House of Commons Hansard #115 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was liability.


Order in Council AppointmentsRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia


Geoff Regan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table, in both official languages, a number of order in council appointments made recently by the government.

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia


Geoff Regan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to three petitions.

National Horse of Canada ActRoutine Proceedings

November 20th, 2001 / 10:10 a.m.


Murray Calder Liberal Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey, ON

moved that Bill S-22, an act to provide for the recognition of the Canadian horse as the national horse of Canada, be read the first time.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce Bill S-22, the national horse of Canada act, in the House today. This is a Senate bill that prioritized my own bill, Bill C-311, which had first reading on March 28.

The bill recognizes the Canadian horse as the national horse of Canada. I should note that the Senate bill has been amended to use the more widely recognized Canadian horse spelling in its English version. This reflects the wishes of many horse breeders who support the bill.

The recognition of this horse is historic and symbolic in importance. It also is of economic importance to many horse breeders throughout Canada. Once faced with extinction, this horse has rebounded thanks to dedicated breeders. National recognition will enhance its marketability and ensure its continued survival.

This sturdy little Canadian horse has played a role in Canadian history since its arrival in 1665 in New France from the stables of Louis XIV. For over three and a half centuries it has tilled our soil, carried Canadian soldiers into battle and has adapted well to Canada's harsh conditions. It is known for its strength, endurance and determination, in short, a fitting Canadian symbol. I urge support for the bill.

(Motion agreed to and bill read the first time)

National Horse of Canada ActRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.


Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to present two petitions that are quite different but which both relate to the same topic.

The first petition has to do with the bioartificial kidney. None of the petitions I have here are from my riding but they are part of a petition that was initiated by Ken Sharp in my riding.

The petitioners support research into the bioartificial kidney, which is an implant that would replace dialysis or kidney transplant for those suffering from kidney disease.

The petitioners call upon parliament to work in support of the bioartificial kidney which will eventually eliminate the need for both dialysis or transplantation for those suffering from kidney disease.

Mr. Speaker, the second petition, which also has to do with kidney disease, has to do with a change in the name of our national institute devoted to kidney research. At the present time the institute is called the Institute of Nutrition, Metabolism and Diabetes.

My constituents call upon parliament to encourage the Canadian institutes of health research to explicitly include kidney research as one of the institutes in its system to be named the institute of kidney and urinary tract disease. I have already spoken with Diane Finegood, the director of this institute.

National Horse of Canada ActRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.


Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, my final petition concerns the clawback of the national child benefits supplement. This supplement provides money directly to families with children living below a certain income level. Its objectives are to reduce the level of child poverty. All but three provinces have chosen to clawback the supplement.

In Ontario the benefit is deducted from the payments to all families in receipt of either Ontario works or the Ontario disabilities program.

My constituents call upon parliament to oppose the clawback of this national child benefit supplement from families on social assistance. They urge the Government of Canada to change federal legislation relating to the clawback.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia


Geoff Regan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is it agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members


The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-35, an act to amend the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act, as reported (with amendments) from the committee.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

There are two motions in amendment on the notice paper relating to the report stage of Bill C-35, an act to amend the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act.

Motion No. 1 could have been proposed in committee. Accordingly, pursuant to Standing Order 76.1,(5) it has not been selected.

Motion No. 2 will be debated and voted on separately.

I shall now propose Motion No. 2 to the House.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.


Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC


Motion No. 2

That Bill C-35 be amended by deleting Clause 5.

Mr. Speaker, clause 5 of Bill C-35 before us is inappropriate.

Let us talk so that people can understand us. Bill C-35 is aimed at modernizing the legislation on foreign missions in Canada and the organization of international meetings. The Bloc Quebecois voted for it at second reading.

In this bill that amends an act that is already substantial, the government is introducing three sub-clauses that, totally out of the blue, will give the RCMP with no constraint, specifics or other directions whatsoever, powers that have all been opposed by all the witnesses. In fact, witnesses all said this was not a simple matter of codifying the common law, as the department and the minister claimed, but of increasing the powers given to the RCMP.

We are convinced these sub-clauses have no place in the bill. It is not that we are against the establishment of safety perimeters, but to say, as the bill does, that the RCMP may establish them as it sees fit makes no sense.

What we see here is that the rights and freedoms of citizens are affected and there are no controls such as those that were set in other countries. Either this clause on perimeters should, for example, be a temporary provision, or else the government should include very strict controls regarding how these perimeters should be defined.

What about the rights of citizens? The situation was so uncomfortable in committee that even government members proposed a resolution, and it was adopted with an amendment with which we did not agree. But it is a resolution that says in a different manner—it is not yet before us, but it will be—what witnesses said and what we are saying.

I feel all the more comfortable defending our amendment to delete clause 5 of the bill since many, if not all government members on the committee would have agreed to have these provisions go elsewhere, for example in the RCMP act or, after a review, to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, where some limits could have been established.

Clause 5 of Bill C-35 must absolutely be deleted, because it institutionalizes security perimeters in the legislation, without setting any controls for the RCMP in that regard. It is so imprecise that it could lead to abuse and go against fundamental liberties.

What about the rights of people whose homes are located inside the perimeter? The bill is silent on this issue. What about the obligation to identify oneself when a perimeter is established? The bill is also silent on this. These are just two examples, but there are many other situations.

Such provisions generate concerns. These concerns are magnified by the existence of Bill C-36, since we do not know what it will look like in the end, but we do know that it gives increased powers to police forces, for a time which, even though limited, is still significant. In other countries where the establishment of perimeters is provided in the legislation, controls or restrictions have been included, but there are no such controls in Bill C-35.

None of the witnesses who appeared before the committee supported this clause. It seems obvious to us that it should be deleted from Bill C-35. This does not mean that the RCMP will not be able to secure a perimeter, but it will have to do so using the powers it already has. It will have to take into consideration the fact that the Hughes Report into the APEC notes, for example, that protesters have the right to be heard by the people who are inside the perimeter and to whom they have come to deliver a message.

For all these reasons, we consider it fundamental and essential that these provisions be removed, particularly so because we do not feel that this reassures the international community at all; it only increases the concern for security matters during international meetings.

I should point out that the Bloc Quebecois supported this bill at second reading because we felt that the Foreign Missions Act should be modernized. However, clause 5 has nothing at all to do with the modernization process. Quite the opposite, it adds a certain inaccuracy to the bill and modifies an act that is essential to reassure Canadians and to make sure that Canada and Montreal play the role they should be playing on the international scene.

We agree that the existing legislation should be modernized, because it is outdated, but it is imperative that clause 5 be deleted. At one time, we thought it would be, because it is useless.

I asked the foreign affairs minister whether this clause was needed for public order and security purposes when we host the next G-8 meeting, and he answered no. So why the rush? Why are we amending three subsections that will become four, and why do we have four subsections on the RCMP in a 120 page legislation? It is absurd.

The upcoming resolution will confirm that members of the committee are uneasy about this, and I appreciate it, because they have been more or less coerced into passing this bill. I hope it will never be voted into law; although we had indications otherwise I hope the bill will be passed without clause 5.

Witnesses who appeared before us have emphasized not only the human rights issue, but also enforcement problems for the police.

In Quebec, we have the French civil law, but the common law prevailing in the rest of Canada is special in that it is defined by all the judicial precedents.

Witnesses have told us repeatedly that, to carry out their functions, police officers do not have the opportunity to know exactly the rights they have or do not have. Therefore, the bill makes their task more difficult instead of clarifying for them the way they should provide security.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Barrie—Simcoe—Bradford Ontario


Aileen Carroll LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I too have joined my hon. colleague in working as a member of the committee to hear witnesses and attempt to clarify the intent of the government in bringing forward the bill at this time.

While the amendment that has been brought forward deals strictly with one aspect of the bill, it is important that the clause be referenced within the larger context of the bill. It is clear by the name of the bill that it deals with foreign missions and international organizations. It would require us to extend to international organizations and meetings of international bodies and heads of state the same protections through the Vienna convention on diplomatic immunities that are enjoyed by our permanent foreign embassies in Canada.

