Bill C-36 (Historical)
An Act to change the boundaries of the Acadie—Bathurst and Miramichi electoral districts
This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.
Mauril Bélanger Liberal
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act
October 20th, 2006 / 1:20 p.m.
John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON
Mr. Speaker, I do not think there is much doubt that the House, in a general proposition, is in favour of this bill. By and large, I think, speeches have been in support of the bill. Every once in a while the NDP members wander off the rail, but they are prone to do that anyway.
The genesis of this bill lies in the tragedies of 2001. Bill C-36 was passed. There was a significant court case in 2003, which opened up an avenue for lawyers. Then, in 2004, there were a number of inquiries, none of which have at this point resulted in any convictions.
First of all, I am interested in the hon. member's views with respect to the compromise position between the government and the legal profession, which is essentially a “know your client” proposition. I am interested in knowing whether he feels that relieving the lawyers of the obligation to report in the same fashion as other institutions would be required to report is adequate in the circumstances, and whether he thinks that their merely keeping a list of the relevant information will fill this very significant hole in this regime.
I want to make it clear that I am not criticizing the government in this particular instance. This is a very difficult issue of balancing solicitor-client privilege with the right and the need of government and law enforcement agencies to know what is going on in financial services.
At one point in another life I practised law and I know that on any given day we would be flushing literally millions of dollars through our trust accounts. I also know that there were times when I did not know my client and times that my colleagues did not know our client. They had come in for a particular real estate transaction or a corporate transactions or things of that nature. They appeared to be who they were. When asked, they presented verifying information with respect to who they were, but in truth, I am not a police officer and I was not a police officer, nor are my colleagues who are practising now. I had no way of verifying information that appeared to be legitimate on the face of it.
I am interested in my hon. colleague's comments with respect to whether he thinks this apparent opening in the legislation has been adequately addressed.
Emergency Management Act
September 21st, 2006 / 1:25 p.m.
Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC
We would appreciate it if members of the government were more careful with their tributes, Mr. Speaker, but it might come back to haunt them later.
The member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin shouldered his responsibilities and suggested a plan. I repeat that we understand perfectly well that this is the federal government's responsibility, as regards its own institutions and jurisdictions. That is what federalism is. If Gérald Beaudoin and Henri Brun, two eminent constitutionalists, were here, they would tell us that federalism has three defining characteristics: first, two levels of government, each one sovereign in its areas of jurisdiction; second, a constitution; and third, a forum for arbitration. What is the forum for arbitration in a constitutional state? It is the Supreme Court, whose appointment process we hope will undergo a sweeping reform. The former member for Charlesbourg, a brilliant mind who served this House well, made a motion two years ago, if I am not mistaken, to ensure that, for example, the National Assembly could submit a list in order to respect the true spirit of federalism. The Supreme Court Act provides for civil law judges on the court. Moreover, although it is not my intention to talk about this—I would hate to be called to order—I would say that more and more, we are approaching a unitary state. This is not the spirit of federalism. There were 33 Fathers of Confederation. Thing were different then, as hon. members will recall. But we had the conviction that there were two governments, each with its own jurisdiction.
Why is there an imbalance in the Canadian federation?
For example, do you think that the residual powers—all the powers that are not specifically conferred on a government—are the responsibility of the provinces? No. The federal government has responsibility for them. The day is fast approaching when Quebeckers will decide to leave that federation, but it not my intention to talk about that.
Bill C-12 asks the federal government to adopt an emergency management plan. This plan is expected to give powers to the different ministers concerned, because it will be at their level of responsibility. Sometimes, the focus will be more on public safety, sometimes on health, sometimes on the environment. This will depend on the situation.
The bill obliges the departments to establish principles and programs to develop emergency management plans for government institutions. We can live with that. They must also provide advice to government institutions respecting emergency management plans. That is a ministerial responsibility we can live with that. Under this bill, the departments must analyze and evaluate the prepared plans. We would hope to learn more about just what that means. They must coordinate the actions of the various federal institutions in an emergency, provide financial or other assistance to provinces that need it, and establish the necessary arrangements for the continuity of constitutional government in the event of an emergency. Now, that is worrisome. I do not know if my colleague, the hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, can see the look of concern on my face, but there is something very troublesome about the mention of the constitutional government and an emergency. We all know that the most significant intrusions have occurred in times of emergency.
Take, for example, tax points. Taxation, particularly personal income tax, was not intended to be permanent. If I am not mistaken, I believe it was Adélard Godbout who was Premier of Quebec at the time, a progressive Liberal typical of his time. We are all familiar with the terror that reigned at the time of the second world war. At the time, the wartime tax rental agreement was the expression used for transferring the personal income tax. In the end, what was meant to be temporary became permanent. Thus, it is very easy to speak of emergencies in a bill, but we have a certain responsibility in this regard.
We will therefore remain vigilant about the use of the word "emergency" and we do not agree that, under the pretence of an emergency, provincial jurisdictions should be encroached upon. I believe that the hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin will have something serious to say when the bill is referred to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.
In conclusion, I cannot help but urge caution. We live in troubled times. Is the Arar affair not a good example of the prudence that should guide us as Parliamentarians?
