Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on Bill S-7, which proposes to do a number of things in amending the Criminal Code, the Canada Evidence Act and the Security of Information Act, but I want to focus on just two things that this bill proposes to do, the two that I believe are the most significant. These are the reintroduction of the provisions for investigatory hearings and the reintroduction of preventive detention in national security cases, also known as recognizance with conditions.
Regrettably, Bill S-7 places measures before the House that the House had already wisely sunsetted in February of 2007 during the 39th Parliament by a vote of 159 to 124, a decisive vote. These measures were wisely rejected again by opposition parties when reintroduced by the Conservatives in 2009 in the 40th Parliament. Of course, these two measures were part of the package passed quickly in the aftermath of 9/11 when Canada's new Anti-terrorism Act was adopted by the House of Commons on November 28, 2001, and received royal assent on December 18, 2001, just over two months after the terrorist attack on the twin towers in New York.
Even in that climate of intense fear and even panic over national security, such was the concern about the two measures for investigatory hearings and preventive detention that a sunset clause was inserted so that these provisions would expire in five years. Yes, there was a climate of fear and panic that all of us remember well. I have personal reasons for recalling that day and its aftermath very clearly. My mother was flying from Washington, D.C., to Seattle that day, and a friend of my partner was flying from Boston to New York.
Fortunately, we located my mother safe on the ground in Denver, but my partner had to tell his friend's parents that their son had not been so lucky. He had to tell them we had confirmed their son was on the flight from Boston. He who had been late for everything in his life managed to catch that flight, unfortunately. We had to tell them that his body would never be recovered to be returned home to them in Indonesia as his was the second flight to hit the twin towers that day. My family remembers that day, but as residents of Vancouver Island we also remember that fear and panic can do harm, as well as responding emotionally to these kinds of issues.
Canadian history itself tells us a climate of fear and panic, no matter how real the threat, can all too easily lead to great injustice when governments act too hastily. I want to reflect a bit today on what happened to Japanese Canadians at the outbreak of World War II, action taken in a climate of panic also in the name of national security. I am going to offer my comments on Japanese Canadians as a kind of cautionary tale that relates very directly to the kind of measures we are asked to consider adopting in Bill S-7.
Much of what I will say here is based on the work of Ann Sunahara, her 2005 book titled The Politics of Racism. She has very interesting things to tell us about decision making with regard to the deportation of Japanese Canadians, because she was the first author to have access to government documents from that period after the expiry of the 30-year secrecy rule for these documents. In her book, Sunahara clearly demonstrates that government actions ordering the internment of more than 20,000 Japanese Canadians and the confiscation and sale of their property were based on nothing but fear and panic, often stemming from overt racism and ultimately facilitated by the latent racism against Japanese Canadians present throughout Canada at that time.
Again, it is a cautionary tale when we see members of the Canadian community today, especially Muslim Canadians, often targeted by anti-terrorism measures and the fear and panic that terrorism tends to cause.
Of the 23,000 Japanese Canadians in 1941, less than one-third were Japanese nationals. The rest were either native-born Canadians, some 13,500, or naturalized British subjects, some 3,650. Therefore, two-thirds of Japanese Canadians at that time should have enjoyed exactly the same rights as any other Canadian. Yet even Japanese Canadians born in Canada were denied the right to vote, denied the right to practise most professions and discriminated against in many ways. The so-called gentleman's agreement between Canada and Japan in 1907 had limited immigration from Japan to Canada to 400 per year, and in 1928 that number was revised downward to 150 per year.
Given this climate of latent or overt racism against Japanese Canadians, it is perhaps not all that surprising that after the outbreak of World War II in the Pacific, with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in early December 1941, the Canadian cabinet adopted an order in council under the War Measures Act on January 14, 1942, ordering confiscation and sale of the Japanese Canadian fishing fleet and removal from the coast of all male Japanese nationals. Cabinet said explicitly this was for reasons of national security and to prevent sabotage or collaboration with a possible Japanese landing force.
In taking this action, Prime Minister King was following the lead of the United States and giving in to demands from B.C. provincial and federal politicians who continued to demand the removal of all Japanese Canadians from the coast: men, women and children.
