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House of Commons Hansard #114 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was railway.

Topics

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, I too am rising to speak to Bill C-26. The origin of the bill is the Lucky Moose case. A shopkeeper, believing that the same accused was continuing to shoplift in his shop and frustrated that he was not getting action in apprehending this person, chose to detain and essentially arrest and confine this person. The shop owner was arrested, charged and convicted. However, there was a lot of controversy around this case. It was appealed and the conviction was overturned. The court at the appeal level raised concerns with the current provisions in law specific to property protection. The court found the provisions inconsistent and meriting clarity.

I would like to congratulate the government and commend it for responding to the courts. It is a refreshing change. There have been a number of rulings by the courts where the government has snubbed the judiciary. One example is the case of the Wheat Board. In another example, in a series of cases, the Minister of the Environment has refused to exercise his authority properly to consider impacts to aboriginal peoples' lands and waters. I commend the government. It has listened to the courts and it is trying to move in the direction of improving the law.

This bill was triggered by the actions of my colleague, the member for Trinity—Spadina. Everyone in the House congratulates her in her initiative to bring forward a private member's bill in the last Parliament. The government is to be commended for responding to a private member's bill. One of the powers of all the members in this House is to bring forward activities in a private member's bill. Members may or may not have their bill go through the entire parliamentary process and have it accepted and adopted. However, by simply tabling a bill, members can signal to the government that this may be an action they want to pursue.

It is, however, important when we are making amendments to the Criminal Code that we avoid one-offs. There has been a propensity for one-offs by the current government, particularly in the area of public safety. Some members in the House have raised concerns as to whether the bill goes too far or not far enough and why the House has not accepted amendments brought forward by groups such as the Canadian Bar Association, representing our defence counsel, or the Elizabeth Fry Society. In some cases, the members of the committee and the House have considered these proposals for change. Some have been made and others not. We would hope that, if this law should pass and then go on to the Senate and pass and be law, the authorities that oversee this amendment to the Criminal Code, including the courts, the Canadian bar, defence counsel and prosecutors, parliamentarians and the committee, consider reviewing how this law is being applied in the field, whether it was a good idea to amend and whether it has gone far enough or should be reined in.

We sought amendments to improve the bill. We always try to take a proactive, constructive approach. Some of the amendments were accepted and some were not. I am advised we recommended a change to section 34 to additional criteria for consideration, whether the use of force was reasonable, to consider the state of mind or the circumstances perceived by the person, an example being the battered spouse syndrome. For example, if people have been continually battered they may perceive that they are going to be harmed seriously and react in a very serious way. That should be considered. Unfortunately, that amendment was not accepted.

I suggest that, while efforts have been made to clarify this law at the request of the courts and the public, it still remains highly subjective. As a lawyer, I always look to the law to see if we are providing clarity so people know what the law says and what their rights and obligations are, and so that the courts can make a fair ruling. One of the examples I would give is the proposal for amendment to subsection 494(3) regarding the use of force or detaining a person in the case of property being impacted, that the owners may arrest if they find the person is committing a criminal offence.

I would suggest that is a highly subjective matter. It may be very difficult for a shop owner or property owner to determine whether it is a simple trespass or whether it amounts to a criminal offence. These are the kinds of provisions that I think merit a closer look, and we will await what the determinations of the courts are.

The intent of the government is very sound. It wants to provide clarity around the reasonable actions that people can take to protect their persons or property, but, as we are hearing from members in the House, only so long as the intent is not to go in the direction that some laws have taken in the United States, those being the “stand your ground” and the “shoot first” laws. We have heard some concern in debate, particularly with respect to the use of force against others or as to what kind of action is reasonable when protecting one's property. Hopefully we are not going in the direction of “shoot first”.

It is very important that we put boundaries around citizen enforcement. Some entities, such as the police associations and in some cases the Canadian Bar Association, are raising concerns about greater citizen vigilantism and the potential for people to take the law into their own hands. I would suggest there is a need for training and guidance. Perhaps it could be provided through business associations, or perhaps police officers or members of the bench could come in and explain the boundaries of these provisions in cases where there have been repeat incidents of shopkeepers being robbed or attacked at gunpoint. A good example would be bank branches, where on some occasions, and certainly in my city, there have been repeat robberies at particular branches. That may be important.

