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House of Commons Hansard #107 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was provisions.

Topics

Anti-Terrorism ActOrders of the Day

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am particularly pleased to speak to the motion because, it would appear, because of a significant shift that I think we are now seeing in the Liberal Party, the motion will be defeated.

In the interests of civil liberties and human rights in this country, I see that as a significant victory.

The motion before us takes us back to 9/11 and to the response of the House and the federal government as to how we were going to deal with our concerns over terrorism. The response of the Liberal government at that time, supported by the Conservative Party, was Bill C-36, what became known as the Anti-terrorism Act.

Bill C-36 was a huge bill, encompassing amendments to a large number of pieces of legislation, the Criminal Code, the Evidence Act and financial acts. It was a very complex bill and very extensive in its reach. It was rushed through in a little less than two months with little debate. We heard this repeatedly from those witnesses who did appear in front of our committee in the review that is still ongoing.

It is a classic, in terms of this legislation, that when we are faced with a crisis that we repeat so often the errors of history by overreacting and panicking in passing legislation that strikes at our fundamental values, our fundamental principles and our fundamental rights. That is what we did with Bill C-36.

I am proud to say that the NDP at that time, led by the current Deputy Speaker, led the opposition to the use of this kind of draconian legislation and we voted against it. We have maintained our opposition to it throughout this entire period of time. We continue to do that today.

I have to say that the sections that gave us the greatest concern, as well as all civil libertarians and people concerned about justice, were the two that we are faced with extending today. Those sections involve investigative hearings, which is almost an academic terminology. It is really the compulsory attendance and giving of evidence. It is a compulsory breach of our fundamental right to remain silent but we breach that with that section.

The second one is again euphemistically referred to as a recognizance section but it really is about preventative detention, as much as the advocates in favour of it would want us to believe otherwise.

In a panic and gross overreaction and in undermining some of our long-standing values, principles and rights, we passed that bill in late 2001 and it came into effect in the year 2002.

Even those members of Parliament at that time who were supportive of the bill recognized how fundamentally flawed and how risky and dangerous it was to our rights so they put in a sunset clause. This was after great pressure from my party, from civil libertarians across the country and from a number of specific communities. I think of the labour movement, the Muslim community, a number of ethnocultural communities and first nations who were very concerned about it.

In response to the very well defined and well articulated fears, the government of the day put in provisions that those two particular clauses--and they are quite extensive clauses and we are not talking a paragraph or two, we are talking pages and pages--would be sunsetted after five years unless there was a vote in both Houses of Parliament, in the House of Commons and in the Senate, supporting an extension.

However, the motion cannot be amended. Even if one of the opposition parties wanted to move an amendment to the motion before us today, it would not be allowed by statutory compulsion.

The legislation also provided for a mandatory five year review. That review was given over to the justice committee in the last Parliament and a subcommittee, on which I sat, was appointed to deal with it. We did not complete that work before the last election but we have started it again in front of the public safety and national security committee, a separate and permanent standing committee of the House. A subcommittee of that committee has been appointed.

We came forward with a majority and a minority report. I want to acknowledge the very fine work done by the previous speaker, the Bloc member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, who, along with myself, wrote a minority report expressing grave concerns about the continuation of these two sections and advocating for their swift removal from our laws.

On the other hand, all the Liberals and Conservatives on the subcommittee and the full committee supported an extension of the sunset clauses to five years at which time there would be another review requiring another vote.

After listening to the speakers from the Liberal Party, I am happy to say that they have now decided not to hold that position. I understand from their statements that they will be voting against the motion. With a great deal of optimism and relief for a number of our communities, I believe the motion will be voted down at the end of the day.

The one final technical point I need to make is that the vote must take place by next Thursday, since votes are not held in the House on Fridays, because the deadline is next Friday, February 16. If the two resolutions from the two Houses have not been voted on affirmatively by that time, the motion would fail automatically.

I believe it is important for Parliament to speak in opposition to these types of draconian measures and, when we do speak against them, we do that formally by way of a vote in this House. I hope we will have the vote next week and that these sections will be struck from our law.

It is important to recognize the work that went on in committee, both in the previous Parliament and in the current Parliament. When Parliament resumed after the 2005-06 election, it was determined, although I am not sure I agreed to it, that we would not have any additional witnesses. We decided we would rely on all of the witnesses we had heard in the previous Parliament. That review had been going on for almost a full year. I did not count the number of witnesses we heard but I know we heard many.

The witnesses we heard from the government side, and I do not mean that in terms of partisanship but in terms of the people who worked within the government structure, whether it was the RCMP, CSIS, the Department of Justice or any of the other intelligence agencies, all of them supported the continuation of the legislation. I do not think I have ever experienced that in any other committee work that I have done. They agreed that the legislation was basically perfect and that, other than some changes in commas and punctuation, it really did not need any changes.

