Debates of June 9th, 2009
House of Commons Hansard #71 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was legislation.
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Presence in Gallery
Some hon. members
Presence in Gallery
The Speaker Peter Milliken
Order, please. If I could deal with one matter arising out of question period, the hon. Minister of Canadian Heritage, during the course of his reply to a question, was holding some documents and waving them about. I thought he would quote from the documents and had he done so, there would have been absolutely no problem. However, some hon. members feel the minister was using these documents as a prop.
He is very experienced and he knows props are not something that are used in the House. I would caution him that if he is to wave a document about, he might want to quote from it, otherwise he might be accused of using a prop.
I give the same warning to all other hon. members just in case.
The House resumed consideration of the motion 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.
The Speaker Peter Milliken
Order, please. Before the interruption in the debate the last time, the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway had the floor. There are 15 minutes remaining in the time allotted for the hon. member's remarks.
I therefore call upon the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway.
Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC
Mr. Speaker, as the House may know, prior to question period I was discussing Bill C-19, which engages the issue of civil rights in this country.
I would like to point out the valuable work that is done in our country on behalf of the civil rights of ordinary Canadians and, in fact, on behalf of people all over North America, by people like James Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, John Murphy, an international vice-president, the Canadian president of Teamsters Canada, Robert Bouvier, international vice-president and long time British Columbia teamster, Don McGill, Ontario teamster Larry McDonald and the very fine work done at the grassroots level fighting for the rights of people every day by British Columbia teamsters Jure Kelava, Maureen Roberts and Larry Sargeant.
These are the kinds of people who go out every day and help support and strengthen the civil and human rights of Canadians in our country. It behooves everyone in the House to remember the efforts of such people when we are debating bills, such as Bill C-19.
Getting back to the gist of Bill C-19, prior to the break I was speaking about the first problem with the bill, which is forced testimony under compulsion of prison under the Anti-terrorism Act.
The second thing in the bill, which is highly objectionable to anyone who cares about human rights, is the provision respecting preventative arrest, meaning that the state can imprison someone for up to 12 months, without ever laying a charge, on the mere suspicion of being involved in a terrorist endeavour.
Clause 1 of Bill C-19, which re-enacts section 83.3 of the Criminal Code with substantially similar provisions, deals with recognizance with conditions and preventative arrest to prevent a potential terrorist act. Under this re-enacted section, with the prior consent of the Attorney General, a peace officer may lay information before a provincial court judge if he or she believes that a terrorist act will be carried out and suspects that the imposition of a recognizance with conditions or the arrest of a person is required to prevent it.
Such a detained person must then be brought before a judge within 24 hours or as soon as feasible thereafter, which is not spelled out, and at that time a show cause hearing is held. If a judge determines that a person should enter recognizance, the person is bound to keep the peace and respect other conditions for up to 12 months, to which it is unlikely a terrorist will not agree. However, if the person refuses to enter into a recognizance or disagrees with the conditions in any way, the judge can order that person to be imprisoned for up to 12 months.
As I said before the break, our school children know about the right to remain silent. They also know of the presumption of innocence. They believe strongly in the western British tradition that informs the justice system in Canada, that people cannot be jailed on mere suspicion. They should not be jailed without being arrested, charged or convicted on any charge. That is exactly what the bill does.
First, New Democrats are opposed to the bill because it is an ineffective way to combat terrorism. Second, it is an unnecessary and unwelcome infringement upon our civil liberties. As I said before, we cannot protect freedom by offending it. We cannot protect human rights by infringing them. We cannot strengthen due process by abandoning it.
The Criminal Code already contains the necessary provisions for investigating those who are involved in criminal activity and for detaining anyone who may present an immediate threat to Canadians. We believe terrorism cannot be fought with careless and rights offending legislation, but it can be fought with intelligence efforts and appropriate police action.
