House of Commons Hansard #70 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was legislation.

Topics

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders Act
Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

Order, please. I would ask the minister to restrain himself.

The hon. member for Don Valley West.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders Act
Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Rob Oliphant Don Valley West, ON

Madam Speaker, I have been elected here to make a positive contribution in this discussion, to attempt to look into the future, and to try to correct the problems which might have happened in any government.

I am not going to defend it. I am not going to try to do that, but I am simply going to say that we are going to be looking at this legislation. We are not going to deny parliamentary procedure and process. We are not going to undervalue parliamentary committees which are doing their work, heartedly.

We are not going to try to turn the channel from the economic crisis which the Conservatives have created from the various crises that they have ignored, from the various irresponsible acts that they have taken. We are not going to turn the channel on that. We are going to steadily do our work as members of Parliament, trying to make the best legislation possible.

We will improve this legislation. We will send it to committee. Again our committee will examine it. We will try to do our best to ensure that the weaknesses in the legislation, which are apparent to us, and we have not denied that there are weaknesses in the legislation, are improved. We will look at the Ontario model. We will follow what the chiefs of police have said and we will do our best to improve it. We will not play games with this legislation.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders Act
Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

Provencher
Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews President of the Treasury Board

Madam Speaker, I listened with interest. The member spoke about wanting to create a positive atmosphere or make positive suggestions, yet he put facts on the record that were simply wrong and misleading.

For example, he suggested that somehow the worldwide economic recession was created here in Canada by this government, yet he well knows that it was something which originated primarily in the United States with the banking system, and that of course our government has been trying to work through this very difficult time, wanting to make sure that the Americans also get their house in order.

I take him at his word that he is not going to simply move this bill to committee where it will be stalled and die, but rather that he was sincere in bringing this legislation forward, perhaps even stronger than it is today. However, knowing Liberals as I do, this is simply a ploy for them to get this outside of public view to a place where they can kill this legislation.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders Act
Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Rob Oliphant Don Valley West, ON

Madam Speaker, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, we want to take time with the legislation in committee. Stakeholder groups have approached us. They have provided absolutely essential information to us and we want to do the best things for Canada.

The minister in his statement responded to the changing of the channels and I find that quite interesting. The government wants to change the channel quite frequently. We are not trying to change the channel on this. We are taking this seriously. We are attempting to find a way to improve the situation for both victims of crime and potential victims of crime to ensure we have a safe society.

We are not simply being tough on crime for the sake of being tough on crime. This side of the House wants to be smart on crime. We want to listen to experts. We want to find out what are the causes and root determinates of crime and behind crime.

We want to listen to criminologists. We want to listen to the best. We will take their advice. We will listen to the facts. We will not have knee-jerk reactions. We will try to do work with diligence, intelligence, compassion and dignity.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders Act
Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Could the member follow up on his first perceptions, with his experience in policy, of the terrible policy making of the Conservatives in justice? So many bills have not gone to the experts and they have not even listened to the department. Therefore, they have to cancel their bills or amend them because they do not make any sense and they do not help to protect people. In fact, they are making society more dangerous.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders Act
Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Rob Oliphant Don Valley West, ON

Madam Speaker, we may have to take some lessons in learning how to stall on committee work because we do not have the 200 page manual on how to keep committee work from not happening.

Our job is to make committees work, to fix the legislation that the government presents, to try to improve it, to try to make something positive in the government. That is what we are doing in Parliament. That is what we are trying to do and we are going to continue to do it.

We have a haphazard set of pieces of legislation that fly in. We are doing our best to make sense out of them, to try to get some order in them and to understand the agenda of the Conservatives. They do not give us notice. We will do our best to understand it and we will do our best to make Canada a safer, more prosperous and more intelligent country.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders Act
Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

Is the House ready for the question?

