Mr. Speaker, I am rising today to speak to Bill S-7, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Canada Evidence Act and the Security of Information Act. I want to state at the outset that New Democrats will be opposing the bill.
Since 2001, we have had an opportunity to revise the bill, which was adopted in reaction to a particular event that sent people into a state of panic. We have learned that there is actually no evidence to support such legislation. When these provisions expired in 2007, we found that there had been no investigative hearing and no situation that required a recognizance with conditions. Since 2007, the investigative hearing has only been used once as part of the Air India inquiry, but that led to no conclusive results. I am going to talk more about that later.
Bill S-7 has four objectives. The first is to amend the Criminal Code to authorize investigative hearings and authorize the imposition of the recognizance with conditions or preventative arrest. Second is to amend the Canada Evidence Act to allow judges to order the public disclosure of potentially sensitive information on a trial or an accused, once the appeal period has ended. The third is to amend the Criminal Code to create new offences for those who have left the country or tried to leave the country to commit a terrorist act, and finally, to amend the security of information to increase maximum sentences incurred for harbouring a person who committed or intended to commit a terrorist act.
I am going to focus on the investigative hearings and recognizance with conditions. I want to give some context here. New Democrats oppose the bill because it is an ineffective way of combatting terrorism and because it is an unnecessary and inappropriate infringement on Canadians' civil liberties. New Democrats believe that Bill S-7 violates the most basic civil liberties and human rights, specifically the right to remain silent and the right not to be imprisoned without first having a fair trial.
According to these principles, the power of the state should never be used against an individual to force a person to testify against himself or herself. However, the Supreme Court recognized the constitutionality of hearings. We believe that the Criminal Code already contains the necessary provisions for investigating those who are involved in criminal activity and for detaining anyone who may present an immediate threat to Canadians.
We believe that terrorism should not be fought with legislative measures, but rather with intelligence efforts and appropriate police action. In that context one must ensure that the intelligence services and the police forces have the appropriate resources to do their jobs.
I want to quote from Denis Barrette, a spokesperson from the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, at the review by the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security on former Bill C-17, which was an earlier version of Bill S-7. Mr. Barrette said:
—the provisions dealing with investigative hearings and preventative 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. As we know, that legislation was rushed through Parliament after 9/11 in a climate of fear and under very considerable pressure from the United States....
At this point in time, what is the real objective need for these two provisions? From the time of their introduction in 2001 until their repeal in 2007, the only time they were used was in relation to the Air India case which, as you all know turned out, sadly, to be a total fiasco.
Since 2007, police investigations have succeeded in dismantling terrorist conspiracies using neither one of the provisions we are talking about today. Furthermore, since 2001—in other words, in the last 10 years—none of the investigations that resulted in charges or convictions required the use of these extraordinary powers, whether we're talking about the Khawaja affair, the Toronto 18 or, more recently, the four individuals in the Toronto region....
We know as well that these provisions could, as we see it, be abused. I am thinking here of the Air India case. We believe that Canadians will be better served and better protected under the usual provisions of the Criminal Code, rather than others that are completely unnecessary. Reliance on arbitrary powers and a lower standard of evidence can never replace good, effective police work. On the contrary, these powers open the door to a denial of justice and a greater probability that the reputation of innocent individuals...will be tarnished.
There are a number of concerns that have been raised with particular aspects of the legislation. It is important to note that sometimes it also gives Canadians a false sense of security. Again, what we need is appropriate resources to ensure that these activities are monitored and prosecuted where appropriate.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has a quote from the Supreme Court of Canada on national security from 2002.
The Supreme Court stated:
On the one hand stands the manifest evil of terrorism and the random and arbitrary taking of innocent lives, rippling out in an ever-widening spiral of loss and fear. Governments, expressing the will of the governed, need the legal tools to...meet this challenge.
It goes on to say, however:
On the other hand stands the need to ensure that those legal tools do not undermine values that are fundamental to our democratic society — liberty, the rule of law, and the principles of fundamental justice — values that lie at the heart of the Canadian constitutional order and the international instruments that Canada has signed. In the end, it would be a Pyrrhic victory if terrorism were defeated at the cost of sacrificing our commitment to those values. Parliament’s challenge is to draft laws that effectively combat terrorism and conform to the requirements of our Constitution and our international commitments.
Again, I think it is important that we balance the safety of Canadians and the need for Canada to play its role in combatting terrorism, domestically and internationally, with those civil liberty rights.
In an op-ed referring to Canada and 9/11, which was originally published on September 6, 2011, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association stated:
Prior to the attacks, we demonstrated a high level of commitment to certain core values -- rule of law, due process, equality, habeas corpus, presumption of innocence, and the absolute prohibition against torture. These values lay at the heart of our Constitutional and international law obligations.
