the value of a young child? Please come out.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to resume with a more civilized tone. The Conservatives have a tendency to shout like that and sound off indignantly. They should express their indignation about their own government's failure to act on organized crime. They should stop throwing stones at the Bloc Québécois. I have a good memory. In 13 years, there were three major reforms to the Criminal Code to get the Hells Angels and other such criminal gangs behind bars. Those three major reforms were introduced by the Bloc Québécois. We did everything we could to get those reforms passed. The Conservatives were reluctant to adopt the reforms needed to fight real criminals with real tools.

Getting back to his example, what does Bill C-27 have to offer? From the first serious offence for assault or a heinous sexual crime—which we find just as heinous as my Conservative colleague does—a coroner can ask that the convicted individual be designated a dangerous offender. They want to give such criminals three chances. Where is the logic in this bill?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I might say at the beginning, as one of the ones you tuned up for shouting across the floor earlier, that you are to be congratulated for the non-partisan and fair approach you take to your occupancy of the Chair. You treat both sides the same.

I have a question to the member who spoke, and it spins off what the new government member said a minute ago when he outlined a serious crime and indeed it is a serious crime. However, when we are looking at these bills, the key question is, will it work? That is what is fundamental. We all know there are crimes out there and there needs to be penalties for them, but the key question in terms of the whole new approach the Conservatives are taking to law and order is, will it work?

I attended the justice committee the other day. There was no evidence nor concrete facts. The Conservatives are basically bringing in an Americanization of our justice system. Which country do we feel safer in walking the streets, this one or south of the border? So I ask the member--

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

To be fair, again, this question and comment period will collapse at 5:30 p.m. and I would like to give time to the New Democratic Party for a question. I recognize the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot.

I ask that the response be brief.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, my Liberal colleague is entirely correct. What they are trying to do is simply copy the Americans. In the United States, where such a policy was brought in, here is what happened. The American rate of incarceration is seven times higher. There are three times more homicides in the U.S. than in Canada, and four times more than in Quebec.

Why would we copy such a policy here, when it clearly does not work and accomplishes nothing? Despite my colleague's indignation, I still insist that this measure is completely ridiculous. Its sole purpose is to make the Conservatives look good in the eyes of Canadians and deliver on their promises, which are completely ridiculous.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Winnipeg Centre will recognize that there is less than a minute for both the question and the answer.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague, the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, for his eloquent and thoughtful remarks. I will dwell only on the one issue that he raised.

In my earlier comments, I said that in fact the Conservatives are being soft on crime on the issue of reverse onus as it pertains to the proceeds of crime. It was a Bloc Québécois initiative that said in situations of organized crime why should we not be able to seize the luxury homes and assets and have organizaed crime prove that it earned that money legally and it was not purchased through the proceeds of crime.

Is it not the Conservatives who are going soft on that policy? They are not going after organized crime nearly as stiffly as was recommended by our colleague Richard Marceau from the Bloc Québécois?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague and NDP friend for this question.

Reverse onus for the proceeds of crime is not the only amendment to the Criminal Code introduced by the Bloc Québécois. There were three others, and they were all major.

One of them, for example, is what led to operation springtime 2001 and its outcome, which targeted criminal biker gangs and made it easier to prove someone's membership in a criminal gang. We followed up with reverse onus. These are real tools, unlike the nonsense being presented here today. And those real tools were the Bloc Québécois' contribution.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

The House resumed from September 26 consideration of the motion that Bill C-279, An Act to amend the DNA Identification Act (establishment of indexes), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

DNA Identification ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-279, An Act to amend the DNA Identification Act (establishment of indexes).

I want to congratulate the member for Burlington for bringing this forward. If I guess right, he probably inherited this from the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, perhaps in a somewhat different form. The member for Saanich—Gulf Islands is now the Minister of Natural Resources. My colleague, the hon. member for Burlington, has picked up this important initiative and I congratulate him for doing that.

