Debates of Nov. 27th, 2001
House of Commons Hansard #119 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was amendments.
- Points of Order
- Canada Elections Act
- Government Response to Petitions
- Committees of the House
- Questions on the Order Paper
- Anti-terrorism Act
- Religious Organizations
- Vic De Zen
- Saskatchewan School Trustees
- National AIDS Awareness Week
- Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec
- The Budget
- Impaired Driving
- Airline Industry
- The Acadians
- Liberal Party of Canada
- Impaired Driving
- Fire Prevention
- Canadian Forces
- Anti-Terrorism Legislation
- Public Safety Act
- Science and Technology
- Public Safety Act
- Public Safety
- Science and Technology
- Public Safety Act
- Health Care
- International Trade
- Public Transportation
- Airline Industry
- Anti-Terrorism Legislation
- Fisheries and Oceans
- Public Safety Act
- The Environment
- Airline Industry
- National Defence
- Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act
- Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act
- Computer Hackers
- Points of Order
- Anti-terrorism Act
Private Members' Business
Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT
Madam Speaker, in my riding in Yukon there is a wide diversity of opinions on this bill and certainly there is across the country. That is not unexpected on a bill that is so important to us all. It is not necessarily bad because hopefully the dialectic debate among those opinions will help us come up with the best bill possible.
Certainly some of my constituents share the fear experienced since September 11 and would like to feel more secure, but they also agree that in providing this protection every effort should be made to maintain the type of society and personal freedoms and human rights that we enjoy today. I have talked to people in Dawson City, I have received e-mails on concerns and I have talked to at least one constituent who does not feel the bill is necessary at all.
It is for these reasons and concerns that I am very appreciative that lawyers reviewed the bill with regard to its relationship to human rights before releasing it. It is also why I was very encouraged to hear that the all party justice committee recently met until 3 o'clock in the morning to make a number of amendments related to these major concerns with the bill before completing its work.
Today I want to talk about one of those technical amendments in regard to the review mechanism for the attorney general's certificates. There is a basic, major reason for this section of the bill. If foreign countries have information on terrorism that can help prevent an act in Canada but cannot release it to us without protection and certification that we are protected, they may not be able to give it to us. This would allow them to give information that may protect Canadians from injury and we could provide protection for that information.
A great deal has been said about these attorney general's certificates. In response to comments received from witnesses a number of changes were made in committee, on government motions, concerning these certificates. Following is a list of some of these changes.
The first change is that the certificate can no longer be issued at any time but only after an order or decision for disclosure, for example, by a federal court judge in a proceeding.
The second change, and a major one, is that the life of the certificate is limited to 15 years unless the certificate is reissued.
The third change is that the certificate would be published in the Canada Gazette .
The fourth change is that the certificate would be subject to a review by a judge of the Federal Court of Appeal.
Finally, the existing provisions and process for the collection, use and protection of information are preserved under the Privacy Act and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.
Bill C-36 would allow the attorney general to issue a certificate in connection with a proceeding under the Canada Evidence Act to prohibit the disclosure of information for the purpose of protecting national defence, national security and information obtained in confidence from or in relation to a foreign country.
The attorney general's certificate process is intended to apply in exceptional cases only as the ultimate guarantee that ensures the protection of very sensitive information by the Government of Canada. The protection of this information is of particular concern in relation to information obtained from our allies.
When information is given on the condition that it not be released to a third party without the consent of the originating country, and where the consent is not given for such release, we must be in a position to meet our obligation. The attorney general's certificate provides the means to do so. It provides an insurance and an absolute guarantee that this information will be protected. The certificate could only be issued personally by the Attorney General of Canada and only where very sensitive information is threatened by disclosure in individual proceedings. It does not exempt entire departments or all information from the Privacy Act or the Access to Information Act.
Where a certificate has been issued it would also prevent the disclosure of the same information contained in a record under the Access to Information Act or the same personal information of a specific individual under the Privacy Act and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. It would be pointless to protect information from being disclosed in proceedings when the same information could be disclosed under the Access to Information Act. The certificate would also suspend only the right of access under the Privacy Act and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, but the existing provisions and process for the collection, use and protection of personal information would be preserved under these acts.
The amendments made in the committee restrict the timing of issuance of a certificate. Initially the wording of the bill allowed for the attorney general's certificate to be issued at any time. The bill now has been amended to stipulate that the certificate could only be issued after an order or a decision for disclosure of that information has been made in a proceeding.
Some concerns have also been expressed that in the absence of a review mechanism and a specific limit on certificates, the power to prevent disclosure could be used too broadly. The government has listened closely to Canadians on this issue. The certificate process was amended so that a judge of the Federal Court of Appeal would be given an independent review role to ensure that the limited scope of information for which the certificates may be issued under the legislation is respected. Further, the certificate is now limited in time. It expires after 15 years but could be reissued by the attorney general. Finally, each certificate would be published in the Canada Gazette .
These provisions allow the government to continue to continue to protect highly sensitive information. This stability is essential in order for Canada to play a meaningful role with its international partners in confronting terrorism, both at home and abroad.
To conclude, I cannot help but think of the people in the World Trade towers a few minutes before the planes hit, the secretaries and other workers who were mothers and fathers, and more important, of their children who were at daycare, in school or at home. I cannot help but think that every day innocent Canadians, innocent parents, also go to their workplaces. Hopefully we can do anything in our power so that these parents who are in the workplace every day in Canada will return home that evening and not be prevented from doing so by some ruthless terrorist attack.
Private Members' Business
John M. Cummins Delta—South Richmond, BC
Madam Speaker, September 11 revealed that Canada was not prepared and was in fact ill equipped to deal with terrorists operating within our country who had as their objective the destruction of our society and that of our neighbour, the United States.
The federal government had downgraded security at our borders. Immigration officers were woefully ill equipped to ensure that our immigration laws were not misused by those who came to Canada to engage in terrorism. In addition, the refugee determination system was packed with political cronies of the government who were prepared to put narrow political interests ahead of Canadians. Our security service, CSIS, had been downgraded through aggressive cuts to its budget and a general disregard for what it was designed to do. Our armed forces had been systematically run down by this government. The numbers in our military have drastically declined, as have the military budget and equipment, since this government came to office. September 11 exposed the government's failures.
Clearly there is a need to act to protect Canadians. We have a right to feel secure, to feel that we are safe from terrorist threats. September 11 revealed that we are not safe.
In the rush to respond to the public's desire to feel secure at home, the government has brought before parliament legislation that is designed to make the government appear to be protecting Canadians. The emphasis of the government has been on appearances. The result has been poorly thought out legislation designed to make the government appear to be tough on terrorism. Some of the critics of the government and the legislation have tended to focus on the loss of civil liberties. I have a great deal of sympathy for their concerns.
Professor Don Stuart of Queen's University Faculty of Law wrote a paper entitled “The Dangers of Quick Fix Legislation in the Criminal Law: the Anti-Terrorism Bill C-36 should be Withdrawn”. It appeared in a recently published book from the University of Toronto Press which addresses these issues.
Professor Stuart states:
What cannot be supported are the complex new criminal laws in Bill C-36. When the State turns to its power to punish and imprison the standard of justification should be high. Basic principles of a criminal justice system that deserves the name require the State to prove both that the individual acted and was at fault, that responsibility is fairly labelled and that any punishment is proportionate to the accused's actions. In my view the creation of the crimes in Bill C-36...cut across these principles and should be withdrawn. The new State power grab is unnecessary, will not make Canadians safer--
I do not think the government has adequately responded to the criticism of people such as Professor Stuart.
