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 3rd, 2002 / 1:25 p.m.
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Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to see that I managed to get the Secretary of State for Amateur Sport out of his lethargy.

I would remind him that, when I spoke earlier, I made a connection between the charter of rights and freedoms, the 20th anniversary of which the members across the way were celebrating a few days ago, and the fact that Bill C-55 threatens this same charter of rights and freedoms. You will also remember, Mr. Speaker, that I mentioned in my previous remarks that, in connection with the charter of rights and freedoms, some have a tendency to forget to mention the shameful events surrounding the unilateral patriation of the constitution, a view that was obviously shared by the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord when he stated, on December 15, 1999, “He [the Prime Minister] was also, along with Mr. Trudeau, behind the unilateral patriation of the constitution in 1982, despite the near unanimity of the national assembly against it”.

I will go even further. Regarding the unfair and revolting Bill C-20, the so-called clarity bill, the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, at a time when he had more spine, stated, on February 22, 2000:

The Liberals absolutely do not want to consult the public to find out what it thinks of this measure...Arrogance, contempt and indifference toward the House of Commons and toward all Canadians are now part of a behaviour that is beginning to spread throughout this government.

On March 20, he said:

—the wondrous Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs—

I hope that he has since patched things up with him.

—found a means for getting a bill passed for the sole purpose of disgusting everybody in Quebec and showing the rest of the country “Here we are teaching Quebecers a lesson, here we are putting them in their place”.

It did not take him long to change his tune, because only a few months later, he became a Liberal member. It appears as though he liked being taught a lesson, and now he seems to want to teach Quebecers a lesson himself.

I could go on and read pages and pages more like this, but I do not want to unduly embarrass my colleague from Chicoutimi--Le Fjord. I would like to provide my colleague the Secretary of State for Amateur Sport with an opportunity to return to his coma, and all my other colleagues a few moments to focus on Bill C-55, currently before the House.

In my earlier remarks, I talked about the very serious concerns raised by Bill C-55 in terms of respect for the human rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and, more recently, by the Canadian Charter of Rights and freedoms.

For example, when the Minister of Defence is given the authority to designate, on his own, security zones, the size of which is not defined, around military establishments or equipment, when we think of the powers that are given to cabinet members and even to bureaucrats—people who are not accountable under the principle of ministerial responsibility, which the Patriotes fought for in 1837-1838 and won since we have this responsible government today—that constitutes a very serious violation of democratic freedoms.

As I was saying earlier, the same applies to personal information regarding air travelers to which CSIS and the RCMP will have access. This bill raises very serious concerns.

I urge all members of the House, including Liberal members who share our views but who cannot speak up because of the very hermetic, monolithic and strict party line imposed by the Liberal Party, to make their views known and to encourage the government to go back to the drawing board, as it did with Bill C-42, and come up with a bill that is much more acceptable than this one in terms of respect for rights and freedoms.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

May 3rd, 2002 / 1:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to return to the House and speak to the amendment to the amendment put forward by the member for Rosemont--Petite-Patrie. This amendment alone sums up well the concerns those of us on this side of the House have about Bill C-55. These concerns are shared by many people outside this House and even by our colleagues across the way.

I will not comment further on the fact that the Liberal member for Mount Royal has himself expressed very serious reservations about the potential threat to human rights and freedoms represented by Bill C-55.

As I said, for a Liberal colleague to dare to ignore the rigid party line on this issue must certainly set off a few warning bells for us and cause even greater concern.

But, before going any further, I wish to take a few moments to comment on the remarks made by the member for Chicoutimi--Le Fjord, who supposedly came to the House to support Bill C-55 and who, once again, could not resist spewing his venom on other parliamentarians, this time the Bloc Quebecois members in particular.

As everyone knows, insults are the weapons of the weak. And the member for Chicoutimi--Le Fjord has not been without quite a stock of them during his long political career. The Progressive Conservative, Independent, Liberal member for Chicoutimi--Le Fjord has often used this means of arguing his point of view. He has built up a long list of insults, and I am going to refresh our memory with some of them now just to show how consistent the member for Chicoutimi--Le Fjord has been. Here are a few gems. On November 29, 1999, he said:

Yes, people are tired of the constitutional debate, but they certainly need a break from the provocation carried on for the past 30 years by the leaders of the Liberal Party of Canada.

On March 20, 2000, not all that long ago, the member for Chicoutimi--Le Fjord said:

How does one go about getting rid of a Prime Minister who, not just in the case of Human Resources Development Canada, but in the case of the budget, is determined to interfere in all sectors of provincial jurisdiction?

How? Probably by joining his ranks. Perhaps the best way of getting rid of a Prime Minister is from inside the tent. If I were the Prime Minister of Canada, I would be asking myself some very serious questions and I would also be worried.

On the topic of federal-provincial relations, he said on April 7, 2000, and I quote:

The federal government sees itself as the father of all provinces, which it views as big municipalities. It is contemptuous.

On poverty, he stated on March 20, 2000:

In the seven years since the Liberals took office, poverty in families and child poverty have gone up 50%.

On November 30, 1998, he said:

I see that the government does not know where to start in the fight against poverty.

