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House of Commons Hansard #145 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was libya.

Topics

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

I have a few questions for my colleague, who gave a pretty thorough summary of the bill before us.

I wonder whether my colleague would find it strange, if not deceptive, that the government, which waited for 18 months after it promised David Chen that it would look at an egregious situation, comes forward with legislation that not only looks at the issue of reasonableness, which, by the way, was already addressed by the court as it dealt with David Chen's case, but adds on to it a whole series of extraneous items that it says are absolutely important and crucial to understanding the concept of reasonableness in a citizen's arrest situation.

I would like the hon. member to give us an indication of whether he finds that the government took so long in order to come right up face to face with the prospect of not having to deal with it at all. This bill will go to committee but we do not know if the committee will be heard. However, David Chen will have expended a lot of energy, a lot of resources and a lot of money.

Does the member not think that the government should reimburse him for what he did in order to upgrade the criminal court's case study of situations like his?

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question.

Let me come back to the famous delicate balance that is needed when it comes to self-defence. I concluded my speech rather quickly a moment ago, talking about my own experience.

The government is playing around with the issue of self-defence by removing the whole notion of necessity. Everyone knows we have the right to defend ourselves and that that is enshrined in the Criminal Code, but that only the necessary force can be used.

I want to come back to my previous example. The thieves were in my parents' house. I managed to chase them away by screaming “I have a gun”. It was not true, but they did not know that. Fortunately, they believed me. When I saw them running through the neighbour's yard, I noticed there were three of them. I was glad that I had not come out swinging and that I had not tried to fight with them. I was with my spouse at the time and I did not want to leave her alone.

However, if I had had a gun and had decided to shoot the thieves as they were running away through the neighbour's yard, I do not think I would have been using necessary force or that I could have argued that it was necessary to kill someone who had entered my parents' home. If the thieves had entered the room I was in and jumped me, or started hitting me or my spouse, I think I could have used necessary force in that case.

That is the difference. The problem lies in identifying what the government wants to do with Bill C-60.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I must insist because the issue that caused the bill to come forward is essentially one of a citizen's arrest, in other words, the right of an individual to protect himself as well as his property but, most important, his property at this stage of the game. The government has come forward with legislation that unnecessarily deals with, as the member has noted, a series of issues even though the courts in the David Chen case addressed his issue, which was the reasonableness of the time and the continuity of the actions where, under any normal and reasonable expectation, someone would have found that David Chen actually did protect his property by using all the means available to conduct a citizen's arrest.

Under those circumstances, would he not think that the government is really trying to thwart the will of the courts?

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think the hon. member has hit the nail on the head. He has been here long enough to know that the Conservative government always tends to adopt populist measures, especially when it comes to justice.

It was easy, especially given the bill he himself introduced and the bill introduced by the NDP, to move very quickly to resolve the problem in the Criminal Code. We see that. That is why we agree with sending Bill C-60 to committee. There are changes we can make without unravelling everything.

However, to introduce this populist measure is to suggest that this is what people want and that the government will move forward with it without considering the consequences. In wanting to resolve a situation involving Mr. X, in this case Mr. Chen, the government is using a bazooka when all it really needed to do was to make a very quick change by passing either the bill introduced by my colleague or the one—

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Resuming debate.

The member for Don Valley East.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-60, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (citizen's arrest and the defences of property and persons).

The genesis of the bill was the arrest of Toronto grocer, David Chen, who apprehended a man who had previously stolen from his store. Mr. Chen was arrested and charged with forcible confinement after the perpetrator of the theft was caught outside his store by Mr. Chen who effected what, in his mind, was a citizen's arrest.

Under the current provisions of the Criminal Code, a citizen may make an arrest only when a criminal offence is being committed or has been committed and the alleged criminal is in the process of fleeing. Eventually, the court, after a lengthy period of time and a large public outcry, found Mr. Chen not guilty due to a reasonable doubt being identified by the judge.

As I look at Bill C-60, it tries to amend subsection 494(2) of the Criminal Code to enable private citizens who own or have lawful possession of property, or persons authorized by them, to arrest, within a reasonable time, a person who they find committing a criminal offence on or in relation to that property. This power of arrest would only be authorized when there are reasonable grounds to believe that it is not feasible in the circumstances for the arrest to be made by a police officer. It would also amend the Criminal Code to simplify the provision relating to the defence of property and persons.

