House of Commons Hansard #27 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was disabled.


Leonard PeltierPrivate Members' Business

5:15 p.m.


Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB


That this House condemn as unacceptable the extradition of Leonard Peltier to the United States from Canada on the basis of false information filed with a Canadian court by American authorities, and that this House call on the government to seek the return of Mr. Peltier to Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I am always amazed at the power we have over time in this place.

In rising today to speak to Motion No. 232, a motion in my name asking that the House condemn as unacceptable the extradition of Leonard Peltier to the United States from Canada, I am standing in a long tradition of other MPs who have raised this issue in the House in the past.

I recall one member in particular whom I would like to mention, the former hon. member for Skeena, Jim Fulton, who concerned himself with this issue at one time. I remember the entire NDP caucus being supportive of the efforts that Mr. Fulton was making at that time with respect to this same issue.

Unfortunately, there has been no positive development in this case that would lead to the freeing of Mr. Peltier or his return to Canada as the motion calls for. I would like to review briefly the history of this issue.

Leonard Peltier is in prison and has been in prison for 26 years. Mr. Peltier was first extradited from Canada in 1976. He had fled to Canada after being implicated in the shooting of two FBI agents in a standoff on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota.

Pine Ridge has a long history as a symbol of protest against the treatment of native Americans by the United States government. It was at Pine Ridge that the Wounded Knee massacre took place in which 300 Sioux were massacred by U.S. army troops in 1890. It was at Pine Ridge in 1973 that the American Indian movement led a protest and standoff against the United States government to air their grievances.

Mr. Peltier was an activist with the American Indian movement and was invited to Pine Ridge in the aftermath of Wounded Knee in order to bear witness and work with the community in healing itself and standing up for the rights to which it was entitled. It was in doing this that Mr. Peltier was implicated in the shooting of two FBI agents.

The full weight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation was brought to bear in order to ensure that someone would be convicted of the murder of the two FBI agents. This case has been studied over the years and it appears that the FBI withheld and ignored important evidence that would have cleared Mr. Peltier and that it fabricated evidence in order to convict him. One could argue that Leonard Peltier has become a political prisoner and hostage to the ongoing unwillingness of the American government and the FBI to admit that they mishandled the situation at Wounded Knee at that particular time.

Mr. Peltier took refuge in Canada, I presume because he felt he would not get a fair trial if he stayed in the United States. It turns out that he was right. The FBI that fabricated or manufactured the evidence that persuaded the Canadian government to extradite him was the same FBI that was responsible for the evidence in his prosecution.

When Mr. Peltier was extradited from Canada, much of the evidence as I said, including the most damning evidence of all, turned out to be manufactured. It is this evidence that he was extradited on, particularly the claim that Mr. Peltier's alleged girlfriend witnessed the acts in question. This was good enough for the court at the time and he was extradited to the United States where he was convicted.

Over the past 26 years, evidence has regularly come up casting doubts on Mr. Peltier's guilt. The witness who claimed that she was Mr. Peltier's girlfriend later recanted her testimony and admitted that she did not even know him. Other witnesses who had testified against him during his trial recanted their evidence and claimed that they had been coerced by the FBI. Physical evidence such as ballistics reports have been found to be incorrect.

What we have here is a case in which the evidence used to convict Mr. Peltier becomes more suspect as time goes on. It seems to me it is way past the point where something should be done about this. They are not identical cases, but we certainly have seen more and more cases in Canada and elsewhere in the world where people who have served lengthy prison terms have been set free because evidence has been reviewed and has been found to be faulty. It seems that Mr. Peltier, certainly in my judgment and in the judgment of a great many other people, falls into the category of a person who deserves this kind of consideration.

Why are we talking about this in the Canadian Parliament? As I said, the Canadian government is complicit in Mr. Peltier's continued detention because it was the Canadian government that extradited Mr. Peltier and it was the Canadian government that threw its continuing silence on this issue. It has abdicated all responsibility for his continued incarceration.

As I said, the evidence presented in the Canadian court by the United States government was long ago shown to be inadequate, yet the Canadian government has raised no voice in protest. The Canadian government has chosen not to advocate for Mr. Peltier even though the Canadian government is in a unique position to do so because it is as a result of Canadian action that he was available for prosecution in the first place.

