Mr. Speaker, before running out of time on Monday, I was speaking about the witnesses who oppose this bill because they believe it is pointless and violates various civil liberties and human rights. They appeared before the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security in 2011, when it was studying Bill C-17, the previous version of Bill S-7, in another Parliament.
This is what Denis Barrette of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group said:
The coalition believes that the provisions dealing with investigative hearings and preventive arrests, which are intended to impose recognizances with conditions, are both dangerous and misleading. Debate in Parliament on these issues must draw on a rational and enlightened review of the anti-terrorism law.
The first provision makes it possible to bring individuals before a judge in order to provide information, when the judge is of the view that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the individual has information about a terrorism offence that has or will be committed. A refusal to cooperate may result in arrest and imprisonment for up to one year. Furthermore, the provision dealing with investigating hearings gives the state a new power of search. Not enough is being said about this. The fact is that this provision can compel an individual to produce an object before a judge or tribunal, which will then pass it on to the police.
Furthermore, the current provisions encourage racial profiling and profiling on religious, political and ideological grounds. In its report on Canada in November of 2005, the U.N. Human Rights Committee noted its serious concerns with respect to the excessively broad definition of terrorist activity in the Anti-terrorism Act. The committee stated...“The State party should adopt a more precise definition of terrorist offences, so as to ensure that individuals will not be targeted on political, religious or ideological grounds, in connection with measures of prevention, investigation and detention.”
This shows that alarms were already going off about a number of problems in Bill C-17 with respect to civil liberties and how such a bill could be used. These problems remain in Bill S-7. This bill clearly has a problem balancing security and fundamental rights. What worries me is that I see no valid reason for these provisions.
These provisions have been expired for five years, so how can they all of a sudden have become so important and necessary, when they never proved to be useful when they existed? None of the witnesses was able to think of a case that would require this kind of law. None of the witnesses said that these provisions were necessary. On the contrary, witnesses clearly told the Senate committee that there were major problems with respect to human and children's rights.
I would like to talk about what Ihsaan Gardee of the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations had to say:
We are mindful of the increased emphasis on public safety and national security in response to the threat of terrorism during the last decade.... We are also cognizant of the real risks to our free and democratic society posed by overreaction and fear when they are used as the basis of public policy and legislation. At the end of the day we risk eroding the foundational values upon which Canada rests, while not making us any safer from terrorism....
We strongly disagree with those who would suggest that attaining a balance between human rights and security is an insurmountable task. In addition to sharing many of the concerns others have raised regarding the proposed legislation, Canadian Muslims have particular misgivings regarding how...Bill C-17 [could] have a disproportionate impact on members of our communities that may be considered discriminatory.
With regard to the impact on individual freedom and liberty, after 9/11 every major criminal terrorism-related incident, from the Toronto 18 to the case of Momin Khawaja, has been disrupted and prevented without the need for preventive detention or investigative hearings.
I repeat: here is another witness who is saying that the measures set out in this bill are not useful and could even carry risks.
Let us go back to the statement made by James Kafieh. He said:
We also need to bear in mind that not everyone who chooses to remain silent in such circumstances is guilty, and that choosing to remain silent is not an admission of guilt or a proof of guilt. People may, for example, have legitimate concerns for themselves, their families, and their communities.
Such an extraordinary measure as investigative hearings should only be used for the purpose of preventing an imminent act of terrorism. It should never be used as an investigative tool for past acts. The present text of [the bill]...allows for investigative hearings for past events, for which the imperative of safeguarding of innocent life from imminent attack is wholly absent. This is, in itself, an escalation.... Such an escalation shows that we are already witnessing creep in the use of such provisions before the court.
He also said:
This [bill] allows for the arrest and detention of people without ever proving any allegation against them. It could also make people subject to conditions on release with severe limitations on their personal freedom, even if they have never been convicted of any crime. Anyone refusing to accept and comply with the terms of the recognizance may be imprisoned for up to 12 months. The legislation does not limit the number of times this provision may be reapplied.
How is this consistent with our Canadian values and the principles upon which our system of justice is founded? ...The most recent cases of five men who were detained for up to eight years without ever being charged or convicted of a crime should give us all cause for concern.
That is food for thought for our discussions on this type of bill. When it comes to combatting terrorism, we cannot just simply add slightly tougher provisions to the Criminal Code without understanding why. The fact that Canada is already a signatory to a number of international conventions that address this makes these measures unnecessary.
In 2001, when these provisions were being discussed, the aim of the Anti-terrorism Act was to update Canadian laws to meet international standards, particularly UN requirements. All the provisions of the Anti-terrorism Act, except for that concerning investigative hearings and recognizance with conditions, remain in effect today, which is what we are discussing today and what is being presented in Bill S-7.
To be perfectly clear, all the provisions of the original Anti-terrorism Act have remained in effect except for the two that expired in 2007, which were never used and which parliamentarians felt did not need to be renewed because they did not prove necessary.
Now, we are dealing with a Conservative government that says that the NDP is against making the country safer when it comes to combatting terrorism. In truth, this bill does not add anything substantive in terms of security. What is more, this bill will undermine fundamental human rights and freedoms. In my humble opinion, this represents a real risk. Canada already has a legal arsenal to combat terrorism, including international treaties, a complete section of the Criminal Code that deals with this, and a whole host of laws.
Furthermore, another provision in this bill would amend the definition of “special operational information” in the Security of Information Act. Under this change, the identity of a confidential source that is being used by the government would be considered to be special operational information. This would reduce the transparency of information.
Considering this government's track record when it comes to transparency, reducing it any further on such a delicate subject would really worry me.
In short, I oppose this bill because we already have very effective measures in place. This measure would be ineffective and pointless in the fight against terrorism.
This bill violates civil liberties and human rights and, once again, does so unnecessarily. In particular, it violates the right to remain silent and the right to not be jailed without a fair trial, two rights that are absolutely fundamental in Canadian society.
The provisions we are debating here today were invoked only once, and unsuccessfully. This perfectly illustrates the fact that we already have all the tools we need to combat terrorism. Thus, there is no reason to pass legislation that threatens our civil liberties.