Mr. Speaker, I would like to rise in this debate to pick up on some points that were raised by the member for St. John's West; that is the whole area of interim orders and how these they may interfere with our liberty as Canadian citizens.
More than one speaker in the House, including the member for St. John's West, has asked why do we need interim orders. Do we not already have enough rules, laws, regulations and authorities? Also the argument was made that these interim orders would of course interfere with the liberty of Canadian citizens.
Given the importance of this topic I want to enter the debate and provide my thoughts on the whole area.
When we consider, and the previous speaker spoke so eloquently on this issue, the operation of an aircraft, the transportation of a substance such a chlorine, the use of explosives, the central concern for safety in Canada is what I would call the law of physics and the competency of the people who operate these devices.
We in the House of Commons and in the various provincial legislatures have numerous pages of regulations, laws and standards guiding the construction and the operation of an airport, the construction of railway tank cars for the movement of noxious substances and for the manufacture, distribution and transportation of explosives. There is one thing in common with these items. That is the bulk of our existing laws and regulations, whether they be infectious substances, or aircraft operations, or ship operations or pest control products, have been established to ensure our safety as Canadian citizens.
I observe that an accident which arises, even though everyone intended to do the right thing, is a failure to maintain safety.
In contrast, when we deal with terrorism activities, I observe that the event which arises, arises because at least one person, and in most instances we are talking about more than one person, has intended to do the wrong thing and that also equally is a failure to maintain security.
We have extensive requirements, as we should, to protect public safety, developed over the years through experience, theory and research and we have extensive requirements with respect to the human element, the training that is required.
Therefore we achieve success with safety because we are able as a civil society to protect how materials will behave during use and what training is appropriate for the human component.
In short, the laws of physics are sufficiently well known to allow us as legislators to develop very solid safety requirements.
However in contrast, the motivation of terrorists and the ways in which they can misuse explosives, chemicals and even means of transport, such as an aircraft, is very much open ended. One only need watch recent films to see ways in which ordinary items can become a threat to public safety when deliberately misused.
In a peaceful community we might suggest that food, clothing, shelter should not from a safety point of view cause us undue concern. However I point out the incident involving Timothy McVeigh. He mixed a fertilizer used to produce that food with fuel oil used to ensure our shelter was comfortably heated and bombed, as everyone here knows, a government building out of existence in Oklahoma City.
The point I am making is this. The most striking contrast between threats to safety and threats to security is that while the former can be predicted to an extent, according to statistical and physical principles and what has gone on in the past, a security attack is not clearly predictable in terms of who, the location or elements of the attack.
When each of us got out of bed on September 11 last year, no one predicted the extent of the attack which was to occur that mid-morning. I am sure each of us could develop a very extensive list of where we as a society would be personally vulnerable should one or more than one person desire or wish to seriously upset our lives, including becoming the target of a sniper.
My point is similar to ones made in this assembly by other speakers. It is the totality of the “what if” scenarios that presents an overwhelming burden that will try to protect ourselves from all the possibilities that are out there. Just where would we start? More important, where would we end up?
First, we could have a curfew with everyone in their residence by 9:00 or 10:00 at night. This might keep all the criminals off the street. Would it be desirable? Absolutely not. Do we establish regulations today for all future eventualities? No. Even if we could be twisted enough in our thinking to conceive of all possible forms of attack, would we consider suicide bombers entering schools or the release of highly contagious agents in shopping centres? There is no doubt that this government as well as future ones will continue to introduce new legislation and the Special Committee of Council will continue to review new regulations.
My point is that we have not attained, even for normal activities, a state of perfect knowledge and perfect regulatory instruments. Nor will that ever be attained in a dynamic and viable culture.
Equally, even if we could list all the areas in which we may be vulnerable, we could not possibly list all the ways in which attempts could be made to exploit one or more of these vulnerabilities. Even if we could, how would we ever possibly enact the number of draconian laws that would be necessary to protect us as a society?
Again, I come back to the events of September 11, 2001 and the very significant lesson that was learned by society at that time. The impact in Canada of such an attack in the United States had not been previously studied by Transport Canada. Nevertheless, as it unfolded, immediate decision points arose and had to be accommodated immediately.
As we will recall, the first immediate decision was to close Canadian air space in an orderly fashion. Fortunately the text of the Aeronautics Act provided for the Minister of Transport the ability to do this. I would like to point out that a delay of an hour in light of the unfolding events that were occurring that day would not have been acceptable. For each minute that passed, one or two aircraft crossing the Atlantic became Canada's responsibility as they crossed the no-return line. The important lesson that was learned, and the point I am trying to make today, was that an immediate decision was required. Fortunately in that case, the authority was present and the decision could be made.
I want to summarize two key points. In the context of terrorist attacks, we cannot predict all events which might arise and which would require an immediate decision. Second, even if we could predict all potential events, would we want to put into effect all possible preventive measures?
These interim orders are required to deal with emergencies. We cannot predict the emergencies and we cannot predict the way they will be carried out. Therefore, I support the legislation and I urge all my colleagues on both sides of the House to support the legislation.