Two years ago the Canadian Leonard Peltier Defence Committee and the Osgoode Hall law school conducted an inquiry into the case. It was chaired by Justice Fred Kaufman, a Canadian jurist who has extensive experience in conducting inquiries into wrongful convictions. This inquiry found without a doubt that the evidence used to extradite Mr. Peltier was falsified and insufficient.

The key extradition witness, Myrtle Poor Bear, testified that the FBI coerced her into signing false affidavits stating she witnessed Leonard Peltier murder two FBI agents. Classified FBI communiqués and other briefs were presented that supported her highly persuasive statements. It has become clear that there is no sufficient reliable evidence to support Leonard Peltier's extradition and subsequent conviction for murder. This fraudulent extradition marked the beginning of what one could argue is the FBI's deliberate obstruction of justice.

Referring to Poor Bear's recanted testimony, Justice Kaufman concluded:

I am satisfied that if this had been known when the extradition hearing took place, the request to extradite Peltier would likely have been refused.

It is not as if the government has not had the grounds on which to act. It is not as if it has not had some chance to clear up this situation.

In 1999 the justice department finished its own inquiry into this issue and somehow found that there was other circumstantial evidence that was used to extradite Mr. Peltier, though it is unclear what that circumstantial evidence was. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice is here. Perhaps he could enlighten us on what the government was talking about.

Be that as it may, in the light of the Kaufman inquiry conducted one year after the justice department review was finished, the Prime Minister, in a response to a letter from Justice Kaufman, agreed to refer the recommendations of the inquiry to the justice minister. Nothing has come of this and there is no indication that the minister will take any action.

I was talking to a journalist earlier today after a press conference that I and the House leader of the official opposition had this morning. I was told by the journalist that the Minister of Justice had been approached on this issue and the journalist had been told that the Minister of Justice had no intention of reviewing the case. I hope that the parliamentary secretary is here to tell us that is not true, but we shall wait and see.

If the government does not want to agree with the motion, the motion is not votable anyway, but why not take some action that would redeem, if not necessarily the situation that Mr. Peltier finds himself in, at least the reputation of Canada as a place where people can receive justice and not be returned to an authority that has manufactured evidence in order to secure an extradition?

I also hope that the case of Mr. Peltier might be an opportunity for some reflection and instruction on our part. We live in a time post-September 11 where there may be other people who are the object of the attention of the FBI or of the American authorities. While I want the appropriate authorities to have the ability to find the real terrorists, it worries me when I look back on a situation like this one and I see that the FBI has had a tendency not only to manufacture evidence when it wants to produce a captive or it wants to produce someone it has caught but it also never recants and it stands by its mistake forever.

It has been standing by this mistake for 26 years now and Mr. Peltier has been in prison for that length of time.

We should, at the very least, receive some motivation for skepticism. I would say to the government, if there are Canadians who are implicated in certain things in the next little while, please be skeptical and practise due diligence when it comes to the evidence that is being forwarded by the FBI. Let us stand instructed by our experience of what happened to Leonard Peltier when there is a political dimension to what is otherwise regarded as a criminal event. That political dimension can often create a dynamic that does not exactly result in justice being served.

I hope this debate, even though it is not votable depending on what members say, might become one more contribution to the ongoing struggle to have justice done in the case of Leonard Peltier. I hope that he might take some comfort from the fact that the House of Commons is debating his situation and his future. One thing I have noticed over the years, in advocating for political prisoners, is that when I have met them later, when they have been freed for a variety of reasons, they have had occasion to tell me and others who advocated on their behalf how much it meant to them to know that somebody cared, that somebody had not forgotten about the fact that they were languishing in some prison somewhere.

I hope the defence committee might be able to convey at least those supportive remarks that are made in this chamber today, or perhaps even the remarks of the parliamentary secretary, so that others might know better the position of the Canadian government in this respect.

In any event, we have waited long enough. I hope that in the future no other member of Parliament has to bring such a motion before the House again or some similar motion having to do with this because I hope that at some point something will be done. Without prejudice as to what exactly happened in Pine Ridge in 1976, the fact of the matter is that there is also an argument for mercy or clemency, given the length of the sentence. Many people have served much shorter sentences.

I regret that President Clinton did not have the moral fortitude to pardon Leonard Peltier, as many had hoped he might in the dying days of his presidency. Instead he chose to pardon a whole bunch of other people, friends and what not, many of whom we might want to argue about their worthiness for such pardons.

