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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was respect.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Liberal MP for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe (New Brunswick)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 31% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act November 24th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on Bill C-22, which is really a child pornography reporting bill. The emphasis is on reporting.

I am a little disturbed that, from speeches inside and outside of this House, in press clippings and in hyperbole at committee, people might have been left with the impression that this is a tool that will eradicate child pornography and make great strides towards stopping child pornography. In fact, it does very little.

I know the Conservatives like to have short titles for bills, such as “saving the community from everything bad” and stuff like that. This bill should really have been called the “too little too late act” in attempting to try to curb child pornography. I will explain why.

In 2006, I remember well, the Liberals were defeated and the Conservatives were elected. That is almost five years ago now. There will be a fifth anniversary, January 23. The Conservatives should look at that fifth anniversary and suggest to themselves in the mirror, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, have we delivered the laws fairest to all?”

No, they have not delivered laws. Here we have a law that there is no substantial opposition to. There is no opposition to this bill, and we are sitting here five years later.

In the spring of 2010, because of prorogation and elections and not making these housekeeping-type bills priorities, the parliamentary secretary at that time said:

The government is committed to doing everything it can to put a stop to this growing problem. That is why we are reintroducing in the House this legislative measure to create a uniform mandatory reporting regime across Canada that would apply to all Internet service providers.

If the government is doing everything it can, it should have done it sooner. It should have followed provincial examples. It should have followed international examples. The government would not have had any opposition.

The reason the Conservative government did not do everything it could is that it was preoccupied with a political agenda. It was preoccupied with prorogation, and it let the ball drop on this matter.

This is a growing problem. The government had to reintroduce it. It is not because the government is concerned about this, but it had to reintroduce the bill because it had Parliament crash, to use computer talk. The Conservatives crashed the CPU of Parliament, which is the sitting of Parliament, by prorogation.

Why is this problem specifically for Canada's management of the issue of posting Internet sites?

It is because, as table 1 from the Library of Parliament brief suggests, we are in the top five child pornography website host countries in the whole world. Would the Conservative Party, as a custodian of government, want to be in the top five?

We would not, but we are. We are number three. The percentage of sites hosted by Canada, which in the realm of world populations is not the largest country, is 9% of child pornography websites.

It is a problem. It needed to be addressed on January 24, 2006. It was not. Following that, it needed to go through the collapses of prorogation and be put on the front burner. It was not.

What did the provinces do? What did the people of Canada do through their other elected representatives?

They filled the vacuum. In September 2008, now over two years ago, federal and provincial ministers of justice and attorneys general, responsible for justice in Canada, agreed that the federal legislation to establish mandatory reporting of online child pornography by ISPs was necessary.

This did not even come from the federal government. The federal government should have been aware that being number three in the world is not a good list to be on with respect to hosting child pornography websites. It is not a good thing. The federal government should have been more proactive. Instead, it let the provinces suggest that they needed the federal government to enact legislation.

Here we are in the fall of 2010 finally looking at this legislation, finally speaking to it, agreeing to it and getting it through. In the meantime, this legislation has been leapfrogged by others provincially and internationally. They were more successful, penetrating, effective, coercive and co-operative with respect to the public engagement of reporting child pornography sites than this bill.

We have not even passed the bill yet and it is antiquated. How do we feel about that as lawmakers?

We will talk about the bill but the message for the government is that there will be many occasions when it will find no opposition in this House to a bill that seeks to have more reporting of Internet child pornography sites.

Therefore, with some dispatch and a little more efficiency and concern for the actual laws of the country, will the government please, on other fronts, get to legislation that people care about it.

In June, I said:

I would like to express, though, how troubled I am that it has taken the government so long to do something about this important topic.

We are now in November. It has been almost four and a half years and the government has done nothing. The victims of these crimes cannot wait and the government's tactics have deprived many children the free and happy lives they deserve.

Many of us have children and many of us provide the best we can for them and think that we are providing for them a free and happy life.

Those statements and the rest of what I said in June apply now. Let us get on with it and pass this bill.

