THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON LEGAL AND
OTTAWA, Thursday, April 3, 2014
The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional
Affairs, to which was referred Bill C-444, An Act to amend the Criminal Code
(personating peace officer or public officer), met this day at 10:30 a.m. to
give consideration to the bill.
Senator Bob Runciman (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Good day and welcome, colleagues and invited
guests and members of the general public who are following today's proceedings
of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.
We are meeting to begin our examination of Bill C-444, An Act to
amend the Criminal Code (personating peace officer or public officer). If
passed, this bill would establish that falsely representing a police officer or
public officer for the purpose of committing another offence must be considered
by the courts to be an aggravating circumstance for the purpose of sentencing.
Bill C-444 was first introduced in the House of Commons in the
last session in September of 2012, but did not pass before prorogation. The bill
was reinstated with the start of current parliamentary session and was referred
to this committee on February 4 of this year. This is our first meeting on the
To begin our deliberations, I'm very pleased to introduce to the
committee the sponsor the bill, Mr. Earl Dreeshen, Member of Parliament from Red
Deer. With Mr. Dreeshen, please join me in welcoming Laurie Long and her
Earl Dreeshen, Member of Parliament for Red Deer, sponsor of
the bill: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and to all of the members of
Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. Thank you for
this opportunity. I'd also like to thank Senator Dagenais and Senator Demers who
have sponsored this bill in the Senate. I appreciate all of the support that
I've had throughout the way.
It's an honour for me to be here this morning with two
constituents whose story, I am sure, will move you in the same manner it moved
me as we spoke in my office in Red Deer nearly four years ago.
The first discussion of this issue took place under Bill C-576 in
the Fortieth Parliament, and it was just about to receive third reading when the
2011 election was called.
Now, in this Forty-first Parliament, my commitment to the cause
has continued, and I am pleased that the members of the Senate have echoed the
unanimous support that this matter has received twice from my colleagues in the
other chamber. I welcome this opportunity to address your committee and present
the rationale behind amending the Criminal Code of Canada regarding the
personation of a police officer or a public officer.
My bill seeks to amend section 130 of the Criminal Code by adding
a sentencing provision to the crime of personating peace officers or public
officers. There are really three main components of this bill.
First, it is an acknowledgment to those who fall victim to this
cowardly act of deceit that society views this crime seriously and that our
trust in authority, which has been ingrained in our psyche since childhood, is
not to be trifled with. We can do this by recognizing that the personation of a
peace officer in the commission of another offence should be considered an
aggravating circumstance at the sentencing of a criminal.
Second, since aggravating circumstances in this case are
currently specific to those who abuse a position of trust or power, this bill
would create clarity by recognizing that those who pretend to have this position
of trust, or use it to overpower or disarm a victim, should be treated similarly
when sentencing occurs.
Herein is the key aspect of my bill. The existing aggravating
circumstances explicitly stated in section 718.2 do not currently apply to
offenders who are posing as peace officers, and I am calling on us as
legislators to recognize this gap in the law and to work with me to fill it by
passing my private member's bill. This amendment would ensure that this kind of
malicious deceit will be dealt with appropriately.
Third, by making this change to the Criminal Code, we would also
show our support to the fine men and women who put their lives on the line and
whose public trust is diminished by the actions of these unscrupulous criminals.
Our police officers' jobs are difficult enough as it is, and by highlighting
this type of criminal activity, we would recognize the damage done by these
I will recap some of the issues germane to this bill.
Within the maximum sentence for personating an officer, the
appropriateness of a sentence would still rest with the sentencing court.
Sentencing is a pillar of our justice system and it is up to us to as
legislators to establish sentencing provisions in the Criminal Code.
When an offender personates a peace officer to further victimize
someone, this is a severe instance of personating an officer and can have
serious and long-lasting effects on a victim. The sentence for this kind of
malicious deceit must denounce the unlawful conduct and reflect the significant
impact that the crime has on victims' lives. Victims must be assured there will
be serious consequences for the criminals who have hurt them.
The way that section 130 now reads, the crime relates to the
deception of the public about a person's status as a police officer. It does not
differentiate whether it was for the purpose or the specific purpose of
facilitating another crime, or whether another crime is actually attempted or
committed. However, in cases where the deception is intended to and, in fact,
does facilitate the commission of another more serious crime, this is an
extremely serious instance of the offence of personating an officer and,
therefore, deserves an appropriately higher sentencing. In 2009, we legislated a
new maximum sentence for this crime, and now we must give the courts this tool
to exercise the new maximum in those most serious cases.
Personating a police officer to force someone to do something is
just as serious and effective as if the perpetrator was pointing a firearm. It
is no less aggravating than breaking and entering with the knowledge that a
residence is occupied, nor many of the other situations that fall into the
category of aggravating circumstances.
By supporting this bill we are also helping to preserve the trust
and respect that citizens have for a real bona fide police officer. When
citizens see a police officer's uniform, they naturally trust and respect the
authority that comes with it, and our laws must reflect this reality. This bill
brings to light the support that our police forces need to combat this type of
Mr. Chair, I receive positive feedback on my bill. I found in my
discussions that the biggest concerns that police officers have with section 130
offences is the erosion of the public's trust. In order to do their job — the
very essence of their job, which is to protect society — officers need the
public to know and trust that they are in fact bona fide police officers. Police
have recognized that delivering harsher sentences for this offence will serve
the justice system, preserve the trust Canadians have when dealing with a real
police officer, and therefore will help them in their job to protect Canadians.
There are two points specific to the bill. Recently, section
718.2 was used to add a new aggravating circumstance to any offence against
elderly Canadians. There are some that have asked why this bill does not also
seek to amend section 718, rather than section 130. The point is that by
amending section 130, we are specifically dealing with the crime of personation
of a police officer, and by amending this section the emphasis of the damage
caused by this criminal activity is properly highlighted.
The second point is why does this form of the bill cover both
peace officers and public officers? There is a difference between this bill and
the initial form that it had taken. When I reviewed this bill with the
legislative drafters, they recommended that I cover both in the bill. Since
public officers and peace officers are both defined in the Criminal Code, the
personation of either is an offence as per section 130, and because their
definitions are similar and overlap, it was determined that both should be
included in the bill.
If I might, I’d like to address some of the quotes that we've had
from the House of Commons throughout the Bill C-576, which was the original, and
this new iteration at Bill C-444.
On November 4, 2010, Serge Ménard of the Bloc Québécois said:
I have to say that I am impressed with the research that has been
done by the member who introduced this bill. I think that, as he said, his
proposal fills a gap in the Criminal Code. As a consequence, we will support it.
He goes on to say:
I prefer his patient, precise and intelligent work. He
discovered a weakness in the Criminal Code and then exposed it and documented
On February 9, 2011, the Honourable Marlene Jennings said:
I had an opportunity to speak to the bill at a previous stage and
expressed, as the official opposition justice critic, the position I am
encouraging my caucus to take on this private member's bill, which is to support
On that same date, Joe Comartin, NDP, said:
I do not think we can be too careful about the need for the
legislature of the country to be very clear about its support for the criminal
justice system generally and for the actors within the criminal justice system.
It is very important that we ensure the Canadian public is always onside in the
sense of feeling a great deal of confidence in our judges, prosecutors, defence
counsel, and certainly in the police.
