Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise today and speak to Bill C-44, which was split as suggested by the Bloc Quebecois. This is part of Bill C-42, which was a follow-up to Bill C-36.
I would like to help Quebecers and Canadians who are listening understand how it is that Bill C-42 ended up being introduced in the House on November 22, 2001. This bill is 98 pages in length. The bill is considered to be a measure of extreme urgency. This is the second anti-terrorist bill, the first one being Bill C-36.
Thanks to the Bloc Quebecois' actions, particularly questions to the government on the relevance of Bill C-42, it became clear that the only true measure in Bill C-42 that needs to be dealt with in a hurry is the one which became Bill C-44, a bill that is one page long. Bill C-44, which we are discussing today, is essentially a measure to align Canadian legislation with that of the U.S.
I will come back to this, because since September 11, all this government has done is harmonize our policy and procedures with the U.S., because it has no initiative, nor has it ever had any.
All this government does, is go along with what is done elsewhere. Obviously, one can understand that when events as tragic as those that occurred in the United States happen, it is our duty, as neighbours, to adopt security measures.
We would hope and wish that all of these security measures would respect the rights and freedoms of Quebecers and Canadians, rights that are so important to our democratic society which, we hope, preserves our personal rights and freedoms at all times.
If ever we were to violate these rights, we would quite simply be conceding to terrorists. Once again, they would win if we were to make any significant changes that would result in a violation of our rights and freedoms. That is what the Liberal government has been doing since this crisis.
In the end, the week of November 22 was a difficult week for the Liberal government. First, there was Bill C-36. For two weeks now, since November 22 when the bill was introduced in the House and debate was stifled, the Liberal government has gagged debate on this bill, the first antiterrorist bill for which more than 80 witnesses were heard.
In the end, the government passed the bill, in spite of the recommendations and in spite of the 66 very relevant amendments moved by the Bloc Quebecois. In particular, we were asking a sunset clause to be included in this anti-terrorist bill, which was obviously aimed at limiting the rights of Quebecers and Canadians.
We all felt, like the majority of the witnesses who appeared before the committee, that this bill had to cease to be in force after three years. We see what is happening elsewhere, in other societies and in other countries. We should already plan an end to this bill, which would compel us to review it in its entirety. In the meantime, again, the Bloc Quebecois moved an amendment requiring an annual review of the bill to ensure that rights and freedoms are respected.
Of course, the Liberal government rejected all these amendments. It would much rather keep on violating rights and freedoms as much as possible and appropriating all the power it can.
We always wonder why a government that should be working in the best interests of its population acts in such a way. I keep telling our listeners that we have to be careful because a government always want to control things.
In Bill C-36, the government made sure it had control over pretty well everything, including the rights and freedoms of the people in this country, especially Quebec, which concerns me. It is difficult when the ministers, who have made statements in the House on Bills C-36, C-42 and C-44, tell us we will be able to exercise our rights in committee, we will be able to make amendments there and they will listen to us there. But this is not the case. This is the harsh reality for our viewers.
The government does not listen to us. It listens to itself. It does not even listen to the recommendations of its own members. There are members of the Liberal Party who were opposed. Some did not vote for Bill C-36.
Today in the papers, a Liberal member was very critical of Bill C-42. So, obviously, we are not the only ones defending the rights and freedoms of people in Quebec and Canada.
Few people in the Liberal Party, only one member in fact, since the advent of the important Bills C-36 and C-42, have opposed the direction taken by the Liberal government. It is all to his credit, but it reflects very badly on all the others who blithely follow the recommendations of officials and, more importantly, the directives of ministers. That is what is hard to accept.
This is what the citizens of Quebec and Canada must understand. They are lucky, in the end, there are still opposition parties in the House that can ask the right questions and, more importantly, hold the real debates, which do not take place in the House. The real debates are in the media, through the media, which have stepped in because that is the way it works here in the House.
We are not heard. Our amendment proposals are not heard. Once again, the media hear the recommendations and especially the real substantive debates contributed by the opposition parties.
A very important substantive debate, initiated by the Bloc, among others, in fact by my colleague from Berthier—Montcalm, was the one on Bill C-36. The debate is not over yet. Daily resolutions arrive in our offices in protest over Bill C-36. The people of Quebec and Canada call on us daily to oppose Bill C-36, but it was passed in the House.
Even if we wanted to help them, we can no longer do so. There was a gag order. The Liberal government, unilaterally, put an end to discussions on Bill C-36, the Anti-terrorism Act. Yet, the day after, there was no debate in the House for two hours because there was nothing to debate. This is the harsh reality. We have to live with that every day.