I worked with the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands in the previous Parliament to get this bill enacted. The federal Liberal government at the time was supportive of developing a missing persons index and in fact launched a public consultation process that was completed last year. There are some issues the member knows about, none of which I believe are insurmountable, and I think we need to move toward a missing persons index.

There are some issues around privacy and jurisdiction along with some technical issues, and that is why the government at the time launched the public consultation process. That was completed last year. It was taken to the federal, provincial and territorial ministers of justice in November 2005. There were further working groups established and I believe it is on the agenda for the meeting coming up in November 2006, if my knowledge is right.

The officials were asked to look at various issues around cost, privacy, legal implications and to bring forward recommendations. Perhaps this bill has all the answers in it, that I do not know. I suspect not. The processes may be somewhat out of sync, but there are ways to deal with that. It is a very worthwhile initiative.

We definitely empathize with those who have relatives or friends who have gone missing. It is a horrible thing to have to go through. We know this happens with some frequency. A lot of people go missing and are subsequently located. The number, for example, of long term missing persons in Canada is less than 5,000 and an average of 270 new long term cases are recorded each year.

The Canadian Police Information Centre currently records a total of 286 partial sets of unidentified human remains. It is a challenge to find a match. People who are missing perhaps could be linked back to a crime scene or some other event with a DNA match. In the case of a person who is deceased, it would bring closure to that case and at least allow people to get on with their lives. They would know their missing relative or friend was located at a crime scene and that is the end of it.

There are, though, other situations where, for example, young people leave home and disappear. In some cases it may be because of some mischievous event. It might be a voluntary move on a person's part to leave home to travel and go under the radar. It raises some privacy issues with respect to DNA.

In a case such as that the relatives would be approached or there would be some interaction with relatives to identify DNA through personal belongings, et cetera. What happens, for example, if relatives themselves are involved in a crime? Do they have any privacy rights? If it is a deceased person, it is fairly straightforward, but if the police are able to match the DNA of a missing person with the DNA of a person at a crime scene who was either at large or convicted or a victim, what privacy rights would that person have?

Maybe they do not want to know about their families anymore for various reasons. There can be a lot of things that go on in families and for whatever reason, they might not want to be associated with their families anymore. What obligations and responsibilities come into play then? Those rules would have to be laid out very clearly and that is not always simple. It is surmountable, but it is not always simple.

There are also issues around jurisdiction. We never like to get bogged down with which jurisdiction has the responsibility, but the fact is that our Constitution lays out certain responsibilities. With respect to criminal law, the federal government has that responsibility; civil law and property rights are provincial. When we are talking about missing persons, that normally comes up in the context of local police work, and until such time as there is some criminality attached to it, or there is a suspicion that there is a crime involved, it is a local issue. These matters are dealt with often by local police and every province and jurisdiction has a different approach with respect to the DNA. That is why it is clearly appropriate for the federal government to be talking with the provinces and the territories to make an assessment of what is being done currently and what could be done with the National DNA Data Bank.

It is interesting to note that not all DNA is collected and kept in the National DNA Data Bank. We might have a missing person's DNA but we would not have necessarily all the DNA in the DNA Data Bank. In fact the last Parliament passed laws that reduced the judicial discretion in terms of feeding DNA to the DNA Data Bank. In this Parliament, there were further enhancements to that so that for major crimes, serious crimes, there is no discretion with respect to the DNA passing to the National DNA Data Bank. It is only applicable at this point, even with those changes, to the most heinous and serious of crimes, such as rape, murder and the like. There is currently no process for systematically gathering and comparing the DNA samples. That is an issue that has to be dealt with.

The consultation paper that involved a number of Canadians sought to get some views from experts and other interested parties on how one could put together this kind of missing person's index. That report is in and in a moment I will go through some of the findings and recommendations that came out of that consultation process.

There are different approaches to the privacy issues. We need to have a good debate around that.

There are different ways of structuring a missing person's index. It could be run at the provincial level and coordinated at the National DNA Data Bank level. It could be run at the National DNA Data Bank level and fed by the provinces and the territories.

