Debates of May 29th, 2002
House of Commons Hansard #194 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-55.
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Public Safety Act, 2002
Serge Cardin Sherbrooke, QC
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to participate in the debate on Bill C-55.
We know this bill is still a threat for the citizens' rights and freedoms. This is why it must be amended so that the consent of the Government of Quebec and of other provincial governments would be required before a controlled access military zone is designated on their territory.
The provisions on the creation of controlled access military zones, the absence of legal recourse following the creation of a security perimeter and the provisions allowing airlines to provide personal information on passengers, all pose serious problems, as far as keeping the required balance between security and freedom is concerned.
As well, Bill C-55 allows much wider access to information about airline passengers. The government is assuming the power to modify, as needed, the nature of information that can be transferred between various agencies.
Moreover, with the new provisions, the RCMP and CSIS would now have a direct access to this information held by airline companies. These provisions would open the door to the use of personal information that would go far beyond the requirements of the fight against terrorism.
I believe that the balance required between public safety and the protection of freedoms is not always being respected with the new government bill. The Bloc Quebecois will continue to be vigilant, to ensure that the federal government introduces legislation that is finally in keeping with the values of Quebecers.
I indicated earlier that several elements are affected by Bill C-55. I would like to go back to one of them, that is, the controlled access military zones.
One knows that, given the abuse that might result from the implementation of the first bill, we had to be vigilant, of course, about the interpretation of this one. A few changes were made. However, a number of irritants remain, including—and it is the main one—the ban on action for damages by reason of the designation of a controlled access military zone.
We could talk about subsection 260.1(1), which says:
Subject to subsection (2),--which we will see later—the Minister personally, on the recommendation of the Chief of the Defence Staff, may designate a controlled access military zone in Canada in relation to:
I repeat that the designation will be done by the minister personally.
It applies to, first:
(a) a defence establishment;
(b) property that is provided for the Canadian Forces or the Department and is situated outside a defence establishment;
(c) a vessel, aircraft or other property under the control of a visiting force that is legally in Canada by virtue of theVisiting Forces Act or otherwise.
However, subsection 260.1(2) says that:
The Minister may designate a controlled access military zone only if it is reasonably necessary for ensuring the safety or security of
(a) any person in, on or about anything referred to in paragraphs (1) (a) to (c); or
(b) anything referred to in paragraphs (1)(a) to (c).
A quick reading of these two provisions will show that, at any given moment, the minister, one single person, possibly on the recommendation of the chief of defence staff or on his own initiative, could decide for any given reason to increase the number of defence facilities on Canada's or Quebec's territory. We already have several of them but the minister could decide, on his own initiative, to increase their numbers. Every time someone visits those facilities, controlled access military zones could be designated, with all this implies for the rights and freedoms of people living in the surrounding areas.
Speaking about surrounding areas, we all know well that the minister is the one who will decide where it is reasonably necessary to designate a zone. Knowing the Liberal Party and this government, what could be considered reasonably necessary by the minister? Things that are considered reasonable one day by them are no longer reasonable for others the day after. Sudden changes of mood could occur and things would not go the way they were intended.
The definition of what can physically be included in the military zone is verybroad. The bill refers to vessels, aircrafts or any other property as well as areas of land or water.
This is what subsection 260.1(4) says:
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.
Again, the words reasonably necessary are used. I am always very concerned when I see the Liberal government using words like reasonably necessary.
This phrase is included in all government programs, especially when they are designed for Quebec, like sponsorship programs. Were all these sponsorship programs really needed so that the government could get involved in various areas, especially in Quebec? One may well wonder. This seems to crop up regularly. The public keeps wondering why the Liberal government acts this way, especially when security is involved, and why it keeps saying that what it is doing is reasonably necessary. This clause is virtually identical to the one in Bill C-42. We still have ministerial discretion as to the dimensions of military zones. The minister is just required to ensure that these zones are not bigger than what is reasonably necessary.
We should also mention the maximum period during which the designation can be valid. With the addition of a few clauses in Bill C-55, it remains almost unchanged. The designation is valid for a maximum of one year and can be renewed for another year.
Under Bill C-55, a designation may not be for a period longer than is reasonably necessary, but if, as a resultof the renewal, the designation were to be in effect for more than one year, it would have to be approved by the governor in council. But a period of two years during which people can be deprived of their rights is awfully long. It is much too long. Here again, the provisions in the bill are practically identical to those in Bill C-42.
Clause 260.1 (11) reads:
(11) The Minister shall publish in the Canada Gazette a notice of a designation,renewal, variance or cancellation within 23 days after the designation, renewal, variance or cancellation is made, unless the Minister isof the opinion that it is in advisable to do so for reasons of international relations or national defence or security.
Public Safety Act, 2002
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)
It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Davenport, Fisheries; the hon. member for Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, Shipyards; the hon. member for New Brunswick Southwest, National Defence.
Public Safety Act, 2002
Joe Comartin Windsor—St. Clair, ON
Madam Speaker, thank you for recognizing me while I was still not completely properly attired. I suggest that it is a Liberal plot that we are having to spend our time debating the bill in such intemperate weather. I also want to point out that if we had dealt with climate warming a number of years ago it may not have been quite so uncomfortable in here today. I never miss an opportunity to deal with that very important issue.
The bill we are discussing today is clearly an attempt on the part of the government to recover from a very disastrous response from the general public across the country to Bill C-42.
Bill C-42 was introduced shortly before we went home for the Christmas holidays. It was interesting to see the types of responses we were receiving from our constituents. I certainly know that was my experience. I am guessing that members of the government are receiving the same responses from their constituents to Bill C-55. The responses to Bill C-42 were that Bill C-42 was not acceptable to the Canadian public.
I have to say that the government's attempt to recover from its faux pas with Bill C-42 has not been very successful.
I must say that Bill C-55 goes some distance in addressing some concerns we have had over a number of years under various pieces of legislation but, after reviewing the bill, I see that there are still a number of excesses, especially in terms of security.