The final quote is from January 30, 2013, from Ms. Boivin of the
NDP specifically on our discussions:
The NDP intends to fully support the bill introduced by the
member for Red Deer. We will certainly have some good discussions about this,
not because we want to change anything, but because we want to make sure that
people understand how important this bill is.
She goes on to say:
For once, I am applauding a bill. More often than not we are
handed bills that impose a vision on the courts. This hinders the work of the
trial judge, whose job it is to properly evaluate the different points of view
and try to determine the appropriate sentence based on the case and the facts
that are proven.
Mr. Chair, some very good legal minds have been supportive of
this bill. They recognize the non-partisan nature in which it was developed and
the significance of the damage done to victims by this type of violation.
In closing, let me also thank those members of the various police
organizations, particularly the many members that are colleagues of mine from
both the house and Senate for their support. Thank you very much. At the
appropriate time, we would be pleased to take your questions.
The Chair: Ms. Long, I understand you would like to make a
statement as well. Please proceed.
Laurie Long, as an individual: Thank you for having us.
My name is Laurie Long and this is my daughter Jordan. We are from Penhold,
On Thursday February 26, 2009, at 9:30 p.m., Jordan went to gas
up her truck and get some juice for her sore throat. She had been feeling unwell
all day but had determined that she was not going to miss school the next day.
She was 16 years old and had been driving for three months and was enjoying some
of the freedoms of that go along with that milestone in life.
That night was the start of a horrendous ordeal for her and our
family as she was observed at the gas station by a man who followed her back to
our home and, while dressed as an RCMP member, forced her out of her vehicle and
into his at gunpoint. He covered her eyes with blacked out ski goggles and cut
her face with a knife while shouting, “You're under arrest; you're under
arrest.” He ultimately bound and put her in the trunk of his car, driving her
about 30 kilometres on a minus 32-Celsius night. He approached her in our
backyard, not 25 feet from my bedroom window where I was. She was bound,
blindfolded and assaulted multiple times.
She was missing for about 47 hours. It was terrifying, a parent's
worst nightmare and certainly a young woman's worst nightmare.
On Saturday, February 28 at about 8:45 p.m. we received a call
from a pay phone to our home. Hoping against hope that it was Jordan, my husband
answered. It was Jordan, and while he tried to figure out where she was, he told
her to stay there and that the police were coming. What she replied stunned us.
She said, “Dad, a policeman did this to me.”
We found out the next day that the man was not a police officer
but had dressed like one, with the coat, fur hat and the flashes on the
shoulders. He had borrowed his mother's white car and had a police light in it.
He had pulled in behind Jordan in our backyard and told her that she had an
insurance violation. Later, a member of the major crimes unit of Edmonton stated
that he felt the man's uniform was authentic enough that his own wife would have
had trouble knowing if the man was RCMP or not. The major point here is that he
never would have been able to get as close to her as he did without her using
her cellphone for help or attempting to run into the house if he had not been
dressed as a law enforcement officer.
During the criminal trial he faced one count of impersonating a
police office. We were stunned to learn that at the time the maximum penalty for
this offence was six months’ jail time. This has been changed to a hybrid
five-year maximum. Making personating a police officer an
aggravating circumstance would allow judges to impose penalties befitting the
In 1954 Abraham Maslow published his research and findings on the
basis of motivation. He called it the “hierarchy of human needs.” This simple
idea has become a fundamental framework for understanding how people are
motivated and how they become successful and productive. The hierarchy is
represented as a tiered triangle where each tier must be achieved before the
next can be reached. The triangle consists of a base of physiological needs —
air, water food, et cetera — followed by safety, with the next level being
social, then ego, independence and self-fulfillment. Safety forms the base of
this triangle. If there is no safety, there is nothing else.
Jordan has had the sense of safety torn away from her by someone
she thought was there to keep her safe because that is how he represented
We depend on the police to keep us safe; we trust they will. We
tell our children if they get in trouble that they should find a policeman or
call the RCMP. An individual who dresses as a policeman in order to victimize or
control someone is abusing the public trust. I cannot tell my children not to
trust the police. They serve a valuable and needed purpose in society. The
uniform and the office are sacred, and we as citizens of this society require
that. Because of how small this world has become in the wake of social media and
24-hour news, an episode like this does not just affect one person; it affects
thousands. This is why we approached Mr. Dreeshen in May 2010, to bring to his
attention the import of this issue. And he did not let us down, drafting a piece
of legislation that asks that the Criminal Code be modified to make personating
a police officer an aggravating offence.
I would like to say thank you to Mr. Dreeshen for working so hard
on this bill and thank you to this committee. That a citizen of Penhold,
Alberta, can come to Ottawa to be heard by the leaders of our country is a
Jordan continues to have issues regarding anyone wearing a
uniform, be it RCMP, police, security or peace officer. It is likely she will
have these issues for the rest of her life. As another RCMP member said to us
when we were talking to him about this issue, “It's understandable that she
would; even as Members we feel a jolt when faced with flashers in the rear-view
mirror, but for her it's a whole other story.”
RCMP members worked with us to flag Jordan's registration so
that, in the event she was stopped for a traffic violation, they would be aware
that she would be calling for confirmation of identification. Members were as
distressed as we were that someone would commit such a heinous crime while
representing themselves as law enforcement. She was actually pulled over about
three months after the abduction, which sent her into a panic attack. However,
she said because there were two policemen and she had three friends with her,
she was able to talk herself down. She never speeds now. She never disobeys the
rules of the road. She never wants to give a policeman any reason to pull her
over because of her deep mistrust of the uniform.
This is not how we need police presence to be viewed in this
country. We ask those people to go out and possibly give their lives to protect
the citizenry of this country, and by that fact alone the penalties for
personating an officer of the law need to be strong. They need to approach the
maximums more often than keep the minimums.
Last year Jordan and her boyfriend Jimmy — now fiancé — were
driving home from bringing me a drink at my work. It was later at night and I
was working a night shift as an RN in our local emergency room. On their way
home they came upon an accident involving a single vehicle with a driver who
appeared drunk. They did the right thing and called the police. Five RCMP
cruisers arrived in a short period of time, lights flashing, and Jordan
experienced a full-on flashback and began panicking and crying uncontrollably.
The very people who we, as a society, are supposed to turn to in times of
crisis have become an exacerbation of her post-traumatic stress disorder.
Thankfully, a kind policewoman asked Jimmy what was happening,
and when he told her Jordan was the girl from Penhold — and they all know who
the girl from Penhold is and the situation — who had been abducted by someone
dressed as a police officer, she went around and got all the flashers turned
off and let Jordan go home in Jimmy's car, later giving Jimmy a ride to our
My point is that this is ongoing, this fear of RCMP and law
enforcement persons in general. It has not eased up and I very much doubt it
ever will. Because our society is based on laws, and those who protect and
uphold the law, it is doubtful that Jordan can go through her life without
seeing a member of that profession.
That man, and all others who commit crimes dressed as law
enforcement, abuse the public's trust. Our society cannot function if we don't
trust our law enforcement. We need to make it clear that personating a member is
not only an offence in the Criminal Code but an offence against society as a
whole. That is why it should be an aggravating offence, so that justices may
penalize accordingly and make the punishment fit the egregious nature of the
Thank you very much.
