Mr. Speaker, I will, upon conclusion of my remarks, attempt to address some of the concerns that have been raised.
But I will not discuss the price of eggs in China.
I think basically that is the kind of thing that has been brought into the House today. I am disappointed when I hear speakers complain as they do about their perception of parliament not being relevant and then go on to list anything but what we are discussing today, which is Bill C-35, an act to amend the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act.
I would assure the House that as a Liberal member I am quite able to discuss and put forward my frustrations, such as they may be, and have never had need for the opposition parties to convey my frustrations. I have always been able to do that.
To move to the topic at hand, which is Bill C-35, an act to amend the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act, I am pleased to perhaps bring a focus to the discussion today that not only are we amending an act but we are doing it at a time and within the ambience of the very tragic events in the United States, which reminded us that threats to public safety are of a global concern, that no system is infallible and that no country is immune.
Our commitment is to protect persons who attend international meetings in Canada. That is our focus and it is very clear. It is incumbent upon us, when we host any kind of meetings of organizations, to have the legislative power and authority to ensure the safety of everyone involved. As was mentioned, Canada is obligated to do so under various international conventions. The amendments that we brought forward clarify our ability to fulfill that obligation.
In June 2002, Canada will be hosting the G-8 summit in Kananaskis, Alberta. This will be the first meeting of world leaders since the horrendous acts of September 11. In preparing for this event, we will need to take all necessary steps to protect our international visitors and to ensure the meeting can take place safely.
These amendments provide clear statutory authority to support security measures and to ensure public safety and the safety of foreign delegations at international meetings hosted in Canada such as the G-8 summit.
The amendments also help us to respond with greater certainty to continuing and growing threats and to public safety in a world that has so remarkably and fundamentally changed since September 11.
Does the statutory authority to provide security mean that the police will have broader powers? Absolutely not.
I want to just digress from the notes that I had planned. I think there is a failure on the part of some members to understand that the federal government, in this situation, is attempting to umbrella two systems. One is the common law which we develop according to precedent. The law is growing and very much, as Thomas Aquinas said, a living thing.
At the same time, the province of Quebec has the code civile, the Napoleonic code. Instead of developing in a similar way as the common law, the Napoleonic code has all of what one wants contained in a statute written down and codified. It is incumbent on the federal government then to create legislation that recognizes and allows both systems to function within our ambit.
What I think is causing some concern here with regard to police powers is that all the authority has been very much in place within the ambit of common law. What these amendments attempt to do is clarify and codify in a manner that allows for no confusion. What is happening is that the confusion is occurring on the other side of the House.
The police have always had the authority to take whatever necessary and reasonable security measures were required to protect internationally protected persons and to preserve the peace in order for the important business of these international events to proceed. These amendments would simply clarify in statute police powers that are already in place.
This is also in line with legislation adopted by other countries, such as Australia and New Zealand which have gone ahead and clarified police powers in similar circumstances, just as we are going to contend with within these amendments. This is the prudent thing to do given the changing nature of international meetings and evolving challenges to global security.
In traditional diplomatic situations in the past, frequently the dialogue and negotiations occurred on a bilateral basis. Therefore, the immunities and all of what was set up within the Vienna convention were aimed to apply to what was the traditional method of conducting diplomacy, which was in a bilateral setting.
However, today, as we have evolved more and more, a great deal of our negotiations and our protocols are an end result of multilateral negotiations and rather than just occasional multilateral negotiations, they occur within the ambit of permanent international organizations that continue on a weekly-monthly basis, many of which have headquarters in Montreal and in other parts of Canada.
Specifically, the amendments would clarify three things:
First, the RCMP's role for assuming primary responsibility to ensure security for the proper functioning of an international conference attended by internationally protected persons.
Second, the RCMP's authority to take security measures, such as controlling, limiting or prohibiting access to an area in a manner that is reasonable under the circumstances.
Third, they clarify the fact that these statutory police powers do not affect the powers that the RCMP and other provincial and municipal police forces otherwise have under common law.
I would like to highlight to the House the tremendous co-operation that now takes place between the RCMP and its provincial and municipal counterparts to ensure the safe and secure running of these events.
The security for the summit of the Americas in Quebec City, for example, was the largest operation of its kind in recent Canadian history. It involved a partnership of over 3,600 RCMP members, 2,700 members of the Sûreté du Québec and 500 members of the Quebec City and Ste-Foy municipal police forces.
I wish to assure the House and Canadians that the RCMP will continue to work with its many international, federal, provincial and municipal partners to provide the most appropriate and effective security arrangements for all federally hosted international meetings much as it did in Quebec City.
The threat that faces us in the aftermath of September 11 will not be easily removed. Our actions will be ruled by resolve. If laws need to be improved they will be. If security has to be increased it will be. However our actions will continue to be driven by the need to safeguard the values that we cherish, the values of hope, freedom and tolerance to the world.
Under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, everyone has the fundamental freedoms of, among others, assembly, expression and association.
These amendments balance the government's need to ensure public safety and the need to protect an individual's right to demonstrate, as has been mentioned, openly, publicly but in a safe setting. They are in no way intended to hinder peaceful protest. Any security measures taken by the police will still need to satisfy charter requirements: that they are necessary, reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances.
The amendments will help us to respond with greater certainty to a changed world. They will ensure public safety and the safety of our visitors at international meetings hosted by Canada. They will build on the success of partnership that police forces across jurisdictions have demonstrated at past international events. They will also protect the cherished values and freedoms that define what is meant by being a Canadian.
I certainly hope that some of the confusion that has been exhibited in speeches here and at the first reading have been addressed by my remarks. If not, I would be pleased to answer any questions that my colleagues may wish to ask.