House of Commons Hansard #195 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-55.


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3:40 p.m.

Some hon. members


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3:40 p.m.

Some hon. members


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3:40 p.m.


Marcel Gagnon Bloc Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, now it is my turn to say that I am a little, more than a little, shocked by Bill C-55.

Almost everyone is opposed to Bill C-55, which followed on Bill C-42, which had to be withdrawn because it was unacceptable. Bill C-55 is not all that much better.

When advantage is taken of events like those of September 11 to violate people's privacy, the bills almost start to look worse than terrorism itself. It makes no sense to use an event like September 11 to take away people's freedom.

Journalist Michel C. Auger used the phrase “The right to terrorize” in the Journal de Montréal . It is quite unbelievable to see how far the government will go to take away people's rights. The privacy commissioner says the same thing. The government takes advantage of occasions such as September 11 to invade people's privacy.

Even in a country well known for its respect of privacy, a country where commitment to the charter of rights and freedoms was recently celebrated, a country which serves as a model for other countries which are not very good at respecting privacy, even in a country such as ours, the government has stooped to taking advantage of events such as those of September 11 to invade people's privacy. We cannot agree with a bill such as this, particularly when it talks about security zones and when we see how little credibility our ministers have.

When I hear that the minister would have powers like those provided for in this bill, it scares me. We see how, when things happen and questions are asked, the minister suddenly does not have enough authority.

It is the job of public servants. It is just about everybody's fault. The Minister of Justice even told us today that he did not have enough power. He would like to be able to have decision making authority on even more things. This bill definitely gives the minister too much power.

I had the opportunity to talk about it. When I talk about security zones, one thing comes to my mind. I think of Lake Saint-Pierre, in my region. Talk about a security zone. Since 1952, the lake has been used as a firing range. It is supposed to be a security zone. Because of these training activities, there are still 300,000 mortar shells at the bottom of Lake Saint-Pierre.

The minister has powers in this regard. How does he use these powers? Does he use them to clean up Lake Saint-Pierre? Does he use them to clean up the Jacques-Cartier River? Does he use them to clean up the locations where military personnel practice shooting, where there are weapons and where the so-called security zone is located? There is a security zone at Lake Saint-Pierre. There are places where we cannot even go fishing or hunting. So, there is a so-called security zone at Lake Saint-Pierre. What security? There are 300,000 shells at the bottom of Lake Saint-Pierre.

Of these, 10,000 could explode at any moment. In fact, some people have been killed by shells that had been pushed up by the ice on Lake Saint-Pierre.

During the eighties, a couple who was preparing for retirement built a beautiful boat to sail around the world. One evening, before leaving, they decided to make a bonfire along the security zone of Lake Saint-Pierre. Someone found a shell. Not knowing what it was because it had been damaged over time, the person threw the shell in the bonfire. The celebration turned into a nightmare when the shell exploded, killing one person.

To this day, every year, we must fly over the shores of the St. Lawrence River, all the way to Île d'Orléans, to try to recover shells that may have made their way out of Lake Saint-Pierre. We ask questions in the House on this issue. The minister has powers. We are told to trust the minister. He does have powers. But when will Lake Saint-Pierre be cleaned up?

I am told about security zones and not to worry. In my opinion, terrorism often lies in the government's behaviour. I am often more concerned about that. I have no problem with such powers being given to the minister, provided these powers are respected and the government first answers the questions asked by members of parliament.

We ask questions on almost every issue, but the answers we do get are very evasive. Some ministers have not said a word in the House in the last two or three days because they have been told not to answer, to avoid being caught red-handed. Is that the security of the future? Is that the way to make the public feel secure? Is that the way to ensure public confidence?

I can see a member opposite laughing. This is no laughing matter. It is sad, because the hon. member would have said the exact same thing I am saying in the last parliament. Unfortunately, he has now become mute and when he does talk, he has to say what the government tells him to say.

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3:45 p.m.

An hon. member

The member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord.

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3:45 p.m.


Marcel Gagnon Bloc Champlain, QC

That is right. The member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord. Nobody can convince me that we should accept a medicine that is worst than the illness that we are trying to cure.

Let the government become a responsible one. Let is make a point of answering questions and providing public confidence. When the polls say that more than 70% of the Canadians do not trust their lawmakers, one can wonder. And now powers would be given to the very lawmakers whom the public do not trust. I think it is like playing with fire.

I am 66 years old and I witnessed the war measures in the 1970s. I have lived through those times. I was on the road. I know how dangerous the situation was, not because of terrorism, but because of those who were supposed to protect us against terrorism. At least 500 people were incarcerated without even knowing why.

And I should agree to give such powers to this government? Never. Let them correct their mistakes, clean Lake Saint-Pierre and take their responsibilities first, then we will talk.

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3:50 p.m.


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to the amendment to Bill C-55 put forward by my hon. colleague from the Conservative Party.

Bill C-55 has been discussed a lot over the last few weeks. The more we look at that bill, the more we get into debate and the more we realize that we, on this side of the House, were right to speak up and oppose the bill.

From day to day, reports from international organizations are showing that there are countries, that we will name later on, and Canada is among them, that have abused a number of powers to violate freedom of speech and individual freedom.

This debate on Bill C-55 today comes at the right time because, a few days ago, Amnesty International published a rather revealing report on the measures taken by some countries with regard to the situationsince September 11. Some countries have made adjustments following that situation, but often at the expense of what is the most essential in a civilized society and a democratic society. I am referring here to human rights and freedom.

Amnesty International's report tells us that countries such as Great Britain, Canada and others have used special measures that show a total disregard for individual freedoms and human rights. Canada is on that list of countries. Some have said that Canada could even be regarded as a totalitarian country, if one looks at the essence of the bill before us. I am saying this without any fear of being judged since it is the privacy commissioner who said nearly a month ago, on May 2, with regard to Bill C-55, “Some measures are similar to those that exist in totalitarian states”.

This opinion expressed by the commissioner regarding Bill C-55 is important. A country that claims to be a champion of rights and freedoms is using situations like the one we have been experienced since September 11 as an excuse to impose coercive measures. It is a sad thing. We know that this country wants the international community to believe that it has the utmost respect for human rights.

Tuesday, we will debate a motion that I have brought forward. It will be votable, as decided by the sub-committee on private members' business. This motion asks the Government of Canada to ratify the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture.

I am making a point of indicating that we will have this debate in the House of Commons on Tuesday. I remind members that, during the first hour of debate, the government rejected the arguments presented by the Bloc Quebecois and Amnesty International, even though we had gathered 75,000 signatures of Canadians on a petition asking the government to ratify the convention.

