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

11:45 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

In my opinion the nays have it.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

11:45 a.m.

Some hon. members

On division.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

11:45 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I declare the amendment lost.

(Amendment negatived)

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

11:50 a.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, I understand that we are now debating the main motion. I listened with great interest to our colleague who was just recently elected to the House of Commons, the member for Bonavista—Trinity—Conception, and actually could not believe my ears in terms of what he was prepared to do to give his government so much licence with the bill. I listened to him today and heard him say that we have to place confidence in our government, we have to give the government the room to make decisions. He talked about World War II and used that as an example.

I have to say for those of us in the federal NDP that we are actually appalled at the scope and the dangers that are inherent in the bill. From the very first day that it was introduced, formerly as Bill C-42, now as Bill C-55, we have spoken out against the principle and the substance of the bill. How much room does the member want the government to have? It would have so much power under the bill. The power that would be conferred upon the minister and the cabinet is so enormous, and I think many members of opposition parties and organizations that are monitoring the bill have pointed out that many of our civil liberties would be at risk.

I would really beg to differ from the comments that the hon. member made. This is not about having trust and confidence in our government. This is about having an intelligent debate, looking at a very significant piece of legislation and determining the proper balance that is required to provide security but not infringe upon the democratic and civil rights of all Canadians.

I do not know whether the member has fully studied the bill, has followed the debate prior to getting here or has read some of the commentary and the analysis, but I can only say that having read the analysis and looked at the bill, one cannot come to any conclusion but to state that the bill is fundamentally wrong. To somehow equate the situation to what took place during World War II and the emergency measures and powers that required is a false premise. In fact, other members of the House have talked about the emergency War Measures Act that was enacted 30 years ago. I guess one of the really scary things is that even in that time, when the emergency War Measures Act was brought forward by the Right Hon. Mr. Trudeau, prime minister at the time, it was very controversial, but even that was a time limited thing. It was something that was not enshrined in legislation forever in a permanent way.

I was a young person attending university at the time the War Measures Act was brought in and I felt appalled that our Canadian government would go to that length and basically violate the civil liberties of people in Quebec under the guise that these full powers had to be put forward. However, I have to say that in looking at Bill C-55 we are now facing a much more serious situation in terms of the impact of this legislation and what it will do.

I wanted to begin by responding to the comments made by the new member for Bonavista—Trinity—Conception. I certainly welcome him to the House. However, the idea of giving the government carte blanche, of just sort of turning over all and every power to a minister or a cabinet under the name of security is something that I find very offensive and deeply disturbing. I, as one member of parliament, and all of us in the federal NDP caucus will do and say everything we can to make sure that the bill does not go through.

We are now back to debating the main motion and reviewing the provisions of the bill before us. I do not think that Canadians really have an idea of the far ranging scope of the bill and how many other pieces of legislation it impacts on. For example, the bill before us would amend the biological and toxin weapons convention. It would amend the Aeronautics Act. It would amend the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority Act. It would amend: the Canadian Environmental Protection Act; the criminal code; the Department of Health Act; the Organization of American States inter-American convention against the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms, ammunition, explosives and other related materials; the Export and Import Permits Act; the Food and Drugs Act; the Hazardous Products Act; the Marine Transportation Security Act; the National Defence Act; the National Energy Board Act; the Navigable Waters Protection Act; the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions Act; the Pest Control Products Act; the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act; the Quarantine Act; the Radiation Emitting Devices Act; the Canada Shipping Act and the Canada Shipping Act, 2001; and it would enact the biological and toxin weapons convention implementation act.

That is an incredible scope. I think we can begin to see just how far-reaching the impact of Bill C-55, if it were enacted, would be on all kinds of other pieces of legislation that have been debated in this House. We in the federal NDP feel very concerned about the fact that the federal government is now trying to rush through this legislation. The first piece of legislation that came forward, Bill C-42, drew enormous public opposition from individuals, organizations and the media. Clearly the government had to respond to that opposition and withdraw the bill. It has now come back to the House with Bill C-55.

Although there are some changes in the bill, upon examining it the reality is that the fundamental premise of the bill, the conferring of enormous power to a minister and a cabinet away from parliament and away from public oversight, is still contained in this new version. For that reason we in the NDP continue to oppose the bill.

My colleague from Dartmouth, in speaking to the amendment, mentioned her concerns regarding what would happen at the upcoming G-8 summit in Kananaskis. She spoke about her concerns regarding what would happen to young people, seniors and members of the labour movement who are planning to gather to voice their legitimate right to dissent around what is going to take place at the G-8 summit. I certainly concur with her concerns. One has to question the bill and be suspicious as to whether or not the government's intent is to use its provisions to shut down legitimate protest and shut down the voice of dissent.

I, along with my colleagues in the federal NDP and activists from across the country, participated in the demonstrations and the protest that took place in Quebec City last April on the free trade agreement of the Americas. We saw the kind of police brutality and violence that took place in responding to legitimate demonstrations. I find it very scary that this legislation will legitimize and increase the powers of law enforcement agencies as well as government to stifle protests and to stifle dissent.

I am sure there are members of the Liberal backbench who privately share many of our concerns but are being whipped into place to get this legislation through the House. I sure wish some of those members would speak out, not only within their own caucus but publicly as well, because what we are about to do today is something that will set into motion a piece of legislation that will be here for the long term, for the foreseeable future.

I am proud to rise in the House to speak against this legislation and to encourage other members to do so as well. This is a bad piece of legislation. It goes too far. It tramples on the civil rights of Canadians and should not be supported.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders



Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

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?

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

12:10 p.m.


John Bryden Liberal Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to take part in the debate. I think it is my third time.

