House of Commons Hansard #123 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was report.

Topics

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2) of the House of Commons, I have the great pleasure and honour to table, in both official languages, the treaty entitled “Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities” adopted at New York on December 13, 2006. An explanatory memorandum is included within this treaty.

To present this treaty is one of the great honours I have had during my time here in Parliament. This will go a long way to address some of the important challenges that persons with disabilities have in our country and around the globe.

Democracy Promotion Agency
Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Minister of State (Democratic Reform)

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the advisory panel report on the creation of a Canadian democracy promotion agency.

Public Accounts
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the following reports of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.

First, the 20th report on “Chapter 5, Financial Management and Control - National Defence of the Spring 2009 report of the Auditor General of Canada”.

Second, the 21st report on “Chapter 3, Contracting for Professional Services - Public Works and Government Services Canada of the December 2008 report of the Auditor General of Canada”.

Third, the 22nd report on “The Power of Committees to Order the Production of Documents and Records”.

Pursuant to Standing Order 109 of the House of Commons the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to each of these reports.

Justice and Human Rights
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 15th report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

I am pleased to report that the committee has considered Supplementary Estimates (B) under Justice for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2010, and reports the same.

Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act
Routine Proceedings

December 3rd, 2009 / 10 a.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-487, An Act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and another Act in consequence (health-related benefit plans).

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Winnipeg North for her dedication to people with disabilities and for her support here today.

As the title of the bill says, this bill proposes to amend the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act and the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, so that in the event a company goes into restructuring proceedings or bankruptcy, long-term disability plans as well as other health-related insurance plans go to the head of the line of preferred creditors to be paid out of an employer's assets.

In the debacle that has been Nortel, we have seen that company with assets in the billions of dollars take the decision not to fund the LTD. This is a disgraceful place that we find ourselves in Canada.

The NDP has done the footwork on this bill and we have tabled this bill in the House today to show the way for the government. We call upon the government and all opposition members to stand with us on this bill, do the right thing, move it forward, and pass it as soon as possible.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Public Safety and National Security
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I move that the third report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, presented on Thursday, June 18, be concurred in.

In the wake of 9/11, Canada and other countries in the west quickly implemented anti-terrorism policies that, in many cases, resulted in the racial profiling of members of the Muslim and Arab communities, as well as violations of civil liberties. The violations of the human rights of three men, three Canadians, Mr. Almalki, Mr. El Maati and Mr. Nureddin, as well as the well-known case of Maher Arar, resulted in disgrace in this country and concern for how Canadians are treated abroad.

Many other Muslim Canadian men, including these, were deported, tortured and otherwise had their civil rights violated by countries with questionable human rights records. This illustrates the need for more careful consideration and review of our national security policies.

Those are not my words. I am reading from the report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. This committee, I am proud to say, looked into these matters. We looked into a review of the inquiries, called by the government, by ex-Supreme Court of Canada Justice Iacobucci. These inquiries found that these Canadian men were victims of inaccurate intelligence-sharing practices by Canadian security agencies, and exposed the glaring lack of civilian oversight of our national security activities.

In the last few weeks, we have heard a lot about how Canada put detainees at risk of torture when it transferred them into Afghan custody. Today I rise on another story of Canadian complicity and torture, this time the torture of our own citizens. Today I rise to urge the government to accept and implement the recommendations contained in the report of the public safety committee on the findings of both the Arar and Iacobucci inquiries.

Let me begin by reviewing just some of the findings of the Iacobucci inquiry, findings that are so disturbing that they are at the very core of why we on the public safety committee insisted that we learn from them and act on them.

Again most Canadians know who Maher Arar is, that because of unjustified, inaccurate and entirely baseless allegations made by Canadian agencies, U.S. agencies acting on Canadian information sent him to be tortured in Syria. Fewer realize that this is not an isolated case. Few realize that like Maher Arar, three more Canadian men, Ahmad El Maati, Abdullah Almalki and Muayyed Nureddin, were detained and tortured in Syrian and Egyptian hellholes, and that this happened to them, as it did to Maher Arar, because of inaccurate, inflammatory and unjustified allegations and information from Canada.

