Excerpt from the Official Report of
DEBATES OF THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY

(Hansard)


May 27, 2011

Remarks on Bill 12 — Police (Independent Investigations Office) Amendment Act, 2011

S. Simpson: I'm pleased to have the opportunity to stand and to speak to this bill. It is an important piece of legislation — Bill 12, the Independent Investigations Office Amendment Act. It's a bill that we're happy to see come forward, and it's certainly a bill that I believe will go a ways to improving confidence around police in our province. We do know that this really is a question of building confidence. It's somewhat unfortunate in some ways because we also know….

I think everybody in this House has a great amount of respect for all of the police officers and the forces in this province and the remarkable work they do, the critical work they do to protect our citizens in a whole array of ways. Periodically, you have instances that happen. Some of them are just accidental, and they're terrible accidents, and some of them are cases of bad judgment by individuals.

The challenge that we have, of course, here is to make sure — and it's such a critical thing to make sure — that there is the maximum amount of confidence in all of our law enforcement officials in this province and the important work they do.

This bill does go a ways in terms of establishing the move towards the citizen oversight that I think most people in this province and certainly most people in law enforcement would concur is an important step. I think that most people in law enforcement…. We've certainly seen in the comments of senior leaders in that field in response to this bill that they know and understand that the critical piece, the fundamental and core piece, in building that confidence and firming that public confidence up is the matter of citizen oversight.

The idea of police investigating police without some kind of oversight just creates a discomfort for many people in the public, whether it's fair or not. We know that in the large majority of cases those reviews have been quite credible reviews, but there has been a question of confidence created. We know that there have been a number — not a large number, but there certainly have been a number — of instances in our province that have compelled the discussions and the actions that have led to the production of this bill.

We know the circumstances around Frank Paul, around Robert Dziekanski, around Ian Bush. These are all tragic cases that everybody would say should never have occurred. They were a combination of errors in judgment and of tragic mistakes that need to be looked at and need to be investigated.

They led — and the Dziekanski case in particular, as we all know, led — to Braidwood and to Justice Braidwood doing the work that he did, very meticulous work over an extended period of time, as he looked at the circumstances behind Dziekanski.

He had some very strong criticisms of the way that those matters were handled by the RCMP and some very firm recommendations about how we move forward. To the government's credit, Bill 12 moves forward on addressing those matters, particularly on this core question and fundamental question around oversight.

My colleagues from Burnaby–Deer Lake and Nanaimo, who are certainly much more expert in this field, have canvassed and articulated some of the key issues that there are around the bill. Again, as I'd say, it's a bill that deserves support, but it is a bill that has some critical issues to it. I just simply want to raise the one, and it's the one particular concern that I have with the bill. It really is around the question of scope and what is and isn't to be investigated.

Just a couple of quotes. We know that Mr. Holmes, the president of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, in regard to the question of scope, is quoted as saying: "If you leave the standard where they appear to have left it, what about that 11-year-old who got tasered in Prince George? He wasn't killed. Do we regard that as serious harm? Do we get in jurisdictional squabbles because it's just shy of where somebody decides where the line is between serious harm and not-quite-so-serious harm?"

On a related matter, the chief of Vancouver, Chief Jim Chu, said: "I strongly urge the government to consider expanding the mandate of this proposed agency to handle all complaints against police, not just in-custody deaths or severe injury."

Now the government has said that they will be looking at these questions and addressing these matters in terms of the breadth within regulation, and I respect that. I guess the comment I would make is that I think it would have been preferable to have addressed those matters within legislation instead of regulation. We'll all look forward to seeing what those regulations look like when the government gets to producing them.

I would hope that the minister and the government would look at the advice that they received from Mr. Holmes and, particularly, from Chief Chu around really covering probably the breadth of issues of complaints against police generally. I think that is an important step. I think that many of these, hopefully, are very minor incidences that don't require much attention and time, and there will obviously be the odd case that requires much more attention. But I do believe that that is something that needs to come forward and be addressed.

Hon. Speaker, I know that we have a number of people who want to speak, and I'm not sure what the time in the House is for this bill. I just want to say that I think this is a very important step forward. I think the bill does go, certainly, a long way to dealing with the question of public confidence. The bill does go a way to addressing the issues. There certainly are some places in it where I think questions remain to be asked. I know the minister and the government have said that many of those will be dealt with, as I'd said previously, within the context of regulation.

We look forward — and we'll get some advice, hopefully, in committee stage — as to what the timing on those regulations is and what some of the minister's thinking is about some of the advice that has been received in response to the bill. Hopefully, we'll get that in committee stage. That may provide some additional comfort for people who just have some uncertainty on some of those core questions that I'm sure the minister is going to be more than prepared to answer.

With that, I will look forward to supporting this bill when it comes to a vote. It does take us in the right direction, and I think it provides some comfort for people like the families of Mr. Dziekanski and the families of Ian Bush, who have been looking for some closure, I think, in terms of not seeing those kinds of instances happen in the future without having confidence about how the review happens. This begins to take us this way.

With that, I'll leave the floor to other speakers.

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