While parliament must give expression to and effectively articulate such concerns, we must make it clear that our normal criminal laws were essentially designed to deal with those who are attempting to better themselves through criminal acts as opposed to those who are bent on destroying our society. If we need extraordinary measures to deal with those who are bent on destroying our society, then parliament must be presented with clearly defined measures to deal with these special threats. I have trouble believing that Bill C-36 will address the real problems that have undermined Canadian security.
The government has proposed Bill C-36 as a way of convincing Canadians that their security interests are being protected and that the government is taking action to ensure that terrorists cannot operate in Canada to advance their causes. The reality is that Bill C-36 may do little to protect us from terrorism and yet may unnecessarily infringe our historic rights as citizens in a free and democratic society, rights that have been in development since the Magna Carta.
I find the comments of Linda Williamson in the Toronto Sun on November 22 helpful. She stated:
—we now have experts warning that the anti-terrorism bill, in practice, won't really make much difference—it's legally cumbersome and inefficient. That's the discussion we should be having, given this government's weakness for awkward, ineffective and largely symbolic legislation—
She goes on to state:
While everyone's been indulging in esoteric, academic argument over whether this law might conceivably do harm, we should be asking whether it will do any good. Will it actually help police and our courts stop terrorists and severely punish them? Or is it just another PR exercise, designed to make the government look like it's doing something (and a clumsy one at that)?
I believe that the sunset provisions are inadequate. There are no effective measures for parliamentary oversight. The three year parliamentary review provisions in the bill do not require an actual vote.
The fisheries committee has just completed such a parliamentary review of the Oceans Act. From my experience with the review of the Oceans Act, I can advise that such a review provision has little value and is dangerous if it is considered to be a substitute for real parliamentary oversight.
I have little confidence that this government will act appropriately in applying these laws.
We know that the government has sought to limit the power of parliamentary commissioners such as the auditor general and the information commissioner. I remain concerned that the government will use Bill C-36 to protect itself from the scrutiny of these officers of parliament. Such actions will not advance the security needs of Canadians. Instead they will advance the political security needs of the government rather than the people.
Professor Stuart of Queen's University expresses the concern that the government will apply political expediency in its application of Bill C-36. He states:
Expect Canada to embrace George Bush's most wanted list which excludes well established groups...not because they don't fit violent terrorist criteria but for reasons of political comity and expediency.
Fishermen on the west coast have protested the government's undermining of the public right to fish. As a fisherman and as a member of parliament I have joined fisherman in these protests designed to protect their historic right to fish. Would I and other fishermen fall under the net covered by Bill C-36? A government that would flout the constitutional and common law right of fishing could not be trusted to protect their right to freely protest the government's actions.
It was a desire for political expediency and for vote getting that caused the government to refuse to deal with the surges in illegal immigration and the swamping of our refugee determination system.
Australia has addressed these real threats to its security and immigration laws while Canada has brought forward Bill C-36, which fails to address the security issues in the failed administration of our immigration laws. Diane Francis, in the National Post , recently summarized the problem. She stated:
—In early October, Australia got its act together regarding bogus refugees. Like Canada, it has been flooded in the past and has finally gotten wise. Philip Ruddock, Australia's Minister of Immigration, announced: Anyone arriving from a safe country by illegal means will be returned. Anyone arriving without documentation will be rejected. A refugee who leaves the country cannot return. A refugee cannot bring dependants along. Those convicted of smuggling people will be given severe prison sentences.
Philip Ruddock stated:
By assisting us in our fight to repel the activities of people smugglers, these new laws will enable us to help those who are most in need of help—those people languishing in refugee camps around the world...In recent times the number of people entering Australia illegally meant we had no choice but to divert humanitarian program places away from our offshore program, which helps people identified as being in need of resettlement by the UN.
Canada has long, sparsely inhabited coastlines on the west, the north and the east coasts. Last week at its hearings in British Columbia the fisheries committee learned firsthand how much of B.C. is unmonitored. While Canada has the ability to use radar to monitor vessels coming into Canadian waters, the ability exists only on the lower half of Vancouver Island. The bulk of the west coast is open to all illegal arrivals, whether bent on mere economic gain for themselves or on terrorism.
In Ontario and Quebec there has been an illegal flow of people and goods at Indian reserves that straddle or abut the Canada-U.S. border. The government has refused to take effective measures. I doubt that Bill C-36 is needed to address this problem and I doubt that it is likely to help address this problem. The problem up to now has been a lack of political will, not merely a lack of effective statute law. Bill C-36 is not a substitute for political will.
The failure of the government to respond to terrorism in the air by putting air marshals on passenger aircraft is but an example of the government's refusal to take concrete measures to protect Canadian citizens.
I find Bill C-36 troubling and in the final analysis I would be uncomfortable supporting it. I am concerned that the government may well use the new power provided in Bill C-36 to stamp out legitimate dissent while at the same time ignoring the real threats to Canadian society posed by our porous borders.
Private Members' Business
November 27th, 2001 / 5 p.m.
Stéphan Tremblay Lac-Saint-Jean—Saguenay, QC
Mr. Speaker, as far as Bill C-36 is concerned, clearly we want efficient legislation that can adequately meet the needs of an emergency situation, but it must not disturb the delicate balance between people's safety and their rights and freedoms.
We stated unequivocally that any legislation sacrificing freedom would be tantamount to capitulating to terrorism, and that terrorists would get their way.
The choice before us as legislators is obviously a choice about security, but first and foremost, it is a choice about society. We must make decisions which, at the end of the day, are responsible ones, decisions that guarantee the safety of the women, men and children that we represent in this House, but which are also clearly protecting their rights and freedoms.
There are many aspects of this bill that are open to criticism. In order to begin studying the group of motions that are of interest to us, let us say that the bill allows the governor in council to put entities on the list of terrorists without any legal authorization.
What is more, there is no mechanism allowing anyone on the list access to evidence against them, which makes it impossible for them to challenge their inclusion on the list. The consequences of being put on the list are very serious. By virtue of being on the list, anyone unfairly listed would be precluded from renting an apartment, opening a bank account, and so on.
We were also calling for a three year sunset clause to apply to every clause of the bill. This legislation is in response to a situation that can only be described as exceptional, and we accept that. We must act responsibly, and the government must resort to certain powers that will not be required after a certain amount of time.
The minister agreed to include a clause which, in our opinion, is not a sunset clause, since it only applies to two provisions: preventive arrest and investigative hearings, and this for a five year period.
As for the legislative review, we proposed an annual review by an independent commissioner who would report to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, which could then make recommendations to the House. This bill is an exceptional bill in response to an emergency situation, hence the importance of setting up a review mechanism that is thorough and appropriate.
Unfortunately, the minister preferred instead to have the ministers responsible for implementing the act report only on the number of preventive arrests and of investigative hearings.
We proposed amendments to limit the definition of terrorist activity. The minister's promised open-mindedness and attentive ear resulted in their rejection. Even with the minister's amendments, it is still possible for people demonstrating during a strike, for example, to fit perfectly into the definition of terrorist activity in the bill, so here is some impact.
In the case of access to information, to ensure greater transparency we wanted the information commissioner to have full authority over the application of the Access to Information Act. However, the attorney general will be able to remove information without any safeguard provided, something the information commissioner roundly criticized.
What about the complaint of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, who called for a sunset clause too? What happened to the opinion of a number of important witnesses who appeared before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, who warned the minister against an abuse of power and a lack of transparency in the application of the law?
