House of Commons Hansard #44 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was evidence.

Topics

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Catherine Bell Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to let my colleague from the Bloc know that I will not be supporting the bill. My NDP colleagues and I see this bill as a violation of human rights. It circumvents the criminal justice system. Even the Supreme Court of Canada decided that it was unconstitutional.

However, I want to ask a very short question of my colleague. When we are dealing with issues of terrorism, national security, espionage and organized crime, we in the NDP feel they should be dealt with through the use of the Criminal Code and not through a lesser immigration process. If there is a problem with the Criminal Code's ability to deal with these types of crimes, then these problems with the Criminal Code should be addressed and fixed.

Would my hon. colleague agree with us that these are some of the things that must be addressed to move forward rather than putting in place legislation that violates human rights and the criminal justice system?

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's question and I assure her that I agree with her 100%. Moreover, since 2001, we have been reiterating in this House that the Criminal Code has all the provisions we need to effectively fight terrorist threats. She is quite right to say that that is the appropriate tool. It make no sense that for a threat that only recently appeared—thankfully, for us—we would want to create such a draconian exception in terms of the reality we face regarding terrorism, as we have known it since 2001.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Penny Priddy Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was going to say that I am pleased to rise in the House, but I am not sure if I am pleased to rise in the House today over this particular discussion. However, it is important to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-3.

I am proud that the members of the NDP, along with some others, are standing in opposition to what is really fundamentally flawed legislation.

Others have spoken to this, but from the beginning, security certificates have been the wrong way to deal with an approach to terrorism, espionage and organized crime. The member for Vancouver South, although saying that his party will be supporting the bill, did say that a method such as the SIRC system would have been a preferable approach to take to this as opposed to this redone, renewed and recycled security certificate bill that we have before us.

When the security certificates were shut down in February 2007, I think many people were very pleased to see what they hoped would be the end of a really defective process. That did not happen. People are very disappointed that the government has chosen to reintroduce security certificates.

The Liberal opposition members have noted on a number of occasions that this is not the bill they would have brought forward, that it probably could have been a better bill and that there were other systems, but they are going to support it anyway because of the timeframe.

The bill was struck down in February of 2007. Its replacement was tabled on October 22, 2007. If this is such a grave and grievous threat to Canada, and I think we will all agree that terrorism, organized crime and espionage are such threats, why would the government wait nine months in order to bring this forward? Why would the government not have brought the House back in September when it was due to come back and allowed for further opportunity to debate it at committee and to call witnesses?

It is very puzzling that we found ourselves seeing it for the first time at the end of October. Witnesses who might have wished to present before the committee could not. Now I hear people suggest that it was not really what they would have done but that we have to pass it now because we have a time crunch. I understand the time crunch, but I am not sure that it is the best reason for passing flawed legislation. To me, the fact that it was not dealt with earlier is something that, to be quite honest, I simply fail to understand.

As well, I was bothered by the examination of the legislation at committee. Having waited nine months to reintroduce this, the minister then came to committee and said, “Please hurry up and pass this and please move it quickly through committee because it will expire in February”.

As a result, the Conservatives established a timeline at committee that excluded dozens of witnesses, among them experts, advocates and people with direct experience of the security certificate process. People spoke up. They said that this was not acceptable. They said that there were many more people from whom we needed to hear. Indeed, there were names added to the list of people testifying before the committee.

Again, what was interesting was that 17 witnesses testified before the public safety committee, of whom 13 were opposed to Bill C-3. There were 20 written submissions, and all but one said that Bill C-3 was flawed. Having heard that from all of these witnesses, for some members it was as if they thanked the witnesses very much for their information, but they had already decided the way they were going to go on it, and the way they were going to go was security certificates.

They had made up their minds, and while they said thanks to witnesses for coming in with their presentations, it was not going to influence their thinking. I think the Conservative members on the committee, and maybe the Liberals as well, although they acknowledged that there were some problems, ignored expert testimony and advice.