After receiving between 50 and 100 presentations from academics, civil liberty groups, ethnocultural groups, international witnesses and others, what was so striking was that, with only a few exceptions, the overwhelming evidence was that it was not needed in the first place. Almost everyone agreed that we should get rid of it because the existing criminal had the provisions needed to deal with every problem the legislation was attempting to address.

This is one of those times when we need to learn from our history, such as the abuse by government action toward the Japanese Canadians during the second world war. I often ask a rhetorical question in that regard. If we had asked average Canadians before 1939 whether they could see their government ever attacking an entire community because of their racial background or country of origin, even if they had been here for generations and generations, to then confiscate all their lands and, in effect, imprison them for an entire period of the war, we would have had an overwhelming and, I would suggest, an absolute answer of no.

Similarly, before the October crisis of 1970, if we had asked average Canadians if they could imagine that because of the conduct of a dozen to fifteen people in the province of Quebec that the War Measures Act would have been invoked against the entire population of Quebec based on a totally false assumption of an apprehended insurrection, I believe the answer again would have been an overwhelming no, that they could never imagine seeing that happen.

Similarly, we could have asked people before 9/11 whether this type of legislation would ever be passed. If we were to study the history of what happened after the War Measures Act was invoked and then repealing it and then moving into emergency legislation that was much more appropriate in terms of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, bringing into play in that period of time the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, average Canadians would have said that they did not need the legislation, that they would never pass that kind of legislation and that they would not have preventative detention in this country, but we did.

On all three of those occasions, we have the same dynamics: a crisis, real or imagined, and then an overreaction in a time of panic. However, we are beyond that. We have a responsibility to look at the role that terrorism plays, not only in our country but internationally, respond to it in a manner that says that we absolutely will protect our citizens to the nth degree as much as we possibly can but that we will not give in to terrorism, we will not breach our fundamental values and we will not break the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

If we deal with it from that vantage point, if we ask what it takes to protect our people, which is our fundamental responsibility as members of Parliament and the responsibility every government has to its citizens, and to ensure their safety to the nth degree, then it is a pyrrhic victory if we say that we do that by passing this kind of legislation or as, in this case, a vote that is required here as we continue.

What it really means is that we have given in, out of fear and panic, and as for those people who would use violence to achieve their ends, they won. That is really what happened in 2001-02 when we passed this legislation. The terrorists won because we gave in to those fears.

Canadians and all members of Parliament have to show courage. We have to say yes, there are methodologies that we need to employ and additional resources that we need to put in to fighting terrorism or people who use acts of violence to achieve their ends, whether that is organized crime or people doing it for a political or an ideological motivation. When we do that, that is when we respond most effectively: when we put into place additional resources as required.

One of the things we saw clearly, not only in Canada but across the globe, was that our intelligence services were not well enough coordinated. I would have to say, from all the experience I have had in the last several years of investigating, that this continues to be a problem. We have resolved it to a great degree in Canada, but it is not finished. There is additional work to be done.

We learned, for instance, that we did not have enough members of our intelligence services who were fluent in enough languages, so the gathering of information and intelligence was diminished. Our ability to do it and the effectiveness of it were diminished because of that. Those are the kinds of programs we have to look at putting into place. We looked at increasing technology, but the reality was, after looking at the American experience in particular, that it was not the best way to go. What we really needed was more people on the street doing traditional intelligence gathering.

Those are the kinds of methodologies that we have to look at. Those are the kinds of resources that we need to deploy, but using this kind of legislation, quite frankly, is useless. Again, let us go back to the comments of my friend from the Bloc, and we all recognize this, who said that these sections have not been used. Attempts were made to use them on one occasion, but they have not been used and that is a reflection of the need, or lack of need, for them.

It is also a reflection, and I think this is the most accurate assessment, of the fact that we already have the tools. If we need to do investigations and we need to lay charges and we need to move to try to convict, those tools are already all there.

We heard from the witnesses over and over again that we do not need to be doing this, that it is better to spend our time, effort and resources in other areas because our criminal justice system is already functioning effectively to the degree that we want it to function against this kind of conduct.

I am going to end at this point. Again, going back to our responsibility, there is not a member of this House, no matter which party he or she belongs to, who for one second would say that we are going to do anything less than the absolute in what we need to do to protect our citizens. It is really about how best we do that. This legislation is not the way to do it.

In fact, in some respects, it is a false credibility that we give: that we have done everything. I think that was one of the reasons we reacted the way we did. We said that we had to do something, that we had to say to the electorate that we were doing something. The easiest way to do that is to pass legislation. Whether it works or not seems to be a secondary consideration, but it gives the electorate a false sense of confidence and a false sense of security.

