House of Commons Hansard #231 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was agreement.


S. O. 31Privilege

10:05 a.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, first, I would appreciate the time today to allow me to offer a few additional comments on what I believe is an important issue for Parliament and an important issue for Canadians.

On March 26, the member for Langley rose to say that his rights as a member of Parliament had been infringed upon when he was prevented by the whip of his own party from delivering a statement in this House, a statement that, in parliamentary terms, we call an “S. O. 31”. Much like the terms “omnibus bill”, “prorogation” and “closure”, the Conservative Party continues to offer what I believe is an unintentional lesson in how parliamentary systems work and can sometimes be abused.

House of Commons Standing Order 31 says that a member may be recognized to make a statement for not more than one minute every day before question period. More commonly we refer to these as members' statements.

In the Chief Government Whip's response to the hon. member forLangley, he said that the Speaker of the House did not have to rule on this issue because it is a situation that has to be managed solely by the party whip.

I believe that two central questions face you, Mr. Speaker, and face this House. One concerns the difference between the Standing Orders, or the rules by which this place is guided, and conventions, or practices that have evolved over time to fit changing circumstances. One set is hard and fast rules we must abide by. The other, the conventions, are something we interpret from time to time, and they certainly change from time to time.

The second central question concerns your role as Speaker in trying to help ease the natural tension I believe exists between members and their political parties and an MP's right to speak in Parliament.

According to O'Brien and Bosc, on page 254, the Standing Orders are “[t]he permanent written rules under which the House regulates its proceedings”. They are the rules we are bound by, and they are there to protect Parliament and MPs.

However, O'Brien and Bosc also tell us, on the very next page, that “interpretations given to the older rules have been adapted over time to fit the modern context”. This is what we call convention, the practice of the House, which has always and must always continue to evolve and adapt to changing times and circumstances. The growing number of members of Parliament in the House of Commons, the fact that our proceedings have been televised for a certain number of decades, and streamed online recently, and the increasing use and importance of social media are just some of the realities Parliament attempts to adapt to. The associated expectations, the increased expectations, of citizens and the media that follow us is something we are all well aware of.

Because the Standing Orders are actually silent on the manner in which statements should be attributed to members, this House has had to interpret Standing Order 31. Convention has evolved, and some perhaps say ossified, over time. It is now the whips of each party who are responsible for providing the Chair with a list of members who will make statements before each question period. This practice is also explained in O'Brien and Bosc, on page 23:

In according Members the opportunity to participate in this period, the Chair is guided by lists provided by the Whips of the various parties

Every day, our whip goes through this exercise, which involves informing the Speaker of the list of NDP members who will make a statement.

Needless to say, the statements allotted to the NDP are reserved for members of the NDP. The New Democratic Party chose to use a simple rotation to attribute the vast majority of its statements, thus giving all New Democrat members an opportunity to speak in this House to local issues and various matters about which their constituents are concerned.

Here we must emphasize the original intent of members' statements. They are a key tool members of Parliament have to bring forward the matters of their constituents. They are often used to bring awareness to the efforts of local leaders in improving the lives of their communities. They are used to celebrate the achievements of their constituents and the work they do. They are used to honour significant milestones and to highlight important events going on in our ridings. They are also used to bring to the attention of the House serious local, national or international questions that require the attention of all Canadians.

Disturbingly, that original intent has almost been entirely lost on the Conservative side of this House.

The Conservatives have turned their statements by members into partisan attack ads, using their allotted statements before question period primarily to attack the New Democrats and our leader. They use S. O. 31 as a way to launch a coordinated, concentrated attack against the official opposition each and every day instead of talking about issues that really matter to the citizens who elected them.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to refer you to a very good analysis done by Glen McGregor, which appeared on March 26 in the Ottawa Citizen. This analysis of statements made by the government MPs in the House since the last election shows that the NDP and our leader are overwhelmingly the most popular topics for Conservatives to use in these statements. While we are certainly flattered by all the attention from the government members, it has obviously created some serious conflicts within the government caucus and has brought further harm to the reputation of Parliament.

