An Act to amend the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2002.


John Manley  Liberal


This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

October 22nd, 2001 / 3:25 p.m.
See context

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Progressive Conservative Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to talk to Bill C-35, an act to amend the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act. My distinguished colleague, the hon. member for Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough, has covered much of the law enforcement aspects of the bill and the member for Saanich--Gulf Islands has addressed the international trade issues on behalf of the opposition coalition. I will, relatively briefly, bring up a few issues that are of concern to me.

First, some people refer to this as a housekeeping bill. I have a hard time accepting it as a housekeeping bill. This would affect a lot of different aspects of the way we do things, who does what, who is allowed to do what, the actions of the RCMP and so on. Although it would really correct or update our domestic laws to meet our international commitments, it does define a new or a more explicit role for the RCMP and in that way I find that it is a little more than just housekeeping.

Although I understand the philosophy and the purpose of the bill, I think it would create a double standard. It is a slippery slope that the government is getting on, it seems to me, where it would be establishing two sets of rules. It is saying that Canadians would be subject to the law of the land but foreigners often would not. It would expand that level of immunity and quite dramatically extend who would qualify for the immunity.

Under the bill, new organizations and new groups that are not clearly defined would qualify for immunity from certain aspects of our laws. In the other bill we have before us, the terrorism bill, Bill C-36, I notice a line which states that foreigners might not necessarily have to follow the rules of the firearms control act. I find this a little strange because Canadians obviously have to abide by these laws. It seems like the government is going from one bill to another and establishing a dangerous precedent, so we would have one set of rules for Canadians and another set for many foreigners. This would go far beyond what we have done before in allowing different groups and organizations to be recognized for these benefits.

Another concern is that the government had an opportunity here to address the issue of foreign diplomats who commit crimes or offences while under the influence. We are all very much aware of the awful tragedy that happened in Ottawa when a Russian diplomat ran over two pedestrians, killing one and severely injuring the other. Nothing has happened about that. There has been no accountability. This person had a long record of alcohol offences. Nothing was done to prevent the accident and nothing has been done to hold this person accountable. He was whisked away to Russia very quickly. When our government demanded an investigation and accountability, the Russians said if we wanted that we would have to pay them to send their investigators from Russia to Canada to investigate it. I did not see a lot of commitment on behalf of that foreign government to address this concern that outraged many Canadians.

It will be a long time before we have another opportunity to address these issues. The bill could have done that but it definitely does not. It does not address any of those issues that raised a lot of concerns. It just seems so unfair. People were outraged about the accident. Again, the bill, which reorganizes the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act, could have dealt with that but did not.

Certainly Canada has to encourage organizations to come to Canada to have their meetings, like the G-8, APEC and so on, and perhaps some of the immunity aspects have to be extended to them. Previously these immunities have been extended only to organizations and nations with which we have treaties, not just organizations that are non-structured or mobile and move around. This makes me wonder what other organizations would qualify for this immunity from taxes and our laws and who could actually commit crimes and not be held accountable. It is just a little scary.

I agree that we have to be in a position to attract these organizations. We are a well respected country and an appealing country for these types of meetings, being relatively safe and secure. We have to be able to provide the amenities and competitive immunities.

However, it seems to me that the bill goes a little too far and is not defined enough on who could qualify for these issues. For instance, it is not clear about interparliamentary meetings and things like that. Under the bill would all these members be immune from criminal prosecution or taxation et cetera?

Another aspect of the bill would change the process for allowing someone with a criminal record to come to Canada. Currently the minister has to provide a minister's permit to allow a person who has a criminal record to come to Canada. The outstanding example of this is Nelson Mandela. Not one of us in the House, I think, would ever question Nelson Mandela's right and privilege to come to Canada, speak with us and meet with us in parliament, but he has a criminal record and he required a minister's permit to allow him to come here. That would no longer be necessary because the permit would be issued under the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act and would no longer require the minister's permit.

Another part of the bill that was dealt with by the hon. member for Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough was the RCMP aspect. It is a very important aspect because it very clearly defines who would be responsible when international guests are here. Many people in Canada were outraged about the violence and protests during recent meetings in Vancouver and Quebec. There always was confusion about the chain of command, about who ordered the police to do what and when, whether it was political, RCMP, local or provincial police or what. The bill would correct that.

It would remove that question and would allow a lot of us to have a little more peace of mind when we are inviting meetings to Canada. I hope it would help us and help them if there would be just one police department involved with the protests. We hope they would better understand the rights of protestors to protest and demonstrate. They do have a right to protest and demonstrate, but with the confusion over who was in control of the meetings and who was responsible for policing and law enforcement, I think things happened at the meetings that should never have happened. I believe having one group in charge would be a positive move. The huge report on APEC pointed out the need for clear parameters in order for the RCMP to be able to police these meetings without having to answer to political bosses, provincial police forces and so on.

It would be a very positive step and I hope the RCMP will take advantage of the opportunity to better understand how people can be allowed to protest and demonstrate legitimately without encouraging violence or demonstrations that turn into anything other than demonstrations.

The legislation appears to cover three general types of international organizations. There are international organizations originating by treaty, for instance, NATO and the International Civil Aviation Organization in Montreal. They are currently covered under the immunity, which would be extended to a second category, the new international organizations with headquarters in Canada, like the IOC, the environmental secretariat and different NAFTA bodies, which are growing steadily.

The third one is stand alone organizations that move from country to country, like APEC and the G-8. I am not satisfied nor am I comfortable with how that is defined and what groups could be included. Could groups involved with the chambers of commerce and things like that come under that umbrella of immunity? We are anxious to get the bill to committee to analyze it and see if there are extended immunity rights that were never meant to be part of the bill.

There is no question that our country should be in a position to play host to these organizations. I think Canada is an attractive destination for them. Recently we moved the meeting of finance ministers to Canada because it could not be held in India. That is just an indication of what we have to offer.

To wind up, I am concerned about the double standards between Canadians and non-Canadians. The bill would extend immunity and taxation exemptions to a number of groups. It seems to ring a bell to me with extending the immunity or exemption from the firearms control act to non-Canadians whereas Canadians have to follow those rules. We need more clarification.

On the upside, the bill ensures that Canadian diplomats receive the same privileges and immunities that their representatives in Canada receive when our diplomats are in foreign countries. It has an enforcement clause and that is a good aspect in it.

We support both the purpose and philosophy but we hope there will be amendments that deal with some of the concerns which I and my colleagues have raised throughout this debate.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

October 22nd, 2001 / 3:10 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Canadian Alliance Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand again to speak to Bill C-35. As was mentioned the debate on this bill began last Thursday. When I approached the table today I was told that I had 14 minutes left unless I was speaking French and then I would have 15 minutes. I will attempt to do this in English and I should be done in 14 minutes.

The bill does a number of things. One of the main thrusts of the bill is the implementation of part of the Hughes report. This summer we went through the Hughes report that dealt with the APEC inquiry. It made many recommendations.

One of the recommendations dealt with the RCMP. It recommended the requested statutory codification of the nature and extent of police independence from government with respect to two different areas: first, the existing common law practices regarding law enforcement and, second, the provision and responsibility for delivery of security services at public order events. Bill C-35 intends to implement the last part of the Hughes report but not the former part.

RCMP Commissioner Zaccardelli dismissed the key recommendations saying that there was no need in his opinion for statutory recognition of police independence.

Canadians must have confidence that the RCMP can do its job. That includes investigating the government in suspected cases of wrongdoing without fear of interference or reprisal. APEC is not an isolated incident. There are other examples, such as the airbus affair, that suggest the government may have improperly interfered with or instructed the RCMP.

A number of books chronicle the politicization of the RCMP, such as Paul Palango's Above the Law , and Stevie Cameron's On the Take .

In January 1997 the federal government reached a $2 million out of court settlement with former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in what we call the airbus affair. It has been almost five years and Canadians have never learned the truth as to who was ultimately responsible for this libel suit. No one was ever held accountable for the Liberal government's suspect political intervention into a criminal investigation of national and international importance.

For those who may not remember, I will refresh their memory. In 1995 a letter of request was sent to Swiss authorities signed by justice department lawyer Kimberly Prost on behalf of the justice minister. Contained within this letter was a false accusation. It stated:

This investigation is of serious concern to the Government of Canada as it involves criminal activity on the part of the former Prime Minister.

On November 4, 1995, Roger Tasse, Mulroney's lawyer, contacted the justice minister via telephone to apprise him that they were in receipt of the letter written to the Swiss authorities. According to news reports Tasse pleaded with the minister to water down the language and send a new document to Switzerland. The minister refused. Furthermore in a letter dated November 8, 1995, to the justice minister Mulroney's lawyer stated:

In light of the most important, unjustified and highly damaging statements contained in the request made to the Swiss authorities, we urge you to personally review the matter and to direct your department to withdraw the request already made and to present, if that is the wish of the RCMP, a new request that is more respectful of basic rules of fairness and decency.

The justice minister again refused to withdraw the letter. That resulted in a $50 million lawsuit by Brian Mulroney. Even the former RCMP commissioner was concerned that the lawsuit would jeopardize the criminal investigation. He stated:

I have been very concerned about the potential impact on the criminal investigation of a long and very public civil process.

The minister again refused to withdraw the letter. A civil suit proceeded and at the very last moment the justice minister made an out of court settlement with an apology. This cost Canadian taxpayers $3.4 million. However the letter containing the false accusation was not withdrawn. The court decision indicated that the request letter was invalid as it had followed an improper process. Rather than withdraw the letter the former justice minister appealed the decision.

I know this case may be old news but to date Canadians have never been given answers. This matter has not been resolved. Nor has anyone been held responsible except for RCMP Staff Sergeant Fraser Fiegenwald. We have been left with the impression that Staff Sergeant Fiegenwald who allegedly leaked this information to author Stevie Cameron was responsible for the entire airbus scandal including the $3.4 million that this fiasco cost Canadians.

The facts as far as I understand them do not support this perception. However the government did nothing to dispel it, especially after Fiegenwald was conveniently allowed to retire from the force just before a code of conduct proceeding.

A cloud hangs over the RCMP as a result of airbus and all the many unanswered questions. It is negatively affecting its reputation. A cloud also hangs over the Prime Minister, the former justice minister and the former solicitor general as their involvement in this matter still remains suspect. Although it is not too late to lift this cloud by allowing the truth to be known, I am sure the government will never allow an investigation into this affair.

In 1997 a motion was brought before the standing committee on justice and legal affairs. The motion originated with my party and had the support of the Bloc, the NDP and the Tory members of that committee. It called for an examination of the facts pertaining to airbus. Not surprisingly the motion was shot down by Liberal members of that committee, particularly the member for Scarborough--Rouge River who believed that if the committee--

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

October 18th, 2001 / 5:20 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Canadian Alliance Crowfoot, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a privilege to rise and participate in the debate on Bill C-35, an act to amend the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act. Our day is running down and we have about five minutes for debate and a 20 minute speech.

As a new member of parliament I am faced with a dilemma. Do I continue with the speech and take up the rest of the time another day? There are some points I want to cover in my speech and from which concerns arise.

The provisions in the bill come forward and are recommended by the Hughes report that we saw come forward this summer. In particular, Bill C-35 adds a clause codifying the RCMP's primary responsibility to ensure the security for the proper functioning of any intergovernmental conference, in which two or more states participate, that is attended by persons granted privileges and immunities under the act.

In fulfilling that responsibility the RCMP may take appropriate measures, and we have talked about them already today, including controlling, limiting or prohibiting access to any area to the extent and in a manner that is reasonable in the circumstances.

I would suggest, although in this isolated case the government has taken Judge Hughes' recommendation to heart as many of my colleagues have already stated, this is not the appropriate place to legislate these new statutory powers and responsibilities The more preferable place to have put these powers would have been in the RCMP act.

