Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup.
I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak about the issues raised by Bill S-7. However, I would first like to offer my condolences to the families of the Boston Marathon victims and express my support for this extraordinarily resilient community.
Terrorism is a horrible thing, and we need a responsible approach to combat it without losing what defines us as a society. When Osama bin Laden launched the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001, he said that he wanted the North American way of life to disappear forever.
Since those attacks, Western countries have lost a little bit of their candour, and we have had to face our own limitations. At the centre of the lifestyle we share with our American neighbours is the rule of law and the civil liberties enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. These social markers are at the heart of Canadian identity, and we must protect them as our most precious treasure, because if we willingly abandon our fundamental rights, then what is the point of combatting terrorism?
This is the main question behind my opposition to Bill S-7. In my opinion, this bill is ineffective and pointless in the fight against terrorism and it directly threatens my constituents' freedom.
We all know that Bill C-36 was rushed through in 2001 following the attacks on New York, which made a deep impression on our minds. Who does not remember those events, even 12 years later? Yet very few people remember Bill C-42, which allowed the government to declare temporary military zones in which fundamental freedoms were suspended. This millennium opened with a new interpretation of our most fundamental freedoms.
Why this aside when talking about Bill S-7? It is simply to show the House the risks of passing a bill such as this one in a time of emotional distress.
What happened in Boston has had an effect on all of us, but if Bill S-7 was so urgent, why did the Conservatives wait until now to introduce it? If I did not trust in the good faith of the members opposite, I would be tempted to say that they are trying to use this tragedy to conclude the debate on Bill S-7 so that they never have to hear about freedom of expression within their own caucus again.
Among other things, Bill S-7 would reinstate sunset provisions contained in Bill C-36, which expired in 2011. That is the case for recognizance powers, which the government is trying to put back on the table for no apparent reason. Other provisions, such as investigative hearings, are cause for concern.
The fact that these provisions were not applied between 2001 and 2007 does not seem to be of great concern to this government. Moreover, with respect to recognizance powers, the Conservatives insisted at report stage that this provision apply to individuals who are not suspected of conducting terrorist activities.
In summary, with Bill C-36, we introduced the idea of preventive detention and provisional judgments grounded in mere suspicion. Is there anyone here who wants to be the object of such suspicion? Bill S-7 goes even further. It reintroduces a sunset clause for an obvious purpose and, moreover, it tries to apply the provision to people who are not even suspected of being terrorists. It is not a mistake: the broad scope of the provision is intentional.
What are we doing? Are we going to put people in jail on the grounds of a suspected suspicion? I am sorry, but that is not the democracy in which I want my grandchildren to grow up. Suspending an individual's freedom because of a suspicion is very arbitrary. No longer requiring this suspicion would be utter madness. Furthermore, this provision could result in 12 months of preventive detention, 12 months of imprisonment without a conviction. What has happened to Canada?
The reading of Bill S-7 raises questions for me that I must ask. If the government wants to extend an anti-terrorist provision not only to terrorists, but also to those suspected of terrorism and, basically, everyone in general, where is this all leading to?
Anti-terrorism legislation like this is not worthy of a state governed by the rule of law. It is not actually used anyway, and our Criminal Code has up to now proved to be adequate for tracking down terrorists. With this type of legislation, we are opening the door to broader applications, which we are already seeing in Bill S-7.
If memory serves, Bill C-42 was used when the government declared the community of Kananaskis to be under military jurisdiction for a G8 economic meeting in 2002. Who were the terrorists? Al-Qaeda, or the global justice movement? Bill C-36 may not have been able to defend the country, but it sure got the authorities all worked up in 2010 during the notorious “Torontonamo”, when the city centre was locked down and $1 billion was spent on security for a simple G8 meeting on the economy. The result was 1,000 Canadians imprisoned and convicted with no evidence, and civil liberties taken away, first inside the security perimeter, then around it, and finally all over the city.
If the authorities feel that they can act like that at a simple demonstration about the economy, what will they do in other situations? I firmly believe that anti-terrorist laws give quite the wrong message to our forces of law and order. “Torontonamo” was strongly criticized in official government reports, but the harm was done. How many other accidents like that are we going to have to deal with before we realize that anti-terrorist legislation can become “anti-Canadian” legislation?
If the Conservative government really wanted to improve security in Canada, why did it cut the budget of our border intelligence unit by half? Why did it end a program designed to recruit more police officers in our communities, and why did it abolish the position of Inspector General of the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service?
Furthermore, the NDP proposed a number of amendments that would have made Bill S-7, if not satisfactory, at least tolerable. But the Conservatives rejected all of our amendments. So we have to learn to live with investigative hearings, a technique worthy of medieval witch hunts, that could well pervert our justice system. Rather than confronting the potential threats hanging over our country, the Conservatives seem to be more interested in using them to significantly change the nature of justice in this country.
In my opinion, Bill S-7 is poorly designed and does not add anything substantial to the Criminal Code, other than the potential for misuse and abuse that we will all regret one day. Bill S-7 should be examined much more carefully before it is passed, since the issues this bill raises are much too important to be left to the whim of the government in power.