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House of Commons Hansard #67 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was code.

Topics

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is a fascinating comment, coming from a member of the government.

I would, in turn, ask him a question. The government is talking about the freedom of Canadians to own guns but opposes the responsibility of even registering a gun. In that case, I guess there is no corresponding responsibility. A Canadian, according to the government, has the freedom to own and walk around with a gun, but there is no corresponding responsibility to do something even as minor as registering that weapon. In that case, it is a question of pure freedom. I would be interested in hearing my friend's comments to help me understand that.

Of course there are corresponding responsibilities, but core civil liberties are core civil liberties. The right to remain silent and not incriminate oneself is not conditional. It is either a right or it is not a right. The right not to be arrested when one has not done anything, when the state has no evidence that a person has done something or might do something, has no corresponding responsibility. Canadians are either free to walk our streets and not have their liberties restricted by the state in the absence of evidence or they are not.

I agree with Mr. Frankl's comments about responsibility and freedom, but we are not talking about those kinds of liberties. We are talking about core constitutional liberties, which I believe have no conditions attached. They are core, fundamental values and rights that every Canadian enjoys, and we have to support and protect those rights vigilantly.

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to be seen as negative on the issues raised by the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway. This, of course, is the one place in the country where we should always be supportive of advocacy in favour of our freedoms.

The member may have failed to connect the dots for me. First, he referred to the right to remain silent. That is not a right in Canada. There is a right against self-incrimination. The member may have been watching a few too many American television shows.

The Canada Evidence Act is very clear that when a question is put in a judicial proceeding, the answer must be given. The answer cannot subsequently be used in a criminal proceeding against a person, other than for perjury. However, there is no actual right of self-incrimination. I would like him to address that, because he referred to this right but did not give an example of how this legislation would breach that right.

Second, on the issue of investigative hearings, we have always had in this country, for over a century, the grand jury procedure. It requires citizens to appear before a grand jury, where they are forced to answer questions on criminal matters. That evidence is not usable against them in subsequent criminal proceedings if charges are laid. That is an example of how our legal system has already done that. I would like him to comment on that.

Third, preventive detention is virtually analogous to the conspiracy offence whereby someone is charged with conspiring to commit a criminal act that has not happened yet. These concepts are not new to us. We are just refining them a little for Canadian purposes in compliance with the Charter. Would he comment on that, please?

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, the first question I would ask the hon. member is why his party voted against these provisions in 2007.

I have, of course, come to expect that the Liberal Party will run one way one day and another way the next day. Canadians are left wondering exactly where they stand on any issue at any given time. His party did not like these provisions three years ago. It seems to like them now. I am not exactly sure why.

I am a lawyer by training, as well, and with respect, I will differ with my friend. Canadians do, in fact, have the right to remain silent and not give evidence that might incriminate them. That is exactly what this act violates. It forces people to testify without the historic legal protection that the testimony cannot be used against them in subsequent criminal actions through derivative evidence. In that respect, although the evidence cannot be used directly against a person in a subsequent criminal proceeding, derivative evidence can be. In effect, the act violates Canadians' right not to give evidence against themselves.

If my friend wants to say that Canadians do not have that right, I will respectfully disagree with him.

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, in 2007, as my colleague was saying, all of us—including the Liberal Party—voted against extending these provisions. Now all of a sudden the Liberal Party has changed its mind even though Bill C-17 does not introduce any fundamental changes. These provisions are still useless, because other provisions already exist in the Criminal Code to allow agencies and police officers to take action, whether with regard to investigative hearings or preventive arrest.

Does my colleague understand the Liberals' change of heart? I am still trying to figure out whether it is just one-upmanship in a world where everyone tries to come across as protecting public safety by fuelling the fear of terrorism and the fear of crime. It is nothing more than grandstanding. I do not know who is better at it, the Liberals or the Conservatives.

That is how I interpret all of this, but perhaps my colleague has another way of looking at it.

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, the short answer to the question is no, I cannot offer an explanation as to why the Liberals are flip-flopping on this position.

We can all understand why, after 9/11, this legislation may have been passed because of high emotion and nervousness. I think it was wrong at that time, but we understood it.

However, I cannot understand why any parliamentarian would stand in this House today and violate precepts of democracy and Canadian civil rights when there has not been one example, in the last eight years, of anybody successfully brought before a judge who would have made this legislation necessary.

In calm, rational, sober thought, in a moment when we can actually address our minds to what this legislation would really do, I respectfully submit that no parliamentarian ought to stand in this House and knowingly violate Canadians' rights. States have always justified incursions into civil liberties by appealing to some fear. They have always tried to truncate people's freedoms with the justification that there is some bogeyman of some type.

The legislation ought to be rejected. I hope that the Liberal Party of Canada finds those principles and that its members find it in themselves to do as they did correctly in 2007 and join with the Bloc and the New Democrats in opposing this kind of very misinformed, dangerous legislation.

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-17, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions), a type of anti-terrorism legislation. I am also pleased to explain to you, Mr. Speaker, and to all those watching us, the balanced position that the Bloc Québécois has always defended.

The hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin has championed this issue with support from our member for Ahuntsic. Those two hon. members have some experience in this. Let us not forget that the hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin is a well known criminal lawyer. He was Quebec's attorney general at one time. He was the one who launched Quebec's Opération Printemps 2001, a large-scale operation to break up organized crime and criminal biker gangs in particular. Our colleague from Ahuntsic is a criminologist by training and we refer to her for information on fighting street gangs. She even played a role in the arrest of marijuana grow operators. We get our advice from people who fight crime for a living. Those are the people the leader of the Bloc Québécois chose to champion this issue and try, in a responsible manner, to fight terrorism. That has always been the Bloc Québécois' approach.

Our party has been involved since the very beginning of the process to review the Anti-terrorism Act. Between 2004 and 2007, the Bloc Québécois heard witnesses, read briefings, and interviewed specialists, civil society representatives and law enforcement agencies. During the Subcommittee on the Review of the Anti-terrorism Act's specific study of the two provisions in Bill C-17, the Bloc Québécois made its position on investigative hearings and recognizance with conditions clear.

Our party felt that the investigative process needed to be better defined. It was clear that this exceptional measure should be used only in specific cases in which it is necessary to prohibit activities where there is imminent peril of serious damage, and not in the case of misdeeds already committed.

