STANDING COMMITTEE ON JUSTICE
AND HUMAN RIGHTS
COMITÉ PERMANENT DE LA JUSTICE
ET DES DROITS DE LA PERSONNE
[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]
Wednesday, May 12, 1999
The Chair (Mr. John Maloney (Erie—Lincoln, Lib.)):
I will now convene the meeting for the discussion of Bill
C-440. We have with us the proposer
of the bill, Mr. Dan McTeague.
Welcome, Mr. McTeague.
Mr. Dan McTeague, M.P. (Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge,
Lib.): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The Chair: Do you have a presentation for us?
Mr. Dan McTeague: It's good
to see you again and to be able to deal with an issue
that I think touches a lot of us here.
Mr. Chairman, first of all, I want to thank my
co-sponsor, who couldn't be here. Joe
Jordan, the member for Leeds-Grenville, along with
myself, have discussed a number of issues and have had
similar circumstances in our vicinities in the
past year or so. We were somewhat troubled by
the fact that the reckless act of taking
a 2,000-pound vehicle and driving
it with the purpose of
fleeing police often winds up with injury or death—and
that it was simply the police that would receive the
punishment. We felt that there was some need to at
least provide some balance, and I wanted to begin
by making that opening statement. I think it's
important to understand that these things don't arrive
simply because of one person thinking about a bill.
I'm also pleased that, respectively, the
Sub-Committee on Private Members' Business chose this to
be a votable motion and that there was
unanimous consent from the House after one hour of
debate to bring it to your committee, sir.
Members, I think the issue is very straightforward.
Bill C-440 is really about adding to the
Criminal Code a section dealing with the
matter of flight. It
would actually be under section 249 of the Criminal
Code, and it would, I believe, telegraph a
message to those who flee police with
impunity that to do so without reasonable grounds
would have them wind up with clear and very predictable
I don't need to challenge members here, Mr.
Chairman. We all have incidents that have
occurred in our regions and our provinces in recent
times, incidents that are testimony to the carnage we have
seen as a result. I remember speaking not too long ago
to Madam the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister
of Justice about the death of Father Ilce Miovski in
my riding. He was a community leader of great repute, an
individual who had really been a pillar in a
in Macedonian community of well over 10,000 in my
community in Toronto. He was tragically struck
as a result of
someone who was apparently fleeing. In this case, of
was not the police he was fleeing but the owner
of another vehicle.
I think the point has been made by the deaths of
Constable Richard Sonnenberg in Alberta, Sarah Bowman
Ilce Miovski, and by the deaths of so many others, like
Mr. Clyde Barnaby,
for instance, who was killed not too long ago, just
outside my riding.
Mr. Chairman, I think what is required and what
this bill seeks to do, really, is to send a message, not
simply of deterrence in itself but to have some
predictable penalties for those who contemplate simply
leaving police as a means of trying to evade other
sanctions or for whatever reason, notwithstanding
Currently, as most of you will probably know—I know
there are some lawyers in this crowd—there are two
sections that touch on the issue of sanctions when it
comes to operation of a motor vehicle, those being
sections 249 and
220, one dealing with the dangerous operation of a motor
vehicle and the other one dealing with causing death by
Mr. Chairman, I think it's clear that there is a
a unanimous desire from all quarters of this
country to send a very strong and very unequivocal
message to individuals, that being that society holds the
irresponsibility of fleeing to be something that is
extremely objectionable and that should get
a measured degree of punishment, perhaps the kind of
punishment that would outweigh the very reasons or
motives for the person to evade in the first place.
It's for that reason that anybody who engages in the
reckless disregard of innocent victims or who places our
police, our public safety officers, our
peace officers, at risk and at variance with the
public should receive a degree of recognition for those
acts, and those acts should themselves carry with them an
opprobrium sufficient to prevent this from happening
in the future.
Obviously I hope there will be some questions
from the members of the committee, because I think it's
One of the interesting parts
of this bill is the fact that if we do believe that
there are other instruments, which were announced, for
instance, by the provincial minister, the Solicitor
General, just some weeks ago, about the use of more
regulations for police and perhaps even helicopters....
This bill may serve to
provide an opportunity wherein once the identification
is made of the potential assailant, the potential
criminal, one could simply break off the chase, not put
the public at risk, and then apprehend the individual at
some point down the road with the understanding that
the penalties would be measures that
would not be something that would be “trade-off-able” as
in what we see currently under section 249, the
dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, where an offence
is punishable for a certain period
of time...or summary offences.
Mr. Chairman, I think the bill at least gives
us an opportunity to provide more than simply
deterrence. It gives us an opportunity to actually
respond to something that I
think is very much needed in all quarters of our
For the purposes of the members,
I will distribute copies of the speech that I gave in the House. It
is in both official languages. I can also answer your questions in
I look forward to your comments. This is a process that will
require amendment to ensure the survival of this bill. Obviously,
nothing is carved in stone. There is room for some flexibility. I
am here to help innocent victims who are threatened by
irresponsible acts of individuals who fail to assume the
responsibilities we all have toward other members of society.
I am now ready to answer your questions. Thank you, Mr.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. McTeague.
Seven-minute rounds, with Mr. Cadman first.
Mr. Chuck Cadman (Surrey North, Ref.): Thank
you, Mr. Chair.
