Public Safety Act, 2002

An Act to amend certain Acts of Canada, and to enact measures for implementing the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, in order to enhance public safety

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

Sponsor

David Collenette  Liberal

Status

Not active, as of April 29, 2002
(This bill did not become law.)

Elsewhere

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.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

May 30th, 2002 / 11:20 a.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Progressive Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

One minister.

What this means is drive-by martial law. The zone can be established wherever the minister parks a military vehicle. Anyone can be forcibly removed from a military zone. The penalty for contravening a controlled access military zone is a fine or a year in prison.

The minister's designation is not subject to the Statutory Instruments Act. The minister will not have to ensure that the designation is authorized by other statutes, and that it does not breach the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is an extraordinary power, an unlimited power, which the government wants to give the Minister of National Defence. It is a power which could establish martial law anywhere in Canada.

As I have said, this could be in the National Assembly of Quebec, or on the grounds of Alberta's legislative assembly. It could be anywhere at all. This power is in the hands of this government and it will not be subject to the limits set out in the legislation governing the government's activities in other cases.

I raised these matters, not only in the House, but also in a letter some days ago to the Prime Minister. On May 21, I received a letter from the Prime Minister telling me not to worry, to be happy, that there was no problem. Does the House actually believe that a government that would send Alfonso Gagliano to Denmark would abuse its authority over military power? That is the essence of the letter.

Let me quote two or three portions of the letter. He addresses my argument that we do not need this law because we already have the Emergencies Act. The Prime Minister, in his letter dated May 21, said: “The Emergencies Act is a means of last resort”.

Does that not put into a very interesting context the frequency with which the government intends to use the power it would have under Bill C-55? He said the government would use the Emergencies Act as a last resort, and that is not enough. Therefore the government is asking for a power where parliament has no control. It is a power it would use as a first resort, not a last resort, but whenever the mood struck it. It would use this terribly abusive instrument to establish marshal law wherever the Minister of National Defence chose to establish it, or to abuse the other provisions in the bill, without any consultation with his colleagues .

In my time here I cannot remember a more dangerous piece of legislation than the one before us. Everyone who was shocked by the throwing into jail without charge of Canadian citizens under the War Measures Act must remember that this bill would take the Liberal government of the member from Saint-Maurice back exactly to the point and to the power exercised and abused by the government of the late Mr. Trudeau. Mr. Trudeau had the War Measures Act. The present Prime Minister wants it back. The difference was that after the Emergencies Act we in parliament had control to protect the citizens of Canada. This bill takes away that control of parliament. It is a bad and dangerous bill.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

May 30th, 2002 / 11:15 a.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Progressive Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, I had an opportunity to speak earlier on this bill and I intend to again because it constitutes a very fundamental and important threat to the freedom and civil liberties of Canadians. I also believe that it is a bill that is absolutely unnecessary. All the powers the government needs already exist in the Emergencies Act, as my colleague just indicated. That Emergencies Act was brought in more than a decade ago to replace the War Measures Act which was used with such terrible imprecision by the Trudeau government, the Liberal government of the day, to throw Canadians into jail without charge in a shocking chapter of our Canadian history.

What did the Parliament of Canada do about that? For years we were concerned that powers of that kind not be invested again in a national government. The Liberal Party frequently offered and promised, as it promised for example to bring in an ethics commissioner, that it would change the War Measures Act, but it did not change it. It took another government, one in which I was honoured to serve, to introduce changes that got rid of the War Measures Act and brought in the Emergencies Act in its place. It gave the Government of Canada the same powers that it needed to act in an emergency but also built in for the first time the capacity of parliament to review, revoke and control any government actions taken under the War Measures Act.

What does this bill do? It retains the power for the government but takes away the power of control by this parliament.

This is not about terror. This is about accumulating more power for a Government of Canada that already has too much power. Day after day in the House the government has demonstrated that it is far too open to abusing its power. This bill would be bad at any time, but particularly now when we have a serial situation of minister after minister, on relatively minor matters, breaking the trust of the House and abusing their powers.

Imagine, if the Liberals abuse that kind of power with regard to advertising contracts, how threatening it would be to Canadian citizens if a government, whose tradition has already been to invoke the War Measures Act, had the power to abuse the fundamental rights and liberties of individual citizens without any kind of recourse or control by parliament.

It is a very dangerous piece of legislation. I am pleased to see that some members of the government party are standing up and taking exception to individual portions of the bill. Certainly we in our party, and I am pleased to see other parties in the opposition as well, will do what we can to draw attention to the very dangerous aspects of this bill.

Among other things, Bill C-55 will allow the Minister of National Defence to act solely on the recommendation of his chief of defence staff, to designate what are called controlled access military zones. This means any property in Canada, private or public, can be designated a military zone if there is a piece of property or a person which the government believes needs to be protected.

The language of the bill is imprecise. In effect, what it says is that if the government moves any military equipment any place in Canada, the bill would allow it to designate the air above, the ground below and the territory around, wherever that military instrument is put, as a military zone. What instrument might it be? It could be a staff car, a tank, an army boot or anything that under a reasonable definition of the law constitutes something that belongs to the Department of National Defence.

If that is the case and that staff car suddenly shows up in Kananaskis or suddenly shows up on the front lawn of the national assembly of the province of Quebec, or the front lawn of Queen's Park, or the front lawn of the legislative assembly of Alberta, by this law the federal government would have the right to declare the air above, the ground below and the area around that military item to be a military zone where federal martial law could apply. That is a frightening provision. It may or may not be the intent of the government, but that is clearly what this law says.

Section 74 of Bill C-55 amends the National Defence Act to add the definition of a controlled access military zone. The minister may now designate any property that is provided for Canadian Forces or the department and is situated outside a defence establishment—clearly civilian territory.

The new section defines a controlled access military zone as, and I quote subsection 260.1(3):

an area of land or water, a portion of airspace, or a structure, or part of one, surrounding a thing referred to in subsection (1) or including it, whether the zone designated is fixed or moves with that thing. The zone automatically includes all corresponding airspace above, and water and land below, the earth's surface.

In effect, the minister would be able to designate a tank, a car, a ship or an army boot as a controlled access military zone.

All area around it, above or below is now subject to control by the military. The dimensions of the zone are not defined. The bill only states, and I am quoting from subsection (4), not greater

than is reasonably necessary to ensure the safety and security of any person, thing or property.

Note that it says reasonably necessary. Who is the judge of what is reasonably necessary? This is left entirely to the discretion of the Minister of National Defence.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

May 30th, 2002 / 11:05 a.m.
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Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Madam Speaker, this is the second time I speak to Bill C-55 and every time I take the floor I try to bring a feminist dimension to the debate. I believe it is important to do, so because women make up 52% of the Canadian population. They have the right to express their opinions on such an important bill, which will regulate some of their actions in months and years ahead.

This morning, I will base my comments on what women told us following the events of September 2001. They came to meet us in last October or November to oppose unilateral decisions that would impact on the safety of their families and children.

I believe women are not against an act designed to maintain public safety. Women in Canada and in Quebec, however, have concerns about the safety of their children and their families and really want this bill to be debated in a spirit of transparency. Women do want their children and families to be safe, but under fair and sound measures.

Women have problems with some of the provisions of the bill. They believe three elements will create a very significant problem. The first element deals with unlimited powers that one or more ministers may have in the areas of health, emergency measures or transportation.

In terms of health, allow me to consult the notes I took following this meeting. Part 5 of the bill, which amends the Department of Health Act, empowers the minister to make an interim order if he believes that immediate action is required to deal with a significant risk to health or safety. I believe that the provisions about dealing with a significant risk are those women are suspicious of. Il will come back to this later.

