House of Commons Hansard #135 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-17.


Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.



Don Boudria Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to apologize to the hon. member.

The House leaders have come to an agreement, and I believe you will find unanimous consent for the following motion:

That the Special Committee on the Non-medical Use of Drugs be reappointed to consider, when the House so orders, Bill C-38, an act to amend the Contraventions Act and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act;

That the committee shall have all the powers granted to standing committees by Standing Order 108;

That all evidence adduced by the Special Committee on the Non-Medical Use of Drugs in the present and previous sessions be referred to the said committee;

That the members of the following committee be--

--and here, Mr. Speaker, with your permission, I will name the members--

--Carole-Marie Allard, Mauril Bélanger, Dominic LeBlanc, Derek Lee, Hon. Hedy Fry, Gilbert Barrette, Paddy Torsney, Randy White, Kevin Sorenson, Richard Marceau, Réal Menard, Libby Davies and Inky Mark; and

That the Clerk be authorized to make any changes to the Order Paper made necessary by this order.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.

Some hon. members


(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-17, 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 third time and passed.

Public Safety, 2002
Government Orders

October 7th, 2003 / 3:55 p.m.


Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was interrupted by the government House leader for a good reason, for a motion to allow a House committee to do its work. Before that, I was explaining why the Bloc Quebecois will vote against Bill C-17 on third reading. We think that this piece of legislation does not always strike the right balance between the means to ensure public safety against terrorism, and respect for human rights. Personally, I think the worst abuse of rights that could happen and one that we should not condone concerns the disclosure of information.

On May 6, the Privacy Commissioner published a letter detailing his concerns with Bill C-55—which existed prior to Bill C-17—and information obtained by the RCMP and CSIS. He expressed reservations about provisions allowing the RCMP to use personal information on air travellers to search for individuals subject to an outstanding warrant for any offence punishable by imprisonment of five years or more and, second, allowing CSIS and the RCMP to retain passenger information in search of suspicious travel patterns.

It would appear that the government tried to tighten these provisions and failed. In fact, although the RCMP can no longer collect information to search for an individual subject to a warrant, it can still provide a peace officer with information obtained under Bill C-17 if it has reason to believe that such information is needed to execute a warrant.

An example of this is a Canadian citizen who ended up in Syria due to a broad and possibly erroneous interpretation of that section, or that type of procedure. That is an example of the kind of abuse that can result. To this end, the federal government should think about referring this to committee again—as we just sought to do with another bill—to find ways to further tighten these provisions to ensure there will be no abuse.

The RCMP decides when a situation threatens transportation safety, thereby allowing it to request passenger lists from airlines. This provision has no control mechanisms. The RCMP has carte blanche. Furthermore, once it has obtained information, there is nothing to prevent it from holding on to that information, as long as the reasons are recorded.

There is no mention of what kind of reasons would be valid. Perhaps being a frequent traveller, for example, would be reason enough. So, the RCMP could decide to retain this information. Perhaps, in some way, frequent flyers will be suspected of violating that section.

Therefore, it is not really serious enough. There is some tightening up to be done. These provisions need to be worked on some more to achieve the right balance.

We also heard that the government has tightened up the definition of warrant. In the previous version, it could be an outstanding warrant for any offence punishable under federal law by imprisonment for five years or more. Now the definition stipulates that there will be a regulation stipulating exactly what crimes are involved.

According to the commissioner, the seven-day period for which the RCMP and CSIS can retain information is excessive and a 48-hour period would be sufficient. The fact that this information can be retained indefinitely by the RCMP and CSIS as a security measure is cause for concern. Limits have to be set. Neither of the changes the Privacy Commissioner proposed has been included. In November 2002, the commissioner issued a new press release in which he expressed his concerns about this situation.

We in the Bloc Quebecois believe that the amendments introduced by the government in connection with the powers of the RCMP and CSIS to gather information on air passengers are still far too broad. Although the proposed amendments may appear to be plugging some of the loopholes, the problems raised by the Privacy Commissioner remain. In that regard, the bill is certainly not good enough.

A little over two years have gone by since the events of September 11, 2001. We obviously went through very difficult times in the days and months following these events. Today, as we are debating this bill, we should be even more aware of the need to strike the right balance between the right to privacy and the right to security so as to avoid any abuse on either side and to have the necessary tools to obtain the desired results.