I don't have any real questions. As I say, I think
the bill is pretty well straightforward. I'd just
like to make a brief comment about something that I
recollect from a couple of years ago. I was coming
playing hockey one night and came around a corner to
see flashing red lights about three blocks ahead of
me. My wife and I were in the car. I got to that
intersection, saw a total wreck, and feared it
was my own daughter, because I knew that she and her friend
were right in front of us, about five minutes in front
What I found out later—from talking to the police after
I went around the corner and spoke to some of the
members I knew—was that we had a fellow there who
was well known to police. He was already on probation
for stealing vehicles and running. He was taunting the
police. He went by them with his car lights out, waving
and yelling out the
window at them at 2 in the
morning. He went through a red light and T-boned a lady
coming home from a church meeting, killing her
instantly, on the spot.
I just wanted to make that comment on the record as
to why I'll wholeheartedly support anything we can do to
do something with these people who do these things.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Cadman.
Mr. Reynolds, do you want to take the balance of that
Mr. John Reynolds (West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast,
Ref.): Yes, I'll take the balance.
I want to congratulate
Dan McTeague for this bill. I think it's very good.
I put in an amendment on the sentencing aspect, which
I guess you'll bring
out at the next meeting, but
I think this is something that we can all agree is a good
The Chair: Thank you.
Mr. Michel Bellehumeur (Berthier—Montcalm): I haven't read
your speech and perhaps it contains a partial answer to my
question. Assuming your bill passes and section 249.1 takes effect,
does this mean a person could be charged with both the dangerous
operation of a vehicle and with failing to stop while being pursued
by a peace officer? Could a person be charged with both offences?
Mr. Dan McTeague: I don't think so. If Parliament does pass
this bill, it will be up to a judge to rule on the reason why
Parliament included this specific provision in the Criminal Code.
I also think that the penalties in the bill are harsher than
the ones set out in section 249.
Mr. Michel Bellehumeur: On the question of penalties, section
249 states the following:
(2) Every one who commits an offence under subsection (1)...
That offence would be dangerous driving.
(a) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment
for a term not exceeding five years; or
There is no distinction made when the flight causes death. Is that
the distinction being made here?
Mr. Dan McTeague: No. The difference, Mr. Bellehumeur, is not
simply that the term of imprisonment is now five years. The
difference is that the offence is now punishable on summary
Mr. Michel Bellehumeur: I see. Subsection (3), moreover, notes
(3) Every one who commits an offence under subsection (1) and
thereby causes bodily harm to any other person is guilty of an
indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not
exceeding ten years.
While your bill does have some merit, there is a problem. If
there is something that the lawmakers have failed to mention and
that they should do, then I don't have a problem and I will support
your bill. Today, if a person is being pursued by a peace officer,
fails to stop and in the process, kills someone standing on the
sidewalk, in my view, that person could be charged under section
249.1(3), which is somewhat similar to the proposed section
249.1(1). Could you explain the difference to me?
Mr. Dan McTeague: I think I understand your question now.
There are three parts to section 249. The existing provision call
for a term of imprisonment of five years or summary conviction; in
the case of the bill, the penalty is imprisonment for life, not for
a term of 14 years. There are similarities, however, between the
two. You will note that subsection (3) of the bill is similar to
the existing provision, but that the two new provisions I am
proposing in the bill are not the same as the existing ones.
Mr. Michel Bellehumeur: You're talking about penalties. As for
the substance of this section and the offence itself, would you not
agree that the person charged under your proposed section 249.1(1)
could also be charged under section 249.1, although the punishment
would be slightly different?
Mr. Dan McTeague: Perhaps, but we must take into account the
fact that purpose of this bill is to address the issue of flight,
rather than simply stating that anything other than flight can
constitute the dangerous operation of a vehicle.
We want to send out a message, namely that fleeing the police
is a criminal act abhorrent to society and we want this to be
spelled out clearly in the Criminal Code.
Mr. Michel Bellehumeur: I have to tell you that I have a bit
of problem with this. I'm trying to understand.
I can appreciate that some clarification is in order and that
you have a specific objective in mind, namely to address the
problem of persons fleeing the police, but if we have to amend
every single section of the Criminal Code to cover every possible
situation, we'll end up with 5,000 sections, not the current 1,200
I trained as a lawyer, but I have not practised law in 25
years. Peter, who was once a crown attorney, may approach the
matter differently than I do, but it seems to me that...
Mr. Jacques Saada (Brossard—La Prairie, Lib.): That makes 25
years between the two of you.
Mr. Michel Bellehumeur: Maybe so.
As I see it, the Criminal Code is drafted in such a way as not
to target specific offences, because in any case, some are certain
to be overlooked. The provisions are drafted in general terms and
case law is developed over time.
I recall some cases heard in court involving flight, cases
where peace officers had pursued a person driving a motor vehicle.
There was one case in Joliette where a driver crashed his vehicle
into a store window and injured several people. The driver was
charged with the dangerous operation of a motor vehicle and the
fact that some people had been injured came into play. He did not
get off lightly.
I can understand that what you are proposing might be clearer,
but why draft a new provision when there is an existing one that
covers the same offence?
Mr. Dan McTeague: I think we need to take into consideration
the fact that the provision you're referring to would not, without
my amendment and my bill, be specific enough or cover a situation
with a person is fleeing the police. They say that dangerous
driving is a catch-all, it does everything else except. It doesn't
include flight as such. There is nothing saying that a person
fleeing the police will be automatically charged with dangerous
You must understand that the sole objective of this bill is to
make up for the omission in the Criminal Code of a section covering
a specific act, in this case, flight without reasonable grounds
from the police. I realize I'm not a lawyer. There is also the
question of beating up a police officer.
What is the one about beating up a policeman?
A voice: Aggravated assault.
Mr. Dan McTeague: We are asking for the inclusion in the
Criminal Code of a specific section to address this issue, instead
of settling for a provision of a more general nature.
