Debates of May 9th, 2002
House of Commons Hansard #186 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-55.
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Request for Emergency Debate
Some hon. members
The House resumed from May 3 consideration of the motion that 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, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.
Public Safety Act, 2002
May 9th, 2002 / 10:10 a.m.
Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK
Mr. Speaker, I am addressing Bill C-55 which is before the House at present. The point I want to make right off the top is that there is nothing in the bill that would have prevented the terrible events of September 11 last year, in fact it could have the opposite effect.
If the bill goes through unamended it could actually do the exact opposite to the government's stated objective.
I will elaborate. The federal government is using the September 11 terrorist attack as an excuse to continue its anti-gun, anti-hunting, anti-farmer, anti-sport shooter, anti-firearms collector, anti-historical re-enactor, anti-licensed firearm and ammunition dealer, anti-guide, anti-outfitters and anti-aboriginal hunting rights agenda.
Those are the honest, law-abiding, taxpaying Canadians the Liberals have targeted with these 10 pages of proposed explosive act amendments in the bill.
The amendments were so urgent that the Liberals have waited four and a half years to bring them before parliament. After all, it was on November 14, 1997, that former the deputy prime minister, Herb Gray, signed the Organization of American States inter-American convention against the illicit manufacturing and trafficking in firearms, ammunition, explosives and other related materials in Washington, D.C.
Those wanting proof of the government's anti-gun agenda, here is what the former deputy prime minister, Herb Gray, said when he signed the OAS convention in Washington, in 1997:
This could be the start of a global movement that would spur the development of an instrument to ban firearms worldwide that would be similar to our land-mines initiative.
That source was from the Montreal Gazette of November 15, 1997, “Canada signs deal to curb illegal sales of guns”.
If we need more proof, I will make the point that these proposed amendments are more about inexplosives than explosives. The term inexplosive ammunition component appears 26 times in these 10 pages of amendments.
The government already has total control over the explosive part of bullets and shells, namely gun powder. What possible public safety, anti-terrorism objective can be achieved by controlling parts of ammunition that cannot go anywhere without the gun powder?
The proposed amendments to control inexplosive ammunition components are plain and simple government harassment of tens of thousands of responsible firearms owners who happen to load their own bullets and shells for their own legal recreation and sport.
Terrorists and their deadly operations will remain unaffected and undeterred by these amendments. Explosives are easily obtained by terrorists by criminal means and just as easily manufactured with everyday materials that are available in most food and hardware stores.
The only part of the bill that is any good at all is the increased penalties for the criminal use of explosives. The trouble with these sections is that they will most likely hit the wrong target by potentially criminalizing tens of thousands of law-abiding citizens who load their own ammunition for their legal pastimes and sports.
Instead of writing the law the way the government intended, the government assures all concerned:
The people responsible for applying the amended act do not think that the proposed measures will interfere with supplies for hunters and people who manufacture their own agenda.
If that is what the government means then why does the government not say who the laws are intended for and exempt everyone else?
The danger with these amendments was pointed out in a Library of Parliament research paper prepared on January 18. The lawyers reported:
Those who presently make their own ammunition are already regulated under the Explosives Act since an explosive (gun powder) is a regulated product. Thus, licences are currently required, for example, to import explosives. Clause 36 would replace section 9 of the current Explosives Act by requiring a permit to import, to export and to transport in transit through Canada not only for explosives but also for inexplosive ammunition components.
Consequently, law-abiding citizens who manufacture their own ammunition would end up being charged with the new offences proposed in these amendments, offences that call for fines up to $500,000 and imprisonment of up to five years in jail.
Offences that are targeting law-abiding Canadians in this act include: acquiring, possessing, selling, offering for sale, transporting or delivering any illicit inexplosive ammunition component and making or manufacturing any explosive from an illicitly trafficked inexplosive ammunition component. The government has not told us how it thinks anyone can make an explosive from an inexplosive ammunition component. The definition in the act states “inexplosive ammunition component” means any cartridge case or bullet, or any projectile that is used in a firearm as defined in section 2 of the criminal code.
Even the government's own definition clearly demonstrates that no one could possibly make an explosive out of inexplosive ammunition components. I would like to propose at the appropriate time that an amendment be made to remove all references to inexplosive ammunition components from the proposed amendments to the explosives act.
I also would also like to bring the attention of the House to another matter that concerns me and my constituents greatly. Farmers and dealers are examining this bill right now.
A spokesman with the explosive regulatory division, minerals and metals sector of Natural Resources Canada indicated that at this point it had only one component in mind. The component to be restricted by this act is ammonium nitrate, one of the substances used in the Oklahoma City bombing a few years also.
Presently a person can buy this product without having to show any link to the agricultural industry. The goal is that the regulations will impose tighter control on the retail sale of this product. The actual controls would be set out in proposed regulations and would need to go through the regulatory consultation process. It is clear that in the future other components may be added to the restricted list as needed.
