House of Commons Hansard #200 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was crime.


Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7:30 p.m.

Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe New Brunswick


Robert Goguen ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be here today to participate in the debate on Bill C-444, which has to do with personating a peace officer or public officer.

This bill is nearly identical to the former Bill C-576, which died on the order paper during the previous Parliament. Bill C-576 made it to second reading and was passed by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

The bill has to do with the existing offence of personating a peace officer or public officer. More specifically, it suggests that the fact that an individual personated a peace officer or public officer for the purpose of facilitating the commission of another offence should be considered an aggravating circumstance during sentencing. The only difference between the two bills is that the current bill also includes the term “public officer”.

Personating a peace officer or public officer is a hybrid offence punishable under indictment by a maximum of five years in prison. Before 2009, this offence was only a summary conviction offence. At the time, it was punishable by a maximum of six months in prison or a maximum fine of $5,000, or both. It was obviously not considered to be a very serious offence.

In 2009, our government changed this offence to a hybrid offence and increased the maximum prison term to five years in the former Bill S-4, the identity theft bill, which came into force on January 10, 2010.

The five-year maximum prison term takes into account the fact that the offence requires only that we establish that the accused personated a peace officer or public officer. There is no requirement that there be malicious intent to specifically do so or that something malicious be accomplished in doing so.

Some individuals may decide to personate a police officer, for example, simply to feel powerful or as a way to do something else that may or may not be serious, such as getting information or gaining access to a location. Personating a peace officer or a public officer so that others believe that one really is such an officer can, in itself, lead to a conviction. No other evidence is required.

In a few instances, personating a police officer or a public officer will be directly associated with other offences. It is a way to enable the commission of other crimes. Since most people in our society have faith in the police and in other public institutions, they may, because of that faith, submit to the authority of an individual they believe to be a peace officer or a public officer.

Cases where people's trust in police and public officers is abused are very troubling. They must be condemned by sentencing courts and by Parliament. Bill C-444 addresses these cases. The bill would require that personating a peace officer or a public officer for the purpose of committing another offence be considered by a court to be an aggravating circumstance for sentencing purposes.

We could think of many situations where someone would voluntarily get into a police officer's vehicle, or let an officer into their home, before realizing that this person actually means them harm. Such cases are rare, fortunately. However, they are extremely serious, which justifies including them specifically in the Criminal Code.

It is also important to recall that in determining a fit sentence, the court must in all cases take into account all relevant aggravating and mitigating factors. Paragraph 718.2(a) of the Criminal Code describes a number of aggravating factors that apply to all offences. These include, for instance, evidence that the offender, in committing the offence, abused a position of trust or authority in relation to the victim. But in addition to these factors which are specifically listed, the sentencing court always retains discretion to determine if additional circumstances revealed by the evidence are aggravating or mitigating factors that should affect the sentence.

It is already the case that a sentencing judge can take into account the aggravated nature of this form of police or public officer personation. What Bill C-444 does is essentially codify this practice in the text of the law.

Bill C-444 deserves serious consideration in this House because it addresses a truly horrific form of criminality which has so many negative consequences on the public at large, on the ability of police to carry out their functions, and especially on any individuals whose trust in public institutions and authorities was used against them to facilitate their victimization.

While this form of conduct continues to be rare in this country, there have been a number of incidents reported in the media in the last few years. One case involved drivers being stopped by a police impersonator and requested to pay immediately for an alleged speeding offence. Another case involved motorists who were followed after leaving a casino, and then pulled over and robbed of their winnings. There have also been profoundly disturbing cases involving police personation so as to get someone into a car to facilitate their kidnapping.

There was the tragic and devastating incident involving the kidnapping and sexual assault of a teenager in the riding of Red Deer, the riding of the member who is sponsoring this bill. No doubt, this incident is what prompted him to introduce this bill.

