House of Commons Hansard #116 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was international.

Topics

Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Yes, Mr. Speaker.

Foreign Missions And International Organizations Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale for the Minister of Foreign Affairs

moved: that Bill C-35, an act to amend the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act, be read the third time and passed.

Foreign Missions And International Organizations Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to further discuss Bill C-35 which would extend diplomatic immunity to a far broader number of people than is currently the case in our country and beyond the requirement of the Geneva convention on this subject.

It continues the government's tradition of extending far greater immunity to a member of the mission staff of another nation in Canada than is the case in most countries in the world with which we are allied. It puts far more people above the law when they come to Canada.

This bill deserves to be shredded. It is a bill that would restrict the rights of law abiding Canadians. It is one which the department wants to see in place for some unknown reason. It would extend immunity to potentially a vast crowd of foreigners who do not even work for embassies in our country.

As it quietly makes its way through the House it carries the mundane title of an act to amend the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act. It is anything but mundane in its effect.

Under the bill a delegate, official, staff member, family member or a bag carrier showing up for an international gathering would have diplomatic immunity. Diplomatic immunity gives the person who comes here the right to rape, steal, drive drunk, and break Canadian laws without consequence and with impunity.

When a foreign affairs official was asked why this should be done, the comment was that we would not go through a list and say that this person can have immunity and that person cannot. The official further stated that if we give diplomatic privileges and immunities for a meeting then all participants we let in for that meeting will get in.

The same legislation gives the department the authority to issue special visas to conference delegates who might otherwise be barred from entering Canada. It puts interesting people such as known criminals not only in a position of being able to come into the country but of being able to break the laws without any consequence whatsoever.

The Canadian public is already sufficiently concerned by recent incidents involving law breaking diplomats that we do not need to add to the problem. I cannot understand how a government could possibly defend extending immunity to even more people when we have not even set up a mechanism to deal with the abuse of the current system.

There have been about 90 acts of suspected criminal misconduct by diplomats, their families and other personnel posted in Canada in the last five years. The worst case that comes to mind is that of the Russian diplomat accused of killing Ottawa lawyer Catherine MacLean last January while driving drunk.

These concerns were shared by the Minister of Foreign Affairs at that time who talked about getting tough on the issue. That has not been the case and the bill takes us in a direction quite contrary to the one that we should be going in.

The department has given a number of reasons as to why and some Liberals who participated in the debate, though very few, gave us some arguments which I would like to refute.

One member opposite stated that we must do this to keep up with our international allies. That is not the case. Research shows that our allies do not extend diplomatic immunity to the degree that we do in such a broad based way. They may extend immunity in part at times for some acts, for some responsibilities in the course of one's duties, but they do not give blanket immunity to people on mission staff, let alone people who visit their country for meetings.

The bill goes completely counter to the reality in the United Kingdom or the United States of America. To argue that we must do this to keep up with international trends is quite false.

Let us put that rumour to rest because there is no such international trend. It is quite the contrary. I would expect that since September 11 each of the countries in the western world would be taking a serious look at all aspects of security. This would be one of those aspects.

I would expect a tightening up of the security around international events when they are hosted, not an extension of blanket immunity to all who participate. The government's bill is completely out of touch with the reality of post-September 11. Frankly it is not really in touch with the reality of pre-September 11.

We are told we should support the bill because of the need for us to give reciprocity for Canadian diplomats abroad. It is suggested that we have to give blanket immunity to everyone who comes to Canada for a convention in order for our diplomats to be protected in other countries of the world. That is not true either.

There were only three incidents in the last several years where a Canadian member of a diplomatic mission was involved in any criminal activity whatsoever. Yet there were close to 40 times as many incidents where members of foreign delegations were involved in crime in Canada.

It is a specious argument to expect further immunity to be given and to create more problems when some problems have been clearly noted and not dealt with.

The argument that we need to have diplomatic immunity is a valid one. Diplomatic immunity is an old and well understood way of making sure that the diplomats who travel around the world are not beheaded when they give a message that the local ruler does not like. Rules governing diplomatic immunity are set out very clearly in the Vienna convention.

The Vienna convention was written back in 1961. Canada played a major role in the wording of the Vienna convention. We are not abiding by Canada's wording today. It says that complete diplomatic immunity is not given to any but the most senior diplomatic staff.

The government is not abiding by the Canadian compromise in the Vienna convention that was adopted in 1961. Our parameters are far more liberal as we go far beyond it.

Aristotle said, before Jesus Christ was born, that liberalism would grow until chaos reigns supreme. Some would argue such is the case today with regard to the policy of extending diplomatic immunity more broadly than is currently the case. We accept reciprocity for Canadian diplomats abroad to a degree. Such is the case today.

To accept that we must go further still and extend complete diplomatic immunity to people who come here for conventions and meetings of various kinds is of course illogical and not supported by the facts.

Another argument that is made by some is that the committee on scrutiny of regulations recommended that we adopt the bill. This is not the case. Those who are watching at home or who have been in the House much longer than I have know that the committee on scrutiny of regulations does not advocate for legislation to be adopted. It tells people when they are in violation of certain regulations and rules.

The committee on scrutiny of regulations has notified the Department of Foreign Affairs since 1991 that orders in council on the recommendation of the foreign affairs minister extending immunity to participants in international conferences were illegal. Each of the last four foreign ministers was notified of the problem.

The problem is not that we need legislation to legalize what is a questionable practice. The problem is that we have ministers who consistently adopt that questionable practice and need to stop. That is the problem.

Most Canadians, if they were privy to the facts as members of the House are, would question the adoption of legislation to legitimize this practice. The practice is totally illogical.

Passing the bill would legitimize the practice of extending diplomatic immunity to people who do not deserve it under the Vienna convention. It would give people the right to live above the law without consequence. That should not be done. It is totally wrong to do it. To suggest that the committee on scrutiny of regulations called for us to adopt it, as some have, is totally false and misleading. It is quite the contrary. What the committee pointed out was that the government was acting without regard to the law.

