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House of Commons Hansard #9 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was bills.

Topics

Tackling Violent Crime ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board.

Tackling Violent Crime ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, I see that I have been given unanimous consent to say a few words. I would like to thank my colleagues in the other parties for vesting such faith in me to give me this final opportunity to issue a closing word on the member's earlier remarks.

The member says that it has been his effort and the effort of other opposition members to attempt to improve the government's efforts to tackle violent crime. Does he consider it an improvement when he and other members of the Liberal opposition voted to allow arsonists, car thieves and burglars to serve their sentences in the comfort of their own home? That is precisely what they did in amending our bill to ban house arrest. They changed the bill to permit arsonists, car thieves and burglars to serve their sentences in our communities.

They also voted against mandatory jail time for gun criminals. The Liberals, including their critic, voted against mandatory jail time for gun criminals. Has he now reversed his position? Does he now accept that those criminals should be in jail, not doing house arrest, eating popcorn in front of their television in their living rooms?

Tackling Violent Crime ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Not to abuse the time of the House, given the courtesy that the House has accorded for this procedure, I have allowed one minute for the question and one minute for the reply.

Tackling Violent Crime ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am always delighted to debate with my young colleague.

When we examined Bill C-9 in committee, we learned that conditional sentencing was generally used by the courts only with extreme moderation, that is, in only 5% of cases. Could the courts have made some mistakes? Could there have been any cases in which the judges imposed a conditional sentence that was unwarranted? Perhaps. In such instances, the case is appealed. I do not believe this justifies the government's desire to take this power away from judges, who must always use discretion in these matters. I think all the opposition parties want to see conditional sentencing remain a tool available to the courts. That was the thrust of the amendments we put forward in committee.

Tackling Violent Crime ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Prince George—Peace River B.C.

Conservative

Jay Hill ConservativeSecretary of State and Chief Government Whip

Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations between all the parties and we certainly appreciate their efforts in moving this legislation forward. Therefore, I would like to move the following motion and I think you will find unanimous consent for it. I move:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be proceeded with as follows:

The bill be deemed read a second time, referred to a legislative committee;

the membership of this legislative committee be Dick Harris, Daryl Kramp, Daniel Petit, Gerald Keddy, Rob Moore, Marlene Jennings, Derek Lee, Brian Murphy, Larry Bagnell, Réal Ménard, Carole Freeman, Joe Comartin and that the Chairman be Rick Dykstra; and

proceedings in the committee on the Bill shall be concluded as follows: if not previously concluded by midnight on November 22, 2007, at midnight on November 22, 2007 any proceedings before the Legislative Committee shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the committee stage of the Bill shall be put forthwith and successively without further debate, at the conclusion of the committee stage the Chairman shall be instructed to report the bill back to the House on November 23, 2007, and shall be authorized to table the report with the Clerk at any time, including when the House is not sitting, if the Bill is not reported back by midnight on November 23, 2007, the Bill shall be deemed to have been reported from the Committee without amendment.

Tackling Violent Crime ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Does the minister have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?

Tackling Violent Crime ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Tackling Violent Crime ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

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

Tackling Violent Crime ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Tackling Violent Crime ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Consequently, pursuant to order made earlier today, this bill is referred to a legislative committee.

(Motion agreed to and bill deemed read the second time and referred to a committee.)

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2007 / 1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Conservative Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Oxford Ontario

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise before the House and discuss Bill C-3, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act is important legislation as it sets out the rules by which people from across the globe may seek to come to Canada. As a country built by the imagination and dedication of many people, we truly understand the value of diversity within society. In fact, Canada is known internationally as a welcoming and compassionate country. Each year we admit more than 95 million people to our country, including 260,000 new immigrants.

While we encourage immigration, Canadians also insist on vigilance against people and organizations taking advantage of our generosity and openness. They pose a danger to our nation and, in some cases, to other nations around the world. They have committed serious crimes, or violated human rights or even taken part in terrorism. These people are not welcome in Canada.

Canadians do not want our doors to be open to people who endanger our national security and the safety of our communities. The government wants what Canadians want. That is why we are unwavering in our determination to safeguard national security and to protect the safety and security of the Canadian public.

One of the most fundamental responsibilities of a government is to ensure the security of its citizens, and this government has taken its commitment very seriously.

The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act provides the government with a process to remove non-Canadian citizens who are inadmissible on grounds of security, violating human or international rights, serious criminality or organized criminality. When classified information is involved in support of the inadmissibility decision, the security certificate process may be used.

It has been in place for over 20 years, but it has only been used 28 times since 1991 in the most serious cases. Certificates have been issued against spies, terrorists and extremists. They can never be used against a Canadian citizen, and that is a very important part.

The reason Bill C-3 has been introduced is quite straightforward. Security certificates are used to protect Canadians. They are a vital national security tool. At the same time, when we take steps to protect Canadians and national security, we must also take steps to respect civil liberties and protect our core values. These values include freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

In February the Supreme Court of Canada confirmed the use of security certificates generally. However, it found aspects of the security certificate process that required legislative improvement. In addition, various parliamentary committees have recommended changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

The government has moved swiftly and is taking action. Bill C-3 is an essential public safety tool that enables us to continue to prevent inadmissible persons from remaining in Canada while ensuring that there is better protection of the rights of individuals subject to security certificates.

