Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill S-3 again, because I have spoken previously on it.
I would like to spend a few minutes retracing where this bill came from. I was a member of Parliament when this bill came forward in its first incarnation. It was Bill C-36, the anti-terrorism legislation. It came forward after the attack on the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001. It went through the House very quickly.
I remember at that time getting up to speak to the legislation. In fact, the NDP caucus opposed the legislation. We believed that the path being taken by the then Liberal government in this massive new venture of anti-terrorism legislation was not warranted.
We had grave concerns at that time about the impact it would have on life and civil liberties, particularly on Canadians who were originally from the Middle East, who were part of the Canadian Arab or Muslim communities, because after September 11, there was a shift in what was taking place in our society. Many things changed, one of which was the legislation that came forward.
The debate was not that long. In fact, one of the concerns the NDP had back in 2001 was how quickly the legislation was being pushed through Parliament. This was very serious legislation that made very significant departures from the process of law that we understand in this country. We said that the two clauses we are dealing with today, seven years later, were particularly offensive.
Because there was so much debate about those two clauses, which happened to deal with investigative hearings and preventive detention, it was agreed by the government, finally, that those clauses could be sunsetted. They would come under a review so that Parliament would have to examine the legislation and those specific clauses again.
The Anti-terrorism Act passed very quickly. The Bloc at that time may have opposed it as well, I am not sure, but it was basically the NDP and maybe the Bloc who voted against it. The Conservatives and the Liberals voted for it. We knew it would come back for debate and of course that happened. We had that debate a short while ago, because we knew those two clauses would become null and void unless they were somehow continued or reintroduced by March 1, 2007.
On February 27, 2007 there was a vote on those two clauses and, interestingly, they were defeated. It was a very important moment in the House of Commons to see that after a full debate in the House by all political parties, the NDP, the Bloc and some members of the Liberal Party defeated those amendments.
The government has reintroduced, with virtually no changes or very small changes, the same two amendments dealing with investigative hearings and preventive detention. The NDP is standing for the third time to speak out against this legislation.
These clauses have actually never been used. They are an affront to a democratic society. They create a path and a process that we do not want in this country.
Whenever I have spoken at community meetings or public hearings about security issues, more often than not, people voice their very significant concerns about the kind of legislative initiatives that are being undertaken as a result of September 11, and about how much has changed in our society in terms of security. Many people have been targeted, particularly visible minorities.
I want to pay tribute and respect to the organizations that have never given up in speaking against this kind of legislation, and this legislation in particular, whether it is at parliamentary hearings or at hearings that have been organized in the community. There are people in this country who have remained vigilant even in the face of sometimes a public appetite to have greater security measures. There have always been organizations like the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian Bar Association, the Canadian Arab Federation, the Muslim Association of Canada and many others who have always come forward to warn and alert parliamentarians about the dangers of this legislation.
It is very important that we remember that. Sometimes in the furor and frenzy of when things happen, people feel threatened and insecure, and it is very easy for governments to play a very opportunistic role, to play on those fears and to bring in the kind of draconian legislation that we have seen with the Anti-terrorism Act.
We have come to see over the passage of a number of years now that that legislation was not needed. Therefore, it is somewhat concerning and surprising that yet again we are debating this bill, that we are debating these two particular clauses. The Conservative government, with the support of the Liberals, is prepared to re-enact these amendments that have already been voted down by the Canadian Parliament.
When I speak to my constituents, they are very concerned about what is taking place in this country. For example, this weekend is the fourth annual summit of the security and prosperity partnership. It is taking place in New Orleans. Our trade critic, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, is one of the members who will be participating in a very broad people's summit, as opposed to the leaders' summit in New Orleans that is going to be discussing what is called the SPP.
The Council of Canadians, the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, CEP, the United Steelworkers, and many other organizations will be heading to New Orleans, probably today, to participate in the SPP people's summit. Just as we saw at Montebello at the leaders' summit, where the Prime Minister of Canada, the President of the U.S. and the President of Mexico met behind closed doors to discuss security and trade issues, that will take place in New Orleans.
I am very glad that those members of civil society, and there are 30 organizations that are hosting the people's summit in New Orleans, will be there to push for and demand accountability from these leaders, who are trying to further this incredible agenda, the economic, political, cultural and security agenda between our three countries, and the integration of Canadian society politically, economically and culturally into the United States.
Many people are hugely concerned about this. I wanted to raise this today as we are debating this bill because I think that they are very much related. We have seen so many different processes that we are not even barely aware of. Sometimes we get leaked information. Sometimes we find out about what is going on, but all of these processes are taking place behind closed doors.
There are some people who have access. Business elites have access to this process. In fact they have their own forum for raising these issues and bringing them to government. In terms of the Canadian Parliament, people generally, or organizations or the labour movements, civil society, have no access to this process. A lot of this process, in terms of the security and prosperity partnership has to do with security measures in developing a common front of security measures, a merging of the American system with the Canadian system.
We know that anytime we cross the border. There are many of my constituents who, for no apparent reason, have experienced terrible interrogation and investigation at the border, and sometimes have been refused, all under the guise of security.
