House of Commons Hansard #135 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-17.

Topics

Public Safety Act 2002
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my hon. colleague from the Liberal Party.

Yes, a terrible event shook the world on September 11. Yes, it did happen, but we now have to stop telling tall tales to make people believe that we have to make a greater effort on security issues and adopt more specific guidelines in this regard. We were all troubled by the tragic events of September 11, 2001. We all know what happened.

However, we cannot circumvent the Charter of Rights and Freedoms by giving such enormous powers, warrants to check on people's identity.

I would like my Liberal colleague to tell us if he would be comfortable living in a dictatorship, since that is almost what he is proposing. I believe that we live in a democracy, and in a democracy, we can ask questions and we can add more security measures, but we have to stop creating a virtual world and adapting our way of life to virtual events that might occur some day.

It is true that people need to be reassured because they have not felt secure since that day. However, we have to assure people that democracy will survive and that we will still comply with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They should also know that the decision makers will not have all sorts of powers that go beyond democracy.

I would like the member to tell us what the word democracy means to him.

Public Safety Act 2002
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, last week I watched the miniseries on Pierre Elliott Trudeau again. I was fascinated by the events surrounding the implementation of the War Measures Act, which was an extreme example of the suspension of human rights and democracy. Is there a case in which it would be appropriate to do that? The government of the day thought there was. I suspect the debate is still going on today.

We have to put that into the present context and say that we are necessarily at risk simply because we are the neighbour of the United States. People wonder whether airplanes from Canada could be used as weapons against the U.S. Could that happen? It is possible, if we do not have security measures, if our airports are not secure, if we do not have reasonable safeguards. What would people say if something untoward happened?

Our attitudes change depending upon the level of risk. The level of risk is not something that ducks in and out. It is something which at a point in time moves in a certain direction. Canada is very slowly becoming a place where terrorism is not absent anymore. Terrorists are in Canada. Terrorist activities occur in Canada and they occur against our troops who are serving with peacekeeping forces. Those things happen.

Canada is different today from what it was 10 years ago. I do not know whether the current sensitivities that we feel with regard to security threats will ever dissipate. If we surveyed people, I think we would find that many people feel it is probably going to get worse over time.

Public Safety Act 2002
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to take part today in the debate on Bill C-17, the Public Safety Act.

Before dealing directly with the topic at hand, I will say that I am always surprised by some of my colleagues' comments. One would be inclined to think that such remarks could only come from my right, but I am always surprised to see that members of a political party that gave us the charter of rights can be so far to the right.

That is what we have been hearing so far. Some members have a wild imagination and assume that acts of terrorism could potentially be committed. Such a line of thought leads inevitably to legislation that tramples on individual freedoms, perhaps creating a system where the rule of law no longer applies, but where a police state will look after the affairs of the state.

Using assumptions that have not been validated and that are quite often unfounded is embarking upon a very slippery slope.

With regard to Bill C-17, one must remember that we have had debates at one time or another, and not necessarily on similar bills. As my colleague across the way said a few minutes ago, there have been many versions of this bill. Whether Bill C-36, Bill C-42 or Bill C-55, which evolved into Bill C-17,the one before us today, there have been many changes, some substantial, others relatively minor.

My colleague across the way said a few minutes ago that he was sorry the bill had not been passed and had not taken effect all at once, the way it was. On the contrary, delaying the bill has made it better, and ensured that it will take into account a context that is not what it was when the events of September 11, 2001 occurred. Some improvements were made; I will list them in a moment.

First, we have to remember that the events of September 11 were major ones. My point is certainly not that we should stop fighting against terrorism. However, we believe that the response and the fight against terrorism must take into account the democratic values that are dear to Quebeckers. We think that the bills passed in the House of Commons should reflect the balance we seek between freedom and security.

This is exactly where the problem lies. Bill C-17 is a direct attack against the most democratic rights of the citizens, their right to a certain amount of freedom. This was said not only by the Privacy Commissioner but also by several organizations.

First, it was clear that we we had to oppose Bill C-36. The Bloc Quebecois asked the government to include a sunset clause so that the act would no longer be operative after three years, except if the House decided otherwise.

Furthermore, the Bloc Quebecois also asked that the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights automatically review the act each year, following the tabling of a report by an independent commissioner.