All Canadians should be aware that such things can happen and should be encouraged to be vigilant. Citizens should trust the police, but they should also recognize that criminals are not above exploiting that trust. It is a difficult balance to achieve. The exercise of a little bit of caution is a good thing. It is reasonable to ask to see the badge of someone who appears to be a police officer, especially if you are being asked to go with them or to allow them to enter your premises. This kind of verification process must be done respectfully and cautiously.

As Parliamentarians, we can help educate and inform Canadians about these risks. That is exactly what the debate on Bill C-444 is allowing us to do.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7:40 p.m.


Manon Perreault NDP Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, naturally, I am pleased to support the bill put forward by my colleague from Red Deer. No one is against virtue. This bill is designed to ensure that personating a police officer or a public officer for the purpose of committing another offence is considered by a court to be an aggravating circumstance.

The bill does not include minimum sentences, which respects judicial independence while appropriately punishing the criminal.

It would therefore remedy a flaw in the Criminal Code by amending section 130, while also providing justice for victims. It is about appropriately punishing offenders by increasing penalties for those who take advantage of this trust to cause harm to others.

I would like to point out that the member who tabled this bill was concerned about an unfortunate incident that took place in his riding, where a young girl was sexually assaulted by a man disguised as a police officer who had fake cruiser lights on his car. The bill introduced by the member for Red Deer came out of a terrible event in his riding in 2009 that demanded action. He showed compassion with his response to this event in his own community. His approach is both balanced and appropriate. Congratulations.

This type of offence abuses the trust that people put in our institutions. Police officers are there to protect us. That is the foundation of our justice system, and it is compromised in these types of situations. When someone usurps the power of a law enforcement officer, that forces the victim to submit to false authority so that the offender can commit another offence. It is crucial that we protect the integrity of our institutions and prevent people from being misled.

It should be said that the majority of Canadians put their complete trust in the police and readily submit to an officer's requests. That is normal. But it is that same authority and power that is exploited to facilitate other heinous crimes.

Such incidents are rare, but they have terrible consequences. I would not go so far as to say that incidents involving personation of a police officer are on the rise, but the fact is that everyone is concerned about such offences.

The problem has surfaced elsewhere in the country as a factor in all sorts of crimes. I will provide several examples during my speech.

This bill also provides an opportunity to raise awareness. We have to remind people to be vigilant and careful. Everyone has rights, and anyone can ask an officer to confirm their identity. Such a request is perfectly acceptable if a police officer approaches an individual and makes suspicious requests or behaves oddly.

When in doubt, people have every right to ask an officer questions or request to see their badge or ID. Of course, they should do so respectfully.

This bill is about personating a peace officer for the purpose of committing another serious offence, such as theft, home invasion or, in the case of the crime committed in Red Deer, kidnapping and sexual assault.

Any abuse of the trust that people have in police officers is reprehensible because that trust is crucial to the well-being of our whole society.

In July 2011, Toronto police arrested a man on suspicion of fraud against elderly persons. The man in question pretended to be a police officer and made off with their wallets. He was charged with 14 counts of theft and 14 counts of personating a peace officer. His victims were all between 70 and 80 years of age. I just wanted to mention that we should never tolerate any form of elder abuse.

The most surprising thing about this case is that this was not the first time the accused had passed himself off as a police officer. In 2003, he was sentenced to four years in jail for personating a police officer in order to commit theft. In 2008, five years later, he was at it again. He passed himself off as a police officer to commit another theft, but he was convicted only of theft.

There have also been cases involving motorists who were pulled over by police impersonators for an alleged speeding offence or expired licence, only to be extorted for money. They forced victims to pay a fine on the spot, using the authority and power of a police officer along with the threat of towing the vehicle and the victim having to pay all of the related expenses.

Montreal police arrested two men for these kinds of offences in 2010. The two young men, both 18 years old, did not have police badges, but they did have flashing lights and managed to stop and search several vehicles in the east end of Montreal, demanding payments for fines while also stealing items from inside the vehicles. After several interactions with motorists, some drivers became suspicious and alerted the police as quickly as possible.

