Mr. Speaker, I was hoping to ask a question of the previous speaker, who is unavailable, but he gave an excellent speech in which he had particularly targeted an amendment in the bill, subclause 3(1), which replaces existing subsection 10(1), all the way down to paragraph 10(1)(l). This has to do with the circumstances that a minister can take into account.
Paragraph 10(1)(l) would say,
any other factor that the Minister considers relevant.
When one makes a list of factors that may be taken into account, something must be left off. Otherwise it would say, “any factor that the Minister believes is relevant”. The fact that there is a list, which was added, seems to suggest that this list is not comprehensive, and I am not sure why. What it does, and the member mentioned it in his speech, is raise the question of arbitrariness in the law.
I understand that it is in fact part of our Constitution that laws cannot have elements of arbitrariness. It therefore raises the question about whether the Attorney General of Canada has properly opined on the constitutionality of the bill. I do not know, but it is probably worth asking because this is a very serious bill. It is an important bill. It is a bill that addresses the transfer of prisoners from one jurisdiction back to Canada. The whole premise underlying the bill is for the purposes and enhancement of rehabilitation of citizens of Canada who may have run afoul of the laws in another jurisdiction.
The other thing that came to my mind when the member was speaking is the fact that today Bill C-5 was called for the first time for debate at second reading. Also today there is an article in a number of newspapers. The one I picked up is in the Ottawa Citizen and it is titled, “Canadian jailed in U.S. can return, court rules”. This is in fact precisely the type of case that is impacted by Bill C-5.
This relates to a person named Brent James Curtis. He was involved in a routine transfer from a U.S. prison to a Canadian jail, and the Federal Court of Appeal said that the minister erred and that the Conservative administration was to reconsider the decision within 45 days. This was a decision made by the court yesterday on this matter, yet the government proceeded with this bill today. The timing is very unusual and it would suggest that, since the Federal Court of Appeal ruled that the government erred on that case, for this bill to come forward is quite astounding.
The question of whether there is a problem on the constitutional side is also important. As well, there is a question about whether there is continued support for the long-standing tradition that countries have had of being able to transfer prisoners. In this particular case, Mr. Curtis wanted to serve out the balance of his sentence in Canada to be close to his family. This is part and parcel of the whole regime of transfer and rehabilitation.
There was another thing that I saw in the article in the Ottawa Citizen today. According to the article, the officials of the then Minister of Public Safety told the minister that the facts were clear. The assumption had been initially made that this person was somehow implicated in other ways. They advised the minister directly that his facts were wrong. The minister ignored his own officials, made his own decision, and quashed the transfer of this person.
It raises again the question of what is the agenda of the Minister of Public Safety. Why is it that officials of his department are ignored? With the decision of a court, the Federal Court of Appeal, that the minister has 45 days to reconsider the position, why is it that there is now a bill before us that will say that, notwithstanding anything else, other things that will be taken into consideration now will be anything the minister thinks is appropriate? Talk about a one-man show.
I am very sure that there are going to be others who want to pursue what happened in this particular case. This decision was actually highlighted in the media a year ago. The Canadian public safety minister at the time wrongly considered this Canadian citizen, who is now 29 years old, a major money man in a drug conspiracy. That was simply not the fact. That was found by the Federal Court of Appeal ruling. When the minister refused the prison transfer for this person, the minister contradicted his own staff findings in terms of whether Mr. Curtis was linked somehow to organized crime. But still the minister denied the prison transfer on the basis that he might commit future offences in organized crime or terrorism, when it was already made clear by his own staff and officials that there was no connection to organized crime or terrorism.
It was denied even though the U.S. government approved the transfer. The U.S. government approved the transfer, but the Canadian minister did not approve it. So one has to wonder what is going on here. There are so many questions that should be asked of the minister and I am sure it will come out when this goes to committee, but I suspect that with regard to the bill and with regard to the arbitrariness, this particular provision is not going to get very much support at committee.
The officials concluded that Mr. Brent Curtis would not commit a crime if he were transferred back to Canada, nor did Curtis have any links to terrorism or organized crime and was only a minor participant in the matter that was before the court. He was found guilty and sentenced to jail. The government position left Mr. Curtis in U.S. custody where he could not even understand the hourly instructions over the prison public announcement system, which was in Spanish for most of its Mexican inmates. When I saw this case and was referred to the story, it certainly did raise the spectre of some problems.
So we are at second reading. Should this matter be passed at second reading and go forward to the committee, I want to flag for the committee that this particular case of Mr. Brent Curtis should be looked at and that this bill should be considered in the context of what happened with regard to that case, because I think it has a direct bearing and a direct consideration with regard to paragraph 10(1)(l) that says what is relevant is any other factor that the minister considers relevant. It is very unusual. The arbitrariness of that on its face, on a prima facie basis, would raise the question of whether the Attorney General in fact had opined correctly on whether this bill itself with that proviso in there, with that amendment in there, is constitutional. So there are constitutional questions here as well that would have to be looked at.
This is not my area of expertise, but I hope that other hon. members will take an opportunity to look at the records, to look at the court decision, to look at the actions or inactions of the minister, to consider the actions or inactions of the Attorney General vis-à-vis constitutionality and try to understand and try to determine from the minister and officials why his officials were overridden, not listened to, and why the minister proceeded with the bill only one day after the Federal Court of Appeal told them that the minister was wrong.
This just raises more questions than answers, and at this point, I hope that hon. members will take into consideration some of the disturbing facts surrounding Bill C-5.