The basic premise of the right to defend oneself is interesting. It is one that has been raised here frequently. It is one that people who are opposed to this legislation are very concerned about. I heard an earlier speaker say that normally we assume that people are innocent until proven guilty, except in this case, where people are presumed guilty until proven innocent, except that we do not give them the tools to prove themselves innocent. They are not given access to the information to prove that they might be innocent, but we know that in at least one situation there was information that would have caused a different outcome.

It is interesting to know what we are saying about somebody who, we have said, is involved in terrorism. Terrorism is the example that gets used the most, but it could be espionage or gang crime as well. It is interesting to know that what we are saying is that we will send the person back to his or her own country to continue his or her work, so to speak. If that indeed is the individual's work, then he or she will perpetuate that, perhaps teach other people, come back to Canada and try again.

How Canada would be any safer as a result of that I do not know. Why would Canada not be safer if it used the Criminal Code to put people in jail? Surely that is what Canadian citizens expect of us in terms of protecting this country: that if people commit or are about to commit a crime of that nature, a crime that is a danger to the citizens of our country, they would be put in jail for a very long time so that their activity is cut off and they will not be engaged in that activity. I think that the right to defend has been totally suspended for this piece of legislation.

Another issue the NDP has with this legislation is the one around civil liberties. Public safety seems to me to be about a balance between freedom and security. There is no question about it: Canadians want to know that they are secure. They have every right to know that, but it is a balance. This legislation is just as imbalanced as the last piece of legislation, which was struck down by the Supreme Court.

Most lawyers who have expertise in this area have said they believe the legislation will be struck down again if it is taken before the Supreme Court. I am quite certain there are lawyers who will be prepared to take this back to the Supreme Court and we will be back here having the discussion again about why this does not work and why we should be including this in the Criminal Code with a different kind of system.

The provision of a special advocate, as is done by the U.K. and New Zealand, is, people have said, a compromise that will work, but in the U.K. there have been many challenges as to the effectiveness of the special advocates and the resources they have.

As for the lawyers here, 50 lawyers have applied here and I think people are expecting that many more, but the lawyers I have talked to do not want be in the position of knowing that if they see something in the file which would be of benefit to the detainee but needs further clarification, they cannot do it. Yes, lawyers can speak with the detainee and the detainee's counsel and then they have the right to see the file, but if they see something in the file that would be of benefit to the detainee and needs further clarification, they cannot do it. For one thing, they do not have the resources to do the research. Second, they do not have the ability to have that discussion with the detainee.

There are ways, and most lawyers will tell us that, of asking questions without giving away that information which other speakers indicated they were concerned about, information that would indicate to others that their cover had been blown or who had reported on them. We know that lawyers are able to ask questions. We saw that in the Maher Arar case, where they discovered later that some very simple questions would have been able to clarify the fact that he indeed was not involved in the activities that they thought he was.

Others have spoken of Ian MacDonald. Mr. MacDonald was a special advocate in the U.K. system. He quit over the failure of the British system to address the civil, justice and human rights needs of people who had been detained. Knowing that, the government still has chosen to adopt that system. People have said that under this system, we will still be able to ensure evidence will be brought forward that will not keep somebody in detention because we will not make errors in that way.

I was at an event last night where Maher Arar and his wife, Monia Mazigh, were awarded the British Columbia Civil Liberties Award. As people have read, Maher Arar was rendered back to Syria by U.S. border agents where he faced torture until his return to Canada a year later. Thanks to the work of Commissioner Dennis O'Connor and the Arar inquiry, Canadians now know that Mr. Arar's experience was due to errors by Canadian officials who placed excessive emphasis on national security at the expense of civil liberties and human rights. As a result of the work of many people and Monia Mazigh and his children, that was rectified. However, not everybody has that kind of support system available to them.

We know errors are made. We know information can be suddenly condensed. The original proceedings are gone and are now in a more modified form. Perhaps some evidence that could be used is suddenly not available to people. We see a bit of that now in the case in front of the court.

The Conservatives know the special advocate system is flawed. Mr. MacDonald has spoken in front of committee. He has shared his criticism of the special advocate process.

