House of Commons Hansard #107 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was terrorist.

Topics

Anti-Terrorism Act
Orders of the Day

1 p.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

--and July's bombings on Mumbai's suburban rail network that killed 209 people and injured thousands.

Anti-Terrorism Act
Orders of the Day

1 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Order, please. The hon. member for Scarborough--Guildwood will be recognized. He will have 20 minutes to express his views. Meanwhile, I have recognized the Minister for Public Safety and I would like to listen to him.

Anti-Terrorism Act
Orders of the Day

1 p.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, I heard my hon. friend from the NDP speak about taking away these provisions. They are minor provisions and I will get into that in a minute.

However, if there was an incident, and God forbid there would not be on Canadian soil, we know who would be the first ones to blame the security agencies, the police and the government for allowing it to happen. It would be about a nanosecond of time before they would ask why the government did not foresee it, why we did not do something about it, and why we did not stop it. Let us keep that in mind too. Their record is very clear on how swiftly they move in judgment at those particular opportunities.

The events that have taken place, that continue to take place, related to terrorism are stark reminders that the threat of terrorism is still very much with us. It has touched the lives of Canadians abroad, and if we are not vigilant, it could touch our lives here on our own soil, as it did in the Air-India attack.

Up to the time of the Twin Towers tragedy, Canada had the record for Canadians killed in one incident by a terrorist attack. Some 329 people died on that fateful flight. Upwards of 290 of them were Canadians.

Often it is dismissed. Maybe it is because, tragically, of the name of the airline, I do not know, but for reasons we find hard to fathom, it is often dismissed. Yet, Canada suffered the greatest single attack in terms of deaths of citizens up until 9/11. It is a threat that we have to take seriously.

There is no greater duty than for a government to protect its citizens. It is the first responsibility of any government: the safety and security of its citizens. We are unwavering in our commitment to live up to that responsibility and to safeguard our national security. The safety of Canadians has to be our priority and the motion that is before us today is part of the government's ongoing commitment to protect Canadians from harm.

The motion today talks about leaving in place important provisions that were introduced by the Anti-terrorism Act that remains a vital link in the chain that helps ensure our security. We do that for another three years when it would be and should be evaluated again.

The act provides a measured approach. It enhances our ability to prosecute terrorists and to prevent them from carrying out their cowardly crimes, and it respects civil liberties. We are very aware of the balance between liberty and freedom. Any time a people want increased security, there will be, on the margins at least, some pressure on their freedom. If we want 100% security from anything wrong every happening to us, we could lock ourselves into our homes, bar the doors and close the windows. We will be just about 100% secure, but we will not be very free.

We understand and we appreciate this delicate balance, and the balance is achieved in the act. The three year extension of the provisions that we are looking at today will ensure that the act continues to be effective and at the same time respectful of fundamental human rights that are at the heart of our democratic system.

Canada's new government is taking action. We have been in this last year taking action on keeping Canadians safer.

Before we address the actual provisions, I would just like to remind all the members here that in budget 2006 we committed $1.4 billion to ensure the security of our country and the safety of our communities. We did that in very specific ways.

Our security forces, CSIS and the RCMP, have signed a new memorandum of understanding. They did that on September 12, 2006 to facilitate cooperation and information sharing between those two agencies and to protect Canadians from terrorism.

We have allocated in the next two years of our budget $160 million to stick with our commitment of seeing 1,000 more officers, 1,000 more personnel in the RCMP throughout the country, on our streets, on our roads and in our neighbourhoods.

We are moving to strengthen the border by arming our border officers and by eliminating situations where many border officers work alone. That has continued for years. They have asked for years that it be addressed. We have said that these are danger points and points of risk, and we are addressing that and correcting the problem.

We have allocated $303 million over the next two years to implement a border strategy to promote the movement of low risk trade and travellers within North America across the border while protecting Canadians from security threats.

