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
Oral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to commend my colleague from Churchill for speaking out so eloquently and forcefully against Bill C-17 on behalf of the New Democratic Party caucus.

I would like to make a brief comment on the destructive impact of the government's approach to civil liberties since September 11, 2001.

We recently learned that the oversight body of the RCMP that has the responsibility for ensuring that Canadians who have concerns about the abuses of power by the RCMP has said that it is powerless when it comes to dealing with abuses under the anti-terrorism legislation, Bill C-36. Shirley Heafey, the head of the RCMP civilian watchdog, the RCMP Public Complaints Commission, said:

We can't (investigate) unless there's a complaint, and even if there is a complaint...we can't see the information. So for all practical purposes, there's no civilian oversight.

Just today a group of prominent Canadians in the international civil liberties monitoring group have called for an independent inquiry into the serious abuses around the deportation of Maher Arar to Syria by the United States and the possibility that there may have been collusion with the RCMP. There was no oversight body whatsoever on that. The minister responsible for the RCMP stonewalled and covered up on that issue as well.

I remember when Bill C-36, the anti-terrorism legislation, was passed. We were promised that there would be full and effective oversight. We were told there would be no problem. New Democrats rejected that bill then as an assault on our civil liberties just as we are rejecting Bill C-17 today as an assault on our civil liberties.

I wonder if the hon. member might comment with respect to the total absence of any meaningful safeguards in Bill C-17.

Public Safety Act, 2002
Oral Question Period

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, absolutely and certainly I want to acknowledge what my colleague is saying.

The record of the government should have everybody just shaking in their boots. We should not expect any kind of representation or fair recourse because it has not been there from the government. I recall an answer given by the Minister of Foreign Affairs in question period one day. His reasoning for how Maher Arar ended up in trouble was that he had another citizenship as well.

Well, I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. Individuals should not have to apologize if they were born somewhere else or had citizenship of another country, then came to Canada and became Canadian citizens, lived here for years and were active participants in our society. In turn, the Canadian government has turned its back on them. Because we want to buckle down to possibly appeasing the U.S., are we going to turn our backs on Canadians?

What happened to sovereignty? What happened to a government standing up for its own citizens? That has been lost with the government. Knowing that we should have an even greater concern when we see this other piece of legislation.

My colleague from Burnaby—Douglas was absolutely correct. The government cannot be trusted. The bill cannot be trusted. There will be no oversight. We will have more problems along the way. I do not want to see any Canadians harassed, not any one of them, over this type of action as we fight terrorism because that is not the answer.

Public Safety Act, 2002
Oral Question Period

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want my colleague from Churchill to comment in regard to the legislation that is being used abusively against the Pakistani community generally, and with the exception of one person who is from India, over the last couple of months. People were under simple suspicion, and even that is probably stretching it, that they may somehow be involved in terrorism.

They were incarcerated and not told what the accusations were against them because there were no accusations in effect. Simply, on the whim of some immigration officials, they were incarcerated. A number of them are still incarcerated.

It has produced a chill because the result of some of those positions taken by some of the officials has been that people have now applied to voluntarily leave the country even though they may have a number of other remedies available to them under our immigration laws and common law that would allow them to stay in the country. But because they have had this mud thrown at them, this smear done on their reputations that they might somehow be associated with terrorism, they have voluntarily offered to leave the country.

I wonder if my colleague could comment if that type of chill that has been created in the field of immigration now. Could it spill over into other areas because of Bill C-17?

Public Safety Act, 2002
Oral Question Period

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, absolutely, I do not think there is any question that will happen.

As a once proud nation that was there to stand up for people from throughout the world who were having their human rights violated, Canada opened its doors. That is why a good many of us are here today because our ancestors came over. This was a nation that opened its doors to people and said that they would be given a better life, that they would not have to live under regimes that did not allow a democratic process. Canada said it could do that for them because that is what the country was about.

Under the current government and Prime Minister, with those members and that caucus over there, they have turned the page in Canadian history.

My colleague from Mississauga South was commenting on the War Measures Act and how it was important to have that in place at one time. Whether or not we decide whether the War Measures Act was important, the bottom line is that the War Measures Act ended. It was only there for a crucial moment and at least it was gone.

The bill before us will be law forever. This will be a day-by-day, year-by-year, decade-by-decade War Measures Act imposed upon Canadians, and it is not acceptable.