These are the men whose cases were examined at the inquiry by retired Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci. This inquiry was set up by the government to be a very secretive inquiry held behind closed doors. Not even the men were allowed to participate in the very inquiry about why they were tortured, and it is no wonder. Despite all the faults with the process, the Iacobucci inquiry's report revealed a startling and shameful record of Canadian complicity and torture.

For years, these men said they were tortured while they were in Syrian and, in the case of Mr. El Maati, Egyptian detention. They have described in gut-wrenching detail how, among other unspeakable atrocities, they were whipped with cables, and in the case of Mr. El Maati, subjected to electric shock.

Mr. Almalki has told Canadians what it was like to be stuffed into a car tire and whipped. He described what it was like to survive daily life for 17 months in a dark, underground cell the size of a grave.

Mr. El Maati described what it was like to spend most of the two years and two months that he was detained in solitary confinement with inhumane conditions. He recalled how at times, with his hands locked behind his back, he was forced to eat like an animal off the floor.

Mr. Nureddin described how his Syrian interrogators would periodically stop whipping his feet to douse them with cold water, to ensure the blood kept circulating and the pain returned.

Despite the consistencies among their accounts of the physical and psychological torture they endured and the well-documented records of torture in Syria and Egypt, our government, CSIS and the RCMP have repeatedly tried to cast doubt on their claims, but in his report, former Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci agrees with the men, finding that all three “suffered mistreatment amounting to torture as that term is defined in the United Nations Convention Against Torture--”.

For years, these men have said that the questions they were asked under torture could only have come from Canada. Justice Iacobucci agreed, finding that in all three cases, the information and questions in the hands of their brutal interrogators in fact came from Canadian authorities. It was CSIS that sent the questions to Mr. El Maati's and Mr. Nureddin's interrogators. In Mr. Almalki's case, it was the RCMP that sent the questions.

These men also wanted to know how Canadian agencies used their so-called confessions, the statements they were forced to make under torture back in Canada. Justice Iacobucci's report gives us that answer too. Mr. El Maati's confession, information that agencies knew or should have known was likely the product of torture, was used to justify telephone taps and search warrants back in our country. What is worse is that CSIS then used information obtained in the searches to send more questions to Syrian interrogators. In Justice Iacobucci's words, this could have been seen by Syrian interrogators as a green light to continue their interrogations, not a red light to stop them.

What is revealed in this report is a vicious cycle of Canadian complicity in torture. Why were these men detained in the first place? What of the allegations that were shared with foreign agencies that led to their detention and torture? Why, if the RCMP or CSIS had any evidence to substantiate their allegations of terrorist ties, had they refused to share those publicly or in a court of law?

Justice Iacobucci answers that too. He found that the RCMP was “deficient” when it described Mr. El Maati as someone who posed an “imminent threat” in communications with foreign agencies, as the RCMP did so without bothering to ensure that the claim was accurate.

The same was true of CSIS, which failed to clarify that it was sharing suspicions, not assertions of fact, when it labelled Mr. El Maati an associate of an Osama bin Laden aide. The RCMP told foreign agencies that Mr. Almalki also posed “imminent threat”, a description Justice Iacobucci found to be “inflammatory, inaccurate and without investigatory foundation”.

Justice Iacobucci revealed just how careless these officials were when he found that when the RCMP used information from another source to describe Mr. Almalki as linked to associations to al-Qaeda, the agency did not bother to mention that the description used was actually about someone else completely.

In Mr. Nureddin's case CSIS shared information with several foreign agencies, describing him as a courier for Ansar al-Islam in northern Iraq, without first ensuring the allegation was either accurate or reliable.