Bill C-3 would set into law the Supreme Court of Canada's ruling on security certificates, and takes into consideration the recommendations of both Houses of Parliament.

We have acted to strengthen the law to address the findings of the court. Protecting both security and human rights can be a challenge. As the Supreme Court stated in its ruling, this is:

—a tension that lies at the heart of modern democratic governance. It is a tension that must be resolved in a way that respects the imperatives both of security and of accountable constitutional governance.

While the Supreme Court confirmed the use of security certificates generally and stated that one of the most fundamental responsibilities of a government was to ensure the security of its citizens, it found there was not sufficient opportunity to challenge the government's case.

The Supreme Court identified areas where the security certificate process must be changed to better protect the rights of individuals subject to a certificate. The court noted that detention under the security certificate process did not constitute cruel or unusual punishment under the Canadians Charter of Rights and Freedoms if accompanied by a process that provided for regular opportunities for appropriate detention reviews.

However, let me stress one important fact about the security certificate process. It is not about detention, but rather about removing non-Canadian citizens because they represent threats to public safety and national security.

Individuals named in a security certificate would be released from detention if they chose to leave Canada and return to their country of origin. Detention is meant to protect the safety and security of the Canadian public until they can be removed from Canada.

Further, the court said that the certificate process did not violate section 15 rights under the charter; that is to say, equality rights. These are important findings.

It is clear that we need the security certificate process. It is a valuable public safety tool and the court has given the government an opportunity to amend the legislation by suspending the effect of key portions of its decision for one year.

In addition, it must be emphasized that if we do not pass this bill by February 2008, an important public safety tool would be lost. The government would be unable to issue new certificates against non-Canadian individuals who pose a threat to the security of Canada.

In addition, individuals currently subject to a security certificate would succeed, on application, in having their certificates quashed. This means they would no longer be subject to detention or any conditions of release, which would pose serious public safety risks.

What changes did the Supreme Court of Canada say were needed?

It found that the in camera ex parte proceedings do not provide the person named in the certificate a sufficient opportunity to know the case against him or her and challenge that case. The court ruled that a process had to be put in place to better protect the interests of individuals subject to security certificates.

It also gave foreign nationals the same rights as permanent residents in the context of detention reviews. In that light, it stated that these reviews should occur 48 hours after arrest and at least once every six months thereafter for both foreign nationals and permanent residents. These changes took effect immediately upon the court ruling.

The special advocate function will help ensure fair court proceedings and provide a means to challenge classified evidence.

As I have already mentioned, the Supreme Court indicated that a mechanism was needed to better protect the interests of individuals subject to a security certificate.

Bill C-3 sets out that mechanism by introducing a special advocate in the Federal Court process to determine the reasonableness of the certificate.

The special advocate's core role would be to protect the interests of the subject by ensuring a person's interests are adequately represented during closed court proceedings. The special advocate would be able to challenge the minister's claim to the confidentiality of classified information, as well as its relevance, reliability, sufficiency and weight. The special advocate would also be able to make written and oral submissions to the court and question government officials involved in the case.

It is important to appreciate that this model would strengthen an important public safety tool by making it fairer to the person subject to the certificate process, while recognizing the need to prevent the disclosure of confidential public security information.

How would the process work?

The Minister of Justice will establish a list of persons with the qualifications set out in regulations, who may act as special advocates. Some of the qualifications which may be set out in regulations include membership in good standing in a law society of Canada, at least five years' relevant litigation experience, no conflict of interest and appropriate security clearance.

The special advocate will be able to communicate with the individual subject to a security certificate without any restrictions before he or she sees the classified information. At that time, the special advocate will have the benefit of an unclassified summary of the case to discuss with the subject. This should substantially assist the special advocate in preparing for the closed ex parte hearing.

The special advocate will then be privy to the classified information. Once that happens, the individual can no longer communicate with anyone about the proceeding while it is ongoing, except as specifically authorized by the judge. The special advocate may apply to the judge for permission to communicate with the subject of the certificate. If the judge grants the request, he or she may impose conditions, such as to communicate only by writing, to avoid the inadvertent disclosure of any confidential information.

Another important aspect of the special advocate regime is that there is no solicitor-client relationship with the subject of the certificate. That is because it would likely create a conflict of interest for the special advocate in light of the restrictions on communication imposed once the special advocate has seen the classified information.

The nature of the solicitor-client relationship, in particular the duty of candour owed to the client by his counsel, might be construed as to require the special advocate to reveal as much as possible about the classified information to the subject of the security certificate. At the same time, the special advocate would be required to protect the classified information from disclosure.

Let me be clear that without the solicitor-client relationship, the special advocate can still protect the interests of the subject by challenging the confidentiality of the evidence as well as the relevance, reliability, sufficiency and weight of that evidence.

Aside from security certificate cases, other decisions made under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act may also involve the use of classified information. In the course of a judicial review of such a decision, a special advocate will be available if the judge, on a discretionary basis, concludes that considerations of fairness and natural justice require it.

