Bill C-19 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Criminal Code (investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions)
This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in December 2009.
Rob Nicholson Conservative
Introduction and First Reading
(This bill did not become law.)
Combating Terrorism Act
April 23rd, 2013 / 12:25 p.m.
Pierre Nantel Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC
Mr. Speaker, Bill S-7 is the latest chapter in a long saga that began in the wake of September 11 and led to a number of legislative measures. Bill C-36, the Anti-terrorism Act passed in 2001, was the first salvo launched following the horrific events in New York which still strike fear in people today.
Obviously, the legislation was brought in not only to respond to this threat and to protect Canadians, but also to meet our international obligations, as dictated at high levels, to the UN.
Some of the provisions of the Anti-terrorism Act amended existing pieces of legislation such as the Criminal Code, the Access to Information Act and the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorism Financing Act.
Other more significant changes were brought in, notably unprecedented changes to Canadian law. Those who were serving in the House at the time of the 2001 attacks perhaps can attest to the fact that this legislation was passed hastily and without due consideration.
Facing the unknown and a climate of dread, Parliament responded in a strong-armed, reflexive manner. There is a reason therefore why these provisions, crafted in the urgency of the moment, were subject to sunset clauses.
These so-called sunset clauses ensured that the more controversial measures would simply be temporary. That was for the better. The provisions in question pertained to preventive arrest and investigative hearings.
Had the desire arose to extend the life of these provisions, had they been deemed useful or relevant or had it been acknowledged that they had prevented an otherwise inevitable catastrophe from occurring, there would have been an opportunity to maintain them and make them permanent.
To do so would have required a resolution by both Houses of Parliament. A resolution was in fact tabled and rejected. Parliamentarians in their wisdom found that there was no valid reason to extend the life of these provisions.
Both Houses did their homework as far as these measures were concerned. Each one examined the most sensitive provisions of the 2001 Anti-terrorism Act. In October 2006, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security reviewed the legislation, most notably the investigative hearings and recognizance with conditions provisions. The other place produced an aptly named report entitled “Fundamental Justice in Extraordinary Times”.
Despite this flurry of activity, these questionable, freedom-destroying and fortunately temporary provisions expired as originally scheduled in 2007.
Each time, the same conclusion has been reached: the state currently has all the tools it needs to combat terrorism.
There was no reason to bring in these measures, even in 2001, and there is no reason to re-introduce them today.
The measures being debated today are not harmless. Among other things, Bill S-7 would re-introduce into Canadian law the phenomenon of investigative hearings that allow a peace officer to apply to a provincial court judge for an order to compel individuals to appear before a judge if they are suspected of having information concerning future terrorist acts. The provision would compel the individual to attend hearings and to answer investigators’ questions.
Another important measure that is being brought hastily before the House is the recognizance with conditions provision which includes preventive detention. It would give a peace officer the authority to arrest an individual without a warrant if he believes such action is necessary to prevent a terrorist act. The individual in question is subsequently brought before a judge, as soon as feasible, according to the wording of the bill, and may be imposed certain conditions, or may even be committed to prison for a term not exceeding 12 months.
From a human rights standpoint, these provisions are very restrictive. One could also argue that they are cause for great concern and that careful consideration should be given to the balance that must be struck between the real advantage they provide in terms of public safety and the cost to citizens, which undeniably in this instance is restrictions on a person’s fundamental rights. Admittedly, at issue are the rights of the individuals primarily concerned, but ultimately the rights of all citizens are affected as well.
Dramatist Henry Becque wrote that freedom and health have much in common and that we only appreciate their value when they are lost to us.
I am greatly concerned about the timing of today’s debate, about the fact that the government has chosen to move it up in light of what has happened. As noted earlier, the 2001 Anti-terrorism Act was passed hastily and this is not how debates on national legislation should unfold.
Today it would seem that an attempt is being made to recreate the same climate of fear and panic in order to hastily push through a bill that has serious implications for people’s freedoms.
It goes without saying that the people in my riding, Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, want to live in safety. However, they also believe very strongly in the rights that belong to every individual. Many of them are going to wonder whether this is the right time to be debating the measures in Bill S-7, when people are recovering from the horrific, cruel and gratuitous attacks that took place last week at the Boston marathon.
We do not need any added emotion for debating this bill. What we need is some distance, some reflection, and some calm and considered thought.
To me, there is nothing wise about the government precipitating this debate. I stress the word “wise”.
Is it really wise, the day after attacks like that, and with what we have in the news here in Canada, to be rewriting our laws and redefining our fundamental freedoms?
Perhaps it is the usual opportunism we see from this government, in its typical crudeness and poor taste.
We on this side firmly believe that this bill is contrary to the fundamental values of Canadians and the values on which our judicial system is built.
The unambiguous and unvarnished goal of these measures is to limit the civil liberties and fundamental rights of Canadians.
Those rights include basic elements of our judicial system that we take for granted: the right to remain silent, the right to a fair trial and the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty.
The principles of our law, whose origin lies in centuries-old customs and legal traditions, lay out individual rights that are unwavering.
While the draft we are presented with today includes a few sops that are supposed to reassure us, because they are in the form of additional protections, these proposals are very unconvincing overall.
We also oppose these measures simply on their track record: these methods are ineffective in principle.
Ultimately, we firmly believe the Criminal Code is an entirely satisfactory tool for investigating these suspicious people who engage in shady plans or whose goal is to threaten the public. Those are crimes and that is what the Criminal Code is intended for.
In fact, the provisions drawn up in 2001, which had a “sunset clause” that took effect in 2007, were never used. Those measures made people uncomfortable from the outset, in 2001, because they were inimical to liberty.
In 2010, a former director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Reid Morden, said, on the question of the two measures I referred to earlier:
...I confess I never thought that they should have been introduced in the first place...
He raised the idea that these provisions had slipped into the act almost by mistake.
...and that they slipped in, in the kind of scrambling around that the government did after 9/11...It seemed to me that it turned our judicial system somewhat on its head.
He then stressed that law enforcement agencies already have the powers they need to do their job. They do not need additional powers. He concluded by saying:
I guess l'm sorry to hear that the government has decided to reintroduce them.
It appears that these measures caused misgivings among the forces of law and order, who wisely decided not to use these powers in their investigations.
Can someone really explain why these measures would be useful today, when they were not useful in the months following September 11, and that even the people who could have enforced them did not want to?
Finally, when some rights are under threat, all rights are under threat. Under the provisions of this bill, there is not much to ensure that citizens or anyone will not be falsely accused in the future for activities that have nothing to do with terrorism. Some activities may be considered subversive or dissident—slippery words that can be applied to peaceful activities in a democratic context.
Those who defend fundamental human rights are speaking up from all sides, telling us that these measures are unnecessary and that the price to be paid will be paid in civil rights, which is not a fair exchange for the proposed benefits. These measures are unwanted and unnecessary.