We were also firmly opposed to section 83.3, dealing with preventive arrest and recognizance with conditions. Not only do we feel that this measure is of little, if any, use in the fight against terrorism but, more importantly, there is a very real danger of its being used against honest citizens. This is important, because it is part of a responsible approach. Some members here say they want to amend the Criminal Code, but really, the goal should be to actually improve the situation. But that is not the case here, as we can see in the position taken by the Bloc Québécois as a result of the analysis done by our esteemed colleagues, as I explained, the hon. members for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin and Ahuntsic.

I would like to quote the text, because it is very important. Amendments to the Criminal Code are often very complicated and contain many references. In a dissenting report, my colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin very clearly explained his position and his viewpoint regarding these legislative amendments. It is worth reading, to ensure that all members and the people watching us at home understand better.

Again, I am quoting my colleague's text.

Terrorism cannot be fought with legislation; it must be fought through the efforts of intelligence services combined with appropriate police action.

There is no act of terrorism that is not already a criminal offence punishable by the most stringent penalties under the Criminal Code. This is obviously the case for pre-meditated, cold-blooded murders; however, it is also true of the destruction of major infrastructures.

Moreover, when judges exercise their discretion during sentencing, they will consider the terrorists’ motive as an aggravating factor. They will find that the potential for rehabilitation is very low, that the risk of recidivism is very high and that deterrence and denunciation are grounds for stiffer sentencing. This is what they have always done in the past and there is no reason to think they will do differently in the future.

This part of the text signed by my colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin is important. It explains that we already have a criminal code, that there are laws in place and that judges have already convicted people who have committed such serious crimes as murder and have already established a way to set sentences and judge these people.

We must also consider that, when it comes to terrorism, deterrence has limitations. First, it will have very little impact on someone considering a suicide bombing. Second, those who decide to join a terrorist group generally believe that they are taking part in an historic movement that will have a triumphant outcome in the near future and that will see them emerge as heroes.

Continuing with the logic of my colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, I would say that it is important to understand that terrorists' perceptions and actions are different than those of ordinary citizens. I would add that we should not believe that they will be deterred by legislation. Therefore, we have to bear in mind the fact that their motivation is different than that of ordinary citizens.

Therefore, one cannot expect that new legislation will provide the tools needed to effectively fight terrorism.

Legislation can, however, be amended if police do not seem to have the legal means needed to deal with the new threat of terrorism.

Consequently we must ensure that the proposed measure does not unduly disturb the balance that must exist between respect for the values of fairness, justice and respect for human rights, which are characteristic of our societies, while also ensuring better protection for Canadians [and Quebeckers] and for the entire world community.

Section 83.3, which provides for preventive arrests and the imposition of conditions, was advanced as such a measure when it was adopted.

Now, this provision has gone unused.

That is not surprising, given that police officers can use existing Criminal Code provisions to arrest someone who is about to commit an indictable offence.

Section 495 of the Criminal Code states that:

“(1) A peace officer may arrest without warrant

(a) a person […] who, on reasonable grounds, he believes […] is about to commit an indictable offence”

As my colleague's text mentions, clause 83.3, which would be added by Bill C-17, does not change anything, because the Criminal Code already contains section 495, which allows for preventive arrests.

The arrested person [when he is arrested under section 495] must then be brought before a judge, who may impose the same conditions as those imposable under the [Act]. The judge may even refuse bail if he believes that the person’s release might jeopardize public safety.

If police officers believe that a person is about to commit an act of terrorism, then they have knowledge of a plot. They probably know, based on wiretap or surveillance information, that an indictable offence is about to be committed. Therefore, they have proof of a plot or attempt and need only lay a charge in order to arrest the person in question.

Therefore, it is very important to understand that section 495 of the Criminal Code already does what Bill C-17 would do, but with evidence that makes it possible for a judge to render a decision.

There will eventually be a trial, at which time the arrested person will have the opportunity to a full answer and defence. The person will be acquitted if the suspicions are not justified or if there is insufficient proof to support a conviction.

It seems obvious to us that the terrorist act thus apprehended would have been disrupted just as easily as it would have been had section 83.3 been used.

In keeping with what my colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin was saying, section 495 of the Criminal Code already exists, allowing for preventive arrest, provided there is sufficient evidence.

And concerning section 83.3, my colleague added:

However, it is this provision that is most likely to give rise to abuses.

Section 495 does not give rise to abuse if there is evidence, but section 83.3, as set out in Bill C-17, is vulnerable to abuse.

My colleague went on to say:

It may be used to brand someone a terrorist on grounds of proof that are not sufficient to condemn him but against which he will never be able to fully defend himself. This will prevent him from travelling by plane, crossing the border into the United States and probably from entering many other countries. It is very likely that he will lose his job and be unable to find another.

This is a predictable situation that could create injustice. And that is what my colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin was arguing against.

He continued on, saying:

Terrorist movements often spring from and are nourished by profound feelings of injustice among a segment of the population. The fight against these injustices is often conducted in parallel by those who want to correct the injustices through democratic means and those who believe it is necessary to use terrorism.

The former made a positive contribution to the transformation of the societies in which we live today. They are often the source of many of the rights that we enjoy.

It is inevitable that political activity will bring the first and second groups together. Very often, the former will not even be aware that the latter are involved in terrorism. The planning of terrorist activity is by its nature secret.

The point is that we have to be careful. If we were to pass the proposed section 83.3, when we already have section 495 of the Criminal Code providing for arrest in cases with sufficient evidence, that would open the door to abuse.

We cannot give certain members of society cause to protest by taking away some of their rights. That is how terrorists operate. They try to convince segments of society that the only thing the current government and politicians want is to take away people's rights. That gives them an opportunity to say that the rights of individuals are not being respected and that society is unjust and unfair. That is one way to stoke terrorism. That is what the Bloc Québécois is warning against. We must always act responsibly.

In seeking to convict an individual, we must always have enough evidence of the kind that will hold up in our justice system, which was created by our predecessors and has worked well to this day. Section 495 of the Criminal Code currently provides for preventive arrest when the police can lay sufficient evidence before the court. We can do the work.

