House of Commons Hansard #161 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was bullying.


BullyingPrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.


Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC


That, given that bullying is a serious problem affecting Canadian communities, a special committee of the House be appointed and directed to develop a National Bullying Prevention Strategy to: (a) study the prevalence and impact of different types of bullying, including physical, verbal, indirect and cyber bullying; (b) identify and adopt a range of evidence-based anti-bullying best practices; (c) promote and disseminate anti-bullying information to Canadian families through a variety of mediums; (d) provide support for organizations that work with young people to promote positive and safe environments; (e) focus on prevention rather than criminalization; and that the committee consist of 12 members which shall include seven members from the government party, four members from the Official Opposition and one member from the Liberal Party, provided that the Chair shall be from the government party; that in addition to the Chair, there be one Vice-Chair from each of the opposition parties; that the committee have all of the powers of a Standing Committee as provided in the Standing Orders; that the members to serve on the said committee be appointed by the Whip of each party depositing with the Clerk of the House a list of his or her party’s members of the committee no later than five sitting days following the adoption of this motion; that the quorum of the special committee be seven members for any proceedings, provided that at least a member of the opposition and of the government party be present; that membership substitutions be permitted to be made from time to time, if required, in the manner provided for in Standing Order 114(2); and that the committee report its recommendations to this House within one year of the adoption of this motion.

Mr. Speaker, I am moving a motion to develop a national bullying prevention strategy. This is an issue that is very important to me. When I was elected a year and a half ago, I decided that my first bill or motion would be on bullying prevention. I rose in the House of Commons last winter to talk about the suicides of Jamie Hubley and Marjorie Raymond. Each time, I asked the Conservative government what it was going to do to protect our young people. The government responded with fine words, but a year later, there are still no concrete measures in place. That is why in June, I moved my own motion to create a special non-partisan committee of the House of Commons. I say non-partisan because we must put partisanship aside in order to truly address the problem of bullying here in Canada. It is a national problem that is getting worse, unfortunately.

I was bullied when I was young, but back then we did not have Facebook or social media. Unfortunately, social media has only made the problem worse. It is why we are seeing more tragic stories in the news about young Canadians who decide to take their own lives after being bullied. This is the perfect opportunity for all parties in the House of Commons to put partisanship aside and work together to develop a national bullying prevention strategy as outlined in my motion.

The first part of the motion seeks to study the prevalence and impact of different types of bullying in Canada's communities, including physical, verbal, indirect, such as rumours, and cyberbullying. Every type of bullying is different and comes with its own set of problems.

Once we have collected the research on bullying and determined whether or not more research is required, we can address the second part of the motion, which consists of examining international anti-bullying best practices and the measures that have been implemented across Canada. Some provinces have implemented good initiatives. We must see how the House of Commons and the Canadian government can support them. Other countries such as Finland, the United States and Sweden have also come up with interesting initiatives. The special committee should examine these international initiatives and determine which ones could be implemented in Canada. In 2012, bullying is a problem that exists not just in Canada, but in other countries as well.

In seeking solutions, we do not have to reinvent the wheel. Moreover, my motion is not a miracle solution to this problem. The provinces have introduced good initiatives. School boards and teachers are doing good work in our schools. But what is the federal government doing about cyberbullying? Bullying in schools comes under provincial jurisdiction, and the federal government must help the provinces and school boards to adequately protect our youth. However, cyberbullying comes under federal jurisdiction because it involves telecommunications. The government has various laws and regulations at its disposal to help it be proactive and lead the way. In my motion, leadership is key. In fact, it is important for all parties in the House of Commons to put partisanship aside and to work together for the well-being of our young people.

The third part involves giving Canadian families all of the good information that is found, since at the end of the day, they are the ones who have to deal with bullying. They may worry that their child could be the victim of bullying, or they may know that he or she is but not know what to do. Changing schools is not an ideal solution, but as I mentioned, there is no perfect solution. I think that it could be very helpful to give good information to Canadian families. The federal government must play a role in coordinating all this. It must support people who are working on the ground. It must help the provinces, school boards and parents. It can be a leader and engage people on this issue.

The fourth part involves supporting organizations, which are doing a good job and have experience on the ground. Their realities vary from one province to the next. A number of stakeholders, organizations and foundations have different expertise. I look forward to hearing what they have to say in committee. They will help flesh out my motion, which aims to create a national bullying prevention strategy. It is important to listen to them.

Furthermore, we must focus on prevention rather than criminalization. When a young person is bullied over a period of months and years, the damage is done. I am not saying that bullying should not be criminalized in some cases. It will be up to the non-partisan committee made up of Conservative, NDP and Liberal members to look at all of the possible options.

I was bullied from the age of 10 to the age of 15, so I know that punishing the bully or bullies—I had more than one—does not heal young people's scars. Over the past year, I was very sad to learn through the media of young victims of bullying who committed suicide. However, their deaths were not completely in vain since they made Canadians more aware of the fact that bullying must not be tolerated. This is not a normal stage in an adolescent's life. We also must not tell children that they just have to develop a thicker skin. That is not the solution.

I would like to offer my sincere condolences to the families and friends of the young Canadians who committed suicide this past year as a result of bullying. I have been working on this issue for a year, and I have felt sad about every case that has been covered by the national media; however, at the same time, I have also taken comfort from the fact that I am on the right path. The federal government must play a leadership role in this issue in order to save lives.

Mitchell Wilson was a young man from Ontario who had muscular dystrophy. He was 11 years old and he was being bullied. Unfortunately, he committed suicide at the age of 11 by tying a bag around his head. I am deeply shocked by these cases. The intent is not to point the finger at anyone. However, the federal and provincial governments, school boards and parents need to work together. We need to take action in order to resolve this problem or, at the very least, mitigate its effects.

Nova Scotian Jenna Bowers-Bryanton also committed suicide. She was being bullied on Facebook. She liked to sing, and bullies attacked her by posting on her YouTube account that she should kill herself because she did not have any talent. This was one of the factors in her suicide. The anniversary of Jamie Hubley's death is also approaching. He was a young man from Ottawa, Ontario. I remember that the Minister of Foreign Affairs was empathetic when I raised this issue in the House last year. This truly shows that all of Canada's communities and ridings—whether they be Conservative, Liberal, Bloc Québécois, Green Party or NDP—are affected by this problem.

Over the years, several members of the Conservative Party have used their time during statements by members to stand up for children who are being bullied. Both sides of the House of Commons feel a great deal of empathy regarding this issue. It is important to work together and put partisanship aside for the well-being of Canadian children. The highly publicized, high-profile cases have involved suicide, but most young Canadians who are being bullied do not get national media coverage. This is what concerns me the most.

Their everyday lives are a nightmare, while they suffer in silence. Their stories are never told, since many young people manage to get through this difficult stage.

I do not wish to dwell on my own personal experience, but it could provide some context. I started being bullied when I was 10 years old, but thank goodness, it only lasted until I was 15. I cannot take any credit, for I have no idea why the bullying stopped. I can only guess that the bullies finally grew up—and thank goodness they did.

Most mornings I went to school knowing that I could be bullied at any time between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. However, when I took the bus home in the afternoon, I knew I would be safe with my loving family. I knew I would have a break from the bullying over the weekend.

Nowadays, social media have both good and bad aspects. Young people bullied in cyberspace have to live 24/7 with the pressure, stress and suffering.

We have to do something, because these young people cannot get away from the bullying. It is relentless. I believe that is the reason why this type of bullying results in more suicides.

Establishing this non-partisan committee is a gesture of goodwill. I could have introduced the NDP anti-bullying strategy, but I know how this House works. It is important to me that we put partisanship aside. I do not want to wait three years to implement a national bullying prevention strategy. I believe that this gives us the perfect opportunity to take action.

