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House of Commons Hansard #140 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was code.

Topics

The House resumed from December 9 consideration of the motion that Bill C-509, An Act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act (library materials), be read the third time and passed.

Canada Post Corporation ActPrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.

Conservative

Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today about the importance of literacy for Canada and Canadians. In particular, in speaking to Bill C-509, introduced by my colleague, the member for Brandon—Souris, I am particularly pleased, as the son of a librarian, to be supporting this bill.

I am pleased today to highlight some of the government's ongoing investments in and support of this vital skill and to speak about the important role that the library book rate plays in supporting literacy.

Improving the literacy and essential skills of Canadians is a key part of the government's commitment to building a highly skilled, adaptable and competitive work force. The ability to read is just one aspect of the essential skills today's workers need in a competitive marketplace. Others include document use, numeracy, writing, oral communication, working with others, continuous learning, thinking and computer skills. These are skills that many of us in our daily lives take for granted.

Recognizing how important and fundamental these skills are, the Government of Canada invested $38 million in 2010-11 in the Office of Literacy and Essential Skills. This office serves as a national centre of expertise in literacy and essential skills that complements the work of the provinces and territories in adult learning. It works to ensure that Canadians have the skills they require to participate fully in the labour market and their communities. It does this by developing and sustaining networks of pan-Canadian coalitions and bringing together the key organizations and partners that play a role in literacy and essential skills across Canada.

The office plans, develops, tests and disseminates new ideas, tools, and strategies for effective interventions in literacy and essential skills, and supports organizations and institutions in bettering literacy and other essential skills in their activities and policies. Through the work of the Office of Literacy and Essential Skills, the government provides core funding to literacy coalitions across Canada. It also supports a number of innovative projects that work with businesses to design and test new approaches for addressing the essential skills challenges of workers.

In our global economy, a highly skilled population is a key asset for any nation and is fundamental to economic growth. Globalization and new technologies have propelled us in this knowledge-based economy. Reflecting this, the occupational composition of Canada has shifted toward occupations that require higher levels of education and skill. A knowledge-based economy requires workers who can adapt quickly to changing skills and requirements. Literacy is fundamental to this adaptability. Without literacy, it is difficult to keep up with the rapid evolution of working environments, let alone the increased computerization often required. In order to preserve Canada's competitiveness in today's global economy, it is essential to invest in workers who will be ready and able to keep up with these changes.

There is little doubt that essential skills like literacy contribute not only to the national economy but also to people's personal, economic, and social wellbeing. These essential skills are key to someone's ability to realize their economic and social potential and are the foundation upon which they acquire additional knowledge and skills throughout their lives. Positively associated with good health, employment stability and remuneration, literacy enables people to participate in their communities, to make wise community decisions and to construct social networks.

However, these skills also have to be understood and appreciated for their large social implications in the 21st century. Essential skills, especially literacy, are linked to civic participation, community building and the development of social institutions. Without these skills, there is an increased risk that certain groups could be excluded from these kinds of social and civic activities.

A lot of work remains to be done to improve literacy in Canada. About 9 million individuals or 42% of working-aged Canadians currently score below the minimum literacy level required to function well in a knowledge-based economy. There is evidence of a significant gap in literacy rates between rural and urban Canadians. The gap is found in our schools, with remote students not performing as well on average as their urban counterparts, a trend that persists into adulthood. Similarly, the literacy performance of aboriginal populations is lower than that of the total Canadian population, especially in remote areas.

Canadians without access to information and communications technologies, who do not use computers to access information via CD-ROMs, CDs, DVDs and the Internet, also tend to have lower literacy levels than the rest of the population. Not only are they faced with a digital divide but also a literacy gap.

The key to adults' literacy proficiency and the development of literacy in their children seems to be reading at home. It increases a person's proficiency through engagement in literacy activities, such as reading books, magazines, manuals or newspapers. Libraries play a fundamental role in providing Canadians with access to a wide range of reading materials and literacy activities. With the help of Canada Post's library book rate, libraries are able to dramatically increase rural and remote library users' access to a consolidated Canadian collection of around 465 million items.

