Thank you very much. I have quite a bit to say on this, as you can imagine.
Mr. Chair, I want to say that I wish I wasn't here this afternoon taking part in this debate. I wish that by now we'd have a negotiated agreement to proceed. But I need to make a couple of statements before I get to the substance of what I have to say.
First of all, let's make it very clear that nobody on either side of the table, or on any side of the table, I should say, supports any acts of violence or acts of terrorism. We are all equally concerned about Canadian security and safety. As a mother, grandmother, and lifelong teacher, I have spent most of my lifetime fighting for peaceful communities, and I know a couple of times, when I've sat in here, there has been almost an inference that somehow we are encouraging and supporting terrorism. That is absolutely not so.
It's very clear that we have concerns with this piece of legislation. We've not kept that a secret. It's also very clear that we were very, very upset when the government used its majority, basically using the baseball bat of majority, to hit the opposition on the head by shutting down debate in the House. After the bill was introduced, two hours after debate began, there was a closure motion.
Members of Parliament like me and others around this table were elected by their constituents to come here to be their voice, to come here and represent them. I take my role as a parliamentarian very, very seriously. I'm not here just for the constituents in my riding; I also have to keep in mind what's good for all Canadians from coast to coast. I was very, very perturbed when I did not have the opportunity to take part in the debate in the House. I've heard that from innumerable—innumerable—members of Parliament who were very worried and concerned.
So today when I heard the minister in the House—no secret—say that we were just trying to block this legislation and block debate, I thought that was rather rich coming from a government that had shut down debate in the House themselves, and used their majority in order to do that. I know that when you have a majority you have the votes, but really what we're here to debate today is not the merits of the bill. We will get lots of time to do that, I hope, later on. What we're here to debate today is the merits of having a thorough committee stage for this piece of legislation.
We live in a parliamentary democracy which is modelled after Westminster. Because we live in a democracy and not an autocracy, we have all kinds of checks and balances built in, checks and balances that I have spent years teaching my students. But here we are, finding that those checks and balances are being truncated because one political party has a majority and they for some reason seem to be very scared of a public debate on a bill that they have introduced.
For me it's really, really critical that we go through the processes that are meant to provide for rigorous debate. The government failed in that during second reading when the bill was in the House. As I said, they used the hammer of their majority, or the baseball bat of their majority, to get their way and to shut down debate. When I was in the House, towards the end of the debate I heard ministers and parliamentary secretaries get up and say, “You know what? This is going to go through rigorous debate at committee.”
I had hoped for that. But yesterday when I appeared at this committee, we saw a proposal for three meetings, and a meeting with the ministers and all the staff. It didn't seem very thorough to me.
I've also heard that we don't want this bill to pass and we're just speaking for the sake of speaking. I would argue, Mr. Chair, that the proposal we have put forward is not to have open-ended meetings, and not to hear from each and every person who wants to come and present before the committee. What we put forward was a very reasoned argument for 25 meetings so that witnesses could be called by all parties.
Twenty-five is not an endless number. There's no infinity attached to the number 25. It is exactly that: 25.
I heard the critic, whom I have a great deal of respect for, my colleague Randall Garrison, say over and over again that we know the government has a timeline and wants to see this legislation passed in this session, and that we're willing to sit, to take part in evening meetings or additional sittings, to sit during the riding weeks to make sure this legislation goes through. So I think it's a rather spurious argument by some of my colleagues to say that we're just trying to draw out the timelines because we don't want this legislation. We would actually like to get to the point where we could hear from witnesses, but in my books, eight meetings with witnesses is thoroughly inappropriate for a piece of legislation that is going to fundamentally change the laws around Canadian civil liberties and at the same time do very, very little to address terrorism.
I want to say at this stage, Mr. Chair, that I believe there are things we could be doing. I would like to have seen this more as a three-party—