As regards emergency measures, what is urgent? At the moment, women have needs. They have become the backbone of health care across Canada through their personal involvement. They play the same role in education. Is this not urgent? What is urgent for one is not necessarily urgent for another.

With regard to transportation, the element that raises a problem is safety. We know that air carriers will have an obligation to provide information. I am thinking about an abused woman who is hiding, about a woman who needs to leave the country in order to get information. If she is tracked down and found, this does not really ensure her safety.

The second element has to do with controlled access military zones. I will also come back to them.

The third element deals with personal information. We now know that the privacy commissioner has said that there would no longer be personal information because we will be forced to provide it to an agency under a minister or an senior official.

With regard to the first element, the unlimited power to make interim orders, women in Quebec and Canada remember how the then Minister of National Defence behaved in December, I believe in the case of prisoners taken in Afghanistan and brought to Guantanamo base. Women remember the defence minister's lack of judgment; he hid these operations from parliament and Canadians. We also think of Big Brother.

Women's confidence in the Government of Canada is very limited, in view of some of its actions. Women want to know how far ministers who have to make decisions under Bill C-55 will go. They do not trust the government. They wonder how much logic and transparency these men, who govern, who make decisions, will demonstrate. Indeed, we know that there are not many women in the decision making circles. Will women's views be taken into consideration?

Women also wonder about the credibility of both the Canadian Security Information Service and officers. It is mentioned in Bill C-55 that officers may take decisions. Women are concerned by this. As for the controlled access military zones, once again, women's quality of life would be affected.

I also want to stress that the women of Quebec, and I am one of them, remember the October crisis in 1970. I experienced that crisis personally. At the time, I lived in a Montreal neighborhood where there was an army presencet. The psychological impact of that was terrible. I remember the events as if they had happened yesterday. I remember the atmosphere of war and some images are stuck in my mind. I was in what could be called a controlled access military zone at the time. In my neighbourhood, there was a curfew and we were watched. I was a young girl and I could not even go out as I pleased. This marked me.

Just like me, the women of Quebec remember that. They are not convinced that controlled access military zones will not reproduce what they experienced in those days.

Furthermore, getting back to women's demands, and I want to stress this, we see that the women of Quebec, just like the women all over Canada, have taken part in marches. The first one was not promoted as widely; it was the called the bread and roses march, and was held in 1995. Women took part to say “We experience poverty every day; we are often victims of violence. We need a more equitable and fair system. We need measures for our children and our families. We need the government to pay better attention to our concerns”.

In 1995, they marched. In 2000, they marched again and they went and got support from around the world. It was another step. They came here to tell us that the situation could not go on. There is still a great deal of poverty in Canada, where there are 1.3 million poor children. There is still a great deal of poverty among single parent families with low incomes. The federal government has withdrawn from social housing. There is also a great deal of violence that does not get much attention.

I think that women have had enough. They have marched twice, but they will not march three times. When women see the federal government with a $60 billion surplus while they are the ones struggling to maintain health care, education and social services, as I was saying earlier, they could possibly march a third time, but this time it will be with a lot more clout.

They could possibly go further in their actions. What guarantee do they have that, in a context of transparency, justice, equity and freedom, they will be able to make their grievances known? When they marched at the people's summit, if I understand the current bill correctly, they would have been in a controlled access military zone and they would not have been allowed to express their views.

Women are so sick and tired of the situation, they are so exasperated that they will have to go further. And when they do decide to go further, will they be told that they are not allowed to do so for public safety reasons? Will controlled access military zones be created to prevent them from expressing their views?

Im closing, I will just say this. How does the Public Safety Act, 2002 make women feel safer?

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

May 30th, 2002 / 10:55 a.m.
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Bloc

Gérard Asselin Bloc Charlevoix, QC

That was not long ago. I will point out, for the benefit of our viewers, that this was last Friday.

Last Saturday, the Prime Minister learned that it was no longer the case, that things had changed. Even the minister misled the Prime Minister. There were elements which he did not consider important but which actually were important under the code of ethics for ministers. He should have informed the Prime Minister. On Sunday, the Prime Minister took his responsibilities, perhaps to sweep the scandal under the rug.

Who got the axe? The Minister of National Defence did. He made an error of judgment by giving a contract to his ex-girlfriend; this was unacceptable. Such a thing cannot be tolerated, because it amounts to patronage. The government is managing the taxpayers' money.

Public affairs have to be managed properly, by calling for tenders and going with the lowest satisfactory bidder. This is complying with the requirement for transparency. The fact that bidders are party members, former or future contributors to the party or are close to the organization is irrelevant. Such things should not be taken into consideration.

When reference is made to controlled access military zones, the Summit of the Americas, held in Quebec City, comes to mind. The Government of Quebec, the Quebec government machinery, was very close to the site. Hon. members will recall the demonstrations that took place during that summit.

Why? Because the public has become more aware of globalization, and wants to know what is going on at such summits, to know what will be discussed, how it will affect them, and what will happen as a result. The texts were not made available, which created frustration. I supported their actions resulting from those concerns about decisions often taken by only one person.

If at some point a controlled access military zone were to be declared, emergency measures could also be declared and any citizen found in that zone could be arrested. This would be the case even if that person's home, workplace, school, or other place he or she generally went to happened to fall within this zone.

For a certain length of time—reduced from the original 90 days to 45—they could arrest and imprison young people, women, men, seniors, anyone who happened to find himself or herself in the wrong place, because the federal government, the defence minister, had decided that, in connection with a given event, a given area would become a controlled access military zone. The minister can determine that this zone will cover x square kilometres around the site in question.

Had this been the case during the Summit of the Americas, it might have had the effect of immobilizing the population of Quebec City. This is why we in the Bloc Quebecois deems it unacceptable.

Then there are the interim orders. The minister may decide—a little correction has been made, changing the 90 days to 45—their initial duration. Then they need to be confirmed by the governor in council.

The other thing, which we see as minimal, is that these interim orders must then be tabled in both houses of parliament within 15 sitting days following the decision.

Should the Minister of Health decide tomorrow morning, as my colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel has pointed out, that everyone needs to be immunized because of some bacteria or other substance, what would happen? What if the Red Cross or Héma-Québec had a blood shortage and the decision was made to require everyone to donate blood to replenish the supply?

In closing, I would like to point out that I come from a region that is far away from the federal government. My riding of Charlevoix is on the north shore. Bill C-55's $24 air travel surtax is unacceptable. It is harmful to the people in the regions, it is harmful to the carriers, and it should be taken out of the bill.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

May 30th, 2002 / 10:55 a.m.
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Bloc

Gérard Asselin Bloc Charlevoix, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise this morning on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois to speak to Bill C-55.

Bill C-55 is a reincarnation of Bill C-42. Why was Bill C-42 not approved unanimously, or at least by the majority of parliamentarians in this House? Why did they not support Bill C-42?

First, because of the Bloc Quebecois' performance. MPs from every opposition party did what they had to do to make the government aware of the mistake it would make if Bill C-42 was passed as drafted. Naturally, opposition MPs tried repeatedly to ask questions of the government during oral questions period. In committee, they tried to do their job as parliamentarians and asked those who would be affected to various degrees by Bill C-42 for their input. The majority of witnesses who appeared before the committee said clearly that the federal government was on the verge of making a major management mistake by passing this bill as drafted.

The Bloc Quebecois was not satisfied to just state its position and speak up against Bill C-42; it did its part by participating in the debate to make the government aware of the problem, and putting forward amendments to fix the bill, which smacked of dictatorships and gave responsibility to just one person, for which the government could have suffered some serious consequences should one minister make an error in judgment.

