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.


Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Progressive Conservative Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, before I answer the hon. member's question I would like to commend him for his work and commitment to access to information which he has demonstrated in the House and often against a significant level of inertia on the front benches of his own government. However he has continued to fight on behalf of parliament and on behalf of all Canadians.

The fact that the privacy commissioner took the extraordinary step of going to the media on this indicates his frustration with the fact that the system itself may not be working and the fact that he works for a government that is not interested in the views of senior public servants who want to do the right thing. I think that speaks volumes about the dysfunctionality of the relationship between the senior public service and the government. He was right to point that out.

If the hon. member is interested in access to information, which I know he is, he will appreciate my concern about the fact that the legislation would give individual ministers, without parliamentary approval, the right to issue orders that can remain secret for 23 days, in effect for 45 days, a month and a half, without any approval from cabinet. A week is a long time in politics but 45 days is like a lifetime. An awful lot can happen in 45 days.

I know the hon. member shares my concerns because he has been committed to the notion of parliamentary supremacy and access to information for individual parliamentarians. As such, I would expect that he would vote, like many of us, against the legislation because it would be inconsistent with the principles he has demonstrated consistently in the House and through his courageous work last summer on the access to information file to support the legislation.

I am certain his government will understand when he rises in the House and votes against this terribly flawed piece of legislation. I will certainly commend him for that and defend him because he is a very principled member of parliament.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with rapt attention to the interventions by my hon. colleague from Kings--Hants on this important legislation. I certainly find myself agreeing with most of the points he raised in opposing the bill and, in particular, the issue he raised about this timeframe of 45 days whereby the cabinet of government, perhaps even the Prime Minister, might be kept in the dark about issues that certainly should be brought to their attention and should have more support than simply one cabinet minister.

As he correctly pointed out, there have been a number of occasions where decisions made by cabinet ministers, in particular the Minister of National Defence, have caused great concern regarding their judgment and whether they passed information on to appropriate colleagues and indeed to the Prime Minister. When Canadians have seen that in the past, they should be very concerned about giving those ministers, those types of individuals, greater power under this bill.

One of the things that concerns me about Bill C-55 is that in some areas I think the government, as usual, goes too far and in other areas it does not go far enough.

One example that comes to mind is in the area of properly screening individuals who enter our country. I would suggest that in many cases the ones who intend to sneak into the country have bogus documents. They get on the airplane, land here and somehow en route the documents go missing. Yet in this legislation there is no provision to immediately deport those individuals out of the country. Instead, once they land here they have all the rights and privileges of citizens. The charter kicks in and we are stuck with them. In many cases they are not detained, they go underground, go missing, sneak into the United States or whatever.

In the limited time left for questions and comments, I wonder if the hon. member would like to address that particular area of concern. I know it is of great concern to Canadians, especially since 9/11.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Progressive Conservative Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, first, the member points out the issue surrounding some of the ministers. If a minister in any other government had performed as abysmally as the Minister of National Defence had by conveniently forgetting or concealing what he knew at that period of time, there would have been a call to cabinet and to the Prime Minister to change the rules to ensure that ministers had to report and inform their cabinet colleagues and the Prime Minister more quickly of these types of things.

Instead, the Prime Minister has said that the rules should be changed to make it easier for ministers to not inform cabinet and the Prime Minister. We seem to be going in the other direction. If we do not want someone saying that a minister has made a mistake we will make it almost impossible to make a mistake. We will lower the bar and then ministers can limbo under the bar. This is really awful.

In terms of the immigration issues, Canadians have significant concerns about the flaws within our immigration system. Those concerns exist along with a sense of genuine pride about the degree to which immigration has helped build this country and the multicultural mosaic of Canada for which we are all so proud. What Canadians want is an immigration system that works again and is not a threat to national security. The immigration policy and the execution of the immigration policy could be addressed in this legislation without reducing civil liberties, rights and freedoms.

What is interesting is that the government claims it wants to protect the civil liberties and rights of people seeking refuge in Canada yet this legislation actually reduces the civil liberties and rights of Canadians.

The government ought to focus on making the existing rules work, enforcing the existing rules and providing the resources necessary to enforce these rules.

If the goal of the legislation is simply to further reduce the role of parliament and strengthen cabinet's grip over power and that of the Prime Minister's over the levers, why does the government not just say so and say that it is further emasculating and disemboweling parliament. Instead, the government sneakily provides this type of legislation and purports to use this sort of legislation to strengthen security measures when we all know at the end of the day that this is another power grab designed to reduce parliament and strengthen the power of cabinet and the Prime Minister's Office.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

4 p.m.


Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have already quoted from La Presse , and I will now quickly read some more headlines and excerpts. From Le Devoir , “New anti-terrorism legislation likely to create a police state”. Another of its headlines read “Smacks of totalitarian society: Privacy Commissioner”. I have already quoted from the Journal de Montréal and now, from Quebec City's Le Soleil , “Echoes of totalitarianism; Privacy Commissioner feels Bill C-55 goes far beyond the anti-terrorism legislation”.

I would ask the hon. member how the men and women listening to us should perceive the role of the privacy commissioner.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Progressive Conservative Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I think the fact that the privacy commissioner took those extraordinary steps and used the very strong totalitarian language that he did to describe the situation indicates his frustration with the government, a frustration he shares with many Canadians and many members of parliament who recognize the degree to which the government, through stealthy methods, jettisons any notion of access to information and will do anything it can to further reduce the role of parliament.

I think the privacy commissioner has taken very extreme and extraordinary measures in this case because of his frustrations with the government, its lack of response and its internal commitment to forge ahead and further reduce parliament.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.


Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, the public safety act, 2002, or Bill C-55, contains some important legal prongs or features in the juridical war on terrorists whose purposive basis is the promotion and protection of human security, including the most fundamental rights, the rights to life, liberty and security of the person.

These legal prongs include the following: amendments to the Aeronautics Act to maximize the effectiveness of Canada's aviation system and thereby enhance the ability of the Government of Canada to provide a safe and secure environment for air travel; amendments to the criminal code to deter terrorist hoaxes that endanger the public or heighten public anxiety; amendments to the Explosives Act to establish tighter controls over illicit trafficking in explosives, including the acquisition, exportation, manufacture, storage or transportation of explosives; and amendments to the Export and Import Permits Act establishing controls over the export and electronic transfer of military and strategically sensitive technology.

Perhaps most important, the proposed legislation also would enact the biological and toxin weapons convention implementation act to prevent the development, production, stockpiling, acquisition, transfer or use of biological weapons by states, individuals or other entities. It will thereby reinforce Canada's existing legislation to prevent the development of, and deter the proliferation of, biological weapons. This is a particularly important legal prong in the domestication of international anti-terrorist treaty law in the anti-terrorism juridical effort.

However, the bill also contains some disconcerting features which, however well intentioned, include some errors and omissions that may result in the legislation falling victim to what might be called the “law of unintended consequences”.

The concerns are as follows.

First, while the bill seeks to circumscribe the power initially conferred upon the Minister of National Defence in the predecessor Bill C-42 to designate any part of Canada a military security zone, the scope of both the exercise and application of this power remain problematic. Admittedly, the bill improves upon its predecessor Bill C-42 in that the application of the power is limited to the protection of Canadian and allied military equipment and persons, and the exercise of power is limited to that which is reasonably necessary for this purpose, rather than, as in Bill C-42, what the minister “in his opinion” believed necessary for reasons of international relations, national defence or security.

However, the definition of a “controlled access military zone” has a certain indeterminate feature to it, which could, however inadvertently, be stretched to result in the very thing that this revised version was designed to prevent, for example, the application of this power to something like the G-8 meeting in Kananaskis, simply because the presence of Canadian military equipment or personnel or foreign diplomatic personnel with their related equipment may result in a military zone being nonetheless designated.

As well, it should be appreciated that, under present law, a military base or any property belonging to the Department of National Defence is already a military zone under its control. Clearly, then, we are speaking about the designation of a controlled access military zone that is outside our “defence establishment” on civilian territory. This power needs further delineation and clarification so that it can be clearly limited to the purposes for which it is intended.