To protect Canadians from terrorism and to safeguard our nation's security, we listed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the LTTE, and the Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's faction of the Hezb-e Islami. The Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin, HIG, is now a terrorist entity. Our allies and our citizens have asked for years that we do this, that these groups be listed as terrorist entities to stop the fundraising and other support activities that happen in Canada.

The former Liberal regime just did not get it done. After years of being asked, it took a huge amount of pressure, almost international pressure, to get the Liberals to finally list Hezbollah a few years ago. They neglected these other areas, but the Conservatives moved to protect Canadians. If Liberals do not get the job done, we do. We will continue to enhance our national security infrastructure while working with our allies in the broader international fight against terrorism and that includes our mission in Afghanistan.

Thanks to the Anti-terrorism Act, terrorist groups have greater difficulty carrying out their operations, both within Canada and abroad. The Anti-terrorism Act rounds out these ambitious measures.

Terrorists are changing their methods, while the world recognizes the need to neutralize their hate-driven messages and acts. Terrorists pose a problem that increasingly affects the entire planet. More and more, they are capable of anything.

In the wake of what happened on September 11 the United Nations recognized the need for international cooperation and passed a resolution calling upon member states to intensify and accelerate their efforts to work together to counter terrorism. It called on states to make it more difficult for terrorists to operate.

Canada responded with the Anti-terrorism Act. It enabled Canada to implement international obligations in the fight against terrorism. That included ratifying and implementing international agreements such as the international convention for the suppression of the financing of terrorism. That is critical because while terrorism may be inspired by extreme hate and ideology, it is fuelled by dollars and cents. That is why Canada has given particular attention to cutting off funding sources for terrorist activities.

I am particularly grateful to the dedicated and committed Canadians at FINTRAC. That is Canada's financial intelligence agency which has a mandate to detect and deter money laundering and terrorist financing. FINTRAC receives, as required by law, reports from a variety of financial entities but most notably from the major banks.

FINTRAC's analysis then allows it to produce financial intelligence that could be used by investigators to understand the financial transactions associated with suspected money laundering terrorist activity and financing activity of other threats to the very security of Canada. Last year FINTRAC relayed intelligence on 34 cases to terrorist activity financing.

Canada is seen as a leader in the international community and we want to continue to provide that leadership and to detect and deter the use of Canada's financial system for illegal purposes. By creating a public list of terrorist groups the Criminal Code makes it more difficult for these groups to raise funds. This, in turn, reduces their ability to operate in Canada.

I would also note that the Anti-terrorism Act fights terrorist financing by protecting the integrity of charities. That way no organization that supports terrorism can obtain registered charitable status in our country. Now, when Canadians donate to charities they know and have that sense of confidence that their hard-earned dollars will not support terrorists or their causes.

The Anti-terrorism Act is working, it is making Canadians safer, and at the same time it is respecting their civil liberties. It also creates specific terrorism offences, provides preventive and investigative powers, and provides the checks and balances to ensure that these new powers are not abused. That is a very critical part of these provisions.

The record shows that police and prosecutors have used these new powers with great care and prudence. Some might ask why we would need these powers if they are used so infrequently. Canada has many laws on the books that are rarely used. Do we eliminate certain laws just because they are being effective in eliminating certain activity? I would think not. They are there for a reason. They are there to be used if the situation demands it and that is why the Anti-terrorism Act is so important. It is being proactive, it is being responsible, and that is why it is so critical that the House extends the sunsetting period for parts of this act.

This act provides police and prosecutors, if they need it, with valuable tools to investigate and even more importantly to prevent terrorism. Without an extension from Parliament, two key components of the act are going to cease to apply on or around March 1, 2007. I am talking about the provisions related to investigative hearings and, second, to something that is called recognizance with conditions. I will review these quickly.

Investigative hearings are used for two purposes: to track down terrorists immediately after an incident and to help prevent attacks from occurring. As part of the investigation of the terrorist attack, for example, a judge could order an individual to answer questions.