This shows that the Conservatives are completely abusing this privilege to allow members to express their views and using it to wage petty attacks against the opposition, rather than discuss issues that are important to the Canadians who elected us.

Mr. Speaker, I am sure that like me, you will not fail to see the irony in comparing the current situation with some of the principles of the original Reform Party manifesto. In that document, the party stated:

We believe in accountability of elected representatives to the people who elect them, and that the duty of elected members to their constituents should supersede their obligations to their political parties.

Let me emphasize that at one point, many members opposite believed that the duty of elected members to their constituents should supersede their obligations to their political parties.

Not only is this an abuse of statements by members, but it creates a serious and growing tension between, on the one hand, the need of members of Parliament to represent their constituents and express themselves freely, and on the other hand, their responsibility to their political party. That is, of course, intensified if the party has no respect whatsoever for that member's individual rights.

Standing Order 31 tells us that “[t]he Speaker may order a Member to resume his or her seat if, in the opinion of the Speaker, improper use is made of this Standing Order”. I know that in the past, Mr. Speaker, you and your predecessors have been hesitant to impose too heavily when it comes to the proper and improper use of this Standing Order and the improper or proper use of statements, but the situation we are faced with here brings new light to the tensions I have just described.

Recently the Chief Government Whip used a hockey analogy, however poorly applied in this case, and equated his role as whip of the Conservative Party to that of a hockey coach deciding which player goes on the ice. He decided that the Speaker was basically a referee and that it is not your place as referee, Mr. Speaker, to interfere with his choices as coach. I simply offer this: If a coach insists on sending only so-called “goons” onto the ice to simply pick fights each and every day, there is no question that the referee will intervene to give some hope that an actual hockey game might be played.

However, the analogy should stop here, because what is happening in the House is not a game. This is the House of Commons, where we, as parliamentarians, must deal every day with complex matters that have a direct impact on the lives of the Canadians who have elected us and trust us to manage the affairs of this country. I believe that by changing the nature of statements and using them to mindlessly attack the official opposition, instead of using that time to raise the issues that matter to the people who have elected them, the Conservatives are clearly abusing this Standing Order.

Allow me to return to the assertion of the member for Langley that his rights and privileges as a member have been breached. It bears repeating and emphasizing that I do not agree with the attempt by the member for Langley to reopen the debate on abortion. The NDP will always promote and protect a woman's right to choose, period. We are clear in our conviction and present ourselves unapologetically and unambiguously to Canadians in that way each and every election. However, whether one agrees or disagrees with the member for Langley is not at issue here. The issue is the need for members of Parliament to speak freely on behalf of those whom we seek to represent.

We have two essential duties: holding the government to account; and speaking for those who have elected us to this place. O'Brien and Bosc, on page 89, explain that “[b]y far, the most important right afforded to Members of the House is the exercise of freedom of speech in parliamentary proceedings”.

The first report of the Special Committee on the Rights and Immunities of Members of the 30th Parliament carefully studied the issue of free expression.

In its 1977 report, the committee defined the right of members to free speech as follows:

...a fundamental right without which they [the members] would be hampered in the performance of their duties. It permits them to speak in the House without inhibition, to refer to any matter or express any opinion as they see fit, to say what they feel needs to be said in the furtherance of the national interest and the aspirations of their constituents.

In conclusion, without the right of members of Parliament to express themselves freely, our democratic institutions simply cannot function properly. The NDP recognizes this and has always allowed its members the opportunity to express themselves, arriving at a consensus through discussion, instead of imposing one through unilateral vision. There is always to be a natural tension in being part of any team, any party. The benefits of being in a party are weighed against the responsibility to that same party. That is our parliamentary Westminster system.

Mr. Speaker, you have a difficult task in judging this fine line, and I believe you will need the support and confidence of all parties in this place, whatever you decide. This is why I find this matter so important. I am looking forward to your ruling on this matter and on the matter of the protection of the freedom of speech of members of Parliament.

S. O. 31Privilege

10:15 a.m.


Kyle Seeback Conservative Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to provide some context I was able to discover with respect to the evolution of members' statements. I think it is important that we look to the history of members' statement, as you decide and make a ruling on this important matter.