Following public hearings regarding complaints against the RCMP, Hughes concluded that the federal government's role at APEC was improper. If we went through the thick report given by Mr. Hughes, within the first 10 to 15 pages we would realize that the government acted improperly and that some of the measures used by the RCMP, succumbing to government influence, were not appropriate.

Therefore, Hughes recommended that the federal government bring in legislation to spell out the RCMP's independence from government interference. In section 10 of the report. Hughes said that the current nature and extent of police independence was not clearly defined in Canadian law. Furthermore, there was no consensus, either in academic writing or in judicial decisions, as to what was the proper relationship between the federal government and the RCMP, although it was generally agreed that the RCMP enjoyed a measure of independence.

In fact, Hughes believed that the RCMP act suggested that the force was not entirely independent of the government by stipulating that the commissioner of the RCMP was appointed by cabinet and controlled the force under the direction of the solicitor general.

This has been a great concern to members on this side of the House. I know on many occasions the members for Medicine Hat and Cypress Hills--Grasslands have vented their frustration that the commissioner of the RCMP would sit in cabinet as a deputy minister in the solicitor general's department. To have independence and not to politicize the position or the organization, the commissioner is appointed by cabinet as a deputy minister.

After reviewing the English approach in the supreme court decision in R v Campbell, Hughes concluded that it was clearly unacceptable for the federal government to have the authority to direct the RCMP law enforcement activities, telling it who to investigate, who to arrest and prosecute or other purposes. At the same time, it was equally unacceptable for the RCMP to be completely independent and unaccountable to become a law unto itself.

So we have that balancing act. We want on the one hand independence and on the other hand we need accountability in the RCMP.

Based on this conclusion, Hughes recommended under subsection 31 of his report, that the RCMP request statutory codification of the nature and extent of police independence from government with respect to: first, existing common law practices regarding law enforcement; and second, the provision of and responsibility for delivery of security services at public order events.

That part two is what part of this bill enacts. It enacts the part of the Hughes commission report that would suggest that it was imperative to put in place the position and the responsibilities of security services at public order events where people from other countries would be attending.

Bill C-35 embraces only the second part of this recommendation. The government has yet to fulfill the first part of that recommendation. Unfortunately, I do not believe the Liberal government has the courage to ever come forward with that first part that would bring more accountability, more independence and reduce the politicization of the RCMP. We wait for that. I look forward to the rest of my time at a later date.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

October 18th, 2001 / 4:50 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, I would like to begin my speech by making a little parenthetical comment to the member for Lanark--Carleton who began the debate this afternoon when we resumed second reading on Bill C-35. He made a comment on the fact that his speech had been interrupted for some two weeks and that he had some time to think about it.

I want to give him a little bit of a commiserating thought which is that to my recollection my record on having a speech interrupted basically in mid-sentence is about a year. There was a time in one of the previous parliaments where I gave a speech and then the debate on that item was dropped. It was not called again by the government for just a couple of days short of a year, at which point I was able to resume my speech. My problem was somewhat different from his in that he had some time to reflect on what he wanted to say. I had enough time to have forgotten what I wanted to say.

We are talking today about Bill C-35, an act to amend the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act. This again comes down to a fundamental principle and that is the principle of law and order and who it applies to. Basically the bill provides for the Minister of Foreign Affairs to provide exemptions from Canada's laws to certain individuals, organizations and people who are part of these organizations, primarily diplomatic missions and this type of thing.

I have a bit of a problem with this whole general concept. I know that it is part of the convention and that there is a lot of agreement among countries. Generally the rule is that we will exempt members of another country from any of the obligations under our government if that country does the same for our diplomats and our people when they travel to that country. That is sort of the basic principle. It is a pretty sound principle, if it could be applied.

However there are some rules and laws on which I do not think we ought to bend, yet we do quite easily. I would be much happier to specify explicitly to diplomats that some of the laws in this country are not to be compromised by them, by their staff, by their families or by whomever instead of saying that they are exempt from all these laws. There should be no exemptions. Of course this was already mentioned when we talked about our rules against driving while intoxicated. That is one of the most blatant examples and it is very fresh in the minds of many of us here who have spent some time in Ottawa.

I believe that we should say to people coming to this country that we will not exempt them from a particular law and if they do not agree they should send people here who will. In other words, we do not want people who will break laws and endanger the lives and attack the security of Canadian citizens. We have to be very sure that we protect Canadians. That is a substantial missing link here.

When we exempt a person from a law, even a simple parking law, what we are basically saying is that everyone else must pay the penalty for that exemption. That is a principle which I think is contrary to the fundamental democratic principle of equality of people within our society.

I have another little parenthetical statement I want to make here because I think it is rather funny. When I first arrived in Ottawa some eight years ago, and I believe next week is the eighth anniversary of that election, one of the things that shocked me in terms of the culture shift from the cities and towns in the west which I had grown up in and lived in was a considerable disregard for the law in Ottawa. That shocked me, because I thought that Ottawa was the lawmaking capital of the country and in this very city citizens did not pay any regard to the foremost fundamental laws governing traffic. That was what got me.

I think I am still the only one in Ottawa who, even when I walk from my office to the hotel at midnight, still stops and waits at a wait light. I have not seen anyone doing it. I have even had people look at me like they think I am crazy. They ask me why I am not walking, why I am standing there. I have had cabs stop. The drivers think I want a ride. All I am doing is simply obeying a law. The law says we should wait to go until the light gives us permission. Very frankly, there is quite clearly a lack of enforcement of that law which means that people do not obey it.

When I drive in Ottawa I can assure members that I am much more anxious about the safety of pedestrians than I am back home, because back home I am assured that they will stay on the sidewalk and will not break the laws, whereas here I have the opposite assurance. I know that if there is a person on the sidewalk he can and likely will, on a whim, leave the sidewalk and walk in front of me, maybe pausing just short of making contact with the vehicle. That unfortunately does not make for a very good, safe society.

Earlier this week when taking my 10 minute walk from the hotel to the office in the morning, I decided to count infractions. How many infractions do you think I saw, Madam Speaker, just traffic infractions such as vehicles making u-turns in the middle of the street, vehicles making illegal turns, pedestrians jay-walking and pedestrians walking against the light? In 10 minutes in my little walk from the Travelodge hotel to my House of Commons office I counted 61 violations. Clearly the law is not being enforced so therefore it is just blatantly being broken.

That is a civic matter and has nothing to do specifically with the House of Commons, but the reason I mention it is that when we have people living in Canada who for one reason or another are exempt from certain laws, it sends a totally wrong message. As I said before, we need to be very sure when we exempt individuals from obeying these laws that we have a very good reason to do so and that the reason is consistent with our objectives.

When I think of some of these laws that could be exempted I think of the GST. If we decide that we will exempt foreigners who are in our country as part of a diplomatic or other mission from paying the GST, I suppose we could. I know that it is done, because our diplomats are exempted from the tax rates when they go to other countries. There is a reciprocal agreement.

Just collecting a tax or not collecting a tax is not necessarily an affront or a threat to our safety, but there are other laws which I believe we should very vigorously enforce and I think that this actually is the root of the bill. It is one of the reasons that the Liberals over there refuse to get into the debate. All throughout the afternoon only one Liberal stood up once for two minutes to ask a question. That was the hon. member for Malpeque. I congratulate him for actually being awake and listening and participating.

However, the fact that the Liberals are not putting up speakers to defend the bill is a tacit admission that it is indefensible. Therefore they will just push it through with their majority and will not need to try to persuade anyone to vote for it because their members will vote for it on command and they cannot defend it to the others anyway.

I believe the reason they are doing this is primarily the APEC situation in which they brought in some individuals, and I will not mention them by name, and it was quite clear that those individuals were not willing to obey the security and other laws of our country and they were exempted. There was then of course a considerable fear.

I believe one of the reasons the protesters in Vancouver were pushed back from the motorcade was for their own safety. Some members of the motorcade from foreign countries could have taken action against the protesters had they perceived that something was going awry, which would have been very unfortunate.

Their job was to protect their man. That is legitimate but there is a better way. We should inform delegates invited to Canada on such a mission that it would be better for them to comply with our rules and to allow us to provide the security. Then everything would be done in an orderly fashion.

I want to spend a few minutes talking about the right of demonstrations. It has become almost a cliché in Canada and to some extent in the United States. Some very great good has come from the freedom of expression and from the freedom of demonstration.

I refer particularly of our friends in the United States. I wonder how many more years of inequality between whites and blacks in the U.S. there would have been were it not for Martin Luther King and some of the demonstrations in which he participated. However I remind the House that those demonstrations were always done peacefully.

Mahatma Gandhi was another person who engaged in peaceful demonstrations. It is called passive resistance. When people are willing to stand and object because something is wrong and are willing to be sent to jail because they feel the other side is wrong, it sends a very powerful message. If it is done often enough the message gets through. However if we say to the protesters that they have the right to engage in any activity they want, we are inviting an increasing degree of anarchy into our society.

We had protesters put pies into the faces of ministers and even our Prime Minister. The Prime Minister would not necessarily have been my first choice. However, having earned that position and having been elected by the people, we have in our society an obligation to respect that position.

When we are telling people it is okay to protest and to take a lemon or meringue pie and shove it into the Prime Minister's face, I say that is a case of great indignity and should not be tolerated. We have come to a point where we no longer have discernment on what behaviour should or should not be tolerated. There are some things we should not tolerate.

I would like to give another little sidebar if I may. One of the great surprises in my life as a member of parliament is the abuse one gets as an MP simply based upon a perceived association from other people who think we are not honourable.

An event happened to me that was both funny and sad. I was visiting a business person who was showing me around his shop. I had not entered there in my capacity as an MP. He knew I was an MP and we were having a fairly reasonable conversation. During the course of the conversation suddenly and without warning he kicked me quite hard. I can still remember the pain because he got me in a place where it hurts. He said that he felt better and that he always wanted to do that to a politician.

We both had a little laugh and I passed it off, but inside I was very hurt because he did a very undignified thing to me. He thought it was funny, so what could I do?

If the circumstances were different I could have charged him with assault. That would have been the appropriate thing to do, but I did not and I would not. We sort of take these things, but we need to make sure that when people are protesting they treat other people with dignity.

The kind of protests we have had in the country in the last number of years have increasingly shown a total lack of respect and dignity for the participants. I am referring to meetings of the G-8, IMF, World Bank and APEC.

Are they not honourable and reasonable people who are leaders in their countries? They come together to debate and to solve problems. Why should we allow other people to put their lives at risk? We should have reasonable limitations on freedom of demonstrations that protect the rights and dignity of other people as is required in the convention. Canada has agreed to the clauses that protect the dignity of the person.

I have another little sidebar. While in Ottawa during the last eight years I had opportunity to meet a number of foreign dignitaries, ambassadors and representatives from other countries. One of the greatest venues for this is sponsored by a Canadian organization called the Christian Embassy.

Gerry Sherman often gets members of parliament, senators and foreign diplomats together so that we can learn about their countries and they can learn about ours. He has taken some of them on guided tours across the country. It is a great thing he does. In this case we have people treated with the dignity they deserve and in 99.9% of cases the kind they have earned. I would like to see that continued and encouraged.

I want to say one more thing about international meetings. If we do not act properly we will probably no longer have these meetings. I say to protestors that they have the right in a democracy to get involved in the debate. They should forward their debaters to the House of Commons by getting somebody elected who would represent their points of view. They can also be in other venues, but let us get into debate.

Just as I do not have the right to breach the two sword lengths between this side and the government side, neither does the protester have the right to breach the security of anybody else who wants to get into debate. They have the right to be in the debate. They do not have the right to violence or the threat of violence.