Earlier in the debate, the parliamentary secretary said that the government was committed to doing everything it could to put a stop to Internet child pornography. In a response to a question, he also said that Canada was a leader in this field by virtue of Bill C-22, which has not been passed in five years, faced with the fact that we are number three on a list of all countries hosting Internet sites and based on the fact that he appears to be either not aware of or at least not disclosing. with respect to very good questions from my friend from the Bloc and my colleague from Scarborough—Agincourt, what is going on in the rest of the world.

What is going on in the rest of the world has already gone on because, in 2002, the sexual exploitation and other abuse of children statute 18 USC chapter 110 was passed. Unlike this bill, which would only puts an obligation on the ISP, the bill in the United States makes it also a duty to have anyone providing telecommunications services to have the same duty.

Let us think of that in a country like Canada where every body that provides telecommunications services, not just ISPs, has a duty to report the existence of child pornography , if it comes to his or her knowledge, and of doing something about it. That is a broader law than the Canadian government has introduced under Bill C-22.

The question that was put to the elected officials at our committee was why we had not broadened the federal legislation to put a more serious duty on other persons other than ISPs. Why should there not be a duty on the general public to report a child pornography Internet site?

There is an obligation under the Criminal Code to report crimes when witnessed. Why is there not an obligation on persons who see these sites? Why do we not do this in Canada? At least the United States, some eight years before, was heading in that direction. Australia, in 1995, amended its code and has had a law similar to the United States law for that a period of time.

We are playing catch-up. Even this bill would not get us halfway to the leaders in the field.

We want to support the bill but we want to blast the government, as we did at committee, for not using broader powers that exist under the Constitution to put duties on average citizens, duties at least on all telecommunications service providers to report. The only way we will be able to crack down on child pornography Internet sites is to know about them and be informed about them.

Great groups like cybertip.ca, and in fact the RCMP which has divisions devoted to this type of crime, are under-lawed and understaffed, but that is another issue. They do not have the legal basis to crack down on the sites that they know about and they are not being aided in the way they would be if we had legislation similar to the American and Australian legislation in this instance.

I want to move from the international scene to talk about what happened in Canada. As I mentioned, in the fall of 2008, attorneys general came to Ottawa, at which time the government would have been two years on the rack, and suggested that we should have federal legislation covering this very egregious problem. It is now two years and two months later and it is finally here.

What did the provinces do in the meantime? What would we do if we were a premier or a minister of justice in a province? We would probably look at what the we could do as province to do something in the vacuum created by the inaction and the incessant political pandering of the federal government.

I will give a couple of examples of what the provinces did. Nova Scotia enacted the child pornography reporting act which came into effect in 2010 and was enacted in 2008. The province took some time in 2008 to act on the recommendations of the provincial and territorial governments when they came to Ottawa and acted fairly swiftly. That act now states that a reporting entity shall be responsible to further up the investigation of complaints it receives from people in general.

That is a very important section because, after reading this, the people in Nova Scotia will feel that their province has done more about the problem than their federal government. It says that there is a duty to report by every person, not just an ISP, not just a telco operator, not just someone involved in scanning the Internet to see what is involved for a police force, but “Every person who reasonably believes that a representation or material is child pornography shall promptly report to a reporting entity any information”. It is irrespective of confidentiality or privilege because it is a crime.

The crime is committed because a child has been photographed or depicted and those depictions are victimizations in a crime in itself, let alone the transmission of that image across the bandwidth in this country. This is a brave and, so far, completely legal and constitutional act on behalf of the Province of Nova Scotia.

We hear so much on this side about how fighting crime is the feather in the Conservatives' cap. It is what they are good at. They fight crime. If they were really fighting crime in this instance, they would have done a better job. They would have convinced Department of Justice officials that a federal act could at least go as far as the United States and Australia in touching telcos.

They might even say that when a crime is visited upon a child or person depicted on a pornography site, that is a crime that touches the national interest. It is not merely the interest of the child being protected and it is not merely the domain of the provincial government under the Child and Family Services Act and that power in a section of the Constitution. It is clearly a criminal justice issue.

Where were these titans of crime-fighting when they went to the Department of Justice and said that they had some issues with getting a stable government and were preoccupied with keeping power and getting the ads out on the nightly news?

