Mr. Speaker, I am rising to make a few comments on the amendments, known as Bill C-17, to the Explosives Act.
My remarks will be in two parts. The first part will deal primarily with the inexplosive ammunition component that is in Bill C-17. No matter how many times the government renumbers and reintroduces this bill, the proposed amendments to the Explosives Act do not change and consequently we continue to oppose them. Our rationale for opposing these amendments does not change either. I wish the government would listen but nothing has changed.
The federal government is using the September 11 terrorist attack as an excuse for continuing its anti-gun, anti-hunting, anti-farmer, anti-sports shooter, anti-firearms collector, anti-historical re-enactor, anti-licensed firearms and ammunitions dealer, anti-guides and outfitters, and anti-aboriginal hunting rights agenda. These are the honest, law-abiding, taxpaying Canadians that the Liberals have targeted with these 10 pages of proposed Explosives Act amendments.
These amendments were so urgent that the Liberals have waited five years to bring them before Parliament. it was on November 14, 1997, that former deputy prime minister, Herb Gray, signed the Organization of American States inter-American convention against the illicit manufacturing and trafficking in firearms, ammunition, explosives and other related materials in Washington, D.C. If anyone needs any more proof of the government's anti-gun agenda, former deputy prime minister Herb Gray, when he signed the OAS convention in Washington in 1997, said:
This could be the start of a global movement that would spur the development of an instrument to ban firearms worldwide that would be similar to our land-mines initiative.
That comes from the Montreal Gazette of November 15, 1997, under the heading “Canada signs deal to curb illegal sales of guns”.
The government already has control over the explosive part of bullets and shells, namely gunpowder. What possible public safety, anti-terrorism objective can be achieved by controlling parts of ammunition that cannot go anywhere without the gunpowder? There is none. These proposed amendments to control inexplosive ammunition components are plain and simple government harassment of the tens of thousands of responsible firearms owners who happen to load their own bullets and shells for their own legal recreation and sport.
Terrorists and their deadly operations would remain unaffected and undeterred by these amendments. Explosives are easily obtained by terrorists through criminal means and just as easily manufactured with everyday materials that are available in most food and hardware stores.
The only part of the bill that is any good at all is the increased penalties for the criminal use of explosives. The trouble with these sections is that they are most likely going to hit the wrong target by potentially criminalizing tens of thousands of law-abiding citizens who load their own ammunition for their legal pastimes and sports. Instead of writing the law the way the government intended, the government assures all concerned:
The people responsible for applying the amended act do not think that the proposed measures will interfere with supplies for hunters and people who manufacture their own agenda.
If that is what the government means, then why does the government not say who these laws are intended for and exempt everyone else? It does not do that. The danger of these amendments was pointed out in a Library of Parliament research paper prepared on January 18, 2002. The lawyers reported:
Those who presently make their own ammunition are already regulated under the Explosives Act since an explosive (gunpowder) is a regulated product. Thus, licences are currently required, for example, to import explosives. Clause 36 would replace section 9 of the current Explosives Act by requiring a permit to import, to export and to transport in transit through Canada not only for explosives but also for inexplosive ammunition components.
That is what I so strongly object to.
Consequently, law-abiding citizens who manufacture their own ammunition could end up being charged with the new offences proposed in these amendments, offences that call for fines of up to $500,000, or half a million dollars, and imprisonment for up to five years in jail if someone has these inexplosive components. Offences that are targeting law-abiding Canadians in this act include: acquiring, possessing, selling, offering for sale, transporting or delivering any illicit inexplosive ammunition component and making or manufacturing any explosive from an illicitly trafficked inexplosive ammunition component.
The government has not told us how it thinks anyone can make an explosive from an inexplosive ammunition component. The definition in the act states:
“inexplosive ammunition component” means any cartridge case or bullet, or any projectile that is used in a firearm as defined in section 2 of the Criminal Code.
Even the government's own definition clearly demonstrates that no one could possibly make an explosive out of an “inexplosive ammunition component”.
Before we proceed any further with these amendments, Parliament needs to hear testimony in committee from firearms and explosives experts. Maybe if the government had consulted with the firearms community it might have avoided another showdown with law-abiding gun owners in this country. Obviously the government has not learned any lessons from the colossal failure of Bill C-68, the firearms registry bill.
I want to read into the record today the words of a well-known firearms expert. Dave Tomlinson has been acknowledged by dozens of courts in Canada as an expert witness on firearms and firearms law. Here is what Mr. Tomlinson said after reading the proposed “inexplosive ammunition component” amendments in Bill C-17:
It will be a criminal offence to take an empty cartridge case or a warped and twisted fired bullet picked up at a shooting range into or out of Canada. Inadvertent presence of one or more of those items--in quantities of one inert empty cartridge case or one inert and unusable bullet--in the trunk of your car or the back of your pickup truck will be grounds for criminal prosecution. It will probably also be grounds for confiscation of your vehicle, and giving you a criminal record. How does that enhance homeland security? Public safety? World peace? How does it create any problem for any criminal engaged in any criminal activity? Criminals are not handloaders. If they want ammunition, they buy it from smugglers--who import whole cartridges, because that is what their criminal customers want. This is a typical example of the muddleheadedness of the Liberals.
At the appropriate time during this debate I would like to move amendments to remove all of these references to the “inexplosive ammunition component” from the proposed amendments to the Explosives Act, and we will do that.
I would like to conclude this part of my speech by saying that the government has wasted a lot of money on the gun registry and now it is going to begin another huge paper-shuffling exercise. It is going to be another huge waste of money.
The last time, the government said that if we had a gun registry we would reduce the criminal use of guns and prevent smuggling. That is exactly the opposite of what is happening. The smuggling is increasing and the criminal use of firearms is increasing.
