Mr. Speaker, this is a serious subject. We have said repeatedly that we will support the bill. I am by no means an expert in law and I would like to tackle this from another angle. In the few classes and courses I took in law, I remember being told something repeatedly about creating legislation, whether a law or regulations. Even if a law is being only partially amended, we must take into consideration everything about its environment, about how it is applied on the ground and in the courts, and about the repercussions it can have from coast to coast to coast.
First of all, I would be remiss if I did not state my personal position on this bill's intention. In my opinion, peace cannot be achieved through messages of hostility and distrust towards others. Peace and harmony in the world and in our modern society begin with the principles of co-operation and non-violence. Nevertheless, this does not take anything away from the principles of self-defence, the protection of property and mutual aid, which are also among our fundamental values of self-determination.
However, when a government's economic policies prevent it from providing the people with an adequate income and social fabric, it may have missed the point. A strong social fabric creates harmony within a community or society. It fosters hope within society, among people, and it very often prevents people from doing bad things.
The same idea applies to employment. Once again, I am not saying that we should not make laws governing citizen's arrest and self-defence. However, if we cannot create an environment of social and economic prosperity for all of the people of this great land so that all Canadians can reach their full potential and live without worrying about the future, we have failed.
Our great nation must focus on helping vulnerable communities and the poorest members of society, and on creating an environment in which social tensions are, for all practical purposes, non-existent. I know that sounds utopian. Still, it is our job to eliminate bad deeds from our society.
Often, geography and demographics are an indication of the poverty in which people are living in various regions of Canada. Canadians must clamour for changes to occur as quickly as possible because the social and economic environment is the responsibility of the federal government.
I like to think that love, hope and optimism are much easier to envisage and achieve, and that they carry hope for our future. I must pay tribute here to the man who inspired these lines, the late Mr. Jack Layton. I like to think that the future belongs to us and that it is in our hands. We, as elected decision makers in this democratic parliament, if there is anything left of it, are the bearers of this message of hope for our fellow Canadians.
I would therefore like to continue this debate and consider the notion of citizen's arrest, which is tolerated in most of the modern day world. It is worth exploring this notion before making any decision regarding this legislation which, as my colleagues have mentioned, the NDP is going to support.
The arrest of a citizen or a wrongdoer by a person who is not a law enforcement officer goes back to the medieval era in Great Britain. At that time, it was more common to seek justice for oneself because the state did not really concern itself with the safety of commoners, and protection of the public was reserved more for the upper classes, the elite.
This is also seen in some modern-day industrialized societies. With the industrialization of civilization and life increasingly organized around an economic society, governments have attempted to make our environment safe. Since the 20th century, in most countries that use common law, citizen's arrest is not only recognized as quite an exploit, it is written into law.
The first subsection of section 25 of the Criminal Code states:
25. (1) Every one who is required or authorized by law to do anything in the administration or enforcement of the law
(a) as a private person,
What does “private person” mean? I would have liked a better definition of the word “private person” and “necessary force”. Will the use of firearms be authorized or condoned? I would have liked to see these terms better defined, especially when the emphasis is placed on citizen involvement, which is the very basis of this bill.
Clause 3 also amends subsection 494(2) of the Criminal Code:
3. (1) Subsection 494(2) of the Act is replaced by the following:
(2) The owner or a person in lawful possession of property, or a person authorized by the owner or by a person in lawful possession of property, may arrest a person without a warrant if they find them committing a criminal offence on or in relation to that property and
(a) they make the arrest at that time; or
(b) they make the arrest within a reasonable time after the offence is committed and they believe on reasonable grounds that it is not feasible in the circumstances for a peace officer to make the arrest.
The notion of “reasonable time” during which an arrest may be made is also problematic, in my opinion. This highly subjective and inevitably biased concept will require some time before it is suitably defined by the courts.
The notions of urgency, survival and a number of other important factors also have to be defined in order to examine what a "reasonable time" is.
The border also figures in cases in my riding. There are borders in Stanstead and in a number of other small communities, where people crossing the border illegally sometimes commit crimes against farmers. The farmers are always wondering what they can do about it. Most of the time, they leave them alone. However, on occasion the farmers have taken matters into their own hands and unfortunate things have happened. No one has died, but some farmers have ended up in terrible situations just the same.
If we leave it up to the judges to dictate the rules to be followed, it will mean that, once again, we as legislators have not performed our duties as we should have. This is a very sad state of affairs, and it has also become the reality in this 41st Parliament.
I acknowledge that the legislation in this particular area of crime must be improved, but should we be asking instead why we have to do this?
As I said, the social fabric of a society is extremely important, because it allows each and every one of us to develop and contribute to it. The belief that that we all can contribute to the country's development is invaluable. Many different types of crime can be overcome this way.
Taking the law into one's own hands inevitably means putting one's self in danger specifically in order to stop a crime, whether public or private. Many people think that interacting with the perpetrator or perpetrators of a crime is a challenge.
I am aware of the case of one man who really did take things into his own hands. The result was the appalling death of a young teenager: the man was chasing him, only wanting to catch him, and he just drove right over the teen. These are horrifying incidents. We do not want these situations to happen and we do not want to see, as is happening with our neighbours to the south, these deplorable actions committed by citizens in situations that supposedly involve self-defence. Earlier I asked my colleague to define "self-defence" and "we are protecting our country, our property, our lives".
We have to consider our culture of respect for the courts and legislation and our traditions of peaceful life in our communities, in order to fine-tune the legislation and to make it suitable for use in the field.
In conclusion, Canada has always been a great country to live in, and one where people are used to a peaceful life, a democratic society, a stable economy, a low crime rate and a sense of mutual support and compassion.
Although many of these aspects of our society are in jeopardy and a New Democratic government would quickly handle them, the Conservative government is doing nothing to change the socio-economic situation, especially in the regions. In some regions of Quebec there is no public safety. We have to think about the civil society we want to pass on to our children, because they are the ones who will have to make decisions about the future and accustom themselves to the kind of country we will be leaving to them.