Mr. El Maati, the first to be detained, spent two years, two months and two days in Syrian and Egyptian detention. Mr. Almalki spent 22 months in Syrian detention. When he was released, his youngest son did not know who he was. Mr. Nureddin would spend 36 days of torture in a Syrian detention centre.

In our report, endorsed by the majority of the members of the committee, all of the opposition parties, we urge the government to recognize the harm that has been done, not just to these men and their families, but to all Canadians, and to Canada's reputation, democracy, and to the ability for the public to have confidence in the agencies charged with the crucial task of safeguarding our national security.

We urge the government to act on the policy review recommendations made in late 2006 by the inquiry that looked into Maher Arar's case, a recommendation for a new system of checks and balances that would help ensure that what happened to him and to these other men cannot happen again.

The investigation that targeted all of these men involved CSIS, the RCMP, the Department of Foreign Affairs, Canadian Border Services Agency and multiple other agencies. The government had no choice but to call a public inquiry into Maher Arar's case and an inquiry into the other cases because no other mechanism existed then, or today, that can investigate or review an investigation involving multiple agencies. None can investigate more than one agency.

Justice O'Connor, at the Arar inquiry, recognized this and called for a whole new system of checks and balances, a system that would enable integrated review of what are necessarily integrated national security investigations and matters.

Our committee report calls on the government to implement the mechanism recommended by Justice O'Connor three years ago, on December 12, 2006.

The government's response to date, however, has been to stall and stall again. As a result, we have the same ineffective system of checks and balances in place today as that which existed when these cases unfolded. As such, we have no way of verifying independently that the other recommendations made by the Arar inquiry have been, or continue to be, effectively implemented.

Our committee also calls on the government to correct the record with respect to the inaccurate, inflammatory and unjustified allegations, and information shared with foreign agencies about these Canadians.

Of course, another way for the government to demonstrate that it truly understands the horror of torture and that it understands and accepts Justice Iacobucci's findings that Canadian agencies were indeed at least partly responsible for what happened to these men is to move now to apologize to them.

As the committee indicates in its report, we heard from a number of witnesses, including representatives of Amnesty International and civil liberties organizations and a number of organizations representing the diverse Muslim and Arab communities in Canada, that a crucial component of recognizing and acknowledging the harm that has been done is for the government to publicly and officially apologize to these men and also to move quickly to compensate them financially.

The government did so with Maher Arar. There is no reason that it cannot do the same with these three men, who have suffered the identical treatment and situation. These men deserve that apology and compensation without delay. Their careers have been destroyed. Their lives and the lives of their families are in tatters. Abdullah Almalki's children have been traumatized by what happened to their father. Ahmad El Maati's marriage was destroyed. Muayyed Nureddin may never be able to travel home to see his family again because of the false allegations carelessly sent to other governments.

All of them are suffering chronic health consequences, both physical and mental, as a result of the unbearable suffering they were subjected to. It is time for the government to stop making excuses and to act now to implement our recommendations.

I will make it simple: Canadian citizens have a right not to have their government give information to other governments in this world that will use it to torture them. Canadian citizens have a right that their government ensures that no other country will lock them in cells the size of graves, attach electrodes to their bodies, whip them with cables, starve them, torture them or threaten them in any way whatsoever. That is what this case is about. We have three Canadian citizens in this country who have suffered those exact consequences.

What is the government doing? It is fighting them in court after a report by a retired Supreme Court of Canada justice. What is the purpose of having such an inquiry by one of the most eminent jurists in our country if the government is not going to follow the findings and recommendations of that inquiry? How much more time and taxpayer money have to be wasted fighting a useless case in court to avoid the inevitable, the acknowledgement of one thing, that what happened to these three men is unjustified and intolerable in a free and democratic society?

