Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have this opportunity this afternoon to debate Bill C-3, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (certificate and special advocate) and to make a consequential amendment to another Act.
I want to make it very clear from the beginning that I am strongly opposed to this legislation and to the security certificate process itself. I believe that the process of security certificates should be repealed and abolished. It is a position I have taken since I have come to this place. I actually have a motion on the order paper calling for the repeal of those sections of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act pertaining to the security certificate process.
The bill represents nothing more than a tinkering with a process that is fundamentally flawed and which has been found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada.
The security certificate process is part of Canada's Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, IRPA. It is intended to be an expedited deportation process to remove non-citizens, permanent residents, and visitors to Canada who are accused of serious criminal activities related to espionage, national security, terrorism and organized crime.
However, this is not how this legislation is being used. It is being used in serious ways not contemplated by its inclusion in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. This section is being used to circumvent our criminal justice system. It is being used to detain individuals without trial and without conviction and to detain them indefinitely. It is being used to deport people who may face torture or the death penalty in other countries. It is being used to circumvent the rules of evidence and to allow for the use of secret evidence, thereby denying a fair hearing. It is also being used to deny accused individuals the right to know the evidence against them and mount a defence in court.
These are all serious issues and ones that go to the fundamental questions of how our justice system operates in this country. They are, in fact, all issues that we have fought long and hard to establish in a fair and just system. They would not be part of a fair and just legal system in this country. Yet, here we have a piece of legislation that is being used in exactly those ways.
In the first session of this Parliament, the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration studied the security certificate process as part of an undertaking that we made to look at both the use of immigration detention and in particular the security certificate process.
I wrote a minority report entitled “Detention Centers and Security Certificates” on behalf of the New Democratic Party to the 12th report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. I want to talk about some of the points that I raised in my minority report.
I talked about the fundamental violations of due process and civil liberties that must not be tolerated in a free and democratic society. I said that the security certificate process denies permanent residents and foreign nationals the protection of section 9 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that states: “Everyone has the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned”.
That was a fundamental starting point for my minority report. I believe the security certificate process is a fundamental violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I believe that was key to why the Supreme Court decided that it was unconstitutional.
In my minority report I also talked about how issues of terrorism, national security, espionage and organized crime should be dealt with through the use of the Criminal Code and not through a lesser immigration process. I said that if there is a problem with the Criminal Code's ability to deal with these types of crimes, then those problems with the Criminal Code should be addressed and fixed. I think this is a central point.
These are serious crimes that we are talking about. These are crimes of terrorism, crimes against the national security of Canada, crimes dealing with organized crime or espionage. These are serious criminal matters. In fact, we might be hard pressed to think of other criminal issues that are more serious than these.
Those are all issues that should be dealt with by the Criminal Code, not by an immigration deportation process. They deserve the most serious attention our justice system can give them. I believe that is through a charge under the Criminal Code of Canada.
I also talked in my minority report about how immigration detention should be used only for immigration purposes and should be of short duration immediately prior to legal deportation for violations of immigration law. If deportation is not possible alternatives to detention must be pursued immediately.
Immigration detention must not be used as a substitute for bringing charges and seeking conviction for serious criminal matters related to terrorism, violations of national security, espionage and organized crime.
I believe that IRPA deals with questions of immigration law and that anything that is included in IRPA should be a process related to immigration law. I firmly believe that when we use IRPA and its provisions to detain people who have been accused of serious crimes related to terrorism, national security, espionage, organized crime, then we are doing an end run around the Criminal Code and using a lesser process that was never intended to seriously address the accusations and allegations related to those specific criminal activities.
A lesser immigration process should not be used for serious criminal issues. I believe that is just plain wrong. Deportation should be related to a violation of immigration law and not serious criminal matters.
That it not to say that a serious criminal matter does not have an influence in deportation issues, but we should never be using the deportation features of the immigration act to deal with a criminal matter in the first instance. That is the way we have been using it in the current situation with the security certificates.
The minority report also said that given the seriousness of crimes related to terrorism, it is imperative that those accused of such crimes be able to mount an effective and full defence. This is not possible in the security certificate context where the accused and their lawyers do not know the evidence against them and are not able to test that evidence in a court of law.
