House of Commons Hansard #99 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-37.

Topics

Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act
Government Orders

October 22nd, 2001 / 3:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant McNally Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague in the coalition from Cumberland--Colchester. He is not a man who often sings his own praises, but I will briefly mention that he is very hard-working and is in fact working on bringing together a conference of individuals from the Middle East, Palestine and Israel, to talk about a resolution to the ongoing conflict taking place there. I congratulate him for his hard work on that particular issue.

I will ask him one question about Bill C-37, that being the part that was brought up earlier by the member for Crowfoot about the RCMP and its role in providing security in these kinds of situations. Could my colleague comment on whether he thinks that is addressed adequately within this bill or is there more that could be done in that particular area?

Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act
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3:35 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, first, I will make it clear that I do not sing at all. I appreciate the comment, but it is an all party effort, with members of all parties attempting to bring the Israeli and Palestinian members of parliament to Canada to meet with Canadians. It has already been a rewarding experience because for eight months Israelis, Palestinians and Canadians have worked together. We have not accomplished the goal yet, but we have already made progress.

As far as the question of law enforcement, I am confident that the clarification of the RCMP as the law enforcement agency responsible for enforcement in this situation will ensure a much better reaction and law enforcement situation. Plus, if we have a group of RCMP specialists in this type of field who specialize in the management of these international events, they can understand and perhaps use their experience to improve the process so that protesters can protest and demonstrators can demonstrate without violence, without damage and without the awful circumstances involved in recent events.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act
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3:35 p.m.

Barrie—Simcoe—Bradford
Ontario

Liberal

Aileen Carroll Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I too will attest to the hon. member for Colchester--Cumberland's hard-working approach to all that he does in the House of Commons. In that regard, he reflects of course the hard-working people of his province and my native province.

As well, I thank him for the comments he has made outlining the strengths of the bill to amend the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act. However, having delivered the good news to the hon. member, I was somewhat taken back when he indicated that he did not believe a thorough investigation has followed the tragic events regarding Mr. Knyazev's departure from the country and what led to it. I assure the House that we have been doing everything possible to assure that Mr. Knyazev is investigated and brought to justice.

In that regard, we have worked closely through the mutual legal assistance program with the Russian authorities. They have now completed their investigation and, in accordance with Russian law, investigators must now review their report with the victim and her family. This is consistent with their approach.

We have from the outset worked very hard to make sure that everything was appropriate, that this was a very thorough investigation, and although it has been extended, there is no concern whatsoever that any deadlines will be missed in that regard. I do feel it necessary and incumbent on the hon. member to check his empirical data in future.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Cumberland—Colchester, NS

My empirical data is very simple, Mr. Speaker. There have been no charges laid and the Russians have not co-operated in the way they should have. The big one for me was, they said that they would only send Russian investigators to Canada if Canada paid. That does not show much of a commitment on behalf of the Russians to see that justice is done. Justice in this case will only be done if we pay for it even though the charges are against Russians not against Canadians. The Russians should pay for this.

However, I am not arguing that the government did not do what it could within the parameters that were available. The parameters should change, and they could have been changed under this bill, to give more access to justice to ensure that justice is done in the event that a crime like this occurs.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act
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3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Aileen Carroll Barrie—Simcoe—Bradford, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have one last comment. No justice is rendered if charges are brought prematurely.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act
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3:40 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, no justice is rendered if no charges are brought.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to what the member had to say about these meetings which had to do with the Middle East. It strikes me as extremely topical. Could he give us a little more information on them.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act
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3:40 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, this was a series of meetings proposed to bring Israeli members of the Knesset and Palestinian members of the legislative assembly to meet with Canadian parliamentarians. It was actually scheduled to take place last Monday but because of a change in schedules and the volatility of the situation, we had to delay it for a short time.

I am convinced that both sides are still committed to do this. As late as this morning, I talked to Israeli and Palestinian authorities and they are both still committed to come. It will be very beneficial for all of us if they can.

