An Act to amend the Criminal Code (suicide bombings)

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to clarify that suicide bombings fall within the definition “terrorist activity”.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

December 2nd, 2010 / 5:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Madam Speaker, I wish to speak briefly in support to Bill S-215 for what I hope will be the last time.

The bill has a long history. Bill S-215 was preceded by four earlier versions, commencing as Bill S-43, which was introduced in 2005 by Senator Grafstein.

Today, after Senator Grafstein's retirement, Bill S-215 is sponsored in the other place by Senator Frum, and I have the privilege of sponsoring it in the House.

Bill S-215 is a short bill, but it has a very important purpose, and that is to denounce the barbaric practice of suicide bombing as a form of terrorism, an act which is contemptuous of the most fundamental values that Canadians hold dear, life, human dignity, liberty and security. The bill proposes to add a for greater certainty clause to the definition of terrorist activity.

By enacting this clause, Parliament would achieve three results. It would specifically denounce suicide bombing as a particularly heinous form of terrorist activity. It would help to educate Canadians that suicide bombings that are designed to kill or cause harm in the context of terrorist activity are acts of terrorism to be abhorred, not praised. Perhaps most important, Canada would show leadership to the world, since, to my knowledge, no other country has specifically referred to suicide bombing in their legal definitions of terrorism.

The bill has been carefully considered by both houses of Parliament and appropriate amendments have been made accordingly. It is time to pass the bill and I would strongly urge all members of the House to support its passage.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

December 2nd, 2010 / 5:20 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Madam Speaker, I rise today with great pleasure to speak to Bill S-215.

The bill owes its origin to Senator Grafstein, who has since left the Senate and who has contributed so much to Canada in terms of its reputation abroad, internationally, through his great work on various United States-Canada committees and his great leadership in the Senate on issues of international human rights. What better way for us to honour his work than to talk about Bill S-215 today. Although he has left the Senate, his rather gravelly, loud and irresistibly strong voice can be heard in this chamber by echo today because this was his baby.

It is important for us to start out with a framework. These terrorism sections that were instituted in the Criminal Code, or passed into law in part II.1 Terrorism, came into effect in January 17, 2002. We were, as Canadians, reacting to the horror of 9/11. We were looking at the loopholes and in fact at the complete vacancy of legislation in this area and, as parliamentarians, we all came together and enacted section 83.01 and so on. It bears saying that the sections are quite complete. There are some three pages in the Criminal Code that define what a Canadian is, what an entity is, what a listed entity or scheduled terrorist entity is and what a terrorist activity is.

It is interesting that in that list of items that constitute terrorist activity is not the term “suicide bombing”. So that is what this bill attempts to do. It would not create a new offence. it is not saying that there was nothing in the field before. It is saying that we had better identify suicide bombing by the specificity that we know in common parlance where it to be.

Why is the bill important then? A study completed in 2005, three years after this terrorism part of the code was enacted, conducted by Scott Atran, in the United States, declared that:

Suicide attack is the most virulent and horrifying form of terrorism in the world today. The mere rumour of an impending suicide attack can throw thousands of people into panic.

It is a growing phenomenon. In the 1980s, there might have been five suicide attacks per year. In the 1990s, there were on average 16 attacks per year. Then, in the five year period between 2000 and 2005, there were an average of 180 attacks each year. It is a growing problem.

There will be some disagreement, perhaps, maybe even in the courts, as to whether the current definition of “terrorist activity” catches “suicide bombing” any way and whether this is superfluous and, in terms of vagueness, not legal.

However, I think our language is something like a tree that grows with time. I think even though the term “suicide bombing” is not defined in the Criminal Code, it certainly is a common word or phrase that we all know it when we see it. It is such a recent growing phenomenon that we need to lay tracks in the Criminal Code to recognize it.

In addition to paying homage to Senator Grafstein, I also want to pay homage to another great Canadian, Justice Reuben Bromstein, who is now head of an organization called Canadians Against Suicide Bombing. Judge Bromstein said that this bill, if passed into law, would:

...help build and strengthen the consensus in Canadian society on this issue; it will serve as a clear deterrent for those among us who might not be committed to this consensus; and it offers an opportunity for Canada to take the lead and send a message to further international commitment [to outlaw suicide bombing].

Canada would be the first country to include a specific reference to suicide bombing in its criminal law. That would make us a leader in an era when Canada is finding its way in international relations, to say the least.

Justice Bromstein went on to state:

...that the term “suicide bombing” is in common parlance. ...[it] triggers an instantaneous response in your head. You do not have to describe it. People know what it means.

This should allay the concerns of all courts of this country that when they see a suicide bombing, they know it is included as a terrorist offence under section 83.01 of the Criminal Code which says that terrorism shall be attacked by the Canadian justice system.

I want to render homage, as well, to the government of the day and the justice ministers of the day who recognized that this was a clear and immediate need within the Criminal Code and acted with lightning speed compared to how we get criminal legislation and Criminal Code amendments done in this era of minority Parliaments.