Canada will lose its place in the world as being considered a democratic nation. We will hear numerous reports--they are guaranteed to be coming--of infringements on people, harassments, and being jailed without the right of access to lawyers and the democratic process. Is that what we want? Is that how we want to be seen in the world? I do not think so.

If we allow that to happen, then those terrorists who took an active part in the September 11 attack have succeeded. They have made us no better as a nation than the countries and terrorists that were doing it, and that is the absolute reality of this.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

October 7th, 2003 / 3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Bonwick Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for your indulgence for a couple of moments while I ask you to rule on a point of order arising out of debate this week on the third reading of Bill C-36.

I would ask the Speaker with all due respect to rule out of order the third reading of Bill C-36, based on the fact that it was brought forward to the House under what I believe to be false pretences.

On June 10 and June 12 of this year while we were debating at committee Bill C-36, better known as the library and archives act, several members of the committee took exception to certain provisions that were included, namely provisions that touched on the Copyright Act. It was more of an omnibus piece of legislation rather than simply the library and archives act.

Based on an agreement with members of the opposition and myself, we were informed that those provisions with respect to the Copyright Act would be removed and that we would simply be voting on and dealing with the library and archives act. That agreement was made on June 12. The committee was reconvened by the chairperson on June 17, at which point the chairperson said “We have before us an amendment to clause 26, which is the copyright section, which has been presented by the parliamentary secretary acting for the government”.

The parliamentary secretary clearly stated on June 17:

Mr. Chairman, I was involved in all of the discussions of this committee. One of the reasons why we decided that we would remove them is, as you remember, the outburst of our Alliance colleagues who, at one point, accused us of turning this bill into an omnibus bill. They were very uncomfortable with us including these sections. So in an attempt to come up with a consensus, with the agreement of the department, I more or less gave my word to the committee members who are not here today that these clauses would be removed.

The parliamentary secretary made that commitment to our committee, the permanent members of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. With that word we went back to our ridings once the House rose for the summer.

The chair on June 17 called the committee back and asked it to vote clause by clause on Bill C-36, the library and archives act. After great debate it was decided, with the support of the parliamentary secretary and with the support of the chairperson, that they would allow those to remain in, regardless of the fact that the promise had clearly been made and was read into the record on the previous sitting day.

Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that you rule to disqualify this particular piece of legislation as it stands right now and refer it back to committee. Let the committee do the job that it is charged to do. Let us fulfill our responsibilities as members of Parliament and have a good, frank, open discussion about this and do not allow either the department or the minister to bring this bill forward under these kinds of pretences.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Abbott Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, in order to be brief, I would refer you to Hansard from yesterday where there was a very full debate. All of the details that have just been raised by my colleague are verified in that debate.

What we get to is the fact that we live in a very large country. From my constituency, with the airplane connections themselves, it takes a minimum of seven hours to get here. I know that my colleague from northern Ontario is in the same boat and probably requires almost the same number of hours to get here. Therefore there has to be goodwill among parliamentarians. That goodwill is based on the word of a parliamentary secretary, the word of a House leader, the word of a whip, the word of a minister.

In this particular instance there was a very clear and explicit understanding on my part, having engaged in a personal conversation with the parliamentary secretary. I can also report on behalf of my colleague from Fraser Valley, who is responsible for this bill for my party, that there was an absolutely crystal clear understanding on his part that the clauses that we found offensive were going to be removed at committee.

As a result of that undertaking, there was the meeting that occurred on June 17, which, Mr. Speaker, I know you will recall was after the House rose. People came to that committee. Our understanding was that this commitment on behalf of the parliamentary secretary and the heritage minister was in place. Therefore, there was an opportunity for them to follow through on the commitment that had been undertaken.

I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to rule in favour of this point of order for the simple reason that in order for us as parliamentarians to do the people's business, there must be an order and the order must be on the basis of agreements that are made.

I do not think there is any question about the agreement being made. As everyone will see in Hansard , I challenged the parliamentary secretary yesterday. She did not challenge me on my assumption. We also have the actual Hansard from committee which the member opposite read into the record today.

I implore you, Mr. Speaker, in order to keep good order in this place, and for us to be able to function intelligently and well as parliamentarians and to do the people's business in an intelligent way, to rule in favour of the member's point of order.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to lend my support to the request that was made today. An agreement had been reached to split the bill establishing the Library and Archives of Canada and amending the Copyright Act into two separate bills. This is what we are talking about today.