I sincerely hope that we will be able to establish this special non-partisan committee and that its members will work together to develop a strategy that includes all of the good ideas presented.

I am convinced that my colleagues opposite have some good ideas that I have not thought of on how to protect youth. I know that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety, who will speak after me, has her heart in the right place.

This is not the end of the story. We will continue to fight for our young people.

BullyingPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Portage—Lisgar Manitoba


Candice Bergen ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for bringing this forward, for his very thoughtful and important comments and for sharing his personal story. I think all of us in this House can certainly relate, whether it is because we were bullied, our family was bullied or we saw others around us bullied.

I have a specific question with regard to Mr. Hubley, father of Jamie, who was on CTV's Question Period yesterday. He appreciated that the hon. member would be bringing this forward but he talked about needing immediate action as opposed to more study.

I wonder if my colleague could just speak, even from his own personal experience, to some of the things that could be done immediately at the local level, whether we are talking about schools, parents or other young people who are seeing bullying happening. What are some of the very specific things that can be done as a society to combat this?

BullyingPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I fully agree with Mr. Hubley. We do need more concrete action, which is why my motion would create a national strategy.

The fourth pillar of my motion is for the federal government to give more support to local organizations that are doing fantastic work.

It is good to talk about it in the media and in the House of Commons to bring awareness but we also need to talk about it with our own families and throughout Canada. I ask all those kids who are being bullied and who might not have spoken about it yet to please do. They should find a parent, a member of their family, a teacher or someone they trust because they will listen and ensure the bullying stops.

I would ask all parents to talk with their kids to find out what they are experiencing. Sometimes there are symptoms that indicate kids might be being bullied.

The federal government can do more.

BullyingPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am in favour of my colleague's motion.

My colleague represents a rather nationalist region. We know that schools in Quebec are working hard to address this type of crime or bullying, as my colleague just said.

How do the people in his region feel about the fact that he is asking the federal government for help?

BullyingPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I believe this is very well received. As I was saying, the bullying that occurs in the schools is subject to provincial legislation. There is no question that the Province of Quebec, the school boards and the teachers are the best equipped to handle these situations locally. However, the federal government has access to studies on best practices and could pass on that knowledge and information to the provinces. This could help them.

I do not think there is anything wrong with having too much information. However, the NDP believes there should not be any interference in Quebec's jurisdictions. The people I talk to about this in my riding are very supportive.

I want to thank the hon. member for raising this question. The NDP will certainly respect the provincial legislation in Quebec.

BullyingPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord. He has my support for this motion.

In his opinion, would it be a good idea to include on this committee representatives of the other parties in the House, such as the Bloc Québécois and the Green Party?

BullyingPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from the Green Party raises a good point.

The membership of the special committee is based on the usual membership of all the other committees. I wanted to make sure that this motion was adopted, so I kept the membership the same as that of a regular committee.

However, if a special committee is set up, I can assure the hon. members who are not represented on that committee that I will contact them so that their opinions are heard. The point is for the entire House of Commons to be non-partisan.

BullyingPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord for bringing this to the attention of the House. He has been asking questions since he arrived here to find out where the federal government will go on this issue and I commend him for bringing a motion forward that calls for action.

I know some people have said that this is just another study but I know the member's focus is really on the outputs of the committee. What kinds of things does he perceive will come from the committee?

BullyingPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my NDP colleague for his excellent question.

The first thing we need is for the federal government to play a leadership role with regard to cyberbullying, something that it is not really doing right now.

The first step that needs to be taken before jumping into this initiative or going into proactive mode is to gain a clearer understanding of bullying in Canada. Then, we can gather anti-bullying best practices from the various provinces and other places throughout the world in order to apply them in Canada. Finally, we can disseminate the information to families and help local organizations. This is meaningful action that would help a lot.

BullyingPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Portage—Lisgar Manitoba


Candice Bergen ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak to the motion that is before the House. I commend my hon. colleague, the member from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, for caring about this issue and bringing it forward today for discussion.

The issue of bullying should always be a non-partisan issue. It is too easy for us as politicians to take certain topics and use them as ways to attack each other. However, I can sense very strongly from my hon. colleague that is not his intent with this motion. It is to truly find ways to resolve and find solutions to the very real and very heartbreaking issue of bullying. For that, I recognize, acknowledge and commend him.

I will talk frankly for a moment about what bullying is, what it is not and the devastating effects and consequences it has, first and foremost, for the victims but also for their families, friends, school teachers and classmates.

Bullying is harassment. It is assault. It is threats as well as intimidation. It is violent and harmful. Bullying is always wrong and should never be tolerated. It is not merely childish behaviour. It is not boys being boys. It is not mean girls. It is not a rite of passage. Terms like these are attempts to lessen the severity and numb us to the impacts of bullying. Put simply, bullying should never be tolerated by any adult, teacher or parent, especially when it comes to our children.

Whether in classrooms, on the playground, during sporting or extracurricular activities, in our community centres or in our homes through social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, our children should always be protected from bullying and they should always know that there is someone who they can turn to for help.

Sadly, this past week we have seen yet another example of a young person who has taken her life believing that she had no way out of the torment of being bullied. All of us, whether as parents, educators or concerned citizens, share in the sadness and grief that Amanda Todd's family must be going through. We all ask ourselves how something like this could have happened and how we can stop it from ever happening again. All of us need to ask ourselves as adults and individuals if we are doing all that we can to stop bullying at its roots and to show by example that we truly believe that it needs to end.

It is also important to talk about what the government can do and where it can lead and show support. Therefore, I want to take a moment to talk about what our government is doing to help stop bullying.

Our belief is that this problem is best dealt with at the most local level, by the people who are in the core and closest to it, those who are in our schools, communities, health, education and law-enforcement professionals.

Communities and schools at the local level are in the best position to identify the risk factors in their local community. As well, they are in the best position to identify what their vulnerable children and teens have to deal with and what the solutions are, again at the local level. That is where our support is focused and where we believe funding can do the most good.

I will provide the House with some concrete examples of what our government is doing.

First, we are taking action to address bullying through the Public Health Agency of Canada, which, in conjunction with Health Canada, invests in a number of initiatives to help promote awareness and advanced action to address bullying. The Healthy Canadian website provides information on bullying and tips for bullying prevention and intervention. The WITS program, which stands for walk away, ignore, talk it out and seek help, teaches children in kindergarten to grade six to make safe and positive choices when faced with bullying, cyberbullying, peer victimization and conflict.

As well, the RCMP is very active in outreach and information dissemination on bullying related issues. For example, the force operates a website built by youth for youth called, which is a web-based program that offers resources to youth, parents and educators on issues such as bullying and cyberbullying.

Another way that our government is working to address bullying is through the national crime prevention strategy. Through the strategy, Public Safety Canada provides funding to organizations, including schools, to implement crime prevention projects and initiatives targeted to helping children, youth and young adults at risk.

I want to highlight that the prevention of bullying and violence in schools was recently included as a priority under the strategy in the current call for project proposals. It is concrete action such as this that demonstrates that our government is determined to work with our partners to continue developing new and innovative ways to address bullying.

We are moving forward through the concerted efforts of these organizations federally, as well as with our provincial and territorial partners. We are consulting with the provinces and territories as they develop and implement new initiatives in schools and classroom settings. We are unified in our efforts to stop bullying.

The motion before us suggests that we should establish a special parliamentary committee to examine various aspects of bullying and develop a national prevention strategy. Members will know that the other place adopted a motion last November authorizing the Senate Committee on Human Rights to examine and report on the issue of cyberbullying in Canada with specific regard to Canada's obligations under Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The committee plans to present its findings this fall and will also produce targeted publications for distribution to children, parents and teachers.