Bill C-3 proposes other legislative changes to meet the requirements of a Supreme Court decision, address a number of parliamentary recommendations and deal with gaps in the act.

Other legislative changes proposed in the bill include: concurrent reasonableness hearings and risk assessments to streamline the proceedings and security certificate cases; permitting appeals of the decision on the reasonableness of the certificate upon certification, which is consistent with how all appeals under the IRPA are dealt with; confirming that foreign nationals have the same detention review rights as permanent residents, as the Supreme Court did express in its decision; and, transitional provisions to provide for the treatment of existing certificate cases under the new law in the most transparent and fairest manner possible.

I will now explain these proposed changes in a bit more detail. I will begin with concurrent processing. When a security certificate is issued, it is referred to the federal court to determine if the security certificate is reasonable. The individual subject to a certificate can also apply for protection from return to a country where the person would face a substantial risk of torture or cruel and unusual treatment or punishment or risk to life. This is called a pre-removal risk assessment, or PRRA. As it now stands, the PRRA process takes place and the review of the reasonableness of the certificate is suspended until its conclusion. This is because the law provides that the judge who decides the reasonableness of the certificate must also decide on the lawfulness of the PRRA decision. This has caused delay.

Bill C-3 proposes to do away with the suspension of the reasonableness hearing. It provides that the Crown or the court may review the reasonableness of the certificate concurrently with the review of the lawfulness of the PRRA. The court's review would take place outside the certificate process without the need for the same judge to review both decisions. This approach seeks to limit the potential for significant delays that might result while waiting for a decision on the PRRA before having the court assess the reasonableness of a certificate.

The next proposal in the bill is to allow for the appeal of the reasonable determination and on decisions on detention if the judge decides a serious legal issue has been raised for the consideration of the Court of Appeal. This requirement, called certification of a question, is consistent with the way other decisions under the IRPA may be appealed.

Currently, the decision on the reasonableness of the certificate cannot be appealed but, practically speaking, the courts have recognized certain exceptions to this rule. Accordingly, appeal upon certification of a question will provide a mechanism that enhances fairness.

The next change proposed by Bill C-3 is almost a formality given that the Supreme Court has already deemed this change effective and in force. In fact, the court ruled that foreign nationals and permanent residents should have the same rights to detention review. This ruling means that since February, both permanent residents and foreign nationals are granted a review of their detention within the first 48 hours after arrest and every six months after that. Prior to this decision, the IRPA stated that foreign nationals were entitled to a detention review 120 days after the certificate was found to be reasonable.

Finally, Bill C-3 proposes transitional provisions that would allow for cases commenced under the previous legislation to recommence under the new legislative regime. This is to ensure that appropriate and orderly change from the old legislation to the new will provide the benefits of the new legislation to the current individual, subject to a security certificate.

As members can see, a great deal of thought has gone into this bill. Not only have we responded to the Supreme Court of Canada's ruling, but we have also been mindful of the recommendations made by committees in both Houses of Parliament.

We are offering more protection for individuals, subject to a security certificate. We are providing for appeals that are not allowed under the current legislation. We are giving foreign nationals the same detention review process accorded to permanent residents, as the Supreme Court directed. We will review all current cases in conformity with the new regime once it comes into place.

We want to protect Canadians. It is our duty to both Canadians and the international community to stop dangerous people from committing heinous crimes or terrorism.

I urge all members of the House to support Bill C-3. If opposition parties are serious about protecting Canadians from an individual posing serious threats, now is the time to show it.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

It being 1:30 p.m. the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

When Bill C-3 returns to the House there will be four minutes left for the hon. the parliamentary secretary, in addition to ten minutes of questions and comments.

Canada Evidence ActPrivate Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Ménard Bloc Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

moved that Bill C-426, An Act to amend the Canada Evidence Act (protection of journalistic sources and search warrants), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I believe this is the second time that I have the honour of addressing the Chair regarding this bill. It is because of the parliamentary recess and prorogation that I have an additional hour of debate. However, I do feel the need to summarize what I said when the bill was introduced for the first time. Following this new process, many people may think, when they read Hansard, that this legislation is being debated for the first time. So, this is an opportunity for me to respond to a few questions, and even to some criticism that I have heard since the introduction of this bill.

It is true that I have been interested in this issue for a least some 30 years, perhaps even longer—since 1968, in fact. I remember that, at the time—this was before the Charter—we were hoping for legislation to deal with what this bill is addressing. The Charter allowed us to make some progress, but not enough. I find it deplorable that the journalistic practice that I want to protect with this legislation has not been better protected here, even though it has been protected to some extent by the Supreme Court of Canada. The fact is that a very large number of countries in the world, which abide by the same principle of press freedom, have passed laws to ensure such protection.

It is important to first understand this: I am not asking that privilege be bestowed upon journalists. What I am asking for is what the bill would establish: protection for these individuals who we have to recognize have the courage to expose scandals, instances of misappropriation or fraud, and who might face reprisals, should their identity be revealed. The risks they face can run high, depending on the organizations they go after, for example when there is fraud within major organizations.