In this case, since the government was really improvising—the same bill was introduced three times—strong representations were required by the Bloc Quebecois to eliminate the most unacceptable parts of this bill. We had to show beyond a shadow of a doubt that there has been intolerable abuse in a democratic society. We obtained a certain number of improvements.

The current version of the bill is still inadequate and does not strike the balance we think it should. That is why the Bloc Quebecois will vote against this bill, in the hope that the government will allow it to be sent back to committee, or think twice before implementing it.

I am convinced that within five years, abuses will have been committed in practical applications, particularly by the police. And people will say that they never would have thought such a bill could lead to such abuses.

In the Bloc Quebecois, we demonstrated that it was most certainly possible. We hope the government is listening to the arguments that have been presented so that the bill, which still needs a lot of improvement, is studied again.

It is unfortunate that the government decided to move a time allocation motion, which limits debate on this issue. It is odd that the time allowed for debating a bill on human rights would be limited. If we heard about such a thing happening in other countries, we would say that they have a democratic deficit.

Indeed, Canada has a major democratic deficit, with the future prime minister convening the Liberal caucus this evening before the official caucus meeting tomorrow. There is something unacceptable about that for citizens.

We also realize that many bills move forward even though they are not perfect, or are not what they should be, because there are no clear guidelines in this government.

For all these reasons, I hope that, despite its time allocation motion, the government will reconsider its decision to have us vote on a bill when several of its provisions are unacceptable and fail to protect human rights.

Public Safety, 2002
Government Orders

4 p.m.


Odina Desrochers Lotbinière—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, naturally I agree with my colleague and I think this important speech brings us back to reality; we are always looking for the perfect balance between security and respect for human rights.

Could my colleague summarize the main irritants which explain why the Bloc Quebecois must, once again, vote against this bill?

Public Safety, 2002
Government Orders

4 p.m.


Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

At the beginning, we set out the principles by which we would determine the appropriate balance between the fight against terrorism and the protection of individual rights.

We said that those principles should ensure that nobody would be unduly penalized, that no organization such as the RCMP or CSIS, with their dubious past in the management of such issues, would be given too much power, and that the proper safety net would be put in place to protect us from excesses.

The provisions on military zones were among the main elements that had to be changed. That was a terrible flaw that we had to rectify and did.

In the present bill, one of the key points is that we allow the RCMP and CSIS to keep data on air travellers for several days. That provision means that we question the honesty of people without any formal proof. Those are things that could be harmful right now or later on.

For example, a note might be left indefinitely in an individual's file, as long as a justification is given. But there is nothing to say that, in three months, six months or a year, someone will not prevent this person from travelling or from leaving the country because of this kind of note that has nothing to do with a criminal judgment or a decision that legally penalizes and finds this person guilty.

It is because of this type of situation that we say that the bill should be amended, particularly because of several changes that we asked for in the Immigration Act, the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention Implementation Act, and the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) Act. These are all elements that make this bill too flawed to be passed today. The government must correct this bill once again.

It has already done so twice and it has recognized that it has, in the past, tabled bills that were ill defined and vague. We know that we are not dealing with an urgent situation requiring that we face a terrorist attack tomorrow.

However, we will have bills that will give us the tools necessary to respond. More than ever, I believe that Canadians expect the bills that are passed to adequately protect human rights. Passing this bill would call that into question.

Public Safety, 2002
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise today to speak on Bill C-17, the public safety act.

First, nobody in the House argues with the need for us to be vigilant in protecting Canadians against terrorism and in playing a meaningful role, working internationally and through multinational forces, in fighting the scourge of terrorism that was brought home to us on September 11.

Clearly, there are many things we can do both domestically and through continental security, in cooperation with the U.S., to improve protection against terrorism for Canadians. These can include a greater focus on parameter security, more adequate funding for the RCMP, ports police and funding for the Canadian Coast Guard.

Internationally, we need to invest in our Canadian military. We need to refocus our efforts on strengthening the hard power side of our foreign policy and our ability in a meaningful way to provide the kinds of cooperation to our military partners that is necessary. That means, for instance, having a well equipped Canadian armed forces that can provide the type of light, mobile and lethal military service that is required.

I happen to agree with a lot of what has been written in recent months by retired Major-General Lewis MacKenzie on not just reinvesting in our Canadian military but actually reforming it to reflect the realities of a post-cold war environment and providing the kind of Canadian military that can dovetail effectively in a multilateral coalition in fighting the war against terrorism.