As well, the House is currently considering private member's Bill C-273, which seeks to address the issue of cyberbullying by amending three of several existing Criminal Code offences that can apply to bullying.

Yesterday,Ottawa city councillor, Allan Hubley, who sadly knows first-hand the impact of bullying, had this to say:

There is a time for action now instead of another study or anything like that.

I agree that it is time for action.

This Parliament currently has not one but two committees looking into the issue of bullying. What we would like to see is more information on how the committee that would be created by today's motion would interact with the work that is already under way.

All Canadians can be assured that we as a government and all hon. members are taking concrete action to prevent and reduce bullying. Bullying is not a part of growing up. It is not a rite of passage and it should not be treated as such.

We look forward to examining the recommendations from the two parliamentary committees already studying this issue. We also look forward to being further informed on the proposed committee and how it would interact with the recommendations and the conclusions of the committees under way.

BullyingPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, this is such a timely motion in many ways because of the tragedy we saw with Amanda Todd, which everyone across this country knows about and is now a worldwide issue. I commend the member for bringing forward this motion.

While the Liberals will be voting in favour of it because it is a worthwhile motion, we think it does not go far enough. There is sufficient information out there with regard to bullying and all its forms. Studies have been done around the world and by the World Health Organization. We know that bullying has not only a physical toll but also a mental toll. We know that many people who are bullied get headaches, suffer from nervousness and anxiety, and can even get dizzy spells.

However, we also know that it can create depression in susceptible people and that it can create, in some instances, the ultimate tragic response of suicide. However, it is not only about suicide. There are people for whom bullying triggers a response of anger. We have seen people take a gun and go into a school and try to take out all the people who had bullied them or caused them such pain.

At the end of the day, bullying is not new. Bullying has been with us from the beginning of time. All of us understand it. All of us know about it. However, bullying used to be limited to school. It was some kid pushing, shoving or locking another student in a washroom and all of those kinds of things. It was mean girls who would call people names and treat them badly. Eventually, in the old days, the victims used to be able to grow up and leave school. They used to be able to go home to parents who could protect them and have a group of friends outside of school who could be there for them.

Bullying has changed. With the rise of electronic media, we know that bullying follows us everywhere. I remember speaking to a young woman before I brought in my private member's bill, Bill C-273, which seeks to put the issue of electronic and cyberbullying into the Criminal Code with other forms of criminal harassment, libel and spreading of false messages, et cetera. This young woman told me that she could not get away from the bullying. She said, “I go home and it is there. I turn on my email and it is there. I turn on my computer and it is there. I go away to spend holidays with my parents and family and it is there. It is everywhere”.

The new social media allow cyberbullying to reach around the world so that someone in Germany today knows what someone is saying about a person. The messages also reach through a person's lifetime and are there forever. It does not matter where we go or how old we are, somebody can Google something about us that happened when we were in grade 11 or when we were 12 or 13 years old. In fact, cyberbullying can prevent someone from getting a job. We know that happens. A boss looks a person up on Google and, lo and behold, there is something about him or her that is not even true. It is false messaging.

We know it can carry on even after death. It will always be there.

Cyberbullying has given a new aspect to bullying, not that any bullying is right. As my hon. colleague in the Conservative Party said, it is not a rite of passage. It is not something we can tut-tut and say that we know about that from when we were in school. It can have dire consequences, and it used to. Today, because of mass communications, we know of the many people who are hurt physically and mentally by bullying because it is out there for us to find. It is in the media. We can see it and hear it. It reaches beyond us. In the old days, even as long ago as when some of us were kids or before that, who knows how many people went quietly and committed suicide or hid away and became reclusive or had mental health problems as a result of bullying?

The motion is good in that it talks about a prevention strategy. However, it concerns me that there are no real concrete measures in this bill. It would ask us to study it and we have studied this many times before. Many of us can tell stories that are heartbreaking. We have heard some of them in the House today, so I will not repeat them.

However, there was a young woman named Donna who attended eighth grade at a parochial school in Montreal. She and her mother travelled to Toronto to visit her grandmother who was dying from cancer. When she returned to school, a cyberbully circulated a rumour alleging that she had gotten SARS. Her friends did not want to hang out with her. They all walked away from her. She was left desolate and alone. She did not know what to do. They would not even talk to her on the telephone. That happened in Welland, Ontario, where she lived.

I think we all know the story of the freshman in Osaka, Japan, who, when his gym period was over, got dressed in what he believed was the privacy of the gym. Indeed, he was an overweight boy and some bully set up a camera and took a picture of him. Within seconds, by the time he had changed and walked out of the room, his picture was around the world for everyone to see. He had become a laughingstock, not only of the school but of the community.

We know that cyberbullying, or any kind of bullying, does not really end. We like to pretend this is something that only happens in schools, but in fact we know that people can be shunned in the workplace. We know that people can be shunned in their communities, where their neighbours will not speak to them. We know that many people who are gay, young and old, are terrified of people finding out, whether in their workplaces or in their communities. We see the impact of bullying. It is physical. It is mental. As in the case of this young lady, Amanda Todd, this weekend, it can be tragic.

It would be a nice idea if instead of studying it, when we have already done that, we look at the kind of comprehensive national strategy that we always look at when we deal with something that can result in serious harm. Public awareness and education are parts of what we have to look at. We also have to look at prevention and prevention programs, which could take place in the school, home and community. We have to look at the programs we could have for young, and older, people who have been bullied and how we could help to protect them and create some harm reduction. Eventually, we have to look at the consequences. Some of those consequences may or may not be in the Criminal Code and should be in the Criminal Code.

The Criminal Code currently deals with issues such as name-calling, false messaging and criminal harassment, which is what we saw happening to this young woman. Her bullying was criminal harassment.

We know that if it happens on the radio or if it happens on TV or if it happens in the newspaper, there has to be disclosure. In fact, the Criminal Code even deals with it when it happens by telephone. If telephone messages are being spread, the telephone company has to, under the law, disclose where the phone calls came from. However, we do not have a single way to find out who is doing the bullying from cyberspace. There is an anonymity in cyberbullying that allows it to flourish. No one knows who these people are. They can feel free to say whatever they wish.

The sad thing is that when this young woman put her story out, people were saying, “Go ahead and kill yourself”.

I do not know what society we live in but it is not just enough to talk about a prevention strategy. Some provinces have legislation. Some provinces have programs. We need to work together, using federal and provincial jurisdictions, and look at schools, communities and the workplace. We need to recognize this for what it is: an extremely important, dangerous and tragic habit. I do not know what else to call it.

However, I do want to thank the member for bringing the motion forward. We will be voting to support it.

I do believe that we need to take this issue seriously. If someone had beaten this girl and left her in an alley or drowned her, as we know happened in the past to Reena Virk in Victoria, then everyone would be liable. However, because she committed suicide, people do not believe anyone is liable.

I think it is time we put an end to this.

BullyingPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise and speak in favour of Motion No. 385, put forward by my friend and colleague from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, which I had the honour of seconding this morning. This motion is calling on all of us in the House of Commons to take concrete steps in the prevention of bullying. It is not good enough to say that bullying is someone else's responsibility or to hide behind Canada's notoriously complicated division of jurisdictions. It is not enough to say that this is best left to the local level, and it is clear that whatever we are doing at all levels in government in Canada today to combat bullying is not enough.

It is time for leadership in combating bullying. It is time for leadership right here in the House of Commons. Motion No. 385 calls for the creation of a special 12-member all-party committee to develop a national bullying prevention strategy. By reviewing studies on bullying, we can come to a better understanding of why it happens and what we can do to stop it. Unfortunately, creating an effective anti-bullying strategy is now an urgent need in our society, and for those who call for immediate action, I would like to remind them that effective action requires a strategy.