We are talking about a journalistic practice that has developed over the past 50 years and which is generally recognized as a good thing in our societies. In fact, these individuals who become aware of situations where funds are misappropriated take this information to a journalist. In return, the journalist offers confidentiality, promising never to disclose their name without their consent. That journalistic activity is what this bill seeks to protect.

Usually, journalists look into the matter brought to their attention. They are guided in their investigation by this confidential source, but do not reveal the scandal until the facts can be independently confirmed and they believe it is in the public interest to make the misappropriation known.

The first part of the legislation would enshrine this journalistic practice whereby a journalist may promise his sources that they will remain anonymous for as long as they see fit or fear reprisals.

I also want to protect the practice of journalism. I might add that journalists should not be regarded as auxiliary police, as Supreme Court judges have pointed out in R. v. Lessard.

There are therefore five major provisions in this bill. The first one provides for the protection of journalistic sources, as set out in subclauses 3 to 6, the first two subclauses dealing with definitions and application respectively. As for subclause 7, it provides for something special: lesser but nevertheless very significant protection for unpublished journalistic material.

The objective here is that journalists not be perceived by the public as aiding the police. Usually out of laziness, the police want to give journalists information that they themselves have decided not to release. This is especially true in the case of demonstrations or strikes that turn bad.

The third part refers to issuing search warrants, the conditions for such warrants and conducting the search. Finally, subclause 11 provides a simple way of publishing information under the Canada Evidence Act. It seems to me that there is no need to require someone to appear. A publication is a publication. All someone would have to do to prove that something has been published is produce the publication.

As with any right or duty we want to grant or any value we want to protect, we have to think about other values that may conflict with those we want to protect. Certainly, nearly all the members of this House recognize that the journalistic practice of protecting confidential sources has made it possible to shed light on serious misdoings.

History is filled with such cases, the most famous being Watergate, the Enron scandal and even the sponsorship scandal. In my opinion, confidential sources will likely be increasingly necessary and common as companies secretly try to circumvent environmental protection rules, for example. A journalist would need to be pointed in the right direction in such a case. Here again, journalists will always have to base what they write on evidence they have obtained independently, or else pay damages in case of libel. Their papers will have to pay as well, which is why newspapers are fairly cautious in using this journalistic practice. Our intent is not to create a licence to commit hidden libel.

Since we are talking about a social value and not a privilege given to a certain category of people, the bill provides that judges themselves may raise the issue if they see that there is a problem of a confidential source. Judges may—I am not saying they must—raise the issue and ask the lawyers for their opinion. In this way, judges can protect the source against a negligent journalist who promised to protect a source but did not take steps to do so or no longer objects to the source's identity being revealed. Because the bill aims to protect the source, judges may raise this issue on their own initiative.

This tool is well defined in clause 5. A judge can weigh the values that may lead to contradictory decisions.

I was asked what judge this refers to. If we understand the section well, it means the judge before whom the journalist testifies or a judge who is asked to order the journalist to disclose their sources. This can mean a number of different types of judges who preside over criminal or civil courts, or even a federal court, as is currently the case. The judge could nonetheless order this disclosure, but only if the judge considers it to be in the public interest or if the following conditions are met.

The person has done everything in their power to discover the source of the information and the disclosure is in the public interest, having regard to the outcome of the litigation—that which is at stake—the freedom of information, and the impact of the journalist’s testimony on the source. Obviously, they will assess whether the source did indeed tell the truth or not and whether they committed a crime or not. It is still quite possible to have cases on this issue.

As far as clause 7 is concerned, perhaps because it is short, some people did not exactly understand the significance of it. This is the third part of the legislation I am proposing.The purpose of this clause is to protect a journalist's information, namely unused footage for television. Journalists must not be perceived as auxiliary police, as an easy place to go to for evidence of wrongdoing during a demonstration, for example. That was the context of most of the cases I dealt with in my career as a pro bono legal advisor.

The courts have been very clear about their reasons for accepting such a thing. For example, Justice La Forest, in Canadian Broadcasting Corp. v. Lessard, said:

Freedom of the press is vital to a free society and comprises the right to disseminate news, information and beliefs. The gathering of information could in many circumstances be seriously inhibited, if government had too ready access to information in the hands of the media. The press should not be turned into an investigative arm of the police. Thus, the fear that the police can easily gain access to a reporter's notes could well hamper the ability of the press to gather information.

Clause 7 seeks to protect that freedom. It sets out the exceptional situations in which it might apply.

The rest of the bill, except for the last subsection, deals with search warrants. I have basically summarized existing case law, which is much clearer on this issue than on the first one my bill addresses. I have explained all of this in detail before, and people can review the record.

I also want to point out that this principle has been recognized in most European countries. It has been recognized in 32 of the United States through legislation and in 18 others through case law. There is one major exception in the United States: the principle is not recognized in federal legislation, but it is widely recognized elsewhere.

In Sweden, the principle was considered so important that it was enshrined in the Swedish constitution. England does not have laws to protect journalists, but the European Court of Human Rights overturned the conviction of a journalist who refused to reveal a source he had promised to keep anonymous.

It is clear that this journalistic practice is widely recognized in the civilized world. The principle is recognized in Canada, but I think that it now makes sense to enshrine it in law to simplify things and to guide the people involved, such as police officers, journalists and justices of the peace who issue warrants.