We saw this a few years ago when threats of spectacular terrorist attacks were foiled. We saw it again yesterday, when the admirable public safety professionals arrested two suspects who, it appears, wanted to disrupt the lives of ordinary people and do them unimaginable harm.
At this moment in time when terrorism has become part of current events, it is essential that we resist. We must resist terrorism in order to protect ourselves, prepare ourselves and defend ourselves. We must make our trains, airports, public spaces and gathering places safe and secure.
It is also essential that we, as a society, as communities and individuals, refuse to be terrorized by terrorism, and refuse to be manipulated or to change our behaviour and lifestyles. That is precisely what we should not do.
We must not be terrified by terrorism. To stand up to terrorism is to ensure that democracy and individual liberties for everyone in our country are never threatened by such people and their violence.
Since I have only a few seconds left, I just wish to express my astonishment at the Liberal Party's inconsistency. In 2001, the Liberals adopted the sunset clauses, but today they are not proposing any amendments of the sort. I cannot explain that.
Combating Terrorism Act
October 22nd, 2012 / 3:20 p.m.
Matthew Kellway Beaches—East York, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to stand today in the House to speak against Bill S-7, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Canada Evidence Act and the Security of Information Act. The genealogy of Bill S-7 takes us back to Bill C-36, the Anti-terrorism Act, which was tabled by the Liberal government in 2001. The original intent of the Anti-terrorism Act was to provide the Canadian legislative response to the events of September 11, 2001, 9/11 as we now know it.
There is no question that day should not and indeed cannot be forgotten. The images of passenger planes flying into those iconic towers repeat themselves over and over again in news, television and film, and undoubtedly in the mind as the memories of the many who were personally impacted by that act of terror.
I note with sadness that my colleague from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca and his partner have such memories to bear.
As these images repeat themselves, we witness the deaths of nearly 3,000 innocents, including 24 Canadians over and over again. That day we awoke to a new kind of threat and a new level of threat. Most importantly, we awoke to a new and profound sense of vulnerability, so we responded.
Several provisions of Bill C-36 became permanently enshrined in other legislation such as the Proceeds of Crime and Terrorist Financing Act, the Criminal Code and the Access to Information Act. However, several parts of the Anti-terrorism Act had sunset clauses expiring in February 2007. These provisions concerned investigative hearings and recognizance with conditions or preventive arrest provisions.
These measures were largely without precedence in Canadian law and for good reason. We believe that these provisions run contrary to fundamental principles, rights and liberties enshrined in Canadian law. The rights and liberties violated include the right to remain silent and the right not to be imprisoned without first having a fair trial. We believe that these are important restrictions on the authority of the state because in their absence there is not sufficient protection of an individual's freedom.
As per the terms of the Anti-terrorism Act, these provisions, in order to be extended, had to be adopted by way of resolution by both Houses of Parliament. However, the resolution was defeated soundly, 159:124 in this House, and these controversial provisions of the Anti-terrorism Act sunsetted.
We know that the efforts did not end there. Similar bills were proposed in 2008, 2009 and 2010 in the forms of Bill S-3, Bill C-19 and Bill C-17 respectively. It seems this is an annual, or almost annual rite. Now they are back.
Time has passed in the interim, a decade roughly since Bill C-36 was brought before the House, and time has been instructive. Since the passage of the Anti-terrorism Act, the recognizance with conditions or preventive arrest provision has never been used. The investigative hearing provision has been used once in the Air India case. Many consider that exercise to have had no positive effect, in fact quite the opposite.
Paul Copeland, a highly experienced and respected lawyer representing the Law Union of Ontario, speaking about this sole experience with the investigative hearing provision, said to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security in 2010 that the Law Union characterized this episode “as a fiasco, and I think that's an appropriate description”. He went on to say about all the provisions examined:
The provisions you are looking at here, in my submission, change the Canadian legal landscape.... They should not be passed, and in my view they are not needed. There are other provisions of the code that allow for various ways of dealing with these people.
This seems to be the nub of the issue. Without such extreme provisions, without changing the legal landscape of Canada, without breaching the rights and civil liberties of Canadian citizens, we have successfully protected the safety and security of Canada and Canadians from terrorist attack. These provisions have proven over the course of time to constitute an unnecessary and ineffective infringement.
As the former NDP justice critic said in the House in 2010:
When facing a crisis, we as political leaders feel that we have to do something even when all the evidence shows that the structures we have, the strength of our society, the strength of our laws, are enough to deal with it. We passed legislation in early 2002 to deal with terrorism when we panicked. We have learned in the last eight years that there was no need for that legislation.
The only thing to add to that summation is that in the past decade we have learned that we did not need this act.
The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. As Denis Barrette, spokesperson for the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, noted before the standing committee on Bill C-17 in 2011:
Since 2007, police investigations have succeeded in dismantling terrorist conspiracies using neither one of the provisions we are talking about today.
We believe that Canadians will be better served and better protected under the usual provisions of the Criminal Code, rather than others that are completely unnecessary. Reliance on arbitrary powers and a lower standard of evidence can never replace good, effective police work. On the contrary, these powers open the door to a denial of justice and a greater probability that the reputation of innocent individuals...will be tarnished.
We have borne witness to that in this country.
While these provisions have proven to have no effect on the fight against terror, they have had a profound social impact on Canada and many Canadians. On the eve of 9/11 this year, I showed a film at my local review theatre, the Fox in the Beach. The film is called Change Your Name Ousama. It was produced and directed by local filmmaker Fuad Chowdhury and focuses on a community in my riding of Beaches—East York called Crescent Town. Crescent Town is a very densely populated and diverse community, which is largely made up of Bangladeshi Canadians, most of whom are Muslim.
The film is not a point of view film. It was made for television and screened at the Montreal film festival. It includes significant interview footage, for example, of the assistant director of CSIS. It also includes footage of our Prime Minister in a fairly recent CBC interview telling Canadians that the major threat to Canada is still Islamicism. The film also tells the story of what it feels like to be one of about a million Muslim Canadians living in a political climate where their religion has been held to be a threat to the security of their country.
It is noted in the film by a University of Toronto academic that governments, through their actions, have the power to create stigmas and to marginalize communities. Of this we need, in this place, to be very mindful and sensitive. This is where the film gets its title. It was the advice, amidst the political fallout of 9/11, of a Muslim leader of Crescent Town to members of his community, “Change your name Ousama. Shave your beard. Do not wear your kufi”. In essence, “change or disguise your identity”.
Motivated as they have been, bills such as that introduced in 2001 by the Liberals and its partial reprisal today in the form of Bill S-7 have had that impact. They have left so many across this country and in my riding feeling like they have something to apologize for, as if the onus rests on them to demonstrate somehow that they are not terrorists.
