Mr. Speaker, that last statement pretty much sums up what a good number of us feel should be happening with the bill. It leaves no doubt as to what we think about it.
I am once again pleased to have the opportunity to speak on Bill C-55. I am not speaking on the amendment to Bill C-55 and this is what has been happening day after day. We are still on the original bill. The other amendment has not been put into place yet, so we will wait to see what happens. I too would like to see the amendment of my colleague from the Conservatives endorsed, because it would accomplish what we hope to do with the bill.
As many speakers have mentioned, the bill reflects a number of areas and as a result has created concern in that many prospective areas as well. I think it has also made it hard for the ordinary person to understand just what exactly the bill is intended to do. It would affect areas in: national defence, Canadian air transportation, marine safety, aeronautics, biohazards, hazardous products, the Food and Drugs Act, and exports and imports. It would affect numerous areas, but what still seems to be missing in the whole scheme of things is some real hardcore evidence that there would some real changes to security.
We have a situation whereby firefighters, for instance, attend most hazardous fires or explosions or different things that happen within our country and the government has done little or nothing to ensure that there is a program in place, that there is proper training, that there are emergency responses. Very little is happening in that regard. There certainly was an opportunity to have that addressed within the bill, but it was not done. Apart from the airport security agency itself, there are no real specifics as to how we will see changes in that security, apart from just collecting money to supposedly provide it but not really do that. There really has been nothing concrete to ensure the security of people in Canada.
One of the greatest areas of concern, and I am sure, Mr. Speaker, you are well aware of this because you have spent a number of weeks hearing comments about it, certainly is the military zones that are suggested, the issue of privacy and freedom and democracy for Canadians. Numerous speakers and numerous Canadians in general have mentioned that they do not want to see their lives affected in such a way that they become the criminals. They do not want their rights infringed to the point that they are suffering more than the terrorists are.
I know that the solicitor general feels that these broad, sweeping powers for CSIS and the police are somehow supposed to improve things as far as security goes. He has had his little back and forth discussions with the privacy commissioner on this issue, but the general consensus out there is that this new legislation would impose a stronger degree of penalty on ordinary, innocent people than it would on the criminals. Innocent people would suffer more from this than anyone else.
We have rules in place now respecting search and seizure and investigation. We have good rules in place right now. There is nothing to stop the RCMP or CSIS from doing this kind of investigation. It is beyond me why we have to somehow give these broad, sweeping powers so that they could literally investigate anyone at will.
I have been cutting out clippings over the last number of weeks and I have with me just a small portion of those clippings about the concerns that are being raised. I just want to read a couple of comments to the House, which state:
By such all-inclusive reasoning, the government could justify anything that might conceivably boost public safety, such as random searches of cars and people, the opening of personal mail and unlimited access to personal bank accounts and computer files.
While this sort of thing just might catch a criminal or non-custodial parent trying to abscond with a child, it would be much more likely to fill police files with information about thousands of law-abiding citizens instead. It would also increase the likelihood that honest people with the same name as a suspected criminal would be detained and questioned by police.
The solicitor general's response to the privacy commissioner was to suggest that the privacy commissioner was overreacting. I want to read a comment made by the privacy commissioner in response to the solicitor general's comments. He said that since some terrorists did not have a criminal record and could be travelling under an alias or using forged documents, authorities needed access to all available intelligence to identify people who could be potentially violent or could have ties to terrorist groups.
In his letter yesterday, Mr. Radwanski, the privacy commissioner, said that these histrionics were deeply misleading since the sort of warrants covered by the bill could apply to more than 150 criminal code offences, including many such decidedly non-violent as fraudulently altering brands on cattle, taking possession of drift timber, unauthorized use of a computer, et cetera. He went on to say, more seriously, that he was not aware of any significant number of instances, if any at all, where wanted murderers, kidnappers or armed robbers had taken actions on board aircraft that posed a threat to security.
No one for a second has suggested that if we find a murderer or someone with a warrant out on them that they should not be arrested. However it is beyond comprehension to suggest that we should be able to check every public list of people to see if maybe there is a criminal among them. I mentioned this once before. Should the RCMP have access to the list of all hospital patients just in case they might find someone with an injury that they may be able to associate to something?
Those are the types of things that are at risk here. The freedom and democracy of all Canadians is what is at risk. Under no way, shape or form should innocent people be penalized more than the terrorists.
Numerous colleagues in the opposition have commented on the fact that we believe the situation on September 11 was handled with extreme professionalism and the areas of concern were addressed. It was not as if the ministers or the powers that be who were in place could not do what they needed to do after September 11. There was absolutely nothing to stop them. We have rules in place that give them the authority to check on criminals. We have rules in place to allow, on reasonable grounds, the issuance of warrants, searches or whatever needs to be done. No one would argue that.
What we have here before us is a bill that was intended quite frankly to pacify and somehow give a feeling that everything will be better, but it will not be better.
I am not convinced the legislation will do any good as far as security goes. Furthermore, as far as the sweeping powers that would be given to CSIS and the RCMP, the CSIS director himself has stated that he does not believe there would any more convictions under this legislation than there would have been otherwise.
Why on earth would we want to penalize innocent people and make them suffer, which would be the result if this legislation is passed, when ultimately we will not be able to convict the people we need to convict: the terrorists and the criminals? Under no circumstances should ordinary, innocent people be criminalized or put to any kind or harassment or intimidation as a result of the legislation.
All members of the House need to be greatly concerned about that. I am extremely pleased that a good number of opposition members have recognized that and have made a point of being here to speak to the issue.