The prevalence and pervasiveness of bullying is shocking in our society. People can be bullied for any number of reasons, for being too short, too tall, too fat, too thin, for their sexual preference or even their perceived sexual preference or whether they conform to gender norms. I could go on and on with such a list. All forms of bullying are, of course, reprehensible and potentially harmful, but some forms of bullying appear to have more intense consequences. I am talking primarily about bullying based on sexism as it affects young women and girls and bullying based on homophobia, both of which all too often can end in violence, either violence perpetrated by the bullies or in the form of self-harm or suicide by the victims.

I can only speculate, but it appears to me that the deep-rooted sexism and homophobia in our society all too often reinforce and validate the attitudes and actions of bullies. The tragic suicide of Amanda Todd in Coquitlam just a few days ago is powerful testimony to the destructive power of bullying when backed by the oppressive cult of unrealistic body images for young women and the powerful pressures on adolescent women to seek personal validation in sexual activity they may not be ready for. The ongoing cyber bullying that has continued even after Amanda's death is shocking evidence of the need for urgent action.

Recently, many of us felt first-hand here in Ottawa the great sadness and immense sense of loss after the suicide of Jamie Hubley. This case is testimony to the enormous challenges of being one of the only out teenagers in a high school where homophobia often made that pressure unbearable. In the case of Jamie, it led to his suicide.

In contrast to the less well documented link between sexism and bullying, we have specific evidence of the reinforcing link between homophobia and bullying as a result of a study by Egale Canada entitled, “Every Class in Every School”. This was the first national climate survey on homophobia and transphobia in Canadian schools. Egale's survey, conducted in schools across Canada, found that 70% of all students—both LGBT-identified and non-LGBT-identified students—reported hearing homophobic comments every day in school, revealing a hostile climate in our schools toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and gender-variant students.

In this same study, 74% of trans-identified students, 55% of LGB students and only 26% of non-LGBTQ students reported being verbally harassed at school. That means the rates for transgendered students are more than three times those of all other students, and for lesbian, gay and bisexual students, it is more than double the rate for all other students. This is graphic evidence of the extent of homophobic bullying in our schools.

As I said earlier, there are many excuses for bullying, so much so that bullying is happening in our schools at astonishing levels. A separate analysis of Toronto area schools found that a student is being bullied every seven seconds. In a more in-depth study of bullying by the Centre for Youth Social Development at the UBC Faculty of Education, it was found that 64% of kids had been bullied at school,12% were bullied regularly, meaning once or more than once a week, and 72% had observed bullying at school, and of those, only 40% had actually tried to intervene to stop the bullying.

Even more shocking, though, is the fact that 64% considered bullying a normal part of school life and 20% to 50%, depending on the way the question was phrased, said bullying could be a good thing in that it makes people tougher and is a good way to solve problems. These are perhaps the most shocking statistics about the social acceptance of bullying and the failure of those who are around those being bullied to step in, act in their defence and declare the behaviour unacceptable.

Almost 80% of those students in the British Columbia survey pointed out that bullies are often popular and those who enjoy the highest status among their peers in school. They are leaders in schools and leaders in bullying.

As technology has advanced, so have the means of bullying. With social networking, smart phones and the Internet becoming second nature to everyone in Canada, especially young people, these resources become available for bullying, and bullying is now something that can easily happen 24 hours a day, any day of the year. Bullying is no longer a problem that only happens at school or on the playground. As the member for Vancouver Centre so aptly noted, the consequences of bullying spread worldwide very quickly.

We need to take bullying very seriously. The impacts on youth can be drastic and long lasting. Young people who are bullied are more likely to face depression. It is estimated that male victims of bullying are five times more likely, and female victims three times more likely, to be depressed than their non-bullied classmates. People who are victims of bullying are more susceptible to low self-esteem and are likely to suffer from anxiety and illness. Young people who are bullied are much more likely to engage in activities that result in self-harm, including extensive substance abuse.

On top of those personal tragedies, there are societal costs to bullying. Bullying adds to government costs in everything from health care to law enforcement. One of the shocking statistics that I ran across in thinking about bullying was that, of elementary school bullies, one in four will have a criminal record by the time they are 30 years old. Obviously engaging in bullying is an indicator of further problems to come in their lives.

We must reject the idea that bullying is just a fact of life. We must reject the idea that bullying has always been with us and always will be. These behaviours are learned. People are not born with hearts full of hate.

The solution is not to criminalize youth, as some in the House have suggested. Bullying is a vicious cycle in which most of the bullies have at some point been bullied themselves. However, we cannot excuse the bullying; we need to call it by its real name; and we cannot dismiss it as harmless child's play. We need to recognize that bullying is in fact based, too often, on sexism, racism, homophobia and trans-phobia.

The need for action is so obvious and so urgent. What the motion before us today would do is allow us to gain a desperately needed better understanding of bullying so we could then put in place a plan to prevent it from continuing. We need the bullying to stop in order to create a better Canada. We need to take action now. We have seen the hurt of the victims of bullying. We have seen the hurt of parents who have lost their children to bully-related suicides. We have heard the pleas of young Canadians who have lost their friends because it was all too much for them to bear.

The time for action is now. It is time for the House to take a strong leadership role, to take a stand against bullying by passing the motion and getting down to work on finding solutions and developing a strategy to implement them.

I commend the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord once again for bringing forward this motion. I hope to see support for it from all sides of the House.

BullyingPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

Simcoe—Grey Ontario


Kellie Leitch ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by expressing my thoughts and prayers, and I think those of all members of Parliament, for the children and families who are affected by bullying. It is truly a travesty when something like this happens to individuals and their families, and our thoughts and prayers are with them.

I am grateful for the chance to speak to the motion before us today, which calls on the government to establish a special committee to examine different aspects of bullying and to develop a national bullying strategy.

As a physician, I saw evidence of bullying weekly in my clinic. It was something that was exceptionally distressing for me as a physician and for the parents and children of my clinic. It is evident that this takes place in schools across the country and is something on which we should obviously focus.

I listened with interest to the comments of the hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord. I certainly wish to acknowledge both his understanding of some of the concepts involved and his commitment to addressing this very challenging issue.

There are many aspects of the motion before us today on which we can all agree. As I mentioned before, the issue of bullying is very serious. The problem affects Canadian communities, families and children.

There is a continuing focus on the impacts that different types of bullying have on children and their families, which as my hon. colleague knows, has already been considered by two Parliamentary committees: one in this House and one in the other place.

All of us can agree that we need to identify and adopt a range of evidence-based anti-bullying best practices and promote and disseminate anti-bullying information. These are activities already being undertaken by the federal government's National Crime Prevention Centre, the RCMP and the Public Health Agency of Canada.

They are doing a fabulous job. I can talk about evidence in my own riding of what the RCMP is doing, and from my work with the Public Health Agency of Canada, I can talk of the great programs it is implementing to take action to combat bullying.

The central premise of the motion before us today is that we need to establish yet another committee to examine bullying and come up with solutions. However, earlier this year our government released a comprehensive national report on health behaviour in school-age children, called: “The Health of Canada’s Young People: a mental health focus”.

The health behaviour in school-age children report is Canada's only national school-based general health survey of children between age 11 and 15. The report aims to increase knowledge and understanding of the health and well-being of young Canadians and the social context of their health attitudes and behaviours.

The report provides accurate statistics, Canadian-based evidence on health attitudes and behaviours related to smoking, alcohol and drug use, physical activity and body image, sedentary behaviour, healthy eating habits, mental health, injury prevention, bullying, sexual health and social settings such as family at home, peers, school, community as well as socio-economic status.

