Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the NDP Party for putting forward this resolution. It is certainly something that is in need of debate. I wanted to join in with the first part of the resolution. Members have condemned this act of terrorism and I wanted to add my voice to that of the Prime Minister in that respect.
I want to focus however on the second and third part of the resolution and deal with some of the difficulties that Canada and this Chamber will be facing in the next few weeks and months with respect to the issue of terrorism.
By happenstance, I was travelling in Great Britain with the Minister of Foreign Affairs prior to September 11. Part of my program was in London and part of it had to deal with the issues of organized crime and terrorism. I was fortunate enough to meet with several MPs and members who would be enforcing an act called the terrorism act 2000 in Great Britain.
Great Britain of course has a long history of dealing with terrorism and organized crime. Frankly I thought that its experience would be instructive to us as we started to grapple with these issues. I was aware that we were going to have to ratify certain UN conventions and that charter issues would come up inevitably. Therefore, I knew we would have a very animated debate about balancing of those issues.
Ironically just as I was writing up my notes, 35,000 feet over the mid-Atlantic, I was informed of the disaster in New York and Washington . It added a certain poignancy to the notes and to the conversations that I had with colleagues in Great Britain.
The British bill is elegantly simple but quite instructive. The day to day reality of terrorist attacks is much more evident in the U.K. than in Canada. It has dealt with car bombs, with the IRA, with the real IRA and with a variety of other terrorist activities. That is a cultural fact in Great Britain, particularly in London where I was. The terrorism act 2000 of U.K. is the response to this horrible reality.
First, this bill enjoys broad public support. I was somewhat struck by my difference as a Canadian of the British people's willingness to assume that the government would always do the right thing, would always make the right decision was somewhat striking to me but under the circumstances possibly quite understandable.
Troubling issues such as the broad definition of terrorism in the bill were acknowledged as logical inconsistencies but of no great consequence when compared with the harm intended to be addressed. What definition there is is so broad as to be virtually meaningless. If the home secretary decides that a group is a terrorist organization, it is a terrorist organization.
The bill has designated 21 terrorist organizations in Great Britain. If people are members of a terrorist organization or on the prescribed list, the home secretary gets to decide that they part of a terrorist organization. If they do not like that designation, they have within 30 days to appeal to the home secretary to change his mind. In the great unlikelihood that the home secretary will change his mind, they then have an opportunity to appeal to the chancellor of the exchequer who has set up a special commission. That special commission is then invited to overrule the home secretary who has decided that the organization is a terrorist organization on two occasions.
The legislation was passed in the United Kingdom with one hour's worth of debate in the house of commons and one hour's worth of debate in the house of lords. All 21 of the alleged terrorist organizations were placed before parliament on the same day and by the end of the day, they were all deemed to be terrorist organizations. There were no committee hearings, no public consultation and virtually no debate. One has to congratulate Prime Minister Blair on his efficiency if nothing else.
To be found a member of a terrorist organization one is exposed to a 14 year sentence.
Such proof of belonging to a terrorist organization can include wearing certain kinds of clothing; carrying on certain kinds of activities; and, for instance, making a speech in support of a terrorist organization or being on the stage while somebody makes a speech in support of a terrorist organization.
Presumably a politician who is unfortunate enough to be on the stage at the same time as someone who speaks out about the PLO, the PTK or the Tamil tigers is sufficient to attract the unwelcome attention of the authorities and leaves that politician exposed to explaining to the authorities that he does not really support this terrorist organization.
It is a charming notion that this situation could never happen here. However there is enough pressure and urgency in the general public to require us to do something. We saw a bit of a chicken little response on the part of the premier of Ontario yesterday who believes that the sky is falling and that the appointment of two esteemed individuals in our community would somehow or another assuage our terrorist threat.
More frequently this is a simple solution to a complicated problem. More often than not a simple solution is the wrong solution. The U.K. terrorism act, 2000 is the wrong solution.
The U.S. model is only slightly less draconian. The anti-terrorism and effective death penalty act, I do not know what an ineffective death penalty act might be, prohibits contribution to designated foreign terrorist organizations regardless of the intended purpose.
The issue here is the designation. The designation expires every two years unless renewed and the American secretary of state can add or revoke a designation. Congress can legislate a revocation. The designations are also subject to judicial review.
On the face of it the U.S. model is somewhat more attractive than the U.K. model. This sounds a lot less draconian but it has its own problems.
If I told the House that the IRA is not part of the prescribed list in the U.S. legislation I expect members would be somewhat surprised. That is in fact true. The IRA is not a terrorist organization as far as the United States is concerned. One can speculate on the politics that might be involved in that but that is a reality.
Similarly Sinn Fein is not a prescribed entity in the United States. According to representatives of Sinn Fein they do not see themselves as a front for or participating in a terrorist organization such as the IRA.
These are the kinds of decisions the Government of Canada and the House will have to make. Will Sinn Fein be considered a terrorist organization for the purposes of legislation that we might put forward to the House? What about the Hezbollah? The Hezbollah is part of the Lebanese government. I believe that pretty well everyone in the Chamber would think that the Hezbollah is a terrorist organization.
What will Canadians do? What will the government do? My first recommendation is not to do anything in haste. If we legislate in haste we will repent in leisure.
Let us consider the model of the judge advocate designation. When we studied the organized crime legislation that model was given consideration. However our judiciary did not want to involve itself in the issue of designating organized crime as a criminal organization. We should also look at the model that we used for organized crime whereby the solicitor general designates who is or who is not part of a criminal organization.
How will SIRC supervise CSIS? CSIS will be fairly involved and I would like to know that SIRC will have some significant input.
My final point is to say that we should not throw the baby of our fundamental rights and freedoms out with the bathwater of real or apprehended security. We have a lot of decisions to make. I neglected to mention at the outset of my speech that I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Oak Ridges.