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House of Commons Hansard #68 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was person.

Topics

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Madam Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's comment. That is partly what concerns us if the bill and the possibility of amendments are not studied thoroughly at committee. There are aspects of this law that, as the hon. member suggests, might allow people to believe they are on a mission from God and protected by legislation allowing self-defence as a defence in situations in which they are acting as vigilantes.

We are concerned that the bill is not clear about whether or not that is the intent. It appears to expand the definition of self-defence beyond defending oneself, creating an understanding that one can defend a third party. If that is the case, how far does that go? Does that then become the rule of law?

We are also concerned that the bill will not be fully discussed at committee, as has been the case with many other bills on the crime agenda of the government. We are concerned that if this is rammed through without the possibility of amendments, where those amendments would make sense and actually clarify the law, then of course we would not be doing Canadians a service.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to this bill on citizen's arrest.

The bill is simply an extension of our government's work in trying to bring balance back into the criminal justice system in our country. For too many years, the needs of victims have been ignored. Because of that, many of our constituents have lost faith in the criminal justice system.

I want to outline a couple of areas where I have been personally influenced by people in my riding who have brought these matters to my attention. I will never forget receiving a call about a week or two after I was first elected from the family member of a young man who had just been murdered. I met the family member at Tim Hortons. I had never met this gentleman before. He pleaded with me to do what I could to bring some balance back into the system. There was no revenge in his voice. It was more a cry for help in the sense of: please help young people find the resources they need so they will not get involved in a life of crime. A young man had been murdered by another youth, who was not allowed to be named. It was simply a call for action to bring some early intervention possibilities into the system.

Following that, because of my interest in that particular case, I hosted a round table in my office with a number of people from the legal profession, community groups and private citizens. The one area that became very clear again was the call for early intervention. I heard from a mother whose son had been in trouble with the law on a number of occasions. She told me that because of the Youth Criminal Justice Act there was nothing the judge could do because her son had not done something bad enough yet. There was a sense of hopelessness in her voice. She actually wanted our criminal justice system to take action that would direct her son to preventive measures and possibly early intervention.

As well, we have all heard too many stories of young people who have been sexually abused. The damage that is done to the lives of people who have experienced sexual abuse early in life or even as teenagers is just horrendous. Lives are virtually destroyed by the actions of sexual offenders. Our government is trying to give a clear message that these kinds of offences will not be tolerated.

I do not think any of us in this room who are parents or grandparents can argue with the fact that we need to be decisive in our actions as they relate to gangs and drugs. This is especially true when those drugs are being marketed near our schools where children and youth are most vulnerable. Lives are being destroyed by youth getting hooked on drugs early in life when they virtually had no choice.

With respect to arson, we have taken action to make it very unlikely that a person who has burned down someone's house would now be allowed to serve his or her sentence in his or her own house.

I have heard from victims of violent crimes whose families have been murdered. When the parole hearings come up they are forced to be subjected over and over again to the same kind of pain and reopening of wounds because of what used to be called the faint hope clause.

In all of these areas, we are trying to bring back a sense of balance into our criminal justice system. The current bill before us is no different. Far too many people may have thought about intervening when someone was being attacked or their property was being stolen or vandalized, yet felt an innate fear that if they took any steps to prevent that crime from happening they could find themselves on the wrong side of the law. Therefore, we need to address that fear with some sense of balance. Simply by having this conversation we can attempt to alleviate that fear.

I repeat that there is always a sense of balance. In terms of balance, I would point out that our government has taken decisive steps in the area of prevention.

It has made large investments in the area of youth gang prevention and an anti-drug strategy. In my area there is a very active restorative justice program. The program does an excellent job of bringing the victim and the offender together in trying to bring resolution, restoration and reconciliation between the parties. We all know that particular initiative cannot always work. There still needs to be criminal justice measures in place to take care of the situations that do not fit under that restorative justice system.

We have also invested heavily in the circles program. People who have served their sentence are now allowed to be back in society. They work with a group that keeps them accountable as they re-enter society. It is important that these individuals are not released without any support mechanisms to help them reintegrate back into society.

As it relates to this bill, it is important that we work hard to maintain public order. Public order is the responsibility of Canada's trained and professional law enforcement agencies. We all agree they are the ones we have to rely on, but there should always be that option for the citizen if there are no public order officials nearby, whether they are police officers or security guards. Citizens should always be able to defend their own lives or their own property.

