Last summer the Vancouver Sun reported that the RCMP suspect that arson could be behind as many as 29 different wildfires near communities such as Naramata, Okanagan Falls, Osoyoos, Oliver, Penticton, Summerland and Lake Country.
More concerning is that many of these fires were deliberately set in areas close to residential housing.
This not only threatens public safety but frequently creates the need for an evacuation order.
While wildfires, flooding and other disasters often bring out the best in people as they work together to save lives, animals and homes, it can also bring out the worst.
There is a small segment of the population consisting of individuals who use evacuation orders as an opportunity to engage in criminal actions such as looting, vandalizing and stealing from evacuated family’s homes.
These despicable acts occurred last year to evacuated homeowners in communities such as Williams Lake and 100 Mile House.
Looting is not unique to B.C., it has also occurred after floods in Atlantic Canada and the tornado strike that occurred in Quebec.
The threat of looting creates anxiety and even resistance to evacuate a residence, which is not only a threat to public safety, it can also considerably increase the challenges for first responders.
In my view, those individuals who use disasters as an opportunity to abuse public trust and prey on people at their most vulnerable times must be held accountable.
That is why I have proposed a private members bill, Bill C-447, to take action against looting.
My bill proposes to amend the Criminal Code so that committing a crime and taking advantage of an evacuation order for those experiencing a natural disaster or emergency is to be considered an aggravating circumstance for sentencing purposes.
Ultimately this bill, if passed, would create new legal tools for judges when it comes to sentencing those found guilty of looting.
I believe it is important that Canadians experiencing the trauma of a natural disaster have the increased confidence that our criminal justice system has their back.
As my bill was only just tabled this week, it is unclear if the Liberals, NDP and Green Party will be supportive of it or not.
My question this week:
Are you supportive of my latest private members bill?
I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.
Subscribe to the MP Report
Sign up now to get Dan's weekly MP report emailed directly to you!
Sign up now to get a monthly MP Report mailed directly to your home.
Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.