I want to stress that anyone who is ordered to testify in a case like that is doing so as a witness. That means that the individual has strong protections against self-incrimination and that he or she has access to legal counsel at all times. That protection will allow the individual to reveal critical information and to do it without fear. That information could lead police to evidence that strengthens their case and prevents or zeros in on those who have perpetrated a terrorist act. It could help prosecutors put dangerous criminals behind bars, or it could provide intelligence to decision makers that may help them to foil future attacks.

As I said, investigative hearings can be used to prevent terrorist acts and activities before they occur. Imagine if peace officers were aware of an individual who had information that could prevent an attack. An investigative hearing could take place, and the witness could be provided with strong protections against self-incrimination. As a result the witness could feel confident to provide vital information, information that could prevent a tragedy and save thousands of lives. Investigative hearings are obviously important tools both to investigate attacks and to prevent future incidents.

The other provision in the act deals with something that is called recognizance with conditions. This provides another tool to prevent a terrorist attack. Imagine if the police receive some late-breaking intelligence that an attack appears to be imminent. Innocent lives could be at stake and there is no time lose. These provisions would allow a peace officer to obtain a warrant to bring a person into custody. The warrant is granted only if the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a terrorist crime will take place and reasonable grounds to suspect that bringing a certain person before a judge would prevent it. Should there be no time to seek the warrant, the peace officer may bring the person into custody.

Some critics have complained that that provision takes away civil liberties, but we need to look at it in its proper light. A person who would be subject to these provisions must be brought before a judge within 24 hours, and earlier if possible. That is 24 hours only. What a difference that one day could make in somebody being intercepted from possibly perpetrating a horror. It could save one life; it could save many.

In this instance the judge is not allowed to delay and must decide right away whether to impose conditions on the individual's release. That is what we are talking about: releasing the person, but with conditions. The judge for example could prohibit that person from possessing a firearm or from possessing ammunition. That is what we are talking about. That is the huge apparent travesty of liberties that the NDP and now apparently the Liberals are shrieking about.

Putting this into a global context, look what some of our allies have done. We have a 24 hour provision that we are suggesting here. In Australia its provisions allow for a person to be held up to 14 days; in the U.K. it is up to 28 days. That is their sovereign right to decide those things; however, we do not take ours quite that far.

These measures are key tools for our security professionals and go a long way to keeping Canadians more secure.

These provisions are used prudently. These measures are not secret tools of the state. Accountability and transparency are built in. Both I and my hon. colleague, the Minister of Justice, are required to report to this House on their use. Our provincial and territorial counterparts must also report annually.

Both of these conditions, investigative hearings and recognizance with conditions, provide police with the valuable tools should they need them to investigate or prevent terrorist attacks. I believe their use must be maintained. That is what we are talking about here today. In our effort to provide Canadians with safety and security, we must never jeopardize the values upon which our society is based. I believe these provisions strike the right balance between protecting Canadians from terrorist attacks and respecting their liberties. They effectively integrate the rights and freedoms that we hold dear as a country.

The Supreme Court of Canada has found that the investigative hearing process is constitutional. It is interesting that even though the Supreme Court of Canada has found this to be constitutional, there are members of the House who want to reject it and throw it out.

I welcome the debate. It reflects the values of democracy that all of us in the House hold dear. It is my wish that after careful examination of this motion all members will join in supporting the extension of these provisions.

Canadians understand that terrorism is a direct threat to their way of life. They know the values that we cherish depend on the security that we enjoy in our homes, in our communities and at our borders. They know their social and economic well-being depends on the freedom to raise their children, pursue their dreams and live their lives without fear. They rightly expect that their government will do everything possible within the bounds of our individual rights and freedoms to keep them safe from harm.

That is what this is doing. Unless we act now, two key components in our fight against terrorism will indeed fade into the sunset and I do not want the darkness to follow that. For the sake of our cities, towns and communities in Canada, we cannot let that happen.