I question whether the bill should be adopted. It should not be adopted as a basis of fact because the scrutiny of regulations committee asked for it to be adopted. That is not true. The scrutiny of regulations committee does not advise the government on how to remedy problems which it identifies.

In this case the committee simply told the government that foreign delegates to international conventions were not to be among those included in the definition of who was eligible for immunity under current law.

The government has chosen to adapt the law to its practice when what it should do is adapt its practice to the law. What are the Liberals real reasons for doing this? I think they are two-fold. My colleagues in other parties have addressed some of them but I will certainly talk about just two very quickly.

I think the real reasons are tourism and a legacy. They want a legacy for the Prime Minister so he can be the senior statesman hosting a variety of meetings. That is nice. We are all proud of the fact that we can host meetings in this country.

However, the second is the tourism aspect. It is being suggested that we should pass this bill so we can attract more people to come to international conventions, and that is the other argument members opposite are making. The fact is we host many international meetings, more than our share, and Canadians pay the price for hosting them too.

The reality is that after September 11 the price for hosting international meetings has gone up because the security provisions that have to be taken are very costly. We have no trouble attracting international meetings. We just had the G-20 meetings here last weekend. We have the G-8 meetings coming to Kananaskis next year.

Over the last number of years, and increasingly so in recent months, we have had many other meetings where international diplomats, their families and entourages have come to Canada. Without telling them that they can come and be above the law, they come anyway. I would suggest they will continue to in the absence of this downright silly piece of legislation going forward because, as people at the American embassy told us in meetings we had with them, Canada has a reputation for being an excellent host to international events.

Today we do not need to tell people that they can come here and have no consequence under Canadian law for criminal acts in order to get them here. They come anyway. To suggest we need this as a tourism initiative is specious as well.

The arguments the Liberals make to advance this piece of legislation are specious arguments. They do not carry any significant weight.

Why are they putting this forward? Perhaps they are putting it forward so that a bigger category of people can be immune from criminal acts and therefore they can legitimize increasing the use of the RCMP at events. If that is the case, they should say so but no one has. Therefore, I cannot argue that that is their reason. I will not impugn their motives. However I do know that this seems to be the only legitimate motive that anyone can come up with when they read this legislation.

All of this would be just a fine little theoretical debate, if there were not consequences paid by Canadians for criminal acts by people who are given diplomatic immunity. The minister has said that it is an infrequent thing, that it rarely happens and so on. I will let Canadians be the judge of this, but in the last five years we have had close to 90 cases of crimes attributable to people given diplomatic immunity. That is more than one case per month where people have committed a criminal act and there has been no price or consequence to be paid. Each of those acts leaves at least one Canadian victim. We should be considering that.

In the past five years 13,000 foreign diplomats have been in Canada. If this bill is passed it would extend diplomatic immunity to visitors. I asked the department to estimate the number of people who would become eligible if this bill was adopted and it could not give me a number.

We can safely assume that the rate at which crimes are committed by people given diplomatic immunity will multiply the number of crimes because the number of people receiving it will have increased. Any basic student of psychology understands that when the consequences of an act are removed the likelihood of such an act is increased. When we remove the consequences of a criminal act from anyone, we must understand and accept the fact there will be an increased likelihood of conduct unbecoming. Such has been the case.

In Great Britain it took the event at a Libyan mission of people given diplomatic immunity before Britain woke up and said that it was ridiculous that it could not prosecute people when they murdered in its own country. During a protest in front of the mission, people were fired on and a British policeman was killed. Great Britain took a serious look at adopting measures, and did, restricting the bestowing of diplomatic immunity to people in its country.

Britain screened missions. It asked for lists in advance. It encouraged and successfully fought for the presence over the size of each mission to be relevant to the relations it had with that particular country. It exercised the controls it had to make sure that diplomatic immunity was not extended unnecessarily, without validity or without just reason or cause.

Exactly what they did in Great Britain, they are not doing here. In the United States the son of a Saudi diplomat raped a woman and then within an hour was released because he successfully claimed diplomatic immunity. He was followed to a bar where he bragged to his friends about his conduct. That is the reality of what happens when diplomatic immunity is given out like candy at Halloween. This government is proposing to do it again for people who visit Canada for meetings, and it is ridiculous.

Let us just chronicle these events because each of them has a Canadian victim. If the member opposite wants to speak to the families of those victims, I would encourage her to do that because I have. There have been five incidents involving Canadian diplomats in the same time period. She is fond of mentioning that we have to quid pro quo this and that if we limit in any way the extension of diplomatic immunity to people here that somehow our diplomats would be placed in great danger. There have been only five incidents where Canadian diplomatic people have violated the trust put in them by foreign countries in the last five years. There have been 90 incidents where people in Canada have violated that trust.

Let us talk about the victims for a second. Of these incidents: 19% involved impaired driving; 20% were assaults; 19% were sexual offences; and 5% involved shoplifting. There was an attempted bribery case. There was an attempted murder case. There was even a charge of keeping a common bawdy house. We cannot even prosecute people when we give diplomatic immunity to them.

There are 1,000 diplomatic households currently in Canada. Currently there are 8,000 people who qualify for diplomatic immunity. If we adopt this legislation, that number will escalate dramatically.

Next time an action is taken by someone who is given diplomatic immunity, there will be a consequence for a law-abiding Canadian person or family. When that happens, Canadians will ask what the government is doing about it, just as they did when Catherine MacLean was killed, and they should ask.

However, let us ask right now. Let us ask why we are extending this immunity more broadly than is currently the case, when the government has not taken a step to limit the harmful effects of diplomatic immunity, when people commit these acts.

During the five years before Mrs. MacLean's death, foreign diplomats in Canada have committed 76 criminal offences that we know of, including physical and sexual assaults and impaired driving. There were also instances of drug trafficking and smuggling of aliens. These are all serious crimes that constitute a danger for Canadians.

Diplomatic immunity was waived in just 3 cases out of 76, and Bill C-35 will make a bad situation even worse.

The reality seems to escape the members opposite.