Herein lies a great tragedy. In Bill S-7, as with Bill C-36 before it, we have before us a bill that contradicts not just the legal heritage of this country but a fundamental social and political heritage that takes us back decades at least, a heritage of which we should be proud and protective. The heritage I speak of is the opportunity to maintain and exercise one's culture and religion in Canada freely and still be and feel fully Canadian. This social and political heritage is one that has made us a great place, a place where so many around the world long to come to live.
Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
February 14th, 2011 / 6:55 p.m.
Alexandra Mendes Brossard—La Prairie, QC
Mr. Speaker, I would like to participate in the debate on the motion to prevent debate on the content and substance of Bill C-59. I find it rather odd that the Bloc has supported the government's attempt to stifle any attempt at debate on the substance of this bill.
No one in the House can accuse the Liberals of not supporting the idea of eliminating parole eligibility after one-sixth of the sentence is served for economic crimes. Two years ago, my colleague from Bourassa, our candidate in Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert and our member for Lac-Saint-Louis participated in a press conference with several of Earl Jones' victims to call on the government to quickly bring forward a bill to eliminate parole eligibility after one-sixth of the sentence is served, especially for criminals who commit major fraud and have multiple victims.
No one can accuse the Liberals of not supporting that idea. I think it is really dishonest of the government to make that kind of accusation when it knows very well what the Liberals' position is. This was pointed out by my colleague from Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine.
Now I would like to talk about the debate and the fact that the Conservatives and the Bloc members want to limit the scope of the debate. Just seven months ago the members of the Bloc rose in the House to criticize the government for doing the exact same thing it is doing now with Bill C-59. The government moved a motion to block debate.
Last June, the member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain rose in the House to criticize the government for moving a motion to block debate on the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act. The Bloc member for Hochelaga also rose to oppose a government motion to block debate on Bill C-9, the Jobs and Economic Growth Act, by imposing time allocation.
We are opposed to this time allocation motion because we believe that Bill C-59 addresses a very important issue. Furthermore, for two years now, the Liberals have been calling on the government to eliminate parole eligibility after one-sixth of the sentence is served for economic crimes like those committed by Earl Jones, Vincent Lacroix and others.
I think it is a shame that some would have people believe that the Liberals do not want to protect victims. That is simply not true. When the government introduced Bill C-21 on economic crimes and it was referred to committee, the Liberal justice critic proposed an amendment to the bill to eliminate eligibility for parole after one-sixth of the sentence in cases of economic crime. The Conservatives and the Bloc defeated the motion.
Every MP is entitled to his or her opinion on bills that we are called on to debate in the House. It is a fundamental aspect of the democratic process. The operative word here is “debate”, and the collusion between the Conservatives and the Bloc is preventing us from acting as responsible parliamentarians.
We would like to hear from experts. We want to know how this bill will truly address a gap in the law, how it will do justice to victims, how this bill will improve the chances of rehabilitation for those who once lost control of their lives.
Perhaps we should indeed eliminate parole after one-sixth of a sentence for offenders who have committed serious economic crimes and left a number of victims.
However, for non-violent criminal acts that are not fraud, we believe that evidence has shown that parole after one-sixth of a sentence has been very effective and that the rate of recidivism is much lower.
We will never know what the experts might have said since this closure motion eliminates any chance to consult experts. With this government so eager to control everything, it has become somewhat of a tradition to just pass a bill without any idea of the facts that might call it into question.
The Liberals are against this closure motion. It is not justified, and we regret that the Bloc has decided to join the Conservatives to limit the debate on this bill. As far as the substance of the bill is concerned, in the past and still today, no one could accuse the Liberals of not showing their support for eliminating parole after one-sixth of the sentence for economic crimes.
In order to illustrate the government's intellectual dishonesty, I would like to present a chronology of the Conservatives' failures in their so-called fight against crime.
I am referring here to the various bills that have died on the order paper for all sorts of reasons or that have remained in the House or at committee indefinitely.
Here they are. Bill C-15, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts, died on the order paper when Parliament was prorogued; Bill C-19, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions), died on the order paper before the House had a chance to vote on it; Bill C-26, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (auto theft and trafficking in property obtained by crime), also died on the order paper. It is certainly not the opposition that forced the government to prorogue Parliament.
Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act and the Identification of Criminals Act and to make a consequential amendment to another Act, died on the order paper, and Bill C-36, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, on the faint hope clause, died on the order paper before being brought back this session. One committee meeting was held on Bill C-46, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Competition Act and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act, before it died on the order paper. Bill C-52, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sentencing for fraud), which is related to Bill C-59, the bill we are dealing with today, died on the order paper when Parliament was prorogued. Bill C-58, An Act respecting the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography by persons who provide an Internet service, died on the order paper. The prorogation of Parliament killed many bills.
Among the bills introduced by the Minister of Public Safety was Bill C-34, the Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders Act, which also died on the order paper. The bill to deter terrorism and to amend the State Immunity Act died on the order paper. Bill C-43, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the Criminal Code, died on the order paper. Bill C-47, An Act regulating telecommunications facilities to support investigations, died on the order paper. Bill C-53, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (accelerated parole review) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, died on the order paper. Bill C-60, An Act to implement the Framework Agreement on Integrated Cross-Border Maritime Law Enforcement Operations between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States of America, died on the order paper.
To date, no meetings have been held to discuss Bill C-16, An Act to amend the Criminal Code. Bill C-17, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions), was given first reading 51 days after Parliament was prorogued, and the committee still has not met to discuss that bill.
Bill C-21, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sentencing for fraud), was fast-tracked at committee in just one meeting and still has not reached second reading. Bill C-22, An Act respecting the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography by persons who provide an Internet service, was given first reading 64 days after Parliament was prorogued, and the government delayed it for 26 days at report stage because of the debate on the short title.
Bill C-48, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to the National Defence Act, was given first reading 89 days after Parliament was prorogued, and we are still waiting for the next step. Bill C-50, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (interception of private communications and related warrants and orders), was given first reading after 94 days, and we are still waiting. First reading of An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Competition Act and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act took place 243 days after Parliament was prorogued. Bill C-53, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (mega-trials), was given first reading and nothing more.
Bill C-54, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sexual offences against children) only made it to first reading. Bill C-5, An Act to amend the International Transfer of Offenders Act was introduced at first reading by the Minister of Public Safety 15 days after prorogation. Two committee meetings were held and nothing has happened since. As for Bill C-23B, An Act to amend the Criminal Records Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, we are still waiting. After a few meetings on the subject, the minister was supposed to come back with amendments that he felt were necessary in order to make the bill more comprehensive and definitely more respectful. Bill C-39, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts was introduced for first reading 104 days after prorogation and we still have not met in committee to discuss it. Bill C-49, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act and the Marine Transportation Security Act was introduced for first reading 232 days after prorogation and there it remains. Bill C-52, An Act regulating telecommunications facilities to support investigations was also introduced for first reading 243 days after prorogation and we are waiting for the next step. The Senate introduced Bill S-7, An Act to deter terrorism and to amend the State Immunity Act for first reading 49 days after prorogation and we are still waiting for the next step. Bill S-10, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts was introduced for first reading in the Senate 60 days after prorogation. Bill S-13, An Act to implement the Framework Agreement on Integrated Cross-Border Maritime Law Enforcement Operations between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States of America was introduced for first reading 237 days after prorogation.