This case is particularly telling, since it shows that many people were completely fooled by these two men who passed themselves off as police officers—certainly corrupt ones—but police officers using their authority and their power.

Yet, this is not the first time that this happened. In 2008, the Calgary police had already charged two people who were personating police officers and who had tried to arrest drivers. They also had cruiser lights on their car. How is it that people other than police officers can purchase cruiser lights? I am just wondering.

Another incident took place in Oakville in 2010 when a women who was personating a police officer pulled a driver over, accused him of speeding and demanded that he quickly pay a fine right then and there. In that case, the woman did not have a uniform, a badge or an ID card. The situation was suspicious enough for the driver who was being scammed to call the police as soon as possible. Once the crime has been committed, victims take the time to think about it and then they realize that they have been scammed.

It is important to remind the public that there are ways to identify who is really a police officer. Police officers, whether they are plainclothes or in uniform, always have a photo ID card and a badge. If they are not visible, people have the right to ask to see them and should call the police if they have doubts as to a police officer's true identity.

Crimes such as what happened in the riding of Red Deer, or elsewhere in the country, have made the public and victims more distrustful of our institutions. Personating a peace officer should not be considered secondary in these cases, but should be considered an aggravating circumstance by the courts during sentencing.

We know how much trust the public puts in the people it believes to be real police officers. Personating an officer is even more serious, because it exploits the public's trust in the police. It affects all members of society; not just the victims.

The bill exposes a troubling and worrying aspect of the crime, which is when the offence is committed for the purpose of committing another offence. This bill will very much improve our justice system. It will give the courts a necessary—and currently lacking—tool for sentencing.

The member for Red Deer did a good job with this bill. It epitomizes his compassion for and understanding of the victim and the victim's family, and is an improvement to our justice system.

This private member's bill is a shining example of a logical and balanced approach to justice. The fact that there are no proposed minimum sentences should encourage the Conservatives to reconsider their normal approach to these issues.

It goes without saying that this is and will continue to be an important issue. Personating an officer is a crime that leads to other crimes. It must therefore be considered an aggravating circumstance by the courts. I urge my colleagues to unequivocally support this bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7:50 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Before we resume debate with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, I will let her know that we only have about four minutes remaining, so I will need to interrupt her at about that four-minute mark. Of course she will have the remaining time when the House next resumes business on this particular question.

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7:50 p.m.

Delta—Richmond East B.C.


Kerry-Lynne Findlay ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-444, an act to amend the Criminal Code (personating peace officer or public officer). The bill was introduced by the member for Red Deer and is virtually identical to former Bill C-576. The only difference is that in Bill C-444 the aggravating factor applies to personation of a public officer as well as a peace officer. Former Bill C-576 was approved by the members of this chamber at second reading and was subsequently also adopted by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights without amendment before dying on the order paper.

Bill C-444 is a simple and straightforward bill with only one provision. It would make it a mandatory aggravating factor on sentencing for the crime of personating a peace officer or a public officer, if the offence was committed for the purpose of facilitating the commission of another offence. As I will shortly explain, the purpose of personating a peace officer or a public officer in order to facilitate the commission of another crime is not an essential feature of the offence for reasons that will become obvious.

Let me begin with the offence itself. Section 130 makes it a crime to personate a peace officer or a public officer. This offence is punishable by up to five years in prison. A person can commit this offence in one of two ways. The first way is if people falsely represent themselves as peace officers or public officers. The word “falsely” means obviously that people only commit the offence if they do not in fact hold the office they pretend to hold. The offence has been interpreted to require that people intentionally misrepresented themselves to someone as if they did in fact hold such an office. There will have to be some evidence that the person deliberately tried to deceive another person about his or her status as a peace officer or a public officer.

The second way people can commit the offence is when they use a badge or other uniform article or equipment in a manner likely to cause others to believe that they are peace officers or public officers. Once again, of course, a person can only commit the offence in this way if he or she is not a peace officer or a public officer. As well, it is clear that there has to be some evidence that the use of the equipment or badge was likely to deceive the public or a person.

