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House of Commons Hansard #44 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was evidence.

Topics

Omar KhadrOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Simcoe—Grey Ontario

Conservative

Helena Guergis ConservativeSecretary of State (Foreign Affairs and International Trade) (Sport)

Again, Mr. Speaker, I will repeat the answer for her. Apparently she did not hear it. Mr. Khadr faces very serious charges of murder. We have sought and received assurances that he is being treated humanely. Given that this is a judicial process, I am limited in what I can comment on, and the family has asked for discretion.

Department of National DefenceOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, National Defence has moved its mail processing centre from its headquarters in downtown Ottawa to the National Printing Bureau building in Gatineau, where some 600 public servants work. This sorting centre verifies whether dangerous or explosive items have been received through Canada Post or private delivery services. This building is located in a residential area near a secondary school.

Can the minister explain why it is less dangerous to put this centre in a residential area than at National Defence headquarters?

Department of National DefenceOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Edmonton Centre Alberta

Conservative

Laurie Hawn ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, the Department of National Defence, as do other departments, handles a lot of mail. It handles it safely and according to the regulations put out by Canada Post and other people who are responsible for the safety of those kinds of operations.

I can assure the hon. member that all safety precautions are taken. If anything is amiss, it will be corrected.

JusticeOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Conservative

Wajid Khan Conservative Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is—

JusticeOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

JusticeOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Order, please. The hon. member for Mississauga—Streetsville is obviously very popular and has the floor. We have to be able to hear his question.

JusticeOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Conservative

Wajid Khan Conservative Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the opposition members for a warm welcome.

My question is for the Minister of Justice. Recent shootings in Toronto and other cities across Canada further emphasize the need for our tackling violent crime bill to be passed immediately in the Senate. Canadians want it passed. Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty wants it passed.

So far the Liberal opposition leader is content to sit on his hands and do nothing. When will he show leadership and urge the Liberal senators to expedite the passage of the act?

JusticeOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Niagara Falls Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson ConservativeMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, when will the Leader of the Opposition show some leadership on this is a very good question.

Right now we have before Parliament the tackling violent crime act that provides, among other things, mandatory jail terms for people who commit gun crimes and it protects 14 and 15 year olds from sexual predators.

The Liberal Party has to figure out that fighting crime is not just something that is talked about when an election is called. When will the Liberals show some backbone? Canadians have a right to know.

HealthOral Questions

3 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, all across Canada public health care advocates are sounding the alarm. There is for profit surgery in B.C. There is privatizing home care in Ontario and soon to be duelling systems in Alberta and Quebec.

Yesterday CUPE and Canada's nurses were forced to release a how-to book on defending medicare and launched a national campaign to inform Canadians about their health care rights.

Does the Minister of Health agree that the health care system in Canada must remain 100% publicly funded and operated?

HealthOral Questions

3 p.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement ConservativeMinister of Health and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

Mr. Speaker, the position of this government and this party is clear. We support the five pillars of the Canada Health Act, which include universality, accessibility and affordability. We have acted to ensure better access.

The Liberal members are barracking right now. When they were in power, the wait times doubled in the country. We have tackled wait times with the provinces and territories. We put the focus on the patient. We are very proud of that record.

HealthOral Questions

3 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, there is something wrong when we cannot get the government to stand up and defend medicare. I suggest the Minister of Health start listening to P.E.I. health coalition activists, who say that islanders are getting ripped off at the hospital.

Residents of P.E.I. must pay for ambulance service, physiotherapy, medically necessary cosmetic surgery, diagnostic tests and new medications not yet approved. The Prime Minister's so-called wait time guarantee has not made wait times in P.E.I. go down at all.

Does the minister at least agree with the suggestion that Canada needs a Health Act ombudsman and an appeal process?

HealthOral Questions

3 p.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement ConservativeMinister of Health and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

Mr. Speaker, she and I at least share one thing, diminutive statures. I was standing up for medicare. Perhaps that was not noticeable where she is in her part of the House.

We do take this seriously. That is why our focus has been on the patients. That is why we have worked with the provinces and territories to ensure health care is a priority for this government and our future governments as well.

Department of National DefenceOral Questions

February 5th, 2008 / 3 p.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, why does National Defence not follow the example of the House of Commons and the Prime Minister's Office and sort their mail in isolated buildings in industrial parks?

I visited the sorting centre in Gatineau last week. They claim there is no danger despite the fact that the building contains dangerous products and waste that could spread through the building and the residential area in the event of a fire or explosion.

National Defence admits that ideally, this activity should be moved elsewhere. What is the government waiting for—a catastrophe?