When the government brings forward new laws, as a former environmental enforcer I like to encourage it to also table or bring forward new enforcement and compliance policies and strategies at the same time. If the public presumes that the law gives them greater powers to arrest and detain or perhaps use greater force when they feel they are being assaulted or their property is being impacted, we need to provide some guidance. Perhaps the committee could review this and make some recommendations to police forces and community associations.

I would like to commend my own city, Edmonton, for implementing a new program called REACH Edmonton. It recognizes that the police cannot be everywhere. There have been pleas from every municipality and from smaller centres across the country for more money from the federal government for policing. In the interim, because of this change in the law there may be more interventions involving people taking matters into their own hands.

It is very important that we stand back and assess who are committing these kinds of offences. If there are property offences or shoplifting, why these offenses occurring?

In my own riding, we have a number of centres struggling to get the funding to get kids who have been abandoned by their families off the street and give them a safe place to stay and a hot meal so that they do not shoplift, break and enter, and so forth. It is very important that our government give equal consideration to a strategy for public safety to prevent these kinds of circumstances, not just to after-the-fact actions. Therefore, I would encourage the Government of Canada to observe the new programs of the City of Edmonton and give due consideration to also providing assistance for the implementation of community crime prevention programs.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I greatly appreciate the comments and the speech made by the member for Edmonton—Strathcona. She is not only very dedicated to her community, but I have worked with her on committee here and I am aware of how passionate she is when she takes something on.

It is important to recognize that legal experts testified with respect to this particular bill at committee and put comments forward. Unfortunately, the Conservative representatives did not see fit to make some of the other necessary amendments to the bill that would enhance it even more.

We will be supporting the bill. However, we would like to see some further amendments put forward in order to really substantiate the need for change appropriate to this century.

On that note, I wonder if my colleague could elaborate on why these changes should occur and how great it is to be able to update bills such as this one.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

May 1st, 2012 / 12:05 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have had the great pleasure of working with the hon. member. If any member in the House deserves an order of merit, the hon. member deserves one for her dedication to her constituents. To elaborate on that would take far more than the response, and I will leave that to my colleagues who are the justice critics.

I would like to respond in a slightly different way. There was a case in Alberta that my fellow members of Parliament from Alberta will recall, a case that I think should cause us to reconsider the bill from another way around.

In the Lucky Moose case, the shop owner was eventually acquitted because he used reasonable force. In Alberta, a young woman was with a group of youth who were joyriding on a farmer's property, the famous Wiebo Ludwig property—Wiebo is now deceased— and it was the other way around: a gun was shot, and the young woman who was joyriding was killed.

We need to keep in mind that there are two sides to all of these cases and we need to make sure that people are only using reasonable force when they are protecting their property.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, in speech after speech in the House today, there is a thread of concern about whether or not we are opening the door for more vigilante violence, or at least for an escalation in the type of violence used to try to detain people. From the standpoint of the courts, a law is often subjective as opposed to prescriptive as to what would happen.

Does the hon. member see shortcomings in this particular bill in that area?

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I had mentioned that the bill still contains very subjective language.

The particular provision that stood out to me relates a person who finds somebody committing a criminal offence. In the area of environmental law, we could actually file a complaint to the government if we believed on reasonable grounds that somebody was violating an environmental law. Simply filing a request to the government to investigate is a far less serious action than allowing people to intervene. I have some concern about whether people really understand what the boundaries are for what people can do to them and what they can do in response.

I think it would be very important to monitor the applications of this law, how people respond to it and what kind of cases come before the courts.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, as we move forward on the bill, it is again important to reiterate that part of the bill is an NDP initiative by the member for Trinity—Spadina, who brought forward David Chen's story.

I greatly appreciate the comments that the member for Edmonton—Strathcona put forward. I am sure she will be very glad to elaborate on the fact that this bill would not encourage people to out for vigilante purposes, nor will we see an increase of people being charged for protecting their rights. It is just to protect the rights of those people when circumstances like this happen.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

We have heard from some of the members in the House, Mr. Speaker, particularly from those with ridings in large cities where there may be a variety of youth and people of different racial backgrounds. There may be some level of prejudice there. We have to take care that suspicions against certain groups of people do not go to the extent that people use vigilantism.