Unless this is checked the time would come when the G-8, G-20, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund would only be able to meet somewhere on an undisclosed island where they would arrive without formal notice. Once they were there all other aircraft would be kept 50 miles away. That would be the only way they would have an opportunity to sit and debate the issues in peace, freedom and security. I believe that island should be Canada, but it cannot be if we do not have a balance of discipline with respect to protesters.

This is not a party position. I am one person who says that I accept the rules of ordered debate and of an ordered civilized society. I expect others to do so as well.

Bill C-35 does not come anywhere near setting out new powers for the RCMP to deal with this kind of thing. It is a backward step in my view as it does not enhance the ability of Canada to be an honourable, dignified and secure host of these international conferences and other functions.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

October 18th, 2001 / 4:20 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Canadian Alliance Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to contribute my thoughts to the discussion on Bill C-35. I would like to pay special tribute to my colleague from Verchères--Les-Patriotes as well as to my colleague who spoke previously. Their comments were very insightful and added greatly to the debate.

It would be appropriate to go back a bit and talk about the aspect that is at the centre of the bill, the rules around diplomatic immunity. To do that we need to revisit why those rules exist in the first place.

Rules regulating the various aspects of diplomatic relations constitute one of the earliest expressions of international law. Whenever in history there has been a group of independent nations co-existing, special customs were developed on how ambassadors and other special representatives of those nations were to be treated, on special privileges and immunities related to diplomatic personnel of various kinds.They grew partly in consequence of sovereign immunity and the independence and equality of states and partly as an essential requirement of an international system.

States must negotiate and consult with one another and with international organizations. To do so, they need diplomatic staff. In most cases those diplomatic staff are comprised of citizens of their own countries who travel abroad to do that work, although in our own foreign affairs department a decreasing number of people working in our foreign embassies are Canadians. More and more we employ people who are nationals in the areas where our embassies are located. That is another topic for another day, but certainly a topic of concern to the members on this side of the House in the Canadian Alliance.

In short, the rules of diplomatic law lay down the receiving state's obligations regarding the facilities, the privileges, the immunities to be accorded to diplomatic missions, and on the other they foresee their possible abuse by members. They specify the means at the disposal of the receiving state to counter any such abuse. Our concern is that the balance between these two things has shifted perhaps too much against the whole state. In other words, there is not the opportunity for recourse that might be necessary in the event of a criminal act by a member of a foreign mission on Canadian soil.

It is disappointing to me, as it should be to any thoughtful member of the House, that the government has not seen fit to have the minister present the arguments as to the merits of the bill and that it has not seen fit to advance speakers to discuss the bill. That clearly is a distraction and evidence of a lack of enthusiasm for the bill. Perhaps not, but there is a presence of a desire to move the bill forward quickly in the absence of constructive debate. I invite the members on the other side of the House to contribute their thoughts and comments to the discussion as it is important.

American humorist Will Rogers defined diplomacy as the art of saying nice doggy while looking for a big stick. What we are concerned about is that the big sticks in diplomacy seem to be held by the people who come to Canada rather than by Canadians themselves.

We understand the traditional history of diplomatic immunity is of long-standing, I am told right back to the treaty of Westphalia, and that it has been enhanced and elaborated upon by the Vienna conventions and so on. We understand the need for diplomatic immunity in its basic sense. We know that in ancient times people who had the responsibility of being foreign ambassadors were sometimes treated badly by the other nations to whom they had to carry messages. Sometimes they were beheaded. I understand other elements of torture were applied to them. They were put in dungeons. They were punished for doing the work of trying to be intermediaries between two states.

Civilized states advanced and decided to move forward. They brought forward better ways of dealing with one another by giving immunity to those who had the courage to become members of the diplomatic corps. This of course was progress.

The essential secondary aspect of that immunity was that the receiving countries agreed they would not discriminate against the representatives from other countries regardless of their conduct in the past and that that was irrelevant.

What they may have done in a war a few years before was totally irrelevant. The lives they may have taken, even from the very country to which they were now an ambassador, were of no consequence whatsoever. The fact was they were free and clear. They were above the law. They were not just above the law in the sense that previous actions, whether criminal or not, were to be forgotten, but they were also above the law in the land to which they went. Of course that meant that they did not have to abide by the laws of the country to which they went.

Fortunately there have been relatively few instances, at least in modern times, where foreign diplomats or council staffs have betrayed the trust or dignity of their office by breaking the laws of the land in which they were stationed. Nonetheless, that reality, which is something I will address a little later in my comments, is unfortunately a reality we saw in Canada as recently as a few months ago: a reality that impacts on the lives of real people in a real way: a reality that human beings are not perfect; and a reality that when people are given positions that puts them above the law, for some reason or another they seem to think they are above the law and can behave in any way they might desire. That is not a good thing.

The history of immunity means trade-offs. We could say those trade-offs in our history were a good thing. They were progressive steps for medieval times when ambassadors were beheaded if the news was not good. That is a progressive step. Perhaps what we are debating now in the context of this bill is not whether diplomatic immunity itself is a good or necessary thing, but rather a question of degree. That is what we should be debating.

Is it right that we should expand upon the definitions of those people allowed to be above the law? Is that something that we should consider doing? Should we place a broader number of people in the country above Canadian law? Is that something we should do? I do not know. I do not think so.

I know that theoretical cases are sometimes used to illustrate points and I will provide one. Let us suppose that Afghanistan is defeated, the Taliban is deposed and a new administration comes in that is comprised of a coalition of a variety of forces representative of the people of Afghanistan. Let us suppose that we are able to bring democracy to Afghanistan and there is a freely held, open election where the most popular people would be elected to a new Afghanistan parliament.

Then let us suppose that Osama bin Laden runs and wins because he is a pretty popular man in some parts of Afghanistan. Let us suppose he goes into a house like this and serves there for years representing the people of Afghanistan. As is the case here of course, after a few years he would be appointed a diplomat, just as happens with Liberals on the opposite side. They advance to the diplomatic corps. Our diplomatic corps around the world is populated with former Liberal politicians.

Let us suppose that after a few years the government of Afghanistan decides that Osama bin Laden, on the right side of the power-brokers of the day, should be appointed a diplomat and is appointed to Canada. I hope everyone is getting my point.

The fact is when someone is put above the law there are consequences to doing that. The consequences for two women in Ottawa last year are real and permanent. There are consequences for not standing up for Canadian values. Canadians value the rule of law and people who abide by the laws that are made. We are proud of our system of laws.

In fact it stands in very stark contrast to the way in which we dealt with the issue of terrorism for too long. We have become known as a soft touch for terrorists around the world. We have become known as a safe haven. Every time a question is raised, the immigration minister does the same thing. She does this now and has done it for some months from what I understand.

For example, a question might be asked about why 50 people came here last weekend from Pakistan or Afghanistan without security clearance and then disappeared into the land, but the immigration department did not know where they were or what their security records were.

When someone asks a question, we immediately hear the response from the immigration minister that we are labelling everyone outside of Canada who is a refugee. We are asking questions about a process that Canadians are concerned about.

This country has a reputation among the peacekeeping law enforcement officials and investigative and intelligence personnel around the world as a soft touch for terrorists. It has a reputation in many countries as a place where one can go and immediately have charter rights and freedoms: the right to accommodation; the right to free medical care; the right to food; and welfare benefits. Immediately, we provide those benefits, and many of us in the House are proud of that. The reality is we do not want to provide those benefits to terrorists. That would be self-evident.

The question is: How do we deal with this system properly and carefully? On the one hand, the Liberals have said since September 11 that they want to deal with the problem. I accept that. September 11 changed our way of thinking. It changed many of us, perhaps forever, and some of that is not entirely bad. If it has brought about an awareness of the need for greater security and if it brings about a need for a greater understanding of the challenges we have to face to stand up for Canadian values in the world, then perhaps that is a benefit that has come from a tragedy.

However, the reality is that the Liberals, prior to that time, and perhaps again, have been torpid in their response the initiatives that we have advanced. Torpid means: slow moving, sluggish, inactive, inert, lethargic, lazy, listless, spiritless, indolent, languid, languorous, apathetic, lackadaisical, passive, slow-thinking, dull, half asleep, drowsy, somnolent and dormant. That is the response we have had from the Liberal government for several years in advancing security related suggestions, clear-headed forward thinking suggestions, which only now, in consequence of a crisis, it appears to be embracing. Better late than never.

This bill sends the wrong message. The bill sends the message that we will be tough on terrorists but we will be tough in terms of standing up for our values; we will be very permissive in extending the right to certain groups of people within our country, a growing number by this legislation, to be above the law. That sends the message that we have a flexible morality and we do not.

We have not got the military we used to have, but we are trying. I am proud, and we are all proud, of the Canadian people who are contributing to our military presence in this struggle against terrorism worldwide. However that should not deter us in doing everything we can on a diplomatic front.

The government says it is tough on terrorism. It has made that statement numerous times. However, when it had the opportunity to stand up and prove that, it failed. I speak now about the opportunity to oppose the selection of Syria to the United Nations security council.

The Prime Minister said in a press conference just last week “Together with our allies, we will defy and defeat the threat that terrorism poses to all civilized nations”.

In the House last week, the defence minister said “There is no doubt that those who perpetrate this terrorism need to be found out and brought to justice, as well as those who harbour them”.

Those are good words. Those are words I hope that all members could support. Unfortunately, when we had the opportunity to stand up and say no to Syria for the United Nations Security Council just last week, we did not.

Why should we have said no to Syria? Let us talk about that.

Syria, as a nation, has violated the United Nations Security Council economic sanctions against Iraq. It has pumped 100,000 barrels of Iraqi oil per day through its pipeline to the Mediterranean coast, which shows its contempt for the United Nations Security Council on which it now has a seat, thanks to Canadian representation.

Syria is an occupying power in Lebanon. It maintains 25,000 troops and intelligence agents in Lebanon. It uses Lebanese banks for its slush funds. It has turned the Biqa Valley into one of the world's greatest drug routes.

This contravenes UN resolution 425 which calls for the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon.

The following terrorist organizations are known to be based in Syria according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, England and the United States state department: Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic jihad, Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the list goes on and on.

Syria has been on the United States state department's list of states sponsoring terrorism since that list was first created in 1979. Hamas operates a political office in Damascus. It is openly operated.

The leader of the Islamic jihad which carries out suicide bombings in Israel lives in Damascus. The group has its headquarters there. Syria allows Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic jihad to operate freely from areas of Lebanon under Syrian control. Syria allows Iran to supply Hezbollah through the Damascus airport.

One would hope that if we were going to stand for Canadian values and do the things the minister of defence said we would do, which is to stand against those who harbour and support terrorism, we would at least have had the spine to say no to Syria for the United Nations Security Council. It was our opportunity and a glorious one to show that we would stand for Canadian values, not just in words but in actual deeds, and say no when it was right to say no.

I understand the need for us to have relations with various countries that we may not agree with some of the time or a lot of the time but I also understand that a good relationship is based on openness, truth and honesty. When has the government demonstrated to us that it has told the government of Syria that it is not acceptable to harbour terrorist organizations? It has not. That is not how a strong and good relationship is created. That is not how to stand for Canadian values in the world.

Yesterday, sadly, the tourism minister of Israel was assassinated by an organization named the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine which operates out of Syria. A week and a half ago we could have as a nation said no. We could have said that Canadians would not support this kind of thing but we did not. Yesterday another widow was the result of the action of a terrorist.

I am not blaming the members of the government for the actions of terrorists because that would be wrong and I will not do that. What I am saying is that we have to stand up for the values that we maintain we have. If we fail to do so then they are not truly our values. We have an opportunity and an obligation to do that.