The first step we should be taking in any of those situations, if it is at all possible, is to contact the police if someone's life or personal safety is being threatened. The government recognizes that it is not always feasible in those circumstances for a peace officer to make the arrest when a crime occurs, especially if it is in relation to property. This proposed legislation expands, simplifies and clarifies the law governing situations where individuals need to respond to immediate threats to their property or to their person.

The proposed amendments in the bill would authorize a private citizen to make an arrest within a reasonable period of time, and I would underline within a reasonable period of time, after he or she finds someone committing a criminal offence that occurs on or in relation to property. This power would only exist if there are reasonable grounds to believe it is not feasible for a peace officer to make the arrest. We cannot simply allow citizens to take matters into their own hands. Obviously, the first course of action is still to call the police and try to get help to the scene as quickly as possible.

In all cases, it is important to remind citizens that they need to be careful in the decision they are making to get involved. There is a high degree of danger when making these kinds of decisions. Making a citizen's arrest is a potentially dangerous undertaking. Before attempting a citizen's arrest, Canadians should consider other factors such as: their own safety and the safety of other people who may be in the area; the advisability of reporting information to the police rather than acting on their own; the level of certainty they have that the person they are about to arrest is actually the person they found committing the crime; and finally, the requirement to turn over the suspect to the police without delay once an arrest is made. I think that goes without saying. We are not going to suggest that people can make a citizen's arrest and then not turn the person over to police officers as soon as practically possible.

The proposed amendments to these defences will simplify provisions of the Criminal Code, making it easier for police and prosecutors to determine whether the actions taken by individuals to protect themselves, others, or their property were reasonable and therefore could provide a defence to a criminal offence.

The amendments also replace the current complex self-defence provisions with one new and clear provision permitting a person's reasonable acts committed for the purpose of defending against threats or force against themselves or another person to be a defence to a criminal charge. It is important that they have that option to defend against that potential criminal charge. We saw that in the situation with Mr. Chen where, yes, fortunately after court proceedings he was acquitted, but certainly for a number of days and weeks he had hanging over his head the possibility that he would be charged with a criminal offence, even though he was simply standing up and protecting his own property.

Also, the defence of property provisions would be greatly simplified if a person in “peaceable possession” of a property commits a reasonable act. If an individual steals something and is sitting at the corner with those stolen goods, the individual would not be allowed to defend those stolen goods against the person who is coming to retrieve them. If a person in peaceable possession of a property commits a reasonable act in order to protect that property from being taken, damaged or trespassed upon, that would be a defence to a criminal charge.

A number of different prospects in the bill would bring balance back to the system so that those who are facing the possibility of either injury to themselves or their loved ones, or are facing the possibility of having their property stolen or damaged, would be able to take action and as quickly as possible call the appropriate authorities to take over. It is important that we bring this sense of balance back to this area that has been left for too long.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Madam Speaker, the hon. member opposite has introduced a bill whose intention is commendable. The question is whether it is balanced, and that is a very important question. Any time someone is arrested, it inevitably involves the use of physical restraint. When someone is arrested, they are put in detention. It is not hard to imagine a situation in which conflict arises and a scuffle ensues. That is the crux of the question. Any time police officers arrest someone, they know they must use an appropriate level of physical force. They must not use excessive force, for there is always the presumption of innocence. People who are arrested have the right to present a defence before they are punished. That is why police officers are trained to use a minimum of physical force.

We noticed that this sense of proportion is missing from the bill. In self-defence cases, the law provides a framework for the use of violence in response to a violent assault. This bill does not have that. I would like an explanation. How will such reactions be dealt with?

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Madam Speaker, I did highlight in my speech that the person making the arrest would need to consider that carefully in terms of the risk and the potential for further harm. Obviously, we do not want the situation to escalate. It is important that we send out that message.

I do not serve on the justice committee but I have faith that when the bill is referred to it for further study, if there are areas like that which need to be further clarified or possibly adjusted, I am convinced that those changes will come back.

When deciding whether to make a citizen's arrest, the person needs to be aware of the law and consider his or her safety and the safety of others. The person needs to report that information to the police, which is usually the best course of action instead of taking action on his or her own, and ensure that the suspect is correctly identified as well as the suspect's criminal conduct.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, I am somewhat encouraged by the member's comments. He gave the impression that the government would be open to having amendments.