In my judgment this would have been a real opportunity for the president, not just to have done something for Leonard Peltier but to have done something that would heal the relationship between aboriginal people in the United States of America and their government because this is part of an ongoing saga between aboriginal people in North America generally and their governments.

We are no strangers in this country to confrontational events that happen between the Canadian government, the Canadian army, as they were at Oka, and the aboriginal leadership. For the Canadian government to acknowledge its fault or its complicity in creating the situation in which Mr. Peltier finds himself, would be a step not just in the right direction for Mr. Peltier, but would also be a welcome symbolic sign on the part of the Canadian government that it understands the need for a different kind of relationship with aboriginal people in this country.

Leonard PeltierPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Northumberland Ontario


Paul MacKlin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to respond to Motion No. 232 introduced by the hon. member for Winnipeg--Transcona. The motion calls for the government to condemn as unacceptable the extradition of Leonard Peltier to the United States from Canada on the basis of false information filed with a Canadian court by American authorities, and calls on the government to seek the return of Mr. Peltier to Canada.

I certainly share the concern that the legal rights of individuals must be respected whenever they come into contact with the Canadian justice system. However let me state at the outset that I do not support the motion of the hon. member for Winnipeg--Transcona for a number of reasons, and I will explain.

Mr. Peltier was extradited from Canada in December 1976 on two counts of murder, one count of attempted murder and one count of burglary in connection with the June 1975 murders of two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Indian Reserve in South Dakota. For purposes of the extradition hearing, American authorities produced two affidavits of Ms. Myrtle Poor Bear who claimed to be an eyewitness to Mr. Peltier's participation in these murders. She also testified to admissions made by Mr. Peltier subsequent to the shootings which implicated him in them. These are the documents referred to by the hon. member for Winnipeg--Transcona as being the false information.

Mr. Peltier was committed for extradition following a hearing at which circumstantial evidence against him, in addition to the direct evidence of Ms. Poor Bear, was tendered.

It is important to remember that the purpose of an extradition hearing is not to determine the guilt or innocence. It is to determine the sufficiency of evidence for the purpose of extradition only. An extradition judge cannot assess the quality or reliability of evidence. That is a matter for the trial judge and jury.

It is also important to remember that it is inappropriate to comment on the judicial proceeding of a foreign country.

Shortly before his appeal from committal was heard by the Federal Court of Appeal, a third affidavit of Ms. Poor Bear, which predated the two used at the extradition hearing, was produced by Mr. Peltier's counsel. This third affidavit was inconsistent with the other two affidavits to the extent that Ms. Poor Bear stated that she left the Pine Ridge Reserve before the shooting took place.

The Federal Court of Appeal refused to admit this third affidavit into evidence and dismissed Mr. Peltier's appeal from committal. At that time, Mr. Peltier did not seek leave to appeal this decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Subsequent to the decision of the Federal Court of Appeal, Mr. Peltier made oral and written submissions to the then minister of justice, requesting that his surrender be refused. After considering the extradition request, including all three affidavits of Ms. Poor Bear together with Mr. Peltier's submissions and satisfying himself that Mr. Peltier would receive a fair trial and not be subjected to the death penalty, the then minister ordered Mr. Peltier's surrender to the U.S. authorities.

Subsequent to his return to the United States in 1977, a jury convicted Mr. Peltier on two counts of first degree murder. Myrtle Poor Bear did not testify at Mr. Peltier's trial. Mr. Peltier received two life sentences, which he continues to serve at Leavenworth Prison. The United States Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court have consistently upheld Mr. Peltier's convictions.

In 1989 Mr. Peltier sought leave to appeal the 1976 decision of the Federal Court of Appeal in the Supreme Court of Canada. The evidence used in support of Mr. Peltier's application included all three affidavits of Ms. Poor Bear and new evidence that was not available at the time of the Federal Court of Appeal hearing. Once again, counsel for Mr. Peltier argued that there was fraud and misconduct on the part of U.S. authorities, including the withholding of the third affidavit of Ms. Poor Bear. The Supreme Court of Canada refused to grant Mr. Peltier's application.

Mr. Peltier has exhausted all his means of appeal in Canada.

