Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Dewdney—Alouette.
I have been in this place a short while and in that time I am amazed at how it operates. Yesterday the minister tabled legislation in response to a supreme court decision of last May. It took the Department of Justice with all of its resources over five months to prepare a response. Members of Parliament are then provided a day in order to review that response, comprehend the ramifications and attempt a rational comment. No wonder the Canadian public often question proceedings in this place. It may also explain why the courts have been so eager to challenge our legislative power in this country.
Just a few short years ago the courts limited themselves to interpreting the law and they now seem to be making it. It used to be that this placed made the law.
During the last Parliament the former Minister of Justice was known for legislating by panic. He often left mere days to pass essential legislation. I expected more, and Canadians expected more from our present Minister of Justice. As many members of the Liberal backbench have been quoted as saying, the unelected bureaucrats from the PMO really make all the decisions.
Perhaps the Minister of Justice does not control her own agenda and she has been forced to play these political games whereby legislation is introduced with unreasonable timeframes resulting in inadequate review and consultation. We can only hope this government has at least the decency to refer this legislation to committee and then provide sufficient opportunity for proper review and presentation of all concerns.
With respect to the bill, I appreciate that it is almost entirely a reaction to the Feeney case, but I question whether this legislation will address the next case like Feeney. The majority decision of Feeney held that the police did not have reasonable and probable grounds to arrest Mr. Feeney prior to entry into his abode.
So I ask this question. How will a formal process of obtaining a warrant to enter a dwelling make an arrest be obtainable if there are not the grounds to make that arrest? Many critics have sided with the minority position but the fact remains that the majority decided it was wrong for the police to gain entry to the dwelling without a warrant in those circumstances.
The second point concerns the bureaucracy we are placing upon police officers. I have had reason to spend much time with the police in my community over the past few years. I make it a point every few months to ride along with them for a full weekend night shift. If citizens only knew what goes on in their streets while they are snuggled away in their beds.
Perhaps more judges and legislators should do the same before rendering bonehead decisions or penning ill-conceived legislation. Maybe they would come to appreciate the situations faced by these men and women, the ever present threats and the instantaneous decisions required to keep our streets safe.
This legislation at least makes provisions for telewarrants. Not all police officers will be smothered by paperwork. Hopefully in those remote locations and in those circumstances where time is important, the advantages of the telephone will assist our already overworked and understaffed enforcement personnel.
I have not had any experience with telewarrants but I hope they will work as well as anticipated. I cannot help but wonder whether justices of the peace would not be more hesitant to authorize warrants over the telephone rather than when a police officer with proper documentation appears personally.
We should also wonder just how available justices of the peace will be in the wee hours of the morning when our police are out protecting the public and require these dwelling arrest warrants. I would like to hear more evidence of how telewarrants work in practice.
In any case, as a result of this legislation the police now have to be concerned about obtaining proper authorization to enter a dwelling to make an arrest. They quite likely may also have to obtain separate authorization to search those premises. They could well have previously been required to obtain a basic arrest warrant. Is this not something, perhaps up to three warrants just to get an individual into our justice system. After spending all the time and effort to get the individual before the legal process, the police and our communities will continue to be astonished at how quickly the accused will be entitled to bail and release.
I also wonder whether the police will actually utilize these warrant provisions. When they obtain a warrant and enter a dwelling house there is no guarantee the individual will be there. Executing the warrant will likely provide notice of police interest toward that individual. It will provide notice that the accused should attempt to disappear in many cases. In some cases the police will be endangered as desperate accused prepare to protect themselves against arrest.
I am further concerned that in many situations the police may decide to wait to apprehend to when the individual is outside the dwelling house. Of course such a delay in apprehension could result in more occurrences of crime by the individual. We can certainly see how our interest in protecting the rights of our criminals results in added responsibilities to our police and added attacks to our security.
Another issue to be raised concerns the status of other cases before the courts. We know that Feeney is the law as of the date of its decision. It is not clear whether other cases before the courts prior to Feeney will be ruled illegal arrests and evidence ruled inadmissible. It is not even clear whether cases since Feeney will be protected by this legislation.
For some reason I fully expect our present justice system will be just as eager to treat other offenders in the same way as Mr. Feeney, at least those who have committed their crimes and who have been dealt with by the police prior to the passing of this legislation. Otherwise the bleeding hearts will cry that it is not fair that only Mr. Feeney obtained these lenient and controversial allowances.
As members of this place can appreciate, the supreme court raised some interesting new developments in our law. This bill is an attempt to react to those developments. They must be thoroughly and properly addressed. With respect, I wish to remind those listening that the Feeney case involved a vicious beating and death of an 85-year old man. The offender could well go free for this horrendous crime.
Any failures to properly address the inadequacies of our law could result in additional travesties of justice. It places a heavy burden on all of us in this place.
As I stated earlier I hope the government begins to see the light and provides proper opportunity to adequately address these shortcomings. This minister has gotten off to a poor start by leaving the bill to this late date and then starting to rush it through Parliament. We have three weeks until the date set by the supreme court to provide legislation and one of those weeks is a scheduled break week. I do not know if the public will ever understand this place and that is most unfortunate.
In conclusion, I have met with family members of the victim in the Feeney case. I doubt if there is anybody in this place who can even begin to comprehend how this decision has impacted on them. Just think of it, a convicted killer found covered in the blood of your loved one may walk away unpunished because the police were unable to wake him from a drunken stupor before entering his premises to make an arrest.
It is another classic example of how our justice system continues to revictimize. It is another example of how our justice system has been hijacked by those who view life from ivory towers, far above the realities of everyday Canadian life.
Is it any wonder that the majority of Canadians have lost faith in our courts?