On Monday, Dan Albas, MP for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola, introduced private members’ legislation which will help bring some peace of mind to evacuees.
“As we have seen in New Brunswick, Quebec, and the Ottawa region over the last number of weeks, Canadians stand with our neighbours in times of crisis. This sense of community is part of what makes our country the best place in the world to live,” said MP Albas. “However, some people use disasters as an opportunity to abuse that trust and prey on the vulnerable through theft and looting.”
If passed, Bill C-447, Act to Amend the Criminal Code (aggravating circumstance – evacuation order or emergency), would allow judges to take into account natural disasters, emergencies and evacuation orders when sentencing criminals by adding them to the list of aggravating factors.
“When someone has had their day in court, and has been found criminally responsible, then when it comes to sentencing this aggravating factor would come up,” said Albas. “A justice would then say, given that society through Parliament has clarified that looting, particularly when people are away on evacuation orders and particularly vulnerable is absolutely heinous. We are going to give a stronger sentence.”
The bill, as much as it’s about law and order is also focused on providing people with a small amount of peace of mind when the evacuation call comes down.
“During a flood or forest fire, Canadians need to be focused on their family’s health and safety, not worried about their home being looted or vandalized while they are away,” said MP Albas. “Far too many people don’t listen to evacuation orders because they are concerned about their property. Hopefully, all parties can support this common-sense change so that we can give that crucial peace of mind to Canadians in their time of need.”
Albas mentioned that throughout conversations with constituents, the topic of evacuation protection was top of mind.
“It was the main topic on my summer listening tour last year. All three valleys, the Okanagan Valley, the Nicola Valley and the Similkameen Valley, everyone of them said if there’s a way to make evacuations easier then please help us with this. This is one way to make that happen,” said MP Albas.
“I hope people support the premise of the bill, and I’m also open to feedback from people, particularly in a community like Merritt where we’ve had so many evacuations due to flooding in the Nicola Valley. I’d love to hear their feedback,” said Albas.
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