We knew, from contemporary history, that the absence of such legal protections resulted in societies where exceptional measures became the norm. Such societies could devolve into accepting presumptions of guilt, secret trials, secret evidence, extrajudicial execution, arbitrary detention, torture, even ethnic cleansing and massacres. To prevent such devolution, Canadians knew that any incursion into civil liberties must be legally and demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society; unjustifiable incursions must be remedied.
It goes on to do an analysis about whether or not we, in Canada, can make that same claim today, and I will only read the sections that are actually applicable to this act. It states:
Our national security actions since 9/11 require our attention:
It talks about a number of things, including Afghan detainees and using immigrant and administrative processes and counter-terror initiatives.
However, the piece that I want to highlight is:
Canada seeks to re-introduce post 9/11 amendments to our Criminal Code that will enable interrogation and preventive detention without criminal charge. Civil liberties concerns include the undermining of due process, fair trial, and lower evidentiary thresholds to trigger proceedings.
These concerns are being raised on a number of fronts about the lack of due process.
Later on in its article, it acknowledges that:
...Canada has not taken the extreme legislative or administrative measures seen in other countries, including the United States, following 9/11.
However, it goes on to state:
But we have not always got it right. And when we fail to take timely action to provide accountability, transparency, and redress, we risk morphing from a state anchored on the rule of law and democratic guarantees, to a state that condones illegal actions and disregards human dignity.
Terrorists have little regard for human dignity, human life, human rights, or the rule of law. We cannot effectively fight terrorism and protect our national security if we operate from a paradigm that also disregards these objectives. If, as Canadians, we no longer shrink from the injustices of wrongful conviction; torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment; racial profiling; arbitrary detention; impunity; then what exactly are we protecting?
I think that is a very good question, one that we need to ask ourselves as parliamentarians and as Canadians. I think that most Canadians would want to continue saying that we in Canada do protect those civil liberties, that right to due process.
I want to put into context where the Conservative government has missed an opportunity because the review of the Anti-terrorism Act was conducted over a number of years. Someone who did the analysis on it pointed out that the review that was supposed to happen at three years became the three-year review.
In 2007, the subcommittee on the review of the Anti-terrorism Act submitted a report. I want to quote from the minority report that was put forward by the member for Windsor—Tecumseh. I do not have time to read the whole report but many Canadians probably have not read that report and I just want to highlight a couple of the points that come back to the challenges we are facing with this bill before us.
In that report, the members noted:
Terrorism cannot be fought with legislation; it must be fought through the efforts of intelligence services combined with appropriate police action.
There is no act of terrorism that is not already a criminal offence punishable by the most stringent penalties under the Criminal Code. This is obviously the case for pre-meditated, cold-blooded murders; however, it is also true of the destruction of major infrastructures.
Moreover, when judges exercise their discretion during sentencing, they will consider the terrorists’ motive as an aggravating factor. They will find that the potential for rehabilitation is very low, that the risk of recidivism is very high and that deterrence and denunciation are grounds for stiffer sentencing. This is what they have always done in the past and there is no reason to think they will do differently in the future.
We must also consider that, when it comes to terrorism, deterrence has limitations. First, it will have very little impact on someone considering a suicide bombing. Second, those who decide to join a terrorist group generally believe that they are taking part in an historic movement that will have a triumphant outcome in the near future and that will see them emerge as heroes.
Therefore, one cannot expect that new legislation will provide the tools needed to effectively fight terrorism.
Legislation can, however, be amended if police do not seem to have the legal means needed to deal with the new threat of terrorism.
Consequently we must ensure that the proposed measure does not unduly disturb the balance that must exist between respect for the values of fairness, justice and respect for human rights, which are characteristic of our societies, while also ensuring better protection for Canadians and for the entire world community.
This is an important point. We have had the Supreme Court point this out and we have had civil liberties organizations point this out. It is the continuing need to balance the right to protect Canadians in terms of due process with our role domestically and on the world stage.
This dissenting report goes on to say that the Criminal Code already contains this solid arsenal of provisions for combatting terrorism. The Anti-terrorism Act has simply added two more that no police force has yet seen the need to use. Further in the report, it states:
But the ATA is also dangerous, because it is a frontal attack on a number of fundamental principles that underpin our system of law, the system that distinguishes us most sharply from the ideology motivating the terrorists who confront us.
The report continues:
The Civil Liberties Union and the Canadian Association of University Teachers drew up a long list of such principles, including: the presumption of innocence; the right to privacy and to be secure against searches and any kind of invasion of privacy; the right not to be stopped, questioned, arrested or detained based on mere suspicion or on racial, religious or ethnic profiling; the right of every individual to a public, just and fair trial, and the right to appeal; the right to make full answer and defence; the right to be secure against arbitrary imprisonment and torture; the right to bail while awaiting trial, and to have the validity of detention reviewed by way of habeas corpus; the right of asylum; the right to information and to freedom of the press.