What about the testimony of the president of the Quebec bar association, the president of the Canadian Auto Workers Union, the Canadian information commissioner, the privacy commissioner and the Canadian Bar Association?
Warnings came from his cabinet colleague, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. In the light of what happened in committee, clearly the minister did not heed or hear the testimony of experts during committee deliberations.
I was very much in favour of the bill's consideration in committee, so that we might have a real debate and hear the views of experts like the ones I have just referred to.
To our satisfaction, the amendments proposed by expert witnesses and their criticisms were more or less in line with the Bloc Quebecois position. Then, when the minister introduced her amendments, the total opposite happened. It is clear that the minister is doing as she pleases.
We have shown nothing but good faith from the start of the debate on Bill C-36. We could see, however, that we were dealing with a minister who is doing just as she pleases, not just once, but twice. She has shown that her mind is made up and it has nothing to do with rights and freedoms and transparency. She took us in with her talk of open-mindedness in committee, but then our 66 amendments ended up rejected.
She also did just as she pleased in connection with Bill C-7, when all of Quebec clearly indicated to her that she was on the wrong track. She chose to dismiss out of hand Quebec's expertise, the best there is in connection with young offenders, imposing on Quebec a system that is totally the opposite of the Quebec way of doing things.
Given the way things went in committee, the Bloc Quebecois will be voting against this bill, because it goes far too far and is therefore unacceptable.
Private Members' Business
Roy Cullen Etobicoke North, ON
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to enter the debate on Bill C-36. I believe many members like myself will support the bill, reluctantly in one sense because we find it offensive, but in my opinion this is a necessary response to some extraordinary circumstances that call for an extraordinary response.
The bill will show that it reflects and meets the demands of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The government has been very responsive in the amendments that it introduced. The five areas of amendment will go a long way to make the bill more palatable to Canadians and because of that I will be supporting it.
What would the bill do? It would ensure tougher sentences for terrorist acts and make it a crime to support, help or harbour terrorists. It would make it easier for police and security agencies to investigate terrorists and their supporters. It would make it a crime to collect funds for terrorism and would make it easier to deny or remove charitable status for organizations that are fronts for terrorism.
It would keep terrorists from getting across our borders and would make it easier to freeze the assets of terrorists. It would establish stronger penalties for hate crimes and would show Canada's solidarity with other countries fighting terrorism by ratifying the UN anti-terrorism conventions.
What would the amendments do? The amendments are in five key areas. First, sunset clauses would be added to the preventive arrest and investigative hearing provisions in addition to the three year parliamentary review of the act so that they expire in five years. Second, the Attorney General of Canada, Solicitor General of Canada, provincial attorneys general and ministers responsible for policing would be required to report annually to the public on the use of the preventive arrest and investigative hearing provisions of Bill C-36.
Third, the word lawful would be deleted from the definition of a terrorist activity. Fourth, an interpretative clause would be added to the bill clarifying that the expression of political, religious or ideological beliefs is not a terrorist activity. Finally, the provisions concerning facilitation of a terrorist activity would be reordered so that they clearly state that in order to be guilty of an offence an individual must know or intend that his or her act would help a terrorist activity to occur. These amendments would go a long way to making the bill a good bill.
I have a very large Muslim community in my riding. I visited the mosques and the people are concerned that there might be reactions against the Muslim community; in other words blaming the many for the actions of a few. I am glad that the bill establishes stronger penalties for hate crimes as this type of activity is not to be tolerated.
I also have a large number of Tamils in my riding. Their organization, FACT, has been attacked by members opposite as being a terrorist front. This organization is a cultural organization and its members are concerned that their organization will be swept up in the definitions of terrorist activities. I have spoken to the solicitor general and I would like to make it a matter of public record that any such move should be strongly supported by facts and not by innuendo that might come from other sources. I am sure our agencies, departments and ministers will make sure that is the case.
I have many Somali Canadian refugees in my riding who transferred money to Somalia. They used the al-Barakaat agency which was a money transfer operation. It was effectively barred and that is unfortunate. Al-Barakaat was seen on the one hand to finance terrorist activities. There were many Somali Canadian refugees in my riding who sent small amounts of money to Somalia. These were amounts that were supporting relatives and friends in Somalia in very remote locations and al-Barakaat was the agency that had the broadest reach and was most credible.
I have addressed this with the ministers to see if there would be a way to have legitimate money transfer operations continue. However, I do understand that it is complex and it is difficult to do that.
With respect to those organizations that could be added to the list of terrorists, I am pleased that the process of adding a group to the list of terrorists incorporates a number of protections, including the provision for removal, judicial review and safeguards to address cases of mistaken identity. As well, the list must be reviewed every two years by the solicitor general.
The question of refugee claimants is a very important issue. In Canada we have a very tolerant and progressive policy. We welcome those people who deserve the protection of Canada. Unfortunately, there has been some abuse.
I am glad to see that the Department of Citizenship and Immigration is receiving $17 million. I think more will be needed and I hope that will be addressed on December 10. A more thorough review will be given of the background of refugee claimants to ensure they do not have terrorist activities in their background and also to make sure of their identity. The fact that a refugee who arrives here in Canada has no documentation by and of itself should not be tremendous cause for concern. Many refugees arrive in Canada with just the shirts on their backs if they are lucky. We need to be careful about broad-brushing those people who arrive without documentation as being automatically suspect. It behooves us all to make a very special check.
I have been arguing for some time that we need to make sure refugee claimants are brought before the Immigration and Refugee Board and tribunals more quickly so that a determination can be made. If there is a concern that they will not appear at their hearing, they should be detained. We have that ability now under the current legislation and the bill reinforces that. That is an important step we are taking.
There is the whole question of border issues. Some popular press says that the Americans are looking to us to tighten up our borders and if we do that, then we can move our goods back and forth more freely. I do not think that is the case at all. I do not think the Americans are looking for this so-called perimeter harmonization, integration and all those buzzwords.
The American ambassador used a term the other day with which I feel more comfortable. He called it a comfort zone. Yes, we need to ensure that we have a comfort zone. In 90% of the cases we may agree with the Americans on what is appropriate policy at the border, but in 10% of the cases we may not. We need to have that flexibility as a sovereign nation to decide for example that we do not welcome handguns in Canada. I could name other situations where we need to exercise our sovereignty.
Having said that, I believe that reasonable people, which I think we are as a government and the Americans are as a government, will agree on 90% of what is needed to make our borders more secure and to allow the free flow of goods. In fact, this parliament approved a bill not too long ago which modernizes the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency and allows for the lower risk volume of traffic to move more freely with sanctions if they do not live up to the expectations.
I would like to see U.S. customs adopt pre-clearance and pre-authorization so our goods can start moving in that direction. I was very happy that our Minister of Finance and our Minister of National Revenue reached some compact with the U.S. secretary of commerce to fast track these border issues, to deal with infrastructure, to deal with policy and to ensure that our goods move back and forth, because trade between Canada and the United States is so vitally important to all our citizens.
To wrap up, let me say that the bill with the amendments is a necessary piece of legislation. There are sunset clauses to ensure that some of the more difficult provisions are lapsed. However, we will honour our national conventions when it comes to terrorism. We will make sure that the charter of rights and freedoms, which we value so much as Canadians, is respected. We will move on border issues. We will move on immigration issues. The government, I am sure, will address the terrorist elements that are here in Canada and the movement of funds. Overall we will achieve our objectives with this legislation.