The courts will decide whether this complies with the charter or not. The charter recognizes basic rights, but in a society like ours, people have much more than basic rights. It makes sense to define those rights in relation to the charter, of course, but sometimes we need to go beyond the charter. Parliament must step up to the plate and must not leave the toughest problems to the judges.

Canada Evidence ActPrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière Québec

Conservative

Jacques Gourde ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec

Mr. Speaker, certain provisions of Bill C-426 are of concern. For example, the definition of “journalist” is so vague that it could include occasional bloggers. Does my dear colleague and member really wish to adopt a provision that would complicate the work of parties that wish to obtain information from bloggers?

Canada Evidence ActPrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Ménard Bloc Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question. I had also spoken about bloggers. Even though I use computers, I am not a computer geek.

That depends. I established a fairly broad definition that can be adapted to new technologies. That is why we do not refer to the type of media but rather to the activity of a journalist. In this regard, my colleagues will certainly agree with me that this definition fully covers the journalistic activity and that the journalist is the individual who carries out this activity. A journalist is a person who contributes regularly and directly to the gathering, writing, production or dissemination of information for the public through any media.

I could have easily answered that we are not talking about the occasional blogger. However, out of respect for the member and the question he posed, it could cover the evolution of journalism towards electronic newspapers. In my opinion, that is important.

I would also have expected my colleague to have asked a question regarding “anyone who assists such a person”. This part—“anyone who assists such a person”—concerns the application of this section. You must realize that it is the source we wish to protect and not the journalist.

In other countries where the law has granted this protection to the source, police officers have questioned housekeepers, printers and other persons. That is why it was necessary to insert “anyone who assists such a person” in the legislation. It goes without saying that it is in the context of the preceding definition.

I would like to add something else before answering another question: it must be understood that it is difficult to craft a perfect law from the outset. During the session, the government showed us how difficult that can be. There is every advantage to having a committee examine this matter and make the necessary amendments.

Canada Evidence ActPrivate Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Etobicoke North will want to keep an eye on the Chair because there is very little time left for the next question.

Canada Evidence ActPrivate Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin for introducing this bill for debate in the House. The member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin has extensive experience in public safety.

I understand what he is trying to accomplish and I think I am generally in agreement.

When it comes to matters of national security and there is someone in the Department of National Defence or the Department of Foreign Affairs who reveals something that is clearly a matter of national security or a threat to national security, I am wondering if the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin could comment on what sort of protections would be available or would not be available in circumstances like that.

Canada Evidence ActPrivate Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin has 50 seconds to respond.

Canada Evidence ActPrivate Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Ménard Bloc Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, I addressed that in subclause 5.

Let us put ourselves in the position of the judge applying the criteria I am suggesting. First of all, what is required? It depends on the circumstances. It could be the outcome of the litigation or it could be a libel suit against a third party.

I do not think that some who commits libel or tries to manipulate the media deserves protection. In examining the criteria set out in subclause 5, we can see that the judge would conclude that he must order that the source be disclosed. However, if we are not sure, we could always make amendments in committee to be certain.

Canada Evidence ActPrivate Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière Québec

Conservative

Jacques Gourde ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address Bill C-426, An Act to amend the Canada Evidence Act (protection of journalistic sources and search warrants).

This bill includes three key measures: it protects the confidentiality of journalistic sources, it protects the unpublished information that a journalist may have, and it sets additional requirements for the issuance of a warrant to search media facilities.

There is probably not a single Canadian who would question a statement to the effect that freedom of information and freedom of the press are two pillars of a free and democratic society. Indeed, paragraph 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms specifically provides a constitutional guarantee whereby everyone has fundamental freedoms, namely freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication.

However, I wish to point out with all due respect that protecting freedom of the press is not the issue here. Rather, we must determine whether the provisions of Bill C-426 improve existing legislation and allow us to ensure a fair balance between the interests of the state, when it investigates crimes and prosecutes criminals, and the public interest that consists in protecting journalists who are seeking the truth from state intervention.

I commend the hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin for trying to include in legislation protections offered in common law for journalistic activities. I know he has been studying this issue for a long time. Nonetheless, this area of law is very complex and it is extremely difficult to formulate legal provisions that cover all relevant considerations.

I feel it is important to remember that the general rule in penal law and civil law is that all information that concerns a trial is admissible. Confidential information is an exception to this general rule.

The law of privilege has over time become a means for protecting individual relationships that are essential for the administration of justice or for society in general. Solicitor-client privilege, police informer privilege and spousal privilege are well-known examples.

It is important to realize that privilege in effect denies both the state and the parties involved in the case, including defence lawyers in a criminal trial, access to information that could be quite useful. A change to the law of privilege, and even an attempt to include in legislation what already exists in common law, could have far reaching repercussions on the administration of justice and on the public's confidence in the justice system as a whole.

There are provisions in Bill C-426 that raise concerns. For instance, the definition of journalist is so broad that it could include occasional bloggers. Do the members of this House really want to have a provision that will make it harder for those who want to obtain relevant information from bloggers?