This proposed legislation enables the government to go well beyond the parts of this bill and that causes us concern. This is enabling legislation. We do not know what regulations in future the government will bring in. These could be very harmful to farmers and dealers who deal with this particular type of fertilizer.
I would like to conclude by restating what I said at the beginning. There is nothing in the bill as it now stands that will affect the events of September 11 of last year, yet it is being used as an excuse to respond to that. I believe there is something else here that the government has not come clean on. That is why I would like to propose the amendment that I did.
Public Safety Act, 2002
Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate on the amendment to the amendment brought forward by the member for Rosemont—Petite-Patrie with regard to Bill C-55.
The amendment to the main motion, moved by the member for Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, reads as follows, and I quote:
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, since the Bill reflects several principles--
The amendment to the amendment proposed by the member for Rosemont—Petite-Patrie adds the following to the amendment:
that violate human rights and freedoms, which have been denounced by the Privacy Commissioner and are--
And the amendment goes on as follows:
unrelated to transport and government operations, rendering it impractical for the Standing Committee on Transport and Government Operations to properly consider it.
I think that the amendment to the amendment is very relevant. Members will recall that Bill C-55 replaces Bill C-42, which was withdrawn by the government. Bill C-55 was introduced on April 29, 2002. Its predecessor was withdrawn by the government following severe criticism, including by the Bloc Quebecois. We realized that a form of police state was being created. The government said that it took into account the arguments that were put forward and withdrew its bill. It seems that, with this government, bureaucrats are often the ones who make decisions for the ministers. The contents of the bill before us are strikingly similar to those of its predecessor. The bill does not confirm the claim made by the government that it really listened to arguments and made significant changes.
The government accepted the Bloc's arguments and tightened the criteria to create controlled access military zones, but it is still the minister who has the authority to designate such zones, the same minister who forgot to inform his government about the prisoners of war.
We want to focus attention on the fact that this is being entrusted to the present minister—or some future minister—who has demonstrated that he was capable of major mistakes. In the case of delineation of controlled access military zones, errors could have very significant impacts on the public. Deaths could even ensue. If the DND personnel react too quickly, if the zone is not indicated clearly, with the spirit of the law as we have it before us, justification of behaviour could mean that a wrong decision could lead to some very serious consequences. We feel that this decision ought to come from more than a single minister, who is subject to political pressures, as we know. It should be decided by a larger body.
It is, moreover, very surprising that there is no requirement of approval by the Government of Quebec. It is still not required to consent to having a controlled access military zone on its territory. Since it is the minister who decides to delineate a controlled zone, not only where there are military facilities, which is obvious, but also in a wider area, concrete practical situations can crop up which will be somewhat bizarre and potentially dangerous as well.
In Quebec City, for instance, the Armories are about 150 metres away from the Parliament. What the minister could decide, if the agreement of Quebec is not required, strikes me as unacceptable. If the minister is justified in creating such a zone, there must be a reasonable agreement with the province that this can be done. We are not disputing the necessity of having secure military zones, but the powers given the minister in this bill are too broad. What is more, the agreement of the Government of Quebec, or of any other province if that province were involved, is not required. This strikes us as a shortcoming in the bill.
The “reasonably necessary” criterion for the size of these zones is not really changed. It remains highly discretionary. What does “reasonably necessary” mean? Can the minister decide that, for him, in light of a given event, it has suddenly become reasonable to extend the military zone, and then 24 hours later will come the realization that the problem was not of such a broad scope?
I think that a lot of room is being left for interpretation. We have proof that the present government needs specific and clearly set out rules, rather than a degree of leeway that it would use inappropriately.
Also noteworthy is the fact that people who have been wronged by the designation of a military zone or the implementation of measures to enforce the designation cannot take legal action for loss, damage or injury. If the designation of a military zone by the minister or action taken by the army causes some of our fellow citizens to be wronged, there is no legal recourse available to them. That can put our troops in a state of mind that might have a negative impact on the people living around these military zones.
When troops know that they have overarching rights and powers and that the State will not have to compensate for any damage they could cause, they might take some action that could be considered unacceptable later on. Then, when the time comes to right some wrongs and to compensate, it will not be possible. This is in violation of one of our basic human rights.
In other words, the government should be held accountable for any unacceptable action taken by the military and pay the price. Much more reasonable behaviour would then be expected.
The reasons behind thedesignation of military security zones, namely theprotection of international relations or national defence or security, were stipulated in Bill C-42 but are not mentioned in Bill C-55.
We are left to believe that any reason is good enough, although Bill C-42 had identified reasons that could be deemed acceptable or not. The government told us it had consulted the people and taken into account their concerns, but what we have here says otherwise.
No specific reason has to be given pursuant to this bill; “any reasonable grounds” is good enough. The minister is given more latitude, not less, which is also totally unacceptable.