We know quite well that, in the wake of September 2001, security certificates can give rise to excesses. Obviously, I will make the necessary distinctions. I do not wish people to think that I am not a nuanced person. I know that the emergencies we are talking about do not specifically include terrorist attacks, although such attacks could lead the federal government to take all manner of emergency measures. That is a possibility.
I believe that our responsibility is to maintain the appropriate balance between the rights of individuals and the security of the nation. Who wants to wind up with big brother in a totalitarian state where people are arrested without a warrant, searches are carried out, individuals are thrown in jail, and the principles of natural justice are violated? The Bloc Québécois has always been extremely vigilant in its protection of these principles.
Correct me if I am wrong but I believe we were the only party to vote against Bill C-36. However, I do not wish to offend the NDP. I do not remember how they voted. My colleagues could indicate if they think I am mistaken.
I would like to conclude by saying that we agree with the principle, that we understand that emergency situations can arise, but that we hope Quebec's jurisdiction will be respected when appropriate.
Emergency Management Act
September 21st, 2006 / 1:15 p.m.
Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC
Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise to speak to Bill C-12. This is a moment I have been eagerly awaiting, for I am well aware that in the world in which we now live, the issue of emergencies certainly demands the attention of legislators.
Just earlier, I was pondering the fact that, even in the 1800s, people were trying to regulate emergencies with the Quarantine Act. Why did they attempt to use this act in part to regulate emergencies? Because disease was surely the greatest threat to human communities, to the human condition about which Malraux spoke to us with such talent. I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that you are an enthusiast of Malraux. I know your erudition, and even your epicurean side. Of course, if we are talking about the 16th, 17th or 18th centuries, the spread of disease could not possibly be compared with the SARS crisis that we experienced, for example. And for once, the federal government was in a field of jurisdiction that belonged to it alone, under a class of subject enumerated in the Constitution.
When we speak of emergencies, the word “emergency” is in itself open to many meanings. What does it mean when we speak of emergencies? Are we talking about disease, the unleashed forces of nature, public transit, natural catastrophes, the overflowing of the Red River, the pollution in the big cities, terrorist attacks? Terrorism is a real fact of our collective life.
If I may digress, for a parliament and a parliamentarian, the end can never justify the means. One can never say, on account of some context one considers extraordinary, that one is going to take certain actions prejudicial to personal freedoms. In any case, you know how the Bloc Québécois is. If there is one party in this House that could hold a set of scales in its hands, with a centre of gravity that can balance human rights with necessary protection of the community, that party is surely the Bloc Québécois. How could we not be disturbed by Bill C-24, and its successor Bill C-36 on anti-terrorist measures. The government was trying to plagiarize the previous government, and it plagiarized certain provisions of the Patriot Act, tabled by the Bush administration. Incidentally, it will be with great interest that we shall read the judgment to be rendered shortly on the security certificates.
I know that some of my caucus colleagues, and in particular our immigration and public safety critics, have a lot of reasons to be worried. I would ask you the question, Mr. Speaker. Is it acceptable, in a country that adheres to the rule of law, for a person to be subject to arrest without warrant, arbitrarily detained, and not have access to the complete evidence in his or her court file? Do we not learn in our law schools that it is important to have a just and fair trial? Are we not in the post-Stinchcombe era? The Supreme Court has given judgment on this point. My colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin is aware of that. Stinchcombe requires that all evidence be disclosed. That is surprising, because Stinchcombe involved a tax fraud matter, if I recall correctly.
In any case emergencies cover a range of situations: SARS, overflowing rivers, terrorism, or mass transit.
We know that in some democracies, the evil hand of certain groups has used mass transit to spread toxic substances. Plainly it is a concern of governments, I would even say their duty, to have evacuation and emergency plans.
Let us ask the question: is this primarily the responsibility of the federal government? That question arises in the case before us. This is not a case involving quarantine, an epidemic or virology.
The bill says:
This enactment provides for a national emergency management system that strengthens Canada’s capacity to protect Canadians.
Obviously, when we read the bill, we can say that it is reasonable for the federal government, in the departments for which that government is responsible, to have an emergency plan. We therefore understand that it is reasonable for there to be a plan for public safety, health, national defence, or any other example that my colleagues may bring to my attention.
Closer to home, I know that on Parliament Hill, the Board of Internal Economy, of which the various party whips are members, thinks about how to ensure that the Hill is safer. There have been very few unfortunate incidents, but still, there have been a few.
In fact, there is a new Sergeant-at-Arms in the House. I would like to wish him success in the responsibilities of his position. He is the person who is responsible for the safety of parliamentarians.
In the British parliamentary tradition, the distance between the opposition and the government is two and a half sword lengths. Why? Because when Parliament was first created, when the institution of Parliament was created in the United Kingdom, the monarch stood in fear of members of Parliament. That is the source of the tradition, when the Speaker is elected, of dragging him or her by the arm while being met with resistance. That is because some of the speakers, in some of the Parliaments of Great Britain, who were called burgesses, were beheaded when the king did not agree with them.