The reason for doing that is clear. It is to provide reciprocity with what is given and made available when these meetings occur in other countries.

There were technicalities that had to be addressed. We were looking to provide this kind of protection and safety for organizations and meetings which are non-treaty based. In the past those that were treaty based such as the United Nations already enjoyed the privileges and perquisites of diplomatic immunity. When we did this by bringing the act forward it was necessary to look at what else occurs when we hold such international gatherings in Canada.

At the outset we incorporated the need to extend diplomatic immunities to the people attending, both for their protection and for consistency with other countries. At the same time we cannot keep our heads in the sand. We are cognizant of what has occurred in the past in Seattle, in Geneva and recently on a smaller scale in Canada. We must provide clear safety. Safety falls within other dimensions and triggers the need for police activity and preparedness. That is why section 5 of the act would be amended by clause 10 of Bill C-35.

In the past the power necessary for the RCMP to take the lead and work in conjunction with provincial and municipal police forces has existed in common law. By bringing that power within the ambit of Bill C-35 we would put it into statutory format. We would make clear in statute what previously existed in common law.

In preparing for meetings of international organizations such as the G-8 there would then be no confusion, as might have existed in the past, on the part of any of the police forces that work in conjunction to prepare, make plans and take the necessary precautions. The clarity is now there. It is within a bill that deals with all these dimensions.

In many ways the bill would clean up what might have been confusing in the past. Some members of the committee wondered why we were dealing with diplomatic immunities and statutory laws concerning police powers within a foreign affairs bill. It is because the whole thing is seen as a composite.

We listened to witnesses who had reservations. I have rarely been on a committee where there was 100% unanimity from all the witnesses. As my hon. colleague across the way pointed out, the committee passed a resolution this morning to express its concerns to the government. I felt as did most members of the committee that it gave a balanced reply. Our bill will now move forward.

A lot of hard work went into the bill, not just by witnesses but by all of the members around the table. There was good questioning, good thought and good preparation. It is always a pleasure to see members of parliament take the task of a standing committee very seriously. I thank all of my colleagues on the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Canadian Alliance Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, of course our position is that the bill is ill-timed and had little legitimacy in its entirety before September 11, but certainly none thereafter. This amendment tries to, in part at least, scrap the bill. In that respect we would support the amendment.

The reality is that the case the government has tried to make with the bill is very weak. In fact, the member who just spoke was quite wrong. Several people who testified at our committee attested to that fact. They did not see why there would be a compelling need for us to bring people into this country, give them immunity, yet they could potentially be security risks in advance of their coming. It is one thing to let people in who are security risks. It is quite another to then say that once they are here there will be no consequences to them of the laws of the country. Those are things which fly in the face of the realities of the security agenda of which the government claims to be in pursuit.

Let us talk for a second about some of the myths around the bill itself. The government is saying that it is trying to keep up to other countries. Our investigation has shown that other countries do not go to the extent we do to extend diplomatic immunity. In fact, we go well beyond the Vienna convention.

The Vienna convention of 1961, in which Canada played a very important role, does not require us to extend complete diplomatic immunity beyond senior diplomatic staff. Yet Canada has extended complete immunity well beyond the requirements of the Vienna convention.

Increasingly, under this government, we have allowed people to benefit from complete diplomatic immunity who would not be entitled to it in the United Kingdom or in the United States of America. As a matter of fact, the direction of a few of our allies is quite the opposite to that of our government. Their direction is to stiffen requirements and to monitor more greatly and more efficiently the missions which go to their country. They certainly do not, in a broad based way, extend diplomatic immunity to visitors to their countries, as this government is proposing to do under the bill.

Under the bill, the government is trying to broaden greatly the extension of diplomatic immunity to visitors to our country for international meetings and then to legitimize the increased use of the RCMP to police such events. In other words, in the absence of the extension of diplomatic immunity, the case for broadening the powers of the RCMP would be somewhat weakened. In so doing, the government is extending more greatly the risk to Canadians that people who commit criminal acts in our country would not be responsible under Canadian law to bear the consequences of such acts. Even people who come to our country for a few days as part of a delegation would be placed above Canadian law.

Many members of the House and many Canadians are familiar with the tragic situation of Catherine MacLean, who died some months ago as a result of a drunken Russian diplomat who could not be prosecuted under Canadian law. There are many other such cases. In fact, we are aware now of over 90 cases in the last five and a half years where people, whom this government has made immune or above Canadian law, cannot be prosecuted. We see that as a problem.

Yesterday the minister said that it was not a problem. He said that the member for Cumberland--Colchester was creating a false impression that diplomats were running around breaking the laws. That is the right impression. Good for him for creating that impression because one case in every month people in the diplomatic corps are given immunity in this country, while Canadian victims are left behind when those crimes are committed.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has asked that immunity be waived numerous times and that is good. However, it is very rare that diplomatic immunity is waived. It would be better for the department to make sure it limited the scope of diplomatic immunity to the Vienna convention in the first place so it would not have to ask for forgiveness. Instead foreign delegations would have to ask for permission. In other words, the diplomatic immunity that the government has been extending far too broadly has resulted in Canadian victims of crimes committed by people in foreign delegations.

The members opposite sneer at times but they should recognize that the definitions under the Vienna convention and the compromise that was reached in 1961 was called the Canadian compromise. The Canadian compromise said that diplomatic immunity would not be extended completely and full to all members of missions. Certainly there was no reference to visitors of delegations to countries for a couple of days. Instead it said that diplomatic immunity would be limited. It would be complete for senior staff and partial for people who were not in the senior staff.

Our practice, under this government, has been to broaden the application of diplomatic immunity. The consequence is that people who should not be put above the law are. If they will not come here from foreign countries for international meetings without diplomatic immunity maybe they should not come. Maybe the reality is we do not need to extend complete diplomatic immunity to host meetings. We just hosted a G-20 meeting. I do not recall people saying they would not come here because they were not put above the laws. I do not hear a hue and cry from anyone.

We have talked to numerous people in other countries who say that Canada already is a much better host and has a reputation for being a tremendous host for these international meetings than most other countries in the world. When I ask them why Canada is extending diplomatic immunity more broadly, they do not know or understand. There is no hue and cry from them for us to develop a tourism industry based on putting people above the law.

The bill in its entirety is ill-timed and was ill-timed before September 11. Certainly since September 11, it has no place in this House.

The member from the Bloc has raised concerns by way of her amendment. She has asked that clause 5, which references broadening and expanding the role of the RCMP, be deleted from the bill. The difficulty is this.

The RCMP mandate is broadened because of the extension of greater diplomatic immunity under the bill. The extension of greater diplomatic immunity means that the RCMP is given authority under clause 5 to police events where immunity is present and relevant. If the diplomatic immunity was not so broadened, then the powers of the RCMP would not be so broadened. However the reality is that under this bill the greater extension of diplomatic immunity permits the RCMP to prevail where such was not the case before.

The concern we have is this disregards the report of Justice Hughes which followed the APEC spectacle, pepper on my plate, et cetera and Jean Carle attempting to manipulate the RCMP. In his recommendations Justice Hughes said that he wanted to see it codified that the RCMP would not be at the beckon call of the government, that it would be depoliticized. Yet the bill broadens the RCMP powers more widely than is currently the case. There is no reference whatsoever as to how we would keep this government or any future government from meddling with the operations of the RCMP.

What we have is a case of broadening the RCMP powers, while at the same time refusing to separate political influence from such broadening. What that means is by passing this legislation, the government broadens its ability to influence the conduct of the RCMP at many more events than is currently the case. That flies in the face entirely of the $7 million that taxpayers were required to spend to compile the Hughes report. It flies entirely in the face of what I believe that most Canadians would like to see happen.

There are numerous other problems with the bill, but certainly the amendment itself in a small way would limit the damage that would occur as a result of the bill be passed.