I want to send a message directly to the Prime Minister. People are concerned about crime and safety in their communities. They expect that legislation will have a direct impact on preventing crimes. There is a great sense of disappointment in terms of Bill C-10 as an example, which has the bigger jails mentality which is being rejected in the American states that were big advocates for it at one point in time. We brought in amendments to that bill and those amendments were crushed at committee. With the legislation before us, we already get the sense that some changes will be needed.

Is the government prepared to entertain genuine amendments brought forward by the Liberal Party or the New Democratic Party that could strengthen Bill C-26? Is the government open to receiving and approving amendments on merit?

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to respond to the two key points that I think the member tried to raise.

One is the whole issue of the big jails mentality. The member must not have been listening to my speech when I pointed out the prevention and rehabilitation aspects that our government is heavily involved in. I hope he has read the transformation agenda on the Correctional Service of Canada website. It clearly outlines the government's preventive, restorative and rehabilitative efforts. It is important that we keep that message clear.

Bill C-10 did not address these issues; that is not what Bill C-10 was about. Bill C-10 was a compilation of five years of work on the part of this government. The bill's individual components had been before the House and committee many times. I do not know the total number of hours, but they had received intense scrutiny. Yes, this government was open to the input of committee members at every stage along the line. Does that mean the government automatically accepts, endorses and implements amendments to the legislation? Of course not. That is not the function of government. Government needs to hear all the evidence, weigh the evidence and upon the best information take action. That is the responsibility of the government.

I am proud to be part of this government that has taken decisive action to restore balance to our criminal justice system.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Simcoe—Grey Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Madam Speaker, there has been a considerable amount of debate and public concern with respect to the apparent limitations around the scope of citizen's arrest. The Minister of Justice is quoted as saying:

Our government is committed to putting real criminals behind bars. Canadians who have been the victim of a crime should not be re-victimized by the criminal justice system.

I appreciate my colleague's comments and what he had to say about some of those real life experiences that he and his constituents have experienced.

I would ask the member to walk us through the citizen's arrest reforms that are embedded in this piece of legislation.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her good work in helping us to implement some of the changes requested by citizens in every one of the ridings of members, and not just on this side of the House. Our colleagues across the way would tell us that they have been contacted by constituents in their ridings asking them to take action on behalf of victims. For far too long the victims of this country have been ignored as it relates to the criminal justice system.

In direct response to my colleague's question, it is important to note the two key elements of the changes in the bill. The citizen needs to make the arrest at the time the offence occurs or make that arrest within a reasonable amount of time after the citizen has found the person committing a criminal offence and must have reasonable grounds that it was not feasible to call the police in those circumstances.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to follow up on the question from my colleague from Winnipeg North. He asked whether the government would look at potential amendments based on merit.

The answer he received was that Bill C-10 had been widely discussed and amendments were considered. Of course, we know that zero amendments were accepted. In fact, there were several amendments put forward by my colleague from Mount Royal that were rejected out of hand at the committee railroading process, which later the minister decided actually were worthwhile. The minister tried to bring them forward at report stage but the amendments were rejected by the Speaker because they should have been done at committee stage.

This is exactly what we want to avoid. We want those reasonable amendments to be considered, discussed and potentially accepted in committee where it should happen. Will the member advocate for that with his minister and colleagues?

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Madam Speaker, in direct answer to that question I can say without any reservation that every member on this side of the House listens carefully to those ideas that are put forward by members of the opposition. However, I do not serve on the justice committee and I cannot speak for that committee. Each committee is the master of its own destiny.

I can assure the member that on this side of the House we listen to members on the opposite side in this House of Commons. As important, we listen to the constituents in our ridings who have been the victims of many of these offences that have literally destroyed the lives of our young people, whether it is a sexual offence, or getting hooked on drugs, or it is a violent crime that has injured them or, in too many cases, ended their lives.

We are listening. We will work with our opposition partners to get the best action for Canadians.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Before resuming debate, I would like to advise the House that from here on the interventions will be of 10 minutes, followed by questions and comments of five minutes.

The hon. member for Winnipeg Centre.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I can barely introduce what I want to say in 10 minutes, but at least I will try to make the most of what little time I have.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

John Baird

You had better ask for unanimous consent to go over the time.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Well maybe I will carry on. Unanimous consent, perhaps, would be a consideration if I do have more things to say than time permits.

