Mr. Speaker, I am pleased for the opportunity to speak to this issue. I wrote this speech a week and a half ago when the debate was first before the House and I needed an opportunity to speak.
As they say in politics, a week is a long time. We have had an extraordinary set of events over the course of that week. We heard the decision of the Supreme Court last Friday, a 9-0 decision, which is certainly a significant decision. We also had the attack on a member of Parliament by thePrime Minister of Canada in the House.
I know it came as a shock to the government members that the Liberal Party was prepared to embrace all of Bill C-36, not just the parts we wanted to tiptoe around. Unlike the Conservative Party, we voted for the entire bill. I sat on the justice committee five years ago when that bill was being considered. I was quite skeptical of those sections, the impugned sections that we are talking about today, and I was not very shy about saying so, both inside and outside of caucus.
In my view, on the evidence that was presented to us in the months following September 11, the evidence simply did not warrant the inclusion of these provisions in Bill C-36. There was quite an animated discussion both inside and outside of caucus on this and, indeed, on the Hill as well.
Hansard has me saying this on October 17, 2001, about a month after September 11:
Watching television last night I was struck by the eagerness of some Canadians to trade their rights and freedoms for security. It was both surprising and disheartening to me to hear caller after caller be prepared to give the government and parliament a blank cheque. It was also disheartening to hear Canadians make wild and outrageous links between immigrants, refugees and security. When people are afraid they say things that they would never otherwise say. They think things that they would never otherwise think, and they do things that they would never otherwise do.
It will be a test of our nation that has a reputation for stability and tolerance to deal with these fears. Otherwise the terrorists win. They win because neighbours turn on neighbours. Instead of reaching out we turn inward. We walk away from our rights for which previous generations have fought and died. The challenge is not to let terrorism win and to break this cycle of victimization where victims in turn victimize. I am hopeful that the justice committee will carefully scrutinize the bill.
We did in fact scrutinize the bill. Some of us argued long and hard that these sections were flawed and had the potential, and I emphasize potential, for abuse and would be used in ways, if they were to be used at all, that we would not otherwise have anticipated. Quite a number of caucus members spoke against these provisions and the prime minister and minister of justice of the day agreed to put a term limit on these sections of the bill.
After third reading, a reporter put a microphone underneath my nose and asked me how I could have voted for Bill C-36. I said it was very difficult. Again I quote myself from Hansard:
None of us will be enthusiastically voting tonight. Possibly after the work of the committee we are somewhat less unhappy, but no one would introduce this kind of bill unless the circumstances justify it.
There are three conditions which erode civil rights: unanimity of purpose, just cause and great uncertainty. We have unanimity of purpose. Canadians want something done. We have a just cause in the fight against terrorism. We have great uncertainty. The population is quite nervous. We have eroded civil liberties, but will our Faustian bargain give us greater security?
We now have five years of experience under our collective belts and with one notable exception, the provisions have never been used. The Air-India inquiry is the notable exception, but at the committee, in caucus and on the floor of the House, I cannot recall any member, any minister or any official ever saying that this could have a retrospective application. Therefore, in some respects, the Air-India inquiry comes to me as a surprise.
It was sold to us on the basis that it would have only a prospective application; that is, the police, or the RCMP or CSIS would have reason to believe that something bad was about to happen. Then they would use the provisions, which we are talking about, to prevent that bad thing from happening.
Using the section for an inquiry like Air-India was certainly something that did not cross my mind and possibly did not cross the minds of many of those who voted in favour of Bill C-36.
No legislation is proposed in an isolated environment. Laws are proclaimed and laws are withdrawn on the basis of experience. What is our experience thus far?
On the security side of the ledger, clearly we are much better prepared than ever. We have had arrests and incidents which have thus far been contained by good intelligence and good police work. On the funding side, we have built up the capability of our intelligence, police, security and military services over the past five years with very significant resources. I dare say that those budgets have possibly grown the most of any budget passed in the House in the last five years.
On the human rights side of the equation, however, the record is somewhat less clear and not nearly as sterling. We just had a Supreme Court of Canada decision, which was a unanimous decision, that detention certificates were unconstitutional. Taking away the liberty of the citizen and others without trial, without access to the evidence and without counsel is an anathema in a free and democratic society. I thought the court's comments were balanced, reasoned, fair and respectful to Parliament and the government's foremost obligation to protect its citizens.
Mr. Arar could have used some of that protection. I cannot recall a case of any Canadian citizen in all of our history where the rights of a citizen have been so abused. Supplying dubious intelligence, cooperating in the extraordinary rendition by a foreign country, knowing that he would be tortured or having reasonable apprehension that he might be tortured is about as bad as it gets. The result is the resignation of the RCMP commissioner, an apology from the Prime Minister and compensation in excess of $10 million.
Apparently, Justice O'Connor's inquiry is even having effects in European nations, where European nations are reconsidering their willingness to allow airplanes for the CIA to land on European soil in order to complete these renditions to other countries. In those countries there has been a great deal of soul-searching going on as to what laws and what cooperation they will offer in the future. Unfortunately, soul-searching does not appear to be the strong suit of the Prime Minister or the government.
