House of Commons Hansard #97 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was poetry.


Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Canadian Alliance Lanark—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has had the opportunity to read the inquiry report. I do not have a copy at my disposal at this moment but I invite him to use the excellent resources available at the Library of Parliament.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Canadian Alliance Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the sole question coming from the Liberal side of the House. I hope to see that interest continue on the bill.

There is a short time remaining and I know the member has given this some thought. A difficult balance has to be struck in terms of respecting individual rights and freedoms and at the same trying to stand strong against violence. We have seen in recent months and years an increasing tendency toward violence by protesters at international and domestic gatherings, with some of the protesters basically screwing the whole thing up for the rest. Because of this willingness of some to violate the laws of our country, they inhibit the ability of the others to freely express their views and concerns as they legitimately have the right to do.

I do not necessarily agree with all of the positions held by every protest group, however I would defend very strongly their right to express those views. Has the member given any thought to the impact of this legislation by giving the RCMP a broader ability in some respects to control the conduct of demonstrations against the government? Has it shifted the balance in some way that may detract or be deleterious to the conduct of a free and open lawful protest?

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Canadian Alliance Lanark—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, in the notes I jotted down for this talk, I noted that subsection (2) is the part where the Royal Canadian Mounted Police may take appropriate measures including controlling, limiting and prohibiting access to any area to the extent and in a manner that is reasonable in the circumstances. This is a great weakness with the bill. It would have been very helpful if this had been laid out in substantially more detail so that we would know exactly what is meant. There is an opening here for a great deal of future litigation if, as one would anticipate, some people felt that an inappropriate manner had been used rather than an appropriate manner.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.


Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, sometimes speech is silver, sometimes silence is golden.

It is unfortunate that our colleague from Lanark—Carleton decided to use the time he had left, although that is his right, to complete his presentation. It is not that we do not recognize his erudition and his eloquence, but it had, I believe, been agreed among our various colleagues to allow the member for Cumberland—Colchester, who unfortunately had a plane to catch, to speak for a few minutes to this bill. He really wanted to and will not be able to, unfortunately, under the circumstances.

I know this is not common practice in this House, but I would like to mention, for the constituents of my colleague from Cumberland—Colchester and the people of Nova Scotia, that he wanted to speak in this House on the bill, but circumstances prevented him from doing so.

I am very pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-35, in part because I have fond memories of my stint on the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade as the former Bloc Quebecois critic in the matter. I refer to the act to amend the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act.

I would right off like to congratulate our colleague from Mercier on an excellent job in this matter.

This bill sets out the privileges and immunities enjoyed by diplomats and international organizations in Canada. It sets out Canada's obligations under the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations that took effect in 1963.

I would first say a word on diplomatic immunity. It has, let us not fool ourselves, had bad press. We recall the death of Ottawa lawyer Catherine MacLean and the injuries suffered by her friend Catherine Doré. They were struck in March by a Russian diplomat posted to Ottawa, Andrei Knyazev, while he was unfortunately intoxicated. Mr. Knyazev escaped prosecution because of his diplomatic immunity. Russia, in a gesture I cannot support, refused to waive the immunity.

Members will recall that the Minister of Foreign Affairs announced at the time that he would do something so that foreign diplomats arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol would never drive again in Canada. I am surprised that the bill before us makes no mention of this. We will certainly have an opportunity to question the minister on the matter in committee.

People have trouble understanding that some people are above the law simply because they have diplomatic status. If a poll were taken today, I would not be surprised if a majority of the population said they were against diplomatic immunity. It is for this reason, curiously, that I come to its defence today.

Diplomatic immunity is essential for the success of international relations. In many countries of the world, arbitrary decisions take the place of the law. In some areas, there is no freedom of religion. In others, criticizing the government is a crime. If the diplomats we post to these countries were not protected by diplomatic immunity, they could be imprisoned at a moment's notice, or even executed for the slightest criticism or indiscretion.

In such conditions, without diplomatic immunity it would be difficult for the Government of Canada, and even for the House of Commons, to take action vis-à-vis these countries without endangering the lives and the safety of the Canadian diplomats posted there. It would be difficult to intervene at the UN General Assembly. Without diplomatic immunity, our diplomats would have trouble coming to the assistance of Canadians in troubled regions around the world. In short, it would be difficult for diplomats to play their role fully. And the role that diplomats play abroad is an important one.

One has only to read the Vienna Convention to realize this. Diplomats are responsible for representing their government, defending it, negotiating on its behalf, promoting economic, cultural, political and scientific relations and finally, protecting its nationals. Without diplomatic immunity, these functions could be interrupted as soon as there was unrest in the country to which they were posted. And it is at these precise times that diplomats’ functions are most essential.

Diplomatic relations between states or sovereigns have always existed. What is more recent are the diplomatic duties performed within international organizations. These functions really took off with the creation of the United Nations, after World War II. But it is not just the UN. Progress in the transportation and communication sectors have helped the development of international organizations. Some, but not all of them are created by treaty.

In addition to these international organizations, we also have major international meetings and summits that are not always under the aegis of organizations, but nevertheless play an important role in international relations.

The current Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act is ill-suited to this new situation, hence Bill C-35, whose principle is supported by the Bloc Quebecois.

Still, several provisions of the bill raise questions and even serious concerns. We will see in committee how these concerns can be lessened. It is too early to say whether we will support the bill at third reading.

The definition of international organizations found in the existing act is very restrictive. In order to be considered as such, international organizations must be established by treaty. However, a number of organizations, including the OECD and the G-8, are not established by treaty.

The definition of diplomatic mission is also very restrictive. Indeed, the existing act only recognizes embassies or consulates accredited to Canada. Diplomatic missions accredited to international organizations are not recognized. There is a need to adjust the legislation to the current reality, where international institutions play a major role.

Quebec's international reputation, and particularly that of Montreal, is well known. This is especially true in cultural and educational areas, in the environmental sector, and in the aviation industry, where Montreal is known worldwide through ICAO, among others, the International Civil Aviation Organization.

There are already 70 international organizations in Montreal, including 40 that are recognized through agreements with the Quebec government. Seven of these organizations are made up of states and would be covered by Bill C-35. Under Bill C-35, diplomatic missions accredited to these organizations will enjoy the same privileges and immunities as diplomatic and consular missions accredited to the government.

The presence of these international bodies in Montreal has a direct economic impact in excess of $185 million, as well as over 3,300 jobs. On top of that, there are the international meetings attracted by their presence in Montreal. This is another aspect of Bill C-35 which will help Montreal develop its international role. Major international meetings participated in by other countries, might enjoy privileges, taxation ones in particular, under this bill.

Nevertheless, the Bloc Quebecois is extremely perplexed by certain clauses in this bill, as I have already said.

First, the definition of international organizations. In the present act, an international organization is defined as any intergovernmental organization of which two or more states are members, while Bill C-35 adds “whether or not established by treaty”, which is a good thing. However, the French expression “regroupant” (bringing together) has now been changed to “formée de” (made up of) several states. Why?

Does this mean that an international organization of which several states are members, but also federated states or provinces, would no longer be recognized? I am thinking here, of course, of the Francophonie, and also of other organizations in which Quebec will be sure to participate, because they deal essentially with matters over which Ottawa really does not have much, if any, jurisdiction, such as culture, education or health.