The Department of Justice conducted an extensive review of its file pursuant to request made in 1994 by the then justice minister. This departmental review was carried out in response to allegations that Mr. Peltier's extradition was based on fraud and misconduct on the part of the American authorities.

In October 1999 the departmental review was completed. At that time the subsequent justice minister concluded that Mr. Peltier was lawfully extradited to the United States. This subsequent minister found that there was no evidence that came to light since Mr. Peltier's extradition that justified a conclusion that the decisions of the Canadian courts and the Minister of Justice who ordered the surrender should be interfered with. This subsequent minister determined that, given the test for committal for extradition, the circumstantial evidence presented at the extradition hearing taken alone constituted sufficient evidence to justify Mr. Peltier's committal on the two murder charges.

Among other things, the review considered in detail the issue of the affidavits of Myrtle Poor Bear. These affidavits were relied upon by the extradition judge in ordering Mr. Peltier's committal and constituted the only direct evidence against Mr. Peltier in the extradition.

The review concluded that even without the Poor Bear affidavits, there was sufficient evidence in the extradition packet to justify Mr. Peltier's extradition and that the extradition was lawful. The review also noted that there had never been a judicial finding in either Canada or the United States that Mr. Peltier's extradition was obtained by fraud.

The departmental review and conclusions were sent to the attorney general of the United States and were made available to the public.

No new evidence has come to light since October 1999, when the department's review was concluded. This issue is now one for the U.S. authorities. Mr. Peltier was tried by judge and jury, and all jurisdictions in the United States have had the opportunity to examine Mr. Peltier's submission.

In light of the departmental review that took place in 1999 and given the absence of new facts since then, I am satisfied that Mr. Peltier was lawfully extradited to the United States.

In conclusion, I have provided a number of very good reasons why I cannot support Motion No. 232. The motion fails to appreciate the departmental review which was concluded in 1999 as well as the appeals both in Canada and in the United States.

Leonard PeltierPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, in the absence of the other parties taking their speaking spots, I will be happy to join in this debate regarding Leonard Peltier, a political prisoner for 26 years in the United States. I thank the member for Winnipeg—Transcona for raising the issue in the House of Commons and giving us this opportunity.

It is my position that Leonard Peltier should never have been put in prison. Even if there were grounds, the point has been made that after 26 years the United States government should free Leonard Peltier on basic humanitarian or compassionate grounds .

This is a tragic story. It was on June 26, 1975 that two FBI agents, Jack Coler and Ron Williams, entered the Jumping Bull Ranch, a private property. They allegedly sought to arrest a young native American man who they believed had been seen in a red pickup truck. At that time a large number of American Indian movement members were camping on the property and many non-AIM members were there as well.

A shootout began between the red pickup and the pickup truck carrying the two FBI agents. When the skirmish ended, two FBI agents were dead. They had been wounded and then someone shot them at close range through the head.

Today the United States government admits that no one knows who fired the fatal shots. The red pickup truck has never been seen again and has never been found.

More than 30 American Indian movement men, women and children present on the ranch were then surrounded by 150 FBI agents, SWAT team members and local posse members. They barely escaped through a hail of bullets. When the gunfight ended, a young native American named Joe Stuntz also lay dead, shot through the head by a sniper bullet. His killing was never investigated and no one was ever found at fault.

This bit of history is the beginning of the issue. We and many people around the world believe that the United States government overreacted at Wounded Knee. What happened was the culmination of three years of violence. In the years 1973 to 1975 over 60 American Indian movement members were murdered in and around Pine Ridge. Over 300 were harassed, beaten and otherwise violated. This level of rancour was building slowly over many years and this was the culmination of it.

Leonard Peltier was one of the several high level AIM leaders who were present at the shootout. As was stated, murder charges were brought against him as well as two of his friends and colleagues, Dino Butler and Bob Robideau who had been present throughout the incident. Butler and Robideau stood trial separately from Mr. Peltier because he fled the United States to Canada convinced that he would never receive a fair trial given the three years of violence they had lived through.

At the trial of Butler and Robideau a key prosecution witness admitted that he had been threatened by the FBI and as a result changed his testimony. The jury found both men not guilty. They found there was no evidence to link the defendants with the fatal shots. Moreover, they said that the exchange of gunfire from a distance was deemed to have constituted an act of self-defence. The two people who stood trial for the murders were found not guilty and released because the shooting was deemed to be an act of self-defence.

