House of Commons Hansard #254 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was equipment.


(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #437

Automated External DefibrillatorsPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I declare the motion carried.

The House resumed from January 30 consideration of the motion that Bill C-348, An Act to amend the Department of Employment and Social Development Act (persons with disabilities), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Department of Employment and Social Development ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-348 under private members' business.

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

Vote #438

Department of Employment and Social Development ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I declare the motion defeated.

It being 6:29 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

The House resumed from November 21, 2017, consideration of the motion that Bill C-365, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (firefighting equipment), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Madam Speaker, I had two minutes, a long time ago, on Bill C-365. We are now resuming debate on a very important bill, put forward by my colleague.

In the brief two minutes I had before the Christmas break, way back in 2017, I did a little reflection on the B.C. wildfire season. I also talked a little about how disappointed I was that from the initial signals from the government, it would not be supporting the bill. To be honest, I found that very concerning, distressing, and to be frank, a little shameful, because this is an important measure that, if put in place, would ultimately help to protect lives.

I think what I need to do is pick up by explaining what the bill is about and bring it back to why it is so important for our firefighters, our men and women who respond every day to very difficult situations. It is also important to note that the bill has massive support from the people who would be most impacted by it, and that is a number of our different associations. We have really positive support from across the country, but unfortunately, it does not appear the government is listening.

What does the bill propose to do? It proposes a new and specific offence for theft of firefighting equipment that causes danger to life. There is a reason this has been put forward. It is that there is a gap in our existing legislation, because the current code's provisions applicable to cases of mischief or theft of firefighting equipment, especially in cases where each mischief or theft causes danger to life, have not gotten the proper treatment they deserve.

The second thing the bill does is that it proposes to establish mischief related to firefighting equipment as an aggravating circumstance. That would add gravity to the offence.

The third component of Bill C-365 seeks to establish clarity on what the objectives of the sentence should be when a judge is determining a sentence for any theft of firefighting equipment, regardless of whether or not danger to life has been caused. If someone vandalizes someone's home, or there is mischief related to some activities that perhaps young adults undertake, that is a significantly different offence in terms of its possible implications than when there is mischief, damage, theft, or loss related to firefighting equipment.

I do not have the statistics in front of me, but I suspect that in our country our professional firefighter departments that are staffed 24-7 perhaps have a little less to worry about because they have significant checks and balances, and paid staff. They are always there, having a good eye on the equipment and providing security. However, in the riding I represent, we have volunteer firefighters and departments all over. These are men and women who give up their time. They might go to a fire practice on a Wednesday night. They practice and they are there to respond to community emergencies. Their equipment is perhaps not as secure. They do not have the ability, because it is volunteer, to check as often as perhaps other places can.

We talked about the wildfires of 2017 in the communities I represent. I can remember that in 2003 there was another horrific season in the area of Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo. We live in a small community. We have a volunteer firefighting department, and both my son and my husband were part of that particular department. When the province declared a state of emergency, it all of a sudden gave the authority for the province to call all of the volunteer fire departments into action to deal with the crisis.

As one can imagine, this fire department trained on a Wednesday, had done some live fire training, but certainly did not have the ability to respond. Nor did it have the equipment. The equipment it had was critically important.

I remember a day when the firefighters were called out to a grass fire outside their normal boundaries because they were now under provincial control. They headed up the mountain with the equipment. Had there been any flaws in how that equipment worked, it would have put their lives in danger. They were not as experienced, had been called to action in a place outside their normal area of expertise, and did not have a lot of training around grass fires, which were quickly expanding through the mountains. Had anything been tampered with or stolen, it could have been significant and dangerous. Quite frankly, lives could have been lost.

When the government suggests that this is in an unnecessary bill and that the penalties are already quite fine, it needs to think about the reality of the situation. People who steal or tamper with firefighting equipment know exactly what they are doing. They know they impact equipment used for response to serious and significant issues.

I ask the Liberals to reconsider this and think about the volunteer firefighters, like in the case in 2003 where it was my husband and son. Had they headed up this mountain where the grasses were burning and the equipment had malfunctioned, think of what the repercussions could have been. How would they have felt if someone had tampered with or stolen necessary equipment? Should there not be significant and appropriate repercussions? The government needs to rethink its position.