As we approach the end of this parliamentary session of the 41st Parliament, I appreciate the tone and the content of the debate we are having in the House of Commons today. It has actually been a meaningful exchange for the most part on a very thorny question, a question that deserves the attention of Parliament.

Let me begin by recognizing and acknowledging Mr. David Chen, the owner of the Lucky Moose Foodmart in Toronto, which I suppose was the catalyst for the whole debate that we are having today. A hard-working new Canadian running a small corner grocery store was being repeatedly victimized by shoplifters and thieves, et cetera, and in a moment of frustration took action into his own hands, and apprehended and detained one of those who was knowingly and repeatedly stealing from him.

It is a matter of competing rights that we are wrestling with today. I will confess that I am not a lawyer. I have been somewhat of a bunkhouse lawyer over the years as a union leader on job sites where I have had to perhaps wrestle with this matter of competing rights, but I am glad to hear and I am glad to see that there are very competent and knowledgeable members of Parliament present today who are intervening with meaningful contributions to this debate. As I say, by and large, it has been civil, it has been interesting, and it has been meaningful.

I also confess some bias in my own personal experience. I had occasion to catch two people breaking into my home one time as I came home from work. I found two teenagers, who had just broken into the house next door and drank all the booze, who were now breaking into the rear lower windows of my house. As I pulled into the driveway, my headlights shone on these kids kicking in my window.

I tried to stop them and apprehended one, but while I was doing that, the other one grabbed my four-year-old son by the hair and started dragging him down the street, and told me he would trade me my kid for the kid I was holding.

As any parent would, I saw red. I dropped the one youth and sprinted after the one who had kidnapped my son, and ended up giving him a fairly sound thumping, which I thought was well-deserved at the time. My wife participated as well. If you have ever tried to wrestle down a 15-year-old, Madam Speaker, all hopped up on hooch, it is not as easy as it might look, even if you are a fit carpenter

To make a long story short in what little time I have, I ended up in court for the next six months for assaulting this young man who was trying to break into my house. It took six months of legal appearances and an awful lot of time and energy for the Crown prosecutors to finally drop the charges against my wife and I, and apply the charges where they belonged, to the break and enter.

I confess to a bias that I am sympathetic to the bill, and I also want to acknowledge and pay tribute to the member for Trinity—Spadina, who is the member of Parliament who represents the neighbourhood where the Lucky Moose Foodmart resides. I believe she has done a good job in advocating on behalf of her constituent, whom I believe the law did not serve well.

The Crown dropped the charges for kidnapping and carrying a dangerous weapon, which turned out to be a box cutter that any store owner would normally carry with him anyway, but charges were proceeded with against Mr. Chen of forcible confinement and assault for apprehending this thief who was stealing from his store

When he went to court months later, after the great cost and expense of having to defend himself, these charges were dropped, but it pointed to the inconsistencies, ambiguities and overlapping provisions in the Criminal Code to deal with these two competing rights. That is always the difficulty.

I should share with the House that whenever I canvass and survey the constituents of my riding as to what their top of mind concerns are, overwhelmingly, by a factor of four to one, the number one top of mind concern is crime and safety on their streets. People have a right to walk their streets without fear of being assaulted or molested. They take that very seriously in the inner city of Winnipeg where, I am not proud to say, crime and safety are often legitimate concerns.

They also want more steps taken to get guns off the streets. There are families in my riding that will not sleep in the outside rooms of their houses for fear of the gun play that occurs every night. They are afraid of stray bullets going through their homes. They want guns off the street. They want tougher measures and controls on crime and safety issues. They want less guns in their communities, and fairness in the administration and application of justice.

There are times, especially in an area that is plagued by a disproportionate amount of crime and violence, when homeowners have to take things into their own hands to protect themselves and their families. They should not be arrested and prosecuted for what is, by any reasonable objective third party's point of view, legitimate self-defence and defence of their property.

If people tuned in to watch the proceedings of the House of Commons today, this is the kind of bill that Canadians would agree Parliament should be seized with and it is the tone, content and type of debate they would be pleased we are having. My only criticism is that it is highly unlikely any amendments will be contemplated or tolerated during the consideration of this bill. I can say this with some certainty because in the entire 41st Parliament, the government has never accepted a single amendment on a single piece of legislation since May 2 when Parliament began.