We have a crisis as a result of September 11 and we get a knee-jerk response that has not been properly thought out. A number of sectors that would be affected by the bill have not been properly consulted but the government goes ahead and says that there is a security problem. It often brings in this almost dictatorial type of response. It is an authoritarian response that is often not a methodology that will be successful but that will seriously impede the civil and human rights of Canadian citizens if the bill becomes law and attempts are made to implement it.
In a number of ways the New Democratic Party opposes the legislation. Certainly near the top of that list is the unprecedented powers that have been accorded to some of the ministers in government.
This is one of the areas where the government has tried to cover over the inadequacies and excesses of Bill C-42. I am sure other members of the House in the course of this debate have expressed concern over the declaration of what used to be a military zone, which has now been replaced by more neutral wording but which, in many respects, has the same effect.
The offensive part of that is that it would allow the minister of defence, without any other review and solely on his or her assessment of the situation and decision making, to decide what area will be a war zone. All the laws of the country will then be suspended in that area.
The government tried to cover that up by saying that it would only invoke that if it needed to protect its equipment. Frankly, if we were to analyze that explanation from an objective viewpoint we would see that it was plainly absurd.
Similarly, the bill would give the Minister of Transport a number of extraordinary powers in regard to the travelling public. Even if one could argue some justification for that, it is not, in a number of ways, possible to support that type of power. However even if one could argue the point in some other areas, it begs some other type of review, whether that be judicial or by a special committee.
We also have a number of other precedents within our legal and constitutional framework for those types of situations where a review could be established under the legislation thereby preventing any excessive use or abuse of the power. We see little or none of that in Bill C-55.
The powers that would be given to those ministers would clearly infringe the rights of Canadians. The bill still remains quite heavy-handed. It is not just the members of the New Democratic Party who are saying this. As I believe all members of the House know, the privacy commissioner went public with a letter to the Minister of Transport. It was very unusual for him to take that kind of position in the public venue. However his letter expressed deep concerns about the legislation. I want to quote part of the letter where he talked about the privacy and civil rights of Canadians. The letter states:
In summary, my concern is that its [the bill's] provisions could fundamentally and unnecessarily alter the balance between individuals and the state that exists and should exist in a free society such as Canada.
I know he used the words “fundamentally alter” but I think the more important words were “unnecessarily alter”. We know from some of the experiences we had with Bill C-36 that it was true about that legislation. However the government is now repeating the same errors.
There are already a number of criminal and quasi-criminal provisions in the criminal code and in other legislation that could deal with the points being dealt with in this legislation. These statutes could deal with them more appropriately because historically we have worked out any problems, as opposed to this bill which would expand powers significantly and, as we argue and as the privacy commissioner has argued, unnecessarily.
The government simply does not need the powers contained in the legislation that it has argued it needs. The potential for abuse is glaringly obvious when one analyzes the whole bill.
If we were to go back into history and look at the abuses of power, especially when the War Measures Act was brought in, we argue from the perspective of our party and we believe from the perspective of fully protecting civil and human rights, that we should almost give ourselves a slap on the side of the head and tell ourselves that we must not forget our history. The rampant abuse of power throughout history should caution us to not repeat the same mistakes.
Our party is adamantly opposed to the legislation in its present form. It needs to be withdrawn and sent into a consultation process. The problems that do exist require attention and the potential abuses that are contained in the bill need to done away with.
Public Safety Act, 2002
Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS
Madam Speaker, I am quite happy to take part in the debate on second reading of Bill C-55.
I am pleased to enter the debate on this omnibus bill, Bill C-55, and to specifically address the amendment before the House. It is important for us to remember that it arose from the ashes of this government's heavy-handed, ham-fisted handling of Canada's response to the horrifying events of September 11.
We are now dealing with Bill C-55, a bill that represents a second go around of the so-called public safety act that the government introduced last fall.
It is not surprising that within hours of the government introducing both Bill C-42 and Bill C-36 as part of its supposed comprehensive anti-terrorism plan, there was a very loud and growing outcry from Canadians. They understood the heavy-handedness of those legislative measures. It was ironic that on the one hand the government wanted to make Canada and its citizens feel safer and more secure but on the other hand it brought in measures that were in fact a very real threat to the human rights and civil liberties of Canadians.
In some ways we are talking here about a good news, bad news scenario. I am prepared to acknowledge, although it may sound a bit grudging, that at least the government was forced to beat a hasty retreat with respect to Bill C-42. Unfortunately it was not prepared to withdraw Bill C-36. Although it did capitulate to a great deal of pressure to introduce some amendments, the amendments were not nearly sufficient to address the underlying concerns. Therefore, the New Democratic Party, as people I am sure would have expected, could not support that legislation.
In the instance of Bill C-42, I am prepared to say that at least the government recognized that it had to withdraw it. Whether it was forced to withdraw it or not I suppose could be the subject of debate. In the strictest sense we could say that the government had the numbers to carry the day if it had wanted to persist but it did understand that politically it was simply unacceptable to ram through the so-called public safety act when it would have put in jeopardy some of the very important human rights and civil liberties of Canadians. It also put in jeopardy the protection of public safety, in the very broadest sense of the word. What public safety comes down to is whether people's human rights, civil liberties and their rights to be protected are fully intact.
It is obvious that there was a climate of very considerable fear, rage and certainly a sense of revenge in the aftermath of September 11. One of the things the New Democratic Party tried to do was to counsel and plead with the government that we were not alone in this. There was a great deal of support from citizens and citizens' organizations who were very vigilant about the importance of protecting human rights and civil liberties. They tried to encourage the government to not act in that climate of fear in a way that could only be described as overreaction. Unfortunately, the government was not prepared to take that counsel seriously.
The reason I say we are now perhaps looking at a good news, bad news scenario is that it is good news that the government felt compelled to withdraw the initial stage of legislation.
The bad news is that the government has still failed to take under serious advisement some of the most important warnings and pleadings that were made, not just to the Canadian government but to governments around the world as they grappled with the appropriate legislative responses to try to address the issues of public safety.