Second, and more important, even if the scope of this exercise of ministerial power is appropriately delineated and clarified, the absence of any cabinet or parliamentary accountability is disturbing. In effect, there is no requirement for cabinet authorization of this ministerial decree. There is no requirement that it even be tabled, let alone debated by parliament. There is no express reference to the power of judicial review, though the right of judicial review would still be available even in unexpressed form. In a word, this is government by ministerial decree without the appropriate checks and balances constitutive of a parliamentary democracy.

I am not saying that a carefully circumscribed ministerial power is in no case warranted; I am only saying that the scope of its exercise still has an indeterminate character about it and that it is lacking in the appropriate checks and balances.

Third, as a response to the critique of its predecessor Bill C-42, Bill C-55 further defines and circumscribes the power of other ministers to issue interim orders if “immediate action is required to deal with a significant risk, direct or indirect, to health, safety or the environment”.

Admittedly, the government has refined the scope of these powers by reducing the period within which the minister would be required to obtain cabinet approval from 90 to 45 days after the interim order is made. An additional requirement has been added that now requires that a copy of the interim order be tabled in each house of parliament within 15 sitting days from the time it is issued, thereby instituting a measure of parliamentary oversight. Also, the interim order is expressly subject to judicial review.

However, some disturbing questions remain. Why should there be a waiting period of 45 days to submit these emergency orders for cabinet approval? Why not reduce the period to 72 hours, or a week, as the Canadian Bar Association recommends? These orders are of an emergency character; they can last up to a year. The interim is a long time. The timeframe for cabinet approval needs to be much more expeditious.

Fourth, why should the interim orders have to be tabled in parliament only after 15 sitting days? If parliament were not sitting, there would be no requirement for it to do so. Also, why should parliamentary oversight be limited to the tabling of the interim order and not also the debating of a prospective amendment or an appeal of the interim order, as is consistent with the principle of parliamentary oversight? Again, the principle of parliamentary oversight and accountability needs to be enhanced.

Fifth, both the power of the Minister of National Defence regarding designated controlled access military zones and the power of ministers to issue interim emergency orders are exempt from the application of the Statutory Instruments Act. That means, in brief, that they are exempt from the examination of proposed regulations as required by the Statutory Instruments Act to ensure that these regulations are authorized by the statute pursuant to which they are made; that they do not constitute an unusual or unexpected use of the authority pursuant to which they are made; that they do not trespass unduly on existing rights and freedoms; and that they do not in any case breach the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom.

This does not mean that such decrees or regulations are not subject to the charter but it does mean that the “scrutiny and screen filter”, the filtering out of objectionable features before the regulations are enacted, is absent. Regrettably, a judicial corrective may be necessary when a pre-emptive screening corrective could be utilized first.

Sixth, while Bill C-55, for the most part, strikes a reasonable balance between security and privacy rights, the new provisions giving RCMP and CSIS unrestricted access to the personal information of all Canadian air travellers, both on flights within Canada as well as on international routes, are also disconcerting. For example, if the RCMP can obtain and scan airline manifests in search of anyone subject to an outstanding warrant for any offence punishable by five years or more, or for an offence under the Immigration Act, this would appear to be an undue expansion of police power at the expense of privacy rights, without clear justification.

In other words, if, as the privacy commissioner has put it, proposed section 4.82 were limited to providing the RCMP and CSIS with access to airline passenger information for the sole purpose of checking against databases of known or suspected terrorists, with the proviso that all such information would be destroyed except where a match with the database was found, this could be regarded as a legitimate exercise of police power for security purposes.

Seventh, an appreciation of these three distinct exercises of executive power, the power of the Minister of National Defence to designate a controlled access military zone, the ministerial powers to issue interim urgent orders, and the power of police and security services to access aviation manifests, invite us to ask whether they comport with the proportionality principle, that is, that the remedies sought are rationally connected to the objectives sought to be secured, that they comport with the minimal impairment principle, that is, that they intrude on civil liberties as minimally as possible, and that the value of enacting these powers outweighs their cost.

Eighth, we must ask whether these authorized powers, taken as a whole, maintain the equilibrium between the related needs of security and rights protection.

Ninth, we must ask whether the legislation, taken as a whole, maintains the equilibrium among different branches of government, executive, legislative and judicial, or is there an undue allocation of power to ministers with a corresponding diminution of cabinet responsibility, parliamentary accountability and capacity for judicial review? In particular, the parliamentary role in this legislation appears to be diminished.

Finally, as a matter of parliamentary process, I would recommend that the legislation be referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, for the following reasons.

First, this is the second part of the government's anti-terrorism package, the first part of which, Bill C-36, was considered and debated before the justice and human rights committee. As a result, that committee acquired a certain repository of experience, if not expertise, in dealing with anti-terrorism law and policy and related issues.

Second, the bill raises fundamental questions, both about the equilibrium between security and rights protection and the equilibrium among the various branches of government that underpin a constitutional democracy, both of which are foundational legal concerns that are the natural subject matter for such a committee.

Third, the exercise of the authorities of the police and security, both under the criminal code and in surveillance matters, again is the natural stuff for a justice and human rights committee.

In conclusion, the public safety act, 2002, has important features, some of which I have described today, that are germane to an anti-terrorism law and policy and to the protection of public safety and human security. However, there are also disconcerting features, as I have also described, that taint the bill and which need to be addressed and redressed so we can promote human security without unnecessarily intruding on civil liberties.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Canadian Alliance Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I certainly want to congratulate my government colleague across the way, who gave a most eloquent dissertation. I hope all the people out there listening paid close heed. It was superb.

The issue is Bill C-55, an act to amend certain acts of Canada, and to enact measures for implementing the biological and toxin weapons convention in order to enhance public safety. The bottom line is that what we are trying to do here is enhance public safety. I will just deal with a couple of aspects of it, because much has been said in the past.

On the issue of transport, one of the things that we all want in airline transport in particular is some kind of unified, codified degree of standards, national standards for those individuals responsible for engaging in airport security. There are widespread differences across the country. Recently we have heard some disturbing evidence about this. The government needs to work with partners across the country, with airport and airline authorities, to ensure that security personnel across the country have the same standards, the same training, the same skills and, indeed, adequate working conditions and remuneration.

One of the problems is that the remuneration for these individuals is extremely poor. They work very hard and they are as concerned as we are about being able to do their jobs properly. They want the proper training, they want the skills and they want the standards to be the same across the country so that airline security will be top-notch.

On the issue of the security perimeter, it is essential that we work with our partners, not against them, and that we certainly pay our dues if we are going to reap the rewards of being part of this larger security perimeter. That is essential. For too long as a country, because of neglect on the part of the government, we have been following on the coattails of our partners and not paying our dues. We know that if we go to the security table and want to be a partner, we have to go to the table with some resources.

For too long our defence department and our Canadian forces personnel have had their resources removed and gutted. We have a critical need for an adequate number of personnel in our defence department. CF personnel who are on the sharp edge of our Canadian forces are cycling far too quickly in our country. As a result, incredible stress is placed upon them and their families. Quite frankly, they are suffering from burnout.

Objective evidence of this is the degree of attrition in our CF personnel. We cannot retain our individuals. Furthermore, we are not able to hire them either. The government needs to pay close heed to this to ensure that it is able to attract and retain the best. Too many of our best are leaving because they are being burnt out, because they simply are not being treated properly and fairly.

On the issue of root causes, I want to draw attention to a couple of issues that Bill C-55 should have taken into consideration. One is the issue of the biological and toxin weapons convention. I cannot imagine why the government has taken so long to implement this convention. It is a big problem. We have had some very disturbing evidence of fissionable material, things needed to make nuclear weapons, being lost, particularly in Russia. By pure luck, some of that fissionable material has been found and blocked. We know that people are trying to sell a lot of that material and there are willing buyers in the Middle East in some terrorist organizations. It is very disturbing to us, to our security partners and to other people in the world. If we do not get a handle on this so-called lost fissionable material, dirty nukes could be the way of the future. That is a serious problem.

