Citizen’s Arrest and Self-defence Act (Bill C-26)

Elizabeth May: Madam Speaker, I understand that the committee struggled with this bill. It definitely improved it with a number of amendments, which are welcome, but no amendments were allowed to the section on citizen’s arrest.

Clause 3 creates for the first time, under proposed section 35, that not only can the person who owns the property issue a citizen’s arrest but also a person authorized by the owner. A number of witnesses before committee raised concerns that this could give rise to a growth in the private security business with the ability to execute a citizen’s arrest after an event. It appears to be the view of some of the committee witnesses, from what I see in going through transcripts, that this would be a gift to private security firms.

I understand that the member feels that he has reached the compromise that he must reach and I respect his opinion on this. I have to go on record as saying that it looks as though I will be the only member of the House to vote against this bill. That is because I am deeply worried that it would create problems down the road.

Could the hon. member tell me how he feels about private security firms taking advantage of this legislation?

Jack Harris: Madam Speaker, the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands is sincere in her concern about this particular issue. It is something that we looked at and raised some concerns about. That is why some of these amendments in terms of the proximity to the place were brought in. They are an attempt to at least put a ring around some of the activities that one witness suggested private security firms could engage in.

I take issue with my colleague’s notion that no one other than the owner could take action in the past. As the member will know from her own experience, often a private security agency operates in a store. Sometimes operatives are disguised as shoppers, and they can actually arrest somebody who is shoplifting, take them to a room within the building and call the police. They can effect an arrest. That is not really new. I am not as worried about it as my colleague is in terms of creating a new right.

I do have concerns about what security companies may be up to. They are supposed to be regulated by the provinces, not by the Government of Canada, so we ought to let our provincial counterparts know that this is something they may opt to look at and keep an eye on in case security companies go beyond what is a reasonable mandate for them.