Mr. Speaker, today I will be talking about Bill C-444, An Act to amend the Criminal Code.
The bill makes a slight amendment to the Criminal Code about personating a police officer or a public officer. This is a change for the better, so the official opposition will support the bill. I am pleased that we can work with the government to pass Bill C-444 quickly.
This bill establishes 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.
How does that change the existing law? Currently, personating a police officer is an offence. That will not change. What would change is that the courts would no longer consider personation to be a stand-alone offence. In other words, if this crime is committed for the purpose of committing another offence, it will be considered an aggravating circumstance with respect to the primary offence. Until now, the two offences were considered separately.
Today, if a man is convicted of disguising himself as a police officer for the purpose of committing an assault, the court will hand down separate sentences for the assault and for personating a police officer. This bill will give the judge a way to connect the assault and the personation that enabled the assault. It will be easier for the judge to account for the outcome of personating a public officer. Guilty parties will receive more appropriate sentences.
It seems clear to us that, in such cases, the personation is part of the plan to commit the assault, so it would not make sense to separate the two crimes. I hope that the law will soon reflect logic and common sense.
There is another reason I wholeheartedly support this bill. Like my colleagues, I am pleased to support it because, in addition to its logical approach, Bill C-444 is balanced. By that, I mean that it respects judicial independence and sidesteps the trap of mandatory minimum sentences.
Courts will be able to assess sentences once they can consider personation to be an aggravating circumstance. Judges will be able to take all aggravating and attenuating circumstances into account.
We need to remember that each case is different. Legislators must provide the justice system with the means to hand down appropriate sentences. The very principle of minimum sentencing goes against that idea. We are quite pleased that this bill does not propose minimum sentences.
I hope that this bill has helped my colleagues on the other side of the House realize that when the Conservative government presents a reasoned approach to a real issue and proposes sensible solutions, the NDP will work with it to ensure that bills move forward more quickly. I should also say that collaborating on Bill C-444 gave us the opportunity to reiterate our support for victims and for those who keep our democratic institutions running.
Our first thought should always be of the victims. In particular, I am thinking about the young girl who was sexually assaulted by a police impersonator in Alberta. There are also drivers who have paid bogus fines and seniors who were scammed by criminals posing as public servants. All of these examples have one thing in common: there was an abuse of the victims' trust.
In each of those cases, the culprits took advantage of that trust in public authority. Thinking they were dealing with a public official, the victims let down their guard. They thought they could trust the person standing before them.
Making the connection between personation and the crime it enables more accurately reflects the reality of the abuse. It gives a better picture of the wrongs the victim has suffered, and that is what is important.
The bill more accurately reflects the abuse by helping us to put ourselves in the victim's shoes and to better understand what he or she went through. This allows us to show respect for victims and to punish offenders more appropriately.
The bill will also make it possible to better protect the integrity of our most fundamental institutions. When people see a police uniform, they tend to trust the person wearing it. Personating a peace officer is a serious breach of the public's trust. This type of false representation also has a negative impact on our institutions, which need the public's trust to operate properly.
We refuse to allow Canadians to lose confidence in our institutions because of the actions of a handful of criminals. By disguising themselves as police officers or public officials in order to commit crimes, these offenders are attacking our institutions. They are tarnishing the reputation of public officials who make it possible for us to live in a society where everyone's rights are respected, including the right to live in safe communities.
By passing this bill today, we will be sending a clear message to anyone who might be tempted to impersonate a police officer or a public officer for the purpose of committing a crime. If they do, they will be punished. The court will take that into account and their sentence will be lengthened as a result. Dissuading criminals from committing crime remains the best way to protect Canadians.
If the bill passes, it will help improve our justice system considerably. It will protect the integrity of our institutions by deterring potential criminals from misappropriating the public authority. It will allow for more appropriate punishments, because the courts will be able to appreciate the circumstances of a crime. Furthermore, it will do greater justice to victims, because the outcome will better reflect what they suffered.
I hope this bill will serve as an example to show that when the Conservatives introduce a bill based on a logical and balanced approach, as is the case with this bill, and it does not impose mandatory minimum sentences, we can work together. This co-operation helps push the bill through the legislative process faster in order to benefit Canadians sooner.
To conclude my speech, I would like to talk briefly about something the hon. member for Red Deer said. He began his speech by saying that he represents a riding that has no tolerance for those who commit crimes. I sincerely hope the member was not implying that some ridings in this country do tolerate crime. Everyone knows that in all of our ridings, our fellow Canadians do not tolerate it. However, we could also say that there are criminals in every riding.
Honest Canadians want to see parliamentarians working together to pass logical, good legislation. They are disappointed to see that criminal activity exists even here, in the Senate, for example. We need to prove to Canadians that no riding in the country tolerates crime. That is certainly the case in Vaudreuil—Soulanges. My constituents want parliamentarians to protect victims and strengthen our laws. They want us to get truly serious about reducing crime across the country so that we can keep our communities safe and so that they can have faith in their institutions.
We will make sure that all Canadians are safe, from coast to coast to coast.