In Canada, the key findings are used to engage dialogue among governments, communities, researchers and other organizations and will contribute to better informed policies, programs and practices for improved child health.

Overseas, Canada also provides the key findings to the international Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children database. Canadian data is combined with data from 35 other participating countries in Europe and North America to produce cross-national reports published by the World Health Organization.

From the studies our government has undertaken, we know that approximately 22% of Canadian children and youth reported being victims of bullying, while 12% reported bullying others and 41% reported both bullying as well as being a victim of bullying. As I mentioned before, the escalation of this issue was definitely reflected in what I was seeing in children coming to my clinic.

These rates have remained relatively stable since 2002. Although overall bullying rates are not increasing, the issue is still of serious concern for many Canadian families, given that bullying can often leave lasting psychological scars on victims and occasionally result in suicide.

Bullying in schools is not a new issue, but rather one that is re-emerging. It is a growing concern in many jurisdictions and a number of provinces and territories have developed strategies and programs to address this problem. Education is one area that plays a crucial role in responding to bullying since most bullying incidents occur on the school premises. As such, recognizing the role and education in the management of schools, provinces and territories have a key role to implement these measures that would address bullying.

Provincial and territorial governments have all recognized that they can and should be taking action to address bullying. This includes developing specific guidelines and principles to assist schools in implementing measures and addressing bullying. For example, Ontario and Quebec adopted bullying legislation in schools in June this year. A number of other provinces, including Alberta, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, are in the process of reviewing anti-bullying legislation intended to amend the education acts in these jurisdictions.

By law, school boards in Ontario are now required to provide programs, interventions and other supports to students affected by or engaged in bullying based on a model bullying prevention and intervention plan developed by the ministry of education. Similarly in Quebec schools need to have an anti-bullying and anti-violence plan that includes prevention measures and concrete responses to the acts of bullying. Legislation in both provinces place a greater emphasis on promoting the prevention of bullying in school.

British Columbia also announced a bullying strategy in June, which includes 10 components. It includes a five-year multi-level training program for educators and community partners to help them proactively identify and address threats. I would like to emphasize that local level commitment. We all know that these things happen at a local level. They happen within small and larger communities. Local communities are taking action and need to be supported in that.

The strategy that British Columbia has online tools, including a smartphone application for kids to report bullying anonymously. It includes dedicated safe school coordinators in every school district and stronger codes of conduct for schools. As well, the strategy puts in place new provincial guidelines for threat assessments and new online resources for parents. That is what the Government of British Columbia is doing to address bullying.

In the Maritimes, the Government of Nova Scotia released a report on cyberbullying in March. In Newfoundland and Labrador, the student support services division of the department of education has established a safe and caring schools Initiative to promote safe and caring learning environments and to be proactive and preventive in addressing violence issues.

All of these initiatives are commendable and significant in their own right. All are focused at the local level where we need to focus. Given that bullying has been linked to delinquency, there is indeed a role for the federal government to play in terms of crime prevention through the national crime prevention strategy. The strategy currently offers a number of very promising initiatives which are all eligible for funding as part of the organization's current funding intake.

The aggression replacement training initiative, for example, is geared to preventing violence among youth aged 12 to 17 years, preventing aboriginal youth delinquency in urban centres and preventing school-based bullying. The project is designed to promote pro-social behaviour in chronically aggressive and violent adolescents, using techniques to develop social skills, emotional control and moral reasoning.

An initiative geared to the same age group is the leadership and resilience program, which is a school and community-based program for students that enhances youths' internal strengths and resiliency while preventing involvement in substance use and violence.

Then there is also the stop now and plan initiative, which is a multi-component family-focused program that provides a framework for effectively teaching children and their parents self-control and problem-solving skills.

As members can see from what I have outlined, our government has a wide range of projects through the national crime prevention strategy, which community groups and stakeholders can apply for funding in order to help address bullying.

Our government is moving forward in a number of ways to tackle the issue of bullying, while also addressing the mental health of our young people in general. The motion before us suggests that another committee for the study is required to further enhance our understanding of bullying behaviour and ultimately result in improved responses. Our government is certainly open to new ideas and approaches. Although, as my hon. colleague has stated, we look forward to seeing how this proposed committee would interact with the other two that are already under way.

BullyingPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to discuss Motion No. 385 and the issue of bullying.

Like all members of the chamber, and it has been quite clear this morning, we are shocked and saddened by reports of bullying, particularly when the consequences of bullying result in a young person taking his or her life.

We all know bullying exists and can have devastating consequences, not only for individuals affected but on the families and communities as well.

It is clear that Parliament must take whatever steps it can to prevent bullying, assist and support those who have been affected as necessary and provide tools to law enforcement when bullying has crossed into the realm of criminal activity.

The objective of this motion is to create a special committee of the House to develop a national bullying prevention strategy, and it is obvious that such a strategy is necessary. I should point out that this type of strategy already exists in some provinces. For example, Quebec has a government strategy to get all Quebeckers to join the fight against bullying and violence in the schools.

A number of organizations have already conducted their own studies on the issue and have made recommendations. Why reinvent the wheel? That is what I want to know. I am not convinced that this would be the best use of our parliamentary resources.

Furthermore, I am a bit surprised that the NDP would give one year to a committee made up of members from a majority Conservative government. We could see a repeat of what has happened in other committees, where the government does not listen to the witnesses who do not agree with the Conservatives' position. In addition, although the motion says that we must “focus on prevention rather than criminalization”, this does not force the committee to do so. This government always insists on criminalizing everything, with a focus on punishment instead of prevention.

I will continue another day.

BullyingPrivate Members' Business



The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel will have seven and a half minutes when the House resumes debate on this motion.

The time provided for consideration of private members' business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders



Gail Shea Conservative Egmont, PE

moved that Bill S-7, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Canada Evidence Act and the Security of Information Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders


Delta—Richmond East B.C.


Kerry-Lynne Findlay ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the second reading debate of Bill S-7, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Canada Evidence Act and the Security of Information Act.

This bill, among other things, seeks to re-enact the investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions provisions that were created in the Criminal Code by the Anti-terrorism Act in 2001, but that expired in March 2007 because of the operation of a sunset clause.

The proposed bill also responds to recommendations of the parliamentary review of the Anti-terrorism Act which took place between 2004 and 2007 and includes additional improvements to the Criminal Code, the Canada Evidence Act and the Security of Information Act.

Terrorism is an ongoing phenomenon that is rooted in deeply held hatred and insecurity. It is characterized by conduct which seeks not only to kill or harm, but also to commit acts for the deliberate purpose of instilling terror in the general population thereby destabilizing it.

Terrorism targets not only the individual but society generally and is an ongoing dangerous presence that every democratic society must continue to combat. Since the horrific events of 9/11, the absence of terrorist violence on Canadian territory does not preclude the possibility of a terrorist attack. Canada's solidarity with the international community of nations in the fight against terrorism has rendered Canada a potential target.

The first line of any response to terrorism must come from Parliament. It is our responsibility to lay down the rules by which terrorism is fought. We are responsible for tracing the difficult line between combatting terrorism and preserving liberties in a way that is effective and gives clear guidance to those charged with combatting terrorism on the ground.

Terrorism confronts democratic societies with a formidable challenge. On the one hand, terrorism must be prevented, fought and contained and those who commit terrorism offences must be brought to justice. On the other hand, states combatting and prosecuting terrorists must remain true to the fundamental principles upon which democracy and a free society are based.

In enacting the Anti-terrorism Act in 2001, Parliament showed due regard to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As a result, Canada's anti-terrorism provisions are notable for their safeguards and protecting fundamental human rights. These include the high mental fault or mens rea requirements that need to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt before a person can be convicted of a terrorism offence, such as knowledge or purpose. To date, these laws have led to several successful prosecutions in Canada, all the while preserving our fundamental values and the rule of law.