Department of National DefenceOral Questions

3 p.m.

Edmonton Centre Alberta

Conservative

Laurie Hawn ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, the contamination in the House, frankly, is from some of the questions across the way.

National Defence follows procedures that are laid down by Canada Post and other people responsible for safety measures. I can assure him of that. If anything comes to our attention that does not follow those procedures, it will be corrected.

HousingOral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Speaker, the previous Liberal government talked a lot about addressing the affordable housing crunch in my province. For 13 years, it held countless round tables and community discussions with so-called experts in the field. However, the only significant action taken was to cut $25 billion in transfers to the provinces.

The Liberals were not just missing in action on this file. They completely abdicated any responsibility for dealing with the issue.

Could the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development say what our government is doing to increase the supply of affordable housing and address an issue the Liberals ignored for more than a decade?

HousingOral Questions

3 p.m.

Medicine Hat Alberta

Conservative

Monte Solberg ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, I share my friend's analysis of what occurred under the Liberals.

This government has acted. Because of that, tens of thousands of vulnerable Canadians will have roofs over their heads. We are working cooperatively with the provinces, investing more in affordable housing than any government in history.

It is true that some provinces have been a little slower to get that money out, but we will work with them and ensure that vulnerable Canadians are protected. That is the commitment of this government.

HousingOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, may we proceed so that anyone who has a speech can make it before going to committee? Also, I would like to speak before 3:30 p.m. May we proceed?

HousingOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Certainly we may.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Before question period the hon. member for Vancouver South had the floor and there are eight minutes remaining in the time allotted for questions and comments consequent to his remarks. I therefore call for questions and comments at this time.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Telegdi Liberal Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, in relationship to the security certificate, many of the people who have a security certificate issued against them are not aliens but have standing in Canada. Because of the amendments to the 2002 immigration act, the security certificate process was extended to people who had standing in Canada.

Further, in Bill C-18, the proposed citizenship act at the time, it was proposed that security certificate methodology be introduced into the revocation of citizenship.

Would my colleague kindly tell us if he would agree with putting citizens under this regime as well?

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Ujjal Dosanjh Liberal Vancouver South, BC

Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, that is a false question that has been set up simply to confuse the issue.

We have a situation where security certificates apply to people who are not Canadian citizens. I have not considered the question of the Canadian Citizenship Act. I am not very familiar with that legislation. However, these are very serious measures that are required to deal with the issue of terrorism and organized crime and danger to national security.

If we have Canadian citizens who are a danger to national security, they are dealt with differently. They always are.

Is the member is suggesting that some people were considering including the security certificates in the Canadian citizenship regime so that people whose citizenship could be revoked could be subject to that? The fact is that citizenship can be revoked for serious matters, such as having lied about a very serious matter.

My view would be that if a person has fraudulently obtained citizenship and is a danger to national security then we should be able to deal with that but not necessarily through the security certificates.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Penny Priddy NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, given that the member has made comments that this was not the bill that the Liberal opposition would have brought forward, that it could have been better, I would say that it could have been made better if the government had not waited until October 22, 2007 to table the bill, if committee had been given more time to hear the other witnesses who wanted to present and if it had been given more time to explore how to make it better.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Ujjal Dosanjh Liberal Vancouver South, BC

Mr. Speaker, as I have indicated in my remarks twice in the House, this could have been a different bill. It could have been based on the SIRC model. It could have included some of the practices followed by the Arar commission. It could have dealt with the issue in the way that the Evidence Act deals with non-disclosure when non-disclosure is sought by the Attorney General of Canada.

There is no question in my mind that the bill could have been improved with time but this is the bill that we were given and, in the time period we were given, I think we have done the best we can with the bill and it should be passed expeditiously so we can meet the deadline.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to congratulate all the opposition members who worked very hard in the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security on this very important issue regarding human rights and people who are concerned about procedural guarantees. I am thinking of the contribution of my colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin. I believe he was supported by the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot. I also know that members of the official opposition, such as members from the NDP, worked very hard and they should be acknowledged.

I must say it is very disappointing for the democrats in this Parliament, very disappointing for those who believe certain principles should be defended when it comes to the administration of justice, and very disappointing for those who believe in fundamental justice.

As my colleagues on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights know, in a democracy, the ends do not justify the means. We cannot say a situation is urgent or that there are potential terrorist threats as a way to ignore or fail to respect some principles of fundamental justice that are inalienable and inviolable.