The bill has as little to say about interparliamentary associations. These, as we know, are becoming increasingly important. Some even have a permanent secretariat here. I am thinking in particular of COPA, the Parliamentary Association of the Americas, one which is very familiar to you, moreover, Mr. Speaker, and is headquartered in Quebec City.

These parliamentary associations may have foreigners on their staff. They are not comprised of states, but rather of parliaments. The bill does not mention this, and thus affords them no particular tax status. Here we have an excellent opportunity to proclaim the importance of the international role of parliamentarians. It would be a pity to miss it. We are entitled to question such matters, and will do so in committee.

Second, clause 4 of Bill C-35 has an impact on the recognition of delegations of what the bill calls, and I quote, “an office of a political subdivision of a foreign state”. This in fact refers to federated states, or provinces.

I will take the trouble to cite the legislation, because the issue is subtle, but very important. Section 6 of the existing legislation provides that the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Foreign Affairs may decide jointly, and I quote:

—for the purpose of according... treatment that is comparable to

(a) extend any of the duty and tax relief privileges provided for in the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations that have been granted to that office of the political subdivision of the foreign state, and to any person connected therewith;

In addition, the act provides that the minister may also grant to the offices and archives of these political subdivisions any of the immunities accorded to consular premises and archives by the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

Bill C-35 limits this. The duty and tax relief privileges are still there, but the immunity of premises has disappeared? Why?

And even with respect to tax privileges, the act provides that the minister may grant them only if he is of the opinion that, and I quote:

—the office of the political subdivision of the foreign state performs, in Canada, duties that are substantially the same as the duties performed in Canada by a consular post as defined in... the Vienna Convention—

This is a condition that is not in the existing legislation.

Federal states, particularly in countries consisting of more than one people, are playing an increasingly large role in international fora. The example of Belgium comes to mind, but there are others. Not all countries are like Canada, which uses every means possible to prevent the people of Quebec from bypassing Ottawa's filter and communicating with the other nations of the world.

Decisions taken in international forums now affect all areas, including some that do not come under federal jurisdiction. The role of federal states in these international forums will only grow.

Why then does Bill C-35 limit privileges, when the times we now live in would seem to require that they be broadened instead?

The Vienna Convention is based on the rule of reciprocity of treatment. If Canada reduces the privileges accorded delegations of foreign federal states represented here, the odds are that foreign governments will be tempted to want to reduce the privileges accorded Quebec delegations abroad accordingly. I have trouble understanding this restrictive clause, slipped into a bill the purpose of which is to be more open.

Quebec has 31 foreign offices: six general delegations, one delegation, seven offices and 17 sub-delegations on every continent.

These Quebec representatives abroad deal with co-operation, immigration and economic development. They play an essential role.

In passing, I would like to highlight one of Mission Quebec's successful economic missions last year, in which they came back with a one billion dollar Spanish investment, in the riding of my colleague from Mercier, to be specific.

Such success would have been more difficult without the presence of Quebec representatives abroad. We must not make things harder for them. Indeed, we must assist them. And one would think that this is the role of the federal government, as long as Quebec is a part of confederation.

Yet we know how much the federal government likes throwing wrenches in the works of Quebec when it comes to their international presence. We know how hard they work at erasing Quebec's presence in the international arena.

Much has been said about the federal government's little book for diplomats posted abroad on how to deal with separatist officials. We recall as well that one African country, Mali, was threatened with having all of its development aid cut if it invited Quebec to participate in a meeting of the Francophonie in the 1960s.

France had to intervene to solve the conflict, which in the end enabled Quebec, the only francophone state in North America, to become a member of the Francophonie. Such events make us suspicious. The government should reassure about clause 4 of Bill C-35.

My third concern, and I will end on this, regards the powers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. This aspect of the bill already concerned me. Bill C-36, the anti-terrorism act that was just introduced, increases my concerns.

Bill C-35 adds another section to the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act. It basically adds a new element that did not exist in the current legislation, that of security at intergovernmental conferences.

Indeed, the bill specifies that the RCMP, or the mounted police, as the Prime Minister calls it and as we used to call it 50 years ago, is responsible for the security of intergovernmental conferences.

One wonders what this clause has to do with the immunities and privileges granted to diplomatic missions and international organizations. This clause has nothing to do with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations that the bill on foreign missions and international organizations will implement. Moreover, subsection 3 of this clause reads, and I quote:

—shall not be read as affecting the powers that peace officers possess at common law or by virtue of any other federal or provincial Act or regulation.

If this clause does not have any effect on existing laws, then why include it? I do not understand. Let us keep reading. The same clause provides that:

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police has the primary responsibility to ensure the security for the proper functioning of any intergovernmental conference in which two or more states participate, that is attended by persons granted privileges and immunities under this Act.

In the past, that responsibility was jointly assumed by the RCMP and the provinces, as we saw during the last summit of the Americas held in Quebec City in April, when RCMP and QPP officers fully co-operated together. The presence of the QPP was indispensable and beneficial in maintaining order.

We can all think of this somewhat ridiculous situation where unilingual anglophone RCMP officers would ask in English unilingual francophone protesters to disperse.

In order to be effective, security measures must be applied jointly.

But let us continue reading clause 10. subsection 2 specifies that for the purpose of carrying out its responsibility under subsection (1):

the Royal Canadian Mounted Police may take appropriate measures, including controlling, limiting or prohibiting access to any area to the extent and in a manner that is reasonable in the circumstances.

This clause institutionalizes the security perimeter. It legitimizes any measure that the RCMP may want to take to ensure the security of international meetings. It gets the parliament's approval regarding measures that may be taken without parliament being involved, even indirectly.

It is not normal to close off cities, barricade neighbourhoods and fence off downtown areas so that heads of state can meet. I understand that it is necessary sometimes, but it is not normal. In fact, it is indicative of some discomfiture in the operation of international organizations, a lack of democracy and transparency and a lack of sensitivity to people's needs. This can only give rise to frustrations and then demonstrations.

This therefore is an abnormal situation that can be only temporary. These measures are exceptional and must be treated as such. There is no reason to institutionalize them, especially in legislation that will be permanent, since its function is to ensure the permanence of international relations. This is an important distinction.

As my time is running out, I will conclude. It is clear that this clause is drafted to measure for the G-8 meeting in Alberta next July. It is clear that it is intended to apply parliament's stamp to the security measures the police are preparing to take, which will be, as we may expect, extraordinary. We must avoid doing so. At the very least, we must avoid doing it in the context of legislation on diplomatic relations.

It is, however, all the more distressing, when we consider the context of the G-8 meeting. The anti-terrorism bill will have been passed by that time.

I point out that the definition of terrorism in the bill is so vague that a Liberal member went so far as to say that, under Bill C-36, the demonstrators at the Quebec summit could have been considered terrorists. We must bear this in mind when we consider Bill C-35. We must be extra cautious.

Freedom of expression, of association and peaceful demonstration are fundamental rights. They are in large measure what distinguishes democratic countries from totalitarian ones.

The Bloc Quebecois will have many questions for the minister about the appropriateness of putting this clause on the security of intergovernmental conferences in Bill C-35.