I am pointing this out to prove that it is not the opposition parties that are slowing the process down. For all sorts of unknown reasons, the government introduces these bill and then goes no further with them.
To conclude, I would like to question the justification for Bill C-59 and the fact that the Conservatives and the Bloc felt this was urgent enough to warrant this closure motion, which is an affront to parliamentary dialogue.
Combating Terrorism Act
September 20th, 2010 / 3:30 p.m.
Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to contribute to the debate on Bill C-17. This key piece of anti-terrorism legislation seeks to re-enact, but with more safeguards, the provisions having to do with investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions, which we lost because of a sunset clause in March 2007.
The powers set out in the bill attempt to fill a gap in our national security law. Effectively they focus much of their attention on the prevention of a terrorist offence.
I think all members of the House can agree that unlike some other forms of criminality a terrorist who is able to carry out an offence is attempting to injure and kill large numbers of people, making prevention an even more crucial policy goal.
This point, that there is a qualitative difference between terrorism offences and other regular forms of criminal activity, has been made by a number of terrorism experts. In this regard the members of the House may wish to recall the testimony of Lord Carlile of Berriew, the United Kingdom's independent reviewer of its anti-terrorism legislation, before the House of Commons subcommittee that reviewed the anti-terrorism act in November 2005. Lord Carlile was asked whether there was really any difference between investigating terrorism and investigating organized crime. She replied:
If I can I'll just characterize one important difference between terrorist crime and normal organized crime, or what police in Northern Ireland call ODCs, or ordinary decent criminals, in a distinction that they make. With organized crime, it is often possible for the police investigating that crime to leave arrest until very late. Indeed, for example, there was a huge robbery at London Heathrow Airport a couple of years ago—I was involved in the case for a time professionally—in which they allowed the robbery to take place, and they arrested the robbers whilst they were committing the robbery, with the result that in the end most of them pleaded guilty. You can't run that risk with terrorism.
To summarize this relatively short bill, the proposed investigative hearing provisions would create a mechanism for questioning persons before a judge about a past or future terrorist offence. The proposed provision for recognizance with conditions would allow a judge to impose reasonable conditions on a person in order to prevent the commission of a terrorist activity.
Surprisingly, some have maintained that the provisions are not necessary. Various reasons have been advanced in this regard. I would like to use my time to address some of these arguments, as I think it is important to have an informed debate on these matters.
Some say that since the provisions have never been used they must not be a truly necessary law enforcement tool. I cannot disagree more.
This view is based exclusively on hindsight and not on foresight. In the policing world, which I know very well as a member of the Winnipeg Police Service on a leave of absence, foresight is crucial, as is pro-activity. One could just as logically claim that because to date one's house has not burned down or one has never before become seriously ill that there is no need ever to buy fire or life insurance. Given the existence of an ongoing terrorist threat, reliance on past experience alone is an insufficient guarantor of the future security of Canadians.
Another view advanced has been that the recognizance-with-conditions provision is unnecessary because other Criminal Code provisions could be used instead. This view fails to appreciate the purpose of the recognizance-with-conditions provision. This tool is designed to disrupt the planning of terrorist activity at a very early stage. I will give an example. Suppose the police receive intelligence that a foreign head of state visiting Canada will be the target of a terrorist attack. They may therefore have reasonable grounds to believe that a terrorist act will be committed, but they may not have reasonable grounds to believe that a particular person will be the one to carry out the attack, which is the standard required under our existing arrest laws.
As a result, the person could not be arrested for conspiracy or under subsection 495.(1) of the Criminal Code. Similarly paragraph 810.01(1) would not apply, because it is targeted, in part, at those who it is reasonably feared will engage in a terrorist activity.
Bill C-17 seeks to fill this gap by authorizing a peace officer to lay an information before a judge if he or she believes on reasonable grounds that a terrorist activity will be carried out and suspects on reasonable grounds that the imposition of a recognizance with conditions on a person, with the arrest of the person, is necessary to prevent the carrying out of a terrorist act.
Some have also put forward the position that Bill C-17 infringes upon human rights. In rebutting this view, let me begin with the investigative hearing provisions.
In the debates on this bill's predecessor, former Bill C-19, the argument was made that this hearing was an infringement on the right to silence. The answer to this argument was authoritatively given by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2004 in a case called “Application under s. 83.28 of the Criminal Code”, which arose in the context of the Air India prosecution.
The majority of the court rejected the appellant's argument that the investigative hearing violated an individual's absolute right to silence and the right against self-incrimination, noting in part the specific and robust protections governing use and derivative use immunity found in the original legislation. Indeed, the court noted:
Derivative use immunity is provided for in s. 83.28(10)(b). Indeed, the protection in para. (b) goes beyond the requirements in the jurisprudence, and provides absolute derivative use immunity, such that evidence derived from the evidence provided at the judicial investigative hearing may not be presented in evidence against the witness in another prosecution even if the Crown is able to establish, on a balance of probabilities, that it would have inevitably discovered the same evidence through alternative means.
We all need to keep in mind when thinking about possible adverse ramifications of the recognizance with conditions that they have a built-in legal filter. They can only be imposed when two criteria are met: A peace officer must believe on reasonable grounds that a terrorist activity will be committed, and must suspect on reasonable grounds that the imposition of the recognizance is necessary to prevent the carrying out of the terrorist activity.
Moreover, the second criterion is not one of mere suspicion, it is one of reasonable grounds to suspect. In other words, this is a higher bar. This means more than a mere hunch. In this regard, I would note that the concept of reasonable suspicion is not unknown in Canadian criminal law.
By analogy, I note that the Supreme Court approved the standard of reasonable suspicion in the context of the common law police power of investigative detention, the police power to briefly detain a person where the officer has reasonable grounds to suspect the person has committed a crime. In this regard, I refer hon. members who are interested to the case of Regina v. Mann.
Therefore, I think it is fair to say that this will not be applied to a broad range of people in this country. With regard to the view that these powers can unfairly label a person a terrorist without the opportunity to clear oneself, I would call attention to the well-established and often-used peace bonds or recognizance powers in the Criminal Code. In particular, a peace bond could be imposed to prevent a person from inflicting injury on or committing a sexual offence against a young person. These, too, have implications for the defendants who are subject to them, but no one would argue that because of this these provisions should not exist.
Like these existing provisions, the proposed recognizance with conditions is carefully tailored to achieve an overarching critical objective, namely the prevention of a terrorist activity, an objective that I know all members support.
