Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to the bill. I have the objective to cover a number of topics that I think might give us the full picture.
Too often in the House, we talk about specific legislation. We call it “C-19” or C-whatever. We talk about clauses in bills. We talk about the black letter law and the fine lines. All too often, it must be lost on the Canadian citizenry, stakeholders such as law enforcement officials and attorneys general, et cetera, and all of us that there is a wider context and broader scope.
Today, we are essentially discussing aspects in the Criminal Code of Canada. I have said a number of times that a great way to get Conservatives on our side is to say that one of the best things they ever did as a party was to have a bright Maritimer, a former prime minister and minister of justice, Sir John Thompson. In 1892, when he was the minister of justice, he collated and wrote the Criminal Code of Canada, many years after we became a country. The hon. member from Scarborough has said it maybe it was one of the last goods things they did. That is probably unfair, but it history will judge.
The point is we live with the Criminal Code. The fact it was enacted it in 1892 and has never really had a wholesale revision of it means that we keep adding things to it. We keep adding layers to the Criminal Code. One of the layers we enacted in the wake of 9/11, the terrorist attacks on North America and our security and sovereignty as it was felt then, was section 83.1, a separate section on terrorism. It became law on January 17, 2002.
This was the context where we said that we would take 24 pages of the code and dedicate it to anti-terrorism tactics and legislation. It is a good place to start, because I have mostly been hearing a bit of a repetition from the Conservative side of the fine points about anti-terrorism legislation and how we have to shore this up because we kind of lost the boat in 2007. We have to clean this up and stop the leaks. It is only two subsections, which is a very small part of the 30 pages.
There has not been a wholesome discussion of what we did in 2002 in reaction to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. However, what I have heard all day from members of the opposition is the supposition that the Criminal Code takes care of all criminal activities and that there should not really be a special circumstance for acts of terrorism, that other parts of the code protect individual liberties. Criminals are people accused of crimes. They say that these should be good enough and that we should not have a special section on terrorism.
There is a lot written about how we reacted as a country and as Parliament to the acts of 9/11. There may be a thought after the passage of time that we overreacted with respect to the intrusion upon individual liberties and rights as defined in the charter. That will be a judgment of history. I do not think events are written into history in three, five or ten years. As they say, history is often written by the winners, but history is also often written when the winners and losers are long gone. The judgment of history will decide whether there were overreactions in North America or the western world with respect to 9/11.
However, when we look at the context of section 83.1, we can see that it is written fairly broadly and fairly comprehensively to take international situations into account. I do not think it can be said that the whole of section 83.1 was an overreaction that went too far. I have yet to hear the opposition parties say that the section 83.1 should be thrown out. I take it as an admission that the other opposition parties feel section 83.1 is worth keeping.
I think of my friends in the Bloc, particularly my friend from Hochelaga, who rail against certain sections of 83.1, in particular the recognizance preventive detention sections, which are the crux of the debate today. It is very curious that at the justice committee, he was the very member who brought forward the motion to suggest we should list organized crime organizations as outlawed associations and further our work in battling crime. It is a sure analogy because that is the very thing we did in section 83.1. By cabinet decision, by Governor-in-Council, there can be a scheduled list of terrorist groups, which then is made to apply to this part of the Criminal Code.
The member from the Bloc, who was extremely eloquent in defending his position, undercuts himself when he says that we should do this domestically in the Criminal Code, buttress section 467.1, which is the organized crime part of the code, with a legislated listing or organized crime associations, just like we did in 2002 with terrorist organizations.
I am a little concerned that opposition members are perhaps overreacting to legislation, the bulk of which heretofore they have not objected to.
I have a word on organized crimes. It is not an advertisement for the upcoming justice committee hearings, but it is worth noting that we spend 26 pages in the Criminal Code on terrorism and we spend 4 pages on organized crime. Currently we are trying to move organized crime into the terrorism section 83.1 by perhaps naming organizations and buttressing that section. If we are talking about organized crime, we can go to section 467.1 and say that this is what Parliament intended in dealing with this specific problem.
