Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-444.
I will not keep you in suspense and I will tell you right off the bat that I will support this bill at second reading. As for the other stages, we will see, but there is a very good chance that I will continue to support this bill after it is examined in committee.
As my colleagues from all the parties have said, although this bill addresses very specific and relatively rare cases, it still proposes a positive amendment to the Criminal Code. The bill seeks to address a number of needs that have been expressed, particularly by my esteemed colleague from Red Deer. He has legitimate reasons for introducing this bill and I congratulate him for doing so. I congratulate him in particular for choosing to introduce a bill that adds a provision to section 130 of the Criminal Code.
The bill is somewhat based on the notion of making the offence an aggravating circumstance, instead of creating, as some of his colleagues tried to do, a mandatory minimum sentence. This took away the court's freedom to act and even undermined the desired objective of some of my Conservative colleagues.
I had the pleasure of working on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. I will use the example of a bill that my Conservative colleague from Kootenay—Columbia introduced. That bill also had legitimate goals, but the effects were rather worrisome. There were even fears that the purpose intended by my colleague from Kootenay—Columbia would be overridden and that we could end up taking a step backwards because of how the bill was presented. Unfortunately, the bill passed and we hope that it will not have any devastating consequences.
I am pleased to reiterate that I will support Bill C-444. I am so pleased because I have a vested interest in this bill—I will not hide it and want to disclose it in the House. I have a loved one who is an active member of a police force.
I want to mention what the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance and member for Saint-Boniface said during another debate, regarding the public's view of and lack of trust in police forces. It is not true that the public no longer trusts police forces. What we are saying is that because of certain situations, this trust may be wavering, may be fragile, and as elected members of the House, we have a duty to protect it.
Of course, I feel a direct link to this, because I have a loved one who works for a police force. More than anything, I do not want him to become a victim, either of the misconduct of some of his colleagues on the force or another police force in the country, or of any perception, whether legitimate or false, on the part of the public because of problems related to the involvement of police forces.
Although I do not wish to dwell on the issue, I would quickly like to mention the unfortunate case of the now famous Robert Pickton. It is not something that we would have liked to achieve such notoriety. However, as they say, the damage is done. What is important is finding solutions, rather than just pointing the finger. That is what is most important, which is why I am very pleased to see that all members of the House plan to support this bill.
I wish to explore the importance of the authority enjoyed by anyone who wears a uniform or appears to be in a position of authority, that is, when someone steals an identity and takes it on as their own. This is an aggravating factor, so it is very important. Although things change completely whenever a firearm is involved, there is no denying that the authority held by someone in uniform or with a certain title can very easily intimidate and frighten some people who are sensitive to such authority. That is a fact.
The bill introduced by the hon. member for Red Deer sends a clear message to Canadians and builds some level of confidence. The 308 members of this House all have an opportunity to send this message. The level of trust will depend on the means that are developed.
My hon. colleague from Brome—Missisquoi was right to repeat some parts of the speech given by the member for Mount Royal. As the Romans used to say, “dura lex”. The law is strict, indeed—in its existence, in its form and in its message, as well as based on the means put in place to enforce it. These means can take various forms and avenues.
Our esteemed colleague from Mount Royal rightfully raised concerns about the availability of uniforms, for example, and the fact that although a tough law will be on the books, if we do not take certain measures, the law will come too late, which will defeat the purpose. That is very important to recognize.
I want to talk about section 130 of the Criminal Code. To begin, it states:
130. (1) Everyone commits an offence who
(a) falsely represents himself to be a peace officer or a public officer; or
(b) not being a peace officer or public officer, uses a badge or article of uniform...as the case may be.
It goes on to say:
(2) Everyone who commits an offence under subsection (1)
(a) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years; or
(b) is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.
The bill proposes adding section 130.1, which states:
If a person is convicted of an offence under section 130, the court imposing the sentence on the person shall consider as an aggravating circumstance the fact that the accused personated a peace officer or a public officer, as the case may be, for the purpose of facilitating the commission of another offence.
I think it is a major step forward. Once the bill has passed, it will be interesting to see how the courts and the various stakeholders use it and apply it to different types of offences.
Obviously, the member for Red Deer introduced this bill in response to a truly appalling crime, an extreme case. However, the bill has some potential, and it will be fascinating to follow the work of my colleagues on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to see how it could be useful.