What we is a powerful legislation like the one in Australia, in the U.S. or, even better, the one I mentioned in Nova Scotia. Manitoba's legislation is very similar. Those are two jurisdictions that said, “Elected persons in Manitoba and Nova Scotia, we can't wait for the federal government”.

I am not sure, because there have been so many changes, but I think I am being completely non-partisan. There is not a Liberal government in those two provinces and there has not been for a while, so we are talking about NDP and Conservative governments. They took the bull by the horns and said that they would protect the children in their provinces because they could not wait for the federal government to invoke a federal criminal justice power in the legislation before them.

What we have now in Bill C-22 is something we can all agree on. However, we need to get the message out there that this is too little and it is too late because other jurisdictions have leap-frogged us. The bill is a step in the right direction. I do not want to leave my remarks by being 100% critical of the government. Making the reporting of child sexual abuse images mandatory for ISPs is a good step. It is a good tool to put in the hands of law enforcement. As I said before, groups that came forward during the parliamentary hearings process would be very able to administer the law.

We might have one criticism. The Conservatives had five years but they could not even put the governing aspects of the bill, which is who reports to whom and what gets done, which are the guts of the bill, into the bill. The bill says that subject to regulations we will sort this all out later. My goodness, they have had five years to get this together, would we not think that they could have picked an agency like Cybertip or a division of the RCMP? Instead of regulation, which to us is uncertain and will not be effected or enacted immediately, could they not have put in this fairly short bill the details of which agency gets reported to and what is expected of that reporting agency? It does not seem to be that difficult because Nova Scotia and Manitoba already have it in their acts.

I always say that when there is an issue like this, sometimes we need to look east to the Maritimes, and Nova Scotia has a regime that is working. Nova Scotia went through the constitutional argument of whether it had the power and it does. The federal Conservative government never went through the rigours of that but it presented a bill to us. I suppose we should all fall on our swords on this side of the House and say that it was our fault because we did not propose amendments. We did not propose amendments because it would take the bill beyond the scope.

We are not the government yet but if we were the government we would have had legislation like this done much quicker. We need to keep in mind that the growth of Internet porn sites is exponential. By 2008, every first law officer in this country, the attorney generals and ministers of justice, agreed that something needed to be done and, in some cases, they did. When they expected the federal government to do it, the federal government did not deliver. It is just delivering now in November.

The bill requires Internet service providers to report child pornography to a designated reporting entity. We heard evidence that the RCMP or Cybertip.ca might be those entities. It is true that federal legislation can only provide a mandatory duty where it finds a nexus. As suggested in my speech, I do not think the nexus is just with child and family services provincial power. It is with a criminal activity or a criminal law power. Although not everyone in the House is a lawyer, I think we all recognize that taping, making a video, photographing or the image taking of a young person in a pornographic situation in itself is victimization and a crime of the first order. The transmission of that is also a crime of the first order.

It think there is a positive duty on every Canadian, at least all those involved in the telecommunications services, the Internet service provider businesses and, by and large the Internet providers, to report those crimes. That is where the government has fallen down and that is why we are urging the Conservatives, on a completely non-partisan basis but a basis that says yes, to get this bill passed. We need to get on with it. We need to do something more effective and more in stream with the rest of the world and now the rest of the country.

As the Conservatives often say, but it rings so true in this case, “let us get the job done” with respect to the reporting and the cracking down on child Internet pornography sites.

Correctional Service Canada November 5th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, the former minister of public safety wrote in April 2009 that his focus was to “undertake effective response” to the Howard Sapers and Bernard Richard reports. Could the current minister act on those words and conduct a full public inquiry?

The public is horrified with the mistreatment of the mentally ill in correctional facilities in Canada. A public inquiry is needed now before the same thing that happened in the Ashley Smith case happens again. We need a public inquiry on the incarceration of the mentally ill in Canada.

Correctional Service Canada November 5th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, the tragic story of Ashley Smith, formerly of Moncton, who choked to death in a Kitchener jail is of grave concern to all Canadians. Her death was not only preventable, but the result of conscious neglect and disregard for her life.

Ashley's story sounds an alarm regarding treatment of the mentally ill in correctional facilities all across the country.

