A bill passed by Parliament this week would make it easier for police to search public spaces for contraband and illegal goods.
The legislation, which was tabled Tuesday, would allow for the use of warrantless searches for contrains and illegal products.
The bill, which passed in a largely party-line vote, is aimed at helping combat the growing problem of crime in busy public spaces, where there are thousands of people gathering in a crowded space.
“This is about making sure that when police enter a public space, they’re only going to do so with reasonable suspicion,” said Liberal MPP John McKay.
“They’re going to make sure that they’re not going to be searching a whole bunch of people without reasonable suspicion.”
McKay said the bill would allow police to conduct searches in public areas without the need for warrants.
He said the legislation would make Canada one of only a handful of countries in the world that do not have a similar law that requires warrants for searches.
“In other countries like the United States and the United Kingdom, you have warrants that you can use to search someone, and you’re not required to have probable cause for that search,” McKay said.
“But in Canada, there’s no such thing as probable cause.”
He said Canada has been trying to pass laws like the one in place for years, and said the country’s current laws are outdated.
“It is not the best solution in the long term, but it is the only one that we can take,” McKay told reporters.
McKay said that the government’s new bill is meant to make it easy for police officers to conduct a warrantless search without any evidence of contraband or illegal goods in the public area.
“We have a problem of the public not having a very clear understanding of what they can search,” he said.
McKay added that the bill will give officers greater flexibility in how they are trained to conduct the search.
McKay also noted that the new legislation does not make it a crime to be in a public place without permission from a police officer.
“If a public servant, for example, happens to be walking into a bar in a busy public area, and they are carrying an illegal substance, they’ll be arrested and prosecuted.
But if the public servant has a warrant, then they’re just going to have to be able to say, ‘You know what, I don’t want to be here, I’m not carrying that thing around, I just want to have a beer,'” McKay said, adding that this is part of the bill’s intent to give police officers the ability to conduct reasonable searches without warrant.
“I think it is an important piece of legislation that would make our communities safer,” McKay added.
McKay, who is also a member of the New Democrats’ New Democratic Party, said the new law would give police the ability for searches in crowded spaces, but would also help prevent crime by making it harder for people to obtain drugs.
“What we need is more policing, not less,” McKay tweeted Tuesday.
“More cops, more enforcement, more arrests, and a stronger community.
I’m proud to stand with the NDP and other progressives and stand with you on this important legislation.”
McKay also tweeted a photo of a bill he co-authored with NDP MPN Martine Ouellet, who was also the chair of the House’s public safety committee.
The photo showed a bill signed by McKay that outlines the legislation and includes an outline of the police service’s new powers.
Ouellets bill also makes it easier to search for contrainers and illegal items in public spaces.
McKay told CBC News that the proposed legislation would not address the use-of-force laws already in place in Canada.
“The new legislation doesn’t go into that, and that is not going into the law.
The new legislation will make it much easier for the police to get involved when they need to in cases where there’s a public safety issue,” McKay noted.
McKay pointed to a recent Supreme Court decision that made it easier than ever for police departments to issue warrantless seizures of drugs.
He added that, although the new bill does not explicitly mention use- of-force, it does say that officers will be allowed to use force against people who pose a threat.
McKay noted that police in Canada are required to wear body cameras and other body worn cameras in the presence of officers who have been charged with a crime.
“Body cameras will make a huge difference in police-community relations,” McKay stated.
“And we know that we have a huge increase in crime when we have cameras.”
McKay told the CBC News team that the Liberals will introduce a bill that includes a similar provision in the future.