Private Members' Business
Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North Centre, MB
Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to participate in the debate on this group of amendments to Bill C-36. As we have heard from other of my colleagues in the New Democratic Party, we certainly support the amendment before us and other amendments that we are dealing with at this stage, but oppose the bill without some major acceptance of the amendments being proposed.
It is rather ironic that today of all days we are dealing with the heavy hand of closure by the Liberal Government of Canada. All of us will recall that today is the anniversary of our election, whether as a first, second or many term member to the House. It should be a day of celebration, a day to celebrate democracy, not to be sidelined and bowled over by the heavy hand of closure, which is the reality today.
One year ago we were elected or re-elected to stand and represent constituents and Canadians from one end of the country to the other. We were elected to represent, we were not elected to rubber stamp an arbitrary government measure. We were elected to debate and make tough decisions based on the collective good and the public interest. We were not elected to ride roughshod over the rights and liberties of individual Canadians, yet today we are faced with just that.
It is a sad day, a very dark moment in the history of the country, since so much is at stake. So much of what we are dealing with is fundamental to who we are as a nation. The broad, wide, sweeping powers of the legislation, the substantive change that the bill represents are contrary to the fundamental values of Canadians. In no way is it an answer to what the government suggested is the threat of terrorism as we know it today.
I listened very carefully to the member for Etobicoke North and to others throughout the debate. It is clear to me that they are very much trying to defend the indefensible. It is impossible to pretend to be dealing with the threat of terrorism, which we all agree must be dealt with, by stepping over the rights and privileges of Canadians and dismantling the institutions that hold this country together and the values we hold near and dear to us.
In opposing the legislation without substantive amendments, the New Democrats did not vote against improving the security of Canadians. In fact, the contrary is the case. We are expressing our concern with the bill and raising a challenge to the government in order to find mechanisms to defeat terrorism without defeating basic rights enjoyed by all Canadians.
I quote a Globe and Mail editorial on October 1 in response to all those who suggested that Canadians desperately want this kind of bill that stamps all over the rights of individual Canadians, as there is a question as to whether that is the case or not. The editorial said:
Although Canadians desperately want to see evidence that the federal government is taking strong and meaningful measures to improve national security, there is no evidence that Canadians want to hand the government carte blanche to create a nation where important protections may be suspended arbitrarily if it seems handy.
That is the issue we are really dealing with today. It is that balance between protecting Canadians' against terrorism and ensuring their security while standing up for individual freedoms and liberties that we fought so long and hard for.
Many groups and concerned Canadians made presentations and sent us faxes and e-mails to let us know their concerns. Those concerns by and large were not taken into account by the government in a very heavy-handed process through the committee stage and into the House today. Those concerns ranged from preventive arrest right through to the definition of terrorism. I want to focus for a moment on that issue because it overlaps directly with the concerns we heard about Bill C-11 on immigration and refugee policy.
During those hearings concerns were raised around the fact that we do not have an accepted universal definition of terrorist. This makes it a questionable and weak legal term and one that is open to wide abuse. The label terrorist is often used as a political weapon against a government's opponents without any basis in fact. It is often a propaganda weapon used to discredit legitimate opposition. For these reasons my NDP colleagues and I proposed an amendment to improve the effectiveness of Bill C-11 by dumping the fuzzy language and basing our security provisions on sounder security grounds and verifiable evidence.
The definition we are dealing with today in Bill C-36 presents exactly the same problem. It may make us feel good but when it comes to enforcement, the water muddies and it comes down to personal biases and techniques such as profiling certain groups. That is exactly what has been happening. How can the government rationalize a system that holds someone like Ribhi Sheikha in custody for 57 days, 23 of which were in solitary confinement, for no apparent reason except he is Palestinian in origin? I do not need to tell members of the House that many other Canadians have been detained in the same way.
If the police are profiling identifiable groups as potential terrorists, how is the public going to react to those groups? By the religiously and racially motivated hate incidents that we have seen multiplying since September 11. This is totally unacceptable in Canada and is totally predictable with the approach the government is taking.
The government of the day is putting whole sections of our population under suspicion, suspicion by law enforcement officers and suspicion by their neighbours and friends. Children are being targeted with slurs. Families are being made to feel unwelcome in their own country.
We have to say again and again that there is a better way to protect Canadians. However the government has chosen to ignore honest propositions and responsible alternatives from groups all over the country, in particular groups that deal with immigrants and refugees on a daily basis. Many organizations, like the Canadian Council for Refugees, have offered clear alternatives that strike a better balance between security concerns and civil liberties. We can limit terrorist activity to specific internationally recognized offences. That is clear.
Many Canadians have fought long and hard to protect our fundamental freedoms, freedoms that the bill walks all over. One of the greatest threats to our whole political system is the undermining of our freedom of association. Guilt by association breaks down our trust of each other as was so amply demonstrated by McCarthyism in the United States. This bill reeks of guilt by association.
All of us are probably members or supporters of organizations of one sort or another, yet we cannot be expected to know about every connection to other groups. The average Canadian has no idea about all the interlocking corporate connections where their savings are invested, and that is one of the most sophisticated systems in the world. How can we expect every refugee to know as much as our intelligence services do about activities that function on secrecy?
Bill C-36 flies in the face of that basic quest for accountability and openness. It flies in the face of our basic legal premise that people have a right to know what evidence is being used against them in order to offer evidence to the contrary, if they have any. How are persons fleeing persecution with only the clothes on their backs expected to present their cases as refugee claimants without even knowing what or through whose information they are being challenged?
When Bill C-11 was under review many of us in the House, and from other parties as well, fought very hard for legal protections that we value and are enshrined in our charter of rights and freedoms to be applied to our immigration and refugee process. We said at that time and we repeat today that without the right to defend oneself, any hearing or legal process is a sham.
Canadians have spoken and I hope the government will listen. Many Canadians have made these points over and over again but they have not been included or incorporated in the bill. I want to refer to a few Canadians who have expressed concerns in very moving ways. A woman by the name of Margo said:
I am afraid of this legislation as written, very afraid. I am afraid for myself as a concerned citizen, someone who might choose to speak out, or march in a protest against perceived ills in our society or “for” something I believe in; I am afraid for my children who may choose to exercise their once-democratic rights in the future, and who will do so with their rights of expression and dissent no longer enshrined as they always have been. Yes, we need to make our country safe and as secure as possible against terrorism. But not at the price of abrogating our fundamental democratic rights.
Canadians have spoken. I hope the government will listen.
Private Members' Business
Suzanne Tremblay Rimouski-Neigette-Et-La Mitis, QC
Madam Speaker, I am truly pleased to have this opportunity to address Bill C-36 at report stage.
As the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre who spoke before me said, this is a truly sad day. Bloc Quebecois members and other members in this House were up front regarding Bill C-36.
We listened to the minister who told us time and again “Wait, the committee will hear witnesses. We will listen, we will take into account what happens, what we hear and what is said in the briefs submitted to us”.
In order to speed up the process for Bill C-36, the Senate was even asked to work in a parallel way and do an initial review of the bill to try to determine what it thinks of it. This was done to speed up the process.
This is rather surprising, but some 80 witnesses appeared before the committee. The Bloc Quebecois members who sit on the committee read all the briefs that were submitted. They heard and reviewed all the evidence given by those who appeared before the committee. This was truly done in a non-partisan spirit. We told ourselves that no one could forget what had happened on September 11, that we had to fight terrorism, that we had to create conditions that would allow everyone to be comfortable in that process, so as to defend ourselves, even though it is almost impossible to defend ourselves against terrorism.