On the constitutional debate, still referring to his good friend, the Prime Minister of Canada, he stated on December 15, 1999:

He is the one who cooked up that procedure one night at the Chateau Laurier, a concerted effort by the federal government and nine Canadian provinces to crush Quebec, to marginalize it, to strong-arm it.

So, when they talk of the charter of rights and freedoms, the 20th anniversary of which was celebrated on April 17, the member for Chicoutimi--Le Fjord forgets to remind us of what he said in 1999 about the terrible night of the long knives.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

May 3rd, 2002 / 1:15 p.m.
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The Deputy Speaker

We are presently on Bill C-55. We just had a subamendment tabled by the member for Rosemont--Petite-Patrie. I believe the hon. member is referring to another matter that will be debated later this day.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

May 3rd, 2002 / 1:15 p.m.
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The Deputy Speaker

The Chair has considered the amendment to the amendment moved by the hon. member for Rosemont--Petite-Patrie and has found it to be in order.

Therefore, the new motion reads as follows:

That this House declines to give second reading to Bill C-55, 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, since the Bill reflects several principles that violate human rights and freedoms, which have been denounced by the Privacy Commissioner and are unrelated to transport and government operations, rendering it impractical for the Standing Committee on Transport and Government Operations to properly consider it.

The debate will proceed on the amendment to the amendment. The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

May 3rd, 2002 / 1:05 p.m.
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Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, I said it earlier. You did not hear me. I told the member for Bourassa that I have a lot of respect for Lucien Bouchard because he at least was consistent. He did cross the floor of the House because he had certain beliefs. He did not act out of political opportunism.

I could keep on quoting the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord. For instance, on April 7, 2000, he said and I quote, “This is why I am saying that this government has no economic or social agenda”.

I will stop here to get back to the subject matter of the bill, because I am convinced that this is what people in Quebec and Canada are expecting of us. They do not expect us to criticize those who are supposed to represent voters. They want us to deal with issues they believe are a priority.

Therefore, I am very happy to rise today to speak to Bill C-55, which replaces the now defunct Bill C-42, which we did criticize and about which we raised several concerns regarding its various provisions.

First, if we look at only one aspect of the bill, the controlled access military zones, we must admit the government heeded the advice of the Bloc Quebecois, which was asking for significant changes to the provisions contained in Bill C-42. Bill C-55 is proof the government accepted the Bloc's arguments and tightened the criteria to create controlled access military zones.

However, several aspects of the bill, as they currently stand, seem to us rather unsatisfacatory, namely those dealing with controlled access military zones, as I mentioned, interim orders and intelligence gathering.

Concerning controlled access military zones, we regret that the minister still retains discretionary power to intervene. It is still the minister who has the authority to designate controlled access military zones, the same minister who forgot to inform his government about the prisoners of war.

We find it rather odd and particularly dangerous to give the minister in charge discretionary power to designate controlled access military zones.

For instance, following the decision by the minister regarding taking prisoners during the recent events in Afghanistan, we believe that discretionary power should not be given to the minister alone.

We also worry about what will happen in Quebec. Contrary to what the hon. member for Chicoutimi--Le Fjord would have us believe, we have never suggested in this House that the bill could extend to the whole Quebec territory.

He should read all the remarks my colleagues have made on Bill C-55. We are not suggesting that this bill could turn the entirety of Quebec into a controlled access military zone. But the hon. member for Chicoutimi--Le Fjord must admit that certain areas, environments and lands could become military zones.

I have just listened to questions asked in this House about the Quebec national assembly. The member who mentioned the risk that the area around the national assembly be designated a controlled access military zone is not a Bloc Quebecois member.

There is an undeniable danger, and all the more so because military zones are designated at the discretion of the minister, and nothing in the bill provides that the approval of the Quebec government is needed. Therefore, Quebec's approval is not always required for the designation of controlled access military zones in Quebec.

As I said before, not only are a lot of powers in the hands of a single man, pursuant to the discretionary power stipulated in the bill before the House, but there is nothing to ensure that provinces will be consulted when such zones are established.

In areas not under federal jurisdiction and where the designated area is not on crown lands but somewhere in Quebec, we would like the government of Quebec and the rest of the provinces to give their approval beforehand.

The discretionary power to determine the size of these military zones has not changed much. It is still left to the discretion of the minister.

Bills C-42 and C-55 have something in common. The criteria for the designation of these military zones are again left at the discretion of the minister. That is rather worrisome.

Another matter of concern, and maybe the most important aspect of the bill that I will address, is that the government will not allow any action for damage by reason only of the designation of acontrolled access military zone or the implementationof measures to enforce the designation.

Since the Speaker is indicating that I only have two minutes left, I will conclude.

This is a serious issue. The Privacy Commissioner told us so. He said, and I quote “Some practices are similar to those that exist in totalitarian states”.

I shall therefore table an amendment to the amendment to the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-55, seconded by the hon. member for Laval Centre.

I move:

That the amendment be modified by adding after the word “principles“ the following:

“that violate human rights and freedoms, which have been denounced by the Privacy Commissioner and are”.

I am therefore pleased to table this amendment to the amendment.