As can be seen, the Bloc Quebecois is raising numerous questions and concerns. Those questions will have to be answered and our concerns will have to addressed during consideration of the bill.

Nonetheless, we acknowledge the need to modernize the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act. Diplomacy is no longer practiced the way it was 30 years ago nor is it in the same forums.

Consequently, despite all the reservations that I mentioned, the Bloc Quebecois will support the principle of the bill.

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4:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Canadian Alliance Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, I extend thanks to my colleague for his thoughtful comments and insights on the legislation.

I was particularly struck by his comments, and I believe he may have used the phrase expanded definition, on the need for a definition of organizations of various kinds that qualify for diplomatic immunity and treatment which has been afforded traditionally only to certain types of diplomats, certain treaty organizations, certain qualifying organizations and so on. I want to give him the opportunity to expand a little on that point because I am very interested in his thoughts.

The second point he made referenced the very unfortunate incident that occurred approximately a year ago when a Russian diplomat, who was driving while impaired, caused the death of a Canadian citizen and injured another. Of course, because of diplomatic immunity practices, we were not able to prosecute that individual here in Canada. I am also interested on his thoughts in that regard.

If we expand, which seems to be his wish, the rights of diplomatic personnel or broaden the definition so that many others qualify for certain rights under this act, how does he propose to deal with the resultant obvious increase in the number of people living in our country who would not be required to adhere to Canadian laws? How does he propose to balance those two things?

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4:10 p.m.


Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for Portage--Lisgar for allowing me to clarify my thoughts on those two issues.

First, it must be recognized that the tragic events that occurred in the United States several weeks ago have shown, like no international event has before, that all the concepts we had so far pertaining to international relations regarding strategy and the balance of military forces have been seriously challenged.

Since World War II, international relations have changed considerably. If it is true that in the past relations were established essentially between states, or in bygone days between the sovereigns of those states, they have become quite different today.

The legislative framework for the protection of diplomatic immunity must adapt to this new international reality.

As a first step, I believe we should pass legislation that will modernize the protection system applying to the immunity of foreign representatives in Canada.

When I said that international relations have evolved, this means that more and more international organizations are totally different in nature from the ones we used to know in the past. This is why we must take measures allowing us to recognize those international organizations.

That does not mean--and I am getting to my colleague's second question--that we cannot do something internally to avoid abuse. I pointed out this shortcoming in the bill because the Minister of Foreign Affairs told us, following an accident here in Ottawa a few months ago, that he would see to it that a diplomat causing injury or death while driving under the influence would no longer be allowed to drive.

The bill before us does not contain any provisions that would follow up on what the minister wanted.

This does not mean that we cannot impose a number of obvious restrictions to address certain situations like those that we faced a few months ago.

That being said, it is also important not to restrict, through legislation specifically designed to broaden it, the definition of certain organizations that could be granted certain immunities and privileges.

I referred earlier to certain organizations of which Quebec is a member, including COPA, in relation to the fact that the bill establishes a new distinction when it says that the only organizations made up of states will be recognized. Does this mean that organizations of which federated states are members, such as the Parliamentary Conference of the Americas, would be excluded from those that can be given immunities and privileges?

As I was saying, the world has changed a lot, and federated states have an increasing role to play on the international scene in areas that fall under their jurisdiction.

Therefore, Canada must put an end to the traditional paternalistic attitude that it has shown with regard to the role of provinces on the international scene and recognize this new reality in the legislation. But it seems that the federal government has chosen to go the other way in its bill, and that is one aspect that is of concern to us.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.


Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague from Verchères--Les-Patriotes who has clearly explained how this bill will change the way Quebec and Canada deal at the international level.

The Bloc Quebecois is supporting this bill at second reading, but does have some concerns. Why does the member for Verchères--Les-Patriotes insist so much on demonstrations and the powers this bill will give the Royal Canadian Mounted Police?

This bill will legalize actions that were illegal in the past and it will be applicable to very specific situations, in the context of international conferences held in Canada. I would like my colleague to expand on that.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.


Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Jonquière for her question, because it gives me an opportunity to elaborate and clarify this aspect of the bill.

By itself, within the context of Bill C-35, this aspect of the bill would already raise some concern. We could certainly be concerned to see the RCMP being granted, through this bill, the power to organize by itself all the security aspects of international activities or conferences held in Canadian territory.

We have seen it in the past. We only have to think of the APEC Conference in British Columbia, when the RCMP, and indirectly the federal government, were asked to plan the security of this conference. Is seems--and it has not been denied yet--that there would have been a close relationship between the two as far as the conference security, the so-called security, was concerned. We are therefore justified in being concerned about the new provision in Bill C-35.

But when this provision contained in Bill C-35 is combined with all the provisions in Bill C-36 on combating against terrorism, then we become really concerned, as I indicated earlier in my speech.

We will recall that one of our colleagues from the Liberal Party suggested that the provisions of Bill C-36 might be interpreted in such a way that protesters at the last Summit of the Americas in Quebec City could have been considered as terrorists.

With the Royal Canadian Mounted Police solely responsible for security in such a context, it would be all the more reason to be concerned. If the past tells us what the future will be, the government will have to bring clarifications on this disturbing provision in Bill C-35 as well as on the other provision contained in Bill C-36.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Canadian Alliance Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to contribute my thoughts to the discussion on Bill C-35. I would like to pay special tribute to my colleague from Verchères--Les-Patriotes as well as to my colleague who spoke previously. Their comments were very insightful and added greatly to the debate.

It would be appropriate to go back a bit and talk about the aspect that is at the centre of the bill, the rules around diplomatic immunity. To do that we need to revisit why those rules exist in the first place.

Rules regulating the various aspects of diplomatic relations constitute one of the earliest expressions of international law. Whenever in history there has been a group of independent nations co-existing, special customs were developed on how ambassadors and other special representatives of those nations were to be treated, on special privileges and immunities related to diplomatic personnel of various kinds.They grew partly in consequence of sovereign immunity and the independence and equality of states and partly as an essential requirement of an international system.

States must negotiate and consult with one another and with international organizations. To do so, they need diplomatic staff. In most cases those diplomatic staff are comprised of citizens of their own countries who travel abroad to do that work, although in our own foreign affairs department a decreasing number of people working in our foreign embassies are Canadians. More and more we employ people who are nationals in the areas where our embassies are located. That is another topic for another day, but certainly a topic of concern to the members on this side of the House in the Canadian Alliance.

In short, the rules of diplomatic law lay down the receiving state's obligations regarding the facilities, the privileges, the immunities to be accorded to diplomatic missions, and on the other they foresee their possible abuse by members. They specify the means at the disposal of the receiving state to counter any such abuse. Our concern is that the balance between these two things has shifted perhaps too much against the whole state. In other words, there is not the opportunity for recourse that might be necessary in the event of a criminal act by a member of a foreign mission on Canadian soil.

It is disappointing to me, as it should be to any thoughtful member of the House, that the government has not seen fit to have the minister present the arguments as to the merits of the bill and that it has not seen fit to advance speakers to discuss the bill. That clearly is a distraction and evidence of a lack of enthusiasm for the bill. Perhaps not, but there is a presence of a desire to move the bill forward quickly in the absence of constructive debate. I invite the members on the other side of the House to contribute their thoughts and comments to the discussion as it is important.