I would like to just share with the House an expression after the Trayvon Martin case: somebody in California has said they were shocked to learn a private citizen in Florida could essentially serve as cop, judge and jury and impose the death penalty on a fellow citizen. We have to be careful that we are not transferring over to our citizens the power of arrest and detention and the determination of whether somebody is committing a criminal offence.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Is the House ready for the question?

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

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

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill S-4, An Act to amend the Railway Safety Act and to make consequential amendments to the Canada Transportation Act, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

Safer Railways ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

There being no motions at report stage, the House will now proceed without debate to the putting of the question on the motion to concur in the bill at report stage.

Safer Railways ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Conservative Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

moved that the bill be concurred in at report stage.

Safer Railways ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Safer Railways ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Safer Railways ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

(Motion agreed to)

Safer Railways ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

When shall the bill be read a third time? By leave, now?

Safer Railways ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Safer Railways ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Conservative Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Safer Railways ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House on the third reading of Bill S-4, the safer railways act.

Before I begin, allow me to congratulate my colleagues across the entire chamber for the successful manner in which this bill has been discussed, debated, analyzed and moved to this point.

I thank the hon. member for his applause and I want him to feel free to interrupt my comments with his applause at any time.

I hope he will join me in applauding our Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, who has proven himself to be a quiet, diligent builder in the true Canadian sense. We see the success he has had in moving forward with a plan to build a new bridge, a replacement of the Champlain Bridge over the St. Lawrence. That bridge is going to be at a minimal cost to taxpayers and at a higher quality for the residents of Montreal and the many people who pass through that corridor from right across Canada.

The minister is succeeding in building linkages with our friends south of the border in the hopes that we will have a Detroit-Windsor bridge. He has moved this bill on railway safety quietly but quickly through the House of Commons, and he has also worked with municipal partners toward the eventual development of a replacement for the building Canada fund, which will expire in just a few years. We all have a lot to celebrate when we look at the record of this Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.

The bill in front of us deals with one of the few legitimate roles of government, and that is to protect the safety and security of the person. Canada has one of the strongest rail safety regimes in the entire world. Last year we saw reductions in accidents on the railroad by 23%, and derailments dropped by 26%. Obviously there is a lot more work to do. Until such time as there are no accidents whatsoever, we must continue to work with industry and in partnership with government to have the strongest and best laws to ensure safety.

It gives me great pleasure to say that committee members have thoroughly re-examined this bill and have given their unanimous approval for the second time, exactly as it was received, with no further changes. It has been a long journey, but our final destination is in view. This important piece of legislation reflects our desire to ensure that our national railway system remains one of the safest in the world for the long-term benefit of our economy, our communities and our environment. The safety and prosperity of Canadians is always a priority for our government.

Before going further, I would like to remind members about the origin and the intent of this bill. In late 2006, the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities appointed an independent panel to review the Railway Safety Act and make recommendations for improving both the act and railway safety in general.

Through 2007, this panel travelled from the Atlantic to the Pacific gathering input from a very broad spectrum of stakeholders, including the railway companies, their associations, the railway unions, shippers, suppliers, municipalities, other national organizations, levels of government and the public.

The end result of these extensive national consultations was a final report with more than 50 recommendations for improving safety in the rail industry. While the rail safety review was in progress, the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities undertook a complementary study of railway safety in Canada. After hearing extensive comments from municipalities, industry and labour, the committee accepted 56 recommendations of the Railway Safety Act panel and tabled its own report with 14 recommendations, many of which were built on those in the Railway Safety Act review.

Some of those amendments proposed in the bill before the House today are a direct result of the standing committee's extensive work in this regard. I heartily thank its members for their dedicated efforts.

In short, Bill S-4 is our Conservative government's detailed response to those two national reviews. The amendments it proposes would significantly modernize the current act to reflect changes in the industry and ultimately to increase the level of safety for the benefit of our generation and those to come.

First and foremost, Bill S-4 would provide stronger oversight and enforcement capacity to Transport Canada through the introduction of railway operating certificates and monetary fines for safety violations as well as an increase in existing judicial penalties to reflect the levels found in other modes of transportation.