In recognition of the important role of libraries in literacy, Library and Archives Canada recently partnered with TD to support Canada's literature and literacy as part of its commitment to foster reading and literacy programs in communities throughout the country. Through this partnership, Library and Archives Canada is involved in a number of programs, like the TD summer reading club, the TD Canadian children's literature awards and, to support higher learning, the TD Canada Trust scholarships for community leadership, as well as other scholarships, bursaries and in-school programs.

These programs help children and students improve their reading skills and develop a greater interest in reading. In particular, the summer reading club increases the number of books that participating children read and teaches them to use the library to open up cultural, community and social horizons. Last summer, half a million Canadian children participated in this club, with over 27,000 events held at 1,995 libraries nationwide. Through the initiative of the summer reading club, participating children read almost 2.4 million books last summer.

Efforts to create future readers and learners and to engage current readers and help all Canadians build and maintain their skills are vital to our economic development and growth. Libraries and literacy programs are fundamental to our future for this very reason.

The library book rate, which my colleague's legislation supports, has played an important role in the sharing of these books across the country, especially with rural and remote locations. The support it has provided to libraries and their communities cannot be overstated.

It is for these reasons that I support this legislation. The library book rate will help with literacy. It is not the only or sole solution but a very small piece. However, it is a piece that helps librarians serve their communities and teachers to access new resources and helps remote students to access the entire world, not just the world on the Internet but also the world still on the printed page, and the world on CDs and DVDs. It is something that is good for our economy. It provides equality of citizenship all across the country and, more importantly, it provides access to the world in remote places all across the country.

I urge all hon. members to support this legislation for the literacy support it provides, as well as its support for remote regions and our current and next generations that are striving to build a better Canada.

Canada Post Corporation ActPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on Bill C-509 introduced by our colleague from Brandon—Souris. I want to commend him for his initiative and diligence. I know how long he has been working on this. He is a good member of Parliament and works hard. Although I have not had the pleasure of seeing him chair committees, I have heard from others that he is a wonderful chair of the committee, being very fair and reasonable. Therefore I particularly want to commend him on Bill C-509, as well as my colleague from Mississauga—Streetsville, who has been supportive and worked hard on this file.

This bill, as people know, is about the book rate. Bill C-509 is an act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act (library materials). It has had various incarnations before. The history of this bill is well known to people in the House, having been documented in debate on the bill's previous incarnations. The book rate has existed for a long time, since 1939. There are 2,000 libraries using the rate. In 1997, the rules were changed so that the book rate would not to be funded by the Government of Canada, the result I think of the WTO, but instead by Canada Post.

This bill has the support of a number of people, including a person who is very important to me, someone who has been my constituency assistant since I was elected in 2004. I snatched her away from the Dartmouth library. She is very passionate about books, literacy and the work of libraries. She told me that if I did not support this bill, she would not be my employee. For that reason, for Peggy and many others, I am pleased to support this bill. I want to let the House know that Peggy Landes has worked for me these six and a half years and will be leaving me at the end of this month to go on to better pursuits with her husband, but her work will continue in my office.

The Canadian Library Association, in a toolkit it prepared, indicated three reasons the book rate is very important. I want to read those into the record. The library book rate:

Ensures equitable access to documents located in libraries across the country and made available to all Canadians;

Supports the intellectual needs of remote northern and rural communities; and

It is the principle underpinning the concept that the collections of all libraries are a national asset accessible to all Canadians and as such supports education and lifelong learning as well as helping to maintain Canada’s global competitiveness and productivity

There is an issue with productivity in this country. There are demographic pressures coming down the street and staring us in the face right now. We are going to need more productive employees in this country and more people with post-secondary education. Frankly, we do not have high enough literacy rates, even though we have a very educated population. We need to do everything we can to ensure that people are educated to the extent of their abilities, not only for their benefit but also of the country as a whole. More and more Canadians are going to need post-secondary credentials. If they do not get them, the problem in Canada of jobs without people and people without jobs will continue and likely get worse, because people have not been matched with those jobs.

I want to support this bill from the point of view not only of rural communities but also of people with disabilities, a group that I spend a lot of time with. There are many Canadians with disabilities who do not have access to some of the benefits that many other people do. They use libraries to a high degree and we need to ensure that continues to be the case.

When we look at ways of improving and building Canada, recognizing where we are in the world and understanding how to go forward, we come across things like libraries, museums and other cultural institutions. In my own community of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, there is the new Dartmouth library. I say it is new though it was built in about 1988. However, it is a fabulous improvement over the old library and has become part of the regeneration of the downtown Dartmouth area, and has served a very significant purpose. Moreover, in the spring of last year, the Woodlawn Public Library opened up.

