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.


Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

10:25 a.m.


Gilles-A. Perron Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Madam Speaker, thank you for this opportunity to speak to Bill C-55.

I will summarize the process by which Bill C-55 ended up the House today. Everyone of course recalls the tragic events of September 11 in New York City. As a result, all countries panicked somewhat and decided to tighten up security and to enact legislation, which was more or less logical, because of this unacknowledged and officially undeclared war against terrorism.

For instance, I remember Bill S-23, an act to amend the Customs Act and to make related amendments to other acts, which in fact modified all procedures, particularly those involving the border with the U.S. and Canadian air or shipping entry points.

Even today, I will not criticize Bill S-23. It was, over all, a bill that made sense. It is still my position, however, that we moved far too quickly in passing it. We could have passed it with a provision to revisit it again in the House, maybe six months, a year, or eighteen months later, to see whether our decision had been the right one.

A number of members, if not the majority, have perhaps exaggerated or over-reacted to the events of September 11. The outcome of this was some of the bills that got introduced, such as Bill C-55.

Naturally, the ancestor of Bill C-55, though not much older than it, was Bill C-42. Hon. members will recall, in connection with that bill, that the Bloc Quebecois was strongly opposed to it, because we found it far too exaggerated. The whole opposition was against Bill C-42, as were some members of the party in power. The press was against it. Canadian rights and freedoms advocates were against it.

What has this government done? It has simply reproduced or cloned—cloning is very much a current issue—another bill, namely Bill C-55, by slightly altering the embryos to finally produce a new baby called Bill C-55.

Bill C-55 deals primarily with controlled access military zones. If we are not mistaken, a controlled access military zone means that the government and—this is what is especially hard to take—some ministers have discretionary power. Even some public officials could say tomorrow morning “We are taking control of this part of a city. It thus becomes a controlled access military zone”.

Can we really let ministers have the power to designate a zone and have it controlled by military personnel, when we know that many of them are not even able to control their own staff or themselves? I am referring here to the infamous sponsorship contracts. We have to wonder about this.

Considering how some of these ministers are currently behaving and spending taxpayers' money, will they be able to designate and control a controlled access military zone in an intelligent way?

I am personally affected by Bill C-55, because of my political convictions. The government opposite keeps telling us “Ours is a flexible federation. Ours is a federation that is in contact and in touch with the provinces”. Not true. Under Bill C-55, the federal government will never consult the provinces to find out what they think of a controlled access military zone. The decision will be made unilaterally and the provinces will have to deal with the problems.

Another part of the bill that concerns me has to do with the dimensions of the controlled access military zone. The bill provides that the dimensions of the zone cannot be greater than is reasonably necessary. What does reasonably necessary mean? It does not necessarily mean the same thing for me or for the hon. member for Charlevoix. My idea of what is reasonably necessary is completely different from that of each member in this House, including you, Madam Speaker. Yet, decisions on these dimensions are left up to the Minister of National Defence. He is a recruit. He has just been appointed to this position. His predecessor is gone; I do not know why, but I have an idea. The new minister will invoke what is reasonably necessary. Will he be reasonable or not? This is excessively dangerous.

Something else bothers me. Controlled access military zone may be created for reasons of international relations or national defence or security. The G-8 conference will be held in Kananaskis this summer. Will the Kananaskis region be designated as a controlled access military zone for reasons of international relations and to ensure the safety and security of participants? I do not want to be a scaremonger, but I would not be surprised if the passing of Bill C-55 lead to the designation of a huge area all around Kananaskis, which is a small secluded estate in a forest in the northern part of a province, as a controlled access military zone.

We should think twice. We are playing games with people's freedom. Is this bill not similar to the legislation known as the War Measures Act put forward in 1970 by then Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau?

As my colleague from Regina—Qu'Appelle indicated, to deal with a small group of 12 or 15 FLQ members, legislation was passed which violated the rights of thousands of Quebecers.

Unfortunately, I see that my time is up, even though I have a lot more to say.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

10:35 a.m.


Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-55, which replaces Bill C-42, which was withdrawn by the government. Bill C-55 was introduced in the House on April 29, 2002. Bill C-42 was withdrawn by the government because of strong criticism from the Bloc Quebecois in particular.

I would like to summarize the main features of Bill C-55 which are still problematic for the Bloc Quebecois. I would like to talk about certain points, such as controlled access military zones.

In Bill C-55, the government has tightened up the criteria for designating controlled access military zones, having listened to the Bloc Quebecois' arguments. However, our objections to certain points in Bill C-42 have not been reflected in the current bill and this is what bothers us.

It is still the minister alone who has the authority to designate controlled access military zones, the same minister who neglected to inform his government about the prisoners of war. Now he has been replaced by a minister whose experience lies in the banking world. What worries us a bit is that the latter has not yet proven his worth. He is responsible for an entire department. We hope that he will make the right decisions and that he can take a close look at this so that some of the problems in Bill C-55 are ironed out.

With everything that has been going on in the House recently, giving so much power to one minister, who is new to the department, is enough to worry us and the public.

One of our biggest worries is that it is still the minister alone who has the authority to designate controlled access military zones. In addition, the approval of the government of Quebec is still not required to designate a controlled access military zone in its jurisdiction. There is also the criterion of “reasonably necessary”. What does this mean? This criterion for determining the borders of military security zones has not really changed; it is still very discretionary.

