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.


Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

3:20 p.m.


Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have another opportunity to participate in the debate on Bill C-55.

The amendment proposed to this anti-terrorism bill number two does nothing to alleviate our concerns. In fact it has added to our consternation about the full intentions of the government with respect to public security. Our concerns about its approach remain. Our worries have been heightened. The responses by government members have in no way lessened or diminished our worries and anxieties.

In general, we remain concerned that the bill does not ensure the appropriate balance between protecting the public and ensuring that the rights and freedoms of Canadians are not jeopardized in any way. The bill clearly provides sweeping powers for police and security intelligence forces to snoop into the lives of Canadians. It uses intrusive powers of police and security forces that threaten to interfere with the charter of rights and freedoms.

Bill C-55 diminishes the role of parliament and gives extraordinary powers to unelected officials in our government and in our society generally. It remains a concern for us that the term military security zones is so loosely defined that it can be used at every turn to repress and stamp out peaceful demonstrations.

The difficulties Canadian citizens are having in organizing peacefully around Kananaskis toward the end of June with respect to the G-8 summit are no coincidence. The government is determined to do everything it can to deny citizens the democratic right to protest peacefully and speak their minds at every opportunity.

The fundamental issues and concerns we have with respect to the bill remain. In the few minutes I have today I want to focus on the fact that the bill seems to be an attempt to make decisions that otherwise would not be acceptable were it not for the events of September 11. The government is attempting to use those tragic events to introduce changes in our society that are unacceptable and unnecessary.

If the purpose of Bill C-55 is to protect the public even within those narrow parameters of terrorist activities, then the bill does not do the job. We have heard recent reports of how CSIS has indicated it is no more likely to arrest people as a result of this bill than it would if the bill did not exist. We are not sure where the powers of the bill will lead in terms of actual implementation and detention of suspected terrorists.

More important is that the bill misses the boat when it comes to the real threat of terrorism if we are looking at the narrow definition presently in terms of public safety. The difficult area for us to deal with is with respect to nuclear, biological and chemical terrorism. Report after report has shown that this area is very difficult to--

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Progressive Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The member for Winnipeg North Centre has some wonderful points to make on the bill yet I do not see a lot of Liberal members in the House. Mr. Speaker, I would ask you to please call quorum.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

The Speaker

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

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3:25 p.m.

The Speaker

We now have quorum.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

3:25 p.m.


Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to emphasize a point that has been missed in this debate and that members opposite on the Liberal benches should be interested in.

When I say the bill misses the boat in terms of the real threats facing Canadians, I want to address it both in terms of the threat of terrorism and the broader threats facing Canadians in terms of health and safety. That issue was astutely put by Ken Rubin in a recent issue of The Hill Times. He said:

Ottawa misses the boat by obsessively dealing only with potential security safety risks rather than tackling actual lethal health and environment problems including how to deal with dangerous drugs and toxic wastes.

It is a point well taken and I hope members across the way are hearing that. When it comes to serious threats to public safety, such as adverse drug reactions, threats to the food supply, the state of our water, or the presence of toxic elements in the Sydney tar ponds, the government refuses to act. I will leave that aside as there is time for debate on that in other places.

Today we are talking about terrorism. The bill misses the mark when it comes to protecting the public with respect to terrorist threats. I refer again to the dangerous and real threat of chemical, nuclear and biological terrorism.

Report after report has said Canada is ill-prepared to deal with bioterrorist threats. The government has had the benefit of study after study suggesting it has known about the problem and has refused to act. In the last several years the solicitor general's report has stated Canada was unable to respond to major terrorist attacks and lacked everything from vital protective equipment for emergency personnel to properly trained teams to free victims inside collapsed buildings. An internal Health Canada report warned that cuts to the country's health care system would make it difficult to provide medical services to victims of terrorist attacks. A national defence report found Canada was years behind its allies in its ability to handle a biological or chemical terrorist attack.

That is where the government should be putting its attention, not jeopardizing Canada's rights and freedoms by giving itself and the police force inordinate powers. It should be putting its resources and energies into protecting the public in the event of bioterrorism.

We heard the Minister of Health announce with a lot of fanfare back in October that $11.59 million would be going into programs to protect Canadians against a bioterrorist attack. We have yet to hear an accounting of that money. We have yet to hear that the money would be going to where it is needed and making a difference.

Canada should be putting its resources and energies into a number of different areas ensuring that we have an emergency preparedness strategy and a trained public health care workforce who will be able to respond should a terrorist attack occur.