Libraries like these can be fabulous gathering places not just for adults but also for children in particular and, in many cases, for seniors. These people come together not only to enjoy the library but also the benefits it provides in terms of being a community gathering spot for people to exchange ideas and to catch up.

I want to mention museums. There is the Dartmouth Heritage Museum, which is really only a shell of what it could be. As a young guy, I grew up in the great community of Dartmouth. I was one of seven children and my father was a doctor. He used to leave us at the old Dartmouth museum and go across the bridge to deliver a baby, and would come back two, three or four hours later and we would still be there looking at the models in the museum.

It is a shame that the old Dartmouth museum is now mostly housed in a warehouse in Burnside. We need funding for the new Dartmouth museum and I will fight for it. As well, the Cole Harbour Heritage Farm that recognizes the heritage of the great farming community of Cole Harbour and people like Melvin Harris and many others who have helped to build that community.

In terms of culture, Dartmouth is the home of hockey. If the member for Kings—Hants or other members from areas like Windsor, Nova Scotia, Kingston, Ontario or even Montreal, Quebec were here they would dispute that. However, I encourage them to have a look at the book, Hockey's Home: Halifax--Dartmouth by Martin Jones which clearly documents that hockey started on the lakes in Dartmouth.

I mention all these things because we cannot go wrong when we fund and continue to support those cultural institutions like libraries, museums and interpretation centres. I think of the Shubenacadie Canal that runs through Dartmouth and all the way through Nova Scotia. It is now going through a capital campaign. These are the things that government needs to be involved in.

I also want to address literacy. I have spoken many times on this issue in the House of Commons. For a nation as wealthy as it is, Canada has very high illiteracy rates. We have had cuts to literacy over the past few years, notably the first year of the present government. It cut literacy to the tune of $17.7 million. It disempowered local literacy organizations.

One of the saddest meetings I have had as an MP was not with somebody in my own constituency but from a neighbouring constituency who came to see me. He said that he did not have a lot of education but that he had a job and was able to take care of his wife and kids. In fact, he was offered a promotion but the problem with the promotion was that he was afraid he would be forced to take the literacy test. He thought it might not only kill his promotion but might put his current job in jeopardy.

Those are the Canadians we need to be helping. It is the Canadians who not only do not have the skills but those who do not have enough and those who need to upgrade their skills. Literacy, being a key component, is a key reason I commend my colleague from Brandon—Souris for bringing this bill forward.

Disadvantaged Canadians, whether they are people with disabilities or low income families that cannot afford to buy new books, these are people who benefit from the book rate. I want to commend librarians from coast to coast to coast. I think of the librarians I knew when I was growing up in the schools and in the Dartmouth Library. They are very patient people who do not ask for very much except for those things that through their efforts will benefit other Canadians. I think we really need to encourage that.

In Nova Scotia, one of the great pioneers of children's literacy is Dr. Richard Goldbloom, a pediatrician and Order of Canada recipient. He is one of the most significant and dedicated pediatric surgeons in this country. He started a program at the IWK-Grace Health Centre. When kids were born, the parents, regardless of income, all received a package of books to take home so that these parents could read to their children on a regular basis. All families received this package of books and, for some families, it made a huge difference. We need to encourage literacy from the earliest days.

Some people might suggest that we do not need early learning and child care in this country, perhaps believing that children do not start to learn until they are six years old. We know they start to learn as soon as they are born or even before that and literacy is important. I think that keeping the book rate ties into that issue very well.

I want to read a letter from the Canadian Library Association that all MPs received. It was dated last May and speaks to the fact that once again it is pleased to offer its support to my colleague's bill. It reads:

[CLA and] the entire library community remains concerned about the sustainability of the Library Book Rate, which contributes to the public policy goals of literacy, lifelong learning, inclusion, and vibrant communities.

I thank people like Heather Neish who sent a letter to me from my constituency encouraging this to continue. I thank all the people who have worked in libraries in my own community of Cole Harbour, Dartmouth and all across Canada, and people like Peggy Landes who brought words, not just markings on a page but words that bring meaning to life for Canadians.