Now I have had a chance to examine Bill C-55 very carefully, line by line with Bill C-42 its predecessor, which the government withdrew to try to do a better job of it. I think the happy news is that Bill C-55 is much improved over its predecessor. I think the legislation is better written. I think, on the limitations on interference of fundamental liberties, a balance has been attempted there and the government has gone a long way to achieving that balance.

This is not to say that the bill still does not have problems and I will allude to those, but I will pick up on several of the issues that opposition members and some Liberal members have expressed concerns about.

The military controlled access zones in Bill C-55 are much, much more limited than what was defined in Bill C-42. Notwithstanding what the previous speaker said, if we go to the legislation we will see that the controlled access zones specifically are limited to where the military might have to go to respond to an emergency. There are paragraphs that qualify the range of that zone. They are very explicit that these zones can only be established when there is a clear concern for security or public safety.

What we are really responding to is a situation where there is an emergency event somewhere in the country, perhaps a terrorist event, and the military has to go in there and of course establish a controlled access zone to protect the military. It is very, very different than what people say this has to do with, throwing a cordon around the Quebec national assembly. It is just not true.

Second, the improvements to getting information about passenger travel, one of the important features of this bill is it provides legislative rationale for access to the passenger manifests of people travelling on aircraft coming into Canada. Again notwithstanding the histrionics of the privacy commissioner this bill is very, very modest in setting parameters around what is required or available to police and security authorities from passengers that are travelling on aircraft coming into and going out of Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I refer you to schedule 1 in this bill which did not exist in Bill C-42. It defines very, very clearly exactly what type of information the authorities are entitled to get. In that context I would suggest that the bill does not go far enough. It merely requires when passengers are coming from overseas or wherever else into Canada that the airlines surrender the passport number, the name, address and certain ticket information and it is not consistent with technological capability, and indeed I think it creates a problem.

It is interesting. The president of the United States just signed into law not two weeks ago the enhanced border security and visa entry reform act. What that does for the Americans, and we need to think about this very carefully as Canadians, is it requires the American immigration authorities to move immediately to set up the ability to electronically scan travel documents for biometric information by which they mean fingerprints and faces. In other words, where the Americans are going, and it is defined in the bill, is that by the year 2004 every person entering the United States, including it would appear from my reading of that act, people crossing the border from Canada, Canadians crossing into the United States, will be required to have a document that can be machine scanned for fingerprints and photographs.

I do not propose that we require fingerprinting of travellers coming into Canada. I do not accept that. I think we are a long way from that, but I would suggest that it would be consistent to put in the schedule now that the authorities would be entitled to get photographic information from the airlines. In other words, I think it is very important for Canada to be up front with Canadians and people coming to Canada that the technology is going to come for photo identification and we are going to need to use it, because very clearly we have a terrorist threat out there and photo identification rather than just a passport number and address gives a greater certainty that there will not be a mistake when somebody is travelling into Canada and this information is being previewed by the security and police authorities in the ongoing search for terrorists. I think we should look at that.

Finally, my real reservation with the bill still centres on the issue of interim orders. I understand the rationale for this provision in the bill. What we found in the situation of September 11 was that ministers were suddenly faced with emergency situations where they had to make decisions which involved cordoning off areas and limiting access of people.

The difficulty is that unless we define these powers in law then in a limited emergency situation such as what happened in the United States we may have a situation where ministers are forced to go outside the law in order to authorize actions that are absolutely necessary under the limited emergency. If we have a terrorist attack for instance anywhere in Canada in a large urban centre the transportation minister, the health minister and the environment minister may have to take prompt action to respond to that kind of attack.

Right now we do not have that type of power in legislation, so the idea is fine. The problem with the idea is these powers of making an interim order in a significant risk situation. We are not talking about a national emergency. We are talking about a highly localized event that is an emergency, and that is why the member for Calgary Centre does not seem to have read the legislation. He seems to have been reading briefings on the legislation but he is not focused.

The interim orders pertain to a limited emergency in a limited circumstance, but the way it is phrased now is that when the minister issues this emergency order this order stands for 45 days before it needs cabinet confirmation. I believe that is too long a time. I do not really see why any interim order responding to a sudden emergency requires 45 days before it gets cabinet collective approval. I would think a seven day period is certainly enough. Surely the cabinet can be brought together after a terrorist attack or similar limited emergency within seven days. To extend it to 45 days unnecessarily gives too much power to the minister, and we do not need to go that way.

Furthermore, I am concerned that the interim orders fall outside the Statutory Instruments Act, and that again is something that has been brought up by the Bloc Quebecois. I think it is a very valid concern and I would urge the minister to look at that again because the minister may make a mistake, and much as sometimes I am critical about the civil service I think we need the input of the leading authorities in the Privy Council Office when this type of situation occurs, so I think that needs to be re-examined.

Finally, there is the question of parliamentary involvement and not having to table anything before parliament until 15 days after parliament is sitting. Of course, if parliament is not sitting this creates a problem of many months before parliament is consulted.

I would urge the minister to examine these latter issues very carefully. I think they are very crucial to a bill that is otherwise very well framed notwithstanding, if I may say so, some of the histrionics that have been circulating about this piece of legislation both in this Chamber and, I regret to say, by officers of parliament outside this Chamber.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Inky Mark Canadian Alliance Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate on Bill C-55 and on the amendment.

The bill is unnecessary, as was Bill C-36. Bill C-36 was unnecessary because we already had a new version of the War Measures Act known as the Emergencies Act. That is the purpose of the Emergencies Act. There is no reason the government cannot invoke the Emergencies Act during such times.

Since being passed by both Houses, how many times has Bill C-36 been used to fight terrorism? It has not been invoked once. I voted against Bill C-36 because it is bad legislation. It jeopardizes the values of a free society under the smokescreen and rationale of security. The real way to make Canada more secure is to have good intelligence, good police forces, good immigration policy and good customs and border personnel.