So as not to wander too far afield, let us come back to the Sergeant-at-Arms. He is responsible for parliamentarians’ safety, and in emergencies he must arrange for the Hill to be evacuated.
I would like to give you an example of a traumatic event that I experienced personally. Every member of this House is familiar with my sturdiness, physical strength and self-discipline. Then there is the President of the United States, who thinks he is the master of any house he happens to be in. When President Bush visited the Hill, some parliamentarians, including me, were not allowed access to the Hill. My colleague from Saint-Lambert was also denied access to the Hill. Why? Not because the constables prevented us from entering. After all, their kindness is known to us all. They were not the ones who denied us entry. It was security personnel outside Parliament who stopped us; they went about it quite rudely, I might add. Such events prompt us to think about how we might react in an emergency that forced us to evacuate the building rapidly.
I know that Board of Internal Economy members, including the whips, have discussed this issue.
So, yes, we have to have emergency measures in place in our large communities, especially in big cities. Emergencies can be caused by natural disasters, terrorist attacks on public transportation or, of course, disease. Obviously, we do not deal with disease as we did in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, but imagine the impact of a virus spreading through our communities. Even in our modern society, we have come to realize that hospitals are not always a safe haven. We do not think that going to the hospital can make us sick. I feel comfortable talking about this before the member for Québec because I know she is as healthy as a horse, but people sure do not expect to get sick when they go to the hospital.
We recently learned that some hospitals in Canada were vectors of contamination. This is one of the emergencies for which we must plan.
Although the Bloc Québécois agrees with this bill in principle, we have some concerns. First is the issue of respecting provincial responsibilities. A national emergency should never mean there is just one government. We are long past the time of the Rowell-Sirois commission. We are not in an apprehended war situation. As elected members of the Bloc Québécois, as representatives of the people of Quebec, we must never act as though there were just one government.
The National Assembly, whose first speaker was Mr. Panet—if I recall correctly—is one of the oldest Parliaments in North America. A number of years ago, it passed its own public safety plan. And who was the author of this important plan that respects decentralization, a plan whose goal was to have the regional county municipalities, the municipalities and the health care system work together? When we think of emergencies, these are the players we want to see promote a common vision.
The National Assembly was the first francophone Parliament in North America. It was led by Speaker Panet and founded under the Constitutional Act, 1791, with ministerial responsibility introduced in 1848. It used to be referred to as the Salon de la race, but that expression is no longer used. It passed its public safety plan. We are most privileged to have among us the author of the plan, none other than the hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, who was the public safety minister at the time and who served the Government of Quebec well.
May 6th, 2005 / 10 a.m.
Bonnie Brown Oakville, ON
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today on Bill C-12, the new Quarantine Act. We are updating the Quarantine Act because the piece of legislation we are working with is absolutely antiquated. It has not been significantly modernized since 1872.
The purpose of the Quarantine Act is very clear and straightforward. It offers protection to the Canadian public at our border points of entry by authorizing the use of public health measures to prevent communicable diseases from entering the country and spreading throughout the population. Our recent experience with SARS has not been forgotten. With the global threat of avian influenza and the heightened risk of a human pandemic, health experts and the public are acutely aware that new diseases can swiftly emerge and change in such a manner that all governments require a modern set of tools at their disposal to ensure rapid and decisive action.
Many of us will remember the important work undertaken by Dr. David Naylor, chair of the national advisory committee on SARS and public health. The newly proposed Quarantine Act reflects action taken by this government in a direct response to the recommendations put forth in the Naylor report and later echoed by the Senate committee.
In a modern era, diseases do not arrive by boat on transatlantic voyages. They arrive by plane and present themselves at our doorsteps within hours. By moving forward this important piece of public health protection legislation, the Government of Canada will have the authority to address immediate concerns related to global disease transmission, a cross-border issue of growing importance.
As members may recall, Bill C-36 was the first attempt to modernize the Quarantine Act. The bill was introduced in the last parliamentary session on May 12, 2004, but died on the order paper when the election was called.
Last fall, Bill C-12 was reintroduced. This revised bill reflected the comments of many stakeholders including provincial and territorial public health experts. After an extensive review process, including witness testimony and amendments adopted by the Standing Committee on Health, the bill was passed by the House of Commons on December 10, 2004.
Recently, the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology underwent a similar examination process of Bill C-12. Amendments were adopted by committee members specifically related to the tabling of quarantine regulations. The House committee on health had asked that these regulations be tabled, so that it could review them. The Senate saw that amendment in the bill and decided that it would like to see the regulations as well.
If the House concurs today in the proposed amendments, the tabling of regulations under Bill C-12 will reflect the role of the Senate of Canada by reinforcing the equivalent authority of this chamber in the parliamentary legislative process.
Canadians want protection. They expect government to draw upon an array of modern tools to manage future risks to public health. The revised Quarantine Act before us complements provincial and territorial public health legislation, for each jurisdiction is responsible for maintaining public health.
The federal Quarantine Act will operate as the first line of defence. It will play a mitigating role in protecting the health of Canadians from the importation of disease. The importance of jurisdictions working together is paramount when protecting public health, even more so when health threats emerge. The complementary legislative design of Bill C-12 helps to create a web of protection for Canadians.