I again commend my colleague from Brandon—Souris for this most important bill. I am sure all members in the House will support it.

Canada Post Corporation ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to stand in the House today to again speak in support of Bill C-509, An Act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act (library materials). I commend the member for Brandon—Souris for bringing this important issue forward.

It is important to begin by reiterating what the book rate is and the important objectives that it serves.

Since 1939, libraries in Canada have been able to exchange books at a reduced postage rate, the so-called “book rate”. It allows libraries in our country, particularly smaller branches often in rural Canada, to access the much larger collections of urban centres at manageable costs. It also provides all Canadians with access to specialized local collections held in particular branches.

The bill before us today seeks to ensure that continues to be the case and, in so doing, that public libraries across the country continue to thrive and grow.

With apologies to Jane Austen, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a reader in possession of a curious and lively mind must be in want of a library. Public libraries are the lifeblood of Canadian communities and nowhere is this more true than in the many thousands of smaller and remote communities that dot our country. Libraries mean all Canadians, regardless of geography, language, income or ability, have access to novels and magazines, information services, textbooks, CDs, DVDs, Wi-Fi and computers, and often, as well, to local cultural treasures and specialized collections.

However, more than this, public libraries are meeting places. This is where toddlers and their exhausted parents gather to enjoy a story or a puppet show together; where teenagers come for movies and music and, occasionally, even to study; where workers explore career or travel options; and where seniors attend a seminar or find that perfect book to help them build their granddaughter's tree fort. Libraries promote social inclusion, literacy, skills development and lifelong learning. Libraries are a safe haven. Somerset Maugham said, “To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life”.

In my hometown of Hamilton, we are blessed with an incredible library system. The Hamilton Public Library offers an extraordinary range of books, programs and services. With its 24 branches, two bookmobiles and virtual branch system, here is just a taste of what the Hamilton Public Library has to offer our community: resume writing workshops, pottery painting classes, storytime for newcomer families, youth advisory group meetings and reading and homework clubs for teens across the city. It also houses the Leonardo Sciascia collection, the collected works of the famous Sicilian novelist, essayist, short story writer, non-fiction writer and dramatist.

The Hamilton Public Library, like thousands of others across the country, is more than just bricks and mortar and books. A library is the sum of the wealth of knowledge that every patron brings to it. A library is a classroom, a playground, a neighbourhood and a sanctuary.

I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone at the Hamilton Public Library, the staff, the volunteers, the board and the patrons for making our library a centre for all that is good in our community.

If the House will indulge me for just a moment, I will share author Philip Pullman's eloquent telling of his own love of books and libraries. He said:

But what a gift to give a child, this chance to discover that you can love a book and the characters in it, you can become their friend and share their adventures in your own imagination.

And the secrecy of it! The blessed privacy! No-one else can get in the way, no-one else can invade it, no-one else even knows what’s going on in that wonderful space that opens up between the reader and the book. That open democratic space full of thrills, full of excitement and fear, full of astonishment, where your own emotions and ideas are given back to you clarified, magnified, purified, valued. You’re a citizen of that great democratic space that opens up between you and the book. And the body that gave it to you is the public library. Can I possibly convey the magnitude of that gift?

Public libraries are, indeed,a central thread in our very social fabric but, as with so many aspects of our lives, libraries, too, are facing a rapidly changing landscape. We live in the world of the Internet, Kindle and other e-books. Technological change has brought a huge transformation to the library system that I spent so much time in, both as a kid and as a student.

That change has been embraced by our public libraries and they have risen to the challenge of innovation. That is why it is so important that the bill before us today broadens the definition of library materials to ensure that audiovisual materials, such as cassettes, CD-ROMs and DVDs, are also eligible for the book rate, which currently applies only to books.

However, it is not just about adapting to new technological formats. In the knowledge-based 21st century economy, it is essential that libraries continue to provide access to their immense collections.

In the information age, it is critical that libraries are able to provide a breadth and depth of research and reading material to meet the needs of a richly varied demographic, speaking a multitude of languages. And, because each of Canada's libraries, obviously, cannot house the enormously varied inventory that Canadians need to access, public libraries must be able to share their inventories.

Canada's library collections are a national asset and, thanks in part to the library book rate, they are accessible to all Canadians through a resource-sharing network among branches. Inter-library loans ensure equitable access to a composite Canadian library collection of some 465 million items available to all Canadians through their local libraries.