I am proud to say that the NDP is once again taking a stand against the Conservative government for going too far. I am not taking this position just to take a stand against the government, but I will take a stand against a government that goes too far in pursuing a national security agenda that violates the rights of Canadians. We all believe it is important to protect national security, but it cannot be done at the expect of civil liberties.
Ensuring public safety is essentially about protecting Canadians' quality of life. We hear the government side say that all the time. But quality of life can be defined in many ways. If we talk to our family members, neighbours or people in the community, I would dare say they would define quality of life in a variety of ways. However, it would be by defining the right to live in peace, the right to pursue liberty and happiness and the right to be protected against offensive incursions of liberties by a state.
I think that two other things come out. While they are in favour of protecting Canada against terrorism and in favour of having a country that is secure, they are also in favour of freedom and civil rights. Security means feeling safe. It means feeling that our country and communities are safe and that we can safely go out into the streets. However, it is also about feeling that our federal government, provincial governments, courts and country are protecting us. That means protecting our civil liberties and human rights.
In addition, Canadians want to see any kind of security legislation balanced against these rights, because freedom and rights are as dear in principle to Canadians as national security. For some reason, the Conservative government is either unwilling or unable to find that balance, as has proven by introducing Bill C-19 and also the security certificate legislation. With both of these pieces of legislation, the Conservatives take the wrong approach. They take an unbalanced approach to fighting terrorism in Canada.
Do we need to fight terrorism in Canada? Of course we do, but there are many tools at our disposal currently in the Criminal Code that could be used as opposed to introducing yet another piece of legislation.
Let us look at the facts. I have said that this legislation is unnecessary. It was not used once in the first five years of its being introduced in 2001. The government says that it is necessary. If it is so necessary, why has not one person been brought before a judge on it?
Second, is it effective? Again, not one person has ever successfully been brought before a judge on it, so how can we say?
However, I do know there has been one case of someone being successfully prosecuted in this country under the Criminal Code for an alleged conspiracy to commit terrorism, and that is Mr. Momin Khawaja. The important lesson to be learned is that under our normative criminal laws right now and our current legal framework, we are successful at prohibiting and interrupting any attempt by anybody in this country who might wish to commit a terrorist act. This legislation is not necessary.
However, I can say that there are at least five examples of Canadian citizens in the last eight years who have had their rights offended because of the Anti-terrorism Act's provisions that hearken back to 1950s McCarthyism. The Anti-terrorism Act in this country allows trials to be conducted in secret. It allows testimony to be heard behind closed doors. It truncates the ability of accused people to have their counsel of choice cross-examine and test evidence that is presented in private.
Who am I talking about? I am talking about people like Maher Arar. I am talking about people like Mohamed Harkat. I am talking about Messrs. Nureddin, El Maati and Almalki, who have been rendered to foreign prisons because of secret, untested testimony. They were tortured in Syrian and Egyptian dungeons. Mr. Harkat has been under a security certificate for five years for absolutely nothing.
The same reasonable and probable grounds that the members on the opposite side say have to be demonstrated before any of the imprisonments, security certificates or violations will be implemented will not protect them. The same testimony by CSIS, which resulted in all five of those men losing their liberties and being tortured, has now been cast under a cloud of suspicion.
Just two weeks ago, the Federal Court issued a stinging decision that questioned the compliance of CSIS with court orders. It raised the possibility of prevarication by CSIS witnesses. For everybody in this House, “prevarication” is the polite way for a judge to say “lying”. It found that CSIS buried and actually kept evidence from the special advocates appointed to defend Mr. Harkat, which cast doubt on the reliability of the secret witnesses against him.
When my friends on the other side of this House talk about there being protections in this legislation, tell that to Mr. Harkat. Tell that to any of the five people who have either had their rights offended or been tortured or been subject to house arrest for the last five years. They are Canadians, too, and their human and civil rights have been offended.