Why I am saying that it is crucial that we ratify these conventions to protect human rights? It is so that the measures we take within our borders do not violate individual freedoms.

For many years now, Canada has behaved much too much like its neighbour to the south. For example, nine out of 34 countries--let us say 34 and not 35 because we will not include Cuba--have not ratified the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture, and two of those nine are Canada and the United States.

There is a good reason why this morning, an editorial in Le Devoir , reminded us that Canada has been refusing for many years to sign these conventions. Let me quote the article by Serge Truffaut published in Le Devoir this morning. The title of his editorial was “Security vs. freedom”.

At the end, he says:

For good measure, Canada has also developed a complete series of measures. The Canadian branch of Amnesty International said it was concerned about the policies on refugees and the cowardly concurrence of Ottawa with the judicial status given to prisoners of war by the United States. Most of all, Amnesty International stresses the fact that eleven years after becoming a member of the Organization of American States, Canada has still not signed one of the six regional treaties on human rights.

On the international stage, the Prime Minister boasts about being an advocate of human rights; Canada is about to become part of the free trade area of the Americas; therefore, I think that we should respect fundamental human rights.

Too many countries are still going this way, which is, to me, totally unacceptable. That is why this morning, as my hon. colleague from Champlain said, Michel C. Auger, among others, felt compelled to speak out about the deplorable current situation in Canada.

By the way, Canada is not the only country going this way. There are, naturally, our neighbours to the south and Great Britain, which are taking coercitive measures that violate freedoms.

In his editorial this morning, Michel C. Auger says the following—and I will read only the introduction:

National security and the fight against terrorism are becoming, just about everywhere in the world, the best excuses to violate fundamental rights.

In his article, he alluded to Amnesty International's report, and he added:

This is a warped sort of logic, as if we were saying that the best way to guarantee freedoms was to restrict them.

Since I have only one minute left, I want to add that we must have a global vision of the situation relating to the events of September 11 and we must go beyond these events. We must establish a real balance in Canada between freedom and security, but Canada has yet to understand that.

There is still time, since we are still considering Bill C-55, to take measures to fully reach this fundamental objective which is, obviously, to guarantee the national security of Canada while respecting individual freedoms and fundamental rights.

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4 p.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is important that we appreciate the motion that has been allowed to proceed to this point. I just want to quote from it. It will have the effect, if carried through by vote of the House, of not giving second reading to Bill C-55. The motion states: constitutes an autocratic power grab by the Liberal government at the expense of parliamentary oversight and the civil liberties of Canadians.

Quite frankly, I could not have said it better myself. In effect that is what the bill is all about.

As I said in the House yesterday when I made some other comments about the bill, it is really an unnecessary bill. When I was reviewing it, I could not help but think of the implementation of the War Measures Act back in 1970. I was in the third year of law school. I recall the effect its imposition had on civil liberties in the country at that time, specifically on some of the groups I was involved with. I recall the chill that it cast over this entire country regarding free expression of speech and the exercising of other civil liberties and the fear that it created.

As we know historically as a result of the imposition of the War Measures Act and all we have learned from it, to a very significant degree the invocation of that act and its imposition on the province of Quebec and on the rest of the country more generally clearly came out of a sense of panic by the government in power at that time. When I look at Bill C-55, I have exactly the same sense of what the reality is. What I want to say to the government is that September 11 was nine months ago. The panic should be over by now. We should be able to stand back, take a look at the bill and realize that there are all sorts of provisions in here that are generated only by panic and not by any meaningful legislative purpose. We do not need a repeat of 1970 in this country.

I will quote from an article that appeared under the name of Ken Rubin in the The Hill Times this Monday past, May 27. This is his analysis. I think we should acknowledge the work that Mr. Rubin has done over the years in ferreting out government miscues, mistakes and, yes, abuses. We should recognize the work that he has done to better the debate in the country around a number of those issues.

Mr. Rubin stated:

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. The bill strings together a host of peripheral and unrelated measures like tighter explosives regulations and prevention of unauthorized use of Defence Department computer systems, but it does not deliver the legal tools needed for building an effective public safety emergency prevention plan to deal with post-Sept. 11 threats. The bill's usefulness is questionable.

I think that it summarizes in a one paragraph statement both the dangers that are in the bill and the usefulness of the bill.

I will come back to the motion by the member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, which we are debating at this point. What he is saying to the government, and I would urge the House to support him in this regard, is this: pull the bill, do a review of it, and then bring back to the House those parts of it that do have a proper purpose, a proper function. He is telling the government to get off its panic seat and drop those parts that are clearly abusive of the civil rights and, potentially, the human rights in the country and of civil liberties in general.

This is an omnibus piece of legislation. It should not be. A number of these provisions in the bill should in fact be siphoned off into individual bills. If it were to be done that way, the provisions could be dealt with more appropriately by House committees. Some of the provisions that are required could in fact probably move through this House fairly quickly.

I will use as one example a portion of the bill that probably could be dealt with fairly quickly. That is the provision that deals with the port authorities in Canada. What it provides for is that the federal government, under the amendments it is proposing in that section, would be able to fund security measures for the port authorities. I know from my own experience with the authority in Windsor that in fact this is sorely needed. It does not have anywhere near the financial ability to provide the type of security that is warranted and needed in my area. That type of an amendment and provision, if siphoned off into a separate bill, should be able to move through the House very quickly. There are a number of other provisions like that.

Speaking from the position of an opposition party, there is absolutely no way that we can support the bill in its totality as it is. That is just not possible. That would be abrogating all the responsibility we have to Canadians because there are so many provisions in here where there is the potential for the bill to be used in an abusive fashion against Canadians. In its attempt to protect us, the bill in fact does just the opposite. It exposes us to potential gross abuses by government action, again, much as we saw in the province of Quebec in 1970 with the invocation of the War Measures Act and all those useless arrests and the denial of all the basic freedoms.

There is the old adage that if we do not learn from history we are going to repeat it. One would think that the government would have learned from that experience. One would think that out of respect for one of its former leaders who fought valiantly to get us a charter of rights the government would remember that. One would think that today, rather than dealing with a bill that takes away those rights in a variety of ways, we would be standing up in this House championing legislation that does not do that, that instead provides Canadians with security but does not take away their civil rights as this bill does.

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4:10 p.m.


Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Quebecers and Canadians who are listening to us, I am pleased to rise for the second time today in the House in the debate on Bill C-55 and on the amendment moved by our colleague from the Progressive Conservative Party.

A few Liberal members have spoken today. We have been dealing with Bill C-55 for about three days now and they have not really taken part in these discussions. The same goes for the Canadian Alliance members. It shows that human rights and freedoms are not of major interest to Liberal members from Quebec and Canada, as well as to Canadian Alliance members.

