House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was tax.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Liberal MP for Mississauga South (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 37% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act March 7th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, the member has really helped to move this along a fair bit.

After seeing how this pattern is working out, it strikes me that the government bill before us is not one which has been crafted with due care and diligence. The Department of Justice and legal experts are there to help the government in crafting these things. There are representations by the government and the minister, photo ops by the minister and the Prime Minister, and yet the bill fundamentally does not work. It is problematic.

I wonder whether the member shares my concern that maybe this whole idea of photo ops and bills that do not work has more to do with getting another picture for the government's ethnic strategy rather than delivering legislation, because the government wants to continue to say it is tough on crime without actually delivering legislation on crime.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act March 7th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, the more I hear the input of members, the more I understand that this bill seems to try to put into legislation what the courts traditionally have thought of as being factors and other considerations but not factors or considerations hat may cause someone to be charged with an improper arrest.

In the simple case of Mr. Chen, which is a very vanilla case, someone robbed him. He was not able to apprehend that person and hold him for police at the time. However, that person returned to rob him a second time. He was identified, chased on his bicycle, stopped and held for the police. Mr. Chen was charged under the application of the current Criminal Code.

If we had to make a change to the Criminal Code to ensure that Mr. Chen would never be charged again for the same act, what would the change be?

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act March 7th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, crime prevention is an extremely important part of the equation. We talk about prevention, punishment, rehabilitation and reintegration as the pieces. Prevention is always a dollar best spent. It is always better.

With regard to Bill C-60, though, I am concerned that this may flare up in a feeling that people can take the law into their own hands and mete out a little bit of justice themselves, which raises the whole concern about vigilantism, which we must be very careful about. Yes, rights need to be balanced but we cannot be seen to be encouraging people to give it a try while we cannot protect them. The courts may still decide, on a case by case basis, that an individual could not do what he or she did.

People need to know that the bill is not black and white. It will not give an answer to individual cases, and certainly not in the heat of a moment when something occurs.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act March 7th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, members in this place want to be successful when delivering legislation, in whole or in part, that helps address the problem raised by the Chen case. We need to be responsible in this fashion.

The member had a suggestion and I heard a couple of other suggestions. In most cases, though, it sounds like the full bill, as presented to us, Bill C-60, will not be acceptable to the majority of parliamentarians.

It does raise, however, the number of bills we have had over all these years, which the member mentioned. This is the political or the partisan line. If the Conservatives have lots of bills, we could say that they were tough on crime or at least that they intend to be tough on crime. However, if the bills keep getting shut down or thrown out because we have an election or prorogation and they have to be reinstated or not, this is part of the game that is being played.

This was a straightforward incident. By consultation, the Department of Justice, with appropriate consultation with provincial authorities, could have come up very quickly with what the principle deterrents are to having an effective Criminal Code with regard to citizen's arrest. It could have dealt with it.

It looks like another ministerial staffer has come up with a laundry list of a whole bunch of other things, none of which have been vetted with the provinces yet, so we will have to enforce this and Canadians will have to understand it.

The minister has let the House down and so has Bill C-60.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act March 7th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member, who is on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, for confirming to the House that the committee is very bogged down with 16 bills. That is a story in itself. If we go back in history and find out how many of these bills have been before us previously, how many died on prorogation and had to be introduced, how many were dropped and put into a consolidation and how many were dropped altogether, we are on a merry-go-round.

With regard to his specific question, I agree with him. I have heard from others in the House and it seems that is the way the debate is going, with amendments to sections 34 through 42. These are the areas where there seems to be some confusion or concern about making the law even less clear than it is already. There does not seem to be much difficulty with the other amendments regarding police and public arrest under subsection 494(2).

The member has an important suggestion for the House to consider and it may even be dealt with at committee by simply making that change right off the bat.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act March 7th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, before question period I had set out some arguments that reflected the concerns already raised by some hon. members that this bill may not be a good start in terms of the intent. There may be good reasons that this bill should have been referred to committee before second reading to allow some expert testimony from witnesses to assist in making whatever changes they felt necessary before it came to the House for debate.

I pulled up the minister's speech from Friday on this matter, and it strikes me that this has been going around for a long time. In fact, we are talking about an incident that took place in 2009. Mr. Chen was acquitted on February 17, 2011. It has taken a very long time for this bill to be received. I think it was only on February 17 that the bill was tabled at first reading, and here we are in March.

I wonder why the minister would not take the opportunity for a bill that includes, in the opinions of a number of hon. members, potentially some confusing areas that may be very problematic. The factors that would determine whether or not there was a reasonable amount of time, a reasonable expectation, et cetera, are very long and when these incidents occur on a snap basis, the public at large will not be familiar with them. This bill may encourage people to feel empowered that they can undertake a citizen's arrest without knowing that they may very well still be charged. Ultimately, it would be up to the courts to determine whether or not they met the test under the bill. This is not a black and white situation.

Given that is the case, the only explanation I can think for why the minister did not refer the bill directly to committee was that the justice committee right now, as usual, is bogged down with several pieces of legislation. Considering the average time it would take to discharge those pieces of legislation, it is likely that this particular bill would not come back to the House after committee until sometime in the fall. We may not see this bill go to the Senate until the Christmas break, and then the Senate will deal with it at some point.