That point was recently driven home by the firefighters who gathered on Parliament Hill to talk to all of us about their concerns. They made an important recommendation about the requirement for training of Canada's first responders in the event of a terrorist attack or any kind of incident involving hazardous materials. In their report they said:

While a military-based response to a chemical, biological or terrorist attack is hours, if not days away, professional fire fighters will be on the scene in mere minutes. However, a serious problem has been identified: that, while a small handful of Canadian cities, such as Ottawa, do have appropriate hazardous materials or chemical-biological response teams in place, the vast majority do not. This means that the majority of Canadians are completely vulnerable to the aftermath of a terrorist act involving chemical and biological weapons. The situation therefore exists that Canadian fire fighters, police officers and other emergency medical services personnel will be called to respond to a chemical, biological or radiological incident without the proper training and equipment. An inappropriate response to the incident would only compound the potential impact on the public and the responding fire fighters. The effectiveness of Canadian first responders depends on their ability to apply the skills learned during hands-on training. No matter if the incident is a typical hazardous materials alarm or one that involves intentional dispersal of biological agents, first responders need to rely on a solid base of training in order to formulate a safe and effective response strategy.

That should be the priority for the government. That is the first task the government should be involved in with respect to responding to terrorism. It should put $500,000 into a training program run and co-ordinated by the International Association of Firefighters to provide our firefighters the necessary training to respond in the event of a bioterrorist attack or any incident involving hazardous materials. Of the $11.59 million promised by the government on October 18 for a response to bioterrorism why can the government not find $500,000 to ensure that firefighters can train their members to respond in the event of a bioterrorist attack or any serious incident in our society today?

I challenge the government to face the real issues at hand, to put its money and its mouth where the problems are and start giving our first responders, our firefighters, paramedics and police, the resources they need.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

3:30 p.m.


Jean-Yves Roy Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-55, which, as we know, replaces Bill C-42, introduced in great haste by the government following the events of September 11.

Members will recall that one of the main issues raised by the Bloc Quebecois at that time dealt with the famous controlled access military zones, which raised a serious moral problem for all those who gave careful thought to the implications of such a measure.

First, we will obviously oppose the bill, because the amendments brought by the government are what I would call, in essence, minor amendments.

Finally, the government has reintroduced a bill that could have very serious implications for the freedoms of our fellow citizens. However, it can be said that the government gave in to the arguments of the Bloc Quebecois by tightening the criteria for the creation of controlled access military zones.

If we accomplished anything, we accomplished that. Besides, Bill C-42 was withdrawn. However, and I insist on the word however, the minister remains the only person empowered to designate controlled access military zones.

What is the significance of this? It means that one man and one man only can designate controlled access zones. He is the one who decides to create them.

We know what is currently going on in this government. We realize that ministers may sometimes be more or less reliable. I hope that the new minister is more reliable than his predecessor. Nevertheless, to give a minister sole responsibility for designating controlled access military zones is to give him a very important power.

This issue also concerns all the provinces. For example, the authorization of the Quebec government is still not required to establish a controlled access military zone on its territory. And the same goes for the other provinces.

The federal government is giving itself a power without asking the authorization of the provinces to establish controlled access military zones. It can do so even without telling the provinces. Indeed, there is no requirement to obtain the approval of the provincial governments.

There is also the fact that the “reasonably necessary” criterion to determine the size of these zones has not really changed. It is still very much a discretionary thing. What it means is that, once again, the decision may be made by a single person. It can be made unilaterally, without any consultation whatsoever.

Another thing that could affect people's lives is the fact that people who suffer a prejudice because of the designation of a military zone, or the implementation of measures to enforce the designation, still cannot take legal action for loss, damage or injury.

The designation of a controlled access military zone means that absolute power is given over a specific zone and that people may be prejudiced following the establishment of such a zone.

This means that people could be prevented from going home. It means that they could be prevented from leaving these zones. It could even mean that, because of the measures taken, people could see their property damaged, yet have no recourse.

This is a very important provision in the bill before us, as it was in the previous legislation. Indeed, these people would not have any recourse against the government. They would not have the right to turn around and ask the government to compensate them. This is very important. This provision should be changed. The bill should be amended in this regard. People who could suffer a prejudice because of the establishment of controlled access military zones should at least have a chance to be compensated when such zones are designated.

We saw what can happen with these types of zones. The name was not the same at the Quebec summit, but the fact remains that some people were adversely affected. Some business owners could not serve their regular clientele and suffered losses because of that.

Of course, the government then offered to compensate these people. However, there is nothing about that in the current bill. That is something that should be changed because it is very important.

Bill C-42 also referred to such things as international relations, defence or national security as grounds for creating military security zones, but these are dropped from Bill C-55. One can therefore assume that all grounds are now acceptable. A controlled access military zone could be created because there is fear of an attack or of some other event. I think that this is very risky and very dangerous because of the discretionary power conferred upon the minister, upon one single person, under the bill before us.

This bill still contains provisions allowing various ministers, and in one case in particular public officials, to make interim orders. This is somewhat related to what I just said. The bill allows ministers or public officials to make interim orders, which would practically create an event.

That is also very dangerous. An amendment is required. The bill needs to be reviewed in light of what I have just said in order to make it less dangerous for members of the public.

Two minor changes were made, however. They deal with the tabling of orders in parliament within 15 days, and reducing from 90 days to 45 the period during which interim orders are in force without cabinet approval. I would call these minor changes because, basically, these controlled access military zones should not be created without first consulting cabinet and even parliament.