Why? Because the Liberal government is a centralizing one and the Canadian Alliance is no better. It would probably want to centralize powers much more in the hands of the central government. For those who are listening to us, I will try to drive home the importance of the statements that have been in the newspapers for over a month now.

I will mention only the titles. On Thursday, May 2, 2002, a La Presse headline read “The privacy commissioner condemns Bill C-55. Some measures are taken directly from some totalitarian states, he said”.

On May 19, a headline read “The fight against terrorism: half-truth and misleading statement. The privacy commissioner accuses the solicitor general of using the September 11 attacks to give police undue extra powers”. We must never forget that the solicitor general is responsible, among other things, for the RCMP and CSIS, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. The privacy commissioner therefore made a serious accusation.

Even yesterday, another headline read “Amnesty International takes stock. September 11 has hurt human rights”.

This is what we are facing in Bill C-55. In the short time that I have, I will try to explain the elements that have been added, that is, that were not in Bill C-42 and that we find in Bill C-55, concerning the provision of personal information.

For example, clause 4.81(1) says:

4.81(1) The Minister, or any officer of the Department of Transport authorized by the Minister for the purposes of this section, may, for the purposes of transportation security, require any air carrier or operator of an aviation reservation system to provide the Minister or officer, as the case may be, within the time and in the manner specified by the Minister or officer, with information set out in the schedule—

This means that from now on airlines will be required to release this information to the Department of Transport for security reasons. I will explain later to whom the Minister of Transport or his officials are required to release this information.

First, I would like to refer to the information listed in the schedule which you will have to give to your airliner:

  1. The number of the person's passport—

  2. The city or country in which the travel included in the person's passenger name record—

  3. The itinerary cities—

  4. The name of the operator of the aircraft on which the person is on board or expected to be on board—

  5. The phone numbers of the person—

  6. The person's address—

that means your address and your phone number;

  1. The manner in which the person's ticket was paid for

which means how you paid for the ticket

We are talking here about your credit card. They will have your credit card number.

  1. If applicable, a notation that there are gaps in the itinerary included in the person's passenger name record that necessitate travel by an undetermined method—

Therefore you will have to say where you are going, to what city and how you will travel from one point to another in that city. Also:

  1. Routing information in respect of the travel included in the person's passenger name record—

This means your whole itinerary.

The Department of Transport requires airlines to release this information. What will the Minister of Transport and his officials do with it? This is how they will be able to use it and, again, I quote from section 4.81 of the Bill:

(3) Information provided under subsection (1) may be disclosed to persons outside the Department of Transport only for the purposes of transportation security, and it may be disclosed only to:

(a) the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration;

(b) the Minister of National Revenue;

(c) the chief executive officer of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority—

A new agency, which does not exist yet, will be responsible for security across Canada.

(d) a person designated under subsection 4.82(2) or (3).

What is important in subsections (2) and (3) is very simple: the reference to the commissioner of the RCMP in (2) and to the dIrector of CSIS in (3).

Now the Minister of Transport can require the air carrier to provide him with information when he deems there is a security problem, and can transfer them to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, the Minister of National Revenue, the Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, the Commissioner of the RCMP and the Director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

And what can these people do? We are told that, within citizenship and immigration, customs and excise and air transport security, this information cannot be disclosed except for security purposes.

But how long will they be kept? The three departments or agencies I have listed, citizenship and immigration, customs and revenue and transportation safety, can retain them for seven days. These individuals and organizations, as well as the Department of Transport, can therefore retain the information for seven days. You are off on a trip, on vacation, but your itinerary, your credit card number, your home phone number, your address, will be wandering about the various departments for seven days, in the name of security.

What is going to be done with this information you provide? They want to use it for security purposes and so they can carry out investigations. What if they turn up a security problem? They are going to transfer the information to the RCMP and CSIS, both of whom have no obligation to destroy them after seven days. The other organizations have that obligation, but they do not. The RCMP and CSIS can retain them as long as they please.

People who are listening have certainly understood that new powers are being granted to these organizations. That is why the privacy commissioner has protested that this is pure nonsense. On top of that, you would have to give this information before you leave and it can be kept for seven days. If you are unfortunate enough, you will board the same plane as one of those Hells Angels we were talking about this morning, who have been invited to the festivities in England for the Queen and will be allowed on their bikes in the Queen's parade. If that biker has a criminal record, he could be inspected, searched and investigated. Of course, all passagers aboard the same plane could undergo the same procedure.

That is the purpose of the bill. We are now in the same situation as in the US. They asked for this information a few months ago, so we passed Bill C-44. What are the Americans doing now? When the Americans see people, men or women, who are in the company of people who have been flagged, especially when they all want to go to international meetings, the investigation drags on so much that it so happened once that more than 40 passengers could not board their plane. The intelligence people came and decided to investigate and hold back all those who were going to campaign for an association. This procedure was used to restrict their freedom. They had to miss their flight. Why? Because there was an investigation on the information they had given. One of them had a criminal record, so they decided to investigate all the other people.

So if you are a man or a woman boarding a flight with a potential criminal, you might have the misfortune of being submitted to an investigation, something that I do not wish to you. In the country you are heading to, they might not have the same respect for human rights and you might get arrested by that country's military police, who will tell you that Canadian authorities called to know where you are now. That is where we are at now, and that is not funny. That is what the privacy commissioner was describing.

From the outset, the Bloc was opposed to Bill C-42, and we are opposed to Bill C-55. When we accept that our rights and freedoms will not be respected any more, we prove the terrorists right.

Mr. Speaker, allow me to move an amendment to the amendment under consideration. I move:

That the motion be amended by adding the following:

“and a denial of rights and freedoms that was denounced by Amnesty International in its most recent report.”

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4:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

As I did earlier, I will take the amendement to the amendment moved by the hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel under advisement and I will come back shortly to the House with a ruling.

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4:20 p.m.


Lorne Nystrom NDP Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to say a few words on the bill as well as on the amendment and the subamendment moved by the Bloc Quebecois.

As I said earlier today, the bill is really a power grab by the federal Liberal government. It is an infringement upon the civil liberties of the Canadian people. We have to be very careful as to what powers we give ministers of the crown and what powers they can exercise without coming to parliament for a democratic vote of the Parliament of Canada.

The response to September 11 was an area where the government overreacted with Bill C-55. I have seen in the past how governments have overreacted in terms of using their power. The best example of that was the War Measures Act in 1970 which was brought in by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. That was certainly an overreaction. It was like using a sledgehammer to shell a peanut. It was a great overreaction by the prime minister of the day. We once again run the risk of a government overreacting because of a threat of terrorism.