The bill still contains provisions under which different ministers, and in one case government officials, may make interim orders. There are two changes. They deal with the tabling of orders in parliament within 15 days, and provide a shorter period, 45 days instead of 90, during which interim orders are in force without cabinet approval.
An important deficiency in this bill is the lack of advance verification for consistency with the charter and the enabling legislation by the Clerk of the Privy Council.
With everything I have mentioned since the beginning of my remarks, we can conclude that it is pretty much an open bar, and the minister can do pretty much what he wants. They saw to it that there would be no cost for the government if a mistake were made and that they could justify actions and interim orders without having to ensure they were consistent with the charter.
Because of what happened in the past in Quebec, we have deep concerns. We want to be sure the army will not be able to march in and take actions that are not consistent with the charter, with very serious consequences that could not be repaired. We would end up in a situation where citizens have no right of appeal. This is totally unacceptable.
Bill C-55 would allow two other stakeholders to obtain information about passengers directly from air carriers and operators of reservation systems. They are the commissioner of the RCMP and the director of CSIS.
This information may be provided for two reasons; if there are imminent threats against transportation security, and to identify individuals for whom a warrant has been issued. I believe this provision should be narrowed. It says that the information required by the RCMP and CSIS “must be destroyed within seven days after it is provided or disclosed”.
However, when we look at the calendar of an emergency situation, during these seven days, this material may be used in many ways. The government should ensure that it is not establishing the equivalent of a police state. It is not the practice in Quebec and in Canada to have people checking our identity on every street corner. I think we must be careful in this regard.
In conclusion, I believe that the amendment moved by the hon. member for Rosemont—Petite-Patrie is very relevant. Indeed, Bill C-55 must not be passed as it stands. Moreover, it must not be passed because it contains several principles that go against human rights and freedoms, principles that were condemned by the privacy commissioner, Mr. Radwanski, someone who is close to the Liberal government, who was appointed and who has since expressed major reservations about Bill C-55.
I think the government should take this into consideration. We need meaningful amendments. If we want the bill to be acceptable some day, indepth changes must be made. As it stands, it is unacceptable, in my view. I intend to vote against the bill, and I will vote in favour of the amendment to the amendment moved by the member for Rosemont—Petite-Patrie.
Public Safety Act, 2002
Dick Proctor Palliser, SK
Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to rise and speak in the House of Commons. Today we are dealing with an important matter, Bill C-55, which the government introduced late last month.
This is an improved package of public safety initiatives. They are in support of the government's anti-terrorism plan. The bill that is under discussion today known as the public safety act, 2002 replaces Bill C-42 which was introduced in the wake of September 11 last year. The government sat on it for more than four months and then dropped it quietly from the order paper and came back with Bill C-55 on April 29.
It will come as no surprise to people who follow politics and know the proud history of the New Democratic Party when it comes to standing up and speaking out for civil liberties. We will be opposing Bill C-55 vigorously because it amounts to nothing short of a sneak attack on human rights and gives virtually Orwellian powers to certain federal cabinet ministers, particularly the Minister of Transport.
We are appalled at the powers the government wants to give itself to spy on passenger lists of people travelling on our airplanes to domestic and foreign destinations. The government introduced the anti-terrorism Bill C-42 and it was widely criticized at that time as being too draconian and dangerous to the freedom and liberty of Canadian citizens. That may have been why the government did not proceed with it.
We do not know that but the new version has not been improved. It is still heavy-handed. Some people have said it is draconian and that is unfortunate. It is understandable when bills are formulated quickly with a knee-jerk reaction in the aftermath of a tragedy like September 11. However, having given time to reflect it is unworthy for this to come back in this sleight of hand way.
It is not just New Democrats who are speaking out. The privacy commissioner has deep concerns about the legislation, so much so that he took the relatively extraordinary step of releasing publicly the letter that he wrote to the transport minister on the topic and he was dealing specifically with clause 4.82. His concern was that the bill's provisions could fundamentally and unnecessarily alter the balance between individuals and the state that exists and should exist in a free society such as Canada's.
In other words, what he was saying was that he feared deeply for the privacy and civil rights of Canadians. The privacy commissioner is not alone in his concerns. There is a backbench Liberal that irrespective of party policies all of us listen to with great interest. The member for Mount Royal, a prominent civil rights lawyer, says the bill gives undue power to cabinet ministers over the civil liberty of Canadians and he too has expressed his deep concerns. The privacy commissioner, Mr. Radwanski, has called on the government to go slow on the legislation because of its importance and its ability to invade the privacy of Canadians.
The New Democratic Party is making the same call for caution and prudence in the protection of civil liberties just as its predecessors did when the War Measures Act was introduced in this Chamber some 32 years ago. People like Tommy Douglas and David Lewis stood up and spoke out against what was a heavy-handed piece of legislation. That was at a time of emergency. This is on reflection and it is unworthy of the government to proceed in this way on this bill at this time.