The Chair: Thank you very much. We appreciate you being
here with your daughter.
Senator Baker: First of all, Mr. Chair, I'd like to
congratulate the member of Parliament for bringing forward this legislation and
his perseverance in this matter, and to thank the Long family for their
presentation today to back up that legislative request.
The bill, as your member of Parliament has pointed out, has
received unanimous approval in the other place, all political parties. I think
the same applies in the upper chamber, the Senate.
Mr. Dreeshen, we are sometimes are thwarted in our efforts with
legislation in that some of our recent legislation has been struck down by the
Supreme Court of Canada. We passed a bill recently in this chamber that allowed
for an extension of persons who were held for white-collar crimes of fraud. They
normally get out after serving one sixth of their time, as you know. We extended
that period, and that was struck down just last week by the Supreme Court of
Canada. We have an additional duty here, the so-called sober second thought, to
examine the constitutionality of the provision to make sure it fits the law.
Ms. Long, I presume in the case you were referencing here, the
offence under 130 of the Criminal Code of personating or impersonating a public
official was only one of the charges that were laid, that there were other
charges. The index charges would have been assault and so on; am I correct in
Ms. L. Long: Yes.
Senator Baker: Normally when we consider aggravating
circumstances, as you pointed out, that's considered under 718.2 of the Criminal
Code. In other words, in the index offence of assault, sexual assault and this
sort of thing, an aggravating circumstance would be as outlined in the Criminal
Code. You're correct that it is not there in 718.2, but what is there are the
words that notwithstanding the generality of the foregoing, the following will
be included. In cases such as this, you will find that the judge applies the
aggravating circumstance to the penalty in the index offence.
In other words, if I were to look at case law, I would see if
somebody were convicted of assault, and so on, while impersonating a police
officer. You would have one charge of personating a police officer. You would
have another charge of assault, or whatever the case might be, and an
aggravating factor would be that that person personated a police officer. That's
the way our cases go.
But you are proposing something different here. You are proposing
that if you personate a police officer that, in that one offence alone, the
judge shall — you've used the word “shall” — consider an aggravating factor the
fact they personated a police office for section 130 only, not for the other
Are you concerned that you would have a case where somebody
personates a peace officer — which could be anybody from a mayor to the whole
section that covers — and that in fact the person was not convicted of any other
offence but personating the officer, yet an aggravating factor that the judge
shall consider is the fact that they were personating a police officer only in
the commission of the offence under 130? Have you considered that that could be
a possible outcome of your legislation?
Mr. Dreeshen: If I understand where you're coming from,
you have indicated there was no other offence, but if another offence had taken
place, does this fit?
Senator Baker: And the person wasn't convicted but was
Mr. Dreeshen: In the situation we're looking at, this of
course is in the commission of another offence. This is the only time in which
it would apply.
I did speak with Justice officials, and these were some of the
discussions we had looked at as well. Again, there were two aspects. The first
aspect of course was straight recognition of what is in 718.2. With that, I took
the actual wording that was there and where it said if you abuse a position of
trust or authority. Again that was the point, that this is an assumed position
of trust or authority, and for that reason it did not fit.
I recognize the part that you had indicated before on 718.2(a)
where it speaks about, “without limiting the generality of the foregoing.”
However, the emphasis was to go back to section 130, as the personation of the
peace officer was the intent of that particular section for 130, and then, by
bringing this in, that was the tool being used in order to facilitate the
commission of another crime. That was the rationale that we then worked on with
the Justice officials, and that was the advice that I had. We would be in there,
and based on that there should not be the type of concern that you have.
Senator Baker: So
it wouldn't result? It couldn't result?
Mr. Dreeshen: If
you're saying that there would be another crime or not another crime being —
Somebody is not convicted of any other crime except impersonating a police
officer. They're found innocent of everything else. The way your wording stands
here, that judge shall consider it an aggravating factor.
Mr. Dreeshen: In
the commission of another offence.
Only in the commission of another offence?
That is the wording that we have; therefore, in the commission of the other
offence. That is the rationale for it.
Again, what I did have from Justice officials
is that that would do the two things that we're speaking of in order to enable
that to continue.
Why wouldn't you have changed 718.2 and added on, as we added on recently, as
you pointed out, somebody who is elderly? Before that, we added on somebody who
is under the age of 18. Mr. Chairman, you remember that. We added on this and
that. Why wouldn't you have just said personating a police officer in the
commission of an offence as an aggravating factor and spelled it out there? That
would have covered everything.
Mr. Dreeshen: In
the discussions that I had with the Long family, we took a look at the way in
which the charges came out and so on. As you know, as a minor, that was already
an aggravating circumstance and all of these things. You could have gone back
and stated that there were all of these other aggravating circumstances, so why
The point was that that was the tool. That was
the gun. That was whatever it is that allowed this offence to take place.
Therefore, the crime was the personation of the police officer. That's the
reason why our emphasis went back to 130. It was felt that that would be the
place where it should be presented. Therefore, if there was an amendment that
had to be made, it would be better suited in section 130 than in 718.2. If
actually having laws are such that there's an awareness of what does happen and
the damages that are done, if that is significant, then the personation of a
police officer is one of those that people should know about. That was the
reason why we then chose to go that route rather than the 718.2.
Senator Baker: In
conclusion, the Department of Justice, Mr. Chairman, will not appear before this
committee. They've refused. They won't appear before any committee on private
I just wanted to make sure. You have, from the
Department of Justice, your wording:
If a person is convicted of an offence under section 130, the
court imposing the sentence on the person shall consider as an aggravating
circumstance . . . .
But that only applies if there is another offence charged with it
and convicted of, because this is sentencing.
Yes. In response to that, if we state what it all says, it says:
If a person is convicted of an offence under
section 130, the court imposing the sentence on the person shall consider as an
aggravating circumstance the fact that the accused personated a peace officer or
a public officer, as the case may be, for the purpose of facilitating the
commission of another offence.
That is the other aspect of it that was the
emphasis that we had talked about.
Thank you very much for your question.
Senator Dagenais: What I have to say is more of a comment
than a question. I thank the member for introducing this bill. As you mentioned,
I am going to sponsor the bill.
I imagine you know that I was a police officer for 39 years.
During the first years, I was a policeman-educator. I went to primary schools,
high schools and colleges to establish trust between students and the police. I
told them that if anything bad happened to them and they did not know where to
turn, they only had to turn to a police officer.
You explained things very well, Mr. Dreeshen. Those people, by
impersonating police officers, are destroying the work we do. That is an odious
crime. It is fraud and I can understand, Ms. Long, that when you see a police
officer now your level of trust may be greatly affected. The bill is certainly
supported by the opposition parties. We cannot be against virtue, but first of
all, we have to protect citizens and also police officers. It is difficult to do
police work and to establish a climate of trust, and it only takes one spark to
burn down the work police officers do. I thank you and it is with pleasure that
I sponsor this file, which touches me particularly.
Senator McIntyre: Thank you to all of you for your presentations.
Mr. Dreeshen, you're a hard-working MP. I note
you had been working on this bill for a couple of years and it died on the Order
Paper as a result of the 2011 election.