Indeed, we do not need another health crisis to reinforce the critical importance of working in concert with our provincial and territorial partners.
After the SARS crisis, the Government of Canada moved immediately to strengthen public health. This act would become an important instrument in carrying out that commitment for it would add another tool in the pan-Canadian toolbox for public health. The newly created Public Health Agency of Canada and the appointment of the Chief Public Health Officer will serve in the management of any new infectious disease outbreak.
It is not only our obligation to Canadians that we need to consider. Currently, the World Health Organization is undertaking revisions to the international health regulations. Canada is a major player in that process.
Bill C-12, our new Quarantine Act, complements this effort. It is compatible with global public health efforts. This new legislation appropriately balances individual rights and freedoms in the protection of the public good. In a globalized world, it reflects the increased complexity in public health, making linkages with other authorities to support a coordinated response capacity, and including local and provincial partners, customs officials, the RCMP and the World Health Organization.
Revisions to Bill C-12 would ensure better communication, collaboration and cooperation among partners, as well as better clarity about who does what when. It would build on the expertise and the strengths already in place in the disease management spectrum to ensure that Canadians are safeguarded by a seamless public health system throughout this country.
Once enacted, our new Quarantine Act would ensure that the Government of Canada has the proper legislative tools to respond rapidly and effectively in the event of our next public health crisis.
In the spirit of collaboration, it is my wish that House members demonstrate ongoing support for the work and contributions made toward strengthening this bill on behalf of the Standing Committee on Health of this House and the Senate of Canada.
Civil Marriage Act
May 3rd, 2005 / 4 p.m.
Scott Reid Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON
Mr. Speaker, if the flood of petitions and letters to my office over the past six months is any indication, Bill C-38, the same sex marriage bill, is by far the most important bill that will be dealt with by the 38th Parliament.
I have received about five times as much mail on this subject as on any other that I have dealt with in my four years as a member of Parliament. I have received many thousands of signatures on petitions in the constituency. For example, last week I presented nine such petitions to the House, and this week I have a further eight petitions that I am ready to submit. As members can see from the size of this pile, there are many hundreds of signatures on these petitions. As well, of course, I listen to many of my colleagues on all sides of the House presenting one petition after another, which is a very strong indication of the depth of interest expressed by Canadians on this issue.
Another sign of the depth of interest and commitment is the number of letters that are received and that are individual handwritten letters, letters from people who, although they are constituents, are not regular correspondents. People have been moved to write to me on this issue when they have written on no other issue. That is a signal to me of the depth of their interest in and commitment on this issue.
It was my practice in the 37th Parliament, that is, the one that sat from 2000 to 2004, to seek instruction from the electorate in my riding as to how to vote on key legislation via a mechanism that we refer to in the constituency as a constituency referendum.
I have conducted constituency referenda in which I asked constituents, by means of a mail-out ballot to all households in the riding, how to vote at final reading on, among other things, the species at risk act, which was Bill C-5 in the 37th Parliament, and the anti-terrorism act, Bill C-36 in the 37th Parliament. I have asked about whether to opt in or out of the MPs' annual $20,000 pay increase and also about how the riding boundaries of my then riding of Lanark--Carleton ought to be redrawn so that I could submit to the Electoral Boundaries Commission a submission that accurately reflected the community of interest as expressed by my constituents.
My party leader, the Leader of the Opposition, is a democrat, which means a lot to me because I am of course the shadow cabinet critic for democratic reform. He is a democrat. He strongly supports the right of MPs, including members of the shadow cabinet, to vote their consciences or to vote the collective consciences of the people they represent. That is why three members of our shadow cabinet are able to vote for this bill without fear of sanction, reprisal or losing their posts.
This contrasts dramatically with the Liberal benches, where no such freedom is available to members of the cabinet. I am also the critic for FedNor, the federal agency for regional economic development in northern Ontario. My opposite number in the Liberal cabinet, the minister for FedNor, has indicated very strongly that he personally is opposed to same sex marriage and is opposed to this legislation. He has been faced with a choice between resigning his post or abdicating his conscience. Unfortunately, he seems to have chosen to abdicate his responsibility to his conscience in choosing to fall in line with the government.
How many others have done so without at least speaking openly as he has done I do not know, but certainly there is very little in the way of democracy on that side of the House and on something that is the most important issue in the minds of many of the constituents of many of the members opposite, and of course also in the minds of many of the members opposite themselves, as it is in the minds of so many opposition members of Parliament.
The same lack of freedom to follow one's conscience or the conscience of one's constituents is even more evident in the New Democratic Party, where one member, the member for Churchill, in northern Manitoba, has essentially been knuckled under, read the riot act and told she must vote the way her party leader tells her to, without regard for her personal conscience or for the will of her constituents.
