House of Commons Hansard #118 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was provisions.

Topics

Marriage
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today on behalf of the constituents of Fleetwood--Port Kells to present a petition signed by nearly 40 residents of my riding. The petitioners call upon Parliament to establish a royal commission to examine the state of marriage and the family and all related aspects of the issue in order to give MPs a better understanding of the feelings of Canadians.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Citizenship
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

February 26th, 2007 / 3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The Chair has an application for an emergency debate from the hon. member for Scarborough—Agincourt. I will hear from him now.

Citizenship
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Speaker, just after Christmas we all received a letter at our offices from the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, a letter that informed us about section 8 of the Citizenship Act. The letter stated that some Canadians born outside Canada to Canadians could lose their citizenship if they did not reaffirm their citizenship by their twenty-eighth birthday. That affected a member of my family.

Wanting to get to the bottom of this, I immediately contacted the office of the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration asking for clarification. It took the office three days before I received an answer. I also have faxed the minister several recommendations to follow in order to deal with this urgent matter.

Reports were coming out that this situation could affect up to 50,000 Canadians, according to Statistics Canada. The minister, while testifying at committee last week, stated that only a few hundred Canadians are affected. The deputy minister also stated that the department has undertaken an aggressive advertising campaign to inform Canadians of this problem.

Today we had witnesses at committee, the so-called lost Canadians, who gave testimony showing facts opposite to those given by the minister. We were given testimony that the people born in Canada have lost their citizenship. These people are about to enter their retirement age, and we could find ourselves with hundreds of thousands more Canadians affected. As witness Barbara Porteous said this morning, this is only “the tip of the iceberg”. Hundreds of thousands of Canadians will be affected.

We are dealing with individuals who were born in Canada and also with children born to members of our military forces while serving abroad. We are denying citizenship to children born in Canada and to children born to Canadians outside Canada, children born to men and women fighting for our freedom in the theatres of war. These men and women gave their lives for Canada and to refuse their children the right to be Canadians is a shame and a despicable act.

When witnesses in committee were asked today if the House should hold an emergency debate, they unanimously answered yes. In view of the minister having failed to inform Canadians of this matter, the onus is upon us to advise Canadians that they have or may have lost their citizenship. On behalf of the hundreds of thousands of lost Canadians, and in memory of our men and women of the armed forces, we owe it to them to hold this emergency debate.

Citizenship
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Telegdi Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am rising to join in speaking to this point of order. I think what is very clear--

Citizenship
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I am sorry. This is not a point of order. The hon. member is making a submission for an emergency debate. We cannot hear additional submissions on an emergency debate. I am afraid the hon. member is not going to be able to make any submissions.

Citizenship
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Telegdi Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

I have a very compelling piece of information for the Speaker.

Citizenship
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

That is great, but unfortunately the rules are very exact. The hon. member who makes the application may make submissions to the Speaker, and no one else. If I started hearing the hon. member I am sure there would be plethora of hon. members who would want to make their views known on this subject.

As fascinating as that might be, we will have to wait to see if there is going to be an emergency debate and then all kinds of members can make their views known on the subject. But it will be done in the context of the emergency debate and not on the question of whether we have one or not. The two questions are a little different.

Speaker's Ruling
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I have considered carefully the remarks of the hon. member for Scarborough—Agincourt and I have no doubt that the subject he raises is one that is of considerable interest to a great number of people.

There are various ways that this matter could be resolved, not just by debate but by of course changes to the Statutes of Canada, changes to regulations under the statutes, discussions among the members of the committee, and recommendations from the committee to the House, but I do not believe it is a situation that has resulted in an emergency within the provisions of the Standing Orders of the House. Accordingly, at this time, I am going to say to the hon. member that I do not believe the subject warrants an emergency debate in this House.

I stress to him, as I have on previous occasions to other hon. members, that by agreement among House leaders there can be take note debates in the House, and the committee that is studying this issue may wish to recommend such a course of action to the House leaders and have this matter discussed there with a view of having a take note debate. But to ask the Speaker to order an emergency debate on this subject at this time, in my view, is not made out in the comments made by the hon. member or in his letter. And accordingly, I decline the request at this time.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Anti-terrorism Act
Orders of the Day

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to provide further clarification regarding the government's motion to extend the sunsetting provisions of the Anti-terrorism Act.

Let me begin by telling the House what the motion is not. It is not about security certificates. It is not about the detainees in Kingston. It is not about the war in Afghanistan. And it most certainly should not be about partisan politics. It is about continuing to provide two important tools to Canada's law enforcement authorities to assist in the investigation and the prevention of terrorist attacks, nothing more.