I think we would all agree that this is a very important bill. We all want to listen to the importance of it, too, because it makes Canada a leader in defining what a suicide bomb is.

In homage, again, to justice ministers, to Senator Grafstein and Judge Bromstein who went on to say that passing this legislation would send a signal about our values domestically, that we are a mixed society and that we cannot justify martyrdom to legitimize it.

The concern has been raised that including this expression in the Criminal Code will mean that acts not usually considered to be terrorist acts will fall into that category in future. For example, someone who commits suicide by detonating a bomb in a vacant field will be labelled a terrorist.

When the bill was drafted, care was taken to avoid expanding the definition of what constitutes a terrorist attack; the current definition was fine-tuned. Thus, someone who commits suicide by detonating a bomb on vacant land will not be covered by the definition of suicide bombing.

The reaction from stakeholders has been positive. The RCMP approves of the amendment to the Criminal Code and feels that it would be very much a useful tool for it. It is not just senators, justice ministers, parliamentarians and the RCMP who agree with the bill. We also have words of encouragement from the legal profession and the legal teaching profession.

The dean of Osgoode Hall Law School, Patrick Monahan, who was very supportive of the legislation, had this to say in three points. First he said that Parliament should adopt the bill because it would signal Canada's unequivocal condemnation of suicide bombing as the most virulent and horrifying form of terrorism in the world today.

His second point was that the phenomenon of suicide bombing has risen dramatically, as I have said, since 2001. Thousands have been killed and tens of thousands have been wounded in these attacks. Suicide terror, which a decade ago was relatively rare, has become a global reality.

His third point was that there is ongoing debate over the motivations and the psychology of suicide bombers. Evidence suggests that suicide bombers regard martyrdom for the sake of global jihad as life's noblest cause. Today's suicide bombers are increasingly as willing and eager to die as they are to kill.

We, in a civilized society, need to really give that some clinical care and observation. A person who is willing to kill himself, equal to or more than others, to further his or her aim is indeed a very dangerous individual who can change our society. That is why we must support this bill and this amendment to the Criminal Code which grows on the good work done by previous parliamentarians in addressing terrorism.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

December 2nd, 2010 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Jean Dorion Bloc Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Madam Speaker, Bill S-215, which has been introduced in the House under various titles since 2005, should have been passed back in 2005.

Incidentally, it is a shame that the Senate, where the bill languished for some time, did not heed the opinion expressed by the Barreau du Québec, which wrote to the Senate to point out that the French version of the bill referred to attentat suicide, suicide attack, whereas the English version referred to suicide bombing. “Attack” is a much broader term than “bombing”. Other sorts of attacks could also be targeted by this kind of bill.

That being said, I believe that everyone in the House should vote in favour of this bill. I know that members of my party, the Bloc Québécois, will do so.

We never lose sight of the fact that, when the Conservative government introduces amendments to the Criminal Code, its main goal is not necessarily to reduce crime rates, but to gain an electoral advantage by pretending that the Conservatives are the only ones fighting crime. We know their tactics, but that should not prevent us from supporting valid measures.

Getting back to Bill S-215, I think it can be summarized as follows: it would include suicide bombings or suicide attacks in the definition of “terrorist activity” and crack down on those who organize such attacks. We must not forget that those who organize such terrorist activities, the instigators, come out unscathed in most cases and use other people, some of whom are mentally unstable and some of whom are women or children. The instigators come out relatively unscathed because they have not, so far, been considered the perpetrators of these acts.

Our support for the measure before us rests on the fact that the Bloc Québécois cares about keeping all Quebeckers safe and protecting them from terrorist activities and suicide attacks in particular.

Suicide attacks carried out against civilian populations are barbaric and contrary to the values of the Quebec society we represent in the House and to the respect for life that all human beings should feel.

Terrorist attacks have been carried out again recently in various places around the globe and we need to bring in legislation before any such attacks happen on Canadian soil. Suicide attacks have become a more important weapon for terrorist organizations. We have seen many such examples in Afghanistan and Pakistan recently. How could we forget the recent suicide car-bomb attack on the Indian embassy in Afghanistan that killed 17 people and injured 63?

There have also been terrible attacks in Iraq that have killed hundreds and wounded hundreds more. Now there are reports that the Taliban is recruiting children to commit these attacks, thus turning them into kamikazes.

Even developed western nations are not safe from these attacks. Many will recall the terrible situation in France in 1986 when that country was forced to impose visa procedures for visitors from Canada, Brazil and a number of other countries. Not to mention the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, the terrible train attacks in Spain and the subway attacks in London, England. No country is safe.

Accordingly, it is extremely important that we pass this bill. It should have been passed five years ago. The members of my party will therefore vote in favour of this bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

December 2nd, 2010 / 5:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to enter for the record that when I was the minister of justice and attorney general of Canada in 2005, I was approached both by the then Senator Jerahmiel Grafstein and by Justice Bromstein to enact what is now Bill S-215 as law. My response then, and I acknowledge it now, to both of them was, “Why should we be enacting a law to criminalize a terrorist act that is already criminal under our anti-terrorist law?”