Bill C-55 falls under the same category as Bill C-36. If Bill C-36 has not been invoked up to this point in time why would the House and the country need another bill called Bill C-55, a so-called second version of Bill C-36 under the guise of national security?

Like Bill C-55, the Liberal government's gun control bill, Bill C-68, was not necessary. A report by the Library of Parliament to the House committee stated that Bill C-17, the former Tory bill for gun control which was brand new at the time, had not had time to be implemented before the Liberal government started another gun control bill. The Liberal government did not listen and we ended up with the big mess we have today under Bill C-68.

Canada has always had gun control. Handguns have been registered since 1934. Will registering all firearms make the country safer? Of course it will not. We all know that. Let us look at the statistics. Over the last four years since Bill C-68 was implemented gun murders have doubled. An Ontario study showed that 80% to 90% of illegal handguns are Saturday night specials that come over the border from the U.S.A. Canadians who own legally registered handguns are not potential criminals. This is an illustration of how unnecessary Bill C-55 would become.

Through Bill C-68 the government has criminalized all Canadians who use firearms legally. Unfortunately, Bill C-68 has divided Canadians along urban-rural lines. As has been said many times, rural Canadians use firearms as necessary tools in their culture and environment.

Canadians support gun control but not the kind created by the Liberals to gain votes from urbanites. There has been little accountability from the Liberal government regarding gun control expenditures. Other than buying votes and creating jobs in Liberal ridings the government's expenditures of over $700 million have done absolutely nothing for the health and safety of Canadians. I am comparing Bill C-68 to Bill C-55 because I hope doing so will foreshadow the bill's possible effects.

Cancer kills many more people annually in Canada than firearms. In 1999 there were 536 homicides of which 165 were shooting deaths. In 1997 there were 58,703 deaths due to cancer. The Liberal government has spent over $700 million on gun control in the last eight years. How much do members think the government has committed to cancer research? Since 1992 the government has committed only $25 million to breast cancer research. In the 54 years since 1947 only about $700 million has gone to cancer research. Those are pretty lopsided figures.

There is something wrong with this picture. Statistics Canada tells us we are 320 more times likely to die of cancer than by being shot. Is it not ridiculous that the Liberal government has spent over 25 times more on gun control than breast cancer?

Bill C-55 would give the optics of security. However it would do nothing more than give Canadians a false sense of security. It would attack whatever was left of the freedoms of being a Canadian and living in a democracy.

Part 6 of Bill C-55 would impact every firearm owner in Canada. In amending the Explosives Act it would give the government the right to regulate and put an end to the making, purchasing, possession and use of all ammunition. It would take us back to a time when one had to write in a permit book how much and what kind of liquor one purchased at a vendor. Will the next step be to control the amount of bullets and empty cases one can have in one's home? Part 6 of the bill defines “inexplosive ammunition component” as:

--any cartridge case or bullet, or any projectile that is used in a firearm--

Would plumber's lead come under this class? It has the potential of being made into bullets. Perhaps lead fishing weights and jigs would qualify. How about shotgun wads, felt pads and patches? I do not imagine too many Liberals even know what a patch is.

How would part 6 of Bill C-55 protect Canadians from terrorists? Terrorists would keep bags of bullets and empty cartridge cases hidden. As far as I am concerned, poor unsuspecting law-abiding Canadians would be the victims of another Liberal bill much like Bill C-68 and Bill C-36. With laws like C-55 why would law-abiding firearms users or any other Canadian trust the Liberal government?

The biggest problem in Canada is that the Liberal government thinks it knows what is best for Canadians. However it does not listen very well. We have heard over and over again that in Canada we have government by one Liberal. It is not far from the truth. Is it surprising to see the Liberal government embroiled in corruption charges in recent weeks?

The government pays only lip service to the needs of Canadians. Let us look at our problems in softwood lumber and agriculture. Europeans receive 56 cents on the dollar in subsidies. The Americans will end up with the same. The poor Canadian farmer fighting to survive receives only nine cents on the dollar in subsidies.

Like Bill C-68 and Bill C-36, Bill C-55 is nothing more than a snow job and a power grab. Canadians need to wake up before it is too late. Canadian values are being attacked daily by the Liberal government. It is time to change the government.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

12:25 p.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, I find it necessary to stand for a few moments to speak to the bill in response to what some members of the NDP and Bloc Quebecois have said this morning. I find it difficult to understand the reasoning and logic of some the statements made in the House criticizing this piece of legislation. I will try to recapture some of the things that were said and the logic behind them.

Members keep using the word corruption in the House in reference to the lack of confidence in the new minister of defence. Before coming to the House of Commons last week I had been in the Newfoundland house of assembly since 1985. Corruption was not a word we would use. If we wanted to criticize the government we would say a minister, an MP or a government official made an error in judgment. It is wrong to use the word corruption in reference to lack of confidence in a piece of legislation that would play a major role in the future safety of Canada. The hon. NDP member, the third last member who spoke, referenced all--

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

12:25 p.m.


Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Where do you come from?

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

May 30th, 2002 / 12:25 p.m.


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

Why do you not--

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order please. The hon. member who has the floor is a recent arrival in the House. I would not want hon. colleagues to even think of taking advantage of someone who might appear to be a rookie but who is really not, having come from another legislature as have some other hon. members.

However I would remind the hon. member and other members that all interventions must be made through the Chair and not directly to one another. I think we have all been served well by that process and procedure for a long time. I will make sure as best I can that we continue that fine tradition.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

12:30 p.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, coming from the honourable house of assembly of Newfoundland and Labrador gave me experience but I admit, not the experience that I will gain over the coming years in this honourable House.