All these changes can occur and Canada can strengthen its role in fighting terrorism domestically and internationally without this legislation.

The federal government has failed to demonstrate to Canadians why the legislation, which does represent an attack on civil liberties of Canadians, is required when we already have adequate legislation on the books in the form of the Emergencies Act.

Further, this is not a government that has maintained an adequate commitment to the RCMP, the Canadian military or to protecting the sanctity of our parameter. These are all issues and policies that can be addressed in a meaningful way without in any way, shape or form reducing or attacking Canadian civil liberties.

We would propose that the government focus on those sorts of meaningful initiatives, work with the U.S. and develop a common approach to parameter security to take some of the pressure off the 49th parallel security and to help again restore a seamless movement of people and goods between the two countries.

Currently in post-September 11 there has been a significant growth in non-tariff trade barriers between the two countries and a lot of that has emanated from legitimate U.S. concerns about the porosity of Canada's parameter and the lax approach of our government to issues of security on a wide range of fronts.

We ought to work to develop a common approach to parameter security to enable us to have a more seamless movement of people and goods between the two countries and to move toward a checked once policy whereby a shipment or container load of goods that comes into Halifax, or Vancouver, or San Francisco or Baltimore is checked once, resealed and free to move within the economic space of Canada and the United States. That could be achieved quite easily if the government focused on that.

That kind of approach, focusing on defending the sanctity of our parameter, would do more to protect Canadians against terrorism and would in fact keep up our end of the deal in terms of working with our partners, in this case the United States, and a multilateral coalition fighting terrorism around the world.

If we were to properly invest in our military and Coast Guard, restore ports police, improve funding for the RCMP, improve perimeter security and invest significantly in airline security, as the government has moved partially in this regard, that would accomplish a great deal on behalf of Canadians in terms of the war against terrorism.

We can do a lot to protect the security of Canadians without in any way diminishing or threatening to diminish their civil liberties. As such, we have great concerns, as many members on the opposite side of the House have expressed, about this legislation and we do not support it. There are opportunities for the government to do a lot and take significant and important steps to fight terrorism and protect Canadians without this legislation.

We would urge the government to make those investments and demonstrate that will to seriously address the issue of security and the fight against terrorism without resorting to measures as draconian as Bill C-17.

Public Safety, 2002
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.


Odina Desrochers Lotbinière—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, I too rise to speak to the important matter of Bill C-17.

As you know, I will start by blaming the Liberal government once again for this gag order which limits the time allotted to parliamentarians to discuss such a crucial and important issue.

The legislative agenda has been rather thin lately in this parliament. There have been persistent rumours that the current session could end early due to the upcoming change in leadership on the other side, in other words the current Prime Minister will have to step down in favour of the member for LaSalle—Émard.

It would appear as a result that the government wants to push ahead with several bills and move the agenda faster. After unduly delaying bills and regulations, it now wants to make up for lost time. Attempting to make up for lost time by ramming through a bill as important as Bill C-17 is going a bit too far.

I would like to share an experience I had recently in Taiwan at a world convention in Taipei attended by about 23 countries. The conference was entitled “Democratic Pacific Assembly”. Those 23 countries tackled the fundamental issue of security and freedom of speech.

The motions that were unanimously passed during this important meeting said that the balance between freedom and security had to be maintained and that the unfortunate events of September 2001, that are starting to be distorted, should not serve as an excuse for legislation muzzling hard won freedom of speech.

Unfortunately, Ottawa does not seem to want to respect this fundamental balance between freedom and security. We must say yes to security, but not at the expense of our rights and freedoms.

We have seen what has been happening in the United States over the past two years. Freedom of speech has virtually been eliminated from the airwaves, especially on television; we saw the Bush administration trying to take over the media, use propaganda and justify its behaviour. We are all aware of the situation in which the U.S. administration and its president, Mr. George Bush, now find themselves, especially with their involvement in the war in Iraq. Again, in the United States, freedom of speech has been severely curtailed. Unfortunately the media capitalized on a show. Today, the show is over but the current president and his great thinkers are still trying to justify his actions by using the word terrorism.

With such a formidable neighbour, the Canadian government must be wary of adopting some of the provisions found in Bill C-17. If our neighbours south of the border go too far and get carried away on the issue of terrorism, we are not out of the woods.

