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 Members will recall that Bill C-55 replaces Bill C-42, which was withdrawn by the government.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 Its predecessor was withdrawn by the government following severe criticism, including by the Bloc Quebecois.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.