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House of Commons Hansard #80 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was provisions.

Topics

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Ujjal Dosanjh Liberal Vancouver South, BC

Mr. Speaker, when we deal with hypotheticals and abstract issues, it becomes rather difficult. Under the ordinary Criminal Code provisions, I believe that the threshold is very high for someone to be arrested. These provisions have, implicit in them, serious terrorist activity, which is not like a regular criminal activity. Sometimes these are conspiracies that may be in the initial stages and we want to, if I might say, nip them in the bud. I believe these powers are extraordinary and that they will be useful under those circumstances.

I think it would be foolish of me to conjure up particular situations where it might or might not be used, but I can guarantee my colleague, who was the attorney general of Quebec when I was the attorney general of British Columbia, so we go back a long way together in these areas, that these are unique and extraordinary powers that may be useful. One never knows what will happen. So far, Canada has been generally blessed with peace. We have had our share of problems but we know Canada is on the hit list of terrorist organizations. I do not want our police officers and our law enforcement agencies to be without the use of these tools.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Ménard Bloc Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, the bill that is before us now is very similar to the one that the House of Commons rejected some time ago. In fact, the changes are technical, and I believe there are three of them. As a result, our arguments for opposing Bill S-3 are essentially the same as those we made for excluding these provisions from the Anti-terrorism Act.

We are here because these provisions were part of a sunset clause, which said that these provisions would disappear if these powers were not renewed within five years. Since the House refused to renew them, the government wants to reintroduce them, this time through the Senate. The bill reproduces almost entirely the provisions that the House refused to renew.

What is more, the House's arguments against the provisions are simple, and we must stand firm. These provisions are completely useless in the fight against terrorism, particularly when we want to arrest someone, bring them before a judge and make them sign a recognizance. But these provisions could be used by a government that would like to discredit political opponents.

They also put the people who are meant to sign the recognizance in a terrible situation. They are arrested or receive a summons and are brought before a judge based on mere suspicions that they might be involved in a terrorist activity. If the judge believes that the suspicions are reasonable, that is, that there is reason to believe that a serious crime would be committed, the judge can force a person to sign a recognizance. He can imprison the individual only if that person refuses to sign the recognizance, which is valid for one year.

I imagine that this would not help with the arrest of a very dangerous terrorist, since he would immediately be released. However, for the danger we want to prevent with these other provisions, the Criminal Code states that a police officer can arrest a person without a warrant if he has reasonable grounds to believe that the individual is about to commit an indictable offence. He can therefore interrupt the crime. The individual is arrested and brought before a judge. The judge can refuse bail if he believes there is a real danger and that this person could commit a serious crime if he were released. In this case, the judge cannot do that. The judge can only ask the individual to sign a recognizance.

However, the person who was arrested, as an accused, can eventually defend himself and say that the police officer did not have reasonable grounds and that the individual had no intention of committing a crime. This person can present a full defence and be acquitted, or perhaps have the charges withdrawn, because the Crown would realize that the person had not committed a crime. This person could continue to participate in society, as he was doing before.

Let us put ourselves in the shoes of someone in this situation. It is difficult for us because, as parliamentarians, we have reached a certain standing in society. Before, we also had careers that likely put us above these types of suspicions. But let us put ourselves in the shoes of an ordinary citizen, a young union activist who speaks out against injustices. But other people also speak out against these same injustices, but would rather use violence to change society.

The police could think that since this young man keeps company with people who have terrorist objectives, he could be involved in terrorist activities. Accordingly, they could make him appear before a judge and ask him to sign a similar recognizance. This young man could deny everything and swear that his actions are purely democratic, even though he knows those other people. If the judge finds that reasonable, under the law, relative to the severity of the terrorist act that could be committed, the judge can force him to sign a recognizance.

First of all, this individual will of course not go to prison. He will choose to sign the recognizance and be released. However, how will he be able to prove later on that those suspicions were completely unjustified? He will have no way to do so.

Let us consider the consequences of such a decision on that individual for the rest of his life. Does anyone believe he will be allowed entry into the United States if he tries to cross the border, having been the subject of a legal ruling forcing him to sign a recognizance in a context where there were concerns about possible terrorist activity? I am sure that individual would be denied entry. And what if his employer learns that he had to go to court to sign such a recognizance? In any case, these proceedings would likely be public. He would probably lose his job and have a hard time finding another one. Furthermore, I am convinced that he would appear on the no fly list, not only in the United States, but here too. He would have a hard time travelling to any other country.