In examining proposed section 130.1 of Bill
C-444, two words come to mind, as you rightfully pointed out: “aggravating
circumstance” as defined under section 718.2 of the Criminal Code.
Under the code, as you know, there are numerous
offences that call for a court to examine an aggravating circumstance in passing
sentence. For example, an offence relating to a peace officer constitutes an
aggravating offence, such as assaulting a peace officer, assaulting a peace
officer with a weapon or causing bodily harm, aggravated assault of a peace
officer. In other words, in passing sentence for these types of offences, my
understanding is that the court must give primary consideration to the
objectives of denunciation and deterrence.
This bill doesn't deal directly with a peace
officer. It deals with a person impersonating a peace officer. Having said
this — and I think you probably answered this question — my understanding is
that the reason for the amendment is because offences related to peace officers
constitute an aggravating circumstance, the reason being that the offender
abused a position of authority in relation to the victim — and I stress the word
“victim” — as defined under section 718 of the code. Is this, in fact, the
philosophy or the reason behind this amendment?
Yes, it is. Of course, that was where the gap seemed to be. When you're taking a
look at it, it's something that has already been established, either through
authority or a teacher, somebody who has that position of authority. That in
itself was an aggravating circumstance. You have it by a bona fide police
officer. If it was a case that it was a police officer, of course, then it would
be dealt with in a different manner. Yes, it was because of the wording that
they had there.
With this situation, it is a case where somebody
is assuming that identity. For that reason, it did not fit. It was not part of
718.2. Again, as I mentioned earlier, because of the significance of personation
of a police officer and that being the process that is used in order to gain the
upper hand on an individual, that is the reason for us going to section 130.
Senator McIntyre: Exactly. In other words, once again, the offender abused the position
of authority in relation to the victim, as defined under section 718 of the
Very briefly, proposed section 130.1 refers to
the words “for the purpose of facilitating the commission of another offence.”
Which offences are we relating to? In other words, does it include Criminal Code
offences, offences under federal law, provincial offences, or all three?
Mr. Dreeshen: My
understanding is it would be all three. This is not meant to be prescriptive in
any way. It is leaving the authority for the judges to make their decision along
Senator Patterson: Mr. Chair, I'm privileged to be here
with your committee today. I would like to congratulate Mr. Dreeshen and thank
the Long family for being here and sharing this terrible story with us.
I would like to ask a question about the long journey you've had
with this bill. I believe when you initiated the bill, section 130 of the
Criminal Code provided only a summary conviction offence. It was only later that
the law was amended by our government to make personating a peace officer a
hybrid offence, which now makes the maximum penalty five years rather than six
Now that personating a peace officer is a hybrid offence
resulting in a longer sentence, what are your views on whether it's still
necessary to amend the Criminal Code to make it an aggravating factor?
Mr. Dreeshen: Yes, I believe that it is. As I said,
section 718.2 does not give the certainty that is associated with it. A message
is being sent about the significance of this type of deceit when it is being
used to facilitate another crime. I believe that is the case.
You mentioned the long journey. I know what happened as far as
the sentencing was concerned. At that particular time, it was only six months;
then it was changed in Bill S-4 to five years.
Never in our discussions were we looking at the specifics of the
sentence that had taken place. This is why I was so proud to be able to continue
this journey in the Forty-first Parliament after it was lost in the Fortieth
Parliament. It is for those in the future. In the same situation, we recognize
that with an offence against a minor, you’re looking at an aggravating
circumstance. We were looking at all the different aspects of it. A six-month
sentence just happened to be the way it was. It wasn't like we were going back
and trying to change something. The point is to change things for the future and
to make sure that anybody else who is caught in those situations will have the
support they need. If somebody takes advantage of this assumed authority by
personating a peace officer, there will be something in law that specifically
addresses it so people can point and say, “It was not my fault; the personation
of the peace officer was the reason for this happening.” It may be in some other
statute somewhere, and maybe when this happens people will adjust accordingly,
but they will be able to say “This is the reason it happened.” It's for that
reason section 130 was chosen.
Senator Patterson: I want to make it clear that in asking
the question I was not questioning the validity of this proposed statute.
Congratulations, you've received strong support in Parliament and
I'm confident you will receive it in the Senate as well, from what I've heard
I know that you're looking forward rather than back, but do you
have any comments in your discussions with the family about the adequacy of the
sentence that was rendered by the court in the case that involved offences
against Jordan Long?
Mr. Dreeshen: We talked about the sentencing aspect —
concurrent sentencing, consecutive sentencing. We talked about everything and
the circumstances of the case. The Library of Parliament has a breakdown of all
the different aspects of it and what was considered mitigating and what was
aggravating in the particular case. I looked at the situation that occurred, but
I'm not in their shoes, so it is difficult for me to suggest whether the number
was right. If it had been in my shoes, I would have looked at it from that
perspective. There was a discussion, and we looked at what parts were
mitigating, what parts were aggravating, and the sentence presented is the way
that it was. We're moving forward so that one can recognize the damage that was
done and ensure certainty for others in the future.
Senator Patterson: I take it you would be of the opinion
that the sentence would have been greater had this amendment been in place at
Mr. Dreeshen: There are two aspects to it. The difference
between six months and five months and five years, I believe it might have
changed that part. To be honest, when you realize that the aggravating
circumstance would be there as far as the minor is concerned, it probably was
already included, but I'm not looking at what had taken place. I'm simply
saying — and this is why I was so proud to be able to continue this — that it
was not a case of me and my circumstance. It is for others in the future to
ensure that it is recognized for what it is — and also being in section 130 to
realize that this personation of a peace officer is the key rationale and why
someone is stopped and put into harm's way.
Senator Batters: Mr. Dreeshen, thank you for bringing
forward such an important bill and continuing on with it despite what happens in
the political process when an election is called. This is a very important
I thank Laurie and Jordan for being here today with us. I noted
in your opening comments, Mrs. Long, that you referred to Jordan being known as
the “girl from Penhold.” I think that the girl from Penhold will now be known as
the girl who helped make a very important change to the Criminal Code of Canada.
That's a pretty good legacy to have.
Mr. Dreeshen, when you spoke before the House of Commons
committee, did Laurie and Jordan have an opportunity to appear before that
committee as well?
Mr. Dreeshen: Yes, they did.
Senator Batters: I hope that in the course of being brave
enough to come here today and tell your story, which is a difficult one to tell,
it helps you in your journey of continuing to heal. I know it's been a few
years, but I hope it's something that helps you.
Mr. Dreeshen, the bill deals with peace officer and public
officer. It seems to me that public officer may have been included because it
would specifically include RCMP officer personation and peace officer alone may
not include that; is that correct?
Mr. Dreeshen: Yes, that's right. As I mentioned, we took a
look at Bill C-576. In further discussions — and this is why it is important to
take another look at it — it was a matter of putting both in to tie specifically
to what is said in section 130, which talks about both. That was the reason for
including it and changing the wording. It would have still covered what we were
looking at. That was the advice I had at the time, but we looked at it again
with another set of eyes and more experience in the process.
Senator Batters: In Jordan's situation, a person was
impersonating an RCMP officer in that particular case, so obviously that's very
important to make sure that's included.