As the Canadian Library Association explains:

The Library Book Rate provides special postal rates for libraries to ship books to other libraries and to readers, allowing libraries to loan more books and encourage more reading. The Library Book Rate is especially important to Canada’s rural and remote libraries by helping Canadians borrow books regardless of where they live. Special rates for shipping library books have been in place since 1939 but are subject to regular review. Without the special Library Book Rate, libraries would pay over $10 for the same service they receive for $0.81 today.

That kind of increase in expenses for individual libraries would clearly be disastrous. As legislators, we must act to ensure that never happens. That is why this bill is so important.

As members in the House will know, the book rate expired in 2006. Since that time, Canada Post has continued to offer the book rate but without a formal agreement with the federal government. With the amendments introduced at committee, this bill would ensures the book rate is protected by legislation and that, in turn, will allow libraries the financial certainty they need to plan for the future.

I was particularly pleased to see an amendment made to the bill in committee that would require Canada Post to seek approval of the House of Commons before there is any increase in the rate. As members will recall, this was the one issue that I was deeply concerned about when I took part in the debate at second reading.

As it was originally drafted, it was the Governor in Council, which is really the cabinet, that had to approve requests for a rate hike. Such decisions are made behind closed doors and without the benefit of any public input. It was important to me that local institutions as important as our public libraries had the benefit of participating in the decisions that will ultimately affect them. By returning the decision-making power to the House of Commons, such participation is not only possible, it will be actively sought out. I commend the member from Brandon—Souris for agreeing to that important change.

A further amendment to the bill would ensure that the definition of library materials will be reviewed at least every 10 years to keep the legislation as current as possible. With the fast-changing technological advancements that we are seeing, this amendment is as welcome as it is necessary.

Access to learning and information is fundamental to society and to a knowledge-based economy. For that reason, it is critical that all Canadians, regardless of where they live, must have access to a broad selection of books and media.

Public libraries are the great social equalizers and promote essential public policy we can all agree on: literacy, knowledge, learning and community. It was Benjamin Franklin who said, “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest”.

In closing, I have one final quote from everyone's favourite author, Dr. Seuss, who said, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go”.

Canada Post Corporation ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleagues in the House for the generous support they have offered to me on the bill.

The impetus behind the bill was to ensure that libraries knew the cost of moving books and other library materials back and forth. Although they had an agreement with Canada Post, there were times when it was suggested, or it may have been presumed, that the rates would rise dramatically. As was explained in the last speech, that would impact libraries, particularly rural libraries, in a very significant way.

The bill intends to protect the rate and expand it to include today's technology. I was pleased with the review of the bill in committee. There were some changes made that I thought were very welcome. As parliamentarians, this is an issue that impacts all of us and I think it is important that we all play a role in it.

I have received generous support across Canada. Hundreds, if not thousands, of names have come in on petitions in support. They were not from one specific region of Canada, but from all across Canada, which tells me that libraries are important.

As someone who grew up in a small rural community in Manitoba, I understand the value of having access to the larger centres. Not everybody has the ability to move things in and out of these larger centres, but they can do so with the mail.

If people are watching today, I would encourage them to contact their library and find out about the book rate. They do not have to travel great distances. They can have library books and materials delivered right to their doorstep if they are unable to access their local library.

It will move into the other place very soon. I am hopeful that people studying it will see the positives and the benefits to all Canadians, and that we will bring it back to the House. With certain situations prevailing, I would like to see this happen as soon as possible, so I will encourage my friends in the other place to do the same.

With that, I thank hon. members for the opportunity. I too want to thank the people who work in the library system. They do a tremendous job and a great service to Canadians. This is just one way of showing a little support for them. It also enables Canadians to have better access to reading. What more could I say?

Canada Post Corporation ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Canada Post Corporation ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Canada Post Corporation ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Canada Post Corporation ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Canada Post Corporation ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

All those opposed will please say nay.

Canada Post Corporation ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Canada Post Corporation ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 98, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, March 9, 2011, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

Suspension of SittingCanada Post Corporation ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The House will now suspend sitting until noon.

(The sitting of the House was suspended at 11:33 a.m.)

(The House resumed at 12 p.m.)