Yes, like all human beings we will make mistakes but, not to be critical of the hon. member who spoke, I do take exception to what she said and I will leave it at that. The bill is too important to get sidetracked into a debate between two members on either side of the House of Commons.

The reference I wanted to make is that I am trying to understand why members are being critical of the bill. We need to listen to all speakers. This is not a bill that we should take lightly. I believe the bill will impact very positively on the safety of all Canadians.

We never know when an act of terrorism will happen. It could happen next week, next month or next year but we hope and pray it will never happen again. It could be spontaneous and it could happen anywhere in Canada, in North America or anywhere in the world for that matter. However we are talking here about Canada.

If we do not give the people in power, whoever they are, the authority to implement measures for the safety of Canadians, then who do we give it to? Who should have the authority to put measures in place to protect Canadians?

I have some difficulty understanding the criticisms being made by the opposition members about the Minister of Transport, the Minister of Health and the Minister of National Defence being given certain powers. In all the speeches I heard this morning, I only heard one member make some positive and constructive comments.

The member from the NDP went on for 10 minutes being negative on every aspect of the bill. That is fine. She has a right to her opinion. However I did not hear her say one constructive thing in those 10 minutes about the bill. That is why I have difficulty understanding exactly where the members of the NDP are coming from with their position. Are they saying that we should have no legislation whatsoever? Are they saying that we should leave Canada at the will of terrorism at any time terrorists so choose? Are they saying that we should not have any change in our ability to protect Canadians? If that is what they are saying I take great exception to their points.

As the debate goes on I am sure I will hear more and maybe I will get the opportunity to hear some constructive statements being made by members of the opposition. Probably that is more wishful thinking than reality but we will wait and see.

Whether it be any minister of any department of the government or the leaders of our armed forces, they need to have the authority to implement measures that will ensure the safety of all Canadians.

I am glad my hon. colleague clarified the military zones when he spoke. I was surprised to hear an opposition member say that he doubted that any Liberal member had read the bill. Let me assure the House that we are reading the bill continuously. If the opposition members had read the bill they would have known clearly what the military zones really meant and would not have made statements to the contrary of what is actually in the bill. It shows that they are reading briefing notes and not studying the bill.

While the bill is being debated in the House today I think it is very important for every member to clearly understand the significance of this proposed legislation and how crucial it is to the future of all Canadians.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

12:35 p.m.


Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I believe a number of members have spoken on Bill C-55, which replaces the former Bill C-42, as my colleague was saying.

I would like to remind the House that this bill contains two major problems that trouble me. First, the creation of the controlled access military zones; and also the additional information about airline passengers. In fact, the government is giving itself the power to change, as it sees fit, the nature of the information that can be shared between the different services.

Based on the new provisions, the RCMP and CSIS will now have direct access to information held by air carriers. These provisions open the door to the use of personal information that goes far beyond the fight against terrorism.

Currently, a great many people are speaking out against this; even the privacy commissioner has spoken out against Bill C-55 with regards to the use of information on airline passengers.

This morning, Thursday May 30, a Quebec daily paper headline read “The Right of terror”. I would like to read a few lines from this article, as it makes one think, and I hope that it will get the members opposite thinking. The article says that:

National security and the fight against terrorism are becoming the best excuses to violate fundamental rights around the world.

Amnesty International, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977, is an organization that works for human rights. It recently published a report, which said that:

Governments are using the September 11 attacks and the fight against terrorism to pit security against human rights. They have used the excuse of September 11 to justify arbitrary detention or to deny the right to a fair trial. There is an increase in official hypocrisy. The fight against terrorism has become the excuse for all kinds of abuses.

Regarding Bill C-55 it says:

In Canada too civil liberties are being curtailed by anti-terrorism laws which were never proven to be necessary by the federal government. Again today, Parliament is debating a bill, Bill C-55, that gives government and security forces all kinds of new powers that would have been unacceptable to a majority of people only a few months ago.

It is a new version of Bill C-42, a bill which was withdrawn following a great deal of protest; however, the new version maintains its most controversial elements and, in some cases, it is even worse than the previous one.

The Bloc Quebecois and opposition parties are not the only ones saying this. Amnesty International produced a report to this effect. Several editorial writers, journalists and agencies are condemning this bill.

Another quote:

Amid general indifference, the Parliament of Canada is about to pass an act the severity of which the government was never able to justify, which is rather serious.

But at the same time, it will end up justifying all kinds of abuses against human rights by repressive regimes that would then be able to honestly say they were only imitating a great democratic country such as Canada.

This is what happens when we start making compromises on fundamental rights.

I believe it is clear. It is really unacceptable and this is what we are speaking up against in this clause, which deals with the power of one single person, a minister, who will create security zones, now called controlled access military zones under this clause. As I said earlier, he will be able to come to my riding where there is an armoury.

We have nothing against the fact that we have to protect ourselves and the government must protect its military equipment by designating such zones. However, this is a far cry from deciding at any given time, under circumstances leading the minister to believe that his security is threatened, to commandeer places and lands without ever consulting anybody, without ever consulting the public, elected representatives, and municipal or provincial governments. He will decide to step in, thinking he is entitled to do so.

The minister could use what is called a reasonable moment. We really do not know what the word reasonably means. One single person, the finance minister, will be able to decide, sorry, it is the defence minister. I am confused because the new minister comes from finance and is now replacing the former Minister of National Defence. All this is a bit ambiguous—

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12:40 p.m.

An hon. member

It is six of one , half a dozen of the other.

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12:40 p.m.


Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

You are quite right. It is six of one and half a dozen of the other. I hope that the new minister will listen to reason and will change the provisions giving him so much power. On what grounds and for what reasons are we suddenly deciding to give one person powers that violate the freedom, the rights and the privacy of the people?