Again, congratulations for your work on this, and thank you very
much for being here today.
Mr. Dreeshen: Thank you so much.
Senator Baker: We changed the code so much, Mr. Dreeshen,
that if you look at “public officer” in the Criminal Code and see the
definition, all those persons defined as public officers are also defined under
“peace officer”; all of them, because it says “police officer.”
In other words, Senator Dagenais, who is well known in this
country as having been in one of the highest positions police officers can
attain in the province of Quebec, is covered as a peace officer. He is not
covered as a public officer under the Criminal Code, but everything else is.
My one observation, Mr. Dreeshen, is this: I can see now your
purpose for introducing it this way, because when you examine the cases in
Alberta, for example, you'll find that section 130 of the Criminal Code, that
offence usually runs concurrent; the sentence is a concurrent sentence with the
other offences and therefore does not stand out as a sentence on its own. What
you've done here is right now we have as an aggravating factor in the other
offences the fact that somebody personated a police officer. What this bill does
is now guarantees it's an aggravating factor and it centres on the commission of
section 130 of the Criminal Code as being the key to all of it.
On face value, when I look at it, I see problems with it, but
after listening to your explanation I must say that it makes some sense. The
problem of looking at it and looking at the wording is that somebody might be
sentenced for an offence they didn't commit because that would be
unconstitutional. Your point is that in the commission of the other offence, if
somebody is found guilty under section 130, then automatically, no matter what
the offence is, it will be considered to be an aggravating factor. Thank you.
Mr. Dreeshen: Thank you very much.
The Chair: Anything additional before we close off?
On behalf of the committee, Mr. Dreeshen, we want to thank you
very much for your good work and your responses here today to the committee's
Mrs. Long and Jordan, I think you felt from committee members how
much we appreciate your appearance here today and the courage you've shown.
Again, thank you very much for your contribution to our deliberations. We very
much appreciate it.
For our second panel today, I would like to introduce, from the
Calgary Police Service, Superintendent Kevan Stuart; and from the Criminal
Lawyers' Association, an individual who has appeared before — it's good to see
you back — Michael Spratt. I understand you both have opening statements.
Michael Spratt, Representative, Criminal Lawyers'
Association: I appear today on behalf of the Criminal Lawyers' Association,
which, as you may know, is a non-profit organization founded on November 1,
1971. The CLA, as we call ourselves, is comprised of over 1,200 criminal defence
lawyers, many of whom practise in Ontario, but we have membership across the
The CLA has been granted standing to participate in many
significant criminal appellate cases, as well as other judicial proceedings. For
example, we were granted standing and participated throughout the commission on
proceedings involving Guy Paul Morin, otherwise known as the Kaufman inquiry.
We've also been granted permission to intervene in many appeals heard in the
Ontario Court of Appeal and others heard in the Supreme Court of Canada.
The CLA is routinely consulted by various parliamentary
committees, such as this one, to share our views on proposed legislation
pertaining to issues of criminal and constitutional law. In essence, the CLA
supports legislation that is necessary, modest, fair, constitutional, and
supported by the evidence.
I would like to start by thanking this committee for inviting us
to make submissions on this bill. A detailed study and evaluation of legislation
in the Senate provides an immeasurable benefit going forward, and we're always
happy to appear to offer our opinion.
I would like to start by acknowledging that this bill does not
contain some of the more objectionable pieces of policy that we have had issues
with in the past and have been found to be unconstitutional — for example,
mandatory minimum sentences — and I think credit needs to be given for restraint
on that part. Nonetheless, we have some concerns with this legislation, and I
think concerns that merit consideration.
While we certainly agree with the intent of the legislation, we
question the necessity of this legislation. Quite simply, it's our position that
given the case law, this legislation is not necessary.
As I understand, the bill was drafted in response to a crime that
occurred in Alberta where an offender impersonated a police officer, abducted
and, tragically, sexually assaulted a young girl — a horrific crime, to be sure,
and the sentencing court recognized this. Ultimately, I understand the
perpetrator was sentenced to 18 years in jail for that offence.
The vast majority of offences involving impersonation of police
officers, especially when that is done to facilitate the commission of another
offence, are punished appropriately and punished harshly.
The addition of the proposed aggravating factor, in our
submission, is simply not necessary. There could be many aggravating factors.
The list can be actually infinite, when you think about it. It's simply not
necessarily to enumerate every single possible aggravating factor. Quite simply,
the courts have already figured this out.
In 1992, the Court of Appeal of Alberta upheld both the sentence
and conviction in a case called Minaker. That can be found in the Alberta
journal number 863. The Minaker case involved a similar factual scenario
as the one that gave genesis to this bill, where an individual impersonated a
police officer and perpetrated a sexual assault. In that case, back in 1992,
ultimately a seven-year sentence was imposed; but, importantly, the Alberta
Court of Appeal held as follows:
The aggravating factors are many; the careful planning of the
offence; the prior conviction for the similar, though much less aggravated
offence; the abduction of the victim from the street for the purpose of a rape;
handcuffing her, impersonating a police officer to allay the victim's fears
while being abducted, and the threats made against the victim and her children .
. . .
The courts already recognize that impersonating a police officer
is an aggravating factor, and it is for that reason that we say that there is no
need to legislate what is already done in practice. The Criminal Code is a large
and complex body of law. I have it sitting here on the desk in front of me, and
it's actually hard to lift it with just my left hand. I don't know if that
speaks to my strength or to the volume of the code, but it is quite large; I
think we can all agree on that.
It's our submission that we should be striving to streamline and
simplify the Criminal Code. The more complexity in that code leads to increased
costs and more complicated proceedings. Citizens are, of course, presumed to
know the law, and adding complexity to the code frustrates this important
Quite simply, this bill, although well intended, will have little
practical difference in our courts, but it does continue the trend of increasing
complexity in the criminal law.
There have been some comments that this bill will assist in
deterring or preventing offences. I don't take it to be the primary purpose of
the bill, but there has been commentary that that may be one of the effects of
this legislation. I would like to dispel that idea. Study after study has shown
that increasing punishment does not deter crime. It's the certainty of being
apprehended, not the certainly or severity of punishment. I've seen no evidence
before the Senate or before the house that would suggest otherwise, and I have
studies to which I can refer the committee if needed.
Another area of concern is perhaps the practical application of
this section. First, I note that proposed section 130.1 follows section 130 and
isn't located in section 718, where the typical aggravating factors are located.
Another issue of concern is that this aggravating fact applies if
someone impersonates a peace officer for the purpose of committing an offence.
This means that even if an individual is acquitted of that other offence — or
the offence that they were dressing up as a police officer, for example, to
facilitate committing — even if that person were to be found not guilty of that
offence, an increased punishment under proposed section 130.1 may still apply —
in essence, a punishment for an offence for which the accused has been found not
guilty, which I submit is contrary to the principles of our criminal law.
At the end of day, we have a bill with very good intentions. The
evidence doesn't support the notion that this bill will reduce crime, and so
what we're left with, I submit, is a bill that essentially speaks to sentence.
The evidence, I submit, shows that when the section 130 offences
are examined, the impersonation is typically attached to the commission of
another offence; that courts impose serious sentences for those cases, even in
the absence of the specific enumeration of this as an aggravating factor; and
more importantly, the courts, through the operation of common law, already
recognize this factor to be aggravating. There is simply not a need to add this
complexity to the Criminal Code, given the detrimental effects that the
increased complexity carries with it.