If we want to look at the history, we would start with the “Third Report of the Special Committee on Standing Orders and Procedure”, November 4, 1982, found in issue no. 7, page 19. The committee says:

Your Committee is of the opinion that Standing Order 43 is being misused, and that a substitute mechanism is required which would enable Members to [rise on] matters of concern on a daily basis.

It goes on to say:

Your Committee believes that a new Standing Order is required which would enable Members to make statements on current issues on a daily basis for the first 15 minutes of the sitting in a manner which would remove the objections arising from the present practice....

Under the new recommended procedure the 15 minutes preceding the question period would be reserved for Members other than Ministers to raise matters of concern for the purpose of placing them on the record. The Speaker would call [them] “Members' Statements” as a routine proceeding preceding the question period.

As well, this is an important section. It says:

Every Member recognized by the Chair would be given a maximum of one minute and a half to state the matter he or she wishes to place on the record and, if appropriate, appeal for a remedy.

That was the report from the committee. When this matter came before the House, the Hon. Yvon Pinard, president of the Privy Council, gave a long speech. I am going to deliver excerpts from that. He started off by saying:

Madam Speaker, it is with great pleasure and even greater satisfaction that I may present a motion in the House today which paves the way for parliamentary reform, a concept I have always cherished and a goal I have...wanted to achieve.

Speaking of the reforms, which include a number of reforms in addition to removing Standing Order 43, he went on to say:

The proposed experiment, Mr. Speaker, is interesting and relevant for three reasons. First, it will help to upgrade the role played by Members of Parliament.

I think that is important. He also says:

It will make Parliament more alive and more effective, without eroding the right of the opposition to a full debate. Finally, the third reason why this experiment will be interesting is that it will update Parliament and give it more respectability in the eyes of the Canadian people. To summarize, the role of Members of Parliament will be upgraded, Parliament will become more alive and more effective without infringing upon the rights of the opposition to a full debate.

When he specifically talks about section 43, he says:

We are doing away with that parliamentary oddity, Standing Order 43, a move which practically all Hon. Members fully endorse. It is a proceeding which no longer serves any useful purpose....

Doing away with motions under Standing Order 43 is in itself a very positive step. Instead, Hon. Members will each have 90 seconds to make a point rather than raise objections.

I think we should try it on an experimental basis...I am convinced that those who want that experiment to succeed will draw maximum benefits from those 15-odd minutes before the Question Period.

Here is another important section. He says:

I hope that the Chair, mindful of the intent of the committee report, will recognize Hon. Members without any regard for party affiliation and that the time available will be equally distributed between both sides....

I believe that it is clear what the intent of this was.

Certainly a convention has developed here in the House of lists being submitted to the Speaker. My understanding, however, is that this convention developed for the Speaker's ease of reference. It was so that the Speaker could easily recognize who was supposed to rise in their place and speak. I do not believe that a convention that was arrived at to enable the Speaker to easily identify who should be speaking should trump a member's right to speak in the House.

I want to also quote page 593 of O'Brien and Bosc, where it says:

Freedom of speech is one of the most important privileges enjoyed by Members of Parliament.

This is important. In the notes it goes on to say:

Freedom of speech enables Members to speak in the House (and in its committees), to refer to any matter, to express any opinion and to say what they feel needs to be said in the furtherance of the national interest and of the aspirations of their constituents, without inhibition or fear of legal prosecution.

Mr. Speaker, if you cannot rise at all to speak, you certainly cannot enjoy freedom of speech, which is one of the things that we consider to be sacrosanct in this place.

I want to finish by talking about the reference to playing on a team. We are a team and I am a proud member of my team. I say that without inhibition. I can also say that I have never had my right to speak interfered with. However, if we want to talk about a team, my view would be that this is, certainly for backbench MPs, a house league team. We all get equal time in the House. We all get equal time to play.

I coach a house league hockey team. Every player gets the same chance to get on the ice and the same amount of time. Of course there are rep teams. There is a AA team and a AAA team, perhaps the parliamentary secretaries and the ministers. They are a special team and of course those coaches get to choose which of those players get to play and when. Then they could have no complaints because they are on those teams.