Any reasonable person would have to concede that some of these issues are not straightforward. Some of them need careful deliberation and would benefit from a healthy, robust debate, exchange, and legitimate points of view put forward by members from the opposition. No one has a monopoly on good ideas in the House of Commons or in Parliament. In fact, the way to test the strength of arguments is to subject them to rigorous and robust debate. That tests the merits of the positions people hold.

I believe that this balance is not as it should be yet. There are recommendations for amendments that New Democrats would like in this bill. We support half of the bill at least because much of its origins are from a private member's bill put forward by my colleague from Trinity—Spadina. There are further elements of the bill that give us great concern. There are recommendations from the NDP justice critic, who is a well-respected lawyer and has given both professional and personal considerations to the issues we are dealing with today. They should be treated seriously and incorporated into the bill, so that it will stand the test of time, and stand up to challenges in court and serve Canadians well.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Denis Blanchette NDP Louis-Hébert, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for his speech. Two very important points stood out. On the one hand, he mentioned that both sides of the House want to improve the legislation and this bill helps to some degree. On the other hand, he asked that the bill be improved and pointed out that, despite our best efforts, not one amendment to any bill has been accepted thus far.

I wonder if the member could really emphasize which parts of the bill could be improved. I hope the members opposite will listen carefully to these suggestions.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, our complaint with this bill is similar to that with previous pieces of legislation, that it has not fully matured yet. It has not gestated into a finished product. It is like a cake in the oven that is not yet baked. It still needs work and we are not doing anyone a service by going ahead with incomplete legislation that we would be stuck with for a long time. It is unlikely that these clauses of the Criminal Code will be reopened again in our generation. So it is incumbent on us to get it right.

I point out that sections 34 and 35 of the Criminal Code, which deal with the right to self-defence, have inherent ambiguities that have caused difficulty in the jurisprudence since 1892 and it is only now that we are addressing them in the Parliament of the latter days of 2011.

What we do today has a lasting impact. We want to get it right because it does a great disservice to ordinary Canadians like Mr. David Chen if we do not get it right. Imagine the confusion of a new Canadian, proud to be a small businessman in his chosen country, when this kind of crazy thing happens to him and he winds up being the one accused of wrongdoing when all he is trying to do is protect himself.

We do not want that to ever happen again. We want to ensure that the language we incorporate in the context of this bill precludes that from ever happening again to any Canadian.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech and especially for the very personal story that he started out with. I am sure my colleagues here would agree that most of us find it very difficult to imagine the member becoming angry, but I am so glad that he was forthright in sharing that story because it does illustrate the fact that in the heat of these moments, when people have no option to call the police, they want to take action to protect the person with them or the property.

My colleague shared a number of facts about his riding in Winnipeg, the high crime statistics there, and certainly that is a cause for concern, not just in Winnipeg but across our country especially in our urban areas. I wonder if my colleague would agree that it is time in this country to restore that sense of balance to our criminal justice system that begins to recognize the rights of victims.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I take my colleague's question very seriously. I would be willing to entertain any measures that actually had the desired results. We know from empirical evidence that the best results to give us safer streets come from more money spent on crime prevention and rehabilitation, and substance abuse treatment centres.

I will give one example. A young woman, a sex trade worker, walked into my office not two months ago. She plies her trade right in front of my office in Winnipeg and she is clearly addicted to crack cocaine. She said she wanted to get off the street, she wanted to change her life. So we started phoning around and finally found a treatment centre that could take her in six weeks. We cannot tell a junky to come back in six weeks. When people are willing to make a change in their life, they need those supports and that help now.

I do not say this in criticism of this government or the provincial government. I am just saying that more attention needs to be put to crime prevention than to crime punishment and we would have safer streets.

Amendments to Community PlansRoutine Proceedings

December 15th, 2011 / 11 a.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.

Conservative

James Moore ConservativeMinister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages

Madam Speaker, I would like to table today amendments to community plans for each of the following communities in Canada's national parks: Jasper and Field. These are documents that should have been tabled in routine proceedings, but I do so now.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-26, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (citizen's arrest and the defences of property and persons), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased today to rise to speak to Bill C-26 .

However, before I do that, I want to wish my constituents a happy and merry Christmas and a safe holiday season. I also want to relay those best wishes to my colleagues here in the House. It is great to work with them. It has been a privilege and an honour to discuss and debate things like this bill.

I think Canadians are very happy. In fact, the latest polls show that they think this government is going in the right direction and they applaud us for the work we are doing.