The Chair: Thank you Mr. Spratt.
Kevan Stuart, Superintendent, Calgary Police Service:
Thank you very much for inviting me here today. I wanted to be asked to come and
give a policing perspective in regard to the changes in the legislation. I will
probably not be quite as eloquent as Mr. Spratt, but a little different.
Today I got up, and I probably met 12 new people since I've been
to Ottawa this morning: the people who work in the restaurant, the people who
work in security, and some folks here. Of those 12 people I met, there are
probably only two who had anxiety in meeting me, and that would have been Laurie
and Jordan Long. I've never met them before and they’ve never met me before, but
once I identified myself as a police officer, I could see the anxiety rise in
both of them in the back room here.
That's one of the long-lasting effects that may happen. In
policing, we don't produce manufactured goods or natural resources. We produce a
commodity called public trust and public confidence, as in any public service.
When that public trust and public confidence has been breached or compromised,
our commodity in the community goes down and our ability and legitimacy to do
that job is negatively impacted.
Public trust comes from the ability to do our job and serve the
community — the people who have that trust in us — in the best way we can. Our
authority comes from that public trust. It gives us the opportunity to do our
job and serve the community. That authority comes from legitimacy in law. That's
what we are talking about here: legitimacy in law for police officers and
agencies to serve the community the best we can.
Personation of a police officer is usually to gain an advantage —
gain an advantage for information. It could be somebody personating a police
officer to simply do a traffic stop to gain information for whatever reasons on
the person driving that vehicle. It could be to gain a physical advantage over a
victim. It could be to gain a psychological advantage over a victim.
The sophistication in personating a police officer, many times to
obtain equipment such as a vehicle and to alter that vehicle to look like a
police vehicle — uniforms, clothing. It could be a person in blue jeans and a
T-shirt, or it could be a person in a suit who simply obtains something that
looks like a police badge. It's just that easy for me to say, “I'm a police
officer” and for somebody to believe that and put that trust and confidence in
me to look after them.
As police officers, we have an obligation: care of duty. It is
duty to care for people who are in our custody and duty of care for people who
we are detaining and arresting. We have a responsibility to look after their
physical, mental and emotional needs, and their legal requirements. There is
faith in the community that we will do that.
As Senator Dagenais said, we ingrain in young people very early
on that police officers and police agencies are who you turn to and where you go
when you have nowhere else to go, and that is where the public trust comes in.
That is our commodity.
So there is a lot of planning that goes on in personating a
police officer. It is not a crime of opportunity; it is a crime that takes a lot
of planning. There are some complexities in it.
We have seen in Alberta and in Calgary people who personate
police officers to gain information. They simply do a traffic stop to find out
who is in that vehicle. Information in the hands of police is trusted by the
community. We have a very strict and robust freedom of information and privacy
act in Alberta. Police officers are held to account when they breach those
privacy rules. That privacy can be gained simply by pulling over a person and
asking for their driver's licence, registration and insurance. You get private
information that you can use somewhere else down the road.
We see personation of police officers in organized crime files.
We have conducted search warrants on organized crime residences and facilities,
and we have found bulletproof vests, batons, police badges and uniforms. They go
on to commit other crimes. For instance, we see it with home invasions. We have
many home invasions in Calgary where, in the middle of the night, organized
crime figures go into homes and commit other crimes such as robberies or
assaults. There are many occasions where there are no forced entries into those
homes. The way they got in was by identifying themselves as police officers.
That is a way to get into a residence.
In Canada, we police by consent. The police don't tell the
community how they are going to be policed; the community tells us how they want
policing services provided. That, again, is public trust and confidence, and
when that trust and confidence is breached and there is a weary sense of who is
a police officer and who is not, that confidence is breached. It makes it much
more difficult for us to legitimately do our jobs and for us to legitimately
serve of the community in the way the community wants and deserves to be served.
The Chair: Thank you. I will begin the questions with the
deputy chair of the committee.
Senator Baker: I wish to thank the two witnesses and say
off the top that Mr. Stuart certainly presents some interesting facts to support
the change being made in the Criminal Code that we're addressing today. However,
I'd like to ask a question. I don't want to comment on this; I just want to pick
his brain because he's an expert in criminal law.
If I understand it correctly, Mr. Spratt, you're saying that
right now in Alberta — you quoted the Court of Appeal of Alberta — if somebody
personated a police officer and committed an offence like assault or sexual
assault, it is an aggravating factor in sentencing that person; it's an
aggravating circumstance in the passing of sentence because of section 718.2 of
the Criminal Code. Is that correct?
Mr. Spratt: Yes, it is in Alberta and throughout Canada by
operation of common law. I would have a hard time arguing that it's not an
Of course, the aggravating factors listed in section 718.2 — it's
a non-exhaustive list. If it is aggravating in the case at hand, then yes, most
definitely impersonation of a police officer, not only in Alberta but across
Canada, would currently be considered an aggravating factor on sentence.
Senator Baker: Because of the wording of section 718.2
that says at the beginning of the listed subsections “without limiting the
generality of the foregoing.” Those are the exact words. So if you look at the
case law, you see that personating a police officer in order to carry out an
index offence like assault or sexual assault is considered by the court to be an
aggravating factor in passing sentence on the index offence.
Mr. Spratt: Yes. Also, taking what Mr. Stuart said, the
impact of committing an offence on particularly a vulnerable victim is also an
aggravating factor. So if there is evidence that the community's confidence in
police is shaken or that particular victim's confidence in police is shaken,
that additionally would be an aggravating factor, as is committing an offence
while in a position of trust and authority.
I would submit that Crown would be quite right in saying that
impersonating a police officer plays on the trust and authority that we've heard
are endowed and that the police depend upon. So I think it would be an
aggravating factor across Canada in a multitude of ways.
Senator Baker: Yes, that's the way I read the case law as
well. It is exactly as you have said. This bill purports to do something else,
as you pointed out: It says that if you are convicted under section 130 of
personating a police officer, there is a presumption built in, namely, that you
were doing it for the commission of another offence.
Now, a presumption like that is not strange to the Criminal Code.
Take break and enter with the intent of committing an indictable offence. There
is no such offence as break and enter; it is with intent to commit an indictable
offence. There is a presumption. But in the second part of section 384, it says
something like “barring evidence to the contrary.” There is a saving section,
such as in section 253; for impaired driving, the same presumption is built in.
What you're saying is that somebody could be convicted of section
130 — personating a police officer — but found innocent of the other offences
charged. Then a court, according to this wording, would have to make as an
aggravating factor in section 130 additional sentencing for an offence they
didn't commit. Is that what you're saying?
Mr. Spratt: That's quite right. A sentence could be
increased, even if the person was acquitted of the substantive offence that they
were dressing up as a police officer to commit. The problem there is that
punishment can be increased based on a purpose or attempt that wouldn't
necessarily be a standalone offence.
Senator Baker: So in law, you can't be convicted of an
offence you didn't commit.
