Mr. Speaker, before I begin my speech, I would like to mention that yesterday marked the departure of the head of parliamentary interpretation, Monique Perrin D'Arloz, who worked at the House of Commons for 35 years. On behalf of all parliamentarians, I want to thank her for being our voice. I attended the reception in honour of her departure. I thank her for being so dedicated to all the members of this House.
It is rather troubling to talk about Bill S-3. To understand this bill, you have to start with the 2001 terrorist attacks, which showed us that there was a connection between civil societies and terrorism. There were many expressions of solidarity from Canada. In his memoirs, former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien talks at great length about the close historical relationship between Canada and the United States. President Kennedy once told John Diefenbaker, “Geography made us neighbours. History made us friends.” We have a special relationship with the United States that sometimes has advantages and sometimes disadvantages.
All Quebeckers and Canadians were shocked and saddened to see the twin towers collapse, because they felt for the people involved.
Nevertheless, a few months later, Anne McLellan, who would become the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, but was then the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General of Canada, acted with some haste. Certainly, those were troubling times. No one in this House wants to minimize the events of September 2001.
But now we have had time to look back on things. The Anti-terrorism Act that was introduced was studied, clause by clause, by a special legislative committee. If I remember correctly, our colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel and the current defence critic, the member for Saint-Jean, represented the Bloc Québécois on that committee.
There was a certain collective anxiety and very strong pressure from the Americans, who had passed the Patriot Act. I do not want to talk about that American legislation, which goes much further than the Canadian legislation, but there was a sort of collective psychosis that may have led us to ignore human rights and major civil liberties a little too easily.
That does not mean the Bloc Québécois is minimizing the risk terrorism presents to society. The Bloc Québécois has long been interested in the entire issue of organized crime. An entire generation representing this House followed the work of CIOC. I was eight when the work of CIOC began, but others will remember quite clearly the tainted meat scandal. Many Quebeckers followed the CIOC proceedings. This was an opportunity to see that organized crime was not just a theory, but that it had taken root in the community.
Then there was a period of calm. In the 1990s, unfortunately, organized crime began to run rampant again, especially in large cities like Montreal. There was a fierce battle over the drug market. In my riding of Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, this battle resulted in the car bomb attack that took the life of young Daniel Desrochers on August 9, 1995. This led us, and all parliamentarians in this House, to wonder how effective the measures in the Criminal Code were for dismantling major organized crime networks.
Today we are going a little further: we have to deal with terrorism.
Terrorism, in its contemporary form, attacks civil society through what are called undifferentiated attacks. It can be bombs in a subway, where groups, not individuals, are the target. When public buildings are attacked, no one in particular is targeted. Civil society is under threat. It is more serious and more difficult for law enforcement agencies to foil, investigate and dismantle terrorist networks that have a much broader scope than organized crime ever did.
I recently read a piece by Charles-Philippe David, the brother of the leader of Québec solidaire. He wrote that the driving force behind terrorism in the 21st century has largely, but not exclusively, been based on religious considerations. No country is safe from terrorism, but some countries are targeted more than others. In political science and history classes, we learned that the United States was the world's police officer. Their interventionist international policy obviously makes them a bigger target.
I do not want to leave out an important component of the historical background. Shortly after 2001, the Liberals introduced a bill that the Bloc Québécois did not support. There was a lot of pressure at that point in time. The Bloc Québécois did not support the bill because we questioned how effective it would be. We did not want to downplay the potential for a terrorist attack. We knew that it was a real possibility, and we wanted emergency measures and plans to be in place. I know that the civil protection people were working on this. However, we did not believe that the measures proposed at that time were the right ones.
For example, there was the possibility that people might be arrested without charges. And that goes against a fundamental principle of our justice system. When we want to bring people before the courts, we have a constitutional obligation to present evidence in order to charge them. If it is a serious matter, we proceed by way of indictment so that we can bring the entire justice system into play, with a defence lawyer and a crown prosecutor. We present the evidence. If it is a very serious matter, we proceed with a jury, and a trial will follow.
Former minister McLellan's bill twisted the administration of justice in two ways. When Anne McLellan's bill was introduced in the House, it contained a sunset clause. At the time, we were told that the provisions of the act would expire after a certain period of time, following which a parliamentary committee would study them and we, as parliamentarians, would decide whether it was appropriate to extend them. I would point out that the House did not consider it appropriate to extend provisions in the Criminal Code concerning sections 83.28, 83.29 and 83.3. Accordingly, we voted against it, and most members of the House decided to allow the provisions to expire. The feeling was unanimous among members of the Bloc Québécois and the NDP. If I remember correctly, the Liberals were divided and the government was unanimous.
What are we concerned about? First, we are concerned about the so-called investigative hearings. This is all based on allegations. No charges have been laid, nobody has been convicted; nobody has even been put on trial. The government is getting ahead of the justice system and once again, it wants us to support sections 83.28 and 83.29 of the Criminal Code. These are what they call investigative hearings.
Let me explain because this is somewhat technical and I would like our fellow citizens to understand what it is all about. A peace officer—a police officer to put it simply—may make an application to a provincial court judge—in Quebec, warrants are issued by provincial court judges—or a superior court judge with the prior consent of the Attorney General. It is correct to say, as our friend did earlier, that the consent of the Attorney General is required for an order for the gathering of information to be issued.