The House resumed from March 4 consideration of the motion that Bill C-60, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (citizen's arrest and the defences of property and persons), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

Noon

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

When this matter was last before the House, the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley had seven minutes remaining in the comments and questions period. The hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway on questions and comments.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

Noon

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, this legislation arises out of a bill that was proposed by my colleague from Trinity—Spadina, who took early and decisive action to put a very worthwhile idea before the House. My colleague has suggested that shopkeepers and small business people not be criminally charged if they are attempting to defend their property after the commission of a crime.

The Criminal Code currently permits a citizen to make an arrest during the commission of a crime, but there seems to be a gap in the law whereby if a person takes that step within a reasonable time after the commission of the offence, he or she could be charged, as Mr. Chen was in Toronto.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague what his position is with respect to amending our law to allow shopkeepers to conduct a citizen's arrest within a reasonable time after the commission of an offence, provided that person does not break the law or is otherwise overzealous or aggressive in doing so.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

Noon

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I know my colleague from Vancouver Kingsway has issues in his riding about what we sometimes call petty crime, or theft under $5,000.

As my colleague correctly said, the idea raised in this bill originates with the member for Trinity—Spadina who has worked long on the issue of how to treat a citizen's arrest. This bill applies not just to shopkeepers and small business owners but to homeowners as well. New Democrats put forward this idea to a government that spends the vast majority of its time talking about crime issues.

There is a gap in the law. What happens when a citizen makes an arrest outside the immediate event itself? If an hour or several hours have gone by, the law changes. It does not allow for the same citizen's arrest.

Sometimes when a crime is committed the store owner or the homeowner sees the person who committed the crime but no police are available. It is important for people to understand that if police are available or there are reasonable grounds to expect a police officer to be available to make the arrest, that is the preferred course. Police officers are paid and trained to do that type of work. It is a dangerous thing to make a citizen's arrest. It is provocative. It can be very intense. It can also be quite physically dangerous for both parties involved. It is not ideal.

We are suggesting that if the government wants to make this change, we will allow the bill to be split and fast-track this part immediately through Parliament. We have not heard from the other parties yet as to whether or not they are interested in doing this, but it is critical. The part that we want to fast-track is the piece that we all agree on. It does not need further study. We are suggesting that if a citizen's arrest is not made in the process of the crime being committed but sometime after that, it would still be permissible for a citizen to make an arrest without fear of being charged with assault or confinement or whatnot.

We again plead with the government that if it wants to get something done, this is an opportunity to do it.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

Noon

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I too am concerned about the lack of response on this particular issue in terms of splitting the bill and moving it forward in a decent fashion that would permit some serious reflection.

The government pushes crime bills forward willy-nilly without thinking about them and without careful reflection on the views of experts in the field. Are we offering this compromise so that some of the important work can get done and so we can carefully scrutinize at committee the work the government has proposed?

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, people should understand that there are three main parts to this bill. We are suggesting fast-tracking the third part through the process because there is little debate around it. The experts agree this is something we could do, which would be to allow more time to elapse between the crime being committed and the citizen's arrest being made. The first two parts of the bill are in need of study. That is what is likely to happen with this bill.

I have not heard too many of the opposition members speak, but the bill is likely to get through second reading. However, with the way laws work and the process we have in Parliament, that is going to take some time. The government is thereby jeopardizing its own bill, which was based on the work by the member for Trinity—Spadina. Within the next couple of weeks we will be facing a federal budget, which hangs in the balance. We do not know if it will pass or not. We do not know if there will be an election in a few weeks.

If the government is sincere about doing something about this issue, New Democrats have offered it a path forward. If it does not do that, then it is the government's choice.

However, the government says it wants to make some change happen for average ordinary Canadians. Canadians read the morning newspaper and ask why Mr. Chen in Toronto, or some other shopkeeper, was charged with wrongful confinement, kidnapping essentially, for having wrestled to the ground a fellow who came back a second time to steal more from Mr. Chen's shop. If the government really wants to make that change happen, let us do something about it. It is an error in the law and we can correct that error.

The other two parts of the bill need study. We would be happy to study those parts and bring in witnesses.

My hon. colleague from Western Arctic is right. The government is loath to bring forward evidence. On other crime bills, we ask for two things. We ask the government to show us any research to show it is going to be effective, because that is important, and we also ask what it is going to cost. Those questions are seen as reasonable ones to Canadians: is it going to work and what is the bill going to cost?

