Mr. Morris Bodnar (Saskatoon-Dundurn)
Mr. Speaker, I am sure I will get the questions, which I have just asked, in reverse.
Bill C-8 poses a very interesting question to all of us. Generally in drafting such legislation and granting powers to whatever body, whether it is a police force or any other force, we must be very vigilant in making sure that the intent we wish to be carried out does not go to far. The Minister of Justice must be complimented for bringing forward legislation with restrictions so that it does not go too far and the intent of the legislation is carried out.
As we know, the intent of this legislation is to provide for the legal protection of police officers. It is not there for any other purpose. It is to provide for the protection of police officers, persons lawfully assisting police officers and those who use force that is intended or likely to cause death or grievous bodily harm to fleeing suspects who pose a threat of imminent or future death or grievous bodily harm. That is the purpose.
In drafting such legislation we have to look at the values in our society and what we need in our society. What we do need in this society is a prevention of crime and the control of criminals but it has to be within certain prescribed rules. Unless those rules are in place we will end up with a situation in which different members of society can run a little footloose and fancy free if the rules are not in place. For this reason we do require rules.
What should these rules do? They are laws that have to be fair. Fair is a very loose word to use. Then we go on to say that it must strike a balance. What is a balance? It has to be a balance between the rights of the fleeing suspect and the ability of police officers to protect themselves and the public.
This is what has to be dealt with in the legislation that is proposed. It is very important that this be drafted carefully because we are not dealing with just a minor matter. We are not dealing with some minor legislation. We are dealing with giving the right to kill. That is what we are doing. We are dealing with
the most serious of force. We are dealing with the granting in certain circumstances a right to cause the death of an individual.
We cannot allow such a right to be put in place without restriction which describe the conditions under which that right can be utilized. In drafting such rules we cannot avoid common sense because common sense obviously is required. We must rely on it in the drafting of the legislation.
It is quite important in drafting such legislation that we look at what we want to do. Of course, we do not want to cause agony for police officers and we do not want to cause them to have undue concerns. We do not want police officers to feel that they are restricted in their enforcement of laws. We understand that police officers have to make split second decisions. Sometimes they do not even have that much time to make a decision.
However the rules still have to be there so that police officers can, after having thought through this legislation, be able to make that automatic decision as to what to do in the circumstances. They have to know in that split second or less what they are doing because in training they know what their parameters are.
That is what is so important about this legislation as well. It has clarified to a large extent what police officers or peace officers can do. If it clarifies it for them then they know what they can do and where they can go.
It is so important in such legislation to have certain restrictions so that a police officer can understand what can be done and what cannot be done. Perhaps the legislation is not perfect, perhaps it needs some modifying and perhaps we can foresee certain problems that arise with this legislation but that can perhaps be cleared up in committee with a few alterations.
However, the general intent of the legislation is good. The intent is one of protecting the law enforcement people. We must go through it. It has been gone through by a number of members in the House already. However, there are certain aspects that have to be looked at.
Of course there are restrictions because the law as it is proposed in subsection 4 says that the police officer or peace officer is justified in using force that is intended or is likely to cause death or grievous bodily harm. As I have already indicated, the most serious of matters is taking a person's life or causing grievous bodily harm. That is not just bodily harm. It is grievous bodily harm in many cases causing permanent disability, et cetera.
Under what circumstances can a peace officer do this? It has already been enunciated that such a peace officer must be proceeding lawfully to arrest. That is not an undue hindrance on a peace officer because peace officers know when they can arrest and they know when they cannot. They know under which offences they can arrest. They know under which offences they can arrest without a warrant. They know where they require a warrant, et cetera. That should not be a problem to a peace officer.
Second, the offence for which the person is to be arrested is one for which that person may be arrested without warrant. Again that should not be a problem for a trained police officer to determine.
Third, consider when the person to be arrested takes flight to avoid arrest. That is a fairly obvious one where the police officer is trying to arrest the individual and he turns and starts running or the police officer announces that the person is under arrest and the person all of a sudden turns 180 degrees and is literally in full flight.
One has to question this situation. What if the person does not know the police officer is trying to arrest him? We get into these special exceptions depending on the facts of each individual situation as it arises. Again, that is a matter that can be dealt with in our court system. The courts have generally and very reasonably set out additional rules if they are necessary. The legislation is not sufficient.
The fourth aspect is with regard to the peace officer or other person using the force who believes on reasonable grounds that the force is necessary for the purpose of protecting the peace officer, the person lawfully assisting the peace officer, or any other person from imminent or future death or grievous bodily harm.
I must admit I have some sympathy with the hon. member from the Bloc who spoke previously indicating concerns with the wording of future. There has to be a concern. What does future mean? What does future death mean or future grievous bodily harm? Does it mean tomorrow? Does it mean 10 minutes from now? Does it mean six months from now? Does it mean a year from now? How imminent does that have to be? It does distinguish between imminent and future death.
That is a matter that perhaps can be looked at in committee. Of course the flight cannot be prevented by reasonable means in a less violent manner.
That is reasonable too because through experience I am sure that all know that police officers do not want to cause deaths of individuals. They will use precautions. They will take whatever steps are necessary. They will fire in the air. They will yell at the person. They will radio ahead for someone to get the person who is headed in a particular direction.
Generally the flight cannot be prevented if such drastic action is taken but a provision like this is important in case there is one police officer who decides otherwise.
I suggest there are concerns once we get into the other subsection dealing with the penitentiary provision for the peace officers in the jails. I will raise these simply as food for thought for some members.
The subsection deals with peace officers being justified in using force that is intended or likely to cause death or grievous bodily harm against an inmate who is escaping from a penitentiary. Then it says if the peace officer believes on reasonable grounds that any of the inmates of the penitentiaries pose a threat of death or grievous bodily harm to the peace officer or any other person.
That is a strange section. When a guard comes to work in the morning in a penitentiary he has to think who is being held in custody. Is there any person in custody who poses a threat of death or grievous bodily harm to anybody? If that person is even sitting in the special handling unit or in secure custody, if that person is within the penitentiary, that allows that guard to shoot a person who is escaping from the prison even though that person may not be an immediate threat.
That is a matter that has to be looked at. That section appears to give a right of stopping an escaping inmate simply on the basis of who is in the prison population, even though the person in the prison population may not be doing anything.
That is something that has to be looked at and that is why we look at this legislation. It would be quite unfair if the guard decides there is a person who would pose a problem, who may cause bodily harm, and he decides he can fire at that person who is escaping and then finds out that that person was released during the day and is no longer in the jail. All of a sudden the provision does not apply to him. It could be just as unfair the other way.
If the intent of that subsection is to allow a peace officer to cause death or grievous bodily harm through an escaping inmate when no other reasonable means that are less violent are possible then it should be said in that clause rather than having the cumbersome procedure that is available.
I support the legislation because it is so important to peace officers. The clearer the legislation, the better the legislation.
The amendments to the section before the House clarify to a large extent what peace officers may wish. It certainly places restrictions on them, but at least they know where they stand with the legislation. If there is something that is not clear and can be clarified, that can be dealt with further in committee.
I would suggest that for once we have legislation that police officers can look to. They can read it and say here are the circumstances in which we can do something and here are the circumstances where we cannot. Once they have that, it will help them react much quicker and much better in emergency situations. When that is the case we will have much better police officers.
Subtopic: Criminal Code