I remind members that we have powers under the criminal code. We have a lot of police powers in the country. The government has all kinds of powers it can exercise in terms of the military. I do not believe we should be giving it even more powers in terms of the bill before the House today.

I am very surprised that this comes from a Liberal government that historically prides itself on being a party of civil liberties, freedom of speech and democracy. I can remember all those great Liberal speeches over the years from Pierre Trudeau and many other great, small l liberals. Now they are introducing a very draconian piece of legislation that will cut off civil liberties and cut off a lot of the freedoms that we in this country have grown to accept over the years.

These powers can be abused. It could be said that it is pretty calm right now so why would the government use these powers. I remember very well that before 1970 and the attack of the FLQ, the murder of James Cross and kidnappings in the country by the FLQ, people were not talking about using extreme measures and all of a sudden the Prime Minister invoked the War Measures Act in the middle of the night. Hundreds of people were arrested during that period of time. I can remember the panic and the emotions that swept the country.

I was one of the 16 members of parliament who got up in the House of Commons and voted no to the invocation of the War Measures Act. I can remember the pressure. There were some 23 members of the NDP caucus. I am not going to name people but I recall two members of the caucus who changed their minds between the caucus room and standing here in the House of Commons. Instead of voting no to the invocation of the War Measures Act, they voted yes because of the tremendous pressure and the emotion of the moment.

The government has awesome powers under the present constitution. There is no need to give it even more powers. There is no need for a minister, the Minister of Transport in particular whoever the Minister of Transport shall be at a future time when we have a so-called terrorist threat to have these kinds of awesome powers and to exercise them without coming to parliament itself to get the permission from the democratically elected representatives of the people to exercise those powers.

I ask members across the way to think long and hard before they agree to pass the bill and make it law. I know that in the government itself a lot of people are concerned. The original bill has been withdrawn and a new bill is before the House of Commons. The new bill is not quite as draconian but it still goes too far. It is still not necessary in terms of protecting the Canadian people against any kind of a threat of terrorism.

I ask Liberals across the way to reflect upon their tradition and their history going back to the days of Pierre Trudeau and Lester Pearson and the great Liberals of years gone by. I ask them to reflect on all the speeches about civil liberties and rights and participatory democracy. They should ask themselves if they really need this kind of a bill, this kind of a project which is before the House of Commons today.

One of the members from Montreal is a great civil rights lawyer who was first elected in a byelection in the riding of Mount Royal, the former riding of Pierre Trudeau. The member has made speeches on this subject many times. He has expressed great concern about the power and the sweeping nature of the bill. We should look at his comments about why the bill is not necessary.

Those are the main reasons we are concerned about the bill. This is why I support the motion as proposed by the House leader of the Conservative Party, that this House declines to give second reading to Bill C-55 because it constitutes an autocratic power grab by the Liberal government at the expense of the parliamentary oversight and the civil liberties of Canadians, and also the subamendment of the Bloc Quebecois.

Let us pause and not give the bill second reading. At the very least, let us make sure we do not give the bill second reading before we adjourn for the summer on June 21. We will then have a chance to think about it over the summer and have some sober second thought on whether or not it is really necessary.

A real measure of a society is how much freedom parliaments will grant to their citizens. When we look around the world today, we are very lucky to live in a free and democratic society. Many people in many parts of the world do not have that. There are many emerging democracies where people are fighting for the enshrinement of a bill of rights or a charter of rights and for the freedom of speech and the freedom of mobility. Many countries in the world are fighting for that.

People in this country fought in two world wars. I had an uncle who was killed in the second world war during the invasion of Normandy. He fought for democratic rights and for a free, just and democratic society in this country. Let us not take a retrograde step. Let us not step backward and remove some of the rights we already have.

We have had great debates in the House over the years. I remember the patriation debate back in 1980, 1981, 1982 about whether or not we wanted to have a charter of rights enshrined in our constitution. We had a bill of rights for many years. The bill of rights was brought in by former Prime Minister John Diefenbaker of the Conservative Party, a great Saskatchewan parliamentarian. The bill of rights was modelled in part after this country's first bill of rights, which was brought in by Tommy Douglas, the premier of Saskatchewan back in the 1940s and 1950s. We have a long history of having a bill of rights.

For most of those years we saw the development of a bill of rights in every province, including the province of Quebec. For all those years, up until 1982, the bill of rights was not enshrined in the constitution. In 1982 we had a great debate in the House on whether to constitutionalize the bill of rights or leave it outside the constitution. The debate was to decide whether the final authority would ride with the Parliament of Canada or with the courts. That was a great debate but it really divided Canadians.

We came up with the classic Canadian compromise, section 33 of the constitution, the notwithstanding clause. Section 33 allows parliaments to override a decision of the court for a certain period of time. After a certain period of time that override dies, unless the override is renewed. I think the override goes on for three years, if I remember correctly. It says to the courts that they do have the final authority to protect our rights in this country but that they had better be cautious because there is a parliamentary override. There is a balance between the parliamentarians in the legislatures, including the national assembly in Quebec, and the Parliament of Canada being able to override the courts, but on the other hand the reason for overriding the courts has to be pretty sound and just. It is a good compromise.

We developed this kind of unique Canadian system. I have spoken in different areas. I remember speaking in Russia when I was out of politics back in 1994. I spoke about how we developed our constitution and our charter of rights. I talked about the meaning of freedom of speech, freedom of religion and the enshrinement in our constitution of minority language rights. We went through long debates and we developed a pretty nice and sophisticated balance in a very unique federal state.

I know many of my friends across the way are very concerned about freedom of speech, civil liberties and civil rights of the Canadian people. I therefore appeal to them once again to not pass the bill before the summer to better reflect over the summer about whether we really need this. Do we want to entrust these awesome powers to some future minister of transport or even the existing Minister of Transport? We can probably think of some pretty interesting ministers of transport who might be there some time in the future with these kinds of powers.

I suggest that if we were to think about the bill very coolly and very soberly we would see that we do not want it. We have the powers today under our existing laws, both federal and provincial. We have the powers now under the Criminal Code of Canada.

I again appeal to the House to pass the amendment moved by the Conservative Party and make sure we take the summer to reflect on this very serious mistake and very serious road we are going down. I hope the Minister of Justice, who is now coming into the House, will share that point of view with me.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Progressive Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I again rise in the House to give my comments to Bill C-55. I would first like to congratulate the previous speaker from Regina--Qu'Appelle. He has been in the House much longer than I and probably the majority of people in the House. He can certainly speak from experience with respect to the protection of the civil liberties and civil rights of our constituents and all citizens of the country. I thank him for his historical comments which were as a result of his long tenure as a member of parliament.

