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.