On January 23, 1943, as a solution to the problem of how to pay for the internment of Japanese Canadians, and as a way to prevent their eventual return to the coast, the Canadian cabinet passed an order in council, again under the War Measures Act, that granted the custodian of enemy property the right to dispose of Japanese Canadian property in his care without the owner's consent.
What is important about these two things? What is the lesson they have brought today? At that time, cabinet did all of this against the advice of senior public servants and military officers. They did this, according to Sunahara, against the advice of the RCMP commissioner, the deputy minister of defence, the deputy minister of labour, the deputy minister of fisheries and the vice chief of the general staff of the Canadian military.
The actions against the Japanese were opposed, publicly and consistently, only by 28 CCF MPs, the predecessors of the NDP here in the House, to be joined in 1943 by a few Liberal senators after the disposition order was made.
The deportation of Japanese Canadians from the coast is often justified after the fact by selectively pointing to the U.S. experience, citing a similar experience for the removal of Japanese Americans from the U.S. Pacific mainland. However, relying on the U.S. mainland experience ignores the other U.S. experience and the awkward fact that in the U.S. territory of Hawaii there was no legal action taken against Japanese Americans. This is an area in which Japanese Americans were definitely on the front lines in the Pacific war, but where they constituted 32% of the population and so the economic impacts of internment would have been too difficult.
In Canada, at the end of the war, Prime Minister King was eventually forced to admit in the House that not only had not a single Japanese Canadian ever been convicted of sabotage or aiding the enemy, none had ever even been charged with these offences. Yet cabinet still refused to rescind the restrictions imposed by the order in council and did not end the exclusion of Japanese Canadians from the B.C. coast until 1949, again citing national security as the justification.
I have devoted most of my speech today to this dark period and this dark piece of Canadian history, one which took us nearly 40 years to come to terms with. Not until 1988 did Canada officially apologize and offer some compensation both to surviving internees and in the form of support for the National Association of Japanese Canadians. Obviously, this came far too late for most of those who suffered injustice.
In Esquimalt, where I live, we are only now restoring the Takata Gardens, the oldest Japanese gardens in North America, where the Takata family had operated a very successful tea house before being dispossessed for reasons of national security. This is a powerful local reminder to Esquimalt residents that injustice caused by fear and panic has costs for all Canadians, not just those who are the direct victims.
I see the experience of Japanese Canadians in World War II as a cautionary tale for all members in the House as we contemplate Bill S-7, a bill the government insists is necessary for national security. It is a cautionary tale that tells us of the sometimes ugly consequences of letting fear rule over rationality.
The provisions that we are talking about restoring here were never used in the five years they were in place. Some will cite the Air India inquiry where an application to hold an investigatory hearing was approved but challenged in court, and that hearing was ultimately never held as the sunset clause came into effect in the meantime. Therefore, we are left with no concrete example where an investigatory hearing was actually used. Yet in the 10 years since the Anti-terrorism Act was passed, the government has managed to get terrorism convictions for Momin Khawaja, Zakaria Amara, Saad Khalid and Saad Gaya of the so-called Toronto 18.
Therefore, I would ask this. Has our security been more at risk in the last five years since these provisions were allowed to expire? Does the government have any examples to show us when these powers could have been used?
Instead, I look back to the Japanese Canadian experience and we see the obvious contradiction of having fought a war for freedom and democracy and against racism, while at the same time treating a portion of our own citizens so unjustly.
Can we not see now the risk of a new contradiction? In the struggle to protect freedom, human rights and rule of law, we risk trampling the fundamental rights that are the basis of our democratic and legal system: the right to freedom from detention without charge and the right to protection against self-incrimination.
We also risk the unfair treatment of Muslim Canadians. Though perhaps not as severe as the deportation of Japanese Canadians in World War II, this constitutes a potential blot on our human rights record, which I know all in the House would like to avoid.
Let us not repeat the past but rather learn from it. Let us not stampede to trample rights because of our fears for national security. I urge all members of the House to reject the false security offered by Bill S-7 with its all too likely consequences of weakening our rights and the principles that are the foundation of our justice system.
We know that the best response to threats to our national security is to be found in giving resources to law enforcement and security agencies so they can do their jobs, while working within our system of rule of law and respecting those very rights that give meaning to the question for national security.