Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleagues who have spoken so eloquently on the bill today.
We on this side of the House generally support the thrust of at least one-third of the bill dealing with the so-called Lucky Moose event a couple of years ago in Toronto. My colleague, the member for Trinity—Spadina, introduced legislation to deal with that unfortunate incident some time ago. It was collected up by the members opposite in Bill C-60, which, unfortunately, failed to pass and died on the order paper.
First, I want to thank my colleague for Kitchener—Conestoga because I believe he said that the government would be willing to listen and to make amendments to the bill. I hope he said that because so far we have not seen a whole lot of willingness on the part of members opposite to accept any kind of reasonable amendments to any of the bills that have been before us.
My other comment has to do with the apparent priorities of the members opposite and the government. It appears that we have an inordinate preponderance of bills dealing with guns, crime, punishment and defence of personal property, but we are not spending a whole lot of time dealing with other very serious issues in our country, such as jobs.
The number one complaint I hear from my friend from Prince Edward Island is that his constituents need jobs. The same is true in my riding. People seem to have given up in large measure looking for jobs because there just have not been any for so many years in my riding.
We also have a serious first nations issue that appears is being glossed over by the government. Apparently no action is being taken to help the citizens of Attawapiskat, except to blame them.
We have reported cuts to services for seniors and for persons seeking EI such that they cannot even get answers on the telephone to their issues. They come to my office, as I am sure they do in many other members' offices, saying that they cannot get through and can I help. Our role should not be to replace the civil servants of the country.
I am hoping that, once this bill is disposed of, we can start moving into some real priorities and move away from the crime, punishment and gun agenda that seems to be dominating what we have been talking about.
The bill contains two essential ingredients. One is to give better permission to a citizen's arrest. There already is permission for a citizen's arrest in the Criminal Code, but citizens have to apprehend people in the act. They cannot find them later and arrest them. That is essentially what the bill hopes to accomplish.
It seems to be fairly clear on the surface. We look forward to the day when the committee will have a chance to study the bill in some depth, have representations from witnesses and experts in the field and to make amendments to make it absolutely certain that what we do will not have any unintended consequences.
I have a personal experience with citizen's arrest. It was a dark and stormy night, if members will pardon the use of the term. One night a couple of years ago, it was pouring with rain when I pulled into my driveway and saw a brand new bicycle sitting at the end of my neighbour's driveway. It seemed quite out of place. I picked up my cellphone and called my neighbour. He did not answer right away, but I heard his car door slam. I thought he was putting the bicycle in his car.
When I went over to his car, I discovered that it was not my neighbour, but somebody else who was about to get on the bicycle. I stopped the gentleman and asked him what he was doing. He said that he flat tire, that he had been at a friend's house and that he was trying to find a way to fix it.
He was quite drunk too. By that time, my neighbour, who had seen that I had phoned but had hung up on him, came out to the street. I asked him if it was his bike. He said that it was not his bike and asked what the gentleman was doing there. I looked at my neighbour and told him that he was just fixing a flat. However, the gentleman with the bike had a little box in his hand. The little box was a very unique piece of equipment for resting the tip of a welding torch that came from Princess Auto.
My neighbour looked at it and said, “I bought one of those today. Where did you get that”? The gentleman said a friend of his had given it to him. My friend went back to his car and looked, and it was gone. He accused the man of stealing it, which he denied. We ended up discovering that not only had he stolen that, but he had a couple of other things from my friend's car. At that point he got on his bike and tried to ride away, and I stopped him. I said, “No you don't. You're not going anywhere”.
This was not an act that was very smart because who knows whether this guy had knives, guns, or whatever else, but it was an instinctive reaction. That is part of what we are trying to deal with here. The instinctive reaction was that he should not go.
I picked up my cellphone and dialed 911 while I was holding his bike. He was too drunk to ride it anyway. I got 911 on the phone. The response was, “Police, fire, ambulance”.
I said, “Police, there is a man breaking into a car and I have apprehended him”.
They said, “Are you sure”?
I said, “Yes, he's standing right here. Do you want to talk to him”?
They said, “No, but we'll send somebody right away”.
Well, within two minutes, there were six police cars in front of my driveway. Clearly, the message is that if we tell them we have apprehended somebody they will come quickly.
Then an ambulance arrived because the guy had a cut on his hand. Then the fire truck arrived. I asked the fireman driving the fire truck why they had come. He said the guy might set himself on fire and they would put it out.
My point is, I acted out of instinct, not out of having read the law that says what I can do in a circumstance like that. That is part of what we are trying to deal with here, to make a reasonable instinctive reaction lawful. If my neighbour had not been there with me, if I had just apprehended this man while he was stealing from my neighbour's car, I would have in fact been in violation of the law. That will not be the case any more under this change, I think. It is a little unclear.