Bill S-7 continues in the same tradition. Bill S-7 seeks to re-enact, with some additional safeguards, the investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions provisions that expired in March 2007. These proposals incorporate some recommendations of the 2006 interim report of a House of Commons Subcommittee on the Review of the Anti-terrorism Act and the 2007 special Senate committee report on the Anti-terrorism Act, and include the Senate amendments made to former Bill C-17's predecessor, Bill S-3 in the 39th Parliament.

The investigative hearing provisions give a judge the power on application by a peace officer with the prior approval of the attorney general to require a person to appear before a judge and to answer questions about a past or future terrorism offence and to bring along anything in his or her possession. In order for the investigative hearing to take place, the peace officer must have reasonable grounds to believe that a terrorism offence has been or will be committed and reasonable grounds to believe that information concerning the offence or the whereabouts of a suspect is likely to be obtained or may be obtained, as the case may be, as a result of the order.

The objective of the hearing is to gather information from the person or to produce anything in the person's possession or control to assist in a terrorism investigation. Reasonable attempts must be made to obtain the information by other means and an individual has the right to retain and instruct counsel at any stage of the proceedings. Any information or testimony obtained during the investigative hearing or evidence derived from such information cannot be used in subsequent proceedings against the individual except in relation to a prosecution for perjury or for giving contradictory evidence.

Moreover, the Supreme Court of Canada has extended this last protection to extradition and deportation hearings. The provisions state that a person who is evading service of the order, is about to abscond or fails to attend an examination may be subject to arrest with a warrant.

However, subsection 83.29(4) incorporates section 707 of the Criminal Code, which sets out the maximum period of detention for an arrested witness so that there will now be clear limits as to how long a person arrested in such a case may be detained. Section 707 imposes 30-day detention periods up to a maximum of 90 days' detention for a witness who has been arrested and detained to ensure his or her appearance and giving of evidence.

The recognizance with conditions provision gives a judge the power, when certain criteria are met, to impose reasonable conditions on a person to prevent the carrying out of a terrorist activity. These criteria are that a peace officer believes on reasonable grounds that a terrorist activity will be committed and suspects on reasonable grounds that the imposition of the recognizance with conditions on a person is necessary to prevent that person or anyone else from carrying out a terrorist activity. A person who is ordered into a recognizance is required to keep the peace and to respect other reasonable conditions for up to 12 months. If the person fails or refuses to abide by the conditions, the judge can order that person to be imprisoned for up to 12 months. This penalty is comparable to the penalty for other peace bonds.

The recognizance with condition provision allows for a peace officer to arrest a person without a warrant in two circumstances: first, where the grounds to lay an information exist but there are exigent circumstances, or second, where an information has been laid and a summons has already been issued but the person has not yet appeared before the court. In both cases the peace officer must suspect on reasonable grounds that the detention of the person in custody is necessary to prevent a terrorist activity.

Once arrested, the presumption is that the person will be released once he or she appears before a judge. The person must be brought before a judge within 24 hours after arrest if a judge is available, or if a judge is not available, as soon as feasible thereafter. The onus is on the Crown to demonstrate why the person cannot be released pending the hearing, based on the specific grounds of detention set out in the provision. If the person is ordered detained by the judge, the hearing itself can be adjourned only for a further 48 hours. In his testimony before the Special Senate Committee on Anti-terrorism, Professor Kent Roach of the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto stated that this 72-hour maximum period of detention is “restrained by comparative standards”.

Professor Roach also testified that he was pleased that the government had included reporting, parliamentary review and sunset provisions in the bill. I would like to talk for a few moments about these important safeguards.

Bill S-7 requires that Parliament review these provisions prior to the date they sunset. As part of this review process, Parliament would be able to examine the degree to which these provisions had been used successfully or unsuccessfully and would be able to make a determination, based on the available evidence, as to whether or not these provisions would continue to be needed. As well, the investigative hearing and the recognizance with conditions provisions are also subject to another sunset clause, which would result in their expiry after five years unless they were renewed by parliamentary resolution.

Finally, the proposals in the bill include annual reporting requirements by the federal government and the provinces on the use of these provisions, and the annual reports of the Attorney General of Canada and the Minister of Public Safety would include an additional requirement that they provide an opinion, supported by reasons, on whether the provisions should remain in force.

The special Senate committee noted in its observations in its final report the importance of Bill S-7 to Canada's ongoing efforts to prevent and deter terrorism both at home and abroad. The re-enactment of these important provisions would be an integral part of these efforts.

The Senate committee also adopted amendments to these two provisions. The first relates to the mandatory parliamentary review of the investigative hearing and the recognizance with conditions provisions. Whereas the English version had made it clear that the review was mandatory, the French version did not. As such, an amendment was adopted by the Senate committee to fix this.

The second amendment addresses the power to vary conditions imposed in a recognizance with conditions. The bill originally allowed only the judge who imposed conditions in the original recognizance to vary its conditions. The amendment now also allows any other judge of the same court to vary the conditions. This is in keeping with the scheme for investigative hearings and in other recognizance with conditions provisions in the Criminal Code.

While the terrorism threat continues, it is also evolving and transforming in ways that present new challenges. Another area of increasing concern and focus for this government is the recruitment of Canadians by terrorist groups, who urge them to travel overseas to fight and engage in terrorist activity, or these people may not have any links or connections to terrorist groups or activities and may in fact be acting alone.

The government recognizes that the complex nature of the problem necessitates a shared and comprehensive response. A primary responsibility of government is to protect all Canadians by detecting and countering the work of terrorists. We do this through intelligence gathering, criminal investigation and prosecutions, and our efforts in this area are guided by respect for fundamental human rights.

During the hearings of the Special Senate Committee on Anti-terrorism, witnesses from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the RCMP, and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, CSIS, confirmed that their organizations were engaging communities in various ways to continuously build positive relationships in an effort to prevent radicalization leading to violence.

RCMP Assistant Commissioner Gilles Michaud testified that in the last year and a half there had been significant changes to the threat environment. He observed that it was increasingly complex and that political conflicts in other countries such as Libya and Syria might affect the security of Canadians both here and abroad.

CSIS Director Richard Fadden testified that CSIS was aware of at least 45 Canadians, possibly as many as 60, who had travelled or attempted to travel from Canada to Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen to join al-Qaeda-affiliated organizations and engage in terrorism-related activities. He indicated that those people represent a threat both to the international community and Canada.

Bill S-7 responds to this threat by proposing to create new substantive offences, those of leaving Canada or attempting to leave Canada to commit various existing terrorism offences. The bill seeks to put in place specific offences to leave Canada or to attempt to leave Canada to knowingly participate in any activity of a terrorist group for the purpose of enhancing the ability of any terrorist group to carry out or facilitate a terrorist activity; to knowingly facilitate a terrorist activity; to commit an indictable offence for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a terrorist group; or to commit an indictable offence that also constitutes a terrorist activity.

The offence of leaving Canada or attempting to leave Canada to participate in any activity of a terrorist group would carry a maximum penalty of 10 years' imprisonment. The other new offences would carry maximum penalties of 14 years' imprisonment.

These new offences would allow for the persons who go abroad either to receive training in terrorism or who wish to go abroad for such or to commit crimes in furtherance of terrorism to be charged with offences specifically tailored to catch this kind of harm. Moreover, these offences would provide for an appropriate level of punishment to be given for such conduct. In my view, these proposed new offences would help to strengthen the ability of our criminal law to combat terrorism and would send a strong deterrent message.