Instead of listening to the lesson, it is clear that the lesson was forgotten. That was the lesson that the UN secretary-general put out to all parliamentarians, all legislators, to say that in the war to defeat terrorism there cannot be a trade-off between human rights and human security or public safety. Perhaps an even more dramatic expression of that same important principle is found in the words that now are really seared in the public mind, the words of the lone member of the U.S. congress who had the courage to stand against the appropriation of funds to launch the military offensive in Afghanistan. She said “In the attempt to defeat terrorism, let us not become the evil that we deplore”.
The bad news is that the government has still failed to take that very important principle under advisement.
My colleague, the member for Windsor--St. Clair, who spoke just before I rose, was quite right in pointing out that at a time like this when there are threats to public safety and when there is a sense of fear in the public, the pressures are enormous to weaken, to erode, to lessen and in some cases to just plain throw overboard human rights and civil liberties.
We are very proud to stand in support of standing up in that kind of climate against the pressures to conform, to cave in, to simply cater to the fears and toss aside the important human rights and civil liberties of our own citizens and of other citizens. In fact we represent the political party that has the most distinguished record in the country of doing that.
There are many examples. The examples are legion, but let me refer to a couple, one being the case of the Japanese internment. This party stood alone and said we could not accept that simply on the basis of ethnicity and national origin citizens in our country literally should be imprisoned and robbed of all of their rights and freedoms in the name of public safety, completely abandoning the rule of law, completely abandoning the upholding of human rights and civil liberties.
The more recent example, and the one that would be best known by the generation of young people now growing up in our country, was the example where the New Democratic Party, again alone, with at the end a tiny number of three enlightened so-called Progressive Conservatives at a time when in fact there were progressive conservatives in parliament, stood together in opposition to the imposition of the War Measures Act in Quebec in those dark and difficult days in Quebec.
Practically every one of the members of the NDP caucus have spoken specifically on the act, but in a general way I want to again implore the government to recognize that this legislation remains too heavy-handed. This legislation continues to characterize the inadequacy and the inappropriateness of the government's response to the climate of fear.
The fears are real and remain real and the climate is one of looking for assurances, but greater freedom, greater liberty, greater safety and greater security are not assured through the suspension of important human rights and civil liberties. The real test of whether a government believes in democracy is whether it will stand up against as much pressure as there may be to uphold democratic rights when those rights are threatened.
Public Safety Act, 2002
May 29th, 2002 / 5:05 p.m.
Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC
Madam Speaker, I am not necessarily happy to rise today to participate in the debate on Bill C-55, however, it is important that I do so.
This bill comes after others that were passed in this House. I think that we must take them into account when we make a decision on Bill C-55, which will allow for the creation of controlled access military zones.
I want to remind the House that, over the last few months, since the events of September 11, we have passed, in spite of the Bloc Quebecois' opposition, Bill C-36, the Anti-terrorism Act, and Bill C-35, where section 5 allows the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to take measures, including building walls around any area where events are taking place, in accordance with procedures to be determined by the RCMP alone.
So we already have, over the last few months, passed two bills that are very disturbing from a civil liberties standpoint. Amnesty International, in a report published yesterday and discussed today in the media, says that, since the tragic events of September 11, freedoms and democratic rights in general have regressed, and this is true in Canada.
Clearly, in a number of countries these days, including our neighbours to the south, arbitrary arrests are taking place, detentions without warrant, or even, as was done with the prisoners brought out of Afghanistan, the creation of special courts that do not come under any civil authority.
This morning Amnesty International announced that democratic freedom had experienced setbacks in almost all of the western world. Canada is not, unfortunately, an exception. Bill C-55, along with Bills C-36 and C-35, which have unfortunately already been passed, is one more proof of this. Canada's reputation is exaggerated as far as democratic freedom is concerned. One of the signs of this is that, ever since Canada has become a member of the Organization of American States ten years or so ago, it has signed not one of the regional conventions on basic rights. I feel obliged to denounce this.
Moreover, more and more stakeholders, including Amnesty International, have emphasized this exaggerated reputation Canada has as far as democracy is concerned. For instance, the latest issue of the Quebec chapter of Amnesty International's publication Agir spoke out against the Canadian government for its attacks on democratic freedoms.
We now have before us a new bill, Bill C-55, which is in fact a reincarnation of Bill C-42, which the government was trying to ram through, like Bills C-36 and C-35, but which was withdrawn as a result of criticism by the opposition, the Bloc Quebecois in particular.
So now we have its replacement, Bill C-55. This is the same bill again, except for a few cosmetic changes. For instance, the new terminology: controlled access military zone, instead of what was used in Bill C-42, that is, military security zone. Whatever the terminology, we are talking about exactly the shame negative effect on rights and freedoms.
One might argue that some of the criteria for establishing these controlled access zones have been tightened up. Nevertheless, it is still the minister of defence alone who has the power to establish such zones.
Let us not forget that it was the minister of defence who, just recently, neglected to inform the Prime Minister about Canadian troops taking prisoners in Afghanistan and handing them over to the Americans, information which was quite important in the context. Moreover, this minister had to resign just days ago; he was fired from cabinet for reasons related to conflict of interest.
One can wonder about the adequacy of giving one minister, namely the Minister of National Defence, the power to create controlled access military zones. It seems excessive to us and it opens the door to much arbitrariness and dangerous situations, especially since the bill does not even require the approval of the Quebec government or any provincial government as far as the creation of a controlled access military zone is concerned.
As we know, unfortunately, there have been a number of federal interventions in Quebec that were not requested by the Quebec people. I am also convinced that a controlled access military zone would have been established at the Quebec summit in April 2001. If the Quebec government had objected, the minister of defence would have ignored it, just as they denied the Quebec Prime Minister the right to address the heads of state visiting our national capital.