So why try to improve this kind of legislation for political and partisan reasons? That is pretty much how the Conservatives do business. They get people worked up by saying that they will come up with a bill to prevent something from happening—terrorism, in this case. But they are just adding fuel to the fire. It is perfectly clear that abuse can happen. Provisions like section 83.3 can be passed to enable the government to violate people's rights and show that our society is becoming less just, less tolerant. That would arouse hostility against our society. That is what the Bloc Québécois wants to prevent. We always try to deal with situations responsibly.

The Bloc Québécois has always stood up in this House to defend the interests of Quebeckers and to help the members of other political parties from outside Quebec understand what it means to be a Quebecker. That is what the hon. members for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin and Ahuntsic tried to do. That is what they do every day here in the House, drawing on their personal experiences.

As I said at the beginning, we are trying to make people see that Quebec has been very successful in certain areas, and one example is the fight against crime. The statistics speak for themselves. The Conservatives can try to change Statistics Canada's long-form census all they like and do whatever it takes to prevent us from getting the real statistics, in an attempt to impose their philosophy and ideology on all situations. But the reality is this: Quebec has a much lower crime rate than the other Canadian provinces and the United States.

Our society has made a conscious decision to try to understand and invest in the fight against poverty and rehabilitate criminals instead of trying every possible way to prove that crime exists, that more and more prisons need to be built and that tougher sentences are needed. This is what the Conservatives are doing by allowing everyone to have weapons without a firearms registry. They want to put more weapons on our streets, while believing there will be fewer criminals. I do not think that is the solution.

The Bloc Québécois has taken a balanced position regarding Bill C-17. We believe that the Criminal Code has all the tools needed to combat terrorism, as long as we are able to conduct analyses and investigations.

This is a society governed by the rule of law. It must be proven that a person has committed an offence before he is charged. That is the way things are done, but the Bloc Québécois has never had any qualms about reversing the burden of proof when necessary. And it has done so. The Bloc Québécois introduced the first ever reverse onus legislation in this House regarding profits made from the proceeds of crime. As a result—and thanks to the Bloc Québécois—criminals now have to prove that they came by their money honestly, otherwise it automatically becomes evidence of their guilt. That is a choice. These battles have to be fought, and they will be won—as my colleague said in his speech—when more power is placed in the hands of the police. But they already have these powers under section 495 of the Criminal Code, which enables them to carry out preventive arrests based on sufficient evidence.

Section 83.3 gives us an impression that preventive arrests could be made in the absence of sufficient evidence. We saw what happened with the Arar affair. I will not recount all the instances of Canadian police officers being hauled before the courts and being told that they have not done their job properly. Compensation has had to be paid out, among other consequences.

They are trying to change the laws in an attempt to gloss over a whole new approach to fighting crime, which includes making arrests without all the necessary evidence. This is a line that the Conservative Party dares to cross blithely and gleefully. We in the Bloc Québécois, however, are seeking out other approaches before we simply trample on people’s rights. I will not read out the list again, but if a person is accused of terrorism, it is no secret that they risk losing many rights, including those I referred to earlier. Now, should evidence turn out to be lacking—and if it were determined that an individual was not guilty and that there was insufficient evidence—the government would have no choice but to pay substantial amounts in compensation.

We would prefer that the Criminal Code remain unchanged, since it already has provisions for preventive arrest. We feel that Bill C-17 goes too far.

That is our colleagues' dissenting opinion on this issue. And I would again like to commend my colleagues, the members for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin and for Ahuntsic, for enlightening us all. All members of this House would do well to lend them an ear and learn about the responsible and intelligent approaches favoured by Quebec when it comes to fighting crime.

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, for the record, and it will probably be obvious from my question, I am not a lawyer. The debate and questions and answers have been rather directed and contained within a very legal approach and that is appropriate with respect to the discussion of the bill. However, as I have been listening l have been trying to put myself in the position of the lay people listening to this discussion and trying to arrive at a conclusion as to whether they feel that the bill would in fact protect them against terrorist acts.

Probably the most heinous terrorist act was the Air-India bombing. As I was trying to react from my constituents' perspective, I could not help but reflect on the fact that a key witness to the Air-India bombing admitted to lying under oath, either lied or, by omission, circumvented the judicial proceedings that probably would have come up with a different conclusion.

Does that not give the member some concern? Is it not then, from that concern, realistic for us as legislators to find a way that would make the law capable of dealing with that kind of deliberate circumvention of judicial process? It is important to this debate because that is, in effect, what I believe Canadians want us to do. In fact, the investigative hearings within the concept of national justice does provide protection to those who are being accused by police and agencies. Would the member respond to that particular concern?

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member should understand that I have made the effort to quote my learned colleagues because my legal background is in the area of contracts rather than crime fighting. Nevertheless, I do have an understanding of the situation. The Bloc Québécois has always had a balanced position. That is how we do things. We must often attempt to put aside our personal frustration. We have to try to find a balance.

The hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin gave a presentation to the members of our caucus. We must be able to improve laws. When the Criminal Code is amended, it must benefit the police officers who work in the field. Can we do more while continuing to respect rights? Our society has decided to respect individual rights. Other societies have decided to set aside individual rights and serve the interests of the public. Clearly, this is the society's decision.

We want to have a balanced position. If we keep the Criminal Code as it is, preventive detention is allowed when there is sufficient evidence. If the hon. member is telling me that he would like to see preventive detention without evidence, that would be up to society to decide. However, that is not what Quebeckers have currently chosen to do.

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, my Bloc friend's critic in this area has done a good job of putting forward evidence to support the position that the NDP and the Bloc have taken to oppose this proposed legislation.

Two years ago at the subcommittee on justice and human rights, when we were studying Omar Khadr's situation, Senator Roméo Dallaire came to that committee and spoke to us about the slippery slope that we had set upon when one Canadian is given more or less rights than another Canadian.

This summer at the G20 we saw evidence of police forces in Toronto going too far where there were preventive arrests happening there. We heard earlier today from the member for Vancouver Kingsway that 900 of the 1,100 people were released almost immediately, which was clear evidence of that violation. Preventive arrest is a huge step down that slippery slope.

If the government's legislation is enacted, what does the member think will happen with our police forces at that point in time?

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, the real question is: what message do we want to send about terrorism and to terrorists? Do we seriously think that violating the rights of our people is a message that will discourage terrorism? That is the real question our colleague was asking. Is that what will discourage terrorism, or will it simply help prove their point that these societies have less and less respect for the rule of law?