I also want to congratulate my colleague from Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough who has put forward what I believe is a very necessary amendment. I would ask all members, not only those in opposition but those thinking members of the government, to seriously consider the amendment which states:

this House declines to give second reading to Bill C-55...because it constitutes an autocratic power grab by the Liberal government at the expense of parliamentary oversight and the civil liberties of Canadians.

Some may think that is harsh language but when one looks at the actual wording, the actual nuances, the actual clauses and the actual power that the legislation would give to members of the government, particularly certain ministers of the government, that language is not strong enough. The bill would provide an opportunity for some minister to take this power way beyond what it is that Canadians wish to have implemented.

I would like to go back a stage to Bill C-42. This was legislation that was brought in by this same government and was a total knee-jerk reaction to a very serious situation, make no mistake about that. Our party has stood time and again in the House stating that we did not condone terrorism or any type of action taken against citizens. However we still do not condone the power grab the government is trying to put in place that would cut off all the civil liberties that we share as Canadians.

Bill C-42 was a knee-jerk reaction to September 11. People on that side of the House and officials in departments had lights burning late into the night trying to put together what they thought was a package that would quell the issues that came out of September 11, the terrorist attacks that we deplored.

People put clauses in pieces of legislation that when they rethink them are obviously very wrong. We recognized that in this particular bill. I have to admit that the government, and it was probably the first good logical thing it has ever done, listened not only to members of the opposition and members of committee but to hundreds of witnesses who came before committee. Those witnesses said that the bill was wrong for certain reasons. No one accepted what was written in Bill C-42. None of the people who came forward, who wrote to my office or who visited my constituency office or my office here in the House said that Bill C-42 had to be passed because it was good legislation.

On the contrary, everybody said that the bill should not be supported nor passed because it was terrible and draconian. The Liberal government of the day pulled the bill. It did not let it go through. It let it die. The government asked if we would mind having it removed from the order paper. That was probably the only good thing that has happened in the last nine years of this government but it was the right thing to do.

Unfortunately the government has massaged and manipulated the legislation. It has changed some words and put in other words. In effect, Bill C-55 reflects the mentality, the psychology and the ideology of the Liberal government, and that has been brought forward in the bill. It has not changed the concept of too much power which would go to the ministers.

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Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Do you trust them?

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Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Progressive Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

My colleague from Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough, who put forward a wonderful amendment, asked whether we trusted the government. Do Canadians trust the government?

I think if we were to do a poll today on Sparks Street, on Main Street in Virden or in the Atlantic region we would get the same answer. Canadians have no trust in the government. There is no trust in its ability to manage its own portfolios. We have seen no trust in the government's ability to manage taxpayer dollars. We do not believe there is trust in the government to manage this very serious piece of legislation.

What would the bill actually do? The bill would grant the cabinet a whole host of new powers, including the right to arbitrarily declare certain military zones off limits to Canadians. It would also violate the rights of Canadians by supplying passenger information to the RCMP without any cause. Can anyone believe that the legislation would give cabinet the ability to pass on information about all of us, our families and the people in our constituencies? It would arbitrarily allow them to pass on that information to the police.

We are a free country. We have the right to travel. We have the right to practice our religions. We have freedom of speech. We have the right to stand and say what we will about the government. What would happen if I were to make some comments that the government did not like? Would they pass on information about me to the police? The legislation that we have before us would allow the ministers to do that.

Other pieces of legislation that granted similar powers were all withdrawn, some over time, such as the War Measures Act and even Bill C-42, but they were withdrawn because we recognized the danger. However Bill C-55 came forward and it is still here. The bill would grant the government both the power to protect and the ability to abuse this power. Unfortunately it is most likely the latter that will prevail.

The existing law, the Emergencies Act, ensures this does not happen by protecting the principles of a free and democratic parliament. Something which Canadians may not even know or realize is that legislation already exists that allows the government to do what it has to do. The Emergencies Act, which is in effect now, allows the government to do what it wants to do but it does have checks and balances.

We have the checks and balances that parliament applies under the Emergencies Act but those checks and balances would be taken out by this act. Why do we need Bill C-55 when the checks and balances are already available under the Emergencies Act.

The Emergencies Act provides a system of checks and balances which not only ensure that emergency power is used appropriately but it gives Canadians a sense of comfort knowing that their government cannot overstep the boundaries of this free and democratic society.

Parliament would have no say under the bill. Bill C-55 would make parliament irrelevant during a time of emergency. It would leave the rights of Canadians unprotected and at the beck and call of cabinet and the ministers. They would have the right to imply and impact Canadians with whatever they felt was right and necessary, which would not necessarily be what is right and necessary for us as Canadians.

Bill C-55 would permit the government to enact a security measure without the consideration of the House of Commons, whereas the Emergencies Act, which is already in place, allows parliament to review any order issued under that act. As Bill C-55 is written right now, parliament would become totally irrelevant. It would be taken out of the picture and would have no opportunity to speak to whatever those ministers and the cabinet table felt was necessary to enact.

The most serious concerns lie with the provision that allows for interim orders, and it is where our most serious objection to Bill C-55 can be found. Ministers should not be granted new powers that will exist outside parliamentary scrutiny.

There are quite a number of ministers who are given this power. I believe the member for Regina--Qu'Appelle talked about the Minister of Transport.

I see I am running out of time so I will wrap up. I will have an opportunity to talk about the other ministers who may well go beyond their bounds of power. However I will do that when the subamendment of the Bloc is approved and then I will to speak to it at that time.

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Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, first I want to say that I did not expect to speak to such a bill. As you know, I have been a member of this place since 1993, which means that I have some experience as a parliamentarian. This is my third term, and I may even have a fourth one.

As you know, it is never easy in life to classify things. I want to say, however, that I never thought I would have to address such totalitarian and incredibly authoritarian legislation.

I cannot talk about this bill without congratulating my colleague, the hon. member for Argenteuil--Papineau--Mirabel, for the excellent work he did in committee on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois.

Of course, the first thing that comes to mind is that everyone understands the magnitude of the events of September 11. No one in the Bloc Quebecois will deny this, and I am convinced that all members in the House will agree that there are transnational and terrorist forces which threaten the integrity of various political systems and pose a threat to the economy and to civil society. This is a fact.

Having followed those issues for almost a decade, I know that within societies there are forces, like organized crime, which threaten the economy and which work very hard to create an informal, underworld economy.

I could talk for hours about the 36 criminal biker gangs operating within Canada, including the Hells Angels, the Rock Machines, the triads and so on. We are well aware of their area of operation and why there are so many of them in society.

