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.