I want to congratulate my colleague who put forward the bill.

As one further thought, talking about the B.C. wildfires, the government indicated it would do everything possible to help. This is one thing it could do that would be very helpful in moving forward and protecting public safety.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Scarborough Southwest Ontario


Bill Blair LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and to the Minister of Health

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to rise today and to participate in the debate on Bill C-365, an act to amend the Criminal Code, firefighting equipment.

The bill seeks three Criminal Code amendments, including: the creation of a new offence of theft of firefighting equipment that actually endangers life; the requirement that courts that sentence an offender for mischief to consider, as an aggravating factor, that the property in relation to which the mischief occurred was firefighting equipment; and, finally, the requirement that courts give primary consideration to denunciation and deterrence in cases of theft of firefighting equipment.

At the outset, it is very important to acknowledge, and I would like to acknowledge, the laudable objective of the bill and sincerely thank the member for North Okanagan—Shuswap for giving the members of the House an opportunity to debate this issue. That being said, our government is unable to support this legislative initiative, for reasons which I will explain.

I would note the observations made by many of my colleagues during this and previous debates that there is no gap in the criminal law's ability to respond to, and effectively address, the theft of and mischief to firefighting equipment. As has been highlighted already, there is a robust set of offences in the Criminal Code that can address this conduct.

I would like therefore to spend my time today speaking about other equally important and related reasons why I cannot support these proposed legislative amendments.

As I understand, the Minister of Justice mandate letter has called upon her to concentrate her efforts on initiatives that get the most value for hard-earned taxpayer dollars. We must ensure that the criminal law reform initiatives that we bring forward are based on evidence and approaches that will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the criminal justice system's response to crime. On this front, Bill C-365, though well intentioned, is not an initiative that would get Canadians value for their hard-earned tax dollars.

First, there is very little information available about the extent of the problem. While several media outlets reported in the summer of 2017 that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police investigated a number of thefts and acts of mischief related to firefighting equipment in British Columbia, none of these reports confirmed that any charges were in fact laid.

Second, upon closer examination of the issue, I could find no statistics related to the offences of theft or mischief of firefighting equipment.

Third, upon a cursory review of legal databases, we could find no reported cases where an offender was charged or convicted of theft or mischief to firefighting equipment. To be clear, this does not mean that no cases can exist. Certainly I am aware of media reports in other parts of the country also involving the theft of metal fittings.

However, without clear examples of how such matters have been dealt with under the existing law, much of the problems identified by the member for North Okanagan—Shuswap are speculative. In my opinion, more concrete evidence would be needed about the scope and nature of the issue before exploring whether legislative amendments would be necessary. I firmly believe it would be prudent to fully examine the prevalence of thefts and mischief to firefighting equipment before proposing Criminal Code amendments.

Moreover, there is no evidence to suggest any of the proposed legislative amendments in Bill C-365 would be more likely than the current criminal law to deter future thefts or mischief to firefighting equipment. To the contrary, there is an abundance of evidence, which suggests the exact opposite, namely, that harsh penalties do not act as a deterrent for those who commit crimes.

Studies demonstrate it is the certainty of being caught that is the best at deterring individuals from committing crime, not the fear of being punished or the severity of the punishment. This does not mean, however, that tough penalties are not warranted for persons who engage in criminal conduct that endangers the lives of others. For example, the offences of mischief to property endangering life under subsection 430(2) and criminal negligence causing death under section 220 are two current offences in the Criminal Code that could be applied to the most serious cases of theft and/or mischief to firefighting equipment, and both of these offences carry the highest maximum penalty provided under the criminal law, which is life imprisonment.

What is more, isolated legislative amendments that seek nothing other than to increase penalties and reduce judicial discretion to craft individualized sentences have a proven track record in Canada and abroad for not only failing to reduce the incidence of crime, but also creating a whole host of negative consequences, including but not limited to increasing cost, and contributing to delays and inefficiencies in the administration of justice. As I understand it, it is precisely these criminal justice policies of the past that have contributed to a lack of internal consistency in the Criminal Code.

