Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to join in today's debate regarding Bill C-17. I want to point out that it basically is a reincarnation in many respects of Bill C-42 and Bill C-55, which brings me to my starting comments.
We all know what has happened since September 11. It changed not only the way we do things in terms of our day to day duties, but it also changed the long term, pragmatic policy decisions that impact not only on our country but on the world. At the time that the tragedy happened, it became clear to our community that we had a number of different deficiencies in terms of the services that were available to the local government. Provincial and federal government services had been cut back year after year. I am join those individuals who are raising the fact that Bill C-17 does not address some of the underfunding that has happened to our core services which has allowed some of the clear problems that we have today and which has opened them up in terms of vulnerabilities.
In our municipality in Windsor, what ended up happening is the local government had to take the lead once again. We have one of the busiest border crossings in the world. Actually 33% of the gross domestic product of Canada crosses at that border crossing to trade with 39 American states with which Canada is the number one trading partner. It was the local people who actually had to take the initiative and were called upon by the federal government to provide assistance.
As one classic example, our waterway along the Detroit River and our Great Lakes at both ends did not have the adequate resources. The municipal police force was called upon to use its boat as part of the actual policing of the area for other problems. That quite frankly is a sad statement because we have a municipal boat that basically is dedicated for policing water safety and has no capability to deal with transit ships that go through the actual system. This is one of the busiest waterways in the world between the pleasure craft and freighters that go through there. We were left with having to come up with some contribution to police the freighters with which there was concern at the time.
Bill C-17 is one of those things that is the thin edge of the wedge. We are looking at the issue of civil liberties and what information is being disclosed and monitored and at the same time shared openly with government bureaucracy in order to to track movements. That becomes problematic.
In my opinion, a good example of the government not acting responsibly is the tiering of our citizens by the United States. These are Canadians who have been here as a citizen for a year, 10 years, 20 years, 30 years. They are now required to be fingerprinted and photographed and they have to check in and out of the United States just because of the country they come from. There are more than a dozen countries.
A good example is Lebanese Canadians. They are subjected to this and our government has not done enough to speak out about this. It has not said that our citizens are not a security risk. That is a big issue because it involves our trade. It involves the way that we communicate. It also sends a message about standing up for our own citizens, something that this government has not done. We still have not dealt with it. That has significant implications because if we are talking about Bill C-17 having the actual impact that it is going to and if our country does not stand up for its own citizens, it will not make any difference. That is important to note.
The lack of infrastructure funding is really evident. I can provide a classic example. Between our municipality and Detroit there is a train tunnel. People are using that train tunnel right now at their own risk. Some people are coming from the United States and some are leaving Canada. They are trying to cross the border undetected. They are doing that at a high degree of risk. Often there is not enough room in the train corridor in the tunnel itself and people actually die while attempting to cross the border. What is unacceptable is that the local municipality ends up having to police this area. It is a private asset that has some security measures but not nearly enough. People are actually using this as a route.
Once again, it does not matter what type of policies are put in place. If we do not have the basic services available in order to respond, they are not going to be there. That is a big problem for us.
We believe that Bill C-17 could actually dilute more parts of the government that have not had the adequate resources. It also goes once again to the philosophy on how the government responds. I use the example of the NSEERS program, the entry-exist registration system, and the tiering of Canadian citizenship, but it is also the way the government handles sovereignty issues. Over the summer there were two situations that gave me great concern due to the Minister of National Revenue and the Minister of Foreign Affairs not responding adequately enough.
In one situation American police officers from Detroit, Michigan were chasing someone through the Detroit-Windsor tunnel. They came through the tunnel and past our customs people. They stopped the vehicle, arrested the person and took the person back to the United States. They came over, drew their guns in our plaza, on our soil, took somebody back to their country and did not even notify our local people. We have Canadian citizens there. We have visitors. We have a whole number of different confidence issues. What did the government do about it? Not a single thing.
Imagine if our Canada customs people went into the United States, apprehended someone, brought them back and we did not tell the American authorities, especially right in the middle of their customs and immigration centres. It is deplorable. They were Detroit police officers.
Another Detroit police officer came over to our country last summer. He was hiding a weapon. He was supposed to check in the weapon. He was caught and brought over. As he was trying to hide his weapon, it discharged and he shot himself in the leg. He was seriously hurt. Once again the government did not object. It did not file a protest. There was nothing done. The government allowed this to happen.
What good are some of these security measures if we do not have the proper discourse with different people, including our friends across the way? If we do not have that, we set ourselves up for loss and failure.
Bill C-17 once again calls for a number of different things that have serious civil liberty issues: how much data is kept on a person, how that data is to be used and more important, where it will go. We have raised concerns about that, as has the Privacy Commissioner. He stated:
It is in fact one of the various concerns you have heard and will hear as a committee, probably the easiest to fix, because it has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on either transportation security or national security against terrorism, which of course are the objects of this bill.
It also quantifies together a whole group of Canadian citizens who are honourable, who have not had problems with the law, who have paid their taxes and are law-abiding citizens. The real concern about the bill is where that information will go and where it will be used.
I want to end my summary by once again noting that we need to improve our current infrastructure of resources, especially our security measures for our Canada customs people who are at the border, at Windsor and other places, where they rely on local officials. They do not have the RCMP active on site, for which I have been advocating. We need to provide those resources up front.
We will not be able to make ourselves more secure with more bureaucratic structures. We need to make sure those good men and women who are on the front lines have the proper resources and the support of a government that will actually back them up to ensure our safety. We need to do that first and foremost. If that does not happen, then the bill will fail.