Again, Bill C-19 would do two things that are offensive to anybody who believes in a just society, in civil liberties and human rights, who believes in a fair justice system. It would force people to testify without the right against self-incrimination and it would force them to go to prison if they do not. It would actually allow the state to imprison people for up to 12 months without being charged with anything.
We say we want to preserve our way of life, that we want to preserve our freedom in this country. Is the way to do that to offend our freedom? I say, no.
We all understand that the Anti-terrorism Act was introduced by the previous Liberal government in 2001. The Liberals were all in favour of it then. They opposed that legislation two years ago when they voted with the NDP and did not agree that the sunset clauses be reintroduced. Now it is hard to know what they think about it. I cannot get it clear from them. It sounds like a classic Liberal position.
We can understand why such legislation may have been passed in the high emotion and nervousness in the aftermath of 9/11. It was wrong, but we can understand it. However, we cannot understand why any parliamentarian would stand in this House and violate precepts of parliamentary democracy and Canadian civil rights when there has not been one example in the last eight years of anybody who was successfully brought before a judge that would make this legislation necessary .
In calm, rational and sober thought, in a moment where we can actually address our minds to the needs and what this legislation would really do, no parliamentarian ought to stand in this House and violate Canadians' rights. I do not care what the justification for that might be. States have always justified incursions into civil liberties by appealing to some fear. They have always tried to truncate people's freedoms with the justification of some bogeyman of some type, but it ought to be rejected.
The members opposite talk about protective provisions in this bill. Again, let us talk about the case of Mohamed Harkat. All those provisions and protections were in the legislation then. There was judicial oversight. There were court-appointed defence counsel for him called special advocates. There were court orders issued to CSIS to produce information to his lawyers. Did that help? Tell that to Mr. Harkat. He is the victim of a security certificate that has been in place for years, and now we find out it was probably because there was some witness testifying against him in secret and it turns out he had no credibility.
I want to move my remarks to the overarching point, that if we have learned anything since 9/11, it is that our fundamental freedoms and guarantees of due process are critical to our rights as citizens. It is what we are protecting. It is the rationalization for why we would even propose any kind of legislative framework in this country.
The complete Orwellian irony of having a government propose legislation that would violate those very rights in the name of protecting them needs to be explained by the members opposite.
The civil rights we enjoy, the right to remain silent, the right to not be detained in jail before the state has proved a case or a charge against someone, are important bulwarks against the potential abuses of state power. These are not purely theoretical rights. These make up the fabric of our country, the fabric of our constitutional rights as citizens.
New Democrats are going to stand strong and firm to make sure that the rights of Canadian citizens are protected in every respect and that we create a functional and effective security establishment in this country that also respects fundamental civil liberties and rights as Canadian citizens, because that can be done.
Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB
Mr. Speaker, I do recall back in 1971 or 1972 when the Americans were planning an atomic test on Amchitka Island. I remember participating in a demonstration in those days. There were 10,000 people in Winnipeg, and it was the biggest demonstration since the 1919 strike. I was one of the organizers. I participated in a lot of anti-Vietnam war demonstrations during that period.
I would like to ask the member whether possible provisions in the bill could be used to target individuals engaged in protest activities of this type, or any other type of activities, for example, labour strike situations. Could those activities be grounds for government action with respect to this particular type of legislation?
Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC
Indeed it could, Mr. Speaker.
To quote someone who is eminently unquotable, Ronald Reagan said, “One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter”.
How do we define terrorism? The provisions of the bill are directed at compelling people to come forward and potentially be jailed in the name of fighting terrorism. Who defines that?
Today we say we do not have to worry about that because it will never be defined in any improper way. Really? In the history of this country, labour leaders have been jailed for exercising what at the time were considered inappropriate actions and all they were doing was trying to organize workers. That was considered a criminal act.
It is not a stretch of the imagination for someone to think that an accumulation of people might, in their view, be an activity that might threaten the security of this country. It has been done before by people in the party of members opposite who thought that trade unionists were criminals.