As a result of the Bloc Quebecois' position and the quality of the speeches made by the Bloc Quebecois' leader, the parliamentary leader, various critics and the work done by party staff—we put forward some worthwhile and quality amendments—the government had no choice but to say “This makes sense. What they are saying is important. We are on the verge of making a mistake. We must change our bill”. This is how Bill C-55 came about.

However, Bill C-55 does not get to the bottom of things. The government put back in the bill part of what the Bloc Quebecois' amendment had modified, it removed what lobbyists did not want to see in Bill C-42, what was bothering or intimidating them. We are talking about those who have connections, or have access to various ministers on the government side. The government did not want to disappoint them. This part of the bill was eliminated.

The bill before the House has been improved, but I believe it is still unacceptable. Why? Because it would give extremely dangerous powers to a single minister who, since he may act in a moment of panic or exercise responsibilities without consulting cabinet, might make an unfortunate decision.

Of course, if it were Friday, the Prime Minister would defend his national defence minister, as he did for the public works minister. On Friday, he defended the minister. What happened on Saturday? On Sunday we learned that the two same ministers were gone. Yet, on Friday, they were considered to be good ministers. They had done what they had to. The decision they had made was important. On Friday, everything was fine.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

May 30th, 2002 / 10:45 a.m.
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NDP

Wendy Lill NDP Dartmouth, NS

Madam Speaker, I am deeply concerned that again we have this legislation before the House in its present form. It is especially disturbing that the government has decided to refuse the reasoned and rational requests for major amendments. The bill has to be changed. Like its predecessors Bill C-36 and Bill C-45, which was wisely withdrawn, it gives priority to an anti-democratic measure taken in the name of protecting our democracy. It fails the basic test of protecting our civil liberties from the state.

We are a country with a proud tradition of fighting for democracy. On Monday, I was dockside for the return of one of our proud naval vessels from anti-al-Qaeda patrols in the Arabian Sea. It is alarming to see the paradox of our brave sailors putting their lives on the line for our democracy while parliamentarians are trying to rush through a bill which would take powers from parliament and allow more single decisions from ministers to deprive Canadians of their civil liberties.

As an example, let us first look at the part of the bill that I find most troubling, the so-called military security zones from Bill C-42. These have now been changed to “controlled access military zones” in Bill C-55. The bill, with amendments, stipulates that these zones can be created only to protect Department of National Defence property or foreign military assets within Canada. These changes do not sufficiently address our concerns about how the power to create these zones could be abused. The basic message of the bill is that all of us, and including the very institutions Canadians have created to express their democracy and protect their freedoms, like parliament, like a free press, like public debate, have to trust the decision making ability of a single minister to restrict access to a designated place for any length of time the minister would like and we should not be able to question the decision. In fact we may not even publicly know about the decision.

Given our history of policy over reaction at APEC or in Quebec City or at the G-20 meetings just down the street from our Chamber, I frankly do not trust any single minister to protect the civil liberties of Canadians. Given the state of allegations of scandal and mismanagement being levelled at the ministers opposite, I am not sure that any Canadians trust any single minister to protect their civil liberties when left behind closed doors, yet this is what Bill C-55 is asking us to do. By doing this, the bill is attacking the democratic values those brave sailors who came home on Monday are fighting to defend.

Last year, along with my leader, I met with women from the Muslim community in Halifax and Dartmouth and we heard their very real fear of the legislative changes that the government was bringing forward in response to the September 11 attacks in the United States. Many of them came to Canada because they believed that our democratic traditions would protect them from oppression, but this series of security bills, of which Bill C-55 is the latest, makes them afraid to answer their doors: once again it may be the police taking them away because of the ethnicity of their name. Specifically, I wonder if provisions of the bill could be used against them because of their religion or their ethnic background.

I have been with teachers opposed to this bill because of the attacks on their civil liberties. I have met with immigrant service organizations who tell me of the fears of their clients. This legislative reaction of the government in response to the September 11 attack goes way too far and, we believe, way too fast. Where is the sunset clause on these measures?

One of the ideas touted by numerous witnesses on Bill C-36 was the idea of an American style sunset clause. This would have had the effect of forcing the government to reintroduce, debate and amend the legislation for it to take effect for another period of time. A three-year time limit affecting different aspects of the legislation was suggested by numerous witnesses.

The New Democratic Party proposed an amendment that addressed these concerns. However, the government had already decided that it would only include a watered down sunset clause by which the House and the Senate would vote after five years for a motion to extend the investigative hearings and preventive arrest sections, two of the most controversial measures in the bill. Though this is better than no clause at all, it is not a sunset clause in the true sense. Rather than the government having to reintroduce and re-examine legislation, this would simply require that the government tell its members and senators to vote an extension of that which currently exists in Bill C-36. The government refused to sunset Bill C-36 and it has never even entertained debate on a sunset clause for Bill C-55.

In just a few weeks there will be a G-8 summit meeting in Kananaskis, Alberta. I was amused yesterday to see that the member for Wild Rose was on his feet calling protestors terrorists for insurance purposes even before any protest has taken place. Even though I fully expect that the people in the Calgary march and the demonstrations will be peaceful and I believe that if there is a protest village in the bush the only violence committed will be against the mosquitoes and the black fly population, I fear for the protestors' safety because of reactions of people like the member for Wild Rose, people who have already called these peaceful labour and anti-globalization activists terrorists, a word that has serious legal consequences thanks to Bill C-36 and Bill C-55.

After seeing the violence at the summit of the Americas in Quebec City and at the APEC conference in Vancouver, I wonder how long it will take for the minister of defence or others in the government to simply start using these laws to stifle legitimate dissent that threatens the political future of the minister, dissent that does not have any real threat for the nation. Do not get me wrong, I oppose vandalism, even of McDonald's, but I also oppose any law that would equate these actions with the evil events of September 11.

I am strongly suspicious of the government. The tens of thousands of peaceful protestors are also suspicious of the increasing use of police force against demonstrators. The stubbornness of the government in refusing reasonable amendments to this historic legislation gives credence to these suspicions.

I believe in a democratic Canada. I take our civil liberties, given in our charter, extremely seriously. Let us take the time and make the effort to produce a law that protects our security while it defends our civil liberties in this anxious period in our history.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

May 30th, 2002 / 10:35 a.m.
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Bloc

Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-55, which replaces Bill C-42, which was withdrawn by the government. Bill C-55 was introduced in the House on April 29, 2002. Bill C-42 was withdrawn by the government because of strong criticism from the Bloc Quebecois in particular.

I would like to summarize the main features of Bill C-55 which are still problematic for the Bloc Quebecois. I would like to talk about certain points, such as controlled access military zones.

In Bill C-55, the government has tightened up the criteria for designating controlled access military zones, having listened to the Bloc Quebecois' arguments. However, our objections to certain points in Bill C-42 have not been reflected in the current bill and this is what bothers us.

It is still the minister alone who has the authority to designate controlled access military zones, the same minister who neglected to inform his government about the prisoners of war. Now he has been replaced by a minister whose experience lies in the banking world. What worries us a bit is that the latter has not yet proven his worth. He is responsible for an entire department. We hope that he will make the right decisions and that he can take a close look at this so that some of the problems in Bill C-55 are ironed out.

With everything that has been going on in the House recently, giving so much power to one minister, who is new to the department, is enough to worry us and the public.

One of our biggest worries is that it is still the minister alone who has the authority to designate controlled access military zones. In addition, the approval of the government of Quebec is still not required to designate a controlled access military zone in its jurisdiction. There is also the criterion of “reasonably necessary”. What does this mean? This criterion for determining the borders of military security zones has not really changed; it is still very discretionary.