This person would be stigmatized because a court ordered him to sign a recognizance to swear he will not carry out an act of terrorism. No one here has ever signed such a recognizance. The fact that someone is judicially forced to sign such a recognizance places a stigma on him that he will have to carry his whole life.

If anyone believes that these fears are unjustified, let us consider our past.

We had our own terrorists in the 1970s. They were not as dangerous as those we fear today, but they nevertheless caused the death of one person. Naturally, the killing of a minister horrified the population and also created tremendous fear. More than 500 suspects were jailed in one fell swoop. Five or six years later we had to compensate all of them. They included a popular singer, Pauline Julien, and her husband, Gérald Godin, who later became the minister of immigration and cultural communities and one of the best ever in Quebec. He was also a poet.

With the exception of one or two, all candidates in upcoming municipal elections who were members of FRAP were arrested. The parents, brothers and sisters of these people were detained.

There are times when we lose our reflex to defend a free society by respecting the freedoms of all and we feel obligated to restrict the rights of certain individuals.

I completely understand that the current international terrorist crisis and its consequences are worrisome. Yet I have not heard anyone reconcile the stigma that would be attached to the persons who have to sign these recognizance orders and the effectiveness of the fight against terrorism.

What do we think makes the secret service suspect that an individual is about to commit a terrorist act or will be involved in one? Judge O'Connor gave us a good example in the Maher Arar affair. It was believed that Maher Arar was involved in terrorist movements because he was seen walking in the rain, umbrella in hand, with someone who was also a suspect.

Apparently it is more difficult, even impossible, to record conversations when people are walking around under an umbrella. It has never occurred to me to criticize secret agents for operating on suspicion. Foiling terrorist plots is their job. Since these are secret organizations, these agents try to remain inconspicuous and analyze suspicions. It is normal for them to have suspicions.

However, they do not do surveillance on everyone. They target people of interest. A person of interest can be an individual who lends his car to a suspected terrorist, or people who take part in democratic organizations to denounce such injustices.

I am not criticizing these agents for having suspicions, but those suspicions must not have legal consequences. Those consequences happen because of suspicions; that is the criterion.

I want to say a few words about what the member before me said. He compared the degree of certainty we must have to arrest someone who is about to commit an indictable offence with the degree of certainty of our suspicions—can suspicions really be certain?—or rather the degree of knowledge or fear that pushes someone to make an individual appear before a judge to sign such a recognizance. In order to arrest someone without warrant because he is about to commit an crime, one must have reasonable grounds. It is true that this requires a little more than reasonable suspicion.

How do the police come up with their suspicions? By watching the people the individual spends time with. It is inevitable that some of the people who spend time with a person under police surveillance have nothing to do with terrorism. Therefore, it is also inevitable that people who have nothing to do with terrorism will be under suspicion.

I understand that surveillance of those people will continue. I understand, for example, that there may have been a good reason to keep Maher Arar under surveillance. The mistake made in the Maher Arar case is that he was clearly designated as a person of interest. A person of interest is not someone believed to be involved in the terrorist movement, but a person who has been observed among the entourage of those who are suspected, to be more precise, of being part of terrorist movements. That is the difference.

Now, instead of reasonable grounds, reasonable suspicion is enough. It is true that it is a small detail. However, I hope everyone grasps the potential stigma that could result from such a ruling by a court that orders someone, under the threat of imprisonment, to promise to comply with a number of conditions, including to stop participating in terrorist plots, of course.

When the police suspect someone is about to take action, to the point that they would make that person sign the recognizance, it is usually after wiretapping or something more substantial than just a suspicion. That being the case, the police probably have proof of a plot or the beginnings of a plot. And the plot, as well as its preparations, are considered criminal offences.

If it is important to intervene to prevent these plots from being carried out or ensure that the preparations are not completed, to the point that the individual is arrested and taken before a judge, it must mean that we have enough evidence to lay charges.