Another criticism of this bill, in its previous incarnation as Bill C-19, was made by the hon. NDP member for St. John's East. It went as far as, in effect, something like this:
When a bill allows for imprisonment for up to 12 months or strict recognizance conditions on individuals who have not been charged with any crime, it is contrary to the core values of our justice system.
I disagree, and I am going to prove that point immediately. I would point out that this accusation of fundamental unfairness cannot only be made of the recognizance with conditions provision found in this bill, it can also be equally made of all the peace bond provisions of the Criminal Code.
Please allow me to set out for consideration and reflection by the hon. members the following peace bond provisions that contain this very same power to order up to 12 months' imprisonment where a person refuses to enter into recognizance.
The first is a recognizance where a person fears on reasonable grounds that another person will cause serious injury to him or her or to his or her spouse or common-law partner or child, or will damage his or her property, under paragraph 810(3)(b) of the Code. Other examples are a recognizance where a person feels on reasonable grounds that another person will commit a terrorism offence or a criminal organization offence, under subsection 810.01(4); a recognizance where a person feels on reasonable grounds that another person will commit one of various sexual offences in respect of a person under 16 years of age, found under subsection 810.1(3.1); or a recognizance where a person feels on reasonable grounds that another person will commit a serious personal injury offence, which is found under subsection 810.2(4).
In all these instances, if a person refuses to enter into a recognizance, the power to order up to 12 months imprisonment exists. My point is that the punishment provision for refusing to enter into a recognizance is not unique to the recognizance with conditions provision found in Bill C-17. It is standard for all peace bond provisions in the Code. It is therefore a good reason to ensure that there is a means whereby a person's refusal to enter into a peace bond has consequences.
Indeed, I would point out that the recognizance with conditions provision found in Bill C-17 is, in one important respect, more limited in scope than some other peace bond provision found in the Code.
Hon. members may recall that where there is a reasonable fear that another person may commit a sexual offence against a person under 16 years of age or that another person may commit a serious personal injury offence, the recognizance can actually be extended from 12 months to two years if the person has been previously convicted of a similar offence. In contrast, in Bill C-17 the maximum period of time that a recognizance can be enforced is in fact 12 months.
Changing gears a little bit, I want to discuss briefly some of the policy decisions that went into the development of the bill. Members may recall that the House of Commons subcommittee interim report on the Anti-terrorism Act, the legislation that originally contained both of these schemes, recommended limiting the investigative hearing power to the investigation of imminent terrorism offences.
The government has, for good reason, decided not to go this route. If this limit were imposed, it would exclude the possibility of holding an investigative hearing in respect of past terrorism offences. For example, if this recommendation were to be accepted and if a terrorist group committed an offence and planned a subsequent offence, or offences, in the investigative hearing no questions could be asked about the offence already committed, even though such questioning could yield information that would be essential to the prevention of the planned subsequent offences. It is clear that this decision makes good policy sense and serves to better protect Canadians.
Another criticism that may be raised is that the bill does not totally reflect the judgments of the Supreme Court of Canada with regard to the investigative hearing provisions. As hon. members may recall, the Supreme Court of Canada in 2004 rendered two decisions with regard to the investigative hearing. In one case, the Supreme Court held that the investigative hearing should presumptively be an open hearing, albeit this is a presumption that could be rebutted, depending on the facts of the case; and in the other, which I have already referred to, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the investigative hearing.
However, as part of its latter judgment, the Supreme Court extended the protection of use and derivative use immunity beyond the criminal proceeding context to cover extradition and deportation hearings.
In my view, it is unnecessary for Bill C-17 to explicitly propose an amendment to extend the use of derivative use provision to extradition and deportation hearings or to include a provision about the presumption of openness in such cases. It is obvious to me that, if enacted, Bill C-17 will be interpreted in light of the Supreme Court's conclusion on these issues.
I have attempted to address some of the objections to the bill that have been raised in previous discussions. I hope that some of the reasons I have articulated will have resonated with my colleagues in this place and that they begin to view these provisions as minimally intrusive and ones that do not present a threat to the Canadian values but actually protect them.
I want to reiterate that we have heard from police officers as well on this issue. I myself was a police officer when the sunset clause took away these powers, and I am here to say that I represent many police officers across this country who believe this is essential to prevent any kind of terrorism attacks in the future.
I would urge all hon. members in the House to please support Bill C-17 and in doing so contribute once again to the safety and security of all Canadians.
Combating Terrorism Act
September 20th, 2010 / 12:15 p.m.
Rob Nicholson Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
moved that Bill C-17, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak at second reading to the combating terrorism act, Bill C-17.
In that regard, I have to thank the hon. government House leader for putting justice legislation first on the list. I know that is in accord with his own thoughts and priorities. I just want to tell him how much I appreciate that this is the first bill before Parliament in this session and thank him.
I am pleased to lead off the debate on a vital piece of the government's national security legislative agenda: Bill C-17. This bill, with which many members are familiar, seeks to reinstate, with additional safeguards, the investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions provisions that sunsetted in March 2007.
This government has put national security and, in particular, anti-terrorism at the forefront of its agenda.
In the March 3, 2010, Speech from the Throne, the government committed to taking steps to safeguard Canada's national security, maintaining Canada as a peaceful and prosperous country and one of the safest places in the world in which to live. This is our goal. The proposals in this bill represent one significant step in the right direction.
There is somewhat of a history in this place on these powers. These provisions were first introduced in the Anti-terrorism Act in December 2001 and were subject to a sunset clause. Members will recall that the ATA also contained a mandatory parliamentary review component, which led to two separate reviews: one by a Senate special committee and, in this place, by two subcommittees, the last being the Public Safety and National Security Subcommittee.
As the committees were winding down their review of the ATA, including the investigative hearing and the recognizance with conditions powers, the sunset date on these provisions was fast approaching. As a result, the government introduced a resolution in the House of Commons that proposed to extend these provisions for three years. Unfortunately, the powers were not extended by a vote of 159 to 124 and the provisions, therefore, expired on March 1, 2007.
It is important to recognize that the reports published by the parliamentary committees that reviewed the ATA were generally supportive of the powers contained in Bill C-17 and called for their extension.
Since that time, attempts have been made by this government to reinstate these important tools.
First, Bill S-3 was introduced in the Senate in the 39th Parliament and contained additional safeguards and technical changes to respond to the recommendations of the committees reviewing the ATA.
The Senate passed Bill S-3 on March 6, 2008, with a few amendments, but it died on the order paper when the election of 2008 was called.
More recently, in the last session of Parliament, this government again made efforts at bringing this important piece of legislation back to life, through Bill C-19. Bill C-19 contained the amendments made by the Senate to the former bill.
In summary, these were making mandatory a review of these provisions by a parliamentary committee within five years; deleting some words in the recognizance with conditions provisions to track charter jurisprudence; and making a technical amendment for consistency.
These changes are also now found in Bill C-17. I want to make that very clear. They are all there in this piece of legislation.