We do not ask for the details of her court case, but has the government learned anything from her death? What is being done to prevent another Ashley Smith tragedy?

City of Moncton November 5th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, on October 16, 2010, 600 people gathered in Moncton for a march for linguistic equality. Bilingualism in Moncton is an important issue for all Acadians, for whom Moncton serves as a vital urban centre that brings people together.

Congratulations to George LeBlanc, the mayor, and to Jean-Marie Nadeau and Marc Chouinard for inspiring the people of Moncton to mobilize for bilingualism. Moncton has the good fortune of being able to rely on two dynamic linguistic communities that both contribute to the growth and vitality of the region. We must support the development of these communities.

I am very proud that the people of Moncton decided to mobilize in support of their own development. While Moncton continues to make progress, the government has eliminated the census and continues to ignore minority communities and the principles on which this country was founded.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act November 5th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, in response to that question, I choose to render homage to my predecessor and a former colleague of my friend who asked the question, Claudette Bradshaw, who founded head start in the greater Moncton area, was the first minister responsible for homelessness, and obviously had a very keen interest in issues of early intervention.

It is where a new Liberal government will go, following in her footsteps, and hopefully soon, better than later.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act November 5th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, provincial laws vary across the country and it is a matter of provinces being the masters of their own domain. Another example is the coming bill on the reporting of child Internet pornography. Some provinces have laws on the protection of children that are more powerful than the federal law that is coming.

We wondered why other provinces were not following suit. Certainly, it is incumbent upon the Minister of Justice, or one of the two parliamentary secretaries, or the department itself to talk to provinces about whether they wish to enter fields like child protection and auto theft.

I want to finish by saying that on the issue of mandatory minimums there ought not to be a divide. There ought to be a reasoned look at each offence to determine whether a mandatory minimum makes sense. In this case, it does. We agree that, after almost five years now, the Conservative government has learned to bring in reasonable measures. Perhaps Conservatives are actually listening to the people in the Department of Justice who have informed us about proportionality under section 718. We applaud them for listening after five years.

However, there are other opposition members who never, ever, believe in mandatory minimum sentences and insist that they have never been in the Criminal Code. Actually, they have been in the code for a long time. There is a bit of unruffling to do here with respect to how the NDP treats crime and how the Liberal Party, which first introduced mandatory minimums, treats crime. I guess it is like this: the NDP has never met a mandatory minimum sentence they liked, and the Conservatives have never met one they did not like. As usual, we are the balance for the big red tent, and we effect meaningful legislation.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act November 5th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, the member was in the House when I gave my first speech on that topic, and I was careful to give credit to Doer, Chomiak, and Katz. It sounds like a law firm, but it is actually the premier, the minister of justice, and the mayor, who has now been returned to office. It is an old habit of mine to give credit to municipal politicians. I am an old municipal politician myself.

I met with some officials of the civic police force in Winnipeg. They were very interested in hunting down people committing auto theft, and they were helped by the provincial legislation on immobilizers. I thought I had covered that in my previous speech.

I am in total agreement with what the member says, particularly the part about the Liberal government and its amendments to the Criminal Code on interlock devices.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act November 5th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill S-9. This is not the first time we have debated this topic, which is a very serious challenge for the entire country. Many bills have already been introduced about this topic.

This is not the first time that we have stood and talked about doing something with respect to auto theft.

First, before I get into criticizing the government for interrupting its own legislative agenda with the interruption of the sitting of Parliament, one of the most effective ways to battle auto theft and crime in general is to resource our police forces, our prosecutors, our court systems and to restore confidence, which has been diminished in our judicial system by the actions, the words and, in the case of funding, the inactions of the Conservative government.

I met with some representatives of the policing community in Winnipeg. Winnipeg, as members know, once had the dubious distinction of being the auto theft capital of Canada. However, It does not anymore. Therefore, congratulations to the city council and the police forces of Winnipeg. However, another community now has that distinction. Whenever one community falls off the dubious mark, another leaps ahead.