Yet laying charges allows the individual to go through the legal system and be acquitted, if that person is innocent. In the current situation, that person will carry the stigma of having been closely linked to terrorism and for the rest of his life will face all the major problems this could entail, given international travel these days.

I wanted to talk about something, but I have forgotten what it was. I will probably talk about it another time. I have been getting ready to give this speech since Monday, but it has been postponed repeatedly. About 15 minutes ago, I was told that I would be speaking now, but I do not have my notes.

Another thing that strikes me is how reluctant the rest of Canada is to look at what we are doing in Quebec. I am saying this to many nationalists whom I respect and who are not yet sovereignists. I was not born a sovereignist, I became one, as many others have done. I still understand that many Quebec nationalists in this House often look on Canada as an ideal. With two different cultures—we have two different languages and therefore different backgrounds—two sources of inspiration, two sources of reasoning, we could have a wonderful society built on the two languages that have played such an important role in the civilization we enjoy today. I understand those people. But I would have thought that both parties would benefit as a result. One party, inspired by the successes of the other, could take a page from the other's book, and the other party could learn from mistakes that were made and avoid repeating those mistakes. However, for many years now, it seems that successful initiatives in Quebec that could serve as a model for federal legislation have been systematically and completely ignored.

A good example of this was given here when a bill was introduced to amend the Young Offenders Act. The youth crime rate in Canada was 50% higher than in Quebec. Quebec had taken very seriously the old law, which was concerned with rehabilitating young offenders. In fact, the chief justice of the youth court in Quebec had summarized in a few choice words the Quebec courts' approach to young offenders: the right measure at the right time. Today, when he talks to me about the new law, he says that we used to judge a young person who had committed an offence; today, we judge an offence that was committed by a young person.

I know that in the west, for all sorts of reasons, people were terribly afraid of young offenders. People said that all they get is a slap on the wrist. The government decided to make a change and create a completely objective system that, in my opinion, does not produce the results Quebec had gotten.

Here, we have yet another example. We experienced terrorism and the reaction it elicits from those in power. Once again, we are unable to learn from those who lived through it.

I was a young lawyer at the time. In the 1970s—you can imagine that I was much younger than today—we had legal assistance. The difference between legal assistance and legal aid is that we were not paid. The young members of the Bar defended people. I defended many people accused of terrorism.

I learned a thing or two and I am realizing that these provisions could very well be used when the government panics. It has not done so in the past five years and that is a good thing. However, when such provisions are put into the Criminal Code, someone will find a way of using them eventually. In turbulent times, it could become a weapon used by a government to discredit its adversaries.

I believe that I have proven that not only is this bill futile, it is also dangerous. The risks of this bill outweigh by far its supposed advantages.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to say for the member across the way that I was 23 years old in 1970 and had yet to become a member of the New Democratic Party. In 1970 the New Democratic Party stood up against the War Measures Act because it was invasive of the rights of Quebeckers and those of the rest of Canadians. In my opinion, it was an affront to democracy as we know it.

I want to speak a little more about what the member was saying with regard to what I would refer to as natural law: the fact that people have a right to know what they are accused of and the right to know the evidence against them. We have seen the move by the government to prevent that. It was drawn to mind with what occurred yesterday with the so-called Toronto 18 when a number of them had the charges against them stayed. That is just an example of a system that took some time but did work.

However, in my opinion, these provisions are terrible and take away that sense of natural justice in Canada. Would you agree with that?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I remind the hon. member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek to address his questions through the Chair.

The hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Ménard Bloc Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to this issue. I do not think I used the words “natural law”. Indeed, what I had in mind was the natural tendencies of humans, who need limits.

There is a minority in Canada that clearly understood. We are very similar to the NDP, except for our views on the sovereignty of Quebec and, generally speaking, the usefulness of the current Constitution. Otherwise, we are very similar. One must have lived through that time, however, to have felt the strength of the popular movements that called for punishment and were ready to dispense with all the principles of law to which we were accustomed.

It is to the credit of the member who asked the question, and to those around him, to be aware of that and have the courage to stand firm before an opinion, which I feel sometimes verges on hysteria.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Penny Priddy NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am rising today to speak against Bill S-3, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions). I think I will be making some of the points that have been made by my colleague who spoke just before me.