The Chair: Mr. Peter MacKay.
Mr. Peter MacKay (Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, PC):
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
McTeague, I too want to congratulate you
for the initiative you've taken.
As you know, I've spoken to this bill. I'm supportive
of the bill, but I do have a couple of questions, some
of which Mr. Bellehumeur has touched upon.
I know what you're seeking to accomplish and what in
effect this bill will accomplish, and that is to bring
together.... There are two elements that I see happening.
It brings together some Criminal Code sections that
already exist. The dangerous driving section exists.
The flight element...there are sections of the code
that you've referred to, such as resisting arrest and
fleeing lawful custody, and you use the example of taking
assault and adding the element of assault on a police
officer. I would use another example: committing an
offence while using a weapon, which I
think is more analogous to what you're accomplishing
But having practised criminal law, I know that one of the
biggest challenges that the crown prosecutor and, by
extension, the police face in securing a conviction is
proving all the elements of the offence. What this new
section of the Criminal Code does is to put a new
element to this offence, which now has to be proved,
It's obviously viewed now by the courts
as an aggravating circumstance, extremely so, this fact that
a person kills another individual using a vehicle as a
weapon. This bill in and of itself highlights
that fact. The weapon here is the
vehicle, which is being used in a dangerous fashion and
results in death. But I can't help but wonder aloud
why a prosecutor would choose to go with this
particular section when they already have available to them
the Criminal Code section that you're aware of:
dangerous use or operation of a motor vehicle
Aside from the fact that it has
a higher sanction, I would be fearful that
the crown would view this as the crown being
required to prove the element of flight
beyond a reasonable doubt, along with every other
element, along with jurisdictional requirements,
identification, the driving element—the entire
caseload and presumption carried by the crown. We now
have to additionally
prove flight and have witnesses to that and be able to
additional evidentiary requirement beyond a reasonable
doubt through our evidence
and through the presentation of our case.
Mr. Dan McTeague: That's a good question, Mr.
MacKay. I suppose that is probably the task of both
crown and defence in terms of looking after the
discharge of the Criminal Code, in terms of the process
in which we adjudge people to be guilty or innocent.
I suspect that in this case.... Let me first of all say
that there is a provision
within this bill that deals with double jeopardy. I'm
sorry; I was trying to get that out with Mr.
I want to make sure that is on the record as well. If
my clear reading of the bill.... I will get back to
him in just a second and he'll have another chance
to respond to that.
Richard Sonnenberg was killed in 1993. Under the same
provisions of the law, the offender in this case
received a sentence of merely six years for the life of
a police officer.
I realize that in many instances the person who has
committed an offence or is about to commit an offence
under this bill may be simply trying to evade
something as simple as a suspended driver's
licence. In many of those cases, I think, it
would be a question of experts coming forward at some
point down the road. I'm sure there are witnesses
who will be able to talk to you at greater length about
the need and the necessity to send a specific message,
certainly in those instances.
As for the ability to prove why someone would not
take dangerous driving...I suppose that in this case it
would probably be because we want to telegraph a
message to the public at large that leaving the scene
or leaving the apprehension of an officer carries with
it a fairly serious sanction. Whether the crown could
prove that or not, I suppose, to make that argument
is another tool at the
disposal of the crown. You have
infinitely more experience in that area than probably
any of us here. I would only suggest that this
does send more than just a political message. It
does provide another legal tool. Whether it is used or
not, I think it is really a question of discretion that
will fit the circumstances.
I can say this: the circumstances surrounding many of
these evasions deal, again, with people who are fleeing
for probably the most inane of reasons and who can do so by
simply saying that they are going to put the police officer
or whoever is chasing them in
harm's way, in front of the
public, so that in that case they can probably force them to
disengage, or they can shake off whatever it is they're evading.
I think what the public seeks from all of us here
is a solution to a very specific problem, a
unique problem, which I frankly think requires a unique
response in the Criminal Code.
Mr. Peter MacKay: I think that's a perfect answer,
and it's one that I agree with. You can add to
that as well that even though this is probably a very
narrow gap in the Criminal Code, it's one that will send
a message of general and specific deterrence. I
suspect that there will be occasion...that this could be
used, and it is aimed, I suppose, at embodying in the
code a specific message for the police themselves—that
choosing to flee, for whatever reason, is going to be
met with a greater sanction.
That brings me to what I suppose is a statement
as opposed to a question. It appears that over the
years there has been somewhat of a back-and-forth on the
issue of pursuit, with the police themselves making the
decision as to whether they will in fact pursue a
criminal that's fleeing in a motor vehicle.
that in the research that led up to your introduction of
this bill, you encountered some of those cases and the
precedents where police themselves have been accused of
exercising poor discretion in pursuing a vehicle,
particularly through a residential area, or in any
where it ended in a tragedy and the result was death or
injury on the part of either the person who was fleeing
or a bystander. Do you feel that this is consistent,
then, with the police and their most recent policy—as
opposed to a legislative initiative—that they will in
fact pursue, in most instances, a criminal who is
Mr. Dan McTeague: Mr. MacKay, that's an excellent
question. I'm not sure that this is going to be the
ultimate panacea for a problem which is, frankly, a
constant in every one of our communities. I can say
this: in my province, Ontario, the Solicitor General
has of course released the Suspect Apprehension
Pursuits Report. The night Father Ilce Miovski
was killed, the media did not report the fact that two
other evasions had taken place that evening. In both
those instances, to my understanding, to my knowledge,
the police actually broke off the chase, fearing,
of course, that these individuals who were engaging in
reckless and wanton abandon—a risk to the public—were
prepared to use the public as a wedge between
themselves and being apprehended.