Let us be clear on this. We compliment ourselves in passing laws. We think these great statements and declarations have an effect, and sometimes they do. I do not want to diminish the work of the justice committee, or the Minister of Justice or Parliament itself. However, let us face it, with prorogation, elections, debates and the slowly moving process involving our legislation in our bicameral system, whether it is a Liberal-dominated or now a Conservative-dominated holding up of legislation, the fact is we do not put out a great quantity of precise, surgical legislation for topics like auto theft.

We might ask ourselves, how Winnipeg did it if it did not have our help with this legislation or legislation like it. It did it with resources. It did it with smart tactical policing. It identified groups of what were most likely to be the perpetrators of auto theft and went after them. It also instituted programs outside the Criminal Code and outside strict policing with respect to electronic devices that determined where thefts occurred and where the vehicles would go.

I will take the blame for all of us in Parliament, but we are late at the game in getting to Bill S-9. I have said it before. I hope Bill S-9 does not follow the ill-fated path of its identical twins. We are now into triplets, of which Bill S-9 is a part. Sadly, if this were an obituary in a few months because of an election or something, it would read, “predeceased by identical twins Bill C-53 and Bill C-26” and maybe we would come back again, do another bill and then there would be quadruplets.

The point is we have to get to this bill and we have to pass it. We worked very well at the justice committee, making suggestions, doing the due diligence with respect to Bill S-9, getting statistics and all those sorts of things.

There is no question we want this bill passed. It would give a lot of aid to police services and to communities suffering from epidemics of auto theft.

One thing we know, as the justice committee and parliamentarians in general, is police forces have their hands full, their resources are not necessarily growing and, overall, the criminal element in our country is getting leaner, sleeker, smarter, better resourced, more focused and more efficacious. This is the battle we are fighting on every front, not just auto theft.

However, it particularly bears down on auto theft. The theft of an auto, whether it is for the purposes of committing another crime for temporary use, or committing some other crime of a violent nature so as to hide the identity of perpetrators or the cash value of vehicles, this is an epidemic in our larger communities, for sure. The intelligence of the criminal community in disassembling vehicles, obliterating vehicle identification numbers and transporting parts of cars or whole cars internationally is not in the decline; it is on the rise. Whatever we can do in a modest way to make that better, we should all be for it.

Bill S-9 attempts to amend the Criminal Code. It was introduced, in this case, in the Senate and received first reading on May 4. As I mentioned, it is identical to Bill C-26 and targets motor vehicle theft. It also addresses trafficking in any other property obtained by crime in the exporting and importing of such property.

The raw notion was that we should create a separate offence for auto theft. That, in itself, is a good thing. If we look at the intent of code to develop the importance or hierarchy of offences, one would be surprised perhaps that cattle theft is defined separately in the code, but auto theft is not. Therefore, it is probably time, since the book originates from 1892, that we put auto theft at least on par with cattle theft, with all due deference to ranchers. The auto is the new horse and a way of getting around the community since 1920. Therefore, we are getting in the game and modernizing, and good for us.

It fits very nicely just after section 333 of the code, at about the middle of the section called “PART IX OFFENCES AGAINST RIGHTS OF PROPERTY”. The code speaks first about offences against the person. It speaks mostly about offences against the rights of property. Then it is almost two-thirds caught up with specific offences, modes of trial and procedural aspects of the code, which are so important.

To get back to the very simple nature of the bill, creating the new offence of vehicle theft as punishable is a good thing. We can all support it. It takes it to a maximum sentence of 10 years, which shows that we feel that auto theft is important. It is a serious crime. In the case of a third or subsequent offence, it also provides a mandatory minimum of six months.

There has been a lot of discussion about mandatory minimum sentences in the House and in the newspapers. I think people must understand that this is nothing new, that mandatory minimum sentences in strategic tactical areas have been introduced since the 1980s, more particular under a former Liberal government with respect to specific violent crimes involving guns and organized crime. They were implemented in a very thorough way in 1995. Adding mandatory minimums to a number of offences in the Conservative government's regime has been somewhat scattered, but let us examine it in this case.

If a person steals an automobile with intent to commit another crime, to obliterate the VIN or just simply steals a vehicle three times, is it reasonable that a minimum sentence be applied of six months? We think it is. We think this is a reasonable balance which would meet the test.