That is why the Supreme Court sent a very clear message to Parliament—it will be one year ago in a few days, if my memory serves me correctly—indicating that it had gone too far, that it miscalculated the potential repercussions of this bill, particularly in light of one of the constitutional guarantees found in section 7 on the right to life, liberty and security. There is ample case law to show that section 7 cannot be violated unless the fundamental principles of justice are respected.

I was in Ottawa in 2001. The then minister of justice was a member from Alberta, Anne McLellan, a former constitutional law professor—I do not know whether she went back to teaching. It was therefore quite surprising that we were being proposed procedural shortcuts like those contained in the bill at the time and which have not been improved since.

In short, the Bloc Québécois has always had three lines of attack when it comes to this bill. First, in 2001, we said that the Criminal Code contained all the necessary provisions for dealing with possible security threats by individuals who are not Canadian citizens. This could be handled through the Criminal Code and also through the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

In 2001, we already had three major concerns. It is nonetheless reassuring to know that the Supreme Court shared our concerns.

The first concern is about the exception that allows foreign nationals to be arrested without a warrant. This exception can very easily be abused. Anyone who has ever practised law in any capacity has considered the balance that must exist in societies, between the duties of citizens and the responsibility of the state to provide a safe environment for its citizens. Accordingly, if we are to rely on the police, they should, at the very least, be given the authority to intervene with a warrant.

This is a topic that has generated all sorts of rulings. There is even talk about an independent judicial authority and ensuring that a certain number of conditions are met when a warrant is issued. That is easy to understand, since a warrant has the potential to be extremely intrusive. Not only can individuals be arrested, but authorities can interfere in their private lives and go to their homes. The court has said that a home is a man's castle. Obviously, we cannot enter an individual's home without first having done a certain number of compliance checks.

Since 2001, it has been possible to arrest foreign nationals without a warrant previously issued by an independent and impartial court whose judges cannot be removed—except, of course, for misconduct.

I would remind the House that it has nothing to do with the fact that someone is a foreign national, that they do not yet have Canadian citizenship, that they have not been in Canada or Quebec for many years. As we know, concerning the process of obtaining citizenship, from the time a person enters Canada as a political refugee, permanent resident or person in need of protection, it can take many years to be eligible. It takes three years for citizenship, but in some cases, it can take much longer, depending on whether there are any appeals.

What an absurdity, what a violation of rights and how insensitive to introduce in Parliament a legislative framework under which we can appear without a warrant being issued by a legal authority, a court of law, and of course, under the conditions set out in the Criminal Code. What is most worrisome is that when someone is accused of being a threat to national security—the word “national” refers to Canada, but it could also apply to Quebec—it is believed that that individual has a history of terrorism, that he or she has been involved in organized crime and has committed such serious offences that he or she must be considered inadmissible to Canada. Furthermore, we expect that individual to understand the evidence used by a legal authority—in this case, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, the Minister of Public Safety or both—to declare him or her inadmissible to Canada. In fact, we expect the individual, whom we are about to declare inadmissible to Canada, to know what evidence exists against him or her.

There was a sort of revolution with regard to procedure in the early 1990s. I am referring to R. v. Stinchcombe. Stinchcombe was an Alberta lawyer who practised business and real estate law, and who committed fraud by making poor investments with the fortune of a client who had retained him. There were a number of appeals.

This case is important in the history of justice because a ruling was given on disclosure of evidence. Since 1992, all evidence held by the Crown must be disclosed to the defence. At times, the evidence could fill the House of Commons. At times, hundreds of thousands of pages have to be disclosed to the defendants. That is why trials can last years and years. This is particularly true in criminal cases.

However, that is part and parcel of the principle of procedural fairness whereby if charges are laid, if an individual is brought before the courts, if he is accused of an offence, he must be apprised of the elements of the proof. That applies to a notebook kept by the police upon the arrest to the most refined investigative techniques. The fact remains that the evidence must be disclosed in full to the defendant who is being accused.

Given that it allows someone to be arrested without a warrant, Bill C-3 strays far from this principle. Not only is the individual arrested without a warrant, but he is told that he will not have access to the evidence which has deprived him of the right to remain in Canada and Quebec. Consider the extent to which this contravenes fundamental legal rights. Consider that depriving an accused of access to evidence is contrary to the tradition of defending rights and procedural fairness.

