Mr. Speaker, like the hon. member for Mercier, I too would like to congratulate our colleague from the New Democratic Party for initiating this debate in the House today.
It is as important today as it has been since September 11, particularly because today we see the focus being concentrated on more precise and more targeted declarations of war. This is an appropriate time to speak of respecting human rights.
I would like to repeat the NDP motion, because every word of it is important. It reads:
That this House:
(a) condemn the terrorist attacks in the United States—as crimes against humanity, and call for the perpetrators to be brought to justice in accordance with international law and within the framework of the United Nations—
I believe that what happened on September 11 may have made North Americans aware of the existence of terrorism. The more we examine the issue, the more we realize that terrorism has been around for a long time and that it can be found in many places on our planet.
The events of September 11 have raised Canadians' and Quebecers' awareness of this problem, because they have felt more affected. While the attacks were aimed more specifically at the Americans, we must not think that we here are free from terrorism. Much as we would not want it to happen here, it could.
The first part of the motion says that reference must be made to international law and within the framework of the United Nations. This would be desirable. Since September 11, we have only to turn on the television or read the newspaper or listen to the comments coming from all sides, to realize this is perceived as an American crisis, whereas it must be placed instead in a context of terrorism against democracy, against individual freedoms, against human rights.
I believe that all countries of the world should form as broad and as effective a coalition as possible in order to fight terrorism, which is taking on totally new and different forms.
For example, there is an International convention for the suppression of terrorist bombings. The events of September 11 had nothing to do with conventional bombs. Aircraft were used in attacks on buildings. Not only were there victims on the planes, there were far more because of all the people in the buildings. This has affected many aspects of people's lives and thousands no longer feel safe to fly; this has meant a heavy blow to the economy.
The second paragraph of the NDP motion reads as follows:
(b) endorse the objectives of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373 (2001) and call upon the Government, in accordance with this resolution, to deliver a report to the U.N. Security Council Committee, within 90 days, setting out the steps Canada will take to implement resolution 1373, and further direct the Government to table this report in the House.
I think that we have to acknowledge that this morning's debate has been carried out in a non-partisan manner. The minister promised us that he would table the report in the House.
As far as we are concerned, it will take more than tabling reports in the House. During a Bloc Quebecois opposition day last week, we proposed that there be a vote by parliamentarians if ever a military offensive was to be undertaken.
The UN resolution is comprehensive. It contains nine elements, but it would take too long to list them all here.
The first element deals with the financing of terrorist acts and consists of freezing funds and other financial assets of persons who commit, or who attempt to commit, terrorist acts. It contains a whole series of measures to this effect.
While I do not wish to make a partisan speech this morning, I cannot help but note that Canada has yet to ratify two international conventions regarding terrorism. This is regrettable, in my opinion. The first convention, which I referred to earlier, the convention on the suppression of terrorist bombings, makes all terrorist activity illegal and requires that states party to the convention prohibit all terrorist activity through their own laws. Thus, any person who takes part in a terrorist attack, inside or outside a country's borders, would be imprisoned.
This convention has yet to be ratified and I think that the government should move quickly to get parliament to ratify it, or at the very least, refer it to the relevant parliamentary committee as soon as possible. I hope this will be done in the days or weeks to come.
There is a second convention. It is the convention for the suppression of terrorist funding. The Americans acted very quickly. We saw President Bush's statement last week to this effect, in which he invited other nations to do likewise. This then is something we must do quickly.
I am no expert on international matters since my role as an MP does not require me to be. However, it does require me to listen to and hear the people who have sometimes divergent opinions to express. There is no feeling of consensus on these issues. On the weekend, my constituents pointed out that, following reports on the CBC, in particular, they feared Canada may have many terrorist organizations represented by individuals within its borders. They expressed their concerns about this.
According to the Internet site of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service:
With perhaps the singular exception of the United States, there are more international terrorist organizations active here than any other country of the world. As of mid-1998, the Service’s Counter-Terrorism Branch was investigating over 50 organizational targets and about 350 individual targets.
That is not my opinion. I rely on what this federal body reports. I continue:
The vast majority of terrorist activities in Canada relate to the support of actions elsewhere that are linked to homeland conflicts. These activities include providing safe haven for terrorist supporters and may involve using the refugee stream to enter Canada, or immigrant smuggling.
I am not saying that I am opposed to admitting refugees but, under the United Nations convention for the suppression of terrorism, all countries must be asked to be very cautious when refugees knock at their door, and to pay particular attention to the past activities of these people and their possible connections with terrorist networks. I do support the NDP's objective, which insists that this must not mark the beginning of a witch hunt against people who have nothing to do with terrorists. To be an Arab in Canada does not mean to be a terrorist. There are over 1.5 billion Arabs in the world, but there is not of course 1.5 billion terrorists. So, this is an invitation to all Canadians.
However, there is one aspect of the NDP motion with which I do not necessarily disagree, but which should be qualified. In my riding and in my region, I do not feel with the same acuteness any anti-Arab of anti-Muslim movement.
The federal state has a role to play, but when we think about schools, we should not forget that the provinces also have a role and we must ask all of them to fulfill it. I know that, in Quebec, Mr. Landry has already asked the public to be as tolerant as possible.