Other provisions of Bill C-426 pose serious strategic problems. For example, Bill C-426 says that the provisions designed to protect journalists take precedence over any other federal legislation. This means that a journalist who has information pertaining to national security could use the provisions in this bill to make it very difficult for government to have access to this information, if and when necessary. Given that the word “information” used in the bill has not been defined, it is not limited to information gathered or disseminated for journalistic purposes.

I raise these concerns to show how difficult it is to entrench in law notions that already exist in common law, and to emphasize the very important strategic and operational issues raised by this bill.

I urge hon. members to defer consideration of Bill C-426. It would be in the public interest that the very important subject of journalistic privilege, and all its implications for the justice system, be referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for an in-depth review. Such a review would give the hon. members an opportunity to hear the experts and give careful consideration to all the important issues related to journalistic privilege, a number of which are beyond the scope of Bill C-426.

I thank hon. members for this opportunity to speak on this very important issue.

Canada Evidence ActPrivate Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Lloyd St. Amand Liberal Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, like my Bloc colleague across the way, the mover of the bill, I am very pleased to join in this debate and speak on Bill C-426, which is, as we have heard, an act to amend the Canada Evidence Act.

The substance of this bill is the protection of the confidentiality of journalistic sources. It would, in short, allow journalists to refuse to disclose information or a record which has not been published unless that information or that record is of vital importance and could not otherwise be produced in evidence in any other fashion.

The bill, as I read it, would also stipulate conditions which must be met or complied with before a judge issues a search warrant to obtain information or records in the exclusive possession of a journalist.

The bill would also allow journalists to refuse to disclose the source of the information which they gather, write, produce or otherwise disseminate to the public through any media and to further refuse to disclose any information or document that could identify a source or sources.

However, a judge would have at his or her discretion the authority to order a journalist to disclose the source of the information if that judge considered the information or the data to be in the greater interest of the public.

I am inclined to vote in favour of the bill at least going to committee stage, with the expectation that the committee members would see fit to amend the bill when they scrutinize it.

There have been various court decisions on this topic. Generally, Canadian courts have followed the ruling in a decision from Great Britain, cited as Attorney-General v. Mulholland. The nub of that decision is that journalists should only be required to reveal information received from a source in confidence when it can be demonstrated that the information is relevant and necessary in order for the case to be resolved.

Closer to home, one of the best known cases on the issue of journalistic freedom is the case involving the Ottawa Citizen reporter Juliet O'Neill. Members of the House will recall that Ms. O'Neill, a journalist writing for the Ottawa Citizen, wrote an article on November 8, 2003 about Maher Arar, the Syrian-born Canadian citizen whom American authorities arrested and wrongly deported to Syria.

In January 2004, some several weeks after her article, the RCMP obtained two search warrants to search Ms. O'Neill's home, as well as her office at the Ottawa Citizen. The warrants were issued by a justice of the peace in support of a criminal investigation into alleged violations of the Security of Information Act.

The searches of Ms. O'Neill's residence and office took place on January 21, 2004, and resulted in the seizure of certain documents and certain computer information. Needless to say, Ms. O'Neill did not agree to the searches taking place either at her home or at her office.

The matter found its way to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice and an extensive hearing over several days took place in the late summer and early fall of 2006. The Superior Court Justice struck down various subsections of the Security of Information Act, ruling that the subsections violated both section 7 and section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We know that section 7 in particular deals with “the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived” of those rights “except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice”.

In commenting on the subsections of the Security of Information Act, the justice held that the subsections were overly broad, arbitrary, vague, and gave the government an unfettered ability to protect whatever information it chose to classify as unauthorized for disclosure and to punish any violation by way of a criminal offence. In short, the justice ruled that the subsections were of no force and effect.

After the decision of the court, the federal government announced that it would not appeal the decision and that it would consider its options. In February 2007, the special Senate committee on the Anti-terrorism Act released a report recommending that the Security of Information Act be amended to narrow the scope of information for which disclosure is an offence.

As always, the issue is the proper balance to be struck between the public's right to know, broadly speaking, and the interest of the public with respect to security matters. Clearly, it is essential for the government to be able to prevent or deter the release of certain types of data in the interests of national security and that deterrence can and should include the imposition of criminal sanctions. But public discourse is a vital part of any democracy, as was expressed by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1996, and I quote:

The freedom of individuals to discuss information about the institutions of government, their policies and practices, is crucial to any notion of democratic rule. The liberty to criticize and express dissenting views has long been thought to be a safeguard against state tyranny and corruption.

As the well-known French author, Albert Camus, said, “A free press can of course be good or bad, but, most certainly, without freedom it will never be anything but bad”.

In my view, Bill C-426 moves us further along with respect to the proper balance to be struck between journalistic freedom on the one hand, and the disclosure of information which is of critical importance and cannot be produced by any other means on the other hand.

Like the member opposite who spoke prior to me, amendments that I would like to see introduced at committee stage include a tighter or better definition of “journalist”. The definition of “journalist” as presently written in the bill is too broad and would undoubtedly be problematic. It is peculiar, however, that currently no federal or provincial legislation appears to define the term “journalist” nor does Canadian case law provide a consistent definition. Ideally, the committee will see fit to recommend an improved definition of the term “journalist”.

