Madam Speaker, the anti-terrorist legislation is a substantive, complex piece of legislation which attempts to balance two very important interests: the interests of security and the interests of our liberty and openness. This is not an easy task. CA members will be proceeding in committee with their ears and eyes open and their minds cognizant of the task at hand. As the bill proceeds into committee, it is also incumbent upon all members of the House to realize the seriousness of this task and to do the balancing that is required.
There are many things we should be cautious of as we move in this direction. Clearly, in the interests of security, we are going to have to modify some of the liberties and freedoms and we are going to be transferring more power to the state. Any time we transfer power from the people, the individuals in our society, to the state, we should be cautious. I think everyone remembers what Lord Acton said a while back in British history, that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. It was true then and it is true today.
Although corruption and abuse of powers exist in democracies, they are far less a problem than in those societies dominated by authoritarian regimes. It is clear we will not make our society purer, safer or less corrupt by simply granting more powers to the state.
When looking at this legislation, we have to take a serious look at a thing called unintended consequences and to limit that possibility. For example, trade unions may be a bit apprehensive of this sort of legislation. The power of a strike can have a disrupting effect on the economy and society and we can get into problems in that area.
There are activists on both sides of the fence, right and left, who are not in terrorist groups. They are strongly trying to advocate their positions in a democratic society. In these times it is very easy for people to include more than terrorists in the ambit of terrorism.
We have to understand another point, too. One of the objectives of the other side in this war on terrorism is to attack our open and free society. If our methods of fighting back have the effect of destroying our openness and our freedom, I wonder what we have achieved.
What is the proper balance between these two competing interests? I do not think there is an absolute answer but I am going to raise some considerations which I think we should be looking at.
There is nothing called an absolute right in this world. There is no such thing. Freedoms and individual freedoms have always been tempered by public good and the freedoms of other people in our society. One need look no further than the famous U.S. supreme court decision of Justice Holmes where he stated that freedom of speech stops when a person stands up in a crowded theatre and yells “fire”. That type of reasoning is what we have to be looking at in our war against terrorism, what that balance is.
Much is said about rights. Much is said about the charter of rights. Section 7 of the charter identifies two rights that we have as individuals in the country, the right to life and the right to security of the person. Obviously terrorists have no respect for either of those. In order to protect those two rights we may have to moderate or compromise some of the other rights that we take for granted.
We must be concerned with unintended consequences and guard against them. Section 183 leaves a lot of discretion to the government to decide what is a terrorist organization and what is not. I think the decision will be made behind closed doors. There will not be a lot of accountability on it. There will be a lot of leeway in that area. There are people who are concerned that groups that are terrorist groups may not be classified as such for political reasons. That is one side of the sword. The other side of the sword is that groups that are not terrorists may be identified as such for political or other reasons. These are concerns.
Let me be clear that the actions of the terrorists violate a lot of existing laws. The entire criminal code must have been violated by the actions in New York and Washington, so there are laws in place. In the House very often we think the solution to problems is to pass more laws and regulations and that will win the war, but that is something we have to be careful of. It is going to take more than laws to win this war.
It is quite apparent to anyone who looks at the situation that holes in the immigration system and the security systems are largely responsible for some of these problems. The U.S. has spent something like $10 billion on immigration and security systems, however 19 hijackers and hundreds of others moved freely in and out of North America monitoring their subjects, studying up on them and even getting the training they did and no one seemed to know what was going on. The intelligence agency was literally caught with its pants down.
Somewhere along the line in this politically correct age someone said it was not right to send spies and informants into groups. Back in the 1950s and 1960s when intelligence agencies did these sorts of things we would have been aware of the threat and the danger of these groups and would have been better prepared. It is incumbent upon us to focus on the target and marshal our resources and aim them right at the target rather than shooting off in all sorts of directions.
More intrusive laws may be the answer. However the immigration system is an area where we have to close loopholes and do things a lot differently. We are going to have to hire more people. We will have to have more resources. We are going to have to use information a lot better.
I recall in the House last February or March when we were dealing with the Amodeo situation. Mr. Amodeo had moved in and out of the country 17 times, if I recall correctly. Three ministers responded. The solicitor general basically said he does not monitor what is going on in his department and the RCMP does not co-ordinate its activities with the immigration department. The immigration minister said her people do not communicate with the RCMP. This thing went around and around.
In fact when Amodeo's wife came into the country the immigration minister even said that we do not ask questions about their marital status or their husbands because that would violate some right that she thought was important. This has to stop.
Buck passing is not going to win the war against terrorism. The buck stops in this House. We have to get our act together, quit protecting our turf and our territory and quit passing things around in a circle. Somebody has to take responsibility.