There is great recognition in the House that there is a specific problem when it comes to organized crime. Unlike what my friends in the other opposition parties are saying, it is not all found elsewhere in the Criminal Code. We are not talking about simple assault or murders. We are talking about murders, assaults and harm done by criminal organizations.
It is easier for us to understand that because we know about criminal organizations, drugs and crime. We see it every day. We see there are not enough prosecutions to keep up with the crimes. It is in front of us and it is in front of our constituents. It is open, it is notorious and it is there to see. Therefore, we see the need for that.
In the months after 9/11 we saw the need for section 83.01. As I say, I do not think there has been a backtracking on the need for a separate section on anti-terrorism legislation.
Like all reviews of legislation and like all needs for legislation, from time to time it is important to look back and see whether we overstepped. I am not saying that this would be part of the debate today, but an act of terrorism is defined in section 83.01, as many of those definitions are defined by universal declarations. I will not go through them all. They have been well pounded out by international organizations, declarations and conventions. They are all there. The definitions are clear. However, they are also for acts or omissions in or outside of Canada.
It was groundbreaking for this part of the code to take into account acts or omissions that took place offshore. It was very vital for us to treat terrorist offences differently in that way so we could have extraterritorial jurisdiction. However, it goes on to say that these acts are committed in whole or in part for political, religious or ideological purpose, objective or cause.
I know a number of lawyers who have been involved with some very high profile cases, including none other than the member for Mount Royal. They have suggested that the phrase, which precurses the debate of the sections we are getting into, may be a bit wide.
If we think about it, in organized crime we do not get into the ideological, political or religious reasons why organized criminal organizations open up chop shops or grow marijuana for the currency in the drug trade, corrupting our youth with respect to illicit drugs. We do not much care about that. We care about the fact that they are organized, they have targeted groups and they harm people by various crimes that would otherwise be in the code.
It is similar with respect to terrorism. We might say that ideological purpose drives a person to be a suicide bomber, and I understand that, but in this day and age, in our country of pluralistic values, the word religious hits a button, which I think is objectionable. The fact that it does not exist in the patriot act would tell us that the Americans bill of rights will not countenance it.
If we had to gauge reactions to 9/11, probably the American response was a little more reactive than ours. Again, history will judge that. I say that as a precursor because I know the influence for a lot of this legislation may be British in origin.
The British Parliament in its legislation, as it does not have a code, has been reactive to terrorism for a lot longer. It has some of the best crack units in anti-terrorism and some of the best intelligence gathering because of its longer experience with terrorist activities, which, in the main, were caused with the “problems” in Northern Ireland. Again that went back to the thought many years ago that this was only a religious problem. That is something at which we might want to looked.
Remember we are talking about the last three or four pages. With respect to the bill itself, the first 20 or so pages talk about the special powers that might be given to judges and prosecutors to amass evidence and property. As section 83.03 says, providing or making available property or services for terrorist purposes is an offence. There is the whole section of establishing the list.
There is the admission of foreign information obtained in confidence, which would not necessarily apply to a domestic crime. This is why section 83.1 is needed. There is the freezing of property, which again is a special element of the anti-terrorist campaign to get rid of parts of the Criminal Code. There is immunity from disclosure. There are audit powers that are necessary for the incursions into terrorist organizations. There are restraint and forfeiture of property applications that fill this part of the section. There are forfeiture provisions unaffected and participation in an activity and terrorist group, which are the collateral named or delineated offences.
There are a number of activities of harbouring and concealing terrorists, the instructing to carry out a terrorist activity if the individual is not the actual person involved, before we get to the debate about investigative hearings and the arrest warrant for detention in aid of that.
The Canadian public should know, and parliamentarians should keep reminding themselves, that we have no intention of getting rid of section 83.1, the whole terrorist part II.1. Not a speaker rose and said we should get rid of that.
The so-called sunset provision would maybe let the public feel or some people think that we have not had a lot of incidents, that maybe we do not need this heavy-handed tool, therefore the whole Anti-terrorist Act regime in this part of the code will go out. It is not part of the debate today.