I believe that is an absolutely fundamental criteria of dealing with a fair and just criminal justice system, and to circumvent that and to upset that process goes against a fundamental of our society that we have worked long and hard over many centuries in fact to develop and fine tune. There is no excuse for circumventing those primary components of that criminal justice system.
My minority report also said that Canada must never deport to torture and must be in full compliance with the United Nations conventions against torture and other cruel or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Evidence obtained by torture must never be admissible in a Canadian court or in any legal or immigration process.
Unfortunately, currently in the security certificate process, and I believe in the proposals that are before us, we do not have those assurances. We do not have the ability to test the evidence or the allegations to determine where those allegations came from, where that information was obtained, and how it was obtained. We know that any information obtained by torture is utterly unreliable, that people who are being tortured will say anything to save themselves and that information obtained in that kind of process should never be admissible in any kind of legal process in this country.
We need to make sure that that kind of guarantee is part of any legal process that we are considering. I do not believe that the current legislation or the proposals before us offer us that kind of assurance.
Canada must also ensure, I said in the minority report, that those who plot terrorist activities are tried, convicted and incarcerated, and not merely foisted on another jurisdiction through deportation. I think this is a very serious problem with the security certificate process.
What it says is, “We aren't going to convict you of this serious crime here in Canada. We're just going to try to get you out of the country, get you away from Canada to somehow protect us from you but to foist you on some other jurisdiction, to allow you to go unpunished for what you allegedly conspired here in Canada”. I think that is an absolute derogation of our responsibility as world citizens. It is a derogation of our responsibility to Canadians that people, who participate in such serious criminal activity as terrorists and as threats to national security, go unpunished somehow.
I just think that removing them without ever having charged them or convicted them of those serious crimes is totally counter-intuitive. Why would we allow them to get away with that and get them out of our jurisdiction where they might never be tried or punished for that? If we as a wealthy country do not have the resources to prove these serious allegations, why would we foist that onto another jurisdiction that may not have the resources or abilities that we have in this country to do that? It just does not make sense to do that. That is another reason why I believe that this process is fundamentally flawed.
As part of the minority report that I wrote to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration report on security certificates, I made some very specific recommendations, and I want to just talk about them as part of this debate.
One of the recommendations I made was that the use of security certificates be abolished and that sections 9 and 76 to 87 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act be repealed immediately.
I still fundamentally argue that is the route that we should be going in this country. We should not be using this secondary and lessor process to prosecute very serious criminal matters. If there are problems with our Criminal Code, then we should be addressing those problems and fixing that legislation.
My second recommendation was that evidence obtained by torture and provided by governments or police and intelligence agencies that practise torture should not be admissible in a Canadian court of law, or in any criminal or legal process or hearing, or in any immigration or refugee process or hearing. I think that is an absolutely fundamental requirement.
I have already spoken about how fundamentally unreliable evidence obtained by torture is and how fundamentally immoral it is to even consider condoning information obtained under those kinds of circumstances. Canada should be doing nothing that condones or would allow any other country or any other intelligence-gathering organization to use such tactics against anyone. I believe that any legislation that we debate in this place should make that absolutely clear.
The third recommendation that I made as part of that minority report was that immigration detention must only be used as a short term measure immediately prior to removal related to violations of immigration law. So, again, IRPA should be about immigration law. It should not be about a backdoor to dealing in a very inappropriate way with serious criminal issues, such as terrorism or threats to national security.
As part of my minority report I supported several of the majority recommendations that the committee report did.
One of the recommendations the majority put forward was that charges should be laid under the Criminal Code against permanent residents or foreign nationals who are suspected of participating in, contributing to or facilitating terrorist activities. I think the committee said that a preference should always exist for the use of the Criminal Code. I would go stronger but I did support that recommendation.
Another recommendation that the majority report made was that there should be no removal of permanent residents or foreign nationals to their country of origin or habitual residence if there are reasonable grounds to believe that they would be at risk of torture or death, or face the risk of cruel and unreasonable treatment or punishment. I think that is a very significant one.
