Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise in response to the debate of this private member's bill, Bill C-365. I thank all members from both sides of the House who have contributed to the debate of this bill. My time today is short so I will move on to my response to the debate that has occurred.
In the first hour of debate in November, we heard from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General,, the hon. member for Eglinton-Lawrence. I appreciate the parliamentary secretary's endorsement in November that this bill was “well-intentioned proposal targeting serious conduct that can endanger the lives of our communities and fire response personnel.”
During the parliamentary secretary's speech, he stated that mischief or theft of firefighting equipment were already captured by the Criminal Code under a number of offences. Although I do not dispute this statement is partially correct, for the sake of this debate, the sake of public safety, and for the sake of Canada's firefighters whom the hon. member appropriately described as “heroes”, I must clarify that while the Criminal Code does contain offences that capture the conduct in question, the code's existing provisions are inconsistent.
That is why I have brought this bill forward, to establish clear and consistent provisions in the Criminal Code for offences involving mischief or theft of firefighting equipment. As the Criminal Code stands today, mischief such as vandalism of firefighting equipment that causes actual danger to life may be subject to a maximum sentence of life if the presiding judge decides that such a maximum sentence is warranted. This is appropriate. This is not a mandatory minimum sentence that we currently see in the code for such mischief. It is an option that prosecutors and judges may pursue or apply if the facts of the case support it.
Currently, there are no such provisions for theft of firefighting equipment that causes actual danger to life. The parliamentary secretary has suggested that criminal negligence causing bodily harm or death are applicable. If criminal negligence causing bodily harm were applied to a case of theft of firefighting equipment, prosecutors and judges would be limited to seeking or applying a maximum sentence of 10 years. This exposes the very inconsistency of the existing Criminal Code that this bill seeks to correct.
Why should theft of firefighting equipment be treated differently from mischief of firefighting equipment, if and when these two offences can have the exact same effect of causing actual danger to human life? Why should theft of firefighting equipment require a death to occur before such theft can qualify for the same maximum sentence carried by mischief that causes actual danger to life? If we truly trust our judiciary to decide an appropriate sentence, why would we hesitate in providing it with consistent sentencing options for mischief and theft of firefighting equipment that cause actual danger to life?
The bill is an opportunity for Parliament to establish clear denunciations of the offence in question, in support of not just our judiciary, but also our firefighters, law enforcement personnel, and Canadian citizens. We know that mischief and theft of firefighting equipment are realities in our society. We know that these offences can cause actual danger to life. We know that law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges are provided inconsistent legal tools for treating these offences, even though the offences can have the exact same effect.
We know that the House has an essential role to play in supporting the continuous improvement and strengthening of the Criminal Code. Let us see and treat this bill for what it is: an opportunity to make the Criminal Code more consistent; an opportunity to clearly denounce mischief and theft of firefighting equipment that cause actual danger to life; an opportunity to provide our judiciary the flexibility to treat these offences consistently; an opportunity to support firefighters who put their lives on the line to protect ours, 365 days a year; and an opportunity to support public safety in every community across our nation for the benefit of every Canadian, the people we all represent. Let us seize these opportunities and not let them pass us by.