If we do not work with our partners to find and apprehend this fissionable material, of which a substantial amount has been lost so far, we could run a serious risk of having a small nuclear device, packed with conventional explosives around the outside, exploding nuclear material in a large region. While I hope that not that many people would die, the bigger problem is that of people dying prematurely due to radiation poisoning and cancers associated with exposure to radioactive material.

It is a serious problem and I strongly encourage the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of National Defence to work with our American and NATO partners to deal with the situation quickly. It is a situation is out of control and should be of deep concern to all of us.

On the issue of root causes, we are spending a lot of time in Afghanistan and in large part we are missing the boat. If we simply look at al Qaeda, much of the terrorist organization has widespread tentacles across the world, from the Far East to the Middle East and to North America, particularly the United States.

If the government is going to cut the head off this Hydra, it has to get to the area where many of these individuals are found. The people who are the masterminds of this have a very distinct geopolitical purpose. They want to go back and make the Middle East a region where Islamic fundamentalism will take hold. The events of September 11 were as directed to countries such as Saudi Arabia as they were to the United States. Islamic fundamentalists see Saudi Arabia as somewhat of a sellout to the larger dream of having a pan-Islamic Middle East based on fundamental Islam.

The government has to get to the root causes. One way to drain the swamp is to deal with those critical areas where individuals have been pulled out to become suicide bombers or have joined terrorist organizations. We simply cannot exclude and continue to ignore the horrific situation taking place, particularly in Palestine.

We must work with the United States and other partners to do a couple of things. First, bring both parties to the table and, if necessary, use financial levers to do that. Both Palestine and Israel rely heavily on international funding. If the government can bring them together at the table by using those levers, if necessary, then it will be able to force them to do the following: first, the recognition of an independent Palestinian state; second, the recognition of a safe and secure Israel; third, that the Palestinian Authority have control over Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and other groups that would murder innocent Israeli civilians; fourth, that there be a pull-out of Israeli troops from the occupied territories in the West Bank; and fifth, that there be a complete and unconditional pull-out of all Israeli centres in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. This is absolutely important.

If we looked at the map of the West Bank, we would see that it is pockmarked with 141 Israeli settlements that have continued to increase in numbers. That cannot produce peace.

The Palestinian Authority, which is a highly corrupt organization, needs to have its feet put to the fire. Mr. Arafat needs to actively root out corruption in his organization and if need be get external help to that end. He simply cannot maintain the current status quo where large amounts of money are being used for the personal benefit of the power brokers within the Palestinian Authority. They must not speak with forked tongues. They have to speak for peace and they have to speak for their people.

If the leadership of the Palestinian Authority is not prepared to do that fairly, then it should leave. Similarly, if the leadership in Israel is not willing to actively engage the Palestinians in an honest and fair fashion, then it should be removed. Individuals who are willing to talk peace in a tough but fair-minded way for both groups should stay.

In the end we will not resolve the problem of terrorism that affects us all unless we are willing to deal with the root causes of this situation and unless we are willing to deal not only with the situation in Palestine, but also the situation in Saudi Arabia where there has to be a liberalization of power and a sharing of resources. We should engage also in improved bilateral relations with middle eastern states.

An intelligent thing to do would be to co-opt or work with middle eastern countries, Muslim countries, and have them work with groups in the west as a united front for peace. Both groups in combination, the west and middle eastern Islamic countries, could work together to put pressure on both sides in a united fashion.

Last, I encourage the government to look at Prince Abdullah's peace proposal. It is a very sensible one. It is certainly a base line which we could work toward.This could work toward security not only for the people of the Middle East who desperately need it, both on the Jewish side and the Muslim side, but also for the international community at large.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.


John Bryden Liberal Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Mr. Speaker, the record will show that the member for Kings--Hants did not understand the question I posed to him when I asked whether he was concerned about the privacy commissioner issuing press releases on his concerns about Bill C-55 instead of reporting first to parliament. The member for Kings--Hants made it very clear in his reply that he thought that the privacy commissioner is an official of government. As we know, the privacy commissioner is an officer of parliament like the auditor general and is required by statute to report to parliament.

The reason why this issue is important is because this is a vitally important debate we are having before the House right now. It is a debate that touches on our fundamental civil liberties and tries to strike a balance with that and the need for public safety in a world that has become much more threatening than it was merely a year ago.

The difficulty with the privacy commissioner in effect going to the media with his concerns about the privacy considerations in the bill is that it inadvertently or maybe deliberately distorts the debate. We had an example when the member for Kings--Hants quoted from the privacy commissioners press release in expressing his concerns about privacy in the relevant section of Bill C-55. I think that is unfortunate, because there is no doubt that the privacy issue in Bill C-55 is very important.

What is of concern to the privacy commissioner is the prospect that the police and security officials will be able to look at the passenger manifests of aircraft, both going from this country to another and domestically, and thereby use that opportunity to look for potential terrorists and even to look for potential criminals.

One can see why they might want to do that, because one of the new things that has emerged after September 11 is the whole business where people who go by air now have to show photo I.D. Suddenly, unlike ever before, the police and security officials have an opportunity to track individual people as they travel on aircraft.

I do not think that any of us would argue that this is a very necessary thing that we would want the police and security officials to have in the interests of tracking potential terrorists. There is a legitimate question about whether or not this opportunity should be extended for the tracking of possible or known criminals. That is an issue that I think needs to be debated at length in committee. For myself, I do not think it is unreasonable to use this new opportunity to try to identify known criminals as they use our air services, given that we now have the opportunity to see precise photo identities for every passenger who boards an aircraft.

Let us set that aside for a moment. I thought the member for Mount Royal raised a number of very important concerns about Bill C-55. These are concerns that in many respects, at least in my view as a member of parliament, are more important than the privacy issue, certainly because they strike to the very heart of the accountability of this legislation to parliament. I will not repeat those because I have limited time, but in my turn let me point out something that I find in the bill that causes me great worry. It is something which needs to be dealt with in committee and of which I think every member of parliament should be aware.

The way the bill works is that it gives ministers the ability to issue interim orders. These orders enable the appropriate minister, whether it is the Minister of Health, the Minister of the Environment or the Minister of Transport, to issue orders within the context of the particular legislation to meet a current emergency.

For instance, the appropriate minister can issue an interim order with respect to the Quarantine Act. We can see why the minister might want to issue an order in that case because one of the world dangers that has arisen is the possibility of a terrorist attack using biological weapons. There is also, concomitant with that, the whole danger of new diseases coming out of Africa and South America that have never been seen before which are high contagious and highly dangerous.

I do agree that the minister should have this authority and certainly there should be a debate about how that authority should be limited, but I would agree that he needs the authority.

What I find troubling is in each one of these interim orders we find the words:

The Minister may make an interim order that contains any provision that may be contained in a regulation made under this Act if the Minister believes [the situation warrants it]...

We are talking about regulations. This gives the minister, the relevant minister, a huge opportunity to circumvent all parliamentary knowledge.

One thing that backbench MPs and all members of parliament complain about always is that the bills we pass may say one thing but the real crucial thing is what is said in the regulations. Unfortunately, so often the legislation that we pass in this House allows an open door on the type of regulations that may be made.

What that provision does in all these various bills that it touches upon, the pest control act, the drug safety act, the transportation security act and so on and so forth, is it gives the government an absolute opportunity to do anything it pleases by simply changing the regulation and then declaring an interim order.

At the very least what we have to do is ensure that when this bill passes it only applies to existing regulations and these interim orders cannot be applied to regulations made subsequently unless those regulations are cleared by parliament. It cannot leave those regulations to the bureaucracy alone.

I think this is very necessary legislation. I do not accept the thesis advanced by the opposition that this is some attempt by the government to grab massive power. The reality is that the ability to write this kind of sensitive legislation is very difficult and delicate. It is done by the people in the bureaucracy, mainly in the justice department. Our responsibility as MPs is to go through this legislation as carefully as possible, identify concerns like I have just outlined and not be deflected by those who would lobby us to concentrate on only one aspect of the legislation rather than the others.