It has been done in the name of racial profiling. Recently members of the Canadian Muslim community have been unfairly targeted for doing nothing other than being members of the Islamic faith.
A person was rendered to Syria and thrown in jail for two years and tortured because, as a truck driver, he had a map of Ottawa. CSIS, in its great secret service intelligence gathering fashion, thought it was a map to be used for improper purposes. It turned out to be a map telling him how to deliver goods to warehouses.
When someone stands up and says, “We can violate rights. Trust us. We are never going to violate the rights of anybody who ought not to have their rights violated”, that is not a reliable basis on which to pass legislation in this country. Everybody's rights should be protected in this country.
Thierry St-Cyr Jeanne-Le Ber, QC
Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague's comments.
He made an interesting comment about how laws that create the potential to violate rights give governments the opportunity to do so, and therefore we should not pass such laws. I would like him to comment on the fact that, even when we pass good laws that call on the government to defend and protect people's freedoms, the government still finds a way to violate people's rights. Mr. Abdelrazik's case is a good example. The court has ordered the government to respect this Canadian citizen's rights, but the government says that it could not care less about the law and the court ruling, and that it will not act in accordance with either.
Does my colleague find this as frightening as I do? If we were to wind up with laws that attack our individual rights and freedoms, this government, which does not even respect existing laws, would take advantage of the situation to openly attack our civil liberties.
Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC
Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my hon. friend's party, the Bloc Québécois, which also has stood firmly in principled fashion against these incursions against our civil liberties.
He is quite right. There are many examples in this country where legislation has been passed that, on the face of it, does not offend any rights, but in the application of that legislation, it does so. So what would we make of the current legislation that, on the face of it, violates people's rights?
My friend mentions the case of Mr. Abdelrazik, a Canadian citizen sitting in an embassy abroad, who has the full right to come home. The government is ignoring orders of a court to bring that person home and it cannot produce an iota of evidence that the person presents a danger. Are we to trust the government's version of implementing legislation? I do not think so.
It is a slippery slope. Members opposite have said that it is important to have this legislation to prevent terrorism, that the ends justify the means. We can make our society safe tomorrow. Let us allow police officers to kick down the front doors of every house in this country if they suspect a crime has been committed there. Certainly more criminals will be caught, but I do not think Canadians would accept that, because they understand that the most majestic thing about living in a free and democratic society is the right to be free against state incursions into their liberties.
That might mean that the state is not as ruthlessly efficient in rooting out crime as it could be, but that is the price of living in a free and democratic society. That is the balance that the NDP was talking about that the Liberals claim to want to pursue, but of course, it depends on which way the wind is blowing and what particular day of the week it is as to whether they will actually have the courage to implement it.
Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary for Official Languages
Mr. Speaker, I want to note that I will be sharing my time with the member for Northumberland—Quinte West.
I am very pleased to rise in my place today to speak in support of Bill C-19. It seeks to re-enact the investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions provisions in the Criminal Code. The bill is almost identical to former Bill S-3, which died on the order paper at second reading before the House in a previous Parliament.
I will start by quickly explaining what investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions mean.
The investigative hearing provisions would empower a peace officer investigating a terrorism offence that has been or will be committed to apply to a judge for an order requiring a person who is believed to have information concerning the terrorism offence to appear before a judge or produce a thing. The peace officer would have to have the prior consent of the relevant attorney general before making such an application. What would be essential to deal with this is an information-gathering order that would apply in respect of a witness, not an accused.
Recognizance with conditions means that, with the prior consent of the Attorney General, a peace officer may lay an information before a provincial court judge if the peace officer believes on reasonable grounds that a terrorist activity will be carried out; and suspects on reasonable grounds that the imposition of a recognizance with conditions on a person, or the arrest of a person, is necessary to prevent the carrying out of the terrorist activity. The judge could then compel that person to attend a hearing before him or any other judge.