If we really want to give that sense of security to them, to all of our citizens, to all the residents of Canada, then we do that by applying some of the methods I have talked about, not by passing useless pieces of legislation. I am going to be very proud when the NDP stands and votes against this motion next week because it is bad legislation. It strikes at the core of our values and it is time to get it off the books.

Anti-Terrorism ActOrders of the Day

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Sue Barnes Liberal London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I note that this member, together with the Bloc member, had a dissenting report in the committee, in the subcommittee report that I know they worked very hard on. In that report, there was a discussion of section 495 of the Criminal Code and the use it could have in being an alternative way, where “a peace officer may arrest without warrant”.

I wonder if he would expand on the arguments he made in that area. Specifically, this would be as contrasted to the provision for preventative arrest that currently exists. I know that he covered this in the interim report. I would like to hear more about this in the chamber.

Anti-Terrorism ActOrders of the Day

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to give credit to the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin because he came up with the argument initially. Obviously I supported him on it.

What we are really saying there is that we have existing provisions within the Criminal Code to deal with that kind of investigation, including if the police officer has a reasonable basis on which to arrest. All of those provisions are there and they have worked well. They have worked well whether we are dealing with minor insignificant crimes, although I always hate using that term, all the way up to very serious crimes.

Those provisions in terms of the investigative tools are in section 495 and other sections of the code. This already gives our police agencies, including our intelligence agencies, all the authority they need.

As a sidebar, it was interesting when the Commissioner of the RCMP was in front of us at one point and I pressed him on this. I asked him to tell me where he used it, because he had given a sort of offhand comment that the RCMP had used some of the sections of the anti-terrorism legislation. I asked how many times, because he said the RCMP had used it a number of times, and I think he gave me the figure of 12 or 16 times.

I pressed him on that and I can say that I pursued that right up until the very end. I have never been given a clear answer as to how many times and in what format this was done. I even have a letter from the office of the former minister for public security assuring me that when we finished I would get that. I do not have it and I do not believe I am ever going to get it, because I do not believe it ever existed, that we used this at all, ever, even in the investigation process.

Anti-Terrorism ActOrders of the Day

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Fitzpatrick Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I should know more about this legislation than I do. If he could, I would like the member to enlighten me as to what oversight mechanisms exist in the bill to make sure that we have a watchdog, somebody who could have a look at what is going on under this bill, a person Canadians can trust who can look at what is going on behind the scenes, who can lift the veil of secrecy, so to speak.

In some ways I would feel more comfortable if I knew there was a good system of checks and balances available in the anti-terrorism legislation. I would appreciate his comments.

Anti-Terrorism ActOrders of the Day

12:50 p.m.

An hon. member

There are none.

Anti-Terrorism ActOrders of the Day

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I heard someone say from the other side that there were none, and that is not being fair.

I also want to say to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada that I am sorry I referred to him earlier as the parliamentary secretary for public safety. I think that was actually a compliment to him, but I will leave it at this point.

In terms of judicial review of both sections that are purported to be renewed and extended at this time, the parliamentary secretary raised a number of provisions that were safeguards. In that regard, I want to say again that it was part of the fight we in the NDP had to try to build in as many safeguards as possible at that time in 2001 when we were trying to minimize the draconian aspects. We pressed to have them included.

However, the bottom line is this. We live in a country where the rule of law applies, and we can only rely, and I say this to members of Parliament, on our judges to the degree that we give them discretion. If we give them discretion to impose, and I am going to use the preventive detention areas as an example, there are provisions in there that give sweeping powers to our judges as to what conditions they can impose on an individual after they conduct the initial investigation and the initial hearings.

Those initial hearings, by the way, are going to be very limited in terms of what the person is going to be able to do to defend themselves, because he or she is not going to be told a lot about what the evidence is against them. That is a provision in the anti-terrorism legislation. The person is entitled to representation. We see this with the way our security certificates function. We have authorized our judges to be able to review this in a system that is totally contrary to our criminal justice system in many respects, and which has been criticized by those same judges, but we are in effect forcing them to function. That is what this legislation does.

Up to this point it has not been used, but if it ever is, what we are really doing is switching from saying that we as a Parliament, as legislators for this country, are saying that these are the standards we have to meet. We are lowering those standards and then saying to the judges that it is within these scopes and these parameters that they operate. That is really what we are doing.

That is what we have done with the security certificates. That is why it is so necessary to get rid of them.

This is what we are doing. We are replicating the same system in this act, we really are. It says that we are going to shuffle this off to the judges, but we are going say to the judges that this is the authority they now have, which they did not have before because our Charter of Rights and Freedoms would not let them do that before. We are now empowering them to do that.