Mr. Leonard Peltier was extradited from Canada on the basis of an affidavit signed by Myrtle Poor Bear, a local native American woman known to have serious mental problems. As was mentioned, she claimed to have been Mr. Peltier's girlfriend and to have been present and witnessed the shooting. As it turns out, both were false. She had never met Mr. Peltier and she was not present at the ranch at the time of the shooting. The judge barred her testimony at the trial on the grounds of mental incompetence but nothing had ever been done about the illegal extradition, what we are saying was a wrongful extradition, in that the same evidence that could not be admitted during the trial because it was so flawed was used to justify the extradition.

No known witnesses exist as to the actual shooting of the FBI agents Coler and Williams. Three adolescents gave inconclusive and vague testimonies, contradicting their own earlier statements. All three of them later admitted that they had been seriously threatened and intimidated by FBI agents to tell this story, and all later recanted their story.

What is perhaps most frightening is the gerrymandering of critical ballistic information which would have proved, without doubt, Mr. Peltier's innocence. This ballistic information was withheld from the defence team making a fair trial impossible. Specifically, at the trial, the FBI ballistic agent testified that he had been unable to perform the best tests, the firing pin test, on certain casings because the rifle in question had been damaged in a fire. Years later they did perform a secondary type of testing to mark scratches by the extractor but it was a far less conclusive test.

However, years later, documents obtained through the freedom of information act showed that in October 1975 a firing pin ballistic test had indeed been performed on that very rifle and the results were clearly negative. This evidence was withheld and was never given to the defence attorney.

The government of the United States undertook the modern day equivalent of a lynching. Two police officers were dead under tragic circumstances and someone had to pay. I think all of us here would be disappointed at the degree to which the FBI was involved in framing and setting up Leonard Peltier so someone would take the fall for this terrible and tragic murder.

At the appellant hearing, the United States attorney himself said:

We had a murder, we had numerous shooters, we do not know who specifically fired what killing shots...we do not know, quote unquote, who shot the agents.

That was a direct quote from the United States prosecuting attorney in this case. Yet Leonard Peltier has spent 26 years in prison, almost as long, as I am reminded, as the 27 years that Nelson Mandela was a political prisoner in South Africa.

When we raise the idea of releasing Mr. Peltier on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, there is another compelling reason why the American government should be interested in granting clemency. A terrible wound has developed in the relationship between aboriginal people and the government in the United States. Leonard Peltier has grown in status as a martyr figure, that he has been unfairly persecuted. He has come to symbolize everything that is wrong with the relationship between first nations people and the government. This would be a step toward healing these terrible rifts.

The point has been made that the Canadian government is directly implicit in the wrongful incarceration of Mr. Peltier because we extradited him on not just shaky information but false information. We acted quickly. I know because I have some experience with how difficult it is to have an extradition go through. We have been trying to have a woman extradited to stand trial for murdering a Canadian captain who was killed in Florida. One person has been locked up and is serving a life sentence for that murder. The other, the co-murderer, fled to Canada and four years later is still in Canada. We have had it on the desk of the Minister of Justice for over three years but the government refuses to extradite her to stand trial for murdering a Canadian soldier in the state of Florida even though the grand jury took only eight minutes to indict her, so compelling was the evidence.

So in some cases they drag their feet and refuse to extradite. In a case like Mr. Leonard Peltier, because the American government was so eager and so anxious to punish someone, anyone for this crime, I suppose phone calls were made and the Canadian government acted swiftly and handed Mr. Peltier over where he did not receive a fair trial. We believe the evidence was stacked against him to where it was a sham and an absolute mockery.

The Canadian government should appeal to the United States to show clemency. Even if they cannot find it in their hearts to admit that they were wrong, Mr. Peltier should be released from prison as his health is failing and 26 years is a tragic enough story. It should not go on another day.

Leonard PeltierPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

While no other member is seeking the floor, under the right of reply, the Chair will recognize the hon. member for Winnipeg—Transcona for a final five minutes of debate.

Leonard PeltierPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I find it regrettable, given the support that I thought existed, at least in the mind of the House leader for the official opposition, that no one in his party rose to speak to the motion either in support or in opposition, or even to comment on this case.