The Bloc Quebecois also played by the new rules of procedure. We tried to find a way to avoid endless sittings with thousands of amendments. We dealt with the core of the issue. After listening to the evidence and reading the briefs, the Bloc Quebecois presented 66 amendments based on what the public really wanted.
None of these amendments were accepted, except for one. It is almost a joke to say that the government accepted something coming from the Bloc Quebecois.
The clause about mischief in relation to property associated with religious worship said that these crimes could take place in a church, mosque, synagogue or temple. There could also be mischief in connection with an object associated with religious worship located in such a building or structure, or on the grounds of such a building or structure. The Bloc Quebecois wanted the bill to include mischief committed in a cemetery.
The government agreed. When the Bloc members are in the cemetery, they are no longer a threat. The government was therefore able to agree to this amendment put forward by the Bloc Quebecois. Henceforth, mischief committed in a cemetery will be taken into consideration.
I am even hearing government members say that the minister put forward amendments. The Liberal member who spoke before the New Democratic Party member said that he was very pleased that a sunset clause had been added.
We wanted the entire bill to be subject to this clause, except, of course, for the provisions implementing international conventions. We wanted this clause applying to the entire bill except in the case of international conventions, to be in effect for three years. In three years, the legislation would have lapsed.
If the government or the minister wanted to be able to continue to use this act, the government then in power would have to pass a new bill, going through all stages, including first and second reading, consideration in committee, amendments, and report and third reading stage, as we are doing now with this bill.
What sort of amendments did the minister put forward? First, she proposed that the limit be five rather than three years and that the clause apply in two instances only: investigative hearings and preventive arrests. Naturally, our party voted against the minister's amendment in committee.
The clause proposed by the minister is not a true sunset clause. It sets a five year limit for only two clauses, but the law is going to continue to apply, with its entire process, with all its intensity.
If it is to be continued past those five years, it will take nothing more than a motion by the two Houses to extend the two clauses I have referred to by another five years; they will not be reintroduced into the law and will not undergo the legislative process. All that is required is a vote by the two houses.
As we know, in the one chamber as in the other there is a majority, a vocal majority, even if it is against the wishes of the people, with the majority of seats in this democracy. We know very well what might easily happen with this fake sunset clause.
It will be impossible to make any amendments to the wording of provisions. If it is realized that these clauses are really not desirable for the population, they cannot even be changed. They can be eliminated completely, because this will happen automatically.
This is pretty strange, however, when the minister says she wants to hear what people have to say. My goodness, I think she may need to have some kind of testing done to determine what is going on: whether she does not hear, or she does not listen, or she does not grasp what she hears, or she does not retain what she hears. The minister certainly has some kind of problem. It is very clear that something is the matter with her.
We also wanted an annual review of the legislation. We wanted there to be an independent commissioner with the responsibility of monitoring application of the law. We also wanted that commissioner's report to be submitted yearly to a House committee, to be examined, and to be the object of a committee report.
I am surprised to see my time is coming to an end. I will close by saying that once again the minister has not backed us up. She has not listened to anyone from this side. The Minister of Justice and the Solicitor General of Canada are the ones who will be responsible for enforcing this law, for evaluating themselves, for patting themselves on the back, for continuing to enforce the law, and no one will be able to make any amendments.
Private Members' Business
Andrew Telegdi Kitchener—Waterloo, ON
Madam Speaker, I rise in the House to express the concerns I have about certain aspects of Bill C-36. The bill impacts on the civil liberties of individuals. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states:
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.
Bill C-36 changes the normal judicial process and accountability. An open trial might go out the window if a person or organization is suspected of terrorism. It lacks transparency. Individuals have no right to know why they were listed as an entity suspected of terrorism or to contest whether the source used to make these accusations was reliable. One judge made this determination in camera.
Bill C-36 undermines the security of a person. Under the bill individuals need only to be found to have made a financial donation to a charity that is suspected of supporting terrorism to have their reputation and life ruined. Individuals are listed as supporting a possible terrorist entity whether that charity is indeed found to be supporting terrorism. A shadow of suspicion has been cast that can never be removed.
We all recognize that one of the most important things we need is to dedicate more resources to policing, immigration and other agencies that enforce existing laws. I trust we will be doing that in the next budget. We can protect Canadians by keeping out those who would do us harm by developing the shared North American protection perimeter to screen out terrorists with our friend and ally to the south.
However the legislation we are debating gives extraordinary powers to the solicitor general, the courts and the police. It must contain at the very least a feature of accountability.
I notice that the motion for a parliamentary oversight committee will not be voted on since it was ruled out of order. I regret that because the amendment would have protected one of our most basic tenets of democracy: accountability to this Chamber. This accountability is absolutely necessary because without it we lose an essential element of the democratic process. If we fail to protect the process we will lose it.
The motions in Group No. 4 ask for a three year sunset clause, except for those provisions implementing United Nations conventions; a multi-party oversight committee annual report to the House; and a time limit to be placed on the sections dealing with changes to the Canada Evidence Act as it relates to the registration of charities. These amendments, along with those accepted by the government arising from the deliberations of the standing committee, represent the minimum acceptable standards of accountability.
I am intimately aware of the value of civil liberties as someone who has lived under the repressive heel of a totalitarian regime. I have a very deep and abiding fear that in the name of national security we may sacrifice civil liberties unnecessarily and in so doing endanger our democracy and the democratic process. We rely upon this process to ensure that the security of person, citizenship and basic human rights and freedoms are maintained and protected.
In their submission to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights civil liberties, law associations and groups representing Muslim, Arab and other ethnic communities expressed deep concerns about the danger of sacrificing, civil liberties for the purposes of national security.
The member for Edmonton--Strathcona, the only Muslim member in the House, put forward those concerns very eloquently. I share those concerns that in times of political and social stress such as the threat of terrorism civil liberties and human rights must not be discarded. It is during times of crisis that they are most needed.
I have been following with keen interest the debate in the House and the submissions and representations of witnesses to the standing committee. I observed media commentaries, debates and town hall style meetings that took place across the country regarding the anti-terrorism bill.
My impression is that Canadians are asking us, their representatives, to remain vigilant, to ensure that accountability is retained and that the duration of the extraordinary powers of the bill be limited. The government is saying to trust it to reduce civil liberties in the name of security and trust it not to abuse human rights.
Members of the House know of my battle against the current citizenship revocation process. I consider it to be a gross abuse of human rights and in contravention of section 7 of the charter. The decision to revoke citizenship is made by cabinet in star chambers using the rationale that it does not want Canada to become a haven for war criminals or people who have committed crimes against humanity. This appears to be a most worthy objective, but unfortunately the reality is quite different. Through this process the government tars people with the brush of being war criminals or human rights violators without producing a shred of evidence in court to back up these charges. It does not allow those accused to properly defend themselves.
It subjects people to a process of citizenship revocation under the guise of fighting violators of rights and freedoms and ultimately deportation which tramples on their civil liberties and human rights. It is a horror story for those involved and their families. With one notable exception the process of citizenship revocation was opposed by every one of over 50 groups because of their concern about the revocation process.
Last weekend in British Columbia at its biennial policy convention the federal Liberal Party passed a resolution moved by Diana Recalma, the policy chair of the Nanaimo-Alberni federal Liberal riding association. It asked for the right to appeal in the case of citizenship revocation so that the decision would be taken out of the hands of a political body, namely the cabinet.
