Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure today to add my comments on Bill C-60, a bill that I believe does have considerable support in the chamber. It is only a question of time before the bill passes second reading. I suspect there will be a number of speakers and we look forward to that happening.
However, as much as there is principle and thought behind putting the bill together as something that receives considerable support, there is a need for us to review the bill and be very diligent in having discussions with some of the stakeholders in regard to the bill at committee stage. There is a great deal of concern in terms of some of the details, but the principle is something that is very good. I understand why the idea of extending the amount of time it takes in order to make an arrest has come about, in particular in reference to an incident that occurred in Toronto in 2010.
I want to pick up on the point that was just talked about by my New Democratic colleague. That is the issue of why it is we have the bill before us today. My understanding is the government wants to come across as being tough on crime and this is going to be one of those tough on crime bills that the government is no doubt going to talk about whenever the next election occurs. It is appropriate to raise the issue of the timing of this particular bill. The idea of extending the amount of time is not new. It has now been talked about for virtually a year as the New Democrats and the Liberal Party each have a bill to address the issue in part. The Liberal Party has been talking about it for a long time now. I believe it was in June 2010 when the member for Eglinton—Lawrence brought forward a bill that in part addressed this issue.
It is interesting in terms of the government's response to private member's bills. It wants to try to give the impression to the public that it is bringing in legislation that is going to have an impact on the issue of crime. At the same time, when opposition parties, in particular when the Liberal Party brings forward a bill that would go a long way toward providing assurances and improve our system so that victims and their concerns are addressed, the government sits back and does nothing. Instead of adopting a good idea from the Liberal Party, the government chooses to sit back, do nothing and wait until it feels it is time to bring forward the same type of legislation. One could question the government's motives in terms of why it has decided to wait so long in responding to what was a very sensitive issue. It is something that is not just sensitive to the city of Toronto.
In my constituency, an incident occurred in 2010 where there was no citizen's arrest per se, but it spoke volumes in terms of police availability. The incident happened right beside my constituency office, where there is a small retail store. A couple of youths, both under age 14, and one of them might have been only eight or nine years old, walked into the store. The clerk was asked if there was ice cream. She went to the front of the store into the freezer where she was jumped from behind by the child. The child had, I believe, scissors and stabbed her in the neck. Because of the screaming that followed, the children were scared and fled the store. The clerk had to go to the hospital to get stitches.
At the end of the day, in the discussions that I have since had with the clerk, there is a sense of frustration with some of the crimes that take place and the need to take action. There were some individuals not too far from the scene who were not too sure as to exactly what they could have done. There is a general lack of knowledge with regard to citizen's arrest.
Only a number of days later there was a young individual on the top of the roof of my building threatening to stab or kill someone with scissors, a violent act. The landlord was quite concerned and did not know what he could do in terms of a citizen's arrest. The youth left the building and made a run for it. We knew who the child was and could ultimately make an identification.
We need to have confidence that the police are going to be there for us when we need them. It is an issue of resources. In many situations we find that individuals, shop owners, or concerned citizens find themselves in a position where they are able to take some form of action in the form of a citizen's arrest. If done appropriately, it is a wonderful thing.
At times, a citizen's arrest can be very dangerous. We have to make sure there is proper legislation to support it and yet not necessarily encourage individuals to be overly abusive physically with someone who is stealing a chocolate bar or something of that nature. There has to be a common sense component to it. That is why I say sending the bill to committee would be a good thing. I look forward to that happening.
I found it interesting when I read some of the quotes from Mr. Chen and what had taken place in Toronto. It reinforces a couple of the points that I want to emphasize.
In a report by the CBC, flower store owner Hamid Kheiry stated with regard to the availability of police that even if he calls, nothing happens. This is the prevailing opinion the public has. It is one of the reasons there is a great deal of frustration and people look at ways to be more directly involved. As we all know, the police cannot be everywhere. There is a role for citizens to play with regard to issues of this nature.
In terms of the courts, in his remarks, Justice Ramez Khawly, who presided over this case, stated there was, in part, perceived police inaction. The last thing I would want to imply is that this problem exists today because of our police forces. Our police are most capable and do a phenomenal job with the resources they have.
In the federal byelection in Winnipeg North a great emphasis was put on the issue of crime. The Conservative government said it wanted to address the issue head on. The biggest commitment the Conservatives made with regard to the issue of policing that could have an impact on legislation such as this was to increase the number of police officers.