We must be careful that the passage of this bill does not give the public the erroneous impression that individuals have the right to mete out any form of vigilante justice. The government has taken too long to introduce a bill on this issue, and when it came up with this wording, there are some issues around clarity. There is ambiguity. What are these things that need to be clarified? The ambiguity that is most concerning is what is meant by a reasonable amount of time between the act of violence that is committed on a personal property and when a citizen's arrest is made.

If this ambiguity is left unresolved it could lead others to inadvertently commit a criminal act. For example, let us say that we see someone breaking into our house or garage and stealling tools but we are not able to apprehend the person, if we were to meet that person next week in a park could we apprehend him or her then? What is a reasonable time? How does one get around it? If I see somebody breaking into my neighbour's house, what is my job as a citizen? Should I make a citizen's arrest? Where are the parameters? Those are the parameters of the citizen's arrest that are missing from this explanation or change to the act.

How do we ensure clarity? We need to have clarity so we do not have a repeat of what happened to Mr. Chen. Mr. Chen did what he thought was helping the police. He arrested the guy who was a repeat offender and because it was his personal property he thought he was doing the right thing. Unfortunately, the police arrested Mr. Chen and told him that he was doing the wrong thing.

I wonder how many of us would stop if we saw a theft taking place, take a picture and ensure the picture was correct so we could give it to the police do they could find the person. We know the police force is underfunded. It needs all the citizen help it can get. Where is this clarity that we are looking for? I know police officers have also raised concern about the legislation and I look forward to hearing those concerns. I would look forward to sending this bill to committee.

For a government that says it is a law and order agenda government, why did it take so long to bring about changes?

The member for Eglinton—Lawrence and the member for Trinity—Spadina both addressed this issue many months ago when they brought in a private member's bill. It was after they brought in the private member's bill that the government decided that it should get around to this issue as well.

I want the government to be smart on crime and to be alert on crime, not to make crime some election issue. These are crimes that affect citizens and that affect my daily life. I would like the government to clarify due process. How does the judge know what due process is? The judiciary should be given that clarity.

What determines a citizen's arrest? The police need to be given clarity so they do not repeat the mistakes that happened in Mr. Chen's case. If the police do not understand the interpretation of this bill, we will have another repeat of Mr. Chen's situation.

This is important for all of us. I will give an example that is very interesting. Spitting is not allowed on many streets, especially in Europe. People cannot spit on the street. Is spitting a crime? Do I take a picture? If I do take a picture, what do I do with it? How do I make a citizen's arrest? If I see a member's computer being stolen, what do I do about it? What is a reasonable time? When do I enforce it? As I mentioned, the police force does not have the wherewithal to arrive on time sometimes. It needs all the help it can get.

Therefore, when we are looking at making changes to that act, we should let the police do their justice job. If we are trying to apprehend a perpetrator and the perpetrator has a gun, what do we do? How do we protect ourselves? Yes, the police should do their job and, yes, the police cannot always be there, but when we are talking about citizen's arrests, let us be clear about what we want.

It is unfortunate that the government took so long. It is unfortunate that Mr. Chen had to go through this lengthy and costly legal process due to the ambiguity. I do not think the ambiguity has been clarified by what the government has introduced.

I hope the committee and its members will look at these concerns and that they will come up with a solution that provides clarity to the public, the police and the judiciary.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I compliment my colleague on attempting to make the legislation relevant to the everyday experiences of ordinary citizens.

Mr. Chen was an ordinary citizen. He had the assurance of the Minister of Immigration that his situation would be rectified very quickly by the Government of Canada, or the SH government. He also had a similar assurance from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice.

By his own words, we have the Minister of Justice's account that in late 2009 the governments of the various provinces were already coming to a conclusion with regard to this and yet the government did nothing.

I wonder whether the member will comment on why it took two opposition bills in order to prompt the government to action?

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member's question brought me back to the fact that the Prime Minister went to Mr. Chen's store for electioneering purposes.

It was the member for Eglinton—Lawrence and the member for Trinity—Spadina who were the proponents of this private member's bill to move it forward.