In my comments earlier, I did not mention one aspect of Bill C-42 that I disapproved. It is the new tax that also appears in Bill C-55, the bill on safety. In our view, that new tax is just another tax grab. Maybe our new minister will pay better attention to what was said in the Standing Committee on Finance at the time.

At the time, the minister had turned a deaf ear to this issue. At the finance committee, we were told that there had been no consultation and no impact study on this new tax. We have every right to wonder if this is not just another tax grab, similar to what the government did with the employment insurance fund. We were not the only ones to talk about grabbing. Several organizations have said they think this is unjustified and that this tax will have a major impact, especially in the small regions.

Time goes by so fast and there are so many other topics I would like to address. However, I ask my colleagues on the government side to really pay attention to what the opposition has to say in its criticisms, which have to to with all the problems these provisions will lead to, and I ask them to vote against this bill.

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12:45 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to join the debate on the main motion of Bill C-55. I recently had an opportunity to speak to the amendment. I also have had the opportunity now to listen to a number of other speakers and very thoughtful presentations as we work our way through this very complex bill.

On behalf of the NDP caucus, I would like to address the remarks of the previous speaker from the Liberal Party, the member for Bonavista--Trinity--Conception, who found fault with the NDP's analysis of Bill C-55. He felt that perhaps we were being too harsh and that we were not looking hard enough to find the merits and benefits of the bill.

I would like to point out that we have made a very detailed, in-depth analysis of the bill and we still find it flawed, we still find it worrisome and we still find it necessary to caution the Canadian public that some of the very values by which we identify ourselves as Canadians will be jeopardized by the bill.

I do not think my colleague from the NDP caucus who spoke previously overstated things at all in her speech. Perhaps the hon. member from Bonavista should have paid closer attention to some of the concerns we have raised. We do not raise them just to be obstinate. We raise them as a way of cautioning the Canadian people that this massive power grab of an omnibus bill raises serious concerns and could jeopardize the very way we view ourselves as Canadians, because some of those basic freedoms and principles that we enjoy and are committed to are the very things of which we are most proud.

When I raise specifics, I hope the hon. member listens. He said that the NDP had nothing positive at all to say about Bill C-55. I would like to put it on the record that there are points in Bill C-55 that we find important. In fact I would point out that Bill C-42, which was so hastily thrown together after the tragic events of 9/11, had to be done away with and put out of its misery. Some of the changes in Bill C-55 are improvements over Bill C-42, such as the change to the Aeronautics Act whereby the transport minister's regulation making powers concerning aviation safety will be better defined under Bill C-55 than they were under Bill C-42.

There are specific areas, to which I am happy to point, where we find Bill C-55 better than the previous bill. I would start by saying though that Bill C-42 was thrown together hastily and when it was pulled, we waited for four or five months for Bill C-55 to come forward. Now we are being told by the government that we must get Bill C-55 through immediately and hastily because it is an urgent issue. Where was the urgency when Bill C-42 languished for five months in bureaucratic limbo prior to us seeing the introduction of Bill C-55?

I do not accept the argument that the same sense of urgency exists as may have existed the day after 9/11. Certainly we are all interested in national security. A lot of Canadians feel that the government currently has a great deal of authority or ability to intervene, if it really thinks there is a clear and present danger. The War Measures Act for instance was always there as a tool, as an instrument for ministers to use.

One of the worrisome things that has been pointed out is a difference between Bill C-55 and the War Measures Act. Under the War Measures Act, the government had to come back to parliament within 48 hours. Under Bill C-55, a minister could exercise this expanded authority, not even report to cabinet for 15 days and not have it dealt with in parliament for 45 days. That is a broad and sweeping power. A lot could happen in 45 days and we would not have a chance to give it parliamentary oversight or scrutiny for 45 days. That alone should be cause and concern enough to the Canadian people that they should be asking us to put the brakes on the bill, let it sit over the summer and rethink if we really want to trade this amount of personal freedom for that amount of national safety.

This is one thing of which I am very critical. I guess to summarize the trend or theme of the bill, it very much expands ministerial authority. It very much diminishes parliamentary oversight. That is a very worrisome theme. That is actually a motif that I have noticed in virtually every piece of legislation introduced by the Liberals in the years that I have been here. There has been a tendency to expand ministerial authority and to diminish the ability of parliament to have true parliamentary oversight.

It is a slippery slope. It is a very tempting and seductive thing I suppose for the ruling party. I would remind the ruling party that it will not always be the ruling party. As it strips away parliament's abilities and powers in the way the government was intended it to be, the Liberals will find themselves on the opposition benches wondering why they do not have any opportunity to intervene, to make legislation and to act as a true parliament. The government will have been the architects of dismantling and downsizing the authority of parliament.

That is a very worrisome trend that is very evident in Bill C-55, enhancing the discretionary authority of ministers and diminishing our ability to exercise parliamentary oversight, especially as it pertains to such sensitive issues of personal freedom.

Another thing is, when we talk about an omnibus bill, most people are tempted to call it a Trojan horse. To achieve what most Canadians would support, which is an enhanced sense of national security, we believe that the bill has been loaded up as an absolute catch-all for other things that are incidental. They were perhaps part of a plan of the Liberal Party to have them introduced. The government is using this as the vehicle, the Trojan horse, for all kinds of other measures.

There are 15 different acts that will be amended by Bill C-55. These 15 different acts are under the jurisdiction of nine different standing committees. Yet the bill will only go to one standing committee, the transport committee.

I should point out for the record some of the acts that will be amended by the bill; the Aeronautics Act, the biological and toxin weapons convention implementation act, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority Act, the Environmental Protection Act, the Criminal Code of Canada, the Explosives Act, the National Energy Board Act, the National Defence Act, the Hazardous Products Act and many more will be affected by Bill C-55. However the people in our caucus who are experts in these fields and sit on the appropriate committees will not have the chance to view this document or to move amendments at committee stage or to even scrutinize it at committee stage. They do not sit on the transport committee.