As members may know from the number of times I have criticized the current government for its attack on the judiciary, I am a great supporter of our judiciary. I believe we have the best judiciary in the world, but they are not perfect. We can go back historically and point to any number of times when they have transgressed and have not protected the rights and freedoms of people in this country.

Anti-Terrorism ActOrders of the Day

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know of many Canadians who felt betrayed when this act was proclaimed. In the climate of suspicion of the day, good neighbours became suspicious of other good neighbours. To some extent, I believe, when the act was proclaimed, the terrorists actually won a victory against freedoms in those days.

Does the member believe that the end of this act would actually be to the benefit of freedoms in Canada?

Anti-Terrorism ActOrders of the Day

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me make two comments. One is that I wish to again acknowledge the speech we heard from the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin with regard to the way this legislation could be used and, I have to say, at some time will be used, I would expect, to specifically target members of our community and communities as a whole. We can see the simple labelling of someone as a suspected terrorist, as we saw so clearly in the Arar case, and the kinds of consequences, unintended perhaps but maybe not, that flow from it.

To answer the basic question, there is no question about this. Whether one is part of the Muslim community in this country, which has been the primary target of this kind of legislation, and whether one is seen as the target by them, or whether someone is in the first nations, who have great fears of this legislation at some time being used against them, there is no question that when these sections go down, as I expect they will next week, there will be a big sigh of relief in those communities.

Anti-Terrorism ActOrders of the Day

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Fundy Royal for a short question.

Anti-Terrorism ActOrders of the Day

12:55 p.m.

Fundy Royal New Brunswick

Conservative

Rob Moore ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the hon. member's speech on this matter.

I would like to ask him what he says to Canadians, what he says to the police. He spoke highly of them, and I heard it also from members opposite on the Liberals side of the House. They speak highly of the police and their abilities, and yet they are one of the chief groups that are calling out, crying out, for us to put in place the safeguards that can prevent a terrorist attack.

The police are the first responders in a situation like this, something that has the potential to victimize hundreds, and in some cases we have seen even thousands, of innocent victims. This legislation is designed to prevent a terrorist attack. It is essential.

The fact that it has not been used, I would say that we are lucky that it has not--

Anti-Terrorism ActOrders of the Day

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I had advised the hon. member for Fundy Royal that there was only time for a short question. We have now run out the clock, but I will allow the hon. member for Windsor--Tecumseh to give a short reply, but I do mean short.

Anti-Terrorism ActOrders of the Day

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, my answer to the police and to our intelligence agents is that we make the decisions. We hear their requests. We judge them. We assess them. It is the responsibility of the members of this House to make those decisions and I make those for all Canadians.

Anti-Terrorism ActOrders of the Day

1 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Before I recognize the Minister of Public Safety, I would just like to ask all members, as a courtesy to all other members, to check that all cellphones are turned off.

Resuming debate. The hon. Minister of Public Safety.

Anti-Terrorism ActOrders of the Day

1 p.m.

Okanagan—Coquihalla B.C.

Conservative

Stockwell Day ConservativeMinister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I present my remarks today in the light of a fairly recent revelation for us. As I am hearing it and I could be wrong, and maybe in the question and answer time we can be corrected on this, but my understanding is that the Liberals are going to bail out on their own former legislation. I hope we hear some clarification on that but these are the early indications that we are receiving. I hope that is not true.

It has some precedent because in a similar regard, it was under the Liberal regime that our troops, our brave men and women in uniform, were committed to Afghanistan and then it was Liberals by the scores who bailed out on our troops and voted against us maintaining our commitment to the good people of Afghanistan who have asked us to be there. This would not be surprising to me, but I hope that is not true.

We need to look at the genesis of this legislation, which was of course what happened on 9/11, and then the follow-up by the United Nations asking democratic nations to do what they could to enhance their legislation, to minimize the chance that this type of horrific event could happen again.

Now it appears that the logic, or the illogic, that is being applied to not extending these provisions that are in here to protect Canadians, is that everything is fine now. Nobody has blown up any Twin Towers since then. There has not been any attack in Canada. Could there be any thought that maybe the legislation has actually served as a deterrent? Would that ever come into account? It appears not.

I would remind my colleagues that Canada is still on Osama bin Laden's list. He named several countries which he was directing his malevolent forces to attack whenever they had the opportunity. Canada is still on that list.

Since 9/11, since the United Nations requested that countries do what they could to come up with legislative provisions to protect themselves in a greater way, we have seen ongoing terrorist attacks. The obvious ones that we can remember were the horrific events that happened in Beslan where schoolchildren were slaughtered by terrorists, of course the London underground incident, four trains bombed in Madrid, the night club in Bali where three Canadians were killed--

Anti-Terrorism ActOrders of the Day

1 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Does this have any relevance to what we are talking about? Any?