In Bill C-55, the only criterion governing the designation of these controlled access military zones is that they must be reasonably necessary. This is a criterion that is elastic to say the least, both in terms of the dimensions of the zones and their period of designation.The provisions included in Bill C-42 and Bill C-55 are basically the same. No improvements have been made. There is only the following, in clause 260.1(4), which reads:
(4) 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.
As we can see, there is a grey area, an arbitrary wording that will allow the Minister of National Defence, the federal government to do what it wants with these zones. Again, Bill C-55 complements Bill C-35, which gives the RCMP the power to erect walls, as it did in Quebec City. What were meant to be exceptional measures will now become the norm during any important event, any event of international scope. Bill C-55 has the same flaws as Bill C-42 in terms of the applicable criteria, and this is what makes it just as unacceptable.
Another aspect of the bill is that in these controlled access military zones, the people could lose certain rights. They will not be able to sue for damages, losses or injuries. It is written in the bill. For example, subsection 260.1(12) says:
(12) The Canadian Forces may permit, control, restrict or prohibit access to a controlled access military zone.
No reference whatsoever is made to the rights of people within this zone who, for example, would want to hold a peaceful demonstration, which is consistent with our charter of rights and freedoms and all the international conventions. Once again, nothing could be more totally arbitrary.
Finally, while in Bill C-42, a number of reasons, such as international security, defence and national security reasons, were given for the creation of such zones, in Bill C-55, all these references have disappeared. This bill essentially expands the reasons for designating controlled access military zones.
When we look at the bills passed since September 11, we find that not only Canada's reputation concerning human rights before September 11 was overrated, but the varnish is starting to peel off. The balance between rights and security needs was broken. Now, we are living in a state where civil liberties and democratic freedoms are more vulnerable than a few months ago.
In this context, the Bloc Quebecois has no other choice but to oppose this bill.
Public Safety Act, 2002
Antoine Dubé Lévis-Et-Chutes-De-La-Chaudière, QC
Madam Speaker, it is my turn to take part in this debate on a bill that will be very important.
Why? Because it will amend a whole series of acts. We are not talking about amending some sections, but about giving a lot of power to the Minister of National Defence to establish controlled access military zones. For the Bloc Quebecois, this is far too much power.
In this regard, this bill is just as badly flawed as Bill C-42, which we opposed, as it gives the minister the same powers.
Simply to give the House an idea of how important this bill is in terms of changes, suffice to say that part 1 amends the Aeronautics Act. Part 2 amends the definitions of screening and screening point in the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority Act. Part 3 amends the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. Part 4 adds a new offence to the criminal code for communicating information and so on and so forth. Part 5 amends the Department of Health Act. Part 6 amends the Explosives Act. Part 7 amends the Export and Import Permits Act. Part 8 amends the Food and Drugs Act. Part 9 amends the Hazardous Products Act. Part 10 amends the Marine Transportation Security Act to give even more power to the minister. Part 11 amends the National Defence Act. We are told it is to give the Minister National Defence more powers, but they are giving him a great deal more power.
Let me continue. Part 12 amends the National Energy Board Act. Part 13 deals with the Navigable Waters Protection Act. Part 14 amends the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions Act. Part 15 amends the Pest Control Products Act. Part 16 amends the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act. Part 17 amends the Quarantine Act. Part 18 amends the Radiation Emitting Devices Act. Part 19 amends the Canada Shipping Act and the Canada Shipping Act, 2001.
This Canada Shipping Act has been changed a number of times, but never very substantially, at least not until now. I know what I am talking about, as I am particularly concerned with shipbuilding. The people involved in this field would like to see amendments made to this bill to bring about changes for the better, to foster development, rather than for the worse.
I am sure the hon. member for Chicoutimi--Le Fjord is paying close attention to this. I was his seatmate for quite a while. He claims to be concerned with development, but we often witness actions to the contrary by the government in the area of shipping or shipbuilding. The present minister is even thinking of closing down the Davie and Saint John shipyards. This is not pro-development; it is pro-closure. Instead of building up, it is destroying, and not just buildings, lives as well.
Felix Leclerc has said that when you pay someone to do nothing, it affects his morale. The governments seems very insensitive to this. There is talk of thinking about closures. The workers have lived with uncertainty for years, and want the government to hold off. During the election campaigns, people come along promising that they are “going to do something”, they are going to develop programs for our ridings. The people's reaction: “My goodness, after the election, there will be a new minister”. There was, but he was in that portfolio barely a year. Then he moved on.
Of course, I am referring to Mr. Tobin, who was from Newfoundland. He left; he realized that he could not keep his promises. He realized that his government's ministers wanted to do nothing in this regard. When amending shipping legislation, at the same time, programs should be introduced to help people, to develop the sector. Canada has the longest inland waterways in the world. There are longer rivers, but not waterways. Yet, we are still waiting.
I have been here for nine years and for nine years I have heard the government tell us “Just wait, this is coming”. The Minister of Industry was planning to meet some people in the Quebec City area tomorrow, but the meeting was cancelled. The workers have been told “Wait, announcements will be made”.
However, the government now wants to amend legislation to give more powers to ministers. My God, this is troubling. Too much discretion is being given to some ministers. In this bill, military zones would be left to the discretion of the Minister of National Defence.
I turned 55 last week. I am not mentioning it to have you wish me happy birthday--
Public Safety Act, 2002
Some hon. members
Public Safety Act, 2002
Antoine Dubé Lévis-Et-Chutes-De-La-Chaudière, QC
I remember 1970. Quebecers were subjected to a truly unbearable sense of insecurity. We all remember the October crisis. A condition had to be met before a military intervention could be launched. The Premier of Quebec had to request it. The Mayor of Montreal had made such a request. I am not saying that I agreed with them, but the condition did exist.
There is nothing in this bill to indicate the province has to make a request. Nothing in this bill says that the mayor of a big city has to make a request through the provincial authorities. Nothing at all. All of this is left to the defence minister's discretion.