I am proud that the NDP is once again taking a stand against the Conservative government for going too far. It is not being proud to take a stand against the government, but I will take a stand against a government that I think has gone too far in pursuing its national security agenda. We all believe it is important, but it is being done at the expense of civil liberties.

Ensuring public safety is essentially about protecting Canadians' quality of life. Quality of life can be defined in many ways. If we talk to our family members or next door neighbours, they would define quality of life in a variety of ways, perhaps by where they live, where they work, by their environment, whatever that might be.

In deeper conversation, though, I think two things would come out. There is the importance of finding a balance between security and freedom.

Security means feeling safe, feeling that our country and our communities are safe, feeling that we can safely go out on the street, and feeling that the federal government, our country, is protecting us. As well, Canadians want to see that security balanced with freedoms, because freedoms are something that Canadians hold dear as a principle of being Canadian.

There are the freedoms to which we are entitled, the freedoms which people have fought for and the freedoms which we enjoy on a daily basis and often do not even take the time to perhaps think about or make a list of or talk to people about. Although if we turn on the television most evenings, we would certainly be able to see countries in which many or most of those freedoms are not available to people.

For some reason, the Conservative government is either unwilling or unable to find that balance, as it has proven by introducing Bill S-3 and by the security certificate legislation that we debated in this House in January, which has some similarity to this legislation.

With both of these pieces of legislation, the Conservatives are taking the wrong approach, or an unbalanced approach, to fighting terrorism in Canada. Do we need to fight terrorism in Canada? Of course we do, but there are many tools at our disposal currently in the Criminal Code that could be used as opposed to introducing yet another set or piece of legislation.

Our country already has many appropriate mechanisms in place for charging people, for trying people and for punishing those suspected of participating in terrorist activities. These mechanisms are contained in the Criminal Code of Canada, a very significant piece of legislation which ensures that our country is protected, as I said earlier, from those who seek to do harm to others while ensuring fundamental rights are protected.

The NDP always has opposed and always will oppose any attempt to undermine those fundamental rights and freedoms upon which our judicial system was founded. Our system was founded on responsibility and freedom, which go hand in hand.

That is why we oppose the security certificate legislation. That is why we are opposed to Bill S-3. I do not think we are alone in this at all.

Many Liberals, and even some Conservatives, may privately admit that Bill S-3 is a seriously flawed piece of legislation. Certainly we saw many Liberals saying that over Bill C-3. However, knowing that this bill is fundamentally flawed and fundamentally wrong-headed did not stop the Conservatives from introducing Bill S-3 through the other door in the Senate, so to speak, the back door in the Senate, and it will not stop the Liberals, I expect, from allowing the legislation to pass.

Once again, the NDP--and I believe the Bloc, as I have just heard some of the comments--is left as the voice of reason, fighting to protect Canadian values that some other parties only pay lip service to.

Let us look at one key component of Bill S-3: the establishment of investigative hearings. These hearings would force an individual we suspect--we do not know anything, we just suspect--might have information about terrorist activity that has happened, or may happen, to testify before a judge. It forces individuals against whom we have no charge to testify before a judge.

This marks a major shift in Canadian law, which is based on a right to remain silent.

If the individual refuses to speak, he or she will be arrested and sent to prison for as long as a year, on no charge except that he or she might, we think, based on something somebody else said, know something. I am not sure whether most Canadians would consider that to be a balance between freedom and security.

As I say, the individual might go to prison for as long as a year. To some people this may not seem unreasonable at first glance. Certainly the NDP believes that anyone with knowledge of terrorist activity should be investigated and questioned. We would not deny that at all. However, we already have provisions in place under the Criminal Code of Canada for questioning those involved in criminal activity. Otherwise, we would have nobody brought before a judge and nobody arrested.

We do have the means within the Criminal Code to question people involved in criminal activity. If people think someone is involved in a terrorist activity or that something might happen or they might know that something is criminal activity, I would suggest that we have within our system a way to deal with that.

We do not need a special provision for interrogating witnesses that has a one year prison sentence as a consequence for appearing uncooperative. An individual goes before a judge. He or she may not have any information whatsoever or may wish to remain silent. Let us say that somebody says the individual appears to be or is uncooperative. We then have the right to send him or her to jail for up to a year.