Why did we ask for both an annual review of the act by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and a sunset clause so that the act would no longer be in force after three years? We did not want the principles set out in Bill C-36, and today in Bill C-17, to become permanent changes.

Inasmuch as we feel the bill interferes with individual freedoms, to a certain extent, the question we must ask ourselves is the following: do we want to limit those freedoms permanently?

If that is not what we want, if the answer is no, any member who believes in the rule of law, who believes that this must be reflected in the legislation we pass, will want this legislation to be exceptional and temporary.

The three-year sunset clause, the fact that the law would have expired after three years and be reviewed each year by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, would have highlighted its exceptional—the exception being the events of September 11—and temporary nature, with due consideration of the fact that we want to have a society that respects the democratic values of freedom and justice.

That is what the amendments to Bill C-36, as proposed by the Bloc Quebecois, would have permitted. Unfortunately, they were rejected.

The Bloc also proposed debate on other issues, for instance, the definition of a terrorist act, which is very broad and which could lead to problems for groups or individuals who are not terrorists. They also wanted the Attorney General to be able to withhold information by not applying the Access to Information Act. And, as I mentioned, there would be no further review of the bill for three years.

There was a problem with that. Naturally, the minister proposed some amendments. But in our view these amendments were clearly inadequate. I repeat that there was considerable debate. We presented solutions and constructive proposals related to limiting the scope of the legislation and including a sunset clause. That would have enabled us, perhaps, to have voted in favour of legislation that would have been exceptional, but not permanent, in order to respect the democratic values so cherished by Quebeckers.

And then came Bill C-42, which gave new powers to ministers, such as adopting interim orders. In our opinion, that left much too much room for arbitrary actions. In particular, the military security zones were very poorly defined and their implementation left the door wide open to many abuses.

First, it is important to point out that, the way the bill was drafted, a military security zone could well have been declared on Quebec's territory without even consulting the Government of Quebec. The federal government, using an interim order, could have established a military security zone in Quebec, without even discussing it with the Government of Quebec.

In certain ridings, for instance that of my colleague from Jonquière, we could have ended up with these totally undemocratic zones. It hearkens back in a way to our experiences during the October crisis, when the federal government had no qualms about invoking the War Measures Act. With this provision of Bill C-42, the federal government could have designated certain parts of Quebec as military security zones, without consulting the Government of Quebec.

Thanks to the efforts of the Bloc Quebecois members, we were able to sort this out and avoid a recurrence of such a situation. If we had simply counted on the federal members across the way, I am not sure there would have been much awareness of this concern. So, with Bill C-55, we were able to avoid military interventions and the designation of these zones, in Quebec in particular.

This takes us to Bill C-17. It is important to go over the previous bills in order to grasp the scope of Bill C-17. We moved from C-42 to C-55, and now to C-17 which is, basically, just a new version of C-55, the Public Security Act 2002. I would remind hon. members that our interventions on Bill C-55 addressed three main themes.

The first was the military access zones, which we felt ought not to be created. Naturally, in Bill C-17, the federal government made a commitment and withdrew the provisions on these, and as I have said, that was a victory for the Bloc Quebecois.

The second point we addressed in what was Bill C-55 at the time was the interim orders. This bill still contains provisions on these, although the time frames for tabling in Parliament and approval by Cabinet have been shortened considerably. The main problem remains unchanged, however: the absence of any prior verification for compliance.

I have reviewed the work done by the Bloc Quebecois in connection with Bills C-42 and C-17. At no time has there been any provision for prior verification for compliance. Is it possible for these orders not to be implemented until it has first been verified that they do not violate the Charter of RIghts and Freedoms and its enabling legislation?

Whereas in Quebec we have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms and in Canada we have a Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, we think that before using these interim orders that we feel are exceptional measures, there should be prior verification for compliance. That is one of our proposals. Prior verification for compliance with the enabling legislation and also with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, should be considered. This would allow us to protect freedoms and the democratic values that drive Quebec. Unfortunately, there is no provision to that effect in Bill C-42, C-55, or C-17.

Finally, one of the important aspects that the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel emphasized in the past concerns the issue of exchanging information on airline passengers. The proposed changes when the bill was previously reported, are largely insufficient. The framework of the proposed provisions goes well beyond the fight against terror and the provisions do not strike a fair balance, as I said earlier, between security and privacy. It is important to note that the bill will give more power than ever to the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service in terms of gathering information.