Five individuals have been confined under security certificates. One person, Mr. Almrei, is still in detention. The other four men, Mohammad Mahjoub, Mahmoud Jaballah, Adil Charkaoui and Mohamed Harkat , are on bail with sureties on conditions that are set up almost to fail. If the men go to a mall and they have to go to the bathroom, their sureties have to go with them. It does not matter if it is the women's washroom or where it is. They have no breathing room. It is almost as if these conditions are set to fail.

If these people are guilty, they should be on strict bail conditions, but not on conditions set to fail. We do not do that to people in our justice system. If these people are guilty, we must have an opportunity to prove they have done what they are accused of doing.

Even if all civil liberties were protected in the legislation, security certificates are still legally the wrong way to go. Why would this not be done under criminal legislation? Can we not change our criminal legislation? It has a very different level of evidence. It has a very different level of seriousness in terms of how evidence is presented and the standard which one has to meet. It would be a much better method to deal with these instances.

We have seen the consequences of those kinds of allegations. We owe it to people to subject them to the highest possible standards of our justice system, not a lesser process. This is why I and the NDP caucus are fundamentally oppose to the legislation, as are the Bloc Québécois and at least a couple of members of the Liberal opposition.

In further debate I hope other people will be able to expand on some of these points. For these men and their families, to deny them the right to defend themselves, to not tell someone why they are charged, to be unable to produce the evidence for them or their counsel and to expect a special advocate to look at it and then be unable to use it in any significant way for that detainee is outside the realm of any understanding I think Canadians have of human and civil rights and the responsibilities of the justice system.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Gord Brown Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened quite intently to the hon. member's discussion about the security certificates bill. I sit on the public safety and national security committee with the hon. member. She knows that the Supreme Court did not rule that security certificates were unconstitutional, but that changes were required, changes that were brought in as part of the government legislation, which has been supported in the House.

What does the hon. member have to say about the fact that many out there are saying this is unconstitutional? Also, what does the hon. member have to say about the fact that we had two people, who were subject to security certificates, in front of the committee?

As a member of the committee, I have received letters from the public who said the committee did not receive proper information, that people were denied the ability to come in front of committee and that people subject to security certificates did not have the opportunity to come before committee. However, Mohamed Harkat and Adil Charkaoui were in front of the committee. They did tell us how they felt about the process.

We know there is opposition to the whole security certificate regime, but the people who were subject to those security certificates were allowed to come in front of the committee, which would be considered quite extraordinary in any country in this world. The fact that they were subject to security certificates, or their equivalent in another country, and they were in front of a government committee with the opportunity to comment on those, I find quite extraordinary. I know most Canadians would find that extraordinary as well.

What does the hon. member have to say about those two points?

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Penny Priddy Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure I understand the first question on why it is considered unconstitutional. I talked about why it is considered unconstitutional.

Let us be clear. The Supreme Court did strike it down. The Supreme Court said that it had to be changed to better reflect and meet the civil and justice rights of individuals. It did not send it back and said that if it were polished up a bit, it would be okay. The court said that it did not work for the people who were being detained.

The fact that the member is getting many letters asking questions about why more people are not appearing before the committee says Canadians are following this. People want to know where the evidence and information has come from, on which the committee has based its decision.

Yes, two people, who have been detained under Bill C-3 certificates and are on bail, came before committee. I did not suggest for a minute that there had not been an opportunity for those two people to be there. I found their presentations helpful, as I found the presentations of many people who came. I do not think anybody suggested that those people were unable to make presentations. It would seem to me reasonable that they were able to do so. If it is extraordinary that it has happened in Canada, then so be it and good for Canada.

The fact they appeared is fine. They have the right. We were talking about the impact on their lives and the lives of their families. I more than acknowledge that those people had the right to appear. Those are still the same people who do not have the right to know the information that is being used against them. I say it is unconstitutional because the Supreme Court did.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Telegdi Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member for Leeds—Grenville stood in this chamber, and he is not the first member of the Conservative Party to do so, and said that the security certificates were not judged unconstitutional. They were judged unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. What the Supreme Court said was the government had a year to fix it. If it did not fix it within the year, it would be struck down.