American humorist Will Rogers defined diplomacy as the art of saying nice doggy while looking for a big stick. What we are concerned about is that the big sticks in diplomacy seem to be held by the people who come to Canada rather than by Canadians themselves.

We understand the traditional history of diplomatic immunity is of long-standing, I am told right back to the treaty of Westphalia, and that it has been enhanced and elaborated upon by the Vienna conventions and so on. We understand the need for diplomatic immunity in its basic sense. We know that in ancient times people who had the responsibility of being foreign ambassadors were sometimes treated badly by the other nations to whom they had to carry messages. Sometimes they were beheaded. I understand other elements of torture were applied to them. They were put in dungeons. They were punished for doing the work of trying to be intermediaries between two states.

Civilized states advanced and decided to move forward. They brought forward better ways of dealing with one another by giving immunity to those who had the courage to become members of the diplomatic corps. This of course was progress.

The essential secondary aspect of that immunity was that the receiving countries agreed they would not discriminate against the representatives from other countries regardless of their conduct in the past and that that was irrelevant.

What they may have done in a war a few years before was totally irrelevant. The lives they may have taken, even from the very country to which they were now an ambassador, were of no consequence whatsoever. The fact was they were free and clear. They were above the law. They were not just above the law in the sense that previous actions, whether criminal or not, were to be forgotten, but they were also above the law in the land to which they went. Of course that meant that they did not have to abide by the laws of the country to which they went.

Fortunately there have been relatively few instances, at least in modern times, where foreign diplomats or council staffs have betrayed the trust or dignity of their office by breaking the laws of the land in which they were stationed. Nonetheless, that reality, which is something I will address a little later in my comments, is unfortunately a reality we saw in Canada as recently as a few months ago: a reality that impacts on the lives of real people in a real way: a reality that human beings are not perfect; and a reality that when people are given positions that puts them above the law, for some reason or another they seem to think they are above the law and can behave in any way they might desire. That is not a good thing.

The history of immunity means trade-offs. We could say those trade-offs in our history were a good thing. They were progressive steps for medieval times when ambassadors were beheaded if the news was not good. That is a progressive step. Perhaps what we are debating now in the context of this bill is not whether diplomatic immunity itself is a good or necessary thing, but rather a question of degree. That is what we should be debating.

Is it right that we should expand upon the definitions of those people allowed to be above the law? Is that something that we should consider doing? Should we place a broader number of people in the country above Canadian law? Is that something we should do? I do not know. I do not think so.

I know that theoretical cases are sometimes used to illustrate points and I will provide one. Let us suppose that Afghanistan is defeated, the Taliban is deposed and a new administration comes in that is comprised of a coalition of a variety of forces representative of the people of Afghanistan. Let us suppose that we are able to bring democracy to Afghanistan and there is a freely held, open election where the most popular people would be elected to a new Afghanistan parliament.

Then let us suppose that Osama bin Laden runs and wins because he is a pretty popular man in some parts of Afghanistan. Let us suppose he goes into a house like this and serves there for years representing the people of Afghanistan. As is the case here of course, after a few years he would be appointed a diplomat, just as happens with Liberals on the opposite side. They advance to the diplomatic corps. Our diplomatic corps around the world is populated with former Liberal politicians.

Let us suppose that after a few years the government of Afghanistan decides that Osama bin Laden, on the right side of the power-brokers of the day, should be appointed a diplomat and is appointed to Canada. I hope everyone is getting my point.

The fact is when someone is put above the law there are consequences to doing that. The consequences for two women in Ottawa last year are real and permanent. There are consequences for not standing up for Canadian values. Canadians value the rule of law and people who abide by the laws that are made. We are proud of our system of laws.

In fact it stands in very stark contrast to the way in which we dealt with the issue of terrorism for too long. We have become known as a soft touch for terrorists around the world. We have become known as a safe haven. Every time a question is raised, the immigration minister does the same thing. She does this now and has done it for some months from what I understand.

For example, a question might be asked about why 50 people came here last weekend from Pakistan or Afghanistan without security clearance and then disappeared into the land, but the immigration department did not know where they were or what their security records were.

When someone asks a question, we immediately hear the response from the immigration minister that we are labelling everyone outside of Canada who is a refugee. We are asking questions about a process that Canadians are concerned about.

This country has a reputation among the peacekeeping law enforcement officials and investigative and intelligence personnel around the world as a soft touch for terrorists. It has a reputation in many countries as a place where one can go and immediately have charter rights and freedoms: the right to accommodation; the right to free medical care; the right to food; and welfare benefits. Immediately, we provide those benefits, and many of us in the House are proud of that. The reality is we do not want to provide those benefits to terrorists. That would be self-evident.

The question is: How do we deal with this system properly and carefully? On the one hand, the Liberals have said since September 11 that they want to deal with the problem. I accept that. September 11 changed our way of thinking. It changed many of us, perhaps forever, and some of that is not entirely bad. If it has brought about an awareness of the need for greater security and if it brings about a need for a greater understanding of the challenges we have to face to stand up for Canadian values in the world, then perhaps that is a benefit that has come from a tragedy.

However, the reality is that the Liberals, prior to that time, and perhaps again, have been torpid in their response the initiatives that we have advanced. Torpid means: slow moving, sluggish, inactive, inert, lethargic, lazy, listless, spiritless, indolent, languid, languorous, apathetic, lackadaisical, passive, slow-thinking, dull, half asleep, drowsy, somnolent and dormant. That is the response we have had from the Liberal government for several years in advancing security related suggestions, clear-headed forward thinking suggestions, which only now, in consequence of a crisis, it appears to be embracing. Better late than never.

This bill sends the wrong message. The bill sends the message that we will be tough on terrorists but we will be tough in terms of standing up for our values; we will be very permissive in extending the right to certain groups of people within our country, a growing number by this legislation, to be above the law. That sends the message that we have a flexible morality and we do not.

We have not got the military we used to have, but we are trying. I am proud, and we are all proud, of the Canadian people who are contributing to our military presence in this struggle against terrorism worldwide. However that should not deter us in doing everything we can on a diplomatic front.

The government says it is tough on terrorism. It has made that statement numerous times. However, when it had the opportunity to stand up and prove that, it failed. I speak now about the opportunity to oppose the selection of Syria to the United Nations security council.

The Prime Minister said in a press conference just last week “Together with our allies, we will defy and defeat the threat that terrorism poses to all civilized nations”.

In the House last week, the defence minister said “There is no doubt that those who perpetrate this terrorism need to be found out and brought to justice, as well as those who harbour them”.

Those are good words. Those are words I hope that all members could support. Unfortunately, when we had the opportunity to stand up and say no to Syria for the United Nations Security Council just last week, we did not.

Why should we have said no to Syria? Let us talk about that.

Syria, as a nation, has violated the United Nations Security Council economic sanctions against Iraq. It has pumped 100,000 barrels of Iraqi oil per day through its pipeline to the Mediterranean coast, which shows its contempt for the United Nations Security Council on which it now has a seat, thanks to Canadian representation.