The overall test of sentencing in our country in section 718 is proportionality. It bears repeating that section 718 should be the start of any review of offences, any creation of offences, any change to offences because it sets out a scale of how we treat criminals once they have been convicted. Everyone should pay attention to the balance in section 718.

I suppose some would say that we should make rehabilitation of the convicted person the only agenda. I understand and have sympathy for that because every criminal is somebody's son or daughter and every criminal has a very good chance of going back into the community, so we ought to do our best to rehabilitate the incarcerated person. There is no question about that. It is important.

To make it overriding seeks to destroy the balance created within section 718. That balance must include denunciation of the act. In our country the strongest denunciation we give is to offences like murder. Murder in the first degree carries denunciation, meaning a person will be denounced by the judge or a jury of his or her peers by being given a sentence of life in prison with the eligibility for parole, which takes rehabilitation into account.

Therefore, there is a balance regarding deterrence, which is the third factor, suggesting that if the court gives a sentence, through following the laws of Parliament, of severity grave enough to stop someone else from doing the same thing is a good societal reason to up the sentence or consider it.

One of the final considerations in the big four is to remove the person from the public if there is harm.

Keeping all of those in mind, sentences must be proportionate to the offence created. Therefore, we feel that these mandatory minimums placed in this stand-alone section for auto theft are reasonable. They are not new in terms of sentencing and they are something with which we as lawmakers can live.

The stand-alone aspect of the bill is needed. It is modernizing the code. The mandatory minimum that attaches with it is proportionate.

Also, we always have to be mindful of the other provisions in section 718, which specifically suggest that if an aboriginal person is convicted of such an offence, the court must find a way to take into account the special circumstances of the aboriginal community. As we know, aboriginals represent such a high proportion of incarcerated people in our country. There is something wrong that and that is why the section was brought in, under a previous Liberal government. The section suggests to judges that they must take into consideration alternative measures that would better suit the convicted aboriginal person.

I do not see this in any way interfering with the duty of a judge to take that into consideration because the mandatory minimum, frankly, is a short time. Through our committee hearings, we did not hear of the disproportionality of first nations and aboriginal offenders with respect to this proposed offence in auto theft.

That leaves us with the other aspects of the bill, which are quite innovative, and we must compliment the Department of Justice for crafting legislation which is pretty tricky. Those are aspects with respect to giving our Canada Border Services Agency more power with respect to the exporting of vehicles and with respect to the obliteration of the vehicle identification number, or VIN. Those are two topics on which I will spend the rest of my time.

Let us tackle the VIN. I hesitate using the word tackle because it seems every Conservative bill tackles and solves a problem by its short title, when in fact it is a gradual evolution to the good of the Criminal Code. We would prefer the government to be less full of hyperbole and excitement with respect to its bills and concentrate on what is actually happening, which albeit is a good thing. It is evolving the Criminal Code to meet the needs of the changes in society. In this case, the vehicle identification number is something that is a bit tricky.

This is the numbered and lettered code on the dash of a vehicle, which identifies one's vehicle. However, members will know that in recent errors with multifaceted production methods, various parts of automobiles have various identification numbers. In any event, it is the manner in which vehicles are identified. The obliteration of that should be an offence on its own.

If there is a reason to obliterate the number, it has to be a pretty good one. At committee, we could only think of people who were in the automotive repair business and might inadvertently obliterate a VIN in repairs effected in the restoration of vehicles that had been damaged. In the case where the part of the vehicle where the VIN had been damaged, there would have to be a lawful excuse. Therefore, we covered it off, with the help of the Department of Justice, by suggesting that without lawful excuse, the VIN should not be obliterated. However, we wanted to maintain that a VIN alteration was a very serious thing and was something new for the Criminal Code. Bravo for all of us agreeing that this should be the case.

The obliteration of or tampering with the VIN is punishable by imprisonment of up to five years. This is in clause 4 of the bill. We thought that exemplified the seriousness with which we viewed tampering with the VIN. Remember that auto theft is a more serious provision because it is a maximum of 10 years. Tampering with the VIN is a maximum of five years. We think this is the right hierarchy.