The minister could, for reasons known only to him and without consulting anyone, define what is deemed reasonably necessary. In the largest city in my riding, there is an armoury. With this power that is conferred upon the minister alone, if he deemed necessary to protect his establishment or his property and if he deemed necessary to extend this protection to a larger area, he could, without notifying or consulting anyone, create a security zone.

I do not have anything against the fact that it may be necessary to protect a certain area and to ensure adequate security in a potentially dangerous situation, but perhaps it would be appropriate to notify the authorities, the property owners and the people.

In that regard, we think that it is difficult to confer that kind of power upon one single person, without any obligation to consult. That person alone will decide what is or is not good, and this is very dangerous, as the precedents have shown.

There have been cases where the minister alone has made a decision that has caused prejudice to those people affected by it. It is inadmissible that such power be conferred upon one single person in our society. It is like a dictatorship. It is just as if, one morning, someone woke up and said, like the Prime Minister did recently, “One day I am a democrat, and the next day I am a dictator”.

I am sure you agree with me that there is cause for concern when this kind of responsibility is given to one single person who has all the powers, as is the case now under Bill C-55.

As I said, the creation of a controlled access military zone or the making of interim orders would cause prejudice to certain people. These people could not always take legal action for loss, damage or injury.

If a situation like the one I was describing a moment ago arose, those who were wronged would have no legal recourse. It makes no sense. The power that would be given to one single person is immense: he would decide and he would apply his law, it is tantamount to a dictatorship. People would not have any avenue of legal recourse, could not find out how to defend their rights, because the minister alone would have decided everything. This is not what is called a democracy.

The grounds of international relations and the defence of national security, for which controlled access military zones could be created in Bill C-42, were not kept in Bill C-55. We can just imagine that now, any reason is grounds enough, as I described earlier.

There is another problem. It has to do with interim orders. The new bill still contains provisions allowing different ministers, and in one case, public officials, to use interim orders.

With regards to these provisions, there are two minor changes: tabling copies before parliament within 15 days, and the shortening of the period for which the order has effect without approval of the cabinet from 90 to 45 days

It also lacks an advance verification for consistency with the charter and the enabling legislation by the Clerk of the Privy Council.

The means justify the end. It makes no sense. To see what is going on right now, the way powers are being grabbed, someone can say “We will not consult anyone”, and no one can say a word. People may be wronged, but for reasons that the minister or certain officials find reasonably necessary—even though we do not really know what this means—all kinds of rights can be trampled without any consultations.

Based on the definition of the word dictatorship in the dictionary, it appears that this is where this bill is leading us. It is very alarming.

There is also the question of information. Bill C-55 will allow two other persons, the RCMP commissioner and the director of CSIS, to obtain information directly from the air carriers and reservation and passenger information systems operators. This means that privacy will be violated. They will obtain the passenger list.

The list can be distributed to the RCMP commissioner and the director of the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service for any reason, without those involved being informed and in violation of their rights. This is what happened back in Stalin's day.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

May 30th, 2002 / 10:25 a.m.
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Bloc

Gilles-A. Perron Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Madam Speaker, thank you for this opportunity to speak to Bill C-55.

I will summarize the process by which Bill C-55 ended up the House today. Everyone of course recalls the tragic events of September 11 in New York City. As a result, all countries panicked somewhat and decided to tighten up security and to enact legislation, which was more or less logical, because of this unacknowledged and officially undeclared war against terrorism.

For instance, I remember Bill S-23, an act to amend the Customs Act and to make related amendments to other acts, which in fact modified all procedures, particularly those involving the border with the U.S. and Canadian air or shipping entry points.

Even today, I will not criticize Bill S-23. It was, over all, a bill that made sense. It is still my position, however, that we moved far too quickly in passing it. We could have passed it with a provision to revisit it again in the House, maybe six months, a year, or eighteen months later, to see whether our decision had been the right one.

A number of members, if not the majority, have perhaps exaggerated or over-reacted to the events of September 11. The outcome of this was some of the bills that got introduced, such as Bill C-55.

Naturally, the ancestor of Bill C-55, though not much older than it, was Bill C-42. Hon. members will recall, in connection with that bill, that the Bloc Quebecois was strongly opposed to it, because we found it far too exaggerated. The whole opposition was against Bill C-42, as were some members of the party in power. The press was against it. Canadian rights and freedoms advocates were against it.

What has this government done? It has simply reproduced or cloned—cloning is very much a current issue—another bill, namely Bill C-55, by slightly altering the embryos to finally produce a new baby called Bill C-55.

Bill C-55 deals primarily with controlled access military zones. If we are not mistaken, a controlled access military zone means that the government and—this is what is especially hard to take—some ministers have discretionary power. Even some public officials could say tomorrow morning “We are taking control of this part of a city. It thus becomes a controlled access military zone”.

Can we really let ministers have the power to designate a zone and have it controlled by military personnel, when we know that many of them are not even able to control their own staff or themselves? I am referring here to the infamous sponsorship contracts. We have to wonder about this.

Considering how some of these ministers are currently behaving and spending taxpayers' money, will they be able to designate and control a controlled access military zone in an intelligent way?

I am personally affected by Bill C-55, because of my political convictions. The government opposite keeps telling us “Ours is a flexible federation. Ours is a federation that is in contact and in touch with the provinces”. Not true. Under Bill C-55, the federal government will never consult the provinces to find out what they think of a controlled access military zone. The decision will be made unilaterally and the provinces will have to deal with the problems.

Another part of the bill that concerns me has to do with the dimensions of the controlled access military zone. The bill provides that the dimensions of the zone cannot be greater than is reasonably necessary. What does reasonably necessary mean? It does not necessarily mean the same thing for me or for the hon. member for Charlevoix. My idea of what is reasonably necessary is completely different from that of each member in this House, including you, Madam Speaker. Yet, decisions on these dimensions are left up to the Minister of National Defence. He is a recruit. He has just been appointed to this position. His predecessor is gone; I do not know why, but I have an idea. The new minister will invoke what is reasonably necessary. Will he be reasonable or not? This is excessively dangerous.

Something else bothers me. Controlled access military zone may be created for reasons of international relations or national defence or security. The G-8 conference will be held in Kananaskis this summer. Will the Kananaskis region be designated as a controlled access military zone for reasons of international relations and to ensure the safety and security of participants? I do not want to be a scaremonger, but I would not be surprised if the passing of Bill C-55 lead to the designation of a huge area all around Kananaskis, which is a small secluded estate in a forest in the northern part of a province, as a controlled access military zone.

We should think twice. We are playing games with people's freedom. Is this bill not similar to the legislation known as the War Measures Act put forward in 1970 by then Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau?

As my colleague from Regina—Qu'Appelle indicated, to deal with a small group of 12 or 15 FLQ members, legislation was passed which violated the rights of thousands of Quebecers.

Unfortunately, I see that my time is up, even though I have a lot more to say.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

May 30th, 2002 / 10:10 a.m.
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NDP

Lorne Nystrom NDP Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Madam Speaker, I wish to say a few words on the bill before the House today. I am glad the solicitor general is in the House. Maybe he will take a serious note of some of the changes that people want made in the legislation.

I want to begin by saying that the bill is known as the public safety act, 2002. It replaces Bill C-42 which was introduced of course in the wake of the great tragedy in the United States on September 11. Today marks the official end of the cleanup of ground zero in New York. The appropriate ceremonies will take place there sometime today.

I suppose we can say that the bill represents an improved package for public safety initiatives over what we had in the previous package, which was the government's response in the wake of September 11.