Often, that is how we are able to integrate people into our societies, because they choose to come to a place where human rights are considered and respected. That is a choice that we have made. If we decide to go against our values, we will have to ask ourselves whether we are sending a message that discourages terrorism.

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak in this debate on Bill C-17, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions). The short title is the Combating Terrorism Act.

It is important that we review what this bill actually sets out to do, because sometimes when we are debating it, we lose track of this over the course of the debate, and people who might be listening could lose track as well.

Specifically, what this bill will do is establish investigative hearings under the provisions of the Anti-terrorism Act, whereby individuals who may have information about past or future terrorism offences can be compelled to attend a hearing and to answer questions. No one attending a hearing can refuse to answer a question on the grounds of self-incrimination. Information gathered at such hearings cannot be used directly in criminal proceedings against the individual, but derivative evidence may be.

The other significant provision of this legislation is a provision for preventive arrest, whereby individuals may be arrested without a warrant in order to prevent the carrying out of a terrorist act. Detention in this case would be based on what someone might do in a certain situation. The arrested individual must be brought before a judge within 24 hours, or as soon as it is feasible. The judge determines whether the individual is to be released unconditionally or released under certain conditions, recognizance with conditions, which are in effect for up to 12 months. If the conditions are refused, the individual may be imprisoned for up to 12 months.

The bill also contains a five-year sunset clause, requiring a resolution of both the House and Senate for it to be renewed.

This is indeed significant legislation, and it is not the first time we have seen it come before the House. It came out of the Anti-terrorism Act that was enacted after the 9/11 events. At that time, when there were serious concerns about what had recently happened, everybody was worried and fearful, which is not too strong a word to use, about what was actually going on at that time.

These two provisions were included in that legislation, albeit with a sunset clause requiring that they be reviewed within five years. If Parliament did not re-approve them, they would come to an end. In fact, that is exactly what happened. When they were put to Parliament, Parliament did not agree to their extension.

Since that time, there have been several attempts by the Conservative government to reintroduce these provisions into our criminal law, into the Anti-terrorism Act. One was short-circuited by an early prorogation of the House, and others have not been given the priority that, if they were sufficiently important, they should certainly have received.

This is not the first time, in my term as a member of Parliament, that we have debated these issues. I have to wonder why, if this is so important, it was not given a higher priority by the government. It belies the importance of these issues that the government has not made sure this legislation got through earlier.

I also have to wonder why this legislation is necessary. I do not believe that we are responding to any serious failure of the Criminal Code of Canada to deal with terrorism, or any of the crimes that might be related to terrorism in Canada. I have not heard that we have failed to convict people who have committed terrorist acts or who are considering terrorist acts. In fact, post 9/11, we have convicted people under the provisions of the Criminal Code, without using these special provisions of crimes related to terrorism. We have seen the group in Toronto. We have seen others who have been convicted. This would say to me that there is not a problem with the existing Criminal Code legislation, that there is not a problem in investigating and actually charging and convicting people in the usual process of crimes related to terrorism.

I have to ask, then, regarding these special provisions, which go way beyond the normal provisions of our justice system, and which violate fundamental human rights in Canada, why we would want to go down that road. To my knowledge, no proof has ever been presented to the House or to one of the committees of the House, that the current provisions of the Criminal Code are not functioning when it comes to dealing with acts of terrorism or conspiracy to commit terrorism. Why do we have these provisions before us?

It is important to consider the serious nature of these provisions. They have a serious effect on what Canadians have come to know as basic human rights, basic civil liberties. The proposal to compel testimony from individuals, to force people to testify in court, violates the right to remain silent. It violates the right not to incriminate oneself before the law. That is a serious violation. It is something that most Canadians appreciate in our criminal law. Before we go down this road, we need to consider carefully why all this is necessary.

The investigative hearing proposals in this legislation would force someone to testify before a judge if he or she were suspected of having information about terrorist activity that has already occurred or that might occur. It directly compromises the right to remain silent, one of the fundamental principles of our justice system. The refusal to testify at an investigative hearing can lead to one year of jail time. It can also reduce the right to silence for persons who are questioned by the RCMP or CSIS: if they are uncooperative with a police investigation, the possibility of having to go to an investigative hearing can be used to compel cooperation and compromise their right to remain silent.

We have to realize that not everyone who chooses to remain silent in such circumstances is guilty, that choosing to remain silent is not an admission of guilt or proof of guilt. People may have legitimate fears and concerns. For instance, they might be concerned about their personal safety. Given the broad definition of terrorism in the Anti-terrorism Act, I believe that this provision is a problem. The definition itself has come in for criticism in the past.

This provision and the one on preventive detention are serious departures from our justice process. They could be used against people who are legitimately protesting or who are viewed as dissidents by our society. These provisions could be used to harass or even imprison such people.

A number of people today have mentioned the G20 protest and the mass arrests that were held. For the most part, they appeared to be carried out for preventive reasons. In my opinion, this process violated the rights to peaceful assembly, protest, and the expression of political views.

The whole question of investigative hearings raises another serious issue about how we do justice in this country. It puts judges in the position of having to oversee an investigation, which is a real departure from the normal process in our system. It is not the practice of our justice system and it is not something that most judges have experience with. It is a major departure since investigations in our system are normally undertaken by police authorities.

In hearings the Senate had on the previous incarnation of this bill, Jason Gratl, the president of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, put this concern in this way:

The primary difficulty with investigative hearings is that they distort the functions of the judiciary and the Crown. In essence, the course of order-making power of the judiciary is brought to bear on an investigation. That power places prosecutors in the role of investigators, which is unlike their usual role. It also places the judiciary in a position of presiding over a criminal investigation.

This is a serious consideration that we need to look at with this legislation and this proposal.

There is also the matter of preventive detention. Preventive detention, or recognizance with conditions, is the other key part of the bill. It compromises a key principle of our justice system, namely, that one should be charged, convicted, and sentenced in order to be jailed. This provision would allow for the arrest and detention of people without ever proving any allegation against them. It could make people subject to conditions on release with severe limitations on their personal freedom, even if they have never been convicted of any crime. That is a serious departure from what we would normally expect from our justice system.