I also note that there is no provision for a prior check by the Clerk of the Privy Council for consistency with the charter and the enabling legislation. We are obviously referring to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This is very important.

Bill C-55 would also allow two other stakeholders to obtain information about passengers directly from air carriers and operators of reservation systems. They are the commissioner of the RCMP and the director of CSIS. This also threatens the freedom of individual citizens.

This information may be provided for two reasons: first, if there are imminent threats against transportation security and, second, to identify individuals for whom a warrant has been issued. Recently, we saw in the newspapers that all the groups which defend individual rights and freedoms were completely opposed to the provisions of this bill regarding information which may be supplied to the RCMP or CSIS.

There is one somewhat positive note concerning the information collected by the RCMP and CSIS. This information could be destroyed within seven days of being obtained or received.

Last weekend, I was in the Magdalen Islands. We know that this bill amends a number of federal statutes. As people will recall, one result was the establishment of the infamous $24 airport tax. In a place such as the Magdalen Islands, where flying is just about the only means of transportation in winter, people who are already paying a fortune for a plane ticket—it now costs $1,200 to fly from the Magdalen Islands to Montreal—are being slapped with another $24 on a return airfare. People are telling us that this will have quite a negative impact on tourism in the Magdalen Islands.

Fundamentally, when we look at the situation of all of the airports, that is where the events of September 11 have led us. The federal government has come up with measures that I would describe as excessive. The bill, as it has been introduced, is an excessive measure, given the events and what has happened since.

I believe that we have just about all of the elements and laws necessary to protect ourselves. All that was needed was to enforce them and use them properly. This bill grants a minister powers that can only be described as excessive. It gives excessive powers to the cabinet, to the police and to airport staff. Airlines are being required to use excessive powers, to hand over personal information on their clients and to provide information about their passengers. All of this violates the charter of rights and freedoms.

We are supposed to be living in a democratic country. With this bill before us, I am not sure that we will continue to be living in a democratic country. This bill could lead to abuses.

When it comes to establishing controlled access military zones, this power is given to one person, who in recent days has demonstrated that he is not necessarily reliable. I am not referring to the new minister, but the former one had problems.

It is very dangerous to give this power to one single person. We run the risk of denying citizens their freedoms, in an unjustifiable manner.

I wanted to come back to what I was saying about the Magdalen Islands, but since I do not have the time, I would simply like to say that, fundamentally, the bill before us threatens the rights and freedoms of citizens and it is not needed.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

3:45 p.m.


Michel Guimond Bloc Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-De- Beaupré—Île-D'Orléans, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure for me to take part in the debate on Bill C-55, particularly since, in a way, its introduction represents a victory for the members of the Bloc Quebecois.

As people are aware, the Bloc MPs have a reputation for being present, both in Ottawa and in their ridings on weekends. Contrary to what some people have said, when parliament is not sitting, this does not necessarily mean that the MPs are on holiday. Of course a member can take advantage of a week when parliament is not sitting to take a holiday and rest up, but this is not always the case. Every time parliament recesses is not a vacation for us; the people who come to our riding offices are very much aware that this is a time when we visit the people in our ridings, meet with people, visit factories, attend ribbon cutting ceremonies and so on.

I take the time for this introduction in order to raise people's awareness of one aspect of the question. Hon. members will recall that Bill C-55 started off as Bill C-42. There were many misgivings expressed by the members of the Bloc Quebecois, and some more progressive members of the Liberal caucus, it must be acknowledged, concerns about the rights and freedoms impacted just by the introduction of Bill C-42, the ancestor of the present Bill C-55.

That is why we hear from people when we are out and about on the weekends, when we meet people at social or other activities, that “it was a good thing the Bloc was there to raise questions like these in the House of Commons, a good thing the Bloc was there to tell this arrogant government what to do, this government that thumbs its nose at just about everyone and everything”. This is obvious with the scandals that are piling up one on top of the other, like layers of sediment on the earth. There is no end to the scandals being discovered. The ship of state is springing leaks on all sides. People keep telling us “A good thing we had the Bloc Quebecois there to tell this government that what it is trying to do makes no sense”.

We managed to get the government to review its position. Indeed, it withdrew Bill C-42 to introduce a new one, Bill C-55. It must be realized that the Bloc Quebecois cannot support Bill C-55, because it still contains some disturbing elements.

The debate is not over. The House will establish a parliamentary committee. This will be a joint committee, if I remember correctly. It will then be made up of unelected senators and of members of the House of Commons. We hope that, in the next steps to come, before this bill is read the third time and passed, the government will come to its senses about some questionable elements in it.

The Prime Minister and the minister of intergovernmental affairs were very proud, on April 17, to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the coming into force of the charter of rights and freedoms in Canada, but, of course, they forgot about the unilateral patriation of the Constitution on April 17, 1982, whose twentieth anniversary was also being celebrated.

This may seem ironic, but 12 days later, on April 29, 2002, the government came back with Bill C-55. As he has since he was elected to this House on November 27, 2000, my colleague from Matapédia—Matane pointed out appropriately and eloquently that the Bloc Quebecois has some problems, with the issue of controlled access military zones, for instance.