Anti-Terrorism ActOrders of the Day

1 p.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Conservative Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

--and July's bombings on Mumbai's suburban rail network that killed 209 people and injured thousands.

Anti-Terrorism ActOrders of the Day

1 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Order, please. The hon. member for Scarborough--Guildwood will be recognized. He will have 20 minutes to express his views. Meanwhile, I have recognized the Minister for Public Safety and I would like to listen to him.

Anti-Terrorism ActOrders of the Day

1 p.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Conservative Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, I heard my hon. friend from the NDP speak about taking away these provisions. They are minor provisions and I will get into that in a minute.

However, if there was an incident, and God forbid there would not be on Canadian soil, we know who would be the first ones to blame the security agencies, the police and the government for allowing it to happen. It would be about a nanosecond of time before they would ask why the government did not foresee it, why we did not do something about it, and why we did not stop it. Let us keep that in mind too. Their record is very clear on how swiftly they move in judgment at those particular opportunities.

The events that have taken place, that continue to take place, related to terrorism are stark reminders that the threat of terrorism is still very much with us. It has touched the lives of Canadians abroad, and if we are not vigilant, it could touch our lives here on our own soil, as it did in the Air-India attack.

Up to the time of the Twin Towers tragedy, Canada had the record for Canadians killed in one incident by a terrorist attack. Some 329 people died on that fateful flight. Upwards of 290 of them were Canadians.

Often it is dismissed. Maybe it is because, tragically, of the name of the airline, I do not know, but for reasons we find hard to fathom, it is often dismissed. Yet, Canada suffered the greatest single attack in terms of deaths of citizens up until 9/11. It is a threat that we have to take seriously.

There is no greater duty than for a government to protect its citizens. It is the first responsibility of any government: the safety and security of its citizens. We are unwavering in our commitment to live up to that responsibility and to safeguard our national security. The safety of Canadians has to be our priority and the motion that is before us today is part of the government's ongoing commitment to protect Canadians from harm.

The motion today talks about leaving in place important provisions that were introduced by the Anti-terrorism Act that remains a vital link in the chain that helps ensure our security. We do that for another three years when it would be and should be evaluated again.

The act provides a measured approach. It enhances our ability to prosecute terrorists and to prevent them from carrying out their cowardly crimes, and it respects civil liberties. We are very aware of the balance between liberty and freedom. Any time a people want increased security, there will be, on the margins at least, some pressure on their freedom. If we want 100% security from anything wrong every happening to us, we could lock ourselves into our homes, bar the doors and close the windows. We will be just about 100% secure, but we will not be very free.

We understand and we appreciate this delicate balance, and the balance is achieved in the act. The three year extension of the provisions that we are looking at today will ensure that the act continues to be effective and at the same time respectful of fundamental human rights that are at the heart of our democratic system.

Canada's new government is taking action. We have been in this last year taking action on keeping Canadians safer.

Before we address the actual provisions, I would just like to remind all the members here that in budget 2006 we committed $1.4 billion to ensure the security of our country and the safety of our communities. We did that in very specific ways.

Our security forces, CSIS and the RCMP, have signed a new memorandum of understanding. They did that on September 12, 2006 to facilitate cooperation and information sharing between those two agencies and to protect Canadians from terrorism.

We have allocated in the next two years of our budget $160 million to stick with our commitment of seeing 1,000 more officers, 1,000 more personnel in the RCMP throughout the country, on our streets, on our roads and in our neighbourhoods.

We are moving to strengthen the border by arming our border officers and by eliminating situations where many border officers work alone. That has continued for years. They have asked for years that it be addressed. We have said that these are danger points and points of risk, and we are addressing that and correcting the problem.

We have allocated $303 million over the next two years to implement a border strategy to promote the movement of low risk trade and travellers within North America across the border while protecting Canadians from security threats.

To protect Canadians from terrorism and to safeguard our nation's security, we listed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the LTTE, and the Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's faction of the Hezb-e Islami. The Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin, HIG, is now a terrorist entity. Our allies and our citizens have asked for years that we do this, that these groups be listed as terrorist entities to stop the fundraising and other support activities that happen in Canada.

The former Liberal regime just did not get it done. After years of being asked, it took a huge amount of pressure, almost international pressure, to get the Liberals to finally list Hezbollah a few years ago. They neglected these other areas, but the Conservatives moved to protect Canadians. If Liberals do not get the job done, we do. We will continue to enhance our national security infrastructure while working with our allies in the broader international fight against terrorism and that includes our mission in Afghanistan.

Thanks to the Anti-terrorism Act, terrorist groups have greater difficulty carrying out their operations, both within Canada and abroad. The Anti-terrorism Act rounds out these ambitious measures.