September 11 was a great tragedy for the people in the United States. It was also a great international tragedy. Many people died, including many Canadians. I think some of the reaction of September 11 was to overreact in terms of our response to a very legitimate fight against terrorism.

I think the very first bill the government brought in was a bill of great overreaction. I guess that is probably a fact now. The government then withdrew the bill because of widespread public criticism throughout the country. There were all kinds of objections from civil liberty groups, parliamentarians from all political parties in the House of Commons, many commentators, people in provincial governments and the like. Bill C-42 was withdrawn and Bill C-55 has been brought in to replace it.

We in our party oppose Bill C-55 because it is still in our opinion an attack on human rights. It gives unprecedented powers to certain federal cabinet ministers, particularly the Minister of Transport. I think that is a dangerous way to go.

I was in the House of Commons in the 1980s when we had great pride in enshrining a charter of rights in our constitution. We went through a great debate about individual rights, the freedom of speech, the freedom of mobility, what should be in the charter and what should or should not be enshrined in the constitution.

After a long and sometimes acrimonious debate we decided to enshrine a charter of rights in the Constitution of Canada to protect the individual rights and liberties of every Canadian regardless of background or where we came from.

I suggest to members that the bill before the House today is an attack on those human rights. It gives far too much power to the Minister of Transport and certain other ministers of the crown.

We live in a parliamentary democracy. I think we need a great deal of parliamentary reform in terms of democratizing this institution and democratizing our electoral system in Canada. To give more power to a cabinet minister who can exercise those powers through an edict basically, through an order in council, through permission from fellow cabinet ministers around a cabinet table in this very building, I think goes too far.

I also believe that the present criminal code and the police powers we have are adequate. The present laws are adequate to deal with any terrorist threat, real or perceived.

Once we give this kind of power to a cabinet minister, regardless of who that individual may be, there is always the possibility of abuse of that power. I remember the War Measures Act in 1970. I remember the Trudeau government of that day. Pierre Trudeau was a person who was committed to civil liberties and civil rights. Despite the fact that he talked a lot about a new democracy and participatory democracy he invoked the War Measures Act to deal with the Front de Libération du Québec in 1970.

It was an overreaction. The Government of Canada under Pierre Trudeau took a sledgehammer to open a peanut. There were troops outside the House of Commons. It was my second year in the House. All kinds of innocent people were arrested under the War Measures Act. If I remember correctly there was a member of parliament across the way who was arrested under the act. He was the leader of the teachers' union in Quebec at the time. Other members of the House of Commons might have been in similar situations. I knew all kinds of people who were arrested under the War Measures Act in an overreaction by the federal government.

The leader of the opposition at the time, Robert Stanfield, supported the invocation of the act. When he left public life he said the biggest mistake he had made in his political career was to get up and support the invocation of the War Measures Act by then Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau and the Liberal Party. It was an overreaction.

I was one of the 16 members of parliament who stood in the House in opposition to the act. There were 23 of us in the NDP caucus and 16 of us stood in opposition to the invocation of the act. A feeling of hostility greeted us from some members of the House and many members of the public because of the fear being whipped up throughout the country at the time.

The government already has awesome powers. It and the military have tremendous powers under existing law. The criminal code gives police powers that are broad in scope. We have seen those powers exercised in the past. Additional powers do not need to be given to the Minister of Transport and other cabinet ministers to deal with the threat of terrorism.

There is nothing as fundamental as individual freedoms and civil liberties. That is why so many people are concerned about Bill C-55. That is why it should not be passed in the House of Commons before we recess on June 21. Sober thought should be given to the bill by all members of parliament over the summer months. I hope when we come back in the fall the Government of Canada will withdraw the bill and find it is not necessary in terms of security, peace, justice and freedom in our country.

Many of the freedoms we have were hard fought for and difficult to achieve. Taking them away by giving a cabinet minister this kind of power would be the wrong way to go. The powers the government wants to give itself are unnecessary. They would be an infringement on the rights of the Canadian people. We are a proud country in terms of trying to defend minority rights. I mentioned the War Measures Act as a sad reflection on our history where the Government of Canada overreacted.

As I watched the hon. member from Vancouver East walk into the House of Commons I thought of another time a Canadian government overreacted. Japanese Canadians were rounded up during the second world war and shipped to internment camps in the interior of British Columbia because they happened to be of Japanese ancestry. Canadians of Japanese ancestry were arrested and put into internment camps. That is part of the history of our country.

I am not suggesting this would happen again but it has happened in the past. Giving this additional power to a cabinet minister and the Prime Minister would invite overreaction in the future. That is why our party does not want to see Bill C-55 through the House of Commons. Bill C-42 which was in the House before and after Christmas was widely criticized as being draconian and dangerous for the freedom and liberty of Canadian citizens. I am sure that is why the government did not proceed with it. There was a public perception that the bill was an overreaction. Unfortunately, Bill C-55 offers little improvement.

In fact, this is the same bill. It may be slightly different, but this is essentially the same bill. This is why we must hold an extensive debate in the House and defeat this bill. This is crucial.

I hope my hon. colleagues in the Liberal Party will at least listen to one of their own members, a prominent civil rights lawyer from Montreal who expressed deep concern in the House that the bill would give undue power to cabinet ministers and diminish the civil liberties of Canadians.

Where is the liberalism in the Liberal Party? Why do its members not get up and defend the freedoms of ordinary Canadians? Is it not ironic that a Liberal Party is bringing in this kind of draconian legislation? I appeal to members of the Liberal Party to get up on their small-l liberal legs to speak out against this draconian piece of legislation.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

May 29th, 2002 / 5:25 p.m.
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Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today on Bill C-55. I want to commend my colleague from Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière for his performance. Indeed, I have things to add.

As I was saying during my last speech on this bill, in the area I come from, there is a military zone, a military base at Bagotville. I do not know if many members of the House know about it, but I can say that this base is responsible for issues concerning NATO. NATO is also represented on this base. It is a major military base, and I live 15 kilometres from it.

Tomorrow morning, the newly appointed minister—it may not be him, because, unfortunately, this seems to be a very rapid ejection seat—who is a total unknown, whose philosophy we do not know in terms of the powers that will be given to him by Bill C-55, might say that he has decided to take actions that might affect the surrounding communities. All we know is that the new minister is a banker, a guy who is used to count money, but is not used to say such things.

Like my colleague, I am very skeptical about the minister's qualifications at this time, during consideration of Bill C-55.

What is serious is that these zones will be restricted. Ordinary citizens, people in my region, will not know if they are in such a zone. If someone commits an offence and military personnel arrests that person, the military will not have to tell that person why. That person could be convicted and not know why; whether or not the person is convicted will be left to the minister's discretion.

This bill is really devious. I think that back home, it is the Quebec government that has the authority. It should be the one to exercise its authority. In this bill, the Quebec government should be given the authority to decide how things are to be done. That government is the first representative of those people who will be affected by this bill. But no, the Quebec government is not mentioned, it will not be consulted.

In my region, there is a very important mayor, Jean Tremblay. He came here to the House of Commons. He was laughed at. I cannot say it any other way, he was laughed at and he will not be consulted. We all know how they dislike consultations. Only the minister will have the power to decide unilaterally whether he will act or not.

As my time is up, I will be pleased to continue some other day.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

May 29th, 2002 / 5:05 p.m.
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Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, I am not necessarily happy to rise today to participate in the debate on Bill C-55, however, it is important that I do so.

This bill comes after others that were passed in this House. I think that we must take them into account when we make a decision on Bill C-55, which will allow for the creation of controlled access military zones.