Senator Dagenais: Mr. Spratt, I listened to you, and
first, it is certain that a new bill may have certain shortcomings. However,
when a new bill is tabled, it is to improve the legislation that is on the
books. As far as I am concerned this one is a distinct improvement on the
You also said that the purpose of the bill was to make the
application of justice complex, and that it will be more complicated. Indirectly
you are saying that the laws should be simpler to enforce. But do you not think
that simplifying the laws would necessarily be done to the detriment of victims?
Mr. Spratt: I think seeking simplicity in the Criminal
Code accomplishes a number of very important objectives. It ensures that courts
can operate from a first-principles perspective to ensure that the appropriate
sentence is imposed. It also ensures that when we say people know the Criminal
Code, people understand the Criminal Code, that that presumption can be put into
What should be avoided, in my opinion, is legislating and passing
laws that cover every hypothetical eventuality. For example, there are many
aggravating factors that one can think of. It need not be enacted by legislation
to be an aggravating factor. Certainly, one wouldn't want to legislate some
aggravating factors and not others and perhaps elevate the importance of some
and minimize the importance of other aggravating factors, which is why I say
that this law is pretty clear in Canada. The Court of Appeal in Alberta got it
right, and it's being applied correctly.
It's for that reason that I question the necessity of this
legislation, given the lack of evidence of any ongoing problem or given the lack
of any evidence that courts have ignored this factor as an aggravating factor.
Senator McIntyre: Thank you, gentlemen, for your
presentation. As we all know, section 130 is a hybrid offence, which means the
Crown can proceed either summarily or by indictment. If it proceeds by
indictment, the offence is punishable by up to five years' imprisonment.
There are other hybrid offences, such as identity theft, five
years; identity fraud, ten years, and the list goes on.
My understanding is that the reason why section 130 was made a
hybrid offence was to ensure that the maximum penalty for impersonating a peace
officer is in line with other hybrid offences, such as identity theft and
identity fraud, therefore reflecting more appropriately the gravity of the
Having said this, proposed section 130.1 under Bill C-444 goes
further. As you have both rightfully pointed out, it has the words “aggravating
circumstance” for the court to consider in passing sentence, all of which, in my
opinion, is in accordance with section 718.2(iii), which states.
(iii) evidence that the offender, in committing the offence,
abused a position of trust or authority in relation to the victim,
The reason for that is because here we are dealing with peace
officers, and at the moment, an offence relating to a peace officer constitutes
an aggravating circumstance, such as assaulting a peace officer, assaulting a
peace officer with a weapon, or causing bodily harm, an aggravated assault of a
The reason for bringing in the words “aggravating circumstance”
is to tie this in with 718.2. What are your thoughts on this?
Mr. Spratt: That certainly seems to be the case. Again, I
want to be very clear in my submissions that there's nothing inappropriate with
considering the impersonation of a peace officer to be aggravating. There's
nothing unconstitutional about this provision. In some respects, this provision
is restrained and more modest than other legislation that we've seen.
Senator McIntyre: Don't you think it's to bring a clearer
language to the legislation?
Mr. Spratt: I think that clarity already exists. I think
it's apparent in 718 that abusing a position of trust or authority — and I would
submit that would include abusing a purported position of trust and authority —
as an aggravating factor amongst the list of aggravating factors, you're quite
right, it does tie it together.
Another important point to note is that in electing whether to
proceed by indictment or summarily on the offence, that election will be
reflected in whether other offences were committed. Was this attached to some
other offence, the gravity of the offence? Also, this bill doesn't limit
judicial discretion in any way, and judges who find someone guilty of
impersonating a peace officer and committing other offences always have the
discretion to impose consecutive sentences as well.
I think you're right; it does tie things together. The question
is, when we're tying the parcel together here, do we need a double knot or do we
already have what we need through the operation of common law?
Senator McIntyre: Thank you, Mr. Spratt.
Mr. Stuart, would you wish to comment?
Mr. Stuart: When the rubber hits the road in the
courthouse, I think right now it's probably something to be negotiated with
between a prosecutor and defence in regards to other criminal offences that have
taken place. Right now, I think it's a bit of a negotiation tool for a guilty
plea, as opposed to really looking at the severity of the action of
impersonating a police officer or a peace officer.
I was happy to hear Mr. Spratt say simplify the Criminal Code,
because it is very complicated. It's just not simplifying the legislation. It's
simplifying the way the legislation is used. Our complications are in the
disclosure mess that we're dealing with right now across the country with regard
to bringing cases to court. Our problems are the rules of search and seizure,
which are complicating policing in Canada.
To us, this isn't that complicated. It's what happens after we
charge to bring this to court. That's where the complications in our system
really bog us down, cost us a lot of money and cost us a lot of time in properly
serving the people who have entrusted us to serve them.
Senator Frum: Mr. Stuart, you, and indeed my colleague
Senator Dagenais, were very eloquent and clear about the harm that's done and
why this bill is so important to address what happens when trust is undermined
in figures of authority. It makes me curious to know and understand. In the
event that an actual peace officer commits an offence, is that considered an
aggravating factor, if they have used their position of authority?
Mr. Stuart: It is. There's a charge in the Criminal Code,
breach of trust. Under the Police Act — and I'm speaking for Alberta, and I
suspect this is correct in all the other provinces and territories — you are
held accountable. There are many charges you can be charged with under the
Police Act for breaching that trust and that confidence with corrupt practice
and whatnot, but also you're held accountable under the Criminal Code of Canada
when you do break the law.
In Calgary, we currently have a member in front of the courts for
In the position I had previous to this one,
which I've had for the past three months, I was in charge of the professional
standards section of the internal affairs of the Calgary Police Service,
investigating allegations of police misconduct. We do take that very seriously
and hold our officers to the highest standard. They understand that coming in.
Yes, we do have officers who breach the Criminal Code and breach that trust, and
they are held accountable to that higher standard. They're investigated for
breach of trust and some are charged.
What is the magnitude of the higher penalties in that case? What would be added
on to somebody's conviction or punishment?
Mr. Stuart: It
would be on a case-by-case basis.
Senator Frum: Is
it in line with what we have here?
Mr. Stuart: Yes,
you would be looking at jail time and, of course, losing your job. It's a very
Senator Batters: Thank you very much to both of you for being here.
Mr. Spratt, I was curious about your comment
that you were indicating even if someone was acquitted of the offence that was
being done while the person was impersonating a peace officer or public officer,
their punishment would be increased. Punishment on what? If they've been
acquitted, there would be no conviction on which to base a sentence.
Then when I looked more closely at the
particular amendment being proposed, the start of the amendment says, “If a
person is convicted of an offence under section 130,” personating a peace
officer, “the court imposing the sentence,” et cetera. There is a requirement,
then, by virtue of this very amendment that they have to be convicted of
impersonating a peace officer, and that alone, to me, is a very serious
situation. Even if they were acquitted of a sexual assault or something like
that, the fact that they used the impersonation of a peace officer to have
access to that victim, that alone is something that they should receive
additional punishment for and that alone is how the conviction is based. Would
you not agree that that seems like a fair process to happen?
Mr. Spratt: Under
section 130, you can be charged with impersonating a police officer. I will say
police officer because that's what we normally see. There could be an allegation
that you did so to facilitate a break-and-enter or some other offence.
