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House of Commons Hansard #121 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-35.

Topics

International Labour ConferenceRoutine Proceedings

November 29th, 2001 / 10:05 a.m.

Bramalea—Gore—Malton—Springdale Ontario

Liberal

Gurbax Malhi LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2) and in accordance with the International Labour Organization's constitution to bring recently adopted conventions and recommendations to the attention of competent authorities, I am pleased to submit two copies, in both official languages, of the Canadian Position with Respect to Conventions and Recommendations adopted at the 87th and 88th sessions of the International Labour Conference, June 1999 and June 2000 in Geneva.

Air TransportationRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Chicoutimi—Le Fjord Québec

Liberal

André Harvey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, for the Minister of Transport, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2), I have the honour to table in both official languages, the second report of the Air Travel Complaints Commissioner, Bruce Hood.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the 40th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding the question of privilege raised on October 15 by the member for West Vancouver--Sunshine Coast concerning Bill C-36, the anti-terrorism act.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Rose-Marie Ur Liberal Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 I am honoured to present a petition on behalf of the constituents living in the Grand Bend, Forest, London and Windsor area who call upon parliament to protect the health of seniors, children and the environment by banning the gas additive MMT.

The use of MMT in gasoline results in significantly higher smog producing hydrocarbon emissions and enhances global warming.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor NDP Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure today to present several hundred petitions from across Saskatchewan drawing attention to the changes to the Employment Insurance Act in the past decade that have transformed the act and brought harsh measures on unemployed individuals.

In Saskatchewan alone the petitioners allege that 30% of those unemployed are now ineligible to collect employment insurance. They call upon the government to re-establish unemployment insurance as an earning replacement program that once again supports unemployed workers, their families and their communities.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from November 27 consideration of the motion that Bill C-35, an act to amend the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act, be read the third time and passed.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Barrie—Simcoe—Bradford Ontario

Liberal

Aileen Carroll LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to begin speaking on third reading of Bill C-35 which amends the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act. We worked on this in committee and had good discussions and the opportunity to hear from some excellent witnesses, and in so doing better understand the issues.

The bill extends immunities in Canada to non-treaty based international organizations such as G-8 and other meetings that will be held in Canada. It allows for the application of diplomatic immunity to people participating in those meetings, whereas in the past immunities such as those included in the bill could only have been extended to treaty based organizations such as the International Civil Aviation Organization which is in Montreal. Another treaty based organization of course is the United Nations.

In providing for this application in Canada, we are not in any way enhancing the levels of diplomatic immunities. We are only extending them to include persons coming to Canada for the reasons I outlined. Other developed countries, such as the United Kingdom and the United States, have provisions in their law as well to grant privileges and immunities to non-treaty based organizations.

As well, I want to say a word concerning the proposal in the bill to clarify that an order in council for an international organization or meeting excludes the obligation now to issue a minister's permit to allow entry to Canada of persons who fall within the inadmissible classes under the Immigration Act.

The opportunity now to treat the application of such persons on a case by case basis will reside with an order in council, but it moves it within the ambit of the Department of Foreign Affairs. It was the view of some of the top experts who spoke to us that it was exactly where such an action should be located. It provides therein for continuity and keeps all of what is related to persons attending international organizations in Canada within the ambit of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

There has been discussion in the media about this bill. While I can understand some of the discussion related to other bills, I fail to see the hyperbole of some articles recently concerning Bill C-35, as the bill is not about enhancement or enlargement. It is but merely the horizontal application of the diplomatic immunities to include persons falling within the categories I described.

Therefore, I move:

That the question be now put.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Anders Canadian Alliance Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, is the parliamentary secretary aware that over the last five years there have been 76 criminal charges laid, and never mind other offences where there have been no charges, with regard to those who enjoy the status of being a diplomat in Canada?

I know she would love to stick to her talking points and only talk about non-treaty organizations, but there was a terrorist attack on September 11 that left thousands dead. Ahmed Ressam was using Montreal as a base and staging ground for the Mujahedeen cult in the bombing of the World Trade Center before he was caught in Seattle.