In closing, had the amendment by the member for Cumberland--Colchester come forward, and it would have been great if it had, it would have supported what the minister himself said last year after the death of Catherine MacLean. He committed that his department would report, not half yearly but quarterly, any infractions or violations of diplomatic immunity. That reporting has not taken place, but the minister committed to it. By adopting that amendment, we would simply be allowing the minister to keep his word. As it is, the minister's word has been broken and the committee voted to do that. That is a shame.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Progressive Conservative Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am certainly pleased to speak to the bill today. Like so many bills, they sneak up on us and catch us by surprise. I thought this was fairly innocuous when I first heard about it. However, the more I learn about it, the more I realize that it is not innocuous. It is quite profound and should be reconsidered totally.

I moved amendments in committee and I tried to move amendments in the House, but even those amendments are short of what they should have been.

A paragraph from a precis on Bill C-35 states:

The current Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act fails to recognize those organizations which are not created out of an international treaty, such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum (AEPC), the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), or the G-8. As such, these organizations are not entitled to the benefits given to organizations established by treaty.

In other words, they are not subject to immunity. Why would they be? Why do people who come to Canada for these meetings have to be subject to immunity? Why are we granting people immunity from our laws?

The amazing thing is that while we are considering Bill C-35, we are also considering Bill C-36, which restricts the rights of Canadians. We are restricting the rights of Canadians, reducing their civil liberties and increasing the policing powers on Canadians. At the very same time, we are granting immunity to a whole new group of people from foreign lands. It seems to be totally ironic, inconsistent and contradictory that we would nail Canadians but release foreigners from any obligations to obey Canadian laws.

The more I read this, the more I realize the impact of the bill. I have come to conclusion that we had better put the brakes on this and stop and think about this some more.

There are so many issues in the bill that go against Canadians and restrict them, yet at the same time free up people who come to Canada for meetings. While here, they are not required obey our laws. It makes no sense. Why are we holding Canadians responsible but saying people can come to Canada and there is no obligation for them to respect our laws?

It is disrespectful to Canadians, especially since we are considering at the same time Bill C-35 and Bill C-36; one that restricts Canadians and the other that allows more freedoms for foreigners.

I proposed a simple amendment in committee and in here. It was turned down in committee and for some reason it was turned down in the House as being an allowable amendment. The amendment would have required the minister to report to parliament once or twice a year on those foreigners who had claimed immunity from civil or criminal actions in Canada.

What a simple and sensible request. If people claim immunity to get out of obeying our laws, all we ask is that this be reported every year. I do not understand why it has been turned down. The minister effectively acknowledged that it was necessary when he said that he would personally commit to report regularly on his website.

The report would include who used immunity or the number of immunity claims made in a period of time. The minister acknowledged the need was there, but he did not allow it into the legislation. Why? The only thing I can think of is he and his department want the flexibility to back out of this commitment. Probably when we will really want it, the commitment will be taken away because it is not in legislation. It is a commitment by the minister, not by the government. It is not a commitment to parliament, it is just an agreement.

If he agrees that it is necessary enough for him to say that he will produce this report, why is it not necessary enough to put the amendment in the bill that would require the government to report every year, or twice a year, listing those who claimed immunity under these laws? It makes no sense that the minister would say on one hand that it was necessary but on the other hand not allow it to be put into legislation.

This minister will not be the minister forever. He will probably be in another position in two or three years' time. He may not be in government; he may be in the opposition. There will be another party over there with another foreign affairs minister who has no obligation to produce this list. This is an obligation by this minister and it ends when the minister ends his term as the Minister of Foreign Affairs. It is wrong.

It is disrespectful to say to Canadians that we will restrict their rights but we will give an unnamed, unidentified wide group of foreign visitors to Canada total immunity from our civil and criminal laws. If this amendment had been in place and there had been a report on diplomats who had claimed immunity, the Russian diplomat who was involved in the terrible crash that killed Catherine MacLean would have been in the public record for repeat offences. Chances are that Catherine MacLean would be alive today had this diplomat been publicly named as a repeat offender, which I understand he is.

That is why I am saying the amendment is so important. Although I respect the wisdom of the Chair, I am disappointed that the amendment was not allowed in the House. It was allowed in committee but it was defeated by the Liberals even though many of them supported the amendment in principle.

The amendment I proposed is only asking for transparency. It is asking for common sense. We must know the people who are claiming immunity from both our civil and criminal laws. That is not a lot to ask. The amendment should be considered. Even at this late date the government should reconsider it and put the restriction or the condition back in the bill.

It says that the government, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Foreign Affairs would report to parliament once a year and list the people, not the diplomats, who are claiming diplomatic immunity from our civil and criminal laws. If some individuals came to Canada for one of these meetings, not some officials but some assistants, and they did damage to property, there would be no action or ability to take action against them for compensation or restitution or anything else. There would be no restitution or justice if they harmed a family because they could claim diplomatic immunity.

The bill has been expanded dramatically to cover people and organizations that are not even named. We do not know who they are or who they will be. That would be decided upon application and we would never know in the House who those people are.

Currently they are people and organizations under the Vienna convention but we even go beyond the Vienna convention. The bill goes into unchartered waters and we do not even know what organizations they will be. This is a very serious subject because it deals with potential criminals that now do not have to obey our laws. It is amazing that we are passing a law which says the laws do not have to be honoured. It does not make sense and it has expanded dramatically now to cover people we do not even know.

I do not know where we can go with this. We are opposition members that know it is wrong. The Liberals know a lot of this is wrong and they have even turned down simple amendments. However we will continue to speak against it. We will continue to try to get the government to make changes that are appropriate. Even at this late date we will continue to press the government and do everything we can to demand that it respect the rights of Canadians.

It is amazing that people in Canada say we are prepared to give up some of our civil liberties in the interest of the anti-terrorism effort. We are prepared to make allowances we have never had to make before. Canadians are prepared to do that. We are demanding a lot of Canadians and we are not asking anything of these foreign visitors. Do we not at least owe Canadians the right to know the names of other people who come to Canada who are allowed to circumvent and not obey our laws?

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

David Anderson Canadian Alliance Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, growing up in small town Saskatchewan the RCMP was a strong symbol of authority. As young children we knew that if we were to get in trouble the RCMP would be there to correct it. We also knew that if we were not breaking the law or doing anything wrong we did not have to fear the RCMP.

Other countries did not have quite the same situation. I remember as a university student being challenged over one Christmas holiday to see if I could read the Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. I managed to get through it and got a picture of the viciousness of a regime where the government controlled the police force and used it to its own ends. Governments move consistently to bring all things under their control and to have greater control. Its goal is to expand itself.

The legislation concerns me not for what it addresses but for what it misses. It begins by ignoring the recommendations of the Hughes report, a $10 million report that called for the separation of police and politics.

The Hughes report revealed the extent of political involvement that took place at that APEC conference. Mr. Carle from the PMO was clearly influencing the RCMP's conduct and was directing police activities. The commissioner of the RCMP continues to be at the deputy minister level. Problems arise when police and politics get tied too tightly. My concern with the legislation is that rather than severing those ties it more tightly ties the RCMP to its political masters. Clause 10.1 states:

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--

Subclause 10.1(2) states:

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.

We already had problems in Canada and the APEC conference was one example where those problems arose. I will talk a bit about another situation where we have an example of the abuse of the relationship between the police and state powers.

Farmers in western Canada were being squeezed tightly by lower prices in the early 1990s. Prices were dropping and the prices in the United States at that time were considerably higher. A number of farmers in desperation decided that they needed to try to do something about it.

Dave Sawatzky was a young farmer from Gladstone, Manitoba, who needed to pay his bills. In the early 1990s he had a growing need for cash on his farm. Between that and his exasperation with the grain handling monopoly in Manitoba it prompted him to begin hauling wheat to the United States.

The book Jailhouse Justice , written by Don Baron, states:

He started with grain from his own farm, then began hauling for friends and neighbours and returning with their needed cash. He was soon being offered more grain by grateful growers than he could handle going day and night. He hired other trucks and moved about 600 truckloads in 1993 and 1994, crossing at Manitoba border points. At times he was buying grain from farmers and hauling it. Some observers say now that at least a dozen farm families would have lost their farms without Sawatzky's efforts. To say nothing of his own farm.

