March 26, 1968 (27th Parliament, 2nd Session)


Lawrence T. Pennell (Solicitor General of Canada)


Mr. Pennell:

Mr. Chairman, having regard to the question raised by the hon. member in respect of wiretapping, perhaps I may be permitted to quote myself. In this way I could acknowledge the author and also indicate the consistency of my views regarding electronic

March 26, 1968
devices and wiretapping. I stated publicly in Calgary last August:
I feel that the interception of private communications either by wiretapping or by the use of electronic listening devices should be made a criminal offence, except for the purpose of collecting evidence in criminal prosecutions by law enforcement officers, where they are acting upon specific authority given in individual cases by a competent court.
I wish to say to the hon. member that I am prepared to urge that view upon my colleagues. Indeed it is my intention to do so. I am awaiting the report of the royal commission on security because this is an element which may be considered in that report.
Upon the question of bail, again if I may be so presumptuous, I should like to quote from a speech that is being delivered this evening, almost at this very moment on my behalf, by the parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister which contains the following:
I have now received an interim report of the Canadian committee on corrections dealing with matters of bail. The report recommends-I heartily concur in it-that the criminal code should be amended to provide for a more liberal use of summons-with warrants for arrest being restricted to use on charges of a serious nature. I also believe that courts should have better information upon which to base a decision relating to the amount of bail. Unless the presiding judge or magistrate is given full information about the accused-his background, family, employment and finances, the court may not be able to properly assess bail conditions. To condition bail primarily on the ability of the accused to raise bail funds, rather than his character and background, may tend to discriminate against the accused who is financially disabled.
For the most part the courts have concentrated primarily on the type of offence committed as the criterion for setting bail. I would respectfully suggest that when the alleged offender appears to be a good risk for bail his income and assets should be taken into account so that there will not be discrimination against the financially poor accused. After all, bail is primarily a deterrent to prevent default of appearance for trial.
I do not hesitate to say that I propose to put this as a recommendation before my cabinet colleagues.
In conclusion let me say that the question in respect of marijuana is very serious because of increasing use. I have made a number of statements to the public on this subject. I feel it is a subject about which we do not as yet have sufficient medical knowledge. I sympathize with the suggestion made by the hon. member for Simcoe East earlier today during the question period. It is not a policy of the Department of Justice to suggest the penalty to be imposed on first offenders. Quite to the contrary, as I understand the policy, the

department makes no representation as to sentence unless the court asks for the view of the prosecuting counsel. The case is then dealt with according to the facts.
If I am to judge by the number of prosecutions over the last 11 months, the use of marijuana is increasing. During the last 11 month period there were 1,915 prosecutions launched for offences involving the use of drugs, as compared to 946 prosecutions during the previous 12 months. I suggest that these figures demonstrate the scope and nature of the problem we are facing on the law enforcement side. However I look forward to having consultations with my colleague the Minister of National Health and Welfare, with a view to perhaps setting up a new approach and taking further measures to reform the law regarding the use of marijuana.

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