There are also a number of instances where the English wording of parts of the bill is weaker than the French wording. This situation can also be remedied through amendments at the committee stage.

Simply put, my inclination is to support the bill proceeding to committee in the hope and expectation that amendments will be made at that stage.

Canada Evidence ActPrivate Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I support and speak in favour of this bill, along with my party.

Many things that have been discussed and put forward in support of this bill, but some of those ideas and concepts bear repeating. I hope to touch on a couple of other facets of the bill that are worthy of underlining.

I will say at the beginning that we do support this bill and, if there are ways to improve it, it will be done at committee.

One of the things that is most disturbing in any democracy is any attempt to close off or shut down the freedom of the press. Members will know of the most recent events around the world where the rights of the press have been suppressed. I think of the recent situation that we are watching with great unease in Burma. When we look at the freedom of the press, which seems to be challenged around the world these days, and certainly this has been documented, journalists are having a harder time doing their jobs.

Many of us in this place from time to time might disagree with how journalists contemplate or exercise that freedom but no one in this place would be in any way critical of their right to have an opinion and to ensure it is unfettered, with some obvious qualifications and responsibilities.

I say that in general because this is too important an issue to play partisan politics with. This is a foundation of our democracy, that is, the freedom of the press and the freedom of those who are practitioners in the fourth estate, to ensure they are able to do their jobs without the state interfering unnecessarily.

Therefore, the bill in front of us is critical. What is being attempted here meets the nod test from us but we need to ensure there is more clarity for judges, that there are cleaner and clearer guidelines for judges.

We have mentioned the case of Juliet O'Neill from the Ottawa Citizen. Many of us, not only in my home town here in Ottawa, were aghast at what happened in that case. I think people right across the country and indeed those who were following the story internationally, were surprised, saddened and very concerned that this could happen.

If we look at what journalists' responsibilities are, they have many, but they have a responsibility to protect sources at times. We see this not only in the field of journalism but in the field of litigation. We see it with lawyers and with doctors. We actually see it with those who are from faith communities, that there is some delegation of trust. I think most people understand that there is an understanding and a responsibility of confidentiality.

What is the responsibility of confidentiality, in this case of journalists, and the role of the state for reasons of national security? How are those two things dealt with? How do we navigate those waters?

The bill sets out to lay down some criteria that is important. A colleague from the Bloc has already spoken about this. The first couple of paragraphs of the bill are more or less descriptive and then we get into the meat of it, particularly when we get into section four, and that is the power of the judge. Judges may, on their own initiative, raise the potential application of subsection three and ask the prosecution and the defence and any other party to present an opinion on the matter. I think that gets things going.

Then we get to subsection five, which reads:

A judge may not order a journalist to disclose to a person the source of any information that the journalist has gathered, written, produced or disseminated for the public through any media, unless the judge considers....

There is where we get the required clarity, the clarity that was required certainly in the case of Juliet O'Neill and other cases. We see from today's Quorum that some La Presse journalists are being challenged in this very area. I cannot get into the details of the case, nor will I, because it is being debated now, but I will just point to the fact that this is an ongoing concern. Certainly it does not just affect journalists like Juliet O'Neill, but at present also some journalists at La Presse.

It means that this sequence of events where the judge must follow the laid-out criteria is what has been missing. Again, if there are other facets that need to be dealt with at committee, then so be it.

Proposed subsection 39.1(7) regarding disclosure states:

A journalist is required to disclose information or a record that has not been published only if the information or record is of vital importance and cannot be produced in evidence by any other means.

That is another important facet that had not been addressed. When we move on to proposed subsection 39.1(8) about search warrants, that certainly was a cause of concern before. It deals with the Criminal Code and talks about the criteria and the further clarity required.

In essence, the bill is trying to fine-tune the debate we have had since freedom of the press has existed, and that is the time honoured tradition of those who are in the fourth estate being able to practise their trade on the one hand and on the other hand to make sure that if there are issues of national security, they have worthy protection, as well.

Because of the times in which we are living, it is of absolute critical importance that a balance be struck, and that the clarity that is needed for judges be provided. I say that because of some other considerations we will have before the House, in particular, Bill C-3, which was tabled today.

We have had concerns about how we deal with border security, as recently as yesterday when a retired colonel from the American military was not allowed into our country because of being on an FBI watch list.

Freedom of the press and freedom of expression are critical in the atmosphere in which we are living. They are the foundation of our democracy. If we are not able to find the balance now, we will regret it later. If journalists are not able to protect their sources, we know what will happen. We have seen it around the world and in history. People will no longer come forward. It would not only affect members of Parliament in not being able to find critical analysis because information would not be shared, but citizens in general would not have the information they need to hold institutions to account.

I will end my comments with the plea that we need to follow up on this bill quickly. We need to support it in a non-partisan fashion because it is so important that all those in the business of journalism be able to practise their profession without any fear.

We hope that the government will come forward on one other aspect that needs tweaking, and that is on freedom of information. The government promised after the passing of Bill C-2, the accountability act, that it would act on that. It is one thing to protect sources, but it is another thing to have access and a window to the business that government does.

