Madam Speaker, let us remember that, on November 22, 2001, the Government of Canada introduced, in great haste, its second public safety bill, Bill C-42. The Bloc Quebecois reacted immediately to the introduction of that bill, which constituted the worst attack ever seen by Quebecers and Canadians on their rights and freedoms.
Those who are listening to us will have understood that, since November 22, the Bloc Quebecois has vehemently opposed Bill C-42. We saw the results. Last week, the federal Liberal government withdrew Bill C-42 to introduce Bill C-55, which, believe it or not, is five pages longer than Bill C-42, which had 98 pages. Bill C-55 has 103 pages.
The Bloc Quebecois reacted strongly to this attack on human rights and freedoms from within Canada by the federal Liberal government. When dealing with terrorism, there is nothing worse than trying to counter terrorist attacks by sacrificing our rights and freedoms. It is the worst possible reaction, because the objective of the terrorist network throughout the world is actually to attack the fundamental values that made Quebec and Canada such a great democracy.
Today, I am proud to have helped, with my leader and my colleagues in the Bloc Quebecois, make the federal Liberal government understand that it could not take away the fundamental rights enjoyed by all Canadians. However, it was easy for us to fight Bill C-42 because the ministers who were supposed to defend that bill, namely the Minister of Transport, the Minister of National Defence and all the others—I will name them later—were not the strongest defenders of the bill. Why?
Quite simply because Bill C-42, just as Bill C-55 we are examining today, was prepared by and for public servants. How are things done in a society like ours? In any crisis situation, the government tries its best to pass legislation to achieve its old unfulfilled dreams. That is what happened with DND and its land staff, Health Canada, Transport Canada and all the other departments, which took advantage of the terrible crisis situation resulting from the September 11 events to include in Bill C-42 numerous infringements on our freedoms and rights, and yet more state control.
Such a situation brings us closer to a more militarized, centralizing and controlling state. This is what the Liberal government is trying to do, once again today, with Bill C-55. Even if it was upgraded and improved, even if the Bloc's recommendations were taken into account, it has proven impossible to escape the government machinery which, once again, attacks our rights and freedoms in Bill C-55. I will demonstrate it in a minute.
Another similarity with what happened when Bill C-42 was introduced is the fact that the Prime Minister went before the press yesterday, and with his typical candour and naivety, he could not answer one very simple question from a journalist who was asking if our rights and freedoms will be better protected under the new legislation. He answered “Yes, because I am telling you it is better”.
Once again, questions were put to the Prime Minister today and he was unable to answer them. Yesterday, it was the Minister of Defence who could not provide the answers.
In the next few minutes, I will try to summarize the purpose of this bill for the benefit of everyone in Quebec who might be watching this debate, and to show why we constantly have to badger the federal Liberal government which, in an attempt to do some nation building, has let the bureaucracy pursue its objective of centralization. We now have a centralizing state, whcih is detrimental to the rights and freedoms for which people, especially in Quebec, have fought so dearly.
Today, the Prime Minister even added in this House, “Anyway, all of these questions will be answered in committee and we will make all the appropriate revisions and changes”.
My colleague from Berthier—Montcalm knows better. On Bill C-7, he single-handedly moved more amendments and brought more witnesses before the committee than all the Liberal members from Quebec. Despite all his efforts, none of the amendments to Bill C-7 concerning young offenders was passed. Except for some very minor changes, the bill was passed almost exactly as it was introduced in the House.
So today, the Prime Minister said to us, the members from Quebec, “With respect to Bill C-55, you can ask your questions in committee, you will have the chance to call witnesses, and we can make changes when the time comes”.
For all those Quebecers who are listening, for all those groups who appeared before my colleague from Berthier—Montcalm's committee to comment on Bill C-7, the Youth Criminal Justice Act, I regret to inform them that it is not true that significant changes can be made in the House.
There was consensus in Quebec and, believe it or not, the new Minister of Justice, the member for Rosemont, from Quebec, succeeded in forcing Bill C-7 on Quebecers, once he was elected. This despite the fact that the day after his nomination, he told the media that he would meet with all of the groups and representatives in Quebec that are affected, and he did not do this.
This is the reality of this centralizing federal Liberal government, which, once again, with Bill C-55, has used its political power to take away rights and freedoms from Quebecers and Canadians.
Allow me to provide some examples, as the Prime Minister, the Minister of Transport and all of the other ministers should have done to explain Bill C-55. Given that there are three sections of this bill, as the Minister of Transport was saying, as far as I am concerned, it should have been divided into as many bills.
Yet again, the government is using a bill that is almost an omnibus bill, with 20 different parts, a bill that amends more than 10 acts, in an attempt to push through a bill that is packed with provisions that violate people's rights and freedoms.