In addition, this bill proposes amendments to the Canada Evidence Act to reflect the 2007 judgment of the Federal Court in the case of Toronto Star Newspapers Ltd. v. Canada. The amendments would allow the Federal Court to order that the applications it hears with respect to the disclosure of sensitive or potentially injurious information could be made either in public or in private. This amendment would increase the flexibility in the court process as well as enhance transparency.

Also, Bill S-7 responds to the final report of the House of Commons Subcommittee on the Review of the Anti-terrorism Act by reducing the duration of a certificate prohibiting the disclosure of information from 15 to 10 years. Pursuant to section 38.18 of the Canada Evidence Act, the Attorney General of Canada can personally issue a certificate prohibiting the disclosure of information for the purpose of protecting information obtained in confidence from, or in relation to, a foreign entity as defined in subsection 2(1) of the Security of Information Act, or for the purpose of protecting national defence or national security. After expiry, the certificate may be reissued by the Attorney General of Canada if the requirements under the Canada Evidence Act are met.

As well, under the Canada Evidence Act the Attorney General of Canada may issue a fiat to take over any prosecution where sensitive or potentially injurious information, as defined in the Canada Evidence Act, may be disclosed. This bill would also implement the House of Commons subcommittee's recommendation to require the Attorney General of Canada to table an annual report in Parliament on the usage of the fiat and certificate provisions. I would note that neither the certificate nor the fiat has been used to date.

Canadians expect their government to have in place the appropriate legal framework to prevent and deal effectively with terrorism and those who threaten our safety. Bill S-7 would be an important enhancement to Canada's counter-terrorism efforts and I urge speedy passage of this valuable piece of anti-terrorism legislation.

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the speech by my colleague from Delta—Richmond East.

I understand that the government is trying to stress the importance of reinstating two controversial security measures that were abolished four years ago. An independent group calculated that the fight against terrorism has already cost Canada $92 billion since 2001.

Why are these measures still necessary if we have not had any problems in the four years they have been gone? What has changed in that time?

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Kerry-Lynne Findlay Conservative Delta—Richmond East, BC

Mr. Speaker, last fall the Prime Minister signalled the government's intention to make efforts to re-enact the investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions provisions. They ceased to exist in 2007 and our government has been trying ever since to reinstate them. The investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions powers would provide police with valuable tools for investigating or preventing terrorism activity. This is a threat that has not gone away.

It would be a mistake to equate the lack of use of these tools in the past with there being no need for them in the future. This would give law enforcement agencies access to more tools to investigate past and potential acts of terrorism. One can take comfort in the fact, based on past experience with the previous provisions, that law enforcement officials have demonstrated caution and restraint in their use.

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Craig Scott NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, is the parliamentary secretary aware of whether or not any of the witnesses during of the Senate proceedings specifically made the case for the necessity of reinvigorating these two provisions, versus invoking generally the idea that tools are helpful and that extra tools, therefore, are also helpful? Is there specific testimony explaining why these are necessary, when in fact they have never been needed before?

I understand the parliamentary secretary's answer just now, but was there testimony on the necessity of these provisions?

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Kerry-Lynne Findlay Conservative Delta—Richmond East, BC

Mr. Speaker, there were several recommendations made by both the House of Commons and Senate committees in relation to this matter, recommendations that have been incorporated into the bill. Some of those recommendations by the House of Commons subcommittee include both provisions being extended for five years, that there be further parliamentary review before any further extension, and also that the bill clarify section 707 of the Criminal Code setting out the maximum period of detention for an arrested witness.

Moreover, the special Senate committee recommended from February 2007 that the annual reporting requirement also require the Attorney General of Canada to include a clear statement and explanation indicating whether the provisions remain warranted. That recommendation is included in the bill. An additional requirement would be that the Attorney General of Canada and the Minister of Public Safety must provide in their annual reports an opinion, supported by reasons, on whether these provisions should be extended. Other amendments made by the Senate to the former Bill S-3 have also been included.

Therefore, yes, we have taken those recommendations into account.

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill S-7, like a number of other government bills, suffers from a major problem: there is no balance between the idea of security and fundamental rights.

Given the government’s unending enthusiasm for making it appear that there is a crying need to amend sections of the Criminal Code, and for striking fear into people’s hearts, it is fortunate that the NDP is here to stand guard and make sure we protect certain fundamental freedoms that we have here. We are not saying that we support terrorism; we do not support it in any way. I am going to talk about the official position of the NDP on Bill S-7.

By the way, I am extremely surprised to see a bill that is as far-reaching as Bill S-7 be introduced in the Senate. Ordinarily, this kind of bill comes in by the back door, from the back benches in the House, but this time it is coming from the Senate. It was examined there and then introduced here. Let us not delude ourselves: this bill is not really coming from the Senate; it is coming from the Minister of Justice, who wants to amend some provisions of the Criminal Code.

Before getting to the heart of the subject, I would like to thank some of my colleagues who have done exceptional work on this issue, including my colleague from St. John's East, who was justice critic before me, and the critic who preceded him. I would also like to thank my colleague from Toronto—Danforth, who has done an excellent analysis of the subject and has provided extremely valuable support for me on this issue.

There is clearly a major problem in this bill when it comes to balancing security and fundamental rights. Let us not delude ourselves. We have put questions to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice. How is it that provisions that expired four years ago have suddenly become extremely important and have to be implemented, when, to our knowledge and the knowledge of the witnesses who appeared before the Senate committee that examined Bill S-7, there have been no cases to date?

In answer to the question that my colleague from Toronto—Danforth put to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, there will be endless quoting of witnesses who appeared before the Senate and support the bill. Those witnesses did not say it is needed; they said “you cannot be too careful”. When we are dealing with concepts as important as international law, terrorism or civil liberties, that is not really the way to do things.

It is not that simple. To deal with terrorism and terrorist threats in Canada, you do not simply include some slightly tougher provisions in the Criminal Code or other legislation. Canada is already a signatory to a number of international conventions, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The present government, however, seems to be strangely unfamiliar with the concept of child soldiers. For once, the government would do well to listen to Senator Dallaire, who saw the implications this can have up close. We have all witnessed the tragedy of Omar Khadr. The attitude taken toward a Canadian citizen, toward someone we call a child soldier, is not really a model of good government. In short, these are thorny problems we are dealing with here.

The first thing we have to seriously wonder about is why the government is going through the Senate to make fundamental changes like the ones proposed in this bill. That is one of the problems.

I think it is important that members understand what is going on with Bill S-7. I am therefore going to give a bit of background.

It is interesting to hear the parliamentary secretary say that this expired seven years ago but that the fact it expired does not mean it was not necessary. This is not the first time the government has tried to enact a bill of this nature.

First, there was Bill S-7, which was introduced in the Senate on February 15. Basically, that bill amends subsection 7(2) of the Criminal Code, which describes acts that relate to an aircraft, an airport or an air navigation facility, are committed when the person who commits them is in Canada, and by operation of subsection 7(2) and paragraph 83.01(1)(a) constitute a terrorist activity. We see how technical this can get. It would add new terrorism offences to Part II.1 of the Criminal Code, which covers section 83.01 and the sections that follow.

I encourage the members of the House to read section 83.01 of the Criminal Code and the sections that follow it, which already cover many aspects of terrorism. That part is devoted entirely to terrorism.

This bill will also, in certain circumstances, enhance the existing sentences provided for by the Criminal Code that may be imposed on any person who knowingly harbours or conceals a person who has committed a terrorism offence. It will restore to the Criminal Code the provisions relating to investigative hearings, recognizance with conditions and preventive arrest in the case of a terrorist activity. A concept like this presents a problem, because our legal system presumes innocence until proof to the contrary is provided.

