Mr. Speaker, over the last few weeks, and in fact today in this House, we have seen some extraordinary things happen.
The House of Commons, in my estimation, should always be a place of debates that enhance and ensure that the expectations of Canadians of their justice system are met and exceeded. This place should always be a home of motions and bills and debates that raise the bar on human rights as well as the rights of citizens. Bill C-3 and its expected outcome would do just the opposite.
However, in this place, the tone of debate on Bill C-3 often mirrors a mediocrity and a nasty tone that one never would expect of parliamentarians present. We hear derisive remarks. We hear catcalls. We heard baiting in the form of the questions put forward on this bill that were they not so amateurish, might well have stood in the 1950s and been used by Senator McCarthy of the U.S.
Parliamentarians must reach to do better. We must move to a place in our debates that illuminates rather than obscures the makeup of any bill. As I said, Canadians expect this of their elected representatives. It is our responsibility to meet that expectation.
When I last spoke on Bill C-3, I advised the House of an occasion last summer when I had visited a Muslim friendship centre in Edmonton. At the centre, I met some new Canadians as well as some more-established Canadians from that Muslim community. Our discussions were wide-ranging and the topic of racism and discrimination came up.
A gentleman who had been in Canada some 30 years spoke up. He was well established. He said he had been contributing to the Edmonton society. From the other people in the room, it was very clear he was a leader who was well respected in his community and the broader community. The gentlemen told the story of how over the ensuing years following the tragic events of 9/11 investigative officers from CSIS would drop by to speak to him. He said that they wanted to know about all the money he was sending to his homeland and the terrorist groups he was supporting. He told them Canada was his homeland, but as a dutiful son, he had sent money home for 30 years to raise the standard of living of his family in his former country.
Some 40 years ago this year, I moved from New Brunswick to Ontario. For me, coming to Ontario, in the 1960s in particular, was something like moving to a new world. However, like the man in Alberta, many good Canadians from our own east coast send money home to their families to help support them back east.
In my opinion, what is happening to us as a country is nothing short of tragic. In my opinion as well, what is happening in the name of national security is an affront to our democratic processes.
As Canada rushed to follow the Americans' approach to, in their words, fight terrorism, we cast aside some of the most fundamental beliefs of Canadians. Just consider Bill C-3 and how it conflicts with the fundamental belief of Canadians that in Canada one has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
I stand here today speaking on security certificates, and I regret that I am doing this. In our country, once so rightfully proud of our human rights record, our justice system and our positioning in the world, how did we reach this point?
After Bill C-3, Canadians will not be more free. And because of Bill C-3, they certainly should not feel any more secure. I believe, along with the rest of the NDP caucus, that Bill C-3 would continue to fail Canada and to fail Canadians.
The NDP opposes Bill C-3 for the most fundamental of reasons. Repeatedly, we have spoken to the fact that measures in our Criminal Code already give law enforcement the tools they need to deal with crimes against Canada and crimes against Canadians.
Security certificates themselves fail Canadians in a grand fashion. A security certificate does not allow for the presentation of evidence that would support accusations against a person accused or suspected of terrorist activity. Instead, the security certificate simply removes the individual from Canada. In doing so, it fails Canadians.
When an individual is believed to be guilty of an offence against Canada or Canadians, then the Criminal Code must be used to deal with that accusation. A security certificate does not offer, nor support, justice for either the accused or for Canadians. In fact, as I have said repeatedly, security certificates in themselves are an affront to Canada's national sense of justice.
If the accused is guilty, the person should be charged and tried under our Criminal Code and the appropriate penalties applied. Only then, following those penalties being served, should the person be deported. Bill C-3 would allow people to be held in detention without the opportunity to face their accusers or see the evidence against them.
We should consider, for a moment, that people in detention who proclaim their innocence will never have the chance to speak to the evidence in a court of law. If they are allowed to go through our Criminal Code procedures, our courts, our justice system, and were found innocent, they would have had the right to return to a Canadian life, to pick up where they left off, to pick up the pieces.
Under security certificates, many will spend years upon years in detention, and they have already. They have not seen the evidence against them. Nor have they had the chance to refute the evidence against them. As a result, the most fundamental tenets of our justice system will have been sacrificed. The existence and the use of security certificates has put a chill across our country.
I alluded to the individual in Edmonton, Alberta, but there are more cases than that individual, cases where Canada has failed its citizens. We should talk to Mr. Almalki about his time in Syria. He was detained in a cell, which was more like a coffin, for three months. We should talk to Mahar Arar about how Canadian officials let him down when he was abandoned to be rendered to another country to be tortured when certain people knew that would happen. Canadians know that Canada failed these men. Bill C-3 is setting ourselves up for further failure.
I was raised to take great pride in our justice system, and I do. The fact that innocent people can face their accusers and the evidence against them, and because of that process, the innocent one day can walk free.
It is crucially important to the sense of justice that all Canadians have that the people in this place pause, stop the rhetoric and think about the deterioration of our justice system and our human rights system if we gerrymander the process with Bill C-3, if we put into place a process like this, which is so ugly and disgusting. I truly cannot understand how anybody in this place can support it.
Our Criminal Code is among the best in the world. Our justice system is among the best in the world. Canada even sends people to other parts of the world to teach them about our justice system. One of the few ways we can keep that pride in our system and our institutions is to ensure individual rights and the rights of all people to face their accuser and the evidence against them.
For the NDP, the security certificate is an affront to civil liberties. We understand, with Bill C-3, the Conservative government is trying to address what is seen as a flaw in the process, and the Supreme Court ruled that it was a violation of the charter. Clearly, what the government has tried to do with Bill C-3 is move around something that has been deemed by the Supreme Court as a violation of the charter.
We must think about the rights and freedoms for a moment. We must think about the individuals detained in our country. Their freedom has been taken away and they have no rights.
It is our Charter of Rights and Freedoms that we must protect. Imagine the setting aside of well respected fundamental terms of justice and how this is being done so cavalierly. The detainees have not seen any critical evidence against them. Their legal representatives have not seen the evidence against them. Let us just say tomorrow, for whatever reason, it is deemed acceptable that they return to Canadian society, that there had indeed been an error. They will also be besmirched by the fact that they have been detained. Because of Bill C-3 and the security certificates, they will always be subject to suspicion.
I spoke harshly because I was upset with what I had heard in a committee about the tone of this place. I know when I speak to many members here, they want to see us all rise above rhetoric and beyond the point scoring process that seems to happen here daily. That challenge is being put to us by Canadians and they want us clearly to reflect what they believe.
With that, I will close with a line that has been heard in this place many times before. We must remember, for the rest of the world, what we ask for ourselves, we wish for all. That is what makes Canada the place to which many people from all over the world seek to come.