I find it incredible that members of the Conservative Party would say things that fly in the face of the truth, in the face of the Supreme Court. If they want to see how unconstitutional it is, do not pass the bill for another couple of weeks and then see it get struck down.

The member did misunderstand what he said. The member said that it was not unconstitutional and the Supreme Court might have said that it was unconstitutional. Could the member comment on that because the court definitely said that?

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Penny Priddy Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I always appreciate the opportunity to rise and speak again to something about which I care. I am not necessarily able to follow that question any more than I did the others, but the member is correct.

The Supreme Court said that if we did not fix this, it would be struck down. Legislation that is constitutional will not be struck down. The court has said that it is not in accordance with the Constitution of Canada. It has said that if we do not fix it within a year, it will be struck down.

If the Conservative members are saying that security certificates are constitutional and this is just suggestion by the Supreme Court to kind of make it better, then that is somewhat flawed, given the fact that they have said if we do not fix it in three weeks, the legislation will no longer exist. I do not think they would say that about legislation they consider to be constitutional.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Oxford
Ontario

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Surrey North is a member of the committee. She joined the committee later this session after we had a number of presentations to the committee. I know she is an active participant and I understand her opposition to the bill.

Does the member understand that the security certificate is the ultimate end of the deportation process? For those people who are deemed not eligible to live in this country there is a removal process. They have gone through the court system. It is not just at the end of the security certificate that there is a court process. There are processes all along.

What would her solution be for those people who are deemed to be a danger or a threat to Canada's safety and security? How would she deal with them? Where would she put them? Would she allow them to stay in this country? Would she put them in prison for a long time or would she find some other home for them? I wonder what her solution would be if we did not have security certificates.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Penny Priddy Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his always very helpful participation and interventions in the committee.

Other models have been suggested other than this. I would go back to using the SIRC model, which was recommended by a number of people who are very concerned about the security certificate model but who would support the SIRC model being used.

What would we do with those people? If those people are truly guilty of having committed terrorist activities, I would far rather have them in jail here for a long period of time where I know they will not be engaging in those activities, than simply sending them back to their country of origin where they will continue to either work by themselves, which is unlikely, or work with a broader group of terrorists, organized crime or engage in espionage.

I do not see anything wrong with them being in prison for long lengths of time if the evidence supports that. What I cannot deal with is keeping someone in jail for seven years without that person having the ability to know his or her crime, what the charge is and what evidence is being used. That is a fundamental abridgment of a person's human rights.

Let us be clear, terrorism is frightening and we should do everything we can to ensure Canadians know that every member in this House takes this incredibly seriously. However, I do not think security certificates are the only model for that. There could be the SIRC model and there could be prison terms.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country has the floor for a short question.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Government Orders

February 5th, 2008 / 4:10 p.m.

Independent

Blair Wilson West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to join in the debate on this important legislation, Bill C-3, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

While this specific bill would not be my first choice when it comes to drafting legislation to better deal with the process surrounding security certificates that the Supreme Court of Canada has declared unconstitutional, it is, nonetheless, the bill we have before the House today.

However, I take great comfort in the fact that the Liberal Party and my colleagues on the committee have passed a number of critical amendments to significantly improve this bill, amendments that, first, will remove any and all evidence that was obtained as a result of torture; second, the retention of the solicitor-client privilege between the special advocate and the accused; and third, the inclusion of the provision that allows the accused to choose his or her special advocate.

While this bill is not perfect, it does include those three important Liberal amendments which I feel would significantly improve the bill.

Does my colleague across the way not think that these important Liberal amendments will go a long way in improving the bill and will help to safeguard both national security for Canadians and, at the same time, respect our Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Surrey North will forgive my smile because I had warned the hon. member that it was for a short question. She will understand, a short response.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Penny Priddy Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, do you want me to give a short answer?

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Yes.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Penny Priddy Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I can see the headline now, “NDP agrees that Liberals have assisted to make this a much better bill”.