We all know that ministers of defence come and go. We had one who had to leave because he had abused his discretionary powers, granting contracts to somebody he knew very well, and I will go no further than that. We see that a minister's discretion is sometimes questionable, so questionable that even the Prime Minister, who is usually not too demanding in this regard, found the situation a bit excessive and changed his minister. We now have a new minister, whom we do not know. He was elected for the first time in the last election, but we have yet not seen him in action as a minister yet. We have seen him as a parliamentary secretary.
In view of the way he answers questions, it is a bit scary, but he is now the minister of defence. He is the one who will be responsible for deciding whether a military zone should be created, should problems arise. The people of Quebec are not fooled.
It is a matter that the Bloc Quebecois members insist on defending. The Minister of National Defence has too much power in this bill, regarding the military zones. I am sure that my colleague from Jonquière will have things to add on this score.
Public Safety Act, 2002
Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today on Bill C-55. I want to commend my colleague from Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière for his performance. Indeed, I have things to add.
As I was saying during my last speech on this bill, in the area I come from, there is a military zone, a military base at Bagotville. I do not know if many members of the House know about it, but I can say that this base is responsible for issues concerning NATO. NATO is also represented on this base. It is a major military base, and I live 15 kilometres from it.
Tomorrow morning, the newly appointed minister—it may not be him, because, unfortunately, this seems to be a very rapid ejection seat—who is a total unknown, whose philosophy we do not know in terms of the powers that will be given to him by Bill C-55, might say that he has decided to take actions that might affect the surrounding communities. All we know is that the new minister is a banker, a guy who is used to count money, but is not used to say such things.
Like my colleague, I am very skeptical about the minister's qualifications at this time, during consideration of Bill C-55.
What is serious is that these zones will be restricted. Ordinary citizens, people in my region, will not know if they are in such a zone. If someone commits an offence and military personnel arrests that person, the military will not have to tell that person why. That person could be convicted and not know why; whether or not the person is convicted will be left to the minister's discretion.
This bill is really devious. I think that back home, it is the Quebec government that has the authority. It should be the one to exercise its authority. In this bill, the Quebec government should be given the authority to decide how things are to be done. That government is the first representative of those people who will be affected by this bill. But no, the Quebec government is not mentioned, it will not be consulted.
In my region, there is a very important mayor, Jean Tremblay. He came here to the House of Commons. He was laughed at. I cannot say it any other way, he was laughed at and he will not be consulted. We all know how they dislike consultations. Only the minister will have the power to decide unilaterally whether he will act or not.
As my time is up, I will be pleased to continue some other day.
Public Safety Act, 2002
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)
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.
Private Members' Business
Svend Robinson Burnaby—Douglas, BC
moved that Bill C-415, an act to amend the criminal code (hate propaganda), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Madam Speaker, it is an honour to speak to this legislation which I first tabled in the House almost 12 years ago. It was on June 27, 1990 that I tabled Bill C-326 to amend the criminal code hate propaganda provisions.
The bill is straightforward; in fact it is a single page. The purpose of the bill is to amend the hate propaganda and promoting genocide provisions of the criminal code to include in the definition of those who are part of the “identifiable group” that is protected under these provisions the ground of sexual orientation.
Under the current provisions of the criminal code hate propaganda sections, identifiable group means any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion or ethnic origin. My amendment would add the words “sexual orientation”. I hasten to add that in the future I would strongly support expanding this provision even further to include, for example, the grounds of sex, and physical and mental disability, to include the provisions that are covered by section 15 of the charter of rights.
The section on hate propaganda has been in the criminal code since 1970. It was upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Keegstra case. I will quote from one of the judgments of the Supreme Court of Canada as to the importance of this legislation. It stated:
The harms caused by [hate propaganda] run directly counter to the values central to a free and democratic society, and, in restricting the promotion of hatred, Parliament is therefore seeking to bolster the notion of mutual respect necessary in a nation which venerates the equality of all persons.
That is the purpose of this hate propaganda legislation. I would note as well that two major sections are encompassed by this, section 318 on the advocacy of genocide and section 319 on the public incitement of hatred.
Some might ask what about those who want to engage in legitimate debate about a whole range of issues, including the issue of gay and lesbian equality; or what if our religious beliefs, for example, force us to the conclusion that there is something evil about gay and lesbian people and that is an essential part of our religious beliefs? That speech is protected under the provisions of section 319 in a couple of areas.
First of all, there are safeguards in subsection 319(3). It states that no person shall be convicted of an offence under this subsection if, among other grounds, in good faith he expressed or attempted to establish by argument an opinion on a religious subject. There are other safeguards as well. In addition I would note that a prosecution under this section can only proceed with the consent of the attorney general, so there is that additional safeguard.
I want to take one moment to respond to a concern that has been raised by some members. That is the suggestion that because section 318 of the criminal code on advocating genocide does not include the protections in subsection 319(3) somehow we should not move ahead to include sexual orientation in the overall definition of “identifiable group”.
I would hope that no one in the House would seriously argue that one should be permitted to advocate genocide, which is the deliberate destruction of an entire group under the guise of some sort of religious freedom. I do not think anyone in the House would advocate that. If there is to be opposition to this bill, I would hope that it certainly would not be on that particular ground.
If we amend subsection 318(2) of the code, it also has an impact on other federal legislation such as for example with respect to the interception, seizure and forfeiture of hate materials by agents of the state in other sections of the criminal code. The Canada Post Corporation Act authorizes the seizure of hate propaganda as defined in this section. The Customs Tariff Act prohibits the importation into Canada of material that constitutes hate propaganda within the meaning of the criminal code and the Broadcasting Act as well. This applies to those sections also.
Members might ask why it is important to include sexual orientation. I will not take the full 20 minutes because I want to give other members an opportunity to participate in the debate, but I want to give one very graphic and powerful example of why this is important.
There is a fellow named Fred Phelps from the United States. Fred Phelps hates gay people. In fact, he operates a website called www.godhatesfags.com. If we went to that website we would find that it is full of hatred. It has an image of a young man named Matthew Shepherd, who was brutally beaten, tortured and left to die on a fence in Wyoming because he is gay. It has a picture of him burning in hell. On the website Fred Phelps celebrates the fact that according to him Matthew Shepherd has been in hell, as of today, for 1,326 days.