Throughout all our stakeholder consultation and committee examinations of these amendments, we heard strong support for the implementation of the safety-based operating certificates for all railways that run on federal tracks. These certificates, which would significantly strengthen Transport Canada's oversight capacity, would ensure that companies must have an effective safety management system in place before beginning operations.

Companies that are already in operation would be granted a two-year grace period to meet the requirements of the certificate. This includes all federally regulated railways as well as several of our largest national transit systems that use hundreds of miles of federal track and carry millions of Canadians to and from work daily. Increased safety for these travellers would be a significant benefit for businesses, communities and families.

Many stakeholders also expressed strong support for the introduction of monetary penalties and an increase in the judicial fines for serious contraventions of safety regulations. Monetary penalties already exist in other modes of transportation. They serve as a complementary enforcement tool and provide additional leverage on companies that continue to persist in safety violations.

This is consistent with the principles of minimizing regulatory burden for Canadians while at the same time promoting compliance. In that sense, we want to streamline and focus our rules so they cause a minimal encumbrance to the passenger and the business while punishing violations with serious monetary fines to discourage non-compliance.

In the interest of fairness for all, the proposed penalty scheme would allow for a review of the regulator's penalty decisions by the Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada. It would also include provisions related to the minister's decision to impose a penalty, the due process to be followed, the review of decisions by the appeal tribunal and the level of fines to be paid for non-compliance and infractions.

The maximum levels of these penalties would be $50,000 for an individual and $250,000 for a corporation, which is consistent with similar schemes for other modes of transportation. The proposed increase in judicial fines, which were originally established 20 years ago, would also strengthen Transport Canada's enforcement options and bring those fines to a level currently found in the other modes of transportation, as I mentioned earlier.

Maximum judicial fines for convictions on indictment for a contravention of the act would increase from $200,000 to $1 million for corporations and from $10,000 to $50,000 for individuals. Maximum fines on summary conviction for contravention of the act would increase from $100,000 to $500,000 for a business and from $5,000 to $25,000 for an individual.

These amounts are consistent with those established for federal air and marine transportation and transportation of dangerous goods. Those modes of transportation are comparable enough to ensure that they would work in this mode of rail transportation. They are large enough to effectively deter contraventions.

The bill also provides for a significantly stronger focus on the importance of railway accountability and safety management systems, which both industry and labour applaud and support.

With these amendments in place, railway companies would be required to appoint a designated executive responsible for all safety matters. They would also be required to provide whistleblower protection for employees who raise safety concerns. Besides increasing our level of protection from accidents and oversights, these amendments would ensure the growth of a strong and lasting culture of safety in the railway industry.

On the administrative side, the bill would effectively close the gaps in the existing act by clarifying the minister's authority on matters of railway safety. It would expand regulation-making authorities, which would enable Transport Canada to require annual environmental management plans from the railways as well as a requirement for railways to provide emissions labelling on equipment and emissions data for review.

The safer railways bill is all about better oversight, improved enforcement tools, enhanced safety management systems and better environmental protection. These are the things we need. These are the things we applaud. I think my hon. colleagues would agree that these are the things we can all support.

In sum, these proposed amendments to the Railway Safety Act would improve rail safety in Canada for the long term. They are the culmination of two important studies and extensive consultations. They would provide increased safety for Canadians and Canadian communities, economic benefits to the industry by decreasing the likelihood of costly accidents and delays, and a variety of benefits to external stakeholders, including provinces, municipalities, shippers and the travelling public.

Last but not least, these amendments would provide additional support for a stronger economy, a modern infrastructure and a cleaner environment for all Canadians.

With the House's support of these amendments, the government's ability would be enhanced to effectively regulate companies in an environment of continued growth, free enterprise competition and increased complexity. We would have the ability to ensure the safety of not only the passenger but the motorist and the pedestrian and the communities through which these trains travel. Improvements to Transport Canada's regulatory oversight and enforcement programs would be limited. The pursuit of new safety initiatives with respect to the management systems and environmental management would be badly constrained without these changes.

Without the support of the House, the legislative framework for railways would also remain inconsistent with other transportation modes, which have a broader range of enforcement tools. Regulation-making authorities could not be expanded to allow for the creation of safety-based operating certificates.