Indeed, it appeared to me at the time that to seek to enact such a law would not only be duplicative of what already existed in the Criminal Code, but might send the wrong signal, as if this horrendous terrorist activity of suicide bombing was somehow not criminal under the law and that it was not as horrendous as I took it to be and regarded it then as already being criminal under the law.

Today, for the record, I support this legislation. I support it for the reasons given by my colleagues from all the parties, for the representations that were then made by Senator Grafstein and by Justice Bromstein, who attuned me as to why it should be enacted.

At this point, five years later, there are growing incidents of this horrific activity of suicide terrorism and a universalization of this phenomenon. The fact is, we are, as my colleague, Professor Dr. Walid Phares, put it with respect to anti-terrorism law and policy, “In a war of ideas with the terrorists”.

Therefore, enacting such legislation is not only an important substantive act at this point, but an important symbolic act. It would send a message and state clearly and unequivocally that we regarded this as a barbarous act and crime against humanity. We in the House need to stand up, condemn it, enact it as law and take leadership internationally with respect to combatting this horrific form of terrorism. I regarded it as being criminal then, but this needs to be reaffirmed, reasserted and enacted as law now to give it specificity that it requires, as my colleagues have put it.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

October 8th, 2010 / 1:30 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak today to Bill S-215. The subject of the bill in various iterations has been with us now for the last five years, which is hard to believe. In 25 years of having been in elected positions provincially and federally, I have never run into a situation where there is all party agreement and unanimous support for a bill and yet after five years we are still debating it.

Only a few months ago, in June, when the issue of pardons came up dealing specifically with Karla Homolka, it took Parliament a day or two days to pass a bill at all stages. It is somewhat of a mystery that a bill that would be agreed to by every member and all parties in the House would still be at the stage it is after five years.

The member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar has had more than one occasion to introduce this legislation. I read with interest her comments regarding the bill. She pointed out that the bill's title is an act to amend the Criminal Code, which is identical to Bill S-205 that was passed in the Senate on June 10, 2009. It was debated at second reading in the House in November 2009 and was then referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights on November 29 and died on the order paper in December when her own leader, the Prime Minister of the country, prorogued the House for the second time since 2008. That adds to the saga of this particular bill.

Senator Grafstein was one of the initial drivers behind this bill and a strong supporter. He has retired now but I believe he will be very pleased when this bill makes it through. I honestly believe this will be the last time we will be debating this bill and that it will actually make its way through the final procedures to become law, and none too soon, I might add.

The bill seeks to explicitly include the act of suicide bombing within the context of the Criminal Code definition of “terrorist activity”. Suicide bombings have resulted in terrible consequences to thousands of people over the years and shows the utmost contempt for human life. Suicide attacks are committed with the intention to kill and maim innocent people and inflict excessive property damage, with the attackers prepared to die in the process.

We have seen over the last number of years some very substantial damage caused by suicide attacks, such as the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City in which 3,000 people lost their lives. Most of the suicide attacks over the years have dealt with smaller numbers of people dying. Nevertheless, each death is a very important discussion point because it causes untold misery for the families of the victims, as well as the families of the suicide bombers.

We should not kid ourselves. The people who are involved in these suicide bombings are, in many cases, poor people whose families are being paid and the people carrying out the bombings are, oftentimes, not willing participants but are doing it because it is a way of getting their families out of poverty.

Suicide attacks are becoming more common and statistics show that there are more happening now, not less. I will get into some of the history in a few minutes, but the fact is that this type of activity has been going on for literally hundreds of years.

In July 2005 there were the London bombings. In 2008 there were attacks in Mumbai, India. There have been bombings recently in Moscow and Afghanistan. Essentially populations that have absolutely nothing to do with the problem are being terrorized. How could a young child in a market in any way be blamed for issues that are going on in the world?

The definition of “terrorist activity” is currently in paragraph 83.01(b) of the Criminal Code. Bill S-215 seeks to amend section 83.01 of the code by adding the following after subsection (1.1):

(1.2) For greater certainty, a suicide bombing is an act that comes within paragraph (a) or (b) of the definition "terrorist activity" in subsection (1) if it satisfies the criteria of that paragraph.

The first part of the definition of “terrorist activity” incorporates in part criminal conduct as envisioned by the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings, one of the United Nations counter-terrorism conventions. Many speakers have pointed out that this particular legislation is supported by several former prime ministers of Canada and some well-known people in this country.