Fred Phelps wanted to come to Canada to burn the Canadian flag and to promote hatred against gay and lesbian people in Canada. Many of us were concerned about that. The RCMP in Canada said they would like nothing better than to have the tools to stop this hate purveyor from coming into Canada to promote his hatred, but they said because of the provisions of the criminal code they could not do that. I quote for example Sergeant Pat Callaghan who is the head of Ottawa--Carleton's hate crimes unit. He said:
If this was done against a Catholic, a Jew or a black person, charges could be laid. If we had that legislation, we wouldn't have to put up with his nonsense on Monday. We could have told him, “If you show up and start spreading this hate, we'll arrest you”.
That is as it should be. That is a very important reason for promoting and supporting the legislation.
As well I would note it is important because the impact of hate literature is very destructive. Hate propaganda is very destructive. It has an impact on gay and lesbian people who are struggling with their sexuality in terms of their own sense of self-esteem and self-respect.
One woman showed me a leaflet that came in the mail. She has a young son who is gay. The leaflet was full of hatred. It was a diatribe of hatred. She said “Imagine, Svend, how this affects my son” and how it affects other people, young people like Hamed Nastoh, a young man who, in despair after having been bullied and brutalized by his classmates, threw himself off a bridge in British Columbia not that long ago. There are others who, because of the failure to clearly condemn this kind of hate propaganda, feel that somehow there is a licence to attack gay and lesbian people.
Rob Peterson, for example, a young law student at the University of New Brunswick was brutally attacked in November 1999. He was kicked in the face, punched in the face, repeatedly called a fag and seriously injured. The failure of this country and of our government to say that hate propaganda is unacceptable creates an environment in which these kinds of attacks are in fact deemed more acceptable.
Of course the fact that we have hate propaganda legislation that prohibits hate propaganda on certain grounds but excludes gay and lesbian people sends out the very clear message that somehow we are less than equal. The failure to include gay and lesbian people sends out the message that we are in fact second class citizens in our own country. That as well is clearly not acceptable.
Finally, I want to note that in terms of the legislation, it has some of the broadest base of support of any private member's legislation, indeed sometimes government legislation, that has come before the House. Every provincial and territorial attorney general supports the bill. In fact in November last year there was a meeting of provincial, territorial and federal attorneys general and they unanimously called on the government to move ahead to adopt the legislation.
I see at least one member of parliament here from Alberta. The attorney general of Alberta, Dave Hancock, pointed out that protecting gays from hateful propaganda has nothing to do with endorsing homosexuality. Here is what he said:
I support the hate crime legislation which prohibits people from spewing hate against anybody for any reason. There are appropriate ways to discuss issues in our country...and you don't need to put forward hateful literature. It doesn't matter what you believe about sexual orientation.
I issue a special plea to my friends in the Canadian Alliance. I hope they will listen to their colleagues the provincial attorneys general in every jurisdiction in Canada on this issue.
This is an opportunity for the Alliance to take a stand on an important issue. On every other occasion, when the issue of equality or respect for gay and lesbian people has come before this parliament, the Canadian Alliance has voted against that legislation. I am hoping today will be different. I am hoping that today members of the Canadian Alliance under the new leadership of the member for Calgary Southwest will in fact have the wisdom to recognize that they should be supporting this legislation which has such broad support right across the political spectrum.
In fact, I have another letter which was sent by Mike Harris and Howard Hampton jointly calling on the federal government to move ahead on this legislation.
I want to quote as well the House leader for the Canadian Alliance, the member for West Vancouver--Sunshine Coast, who said that he supports this change in legislation. In fact, in a public statement he said “It makes sense to me. I don't believe in incitement of hatred against anybody”. I hope other members of that caucus will support this as well.
In closing I want to say that if one is allowed to dedicate legislation to anyone, I would like to dedicate this bill to the memory of Aaron Webster. He was the British Columbian who was brutally beaten repeatedly with a baseball bat in a park in British Columbia for one reason and one reason only: because he was gay. I hope that this parliament will send out the strongest possible signal that hate crimes and hate propaganda of any sort, whether it is racism, anti-Semitism, whether it is directed at gay and lesbian people or people with disabilities, has no place in Canada.
In fact, at Aaron Webster's funeral his two sisters, Pamela Miller and Faith Quintillan, both of whom live in Alberta, said that they hope their brother's legacy will be tougher laws to protect gays and lesbians. I hope that this parliament will heed that plea.
Private Members' Business
Serge Marcil Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry
Madam Speaker, I am most pleased to speak today to Bill C-415, an act to amend the Criminal Code, which deals with hate propaganda, introduced by the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas.
This bill would amend the definition of “identifiable group” outlined in the criminal code provisions on hate propaganda. It would add “sexual orientation” to the criteria used to establish that a group comes under the definition of “identifiable group”. By ensuring that a group is considered as an “identifiable group” under the terms of the definition, the provisions on hate propaganda would apply to this group.
For more than 30 years, the criminal code has targeted the promotion of hate. Provisions on hate propaganda were added to the criminal code to avoid the difficulties associated with using libel provisions to take legal action with respect to a group as opposed to individuals.
The provisions that were added to the criminal code in 1970 were based on the recommendations of the special committee on hate propaganda in Canada, which submitted its report in 1965 to the justice minister at the time.
This committee, chaired by Maxwell Cohen, included notable personalities, such as the future justice minister and Prime Minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, and another future justice minister, Mark MacGuigan. It was under Mr. Trudeau's government that these provisions were added to the criminal code.
These provisions prohibit the dissemination of hate messages targeting an identifiable group. This term is currently defined as any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion or ethnic origin.
What offences are created under this provision?