If I may offer by way of example, the maximum penalty of life imprisonment for the new proposed offence is inappropriate considering that it would be significantly greater than the 14 year maximum penalty for the offence of criminal negligence causing bodily harm, which entails more of a direct risk of danger to life but also actually where bodily harm has occurred.

Similarly, the maximum penalty provided in this offence would be higher than what is currently provided in the Criminal Code for terrorist financing, facilitating terrorist activities, and leaving Canada to facilitate terrorist activity. Moreover, from a practical point of view, the new offence would create evidentiary problems that would complicate the prosecution of such conduct. In order to obtain a conviction under the new offence, the crown would be required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the theft of the firefighting equipment directly caused actual danger to life. However, it may be difficult and in some cases virtually impossible to prove that someone's life was endangered by the theft of firefighting equipment.

Moreover, the efficacy of this new proposed tool is further reduced by the absence in Bill C-365 of necessary amendments that would allow the police to investigate this offence. For instance, the bill does not propose the inclusion of the new offence in the part of the Criminal Code that governs the interception of communications, and fails to provide the police with the ability to seek a DNA warrant to investigate the offence. The inability of police to rely on these important investigatory tools would make it far less likely that the offence would be relied upon and charged.

As I understand it, addressing these much needed consequential amendments would likely be outside the scope of Bill C-365.

Another important consideration is that the creation of a specific offence that overlaps with offences of general application in the Criminal Code can lead to greater inconsistency in charging practices across Canada. Where a specific offence carries a significantly higher maximum penalty, prosecutors have proven more likely to accept pleas to the lesser and included offence. This can undermine the very rationale behind creating a specific offence. That is, while the offence is enacted to respond to a particular type of offending, in practice, the offence is rarely prosecuted and convictions are rarely obtained. In the end, such specific offences remain in the Criminal Code and rapidly become obsolete.

I have every confidence that our police, our prosecutors, and the judiciary have all the tools that are necessary to deal with this conduct. Moreover, absent any evidence to the contrary, it is entirely reasonable to assume that courts are likely to take conduct that is in the scope of the bill as being very serious.

In my opinion, Bill C-365 would not have an impact on improving public safety, the administration of justice, or the prevention of thefts and mischief to firefighting equipment. It is for these reasons that I cannot support Bill C-365. I therefore urge all members of the House to oppose this bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, I will start my speech on Bill C-365 by acknowledging its sponsor, the member for North Okanagan—Shuswap. I very much appreciate the reasons behind the bill and why it was introduced.

I am a fellow British Columbian. Everyone in B.C. is very well aware of the wildfire risk, particularly with what last year represented. We had an absolutely terrible fire season.

I have had previous career experience working in the bush. I had eight years serving as a tree planter. I have worked throughout the interior. My brother was a wildfire fighter for about three years. He had seen another difficult year in 2003. I also have many friends who serve as volunteer firefighters, so I very much understand the risk they put themselves in to protect us and that their equipment is vital to the job that they do.

The media has reported on several occasions some of the theft that has happened. In 2016, the Vancouver Sun published a story about a communication tower's equipment that had been intentionally vandalized, which caused between 80,000 and 100,000 dollars' worth of damage. In 2017, CTV News covered a story about a water pump and hoses that were stolen from the Harrop Creek wildfire northeast of Nelson. The theft of the pump and 10 hoses really impacted the effectiveness of the firefighting activities, and posed safety risks to the public and to the first responders working to contain the fires. I want to underline the seriousness of the crime when someone intentionally vandalizes or steals firefighting equipment.

I want to get three main points across as I talk about the bill.

First of all, I want to acknowledge that firefighting is extremely important work and that we support first responders, but I feel that giving the judiciary power for life in prison for theft and vandalism is extremely excessive.

The second point I want to make is that stronger penalties do not necessarily provide a deterrent. While this equipment is used in a life-saving situation, a 25-year prison sentence for a non-violent offence is unjustified and it is not in keeping with the current penalties for such an offence.

The third point I want to make is that, instead of focusing on increasingly harsher penalties, I think we should be committed to crime prevention. With reasonable, measured, and effective actions, we could shift the focus from crime and punishment into more collaborative ways to make our communities and those serving them safer.