With that short history, let me turn to an explanation how the investigative hearing and the recognizance with conditions provisions of this bill would operate.
What will become very clear, as I described these proposals, is that they would achieve the appropriate balance between the respect for human rights without compromising effectiveness and utility.
First, with the investigative hearing provisions, the courts would be empowered to question, as witnesses, those persons who are reasonably believed to have information about a past or future terrorism offence.
The key here is that the person required to attend an investigative hearing is treated as a witness, not someone who is accused of a crime. It is important to note that witnesses could be questioned under this scheme without the commencement of any prosecution.
Earlier, I noted the balance between human rights and security. In this regard, the investigative hearing provision would be equipped with numerous safeguards for witnesses in accordance with the charter of rights and the Canadian Bill of Rights. I would like to set out a few of these safeguards so that all hon. members can get a sense of the careful attention which our government pays to issues of this type.
First, the attorney general must consent before the investigative hearing can be initiated.
Second, an independent judge must agree that an investigative hearing is warranted, finding in particular that it is believed on reasonable grounds that a terrorism offence has been, or will be committed, the information concerning the offence or the location of a suspect is likely to be obtained as a result of the order, and in all cases, reasonable attempts have been made to obtain the information by other means. Previously, this safeguard only applied to future terrorism offences and not past ones.
Third, section 707 of the Criminal Code, which sets out the maximum period of time in relation to which an arrested witnesses can be detained at a criminal trial, would apply to a person arrested to attend an investigative hearing. This is a new safeguard that is added to Bill C-17, something that was not in the original legislation.
Fourth, the person named in the investigative hearing would have the right to retain and instruct counsel at any stage of the proceeding.
Finally, there is a robust prohibition against the state using the information or evidence derived from the information against the person.
It is important for all members of this place to know that in 2004 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the investigative hearing was constitutional having regard to the safeguards that existed at that time in a case called “Re: Application under Criminal Code s. 83.28”.
Therefore, I think all members would agree that the safeguards set out in Bill C-17 in relation to the investigative hearing are robust, effective and reasonable.
Now let me return to the recognizance with conditions provisions of the bill. The recognizance with conditions proposal would permit the court to impose on a person such reasonable conditions as the court considers necessary to prevent terrorist activity. This would prove to be a vital tool in efforts at keeping Canadians safe. As I set out in the various components of the recognizance with conditions scheme, I would ask hon. members to take note of the numerous safeguards contained within the proposal.
Under the proposed bill, before a peace officer is able to make an application to a judge for a recognizance order, again the consent of the attorney general would have to be obtained. A peace officer could lay an information before a provincial court judge if the peace officer believed on reasonable grounds that a terrorist activity would be carried out and suspected on reasonable grounds that the imposition of a recognizance with conditions on a person or the arrest of the person would be necessary to prevent the carrying out of the terrorist activity. This would be the legal test to be met in order to obtain the judicial order to compel a person to attend before a judge.
Under this proposal judges would be able to compel a person to attend before them for a hearing to determine if a recognizance would be imposed. Now the bill proposes a very limited power to arrest without warrants, the purpose of which is to bring a person before a judge so that the judge can exercise his or her power of judicially supervised release.
This power can only be exercised in two situations as follows: first, is where a peace officer has the grounds for laying an information before a judge, but by reason of exigent circumstances it would be impractical to lay an information and the peace officer suspects on reasonable grounds that the detention of the person is necessary in order to prevent a terrorist activity.
The second is where and information has already been laid as a summons issued by a judge and the peace officer suspects on reasonable grounds that the detention of the purpose is necessary in order to prevent a terrorist activity.
For example, suppose that a peace officer has the requisite grounds to lay an information before a judge. However,he or she also learns that the terrorist suspects are planning an imminent terrorist attack and the person is about to deliver material that could be useful in making, for instance, an explosive device. In such an example, the peace officer could reasonably suspect that it is necessary to detain the person and bring him or her before the judge in order to prevent the delivery of the material and therefore the carrying out of the terrorist activity.
The bill sets out that in cases where the person has been arrested without a warrant under the recognizance with conditions provisions, that person cannot be detained for more than 72 hours. In the end, if in the opinion the recognizance is not warranted the person will of course be released.
It is important to note that if a person refuses to enter into a recognizance when ordered by the court, the judge can order the person's detention for up to 12 months. This is a significant power but I am sure one that is understandable in the circumstances given the seriousness of the harm that could be caused by the commission of a terrorist offence. Moreover, it is a power found in other peace bond provisions of the Criminal Code.
For both the investigative hearing and the recognizance with conditions powers, the bill would require annual reporting on the use of these provisions. While annual reporting requirements existed in the original legislation, this is an important change that is found in Bill C-17. In response to a recommendation from the Senate committee that reviewed the ATA, the bill proposes that both theAttorney General of Canada and the Minister of Public Safety provide their opinions, supported by reasons, as to whether the operations of these provisions should be extended. This is an open, transparent and sound reporting mechanism that is being proposed.
One of the benefits of having extensive reviews and debates already to have taken place on these provisions is that one is able to anticipate questions or concerns that may be expressed. I will not attempt to address some of those issues.
Some may take the position that these provisions are not necessary since they have been rarely used when they were in force if at all. However, this argument is premised on the view that since these powers were not used in the past that they will not be needed in the future. In the face of continuing terrorist attacks around the world, this logic is, to say the least, questionable. Neither I nor do I suspect the members of the House have the power to predict the future. Therefore it is imperative that we as a country have the mechanisms necessary to respond to a terrorist threat and that we give our law enforcement proper tools to do so. This is what Canadians rightfully expect.
It is certainly true that when these powers were previously in force for five years, to our knowledge the investigative hearing power was invoked only once and never in fact held. On that occasion, the Supreme Court of Canada considered the investigative hearing scheme and found it to be constitutional. To my knowledge, the recognizance provision was not used at all.
I suggest that this is clear proof, not that these powers are not needed, but rather that Canadian law enforcement is prepared to exercise restraints when it comes to using these powerful tools.
I would like to restate that the recognizance provisions cannot be imposed solely on the ground of reasonable suspicion. The bill would require that the police officer believes on reasonable grounds that a terrorist activity will be carried out and that he or she suspects on reasonable grounds that the imposition of a recognizance with conditions is necessary to prevent a terrorist activity. This is a significant threshold and not one based on mere suspicion.
Some have argued that the Criminal Code already contains similar provisions that could be used for terrorism related offences, such as Section 495(1)(a) and Section 810.01, and that accordingly these provisions are unnecessary. Section 495(1)(a) in part allows a police officer to arrest without a warrant a person reasonably believed to have committed an indictable offence or about to commit an indictable offence. What this argument fails to realize is that the arrest powers in that section apply to a much smaller class of persons than those who would be covered under this bill.