I see the government get up every day and say there is no evidence of torture in Afghanistan. We have evidence of torture of three Canadian citizens found by a retired Supreme Court of Canada justice. We have that evidence. It does not lie in the mouth of the government to say that no such evidence exists. Furthermore, former Justice Iacobucci found that Canadian authorities were at least indirectly responsible. That is a clear finding.

The terms of the inquiry set up were to find out whether or not Canadian agencies were directly or indirectly responsible for what happened to these three men. What was his finding? In all three cases, he found that Canadian agencies were indirectly responsible for what happened to these three individuals.

In the face of those findings, I call on the government to do the only decent, dignified, democratic and responsible thing and sit down with these three men and negotiate in good faith a respectable resolution that compensates them for the damages. Everybody in the House is a father or a mother, a sister or a brother, a son or a daughter. Can we imagine being locked in a plane and sent to Syria or Egypt and kept in a coffin-like space for two years?

Can we imagine being tortured and then coming back to this country and having politicians stand up and say that we have to prove that in court, that they are not going to do anything about it? That is the position of the government. Ex-justice Iacobucci of the Supreme Court of Canada has found this. A majority of members of Parliament on the public safety committee have found this. This has been vetted and studied.

We know, not think, that what happened to these men was indirectly the consequence of Canadian agencies. Therefore, they deserve an apology and compensation.

I call on the government to do exactly that and to put this sad chapter of Canadian history behind us so that we can move forward and ensure that what happened to these three men does not happen to another Canadian citizen ever again.

Public Safety and National Security
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, we certainly agree with the report and the study in the Senate.

There is another class of citizen that falls similarly into this category. I refer in this case specifically to Hussein Celil. In 2006 he was picked up in Uzbekistan, and given the terms of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization between Uzbekistan, China and Kyrgyzstan, he was extradited to China. He had absolutely no consular access and was summarily tried and sentenced to jail for some 15 years.

Incidentally, he is a Canadian citizen. He is a Uighur, a Muslim. He is an imam who lived in Burlington, Ontario with his family and has a mosque in Hamilton, Ontario.

I remember going to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the day to ask him about the case. He said that it dealt with consular affairs, which were on another floor, as if Foreign Affairs had nothing to do with consular affairs. That is exactly how this happens. They delayed and denied there were problems. It was not until this really broke and everything was over that the Prime Minister ran into the President of China in a corridor at an APEC summit and raised it casually and said I was doing the job.

The issue is that many Canadian citizens have not had the support and the representations of their government, and it appears that this is a matter of failure to appreciate the international conventions, the Geneva conventions and, in fact, our commitment to protecting and defending human rights.

I would like the member's comments.

Public Safety and National Security
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for bringing that matter to the attention of the House. I think this is a matter upon which all parliamentarians can agree, that one of the most important responsibilities of any government is to ensure that its citizens are protected by law and have access at all times to due process and the protection of the Canadian government.

It is truly unfortunate to hear of yet another case of a Canadian citizen abroad, but that does not surprise me. We have the case of Omar Khadr at Guantanamo Bay, a Canadian citizen who has been treated shamefully by the government, a child soldier whom the government refuses to protect or bring back to stand trial in this country.

We have the case that was just mentioned by the hon. member and we have the cases that are before the House right now.

I call on the government on non-partisan grounds to simply do what all Canadians expect of their Canadian government, which is to protect and assist Canadian citizens wherever they are in the world to ensure that their rights are respected.

Public Safety and National Security
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the member for bringing this motion forward today. It is a crucially important issue for the Canadian people. Canadians will tell us absolutely that torture in any form, or any support thereof, is repugnant to them.

What is really and truly amazing is that Canada has still not signed on to the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, even though Canada took a lead role in getting it into place. I think most Canadians would be amazed to hear that, because their assumption is that Canada would stand against torture in all forms.

We have the situation that the member has indicated and Mr. Iacobucci and Mr. O'Connor's reports are very clear on that.

Is the member aware of any process or institution within government whose role it is to ensure that reports like Mr. Iacobucci's or Mr. O'Connor's come into effect?