However, if members are on the house league team and the coach decides they do not get the opportunity to play, what do they do? I would suggest, as the member for Langley did, they may have to make an appeal to the league convenor and suggest, “I did not get my time to play on the ice, convenor. I would like you to perhaps intervene”.

Mr. Speaker, this is a serious question. It is a question of importance to Parliament. Those are my submissions and I look forward to your ruling.

S. O. 31Privilege

10:20 a.m.


The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I thank the hon. members for Skeena—Bulkley Valley and for Brampton West for their further contributions to the question that I am currently studying.

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.


Jason Kenney Conservative Calgary Southeast, AB

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe New Brunswick


Robert Goguen ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate and to speak in favour of Bill S-7, the combatting terrorism act.

The Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security considered the bill and heard a variety of witnesses. It was a wide-ranging and rich debate with important considerations and contributions from the witnesses who appeared before the committee. Several themes have emerged in the course of the consideration of Bill S-7 that I would like to address in my remarks today. I will first speak to the nature of the Bill S-7 initiative.

First and foremost, Bill S-7 is targeted criminal law reform. A variety of issues outside the scope of the bill have been raised in connection with it. Bill S-7 cannot address all concerns that arise in the context of national security, nor is it designed to do so. The government is working on many fronts to address other national security issues, utilizing the best means suited to the goal, whether it is through programs, training or other legislative initiatives. Rather, Bill S-7 is designed to re-enact the investigative hearings and recognizance with conditions in the Criminal Code that expired in March 2007, with additional safeguards over those that existed in the original legislation.

The bill would also create new offences of leaving or attempting to leave Canada for the purpose of committing certain terrorist offences, would respond to recommendations made during the parliamentary review of the Anti-terrorism Act and includes further improvements to the Criminal Code, the Canada Evidence Act and the Security of Information Act.

The investigative hearing is designed to facilitate the gathering of information by a judge, which may be relevant to the investigation of past or future terrorist offences following an application made by a peace officer.

The recognizance with conditions would allow a peace officer to apply to a judge to have a person appear before the court for the judge to consider whether it is necessary to impose reasonable conditions on a person to prevent a terrorist activity. The burden would be on the state to meet the grounds to make an application and to satisfy the judge that conditions ought to be imposed on the person.

There has been a debate about whether these tools are indeed needed and there has been compelling testimony from various witnesses supporting their reinstatement. For example, Assistant Commissioner James Malizia of the RCMP national security criminal investigations program's protective policing branch spoke of the need for these measures to assist law enforcement, while noting that they would be approached with cautious restraint.

The committee had the benefit of hearing from Maureen Basnicki, a co-founder of the Canadian Coalition Against Terror. She disagreed with those who characterized the original introduction of the investigative hearing and recognizance provisions of 2001 as an example of legislators having hit the panic button after 9/11. Instead, she stated, “Far from being an overreaction to 9/11, these provisions were, in fact, a sober and responsible recognition of the danger posed by terrorism to the future of the international community”. As a result, she urged all members to have in mind the security of Canadians when considering and voting on Bill S-7.

As Ms. Basnicki put it:

Canada should not be removing reasonable tools for fighting terrorism while terrorists are busy sharpening their tools for use against Canadians and other innocent victims. While the provisions of Bill S-7 can always be revisited at a later date, the lives shattered by a future terrorist attack that may have been prevented cannot be reconstituted by any act of Parliament.

The bill also proposes the creation of new offences for leaving or attempting to leave Canada for the purpose of committing certain terrorist offences. These offences are specifically designed to prevent persons from leaving Canada in order to participate abroad in the activity of a terrorist group, for example, receiving training, or to commit certain other terrorist acts abroad.

These offences have received the support of certain witnesses. For example, Mr. Rob Alexander, a member of and spokesman for the Air India 182 Victims Families Association, asserted during the hearing that the proposed new offences are necessitated by the globalization of terrorism-related activities, given reports of persons leaving Canada to receive terrorist training abroad. He argued that these potential Canadian offenders may pose a potentially mortal threat and danger to members of the Canadian armed forces on duty abroad. In his view, these proposed offences would help minimize this dilemma.