My fear with all of
this is that if we don't have a bill that demonstrates
some goodwill rather than regulating the police, where we're
in a situation where we're not regulating the criminals but the
police, I suppose the incentive might
be for an officer or those that command not to
engage in the chase in the first place. The
question becomes, how do you enforce the laws that are
there in some circumstances when it's made almost practically
impossible to do so? It's easy to simply say yes, let them go.
In the Brampton case, you had someone who had
broken into several homes—the case is before the
courts, obviously—and you had somebody who was then
pursuing. They had gone through seven red lights, and
fortunately no one
was hurt in that, but at the eighth light,
Sarah Bowman, a 20-year-old girl, was killed, her life
knocked out of her by someone who frankly couldn't
care. Very little of this had to do with the police
In all those instances that I can think of,
the SIU has actually cleared the police, and
I think the SIU has done its job. I think the
problem is that we as legislators may have missed the
boat for a couple of years, and it takes more.... I'm
not one to believe that it takes the death of a person to
convince us of how to do the right thing, but I think
in this case we have to look very clearly at the
message that I think is being sent from all-political,
all-community, all-gender quarters of our society,
which is that.... For instance, I was so surprised to see
my neighbourhood The Toronto Sun, The Toronto Star,
The Globe and Mail, and a bunch of other papers
are all saying
the same thing. They're saying okay, the provinces
and the police are
doing their jobs, and in fact if they don't do their
job, there are a number of sanctions, but what about
those who knowingly engage in this kind of activity?
It places all of us at risk, and it's just a numbers
game before one of our loved ones get hurt.
We talk about the deaths, but no one talks about the
injuries, and there are many injuries. What's the cost
Mr. MacKay, I know of an instance that happened
shortly after I was speaking to the CPA in Belleville.
I think you
were there as well that day. There were
two instances where the police simply refused to engage
because of the concern they had, the ultimate concern
about risk to themselves. Where is the ability to
uphold the law there?
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. MacKay.
Mr. Jacques Saada: I have a fairly basic question for you.
It's not technical at all. I'm not a lawyer.
If I understand correctly, a person can be charged with
dangerous driving under existing provisions in the Criminal Code.
Your bill would make flight as such a criminal offence.
Mr. Dan McTeague: This is not a case of double jeopardy. The
penalty would be different.
Mr. Jacques Saada: I understand. I'm simply trying to
understand Mr. Bellehumeur's question. Existing Criminal Code
provisions, specifically section 249, cover the offence of
dangerous driving. Is that correct?
Mr. Dan McTeague: Yes.
Mr. Jacques Saada: You're referring to behaviour which, while
not necessarily constituting dangerous driving, would nevertheless
be considered criminal.
Mr. Dan McTeague: Yes.
Mr. Jacques Saada: Is that in fact your objective?
Mr. Dan McTeague: Yes, it is. However, I would like to direct
your attention to subsections (3) and (4) which concern
double jeopardy. You can't be charged for both things,
Mr. Jacques Saada: I understand.
Mr. Dan McTeague: At present, this can be done, although
discretion can be exercised. The Crown may decide that this falls
under section 249 or section 220. However, in both of these
instances, there is no specific reference to the behaviour or to
the act of fleeing the police.
Secondly, as I mentioned earlier, the penalty set out in the
bill is different.
Mr. Jacques Saada: I understand. Let's take a straightforward
example, to further our understanding.
A police officer is pursuing a vehicle and the driver attempts
to flee. He arrives at a level crossing, doesn't stop, proceeds
through the crossing and continues on. The police officer pursuing
the vehicle must stop and wait for a train to pass. In this
particular case, could the driver be charged under a provision in
Mr. Dan McTeague: Yes.
Mr. Jacques Saada: However, he could not be charged with
dangerous driving under section 249?
Mr. Dan McTeague: That depends. If he was driving dangerously
in this instance, then the answer is yes. The new provision is
meant to address a different situation, but in this case, the
answer would be yes.
Mr. Jacques Saada: This provision is a little more inclusive.
Mr. Dan McTeague: It addresses specific behaviour. These two
sections of the Criminal Code and even others can always be
invoked. However, this clause covers specific behaviour in a
particular instance and provides for specific penalties.
Mr. Jacques Saada: Thank you.
The Chair: Mr. Lee, do you want to take the
balance of his seven minutes?
Mr. Derek Lee (Scarborough—Rouge River, Lib.):
Sure, Mr. Chairman.
I want to congratulate Mr. McTeague on
attempting to address this perceived gap in the
You're a fairly prolific contributor
to private members' business legislation—
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Derek Lee: —and I congratulate
you, but you've also learned how picky your colleagues can
be when bills do come forward.
Just to give you an idea of how picky some of us can
be, the essence of this bill is described in the
margin as “flight”, but as I read the proposed section, it is
perhaps “failure to stop”. The essential legal
element here is failure to stop, and if I may, I will just
read the proposed section in layman's terms with a kind
of a charter perspective on it, because nowhere here,
apparently, is there an element that the individual has
done anything wrong—as the section commences.
just assume in my hypothetical case, as I read this with
layman's words, that you have a citizen who has done
nothing wrong and is driving a motor vehicle. The
proposed section reads, essentially, that a policeman
may pursue a
citizen, but if the citizen fails to stop, the policeman
may charge and try to convict.