Terrorists are changing their methods, while the world recognizes the need to neutralize their hate-driven messages and acts. Terrorists pose a problem that increasingly affects the entire planet. More and more, they are capable of anything.

In the wake of what happened on September 11 the United Nations recognized the need for international cooperation and passed a resolution calling upon member states to intensify and accelerate their efforts to work together to counter terrorism. It called on states to make it more difficult for terrorists to operate.

Canada responded with the Anti-terrorism Act. It enabled Canada to implement international obligations in the fight against terrorism. That included ratifying and implementing international agreements such as the international convention for the suppression of the financing of terrorism. That is critical because while terrorism may be inspired by extreme hate and ideology, it is fuelled by dollars and cents. That is why Canada has given particular attention to cutting off funding sources for terrorist activities.

I am particularly grateful to the dedicated and committed Canadians at FINTRAC. That is Canada's financial intelligence agency which has a mandate to detect and deter money laundering and terrorist financing. FINTRAC receives, as required by law, reports from a variety of financial entities but most notably from the major banks.

FINTRAC's analysis then allows it to produce financial intelligence that could be used by investigators to understand the financial transactions associated with suspected money laundering terrorist activity and financing activity of other threats to the very security of Canada. Last year FINTRAC relayed intelligence on 34 cases to terrorist activity financing.

Canada is seen as a leader in the international community and we want to continue to provide that leadership and to detect and deter the use of Canada's financial system for illegal purposes. By creating a public list of terrorist groups the Criminal Code makes it more difficult for these groups to raise funds. This, in turn, reduces their ability to operate in Canada.

I would also note that the Anti-terrorism Act fights terrorist financing by protecting the integrity of charities. That way no organization that supports terrorism can obtain registered charitable status in our country. Now, when Canadians donate to charities they know and have that sense of confidence that their hard-earned dollars will not support terrorists or their causes.

The Anti-terrorism Act is working, it is making Canadians safer, and at the same time it is respecting their civil liberties. It also creates specific terrorism offences, provides preventive and investigative powers, and provides the checks and balances to ensure that these new powers are not abused. That is a very critical part of these provisions.

The record shows that police and prosecutors have used these new powers with great care and prudence. Some might ask why we would need these powers if they are used so infrequently. Canada has many laws on the books that are rarely used. Do we eliminate certain laws just because they are being effective in eliminating certain activity? I would think not. They are there for a reason. They are there to be used if the situation demands it and that is why the Anti-terrorism Act is so important. It is being proactive, it is being responsible, and that is why it is so critical that the House extends the sunsetting period for parts of this act.

This act provides police and prosecutors, if they need it, with valuable tools to investigate and even more importantly to prevent terrorism. Without an extension from Parliament, two key components of the act are going to cease to apply on or around March 1, 2007. I am talking about the provisions related to investigative hearings and, second, to something that is called recognizance with conditions. I will review these quickly.

Investigative hearings are used for two purposes: to track down terrorists immediately after an incident and to help prevent attacks from occurring. As part of the investigation of the terrorist attack, for example, a judge could order an individual to answer questions.

I want to stress that anyone who is ordered to testify in a case like that is doing so as a witness. That means that the individual has strong protections against self-incrimination and that he or she has access to legal counsel at all times. That protection will allow the individual to reveal critical information and to do it without fear. That information could lead police to evidence that strengthens their case and prevents or zeros in on those who have perpetrated a terrorist act. It could help prosecutors put dangerous criminals behind bars, or it could provide intelligence to decision makers that may help them to foil future attacks.

As I said, investigative hearings can be used to prevent terrorist acts and activities before they occur. Imagine if peace officers were aware of an individual who had information that could prevent an attack. An investigative hearing could take place, and the witness could be provided with strong protections against self-incrimination. As a result the witness could feel confident to provide vital information, information that could prevent a tragedy and save thousands of lives. Investigative hearings are obviously important tools both to investigate attacks and to prevent future incidents.

The other provision in the act deals with something that is called recognizance with conditions. This provides another tool to prevent a terrorist attack. Imagine if the police receive some late-breaking intelligence that an attack appears to be imminent. Innocent lives could be at stake and there is no time lose. These provisions would allow a peace officer to obtain a warrant to bring a person into custody. The warrant is granted only if the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a terrorist crime will take place and reasonable grounds to suspect that bringing a certain person before a judge would prevent it. Should there be no time to seek the warrant, the peace officer may bring the person into custody.

Some critics have complained that that provision takes away civil liberties, but we need to look at it in its proper light. A person who would be subject to these provisions must be brought before a judge within 24 hours, and earlier if possible. That is 24 hours only. What a difference that one day could make in somebody being intercepted from possibly perpetrating a horror. It could save one life; it could save many.