The minister could, for reasons known only to him and without consulting anyone, define what is deemed reasonably necessary. In the largest city in my riding, there is an armoury. With this power that is conferred upon the minister alone, if he deemed necessary to protect his establishment or his property and if he deemed necessary to extend this protection to a larger area, he could, without notifying or consulting anyone, create a security zone.

I do not have anything against the fact that it may be necessary to protect a certain area and to ensure adequate security in a potentially dangerous situation, but perhaps it would be appropriate to notify the authorities, the property owners and the people.

In that regard, we think that it is difficult to confer that kind of power upon one single person, without any obligation to consult. That person alone will decide what is or is not good, and this is very dangerous, as the precedents have shown.

There have been cases where the minister alone has made a decision that has caused prejudice to those people affected by it. It is inadmissible that such power be conferred upon one single person in our society. It is like a dictatorship. It is just as if, one morning, someone woke up and said, like the Prime Minister did recently, “One day I am a democrat, and the next day I am a dictator”.

I am sure you agree with me that there is cause for concern when this kind of responsibility is given to one single person who has all the powers, as is the case now under Bill C-55.

As I said, the creation of a controlled access military zone or the making of interim orders would cause prejudice to certain people. These people could not always take legal action for loss, damage or injury.

If a situation like the one I was describing a moment ago arose, those who were wronged would have no legal recourse. It makes no sense. The power that would be given to one single person is immense: he would decide and he would apply his law, it is tantamount to a dictatorship. People would not have any avenue of legal recourse, could not find out how to defend their rights, because the minister alone would have decided everything. This is not what is called a democracy.

The grounds of international relations and the defence of national security, for which controlled access military zones could be created in Bill C-42, were not kept in Bill C-55. We can just imagine that now, any reason is grounds enough, as I described earlier.

There is another problem. It has to do with interim orders. The new bill still contains provisions allowing different ministers, and in one case, public officials, to use interim orders.

With regards to these provisions, there are two minor changes: tabling copies before parliament within 15 days, and the shortening of the period for which the order has effect without approval of the cabinet from 90 to 45 days

It also lacks an advance verification for consistency with the charter and the enabling legislation by the Clerk of the Privy Council.

The means justify the end. It makes no sense. To see what is going on right now, the way powers are being grabbed, someone can say “We will not consult anyone”, and no one can say a word. People may be wronged, but for reasons that the minister or certain officials find reasonably necessary—even though we do not really know what this means—all kinds of rights can be trampled without any consultations.

Based on the definition of the word dictatorship in the dictionary, it appears that this is where this bill is leading us. It is very alarming.

There is also the question of information. Bill C-55 will allow two other persons, the RCMP commissioner and the director of CSIS, to obtain information directly from the air carriers and reservation and passenger information systems operators. This means that privacy will be violated. They will obtain the passenger list.

The list can be distributed to the RCMP commissioner and the director of the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service for any reason, without those involved being informed and in violation of their rights. This is what happened back in Stalin's day.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

10:45 a.m.


Wendy Lill NDP Dartmouth, NS

Madam Speaker, I am deeply concerned that again we have this legislation before the House in its present form. It is especially disturbing that the government has decided to refuse the reasoned and rational requests for major amendments. The bill has to be changed. Like its predecessors Bill C-36 and Bill C-45, which was wisely withdrawn, it gives priority to an anti-democratic measure taken in the name of protecting our democracy. It fails the basic test of protecting our civil liberties from the state.

We are a country with a proud tradition of fighting for democracy. On Monday, I was dockside for the return of one of our proud naval vessels from anti-al-Qaeda patrols in the Arabian Sea. It is alarming to see the paradox of our brave sailors putting their lives on the line for our democracy while parliamentarians are trying to rush through a bill which would take powers from parliament and allow more single decisions from ministers to deprive Canadians of their civil liberties.

As an example, let us first look at the part of the bill that I find most troubling, the so-called military security zones from Bill C-42. These have now been changed to “controlled access military zones” in Bill C-55. The bill, with amendments, stipulates that these zones can be created only to protect Department of National Defence property or foreign military assets within Canada. These changes do not sufficiently address our concerns about how the power to create these zones could be abused. The basic message of the bill is that all of us, and including the very institutions Canadians have created to express their democracy and protect their freedoms, like parliament, like a free press, like public debate, have to trust the decision making ability of a single minister to restrict access to a designated place for any length of time the minister would like and we should not be able to question the decision. In fact we may not even publicly know about the decision.

Given our history of policy over reaction at APEC or in Quebec City or at the G-20 meetings just down the street from our Chamber, I frankly do not trust any single minister to protect the civil liberties of Canadians. Given the state of allegations of scandal and mismanagement being levelled at the ministers opposite, I am not sure that any Canadians trust any single minister to protect their civil liberties when left behind closed doors, yet this is what Bill C-55 is asking us to do. By doing this, the bill is attacking the democratic values those brave sailors who came home on Monday are fighting to defend.

Last year, along with my leader, I met with women from the Muslim community in Halifax and Dartmouth and we heard their very real fear of the legislative changes that the government was bringing forward in response to the September 11 attacks in the United States. Many of them came to Canada because they believed that our democratic traditions would protect them from oppression, but this series of security bills, of which Bill C-55 is the latest, makes them afraid to answer their doors: once again it may be the police taking them away because of the ethnicity of their name. Specifically, I wonder if provisions of the bill could be used against them because of their religion or their ethnic background.

