House of Commons Hansard #181 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-55.


Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Chicoutimi—Le Fjord Québec


André Harvey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member said that we have lost our close relationship with our fellow citizens. The time to check that relationship is during a general election. We will see about this during the next election campaign. I always like to campaign against my Bloc Quebecois friends. I am also looking forward to seeing how close our relationship is with our fellow citizens.

I want to pay tribute to the hon. member, because he takes a very close look at the whole issue of security, including the security measures taken by the government since September 11. However, he said that though the measures we are taking, we are letting the terrorists win.

We passed the anti-terrorism legislation, Bill C-44 on the sharing of information with the U.S. government. We will improve this measure to promote better co-operation between our security services. We also announced very substantial investments of close to $8 billion for security and the hiring of personnel in strategic locations. Yet the hon. member described this as letting the terrorists win.

I wonder if he could elaborate on this. I find it hard to see how this could be the case.

The government is doing the maximum with the resources available to it to reassure our citizens, working very closely with the United States, which is our main trading partner and which saw thousands of lives lost in the terrorist attack.

My colleague says that we are playing into the hands of terrorists by adopting specific measures: improved exchange of information, supplementary budget to provide even greater assurance of safety for all.

Personally, I feel that, while not perfect, our initiatives will reassure citizens and increase our co-operation with other countries.

I therefore ask my colleague to explain more clearly what he means by saying that we are playing into the hands of international terrorism. I have a little trouble understanding.

Even if the bill is referred to committee, we will have an opportunity to debate it with all our colleagues. I see my colleague, a member of the official opposition. Obviously, when a bill is introduced, it is never perfect. It does, however, contain certain features, which are fundamentally good and important for the future safety of our country.

I would like the hon. member to expand a bit on the notion that we are playing into the hands of terrorists.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

12:20 p.m.


Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for giving me the opportunity to point out that, since the crisis first began on September 11, the Bloc Quebecois has behaved properly. When I say properly, and particularly responsibly, I mean that in the early days following the attack, we supported the Liberal government and the Prime Minister, saying that we must join forces in the face of international terrorism.

Then things began to evolve. Bills were introduced here in the House. In our opinion, at a certain point, the government crossed the line and began to limit citizens' rights and freedoms. That is the opinion of the Bloc Quebecois and of other parties in the House.

Our behaviour has been reasonable. In a parliamentary system such as ours, I believe we are allowed to differ. That said, I do not wish to denigrate the entire Liberal government, because it has made efforts: $8.8 billion has been earmarked for security.

I merely wish to remind it that only $1.2 billion of that amount was earmarked for the Canadian Forces. We know that the Canadian Forces are having problems. They need a lot of materiel and cannot afford it. Everyone says that this amount may not be enough. This will come up again when we ook at the business of supply next week.

As for the rest of the $8.8 billion to which the hon. member has referred, I would also remind him that there is still much to be done. There is still the matter of the customs officers, the typical example I like to refer to often.

Today, if a customs officer confirms by computer that he is dealing with a dangerous individual who is being sought, the directive is to let him through and then to alert the police. The hope is that the police will nab him on the other side of the border.

There is still much to be done. The government has not done enough on certain aspects and it has gone too far with others, as far as rights and freedoms are concerned.

As for Bill C-55, which we are looking at today, we still say that, if the terrorists see that Canada has now restricted rights and freedoms to the extent of having a negative effect on its citizens, they are going to be delighted.

I am not saying that nothing should be done, but I do believe that, with the antiterrorism bill and with Bill C-55, the government is overstepping the line, to the great delight of the terrorists and the detriment of the people of Canada and Quebec.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Moore Canadian Alliance Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, two or three years ago, at the conference on free trade in Quebec City, the government decided to establish a military security zone. That decision was made by the federal government, along with the Quebec government and the city of Quebec. That decision was not made unilaterally by the Minister of National Defence.

Governments have the authority to create such military zones. They did so in Quebec City, and the city was protected against violence.

I am asking the hon. member to comment on this reality, namely the fact that this government can already make decisions without the new powers included in Bill C-42 and now Bill C-55. The government can make such decisions without giving so much power to the Minister of National Defence.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

12:20 p.m.


Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, before answering the question, I want to congratulate the hon. member on the quality of his French, since this is the first opportunity I have had to tell him publicly. I really admire people who make an effort to speak French. I also want to tell him that he may not have heard me speak English, but I can do it. It is important to have the benefit of speaking both languages.

As for the hon. member's question, it is true that, at times, including for G-8 meetings and so on, we could have a decree requiring the establishment of a military zone. If I am not mistaken, during the summit of the Americas held in Quebec City, there was a great deal of co-operation between the Quebec government, the city and the federal government.

The problem with Bill C-55, which is before us today, is that neither the province nor the city would be consulted. Not only would they not be consulted, but there is also no requirement to have an agreement. This means that a single person, not cabinet, the Liberal Party or the House of Commons, but a single person would have the power to unilaterally decide to create such a zone, and that person is the Minister of National Defence.

As far as we are concerned, this is totally unacceptable, and this why we want a safeguard, namely the consent of the city and the provincial government to establish such a zone.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Mississauga West Ontario


Steve Mahoney LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Crown Corporations

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Barrie--Simcoe--Bradford.

I can agree with the opposition on one thing in this particular debate. Canadians are not generally comfortable nor used to legislating aspects of security. The issues that have followed in this country, the United States and the world following September 11 are issues that we are not familiar with. However we have an obligation as parliamentarians to ensure the safety and security of Canadians.

There is one prime obligation that all of us in every party, in every seat in this House has and that is to ensure safety for our citizens. Therefore we must take what some might call extraordinary measures.

I can appreciate the fact that some from the legal profession in this place, who at times take unfair criticism, want to debate this issue from the point of view of someone's civil rights or liberties. However I must say that I honestly believe that Canadians, who I represent and the vast majority of Canadians, understand that times have changed since September 11 and perhaps the freest country, the best democracy in the world, needs to tighten up in some areas. Perhaps we need to make some changes and people expect us to do that.

I will deal with some of the criticism that I have heard. One is that the sharing of information between the airlines, the RCMP and CSIS would open up potential abuse of people's rights. There are guidelines that would require that information to only be shared with senior designated people within those two law enforcement agencies.

The sharing of information could only be done when it related to someone who was a potential terrorist, thought to be a terrorist, a terrorist threat, or in the case of criminal activity, someone who was facing an outstanding warrant that could result in a prison sentence in excess of five years. Who would that be? The crimes that carry a sentence in excess of five years in this country are crimes like murder and kidnapping.

Are we saying it is wrong for an airline to contact the RCMP to say it has information on a passenger on an inbound flight who has an outstanding warrant for his or her arrest for murder? If people were innocent one would think they would want to face their accusers, come forward to the authorities and defend themselves. There would be a strong possibility that the individual was fleeing and did not want to be arrested. It astounds me that we would object to sharing that kind of information.