I don't think that's what you have in mind. I think
you have a bad guy in mind. If there is an agent of
the state who is also a police officer and who happens to
be pursuing the citizen, I think the courts will have
some difficulty embracing that relationship at first
blush. Now, if the individual has done something wrong
and the policeman has reasonable cause to take up a
pursuit, that's okay. But if that isn't the case, how would
the citizen even know he's being pursued?
Mr. Dan McTeague: Good question, Mr. Lee, but I think
the way I had structured the wording of the bill.... Right
off in the first paragraph it says, anyone
operating a motor vehicle who is pursued
by a police officer and who fails to stop,
“without reasonable cause and in order to evade the
peace officer”. I think one would have to be
able to prove it. I think this was the question that
was asked a little
earlier. One would have to get into the whole question of
whether or not the person had intended to do so.
Reasonable cause would probably not, I suspect, include
something along the lines of “I just didn't even
notice he was there”. However, it's a different thing
to say, “I saw him and I went for 15 miles and there was
a spike belt put in front of me, I avoided
that, killed a cop along the way, and ran around the
corner.” I understand that you're concerned about what
this does to the reasonable man or woman in the street
who says they just didn't see them or a peace officer
that doesn't have the cherries flashing.... In those
how would a judge look at that? I suspect that in those
cases a judge would probably not agree that a person
like that would be construed as having engaged in
not stopping or failing to stop or engaging in
flight, however you want to arrange it.
By the way, I point out to you that if you have some
technical...some concerns in terms of
this bill, if it creates greater
certainty for our enforcers and for those who interpret
law, then by all means—you are collectively far better
at writing law and improving a bill than I am. I would
say that the question of reasonable cause in my mind,
in the way I understand it, would mean that if I
didn't see the person pulling me over and it was a dark
night or if I thought it was
someone trying to do something or play a
game with me, then, I think, that person would not have to
be subjected to.... A charge could always be made. Anyone
can make a charge.
Mr. Derek Lee: Close to 100% of our
peace officers operate in good faith out there, but if
there is one bad circumstance, let's say, like a peace
officer who follows for five miles, is just
following and is curious, and the driver isn't paying
attention and doesn't know he's being followed.... He's in a
bad mood and he's distracted. The policeman ultimately
pulls him over. The guy rolls down the window and
says, “You son of a bitch. What did you pull me
over for? I haven't done anything wrong.” The
policeman says, “I'll show you why I pulled you over.
It's section 249.1. I've been following you for five
miles, and you can tell your story to the judge. If you
have a reasonable case, fine, but right now you have a
bad attitude, buddy, and you get a criminal charge.”
That's something I'm concerned about. There isn't an
answer here, but we'll be thinking about that.
The good thing about this is that you've built in the
concept of pursuit, but maybe the bad news is that
pursuit is built in as well, because in urban
scenarios—and I guess even in suburban or rural
pursuits are dangerous. They increase the risk to the
innocent public. So if the pursuit is there, those
kinds of pursuits are usually seen to be risky and
should be avoided. But then, I suppose, your section
allows the breaking off of a pursuit where there has
already been a pursuit. That charge could be laid
Mr. Dan McTeague: Exactly.
Mr. Derek Lee: —because there has been a flight,
but you would still have to show that the driver knew
he was being pursued.
Mr. Dan McTeague: Mr. Lee, on that point, I'd just
like to point out that in the case of the government's
Suspect Apprehension Pursuits Report in our
province, that's in fact the genius, if I can call it
that, behind what they are trying to accomplish. In
the cases where it might put the public at risk,
obviously mere identification would be the best way of
doing it—otherwise, don't try to engage.
I'm not going to defend or talk about the Government
of Ontario's policies. That's not what I'm here to
achieve. I'm here to try to look at the best
means by which to signal to the public in general that
society holds in certain contempt the act of fleeing a
peace officer for grounds that are totally unreasonable
and for which often.... No one takes into account the
mourning of the young girl in Brampton or the leader of
the community in Scarborough.
This is not what I would call “the perfect bill”, but I
do believe that some of the concerns that might be
addressed in this bill can be ironed out before the
courts. Peace officers may not always make the right
assumption when it comes to charging someone. Just
look at the Highway Traffic Act in our province.
What's the rate of people who beat the accusation,
who beat the charge? Often the identification is not
right, etc., but rather than dealing with the
niceties of what might happen in unique and particular
circumstances—and this is
probably to respond not just to your question but to the
questions from Monsieur Saada and Monsieur
Bellehumeur—the very last subclause here deals with
double jeopardy and says that “the accused may be convicted
of an offence under section 249 or 249.1, as the case may be”.
I tried to provide the flexibility to have both.
Mr. Derek Lee: That's good. Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Lee.
Round two, Mr. MacKay.
Mr. Peter MacKay: Taking advantage of the
fact that Mr. McTeague's here, I know we are going
to be studying this in detail, but I agree with the
seriousness that would lead to the designation of this
as an indictable offence. I totally embrace that,
because I think that in most instances a person
fleeing the police is doing
so, as you pointed out in the wording, “to evade” the
and probably to evade the police for some criminal
offence that they've already committed.
However, picking up where Mr. Lee left off, I'm
going to give you sort of a hypothetical here. I can
envision a young
driver who panics, who is in the process of being pulled over
by the police and
engages in a chase for a short period of time—be it in
a rural area or an urban centre, a very dangerous act—and
who now faces conviction for an indictable offence. I'm
putting that forward and I'd like your response or your
feeling about the possibility of designating at
least this proposed section 249.1 as hybrid, where the
crown would have an election to go by way of summary or
As you know, there's going to be
an election and, in most cases, if the accused has an
election, they're going to go to the Supreme Court and
they're going to elect trial by jury. I'm
not saying the cost is the overriding concern here;
I'm more concerned about delay. You can get most cases
into provincial court within six months. In my
province of Nova Scotia, you're looking at
upwards of two to three years sometimes before you get a jury
trial. I'd just be interested in hearing your
Mr. Dan McTeague: I suspect that one of the
distinguishing factors of the bill versus the Criminal
Code, certainly as it relates to criminal negligence,
and certainly as far as dangerous driving goes, is the fact
that the term “indictable” is there and the
term “summary” is
not there for a good reason. Again, the question
is the message that you want to send out.