Syria is an occupying power in Lebanon. It maintains 25,000 troops and intelligence agents in Lebanon. It uses Lebanese banks for its slush funds. It has turned the Biqa Valley into one of the world's greatest drug routes.

This contravenes UN resolution 425 which calls for the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon.

The following terrorist organizations are known to be based in Syria according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, England and the United States state department: Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic jihad, Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the list goes on and on.

Syria has been on the United States state department's list of states sponsoring terrorism since that list was first created in 1979. Hamas operates a political office in Damascus. It is openly operated.

The leader of the Islamic jihad which carries out suicide bombings in Israel lives in Damascus. The group has its headquarters there. Syria allows Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic jihad to operate freely from areas of Lebanon under Syrian control. Syria allows Iran to supply Hezbollah through the Damascus airport.

One would hope that if we were going to stand for Canadian values and do the things the minister of defence said we would do, which is to stand against those who harbour and support terrorism, we would at least have had the spine to say no to Syria for the United Nations Security Council. It was our opportunity and a glorious one to show that we would stand for Canadian values, not just in words but in actual deeds, and say no when it was right to say no.

I understand the need for us to have relations with various countries that we may not agree with some of the time or a lot of the time but I also understand that a good relationship is based on openness, truth and honesty. When has the government demonstrated to us that it has told the government of Syria that it is not acceptable to harbour terrorist organizations? It has not. That is not how a strong and good relationship is created. That is not how to stand for Canadian values in the world.

Yesterday, sadly, the tourism minister of Israel was assassinated by an organization named the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine which operates out of Syria. A week and a half ago we could have as a nation said no. We could have said that Canadians would not support this kind of thing but we did not. Yesterday another widow was the result of the action of a terrorist.

I am not blaming the members of the government for the actions of terrorists because that would be wrong and I will not do that. What I am saying is that we have to stand up for the values that we maintain we have. If we fail to do so then they are not truly our values. We have an opportunity and an obligation to do that.

In case the members opposite believe or disbelieve that there are no real consequences, they should consider the events of yesterday. A diminished Canadian voice has been the result of our failure to stand for our values. There are consequences to us domestically when we extend rights. I give the example of rights to diplomats, diplomatic immunity.

Last year Russian diplomat Andrei Knyasev, who had multiple previous drunk driving incidents, ran over and killed a woman and seriously injured her friend in Ottawa while under the influence of duty free alcohol to which he was entitled as a diplomat. He is beyond prosecution.

In 1997 a Kuwaiti embassy employee in Ottawa, Osama Al-Ayoub, was charged with two counts of reselling duty free liquor to which he was entitled as an embassy employee. He left the country without being prosecuted.

In 1996 Olexander Yushko, a Ukrainian consular employee in Toronto, claimed immunity after trying to lure two girls aged 12 and 14 into his car while holding an anaesthetic soaked handkerchief. He was also charged with two counts of drunk driving, possessing stolen licence plates and attempting to bribe a police officer. There was no prosecution there either.

In 1991 two unnamed Kenyan diplomats claimed immunity after being questioned in Ottawa for allegedly assaulting four teenage girls at knifepoint in two separate incidents in a vacant apartment they had broken into. They simply left the country without prosecution.

In the words of Catherine Doré, the woman injured in the unfortunate event of last year, the survivor of the Knyasev incident, she said:

Diplomatic immunity should not be an excuse for violating those rules which protect Canadian citizens. There are changes that need to be made—changes so that people like that don't get away without being punished.

The bill does nothing to address the weaknesses I have pointed out today. I encourage the government to make changes or withdraw the bill entirely.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I certainly disagree with the member's last remarks that the bill does nothing. When I look at his examples, they are typical from members of the official opposition. They seem to look back rather than look ahead. Many of the examples the member talked about are the very reason for the bill. The bill does go some distance to dealing with those problems.

The other point I want to pick up on and one that is absolutely wrong is the point that this country is a soft touch for terrorists. That is far from the truth. The bill makes it clear that people in the diplomatic service are not above the law. It moves some distance to deal with that question.

There is an old saying “what is good for the goose is good for the gander”. We have to be careful in terms of how far we go in the bill when we have our own diplomatic people abroad. If we take away all the rights and privileges from people from other countries and treat them the same as they would be treated on their own sovereign soil, we would be doing a disservice internationally. We could not have confidence in the security of our own people in embassies abroad that they would be treated fairly under international standards. We need to find a balance, which is what the government is trying to do through the bill.

The member seems to believe that we are not taking any steps forward with the bill. I find that amazing. Could the member not admit that this does move us ahead some distance to deal with the problems we have faced in the past?

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Canadian Alliance Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will not admit that because it would be untrue. The member is quite wrong. The bill is silent on the issue of increasing or in some way addressing the issue of criminal behaviour by people who have been extended diplomatic immunity. The bill is silent on that except to the extent that it expands the number of people who may be given immunity. It is silent on that aspect entirely.

The member makes the point that I cite examples from the past. I could speculate on examples in the future if the member would like. The fact of the matter is that these events have occurred and they have affected Canadians. They are not a joking matter. They are not irrelevant. They have affected Canadians and the bill is silent on the consequences of extending diplomatic immunity and broadening it, as the bill does. It is silent on that issue entirely. That shows me a disrespect for the past and a disrespect for the victims of the crimes of those people who have been given diplomatic immunity and who have taken advantage of it. I would say quite the contrary. I would say that we should learn from the past.

The bill does not learn from the past. Rather, it is a backward looking bill. The bill was drafted as a consequence of the APEC protest. The member knows that. The APEC protest happened several years ago. The nature of the APEC protest itself is that it was an historical protest. The protests that have happened since that time, in Quebec City, Seattle and the G-8 meeting in Genoa, have been much different. They have been bigger and broader in nature. The security requirements that will be necessary for such events in the future will likely be incredibly more demanding on our security services if we are to host such meetings, as we will next year with the G-8 meeting in Kananaskis, Alberta.

That being said, our obligation is to make sure that we give the same kind of respect to Canadian citizens obviously as we would to those diplomats who would come here from abroad. However that does not mean we have to treat the diplomats who come here from abroad as a separate class having rights over, above or beyond the rights of Canadians.

The member talked about the quid pro quo argument, and that is quite a legitimate point. He made a good argument. I appreciate the fact that we need to be concerned that our diplomatic corps abroad is also extended certain immunities and certain rights. Nowhere in my comments did I suggest we should withdraw all rights from all diplomats here. The resultant hairy scary theory he advances of what would happen if, has no legitimate relevance at all. What we are talking about here is a question of degrees, a question of should we be extending these rights more broadly to a larger number of people.

My colleague from the Bloc Quebecois made the point that there should be a far broader definition of organizations that qualify for diplomatic immunity. I believe he would like to see, as is the position of the members of the Bloc, rights extended to organizations that are entirely provincial, originating in Quebec itself for example, and that diplomatic immunity should be extended to delegations that come here from abroad. That would mean that a delegation coming here from any number of different countries around the world and its participants would, under his proposal, if I understand it correctly, not be required to abide by Canadian law while here.