As we all know, parliamentarians have been considering this important piece of legislation for two years now. Bills C-36, C-42, C-55 and C-17 were all brought before the House. Unfortunately, whatever the number of the bill is, it still contains the same deficiencies.

Let us review the history of this bill. The first bill introduced in response to the terrorist attacks was Bill C-36. Although we supported at first the need to pass anti-terrorism legislation, we thought that the federal government's proposal did not strike the proper balance.

At the time, the Bloc Quebecois thought that Bill C-36 did not effectively balance freedom with security issues. When Bill C-36 was first introduced, the attacks and the terrorist threat were at an all-time high and had created an exceptional climate. But since then, a lot of water has gone under the bridge.

I remember taking part in the debate on Bill C-36. I warned the government about the three-year limit. Things were changing so fast that we thought we could not pass legislation on such a crucial issue and maintain it for three years without reviewing and adjusting it.

If, at some point, the Canadian government needs certain tools to address a particular situation, we can provide these tools. However, the situation may change, and this is why we would like the legislation to be reviewed and reassessed every twelve months to see if it meets the expectations of the public and our security needs.

Members will recall that the Bloc Quebecois asked for a sunset clause to be added to this bill so that it would cease to be in effect after three years, unless the House decided otherwise. Parliamentarians always have the power to amend an act if the situation warrants. However, we do not know what the future holds for us. We are all trying to stamp out terrorism. We believe that laudable efforts have been made so far, and this is why we think that a piece of legislation as crucial and important as the one before us today must be reviewed periodically.

Regarding this particular piece of legislation, we also asked that it be reviewed automatically each year by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, which would be the same thing. Every year, it would be referred to the committee for review. This means that members from all political parties gathered around a table would have a good look at it and would be able to make recommendations in light of the current context. Again, our suggestion was rejected.

Furthermore, it was also said regarding this bill that the Minister of Justice could withhold information normally accessible under the Access to Information Act, without any safeguard provided. This is also very dangerous. The bill will be reviewed only in three years' time. I have talked about this before. The Minister of National Defence will be able to intercept international communications simply by sending a written request to the Centre. He will not even need a judge's authorization.

In this regard, allow me to say that I am very concerned, especially after the events of August 14 and 15 when a power failure hit Ontario and the southeastern United States. We know that the person who was supposed to have all the information and to reassure the public, the Minister of National Defence, made a statement. All he did was further confuse matters. The sources were contradictory. Just imagine if the present Minister of National Defence were to intercept international communications. How could we take him seriously when he interpreted this information and particularly when he explained what was really happening in a given situation?

Continuing with the history of the public security bill, there was first C-42, then Bill C-55 and now Bill C-17. One thing is clear. The weaknesses that were part of the initial bill are still present in Bill C-17 and I will explain why.

Claiming to be trying to further improve security, the government introduced Bill C-42 on public safety.

As soon as the bill was tabled, our party stated its opposition once more, finding that some of the proposed measures went much too far, and that their link to terrorism was rather tenuous. The government must not be given an opportunity to abuse the situation.

The collective memory of Quebeckers has not faded away. We remember very clearly what happened during the October crisis in 1970. We all must remember it, because if we give police and military powers to this government, we know they may be abused. Consequently, when faced with such situations, the collective memory of Quebeckers reminds us of the sad events of October 1970. Today, in 2003, I want to reintroduce them into the debate because one never knows what may happen when a context changes.

In my opinion, that is the reason this bill tends to draw links—often very tenuous ones—with terrorism. I will return to the whole issue of the powers the bill would give to the RCMP and CSIS.

Bill C-55 was then replaced by Bill C-17, which is now before us. Unfortunately, these two bills do not come any closer to achieving the necessary balance. And yet that is the fundamental principle and we mention it constantly in these debates. The position of the Bloc Quebecois is to strike a fair balance between liberty and security at all times, and especially to prevent possible abuses by the Canadian federal government.

We have had some victories along the way during the debates to come up with new legislation. In Bill C-17, we see that the controlled access military zones that were mentioned in Bill C-42 have been withdrawn. That was a considerable victory for the Bloc Quebecois and that is why we keep on hammering away with these fundamental principles.

As I said earlier, it is terrible that the government is using a closure motion once again to prevent us from exercising our rights, presenting our point of view, and trying to eventually convince the Liberal government of the flaws in Bill C-17.