It has waited for months to introduce the bill and now all of a sudden we are told that we must rush this through the House of Commons. We must get it through before the House adjourns for the summer recess probably in about a month's time. What is the rush? Where has the government been since September 11 when the bill was introduced in November and then sat for four and a half months?
Since then we have been dealing with relatively miniscule items. All members are seized with the fact that we have not been overwhelmed with heavy-duty legislation. There was ample time to come back and discuss this. Now all of a sudden after months of inaction we get the bill and we get the charge that we must rush it through in short order without ample consideration.
The New Democratic Party believes that it is our duty as parliamentarians to give the legislation the kind and depth of scrutiny that it deserves and requires. We are asking the questions that Canadians want answered, and in doing so we want to give them time to hone in on exactly what the government is doing with Bill C-55.
We oppose the legislation. We call upon the government to reconsider the tight timeframe that is indicated and give us the space necessary to consult Canadians and parliamentarians on Bill C-55. Perhaps a way that this could be done, that would give it the in depth scrutiny it deserves, would be to have a special subcommittee of justice, or perhaps transport if that is the case. A group of experienced politicians could look specifically at the legislation in depth, deal with it and bring it back modified to protect the civil liberties that we are concerned about here, particularly with airline passengers.
I want to read into the record some of the comments that Mr. Radwanski made in his extraordinarily transparent letter to the Minister of Transport regarding any initiative that would infringe on the privacy rights. He talked about four criteria:
It must be demonstrably necessary to address a specific problem or need. It must be demonstrably likely to be effective in addressing that problem or need. The limitation of privacy rights must be proportional to the security benefit to be derived.
After studying that with care Mr. Radwanski concluded that this particular bill did not meet that criteria. He ends by asking in his open letter to the Minister of Transport the following question:
What considerations lead you to the view that this very serious limitation on privacy rights would be proportional to the benefits to be derived?
The privacy commissioner is signaling to members of parliament on all sides of the House that we need to be extremely concerned about this piece of legislation. We cannot rush it through the House in the dying days of the parliamentary session. We must give it the time and serious reflection that it needs and deserves. That is why we are calling upon the government to amend its decision, perhaps send it to a committee, and not deal with it in this last moment rush before the House rises for the summer.
Public Safety Act, 2002
Geoff Regan Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Following consultations among the parties I believe you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move
That the motion for second reading of Bill C-55 be amended by deleting the words “the Standing Committee on Transport and Government Operations” and by substituting therefor the words “a legislative committee”.
Public Safety Act, 2002
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)
The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Public Safety Act, 2002
Some hon. members
(Motion agreed to)
Public Safety Act, 2002
Michel Guimond Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-De- Beaupré—Île-D'Orléans, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address the amendment to the amendment on second reading of Bill C-55. I will follow up on the comments made by the hon. member for Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques. Incidentally, the name of his riding has two letters more than mine. Sometimes, people criticize me because the name of my riding is very long. I wish to congratulate my colleague for having held the employment insurance horror show, yesterday.
Let me explain how I want to address Bill C-55. The horror show I have just mentioned showed us how workers, particularly those who are unemployed, are the victims of injustices, including those that relate to the federal parental leave, to the older unemployed who have been forgotten by the federal government, to the plundering of the EI fund surplus, and to seasonal workers, who are the victims of the latest reform. I am using this analogy and these examples of injustices simply as an introduction to Bill C-55 as a whole.
It is very ironic to see that, 20 years ago, this government, this same party, unilaterally patriated the Constitution, under Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau and the current Prime Minister, who was then his principal adviser, henchman and Minister of Justice. We saw him sign, with the Queen, the unilateral patriation of the Constitution. On April 17, in reference to this sad event for Quebecers, the government, and particularly the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, only alluded to one aspect of this event.
They only talked about the fact that this unilateral patriation gave Canada a charter of rights and freedoms. Sure, it gave us a charter of rights and freedoms, but they tried to fool us by using this a smokescreen, as a beekeeper does when he sprays some kind of a smokescreen to numb his bees while he collects the honey they produced.
So, the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs tried to numb us with this smokescreen by saying that, on April 17, 1982, Canada adopted a charter of rights and freedoms, but he refrained from alluding to the unilateral patriation of the Constitution.
It is ironic to see that this government, which is boasting about the fact that it gave Canada a charter of rights and freedoms, is taking advantage of this to introduce Bill C-55
Bill C-55 is a modified version of Bill C-42, nothing more, nothing less—sort of like “new” Coke. Thanks to the work of the Bloc Quebecois and other parties in the House, including some members of the Liberal caucus whom we must commend—and I say this in a non-partisan way—the government was told by its caucus that there were problems with Bill C-42.
As a result, the government stepped back, withdrew the bill and told justice officials to redo their homework in order to come up with a modified product, a substitute, which is Bill C-55
I would remind the government that Bill C-55 is no better than Bill C-42. Once again, within government benches, within the Liberal caucus, progressive voices are saying that Bill C-55 goes much too far in terms of restricting rights and freedoms. Thus the irony on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the charter of rights and freedoms.
