This bill would amend the Criminal Code to establish that personating a peace officer or public officer for the purpose of committing an offence must be considered by a judge to be an aggravating circumstance for sentencing purposes.
This bill is a good, balanced response to this real problem, and I support it at second reading.
It reproduces what was in Bill C-576, which died on the order paper during the 40th Parliament, and it adds the notion of personating a public officer.
The purpose of this bill is to sanction such actions. I commend my hon. colleague from Red Deer who worked on this issue. During previous debates, he mentioned a number of sad stories from across the country in which criminals have used this scheme to commit offences ranging from theft to forcible confinement.
The hon. member for Red Deer also mentioned the fact that Canadians' trust in peace and public officers must be protected. He said in the House:
By supporting the 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 uniform, they naturally trust and respect the authority that comes with it. Our laws must reflect this reality.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice clearly explained the importance of this relationship of trust, and the bill seeks to strengthen that relationship between citizens and police officers.
I would also like to comment briefly on the reservations the hon. member for Mount Royal has about this bill.
Although he agrees with the objective and supports the bill, the hon. member doubts that the bill will have the desired effect, namely, of making it possible to impose longer prison sentences. He also mentioned the efficacy of the deterrent effect of longer prison terms. This is a very interesting debate, and I will have the pleasure of talking to him more about it when this bill is sent to committee.
We must recognize that, for once, a bill that amends the Criminal Code is a good thing.
There is no reference to minimum sentences, the independence of the justice system is not being challenged and respect for victims is being made a priority. These things do not happen often enough in this Parliament, and it is important to point it out.
Too often, the Conservatives do not take a logical approach to justice, and I always criticize bills that are sent to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights that either seriously undermine judicial independence or add standards to the Criminal Code that weaken its legal logic.
I would like to commend the hon. member who worked long and hard on this issue and introduced this bill on September 27. I will vote in favour of it.
I would like to come back to the valid statements made by the hon. member for Mount Royal, who brought up some things to think about as we work to solve this rather uncommon problem of personating a peace officer or public officer.
The hon. member brought up the problem of access to police uniforms and equipment. It is true that that is a concern. Restricting access to this sort of clothing and other equipment could be worth looking into.
My hon. colleague also suggested that there be a campaign to raise awareness about police identity cards. These are two interesting possibilities that in no way diminish the merits of the bill. I would like to talk about another point that the bill sheds light on, the fact that people have lost trust in our police institutions.
The member for Red Deer insisted that this was something he thought about when drafting his bill. Therefore, it is essential that people who are approached by police officers for whatever reason know who they are dealing with.
I will come back to my colleague's comments, which echo the member for Mount Royal's suggestion concerning badges, which could be explored:
This is an opportunity to encourage people to think about why they are being stopped, to make sure they ask to see a badge and look for the number. The police are prepared to do that. When I spoke with police officers they said it was common practice. I know a lot of times we think that if we ask for the number, it will cause more concern, but that certainly was not an issue in my discussions with the members I spoke with.
This quote shows that some people are intimidated by the police and do not dare make this legitimate request. The bill brings this out into the open.
I would also like to congratulate my colleague from Gatineau, who provided a good explanation of how the judge and crown prosecutor determine the sentence when the offence is punishable by indictment or by summary conviction.
In closing, I would like to recognize the work of the member for Red Deer and give him my full support for his bill, because it respects the victim and also the independence of the judiciary, and provides appropriate punishment for the offender. This is a well thought out and balanced approach. If a similar approach is taken again, I would be happy to collaborate.