Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank you for that clarification. I will take full advantage of my six minutes.
I am truly shocked by the parliamentary secretary's speech. She completely ignored a very important problem and that is the reversal of the burden of proof, a consequence of the hon. member for Wild Rose's bill. I am not going to speculate on what the courts will do with this, but this reversal could lead to many problems and nullify some or all of the provisions, the amendments that the hon. member for Wild Rose has made.
I am not going to belabour this point, but I would just like to note, as did my colleague from Gatineau, that, unfortunately, this bill is redundant and has a lot of room for improvement. People can unwittingly find themselves in an unlawful assembly or riot, as defined in sections 63 to 66. They can be victims of circumstance and arrested. It has happened to many people, to honest citizens who simply wanted to express their opinions publicly and take advantage of the opportunity to participate in our society, in the democratic process, which is fundamental and important.
I would like to give an example that is very well-known in Quebec. A philosophy professor dressed up as a giant panda called the Anarchopanda, something he will no doubt do again at other protests. This philosophy professor's main goal was to defuse problematic and potentially violent situations by giving hugs to everyone, protestors and police officers alike. In fact, many police officers agreed to be hugged in order to defuse potential crises.
Reversing the burden of proof would require the Anarchopanda and any other legitimate protestor in a mask to provide a legitimate excuse. The Anarchopanda, who unfortunately attended a demonstration that escalated into a riot, could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison. It is absolutely unbelievable that the simple act of wearing this costume with the stated purpose of supporting a completely legitimate demonstration, which is a fundamental right in our society, could lead to a sentence of up to 10 years in prison. That is the sentence imposed for criminal activities such as the financing of terrorism, firearms trafficking, and sexual abuse or assault.
How far will we go? I have quickly given some examples to show that, in its present form and without our amendment, the bill is absurd. We proposed a constructive amendment so that wearing a mask would be a criminal offence in keeping with section 351 of the Criminal Code.
The opposition parties and some groups are not the only ones opposed to this bill, and with good reason. The Canadian Bar Association clearly stated that people conceal their identities for various legitimate reasons such as protecting a family member or friend in another country or for other non-criminal reasons, including medical and religious reasons. The Barreau du Québec took a similar stand and stated that people can have a very good reason for concealing their identity or wearing a mask to make a statement.
If the bill were to be passed, what would the implications be for the fundamental right of freedom of expression? The act runs the risk of being thrown out. The additional amendment to the Criminal Code could be struck down by the courts because it touches on our fundamental freedoms and fails to achieve the original objective of fighting crime during unlawful assemblies.
I am asking all members of the House to vote against this bill to avoid making a mistake that would have unacceptable consequences for thousands of innocent members of our society.