Last year, 2017, I had the honour of serving as our party's justice critic and serving on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. One of the major pieces of government legislation that we reviewed on that committee was Bill C-51, a major Criminal Code cleanup. One of the things I learned last year is that when one becomes a student of the Criminal Code, one learns just how many redundancies and inoperative provisions exist within the code, and that, really, as an entire document, it is in need of a serious overhaul. Bill C-51 spent much of its effort trying to eliminate many of these redundant and obsolete sections, particularly the redundant sections. It tried to get those redundant sections that were otherwise covered in other sections of the Criminal Code and that, if left in there, would simply add to confusion for those who work in the judicial process.

If we look at what Bill C-365 provides for, a life in prison is very much an excessive penalty. I would draw hon. members' attention, as it has been mentioned in many of the speeches, to the many sections in the Criminal Code that can already be used to severely punish someone who is guilty of such a crime. One of the main sections I would draw hon. members to is section 718.1, which states quite clearly:

A sentence must be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender.

If someone is before a court on a charge of vandalism or theft of firefighting equipment, and it can be properly determined that it caused injury to persons because the firefighters were unable to use that equipment, there is no doubt in my mind that a judge and/or jury would look at the gravity of the offence, the harm caused by the offence, and would lay down the appropriate sentence.

By no means do I want to say that such a crime should go unpunished. I am simply stating the fact that the Criminal Code already has provisions to allow for proper sentencing measures.

The other point I want to get across is that there is a wide body of evidence out there that shows that strong penalties do not necessarily provide a deterrent. We want to make sure that the crime in question is prevented in the first place. That is in everyone's interest.

I want to read a quote from the The Economist, which states:

A review by Steven Durlauf of the University of Wisconsin and Daniel Nagin at Carnegie Mellon University found little evidence that criminals responded to harsher sentencing, and much stronger evidence that increasing the certainty of punishment deterred crime. This matters for policy, as it suggests that locking vast numbers of people in jail is not only expensive, but useless as a deterrent.

Another quote I have comes from a study by professors Doob, Webster, and Gartner, which is titled “Issues Related to Harsh Sentences and Mandatory Minimum Sentences: General Deterrence and Incapacitation”. It states:

At this point, we think it is fair to say that we know of no reputable criminologist who has looked carefully at the overall body of research literature on “deterrence through sentencing” who believes that crime rates will be reduced, through deterrence, by raising the severity of sentences handed down in criminal courts.

If we all use our common sense, we know that most people who commit criminal acts are not pausing in the middle of the act thinking that if they break a certain section of the Criminal Code they are going to get such and such a sentence. Most people who commit crimes are not even aware of the sections of the Criminal Code they are breaking. Therefore, the suggestion that by adding this section we are actually going to deter the crime is not backed up by evidence. There are much better ways to safeguard equipment and the people who are using it.

What exactly do we want to achieve with this debate? We can have a more measured and effective approach to solving the problem. If we focus on prevention, we can solve the problem proactively. People should be made aware, through public awareness campaigns, of the impact that vandalizing or stealing equipment can have. We already know that public awareness campaigns for drinking and driving have led to a national decline in such instances. Therefore, there is evidence that such campaigns work.

We should consider other options to reduce the theft and vandalism of firefighting equipment. They could consist of educational materials or awareness campaigns, investing in better security and surveillance systems, and making sure that the equipment has proper lock-up procedures in place for firefighters to use.

I want to end by reiterating that my colleagues and I, and I am sure everyone in this House, not only the friends I have and the people I have known through my career as a tree planter, very much commit to supporting firefighters and all first responders. I want to work with all first responders to make sure that we have policies that find effective, measured solutions to problems of equipment theft and vandalism.

Fellow British Columbians lost homes in the B.C. wildfires. We have to acknowledge the terrible loss they went through. They very much need help in rebuilding their lives, and we should all work together to have that as a laudable goal.

I do not dispute the seriousness of the crime, but I feel very much that there are better measures we can employ to stop it from happening in the first place. I do not think Bill C-365 is that answer.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.


