House of Commons Hansard #238 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was s-7.

Topics

Motion No. 20
Ways and Means
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

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

Motion No. 20
Ways and Means
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Motion No. 20
Ways and Means
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Motion No. 20
Ways and Means
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Motion No. 20
Ways and Means
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

All those opposed will please say nay.

Motion No. 20
Ways and Means
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Motion No. 20
Ways and Means
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #664

Ways and Means
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill S-7, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Canada Evidence Act and the Security of Information Act be read the third time and passed.

Combating Terrorism Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to address the Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Canada Evidence Act and the Security of Information Act, better known now as Bill S-7, Combating Terrorism Act.

I must admit that, last Friday, I was somewhat surprised, like everyone else in the House, by the move made by the Leader of the Government in the House. He informed us that two opposition days—one for the Liberal Party on Monday and one for the New Democratic Party on Tuesday—would be postponed, in order to resume dealing with Bill S-7.

I was surprised considering the government's usual routine with the orders of the day, and the debates of the past few weeks and months. We knew that Bill S-7 was on the Order Paper and that, some day, it would resume its normal course.

Bill S-7 originated in the Senate. I already said this regarding other issues: When the government has extremely important bills, it usually tables them under the letter “C”, followed by a number. This bill was introduced through the back door, through the Senate, which is made up of friends of those in power and of unelected people.

That was disturbing. However, it sent the message that, perhaps, the bill is not as important as the government is saying it is now.

Bill S-7 went through the Senate, which took a certain time. I believe it was tabled or passed in the Senate in February 2012, and it then made its way to the House. It was studied in committee and referred back to us in March if I am not mistaken. We had time for a speech at third reading. That speech was delivered by the hon. member for Toronto—Danforth, following the committee's report. After that, the bill was put somewhere. We knew it would come back here within a few weeks, months or years. We never really know with the Conservatives.

Then, surprise, surprise, on Friday, the Leader of the Government in the House rose as if there was a great need to hurry. He decided to put Bill S-7 on the orders of the day for debate.

Bill S-7 is a response to the events of 2001. It existed in another form and had been passed by the Liberal government of the day, in the aftermath of the events of September 11.

Terrible events such as September 11 or those more recently in Boston create a state of panic and terror.

People who want to combat terrorism, are people who have experienced terror. That is the power these terrorists have over people. They hope that the moments of terror they create will force people to change their behaviour and will make them lose their sense of safety. When terrorists achieve that, they have accomplished their mission.

It is the government's job to ensure that the public is safe. I would say that being healthy is certainly important, but more important than any other need on this planet, feeling safe is probably one of the most important feelings we have as humans. One of the government's responsibilities is to ensure that safety through reasonable, legal means.

The problem with laws that are passed in the wake of particularly sensational events is that they can have unintended consequences. Sometimes, they represent an improvement because we have learned from dramatic events. Sometimes, however, we overreact and need to make adjustments along the way.

Very wisely, the government at the time passed the legislation with the realization that certain provisions could pose problems in terms of individual rights and freedoms. We cannot take away the rights and freedoms of law-abiding citizens—as my Conservative colleagues so often say—just because of a small number of terrorists. These measures cannot be implemented to the detriment of honest people who obey the law and who live according to society's rules.

At the time, knowing that the bill was being passed quickly and in response to specific problems, the government included a sunset clause, which imposed a deadline and made the clauses contained in Bill S-7 temporary measures. It meant that the bill would have to be revisited to determine if it had been useful and to draw conclusions about the events.

The current government may be a bit frustrated right now, but the opposition is also very frustrated about the way the Conservative government plays its role as legislator. I am not very sympathetic to the government's frustration because, to some extent, the government brought this on itself. The government is frustrated by some statements. It is frustrated that the media and the official opposition are currently casting doubt on its motives for introducing Bill S-7. A distinction must be made because members can oppose the actual content of the bill or the way it is being addressed or passed through the House of Commons.

I must admit that it certainly reeked of opportunism when the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons suddenly announced after question period last Friday that we had to pass Bill S-7. We are talking about the message that the government is trying to send.