I close with my wishes for a thorough reflection on this, and for the member for Chicoutimi--Le Fjord to come on side with the arguments of the Bloc Quebecois in order to lend this bill greater transparency and greater protection for the public.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

May 3rd, 2002 / 1:05 p.m.
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Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to speak today on Bill C-55. Although I am not the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport in the House, my speech will be a responsible one, unlike his. In principle, he should be quite familiar with the bill and should have addressed the substance of it. Instead, all he has done is to resort to a kind of political demagoguery in order to attack the work the Bloc Quebecois is doing in the House.

I have no need to be lectured by the hon. member for Chicoutimi--Le Fjord. I have here a list of three pages of statements made by that member when he was on this side of the floor, and took it upon himself to assess the government on the other. I will quote from a few of them. This is a particularly strong one. Quoting the hon. member for Chicoutimi--Le Fjord:

In Quebec, we have been putting up with that for 30 years from the former Prime Minister and the current one.

This was on March 20, 2000 in the House of Commons. Today, we have the hon. member on the other side of the floor.

If we want to see public confidence in politicians restored, all members of this House must have a bit of gumption and a bit of consistency.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

May 3rd, 2002 / 1 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

That is not nonsense it is the truth. If the hon. member had been here this morning he would have seen that happen. I seem to have touched a raw nerve. We can hardly hear ourselves think in this place all of sudden. Even though they are few in numbers they seem to be making a lot of noise.

The hon. member for Chicoutimi--Le Fjord who just spoke said opposition members should not exaggerate when they are talking about this legislation. He said they should not exaggerate the extent of the bill. He went on to say quite correctly that it amends 20 other pieces of legislation. Therefore it is an all-encompassing omnibus bill. We all agree on that.

This is a huge bill. It amends many statutes. The amendment to Bill C-55 put forward by my hon. colleague from Port Moody--Coquitlam--Port Coquitlam that we are debating states that the House should decline to give second reading to Bill C-55 since the bill reflects several principles unrelated to transport and government operations rendering it impractical for the Standing Committee on Transportation and Government Operations to properly consider it. I believe that is a well thought out amendment.

By their own admission government members who have addressed the bill, including several ministers, have pointed out how all-encompassing the bill is and yet they somehow expect the standing committee on transport to deal with this. That is totally unreasonable.

Are opposition members exaggerating when they voice concerns about the bill? Here are some concerns that were expressed yesterday in Hansard . We will see if they are an exaggeration. The first statement is:

First, while the bill seeks to circumscribe the power initially conferred upon the Minister of National Defence in the predecessor Bill C-42 to designate any part of Canada a military security zone, the scope of both the exercise and application of this power remain problematic.

I wonder if the hon. member from Chicoutimi would say that is an exaggeration. This particular member went on to say:

However, the definition of a “controlled access military zone” has a certain indeterminate feature to it, which could, however inadvertently, be stretched to result in the very thing that this revised version was designed to prevent, for example, the application of this power to something like the G-8 meeting in Kananaskis, simply because the presence of Canadian military equipment or personnel or foreign diplomatic personnel with their related equipment may result in a military zone being nonetheless designated.

Further on the member voiced another concern:

Second, and more important, even if the scope of this exercise of ministerial power is appropriately delineated and clarified, the absence of any cabinet or parliamentary accountability is disturbing. In effect, there is no requirement for cabinet authorization of this ministerial decree.

I wonder if the member, who is still sitting in the Chamber, would say that is an exaggeration to be concerned about that. At the end of this particular member's speech he went on to say:

However, there are also disconcerting features, as I have also described, that taint the bill and which need to be addressed and redressed so we can promote human security without unnecessarily intruding on civil liberties.

I agree with this particular member. It was a Liberal member, the hon. member for Mount Royal, who gave a great speech in this place about the bill. He voiced some thoughtful concerns about it.

However, I did not hear any of the Liberals. They are applauding now but if one of the opposition members were to raise those same concerns they would say we were exaggerating and not presenting them truthfully. However when it is a Liberal member who voices the same concerns everyone over there applauds. They nod their heads and say that is great.

It is a little ridiculous that we can never have a debate in this place without the government trying to play these partisan tricks on the public. However I think the public sees through this for what it is.

This piece of legislation has been ill thought through. The powers that are being bestowed upon the ministers are completely unnecessary. By their own admission, when we were confronted by the emergency of September 11, the Minister of Transport, the Prime Minister and other ministers had the authority and the power to act appropriately. They do not need this legislation.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

May 3rd, 2002 / 12:55 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

Madam Speaker, thank you for trying to restore a shred of decorum to the Chamber on this Friday afternoon.

I found it quite astounding to listen to the dissertation by the hon. member for Chicoutimi--Le Fjord. I noticed he did not refer very much to the bill. It seemed to be an attack against the Bloc Quebecois.

I have always felt that it is unfortunate when debate reaches the stage where we have just 10 minutes of debate with no questions and comments. It does not allow for the back and forth parry and thrust of a good debate. However that is where we are at and so we will continue along. Hopefully if the members still want to discuss it between the two of them they could do it outside.

I have noticed one thing about government members when they address Bill C-55. They seem to indicate that this is something the government and country needs because of the events of September 11. All of us agree those were tragic and unprecedented events in the annals of history, certainly modern aeronautical history. Somehow that means we need to bring forward legislation like Bill C-55.