First, encouraging genocide or promoting genocide is considered an offence. Genocide is defined as killing of members of the group, or deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction, with intent to destroy in whole or in part any identifiable group. It is interesting to note that adding sexual orientation to the criteria used to define “identifiable group” would expand the usual meaning of genocide, which normally applies to a race or a people.
The second offence mentioned in the provisions dealing with hate propaganda is communicating statements in any public place and thereby inciting hatred against any identifiable group, where such incitement is likely to lead to a breach of the peace. From the condition attached to this provision, it seems that its main purpose it to protect public peace.
The third offence is communicating statements, other than in private conversation, which wilfully promote hatred against any identifiable group. It seems that this provision is aimed at protecting members of a particular group rather than the state.
It should be noted that, apart from statements made in public or in private to advocate or promote genocide, all other offences require an element of public communication. This shows that, even before the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was adopted, legislators were careful not to interfere in cases where ideas and opinions were expressed in private by an individual.
In recent years, the Internet has been used as a means of communicating hate propaganda against identifiable groups. This is why, in the fall, the government added a provision to deal with this problem in Bill C-36, the anti-terrorism legislation.
The provision in question authorizes the court to order the deletion of hate propaganda stored on and made available to the public through a computer system within the jurisdiction of the court. This would allow for the deletion of any offensive material in cases where the person who posted it is not known or is outside the country.
Canada is now involved in negotiating a protocol on the Council of Europe's cybercrime convention signed by some 30 other countries in November 2001. Among other things, the convention would provide for international co-operation on investigations and legal proceedings regarding certain offences. The protocol would extend the benefits of the convention to offences related to hate propaganda. The question raised in Bill C-415 is whether legislative provisions dealing with hate propaganda should be extended to a group that is identifiable because of its sexual orientation.
In considering this issue, we must take into account the fact that in the Keegstra case, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the provisions on hate propaganda interfere with the freedom of expression guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of rights and freedoms. However, by a slim majority of 4 against 3, the supreme court confirmed the provisions as being a reasonable limit in a free and democratic society.
One of the areas examined by the supreme court was the damage caused by the promotion of hate toward identifiable groups. It stated that the damage was caused on two levels: the members of the group singled out by the hate propaganda and society as a whole. The court found indications of the damage caused to groups identified by colour, race, religion or ethnic origin and stated that the protection of identifiable groups was a pressing and important goal aimed at by the legislation.
We must ensure that any amendment made to those provisions will not bring about some imbalance between freedom of expression and protection of minorities that could jeopardize the provisions regarding hate propaganda.
Before adding to those groups, we must ensure that there is enough hate propaganda targeting the group to justify its inclusion under the protection provided by the provisions on hate propaganda.
The Minister of Justice supports this bill. I think this issue should be given careful consideration before we decide whether Bill C-415 should go forward.
Private Members' Business
Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC
Madam Speaker, I will take a few moments to speak about the merits of this bill.
In recent years, as parliamentarians, we have sent a number of messages to the effect that we wish to treat homosexuals with all the respect and equality inherent in our support for diversity.
In 1997, the House passed an amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act to make sexual orientation a prohibited ground of discrimination.
Following the Rosenberg decision, we also passed a bill to amend public pension plans.
Two years ago, we passed an important bill recognizing that a partner in a same-sex relationship is entitled to exactly the same benefits in all federal statutes.
Hate propaganda is something even more serious, because we are sending the public a message. We are sending a message that when there is hate propaganda based on sexual orientation in public messages, when particular groups make fun of homosexuality or treat homosexuals badly, those who engage in such behaviour will be charged and, as legislators, we expect the courts to take this into account.
This is what the bill introduced by the member for Burnaby—Douglas is proposing. He is asking that the criminal code be amended so that we can ensure that just as we do not tolerate discrimination against those of a different colour from the majority, so we will not tolerate hate propaganda based on sexual orientation.
We all remember that the question of hate propaganda had been examined by a working group in the early 1960s. It was the Cohen group. They told us that it was very important to remain vigilant. At that time, for instance, in various parts of this country for isntance, the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacist groups were advocating things that those who believed in equality would have found most repulsive.
Section 318 of the criminal code was amended. We do not tolerate hate propaganda against a person or a group based on the colour of their skin, their race, their religion or their ethnic origins. The member for Burnaby--Douglas is right to want to add sexual orientation to the list.
I know that in Canada as well as in Quebec, there are still many more young people of homosexual orientation who commit suicide because they are victims of prejudice and have difficulty taking their place in society. The more clearly we condemn discrimination and hate propaganda, the more clearly, as a society, will we be helping young people who discover their homosexuality to accept themselves.
This is what I had to say. Again, I join the member for Burnaby--Douglas in inviting all members of parliament to support this bill.
Private Members' Business
Vic Toews Provencher, MB
Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to the matter. While I cannot speak for the Canadian Alliance on the issue I can speak for myself and my constituents.
I have no doubt that every member of the House is firmly opposed to all forms of genocide and the public incitement of hatred against others. At the same time it is our duty as parliamentarians to ensure that any legislation to censure these acts is consistent with both the principle of fundamental justice and our Canadian ideal of a free and democratic society. I prefer to deal with the issue on a principled and rational basis than on the emotional basis that has sometimes accompanied the debate.
In 1995 the Reform Party put forward a persuasive argument against adding section 718.2 to the criminal code. The section instructs sentencing judges to take into consideration whether offences are motivated by hate based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental of physical disability, sexual orientation or any similar factor.
Reform Party members opposed the addition of the section on the basis that all criminals should receive appropriate sentences regardless of their reasons for committing a crime. The Alliance continues to maintain that political and social ideas that may motivate an offender to commit a crime are irrelevant. What is relevant are the facts of the crime and how to deal appropriately with the offender. Similarly, victims who suffer from crimes motivated by greed should never be treated with less dignity than victims of crime based on hatred.
For similar reasons members of the Canadian Alliance opposed the definition of terrorist activity in the first anti-terrorism legislation, Bill C-36, which referred to the religious, political or philosophical motivations of a person committing a terrorist act. People's political or religious thoughts at the time should have no bearing on whether they are convicted of a terrorist offence or on the severity of the sentence they receive if convicted.