Whichever way the offence is committed, two things are clear. First is the harmful nature of this conduct. The very fact that people who have certain functions wear uniforms and use badges and other identifying equipment is testament to the importance of ensuring that the public is able to identify them as people who have those functions.

Some professions require the use of a uniform for a variety of reasons. The uniform is intended, in part, to provide visual proof that the person wearing it belongs to a particular group. This has several beneficial aspects. When people know they are in the presence of a law enforcement officer, their behaviour may change. Not only does the uniform alert potential criminals that law enforcement is present, but it also alerts law-abiding citizens to the same. When citizens need help, they may scan the area for the distinctive uniform of a police officer. When drivers approach an intersection or roadway that is occupied by a person in a police uniform, they typically submit to that person's hand directions without question or delay.

Many parents teach their children to respect and trust a person in a police uniform. The overriding message the uniform sends to law-abiding citizens is that such an individual can be trusted and that is precisely how the problem of police personation arises. It is that natural trust, ordinarily well-founded, that can be exploited and abused by criminals for their own purposes.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7:55 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. parliamentary secretary will have six minutes remaining for her remarks when the House next returns to debate on this matter of private members' business.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Foreign InvestmentAdjournment Proceedings

January 30th, 2013 / 7:55 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pursue a matter that I have been raising since the month of September. The specific matter for tonight's discussion relates to a question I put to the Prime Minister in question period on October 23. It relates to the Canada-China investment treaty.

I would like to take us back to where we were on October 23. With no ceremony, no warning, no briefing for parliamentarians and no lock-up, on September 26 the Canada-China investment treaty was quietly tabled in the House by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Under rules adopted by the current administration, we were given 21 sitting days to essentially sit on it. There was no opportunity for debate. There was no opportunity for a vote.

As I had been anticipating, this treaty fairly closely models what has been done in other investor state treaties, but it is more egregious than usual in that we are allowing the People's Republic of China and its state-owned enterprises the ability to circumvent our courts, bypass our court system, and go directly to an international arbitration and challenge any law passed at the municipal level, provincial level, federal level, or even any decision of our courts. They can challenge that it has cost them profits and therefore they demand an arbitration process, which is set out in the Canada-China investment treaty.

The practice of previous governments in this circumstance is well documented in constitutional law texts. I would refer anyone who is concerned to review the foundational text by Professor Peter Hogg. Even with treaties such as this one that did not require implementing legislation, which is the usual reason that treaties must be put to a vote in the House of Commons and the Senate, the usual practice by previous prime ministers was to bring such treaties to a vote in the House whether they required implementing legislation or not. I would refer briefly to the Kyoto protocol. There was no need for implementing legislation, but it was brought to the House of Commons for a vote.

Instead, and this has been lauded by representatives from the other side of this House, they adopted a practice called mandatory tabling of a treaty for 21 sitting days. The timing on those sitting days, taking into account weekends, Thanksgiving and so on, was from September 26 to November 1. Thereafter, at any point, the treaty could be ratified by a decision of cabinet in order in council.

The question I put to the Prime Minister was whether or not the constitutional aspects of this had been properly considered. I will quote my question: “Do arbitrations for damages against Canada for decisions at the provincial level not demand explicit agreement” with the provinces before the treated is ratified?

In support of the case that I have made that this treaty violates constitutional rights and promises--and let me also say in light of the Idle No More movement of first nations--I put into discussion this evening a letter to the Prime Minister dated October 12, from the recognized international law expert in arbitration process, Gus Van Harten, associate professor at Osgoode Hall Law School.