I would like to move on and talk a little about the police power that we are expanding under the bill. This is something I know that concerns many people in the House. In fact a growing number of people on this side of the House, as they research the bill, have become more concerned about the powers of the police force and the implications that has for our country when increased powers are given to our police force without constraining the power of politicians to manipulate that same police force. That is the concern many people have.

The powers being granted to police forces in Bill C-35 run directly against the freedoms of all Canadians.

This bill tends to limit the right of Canadians to protest openly against initiatives they consider dangerous for them and those they want to protect.

It has allowed the RCMP to limit access to international events in order to protect participants. It is a flimsy argument to allow the RCMP to smother any protest to avoid offending foreign representatives.

This clause of the bill is contrary to the recommendation made in the Hughes report that protesters ought to have access to meeting sites.

I will read from recommendation 31.1.1 of the Hughes report, which states:

When the RCMP is called upon in future to police public order events the leadership of the Force should ensure, that: generous opportunity will be afforded for peaceful protesters to see and be seen in their protest activities by guests to the event...

Recommendation 31.3.1 states:

The RCMP should request statutory codification of the nature and extent of police independence from government with respect to:

  1. existing common law principles regarding law enforcement; and

  2. the provision of and responsibility for delivery of security services at public order events.

I will quote a small section of recommendation 31.3.2. which states:

--that (the RCMP) are to brook no intrusion or interference whatever from government officials as they meet the responsibilities of providing the agreed upon security services.

In short, what the Hughes' recommendations said was that the RCMP separation from politicians should be made clear. This act would do nothing about that. It ignores those recommendations and simply expands police involvement without limiting political intrusion, and this is wrong.

As well, the bill ignores the Hughes report recommendation that the RCMP be free of political influence by the Cabinet or the PMO.

The Liberal majority on the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade defeated an amendment, which was supported by all members of the opposition, which would have made it an offence for there to be political interference into the affairs of the RCMP when international meetings were being held.

What is more, Bill C-35 makes it possible for the minister to unilaterally grant entry into Canada to delegates, regardless of their criminal background, and to put them above our laws, at the very moment Bill C-36, the anti-terrorism bill, is threatening the rights of Canadians.

At the present time it seems both unjustified and unjustifiable to give foreign delegates rights that are being taken away from honest Canadian citizens.

Oversight is a concern as well. Parliamentary oversight would be lessened by the passage of the bill. Parliamentary oversight is an important principle we should support in Canada.

In the amendments proposed under the bill adjacent to this one, the anti-terrorist legislation Bill C-36, the minister has agreed to file annual reports when police forces expand their powers and use additional powers which may restrict the civil liberties of Canadians.

In other words the minister has agreed to give parliament a greater opportunity to debate and be aware of the concerns Canadians would justifiably have that the liberties they treasure are being infringed on unnecessarily. That is wise.

We proposed in the adjacent Bill C-35 that the minister file an annual report on the criminal conduct of people given diplomatic immunity in our country. He has promised to do this but has not. The Liberal majority on the committee defeated the amendment, which gives the lie to the minister's commitment and promise. That is too bad. It is a shame. I would hope if the minister were there he would have risen in his place and urged his colleagues to vote for the amendment.

Right now in terms of oversight we use the Immigration Act. In the current process the Immigration Act allows the minister to sign a certificate and let people come in who otherwise would not be admissible to Canada. The minister must report to parliament each year and say who was let in who would not have been let in, in any other way. That way parliament gets to know what is happening and to debate it.

Bill C-35 would transfer responsibility to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and remove the requirement to report to parliament. That is a shame because this is who will be let in when we sign the certificate.

We would not just be letting them in. Let us understand that. We would be giving them diplomatic immunity. That means we would let in these kinds of folks and tell them they could do whatever they want when they came here. We could not prosecute them. They could do anything they want. These are people whom we would not normally allow into Canada but the minister would be allowed to let them in.

I will quote from the act. It describes inadmissible persons as:

(e) persons who there are reasonable grounds to believe

(i) will engage in acts of espionage or subversion against democratic government, institutions or processes, as they are understood in Canada,

(ii) will, while in Canada, engage in or instigate the subversion by force of any government,

(iii) will engage in terrorism, or

(iv) are members of an organization that there are reasonable grounds to believe will

(A) engage in acts of espionage or subversion against democratic government, institutions or processes, as they are understood in Canada--

Normally such people are not admissible to Canada and I think Canadians would say hear, hear. Bill C-35 would allow the minister to let them in with a signature. More than that, it would let the minister give them permission to be above Canadian law.

The government does not want to make it a crime for people to belong to a terrorist organization. That we understand. However to suggest the minister should have the right to let in people who he knows are members is another thing.

The bill would go further. It would not only say we have the right to let in people we know are members of organizations like that. It would allow the minister to say they do not need to abide by our laws while they are here. I can see that even you, Mr. Speaker, are in total agreement with me on this point.

It could be justifiably argued that people who engage in these kinds of activities should not be allowed into our country. This is blanketed by the more popular and current Bill C-36. If Canadians were part of the debate they would ask why in heaven's name the government would let a bunch of people into Canada who would not abide by our laws when we already have a problem with the ones who do. They would say we should not let in these types of people.

I will again quote from the act. It describes as inadmissible:

(g) persons who there are reasonable grounds to believe will engage in acts of violence that would or might endanger the lives or safety of persons in Canada--

(j) persons who there are reasonable grounds to believe have committed an offence referred to in any of the sections 4 to 7 of the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act--

(l) persons who are or were senior members of or are senior officials in the service of a government that is or was, in the opinion of the Minister, engaged in terrorism, systematic or gross human rights violations, or any act or omission that would be an offence under any of sections 4 to 7 of the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act--

Bill C-35 would remove these provisions. It would essentially say the minister has the right to let any of these people into the country that he wants. That makes no sense. It is hard not to get a little fired up about my opposition to the bill. Many of the people I talk to say it is so illogical it is no wonder I am fired up about it.

Catherine MacLean and her friend Catherine Doré went out for a walk in their neighbourhood 10 months ago. They went out for a walk on a nice winter morning. Around the corner came a car driven by a drunk. The drunk killed Catherine MacLean and seriously injured Catherine Doré who is still trying to recuperate.