I must admit that the government accepted the Bloc's arguments and tightened the criteria for the creation of controlled access military zones. Again, this is another victory for the Bloc Quebecois. It is the Bloc that raised the Liberal government's awareness and that countered its indifference or arrogance.

However, it will always be the minister of defence alone who will have the authority to designate controlled access military zones. This should be cause for concern. But, as my colleague said, we will give some time to the new incumbent, the former chief economist of the Royal Bank, who inherited the Department of National Defence to everyone's surprise. We will give him the benefit of the doubt.

Let us examine what the former incumbent did; he gave a $36,000 contract to his former girlfriend. He was punished accordingly. The punishment was probably well deserved, because he acted unwisely. However, to judge by the personality of this former minister, we can clearly see that it is not safe to leave such a decision to the discretion of one person only, the minister of defence, because if this person should lack good judgment, like the former incumbent, this authority could be used improperly. We find that the bill goes much too far in this direction because only the minister is given this responsibility.

There is also the whole issue of respect for provincial jurisdictions. I will use an example that has already been given. A few metres away from Quebec's national assembly is the Armoury, and a few kilometres away, to the northwest of downtown Quebec City, the military base of Valcartier. It means that an ill-advised and ill-intentioned minister could designate that part of Quebec City, within a 15 kilometre radius around the Armoury, where the seat of democracy, the national assembly, is located, as part of a controlled access military zone. You can imagine the absurdity of all this. That is why Bloc Quebecois members consider that the approval of the Quebec government should be required for the creation of any controlled access military zone on its territory.

Time flies. I would have many more points to make. As the Bloc Quebecois critic for transport for eight years, I would like to comment briefly on the tax on regional air carriers, which will help Air Canada maintain its dominance in the market and its monopoly.

This tax will drive out of business the small regional air carriers, because people have a limited ability to pay. Air travellers in the regions are not just people with a hefty expense account who work for big paper mills or big mining companies. There are also ordinary citizens who sometimes have a medical condition and cannot afford to spend eight, ten or twelve hours travelling by bus, by car or by train. That is what I had to say, but, unfortunately, my time is up.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

3:55 p.m.


Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I admit that speaking after the member for Matapédia—Matane and also the member for Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans is a pleasure, but also a challenge. Nevertheless, I shall try to introduce new elements into the context of our consideration of Bill C-55.

As my colleague from the Quebec City region pointed out, the Bloc Quebecois has reason to be somewhat proud of the Liberal's openness toward amendments made to the old bill, Bill C-42, to introduce Bill C-55. It is a new and improved version, thanks in part to the main arguments and concerns raised by the Bloc Quebecois.

The government did follow up on our arguments to provide a better definition of what was and still is called controlled access military zones. This is good. However—and I think this was already eloquently stated earlier, but it bears repeating—we are very worried that it is still the Minister of National Defence alone who will decide on the definition and description of the controlled access military zones.

Imagine for a moment, if the bill were passed as is, the trust that would be placed in the Minister of National Defence, or the good judgment that we would hope he had. Imagine for a moment that the Minister of National Defence was the former minister of defence, the one who just left, and that he had to make a difficult decision. This is the same one who forgot to notify his cabinet colleagues, the Prime Minister and just about everyone that Canadian soldiers had captured prisoners in Afghanistan. Under this bill, we would have had to trust him to designate a controlled access military zone. I believe that this is putting too much faith or giving too much authority to this minister of defence.

What is more, last weekend he demonstrated to us that this faith that we could have, or should have given him would have been completely unwarranted when we learned that he awarded contracts worth $36,000 from his discretionary budget to his ex-girlfriend for a study already underway in the Canadian army.

The minister probably would have consulted the Prime Minister, or the decision might have been made by the Prime Minister.

This is again a matter of judgment or confidence in the Prime Minister. We are once again faced with a problem of judgment or confidence in the Prime Minister, who was himself investigated in the matter of the Auberge Grand-Mère and the golf course, who was also investigated for contracts awarded to Liberal organizer friends in his riding of Saint-Maurice, with Placeteco, and who is again under investigation, directly or indirectly, because of contracts awarded without competitive tendering and against all the criteria established at CIDA. Now he should be trusted to make a decision on a controlled access military zone. I think that even with the Prime Minister, we could not feel safe.

Suppose or imagine that Alfonso Gagliano were the Minister of National Defence. Under Bill C-55, he would have had the power to create a controlled access military zone. Does he deserve our trust or have enough judgment to make such a decision? I am sure that the Prime Minister would answer yes to this question, given that he named him Canadian ambassador to Denmark instead of the second in command in the Paris embassy. Still, Mr. Gagliano is the one who awarded Groupaction, among others, tens of millions of dollars in contracts. We all know that Groupaction is also under criminal investigation for having obtained money from the government under three contracts that produced in fact three copies of a single report. If Alfonso Gagliano had been the Minister of National Defence at that time, one could have wondered.

