Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise to address Bill C-55. It is important right from the beginning to mention why we are debating the bill today. On April 13, 2012, the Supreme Court of Canada sent a very strong message to the House of Commons, in particular to the Prime Minister, that section 184.4 needed to be amended. It made a sunset by saying that the Government of Canada would have one year to pass the necessary legislation to validate the Criminal Code.
What is section 184.4? It talks about a police officer's ability to intercept a private conversation in some fashion without having to get a warrant. That is what this is all about. The government has been aware of it for a number of years. The Supreme Court of Canada having made its decision on April 13, 2012, and having put a time limit on it has now forced the government to act on it.
I will talk about the lack of the timely fashion in which the government has made the decision to bring in the bill. However, prior to doing that, I would like to reflect on what I believe is very important to all Canadians.
All Canadians believe in private rights and want to ensure their rights are protected. At times we might get a little spooked. We see cameras popping up all over the place, whether it is photo radar cameras, speed cameras, cameras at high density intersections, or even nowadays on sidewalks or public buildings and public areas where people gather. Every so often I hear from constituents who want to talk about private rights. It is important for us to recognize that as individuals we do have private rights that need to be protected at all times.
I was a very strong advocate for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms for many years. This year we celebrated 30 years of having the charter, which has stood the test of time. A vast majority, 90%-plus of Canadians, have grown to respect and believe in the charter as something that protects them.
I remember when my girlfriend, now my wife, and I watched the signing ceremony between Pierre Trudeau and the Queen in 1982. It was a special moment and it was something my girlfriend appreciated. It was important to me and I believe it was important to her. It is because we recognized how important it was that individuals had rights. That is why Bill C-55 is very important legislation.
I have had the opportunity to speak about it at second reading. Unfortunately, I was unable to be at committee, but I did to get to speak very briefly yesterday because we were limited to 10 minutes to the amendments brought forward. However, it is important legislation that needs to be addressed.
If we look at it from a historical point of view, whether it was Pierre Elliott Trudeau, or Jean Chrétien or one of Canada's best Attorneys General, the member for Mount Royal, it speaks so well on individual rights and the need to protect them. Quite often when individuals of that calibre stand and talk about individual rights, we need to listen because it is a very important aspect of being Canadian.
We turn on the news and we watch throughout the world where individual rights are virtually walked all over. There is a general lack of respect for individual rights throughout the world. I believe Canada has a leadership role in demonstrating to the world that we value the Charter of Rights.
A number of years ago I had the privilege and the opportunity to travel to Israel. When I met with one of the politicians there, he made reference to Canada's Charter of Rights and how he thought it was an important thing that Canada did in 1982. What we are doing here has an impact that goes beyond our own borders. That is why there is an onus and a responsibility for us to be very careful in behaving and acting on important legislation in a more timely manner.
Before going into some of the details of the bill, I will talk about why we have the bill. I made mention of the Supreme Court of Canada and also that the government knew about it well before that. The Supreme Court of Canada has in essence said to the government that it really has messed up. It did not have to go to the Supreme Court of Canada.
The Conservatives had an opportunity to deal with the issue previously. Many parliamentarians here today will recall Bill C-50. I was not here at that time. That bill was an attempt to deal with what the Supreme Court of Canada was forced to deal with, but because the Conservatives prorogued the session, in essence killing all legislation before the House, that attempt was defeated.
That was not the first or second time. The most recent time would have been Bill C-30 from last year. That bill came with a great deal of fanfare. A lot of allegations were made and the overwhelming reaction was quite significant, to the degree that we saw the Government of Canada push the hold button, and that bill has never seen the light of day.
The bill was introduced almost a year ago, and it would have dealt with this issue, at least in part. It also would have dealt with other things, which raised the ire of hundreds of thousands of Canadians and opposition parties, definitely the Liberal Party of Canada. However, we saw the Conservatives failing to address what was a very important issue, and I will comment on that issue very shortly. Instead of doing the right thing, which would have been recognizing that Bill C-30 was going nowhere back in June, the Conservatives could have introduced this bill last fall, in September or October, and reviewed some of the other legislation that we were talking about then.
There were opportunities for the government members to deal with this legislation. It is not like there is overwhelming opposition to Bill C-55. In fact, the members of the Liberal Party have been very clear that we support the passage of the bill. We have done nothing to slow down its passage. We recognize that the bill has to be passed through Parliament by April 12 or 13 of this year. We have committed to working to do that.