We must look at this legislation across the board and we must also see it in the context of the Emergencies Act to ensure that there is nothing in this bill that should not properly be under the Emergencies Act because it has much better parliamentary oversight than this bill has. I hope the committee will do this.

I will conclude by saying that I think this is important legislation. It tries to strike a difficult balance. I am extremely concerned about the regulation aspect of it. I will have a great deal of difficulty unless the government, parliament and committee address that problem. I think that otherwise most provisions in the bill can be dealt with.

Let me finally say that I attempted to raise a question of privilege with you, Mr. Speaker, with respect to the privacy commissioner. I realize now in reflection that I began that question of privilege in a way in which you had no opportunity to rule other than how you ruled. However the point remains that we cannot have an officer of parliament lobbying the public through the media for his particular point of view before his concerns are brought before this House as allowed for in the Privacy Act in sections 38, 39 and 40. This House I believe will have to deal with that matter in due course.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the constituents of Surrey Central I am pleased to rise and participate in the debate on Bill C-55, an act to amend certain acts of Canada and to enact measures for implementing the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, in order to enhance public safety.

It has been almost eight months since September 11. This is the Liberal's third attempt at legislation. It was first introduced as Bill C-42. Then it was split. Its offshoot, Bill C-44 was passed. The government reintroduced Bill C-42, then pulled it again last week. Now it has introduced Bill C-55.

This shows a reaction to the September 11 event rather than how the government needs to address the issue. This also shows a lack of vision and strategy by the government. It does not enhance the confidence in the government's ability to lead in the war on terrorism.

The legislation is a feeble reflection of its American counterpart. The U.S. introduced, debated, amended and enacted much more comprehensive security legislation in eight weeks, setting out tasks and defining government responsibilities. President Bush even signed it into law in November 2001, despite an anthrax scare.

It has taken the government eight months to introduce Canada's legislation in three different drafts to give us a sense of comprehension of security and third rate management. Actually all it has done is raised taxes and grabbed more power since September 11.

I am pleased that the Liberals withdrew their last flawed terror bill, Bill C-42. However they seemed to have missed the concerns Canadians had about it regarding an apparent power grab by ministers.

Bill C-55 has many flawed elements but two of them are the power grab by ministers and half-baked measures designed to mirror U.S. legislation. The stated purposes of the bill include: making air rage an offence; strengthening security at restricted areas in airports; requiring transportation companies to provide information on passengers; criminalizing terrorist hoaxes; providing for more control over explosives and sensitive exports; providing for the naming of controlled access military zones by the defence minister; protecting the jobs of reservists called up for service; and implementing the biological and toxin weapons convention.

This is an omnibus bill amending 19 different acts of parliament and implementing one international treaty, as well as impacting nine different ministries, which makes fair scrutiny by one committee almost impossible, amounting to even less accountability in government.

It gives the ministers of the environment, health, transport and fisheries and oceans the authority to issue an interim order effectively giving them the power to act without consulting cabinet or parliament and thus making the government even more arrogant.

This general increase in authority is not accompanied by any new specifics, or an assumption of responsibility by the ministries concerned. It is without any judicial or parliamentary oversight to safeguard the rights of Canadians. Allowing ministers to impose interim orders in contentious areas limits accountability for a bad decision to a single cabinet minister, rather than the Prime Minister or the whole government. This is not a step forward toward more accountable government.

Given the sweeping powers that already exist in the Emergencies Act to declare a public order emergency, an international emergency or even a war emergency, the new interim orders are probably not necessary in most cases.

Although the timeframe for cabinet review of ministerial imposed orders has been reduced from 90 days to 45 days it is a cosmetic change that is still too long a time period. It is 31 days more than the 14 days currently required under the act.

The legislation is inadequate, vague and seems to only be window dressing. It will probably be loaded with regulations. The government is not only weak and arrogant but also infamous for thwarting democracy in the House. The regulations would be imposed without any oversight or debate in parliament. This is not called governing but rather ruling through the back door.

As co-chair of the scrutiny of regulations committee I know how badly we need regulatory reform in the country. Some of the provinces are doing quite a bit, at least more than the federal government. The government needs to submit regulations along with the legislation when it puts it forward for debate in the House so that we know what it is following. As they say, the devil is in the details and the devil has to follow.

The government would now require air transportation companies to provide information about passengers en route to Canada but would not require them to ensure that passengers have documents when they board and when they disembark. There are no provisions to fine companies and require them to return the passengers if they do not have their documents.

The problem of invalid or missing travel documents remains. All persons who do not have documents should be detained automatically until they can prove their identity or their identity can be proven by running criminal checks overseas.

The auditor general said that 40% of potential refugees applying for refugee status in Canada land in the country without any kind of documents in their hands. That puts security at risk. Although airlines are required to check the passports of passengers for citizenship information, it is for immigration purposes only, not for security or ensuring that they land in this country with the documents with which they were able to board the plane.

There is no provision in the bill to send people back. If they were to come through a safe third country nothing could be done about them. All such persons should automatically be sent back. The transportation company should foot the bill for failing to screen the passengers. That is the law in the United States, why not in Canada?

According to the bill collected information would not be shared with law enforcement agencies and could not therefore be used in profiling. Further, the bill would not provide a means by which such information might be processed. It lacks co-ordination and a utilization strategy for the information.

There is little controversy about the provisions for greater sharing of information among financial institutions and regulators in order to comply with the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) Act. There is nothing about that in the bill. Again it is a lack of co-ordination and co-operation. The government does not understand how to create a synergy of resources and information.

There should be a reasonable balance between security and the privacy rights of Canadians. The provisions proposed in section 4.82 would give the RCMP and CSIS unrestricted access to the personal information of all Canadian air travellers on flights within Canada as well as on international routes without any judicial authorization, explanation or justification as to its necessity.

Only air travellers within Canada would be forced by law to identify themselves to police for scrutiny, not travellers by train, bus or car. It is discriminatory. Similar practices exist in only totalitarian societies where police routinely board trains or establish roadblocks to check identification of people in search of anything in the interest of the state. Such countries have issued compulsory national identity cards or numbers. This provision would be an infringement on the privacy of citizens.

There are other issues, for example, how about law abiding citizens? They would also be required to provide information. Similarly, the amendments to the criminal code deal with hoaxes which are not real terrorist threats. There are so many things that are limiting to democracy.

The bill is contrary to Canadian Alliance policy of calling for more accountability in the government. The Canadian Alliance opposes the bill unless the government amends certain things we have put forward and limits the blanket interim order powers given to the ministers. I look forward to the government making those possible amendments.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

May 2nd, 2002 / 4:45 p.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to speak to this bill, since it is such an important one. I understand that all the bills in this House of Commons have a certain importance, but this one is extremely specific in character, and extremely important. It must be considered very wisely.

We need to look at Bill C-55, the purpose of which is to fight terrorism, keeping in mind that this important legislature must meet the expectations of the voters of Canada, and those of Quebec as well. Examination of this bill requires us to bear in mind all the other pieces of legislation in place in Canada, but in particular, the charter of rights and freedoms, which is in place and must be respected as well. We must meet the public's expectations, respect existing legislation as well as the charter, and strike a balance between individual and collective rights and national security.

The government has failed in its duty on at least two occasions, by attempting to get Bill C-42 through, which was divided up and enacted in part, and then by going back to the drawing board and tabling Bill C-55.

Upon examining this new legislation, one cannot help but notice that the government has not listened and is not responding to the expectations of constituents across Canada and Quebec. This is so evident, that at first reading of this bill, the person responsible for monitoring and protecting the privacy of individuals has said that this is legislation that could be found in totalitarian countries. Naturally, I am referring to the privacy commissioner.

I do not agree with the member for Ancaster--Dundas--Flamborough--Aldershot who said that the privacy commissioner should not be commenting. This is not the first time that the privacy commissioner has commented to the media about a bill, saying that it makes sense or does not.

I remember Bill C-36, to fight organized crime, because it is an issue that I was concerned about. This very same privacy commissioner supported it. The member opposite did not rise then to say “He should not comment on it”. No, then it was fine, because the privacy commissioner was supporting the government.

