Mr. Speaker, we are here to debate Bill C-36, the anti-terrorism act. I want to make it clear that the Bloc Quebecois agrees that we need anti-terrorism legislation, but it must respect our freedoms and our democracy.
What the terrorists most want is to destabilize our free and democratic society. They have managed to do so with base and bloody acts of destruction. However, in legislating, we should be able to respect the very foundation of our society, which is freedom and democracy.
With respect to Bill C-36, which goes back to the very definition of the expression “terrorist activity”, the Bloc Quebecois is advocating that this legislation include a sunset clause. This is a very serious situation, and the legislation we are adopting, the anti-terrorist act, has been conceived for such a serious situation. The Bloc Quebecois proposes that it apply for three years, as is the case in the United States, where similar legislation was passed by the American Congress.
Let us not allow the terrorists to do what they set out to do, namely to destabilize our freedoms and our democracy. We are also proposing that this bill be reviewed on a yearly basis.
What is incomprehensible is that the minister who tabled and approved this legislation is acting as though she had hidden motives to appropriate certain freedoms granted to the citizens of Canada by the Constitution of 1982.
Quebec has the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, Canada has the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and this is the type of society in which Quebecers and Canadians want to live, a free and democratic society.
Every time there is the slightest risk of threat to the rights of the citizens of Quebec and Canada, it is our duty to take a reasonable period of time--not unlimited or indefinite--but a reasonable amount of time to hear from all of the groups, associations and interest groups, whether it be the Canadian Bar Association, the Barreau du Québec, all interested groups that have questions on the content of the legislation.
We repeat that, in order to pass anti-terrorism legislation quickly, and to have some control on this legislation to ensure the respect of our free and democratic society, we hope and wish for a three year sunset clause. This is why it is called a sunset clause. This legislation absolutely must be reviewed every year, to ensure that those who are responsible for its enforcement are not abusing the situation to settle disputes or to interpret it for purposes other than those for which this legislation was drafted.
Finally, this leads me to quote the definition of terrorist activity that will be covered by Bill C-36. It says:
--is committed for a political, religious or ideological purpose and threatens public or national security.
So, an act committed for political, religious or ideological purposes that threatens public or national security would now be called a terrorist activity and would be liable to criminal sanctions, whether this activity involves killing, of course, or causing serious bodily harm or endangering a person's life, causing substantial property damage that is likely to result in serious bodily harm or to cause serious interference with or serious disruption of an essential service, facility or system.
In this regard, I go back to the question asked by my colleague of Terrebonne--Blainville: could some nurses who decide to defy regulations or legislation for the purpose of making union demands be charged with terrorist activities, since they are causing interference with or disruption of essential services? This is what the bill before us implies.
This leads me to the comment that we ought to reread section 1 of the Constitution Act, 1982, which guarantees rights and freedoms, and section 2, which gives the fundamental freedoms in this country, namely freedom of conscience and religion, freedom of thought, belief and opinion, freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association. These are the fundamental freedoms of Canada, and of Quebec, because they are also to be found in the Quebec charter of rights and freedoms.
Section 1 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees these rights and freedoms to be subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.
It is a cause of concern to be told by the Prime Minister “If you are ever dissatisfied with the way Bill C-36 as introduced is being interpreted, all you have to do is challenge it before the courts, right up to the Supreme Court”.
We know very well that, with section 1 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and the legislation that will be passed justifying a free and democratic society, this will give judges all the reasons in the world to tell anyone wishing to challenge Bill C-36 once passed that the procedure is ultra vires, as is the case with the municipal mergers in Quebec and elsewhere. This week again we have seen municipalities trying to bring before the courts an act that gives full authority to the provinces to determine the fate of Canada's municipalities. They are doing this because the Constitution allows them to.
We always have the right to challenge, and to spend the money that it takes, but the result is always the same. That is how it was 30 years ago, that is how it was 20 years ago, that it how it was 10 years ago, and that is how it is today. A court challenge is possible, but it is a lost cause, because the Canadian constitution allows the provinces to adopt standards or to govern the municipalities, just as the Canadian Constitution enables the government to pass an anti-terrorism bill that could endanger the rights we enjoy under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Section 1 of the Constitution Act, 1982, gives government the authority to draft such legislation. It will allow the government to tell those who want to challenge the validity of Bill C-36 before the courts “Section 1 of the Constitution Act, 1982, gives us the authority to enact laws subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by Canada law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society”.
We think that the definitions of terrorist and terrorist activity must be revised so that we can protect the rights of our citizens, the people of Canada and Quebec. Once the bill is passed, it will be too late.
Those who have to enforce the law, for example the police, the RCMP, the intelligence services and all those who have to carry that burden, will be able to invoke BillC-36 and, since they often apply laws more liberally than literally, they could infringe upon the rights of some people who, by virtue of their right to freedom of association, are entitled to make claims, give their opinion and go out on to the streets to protest or speak out. We could be jeopardizing this freedom we now enjoy.
I repeat that the Bloc Quebecois supports the anti-terrorism bill. All we want is a sunset clause that will put an end to it three years from now, and the possibility to review it every year to make sure that we do not lose and the terrorists do not win because, once again, all they want is to destabilize our free and democratic society. Let us enact legislation that will end at one point in time and let us review it every year to protect the freedom of every citizen of Quebec and Canada.