I want to remind the House that, over the last few months, since the events of September 11, we have passed, in spite of the Bloc Quebecois' opposition, Bill C-36, the Anti-terrorism Act, and Bill C-35, where section 5 allows the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to take measures, including building walls around any area where events are taking place, in accordance with procedures to be determined by the RCMP alone.

So we already have, over the last few months, passed two bills that are very disturbing from a civil liberties standpoint. Amnesty International, in a report published yesterday and discussed today in the media, says that, since the tragic events of September 11, freedoms and democratic rights in general have regressed, and this is true in Canada.

Clearly, in a number of countries these days, including our neighbours to the south, arbitrary arrests are taking place, detentions without warrant, or even, as was done with the prisoners brought out of Afghanistan, the creation of special courts that do not come under any civil authority.

This morning Amnesty International announced that democratic freedom had experienced setbacks in almost all of the western world. Canada is not, unfortunately, an exception. Bill C-55, along with Bills C-36 and C-35, which have unfortunately already been passed, is one more proof of this. Canada's reputation is exaggerated as far as democratic freedom is concerned. One of the signs of this is that, ever since Canada has become a member of the Organization of American States ten years or so ago, it has signed not one of the regional conventions on basic rights. I feel obliged to denounce this.

Moreover, more and more stakeholders, including Amnesty International, have emphasized this exaggerated reputation Canada has as far as democracy is concerned. For instance, the latest issue of the Quebec chapter of Amnesty International's publication Agir spoke out against the Canadian government for its attacks on democratic freedoms.

We now have before us a new bill, Bill C-55, which is in fact a reincarnation of Bill C-42, which the government was trying to ram through, like Bills C-36 and C-35, but which was withdrawn as a result of criticism by the opposition, the Bloc Quebecois in particular.

So now we have its replacement, Bill C-55. This is the same bill again, except for a few cosmetic changes. For instance, the new terminology: controlled access military zone, instead of what was used in Bill C-42, that is, military security zone. Whatever the terminology, we are talking about exactly the shame negative effect on rights and freedoms.

Bill C-55 cannot therefore be supported by the Bloc Quebecois, as indeed Bills C-35 and C-36 were not, because of their totally arbitrary nature. Bill C-55 merely repeats what was in Bill C-42.

One might argue that some of the criteria for establishing these controlled access zones have been tightened up. Nevertheless, it is still the minister of defence alone who has the power to establish such zones.

Let us not forget that it was the minister of defence who, just recently, neglected to inform the Prime Minister about Canadian troops taking prisoners in Afghanistan and handing them over to the Americans, information which was quite important in the context. Moreover, this minister had to resign just days ago; he was fired from cabinet for reasons related to conflict of interest.

One can wonder about the adequacy of giving one minister, namely the Minister of National Defence, the power to create controlled access military zones. It seems excessive to us and it opens the door to much arbitrariness and dangerous situations, especially since the bill does not even require the approval of the Quebec government or any provincial government as far as the creation of a controlled access military zone is concerned.

As we know, unfortunately, there have been a number of federal interventions in Quebec that were not requested by the Quebec people. I am also convinced that a controlled access military zone would have been established at the Quebec summit in April 2001. If the Quebec government had objected, the minister of defence would have ignored it, just as they denied the Quebec Prime Minister the right to address the heads of state visiting our national capital.

In Bill C-55, the only criterion governing the designation of these controlled access military zones is that they must be reasonably necessary. This is a criterion that is elastic to say the least, both in terms of the dimensions of the zones and their period of designation.The provisions included in Bill C-42 and Bill C-55 are basically the same. No improvements have been made. There is only the following, in clause 260.1(4), which reads:

(4) The dimensions of a controlled access military zone may not be greater than is reasonably necessary to ensure the safety or security of any person, thing or property for which the zone is designated.

As we can see, there is a grey area, an arbitrary wording that will allow the Minister of National Defence, the federal government to do what it wants with these zones. Again, Bill C-55 complements Bill C-35, which gives the RCMP the power to erect walls, as it did in Quebec City. What were meant to be exceptional measures will now become the norm during any important event, any event of international scope. Bill C-55 has the same flaws as Bill C-42 in terms of the applicable criteria, and this is what makes it just as unacceptable.

Another aspect of the bill is that in these controlled access military zones, the people could lose certain rights. They will not be able to sue for damages, losses or injuries. It is written in the bill. For example, subsection 260.1(12) says:

(12) The Canadian Forces may permit, control, restrict or prohibit access to a controlled access military zone.

No reference whatsoever is made to the rights of people within this zone who, for example, would want to hold a peaceful demonstration, which is consistent with our charter of rights and freedoms and all the international conventions. Once again, nothing could be more totally arbitrary.

Finally, while in Bill C-42, a number of reasons, such as international security, defence and national security reasons, were given for the creation of such zones, in Bill C-55, all these references have disappeared. This bill essentially expands the reasons for designating controlled access military zones.

When we look at the bills passed since September 11, we find that not only Canada's reputation concerning human rights before September 11 was overrated, but the varnish is starting to peel off. The balance between rights and security needs was broken. Now, we are living in a state where civil liberties and democratic freedoms are more vulnerable than a few months ago.

In this context, the Bloc Quebecois has no other choice but to oppose this bill.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

May 29th, 2002 / 4:55 p.m.
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NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Madam Speaker, I am quite happy to take part in the debate on second reading of Bill C-55.

I am pleased to enter the debate on this omnibus bill, Bill C-55, and to specifically address the amendment before the House. It is important for us to remember that it arose from the ashes of this government's heavy-handed, ham-fisted handling of Canada's response to the horrifying events of September 11.

We are now dealing with Bill C-55, a bill that represents a second go around of the so-called public safety act that the government introduced last fall.

It is not surprising that within hours of the government introducing both Bill C-42 and Bill C-36 as part of its supposed comprehensive anti-terrorism plan, there was a very loud and growing outcry from Canadians. They understood the heavy-handedness of those legislative measures. It was ironic that on the one hand the government wanted to make Canada and its citizens feel safer and more secure but on the other hand it brought in measures that were in fact a very real threat to the human rights and civil liberties of Canadians.

In some ways we are talking here about a good news, bad news scenario. I am prepared to acknowledge, although it may sound a bit grudging, that at least the government was forced to beat a hasty retreat with respect to Bill C-42. Unfortunately it was not prepared to withdraw Bill C-36. Although it did capitulate to a great deal of pressure to introduce some amendments, the amendments were not nearly sufficient to address the underlying concerns. Therefore, the New Democratic Party, as people I am sure would have expected, could not support that legislation.

In the instance of Bill C-42, I am prepared to say that at least the government recognized that it had to withdraw it. Whether it was forced to withdraw it or not I suppose could be the subject of debate. In the strictest sense we could say that the government had the numbers to carry the day if it had wanted to persist but it did understand that politically it was simply unacceptable to ram through the so-called public safety act when it would have put in jeopardy some of the very important human rights and civil liberties of Canadians. It also put in jeopardy the protection of public safety, in the very broadest sense of the word. What public safety comes down to is whether people's human rights, civil liberties and their rights to be protected are fully intact.

It is obvious that there was a climate of very considerable fear, rage and certainly a sense of revenge in the aftermath of September 11. One of the things the New Democratic Party tried to do was to counsel and plead with the government that we were not alone in this. There was a great deal of support from citizens and citizens' organizations who were very vigilant about the importance of protecting human rights and civil liberties. They tried to encourage the government to not act in that climate of fear in a way that could only be described as overreaction. Unfortunately, the government was not prepared to take that counsel seriously.