I take your point about the person who panics, the
young individual who, for whatever reason, just doesn't
know what to do and is scared, who has never
committed a serious act or contemplated doing such a
thing, and yes, they engaged in a reckless act that could
have killed people. I suppose, Mr. MacKay, I come back
to the responsibility one has when one operates a
2,000-pound bullet. I say that we would look at
this in a very different light if, for instance, the
person said they had a really tough day at business,
went out and had 15 glasses of beer and then went
out, gunned it, and killed somebody, saying that he panicked,
damn it, that he shouldn't have done that, that he
was having a really bad
day. I'm not sure if in those circumstances.... Yes,
there are always mitigating circumstances, and I think
that's why the word “reasonable” is in
there, in “without reasonable cause”. I think it would
be better for a jury or a judge to actually make that
As to the question of election, I can only suggest
that if the bill is deemed not to be strong enough to
send that kind of a message such that it is traded off on
another lesser charge that society would be rather
concerned about, then this bill would need fine-tuning
upwards, not downwards. I'm trying to give a sort of
minimum here. Again, as I said, I'm not married to the
final product, but I would say that if it's a summary
offence or summary conviction, one that's going to get a
proverbial slap on the wrist, then I'd suggest that the
election would already be made and that someone would
simply go to what is currently in the code.
Mr. Peter MacKay: Don't get me wrong. I'm not
trying to water it down.
Mr. Dan McTeague: I understand that.
Mr. Peter MacKay: All I'm suggesting is that if it
is a hybrid offence, then there's a crown election as
to how to pursue the case and, in my opinion, it would
more because you would enable the crown and
the police to have that circumstance, that type of
scenario that I'm putting forward, without having an
all-or-nothing decision to make. Do we pursue this
individual who panicked and led the police on a .5
and then regained his senses and
stopped the vehicle before anybody was endangered?
Do we just forget about that altogether or do we try
to pursue a flimsy case through the Supreme Court?
It's not to diminish the seriousness of it.
Mr. Dan McTeague: No, I hope you didn't take my
response as being a concern about that,
but I have brought the issue as far as I can, to this
stage, so that these kinds of questions are asked not
just of me, as the proposer of the bill, but also to
provide yourselves and arm yourselves with the kind of
expert witnesses that might be able to, in some way,
deal with the potential—albeit not as probable, but
then again, we don't know what the future
holds—pitfalls that might be associated with the bill in
its current form. I'm pleased to be here as one member
with an idea, based on something that I think in pretty
well every corner of this country some
consensus is developing on. Something is better than
Mr. Peter MacKay: Sure.
Mr. Dan McTeague: —and I think the status quo is
totally unacceptable, certainly to those who are today
six feet under the ground as a result of the fact that
we could have done something in the past and perhaps
didn't have the foresight to do it.
Mr. Peter MacKay: I appreciate that. We're
looking forward to having experts testify on this. I'm
sure we'll get into some of the finer tuning that you
refer to. But you wouldn't take offence, then, to the
suggestion of, in the first
instance, where there is no accident, no death, no
injury involved, perhaps making this a hybrid offence.
Mr. Dan McTeague: It would currently be that, I
would suspect, in other provisions of the act, and in
subclause 4(5), “For greater certainty...”, I have
options that are there. To say that the bill would be
better improved by doing something like that if.... I guess
the proviso, the concern I have here, is to not deter
or detract from the concern we have, which is to send that
proper message. In those circumstances where you do
have someone, if it simply isn't caught by the
catchphrase “without reasonable cause”, then, I
bill would be doomed. It would be folly not
to accept the collective
wisdom of this Parliament in order to ensure that it's
Mr. Peter MacKay: I don't have the Criminal Code
with me, unfortunately—
Mr. Dan McTeague: Neither do I.
Mr. Peter MacKay: —but I'm just looking at the
words “reasonable cause”. This is very nitpicky,
with all respect. I know that we sometimes tend to approach
these Criminal Code sections like trying to separate
pepper from fly manure with boxing gloves on, but the
wording is very important at times. It's open
not only to lawyers' interpretations but to judicial
interpretation. Where it states “reasonable
cause”...I'm not sure if in other sections it uses
excuse”—in dangerous driving causing death or bodily
harm, for example.
Mr. Dan McTeague: Mr. MacKay, I don't have an
answer to that. I would suspect that the wording
“reasonable cause” is in other sections of the
Criminal Code that are very similar to this, but I
don't have that here in front of me and it would take
me a few minutes to try to go through parts that I do
have in front of me in order to be able to
tell you whether that's there or
Mr. Peter MacKay: I think the wording is
“excuse”. That's most often used. That's a section
that I'm more familiar with, but again, I think we'll
have a chance—
Mr. Dan McTeague: If the word “excuse” is there,
as a layman, I suppose, the word “excuse” would
suffice and would probably go some distance towards
satisfying the rightful concern you presented about
that individual who may have panicked, who did whatever
he did. But again, I don't want to take away
from what we're trying to accomplish here, and in this
case that's a firm and clear but understanding
response to a problem that has obviously gripped the
public. In some circumstances and some quarters where
Derek and I and others come from, it has reached
epidemic proportions—if not for the fact the media from
time to time doesn't report them.