As our party's critic on democracy, I am proud of the courageous and democratic position adopted by our leader, but also of the democratic position adopted by our party, the Conservative Party, at its March policy convention in Montreal. I want to read from our policy platform a policy that was adopted in Montreal at our March convention. It states:
On issues of moral conscience, such as abortion, the definition of marriage, and euthanasia, the Conservative Party acknowledges the diversity of deeply held personal convictions among individual Party members and the right of Members of Parliament to adopt positions in consultations with their constituents and to vote freely.
My intention personally has been to vote against this bill at second reading and to conduct a constituency referendum to determine how I should vote at third reading.
At second reading a bill is being approved or rejected in principle. As such, it is the stage of the bill's life where it is most appropriate for a member of Parliament to vote his or her conscience. My conscience dictates that I cannot support a bill that fails to provide adequate protection for religious freedom when such protection could easily have been included in the text of the bill.
I have largely based my political career on the defence of religious freedom. My very first statement in the House of Commons, as a new member of Parliament, was the defence of the freedom of religion of Falun Gong practitioners in mainland China. When I turned to my constituents to ask how to vote on the Anti-terrorism Act and ultimately when I broke ranks with most members of my party, and with the government of course, in order to vote against the bill, I was primarily motivated by the unwarranted restrictions that the bill was placing on freedom of religion which I believe set a very dangerous precedent in this country.
Freedom of religion that is nominally protected in clause 3 of the same sex bill is quite frankly a fictitious protection of freedom of religion. It is a section that Liberal members will cite constantly. Let me read what it says because it is revealing when the text is read. We realize how hollow this protection of freedom of religion really is. Clause 3 of the bill says:
It is recognized that officials of religious groups are free to refuse to perform marriages that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs.
There are two things to note about this. First, which my hon. colleague from Okanagan—Coquihalla so clearly identified, this does not take care of all of the other impositions on freedom of religion, of many other actors in society that are not contained within the wording of this section, such as people who serve as commissioners of marriage who find their personal conscience violated.
It would be no great effort to find someone who finds it in accordance with his or her personal conscience to perform a same sex marriage as opposed to leaving it, requiring that all people who are commissioners of marriage must be willing to do so should the condition present itself. That is just unreasonable. It provides no extra rights to a same sex couple, but it takes away a fundamental and profound right to those who find that it is not in accordance with their personal religious or philosophical beliefs.
That provision could be taken care of by provincial law. It cannot be taken care of by federal law, but the federal government could have engaged in negotiation with the provinces to ensure those kinds of protections are built into provincial law. It has made no such effort and in fact is standing by while the opposite starts to happen. There are many other instances that my colleague cited, but I will not go through them all now.
The other thing to note about this clause is that in the draft of the bill, the earlier version that was submitted to the Supreme Court of Canada, an almost identical provision was written into clause 2 of that draft law except that it did not have the wording “it is recognized” at the beginning. Clause 3 states that “It is recognized that officials of religious groups are free to refuse to perform marriages--”.
The inclusion of those words makes this a purely declaratory provision. It has no weight whatsoever. It should be up in the very long preamble to the bill because it has no weight in court. The reason it has no weight in court, even written as the original clause 2 of the prior bill was, is because the court said it can have no weight. It is ultra vires; it is outside of federal jurisdiction.
The solemnization of marriage under section 92 of the Constitution is a provincial responsibility. So putting this in the bill is disingenuous. It should not be given any weight. In fact, it should not even be in the text of the bill.
At third reading my intention is to go to my constituents and ask them how I ought to vote. Some people feel there is a contradiction between voting one's conscience and vote consulting one's constituents.
I want to indicate here that I heartily disagree with this bill. People know where I personally stand, particularly on the issue of freedom of religion. However, it would be arrogant of me to suggest to my voters, to my constituents, that on an issue of such great importance my conscience is somehow superior to the consciences of each of the 113,000 people I represent in the House of Commons. That is not the case. I am proud of them. I am proud of the good sense and conscientious, thoughtful and general sentiments that have been expressed over and over again in the hundreds of letters and many petitions that I have received on this subject, and that I have taken many hours to read and review personally.
If all members of Parliament of all parties showed the same good sense, goodwill, openness and respect that my constituents, and the constituents of all members, have shown, this debate would be a much more civilized debate than it has turned out to be so far.
RCMP and Law Enforcement in Canada
April 12th, 2005 / 11:30 p.m.
Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB
Madam Chair, our committee has been brought together to go through Bill C-36. We are mandated by Parliament to go through the anti-terrorism legislation. Why do we have to do that? We have to do it because it is mandated by Parliament, but one of the major reasons we have to do it is that the police came to the justice committee and said that because of the lack of police officers, they have had to take the officers who are dealing with the organized crime files and put them on the terrorism files. That is what is going on. We are risk managing terrorism in this country. We are risk managing files.
The minister has asked if we could start going through some of the things that we discussed five years ago, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and all the different parole issues. It was done five or six years ago. It is time that the government took the recommendations, the ones that it has accepted, and put in place measures that would address the issues.
Let us do our terrorism law. We will address corrections if time permits. At the present time, as the hon. member has stated, the member for Saint John has had a heart attack, but we will keep working as hard as we can on that committee.
Civil Marriage Act
April 5th, 2005 / 1:20 p.m.