The other aspect could deal with a violation of our immigration act. If we have an outstanding deportation against individuals and they are known to be on a particular flight coming into Canada, why would we not want to share the information so that someone could be there to greet them when they disembark so we could take them into custody and thereby deport them?

We have heard cries of indignation from people opposite that our deportation system is not tough enough, that we issue deportation orders and then do not carry them out. Members know that our immigration and enforcement staff around the world are overworked. We just met this morning to discuss the results of the immigration committee travelling around the world meeting with our staff and seeing what some of the pressures are. This is a tool that could help alleviate some of those problems and could ensure that we could deal with individuals who were either facing a warrant for their arrest, or were in violation of a deportation order under the immigration act.

I find it astounding that members on either side of the House would stand up to their constituents and say they think it is too big brotherish, too much information and that the government should not have a right to gather that information.

That is ridiculous. There are safeguards in the bill. For example, if Transport Canada is given certain information, that information can be acted upon and perhaps passed on to the authorities, but then must be destroyed by Transport Canada within seven days. We are not talking about building some kind of secret file on someone, taking away someone's rights or tracking people who might be going somewhere without the knowledge of their spouse or something of that nature. We are talking about serious problems. We need to face the fact after September 11 we need to be serious.

Let me deal with another issue and that is the objections, which have come primarily from the leader of the fifth party, to the ability of a minister to issue an interim order in an emergency. The member opposite, the leader of that party, said that we already had that power under the Emergencies Act. What he has neglected to tell people is that the only way that can be implemented is if we get provincial agreement on the particular circumstance. The minister would have to get cabinet, the provinces and get everybody on side to agree before we could issue an emergency order. Is that not interesting? What would have happened following September 11 if we had to do all that before we could have closed the skies over this country, knowing that there were aircraft with potential terrorists on board?

In fact at one point, at 11 o'clock in the morning of September 11, I was sitting with the president of the Credit Valley Hospital who was informed that there was an aircraft, with a suspected hijacker in control, on its way to Pearson Airport and the hospital was put on full alert to deal with possible casualties, injured people or worse. Should our minister not have the right, given the circumstances under which we live, to act quickly? I can hear the cries of indignation and the demands for resignation if a minister failed to do so.

The other thing that is not told in this story is that the only way we can actually use the Emergencies Act is if we declare the problem to be global. Let us think about that. Certainly what happened on 9/11 was a global problem. We may not have had a problem in that regard. Let us talk about another situation. What about forcing the closing of cockpit doors? What about Health Canada in the case of a chemical attack or a problem? Should the minister not have the ability to give an order to deal with those kinds of emergencies and not get caught up in the matter of whether it is global or not, getting cabinet's approval at a meeting and getting together with the provinces to get them on side? Meanwhile we have a serious problem occurring somewhere in our country. We have an obligation to put in place a tough bill.

Another aspect of this is that the government listened. The government listened to the opposition, whether it wants to accept it or not. The government listened to members of our own caucus. The government listened to the Canadian people. It then said that Bill C-42 was perhaps too restrictive and that it did not give us the tools we needed. Therefore it withdrew Bill C-42 and submitted another bill.

This is not an admission of failure. We needed to act after September 11 and we did act. The accusations that we were slow and that we did nothing were totally unfair, uncalled for and untrue. We will continue to act with the bill to ensure that the civil rights of people are fairly balanced with a bill that gives our law enforcement agencies the tools they need to protect the Canadian public. There is nothing more sacred in the duty of a member of parliament than to live up to that obligation. I honestly believe the bill does that.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Moore Canadian Alliance Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, another important obligation of members of parliament is to respect this institution, which includes respecting the hard work of committees.

Could the parliamentary secretary to the Deputy Prime Minister comment on work that his colleague from Chicoutimi, who is about 10 feet to his left, and I did on the transport committee? We spent probably over $1 million of taxpayer money travelling down to Washington, D.C., going to Pearson airport and taking in countless witnesses to the transport committee. We put together a package of 15 recommendations on airport and airline security.

The 14th recommendation stated that the government should consider financing new air security provisions with a number of options so that the cost of airport and airline security would be dovetailed out and not one sector of the air industry would be hammered. The government ignored completely every recommendation of that report and imposed a $24 round trip security air tax which is nailing consumers.

That report was given unanimous support by every Liberal at the committee, including the parliamentary secretary to the transport minister, the second in command on transport policy. The government ignored the committee and slapped the Liberals on the committee in the face, including the parliamentary secretary to the transport minister.

Could the Deputy Prime Minister tell us why the government so absolutely disregard that and disregard the work of the committee? Why did it impose a $24 tax against the wishes of the Liberals on the committee, including the member who is 10 feet to his left?

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

12:35 p.m.


Steve Mahoney Liberal Mississauga West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for my promotion. I am not the Deputy Prime Minister. I would love to be but I am afraid I have not quite reached that exalted office yet. One never knows, stranger things have happened.

The government does respect the work of committees. I see my colleague who I believe is from New Westminster. He and I have both recently come back and are in the process of writing a major report that deals in some ways with security around airports. He told us at committee this morning some interesting things, and we will be investigating how we can improve certain security aspects in relation to immigration.

The government obviously will not agree with every recommendation from every member on either side of the House. The government has a higher obligation and that is to ensure the security and safety of its citizens. If we do nothing else, and some would say that is exactly what we do, we have to live up to that obligation.

Sometimes some great ideas come out of committees that perhaps do not make it into a particular bill. That does not mean they will not live to perhaps find themselves in regulations in a different way. The government is open. I can assure the member it listens to its own members. Whether the member wants to believe this or not, we even listen the odd time to the little smidgeon of good ideas that sometimes come from across the floor.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Barrie—Simcoe—Bradford Ontario


Aileen Carroll LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the prospect of biological weapons being used, whether it be by states, criminals or terrorists, horrifies and repulses all civilized people. Today the very idea of deliberately propagating diseases via bacteria, viruses, or toxins that affect humans, animals or plants is considered, justifiably, a taboo and is condemned by international treaty law and customary international law.

Since 1925, the Geneva Protocol has prohibited bacteriological warfare, in other words, biological weapons. The Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction, better knows by its acronym, BTWC, completely prohibits the possession of such weapons. The BTWC, which was negotiated in 1972 and came into effect in 1975, was the first worldwide convention to prohibit an entire category of weapons of mass destruction. It set a universal standard and is an important pillar of international peace and security.

As I mentioned, Canada signed and ratified the BTWC in 1972 and strongly supports the convention. Canada attaches great importance to full compliance with the provisions of the convention and supports fully its purposes and provisions. To our profound regret, I remember well last summer, negotiations for such a protocol collapsed in July after seven years of hard work, denying the world truly its best chance to achieve a mechanism to impede the development and spread of biological weapons.

