Mr. Speaker, this is not the first time I speak to Bill C-55. Unfortunately, as consideration of the bill progresses, more and more concerns are raised, and our support for the bill, as a party, is decreasing.
On several occasions, I brought up the issue of controlled access military zones. There are numerous other aspects of the bill with which we have problems. As the debate unfolds, more people are taking position against the substance of the bill.
The privacy commissioner made comments recently. Just this week, while I was part of a delegation for NATO, Amnesty International published a very interesting document on the evolution of this issue in various parliaments. The Government of Canada made the list of parliaments which are tightening their grip and limiting freedom of expression and civil liberties in general. Amnesty International is very concerned about that.
I would like to come back once more to the areas of limitation, which is the crux of the matter as far as we are concerned. There is also the issue of information which will circulate very widely within various government agencies. There is also the issue of interim orders through which the minister and the governor in council will be able to do almost anything they want.
For now, I will focus on controlled access military zones. This part of the act does not make sense, in our view, and I will explain why.
First, one person, the chief of the defence staff, will make a recommendation to a single individual, the Minister of National Defence. Imagine what this means in the present context: we have a new defence minister to whom it could be recommended to create a controlled access military zone.
I often give this example in my speeches. He can suddenly decide to create a very large zone around the naval reserve building in Quebec City and including, for example, all of Old Quebec. Under the bill now before us, the minister would have the mandate and the power to do so on his own, without consulting the governor in council. Without any consultation, he could say, for reasons known only to him, “I am creating a controlled access military zone in Old Quebec, and here is why I have made that decision”.
He could also decide not to say a word to anybody. That too is provided for in the bill. People could be in a controlled access military zone without even knowing it. It is true not only for people, but also for their property, their cars, and even their pets, I believe. If your dog bites a military person in a controlled access military zone, you could be prosecuted. You could be forcibly removed from such a zone, which is sometimes done in a quite violent fashion. Once the military is given the mandate to control a controlled access military zone, it will do so its own way. When told to remove somebody from that zone, it will not necessarily do it tactfully.
The minister has complete discretion. The legislation says that this will be done in a reasonable fashion. There are 301 members in the House of Commons and there are probably as many definitions of the term reasonable. Therefore, the minister can, in a reasonable fashion, establish a zone and specify its dimensions, the effective period of designation and whether it will be renewed or not. A single person has the power to do that.
What constitutes a severe blow to the rights and freedoms in that regard--I was referring to the little dog biting a soldier's leg--is when someone gets thrown out by force without knowing he was inside a military zone. He will also be told “It is just too bad, sir, but you cannot sue the Crown. You cannot sue the federal government if you were inside that zone, even unknowingly, for damage caused to you”.
Of course, the bill provides that Treasury Board may compensate a citizen, but this is discretionary. If the Treasury Board says “No, I do not want to compensate you for the damage caused to you” and if you want to sue the government, you cannot because that is what is provided for in the bill.
We feel that the bill really goes too far. We are not alone in saying so. The privacy commissioner says the same thing. I think many opposition parties do too. I think some Liberal colleagues who take the charter of rights and freedoms seriously should oppose the bill. Unfortunately, we have not heard a lot from them so far.
I admire the courage of the government members when they are able to rise on a basic principle to say they disagree. Indeed, we were recently given the full violin treatment for the 20th anniversary of the charter of rights and freedoms. In this regard, it is quite simple. The bill is a direct attack on the charter of rights and freedoms.
In several of my speeches, I have already said that it will not be long before this bill, once passed, is challenged in court. Some people will challenge it on the grounds that it violates the charter of rights and freedoms. I think these people will be right to do so. As the bill stands, it is quite likely that the courts will agree with whoever challenges it.
Consequently, I believe that the government went too far. We remember the days following the terrible events and the awful disaster of September 11. Everyone here in the House was saying “The people must not be deprived of their freedom, because the terrorists will have succeeded”.
In all my speeches, I said that the terrorists succeeded in convincing governments to restrict rights and freedoms. I believe this is unacceptable in our context.
It is not too late. The bill will certainly be referred to a committee. I was away from the House for a few days because I was travelling with NATO. I am anxious to see what type of committee will consider this bill. This is an omnibus bill. It deals with transportation. Indeed, it is the Minister of Transport who is sponsoring the bill. However, it also deals with national defence and the solicitor general. This bill affects several acts.
So it will not be too late to suggest some amendments. However, the way it is currently worded and drafted, it is impossible for us to agree with this bill. At this point, the best thing for the government would be to withdraw it and go back to the drawing board again to ensure that it does not allow terrorists to restrict the rights and freedoms of all of western society. This is very important, in my opinion.
If the government does not do so, it will have to be open to several amendments. The Bloc Quebecois is definitely opposed to the bill as it stands. It will take several changes before the Bloc Quebecois can say at third reading “We support this type of bill that restricts the rights and freedoms of the citizens of Canada and Quebec”.