However, we never gave into the temptation— even during the war between criminal biker gangs around 1995—to sideline parliament. What I find despicable in this bill and which should outrage all members of the governing party who have a bit of backbone is the fact that the government wants to fight terrorism by sidelining parliament. That is incredible.

I asked the member for Argenteuil--Papineau--Mirabel if this kind of bill included a review provision. All bills of importance are reviewed after three or five years. In some cases, it can even be after ten years.

For example, this morning—and everyone knows how hectic it is in parliament; we never stop, not even for two minutes—I was attending the meeting of the Standing Committee on Health considering the whole issue of medical technologies and assisted human reproduction. That is no small issue. One couple out of eight has fertility problems. It was a pleasure to work with our colleague.

In this regard, there is a provision for review after three years. The Patent Act provides for review after five years. Same thing in the Bank Act. If this were a good government bill, it would include a five year review provision to assist in the work of committees and parliament in investigating, monitoring and analyzing.

If we pass this bill, we will be stuck with it. Can you understand that? There is no provision calling for a review every three, five or ten years.

It is worrisome, and I am somewhat surprised at the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, who is generally so clever. He is usually very vigilant concerning such matters. With all his wisdom, he would normally have put a stop to such measures. But he did not.

When I was the critic for immigration—those were the days; it is a great issue and I was brilliantly replaced by our colleague from Laval, but I will always look back with nostalgia—I realized that one of the greatest challenges all nations are faced with today all around the world is the traffic in human beings. There is no downplaying this. We know that there is a very important black market for human beings.

We are not minimizing the fact that there are some transnational terrorist forces. Let me givean example. If this bill were to be passed, the minister of defence--I know this expression is taboo these days, but defence ministers are not all one and the same, or should I say they are one and the same--the minister of defence could establish unilaterally, without consulting cabinet for a period of 45 days, and without any consideration for the local communities, the cities, the municipalities or the governments concerned, a controlled access military zone with extremely wide, indefinite and vague geographical references.

It is easy to imagine emergency situations where decisions would have to be made. However, it is impossible to imagine emergency situations where one is not required to consult cabinet or to inform the people involved. Here is a very troubling example of what we find in this bill.

Normally, in society, there is a very good test for the pertinence of opposition comments. If the Bloc Quebecois were the only one to put this argument forward, the following could be said “it is all part of the game when you are in the opposition, it is all about partisanship and that is part and parcel of parliamentary work”. But the list of people criticizing this bill is quite long.

The organization called Amnesty International, which is not suspected of any sovereignist inclination, has a lot of expertise in the area of human rights. It has published a 400 page report in which it wonders what this means for a country like Canada, which prides itself on being a liberal democracy. One had to hear the Prime Minister talk about Canada, with all the eloquence that he is known for, saying that it was “the best country in the world ”. He was saying that—

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Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

The very best.

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Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

The very best. That is it. With a blatant disregard for adjectives, adverbs or usage in French, the Prime Minister said in one single sentence, in one breath, that Canada was a country where fundamental freedoms are protected.

If it is true that fundamental freedoms are protected, I think that no government can be comfortable with Bill C-55. I wonder if there is unanimous consent to have this bill withdrawn immediately, to move on to something else and to have government go back to the drawing board.

I think that if you were to ask, Mr. Speaker, you would find unanimous consent.

Michel C. Auger, a very insightful political analyst, who sometimes criticizes sovereignists and sometimes criticizes federalists, also expressed concerns about Bill C-55. He said:

The legislation still provides for the creation of security areas under military control by the Minister of National Defence. With his signature alone, the minister could wait 45 days before having his decision ratified by cabinet. This is just one example of how the government, using the fight against terrorism as an excuse, is now restricting the fundamental freedoms of Canadians.

He used the words “restricting the fundamental freedoms of Canadians”. Is it not our duty, as parliamentarians, and not only that of the opposition, to point out that even when we fought organized crime or when the biker war went on, we never reacted by excluding the parliament and its committees, and not respecting the great fundamental freedoms?

We are concerned. We still have time to convince the government, but I think this bill should be withdrawn so that government can limit its scope.

Mr. Speaker, could you check to see whether there is unanimous consent for this bill to be withdrawn so we can move on to something else. This way, we would uphold the fundamental freedoms of Quebecers and Canadians.

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The Deputy Speaker

The member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve asked for unanimous consent. Does the House agree?

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Some hon. members


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Some hon. members


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The Deputy Speaker

After due consideration, the Chair is ready to rule on this amendment to the amendment by the hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel. This amendment to the amendment is in order and the debate is now on the amendment to the amendment.

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Canadian Alliance

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

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to this amendment to the amendment. Before getting into my speech, I would like to congratulate my colleagues from the Bloc Quebecois for their great effort in fighting the government on Bill C-55.

We understand very well why the Bloc Quebecois and Quebecers in general do not trust this government since the events of 1970. They have good reason to be suspicious of this government because of past decisions that affected the province the Quebec.

The situation is similar in western Canada. Historically, a Liberal government appropriated natural resources in that region. We understand perfectly the issue of civil liberties and the reason why members of the Bloc Quebecois are so intent on protecting these liberties from this government.

When the government decided to introduce Bill C-55 members from every party and every part of the country were hopeful that the lessons of the defeat of Bill C-42 that the government experienced had been learned.

The big problem with Bill C-55 is twofold. A number of the complaints raised by my colleagues from the Progressive Conservative Party and the Bloc Quebecois are entirely in sync with those of the Canadian Alliance. We also find it frustrating that the government does not take seriously the idea of fighting the war on terrorism, getting involved and making a substantive contribution.

Let us look at the way the armed forces have been treated by the government during Canada's contribution to the war on terrorism in Afghanistan. The troops are now being withdrawn but, lo and behold, their desert environment camouflage uniforms will be ready in the second week of July. The government's timing is impeccable.

Bill C-42 had a number of problems that the government belatedly acknowledged. The unfortunate thing about politicians, and maybe this is the alpha male side of politics coming out, is that for some reason no matter how many times Canadians beat them over the head, they cannot admit when they have made a mistake. We consider the war on terrorism a serious crisis. When the attacks took place in New York city, Washington, D.C., and on the flight over Pennsylvania, the Americans said that anybody who participated in the war on terrorism should consider having a war declared upon them.

Canada had a war declared on it by terrorists, people who were willing to murder civilians to make some obtuse and nonsensical political point. However, the government acted about as quickly as molasses. It was embarrassing.

When the government introduced Bill C-42 it was full of holes. It knew it was full of holes. It was inadequate and did not fund our armed forces, did not secure the civil liberties of Canadians, and did not do many of the things that Canadians expected at a time of war. The government should have admitted it had made a mistake, pulled it back and moved forward to introduce a new piece of legislation.