In the last number of days we have had another example of a human rights abuse caused by this flawed process. It is against a 92 year old man suffering from Alzheimer's disease who lives in a nursing home and is incompetent to stand trial. However under the guise that he was involved in war crimes, a charge that the government will not back up in court, this man will in all probability be stripped of his citizenship. If he lives long enough he may be deported under a process that I consider fraudulent. I do not want this brand of terrorism to be applied against individuals unless they have the right to defend themselves.
The government introduced the anti-terrorism bill because of the terrorist acts of September 11 and I support that. What the government is saying in the bill is to let it curtail some of our civil liberties and rights in the name of the war on terrorism.
The fact that the government introduced an anti-terrorism bill in light of September 11 was the right thing to do. However cutting off debate on the bill is not in the interest of producing the best possible legislation.
Members should make no mistake that the bill would negatively impact on civil liberties. Canadians are ready to accept some curtailment of their rights in the name of collective security. However Canadians are concerned that their civil liberties are impacted only to the extent necessary for collective security. We must get it right. Canadians do not want their rights abused.
It is important to remember our history of human rights abuses. In the course of our history relatives of members now sitting in the House were interned in detention camps. There are members in the House who belong to ethnic and religious minorities who were discriminated against by past governments. It is as a result of these collective experiences that we created our cherished charter of rights and freedoms.
The more we disrupt our way of life, the more the terrorists win. We must never sacrifice the principles that form the basic foundation of our democratic state.
It is important to remember that the war we are pursuing in Afghanistan is against terrorism, but we are also fighting for human rights including the right of women to take their place in society and little girls to be able to go to school. It would be ironic that we win the war against terrorism at the expense of Canadian human rights and civil liberties.
Private Members' Business
Leon Benoit Lakeland, AB
Madam Speaker, I commend the hon. government member who just spoke on the bill. I give him a lot of credit for his courage in standing up and taking a position against his government. This is one of those bills that is important enough for him to do that. I am surprised and shocked that there are not more on that side who would do the same because many of them have serious concerns about Bill C-36.
Many members wanted amendments made to the bill. We are at report stage with the government invoking time allocation which would allow the House only about 16 hours to deal with the amendments. That is not enough time. In question period the Prime Minister bragged that he had allowed 60 hours in committee for a bill with such a potentially negative impact.
Many say that it is a matter of balancing civil liberties with the security of the nation. The Canadian Alliance is the party that pointed out problems in our system. We have been asking for stronger security to protect the country and its citizens. We support many things in the bill because it would move us in some way toward providing better security, although we do not think it would go nearly far enough in terms of protecting our security in many areas.
There are those who say that it is a matter of either allowing people their civil liberties or providing security. I suggest they are not really looking at the whole issue in a very comprehensive way. There are many instances in the legislation where it is not an issue of curtailing civil liberties when it would improve security. There are many ways in which parliamentary oversight could be put in place. This oversight would protect civil liberties but not at the expense of security.
I would like to talk about the CSE, the Communications Security Establishment, which is overseen by the Department of National Defence. It is one of Canada's intelligence services and employs about 1,000 people, mainly civilians. These individuals listen in to various types of electronic communications from around the world. It was aimed at communications outside the country until this legislation came forward.
It has not monitored residents of Canada as far as we know, at least not to any great extent as required by law, although the oversight is inadequate for us to be sure of that. It does not provide for the current oversight and the kind of protection we would expect when it comes to an intelligence establishment that could have a huge impact on the life of individuals.
In spite of what has been said the new legislation would give the CSE the power to monitor a Canadian citizen. For example, the monitoring could start outside the country and continue if the citizen moved to Canada. It could monitor a conversation between two Canadian citizens inside Canada if the monitoring started outside the country and these citizens moved to Canadian soil. The oversight has not been improved if one considers the greater ability being given to this establishment that would impact on the lives of Canadians.
I suggested at committee that SIRC, the body which oversees our intelligence establishment CSIS, oversee the CSE as well. It would make perfect sense. There are a lot of situations where the CSE deals with CSIS because the two agencies work together. One monitors communications outside Canada. The other focuses mostly within Canada although it sometimes goes outside the country. It would make perfect sense for SIRC to oversee the CSE.
What kind of oversight is provided for in the legislation? The oversight would be directly from the minister. We all know we need more oversight than that. I will not speak about this minister but any minister could in some way be compromised and not looking out for the best interests of Canada. We have seen it happen in many cases throughout history. We must be able to look at a situation and feel confident no matter who is the minister.
The minister through cabinet and an order in council appointment appoints a commissioner to oversee the CSE. We have the minister and we have an appointment recommended by the minister. That is the extent of oversight.
In committee the minister and others have said the privacy commissioner and information commissioner would provide oversight. In some cases that is true but in many cases, particularly when tied in with other provisions of the legislation, the two offices would not be able to provide oversight. They would be specifically restricted from doing so in certain circumstances.
This is an extremely serious situation. The application of time allocation limits the ability of parliament to oversee this extremely important piece of legislation. It is a wrong minded act. The government should reconsider. Bill C-36 is too important for that type of action to be taken.
I have heard only one Liberal member speak out against time allocation and having the bill rammed through in so little time, however I have not been here all day. I was at committee before coming here so there may have been others I missed. If there were others I congratulate them.
Time allocation absolutely should not have been invoked on a piece of legislation this important which has had so little time spent on it. The Prime Minister bragged that the bill had 60 hours at committee. That is not much when we consider the complexity of the legislation and the various acts it must be tied in with. It is extremely complex and 60 hours is nowhere near enough. The bill had 16 hours at report stage in the House. Time allocation has either been invoked or will be invoked at third reading. I can be confident of that.
This is not the amount of time an important piece of legislation like this should be given. In spite of the fact that we pushed the government to bring the legislation forth and it was tardy in doing so, it is the type of legislation we must give a proper hearing to. That is important.
I have referred to only one example in the legislation. I do not want to get into it in any more depth as I only have about a minute left. If the government will not listen to the opposition I ask that it listen to its own MPs. It should reconsider the issue of time allocation and give us a proper chance to put forth amendments starting with one that would ensure proper oversight through the application of a currently existing body, SIRC, to the other intelligence body, the CSE. That would make perfect sense.
I encourage the government to bring forth the amendment. I do not need to bring it forward. I would be happy to see it come from the government. I would support it. It is what I want. The legislation is far too important to be partisan as the government has made it by invoking time allocation.
Private Members' Business
Paul Devillers Simcoe North, ON
Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to enter the debate at report stage on Bill C-36. Motion No. 6 would impose a 15 year limit on the period of secrecy in certain instances. At this point there is no way to be assured 15 years is a sufficient time to keep secret certain matters that are important to national security. This is an amendment I do not feel could be supported.
However I will take the same opportunity most of my colleagues have been taking. I will use my allocated time to make general comments on Bill C-36 and review the process.
Subsequent to the events of September 11, as we are all aware, there was a tremendous feeling across the country that something needed to be done to address terrorism and to put measures in place. The opposition was quite critical that the government was not moving quickly enough. That is juxtaposed to the criticism we are hearing today that the government is moving too quickly in bringing in time allocation to deal with the matter.
After September 11 officials in the government and several ministries worked long hours for several weeks preparing the legislation. There was an acknowledgment when the legislation was tabled that it might require work because of the haste with which it was drafted.
For that reason the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice asked the committee to take a careful look at the legislation. That was done. In addition, the committee in the other place was asked to do a pre-study. It spent many hours and heard from approximately 80 witnesses.
