Mr. Speaker, I want to note that I will be sharing my time with the member for Northumberland—Quinte West.
I am very pleased to rise in my place today to speak in support of Bill C-19. It seeks to re-enact the investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions provisions in the Criminal Code. The bill is almost identical to former Bill S-3, which died on the order paper at second reading before the House in a previous Parliament.
I will start by quickly explaining what investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions mean.
The investigative hearing provisions would empower a peace officer investigating a terrorism offence that has been or will be committed to apply to a judge for an order requiring a person who is believed to have information concerning the terrorism offence to appear before a judge or produce a thing. The peace officer would have to have the prior consent of the relevant attorney general before making such an application. What would be essential to deal with this is an information-gathering order that would apply in respect of a witness, not an accused.
Recognizance with conditions means that, with the prior consent of the Attorney General, a peace officer may lay an information before a provincial court judge if the peace officer 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 the terrorist activity. The judge could then compel that person to attend a hearing before him or any other judge.
As mentioned, a number of arguments have arisen in the past that have been critical especially of the recognizance with conditions provision. I will deal with them one by one.
I would like to address the contention that the recognizance with conditions provision is unnecessary because the Criminal Code already contains other provisions that could be used to prevent the carrying out of a terrorist activity, especially sections 495, 810 and 810.01 of the Criminal Code.
Section 495. (1)(a) states that a peace officer may arrest without warrant a person who, on reasonable grounds, he believes is about to commit a serious indictable offence. In addition, sections 810 and 810.01 apply when any person fears on reasonable grounds that another person will cause personal injury or commit a criminal organization offence or a terrorism offence. These sections empower the judge to order that the individual enter into a recognizance with conditions.
These provisions all focus on someone who it is reasonably believed is either about to or will commit a crime. They do not encompass any other person and so are very narrow in scope. On the other hand, the recognizance with conditions provision would apply to situations where there are reasonable grounds to believe that a terrorist activity will be committed and there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the imposition of a recognizance with conditions on a person is necessary to prevent the commission of a terrorist activity.
In other words, the police may have reasonable grounds to believe that a terrorist activity will be committed but would otherwise be unable to take action in relation to a person because the officer lacks, at the point of identifying the threat and the person, the grounds necessary to support the requirement of a belief on reasonable grounds in relation to that particular person. That officer may only have reasonable suspicion. Given the grave nature of the harm posed by terrorist activity, there is a sincere need to be able to act quickly to address the threat.
The provisions relating to recognizance would allow persons to be brought before a judge if there are reasonable grounds to suspect their involvement in terrorist activities. They would also allow a judicial review to prevent the commission of acts of terrorism. This is why the provisions relating to recognizance with conditions are necessary and judicious.
In relation to the investigative hearing, one complaint has been that it takes away a person's right to silence. We have heard the member of the NDP repeat that several times during his dissertation. However, let us not forget that the Supreme Court of Canada held otherwise. In application under section 83.28 of the Criminal Code in 2004, the Supreme Court concluded that the investigative hearing provision did not violate section 7 of the charter.
In fact, the Supreme Court found that a person testifying at an investigative hearing is better protected than any other witness in a criminal trial. This bill also clarifies that the maximum detention for a witness arrested to ensure appearance at an investigative hearing is limited to 90 days, as is the case for witnesses who are detained in relation to a criminal trial under section 707 of the Criminal Code.
The provision relating to recognizance with conditions is in large part based on the Criminal Code provisions on sureties to keep the peace. As I have said, the purpose of the modifications is to make it possible to prevent apprehended acts of terrorism. There are also guarantees, particularly the need to obtain the consent of the Attorney General concerned.
It has also been argued that imposing a recognizance with conditions on a person attaches to that person a stigma of being an alleged terrorist. However, as noted, there are other peace bond provisions in the Criminal Code—for example, where persons are required to enter into peace bonds because it is reasonably believed they will cause personal injury or commit a sexual offence against a young person. These exist today. In these cases, there is no requirement that a criminal charge be laid.
Should these provisions be eliminated on the basis of a stigma possibly attaching to persons even though they have committed no crime? I do not believe that is the case. The government considered the substantive recommendation in the House of Commons subcommittee's interim report to the effect that the investigative hearing power be limited to the investigation of “imminent”, and that word is important, terrorism offences, thereby excluding the possibility of holding an investigative hearing in respect of past terrorism offences. This recommendation was not accepted.
It did not take into account, for example, the possibility of a terrorist group planning a series of terrorist acts following on each other. An investigative hearing related to the first offence, held after the fact—that is, in relation to a terrorism offence that had already been committed—might bring to light certain important information that would make it possible to prevent the other offences from being committed.
I have attempted to address some of the arguments that were previously raised against these provisions. It is my view that these criticisms do not stand up to close scrutiny. The proposed provisions are minimally intrusive and do not present a threat to Canadian values but actually protect them. Therefore, I ask all hon. members in the House to support this bill.