I agree with the member who made this proposal and I would like to see this matter referred to a committee so that we can go ahead with this bill, as agreed to by all members, before its introduction.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to make some comments. I was one of the members who attended the committee meeting on June 17, during the summer recess.

When I was first approached by the chair of the committee and by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, I told them I was concerned about the two clauses to amend the Copyright Act. I expressed concern because I believed that these proposed amendments should have been considered within a broader review of the Copyright Act. In fact, I understand that such a review is currently underway.

Both the chair of the committee—as he acknowledged during the June 17 meeting—and the parliamentary secretary assured me that the two clauses would be removed and set aside during the clause by clause consideration. Therefore, I volunteered to attend the June 17 meeting, knowing that some members would be in their riding for the summer recess.

I agreed to do so because I, along with each and every member of Parliament, support the merger of two of our institutions, the National Library and the Archives of Canada. I think this government bill deserves to be supported.

The two proposed amendments to the Copyright Act were polluting the bill, if I may say so, and the committee was trying to resolve the issue. When the meeting was held, the committee reneged on its commitment and that is when I voiced my opposition. Members can easily refer to the transcript of the meeting held by the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage on June 17. I firmly believe that an agreement can be changed at any time as long as it is done with the people who had agreed to it present, which was not the case on June 17.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have just a short comment on the issue at hand. I use my colleague from across the way's terminology of legislative pollution. That legislative pollution has also become a pollution of integrity. It is integrity of word and of honour that we give to each other in the House of how things are going to proceed.

I dread the upcoming days in the House when that integrity is not there and we cannot trust each other's words even on the most simple of things. I think we have a very chaotic existence to look forward to should this be allowed to take place.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3:35 p.m.

The Speaker

The Chair has listened very patiently to the remarks of the hon. members on this point.

I would like to thank all members who spoke on this point of order. I have considered the issue and it is really not an easy one for the Chair. Moreover, I have not heard the members talk about one single precedent on this issue. No doubt there are many in the history of this House.

I myself have served as assistant House leader in the House. I know that I have told members what we were going to do one day and had to change it later. Undertakings of this kind are often given and they are not always honoured.

While hon. members may feel offended or upset or distressed or in some way concerned that something they thought was going to happen in one way did not, the fact is no one has suggested that the committee meeting on July 17 was in some way irregular, that there had not been due notice given of it, that there was not a quorum present for the transaction of business or anything like that. The committee report was duly tabled in the House. The bill was reported with or without amendments at that point. We have had concurrence at report stage on the bill and the bill is now before the House for debate at third reading.

I can only say that I do not believe it is for the Chair to seek to enforce undertakings given by members from one to the other. If the Chair was put in that position, I could only describe the situation as a complete nightmare. Imagine undertakings given between whips as to who will be present or not.

Imagine the promises made by the House leaders for dealing with the business of the House, the promises to have a bill passed at a given hour, or about having only voice votes, and not divisions. There are all kinds of things like this that happen in this House. It is not the Speaker's role to back up such promises.

I say to the hon. member for Simcoe--Grey who raised this point that I am not here to give procedural advice, far from it, but I note that no amendment has been moved at the third reading stage of the bill. The hon. member knows that at third reading, amendments are admissible that send the bill back to committee with instructions to amend the bill.

Therefore if the hon. member feels that there is some problem with a promise--

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Abbott Kootenay—Columbia, BC

He can put it on the Order Paper.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3:40 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Kootenay--Columbia is always very helpful but the member does not even need to put it on the Order Paper. He can stand up and move it without notice. It is one of the beauties of amendments at second or third reading.

I would not want to invite the hon. member to move an amendment. The government House leader would have my head for such a suggestion. However I certainly could say that it is something that is permissible under the rules and far preferable than having the Speaker put in a position of being told he has to enforce certain undertakings given in a committee, of all places, never mind in the House.

I decline to enforce the undertakings. I do not believe it is appropriate for the Speaker to intervene in this case. I can find no valid point of order in what the hon. member has raised and he can take my comments to heart or dispose of them as he sees fit under the circumstances.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-17, An Act to amend certain Acts of Canada, and to enact measures for implementing the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, in order to enhance public safety, be read the third time and passed.

Public Safety Act, 2002
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to take part in the debate on third reading of Bill C-17, the Public Safety Act, 2002, sponsored by the Minister of Transport.