We had the Senate pre-study and the time in committee. Over 100 amendments were proposed and accepted or passed at committee. This is a bill that has seen a considerable amount of work.
I will talk about the two main issues that came from the work of the committee of which I was privileged to be a member. It dealt with the definition of terrorist activity.
First, a concern was brought forward by many groups that by making the word “lawful” protest the exception we would exempt lawful protests but inadvertently trap labour movement walkouts or other protests where assaults, mischief or other activities may be committed that while criminal are a long way from terrorism. There are criminal code provisions to deal with those things so the word lawful in one of the amendments that was accepted has been removed from the definition. That is a useful amendment.
Second, there was the issue of the sunset clause. The great majority of the witnesses who came before committee wanted some form of sunset provision. They did not all agree on the type of sunset or the exact terms of the provisions but they felt there should be a sunset provision. That is why an amendment to put a five year sunset on the two most controversial issues, preventive arrest and investigative hearings, was adopted. That is significant.
Let us remember that the bill was drafted with the charter of rights in mind. It already contained a mandatory three year review period. We have all sat on committees where mandatory reviews are not always conducted when they are supposed to be. Unfortunately there do not appear to be any consequences when a government does not comply or when there is a change of government, an election or something that gets in the way of the mandatory review. That is why the five year sunset clause behind the three year mandatory review is so significant.
An editorial in the Midland Free Press , a newspaper in my riding, complains that we have put in a sunset clause that would weaken the message the legislation should be sending. I disagree with the editorial. However it is evidence that there is a will in Canada to have a strong bill which assures Canadians that measures will be taken against terrorists and that we mean business. A sunset provision is a way to make sure the review would be meaningful.
There are a couple of other issues I will touch on. We are hearing complaints that the bill would provide no oversight. That is far from the truth. We have the three year review of parliament; the annual reports from the solicitor general, the attorney general and the attorneys general of the provinces; the parliamentary committees review; the information and privacy commissioners; the RCMP complaints commission; and judicial review on certificates. There is significant review. The criticism is not the least bit founded.
We hear the bill would sacrifice civil liberties for national security. However we have heard the comments of the minister and others which remind us that the measures seek to protect our freedoms. This is an issue of human security. That is the goal of the bill and that is what we are attempting to preserve.
I have heard concerns about the stripping of citizenship. With all due respect, Bill C-36 does not deal with the stripping of citizenship. Those are other proceedings and that is a debate for another day.
We hear that minorities are being discriminated against. A non-discrimination clause is being inserted into the bill to clarify that it would not target religious or ethnic groups but terrorism. There is a level of comfort for most of us with the amendments being suggested.
As well, the minister, the Attorney General of Canada, the Solicitor General of Canada, the provincial attorneys general and the provincial ministers responsible for law enforcement must report to parliament on an annual basis.
This is important because it will be useful to parliament when it comes time to conduct its three year review. If we have annual reports, we will be able to determine if the measures go too far, if there are any shortcomings and if there is something that can be done to improve the bill.
There are also the provisions regarding the attorney general's certificates. These will not be issued willy nilly. They will be issued only after an order has been issued or a ruling has been made regarding the disclosure of information in legal proceedings. The certificate will be valid for 15 years, unless it is reissued. The certificate will be published in the Canada Gazette . The attorney general's certificate will be reviewed by a Federal Court of Appeal judge. This is yet another level of supervision that we are including in this bill.
On behalf of myself and my constituents, I am very proud of the amendments that have been made after having undertaken the studies requested by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice. These amendments have been put in place to protect the rights of all Canadians. We are proud to support this bill, and I am happy that we are proceeding without any further delays.
Private Members' Business
Greg Thompson New Brunswick Southwest, NB
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to have some opportunity to speak on Bill C-36 and the amendments.
Obviously one of the concerns that we have is the limit on debate. Just for the information of the members and the listening public, this is at least the 72nd time, and some members have told me it is the 73rd time, that the government has brought in time allocation to limit debate on bills before the House and has simply called closure in the minds of most parliamentarians. In other words, it has limited debate on the most important bill to come before the House in many decades.
In fact, our party's justice critic, the member for Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough said yesterday that this week we were debating the most important bill that we would probably see in the lifetime of this parliament or perhaps in the last 50 years and that the government was going to shut down debate.
That pretty well sums it up from this side of the House. We think the Canadian public wants to see some transparency in this process. Not all of us had the opportunity to tune in to the committee meetings and I think that most members expected that it would be debated on the floor of the House. We are not alone in that. It is not simply confined to members of opposition. The information commissioner, John Reid, who at one time was a member of the House, had some criticisms of the bill. He suggested that it had been rushed through the House with some pace.
Ken Rubin, an Ottawa researcher, has mentioned the same thing. Yesterday he said that it would permanently scar Canada's access to information legislation in terms of what the bill would do. He said that it would basically keep information away from the Canadian public.
That is reminiscent of what the Prime Minister has done in the House on so many occasions. I am sure that I do not have to remind members of Shawinigate or the APEC hearings, and the list goes on.
The Prime Minister prefers to have arbitrary power by executive decree. I do not think the Canadian public enjoys that type of government. It is heavy-handed and pretty tight-fisted. If we are going to rush through a bill in the House, and there is some sense of urgency to that, I do not think too many parliamentarians would object to extending the hours of the House. We still have 24 hours in a day. Most members would enjoy the opportunity to get up in their places and debate the merits of the bill or the weaknesses of the bill to make sure we get it right. There is a lot at play here in a sense that if we do not get it right, we will have to come back to this place to make it right. How many casualties will there be along the way?
One of the groups that appeared before the committee was the Canadian Human Rights Commission. It submitted a brief to the committee. It was not particularly overjoyed by what it saw. The opening paragraph in its presentation to the committee stated:
However, it is vitally important that, in our haste to introduce new measures to counter terrorism, we do not put in place measures that exceed this aim and jeopardize human rights... Let's fight back against terrorism and bring the guilty to justice but let us not endanger the innocent in our haste or abandon the very rights and freedoms which are the terrorists' target.
The justice critic for our party pointed out that the Liberal justice minister at one time was a member of the civil liberties association, so she is going against everything that in a previous life she raged against. That tells us a little about what Liberals are saying in private about the bill.
I will quote from a newspaper article that appeared in today's National Post , November 27. The article is entitled, “Grits snuff debate on terror bill”. It said:
One Liberal back-bencher, (the hon. member for Scarborough East), has broken from Liberal ranks, criticizing the anti-terrorism bill as “a deal with the devil.”
I do not think it can be expressed any stronger than that, but unfortunately when push comes to shove, every Liberal will stand in his or her place and vote with the government and the Prime Minister.
It is the long term harm that we have to be concerned about. We cannot emphasize that enough. We have to be very cautious in what we do in the House with the bills we put through that may infringe our rights and the rights of every group in the country from the east coast to the west.
In the government's haste, today for example, we are going through the amendments. We are only on Group No. 2. I would say it was a stalling tactic on the part of the government, but some of the motions will not have been put tonight before we vote on them and we will not have had the opportunity to debate them.
I use the case of Motion No. 9 by the member for Pictou--Antigonish-Guysborough. It will never be debated on this floor because we are going to run out of time. We have five or ten minutes left on the debate. I guess that is the way the government wants it.
I remind the Canadian public again that when the bill came forward, we had six justice teams, as was said in the article in the National Post , which go backabout a month now , who lived on fast food, worked weekends and into the wee hours of the morning to hastily put this bill together. They did it in haste, which tells us that there is a lot of sober second thought that should go into the bill, and the place that that should happen is right here on the floor of the House of Commons.