A peace officer or his agent may go before a superior court judge or a provincial court judge and explain that he would like to gather more information on a given individual because he has reasonable grounds to believe that the individual in question may have terrorist connections.
I remind the hon. members that we are talking about information in a context where no charges have been laid and no trial held, and that such an approach is totally arbitrary. The individual is required to appear before a judge. Hopefully, he or she will be notified in writing. The individual would be ordered, for example, to report to the Montreal courthouse next Tuesday, at 10 a.m., for an examination and to face justice. We are talking about an examination before a judge, where the individual will be required to answer questions. He or she may not refuse to answer.
In addition, the general principle whereby one has the right not to incriminate oneself does not apply under sections 83.28 and 83.29. The only exception, of course, is a person who has privileged information, for instance someone working for Criminal Intelligence Service Canada. These people are never required to disclose privileged information, the same way that police officers are never required to divulge their sources.
So, the examination is held before a judge, and the individual is required to answer the questions. Naturally, one might want to trivialize this. I heard earlier a government member say that the Attorney General was certainly necessary and that the person has the right to counsel. But do members not realize that we are talking about a situation where no charges have been laid against the person, yet he or she had to undergo questioning before any formal judicial process has been initiated? That is worrisome.
I must remind the House that this is similar to what happened with security certificates. That is another issue, but it follows the same logic. The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration along with the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General of Canada can sign a certificate ordering that an individual be arrested, tried and convicted, without having any access to the evidence that led to his or her arrest.
At the time, it was my colleague, Michel Bellehumeur, member for Berthier—Montcalm, who is now a member of the judiciary, given his talent and experience, who had raised this issue. When we of the Bloc Québécois said this was somehow detrimental to justice and showed a lack of respect for fundamental freedoms, at the time, the Liberals refused to accept our arguments. The case went before the Supreme Court of Canada and, in January 2006 or 2007, the whole thing was of course declared unconstitutional. The government had to go back to the drawing board and introduce another bill. But we are not satisfied with that bill, because it designates a kind of amicus curiae, a friend of the court, who would have access to the evidence. Yet that friend of the court, who would be defending the accused, cannot share the evidence with his or her client.
Thus, we see some logic that is completely twisted and completely inexcusable with regard to some major constitutional guarantees. I would be willing to bet on this, even though I am generally quite cautious. I am not a man of great wealth, which is why I tend to be cautious. But I would be willing to bet that these provisions will find their way to the Supreme Court of Canada and that the government will lose again regarding the drafting of this bill.
It would be even more surprising given that sections 83.28 and 83.29 of the Criminal Code have never been invoked. Law enforcement organizations never used these sections once over a six or seven year period, that is from the time they were passed until the day of the failed vote to extend the sunset clause.
Why? Because there are other provisions already in the Criminal Code. As we learned in our law courses, pursuant to section 495 of the Criminal Code, a peace officer may arrest an individual and bring him before a justice of the peace if there are reasonable grounds to do so. Naturally, there must be some basis for this action. In fact, anyone can do this. For example, if I have reason to believe that my neighbour will rob a bank, I can go before a judge and lay the information. This person may be summoned to appear and may have to enter into a peace bond.
Naturally, these provisions apply to the issue of terrorist networks. We could not understand why we needed a new law when such provisions were already in place.
As for investigative hearings, they provide a means of obtaining information about individuals who have not even been charged. They may be brought before a judge and undergo an actual examination, even though they may have legal representation, without ever having been charged.
The second clause of Bill S-3, which seeks to bring back the two clauses which expired after the vote in the House, pertains to section 83.3 of the Criminal Code, which deals with recognizance and preventive arrest and detention.
The scenario is as follows. Again with the consent of the Attorney General, who is generally the Minister of Justice, a peace officer who believes that a terrorist act will be committed can require that a person sign a recognizance with conditions or ask that the person be arrested, if necessary, to prevent a terrorist act from being committed. This peace officer will lay an information before a provincial court judge. The judge will order the person to appear if the judge is convinced that this is necessary. According to the bill, the person will have 24 hours after the information is laid to appear. A show-cause hearing will then be held to determine whether or not the person should be arrested or whether conditions should be imposed on the person. Generally, these conditions pertain to the person's movements and contacts with certain people.
In short, the difference is that this person can be formally arrested.
It is true that the Criminal Code already contains section 810, which, if memory serves, was adopted when we studied the first anti-gang bill. The Bloc Québécois won that battle, which resulted in an anti-gang law. I clearly remember that at the time, senior officials wanted to bring down organized crime using the conspiracy provisions. They had a hard time understanding that we were facing a new situation where people were very well organized into networks and formed a veritable industry that terrorized big cities like Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto.
Consequently, there are already provisions whereby individuals can be required, preventively, to keep the peace or not have contact with certain people. For example, in cases of sexual assault, the person must not be allowed to have contact with victims. Here, though, we have a situation where people can be arrested preventively, without being charged or tried.
Clearly, this bill is rather disturbing. I do not believe that the Bloc Québécois can support this bill, and we invite all members to reject it.
I will close by saying, once again, that the Criminal Code contains everything needed to intervene; we do not need these provisions.