I thank the parliamentary secretary for his remarks, although I do not agree with them, but at least the government has made some contribution to the debate on this issue.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice just said that there was other circumstantial evidence that justified the extradition. Since we are able to talk about the evidence that in retrospect was not sufficient, why was the parliamentary secretary not able to tell us more about this alleged circumstantial evidence?

The parliamentary secretary also did not respond in any way to the conclusion that Justice Kaufman reached when he said that had the testimony of Ms. Poor Bear not been present at the extradition hearings he was convinced that the extradition likely would not have taken place.

It seems to me that the parliamentary secretary, although he had what appears to be a rather fulsome response, did not respond to that element of the argument that I made or, for that matter, that Justice Kaufman made about the nature of the extradition hearing. Those were a couple of inadequacies in the government's presentation.

It is not enough just to say “circumstantial evidence”. We need to hear more about what that evidence was. If we are supposed to be persuaded by this and drop the case, it is not enough just to get up and say that there was circumstantial evidence. We need to know more about that so we can pass some kind of judgment on whether or not we found it compelling or not.

Secondly, the parliamentary secretary did not deal with the observation made by Justice Kaufman.

I hope that some day justice will be done in this case. I regret, as I said before, that not enough members of Parliament were interested enough in this to make up the whole hour of debate. It is a rather sad statement about our parliament and about the interest that hon. members show in issues having to do with aboriginal justice, both in this country and in the North American context.

I cannot say that I am overly encouraged by my experience in this particular hour of parliamentary debate. In fact I might say that I am rather discouraged. I would much rather have had people get up and disagree with me. At least that would have been taking the issue somewhat more seriously than simply, which seems to be the case, that people regarded it as not worthy of being commented on. I find that rather disheartening.

Leonard PeltierPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired. As the motion has not been designated as a votable item, the order is dropped from the Order Paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Leonard PeltierAdjournment Proceedings

5:50 p.m.


Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, a little while ago I asked a question of the Solicitor General concerning an ongoing situation in the riding I represent, Ottawa--Vanier, and the Embassy of the United States of America.

As we all know, those of us who live in this community, shortly after the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001, barriers went up around the embassy. There is some debate as to whether they went up because of that or at the request of the embassy as a precaution for the G-20 meeting which was to occur later that year.

Since then I have been able to ascertain somewhat the initiative behind this. I am going to quote a response from the general manager of Transportation, Utilities and Public Works, General Manager Leclair, from the City of Ottawa, in response to a question from a city councillor. This is a memo dated February 7, 2002, which states:

On 30 October 2001, at the request of the RCMP, staff from TUPW and Police Services met U.S. Embassy officials to discuss the need for upgraded security measures. At that meeting, officials of the Embassy requested that all necessary precautions be taken to protect their assets, including:

  1. Installing jersey barrier along Sussex Drive to close the westerly curb lane between Murray Street and the northerly crosswalk at York Street;

  2. Installing jersey barrier along Mackenzie Avenue to close the easterly curb lane between Murray Street and the pedestrian staircase leading to York Street; and,

  3. Changing the most westerly block of Clarence Street (between Sussex Drive and Parent Street) from two-way to one-way eastbound operation.

The final line that I wish to quote from that report is the next one, which states:

The message heard throughout the meeting was that these changes were “precautionary” and “temporary” and that the RCMP would review the need for the barricades on a regular basis.

Since then, I have asked that question of the Solicitor General, both in the House and outside the House, and each time I get the same responses, such as, “We can't comment” or “Well, not in the foreseeable future”.

This is a rather delicate matter. I am aware of that and I am not asking that security authorities in this country or the City of Ottawa Police divulge information that could prejudice the safety of our American friends here in our capital. No, but on the other hand, I think we must be cognizant of the impact this is having and of the potential impact.

In 1985, if I am not mistaken, the United States adopted a policy whereby its embassies must be at least 25 metres from roadways and have no underground parking. This embassy is about five metres from roadways on both sides and has underground parking, so there is a disconnect here in terms of policy and reality. I am concerned about the safety of the residents of Ottawa, and the residents of Ottawa--Vanier in particular, who are living in that area or working in that area, not just the people who work in the American embassy.

I have asked the question about whether we are concerned about this. This building was built in the nineties. It is a very strongly built building, a very secure building, and it was built to withstand such potential attacks. But the buildings in the vicinity are not. By directing any possible attack further away from the embassy and bringing it closer to people and buildings in the vicinity of the embassy, are we not, by protecting the embassy and the people who work in it, also putting our people at greater risk?