We must remember that we are dealing with a particularly violent, insidious type of crime, a crime against humanity, a crime perpetrated by people with no sense of hesitation at all to blow up, to decimate children and men and women who are non-combatants, who are innocent people. They do it as horrifically and as graphically as they possibly can. We are talking about preventing the deliberate slaughter of innocent non-combatants. We are talking about preventing the destruction of innocent lives by people who do not hesitate to embark on that path of destruction.

These provisions were put in place by a Liberal government right after a particularly horrific incident in the United States. Those terrorist incidents have continued around the world. Canada is still at threat. We hope these things will never happen. We can make that hope a reality by extending these two provisions. As we supported the Liberals at that time, I would hope they would continue to support the principles that they one day felt were valid.

Anti-Terrorism Act
Orders of the Day

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, the minister is one of the senior officers of the law in this country. I know that is frustrating to him, but nevertheless he is an officer of the law and he is bound to uphold the law. That is his obligation.

When he is proposing that the provisions not sunset but in fact be extended, he has to ask himself three questions. The first question would be, is the limitation of rights rationally connected to the threat? The second question would be, is this the least intrusive measure possible? The third question would be, is there a proportionate balance between the effects and the limitation of the rights? Those are the three questions that he as a senior officer in this country has to ask himself.

When his predecessor introduced the bill, those three questions were asked. That was the reason for the sunset provisions. There was not sufficient justification in the current context that would allow this to be permanently placed in the Criminal Code.

We have now had five years' worth of experience. What we have seen in the five years has been that these two provisions which were very controversial at the time have not been used. What we have seen, and this is in the public domain, has been a substantial abuse of Canadians' rights. The member's government had to apologize to Mr. Arar, and I commend the government for doing that. It paid compensation. Clearly, Mr. Arar's rights had been abused. There are others whose rights are alleged to have been abused.

What we have seen in the five years is no use for these particular provisions, an abuse of Canadians' rights and that the police have had all the tools they need to arrest terrorist suspects and charge them as incidents have arisen over those five years.

I ask my colleague these fundamental questions: Is the limitation of rights rationally connected to the threat? Is it the least intrusive measure possible? Is there a proportionate balance between the effects and the limitation of rights?

Anti-Terrorism Act
Orders of the Day

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, there is a nuance here. I do not know if the member has realized what he said in pronouncing that it is my obligation as a senior officer of the law to ask these questions, but he has diminished the responsibility of every other member of Parliament. Every member of Parliament has to ask those questions. I have no greater tap on wisdom than do other members. I wish the member would not insult other members by saying that.

I asked those questions of myself and of my colleagues at the time, and I answered to each of those three questions the affirmative, yes.

I do not think the member voted against his government at the time when it put the legislation in place. He stood and supported it. He obviously went down the line and answered in the affirmative. He said, “yes, yes, yes”, and supported it and now he says we do not need it because nothing has happened.

Does he not realize that terrorist activities continue to go on around the world? Are the school children in Beslan not an indicator that they continue, in Madrid, in Bali, the people that were killed? He said that the test should be whether an incident has happened or not. By the way, there is an alleged incident that almost happened--I say alleged because it is going through the courts--in Toronto. People were arrested who allegedly were planning to blow up this building, to behead the Prime Minister and to destroy people in the Toronto area. Because an incident has not taken place? They continue to take place around the world.

The incident that promoted this legislation by the Liberals did not take place in Canada in the first place either. Is he saying it is only if Americans and Canadians are getting blown up that we should be protecting ourselves?

Hijacking has not happened in Canada, but we have laws against it. Should we throw away the laws on hijacking? There are entire communities in our country where arson has never taken place. Should we throw the laws out in those particular areas?

It is ridiculous. If these laws were good to protect Canadians a few years ago, they are good today.

Anti-Terrorism Act
Orders of the Day

1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Ménard Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, the minister must easily recognize that it is not for us to judge those who defend civil rights in such cases as people who promote terrorism. In committee, no one has ever done that. This type of debate, which borders on demagoguery, does not get us anywhere.

