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.