That is an awfully long time, even though it still presumes that the bill would go through the process very expeditiously. However, I do not believe that would be the case. I much suspect there will be substantial amendments sought at committee, first of all, to delete a number of clauses and, second, to add others, which may be challenged as beyond the scope or intent of the bill. There may be other problems with it.

As much as I hate to admit it, this particular case has been used as a bit of a political football.

I was reminded by another member that the member for Eglinton—Lawrence introduced a private member's bill on June 16, 2010, after Mr. Chen was acquitted and when the government still had not taken action.

On September 27, 2009, the minister of immigration actually visited Chinatown for a photo op and made an empty promise to raise the issue of amending the Criminal Code with the government.

On June 16, 2010, after nine months of inaction, the member for Eglinton—Lawrence introduced his private member's bill.

On October 10, 2010, Mr. Chen was acquitted. I was in error when I said it was February 2010; it was actually October 2010.

On November 4, 2010, the member for Eglinton—Lawrence held a press conference calling on the government to adopt his bill, Bill C-547.

On January 21, 2011, the Prime Minister met with Mr. Chen and promised legislation would be introduced soon.

On February 15, the government put a notice on the notice paper by the Minister of Justice that there would be a bill. It was in fact tabled in February and debated in the House for the first time on Friday.

This was an important case of clarification necessary in the Criminal Code for Mr. Chen and for other citizens who are victims of robbery, but there are certain elements that have to be taken in the law.

For most Canadians, it is a slam dunk. They are going to protect their property even if they have to tackle the guy, whoever he might be, and hold him until the police come. They do not think about whether or not they are using unreasonable force. If they happen to see this person the next day and recognize him they will tackle him. They are not sure whether that is a reasonable period of time.

That is precisely what the bill deals with, the various factors on how the courts are going to be asked to interpret our intent for this legislation. From listening to a couple of the speakers, I think the conclusion is that it is going to add confusion. Let me give some examples.

When people think about the amendments they will understand that in a heated moment, in a snap decision they might not have considered some of the following.

First, a person is not guilty of an offence if he or she believes on reasonable grounds that force is being used against him or her, or another person, or that the threat of force is being made against him or her by another person, if the act that constitutes the offence is committed for the purpose of defending or protecting himself or herself from another person, and the act committed is reasonable in the circumstances.

That is where the problem starts. What constitutes being reasonable in the circumstances to use force to arrest someone? In determining whether the act committed is reasonable in the circumstances, the bill suggests that the court may consider certain things. It is not that the individual should consider them, but I doubt that the public at large would be able to deal with it.

The court is going to have to consider the nature of the force or the threat being used and the extent to which the force was imminent or whether there were other means available to respond to the potential use of force. For example, were there any options. The court will have to consider the person's role and intent in the incident, what he or she was doing, was the person a party to it at some point in some way. The court will have to consider whether the party to the incident used or threatened to use a weapon. Sometimes it is unknown and people are not sure what constitutes a weapon.

The court will have to consider the size, age and gender of the parties to the incident. I am not sure many people would even think about that. I suppose if the individual is a very large person and the other person is intimidated by that individual, it may have some influence on the person's judgment about whether or not the person is going to attempt to arrest the individual. The nature, duration and history of any relationship between the parties becomes relevant, as does the nature and proportionality of the person's response to the threat of use of force, and whether the act committed was in response to the use of threat or force the person knew was lawful. That is part of it.

There is another whole part that goes into the whole aspect of defence of property, but there is a lot of parallel of what constitutes a defence of property. The point, without reading the various provisions, is that the bill does not propose a change in the Criminal Code, which is going to make a defence of property by apprehending or arresting someone because it is one's property.

I have a feeling that Canadians may not be comfortable understanding that we are balancing off the interests of defending and protecting our property and civil liberties. There are certain things that cannot be done to other people. Where is that balance?

When I looked at the speech the justice minister gave on Friday, he used terminology to say that the bill was balanced and necessary, but the speeches so far do not concur. The commentary so far is that although the amendments to sections 34 through 42 in the Criminal Code would cause some confusion, there seems to be some support for the amendments to section 495 and section 494.

Currently section 495 of the Criminal Code says that a peace officer may arrest without warrant a person who has committed an indictable offence or who, on reasonable grounds, the peace officer believes has committed or is about to commit an indictable offence; a person whom the peace officer finds committing a criminal offence; as well as any person whom the peace officer believes, on reasonable grounds, has committed or is about to commit an indictable offence.

What the courts have told us is that for an arrest to be valid on the basis of reasonable grounds, the grounds must be objectively established, in the sense that a reasonable person standing in the shoes of the officer would believe that there are reasonable and probable grounds to make the arrest.

Section 494 of the Criminal Code deals with a private citizen making an arrest. Currently section 494 of the code says that a private citizen may arrest those found committing indictable offences, those being pursued by others who have the authority to arrest, or those committing criminal offences in relation to property.