I have a specific question to ask him. The minister gave an example of circumstances in which powers of preventive arrest should be used. My question is simple. Can the minister explain why, in the example given, the police officer could not have acted under section 495(1)(a) of the Criminal Code? Part of that section reads:

A peace officer may arrest without warrant (a) a person who, ... on reasonable grounds, he believes ... is about to commit an indictable offence.

I assume the officer's information would have constituted reasonable grounds. Why could he not have acted? Furthermore, as for the people who wanted to blow up Parliament, were those not reasonable enough grounds for the police officer to arrest them?

Anti-Terrorism Act
Orders of the Day

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, let me start by saying that it is interesting to hear my hon. colleague say that, in his opinion, if a member or a party takes a strong position on a matter or strongly supports an issue, that is demagoguery. There is no demagoguery in our believing that this is important. If intelligent arguments can be made against a given position, they should be made; one should not, however, attempt to make it disappear by calling it something that it is not.

Let us take the example of the police officer again. At present, someone who is not police officer can make an arrest, but does not have the ability provided here to take someone to court, before a judge. That is specific to terrorism-related situations, and only to such situations.

We are not looking to broaden powers in numerous other areas. This is only with respect to terrorism.

Anti-Terrorism Act
Orders of the Day

1:25 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, like the previous questioner, I am a former solicitor general in Ontario as he was in Quebec. Although I was not the debate when the law was originally passed, I have some real trouble understanding the logic put forward by the minister.

As I understand it, at that time members of the House were seized of ensuring that all the laws, which could possibly be there in a democracy, were in place to prevent the kind of events about which he talked. At the time this was highly controversial. Within that bill, these were a couple of very controversial components. Why they are different from the other examples the minister uses is they can, in the wrong circumstances, take away and deny Canadians their civil rights. If anybody thinks that in this day and age this it is still just an argument, let us remember Maher Arar. It happens.

The sunset clause was put in through their wisdom at that time. Therefore, the question would be this. If the wisdom of the Parliament at the time was that this should be allowed to fall by the wayside if it was not being used after an X number of years or if it had been problematic, then why would we not follow with that logic, given that safety in this case errs on the side of the human rights of ordinary Canadians and given we have other legislation that would allow our police officers to do the job we mandate them to do?

Anti-Terrorism Act
Orders of the Day

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, many safeguards are in place. Only a judge of the Provincial Court or the Superior Court can hear a police officer's application in this regard.

I remind members that in June 2004, in a reference related to the Air-India prosecution, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the constitutionality of this provision. We are not talking about something that is unconstitutional. The very fact that it has not been abused shows that the proper limitations have protected against that. Now we have another three years to evaluate it, and let us see if in the next three years it gets abused. I do not think it will be.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Orders of the Day

February 9th, 2007 / 1:30 p.m.

Langley
B.C.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order on a matter arising out of question period earlier today. The Liberal member for Wascana doubted the veracity of a quote I attributed to former vice-president Al Gore, which praised Canada in its environmental work.

I am pleased to table a transcript of that quote, in both official languages, from Global TV, on February 5, at the approximate hour of 18:52. I trust this closes the—

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Orders of the Day

1:30 p.m.

An hon. member

What was the quote?

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Orders of the Day

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Langley, BC

The quote from Mr. Gore was:

My friends in Canada tell me that across party lines and in all regions there is very strong support for Canada, once again providing leadership in the world, fighting above its weight class and showing moral authority to the rest of the world. That's what Canada's known for.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Orders of the Day

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

It being 1:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

When we return to the study of the motion we just discussed, the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood will be recognized for 20 minutes.

The House resumed from February 2 consideration of Bill C-288, An Act to ensure Canada meets its global climate change obligations under the Kyoto Protocol, as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

When we last discussed this motion, there were two and a half minutes left to the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board.

The hon. parliamentary secretary.