The reason I say we are now perhaps looking at a good news, bad news scenario is that it is good news that the government felt compelled to withdraw the initial stage of legislation.

The bad news is that the government has still failed to take under serious advisement some of the most important warnings and pleadings that were made, not just to the Canadian government but to governments around the world as they grappled with the appropriate legislative responses to try to address the issues of public safety.

Instead of listening to the lesson, it is clear that the lesson was forgotten. That was the lesson that the UN secretary-general put out to all parliamentarians, all legislators, to say that in the war to defeat terrorism there cannot be a trade-off between human rights and human security or public safety. Perhaps an even more dramatic expression of that same important principle is found in the words that now are really seared in the public mind, the words of the lone member of the U.S. congress who had the courage to stand against the appropriation of funds to launch the military offensive in Afghanistan. She said “In the attempt to defeat terrorism, let us not become the evil that we deplore”.

The bad news is that the government has still failed to take that very important principle under advisement.

My colleague, the member for Windsor--St. Clair, who spoke just before I rose, was quite right in pointing out that at a time like this when there are threats to public safety and when there is a sense of fear in the public, the pressures are enormous to weaken, to erode, to lessen and in some cases to just plain throw overboard human rights and civil liberties.

We are very proud to stand in support of standing up in that kind of climate against the pressures to conform, to cave in, to simply cater to the fears and toss aside the important human rights and civil liberties of our own citizens and of other citizens. In fact we represent the political party that has the most distinguished record in the country of doing that.

There are many examples. The examples are legion, but let me refer to a couple, one being the case of the Japanese internment. This party stood alone and said we could not accept that simply on the basis of ethnicity and national origin citizens in our country literally should be imprisoned and robbed of all of their rights and freedoms in the name of public safety, completely abandoning the rule of law, completely abandoning the upholding of human rights and civil liberties.

The more recent example, and the one that would be best known by the generation of young people now growing up in our country, was the example where the New Democratic Party, again alone, with at the end a tiny number of three enlightened so-called Progressive Conservatives at a time when in fact there were progressive conservatives in parliament, stood together in opposition to the imposition of the War Measures Act in Quebec in those dark and difficult days in Quebec.

Practically every one of the members of the NDP caucus have spoken specifically on the act, but in a general way I want to again implore the government to recognize that this legislation remains too heavy-handed. This legislation continues to characterize the inadequacy and the inappropriateness of the government's response to the climate of fear.

The fears are real and remain real and the climate is one of looking for assurances, but greater freedom, greater liberty, greater safety and greater security are not assured through the suspension of important human rights and civil liberties. The real test of whether a government believes in democracy is whether it will stand up against as much pressure as there may be to uphold democratic rights when those rights are threatened.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

May 29th, 2002 / 4:45 p.m.
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NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Madam Speaker, thank you for recognizing me while I was still not completely properly attired. I suggest that it is a Liberal plot that we are having to spend our time debating the bill in such intemperate weather. I also want to point out that if we had dealt with climate warming a number of years ago it may not have been quite so uncomfortable in here today. I never miss an opportunity to deal with that very important issue.

The bill we are discussing today is clearly an attempt on the part of the government to recover from a very disastrous response from the general public across the country to Bill C-42.

Bill C-42 was introduced shortly before we went home for the Christmas holidays. It was interesting to see the types of responses we were receiving from our constituents. I certainly know that was my experience. I am guessing that members of the government are receiving the same responses from their constituents to Bill C-55. The responses to Bill C-42 were that Bill C-42 was not acceptable to the Canadian public.

I have to say that the government's attempt to recover from its faux pas with Bill C-42 has not been very successful.

I must say that Bill C-55 goes some distance in addressing some concerns we have had over a number of years under various pieces of legislation but, after reviewing the bill, I see that there are still a number of excesses, especially in terms of security.

We have a crisis as a result of September 11 and we get a knee-jerk response that has not been properly thought out. A number of sectors that would be affected by the bill have not been properly consulted but the government goes ahead and says that there is a security problem. It often brings in this almost dictatorial type of response. It is an authoritarian response that is often not a methodology that will be successful but that will seriously impede the civil and human rights of Canadian citizens if the bill becomes law and attempts are made to implement it.

In a number of ways the New Democratic Party opposes the legislation. Certainly near the top of that list is the unprecedented powers that have been accorded to some of the ministers in government.

This is one of the areas where the government has tried to cover over the inadequacies and excesses of Bill C-42. I am sure other members of the House in the course of this debate have expressed concern over the declaration of what used to be a military zone, which has now been replaced by more neutral wording but which, in many respects, has the same effect.

The offensive part of that is that it would allow the minister of defence, without any other review and solely on his or her assessment of the situation and decision making, to decide what area will be a war zone. All the laws of the country will then be suspended in that area.

The government tried to cover that up by saying that it would only invoke that if it needed to protect its equipment. Frankly, if we were to analyze that explanation from an objective viewpoint we would see that it was plainly absurd.

Similarly, the bill would give the Minister of Transport a number of extraordinary powers in regard to the travelling public. Even if one could argue some justification for that, it is not, in a number of ways, possible to support that type of power. However even if one could argue the point in some other areas, it begs some other type of review, whether that be judicial or by a special committee.

We also have a number of other precedents within our legal and constitutional framework for those types of situations where a review could be established under the legislation thereby preventing any excessive use or abuse of the power. We see little or none of that in Bill C-55.

The powers that would be given to those ministers would clearly infringe the rights of Canadians. The bill still remains quite heavy-handed. It is not just the members of the New Democratic Party who are saying this. As I believe all members of the House know, the privacy commissioner went public with a letter to the Minister of Transport. It was very unusual for him to take that kind of position in the public venue. However his letter expressed deep concerns about the legislation. I want to quote part of the letter where he talked about the privacy and civil rights of Canadians. The letter states:

In summary, my concern is that its [the bill's] provisions could fundamentally and unnecessarily alter the balance between individuals and the state that exists and should exist in a free society such as Canada.

I know he used the words “fundamentally alter” but I think the more important words were “unnecessarily alter”. We know from some of the experiences we had with Bill C-36 that it was true about that legislation. However the government is now repeating the same errors.

There are already a number of criminal and quasi-criminal provisions in the criminal code and in other legislation that could deal with the points being dealt with in this legislation. These statutes could deal with them more appropriately because historically we have worked out any problems, as opposed to this bill which would expand powers significantly and, as we argue and as the privacy commissioner has argued, unnecessarily.

The government simply does not need the powers contained in the legislation that it has argued it needs. The potential for abuse is glaringly obvious when one analyzes the whole bill.

If we were to go back into history and look at the abuses of power, especially when the War Measures Act was brought in, we argue from the perspective of our party and we believe from the perspective of fully protecting civil and human rights, that we should almost give ourselves a slap on the side of the head and tell ourselves that we must not forget our history. The rampant abuse of power throughout history should caution us to not repeat the same mistakes.

Our party is adamantly opposed to the legislation in its present form. It needs to be withdrawn and sent into a consultation process. The problems that do exist require attention and the potential abuses that are contained in the bill need to done away with.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

May 29th, 2002 / 4:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to participate in the debate on Bill C-55.

We know this bill is still a threat for the citizens' rights and freedoms. This is why it must be amended so that the consent of the Government of Quebec and of other provincial governments would be required before a controlled access military zone is designated on their territory.

The provisions on the creation of controlled access military zones, the absence of legal recourse following the creation of a security perimeter and the provisions allowing airlines to provide personal information on passengers, all pose serious problems, as far as keeping the required balance between security and freedom is concerned.