Earlier we had a substantive discussion the hon. member for Champlain initiated on the sad situation of some 278,000 seniors who are deprived of the guaranteed income supplement simply because they are not unaware that they are entitled to it. A House committee, which includes Liberal members, has unanimously put this terrible situation before the House.
Today the hon. member for Champlain wanted to debate the issue. Of course, the government has once again forced, by a vote, an end to the debate. Therefore, we were unable to learn the positions of the members of the Liberal Party, the Canadian Alliance or other opposition parties on this terrible issue where 230,000 seniors, men and women, have been for many years deprived of money they are entitled to. That is the harsh reality members of parliament have to deal with.
We try to initiate debates in the House. Today the government forced us to vote on having the House proceed to the orders of the day. Of course, once again, the harsh reality is that debates will be delayed. Meanwhile, just before the holiday season, there are seniors, men and women, who will not get such big sums, which would ensure them to enjoy a nice holiday season. The Liberal government chose not to hold a debate on this substantive report, which pointed to the existence of this tragic situation.
Again, I thank the Bloc Quebecois member for Champlain, who raised that issue. He held a press conference to highlight this sad situation, where 230,000 Canadians, men and women, including 64,000 Quebecers, who are entitled to income supplement, are not getting that money.
This is over $3.2 billion that the government kept unjustifiably and that belongs to them. The government cannot tell us today that it is unable to reach them. When it wants them to go voting, when it is doing the census, it goes knocking on their doors and gets them.
However, when the time comes to help them and give them what is owed to them—this is not money that they owe the government; it is money that the government owes them—what the Liberal government does is hide the money, through all kinds of forms that are so complicated that, eventually, people are unable to submit them or, in the case of some seniors, they cannot even read them.
These past two weeks have been very difficult for the Liberal government, which is not listening at all to the people, which is not listening at all to the thoughtful and smart recommendations that may come from opposition parties, and even from its own ranks.
I will continue with Bill C-42 that is leading us to Bill C-44.
Bill C-42 was introduced in the House on November 22. We had a difficult debate on this bill. Right from the start, the Bloc Quebecois was able to clearly read the intentions of the government, especially concerning major powers that it is now giving to ministers, and them alone. These are powers delegated to ministers, including the Minister of Environment, the Minister of Agriculture and other ministers in this House, powers to take interim orders without being subject to parliamentary procedure.
In this regard, when regulations are prepared, there is a very important procedure requiring that regulations be submitted to the Privy Council so that it can ensure that they are in accordance with the charter of rights and freedoms. Ministers have been given the power to take interim orders. This obviously goes against the whole parliamentary procedure.
Quebecers and Canadians who are listening should be aware that, were it not for the Bloc Quebecois and other opposition parties, Bill C-42 would have been passed before the holiday season. The government was determined to ram Bill C-42 through the House. Finally, when direct questions were put to the leader of the government by the Bloc Quebecois and others as to what could not have been done on September 11 that could now be done under the bill, no answer was forthcoming.
The only answer we got about Bill C-44 was “The Americans have their requirements. They want to check the information on passengers. If we want Canadian airlines to do business in the United States, they will have to provide the information required by the American government”.
Naturally, we asked questions to the government House leader. Among other things, we asked him why the urgent provisions would not be included in a separate bill, since we have to meet the requirements of the American legislation by January 18. That is why we have Bill C-44 before us today, and I obviously have comments to make on this bill.
But I have more to say about Bill C-42. When this legislation was introduced in the House, we were opposed to these interim orders which, without any input from the House, give discretionary powers to ministers and even allow the Minister of National Defence to create military security zones without the authorization, which has normally always been required, of the provincial governors in council. Thus, it is an exceptional power that is given only to the Minister of National Defence.
For the benefit of our listeners, let me quote from an article published in today's La Presse , that sums up well the position of one Liberal member. Manon Cornellier, from the La Presse bureau in Ottawa, wrote:
If Bill C-42 on public security is not amended, the Liberal member for Mount Royal told Le Devoir that he will have to vote against it. He thus becomes the first government member to show publicly his disagreement with this legislation.
The problem with this legislation is that it upsets the balance between the executive, parliamentary and judiciary arms. More powers are given to the executive.
Of course, the article refers to the Liberal member for Mount Royal, an internationally known lawyer and law teacher at McGill University. The article goes on to say:
A first study of Bill C-42 prompted the member to worry about the provisions that will allow the creation of military security zones and those that will give some ministers the power to issue interim orders without first obtaining the agreement of the cabinet or parliament.