What was the Prime Minister thinking about when he attacked the member for Mississauga—Brampton South? Did he really think that a scurrilous attack on a fellow member, who happens to be a Sikh, would somehow enhance the debate between security and rights? Did he really think that this was going to be a contribution to the two major tasks of government: the right of citizens to expect that their government provide security and the right of all citizens to live freely and face their accusers in an open trial with all the evidence? What was he thinking about?
Does he really believe that baseless allegations contribute to an atmosphere of reasoned debate or is this feeding some other agenda, that thePrime Minister really will do anything, absolutely anything, to get his majority? Does this not play into his pandering to fear in Canadians, much like I read out in my quote from Hansard of five years ago, playing to the fears in the population?
The respective merits of whether to sunset or not sunset are irrelevant to the tactics narrative, tough on crime, tough on terrorism. The reality is that security, citizen's rights, reasoned debate and just plain common decency give way to the tactics narrative in pursuit of a majority. Destroy a live, who cares? Destroy a family, who cares? Destroy a nation, who cares? “I have got my majority”.
The Prime Minister, and I do not know whether it is advertently or inadvertently, gave a classic display of the abuses that those of us who sat on the committee five years ago were most worried about. He took a newspaper article and tied it to a member's family and the Liberal position on these clauses.
Surely, it was fundamental to ask questions like these, after all he is the senior political officer in our country. How did the newspapers secure a secret list of potential witnesses? If someone handed him an article just before question period, is that not a fundamental question? It seems fundamental to me. How did that newspaper receive that secret list? Would it not be perfectly ordinary for any prime minister to ask, who would leak such a thing? Why would they leak such a thing? What is the motive?
If for no other reason but simply to protect his own government, would he not ask, “Could my government have been involved in such a leak?” Would he not ask that kind of a question? Is that not a straightforward question to ask before he would engage in a long term smear, knowing full well that these sections on sunsetting or not sunsetting were going to be implicated in some way?
If he is not worried about his own government and he wants to get in his tactical narratives, et cetera, surely to goodness he would have the victims of the Air-India inquiry in mind. These people have been seeking a form of justice for literally years now. Would this not be a fundamental question to ask? “Is my attack on the hon. member going to compromise the integrity of that inquiry?” Is that not a fundamental question?
I do not even know whether he does not care. I think he will do absolutely anything to get a majority and he really does not care how he gets there.
Are witness lists not to be held in the strictest confidence? What little association I have had with inquiries is that they are guarded like Fort Knox, so how does one get those kinds of witness lists?
Using his bully pulpit as the Prime Minister of Canada, the biggest bully pulpit there is in the country, using his bully pulpit to undermine the integrity of the commission of inquiry, what was he thinking about?
Finally, there are the victims of Air-India. As I say, these people have sought justice for years. Surely to goodness a scurrilous and baseless allegation such as this will only lead to the undermining of the quality of that inquiry.
As I look back on my time here and my time on the justice committee, I feel some justification for my skepticism. I do not think that we can deal with terrorism lightly. I do not think we can just join hands, sing Kumbaya and hope that terrorism will somehow or another go away. Terrorism is real. There are indeed those who wish to do us harm. Some even live among us. And threat assessment is not an exact science.
However, as legislators we must only create laws that are proportionate to the reality of the threat. In my view, these provisions are an overreach, disproportionate to the threat, and cannot be justified in a free and democratic state.
Part of Justice O'Connor's report dealt with the policy review of the RCMP's national security activities. He said at page 22:
The national security landscape in Canada is constantly evolving to keep abreast of threats to our national security. It is vital that review and accountability mechanisms keep pace with operational changes. A review in five years' time should assist in this respect.
We have now had five years with Bill C-36. The evidence of the need for these sections was sketchy at the time. The government of that day felt sufficient discomfort to build in an exit ramp. No evidence in these five years has come forward to justify the retention of these sections. This continues to be a significant intrusion into the rights of all Canadians. Therefore, it is my view that these provisions should sunset.
Mr. Speaker, I put it to you that actually the government had been offered a couple of other alternatives. I see the hon. member for Scarborough Southwest sitting down there, and I know that he and his colleagues have worked diligently on this particular section of Bill C-36. I am somewhat disappointed not to see the government coming forward with legislation that reflects the hard work of that committee. I am also disappointed that the government has not come forward with legislation that reflects the work of the Senate.
I have heard arguments in the House that the election intervened and things of that nature. What I have read of the reports is that there are certain decisions that could be taken, that could have been presented by the government, and which would have addressed a number of the significant human rights concerns that have been raised over the course of this period of time, while still addressing the security concerns, those twin responsibilities of government.
I know that our leader has offered cooperation to the government in the event that the government could present comprehensive legislation such as this, but, for whatever reason, the government has chosen a straight up, straight down vote. Unfortunately, I therefore find myself in a position where my skepticism over this period of time has been justified, and my view is that these impugned sections should be allowed to sunset.