Some folks may say this is necessary, but I believe that jailing people because we think they might do something is extremely problematic, to say the least. It is easily apparent how such a measure can be abused.

There is a good example to be found in our practice already, and I think it is a very bad practice. It relates to the question of security certificates, which is a measure under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. We have seen this in the post-9/11 period. It was intended to expedite deportation of non-citizens. Under this legislation, we have seen it used as a method of detaining people, a method of preventive detention for people that the state suspected may have been involved in terrorist activity. The most recent cases were the five men who were detained for years, some up to eight years, without ever being charged or convicted of a crime.

I think this was a distortion of the intention of the security certificate legislation. I also think it was a process that violated basic human rights in Canada. Some of these men are still subject to release conditions as a result of the security certificate that this government issued against them and that the previous Liberal government initiated.

There are serious problems, and we have seen some of these problems emerge in the court processes that these men have been involved in over the years. In fact, a number of the security certificates have now been thrown out because of the length of time they have been used and problems related to evidence.

I have to emphasize that these people have never been charged or convicted of any crime in Canada. The security certificate process has had nothing to do with that. I think this is an indication of how a legal measure can be distorted. Security certificates were intended to expedite deportation for people who had violated the conditions of their stay in Canada. But they have been used for other purposes. That is something we need to consider when we are looking at extraordinary measures like the ones in this legislation.

I point out that there is no issue related to terrorism that is not already covered by the Criminal Code. I think the NDP's justice critic, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh has said this loud and clear on a number of occasions. The last time we were debating this issue in the House he put it very eloquently. I want to quote from his speech at that time. He said:

There is no act of terrorism that is not already a criminal offence punishable by the most stringent penalties under the Criminal Code. This is obviously the case for premeditated, cold-blooded murder; however, it is also true of the destruction of major infrastructure.

Moreover, when judges exercise their discretion during sentencing, they will consider the terrorist motive as an aggravating factor. They will find that the potential for rehabilitation is very low, that the risk of recidivism is very high and that deterrence and denunciation are grounds for stiffer sentencing. This is what they have always done in the past and there is no reason to think they will do differently in the future.

It is clear that there is no crime related to terrorism that is not already included in the Criminal Code. I can think of no circumstance of a crime committed as part of an act of terrorism that would not be dealt with in the strictest, toughest way by our courts. Some specific examples might be helpful. For instance, counselling to commit murder is already an offence under the Criminal Code. Being a party to an offence is also a crime. The crime of conspiracy is well established under the Criminal Code and deals with the planning of criminal activity.

Let us be clear. In the conspiracy category, no crime actually has to be committed for someone to be found guilty of conspiracy under the Criminal Code. A charge is possible even when no crime has been committed under the existing provisions of the Criminal Code of Canada.

We also have hate crime legislation that outlaws the promotion of hatred against a particular group, which may have some relevance in situations of terrorist activity.

The whole question of preventive detention also has an existing parallel in some ways in the Criminal Code. It should be noted that peace bonds provisions already exist in the Criminal Code and can be exercised where there are reasonable grounds to believe that a person's life or well-being is threatened by another person. This provision has similar power to preventive detention, as discussed in this bill, but more significant safeguards are built into the Criminal Code provision.

No one has demonstrated to my satisfaction that this existing provision will not meet the needs of dealing with terrorist activity. It is crucial to be very clear about that. We have not seen any evidence that there is a failure of the Criminal Code to deal with acts of terrorism or the planning of terrorist acts in Canada. We have not seen that the existing provisions of the Criminal Code of Canada need these extraordinary measures, which are an affront to some basic and long accepted and long established, for hundreds of years, principles of our justice system in Canada.

We need to be clear that when it comes to dealing with terrorism and conspiracy to commit terrorism, we really need to focus on and put our energy into police and intelligence work. We have seen in the past that Canada was ill-prepared when it met the challenge of a terrorist act. The Air India bombing comes to mind. Canada did not have the ability to appropriately investigate that situation. Police authorities did not have the resources, staff or people with the skills they needed to appropriately investigate that kind of crime.

We have to make sure in this process that our police and intelligence services have the personnel and resources they need to investigate potential terrorist acts and to charge those responsible. That has to be the flow. We have to do the investigations and lay the charges and ensure the full gamut of our justice system is engaged in that process.

I do not think it is appropriate to say that we are going to do the investigation and come up with some evidence but shut down the rest of the process of charging and hopefully convicting someone who is alleged to have committed those crimes. The conviction is very necessary in all of that. For me that is one of the failings in the security certificate process.

We have to be aware that these provisions were first proposed in a time of fear, after the attacks of 9/11. People were not exactly sure what was happening at that time. We have to also be aware that legislating in a time of fear and uncertainty like the period immediately after 9/11 can lead to bad legislation. It can lead to unintended consequences, ultimately, such as labelling and stereotyping individuals and groups in our society.

There is much evidence that says when we do that kind of thing, we do not make good legislation. Denis Barrette, the spokesperson for International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, said at the Senate hearings on Bill S-3:

These laws are used in emergencies, where fear and panic are at the forefront—somewhat like what happened at the time of September 11, 2001.

Fear is never a good adviser. It is rather in moments of peace and quiet that the importance of preserving rights and freedoms should be rationally assessed. It is obviously important to defend them in difficult times, but we must plan for how to protect them in difficult times.

It is easy to protect rights and freedoms in peaceful times. We must provide for the unpredictable and ensure that, in a moment of panic, legislation does not result in innocent victims because it was poorly conceived or because it was dangerous or useless.

I believe that is what we have before us in Bill C-17, and that is why I strongly oppose this legislation.

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12:15 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, I commend the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas on his thoughtful and respectful remarks that manage to strike just the right balance when we are talking about civil liberties in this country.

One of the other areas of this legislation that shows its flaws can be found in its provision that anybody who refuses to accept or agree to the conditions that may be levelled by the court in terms of the preventive arrest protest can be jailed for up to 12 months. Several observers have pointed out it is highly unlikely that a bona fide terrorist would refuse to agree to those conditions but rather would agree to the conditions, of course, so that he or she could continue with any planned activities. This shows that provision to be relatively useless.

I wonder if the hon. member could comment on that or any other part of the bill that may provide a false sense of security because it is not well thought out or workable.

