Mr. Speaker, I come here today to discuss Bill C-19, the investigative hearing and the recognizance with conditions that the bill seeks to re-enact, which expired in March 2007.
The investigative hearing provisions permitted a judge to question persons having information about a past or future terrorism offence. The recognizance with conditions provision permitted imposing conditions on a person, where necessary, to prevent the carrying out of a terrorist activity. These provisions were not, and certainly would not be, unique to Canada. Other democratic countries have similar tools, or ones that tend to go much further than those proposed in this bill.
I believe that by comparing these proposals with foreign counterparts, it will become clear that the proposed investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions that are found in the bill would be seen to be reasonable measures and not at all excessive.
Let me first address the issue of investigative hearing. In 2001 the United Kingdom created a specific crime of withholding information relating to a terrorist act. A person who could have assisted police in preventing an act of terrorism, or in arresting, apprehending or prosecuting someone involved with terrorist activities but failed to do so, could be imprisoned for up to five years.
Also, the U.K. terrorism act of 2006 enables an investigative authority, such as the director of public prosecutions, to issue a disclosure notice requiring a person to provide information or documents relevant to the investigation of a terrorism offence.
Under the United States longstanding grand jury procedure, a federal grand jury can subpoena any person to testify under oath, subject to claims of privilege. Anyone who obstructs a grand jury risks being held in contempt.
Australia and South Africa have specific procedures similar to the proposed Canadian investigative hearing.
The Canadian approach certainly does not go further than other democratic nations in creating an investigative hearing procedure. Other countries have done as much, or even more, in ensuring that they have the tools to investigate terrorism offences.
The Australian counterpart of the recognizance with conditions is a system of control orders and preventive detention of terrorist suspects. The Australian federal police may apply to a judge for an order allowing up to 48 hours of preventive detention of a terrorist suspect where there has been a terrorist act or where a terrorist act is imminent.
Australian states and territories, under their legislation, allow for preventive detention for up to 14 days. Disclosing during the detention period that a person is detained is punishable by a maximum five years in jail. The Australian federal police annual report of 2006 to June 30, 2007 shows that one interim control order was made but that there were no preventive detention orders. One interim control order expired in December of last year.
Similarly, the United Kingdom has much broader powers for the detention of suspected terrorists, compared to Canada's recognizance with conditions power. In the United Kingdom, under the amended terrorism act 2000, a person can be arrested without warrant and held in detention without charge for up to 28 days if the police reasonably suspect the person of being a terrorist.
As many know, the U.K. government wanted to extend this period even further in its proposed counterterrorism bill to a maximum of 42 days. However, this initiative proved to be very controversial and was defeated by the House of Lords in October 2008. As a result, the U.K. government allowed the bill to continue its journey through the British Parliament without the 42-day measure, but it also published a bill containing the power to detain for 42 days, which will be held in reserve and which will be introduced in the British Parliament if and when the need arises.
The U.K. also has a system of control orders which has been in place since the passage of the prevention of terrorism act 2005. This generally allows for the home secretary to apply to a court to impose obligations on an individual, where there is a reasonable suspicion that the individual is or has been involved in terrorism-related activity, and it is considered necessary in order to protect the public from terrorism to impose obligations on the individual.
Control orders can be imposed on citizens or non-citizens alike. There are two kinds of control orders: derogating and non-derogating control orders.
The derogating control order is one that derogates from the European Convention on Human Rights. This type of order could potentially apply in the case of house arrests. A non-derogating control order is one that does not derogate from the convention. Some cases involving non-derogating control orders have now been decided by the House of Lords. It ruled, for example, that a condition requiring a person to stay confined at home for 18 hours each day contravened the right to liberty under the European Convention on Human Rights, but that a 12 hour and possibly a 16 hour curfew was acceptable.
Non-derogating control orders are enforced for 12 months, but they can be renewed. The quarterly statement on the use of control orders covering the period September 11, 2008 to December 10, 2008 said that in total 15 control orders are currently in force, four of which are in respect to British citizens.
Additionally, U.K. police officers have other powers given to them by the terrorism act 2000 that do not exist in Canada. For example, police can designate a certain area, or order anyone to leave it, or not to enter it at the risk of committing an offence. A senior police officer may also authorize a uniformed constable to search a vehicle or a person in a designated area when to do so would be expedient for the prevention of a terrorist act. As we can see, the U.K. powers by far outstrip in scope what Canada provides for its law enforcement purposes.
Finally, I would add that the need to fulfill our international obligations should also prompt a re-enactment of the powers. The United Nations Security Council resolution 1373, to which Canada is a party, obliges the party states to “Take the necessary steps to prevent the commission of terrorist acts--”. The provisions proposed in this bill are intended to do just that.
I have talked at length about the measures that are present in other democratic countries facing terrorism threats and whose legal systems are similar to ours. As I have endeavoured to make clear, the tools we are now seeking to re-enact do not constitute an assault on human rights. On the contrary, they are minimally intrusive and are more restrained than our foreign counterparts. They do not present a threat to Canadian values but actually protect them. Accordingly, I would ask that all hon. members support this bill.