He moved 600 loads of grain in 1993 and 1994. This movement began to build up as dozens of farmers joined in trying to get a decent price for their product. The reaction was interesting. Early on the Canadian Wheat Board issued a press release in which the chief commissioner said there was nothing that the Canadian Wheat Board could do about it.

It was interesting that as more farmers began to haul wheat there was a change in that attitude. The wheat board became concerned and felt it needed to stop this movement of grain. It began to work under the auspices of the agriculture minister and the minister responsible for the wheat board at the time, who then began to bring in some other government departments. It began to involve the customs division, the RCMP, as well as the justice department. Soon producers were being charged with illegally exporting grain as the full weight of the Canadian government was used against them.

The way the situation worked was that farmers would go to the United States with their loads of wheat. They would come back to the border and they would be ticketed at customs. They would get in their vehicles, drive their own trucks away from the border and then the RCMP would be called to arrest them.

By 1995 there were 100 farmers supporting Mr. Sawatsky. In May 1996 Judge Arnold Connor ruled that the permits were not required at all. The government took massive steps to try to stop the farmers and did it illegally. To this day that was an illegal action. The Canadian Customs Act which was used against the farmers did not require an exporter to provide customs officers with a permit to take grain across the border. It was on these grounds that farmers had been challenged.

I would like to read from Jailhouse Justice , another example of what happened a month earlier to a farm family:

The headline screamed out the astonishing news, “Farm Family Terrorized in Middle of the Night”. And the news release went on, “Armed men entered the home of Norman and Edith Desrochers...very early in the morning of April 10th (1996). Edith was just home from the hospital after major surgery. The intruders marched across the kitchen floor and disconnected all the phones. The Desrochers could call no one for help. Yet other intruders were in their farmyard taking one of their trucks”.

That news release went on, “These were not gang members, not the Mafia, but five RCMP officers and 10 Canadian Customs employees. Mr. Desrochers had exported his own grain a few days earlier without permission from the Goodale Wheat Board. This permission would have cost him thousands of dollars because he is a Western farmer, but it is free of charge to farmers outside the Wheat Board Area”.

The word was soon out that this furious assault began in the 5:15 a.m. pre-dawn darkness. Mounties and Customs officials entered the farm at Baldur in south-west Manitoba, where the Desrochers had farmed for years and had raised daughters Coreen and Monica and sons Clayton and Jeffrey. The intruders came in without knocking, triggering a time of terror for the occupants.

One well-read and perceptive supporter of these growers soon reported an almost unheard-of-twist--the Desrochers' search warrant had been altered to read “by day or night”.

Yes, this family had suffered the shocking and terrifying experience of a late night police raid on their home. That invasion and intimidation was carried out...because Norman had been involved earlier in challenges to the Board's tight grain monopoly. He and other growers had sold their own grain. And they were convinced the government board wanted farmers like them jailed.

This brutal attack was caused by political interference. The Canadian Wheat Board and the Canadian Wheat Board minister overreacted. Justice officials overreacted or were manipulated and farmers were intimidated and persecuted. RCMP and customs and revenue officials ended up being used by cabinet ministers against normal Canadians trying to live their lives and make a living.

These were not the only farmers who were punished by these immoral actions. Probably the most notable example of that involved a farmer named Andy McMechan who had been hauling barley to the United States. Again Jailhouse Justice states:

—his need for revenue became critical and his saga returned to the media. He again defied Ottawa's monopoly and in March '96 hauled grain to the U.S. without an export licence. On his return to the border crossing, a Customs officer and three RCMP offers met him. His tractor was ordered confiscated. He refused to give it up.

The next day he and a neighbour hauled 1500 more bushels across the border to his farm in N.D. Again when he returned Customs and RCMP officers were waiting. Andy explained what happened next. “I sat there for 15 minutes and no one came out, so I left and went home. About 9 p.m. that night I was arrested at home for theft over $5,000--”

Mr. McMechan was put in jail. He spent 155 days in jail in 1996 from July 9 to December 10 for selling his own wheat. He experienced more than 50 strip searches while in prison.

My concern this morning is that these farmers clearly did not want to be law-breakers. People who are trying to make a living are put in prison, strip-searched, raided in the middle of the night and harassed. They are driven to bankruptcy and fined exorbitant amounts. This is an example of a bureaucracy gone crazy and the bill continues that.

For that reason I think we need to scrutinize, amend or, if at all possible, defeat the legislation.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.


Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking the hon. member for Mercier for her amendment. This provides us with the opportunity not only for an important debate on Bill C-35, but also for one on the situation in the aftermath of the tragic events of September 11.

It is my impression that Bill C-35, and Bill C-36 likely as well, are part of the tendency of a number of governments, including those of Canada and the U.S., to make use of the legitimate fears triggered by the events of September 11 among the population of many western countries, Canada and the U.S. among them, to concentrate more power on the executive, in order to ensure that they will have a whole series of means at their disposal to maintain what they consider to be the established order of things.

This bill, its clause 5 in particular, is imprecise, incomplete, dangerous and inappropriate. I must therefore thank the hon. member for Mercier for giving us the opportunity, those of us in the Bloc Quebecois, and members of all parties, the government in particular, to reflect a little on its scope before reaching a decision. Given the concerns voiced by certain Liberal MPs during the hearings of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, there is some hope that the government will backtrack on its desire to get this bill, with clause 5, passed, and will remedy the situation.

I will quote clause 5 if I may, which amends a section of the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act as follows:

The first paragraph stipulates that:

10.1 (1) 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 and to which an order made or continued under this Act applies.

This first clause goes way beyond current practice, as the RCMP has the responsibility to protect individuals and not events. This initial slip is of some concern, especially since a number of duties are shared among various police forces—the RCMP, the Sûreté du Québec in Quebec and municipal police forces.

In the case of court action, and I use the example of the Quebec City summit—and this is public knowledge—the RCMP shot a lot more rubber bullets than all the other police forces. Had the Sûreté expressed its concerns over the excessive use of rubber bullets to the RCMP, could it have continued shooting rubber bullets at peaceful demonstrators citing this clause, which sets out its primary responsibility?

It seems to me this clause represents an exceedingly dangerous shift compared to practices set out in current legislation.

Subclause 10.1(2) provides that:

(2) 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.

The government is now institutionalizing a practice that was to be exceptional, that is, the setting up of security perimeters, not to protect individuals or dignitaries anymore, but to ensure the proper functioning of events. This is obviously something that represents a very significant threat to individual rights, especially in connection with sections 2 and 3 of the charter of rights and freedoms.

Is this in fact nothing more than the codification of existing practice as members of the government including the minister have said on a number of occasions? Is this the status quo or does this clause not in fact increase the powers of the RCMP? We think it increases them. It increases powers that are not limited and this is lamentable. What the government calls reasonable measures and terms in such circumstances can be interpreted in any number of ways.

During the summit in Quebec City, a Montreal lawyer, Mr. Tremblay, contested the security perimeter in Quebec City set up around the congress centre on the grounds that it infringed his rights.

The judge ruled that his fundamental rights had indeed been violated, but that the installation of this perimeter had been necessary to protect the dignitaries taking part in the event, the summit of the Americas in Quebec City. So, existing legislation permitted the installation of perimeters when justified.

Now, this bill is institutionalizing the RCMP's right to install perimeters not to ensure the safety of dignitaries and visitors to these important events, but to ensure that the events themselves can be held. This is a violation of individual freedom of expression because—and the RCMP commissioner pointed this out—these perimeters must allow demonstrators and protestors to be heard by dignitaries and those holding these intergovernmental meetings.

Given the current tendency for these perimeters to grow ever wider, this fundamental right to be heard would be violated by this second paragraph. Paragraph 3 of clause 10 says:

10.1 (3) The powers referred to in subsection (2) are set out for greater certainty and 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.

The question still remains: if existing legislation allows the RCMP to exercise its responsibilities, why include a clause such as clause 5 in Bill C-35? If it maintains the status quo, it is not necessary. If it does not, it must be clarified and further codified, which is what governments in other countries which have used similar legislation have done.