I have been with teachers opposed to this bill because of the attacks on their civil liberties. I have met with immigrant service organizations who tell me of the fears of their clients. This legislative reaction of the government in response to the September 11 attack goes way too far and, we believe, way too fast. Where is the sunset clause on these measures?

One of the ideas touted by numerous witnesses on Bill C-36 was the idea of an American style sunset clause. This would have had the effect of forcing the government to reintroduce, debate and amend the legislation for it to take effect for another period of time. A three-year time limit affecting different aspects of the legislation was suggested by numerous witnesses.

The New Democratic Party proposed an amendment that addressed these concerns. However, the government had already decided that it would only include a watered down sunset clause by which the House and the Senate would vote after five years for a motion to extend the investigative hearings and preventive arrest sections, two of the most controversial measures in the bill. Though this is better than no clause at all, it is not a sunset clause in the true sense. Rather than the government having to reintroduce and re-examine legislation, this would simply require that the government tell its members and senators to vote an extension of that which currently exists in Bill C-36. The government refused to sunset Bill C-36 and it has never even entertained debate on a sunset clause for Bill C-55.

In just a few weeks there will be a G-8 summit meeting in Kananaskis, Alberta. I was amused yesterday to see that the member for Wild Rose was on his feet calling protestors terrorists for insurance purposes even before any protest has taken place. Even though I fully expect that the people in the Calgary march and the demonstrations will be peaceful and I believe that if there is a protest village in the bush the only violence committed will be against the mosquitoes and the black fly population, I fear for the protestors' safety because of reactions of people like the member for Wild Rose, people who have already called these peaceful labour and anti-globalization activists terrorists, a word that has serious legal consequences thanks to Bill C-36 and Bill C-55.

After seeing the violence at the summit of the Americas in Quebec City and at the APEC conference in Vancouver, I wonder how long it will take for the minister of defence or others in the government to simply start using these laws to stifle legitimate dissent that threatens the political future of the minister, dissent that does not have any real threat for the nation. Do not get me wrong, I oppose vandalism, even of McDonald's, but I also oppose any law that would equate these actions with the evil events of September 11.

I am strongly suspicious of the government. The tens of thousands of peaceful protestors are also suspicious of the increasing use of police force against demonstrators. The stubbornness of the government in refusing reasonable amendments to this historic legislation gives credence to these suspicions.

I believe in a democratic Canada. I take our civil liberties, given in our charter, extremely seriously. Let us take the time and make the effort to produce a law that protects our security while it defends our civil liberties in this anxious period in our history.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

10:55 a.m.


Gérard Asselin Bloc Charlevoix, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise this morning on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois to speak to Bill C-55.

Bill C-55 is a reincarnation of Bill C-42. Why was Bill C-42 not approved unanimously, or at least by the majority of parliamentarians in this House? Why did they not support Bill C-42?

First, because of the Bloc Quebecois' performance. MPs from every opposition party did what they had to do to make the government aware of the mistake it would make if Bill C-42 was passed as drafted. Naturally, opposition MPs tried repeatedly to ask questions of the government during oral questions period. In committee, they tried to do their job as parliamentarians and asked those who would be affected to various degrees by Bill C-42 for their input. The majority of witnesses who appeared before the committee said clearly that the federal government was on the verge of making a major management mistake by passing this bill as drafted.

The Bloc Quebecois was not satisfied to just state its position and speak up against Bill C-42; it did its part by participating in the debate to make the government aware of the problem, and putting forward amendments to fix the bill, which smacked of dictatorships and gave responsibility to just one person, for which the government could have suffered some serious consequences should one minister make an error in judgment.

As a result of the Bloc Quebecois' position and the quality of the speeches made by the Bloc Quebecois' leader, the parliamentary leader, various critics and the work done by party staff—we put forward some worthwhile and quality amendments—the government had no choice but to say “This makes sense. What they are saying is important. We are on the verge of making a mistake. We must change our bill”. This is how Bill C-55 came about.

However, Bill C-55 does not get to the bottom of things. The government put back in the bill part of what the Bloc Quebecois' amendment had modified, it removed what lobbyists did not want to see in Bill C-42, what was bothering or intimidating them. We are talking about those who have connections, or have access to various ministers on the government side. The government did not want to disappoint them. This part of the bill was eliminated.

The bill before the House has been improved, but I believe it is still unacceptable. Why? Because it would give extremely dangerous powers to a single minister who, since he may act in a moment of panic or exercise responsibilities without consulting cabinet, might make an unfortunate decision.

Of course, if it were Friday, the Prime Minister would defend his national defence minister, as he did for the public works minister. On Friday, he defended the minister. What happened on Saturday? On Sunday we learned that the two same ministers were gone. Yet, on Friday, they were considered to be good ministers. They had done what they had to. The decision they had made was important. On Friday, everything was fine.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

An hon. member

That was last Friday.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

10:55 a.m.


Gérard Asselin Bloc Charlevoix, QC

That was not long ago. I will point out, for the benefit of our viewers, that this was last Friday.