Bill C-42 was pulled back just prior to Christmas. Bill C-55 was introduced and even the transport minister who was the minister responsible, which is a curious person to be responsible for the bill, said Bill C-55 was 90% the same as Bill C-42. Surely the government had received the message between September 11 and February or March when the bill was introduced that Canadians expected more from the government in terms of supporting the armed forces.

More was expected in terms of the Sea King helicopters, submarines and desert environment camouflage uniforms. However, the government put in place interim orders for cabinet ministers. What is interesting is that when the government introduced Bill C-42 the timeframe that a number of cabinet ministers were allowed to invoke interim order was 90 days. That was pulled back in Bill C-55. The government said it understood the concerns of Canadians about the idea of giving interim order powers to cabinet ministers so it reduced it from 90 days to 45 days.

That was an arbitrary, ad hoc cutting of 90 days in half to 45 days. When we had our briefing prior to the public announcement and tabling of Bill C-55 we asked department officials what new principle was being accomplished or achieved by cutting from 90 to 45 days. They shrugged and said they are were cutting it in half because it was more accountable. There was no new principle being put in place. Nothing has been learned. I find this a curious thing.

I want to discuss the idea of putting in an interim order measure for cabinet ministers, and believe me the Canadian Alliance takes seriously the idea of working on a non-partisan basis to advance the country's national interest particularly in time of war. However, the only reason we can see behind cutting the latitude for imposing interim orders without getting cabinet approval from 90 to 45 days is to isolate the decision of invoking an interim order around a particular cabinet minister. The political damage associated with putting in place a bad interim order would be isolated to that one cabinet minister and would not spread throughout the entire cabinet.

There is no reason whatsoever for that, even if we take the example of September 11, and the House leader for the government knows this very well. On September 11 there were 300 or 400 planes that were grounded and hundreds of those planes were grounded in Gander, Halifax, and Toronto because the United States did not want them flying into the northeast of the United States. Those planes were grounded on the order of the government, the Prime Minister and the transport minister. It happened within minutes of knowing that planes had flown into the World Trade Center towers.

The government did not need any interim order measures to do that. It just did it. Those powers were there. They were in existence and the government did not need Bill C-55 to ground those planes. The government does not need these powers.

I will now give a private sector example. If General Motors were to have a vehicle with faulty airbags it would decide to recall this particular vehicle. In order to make that decision all it has to do is get a quorum of the board of directors together and have a majority of the quorum decide to do that.

My guess is that a majority quorum of the board of directors of a large company like General Motors could probably get themselves organized together inside of about six hours if it is a serious emergency. We are a G-8 nation with unlimited technological capacities to get members of cabinet together. If we cannot get a majority quorum of cabinet together to decide to invoke an interim order then I question the capacity of the government's ability to tie its shoes and to remember to put on its underwear before it does that.

This is simple stuff. We have all the technological capacities to do this. We have telephones and video conferencing, all of which count in terms of getting people together for cabinet meetings. There is no reason why that standard could not be put together.

I would suggest, within the context of criticizing the government's interim order measures in Bill C-55, that given the recent scandals that we have seen in the House, and we have seen the minister of immigration who has the Speaker's ear which is always good, that Canadians are thinking about their leaders. We see scandals associated with the minister of immigration who does not like to answer those questions in the House. We see scandals associated with the former minister of public works and the former former minister of public works. We see scandals associated with now the former minister of defence. We see scandals associated with the current justice minister, and the current solicitor general.

The idea right now of giving individual cabinet ministers the ad hoc power to invoke interim orders without having to go to cabinet for full approval for 45 days is more than a little suspicious for every day Canadians. Canadians are thinking to themselves about this group of people in power. This is a group of people who are anxious to avoid accountability for their actions, who do not even stand up in question period and answer simple, obvious questions, such as those asked of the minister of immigration about why he changed his story about staying at the Boulay lodge. One day he said he was not there and the next day the minister said he was there.

The solicitor general is hiding behind the Deputy Prime Minister. For whatever reason he cannot seem to summon the will to stand up in the House and answer the most simple questions. With that reality, Canadians are suspicious of the capacity of the government to take responsibility for its actions, face the cameras and face the nation through this House. The government does not seem to be able to answer those simple questions.

Canadians are more than a little suspicious and would look rather jaundicely at giving cabinet ministers more power to invoke interim orders on an ad hoc basis without cabinet or parliamentary approval. Canadians have every reason to be suspicious of that. The government has not addressed the concerns of Bill C-42. Bill C-55 is a terrible piece of legislation. I congratulate all my colleagues for opposing it.

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Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague from British Columbia for his remarks. He has given a thoughtful and detailed analysis of the shortcomings and the dangers associated with this legislation. He has pointed out the lack of the government's ability to justify the need for the bill, to bring forward logic behind cutting off these interim orders, and to remove some of the safeguards that exist under existing legislation.

A number of members who have spoken have highlighted the fact that we already have in place an Emergencies Act. Let us look at the chronology and the history of how that particular legislation came about. The government House leader and other members present who have more history in this place will be quick to acknowledge that the Emergencies Act replaced the War Measures Act. The War Measures Act, under the Liberal administration of the time, was invoked and led to perhaps one of the most egregious assaults on civil liberties that this country has experienced.

There were numerous detentions and arrests that aggravated and inflamed the passions of Quebecers in particular, but Canadians generally. In invoking this type of Draconian approach and the denial of civil liberties, Canadians bore witness to a sad and dark chapter of Canadian history.

When one goes back further an example comes to mind and that is the Steven Truscott case. An individual was sentenced to hang in a judicial process where disclosure was not mandatory and where there were many shortcomings that led to egregious errors in law and almost cost young Steven Truscott his life.

I do not point out that type of example to torque up or engage in rhetoric, but to exemplify the fundamental breaches that could occur when there are parameters of the law that are stretched and ignored, which is what could happen in instances if the bill were to pass in its present form. There could be instances where basic rights could be denied such as the rights to enjoy privacy, freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention, and the free use of a person's property. That is how fundamental these infringements may become.

Many members who have spoken have pointed very quickly and earnestly to the declaration of controlled military zones and the ramifications that could flow from such declarations. What we are talking about here, because of the nebulous language contained in the bill, is that by simply moving a single piece of military equipment into any region, province or property within our nation's boundaries a declaration could be made deeming that area, in the immediate vicinity of this military vehicle, a controlled military zone. Being deemed a controlled military zone would create certain ramifications that would have grave implications for human rights and liberties. That is of concern when one examines the context of what happened in APEC, Quebec City, and what might happen in Kananaskis.