The idea that we would allow an extension of diplomatic immunity and diplomatic privileges, particularly at this point in time, disturbs me deeply considering that a number of countries have abused diplomatic privileges in the past. Also, the provision of safe houses, money, travel documents in terms of visas or passports, any of these type of things can and have been used for the advancement of terrorist causes.

How can the parliamentary secretary, having voted in favour of a bill last night that would restrict the freedoms of Canadians in light of the terrorist attacks, stand up in the House today and argue in favour of extending privileges and freedoms to foreigners based in Canada?

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Aileen Carroll Liberal Barrie—Simcoe—Bradford, ON

Madam Speaker, let me convey to the hon. member that I do not need talking points. I am more than delighted to speak extemporaneously to address his concerns.

I have heard constantly, as have other members on this side of the House, the opposition focus on the number of criminal charges that have been brought forward against diplomatic persons in Canada. I think the attempt is to convey almost a criminal element that countries across the world apply to be diplomats and that this is the most desired career for anyone who has criminal proclivities.

On the whole, if one compares the percentage, one would realize that the percentage of charges brought against persons in Canada, who are here on a diplomatic or consular level, is far below the percentage within society at large.

Also, the dreadful occurrence and what happened, which again was a major focus of one of the member's colleagues in committee, to Ms. Catherine MacLean and Ms. Catherine Doré was a horror that none of us in any way underestimated. The response to that on the part of the minister and the department was a zero tolerance policy. When new people come to Canada to represent their countries, they are briefed completely on what expectations are in this country as to adherence to the criminal code.

It is important as well that I take advantage of this opportunity to try to convey one more time to some of the members of the House and to members on the standing committee that this is a reciprocal obligation and comes within the Vienna convention. These diplomatic immunities and consular immunities are accorded so people can safely go to countries around the world and conduct the business of diplomacy. We ought to remember exactly what risks our Canadian diplomats take when they go to work in countries that do not extend these same privileges. Canada does extend them and has a very high bar for what the expectations are.

I am appalled at the attempt to continually use hyperbole and take one or two instances so as to smear the entire process. It is disheartening to say the least. It is misinformed, to give the very best analysis to it.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Progressive Conservative Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Madam Speaker, my question does not pertain to the principles of Bill C-35, but rather to the principles of access to information.

Why will the government not commit to a report to parliament? The government acknowledges that it is necessary, because the minister has said that he agrees to report on the people who apply to make use of a claim for immunity four times a year, but it will not put it in legislation. It seems to me that the minister is saying it is necessary and he will do it, but he wants to keep that flexibility so he can change his mind later on.

This kind of goes along with what is in Bill C-36, with restrictions to access to information. There seems to be a reluctance on behalf of the government to share information with parliament. All we are asking is if the government will provide a list of those people who claim immunity under these very significantly expanded immunity rules.

When I talk to Liberal members individually, they seem to agree that this is a good thing to do. Could the parliamentary secretary indicate if there has been a change of heart? Will the government add an annual report to parliament in the bill?

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Aileen Carroll Liberal Barrie—Simcoe—Bradford, ON

Madam Speaker, the suggestion that the hon. member has brought forward has merits, and we have discussed it. As I understand, he is satisfied with the current reporting system; that four times a year those numbers on incidents are available to anyone who wishes to have. There is no requirement to go in under access to information. A copy of those reports will be made available on request.

I hope I am not stepping outside this, but I understand his concern is that this is not included in statute. Again, my understanding is that, although he is content with the policy of the department, he is concerned that when this minister is no longer minister or when this government is no longer in power, there might be another minister who is part of another government who would not continue that policy. I can understand his concern. At the same time, I am of a view that one cannot put everything in statute. One has to accept the government's function, with a combination of legislation, regulation and policy. To date that is the mix the government is proposing.