That is not how it works. He did not have to rise when the commissioner commented on Bill C-36, just like he did not have to rise and get offended by the fact that the privacy commissioner made his view on Bill C-55 clear. He described it as unacceptable. He said that it was legislation that could exist, but in totalitarian countries, not a country like Canada, where individual and collective rights are recognized. The privacy commissioner probably came to the same conclusions that the members of the Bloc Quebecois did, when we examined the bill.

Mr. Speaker, I know that I only have ten minutes. I cannot go into detail on each of the points, but you must understand that the whole issue of controlled access military zones worries us.

Incidentally, the words may have changed, but the nuts and bolts of Bill C-55 have not necessarily been changed, because it bears a curious resemblance to Bill C-42, which was plagued with problems. The military security zone is now called a controlled access military zone. This is the biggest change to this section. The whole issue of controlled access military zones is worrisome.

The interim orders that are included in a whole series of acts are also a major source of concern. When we look at the list, we may be surprised, because interim orders may be made under the Department of Health Act, the Explosives Act, the Export and Import Permits Act, the Food and Drugs Act, The Hazardous Products Act, The Marine Transportation Security Act, the Pest Control Products Act, and so on.

What is particular about these interim orders is that each of the ministers responsible for an act will have the authority to make such orders. If we look at these changes, we see that they are exempted from the application of sections 3, 5 and 11 of the Statutory Instruments Act.

A layperson who reads this without really knowing about it, or without the schedule to these acts, may not understand. I wonder if the Minister of National Defence himself understands these provisions, considering the replies that he gave us today.

If we look at the Statutory Instruments Act, we see that sections 3, 5 and 11 are those that are used to determine whether or not an act complies with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

I understand why Quebec did not sign the Constitution. Members opposite boast about this and they celebrate the 20th anniversary of the constitution. Incidentally, they are celebrating a little too soon, because it has not been 20 years, but they are celebrating the 20th anniversary simply to show that they are a little mixed up. This year is the 20th anniversary of the patriation of the Constitution. But the 20th anniversary of the coming into effect of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms will come later. They will eventually learn that in the history books, when they read them.

These sections will not be applied to the acts that I listed. In other words, the government will not check to see if these measures respect the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This is serious business. Yet, the government seems to be merrily going forward, oblivious of the fact that trouble may lie ahead because of these sections. But, as far as the government is concerned, there is no problem.

The very important part 2 of the bill, which deals with the National Defence Act, gives exceptional powers to the Minister of National Defence regarding the creation of the controlled access military zones to which I referred earlier.

My third concern has to do with the whole issue of damages. It will not be possible to sue the government in cases of abuse.

The amendments to the National Defence Act give excessive powers to the Minister of National Defence. One of these powers has to do with the dimensions of zones. He is the one who, at some point, is going to decide exactly what size of controlled access military zone is needed.

Right off the bat, we think that there should be very specific criteria in the bill so that the minister, whoever he is, cannot get carried away. A properly advised, open-minded legislator acting in good faith includes such criteria in a bill. The criteria in subsection 260.1 (4) are as follows:

The dimensions of a controlled access military zone may not be greater than is reasonably necessary to ensure the safety or security of any person, thing or property for which the zone is designated.

These are the criteria which the Minister of National Defence will use. This is the same Minister of National Defence who showed a lack of judgment in the Afghan prisoner affair.

Let us remember that Canadian troops captured prisoners. The minister knew this. He was told that they had during a briefing. But he did not feel the need to inform the Prime Minister, cabinet, or anyone else, while everyone in Canada was anxiously waiting to hear what would happen if prisoners were taken. He even told the House that none had been, when it fact some had, and so on. This is a flagrant lack of judgment, and this is the same minister who is going to implement this legislation.

It is ridiculous. I could give other examples, such as subsection (14) of this same section, which prevents taxpayers from taking the government to court.

I am being signalled that my time is up. I would have liked to speak at greater length about this bill, because it is extremely important. We in the Bloc Quebecois are naturally against it, because we defend ordinary citizens. That is why we were elected.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I want to start out by agreeing with what many members have said in the debate. This is very important legislation. Any time we work on personal security, it is serious legislation and should be very carefully thought out.

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4:55 p.m.

An hon. member

You are a good guy, but it is not a good bill.

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4:55 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

My thanks for the compliments from the Tories at the end.

Whenever we are dealing with people's rights and security, we are always walking a fine line and we want to get it right, as a previous member said, related to their expectations. Canadians still expect to be secure. They realize there are things to be more concerned about these days but at the same time they do not want any excess infringement on their rights to achieve that security.

The charter of rights and freedoms is raised quite often by the opposition with respect a number of bills. I will repeat what I said with respect to another bill recently. Most Canadians should know that any time the lawyers in whatever department draft a bill, they always have the human rights experts and lawyers who are expert in the field go over the legislation. It should be reviewed by parliament and committees, but the drafters certainly have done it very carefully and technically in a legal sense to try to avoid any of that. Legislation is not thrown together haphazardly. That is why most laws of the land do not infringe the charter of rights and freedoms.

As members have said, this is a very complex bill. There is a great deal in it. I hope the department officials will listen very carefully to the good points people make in this debate and the debate that occurs in committee. I am sure the bill is not perfect at the moment. I definitely agree with that. I hope that the valid points will be taken into account. On the other hand with respect to some points that have been brought up, maybe people just do not understand some of the items in the bill and those items do not need to be changed.

As the opposition members have mentioned the bill affects 19 pieces of legislation and nine ministries. The Bloc member listed some of the acts. Obviously the bill is very complex and how we deal with it has to come out in the House, hopefully on these very different pieces of legislation. It also shows the importance of the bill.

I remember hearing a member ask why we needed the bill. We are looking at 19 pieces of legislation that need to be amended to improve them. How often have members in the House or Canadians outside been outraged because something has fallen between the cracks because the laws just have not covered that situation and someone has gotten off on a technicality?

By the government reconsidering the bill and taking this length of time, a number of those things have been filled in and the legislation is better for all Canadians. I am talking about a number of the smaller points that no one is questioning. There are dozens of areas that we have talked about that are in the bill, but many of them are not even raised because everyone realizes those things need to be done.

I want to talk about three areas where some major concerns are being raised and to emphasize some of the points that should not be of concern. Many other members raised what might be valid concerns in those areas. I always enjoy the debate of the member for Mount Royal. With respect to one of the opposition members who spoke, unfortunately I was in a meeting and did not hear all of his speech today but he has obviously done a very careful analysis.

The three areas I am going to talk about are the defence zones, privacy and the interim orders. They seem to be the areas that most people have concerns about or may have concerns about when they understand the ramifications.

The first area of concern relates to the defence zones. Some people give the impression that all of a sudden the minister has these unbridled powers to turn much of Canada into a military defence zone. That is not the purpose. In fact the minister is not even the initiator. It has to be the chief of the defence staff.

It has to be the department working on the ground that realizes a piece of military equipment has to be somewhere or a visiting ship is coming into one of our harbours. The people in the military can protect that piece of equipment just as they do when they are on present military property. Obviously they will not make that area too big. In fact the opposition never ceases to remind us of the limitations of the military resources. They are obviously not going to make an area too big because it is much harder to protect and control.

There was that horrible example of a United States warship in another port being damaged by an explosion and there was a lot of loss of life. There are real situations that could occur.

The second area of concern relates to privacy. Hopefully people will not think that when they fly on a plane to another country or within Canada all sorts of information will be collected and kept on innocent people. That is not the intent. It is for very serious infractions, so that the air marshal could know about people who could be a danger to transport safety and so that CSIS could know about a terrorism threat.

They would only collect and pass information on to the air marshal or to the appropriate officer if it was a very serious situation; if it was a criminal code offence, it could be more than five years; if it was an immediate threat to life and health or safety, such as someone with a very contagious and deadly disease happened to be on the plane; if there was an infringement of the Immigration Act; or if there is a warrant out on someone for extradition to another country. As we all know a person can only be extradited if he or she is a serious threat.