The members of the Bloc Quebecois believe that Bill C-55 continues to pose a threat to citizens' rights and freedoms. For this reason, it is our opinion that the bill absolutely must be amended to require that the government of Quebec and the governments of the provinces give their consent before a controlled access military zone can be declared on their territory. This is not just another virtual invasion; it is a physical invasion that the government could carry out using national security as an excuse. Under the pretext of terrorist threats, it could declare controlled access military zones.
For example, at the next G-8 summit, to be held in Kananaskis, Alberta, the government intends to create a controlled access military zone. Earlier, the member for Kamouraska--Rivière-du-Loup--Témiscouata--Les Basques quite rightly mentioned this. I would like to take this opportunity to repeat that the Armoury and the Citadel are located within Quebec City. A short distance away on the northwestern edge of the city lies the Valcartier military base. There are also other examples of military bases.
As members know, I come from the Saguenay, a region of which I am very proud. All my relatives still live there. My colleague from Jonquière worked very hard on the file concerning Russian MOX which was to go through the Bagotville base. This base plays an important role in North-American defence within NORAD.
This means that because the Bagotville military base is located in the Saguenay--Lac-Saint-Jean area, the entire area could be designated a restricted access military zone, a controlled access military zone. This is ridiculous.
One person, the Minister of National Defence, is being given powers that are much too broad. I am leaving aside the actual personality of this minister.
I see that you are getting ready to warn me, Mr. Speaker. You look like you are not going to allow me to speak about this for very long. I well recall that we heard from the Minister of National Defence at the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding his knowledge of the fact that the Americans had taken prisoners of war. The military and senior officials were not particularly full of praise about the ability of the present incumbent of the Defence portfolio, about his mental alertness. As they say, he was asleep at the switch for seven or eight days, our Minister of National Defence.
We will rise above the fray and leave aside the man's personality. Is it acceptable, reasonable, normal, in 2002 to agree to put so much power in the hands of one person? This is what Bill C-55 does. It gives the Minister of National Defence incredible powers.
An example of an entire region that could be designated a controlled access military zone is Quebec City, because the Citadel or the Armoury could be controlled access military zones.
For all these reasons, Bloc Quebecois members support the amendment to the amendment put forward by the member for Rosemont--Petite-Patrie and are unable to vote in favour of Bill C-55 as it now stands.
Public Safety Act, 2002
Joe Clark Calgary Centre, AB
Mr. Speaker, there are essentially three parts to Bill C-55. First, the most innocuous part relates to the Aeronautics Act and certain amendments to the National Defence Act respecting reservists. These proposals can easily be separated from the rest of the bill and are worthy of serious consideration in committee.
Second, the bill seeks to give ministers emergency powers including military powers which the government already possesses in the law under the Emergencies Act. The law already gives ministers the power to act against terrorism or in other emergencies. The only difference is that the existing legislation lets parliament stop abuses of that power and Bill C-55 would put no restraint on abuse by ministers of the government. The bill is not about fighting the threat of terrorists. It is about enlarging the power of the government to act arbitrarily.
Third, the bill seeks to remove parliamentary control. That is new. It is the most insidious and dangerous part of Bill C-55. It would take away the existing ability of parliament to review, amend or revoke emergency measures which ministers might take. The Emergencies Act, the existing law, specifically spells out the powers of parliament: the power to review; the power to amend; and the power to revoke. The existing law, the Emergencies Act, respects the principles of a free parliamentary democracy. Bill C-55 would violate those principles.
We were faced with a similar legislation in the past. It was the War Measures Act. That legislation gave the government power to act in an arbitrary way, without any constraint. History has shown that the Liberal government of the time, of which the current Prime Minister was a member, abused these powers. Invoking the War Measures Act, they threw people in prison without reasonable motives, without verification and, in too many cases, without reason.
Because of that abuse the War Measures Act was finally withdrawn in 1988 and replaced by the Emergencies Act. The major change was to establish the ultimate power of parliament and limit the arbitrary power of government. That protected the public interest against both the threat of terror and the threat of arbitrary action and abuse. Bill C-55 would throw away the protections of our free system and drag Canada back to the arbitrary powers of the War Measures Act.
I invite members of the House to look at the law that already exists. Section 3 of the Emergencies Act defines a national emergency as:
--an urgent and critical situation of a temporary nature that
(a) seriously endangers the lives, health or safety of Canadians...or
(b) seriously threatens the ability of the Government of Canada to preserve the sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of Canada--
That is in the law that already is in effect. Section 16 of the existing law says a public order emergency:
--means an emergency that arises from threats to the security of Canada and that is so serious as to be a national emergency--
That covers each of the threats referred to in Bill C-55.