Jack Layton Toronto—Danforth, ON
Mr. Speaker, there are junctures in a country's path when it is an honour to be a member of Parliament because one is able to help make a fundamental choice, a choice that celebrates more of our rich diversity and extends that fundamental Canadian value of equality.
Originally, the goal of extending marriage—civil marriage—rights came directly from the grassroots, part of the long struggle of gays and lesbians for a society in which their right to a just, equitable relationship was recognized, meaning the celebration of their union, but also, let us hope, our celebration of their union.
In 1989 Alain Brosseau, a waiter leaving the Chateau Laurier, was killed because some people thought he was gay. In the shadow of this Parliament building he was thrown from a bridge directly behind the House because who he was believed to be was deemed unequal.
It is fitting that in the House within sight of that bridge we can soon declare that lesbian and gay people are equal by recognizing the equality of their relationships. Today those relationships are not equal. In five provinces and territories equal marriage is not possible. For all lesbian and gay couples and indeed for the community at large, Parliament's recognition of the equality of their love is required.
It is wrong for people such as Kim Vance and Samantha Meehan to have to travel from Nova Scotia, which then did not have equal marriage, to Ontario in order to have their marriage recognized. This debate is about them. It is not about politicians or judges, not rhetoric about the charter, but about our capacity in a world with too little love to recognize love and celebrate it and by consequence to salute the equality that is the most enduring Canadian value. This debate is and should be about people.
We need only think of people like Svend Robinson, who fought for a just society before the polls showed that the time had come to do it; people like Chris Phipps and ChrisHiggins, who had to go to court to get their right to have a family recognized; and people like John Campey, who, during the celebration of my own marriage to Olivia Chow, and at our invitation, said a few words in the hope that one day all our gay and lesbian friends would be able to celebrate like us. That was 18 years ago now.
There are people like Bob Gallagher, who has been a tower of strength, someone who a decade ago predicted that he would see equal marriage in his lifetime and has worked tirelessly to achieve that goal. It says something about our country that he is going to be right.
Some are not with us to see the final days of this struggle, this long debate. Ron Shearer will not be with us. His partner of 28 years, my friend George Hislop, even today is being denied pension benefits by the government after a lifetime of being denied the equality of their commitment. Even after the death of George's partner, the Prime Minister refuses to recognize the centrality of their commitment to their lives.
Michael Lynch, a driving force behind this country's first AIDS organization, dedicated his life to making the lives of others more liveable. He was denied our blessing of his relationship. He never got to marry Bill, his partner of longstanding, because he died in 1991, 10 years before this country's first gay and lesbian marriages.
I was at those weddings. I was at the weddings of Anne and Elaine, and Kevin and Joe. They were held at the Metropolitan Community Church in my riding and were presided over by the incredible Reverend Brent Hawkes. Olivia and I attend midnight mass at the church every Christmas Eve. I urge people who believe that lesbian and gay relationships are somehow less deserving to go there and they will see love, community, faith, and extended families celebrating those core human desires with others irrespective of sexual orientation.
It is the same feeling that we have during gay pride celebrations, which are held now in communities of all sizes, from Iqaluit to Sudbury, from Halifax to Vancouver, in English and in French. I was at the first gay pride celebration more than 20 years ago, which in Canada was held in my riding. As at all cultural festivals, we celebrated our diversity and vigorously debated this basic Canadian value of equality.
That is the society for which the NDP has always fought. In the past, we fought to ensure that the rights of Chinese Canadians were recognized and that justice was done for the first nations, as well as for the basic right to freedom through our opposition to the War Measures Act and Bill C-36.
Those of us who wanted a better world were always told that we were going about it in the wrong way. But every time, our way proved to be right. Yes, I am already looking forward to the end of this long debate and the advent of social peace in a country that is even more just.
I would sincerely like to thank the leader of the Bloc Québécois and his caucus for their support, as well as those Liberal and Conservative members who bravely took a stand in favour of this bill and, thereby, of equality.
I would caution the Prime Minister not to play partisan games with this central issue and to recognize the central role played by members of all parties.
In closing, I would like to speak to those people of goodwill who believe that equal marriage is a threat. I respect their right to practise their faith. Indeed the same principle of equality that demands we celebrate equal relationships in the civil world requires us to protect and defend the right of each religion to perform marriage in accordance with its faith. I deplore efforts to pit one minority against another in an effort to block equality. I do not subscribe to the view that human rights are a buffet from which one can selectively choose.
I believe the same core principles provide the same core protections of every citizen of this country irrespective of sex, race, religion, disability or sexual orientation. I am gratified and proud that most of my fellow citizens agree.
In recent days many people have come to reflect on spirituality and the role of faith in our world. In recent months North America has asked itself about the role of moral values in our politics. I fear we are on a path in which we selectively deem those issues that divide societies as moral while forgetting that there are far more moral choices that unite us rather than divide us.
I deeply hope we can achieve equality for lesbian and gay people and achieve a social peace that respects our societal obligation to protect equality while protecting each and every religion's right to practise its faith, because within that social peace we can then grapple with the moral issues that unite us: the fight against poverty; the effort for peace; that common human desire for a better future for our families and communities, a future that requires us to embrace sustainability now.