I can only speculate that this was electioneering because if it was for the law and order agenda and I as a private citizen am not protected, it must be speculation time.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher ConservativeMinister of State (Democratic Reform)

Mr. Speaker, I was listening with a little interest to what the member was saying and I reflect on her comment about the fact that the Conservative Party is tough on crime. We are tough on crime and that is why we have introduced this bill. This bill would take care of the people who wish to harm citizens or their property. We have introduced legislation to get rid of the three for one and two for one time served credits that criminals were taking advantage of. We have introduced laws that are tough on crime.

Would the member not just admit that the Liberal Party is soft on crime and would like to see as much leeway as possible given to the bad guys so they can escape prosecution? Would the member please state for the record that she is against prosecution?

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am quite amused by this. If there is a three for one credit, I have to wonder whether the senators who were charged with fraud in elections will be going to jail and what time they will serve.

When it comes to Conservatives committing a crime, why is it that the government absolutely refuses to put them in prison or ensures that due process takes place? Ordinary citizens who commit crimes are put wherever and the Conservatives think they are being tough on crime. But when it comes to the Conservative senators, members and ministers who are implicated in fraud in elections, where will they be going?

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite just raised a very important point, and that is that the SH government has no agenda for getting tough on crime. It does not have a reasonable approach to dealing with crime and promoting justice. In fact, there are no more resources being allocated for justice issues.

How can one be tough except by one's own wrath?

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

March 21st, 2011 / 12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, instead of investing in the police, who are underfunded and under-resourced, the government is creating mega prisons for unreported crimes. The government needs to invest in resources. The police need money, so let us invest in the right resources. Let us be smart on crime, not stupid on crime.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand today to speak to Bill C-60, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (citizen's arrest and the defences of property and persons).

The New Democrats are happy to support the bill, at least insofar as it would expand the legal authority for private citizens to make an arrest within a reasonable amount of time after they find that person committing a criminal offence.

It is important to understand that the bill would do three things: first, it would extend the time period from the present Criminal Code situation in which a person may make a citizen's arrest; second, it would amend the defence of persons provisions of the Criminal Code; and, third, it would amend the defence of property provisions of the Criminal Code.

It is the New Democrat Party's position that the first part of the bill is an appropriate amendment to our law that our party supports. With respect to the other two sections, we believe that those sections should be split from the bill or otherwise studied independently in committee prior to making any changes in that regard.

Again, the legislation would expand the legal authority for private citizens to make an arrest from the present situation which allows citizens to make that arrest if they catch someone in the commission of a crime; that is, any citizen of Canada can make a citizen's arrest lawfully under the Criminal Code provided that they make that arrest during the commission of that offence.

Canadians saw a spectacle last summer where a Toronto shopkeeper arrested a person who had come to his store on multiple occasions and stolen from him. His name was David Chen and the name of his store was the Lucky Moose. The thief returned to the store within a very close amount of time from having robbed it earlier, I think within the last day or two, and entered the store again. Mr. Chen had a videotape of this person, so identification was not an issue. Mr. Chen and his staff held that person until the police arrived.

What happened next is something that I think revealed the problem with the current law, which is that upon arriving at Mr. Chen's store, the police did not arrest the alleged thief, but arrested Mr. Chen and charged him with a number of offences, including unlawful confinement and other such, I think, completely unreasonable offences.

Of course, at the time, the police really had no choice but to do so because the law, as it currently stands, says that a person may only make that arrest during the commission of an offence. Since the thief had arrived at Mr. Chen's store not during the commission of the offence but within a day or two later, Mr. Chen was not within his rights, under the Criminal Code, to make that arrest.

The bill would also bring reforms to simplify or clarify, according to the government, the Criminal Code provisions on self-defence and defence of property, and clarify where reasonable use of force is permitted in relation to those issues.

The amendments to subsection 494(2) of the Criminal Code, on citizen's arrest, would authorize private citizens to make that arrest within a reasonable amount of time after they find someone committing a criminal offence that occurs in relation to property and the power of arrest would only be authorized when that person has reasonable grounds to believe that it is not feasible in the circumstances for the arrest to be made by a peace officer or, in other words, a police officer.

The legislation would also attempt to clarify, by cross-reference to the Criminal Code, that use of force is authorized in a citizen's arrest but that there are specific and concrete limits placed on how much force could be used.

