House of Commons Hansard #181 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-55.

Topics

Public Safety Act, 2002
Government Orders

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, I will begin my speech with the preamble I used earlier for the benefit of the member who preceded me.

Since September 11, many things have changed in the world, and not just in the United States. What we are seeing in the United States—this is more in keeping with their kind of society—is an obvious tightening of controls and of law enforcement.

Here, however, in the days following the attacks, people felt that what was important was not to let the terrorists win. This they defined as anyone being able to place limitations on our rights, our freedoms and our system of values at some point.

The Bloc Quebecois maintains that the bill as now drafted crosses this line. The context is no longer the same as it was before September 11. People will undoubtedly say “Does this mean that the Bloc Quebecois or you, as the member for Saint-Jean, do not want more controls?” We want more controls, but we do not want to see them extended as they are in this bill.

We are, however, happy with the amendments and said so in the press conference. Now, the legislation is limited to Canadian Forces and Department of National Defence property. The previous bill covered all crown property and materiel. It was even broader. However, this is also basically a farce, because—

Public Safety Act, 2002
Government Orders

11:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Howard Hilstrom Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I apologize to the hon. member who is speaking but I do not see how the House can function in a democracy without a quorum.

Public Safety Act, 2002
Government Orders

11:55 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

Public Safety Act, 2002
Government Orders

Noon

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

We now have quorum and are resuming debate.

Public Safety Act, 2002
Government Orders

Noon

Bloc

Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, before this interruption, I was speaking of the importance of a balance between control and respecting rights and freedoms. In our opinion, there is much still to be done.

I was also saying that we in the Bloc Quebecois have managed to get the government to take a step forward by restricting the application of property and materiel to the Canadian Forces and the Department of National Defence now, rather than the crown.

I would also like to make clear why Quebecers defend their rights and freedoms so fiercely. I would perhaps invite my colleagues in the House one day, if they have the time—because they would find it a most interesting read—to read journalist Normand Lester's book on Canada's dismal record, from cover to cover.

My colleagues would discover that, on various occasions in history, the Canadian Forces imposed martial law on Quebec and, on certain occasions, even killed Quebecers, people who were taking part in demonstrations or other highly democratic activities.

Let us call to mind the most recent events, which are still fresh in our memories. In October 1970, invoking the War Measures Act led to the Canadian Forces being stationed at all federal buildings, all embassies, all consulates. This was extremely problematic for Quebec. There were many arrests without warrants and people were held in custody for longer than the law allowed. Hon. members will understand we have certain reservations about section 260.1 of this bill, which creates controlled access military zones, major reservations in fact, all the more so because this zone is determined by a single person.

Unlike the situation at the time of the events of 1970 I have referred to—when it was a Cabinet decision—now a single man makes the decision, the Minister of National Defence. People may respond, “It is not just him, it will be on recommendation”. But we know who makes the recommendations: the Chief of Staff of the Canadian Forces. And we know whom that Chief of Staff reports to.

Canada's armed forces are subject to civilian authority. They are subject to the authority of the Minister of National Defence. Therefore, it is quite clear that the person who has the final say, who has the legal status to say, “Yes, we are designating a controlled access military zone”, is the Minister of National Defence. One single person.

I remind the House that in the dissenting report by the Bloc Quebecois, we noted that the man who is currently responsible for this portfolio misled the House in the Afghan prisoners affair. This means that he demonstrated a great lack of judgment. Can we trust this man, who could say from one day to the next, “I designate a controlled access military zone in such and such a part of the country, or in such and such a part of Quebec”? The answer is quite simple, “No, we cannot trust this man”.

This is not simply about the current minister. The fundamental issue is the fact that one person alone can decide. This person may make an error in judgment, and it will be the citizens who are penalized. This is the main problem. Errors in judgment do occur.

We believe that it is very important—and the governing party objects to this—to get the consent of the province in which this were to occur.

There is no denying the federal government's authority on military bases or military facilities that belong to it. However, this bill will allow one single person, the Minister of National Defence, to extend this jurisdiction into civilian territory, a municipality, which comes under provincial jurisdiction, naturally. In Quebec, municipalities are a creation of the Government of Quebec.

Therefore, as a protection, we need provisions whereby the Government of Quebec will be not only consulted, but will give its consent.

Obviously, if something important happens, the Government of Quebec is responsible enough to say, “This makes sense; we agree”. We also think it may disagree. But it seems that we need this essential protection in the bill before us today.

Of course, I am only referring to this clause because, as national defence critic, this is the one that I am concerned about. The expression military security zone has been changed to controlled access military zone. As far as we are concerned, this is a minor cosmetic change. But if we take a closer look at the legislation, we have a lot of concerns, because the expression reasonably necessary is used in relation to the four most important concepts, namely the creation of the zone, its dimensions, its effective period and the renewal of its designation to maintain it for another period. We are told that the minister alone will have the power to do this and that he will only do it if it is reasonably necessary.