The desire to institute systems that compel a person to incriminate himself is a problem for me. We cannot hand a blank cheque to a government that, to date, has not shown that it takes these matters seriously or that it values human rights. It has given the impression of being tough on crime, but has not acted logically, and we have seen no need, based on the facts, to alter sections that are as important as these.

This bill also proposes to amend sections 37 and 38 of the Canada Evidence Act, to reflect some but not all of the recommendations made by the Subcommittee on the Review of the Anti-terrorism Act of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security in its March 2007 report, in compliance with the judgment of the Federal Court of Canada in Toronto Star Newspapers Ltd. v. Canada.

It would also amend the definition of special operational information in the Security of Information Act to provide that the identity of a confidential source that is being used by the government would be considered, under that act, to be special operational information. What we have to understand is that this is an attempt to reduce to a minimum the transparency and exchange of information that ensure that everything is done in a manner that is consistent with the fundamental rights of Canadians.

It would also, in certain circumstances, increase the penalty provided for the offence of knowingly harbouring or concealing a person who has committed an offence under section 29 of the Security of Information Act.

As I said, this is not the first time the government has attempted to do this. This is the most recent in a series of anti-terrorism acts that started with Bill C-36, the anti-terrorism act introduced in 2001. That shows that this bill can be introduced in the House of Commons. Was the government too worried that common sense would prevail here in the House, and so it preferred to have the Senate clear the way for it? I have absolutely no idea, but it is disturbing to see bills as far-reaching as this one start out in the other place.

Some of the provisions of this bill were subject to a sunset clause and so they expired in February 2007. We have to understand that the Anti-terrorism Act was passed after the horrible events of September 2001. We should not be surprised that in the aftermath of an event that devastated our entire planet, when people were asking what kind of world they were living in, a decision was made to take certain measures.

I am not being partisan at all when I say that it is always extremely dangerous to make such fundamental decisions in law when everyone is hitting the panic button and wondering how to resolve a situation that initially seems entirely incomprehensible. That goes without saying. That may be how humans and politicians react, but it is definitely not a good way for a lawmaker to react.

In 2007, this act included certain sections that had to be reviewed because they were so-called "sunset clauses", which means that a period of time is allowed for implementation and that a re-evaluation is necessary. At least I can commend the politicians of the time who had the brilliant idea to submit that, or to resubmit it, to both houses, because it had to be submitted to both houses. This bill must be passed by both houses. Once again, incidentally, I am convinced that my colleagues opposite will tell me that it is of little importance whether it starts in the Senate or in the House of Commons; it has to be submitted to one place or the other. This time, it started in the Senate. However, this is a substantive bill, these are substantive decisions, and the views of the elected representatives of the people are more important in this matter than those of appointees and friends of the regime.

This bill has been under review since 2007. All kinds of attempts have been made to reactivate the provisions in question. To extend or reactivate those provisions that expired in 2007, both houses of Parliament must pass a resolution. Such a resolution was defeated by a vote of 159 to 124 in the House of Commons in February 2007 because the controversial provisions had never been used.

In my view, this is the second most important question in this matter. Why have provisions that have not been used suddenly become a necessity, without us even receiving the slightest answer from the government about why we need them in specific cases? Perhaps there is a lack of trust when it comes to sharing information, but they share it with no one in any case. Then they talk amongst themselves and count on us to give them carte blanche so they can do virtually anything. I think that is a major problem. That is why it was defeated by a vote of 159 to 124 in the House of Commons in 2007.

In addition, both Houses were supposed to conduct a full parliamentary review, either jointly or independently. The House of Comments and Senate reports were submitted in 2006 and 2007 respectively. The original aim of the Anti-terrorism Act was to update Canadian laws to meet international standards, particularly UN requirements, and to provide a legislative response to the events of September 11, 2001, as I said earlier. All the provisions of the Anti-terrorist Act, except for that concerning investigative hearings and recognizance with conditions, remain in effect today.

Consequently, we must not believe our colleagues opposite when they tell us that it is as though we have nothing to protect Canadians against terrorism. I repeat, there is an entire section in the Criminal Code, not to mention other acts of Parliament, that applies to terrorism. The sunset clause was added to the original bill because serious concerns had been raised during the legislative process in 2011. Those provisions were the most controversial. A great deal of wisdom was expressed in this House regarding concerns raised about the need to adopt such amendments to the Criminal Code.

I carefully read the evidence of the various witnesses who appeared before the Senate. I repeat that no witness said, based on any facts, that it was necessary to adopt the provisions in question. Some witnesses clearly told the Senate committee that there were major problems with regard to the protection of children's rights.

What will we do about minors living in these kinds of situations? Who will have precedence? Will it be the youth courts, which usually have exclusive jurisdiction over children under the age of 18? Will those provisions take precedence? There is a great deal of concern here. What rights are there? What do we do about the right not to incriminate oneself? What need is there for us to impose this kind of direction on a system in which we have no evidence of this kind of need? That is my major concern in this matter.

I already know what comments we will hear in and outside the House: that the official opposition is in favour of terrorists, against Canadians and against protection and public safety. That is false.

The Criminal Code, which I wholly support, already contains a section that protects Canadians. The message I am sending to Canadians listening to us is this: you must not believe that there is no protection. We have a system that protects Canadians. We can definitely give our specialized anti-terror police forces authority to gather evidence in order to establish a case. However, that does not mean we must set aside concepts as fundamental as the presumption of innocence, the right not to incriminate oneself, the right to be told quickly what we are accused of and the right to defend ourselves against those charges. We are not living in a military or police state in Canada. We have a system in which the rule of law prevails and in which the presumption of innocence is central to our values. That is important.

Coming back to my basic message, there is no balance in this bill between security and the fundamental rights of Canadians. As such, we cannot support this bill since it is unnecessary and full of holes, it introduces concepts foreign to our Canadian values, and it risks causing many more problems than it solves.

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12:40 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for her presentation relating to Bill S-9, the nuclear terrorism act.

On September 26, we tabled before this House a Canada-China nuclear safety agreement, which will not come before this House for debate but which is related to this issue of nuclear safety.

I am very concerned that the agreement is not sufficient for Canada to meet the terms of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty in the sale of Canadian uranium to Chinese facilities. Under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, we must be able to verify at all times that Canadian uranium will not go to nuclear weapons. A one-page promise from China, to me, does not meet the terms of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

I wonder if my colleagues from the official opposition share those concerns.

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12:40 p.m.


Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, we do indeed share these kinds of concerns. However, I would like to suggest that my colleague wait until I give my speech on Bill S-9 this afternoon. I do not want to give her a scoop because it is against my principles.

Right now, we are talking about Bill S-7, and Bill S-9 will be debated this afternoon. We do in fact have concerns about it, and we will see how all that plays out in Bill S-9.

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12:40 p.m.


Craig Scott NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague mentioned, on several occasions in her speech, that children's' rights are something that we really need to take into account. The parliamentary secretary also invoked Professor Kent Roach of the University of Toronto as being supportive. That was the impression left.

What does the member think about the following exchange where Senator Dallaire asked Professor Roach about juvenile protection for those under age 18. He expressed his worries on that point. Professor Roach replied:

Senator Dallaire, that is an important and troubling question. ...[T]he Youth Criminal Justice Act will take precedence, [so that] is accurate as far as it goes. However, if adult sentences are sought, then I think there is danger of disproportionate forms of sentence.

He went on to say:

Internationally, we lag behind many other countries because our official policy is that once a terrorist, always a terrorist. That is why convicted terrorists are all together in [one unit] at Ste-Anne-des-Plaines Institution, and that is why the security certificates have lasted as long as they have.

I think the issue of a youthful person raises an issue that we should be discussing more generally, which is rehabilitation.

He went on to elaborate. I wonder what the member thinks about those comments, which are actually comments expressing his concerns about parts of the bill.