Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to speak to Bill C-60, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (citizen's arrest and the defences of property and persons).
I will summarize what the bill is all about. The bill amends the Criminal Code to enable a person who owns or has lawful possession of property, or persons authorized by them, to arrest within a reasonable time a person whom they find committing a criminal offence on or in relation to that property. Bill C-60 also amends the Criminal Code to simplify the provisions relating to the defences of property and persons.
More succinctly, the bill significantly broadens the notion of self-defence and slightly broadens that of citizen's arrest.
I have had the opportunity to review some of the speeches about Bill C-60. One of my colleagues also talked about this bill.
It will come as no surprise that the Bloc Québécois supports sending Bill C-60 to committee. Today, we have heard that the scope of the bill raises certain questions. I will talk about the notion of self defence a little later. There are many questions about the problems that could be created by Bill C-60.
A Liberal member said that when an event gets a lot of media coverage, parliamentarians immediately want to solve the problem, which is quite commendable. Everyone in the House undoubtedly acts out of good faith when it comes to solving a justice-related or other problem. However, we must ensure that the scope of these laws does not give rise to other problems. That is what we fear with Bill C-60.
Two members introduced private member's bills to address citizen's arrest. In the Toronto area, the owner of a convenience store took the law into his own hands and was arrested. The public believed that the arrest made no sense because the owner of the convenience store had acted in good faith to protect himself and his property.
Bills were introduced in this regard. Then, the Conservatives introduced a bill on the same topic but with a much larger scope that also addresses the issue of self-defence.
For the Bloc Québécois, defending oneself and one's property, within reasonable limits, is a fundamental right. We do not see any problem with this. It is already permitted by law, but the law is too restrictive. Mr. Chen's case is a good example.
Bloc members support a legislative amendment that would enable honest citizens to defend themselves, their property and others. However, we do not want to implement a populist approach reminiscent of the wild west. No one here was alive during that time, but we have all seen movies in which people take justice into their own hands. Clearly, we do not want violence to escalate in such a manner or we could find ourselves in a situation where the lives of individuals and groups are endangered.
As legislators and as people who want to defend their families and their property, we do not want to create other, more serious problems and we do not want to contribute to an increase in violence. Certain provisions in the current bill could give rise, in the short to medium term, to situations that neither the public nor the police would want.
Bill C-60 was introduced in response to the incident in Toronto that I mentioned earlier. A business owner was arrested and taken to court for catching and detaining a man who had robbed him. This arrest of an honest citizen, who had repeatedly asked for police help without any response, outraged the public.
Two private member's bills were introduced immediately following this incident, and then Bill C-60 was introduced. Bill C-60 includes the vision of the political parties that introduced the private member's bills to address the issue of citizen's arrest. The Conservative government introduced a bill that seeks to amend the self-defence provisions of the Criminal Code.
Questions are being raised about the changes to the Criminal Code. The deputy chief of the Halifax Regional Police urged the federal government to caution the public about making citizen's arrests, because we want to prevent well-intentioned individuals from committing crimes themselves. He also pointed out that an arrest carries risks that a citizen has little chance of responding to as well as a police officer can. It is not our job to take on the role of vigilante. However, out of necessity, there are some situations in which citizens must be allowed to arrest someone who is in the process of committing a crime or harming property, a loved one or even a stranger. We even have a duty to intervene when we see someone in danger. We cannot stand by and do nothing, even if there is clearly a risk in intervening. It could jeopardize the life of the victim or our own life. Necessary force must be used. The changes made to self-defence with Bill C-60 could cause problems. Some situations that are currently illegal could become legal. We are not convinced that this would be desirable for the well-being of the community. Some situations covered by Bill C-60 were discussed by those who spoke before me, but I would like to give some examples.
There is a spat between neighbours: John is unhappy because he lent Jim his lawnmower and has not gotten it back yet. So he starts to threaten Jim and his family. He may even go as far as to threaten to kill them. Jim does not want to take any chances and decides to kill John before he attacks Jim or his family. When Jim is arrested, he tells the police that he could not guarantee his own or his family's safety because of the threats they had received. This may seem like an exaggerated, ridiculous example, but if we just look at what happens in court or read a newspaper, we will see a number of similar examples where people are trying to justify what they have done, even if their actions are unforgivable. How does one prove that John truly endangered the lives of Jim and his family? It will never happen, because one person killed the other.
Or consider this scenario: someone steals a pack of cigarettes from a convenience store. The cashier has a firearm under the counter and if he pulls it out, any number of things could happen: he could accidentally kill the man who stole the pack of cigarettes just by pointing the gun at him; he could say to himself that the man is a thief so he is allowed to take the law into his own hands and he decides to shoot; or the thief takes off and the other man decides to shoot and seriously injures or kills him because he wanted to stop him. We do not know whether he intended to kill the thief or not, but we do know that he pulled the trigger. I would remind hon. members that the man stole a pack of cigarettes. The shopkeeper may also decide to kill him because he has been robbed too many times and the police do not act quickly enough. So he pulls the trigger and kills the thief.
In either scenario, society does not win. Indeed, there is always a delicate balance that must be struck between going too far—even if one's intentions are good in proposing reforms that could have a negative impact—and taking action to protect one's property, one's family or unknown individuals. A balance must be struck. There is no doubt that the Criminal Code does have some shortcomings at this time, as we saw with the example of the shopkeeper, but the committee needs to examine certain things much more thoroughly.
In closing, situations like this often come up. When I was a teenager and still living at home, thieves broke into my parent's house. I was in the basement with my girlfriend at the time, and no one else was home.
When I woke up, I heard voices, so I knew there was more than one thief in the house. To scare them away, I told them I had a firearm. They ran away, but I definitely would have had a problem if I really had had a weapon and had decided to fire on them when they were running away across the lawn. That is why we must not go too far.