In case the members opposite believe or disbelieve that there are no real consequences, they should consider the events of yesterday. A diminished Canadian voice has been the result of our failure to stand for our values. There are consequences to us domestically when we extend rights. I give the example of rights to diplomats, diplomatic immunity.

Last year Russian diplomat Andrei Knyasev, who had multiple previous drunk driving incidents, ran over and killed a woman and seriously injured her friend in Ottawa while under the influence of duty free alcohol to which he was entitled as a diplomat. He is beyond prosecution.

In 1997 a Kuwaiti embassy employee in Ottawa, Osama Al-Ayoub, was charged with two counts of reselling duty free liquor to which he was entitled as an embassy employee. He left the country without being prosecuted.

In 1996 Olexander Yushko, a Ukrainian consular employee in Toronto, claimed immunity after trying to lure two girls aged 12 and 14 into his car while holding an anaesthetic soaked handkerchief. He was also charged with two counts of drunk driving, possessing stolen licence plates and attempting to bribe a police officer. There was no prosecution there either.

In 1991 two unnamed Kenyan diplomats claimed immunity after being questioned in Ottawa for allegedly assaulting four teenage girls at knifepoint in two separate incidents in a vacant apartment they had broken into. They simply left the country without prosecution.

In the words of Catherine Doré, the woman injured in the unfortunate event of last year, the survivor of the Knyasev incident, she said:

Diplomatic immunity should not be an excuse for violating those rules which protect Canadian citizens. There are changes that need to be made—changes so that people like that don't get away without being punished.

The bill does nothing to address the weaknesses I have pointed out today. I encourage the government to make changes or withdraw the bill entirely.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

October 18th, 2001 / 4:15 p.m.
See context


Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Jonquière for her question, because it gives me an opportunity to elaborate and clarify this aspect of the bill.

By itself, within the context of Bill C-35, this aspect of the bill would already raise some concern. We could certainly be concerned to see the RCMP being granted, through this bill, the power to organize by itself all the security aspects of international activities or conferences held in Canadian territory.

We have seen it in the past. We only have to think of the APEC Conference in British Columbia, when the RCMP, and indirectly the federal government, were asked to plan the security of this conference. Is seems--and it has not been denied yet--that there would have been a close relationship between the two as far as the conference security, the so-called security, was concerned. We are therefore justified in being concerned about the new provision in Bill C-35.

But when this provision contained in Bill C-35 is combined with all the provisions in Bill C-36 on combating against terrorism, then we become really concerned, as I indicated earlier in my speech.

We will recall that one of our colleagues from the Liberal Party suggested that the provisions of Bill C-36 might be interpreted in such a way that protesters at the last Summit of the Americas in Quebec City could have been considered as terrorists.

With the Royal Canadian Mounted Police solely responsible for security in such a context, it would be all the more reason to be concerned. If the past tells us what the future will be, the government will have to bring clarifications on this disturbing provision in Bill C-35 as well as on the other provision contained in Bill C-36.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

October 18th, 2001 / 3:50 p.m.
See context


Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, sometimes speech is silver, sometimes silence is golden.

It is unfortunate that our colleague from Lanark—Carleton decided to use the time he had left, although that is his right, to complete his presentation. It is not that we do not recognize his erudition and his eloquence, but it had, I believe, been agreed among our various colleagues to allow the member for Cumberland—Colchester, who unfortunately had a plane to catch, to speak for a few minutes to this bill. He really wanted to and will not be able to, unfortunately, under the circumstances.

I know this is not common practice in this House, but I would like to mention, for the constituents of my colleague from Cumberland—Colchester and the people of Nova Scotia, that he wanted to speak in this House on the bill, but circumstances prevented him from doing so.

I am very pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-35, in part because I have fond memories of my stint on the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade as the former Bloc Quebecois critic in the matter. I refer to the act to amend the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act.

I would right off like to congratulate our colleague from Mercier on an excellent job in this matter.

This bill sets out the privileges and immunities enjoyed by diplomats and international organizations in Canada. It sets out Canada's obligations under the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations that took effect in 1963.

I would first say a word on diplomatic immunity. It has, let us not fool ourselves, had bad press. We recall the death of Ottawa lawyer Catherine MacLean and the injuries suffered by her friend Catherine Doré. They were struck in March by a Russian diplomat posted to Ottawa, Andrei Knyazev, while he was unfortunately intoxicated. Mr. Knyazev escaped prosecution because of his diplomatic immunity. Russia, in a gesture I cannot support, refused to waive the immunity.

Members will recall that the Minister of Foreign Affairs announced at the time that he would do something so that foreign diplomats arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol would never drive again in Canada. I am surprised that the bill before us makes no mention of this. We will certainly have an opportunity to question the minister on the matter in committee.

People have trouble understanding that some people are above the law simply because they have diplomatic status. If a poll were taken today, I would not be surprised if a majority of the population said they were against diplomatic immunity. It is for this reason, curiously, that I come to its defence today.

Diplomatic immunity is essential for the success of international relations. In many countries of the world, arbitrary decisions take the place of the law. In some areas, there is no freedom of religion. In others, criticizing the government is a crime. If the diplomats we post to these countries were not protected by diplomatic immunity, they could be imprisoned at a moment's notice, or even executed for the slightest criticism or indiscretion.

In such conditions, without diplomatic immunity it would be difficult for the Government of Canada, and even for the House of Commons, to take action vis-à-vis these countries without endangering the lives and the safety of the Canadian diplomats posted there. It would be difficult to intervene at the UN General Assembly. Without diplomatic immunity, our diplomats would have trouble coming to the assistance of Canadians in troubled regions around the world. In short, it would be difficult for diplomats to play their role fully. And the role that diplomats play abroad is an important one.

One has only to read the Vienna Convention to realize this. Diplomats are responsible for representing their government, defending it, negotiating on its behalf, promoting economic, cultural, political and scientific relations and finally, protecting its nationals. Without diplomatic immunity, these functions could be interrupted as soon as there was unrest in the country to which they were posted. And it is at these precise times that diplomats’ functions are most essential.

Diplomatic relations between states or sovereigns have always existed. What is more recent are the diplomatic duties performed within international organizations. These functions really took off with the creation of the United Nations, after World War II. But it is not just the UN. Progress in the transportation and communication sectors have helped the development of international organizations. Some, but not all of them are created by treaty.

In addition to these international organizations, we also have major international meetings and summits that are not always under the aegis of organizations, but nevertheless play an important role in international relations.

The current Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act is ill-suited to this new situation, hence Bill C-35, whose principle is supported by the Bloc Quebecois.

Still, several provisions of the bill raise questions and even serious concerns. We will see in committee how these concerns can be lessened. It is too early to say whether we will support the bill at third reading.

The definition of international organizations found in the existing act is very restrictive. In order to be considered as such, international organizations must be established by treaty. However, a number of organizations, including the OECD and the G-8, are not established by treaty.

The definition of diplomatic mission is also very restrictive. Indeed, the existing act only recognizes embassies or consulates accredited to Canada. Diplomatic missions accredited to international organizations are not recognized. There is a need to adjust the legislation to the current reality, where international institutions play a major role.

Quebec's international reputation, and particularly that of Montreal, is well known. This is especially true in cultural and educational areas, in the environmental sector, and in the aviation industry, where Montreal is known worldwide through ICAO, among others, the International Civil Aviation Organization.

There are already 70 international organizations in Montreal, including 40 that are recognized through agreements with the Quebec government. Seven of these organizations are made up of states and would be covered by Bill C-35. Under Bill C-35, diplomatic missions accredited to these organizations will enjoy the same privileges and immunities as diplomatic and consular missions accredited to the government.

The presence of these international bodies in Montreal has a direct economic impact in excess of $185 million, as well as over 3,300 jobs. On top of that, there are the international meetings attracted by their presence in Montreal. This is another aspect of Bill C-35 which will help Montreal develop its international role. Major international meetings participated in by other countries, might enjoy privileges, taxation ones in particular, under this bill.

Nevertheless, the Bloc Quebecois is extremely perplexed by certain clauses in this bill, as I have already said.

First, the definition of international organizations. In the present act, an international organization is defined as any intergovernmental organization of which two or more states are members, while Bill C-35 adds “whether or not established by treaty”, which is a good thing. However, the French expression “regroupant” (bringing together) has now been changed to “formée de” (made up of) several states. Why?

Does this mean that an international organization of which several states are members, but also federated states or provinces, would no longer be recognized? I am thinking here, of course, of the Francophonie, and also of other organizations in which Quebec will be sure to participate, because they deal essentially with matters over which Ottawa really does not have much, if any, jurisdiction, such as culture, education or health.

The bill has as little to say about interparliamentary associations. These, as we know, are becoming increasingly important. Some even have a permanent secretariat here. I am thinking in particular of COPA, the Parliamentary Association of the Americas, one which is very familiar to you, moreover, Mr. Speaker, and is headquartered in Quebec City.

These parliamentary associations may have foreigners on their staff. They are not comprised of states, but rather of parliaments. The bill does not mention this, and thus affords them no particular tax status. Here we have an excellent opportunity to proclaim the importance of the international role of parliamentarians. It would be a pity to miss it. We are entitled to question such matters, and will do so in committee.

Second, clause 4 of Bill C-35 has an impact on the recognition of delegations of what the bill calls, and I quote, “an office of a political subdivision of a foreign state”. This in fact refers to federated states, or provinces.

I will take the trouble to cite the legislation, because the issue is subtle, but very important. Section 6 of the existing legislation provides that the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Foreign Affairs may decide jointly, and I quote:

—for the purpose of according... treatment that is comparable to

(a) extend any of the duty and tax relief privileges provided for in the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations that have been granted to that office of the political subdivision of the foreign state, and to any person connected therewith;

In addition, the act provides that the minister may also grant to the offices and archives of these political subdivisions any of the immunities accorded to consular premises and archives by the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

Bill C-35 limits this. The duty and tax relief privileges are still there, but the immunity of premises has disappeared? Why?

And even with respect to tax privileges, the act provides that the minister may grant them only if he is of the opinion that, and I quote:

—the office of the political subdivision of the foreign state performs, in Canada, duties that are substantially the same as the duties performed in Canada by a consular post as defined in... the Vienna Convention—

This is a condition that is not in the existing legislation.

Federal states, particularly in countries consisting of more than one people, are playing an increasingly large role in international fora. The example of Belgium comes to mind, but there are others. Not all countries are like Canada, which uses every means possible to prevent the people of Quebec from bypassing Ottawa's filter and communicating with the other nations of the world.

Decisions taken in international forums now affect all areas, including some that do not come under federal jurisdiction. The role of federal states in these international forums will only grow.

Why then does Bill C-35 limit privileges, when the times we now live in would seem to require that they be broadened instead?

The Vienna Convention is based on the rule of reciprocity of treatment. If Canada reduces the privileges accorded delegations of foreign federal states represented here, the odds are that foreign governments will be tempted to want to reduce the privileges accorded Quebec delegations abroad accordingly. I have trouble understanding this restrictive clause, slipped into a bill the purpose of which is to be more open.

Quebec has 31 foreign offices: six general delegations, one delegation, seven offices and 17 sub-delegations on every continent.

These Quebec representatives abroad deal with co-operation, immigration and economic development. They play an essential role.

In passing, I would like to highlight one of Mission Quebec's successful economic missions last year, in which they came back with a one billion dollar Spanish investment, in the riding of my colleague from Mercier, to be specific.

Such success would have been more difficult without the presence of Quebec representatives abroad. We must not make things harder for them. Indeed, we must assist them. And one would think that this is the role of the federal government, as long as Quebec is a part of confederation.

Yet we know how much the federal government likes throwing wrenches in the works of Quebec when it comes to their international presence. We know how hard they work at erasing Quebec's presence in the international arena.