This has been a hotly debated issue in Winnipeg. It resurfaced the other day in a debate at city council. It was reported in the Winnipeg Free Press. Let there be no doubt, police resources are of critical importance in dealing with issues of this nature. I am suggesting that the case in Toronto is not an exception. I believe there are a good number of citizen's arrests carried out across Canada.
For every citizen's arrest, I truly believe there are many more incidents of frustration. That frustration is because there is a sense that there is no consequence to some of the actions being taken in stores and homes across Canada. As a whole, people want to ensure there is a consequence to these actions.
I believe that if the public were canvassed we would find there is a great deal of support in terms of providing additional resources to our police agencies. I suspect the Conservatives are aware of that. That is the reason they made a commitment for 2,500 more police officers across Canada.
In looking at the Winnipeg Free Press print edition of February 26, there are three specific parts I would like to emphasize. It reads as follows:
Winnipeg officials want to know what happened to their portion of $14 million in federal money to hire 15 more police officers for city streets.
The money was made available in 2008 under the...government's $400 million Police Officers Recruitment Fund, intended to put 2,500 more police officers on the street nationally over the five years.
It states further:
Three years later, city officials say they haven't received the money to hire the additional officers.
I do believe that the legislation we have before us and the type of actions we see from the government speak of two different things. One, the government recognizes the value of trying to be perceived as being tough on crime, so it wants to bring forward legislation. Two, the government wants to be able to recognize the value of having additional police resources, so it talks a great deal about that. The government has suggested it has brought forward the necessary funds.
I would question the government on those two issues.
I started off my comments by talking about the government not recognizing the Liberal Party's bill on the issue of citizen's arrest. A member from the New Democratic Party also brought forward a bill, but it became an issue of timing.
The Conservative government ignored those bills and did nothing, in favour of waiting until the timing was right for it to bring in its own bill. It did not care in terms of the other bills being proposed. The government wanted to take the credit. That is what it was about. It wants the credit for trying to look as if it is tough on the crime front.
On the second issue of policing, the government recognized the value in the public wanting to ensure there are adequate police resources in our communities. It said it was going to provide more policing. Then there is the question in terms of the follow-through on it. Why is it that years after the government made that commitment, the city of Winnipeg has not seen those additional police officers on the street?
Money can be transferred over, but, at the end of the day, if those police officers are not materializing, a promise has been broken. When the government says that it is tough on crime, we can review not only this legislation, but other legislation that the government has failed on in this measure. It has not delivered, in a timely fashion, on many pieces of legislation that have been put forward, even from the opposition benches.
Sometimes the government throws in other complications to legislation to try to prevent or slow down legislation from ultimately passing. For example, if the government really wanted to get legislation such as Bill C-60 passed quickly, then to what degree did the government work with the official opposition, the Liberal Party, the New Democrats and to a certain degree the Bloc Party to address Mr. Chen's story, which is duplicated by many other shopkeepers across the country? How can we pass the legislation in a more timely fashion?
The Liberal Party was prepared to take action on this issue before the summer break in July 2010. It could have been done prior to the summer of 2010 if the government had the same interest it claims to have today in wanting to pass Bill C-60. However, it did not meet the government's agenda, which is not necessarily in the best interest of the public. Ultimately, that is what I would argue.
Associated with this bill is the issue of policing. It is referenced in the courts in terms of the shopkeepers and the perception of the public has a whole. The government said that it recognized that and would make a commitment, but it failed to follow through on that commitment.
A very high percentage of the population in Winnipeg North is overwhelmingly concerned about the issue of crime and safety, more so than most constituencies across Canada. Members will excuse me if I am sensitive on the issue of having more police on our streets and in our community police offices. Winnipeg North has seen community policing and police in community police offices go down. Over the same period of time that the Conservatives have been in office, community policing has gone down in service stations.
The Conservatives have done nothing to support those community police offices. The federal government does have a role to play. Through community police offices, we are able to better educate the population in regards to prevention.
There is a wonderful website that I went to when I had some public safety meetings a few weeks ago. It is about crime and safety in Winnipeg North. There is one at St. John's High School and one at Northwood Community Club on how to prevent crime from taking place. Individuals I had a chance to chat with talked about the issue of citizen arrests and how that could occur. Community policing and education play a role in making our communities safer.
As much as it is great to see the bill today, I look forward to it going to committee. I think Canadians as a whole would support the principle of extending the amount of time for arrest.