In essence, the laws currently permit the reasonable use of force, taking into account all of the circumstances of a particular case and, of course, the current Criminal Code and the bill would continue to make it clear that a person is not entitled to use excessive force in a citizen's arrest.

There are very important considerations in the bill. A citizen's arrest is a very serious, potentially dangerous undertaking. Unlike a peace officer, a private citizen is neither tasked with the duty to preserve and maintain public peace nor, generally speaking, properly trained to apprehend suspected criminals.

In most cases, an arrest consists of either actually seizing or touching a person's body, with a view to detaining him or her, or by using words where the person submits to the arrest. Citizen's arrests made without careful consideration of the risk factors may have serious, unintended, physical or legal consequences for everybody involved.

When deciding if a citizen's arrest is appropriate, people should consider a number of factors, including whether a peace officer is available to intervene at that time, their personal safety or the safety of others, and whether that safety would be compromised by attempting an arrest. They should report information about the crime to police instead of taking action on their own wherever possible. They must have a reasonable belief regarding the suspect's criminal conduct and identity, and of course, they must turn over the suspect to the police without delay once an arrest is made.

I want to give credit where credit is due. My colleague from Trinity—Spadina, upon learning of Mr. Chen's situation, immediately went to work, as New Democrat MPs are renowned in the House for doing, by drafting a private member's bill, Bill C-565. The NDP responded to the situation before any other party in the House did.

My colleague drafted a bill that dealt surgically and precisely with the situation at hand. It could have been law today if the government had simply agreed to pass Bill C-565 by unanimous consent. In fact, all the parties could have done that. That bill would have expanded the time in which a citizen could make a citizen's arrest, which is all that is required.

The situation Mr. Chen faced was that he made an arrest after the commission of the offence and that is what put him in jeopardy. If we had amended the Criminal Code, we could have clarified that situation. The problem with the bill the government has put forward is that it goes beyond that. It purports to amend the sections of defence of property and persons in the Criminal Code, which are not situations that were required to be amended because of the Lucky Moose situation and which, of course, will slow down this legislation because now all parties in the House have to study carefully what those sections mean.

After my colleague drafted her bill, I was proud to second it. My colleague and I then toured small businesses in Vancouver Kingsway where I brought up the situation of Mr. Chen and the Lucky Moose to small business owners and asked their opinion. I also drafted a petition asking whether or not small business people would support my colleague's bill and there was overwhelming support.

The conversations I had with small business owners in Vancouver Kingsway made it clear that small business people are very concerned about theft, pilferage in their stores, the very slow response time of police, and the inability of police to deal adequately with the problem of shoplifting. These are hard-working store owners who employ thousands of my constituents and deserve to be better protected from those who would steal from them. I heard from small business people that their margins of profit are very thin and the difference between a small business owner making a living or not very often depends on the amount of crime, whether vandalism or theft.

I also met with the head of the Vancouver Chinatown Business Improvement Society and Tony Lam, and I heard their experiences. The shop owners in Chinatown in Vancouver tell me that their very existence is threatened by the crime experienced in the Downtown Eastside. They have to hire private security. They say that police are so over-stretched they are unable to respond. I want to talk for just a minute about that because part of the problem underlying this bill is the problem of over-stretched police.

I have met with police board representatives, police officers, chiefs of police, and with municipalities across this country. They tell me that the 2,500 police officer positions the government promised to create have not materialized. They have said that the $500 million in federal policing costs are being downloaded to municipalities. They told me that in order to make their streets safer, and ensure that citizens and businesses are protected, they need more community policing.

That is the underlying problem that this bill seeks to remediate. Citizens are now placed in the position of having to do what they pay taxes for, which is to get police to respond to crime. However, that does not happen when the government does not provide the necessary funding for long-term positions, does not target the money to provinces to create the positions, and does not create enough funds to hire the civilian staff necessary to support the police officers.

I am proud to support this bill and small businesses in this country, and to ensure they can protect themselves from crime.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. colleague is a lawyer and is accustomed to ensuring that precision is part of the presentation. He will recall that, on June 16, I presented a private member's bill to draw the government's attention to the fact that Mr. Chen's case was languishing in a stupor of indifference. The member for Trinity—Spadina followed that up the following September, still in 2010, weeks before Mr. Chen's case appeared in court for deliberation. Still there was no action by the government. Remember, the government says that it is tough on crime, but it is indifferent to victims.