I certainly have conveyed his views and I understand them, but there is no intention at this time on the part of the government to make that policy a part of this law.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor NDP Palliser, SK

Madam Speaker, in a previous answer, the parliamentary secretary indicated that the bill was simply a reciprocal arrangement with other countries.

Could she provide the House any examples of a circumstance in which Canada had a problem at an international conference as a result of the absence of this reciprocity arrangement?

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Aileen Carroll Liberal Barrie—Simcoe—Bradford, ON

Madam Speaker, no, I could not at this time provide the hon. member with a specific example. I did make mention that the United Kingdom and the United States have similar provisions for the extension beyond non-treaty, that is to say, for the extension of immunities beyond treaty based organizations, similar to what is contained in the bill. However, I am sorry, but I am not able to provide that. I can undertake to do that but it will not be today.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Anders Canadian Alliance Calgary West, AB

Madam Speaker, the parliamentary secretary responded to my first question this morning by saying that she had a policy of zero tolerance. Let me ask her about her zero tolerance.

Why is someone who was charged with attempted murder, applied for a waiver of diplomatic immunity, had the waiver granted by the Canadian government, appeared in court and had the case dismissed, still a diplomat in Canada? Where is the zero tolerance on attempted murder?

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Aileen Carroll Liberal Barrie—Simcoe—Bradford, ON

Madam Speaker, I am not sure when that incident occurred. I know that the zero tolerance policy and many other reporting policies were triggered by the incident of the Russian diplomat who was involved in the accident that caused a death. However I do not have knowledge of that one and I believe it predates that, but I am not exactly sure.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Jacques Saada Liberal Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Madam Speaker, discussion, have taken place between all parties, as well as the member for Lakeland, concerning the taking of the division on Motion P-3 scheduled at the conclusion of private members' business later this day.

I believe you would find consent for the following motion. I move:

That, at the conclusion of today's debate on P-3, all questions necessary to dispose of the motion be deemed put, a recorded division deemed requested and deferred to Tuesday, December 4, 2001, at the expiry of the time provided for government orders.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Anders Canadian Alliance Calgary West, AB

Madam Speaker, rise on a point of order. I have a question with regard to this. I did not hear a mention of Motion P-3 in the member's comments. Does this apply to Motion P-3 or does it apply to the bill that is being debated currently, Bill C-35?

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Jacques Saada Liberal Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Madam Speaker, I do not think the member heard the number of the motion in English, because I did say it in French. It is indeed Motion P-3.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-35, an act to amend the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act, be read the third time and passed, and of the motion that the question be now put.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Anders Canadian Alliance Calgary West, AB

Madam Speaker, I think the last question posed to the parliamentary secretary shed a lot of light on the particular problem which is basically this whole idea of diplomatic immunity. Over the last five years we have had 76 crimes committed in Canada in which diplomats have been charged. We have some pretty egregious examples. I have laid out one.

The parliamentary secretary likes to claim that her government has a policy of zero tolerance on crimes committed by diplomats in Canada. Yet we have all sorts of examples, 76 of them, ranging from impaired driving, where there was a six week interval between two different incidents for the same individual, to sexual assault and interference, invitation to sexual touching, offences in relation to prostitution and criminal harassment. To me there is one that take the cake in terms of the so-called zero tolerance policy of the government, which I would claim does not exist. I think diplomatic immunity is abused. There are 8,000 individuals in Canada right now who enjoy the privilege of diplomatic immunity and over the last five years up to 13,000 people have enjoyed this type of privilege.

Let us look at some of these examples. One of the most egregious ones I can find is that of somebody who was charged with attempted murder in Canada and applied for a waiver of diplomatic immunity. It makes sense, I guess, if somebody is guilty as charged and realizes there is wiggle room to get out. Maybe that person's government allows the person the privilege of applying for diplomatic immunity. However, how can this parliamentary secretary can get up in her place and claim there is zero tolerance when the government grants the immunity? It is one thing for the government of a criminal to ask it but quite another for this government, which loves to claim it has zero tolerance, to grant it.