Diplomatic immunity is not a hot topic. It is not out there right now. People are not talking about it very much. However I believe many Canadians are interested in knowing what the merits are of extending a realm of lawlessness, essentially of giving people the right to not abide by Canadian law on a selected basis. I think many Canadians would be very interested in learning more about this topic. I think many Canadians would like to know and would like to understand why it is that we would propose, as the government is doing with the bill, to extend these kinds of rights on a broader basis to people from outside our country at a time in the world's history when concerns about violent acts of terrorism have perhaps never been greater. Many Canadians right now feel very insecure.

I would like to take this opportunity, if I might, to add my comments to the anti-terrorism bill that was presented earlier this week in the House. I did not have an opportunity to give them earlier.

I would like to add that my best wishes go out to our troops and to their families. The people in my constituency of Portage--Lisgar are thinking of them and are proud of the way they are standing up for Canadian values in a real way. As I see it, our primary task here is to do the same. It is to stand up for Canadian values as we see them and stand up in a real way, not just in rhetoric.

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4:50 p.m.


Dick Proctor NDP Palliser, SK

Madam Speaker, I did not hear all of the hon. member's speech but I did hear him make reference to the fact that it is well known that Canada is a safe haven for terrorists. I want to disagree with that assessment, but more important I want to say for the record that this is not what the director of CSIS, Mr. Ward Elcock, said this morning. In fact he said exactly the opposite before the immigration committee. Not only is it inaccurate to say that Canada is a safe haven for terrorists because it is misleading, it is unfortunate that we convey this kind of impression to Canadians at a time when we are living through such a highly charged, emotional, post-September 11 atmosphere. I think it is extremely important that we put things in context.

I just came from a panel that included a member from the minister's own party. She made the point that the worst thing to fear is fear of the unknown. The only thing we have to fear is fear itself, as Roosevelt said. Let us get factual information out that Canadians can deal with, not overblown rhetoric, as saying Canada is a safe haven for terrorists would suggest.

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4:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Canadian Alliance Portage—Lisgar, MB

Madam Speaker, the member might refer to the Senate committee on terrorism which referenced the fact that over 50 terrorist organizations operate within this country today. The member might reference numerous experts, far more expert than I, who are security knowledgeable people. The former director of strategic studies for CSIS himself, David Harris, noted that essentially Canada is operating an aircraft carrier for the jihad, that we have had far more people coming to tour country.

This is understandable. When one does a comparative study of the degree to which other nations welcome people from abroad, Canada has a proud history of welcoming people from around the world. Naturally there would be a tendency for some of those people to be terrorists. I think that to deny it is probably more dangerous than to admit the truth. The truth of the matter is, as we see investigations unfold--

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4:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member but his time has elapsed.

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Verchères--Les-Patriotes, Tokamak; and the hon. member for Lanark--Carleton, Business Development Bank of Canada.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, I would like to begin my speech by making a little parenthetical comment to the member for Lanark--Carleton who began the debate this afternoon when we resumed second reading on Bill C-35. He made a comment on the fact that his speech had been interrupted for some two weeks and that he had some time to think about it.

I want to give him a little bit of a commiserating thought which is that to my recollection my record on having a speech interrupted basically in mid-sentence is about a year. There was a time in one of the previous parliaments where I gave a speech and then the debate on that item was dropped. It was not called again by the government for just a couple of days short of a year, at which point I was able to resume my speech. My problem was somewhat different from his in that he had some time to reflect on what he wanted to say. I had enough time to have forgotten what I wanted to say.

We are talking today about Bill C-35, an act to amend the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act. This again comes down to a fundamental principle and that is the principle of law and order and who it applies to. Basically the bill provides for the Minister of Foreign Affairs to provide exemptions from Canada's laws to certain individuals, organizations and people who are part of these organizations, primarily diplomatic missions and this type of thing.

I have a bit of a problem with this whole general concept. I know that it is part of the convention and that there is a lot of agreement among countries. Generally the rule is that we will exempt members of another country from any of the obligations under our government if that country does the same for our diplomats and our people when they travel to that country. That is sort of the basic principle. It is a pretty sound principle, if it could be applied.

However there are some rules and laws on which I do not think we ought to bend, yet we do quite easily. I would be much happier to specify explicitly to diplomats that some of the laws in this country are not to be compromised by them, by their staff, by their families or by whomever instead of saying that they are exempt from all these laws. There should be no exemptions. Of course this was already mentioned when we talked about our rules against driving while intoxicated. That is one of the most blatant examples and it is very fresh in the minds of many of us here who have spent some time in Ottawa.

I believe that we should say to people coming to this country that we will not exempt them from a particular law and if they do not agree they should send people here who will. In other words, we do not want people who will break laws and endanger the lives and attack the security of Canadian citizens. We have to be very sure that we protect Canadians. That is a substantial missing link here.

When we exempt a person from a law, even a simple parking law, what we are basically saying is that everyone else must pay the penalty for that exemption. That is a principle which I think is contrary to the fundamental democratic principle of equality of people within our society.

I have another little parenthetical statement I want to make here because I think it is rather funny. When I first arrived in Ottawa some eight years ago, and I believe next week is the eighth anniversary of that election, one of the things that shocked me in terms of the culture shift from the cities and towns in the west which I had grown up in and lived in was a considerable disregard for the law in Ottawa. That shocked me, because I thought that Ottawa was the lawmaking capital of the country and in this very city citizens did not pay any regard to the foremost fundamental laws governing traffic. That was what got me.

I think I am still the only one in Ottawa who, even when I walk from my office to the hotel at midnight, still stops and waits at a wait light. I have not seen anyone doing it. I have even had people look at me like they think I am crazy. They ask me why I am not walking, why I am standing there. I have had cabs stop. The drivers think I want a ride. All I am doing is simply obeying a law. The law says we should wait to go until the light gives us permission. Very frankly, there is quite clearly a lack of enforcement of that law which means that people do not obey it.

When I drive in Ottawa I can assure members that I am much more anxious about the safety of pedestrians than I am back home, because back home I am assured that they will stay on the sidewalk and will not break the laws, whereas here I have the opposite assurance. I know that if there is a person on the sidewalk he can and likely will, on a whim, leave the sidewalk and walk in front of me, maybe pausing just short of making contact with the vehicle. That unfortunately does not make for a very good, safe society.

Earlier this week when taking my 10 minute walk from the hotel to the office in the morning, I decided to count infractions. How many infractions do you think I saw, Madam Speaker, just traffic infractions such as vehicles making u-turns in the middle of the street, vehicles making illegal turns, pedestrians jay-walking and pedestrians walking against the light? In 10 minutes in my little walk from the Travelodge hotel to my House of Commons office I counted 61 violations. Clearly the law is not being enforced so therefore it is just blatantly being broken.

That is a civic matter and has nothing to do specifically with the House of Commons, but the reason I mention it is that when we have people living in Canada who for one reason or another are exempt from certain laws, it sends a totally wrong message. As I said before, we need to be very sure when we exempt individuals from obeying these laws that we have a very good reason to do so and that the reason is consistent with our objectives.

When I think of some of these laws that could be exempted I think of the GST. If we decide that we will exempt foreigners who are in our country as part of a diplomatic or other mission from paying the GST, I suppose we could. I know that it is done, because our diplomats are exempted from the tax rates when they go to other countries. There is a reciprocal agreement.