That brings me to a book, which I think will probably be on the Christmas best seller list, called The Friendly Dictatorship , written by Jeffrey Simpson.
It chronicles the tenure of the Prime Minister since his coming to office in 1993. Earlier in my opening remarks, I reminded the House that this is at least 72 times that the Prime Minister has brought in closure; hence The Friendly Dictatorship .
When it is over at the end of the day, the Liberals will all stand in their places, bow to the friendly dictatorship and rush the bill through the House of Commons without the opportunity to debate it fully on the floor.
For example, the listing of terrorists is wrong. The ability of the executive to abuse the power in the bill goes way beyond with what we would be comfortable. If I had my wish, it would be that we would continue to debate the bill, to go through it clause by clause with every member receiving the opportunity to at least debate it, so that we would know what is in it before we vote on it.
Private Members' Business
Ghislain Fournier Manicouagan, QC
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to address Bill C-36.
First, I would like to go back to the fact that the United States experienced tragic events for which there is no justification whatsoever. U.S. citizens were the victims of unspeakable and incredibly violent acts, the consequences of which, for them and the rest of the world, are numerous. It is therefore necessary and critical to ensure that such terrible acts never occur again.
We must be careful to come up with an act that will protect people from violent acts of an exceptional nature. However, we must not, through this bill, interfere with individual freedoms, which is what this legislation will do.
Before the events of last September, Americans, Quebecers and Canadians thought they were living in a world based on individual freedoms and respect for one another. Everything is changed now. Still, the Bloc Quebecois feels that even though we must protect ourselves against barbaric acts such as those committed in September, it is necessary to respect individual freedoms.
The Bloc Quebecois is convinced that the Minister of Justice did not take into account the balance that had to be maintained. Bill C-36 will interfere with freedom of expression. It will eliminate a fundamental freedom enjoyed by individuals and restrict people's freedom of expression. With this bill, the government will incite people to commit acts of violence.
At second reading, we said that we supported the principle of an act to fight terrorism, because we felt that framework legislation was necessary, but since the bill was unacceptable to us, we decided to put forward amendments, which were all rejected except for one.
Moreover, several amendments were moved after witnesses appeared before the committee, but the minister ignored them. The amendments by the minister are totally insufficient to restore the balance, to which I alluded, between freedom and security. The context of the September events was an exceptional one. These events were exceptional ones and they must be dealt with in an exceptional fashion. This means that Bill C-36 must also be exceptional in nature.
Should the threat of terrorism diminish, several measures included in the current bill would become exaggerated and unacceptable in a society based on individual and collective freedom of expression.
It is therefore important for a sunset clause to be added to this bill so that it will cease to be in effect after three years. That is what the Bloc Quebecois called for. We also called for an automatic review every year by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, after the tabling of a report by an independent commissioner.
When we think of certain elements of Bill C-36, there is reason for concern about people's freedom being curtailed. The definition of terrorist activity is too broad and might limit people's choices of self-expression—in ways that respect the rights of others—although these are not grounds for considering them terrorists
The minister has not listened to the recommendations made in committee, including the one on tightening up the definition of terrorist activity. A definition must be given in order to ensure that demonstrations or illegal strikes are not considered terrorist activities.
According to the Bloc Quebecois, some demonstrators could still be perceived as terrorists. In our opinion, any reference in the bill to strikes and demonstrations must be removed.
Despite an amendment to the definition of terrorist activity by the Minister of Justice, we believe that certain groups of demonstrators could still be included in the definition.
We oppose the fact that the minister could withhold information by avoiding applying the Access to Information Act, without any safeguard. The bill will be reviewed only in three years' time.
Furthermore, the government did not even consult the Quebec department of justice, although this subject is certainly of interest to it.
Although everyone should roll up their sleeves and work together to fight terrorism in the world, this government has ignored the government of Quebec and its minister of justice by not consulting it. This is really worrisome, especially since the government of Quebec has exclusive jurisdiction over the administration of justice. It is by working together that we will put an end to terrorism.
Is the federal government's practice of deciding unilaterally not tantamount to dictatorship? What we lived through in September has certainly sown the seeds of concern, both here and with our neighbours in the United States. We are concerned about the future. We empathize with the Americans and are even trying to help them.
Here, perhaps, we should not only talk between levels of government in the context of decision making, but we should make decisions together in the best interests of our people. I think the bill concerns Quebecers and their minister of justice as well. People are observing us and count on this government to be effective and to work co-operatively to banish everything even remotely connected with terrorism forever.
We asked that charitable organizations and bodies have access to the information presented against them. There should be a legal process before listing occurs. The minister introduced no substantive amendment in this regard.
The expression “list of terrorists” would be changed to “list of entities”. Entities can be included in the list of terrorists, and organizations can have their charitable status withdrawn without being allowed access to the evidence against them. This is unacceptable.
Under this bill, an organization could be denied charitable status or have that status revoked on the basis of information that could pose a threat to national security. This bill has been strongly denounced by charitable organizations because of the secrecy surrounding the legal proceedings and the evidence provided by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.
One must know what one is being accused of in order to be able to defend oneself. The Bloc Quebecois put forward amendments in this regard so that organizations that lose their charitable status will know what they are accused of.
They need to be able to have access to the evidence against them so that they can defend themselves. The result is that the minister has put forward no substantive amendment with respect to these provisions.
In conclusion, we are living at a time when everyone must help and support each other. How are charitable organizations, which help their fellow citizens, going to be encouraged if they are threatened at every turn, without explanation and without access to the grounds for the evidence against them? This is a good way to discourage them.
In conclusion, let us not forget that this bill, as drafted, will curtail the freedom of citizens and their right to express themselves. This is not the objective of the Bloc Quebecois, which would rather see a bill that will protect our constituents, not violate their rights. Security does not mean an end to freedom.
Private Members' Business
Steve Mahoney Mississauga West, ON
Madam Speaker, I understand I have one minute in which to lay out my case. I just want to note for the record that I have been waiting to speak on this all day, yet someone else who was not on the Speaker's list was given the time that I would otherwise have enjoyed.
Let me try to do this in one minute and quote the minister, if I may.
Private Members' Business
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)
Just so we all understand the rules, there is no list. Whoever stands up in the House is recognized by the Chair.
The hon. member has a minute to finish his speech.
Private Members' Business
Steve Mahoney Mississauga West, ON
Madam Speaker, if I may, I would like to quote the minister from when she appeared before the committee. She said:
When dealing with groups that are willing to commit suicidal acts of mass destruction against innocent civilians, it is necessary to consider whether existing legislative tools are adequate to the challenge.
Our own Prime Minister said in the House:
It has become clear that the scope of the threat that terror poses to our way of life has no parallel. We, in North America, have been extraordinarily fortunate to live in peace, untouched by attack. That has changed.
I will quote a constituent of mine, who said:
If I have to give up a little bit of freedom to ensure the safety of my children, my family, my community and my country, then so be it.
The Canadian people have clearly sent a message. They understand, unlike some of my friends opposite, that we cannot fight terrorism with a group hug. We need to be tough. We need to put in place laws that are consistent with those of our allies in the United States and the United Kingdom. We need to pass the bill now so that Canada can be safe and secure.
Private Members' Business
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)
It being 6.34 p.m., it is my duty pursuant to order made earlier today to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the report stage of the bill now before the House.
The question is on Motion No. 6. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?