Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise again to speak to Bill C-55. It is important that the people from Quebec and Canada who are listening understand in what terrible context this bill is being submitted to the House.
If I may say so, if we could have chosen the timing for the introduction of Bill C-55, it would certainly not have been at a time when the Liberal government and its ministers are up to their ears in scandal. Why? Because never in Canadian history has a bill ever given so much power to individuals in a ministerial position. The defence minister is not alone. The bill also gives powers to the ministers of health, transport, immigration, the environment, and a score of ministers who, under Bill C-55, will be given exceptional powers that will not be subject to the approval of this House. That is the most terrible aspect of Bill C-55, and that was the most terrible aspect of Bill C-42.
Why has the Bloc Quebecois done such good work? Because we had just one question to ask, one thing to say to the government and all its ministers, and that was “What were you unable to do on September 11 that bills like C-42 and C-55 would have allowed you to do? When you can give us an answer, we will talk”.
That is why Bill C-42 is no longer on the order. Bill C-44 was introduced because an important measure had to be implemented following September 11, so that the government could provide personal information to the Americans, based on their own formula, in order for airplanes to be allowed to fly over the United States. That was the only measure the government needed. We approved that bill in the House so that our airline companies could resume their operations.
Now we have Bill C-55. Bill C-42 had 98 pages from which they removed the part dealing with personal information to be supplied to the U.S. as I just explained. Believe it or not, this new Bill C-55 has 102 pages. It is a bigger bill, one which still gives exceptional powers to ordinary individuals and ordinary ministers who, on their own initiative, can designate military zones. For his part, the health minister could make an interim order and make vaccination mandatory. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms would not apply to all this.
Orders in council and interim orders, which would have the force of regulations, and which the ministers I listed a moment ago would have the power to make, would be beyond the control of this House and beyond the control of the regulatory process, which requires that regulations be reviewed by the Privy Council to ensure they are consistent with the charter of rights and freedoms.
For 15 days and up to 45 days, the decisions of a single individual, of a single minister, could affect the whole population of a whole territory, and the House would not be allowed to look at them. Worse still, within controlled access military zones, people would not be able to call for the protection of the courts or their lawyers. The would lose their rights, especially the right to sue the government.
Of course, this is what we are opposing and what other opposition parties are opposing. The government is trampling on rights, on the authority of a single person.
To stress that the current debate is not about party politics, but is a societal debate, especially on Bill C-55, I will read quotes from various sources including newspaper articles. I will give the dates. On May 2, 2002, an article in the newspaper La Presse read as follows “The privacy commissioner condemns Bill C-55. Some measures are directly inspired by totalitarian states, he warned”.
That was in the daily La Presse , but this statement was also made in most newspapers in Canada.
It is following these discussions that the Prime Minister of Canada, who even refused to answer our questions on Bill C-55 in the House, went so far as to say, outside the House, “There are days when I am a democrat and then there are days when I am a dictator”. This came following discussions on Bill C-55, when journalists were asking him “Can you explain to us the content of Bill C-55?”
The problem for Liberal members in this House is that they have not read Bill C-55 and, more importantly, they do not understand its nature. Moreover, the leader of the government, the Prime Minister himself said, of course, “Wait, we will discuss it in committee”. This is what the Liberal government spokesperson said.
On May 19, 2002, the headline in the daily Le Soleil read “Anti-Terrorism, Half Truth and Misleading Statement: Privacy Commissioner accuses Solicitor General of using September 11 Attacks to give Police Undue Extra Powers”.
We are talking here about the solicitor general, who is at the centre of the scandal condemned by several opposition parties in the House and who, of course, was defending Bill C-55, which deals with powers that will be given to him and to other ministers. Again, the privacy commissioner was calling the solicitor general to order.
On May 29, 2002, Le Devoir wrote “September 11 has hurt human rights. Amnesty International has taken stock. Canada has followed the world tendency by adopting anti-terrorism legislation, and by attacking fundamental rights, privacy rights”.
Today, Michel C. Auger, who is a highly respected journalist, writes in the Journal de Montréal that “All over the world, the law of terror, national security and anti-terrorism are becoming the best excuses to violate fundamental rights. The fight against terrorism has become a pretext for all sorts of abuse”. And he talks about Canada and says “Today again, parliamentarians are discussing”.
This is in today's edition of the Journal de Montréal . It says “Today again, parliamentarians are discussing another bill, namely Bill C-55, which gives the government and security forces all sorts of new powers that would have been unacceptable to the public just a few months ago”.
This is what we are talking about. In this regard, it is difficult to have to speak in the House and, particularly to get through to Quebec Liberal members, who hardly spoke on this. Of course, the majority of other Liberal members and, particularly the ministers affected by Bill C-55, toe the party line.
We heard earlier a Liberal member say “I trust the minister of defence”. It is not even the same person; a new one has been in office since the shuffle a few days ago. Last weekend, he surely saw that the former defence minister, who had been in office for several years, disappeared among the scandals. Of course, we have now a new defence minister, a banker.
I have a great deal of respect for bankers, but what have bankers been doing in the last 10 years in Canada? They have been digging into our pockets to show profits to their shareholders every quarter. This is what they have been doing. They have been raising fees, monthly charges, for all the small users of banking services, and they have paid less interest to seniors on their investments. This is what bankers are doing today: they take away from the poor to make their shareholders rich.
We now have a banker as minister of defence. We are going trust this new minister of defence and give him the power to designate controlled access military zones that extend beyond military property.
The Bloc Quebecois recognizes that the government and the Canadian Forces must defend their facilities; this it true. However, we have a problem with Bill C-55 allowing the government to go beyond its territory to protect, as they say or as they try to say, personnel and property that could be located outside defence establishments.
Controlled access military zones will be created, and the new minister of defence, a former banker, will make this decision alone without consulting anyone, especially not the provincial governments and those responsible for safety in most Canadian provinces.
That is what the Bloc Quebecois opposes and what all Canadians, particularly Quebecers, are concerned about.
With all the scandals involving various ministers, why is the government so intent on conferring upon individual ministers the power to make decisions that, in an emergency, will no longer be submitted to this House or to provincial authorities?