Just collecting a tax or not collecting a tax is not necessarily an affront or a threat to our safety, but there are other laws which I believe we should very vigorously enforce and I think that this actually is the root of the bill. It is one of the reasons that the Liberals over there refuse to get into the debate. All throughout the afternoon only one Liberal stood up once for two minutes to ask a question. That was the hon. member for Malpeque. I congratulate him for actually being awake and listening and participating.

However, the fact that the Liberals are not putting up speakers to defend the bill is a tacit admission that it is indefensible. Therefore they will just push it through with their majority and will not need to try to persuade anyone to vote for it because their members will vote for it on command and they cannot defend it to the others anyway.

I believe the reason they are doing this is primarily the APEC situation in which they brought in some individuals, and I will not mention them by name, and it was quite clear that those individuals were not willing to obey the security and other laws of our country and they were exempted. There was then of course a considerable fear.

I believe one of the reasons the protesters in Vancouver were pushed back from the motorcade was for their own safety. Some members of the motorcade from foreign countries could have taken action against the protesters had they perceived that something was going awry, which would have been very unfortunate.

Their job was to protect their man. That is legitimate but there is a better way. We should inform delegates invited to Canada on such a mission that it would be better for them to comply with our rules and to allow us to provide the security. Then everything would be done in an orderly fashion.

I want to spend a few minutes talking about the right of demonstrations. It has become almost a cliché in Canada and to some extent in the United States. Some very great good has come from the freedom of expression and from the freedom of demonstration.

I refer particularly of our friends in the United States. I wonder how many more years of inequality between whites and blacks in the U.S. there would have been were it not for Martin Luther King and some of the demonstrations in which he participated. However I remind the House that those demonstrations were always done peacefully.

Mahatma Gandhi was another person who engaged in peaceful demonstrations. It is called passive resistance. When people are willing to stand and object because something is wrong and are willing to be sent to jail because they feel the other side is wrong, it sends a very powerful message. If it is done often enough the message gets through. However if we say to the protesters that they have the right to engage in any activity they want, we are inviting an increasing degree of anarchy into our society.

We had protesters put pies into the faces of ministers and even our Prime Minister. The Prime Minister would not necessarily have been my first choice. However, having earned that position and having been elected by the people, we have in our society an obligation to respect that position.

When we are telling people it is okay to protest and to take a lemon or meringue pie and shove it into the Prime Minister's face, I say that is a case of great indignity and should not be tolerated. We have come to a point where we no longer have discernment on what behaviour should or should not be tolerated. There are some things we should not tolerate.

I would like to give another little sidebar if I may. One of the great surprises in my life as a member of parliament is the abuse one gets as an MP simply based upon a perceived association from other people who think we are not honourable.

An event happened to me that was both funny and sad. I was visiting a business person who was showing me around his shop. I had not entered there in my capacity as an MP. He knew I was an MP and we were having a fairly reasonable conversation. During the course of the conversation suddenly and without warning he kicked me quite hard. I can still remember the pain because he got me in a place where it hurts. He said that he felt better and that he always wanted to do that to a politician.

We both had a little laugh and I passed it off, but inside I was very hurt because he did a very undignified thing to me. He thought it was funny, so what could I do?

If the circumstances were different I could have charged him with assault. That would have been the appropriate thing to do, but I did not and I would not. We sort of take these things, but we need to make sure that when people are protesting they treat other people with dignity.

The kind of protests we have had in the country in the last number of years have increasingly shown a total lack of respect and dignity for the participants. I am referring to meetings of the G-8, IMF, World Bank and APEC.

Are they not honourable and reasonable people who are leaders in their countries? They come together to debate and to solve problems. Why should we allow other people to put their lives at risk? We should have reasonable limitations on freedom of demonstrations that protect the rights and dignity of other people as is required in the convention. Canada has agreed to the clauses that protect the dignity of the person.

I have another little sidebar. While in Ottawa during the last eight years I had opportunity to meet a number of foreign dignitaries, ambassadors and representatives from other countries. One of the greatest venues for this is sponsored by a Canadian organization called the Christian Embassy.

Gerry Sherman often gets members of parliament, senators and foreign diplomats together so that we can learn about their countries and they can learn about ours. He has taken some of them on guided tours across the country. It is a great thing he does. In this case we have people treated with the dignity they deserve and in 99.9% of cases the kind they have earned. I would like to see that continued and encouraged.

I want to say one more thing about international meetings. If we do not act properly we will probably no longer have these meetings. I say to protestors that they have the right in a democracy to get involved in the debate. They should forward their debaters to the House of Commons by getting somebody elected who would represent their points of view. They can also be in other venues, but let us get into debate.

Just as I do not have the right to breach the two sword lengths between this side and the government side, neither does the protester have the right to breach the security of anybody else who wants to get into debate. They have the right to be in the debate. They do not have the right to violence or the threat of violence.

Unless this is checked the time would come when the G-8, G-20, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund would only be able to meet somewhere on an undisclosed island where they would arrive without formal notice. Once they were there all other aircraft would be kept 50 miles away. That would be the only way they would have an opportunity to sit and debate the issues in peace, freedom and security. I believe that island should be Canada, but it cannot be if we do not have a balance of discipline with respect to protesters.

This is not a party position. I am one person who says that I accept the rules of ordered debate and of an ordered civilized society. I expect others to do so as well.

Bill C-35 does not come anywhere near setting out new powers for the RCMP to deal with this kind of thing. It is a backward step in my view as it does not enhance the ability of Canada to be an honourable, dignified and secure host of these international conferences and other functions.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, there was not a lot in the member's remarks that related to this bill, although he did get to it in the end. The hon. member left the impression that there were no charges laid against the individual who pied the Prime Minister. In fact the individual was charged and he is paying a penalty as a result. Unlawful acts of that type are not allowed.

I am concerned with the hon. member's comments regarding the right to demonstration. I am a strong believer in that right. I agree that there should not be violence, but if there is then people should be handled in full accordance with the law.

I was not in favour of the APEC inquiry that took place. In a former life with the National Farmers Union I have probably been in more demonstrations in every province in the country than most people in the House.

If demonstrators stretch the law and get hit with water or clubbed with a billy, they should not be crying about it. They know beforehand that by stretching the law there are consequences to be accepted. Some demonstrators at APEC did not accept those consequences. I strongly believe in the right to demonstration. We would not have supply management in the country, which is a great system of marketing for the farm industry, if there had not been demonstrations.

We must have freedom of expression and freedom of demonstration. If too many rights are taken away then bin Laden and the likes of him have won the fight. Canada must be careful to retain the rights and freedoms for which we are respected. How far would the hon. member go in terms of taking those rights away? Where does he draw the line?

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, I agree with the hon. member. We have entrenched in Canada's constitution the right of association and the right of getting together with other groups and people of like mind. I defend that to the very core, but we have allowed demonstrations in Canada to become violent by nature. People do not get on the news unless an RCMP officer pepper sprays them, so people push it until they are pepper sprayed. Then it is on the news and the message gets out.

First, we ought to be looking at ways of having these people heard by a truly representative parliament instead of a system whereby people cannot be heard, which is the way it is right now, I dread to say.