I want to add that in the case of Hussein Celil, it was the members of the opposition who did more on that case than the government ever did. In fact, this member was in Beijing, along with members from the other side, trying to arrange for the release of Mr. Celil.

Public Safety and National Security
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his long-standing work on behalf of human rights for all Canadians in this country and for continuing to be a voice of compassion and honour in this regard.

His question gets to one of the nubs of this matter, which is that both the O'Connor and Iacobucci reports came up with comprehensive recommendations that would get to the heart of ensuring that this kind of issue does not happen again. They would create the kind of governmental responses and checks and balances that would ensure that we have the ability not only to prevent this from happening but also to investigate quickly and effectively any kinds of problems in this regard.

I want to focus on something important the member said. He talked about the abhorrence of torture. What we need to emphasize in this regard is that the person who is guilty of torture is not just the person who applies the electrodes or brandishes the whip. The person who is responsible for torture is also the person who plays a role in delivering the detainee into the hands of those whom they know, or ought reasonably to know, may practise such heinous acts.

That is why we are holding the government responsible for Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan turning people over to be tortured. It is why the agencies in this country, the RCMP and CSIS, are responsible for furnishing information to Syria and Egypt, which then used that information in torture. That is absolutely wrong. The fact the government does not accept responsibility for that is frankly appalling.

Public Safety and National Security
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, recommendation 3 states, “That the Government of Canada do everything necessary to correct misinformation that may exist in records administered by national security agencies in Canada or abroad with respect to” these three gentlemen.

However, we are also aware that Mr. Arar still cannot his name cleared off the no-fly list in the United States and still is not able to get information that would be sitting in American databases. Could the member comment on that situation?

Public Safety and National Security
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Yes, Mr. Speaker, there are many components to the damages suffered by these men, and Mr. Arar's case is an example of some of the damages that they continue to suffer, some of them indelible.

The worst aspect of this is the fact that men are tortured. The worst part of this is that they were deprived of any kind of support from their county. It is a terrible thing that these people were separated from their families. It is a terrible thing that they were threatened with death, waking up every day not knowing whether or not they would be killed that day.

Furthermore, when they come back to Canada, besides dealing with those terrible effects, they have to face future problems caused by this, like being on no-fly lists and now knowing what agencies in the world have information on them. Of course, many of these agencies exist in countries that do not have respectable human rights records.

Therefore, they have to live the rest of their lives either not being able to travel outside Canada or travelling outside Canada with the constant fear they may be picked up by an unmarked car and taken again to some unmarked cell.

I mentioned earlier that one of the men who was tortured may never be able to travel to Syria or Egypt or middle eastern countries again to visit his family. How does one put a price on that? This is the party that is always talking about how it supports the family. What price do we put on people never seeing their families again? Yet the government refuses to sit down with these men and discuss paying reasonable compensation, or even doing the dignified thing of issuing them an apology.

Once again, I—

Public Safety and National Security
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

That will leave time for one more question or comment.

The hon. member for London—Fanshawe.

Public Safety and National Security
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, this morning I had a conversation with a young man by the name of Khaled Al Sabawi. He is a young man who went to the University of Waterloo. He was born in Palestine but has lived in Canada since he was two.

He felt compelled, because of the statements made by Mr. Netanyahu, that people should return to Palestine and the Middle East to help the people there. That is precisely what Mr. Al Sabawi did. He returned to Palestine and used his engineering skills to create a heating and cooling system using geothermal energy.

His passport is not being respected. My question is, when is the government going to start to defend Canadian passports?

Public Safety and National Security
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is the mark of a mature government to admit when wrong has been done. It is the mark of a responsible and democratic country to recognize when acts of injustice have occurred and make restitution. It does no violence to any member of this House or the government to pursue that course here.

There is no doubt that those three men suffered immensely. I call on the government to do the right thing.