Bob Benzen Conservative Calgary Heritage, AB

Madam Speaker, the goal of parliamentarians is to bring forward legislation that is in the interest of society at large and the general protection of everyone in Canada. The ideal would be a situation in which the laws governing us are appreciated by and adhered to by all people equally. However, some in society arrive at the unfortunate conclusion that the law only applies to others. It is in that context that I speak to the specific need for the passage of Bill C-365, a private member's bill introduced by my colleague from North Okanagan—Shuswap.

This important bill seeks to amend the Criminal Code in relation to the protection of firefighters' equipment. These amendments are intended to address a need for better deterrence of some criminal activities we are seeing committed more frequently and which have the potential to place the safety, and even the lives, of Canadians at risk.

Increasingly, firefighters across the country are reporting a rise in thefts and incidents of mischief that target the equipment of these men and women employed to protect us when fire occurs. Alarmingly, firefighters are finding cases in which their equipment and gear has been stolen and vandalized, from the fittings on their vehicles being taken to fire suppression equipment in apartment complexes being ripped out. This trend came to light last year after my home province of Alberta and our neighbours to the west in British Columbia endured catastrophic wildfires.

In B.C. alone last year, wildfires burned well over a million hectares of land. Firefighters mobilizing to battle such blazes found their equipment vandalized or outright stolen. I recall a specific example from last year. In August, crews battling the wildfires that scorched B.C. discovered the theft of their firefighting equipment when returning to the site. The BC Wildfire Service reported a water pump and many fire hoses stolen from the Harrop Creek wildfire site. The agency said the theft of the pump and 10 hoses not only hampered the effectiveness of its firefighting activities but also posed a clear safety risk to the public, especially to the crews working to contain the fires. At a time when more than 100 wildfires were burning across B.C., someone thought this an appropriate occasion to rip off equipment our first responders needed to fight the blazes.

Ken McMullen of the Calgary Fire Department told me recently how the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs has identified theft and vandalism of equipment as one of the association's official concerns. This is not a theoretical problem. These crimes are happening. They are concerning for our firefighters and jeopardizing Canadians' safety, our properties, our landscapes, and our environment. At critical times when it is needed most, the equipment our firefighters depend on for their dangerous jobs is going missing or being compromised.

It seems a counterintuitive crime in which to engage, since the same people who are stealing this equipment or causing damage to it are often likely members of the same community that will depend on firefighters to protect them in the event of a crisis. However, since common sense or even self-preservation cannot be relied upon to deter such dangerous and foolish crimes, it becomes apparent that more is needed to do in law.

It concerns me that some of my colleagues across the way do not share this view. They are always careful to acknowledge the difficult work firefighters do, but still signal they will not support this bill, which, by the way, has the backing of every major organization representing the firefighting community in Canada. The Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs, prevention officers, and professional and volunteer firefighters have all endorsed this bill.

I know one might say that there are already clauses in the Criminal Code to deal with such crimes as theft and mischief. Indeed, that was the stance the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice took during earlier debate on this bill when he said other avenues are available to address the problem. Yes, theft in general is, of course, already illegal and theft over $5,000 is already punishable with possible jail time, but none of the code's theft offences specifically recognize how theft of property as vital as firefighting equipment can cause actual danger to life.

The potential hazards associated with stealing firefighting equipment go far beyond those of theft in general. Respectfully, I suggest that the parliamentary secretary is missing the point of the bill. The existing avenues he mentions have penalties once injury or death has been caused, but Bill C-365 seeks to prevent such needless injuries and deaths in the first place by subjecting the threat of injury or loss of life to a more stringent penalty. This would provide the deterrence needed to restrict the senseless theft and vandalism of such equipment that will inevitably lead to such injuries and fatalities.

In defending the status quo, the parliamentary secretary is not listening to the tens of thousands of Canadian firefighters who have already indicated their support for the provisions of this bill. He will acknowledge the difficulty of the firefighters' work, and rightly so, but he still stops short of giving them the support they are asking for to do their work.

Stealing firefighters' equipment should be dealt with in a much more serious manner. Stealing a piece of equipment one knows will be used to protect lives, and possibly endangering a person's life by doing so, is not the realistic, moral, or ethical equivalent of stealing something that has material value only, even if the monetary value of the items are equal.