These terms are usually avoided in any contract or agreement because, depending on the interpretation of the expression reasonably necessary, anything may be allowed and no one could object on the ground that it is not a reasonable demand, that it is not reasonably necessary. The minister will say, “As far as we are concerned, it is reasonably necessary. We are the ones who have the authority to decide, and we think it is reasonably necessary”. If this is challenged in court, I believe that time will pass and the zone will probably disappear before a ruling is handed down.

The minister decides everything. We are quite concerned about certain provisions, including those on designation, renewal, variance and cancellation. All this will be done without any reference to the statutory instruments under the Statutory Instruments Act. This means that parliament will be completely left out of the process. The minister is the only who can decide and no one will be allowed to ask for an emergency meeting of the Standing Committee on National Defence. The minister will say that he is not subject to the Statutory Instruments Act.

Another subsection in section 260.1 that we have a lot of trouble with is the one which says that “As soon as possible after a designation is made, renewed, varied or cancelled, the Minister shall, by any means that the Minister considers appropriate in the circumstances, give notice of the designation, renewal, variance or cancellation to persons who in the Minister's opinion may be affected by it, unless the Minister is of the opinion that it is inadvisable to do so for reasons of international relations or national defence or security”.

National security is always top secret. He could decide to renew based on national security. Worst of all is the subsequent clause, which provides that: “The Minister shall publish in the Canada Gazette a notice of a designation, renewal, variance or cancellation within 23 days after the designation, renewal, variance or cancellation is made, unless the Minister is of the opinion that it is inadvisable to do so for reasons of international relations or national defence or security”.

What this means is that the minister could, within 23 days, say that there was a military zone, but it could also mean the contrary. People could be in a controlled access military zone for more than 23 days and not know it. That is even worse. Anyone could unwittingly find himself in a controlled access military zone without authorization. The same goes for livestock, vehicles, boats or aircraft. People could be forcibly removed by the military. This is completely unacceptable in a free and democratic society.

There is a problem for farmers whose livestock might be in a designated zone. They could be found in contravention of this section, charged and forcibly removed, without having been told that they were in a controlled access military zone. Naturally, we find this hard to accept.

The worst part is the mention, in subsection 14, that there may be “No action for loss—”. Not only can a person find themselves in a controlled access military zone without realizing it, but what is worse, if they suffer damages, they will not be compensated and no court can examine the issue. As far as we are concerned, this goes much too far.

To conclude, I would like to come back to what my colleague from the government said regarding Mr. Radwanski, the privacy commissioner. He was opposed to the former bill and he opposes the current bill, saying that it goes much too far. It is said to violate the rights and freedoms of Canadians and Quebecers.

One has to wonder if section 260.1 contained in this bill, and others, are constitutional. Does it really respect the charter of rights and freedoms? In a free and democratic society, can the government do these kinds of things?

It is a question of interpretation. Our interpretation is that once passed, it will not be long before this legislation will be brought before the courts to determine if it is constitutional. I believe there is a major problem.

One also has to wonder about all those in the government who are defending this, including the Prime Minister, who wakes up either as a dictator one day, or a champion of democracy the next. I think that by introducing this legislation, he has most certainly gotten up on the dictator side of the bed. As far as I am concerned, granting full authority to one single person to designate the period, the dimension and the renewal of this zone, without anyone else having any say in the matter, that falls squarely into the dictatorship category.

For all of these reasons, the Bloc Quebecois cannot support this bill. We will of course make the necessary effort and take part in consideration in committee. We are going to propose amendments. I must, however, forewarn my colleagues on the government benches that, barring changes in this bill, they must not expect the Bloc Quebecois to support it all the way through and vote in favour of it, for the historical reasons I mentioned, and out of respect for rights and freedoms.

I am therefore making it clear that, if the bill remains as it is, the Bloc Quebecois is, unfortunately, going to object to it and will deplore this government's loss of any proper relationship with the people.

Life here in Ottawa is in a kind of glass bubble. Here is where the decision is made on the bill. Then the minister will, from his glass bubble, announce “Well now, there are some sea cadets in the port of Quebec, so we will extend the zone to all of the old part of Quebec City, because an American ship is coming in”.

The minister keeps coming back to the same example, the blowing up in Yemen of the USS Cole . I would like to remind the minister of two things: one, this is not Yemen, and two, it is too much responsibility for one man to decide that all of Old Québec—and this would be possible because he is the one to decide on the dimensions of the zone—could be designated a controlled access military zone for several weeks. He could even not let the people there know. They might suddenly be told “You can't go home tonight, because it is a newly designated zone and we are entitled to keep you out of it”. That is going way too far.

The Liberal Party needs to get out of its bubble. It needs to get in touch with the people. I believe that objections will not come just from the people of Quebec City and Quebec, but from all over Canada. It is not too late for the government to think it over, like it did the first time, and say “You are right. There are too many grey areas, too many things that will have a negative effect on the rights and freedoms of citizens. We will back off and go back to the drawing board”. It is not too late.