Mr. Peter MacKay: Thank you very much.
The Chair: Mr. Lee.
Mr. Derek Lee: I just want to suggest
that we put a proviso on the intent of the police
officer. I'm sure Mr. McTeague wouldn't object either.
I was thinking along these lines: everyone who commits
an offence who's operating a motor vehicle while being
pursued by a police officer who has reasonable grounds
to apprehend the motor vehicle or an occupant of it.
That kind of a proviso would make it necessary for the
policeman who was pursuing to have a reason to pursue
in the first place.
What is your reaction to that suggestion?
Mr. Dan McTeague: I suppose the reason to pursue
would be.... I don't know, Mr. Lee. I think the question
is better...if someone has fled with a body in the trunk
of the car, I would not have known that if were not for
the fact.... I suppose those who have those statistics
may be able to give you those statistics. Again,
perhaps coming back to why people flee in the first
place, it may be for
such trivial reasons that the peace officer or police
officer might never have taken notice in the first instance.
we're trying to penalize is not the person simply
trying to evade something else but the fact that they
have engaged in an act that is inherently dangerous to
the public at large. So gunning it, on its own, is an act
society at risk, puts innocent bystanders at risk, and
often winds up either harming someone in the public
domain or, worse perhaps, undermining our
administration of justice by placing the police in a
position where they actually commit an error that
would never have happened if the person had exercised
responsibility, not recklessness.
Mr. Derek Lee: Thank you.
The Chair: Mr. MacKay had another quick
Mr. Peter MacKay: Just arising out of that, there
It's “peace officer”, Derek. It's something that you run
all the time because there's—
Mr. Derek Lee: What did I say?
Mr. Peter MacKay: You said “police officer”.
Mr. Derek Lee: Sorry. I meant “peace officer”.
Mr. Peter MacKay: There are forestry officers,
fisheries officers, lands and forests officers.
Mr. Derek Lee: I intended “peace officer”.
Mr. Peter MacKay: But I think what might address
that is an insertion in proposed subclause 249.1(1),
reads “without reasonable”. I'm suggesting that we
insert “excuse” for “cause” and “in order to evade lawful
apprehension”. I know we're not doing
clause-by-clause, but I'm just making some notes on the
draft bill. I think the wording “and in order to evade lawful
apprehension” addresses the concern
that Mr. Lee had about whether the police have the
right in the first place to be trying to stop this
[Editor's Note: Inaudible]
Mr. Derek Lee: ...occupant.
Mr. Peter MacKay: Right. It
highlights this element of pursuit and why the person
is evading the peace
officer in the first place.
Mr. Derek Lee: That's constructive.
Mr. Peter MacKay: So “in order to evade lawful
Mr. Dan McTeague: There's one
thing I want to be very clear on. I
want to understand this between both of you. It will
help me formulate a response. Let's say that
a person who has done
no wrong but happens to be pulled over, say, in a
spot check, as we see at Christmastime or any holiday
time, decides, gee, I've had too many wines
here, and guns it. You must stay at that position and
have whatever inquiry is there. If not, you engage
in a high-speed pursuit that could endanger the public.
That's the act that we want to try—
Mr. Peter MacKay: It's still a lawful
Mr. Dan McTeague: Exactly. And I want to make
Mr. Derek Lee: A spot check is a lawful
Mr. Dan McTeague: —that it's very clear
that's exactly what's intended, as opposed to simply
saying, well, we had no grounds in which to apprehend
you and you just happened to be in a random check. I want
to be very clear on that. Random checks have been
disputed before in various courts. I
certainly don't want to have this
bill watered down with those kinds of circumstances.
Mr. Derek Lee: I understand. It's a good point.
The Chair: Are there more questions?
I have just a couple of questions, Mr.
McTeague. You indicated why you have brought this bill
forward. It's the epidemic that we have on our
highways. Our bills dealing with dangerous driving, impaired
driving, deal not only with motor vehicles but with
vessels, aircraft, etc. Could you envisage an
expansion of this bill to deal, say, with vessels at
least, keeping in mind the problems that we have
in perhaps Toronto Harbour or Lake Muskoka or the Rideau
system or the Niagara River, etc.?
Mr. Dan McTeague: Yes. I—
The Chair: Which are patrolled by peace
Mr. Dan McTeague: That's a good question,
Mr. Chairman. By “motor vehicle” I had assumed any type
of vehicle that operates, although one could argue that
vessels for greater certainty...aircraft, bulldozers, I
don't know, whatever the case may be.... If anything, that
kind of proposal would improve the bill.
The Chair: A motor vehicle is defined very
generally as something that's propelled or driven,
which could include a boat, but I have some
concerns about it. They obviously distinguish it in
impaired driving, in dangerous driving. There has to
be a loophole there...it's more like a car, a truck, as
Mr. Dan McTeague: Exactly. One could think of a
circumstance that might occur tragically this summer,
where the police pull over a boat and the person
decides that they have a bigger motor and they can
outgun the police boat. In the process, they hit
someone in a canoe and kill them. So I suppose the
application is equal.
Going back to the question of
apprehension by a peace officer, again, if it happens on
our highways, it is apt to happen.... Again, I
would probably ask
that question of the witnesses in terms of their
experience with that occurring on the waterways and in
other areas, of locomotives, etc., but I would
think that waterways is certainly one. Aircraft might be
The Chair: Will that then also require
deleting in your third sentence of
proposed subclause 249.1(1) “a
peace officer operating a motor vehicle”? Because in
that case, say, on the waterways, it wouldn't necessarily
be a motor vehicle.