In the travelling that I do, and from the people I have talked to, I have never heard complaints about extra security concerns. Most people who travel a lot, including members of the House, would feel much safer if the air marshal or the appropriate authorities knew there was a potential dangerous offender on the plane.

Some people have suggested it could be used to collect and track information on protestors. That is not true. It cannot be done under the power of this bill unless they fall into one of those very dangerous categories.

The last area of major concern is the interim orders. A number of improvements have been made. The government withdrew the bill and looked at it. It made a number of changes to the areas I am talking about to improve the bill, to take into account the criticisms and suggestions people had on the first round.

The first thing about the interim orders is that the things that have been put in can be done by regulation. As most members know, most of those do not go through parliament anyway.

There is the suggestion that the ministers would have all sorts of extra powers to do things that they could never do before. It would only affect things that could be done by regulation anyway and they would not go through parliament in the normal course of affairs. All the legislation does is speed that up. It gives them the ability to do it in a timely fashion in an emergency.

It is not a secret. It has to be tabled within 15 sitting days of the House. It has to have cabinet approval within 45 days. It is published in the Canada Gazette in 23 days. The whole country would know. If there were an uproar, obviously it would come before parliament right away. At any time it can go before a judicial review.

There are a number of protections. I hope people consider this as they consider the bill.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant McNally Canadian Alliance Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Mr. Speaker, as we near the end of debate today on Bill C-55 quite a bit has been said about the bill by members on the government and opposition sides. Some good points have been made in debate. I will highlight some of the points made by both opposition and government members on this important topic.

The minister of defence gave a speech earlier which outlined the whole issue of security zones. He said the legislation would take care of itself and that we would not have to worry about the government using parts of it to extend military zones over areas like Kananaskis or whatnot. However there is concern about the motivations and intent of the minister.

When the legislation is in place it will be in place. It will not matter what the minister has said about his motivations. The legislation would give discretionary powers to him and other ministers. No matter how much he tells us the powers would never be used in a certain way they could well be used in such a manner. It could happen with the current minister, a different minister or under a future government.

Once we put a piece of legislation in place it is there until amended or repealed. We therefore need to be careful. We need to look at legislation not through the lens of our own political parties but in terms of what is best for the country. Political parties have differing opinions but even within parties there are variances of opinion about pieces of legislation. Bill C-55 is an example. We have heard government members give good speeches about some of the concerns with regard to the bill.

I would refer members to the speech given by our hon. colleague from Mount Royal. He gave a good speech outlining many of the concerns individuals have with this piece of legislation. I will point out some of the concerns as well. I mentioned them in a question to my hon. colleague the NDP House leader.

One concern is the issue of controlled access military zones. Under clause 74 dealing with proposed section 260.1 of the National Defence Act, Bill C-55 explains how the chief of defence staff may designate a controlled access military zone in Canada in relation to a defence establishment, a property, a vessel or an aircraft. It goes on to explain what could be designated as such. My hon. colleague from Yukon referred to this as well.

Under Bill C-55 proposed subsection 260.1(4) of the National Defence Act reads:

The dimensions of a controlled access military zone may not be greater than is reasonably necessary to ensure the safety or security of any person, thing or property for which the zone is designated.

A great deal of discretion would be given with regard to this. Others have mentioned this, including the Liberal government member from Mount Royal. It could be used to extend controlled military zones to areas like Kananaskis. The minister tells us this could not happen but the clauses in the bill would give the minister the ability to do so.

That is what our hon. colleague from Mount Royal was indicating. Members on the opposition side have claimed it would be a back door way of implementing the kind of military zone described in Bill C-42 which was withdrawn and replaced by this bill. I would raise the same concern.

Other concerns were raised. My hon. colleague from Scarborough--Rouge River commented earlier about interim orders and the number of days it would take before they were tabled in the House. This was pointed out by other members as well. Why would it take 15 or 23 days to publish them in the Canada Gazette as is indicated in the bill? Why could they not come here sooner? Why could they not come here immediately?

The hon. member for Mount Royal indicated this could happen within 72 hours. I agree. Extraordinary measures should come before this place for scrutiny. Under Bill C-55 some interim orders would be excluded from scrutiny by parliament. Regulations would come to committee for scrutiny but some of the orders would not. In essence regulations would be implemented by the executive branch. The legislative branch would have no opportunity to review them because they would not come to committee or parliament. There would no opportunity for judicial review either. This was the point made by our hon. colleague, a point we should all consider.

If this is a needed piece of legislation we in the official opposition have grave concerns with the way it is drafted. We could only support it if it were amended. I would venture to say the same goes for some government members who have shared our grave concerns about the whole issue of review by parliament and the balance of powers in terms of security versus individual freedoms and rights.

It is incumbent upon us in this place to take our role seriously. We must not allow legislation to come through quickly and without proper review. It is my hope that government members will give Bill C-55 due consideration in terms of the discretionary power it would give the minister of defence and other ministers. We saw difficulties with how the minister of defence handled the whole JTF2 fiasco. Was he briefed? Was he not briefed? When did he know about the turning over of soldiers to American forces? I will not review it in detail but we know there were difficulties with that case.

Bill C-55 would give further discretionary powers to the minister of defence and other ministers, yet the government is asking us to trust it to do what is in the best interest of the security of our country. We want more than an assurance of trust because trust has been lacking in some cases. We want it laid out clearly in the regulations and the legislation. We want the interim orders to come to parliament first. We do not want to review them after the actions to have been taken. What is the use of that? Let us bring them here first and involve parliament in a meaningful way. We should not have a debate just so the government can say we had an opportunity to discuss the bill. We need substantive change.

In closing I refer to the government member for Mount Royal who said the bill is tainted by disconcerting features which need to be addressed and redressed. Bill C-55 needs to be changed. That message was stated clearly by one of our esteemed colleagues on the Liberal side, a professor who studied the issue for many years of his academic life. It has also been stated by members of the opposition.

Let us get it right. Let us deal with the amendments properly. Let us deal with the legislation properly. If we do not we will do a disservice to our country despite our intention of doing something good. Let us get it right. Let us fix it up. We cannot pass the bill unless we get the corrections.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Haliburton—Victoria—Brock Ontario


John O'Reilly LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak to Bill C-55. I had been prepared to speak to Bill C-42 at one time. I am pleased the bill has been withdrawn, changed and critiqued.

I will take this opportunity to go over what the Minister of National Defence stated today and what we believe to be significant improvements in the bill. Recent events continue to show that the security environment in Canada has changed significantly. The measures contained in Bill C-55 would improve the ability of the Canadian forces to protect Canadians and respond to the new threats.

It is clear that the government has listened to Canadians in terms of what they wanted changed. The government has also listened carefully not only to its own caucus and backbench but to the opposition. The new public safety act, 2002 has taken into account the concerns expressed about the previous Bill C-42. When opposition members study the new bill they will realize it is an improvement and that it tries to address the problems.

I will deal specifically with the amendments to the National Defence Act. They are a logical continuation of the amendments contained in the Anti-terrorism Act which received royal assent in December 2001. Sober second thought has prevailed and we now have time to look at the terrorist threat and highlight some of the changes.

One of the amendments deals with controlled military access zones. It is the amendment everyone is trying to read something into whether it is there or not. It would replace military security zones with controlled access military zones. The new zones would be limited to the protection of Canadian forces and visiting forces personnel or property. Contrary to what other members have said, the zones would be strictly for the protection of our military and the military of our allies. They are not intended and would not be used for other purposes, plain and simple. They would be temporary. Any extension of a designated zone for more than a year would require the approval of governor in council.

After the USS Cole was attacked by terrorists in a harbour in Yemen I came to the conclusion that there was no control. I could also point to a recent visit to Halifax harbour by an American aircraft carrier which was so big it had to stay in the outer harbour. Let us imagine that. The boat was 28 storeys high. Its landing surface was four and a half acres. It was a huge piece of military equipment creating a tourist attraction in itself.

If we allow huge military craft and vast numbers of personnel into our harbours, whether on the west coast or the east coast, they must be protected. We must allow the designation of zones to protect them. It is only prudent. We do not have that now. We have it in civil law but not military law. That is important.