Those of us who really wanted a balanced approach to life were looking for an indication that the government would deliver on its promises, promises made by the Minister of Immigration and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice. Even the Justice Minister, in his presentation, indicated that in the fall of 2009 he was already in consultation with the provincial attorneys general to do something, and did nothing. Does the member not find this all strange?

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I give credit to the hon. member for Eglinton—Lawrence and commend him on his early action as well to draft legislation, again showing that the opposition was first off the mark in dealing with the situation of Mr. Chen and the Lucky Moose.

Absolutely, Canadians want a balanced approach to crime. Very often I think it is a fair comment to say that the government tries to reduce crime to simple sloganeering, to name calling and to simplification that really all Canadians utterly reject. Every member of the House is in favour of reducing crime in our country. Every member of the House is dedicated to ensuring we take care of victims. For one party in the House to constantly stand and accuse the other parties of not caring about those things is as dishonourable as it is dishonest.

We need to look at our law and make improvements where the law really requires it. I think this is a section of the Criminal Code that all parties can agree, and I think we all agree, that expanding the citizen's arrest provisions of the Criminal Code is necessary and is desirable to modernize this section to keep up with the expectations of Canadians in this important area.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the hon. member's intervention because, with his legal training, he has an insight into the way the law would work, from which other members of Parliament might benefit.

Trying to tap on his expertise, I would like to get his views on whether it has been necessary for this legislation, Bill C-60, to be as expansive as it has become. We were essentially trying to address the issue of a citizen's right to arrest, period, pure and simple. The government has unnecessarily burdened this debate with other issues that will take the public's attention away from a very small amendment to the Criminal Code.

In fact, it is an amendment that had been studied by various university law professors and had been worked on by those associated with Mr. Chen. I compliment Chi-Kun Shi and all her team of legal experts who provided the energy and incentive to Mr. Chen and gave him the courage to stand up to government, to speak truth to power and to ask for a change in law so citizens could be protected.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, the short answer to the hon. member's question is yes.

All that was required to amend the law in this case was to pass the essential amendment that my colleague from Trinity—Spadina and my hon. colleague from Eglinton—Lawrence proposed in their legislation, which is simply to extend the time period in which a citizen may make an arrest to a reasonable time within the commission of a crime.

The fact that the government tacked on unnecessary and complicating amendments, which have to do with sections of the Criminal Code that are not engaged by the Chen incident, that are not required to be amended in order to deal surgically with the situation at hand, does slow down the passing of this bill. It does make every reasonable member of the House have to pause and study the impact of those sections of the Criminal Code. Therefore, it is likely that the bill will not be passed as swiftly as it could have been had we just done what the hon. member's bill and my hon. colleague's bill would have done.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, to begin with, I must tell you that the Bloc Québécois will support this bill at second reading. The reason is quite simple: we very much want the bill to be referred to committee so it can be studied. In fact, as is their custom, the Conservatives introduce bills with titles that are sometimes misleading. In addition, we are familiar with their Republican-style approach, characterized by penalties, punishment and being tough on crime. Often, a simple bill goes beyond the issue it is supposed to resolve. That is what we are dealing with today.

The bill is called An Act to amend the Criminal Code (citizen's arrest and the defences of property and persons). In reading the bill, we realize that it goes too far. As I was saying, it errs on the side of punishment, ideology and rigidity. There is no flexibility in the Conservative ideology, which makes it difficult to try to find new ways of dealing with new behaviours in society. The Conservatives always have the same reflex: the response has to be far-reaching, people must go to jail, and rehabilitation is not possible.

So, you will understand that with this bill, like many other bills related to justice and safety, as the saying goes, the devil is in the details. When we take a closer look at these details, we see that the title of the bill before us does not necessarily reflect its content.

I would like to give examples of the Conservatives' lack of flexibility in their approach to crime, which focuses solely on punitive measures. There are many examples, one of which is Bill C-25 to amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act. This bill was considered heresy in Quebec because we believe that it is more important to focus on prevention, particularly when it comes to adolescents. We should not imprison them and thereby send them to crime school because, when they get out of prison, they will have indeed become true criminals. In Quebec, we want to do the opposite; we want to rehabilitate these offenders and give them a second chance. If you look at the statistics, you will see that Quebec has had the most success in this area. This not only benefits society, but it also saves money because it means that we do not have to spend money on prisons, as the Conservative government is preparing to do by making major investments in correctional facilities.