Last Saturday, the Prime Minister learned that it was no longer the case, that things had changed. Even the minister misled the Prime Minister. There were elements which he did not consider important but which actually were important under the code of ethics for ministers. He should have informed the Prime Minister. On Sunday, the Prime Minister took his responsibilities, perhaps to sweep the scandal under the rug.

Who got the axe? The Minister of National Defence did. He made an error of judgment by giving a contract to his ex-girlfriend; this was unacceptable. Such a thing cannot be tolerated, because it amounts to patronage. The government is managing the taxpayers' money.

Public affairs have to be managed properly, by calling for tenders and going with the lowest satisfactory bidder. This is complying with the requirement for transparency. The fact that bidders are party members, former or future contributors to the party or are close to the organization is irrelevant. Such things should not be taken into consideration.

When reference is made to controlled access military zones, the Summit of the Americas, held in Quebec City, comes to mind. The Government of Quebec, the Quebec government machinery, was very close to the site. Hon. members will recall the demonstrations that took place during that summit.

Why? Because the public has become more aware of globalization, and wants to know what is going on at such summits, to know what will be discussed, how it will affect them, and what will happen as a result. The texts were not made available, which created frustration. I supported their actions resulting from those concerns about decisions often taken by only one person.

If at some point a controlled access military zone were to be declared, emergency measures could also be declared and any citizen found in that zone could be arrested. This would be the case even if that person's home, workplace, school, or other place he or she generally went to happened to fall within this zone.

For a certain length of time—reduced from the original 90 days to 45—they could arrest and imprison young people, women, men, seniors, anyone who happened to find himself or herself in the wrong place, because the federal government, the defence minister, had decided that, in connection with a given event, a given area would become a controlled access military zone. The minister can determine that this zone will cover x square kilometres around the site in question.

Had this been the case during the Summit of the Americas, it might have had the effect of immobilizing the population of Quebec City. This is why we in the Bloc Quebecois deems it unacceptable.

Then there are the interim orders. The minister may decide—a little correction has been made, changing the 90 days to 45—their initial duration. Then they need to be confirmed by the governor in council.

The other thing, which we see as minimal, is that these interim orders must then be tabled in both houses of parliament within 15 sitting days following the decision.

Should the Minister of Health decide tomorrow morning, as my colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel has pointed out, that everyone needs to be immunized because of some bacteria or other substance, what would happen? What if the Red Cross or Héma-Québec had a blood shortage and the decision was made to require everyone to donate blood to replenish the supply?

In closing, I would like to point out that I come from a region that is far away from the federal government. My riding of Charlevoix is on the north shore. Bill C-55's $24 air travel surtax is unacceptable. It is harmful to the people in the regions, it is harmful to the carriers, and it should be taken out of the bill.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

11:05 a.m.


Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Madam Speaker, this is the second time I speak to Bill C-55 and every time I take the floor I try to bring a feminist dimension to the debate. I believe it is important to do, so because women make up 52% of the Canadian population. They have the right to express their opinions on such an important bill, which will regulate some of their actions in months and years ahead.

This morning, I will base my comments on what women told us following the events of September 2001. They came to meet us in last October or November to oppose unilateral decisions that would impact on the safety of their families and children.

I believe women are not against an act designed to maintain public safety. Women in Canada and in Quebec, however, have concerns about the safety of their children and their families and really want this bill to be debated in a spirit of transparency. Women do want their children and families to be safe, but under fair and sound measures.

Women have problems with some of the provisions of the bill. They believe three elements will create a very significant problem. The first element deals with unlimited powers that one or more ministers may have in the areas of health, emergency measures or transportation.

In terms of health, allow me to consult the notes I took following this meeting. Part 5 of the bill, which amends the Department of Health Act, empowers the minister to make an interim order if he believes that immediate action is required to deal with a significant risk to health or safety. I believe that the provisions about dealing with a significant risk are those women are suspicious of. Il will come back to this later.

As regards emergency measures, what is urgent? At the moment, women have needs. They have become the backbone of health care across Canada through their personal involvement. They play the same role in education. Is this not urgent? What is urgent for one is not necessarily urgent for another.

With regard to transportation, the element that raises a problem is safety. We know that air carriers will have an obligation to provide information. I am thinking about an abused woman who is hiding, about a woman who needs to leave the country in order to get information. If she is tracked down and found, this does not really ensure her safety.

The second element has to do with controlled access military zones. I will also come back to them.

The third element deals with personal information. We now know that the privacy commissioner has said that there would no longer be personal information because we will be forced to provide it to an agency under a minister or an senior official.

With regard to the first element, the unlimited power to make interim orders, women in Quebec and Canada remember how the then Minister of National Defence behaved in December, I believe in the case of prisoners taken in Afghanistan and brought to Guantanamo base. Women remember the defence minister's lack of judgment; he hid these operations from parliament and Canadians. We also think of Big Brother.

Women's confidence in the Government of Canada is very limited, in view of some of its actions. Women want to know how far ministers who have to make decisions under Bill C-55 will go. They do not trust the government. They wonder how much logic and transparency these men, who govern, who make decisions, will demonstrate. Indeed, we know that there are not many women in the decision making circles. Will women's views be taken into consideration?

Women also wonder about the credibility of both the Canadian Security Information Service and officers. It is mentioned in Bill C-55 that officers may take decisions. Women are concerned by this. As for the controlled access military zones, once again, women's quality of life would be affected.