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12:15 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Madam Speaker, my colleague's question brings me back to my point that there is no substitute for charges under the Criminal Code, for engaging the justice process, for getting somebody into court and proving the allegations or allowing that individual to disprove them, and for getting that person convicted and jailed.

We should be focusing our attention on that. We should allow our system to do that. We should make sure that our system has the resources it needs to engage that process fully without compromising the basic tenets of our criminal justice system, without inventing ways of short-circuiting it because we believe there is some kind of emergency or special circumstances.

Our system has proven its value over and over again. We have experience with it. We have the precedents to know how it works. We know its strong points and its failings. We do not need to invent new exceptions to that process. I believe the ones in this legislation are serious exceptions to that process.

This legislation is saying that somebody is compelling an individual to testify. Arresting and detaining and putting conditions on an individual for preventive reasons are serious abrogations of basic civil rights and basic elements of the process that we have in place in this country.

I do not think there is any evidence to show us that these provisions are useful, that they have been more effective in dealing with terrorism. We have not really engaged them. We may have used the compulsion to testify once in the Air India court case. I do not believe that any of the evidence gleaned in the requirement to testify by one of the witnesses was ever used or was found to be useful in the ongoing court case.

There is no evidence to my understanding that these provisions are useful, that they have been used, that this departure from the normal process is helpful in any way. It is very unhelpful. They go to a diminution of the important and basic values of our society and of our justice system. That is why I think this is dangerous legislation.

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12:20 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Madam Speaker, my colleague made me think about the difference between human rights and civil liberties. Human rights require state intervention whereas civil liberties are about ensuring that the state does not intervene.

When I think about human rights and civil liberties in that way and I think about our national security, which one would think would require state intervention as well, I am quite worried that our national security has become a value that actually trumps human rights and civil liberties. Any time we go down the path toward ensuring national security, we have to make sure there is a balance among these three things.

Could the member let the House know what he thinks about that balance? Can we achieve a balance among national security, civil liberties and human rights?

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12:20 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Madam Speaker, it brings me back to the question of what is the threat we are facing that requires these extraordinary measures.

The government has not presented any evidence that there has been a failure of the Criminal Code to deal with terrorist activity in Canada. In fact, since 9/11 there have been people charged with terrorist activity in Canada and there have been convictions. People have been sent to jail for those activities.

It seems to me that the system is capable of functioning without violating human rights and without violating civil liberties in Canada and using the existing provisions of the Criminal Code. It seems to me that if there were evidence that somehow people were getting away with these crimes in Canada at the present time or since 9/11, there might be reason to consider other measures. I am not sure that these measures would be worthy of consideration even in those circumstances, but in the absence of any evidence that there is a problem, I do not know why we are considering these measures again.

I think Parliament made the right decision when, after five years of these provisions being present in our criminal law, they were allowed to sunset and were passed over. Parliament realized at that time they were not necessary and were not helpful. I do not believe the government should be reintroducing them at this point.

Parliament has debated this issue in the past and I think the appropriate decision was made at that time.

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12:20 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, I would first like to thank the member for Burnaby—Douglas for his very thoughtful comments on Bill C-17. I think the member has spoken in this House every time this bill has been before the House. It is a measure of his concern and commitment which is certainly shared by my colleagues about the importance and the serious implications of this bill. I very much appreciate the history that he has given today and what he has reflected upon in trying to bring it forward in our Parliament.

One thing that strikes me in listening to his comments is that in today's Quorum, which has newspaper clippings from across the country, there is not one mention of this legislation being debated, but we can see page after page of stories on the gun registry. In talking about balance, if we could weigh those things, it makes me wonder how much the public is aware. People probably are not aware, other than those people who might be watching this debate on CPAC. When it comes to public awareness of this kind of legislation and the long-term impact it has on Canadian society and on our criminal justice system, I just do not think people have a clue. I wonder if the member could comment on that.

The member has spoken to this issue in the House a number of times. We have tried to get information out to let people know that this is coming up, that it is really serious and we need to pay attention to it. It is so unfortunate when we see all of the attention going to something like the vote on the gun registry and no attention going to this issue which of course will have a huge impact on everybody in Canada.

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12:25 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Madam Speaker, the member for Vancouver East has raised an important issue about what does seize our attention.

I am thankful that here in this place there are members who are prepared to engage this important issue. I am thankful that the member for Vancouver Kingsway, our New Democrat public safety critic, is working very hard on this issue, that our justice critic, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, and so many other New Democrat members are working hard on this issue and are prepared to participate in debate.

We know the central importance of the issues that are being challenged by this legislation. We will continue to do that work. We will continue to be on the record about our opposition to this legislation. Hopefully, that opposition will be noticed. Hopefully, we will change a few minds in the process of speaking publicly on this issue and that other Canadians will also come to realize the very serious nature of what the government is proposing and will come to understand that these measures are useless, dangerous and that we should not proceed with them.

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12:25 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Before resuming debate I should advise the House that we have now completed the first five hours of debate on this bill and we have come to the 10-minute interventions.

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Vancouver East.

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12:25 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, first, it is very nice to see you back in the Chair. We know that your quiet way of responding to the House and keeping the necessary level of control is very well-respected by the members. Welcome back.

I am very pleased to rise today in the House to speak to this bill, as I have on a number of occasions. I have been listening to the debate this morning and feeling so proud to hear my colleagues from the NDP. We heard from our justice critic, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, yesterday. Today we heard from our public safety critic, the member for Vancouver Kingsway, who made a very compelling speech about what is wrong with this legislation and why we are opposing it. And we have just heard from the member for Burnaby—Douglas, again a New Democrat, who has been following this bill ever since he has been in Parliament.

I want to begin at that point because I was in the House in 2001 when this legislation was introduced very soon after the events of 9/11. I remember, and the member for Burnaby—Douglas spoke about this, the sense of panic and fear that did exist, even within this Parliament. I remember in debating the legislation at that time, almost 10 years ago now, the sense of the need to act, to bring in something to show that the government of the day, a Liberal government, was responding to these grotesque acts of terrorism and in having that debate back in 2001. It was finally passed in 2002.

I was not on the justice committee, but I remember reading the testimony from the witnesses, people who do reflect upon the law and the state of our criminal justice system. Even back then there were dire warnings and concerns that were expressed about the anti-terrorism legislation, in the manner that it was rushed through, that it was ill thought out, but fundamentally a question as to whether or not we even needed the legislation.