At the review conference, many other countries indicated that in light of the events of September 11, which subsequently followed and in light of subsequent bioterrorism attacks using anthrax, they were in the process of revising or supplementing their own legislation relevant to biological weapons.

National enforcement efforts cannot substitute for an international compliance mechanism aimed at preventing the development of biological weapons. It was that compliance mechanism that we were close too when it collapsed with the withdrawal of one of the major countries.

In themselves, national efforts are still valuable and necessary. Export and import controls, licensing, domestic inspection, verification and policing all complement and buttress the global ban on bio-weapons.

Article 4 of the BTWC would require state parties, in accordance with their own constitutional processes, to take measures to prohibit and prevent the development, the production, stockpiling, acquisition or retention of banned substances and articles in their own domestic territories, jurisdiction or control. In view of the collapse of the protocol negotiations in July and then later of the terrorist threat which emerged only two months later, it is now appropriate to go beyond the strict requirements of that convention and to supplement our own existing Canadian legislation with an act which specifically prohibits both biological weapons and related agents.

The biological and toxin weapons convention implementation act, which I have been calling the BTWC for obvious reasons, would put Canada at the forefront of these efforts to prevent biological weapons proliferation and bioterrorism. It will allow Canada to fulfill its obligations under the BTWC better because we will have done domestically what we had failed do so internationally by ensuring that the convention's ban is be respected not only by the Government of Canada but also by individuals, organizations and institutions in Canada, and that is very important.

The vast majority of the biological agents and of the types of equipment which may be employed in the manufacture of biological weapons are dual use; that is to say, these substances and articles have legitimate, even vital roles in fields like science, pharmaceuticals, medicines and agriculture. Likewise bio-defence programs intended to develop detecting devices or vaccines, antidotes and protective gear to defend against biological warfare attack require biological agents and equipment. Dual use agents and equipment are therefore essential to our health, prosperity and security and also for the advancement of knowledge. That is why it gets to be a somewhat intricate matter.

However the BTWC recognizes the dual use nature of these substances and articles by allowing articles which have prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes and equipment not designed for hostile purposes. They will continue obviously to be allowed and these exemptions for legitimate use are preserved in the legislation we are speaking about today.

To give Canadians assurance that biological and toxin agents and dual use equipment are not turned to evil purposes or diverted from their intended peaceful purposes, regulations are required. Such regulations would also increase the confidence in other countries that Canada is harbouring no official or unofficial biological weapon programs and encourage compliance elsewhere with the convention. Reciprocal confidence reinforces itself, which again contributes to peace and stability both for Canadians and worldwide.

Subsequently, last December in Geneva at the fifth BTWC review conference, the Canadian delegation strove to promote an outcome which would have contributed to the convention's integrity and vitality by building bridges between regional groups, by advocating an enhanced review process, and by working for the adoption of new measures to strengthen the convention. That included a viable way forward to resume negotiations for what I mentioned earlier, the multilateral, legally binding compliance mechanism for the convention. It is therefore again unfortunate that the review conference was unable to achieve that outcome last December.

Let me assure the House that Canada has not given up its efforts to reinforce the global ban on germ weapons. We look forward to the review convention's resumption this coming November. We will indeed continue our efforts, as we have in the past, and we will work with other countries that are trying, like us, to accomplish the same aim.

The BTWC implementation act will therefore provide the legal basis to create a licensing regime for more complete control of biological substances and articles. It will also permit the establishment of a responsible authority and will set out the powers of inspectors charged with enforcing the act. It has been very carefully crafted to ensure that Canadian procedures will be compatible with any eventual international mechanism so that we will not have to go back and redo the process.

While the licensing regime and regulations should be rigorous, they must not be excessively burdensome for the legitimate users of biological agents. Indeed, we expect that the process of elaborating regulations and of establishing this new responsible authority and inspectorate will require intensive study and consultation with many sectors, including industry, farming, universities and medical, scientific and research sectors, all places where these agents may be used for very legitimate purposes.

Given that these are technical questions, it is important to get them right. A single solution will not work. The degree of control and safety required for a containment facility where highly contagious diseases are studied will obviously not work for a research institute doing work on low-risk pathogens.

This legislation will make Canada and the world safer. It will prevent the development and proliferation of biological weapons around the world. It will show that Canada is committed to fighting terrorism. At the same time, it demonstrates our active support of the BTWC and a multilateral approach based on rules, non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament. This is in line with the role that Canada has always played to increase co-operation for security. For this reason, I propose that we pass it quickly.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gary Lunn Canadian Alliance Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Lethbridge.

I rise today to discuss Bill C-55, the public safety act. We all live in a different world in the wake of the September 11 attacks. Legislation is needed to address the security concerns we all face, however, Bill C-55 has very serious flaws that need to be addressed if it is to become law.

This is the third attempt to put the bill before the House. The bill began as Bill C-42, which was later split into two parts, with Bill C-44 being passed earlier in the session. We are pleased that the bill was split at the time so as to allow our support for the air safety regulations in Bill C-44. Now we have Bill C-55, supposedly the new and improved version; however, the government has not addressed any of the serious issues that caused the collapse of Bill C-42. The bill remains flawed.

The government has a poor track record of controversial legislation. The species at risk act was recently pulled from the order paper after a third aborted attempt. Long awaited amendments to the Divorce Act are delayed yet again while the government tries to find a way not to offend anyone.

The government simply cannot cope with difficult legislation. Why? A government without any policy direction is revealed when called on to make policy. Its lack of ideas is exposed. When it does come up with ideas they are often not well thought out, they anger all sides of the political debate and they do not address the needs of Canadians. Worse, when it does bow to public pressure and withdraw a bad bill, which is rare, it does not make any real changes. Bill C-55 does not adequately address any of our concerns with respect to Bill C-42. Why introduce the bill at all if the government will not fix it?

My main concern with Bill C-42 was the unreasonable amount of power that was given to a handful of ministers. The Canadian Alliance believes that the powers under the Emergencies Act to declare various stages of public emergency are adequate. The Aeronautics Act also allows for ministerial discretion, but forces its ratification by parliament or cabinet within 14 days. Bill C-42 allowed cabinet ministers to unilaterally declare an emergency in an area, as a result giving them very broad enforcement powers. Those decisions did not have to be reviewed by cabinet for three months. Parliament as a whole might never have been consulted at all.

Bill C-55 purports to address this by reducing the review period from 90 days to 40 days. Imagine, he now can get his cabinet together in 45 days. It must be pretty tough to pull them all together. This is ridiculous. Both periods are equally extreme. Invoking extreme measures that limit democratic rights in Canada should be relied upon only as a last resort. When they are invoked they should be debated in parliament, not in a closed door cabinet meeting. This should happen in a matter of days, not weeks or months. Furthermore, this authority to be given to ministers is not accompanied by any specifics as to how it would be implemented. It is not indicated that ministers would be responsible for enforcing the order or, more important, that they would be accountable for it.