We are, however, giving them fair warning: if they decide to stick to the party line, keep up this hard line approach and fully implement this bill, the Bloc Quebecois is going to object to that approach.

Public Safety Act, 2002
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Chicoutimi—Le Fjord
Québec

Liberal

André Harvey Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member said that we have lost our close relationship with our fellow citizens. The time to check that relationship is during a general election. We will see about this during the next election campaign. I always like to campaign against my Bloc Quebecois friends. I am also looking forward to seeing how close our relationship is with our fellow citizens.

I want to pay tribute to the hon. member, because he takes a very close look at the whole issue of security, including the security measures taken by the government since September 11. However, he said that though the measures we are taking, we are letting the terrorists win.

We passed the anti-terrorism legislation, Bill C-44 on the sharing of information with the U.S. government. We will improve this measure to promote better co-operation between our security services. We also announced very substantial investments of close to $8 billion for security and the hiring of personnel in strategic locations. Yet the hon. member described this as letting the terrorists win.

I wonder if he could elaborate on this. I find it hard to see how this could be the case.

The government is doing the maximum with the resources available to it to reassure our citizens, working very closely with the United States, which is our main trading partner and which saw thousands of lives lost in the terrorist attack.

My colleague says that we are playing into the hands of terrorists by adopting specific measures: improved exchange of information, supplementary budget to provide even greater assurance of safety for all.

Personally, I feel that, while not perfect, our initiatives will reassure citizens and increase our co-operation with other countries.

I therefore ask my colleague to explain more clearly what he means by saying that we are playing into the hands of international terrorism. I have a little trouble understanding.

Even if the bill is referred to committee, we will have an opportunity to debate it with all our colleagues. I see my colleague, a member of the official opposition. Obviously, when a bill is introduced, it is never perfect. It does, however, contain certain features, which are fundamentally good and important for the future safety of our country.

I would like the hon. member to expand a bit on the notion that we are playing into the hands of terrorists.

Public Safety Act, 2002
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for giving me the opportunity to point out that, since the crisis first began on September 11, the Bloc Quebecois has behaved properly. When I say properly, and particularly responsibly, I mean that in the early days following the attack, we supported the Liberal government and the Prime Minister, saying that we must join forces in the face of international terrorism.

Then things began to evolve. Bills were introduced here in the House. In our opinion, at a certain point, the government crossed the line and began to limit citizens' rights and freedoms. That is the opinion of the Bloc Quebecois and of other parties in the House.

Our behaviour has been reasonable. In a parliamentary system such as ours, I believe we are allowed to differ. That said, I do not wish to denigrate the entire Liberal government, because it has made efforts: $8.8 billion has been earmarked for security.

I merely wish to remind it that only $1.2 billion of that amount was earmarked for the Canadian Forces. We know that the Canadian Forces are having problems. They need a lot of materiel and cannot afford it. Everyone says that this amount may not be enough. This will come up again when we ook at the business of supply next week.

As for the rest of the $8.8 billion to which the hon. member has referred, I would also remind him that there is still much to be done. There is still the matter of the customs officers, the typical example I like to refer to often.

Today, if a customs officer confirms by computer that he is dealing with a dangerous individual who is being sought, the directive is to let him through and then to alert the police. The hope is that the police will nab him on the other side of the border.

There is still much to be done. The government has not done enough on certain aspects and it has gone too far with others, as far as rights and freedoms are concerned.

As for Bill C-55, which we are looking at today, we still say that, if the terrorists see that Canada has now restricted rights and freedoms to the extent of having a negative effect on its citizens, they are going to be delighted.

I am not saying that nothing should be done, but I do believe that, with the antiterrorism bill and with Bill C-55, the government is overstepping the line, to the great delight of the terrorists and the detriment of the people of Canada and Quebec.

Public Safety Act, 2002
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Moore Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, two or three years ago, at the conference on free trade in Quebec City, the government decided to establish a military security zone. That decision was made by the federal government, along with the Quebec government and the city of Quebec. That decision was not made unilaterally by the Minister of National Defence.

Governments have the authority to create such military zones. They did so in Quebec City, and the city was protected against violence.

I am asking the hon. member to comment on this reality, namely the fact that this government can already make decisions without the new powers included in Bill C-42 and now Bill C-55. The government can make such decisions without giving so much power to the Minister of National Defence.

Public Safety Act, 2002
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, before answering the question, I want to congratulate the hon. member on the quality of his French, since this is the first opportunity I have had to tell him publicly. I really admire people who make an effort to speak French. I also want to tell him that he may not have heard me speak English, but I can do it. It is important to have the benefit of speaking both languages.

As for the hon. member's question, it is true that, at times, including for G-8 meetings and so on, we could have a decree requiring the establishment of a military zone. If I am not mistaken, during the summit of the Americas held in Quebec City, there was a great deal of co-operation between the Quebec government, the city and the federal government.