Bill C-55 also contains amendments for notification and publication of the designation of zones. This would make Canada a more reliable international partner and at the same time address concerns about the extent to which the zones could be used for non-military purposes. Obviously we are talking about military purposes and terrorist activity. The zones would protect visiting aircraft whether at an air show in Trenton, a harbour in Halifax or Cold Lake, Alberta. When people visiting from other countries want to be assured they have protection we must be able to offer it whether it is in military or civilian areas.

The second part of the bill relating to the military would improve on the amendments in Bill C-42 regarding the ability of Canadian forces to protect their computer systems and networks and the data they contain. The proposed amendments are now consistent with the amendments contained in Bill C-36 for other government agencies. We should keep in mind that the Department of National Defence operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week in many countries of the world and therefore it must be protected during that time.

Certainly that means there are limits. The Department of National Defence would only interpret communications that would prevent harmful, unauthorized use or interference with DND and CF computer systems and networks and the data they contain. It is vital we protect it.

A key role of these systems and the networks is the daily operation of the Canadian forces anywhere in the world in conjunction with our allies. Because of the fact that these systems and networks are targeted by our enemies and hackers, they require the Canadian forces to have the ability to protect these systems 24 hours a day, seven days a week anywhere in the world. The amendment would allow that. It is a fairly simple amendment.

The third part is the reserve military judges panel. The amendment contained in Bill C-55, modified from Bill C-42, would establish a reserve military judges panel. This panel would provide the chief military judge with access to appropriately qualified reserve force officers who have previously performed military judicial duties. It would also provide the military judiciary with the necessary flexibility to meet any increased demands placed on the military justice system. They can be quite relevant.

It is important that Bill C-55 adds the word voluntary in relation to a panel member ceasing to be an officer of the reserves. This change would enhance institutional independence by ensuring that a panel member who involuntarily ceases to be an officer of the reserves would only have his or her name removed from the panel after a recommendation has been made by an inquiry committee.

The government has made a clear and concise commitment to fight terrorism and protect the safety and security of Canadians. The areas I touched on further enhance the ability of the Government of Canada, the Department of National Defence and the Canadian forces to protect Canadians from terrorism while ensuring the rights and privacy of individuals.

I encourage all members to support the bill, to get it into committee and ask questions. That is where committee work will come into play, when expert witnesses are called and people are allowed to ask questions.

Members previously touched on compensation. I know the right to sue would be withheld, but anyone suffering loss or damage as a result of a controlled access military zone would be compensated from the consolidated revenue fund.

I believe the enforcement of controlled military zones would involve a range of items such as erecting fences or barriers and the removal of unauthorized persons from controlled access military zones. Any person who is removed from a controlled zone would be turned over to the appropriate civil authorities, be tried in a civilian court, and if charges were laid be entitled to all due process under civilian law. Section 288 of part eight within Bill C-55 offers trial by civil courts.

Most of the concerns of the members have been summed up. I am anxious to see the bill discussed in committee, for all members to have input into it, to bring expert witnesses forward to explain every portion of it and to make sure that it is examined with a fine toothed comb to ensure everything that is of concern to members will be looked after.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. There being two minutes of debate remaining, might we have unanimous consent to consider that we are now in private members business?

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5:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House?

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5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


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5:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It being 5.30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Firefighters' PensionsPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.


Murray Calder Liberal Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey, ON


That the government consider the advisability of increasing the pension accrual rate for firefighters to allow them to retire with adequate financial provisions for their retirement.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Whitby--Ajax for her support on this issue

I am pleased to pick up where we left off on October 16, 2000. That is when we last discussed this issue. Motion No. 326 asks the government to consider increasing the pension accrual rate for firefighters to allow them the kind of retirement incomes that other Canadians enjoy.

Firefighters are very special people. On any given day they may put their lives on the line for the rest of us. The tragedy of September 11 underlined dramatically the enormous risks that these heroes face everyday. Everyone has heard of many brave firefighters who rushed into the burning twin towers to give their lives and save the lives of others.

We do not always hear about the exposure to burning buildings, hazardous chemicals and toxic vapours that firefighters face on a daily basis. My own life was touched by tragedy at a young age when we had a fire on our farm. I have since been committed to getting a fair deal for firefighters.

Because of these hazards firefighters have a higher mortality and adverse occupational health rates than the rest of us. Statistics show that they die sooner, often with work related diseases. The regulations of the Income Tax Act already take this into account by classifying professional firefighters as a public safety occupation and allowing them to retire at age 55. This is commendable, but the job is only partly done.

Professional firefighters need to build up a pension income at a faster rate than other occupations if they are to retire at 55 with a reasonable standard of living. We owe them that. Firefighters have calculated that they need an accrual rate of 2.33% instead of 2% to make up for the shorter contribution time. This is allowed under present laws and regulations, but firefighters are asking it be spelled out for public safety occupations. This would explicitly recognize that the retirement age of 55 makes their situation different.

I support the firefighters' proposal for a 2.33% accrual rate. However, the motion is deliberately worded in a way to provide the government, in particular the Department of Finance, the flexibility to arrive at the best solution for firefighters and for all Canadians.

These measures would be a minimal cost to the federal government. They would not force changes to provincial or municipal pension plans, and would only provide a mechanism where these changes could come through the normal collective bargaining process. As I said, the job is only partly done and we need to finish it.

I am pleased that the motion received broad cross-party support when I first debated it on October 16, 2000. I understand it enjoys the same cross-party support today. As parliamentarians we need to send a clear and united signal to the government that we are proud of our firefighters and that they deserve to retire with an appropriate income.

I would ask that members wishing to speak to the motion keep their remarks short. If we were to collapse debate at the end of this hour, we could bring this matter to a vote today. It has been nearly two years since we last debated this matter in the House. We should wrap this up today in the spirit of good cross-party co-operation so that our firefighters do not have to wait for another two years or more for this to come up again.

Firefighters' PensionsPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Charlie Penson Canadian Alliance Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise to speak in favour of the motion moved by the member for Dufferin--Peel--Wellington--Grey.

Canadians have a strong tradition of being very appreciative of the efforts and sacrifices our firefighters make for our communities. Nevertheless, the tragic events firefighters faced on September 11 have put the dangers that firefighters face everyday into a clear perspective.

Canadians understand that firefighting is a high risk job, not just because of the constant danger of fatal injury, but also due to toxic substances firefighters can be exposed to in the line of duty which may cut their lives short.

The International Association of Firefighters does a good job of putting forward the concerns of its members to members of parliament. Not only does the IAF come to Parliament Hill every year to make its case, but it also ensures that real people from our communities talk to us about the issues. It has been effective in communicating the need for changes in pension regulations over several years.

The Income Tax Act recognizes the dangerous nature of firefighting by allowing firefighters, along with others who work in what is defined as a public service occupation, to retire at 55 years of age without penalty.

At the 2% accrual rate required by law, 55 year old firefighters with 30 years of accredited service could best retire with 60% of their working income. However the federal government identifies 70% of pre-retirement income as a benchmark for an adequate standard of living for retirement. This inequity should be addressed so that firefighters and their families can have the financial security to retire with dignity and that is what Motion No. 326 is advocating.

The Canadian Alliance values retirement security as a vital element of independence for all Canadians. We believe the foreign investment restriction for retirement investments should be eliminated and that Canadians should be given greater opportunity and more control over saving for their own retirement.

We are not alone in this belief. Just yesterday the Ontario municipal employees retirement system called for the federal government to abolish the 30% foreign content restrictions on pension and RRSP investments. This is one of the country's largest pension funds. It manages about $35 billion on behalf of firefighters, police officers and other Ontario municipal employees.

Allowing all Canadians more freedom to decide where to invest their pension and RRSP funds would help firefighters. Motion No. 326 asks the government to consider the advisability of increasing the accrual rate. It would not have the effect of making any changes. I agree with the motion. However in the name of fiscal responsibility I would like to ask some reasonable questions.