Frankly, Bill C-55, like Bill C-42, looks suspiciously like nothing more than another power grab. We owe it to Canadians to ensure that their civil liberties will not be suspended without very good reason and within very strict parameters. Furthermore, the sheer size and scope of Bill C-55 make discussion difficult. No single committee can be tasked with so many changes. The Canadian Alliance requests that the bill be split into sections to allow more informed, useful debate both in this place and in committee.

No one is denying that there is a need for security measures to protect Canadians. For this reason I support bringing about fair laws. Bill C-55 does address a few of these areas, and in particular the measures that would protect the jobs of the reservists when they are called into active service. That is excellent and I fully support that. This law is long overdue. We have been calling for this for some time.

We also support measures to update the Explosives Act and measures that would make terrorist hoaxes an offence. Our security personnel have a tough enough time dealing with real terrorists without having to waste valuable resources on pranksters.

Again, these are positive steps in the bill, but unfortunately the balance is not acceptable. The overwhelming power grab, not having to come back to cabinet for weeks, discussing it behind closed doors, and not even having to come before parliament, all of these are not acceptable. I would like to support this type of legislation to actually enhance and protect public safety, but the bill should be about people's protection. Instead it is more about giving more unaccountability to government. It is famous for that. The single fatal flaw in this institution is the lack of accountability of the executive of the government. This is a bill that will give them more powers with no accountability. The government is famous for allowing ministers to do as they will with no regard for the House of Commons. Bill C-55 is another classic example. Ultimately, eight months and three drafts later, the bill remains a failure. I ask the government to make significant amendments to address the faults I have outlined.

I would like to add one other point about the whole security situation with regard to September 11. The government is now collecting the $24 air tax from travellers in the country. It is having a huge impact in my riding. The Victoria airport is in my riding, which generally has short flights, and $24 is a significant burden.

Worse than that, what I learned last week was appalling. The government is scrambling to find a way to create an appearance or a perception that the travelling public is actually getting something for that $24. What is the government going to do? For any airports that have flights to the U.S. or national flights, it is going to put armed RCMP or police officers in the airport beside security so that there is a perception, and I emphasize perception, that travellers are getting something for their $24, because right now the travelling public is saying that there is not a lot of difference. They go through security and their bags go through an X-ray machine, so not a lot has changed.

The government talked about explosive detection equipment but when we actually speak to the people in the airports they tell us it will take two to three years to even order that equipment because there is such a huge backlog. Yet the government is collecting another tax and putting the money into general revenues. It is wrong. In my community there are only 24 police officers. It would take five police officers from that detachment just to man the airport. That would pull police officers off the street. Again the frustrating part is that the government is not interested in the public or in accountability. It is interested in creating a perception. It says it has to give people something for that $24 so if it throws some armed police into airports people will think they are a lot safer. It is wrong.

Let me emphasize that the biggest fatal flaw in Bill C-55 is the power grab it is giving to the ministers, with zero accountability. They do not even have to come before the House. They can wait weeks before they have to go to cabinet. That is not acceptable. Cabinet could be convened in a matter of hours, if not days. Parliament could be recalled if those kinds of extraordinary powers were necessary. Unfortunately again the government has demonstrated that when it comes to accountability it is still getting an F.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rick Casson Canadian Alliance Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is good to take part in the debate today on the new bill the government brought forward, Bill C-55. It replaces a couple of other attempts the government made to address the issue of security.

I do not feel Canadians who read the bill would feel one bit more secure. The safety and security of the citizens of a country is the number one job of a government and in this instance they have been let down.

The bill is an omnibus bill that addresses 19 different acts of parliament in nine ministries, all lumped together into one bill brought forward by the transport minister. It is to be dealt with by one committee and we feel therein lies one of the greatest problems. The bill should be split so that each area would be dealt with by the ministry or committee to which that section pertains.

We support some of the things that are being addressed in the bill but one of the factors of real concern is the extra special powers given to ministers without prior approval by cabinet, or furthermore, by the House. The ministers affected are: environment, health, fisheries and oceans, transport, justice and immigration. It would give them an interim order ability which would give them more power to act without any consultation with cabinet or parliament. However, the general increase in authority is not accompanied by any new specifics or assumptions of the responsibility of the minister concerned.

We have the ability to create the special situation but we do not have the coinciding responsibilities to which the minister must adhere to in carry it out. That is one of the things that needs to be addressed. We were hoping for that and maybe when we get into discussion in committee some of these things could be brought up. Certainly more than one committee needs to address the issues in the bill, not just transport.

We talk about the $24 charge for a round trip ticket to increase security at airports. I fly quite regularly. There are no X-ray machines at Lethbridge. Carry-on baggage is checked by hand and I joke with the people who do it that if I am ever missing anything they should remind me and I could go home to get it. They are getting quite familiar with my belongings.

We asked the minister to explain to us in detail what the $24 per head would bring to the airport, specifically Lethbridge in my riding. We have not seen anything concrete come of that. We have some 60,000 passengers, and times $24 is a large amount of money. What will the government do to make us feel more secure when we travel?

This whole thing is in response to the terrible crimes that were committed on September 11. It has taken our government eight months to come up with a bill that will be debated, and go on for I do not know how many more months, to address the situation of security in Canada. That is not acceptable.

It is a situation in which we now exist. It could happen in Canada at any moment if we are not vigilant. Yet we are still fudging around with the laws that would allow our country to protect itself better.

There is the issue of some of the defence measures that would create special military zones. I support that and I believe our party supports it to some degree but we need some definition of it. There has been concern raised as to what it would entail. If a military vehicle were to be parked somewhere could one go in to protect it by using any means thus getting around the whole issue of creating a special security zone?

These are points that need definition. We do not see it in the bill. Somebody should be bringing that forward to allay some of the fears that it will be abused. If indeed it is intended to protect military equipment, if we have ships or whatever that need to be protected, then let us define that and make sure that is what it is doing.

The issue of money laundering is a whole separate problem this country has that needs to be addressed but that is in the bill.

One thing too is job protection for people who are called up from the reserves. That is important. We have a competent, capable and willing reserve contingents in this country. When they get called up it almost goes without saying that the job they had should be protected while they are performing that special duty.

We talked about taxes, special levies, airport fees, and this $24 security tax. One set of figures brought forward dealt with a flight from Calgary to Edmonton where the actual cost of the ticket was $100 and it was $188 by the time we were finished paying for it. It cost 88% more on top of what the actual ticket was when all the fees were added on.

This $24 charge is causing some problems. Lethbridge has an operation called Integra Air that flies directly from Lethbridge to the municipal airport in Edmonton. It is a small operation but it offers a service that is well subscribed to. This $24 fee has made it revisit some plans it was looking at for expansion into Calgary to connect to some WestJet flights. It is unfortunate when a levy such as this adversely affects the future plans or the operating plans of a company in Canada. We need to look at what we are doing and what we are getting for that $24.