Bill C-55 contains much the same provisions as Bill C-42 with regard to interim orders, which would give much power to a small group of ministers.

As well, Bill C-55 allows much wider access to information about airline passengers. The government is assuming the power to modify, as needed, the nature of information that can be transferred between various agencies.

Moreover, with the new provisions, the RCMP and CSIS would now have a direct access to this information held by airline companies. These provisions would open the door to the use of personal information that would go far beyond the requirements of the fight against terrorism.

I believe that the balance required between public safety and the protection of freedoms is not always being respected with the new government bill. The Bloc Quebecois will continue to be vigilant, to ensure that the federal government introduces legislation that is finally in keeping with the values of Quebecers.

I indicated earlier that several elements are affected by Bill C-55. I would like to go back to one of them, that is, the controlled access military zones.

One knows that, given the abuse that might result from the implementation of the first bill, we had to be vigilant, of course, about the interpretation of this one. A few changes were made. However, a number of irritants remain, including—and it is the main one—the ban on action for damages by reason of the designation of a controlled access military zone.

We could talk about subsection 260.1(1), which says:

Subject to subsection (2),--which we will see later—the Minister personally, on the recommendation of the Chief of the Defence Staff, may designate a controlled access military zone in Canada in relation to:

I repeat that the designation will be done by the minister personally.

It applies to, first:

(a) a defence establishment;

(b) property that is provided for the Canadian Forces or the Department and is situated outside a defence establishment;

(c) a vessel, aircraft or other property under the control of a visiting force that is legally in Canada by virtue of theVisiting Forces Act or otherwise.

The main difference between Bill C-42 and Bill C-55 with regard to controlled access military zones is, of course, this section.

However, subsection 260.1(2) says that:

The Minister may designate a controlled access military zone only if it is reasonably necessary for ensuring the safety or security of

(a) any person in, on or about anything referred to in paragraphs (1) (a) to (c); or

(b) anything referred to in paragraphs (1)(a) to (c).

A quick reading of these two provisions will show that, at any given moment, the minister, one single person, possibly on the recommendation of the chief of defence staff or on his own initiative, could decide for any given reason to increase the number of defence facilities on Canada's or Quebec's territory. We already have several of them but the minister could decide, on his own initiative, to increase their numbers. Every time someone visits those facilities, controlled access military zones could be designated, with all this implies for the rights and freedoms of people living in the surrounding areas.

Speaking about surrounding areas, we all know well that the minister is the one who will decide where it is reasonably necessary to designate a zone. Knowing the Liberal Party and this government, what could be considered reasonably necessary by the minister? Things that are considered reasonable one day by them are no longer reasonable for others the day after. Sudden changes of mood could occur and things would not go the way they were intended.

Under Bill C-55 as under Bill C-42, the defence minister is the one who designates security zones, now called controlled access military zones.

The provisions of Bill C-42 indicating that military security zones could only be designated for matters of international relations, defence and national security have been dropped from Bill C-55.

The definition of what can physically be included in the military zone is verybroad. The bill refers to vessels, aircrafts or any other property as well as areas of land or water.

This is what subsection 260.1(4) says:

The dimensions of a controlled access military zone may not be greater than is reasonably necessary to ensure the safety or security of any person, thing or property for which the zone is designated.

Again, the words reasonably necessary are used. I am always very concerned when I see the Liberal government using words like reasonably necessary.

This phrase is included in all government programs, especially when they are designed for Quebec, like sponsorship programs. Were all these sponsorship programs really needed so that the government could get involved in various areas, especially in Quebec? One may well wonder. This seems to crop up regularly. The public keeps wondering why the Liberal government acts this way, especially when security is involved, and why it keeps saying that what it is doing is reasonably necessary. This clause is virtually identical to the one in Bill C-42. We still have ministerial discretion as to the dimensions of military zones. The minister is just required to ensure that these zones are not bigger than what is reasonably necessary.

We should also mention the maximum period during which the designation can be valid. With the addition of a few clauses in Bill C-55, it remains almost unchanged. The designation is valid for a maximum of one year and can be renewed for another year.

Under Bill C-55, a designation may not be for a period longer than is reasonably necessary, but if, as a resultof the renewal, the designation were to be in effect for more than one year, it would have to be approved by the governor in council. But a period of two years during which people can be deprived of their rights is awfully long. It is much too long. Here again, the provisions in the bill are practically identical to those in Bill C-42.

Clause 260.1 (11) reads:

(11) The Minister shall publish in the Canada Gazette a notice of a designation,renewal, variance or cancellation within 23 days after the designation, renewal, variance or cancellation is made, unless the Minister isof the opinion that it is in advisable to do so for reasons of international relations or national defence or security.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

May 29th, 2002 / 4:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

I will read the article. I could carry on a debate with him, but all he has to do is come to Atlantic Canada and personally tell people what he thinks, then we will see if anybody gets nominated from that party in the next election.

The reality of the situation is that Bill C-55 will not improve the security of Canadians in regions throughout the entire country. One of the greatest concerns we have is the National Defence Act and the naming of military security zones. Not much has changed in regard to the government deciding a secure military zone, for example the G-8 summit at Kananaskis.

Technically under this bill, if the government perceives a possible threat or conceives a possible threat, it can shut down the entire city of Calgary and declare it a secure military zone, if that is the wish of the federal government or the defence minister. What the defence minister can or cannot do is not spelled out exactly in the bill. We find it appalling that someone can have that kind of power over specific areas within the country. We are very concerned about that because we feel Canadians should decide these issues, not the defence minister. This should not be within the powers of the defence minister.

The other concern we have was raised by the head of CSIS that the possibility of convictions would be very unlikely under the new bill. When someone of that breadth of knowledge mentions that to the government, one would assume the government would take it seriously and ensure that right amendments were made to the bill.

I will say something positive about the bill. The Marine Transportation Security Act which allows the federal government to fund port authorities throughout the country is something we wholeheartedly support. That is something very positive and we should act upon it very quickly.

We still need to discuss the interim orders powers and the Canadian airport security authority. Instead of doing this behind closed doors and having short discussions near the end of our session in June, the government should be asking for input from Canadians from coast to coast to coast as to what they would like to see as new security powers for this government. The federal government should work in conjunction with provincial and regional governments as well. That would be very important and would give Canadians the ability to address their concerns in public forums. It would allow them to feel secure in knowing that their government listened to them. This is nothing but a top down approach and it is time for that kind of governance to stop, especially when it comes to security, the rights of people, their privacy et cetera.

We oppose the amendments put forward at this time. The bill can be greatly improved upon. We also reiterate the concerns of the Bloc Quebecois.

Recent newspaper articles have raised a barrage of questions from members of all parties about the conduct of ministers of this government and the actions taken today and other days.

The government is asking us to trust it with the security of our nation and to trust it with the amendments it will put forward. Yet it cannot even handle its own departments in an open and transparent way and in a way that has relevance to the Canadian people.

If Liberal members cannot be trusted to run their own government and if they are ethically immoral or morally bankrupt, then how do they have the gall to stand up and tell us what they will do to provide security for Canadians? Canadians have lost confidence.

I thanked the Alliance yesterday for its motion on the loss of confidence Canadians have toward the government. It is absolutely right. There was quite a debate yesterday on that motion and we were proud to support it. Of course the government does not want to hear this, but the fact is Canadians have lost confidence in their government.

Then the government is going to turn around and pass a bill with such sweeping powers that would affect the lives of all Canadians? I think not. It is time for the government get off its high horse, travel across the country, have debates and dialogue with Canadians to find out exactly what new security measures they want put in place to protect them, their communities, their property and the country as a whole.