I trust we will all have a good time back in our ridings and will be able to talk to our constituents about pieces of legislation such as this one, Bill C-26.

This piece of legislation is one of balance. I think balance has always been the key around this piece of legislation. It is trying to get the balance right.

If we get the balance right in this legislation, I think a lot of radio talk show hosts would be out of work or would not have the old safety net of, “What do I talk about today? Let's talk about victims of crime. Let's talk about people who make citizen's arrests and then become the person who is convicted”.

That is what constituents are asking. If I were to go back to the riding of Prince Albert, which I represent, and talk to constituents, that is how they would instruct me when it comes to looking at victims of crime or balancing--or, in this case, rebalancing--the right of citizens to defend themselves or their property.

It is interesting that when we talk about public security and the ability to defend ourselves, those terms have different connotations depending upon where we are in the world. If we go down to the States and talk about the right to protect ourselves and our property, we envision somebody stepping inside the door and meeting a nasty end. That is not what we are doing here in Canada. That is not even close.

If we go to some other parts of the world, such as Central or South America, where public security is always an issue, they would like to see what we are doing here today. They would think this would be a reasonable and balanced approach and they would like to see their police forces up to the level of our forces here Canada.

I also want to remind members that we are not proposing to remove the police force. We understand the role of the police force. If someone is in an unfortunate situation and is going to be a potential victim of crime or if someone sees a crime taking place, we would recommend that the first response should be to dial 9-1-1. I do not think anybody is debating that. I think everybody is saying that we should involve the police as quickly as possible.

However, there are always circumstances in which that is just not possible. There are always situations in which people just cannot get a speedy response. I am not blaming the police; it is just the reality of the vast geography of our country.

In my hometown of Canwood, Saskatchewan, if the police officer on duty that night is at the far end of his area and something is going on at the farm or we see somebody stealing gas, we can call 9-1-1. However, the reality is that it is going to take him probably 15, 20 or 25 minutes to get to my farm just because of geography. It does not matter how fast he drives; that is what it is going to take.

When we talk to farmers or people in rural Canada, they are not talking about revenge. They are not talking forming a posse and tracking down people who commit crimes. The John Wayne scenario of the westerns of the 1800s is not what we are talking about here either. Nobody would accept that. What we are talking about is just balance, simple balance.

When that farmer comes across a guy stealing a quad out of his shop and is able to apprehend him and hold him, he should not be charged with kidnapping. He should not be charged with assault. He should not be charged at all, especially when we look at the situation and the facts around the situation. That is all we are doing: trying to clarify for the courts and the police when they should lay a charge and when they should not. We are trying to balance that out.

I know the opposition members talk about amendments that they want to bring forward. I would encourage them to bring them forward in committee. That is how we end up with good pieces of legislation. I trust these amendments are ones that their constituents want to see in the bill. When those amendments come forward in committee, the committee will look at them. I trust the committee will study all those amendments and make suggestions back to this House. Then we will stand to vote, based upon what our constituents want. That is how our government works.

Therefore, when it comes to amendments, I would encourage members to take their amendments forward at committee. I would encourage members to bring them forward, make their passionate arguments, state their case and then let the committee members and members of Parliament decide their fate at that point in time.

The different types of crime that go on in ridings represent a very sad state. Nobody ever wants to be a victim of crime. Nobody ever asks for that. If a farmer in rural Saskatchewan has somebody drive into the yard at two o'clock in the morning, go up to his gas tank and proceed to break the valve and steal gas, the farmer did not ask for that. That farmer should not be penalized when he goes out and apprehends that person. That farmer should not be penalized when he confines that person.

That is what happening in the courts today. As the member for Winnipeg Centre said earlier, people who go about their day-to-day lives are put in a situation they did not create, and then all of a sudden, they end up in the courts. They have to defend themselves in court. They did not bring this on themselves; they did not ask for that person to come to their farm and steal gas. Why should these people have to go through a six-month legal battle?

That is all we are looking for in this piece of legislation. That is what this legislation does. The word is balance.

The legislation proposes a clarifications of the law. We are basically providing the police with some clarification about when they should or should not lay a charge. We are basically clarifying for the courts when it would be appropriate to pursue a charge or not.