Here we are now, so many years later, in what we could say is a sober second thought and yet, we are poised to move ahead again on those elements of the original bill that were sunsetted. The reason that they were sunsetted, the five-year clause dealing with investigative hearings and preventative arrest, is they were so controversial that certainly the NDP and the Bloc, at the time, pressed very hard to get those measures included so there would be a proper and full parliamentary review on those very serious provisions in the original bill. As others have pointed out, when those sections came to their conclusion, at the end of February, a resolution that came forward in this House to actually extend those provisions for three years was actually defeated. I remember that debate, too, and I remember participating in that discussion.

I think at that point many of us were hopeful that we had had that serious second sober thought about the bill, about its consequences, how it had been used, the fact that it has not been used, and that the time was really to ensure that those sunsetted clause remained that way.

Here we are again debating those same provisions and because of the reversal by the Liberal Party, the Liberal members, it appears that this bill will now continue on to committee. We will see what happens after that, but it does not bode well.

I guess what I want to focus on is the fact that it does strike me as very compelling that, on the one hand, we are dealing with a matter as serious as this legislation and anti-terrorism. Some of us are trying to weigh up whether or not this kind of legislation is actually needed and yet, there is so little attention to it. That was my reason for asking the member Burnaby—Douglas because it astounds me that there is so little attention. There is no attention that I can see in the media and no awareness in the general public that we are debating this bill. We are about to march forward with these kinds of provisions that would have such a deep impact on Canadian society, our fundamental rights to remain silent, to remain innocent until there are charges brought.

These are very basic things within the Canadian democratic society. Yet, on the other hand we have the perfect storm around the gun registry. The gun registry is important. I am someone who is going to be voting to support the continuation of the gun registry. However, it is so ironic to me what gets attention and what does not.

Therefore, this debate today is really important. As individual parliamentarians and within our caucuses we have to reflect on what it is that we are unleashing again, what we are allowing to unfold.

Hearing some of the debate, one could be left with the impression that we have no laws in Canada to deal with terrorism and this is why we have to have it. I find that this is very much a disturbing trend that we see coming from the Conservative government. Its whole agenda is on formulating new laws, little boutique provisions, that it brings forward to the Criminal Code when in actual fact, when we look at it in the cold light of day, when we look at it in terms of real evidence and factual information, many of these laws that have been brought forward actually are not required. Our justice system and the laws that we have in the country are very comprehensive.

That is not to say that there are not changes that are needed, but if we look at the drug bill that we had in the House, if we look at the private member's bill on trafficking, they were all proposals that were designed to give people the illusion that somehow we are tackling a major problem.

As my colleague pointed out earlier, in some instances what we needed to be focusing on was better policing, better intelligence gathering or better enforcement of the provisions that we have.

This idea that for every issue and problem that we have in our society we need a new and tougher law, and we need to keep bringing these on, becomes like an assembly line of putting these laws one after the other. We end up debating them ad nauseam in the House. I think there is a pattern here and the bill is very much disturbingly a key element in that pattern that is coming forward from the Conservative government.

We have heard today of some of the provisions there are already in the Criminal Code to deal with suspected acts of terrorism. I do not have a shadow of a doubt that within our existing framework we do have adequate provisions to deal with this issue. By allowing these two provisions to go ahead, first, the one dealing with investigative hearings where someone can be compelled to attend a hearing and to answer questions, and second, on preventative arrest whereby someone who might be do something with no evidence necessarily can be arrested and brought before a judge, a decision can be made about whether or not to incarcerate individuals for up to 12 months or whether to release them on certain conditions. We have heard again and again that these provisions actually have not been used.

There was one situation with the Air India inquiry where one of these provisions was used but the evidence was never brought forward. However, in a general sense, over this many years the key provisions of the bill have actually not been used. It should tell us something about this legislation. It should tell us something about Canadian society.

It is very striking that we are again debating this legislation and about to move forward on these two very problematic clauses.

We have situations in Canada already where we have had serious movements within the justice system. The security certificate is one. The member for Burnaby—Douglas laid out very thoughtfully how even in that instance under the Citizenship and Immigration Act, where these certificates were meant to be used to expedite the deportation of people who were in violation of deportation, they too have been used in a very inappropriate way.

We have seen cases where individuals have been imprisoned for years at a time, some of whom went on hunger strikes. Their basic rights were violated and they lived in very difficult conditions.

In conclusion, New Democrats again will firmly stand in opposition to this legislation. We believe that these two provisions need to be abandoned. They do not need to go ahead. We will remain steadfast in that opposition and alert people to what is going on, and hope that other members of the House will come to that conclusion as well.

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12:35 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to join my colleagues who have contributed to the debate on Bill C-17. I am not going to say anything the Bloc Québécois has not already said about this bill, but I am going to provide a few examples to illustrate how inappropriate it would be to renew the sunset clauses, as is the government's intention in introducing Bill C-17, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions).

In any bill we debate the Bloc Québécois likes to see a certain balance. In this specific case, in any legislative measure on terrorism such as Bill C-17, there absolutely must be a balance between security and respecting other basic rights.

Earlier, I heard an NDP colleague talk about human rights and civil liberties. Indeed, pushing things too far in one direction or another causes problems. That is where the government needs to step in. For example, if we go in the direction of inappropriate security that violates our civil liberties, we can end up in a situation like the one at the G20 in Toronto. People who had gathered together for a peaceful demonstration were arrested in their dormitory. They had not even started demonstrating.

There may be excessive preventive measures when it comes to security. The same is true in the other direction. If terrorists or potential terrorists can use loopholes to execute their Machiavellian and diabolical plans, then we have to do something about that.

When we look at what has happened since these sunset clauses were established, we realize that they have never been used. That is why the government has come in a few years later with the intention of reinstating these clauses, but there is no evidence to support their usefulness.

Between December 2004 and March 2007, there were several debates and several committees studied this issue. The Bloc Québécois listened to witnesses, read submissions, and questioned experts, representatives of civil society and law enforcement officials. We have all the tools we need, therefore, to determine our position on investigative hearings and recognizance with conditions, the two points being considered in this bill.