The consequences of that act are nothing to the government. It has brought forward a piece of legislation which does nothing to address the problem. It would simply make it bigger. That is thoughtlessness. It disregards and disrespects the memory of Catherine MacLean. I am disappointed that the government would proceed with this legislation.

When Catherine MacLean went for her walk she could not have anticipated the consequences, but we could have. We knew the Russian diplomat was a drunk driver. We knew it. We knew it twice before and we still did nothing. We knew it after the fact. It is to the credit of the foreign affairs critic at the time that he raised the issue intelligently and forcefully. I thank him for doing that.

It is not enough to say we now have new protocols. The department has said it has new protocols. People would get one chance for drunk driving and the second time they would be out. That is fine. We will deal with the consequences of drunk driving after the fact. Is that the best we can do? I do not think so.

We can do better. We can develop foresight. Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are committed to repeat their mistakes. The reality is that we should know better.

We saw what happened when we did not inform the House of the consequences of these acts. Now we are going in the wrong direction. We will not inform the House of whom we let into the country. If we adopt the act we will not inform the House of violations that occur. We will not know about drunk driving because the government will not have to report it to us. That is wrong.

I feel badly for Catherine MacLean. I feel badly that I have to raise this issue. However the government is ignoring the consequences of actions like that with the legislation it has brought forward. We all know and should know that the best way the government could have acted was to deal with the problems around diplomatic immunity and not bring forward a piece of legislation that expands the problems.

A better thing would have been to do nothing. Nothing at all would have been better than bringing this piece of legislation to the House.

Do hon. members know what happened when Mr. Knyazev, the Russian diplomat that killed Catherine MacLean and seriously injured Catherine Doré? The Russian people demanded an apology. The Russian embassy demanded an apology from the Canadian government for trying to hold the man. They got it. They got an apology.

We asked the Russians to waive diplomatic immunity. They refused. I say good for the minister for asking, but would it not be better if we did not have to ask? Would it not be better if we made sure through foresight and preparedness that these kinds of things did not happen again? Would that not be a lot better? Would it not be better for Catherine MacLean's family if we showed respect for her and acted accordingly?

There were two young teenage girls whom a Ukrainian diplomat tried to accost into his car with an anesthetic soaked rag. We could not charge him either. Would it not be better for the victims of these people if we could do something about it? We can. We can throw this bill in the garbage where it belongs.

When Catherine MacLean died, the Minister of Foreign Affairs expressed sympathy and said that diplomatic immunity should not be used to shelter people who commit crimes that are not connected to the performance of their duties.

The minister said at the time that he had no sympathy for people who commit these acts outside the realm of their responsibilities. Yet immunity was given. The reality is that immunity is given by the government in a broad based way, not just to senior diplomats but to computer programmers and chauffeurs.

The minister promised several things. He promised he would look at the issue but there is no evidence he has. He promised he would put on the departmental website a complete list of all the violations. We have not seen it. He promised he would present quarterly updates of cases where diplomatic immunity was violated. That has not happened. There has been a litany of broken promises on this file. That disappoints me.

We all understand and respect that the Minister of Foreign Affairs has a tremendous burden to bear right now. However we cannot allow this piece of legislation to move forward and make him break his word to Catherine MacLean and her family just because his attention is elsewhere. That would be wrong.

We asked government members to consider a number of reasonable and thoughtful amendments. We asked that it be made an offence for government representatives to influence or instruct police on operational matters around protest sites at international meetings. They should not do this. The Hughes inquiry clearly spelled that out. It is against the best interests of the RCMP to impugn its motives and integrity. It should not be done.

We asked that the minister account to parliament for any foreign representatives he admits who would not be admissible under the Immigration Act. In other words, we asked that he tell us in a report whom he is letting into the country who would normally not be allowed in.

We asked that the minister be prohibited from granting immunity for criminal acts beyond what is required under the Vienna convention. To put it simply, we asked that he comply with the Vienna convention but go no further. All these amendments were rejected.

We asked that immunity be restricted for representatives at conferences. We asked that they not be given immunity except when it applied to the normal course of their duties. Giving them that degree of protection would comply with what the minister said he would like to see after Catherine MacLean's death. It would comply with what the Vienna convention says about the issue. It would comply with what our allies do, if they go that far at all. Many of our allies do not give immunity to people who come for international meetings.

My colleague from Cumberland--Colchester proposed a reasonable and well thought out amendment. I congratulate him on it. His amendment would have allowed the minister to keep his promise by publishing quarterly reports of crimes committed by those who are given immunity. It was a thoughtful amendment. We supported it as did every non-governmental member of the committee. The government of course used its majority to defeat the member's thoughtful and reasonable amendment.

There are some key reasons Bill C-35 must be defeated. First, Bill C-36, the anti-terrorism bill, contradicts Bill C-35. Bill C-35 would restrict the rights of Canadians and put foreign representatives above the law. At the same time Bill C-36 tells Canadians they should be willing to sacrifice their liberties and rights to be more secure.

Benjamin Franklin said some years ago that those who are willing to sacrifice security for liberty deserve neither and put both at risk. That is what we are doing here. Allowing the government to extend to people from other countries the right to come here and place themselves above the law would be a serious error in judgment.

Second, Bill C-35 would remove accountability. It would remove the reporting requirements from the government. It would remove the transparency from the bill that is there now which requires the immigration minister to report to the House when exceptions are made in giving people the right to come into the country. We need to have that kind of transparency. We need to know when those kinds of decisions are made by the government.

The government acts as arrogant majorities sometimes do. It acts as if it will always be arrogant and a majority. It may always be arrogant but it will not always be a majority. It needs to understand that the decisions it makes today are decisions which the country will have to continue to pay the price for.