The issues we are dealing with in the hate propaganda laws are somewhat more nuanced and complex. Some speakers glossed over the distinctions between hate propaganda and advocating genocide. These are very different issues and considerations, yet they seem to lump them all together.
I do not intend to wade into the convoluted and intricate arguments that surround the discussion of how freedom of speech can or cannot be applied to hate literature. However I would point to two specific concerns in the bill which must be addressed and which form the grounds of my opposition to the legislation.
First, the legislation would extend protection from hate propaganda to some groups while excluding others. While the bill would add sexual orientation to the list of groups who may claim protection from hate literature, a number of other Canadians who may be targeted for reasons of age, health, disability, social status or a number of other characteristics would not be afforded the same protection.
What concerns me is not only the piecemeal way we are approaching the law but the exclusion of a number of vulnerable groups in our society that are routinely subject to discrimination and inequality. Discrimination based on age will present an increasingly difficult moral dilemma in the ongoing public debate surrounding euthanasia and how we treat elderly members of our society. Promoting hatred or genocide against those perceived by some to be a drain or to no longer be contributing members of society is a real concern. It will undoubtedly present a challenge for us in the future, particularly in the contemporary climate of modern technology.
A more broadly based approach would assist in addressing the challenges the mentally or physically infirm may face from those who advocate eugenics or euthanasia. The unfortunate case of Robert Latimer, a father who took the life of his severely disabled daughter in the hopes of relieving her pain and suffering, has brought the issue to the forefront of moral and ethical debate in Canada.
Groups representing disabled Canadians have voiced concerns that they may become targets without their consent. To address the issue there are two possible solutions. First, the definition of identifiable group could be expanded along the lines of our current standard in the charter of rights and freedoms. The charter currently extends protection from discrimination on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age, or mental or physical disability.
Amending the definition in this manner has been suggested in the past. In April, 1985 the Special Committee on Pornography and Prostitution recommended the definition be broadened to include sex, age, and mental or physical disability. The Law Reform Commission of Canada recommended the same so the provisions would be consistent with the charter of rights and freedoms. A broader definition would be consistent with international standards such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which guarantees that everyone is entitled to rights and freedoms:
--without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
Second, I would prefer to remove the definition that applies to the offence of advocating genocide, since genocide in itself is self-defining. This way any group which found itself subject to abuse could seek and receive the necessary legal protection.
It is second reading and I am not entitled to move an amendment. It will therefore have to wait. At the same time, given the shortcomings of the bill I cannot support it either.
Another concern about the legislation relates to the issue of legal defences. Section 319 of the criminal code proscribes public incitement of hatred. One of the four defences set out in the section would likely preclude prosecution in the context of the expression of a religious opinion. Subsection 319(3) reads:
No person shall be convicted of an offence under subsection (2)
(b) if, in good faith, he expressed or attempted to establish by argument an opinion on a religious subject--
These defences do not currently apply to section 318. There is a substantive difference between section 319 and section 318. However problems immediately arise that need to be addressed, and Bill C-415 ignores the difficulty in a simplistic way.
The absence of defences in section 318 could pose a problem for a number of common publications including the Bible, the most widely read and widely published book in Canada and across the globe. This would affect both Christians and Jews. In addition, many Muslims do not believe homosexuality should be permitted. Specific books of Islamic law dictate that homosexuals should be punished harshly. Under a broad definition of the law this could arguably fit into the definition of advocating genocide based on sexual orientation.
Is this the intention of the amendment? If it is, or if this is its effect, we cannot support it. I do not believe this kind of material was intended to be prohibited under these laws. However without specific defences in place individuals could be subject to costly prosecutions. Religious publications of many varieties could be subject to censorship or even prohibition. If Bill C-415 passes second reading we must require the committee to consider which legal defences would be appropriate in this context.
The Canadian Alliance has always promoted equal treatment of all Canadians under the law. However we are not in favour of preferential treatment of any group, something the legislation in its current form would do. We must be mindful that one man's or woman's freedom is not arbitrarily exchanged for another's based on what happens to be the current political flavour.
I will continue to work to extend equality and freedom from discrimination to all Canadians. Although I will not be supporting his bill I thank the hon. member for Burnaby--Douglas for bringing the matter forward for debate.
Private Members' Business
John Herron Fundy Royal, NB
Mr. Speaker, it is my intention to speak for only a few moments to the initiative brought forth by the hon. member for Burnaby--Douglas.
I want to state categorically for the record that both the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada and I as a private member for the riding of Fundy--Royal are in wholehearted support of Bill C-415. The bill would amend subsection 318(4) of the criminal code and replace it with the following:
In this section, “identifiable group” means any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.
To illustrate the issue I will being members back to Fredericton, New Brunswick on the evening of November 7, 1999. A young man named Robert Peterson was walking home on Regent Street after a night out with his friends. His only crime that evening was walking home. He was heinously attacked in a brutal and severe fashion. As a result Robert Peterson, a law student at the University of New Brunswick, ended up with his eyes blackened. He required stitches on both sides of his face. The motivation for the crime was clearly established as a gay bashing. He was attacked merely because of his sexual orientation.
Moments ago a reference was made to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights in terms of how it distinguishes discrimination if not racism and does not include sexual orientation in its list. The declaration was written by a man named John Peters Humphrey who came from my riding of Fundy--Royal.
Things change in society. We learn to add where appropriate. Also in my riding of Fundy--Royal is Gordon Fairweather who was Canada's first human rights commissioner and the hon. member for Fundy--Royal from 1962-78. He believes sexual orientation must be added to the code.
The hon. member for Burnaby--Douglas said he wanted to dedicate his initiative to the memory of Aaron Webster. I want to send a signal on behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada that the heinous beating of Robert Peterson will not be forgotten. In his name we support the initiative of the hon. member for Burnaby--Douglas. I thank him for the opportunity to contribute to the debate.