Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for me to stand in this House to speak to this bill which would clarify in law provisions that many people have been confused about over the last number of years.
As a matter of fact, I should tell members that I represent a large rural constituency. A significant portion of my riding is outside the larger city of Grande Prairie. Right now, I represent, in the province of Alberta, about 20% of the land mass. So, it is a significant territory. In that territory, in my constituency, about 60,000 people live in close proximity to the city of Grande Prairie and the rest of the other 100,000 people live throughout the constituency in small villages and towns and, significantly, in some cases, remote and rural communities.
This bill and its provisions are being welcomed within my constituency because it would clarify in law what is in fact a worrisome consideration for many people who live within my constituency.
Over the last number of years, this House, many members on all sides of this House, have witnessed high profile stories, where individuals who were simply trying to defend their own property or their family's security or their individual businesses have been then victimized themselves by the criminal justice system for doing exactly what I think all of us believe is reasonable, simply defending their property, defending their families, and, in fact, were found to be on the wrong side of the law. That, I think, is what this House seeks to clarify.
Notwithstanding the speeches that we have heard in this House today, I would suggest that there is actually significant support from members in different parties on this because members across this House hear stories from their constituents where they feel that they are not protected by the criminal justice system.
I am fearful that Canadians have become increasingly worried about the criminal justice system. They believe that the criminal justice system has moved from protecting those who are the most vulnerable and those who are innocent to actually working more to protect the criminals. The most evident of those concerns are when people read stories where individual shopkeepers are being arrested because they sought to stop someone from stealing from their store or where individual farmers are arrested for having run people off their property when they were hunting in close proximity to livestock.
These types of things worry people. They send a chill, quite frankly, among those people who really are the most heroic in our communities, those people who would intervene in any circumstance when they saw an injustice happening, those people who would seek to defend their families, defend their businesses, defend their neighbours' property, and defend their neighbours.
It is important that we join together as members across this House and actually support the legislative measures that would clarify this in law.
I mentioned earlier that I represent a rural constituency. Included in this rural constituency are a number of different components and communities. I represent a large agricultural community. Many farmers in my area live some distance from their neighbours and a significant distance from RCMP or police headquarters or dispatch centres. When there is a concern in rural communities of someone stealing from a farmyard, and I should say that in our rural communities we do not have a lot of crime, and we are thankful for that.
However, there are incidents, unfortunately increasingly so, where people come onto farmyards and steal either equipment or tools or, in many cases, gasoline or diesel fuel. There is little that farmers can do if they live hours away from a dispatch centre, other than simply confront the perpetrator and try to hold that person in place until such time as authorities can arrive.
Often, people come unidentified into farmyards. If they do not come with a vehicle, or they come with a vehicle that does not have a licence plate or they come in a stolen vehicle, there are limited identifiers for someone to report the crime and for police forces to follow up. It is important that farmers know that they have the assurance, in law, that they can confront perpetrators who come on their property to steal livestock, tools, gasoline or any other goods, and the farmers will not be found to be in violation of the law by confronting and holding perpetrators until the authorities can arrive.
It should be noted that any time people are intervening in a situation where a perpetrator is committing a crime, obviously what is most important is the safety and security of all people involved, those who are confronting the perpetrator. That is a cautionary note that we should all consider. However, there are circumstances where people's lives are in danger because of the acts of others when they come into a business, a community or a farmyard. It is important that we assure Canadians that if they confront somebody in self-defence, there will be protection for those who are standing up for themselves or their loved ones in a family home.
I represent a large aboriginal population in my constituency. Like my farmers, they are often located in isolated communities. I have heard on a regular basis that they have similar concerns about the necessity and ability to confront a perpetrator in their community and hold that person until such time as the police can intervene. We as a government are working diligently to establish a police presence in communities across this country and increase those resources. However, the police cannot be in all places at all times. I should note that our government recently announced a tripartite agreement in some of my aboriginal communities to see additional police resources in those communities. However, the reality is that these territories are large. Even when the men and women who are responsible to protect our communities, the RCMP members, are on surveillance they can be some distance away from where a crime might be happening. In some cases, their territories cover many miles and it can take hours to get from one side to the other. It is important that these provisions be in place.
What I have heard, and I think all members would recognize, is that there are concerns coming from Canadians. It is not just a rural consideration. One of the more high profile cases where somebody intervened was in downtown Toronto. My colleagues are aware of the story. Many members of Parliament have met with the individuals involved and we know this is not just an isolated circumstance that only occurs in rural communities. It happens likewise in urban centres and therefore it is important that we clarify the law.
I support this legislation. Our government supports this legislation. My constituents support this legislation and I know the constituents of many members across the way support this legislation as well.