Similarly, the peace bond provisions that I talked about earlier target only potential perpetrators of offences themselves, the actual person doing it. Provided the criteria or the recognizance with conditions are met, this bill would apply more broadly to persons who could not be arrested for terrorism offences in order to disrupt the planning of terrorism. I think all members of the House would agree that this is a class of persons who must, in order to save lives, be subject to a form of judicially supervised release.
We all know that terrorism is not a new phenomenon. Since the attacks on the United States in September 2001, the world has witnessed numerous acts of terrorism but, more important, as the recent guilty pleas and convictions in terrorism cases in our country have shown us, Canada is not immune to the threat of terrorism.
We as a government and as parliamentarians have a responsibility to protect our citizens. In doing so, we must provide our law enforcement agencies with the necessary tools to achieve that objective. It is equally our responsibility to do so in a balanced way with due regard for human rights. That was our goal with this reform and I believe that we have achieved it.
The investigative hearing and the recognizance with conditions powers are necessary, effective and reasonable. I call upon all parties to work together to make Canada a safer place to live, work and thrive.
Business of the House
November 19th, 2009 / 3:05 p.m.
Prince George—Peace River
Jay Hill Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, today we will continue with Bill C-57, Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act.
If we were to complete that, I would intend to call Bill C-23, Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act. I would point out to my colleagues that this bill has already received more than 30 hours of debate in the House and yet the NDP and the Bloc continue to delay the proceedings and hold up this agreement that would create new business opportunities for Canadians from coast to coast.
As I indicated this morning, tomorrow will be an allotted day.
Next week we will once again focus on our justice agenda beginning with the report and third reading stage of Bill C-36, An Act to amend the Criminal Code followed by Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act and the Identification of Criminals Act and to make a consequential amendment to another Act. Then we will have Bill C-54, Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act; Bill C-55, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Shoker act; Bill C-19, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions); Bill C-53, Protecting Canadians by Ending Early Release for Criminals Act and finally, Bill C-35, Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act. All of these bills are at second reading.
On the issue of a NAFO debate, I would remind the hon. House leader for the Liberal Party that is what opposition days are for.
Business of the House
October 29th, 2009 / 3:05 p.m.
Prince George—Peace River
Jay Hill Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, in relation to what day the House will be doing its annual tributes to the sacrifices of our veterans and those in the Canadian Forces currently serving, that will be under negotiation. I suspect that is something that will be discussed among all House leaders in the days ahead. We will decide, obviously, collectively and co-operatively on the appropriate time to make that important tribute.
In regard to our ongoing justice program, obviously we are going to continue along, as we have last week and this week, for the remainder of the week with our justice legislation. I would note that since my last statement, we introduced Bill C-53, Protecting Canadians by Ending Early Release for Criminals Act, and Bill C-54, Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act. Both of those additional bills are a key part of our ongoing efforts to reform the justice system in our country.
We sent to committee this week Bill C-42, Ending Conditional Sentences for Property and other Serious Crimes Act; Bill C-52, Retribution on Behalf of Victims of White Collar Crime Act; Bill C-46, Investigative Powers for the 21st Century Act; and Bill C-47, Technical Assistance for Law Enforcement in the 21st Century Act.
By the day's end, we hope to conclude debate on Bill C-43, Strengthening Canada's Corrections System Act. If we do that, I intend to call Bill C-31, the modernizing criminal procedure bill, and Bill C-19, the anti-terrorism bill.
Tomorrow we will continue with yet another justice bill, Bill C-35, Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act, followed by the remainder of the justice bills that I noted if they have not been completed.
Next week I intend to call Bill C-50, the employment insurance for long tenured workers' bill, which is at report stage, having had it returned from committee.
Following Bill C-50, we will call for debate the report and third reading stage of Bill C-27, Electronic Commerce Protection Act, and second reading of Bill C-44, An Act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act,
Finally, Wednesday, November 4, will be an allotted day.
Technical Assistance for Law Enforcement in the 21st Century Act
October 27th, 2009 / 4:15 p.m.
Mark Holland Ajax—Pickering, ON
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is right. This should have been dealt with years ago. It should have been allowed to pass in 2005, instead of the Conservatives causing an election then. It should have been allowed to pass when the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine had introduced it in the previous session of Parliament before the Prime Minister killed it by going to the Governor General. It should have been introduced at the first opportunity in this session of Parliament.
Instead, as I mentioned, it was introduced right before the summer and then sat languishing on the order paper. However, that is not unusual. The reality is that many of the government's justice and crime bills languished on the order paper for years. We all remember Bill C-19, which dealt with investigative hearings. We were told that we were unpatriotic because we asked questions about it and that it had to be passed instantly. Suddenly, however, it sat on the order paper for two years and the Conservatives forgot all about it.
Why do they bring back these bills? I think the answer to that question rests with their recent troubles. When they get hit with a scandal and are dealing with a problem with cheque scandals and ministers embattled with various questions of impropriety, their first reaction is to drag back whatever justice bills have been languishing on the order paper as a channel changer.
That is the truth of the government's agenda on crime. It uses crime as a political weapon and as safe harbour. If other things are not going well, it retrenches to crime and talks about crime to try to change the channel.
Business of the House
October 22nd, 2009 / 3:05 p.m.
Prince George—Peace River
Jay Hill Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, I will proceed in the same order in which my colleague presented his questions.
We will continue today with our government's justice program because this is a justice week. We will be starting with our latest edition, Bill C-52, the retribution on behalf of victims of white collar crime bill.
That bill will be followed by Bill C-42,, the conditional sentencing legislation; Bill C-46, the investigative powers legislation; Bill C-47, the technical assistance for law enforcement legislation; Bill C-43, legislation to strengthen Canada's corrections system; Bill C-31, modernizing criminal procedure legislation; and Bill C-19, the anti-terrorism act.
All of these bills are still at second reading, but members can see from the long list that we do have many pieces of legislation to debate and hopefully move through the legislative process.
We will continue with these law and order bills tomorrow and next week when we return from the weekend. As is the normal practice, we will give consideration to any bills that are reported back from committee as well.
On the issue of an allotted day, Wednesday, October 28 shall be the next allotted day.
We will then resume consideration of the government's judges legislation on Thursday following that opposition day.
As my hon. colleague from across the way mentioned, speaking of our justice agenda, I should add that I was extremely pleased to see that despite the Liberals' best efforts to try to gut the bill, it was passed in the other place. For those who are not aware, there were 30 Liberal senators in the other place at the time when they were voting on those amendments. All of them voted for the amendments that would have gutted that legislation. Fortunately, the Conservatives in the other place were sufficient in number to defeat those amendments and actually pass Bill C-25, the truth in sentencing legislation. It actually received royal assent earlier today.
I would like to thank my hon. colleagues, the Conservative senators, for all the good work they did in pushing that bill forward and for all the good work they are doing in pushing forward other legislation.
The House dealt with Bill S-4, the legislation to crack down on identity theft. It was passed and received royal assent as well today.