Again, the magic is that already the Israelis, the Palestinians and the Canadians have worked together. We have proven we can work together and make accomplishments, even if it is just a small accomplishment. I am very optimistic that if we get another chance to enhance this, we will even do better.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act
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3:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Monte Solberg Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I also want to congratulate my friend, the member for Cumberland--Colchester, on his efforts in bringing together the Israelis and the Palestinians. As he probably knows, he has taken on a Herculean task. Nevertheless, every effort helps and at some point will be able to break the camel's back or one more straw will destroy the enmity between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

It is my pleasure to speak to Bill C-35. I want to continue down the same path that my friend from Crowfoot started down. Not long ago he gave an excellent speech in this place about some of the concerns that we have about the separation between the people who enforce the law, the RCMP, and the government.

When there is a real embarrassment facing the government, if it had the opportunity, the temptation would be to use the RCMP or any police force to try and cover up that embarrassment. I will not suggest that this government is prepared to do that, but there have been concerns in the past and we all know that. I am speaking of the APEC affair or the airbus affair of which my friend spoke. There was enough evidence in the APEC affair to warrant our concern about that possibility. In the airbus affair, we saw evidence that the government did what it could to pursue a former prime minister to the point where it cost Canadian taxpayers $3.4 million.

In Canada we have taken our freedoms for granted. For a long time we have lived in relative peace. We have never really been in a situation, not since Confederation, where our personal liberties have been seriously threatened. There have been times when there have been bumps along the road and at various points Canada has entered into great conflicts. Canadians have always valued their freedom, but unless they are threatened, after a period of time people tend to take their freedom for granted.

One of the greatest innovations of modern times is the idea of limited government. It is important to remember that for a long time in history the normal course of events was for the monarchy, or the government or the church to have all the power while individuals had none. Over the last 800 or 900 years we have seen that change. We have seen more and more rights accumulate to individuals. We should value those rights.

As somebody once said that government is not reasoned. It is not eloquence. It is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearsome master. I believe that is right. That is founded on what we know from history. Governments at various times have intervened in the ability of individuals to pursue their lives as they wished.

Any time a piece of legislation comes along that suggests that more power should accumulate to the government, in this case via the RCMP, we should be concerned. We should watch and make sure that we are not giving away freedoms frivolously or without going trough them to ensure that there is not some other way that we can deal with this. I submit that there is a different way that we can deal with this.

One of the things that legislators in general would be happy to see would be a government that recognized there was concern about its connection to the RCMP and security forces and that it would take some steps to ensure that there was, on the one hand, oversight, but on the other hand, eliminate some of the possible ways that, in this case, the Prime Minister's Office could interfere via security forces to try to cover up some kind of an embarrassment. There are ways to do that.

One way would be to involve this place, through our committees, to ensure that there would be some kind of an oversight capacity. Some people have suggested that we could set up our own committee to specifically deal with those types of things.

Perhaps it would be a subcommittee of the justice committee. It is a good idea to have some committee empowered to ensure that our security forces are not politically interfered with in some way. That is a critical point because at this point we almost leave it solely to the discretion of the ministers in charge as to whether or not they can get involved in some way. We really count on their good will.

I am not suggesting that every day it be challenged in some way, but there are times when governments could be tempted to intervene and in so doing start to limit the freedoms of individuals. At a time of crisis we need to be aware particularly of that possibility.

One possible option would be to set up a subcommittee or committee to have oversight to ensure that if some of these issues arise we have a way to look at them and deal with them.

I heard it said in this place by the justice minister today that there were concerns at this time about whether or not the government would interfere in the rights of individuals, or something like that. There have been many times when the government has interfered with the rights of individuals in Canada. I could point to Bill C-68 and suggest that the government absolutely and completely interfered with the rights of individuals when it brought in that legislation. It completely interferes with our right to private property.