In this instance the judge is not allowed to delay and must decide right away whether to impose conditions on the individual's release. That is what we are talking about: releasing the person, but with conditions. The judge for example could prohibit that person from possessing a firearm or from possessing ammunition. That is what we are talking about. That is the huge apparent travesty of liberties that the NDP and now apparently the Liberals are shrieking about.

Putting this into a global context, look what some of our allies have done. We have a 24 hour provision that we are suggesting here. In Australia its provisions allow for a person to be held up to 14 days; in the U.K. it is up to 28 days. That is their sovereign right to decide those things; however, we do not take ours quite that far.

These measures are key tools for our security professionals and go a long way to keeping Canadians more secure.

These provisions are used prudently. These measures are not secret tools of the state. Accountability and transparency are built in. Both I and my hon. colleague, the Minister of Justice, are required to report to this House on their use. Our provincial and territorial counterparts must also report annually.

Both of these conditions, investigative hearings and recognizance with conditions, provide police with the valuable tools should they need them to investigate or prevent terrorist attacks. I believe their use must be maintained. That is what we are talking about here today. In our effort to provide Canadians with safety and security, we must never jeopardize the values upon which our society is based. I believe these provisions strike the right balance between protecting Canadians from terrorist attacks and respecting their liberties. They effectively integrate the rights and freedoms that we hold dear as a country.

The Supreme Court of Canada has found that the investigative hearing process is constitutional. It is interesting that even though the Supreme Court of Canada has found this to be constitutional, there are members of the House who want to reject it and throw it out.

I welcome the debate. It reflects the values of democracy that all of us in the House hold dear. It is my wish that after careful examination of this motion all members will join in supporting the extension of these provisions.

Canadians understand that terrorism is a direct threat to their way of life. They know the values that we cherish depend on the security that we enjoy in our homes, in our communities and at our borders. They know their social and economic well-being depends on the freedom to raise their children, pursue their dreams and live their lives without fear. They rightly expect that their government will do everything possible within the bounds of our individual rights and freedoms to keep them safe from harm.

That is what this is doing. Unless we act now, two key components in our fight against terrorism will indeed fade into the sunset and I do not want the darkness to follow that. For the sake of our cities, towns and communities in Canada, we cannot let that happen.

We must remember that we are dealing with a particularly violent, insidious type of crime, a crime against humanity, a crime perpetrated by people with no sense of hesitation at all to blow up, to decimate children and men and women who are non-combatants, who are innocent people. They do it as horrifically and as graphically as they possibly can. We are talking about preventing the deliberate slaughter of innocent non-combatants. We are talking about preventing the destruction of innocent lives by people who do not hesitate to embark on that path of destruction.

These provisions were put in place by a Liberal government right after a particularly horrific incident in the United States. Those terrorist incidents have continued around the world. Canada is still at threat. We hope these things will never happen. We can make that hope a reality by extending these two provisions. As we supported the Liberals at that time, I would hope they would continue to support the principles that they one day felt were valid.

Anti-Terrorism ActOrders of the Day

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, the minister is one of the senior officers of the law in this country. I know that is frustrating to him, but nevertheless he is an officer of the law and he is bound to uphold the law. That is his obligation.

When he is proposing that the provisions not sunset but in fact be extended, he has to ask himself three questions. The first question would be, is the limitation of rights rationally connected to the threat? The second question would be, is this the least intrusive measure possible? The third question would be, is there a proportionate balance between the effects and the limitation of the rights? Those are the three questions that he as a senior officer in this country has to ask himself.

When his predecessor introduced the bill, those three questions were asked. That was the reason for the sunset provisions. There was not sufficient justification in the current context that would allow this to be permanently placed in the Criminal Code.

We have now had five years' worth of experience. What we have seen in the five years has been that these two provisions which were very controversial at the time have not been used. What we have seen, and this is in the public domain, has been a substantial abuse of Canadians' rights. The member's government had to apologize to Mr. Arar, and I commend the government for doing that. It paid compensation. Clearly, Mr. Arar's rights had been abused. There are others whose rights are alleged to have been abused.

What we have seen in the five years is no use for these particular provisions, an abuse of Canadians' rights and that the police have had all the tools they need to arrest terrorist suspects and charge them as incidents have arisen over those five years.

I ask my colleague these fundamental questions: Is the limitation of rights rationally connected to the threat? Is it the least intrusive measure possible? Is there a proportionate balance between the effects and the limitation of rights?

Anti-Terrorism ActOrders of the Day

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Conservative Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, there is a nuance here. I do not know if the member has realized what he said in pronouncing that it is my obligation as a senior officer of the law to ask these questions, but he has diminished the responsibility of every other member of Parliament. Every member of Parliament has to ask those questions. I have no greater tap on wisdom than do other members. I wish the member would not insult other members by saying that.