Distinguished Canadian criminal lawyers have told the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs that explicitly covering suicide bombing in the Criminal Code could help to prosecute and punish the organizers, teachers and sponsors of suicide bombing. There were some observations and comments made in the past that this type of activity is already covered under the Criminal Code. It is a very important distinction to know that what we are trying to do here is to prosecute and punish the organizers, teachers and sponsors of suicide bombing. They are not the people who go out and blow themselves up and kill other people indiscriminately in the process. They are not the people who go out and do it. They are the ones who organize it. They are the ones who finance it. They are the ones who teach and brainwash the people who actually do it. They are the ones we want to prosecute, lock up and get off the street and away from doing what they are doing.

This legislation would be the first in the world. In many respects it would be a beacon to other countries to follow suit. We are dealing with an issue that has not been a big problem in Canada, but it certainly could be. It could develop that way over time. By doing this we are showing leadership as a Parliament to indicate to other countries what is possible, what should be done, where they should be moving.

By including suicide bombing in the definition it would also serve to denounce this horrendous practice. It would also educate the public and draw attention to the issue that suicide bombings are repugnant to Canadian values. In addition to passing the bill, we would be showing some international leadership by being the first nation in the world to adopt this reference in the legislative definition of “terrorist activity”. In that I see no downside.

I am very surprised that before I even get to the history of suicide bombings, my time for debate has almost run out. I am sure members would be very interested in knowing that as far back as the 17th century injured Dutch soldiers were fighting for control of Taiwan and in 1661, they used gunpowder to blow up themselves and their opponents rather than be taken prisoner. During the Belgian revolution a Dutch lieutenant detonated his own ship in the harbour at Antwerp to prevent being captured by the Belgians. A Prussian soldier died blowing up a hole in a Danish fortification in 1864. We see that this activity has a long, long history going back many years and did not start just in the last couple of years.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

October 8th, 2010 / 1:40 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Lois Brown Conservative Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in support of Bill S-215 and I am very pleased to hear that the hon. member from the NDP will support it as well.

The bill proposes to specifically include suicide bombing in the definition of terrorist activity in the Criminal Code. The bill would add a “for greater certainty” clause after subsection 83.01(1.1) of the Criminal Code, which would specify that suicide bombing would come within paragraphs (a) and (b) of the definition of terrorist activity when committed in the context of a terrorist activity.

The bill has a lengthy history. It was originally introduced as Bill S-43 on September 28, 2005, reintroduced as Bill S-206 on April 5, 2006, reintroduced yet again as Bill S-210 on October 17, 2007, and reintroduced a fourth time as Bill S-205 on November 20, 2008.

Previous versions of the bill all died on the order paper. The present version was introduced on March 24. It was reviewed by the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, reported without amendment and passed without amendment.

I recognize that the current definition of terrorist activity contained in the Criminal Code already implicitly encompasses suicide bombing when committed in the context of terrorism. If we look at the definition of terrorist activity in section 83.01(1) of the code, we see that it incorporates criminal conduct as envisaged by the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings, one of the United Nations' counterterrorism conventions, while the second part of the definition includes terrorist activity, which intentionally causes death or serious bodily harm or endangers a person's life.

It is also true, however, that the words suicide bombing are not expressly mentioned in the present definition of terrorist activity, and there is considerable support for the specific criminalization of suicide bombing as part of the terrorist activity definition in the code.

Canadians Against Suicide Bombing, a Toronto-based group led by a former judge, has been particularly supportive of the objectives behind Bill S-215 and it established an online petition in support of the bill. Many prominent Canadians from all walks of life have also signed an open letter of support.

In my view, this bill merits support. The bill would come into force on the day to be fixed by order of the Governor-in-Council, thereby providing an opportunity for any needed preparation time to facilitate its implementation.

No other country is known to refer specifically to suicide bombing in its definition of terrorism and terrorist activity. Therefore, Canada would be the first to signal its abhorrence of these cowardly acts by adopting such a reference in its legislative definition of terrorist activity. Suicide attacks are intended to kill and maim innocent people and inflict extensive property damage. As the hon. member who spoke just before me said, it is the innocent people for whom we are most concerned, the innocent lives of men, women and particularly children who are affected.

Attackers are often prepared to die in the process. We all know about the attacks of September 11, 2001, that killed nearly 3,000 people in the World Trade Center in New York City. We also remember the July 7, 2007 London bombings and the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India. Anyone who reads a newspaper, listens to the radio or watches television knows that suicide bombings occur on an alarmingly regular basis.

Bill S-215 gives Canada the opportunity to show international leadership by specifically denouncing suicide bombing and expressly prescribing suicide bombing as a type of criminal activity.

I invite all members in the House to support this bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

September 21st, 2010 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

moved that Bill S-215, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (suicide bombings), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am indeed pleased to rise and express the government's support for Bill S-215, An Act to amend the Criminal Code. This bill is identical to Bill S-205 which was passed by the other place on June 10, 2009 and debated at second reading in the House of Commons last November. Bill S-205 was then referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in November 2009, but died on the order paper in December.

Please allow me to provide an explanation of the contents of this bill for the benefit of all hon. members.

The bill seeks to explicitly include the act of suicide bombing within the context of the Criminal Code definition of “terrorist activity”.