On this side of the House, we think it would have been important to amend this bill to limit as much as possible the powers related to keeping and using the information thus gathered. We believe that these powers have to be limited because as long as we live in a democratic society, the rule of law must prevail and we must not lapse into a police state. The more the powers of the RCMP and CSIS are reinforced, the more likely this unacceptable scenario becomes.

Given the numerous comments by the Privacy Commissioner, who was very critical of this bill—and I will end here—it is essential to achieve this balance between security and freedom.

Naturally, we are not against fighting terrorism. However, as the leader of the Bloc Quebecois indicated shortly after September 11, the response must respect the underlying democratic values of Quebeckers. The proposed solution must also reflect the seriousness of these events.

When I listen to a few colleagues on the other side of the House, but also those to my far right, I notice the numerous attempts to use the events of September 11 to establish, in Canada, permanent legislation solely to ensure safety. The resulting mechanisms pose a real threat.

In closing, I want to say that, of course, we oppose Bill C-17, although it is better than the bills previously introduced. If the bill can be improved, we will be happy to support it. However, it is important that Bill C-17 take into consideration our underlying democratic values.

Public Safety Act 2002
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to thank my hon. colleague for speaking on this bill and giving listeners a very detailed overview of how Bill C-17 came into being.

In his speech, my hon. colleague said that the democratic values relating to security must be ensured, in light of the events of September 11, 2001. It is true that this was an extremely serious event that shook the entire world. However, as my colleague mentioned, we must keep things in perspective and not generate fear by implementing measures limiting freedom and democracy.

I want my colleague to provide additional information, which he did not have time to mention in his speech. In his opinion, what measures could have been included in order for the Bloc Quebecois to support this bill?

Public Safety Act 2002
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, there are indeed two or three aspects of the bill that we would have liked to have seen changed; this might have allowed us to support the bill before us today.

First, as I said earlier, interim orders should be subject to a preliminary check, to ensure that they are consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Again, I have a hard time understanding why my government colleagues, who are members of the political party that sponsored and introduced the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, do not want this preliminary check to be carried out to ensure that a given interim order does not violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Second, we would have liked a sunset clause to be included, so that the bill, or the act, would no longer be in effect after three years. This would prevent such provisions from being made permanent. This way, each year, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights could review the act and make the necessary amendments to take into account the changing environment. As we know, the global and international environment is evolving rapidly. Things change quickly, and our safety protection legislation must be fine tuned.

We would therefore have liked, first, a preliminary check for compliance and, second, for this legislation not to be permanent but to be of an exceptional, limited nature, so that we do not move toward a police state and that we can uphold the principles and democratic values that we all share.

Public Safety Act 2002
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I had another question for my colleague. I would like him to talk about the government's amendments dealing with the powers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and CSIS to access information on airline passengers. Those powers are much too broad.

I would like to have my colleague's opinion on those powers, which are much too broad. I would also like to know what kind of limitations these powers will put on privacy.

Public Safety Act 2002
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have already touched on that. However, I will go further during questions and comments. As I said, we would have liked to have limitations put on the powers of the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

It is important to recall the opinion issued on May 6 by the Privacy Commissioner, in which he said that the powers given to the RCMP had, among other things, two consequences. Some concerns had been raised at that time.

First, the RCMP is allowed to use the personal information of all air travellers for the purpose of seeking out individuals who are subject to a warrant for any offence punishable by imprisonment for five years or more. Also, the RCMP and SCIS are permitted to retain the personal information of passengers for such purposes as searching for suspicious travel patterns.

On May 6, the Privacy Commissioner was very critical of those powers. I insist in particular on the second part. Are you aware that the powers given to the RCMP and CSIS will allow them to retain the personal information of passengers? This has broad implications. It is not just about the passport. It can go much further.

We believe that the powers of the RCMP and CSIS should be limited, in the interest of freedom and safety.

Public Safety Act 2002
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from the Bloc and certainly all those from the opposition side who continue to oppose the impact that this legislation would have on the civil liberties of Canadians. It never ceases to amaze me that we keep repeating our mistakes.