We are talking about two provisions of the legislative agenda and whether they should be returned to the code and looked at on an annual basis, as the amended act says, and reviewed. Also it should be looked at within the view of terminating it within five years, another sunset provision.
The investigative hearings, in particular, have been tested by the Supreme Court of Canada. That is another thing I did not hear much about in the debate today. In the 2004 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada, Bagri, sections 7 and 11(d) of the charter were declared not to have been violated by these sections of the code.
This is now 2009. Five years ago, and two years after the enactment, those sections have been declared, without further challenge in five years, to have been compliant with the charter. We are now debating whether they should go back in. One reason is there have been improvements to the deleted or the sunsetted provisions by virtue of the work of the House and the other House.
Bill C-19, replaces, in the two section I want to talk about, the pith of the debate, sections 83.28 and 83.3 of the Criminal Code. These call for an investigative hearing to gather information for the purposes of an investigation of a terrorist offence and to provide for the imposition of a recognizance with conditions on a person to prevent him or her from carrying out a terrorist activity.
This act that has been brought in also provides that these sections cease to have effect for the possible extension of the operation.
All parties in this House take the protection of rights very seriously. On the other hand, there is a collective right in favour of protecting national security. There is the collective right of Canadians in every province and territory to feel that we have secured our boundaries, that we are going to act preventively, hopefully, and at least reactively, to measures that are undertaken by terrorist groups to destroy our country. I have to think that is a primordial national value shared by all parties.
Obviously the question in the debate today is the question of balance. How much infringement on individual rights will be tolerated for the protection of the collective right in favour of national security?
What is encouraging about this bill, as opposed to the last time we debated whether these two provisions should sunset or not, is that the government has incorporated safeguards proposed by the Senate and the special House committee that studied these matters in Bill C-19.
We feel that this bill deserves to be sent to committee to be studied in an overall wholesome and holistic way to determine whether those safeguards do indeed satisfy the right balance. Let us face it: none of us who spoke today are qualified to be witnesses on the topic. We are the elected members who express, as best we can and in the best fashion we can, what we think are the wishes of the Canadian people and in particular the people in our ridings.
At a hearing at committee, we would expect to hear experts in the field on this very important question of the balance between individual rights and the collective right of national security. The bill should be sent to committee because it has addressed previous concerns and it has incorporated proposed amendments set forth by the Senate members of the committee who studied it.
Again, this is not an advertisement. Let us be clear: the Senate committee studying this bill did a good job. They made a thorough review of the legislation and they proffered some suggestions that were followed by the Conservative government. It is about time that the government and all members in this place say that the Senate did a good job. There are some very capable people in the Senate, who brought forth some very important procedural protections and the tweaking of the two provisions to make it palatable, in my view, on the balance of rights.
The investigative hearings provisions in the Criminal Code allow authorities to compel the testimony of an individual without the right to decline to answer those questions. The intent would be to call in those who are on the periphery of the alleged plot, as it may be in terrorist circumstances, who may have vital information, rather than the core suspects. It is information gathering.
The second aspect of these two provisions is the preventive arrest provision, which in the Criminal Code allows the police to arrest and hold an individual, in some cases without warrant, provided they have reasonable grounds.
I think these amendments are very reasonable. They follow on Bill S-3.
In conclusion, I might add that the stakeholders in support include the Canadian Jewish Congress, which told the Senate committee that studied these provisions:
We believed in 2001, and continue to believe today, in the importance of granting expanded powers to the security services through recognizance with conditions and investigative hearings for the careful monitoring of individuals and groups that are suspect and the amassing of relevant information well in advance.
I want to speak briefly about the Harkat decision. I would like to discuss it in terms of the questioning that I may receive. The Harkat case is a jumble of the misapplication of the law as it is. It does not stand for the proposition that the law as it is or as it is about to be amended through this process is bad. It is throwing the baby out with the bathwater to use Harkat and the various decisions of Justice Noël for an argument that we should not enact proper legislation respecting the balance between individual liberties, the rights of individuals and the collective need for security.