Suicide bombing is a monstrous way to wreak havoc because it shows the utmost contempt for human life. Suicide attacks are committed with the intention to kill and maim innocent people and inflict extensive property damage with the attackers prepared to die in the process. The damage from a suicide attack can be devastating, as demonstrated by the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York City, killing nearly 3,000 people.

It is also clear that suicide attacks are becoming an all too common terrorist tactic. The July 7, 2005 London bombings, the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India, and the most recent bombings in Moscow, Dagestan and Afghanistan are part of a world trend of terrorizing ordinary people.

The definition of terrorist activity is currently defined in paragraph 83.01(1)(a) and (b) of the Criminal Code. Bill S-215 seeks to amend section 83.01 of the Code by adding the following after subsection (1.1):

(1.2) For greater certainty, a suicide bombing is an act that comes within paragraph (a) or (b) of the definition “terrorist activity” in subsection (1) if it satisfies the criteria of that paragraph.

To begin with, the first part of the definition of terrorist activity incorporates, in part, criminal conduct as envisaged by the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings; one of the United Nation's counter-terrorism conventions.

Further, the general definition of terrorist activity found in the second part of the definition includes terrorist activity which intentionally causes death or serious bodily harm or endangers a person's life. Thus, it could be argued that a suicide bombing committed for a terrorist purpose already falls within the definition.

While a general definition of terrorist activity, which encompasses suicide bombing, would be sufficient for the purposes of prosecution, distinguished Canadian criminal lawyers told the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs that explicitly covering suicide bombing in the Criminal Code can help prosecute and punish the organizers, teachers and sponsors of suicide bombing.

Explicitly including “suicide bombing” in the definition would also serve to denounce this horrendous practice and to educate the public that such suicide bombing is repugnant to Canadian values.

In addition, by passing this bill, Canada would show international leadership by likely being the first nation in the world to adopt this reference in its legislative definition of terrorist activity.

For these reasons, I agree that there are benefits in making an exclusive reference to suicide bombing in the definition of “terrorist activity”. However, it is also important in doing so not to adversely affect the current definition of terrorist activity. Fortunately, this bill has been drafted with precision in order to address this concern.

As mentioned earlier, the proposed amendment involves a “for greater certainty” clause that when added to 83.01 would state:

(1.2) For greater certainty, a suicide bombing is an act that comes within paragraph (a) or (b) of the definition “terrorist activity” in subsection (1) if it satisfies the criteria of that paragraph.

The bill expressly states that it is only seeking to include within the definition a suicide bombing in circumstances that satisfy the criteria for terrorist activity as stated in the definition of a terrorist activity. In this way the wording of this provision ensures that any other type of suicide bombing with no connection to terrorist activity is not included in the definition.

To be clear, the proposed amendment is a definitional clause intended to make clear that suicide bombing is included in the definition of terrorist activity only when committed in the context of a terrorist act.

The amendment is designed to provide for maximum precision to make certain that suicide bombings unrelated to terrorist activity are not caught by the definition, by ensuring that it is not overly broad or vague but still fulfills its intended purpose.

The changes brought by this bill to the definition of terrorist activity would continue to give Canada the necessary tools to prosecute persons for terrorist suicide bombings, the suicide bomber himself or herself where there has been an unsuccessful suicide bombing, as well as persons involved in the preparation or counselling of the terrorism offence.

The bill also provides that it would come into force on a day to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council. This provision would allow for maximum flexibility and would provide the government with an opportunity to notify the provinces before the bill comes into force.

In my view, this bill merits support. It is pursuing a worthy aim. It is seeking to denounce an abhorrent practice, one that is becoming a scourge throughout the world.

This bill is precise and circumscribed in its application. Making the legislative amendment would show that Canada is taking a strong stand in denouncing suicide bombing in the context of terrorism.

This bill has a lengthy history. It was originally introduced as Bill S-43 on September 28, 2005; reintroduced as Bill S-206 on April 5, 2006; reintroduced yet again as Bill S-210 on October 17, 2007; and reintroduced a fourth time as Bill S-205 on November 20, 2008.

Previous versions of the bill all died on the order paper. The present version was introduced on March 24, 2010. It was reviewed by the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, reported without amendment, and passed without amendment.

The Toronto-based group called Canadians Against Suicide Bombing supported previous versions of this bill and created an online petition in favour of them.

Prominent Canadians who have supported previous versions of Bill S-215 include former Prime Ministers Kim Campbell, Jean Chrétien, and Joe Clark, as well as former NDP leader Ed Broadbent, former Chief Justice and Attorney General of Ontario Roy McMurtry, and Major General Lewis MacKenzie.

No other country is known to include suicide bombing specifically in its definition of terrorist activity. So Canada would be the first to signal to the rest of the world our abhorrence of these heinous and cowardly acts by adopting this bill.