Just think for a minute that under Bill C-55 as it stands, the Minister of National Defence could have been the former ex and now new government House leader who was also very briefly the minister of public works. Trust would have been put in the former new government House leader, who would have been told “You do have the authority to designate a controlled military access zone”.

However, let us not forget that this is the same minister who enjoyed the hospitality of the president of Groupe Everest in violation of the code of ethics.

How could such power be conferred upon the former and current House leader when he does not even have enough common sense to know that he was violating the code of ethics and the most elementary rules of a public works minister with a huge budget, into which he was shamelessly dipping to reward his friends?

He is also the one who awarded contracts to Coffin Communication. This is worse than what we saw with Groupaction, since Coffin Communication was paid for reports that do not exist. At least, Groupaction made photocopies of a report, which shows that it had a minimum of decency.

However, Coffin Communication, a company without any employees, believe or not, received government contracts, never produced any report, and the whole thing was approved by the government and by the minister of public works.

If he were the minister of defence, knowing the powers associated with that office, I think that he would not deserve our trust because he would not have enough judgment to make these decisions.

However, concerning Bill C-55 as proposed, let us suppose that the position of minister of defence is held by the current minister of immigration. He could designate a controlled access military zone one day, forget that he did by the next day, and then come back the day after that and say “Yes, it is true, I did make such designation”.

The minister of immigration is also the minister of amnesia. When we put questions to him, he does not remember anything. If he had spent only one night at Claude Boulay's, it is conceivable that he might have forgotten about it. But if a person spends six weeks somewhere, he should remember it. We may forget about a period of ten or fifteen minutes. But if we forget about a six week period, we should seek medical attention, and this is very relevant.

If the minister were the Minister of National Defence, could we put our trust in him or believe that he has enough judgment to make a decision? To ask the question is to answer it.

There are others in this government who can fulfill the duties of Minister of National Defence. Let us suppose that it is the solicitor general. Would the current solicitor general deserve our trust to hold a power as important as that of designating controlled access military zones?

I should point out that it is this same solicitor general who made representations to people in his own department to further the cause of his brother in his region.

Would the solicitor general deserve our trust? Does he have enough judgment to alleviate our main concern about Bill C-55, which has to do with the designation of a military zone? Again, to ask the question is to answer it.

Suppose the Prime Minister makes changes and says that none of these ministers will be involved. Upon hearing him announce that the Minister of Justice will be the Minister of National Defence, we would have to ask ourselves if he is worthy of the trust that is required to hold this important power.

He just made an admission very candidly, because he is lacking visibility. He said “This is no fun for me. My colleague, the minister of immigration, is always making headlines these days. My other friend, the House leader, is also making headlines these days, but not me”. So, he made an admission to journalists, who did not have to look for long. He said “Do not bother searching. I accepted fishing trips from Groupe Everest. I went on these fishing trips. I went to the Moisie River. I travelled to Sept-Îles, and it was pleasant”.

Would he deserve the trust that is required under this bill to hold such an important power? To ask the question is to answer it.

However, if the Prime Minister ignored all this and appointed the first woman defence minister, namely the current Minister of Human Resources Development, would she deserve our trust and have the judgment required to hold the important power of designating a military zone?

Let us recall that there were 17 investigations into this minister's department because of a scandal of almost $1 billion. Indeed, she was making up new terms in the Employment Insurance Act in order to find pockets of poverty in her riding. Such pockets of poverty did not exist in ridings with an unemployment rate of 14%, whereas the unemployment rate in her riding was only 8%. Yet there were pockets of poverty. Even the Tories, at that time, did not find it very amusing, I would remind the House.

However, what if the Prime Minister chose none of these ministers, but the heritage minister instead. That would be even worse. She has handed out flags to everybody. She has given $2 millions to her friend, Robert-Guy Scully, something under investigation by the RCMP.

I know that the my time is almost up. However, if the transport minister, who had to resign when he was defence minister because he had tried to shut down the Somalia inquiry, had had this power, would he have deserved our confidence?

I think we have every reason to wonder about the appropriateness of giving the minister this kind of power.

I could talk about the former solicitor general, who said certain things on a plane. I could talk about Michel Dupuy, the former heritage minister. I could talk about all the other ministers who have been caught up in conflicts.

I think I have shown pretty well why we are so reluctant to support the bill as it stands now.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Progressive Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to have the member for Egmont here who can perhaps learn something with respect to what is or is not happening in his own government with respect to Bill C-55.

After September 11 the government demonstrated its inability to govern and put forward legislation that was necessary at the time. It had this knee-jerk reaction that brought forward a piece of legislation that was not well thought of and not well thought out. It was drafted over a short period of time by people who did not know what it was they were trying to achieve.

Bill C-42 was introduced in the House and went to committee. Everyone suggested that it was nothing more than simply a difficult way to put forward legislation to appease the situation of September 11. Everyone that came forward in committee spoke against it, yet the government was intent on bringing it forward, pushing it through and suggesting it was necessary in order for Canadians to cope with terrorism within our borders.