The Liberal member for Mount Royal is adopting the position that was defended from the very first moment here in this House by the Bloc Quebecois. If the Bloc had not been here in the House to defend the interests of Quebecers, today we would be having to live with Bill C-42, a danger for the rights and freedoms of Quebecers. It is dangerous to give ministers the possibility of making interim orders that do not comply with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, or to give the Minister of National Defence the power of imposing his army anywhere in Quebec without being invited to by the Government of Quebec. This is the harsh reality of a government which has made such a decision in the name of a noble cause.
The battle against terrorism throughout the world is a noble cause, and not one single person in Quebec or in Canada is unaffected by it. All of us have been touched by the tragic events that struck our American neighbours on September 11. There is, however, not one single person who is prepared to have all his or her rights taken away because of those events, particularly when the leader of the government, the Prime Minister, is asked “What could you not do on September 11 that you could do now once a bill like Bill C-42 is enacted?” No answer is forthcoming, purely and simply because the government could take action under existing legislation.
The Prime Minister and ministers such as the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of Transport tell us: “The powers contained in Bill C-42 are all ones we have already”. That is false. These are not existing powers, they are new powers the government wants to acquire. Proof of this lies in the statement made by the Liberal member for Mount Royal, quoted in today's La Presse and available for all Quebecers to read.
In this House, it must be understood that the people of Quebec and of Canada are nobody's fools, and they may well be better informed than the ministers and members of the Liberal government.
Opposition members, including Bloc Quebecois members, were very quick in finding out the problems with Bill C-42 and explaining them to the public. The debates did not take place in this House, but outside, in the media. We had to use the media. This is the harsh reality.
Why? Because the government used closure with Bill C-36. The government gagged the opposition to prevent it from getting to the bottom of things and helping Quebecers and Canadians fully understand the scope of Bill C-36. We were gagged. This is why the debates took place outside the House, so much so that every day we still talk to Quebecers and Canadians who ask us to do something to prevent Bill C-36 from coming into effect. But it is too late. The debate was not concluded here in the House. This is why it is still raging in the media. Every day, we read the comments of people who are opposed to Bill C-36. But it is too late. The bill was passed by the government, rushed through by the Liberal majority in the House. This is the reality and this is what Quebecers must understand.
Luckily for Quebecers, we will not have to live with Bill C-42 before the Christmas holiday.
There is no doubt that the government will use closure again if it runs out of time, as was the case this week. We discussed Bill C-42. I am the Bloc Quebecois critic for transport issues. I was contacted. We were told that there was not enough on the legislative agenda and that Bill C-42 would be brought back. It was not even on the agenda that day.
The government brought back this very important bill, which is challenged even by Liberal members, and said “There is not enough on the legislative agenda; therefore, we are bringing back Bill C-42”. We discussed the issue and the debates are underway. I had the opportunity to make a speech on Bill C-42 which is not yet completed. I have 29 minutes left. But what will happen if the government again runs out of things to do before the Christmas holiday? It will again bring back a bill that is extremely controversial and regarding which the Liberal majority still has a lot of work to do. Ministers must try to understand the bill and explain it to their colleagues. The harsh reality is that we will again debate Bill C-42.
I just hope for Quebecers that this is not the Christmas gift the federal government is planning for them. If Bill C-42 were passed before the holidays, that would be quite a lump of coal for them to get in their Christmas stocking. That is what the government is trying to do; it wants to pull a fast one on us by ramming Bill C-42 through the House.
This brings me to Bill C-44 now before us. Again, Bill C-44 was put together in a rush by drawing from Bill C-42 because the Americans want information on passengers on flights to the U.S. or passing through U.S. airspace. It is very understandable that we should discuss the American requirements.
How can the Canadian government distort these requirements? Everything seemed perfectly clear, but I read section 115 of the American legislation passed last November 19. It says:
- Not later than 60 days after the date of enactment of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act,each air carrier and foreign air carrier operating a passenger flight in foreign air transportation to the United States shall provide to the Commissioner of Customs by electronic transmission a passenger and crew manifest containing the information specified in paragraph (2).
(a ) The full name of each passenger and crew member
(b) The date of birth and citizenship of each passenger and crew member
(c) The sex of each passenger and crew member.
(d) The passport number and country of issuance of each passenger and crew member if required for travel.
(e) The United States visa number or resident alien card number of each passenger and crew member, as applicable.
(f ) Such other information as the Under Secretary,in consultation with the Commissioner of Customs, determines is reasonably necessary to ensure aviation safety.
