Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by acknowledging that New Democrats will be supporting this private member's bill. I want to commend the member for Red Deer for being so persistent in bringing it forward. I know he has worked on it for a number of years. I also think it speaks to the fact that we as parliamentarians do respond to our constituents. My understanding is that the member for Red Deer brought this forward as a result of an incident in his riding.
Others have mentioned it, but what Bill C-444 does is to propose to amend article 130 of the Criminal Code, to establish that personating a police officer or public officer for the purposes of committing another offence must be considered by a court to be an aggravating circumstance for sentencing purposes. A number of other members have pointed this out, but I think it bears repeating. It is essential that the public have absolute confidence and are able to trust that when dealing with a police officer, the person is actually a police officer.
Many of us, as parents, have told our children that if they are in trouble or get lost when they are out and about, they should go to a police officer. We need to have confidence that it is police officers we are sending our children to.
One reason that confidence and trust is important is the fact that we have vulnerable populations. I know the member for Red Deer specifically talked about a young girl. I also want to touch on seniors because my riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan has a higher than provincial average of seniors. It is a very popular place for people to retire to. Sometimes seniors end up becoming part of the vulnerable population because people who have less than honourable intentions target them specifically for criminal activities. Unfortunately, people personating police officers go to their doors.
I went to the Vancouver Police Department's website and read its tips for seniors when dealing with people at the door. The website pointed out that for most crimes, seniors are the least victimized, so I would reassure seniors that they are not often a major target for criminal activity. However, it adversely affects seniors in a way that does not affect others in the population because seniors are often on a fixed income and have much greater difficulty replacing money or property when they have been targeted for criminal activity.
There are a couple of tips that the Vancouver Police Department suggest. When someone goes to a senior's door, the first thing they should do is to look through the peephole or a glass window that may be on the side of the door to verify who is on the doorstep. If it is somebody purporting to be a police officer and they have any discomfort at all, they should call 911 or contact the police department to verify he or she is actually an officer.