The problem with Bill C-55, which is before us today, is that neither the province nor the city would be consulted. Not only would they not be consulted, but there is also no requirement to have an agreement. This means that a single person, not cabinet, the Liberal Party or the House of Commons, but a single person would have the power to unilaterally decide to create such a zone, and that person is the Minister of National Defence.

As far as we are concerned, this is totally unacceptable, and this why we want a safeguard, namely the consent of the city and the provincial government to establish such a zone.

Public Safety Act, 2002
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Mississauga West
Ontario

Liberal

Steve Mahoney Parliamentary Secretary to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Crown Corporations

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Barrie--Simcoe--Bradford.

I can agree with the opposition on one thing in this particular debate. Canadians are not generally comfortable nor used to legislating aspects of security. The issues that have followed in this country, the United States and the world following September 11 are issues that we are not familiar with. However we have an obligation as parliamentarians to ensure the safety and security of Canadians.

There is one prime obligation that all of us in every party, in every seat in this House has and that is to ensure safety for our citizens. Therefore we must take what some might call extraordinary measures.

I can appreciate the fact that some from the legal profession in this place, who at times take unfair criticism, want to debate this issue from the point of view of someone's civil rights or liberties. However I must say that I honestly believe that Canadians, who I represent and the vast majority of Canadians, understand that times have changed since September 11 and perhaps the freest country, the best democracy in the world, needs to tighten up in some areas. Perhaps we need to make some changes and people expect us to do that.

I will deal with some of the criticism that I have heard. One is that the sharing of information between the airlines, the RCMP and CSIS would open up potential abuse of people's rights. There are guidelines that would require that information to only be shared with senior designated people within those two law enforcement agencies.

The sharing of information could only be done when it related to someone who was a potential terrorist, thought to be a terrorist, a terrorist threat, or in the case of criminal activity, someone who was facing an outstanding warrant that could result in a prison sentence in excess of five years. Who would that be? The crimes that carry a sentence in excess of five years in this country are crimes like murder and kidnapping.

Are we saying it is wrong for an airline to contact the RCMP to say it has information on a passenger on an inbound flight who has an outstanding warrant for his or her arrest for murder? If people were innocent one would think they would want to face their accusers, come forward to the authorities and defend themselves. There would be a strong possibility that the individual was fleeing and did not want to be arrested. It astounds me that we would object to sharing that kind of information.

The other aspect could deal with a violation of our immigration act. If we have an outstanding deportation against individuals and they are known to be on a particular flight coming into Canada, why would we not want to share the information so that someone could be there to greet them when they disembark so we could take them into custody and thereby deport them?

We have heard cries of indignation from people opposite that our deportation system is not tough enough, that we issue deportation orders and then do not carry them out. Members know that our immigration and enforcement staff around the world are overworked. We just met this morning to discuss the results of the immigration committee travelling around the world meeting with our staff and seeing what some of the pressures are. This is a tool that could help alleviate some of those problems and could ensure that we could deal with individuals who were either facing a warrant for their arrest, or were in violation of a deportation order under the immigration act.

I find it astounding that members on either side of the House would stand up to their constituents and say they think it is too big brotherish, too much information and that the government should not have a right to gather that information.

That is ridiculous. There are safeguards in the bill. For example, if Transport Canada is given certain information, that information can be acted upon and perhaps passed on to the authorities, but then must be destroyed by Transport Canada within seven days. We are not talking about building some kind of secret file on someone, taking away someone's rights or tracking people who might be going somewhere without the knowledge of their spouse or something of that nature. We are talking about serious problems. We need to face the fact after September 11 we need to be serious.

Let me deal with another issue and that is the objections, which have come primarily from the leader of the fifth party, to the ability of a minister to issue an interim order in an emergency. The member opposite, the leader of that party, said that we already had that power under the Emergencies Act. What he has neglected to tell people is that the only way that can be implemented is if we get provincial agreement on the particular circumstance. The minister would have to get cabinet, the provinces and get everybody on side to agree before we could issue an emergency order. Is that not interesting? What would have happened following September 11 if we had to do all that before we could have closed the skies over this country, knowing that there were aircraft with potential terrorists on board?

In fact at one point, at 11 o'clock in the morning of September 11, I was sitting with the president of the Credit Valley Hospital who was informed that there was an aircraft, with a suspected hijacker in control, on its way to Pearson Airport and the hospital was put on full alert to deal with possible casualties, injured people or worse. Should our minister not have the right, given the circumstances under which we live, to act quickly? I can hear the cries of indignation and the demands for resignation if a minister failed to do so.

The other thing that is not told in this story is that the only way we can actually use the Emergencies Act is if we declare the problem to be global. Let us think about that. Certainly what happened on 9/11 was a global problem. We may not have had a problem in that regard. Let us talk about another situation. What about forcing the closing of cockpit doors? What about Health Canada in the case of a chemical attack or a problem? Should the minister not have the ability to give an order to deal with those kinds of emergencies and not get caught up in the matter of whether it is global or not, getting cabinet's approval at a meeting and getting together with the provinces to get them on side? Meanwhile we have a serious problem occurring somewhere in our country. We have an obligation to put in place a tough bill.