These are the requirements of the American legislation.
Reading Bill C-44, we see that it contains what the Canadian government is asking for. Section 115 of the American legislation gives an explanation of the requirements, that is what information the Americans require.
There is no mention in Bill C-44 of the list of requirements. It states as follows:
4.83 (1) Despite section 5 of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act—
We have legislation to protect the personal information we are obliged to provide and, obviously, we have to deviate from that act:
—to the extent that that section relates to obligations set out in Schedule 1 to that Act...an operator of an aircraft departing from Canada or of a Canadian aircraft departing from any place outside Canada may...provide to a competent authority...any information—
The information is not specified. It is stated that the governor in council may make regulations respecting the type or classes of information that may be provided.
Thus, instead of having a clear and simple bill indicating what information is to be required, it is stated that this will be given in subsequent regulations.
The Bloc Quebecois' first question for the government House leader in connection with Bill C-44 is: Could you provide us with the bill's companion regulations, so that we can have a better idea of Bill C-44? Why is the required information not listed? You plan to put it in regulations? Well then, give us the regulations.
We were promised the regulations for last Friday. The House leader had mentioned an outline and came to tell me that they thought regulations would be better. Then he changed his mind and came back to tell me that we were back to an outline only. We did not receive the regulations on Friday. We received them on Monday, toward the end of the afternoon, so late that we were not able to examine them until the next morning in committee. It was the same for the government members.
We had documents that were given us prior to the committee meeting, but we had not had the time to go through them all individually. There was a pile of material. Even the members of the Liberal majority on the committee had questions. I sincerely believed that we had not received the regulations and they did not even know that they had.
Finally, at some point, an official came to tell the parliamentary secretary that the regulations were included as an attachment to the material.
We then examined the list of regulations and the list of information required. Once again, there was a list, which had been mentioned by the government. But that was not what the parliamentary secretary wanted to talk to us about in committee.
He did not want to talk to us about the regulations. He had an amendment to put forward. Obviously, this is what goes on in committee; we put forward amendments. The amendment was put forward by the government and all the parliamentary secretary had to tell us was “We will get started while we are waiting. There is an amendment on the way and I should have it”.
Finally, we received it during our proceedings, because it was not yet ready. According to an intelligent explanation given by the parliamentary secretary, this amendment came from the privacy commissioner, who had been consulted about Bill C-44 and who had suggested this amendment, which I will read in a minute. Finally, we received the amendment and the privacy commissioner appeared before the committee.
The privacy commissioner had not had the list of information contained in the regulations or in the draft regulations. The commissioner had discussed Bill C-44 without the list of information to be supplied. This bill will allow airline companies to release information about Quebecers and Canadians, and Canada's privacy commissioner had not seen the list of information that would be supplied.
When I asked him if it was important that he have the list, he answered that he had received it 30 minutes before appearing before the committee. I then asked him whether he had it when the bill was being discussed, and he said no. It was not important. It did not matter, when introducing an amendment, to know what information had to be provided to the Americans.
Things have been going badly for the Liberal government for two weeks now, and it kept on going badly for the Standing Committee on Transport. The privacy commissioner was appearing before the committee and, 30 minutes prior to the start of the meeting, the minister did not know what information the Americans were requiring, and what information on Quebec and Canadian citizens we were to provide. This was not important to him. He had even proposed an amendment without knowing what information would be contained in future regulations that the governor in council might pass in the future. Talk about confusing.
When we questioned the privacy commissioner, we asked him “Are you not concerned about the list of information, which you only saw 30 minutes prior to testifying?” He replied, “No, it does not concern us”.
One of the information items, item no. 23 reads as follows:
Airlines could provide passengers' telephone numbers to the Americans.
I have great difficulty in understanding how the privacy commissioner is not concerned that we would be providing the Americans with the telephone numbers of citizens of Quebec and Canada. He himself admitted that such measures could be discussed.
It is important to understand that no regulations have been adopted yet, but once all regulations are, they will come into force immediately. They will not come back to the committee for review until several days later—even up to one year later—at which time the committee will be able to examine the regulations and propose amendments.
I have here the amendment proposed by the privacy commissioner. It is a relevant amendment, and it reads as follows:
No information provided to a competent authority of a foreign state may be collected from that foreign state by the government of Canada or an institution thereof, as defined in section 3 of the Privacy Act, unless the information is collected for the purposes of protecting national security, public safety or defence.
His concern about the information provided to the Americans was that Canada could not request it, except for certain purposes. He had quite a problem with that. The commissioner feared that the Government of Canada might try to obtain the information through the back door.