During the debate on this bill in the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Australia and New Zealand were often held up as examples. A closer examination reveals that the legislation adopted by the province of Queensland in Australia was of temporary application and provided for the creation of a security perimeter for a specific event only, the APEC summit in 1999. This is a far cry from clause 5 of Bill C-35, which institutionalizes for all time the creation of such perimeters for whatever reason.

In the case of the New Zealand legislation, limits are set on the duration and size of the perimeter. There is also a requirement to show need.

Clause 5 of Bill C-35 contains no such provisions. The RCMP would be able to decide on the extent and duration of such perimeters with no legal obligation to show need of any sort.

As the member for Mercier said, this bill is being considered at the same time as debate on Bill C-36, in which the definitions of terrorist act and terrorism are extremely broad. The Bloc Quebecois will also be proposing a number of amendments to that bill. We would hope that the governing party will open its eyes and see fit to restrict the scope of the legislation.

However, as I mentioned at the outset, what we are dealing with here is an offensive by the Canadian executive, the cabinet, in an attempt to arm themselves with tools that have the potential to be extremely repressive and that could very well violate fundamental rights. This situation—which, as I mentioned, has also caused concern among some of the Liberal members—must be reversed. Some statements were made outside the House, but also among committee members. A certain number of members spoke of their concern about the scope of clause 5.

Incidentally, until quite recently, there had been a resolution, submitted by the parliamentary secretary. This resolution warned the government against using clause 5, and asked that the bill be referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for further study. If this recommendation had been adopted by the committee as proposed, we might have believed that the government was shifting its position. However, this morning, something quite different was proposed.

So what we are witnessing, is a form of sectarianism, that is the word for it, of dogmatism, practiced by the Liberal government. Many of them know it, clause 5 is extremely dangerous. It is a very dangerous shift in the balance between fundamental rights and security.

I hope that there will be enough members of the House, as a group, who are reasonable enough to vote for the amendment moved by the member for Mercier, an amendment that will ensure that Canada remains a land of rights and freedoms. If not, all I can say is that we are shifting towards an unexplainable form of totalitarianism.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.


Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the name of my colleagues of the NDP to support the amendment moved by the hon. member for Mercier to delete clause 5 from Bill C-35.

I am very happy that the hon. member for Mercier has moved this amendment, in the name of the Bloc Quebecois, because clause 5 of the bill is very dangerous. I remember that during the second reading debate of this bill, I tried to underline the fundamental importance of this clause. I was against the bill. I said it was an attack against the democratic values of Canada, an attack against democracy itself.

My Bloc Quebecois colleagues had indicated that they would support the bill. I hope that now, after hearing the evidence in committee, they realize that the bill is dangerous. If the government refuses to delete clause 5, I hope that all the members will vote against Bill C-35.

I thank the member for Mercier, the foreign affairs spokesperson for the Bloc Quebecois, for bringing forward the motion that is now before the House. When we look at the provisions in the clause which is now before the House, we recognize how profoundly dangerous it is.

We heard compelling evidence in the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, in particular from two independent witnesses. We heard from William Sloan, the president of the American Association of Jurists from Quebec, and from Wesley Pue, a respected professor from the University of British Columbia. Both of them highlighted the dangers of clause 5.

Other provisions of the legislation also raised grave questions, one being the sweeping extension of diplomatic immunity to a whole range of people who are in Canada only for a very limited period of time. They come in for a conference, perhaps only involving two or three governments, and they are given the full range of diplomatic immunity. We certainly heard strong evidence against that in the committee.

When we look at the tragic impact of that sweeping diplomatic immunity and the failure to enforce criminal law in the area of drunk driving that led to the death of an Ottawa woman who was out walking her dog one morning, we recognize surely that we do not want to be expanding in any way those kinds of immunities. If anything, we want to make sure we tighten considerably the opportunity to avail one's self of those immunities.

My colleague from Joliette has read the provisions of clause 5 of the bill. We were assured by the officials that we did not have to worry about this clause because all it would do is codify the existing provisions governing police powers.

However, during the course of the committee hearings, it very quickly became clear that was not the case at all; it was a sweeping and dangerous extension of police powers. Why on earth would we want to extend those powers when we look at the serious abuses that have already taken place because of the existing powers of the police?

My colleague from Winnipeg--Transcona raised this issue yesterday in the context of the so-called anti-terrorism legislation, Bill C-36, which is seeking sweeping new powers for the police. He asked a question and he asked it eloquently. He wanted to know why we should be accepting the demands of the Minister of Justice for these sweeping new powers when we have seen such abuses of the existing powers.

We do not have to look back very far for evidence of those abuses. We saw it at APEC, in Windsor and in Quebec City: over 900 rubber bullets and over 5,000 tear gas canisters, many of them used against peaceful, non-violent protestors who were simply exercising their rights as Canadians under the charter of rights to speak out against the impact of corporate globalization.

Just this past weekend we saw it here in Ottawa. I was appalled at the scenes I witnessed on television of police officers, not all police officers but of a number of police officers who waded into a crowd of some 2,000 peaceful, non-violent protestors who were peacefully marching on Saturday morning from LeBreton Flats up to the Supreme Court of Canada. A number of police officers waded into the crowd, arrested people with some sort of preventive arrest based on what they looked like and, in some cases, sicced German Shepherd dogs on those people.

This abuse of police power was shameful and undemocratic. Why on earth would we want to codify in the sweeping form of clause 5 those kinds of powers in the context of international conferences?

Having heard the evidence, I was very pleased that at least two members of the Liberal Party who sit on the foreign affairs committee had the courage not to vote for the bill.

When it came time to vote on clause 5 and on the bill, those Liberal members were not prepared to support their own government's legislation. I certainly hope the government will accept the amendment to clause 5 and delete this very dangerous provision in the bill.

I mentioned Professor Wesley Pue. In Professor Pue's evidence before the committee he said that this was not only dangerous for Canadians who peacefully protest but that it was also dangerous for the RCMP. He said that under clause 5 the RCMP at all levels would understand this statute in its most natural meaning: that they could do anything they consider reasonable and appropriate but that what is reasonable and appropriate lies in the eyes of the beholder and that the touchstone there to be guided by is security alone.

He also pointed out that the legislation fails to provide guidance to the RCMP and that it leaves RCMP officers at all levels in a very vulnerable position, for example, if they get improper demands from foreign governments on security concerns.

He went on to point out that it was dangerously vague with respect to the issue of security perimeters. Just how far can the RCMP move in establishing those perimeters? Whose property rights can be derogated from in this way? What kind of compensation will be made available to those who are affected by these security perimeters? What about the fundamental rights of free movement within Canada, the right of assembly, the right of free expression and the right to enjoyment of property? The bill, and in particular clause 5, just tramples on all of them.

In closing, once again, I wish to thank the hon. member for Mercier for having moved this amendment. In the name of my colleagues of the NDP, I say that we will support this amendment. If the amendment is rejected by the House, we will vote against the bill, which is dangerous for democracy and the right of free speech in Canada.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Canadian Alliance Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak to Bill C-35, an act to amend the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act.

Before I start, I would like to say that, in general, diplomatic immunity that is given to diplomats is well upheld by the diplomats who live in this country. There have been incidents of one or two that have cast a bad light on the diplomatic community but overall the diplomats who represent their countries in Ottawa, who on many occasions I have had the pleasure of meeting, are very dedicated people working for the benefit of their country and good relations between Canada and their country. It has always been a pleasure meeting them. I do not think anything that we say here today should in any way reflect the excellent work they have been doing over here.

I wonder whether the bill was brought here as an aftermath of the APEC fallout in Vancouver. I am surprised our government would take this route after what happened in Vancouver when Canadians tried to hold a legitimate protest against certain diplomatic visitors and heads of states from other countries. Canadians do have freedom of speech and they have every right to protest.

What I do not understand in the bill is the rationale. Why would the government create a bill that would give it open authority to bring people into this country from any part of the world whether we agree or not? Is it because we want to show to the world that Canada welcomes anyone who wants to attend conferences here?

The bill would allow the Minister of Foreign Affairs to override the requirement of foreign representatives, who may or may not have criminal records, to come into this country and claim immunity protection against our laws.