The government does not do that when it comes to crime bills. When we bring forward issues around repairing the social safety net or improving environmental regulations in this country, all the Conservatives want to know is what it will cost, but when it comes to crime, they seem to forget that mantra. They do not seem to care. We find that offensive to the intelligence of Canadians.

Those are two simple questions on any bill: is it going to work and what is it going to cost?

On crime, those guys have their blinkers on. It is ideology over any kind of intellect. That has to change for the government to gain any kind of support from other parties.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

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.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Mississauga—Erindale Ontario

Conservative

Bob Dechert ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his declaration of support for what is very good and necessary legislation. I listened intently to his speech and that of the member of the NDP who spoke about the timing of the bill.

I met with members of the shop corners community immediately following the incident Mr. Chen was involved in before the hon. member was a member of the House. They told me that not only were they concerned about the timing of arrest, but what they were allowed to do in order to protect their property and themselves if they were threatened with personal physical harm.

Typically, the two opposition bills mentioned this morning said nothing about what people could do to defend their property or their person, because those bills were politically motivated. They were brought in simply to score a quick, cheap, political hit, but did not address the whole issue of citizen's arrest, property defence and defence of a person.

Perhaps the member could comment on that.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, we can tell a lot about what the Conservatives hope to really achieve by the way in which they will consult with people. For example, did the minister responsible for the bill have discussions with critics? To what degree were the Conservatives open to having feedback prior to the introduction of the bill? The ultimate goal should be to try to address the issue at hand to the very best of our ability.

We could have passed the bill about the amount of time it would take for a citizen to make an arrest. This is the primary concern, from my understanding, that Mr. Chen and many other Canadians had. That portion of the bill could have passed in June of 2010. Even if it were before committee at that time, we could have reviewed it and maybe looked at ways to improve the bill back then.

There are some good parts in the bill of which we are very supportive. We want to see it go to committee and we are open to other possible amendments, reviewing and giving due diligence to other aspects of the bill itself.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I notice my hon. colleague mentioned promises that were made by the government a few elections ago about providing 2,500 more police officers across the country.

I was visited by representatives of police boards across Canada in my office last week. They told me that they knew for a fact that those 2,500 officer positions had not been created for a few reasons. One was the federal government had not given long-tern funding commitments that would enable them to provide those positions. Also, the money was transferred to provinces without being tied to the creation of those positions. Therefore, some provinces put portions of that money into general revenue.

Considering that part of the bill is motivated by the fact that police are just not able to respond quickly enough to shop owners or people who find themselves perhaps being the victims of a crime, could my hon. colleague comment on the connection between having enough police officers in our communities and the need to have citizens be able to make their own arrests in the absence of quick, prompt responses by police officers?

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am a very strong advocate for community policing. For the city of Winnipeg, that promise would have meant 15 additional police officers for the city. Quite frankly, we could have used every one of those police officers in the field as community police officers.

The value of having community police officers going into the different businesses, explaining how citizen's arrests are made, among may other things, has phenomenal values.

Ultimately, the point I was trying to get at, when I made reference to it, was the fact that the government made a promise. It promised to put more police officers on the street. It has failed to follow through on that promise. The city of Winnipeg has still not hired one of those 15 police officers.

The issue is the Conservatives have brought forth the bill and have made this commitment, but they need to follow through with it. They need to turn what they talk about into reality. For Winnipeg North, crime and safety is number one. We need those police officers on the street. We need to have bills like this in some form passed.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have listened intently to the comments of the member opposite, particularly his assertion about the timing of this bill and his reference to the member for Eglinton—Lawrence on how this could have been handled sooner.

The reality is the member for Eglinton—Lawrence had a choice as well. The order of precedence allows him to move his bill forward quickly. He chose another bill and allowed his particular version of the bill with respect to self-defence to languish, where it would never be debated in Parliament. If the Liberals were truly tough on crime, that bill would have been on the order of precedence.

I remind the member opposite that the member for Eglinton—Lawrence's other bill, the one that he actually thought was a priority, has already been through committee. Would he like to comment on whether he spoke with the member for Eglinton—Lawrence about making this a priority instead of pretending it was a priority?