One might ask, then, what happened? Indeed, the criminal appeared in court and the case was dismissed. What is even more egregious is this policy of zero tolerance. Not only did the government grant the person the waiver of diplomatic immunity, but this person is still in Canada after having been charged with attempted murder and the woman across the way has the gall to stand in the House today and claim with a straight face that she has a zero tolerance policy with regard to criminals and diplomatic immunity. Shame on her.

I will go on to some of the problems I see in the bill. We have a situation where we have just recently had two terrible and tragic terrorist bombings in the United States. It is not as though Canada is immune. When Ahmed Ressam was interviewed by reporters previous to his capture in Seattle he was on his way, from Canada, to bomb the Los Angeles airport, planning what he was doing out of New York, which the Mujahedeen cult, for example, uses as a staging ground. Ahmed Ressam claimed there were 60 individuals like him who were trained in the preparation, delivery, et cetera, of bombs just for his particular proclivities and cause, never mind all the other terrorists that may choose to use Montreal or Canada generally as a base from which to stage operations. This was just for Ahmed Ressam alone. He claimed there were 60 other individuals like him residing in the Montreal area who were in favour of his cause and the government has the gall to extend and expand diplomatic immunity privileges.

Since the member across the way sees fit to heckle today, I will retort in terms of what he is talking about. I will explain to him why extending diplomatic immunity is bad in cases just like that. He is burrowing his head in his books and so he should.

The reason the diplomatic immunity extension is particularly bad in those cases, if the member happened to be reading about or paying attention to any of these things, is that at least a half dozen if not a dozen countries have misused diplomatic immunity over the last decade or two. They have abused the privileges of safe houses. They have abused the privileges of travel documents, visas and passports. They have abused the privileges with regard to money transfer in the country.

Does the member across the way not happen to remember that his own finance minister had to be accountable for the abuse of money transferring privileges in the country? Now of course someone has left the Chamber. The heat was a little too hot in the kitchen, I think.

It is egregious to consider that the government will go ahead and open up this Pandora's box of diplomatic immunity after it has gone ahead and restricted freedoms on Canadian citizens. Instead of going after the culprits, the ones who dare to actually plan bomb attacks against citizens in North America, no, instead of going after the people who purport these things and the governments who actually fund these activities and train these terrorists in their vicinities, instead of going after the people who come to Canada with allegiances other than our own, the government is going after our own citizens. It makes no sense whatsoever.

The parliamentary secretary across the way, with her elitist out of touch attitude this morning, sits guffawing and wonders why Canadians are upset. She cracks down and votes proudly for those things that would restrict the freedoms of Canadians, but would go ahead and happily and gaily stand up this morning and talk about how she will extend the diplomatic privileges for foreigners in the country when I have given her perfectly good examples of people who have abused diplomatic privileges in the country. Does she not understand? It is egregious.

A number of events will be coming up in our country. In my backyard we are to have the G-8 summit. It will be held in Kananaskis. I hope it goes off without a hitch and I hope the government provides all the necessary resources it is supposed to provide, which it still has not coughed up for Quebec City in terms of the costs of some of the meetings held there. Even though that event will be taking place, what do we have happening? The government wants to extend more diplomatic privileges for people, whether it is for a summit, for example, with diplomats from China, a known human rights abuser, coming to our country, or for an APEC summit, and we all know the Prime Minister's fondness for pepper spray and whether he has it on his plate too and all the rest of the fine quotes that man mumbled with regard to the whole APEC inquiry and the cover up involved with that.

With these meetings coming up we will have a lot of diplomats visiting the country. Instead of trying to limit the amount of immunity given out for potential crimes coming up, and we certainly know there are a whole raft of those as I have a document detailing 76 of them just in the last five years, instead of curtailing that in light of the terrorist attacks, the government, in its top-down wisdom, in its elitist pronouncements, has decided to go ahead and extend diplomatic immunity in this circumstance rather than place restrictions on it.