Another aspect of this is that the government listened. The government listened to the opposition, whether it wants to accept it or not. The government listened to members of our own caucus. The government listened to the Canadian people. It then said that Bill C-42 was perhaps too restrictive and that it did not give us the tools we needed. Therefore it withdrew Bill C-42 and submitted another bill.

This is not an admission of failure. We needed to act after September 11 and we did act. The accusations that we were slow and that we did nothing were totally unfair, uncalled for and untrue. We will continue to act with the bill to ensure that the civil rights of people are fairly balanced with a bill that gives our law enforcement agencies the tools they need to protect the Canadian public. There is nothing more sacred in the duty of a member of parliament than to live up to that obligation. I honestly believe the bill does that.

Public Safety Act, 2002
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Moore Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, another important obligation of members of parliament is to respect this institution, which includes respecting the hard work of committees.

Could the parliamentary secretary to the Deputy Prime Minister comment on work that his colleague from Chicoutimi, who is about 10 feet to his left, and I did on the transport committee? We spent probably over $1 million of taxpayer money travelling down to Washington, D.C., going to Pearson airport and taking in countless witnesses to the transport committee. We put together a package of 15 recommendations on airport and airline security.

The 14th recommendation stated that the government should consider financing new air security provisions with a number of options so that the cost of airport and airline security would be dovetailed out and not one sector of the air industry would be hammered. The government ignored completely every recommendation of that report and imposed a $24 round trip security air tax which is nailing consumers.

That report was given unanimous support by every Liberal at the committee, including the parliamentary secretary to the transport minister, the second in command on transport policy. The government ignored the committee and slapped the Liberals on the committee in the face, including the parliamentary secretary to the transport minister.

Could the Deputy Prime Minister tell us why the government so absolutely disregard that and disregard the work of the committee? Why did it impose a $24 tax against the wishes of the Liberals on the committee, including the member who is 10 feet to his left?

Public Safety Act, 2002
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Steve Mahoney Mississauga West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for my promotion. I am not the Deputy Prime Minister. I would love to be but I am afraid I have not quite reached that exalted office yet. One never knows, stranger things have happened.

The government does respect the work of committees. I see my colleague who I believe is from New Westminster. He and I have both recently come back and are in the process of writing a major report that deals in some ways with security around airports. He told us at committee this morning some interesting things, and we will be investigating how we can improve certain security aspects in relation to immigration.

The government obviously will not agree with every recommendation from every member on either side of the House. The government has a higher obligation and that is to ensure the security and safety of its citizens. If we do nothing else, and some would say that is exactly what we do, we have to live up to that obligation.

Sometimes some great ideas come out of committees that perhaps do not make it into a particular bill. That does not mean they will not live to perhaps find themselves in regulations in a different way. The government is open. I can assure the member it listens to its own members. Whether the member wants to believe this or not, we even listen the odd time to the little smidgeon of good ideas that sometimes come from across the floor.

Public Safety Act, 2002
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Barrie—Simcoe—Bradford
Ontario

Liberal

Aileen Carroll Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the prospect of biological weapons being used, whether it be by states, criminals or terrorists, horrifies and repulses all civilized people. Today the very idea of deliberately propagating diseases via bacteria, viruses, or toxins that affect humans, animals or plants is considered, justifiably, a taboo and is condemned by international treaty law and customary international law.

Since 1925, the Geneva Protocol has prohibited bacteriological warfare, in other words, biological weapons. The Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction, better knows by its acronym, BTWC, completely prohibits the possession of such weapons. The BTWC, which was negotiated in 1972 and came into effect in 1975, was the first worldwide convention to prohibit an entire category of weapons of mass destruction. It set a universal standard and is an important pillar of international peace and security.

As I mentioned, Canada signed and ratified the BTWC in 1972 and strongly supports the convention. Canada attaches great importance to full compliance with the provisions of the convention and supports fully its purposes and provisions. To our profound regret, I remember well last summer, negotiations for such a protocol collapsed in July after seven years of hard work, denying the world truly its best chance to achieve a mechanism to impede the development and spread of biological weapons.

At the review conference, many other countries indicated that in light of the events of September 11, which subsequently followed and in light of subsequent bioterrorism attacks using anthrax, they were in the process of revising or supplementing their own legislation relevant to biological weapons.

National enforcement efforts cannot substitute for an international compliance mechanism aimed at preventing the development of biological weapons. It was that compliance mechanism that we were close too when it collapsed with the withdrawal of one of the major countries.

In themselves, national efforts are still valuable and necessary. Export and import controls, licensing, domestic inspection, verification and policing all complement and buttress the global ban on bio-weapons.

Article 4 of the BTWC would require state parties, in accordance with their own constitutional processes, to take measures to prohibit and prevent the development, the production, stockpiling, acquisition or retention of banned substances and articles in their own domestic territories, jurisdiction or control. In view of the collapse of the protocol negotiations in July and then later of the terrorist threat which emerged only two months later, it is now appropriate to go beyond the strict requirements of that convention and to supplement our own existing Canadian legislation with an act which specifically prohibits both biological weapons and related agents.