We have seen already, just in recent weeks, that the current government may be willing to compromise that longstanding Canadian commitment of not deporting someone to face the death penalty. It may be chipping away at Canada's longstanding opposition to the death penalty in terms of the Canadian who is on death row in the United States and where we are not seeking to have that death penalty commuted. I think that this goes hand in hand with this kind of legislation that we are talking about as well.
Furthermore, there was another majority recommendation that police and intelligence services have appropriate resources to investigate allegations of criminal activities related to security, terrorism, espionage and organized crime, and to pursue appropriate charges under the Criminal Code.
I happen to believe these crimes are so serious that we should have every resource available to our intelligence and police agencies to have an effective prosecution of individuals who have engaged in that kind of activity.
I strongly supported this and proposed, during the discussions in committee, that this needed to be an important feature of the report. There is no excuse for being soft on those kinds of serious crimes. We need to pursue those allegations vigorously, but do it in the context of respect for our criminal justice system and without compromising the criminal justice system.
I should note that a similar minority report on the security certificate process was made by the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, the NDP justice critic, to the report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security's subcommittee on the review of the Anti-Terrorism Act. The report was entitled, “Rights, Limits, Security: A Comprehensive Review of the Anti-terrorism Act and Related Issues”.
A major feature of the legislation now before us in Bill C-3 is to add a special advocate to the process, a court appointed lawyer who would have access to the evidence and act in the interest of the accused, which is the way this is described. I believe the special advocate process or office is also a flawed process, a flawed institution. We have seen that there have been significant problems with the same kind of process of special advocates in other jurisdictions.
A special advocate from the United Kingdom, Ian Macdonald, has been very outspoken on the problems of the special advocate in that jurisdiction. I want to quote something he said in relation to his role as a special advocate. He stated:
My role has been altered to provide a false legitimacy to indefinite detention without knowledge of the accusations being made and without any kind of criminal charge or trial.
This is a very serious response from someone who has worked inside exactly the kind of system that is contemplated by Bill C-3.
Bill C-3 limits the ability of the special advocate to communicate with the accused about the evidence that he or she has seen. That is a huge flaw. There is an inability to test the evidence, a key aspect of our criminal justice process. There is the serious problem of turning allegations into evidence, which is a key part of a criminal trial in our country as part of our system and is absent in this process, a flaw also in the U.K. that was raised by Mr. Macdonald. It continues to be a flaw in this legislation.
Mr. Macdonald said to a parliamentary committee in the U.K. in 2005:
—you have a whole lot of mass of information and assessments without there ever being any need to make an effort to turn any of that into evidence. I think that has within it an inherent risk that you end up with quite shoddy intelligence and misleading intelligence.
We also need to test information presented in court by cross-examination and the calling of other witnesses, all of which are denied by this process.
In fact, Mr. Macdonald summed up his role as a special advocate by saying that he was called to provide “a fig leaf of respectability and legitimacy to a process which I found odious”. That is a very serious condemnation of that process.
This past July, the U.K. Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights issued a strongly worded report, describing the U.K. special advocate system as “Kafkaesque or like the Star Chamber”, nothing that we would want to emulate in this country.
If the government had been serious about the special advocate process, it would have taken very seriously a report last summer in our country by Lorne Waldman and Craig Forcese on the security certificate process. They made a very detailed set of recommendations about how that process might be used. In fact, they said that the Security Intelligence Review Committee, or SIRC process, might have more to recommend it than the U.K. special advocate process, which the government seems to have emulated.
I do not think the government has made a serious attempt to address the problems of the security certificate process because it did not take the recommendations of Messrs. Waldman and Forcese very seriously when coming up with this legislation.
Six people are still subject to security certificates in Canada. One is incarcerated still at the Kingston Immigration Holding Centre, Hassan Almrei, and five others, Adil Charkaoui, Mohamed Harkat, Mahmoud Jaballah, Mohammad Mahjoub and Manickavasagam Suresh, are all subject to very serious conditions of release related to the security certificate process. In my opinion, for the reasons I have discussed, none of this is justified.