For the benefit of Quebecers and Canadians who are listening, as the Minister of Transport said, there are three main sections to this bill. I will comment on them in the order that he presented them.
The first part concerns the ministerial power to make interim orders. I will give the list of the ministers who are involved. Anyway, the wording is the same for all amended statutes. The provisions are very lengthy, but the principle is always the same. Every time a minister is granted the power to make an order, he is subjected to the same standards and restrictions, but our rights and freedoms are also violated in the same way.
Here is the list of the ministers who are mentioned in the bill, with the title of the statutes being amended. The Department of Health Act and the Food and Drugs Act are administered by the Minister of Health. The Hazardous Products Act, the Safety Act, and the Navigable Waters Protection Act are under the responsibility of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. The Pest Control Products Act and the Quarantine Act are administered by the Minister of Health. The Radiation Emitting Devices Act and the Canada Shipping Act are administered by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, and the Canada ShippingAct, 2001, by the Minister of Transport.
Major amendments are made to all these statutes, and each of the ministers responsible will get new powers I will specify.
Let us take for example the Minister of Health and the Department of Health Act. The same provisions are repeated for all the other statutes and for all the other departments.
Here is clause 33, amending the Department of Health Act, at section 11.1:
The Minister may make an interim order that contains any provision that may be contained in a regulation made under section 11 if the Minister believes that immediate action is required to deal with a significant risk, direct or indirect, to health or safety.
This therefore confers on a minister the authority to make interim orders. For all the ministers I have listed so far, and all the laws they administer, they have been authorized to make interim orders, which have regulatory force. This is not done just any old way.
Subsection 4 of clause 11 reads:
An interim order is exempt from the application of sections 3, 5 and 11 of the Statutory Instruments Act and published in the Canada Gazette within twenty-three days after it is made.
What has just been given to the ministers, including the Minister of Health, is the power to enact interim orders with regulatory force and without the constraints of the Statutory Instruments Act sections 3, 5 and 11. It is worthwhile quoting the sections in question, which enable a minister such as the Minister of Health—I will give an example shortly—to make interim orders with regulatory force and no obligation. For instance, section 3 reads as follows:
Subject to any regulations made pursuant to paragraph 20(a), where a regulation-making authority proposes to make a regulation, it shall cause to be forwarded to the Clerk of the Privy Council three copies of the proposed regulation in both official languages.
Thus there will no longer be a requirement to forward them promptly to the Clerk of the Privy Council.
On receipt, the Clerk of the Privy Council, in consultation with the Deputy Minister of Justice, shall examine the proposed regulation to ensure that: it is authorized by the statute pursuant to which it is to be made; it does not constitute an unusual or unexpected use of the authority pursuant to which it is to be made; it does not trespass unduly on existing rights and freedoms and is not, in any case, inconsistent with the purposes and provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Bill of Rights.
This is what is termed the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms filter.
Now, these interim orders by the ministers of Health, Transport, Fisheries and Oceans and the others, including Environment, in compliance with the laws I have listed, will no longer have to gain approval or be filed in three copies with the Clerk of the Privy Council for the text to be examined in light of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the framework of the enabling legislation.
Let me give an example. During the September 11 crisis, the Minister of Health bought generic drugs, this in violation of the Patent Act and the patent held by the Bayer company. So, the minister awarded a contract to a company called Apotex. This action was brought up in the House and it was questioned, because it did not comply with the Patent Act. Of course, the Minister of Health argued the decision was not his, that he had simply raised the issue with his officials and they had made the big decision.
Under Bill C-55, the Minister of Health will now have the power to make interim orders whereby public officials would have the mandate to acquire drugs. In the example that I gave, the drugs were bought to counter the effects of anthrax, but it could be any drug to fight any disease. These drugs could be bought without checking who owns the patents for them and, again, without ensuring that all is done in compliance with the charter of rights and freedoms.
With these interim orders, the responsibility of making decisions that may involve public funds and have major consequences on individual rights and freedoms rests solely with one person, namely the minister. He could force the whole population to get a vaccine and take medication. Let us not forget that, in our society, there are communities and individuals who are subject to restrictions with respect to the consumption of drugs, among other things.
All this went unnoticed. However, what I just read is the same text that was in Bill C-42. In the new Bill C-55, the following was added regarding interim orders:
5.1(3) An interim order has effect from the time that it is made but ceases to have effect on the earliest of
(a) 45 days after it is made, unless it is approved by the Governor in Council,
Before, in Bill C-42, it was 90 days. Now, we are told 45 days, and the following is added:
5.1(7) A copy of each interim order must be tabled in each House of Parliament on any of the first 15 days on which that House is sitting after the interim order is made.
