Evidence of meeting #53 for Public Safety and National Security in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was powers.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Ziyaad Mia  Chair, Advocacy and Research Committee, Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association
Carmen Cheung  Counsel, British Columbia Civil Liberties Association
Eric Vernon  Director, Government Relations and International Affairs, Canadian Jewish Congress
Nathalie Des Rosiers  General Counsel, Canadian Civil Liberties Association

10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Thank you, Mr. Vernon.

Thank you, Mr. Rathgeber. Your time is up.

We'll now move back to Mr. Kania, please.

10 a.m.

Liberal

Andrew Kania Liberal Brampton West, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I will agree with Mr. Rathgeber and I will say that I think one of the primary functions of the national government is to protect its citizens, but I think what we're doing here is trying to examine whether or not this legislation is necessary to do that and whether it's necessary to impinge on civil liberties to make that work within Canada.

After 9/11, I understand fully why this was passed, but we've had the benefit of experience, and in fact, in terms of the sunset provisions, we've not actually had them since February 2007, when they expired. So my question to everyone is, since we've not had them since February 2007, how have we as Canadians suffered in any way by not having them? That's my first question.

10:05 a.m.

Director, Government Relations and International Affairs, Canadian Jewish Congress

Eric Vernon

The absence of this authority for the last three or four years doesn't mean that it's not something that the security and police forces should have. You could easily make the argument that—

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Andrew Kania Liberal Brampton West, ON

I only have five minutes. I don't want to theorize. I'm asking if you're aware of how we have suffered. Since we've not had them since February 2007, how have we suffered, if you're aware of any way?

10:05 a.m.

Director, Government Relations and International Affairs, Canadian Jewish Congress

Eric Vernon

I think the thing to keep in mind is that these powers are necessary to interdict activity before it happens. There are, as has been stated, powers that do permit that, but these powers I think will provide extra authority to make sure that these kinds of activities don't happen.

We've talked about the failures of the security forces with respect to certain individuals—

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Andrew Kania Liberal Brampton West, ON

With respect, sir, again, I asked—

10:05 a.m.

Director, Government Relations and International Affairs, Canadian Jewish Congress

Eric Vernon

Just let me finish my thought.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Let him finish his answer, please.

10:05 a.m.

Director, Government Relations and International Affairs, Canadian Jewish Congress

Eric Vernon

I would not want to sit here and say that these powers are not necessary and look back later on a catastrophic security failure because of the absence of these powers that led to the blowing up of a synagogue or a Jewish day school full of children.

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Andrew Kania Liberal Brampton West, ON

Mr. Vernon, thank you for your theory, but my question was are you aware of any examples of how we as Canadians have suffered because we've not had these provisions in place since February 2007? I'm not asking you to theorize about how maybe at some point in the future, hypothetically, we might need them. I'm asking you whether you're aware of any specific examples where we would have needed them since they expired.

10:05 a.m.

Director, Government Relations and International Affairs, Canadian Jewish Congress

Eric Vernon

But the fact is that—

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Andrew Kania Liberal Brampton West, ON

That's fine.

Mr. Chair, I'm going to go to the other people, because I have the answer.

10:05 a.m.

Director, Government Relations and International Affairs, Canadian Jewish Congress

Eric Vernon

These powers have been on the books—

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Andrew Kania Liberal Brampton West, ON

Mr. Vernon, I have other people who I need to have the question answered by. No is the answer, thank you.

Anybody else?

10:05 a.m.

Counsel, British Columbia Civil Liberties Association

Carmen Cheung

We are unaware of any specific examples. I understand that this committee has not heard of any specific examples either.

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Andrew Kania Liberal Brampton West, ON

Anybody else?

10:05 a.m.

General Counsel, Canadian Civil Liberties Association

Nathalie Des Rosiers

I think we should mention also that there were some successful prosecutions of terrorism before it occurred, in the Toronto 18, for example. So I think we have the evidence on the other side.

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Andrew Kania Liberal Brampton West, ON

In terms of our Criminal Code or other legislation, are you aware, Madam Cheung, Mr. Mia, of any reason why that legislation would not be sufficient to protect Canadians under these circumstances? Once again, I agree with Mr. Rathgeber. It is our job to protect Canadians. It's one of the highest things we must do. But the issue is whether the current legislation is sufficient to do that or whether we need to have legislation in place that does impinge on civil liberties.

We now have the benefit of experience. This was passed years ago. We've had sunset provisions that expired in February 2007, so we haven't had this legislation for a few years. Once again, now that we have this wealth of experience, do we need more? That's the question, as opposed to what we currently have under our law.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Mr. Mia, please.

10:05 a.m.

Chair, Advocacy and Research Committee, Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association

Ziyaad Mia

I don't want to play the game of “what ifs”, as Mr. Vernon.... We can imagine a number of scenarios and will come up with a giant book of laws to prevent every possible scenario of “what ifs”, but let's look at the facts, as you've mentioned.

For the Toronto 18, Mr. Khawaja, and just recently a number of others, we didn't use any of these extraordinary powers, even though we had them. Why not? Because we used the Criminal Code, and by doing that they get a fair trial. So we know what we're getting in evidence and in cross-examination, and the adversarial process is right and correct and we convicted the right people and it's an open process that creates confidence in the public and does not compromise the role of the judiciary and a host of other things.

If you're going to pass this legislation, I have a number of amendments I think you should make, imminence and others, a two-year sunset clause, not five years—I don't want to go there, and I'll talk to you about those if you want—to implement what the Supreme Court had said. So there's a lot of work still to be done on this, but I don't think we need them. As I mentioned, there are all those other provisions—facilitation, participation, enabling—and those were used and used successfully and it didn't erode our rule-of-law traditions and confidence in the system.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Thank you very much, Mr. Kania.

We will now move to Mr. Norlock, please.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Thank you very much to the witnesses for attending.

I guess I'll start off by saying that I usually ask my questions and direct my comments to the men and women who are at home, especially the young people who are at home, watching the proceedings, to remind them that most of the people in this room—most of the people around this table—have already made up their minds, just by their statements, as to whether or not this kind of legislation should or should not be enacted. But many of the folks at home have not made up their minds and are listening to us, trying to make those decisions--

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Excuse me, Mr. Chairman, as a point of order, are we televised?

February 10th, 2011 / 10:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Yes, we are.

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

It doesn't say that on the notice.