Much has been said about the federal government's little book for diplomats posted abroad on how to deal with separatist officials. We recall as well that one African country, Mali, was threatened with having all of its development aid cut if it invited Quebec to participate in a meeting of the Francophonie in the 1960s.

France had to intervene to solve the conflict, which in the end enabled Quebec, the only francophone state in North America, to become a member of the Francophonie. Such events make us suspicious. The government should reassure about clause 4 of Bill C-35.

My third concern, and I will end on this, regards the powers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. This aspect of the bill already concerned me. Bill C-36, the anti-terrorism act that was just introduced, increases my concerns.

Bill C-35 adds another section to the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act. It basically adds a new element that did not exist in the current legislation, that of security at intergovernmental conferences.

Indeed, the bill specifies that the RCMP, or the mounted police, as the Prime Minister calls it and as we used to call it 50 years ago, is responsible for the security of intergovernmental conferences.

One wonders what this clause has to do with the immunities and privileges granted to diplomatic missions and international organizations. This clause has nothing to do with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations that the bill on foreign missions and international organizations will implement. Moreover, subsection 3 of this clause reads, and I quote:

—shall not be read as affecting the powers that peace officers possess at common law or by virtue of any other federal or provincial Act or regulation.

If this clause does not have any effect on existing laws, then why include it? I do not understand. Let us keep reading. The same clause provides that:

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police has the primary responsibility to ensure the security for the proper functioning of any intergovernmental conference in which two or more states participate, that is attended by persons granted privileges and immunities under this Act.

In the past, that responsibility was jointly assumed by the RCMP and the provinces, as we saw during the last summit of the Americas held in Quebec City in April, when RCMP and QPP officers fully co-operated together. The presence of the QPP was indispensable and beneficial in maintaining order.

We can all think of this somewhat ridiculous situation where unilingual anglophone RCMP officers would ask in English unilingual francophone protesters to disperse.

In order to be effective, security measures must be applied jointly.

But let us continue reading clause 10. subsection 2 specifies that for the purpose of carrying out its responsibility under subsection (1):

the Royal Canadian Mounted Police may take appropriate measures, including controlling, limiting or prohibiting access to any area to the extent and in a manner that is reasonable in the circumstances.

This clause institutionalizes the security perimeter. It legitimizes any measure that the RCMP may want to take to ensure the security of international meetings. It gets the parliament's approval regarding measures that may be taken without parliament being involved, even indirectly.

It is not normal to close off cities, barricade neighbourhoods and fence off downtown areas so that heads of state can meet. I understand that it is necessary sometimes, but it is not normal. In fact, it is indicative of some discomfiture in the operation of international organizations, a lack of democracy and transparency and a lack of sensitivity to people's needs. This can only give rise to frustrations and then demonstrations.

This therefore is an abnormal situation that can be only temporary. These measures are exceptional and must be treated as such. There is no reason to institutionalize them, especially in legislation that will be permanent, since its function is to ensure the permanence of international relations. This is an important distinction.

As my time is running out, I will conclude. It is clear that this clause is drafted to measure for the G-8 meeting in Alberta next July. It is clear that it is intended to apply parliament's stamp to the security measures the police are preparing to take, which will be, as we may expect, extraordinary. We must avoid doing so. At the very least, we must avoid doing it in the context of legislation on diplomatic relations.

It is, however, all the more distressing, when we consider the context of the G-8 meeting. The anti-terrorism bill will have been passed by that time.

I point out that the definition of terrorism in the bill is so vague that a Liberal member went so far as to say that, under Bill C-36, the demonstrators at the Quebec summit could have been considered terrorists. We must bear this in mind when we consider Bill C-35. We must be extra cautious.

Freedom of expression, of association and peaceful demonstration are fundamental rights. They are in large measure what distinguishes democratic countries from totalitarian ones.

The Bloc Quebecois will have many questions for the minister about the appropriateness of putting this clause on the security of intergovernmental conferences in Bill C-35.

As can be seen, the Bloc Quebecois is raising numerous questions and concerns. Those questions will have to be answered and our concerns will have to addressed during consideration of the bill.

Nonetheless, we acknowledge the need to modernize the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act. Diplomacy is no longer practiced the way it was 30 years ago nor is it in the same forums.

Consequently, despite all the reservations that I mentioned, the Bloc Quebecois will support the principle of the bill.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

October 18th, 2001 / 3 p.m.
See context

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario


Don Boudria LiberalMinister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, let me start by thanking House leaders of all parties for their co-operation in these particularly tumultuous times. I think indeed the nation is well served by their co-operation.

This afternoon we will continue with the consideration of Bill C-15A, respecting child pornography and other amendments to the criminal code. I understand that consideration of that is nearing its end.

After that I will call the resumption of consideration of Bill C-35, respecting foreign missions. Should that consideration terminate before the end of the day, I do not propose to call other bills today.

On Friday we will deal with report stage and third reading of Bill S-23, the Customs Act amendments.

On Monday we will debate Bill C-37, the Alberta-Saskatchewan land claims bill, as well as any other legislation that may not have been completed under consideration over the next couple of days.

Next Tuesday shall be an allotted day. I believe it is in the name of the Canadian Alliance again.

On Wednesday we will consider Bill C-32 concerning Costa Rican trade.

I was asked a question regarding the preparation of the second omnibus bill further to the first one that is presently, as of an hour or two ago, before committee. I do not have a timeline on that yet.

As well, I am not aware whether the next bill would be a compendium of bills such as the first one was or perhaps only one or two in a separate manner. However I will try to obtain as much information as possible for the House leaders meeting next Tuesday so that I can make that information available through the House leaders to all colleagues.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

October 5th, 2001 / 12:45 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Canadian Alliance Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak on this very important bill which affects Canadians across the country.

I want to echo the comments made by the member from the NDP that this bill was expected to be merely a housekeeping bill, a bill which did not have much significance, a few amendments here and a few amendments there.

The fact is that buried within this so-called innocuous bill are many profound changes that can have a huge impact on the country, on the powers of the RCMP and on the ability of Canada to not allow certain types of individuals, terrorists and criminals, into Canada. It behooves the Canadian public to know what is in the bill. My colleagues will try to do that over the coming weeks, but we are certainly will not give it the free passage which the government wants.

The government brought this bill forward four days ago. It gave the bill to us two and a half days ago and did not even allow the Library of Parliament to give us an analysis of it. That is not appropriate. That does not provide for adequate scrutiny of the bill.

The bill would allow a number of things, including allowing the foreign affairs minister to order the detention by officers under the Customs Act of goods imported by a diplomatic mission or consulate post of a foreign state. This is very important. We know internationally that certain consulates and embassies use their consulate bags to import and move contraband around. It is known internationally that the contraband can involve diamonds, drugs and weapons. It can also involve the illegal trafficking of endangered species, which is worth billions of dollars. This illegal trafficking is responsible for the decimation of thousands of species around the world, many of which have become extinct.

The bill also deals with a clause involving the RCMP's primary responsibility to ensure the security for the proper functioning of any intergovernmental conferences that may occur. Clearly we do not have a problem with that.

I want to bring forward an issue that the NDP have been harping on for a long time, which I find quite offensive. NDP members keep on criticizing the RCMP about its actions at international meetings. It is true that there has to be some analysis, as the Hughes report mentioned, about certain activities. However, for heaven's sake, when individuals who protest are willing to advocate violence, or assault the police, or teardown banners or throw molotov cocktails at the police, the police have a responsibility to protect those who are behind them as well as protect themselves. It is totally irresponsible for certain parties and certain groups to expect members of the RCMP to stand back while certain individuals impart violence against others. It is the responsibility of the RCMP to protect individuals who come to Canada and to protect those who protest peacefully.

We do need to investigate those incidents in which peaceful protesters were somehow hurt. We should also investigate the incidents where banners were put up, but were then torn down and where people were apprehended and taken into custody or thrown in jail before anything actually happened. That violates our basic tenets of freedom of speech which cannot be allowed.

However we cannot keep on using the RCMP as a punching bag for certain political interests that may exist, particularly those who violently oppose anti-globalization efforts.

The bill also lists treaties, conventions and agreements that entitle foreign representatives to immunities and privileges. It was brought forward at some of the meetings here that some foreign leaders, who are thugs, or criminals, or who have grossly abused citizens in their countries, are allowed to come to Canada to attend international meetings.

There certainly is an argument to say that if we do not sit down at the table and discuss matters that may be very difficult and painful, then a resolution cannot be found. Some people we talk to are individuals who, by most definitions, would be considered murderous or thugs at the very least.

We can use a tool to work toward peace. Perhaps the quid pro quo for international despots to arrive at a table and be welcomed as a member of the international community would be that they show good will within their own countries and stop abusing and violating the basic rights of their people.

The international community could apply pressure on groups and leaders in countries from Sierra Leone to Liberia, Angola, the Congo, Sudan and others by using the lever that they genuinely put forth an effort to deal with the significant human rights crises and wars in their country or they would not be allowed to attend international meetings in Canada or abroad. This lever ought to be used.

The problem we have with international treaties is that while they have nice words, they are toothless. We have to put some teeth in international treaties like the Geneva convention, or the rights of the child or the convention on nuclear weapons.

From the United Nations, to the IMF, to the World Bank, many agreements are made, they sound nice on paper and in a perfect world they would make a lot of sense. However many of these treaties are violated, yet there are no penalties, no implications nor ramifications for those who choose to violate them.

I bring attention to an issue that the government has been involved with for a long time and that is the issue of the wars in West Africa. In Liberia, Charles Taylor the president, has for a long time played friend and supporter of a man by the name of Foday Sankoh, the head of the RUF a group of rebels who are committing atrocities in Sierra Leone. They go into villages and chop off the arms or legs of children, women and men, not with the intent to kill them but to terrorize them.

The international community has until very recently turned a blind eye. Only recently have we applied the tools and levers against Charles Taylor and Foday Sankoh to do something. The implications of failure, in this case, is that tens of thousands of innocent people have had one or more limbs amputated with hatchets and have been left to die. That is beyond comprehension.

This conflict is flowing into Guinea as we speak. This has resulted in hundreds of thousands more refugees and the destruction of entire sectors of this area.

Why I bring this up in relation to the bill is that Canada can indeed take a leadership role by applying pressures, using levers, and putting teeth in the international agreements which exist today. The argument to support it is not merely the obvious humanitarian argument that it is wrong to mutilate innocent civilians, or commit gang rape, or murder innocent civilians on the street or purge the economic resources of a country without sharing it with the civilians.

Perhaps the self-centred argument that should be put forth to the international community is that if it does not deal with these despots now then we will pay the price later on.

The costs of post-conflict reconstruction are massive. Whether we talk about the former Yugoslavia, West Africa, the Congo or Rwanda, the costs are in the billions of dollars. When the precursors to conflict were staring us in the face, as they have been for years, perhaps we should have got involved. The argument could be that if we had spent a bit of money, if we had put forward a bit of effort and if we had spent a bit of time and attention to deal with these precursors to conflict, economically we would not have had to deal with the disasters that followed.

We cannot talk about the penalty we pay in human terms. That far greater penalty is borne by the civilians in the some 50 countries around the world where bloody conflicts are occurring today and to which we in the international community have by and large turned a blind eye. We need to get involved. We need to apply levers internationally. There is an opportunity to do so in the international agreements referred to in the bill, in treaties and in the meetings we sometimes host.

Next year we will be hosting the G-8 summit. It is rumoured that the summit in part will deal with Africa. I hope it will also deal with the issue of terrorism. There is a grand opportunity for us as a nation to put some constructive solutions on the table. There is an alignment of the stars. Recently, led by South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki, a millennium plan for Africa has been put forth. It deals with such issues as economic development, conflict prevention, resource management, political changes, democracy and human rights. Rather than looking at the past, it deals with some pragmatic solutions that can be done now and in the future.