We must also learn from our overreactions in the past when faced with danger. As the danger recedes, we feel obligated to compensate the innocent victims of useless measures taken out of fright.
Not only did these measures do nothing to increase our security, but we devoted a great deal of energy to them that could have been better employed in fighting the real danger more effectively.
Sadly, Canada does have a history of reacting to something that ended up not being a threat to Canadians' security at all. The report cites:
One example is the way we treated Canadians of Japanese origin during the Second World War. In 1942, 22,000 people of Japanese origin were arrested and detained, and their property confiscated. 75% of them had been born in Canada. And yet, government documents finally made public in 1970 revealed that both the Department of National Defence and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were convinced that Japanese-Canadians in no way threatened the country’s security.
I want to repeat that. It states, “...in no way threatened the country's security”. As a result of that, of course, the federal government eventually made an official apology and some financial restitution and put some money toward creating educational, social and cultural programs and activities.
However, it is an example of a response to a frightening world situation that unjustly penalized many Canadians.
During the First World War, some 5,000 Ukrainians were interned and 80,000 others were required to report regularly to the police. A number were forced to endure harsh living and working conditions and more than a hundred died during their internment.
There are other examples of how Canada has behaved in a way that many of us would argue did not respect due process and the liberties that many men and women in this country have fought so hard for.
Later in the report, it states:
Respect for our values is an important element in the war against terrorism. At the plenary closing session of the International Summit on Democracy, Terrorism and Security in Madrid on March 10, 2005, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan declared once again, “[T]errorism is a threat to all states, to all peoples.” He added,
[Terrorism] is a direct attack on the core values the United Nations stands for: the rule of law; the protection of civilians; mutual respect between people of different faiths and cultures; and peaceful resolution of conflicts.
But he then went on to say,
[T]errorism is in itself a direct attack on human rights and the rule of law. If we sacrifice them in our response, we will be handing victory to the terrorists… I regret to say that international human rights experts, including those of the UN system, are unanimous in finding that many measures which States are currently adopting to counter terrorism infringe on human rights and fundamental freedoms… Upholding human rights is not merely compatible with successful counter-terrorism strategy. It is an essential element.
In the conclusion of the report, one of the things that was recommended was a parliamentary oversight committee. This report was back in 2007. It states:
Canada is unique among western nations in its lack of a Security oversight committee. Over the course of the review we heard testimony from individuals and organizations who stressed the importance of creating a mechanism for overseeing disparate national security activities. In 2004 an Interim Committee of Parliamentarians on National Security was set up to make recommendations to the government of the day, it presented a report to Parliament in April of 2005 and on November 24, 2005, the government tabled a bill (C-81) to establish a National Security Committee of Parliamentarians.
This dissenting report goes on to say:
We would support recommendation 58 in the majority report. We would, however, further strengthen the recommendation to ensure that any Committee has authority to oversee all security agencies. In the examination of the Air India tragedy and the events surrounding the deportation and torture of Maher Arar, to cite but two examples, we have seen and heard of too many problems created when information is improperly shared or withheld from one agency to another.
The National Security Committee must in addition to providing a review function, be empowered to oversee current polices and conduct to ensure their adequacies. We have throughout the course of the review heard that vast amounts of information are deemed of national security interest and therefore inaccessible to the public or judiciary. Therefore, the proposed National Security Committee must be able to examine this information and where appropriate provide a graduated scale for the release of previously classified information.
Of course, over the years we have increasingly seen a government that withholds information. This is not part of this bill, but we recently we saw a very public feud between the government and the Parliamentary Budget Officer because of the government's refusal to release information and there were threats of court action in order to get information that the Parliamentary Budget Officer needs to do his job.
The same can be said to be true of many of the government departments. One almost needs a full battery of people working on access to information and analysis of the different ways this information is presented because when information is available, it is not presented in such a way that it is easily understandable and many times there are huge difficulties even accessing information which should rightfully be available to parliamentarians in order for them to do due diligence in doing their jobs.
This minority report went on to make a couple of recommendations. I will not read them all, but it states in part:
While the purpose of the ATA review was to examine the existing legislation and, while we cannot write an entirely new law, we would recommend that the existing ATA be terminated. However, if a new law were to be drafted, the following considerations should guide the process:
That new legislation seek to provide the utmost protection to, and not oppression of, our citizens;
That the new legislation be guided by the spirit and principles of the Charter;
That new legislation would prohibit “evidence” garnered from torture domestic or international, in our courts or tribunal;
That there be an absolute ban on sending people back to their country of origin or any other country where there is a reasonable risk of torture or death.
The reason I raised that report from 2007 in the context of the legislation that is now before us, Bill S-7, is that we can see that Bill S-7 largely disregards some of the recommendations that were made, principally around due process. We have a re-introduction of the clauses that were sunsetted around preventative detention and investigative hearings.
It is on those grounds that the New Democrats will be opposing the legislation.