Also, I'll bring up another point. The phrase “a motor
vehicle” does not include bicycles, and
a lot of our police forces are utilizing bikes in law
enforcement; sometimes they're quicker in traffic.
Obviously a car and a bike are no match, but in certain
circumstances I can envisage an officer on a bike.
Mr. Dan McTeague: One could even say “resisting
arrest on foot” or something like that. That's not
to trivialize that; it's
a good point, but I think they have something called
dispatch and they have a radio. Of course, hopefully
it doesn't take
very long for a helicopter or a cruiser to get on site.
I'd suspect that in those circumstances the question is
someone who flees from a peace officer without
reasonable grounds has in fact committed a fairly
serious offence. If that offence should simply mean
knowingly fleeing from a peace officer who, as your
wording has proposed, has tried to provide lawful
arrest, then, I think—or worse, in that a car
somebody down and that person is
injured or killed—the circumstances are
pretty much the same.
I don't think you necessarily need to have the red
lights and a Ford Crown Victoria behind you. We often
come up to a simple spot check on the road, Mr.
Chairman, where the person signals to you to pull over.
He or she is not obviously an officer in a vehicle.
They've simply pointed to you, you've seen
them, and you've gunned it. In those
circumstances, I suppose this bill would say that this
has fled or is about to flee, and, more importantly, that
the length to which they have evaded, at the speeds at
which they have been clocked or followed, would
illustrate the fact the act committed was one that
violates the spirit of this bill.
The Chair: You might want to consider
discussing some of these points with the justice
department officials. I'm sure you've been talking with
them. Maybe we can even improve upon this bill.
Mr. Dan McTeague: Mr. Chairman, I'm very open, and
I'm inviting the committee to do what it can to create
a better bill. I am not by any means the
quintessential architect of private members' bills, as my
colleague and former boss and everything else, Derek
Lee, has pointed out. I have had some experience
with private members' bills.
Mr. Peter MacKay: Were you his boss, Derek?
Mr. Dan McTeague: Derek was my boss
many years ago, but we'll get to that a little later
An hon. member: Now you can blame all of your
problems on him.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Dan McTeague: Actually, Mr. Chairman, with
your indulgence, I was going to read the comments by
Councillor Brad Duguid of Toronto, which is a
resolution passed in support of such similar
legislation. It turns out that Mr. Duguid was also a
previous employee of Mr. Lee—and I just want to put
that on the record as well.
Ms. Eleni Bakopanos (Ahuntsic, Lib.): They're
all over the place!
Mr. Dan McTeague: Mr. Lee has spawned us.
An hon. member: I think that's a conflict of
interest, Mr. Lee.
Mr. Dan McTeague: Mr. Chairman, I leave this bill
in its skeletal form to the better hands and views of a
committee that has had the opportunity to speak to
witnesses. We are all busy, obviously, but this is an
area that I think concerns all of us. I invite the committee
to make the necessary changes to make sure that this is a
viable bill and that it does improve our Criminal Code
so that both peace officers and the public have a
greater measure of security. If we've done that as a
Parliament, collectively as all parties, I think we've
earned our pay today.
The Chair: Ms. Bakopanos has a quick question.
Ms. Eleni Bakopanos: I was waiting until the end,
Mr. Chairman, to say that first of all I want to
congratulate the honourable member for bringing forth
this bill. I also want to thank him for acknowledging
the fact the Minister of Justice and the justice
officials are prepared to come to an agreement to
perhaps incorporate this private members bill in an
omnibus bill, which will come forward “in a timely
fashion”, to use—
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Ms. Eleni Bakopanos: Seriously, I know that the member
has shown every willingness to sit down with the
officials of the Department of Justice
to assure that
this is good legislation and that it actually achieves the
purpose for which the member has brought it forward. So
there will be ongoing negotiations, I hope. I'm not
putting any words in your mouth—
Mr. Dan McTeague: No.
Ms. Eleni Bakopanos: —but I know that the
minister and the officials have already begun to
sit down with the member to assure that the intention
of this bill becomes government legislation. I want
to put that on the record, Mr. Chairman.
The Chair: Thank you, Ms. Bakopanos.
Mr. McTeague, have
you indicated to the clerk any additional witnesses
that you would like us to hear?
Mr. Dan McTeague: I have. We have supplied the
witness list. There may be a
few others as result of some of the concerns that have
been raised here, which we may want to discuss.
suggested by Ms. Bakopanos, I would like to hear from
some of the experts within the justice department in
improve this bill.
I have spoken to the minister and
to her parliamentary secretary on various occasions,
and I think it's the spirit of trying to make this a
lasting bill that will probably help this bill along.
Again, I'm not married to it; I think the bill itself is
just a start. I look for the collective
wisdom of all members here—who have far more knowledge
in this field than I do—to be able to build on
something so that we can accomplish something at the
end of the day.
The Chair: Thank you.
We have one further request
for a comment.
Mr. Peter MacKay: I have just a comment for Mr.
McTeague's information, if he doesn't already know this. We
had prior notice that this was coming our way by virtue
of discussions that took place in the context of
changes to the impaired driving legislation. That
was ample warning for this and it made for good
discussion at that time. I just wanted you to know
that for much of what you have accomplished here today,
there was groundwork laid in the discussions beforehand.
Mr. Dan McTeague: I'm honoured, Mr. MacKay. Thank
you. Maybe I'll be doubly honoured some day when I
actually learn your field and become a full member of
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
The Chair: We'll adjourn until tomorrow at 9