While we need speedy passage of this bill, which is something we support, we also look forward to and hope that the government will fulfill its promise to bring forward changes to the freedom of information act. Until that time, we know that it will be difficult for journalists not only to ply their trade, but to have a clear window on what government is doing.

Canada Evidence ActPrivate Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

Bloc

Ève-Mary Thaï Thi Lac Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to this important bill. I wish to congratulate my Bloc Québécois colleague, the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, who initiated this bill. One need only read it to realize that my colleague has been able to distill hundreds, even thousands, of pages of jurisprudence and case law into a few clauses. For that is the issue.

Bill C-426 does not grant a privilege to journalists, nor to the media. The bill, and particularly the section dealing with searches, protects journalistic activity. It clarifies and protects the most noble elements of journalistic activity, freedom of speech and the public's right to information, conditions which are essential for democracy.

In cases of wrongdoing or in any other action that causes harm or injustice, it is normal that a citizen who understands these values would be tempted to alert the public and thus help identify and denounce the errors committed. Do we really believe that a citizen will feel like doing so if he or she thinks there may be reprisals?

However, if the justice system can count on clear legislation such as BIll C-426, a citizen who witnesses a fraudulent act or one that harms someone will feel comfortable informing the public through a journalist, in an attempt to improve our society. Similarly, journalists will feel comfortable publishing this information if the conditions allowing them to protect their sources are clearly set out in the legislation. Society can only benefit.

In September 2005, the Fédération professionnelle des journalistes du Québec took a stand on the matter by publishing a report entitled “Protection des sources et du matériel journalistique”. The report was written by Marie-Claude Pednault and is available in French on that organization's Web site. I invite all my colleagues in the House to read it. I would like to quote part of that report.

In January 2004, in R v. The National Post, Justice Mary Lou Benotto of the Superior Court of Ontario pointed out that the evidence heard demonstrates that the use of anonymous sources is crucial to uncovering and reporting information of interest to the public. According to the judge, forcing a journalist to break a promise to not disclose the name of a source would cause considerable harm to the public's right to information. Justice Benotto referred to a very interesting comparison made the House of Lords in Britain: if the identity of police informers could be revealed in a court room, police informers would stop informing, and the police would be very limited in their duty to prevent and solve crimes. To force journalists to reveal their sources could have similar repercussions on the freedom of the press.

Closer to home, in the Supreme Court of Canada ruling Canadian Broadcasting Corp. v. Lessard, Justice La Forest wrote:

I have little doubt, too, that the gathering of information could in many circumstances be seriously inhibited if government had too ready access to information in the hands of the media. That someone might be deterred from providing information to a journalist because his or her identity could be revealed seems to me to be self-evident.

As the judges I quoted—and I could have quoted more—so clearly expressed, if society wants to shed some light on many crimes and injustices, it has no choice but to ensure its citizens anonymity in the disclosure of certain information.

Anonymity is fundamental to the activities of a number of organizations that protect the public and fight crime, such as RECOL, a system for reporting economic crime in Canada, InfoCrime Québec and Quebec's youth protection branch, which receives reports of child abuse, violence and negligence.

Protecting sources of information in the case of tips or journalism is vital in societies that value public safety, but also in societies that fight abuse and injustice. Consequently, can this House afford not to pass Bill C-426, given how clear and relevant it is? I do not think so.

It would not be the first time a country has passed legislation enabling journalists to protect their sources. In her 2005 report, Ms. Pednault says that legislation to protect journalists has been passed in 31 American states and the District of Columbia.

In Sweden, protection of journalists in both the print and electronic media is enshrined in the constitution. The Swedes are so convinced of the importance of protecting journalistic sources that a journalist who reveals the identity of a source can face criminal prosecution.

Protecting sources is not the only important consideration when it comes to freedom of expression and information. It is just as important that the public sees the media as independent from the government and its public safety agencies.

Media credibility is crucial to the public's perception of what they see in the media. Under Communist rule in the former USSR, if Pravda, the official government newspaper, reported that the potatoes were excellent that year, people would stop buying them. I am joking, but you can see that this is not so far from reality. On issues such as the neutrality of journalistic information, the smallest suspicion creates doubt in people's minds. We who work in politics understand this all too well.

Now, after having explained why I think Bill C-426 is so important and so relevant, I want to emphasize one final, essential aspect of the bill.

Although the bill clearly defines the conditions with respect to disclosure of sources, disclosure of unpublished documents, warrants for documents and the publication of information following a warrant, it maintains the judge's right to apply the subsection that recognizes a journalist's right not to reveal a source except under the conditions set out in the bill. In such cases, the judge must ask the prosecution, the defence and any other party to the cause to submit their opinions on the matter.

That way, the judge can protect a source known to a journalist as defined by the bill who does not have sufficient resources to make full answer and defence. I appreciate my colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin's experience and rigour, which minimized the loopholes that could have undermined the protection provided by the law. This is very important because it shows, once again, that the purpose of the bill is to provide a legal framework that is both effective and useful.

I have just one more point I would like to raise about—

Canada Evidence ActPrivate Members' Business

2:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Unfortunately, I must interrupt the hon. member.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Cambridge.

The hon. member for Cambridge knows that he has 10 minutes of which there are 3 today.