Kevin Skrepnek, a chief fire information officer with the B.C. Wildfire Service, was quoted as saying, “Obviously in any situation the theft of equipment is reprehensible, but especially with what we're dealing with right now.” I absolutely agree with the officer.

Such thefts are indeed especially reprehensible in light of the consequences they can have for innocent people, and acts of mischief related to fire equipment, including increasingly common incidents targeting local fire stations and vehicles, are just as hazardous. Current penalties for such crimes do not adequately reflect the serious consequences these offences could have for the safety of the people we send into action when fire threatens. Since these offences can ultimately cause danger to life, they must be treated in a much more serious manner. A more serious consequence for such crimes would go a long way toward preventing more people from committing such crimes in the first place and would therefore increase the chances that firefighters responding to a blaze would have all they needed at hand to leap into action.

The NDP member for Victoria made the curious assertion during debate in November that penalties do not serve to deter crime. I disagree with this assertion. An individual's second thoughts about just how long he may have to cool his heels in jail go much further to prevent the commission of a crime than more government money to finance public education campaigns that the NDP always proposes in place of penalties. However, even if the member were correct and deterrence did not work in this instance, that does not mean that someone should not actually be punished for crimes he commits.

The summary of Bill C-365 spells out how the bill would offer deterrence value through penalties for the serious crimes of stealing or vandalizing firefighters' equipment. The bill would amend the Criminal Code to establish a new offence for theft of firefighting equipment that causes actual danger to life. It would also create an aggravating circumstance for sentencing if mischief involved firefighting equipment and would establish sentencing objectives in relation to the theft of such equipment.

As the sponsoring member has said, there is a gap in the code “when it comes the denunciation and deterrence of theft or damage to firefighting equipment.”

To close, we must take action to stop these senseless acts of theft and vandalism, which are not petty crimes, based on their potentially deadly impact. These crimes pose threats to the ability of our firefighters to do their jobs and therefore present a real threat to persons and property.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Resuming debate. The hon. member for North Okanagan—Shuswap has five minutes for right of reply.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.


Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

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.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Some hon. members



Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

All those opposed will please say nay.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

In my opinion, the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, February 7, 2018, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Immigration, Refugees and CitizenshipAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.


Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Madam Speaker, tonight the Prime Minister is in Winnipeg. He is holding a town hall meeting.

There is somebody else who is in Winnipeg. He is a 13-year-old Yazidi boy who was held captive by ISIS for many years. He was only found out to be alive after his mother, who is in Winnipeg as a refugee, saw a picture of him on social media. He has asked for a meeting with the Prime Minister. I asked this week, on his behalf, if the Prime Minister would meet with him in Winnipeg tonight, and I do not believe that the Prime Minister has done that. I want to take a moment. My colleague, the member for Provencher, is here as well tonight to speak on why this is important.

He has asked for this meeting so that he can be a voice for other Yazidi children still in captivity. Why does he have to be a voice for these children? Why does somebody who has been through so much have to bear that burden on his shoulders? Why do the people from his community continually have to be revictimized for something as simple as asking for a meeting with the Prime Minister?

Canada should be listening to these survivors. It should not be a question of whether or not this meeting should occur, especially since the Prime Minister is in Winnipeg tonight. The Prime Minister should have taken this meeting.

The context in which I asked the question earlier this week was that when the Prime Minister decided to take a meeting with Joshua Boyle, who now stands accused of multiple accounts of assault, he did not question taking that meeting. In fact, when he was asked why he took it, he said that he meets with people who have been freed after overseas ordeals, and that he defers to meeting with more people rather than fewer people, and that he thinks that is something that is important to do.

I actually had hoped the Prime Minister would meet with Emad. I actually thought that might happen. I do not understand. I am just going to appeal to my colleague to not read a prepared speech, and perhaps just go to the Prime Minister's Office and say that this is a very reasonable meeting to take.

When I first met with the Yazidi community almost two years ago, it was a moment that changed my life. It was a moment in which I realized that if we stand up on days of remembrance and say “never again”, if we commit to preventing violence and genocide, we have to stand up for these people. This boy should not have to beg for a meeting to be a voice for all the children who are still in captivity.