There is an opportunity for Canada to link up with the some 15 leadership countries on that secretariat dealing with the millennium project and merge the G-8 summit leaders with the millennium project in Africa so that there is some commonality in the actions they pursue. Next year in Kananaskis, there is a great opportunity for Canada to take a leadership role with the G-8 nations. Those constructive solutions could be put forward with the blessing and the co-operation of the members supporting the millennium project in Africa, most notably the South Africans. There would be an enormous possibility for pursuing peace and security.

The bill also deals with protecting individuals who have committed crimes in Canada, such as the tragic murder of a woman by a drunk driver, a Russian employee at the embassy. Canada has faced problems in dealing with that because of today's laws.

Motion No. 373, placed on the notice paper on June 5, deals with just that. It reads:

That, in the opinion of this House, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade should: (a) release the names of all foreign nationals and diplomats employed in Canada in the service of their country who are charged with an indictable offence under the Criminal Code; and (b) urge the sending states of said diplomats either to recall their respective foreign officers, allow them to proceed through the Canadian judicial system, or allow their diplomats to be subject to expulsion from Canada as provided by the Vienna Convention of 1961.

The motion would enable Canada to deal with individuals who have indeed committed crimes here in Canada, rather than allowing them to flee to their countries of origin.

There is another thing that may be of help to foreign service officers here and indeed to our foreign services officers abroad. Once they come to Canada, their families cannot work. It is a problem. Similarly, the families of our foreign service officers cannot work when they go abroad. It would be useful to have provisions in the bill that would allow the family members of individuals who are employed by foreign embassies in Canada to work in our country. The quid pro quo would be that the family members of our foreign service personnel working in our embassies abroad could work in those countries. That would be beneficial to them and would provide a great deal of security for the individuals and their families.

The bill also deals with a number of immigration issues. My staff in Victoria and the staff of every member in the House have been plagued by problems with respect to the immigration department. The bill could have dealt with that.

For example, the visa officer is in Gambia for the hearing process once every six months. The office in Gambia deals with a lot of refugees from the bloody conflicts in Sierra Leone , Liberia, Guinea and others. If that foreign service officer comes down with the flu, that officer may not get there for a year. People who apply for refugee status in Gambia can only get hearings every six months and sometimes it takes a year. Bear in mind that this is only one step in the emigration process.

That office in particular needs to be looked at. There are other problems. People who go to that office say that the individuals who work there do not really care. When informed that gangs of people were shooting refugees in Sierra Leone on sight, they said there was no danger. Imagine. The international community knows that people have been shot, murdered and chopped up in Sierra Leone, yet our office in Gambia said that there was no danger. When a boatload of refugees was sent back from Sierra Leone, the office in Gambia denied that it ever happened. Either that department is overwhelmed or some significant structural problems exist there.

There are serious concerns in the embassies in India and the Philippines. I do not know if those concerns have been substantiated but the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration needs to look at this issue. Visas are potentially being sold and there are suggestions that people are being bribed.

Not Canadians, but nationals working in our embassies in the Philippines and India allegedly have been selling visas and access to the immigration system in Canada. That is not appropriate. We have repeatedly brought this to the attention of the minister yet we have had no significant response from her to date. Given the number of people who are coming through India and the Philippines it would certainly behoove her to investigate what is going on at those two embassies.

The filing fees and landing right fees are prohibitive for a number of individuals. There has also been little flexibility on the part of the departments there and pettiness has been shown in terms of the documentation required.

We are very disappointed that the government has not taken the bull by the horns. It has not demonstrated to the House the importance of the bill and the critical issues contained within it. We feel the bill is quite sneaky.

The bill should have dealt with reforms to the IMF, the World Bank and the United Nations. There were opportunities in the bill to deal with some conditionality arrangements. They ought to be made but they do not exist.

Conditionality is critically important within the context of how we disburse our taxpayers' funds through these organizations. The World Bank is primarily tasked with aid and development. The International Monetary Fund deals with the security of international markets. The United Nations deals with a whole collection of issues.

The bill could have made suggestions on how our members internationally could reform these systems. It could have enabled the UN, World Bank and the IMF to communicate with each other more effectively. Canadians and the international community would be absolutely appalled to learn that those organizations rarely speak to each other. That they rarely speak to each other now is actually headway because they hardly spoke to each other before. That is bizarre given that all three organizations are supposed to be working in concert on a number of critical international security issues.

There are a number of opportunities in the bill. The Canadian Alliance will try to improve the bill by offering constructive suggestions and solutions to deal with the issues within it. I therefore move: That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “that” and substitute the following therefor: “Bill C-35, an act to amend the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act, be not now read a second time but that the order be discharged, the bill withdrawn and the subject matter thereof referred to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade”.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

October 5th, 2001 / 12:35 p.m.
See context


Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of my colleagues in the New Democratic caucus to debate the important legislation before the House. The legislation was tabled only a couple of days ago so there has been limited opportunity to study it. My comments are made in that light.

We have been told by the government that the bill contains technical changes to the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act and is in effect a housekeeping bill. I urge parliamentarians to give careful scrutiny to the changes proposed in the legislation because the implications of a number of them are serious indeed.

I will not speak to all aspects of the legislation because we are debating the principle of the bill at second reading. However the member for Surrey Central raised a number of concerns that we share.

The proposed amendment to the definition of international organization would be an important change. It would give privileges and immunities to international government organizations such as APEC, the G-8 and others, even if they are not treaty bodies. We would want to study the amendment carefully in committee in terms of its implications.

I will talk about the bill's proposed amendments to the Immigration Act. At present government representatives who wish to enter Canada and who have criminal records are required to obtain a minister's permit. This provision of the Immigration Act applies whether they are world leaders or members of delegations to international conferences.

Frankly in the absence of compelling evidence to the contrary it is the way the law should remain. It is unacceptable to suggest that an individual who is a government representative, part of a delegation to an international conference, or for that matter a world leader, should not be required to obey the law and submit to the same requirements with respect to ministers' permits as anyone else.

During this debate a number of my colleagues have referred to the former Russian diplomat charged with the serious offence of drunk driving, an offence that gave rise to the tragic death of a Canadian.

If that individual were part of a delegation to an international conference it would surely not be unreasonable for Canadians to have the opportunity to say no. If he were convicted of the offence he should not be entitled to enter Canada as a member of a delegation. At the very least he should be required to obtain a minister's permit to do so. In other words, it is not acceptable that ministerial permit provisions be invoked only in cases of war crimes or crimes against humanity.

There are other provisions in the legislation on which I will not comment but which I hope we will have an opportunity to discuss in committee. I am concerned about the apparent absence of consultation with provincial, territorial and municipal governments about this important legislation.

The federal government has indicated in background documents that it understands and accepts the urgency of working in partnership with provinces and municipalities to provide the most appropriate and effective security arrangements for all federally hosted international meetings.

If that is the case why did it not bring forward the bill following consultations with provincial, territorial or local jurisdictions? In the committee that studies the bill we will want to ensure these levels of government have been fully consulted and that we have heard from them before the bill passes.

In my remaining few minutes I will focus on the provisions of clause 5. This is the new clause that gives what is called statutory authority to provide protection or police powers.

The government's briefing notes say the amendment was developed in response to security issues raised by the summit of the Americas. The Department of Justice and the Department of the Solicitor General of Canada arrived at the view that the existing common law authority of the government to provide security and protection for these events should be given a statutory basis.

However clause 5 of the bill raises grave questions about the extent to which we are prepared to not only codify existing police powers in law but significantly enhance them. Many Canadians, including myself and my colleagues in the New Democratic Party caucus, are concerned about the growing criminalization of dissent in Canada. We have seen an alarming trend toward giving more powers to the police. Bill C-35 is part of that trend.

Recently the House adopted legislation to give police and law enforcement agencies sweeping powers to break the law in the pursuit of their goals. We in the NDP opposed that legislation. We oppose the bill now before the House because it provides no clear statement as to why it is necessary to amend the law.

The government has put Bill C-35 before the House before presenting us with its package of so-called anti-terrorism legislation. I understand that it will be tabled before the House when we return in about 10 days. We will need to scrutinize it carefully because it is precisely at times like this that our most fundamental civil liberties and human rights are most vulnerable.

We all recall the invocation of the War Measures Act in 1970. While it may have been popular with the public it was recognized in retrospect to have been a significant overreaction. I am proud that it was my colleagues in the New Democratic caucus of the day, led by David Lewis, who stood and said no, that it violated the most basic and fundamental rights of Canadians. We will need to be vigilant regarding the legislative package that will be tabled in the House when we return.

Bill C-35 would give new powers to the RCMP. Clause 5 states:

(1) The Royal Canadian Mounted Police has the primary responsibility to ensure the security for the proper functioning of any intergovernmental conference in which two or more states participate, that is attended by persons granted privileges and immunities under this Act--

(2) For the purpose of carrying out its responsibility...the Royal Canadian Mounted Police may take appropriate measures, including controlling, limiting or prohibiting access to any area to the extent and in a manner that is reasonable in the circumstances.

That is a sweeping and dangerous extension of the powers of the RCMP. In light of the recent abuse of those powers in the context of the APEC summit we should not be prepared to grant new powers lightly to the RCMP. The report of Justice Hughes raised serious questions about the extent to which it might be necessary to codify in statutory terms the relationship between political authority and the RCMP. Bill C-35 would do nothing of the kind.

Perhaps the most serious illustration of the abuse of RCMP powers was the recent summit of the Americas. We are told the amendment before the House is a response to security issues raised by the summit. Rather than responding with a statutory extension of the powers of the RCMP we should be asking tough questions about the abuse of police power and criminalization of dissent we witnessed at the Quebec City summit of the Americas.

We in the NDP and others have joined in calling for an independent public inquiry into those abuses. Over 6,000 tear gas canisters and over 900 rubber bullets were fired.

Many of the victims were people who were engaged in peaceful, non-violent, legal protest against the assault on democracy, the environment and human rights that was taking place inside the RCMP's wall of shame.

Why on earth would the government now bring forward legislation extending new powers to the RCMP when Canadians are asking very serious questions about the abuse of the powers it currently has.

Take the case of Éric Laferrière, for example, who was hit with a rubber bullet, a rubber bullet fired at his throat. He was taking part in a peaceful protest, but was shot and hit by a bullet fired by the RCMP. He will never be able to speak again. Obviously, he will be suing the RCMP.

I have to wonder how is it that this government is prepared to grant more powers to the RCMP, when there are so many questions regarding the abuse of power during the summit of the Americas in Quebec City, last April.

We oppose this legislation and we certainly will ask tough questions when it comes to hearings on the bill. It is essential that the committees study very carefully the provisions of this legislation and call extensive witnesses from civil liberties associations.

Representatives of the Quebec Civil Liberties Union published a report which seriously criticized the conduct and actions of the RCMP, especially its use of tear gas and rubber bullets.

We will want to hear from them and others. Before we are prepared to accept these changes in legislation, we want to be convinced that it does not represent a very dangerous and unacceptable extension of the powers of the police.

Criminalization of dissent in this country is a serious concern and this legislation may very well contribute to that alarming tendency. For that reason, I rise on behalf of my colleagues in opposition to the bill which is now before the House.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

October 5th, 2001 / 12:20 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Gary Lunn Canadian Alliance Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-35 on behalf of all residents of Saanich--Gulf Islands and as the international trade critic for the coalition in the House of Commons.

My hon. colleague is accurate that this is a lot of housekeeping, but a few important issues should be brought to the floor of the House of Commons. One of the primary points the bill deals with is extending the definition of who should be granted diplomatic immunity.