I think it is important, while we are in the heart of this debate, to remember the context in which the bill was introduced and the context in which we must determine its relevancy.

Let us remember that on September 11, 2001, as everyone knows, the United States was hit by deadly attacks. The response came rapidly and there was an unprecedented movement to fight terrorism. The Bloc Quebecois was part of this movement. However, we thought about the matter and said that we must ensure that the measures taken reflect the necessary balance. The leader of the Bloc Quebecois and member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie put it very eloquently, and I quote:

The response must reflect and respect our democratic values.

Consequently, we must ensure that we can get at the root of the problem of terrorism, by taking the necessary repressive and security measures, while respecting our democratic values.

One thing is clear, the federal government did not deliver. Members will remember Bill C-36, the first bill the government introduced in response to the terrorist attacks. At first, we all agreed that we should pass anti-terrorism legislation, but the bill did not strike the proper balance. In fact, we believed that Bill C-36 did not effectively balance liberty against greater security.

For instance, we wanted to add a sunset clause to the bill so that the legislation would cease to have effect after three years, unless otherwise stipulated by the House. What that would have meant is that at an exceptionally tragic time in our history, we would have passed an exceptionally crucial piece of legislation that would not apply forever. We asked for a review of the legislation three years after its implementation, in 2004 or 2005, in order to be able to determine that the legislation was no longer relevant and not required in the short term or to allow the House to renew the act if need be.

The Bloc asked for an annual review to be carried out by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, following the tabling of a report by an independent commissioner. Some of the provisions of the bill severely limited individual freedoms. Therefore, we wanted to ensure that the federal government was acting properly.

We did not get satisfaction on that point, but we were at least listened to, and the bill is to be reviewed in three years. There is, however, no sunset clause that will put an end to the bill.

Following the same logic, the federal government reacted to the winds of panic, because adequate and well thought out measures could not be put in place. The federal government really failed in its anti-terrorism measures.

For example, the public security bill, known today as C-17, started life as C-42 and C-55. The first time it was introduced, the Bloc Quebecois spoke out against it, feeling that some of its proposed measures went much too far and that they had only a very tenuous connection with terrorism.

The federal government took advantage of the terrorism crisis to try to solve other problems and to acquire powers it could use in certain situations. The crisis at that time did not justify this.

For example, the new power of ministers to adopt interim orders allowed too much leeway for arbitrary decisions. In Quebec we have already experienced situations in which the Cabinet took steps that left leeway for arbitrary decisions. Our collective consciousness has been marked permanently as a result.

There was the invoking of the War Measures Act in 1970, and the way the federal government interpreted its legislation in such an elastic way at that time. CItizens' right to freedom were limited in an unacceptable way, there were arbitrary arrests, and we most certainly do not want to find that same type of decision included in a bill.

There was one other measure that went much too far. The military security zones were very poorly defined in the bill and their implementation left the door wide open for all manner of abuses. That bill was replaced by Bill C-55, and now by C-17. Neither one nor the other, however, manage to strike the necessary balance.

Let us talk about the Bloc position on military interventions. As far as the war against terrorism is concerned, we supported the strikes against Afghanistan, but called for them to be made under the auspices of the United Nations Organization in order to lend the necessary credibility to them.

As for sending Canadian troops, we supported that, but called for them not to be sent until there was a debate and a vote in the House of Commons, so that elected representatives could make known their positions on such an important decision.

Finally, we are very critical of the behaviour of the American administration, particularly the use of cluster bombs and the creation of military courts to try terrorists.

When we look at the two anti-terrorism bills the federal government put forward, we cannot but see it has failed in the fight against terrorism. The proposed measures do not strike a fair balance between freedom and security and, worse yet, the government is attempting to justify taking exceptional measures against terrorism when some of those measures are neither necessary nor justifiable.

We oppose Bill C-17 mainly because we believe it is fundamentally a bad bill. We give a failing grade to the federal government in its fight against terrorism.

As a matter of fact, this bill is a new version of Bill C-55, which dealt with public security, which was itself a new version of Bill C-42. Originally, our criticism targeted military zones, the interim orders I mentioned early, and the exchange of information from airline companies on passengers.

There again, the federal government was taking on a very broad mandate. In this respect, compared to the previous bills, the proposed amendments fall far short. The scope of the proposed provisions goes way beyond the fight against terrorism. They do not strike the right balance between security and privacy.