The power being sought already exists in the law of the land. It is there to deal with critical situations of a temporary nature. How long is temporary under the existing law? It is from one to four months. That is long enough. It can be extended under the law by bringing it before parliament.
Under the existing law, the Emergencies Act, a declaration of emergency is effective the day it is declared and it goes to parliament within seven days. Sections 57 and 58 of the existing law clearly outline the procedure for parliamentary supervision. Section 59 of the existing law outlines the manner in which a declaration of emergency is revoked by parliament if it is bad or dangerous. Each time the government wants to extend a declaration of emergency under the existing law, a law the government wants to put aside, it must lay before each house a motion either amending or extending the original order.
The Emergencies Act provides for orders and regulations that might have to be issued. In subsection 61(1) of the existing law, the law under which we act now and under which the government is empowered to respond to emergencies like terror, there is the following. It states:
--every order or regulation made by the Governor in Council pursuant to this Act shall be laid before each House of Parliament within two sitting days after it is made.
Every order comes here to be reviewed, revoked or scrutinized. We have the power to deal with it here under the law which exists, a law the government is trying to take off the books and replace with this dangerous, draconian and secretive piece of legislation.
Some orders are confidential. That is fine. The existing law provides a means to keep classified orders confidential but it also provides a parliamentary oversight that guarantees that kind of confidentiality. Those are the matters the present government wants to keep absolutely secret under Bill C-55.
Let us look again at the law we already have, a law the government is trying to get rid of, a law that gives power to parliament and to the people. Subsection 61(2) of the Emergencies Act states:
Where an order or regulation...is exempted from publication in the Canada Gazette by regulations made under the Statutory Instruments Act, the order or regulation...shall be referred to the Parliamentary Review Committee within two days after it is made--
That is a committee bound by an oath of secrecy.
The Emergencies Act is in force. It has not been struck down. Why then does the government want to enact another law that would provide the same powers to its ministers? It is simple. The only difference between the existing Emergencies Act and the power grab version the government calls Bill C-55 is that the Emergencies Act renders the government accountable to parliament while Bill C-55 would circumvent parliament totally.
Under the existing act, all emergency measures taken by ministers must be authorized by parliament. There is even the power to revoke or amend such measures. That is not the case with Bill C-55. Parliament has no say at all under the new bill. Bill C-55 would make parliament irrelevant at a time of emergency. It would leave the rights of Canadian citizens unprotected.
There is another invitation to abuse in Bill C-55. The interim order sections in the new bill are exempt from sections 3, 5 and 11 of the Statutory Instruments Act. That means it is exempt from examination by the Clerk of the Privy Council and the deputy minister of justice to ensure that “It does not constitute an unusual or unexpected use of the authority to which it is to be made” and “It does not trespass unduly on existing rights and freedoms and is not in any case inconsistent with the purposes and provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Bill of Rights”. That is the law that exists.
The new bill would trample on the basic rights and freedoms of Canadians that are constitutionally guaranteed and it would trample upon them at the whim of a minister with virtually no checks and balances on that power.
The Prime Minister has adopted a very cavalier attitude, as far as the violation of the charter and the limitation of Canadians' rights are concerned. He is telling parliament to go ahead and pass a bad bill. Parliament can ignore the charter because, and I quote the Prime Minister:
The courts will determine if certain provisions are illegal. That is how the system works.
That is not how the system should work.
Terrorism presents a real threat to the fundamental freedoms of Canadians. We need to be prepared. We need to recognize that in an age of terror governments can sometimes act in extraordinary ways, but we must also always be conscious of the other threats to freedom: the threat of arbitrary action and the threat of abuse of power. The bill adds materially to those threats to freedom by authorizing the government to act arbitrarily without scrutiny or control, yet it adds virtually nothing to Canada's ability to fight the threat of terrorism. We have those powers already. We have them in a form that protects against abuse. We should use the law we already have. We should not return to the dark age of the War Measures Act.
Public Safety Act, 2002
John Bryden Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have another opportunity to speak to Bill C-55 to reiterate some of the concerns I have. One of those concerns, which does dovetail with something that was just mentioned by the member for Calgary Centre, but which I note was actually originally mentioned by the Bloc Quebecois, the member for Argenteuil--Papineau--Mirabel, is the whole question of the interim orders as described in this legislation giving ministers the power to issue essentially regulatory orders. Under any act, the Quarantine Act, the pest control act, the environment act and the criminal code, that basically has no check for 45 days.
One of the things the Bloc Quebecois pointed out very early on in this debate is the fact these interim orders, according to a clause in Bill C-55, would be exempt from the relevant sections in the Statutory Instruments Act. In other words, the minister would issue essentially an interim order that could have an enormous impact and it would not require scrutiny by the Privy Council Office, which is the way things are done now, and it could be allowed to stand without cabinet approval for up to 45 days. I would agree that this is a very serious aspect of the bill that needs to be examined very carefully in committee.