The third key here is that we put Canadian security at risk. We know this when we let undesirable people into the country. We have done that. We already have an immigration department which is certainly under attack. Within the Liberal caucus I am sure there are some thoughtful members who have pointed out in closed door sessions the lack of integrity of the current system in terms of the loopholes, the way in which it encourages people to come into the country who should not be permitted in. It allows people to enter the country and escape detection thereafter. Those kinds of undesirable people should not be allowed into the country. Most important, they should not be put above our laws.

That is exactly what this bill does. It was out of step with global trends even before September 11 but it is especially now. Most of all, it is an insult to all the victims and their families of diplomats' crimes in the country. In particular it is an insult to the memory of Catherine MacLean.

I now propose an amendment to the bill. I move:

That Bill C-35, an Act to Amend the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act, not now be read a third time, but be referred to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade for further consideration of clause 5, with due respect being given to recommendations 31.3.1 and 31.3.2 of the Interim Report of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, which call for greater independence of the RCMP from political influence; for further consideration of clause 3, with due respect being given to the view expressed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs that diplomatic immunity ought to apply only to acts committed in the course of diplomatic duties; and for further consideration of clause 3, with due respect being given to the principle that any admission into Canada of foreign representatives who would normally be inadmissible under Section 19 of the Immigration Act due to having engaged in, or being likely to engage in acts of violence, subversion, terrorism, crimes against humanity, and offences under the Criminal Code of Canada ought to be reported to Parliament; and, for further consideration of clause 2, with due consideration being given to the need for increased national security measures in consequence of the events of September 11.

Foreign Missions And International Organizations Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I declare the amendment in order.

Business of the House
Government Orders

November 21st, 2001 / 4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

Earlier today when the bells began ringing on the motion on third reading stage on Bill C-10, the opposition House leader came forward to defer the vote. According to Standing Order 45(5)(a)(ii), only the chief government whip or the chief opposition whip may ask the Speaker to defer a division. Therefore to ensure that things are properly and orderly done, I would like to ensure that the vote is in fact deferred until tomorrow as required under the standing orders. I would also like to ask for unanimous consent that it be further deferred until next Tuesday, November 27 at 3 p.m.

Business of the House
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The record stands corrected. Is there unanimous consent to defer the vote until next Tuesday?

Business of the House
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-35, an act to amend the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act, be read the third time and passed, and of the amendment.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Waterloo—Wellington
Ontario

Liberal

Lynn Myers Parliamentary Secretary to the Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I would like to seek the unanimous consent of the House to allow me to share my time with the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is there unanimous consent for the parliamentary secretary to share his time?

Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Lynn Myers Waterloo—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have followed closely the debate on Bill C-35. It is an important bill and certainly one the House should take time reviewing, which is precisely what we are doing today. Its proposed amendments to the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act aim at modernizing the privileges and immunities regime contained in the existing legislation which was passed in 1991.

These amendments will enable Canada to comply with its commitments under international treaties and to respond to recent changes in international law. In addition, the bill amends the current act in order to correct several technical difficulties that over the course of time since 1991 have been identified. Certainly we want to enable us as a House to do it properly.

I listened to the member prior to me speak. There were a number of misconceptions, some misinformation and misconstrued ideas tossed about. It was a little disheartening to have to listen to him speak and in a cheap partisan way drag into play the name of Catherine MacLean. I thought dragging in Justice Hughes' report was inappropriate as well because it really had nothing to do with what we are talking about here today.

We need to correct the record when he talked about spies and terrorists coming here to, I think his words were, rape and murder and do all kinds of things. It is outrageous. It is pathetic really, extremism to the nth degree. It really is inappropriate in this House when we are really dealing with a very substantial piece of legislation. This piece of legislation is very serious and is one that commits the government to meet its international obligations in a manner consistent with the great ideals and the great values of our country.

Those misconceptions and half truths and everything else tossed aside, we can now proceed into a serious debate about what we are doing in Canada and what the bill really means and the impact not only on this great country of ours but also, as we play out on the international scene, the obligations our great country has in terms of foreign affairs.

I also want to correct the record. I was at the justice and human rights committee meeting until almost 3 o'clock this morning. It sat late last night and into early today. We dealt with Bill C-36. Bill C-36 and Bill C-35 in no way contradict each other. That too was mentioned and it is simply not true.

The member for Portage--Lisgar indicated that we are somehow putting Canadians at risk by what we are doing. That is absolute nonsense. On the contrary, more than ever, in light of not only events prior to September 11 but after, what we are doing is making sure that our towns, villages, neighbourhoods, cities and rural areas continue to be safe and secure in a manner consistent with the great values of Canadians wherever they live in this great country of ours. That is always the objective in trying to pursue a legislative agenda that makes sense and is consistent with those values in a meaningful way. That is precisely what we are doing with Bill C-35.

Going back to the events of September 11, those events in New York and Washington reminded us that the threats to public safety are of global concern. That is an obvious statement now. The recent trend of increasing violence at international summits for example has shed light on the need for appropriate action to be taken at international meetings. We have seen that Canada is repeatedly called upon to do its share and in some cases more than its fair share, for example, the G-20 meeting this past weekend in Ottawa.

Why? Because Canada, first, has professional policing services in place and security personnel and peace officers who know what they are doing in a manner consistent with not only Canadian values but the values of the international community when it comes to hosting these international meetings.

Canada will be called upon next summer, as well, in Kananaskis, Alberta with the G-8.

We have a great history and a great tradition of being able to host these meetings in a way that enables security and safety for everyone, the participants, even the protestors, the news media and others who are there, in terms of what is taking place.

We can be justifiably proud, not only in the House but also in this great country, to know that Canada has the ability to do these kinds of measures and do them in a reasoned, proportional way that is consistent with the values of Canada but, more important, ensures the safety and security of all concerned.

As the host of the G-8 next year, as I indicated, Canada has an obligation, which we take very seriously, to take all the steps to protect our international visitors and to ensure that the meeting is done in a safe and secure manner.

I think it is fair to say that never before has the need to respond effectively to security challenges been more acute. The time is ripe to clarify and underscore our duty to fulfill our obligations to protect international visitors.

