Hon. Marlene Jennings
I do, however, warn that it may be difficult if I am citing from an official government document and that document adheres to the written instructions of the sitting Prime Minister that the term “Government of Canada” should no longer be used; it should be his last name in front of the word “government”. It might be difficult, but I will make every effort to adhere to the rules of the House.
When I talk about Government of Canada in my debate, I will make every effort not to use the Prime Minister's name, although he has requested all public civil servants that it is no longer the Government of Canada, it is his government.
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Chen had to incur significant legal costs in order to defend himself under the current provisions of the Criminal Code. Thankfully, he was acquitted, as were the two other individuals who worked for him in October of 2010.
If we heed the words of the Minister of Justice, did the government at that time bring forth amendments to the Criminal Code provisions which deal with citizens' arrests? No, it did not. It had months and months in which to do so. It had two private members' bills, both sitting members, who had tabled their respective private members' bills and had offered the government to take them over, table them in the government's name and they and their caucuses would be supportive.
It is yet another example of how the government under the sitting Prime Minister, who now wants the Government of Canada to be called his government, uses real issues that can have a real impact, sometimes devastating, on citizens' lives as a political football. The Conservatives are now worried about possibly the vote in that particular section of Toronto and perhaps in other areas of Canada, so now all of a sudden the issue has become important to the them and a priority.
The Liberals will not stand in the way of getting Bill C-60 to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights quickly. If any member of the government were to stand in future debate and make that insinuation, they would be wrong and they would be making that false insinuation knowingly, because it has been stated here by the justice critic of the official opposition.
My colleague from British Columbia rose and asked a question of the minister. The minister brushed off his question. I wonder why the minister and his colleagues, whose party forms the Government of Canada--I am getting too close to violating again, I was tempted to use the sitting Prime Minister's preferred term--brushed it off.
At committee we wish to make clear and certain that there are no unintended consequences with this legislation and with the proposed amendments, so we need to ensure that the term “reasonable grounds” is clear and the reasonable time after the commission of a criminal offence or reasonable grounds that there was the commission or the attempt to commit a criminal offence and the time in which the citizen's arrest is effected is also well defined.
The other issue is we want to make sure it appears that if a citizen has reasonable grounds to believe that another individual is either committing an offence against the owner's property or the person who has legal possession of that property and effects a citizen's arrest, in some cases using reasonable force, and it turns out the person was mistaken, the individual who was presumed to be a culprit and committing a criminal offence or to have committed a criminal offence in a reasonable timeframe wherein the citizen's arrest could be effected, the person effecting the arrest is protected.
I believe it is clear that individuals are protected. If they are in fact the owners of the property or duly authorized to be in possession of the property and had reasonable grounds to believe another individual was attempting to commit a criminal offence against that property and within a reasonable time effected a citizen's arrest using reasonable force, then that person is protected.
However, clearly there is nothing in the provisions for the individual who is the subject of the suspicions and ultimately the citizen's arrest if it turns out he or she was not committing an offence. Individuals who may have been subjected to damages to their reputation or their own belongings may have civil remedies available and it will be interesting to hear the minister speak to that when he appears before committee.
I have been pretty good so far. I have avoided using the sitting Prime Minister's surname in front of the word “government”, as he has requested be done by all public servants and in any official communication going out from any government department or agency. I have been good about that, however difficult and tempting it has been.
My colleague asked the question about what, if any, protections there are for citizens who become the object of suspicion by another and placed under citizen's arrest, which turns out to be a false arrest because the individual thought to be a criminal is not and has every right to the property in question. Those are issues that need to be dealt with because we do not want to create another category of victims.
We want citizens in lawful possession of property to be able, in reasonable circumstances with reasonable grounds, to protect it. However, we also do not wish to create a category of new victims where people do not understand because we have not done the work.
It is not just the opposition. The Government of Canada will have to conduct clear educational advertising, and not like it did with its economic plan which was disguised political partisan advertising. This needs to be clear educational advertising so that everybody in Canada understands what these new provisions mean, what they allow and do not allow, and what can be lawfully done in different circumstances. Hopefully these provisions will provide very clear limits.
I will conclude by saying that Liberals have been calling for this bill for months, if not over a year, since the time that Mr. Chen was originally arrested by the police for trying to defend his property. We are pleased that the government has finally brought forth a piece of legislation. We are anxious to see it in committee so that we can ensure that it does not go beyond what it should and that it does not, in any way, shape, or form create the unintended consequence of vigilantism.
Topic: Government Orders
Subtopic: Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act