I will give the House some of the gruesome details because I think it is very important that people know about them. The gruesome details include, for example, that in committee when this came up, and I am hoping the parliamentary secretary was there because I will be able to judge by her face today whether or not she was by her reaction to this, the opposition, not just the Canadian Alliance but indeed all the parties in the opposition, put forward an amendment that would have kept the current reporting procedure in place. The current reporting procedure is that there actually has to be a ministerial permit and every year there has to be an annual report to parliament in terms of accountability.

Under Bill C-35 the Liberals wanted to get rid of it so that it would not be subject to the part of the Immigration Act we are dealing with. Opposition members in all parties put forward an amendment to keep the standard reporting practice in place so that there would have to be a ministerial permit and an annual report. The Liberal members across the way, the governing majority that has had no plan since the terrorist attacks in the United States and that has been coasting on cruise control, voted down an amendment by the opposition parties to keep the ministerial permit requirement in place and to make sure there was an annual report to parliament.

I see a former reporter across the way. I am sure that somewhere deep down it disturbs him that he will be asked by his government to vote for a restriction to the freedom of information given to the press and to people across the country. I ask the member to keep that in mind in terms of his vote. He has approached me personally in the past regarding matters of public record. I wonder how he feels about this matter of public record.

Not only that, there was an amendment that dealt with the entrenchment of the minister's promise in law. I guess the Liberals across the way do not like promises, because they break them and they certainly do not like entrenching them in law, and once again the Liberal majority voted against the provision, against very wise and astute amendments put forward by all opposition parties, I might add for the parliamentary secretary.

The third egregious point in terms of the nitty-gritty details of the bill is that it totally ignores the recommendation of the Hughes report with regard to the independence of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. We well know that Jean Carle, the Prime Minister and some others were involved in trying to tamper, tinker and interfere with the APEC summit. I am not sure why, because frankly some of the henchmen and violators of human rights who came into the country fully deserved some of the protest coming their way. However, our Prime Minister tinkered with that particular process for the APEC meeting and of course an inquiry resulted. Rather than listening to the Hughes report which was done as a result of the whole APEC situation, they have ignored it.

With what I have seen from the government over my last five years as a member of parliament, I cannot be that surprised. What often happens is that if there is a wrongdoing the government will create an inquiry of some sort, or a royal commission which is even nicer because it has a nice title. It will then shut down the inquiry the minute it gets a little too close to implicating the government with some of the problems and fire a couple of bureaucrats or someone else who had to carry out its orders, perhaps ending the careers of some fine RCMP officers who had to obey their political masters, in this case the Liberal Party of Canada. Conveniently the government will then shelve the report and, just like the parliamentary secretary did today, stand up as proud as a peacock and tell us it is in favour of a bill that will go against the Hughes report. Is that not special? We have another example of that happening here today.

As well, because of the Hughes report there was a third amendment that all opposition parties supported. It would have made political interference in RCMP operations at international conferences an offence. It was pretty clear. The RCMP's duty is to serve and protect the Canadian public. We want the RCMP to carry out that task without political interference from the Prime Minister's Office or any of the other Liberal henchmen across the way, including the parliamentary secretary. Instead of supporting an amendment that was supported by all opposition parties, the Liberal majority on the foreign affairs committee voted it down. Surprise, surprise.

We introduced an amendment for greater accountability that was backed by all opposition parties. The government killed that chance for accountability. We submitted a second proposal for the government to put some accountability back into the bill. It was put forward and proposed by all opposition parties, and again the government voted against accountability.

We did it a third time with regard to the RCMP, the people who are supposed to enforce the law and not the Liberals across the way. A third time we asked for greater accountability according to the Hughes report that the government said it would listen to. What did the government do? A third time in a row, three strikes and you are out, accountability went down again. That is the record.

We have a sad situation today. The government across the way is only too willing to go after websites created by Canadians. The government wants to expunge any of the material there and put Canadians through a laborious appeal process for which they do not get any specifications in terms of timelines. The government is willing to do all these things to restrict the freedom of speech of average Canadians because it is worried about terrorism.