There are issues like that which need to be worked on. In fact, this consultation process identified a number of different options for the government to look at and for the provincial, territorial and federal ministers to look at.

I am hoping that we make some progress. I hope that the member can take this to committee and somehow harmonize it with this consultation process and bring it into play, because we need it. It is an important tool that we could all use.

DNA Identification ActPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on behalf of the Bloc Québécois about this private member's bill, Bill C-279, An Act to amend the DNA Identification Act (establishment of indexes).

The summary says:

This enactment amends the DNA Identification Act to provide for the establishment of a human remains index and a missing persons index to help law enforcement agencies search for and identify persons reported missing.

Hon. members know the effort that the Bloc Québécois makes to defend the interests of Quebeckers and, at the same time, defend areas of provincial jurisdiction. Once again, this House is debating this sort of bill. I will read a comment made by an analyst with the Parliament of Canada about Bill C-240, which was introduced during the previous Parliament and covered the same ground as Bill C-279, which is before us today. The analyst told us that the bill introduced by the member in question—who shall remain nameless—was ultra vires Parliament, because it concerned a local area of jurisdiction.

That means simply that this bill does not come under federal jurisdiction.

We can talk and talk in this House, but the government always turns a deaf ear. Before, it was the Liberals; now, it is the Conservatives. The government is always ready to encroach on areas of provincial jurisdiction. It is no wonder so many Quebeckers want to leave Canada and form their own country, Quebec. We are sick and tired of this constant interference. We are tired of investing time, money and energy in areas that do not come under federal jurisdiction. In fact, 23%, 24% or 25% of the money comes from Quebeckers.

The federal government has enough problems with its own areas of jurisdiction, as we can attest. Since the Conservative government was elected, we have watched it invest in the army, in arms, in law and order. The Criminal Code is a federal responsibility. The government has enough problems with its own areas of jurisdiction. It should let the provinces pass their own legislation and their own regulations in their own areas of jurisdiction.

As I said, the Bloc Québécois did not say that, it was a researcher from the Library of Parliament who said that this bill does not come under federal jurisdiction.

Earlier, my Liberal colleague openly admitted that there was a problem with jurisdiction. When there is a problem with jurisdiction, you do not table such a bill. It is simple. That avoids debates and, in the opinion of his colleagues, would avoid giving the Bloc Québécois a reason to argue. Too often, in this Parliament, we are right. In the case of this bill, we find quite simply that this is not a matter falling under federal jurisdiction.

It is not that there are not some good debates. Solving the fiscal imbalance is a good debate. It is a debate that we should have in this Parliament. We would be pleased to have members from the other parties table private members' bills in order to deal with the fiscal imbalance. Some would say that they cannot table such bills because they entail expenditures and therefore require royal recommendation.

However, this small bill, C-279, also requires royal recommendation given that it entails expenditures to create an index. When fellow members table bills requiring royal recommendation,they know that entails expenses and requires additional authorization. That also means that it requires supplementary budgets and that it is not a sure thing that it will be adopted. That is what it means.

Thus, the members should work on solving the problem of Quebeckers, namely the fiscal imbalance. The Bloc Québécois has never hidden the fact that the amount needed to resolve the fiscal imbalance is $3.9 billion. It is that simple. Any colleague from the other parties can table a private member's bill and ask for resolution of the fiscal imbalance, which is $3.9 billion for Quebec and some $12 billion for all of Canada. They would be helping one another out, they would be helping the citizens of their provinces and, at the same time, would perhaps ease some of the tension that exists between Quebec and the rest of Canada.

Members will have gathered from what I said that the Bloc Québécois will oppose Bill C-279. The reason for that is quite simple: the establishment of a registry for DNA identification or the establishment of indexes do not fall under federal jurisdiction; it is an area of provincial jurisdiction.

We are very respectful of the Constitution of Canada. As members know, Quebec has not signed the new Constitution. The ROC, the rest of Canada, gave itself a Constitution and cannot even abide by it. It is no wonder that Quebec did not sign it: that document was unacceptable to the people of Quebec.