That is outrageous. That is not acceptable. It is indeed acceptable to question under the Criminal Code people suspected of terrorist activity. It is not acceptable for people to be placed in jail for a year with no charge whatsoever because they appear to be uncooperative.

This undermines our current judicial system, which ensures that those who have knowledge of crimes but refuse to divulge that information face criminal charges themselves. That is what our criminal system says. Those who have knowledge of crimes and refuse to divulge it will face criminal charges.

Investigative hearings would grant new powers outside of what is normally allowed under the Criminal Code. It is an extraordinary tool that is subject to dangerous misuse. We can all stand in this House and say that it would never be misused. I do not know how often we have stood in this House or in other places of government or in our communities and said, “That is not how we meant it to be used”. It is there and there is the possibility for misuse.

Denis Barrette of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group appeared before the Senate committee examining Bill S-3 and spoke of the possible dangers involved in investigative hearings. He pointed out that investigative hearings allow for the compelled testimony of individuals involved in protest or dissidence entirely unrelated to our everyday understanding of terrorism. It may not be the intention, but it allows for that.

Mr. Barrette is right. Bill S-3 exposes many law-abiding Canadians to frivolous harassment and possibly even incarceration. It is a very slippery slope and one which the NDP will not condone.

This is not the only problem with investigative hearings. When the Supreme Court of Canada studied investigative hearings in 2004, it was clear that testimony gathered during the proceedings must not be used against the witness. I need to repeat this. Testimony gathered during the proceedings must not be used against the witness.

Bill S-3 does not follow the Supreme Court's direction. The legislation currently before us states that information gathered in an investigative hearing cannot be used in a criminal hearing, but the Supreme Court was clear that information gathered through an investigative hearing cannot be used against the individual in any kind of proceeding, criminal, extradition, or otherwise.

It is unclear, given this obvious disregard for what the Supreme Court of Canada has said on this matter, whether Bill S-3 would survive a challenge, as we have said about Bill C-3, but whether or not Bill S-3 is constitutional is not the issue being debated today. I call on my colleagues in this House to join with the NDP and defeat this legislation so that a Supreme Court challenge is never required. That is part one of Bill S-3.

The second part is recognizance with conditions. This is a very controversial part of Bill S-3, recognizance with conditions, or what is called preventive detention.

I am extremely disappointed to see preventive detention included in this legislation because it violates a basic tenet of our justice system, as I said earlier, that a person must be proven to be guilty of doing something or plotting something in order to be detained. That is not the case in Bill S-3.

Recognizance with conditions would allow law enforcement officials to arrest and hold people with no evidence against them. Furthermore, upon release, these individuals would be subject to conditions similar to a peace bond, but unlike a peace bond, the individuals released with conditions may have done nothing wrong. The purpose of this provision, we are told, is to allow law enforcement--

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order. I hate to have to interrupt the hon. member, but she will have about four minutes left when this bill comes back before the House.

The House resumed from April 15 consideration of the motion, and of the amendment.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It being 5:30 p.m. the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the amendment to the motion to concur in the Senate amendments to Bill C-13.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the amendment, which was negatived on the following division:)

Vote #90

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

I declare the amendment lost.

The House resumed from April 9 consideration of the motion.

Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with DisabilitiesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:55 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion to concur in the fifth report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities concerning the extension of time to consider Bill C-362.

Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with DisabilitiesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think if you seek it you would find unanimous consent to apply the results of the vote just taken to the motion presently before the House, with Conservative members present this evening voting in favour.

Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with DisabilitiesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Is there unanimous consent to proceed in this way?

Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with DisabilitiesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with DisabilitiesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, Liberals will be voting in favour of this motion but I would like to point out to the House that the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine has left the chamber and should not be counted in this vote.

Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with DisabilitiesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6 p.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, the members of the Bloc Québécois will vote in favour of this motion.

Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with DisabilitiesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, the members of the NDP will vote in favour of this motion.

Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with DisabilitiesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

April 16th, 2008 / 6 p.m.

Independent

Blair Wilson Independent West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, I vote in favour of the motion.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #91

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

I declare the motion carried.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-26, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading of Bill C-26.

The Secretary of State and Chief Government Whip now has the floor.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, once again, if you were to seek it I think you would find unanimous consent to apply the result of the vote just taken to the motion presently before the House, with Conservative members present this evening voting yes.