There was clearly a problem, but not knowing what information was to be provided was not a problem. It was not important. As for the 29 types of information requested by the Americans, besides the phone number, and the fact that so much information could be provided to the Americans about our lives, about what we do and so on, about how the ticket was paid for, whether in cash or on a credit card—the credit card number could even be requested—that was not important for the commissioner. What mattered, however, was that the information provided to American authorities not come back to Canada through the back door.
The nature of the information that we give is not important, as long as it does not come back to Canada. I have a big problem with that. I asked the privacy commissioner “Why did you not present an amendment containing all that is included in the American legislation?” It is the list that I read a few moments ago, the list of information the Americans included in their legislation. They put everything they wanted: the full name of each passenger, the full name of each crew member, their date of birth, and so forth. His answer was “That would not have gone through. If I had proposed that amendment, it would not have been passed”. They would not have included anything contained in the American legislation. He was probably right. That is the reality. They did not want to include what was already in the American legislation. Why?
We asked the House what information was to be provided. The government would not tell us and then agreed to table draft regulations that would include the list. We got the draft regulations two days later than we were supposed to. Its aim was to get them to us so late we would not have time to analyze them. It tabled an amendment in committee so our legal service could not analyze it. That is the reality. That is the way things work in this House.
The privacy commissioner, whose job it is to protect our interests, said “I have not tabled an amendment that would include the list, because I knew it would not be passed, that the government would reject it”.
When I asked him further questions to find out what he was afraid of, he said he was afraid he would no longer be listened to. I had to ask him “Are you afraid of losing your job?” He said he was not. He was not, because he had a seven year mandate. This means there will be someone else after that. I think he is afraid he will not be reappointed. That is the truth of it. That is the way it works. Quebecers and Canadians have to understand that.
The government controls the House of Commons, the Senate, the supreme court and the privacy commissioner. Such is life. This is the way it works. Then the government tables bills and asks us for amendments in committee. The government asks us to table amendments. “You will see”, it says, “we will look at them”. The Bloc Quebecois tabled 66 amendments to the anti-terrorism legislation. As many again were tabled by the other opposition parties. The government did nothing with them. The one accepted, in the case of the Bloc Quebecois, was the one that added the word “cemetery” to the list of heinous crimes. They agreed to add the word “cemetery”. I am very grateful. This is the reality.
Quebecers must understand that this government controls everything, from start to finish. I realize the Prime Minister says “I have no problem. If you have a problem with this bill, challenge it in court”. I will not say what I think, I could be accused of all sorts of things. I have a good idea what will happen. I have no doubt that, when the Prime Minister says there is no problem, he knows that in advance. He controls everything in this country. It is no problem, that is the way it works.
We must examine Bill C-44. We are only at report stage and we will have some tough questions for the government on this bill and on Bill C-42.
I have a message for those who are listening to us: keep sending us e-mails and letters telling us that you do not want Bill C-36 to be implemented by the government, even though it has already passed it. Bill C-36 is now in effect. You can be sure that the government will not amend it. The government will wait until a colossal blunder occurs before acting on the recommendations made by the 80 witnesses who appeared before the committee, and by opposition parties. These recommendations were perfectly acceptable and included a sunset clause, a clause providing for an annual review like the one included in similar legislation throughout the world.
The harsh reality is that the current Liberal government has decided to control everything, including the House of Commons, the other place, the supreme court, the office of the privacy commissioner and all the institutions in this country that should protect our interests.
I cannot get over the fact that, as regards Bill C-44, the privacy commissioner, who proposed an amendment that was accepted by the government, did not want to propose another one whereby the information to be provided to the Americans would have been listed. He did not make that suggestion because, as he said, the government would not have accepted it.
The Americans are smart enough to include such a provision in their legislation, but not us. We must trust the government in making regulations that will be adopted, as provided under the bill, by the governor in council. And these regulations will specify the types or classes of information.
We are given the list of the 29 types of information to be included in the regulations, but we do not have any say in the process. That information will be included in the regulations, which will then be submitted to the committee in a few months.
Meanwhile, the rights and freedoms of Canadians will have been infringed on by a government that does not have any backbone and that wants increasingly more power to control everyone.
The government surely figured that with $30 million, given the number of federal public servants, it could divide them and control them all. This is what the Liberal government is doing.
On that note, I hope that all members will have a nice Christmas holiday and that Liberal Party members will take this opportunity to do some soul searching and make good resolutions for the year 2002, because they are ending 2001 on a very bad note.