I know the transport minister has addressed this issue to some degree saying that any cases like this would be looked at. He wants to know when an operation has been affected by this $24. We have brought that to his attention so we will be watching him carefully to ensure that it is addressed.

We have seen omnibus bills before. Bill C-15 was one of those. We eventually split into Bill C-15A and Bill C-15B. We had issues that dealt with the protection of children from predators and pedophiles, cruelty to animals legislation, and regulations affecting the gun registry. We fought to separate those issues, some of which we supported. They were put into Bill C-15A and we supported it and moved forward. We are still debating and have some problems with Bill C-15B

I would like the government to consider that aspect. We should quickly put into place certain issues without holding up the entire bill because of some aspect of it that we do not particularly like. It should be done in a way that reflects the powers of each ministry so that the committee and the minister responsible for that particular section deal with it in a very direct way.

I wish to mention the issue of documents. Every time we ask questions of the immigration minister he would sooner return an attack. I guess he believes that the best defence is a strong offence. The issue is about people travelling on airplanes. We must know who they are. What happened on September 11 was that terrorists used planes and the people on them as virtual bombs to attack the United States.

We must know who is on those planes. Are they a threat to the people on the plane and the people on the ground? The ability to collect documents, to identify, to share that information with law enforcement agencies, and to pass that information on to the RCMP and CSIS is critical. Without that how can we possibly feel that the bill would work?

There are a lot of issues to be addressed. It has taken a long time to get this far which is unfortunate. The United States was able to put a bill forward very quickly. The government has been trying to mirror that for eight months now and it does not have it right yet. Hopefully some of the suggestions that are coming out in the debate today will be taken to heart so that when it is finally passed the bill will reflect what Canadians truly need.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

York Centre Ontario


Art Eggleton LiberalMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, last fall the government promised that it would listen to the concerns of members of parliament and Canadians with regard to Bill C-42 and it has. Bill C-55 improves on Bill C-42.

This bill will improve the safety of Canadians, while protecting their rights and their privacy.

I would like to briefly outline for the House how the proposals contained in Bill C-55 would affect the defence portfolio and the National Defence Act. I will begin with controlled access military zones.

One of the most substantial changes in the new bill is the replacement of the military security zones as defined in Bill C-42 with the new controlled access military zones. These zones would be temporary areas designated to protect defence establishments as well as Canadian forces and visiting forces' personnel and property, both on and off defence establishments. This would include, for instance, a Canadian, American, Italian or French ship that might be anchored in one of our harbours, or perhaps a Royal Air Force aircraft or two that would be temporarily staying at a civilian airport.

The new controlled access military zones are more limited than originally envisioned and have more restrictions on their use and purpose. For example, these zones would only be designated where they are considered reasonably necessary to ensure the safety and security of Canadian forces or allied personnel or equipment.

In other words, there would be no sweeping designations for international conferences, such as the one at Kananaskis. There would be no sweeping designations, as some people suggested, to cover an entire province or city. That was never the intent, but certainly people expressed fear about it.

In addition, the authority given by the minister of defence cannot exceed one year. Only the governor in council, the cabinet, could approve a renewal and only if it is deemed reasonably necessary, a fact that could always be tested in the courts, that the designation be in place for a period longer than one year.

These zones would help us better protect our military personnel, equipment and establishments from the possibility of terrorist attacks. They would make us a more responsible ally when it comes to protecting visiting forces.

Following our consultations, we introduced a second series of amendments concerning the protection of defence systems and networks.

Provision in Bill C-55 would give the Department of National Defence and the Canadian forces the authority to protect their information technology without compromising the privacy of individuals. Defence systems and networks play a critical role in the daily operations of the Canadian forces both at home and in the field. As such they are high value targets for attack and for manipulation.

Under the new legislation the Minister of National Defence would have the authority to permit the department and the Canadian forces to intercept communications into, from, or through defence computer systems. This is very similar to a provision in Bill C-36 that involved the civilian oriented Communications Security Establishment in the defence of government departments and their systems. This would be done only in order to identify, isolate or prevent the harmful, and I emphasize the word harmful, unauthorized use, interference or damage to the information systems.

These authorities would be strictly for the protection of our systems. They would have nothing to do with listening to private conversations or eavesdropping, nor would they apply to actions that would more appropriately be covered under the government's acceptable use policy or the criminal code. They are however, essential to protect our information technology systems here at home and abroad. In the case of controlled access military zones, they would make Canada a more reliable international partner. Our IT systems are often closely integrated with those of our allies and we cannot afford to be the weak link in that chain.

The privacy of Canadians would remain paramount when it comes to applying these new authorities. A number of safeguards regarding the use and retention of intercepted communications have been incorporated into this provision. For example, the commissioner of the Communications Security Establishment will be responsible for reviewing activities carried out under this authorization.

Nothing in this part of the bill will in any way affect the powers or the role of the privacy commissioner who has previously looked at these kinds of systems in connection with CSE and has found them to be quite satisfactory.

Let me turn to the establishment of the reserve military judges panel. There are six provisions in the bill that apply to defence. This is another one. The amendment is designed to provide the chief military judge with a mechanism to access qualified reserve officers with prior experience as judges in the military justice system.

The establishment of this panel would ensure that our military judiciary has the same flexibility as currently exists in the civilian court system. It would provide an effective and efficient mechanism to respond to short term increases in demand for judicial services. At the same time it would prove beneficial when competing demands or conflicts limit the availability of the permanent cadre of military judges. The amendment is about efficiency and due process, which I believe Canadians would support.

Another element in the legislation is job protection for members of the reserves. Our ability to generate forces in the event of an emergency can in part depend on the compulsory call out of reservists. Should this situation arise, we have a responsibility to ensure that these members do not lose their civilian employment. The bill would ensure that they are reinstated with their civilian employers in equivalent work upon their return from the call out. The proposed amendment would mean that reservists would not have to choose between possibly losing their livelihoods and breaking the law that requires them to serve on call.

This is a pragmatic and a moral concern.

We will not be able to recruit new members if they risk losing their jobs when called out compulsorily. At the same time we cannot oblige our people to serve and not protect their employment. These measures will ensure that the dedicated men and women of the reserves are treated fairly when they make the sacrifice to serve their country.

I might add, if they are volunteering for a service such as they have in some of our past natural disasters, such as the ice storm, or the floods in the Saguenay or the floods in the Red River, that would continue to be on a voluntary basis as it has been in the past. In this post-September 11 world with the possibility of a terrorist attack and if an emergency arises in which there has to be a compulsory call out, it is only in that context we would use the job protection provisions. It is only in the context of an emergency compulsory call out.