I hope that everyone has noted the Bloc Québécois' desire to clarify its position. The Bloc Québecois is finding increasingly intolerable the introduction of bills having to do with areas of provincial jurisdiction. So, this is a nice, friendly warning to our colleagues and friends from other Canadian provinces: they have to respect provincial jurisdictions in the private members' bills they introduce.

I will repeat to make sure that it is clear. I am not the one saying this, because I am repeating what the analyst from the Library of Parliament said about Bill C-240, which was identical to Bill C-279. The analyst said that Bill C-240 was ultra vires the powers of Parliament as it would deal with a matter of local concern. The same is therefore true of Bill C-279, and that is why we have not requested any specific analysis from the Library of Parliament staff. We already had their analysis on Bill C-240.

So, it will come as no surprise to the hon. member who introduced Bill C-279 that the Bloc Québécois will be voting against that bill. I realize that this may sound persnickety and that the Bloc Québécois may appear to be fussy about this point. But if we want each level of government, both the federal government and the provinces, to have their jurisdictions respected, the first thing to do is to read the Constitution over. It is all set out very clearly in there. It was very clear to the analyst, and I hope it will be very clear as well to my hon. colleagues, that Bill C-279 does not fall under federal jurisdiction.

This brings me to the issue of the federal government's jurisdiction. As we know, some money was spent and more will be spent in the future. We can also see that this Conservative government, guided by its right-wing republican conservative vision, is investing a lot of money in the military and in defence material. Of course we cannot blame the government for doing that, because this area comes under its jurisdiction. The federal government is responsible for looking after the army. I think the Conservative government has clearly understood that, and this is why Canada is investing increasingly more in this area.

The problem is that we do not have debates in this House on the kind of armed forces that we want. When missions are sent to Afghanistan, there is no debate in the House, and the government does not seek the advice of hon. members. For example, when we go to Kenya to represent the Government of Canada and talk about the environment, as is the case now, there is no debate. Yet, the Bloc Québécois asked for a debate. The leader of our party rose in this House and asked the Prime Minister for a true debate, so that we can at last state our position to the Minister of the Environment, who will arrive in Kenya without the Canadian government's position.

This is not the first time the Government of Canada does not have a position. When the Liberals were in power, they did not have one either. The problem is, some might say we were lucky because at least they showed up. It is true that the current Conservative government has often been absent from major international meetings and during international talks.

I see that I have only one minute remaining, so I will wrap things up.

So Canada will show up in Kenya with empty pockets and empty hands because the Canadian government does not have a position and does not want to respect the Kyoto protocol. Obviously, the Conservative government is on the oil company payroll. This probably comes as no surprise to the people who watch and listen to what goes on in this House—they know the Conservative government is under the oil companies' collective thumb.

I doubt this is news to anyone. However, given the serious global warming problem we are facing, it is time to set aside our personal interests, take into account the common good and stand up for the best interests of all Quebeckers and Canadians who want the federal government to have a real agenda to meet the Kyoto protocol targets, rather than pass bills like C-279.

DNA Identification ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Patrick Brown Conservative Barrie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I ask for the consent from all my colleagues in the House, on behalf of the member for Burlington, the sponsor of the bill, for this item to be designated to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.

DNA Identification ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House?

DNA Identification ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

DNA Identification ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

An hon. member

No.

DNA Identification ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Patrick Brown Conservative Barrie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak, in the second hour of debate, to Bill C-279, an act to amend the DNA Identification Act.

I am pleased the Government of Canada is committed to tackling crime and to ensuring its law enforcement officers have the tools and resources needed to do their jobs. I am proud that the government also remains committed to working in collaboration with provincial and territorial partners to develop effective tools to fight crime.

The bill proposed by the hon. member for Burlington suggests that the new index be added to the National DNA Data Bank. The new index would be used to hold the DNA profiles of both missing persons and unidentified human remains.