I will say, though, that I think the bill is very defensible in what it tries to do. The member for Calgary Centre has said that the Emergencies Act covers most of the contingencies that might be contemplated by Bill C-55. There I would disagree, because I note that these interim orders do not speak of a national emergency. They speak of a situation of significant risk. That is quite different from what is contemplated in the Emergencies Act, which would be a state of war or a state of attack, the use of a nuclear weapon and that kind of thing.
What Bill C-55 addresses, and why these interim orders, I presume, are seen to be necessary, is a limited terrorist attack, if you will. I will just focus on one type of scenario that I think justifies what is attempted in Bill C-55, even if we do not agree with the means as we see before us.
The world has changed very significantly just in the last year with the realization that Canada, the United States and other western countries are vulnerable to a limited biological or chemical terrorist attack. We would have here, just as an example, that an interim order could be issued with respect to the Quarantine Act.
If we go to the Quarantine Act, we can see where the reasoning is coming from. It is that if there were a suspected limited attack, say on a city or wherever else, we would want the appropriate minister to be able to activate as quickly as possible whatever measures he or she deems necessary to contain the consequences of the attack. I think a biological attack is probably the most dangerous and the most difficult to really put our finger on, to even know that we are being attacked, so I think very rightly the government wants to provide means for a very quick response. That very quick response could involve the quarantining of an area and actually blocking it off so that whatever the problem is does not spread. It could require the shutting down of certain public services and it could require the imposition, the forcing of people to submit to medical examination.
These powers are very profound because they would interfere, we would all agree, with some of our fundamental civil liberties, but I think that in the kind of limited emergency that is now contemplated as a result of September 11 and, more precisely, the growth of international terrorism, also fueled, if I may so, by the Internet, it is now possible for terrorists to communicate over the Internet and get information over the Internet that was previously unavailable, so the world has become a significantly more dangerous place for limited attack.
I support the intention of the legislation. I support the intention of the interim orders. Where I have difficulty is that I think the interim orders, as was mentioned by members of the Bloc Quebecois, the member on our side from Mount Royal and now the member for Calgary Centre, are too wide open as they sit right now. I think when the bill goes to committee we will have to examine very carefully how narrowly we want to limit those emergency orders.
My own feeling is that they should be limited to no more than, say, five days. I would think that is a sufficient length of time for a prompt emergency response to a significant risk situation, whether it is biological, chemical or any other kind of terrorist attack. That would give time for the governor in council to kick in and to look over the order that has been issued by the minister.
It would also give time for the Privy Council Office to oversee it as well because we have to remember that in the Privy Council Office, even though as a member of parliament I sometimes get annoyed with what I feel is the constant finger of the bureaucracy on what we try to accomplish here, the reality is that there is an awful lot of collective wisdom in the senior levels, not only in departments like the solicitor general or Health Canada but also in the Privy Council Office. I would not like to see the senior bureaucracy cut out of the loop when Canada finds itself in a limited temporary emergency.
I would also say, though, that I would agree with the member for Calgary Centre that we should look very carefully at and make comparisons with Bill C-55 and the Emergencies Act. I would hope the committee would very, very carefully scrutinize the powers that are contained in Bill C-55. If there are instances where there is a broader question where a significant risk as defined in Bill C-55 really constitutes a broader emergency, then perhaps it should belong under the Emergencies Act. I think it is very necessary for the appropriate committee to compare very closely the reach of the Emergencies Act versus the intent of Bill C-55 in responding to what could be limited risk situations but very profound risks.
I would say that it is no coincidence that Bill C-55 also has provision for Canada ratifying the biological and toxin weapons convention. This, shall we say, is the name of the kind of threat that we have to maturely consider as parliamentarians, always mindful that we must not overreact to the national security or the public safety issues, because I think we would all agree that any limitations on civil liberties have to be very closely and carefully defined because the terrorists will win if we over-respond to these threats. We have to be very careful. I would say this affects all of parliament. I feel I am very much on both sides of the House on this issue. I think as MPs we have to find the most careful balance and set aside partisan considerations as we consider the bill.
Finally, in that context, I think the requirement to look at the passenger manifests of aircraft again reflects a reality that we can no longer ignore, but I point out that in this legislation it is very well defined. Parliament is authorizing the examination of passenger manifests only on aircraft, so I submit that this is not an extension into other areas of society. This is a very narrowly defined extension.
It is unfortunate but we are moving into a very difficult and frightening world. While I support what the government is trying to do here, the bill really needs to be examined closely in committee, particularly in the area of the interim orders.
Public Safety Act, 2002
Francine Lalonde Mercier, QC
Mr. Speaker, I believe it is important to take part in this debate. I believe it is important to support the Bloc Quebecois' amendment to the amendment, which says:
this House declines to give second reading to Bill C-55—
The amendment to the amendment adds that the bill contains several principles:
—that violate human rights and freedoms, which have been denounced by the Privacy Commissioner—
First, I would like to point out the excellent job my colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel did of presenting the Bloc's position on Bill C-55.
