Mr. Speaker, Bill C-3 is really about how our society approaches an attack on our society. As a society it seems to me we always have the opportunity of making one of two decisions. We can respond to an attack in fear, in panic, or we can respond from a vantage point of strong belief in the essential values of our society and that those essential values will protect us and prevent further attack.
After 9/11 in particular, but at other times in our history, we as a country and as a society have all too often opted for the first alternative, that is, reacting in fear and in panic, and putting into place legislation rather than protecting our society as a whole. This has actually caused our society to become weaker. We saw that with regard to the security certificates.
Obviously, I will spend most of my time talking about them, but we saw it after 9/11 with the anti-terrorism legislation. Canada passed a law at that time that by any objective analysis was not necessary. We had provisions within our existing legislation, the criminal justice system, and our procedures under that system protected us. History has proven that true over the last five or six years, and in particular in the last year or two, as sections of the anti-terrorism legislation have been struck down.
We have a similar history with regard to the security certificate, although the security certificates when we study them have a bit of a twist that we have not yet seen with the anti-terrorism legislation.
Before I go on with that, we have historically made some very bad decisions. When we did that, oftentimes it was targeting specific communities within our overall society. We saw it in the first and second world wars against the Italian and German Canadian communities, where a large number of people were incarcerated for a good part of those wars. When we go back and look at it objectively in hindsight, we say that they were not a threat to us. They were not a security concern, but we imprisoned them and took them away from their families and put them into prison camps for both of those wars for extended periods of time.
Of course, the most tragic of all of those was what we did to the Japanese Canadian community in the second world war. We deprived them of their property and their liberty for the entire war, and not paying compensation after the war. This was a real stain on the history of this country.
As I go back and whenever we are looking at protecting our community and our country as a whole, I argue that we have to come from the vantage point of a sense of self-confidence that the society that we build, the criminal justice system that we build, and the security systems that we build are all more than adequate to protect us.
Then, when we are given that choice, we always hear that we have to balance it. When I hear those words, I always cringe because I know what is coming next. When people talk about balancing, what they are really talking about is taking away rights, taking away our civil liberties, acting out of fear and panic, as opposed to saying “we as a society over the last 135-plus years have built a system that generally will protect us”.
I want to come back to the security certificates. Many people I know think that the security certificates were a product of the anti-terrorism legislation after 9/11. Of course that is not accurate. We have had security certificates for almost 30 years now.
To some degree when we look at them, their real abuse did come after 9/11. It came because to a great extent they have been used almost exclusively, with the exception of Mr. Zundel in that period of time, against people who are Muslim and who fit a stereotype of a terrorist. I emphasize stereotype of a terrorist because nothing of course is proven. No one is even charged. They are simply held.
I want to go back and cover the history. Prior to 9/11 we had a system where certificates were used. We only had a few cases, one that is still outstanding, where an individual was held for extended periods of time. In fact, that individual was released under conditions and is still in Canada because he cannot go back to his country without realistic apprehension of torture and probably death as a result of his conduct in the other country. So he is still here, in a case that went to the Supreme Court of Canada once and in a number of other appeals.
However, he is here. He has never been charged, never been convicted, and still is under control, although living in society. That case was reasonably abusive, but the cases that came after 9/11 are even more so.
I want to point out that the system changed after 9/11 because up to that point we had what I saw as somewhat greater protections against the abuse of the use of these certificates.
I must say at that time I was opposed to the use of these certificates because I felt our criminal justice system was more than adequate to deal with the problems we were finding and applying the certificates to.
However, it was certainly a safer system in terms of preventing abuse and in fact it did. It worked under what we call SIRC and it provided additional abilities for the person who was facing the condition of a security certificate to have some additional protection more closely in accordance with our traditional civil liberties and human rights in this country. It was far from perfect and in fact, again, it was not necessary.
After 9/11 though, it became very obvious that we were using them almost exclusively to target individuals who were Muslim and who fit a stereotype.
We have had five cases since 9/11 all very similar, people incarcerated for extended periods of time without charge, no prospect that they are ever going to be charged in this country and it always begs the question. If they are such violent people, if they are such a threat to our society, how dare we as a country send them back? Are they going to be terrorists in the other country, are they going to commit violent acts in the other country?
In a number of cases these people have been here for extended periods of time. We have a moral responsibility, if not a legal one, to keep them in this country and deal with them in this country in our traditional criminal justice system. That of course has not happened.
In addition, we have had these cases where the certificates were applied for and granted by our proper ministers who had signing authority to pursue these. Then there were very extensive legal battles to the Supreme Court, again most recently to the Federal Court at the trial level, and the Federal Court of Appeal level repeatedly and repeatedly.
What we have always been faced with in those five cases, without exception, is the reality that the certificates are useless when they come up against the practical fact that if we send these people back they again are facing torture or death in these countries. Our courts have repeatedly found that we are not prepared to do that. There is a sliver of a window that the Supreme Court left open with regard to cases where we might do that. However, in all five of these cases, our courts have said no, we cannot do that because of the fear of torture and/or death.