It is obvious that there are times when the evidence can be sensitive. That is why there are provisions in the Criminal Code. The judge can order a closed doors hearing and request that the media do not have access to information. However, in no way can we support a principle that does not allow an accused person, and particularly someone accused of a criminal offence, the right to know the evidence on which the accusation is made. Why is this principle important? It is important because the right to a full and complete defence is written into the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as well as in the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. How could one appoint a solicitor to defend a client if the solicitor does not know all the evidence being used against the accused? Why is it important? It is important because we know that as individual citizens we are not on a level playing field with the government. The government has investigation techniques and police officers and can use infiltration to gather information. There is a whole range of tools that can be used in making an accusation against an individual that are not available to the ordinary person.

I repeat, the Bloc Québécois is not saying that terrorism does not exist or that there are no individuals who could represent a real threat to the security of the country. What we are saying is that it should be possible to set up a legislative regime in which a lawyer under oath has access to the evidence and represents his or her client in a closed-doors context, in a context where there cannot be the same circulation of information as in a regular trial. However, to insist that during all the procedures the accused person can never see the evidence—we do not believe this is acceptable in terms of procedural fairness.

The third questionable point for the Bloc Québécois is the point the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin brought out so brilliantly in committee. We know what a formidable attorney the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin is. He has made his living as a defence counsel. He has an excellent command of the techniques of cross-examination. How many times have I spoken of his excellent work in the Schreiber-Mulroney affair at the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics? He was splendidly supported by our colleague, the member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, who is not a lawyer but was still able to extract a confession. She led Mr. Schreiber to confess, as a result of which the Club des ex awarded her the title of one of the most promising parliamentarians; a member with a bright future within the Bloc Québécois. That happened between Christmas and New Year’s Day on the RDI network program Le Club des ex. The host of the program was our old colleague Jean-Pierre Charbonneau, the former provincial member for Borduas. The former Liberal Heritage minister took part and, of course, a former ADQ member of the National Assembly from Lanaudière, Marie Grégoire.

All this to say that our third concern is that people will not only be arrested without a warrant but will not be allowed to see the evidence against them. This means that if the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration or the Minister of Public Safety signs a security certificate, the Federal Court is notified. If the judge, having examined the facts, finds that the rationale in the certificate is reasonable and finds reasonable grounds to believe that the person involved is a danger to Canada, the entire process is initiated. The individual will be arrested and detained, often for considerable periods.

Some people say that the individual can choose to return to his country of origin, but when someone has left that country three, four, five or six years previously and remade his life in Canada, it is not easy to leave. Often, of course, people came here to remake their lives because they feared the possibility of torture and persecution under authoritarian regimes.

There is another problem with Bill C-3. The level of proof required is clearly too low in view of the seriousness of such situations. The Bloc member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin moved an amendment to require that the evidence be beyond a reasonable doubt, as in any criminal case. But the amendment was rejected. It was a bad decision that had no basis in parliamentary practice and was certainly not justified from the standpoint of the interests of the accused.

How can we possibly be satisfied with a simple level of proof like reasonable doubt when the physical survival of people—including arbitrary imprisonment and detention under very difficult conditions—is at stake? What sense does it make not to require a level of proof equivalent to “beyond a reasonable doubt”, as in any criminal case?

Once again, the hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, who is a very experienced parliamentarian, moved amendments but unfortunately they were not discussed. It was decided, quite wrongly, that they were beyond the scope of the bill. That was a very bad decision. We obviously respect the authority of the committee chair. I do not know whether you were asked for advice in the matter, Mr. Speaker. In my opinion, you would have agreed with your clerk and would not have rejected this decision. I should add that the Bloc Québécois challenges it and we think it was an abuse of procedure that is not a credit to the institution.

That being said, I would like to move on to our fourth concern, which is the fact that this bill does not include an obligation to ensure that an individual will not be deported to a country that practices torture before triggering the process by which that individual can be not only detained, deprived of basic freedoms, poorly represented and arrested without charge, but also deported. The bill offers no guarantees in that regard. In cases where the mechanism applies, Canada may use the flawed system that I have been talking about for several minutes now to deport individuals deemed to be a threat to national security. Canada is violating its international obligations by failing to ensure that measures are taken to avoid deporting individuals to countries that practice torture.

This is, therefore, a very bad bill. I do not understand how the Minister of Public Safety can sleep at night after introducing such a terrible bill that stands in stark opposition to our democratic traditions. This will certainly be a blemish on Canada's reputation in the international community and in forums for multilateral debate.

This is a very bad bill, and we cannot support it. We do not understand the Conservative government's intention given that, as I recall, it expressed serious reservations when it was on the opposition benches. Even though the Conservatives supported Ms. McLellan's bill, they were concerned about a number of flaws that remained over time.

Once again, shame on the government for its lack of respect for procedure. I call on all of my colleagues in the House to reject this bill.