Under existing legislation the definition covers international organizations of formalized institutions which are based in treaty. It does not cover organizations such as the G-8, the OSCE and APEC. When we host these very important international meetings there is discussion on whether the legislation is there to grant immunity.

It is important to emphasize that in no way would the legislation override the crimes against humanity and war crimes act which would supercede this legislation. Anyone who has committed a crime under the crimes against humanity and war crimes act would in no way shape or form be given any kind of immunity under any circumstances.

We were given short notice of the bill. From what we have been informed it is basically a housekeeping bill. I do have concerns whether we would be going too far in granting additional immunities. Are they absolutely necessary?

Members will recall when an Ottawa woman was killed by an impaired driver who was a Russian diplomat? There was huge public outcry that the driver should be brought to Canadian justice. Having said that, the democratic representative caucus will be supporting the bill.

Another issue the bill deals with is the primary role of the RCMP. It is to be responsible for security of international meetings such as APEC and the G-8 summit. That is a positive step.

Following the APEC meetings in Vancouver the Hughes report recommended that the role of the RCMP be formalized. It would be appropriate for the government to put more substance in the bill rather than just broadly describe that the RCMP is the primary organization responsible for international meetings.

Some parameters need to be set around security so that we can remove the political interference which was very apparent in Vancouver. Millions of taxpayer dollars were spent on subsequent inquiries that the government was compelled to call. That type of detail is not present here.

What are the parameters of the RCMP when it is entirely responsible for the security of international meetings? That should be laid out so there is no necessity to have any discussions of a political nature between the commissioner of the RCMP and anyone else at a senior level such as the Prime Minister's Office or senior levels of government.

We feel those concerns should have been included in the bill. We want to ensure that the police do not overstep their bounds or violate the Canadian charter of rights. I am not suggesting the police would do that, but we do not see that information in the bill.

Bill C-35 is primarily a housekeeping bill. It would extend diplomatic immunity to people attending a conference in Canada such as the G-8 summit or APEC. I will be recommending that the members of the conservative coalition support this housekeeping bill.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

October 5th, 2001 / 10:10 a.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the people of Surrey Central I am pleased to lead the debate on Bill C-35, an act to amend the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act.

My colleagues in the Canadian Alliance and I resent the sneaky way in which the bill was introduced. The first debate is taking place four days after the bill was tabled in the House and three days after opposition MPs had a first glance at it. We are debating the bill on a Friday when most MPs are on their way to their constituencies for a one week break.

The government is trying to slip some major changes through parliament by hiding them in an innocuous looking act surrounded by mundane housekeeping provisions. There has been no advance notice from the government side, no media coverage and no press release from the department. There was no legislative summary or explanation of any kind provided and the Library of Parliament was not instructed to prepare such documents.

There was no meat on the bones in the briefing of the opposition by the department on Wednesday. There was very little in terms of information regarding the legislation. We did not have time to consult and debate it in our caucus. The opposition was not given enough time to adequately prepare, research and develop an indepth analysis. Perhaps this was intentional, and I am tempted to oppose it on that basis alone.

The bill amends the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act to modernize the privileges and immunities regime. This would allow Canada to comply with its existing commitment under international treaties and to respond to recent developments in international law. It corrects the deficiencies in the existing definition of an international organization. It attempts, perhaps as a marketing tool, to encourage international organizations to come to Canada. It empowers the RCMP with the primary responsibility of ensuring the security and proper functioning of intergovernmental conferences.

This authority supports the security measures taken by the Canadian police in fulfilling Canada's obligations to protect persons who have privileges and immunities under the act. It attempts to give security and protection a statutory basis. Security at international conferences will be quite significant, especially in light of the recent terrorist attacks and the upcoming G-8 summit in Canada. Despite all of these significant issues the bill is labelled as housekeeping in nature.

The bill proposes roughly 10 amendments in five broad categories. The first category of amendments modernize the legislation to comply with Canada's existing commitments under international treaties and to respond to important new developments in international law.

For example, international chemical weapons inspectors that conduct inspections under the chemical weapons convention would enjoy immunity at par with that of foreign diplomats. It would enable the inspectors to import specialized technical equipment without paying customs duty.

The second category of amendments correct deficiencies in the existing definition of an international organization. Traditional definitions cover only international organizations of a formal institutionalized nature based on treaty such as the United Nations.

Unstructured intergovernmental organizations such as the G-8, OSCE and APEC are not covered by that definition. This is a concern because non-treaty based organizations are less accountable to Canadians since they are established by an order from cabinet rather than by a treaty which is then subject to review in parliament.

The Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act went into effect in 1991. If this is a housekeeping change, albeit an important one, why did it take the weak Liberal government over eight years to correct these deficiencies? It has been sitting on these improper definitions for eight years.

This shows the government's general attitude of neglect. The government has neglected so many important issues facing Canada such as the budget, national security and safety, health care issues, defence and agriculture, it is always taken by surprise by situations such as this one.

The third category of amendments gives statutory authority to support security measures for Canadian police to provide security and protection to persons who attend high level meetings held in Canada such as APEC, the summit of the Americas or the G-8.

The government says that the legislation clarifies the role of the police, but in the same breath the amendments authorize the RCMP to take appropriate measures that are justified, reasonable and proportionate under the circumstances. The government uses words like reasonable, appropriate, proportionate and so on.

Lawyers make millions of dollars from vague words like reasonable, appropriate and proportionate. The Hughes report on APEC cost over $5 million. Bill C-35 would multiply that by many times. It might also curtail freedom of expression, the right to peaceful protest and assembly.

Does it mean that pepper spray, stun guns or even bullets would be appropriate and reasonable? I wonder if this is an escape valve for the Prime Minister to avoid political controversy such as the one over pepper spraying at the APEC summit in Vancouver in 1998.

The reason the Prime Minister and his government do not want to clarify the powers of the RCMP and write them in common law is that it potentially leaves room for political interference. They prefer to keep the directions vague so that they can exert political influence whenever they need to do so.

How could the police possibly satisfy the charter requirements? If the bill were passed it would be an invitation for endless charter challenges because the terms are vague. The words appropriate and reasonable cannot be defined clearly. It would provide wide umbrella coverage for the RCMP to take any action against people who are protesting peacefully. This cannot be justified.

This is a matter for debate and will probably lead to many court cases. I do not understand what the difference would be then between the approaches taken in a repressive regime that we condemn and in a free and democratic Canadian society.

Bill C-35 leaves no question of who is in charge of the situation since it is the primary responsibility of the RCMP to ensure security for the proper functioning of an international event.

The department's shallow briefing notes state that these amendments have no impact on the powers of provincial and municipal police forces. Some members on the other side say that these amendments may not give the police any new powers. Why are these amendments there in the first place? Is it a sugar coated but bitter medicine?

The common law authorities of police forces have been clarified in legislation in countries such as Australia and New Zealand. Why do we not do that in Canada? Our criminal code says that police officers are responsible only to the law itself.

These amendments may affect any number of outstanding court cases to date of protesters arrested at the summit of the Americas in Quebec City or during APEC in Vancouver, British Columbia. That has to be seen.

In principle there are few problems with clarifying the role of who is in charge of security at these important meetings. My concern is that Canada's police, especially the RCMP, is already stretched to the limit.

The Canadian Police Association recently accused the government of playing shell games with the security of Canadians. It said in a press release that when it comes to security at our borders and airports Canadians should not be lulled into a false sense of security. It explained that the RCMP had to borrow from Peter to pay Paul. It means that the RCMP has been moving officers to priority areas in the wake of the terrorist attacks.

If the RCMP has to reallocate officers from one assignment to the other then we have to study the impact of adding to those demands and responsibilities without adding further resources. Could this mean that when the G-8 comes to Kananaskis next year RCMP officers will be pulled away from their duties providing security to our citizens and communities and leave them without protection?

The fourth category of amendments seek to clarify provisions granting immunities from immigration restrictions to alien registration and overriding the Immigration Act provisions that prohibit the entry to Canada of inadmissible persons but not overriding the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act.

According to the amendment, when an order is passed under the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act the requirement to grant a minister's permit under the Immigration Act would be removed. The minister's permit would be granted by the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration because it is related to immigration matters, but under this amendment that would be overruled.

What would happen if a leader or a representative of a country happened to be a criminal or terrorist? The amendment overriding the Immigration Act would allow for that criminal to have easier access to Canada because he or she would be given access by the foreign minister or immigration minister who may not have all the checks and balances in place.

Where would one draw the line on the nature and magnitude of criminality? What kind of minor criminal act would be exempt? What is the definition of a minor criminal act? We do not know. September 11 brought security concerns to the forefront of everyone's consciousness.

Bill C-35 would allow the foreign affairs minister to supercede the authority of the immigration minister by allowing him to sign an order for a foreign visitor to be admitted into the country who would otherwise not be allowed to come to Canada.

I hope the Minister of Foreign Affairs does not want the House to rubber stamp this power grab.

If we take a less neutral example, not a Nelson Mandela, but a leader known to have committed human rights abuses or supported terrorism, the government would have the authority to admit him or her on political grounds, if they thought it furthered Canadian interests. What a ridiculous idea.

This gives more power to the government than with which most Canadians would be comfortable. Also, this power grab by the Minister of Foreign Affairs creates a situation where a serious criminal would be treated better and differently than an ordinary person with a minor criminal record.

The bill would create a double standard. For instance, a person with a criminal record, even a minor criminal record, would not be allowed to enter Canada under special privileges. Whereas a spouse of a Canadian with a minor criminal charge would not be. That person would be allowed to enter Canada, despite the person's criminal record, but an ordinary person with a minor criminal record would not.

I do not say that criminals should be admitted to Canada, but for the sake of this example it might be a case which would cause a Canadian family to split. It could also cause a marriage to break down because that individual, who may have committed a minor criminal offence, would not be able to rejoin his or her family in Canada. Allowing the government to use vague words like national interest is not good enough.

It is already clear that the act centralizes a lot of power in DFAIT. Is it the bureaucrats, or the Prime Minister or the cabinet who will decide? We do not know that because the bill does not tell us. The amendment is vague and leaves wide latitude that can be abused or even accidentally or unintentionally erred.

We know that at the francophonie games a record number of sports persons applied for refugee status. Imagine if the participants had come under permits from the foreign affairs minister, superseding the immigration minister. Where are the checks and balances? Who will find out what their backgrounds are? It brings the immunity of delegates to international conferences and international organizations into question.

Under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, Canadian authorities do not have the right to arrest, detain or question diplomatic personnel. Canadian authorities cannot search or enter their premises. Also, the convention obliges Canadian authorities to protect diplomatic premises. This also includes the premises of not only the diplomatic missions, but also the premises of international organizations. This means that a terrorist or a potential criminal entering Canada under the guise of diplomacy would not only be immune from prosecution in Canada, but our authorities would also be responsible for his or her safety. This is giving the red carpet treatment for potential terrorists, spies from other countries, criminals or even brutal dictators.

The bill would do two things to supposedly improve the immunity of foreign officials in Canada. First, it would expand the number and type of people who would enjoy immunity. Second, it would deepen the level of immunity they would enjoy.

How about extradition if someone under diplomatic privilege is charged in another country? Could that person be immune and not extradited to that country? We do not know that. The bill does not touch on that part at all.

The fifth category of amendments are called housekeeping amendments. There are many amendments, but one that got my attention. It is disgusting that it has been included in a supposed housekeeping section. It clarifies the governing statute for diplomatic missions to import liquor into Canada.

Canadians still remember the immunity given to the Russian diplomat who killed a Canadian citizen last year while driving drunk. This was in spite of a number of previous drunk driving allegations in Canada for that individual. I wonder if that Russian diplomat was ever charged for his crime anywhere, in Canada or in Russia. We do not know that.