Our health expert, the member for Winnipeg North Centre, sits on the health committee. If this bill will have an impact on the health act, why is it not before the health committee so it can receive the all party scrutiny that we do at committee?

I am trying to itemize the number of legitimate reasons why the NDP caucus cannot support Bill C-55. This is why we are trying to alert the Canadian public that it needs far greater attention and scrutiny.

I am not only asking for more time to debate and less of a rush so that we can hear more brilliant speeches in the House of Commons. I am asking for more time so that we can engage Canadians, so that we consult Canadians, so that we can ask Canadians are they willing to trade these personal freedoms for these issues of national security? How much are Canadians willing to trade? How far as they willing to go?

Those are the questions Canadians deserve to be asked and we need to undertake a process by which we can get input and feedback.

We know it takes time for an issue to percolate from the House of Commons through the general public consciousness. I am sure Canadians are not aware that we are dealing with such a broad and sweeping piece of legislation right now. By the time this gets rammed through it will be too late.

By the time this session ends in a couple of days or a couple of weeks, Canadians still will not have been aware that we are undertaking changes to their personal freedoms that will change the way they live in this country and the way they view this country.

The one example people are fond of is the expanded enhanced ability to declare a military security zone. I think it is not being paranoid to assume this may be tied into the upcoming G-8 demonstrations scheduled for Kananaskis.

We saw how the government dealt with the gatherings and crowd control at APEC. We saw it again in Quebec City, ducking tear gas cannisters as we did. If the bill goes through, the government will have far broader, more enhanced sweeping powers and authorities in dealing with even peaceful demonstrators. That is another good reason why Canadians are concerned and why the NDP caucus has been critical of Bill C-55, just as we were of Bill C-36 and Bill C-42.

Some of the changes between Bill C-42 and Bill C-55 warrant mention. One of the changes to the military--

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12:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Ten minutes goes by quickly. The hon. member for Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière.

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12:55 p.m.


Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis-Et-Chutes-De-La-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, the member of the New Democratic Party who spoke earlier talked about the impact of this bill on various sectors, including health.

He was wondering, and rightly so, about the need to consult the health committee on this issue. He only mentioned that one sector, but he could have mentioned nearly all departments because, if we take a close look at this bill, we see that it can amend 20 other existing acts, including some that are very recent. What he just said makes sense. Indeed, it would be worth it to consult the public and the committees more.

The other point I want to raise concerns an article by Michel C. Auger. My colleague from Drummondville mentioned it also. In this article, which was published this morning, he talks about an act that deals with safety but that does not respect human rights or that could violate certain human rights.

Last week, I had the opportunity to hear the last presentation by the federal government's human rights commissioner. In answering questions, she told us that she herself had gone to Geneva this year to appear before the Human Rights Commission because there was some concern about the public safety legislation that the present government wants to pass to restrict human rights here, in Canada.

As member of the Sub-Committee on Human Rights and International Development of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, I often see and hear members, ministers, members of this government promote human rights in other countries, and rightly so.

The problem is that, before promoting anything, one should be beyond reproach in that area. It so happens that the commissioner responsible for human rights within the federal government felt the need to say, in Geneva, before the Human Rights Commission, that, in her opinion, certain aspects of the new safety laws, including Bill C-55, were cause for concern.

Being a few weeks from retirement, she probably felt freer and more independent than ever to speak out, because it is well known that retired people, or even public servants who have been retired for a number of years, feel very free to speak out.

Certainly, when one works for the public service and wants to take a position that may not please the authorities, the party in office, there is sometimes a tendency to self-censorship. I am not saying that it happens all the time, but, it takes a rather rebellious mindset —

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12:55 p.m.

An hon. member

One must not bite the hand that feeds.

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12:55 p.m.


Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis-Et-Chutes-De-La-Chaudière, QC

As my colleague is saying, one must not bite that hand that feeds. There is a bit of that.

However, if the Government of Canada wants to continue to champion human rights, it should ensure that this country, Canada—since we are still part of it—really practices what it preaches.

I could go on about the events of the past weeks, about the government's contracts—this would be a good opportunity—but I will focus on human rights, because this is important for the people of this country, Canada.

Until proven otherwise, Quebec is still part of Canada, at least until this is decided through a referendum. We, Quebecers, have had a charter of human rights since 1976, I believe. I call on my colleague from Champlain, who was in the national assembly at the time.

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1 p.m.

An hon. member

It was 1975.

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1 p.m.


Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis-Et-Chutes-De-La-Chaudière, QC

He tells me that it was 1975.

This was not adopted by nasty sovereignists, but by the national assembly, under the government of Robert Bourassa, a Liberal. The Liberals opposite should remember that this was done by a former Liberal Premier of Quebec. This part of history has to be remembered. We have this charter of human rights, which suits all Quebecers, but it goes farther than the Canadian charter, which is limited to individual rights. The Quebec's charter deals with other aspects of collective life.

I think that we will never ask ourselves this question enough: are we sure, as parliamentarians, in our conscience, and it is worth asking this of ourselves, that it is a good idea to put so much power in the hands of a minister who would have 45 days to get the cabinet approval?

We just changed minister. The new minister's lack of experience in the area of defence is a source of concern for many. We will see. Let us give him a chance to prove himself.

The previous Minister of National Defence took a week to inform the Prime Minister that Canadian troops had taken prisoners in Afghanistan. They did not know what to do. There was this whole saga about respecting human rights and international conventions, such as the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War.

But we are not talking about prisoners' rights. I know that some are saying that these prisoners got what they deserved. We are talking about respecting everyone's rights. This is a very complex issue. We should take the time to listen to the opinions of those concerned.