Around the world faith has motivated people to do great things. It invented the printing press. It created universal medicare. It achieved civil rights in the United States and has been a clarion call for human rights throughout Latin America and Asia. It helped bring down apartheid and stood with the ship workers of Gdansk and helped to democratize eastern Europe.
As this House extends equality to our fellow citizens, let us also refocus on those values that unite us and people of goodwill around the world: peace, dignity, the eradication of poverty, respect for each other, and the desire to help.
February 24th, 2005 / 12:20 p.m.
The Deputy Speaker
Order, please. I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received which is as follows:
February 23, 2005
I have the honour to inform you that the Honourable Louis LeBel, Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court of Canada, in his capacity as Deputy of the Governor General, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bills listed in the Schedule to this letter on the 24th day of February, 2005, at 11:02 a.m.
Curtis Barlow for Barbara Uteck
Secretary to the Governor General
The schedule indicates that royal assent was given to: Bill C-7, an act to amend the Department of Canadian Heritage Act and the Parks Canada Agency Act and to make related amendments to other Acts--Chapter No. 2; Bill C-4, an act to implement the Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment and the Protocol to the Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment on Matters Specific to Aircraft Equipment--Chapter No. 3; Bill C-302, an act to change the name of the electoral district of Kitchener--Wilmot--Wellesley--Woolwich--Chapter No. 4; Bill C-304, an act to change the name of the electoral district of Battle River--Chapter No. 5; and Bill C-36, an act to change the boundaries of the Acadie—Bathurst and Miramichi electoral districts--Chapter No. 6.
February 10th, 2005 / 12:45 p.m.
Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC
It is exactly 71.6%, I am informed by the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, who knows the Criminal Code backwards and forwards and who is as knowledgeable about opinion polls.
That said, the Jean Charest government is challenging the reproductive technologies bill in court. This is nothing to sneeze at, for this is not a government particularly known for standing up for the interests of Quebec. WIth all due respect, one might in fact call it somewhat spineless.
This is a kind of repeat tendency by the federal government to wish to interfere in areas not under its jurisdiction. It is not surprising to see them doing so in connection with health, since that is still the area of most concern to our fellow citizens.
I do not want to stray off topic, so let us get back to Bill C-12. As I have said, when it was introduced by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, it was Bill C-36. This bill concerns both human rights and public facilities.
It has been clearly established that the way people move around has changed, and people are in closer contact, so the potential for infection is greater. I am talking about mere proximity, nothing extreme. In public places, even this one, we are seeing requests to wash our hands.Every time we go in or out of the House, we take great precautions. We now realize that even shaking hands can transmit certain things, though not the flu. According to scientific knowledge, influenza is not transmitted by human contact, but is a virus that can remain active a long time.
Let me not get off topic again. Back to the bill. It will give the minister the authority to designate quarantine areas anywhere in Canada. We in the Bloc Québécois, our colleague from Laval in particular, brought in a dozen or so amendments so that the government would never be able to do this without consultation and input from the health authorities, those of Quebec in our case, but those of the other provinces as well.
Unfortunately, I regret to inform the House that our amendments were not adopted by the parliamentary committee. I do regret that. The bill would have been strengthened, without our challenging the federal government's jurisdiction, if a real partnership like that could have been established.
The bill contains another important provision: it creates quarantine officers. These are people found often, but not exclusively, in airports. They will carry out investigations and verify whether someone is a source of infection. I will come back to this issue later, but it looks like an intrusion. The potential for violations of privacy in this bill was quite real. It was so real that the members of the committee felt the need to have the Privacy Commissioner testify. That was the Conservatives' idea. It was not a bad idea and we supported it. We did obtain a number of amendments, particularly concerning detention periods.
Happily or unhappily, I shall conclude by speaking of the number of quarantine officers and we will also look at some criminal law concepts. The hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin will have some good memories of that.
The House will be pleased to learn that there are two quarantine officers in Halifax, four in Montreal, three in Ottawa, six in Toronto, three in Calgary, two in Edmonton and five in Vancouver, for a total of 25. The committee had this confirmed. We had debates on the issue. For example, the Association des infirmières et infirmiers du Québec could have seen health professionals as quarantine officers. Nurses could have performed the function, since they are familiar enough with the early signs of an infection.
In the bill, the minister chose to state that quarantine officers must be physicians. Is that a corporate bias? I shall refrain from judgment and each member can make up his or her own mind on this. Still, the fact is that quarantine officers, in terms of professional qualifications, must be physicians recognized by their own provincial governing body.
There also will be officers of various kinds, including environmental health officers. We understand that the Quarantine Act obviously applies to people entering or leaving Canada.
There will be an obligation, which already exists and has been confirmed, for all Canadian airports to be equipped with a site for examining people who may be infected or contaminated. This is nothing new. It is and will be the responsibility of airport authorities to provide space for this purpose.