As mentioned, a number of arguments have arisen in the past that have been critical especially of the recognizance with conditions provision. I will deal with them one by one.
I would like to address the contention that the recognizance with conditions provision is unnecessary because the Criminal Code already contains other provisions that could be used to prevent the carrying out of a terrorist activity, especially sections 495, 810 and 810.01 of the Criminal Code.
Section 495. (1)(a) states that a peace officer may arrest without warrant a person who, on reasonable grounds, he believes is about to commit a serious indictable offence. In addition, sections 810 and 810.01 apply when any person fears on reasonable grounds that another person will cause personal injury or commit a criminal organization offence or a terrorism offence. These sections empower the judge to order that the individual enter into a recognizance with conditions.
These provisions all focus on someone who it is reasonably believed is either about to or will commit a crime. They do not encompass any other person and so are very narrow in scope. On the other hand, the recognizance with conditions provision would apply to situations where there are reasonable grounds to believe that a terrorist activity will be committed and there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the imposition of a recognizance with conditions on a person is necessary to prevent the commission of a terrorist activity.
In other words, the police may have reasonable grounds to believe that a terrorist activity will be committed but would otherwise be unable to take action in relation to a person because the officer lacks, at the point of identifying the threat and the person, the grounds necessary to support the requirement of a belief on reasonable grounds in relation to that particular person. That officer may only have reasonable suspicion. Given the grave nature of the harm posed by terrorist activity, there is a sincere need to be able to act quickly to address the threat.
The provisions relating to recognizance would allow persons to be brought before a judge if there are reasonable grounds to suspect their involvement in terrorist activities. They would also allow a judicial review to prevent the commission of acts of terrorism. This is why the provisions relating to recognizance with conditions are necessary and judicious.
In relation to the investigative hearing, one complaint has been that it takes away a person's right to silence. We have heard the member of the NDP repeat that several times during his dissertation. However, let us not forget that the Supreme Court of Canada held otherwise. In application under section 83.28 of the Criminal Code in 2004, the Supreme Court concluded that the investigative hearing provision did not violate section 7 of the charter.
In fact, the Supreme Court found that a person testifying at an investigative hearing is better protected than any other witness in a criminal trial. This bill also clarifies that the maximum detention for a witness arrested to ensure appearance at an investigative hearing is limited to 90 days, as is the case for witnesses who are detained in relation to a criminal trial under section 707 of the Criminal Code.
The provision relating to recognizance with conditions is in large part based on the Criminal Code provisions on sureties to keep the peace. As I have said, the purpose of the modifications is to make it possible to prevent apprehended acts of terrorism. There are also guarantees, particularly the need to obtain the consent of the Attorney General concerned.
It has also been argued that imposing a recognizance with conditions on a person attaches to that person a stigma of being an alleged terrorist. However, as noted, there are other peace bond provisions in the Criminal Code—for example, where persons are required to enter into peace bonds because it is reasonably believed they will cause personal injury or commit a sexual offence against a young person. These exist today. In these cases, there is no requirement that a criminal charge be laid.
Should these provisions be eliminated on the basis of a stigma possibly attaching to persons even though they have committed no crime? I do not believe that is the case. The government considered the substantive recommendation in the House of Commons subcommittee's interim report to the effect that the investigative hearing power be limited to the investigation of “imminent”, and that word is important, terrorism offences, thereby excluding the possibility of holding an investigative hearing in respect of past terrorism offences. This recommendation was not accepted.
It did not take into account, for example, the possibility of a terrorist group planning a series of terrorist acts following on each other. An investigative hearing related to the first offence, held after the fact—that is, in relation to a terrorism offence that had already been committed—might bring to light certain important information that would make it possible to prevent the other offences from being committed.
I have attempted to address some of the arguments that were previously raised against these provisions. It is my view that these criticisms do not stand up to close scrutiny. The proposed provisions are minimally intrusive and do not present a threat to Canadian values but actually protect them. Therefore, I ask all hon. members in the House to support this bill.