Another offence that is created is the offence of trafficking in property obtained by crime and possession of property obtained by crime for the purpose of trafficking. This is punishable by a maximum of 14 years and is a very important part of the bill.

In the time that I have left, I will speak about CBSA and our borders.

While this bill is about auto theft, I think we realize that from sea-to-sea-to-sea we have a long, undefended, porous border. We do our best, but it is a fantastically large task for the Canada Border Services Agency to patrol our borders with the same efficacy that smaller nations patrol theirs. One can imagine that the borders of Liechtenstein might be a lot easier to guard, because it is a much a smaller country.

In our case, we have to admit that we have long stretches of border that are undefended and not monitored. For someone attempting to smuggle guns in, smuggle drugs out, or import or export cars or car parts, it must be easier for them to do that than it is for the RCMP, CSIS, the Canadian government, and the Canada Border Services Agency to plug the holes. With that in mind, we thought it was a great idea to allow the Canada Border Services Agency, by amendment, to prevent the cross-border movement of property obtained by crime, including stolen vehicles.

It might come as quite a shock to people not on the justice committee that this was not an offence before. It will be now, if this bill passes. If the bill does not suffer the fate of its previous twins, it will be an offence to move property obtained by crime, like a stolen vehicle or vehicle parts, across the border.

We had to have assurances from the justice department that there was no extraterritoriality provision in this. Really, it is saying that the vehicle that just left is a party to an offence, and the offence is the exportation. The vehicle might already be gone, might already be somewhere else, and there might be legal issues with respect to obtaining the evidence of the crime, which is the exportation.

We know that the Canada Border Services Agency does a good job. We know that it needs funding, law, and the tools to prevent exportation of vehicles and vehicle parts.

I will segue into something that is controversial.

We had a long debate, not so much in Parliament but certainly outside of Parliament, about gun control. I think all of us would agree that guns are often instrumental in the commission of crimes, and that many guns come into this country illegally through our border. I think we should stop and reflect on doing something about that.

These illegal handguns come through a porous border, and we must give the Canada Border Services Agency the tools they need to prevent this traffic. In the case of auto theft, it is exportation, going the other way. But we want to give CBSA the tools and resources to prevent the intrusion of guns upon our sovereignty. The saying goes that “guns do not kill people, people kill people”, but guns are the objects that are used.

When the Canada Border Services Agency appeared before us, it presented itself in a most professional and informed manner. I want to commend CBSA as an agency of the government. I want to make sure that the government understands that it is ready, willing, and able to take on the task of defending our border.

This little part in this little act is a salute to the men and women of the Canada Border Services Agency for the fine job they do in all parts of our country, whether it is airports or borders, seaports or rail stations. The Canada Border Services Agency protects us and needs our help. Bill S-9 delivers that help.

I am pleased to support the bill in general and the federal agencies that will be affected.

Criminal Code November 4th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, it is my great pleasure to rise and speak to this initiative. It is a very case-oriented position.

If we are not reacting as members of Parliament to real situations that happen in our communities, and reacting in a compassionate and thoughtful way, then what are we doing here?

The bill seeks to amend section 130 of the Criminal Code, which provides for the offence of personating a police officer or a public officer. The phrase in the Criminal Code has existed since the inception of the code itself. The code states:

Everyone who

(a) falsely represents himself to be a peace officer or a public officer, or

(b) not being a peace officer or public officer, uses a badge or article of uniform or equipment in a manner that is likely to cause persons to believe that he is a peace officer or a public officer, as the case may be,

is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

That offence originally carried a maximum penalty of six months. In 2009, it was amended to carry a maximum sentence of five years by indictment and no time limit for a summary conviction. I am drawn by his example of Penhold. I am curious.

The Liberal members of the justice committee have decided to support this bill and send it to committee. At committee, however, we will have many questions.

This bill was driven by a desire to address the Penhold incident, in which the criminal pretended to be a police officer in order to persuade a person off the road and into the woods, where he committed a heinous crime. We have to make sure that this bill reacts to this incident appropriately.

In the Penhold case, we have to examine whether the criminal received concurrent or consecutive sentences. He was convicted of the much more serious offence of aggravated sexual assault and received a very long jail sentence. He also received a sentence of, I believe, six months for personating an officer under section 130.