I cannot help wondering what municipal and provincial governments think of the proposed change. Once the rules have been altered, firefighters would have to win the extra pension benefits through their collective bargaining benefits negotiating process. Nevertheless, provincial and municipal governments should be consulted because the extra employee portion of pension contributions would ultimately have to come out of their budgets.

What about the other public safety occupations defined by the Income Tax Act who, like firefighters, are allowed to retire at age 55? This category includes police officers, corrections officers, air traffic controllers and commercial airline pilots. If special pension rules were granted for firefighters, we could expect those working in other occupations to expect the same consideration. A responsible government would take a serious look at the fiscal implications of this contingency.

I thank the member for Dufferin--Peel--Wellington--Grey for sticking with this issue over the past several years. At the very least Motion No. 326 gives members of parliament an opportunity to emphasize how much we appreciate and value the work firefighters are doing by saying they should be able to save for a financially secure retirement. I support the motion and have no reservations.

Firefighters' PensionsPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this motion by my colleague from Dufferin--Peel--Wellington--Grey. This is the second time we have discussed this motion.

In October 2000 we supported this motion by our Liberal colleague. It was not passed at that time. Since then, I think a fair bit of progress has been made by my colleague and the members of each of the parties. We have expressed the wishes of our firefighters in Quebec and Canada. It is also our wish to do justice to their profession by supporting a motion like this one.

Being a firefighter is a profession that involves protecting the public, yet is it one of the few such professions that does not enjoy the status it deserves when it comes to pension plan accrual rates.

The pension plans of all other professions involved with the public safety, police officers for example, have a 2.3% annual accrual rate.

I am particularly sensitive to this issue because I have friends who are firefighters. I have a cousin, Gilles Archambault, who has been a firefighter in Montreal for almost 25 years. He lives with this high level of risk related to the profession, which will require that he retire in a few years, earlier than in other professions.

I also have a childhood friend, Benoît Desjardins, with whom I grew up. He is also a firefighter, and has two children. He deals with extremely high risks as a result of his job on a daily basis, the risk of poisoning, the risk of building collapse, the risk of death as well.

On September 11, we realized that firefighting is a very high risk profession, one which even includes the risk of death.

Firefighters are expected to retire at 55 years, or 60 maximum, but 55 is the most common age of retirement. This is expected because it is difficult to continue working beyond this age in this high risk field without endangering one's life and the life of one's colleagues.

In the United States, this has been recognized for some time now. Firefighting is recognized as a high risk profession, with annual accrual rates of 2.5%.

We in the Bloc Quebecois enthusiastically support the motion put forward by the Liberal member for Dufferin--Peel--Wellington--Grey because we believe in it and because, for the past two years, the Association des pompiers du Québec and the Canadian Association of Firefighters have made us aware of a reality with which we were previously unfamiliar, but which has been only too clearly brought home to us since the events of September 11.

I therefore hope that all members of the other political parties will support this very deserving motion.

To paraphrase the member for Verchères--Les-Patriotes, whose father was a firefighter all his life: it is vital that we give them an equaly opportunity, despite the risks. We need them and we are proud of them. So, we support them.

Firefighters' PensionsPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I too am very proud and feel very honoured to rise today to debate Motion No. 326 which brings forward an issue that is very topical and very timely as it pertains to the health, safety and the general well-being of working people.

I like other members would like to begin by complimenting the member for Dufferin--Peel--Wellington--Grey for bringing this motion back for us again today. I know there is broad interest and broad support. I appreciate both the tone and the content of the speeches that we have heard so far.

I also want to compliment the International Association of Fire Fighters for being so diligent and so very active in promoting this issue and for not being swayed by what seems like an endless long drawn out process in trying to garner support from the general public and then garnering the interest and support of members of parliament in the House. It is to its very great credit that we see this issue finally reaching the top place that it deserves within the House of Commons.

I should point out that during its annual lobby on the Hill virtually, every member of parliament is visited by the IFF. I do not think there is a more effective and disciplined lobby that takes place in the House of Commons or on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Again, it is a great credit to the firefighters that they are representing their members so well, that they have managed to capture the imagination of the Canadian public and that they now have captured the imagination of the House of Commons.

I would be remiss if I did not further acknowledge the enormous contribution made by one very dedicated and committed individual within the IFF, the former Canadian director, my good friend and colleague, Sean McManus. It is certainly to Sean's great credit and his dogged persistence that we are still dealing with this issue today. He has been like a dog with a bone on this issue. I want to recognize what a rare breed of individual he is, the kind of person who has dedicated his life to elevating the standards of working conditions for the people whom he represents. I extend my very best to Sean. I hope he receives copies of this debate tonight and takes some real pride and credit for the wonderful work that he has done.

As other members have commented, it is generally agreed by all Canadians that firefighters enjoy a special status within our hearts and our minds. All Canadians recognize the inherent dangers of their job, the courage and the physical stress that is required as a result of the nature of their work. All of us recognize what a necessary and valuable position that firefighters hold within our communities, be they rural or urban.

It is again a source of pride for me that just yesterday the province of Manitoba announced new legislation that is along this very same theme and very fittingly announced it on May 1, the original labour day. The province of Manitoba is the first province in the country where the NDP government has introduced legislation that will compensate firefighters for work related cancer without the agonizing process of having them prove that it was in fact work related. In other words, with the many known cancers that are typical and over represented in the firefighter workforce, they will no longer have to try to prove their case and have their families agonize over this issue. Now there is a presumption that the cancer was indeed work related.

Therefore I think we are dealing with two very good stories here today on May 1 and 2. This is a very good week for the firefighters in this country.

I could go on but I think we have made our points in an adequate way. We are very happy and proud to support the motion. It reminds me of why I became a member of parliament when I can stand in the House and deal with such a positive motion. Let us let Motion No. 326 pass, unanimously I would hope. Let us finally do the right thing for the many firefighters whose contribution we value so much.

Firefighters' PensionsPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Progressive Conservative Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I want to express my complete support and that of the PC Party caucus for Motion No. 326. I also want to commend the hon. member for Dufferin--Peel--Wellington--Grey for this motion.

It has all been said by members rising in the House today. We all recognize the extraordinary sacrifice and risk made our professional firefighters. In the same spirit as this motion, I have presented private member's motions in the past on the tax credit for volunteer firefighters to help recognize the sacrifice and commitment made by volunteer firefighters in rural communities. That is important as well.

When we think of the importance of volunteerism in our communities, particularly our rural and small town communities, we must consider that in many of these communities, including most of the communities in my riding, something as essential as fire protection is provided by volunteers. It is remarkable that we have not as a parliament and the government has not done something to provide some level of tax benefit to offset some of the costs of volunteer firefighters. I hope that not only will parliament endorse the motion today, but I hope that in the future we will see volunteer firefighters get their due through tax treatment.

September 11 reminded us of the extraordinary dangers and risks of our firefighters. Changing the accrual rate to 2.33% is an issue of fairness. It is commonsensical to allow the firefighters to have an accrual rate that will provide them with a reasonable level of income in their retirement. It is clearly the least we could do to ensure that these brave men and women are provided for adequately and fairly.

The motion is about fairness and I wholeheartedly support it. It is a step in the right direction. However I really hope that in the future the House will support a tax credit for volunteer firefighters, those people who not only take the ultimate risk when they provide protection for us against fire in our homes and places of work but they do so as volunteers. I hope that we go a step further at some point in the future in recognizing the tremendous bravery, courage and commitment that these people offer to their communities.

I commend again the hon. member for having brought this forward to the House. I also commend the professional firefighters for their very effective lobby. I really want to commend them for their constant professionalism and diligence in ensuring that we are informed of the very important issues affecting them and our constituents. I hope in a small way that our legislators, our members of parliament who are here today and who have showed their support for the motion, will remind them that they have been doing a very good job. I think our support for this motion indicates that.

Firefighters' PensionsPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Oak Ridges Ontario


Bryon Wilfert LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to address hon. members with regard to this private member's motion, Motion No. 326, which proposes:

That the government consider the advisability of increasing the pension accrual rate for firefighters to allow them to retire with adequate financial provisions for their retirement.

I had a fairly lengthy speech but I will shorten it considerably.