We have heard them say that we need to fast track the legislation and get it in place just in case. God forbid something like that would threaten us in the future. Hopefully the government would have the power and authority to act quickly to prevent something like that.

I want to refer to the Standing Orders of the House of Commons. Standing Order 29 states that should a quorum appear not to exist at the time the House meets, a count of the House will be taken, that if fewer than 20 members are present the Speaker will adjourn the House until the next sitting day and that the Speaker may take such an initiative only before the House has been called to order.

The interesting thing about this is the government's claims that there is a need to get the legislation before the House, get it debated, get it to committee, and get it into law. The government has 170 or so members. This morning the House waited for 23 minutes before the government could muster 20 bodies into this place to get quorum in order to debate the legislation.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

May 3rd, 2002 / 12:55 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

Madam Speaker, if hon. members from the government and from the Bloc Quebecois could step outside they might settle this dispute they seem to be having. While it is always entertaining to listen to the ongoing banter and discourse between the government and the Bloc it is not adding a lot to the debate of Bill C-55.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

May 3rd, 2002 / 12:45 p.m.
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Chicoutimi—Le Fjord Québec

Liberal

André Harvey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased, like all my other colleagues, to make a few comments about Bill C-55.

As parliamentarians, all party politics set aside, our role is not to exaggerate the impact of a law, but rather to try to fully understand the scope of a bill like Bill C-55, which, of course, is the result of very intensive consultations with provincial and territorial governments, and with many other Canadians.

We have to realize that we are not dealing with an easily identifiable opponent, but rather terrorists operating in many countries and using great cunning to perpetrate their dastardly deeds. They had proven this long before the attacks of September 11.

My colleagues from the Bloc made comments that, at times, I found rather exaggerated. Luckily, exaggeration does not make one sick, otherwise some of them would suffer from an incurable disease. I remember their speeches on Bill C-7, concerning young offenders. The end of the world was near.

As a matter of fact, the governments of the provinces and of Quebec will benefit from a massive injections of tens of millions of dollars for the administration of Bill C-7. I am convinced that the children of Quebec will not all be in prison tomorrow morning. Luckily, our justice minister assumed his responsibilities. He steered this act through the House of Commons.

If we look back at how the act has been administered over the last few months, we see that, despite all the dire consequences the Bloc members were talking about at the time--it was worse than Chernobyl--everything is going fine.

Our country has to deal with a very serious situation. The government's responsibility is, rightly so, to deal with it. We have to do everything we can to fight this very insidious and imperceptible evil, which caused the death of thousands of people in a few seconds in the United States, our main trading partner. The Americans are people with whom we share economic, cultural, and recreational values, among others. The role of responsible governments in the world is to assume their responsibilities and to make laws.

Bill C-55 will allow us to amend 20 acts affecting several departments. This is not an ad hoc process. The provisions of this bill allow us to take measures that also respect the democracy in which we live. Our role is to take our responsibilities to obtain the tools that will allow us to respond to emergencies. This will not be done only at the behest of one person, someone responsible for a department, whether defence, ustice or transport.

Let us take the example of September 11. If the Minister of Transport had not had the authority to react to the closure of U.S. airspace, what could have happened? The number of dead in New York could have skyrocketed. The government's role is to acquire the tools that are essential to assume its responsibilities.

In the hours that follow, it is time to justify measures taken. After that, it is time to get the government and our institutions back to normal.

Bill C-55 affects several departments, health, environment, justice, solicitor general and transport, which I have the pleasure to work with, in partnership with the minister directly assigned to this department. All the ministers are doing their job with the greatest respect for all democratic institutions.

It is not true to say that all of Canada will be considered as a controlled access zone. There are limits to exaggerating things.

Our fellow citizens are beginning to realize that exaggeration should be checked. If exaggeration made people sick, some would have an incurable disease and would have trouble finding a treatment. This situation has to be dealt with in a balanced way, and this is what the government is doing with this bill.

This bill has been introduced in this House, but it will also be referred to a committee, which will analyze all aspects of the bill. Some improvements may have to be made. We will have the opportunity to consider them thoroughly. We did that to such an extent with Bill C-42 that it was finally withdrawn. The bill was reworked and replaced with Bill C-55. This bill is not perfect, and will be referred to a committee to be improved.

I wish to emphasize that a $7.7 billion budget has been allocated to various departments in order to improve our control structure and increase security for Canadians. We also travel throughout the world. Quebec is not the exclusive property of the PQ and the Bloc.

As a matter of fact, exaggeration goes over so badly that they are only at 20% or 25% in the polls. I know them well. I have fought several election campaigns against them. It is a real pleasure to campaign against them and to talk about their record. I wish to tell them once again that we are pleased to introduce Bill C-55. It is not perfect, but it can be improved.

After extended consultations with provincial governments across the country, we will now refer the bill to the committee. We are not naive and we know that nothing is perfect. We believe that Bill C-55, which allows us to improve several legislative measures involving several departments, must be approached meticulously and with respect for our fellow citizens.