At first glance, one might think this is a technical bill that has nothing to do with human relations or rights and freedoms. One might think the bill is not covered by the charter. We know we have a system that protects human rights. In 1982, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was adopted in Canada. René Lévesque was opposed to this charter for two reasons. I do not want to get off topic, but Mr. Lévesque said that section 27 on the enhancement of multicultural heritage went against our plan for integration. Quebec has always believed in a common public culture, which, incidentally, began with the late Gérald Godin, MNA for Mercier. Mr. Lévesque was opposed to the charter, the constitution that was imposed on us. Remember the unilateral patriation, the night of the long knives, and all that? The constitutional context is indelibly marked on the collective memory of Quebeckers.
Mr. Lévesque was opposed to this charter, specifically section 27 on the enhancement of multicultural heritage. However, he feared for the linguistic rights of Quebeckers. When we look at the Ford ruling and all the rulings—let us be frank—the Quebec clause has been invalidated. That is what happened with the charter.
Potential access to school was expanded for minorities, but not only for minorities. When a parent did his or her primary school in English in Canada, it was the Canada clause that applied, not the Quebec clause enacted by the National Assembly.
Mr. Lévesque was a visionary. I ask my colleagues to applaud Mr. Lévesque for, without his visionary side, without this grasp he had of the Charter, I think that the history of Quebec would have been different.
Let us not digress, however: back to the quarantine bill. This is a bill which concerns human rights. Why? Because the quarantine officer, to be designed by regulation, will have a power of detention. We know that he will have to be not only a health professional but a physician. In a certain number of cases—I grant you that this will have to be with court authorization—he will be able to detain for several hours, or several days, persons who he has reason to believe are infected to some degree. It is here that the parliamentary committee has shown vigilance in adding the legally sanctioned notion of reasonable doubt.
As the hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin knows, it has been clearly established by the courts that one cannot cause bodily harm to a person. One cannot even compel a person to receive medical treatment. With regard to the Rodriguez case—whose connection to the Quarantine Act will be clear to everyone—and the issue of assisted suicide, it is important to know that the Supreme Court has said that section 7 on the right to life, liberty and security of the person does not imply the right to quality of life. The Supreme Court refused to declare invalid section 241 of the Criminal Code concerning persons who assist with a suicide.
Let us not forget the essential thing: all of this is to point out that Bill C-12 allows considerable powers of detention. The committee wanted to mark out those powers to some degree, and to ensure first of all that the trigger mechanism can be activated only on the ground of reasonable doubt and after an investigation.
A final note on travellers. To make it very clear to everyone, clause 28(1) of the bill creates very specific obligations for travellers. Indeed, under the Quarantine Act, when on Canadian soil, a traveller arriving from Paris, London, Berlin or anywhere else around the world, will be required to undergo a health assessment. This traveller will have to agree to the treatment identified by the quarantine officer. This is still subject to the qualifications I made earlier.
Let us look at another aspect of the bill, namely the whole issue of compensation. As we know, this issue took up a lot of the committee's time.
As I have less than a minute left, I shall conclude. In a nutshell, Bill C-12 is constitutionally valid, because it falls under the government's jurisdiction. It is a technical bill which, in some regards, should raise concerns about human rights.
We would have liked the BQ amendment calling for provincial jurisdictions to be respected and for no quarantine areas to be established without the prior consent of the province concerned. We would have liked a little more compensation. But, overall, this is a bill that deserves to be passed. The Bloc Québécois will support it.
February 10th, 2005 / 12:40 p.m.
Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC
Mr. Speaker, it will be my pleasure, in the next 20 minutes, for this is in a way the mandate I have set for myself, to speak to you about this exciting Bill C-12, the first version of which had been introduced by the minister of Foreign Affairs and used to be known as Bill C-36. Our television viewers—and we know that there are many at this hour—will no doubt be happy to learn that the number attached to bills corresponds to the order in which they are introduced in this House. So that means that this is the 36th bill being introduced by the government.
Those clarifications having been made, let us talk about the Standing Committee on Health. And I will take the opportunity here to thank my party for entrusting me with responsibility for health. After all these years, I derive a certain satisfaction from being the dean of the Standing Committee on Health. I believe I am the youngest in terms of age, but the dean in terms of seniority, since I have been there since 1999. As the hon. member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher knows, I have been through the great debates on labelling, tobacco products and so forth. So I have some experience, let us admit, on health issues.
The quarantine bill is rather technical, and we might think that it does not have much to do with human rights. But that would be wrong for, as I will show, the committee wanted to amend some 30 clauses—now I am getting the attention of the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin—to introduce a concept that has a very specific legal meaning, namely reasonable doubt.
The member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin used to be a penal law professor at the Université de Montréal. I know that his courses were popular: just one exam, no term papers, reasonable jurisprudence. He was a sought-after professor and he also served Quebec well in his various ministerial capacities.
That said, in regard to the quarantine bill, legislation from the 19th century—I think that only the member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell could actually refer to this period from memory—the legislation has not been reviewed very often. The way diseases are spread is no longer the same. We will remember that ships were the main means of transportation in the 19th century. Now, as our transport critic knows, people travel by plane. There are trains, too, maybe, in some places, but the main means of transportation remains—