Serge Ménard Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC
Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask a question of the hon. member who just spoke.
She must certainly know that people can be wrong when they make decisions based on mere suspicion. Sometimes people are wrongly suspected and sometimes rightly suspected. There are cases where people are wrongly suspected but ordered by a judge to enter into a terrorism recognizance. These are terrorism recognizances rather than apprehended domestic violence recognizances, as in section 810 of the Criminal Code, to which she was referring. This terrorism recognizance will be terribly damaging, for example if the person tries to travel, and it will make all kinds of things impossible. What happens when people are wrongly suspected? When it turns out this was the case, are there measures here to compensate them and right the wrongs done to them?
Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his question.
Our government realizes that everything that is done is not always perfect. Everyone in the world knows that it is impossible to be perfect at all times. There will always be exceptions. We are not saying here that we are perfect or that our police officers, lawyers and all those involved in the legal process are perfect. It is impossible for everything to be perfect. We know some mistakes will be made.
I was a police officer for nearly 19 years. I made mistakes. Sometimes I also suspected something else. Nevertheless, there has to be some prevention of terrorist acts. These are very serious acts, and I hope my colleague will take that into consideration when he votes.
Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for her contribution to the debate and for her service to the community as a police officer for 18 years.
In that regard, I would like to ask the member if she could tell us what crimes related to terrorism would not be covered by the current Criminal Code. It is my understanding that any crime that we could possibly think of related to terrorism is already a serious crime under the provisions of our Criminal Code and one that is dealt with very seriously should it ever go to prosecution in our criminal justice system.
For instance, the crime of conspiracy already exists under the Criminal Code, so anyone planning that kind of terrorist attack is already committing a crime. They do not actually have to commit the crime before they could be found guilty of a criminal activity. We also have hate crimes legislation, so if the crime that is being planned targets a particular group, that is already covered by our Criminal Code.
Could the member tell us exactly why these special measures are needed when the Criminal Code already deals very seriously with all the issues related to terrorism?
Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member opposite for his question and for his comments about my service with the police.
I just want to mention that my colleague's question relates to crimes. What this bill is trying to do is prevent acts from occurring. They are not crimes that necessarily have been committed. We are trying to provide tools to investigate the potential that acts of terrorism are going to occur.
Our police officers at this point do not have the powers that we are attempting to provide to them through this bill. They do not have the ability to question people under what we are now calling the recognizance with conditions and those types of things. We want to provide them those tools so that we can safeguard national security.
It is not about charging people and referring to charges that are already in existence in the Criminal Code. It is about prevention. It is about using tools so that we can ensure the national security that we all care tremendously about.
Rick Norlock Northumberland—Quinte West, ON
Mr. Speaker, I come here today to discuss Bill C-19, the investigative hearing and the recognizance with conditions that the bill seeks to re-enact, which expired in March 2007.
The investigative hearing provisions permitted a judge to question persons having information about a past or future terrorism offence. The recognizance with conditions provision permitted imposing conditions on a person, where necessary, to prevent the carrying out of a terrorist activity. These provisions were not, and certainly would not be, unique to Canada. Other democratic countries have similar tools, or ones that tend to go much further than those proposed in this bill.
I believe that by comparing these proposals with foreign counterparts, it will become clear that the proposed investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions that are found in the bill would be seen to be reasonable measures and not at all excessive.
Let me first address the issue of investigative hearing. In 2001 the United Kingdom created a specific crime of withholding information relating to a terrorist act. A person who could have assisted police in preventing an act of terrorism, or in arresting, apprehending or prosecuting someone involved with terrorist activities but failed to do so, could be imprisoned for up to five years.
Also, the U.K. terrorism act of 2006 enables an investigative authority, such as the director of public prosecutions, to issue a disclosure notice requiring a person to provide information or documents relevant to the investigation of a terrorism offence.