Does my colleague have particular incidents that may have happened in the last two years since the attack took place in 2001? Two years have now passed without this legislation being in place. Is there a particular instance, which he might have heard about, where Canadian authorities have been unable to respond to a terrorist threat with the legislation that is already in place?

Public Safety Act 2002
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is exactly why we believe that it was important to have several bills.

My colleague across the floor was saying 10 or 15 minutes ago that they would have liked the first bill introduced to be adopted to have tougher legislation. He was critical of the fact that many bills had been introduced.

For us however, studying the safety bill on three separate occasions allowed us to improve it and to ensure better protection of civil liberties.

I was talking about the secure military zone that was initially included in the government bill many months ago. On this side of the House, we have managed to have it dropped from Bill C-17. These are all initiatives that make me say that, thanks to the opposition, we have managed to protect civil liberties, because we did not let our imaginations run wild or been too precipitate.

We hope that government will listen to reason. Other aspects of this bill need to be guaranteed to ensure civil liberties are protected for all Canadians. We hope that government will soon listen to reason. I repeat for a third time that we have to try to ensure this protection. Of course we have to ensure safety, but we should never forget that freedom is also a fundamental democratic value in our society.

Public Safety Act 2002
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to tell my colleague that in my area, in the Saguenay, there is a military base. Under the first version of the bill, all the land around the base was part of it. My town was in a military security zone. That is extremely serious. At second reading stage, I spoke out against this. The government listened and decided to make changes, with the exception of three locations.

However, under the current bill, the governor in council will be able to create military zones by order in council. We, in the Bloc Quebecois, believe that Quebec should be consulted before this government goes ahead.

Is there a provision in this bill to consult Quebec before defining a controlled access military zone?

Public Safety Act 2002
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I understand it, under Bill C-55 and Bill C-42, military security zones could be established. Regarding these bills, we felt it was unacceptable that the federal government should be able to create military intervention zones without even consulting, for instance, the Quebec government, should it decide to establish such a zone in Quebec. There was no provision under Bill C-55 or Bill C-42 allowing for such a consultation process.

We succeeded in having these military security zones dropped from Bill C-17. That is a significant improvement. As I said earlier in my speech, in Quebec we could very well have found ourselves next to a military zone. I know that plans were in place for Halifax harbour, that some areas had been previously designated.

As a result of the repeated demands of the Bloc Quebecois and the amendments that were made, we now have a bill that does not mention military security zones.

Public Safety Act 2002
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have the opportunity once again to raise our objections to Bill C-17.

I want to make note of the fact that it is extremely disappointing to see the government yesterday come up with an urgency for Bill C-17. It will be rammed through the House by another show of a very undemocratic process.

Tonight government members will have pizza and beer with the member for LaSalle—Émard. We had to ensure that the bill passed through the House today so that members across the way could have a pizza and beer party with the member for LaSalle—Émard to discuss the democratic deficit.

The hypocrisy in this whole issue will be shown by each and every member on that side of the House who votes in favour of the legislation. They did not want to continue this debate because they will be having pizza and beer with the member for LaSalle—Émard this evening. That is absolutely despicable, but it is the absolute reality of what is happening here in Ottawa today.

I have dealt in some manner with the bill for almost two years. I have heard numerous concerns about the issues related to civil liberties. However the bill has never once shown up since we came back in September. I do not think we had any additional discussions in committee.

The government did not raise it as an urgent bill that had to pass when its members got together to decide what will be before the House until last night, just before the House adjourned. All of a sudden it is before the House this morning. The government will ram it through today and not give people out there who have real issues with it an opportunity to do what they can to address the issues that will affect the civil liberties of Canadians.

We need to be clear where this is coming from. The transport minister can talk all he wants about how important it really is, that there has been a lot of debate, and that we have to get the bill passed. That is garbage.

It is over two years since 9/11 happened and Canada responded wonderfully when it took place. All the agencies involved were able to do what they had to do to respond to 9/11 without the bill. They did not get any argument from members of the opposition. There was little or no criticism. The criticism comes now when we see the civil liberties of Canadians being attacked.

One of the hardest things to recognize in the whole discussion on the legislation is what I am hearing from members across the way. I am also disappointed that there are some opposition parties that will support the legislation when it has an implication on the civil liberties of a specified group of Canadians.