Second, I resent the words right to demonstration. They imply the right to enact violence on other people, and that is not a right. There is a right to demonstrate peacefully and lawfully. People can call it a protest if they want. They can carry placards, and I suppose they can even shout.

I know of a number of meetings, even though I was not there personally, that were shut down because people were screaming, yelling, pushing, shoving and would not allow the meeting to go forward.

For security purposes it was decided to take the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Opposition out the back door so there could be peace instead of violence, death or injury. That is wrong. That is what I am talking about and that is what I would put an end to. I defend freedom of expression to the very core.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn Progressive Conservative St. John's West, NL

Madam Speaker, I have two questions, one which I do not expect him to answer and one on which I would like his comments.

First, what would have happened to the gentleman who kicked him if he had done it to his colleague from Wild Rose instead? The member may not want to answer that one.

Second, with respect to his comments in relation to protestors, to a large degree I agree him. We seem to have two types of protestors these days. People who protest because they have concerns about what is going on in society, and I support that in every way. I agree with the right to protest peacefully. I would think again if the avenues were opened up, they would be heard in proper circles and would not have to protest to get a message across. In some cases, they do have the opportunities and they protest anyway. I am aware of that also.

With respect to those who exceed the right to peacefully demonstrate and seem to go not only from event to event, but from country to country, there are two things that concern me. Where do they get the financing to go to these events? Where do we draw the line between those who peacefully protest and those who step over the line, and what should we do about it?

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, I cannot resist the temptation to actually answer the first question. I think that most members in the House would be somewhat surprised to find out what a gentle person the member for Wild Rose actually is. He is a very kind and a very concerned gentleman. He was a principal of a school and in those years, and I know because I have talked with people in this regard, he very firmly guided his students for their good, not for his own. He is an unselfish person. However he stands up vocally. I wish there would be more people in the House who would stand and express what is right and what is good. Let us do that. Let us not be afraid to be a little emotional when we express what is wrong.

Earlier today we talked about child pornography. I appreciate that the member for Wild Rose and other members across the House have expressed outrage at this activity because it is so deplorable.

I see the member for Wild Rose to be that kind of a person. In this particular case, I think he would have done like me. Us pudgy guys have a tendency to have a good sense of humour; it has developed in us since we have been little kids.

This is with respect to the other question about what limitations would I put on protesting.

As I have said, and I shook my thusly when the member was asking the question, I agree with the right to peaceful protest and to peaceful demonstrations. However, the instant that that person violates the rights of safety, property and bodily safety to other people, that person is now in violation of what either is the law or should be the law. I do not think what is against the law, one on one on a street in Edmonton, should suddenly become legal when it is being perpetrated by a large group of people.

We need to be consistent. We need to protect people who are trying to debate and solve the problems of the country through debate and through rational discussion.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

October 18th, 2001 / 5:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

David Anderson Canadian Alliance Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, one thing that is happening in our society is that we have an ever increasing amount of involvement and interference with our government in our affairs.

Would the member care to comment on his concerns with government being more involved with security forces, with the police and with the police being tied ever closer to the authorities, particularly to the PMO's office?

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, I share that concern. I believe that the security of our country should be rooted in laws that are passed by parliament and executed by a police force and a judiciary which is independent of parliament. That way we get a better balance of procedure.

With respect to, for example, the situation at APEC, when there was a note that was entered into evidence that said “PM doesn't like this”, I do not believe that meant the then leader of the opposition and it did not mean the finance minister, whose initials are PM. It probably had something to do with the PMO, and that is an interference which we should studiously avoid.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Canadian Alliance Crowfoot, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a privilege to rise and participate in the debate on Bill C-35, an act to amend the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act. Our day is running down and we have about five minutes for debate and a 20 minute speech.

As a new member of parliament I am faced with a dilemma. Do I continue with the speech and take up the rest of the time another day? There are some points I want to cover in my speech and from which concerns arise.

The provisions in the bill come forward and are recommended by the Hughes report that we saw come forward this summer. In particular, Bill C-35 adds a clause codifying the RCMP's primary responsibility to ensure the security for the proper functioning of any intergovernmental conference, in which two or more states participate, that is attended by persons granted privileges and immunities under the act.

In fulfilling that responsibility the RCMP may take appropriate measures, and we have talked about them already today, including controlling, limiting or prohibiting access to any area to the extent and in a manner that is reasonable in the circumstances.

I would suggest, although in this isolated case the government has taken Judge Hughes' recommendation to heart as many of my colleagues have already stated, this is not the appropriate place to legislate these new statutory powers and responsibilities The more preferable place to have put these powers would have been in the RCMP act.

Following public hearings regarding complaints against the RCMP, Hughes concluded that the federal government's role at APEC was improper. If we went through the thick report given by Mr. Hughes, within the first 10 to 15 pages we would realize that the government acted improperly and that some of the measures used by the RCMP, succumbing to government influence, were not appropriate.

Therefore, Hughes recommended that the federal government bring in legislation to spell out the RCMP's independence from government interference. In section 10 of the report. Hughes said that the current nature and extent of police independence was not clearly defined in Canadian law. Furthermore, there was no consensus, either in academic writing or in judicial decisions, as to what was the proper relationship between the federal government and the RCMP, although it was generally agreed that the RCMP enjoyed a measure of independence.

In fact, Hughes believed that the RCMP act suggested that the force was not entirely independent of the government by stipulating that the commissioner of the RCMP was appointed by cabinet and controlled the force under the direction of the solicitor general.

This has been a great concern to members on this side of the House. I know on many occasions the members for Medicine Hat and Cypress Hills--Grasslands have vented their frustration that the commissioner of the RCMP would sit in cabinet as a deputy minister in the solicitor general's department. To have independence and not to politicize the position or the organization, the commissioner is appointed by cabinet as a deputy minister.

After reviewing the English approach in the supreme court decision in R v Campbell, Hughes concluded that it was clearly unacceptable for the federal government to have the authority to direct the RCMP law enforcement activities, telling it who to investigate, who to arrest and prosecute or other purposes. At the same time, it was equally unacceptable for the RCMP to be completely independent and unaccountable to become a law unto itself.

So we have that balancing act. We want on the one hand independence and on the other hand we need accountability in the RCMP.

Based on this conclusion, Hughes recommended under subsection 31 of his report, that the RCMP request statutory codification of the nature and extent of police independence from government with respect to: first, existing common law practices regarding law enforcement; and second, the provision of and responsibility for delivery of security services at public order events.

That part two is what part of this bill enacts. It enacts the part of the Hughes commission report that would suggest that it was imperative to put in place the position and the responsibilities of security services at public order events where people from other countries would be attending.

Bill C-35 embraces only the second part of this recommendation. The government has yet to fulfill the first part of that recommendation. Unfortunately, I do not believe the Liberal government has the courage to ever come forward with that first part that would bring more accountability, more independence and reduce the politicization of the RCMP. We wait for that. I look forward to the rest of my time at a later date.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The hon. member will have 13 minutes and 55 seconds at the next reading of this bill.

It being 5.30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill S-10, an act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act (Parliamentary Poet Laureate), as reported with amendment from the committee.

The Parliament of Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Yolande Thibeault Liberal Saint-Lambert, QC

moved that Bill S-10, as amended, be concurred in at report stage.