Mr. Stan Darling (Parry Sound-Muskoka):
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House today and lend support to the Minister of Justice who has set forward her proposals for a federal ticketing scheme.
The Contraventions Act is but one means whereby the federal government can assist provincial jurisdictions in coping with the heavy burden on the courts. The Contraventions Act provides for a ticketing scheme that will be simple and will assist in making the justice system more efficient.
To begin with, the 12 participating departments and agencies have identified almost 4,000 existing minor regulatory offences which will be included in a schedule of offences. The schedule which accompanies the act can be regularly updated and amended so as to meet the future needs of government departments and agencies.
What kind of offences are contemplated by this Contraventions Act? We are talking about minor offences. For example, recklessly driving a motor boat close to shore, hunting without a valid licence, camping in a park without a permit, illegal parking on federal lands.
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The person who is ticketed has the following options: Plead guilty and p*ay the set fine as indicated on the ticket without having to appear in court. Plead guilty with representations asking the court for a lesser fine or an extended time to pay the fine, or the individual may wish to dispute the charge and so indicates the desire to proceed to trial by forwarding the ticket to the appropriate court office.
In this latter case, where a trial is requested, the trial proceeds in accordance with the summary conviction provisions of the Criminal Code. An individual who ignores a ticket will be found guilty by default.
It should be noted that the Contraventions Act will apply to young offenders as well as adults. It is fair that young persons who engage in activities under the sphere of the ticketing scheme, such as boating, camping, hunting and fishing should be held responsible for their actions if they violate the law.
In recognition that the maximum fine limit of $1,000 which is set for adults may be onerous, the maximum fine level for a young person who is ticketed will be $100.
Permit me now to speak in an even more tangible and concrete fashion about what the Contraventions Act will do for many Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, as you know, in my riding of Parry Sound-Muskoka there are literally hundreds and hundreds of cottages surrounding one of the most beautiful lake districts in all of Canada. While most residents wish to enjoy the tranquil beauty of nature in the surrounding area, there are a few who would abuse the privilege.
I am deluged with complaints from friends and neighbours in my riding who are angered by the wanton and reckless disregard that some people display when using their boats on the waterways. People will sometimes drive recklessly close to the shore, rev up their engines at noise levels that far exceed the permissible limits. Up to now, enforcement of the small vessel regulations and the boating restriction regulations have been a most difficult chore for enforcement officers. The overly lengthy procedure inherent in the current system mitigates against the uniform and consistent enforcement to the detriment of cottagers.
The Contraventions Act will permit the issuing of tickets to people who drive their boats in excess of prescribed speeds near the shores, or it will allow
enforcement officers to ticket people who engage in unauthorized boat racing, or who fail to maintain their equipment as required by regulations.
The activities I have spoken of, as one can readily see, are not activities that should be subject to the procedures and sanctions of the Criminal Code. It is entirely appropriate that people who commit these somewhat less serious, but nevertheless bothersome, infractions should be dealt with under the law. But it is equally clear that people who commit such infractions should not necessarily be always subject to the procedures of the criminal law.
Therefore, the Contraventions Act is an ideal solution, permitting the monitoring and enforcement of these activities while doing so outside the traditional bounds of the Criminal Code.
Those who do not wish to contest proceedings should be able to pay the ticket without having to go through the criminal law process as they have to now. The enforcement of these minor regulatory offences is made much more efficient for the government and simpler for those found in contravention.
We need action on this front now, and I am urging all members of the House to lend their support to this legislative initiative so as to ensure a peaceful and tranquil summertime.
I have been pressing for this legislation for well over five or six years. I believe I have brought it to the attention of three ministers of justice, starting with the Hon. Ray Hnatyshyn, our present Governor General, and with the Solicitor General and finally with our present Minister of Justice. I finally got my message through to her and I guess to her officials so that the bill was finally organized and brought in last fall.
I am hoping that some way part of the bill-and I am emphasizing that part of the bill to do with the boating regulations-can be brought in and passed more quickly than the rest. I have been told by the legal authorities in the Ministry of Justice that while the bill will go through without too much opposition, even when it gets through in a hurry it is going to take some months and probably would not actually become law until this fall.
That would mean that we would miss the entire boating season and the present unwieldy way in which these infractions are dealt with would continue for another year. That means, again, that a great many
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people who could be given a ticket and would pay a fine, because they have to be charged under the Criminal Code now, which is a much more serious offence, will get off for another year.
Furthermore, when this legislation does finally come into effect, there will be literally tens of thousands of cases which now have to appear before the courts which can be settled out of court. I am hoping that the Ministry of Justice some way or another can get the part dealing with boating infractions through and ready by the May 24 weekend.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: CONTRAVENTIONS ACT