When we look at the proud tradition of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the provincial police services, the local police and the regional police across Canada, we can be justifiably grateful that these men and women are there doing the kind of professional job that they do to enable us to all sleep better at night and, further, to let Canada do the kind of things that are important on the international scene, which is to host meetings and be the host for people from around the world, to enable us to carry on the great commitment that Canada has in this area and, furthermore, to enable Canada to carry on the proud tradition started by many people in the past who have brought us to this point.

Bill C-35 allows us to do just that.

I would now like to address the security provisions in the bill, what they will do, how they will be developed and how they will ensure that the basic rights and freedoms guaranteed by our great charter of rights and freedoms are in fact preserved.

The amendments would provide clear statutory authority to ensure security for the proper functioning of an international event hosted in Canada thereby promoting public safety and the safety of foreign delegations attending these events.

The amendments, contrary to the speaker prior to me, were carefully drafted in light of the common law and the statutory duties that the police already have to keep the peace, to protect persons attending an international conference from harm and to protect persons engaged in lawful demonstrations from unlawful interference.

Those are sacrosanct principles that we need to ensure are in place in Canada for the benefit of all concerned. For example, I want to point out that the Security Offences Act already gives the RCMP primary responsibility to protect internationally protected persons from being the target of criminal activity.

I would also like to assure members that the primary responsibility of the RCMP does not suggest that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police will now be solely responsible for security at international events.

The amendments also accurately reflect the practical arrangements between the RCMP and the local police, either provincial, local or regional, in sharing responsibilities for security measures. That is the way the partnership works in Canada, to ensure that peace, order and good government prevails and that security and measured response are the order of the day.

As in the past, the RCMP would continue to share responsibility with the police forces of local jurisdictions and would continue to consult and co-operate with each police force to determine who will be responsible for specific activities.

That pattern will be repeated next year with the G-8 in Kananaskis. We have seen it before. We saw it in Quebec City. I want to commend those police and peace officers who did such a tremendous job at those events. Those are the kinds of security measures that will be carried on and carried forward because they work and they afford all concerned the protection that is so valuable in this kind of forum.

I want to indicate that it might be decided that a provincial police force would be responsible for keeping the peace around a perimeter and controlling access to that perimeter while the RCMP might be responsible for the protection of internationally protected persons. I give that as an example of how that kind of co-operation can take place. Each police force would make the call in its respective area of responsibility based on the kind of dialogue and pre-planning that goes into this kind of important event, pre-planning, by the way, that is already well in hand when we talk about the G-8 in Kananaskis.

The RCMP, for example, would retain the lead in ensuring that whatever police action is being contemplated will be geared toward ensuring the overall protection of international visitors and the proper functioning of the event.

With respect to the erection of a security perimeter, a fence or whatever else that might entail, I think we are all aware of the Tremblay case where the Quebec superior court held that the security fence erected at the Quebec summit was reasonable and justified and did not breach the charter of rights and freedoms. That is important because it underscores that the kind of planning and foresight which went into the security perimeter in Quebec City was in fact appropriate. More to the point, it withstood the test of the charter of rights and freedoms. That underscores the kind of good common sense that went into the planning of that particular summit.

Several years ago, in a case called Knowlton, the Supreme Court of Canada held that the establishment of a security perimeter at a hotel entrance during the official visit of the premier of the then U.S.S.R. was necessary and reasonable in light of the duty of the police to keep the peace.

Although some members of the House have described these amendments as vague, let me assure them that the terms “appropriate measures” and “reasonable in the circumstances” are well understood by the courts of the land. These are held to be those measures that the police believe they should and must do in order to ensure that an international conference can be carried out properly and safety, again in keeping with the values of Canada.

I would also like to emphasize that the security measures that these amendments authorize do not in any way restrict or infringe the rights that citizens enjoy under the charter of rights and freedoms. Those rights are guaranteed, as well they should be in a great democracy like Canada. They will be carried forward in a manner consistent with the wishes of Canadians wherever they live.

The police are and will continue to be liable for any excess use of force in managing the security at an international event. Moreover, any police measure that limits a charter right, such as freedom of expression or assembly, must be justifiable in a free and democratic society.

I mention those things because it is important to get on the record and to understand that there are certain obligations, rights and responsibilities that exist. In all cases we temper them in a tripod or three pronged lens. On the one hand, human rights. On the other hand, civil liberties. On the third side we have the whole issue of national security. These are fundamental lenses through which we look to see that all things are covered. I think it is in keeping with what we expect in our country.

I want to point out that Bill C-35 has amendments that fall into five broad categories. I think it is important to underscore these five, to get them on the record and to make sure that all members in the House present today understand the importance of what is being created here. Again, it is substantial, good legislation that is in keeping with commitments, not only in Canada but also on the international scene.

I want to point out that the amendments are needed to modernize the legislation, in order to comply with Canada's existing commitments under international treaties as well as to respond to important new developments in international law.

The exercise is simple. Canada is catching up with the new developments that are happening around the world. We are always modernizing. We are always making sure that we are in synchronization with other countries around the world, for example, by extending privileges and immunities to international inspectors employed by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons who come to Canada on temporary duty to carry out inspections under the chemical weapons convention. That is an example of how this will be used, how we need to bring our legislation into focus to enable us to make sure that is carried out and carried out appropriately. These amendments would enable the inspectors to import specialized technical equipment without paying customs duties.

In a broad category are those necessary to correct deficiencies in existing definition of international organizations. The existing definition covers only international organizations of a formal, institutionalized nature based on treaty, such as the United Nations and not more unconstructed intergovernmental organizations such as the G-8 or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Another broad example of this are those designed to provide clear statutory authority to support security measures necessary for the Canadian police to fulfill Canada's international obligations regarding the protection of persons who attend high level meetings held in Canada for international organizations.

Those needed to clarify the provision granting immunity from immigration restriction and alien registration override the Immigration Act provision that prohibits the entry to Canada of inadmissible persons but does not override the Crimes Against Humanities and War Crimes Act. That is important because it underscores Canada's commitment in this very important area in a manner keeping with all other laws and regulations that we have in this great country.

