Excerpt from the Official Report of
DEBATES OF THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY

(Hansard)


March 7, 2013

Remarks on Bill 12 — Community Safety Act

S. Simpson: I'm pleased to take my place just for a few moments to talk a little bit about Bill 12, the Community Safety Act. Essentially, what Bill 12 will do is create a director of community safety, and it creates a vehicle to be able to deal with concerns in communities and neighbourhoods about properties where there are activities going on — criminal activities, other activities — that are problematic for the community, for the neighbours, for the people who live in those areas. It provides some alternatives to be able to deal with those issues.

As has been pointed out before by other members here and by the minister, this piece of legislation, Bill 12, the Community Safety Act, picks up on a private member's bill that was introduced by the member for Surrey-Whalley in 2009, the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act, which would have accomplished many of the same objectives as Bill 12 is intended to accomplish here.

Generally, I know — and I think about my own constituency in Vancouver-Hastings — there is no doubt that we have challenges. We have properties there and have residences that are very problematic. I hear from people who come to my office who are concerned about activities they believe are going on in houses in their neighbourhoods, on their block. They inquire to the police. Sometimes the police have an ability to deal with those things, and it seems that sometimes the police don't have the ability to deal with those matters.

I'm generally supportive of the piece of legislation. I think that community safety, neighbourhood safety — creating opportunities for people to be able to feel secure about their own homes and the block they live on when some of this kind of activity is going on — is important. I think this does provide a vehicle and a tool to be able to get at that without necessarily having to go through some of the longer processes that are encompassed in the courts.

I heard the member for Delta South, and other members have made some references to questions around civil liberties. I'm sure that the minister gets this. There are civil liberties questions to be addressed here. I think those are legitimate questions. They need answers, and they need to be explored.

I'm sure that in committee stage there'll be the opportunity to explore some of those matters with the minister and her staff and, hopefully, to get a better understanding of how, in fact, those questions will be dealt with to protect those issues around civil liberties. I'm sure that we all want to be cognizant of that.

The other concerns that have been raised around this piece of legislation, most specifically, have been those raised by the Information and Privacy Commissioner, Ms. Denham. Ms. Denham has raised concerns about areas in this legislation that in fact provide a bit of an override for the act, the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act.

I think anytime the Information and Privacy Commissioner raises questions about why decisions are being made to override the legislation that really kind of comes under her purview and looks for an explanation about why those decisions are being made…. Particularly when she raises a concern that she believes the scope of the act is sufficient to deal with these matters and suggests that she recommends removing the unnecessary override contained in section 8 of the Community Safety Act, I do think that that's an important consideration.

Whenever the Information and Privacy Commissioner raises those issues, I think it's very important that we pay attention to those flags and either get explanations that satisfy her, in this instance, or give serious consideration to an amendment of the legislation that's before us, Bill 12, to deal with the matters that Ms. Denham has spoken about.

The other point, I guess the last point I'd make — and this point was made by the member for Burnaby–Deer Lake, the critic, and I think it's an important point; I'm sure the minister will be more than happy to respond to this in committee stage — is to get a better sense of what the expectation is around the costs of the implementation of this piece of legislation, of Bill 12. What's it going to cost us?

How's it going to be paid for? And where does the money come from — particularly when you consider the limitations that we saw in the most recent budget in a whole array of areas but, most specifically, as it relates to the potential envelopes of funding that might pay for an office such as this. But again, that will be something for us to deal with more specifically when we get to committee stage.

Again, I think there are some significant questions to be dealt with here. I'm hopeful that those questions will all get satisfactory answers and, if there's a need for amendment of the legislation, that that will be borne out when we get to committee stage. But generally, I know from my constituents and from people who have come to see me in my office for comments that have been raised to me….

In cases where we have found houses, residences, where there has been significant illegal criminal activity going on, I certainly know that when action can be taken — when the police can take action, when the city can take action — the people who live on that block always breathe a great sigh of relief whenever that occurs and they see an end to that kind of activity on their block. They feel a little safer and a little more secure when they see an end to that kind of activity on their block.

I'm very open to any legislation that will in fact provide that support. I'm hopeful and confident that that can be done in a way that provides that balance around civil liberties — to protect the legitimate civil liberties of people who might be brought into this conversation or implicated. I'm hopeful that it can be done in a way that deals with the concerns that Ms. Denham has raised around the overrides to the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act.

With that, I look forward to proceeding to committee stage.

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