Would it not make a lot more sense to target the terrorists and to spend the money gathering intelligence about their activities rather than hassling law-abiding citizens? Terrorists do not use inexplosives, empty cartridges, in their activities. The people the government will spend time and resources on will be law-abiding people. This money could be spent much more profitably by improving public security rather than regulating inexplosive components.
I now would like to go on to the second part of my speech, which is on a completely different topic. I would like to read into the record a news release put out by the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, George Radwanski. He released this statement a couple of weeks ago.
Before I begin reading it, I would remind everyone listening that this gentleman was appointed by the Liberal Prime Minister. He is a former editor-in-chief of The Toronto Star , so he is not exactly a card-carrying Alliance member. He said:
Since last May, I have expressed extremely grave concerns about one provision of what was then Bill C-55, the federal Government’s Public Safety Act. This same provision has now been reintroduced, with only minimal and unsatisfactory change, in the replacement legislation, Bill C-17.
The provision in question, section 4.82 of both bills, would give the RCMP and CSIS unrestricted access to the personal information held by airlines about all Canadian air travellers on domestic as well as international flights.
I have raised no objection to the primary purpose of this provision, which is to enable the RCMP and CSIS to use this passenger information for anti-terrorist “transportation security” and “national security” screening. But my concern is that the RCMP would also be expressly empowered to use this information to seek out persons wanted on warrants for Criminal Code offences that have nothing to do with terrorism, transportation security or national security.
The implications of this are extraordinarily far-reaching.
In Canada, it is well established that we are not required to identify ourselves to police unless we are being arrested or we are carrying out a licensed activity such as driving. The right to anonymity with regard to the state is a crucial privacy right. Since we are required to identify ourselves to airlines as a condition of air travel and since section 4.82 would give the RCMP unrestricted access to the passenger information obtained by airlines, this would set the extraordinarily privacy-invasive precedent of effectively requiring compulsory self-identification to the police.
I am prepared, with some reluctance, to accept this as an exceptional measure that can be justified, in the wake of September 11, for the limited and specific purposes of aviation security and national security against terrorism. But I can find no reason why the use of this de facto self-identification to the police should be extended to searching for individuals who are of interest to the state because they are the subject of warrants for Criminal Code offences unrelated to terrorism. That has the same effect as requiring us to notify the police every time we travel, so that they can check whether we are wanted for something.
If the police were able to carry out their regular Criminal Code law enforcement duties without this new power before September 11, they should likewise be able to do so now. The events of September 11 were a great tragedy and a great crime; they should not be manipulated into becoming an opportunity--an opportunity to expand privacy-invasive police powers for purposes that have nothing to do with anti-terrorism.
If we accept the principle that air travellers within Canada can in effect be forced by law to identify themselves to police for scrutiny against lists of wanted suspects, then there is nothing to prevent the same logic from being applied in future to other modes of transportation. Particularly since this provision might well discourage wanted individuals from travelling by air, why not extend the same scrutiny to train travellers, bus passengers or anyone renting a car? Indeed, the precedent set by this provision could ultimately open the door to practices similar to those that exist in societies where police routinely board trains, establish roadblocks or stop people on the street to check identification papers in search of anyone of interest to the state.
The place to draw the line in protecting the fundamental human right of privacy is at the very outset, at the first unjustifiable intrusion. In this instance, that means amending the bill to remove all reference to warrants and thus limit the police to matching passenger information against anti-terrorism and national security databases.
The concerns that I have raised in this matter since last spring have been publicly endorsed by the Information and Privacy Commissioner of British Columbia and the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario; by members of every party in the House of Commons, notably including a member of the government's own Liberal caucus who is an internationally recognized expert on human rights, [the member for Mount Royal]; and by editorials and newspapers, including the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, the Vancouver Sun, the Vancouver Province, the Calgary Herald and the Edmonton Journal.
These concerns are now being ignored by the government.
The changes that have been made in this provision in the new bill do nothing to address the fundamental issues of principle that are at stake.
The Government now proposes to have regulations limiting the Criminal Code offence warrants for which the RCMP will be searching. But this does nothing to address the fundamental point of principle that the police have no business using this extraordinary access to personal information to search for people wanted on warrants for any offences unrelated to terrorism.
As well, in the new bill the Government has removed the “identification of persons for whom a warrant has been issued” as a “purpose” for accessing passenger information under the legislation. But this is meaningless--indeed, disingenuous--since the RCMP would remain empowered to match this information against a database of persons wanted on warrants and to use such matches to bring about arrests. It insults the intelligence of Canadians to suggest, as the Government does in its press release accompanying the bill, that the RCMP may “incidentally” come upon individuals wanted on Criminal Code warrants--if the police are to match names of passengers against a database of individuals wanted on Criminal Code warrants, there can be nothing “incidental” about finding them.
Since the original Bill C-55 was introduced, I have used every means at my disposal to make the crucially important privacy issues that are at stake known and understood by all the Ministers and top Government officials who are involved in this matter. I regret that I have not, to date, been successful in obtaining an appropriate response from them, though I will certainly continue my efforts. It is now up to Parliament to explain to these people that privacy is a fundamental human right of Canadians that must be respected, rather than treated with the apparent indifference that the Government is showing.
That is the end of a very lengthy quotation. I would hope that the government would take to heart the comments of the privacy commissioner, who is here to serve all Canadians through Parliament.
I will conclude with one question. The government must answer this question before it proceeds. Why is it ignoring the privacy commissioner's comments? Why? I would like to have an answer from the government.
Also, on the first part of my speech, why is it not removing wholly the number of references to inexplosive components in the firearms act?