The horrific nature of terrorism requires a proactive and preventive approach. These new offences would allow law enforcement to intervene at an early stage in the planning process to prevent terrorist acts from being carried out. The proposed new offences would send a strong deterrent message potentially to assist in mitigating the threat of terrorism and would provide an appropriate maximum penalty.

In the course of debates on Bill S-7, some have alleged that the bill fails to protect human rights. To the contrary, the bill contains numerous human rights safeguards. I think we can all agree that counterterrorism measures must protect security, while respecting human rights.

Consider, for example, the investigative hearings. Under the investigative hearing provisions, the court would be empowered to compel persons who are reasonably believed to have information about past or future terrorism offences to appear in court and provide information. Without a doubt, the government has gone to great lengths to ensure that witnesses would be protected during the hearing from unintended consequences.

First, the attorney general must consent before the investigative hearing process could be initiated. This is an important procedural step consistent with other areas of the Criminal Code.

Second, a judge would have to agree that an investigative hearing is in fact warranted for it to be held. Bill S-7 proposes, in particular, that to make an order for gathering of information the judge must be satisfied that the attorney general's consent was obtained and that there are reasonable grounds to believe that a terrorism offence has been or will be committed; certain information concerning the offence, or the location of a suspect, is likely to be obtained as a result of the order; and reasonable attempts have been made to obtain the information by other means.

Under the provisions in the previous iterations of the bill, the last safeguard only applied to future terrorism offences and not to past ones. This safeguard would now apply to both past and future terrorism offences to further ensure that investigative hearings are only used in appropriate circumstances.

As a third safeguard, I direct the members' attention to the fact that under the original 2001 legislation, there was the power to arrest a person without warrant in certain limited circumstances, such as when the person was about to abscond, in order to ensure his or her attendance before a judge. However, the original legislation was silent as to how long the period of detention could be after such an arrest. Bill S-7 would remedy this defect by stating that section 707 of the Criminal Code, which sets out the maximum period of time an arrested person can be detained at a criminal trial, would also apply to a person arrested to attend an investigative hearing. Section 707 allows the detention of a witness for up to a maximum of 90 days, with judicial review for the detentions within each 30-day period.

Fourth, as a fundamental principle of our legal system in this country, the person named in the investigative hearing order would have the right to retain and instruct counsel at any stage of the proceedings. It is important that we all recognize that there is also a robust prohibition built into the investigative hearing proposal against the state using information or evidence derived from the information against a person who testified. An obvious and a logical exception to this is for prosecutions related to allegations of perjury or giving of contradictory evidence by the investigative hearing witness. Of course, this is an exception that is warranted.

In 2004, the Supreme Court of Canada took note of this robust provision and rejected the argument that the investigative hearing violated an individual's right to silence and the right against self-incrimination. The court also extended the use and derivative use immunity procedural safeguards found in section 83.28 of the Criminal Code to extradition and deportation proceedings.

On this last point, members may be reminded that Bill S-7 would be read in the context of the judgment of the Supreme Court of Canada to ensure that protections built into this section for use and derivative use immunity would be extended to extradition or deportation hearings. In summary, Bill S-7 incorporates appropriate and balanced safeguards.

The issue of review and accountability also arose during the debate and discussion of the bill. Let there be no mistake; Bill S-7 contains multiple reporting, parliamentary review and sunset provisions. The bill requires that Parliament review the investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions provisions prior to the date they sunset. These measures would be subject to another sunset clause, which would result in their expiry after five years, unless they were renewed by parliamentary resolution.

The proposals in the bill also include, as was the case with the original legislation, annual reporting requirements by the federal government and the provinces on the use of these provisions.

However, Bill S-7 would strengthen the annual reporting requirements, because the annual report of the attorney general and the public safety minister would include an additional requirement to provide an opinion supported by reasons on why the provision should remain in force. The accountability processes built into the bill are both extensive and robust.