It is important to note, and the minister agrees, that there is a legal duty under section 494 to arrest and deliver the person to the police forthwith. This has been interpreted by the courts to mean as soon as reasonably practical under all the circumstances.

All of a sudden, “reasonable” and “interpretation” become a big part of the bill.

The bill would expand section 494(2) to permit the property owner or a person authorized by the property owner to arrest a person if he or she finds that the person who committed a criminal offence on or in relation to his or her property is just at the time when the offence is being committed or also within a reasonable time after the offence is committed.

Here again is the concept of a reasonable time and, all of a sudden, it is subject to interpretation, so caution has to be taken.

I think I have made my point with regard to the changes being made. I would like to briefly comment on a couple of other points.

We have had two private members' bills on this issue already. It is clear that the government has not taken this seriously. In fact, it has politicized it by having photo ops and saying that it is going to do things, which it did not do for almost a year. Then, when we look at the calendar and what is going on at the justice committee, it is very clear that the bill is a long time away from ever becoming law, if at all.

I also note that the very last clause of the bill says that the bill will come into force when it gets fixed by an order of Governor in Council.

After the legislation goes through the House and the Senate and receives royal assent, the provinces have to get involved. It becomes even more problematic because the provincial policing authorities are probably the ones which are going to have to enforce this law. The government has not done its homework. It should have been done already. I do not believe that the government is serious about this. I hope it does not stand in the way of getting the bill through the justice committee expeditiously.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act March 7th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to add some commentary on Bill C-60.

Most Canadians will recall the incident where a shopkeeper observed someone stealing from his market in Toronto and then took off. Then the person came back and did it again. The shopkeeper saw him, ran him down and held him.

It is fairly straightforward in the eyes of the public. It is interesting to note that there are some very sensitive questions of law. Most Canadians would say that they have the right to protect their property or to hold a person until the police arrive. We have seen many stories like that.

The issue of civil liberties is very sensitive in the law. From some of the speeches given to date, there is a question about whether the proposed amendments in Bill C-60 will, in fact, be appropriate.

It is my view, where there are technical, legal matters and where the House has brought in a bill, we are asked, without the benefit of expert witnesses and legal opinions, et cetera, to debate it the best we can do. Without hearing from witnesses, we are at second reading.

The importance of that is at second reading we kind of get the mood of the House and whether we are prepared to approve, in principle, a bill to go forward to the next stage, which would be to go to committee.

In the question about what is actually affected by second reading, it is important for members to know and to remember that when we give approval in principle, it restricts the scope of amendments that can be made at committee. Certain things cannot be touched. We will not be able to go beyond the scope of the bill. For instance, if it deals with this universe, these items and we wanted to make it bigger than it was at second reading, it could not be done. If we wanted to change, substantively, the intent or the essence of the bill, it could not be done at committee. That is one of the reasons I asked the question of the hon. member earlier.

I am a little confused. This case took place in October 2010. I think it was tabled in the House February 10. We are now in the beginning of March and we are finally starting debate.

This is a matter where Parliament could have shown a bit more leadership in addressing a very serious question of law. The bill could have been put forward, certainly before the Christmas break, and referred to committee so it could prepare its work and at least arrange for witnesses during the Christmas break. Then we could have started the hearings in committee when we came back in January.

It is an important issue of law. It is an issue which I think Canadians would expect us to deal with in a responsible fashion so we could address the questions of the day.

I raise those points because I think it is important. There is always a good reason to send a bill straight to committee rather than having second reading.

The other part has to do with the whole concept of the civil liberties. The member who just spoke laid out the fact that many of the amendments were problematic and might be more harmful than helpful in this case. When I finish my comments after question period, I hope to lay some of those out.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act March 7th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, the concerns the member raised and the concerns we have heard from other stakeholders in this matter raise the question about whether the bill should have been referred directly to committee before second reading. Members will be asked to vote on a bill that has some problematic areas in which expertise is necessary. This matter happened back in October of 2010. We are four to five months later and we are only at second reading debate.

The whole process seems to have been poorly thought out by the government. I hope the member would agree that the best approach is not to pass a bill at second reading, with approval in principle, when we could put it straight to the committee and make fundamental changes, about which I believe the member is talking.

March 4th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his thoughtful input into not just this bill but with regard to the whole litany of justice bills in which there is an absence of information.

Prevention, punishment, rehabilitation and reintegration are all elements of dealing with crime in our society and yet the government continues to go in the other direction by eliminating parole, creating larger mandatory minimums, building more prisons and then not funding the provinces that must take care of much of this as well. There are some consequences to this.

Does the member see this pattern as a rejection of the long-standing understanding of the criminal justice psychology, and that there has to be a balance in the programs but that, as parliamentarians, we also need to know the costing of various options so we can make good laws and wise decisions.

Political Financing March 4th, 2011

Here we go ahead, Mr. Speaker, another minister, another breach and another staff member sacrificed to protect their boss.

The employee could not have acted alone. Someone directed this operation. It is the minister who is responsible for the actions of his staff and he must be accountable.

The Prime Minister's ethical guidelines for ministers are crystal clear: Breach the guidelines and they are out. When will the Conservative government learn that it is not above the laws of Canada?