Without the support of the House, we would ultimately be looking at greater long-term costs to Canadians due to continuing fatalities, serious injuries and damage to valuable property and the environment.

Happily, it appears we do have the support of the House. All members of the House would agree that because of this cross-party consensus and the passage of the bill into law imminently, the Canadian public would be safer and the industry and its workers would be stronger.

Canada has one of the most dispersed populations in the world and it is the second biggest country on earth. Our railways have 73,000 km of track stretching from coast to coast and more than 3,000 locomotives handle more than 4 million carloads yearly. They operate more than 700 trains per day, moving nearly 70 million passengers and 75% of all service freight in this country. Railways have been the backbone of our economy since the days of John A. Macdonald and Confederation. They were the foundation of our national growth in the past and they remain integral to our prosperity in the future.

It is timely and forward-looking legislative amendments such as these that will ensure our rail industry remains a safe, secure and dependable component of our national infrastructure and global economy for many years to come.

In 2009, our Conservative government affirmed its commitment to safe, reliable transportation systems by investing in rail safety systems and putting the right kinds of rules into place. These amendments to the Railway Safety Act that we have before us today are the fruit of that commitment.

Since the launch of the Railway Safety Act review in 2006, our government has worked continuously with stakeholders, through the Advisory Council on Railway Safety, joint technical working groups and individual consultations across the country, to ensure that this bill meets the needs of all the parties engaged in this industry.

The net result is a strong, forward-looking bill that updates existing regulatory authorities, brings railway legislation in line with other modes and significantly improves the safety of our railway system for the benefit of all.

I will mention some of the leaders who played a role in the early stages of this process. I think of then minister Chuck Strahl, or Lawrence Cannon, two members who have now moved on to other career pursuits but who served as ministers of transport. I think of the hon. member for Ottawa West—Nepean, now our Minister of Foreign Affairs, who also served in the capacity of transport minister. I think of our current minister who, as I highlighted earlier, has achieved a record of quiet, diligent results in this and in many other areas.

The bill demonstrates the ability of our majority Conservative government to get things done. To continue to preserve our free enterprise economy while protecting the security of the person is one of the fundamental responsibilities of government. Together, as we focus on the next phase of Canada's economic action plan, which is a plan for jobs, growth and long-term prosperity, and as we build upon the free market foundations that made this country what it is today, I encourage all members to support these common sense changes to improve rail safety and keep commerce moving across our tracks for the future and for all of us.

Safer Railways ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for what might be a case study or even a lesson for some of us on how to be a parliamentary secretary. He spent a full five minutes in the opening remarks of his speech complimenting his minister. He would more or less have people believe we should be erecting a statue to the Minister of Transport, never mind supporting this particular bill. It would be under the category of infrastructure, surely.

I would like my colleague's opinion and view on one glaring thing that jumps off the page to me as we begin the debate on this bill. It is the fact that it is called Bill S-4, not Bill C-4. In other words, it has its origins in the unelected, undemocratic Senate. The last time I checked, members of Parliament do not work for senators. I was elected by my constituents to represent them. By the Constitution, it is this body that comes together to amend legislation or create new laws, et cetera.

It surely offends the sensibilities of anyone who calls himself or herself a democrat, and in our case New Democrats, to tie up the time of the House of Commons with a bill that finds its origins in the other place. I do not understand it. It seems to be a trend. It seems to be a burgeoning pattern. It is almost becoming one of the hallmarks of the government that it uses and abuses parliamentary procedure.

No one elected senators to make legislation. They were appointed by the Prime Minister, usually because of their membership in a certain political party in their back pockets. They were either failed candidates, and failed is the operative word, and we were successful candidates. It is we—

Safer Railways ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please. The period of time for questions and comments is limited. I am sure there are other hon. members who may wish to pose questions.

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport.

Safer Railways ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague is upset that the bill is called Bill S-4 and not Bill C-4. He is upset that the bill originated in the Senate and not in the House. The reality is that this is a bill that has consensus across both chambers and all parties. At times, government introduces bills at the Senate level because that chamber might be undercapacity while this one is overcapacity and, in order to get that legislation passed quickly, we start it there and we end it here. Either way, it must go to both places. I conclude by saying that Bill S-4 or Bill C-4, what the heck is he fighting for?”