He was very forceful while pointing to the fact that, by amending Bill C-42, the government had in part accepted the arguments presented by the Bloc, arguments which at first were made fun of by people who said that the Bloc was exaggerating.
We are happy to see that some of those arguments have been listened to. However, with regard to many other parts of this bill, not only have our arguments not been listened to, but the bill contains new elements that raise very serious concerns.
I will quickly remind our listeners, as my colleague did earlier, that this bill is made up of three main parts. I hope it will never become law. I hope also that every government member, including the ministers, will hear not only the various accents on this side of the House, but also the thrust of what is being said.
I would like to start by reminding the House that my colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel said that, in dealing with terrorism, there is no worse way of preventing such attacks than depriving us of our rights and freedoms.
What makes a democratic society strong is democracy. What makes a democratic society strong is respect for rights and freedoms, and citizens co-operating to insure proper respect for rights and freedoms, since they belong to every single one of us.
As I was saying, this bill is made up of three parts. The first one deals with interim orders; it has been vigorously condemned by the member for Calgary Centre. It gives certain ministers the power to make interim orders, a power we do not need, a power that does not make any sense, is not necessary and deprives the House of the capacity to be made aware of the reasons for such an interim order. These unlimited powers can be in effect for 45 days.
The second element of the bill deals with the famous issue of controlled access military zones. On this, we are quite clear, and we have been from the outset. Provincial governments, the Government of Quebec must be consulted before any of these zones are established.
Let us not forget that until now, the prevailing rule has been that military intervention is only undertaken when requested by a provincial attorney general. Therefore, we must not take advantage of the current situation to grant powers that violate the current constitutional rules.
The third element deals with privacy issues. This is what I would like to speak to. The first speech, made May 1, outlined the fears of the privacy commissioner, Mr. George Radwanski.
On May 7, he not only wrote the Minister of Transport, but made his letter public.
Here is what he wrote, and I quote:
My hope had been to avoid unnecessary public controversy by working together cooperatively, as had been the case with Bills C-44 and C-42. I regret that you have declined to take this course.
As you know, I have stated repeatedly since September 11 that I would never seek, as Privacy Commissioner, to stand in the way of any appropriate initiatives to enhance public security against terrorism, even if they entail some limitation of privacy rights. I have also stated, however, that the burden of proof must always rest with those who propose some new limitation on a fundamental human right such as privacy.
I remind the House that these are the words of Privacy Commissioner of Canada.
He goes on to say that in order to meet that burden of proof, he proposes four criteria. The first criterion is that the measure must be necessary; the second, it must be effective; the third criterion is that it must be proportional to the security benefit to be derived; and the fourth is that there must be no other, less invasive means to achieve the same objective.These are the four criteria that he set out. He then continues with real questions.
It must be noted that this bill gives the minister the authority to require any air carrier to provide information set out in the schedule. At this time, there are 34 elements, but it says that others could be added by the governor in council. Carriers are thus required to provide information that is in their control or that comes into their control within 30 days.
Not only is the carrier required to provide this information, the nature of which we know in part but not totally because other elements could be added, but there is a list of people within the government who, once they have the information, could disclose it to others. This is where it gets really scary.
I will now read section 4.82 found in the bill, which I am allowed to do.
A person designated under subsection (2) or (3) may disclose information referred to in subsection (7) to the Minister, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, any peace officer, any employee of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, any air carrier or operator of an aerodrome...if the designated person has reason to believe that the information is relevant to transportation security. Any information disclosed to the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority or to an air carrier or operator of an aerodrome or other aviation facility under this subsection must also be disclosed to the Minister.
This information is disclosed to the RCMP or CSIS.
It is obvious that this kind of invasion of privacy to fight terrorism is unnecessary. It is very abusive. Therefore, it seems urgent to me that the government agree to work with the commissioner and accept to curb its appetite.
I just heard a member on the other side of the House say that these requests would be restricted to air travelers. Come on. There could be other acts. The fact that a person travels by plane does not mean that—
Public Safety Act, 2002
André Harvey Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Since my colleague is usually not one to exaggerate too much, I would like to let her know that among the excerpts from the commissioner's letter that she quoted, there might be one that she would accept to add to her list. This is what it is, strictly to keep the debate going—
Public Safety Act, 2002
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)
This is debate, not a point of order. The hon. member for Mercier.
Public Safety Act, 2002
Francine Lalonde Mercier, QC
Mr. Speaker, if the member opposite was surprised by what I said, let me tell him that I was not surprised by what he just said. He wants to stop my final sprint, but the most important points have already been made.
As it stands, this bill is not acceptable. The government must once again go back to the drawing board. We agree with the fight against terrorism, but we do not agree with these unacceptable intrusions, which are a threat to democracy and rights and freedoms.