I also want to stress that the women of Quebec, and I am one of them, remember the October crisis in 1970. I experienced that crisis personally. At the time, I lived in a Montreal neighborhood where there was an army presencet. The psychological impact of that was terrible. I remember the events as if they had happened yesterday. I remember the atmosphere of war and some images are stuck in my mind. I was in what could be called a controlled access military zone at the time. In my neighbourhood, there was a curfew and we were watched. I was a young girl and I could not even go out as I pleased. This marked me.

Just like me, the women of Quebec remember that. They are not convinced that controlled access military zones will not reproduce what they experienced in those days.

Furthermore, getting back to women's demands, and I want to stress this, we see that the women of Quebec, just like the women all over Canada, have taken part in marches. The first one was not promoted as widely; it was the called the bread and roses march, and was held in 1995. Women took part to say “We experience poverty every day; we are often victims of violence. We need a more equitable and fair system. We need measures for our children and our families. We need the government to pay better attention to our concerns”.

In 1995, they marched. In 2000, they marched again and they went and got support from around the world. It was another step. They came here to tell us that the situation could not go on. There is still a great deal of poverty in Canada, where there are 1.3 million poor children. There is still a great deal of poverty among single parent families with low incomes. The federal government has withdrawn from social housing. There is also a great deal of violence that does not get much attention.

I think that women have had enough. They have marched twice, but they will not march three times. When women see the federal government with a $60 billion surplus while they are the ones struggling to maintain health care, education and social services, as I was saying earlier, they could possibly march a third time, but this time it will be with a lot more clout.

They could possibly go further in their actions. What guarantee do they have that, in a context of transparency, justice, equity and freedom, they will be able to make their grievances known? When they marched at the people's summit, if I understand the current bill correctly, they would have been in a controlled access military zone and they would not have been allowed to express their views.

Women are so sick and tired of the situation, they are so exasperated that they will have to go further. And when they do decide to go further, will they be told that they are not allowed to do so for public safety reasons? Will controlled access military zones be created to prevent them from expressing their views?

Im closing, I will just say this. How does the Public Safety Act, 2002 make women feel safer?

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

11:15 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Progressive Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, I had an opportunity to speak earlier on this bill and I intend to again because it constitutes a very fundamental and important threat to the freedom and civil liberties of Canadians. I also believe that it is a bill that is absolutely unnecessary. All the powers the government needs already exist in the Emergencies Act, as my colleague just indicated. That Emergencies Act was brought in more than a decade ago to replace the War Measures Act which was used with such terrible imprecision by the Trudeau government, the Liberal government of the day, to throw Canadians into jail without charge in a shocking chapter of our Canadian history.

What did the Parliament of Canada do about that? For years we were concerned that powers of that kind not be invested again in a national government. The Liberal Party frequently offered and promised, as it promised for example to bring in an ethics commissioner, that it would change the War Measures Act, but it did not change it. It took another government, one in which I was honoured to serve, to introduce changes that got rid of the War Measures Act and brought in the Emergencies Act in its place. It gave the Government of Canada the same powers that it needed to act in an emergency but also built in for the first time the capacity of parliament to review, revoke and control any government actions taken under the War Measures Act.

What does this bill do? It retains the power for the government but takes away the power of control by this parliament.

This is not about terror. This is about accumulating more power for a Government of Canada that already has too much power. Day after day in the House the government has demonstrated that it is far too open to abusing its power. This bill would be bad at any time, but particularly now when we have a serial situation of minister after minister, on relatively minor matters, breaking the trust of the House and abusing their powers.

Imagine, if the Liberals abuse that kind of power with regard to advertising contracts, how threatening it would be to Canadian citizens if a government, whose tradition has already been to invoke the War Measures Act, had the power to abuse the fundamental rights and liberties of individual citizens without any kind of recourse or control by parliament.

It is a very dangerous piece of legislation. I am pleased to see that some members of the government party are standing up and taking exception to individual portions of the bill. Certainly we in our party, and I am pleased to see other parties in the opposition as well, will do what we can to draw attention to the very dangerous aspects of this bill.

Among other things, Bill C-55 will allow the Minister of National Defence to act solely on the recommendation of his chief of defence staff, to designate what are called controlled access military zones. This means any property in Canada, private or public, can be designated a military zone if there is a piece of property or a person which the government believes needs to be protected.

The language of the bill is imprecise. In effect, what it says is that if the government moves any military equipment any place in Canada, the bill would allow it to designate the air above, the ground below and the territory around, wherever that military instrument is put, as a military zone. What instrument might it be? It could be a staff car, a tank, an army boot or anything that under a reasonable definition of the law constitutes something that belongs to the Department of National Defence.

If that is the case and that staff car suddenly shows up in Kananaskis or suddenly shows up on the front lawn of the national assembly of the province of Quebec, or the front lawn of Queen's Park, or the front lawn of the legislative assembly of Alberta, by this law the federal government would have the right to declare the air above, the ground below and the area around that military item to be a military zone where federal martial law could apply. That is a frightening provision. It may or may not be the intent of the government, but that is clearly what this law says.

Section 74 of Bill C-55 amends the National Defence Act to add the definition of a controlled access military zone. The minister may now designate any property that is provided for Canadian Forces or the department and is situated outside a defence establishment—clearly civilian territory.