These are examples of the lack of flexibility we have a hard time accepting because we do not have the same type of society. And you know that the Bloc members try to reflect the reality and the vision of Quebeckers as much as possible. But these visions that come from the rest of Canada, especially from the Conservative Party, in no way reflect Quebeckers' wishes in terms of justice.

It is the same story with the bill to amend the regulations for certain drugs. Pursuant to this bill, a teenager who is caught smoking a joint will be thrown in prison and will be tried in court, instead of being rehabilitated so he can become someone who contributes to society instead of spending his life behind bars, becoming someone who will, upon release, commit other crimes and make his situation worse, at which point he will be beyond help.

The Conservative government is not on the right track with its approach. It has missed the train entirely, and that is why the committee must examine this bill together.

Another example is the appointment of judges. The Minister of Justice now has the majority on the committee that selects judges. That is an odd way of controlling justice. But the judiciary is one of the basic pillars of a democracy, along with the executive and the legislative branches. As soon as a government goes to extremes to control the judiciary, as the Conservatives are doing, it is not surprising that these pillars would weaken and that our society would become dysfunctional. Therefore, it is important for us to delve into this bill and to examine it in detail.

We are looking out for the concerns of Quebeckers. We want a balanced approach, without too much repression, based on today's realities, because we are no longer working with 19th or 20th century laws. This is the 21st century. We need a new approach, which Quebeckers have managed to implement in their justice system. We cannot see ourselves in what the Conservative government is putting forward.

We must avoid the huge trap the Americans have fallen into. Proportionally speaking, seven times more prison sentences are handed down in the United States than in Quebec. We think we are on the right track. Imitating the Americans will not resolve matters here; on the contrary. The government wants to build more prisons. This will probably mean more guards in secure environments. This all costs money, and we are anxious to see those details. In fact, the opposition has requested documents in that regard and I would remind the government that it is running out of time to produce those documents, if it wants to avoid being found in contempt of Parliament.

The Bloc Québécois looked at some interesting points. Our parole system makes no sense. It makes no sense that Norbourg's Vincent Lacroix is out of prison in an open environment, when he ruined the lives of about 9,000 people and stole over $100 million. He should have served a full sentence for his crimes, instead of being released on parole. The proof that we are in touch with reality is that Quebeckers do not agree that Vincent Lacroix should be almost completely free at this time.

People also want us to do more to fight organized crime, which would be easy to do. We simply need to confiscate more assets. Anyone who accumulates goods or money fraudulently would have it confiscated and those assets and money would be placed in a fund used to pay for the fight against crime. These are excellent ideas. Unfortunately, the government refuses to listen to them.

We also need to eliminate the provision regarding the double credit that is given for time served before sentencing. At present, offenders can simply ask their lawyers to delay their cases, since every day they serve before sentencing will count as double. That is a problem. Unfortunately, once again, the government refuses to listen.

Let us now talk about citizen's arrest. There is a change here, and the devil is in the details. It must happen within a reasonable time, but what is a reasonable time? There must be reasonable grounds. It must not be feasible in the circumstances for a peace officer to make the arrest. The person wanting to make the arrest must feel that no other options are available because the police are not there. This is a very arbitrary provision and should be more precise in order for progress to be made.

We must also ensure that things do not get out of hand. We do not want to encourage vigilantes like the ones Charles Bronson played in the 1970s. If someone tries to make off with a pack of gum, the convenience store owner must not take out a gun and shoot him. Who will determine the amount of force needed? I may be told that these are mere details, but it is important to consider them.

It is the same for self-defence. Necessity is no longer a requirement for using force when it comes to self-defence. It used to have to be proven that force was necessary. At present, someone could threaten my friends or family and I, in self-defence, could seriously harm them. These things need to be examined. And that is why the Bloc Québécois wants this bill to be passed at second reading. The incident in Toronto cannot be ignored. Citizen's arrests can take place as long as certain rules are followed, and these rules need to be established and studied in committee.