Under the United States longstanding grand jury procedure, a federal grand jury can subpoena any person to testify under oath, subject to claims of privilege. Anyone who obstructs a grand jury risks being held in contempt.
Australia and South Africa have specific procedures similar to the proposed Canadian investigative hearing.
The Canadian approach certainly does not go further than other democratic nations in creating an investigative hearing procedure. Other countries have done as much, or even more, in ensuring that they have the tools to investigate terrorism offences.
The Australian counterpart of the recognizance with conditions is a system of control orders and preventive detention of terrorist suspects. The Australian federal police may apply to a judge for an order allowing up to 48 hours of preventive detention of a terrorist suspect where there has been a terrorist act or where a terrorist act is imminent.
Australian states and territories, under their legislation, allow for preventive detention for up to 14 days. Disclosing during the detention period that a person is detained is punishable by a maximum five years in jail. The Australian federal police annual report of 2006 to June 30, 2007 shows that one interim control order was made but that there were no preventive detention orders. One interim control order expired in December of last year.
Similarly, the United Kingdom has much broader powers for the detention of suspected terrorists, compared to Canada's recognizance with conditions power. In the United Kingdom, under the amended terrorism act 2000, a person can be arrested without warrant and held in detention without charge for up to 28 days if the police reasonably suspect the person of being a terrorist.
As many know, the U.K. government wanted to extend this period even further in its proposed counterterrorism bill to a maximum of 42 days. However, this initiative proved to be very controversial and was defeated by the House of Lords in October 2008. As a result, the U.K. government allowed the bill to continue its journey through the British Parliament without the 42-day measure, but it also published a bill containing the power to detain for 42 days, which will be held in reserve and which will be introduced in the British Parliament if and when the need arises.
The U.K. also has a system of control orders which has been in place since the passage of the prevention of terrorism act 2005. This generally allows for the home secretary to apply to a court to impose obligations on an individual, where there is a reasonable suspicion that the individual is or has been involved in terrorism-related activity, and it is considered necessary in order to protect the public from terrorism to impose obligations on the individual.
Control orders can be imposed on citizens or non-citizens alike. There are two kinds of control orders: derogating and non-derogating control orders.
The derogating control order is one that derogates from the European Convention on Human Rights. This type of order could potentially apply in the case of house arrests. A non-derogating control order is one that does not derogate from the convention. Some cases involving non-derogating control orders have now been decided by the House of Lords. It ruled, for example, that a condition requiring a person to stay confined at home for 18 hours each day contravened the right to liberty under the European Convention on Human Rights, but that a 12 hour and possibly a 16 hour curfew was acceptable.
Non-derogating control orders are enforced for 12 months, but they can be renewed. The quarterly statement on the use of control orders covering the period September 11, 2008 to December 10, 2008 said that in total 15 control orders are currently in force, four of which are in respect to British citizens.
Additionally, U.K. police officers have other powers given to them by the terrorism act 2000 that do not exist in Canada. For example, police can designate a certain area, or order anyone to leave it, or not to enter it at the risk of committing an offence. A senior police officer may also authorize a uniformed constable to search a vehicle or a person in a designated area when to do so would be expedient for the prevention of a terrorist act. As we can see, the U.K. powers by far outstrip in scope what Canada provides for its law enforcement purposes.
Finally, I would add that the need to fulfill our international obligations should also prompt a re-enactment of the powers. The United Nations Security Council resolution 1373, to which Canada is a party, obliges the party states to “Take the necessary steps to prevent the commission of terrorist acts--”. The provisions proposed in this bill are intended to do just that.
I have talked at length about the measures that are present in other democratic countries facing terrorism threats and whose legal systems are similar to ours. As I have endeavoured to make clear, the tools we are now seeking to re-enact do not constitute an assault on human rights. On the contrary, they are minimally intrusive and are more restrained than our foreign counterparts. They do not present a threat to Canadian values but actually protect them. Accordingly, I would ask that all hon. members support this bill.