If a person is using excessive force to restrain somebody or is being vindictive, or is planning to be, we expect that person to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. This legislation will not be a licence to blow somebody away because he showed up on your property. That is not what we are doing here. What we are doing is finding a balance, and people will not have a licence or a blank cheque to do whatever they want if somebody enters their land. They will not have that. What is acceptable and what is not acceptable is very clear in the legislation. Again, balance is the word.

That is the theme in this piece of legislation. The word “balance” should be repeated over and over again. If we get the balance right on this legislation, I think Canadians will be very happy with the government and with Parliament because we will have tackled an issue that has annoyed Canadians for years.

That is one thing my constituents will say when I go back to the riding during the break. They will say, “At least the Conservative government did stuff. You went to Ottawa, you made promises and you kept your promises. You did what we wanted. The Conservative government delivered on what Canadian constituents wanted”. They will respect and thank us for that.

As we go back to our ridings on the break and as this piece of legislation moves forward, I would encourage all members to talk about this piece of legislation with their constituents. What we are trying to do should be properly explained.

Members who want to can distort it or rile people up if they want to. Anybody can do that. However, we should sit down and explain that we do not want another situation like the one we saw with Mr. Chen. How do we properly balance that so that it does not happen again? How do we make sure that a farmer who is wakened in the middle of the night by somebody stealing his gas is not in front of the courts for eight months just because he stopped that person from stealing it?

That is the balance our constituents want; that is the balance Canadians need, and that is what we are doing in this piece of legislation. If constituents have suggestions to make this bill better, then members should bring those suggestions to committee as amendments. They should trust the committee to come forward with what they think is the best work to develop this piece of legislation.

I do know one thing: what we have today is not working. When we have people who are the victims of crime being convicted or being pursued harder than the guy who actually commits the crime, then we know something is out of balance. We know something is not correct.

I will close with that comment, and just remind my colleagues as they go back to their ridings that they should talk to their constituents about balance and about appropriate levels of security for public safety. It will be interesting to see the response that members get.

If we get this right, as I said when I started, a lot of talk show radio hosts will suddenly lose a topic to talk about over the next two or three years.

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11:10 a.m.

NDP

Denis Blanchette NDP Louis-Hébert, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his speech.

He obviously wants to bring us together. He is inviting us to make amendments. I would like to remind him that it is his government that has invoked closure nine times and so far has not accepted any amendments to any bill that has been passed here.

Let me get this straight. Is the member opposite promising, on behalf of the government, to accept reasonable amendments that this side of the House might make? I would like to know whether for once we could improve a bill, as we should be able to at all times in the House or in committee, because that is the purpose of a debate, to improve things.

Could we on this side of the House have the chance to improve a bill for once?

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11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Committees do work, Madam Speaker, and I said that four or five times in my presentation. If members have amendments, they should bring them forward at committee. There is a process involved in the development of legislation, and it is through committee. If amendments are based on politics and are not in the best interests of Canadians, then it is true that they will not go far, but if they are true, legitimate amendments that Canadians want, then the House would consider them closely.

The opposition complained about Bill C-10, for example. My colleague who spoke before me was very clear. That piece of legislation was made up of five pieces of legislation, and it was debated for four years in the House. It had had a great deal of debate, so there was no reason to delay. Canadians were asking us to get the bill passed and get it done. They told us that we did not need to hack away at it again. They said they had heard all the debates and all the arguments and they asked us to make a decision, and that is what we did: we made a decision. We moved forward.

If my colleague has some thoughtful amendments that are based on the best interests of Canadians, then I would ask him to please bring them forward, and we will consider them seriously.

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11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Ted Hsu Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Madam Speaker, it seems that the word of the day from the Conservative Party is “balance”.

The word of the day is “balance”. I am sure we will be hearing a lot of that from the other side of the floor, but I want to talk about democratic balance.

When the committee considers this legislation, can the member guarantee that the traditions of committee work will be followed and that things will be discussed in the open, not in secret? Will committee work related to this bill be done in public or will it be done in secret, as the government seems to be doing a lot?

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11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Madam Speaker, I take exception to that question, because committees follow a process that is perceived to be balanced and fair. I do not see that process changing with respect to this piece of legislation. It will come through the House and go to committee, and there will be a chance to do a report or a study on it. Recommendations will be made; based on those recommendations, the bill will come back to the House, and we will vote on it again.

I do not understand why the member is so concerned. This is a simple piece of legislation. If he has amendments, then he should bring them to committee. They will be heard there, and then the bill can move forward.