I would also like to address the powers that will be conferred upon the RCMP and CSIS. We are aware of the case of Maher Arar—on which my colleague from Mercier has been asking questions earlier. This Canadian was apprehended by the Americans when in the United States and was subsequently returned to his former country.

Judging from the RCMP's behaviour, if it had more power given to it, this would lead to almost an automatic connection between the RCMP and the Americans. This lays open to question the rights of citizens, of the people of Canada and Quebec.

So those are the powers. The bill includes provisions which confer extended powers on RCMP commissioners as well as the director of CSIS, in connection with the gathering of information on air passengers from the airlines.

The more we travel, the more we will be under surveillance. That is what this means. The more often we take a plane, the more the RCMP will interfere in our business. The more often we visit countries likely to have links with countries that have links to terrorists, the more likely the RCMP is to interfere in our business. It is unacceptable that so much power is being given to the RCMP, particularly when we have seen how it acted in this matter, which is getting so much media coverage and attention in the House.

We tried to amend this bill so as to limit the powers relating to retention and use of the information gathered in this way. We often hear reference to someone “flagged by the RCMP”. What does that mean? It means that the RCMP collects information on such individuals, based on the assumption of a link with terrorism. This information is on file with the RCMP and can be used at any time in order to violate the freedom of members of the public. It is really dangerous to give so much power to the RCMP with Bill C-17.

We also wanted to ensure that the information gathered would be destroyed within 24 hours of landing unless there were any suspicions about the passenger. What point is there in keeping information? But no, the time limit will be seven days. In other words, during those seven days the authorities are in possession of information on an individual which can lead to digging deeper into that person's life, far more than to just find out about his past, his background, when he takes a plane.

The current Bill C-17 includes such abuse, and these are fundamental democratic issues. All the government is doing is imposing Bill C-17 on us. It is forcing the bill on us and gagging us so we keep quiet. If this is democracy, we have a real problem.

I want to say once again that all the members of the Bloc Quebecois oppose this bill. We opposed various provisions in the initial version that are still found in this bill, a few of which I mentioned. Despite all the efforts to mitigate the problematic provisions, we continue to find them unacceptable.

I will repeat once again that it is time for the government to backtrack, and not adopt this bill this afternoon, during the vote to be held shortly. This is a serious situation given the bill's failure to ensure a balance between freedom and security. This is the most important point. If we have to give up rights and freedoms for improved security, why did we fight for them in the first place? In many countries, people are still fighting for freedom of expression.

I am reminded of my trip to Taiwan. In the neighbouring country, the People's Republic of China, there is no such thing as freedom of expression and respect for human rights. Yet we live in an age where information circulates freely. Furthermore, the Americans may promote free speech, but free speech that is controlled and planned by the Cabinet of the United States President, George Bush.

Given all these situations, Bill C-17 must include the desired amendments to maintain a balance between freedom and security so that Quebeckers and Canadians can live freely in the years to come.

Public Safety, 2002
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Before we get into questions and comments, it is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Peterborough, Agriculture; the hon. member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, The Environment.

Public Safety, 2002
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.


Roger Gaudet Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his remarks on Bill C-17. I have a brief question for him.

He talked repeatedly about the importance of striking a balance between freedom and security. What impact does he think Bill C-17 introduced today by the Liberal government will have on freedom of speech?

Public Safety, 2002
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.


Odina Desrochers Lotbinière—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

As I have said several times, what I worry the most about is that this bill will apply for three years. If freedom is restricted for three years, who knows what can happen. I am also worried about the considerable power the RCMP will have concerning relations that could exist between people suspected of being members of terrorist groups.

I think this issue is fundamental. We cannot give up freedom of speech and hard won democratic rights for the sake of a bill we have been debating for two years. Just imagine what the Americans and people in other countries think. They have already developed and passed legislation. In the meantime, we are still working on this bill. This is the last stage of a bill that is flawed and dangerous for freedom of speech.

I think the Liberal government should backtrack, send the bill back to committee, take the time to correct the flaws in the bill, and give us a piece of legislation that will strike a fair balance between freedom and security.

Public Safety, 2002
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.


Francine Lalonde Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will start by saying that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Terrebonne—Blainville.

Before getting into Bill C-17, I want to commend the excellent work done by our critic, the hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, who has expended considerable talent and unbounded energy to uphold the principles of the Bloc Quebecois. We were in favour of fighting terrorism, but not at the cost of ignoring or shoving under the carpet the rights and freedoms of Quebeckers and Canadians.