The new section defines a controlled access military zone as, and I quote subsection 260.1(3):

an area of land or water, a portion of airspace, or a structure, or part of one, surrounding a thing referred to in subsection (1) or including it, whether the zone designated is fixed or moves with that thing. The zone automatically includes all corresponding airspace above, and water and land below, the earth's surface.

In effect, the minister would be able to designate a tank, a car, a ship or an army boot as a controlled access military zone.

All area around it, above or below is now subject to control by the military. The dimensions of the zone are not defined. The bill only states, and I am quoting from subsection (4), not greater

than is reasonably necessary to ensure the safety and security of any person, thing or property.

Note that it says reasonably necessary. Who is the judge of what is reasonably necessary? This is left entirely to the discretion of the Minister of National Defence.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

An hon. member

One minister.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Progressive Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

One minister.

What this means is drive-by martial law. The zone can be established wherever the minister parks a military vehicle. Anyone can be forcibly removed from a military zone. The penalty for contravening a controlled access military zone is a fine or a year in prison.

The minister's designation is not subject to the Statutory Instruments Act. The minister will not have to ensure that the designation is authorized by other statutes, and that it does not breach the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is an extraordinary power, an unlimited power, which the government wants to give the Minister of National Defence. It is a power which could establish martial law anywhere in Canada.

As I have said, this could be in the National Assembly of Quebec, or on the grounds of Alberta's legislative assembly. It could be anywhere at all. This power is in the hands of this government and it will not be subject to the limits set out in the legislation governing the government's activities in other cases.

I raised these matters, not only in the House, but also in a letter some days ago to the Prime Minister. On May 21, I received a letter from the Prime Minister telling me not to worry, to be happy, that there was no problem. Does the House actually believe that a government that would send Alfonso Gagliano to Denmark would abuse its authority over military power? That is the essence of the letter.

Let me quote two or three portions of the letter. He addresses my argument that we do not need this law because we already have the Emergencies Act. The Prime Minister, in his letter dated May 21, said: “The Emergencies Act is a means of last resort”.

Does that not put into a very interesting context the frequency with which the government intends to use the power it would have under Bill C-55? He said the government would use the Emergencies Act as a last resort, and that is not enough. Therefore the government is asking for a power where parliament has no control. It is a power it would use as a first resort, not a last resort, but whenever the mood struck it. It would use this terribly abusive instrument to establish marshal law wherever the Minister of National Defence chose to establish it, or to abuse the other provisions in the bill, without any consultation with his colleagues .

In my time here I cannot remember a more dangerous piece of legislation than the one before us. Everyone who was shocked by the throwing into jail without charge of Canadian citizens under the War Measures Act must remember that this bill would take the Liberal government of the member from Saint-Maurice back exactly to the point and to the power exercised and abused by the government of the late Mr. Trudeau. Mr. Trudeau had the War Measures Act. The present Prime Minister wants it back. The difference was that after the Emergencies Act we in parliament had control to protect the citizens of Canada. This bill takes away that control of parliament. It is a bad and dangerous bill.

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11:25 a.m.


Pierre Brien Bloc Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, I listened to the previous speeches in this debate and I found them interesting.

We must stop and think about what we are about to do here in parliament. I invite members across the way, who are rather silent, to say their piece. I question their ability to defend the merits of this bill, since very few of them are taking the floor these days.

We are reviewing a bill through which parliament, the elected representatives in this House, will put in the hands of one single individual extraordinary powers of nearly unprecedented scope.

Yes, I heard the last comments and, without getting into this debate, I would say that the trauma caused by the War Measures Act and the abuses it brought is still felt in Quebec.

The bill would give a single individual considerable powers, such as the power to designate controlled access military zones, with all the risks this involves for the rights of people in such zones, not to mention the abuses that could occur with regard to the choice and the size of a zone, and the reasons for doing so.

In passing Bill C-55, parliament would give up its responsibility to have a say in such a situation, by giving a lot of power to a single individual who would not be required to follow the usual legislative process. Again, that person would not be subject to the usual requirements when taking such extraordinary measures, whether or not they are extraordinary.

This is a concern. We have a new defence minister, but a few weeks ago we had a really worrying situation when the military chain of command failed to inform the Prime Minister that Canada was taking prisoners; supposedly it was an error in judgment on the part of the defence minister.

This was the government's defence. This person made a serious error in judgment, because the whole canadian position in an extremely important debate in the international arena, namely the debate on the status of prisoners, was affected as a result. Even though this person was removed, this could very well have been the same one; anyhow—

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11:25 a.m.

An hon. member

It is not any better.

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Pierre Brien Bloc Témiscamingue, QC

No, I do not think it is necessarily for the best. Such extraordinary powers could be given to such an individual. This is of enormous concern to me.

True enough, this is the aftermath of the September 11 events, but I would like somebody to explain to me in a very practical way how the actions taken would have been different if Bill C-55 had been passed. What difference would it have made? Now, they want to give the impression that the government is getting more powers to act. That is a way to avoid all discussion or debate on whether the existing powers have been properly used.

The same thing happened in the United States. We have seen that especially in the last few weeks, when we have learned that there had been serious warnings some time before the events about impending threats.