The biological and toxin weapons convention implementation act, which I have been calling the BTWC for obvious reasons, would put Canada at the forefront of these efforts to prevent biological weapons proliferation and bioterrorism. It will allow Canada to fulfill its obligations under the BTWC better because we will have done domestically what we had failed do so internationally by ensuring that the convention's ban is be respected not only by the Government of Canada but also by individuals, organizations and institutions in Canada, and that is very important.

The vast majority of the biological agents and of the types of equipment which may be employed in the manufacture of biological weapons are dual use; that is to say, these substances and articles have legitimate, even vital roles in fields like science, pharmaceuticals, medicines and agriculture. Likewise bio-defence programs intended to develop detecting devices or vaccines, antidotes and protective gear to defend against biological warfare attack require biological agents and equipment. Dual use agents and equipment are therefore essential to our health, prosperity and security and also for the advancement of knowledge. That is why it gets to be a somewhat intricate matter.

However the BTWC recognizes the dual use nature of these substances and articles by allowing articles which have prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes and equipment not designed for hostile purposes. They will continue obviously to be allowed and these exemptions for legitimate use are preserved in the legislation we are speaking about today.

To give Canadians assurance that biological and toxin agents and dual use equipment are not turned to evil purposes or diverted from their intended peaceful purposes, regulations are required. Such regulations would also increase the confidence in other countries that Canada is harbouring no official or unofficial biological weapon programs and encourage compliance elsewhere with the convention. Reciprocal confidence reinforces itself, which again contributes to peace and stability both for Canadians and worldwide.

Subsequently, last December in Geneva at the fifth BTWC review conference, the Canadian delegation strove to promote an outcome which would have contributed to the convention's integrity and vitality by building bridges between regional groups, by advocating an enhanced review process, and by working for the adoption of new measures to strengthen the convention. That included a viable way forward to resume negotiations for what I mentioned earlier, the multilateral, legally binding compliance mechanism for the convention. It is therefore again unfortunate that the review conference was unable to achieve that outcome last December.

Let me assure the House that Canada has not given up its efforts to reinforce the global ban on germ weapons. We look forward to the review convention's resumption this coming November. We will indeed continue our efforts, as we have in the past, and we will work with other countries that are trying, like us, to accomplish the same aim.

The BTWC implementation act will therefore provide the legal basis to create a licensing regime for more complete control of biological substances and articles. It will also permit the establishment of a responsible authority and will set out the powers of inspectors charged with enforcing the act. It has been very carefully crafted to ensure that Canadian procedures will be compatible with any eventual international mechanism so that we will not have to go back and redo the process.

While the licensing regime and regulations should be rigorous, they must not be excessively burdensome for the legitimate users of biological agents. Indeed, we expect that the process of elaborating regulations and of establishing this new responsible authority and inspectorate will require intensive study and consultation with many sectors, including industry, farming, universities and medical, scientific and research sectors, all places where these agents may be used for very legitimate purposes.

Given that these are technical questions, it is important to get them right. A single solution will not work. The degree of control and safety required for a containment facility where highly contagious diseases are studied will obviously not work for a research institute doing work on low-risk pathogens.

This legislation will make Canada and the world safer. It will prevent the development and proliferation of biological weapons around the world. It will show that Canada is committed to fighting terrorism. At the same time, it demonstrates our active support of the BTWC and a multilateral approach based on rules, non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament. This is in line with the role that Canada has always played to increase co-operation for security. For this reason, I propose that we pass it quickly.

Public Safety Act, 2002
Government Orders

May 2nd, 2002 / 12:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gary Lunn Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Lethbridge.

I rise today to discuss Bill C-55, the public safety act. We all live in a different world in the wake of the September 11 attacks. Legislation is needed to address the security concerns we all face, however, Bill C-55 has very serious flaws that need to be addressed if it is to become law.

This is the third attempt to put the bill before the House. The bill began as Bill C-42, which was later split into two parts, with Bill C-44 being passed earlier in the session. We are pleased that the bill was split at the time so as to allow our support for the air safety regulations in Bill C-44. Now we have Bill C-55, supposedly the new and improved version; however, the government has not addressed any of the serious issues that caused the collapse of Bill C-42. The bill remains flawed.

The government has a poor track record of controversial legislation. The species at risk act was recently pulled from the order paper after a third aborted attempt. Long awaited amendments to the Divorce Act are delayed yet again while the government tries to find a way not to offend anyone.

The government simply cannot cope with difficult legislation. Why? A government without any policy direction is revealed when called on to make policy. Its lack of ideas is exposed. When it does come up with ideas they are often not well thought out, they anger all sides of the political debate and they do not address the needs of Canadians. Worse, when it does bow to public pressure and withdraw a bad bill, which is rare, it does not make any real changes. Bill C-55 does not adequately address any of our concerns with respect to Bill C-42. Why introduce the bill at all if the government will not fix it?