I asked those questions of myself and of my colleagues at the time, and I answered to each of those three questions the affirmative, yes.

I do not think the member voted against his government at the time when it put the legislation in place. He stood and supported it. He obviously went down the line and answered in the affirmative. He said, “yes, yes, yes”, and supported it and now he says we do not need it because nothing has happened.

Does he not realize that terrorist activities continue to go on around the world? Are the school children in Beslan not an indicator that they continue, in Madrid, in Bali, the people that were killed? He said that the test should be whether an incident has happened or not. By the way, there is an alleged incident that almost happened--I say alleged because it is going through the courts--in Toronto. People were arrested who allegedly were planning to blow up this building, to behead the Prime Minister and to destroy people in the Toronto area. Because an incident has not taken place? They continue to take place around the world.

The incident that promoted this legislation by the Liberals did not take place in Canada in the first place either. Is he saying it is only if Americans and Canadians are getting blown up that we should be protecting ourselves?

Hijacking has not happened in Canada, but we have laws against it. Should we throw away the laws on hijacking? There are entire communities in our country where arson has never taken place. Should we throw the laws out in those particular areas?

It is ridiculous. If these laws were good to protect Canadians a few years ago, they are good today.

Anti-Terrorism ActOrders of the Day

1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Ménard Bloc Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, the minister must easily recognize that it is not for us to judge those who defend civil rights in such cases as people who promote terrorism. In committee, no one has ever done that. This type of debate, which borders on demagoguery, does not get us anywhere.

I have a specific question to ask him. The minister gave an example of circumstances in which powers of preventive arrest should be used. My question is simple. Can the minister explain why, in the example given, the police officer could not have acted under section 495(1)(a) of the Criminal Code? Part of that section reads:

A peace officer may arrest without warrant (a) a person who, ... on reasonable grounds, he believes ... is about to commit an indictable offence.

I assume the officer's information would have constituted reasonable grounds. Why could he not have acted? Furthermore, as for the people who wanted to blow up Parliament, were those not reasonable enough grounds for the police officer to arrest them?

Anti-Terrorism ActOrders of the Day

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Conservative Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, let me start by saying that it is interesting to hear my hon. colleague say that, in his opinion, if a member or a party takes a strong position on a matter or strongly supports an issue, that is demagoguery. There is no demagoguery in our believing that this is important. If intelligent arguments can be made against a given position, they should be made; one should not, however, attempt to make it disappear by calling it something that it is not.

Let us take the example of the police officer again. At present, someone who is not police officer can make an arrest, but does not have the ability provided here to take someone to court, before a judge. That is specific to terrorism-related situations, and only to such situations.

We are not looking to broaden powers in numerous other areas. This is only with respect to terrorism.

Anti-Terrorism ActOrders of the Day

1:25 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, like the previous questioner, I am a former solicitor general in Ontario as he was in Quebec. Although I was not the debate when the law was originally passed, I have some real trouble understanding the logic put forward by the minister.

As I understand it, at that time members of the House were seized of ensuring that all the laws, which could possibly be there in a democracy, were in place to prevent the kind of events about which he talked. At the time this was highly controversial. Within that bill, these were a couple of very controversial components. Why they are different from the other examples the minister uses is they can, in the wrong circumstances, take away and deny Canadians their civil rights. If anybody thinks that in this day and age this it is still just an argument, let us remember Maher Arar. It happens.

The sunset clause was put in through their wisdom at that time. Therefore, the question would be this. If the wisdom of the Parliament at the time was that this should be allowed to fall by the wayside if it was not being used after an X number of years or if it had been problematic, then why would we not follow with that logic, given that safety in this case errs on the side of the human rights of ordinary Canadians and given we have other legislation that would allow our police officers to do the job we mandate them to do?

Anti-Terrorism ActOrders of the Day

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Conservative Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, many safeguards are in place. Only a judge of the Provincial Court or the Superior Court can hear a police officer's application in this regard.

I remind members that in June 2004, in a reference related to the Air-India prosecution, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the constitutionality of this provision. We are not talking about something that is unconstitutional. The very fact that it has not been abused shows that the proper limitations have protected against that. Now we have another three years to evaluate it, and let us see if in the next three years it gets abused. I do not think it will be.

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOrders of the Day

February 9th, 2007 / 1:30 p.m.

Langley B.C.

Conservative

Mark Warawa ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order on a matter arising out of question period earlier today. The Liberal member for Wascana doubted the veracity of a quote I attributed to former vice-president Al Gore, which praised Canada in its environmental work.

I am pleased to table a transcript of that quote, in both official languages, from Global TV, on February 5, at the approximate hour of 18:52. I trust this closes the—