Prevention in medicine, as we know, is the most economic and efficient way to reduce and prevent disease. Also, in law enforcement, prevention of the crime is much more cost effective and much more effective in every sense of the word than investigating an actual crime.

There has been a great deal of hyperbole in this House in the course of this debate. The word “draconian” has been thrown around and there have been claims that these powers are an assault on the civil liberties of Canadians. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The recognizance with conditions power is not new or unusual in Canadian law. Similar powers exist in the peace bond provisions of the Criminal Code that aim to prevent the commission of personal injury and sexual offences as well as criminal organization offences. Parliament has clearly found it appropriate to take the preventative approach to these types of crimes. To argue that we should not do so for terrorist activity would be illogical.

I mentioned the recognizance portion of the two apparently very worrisome parts of the Anti-terrorism Act, worrisome in that some members choose to make more of these two provisions than they really should. As I mentioned, recognizance with conditions is already in the Criminal Code. These two provisions were inspired by existing provisions such as the recognizance with conditions power under section 810, where personal injury or damage is feared. As well, section 495 of the Criminal Code permits a peace officer to arrest without warrant anyone he or she believes is about to commit an indictable offence.

With respect to investigative hearings, that we compel witnesses to testify at the investigative stage is new to criminal law, but witnesses have always been compellable at trial. However, this has parallels in the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act as well as the Competition Act, in public inquiries and in coroners' inquests, so this is not new.

As for the investigative hearing power, it has been upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada. The majority of the court held that it does not violate section 7 rights of the charter and does not infringe on the protections regarding self-incrimination. In doing so, the justices described the situation we face as follows:

The challenge for democracies in the battle against terrorism is not whether to respond but rather how to do so. This is because Canadians value the importance of human life and liberty, and the protection of society through respect for the rule of law. Indeed, a democracy cannot exist without the rule of law....

Yet, at the same time, while respect for the rule of law must be maintained in response to terrorism, the Constitution is not a suicide pact....

It is a complicated task for sure. We strive to maintain the rights and liberties that make Canada great while addressing a threat that strikes at the very basis of our society, but our Supreme Court has determined that Parliament got it right. Parliament got it right in the first instance. That is why we are here today, attempting to maintain that “getting it right”, to make sure of that in trying to maintain the delicate balance of rights and the protection of human life and property when we have to bring in acts such as the Anti-terrorism Act.

I would also refer to the words of the member for Mount Royal who, in 2005, provided a perhaps more nuanced description of the challenges we face. He said:

The underlying principle here is that there is no contradiction in the protection of security and the protection of human rights. That counter-terrorism itself is anchored in a twofold human rights perspective.

First, that transnational terrorism--the slaughter of innocents--constitutes an assault on the security of a democracy and the most fundamental rights of its inhabitants--the right to life, liberty, and security of the person.

At the same time, and this is the second and related human rights perspective embedded in the relationship between counter-terrorism and human rights, the enforcement and application of counter-terrorism law and the policy must always comport with the rule of law.

The member for Mount Royal concluded his comments by stating:

The importance of this legislation cannot be understated. Canadians need to be reassured that their government has both done all we can to protect them against terrorist acts without unnecessarily infringing on their individual rights and freedoms.

We have also heard recently the comments of other prominent members of the Liberal Party. Anne McLellan, for example, has been quoted in the media as saying, “The situation today is, if anything, more dangerous and more complex and the powers have never been abused”. Why would we take these tools away from law enforcement? Former deputy prime minister John Manley also took the unusual step of issuing a statement in support of these powers. He stated, “I believe that cabinet and Parliament got the balance right in 2001-02,” and “I do not believe that anything has changed to make that balance inappropriate today”.

The extension we are proposing does not in any way threaten civil liberties. In fact, if the motion were defeated, Parliament would be putting at risk what the member for Mount Royal acknowledged as the most fundamental right we enjoy: the right to life, liberty and security of the person. The right to be protected from terrorist attacks is what we are addressing with this motion.

All members should also carefully consider the statements that have been made by the victims of terrorism in support of these powers. The Air-India families and others have made it clear that the investigative tools of law enforcement must not be curtailed. Many have reacted with shock and dismay at the prospect of losing the investigative hearing power which may yet provide the answers to the questions surrounding the deaths of 329 innocent airline passengers in 1985; 329 innocent airlines passengers who died as a result of one of the most horrific terrorist acts that has been portrayed on Canadian citizens.

British Columbia's solicitor general has also echoed these concerns.

In concluding my statement, I would like to clarify one other matter relating to reviews of the Anti-terrorism Act being undertaken by committees in both Houses. I do appreciate the fact that the House of Commons committee tabled an interim report last October on these powers. I appreciate its diligence and hard work. I am proud to say that in this House today there are two members of that committee. The government continues to await the final reports of both committees. I am proud to say that those reports are within weeks of coming to this hallowed institution.