Our laws are made after a tremendous amount of debate in parliament and in committees and here we are now extending this immunity to individuals who are coming over here for conferences at the whim of the foreign affairs minister.

To me the bill is being sent silently through parliament without debate. Most Canadians do not even know what repercussions the bill would have. I am sure the government is aware that there is a heavy degree of concern, which is why the press secretary said that the government would use the website to put out information and put more transparency into the bill so it will become more acceptable to the Canadian people.

From the record of the government we can see that transparency is not enshrined in the bill. The bill would still allow the government to do what it wants or does not want.

What happened in Vancouver and the subsequent inquiry that took place should never have happened. Millions of dollars went down the tube in trying to understand whether there was interference from the PMO's office. This inquiry would have never taken place if Canadians had been allowed to protest as they are allowed to do under Canadian law.

The other issue concerns the government's decision to grant broad based immunity to individuals coming into this country who represent their governments. We will have no control over who comes into the country. Governments can send representatives of their choice, and rightly so, but what control do we have over that? We have none.

The government does not like taking action. The bill does not promote Canadian values and I can say without any doubt that it will not sit well with the Canadian public. It would give the Minister of Foreign Affairs the power to bring anyone into Canada and override the laws we have created and put in place to protect Canadians. There does not seem to be any sense of rationale.

If we find individuals are not acceptable to come to Canada because of their past records all we have to do is advise their governments that their representatives may not be allowed into the country. What is wrong with that? Why are we not taking that route? We are instead taking a route where the minister signs a waiver and lets the individual come into Canada. It does not make any sense.

It is becoming difficult to support the bill. I do not know how far we can go with this. We are holding international conferences here and we have seen a lot of people making protests. Some of them make legitimate protests but others take the violent route and we use our laws to stop them.

This is a far fetched scenario, but considering the road the government is going down we will soon have demands from NGOs and others asking for protection when they come here as well. I hope the government does not go that route. However in looking at the bill I do not have much faith in the government.

I listened to my colleague in the NDP. We in the Canadian Alliance find it difficult to support the bill for many of the reasons we have stated. What happened in Vancouver at the APEC conference is still fresh in the minds of Canadians. An inquiry was held to find out if there was any interference from the PMO. Nothing in the bill gives us confidence that there will be no political interference in demonstrations.

What was the real rationale for the government to introduce the bill? I do not think the real rationale was to stop people from coming into Canada. Perhaps the real rationale was to enable the government to control protesters so they do not become an embarrassment.

I have travelled on behalf of Canada with the minister to many international conferences. In general terms there is no need for this kind of bill. There is no need for these draconian measures at all. We should be careful.

After September 11 the anti-terrorist bill was introduced. Now we have a concern about the civil liberties we are debating here. Bill C-35 would override that and extend blanket immunity. That is where the problem arises for us. We in my party will have a difficult time supporting the bill.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of the people of Surrey Central to participate in the report stage debate on Bill C-35, an act to amend the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act. I am opposed to the bill not only because the premise is flawed but because its best before date expired 10 years ago.

Following September 11 trends regarding the granting of diplomatic immunity are headed toward restricting access rather than enlarging it. Bill C-35 would extend immunity far beyond what many other countries grant diplomats. Bill C-35 and Bill C-36 clearly contradict one another. Bill C-35 would render foreign diplomats above the law with a minister's permit. Bill C-36 would impose broad limits on the rights of law abiding Canadians.

Bill C-35 would allow the foreign affairs minister to overrule the immigration minister if he believed there was good reason for allowing foreign delegates into the country. This could mean foreign delegates guilty of criminal offences or terrorist attacks would be allowed into the country if the foreign minister thought it would further Canada's interest.

This shows that the government's priorities are confused and contradictory. Like many others I am left wondering where they are going.

Bill C-35 and Bill C-36 show that the government is headed madly off in all directions. Together they illustrate the inconsistency of the government which acts one way internationally and another way domestically. Internationally it promotes the image of Canada as an open society. At home it curtails the freedom of Canadians.

Returning to my first point, the staff of the Standing Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations pointed out in 1991 that the external affairs minister's orders to extend immunity to delegates at intergovernmental conferences were illegal since these conferences were technically not international organizations. One proposed remedy was to redefine the meaning of international organization to include multilateral conferences.

During a 10 year letter writing campaign the minister in question indicated the willingness of the government to co-operate with the request of the committee in due course. The course was a long and tortured one but the government finally developed the will to act.

Bill C-35 is the result of 10 years' worth of pressure by the Standing Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations. Instead of being too little too late, the bill is too much too late. September 11 irreversibly altered the foundations of foreign policy debate. Viewed through this prism Bill C-35 is no longer appropriate to today's increased security needs.

The DFAIT report issued in May of this year stated that 90 crimes involving foreign diplomats in Canada were reported in the last five years. These included human smuggling, narcotics trafficking, impaired driving and sexual assaults. Bill C-35 would extend the same immunity abused by Knyazev, the Russian diplomat who killed Catherine MacLean while driving drunk, to an unknown number of people. It is still government practice to extend blanket immunity to support staff who are not entitled to it under the Vienna convention.

We are already losing our traditional role of diplomatic leadership in the international arena. For example, American officials have already said Bill C-35 would never fly in their country since it would extend diplomatic immunity further than they would be comfortable with.

We all remember the APEC conference in 1996 where protesters were pepper sprayed to save the Prime Minister from embarrassment. Nor has anyone forgotten how the government tried to make a scapegoat out of an RCMP sergeant for the whole incident. Rather than raise further embarrassment at meetings of the G-8, G-20, IMF, World Bank and so on, the Prime Minister is trying to ram the bill through as quickly as possible.

Bill C-35 would continue the government's habit of passing the buck to law enforcement. Not only has the government slashed its net financial commitment to the nation's police force. It is trying to enshrine in law additional responsibilities for officers who are already overworked and stretched to the limit.

Recently the Canadian Police Association said the government was playing a shell game with the security of Canadians. It said when it comes to security at our borders and airports Canadians should not be lulled into a false sense of security. It said the RCMP must steal from Peter to pay Paul. In countries like Australia and New Zealand the authority of police has been enshrined into the common law. Why not in Canada?

On a number of occasions I have pointed out shady dealings at our foreign missions. In dealing with foreign missions the bill has not addressed fraud and corruption. Our security begins at our foreign missions abroad because they screen people before they enter Canada. They are our first line of defence. However there is nothing in the bill that deals with the issue.

In light of this some RCMP officers and immigration officers who blew the whistle were crucified by the government and the investigation was covered up. Today at 12.30 p.m., about an hour from now, I will be hosting a presentation on whistleblowing in room 200 of the West Block. I invite all members as well as those who are watching to join us.

On another point, the roles of hundreds of international organizations and Canada's membership in them remain unaddressed in the bill. We the opposition members on the foreign affairs committee introduced excellent amendments that would have made it possible for me to support the bill. Some of the amendments sought to insulate the RCMP from political interference, limit the scope of the immunity of delegates and publicize cases where diplomatic immunity was invoked by foreign dignitaries.

The minister promised to post quarterly reports of crimes by diplomats on the DFAIT website but that has not been done. The Liberals voted against an amendment that would have entrenched the minister's promise into law.

The Liberals also ignored the recommendation of the Hughes report after the APEC inquiry that the independence of the RCMP and its role in providing security at international conferences be clarified in law. The government majority on the committee voted down those amendments.

The amendments would clearly have improved the legislation and could have helped smooth the passage of Bill C-35 through the House. Instead of fixing the hole in the fence or at least closing the gap the government seems determined to make it even bigger.

Bill C-35 would hide and neglect important and significant measures. I therefore register my vote to oppose it.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Cadman Canadian Alliance Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this legislation, although it is difficult to comprehend the logic of the government.

Bill C-35 is an insult to the victims of crimes perpetrated by foreign diplomats or their staff in Canada. In all fairness, the Minister of Foreign Affairs has done good work on the terrorism file. I simply do not understand what he can be thinking by insisting that the legislation become law. Many of the proposed changes in Bill C-35 are best suited for the shredder.