However, we also believe the legislation needs to go through due diligence and through the process in a timely fashion.
What does that mean? It means the government and, in particular, the government House leader. This is another wake-up call for him. He needs to get his legislative agenda in order. He needs to perhaps meet with the Prime Minister and some of his other ministers and get a sense in what kind of legislation is coming down the pike into the House of Commons. If he did his homework, then at the very least the legislation we have today could have been, and should have been, introduced back in October last year, give or take a month. Had the Conservatives done that, there would not be this sense of urgency we have today to pass the legislation.
That decision, many of my caucus colleagues would say, was intentional. The government continued to hold back on introducing this legislation. I cannot blame them for thinking that. All we have to do is take a look at all the legislation that has been brought forward and the record number of time allocations on a wide variety of legislation. Remember those huge budget bills containing dozens of pieces of legislation amended through the backdoor of a budget. We can understand why members of the Liberal Party are a little skeptical in how the government chooses to bring in legislation.
The timing is a very important issue.
We have Bill C-55 today. It is expected the bill will pass. As I say, it does have the support of the Liberal Party and we will assist the government allowing the bill, ultimately, to pass.
However, we ask the government to take responsibility when it brings forward legislation, to take into consideration that the House of Commons has a very important role to play. When it brings a bill in for second reading, members of Parliament of all political stripes are should be afforded the opportunity to provide their contributions, whatever they might be. Even if it is a sense of repetition speaker after speaker, it has to provide for that and then allow for it to go to committee in a timely fashion where we can bring in different stakeholders.
I would like to think that under Bill C-55, in a normal process, there might have been a higher level of interest from the different stakeholders from coast to coast to coast with respect to what type of legislation they wanted to see. That would have been very productive.
There was an attempt. It could be very discouraging to move amendments inside the House since there has been a Conservative majority, a different type of Conservative Reform Party going back to the old Reform roots, possibly. However, there has been a different attitude. Even I have detected that. It can be a challenge to move amendments inside the House. I have seen amendments stonewalled. I remember when the member for Mount Royal attempted to move amendments in committee and, ultimately, at third reading and the government turned them down. It took the Senate in order to pass it.
If Bill C-55 were provided the opportunity that it should have been in allowing for not only that fulsome debate within the chamber but equally an opportunity to have stakeholders from across Canada contribute to the debate, I believe we would have had more of a contribution at that point in time.
It is important to allow for that. We are talking about are private communications that can be interrupted or listened to by the police without any warrant. That is very serious. I think many Canadians could have made presentations if it was felt that we had the time to listen thoroughly to our stakeholders or even affording opposition parties or individual members to consult on the legislation in advance.
From committee, we come now to third reading. The bill has been here for a couple of days. We in the Liberal Party want to see the bill pass. I suspect that the New Democrats will support us. However, the timing is a huge concern.
The bill requires appropriate ministers in Canada to report whenever they have an intercept. That means that a minister of justice in a province, such as Manitoba, Ontario, or wherever it might be in Canada, would be notified when an interception occurred in their jurisdiction. Those provincial entities would then be obligated to report to the House of Commons, through the Minister of Public Safety, and ideally, to have it tabled it in some form in the House. It is a very important measure.
We would like to think that the frequency of any police agency having to use clause 184.4 without a warrant would be very low. There is nothing wrong with trying to find and accumulate information that allows us to make valued opinions regarding its usage. We should be reviewing that, because we are talking about individual rights.
Where a person's rights have been overlooked because it is believed that it is in the public interest, that individual has the right to know that a wiretap was done without a warrant. We are not saying that we should give a person a call to say that the telephone is going to be tapped. Once it has been done, there is an obligation to let that individual know that it has taken place. From what I understand, that is being done within this legislation.
The bill would provide more accountability and oversight. It would narrow the number of individuals or offices that could actually use clause 184.4. Today, one could be a mayor of a municipality and have the authority to listen to a private conversation without a warrant. The legislation is saying that this is too wide. We need to narrow the number of individuals who can do that. Bill C-55 narrows it down to police officers.
It also limits the types of interceptions. It should be used very rarely. For example, in a situation where someone's life is at risk or a child has been kidnapped, we need to ensure that police officers have the ability to save that life or ensure that a child is not molested. Bill C-55 moves in that direction.