The question about this amendment is not duty free status. I do not have a problem with that. The question is about the drunk driving aspect. The bill does not mention any measures about diplomats under immunity driving drunk or being involved in a fatal accident while driving drunk. Not only that, according to the bill this murderer could be allowed back into Canada as part of a Russian delegation to a conference. While he is on Canadian soil, he could kill someone else and his immunity would protect him again. That is pathetic.

The government now wants to expand the number of people enjoying these privileges. This is a serious concern. Our briefing by the department said that this section was to clarify the confusion over federal and provincial jurisdiction in the area of liquor imports and diplomatic rights because the liquor imports were a provincial jurisdiction. This means the potential for harm is greater than before the bill was introduced. It highlights the insensitivity of the government.

The lack of proper checks and balances is already a problem with the general concept of immunity and the bill would only make the matter worse. Maybe that is why the government is keeping the bill so quiet on a Friday, when no one is participating in the debate.

Some other serious concerns I have with the bill are covered under three categories. The bill does not deal with so many other important issues, for example, the corruption at foreign missions. The bill is in respect to the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act. When we talk about foreign missions, we must talk about how our foreign missions operate. The corruption at foreign missions is a serious issue in the wake of security concerns. Our security begins at our foreign missions abroad. They screen people before they even enter Canada. They are our first line of defence.

Some strange things have been going on in Canada's diplomatic missions overseas. Let me first point out that most of our diplomats and foreign services civil servant employees are very honest, hard-working and dignified individuals. I commend them for the jobs they do in representing Canada abroad. However, I will mention that there are a few bad apples as well.

I will give some examples. In Damascus a Syrian national skimmed close to half a million dollars in visa processing fees and tampered with the immigration computer for years. The RCMP managed to recover about a quarter of a million dollars from that individual in 1999.

In the New Delhi and Islamabad High Commission offices, corruption has been reported frequently. Based on the information given to me by my constituents, I reported this to the immigration minister and the RCMP.

After the investigation they fired some locally hired employees based on the information I provided them. The question is who was minding the queue.

It has been reported that an office boy at the Canadian high commission in New Delhi, who was supposed to mail out Canadian visas after they were issued, did not mail them. He sat on those passports, hiding them in his drawer, yet wrote down that he mailed them. Every passport had an address so he sent his agents to the holders of these passports and extorted bribes from them before releasing their passport. That individual is gone.

In Beijing an internal report for CIC warned of organized crime groups providing fake documents to people interested in obtaining student visas as a back door entrance to this country. According to the facts, at least two-thirds of the more than 5,000 visa applications processed in Beijing in 1999 were linked to organized crime.

In Los Angeles three Americans from the Canadian consulate were fired in 1997 after they were connected to theft and the illegal issuing of visas.

According to reports, an RCMP spokesman said the mounties had investigated 38 cases of fraud and theft in about 20 Canadian diplomatic missions in 1998 alone. The extent of corruption and abuse is giving Canada a black eye.

In Hong Kong the RCMP quietly investigated the alleged infiltration of the computer assisted immigration processing system, we call CAIPS, by local staff at the mission who were said to be linked to triads. Remember these foreign missions are our frontline of defence. An estimated 788 computer files containing sensitive background information on criminals and businessmen wanting to emigrate to Canada were allegedly deleted from the computers. In addition, the RCMP probed the alleged disappearance of more than 2,000 blank visa forms from the embassy. We do not know who got the visas issued on those 2,000 blank forms or whose files were among the 788 computer files deleted.

The RCMP confirmed investigations of a large immigration consultancy firm believed to have used a secret diplomatic contact and possibly a political contact as well. There is evidence the RCMP knew that the suspect in the case of the missing Hong Kong files on gangsters was living British Columbia. Some RCMP officers were puzzled as to why there had been no follow-up on that information. According to a newspaper report that suspected individual is living in British Columbia in a beautiful mansion.

Our foreign missions are our firstline of defence for Canada, but I do not see anything in the bill that would protect and restore the integrity of our foreign missions. Despite an abundance of leads, the discovery of fake Citizenship and Immigration Canada stamps in the office of a locally engaged staff member, there have been allegations of political pressure to cover up the investigations.

A number of RCMP officers were assigned to the case and then abruptly transferred just as they made significant finds, according to a former senior employee of the department.

Canadian diplomatic staff in Hong Kong were reported to have been treated to nights at the horses races, parties and an abundance of gifts. The RCMP investigated a night at the races involving red envelopes stuffed with dollars. The investigation showed that what they were doing was carrying on with corrupt officials at the horse races and giving them huge sums of money. They showed that they won the money at the horse races and black money was turned into white money which they could then bring into Canada and do whatever they wanted with it.

In some cases the whistleblowers were harassed, punished and even dismissed from their jobs. Despite all that, no independent public inquiry into these cases was held. It is pathetic. We need a public inquiry into what went on or may still be going on in some of our diplomatic missions abroad. We need to fix the system. We need to restore the integrity. We ought to make it fair but there is no political will by the government to do that. There is no political will on the government benches to restore integrity in Canada's foreign missions. They are the defence line for us when people want to enter Canada.

The waste and mismanagement in our foreign missions are big embarrassments which have not been addressed in the bill. A civil servant blew the whistle on the spending of millions of taxpayers' dollars to keep Canada's diplomats in the lap of luxury. After senior foreign affairs officials violated treasury board guidelines, that official blew the whistle and we know what happens to the whistleblowers in this country. We do not have any whistleblower legislation. I have a private member's bill on whistleblowing but I do not know when I will have a chance to debate it in the House.

According to that employee, expensive sites have been purchased for offices or residences but they are left unoccupied for many years. If the official does not like the property, he or she is allowed to rent another expensive apartment to live in and the initial investment is wasted.

One site was purchased in Turkey in 1958 and it is still unoccupied. Why did we invest in buying that property in 1958 when we are not using it? It is the taxpayers' money. The litany of waste and negligence has been reported. Millions of taxpayer dollars have been blown on staff housing from Tokyo to Turkey to Mexico. I am not talking about the utilization of the money; I am talking about the waste, the real waste, the real mismanagement.

The civil servants who blew the whistle have been suspended. They have been harassed and their careers have been paralyzed. Has there been a public inquiry? No, there has been none whatsoever. Is there a political will to fix these problems? No, we do not see that. Is there anything in the bill to address these issues dealing with foreign missions? No, there is nothing about these issues mentioned in the bill. This is an area of concern.

Another important issue that the bill ignores is Canada's membership in international organizations. I remind members that the title of the bill is “Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act” but there is no mention of Canada's membership in international organizations in the bill.

Canada belongs to many international organizations. Perhaps we are the world's greatest joiners. Some organizations shut down in the 1970s and those organizations are still on Canada's membership list. We should join international organizations if we intend to do a good job, otherwise we should not join them. We should not join them just for the sake of joining.

What are the criteria for joining the international organizations? We cannot find them anywhere in the bill. It does not address that issue at all.

We know for sure that the costs Canadian taxpayers a lot. Canada's total expenditure on international organizations is difficult to assess. A few years ago we wanted to do some research but we could not get that information. Even the Library of Parliament could not get enough information. It is difficult to assess.

One CBC study estimates that Canada spent as much as $1 billion annually on the United Nations and its related agencies. In 1999-2000 assessed grants and contributions to international organizations were said by DFAIT to total about $275 million.

Canada has a tendency to view multilateralism as an all embracing panacea. Its reflex reaction to international problems has often been to support and even aggressively promote the proliferation of international organizations.

One example is the Arctic Council, founded in 1996. Touted as a forum for Arctic issues and sustainable development among circumpolar states, its precise purpose and utility still remain unclear. Moreover, United States enthusiasm for the council is limited. As a result, the council cannot deal with military security matters. It is open to question whether Canada's membership in such organizations bears tangible relation to our national interests. This concern is not new.

In 1928 the then opposition leader, R. B. Bennett, noted that the Mackenzie King government's enthusiasm for signing international agreements did not clearly advance Canada's interests. He questioned the increasing evidence as the days went by of a desire on our part to find a place in the sun by signing conventions and treaties, thus suggesting that we had become a very important people. Importance in the world is not measured in any such manner. In other words, joining a proliferation of organizations does not by itself promote Canada's influence and credibility. Bennett added that that is not a test of our greatness.

Under the current Liberal administration, Canada signed the Kyoto, Beijing and Rio conventions without any intentions whatsoever of implementing them.

Ottawa seems to be proud of its record of paying our dues and frequently criticizing our major ally, the United States of America, for deliberately falling into arrears. Whatever Canada's record is on paying fees, no international organization that receives tax dollars should be immune from audits by the Canadian government. If we pay the dues, we should have the right to audit.

For example in 1995 UNICEF disclosed that $10 million went missing from its Kenyan operation due to fraud and mismanagement by its employees. Some $10 million from UNICEF was missing. In 1998 an independent audit of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees highlighted serious failings in the agency's financial management procedures, dubious accounting practices and possibly fraud at a cost of millions. That is what the situation is with some of the organizations.

These reviews show that we must examine the effectiveness and utility of an international organization to Canada before we join it. After such a review has taken place, parliament should decide what course of action is necessary, whether we should continue our membership, withhold the fee to induce reform in that organization, or withdraw fully from the organization.

I recommend that: Canada engage in international organizations which clearly promote conditions for expanding Canadian political and economic interests; the role of parliament be strengthened to provide genuine oversight over the activities of international organizations and the extent to which they serve Canada's national interests; Canada participate in audits and reviews in the international organizations with a view to remaining in those that advance national interests and consider withholding resources to induce reform.

In conclusion, this is a sneaky bill which does not deal with those important issues. It hides the important issues and disguises them as housekeeping changes. I mentioned that waste, mismanagement, corruption and membership of international organizations are serious concerns with respect to the bill.

Since it has been indicated that my time has expired, I will end my speech here but I have more to say.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

October 5th, 2001 / 10 a.m.
See context

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville Québec


Stéphane Dion Liberalfor the Minister of Foreign Affairs

moved that Bill C-35, an act to amend the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

October 4th, 2001 / 3:10 p.m.
See context


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would be pleased to inform the House of the business statement. As announced and unanimously adopted by the House, we will now proceed with the emergency debate under Standing Order 52 concerning softwood lumber.

Tomorrow we will consider Bill C-35, the foreign missions bill. Should that legislation be completed tomorrow I do not propose to call any other legislation or government bill.

Next week the House does not sit.

On Monday, October 15, we shall have an allotted day. I have consulted with opposition House leaders about a bill we propose to introduce that day and debate on the following day. The bill will introduce measures to implement the United Nations conventions; amend the criminal code, the Official Secrets Act and the Canada Evidence Act; and propose other measures to improve security and protect Canadians. We hope to commence consideration of the bill on Tuesday, October 16.

I take this opportunity to inform the House that we are making arrangements to give the relevant critics an advance briefing of the contents of the bill on the morning of October 16 prior to its introduction. I intend to discuss this with House leaders at the earliest opportunity. I will arrange to do so early on the morning in question so critics can have an advance copy of the bill. Obviously we intend to make quantities of the bill available on introduction.

We intend to seek the consent of the House to have introduction of government bills at 11 o'clock that morning rather than 3 p.m. We want to give hon. members additional time to familiarize themselves with the bill because by exception we would be dealing with it on the floor of the House the next day.

Hon. members have been very co-operative in this regard. I take this opportunity to thank all House leaders for the co-operation they have demonstrated in the face of these important events. I thank them for their co-operation in advancing other legislation and the consideration they have thus far given my suggestions in that regard.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActRoutine Proceedings

October 1st, 2001 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

Ottawa South Ontario


John Manley LiberalMinister of Foreign Affairs

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-35, an act to amend the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act.

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