It really comes back to the broadness of the bill and what it represents. Although the bill has very specific measures in it, to me, former Bill C-36 and Bill S-3, the one we are debating today, exemplify this environment of heightened security, of control by the state, of the clampdown on civil society, the clampdown on individual rights and liberties. This is something that we should really stand up against.
I am very proud that in the NDP we have done that historically. Whether it is the War Measures Act in Quebec, whether it is the internment of Japanese Canadians during the second world war, there are these moments in our community's history where we have to make a decision as to whether or not what is being laid down has a basis and merit, or whether it is actually, in the long run, undermining the fundamental principles of a democratic society. We in the NDP believe that the anti-terrorism legislation did just that. It fundamentally changed Canadian society.
There was a feeling at the time that this really would not affect many people. It was somehow those people; it created an environment of them and us. It is a very dangerous situation when we identify a group of people as being a threat. That is precisely what this legislation does. We have to take the attitude that when civil liberties of any minority, whether it be religious, ethnic, sexual orientation, gender or whatever it might be, any discrimination, any singling out is not only a threat to that group, but it is a threat to all people.
Even if we do not feel immediately threatened or if we do not feel that we are the ones who are being targeted, we have a responsibility to speak out in defence of civil rights and civil liberties for all people. In my community there are people who feel very strongly about that. They are very concerned about the direction that we have taken in the last seven years.
It was actually because of the anti-terrorism legislation that a few years ago I introduced a bill to eliminate racial profiling in Canada. It was a very interesting experience to introduce that bill. When I introduced it, I held a number of hearings across the country, and I was quite taken aback by the response I got in different cities from people who came forward with personal experiences about having been targeted. It has always taken place.
Racial minorities in this country have always been targeted, but it escalated and went off the charts after September 11. I heard from people that it was both random and systemic. The chances of being held up at the border, particularly at airports but also at ground crossings, greatly increased if one looked like a member of a certain community, if one was Muslim, or wore the hijab, or was a member of a minority from the Middle East. That became very clear in talking with people and hearing about people's experiences.
The bill that we introduced to eliminate racial profiling is very important. I am very pleased that the bill has been reintroduced by my colleague from Burnaby—Douglas and it is now Bill C-493. We hope it will come forward for debate in the House one day because I think there is very strong support for that bill.
We also know the experience of Maher Arar and the horrendous situation that that one individual faced in terms of a complete denial of his basic human rights. He was sent to the U.S. with Canadian complicity and then to Syria, where he remained in jail for so long. He was tortured. It was only because of the work of his wife, Monia Mazigh, his family, his community and broader civil society that the issue finally came forward and there was a public hearing.
It is again one of those moments in Canadian history where people feel that a grave injustice was done, although it is good to know that because of the public pressure, there was a public hearing and finally an apology made.
However, what that family went through is something that probably none of us will understand or be able to relate to because it was so deep, so grievous and so harmful. We must learn from that experience.
In light of all of those things that have happened, here we are in 2008 debating whether or not two clauses in the bill should continue. We have already voted once that they should be defeated, that they should be left null and void as a result of the date the sunset clauses came into effect.
I would hope that we in the House could abide by that. We have had a vote. It was taken in February 2007. The clauses were defeated by 159 to 124 members. I am hoping that might happen again this time. The Conservative government has reintroduced these clauses and is hoping they will go through.
I am hoping very much that there is enough expression, will and solidarity in the House from the NDP, the Bloc and maybe some members of the official opposition that we can again defeat these amendments as unnecessary.
We look at our global community and Canada's part in that, and read about what is taking place in the world today. People do not want to see this kind of legislation. This legislation will not do anything to stop food riots, to improve food security, whether in Canada or around the globe. It will not do anything to improve the health of developing nations, eliminate starvation or help the millions of children and families who are suffering needlessly because of the incredible inequities in resource development and wealth distribution on our planet.
This legislation does not address those issues at all. In fact, it exacerbates a global system that is based on U.S. domination in terms of foreign policy and the war in Iraq, and certainly Canada's involvement in the war in Afghanistan. All of these things are connected.
Yet, if we talk to people and ask them what they are worried about and what they want to see us, as parliamentarians, focus on, people will tell us that they want to look at legislation, programs and policies that actually improve equality and social justice in our world. They want to see us focus on those priorities and to deal with those terrible inequities that exist.
I am coming to the conclusion of my comments today and I am glad that I was able to speak to the bill, as I have before. I will speak whenever it is necessary, as will my colleagues in the NDP, because we believe that we play a very important role in the House of standing up.
We take our role very seriously. We come here to vote. We do not sit on our hands. We challenge the government's agenda and we speak for a majority of Canadians who, if they had a direct vote in this, would not be supporting this legislation, Bill S-3, today.
I hope that when we get to the vote, there will be enough members of the House to defeat this, as we did before, and to recognize that these amendments are not necessary. They have not been used. They are not needed. We should focus our attention and our priorities on the issues Canadians really want us to in terms of building healthy, safe communities, respecting our environment, and promoting social justice in our world.