Quebec will not be surrounded by a barricade. This is not how things work in life. We saw at the Quebec summit that the security perimeter was erected after a period of consultation, in order to allow people from all these countries to hold their discussions in peace. Access to important activities must be controlled. Whether we like it or not, this is how things work. We also have to protect ourselves.

When officials from all over the world are gathered together, we make every effort to ensure that the discussions are taking place in a serene environment, to promote a positive outcome.

I am looking forward to Bill C-55 being referred to a committee. I am looking forward to hearing witnesses and my friends from the opposition parties, particularly those from Quebec, the Bloc Quebecois members. I am convinced that we will be receptive to what stakeholders have to say. I am looking forward to it and I am used to hearing their speeches. I try to react with wisdom to all their attacks. As I said before, what I like best is to campaign against Bloc Quebecois members. I really enjoy it, particularly when we win. Balance is important in a democracy. They have a point of view. When things go bad, it is always Canada's fault. When things go well, it is always thanks to Quebec. This is not how things work in real life.

I am convinced that we have an important role to play as a government, and it is not the sometimes negative comments of Bloc Quebecois members that will slow us down.

I look at the situation in Quebec and I see that all Quebecers want a provincial election. But the PQ does not dare call an election. A few months ago, Bloc Quebecois members were all set to run as candidates in a provincial election. Now, not a single one of them is interested in doing it, because they fear that Quebecers may be tired of hearing the same old speeches after 20, 25 or 30 years.

Quebecers want reconciliation. They are increasingly aware that they co-own a large continent. The role of the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord is to do everything possible so that the Canadian government will help us come out of isolation. It is not PQ members who have looked after the regions the most.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

May 3rd, 2002 / 12:35 p.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, perhaps no other bill passed in this place, outside of a bill dealing with personal income taxes, will directly affect Canadians as much as Bill C-55.

Yesterday in the House the member for Scarborough--Rouge River took the opportunity to delve into debate and voice his concern on a number of issues. A couple of those issues had a real resonance for members of parliament on the opposition benches and, I suspect, for members of the government. The essence of what member said was that the bill should not go to the transport committee.

The member for Scarborough--Rouge River said, and I quote:

It is certainly not out of any disrespect for their abilities on the transport committee, but it appears clear that the bulk of the bill does not involve mainline transportation issues.

I would go so far as to question the theory that somehow a bill of this magnitude should be focused into a narrow special interest group on a transport committee. I would be very leery if many of them have even appeared on debate at second reading stage.

Second reading of any bill in the House before it goes to committee is absolutely the most important reading of legislation. This is the opportunity for debate and for questions and answers. Second reading stage is when members suggest changes that should be made to any piece of legislation and the government has time to implement them or committee members have time to take them to committee in the form of amendments.

One of the reasons and certainly the most valid reason that Bill C-55 should not go to the transport committee is because it involves too many other committees. The bill affects the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, the Department of Health Act, the Food and Drugs Act, the Hazardous Products Act, the Navigable Waters Protection Act, the Pest Control Products Act, the Quarantine Act, the Radiation Emitting Devices Act, the Canada Shipping Act and the Canada Shipping Act, 2001.

This legislation covers an extremely wide spectrum of government agencies and laws. Every Liberal member of parliament and indeed every member of the committee should be questioning the government's motives. They should not indulge in some type of fantasy that the transport committee will be enough to deal with the complexities of the legislation.

Bill C-55 is very controversial legislation that has been withdrawn, reintroduced and has members on all sides of the House divided. Which committee does the Prime Minister feel will offer the path of least resistance?

All of us should feel a little disappointed. The contempt and disregard in which those around the Liberal cabinet table hold committees is obvious. Committees are capable of doing the real work that needs to be done in the House if they are allowed to do their job.

The member also talked of partisan rhetoric. He said that it was all part of the job. We in the Progressive Conservative Party agree with him and his suggestion. Should he or any members of cabinet be able to convince the government that it should listen to its backbenchers this time and send the bill to the appropriate committees, they would have our full support.

This is not some type of backbench fantasy that perhaps some Liberal members of parliament are having that I want to recognize. They have an opportunity to shape the legislation. It needs to be shaped and desperately needs to be changed.

The government has had other opportunities in bills like Bill C-68. It has had opportunities with bills that dealt with compensation for hepatitis C victims. There have been opportunities on legislation on SARA, the species at risk bill. It has had opportunities to change legislation on bills such as the prevention of cruelty to animals bill. The reality is that the government has not used those opportunities. It talks.

We can all read the papers, which state that there is a backbench revolt in the Liberal Party, that the rural members have finally found the intestinal fortitude to start up on their hind legs and vote against the government. I would suggest to Canadians that they check the voting record. I used to keep sheep and I know a little bit about sheep. When one sheep leads, the rest of the sheep follow. I would suggest that Canadians check the record. It is very plain to see.

I believe that the suggestion that a special legislative committee be constructed and comprised of some individuals from the transport committee and some from the justice committee would receive support from all opposition parties. In fact, I would go one step further and I would suggest that members from each of the committees affected by the bill should be formed into a special committee to deal with this special piece of legislation. It would be a novel thought because it would actually give democracy a chance.