While I understand that the Vienna convention requires that certain immunities are necessary in order to maintain diplomatic relations with other countries, the proposals in Bill C-35 go far beyond what is necessary. It opens up an even larger possibility for crimes committed in Canada by foreign nationals protected by diplomatic immunity to go unpunished. This is not acceptable to Canadians and I am sure the minister knows it.

The most recent example of diplomatic immunity gone awry was when a Russian diplomat who allegedly was driving drunk killed Catherine MacLean. At the time the minister rightly said that he felt immunity should not apply to the Russian as the offence had nothing to do with his duties as a diplomat. The minister promised to study ways to prevent such abuses of immunity in the future. Instead he is ensuring that the possible abuse of diplomatic immunity will be extended to anyone coming into Canada for an international conference, including support staff. These people currently are not covered by immunity and therefore are subject to Canadian laws.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade reported recently that there have been 76 crimes listed as having involved foreign diplomats. The charges include such serious offences as sexual assault, assault, impaired driving, impaired driving causing death, alien smuggling, and drug trafficking to list just a few. These are not petty crimes. These are crimes for which Canadians and especially their victims expect to see justice carried out. Only three of the 76 cases had their diplomatic immunity waived. This means that 73 of these crimes saw no justice whatsoever.

Bill C-35 puts even more foreign representatives above Canadian law, thereby increasing the potential for abuse of immunity in the future. This cannot possibly be what the minister intends, so why not allow for changes to the legislation in order to ensure that justice can be carried out? Perhaps the minister should put himself in the shoes of the victims for a few minutes just to experience justice denied.

I find it shocking that Bill C-35 will give the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade a blank cheque to allow foreign representatives into Canada without proper security screening. Department officials and the minister will have free rein to allow anyone they want into the country with absolutely no accountability to parliament or to the Canadian public. With the simple stroke of a pen, an official will be able to allow foreign nationals possessing criminal backgrounds, human rights abuses or terrorist ties into Canada.

In the current post-September 11 climate the government is moving to restrict the rights of Canadians with Bill C-36, the anti-terrorism legislation. It is mind-boggling that at that same time the same government is moving to allow potentially dangerous foreign nationals into Canada without any checks and balances. As it currently stands, when foreign diplomats seek entry into Canada for the purpose of a diplomatic function or an international conference, they are subject to our immigration laws. Individuals found to be inadmissible currently are required to ask the minister of immigration for a special permit. At the end of each year, parliament has the opportunity to scrutinize the number of permits issued, thereby establishing a degree of accountability, albeit a very small degree of accountability.

With Bill C-35 in place, Canadians will never know who is being allowed into the country. Even worse, if a visitor commits a crime, he or she virtually is guaranteed not to face Canadian justice. It is long past time for Canada simply to stop sitting at international trade tables with countries and leaders that perpetrate serious human rights abuses and condone acts of terrorism.Yet the Minister of Foreign Affairs is giving himself and his department carte blanche to invite whomever they please to come to Canada with little, if any, security considerations.

Furthermore the legislation will ensure that foreign despots will be spared from embarrassment by protesters. It is simply wrong for the government to extend diplomatic immunity beyond what international convention requires. It is wrong for the minister to be able to forgo our immigration laws to invite the likes of President Suharto and shield him from criticism. Is it so awful that someone like Suharto occasionally is reminded of his deeds?

I am discouraged to see that the government seemingly has learned nothing from the APEC experience in 1996. The legislation actually contradicts the Hughes report which recommended that “generous opportunity...for peaceful protesters to see and to be guests of the event”.

This legislation creates not only the authority but also the obligation for the government and the RCMP to repeat the 1996 APEC performance. Canada needs to lead by example by allowing Canadians not only to dissent peacefully but also to be seen by those they are demonstrating against.

Bill C-35 expressly states that our country should protect the dignity of foreign representatives. I suggest that if a foreign dictator comes to Canada, it is only his guilty conscience that would be troubled by peaceful protesters reminding him of his actions, not his dignity.

The advancement of Canadian values is supposedly the third pillar of Canada's foreign affairs policy according to the department. I fail to see how giving the minister a free hand to invite criminals into the country, how giving the police a blank cheque to restrict the movements of Canadians while at the same time failing to prevent government interference with police matters, advances Canadian values.

Diplomatic considerations such as the granting of immunity should never be allowed to override security considerations. Permission for individuals to enter Canada should remain entirely separate from the process of granting diplomatic immunity to foreign diplomats.

In conclusion, the government should not extend immunity from the criminal code beyond the requirements of international law and convention. The bill is deceitful. The Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act is not the appropriate place to legislate new statutory powers and responsibilities for the RCMP or to give the foreign minister new powers to override the Immigration Act.

The government is trying to slip these major changes through parliament by hiding them in an innocuous-looking act surrounded by mundane housekeeping provisions. No press release accompanied the tabling of the bill. No legislative summary or explanation was provided. The government is rushing the bill through the House to avoid scrutiny.

The Canadian Alliance has scrutinized Bill C-35 and as the official opposition we have highlighted the failures of this legislation. I hope the minister will heed our recommendations and do what is right by reconsidering some of the draconian powers being enacted by the bill.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Williams Canadian Alliance St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I read Bill C-35 and was astonished to see what was written. I thought the bill was a response by the Government of Canada to the horrific crime which took place about a year ago when Catherine MacLean was run down by a Russian diplomat in Ottawa. He had apparently been on some recreational trip and on his way home ran two people down. One died. The other was severely injured and I understand will remain so for the rest of her life. It was a tragic event. The Russian was sent home. No charges were laid. He claimed diplomatic immunity. I thought that Canadians said there should be no diplomatic immunity for someone conducting himself in such a manner outside his responsibilities.

Going back to the concept of diplomatic immunity, it was created to enable countries to dialogue with each other without locking people up and throwing them in prison. We developed the convention that diplomats are immune in order that they may represent their governments to the host government where they reside. In this modern day, we are quite prepared to maintain diplomatic immunity when doing the job, but when Canadian laws are broken to the extent that the Russian diplomat broke the law, there should be repercussions. I thought I was going to find it in this bill.

What did I find? I found that the minister has extended diplomatic immunity to other people. He has not restricted diplomatic immunity to people who are living in this country and representing their nation to the Canadian government. At the beginning of the bill diplomatic immunity has been extended. Clause 1.(1) on page 1 states in part:

“International organization” means an intergovernmental organization, whether or not established by treaty, of which two or more states are members, and includes an intergovernmental conference in which two or more states participate.

I have heard my colleagues talk about not letting anyone in simply because someone wants to attend a conference. That is not representing one government to the Canadian government. That is not being a diplomat. Why should they expect diplomatic immunity? They are coming here enjoying our hospitality while hopefully participating in a conference. There was a conference down the street just last week with all kinds of demonstrators and so on.

When diplomatic immunity is extended to people who want to participate in a conference held in Canada, that goes way beyond the fundamental concept of diplomatic immunity, including extending that privilege to ambassadors, even though we may be at war and in a hostile environment where they can come and speak without fear of arrest while doing their jobs. It should never allow people to come into Canada and while drunk run down women and children and think they can get off scot-free. It should never, ever be that way.

The bill on page 2, line 20, states “representatives of a foreign state that is a member of”--and these are the new words--“or participates in” an international organization shall, to the extent specified be entitled to more privileges.

I started thinking. As we all know, the world's most wanted man today is Osama bin Laden. If he wants to participate in an international conference in Canada, he can walk right in, say “Hi, folks”, and we cannot touch him. Is that what we really want? Do we want crooks, criminals and people on the world's most wanted list to be granted diplomatic immunity not because they want to represent the government and speak on someone's behalf but because they want to participate in a conference in Canada? I cannot believe what I am reading in the bill. The Minister of Foreign Affairs says that out of the goodness of his heart, he will report to the House of Commons periodically if he is so inclined.

Where is it in the legislation? It is not there. Therefore the bill is being presented to the House of Commons and to the Canadian people under the false pretense of protecting Canadians from drunk diplomats running them down. It is not that at all.