It is not always the theoretical powers that count when events such as those of September 11 happen, but the ability to use the existing powers. There is already an impressive array of powers to ensure control and security.

Unforeseen disasters can always happen, of course. Concerning this, we should be careful here, because the government will boast that it has passed legislation. This is not the first time it introduces a security bill since September 11. There was another one in the last session. That bill, Bill C-42, was even worse. But many unacceptable elements still remain.

We are now in a situation where, at the end of this session, in June, just before we leave for the summer, the government would like to pass this bill at second reading, send it to committee and, I am sure, ram it through, in the hope to pass it before the summer.

I am quite worried, because they are using the same tactics they used at first with Bill C-42: they want it deal with fairly quickly, arguing that it is not all that bad, that in fact everything is fine, that these powers are necessary. Face with fierce opposition from the Bloc Quebecois, other parties and the general public, the government relented and admitted that, in some instances, it went too far.

Yet, it is the same government that said, when it introduced Bill C-42, “No, no, everything is fine. Do not worry”.

It is very dangerous to improvise in this type of situation and to go too fast. Governments often take advantage of situations. We saw it after September 11. It is not unique to this country; other countries have done so, and Canada is going down the same path of taking advantage of situations. When people have safety concerns, the government increases its powers under the guise of improving safety. This is happening once again. In this case, the power is in the hands of a member of the executive and not necessarily in the hands of parliament. This tendency is quite common. It is political opportunism for the government to increase its powers in such a way.

I hope the House will exercise caution with regard to this bill. It will take time. Realistically, I do not think that we will succeed in convincing the Liberals at the second reading stage. We have reached the point where we are discussing an amendment. Where should that debate take place? Before which committee of the House?

When the time comes to consider this bill in greater detail, the committee will have to take its time. Several people have already sounded the alarm. They told us, “Wait a minute, this goes much too far. The government is taking advantage of a particular context”.

As we distance ourselves from September 11, and emotion has already diminished, the basis for decisions will be much sounder; they will not be improvised, taken in a panic or tainted by the opportunism of those who wield power and want more of it.

We need to be cautious. As I said earlier, I have a lot of difficulty with hasty decisions. So much the better if the government is sent back to the drawing board now. I would like the Liberals to say “Wait a minute, this is going much too far”, and come back to a more modest and realistic approach to improving security. Again, there should be very concrete examples of what was not done and should have been. From a legislative point of view, I would like to know what tools were not used that would have been necessary in practical terms. I do not want to hear general statements about stricter legislation being required.

Legislation is one thing, but the means to implement it are something else. How can we ensure that our security is protected? At the same time, let us not delude ourselves: this is a huge territory. However great the means available, they remain modest. While not the primary target of terrorist acts, we are not totally without protection either.

In discussions and in the media, we hear that individuals use our territory to serve in organizations having international links with terrorism. This is the most worrisome aspect, and something we have been suspecting for a while. Of course, we must continue to deal with the issue. Secret services and information services have a key role to play in this regard, but we must be aware that those powers should not be used in an abusive way or in all kinds of internal situations having nothing to do with the fight against terrorism. We must target our action carefully. These are normal and legitimate concerns.

It is not because we oppose this bill that we believe nothing should be done, but on the other hand the government does not need disproportionate powers. And in this case, it is not the government, but a single minister. I have a great deal of difficulty with that. All the powers are given to the minister of defence. This is a huge concern. I hope we will hear from the hon. members on this.

The hon. member for Mount Royal said publicly that he disagreed. When he votes, I hope that he will act according to what he said in the past, when he stated that this was unacceptable. I wish that other colleagues of his will do the same. The best way for them to be heard is also to send a message to their government. We are not asking them to defeat the government, just to send it a message saying that what is happening in this bill is nonsense, and the government will do its homework.

At worst, if ever the bill gets to committee, let us hope that it will not be rammed through, in keeping with the government strategy whereby it tries to pass the bill in a hurry before the summer recess, only to ease its conscience, saying it has done something for security. In real life, it is not so. The government will have given itself major powers that might lead to serious abuse.

Several people have already sounded the alarm. I will conclude by saying that I hope to hear the Liberal members, not just here and there in the hallways, but by exercising later the real power they have to stand up and vote.

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11:35 a.m.


R. John Efford Liberal Bonavista—Trinity—Conception, NL

Madam Speaker, I have only been in the House a few days. This is actually my second week. I have taken great interest in the debate by sitting in my seat and listening to speakers from both sides of the House. I am trying to understand the procedures of the House. I said I would wait and take some time before I rose for debate. I have been listening with great intent to the opposition on the public safety act.

I remember back to September 11 when I was in my hometown of Port de Grave, Newfoundland. I was in my pleasure boat coming into the harbour when I heard the tragic news. I have no doubt that September 11 struck with great impact on every single individual who heard about the tragedy of that particular day in Canada and around the world.

One of the first questions that came to my mind on that particular day was: How well equipped are we in Canada to deal with a situation like that? We live in the greatest part of the whole world in the greatest country, Canada. Every individual in this nation can take pride in saying that. However we must also be aware that we must have confidence in our armed forces and in our government so that Canada could and would be protected from such a tragedy.