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders Act
Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders Act
Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders Act
Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders Act
Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

Accordingly the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

Criminal Code
Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

Niagara Falls
Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved that Bill C-19, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

Fundy Royal
New Brunswick

Conservative

Rob Moore Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-19. The bill seeks to re-enact in the Criminal Code the investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions provisions. Many hon. members will be aware of this subject matter as it has been before Parliament on our agenda from time to time in recent years, most recently as Bill S-3 in the previous Parliament, which was passed by the Senate and debated at second reading in the House.

I am pleased the government has reintroduced this bill. It further demonstrates the unwaivering commitment of the government, and I should add, our Minister of Justice, to give law enforcement agencies the tools needed to safeguard our national security, while respecting human rights. It also offers Parliament the opportunity to re-enact those important provisions. I sincerely hope Parliament will seize this opportunity.

In the time available to me today, I would like to discuss the nature of the investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions. In addition, I would like to revisit very briefly previous parliamentary debates on these matters to emphasize that the provisions contained in the bill, while substantially similar to those that were debated in the sunset debates, are also somewhat different.

The bill responds to many parliamentary recommendations that have been made previously. The bill proposes to re-enact the investigative hearing provisions, which will allow the courts, on an application by a peace officer, to compel someone with information about a past or future terrorism offence to appear before a judge to answer questions and when requested bring anything in the person's possession or control to the judge. The investigative hearing would be an information gathering tool in respect of terrorism offences. Its purpose would not be to charge or convict an individual with an criminal offence. The focus would be on questioning witnesses, not on cross-examining accused persons.

The bill would also seek to re-enact the recognizance with conditions as a measure that would be intended to assist peace officers to prevent imminent terrorist attacks. If a peace officer would have reasonable grounds to believe that a terrorist activity would be carried out and would have reasonable grounds to suspect that the imposition of a recognizance on a particular person would be necessary to prevent such an activity from being carried out, then the peace officer could apply to a judge to have the person compelled to appear before a judge.

The judge would then consider whether it would be desirable to release the person or to impose reasonable conditions on the person. The government would bear the onus of showing why conditions should be imposed. The recognizance with conditions would be designed to aid the disruption of the preparatory phase of a terrorist activity. The recognizance with conditions has previously been referred to as preventative arrest, however, this is not a particularly apt characterization of the provision since it would only be used under exceptional circumstances that a person could be arrested without a warrant. However, even in this instance, the attorney general's consent would have to be obtained before the officer could lay the information before the judge.

The maximum period of detention when seeking a recognizance with conditions would generally be no more than 72 hours. If the judge were to determine that there would be no need for recognizance, the person would be released. However, if the court were to determine that a recognizance would be necessary but the person refused to enter into a recognizance, the person could be detained for up to 12 months.

I wish to touch briefly on the legislative history of these provisions and to remark upon them.

Members will no doubt be aware that the investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions were initially part of the Anti-terrorism Act. These provisions were to expire, absent an extension agreement by both Houses of Parliament, at the end of the 15th sitting day of Parliament following December 31, 2006, which was March 1, 2007. The Anti-terrorism Act anticipated that the mandatory reviews of the act would be completed well in advance of the parliamentary debate on the extension of these sunsetting provisions. As it turned out, this was not the case.

In October 2006, the House of Commons subcommittee tabled an interim report recommending that the investigative hearing power be limited to the investigation of imminent and not past terrorism offences. It also proposed some technical amendments to the provisions, but otherwise approved of these powers and recommended extending them for five years subject to further review.

The government, however, had yet to hear from the special Senate committee, which was conducting its own review of the legislation. Indeed, the Senate committee report was not issued until February 22, 2007, just days before the vote on the extension of the powers. The special Senate committee recommended a three year renewal period for both powers.

On February 27, 2007, when the time came to vote on the motion to extend the provisions, the final report of the House of Commons subcommittee on the Anti-terrorism Act was still unavailable. Consequently, it was not practically possible for the government to respond to recommended changes before the vote.

Since that time, there was an opportunity for reflection and the government was able to respond by introducing Bill S-3 on October 23, 2007. Bill S-3 sought to re-enact the investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions with additional safeguards and some technical changes that were responsive to many of the recommendations made by the two parliamentary committees that reviewed the Anti-terrorism Act.