It is interesting to note that immediately following September 11, the Bloc Quebecois offered its cooperation. On the principle, the vast majority of Quebeckers agreed that terrorism had to be fought, but not at any cost. Otherwise, the terrorists would have won, since we would ourselves have curtailed the principles and rights and freedoms of our democracy.

That is why, when the initial bill, Bill C-36, the anti-terrorism bill, was introduced, we stressed that this balance between the fight against terrorism and respect for rights and freedom was lacking. That is why we started by proposing several amendments.

We asked the government to include a sunset clause. We felt that the legislation was too rough, too tough in certain areas. This was understandable, given that the events had just taken place, but we believed that in time, it would be desirable that the legislation be reviewed because many of the provisions would no longer be necessary. We were ignored and we expressed our opposition to the bill.

This is the third version of the second major piece of legislation arising from the events of September 11: Bill C-17. First, there was Bill C-42, and then Bill-55, and now, when it is unclear how much longer the House will be sitting because of the political context, Bill C-17. We have before us a bill which, it must be noted, is an improvement in a number of regards on Bill C-42 and Bill C-55.

To us, these are gains which can be described as a partial yet major victory that everyone will be very pleased with. I would be remiss not to mention that one of the main irritants in Bill C-55 was the ability the government was giving itself to designate controlled access military zones. There have been two versions, but initially the government gave itself the power to declare that any zone, anywhere in the country, was a military zone under the complete control of the government, without any protection for rights.

We said that this made no sense whatsoever. Even at the time of the War Measures Act, it was Quebec's attorney general who was supposed to ask that the federal government get involved. It is absolutely unacceptable that the federal government should decide on its own initiative to establish these zones anywhere, without being asked to do so by the attorney general of the province concerned. This could have led to all kinds of abuses.

We said no and we protested strongly. Finally, the government heard us and we now know that orders in council be will made if need be. We will monitor each of these orders, but the general measure is risky and thus put aside. This is for the better.

Another one of the major provisions we strongly opposed was the exchange of information. Part of the exchange of information provided for in the original bill affected travellers. However, it was finally recognized that the need for this came from the demands of the United States concerning aircraft flying over its territory.

With a lot of debating, we finally got—and this too was a given—specific legislation on this issue, with a number of limited powers, although some are still too broad, but at least there are limitations.

Let me say that, if controlled access military zones have totally disappeared from Bill C-17, we find ourselves in the reverse situation on the issue of exchange of information, that is, the transfer of information to the United States, which was limited to some extent, will now be broadened.

Indeed, under Bill C-17, those who travel by plane must provide more information than had been required by the Americans. This information is available to the RCMP and CSIS, and they both reserve the right not to destroy it. We asked for a 24-hour timeframe.

We think that it is utterly unacceptable, since it means that some people will be followed, even though there are no longer on a plane, because we want to know how they get from one airport to another.

Again, this applies only to people travelling by plane. However, I think that we must reaffirm the right of law abiding citizens to leave the country without having their every move scrutinized, as it would be in a police state.

We are also against the interim orders, which will allow ten ministers to make decisions regardless of their compliance with fundamental legislation. They have 15 days to do this. It seems to us that the verification process could be done before that. We proposed flexible solutions for that, but they were rejected. It makes no sense to us.

Our concerns with Bill C-55 and Bill C-42 were heard, and it seems to me that everybody benefited from that. Our requests must also be heard. Unfortunately, we are disappointed that the amendments that we proposed in committee were not accepted. Therefore, we will have to vote against this bill.

We believe that it would have been possible not to sacrifice our rights and freedoms. The Privacy Commissioner, who was criticized in other circumstances, spoke out against this situation.

Since he was so close to the Liberal government, we can use what he said when he expressed serious concerns about the provisions dealing with the sharing of information.

We will vote against this bill. We would have preferred to do otherwise, but it is impossible in the circumstances.

Public Safety, 2002
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.


Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak today on Bill C-17. It is quite a coincidence, since I am currently renewing my home insurance policy and on the issue of liability insurance, my contract stipulates:

Terrorism: an ideologically motivated unlawful act or acts, includingbut not limited to the use of violence or force or threat of violence or force,committed by or on behalf of any group(s), organization(s) or government(s) forthe purpose of influencing any government and/or instilling fear in the public—

It also points out that the policy does not provide coverage for:

—any loss or damage caused directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, by terrorism or by any activity or decision of a government agency... to prevent, respond, or terminate terrorism.