We are left with this conundrum. We have these people in the country. We are saying that we are never going to release them, but we are never going to charge them and we are never going to prosecute them. That so flies in the face of our traditional criminal justice system as to make a mockery of that criminal justice system.
Now, today, we are faced with this legislation that had been in effect a response to the Supreme Court of Canada decision of about 10 months ago. It was one of these cases that went to the Supreme Court. In that decision, the Supreme Court said, after analyzing the empowering legislation for the certificates, that we could not continue with the system as it is now, it being a clear breach of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Also, as the court always has to go to that secondary stage of asking in a free and democratic society if this type of infringement on civil liberties and human rights is permissible, it said no to that as well. It said that the legislation as is, the practice as is, is unconstitutional. It is against the charter and it is not saved by the residual clause, section 1 of the charter, that allows in exceptional circumstances for breaches of fundamental rights.
The court said it is illegal, unconstitutional and against the charter, that there are no saving provisions in this legislation, and that we have to redo it, making it clear that it gave government 12 months to correct the legislation if it could. If not, then the security certificates are declared unconstitutional, as being against the charter.
We are approaching that timeframe. It runs out sometime in early March, I believe, so we have this response from the government. It was interesting to listen to some of the other speakers who have read the court case, as I have, but I come away with a different interpretation. What we hear is that in this legislation, in Bill C-3, we have cured the problem by introducing the concept of a special advocate.
If one not only read the decision by the Supreme Court but saw the arguments that went on in front of the Supreme Court by counsel from all sides, one would see, I believe, that the simple introduction of the special advocate, and the limited authority given to that special advocate, does not meet the requirements of the Supreme Court in that decision. I say that from two vantage points.
One is that although the concept was discussed and argued by various counsel before the Supreme Court, it was a fairly limited argument. There was not a great deal of evidence put in as to how the advocates function, particularly in the U.K., which is the model that has been fairly closely adhered to in Bill C-3, but there was information that went forward at that point. There were serious questions about its efficacy in the U.K., about whether in fact it was working, and I will come back to that in a minute.
So even though the Supreme Court heard a little about that, it was not extensively argued. Again, when we look at the wording that it actually used, we see that it simply said this may be one possible way of fixing the problem. I think that is a fair characterization of its wording. The court did not go all the way, by any stretch of the imagination, and say to put in special advocates and the problem would be corrected. It did not say that. In fact, the court left open quite clearly the point that this was only a possibility in regard to fixing the problem with the security certificates and the way they impinge on the charter.
When we actually look at the experience in the U.K., and I know that we have heard from other speakers about this but I want to emphasize it, we see that the lawyers in the U.K. who were special advocates have on a number of occasions resigned their positions and have gone public with the reasons for those resignations. Sir Ian Macdonald is probably the primary one that we refer to.
He wrote a very eloquent piece at the time of his resignation as to why he could no longer in good faith continue to act as a special advocate. He listed the problems that he had as a lawyer, as a barrister of much reputation. He is a very experienced lawyer. He is a very experienced barrister in the criminal justice system in the U.K.
His final conclusion was that in terms of being honest to himself, his profession and his professional role, he could not continue to do it because in fact he was not capable. As talented as he is, as experienced as he is in criminal law matters and in the criminal justice system, he could not provide protection that is anywhere near the standard that we should expect. He was speaking there of England, but this certainly would also be applicable here in Canada. He resigned.
I also want to point out that on a number of occasions the special advocates made representations to the government about the additional authority and mandate that they wanted in terms of being able to communicate with the individual who was the subject of that kind of system. It is different in the U.K., but there are basically security certificates there. They were wanting to play a much more traditional lawyer's role of protecting the person they were assigned to protect.
One of the things that happened midway through the process in the United Kingdom was that they actually established resources because they did not have many, both in terms of additional personnel to help the counsel and actually setting up an independent office so they could provide additional protection.
Even after they did that, Sir Ian Macdonald still said that they could not do it, that it is fundamentally flawed and fundamentally against the basic concepts of English common law, civil liberties and of human rights. “And if you want to set this up as a sham”, he said, “I am no longer going to be part of it”. He resigned.
I believe that is the same argument that the Supreme Court will see if this bill gets through. It sounds like it will get through, because the Liberals, as they have done so often lately, are siding with the government. It will probably get through.
We are going to be voting against it as a party, because I believe ultimately that when this gets back to the Supreme Court of Canada it will say that it has now seen how the system works, how the introduction of the special advocate does not meet the basic requirements of the charter and does not protect fundamental rights in this country, and the court is going to strike this one down too.
Quite frankly, I am proud to say that the NDP will continue its opposition to the use of the security certificates. We should get this out of our system completely. We should have the faith, the confidence and, yes, the courage in our belief that we can protect our citizens using our existing criminal justice system. All sorts of evidence says we are justified in that belief and that faith in our system. That is the way we should be going. This legislation should never be passed.