As a Canadian I thought we had learned something from the detention camps where Japanese and Ukrainian Canadians were held. Those were shameful moments in Canadian history. We have learned nothing. We are willing to subject another group of Canadians to the same type of approach simply because we are not of that group. That is despicable and there is no other way of looking at this.

We hear my colleague from Mississauga South who seems to go on about the privacy issues, but says that we have to protect public safety. I do not feel any safer from a terrorist when I have my makeup bag checked at the airport. Quite frankly, I feel more unsafe, because if airport security has to look in my makeup bag, it does not know what the heck it is looking for. If a terrorist wants to get through, he or she will get through because of other problems in security, not because of certain measures Canada is putting in place right now.

There were a number of organizations--very respected on the issue of civil liberties throughout the country but as well internationally--that appeared before the committee all raising the same concerns.

Our party supports most of the bill, just as I am sure my colleagues do. However, the bottom line is that the part that will affect the civil liberties of Canadians is absolutely not supportable. At the risk of that happening to certain groups of Canadians, we are not willing to support the bill. Quite frankly, my feeling a little bit safer is not as important as the civil liberties of a whole group of Canadians. And it is not because they have been identified as terrorists and not because they have identified terrorist connections, it is because we think they might be.

I got to hear the evidence in committee regarding the information they were going to use that they get from the airlines. If we think about it, what information do we give the airlines? We give them our names, maybe our age, maybe a credit card number, maybe not, and we get on the plane. What else do we give them? Not a whole lot. So they are going to use the name of an individual, no other connection. If one happens to have the same name as someone who has committed some type of crime that is more than a five year offence, they are going to target that person. That is the reality of what I heard in committee.

A name is what is going to be used. I heard that from the RCMP. I did not make that up. That is what it is going to use. There are literally hundreds of thousands of warrants out there for individuals and all the RCMP is going to use is a name and maybe a cross-reference for it, and a person will be targeted. That is not acceptable.

I want to read a couple of comments that were made from different groups that appeared before our committee because it is important that Canadians know the seriousness of what is happening here.

The Canadian Association of University Teachers referenced a comment made by an Israeli-American law professor Oren Gross. He said:

A major goal of terrorist organizations is to bring about precisely that sort ofresponse by the challenged government in order to (i) weaken the fabric ofdemocracy, (ii) discredit the government domestically as well as internationally,(iii) alienate more segments of the population and push more people to support(passively if not outright actively) the terrorist organizations and their cause, and(iv) undermine the government’s claim to its holding the moral high ground--”

That is what terrorists do and quite frankly they will have succeeded in Canada if we pass this bill without any support for the civil liberties of Canadians.

Public Safety Act 2002
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I wish to inform the hon. member for Churchill that she still has 13 minutes left after question period.

Truck Rodeo of Notre-Dame-du-Nord
Statements by Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Gilbert Barrette Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise in this House to pay tribute to the approximately 500 volunteers and organizers involved in the truck rodeo of Notre-Dame-du-Nord.

These volunteers have turned their truck rodeo into a major international tourist attraction. This event began 20 years ago and attracts over 60,000 visitors annually to this small community of 1,200. The rodeo generates economic spinoffs of over $5 million.

The truck rodeo of Notre-Dame-du-Nord recorded a $200,000 profit this year. This profit has been redistributed in the immediate and neighbouring areas to support worthwhile community projects.

My sincere thanks go to these volunteers and my warm wishes to the organizers of this truck rodeo in my riding of Témiscamingue.

The Environment
Statements by Members

October 7th, 2003 / 1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Bob Mills Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development released her annual report today. It highlights the distressing gap between federal commitments and action.

The Liberal government has been warned four times over fifteen years about pesticide management. It has taken no action. The commissioner said, “For an issue that touches health, this is unacceptable...Canadians have a right to expect better answers”.

On urban road transportation, the report says that the government has no clue as to whether it will be able to meet its Kyoto commitments. HRDC is one of the biggest offenders in this year's report. This department has done nothing to assess what effects Kyoto will have on the labour market.

From Environment Canada to the infrastructure program, from Health Canada to agriculture, this year's report makes the point very clear: there is a gap between what the government has said it would do and what it actually has done, and that is nothing.