Mr. Speaker, as this is the last occasion I am going to have to speak in the House before the break, I would like to wish you, the pages, my colleagues at both ends of the House and on the other side of the House a very merry Christmas and a happy new year.
I would like to wish the people of Nickel Belt a very merry Christmas and happy new year.
I would like to summarize Bill C-26. Bill C-26 amends subsection 494(2) of the Criminal Code dealing with citizen's arrest to provide greater flexibility. The changes would permit citizen's arrest without a warrant within a reasonable period. The key words are “reasonable period”. Currently subsection 494(2) requires a citizen's arrest to occur while the offence is being committed. Sometimes that is impossible.
Bill C-26 also includes changes to the sections of the Criminal Code related to self-defence and defence of property. According to the government, these changes would bring much needed reforms to simplify the complex Criminal Code provisions on self-defence and defence of property. They would also clarify where reasonable use of force is permitted.
Since half of the bill proposes measures that the NDP member for Trinity—Spadina had previously called for, it follows that we would support this bill at least at second reading. This part of the bill amends subsection 494(2) of the Criminal Code dealing with citizen's arrest to permit arrest without warrants within a reasonable period. Again there is that term “a reasonable period”.
The other half of the bill seeks to clarify sections of the Criminal Code pertaining to self-defence and defence of property. We support in principle improving language in legislation for the purpose of clarity, especially since the courts have indicated a problem with the lack of clarity. Further study will be needed to see if the bill does in fact clarify these sections, and the consequences of the clarifications are acceptable to us. This is the type of work we can do at committee stage.
Also, we would not be supportive of anything that would encourage vigilante justice or that would encourage people to put their own personal safety at risk. While that does not appear to be the purpose of this bill, we understand there are concerns about these matters in relation to citizen's arrest, self-defence and defence of property. Again, this is why we need to carefully study this bill at the committee stage.
I will provide some background on this bill. On May 23, 2009, David Chen, owner of the Lucky Moose Food Mart in Toronto, apprehended a man, Anthony Bennett, who had stolen from his store. Bennett was initially caught on security footage stealing from the store, and he returned an hour later. At that time, Chen, who was 36, and two employees tied up the man and locked him in the back of a delivery van.
When the police arrived, they charged Chen with kidnapping. It is hard to believe, but that is what they did. He was charged with kidnapping, carrying a dangerous weapon, a box cutter which most grocery store workers would normally have on their person, assault and forcible confinement.
Most of the members who have spoken today have talked about an event that has happened to them personally. I would like to relate one of my own experiences. Someone stole two items from my shed. One of those items was my toolbox. I am not Tim the tool man by any stretch of the imagination, but I like to put up things in my house and to do some work. One of the jobs that I hate the most, and I do not know why I hate it, is putting up curtains.
When I went to my shed to get my power tools to put up curtains for my wife, my drill was gone. That could be good and that could be bad. It could be devastating because I had lost my power tool, but it could also be good because I hate putting up curtains. There is give and take. In this case I was kind of relieved, because I really do not like putting up curtains.
The other thing that was stolen was my golf bag. That can be devastating. I do not get the chance to golf very much any more, but I am sure everyone can imagine how I felt when I noticed that my golf bag was gone. That can hurt, especially when the golf clubs are in the bag. That is really bad, especially when it is 75° on a Saturday morning and my chums are going golfing and my golf bag and clubs are gone. That can be really painful, more painful than losing the power tools, although golf clubs are a tool also, a tool for enjoyment.
Returning to the case of Mr. Chen, the crown prosecutors dropped the kidnapping and weapons charges but proceeded with the charges of forceable confinement and assault.
According to the Criminal Code as it is currently written, a property owner can only make a citizen's arrest when the alleged wrongdoer is caught in the act.
In some cases that is okay, if it is a Walmart store, where there are security guards who can arrest people. However, the owners of corner stores cannot afford security guards. If they see somebody stealing their property, they have to take action.
On October 29, 2010, Mr. Chen and his two co-accused were found not guiltily of the charges of forceable confinement and assault. Anthony Bennett pleaded guilty in August 2009 to stealing from the store and was sentenced to 30 days in jail, and rightfully so.
That case caused a lot of controversy. Some of it had to do with whether there was sufficient policing in the area.
My riding of Nickel Belt is huge. To go from Foleyet which is in the west to Garden Village which is in the east could take seven hours, and to go from Killarney in the south to Capreol in the north could take another four or five hours. We do not have policemen readily available 24/7, although we do have a fine police station and police officers. Because the territory is so big, it is difficult for a police officer to be at the scene of a crime within a few minutes. We have to take that into consideration.
I have only one minute left, so I will conclude by saying that we will support the bill at second reading. We want it to have careful consideration, which is code for not rushing it through. We want to hear from people who have practised criminal law. We want to hear from experts from the Department of Justice, the Canadian Bar Association and others. We need to examine the bill very carefully. Also, we should rely not just on ourselves but on the expertise of people who have analyzed these provisions, studied all the cases, and who can help us ensure that we are doing the right thing.
Having said that, we will support the bill at second reading, but we want it to be given extremely careful consideration at committee.