We will now extend diplomatic immunity to anybody coming into Canada on a government passport who is here on a government mission. I cannot believe it. I do not think I have much else to say.

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11:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant McNally Canadian Alliance Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Mr. Speaker, I share many of the same concerns my colleagues have mentioned already on Bill C-35. As it made its way through parliament, as my colleague from Cumberland--Colchester mentioned, the bill seemed rather innocuous at first. However when we take a look at it we realize some of the outstanding contradictions in the bill as compared to Bill C-36. My friend from Surrey North mentioned that in his speech. Others have mentioned it as well, and I agree.

The government has quietly attempted to extend diplomatic immunity and privileges to a whole host of new foreign visitors that would come to Canada to attend international conferences. Special visitor visas would supercede the immigration minister's power to allow potential visitors with a criminal past to come to Canada. They could otherwise be refused entry because of a criminal record.

I have to ask this question. Is this intended to take the heat off the minister of immigration? It seems this clause supercedes the issuance of a special permit.

When I was on the immigration committee for two years we had all kinds of debates on issues about the whole idea of issuing a special permit to an individual who would come from abroad.

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11:50 a.m.


Aileen Carroll Liberal Barrie—Simcoe—Bradford, ON

Talk about the bill.

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11:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant McNally Canadian Alliance Dewdney—Alouette, BC

My friend from the Liberal Party, the parliamentary secretary, wants her turn to speak. I cannot quite tell whether or not she is agreeing with what I am saying. Perhaps she might want to listen, rather than voice comments quietly under her breath.

I am simply making this point. Is the intent of this clause in the bill to be able to sweep under the rug the whole idea of the issuance of a special permit which the minister of immigration previously would have had to give to individuals with criminal records coming to Canada? Is that the intent of this part of the bill?

It seems quite contrary in the climate that we have with Bill C-36 that the government is extending the issue of immunity in the bill. It would seem to me that the government would prioritise the legislation it brings to the House. Is this the issue that is gripping our nation today? I do not think so. There are many other issues having to do with what happened on September 11.

I have made this point several times in the House and I will make it again. We have outstanding issues of trade. We have the ongoing softwood lumber debate. That is impacting on all of Canada, but particularly on my area of British Columbia. There is an outstanding issue that has not yet been resolved. We have border security issues and integration of our trade with the United States. Where are the pieces of legislation that would solve those issues that are top of mind for Canadians?

We need to correct our existing system before we extend immunity and privileges to even more visitors who would come to Canada. It just seems to make sense that we would do that first.

My colleagues have mentioned some of the cases that have come up over the last several years where individuals have committed criminal activities in Canada and diplomats have participated in that. The most high profile one has been mentioned by my colleagues as well: the tragic death of Catherine MacLean in Ottawa who was struck and killed by a Russian diplomat. We know that he is now being charged with careless driving in Russia.

I want to focus on an amendment that was brought forward by my colleague from Cumberland--Colchester. It is a very commonsense notion that was defeated by the government at committee. It is one that would effectively report to parliament the names of individuals to whom this immunity was extended.

Why not have that transparent clause in the bill so that we would know to whom this blanket immunity is being extended? In so doing the Minister of Foreign Affairs could keep his promise on this point. It should simply lay out to whom this extended amount of immunity is being given.

Unfortunately that was defeated in committee. I believe that would have gone a long way toward building confidence and trust among all parties that this immunity would not simply be a blanket immunity used by many who might break the law when they are in Canada.

The use of diplomatic immunity has become distorted. The concept of diplomatic immunity is intended to protect foreign representatives from arbitrary harassment in the legal conduct of their affairs and not to allow them to hide from criminality. The concept of immunity is not to give people a blank cheque when they enter our country to do whatever it is they might want to do. It is there to protect them in the commission of their jobs.

In the context of Bill C-36, when we are having more restrictions put on Canadian citizens and their rights and their freedoms here the government at the same time is extending through this wide ranging immunity the rights of foreigners who would come to our country and who may break the law. It is mind boggling how we could have both of those bills before the House at the same time. It is very contradictory.

I hope it is something the government will address. It has an opportunity to do so because the bill is still before us in this place. Why not report to parliament once or twice a year, as my colleague has suggested, who is covered by this broad, sweeping immunity? Why not put those accountability measures not only into this piece of legislation but into others that are before this place too? If the government would take this approach I think it would find in general more support for the initiatives it comes up with.

When the government is not willing to do so it sends a negative message, which is to the detriment of the government's own initiatives.

I will close by saying that the bill extends immunity when it should not. The government has refused not only in committee but now at this next stage of the bill in the House to be more accountable, to build in some mechanisms to report on who will be getting immunity. I think that is wrongheaded. It is a shame it is not taking this opportunity to build consensus with this legislation. It is certainly not the number one issue seizing the nation today.

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Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Progressive Conservative Kings—Hants, NS

Madam Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise today to speak to Bill C-35. We know of cases involving the abuse of diplomatic immunity that have occurred in Canada and in other countries. In fact incidents have occurred in D.C. where diplomats have abused the privilege of diplomatic immunity to escape punishment and justice for crimes they committed. There is a growing recognition of the problems inherent in diplomatic immunity as applied now.

The notion of expanding the definition of diplomatic immunity to a broader category of individuals who are not necessarily diplomats but are involved in organizations and NGOs with fairly loose connections with government is deeply concerning.

Very little accountability is provided by a loose arrangement between a foreign NGO and that country's government. It will be very difficult for Canadian authorities to ask foreign governments to ensure that justice is done when individuals belonging to a non-government organization or some loose organization based in countries represented in Canada fall on the wrong side of the law.

We have not been successful in Canada in forcing foreign governments to actually ensure that justice is done when their government employees, diplomats or foreign service officers are found to have violated Canadian law. In some cases they have taken Canadian lives through their unlawful actions. The idea of expanding this immunity to a group that is less accountable to a foreign government and as such to Canadian authorities is absolutely wrongheaded.

The juxtaposition of the legislation with the proposed anti-terrorist legislation which would reduce Canadian civil liberties is telling because the government has a history at times of reducing the rights of individual Canadians, whether it is reducing the rights and privileges of parliamentarians or using extraordinary force such as that used at the Apex summit in Vancouver. In that case the government was trying to protect what it perceived to be the rights of foreign dictators, particularly at that point President Suharto of Indonesia.

In a foreign policy context the notion of engagement is that we should engage people like Suharto and governments like that of Indonesia in a dialogue such that we can teach them something about democracy, free market principles, freedoms and the principles we treasure in our democratic society of Canada.

Instead of our teaching Suharto something about democracy and freedom, what happened in Vancouver is that he taught the Canadian government a great deal about oppression and taking inordinate and extraordinary steps to crush legitimate protest. In times past I think the government has proceeded with policies that were not consistent with the principles of democratic freedom we value in Canada.

Clearly the legislation is wrongheaded. We cannot move further in the wrong direction. The government ought to be considering ways to ensure that we do not see any further loss of life and damage to Canadian families and property as a result of diplomatic immunity. Instead it is going in exactly the opposite direction and that is clearly wrong.

There is a role for Canada to play in a time as increased levels of demand exist for multilateral efforts on criminal issues. The notion of an international court and of greater powers, not just simply national powers, but authority transcends borders. In time we will see an increased level of pressure, even from countries like the U.S. which has traditionally been opposed to the growth of multilateral, multinational bodies in areas, for instance, of a world court.

As the U.S. becomes more multilateral and more supportive of multilateral efforts, for instance now in the war against terrorism, we may see some movement toward a greater level of international law and a judicial system that will be less nationally based and more multilaterally based, and these issues will become less germane.

Right now, until we have the ability through international law and through an international court system to ensure justice is done, we need defend the sanctity of our domestic laws and our domestic judicial system. Until we can do that in the current context, the idea of providing expanded levels of diplomatic immunity to a broader category of individuals, who would be less accountable to their foreign governments, is absolutely wrong. I certainly hope the government will see this prior to the passage of the legislation.

I am certain if Canadians at large were aware of what the legislation had the capacity to do, there would be overwhelming opposition to the it. It is going in the wrong direction and is worsening an already bad situation.