There is some question as to the timing, the need and the necessity for bringing this legislation forward now. In the aftermath of September 11, as all members rightly have been quick to point out, we are living in a brave new world. We are living in a new environment that recognizes the grave consequences and the real tangible threat that is out there, yet we have seen legislation passed hastily through the House in Bill C-36.

There was great rush and trepidation on the part of the Liberal government to bring forward Bill C-42 which encompassed many of the same elements as the bill we see before us. One could say that to a large extent Bill C-55 is a stripped down version of Bill C-42. Bill C-42 was part of this crass rush to bring in legislation that was supposed to take advantage of the prevailing public attitude and fear that existed.

Thankfully calmer thoughts and introspection have prevailed. What we see with Bill C-55, though, is a very dangerous piece of legislation, particularly when we look at the new powers that would be placed in the hands of ministers. A single minister would have the ability to make these designations and judgments based on information that could be very nebulous, could in fact be secret and could be withheld from parliament or from an individual who might fall victim to the enactment of this type of arbitrary power.

What is perhaps most fundamentally offensive and disturbing about elements of this bill is that once again we see in this legislation a deliberate effort on the part of the drafters, and therefore on the part of the government, to circumvent the role of parliament for scrutiny and for responsible criticism and questioning of the government's actions in the state of an emergency. What this does is waters down what might be deemed an emergency.

Under the current legislation the government rightly has to justify itself. It has to come before parliament within a very short period of time and say that the existing circumstances are so grave that the legislation is necessary. In the aftermath of September 11 there was no such attempt by the government to bring forward a request to invoke the Emergencies Act.

Reflecting on the sentiment of this nation and our brothers and sisters in the United States, clearly there was panic afoot. Yet even in that atmosphere there was no attempt by the government to declare the Emergencies Act in effect in Canada.

What, pray tell, is behind the government's intent to bring in a piece of legislation that is a watered down, interim measure that falls somewhere between no emergency and no need to invoke that type of legislation and something where the government can make a decision to invoke very severe and arbitrary powers without coming before parliament and without bringing it to the House for a vote where the people's representatives are given an opportunity to ask relevant questions, to press the government to justify its actions, to do what parliament is supposed to do in its finest hour, which is to ensure that people's rights are protected, that we are invoking due process and that we are in fact following the democratic process?

There is much to be discussed. There is much answer that the government must provide to convince members present. The previous speaker referred to the fact that there is much opposition and not only in the ranks of assembled members of parliament. Clearly groups that we have heard from around the country share these concerns and are looking forward to the occasion in which they might come before a parliamentary committee to force the government to bring forward its justification for the bill in the very same manner which we are attempting to do through this debate.

By example, if we are not permitted to have a full and open debate and to press the government on this type of legislation, it demonstrates the dangers, should this bill pass, and the inability for members of parliament to invoke this process of questioning and criticism. That is the danger. This debate in and of itself demonstrates what is wrong with having the type of legislation that allows the government to hide, to cover up, to keep secret its justifications for making designations that are tantamount to an emergency or a military zone. People have to understand that this is what will take place, if the legislation were to pass.

Like previous speakers to the legislation, I am encouraged by the fact that members have brought forward thoughtful criticisms, pressed the government on issues that will be affected, issues that pertain to immigration, the Aeronautics Act, the criminal code and the effect that will have, the transportation and security bill and the passing of information between government agencies. All that has caused many, including independent parties who answer to parliament, to question the government's motive, intent and public trust, which is an important element in all of this.

I hope members will continue to question that not only in the House but before the committee, which is the true test as to whether this open, transparent and honourable legislation.

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May 30th, 2002 / 5:10 p.m.


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am thrilled to speak again to Bill C-55. The government revamped this bill in order to introduce, for all practical purposes, some rather special measures.

In doing so, it set the tone for what the government probably did not foresee in terms of an impact on the international stage. It triggered in the rest of the world a movement restricting fundamental human rights and freedoms.

I will come back to this in a moment, because the very essence of my whole argument lies in the amendment moved by my colleague, the hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel. This amendment puts the emphasis on Amnesty International's recent report. According to this report, in the aftermath of September 11, measures were taken and legislation was passed in many countries, but these also resulted in a restriction of the most fundamental freedoms.

On the international stage, Canada has always boasted of being one of the greatest champions of fundamental human rights and of passing a charter of rights. Some countries—Zimbabwe or India, for example—were inspired to a certain degree by the measures taken by this government in Bill C-55.

As several editorial writers have indicated this morning, whether in the Journal de Montréal or in Le Devoir , Bill C-55 would clearly lead to abuse, which is totally unacceptable. Why? Because, where controlled access military zones are concerned, for example, it is still the minister alone who would have the power to designate such zones, the same minister who omitted to inform his government in the prisoners of war matter. It is not only the Bloc Quebecois that said this several weeks and several months ago. Earlier this week, even Amnesty International indicated in its report, and I quote from the editorial in this morning edition of Le Devoir , “The Canadian section of Amnesty International said that it was concerned with policies that have been developed for refugees, with Ottawa's cowardly agreement with the legal status given by the Americans to prisoners of war”.

This was already part of our arguments on Bill C-55. My colleagues pointed that out several weeks ago. These are essentially the same findings that were made in an Amnesty International report that was made public yesterday or the day before.

The first argument of the Bloc then is to the effect that it is still the minister who would have the power to designate these controlled access military zones. The Amnesty International report said that this is totally unacceptable, given the way prisoners of war are being treated.

Another aspect is the fact that the consent of the Quebec government is still not required to establish a controlled access military zone on its territory. It seems essential that the federal government would inform the Quebec government of its intention to set up such controlled access military zones.

So, in light of all this, there is not much change between what was proposed in Bill C-42 and what we now find in Bill C-55.

This is cause for concern, because a number of countries refer to Canada as a protector of fundamental rights. This bill gives some legitimacy to and, unfortunately, justifies up to a point measures taken in Zimbabwe or in India, because Canada itself, which is seen as a protector of rights, adopts measures that violate freedoms. So, this is rather disturbing. The message sent by the federal government today is that it is now prepared to adopt measures that, until now, were associated with totalitarian countries and states.

One would never had thought that Canada would adopt such measures. No one would ever have believed that. I see that the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord is smiling. He does not agree with my comments. Yet, the Bloc Quebecois is not the only saying it. The privacy commissioner condemned Bill C-55, as the Bloc Quebecois did, when he said—and I would ask the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord to listen—“that some practices are similar to those that exist in totalitarian states”.

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An hon. member

Quote him.

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5:15 p.m.


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

The hon. member is asking me to quote the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, when he was sitting on this side of the House, not too long ago. However, I know that he always smiles when I get out the three sheets that I have here—