Opposition Motion--Business of the House
Business of Supply
June 19th, 2009 / 9:20 a.m.
Prince George—Peace River
Jay Hill Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to the opposition day motion moved by the hon. member for Wascana, the Liberal House leader.
The motion recognizes the role of the House in ensuring government accountability. As we know, that is the primary function of Parliament in our Westminster system.
More specifically, the motion at hand calls for three things: first, that the Standing Orders of the House be changed with respect to the scheduling of allotted days this fall; second, that the House calendar be altered to accommodate the G20 meetings in September; and third, that the government table an additional report on the implementation of the 2009 budget.
I will touch on these three points very briefly, as it is the government's intention to support the motion. I will devote the remainder of my remarks to a more general discourse on the successful functioning of Parliament and my experiences of this past session.
The opposition day motion provides for a change to the rules of Parliament with regard to how the government may allocate opposition days this fall. Since coming to office in 2006, as a general rule our government has always tried to evenly distribute the opposition days in the parliamentary calendar. In certain circumstances we recognize that legislative priorities can force a deviation from this practice. However, we do support the idea of amending the Standing Orders to ensure that this usual practice becomes a rule.
The second provision of today's opposition day motion provides for a change to the House calendar for the fall of 2009. Under this provision the House would open a week earlier than currently scheduled and it would then adjourn for the week of September 21. This will enable the government to focus on the G20 meetings in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on September 24 and 25.
The G20 is the chief forum for the world leaders, as a group, to address issues resulting from the global economic crisis, and Canada has played an active and important role in these discussions. At the fall G20 meetings, the Prime Minister and other world leaders will discuss progress in promoting economic recovery and they will consider new ways to address global economic and financial challenges.
I think we can all agree that there is no more pressing issue before Parliament than dealing with the global economic downturn, which has caused personal hardship and job loss around the world. Unfortunately, as we all know, Canada has not been immune.
Our legislative program of this past session has reflected that the economy is the number one issue for Canadians. As such, I am pleased to support a motion that permits the Government of Canada to give its undivided attention to the critical economic discussions that will be taking place at the G20 summit in September.
The third provision of today's opposition motion requests that the government table an additional report on the implementation of the 2009 budget. In the face of global economic uncertainty, this government presented a budget in January with a comprehensive economic action plan to stimulate economic growth, restore confidence and support Canadians and their families during this global recession.
This economic recovery program is unprecedented in our history, and it is working. Canada was the last group of seven country to enter recession and the International Monetary Fund expects that we will have the strongest recovery coming out of it.
The government has also taken unprecedented steps in reporting on our economic action plan. We tabled an initial budget report in March. A week ago we tabled a second budget report, which outlines how 80% of the measures in our economic action plan are already being implemented. This government welcomes the opportunity provided by today's opposition day motion to table a third budget report in September. In fact, we committed to such a report in our budget presentation earlier this past winter.
The Minister of Finance announced at the time that he would be tabling an economic report in the fall. This being the case, I commend the official opposition for echoing the government's pre-existing intention and commitment to provide quarterly reports on the economy in and through the House to all Canadians. As we debate this today, I think it is important to remember that the government was already committed to providing that report in September.
As all members in the House know, the last few weeks have not been easy in this place. In fact they have not been easy on Canadians from coast to coast to coast. During this time of economic challenge, Canadians did not want to hear about the possibility of an election. Canadians want us to continue to work to achieve results for them. They know we cannot afford an election, which would put Canada's economic recovery at risk, halt stimulus investment across the country and limit our ability to continue to implement our economic action plan for Canadians.
By avoiding an election, we have enabled the government to continue its course of doing everything possible to turn this global recession around on our own soil. The cooperation we have seen emerge over this week, spearheaded by our Prime Minister, has not only avoided a costly and unwanted election but has clearly demonstrated to Canadians that their Parliament can work for them.
Despite the partisan political drama played out during the daily 45 minutes of question period, Canadians may be surprised to know just how cooperative and productive this past session of Parliament has been. Since January, our government has worked with all opposition parties to advance many important bills that will help Canadian families. We have moved forward on our electoral commitments, and I am pleased that much more has been done.
Since January, the government has introduced a total of 54 bills. By the time the Senate adjourns for the summer next week, I expect we will have royal assent on 26 of those bills, including such important legislative initiatives as Bill C-33, which will restore war veterans' allowances to allied veterans and their families; Bill C-29, to guarantee an estimated $1 billion in loans over the next five years to Canadian farm families and co-operatives; Bill C-3, to promote the economic development of Canada's north; Bill C-28, to increase the governance capacity of first nations in Canada; and Bill C-14, a critically important justice bill to fight the scourge of organized crime.
Although much work has been accomplished, a good number of bills that continue to be priorities of our government remain on the order paper, including Bill C-6, to enact Canada's consumer product safety act to help protect the health and safety of all Canadians; Bill C-8, to provide first nations women on reserve with the same rights and protections enjoyed by all other Canadians; and Bill C-23, to open new doors for trade between Canada and Colombia.
Furthermore, our government has continued to demonstrate an unwavering commitment to fighting crime and violence in this country. Our justice minister, the hon. member for Niagara Falls, has been unrelenting in his determination to hold criminals accountable and protect victims and law-abiding Canadian citizens.
Over a dozen justice related bills have been introduced since the beginning of this parliamentary session, which include Bill C-15, Bill C-26 and Bill S-4, to help fight crimes related to criminal organizations, such as drug-related offences, identity theft and auto theft; Bill C-25, which will return truth in sentencing and eliminate the two for one credit; Bill C-36, which will repeal the faint hope clause, and Bill C-19, the new anti-terrorism bill.
Unfortunately none of these bills have completed the legislative process during this session of Parliament. Again, due to the leadership of our Prime Minister, thankfully our country will not be plunged into an election and these bills will remain on the order paper. We hope to pass them into law in the fall.
I look forward to continuing the spirit of cooperation in this place in September to accomplish this unfinished business for all Canadians. Five of these bills have already passed one chamber of Parliament and they are before the second House for consideration. On behalf of vulnerable Canadians in particular, we have to keep moving to get the job done on this important legislation.
In closing, I am pleased that the government has been able to develop today's opposition day motion in cooperation with the official opposition. This House of Commons should more often focus on what all of us have in common rather than what divides us. While I would have liked to have seen some debate on some of our newer bills that we have just introduced and passed more of our justice and safety bills, this parliamentary sitting is winding down in the age-old Canadian tradition of compromise.
We all know that this place is about debate, trade-offs, negotiations and compromise. This is how Parliament works. This is how our very country was born, has grown and continues to develop and flourish.
As I have already indicated, the government will be supporting today's motion. I again salute our Prime Minister for his leadership in staving off an election, which I think would be dreaded by the vast majority of Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I wish you, and all colleagues in this House, a very happy summer.