My main concern with Bill C-42 was the unreasonable amount of power that was given to a handful of ministers. The Canadian Alliance believes that the powers under the Emergencies Act to declare various stages of public emergency are adequate. The Aeronautics Act also allows for ministerial discretion, but forces its ratification by parliament or cabinet within 14 days. Bill C-42 allowed cabinet ministers to unilaterally declare an emergency in an area, as a result giving them very broad enforcement powers. Those decisions did not have to be reviewed by cabinet for three months. Parliament as a whole might never have been consulted at all.

Bill C-55 purports to address this by reducing the review period from 90 days to 40 days. Imagine, he now can get his cabinet together in 45 days. It must be pretty tough to pull them all together. This is ridiculous. Both periods are equally extreme. Invoking extreme measures that limit democratic rights in Canada should be relied upon only as a last resort. When they are invoked they should be debated in parliament, not in a closed door cabinet meeting. This should happen in a matter of days, not weeks or months. Furthermore, this authority to be given to ministers is not accompanied by any specifics as to how it would be implemented. It is not indicated that ministers would be responsible for enforcing the order or, more important, that they would be accountable for it.

Frankly, Bill C-55, like Bill C-42, looks suspiciously like nothing more than another power grab. We owe it to Canadians to ensure that their civil liberties will not be suspended without very good reason and within very strict parameters. Furthermore, the sheer size and scope of Bill C-55 make discussion difficult. No single committee can be tasked with so many changes. The Canadian Alliance requests that the bill be split into sections to allow more informed, useful debate both in this place and in committee.

No one is denying that there is a need for security measures to protect Canadians. For this reason I support bringing about fair laws. Bill C-55 does address a few of these areas, and in particular the measures that would protect the jobs of the reservists when they are called into active service. That is excellent and I fully support that. This law is long overdue. We have been calling for this for some time.

We also support measures to update the Explosives Act and measures that would make terrorist hoaxes an offence. Our security personnel have a tough enough time dealing with real terrorists without having to waste valuable resources on pranksters.

Again, these are positive steps in the bill, but unfortunately the balance is not acceptable. The overwhelming power grab, not having to come back to cabinet for weeks, discussing it behind closed doors, and not even having to come before parliament, all of these are not acceptable. I would like to support this type of legislation to actually enhance and protect public safety, but the bill should be about people's protection. Instead it is more about giving more unaccountability to government. It is famous for that. The single fatal flaw in this institution is the lack of accountability of the executive of the government. This is a bill that will give them more powers with no accountability. The government is famous for allowing ministers to do as they will with no regard for the House of Commons. Bill C-55 is another classic example. Ultimately, eight months and three drafts later, the bill remains a failure. I ask the government to make significant amendments to address the faults I have outlined.

I would like to add one other point about the whole security situation with regard to September 11. The government is now collecting the $24 air tax from travellers in the country. It is having a huge impact in my riding. The Victoria airport is in my riding, which generally has short flights, and $24 is a significant burden.

Worse than that, what I learned last week was appalling. The government is scrambling to find a way to create an appearance or a perception that the travelling public is actually getting something for that $24. What is the government going to do? For any airports that have flights to the U.S. or national flights, it is going to put armed RCMP or police officers in the airport beside security so that there is a perception, and I emphasize perception, that travellers are getting something for their $24, because right now the travelling public is saying that there is not a lot of difference. They go through security and their bags go through an X-ray machine, so not a lot has changed.

The government talked about explosive detection equipment but when we actually speak to the people in the airports they tell us it will take two to three years to even order that equipment because there is such a huge backlog. Yet the government is collecting another tax and putting the money into general revenues. It is wrong. In my community there are only 24 police officers. It would take five police officers from that detachment just to man the airport. That would pull police officers off the street. Again the frustrating part is that the government is not interested in the public or in accountability. It is interested in creating a perception. It says it has to give people something for that $24 so if it throws some armed police into airports people will think they are a lot safer. It is wrong.

Let me emphasize that the biggest fatal flaw in Bill C-55 is the power grab it is giving to the ministers, with zero accountability. They do not even have to come before the House. They can wait weeks before they have to go to cabinet. That is not acceptable. Cabinet could be convened in a matter of hours, if not days. Parliament could be recalled if those kinds of extraordinary powers were necessary. Unfortunately again the government has demonstrated that when it comes to accountability it is still getting an F.

Public Safety Act, 2002
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rick Casson Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is good to take part in the debate today on the new bill the government brought forward, Bill C-55. It replaces a couple of other attempts the government made to address the issue of security.

I do not feel Canadians who read the bill would feel one bit more secure. The safety and security of the citizens of a country is the number one job of a government and in this instance they have been let down.

The bill is an omnibus bill that addresses 19 different acts of parliament in nine ministries, all lumped together into one bill brought forward by the transport minister. It is to be dealt with by one committee and we feel therein lies one of the greatest problems. The bill should be split so that each area would be dealt with by the ministry or committee to which that section pertains.