In retrospect, I probably should not have done what I did because who knows what he might have had. As it turns out, when the police did arrive, it was still pouring rain. They made him take off his coat and when they emptied it they found all kinds of stuff that he had already stolen. The bicycle was something he had probably already stolen. He had been out of jail only two days. He really wanted to go back there because it was dry and warm, and this was his way of getting back into jail and to someplace safe in the riding. He was actually, in some way, trying to be a better person because they discovered that he had put some air freshener, that he had stolen from the local drugstore, in his underwear.
The point of the story is, as citizens we react instinctively, not because we have read the law. It is that which we have to keep in mind as we craft these things. We do not actually act, necessarily, in our best self-interest when we are reacting to what we see and know is a crime.
The other story that I mentioned a few moments ago happened a year ago in my riding. An ice cream truck was robbed at gunpoint in the middle of a sunny afternoon, with children and parents all around the ice cream truck, and two very obviously bad people with a gun. The only person, at that point, in any immediate serious danger would have been the ice cream truck driver/operator, who was facing the wrong end of, we assume, a loaded gun.
The current laws on self-defence have given people the ability to defend themselves under the current legislation. They have the right, maybe, if they feel an immediate threat, to pull their own gun, if they have one. I do not know of too many ice cream truck drivers who carry around guns, certainly not in Toronto. Maybe they do in some more rural areas of Canada, but not in Toronto.
The issue then is, at what point does this become dangerous to the rest of the people. The concern I have is that the bill would change the rules from someone who is feeling their own personal threat to a threat of force being used against them or another person. We would expand the notion of self-defence to include another person.
Maybe the jurisprudence actually covered that in the past. I cannot find that on a layperson's reading of the law. I am not a lawyer. I do not have the kind of background that some of our colleagues do. We hope that through committee they are going to be able to tell us that this legislation would actually just repeat what used to be there. However, when I read it, I immediately thought of that incident with the ice cream truck.
If this law had been in place, and if everybody had read it, which I am going to say most law-abiding citizens do not go around reading the law, but if they had read it or if it was common knowledge that we could defend the life of someone else, then the concern I have is that we end up with someone across the street who sees the ice cream truck being held at gunpoint, or who thinks it is being held at gunpoint, maybe they do not actually see clearly enough to know what is going on, and they reach into their cupboard to get their unregistered long gun. I am hearing cackling from the other side of the House.
That unregistered long gun then becomes a use of deadly force in a situation involving children, in a situation involving ordinary civilians. We have now created a situation that should not have been created. We have now escalated this into what is perhaps going to become a deadly shooting spree. We do not need that to happen. We do not need vigilantism. We do not need people to feel they have the right to use force in situations that endanger themselves and endanger others as a result of a bill that may have been written with some unintended consequences in it.
I hope that as a result of serious thought and serious study at committee, the bill will in fact have possible flaws like that one corrected, where we create problems where there are none, where there are unintended consequences, where the mere notion that the law permits someone to use force to defend someone they do not even know and someone that maybe does not need defending, and create a sense of vigilantism.
That is not what we want in this country. We are not a country of vigilantes. We are not a country of people who go around raising arms against other people in order to defend life, limb and property. That is not what we do in Canada. That is not how we behave.
I am not trying to justify, in any way, any criminal acts by people with guns at ice cream trucks. It was one of the most disturbing stories I had heard in a long time about the level to which the violence in my riding has gone to. It is not something that I appreciate. The police are well aware and the police, I believe, have now arrested the perpetrators. They are in jail and we can rest a little easier.
However, my concern is I do not want to have a situation where we pass a law that somehow gives people the thought that they can enter into a fray like this and start shooting. That is not what we want. That is not what we expect from our ordinary law-abiding citizens.
As it turns out, no one was harmed in that robbery, except the owner of the truck who lost some money. However, there were no guns fired. There was no violence and no damage to anyone. Yet, this law might give some the thought that they should enter into this with guns blazing. That is not the country we live in. That is not the country we want. That is not the country I think I want to belong to.
So, we have a situation where this bill ought to go before a committee and be studied in a reasoned and unpressured way. The last two bills that the government brought forward were rushed to the point where closure was invoked on several occasions and in the case of Bill C-10, there were 208 clauses dealt with in clause-by-clause analysis in two days. Two days is not an appropriate amount of time to give serious sober thought to a bill that has enormous consequences.
We understand that the committee was rushed to the point where witnesses were crammed together, were not given sufficient time to answer questions, and questions were not able to be put to these witnesses in a thoughtful and reasoned way because there was so much rush put on this. I hope, based on the statements made by my friend from Kitchener—Conestoga, that the government is actually going to sit down and listen, pay attention, and accept reasoned amendments to this bill put forward by the opposition.
As I understand it, on both Bill C-10 and Bill C-19, many amendments were put forward, but—