The House of Commons has an incredible opportunity to be an example to the world. Bill S-215 promotes a worthy aim and I urge all members of the House to support it. By supporting and passing this bill we can ensure that anyone who organizes, teaches, or sponsors suicide bombing is criminally liable in Canada. The time has now come for the House to take action in support of this bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

September 21st, 2010 / 5:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate on Bill S-215, introduced by Senator Grafstein, who has since retired from the Senate. The bill would add suicide bombing as an offence in the Criminal Code.

Like my colleague who just spoke on behalf of the Conservative government, all Canadians have been witness to numerous suicide bombings that have been committed in many places around the world.

I would like to give some examples. In May of 2010, Colonel Geoff Parker was killed in a suicide car-bomb attack, which also killed 18 other people in Kabul. He was the highest ranking Canadian to be killed in Afghanistan since the mission began in 2001.

Furthermore, also in May of 2010, another suicide bombing was attempted near a Canadian military base, but the attempt failed. Last week, a suicide bomber killed 16 innocent civilians and injured about a hundred others in southern Russia. Suicide bomb attacks are becoming increasingly common as a terrorist act.

A study completed in 2005 by Scott Atran in the United States declared, “Suicide attack is the most virulent and horrifying form of terrorism in the world today. The mere rumour of an impending suicide attack can throw thousands of people into panic”.

His study also noted the massive rate in which suicide bombing worldwide has taken place. During the 1980s, there were five suicide attacks each year. In the 1990s, there were on average 16 attacks a year. Then, in the five-year period between 2000 and 2005, there were an average of 180 suicide bombing attacks in each of those years. Clearly, this is a global problem that keeps on growing.

Bill S-215 would add to the Criminal Code the act of suicide bombing as a type of terrorist activity. I will not go through the relevant clause in the Criminal Code, because this has already been done by my colleague on the Conservative side.

Although the current definition of “terrorist activity” does catch the act of a suicide bombing, it does not explicitly list “suicide bombing” within the definition of a terrorist activity.

As the justice critic for the official opposition, I am pleased to say that I support this bill and I recommend that my colleagues also support it. It is a Senate private member's bill, and now a House private member's bill, unlike another bill which was supposedly sponsored by an MP even though we know very well that it was really an official government policy. But I will not say anything more about that.

The bill further clarifies the Criminal Code. As the Liberal justice critic, I support it wholeheartedly.

It does not create new legislative provisions. It only reinforces the basic principle that Canadians abhor these types of acts.

Some would argue that a suicide bombing is an act that is already covered by the current definition of terrorism in the Criminal Code. That is true. However, we must not forget that one function of criminal law is also to represent Canadian society and values.

Including suicide bombing in the list of terrorist activities would clearly indicate to everyone that Canada is irrevocably opposed to this type of violence. It would let Canadians know that our country does not tolerate this type of violent behaviour and would unequivocally convey our position on this matter to the world.

The former Senator Grafstein championed this bill after much input from former Justice Reuben Bromstein, who is now the head of the organization called Canadians Against Suicide Bombing.

Justice Bromstein said that the bill, if passed into law, would:

—help build and strengthen the consensus in Canadian society on this issue; it will serve as a clear deterrent for those among us who might not be committed to this consensus; and it offers an opportunity for Canada to take the lead...to further international commitment [to outlaw suicide bombing].

As the colleague across the way mentioned, Canada would be the first country to include a specific reference to suicide bombing in its criminal law if the legislation is adopted, and I hope it will be.

Some have expressed concern that by including the words “suicide bombing” in the Criminal Code that would lead to absurd consequences. I can give an example. Some feel that the words “suicide bombing” are open to interpretation, which would make cases difficult for prosecutors.

However, today, we use many common definitions to describe acts. We use the words “hijacking” and “street racing” in some of our laws. If I refer back to Justice Bromstein who stated:

—the term “suicide bombing” is in common parlance....The term triggers an instantaneous response in your head. You do not have to describe it. People know what it means.

He also went on to say:

Passing the legislation would send a signal about our values domestically, that we are a mixed society and we cannot justify martyrdom to legitimize it.

The concern has been raised that including this expression in the Criminal Code will mean that acts not usually considered to be terrorist acts will fall into that category in future. For example, a suicide bomber who detonates an explosive in a vacant field will be labelled a terrorist.

When drafting the bill, care was taken to avoid expanding the definition of what constitutes a terrorist attack; the current definition was fine-tuned. Thus, someone who commits suicide by detonating a bomb on vacant land will not be covered by the definition of suicide bombing. His action shows that he did not intend to create other victims and it does not correspond to the original definition of what constitutes a terrorist activity.

Let us look at some stakeholder reaction.

The bill has the unwavering support of the RCMP, which believes that it will not hinder its investigations. The RCMP believes that the bill will be very useful.

Patrick Monahan, the dean of Osgoode Hall Law School, is also supportive of the legislation and has made a number of arguments on this. I will not be able to elucidate all of them, but let me cite one of them. He said:

First, Parliament, in my view, should adopt Bill S-210 because it would signal Canada's unequivocal condemnation of suicide bombing as the most virulent and horrifying form of terrorism in the world today.

