Madam Speaker, I am cognizant that I have 20 minutes to speak but only 4 minutes to begin. I am going to lay the preparatory groundwork for my speech later on.
Not everybody in the House will agree with what I am about to say, but the fundamental issue presented by the piece of legislation before the House today is that due process in law cannot be supported by offending due process in law. Civil rights cannot be protected by violating civil rights. Freedom in this country cannot be supported by abridging the freedom of Canadians in this country. That cuts to the heart of this matter, and I will come back to that concept later on in my speech.
Bill C-19, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions) was introduced in the House on March 12 of this year. It contains the provisions found in former Bill S-3, as amended by the Senate Special Committee on Anti-terrorism in March of last year.
The bill proposes amendments to the Criminal Code that would reinstate the anti-terrorism provisions that expired under a sunset clause in February 2007. It provides for the appearance of individuals who may have information about a terrorism offence, compells attendance before a judge for an investigative hearing, and it contains provisions also dealing with imprisonment of those people for up to 12 months without charge.
This legislation also contains a five-year sunset clause that requires the Attorney General of Canada and the Minister of Public Safety to issue separate annual reports that include their opinions as to whether these provisions should be extended.
The seriousness with which the bill attacks our civil liberties in this country is established by the fact that it has to contain sunset provisions to come back before the House. The government does not have the confidence to put these provisions into law for an extended period of time.
Bill C-19 essentially reintroduces the provisions relating to investigative hearings and recognizances that first came into force in December 2001. A sunset clause contained in that act stated that the provisions in question would cease to apply at the end of December 31, 2006 unless they were extended by a resolution passed by both Houses of Parliament.
As of February 2007, not one investigative hearing had been held, and there was no reported use of the provisions on recognizance with conditions at that time. I will come back to this theme later on.
Hon. colleagues on the other side of the House continue to maintain that this legislation is required, but it has never been used in the first five years of its existence.
Let me start with the first of these two offensive provisions, and that is investigative hearings.
Clause 1 of Bill C-19 would amend the Criminal Code, and it is similar to the original Anti-terrorism Act. Section 83 of the Criminal Code forces individuals who may have information about a terrorism offence to appear before a judge for an investigative hearing. The objective is to compel that person to speak, under penalty of imprisonment.
A peace officer, with the prior consent of the Attorney General, can apply to a superior court or a provincial court judge for an order for the gathering of information if there are reasonable grounds to believe that a terrorism offence has or will be committed.
If there are reasonable grounds to believe that information concerning the offence or whereabouts of a suspect is likely to be obtained as a result of the order, and if reasonable attempts have been made to obtain such information by other means, if granted, such a court order would compel that person to attend a hearing and answer questions on examination. No one attending such a hearing can refuse to answer a question or produce something in his or her possession on the grounds of self-incrimination.
Every Canadian school child is familiar with the edict in this country that an individual has the right to remain silent and not to testify if that testimony would present self-incrimination. It is considered a fundamental tenet of western and British legal tradition. It has been part of our country's Constitution and civil liberties for hundreds of years.