Earlier, the minister told us, “Yes, it gave authority for an interim order to be tabled in both Houses, here and in the other place, and there could be motions and a debate”. Note that he said that there could be a debate, if they wanted one and if it were necessary.
People have obviously understood that when there is a debate here, it is the Liberal majority that decides. We can move a motion but, if the Liberal majority decides that we are not going to deal with it, there will not be any debate.
We are told that the interim order will be tabled on any of the first 15 days on which the House is sitting and that it will now be valid for 45 days instead of 90. But an interim order is urgent and is made within hours or days of an event. Inevitably, the harm, if any, will be done. And this will not change with Bill C-55, any more than it did with Bill C-42. Nothing has changed.
The government can say that the issue is evolving, but when an interim order with the force of a regulation does not need to be tested against the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms--the charter filter--the rights of parliamentarians have been violated, and citizens no longer have any way of finding out whether the decisions of one man, a minister, respect their rights and freedoms.
The second part of Bill C-55, as set out by the minister, deals with the famous military security zones, which have become controlled access military zones. The Bloc Quebecois waged a very vocal campaign against this military interference in the civilian activities of militants, of groups of protestors who often take part in demonstrations. The government has obviously eliminated large parts of this bill.
But as for the meaning, the scope and everything DND officials and all those who thought they were going to get new military authority wanted, the basic outline is still there.
It is simple. Members have talked about two pages. In two pages, the government imposes a military state, allows a single person, the minister, to send the army into an area. The new wording is as follows:
260.1(1) Subject to subsection (2), 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:
The minister is the only one who can make this decision. The wording is simple. The only man who can make this decision is the defence minister. The very man who did not see fit to inform the Privy Council, cabinet, the Prime Minister and the government that Canadian Forces had taken prisoners in Afghanistan. This is the man. And he is the one who will have the authority to designate controlled access military zones. Of course, only regarding the following:
(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 the Visiting Forces Act.
They seem to be telling us that they want to protect our defence establishments. This makes sense. They must be protected. However, they are already military zones. A military base or any property belonging to the Department of National Defence is already a military zone entirely under its control.
So why add this? Because of the following paragraph which says:
(b) property that is provided for the Canadian Forces or the Department and is situated outside of a defence establishment.
The objective is to say that the minister will be able to designate a zone including a military establishment or military equipment, but not on property belonging to the department, therefore on civilian territory. Of course, there are many appropriate examples of this, which we will point out during the vigorous debate that will be triggered by Bill C-55.
For instance, there is the Citadel in Quebec City and everything around the Armoury, which belongs to the Canadian Forces. As you know, across from the Citadel there is the National Assembly and the Quebec government. This, of course, could be part of what is outside a defence establishment.
Therefore, this means that under this bill, in order to protect his establishment, the minister, the man who did not want and did not bother to inform the Prime Minister, cabinet, the Privy Council and the government that the army had taken prisoners in Afghanistan, will be able to designate, around the Citadel in Quebec City, a controlled access military zone that could include the National Assembly.
This is the reality. Examples abound as the minister is asking the same for “a vessel, aircraft or other property under the control of a visiting force that is legally in Canada”.
We often talk about G-8 meetings and these sorts of things. Some heads of states and governments arrive with their own military equipment. When there is a meeting of the most influential people on the planet, that is members of the G-8, the defence minister could automatically designate a zone around the site of the meeting where there is military equipment—of course, I hope heads of states will land with their helicopters and their planes close to where these meetings take place—to protect such equipment.
This is quite astounding. And it is not only the equipment. The next paragraph says:
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—
Obviously, it is not only to protect property, but also to protect people. Who are these people? They are all the people who could feel threatened at any location where there is military equipment.
Subparagraph ( b ) refers to property that is provided for the Canadian Forces.
So it is not only property that belongs to the Canadian Forces, but also property that is provided for them. It could be any federal building that the government decides to lend to the Canadian Forces to set up headquarters or for some other reason.
Obviously, the government could do indirectly what Bill C-42 enabled it to do directly. These provisions can be interpreted that way.
Yesterday, the ministers, particularly the defence minister, told us that we should not presume that they are acting in bad faith. Bad faith is never presumed, it is observed. Every day, we see the government's bad faith in this House. How could we trust the defence minister who, as far as I am concerned, has lost all credibility over the last few months?
So one man, the Minister of National Defence, is entrusted with the task of designating controlled access military zones, including in Quebec. Of course, we are being told that this will be done only if it is reasonably necessary. This expression is used four times. The zone cannot be of any size. The controlled access military zone may not be larger than is reasonably necessary.
We hear about the zone, the area—