Dean Monahan has made a number of other points, but I will stop here because it has been pointed out to me that my time is virtually up.

I strongly support the bill and I advocate for it. I call on each and every member of the House to support the bill. I call on my colleague opposite to seek the unanimous consent of all members of the House to see the bill adopted unanimously at all stages.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

September 21st, 2010 / 6:10 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to add my voice to the debate on Bill S-215. We have had the bill for some time, as was articulated earlier. In fact, the bill has had four other bill numbers in previous sessions and previous Parliaments even though it is a very short bill.

The bill is an amendment to the Criminal Code and it seeks to clarify that suicide bombings fall within the definition of a terrorist activity. That is ostensibly what it says. The bill itself is only a few lines long and it has been through the Senate process a number of times already. The last time it came out of the Senate was on May 11. It now has made its way to the House and we are starting again at second reading.

I must admit, in listening to the debate, that some interesting points have been raised. One point raised by the member from the Bloc was with regard to the French translation. He said that “attentats suicides” was not the literal interpretation for suicide bombing, that it was suicide attack. The question is whether in law that may have some impact on the application of the law depending on the jurisdiction that might be.

The member for Windsor—Tecumseh also had some interesting points about the possibilities that, as time goes on and the bill does not pass, it gets to the point where we need to ask the same questions again to find out whether there have been any developments or whether the bill can be enhanced even further to take into account the importance of the objectives of the bill in terms of its being passed into law in Canada and to take this lead role.

It is a bill that has received the support of, I believe, every speaker who has spoken to this, all six versions of the same bill. I believe that even now it is still uncertain whether everyone understands why the bill is happening. I looked back at some of the speeches that have been given. At least a dozen speeches have been given on this and a couple of the speeches raised some points that, were they to be on the record, would probably get carried forward.

The former member for Winnipeg North addressed the House on this. She first wanted to acknowledge and thank former Senator Grafstein who promoted and initiated the bill many years ago. I, too, would like to express my sincere thanks to the former senator. He brought a lot of wisdom to Parliament over the years and took great pride in his work.

After looking at the definition, the member said that suicide bombing was already there and wanted to know why we were putting it in. The member noted that if someone were to commit a suicide bombing how would we prosecute them. However, that is not the point. The point is worth repeating and it comes from Senator Grafstein in a speech he gave in February 2009. The way the senator articulated in his speech, he said:

Suicide bombing has become an all too frequent practice in many countries throughout the world. Thousands of civilians are killed and maimed to advance a cause based on falsely implanted expectations of glory and martyrdom. We say no cause can justify suicide bombing.

The senator went on to say that Bill S-215, which was formerly Bill S-206, “aims beyond those who strap explosive to their bodies”. This is not talking about the suicide bombers, but rather “where they can cause maximum pain, suffering, death and dismemberment”. This is the important aspect of it. He said:

It will help focus on those who promote terrorism by teaching, organizing and financing the killers in the name of ill-conceived ideology, distorted belief or abhorrent political conviction. The amendment will assist law enforcement agencies to pursue the individuals promoting this heinous act.

That is the essence and the substance. Bills have words and those words have to have meanings. It is not simply an amendment to the Criminal Code to make suicide bombing an element in the definition of a terrorist act. The process and the mechanics are one thing, but the objective of the bill is to have us represent our concern and abhorrence to that act. In fact enshrining it in our legislation is to secure its place so that if those matters should ever occur, no matter whether they are within Canada or around the world, others can draw upon the values that have been placed in our society for the protection of the public and the abhorrence of heinous tactics.

I spoke briefly on this bill about a year ago. One of the points I raised, and I made it in good faith, is that the bill has had at least five iterations. It has gone through the Senate five times. It has gone through this House to various extents. It is not being very helpful to the House, I would suggest, to have us continue to go through an extensive process.

A member had suggested previously that when the House has a strong consensus on a matter, it is not necessary to go through the full legislative process. There are tools and mechanisms to deal with this bill. There was an urging, and it is an urging that I made the last time I spoke to this legislation and it is being made again this time, for those who are interested in this bill and the representatives of each party to come together and say that they are comfortable at this point and that they want to accelerate the process.

It is appropriate when all parties agree. It is not something that has to be done during the debate on the bill. It can be done virtually any day we sit in the House, to fast-track the legislation and pass it at all stages. I would like simply to be on record as supporting the call that this bill not die yet again on prorogation, or dissolution of Parliament and an election, only to have this legislation come up again for a sixth time and go through both Houses. It does not make a lot of sense. Members know it is a distinct possibility; it has happened before and there is some concern about that.

I appreciate the member taking on the responsibility of sponsoring this bill, which was Senator Grafstein's. When he left, another senator picked it up and the member, for the second time, has sponsored it in this chamber. It is important. I think members will agree that we may miss the opportunity to have this bill actually come into law and be able to reap the benefits of playing a lead role in it. I am concerned about that as, I think, are most members.