Dealing with the word emergency brings me to the next component of the amendment and that is the definition of emergency. The proposed amendment simply modernizes the definition of emergency found in the National Defence Act by making clear reference to circumstances of armed conflict that fall short of formally declared war. It will now be defined as “insurrection, riot, invasion, armed conflict or war, whether real or apprehended”.

The difference from the previous longstanding legislation are the words “armed conflict” and the word “whether”. The word “whether” is put in the English text to make it balance with the French text. Insurrection, riot, invasion or war have always been there.

Not too many wars are actually declared these days even though there is armed conflict. There has not been a war declared by this country since the second world war even though there are a number of conflicts that have been called war in the colloquial sense. In the popular jargon when we refer to such things as Korea or gulf or Afghanistan, the word war is frequently used but they are not involving Canada or our allies in an actual declared war. The words “armed conflict” help to bring things up to date in that respect.

I stress that this would in no way lower the threshold for declaring an emergency. Rather it aligns the definition with the new security environment in which wars are seldom declared, as I have said, and threats are often posed by groups other than states.

The amendment is important because a number of important powers under the National Defence Act, such as the authority to retain Canadian forces members on service beyond the date on which they are entitled to be released, are tied to the existence of an emergency as defined in the act.

The sixth and final provision that involves defence in Bill C-55 amends the clause regarding aid to the civil power. This is really the same as it was in Bill C-42. Most of the provisions are the same as they were in Bill C-42 except for the controlled access military zones.

The provisions of the bill would allow the Minister of National Defence to provide appropriate direction to the chief of the defence staff to ensure the Government of Canada has the ability to manage simultaneous or multiple requests for assistance during an emergency.

Requests for aid to the civilian authorities will continue to be made directly to the chief of defence staff.

In conclusion, we have listened to the concerns of Canadians and have presented a bill that responds to the security threats that face Canada, that protects individual rights and protects privacy. It makes us a strong partner in the international fight against terrorism. It further improves the ability of the Department of National Defence and the Canadian forces to protect Canadians from terrorism and its effects. I strongly recommend that the bill be supported.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Five members have stood on questions and comments. If they all keep their questions short, we will be able to get all five questions in for the minister and that applies to the minister's answers too.

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1:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Paul Forseth Canadian Alliance New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, BC

Madam Speaker, I have four specific questions. They are very brief and I will ask the minister to address them specifically.

First, in the House we have heard a lot about the issue of ministerial accountability, ministerial power, timing and the issue of obtaining cabinet approval or actual referral to the House. In view of the comments he has heard in the House today, I would like him to put those arguments to rest. This is his opportunity to respond to the biggest objection that is coming from this side of the House.

Second, he talked about no sweeping power over Kananaskis. Then what is the legal context that is anticipated to protect the area of Kananaskis when the big international conference happens? If the bill is not going to deal with it, what is contemplated for the legal context of protection? What is going to be used?

Third, regarding reservists, there are improvements but I am questioning the minister about the exit interview, the thank you, and the whole process when a reservist returns to Canada. It is different from a regular force member who goes back to the unit. Reservists return to Canada and go back to their jobs. It seems they are just dumped into the street without proper recognition of what they have done, proper debriefings as to what their experiences were, and transition mechanisms to go back into the street.

Fourth, we have a request before the House that the bill be split. The minister has taken great pains both in the introduction and before he sat down, to say that he has listened to Canadians. I hope he has listened to the House and will respond specifically. Will he respond to our request to split the bill?

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1:20 p.m.


Art Eggleton Liberal York Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, first of all I have not heard the previous discussions so I am not totally aware of what has been said about the subject of ministerial accountability.

Let me say that in the context of this bill, the minister is responsible for only doing what is reasonably necessary. He or she must have a recommendation from the chief of the defence staff. The minister, whoever the minister happens to be at any time, cannot go off and do anything on his or her own. A very clear recommendation must come up the chain of command from the Canadian forces.

Furthermore the minister has to advise people. There is a requirement to put notice in the Canada Gazette unless there is a security reason not to do that, but by and large the requirement is to do that. There are other provisions that say the minister can notify people in the local community, et cetera with respect to anything that might have an effect on them in the designation of an access zone.

Furthermore the minister is accountable to the House. The minister sits in the House. Every day the minister is called upon to answer questions. Within 24 hours of the minister making any designation, the opposition would be on its feet asking the minister to justify what was being done. If in fact there is a--

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

An hon. member

Oh, oh.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I apologize to the minister. We will show the same courtesy to the minister as we showed the member asking the question please. I want to get in every member who wants to get in on questions and comments.

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1:20 p.m.


Art Eggleton Liberal York Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, four questions can be asked a lot faster than four answers can be given.

Let me go on to the next one about no sweeping powers in Kananaskis and what is going to protect it. It is the police. The police have the responsibility.

The RCMP can create the same kind of cordoned off areas that we are talking about here in military access zones. It does it on the basis of common law as it has been doing for hundreds of years in the common law context. It has been doing it since Canada has been around. It has that kind of obligation and framework to do that.

We are going to be in support but we certainly cannot designate Kananaskis as a military zone. It is not in the provisions of this bill. We are there in support of the RCMP. It has the responsibility on the matter.

I have not heard the argument on a split bill and cannot comment on that.

In regard to reservists, I do not know that it is directly related to what is in the bill. We are not talking about those who serve in a voluntary capacity. Those who serve overseas on peace support missions are still in a voluntary capacity, not on a compulsory call out.

We have not done a compulsory call out since Korea. I do not know when we might do one, but given the reality of security matters in the post-September 11 world, we want to provide for the possibility that we might do that.

With respect to exit interviews and things like that, we have a program going now. We have an office now for the land force reserve restructuring. A lot of them are land force members that we are talking about here in terms of peace support operations. We are beginning to make very substantial changes and improvements in the condition of services for reservists.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

May 2nd, 2002 / 1:25 p.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Madam Speaker, I listened to the minister, who said he had understood what people wanted and that that was what had finally convinced him to make amendments to Bill C-42. The terminology is the biggest change to the bill. He has gone from military security zones to controlled access military zones. The minister's powers, however, remain practically the same. That is what people were afraid of.

Regarding the powers given to the Minister of National Defence, members should examine subsection 4 of section 260.1. It reads as follows: “The dimensions of a controlled access military zone may not be greater than is reasonably necessary—”. This is pretty sweeping.

How will this be interpreted by the Minister of National Defence, who showed a distinct lack of judgment throughout the Afghan prisoner affair. He did not even feel the need to inform the Prime Minister or cabinet that our troops had taken prisoners, when everyone was on the alert and it was an issue internationally. He did not have the judgment for a simple decision like that. How is he going to interpret the term reasonably necessary? And how is he going to justify these interim orders, when sections 3, 5 and 11 of the Statutory Instruments Act do not even apply to these entire sections of the legislation.