Better minds prevailed and, because the legislation was so terribly flawed it could not even be dealt with by amendment, Bill C-42 was pulled from the order paper. That was probably the only good thing that the government has probably done in the last nine years. It was a step in the right direction. The government admitted it had made a terrible mistake and had drafted some terrible legislation. In fact it listened to the opposition and the people who made presentations to the committee and pulled that terribly flawed piece of legislation.

Unfortunately, it did not totally learn from that mistake. The government then came forward with a replacement to Bill C-42, which is the bill we are debating today, Bill C-55. It brought it forward and made some changes to it. It made changes that make it worse than what it was when it was Bill C-42. It brought it forward and, believe it or not, suggested that it be referred to the transport committee. What a silly thought.

The government wanted to refer the bill to the transport committee when in fact the bill dealt with dozens of laws, the least of which would be transport. Yes, there was the innocuous little area of the Aeronautics Act but that was not really the here nor there of it. However, the government suggested that it be referred to the transport committee, again making a serious mistake.

Members on this side of the House who objected to the piece of legislation suggested honourably and seriously that it should go to another committee, a committee that encompassed more than just transport. In fact it did. It was referred to a newly struck legislative committee which was just passed today in the House. I received notice that the legislative committee had been struck. We have a member on it, as do other members of the opposition and the government. That is a pretty positive thing.

What is not positive is that the bill is still the wrong piece of legislation to deal with terrorism. Members should make no mistake about it. We have stood in the House and said time and time again that we absolutely do not condone terrorism, especially within the borders of our country. There has to be a consequence to any kind of terrorist action in this country. We believe we have that legislation right now with the Emergencies Act. If it were put into force it would provide everything that would be necessary to the government. However, the government decided that it would go beyond that.

Bill C-55 is a serious threat to the freedom of Canadians. Let us make no mistake about that. Canadians out there do not often pay a lot of attention to what is happening in this House. Canadians must pay attention to this piece of legislation because it impacts their civil liberties. There was a comment made the other day on a newscast I was watching that said if governments keep nibbling away at civil liberties, eventually they will become difficult to get back.

The government has no checks and balances. We have seen in the past, as we have seen recently, all the allegations that have been going on with respect to sponsorships, pork-barrelling and patronage. It seems the government is prepared to go to any lengths to take and grab those powers that it thinks is necessary for it to continue on that path.

This legislation is not the way to do it because this would seriously impact Canadians. The bill would grant cabinet a whole host of new powers, including the right to arbitrarily declare certain military zones off limit to Canadians, and to violate the rights of Canadians by supplying passenger information to the RCMP without any cause.

As was said earlier today in question period the police must be totally impartial in a free and democratic country. It cannot be given specific rights against the people it is policing. This legislation would allow it to do that.

Other pieces of legislation which granted similar powers were all withdrawn, some over time, such as the War Measures Act, while others were never made into law, and I refer to Bill C-42.

Bill C-55 would grant the government both the power to protect and the ability to abuse this power. Unfortunately, it is most likely the latter would prevail. The existing law, the Emergencies Act, ensures this does not happen by protecting the principles of a free and democratic parliament. This law would take parliament totally out of the picture. It would not allow parliament to be a part of any of the decisions that would be made based on this particular piece of legislation.

There is a clause in the legislation which would deal with interim orders. Eight parts of the bill would amend various statutes to provide a new power, permitting the responsible minister to make interim orders in situations where immediate action would be required. Two other parts which would deal with the Aeronautics Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act would extend the power of the minister to make such orders.

The statutes that would be amended to introduce the power, and respective ministers are those of the department of health, food and drugs, hazardous products, navigable waters, pest control, and quarantine. The ministers would be given power over every ambit of Canadian lives and Canadian law at the present time.

The extension of these powers unfortunately would have no backstop. They would not be able to come back to this parliament and have those interim orders removed. The ministers would have the ability to extend those orders if they feel it were necessary.

We talked about confidence. There was a motion yesterday in the House about how Canadians have lost confidence in the government. They lost confidence not only with respect to trade, but also in the government's ability to govern.

Can we have confidence in a defence minister, who unfortunately or fortunately for us as Canadians is no longer in that position, who would be able to have such extraordinary powers that no other Canadian, and parliament, would have any ability to take those powers away from him or from the government? Do we have confidence now in the Prime Minister when he leads by example? We see that day after day. In fact they, the Prime Minister, his ministers and his government, have no one who can take the ability of their incompetence away from them.

Bill C-55 will be going to a legislative committee. My hopes, wishes and desires are that every academic and non-governmental organization and individual being affected by this piece of legislation would appear before that committee and tell government why it is absolutely mandatory that this legislation be defeated and not go forward.

We have a piece of legislation now, the Emergencies Act, that will allow us to do what has to be done with respect to terrorism. We should not give government any other powers or any other ability to impact Canadian civil rights the way they would be impacted by this piece of legislation.

I will have the opportunity to speak to this again after speaking to the amendment. We will also have the bill coming back from committee with plenty of amendments because that is necessary.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

4:15 p.m.


Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Madam Speaker, it is too bad, because if the member for Brandon—Souris had asked for more time, I am sure that members would have agreed. What he was saying was very interesting.

As we all know, some terrible events took place on September 11. A friend of ours, an ally, a democratic country, our neighbour to the south, was brutally attacked. Thousands of people, men, women and children, died. Innocent victims met death at the hands of barbarians, terrorists, savages who decided to attack people who had done nothing to them.

The world's reaction to these events took two forms. The first was external, to go after and destroy the very roots of terrorism. This resulted in the campaign in Afghanistan, where Canadian and other troops are now engaged. The decision was made to destroy and oust a regime which was taking in members of terrorist cells. This was accomplished.

This external approach included co-operation among various countries, including their secret services, in order to better track the various terrorist activities which might be going on worldwide. Various countries reacted internally as well.

The main challenge facing all democratic countries is that of striking an essential and vital balance between the protection of human rights and freedoms, on the one hand, and public safety, on the other.

This balance has not always been properly respected. Yesterday, as we know, Amnesty International released a report in which the well known international organization mentioned the sometimes disproportionate reactions of the various democratic countries following the events of September 11. When an organization such as Amnesty International sounds a warning bell, it is the duty of elected officials in the various countries, and that includes us, to take note.

The government's first reaction to this threat to security was Bill C-42. This bill met with tremendous criticism. As the member who spoke before me mentioned, it is very rare for Canadians and Quebecers to pay much attention to the proceedings of this House. It is unfortunate, but that is how it is. Since 1997, when I first became a member, rarely have I seen as many reactions from my constituents, as many letters, as many e-mails, as many telephone calls as I did following the introduction of Bill C-42.

Accordingly, the Bloc Quebecois echoed the public's unease and voiced its criticism in the House. The Bloc was exemplary in its constructive, tight and well-argued criticism of Bill C-42; as a result, recognizing the validity of many of the arguments put forward by my party, the government withdrew its bill. It then introduced a new version of its bill, which is the one before us today, Bill C-55.

While the Bloc Quebecois is proud of the fact that some elements were removed from Bill C-42, Bill C-55 remains a source of concern for us. We still believe that the balance between the rights and freedoms of people and public safety, which should be the basis for this debate, has not been achieved in Bill C-55.

We could give various examples, but I will limit myself because I have precious little time. I will only address two main issues. The first one is the discretion given to the Minister of National Defence regarding controlled access military zones. The bill gives him complete discretion in that regard. My colleague from Repentigny demonstrated this in a brilliant and eloquent fashion. Who can have confidence in any minister of this government, after what we have been seeing day after day and given the lack of judgment displayed repeatedly by this ministerial team?

Take for example the EI issue or the Minister of Human Resources Development and the billion dollar boondoggle. How can we have confidence in the Prime Minister, whose personal integrity is being questioned? How can we trust the Minister of Justice, who brags about having participated in fishing expeditions with acquaintances of his? How can we have confidence in the Minister of Immigration, who blatantly changes his tune, even suggesting a deliberate attempt to mislead not only the House but also Canadians?

I see the head of the minister of intergovernmental affairs shooting up, but this is the main issue. He claims to know law so well, but it must be pointed out that, in the bill, this is at the minister's discretion. However, lately, one minister after another has shown a total lack of judgment.

In a bill such as this one, which threatens rights and freedoms to such a great extent, the danger is that people who, day after day, month after month, have shown their blatant and incredible lack of judgment, will have this discretionary power.

The other problem with controlled access military zones is that the approval of the province concerned is not required. This is dangerous, all the more so as there are no checks and balances to the minister's power. If at least the province's approval were required, we could say that there are some checks and balances, but this is not the case. It is dangerous especially with regard to the “reasonably necessary” criterion regarding the size of these zones. This is a problem.

We are talking about military equipment. I come from Quebec City. Several unbelievable examples come to mind. There is the Citadel in the heart of Old Quebec City, the armoury on Grande-Allée, which is some 200 metres away from the National Assembly. Under the guise of protecting military equipment, a minister who has the necessary discretionary power could say that the National Assembly, which is central to democracy in Quebec and is one of the oldest parliaments in the world since it dates back to 1791--let us not forget that--could be included in a controlled access military zones. The size of such a zone would have been decided by a minister of this government.

It is unfortunate that I have so little time left because there is so much to criticize in this bill. We will press on and see to it that it is never passed as it stands today.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

4:25 p.m.


Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from the Bloc Quebecois for his comments. We too in the NDP will pursue this matter vigorously to ensure changes to protect citizens, not harass them, are the focus of any new security bill.

Coming from Atlantic Canada, I cannot let this public opportunity go by to say that even though there is a new Alliance leader, we still hear the same old comments. John Mykytyshyn, a member of the Alliance Party, talked about the attitudes of Atlantic Canadians, saying that they were lazy. The newly minted, newly elected leader of the new Alliance Party is now talking about the defeatist attitude of Atlantic Canadians. When will that party learn that we are all Canadians and that we pull our fair share of the weight in this country as well. I will have more to say about that at a later time. It is unfortunate that a brilliant man like he can have such a negative attitude toward Atlantic Canada.