That is why we voted against the bill at second reading. In committee, we put forward a number of amendments and attempted to mitigate the problems created by the bill. Virtually every single one of our amendments was turned down.

For example, with regard to interim orders, the bill provides that they may be issued by various ministers without first checking that they are consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and its enabling statute.

We attempted to reinstate these initial checks but our amendments were rejected. For our sake and the sake of the balance we have been seeking since the very beginning, it is important that decisions made under interim orders respect the Charter of Rights and that advice be sought to make sure they do. That is not in the bill.

Under the latest version of the bill, interim orders should be tabled in Parliament within the first 15 sitting days after the order is issued. We find this to be excessive and tried to have the timeframe shortened from 15 to 5 days.

With respect to the powers of the RCMP and CSIS, it has become obvious in recent days that the RCMP's management of terrorism is far from transparent. Take for example the Canadian citizen who travelled to the United States and ended up in Syria, on the basis of recommendations from the RCMP according to U.S. government officials. This situation is forcing us to be very critical and to make sure that such behaviour will not be tolerated.

This bill includes provisions that confer sweeping powers on the Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service with regard to passenger information compiled by the airlines.

We want to make the bill much tighter, to ensure there is a very tight net in place to prevent excesses. There is nothing in this bill in this regard.

We tried in vain to amend the bill to limit the powers to retain or use information collected as a result. We wanted to prohibit the use of this information to execute an arrest warrant.

We also wanted to ensure that the information collected would be destroyed within 24 hours after the aircraft carrying the passengers on whom information had been collected had landed, except if such information was reasonably necessary for transportation security purposes or an investigation related to national security.

In this bill, the timeframe within which such information must be destroyed remains seven days, which we still feel is inappropriate.

We in the Bloc Quebecois also tried to establish a mechanism to ensure that the Privacy Commissioner receives a copy of the reasons for retaining certain information. We wanted to have a watchdog of sorts with respect to privacy, to counterbalance the increased powers of the RCMP. Again, the government refused.

Thus, with respect to Bill C-17 now before us, which was unacceptable at the beginning because it did not strike the right balance, even after examining the amendments we do not find that balance.

For example, we attempted to make a number of changes in the sections concerning the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention Implementation Act, and the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) Act, by suggesting amendments or voting against certain clauses. We attempted to make these changes in response to the concerns of various groups who appeared before the committee, but they were voted down.

The House will understand that we are clearly opposed to this bill. Beginning with the first version of this bill, we were opposed to a number of provisions that are still found in this one. Even though the Bloc had some success with respect to the first version, particularly in the delineation of military zones, this bill has not been sufficiently improved that we could vote in favour of it.

I was speaking of the concept of military security zones. It has completely disappeared from the bill. This is a sensible improvement that pleases us; we think it is essential. For example, the provision concerning the establishment of zones by order in council appears much more reasonable than in the previous version. We must ensure that no zones are created in Quebec without the consent of the Government of Quebec.

Remember that the initial bill would have made it possible that, in Quebec City, the Citadel, the Armoury and even the Quebec National Assembly could be included within the military zone. When we look at the past, the October crisis and the legitimacy of the Quebec National Assembly, it was completely unacceptable. We succeeded in getting it removed from the bill, and we are very happy about that. We did our job well, and Quebeckers can be proud of the results we obtained.

As for the interim orders, the bill still contains provisions that would allow various ministers to make such orders. Some minimal changes have been made requiring the tabling in Parliament within 15 days and the reduction from 45 to 14 days of the period during which the order would be in force without cabinet approval. But 14 days can still be a very long time, particularly when decisions are made. It can be realized afterwards that some people have felt for years the consequences of a decision taken further to an error in judgment. The way cabinet works, we certainly have to protect ourselves from this type of decisions.

We have seen it before and we still see it, particularly with national defence. It has been said for years that before going out to buy material, we should first decide what kind of armed forces we want to have, what the mandate would be and what kind of results we are expecting. Without clear policies, if an interim order is made by a minister and errors occur, the period during which the order would be in force without cabinet approval should be much shorter than what is provided for in the act.

What is worse, of course, is the fact that there is no prior assessment to ensure that—

Public Safety Act, 2002
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I am sorry to interrupt the member for Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques. The government House leader, on a point of order.