The bill proposes that these profiles should be cross-checked against each other and against the convicted offender and crime scene indices. The purpose of the cross-check would be to identify human remains. The government fully understands the principles behind this private member's bill. We are also sympathetic to the issues it raises.

DNA is an incredibly valuable tool for law enforcement. It is understandable that it could be seen as a way to aid in the investigation of missing persons. If we were to create a missing person index, we would be aiding a humanitarian aspect to the DNA data bank.

The question we must address, and one of the reasons why I have risen today in the House to be part of this debate, is should the National DNA Data Bank be used not only to help solve serious crimes, but also for compassionate and humanitarian reasons, to help solve often lengthy and emotionally charged missing persons cases?

I will give my hon. members in the House some background about how the Government of Canada already uses DNA to fight crime in our country. Here is some data for context.

There are currently between 500 and 600 sets of unidentified human remains in Canada. Approximately 100,000 missing person reports are made to police each and every year. Most cases are resolved quickly. I was pleased to learn that an estimated 95% of missing persons are located within 30 days. However, there are approximately 6,000 ongoing missing person cases recorded on the Canadian police information centre. Each year about 420 cases of people who have been missing for at least one year are added to this number.

My hon. colleagues may be wondering what the Government of Canada's role is in this issue.

First, officials from various federal departments are working with their counterparts in the provinces and territories to identify areas that can be improved in the National DNA Data Bank. Second, the RCMP operates the National DNA Data Bank on behalf of the Canadian law enforcement organizations.

Furthermore, there is federal legislation in place under the DNA Identification Act and further related provisions in the Criminal Code of Canada. DNA is used to solve crimes, assist police investigations by matching DNA profiles from individuals contained in two National DNA Data Bank indexes: the crime scene index and the convicted offender index. Related laboratory analysis of samples is done at the RCMP operated laboratories and in the provincial laboratories of Ontario and Quebec.

The addition of the missing persons index has been a work in progress for a number of years now. Let me provide a bit of background on its development.

It was during public consultations that proceeded the passage of the DNA Information Act in 1998 that the possibility of establishing a DNA missing person index was first raised. It was considered that such a national index would allow the DNA profile of a missing person or close biological relative to be compared to the DNA of found, unidentified human remains from jurisdictions across Canada. It was stated that a match could provide family members with confirmation of the death of a missing loved one and could assist with such issues as inheritance and insurance.

In 2003 the federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for justice directed officials to further explore the issues involved in the possible creation of a national, principally humanitarian missing persons index.

In mid-2005, a federal, provincial and territorial working group on the missing persons index conducted consultations that revealed broad support among the public for a national missing persons index that would be managed by the RCMP.

During the same year federal, provincial and territorial ministers confirmed their continue commitment to developing options for an effective nationally, principally humanitarian missing persons index that would fit within the existing criminal law regime. They directed officials to complete their work by examining the cost, the privacy and the legal implications of a missing persons index. These officials were tasked to bring forward recommendations.

Federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for justice met in October to review the recent progress of the working group. Ministers noted that the work was well advanced and directed the working group to focus on outstanding issues relating to cross-matching, jurisdiction and cost. At the time provincial and territorial ministers indicated their support for the establishment of a missing persons index, but expressed some concern about the proposals in Bill C-279.

Ministers agreed in principle to the concept of a missing persons index and directed the FPT working group to work to resolve key ongoing concerns and report back to FPT deputy ministers at their next meeting in January 2007. Both the Minister of Public Safety and the Minister of Justice agreed to bring forward FPT concerns on a missing persons index and parliamentary discussions of Bill C-279. It seems sensible to encourage any committee hearings to consider hearing from provincial and territorial authorities as witnesses.

Speaking of today's proposal, this brings me to our current examination of this option to help fight crime. As it is proposed, Bill C-279 would amend the DNA Identification Act by creating within the National DNA Data Bank new DNA indices of missing persons and unidentified human remains.