To conclude, the measures proposed in the Bill S-7 are necessary, proportionate and balanced, and they are replete with safeguards. I urge all members to support and vote for the bill.

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, my question to the member is in regard to working on the terrorism file. There is an obligation for us to be looking at what is happening in other jurisdictions, in the different provinces. There is always the risk of potential terrorist targets and so forth.

My questions to the minister are: Which department works with the different provinces to highlight those potential threats of terrorist acts, and to what degree do they actually have plans in place, based on communications with those provinces?

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.


Robert Goguen Conservative Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, for reasons that should be plainly obvious, we will not discuss the details of plans, but I can assure the member that the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Public Safety, with all the territorial and provincial ministers, have discussed these matters at length. They have worked together to create a cohesive plan.

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.


Craig Scott NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill S-7, the combating terrorism act, which my NDP colleagues and I opposed at second reading and continue to oppose based on the fact that the hearings in the House of Commons public safety committee, or SECU, revealed some serious hidden agendas on the government's part.

There are other problems we have with the re-enactment of provisions, albeit with some safeguards, from the 2001 Anti-terrorism Act. My colleagues will address those in the third reading debate.

I will address how the hearings before the committee confirmed that Bill S-7 creates serious concerns with respect to the rule of law and human rights, notwithstanding the additional safeguards just outlined by the parliamentary secretary.

During the committee hearings on Bill S-7, my NDP colleagues and I raised several issues related to new offences created by the bill, but our questions were never fully answered by the government.

Many of our concerns related to these new “attempting to leave the country” offences remain, especially—and this is key—how they are linked to the re-enacted counter-terrorism measures from the Anti-terrorism Act of 2001, namely preventive detention, recognizance with conditions and investigative hearings.

For starters, it is clear as day from RCMP and CSIS testimony that the concerns I voiced in my speech at second reading are very well founded. There is a real potential that attempting to leave the country offences would serve as the trigger, first, for investigative hearings that would question friends, families and community members who know a suspect.

Second, once evidence arises through that investigative hearing method, that evidence would then be used to engage in up to 72 hours of preventive detention and then up to 12 months' recognizance with conditions, and indeed, it is important to note, up to 12 months of imprisonment without trial or conviction if one refuses to accept those conditions that are imposed or if one is deemed to have not complied with those conditions.

Such conditions could, and almost certainly would, involve confiscating passports so as to create a veiled, backdoor, de facto control order system, such as the U.K. explicitly uses to prohibit leaving the country. The key here is that all of this would occur implicitly, without it having been debated or structured in a proper way.

In this way, the new leaving the country offences need never be actually prosecuted, and that may well be ultimately the government's intention. They are just as likely, if not more likely, to serve as the reference point for disrupting a person's movement by using these re-enacted, extraordinary procedures of investigative hearings plus the recognizance with conditions provisions in tandem.

Before the bill came to the House, it was before the Senate. It started in the Senate. In committee there, the Minister of Justice said clearly that investigative hearings could be used to seek and get evidence of intent to leave the country for illicit purposes. As the bill itself states, evidence from investigative hearings cannot be used in criminal proceedings against a person questioned in the hearings.

This clearly points to the intention to use investigative hearings to interrogate family, neighbours, friends and others from a suspect's community, with attendant implications for discriminatory profiling, the potential for that discriminatory profiling and for instilling a feeling of harassment in a community that is the target of counter-terrorism surveillance.

CSIS and the RCMP effectively said, “Trust us”. They say that these provisions were not used before they sunsetted, so they will not be used much now. One wonders why there is the insistence of the government to re-enact them, but in any case, we should not believe it. Attempting to leave the country is a new offence of wide-ranging impact, and with respect to that offence or the series of offences that go under that label, the government has every intention of using investigative hearings.

The Minister of Justice, in that same testimony before the Senate, also linked recognizance with conditions orders to the new offence.

In the public security committee, government witnesses were presented with the scenario whereby evidence from investigative hearings is used not only as a basis for arrest of someone before leaving the country but also as the basis for securing recognizance with conditions without the need to actually prosecute.

