Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on behalf of the Bloc Québécois regarding the report of the Committee on Public Safety and National Security. This is an interesting debate in the House today. I do not serve on this committee, and so I had another look at this report that was produced in June 2009. I see why there was interest in having this debate here today.
Some of my Bloc Québécois colleagues serve on this committee, including the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin. Those who know him know that he is a distinguished lawyer who was the attorney general of Quebec when he was a member of the National Assembly. My colleague from Ahuntsic, a well-known criminologist, also serves on the committee. Anyone who is familiar with her work knows that she has written extensively on the subject of street gangs. She not only tackles the problem of street gangs, but also proposes solutions to the issue. In addition, she has always been interested in human rights issues.
In reading the report, I was able to better understand the intentions of the committee members at the time, why it is being brought back to the House today, and also the Conservative philosophy behind the position they defended in committee.
The report reviewed the findings and recommendations arising from the Iacobucci and O'Connor inquiries. Mr. Speaker, I know that you are familiar with all of these reports, but for those listening, I want to point out that the Iacobucci inquiry was an internal inquiry into the actions of Canadian officials in relation to Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad Abou-Elmaati and Muayyed Nureddin. The O'Connor inquiry looked into the actions of Canadian officials in relation to Maher Arar. These cases were very important in terms of the government's foreign policy and how the Conservative government and the Government of Canada treated Canadian citizens who experienced difficulties with foreign authorities. That brings me back to the committee's analysis and, most importantly, its findings and recommendations.
The first recommendation called on the government to recognize the urgency of the situation by immediately implementing all of the recommendations from the O'Connor inquiry, the one in relation to Maher Arar. The committee found it regrettable that the government had not yet established the national security review framework recommended by Justice O’Connor. After hearing from the majority of witnesses, the committee determined that the implementation of the recommendations from the policy review report would give Canadians assurance that the actions of national security departments and agencies were in compliance with the law. That was the main objective. I will read the recommendation:
The Committee reiterates the recommendation made in its report presented to the House of Commons on January 30, 2007, and recommends that the Government of Canada recognize the urgency of the situation by immediately implementing all the recommendations from the Commission of Inquiry into the Actions of Canadian Officials in Relation to Maher Arar.
In June 2009, the committee resurrected the O'Connor inquiry's recommendations, which had been submitted in the January 2007 report. It is important to bring this up again today to show that, first, the government has not yet implemented the committee's June 2009 recommendations, and second and more importantly, the government expressed a dissenting opinion. The committee submitted a majority report, but a minority, the Conservatives, produced a dissenting opinion. That means that the Conservative members did not agree with the committee's recommendations. I will come back to that.
That is why it is so important today to show that even though the committee submitted a majority report with recommendations, the inevitable outcome has been that the government, which expressed a dissenting opinion, has no interest in implementing the report's recommendations.
This means we must find out why the Conservatives decided to submit a dissenting opinion and why they decided not to act on the June 2009 committee report.
The second recommendation states:
The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada immediately issue regular public reports on the progress made in implementing the findings and recommendations arising from the Commission of Inquiry into the Actions of Canadian Officials in Relation to Maher Arar and the Internal Inquiry into the Actions of Canadian Officials in Relation to Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad Abou-Elmaati and Muayyed Nureddin.
The reports should have been made public in order to demonstrate that these people did not suffer irreparable harm at the hands of the government. It seems clear that the government decided not to publicly announce all of the progress made because, once again, it wanted to hide the documents.
This brings us to the core of the report. The third recommendations states:
In consideration of the harm done to Messrs. Almalki, Abou-Elmaati and Mr. Nureddin, the Committee recommends:
that the Government of Canada officially apologize to Messrs. Almalki, Abou-Elmaati and Nureddin;
that the Government of Canada allow compensation to be paid to Messrs. Almalki, Abou-Elmaati and Nureddin as reparation for the suffering they endured and the difficulties they encountered; and
that the Government of Canada do everything necessary to correct misinformation that may exist in records administered by national security agencies in Canada or abroad with respect to Messrs. Almalki, Abou-Elmaati and Nureddin and members of their families.
Clearly, the reputations of these individuals have suffered considerable harm. The committee found that the government made a mistake and should correct that mistake by officially apologizing. That was a recommendation. It will come as no surprise that the Conservatives had a dissenting opinion and ignored that recommendation. Their failure to acknowledge the harm done to our citizens is an affront to rights and freedoms, but that is the Conservative way.
Despite the Conservative rhetoric when it comes time to show some respect for human rights, this is just further proof that they really do not respect those rights.