I hope that we will take the necessary steps to ensure that Bill S-215 does become law this time around.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

September 21st, 2010 / 6:20 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Liberal Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill S-215. It is an amendment to the Criminal Code and a very important one.

The brevity of the bill is a reflection of its accuracy in addressing a particularly critical situation which is relatively new to us but of which we are painfully aware. The bill would amend the Criminal Code to clarify that suicide bombings fall within the definition of terrorist activity.

Not very many years ago suicide bombings were not something we would contemplate or even consider on North American soil, or in any first world democracy. Of course, they are very real and they are ever present as a threat against us.

Suicide bombings are a new tactic. They are a very real tactic and a very dangerous one. Not too long ago it would never have been considered that someone would cause self harm in inflicting a criminal activity to endanger or to harm others. In fact, our whole civil society is predicated on a belief of effective policing and effective enforcement, which is centred around the assumption that those who would commit a crime would take whatever steps are necessary not to impose harm upon themselves, just on others. However, suicide bombings have changed the rules on that. Because of the fanaticism which is implied by a suicide bomber, reasonable thought gets thrown out the window.

Now we have circumstances in which our safety and security and the very stability of the institutions around us are indeed threatened by this very, very real act that has been imposed and has caused such harm to others. Our objective is to prevent that, to minimize it and to take specific proactive actions to allow our justice system to deal with it in an effective way.

In essence, the bill reflects the growing need by law enforcement agencies and by the justice system to accurately target, label and prosecute what exactly is a suicide bomber. In so doing, by this legal change in terms of definition, inclusion of the term and supplied definitions, it would allow authorities to take certain actions based on statutes that are already in place.

Our terrorism provisions are very strong and robust, but they are very specific. This particular legislation allows for certain courses of action to be taken, by labelling, by actually targeting, by describing what this Parliament will not tolerate. We will actually enact legislation, amend legislation, to provide definition and accountability for suicide bombing and those who would perform that act, as has been pointed out by other members, to include in that set of legal mechanisms, provisions to actually stop the propagation through coaching, counselling and other measures. That seems to be a worthwhile activity for this Parliament to pursue.

I cannot begin to describe how victims of this horrendous tactic feel about this. Obviously they are very encouraged by the fact that Parliament is debating this legislation with the intention of adopting it, I assume, and that we recognize not only their pain and suffering, but as well that this Parliament needs to take specific action to deal with the issue in a proactive fashion.

I believe the crafters of this legislation from the other place did their job and did it well. The bill itself is extremely brief, but its brevity reflects its accuracy in dealing with the issue at hand. I think we can take full charge of the fact that as we debate this it would be very helpful to continue the debate around it. However, we have to be resolved in the notion that by defining this horrendous, almost insatiable, act of terror, we help to defeat it. By describing it within the confines of the Criminal Code, we do not allow any language to be used that glorifies it, that allows it to be portrayed in any other manner. It is a criminal act. That is an important step forward in providing some definition and context to this act.

As I said earlier, it was almost unheard of that someone would actually cause self-harm in order to impose harm upon others. If we look at all the systems of our society, we make general, broad assumptions that the car going down the highway in the other lane is not going to purposely and wilfully move into our lane as we move down that same highway, and cause harm to themselves in order to cause harm to us.

The rules have changed and that is a reality in terms of the enforcement. The vigilance of our safety and security is a reality that we face. There are those who are motivated for various reasons and feel as though they are accomplishing something, however horrific or morose, by harming themselves in the effort to harm others. That has to be dealt with in the context of the Criminal Code.

I support this legislation because it does, indeed, empower law enforcement agencies and our judicial system to deal with it effectively. Where it was not dealt with before because it was a vague issue which we had not encountered in many respects very often, the threat is ever present around us. It behooves us to deal with it and there have been pleas for us to deal with it in that kind of proactive fashion. I cannot see why any member would have an issue with this particular legislation on the basis that it seems to resolve a long-standing issue, a vacancy within the act that now is being filled.

I applaud the representatives in the other place in their efforts to bring forward this legislation after significant study in their own respects as to what exactly is required. Their accuracy in dealing with the matter is reflected in the bill because it does not touch on other areas. It deals strictly and solely with the issue at hand. That is very appropriate. It allows our discussions in this House to be very focused and concentrated on the issue at hand. The issue at hand is to provide proper definition and labelling to a very serious criminal activity, which is the act of suicide bombing.

We are blessed in this country that we do not face the actual manifestation of these circumstances, but it is ever present in our society. We are under constant vigilance and threat, but we do not buckle under that threat. We do not change our ways because of our need for vigilance. We encounter it. We take it head on and deal with it in a straightforward manner. I believe that is exactly what is required of us now. Failure to do so would be an admission that we have not done our work.

I applaud the drafters of the bill and hope the House passes it forthwith.