Further, the Senate made three amendments to former Bill S-3, including making mandatory a parliamentary review of these provisions.

Bill C-19 reintroduces former Bill S-3, as amended by the Senate. In addition, one further proposed amendment has been included in the new bill. This new change would clarify that the judicial power to order things into police custody at an investigative hearing would be discretionary rather than mandatory. This change would align the provision with the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in application under section 83.28 of the Criminal Code, where the Supreme Court concluded that the investigative hearing provision conferred upon the judge considerable flexibility and discretion.

Thus, the investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions proposals contained in this bill are not the same as those provisions that were debated during the sunset debate. While they are substantially similar, important changes have nevertheless been made to respond to parliamentary recommendations.

When the resolution to extend the life of these provisions was last debated, three arguments were made in support of sunsetting these provisions: one, that they had not yet been amended in accordance with the recommendations of the parliamentary committees; two, that the provisions were not necessary, given that they had rarely been used; and three, concerns were expressed regarding the protection of human rights. I would like to address these arguments.

In the time since the original provisions sunsetted, the amendments suggested by the parliamentary committees have been carefully considered. The large majority of these recommendations have been addressed in the bill, including with respect to a mandatory review, annual reporting requirements and various technical amendments.

Moreover, as I have indicated, the bill also includes the Senate amendments that were made during its consideration of former Bill S-3, as well as the additional amendment that I have highlighted.

The government has not taken up a particular recommendation made by the House subcommittee in its interim report. In that report it recommended that the investigative hearing not deal with information gathered in respect of past terrorism offences, but should be limited to the collection of information only in relation to imminent terrorist offences. In this regard, it should be noted that the special Senate committee did not take a similar position.

Perhaps when people speak of past terrorism offences, they may think in terms of years. For example, as we know, the tragedy of Air India happened in 1985. Bill C-19 recognizes the significant value of being able to acquire historical information as well as information that may prevent the commission of future terrorist acts. Accordingly it does not propose to limit the application of the information gathered in the investigative hearing to imminent terrorist offences.

As for the argument that the provisions are unnecessary, we need to be reminded of the increasing number of terrorist attacks all over the world and the gravity of the threat of terrorism. Unfortunately, it is folly to believe that Canada and Canadians are immune from the threat of terrorism. If we look at this issue realistically, we know that this is not the case.

Terrorism trials are taking place in our country as we speak. Clearly the threat of a terrorist attack, which these provisions are designed to prevent, continues. We need to be ready to respond to terrorist threats and it is important that our law enforcement authorities are properly equipped to do so.

Both the investigative hearing and the recognizance with conditions, as provided for in the bill, would be replete with human rights safeguards. With respect to the investigative hearing, these safeguards would include the following. There could be no investigative hearing without the consent of the relevant attorney general. Only a judge of the provincial court or of a superior court of criminal jurisdiction could hear a peace officer's application for an information gathering order and could preside over an information gathering proceeding.

There would have to be reasonable grounds to believe that a terrorism offence has been or will be committed. The judge would have to be satisfied that reasonable attempts had been made to obtain the information by other means. The judge could include any terms and conditions in the order that the judge considered to be desirable to protect the interests of the witness or third parties. The witness would have the right to retain and instruct counsel at any stage of the proceeding.

The bill also incorporates protections against self-incrimination, including in relation to the derivative use of the evidence in further criminal proceedings against the person testifying, except for perjury or giving contradictory evidence.

Members should also be reminded that the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the investigative hearing in 2004 in application under section 83.28 of the Criminal Code. I would note in this regard that the Supreme Court of Canada stated that the protection against self-incrimination found in the investigative hearing was greater than that afforded to witnesses compelled to testify in other proceedings, such as in a criminal trial.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

6:25 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

Order. I regret to interrupt the hon. member, but when debate resumes on Bill C-19, he will have 10 minutes to pursue his comments.

The House resumed from June 5 consideration of the motion that Bill C-15, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the third time and passed, and of the motion that this question be now put.