Human rights come into play, but the main issue is the excessive discretionary power given to the Minister of National Defence to designate future military zones. The minister will be able to make this decision on his own, without the authorization of the provinces, without even asking them.

I remember 1970. Having been born in 1947, I remember 1970 very clearly. There was the War Measures Act in Quebec. Under this legislation, several hundred people were arrested and put in jail without even being told why. We all know such people. They were released several days later, sometimes as many as 30, without knowing why they had been arrested. The government panicked.

Here, we are talking about zones. I do not think that it is the government's intention to repeat the unfortunate experience of 1970. The legislation now being proposed concerns millions of people. In theory, all Canadians and Quebecers could be subjected to this legislation. This was done because an incident could occur anywhere. The minister can decide to create a military zone and it would no longer be subject to any statute or regulation. He would become the dictator of the day.

I am mentioning this because of what the Prime Minister told us a few months ago. He said “You know, there are days when I feel like a democrat and others when I feel like a dictator”. Since he is the one who chose the new Minister of National Defence, I hope that the latter will not follow this advice.

If the new Minister of National Defence feels like a democrat one day, I be will reassured. But if he feels like a dictator the next day, I will be worried; not just I, but everyone, might be worried. It does not make sense to leave something this delicate, this important, to the judgment of one person, when we do not yet know how he approaches things. I am not attacking him, because he is just starting out, but I am thinking of anyone who could one day become Minister of National Defence, including myself.

Can any one person claim to possess all the knowledge, all the information required to take such a delicate and important decision? No.

Through you, Mr. Speaker, I invite other members to give some careful thought to where they stand on this matter, given its importance.

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1:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

I am honoured to have an opportunity again to speak to this important piece of legislation.

I listened carefully to the debate of other members and I think a theme of alarm at least on the opposition benches is being raised as to the far reaching and extraordinary powers the bill places in the hands of the government but perhaps of more concern, a single minister within the government.

The bill has far reaching and long term implications for the country. It touches on no less than 20 pieces of legislation, some of which I would suggest should have been dealt with separately. As is often the case, we see legislation introduced in an omnibus format that lumps numerous unrelated issues together. That is true to perhaps a lesser extent in this particular bill but I want to mention for the record some of the elements of the legislation that touch on previous and existing bills. These include the Quarantine Act, the Pest Control Products Act, the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act, the Canada Shipping Acts, the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, the Radiation Emitting Devices Act, the National Defence Act, the Marine Transportation Security Act, the Export and Import Permits Act, the criminal code and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

Let us not beat around the bush. This is a comprehensive bill. It brings about new powers and a new level of concentration of power within the hands of the government. A further concern is the traditional checks and balances, the traditional role of parliament which is further bypassed and marginalized by the form and direction in which the legislation is brought in.

I would not go so far as to use the words of the federal privacy commissioner who termed this type of bill totalitarian when discussing aspects of the legislation. I would not go so far as to even use some of the language of the privacy commissioner in informing Canadians of his legitimate concerns. Yet this is coming from an impartial parliamentary watchdog, someone who is mandated to review bills, situations and actions of government. He specifically stated that there is overriding concerns that should give reason for pause and cause all Canadians to take a closer look.

My fear, as is the fear of other members, is that it has not been the case. This debate is hopefully giving Canadians a window on what the ramifications might be. There are a number of ways in which the bill will impact directly on individual civil rights, individuals' freedom of mobility and their right to privacy. The bill represents another seriously flawed piece of legislation.

Perhaps of note is the necessity of the legislation. Do we need it? Why do we need it? Is there not existing protections that have us covered and at the same time provide protection and checks and balances?

I mentioned the Emergencies Act. There has been no clearly articulated position from the government as to why there is an insufficiency, gap or necessity, given the current parameters of the Emergencies Act, to justify bringing in this new bill. I will dwell for a moment on that and give a brief comparison of what the Emergencies Act and Bill C-55 can actually do so that there is a context.

Bill C-55 has no other objective than to give ministers more arbitrary power that would come in the face of a real threat. That is to say the premise or starting point is that a real threat has to exist. This is the issue that was going to no doubt lead to a disruption, threat, perceived or real impact on Canadians' lives. However the legislation that currently exists, the Emergencies Act, allows for a swift and decisive response from government.

The Emergencies Act is a declaration of an emergency, the starting point. It becomes effective immediately upon proclamation, immediately upon the government declaring that such a state exists. The issue also goes to parliament within seven days. Within seven days, not 45, that issue must be before parliament.

Even if parliament is not sitting it should be recalled for a reasonable response. Parliament could then debate the declaration of the emergency immediately and have an opportunity to either vote or endorse the invoking of the emergency.

Every order or regulation that comes out of the Emergencies Act must go before parliament within two sitting days. There would be an exemption for an exempt or classified order. That is reasonable given the circumstances. If the military determines that it is of such grave and pressing concern that it be kept secret, so be it. However all of these issues would be sent to parliament and an all-party parliamentary review would occur and could be sworn to secrecy.

Parliament could revoke or amend any order or regulation. That is a check. That is an effective ability to involve parliament, the democratic process and the people of Canada. That is the state of the current legislation that we have today. Legislation is in place if an issue were to come before this country of the magnitude and gravity that would warrant an emergency being declared. I again ask the rhetorical question: Why do we need Bill C-55 if that is the case? Bill C-55 would allow the government to circumvent those checks and balances that are currently in place under the Emergencies Act.

By comparison Bill C-55 would also come into effect immediately. There would be no declaration of emergency being proclaimed by the government nor would the matter come before parliament. Parliament is cut out of the loop. Parliament has no vote on the existence of the determination of the emergency. There are no interim orders to be tabled in the House until the first 15 days in which the House is recalled. We do not know when that recall might occur. There is no debate on the state of emergency. Parliament cannot revoke or amend any emergency orders.