What he wrote to the Prime Minister on this topic was this:

The treaty clearly impacts on provincial powers on natural resources, taxation, land and property rights, and other matters. It applies to provincial legislation, regulations, or court or tribunal decisions that affect Chinese-owned assets, with limited exceptions. It does not contain a NAFTA-style carve-out for provincial performance requirements or any carve-outs for provincial measures regarding the treaty's expropriation and fair and equitable treatment provisions.Thus, there is a real possibility that, over the lifespan of the treaty, Canada will face billion dollar-plus awards due to provincial decisions that are not reviewable in Canadian courts.

This is clearly unacceptable. I await the parliamentary secretary's response.

Foreign InvestmentAdjournment Proceedings

8 p.m.

Delta—Richmond East B.C.


Kerry-Lynne Findlay ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, exporting Canada's world-class goods, services and expertise to new, fast-growing markets around the world is a key part of Canada's economic action plan for jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. Our government is delivering on this commitment. In fact, the Minister of International Trade is leading a trade mission to Ghana and Nigeria this week to do just that. Africa is one of the fastest-growing regions in the world. According to the International Monetary Fund, five of the world's twenty fastest-growing economies are in sub-Saharan Africa. Canadian companies are creating jobs and prosperity throughout Africa, and our government is creating new opportunities for Canadian exporters by opening new markets in this dynamic region.

However, promoting Canadian interests internationally also means creating the conditions for Canadian investors to invest with confidence. That is exactly what our government is doing with our foreign investment promotion and protection agreements. In fact, our government has concluded several such agreements with our partners in Africa, including Tanzania, Benin and Senegal. We have also concluded such an agreement with China, the world's second-largest economy. This agreement will provide stronger protection for Canadians investing in China and create jobs and economic growth right here at home. This agreement establishes a clear set of rules under which investments are made and under which investment disputes are resolved. This treaty is about protecting the interests of Canadians. The FIPA also ensures that all investment disputes are resolved under international arbitration, ensuring that adjudications are independent.

I emphasize that ours is the first bilateral investment agreement China has signed that expressly includes language on transparency of dispute settlement proceedings. Let me be clear. It is Canada's long-standing policy that all dispute resolutions should be open to the public and that the submissions made by the parties be available to the public. It is unfortunate that anti-trade activists have continued to spread such misinformation about this agreement.

Foreign InvestmentAdjournment Proceedings

8 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am astonished by the parliamentary secretary's presentation. Let me quickly clear up one thing. There is no misinformation in the following statement: The treaty itself does not require transparency, only Canadian policy in place. So it is a discretionary decision by either China or Canada to decide to make the proceedings transparent. There is no requirement for transparency in this agreement, and that is a departure from previous treaties.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice has spoken of the benefits of an agreement with Senegal and Benin and Tanzania. Those countries are not likely to take Canada to court for billions of dollars because they simply do not represent the economic clout. It is unfortunate that Canadian mining companies may take them to court if they improve their environmental laws, but it is simply unacceptable if the People's Republic of China is invested in the right to sue us.

This agreement does not open a single new market with China. It can still refuse Canadian investors' interests in its energy sector or its IT sector. However, we are wide open to investments from the People's Republic of China, and if this agreement is ratified we will be sued for billions of dollars if we improve our laws to protect the environment, health or labour standards.

Foreign InvestmentAdjournment Proceedings

8 p.m.


Kerry-Lynne Findlay Conservative Delta—Richmond East, BC

Mr. Speaker, as I have said, this investment treaty will fundamentally help protect the interests of Canadian investors. I also point out, and we so assert, that it is our government that brought greater transparency to the treaty review process. It was our Conservative government that, in 2008, introduced a formal tabling policy that requires international treaties to be tabled in the House before their ratification or coming into force. In this case, the opposition parties simply chose not to debate it, despite having had several opportunities to do so.

The Canada–China FIPA is similar to the 24 other investment treaties Canada has signed with key trade and investment partners. This is yet another demonstration of how our government is creating jobs, growth and long-term prosperity for hard-working Canadians and protecting their interests.

Foreign InvestmentAdjournment Proceedings

8:05 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 8:05 p.m.)