In passing, I am extremely surprised that the members of the Liberal Party are not rising to oppose this type of bill because, since the adoption of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, they have always been the self-appointed gatekeepers of the charter, and probably with good reason. I am extremely surprised that they are not rising with the members of the NDP to speak out against some of the major concerns raised by this bill.

I would like to come back to the government's frustration. It is so rare for the government to be frustrated. The Conservatives have a majority and so they are free to do what they want in terms of their agenda. Perhaps that is why they are not being taken very seriously when it comes to Bill S-7. Since they have been in office, they have had plenty of time to pass this bill. However, they are using the current situation to score political points and to try to pass a bill that would normally be difficult to pass or would be negatively perceived. In my opinion, this is as despicable as it gets.

I will come back to my main point. The role of Canada's Parliament is to ensure, to the extent possible, that Canadians across the country feel safe in this very special place. We must have a set of rules and laws in order to provide our police forces with the tools they need. However, I realize that our police forces and our special counter-terrorism units already have many tools available, including the Criminal Code, in order to deal with events like the ones that occurred yesterday—namely, the press conference and the arrest of two alleged terrorists who were threatening the security of Canadians—and the events involving the group known as the Toronto 18.

I am not sure that Bill S-7 would have resulted in a different response to the situation.

In closing, we should perhaps say to the government that if it truly wants to stop terrorism, it must provide not just the legislative tools but also the people on the ground, which means more police officers and counter-terrorism units. That takes money. The Minister of Public Safety must stop cutting those budgets.

Combating Terrorism Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the member that the Conservative government needs to have more boots on the ground. We have seen, through a series of budget cuts, that those numbers are down significantly. We share the concern of the NDP.

Having said that, one of the concerns I have is the position of the New Democrats with respect to the Charter. They are saying that they are concerned about the rights of the individual.

I reflected earlier today on Bill C-55, which had similarities in terms of principles. The Supreme Court of Canada, in both cases, made a declaration that they are both constitutionally correct, implying that they should be made law. It even had a deadline.

Does the member see the consistency between Bill C-55 and Bill S-7? Why is it that the New Democrats would vote in favour of one but be opposed to the other? Could the member provide some clarity on that?

Combating Terrorism Act
Government Orders

April 23rd, 2013 / 3:40 p.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question.

Bill C-55 satisfied the Supreme Court's demands word for word. For once, the government resisted the urge to go too far. It chose individual rights over all-out accessibility and going after people who might be dealing with certain situations.

So, with Bill C-55, the government showed tremendous restraint. The same cannot be said about Bill S-7.

My colleague from Toronto—Danforth and his colleagues on the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security did a great job examining Bill S-7 and highlighting how the arrest provisions, which the government would like to see as preventive, were vague. This certainly leaves us wondering. Someone could be accused of being directly or indirectly linked to an act, even though that person may be innocent. As everyone knows, when a tragedy occurs, at some point, well-meaning people see things that might not necessarily be there. Some people might find themselves in truly tragic situations, with extremely vague rights.

The NDP members asked the government another question. I encourage my hon. colleague from Winnipeg North to consult the evidence from that committee and he will see that the Conservative member replied very clearly that, on the contrary, the government wanted to keep this as vague and as broad as possible.

In terms of arrest, detention and interrogation, when people who have been arrested do not know what is going on or what they are alleged to have done, we need to err on the side of caution, while still thinking about public safety. These two aspects can be reconciled in a legal manner that respects our charter.

Combating Terrorism Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech, which was excellent, as always.

I would like to hear her thoughts on the government's habit of reacting to specific events by introducing a bill. This is very opportunistic. She mentioned that in her speech.

Could the member talk more about the fact that the government is using specific events to change laws? These laws apply to all Canadians, they will apply for years to come and they will have repercussions. As a legislator, it is trying to react only to specific events. The government is also trying to be opportunistic by using such events to advance its own ideologies. Why do we need to be wary of this kind of approach?

Combating Terrorism Act
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Joe Comartin

The hon. member for Gatineau has 40 seconds to respond.