Under the Emergencies Act parliament is the place where the orders would be debated, amended, defeated, approved or reviewed. The government would be held accountable under the current legislation. Under Bill C-55 parliament is placed on the sidelines and the orders that are brought forward are not subject to parliamentary scrutiny. We become a clearing house, a publishing place for the government's decision. The government is not accountable directly under Bill C-55.

Putting this much power into the hands of the minister does nothing to benefit Canadians. On the other hand it does a great deal more to move toward this trend of arbitrary power. It cloaks the government in greater secrecy. In the current environment, is this something Canadians should feel comfortable with? They should be asking themselves if they feel that they can trust the government to make that kind of arbitrary, unchecked decision and are they prepared to live with it. That would be the effect of Bill C-55. It would bypass the scrutiny that would occur in this place in the most basic of circumstances.

Canadians will come to the conclusion that they do not feel comfortable with the bill. It then begs the question: Does the bill represent another seriously flawed piece of Liberal legislation, the type of legislation we have seen in the past that is stubbornly clung to by the government?

Bill C-68 was a perfect example of a registry system that quadrupled in expense from its original intent. It has not worked. It has not protected Canadians. It was presented to Canadians in a mendacious and incorrect way. Clearly, if the bill is in place it would be difficult to revoke and bring back those powers. The Liberal government has demonstrated that it will not change its mind and admit there was any wrong.

This power concentration and power grab continues. The bill is another example of that. The changes to the National Defence Act are the best example. They have been highlighted by many members. The very arbitrary ability to locate and designate a controlled military zone and all of the powers that flow from that decision are scary. There is a need to look at the bill in greater detail to bring about the changes that would ensure the protection of Canadians. Interim orders made by one minister can have a drastic and detrimental effect on the average Canadian's life.

It is for that reason I would like to bring forward an amendment to the bill. I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after “That” and substituting the following:

“this House declines to give second reading to Bill C-55, an act to amend certain acts of Canada, and to enact measures for implementing the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, in order to enhance public safety, because it constitutes an autocratic power grab by the Liberal government at the expense of parliamentary oversight and the civil liberties of Canadians”.

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1:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The Chair will take the amendment under advisement and ask Table officers about the acceptability of it from a procedural perspective. I will come back to the House shortly.

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1:15 p.m.


Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, a while ago I had the opportunity to speak on Bill C-55. After that, I received two phone calls from women's groups, ones that represent not just Quebec, but all of Canada. They are listening as we speak, and I send them greetings. They have been so kind as to indicate to me the position of these two groups as far as this debate is concerned.

I will try to convey what they think in a polite, honest and transparent manner. I have no prepared text and I will try to reflect what they think as faithfully as possible. Anyone wishing to verify this can have the names of the two women's groups.

This morning I was saying that women are greatly concerned about the security of their children and families. There is no problem there. They realize that Bill C-55 arises out of the events of September 11, but they express outrage at the haste with which this bill is being debated in the House, when they have been demanding for ages that their safety be ensured in the face of the violence they have to deal with constantly.

They also express some skepticism as far as the intentions of this bill are concerned. I am reporting what they told me. They see it as official hypocrisy, for the simple reason that they are well aware that the women of Afghanistan had been living with terrorism for more than 20 years without any reaction by the international community until the events of September 11.

These women pointed out to me that we live in the era of globalization. This morning I consulted yesterday's news clippings. One of them read “Globalization: the phenomenon of prostitution”. This phenomenon exists in Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto. We know that these are the hubs for it. When a girl services dozens of clients a day, her security is of no importance.

They also pointed that we in Canada are currently facing a horrifying situation of dealing in weapons, drugs and women. All of this is connected with organized crime. There is no law to ensure the safety of women and children in this context.

When a bill such as Bill C-55 on public safety is introduced, these women feeling it is lacking in judgment. How will this bill provide any more safety for women, when there is no law in place at this time to protect them from violent men, or violent gangs which can at any time terrorize or hurt their children?

A spokesperson for one of these groups told me that these women had no faith in this bill. The government introduces legislation to deal with hazardous products, but not with men who are a danger to children and women. Why is that? There is a lot of talk about legislation on sexual predators, but none is as harsh as this one.

Yesterday, these women watched the House of Commons debates on television. Even the Prime Minister downplays violence against women. Yesterday, these women expressed outrage. It had escaped my attention, but women are very vigilant about this issue, and they heard the Prime Minister try to defend himself or one of his ministers, by saying “One could ask a member whether he beat his wife yesterday”. The women who called me earlier were really outraged.

They told me that the Canadian parliament was passing a bill whose harshness the government was never able to justify. But does violence against women and children, which is being downplayed, not justify very strict legislation with no loopholes? If the Canadian government cannot ensure the safety of women and children in its own jurisdiction, how will it ensure public safety?

This is in reference to what I said earlier in the day. I wanted those who are listening to us to know about this. When two women's groups phone to say “Perhaps this is worth mentioning”, I think it is important.

I want to make one last comment. I was reading the press review for today, May 30, including an article published in La Presse , under the title “Hells Angels Invited to Queen Jubilee”. Since we have very close ties with Great Britain, these women told me “What assurance do we have that, some day, the Hells Angels will not be invited here, in Canada, and that their actions will not be condoned?”

As we know, many women work for the Hells Angels, who control prostitution. How many Hells Angels have already killed women and children, planted bombs that killed women and children? All this makes us wonder.

I also want to salute these two women's groups for giving me an opportunity to rise and to talk about their daily lives. We, who are responsible for the status of women, often need the support of women's groups who tell us “This is what it is like in real life, in our everyday life”.