I have listened to members of the opposition. The second last speaker from Calgary West mentioned things that happened and made accusations in the House over the last couple of days. I heard no reference at all to Mr. Gagliano. I heard no reference at all to false accusations made by the opposition this week on what the public safety act is all about. I see no room for discussion when statements are sensationalized.

We are talking about the future safety of Canada. The safety of the people in Canada is at risk. That is what we are talking about. The purpose of introducing this piece of legislation would give all Canadians confidence as to where we stand in the future, just in case the worst possible tragedy might happen. We hope and pray that September 11 will never be repeated again in any part of the world. We only hope and pray that terrorists will never strike in that way again, but we can never be sure.

We must be prepared. We must have confidence. We must give the leaders of our armed forces the reason and the ability to put forth confidence in the people and security measures so we can rest at ease. Whether one lives in western or eastern Canada, there is no difference. I do not understand how the opposition or anyone could oppose a piece of legislation, a bill that is before the House of Commons of this great nation, that would give us security and confidence.

One of the things the bill talks about is controlled military zones. If it were necessary to add a controlled military zone that would give us the security that we need, why not? The member for Calgary West talked about the land below and the air above, as well as a reference to a lawn or a staff car or some piece of equipment sitting there, and how that would automatically become a controlled military zone. If that is not sensationalism I would like to know what is. That is taking it to its worst extreme.

The opposition says it has no more confidence in our armed forces, in our ministers, and in the leaders of our government. Regardless of one's political stripe, if the ministers in the government, including the Minister of National Defence in charge of the armed forces, make a decision, will we say that the only place to have a controlled military zone is on someone's front lawn? I could not believe it.

I have been in government since 1985. I have been involved in many debates on both sides of the House. I was in the opposition from 1985 to 1989. It is the role of the opposition to question a piece of legislation. I will never argue with that. However if the opposition is going to stand in the House of Commons, as we are here today and will be for some time in the future, it should at least be constructive. It should at least show the people of Canada that it means what it is saying and not just stating the extreme.

We do not know what will happen tomorrow or next year. We do know one thing, we have an armed forces in this country that we are very proud of.

Do we make mistakes? From all the history I have read and all the discussions I have had I know that human beings make mistakes. Only those people that sit idly by and do not do anything do not make mistakes.

If we make a mistake, as was referenced by the opposition over the last number of days about things that were done in the past, we will learn from those mistakes. That is the reason why the bill is before the House, to ensure that mistakes are not repeated in the future.

We must place confidence in our government. We must place confidence in the leaders of our armed forces, whether it is the army, navy or air force. We must also give them the room to make decisions.

If we go back to the second world war, are we saying that every time the leaders of any nation or country had to make a decision that was critical of time and place they had to go back to their house of parliament to consult with the people to make a decision? How foolish can that be? Are we saying to the people of this country that the head of our armed forces is going to say that their front lawn could be a controlled military zone or that a staff car driven up the road and stopping in a certain position could be a controlled military zone? That is not bringing the right information to the people. As parliamentarians, regardless of where a member sits, we all have a responsibility to bring out the correct information to the people of this country.

Is it any wonder why the general public does not have confidence in our elected representatives. We all sit here day after day and listen to members of the opposition make such false statements and give out misleading information on many issues.

I have only been sitting here a few short days. I cannot believe the type of tripe that is coming out from that side of the House. Two days ago the Alliance leader made a statement about Atlantic Canadians. He said that Atlantic Canadians are a defeatist people. I can tell this House that we are proud in Atlantic Canada. We are proud of this country from east to west and north to south. We are proud of our armed forces and leaders. We are proud of everything that is going on and we will not take a second seat to anybody.

I will tell the House that I will stand on my feet and support the minister of defence any time he brings a piece of legislation before this House that will give me confidence in the future. We must have a good protection system in place just in case a tragedy ever happens. It may be never and we hope never.

I am so fortunate that I live on the east coast. I have a small grandchild. I am glad he will live in a safe and secure country when he grows up. That is what this is all about.

This is not partisan politics. This is not one group against the other. This is for the future of our country and for the protection of our children. This is for the right of someone to make a decision.

We would criticize the minister of defence if he did not bring this type of legislation into the House. The opposition would be first to criticize him for not doing so. When he does bring the legislation into the House he is criticized for doing so. The opposition should make up its mind. Either the opposition wants Canada protected in the future or it does not. I for one want Canada protected.

I want the leaders of our government, our defence and our military to be able to make a decision. I do not want them to have to come back to the House for public consultation to determine whether we can do this or not when it is a critical time to make a decision. No. Confidence in leadership and in our armed forces is what we want. This particular piece of legislation would give me and the government the confidence that we need.

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11:45 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Dave Chatters Canadian Alliance Athabasca, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I did not wish to interrupt the speaker in full flight. I would like the record to show that the member he was referring to was not from Calgary West but from Calgary Centre.

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11:45 a.m.


R. John Efford Liberal Bonavista—Trinity—Conception, NL

I do apologize, Madam Speaker. I just do not have familiarity with all of the members. I have only been here a few short days. Whether it is east or west, it is Calgary. I do apologize. I will get it right the next time.

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11:45 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is the House ready for the question?

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Some hon. members


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The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The question is on the amendment. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the amendment?

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Some hon. members


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Some hon. members


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The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

All those in favour of the amendment will please say yea.

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Some hon. members


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The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

All those opposed will please say nay.

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Some hon. members