The NDP is very concerned about Bill C-55. We have heard experts such as the head of CSIS and the privacy commissioner express serious concerns about the lack of credibility and the lack of concerns--

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rick Casson Canadian Alliance Lethbridge, AB

Do not just read the headline, read the whole article.

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4:25 p.m.


Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

I will read the article. I could carry on a debate with him, but all he has to do is come to Atlantic Canada and personally tell people what he thinks, then we will see if anybody gets nominated from that party in the next election.

The reality of the situation is that Bill C-55 will not improve the security of Canadians in regions throughout the entire country. One of the greatest concerns we have is the National Defence Act and the naming of military security zones. Not much has changed in regard to the government deciding a secure military zone, for example the G-8 summit at Kananaskis.

Technically under this bill, if the government perceives a possible threat or conceives a possible threat, it can shut down the entire city of Calgary and declare it a secure military zone, if that is the wish of the federal government or the defence minister. What the defence minister can or cannot do is not spelled out exactly in the bill. We find it appalling that someone can have that kind of power over specific areas within the country. We are very concerned about that because we feel Canadians should decide these issues, not the defence minister. This should not be within the powers of the defence minister.

The other concern we have was raised by the head of CSIS that the possibility of convictions would be very unlikely under the new bill. When someone of that breadth of knowledge mentions that to the government, one would assume the government would take it seriously and ensure that right amendments were made to the bill.

I will say something positive about the bill. The Marine Transportation Security Act which allows the federal government to fund port authorities throughout the country is something we wholeheartedly support. That is something very positive and we should act upon it very quickly.

We still need to discuss the interim orders powers and the Canadian airport security authority. Instead of doing this behind closed doors and having short discussions near the end of our session in June, the government should be asking for input from Canadians from coast to coast to coast as to what they would like to see as new security powers for this government. The federal government should work in conjunction with provincial and regional governments as well. That would be very important and would give Canadians the ability to address their concerns in public forums. It would allow them to feel secure in knowing that their government listened to them. This is nothing but a top down approach and it is time for that kind of governance to stop, especially when it comes to security, the rights of people, their privacy et cetera.

We oppose the amendments put forward at this time. The bill can be greatly improved upon. We also reiterate the concerns of the Bloc Quebecois.

Recent newspaper articles have raised a barrage of questions from members of all parties about the conduct of ministers of this government and the actions taken today and other days.

The government is asking us to trust it with the security of our nation and to trust it with the amendments it will put forward. Yet it cannot even handle its own departments in an open and transparent way and in a way that has relevance to the Canadian people.

If Liberal members cannot be trusted to run their own government and if they are ethically immoral or morally bankrupt, then how do they have the gall to stand up and tell us what they will do to provide security for Canadians? Canadians have lost confidence.

I thanked the Alliance yesterday for its motion on the loss of confidence Canadians have toward the government. It is absolutely right. There was quite a debate yesterday on that motion and we were proud to support it. Of course the government does not want to hear this, but the fact is Canadians have lost confidence in their government.

Then the government is going to turn around and pass a bill with such sweeping powers that would affect the lives of all Canadians? I think not. It is time for the government get off its high horse, travel across the country, have debates and dialogue with Canadians to find out exactly what new security measures they want put in place to protect them, their communities, their property and the country as a whole.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

Madam Speaker, I must say at the outset that I did not intend to get up and participate in the debate today but I guess one of the great advantages of all members from all parties is that when we sit here--

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member but according to our records he has already spoken on the amendment. We will verify the two records to be sure.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

4:35 p.m.


Serge Cardin Bloc 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.

Bill C-55 contains much the same provisions as Bill C-42 with regard to interim orders, which would give much power to a small group of ministers.

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.

The main difference between Bill C-42 and Bill C-55 with regard to controlled access military zones is, of course, this section.

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.

Under Bill C-55 as under Bill C-42, the defence minister is the one who designates security zones, now called controlled access military zones.

The provisions of Bill C-42 indicating that military security zones could only be designated for matters of international relations, defence and national security have been dropped from Bill C-55.

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, 2002Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

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, 2002Government Orders

4:45 p.m.


Joe Comartin NDP 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, 2002Government Orders

4:55 p.m.


Alexa McDonough NDP 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, 2002Government Orders

May 29th, 2002 / 5:05 p.m.


Pierre Paquette Bloc 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.

Bill C-55 cannot therefore be supported by the Bloc Quebecois, as indeed Bills C-35 and C-36 were not, because of their totally arbitrary nature. Bill C-55 merely repeats what was in Bill C-42.

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, 2002Government Orders

5:15 p.m.


Antoine Dubé Bloc 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, 2002Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

5:20 p.m.


Antoine Dubé Bloc 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, 2002Government Orders

5:25 p.m.


Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc 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, 2002Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

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.