Preceding Bill C-68, and I believe as a part of it, the government through order in council confiscated people's legally obtained firearms without compensation. That is completely contrary to the idea of property rights and the basic freedoms we have established over a long period of time.

Many people believe our basic freedoms were only defined in 1981 with the charter of rights. That is completely wrong. We had hundreds of years of common law tradition before then which really laid down the ground rules for our basic freedoms. Mr. Diefenbaker brought in a bill of rights which put those rights down on paper. I argue that the government violated those rights when it brought in Bill C-68 and started to confiscate firearms.

I argue that when it comes to endangered species legislation the government is on the cusp of interfering with our most basic property rights, again because it is not prepared to offer full compensation for land that is taken out of production in the hope it can somehow protect an endangered species. We have no problem with endangered species legislation, but we believe the government should ensure that the basic rights of people are protected.

There is no more fundamental right than property rights. Some people may question that, but I argue that every right is a property right. My friend from Hamilton nods his head, but every right is a property right. In fact there is only one right and it is the property right: the right to the security of ourselves, the right to control our actions, the right to acquire things. There is but one right and that is a property right in oneself.

When abolitionists were trying to get rid of slavery they used to call it man stealing because people were stealing someone else's person. I argue there is but one right and every other right flows from it: the right to property. The first right we have is the security of our own person. The right to freedom of speech flows from that. The right to freedom of association and the right to keep what we have produced with our hands and our minds all flow from the same source: the right to private property in ourselves.

When we set down laws at a time when we are concerned about having security of our person breached by forces outside our borders, we have to be careful that we do not at the same time breach them by empowering our government to do too much. That is my primary concern with Bill C-35 and actually with Bill C-36 as well, while we are talking about bills presently before the government.

There are other examples of how government has breached our rights even since I have been a member of parliament.

One thing that was most frustrating to me as an MP, as someone who comes from the west, was when the government lost a court case over the Canadian Wheat Board and moved very quickly to plug a loophole through order in council which effectively ensured that the government could stop farmers from the great crime of selling the wheat they had produced on their own land, selling it in that case to someone in the United States.

Even in Canada farmers are not allowed to sell their own wheat. It all has to pass through the Canadian Wheat Board, which is completely contrary to the--

Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I have been here for quite some time and I thought we were looking at Bill C-35. Just in the summary of the bill it says it has to do with foreign missions and international organizations that allow Canada to comply with its existing commitments under international treaties and respond to recent developments in international law. Where is the relevance of the last 10 minutes?

Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I ask the hon. member for Medicine Hat to tie everything he said in the past 10 minutes to the subject at hand.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act
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3:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Monte Solberg Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, if the member cannot see the relevance of talking about basic fundamental rights whenever we talk about any legislation, I am afraid I cannot say anything to him that would get the picture across.

Every piece of legislation that comes through this place has to be screened at some point, and I hope justice department lawyers do it, to determine whether or not it is in some violation of our fundamental rights. I can say nothing more than that to clarify it for the hon. member.

The summary of the bill talks about empowering the RCMP, giving the RCMP new powers which some people are concerned may kick the door open for political interference by the RCMP in matters that might embarrass the government. That is really the point I am trying to make. I am simply saying that there are precedents for governments violating our rights. One of the rights that have been violated, I would argue again, is a property right.

Andy McMechan, a Manitoba farmer, was put in chains and cast into prison for the great crime of selling his own wheat, a violation of his most basic right to property. It was absolutely ridiculous.

That is my response to my friend across the way who was wondering whether or not the legislation has any connection at all to the idea of basic rights. I argue that of course it does.

I go beyond that and touch on something else which my friend from Crowfoot touched on. He is here right now. He gave a great speech when he talked about some of these different things. I simply point out that when it comes to protest, I believe completely that people should have the freedom to protest.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Order, please. The hon. member for Medicine Hat has the floor.