The person may be acquitted of that other
offence, the break-and-enter, but still be convicted under section 130 for
impersonating a police officer. In that case, the person, as it is now, would be
punished accordingly based on the facts before the judge for the section 130
offence, depending on how the election was and the circumstances of that
This amendment means that you would be punished
for the fact that you dressed up as a police officer, and then your sentence
would be aggravated again for dressing up as a police officer, even though
you've been acquitted for the purpose of facilitating another offence. So you
can be acquitted of that other offence, convicted of impersonating a police
officer and the sentence would be imposed, but under this legislation, there's a
possibility that something that you're acquitted of or found not guilty of could
aggravate the sentence on what you were found guilty of.
Senator Batters: I guess I don't agree with the interpretation because to me it seems
that, in effect, what it's doing in that particular type of case, where the
person is acquitted of the one but convicted of the section 130, is perhaps just
having the effect of increasing that sentence, which right now is really not
that high of a level. It potentially just increases that.
Mr. Spratt: I
would say it's, of course, okay to disagree on the interpretation, but that is
my point. That's the complexity that I speak of. That's the litigation that will
ensue when, in my opinion, there isn't a need to engage in that complexity and
litigation and that increase of costs, considering that I think for the vast
majority of cases — and certainly the cases I reviewed before coming here — the
courts seem to be getting it right in recognizing it as an aggravating factor
and indeed imposing serious sentences. Even back in 1992, before there was
recognition that even greater sentences are needed for sexual-based offences,
there were some very strict punishments.
Senator Batters: Earlier you were speaking about not being sure whether it was
necessary to tie a double knot, but I would make the comment that I think it is
necessary to tie a double knot to protect public safety, in this case give a
better voice to victims. That's not a bad thing. I'm thinking especially about
victims today because our government is introducing an important piece of
legislation, the victims' bill of rights.
Thank you very much for appearing.
Mr. Spratt: The
only brief comment I'd make, when we're talking about public safety, it's
important to look at the empirical evidence. I'd be happy to share some of those
studies with the committee. One was just released in the past little while that
deals with the public safety aspect, and this bill does not seem like it will
actually increase public safety. It may increase punishment at the end, but it
is unlikely to result in further offences under this section.
Again, as the literature seems to suggest, it's
not the ultimate punishment or even a certainty in being punished; it's more
about the certainty of apprehension. This bill doesn't deal with apprehension;
it deals with back-end punishment. I think it's questionable whether this bill
will actually increase public safety, but it certainly will increase punishment.
Senator Batters: Keeping the offender in jail for longer so they're not out there
committing other serious offences would, in my view, protect public safety.
The Chair: I have
a supplementary question directed to the superintendent.
I was looking through some of the news clippings
with respect to Calgary, and personation of police officers seems to not be an
irregular kind of occurrence; you've had a number of these over the last little
while. I'm wondering if you share Mr. Spratt's perspective on this. I suspect
you don't. He's suggesting, I think, to the committee that it is adequately
addressed through current legislation and that the courts recognize that. I'm
assuming that you have a different perspective.
Mr. Stuart: My
perspective is pretty much the same as the MP who is introducing the law as well
as that of Senator Batters. The issue of impersonating a police officer is a
serious crime, which usually is in support of committing other crimes. However,
if you are acquitted of those crimes, it doesn't mean you didn't do it, but you
got your foot in the door by committing that first crime of impersonating a
police officer. If you didn't have access to the information or to the person
physically or psychologically, you would not be able to commit that crime in the
first place. By breaching that, that's what has to be held to account.
Senator Meredith: Thank you, gentlemen, for your presentations.
Mr. Spratt, you mentioned that basically this
bill is not necessary and that section 130 already covers sentencing for those
individuals who are impersonating a peace officer or police officer.
What would you say to victims, then, in terms of
allaying their fears? For example, Jordan, who was just here, said there are
enough laws on the books already that will deal with this situation. What would
you say to those individuals like Jordan and others who this piece of
legislation deems to address in terms of individuals who are impersonating a
Mr. Spratt: The
first thing I'd say to victims, especially falling under this section of the
Criminal Code, is that their concerns are completely valid. Of course, I think
offences committed by someone under the guise of being a person in authority are
repugnant and should be punished.
What I'd say to victims is, firstly, this piece
of legislation is unlikely to prevent people like them from being victimized by
people who are going to dress up as police officers. It will not reduce those
I would also tell them that our courts take this
matter very seriously already, and strict sentences are imposed. Indeed, in
situations like theirs, it's recognized by our appellate courts and our common
law that it is an aggravating factor on sentence, that it will increase the
offender's sentence already.
I may or may not get into a lengthy discourse on
the academic criminological studies on the bill, but I would communicate to them
that increasing complexity is not something we should strive for if their very
valid concerns are already being addressed by our courts as to the operation of
the law as it is.
Senator Meredith: You're fully comfortable that this
committee can take your testimony as saying you equate it to lifting the
Criminal Code, and I think you're a very strong man. In terms of having those
particular laws on our books already, we're always trying to get to the rights
of the victims and how we can best introduce legislation that will protect them
and be a deterrent to those individuals who would tend to break the law and
victimize innocent individuals like Jordan.
Mr. Spratt: I don't think this law will act as a
deterrent. One of the consequences of this law is it can increase complexity and
costs down the road. Of course, there's a finite amount of money that we have to
invest in policing, justice and the courts. If this complexity increases costs,
perhaps for no substantial benefit, I would say perhaps those resources could be
directed into an increased police presence, targeted policing, which actually
does reduce criminal offences, or be directed to the very important issue of
victim services and making sure there are resources for victims.
Senator Baker: I have a short question to understand
exactly where Mr. Spratt is coming from.
Do you recall reading a recent case, last year, by a provincial
court judge, Fradsham, who summarized the law as you put it here today?
Mr. Spratt: I have seen the case. I didn't review it
before I came.
Senator Baker: He says exactly what you are saying.
Although Fradsham is only a provincial judge, he stands out as one of the best
at summarizing the law.
Your main point is this: Down the road, what you're suggesting to
this committee is that somebody may be convicted of an offence under 130, and in
the sentencing under 130, may be subjected to additional sentencing on the basis
of an offence that was not proven, an offence where there was no evidence that
the person committed the offence, therefore violating the principle of being
sentenced for an offence that the person did not commit.
Mr. Spratt: That's certainly a possibility.
The Chair: I want to thank both the witnesses for
appearing here today.
Mr. Spratt, it's good to see you again. We always appreciate your
Superintendent, it's good of you to travel here to assist the
committee today. We very much appreciate it.
Committee, we are going to conclude on that note. We believe
we're going to be deep into the issue of Bill C-23 next week with the pre-study.
Senator Frum will be sponsoring that legislation.
I want to remind steering committee members that we will be
meeting following the conclusion of this. I just wanted to bring our members up
I would remind you that if the motion is adopted, it includes
authorization to sit, and that schedule of hearings will be determined by the
steering committee. The clerk will be advising you of what that will look like,
but I want to assure you that if it is adopted we're looking at a very busy week
prior to the break.
With respect to clause-by-clause study of this legislation,
hopefully we can deal with it in a timely way. That's something that the
steering committee can determine, and we'll try to get it before the committee
as quickly as possible.
(The committee adjourned.)