Referring to the committee's reports, I can tell the House that all told, the work totalled some 44 meetings over 83 hours and literally hundreds of hours of research. The committee's report will be thorough and it will be comprehensive. I can assure the House of that.

Because of delays in the parliamentary review of the Anti-terrorism Act, the committees have asked their respective houses for more time to report. The government also needs more time. We need more time to delicately fine tune a piece of legislation that is already providing the kind of protection that this country needs.

I am asking for support to extend these provisions. The government is simply saying it does not want these important powers to expire while it is considering the House of Commons committee's recommendations and awaiting its final report. We also hope to soon receive the Senate's input. I believe we have recently done so.

This is why we are seeking only a three year extension, not five years, but a three year extension. It is a temporary extension that will allow for proper government analysis of the entire workings of the Anti-terrorism Act and the preparation of an appropriate government response and subsequent parliamentary debate.

We will be responding to the subcommittee's interim and final reports together. This has been our intention all along. But we must not allow timing issues to scuttle these important provisions. If the Anti-terrorism Act reviews had been completed by December 2005 as anticipated by the legislation and not interrupted by the last federal election or other delays, this would not be an issue today, but the parliamentary reviews were delayed.

Extending the powers for three years will give effect to the original intent behind the sunsetting and parliamentary review clauses of the act; namely, the debate on the sunset clause would be fully informed by the final reports of both parliamentary review committees, as well as by the government response to their recommendations. The government's motion will ensure that these measures are not lost by default in the absence of this informed debate.

Anti-terrorism Act
Orders of the Day

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know my hon. colleague works very hard on the law and order issues that face us here in Parliament. I appreciate his comments because of his experience as a law enforcement officer and his intimate knowledge of what police forces need in terms of support from elected officials on the valuable work they do in this country.

I wonder if my colleague as a former police officer and with the knowledge that he has wants to comment on how important it is that Parliament support legislation that will continue to support the police in their efforts to make sure this country and all of its citizens are safe from terrorism.

Anti-terrorism Act
Orders of the Day

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is important to educate people who are watching and listening to the debate as it unfolds and who may be asking themselves what an investigative hearing is. I am going to inform the House and my hon. colleague on some of the issues surrounding investigative hearings.

Sections 83.28 and 83.29 of the Criminal Code allow the courts to compel a witness who may have information regarding a terrorism offence to justify and provide real evidence. The process is as follows and here are the protections in this legislation.

With the prior consent of the attorney general, a peace officer investigating a terrorism offence that has been or will be committed may apply to a judge for an order requiring a witness who is believed to have information concerning the terrorism offence to appear before the judge to answer questions or produce an item of real evidence.

If the judge believes that there are reasonable grounds that the person has information concerning a past terrorism offence, the judge may make an order for the gathering of information. If the judge believes there are reasonable grounds that a terrorism offence will be committed in the future, that the person has direct and material information and that reasonable attempts have already been made to obtain the information, the judge may make an order for the gathering of that information.

What are some of the safeguards with regard to these investigative hearings? Only a judge of a provincial court or of a superior court of criminal jurisdiction can hear a peace officer's application for investigative hearings. We see that there is a protection to society that says if a police officer has some information that he or she thinks is important, the police officer cannot willy-nilly make arrests. The police officer must first go to a judge to ensure that the rights of the person who has that information are protected.

To make sure that there is additional balance the prior consent of the Attorney General of Canada or the attorney general or solicitor general of a province is needed before a police officer can apply for an investigative hearing. We see the maintenance of balance and those protections are not only there but they continue. The law of this country makes sure that police officers go through the appropriate steps with the appropriate counterbalances to ensure the right thing is done. There must be reasonable grounds to believe that a terrorism offence has been committed and that the information concerning the offence, or that reveals the whereabouts of a person suspected by a police officer having committed the offence, is likely to be obtained by the hearing before an order is granted. Or there must be reasonable grounds to believe that a terrorism offence will be committed, reasonable grounds to believe that a person has direct or material information that relates to a terrorism offence and reasonable attempts have been made to obtain the information from the person.

We can see that there are balances. We can see that the previous government kept in mind and that this government continues to keep in mind and to maintain those balances which are necessary to ensure that person's rights and freedoms are protected.

As I previously stated, the Supreme Court has upheld these two so-called controversial parts of the Anti-terrorism Act. That is the protection that Canadians need to know and do know are there.

I thank the hon. member for the opportunity to inform the House and Canadians that the matters we are discussing here today are relevant, and that the Supreme Court has already reviewed them and found them to be totally within the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.