As I noted earlier, the proposed bill also adds to the principles of the act the goal of bringing relief and comfort to relatives of missing persons. It proposes the new indices should be cross-checked both against each other and against the criminal indices maintained by the National DNA Data Bank. This process would help identify found human remains.

The government has identified legal concerns with this use of the DNA data bank. The creation of a missing persons index raises certain jurisdictional, legal and privacy issues as well as jurisdictional and financial questions about which the government would provide the resources to proceed with such an initiative.

The government understands that there may be public support for a national DNA missing persons index program and that there is a chance that it could help law enforcement agencies solve missing persons cases. We also understand this could bring about relief and comfort to the relatives of loved ones of missing persons. However, if this use of the DNA were developed as a tool with which to fight crime, we must consider the implications on the privacy of Canadians.

I would also note that further analysis of Bill C-279 has revealed that other legal concerns would also need to be addressed before the bill was adopted.

This is a worthy initiative. The government is studying ways to ease the emotional burden of Canadian families with loved ones who go missing. We are reviewing the proposal with our colleagues in the provinces and territories. As of this debate, we still need more time to study the matter to see how adding a new index to the DNA data bank can be done effectively in the interest of public safety.

I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to this bill today, and I applaud the member for Burlington for bringing this debate and discussion forward.

DNA Identification ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased tonight to speak on Bill C-279 to amend the DNA Identification Act. It is certainly a worthy initiative and one which I will say right off the bat should go to committee for further study.

I am somewhat surprised, however, in reading the comments of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety that the government has not seen fit to be supportive, particularly in terms of an initiative started by this side of the House prior to the last election.

It is important for Canadians to understand that over 100,000 people go missing every year in this country. Six thousand missing persons cases are currently unresolved. Another 450 come online annually.

There are 15,000 samples of unidentified DNA recovered from crime scenes across this country and currently stored in the RCMP's National DNA Data Bank in Ottawa. As well, there are hundreds of unidentified John Does and Jane Does in morgues across this country.

As members know, I am sure, there are current restrictions in terms of dealing with DNA under the DNA Identification Act. It is impossible to match DNA to those thousands of missing persons in the country currently. Given the need for a missing persons index and a DNA Data Bank and the widespread support of Canadians, law enforcement professionals, the provinces and territorial governments, DNA indices for missing persons should be created.

This is obviously an inter-jurisdictional issue. There often will be local law enforcement people at a crime scene and there often will be a provincial coroner involved in these cases, obviously, and therefore those are the kinds of issues that I believe are worthy of examination at the committee level. I think this is important. I think it is something that we should be moving forward on. Clearly there are some issues, which some members have already identified, with regard to this proposal, but I do not think that they should block the movement of this bill to committee.

One of the purposes of a committee is obviously to do more in depth work. I congratulate the mover, the member for Burlington, for the fact that this needs to have a hearing. We need to get in the experts and the witnesses and look at it. I would hope that members of the government, particularly the minister, also will look favourably on this proposal.

Amendments from the committee clearly would need to identify, for example, federal-provincial jurisdictions. The federal government of course has jurisdiction in terms of the Criminal Code, but in terms of cooperation with the provinces and the territories we established a National DNA Data Bank that is used for criminal investigations, as we have just heard from some hon. members.

The creation of this national DNA MPI, or missing persons index, would reassure families of missing persons that current and future unidentified individuals will be checked on a voluntary basis across the country. Missing persons investigations, as I have said, are led by local police forces and of course we have provincial coroners who have jurisdiction over unidentified human remains. Barring an interprovincial or international element in the disappearance of the person who has been found, the matter would be one of local concern and therefore would be within provincial jurisdiction.

I believe that this is certainly a commendable and worthy idea to move forward. We need to deal with the fact that there are many families in this country who clearly are agonizing over whether or not a loved one is in fact deceased. A way to help that clearly is to have this type of legislation in place. I think it would be helpful.

Again, I urge all members to support this bill going to committee, where a good examination of the legislation can be done.