Moving on with this discussion, in the wake of the tragic events of last September it was understandable that legislation on the drawing board would go to extreme measures, but the arbitrariness of the decision making process is palpable. Putting so much power in the hands of ministers does nothing to benefit Canadians. We have interim orders, orders made by a minister alone without parliamentary approval, to remain secret for 23 days. Let me say that again: without parliamentary approval. The orders can be in effect for 45 days without any cabinet approval whatsoever. As well, unless specified in the order, the order can be in effect for a year and if the minister so chooses it can be renewed for at least another year. That is two years.

The changes from Bill C-42, a bill that very few members of parliament were supportive of, are extremely slight. Once again, parliament and the public are relegated to a back seat. The changes to the National Defence Act are a perfect example. We have a minister who in the past has been less than forthright with the public and parliament, his own party, his caucus and even his leader. He takes three briefings to get up to speed and the Prime Minister wants him to have the ability to declare, unchecked and unfettered, a controlled access military zone anywhere in Canada. I do not think so. Surely this is a mistake. Surely we are not going to reward incompetence.

Make no mistake about it. Under this legislation the government can drive a tank onto any street corner in Canada and, at the discretion of the minister of defence, call it a military secured zone. It is shocking. Under proposed paragraph 260.1(1)(b), on controlled access military zones, there is some question as to what the government means by property. Is this real property as in real estate, or property in terms of equipment, such as the tank that I suggested could be driven onto any street corner in the country? I would suggest that for those who want to read the bill closely, the answer comes in proposed subsection 260.1(3) with the designation of the nature of the zone. It states:

A controlled access military zone may consist of 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.

That is any piece of military hardware. Proposed subsection 260.1(3) continues:

The zone automatically includes all corresponding airspace above, and water and land below, the earth's surface.

The key here is “or moves with that thing”.

If the nature of the legislation were to create these zones in or around areas with permanent structures not designated as military bases, there would be no need for clarification of this type. This gives the minister the ability to designate a controlled military access zone around any piece of military property he feels necessary, and as the equipment moves through an area, so goes the zone. Canadians work too long and too hard for everything they own in this country. The fact that a minister at the stroke of a pen can negate that takes away the old adage that a person's home is his castle.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

May 3rd, 2002 / 12:30 p.m.
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Barrie—Simcoe—Bradford Ontario

Liberal

Aileen Carroll LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join colleagues from both sides of the House in debating the amendments that have been brought forward from Bill C-55, as it relates to the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) Act.

Bill C-55 amends the proceeds of crime--

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

May 3rd, 2002 / 12:25 p.m.
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NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity today to enter into the debate on the amendment to Bill C-55. I understand it is the nature of the motion to have the bill referred not just to the transport committee but to the justice committee. I think the NDP caucus is generally in support of that idea because no one has told us to our satisfaction why such a broad sweeping, omnibus piece of legislation should have arrived before the transport committee anyway. No one has been able to tell us how a bill that changes 19 different statutes and covers 9 different ministerial jurisdictions is it to be referred to the transport committee. Many MPs have this question.

Even though I can support the Alliance amendment, I would go further and ask why this bill is not divided up into manageable sized pieces and distributed to the committees of the nine different ministerial portfolios that it affects. The only reason given by the government was that it was in the interest of expediency. It wants it treated as an omnibus bill rather than go through the more long and drawn out process of actually going to the standing committees that have jurisdiction over that area. I do not accept that there is any urgency to fast track Bill C-55.

If in fact Bill C-55 finds its origins in some terrible emergency, which it does, the tragic events of 9/11, that urgency no longer exists. If the government is using the fact that it is an urgent situation to justify fast tracking this bill, why did it languish for four long months between its previous incarnation and its current incarnation? Why was it not an urgent emergency after Bill C-42 was withdrawn because it was hastily thrown together? Why did four months pass before we even saw Bill C-55 and now it has become urgent to ram it through?

Canadians have reservations about the bill because it seeks to diminish the basic human rights and freedoms by which Canadians define themselves as Canadians. It is serious business.

I am not trying to sound the alarm that something subversive is going on, that big brother is trying to change our lives, but these measures do impact on the basic privacy freedoms that Canadians enjoy, and Canadians deserve to know about them.

I would argue that the bill should not be fast tracked not to give more members of parliament chances to make long winded, boring speeches but the period of time to engage Canadians in the debate. If the government has its way, the bill will be rammed through the House. Canadians will not even know because, frankly, they do not pay daily attention to what we are doing here. Canadians will not learn about it until it is too late. Canadians should be allowed to consult Canadians, to engage Canadians in this fundamental question of whether they are willing to sacrifice some of their personal freedoms in exchange for national security issues. Until we can ask Canadians that question there should be no fast tracking of Bill C-55.

We know Bill C-42 enhanced a number of powers of the various enforcement agencies. Bill C-55 is not just a cleaned up version of Bill C-42. Bill C-55 introduces brand new measures that require and call for a fulsome debate and the engagement of Canadians.

I will start with the point that I am very critical of this thinly veiled attempt to, I believe, sell Canadians a Trojan horse, a whole package of goods. As I said, 19 statutes will be amended by the bill and all of it will wind up before the 15 members of the Standing Committee on Transport and Government Operations.