We will support Bill C-60 at second reading so that it can be studied in more detail in committee and so that we can chase the devil out of the details.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think that the members in the House need to pay attention to the Bloc member when he says that the devil is in the details.

This could have been a very easy bill to address had the government told everybody that it saw a problem with a specific element in the Criminal Code that it wished to address. It had unanimous support in the House. Witness the two bills by the member for Eglinton—Lawrence and Trinity—Spadina. However, the government has taken a position, and I hope my hon. colleague will comment on this, that the entire Criminal Code needs an uplift, needs sorting out and greater attention, but it has not made the case for this bill.

We are looking for government members and government ministers to convince the House and the general public why the bill needs to be accepted in all its complexity as presented to the House.

The hon. member has just made a compelling case for saying there are very important issues that need to be addressed. The business of citizen's arrest is one of them. It is a crucial one. It tips the balance toward the citizen on reasonable grounds on a case-by-case basis--

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1:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Saint-Jean.

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1:15 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the hon. member.

Often when the Conservative Party tries to resolve one problem it creates others. In a way, that is what is going on with the bill before us today. The bills presented by the private members could have easily fixed the situation, but once again the government took advantage of an opportunity to interfere further in the details. Parliament as a whole, the committee and all the parties, have to rebalance this bill. The situation was not complicated: an individual and his employees arrested someone who was robbing his store. That individual was charged and he is the one who has to defend himself in court. People's perception is that criminals are better protected than victims. That would have been easy to fix, but the government has added all manner of detail and now we are also addressing self-defence. We are dealing with that because, once again, the Conservative government is going too far. Let us look at the details.

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1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was wondering what the hon. member would think about the following perspective, that lying behind this particular set of facts that gave rise to this amending legislation was a situation that involved common law defences and the statutorily written defences in the Criminal Code.

I always thought that the combination of the two was sufficient to deal with the actual case at hand. As it turned out, they were sufficient to deal with the case at hand because the charges against the individual involved were dropped or dismissed. In fact, they were not dropped but were proceeded with, which was the big problem, as they occasioned costs and all kinds of potential embarrassment to this citizen, this businessman.

However, I am just wondering if the hon. member would agree that the government is now going back and tinkering with the common law defences, because over half of this bill deals with the common law self-defence provisions. Will the tinkering not hurt the purpose of the bill, which was just to fix the one problem identified in the fact situation?

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1:15 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, again, the hon. member is right. This is a common law issue.

The Conservative Party tends to make mountains out of molehills and ends up putting otherwise minor offences into the Criminal Code. That is what I would call rigid Conservative philosophy and Republican-style justice. It is not the answer. It is not necessary for this individual to be punished under the Criminal Code. On the contrary, the common law applies. However, the Conservative Party tends to twist common law matters into criminal law matters. I think this will create a society where things are not quite right. Hon. members are here to try to create balanced bills that resolve problems without making them worse.

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1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Jean-Claude D'Amours Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, today I have the pleasure of speaking to Bill C-60, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (citizen's arrest and the defences of property and persons).

I would like to read a summary of this bill.

This bill seeks to amend the Criminal Code to enable a person who owns or has lawful possession of property to arrest within a reasonable time a person whom they find committing a criminal offence on or in relation to that property.

In general, advancing the cause central to Bill C-60 is a legitimate endeavour.

In many cases, the Conservative government puts up smoke screens and takes on the responsibility for finding a solution, whereas in many more cases they create the problem.

This was a real-life situation. However, it was members of the House who attempted to amend the law in order to ensure that citizens, such as Mr. Chen, would not have to go before the courts after legitimately protecting their property.

There was not enough security for his property. I am convinced that Mr. Chen legitimately wanted to protect his property and what he had earned through hard work. It was a huge economic loss for him. In some cases, depending on the situation, it could also be a sentimental loss.

I will get back to the smokescreen and the fact that the Conservatives like to take credit for solutions or let everyone think that they came up with them. However, once again, they have found ways to create additional problems rather than providing solutions.

I would like to acknowledge the extraordinary work done by the hon. member for Eglinton—Lawrence, who raised this point. I believe it is important to fully understand that member's efforts.