So, this is not covered by the insurance policy. Later on, I will link all of this to my speech on the public safety bill now before the House. Following the attacks on September 11, 2001, people were understandably afraid. However, I think that some people want to exaggerate the attacks or the threats of terrorism. The government as well as other groups and businesspeople are using the events of September 11, 2001 to scare people. They want the public to remain nervous and distraught. Legislation like Bill C-17, the Public Safety Act, 2002, can only instill more fear in people. That is not showing them much respect.

As I said earlier, and as everyone knows, the United States was hit by deadly attacks on September 11, 2001. The response came rapidly and there was an unprecedented movement to mobilize in the fight against terrorism.

The Bloc Quebecois joined this immense mobilization. We condemned the attacks and, in the hours that followed, we offered our cooperation to the federal government with respect to emergency measures for dealing with the situation. But at the time, we had asked—and that has remained our position for all the bills that have been presented—that there be a fair balance between freedom and security.

Unfortunately, the federal government has failed, and the measures it has proposed have not maintained this balance. They go even further in my view; they scare people. That is particularly true when it comes to bills such as Bill C-17, which we are debating today.

The first bill presented in response to the terrorist attacks was Bill C-36. We agreed to adopt an antiterrorism bill, but Bill C-36 did not strike the right balance between freedom and security, something we are still looking for.

The terrorist attacks and threats reached an exceptional level and created an exceptional context. This happened in a certain country, at a given time, during a given period. That does not mean there will not be any more, that there will be attacks here in Canada or in Quebec.

Of course, acts of terrorism can happen every day. Nonetheless, there have not been very many here over the past three decades, so why frighten people and hold them hostage?

I repeat, Bill C-36 was an exceptional measure in response to an exceptional situation. That is why the Bloc Quebecois asked the government to include the sunset clause my colleague was talking about earlier, for the legislation to cease to be in effect after three years unless the House decided otherwise.

The Bloc Quebecois asked for an automatic review every year, by the Standing Committee on Justice, or after the tabling of a report by an independent commissioner, to remove the pressure that people feel and perhaps prevent escalation or trade-offs. Unfortunately, these amendments were rejected. There are other problematic elements, but those are the main ones.

Then came Bills C-42 and C-55 and the current version, Bill C-17; the public safety bill that now before the House.

Claiming to be trying to further improve security, the government then introduced Bill C-42 on public safety. From the beginning, the Bloc Quebecois was against this bill, because some of the proposed measures really went too far and the connection with terrorism was rather tenuous. For example, the new power being given to ministers regarding interim orders was way too arbitrary. As for the military security zones, they were ill defined and their implementation left the door wide open to much abuse.

This bill was then replaced by Bill C-55 and later on by the bill before us today. Unfortunately, these two bills did not manage to maintain the necessary balance either.

Considering the two bills that the federal government introduced on terrorism, we have to recognize that the government has failed in its fight against terrorism. The proposed measures fail to maintain a fair balance between freedom and security. And what is worse, the government is trying to justify the extraordinary measures by the fight against terrorism, while some of those measures are neither necessary nor justifiable. We need only think about the use that can be made of the information obtained under Bill C-17, with respect to people for whom a warrant has been issued. If we oppose Bill C-17, it is mainly because we strongly believe that it is a bad bill, but it is also because we recognize that the government's behaviour in the fight against terrorism is a failure.

We voted against this bill at second reading. We will do it again this time, as we still oppose this bill. From the beginning, we have opposed many of the provisions that are still in the bill before us, despite the fact that we tried to move amendments and made many efforts to understand and refine the first bill.

Despite all the efforts that we made to soften the impact of the problematic clauses, these clauses remain unacceptable for the Bloc Quebecois and its members.

Public Safety, 2002
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.


Odina Desrochers Lotbinière—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was glad to hear my colleague's remarks, which support completely the position of the Bloc Quebecois. This fight has now been going on for two years.

She mentioned that the present bill has the same flaws we identified in the two previous bills, as we said today.

For the information of the hon. members opposite, I would like my colleague to mention a few points that she would have liked to amend in Bill C-17, which will be adopted in a few minutes, unfortunately.