Statutes like the criminal code are being amended. Why will the justice committee not deal with the criminal code amendments?

The health act is being amended by this omnibus bill, Bill C-55. Should that not be properly before the Standing Committee on Health? The Export and Import Permits Act should go to the foreign affairs committee. Surely the party critics who sit on the foreign affairs committee deserve the opportunity to study the bill clause by clause. They will not have that opportunity.

All opposition parties select specific individuals with special expertise to be their representatives on various committees. Our expert on health will not have the opportunity to review Bill C-55 because it will not go to the health committee.

There are all kinds of good reasons for Canadians to be apprehensive about such a broad and sweeping piece of legislation that could change the very way we conduct ourselves in the country. By the time the government rams it through the House Canadians will not even notice unless they are the type of people who watch CPAC daily, and I do not think most Canadians are.

I do not want to accuse the government of trying to slip something by or imply that this is a Trojan horse, although I have heard the term used. However I will say, without any fear of contradiction and without overstating the case, that Bill C-55 is a ministerial power grab. There is no question in my mind that it enhances executive authority and diminishes parliamentary oversight. That should be a concern because it is a trend we have noticed. In the few short years that I have been a member of parliament it has become a running motif. It is a theme that we see developing in just about every piece of legislation tabled in the House. We see an enhanced executive authority and diminished opportunity for parliament to have any say.

This shift of power is an insidious thing. It has been happening slowly. It is like wearing away the concept that most Canadians have of parliament. Canadians may even see parliament through rose coloured glasses. It is one of the greatest democracies in the world and they like to believe that their members of parliament are allowed to debate issues and even influence bills.

However when we strip away the ability for elected members of parliament to have true contact and true participation in the development of legislation, we really have the executive making the laws in the country and very little opportunity for the rest of the members of parliament, who were freely elected as well, to have any input.

We are very critical. We believe, if nothing else, Bill C-55 is deliberately designed, not by accident but by design, to increase ministerial power. It is a power grab. It enhances executive authority and it diminishes parliamentary oversight. I am mostly concerned about that and Canadians should be concerned.

I think Canadians are catching on to the debate. I wish there was more time so we could engage more Canadians but they can read the critical statements made by the office of the privacy commissioner. Granted, there is an argument to be made that perhaps the office of the privacy commissioner should really be making its comments to parliament and not to a media scrum, but he uses words like totalitarian which is harsh and extreme language. In fact he states things more strongly than even I would but he warns people that this is a dramatic expansion of police powers.

I would argue that the police forces in Canada already have expansive and adequate powers. The RCMP, CSIS and our customs agents and the people who protect our well-being do have the tools they need to protect Canadians. Arguably, those rules or tools could be honed, modified or sharpened, but the privacy commissioner points out that this is a dramatic expansion of police powers.

We have to be cautious when we weigh personal freedoms with legislation that is regulatory. We want to err on the side of caution, which is certainly one of the fundamental tenets of any kind of legislation when we are dealing with a free and open society like Canada.

The NDP caucus will not be voting in support of Bill C-55. We do support the amendment that it should go to the justice committee, but we believe Bill C-55 has in it inherent flaws that any of the goodwill or good intentions that the government may have had are vastly overshadowed by the possible danger of diminishing basic human rights and freedoms in the country. We are not prepared to go that far at this time.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

May 3rd, 2002 / 12:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, a few days ago, on April 17 to be more precise, several members of this House celebrated, their hands to their hearts, not what is referred to in Quebec as the result of the night of the long knives, not what is called the unilateral patriation of the Constitution--since they were trying to keep away from less unifying subjects--but rather the anniversary of the charter of rights and freedoms.

They told us how the charter of rights and freedoms has changed the face of Canada and made its citizens feel like they were living in a democracy where their fundamental rights would be protected by a legal document enshrined in the Constitution.

The hon. member for Frontenac--Mégantic told us that the charter of rights and freedoms is what defines his identity, his beliefs and the values he holds dear. The member for St. Paul's argued the same day that the fundamental rights of Canadians are defined in that same charter of rights and freedoms. Also on the issue of the charter, the ineffable President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs stated, and I quote, “The charter will protect their rights”--meaning the rights of all Canadians--“in the future, as it has for the past 20 years”. Funny how the future does not always last all that long.

What are we debating today? We are debating Bill C-55. We most certainly could have celebrated Bill C-55. In these times where our fellow citizens are increasingly uncertain, cynical and losing interest in politics, Bill C-55 could very well have been an occasion to celebrate—to celebrate the fact that the government had finally stopped being arrogant, shown some modesty and listened to the many voices that spoke out against the previous safety bill, Bill C-42, which the government chose to withdraw, voices that did not come only from elected representatives here in parliament, but also from the general public as well.

That is why we could have been proud. We could have celebrated the fact that the government had responded to the expectations and concerns expressed by the public. And yet, what do we have before us? A bill, Bill C-55, entitled 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 is a wordy title if I ever have seen one. All this to say that, in the end, this title is just camouflage for a bill which, for all intents and purposes, is almost identical to Bill C-42.

Of course, a few cosmetic changes were made, but the fact remains that this bill, like its predecessor, seriously threatens the very rights and freedoms that we or, should I say, that our colleagues from other political parties celebrated, with their hand on their heart, on April 17.

