Mr. Speaker, this is a good bill. I would like to thank my colleague, the member for Red Deer, for tabling this piece of legislation. It is identical to Bill C-576, which he tabled in the 40th Parliament and at that time was supported unanimously at second reading. I will beg his forgiveness if I repeat a lot of the information that was already said, but when we are supporting a good bill, there is nothing wrong with repeating the good points about it.
It is my understanding that the bill is a response to a very tragic incident in Red Deer, where a young girl was sexually assaulted by a man disguised as a police officer. Our society should not have to tolerate this kind of abuse of trust. We need to ensure that our citizens can turn to police officers and other public officials when in need and feel safe in doing so. We see in other countries where criminals disguise themselves as police officers in order to commit crimes, many of them very violent crimes against unsuspecting citizens. We cannot allow this to take place in our country.
Bill C-444 amends section 130 of the Criminal Code to establish that personating a police officer or a public officer for the purpose of committing another offence must be considered by a court to be an aggravating circumstance for sentencing purposes.
This is not a very common offence, but the Criminal Code must be amended all the same. We recognize that this offence is not only an attack on its victims, but it also represents an abuse of the institutions in our society that Canadians must be able to trust. Considering false representation as an aggravating factor instead of proposing a minimum sentence allows us to support this bill, because it respects the victim and judicial independence, and punishes the offender appropriately.
We believe that justice for victims is important and we are pleased to have been able to work with the government on this bill. It is not often that we are able to work with the government so closely, and so I am pleased that we were able to do so on this.
As I already said, this bill comes as a result of an incident that happened in Red Deer when a poor young woman was sexually assaulted by a man who had disguised himself as a police officer and had put fake flashing lights on his car. The assailant is now in prison after being sentenced to 18 years, including an additional six months for impersonating a law enforcement officer. My colleague, the hon. member for Red Deer, described this as the equivalent of committing a crime with a weapon, because the victim is forced to submit to a false authority who is committing a violent act.
This bill says nothing about a minimum sentence. Allowing judges discretionary power is very important.
We will therefore support this bill at all stages, as we planned to do for its predecessor in the previous Parliament. We on this side of the House recognize that this type of crime is not only a horrible attack on the victim, but also an usurpation of the power of the forces of law and order, which is very serious. By pretending to represent institutions that Canadians trust and obey, criminals are attacking society as a whole.
This bill will formally codify this offence and achieve justice for those who have been victims of such crimes.
New Democrats are satisfied with this bill, which will fill a void in the Criminal Code. This bill will ensure justice for victims, respect for judicial independence and suitable punishment for offenders.
We agree with my colleague and his party on this bill. It models a logical and balanced approach to justice, and we are happy to support it. I think this is an excellent example for democracy.
Once again, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Red Deer for his hard work and for introducing this bill again.