Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to address Bill C-55.
I did not work directly on this bill as a member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights because I unfortunately left that committee, although I fortunately have the great privilege of sitting on the Standing Committee on Finance. However, I have excellent memories of my time on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, despite the problems the members the New Democratic Party are facing on that committee.
In reference to the question I put to my colleague who previously spoke with regard to the rule of law and basic protections, we have moved a motion in the context of Bill C-55. That is why the member for Mount Royal spoke on the subject. He shared the same concerns when he was Minister of Justice. This is an excellent example of the reconciliation of imperatives. We can reconcile certain imperatives even though we belong to different parties. I remember some good exchanges I had with the member for Mount Royal over the fact that he approved of a number of measures we had taken.
Like all of my NDP colleagues, I support Bill C-55. However, I am going to be quite harsh. Objectively, Bill C-55 was a pleasant surprise. I think the government was compelled to respond to the Supreme Court’s decision. Yet, even today, as reported in the Globe and Mail, the justice minister continues to reiterate his full support for Bill C-10, the omnibus bill that unfortunately was passed and will create many problems.
Portions of certain sections of the Criminal Code and other acts that were amended by Bill C-10 could eventually be invalidated. Moreover, this bill has created an excessive amount of work for Parliament. This situation could have been avoided if the government had been open and much more rigorous that it generally is. I would remind the House that Bill C-55 is the exception.
Of course, reinventing the wheel or showing too much originality was not possible, because the decision was very clear and compelled the government to find solutions that meshed perfectly with the Supreme Court’s observations.
This brings us back to our duty as elected representatives and as members of these important and fundamental committees known as the standing committees of the House of Commons.
We have a responsibility to stay informed and adapt to today’s realities on an ongoing basis, all the while complying with immutable principles. We have a responsibility when it comes to passing legislation.
In this regard, I hope that Bill C-55 will serve as a model for the government and will prompt it to be more disciplined and especially to show more respect for all of our country’s institutions. The government must start by showing respect for the Canadian justice system, for Canada’s Parliament, a fundamental institution, and more especially for the House of Commons.
Understandably, there can be differences of opinion, and the government may not always agree with the views expressed by members of the opposition parties. However, the government has a responsibility to respect these views and the fact that people have different opinions. It also has a duty to respect the principle of accountability, which unfortunately is too easily flouted.
In the case of the committee that I had the privilege to serve on last fall, too often the government denied the obvious and rejected the opinions of experts whose positions were quite clear. It is truly a shame. After all, while it may be possible to some extent to defend ideological stances, these have absolutely no place when it comes to governing and establishing conditions for a just and fair society.
The government has made that mistake over and over again.
I repeat, Bill C-55 is a pleasant surprise. In the wake of what my hon. colleague from Gatineau said, I will come back to some important points related to section 184.4. They may seem like minor details, but these changes are important. They do not affect the essence of section 184.4.
The bill defines the term “police officer”, which applies to section 184.4. The bill then continues:
A police officer may intercept, by means of any electro-magnetic, acoustic, mechanical or other device, a private communication if the police officer has reasonable grounds to believe that (a) the urgency of the situation is such that an authorization could not, with reasonable diligence, be obtained under any other provision of this Part; (b) the interception is immediately necessary to prevent an offence that would cause serious harm to any person or to property; and (c) either the originator of the private communication or the person intended by the originator to receive it is the person who would commit the offence that is likely to cause the harm or is the victim, or intended victim, of the harm.
My colleague from Gatineau accurately explained the special nature of section 184.4. Let us not forget that sections 186 and 188 cover virtually every case that would justify a warrant to breach a person's privacy. There are, of course, cases in which the imminence or urgency of the situation, when it is a matter of minutes or hours, would permit someone in authority under the Criminal Code to act quickly without permission to provide genuine assistance and intervene to prevent mischief or a crime.
This is perfectly reasonable. The only problem is with the consequences of such an action. The amendments made to the various parts of section 195 are particularly important. We strongly support them simply because they provide a form of transparency and openness that allows for self-discipline and generally avoids any abuse of police power. First of all, no one wants abuse of this kind from the police. Police officers who possess this extraordinary power ought not to be exposed to situations of potential abuse by themselves or others against anyone here in Canada because it could lead to serious breaches and the public's loss of confidence in police departments.
We believe that section 195 is a step in the right direction in terms of accountability, and that it would set out clear guidelines for the application of section 184.4. In my view, this constitutes significant progress. It is a fundamental and necessary improvement. It would deal with the problems inherent in R. v. Tse that were before the Supreme Court.
I would like to end by saying that it was a pleasure to be able to comment on Bill C-55. I think, and especially I hope, that it will be passed relatively quickly. It is nevertheless deplorable that the government took so long to allow us to review it in this House.