Then as now, we in the Bloc Québécois feel that it is better to provide more guidelines on investigative hearings. That is the first point we want to make. It is obvious to us that this exceptional provision should only be used in certain specific cases to prevent actions involving an imminent risk of serious harm, and not in the case of acts that have already been committed. This does not mean that we are opposed to investigative hearings, but they should be confined to specific cases when it is essential to have them.

In regard to recognizance with conditions, we are still opposed to section 83.3 concerning preventive arrest and recognizance with conditions. This is a useless and ineffective process. These clauses have never been used in all the time they have existed. Not only are they ineffective at fighting terrorism, but the uses to which they could be put will always be a sword of Damocles hanging over the heads of people, a clear danger to the rights of honest citizens.

I mentioned the G20 a little while ago. Justice will take its course, but there were clearly some abuses in the arrests that were made following the demonstrations. Some well-known agitators go to demonstrations of this kind, even if they are supposed to be peaceful, in order to create trouble. The police have a duty to arrest these people, and they generally do a good job in order to prevent things from degenerating into a riot.

Sometimes, though, the police get carried away, cross the barricades, and go after people who are there for perfectly legitimate reasons. This is still a democratic country. There are valid reasons, therefore, for going to demonstrations and expressing one’s disapproval of decisions the government has made or even decisions made on a global level. That is why these demonstrations occur. I think there was also a problem with this.

A number of experts testified that dangerous terrorist activities can already be averted effectively—even more effectively—through the normal application of the Criminal Code with none of the harmful consequences that preventive arrest may entail.

So we already have the tools we need. Our job as legislators is to improve the bills that come before us. We are never against that. We are always in favour of doing what we can to improve security, but to do that, we need to change a piece of legislation, amend it or add some clauses to improve and facilitate the work that our police forces do. When there is a lot of talk about these cases, it is because there is a problem.

The Criminal Code has all of the provisions required to implement measures to foil the plans of those who would commit terrorist acts. The mechanism we are talking about was eliminated in February 2007. Obviously, I am talking about the second point.

The investigation process should be reinstated only if major changes are made. Unfortunately, Bill C-17 does not do that. Preventive arrest has no place in our justice system because it can have such a devastating impact on people's reputations and because other effective measures are already in place.

Since yesterday, I have heard some of the government members' speeches, but I have heard no evidence whatsoever that any gaps exist or that the existing Criminal Code does not provide police forces with the means to counter the activities of those who would commit terrorist acts.

What I have heard is the Conservatives make malicious and sensationalist accusations against people who oppose Bill C-17, against those of us in opposition, the Bloc and the NDP. They accuse us of being practically pro-terrorism. Why bring back ineffective measures that have never even been used? There was a reason for the sunset clauses: the measures were made available to the police for a period of time to see whether they could be used effectively. But they were never used at all, so why bring them back in this bill? Furthermore, since sections of the Criminal Code already provide for effective action, why try to muddy the waters by proposing other measures?

Of course, we are always in favour of improving measures to make our streets and public places safer. However, the government is simply putting up a smokescreen, probably because they want people to see how important public safety is to them. We know that yesterday the Prime Minister listed public safety as one of his priorities, but Bill C-17 does not include any truly effective measures. And since these measures were ineffective when they were first introduced, I think it would be inappropriate to reinstate them today.

Since I am being told that I have very little time left, I will conclude by saying that it is always possible to improve our system and our safety, but it requires a balance as well as truly effective measures.

It is because of this analysis that we have decided not to support restoring this measure. Not only do we feel that this measure is of little, if any, use in the fight against terrorism but, more importantly, there is a very real danger of its being used against honest citizens. In addition, a terrorist activity deemed dangerous can be disrupted just as effectively through the current Criminal Code and existing measures.

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12:45 p.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by commending my colleague on his excellent speech. He was successful not only in laying bare the pointlessness of this hot air and bluster bill, but also in showing us how dangerous the bill is, to the extent that it may infringe upon our human rights.

I would like to know what my colleague thinks about certain allegations that, in fact, are verging on no longer being allegations. A Canadian Press headline reads, "CSIS would use torture-tainted info”.

What does my colleague think about that allegation? Does he think that this kind of legislation will lead to both instances of abuse and arbitrary decision making?

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12:45 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague, the member for Ahuntsic, for her question. She asked this question of the Minister of Public Safety yesterday. As usual—and despite any assurances to the contrary before the session resumed—she failed to get an answer to her question.

As my colleague stated, these are allegations. However, any door that can be opened and may lead to cases of abuse is outright dangerous. I agree with my colleague on this matter. Moreover, as I said in my speech, why change something that already works well?

If there were urgent requests on the part of police officers and those folks who keep us safe, indicating that they are unable to fight terrorism in Canada and Quebec or—alongside Interpol—elsewhere in the world, then we would need to do something about it. If there were a legal loophole making it impossible for them to prevent people from committing terrorist acts, we would have to look into it. That much is obvious. And that is what we are constantly doing as we are dealing with a moving target.

With these measures, though, as my colleague pointed out—and this might actually occur under the current government—there is the risk that abuses will be committed in the name of ever-sacrosanct security—security that we actually agree with. If, for example, one of your children is arrested while taking part in a peaceful demonstration, you will realize at that point that there may have been an abuse of power under the guise of increased security.

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12:50 p.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague the following question. I would like to know what he thinks of the change in the Liberals' position. In 2007, there was some unanimity about the fact that these provisions did not serve any purpose and should not be renewed or extended. However, the government has introduced the bill again, so we now have Bill C-17 before us. The Liberals have suddenly changed their position. Yet, there is absolutely nothing new here. There have been very few changes.

I wonder what my colleague thinks is going on with the Liberals? Is this a matter of simple demagoguery and security one-upmanship?

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12:50 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The hon. member for Richmond—Arthabaska has less than a minute to answer the question.

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12:50 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Madam Speaker, in such instances, I always reply that we must ask the Liberals themselves why they suddenly reversed their position on the bill.

The bill will be examined in committee, but it is clearly useless. As my colleague said, we have already recognized that these clauses were totally ineffective. We will be wasting our time in committee. I have a feeling that the Liberals are putting up a smokescreen, as I accused the government of doing earlier, in preparation for the next election. They can use this to say they are against terrorism. I believe that all members of this House are against terrorism.