As members are well aware, under sections 3, 5 and 11 of the Statutory Instruments Act, regulations are checked to ensure that they are consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is all very fine and well to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the charter, but the first opportunity that the government has to demonstrate that the charter means something to it, it introduces Bill C-55, and excludes entire sections of the legislation from the application of the charter. Does it not think that it is making a mistake with this bill and that it is treating the comments it has received from Canadians and Quebecers with arrogance?

The Liberal backbenchers who never say anything are another fine example. They are there to be yes men and they let anything through.

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1:25 p.m.


Art Eggleton Liberal York Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, the hon. member is wrong in just about everything he has said, including his comments about Afghanistan.

There is a big difference. We have listened to people in the House and to Canadians. We took out the subsection which said that the government could declare virtually any area as a military security zone. We are back to the original purpose and intent which is to protect military equipment. If we have a ship visiting, we need to be able to give it police protection and military police are the appropriate means of protecting it.

Members will remember that when the USS Cole went into Yemen it was not properly protected. There was a terrorist attack and people lost their lives. We obviously do not want that to happen to either our troops or any visiting troops who might be here.

The military bases pretty well have that kind of protection but there are a lot of port visits that are done by ships or even by aircraft to civilian airports. We might need to put a little cordon around them and have military police patrol them. That is all we are talking about here.

Under the common law, civilian police already have all these authorities. We are just talking about the same authority in regard to the protection of military property. It has in fact been narrowed in scope substantially to what is reasonably necessary to serve the purpose and intent of the bill. The purpose and intent of the bill is to protect military equipment.

If a minister attempts to be unreasonable about it he can be taken to court. The government can be taken to court, just like in any other provision and just like in the common law relevant to the civilian police. They have been doing this for ages. What about the fact that they cordon off areas and have police patrol them? We can take them to court too if we think it is unreasonable. This provides for that as well.

The Bloc has made some issue about the question of claims here, because it does not provide for lawsuits on the basis of claims. It provides for claims however that can be made against the government and funds provided from the consolidated revenue account if anybody is injured or, for example, if the cordoned off area means that people cannot get into their businesses and they want to claim for loss of business revenue. That provision is the same as it is in civilian law. The bill just makes it consistent with civilian law.

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1:30 p.m.


Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I guess I will have to fit my questions into my speech seeing as I did not have an opportunity to ask the minister any questions.

While the minister is still present, I will start with one of the things raised in the question and answer period concerning the status of reserve military personnel and the way in which the bill provides for them to be able to return to their jobs after being called up in an emergency. I acknowledge that this is not just in Bill C-55 but that it was also in Bill C-42. Even though I do not like most of the bill, I am pleased with that particular aspect of it because we do owe our reservists that much. When they are called up in an emergency situation they should be guaranteed that they can to return to their jobs.

What I would urge the minister is for the government at some point to go further than this and create a similar regulation or a similar piece of legislation for reservists who volunteer for peacekeeping missions. It seems to me that we would be able to make better use of our reserve forces for these kinds of missions if more people were free to volunteer and were guaranteed that they could return to their jobs after participating in such missions.

If I heard the minister correctly, those kinds of missions are not covered by Bill C-55, so I am not misrepresenting the case. I urge on the minister that the government at some point should consider this. I know there are plenty of people in the reserve and within the military community at large who feel that this is something that should occur in any event. It would create a situation where better use could be made of our reserves.

While I am on that topic, one of the things that has always struck me over the years here in the House is how little controversy there has been about the use and the role of the reserve armed forces. This is one of the things that has always been a mystery to me. This is one area of defence spending in which there is no controversy. If the government announced tomorrow that it was going to spend more money on the reserves, there would not be an opposition party that would be critical of it. This has been true for a long time and yet it never happens. This is one thing government after government could have done without the kind of criticism that it might expect on nuclear submarines, on this helicopter, on that helicopter or on whatever. This is the one thing governments could do and there would not be a peep and yet it does not do it.

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1:30 p.m.


Art Eggleton Liberal York Centre, ON

We are doing it.

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1:30 p.m.


Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Well the government is doing it awful slowly if it is doing it. I guess it is trying to do it in a way that nobody notices.

We know the problems the military is having with recruitment and with infrastructure. Some of our armories are the only places where we can walk in and feel like we are having a time travel experience. Our armories do not look any different than they did in 1965 when I first started going as a cadet. If I ever want to revisit my past I just have to go there and I will see that absolutely nothing has changed except that the rifle ranges are closed down because proper equipment has not been provided and a whole bunch of other things that used to be there are not there. However I did not get up to make a speech about the reserves. I am here to talk about Bill C-55.

With respect to Bill C-55, we in the NDP were opposed to Bill C-42 and we are opposed to Bill C-55 in spite of some of the changes that have been made. The minister pointed out changes that have been made with respect to controlled access military zones. The change between Bill C-42 and Bill C-55 is a change for the better in the sense that it does limit in a way what the previous bill did not, and that is the application of this particular power of the minister of defence.

I understand the difference between being able to designate areas around equipment, personnel and entire areas that contain that which the forces have been assigned to protect. That is fair enough. However what the minister has not answered is whether or not the insertion of equipment or personnel into the area that is to be protected or in close proximity to those which are to be protected could then become a rationale for doing in effect what was possible in Bill C-42.

In the final analysis this comes down to trust. Do we trust the government not to have a hidden agenda or not to abuse the language that we see in Bill C-55? It is a hard thing to get a hold on. It is a bit like what we talked about when we were debating Bill C-36. If we had been debating Bill C-36 not in a context where protesters had been pepper sprayed at APEC, rubber bulleted at Quebec City, et cetera, maybe we would have had a more trusting feeling about the government when it came to Bill C-36. We still have not been able to build up that appropriate sense of trust so that we can take at face value what the minister says about these new controlled military access zones not being available for purposes like Kananaskis, although the minister has been very clear that it is not intended and cannot be used for Kananaskis. We will know soon whether the minister was telling the House something that is not true.

With respect to the difference between Bill C-42 and Bill C-55, it seems to me that we have a bit of sleight of hand here in the sense that there is the illusion of more parliamentary involvement than there was in Bill C-42. There was no illusion of parliamentary involvement in Bill C-42. We cannot accuse Bill C-42 of being involved in any sort of sleight of hand. However in Bill C-55 interim orders would have to be tabled in the House of Commons within 15 sittings days and therefore we would have the opportunity theoretically of these interim orders being the object of debate in the House of Commons. I grant that, except that we all know that simply to be tabled in parliament does not mean that it will be debated in parliament or voted on in parliament because the government controls parliament. Except in the situation of minority parliaments or in the situation where we had a much freer political culture than we do now in the House, the government controls parliament. In fact when the Minister of Transport was being interviewed on this he said “It will be tabled in parliament and you know, an opposition MP might be able to move a motion to have it debated and the government might even support it”. The word is “might”.

