Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak for a second time to Bill C-26. Those watching the House of Commons today might be thinking that they are watching a competition to see how many times the Criminal Code can be amended in one Parliament, with these Conservatives and their tough on crime agenda.
Nevertheless, I would like to say that I think this change is essential. A number of lawyers and judges say that this is a necessary change. There is no denying that the Criminal Code sections on self-defence, defence of others and defence of property have been causing some confusion in the courts for a long time. I would like to read a section of the presentation made by the Canadian Bar Association to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.
The Criminal Code provisions concerning self-defence, defence of others, and defence of property have been subject to decades of criticism, and have been an ongoing source of frustration for lawyers, judges and juries. This is due to the multiplicity of relevant Code sections and subsections, and the variations among their elements. Many high-profile cases have faltered on jury instructions regarding self-defence.
Clearly, there was a real need for change. As a member of this House, I am pleased that we were able to bring about this change. I would also like to congratulate my colleague from Trinity—Spadina for having initiated this bill in the previous Parliament.
As we all know, this bill was inspired by one specific case. Mr. Chen was trying to protect the merchandise in his store. When he discovered that the thief who had stolen a plant—I think—had returned to his store, he detained that person, but he faced charges himself.
During one of our meetings of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, someone from the convenience store owners' association was present. He talked about this need and this desire on the part of owners—those who cannot afford a security guard—to be able to protect their property and put an end to these constant thefts. He pointed out that convenience stores tend to be robbed over and over again, and this translates into serous losses at the end of the month.
I understand that situation. Many small and medium-sized businesses are trying to be independent, and they do not necessarily have the means to protect themselves by hiring security agents. So if someone steals milk every week, eventually that ends up being a loss for the convenience store. I really do understand the situation.
During testimony, we asked a lot of questions about the bill. We were a little worried about the balance between the subjective and objective elements of the bill. We even presented some amendments that, unfortunately, were rejected. The Conservative Party rejected one amendment in particular. We were disappointed about that, but we worked well together to make sure we covered the issue thoroughly.
We also considered whether this could become a trend and what we could do to make sure that it does not. By that, I mean making sure that people do not take on the role of the police. People can put themselves in potentially dangerous situations by arresting someone themselves if they do not have the experience or the strength to do it.
However, we all agreed that we do not want to see this to become a trend. We also proposed amendments to prevent that from happening, but that does not mean we should not have these provisions.
In my opinion, Bill C-26 also includes another important and interesting element.
It contains a non-exhaustive list that the judge can consult when a person pleads self-defence. This list allows the court to determine whether that person has a history of violence, whether there is a history of interaction between the parties, the nature of the force, the size of the person, etc.
Of course, I am a small woman and I would be afraid of a large man. I have reason to be afraid in certain situations. This is very important to consider, particularly when we think about women who are victims of domestic violence and who, every day, have to face a person who could do them harm. It is very important to consider the factors on this list.
I am also happy that this list is not exhaustive and that there is always the possibility of adding additional factors to it. We know that, with time, we will find other factors that should be added to the list.
We also heard comments about security guards. I find this dynamic very interesting. Our society seems to be depending more and more on security guards, and private ones for that matter. I encourage the House to examine the issue of private security guards. They are not necessarily obliged to obey the charter.
This bill will affect their work because, when they are on site, they try to protect a store or shop and its goods. They cannot always arrest someone. There is, therefore, a certain desire among security guards to see these changes implemented. They are very happy about them, and I encourage the House to continue to examine this issue. Personally, I believe that some studies are needed in this regard.
I would also like to speak about the arrest of a person after the fact. We know that, in some rural communities that do not have as large a police force as metropolitan areas like Montreal, it is not always possible for a police officer to come and arrest someone who has committed a minor crime, such as stealing plants, as in the case of Mr. Chen.
The bill clearly states that a person can only be arrested if it is believed that the police would not have arrived in time to make the arrest. It is important to include this. Perhaps it does not go far enough. We submitted a number of amendments to try to restrict this a bit, but the Conservatives refused. The bill states that it can only be done when a peace officer cannot come to arrest the person in the place of the citizen. I am pleased about this because it could be dangerous for someone to make an arrest because that person may not necessarily have the expertise or the strength required.
I will end my speech here. I would like to point out once again that we support this bill, but that we do not want it to become a trend.