Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I'm pleased to appear before this committee. My memory may not serve me correctly, but I think it's been quite some time since I've been before this particular committee.
I'm here, of course, on Bill C-17, a bill that will re-enact the investigative hearings and the recognizance with conditions provisions of the Criminal Code. As you will know, these were part of the Criminal Code from late 2001, and they sunsetted, unfortunately, on March 1, 2007. They've been the subject of considerable review as part of the mandatory review of the Anti-terrorism Act, as well as in the form of Bill C-17's predecessor bill in the previous Parliament. Our government believes that this bill responds to the issues raised in those reviews and those debates.
Mr. Chair, let me outline what Bill C-17 proposes.
First, the investigative hearing provision would give a judge, on application from a peace officer, the power to compel someone with information about a terrorism offence that has been or will be committed to appear before him or her to answer questions and/or produce anything in their possession or control. The person would be attending as a witness and not as an accused.
Second, the recognizance with conditions provisions would allow a peace officer—one who has reasonable grounds to believe that a terrorist activity will be carried out and has reasonable grounds to suspect that the imposition of recognizance with conditions on a particular person is necessary to prevent a terrorist activity from being carried out—to apply to a judge to have that person compelled to appear before the judge, where it will be determined if reasonable conditions should be imposed on the person in order to prevent the terrorist activity.
Third, in addition to the annual reporting requirements, Bill C-17 contains a requirement that both these tools should be subject to a mandatory parliamentary review. During the second reading debate, it was suggested that a review of both houses of Parliament would be appropriate. I wish to point out that the bill provides that the review may be undertaken by a committee established by either house of Parliament, or both houses. That, ultimately, is for Parliament to decide.
Mr. Chair, I think it's essential that we outline some of the key safeguards that have in fact been added to the original investigative hearings provisions.
First, the bill provides that in all cases a judge would have to be satisfied that an investigative hearing is warranted, on the basis that reasonable attempts had already been undertaken to obtain the information by other means. Previously, the safeguard only applied to future terrorism offences, not past ones.
Second, the original 2001 legislation imposed annual reporting requirements on the use of the investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions by provincial and federal officials, including the Attorney General of Canada. However, the special Senate committee reviewing the Anti-terrorism Act recommended that the Attorney General of Canada also include, in the annual report, a clear statement and explanation indicating whether or not the provisions remained warranted. The bill would implement this recommendation, while also requiring the Minister of Public Safety to make a similar statement in his annual report.
Third, in 2006, the House of Commons Subcommittee on the Review of the Anti-terrorism Act expressed some concern about whether a person detained for an investigative hearing would be entitled to existing avenues of release under the Criminal Code. In response to this, Bill C-17 would propose, through the application of section 707 of the Criminal code, putting a cap on the period in relation to which an arrested person could be detained for an investigative hearing.
Mr. Chair, I think it's important to note that Bill C-17 would continue to allow for the holding of an investigative hearing concerning a past terrorism offence. The government believes that the past offences, in and of themselves, merit investigation. Without a doubt, they may provide crucial information with regard to the planning of future ones.
I will turn now to some of the key provisions that have been added to the original recognizance with conditions provision.
First, during the Senate committee review of former Bill S-3, the government agreed with Senator Baker's recommendation to bring the recognizance with conditions provision in line with the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in R. v. Hall, where a phrase found in one of the grounds of detention in the bail provisions of the Criminal Code was found to be unconstitutional. We agreed then and we agree now. Bill C-17 includes this change to be consistent with the Hall decision.
There were a few issues raised in previous debates, of course, that I must address. Some have argued that these provisions are not necessary because they have been rarely used. However, the fact that something has been rarely used is very different from saying that circumstances will never arise that could require its use in the future. The tools in C-17 are modest and restrained compared to anti-terrorism measures that exist in other major democracies.
Mr. Chair, in relation to the investigative hearing, some have argued that it does away with the right to remain silent, but as you know, the original legislation contains strong protections against self-incrimination in covering both use and derivative use of immunity. These protections continue in this bill, you'll be pleased to know.
It's important to note that a majority of the Supreme Court of Canada, in a 2004 constitutional challenge to the investigative hearing scheme that arose during the Air India prosecution, emphasized the strong protections against self-incrimination it provided, in fact going beyond the requirements and the jurisprudence to protect against self-incrimination.
The final issue, Mr. Chair, is whether the Criminal Code already contains provisions that could be used for terrorism-related offences such as sections 495 and 810.01. Subsection 495(1) allows a peace officer to arrest without a warrant a person who it is reasonably believed is about to commit an indictable offence. However, a police officer may, at the time of the possible arrest, not reach this threshold. Given the grave nature of the harm posed by terrorist activity, there is a need to be able to act quickly to address the threat.
In my remarks today I have attempted to highlight a few of the safeguards and improvements made to the investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions proposals while at the same time addressing some of the issues that have been raised.
This proposed legislation, in my view, is balanced, fair, and necessary.
Thank you very much.