What we are saying is that if we really wanted parliamentary oversight and wanted an opportunity for parliament to debate this we would not leave this to the whim of a government that might be sensitive about what it had just done 15 sitting days ago. We might want to mandate that parliament would have to debate it within a certain timeframe, perhaps not 15 days, but perhaps within a certain timeframe after it has been tabled, whatever, but we would not leave it subject to the parliamentary dictatorial powers of a majority government as to whether or not that ever actually came up for debate.

That is certainly one of the concerns that we have. The fact is that the interim orders themselves, as has been argued by other members in the House, are inferior substitutes for the kind of powers that the government now has under the Emergencies Act, except that the Emergencies Act of course would have to involve parliament in a much more meaningful way than these interim orders potentially involve parliament.

Quite the contrary to what the government is saying, it may not be that now it has listened to Canadians and now it is trying to involve parliament. It may be that we just have a more sophisticated run around parliament in Bill C-55 than we had in Bill C-42 which was a rather blunt instrument and more transparently contemptuous of parliament than Bill C-55. Of course, if the government wants to claim otherwise, then we look forward to rather extensive study of this in committee, which brings me to my second point.

There was an emergency, so the government said. Clearly there was an emergency after 9/11. However whatever emergency Bill C-42 was intended to address, certainly could not have been much of an emergency, if the bill could sit on the order paper for months.

Now the Liberals have been listening to Canadians. I do not remember hearings on Bill C-42 because we never even had the first round of debate in this House about it. It never even got to the NDP and the Tories when it came to the debate on second reading, but the Liberals have been listening. If one were to listen to the rhetoric of the Minister of National Defence, the Minister of Transport and the Prime Minister, one would think we had a thorough debate about this. Now we have to get this through by the end of June.

Four months of idleness on the part of the government with respect to Bill C-42 and now it is a big emergency. We will not be able to have extensive committee hearings. It is the same old show. It is the same as with Bill C-36. Anything that is important, we have to get it through in a hurry. The legislation can sit on the order paper for four or five months with no problem, but now we have to get this thing into committee, have hearings and it has to be all over and done with by the end of June.

The government really has its nerve when it comes to Bill C-55. It is a parliamentary outrage that it would expect us to say that there is an emergency, as if it has been acting as if there were an emergency when in fact it has not.

I put the government on notice to the extent that the NDP is able to influence matters here. I get a similar feeling from other opposition parties that we do not see any grounds now for some kind of unholy rush, particularly when Bill C-55 is not a reduced, or ameliorated or amended version of Bill C-42. What we have are entirely new measures inserted into Bill C-55. I am thinking in particular of the measures to do with the revelation of lists of passenger on planes.

When the government was listening to Canadians, whenever that process took place, that invisible process that happened between when it first introduced Bill C-42 and when it withdrew it, I guess I missed it. I missed all those public meetings where Canadians were saying that they wanted the RCMP and CSIS to know every time they got on a plane and that they wanted to have that information in some big computer somewhere. I do not remember anyone asking for that. Maybe the RCMP and CSIS asked for it. However let us not kid ourselves. It was not something for which that Canadians were calling. The privacy commissioner has expressed very real concerns and objections to this.

There is a whole new dimension to this bill. We are supposed to pass it because now the government is in a rush. When it came to this, the government was in a coma for four months but now there has been a boom, it has woken up, little lights have gone on and now the rest of us have to just shove it on through. I do not think the opposition will go for that, particularly with respect to this new demand for information.

A Liberal member of the justice committee was quoted in the paper as saying there was no reason this provision could not be expanded. I am talking now about giving information with respect to lists of passengers on trains, buses and people who rent cars. Why do we not just find out the names of everyone who goes into Wal-Mart. Where does this end?

I thought this was to fight terrorism. There are ways to fight terrorism, including on planes, that we support. However we do not support using 9/11 to create everyone's nightmare of a big brother, where everyone knows what everyone else is doing. Not everyone knows; big brother knows the travelling habits of people. The credit card companies probably know already, but that is beside the point. Why does the government not just go there. That is certainly one thing about which we are concerned.

We think we are being offered a bit of a sleight of hand here as to what a great improvement Bill C-55 is over Bill C-42. We want to see a thorough process when it comes to this bill. For the government to expect that somehow now we will just let this thing go is a very serious mistake on its part.

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1:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant McNally Canadian Alliance Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Madam Speaker, the Minister of National Defence gave a speech in the House just moments ago. He was quoted in the paper as saying:

The previous bill did have this provision in it where the minister of defence could have designated the entire Kananaskis area, but that's not possible under this new legislation. The only thing that could be protected or cordoned off would be military equipment itself if it were stationary.

My colleague mentioned sleight of hand and issues of trust in his speech. Does he believe that perhaps part of the sleight of hand with this bill is found in clause 74 under proposed section 260.1, which was referred to by the Bloc member previously? By moving equipment into an area outside of a military establishment these provisions could then be extended to that territory, thereby doing almost a back door application of the same kind of military zones that were mentioned in the previous bill, Bill C-42. Does he see that as a possibility under this bill?

Although the minister may assure us that we should not worry, that everything will be okay and that is not what is intended here, once it is in law what is to stop this minister or any other minister or the Prime Minister from saying “I do not know” to “Just watch me” once it is in legislation? Would he agree with that possibility in this section of the bill?

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1:45 p.m.


Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, if I recall my own speech correctly, it seems to me I did raise this very matter that there may be loopholes in what we now have in Bill C-55 and that through the location or insertion of a particular piece of military equipment into a particular zone in proximity to an international gathering or whatever this could then be used. As the minister says, of course it could be challenged in the courts after the event.

I am glad to have the hon. member and his party on board in opposing Bill C-42 and to these measures. I remember when Bill C-36 came before the House the NDP was alone in expressing concerns about these security measures. I welcome the new found concern of the Canadian Alliance about the welfare of people who are protesting against globalization and various other things because it seems to me that a year ago, when we were expressing similar concerns about what had happened to protesters in Quebec City, we were scorned by people in the party of the hon. member. They have come a long way, and it just goes to show that some people are in fact teachable.

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1:45 p.m.


Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Madam Speaker, I want to get a little more follow up on the issue of the lists, specifically passenger lists on airlines. It was suggested this morning by our Liberal colleague from Scarborough--Rouge River that Canadians do not have any problem whatsoever with the RCMP and CSIS having passenger lists to check if there are terrorists.

Last night I listened to the privacy commissioner. His point was that there was not a real problem if someone was checking a list and identified a terrorist. Then the rest of the list is ditched. It is not kept on a master computer file or sent to the U.S. or anywhere else. Nor is it kept for a long period of time. However three months down the road it might be decided that alleged terrorists are travelling here and there and perhaps they should be checked out just in case they are doing something wrong, but they will not know they are being investigated.

Is that one of the real concerns that we should have with regard to the passenger lists?