Mr. Speaker, two days ago Canadians took to the airwaves for the Let's Talk initiative to help bring awareness of those struggling with mental health issues.
Today on this Valentine's Day we recognize the things that play to matters of the heart, and so to that end I would like to say Happy Valentine's Day to my wife. That said, it is fitting that we remember how important it is to talk, to listen and to act by supporting those who are so significant in our lives.
I am honoured to close second reading debate on my private member's bill, Bill C-444. I appreciate the fact that my colleagues from all sides of the House have shown that they too are prepared to talk, to listen and now to act as we take this very important step of moving this bill to committee. I thank everyone for their support.
My bill seeks to amend section 130 of the Criminal Code by adding a sentencing provision to the crime of impersonating peace officers or public officers. There are really three main components of this bill.
First, it is an acknowledgement to those who fall victim to this cowardly act of deceit that society views this crime seriously and that our trust in authority, which has been ingrained in our psyche since childhood, is not to be trifled with. We can do this by recognizing that the personation of an officer in the commission of another offence should be considered an aggravating circumstance at the sentencing of a criminal.
Second, since aggravating circumstances in this case are currently specific to those who abuse a position of trust or power, this bill would create clarity by recognizing that those who pretend to have this position of trust to overpower or disarm a victim should be treated similarly when sentencing occurs. Herein is the key aspect of my bill: the existing aggravating circumstance does not currently apply to offenders who are posing as police officers. I am calling on Parliament to recognize this gap in the law and to work with me to fill it by passing my private member's bill. My bill recognizes this gap in the law and would ensure that this kind of malicious deceit would be dealt with properly.
Third, by making this change to the Criminal Code, we would also show our support to the fine men and women who put their lives on the line and whose public trust is diminished by the actions of these unscrupulous criminals. Our police officers' jobs are difficult as they are, and by highlighting this type of criminal activity we would recognize the damage done by these illegal acts.
Here I will recap some of the issues germane to this bill. Within the maximum sentence for personating an officer, the appropriateness of a sentence would still rest with the sentencing court. Sentencing is a pillar of our justice system and it is up to us, as legislators, to establish sentencing provisions in the Criminal Code. When an offender personates a police officer to further victimize someone, this is a severe instance of personating an officer and can have serious and long-lasting effects on a victim. The sentence for this kind of malicious deceit must denounce this unlawful conduct and reflect the significant impact that the crime has on victims' lives. Victims must be assured that there will be serious consequences for the criminals who have hurt them.
As a further point, the way that section 130 now reads, the crime relates to the deception of the public about a person's status as a police officer. It does not differentiate whether it was for the specific purpose of facilitating another crime, or whether another crime is actually attempted or committed. However, in cases where the deception is intended to and in fact does facilitate the commission of another more serious crime, this is an extremely serious instance of the offence of personating an officer and therefore deserves an appropriately higher sentence. In 2009, we legislated a new maximum sentence for this crime and now we must give the courts this tool to exercise the new maximum in those most serious cases. Personating a police officer to force someone to do something is just as effective as pointing a firearm. It is no less aggravating than breaking and entering with the knowledge that a residence is occupied, nor many of the other situations that fall into the category of aggravating circumstances. Moreover, it is no different to a victim than having been abused by a person who really was in a position of authority.
By supporting this bill, we are also helping to preserve the trust and respect that citizens have for real bona fide police officers. When citizens see a police officer's uniform, they naturally trust and respect the authority that comes with it and our laws must reflect this reality. The bill brings to light the support that our police forces need to combat this type of crime.
I would like to once again thank my colleagues for their support. I appreciate that they, too, recognize the timeliness and the necessity of the bill. I look forward to working with the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights where we can further our discussion.