The fourth recommendation is very important in light of the debates of these past few days, because it recommends adopting an unequivocal position on torture. This report was published in June. It took a few months to draft it. I will read the recommendation:
The committee recommends that the Government of Canada issue a clear ministerial direction against torture and the use of information obtained from torture for all departments and agencies responsible for national security. The ministerial direction must clearly state that the exchange of information with countries is prohibited when there is a credible risk that it could lead, or contribute, to the use of torture.
I am not a member of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, but the fact that the Conservative MPs issued a dissenting opinion on this recommendation is disturbing. It shows that everything the government has been doing in the past few weeks to hide the documents on the torture of Afghan detainees from the Standing Committee on National Defence is symptomatic. It is a Conservative syndrome. They see no torture and hear no torture, therefore there is no torture. Only those who are present can determine that there is torture. If there is no video evidence of torture, then there is no torture.
That is the heart of today's debate. I watched the Conservatives tear their hair out saying that today's debate would delay all the big, fine decisions they have to make. They have made some very serious decisions nonetheless.
Once again, they gave a dissenting opinion on recommendation 4, which reads as follows:
The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada issue a clear ministerial directive against torture and the use of information obtained from torture for all departments and agencies responsible for national security.
When I read that in the report, I remembered that the Conservative Party had issued a dissenting opinion on recommendation 4. That gives me a better understanding of the Conservative ideology, which comes from the Republicans in the U.S.: “If we don't see it, it ain't happening”. It is a bit like the boxer who told his trainer that someone was hitting him. The trainer answered that no one was hitting him, no one could see him and no one was touching him. The boxer asked the trainer to check with the referee, because he could feel someone touching him. That is the reality. That is the Conservative approach. They cannot see or feel anything, but meanwhile, people are being tortured. In order to admit that torture is taking place, all the Conservative members would have to see acts of torture with their own eyes at the same time.
This attitude comes from the Conservatives' right-wing ideology. Today, this whole debate is being brought to the House of Commons in connection with the June 2009 report. The government has not acted on this report. But even worse, the Conservatives had a dissenting opinion on recommendation 4, which recommended:
that the Government of Canada issue a clear ministerial directive against torture and the use of information obtained from torture for all departments and agencies responsible for national security. The ministerial directive must clearly state that the exchange of information with countries is prohibited when there is a credible risk that it could lead, or contribute, to the use of torture.
As we can see, in June 2009, the Conservatives did not agree with this recommendation. Obviously, this tells us even more about how they handle all the cases of torture of Afghan detainees.
The fifth recommendation was as follows:
The Committee recommends, once again, that Bill C-81, introduced in the 38th Parliament, An Act to Establish the National Security Committee of Parliamentarians, or a variation of it, be introduced in Parliament at the earliest opportunity.
Clearly, the objective was to create a parliamentary committee to review the activities of national security organizations.
When a government just does not wish to issue the directives or support a recommendation calling for clear directives, it is not unusual for a committee of parliamentarians to follow up with these organizations in the matter of the allegations or the way in which they handle all files involving our citizens who are accused of all kinds of things abroad. My colleagues on the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security and I thought this was an interesting solution.
Once again, this report expresses the findings of the majority but the minority Conservative voice has prevailed. It is no surprise that the report has not been acted on and that, inevitably, it has been shelved. That is what happened.
The Bloc Québécois is pleased to discuss this matter today. It gives us a little more insight into the Conservative philosophy, which is based on always turning a blind eye, never apologizing and, when faced with a situation where there is torture and the violation of human rights, having to be there to actually witness it. They do not even want a committee to recommend that clear directives be issued to all security services that may question witnesses. That is how they see things. There is the Conservative view of things and the humanitarian view of things, and the Bloc Québécois has always defended the latter. We have always been strong defenders of justice.
We want every person who commits a crime to be punished. However, when someone is wrongly accused of having committed a crime, they deserve an apology. Torture must not be used; it is straight out of the Middle Ages. I apologize for pushing this, but it really is an outdated way of doing things. There are ways to obtain information that are more respectful of human rights. That is how the Bloc Québécois wants things to work.
Today's debate was very important, and it showed that the Conservatives do not want to discuss governance problems related to torture. The government is not at all willing to bring the facts to light or to prevent these kinds of things from happening.
The Bloc Québécois still supports this report. Our colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin was once the attorney general of Quebec. He was one of the instigators of Opération printemps 2001, which targeted organized crime in Quebec. He was the minister at the time. This operation was made possible thanks to the Bloc Québécois, which was in favour of amending the Criminal Code to reverse the burden of proof. Criminals were then required to prove that their money had been earned legitimately. Opération printemps 2001 dealt a serious blow to organized crime.
The Bloc's position will always be the same: we believe that we must fight criminals and anyone who attacks our freedoms. But in doing so, we must respect human rights. We must not torture people. We are capable of holding these debates in a way that respects human rights.