I want to explain why this is important. Usually, in my limited experience with criminal law, a judge will look at the most serious offence and will say, “We need to remove this person from the community because he or she committed a very serious offence.” In this case, I believe it was 16 or 18 years, indicating that the judge thought it was a very serious offence and removed that person from the public subject to statutory release.

He also accepted that the accused was guilty of personating an officer, which at that time carried a sentence of six months. Did the judge make them run concurrently, the 6 months and the 18 years, or did he take the 18 years, 17.5 years, and add the 6 months?

My experience tells me, looking at the case briefly, that the sentences would run concurrently, not consecutively. In other words, the fact that there was a guilty finding on the personation aspect of the case did not lengthen the sentence.

The amendment to the code, which says there should be aggravating circumstances considered in the section 130 offence of personating an officer, could lengthen the sentence in these situations. But if the judge still makes the two sentences run concurrently, even if there were two years given for personating in the same situation, and 18 overall for the violent sexual assault, there would still be an 18-year sentence.

This is one of the questions we have to ask at committee. We have to do our due diligence in support of this bill to make sure that it is delivering the goods to the good people involved, the victims. That would be one of our first questions at committee.

The motivation for this was due to the victim's bewilderment, perhaps the general public's bewilderment, in regard to the case. The thing that started it was the personation, and that got only six months. There is something wrong with that, because it was such an egregious offence.

The amendment came in 2009, and we now know that the maximum is five years. If we were pretending to be judges, would we give the personation aspect of this crime five years, with 18 years for the aggravated sexual assault, which lasted for some 46 hours? It is difficult to know whether these sentences would be different under this law. I think the drafter of the bill intends that they would be. In these circumstances, the uniform and the cruiser lights should be an aggravating factor in the section 130 offence of personating an officer. Without the personation, the sexual assault would not have happened.

I understand the motivation for the bill. But we have to remember that a police officer and a prosecutor can lay an indictable charge for this offence, and that a judge can impose a sentence of up to five years for personating a police officer. We have to think of all the situations that do not lead to egregious offences. Someone who personates a police officer with no resulting crime is very unlikely to get a five-year sentence.

Clearly, the drafters on the government side increased these maximum sentences to five years. It was a government bill. They had the idea that these offences alone could be very serious, but that the important thing was to deter the commission of further offences. Why else would someone personate a police officer? There are many cases, other than George Leahy on Trailer Park Boys, in which some clearly unstable people personate police officers. But some people personate them without any ulterior intent of doing serious harm. In this case, it was used to do very bad things to Canadian citizens.

In cases where someone is not going to use the personation to do something further, there would not likely be as harsh a sentence. However, I believe the government was thinking that, if personation was coupled with another offence, the judge, the prosecutor, and the police ought to have the discretion to make this a very serious offence.

There are reported cases in our communities of people personating police officers to get entrance into offices, homes, and private businesses. They are personating police officers to gain the trust of young people. They are personating police officers to steal money from charitable organizations. All these things are happening and they are serious offences. There are gradations, however. And though they are not as serious as the Penhold case, I think Parliament was thinking that the five-year sentence would be imposed when the personation led to a serious offence. We need to make sure at committee that this is enough.

Bill C-576 simply says that the judge “shall consider this as an aggravating factor”. It is not permissive. It is not “may”. It is something the committee might want to look at. In the end, we have to have faith in our judicial system and in the judges who apply it.

In conclusion, I commend the member for drawing the attention of the House to section 718. Every justice bill that comes through the House should be in the lens of section 718, which sets out the principles of sentencing. These are based on denunciation, the removal of a convicted person from the community, rehabilitation, deterrence, and restitution. Without this balance, none of these laws make sense. I commend my friend for bringing such a thoughtful bill to the House, and we will certainly send it on to the committee.

Questions on the Order Paper November 2nd, 2010

With respect to Conservative Senator Pamela Wallin's position as Honorary Colonel of the Air Force: (a) since August 1, 2009, what is the total cost associated with the position including a breakdown of any spending for travel based on air travel, accommodations, per diems, meals, hospitality, gifts and all other expenses; and (b) what department or agency paid for these expenses?