The hon. member introduced a private member's bill on June 16, 2010. He did so because he thought it was important to protect the people in his riding and throughout the country. He introduced the private member's bill to correct existing errors or, at the very least, improve the measures that were already in place.

Since early November 2010, the government and the Prime Minister have been repeatedly saying that this is one of their major priorities. This was not a major priority since a bill had already been introduced; a private member's bill was introduced by a Liberal member to move this issue forward. The member for Eglinton—Lawrence and his Liberal Party colleagues identified this priority long before the Conservatives did. The Prime Minister was likely asleep at the switch and someone woke him up to tell him that this was becoming a hot and important topic and that maybe he should pay special attention to it because he might gain some political advantage from it. As for my colleague from Eglinton—Lawrence, he introduced the bill in order to stand up for a cause and ensure that the people in his riding and elsewhere got the respect they deserved and were able to protect their property.

Despite the elaborate speeches given by the Prime Minister, ministers and Conservative members in November 2010, we still had to wait until February 2011 before they presented any amendments to the House, not only with regard to the specific point we are discussing today—the case of Mr. Chen for example—but also with regard to other situations.

Eight months went by between June 2010 and February 17, 2011, when the Conservative government made its big presentation.

This is surprising given the Conservatives' claim that they are champions of law and order—the reality is clearly different. When something happens in our country and someone tries to make things better for our constituents, the government takes eight months to react and present to the House, not a speech, but a concrete document on what it is offering to Canadian parliamentarians, those who make decisions for all Canadians.

Eight months earlier, my Liberal colleague for Eglinton—Lawrence had already found a way to improve the situation. The self-appointed champions of law and order said that it was not important, that the public was not really concerned with the issue and that they were not going to worry much about it. When things started to happen, when Mr. Chen's case came before the court in October 2010, the Conservatives saw that many people were paying attention to this issue and felt that it was important. It is normal for citizens to want to protect their property, whether we are talking about businesses or individuals, economic goods or property with sentimental value, or anything else.

My Liberal colleague had already identified the problem. This is where we see the Conservative government speaking double-talk. One day, it says it is here to protect the public, but when the time comes to do it, how much time does it take before it starts to do something? When it presented its bill in February, there was a panic because it could not prove to the public that it was the party that had identified the problem. Now this has to be dealt with overnight, when it could simply have given the credit to our colleague from Eglinton—Lawrence. He could then have had his private member’s bill passed easily and quickly. It was a very simple bill that contained what we expected to see. No one could have thought that they were going to get backdoored by the Conservative government’s bills.

The matter could have been dealt with very quickly in September, even before the court heard Mr. Chen's case in October. But no. The Conservatives always find a way to complicate things and give the impression that they are the great champions and saviours of the world. During that time, members working for the welfare of their constituents had already taken a position. That is the big difference between Liberal Party members and the Conservative government. The government wants to blow smoke and take the credit, while we are working for the welfare of our constituents.

I hope the government is going to learn a lesson from all this, and next time a member proposes an idea to meet the public’s needs, they will listen, regardless of political party. There is only one goal: to present or amend legislation so the public will have a better quality of life and a better structure to protect it.

We have seen smokescreens that did not produce much. A few years ago, in 2009, the Minister of Immigration said that the government would have to amend some of the regulations. It is fine for them to spend their time making speeches, but as long as there is nothing concrete, nothing is being done for the public. We have seen 2009, 2010 and part of 2011 go by, and the Conservatives still have not done anything. I would like to congratulate my colleague from Eglinton—Lawrence and thank him. His actions are the reason we have been able to understand the problem and find solutions.

I hope that the Conservative government will now open its eyes and ears, and come up with a solution.

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1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, one of my observations about the current government is that it brings forward piecemeal amendments that are just a hodge-podge of little things here and there surrounded by fancy titles and are, in many cases, for what I call the retail side of politics.

All of this could have been accomplished with just a few amendments and some decent, indepth legislation that would have given us a greater idea of how we want to battle crime in this country. The government wants to be tough on crime but it is certainly not smart on crime. The comprehensive debate that we have had here comes down to a few adjectives here and there thrown about like they are substantial. In this particular case, it has taken way too long. I wonder if the member could comment on that.

I wonder if the member could also comment on just how lackadaisical this legislation seems to be despite the fact that it is well-intended and principled.