I have already addressed the housekeeping measures to correct technical inadequacies that have been identified since 1991 so I do not intend to go into those now.

We have a very proud history of ensuring the safety and security of people who attend meetings, international conferences and other events. Bill C-35 is an act that would enable us to carry on that proud tradition.

In light of the things that have happened since September 11, it is even more important to ensure that is in place. I think it is fair to say that we now live in a different environment as a result of those events. We need to move in a manner consistent with what has taken place knowing that we need to commit to our international obligations consistent with what Canada has been able to do in the past and consistent with the repeated requests by countries and organizations around the world to ensure that we carry on that great and proud tradition, something for which all members of the House and all Canadians can be very proud.

As the host of the G-8 next year, it will be important for Canada to clarify its authorities and statutes to ensure the proper functioning of the international conference again in a manner that I believe will benefit us all and make us proud.

We on this side of the House will continue to work very hard to ensure that we meet our international obligations and make the right decisions when it comes to safety and security. We will do so consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms for which all Canadians are proud. We will do so by meeting our obligations under human rights and civil liberties knowing that those carrying out the security measures, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the police services that exist around and across Canada, will follow due process and the rule of law.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Barrie—Simcoe—Bradford
Ontario

Liberal

Aileen Carroll Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to address you and members of the House regarding Bill C-35. I have prepared some notes and I will deliver those notes, but obviously the temptation to respond to the member opposite who has now left the House is such that I will indeed enjoy addressing a response to the House upon the conclusion of my prepared speech.

I am pleased to address Bill C-35, an act to amend the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act.

The Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade conducted an indepth review of the bill and recommends that it be referred to the House for third reading.

I would like to take this opportunity to give an outline of the main proposals contained in this bill. These proposals were raised and discussed in committee. I also want to comment on the new amendment proposed by the government to the bill.

The proposals in the bill come at a time when it is imperative that we demonstrate leadership in the international arena on the issues that are of major importance both to Canada and to Canadians, such as the environment, international trade and human and national security.

Canadians are supportive of the role that we play as a member of international bodies that are tasked with the conduct of international relations, such as the G-8. Canadians also understand that hosting important intergovernmental summits in Canada and establishing the head offices of international organizations, such as the ICAO, the International Civil Aviation Organization in Montreal, bring enormous economic and political benefit to Canada.

I think it is necessary to clarify certain misleading information that has been in the press recently regarding this bill. It suggests that Bill C-35 surreptitiously expands diplomatic privileges and immunities to all kinds of people entering Canada without maintaining safeguards to protect Canadians from known or potential criminals. To go further, if what I heard earlier could be believed, it is to throw open the doors of the country, almost inviting and enticing every conceivable criminal we can reach to get in here and attend a meeting and wreak havoc on the people and institutions of Canada.

I would like to emphasize that the clear purpose of the bill is not to do that and I think most people found it difficult to keep from giggling at the very suggestion. Rather, it is to modernize the legislation with respect to international organizations.

This development is necessary because in modern diplomatic practice, important governmental, international and multilateral matters are increasingly dealt with at international conferences by international organizations that are not necessarily created by treaty, such as the G-8 or the OSCE, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Both of these meetings and annual conferences, and in fact the OSCE meets far more regularly than the G-8, are not treaty based. To explain the difference, the United Nations is treaty based. What we have done here is create a safe environment for the functioning of the diplomatic process within meetings and organizations that are not treaty based. There is no reason not to be open about the fact that Canada is hosting the G-8 summit in Alberta next summer and we very much want to have this bill in place in order to provide just that kind of ambience and security.

At present, the legislative definition of international organization has been interpreted to permit orders to be made under the act only for international organizations that were created by treaty, such as the United Nations, but this bill would ensure that we can treat important meetings such as the G-8 in the same manner that we treat international organizations like the United Nations and the International Civil Aviation Organization.

I would emphasize that the immunity granted to the people attending these meetings, both under the present legislation and following the amendments, is not and would not be an absolute immunity from criminal prosecution.

The point of departure for all of what has led to the discussions both within our committee and here in the House are the Geneva conventions. The Geneva conventions are international treaties signed by many countries which produce a set of rules and regulations allowing for diplomatic immunity at diplomatic and consular levels. The reason they do is historically based and it has been an evolving process.

In ancient times when a diplomat would be assigned to the court of perhaps Catherine the Great or perhaps earlier than that back in the time of early Egypt, the role of the diplomat then was, as it is in many ways today, to convey the views of the government and to participate in discussions for bilateral arrangements.

In some ancient times when the said diplomat did not please said monarch, the consequences were permanent and in many ways gruelling. Pieces of the diplomat were frequently sent back to the home court to convey the sense of displeasure of the resident monarch. Fortunately we have come a long way in creating a world in which women and men who are diplomats or consular officials can function safely in the many capitals of the world and accomplish the tasks they were sent to do.

At times when I listen to what is said across the floor of the House, as I did earlier, it seems we are back in those same times, as most of the stories referenced appear to be focused on gruelling crimes and the most excessive and unusual of circumstances, always the exception to the rule, attempting to convey to all of us and through us to the people who read and watch what we say that in fact we have criminals loose in the country wearing the T-shirts of diplomats. In actual fact there are very few instances of crime. When there is an instance, there is an instant response by the government using the rules that have been set up to allow it exactly that kind of response. However, those stories are consistent with what often takes place during question period where the crime of the week appears to set the tone, draw the focus and is rarely of interest in good public policy.

Continuing with my prepared notes, I would like to emphasize that the clear purpose of this bill is to modernize the legislation with respect to international organizations.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member but it is my duty at this time to announce the question to be raised at the time of adjournment.

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for Kamouraska--Rivière-du-Loup--Témiscouata--Les Basques, Employment Insurance.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Aileen Carroll Barrie—Simcoe—Bradford, ON

The development in the modernizing aspect is necessary because in modern diplomatic practice important governmental, international and multilateral matters are increasingly dealt with at international conferences by international organizations that are not created by treaty, which we have discussed. That represents a change from the past.

