Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to address hon. members in this House on the importance of the powers contained in Bill S-3, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions).
The investigative hearing and the recognizance with conditions provisions are tools that were designed to assist law enforcement agencies and strengthen their ability to prevent acts of terrorism.
I would also like to note that I chaired the subcommittee of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security which reviewed the anti-terror bill. At this time I propose to describe in some detail what these two provisions achieve. I will then address how this bill responds to the interim report of the House subcommittee that tabled that report in October 2006, and the Senate's special committee report that was tabled in February 2007.
First, I will talk about the investigative hearing.
The investigative hearing provision would allow the courts to compel a witness who may have information about a terrorism offence to testify and provide information about the offence. The process relating to this provision works as follows.
With the prior consent of the Attorney General, a peace officer investigating a terrorism offence that has been or will be committed may apply to a judge for an order requiring a person who is believed to have information concerning the terrorism offence to appear before the judge to answer questions and/or produce something.
If a judge believes there are reasonable grounds that a terrorism offence will be committed in the future, that the person has direct and material information and that reasonable attempts have been made by other means to obtain the information, the judge may make an order for the gathering of information.
It is important to note that this investigative hearing provision and the process were found to be constitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2004. The reason this provision was found to be constitutional lies in the safeguards that are intimately attached to the exercise of this power. I will note those safeguards.
First, only a judge of a provincial court or of a superior court of criminal jurisdiction can issue the order to hold an investigative hearing.
Second, before an application for the investigative hearing order can be made, the Attorney General of Canada, or the Attorney General or Solicitor General of the province, needs to consent to making the application for the order.
Third, the person ordered to attend at the investigative hearing has the right to retain and instruct counsel at any stage of the proceeding.
Fourth, any incriminating evidence given by the person at the investigative hearing cannot be used against him or her in a further criminal proceeding except for prosecutions for perjury and giving contradictory evidence. This prohibition also applies to derivative evidence, that is, evidence that is found or derived from the evidence initially gathered in the context of the investigative hearing.
Fifth, the Supreme Court of Canada has also ruled that through the use of this provision there is a constitutional exemption against self-incrimination that precludes testimonial compulsion where the predominant purpose of the proposed hearing is to obtain evidence for the prosecution of the person. In other words, a person cannot be brought before a judge and be compelled to provide evidence if the predominate purpose is to gather evidence against that person to lay charges against him or her.
Sixth, the Attorney General of Canada and the Attorney General of the provinces were and continue to be required to report annually on the use of the investigative hearing provisions.
Finally, it is to be noted that the Supreme Court of Canada held that the protection against self-incrimination in investigative hearings carried out in the context of criminal investigations also extended to deportation and extradiction matters.
At this time I would like to move on and talk about the recognizance with conditions provision.
This provision would give the court the power to issue an order requiring a person to enter into an undertaking whereby he or she accepts to respect certain conditions imposed upon him or her to prevent the carrying out of a terrorist activity. The purpose of the provision is to create a mechanism that would allow the authorities to disrupt the preparatory phase of terrorist activity rather than act after the fact.
The provision is not designed to detain a person, but rather to release the person under judicially authorized supervision. The process by which the recognizance with conditions operates is as follows:
With the prior consent of the Attorney General, a peace officer who reasonably believes that a terrorist activity will be carried out and who also reasonably suspects that the imposition of a recognizance with conditions or the arrest of a person is necessary to prevent the carrying out of a terrorist activity, may lay an information before a provincial court judge. That judge may then cause that person to appear before him or her or any other provincial court judge. In very limited circumstances the peace officer may arrest that person without a warrant in order to bring him or her before the judge.
In any event, a person will be brought before a judge within 24 hours, or as soon as possible, if a judge is not available within this time period. If the person is detained to protect the public or to ensure his or her attendance at a subsequent hearing, the matter may be adjourned for a maximum of 48 hours. Thus, generally speaking, the person can only be detained for up to 72 hours.
If the judge determines that there is no need for the person to enter into a recognizance, the person will be released.
If the court determines that the person should enter into a recognizance, the person will be bound to keep the peace and respect other specified reasonable conditions for a period not exceeding 12 months.
Only if the person refuses to enter into such a recognizance can the judge order that he or she may be detained for up to 12 months.
As in the case of the investigative hearing, the recognizance with conditions is also subject to numerous safeguards. These are:
The consent of the Attorney General of Canada or the attorney general or solicitor general of the province is required.
The peace officer could also only lay an information before a judge if he or she believes on reasonable grounds that a terrorist activity will be carried out and suspects on reasonable grounds that the imposition of a recognizance with conditions on a person, or the arrest of a person, is necessary to prevent the carrying out of a terrorist activity.
The judge receiving the information would have a residual discretion not to issue process, for example, where an information is unfounded.
A warrantless arrest of a person could only be made in very limited circumstances, for example, where the grounds to lay an information exist, but by reason of exigent circumstances, it would be impractical to lay the information, and the peace officer suspects on reasonable grounds that the detention of a person is necessary in order to prevent a terrorist activity.
If a person is arrested without warrant, the officer must either lay an information before the judge, generally within 24 hours, or release the person. Before laying the information, the peace officer must obtain the consent of the relevant attorney general.
A person detained in custody must be brought before a provincial court judge without unreasonable delay and in any event, within 24 hours of arrest, unless a judge is not available within that period, in which case the person must be taken before a judge as soon as feasible and the hearing must be held within 48 hours.