I am concerned about that and I would like the government to deal with that issue. If we are told that this is going to be a long term thing, because we cannot ignore the international situation and it is likely that it could indeed be a long term, permanent thing, then I think it behooves us to ask another question. Should the embassy be in another location? That is what I think the government is going to have to come to grips with and address at some point. This obviously is an issue that is not going to go away and it is one on which information has to be shared a little better than it has been up to now.

Leonard PeltierAdjournment Proceedings

5:55 p.m.

Waterloo—Wellington Ontario


Lynn Myers LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Ottawa--Vanier for the question, because it is important and we as a government need to respond accordingly.

I want to assure all members of the House that the RCMP takes the security of all Canadians very seriously. The role of the RCMP is to ensure safety and security for all internationally protected persons in Canada according to a number of domestic and international obligations. Of course that includes those residents here in the national capital region.

I have been advised by the RCMP that security measures in place are commensurate with the existing threat assessment. The RCMP continually re-evaluates threat assessments and adjusts security requirements as warranted by the circumstances. That is an ongoing process.

There are currently various security measures for the U.S. embassy which take into consideration the safety of the international community as well as the community at large. They include measures in and around the area to control traffic.

I am informed that the traffic re-routing on Clarence Street as well as the barricades in question provide maximum safety for that part of the city. Following the implementation of the security measures around the U.S. embassy, the RCMP in consultation with the Ottawa Police Service, which is responsible for the traffic flow on city streets, met and consulted with local members of Parliament, the city of Ottawa, business owners and residents of lower town in Ottawa.

I understand that U.S. embassy officials have also met with local residents and business owners in the area and are attempting to reach a mutually acceptable solution which will in fact maintain security around the embassy. Senior members of the RCMP also continue to work with law enforcement officers at the U.S. embassy and city of Ottawa officials in regard to this matter.

The RCMP and its law enforcement partners continue to re-evaluate the perceived threat assessment and the level of security. In consultation with members of the community, they also continue to monitor the impact of security measures on the community. The security measures will continue to be adjusted in response to those requirements for security, not only in and around that area, but other areas as well.

It would be inappropriate for me to comment further on any specific security measures undertaken by the RCMP or its partners, but suffice it to say that there is an ongoing monitoring process. As I pointed out, we need to meet domestic and international obligations when it comes to these kinds of threats, either perceived or real.

Leonard PeltierAdjournment Proceedings

6 p.m.


Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I respect what I have just heard, but it is very much more of the same. It is a bit of stonewalling.

I am not asking, and I do not think anybody is asking, for the RCMP to say why it thinks there is a risk and so on and so forth, but I think the government is avoiding the question I am trying to ask it. If indeed there is a threat, and there would be if these things are maintained, is that threat, by having these barriers pushing away any attacks from the embassy, putting our citizens at greater risk? That has to be addressed, because what I am hearing is certainly not addressing that. If indeed we are putting our citizens at greater risk, then we have to look at another long term solution than just putting up barricades, widening the sidewalk, or whatever.

This is an important issue. I understand that we have a very good relationship with our neighbours to the south. At the same time, as the member of Parliament for Ottawa--Vanier, I have to be and the government has to be cognizant of whether or not we are putting our citizens at risk. If we are, then we have to address that with a long term solution.

Leonard PeltierAdjournment Proceedings

6 p.m.


Lynn Myers Liberal Waterloo—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would certainly respond by saying we always continue to work very hard not to put at risk any of our people, or anyone from the international community for that matter.

As I stated in my earlier remarks, we certainly as a country and the RCMP, the Ottawa Police Service and other interested parties have a strong mandate to provide security and safety measures for people in Ottawa, certainly in Ottawa--Vanier and people beyond the national capital region. We have an obligation to provide that safety and security. Those obligations stem from not only domestic, but international obligations that exist for us in an area that is the capital of a country, in this case Canada.

It is fair to say too that the RCMP continues to re-evaluate the threat assessment and adjusts security requirements as warranted by those circumstances. The RCMP and others continually monitor this process and will continue to do so in the best interests of all concerned.

Leonard PeltierAdjournment Proceedings

6 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:04 p.m.)