We support some of the things that are being addressed in the bill but one of the factors of real concern is the extra special powers given to ministers without prior approval by cabinet, or furthermore, by the House. The ministers affected are: environment, health, fisheries and oceans, transport, justice and immigration. It would give them an interim order ability which would give them more power to act without any consultation with cabinet or parliament. However, the general increase in authority is not accompanied by any new specifics or assumptions of the responsibility of the minister concerned.

We have the ability to create the special situation but we do not have the coinciding responsibilities to which the minister must adhere to in carry it out. That is one of the things that needs to be addressed. We were hoping for that and maybe when we get into discussion in committee some of these things could be brought up. Certainly more than one committee needs to address the issues in the bill, not just transport.

We talk about the $24 charge for a round trip ticket to increase security at airports. I fly quite regularly. There are no X-ray machines at Lethbridge. Carry-on baggage is checked by hand and I joke with the people who do it that if I am ever missing anything they should remind me and I could go home to get it. They are getting quite familiar with my belongings.

We asked the minister to explain to us in detail what the $24 per head would bring to the airport, specifically Lethbridge in my riding. We have not seen anything concrete come of that. We have some 60,000 passengers, and times $24 is a large amount of money. What will the government do to make us feel more secure when we travel?

This whole thing is in response to the terrible crimes that were committed on September 11. It has taken our government eight months to come up with a bill that will be debated, and go on for I do not know how many more months, to address the situation of security in Canada. That is not acceptable.

It is a situation in which we now exist. It could happen in Canada at any moment if we are not vigilant. Yet we are still fudging around with the laws that would allow our country to protect itself better.

There is the issue of some of the defence measures that would create special military zones. I support that and I believe our party supports it to some degree but we need some definition of it. There has been concern raised as to what it would entail. If a military vehicle were to be parked somewhere could one go in to protect it by using any means thus getting around the whole issue of creating a special security zone?

These are points that need definition. We do not see it in the bill. Somebody should be bringing that forward to allay some of the fears that it will be abused. If indeed it is intended to protect military equipment, if we have ships or whatever that need to be protected, then let us define that and make sure that is what it is doing.

The issue of money laundering is a whole separate problem this country has that needs to be addressed but that is in the bill.

One thing too is job protection for people who are called up from the reserves. That is important. We have a competent, capable and willing reserve contingents in this country. When they get called up it almost goes without saying that the job they had should be protected while they are performing that special duty.

We talked about taxes, special levies, airport fees, and this $24 security tax. One set of figures brought forward dealt with a flight from Calgary to Edmonton where the actual cost of the ticket was $100 and it was $188 by the time we were finished paying for it. It cost 88% more on top of what the actual ticket was when all the fees were added on.

This $24 charge is causing some problems. Lethbridge has an operation called Integra Air that flies directly from Lethbridge to the municipal airport in Edmonton. It is a small operation but it offers a service that is well subscribed to. This $24 fee has made it revisit some plans it was looking at for expansion into Calgary to connect to some WestJet flights. It is unfortunate when a levy such as this adversely affects the future plans or the operating plans of a company in Canada. We need to look at what we are doing and what we are getting for that $24.

I know the transport minister has addressed this issue to some degree saying that any cases like this would be looked at. He wants to know when an operation has been affected by this $24. We have brought that to his attention so we will be watching him carefully to ensure that it is addressed.

We have seen omnibus bills before. Bill C-15 was one of those. We eventually split into Bill C-15A and Bill C-15B. We had issues that dealt with the protection of children from predators and pedophiles, cruelty to animals legislation, and regulations affecting the gun registry. We fought to separate those issues, some of which we supported. They were put into Bill C-15A and we supported it and moved forward. We are still debating and have some problems with Bill C-15B

I would like the government to consider that aspect. We should quickly put into place certain issues without holding up the entire bill because of some aspect of it that we do not particularly like. It should be done in a way that reflects the powers of each ministry so that the committee and the minister responsible for that particular section deal with it in a very direct way.

I wish to mention the issue of documents. Every time we ask questions of the immigration minister he would sooner return an attack. I guess he believes that the best defence is a strong offence. The issue is about people travelling on airplanes. We must know who they are. What happened on September 11 was that terrorists used planes and the people on them as virtual bombs to attack the United States.

We must know who is on those planes. Are they a threat to the people on the plane and the people on the ground? The ability to collect documents, to identify, to share that information with law enforcement agencies, and to pass that information on to the RCMP and CSIS is critical. Without that how can we possibly feel that the bill would work?

There are a lot of issues to be addressed. It has taken a long time to get this far which is unfortunate. The United States was able to put a bill forward very quickly. The government has been trying to mirror that for eight months now and it does not have it right yet. Hopefully some of the suggestions that are coming out in the debate today will be taken to heart so that when it is finally passed the bill will reflect what Canadians truly need.