The traditional mode of diplomacy was frequently and usually conducted on a bilateral basis and that is indeed the work of our missions abroad. Our ambassadors in Washington are frequently dealing in a bilateral manner with their counterparts in Washington. Our diplomats in Paris and Beijing do the same.

More and more we see that the work of diplomacy, the coming together and creation of an international agreement, takes place within a multilateral setting and not as in the past in the traditional bilateral setting. Because of that we have felt compelled to extend in Canada, within a reciprocal nature, exactly what is given in other countries and to allow this newer method of diplomacy to be conducted and to be so protected by the extension of immunities.

The bill would ensure that we can do that. I would again emphasize that it is all done within very clear and precise rules and regulations as inscribed within the Vienna convention and has been accorded with those rules very much in mind. Again I caution the House against the misinterpretation we have been hearing that this is a very loose, unguarded methodology which is being introduced. It is anything but.

In addition not just to the rules of the Vienna convention and the further development within Bill C-35, all international organizations and their meetings are subject to careful and stringent screening procedures and consultations among the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Citizenship and Immigration, CSIS and the RCMP. Nothing changes. All of that stays very much in play.

It is important that with respect to instances where persons with immunity commit a serious crime in Canada, the Canadian government has developed one of the most stringent policies in the world. We are not in the middle of the scale. We are not even close to the top. We are at the very top.

After the tragic incident involving Catherine MacLean and Catherine Doré, of which much mention was made earlier by a member from across the floor, the department adopted a zero tolerance policy regarding criminal acts committed by persons with immunity. The policy has been implemented by law enforcement authorities across Canada with the full understanding and co-operation of the diplomatic community.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs was absolutely appalled after the incident that was discussed, in reference frequently to Catherine MacLean and Catherine Doré, as were officials in the department. The instant response was to do all that was possible to ensure that first and foremost this never occurred again but wherever an incident of a similar nature did occur, that we had protocols in place that would mean an instant bringing to justice of any person implicated in such an act.

I am disappointed that earlier in a very cavalier way the member made mention of the fact and to quote him directly, he said “Come in and do whatever you want to do”. That kind of hyperbole, fearmongering, and deliberate misleading obfuscating as it is assigns his words no credibility. It is so obvious when one goes to that level of hyperbole and heads all over the Chamber drop almost in embarrassment for him, there is not much necessity for me to countermand his thoughts as the thoughts were few while the emotions were rampant.

As I said, while even the strictest policy cannot altogether prevent incidents from occurring, this policy makes it very clear to the diplomatic community that Canadian laws are to be respected and that if a crime is committed, Canada will seek first a waiver of that very immunity in order to prosecute the individual. Where the request for a waiver is refused, other sanctions, including expulsion from Canada, will be taken.

The same policy will be applied to the degree possible to all persons with immunity in Canada who commit crimes, whether here as diplomats or to attend at conferences.

A great deal of attention was given to the bill's proposal that serves as the legislative basis for the orderly holding of international government conferences in Canada.

We are concerned that this proposal might give police forces greater powers to restrain legitimate protests at international conferences.

Let me assure the House that this proposal does not affect the policing powers of the RCMP and other forces, such as provincial and municipal, under common law as well as federal and provincial legislation.

The amendment has been carefully drafted in light of the common law and the statutory duties conferred on the police to keep the peace, to protect persons, including internationally protected persons from harm and to protect persons engaged in lawful demonstrations from unlawful interference. Any security measures taken by the police will be subject to charter scrutiny and must be justified as reasonable in the circumstances. Those are the traditions of our jurisprudence. Those are the protections of the charter and checks and balances that already exist within the Canadian policing system. In other words, any police measures that limit a charter right, for example freedom of expression or freedom of assembly, must be justifiable in this free and democratic society.

The provision says that the RCMP has primary responsibility to ensure security for the proper functioning of an intergovernmental conference. A question was raised in committee as to the meaning of primary and the RCMP's co-ordination with its other two counterparts at the provincial and municipal levels. In response the government brought forward a motion to facilitate consultation and co-operation between the RCMP and provincial and municipal police forces.

When we spend the weeks we do in committee, an institution which I highly value and I know all of us do, as that is where the appropriate development of public policy and good laws begins and where it usually ends, the people who give of their time to come from across Canada and give us the benefit of their wisdom and experience are invaluable to the process. We come as legislators. We are not specialists. We depend greatly on the wisdom of specialists as we develop our laws.

One of the witnesses who came before the committee was actually a former national chair for both the international and constitutional law sections of the Canadian Bar Association. While he is a practising international business lawyer, he came in his personal capacity; I want to make that clear.

He spoke very favourably on some aspects of the bill. The reason I am choosing his testimony is that he directly dealt with a large portion of what was said by the hon. member earlier this afternoon. He dealt with retaliation and reciprocity which are key elements of the bill. He said:

Overall, my own view is that these provisions taken as a whole, are overdue, give the executive the necessary tools to respond quickly, as, and for as long as necessary, to inappropriate acts by foreign nations directed at Canadian missions abroad, and at the same time remain consistent with our international obligations under the Vienna conventions.

There has been no focus whatsoever by the hon. member on all of the strong aspects the bill has brought together. The witness continued:

The core principle in those instruments is that of immunity...once granted through the accreditation process.

He went on to say that core principle cannot be deviated from. If Canada is to continue to adhere to the Vienna conventions, then these things must be in place. He further said:

Nevertheless Canada can certainly tighten up the process of accreditation and be more rigorous in withdrawing accreditations in the face of improper conduct by foreign countries and by their agents in Canada and this Bill C-35 does well.

Finally he made mention and was very pointed in the criticism of the bill about moving the decision from the minister of immigration to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The witness with all of his considerable background said that it is a good amendment providing greater certainty than the prospect of a judicial determination, that it is consistent with our treaty obligations on point, but that, he thinks, is something government can only resolve on a case by case basis. That is exactly what we will be allowed to do with our order in council approach.

It is, then, in his view the right one for this purpose. We have received a lot of very strong views in support of the bill. It is unfortunate that the comments made in the House were very selective but perhaps that is the job.