A judge must be satisfied on the evidence adduced that the peace officer has a reasonable suspicion that it is necessary to have the person enter into a recognizance with conditions before ordering that the person enter into a recognizance to keep the peace and be of good behaviour, and to comply with any other reasonable conditions for a period of 12 months.
Only if the person refuses or fails to enter into the recognizance can he or she be jailed for up to 12 months.
The person entering into a recognizance has the right to apply to vary the conditions under the recognizance order.
Federal and provincial attorneys general would continue to be required to report annually as appropriate the use of this power, while the Minister of Public Safety and the minister responsible for policing in each province would continue to be required to report annually on the arrest without warrant power.
I have focused my remarks on two well-designed tools that are meant to aid law enforcement agencies in their efforts to prevent the commission of a terrorist activity, tools that are also dressed with robust safeguards. One of the provisions has already been declared constitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada.
How much better can it get? One would think that there is no need to make changes to the wording of the original provisions considering the above, but as always, this government continues to strive to make our laws better and to do so in cooperation with all members of the House and the Senate. For that very reason, our government has responded favourably to a good number of the recommendations of the House subcommittee and the special Senate committee that reviewed the Anti-terrorism Act. Both of these committees made a number of recommendations in relation to these two powers.
Here are the amendments to the original provisions that the government either proposed or accepted, and that are now found in Bill S-3:
Subparagraph 83.28(4)(a)(iii) was modified by adding a safeguard to the section dealing with past terrorism offences. Under the proposed legislation, an order for an investigative hearing may be issued only if the judge to whom the application is made is satisfied that “reasonable attempts have been made to obtain information” by other means. In this context, “reasonable” means that, where possible, police will have tried other sources for obtaining the information they seek before resorting to the use of investigative hearing.
Previously, a similar but narrower provision had applied only to future terrorism offences, not past ones. This new wording also applies to future terrorism offences, as can be seen in subparagraph 83.28(4)(b)(iii).
The bill also caps the maximum detention time for a witness brought in under an investigative hearing order by specifying in subsection 83.29(4) that section 707 of the Criminal Code, which sets out the maximum period of detention for an arrested witness, applies to investigative hearings.This is meant to address the concerns that were expressed by the House subcommittee that it was unclear to what extent release mechanisms elsewhere in the code applied to the investigative hearing process. Technical wording changes were also made to address various recommendations made by the House subcommittee.
Finally, proposed subsection 83.31(1.1) would enhance the reporting requirements by the Attorney General of Canada with respect to the investigative hearing provisions. The Attorney General of Canada would be required to provide his or her opinion, supported by reasons, as to whether these provisions continue to be necessary. This change implements part of recommendation 17 made by the special Senate committee.
As can be noted in regard to the investigative hearing provision, Bill S-3 effectively incorporates many of the recommendations made by the House of Commons and the Senate. The one substantive proposal that the bill did not incorporate was the recommendation of the House of Commons subcommittee that the investigative hearing power be limited to the investigation of imminent terrorism offences and not past terrorism offences.
The government could not respond favourably to this recommendation and there are many reasons why this is so. To begin with, this proposed limitation would forestall entirely the possibility that the investigative hearing could be used in relation to the ongoing Air-India investigation.
This recommendation would also prevent the use of an investigative hearing to gain information about a terrorism offence after the offence has already occurred, even in the very recent past. For example, if a terrorist attack were to occur in Canada similar to the attacks in the U.K. on July 7, 2005, the police, on the day after the attack, would not be able to use this power, since the attack would have already taken place and despite the fact that it may be a prelude to a further terrorist attack.
This recommendation implies that terrorists will only ever commit one terrorist offence. The better view is that after a terrorist group has committed an offence, whether it is participating in a training camp, fundraising, or an act of violence, the justification for the use of the investigative hearing is even more compelling. This is because, aside from the need to bring the perpetrators to justice, there is a requirement to prevent the group from continuing with its activities.
To adopt this recommendation would have the effect of preventing the use of an investigative hearing to gain information about a terrorism offence after the offence has already occurred, even an offence that has occurred in the very recent past.
This government believes that a terrorist activity, be it past or future, unquestionably merits the same tools as they both respond to a specific need expressed by our law enforcement agencies in their fight against terrorism. To do otherwise would be unacceptable.
Moving on with the other amendments that this government agreed to make in response to the committee's recommendations, though largely unchanged from its previous incarnation, the recognizance with conditions provision in Bill S-3 brings about an additional annual reporting requirement that was recommended by the special Senate committee on the Anti-terrorism Act.
As for other changes brought to the original legislation, the House of Commons Subcommittee on the Review of the Anti-terrorism Act recommended that both provisions be extended for five years, while the special Senate committee recommended that they be extended for three years subject, in both instances, to the possibility of a further extension following resolutions passed by both houses of Parliament.
What Bill S-3 proposes is to allow Parliament to extend the existence of one or both provisions for a period of five years. While the original legislation made it clear that a resolution could be tabled to extend both provisions, it was not clear from the wording whether a resolution that would extend only one of the powers could be tabled. The new wording would explicitly permit the extension of either or both of these provisions.
Other changes made by the Senate will be referred to by other hon. members who will also speak.
As has been made clear in my remarks today, there is no question that the government has given proper consideration to the various recommendations made by the House of Commons and the Senate and that, in doing so, we have improved both the investigative hearing and the recognizance with conditions provisions. Given this, I invite all members of the House to support this bill and reinstate these two important tools.