I want to refer to Hadji Hesso, who is a member of the Yazidi community in Winnipeg. He talks about how a lot of these Yazidi children are coming back, but there is no parent and no family left. They have all been killed or massacred and nobody knows where the rest of their families are. These children have unique needs in that, for example, many of them are internally displaced and are having difficulty getting into our resettlement program. They are having difficulty getting into the family reunification program, as well.

I would implore my colleague and would just like to know why the Prime Minister did not take a meeting with Emad but chose to take a meeting with Joshua Boyle instead.

Immigration, Refugees and CitizenshipAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick


Serge Cormier LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Immigration

Madam Speaker, all members of the House will agree with me on just how important the Yazidi refugees are. We want to help them have a better future in Canada. We will do everything in our power to achieve that.

As we know, millions of people have been displaced from their homes. They have been persecuted because of their ethnicity or sexual orientation, for example. Canadians and people around the world deplore these inhumane and heinous acts perpetrated by Daesh.

I would like to talk about the initiative to resettle Yazidi refugees in Canada. As of December 31, 2017, IRCC had delivered just over 1,200 visas to government-sponsored Daesh survivors. Of the survivors who have arrived in Canada, 80% are Yazidi. From the beginning, IRCC has worked closely with different partners, including the UN Refugee Agency, the International Organization for Migration, and other key partners in order to ensure the safe movement of all survivors.

The people who were resettled through this initiative were welcomed primarily in Toronto, London, Winnipeg, and Calgary. These cities were chosen following extensive consultations with stakeholders to determine which cities had established Yazidi communities and which were able to offer support services, such as medical, psychological, or interpretation services.

I must point out that, according to the settlement agencies, the Yazidi families who have been resettled in Canada continue to integrate well and are showing increasing independence in their daily lives. We need to give them a little time to adapt to their new life, as I have said from the beginning. They have been through an extremely difficult ordeal, and we will be there to support them every day, on an ongoing basis, with our various partners on the ground.

Some families who arrived earlier in the year are encouraging and supporting the families who arrived more recently.

I would add that many Daesh survivors have experienced serious psychological and physical trauma. These survivors will require a little time to adapt to their new reality.

Canada’s resettlement program is designed to align with the resettlement initiative that is the subject of international consensus, including by focusing efforts on people who were forced to flee their country.

The government is proud to be part of a mission to rescue and resettle survivors of Daesh, mainly Yazidi women and girls, and provide them a safe place. We will continue to explore new options and work with our partners in the region to respond to these issues in order to determine the best way to provide protection to the most vulnerable, including Yazidis, and ensure that those who go through unimaginable atrocities can integrate into our society in Canada.

I call on all Canadians who know these people to help them integrate and have a better future here with us.

Immigration, Refugees and CitizenshipAdjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.


Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Madam Speaker, the question was very clear.

The Prime Minister is in Winnipeg tonight. The Yazidi boy Emad is in Winnipeg. He asked for a meeting with the Prime Minister a long time ago. He wanted to be a voice for his people. The Prime Minister did not even given him the courtesy of an answer.

The Prime Minister met with Joshua Boyle, and when pressed on that he said that he meets with people who have been freed from overseas ordeals. I think Emad qualifies as having gone through that. Then the Prime Minister said that he thinks he should meet with more people rather than less, and then he rejects this meeting. I do not understand why.

Why would the Prime Minister meet with Joshua Boyle and then, while he is in Winnipeg, cannot even take 15 minutes to meet with the survivor of a genocide who wants to speak on behalf of the children? Answer my question.

Immigration, Refugees and CitizenshipAdjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.


Serge Cormier Liberal Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Madam Speaker, as I said, our government is prepared to offer these people the protection they need and help them adapt to our society.

I do find it odd that the hon. member for Calgary Nose Hill suddenly finds it so very important to be concerned about the Yazidi people when we know that she does not like these statistics, when we know that the government she belonged to and in which she served as minister welcomed only three Yazidi refugees.

Our government has welcomed almost 1,200 Yazidi refugees. Again, only three were welcomed when she was minister in the previous government. I think that we can see the difference between the two.