I cannot help but remind members of what privacy commissioner George Radwanski said regarding Bill C-55, which is before the House today. In the May 2 issue of La Presse he was quoted as saying:

—the Chrétien government new anti-terrorism bill smacks of practices similar to those that exist in totalitarian states—

That is quite a statement. We are talking about Canada. We are talking about a bill which, according to the privacy commissioner, is aimed at implementing practices that existed in totalitarian states.

And again, still in yesterday's issue of La Presse : “—these ‘exceptional measures’” provided for in Bill C-55 are “far from being tools to fight terrorism—”

This is serious because this bill is supposed to provide us with additional tools to fight terrorism. The privacy commissioner added that:

—these “exceptional” measures, far from being tools to fight terrorism, are really “a dramatic expansion of privacy-invasive police powers without explanation or justification as to its necessity”.

In an article published in today's issue of Le Soleil , Mr. Radwanski is quoted as saying:

The precedent set by section 4.82 could open the door, in principle, to practices similar to those that exist in totalitarian societies where police routinely board trains or establish roadblocks to check identification papers.

This is cause for great concern. It would appear that in the House only the opposition is worried by what the privacy commissioner is reported to have said.

Indeed, yesterday, the member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot had the nerve to grandstand and rise on a point of privilege to complain that the privacy commissioner had not fulfilled his obligation, first, by not advising the House of the comments he made regarding Bill C-55.

The autocratic tendency of the government goes as far as trying to muzzle officers of the House to prevent them from saying what has to be said about the troubling nature of some pieces of legislation put forward by this government.

We are getting increasingly concerned by repeated comments of this kind on the part of members of this House. We have every reason to be perplexed, to say the least.

Since when do we ask House appointed officers, such as the auditor general or the chief electoral officer, to report to this House each time they express themselves publicly, when they are interviewed by the media, for example?

On the face of it, the arguments made by our colleague from Ancaster--Dundas--Flamborough--Aldershot are absolutely pointless and fallacious, and we must refute them without the slightest hesitation.

Obviously, I could have dwelt on the main concerns, on the controlled access military zones, about which my colleague from Laval--Centre spoke at length this morning, on the interim orders, on the fact that the RCMP and CSIS can obtain personal information on passengers from the air carriers.

Needless to say, we are very disappointed with this bill. We were very happy that the government listened to the Bloc Quebecois, among others, and withdrew the despicable Bill C-42, but we are greatly disappointed to see that the government withdrew it only to bring it back under another guise, although its substance is very similar if not identical.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

May 3rd, 2002 / 12:10 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Jim Gouk Canadian Alliance Kootenay—Boundary—Okanagan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to go to something which arose during question period today. In discussing Bill C-55 the solicitor general said that the bill would help authorities become aware of individuals, like murderers or whatever, that could be entering the country and that we would be able to arrest them. In question period today he said we should be pleased that the government is giving the police the powers to deal with this.

The fact of the matter is we already have border security with our Canada customs agents. These are dedicated, well trained people who know how to detect these types of people coming across the border. However they do not have those tools that the solicitor general says he has given to the police to deal with them when they are right at the border.

This goes back to the former minister of immigration who could not deal with inappropriate people coming in under her portfolio so she got demoted to the revenue portfolio, and now supports an internal document that states:

Should a customs officer encounter an individual who is identified as being the subject of an armed and dangerous lookout, the customs officer should allow the individual to proceed and immediately notify the police and provide as much detail as possible to enable apprehension...

That is garbage. In defence of this ridiculous policy the minister then went on to compare Canada customs agents to bank tellers. I am sure the Minister of Finance already looks upon them as tax collectors. He has after all in the past been heard to say something along the line that he never met a tax he did not like. Naturally he would want them to devote their energies to collecting money for the cash-hungry government.

To say, as the solicitor general has done today, that we have given the tools to the police to deal with inappropriate people coming across our border is the same as the minister who deals with the softwood lumber issue saying that the government is dealing with this and have employment insurance for those people who are losing their jobs. We would rather have real jobs for those people.

It would also be comparable to saying that the government will enhance ambulance services in this country to better enable them to take accident victims to the hospital instead of doing something about the deplorable condition of the national highway system.

Part of the mix of course, because Liberal ministers often like to talk in two different directions at the same time, is that the same minister, who said the government was taking steps to deal with job losses through the EI system for softwood lumber, also claimed there were no direct job losses and the natural restructuring of the industry was taking place, so no real action was required by the government. I guess that is how it justifies the position it takes.

It is ironic that the government has brought in a bill that has a lot of draconian powers that even some of its own backbenchers are speaking out against. At the same time it is not taking the simple, obvious steps such as equipping our Canada customs people to do the job right at the border. They are the first line of defence for this country's borders and they are not being given the tools they need to do the job.

We are debating our amendment to the bill and we will come back to the bill during other stages. I assure the House that I will be here. I will be speaking out on behalf of Canadians who have concerns with the bill, who are alarmed at a government that would ram it through without proper debate. They are alarmed at a government that continues to put these kinds of omnibus bills through without even considering splitting them up so they can be examined properly by their various departments.