Keep in mind this fancy term “recognizance with conditions” basically means limiting the liberty of citizens without trial or conviction. No witness denied that this trajectory was possible. It must be borne in mind, and I want to reiterate this, that any refusal to abide by conditions can lead to up to 12 months imprisonment, again without ever having been tried or convicted.

This is obviously a serious chain of state action and it is for this reason that the NDP not only is against the return of the sunset provisions that I have talked about, but also the reason why we have pushed for a range of additional safeguards to heighten monitoring and accountability in relation to how these provisions will operate in practice.

At committee, we concentrated at the amendment stage on such safeguards as it was a given, frankly, that the intrusive provisions would be accepted by the Conservative majority on committee. In committee we moved something like 18 amendments and not one was passed, either because the government majority voted them down or because they were ruled beyond the scope of the bill by the chair. In one case it was because the bill had originated in the Senate, to which I hope to get.

All the amendments were designed to enhance accountability as the government brought back these sunset anti-terrorism law provisions, while adding a new series of leaving the country offences and beefing up, from the Conservatives' point of view, a harbouring a terrorist offence. Half were ruled out of order. I argued unsuccessfully that such rulings misunderstood the legislative purposes of the bill and did not take into account a recent Speaker's ruling on when a bill should be deemed to be a money bill. Those are technical matters that we can leave for the moment.

What is important to note, and it was revealed in the parliamentary secretary's speech, is that this is a bill with three purposes. When a number of our amendments were ruled beyond the scope of the bill, the chair was not taking into account more than one purpose.

One purpose is terrorism repression. The second is rights' protections. We grant to the government that there are some elements in this that are a bit more protective of rights than the measures in 2001, including, for example, the right to counsel before an investigative hearing. We just feel they do not go nearly far enough. Third, separate from this, is institutional oversight and accountability and transparency mechanisms. These are all interconnected but have separate purposes. In our view, every amendment we proposed fit into one or other of these three purposes and thus none were beyond the scope of the bill.

The New Democratic Party believes we must seriously address the issue of terrorism. There is no doubt about that. However, we have to ensure respect for rights and freedoms.

That is why we introduced the amendments to heighten oversight, transparency and reporting in the bill in order to lessen the negative impacts on civil liberties, which the bill is bound to have. These amendments drew on testimony at committee and they also reflected the values that we believe were important to Canadians.

Let me describe some of the amendments that were attempted.

The first amendment would have provided for an inter-agency co-operation protocol between CSIS, the RCMP, CBSA and the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority to be put in place before the leaving the country offences could come into effect. Our rationale was that the exceptional state powers should be carefully circumscribed and accompanied by equally rigorous independent oversight which a protocol would have to build in. This amendment was deemed inadmissible as being beyond the scope.

However, the reason we believed the amendment was both necessary and within the scope of the bill was that in the Senate the director of CSIS drew particular attention to the fact that no protocols existed between these agencies for the kind of co-operation that he said would be needed in order to give effect to the leaving the country offences. He made it clear that such protocols were necessary.

Testimony before committee also indicated this, so we took it seriously by proposing a protocol for collaboration and that SIRC, the Security Intelligence Review Committee, which is the only relevant existing oversight committee in this field, must endorse it and only then, once the protocol was in place, would the provisions enter into force. We felt this was a reasonable provision. Now, because it was ruled out of order and adopted, we can only hope that the various relevant agencies will develop a protocol before these new offences enter into force.

The second amendment related to conditions for people to be charged with an offence related to harbouring terrorists. What the government wants is a provision that says everyone who knowingly harbours or conceals any person whom they know to be a person who is likely to carry out a terrorist activity for the purpose of enabling the person to facilitate or carry out any terrorist activities is guilty of an indictable offence liable to 10 years imprisonment.

We wanted to change the words “likely to carry out a terrorist activity” to “intends to carry out a terrorist activity”. Our view, bolstered by the testimony and submissions, for example, from the Canadian Bar Association, is that likelihood is far too lax a standard, especially when we are asking somebody to think through to the mens rea state of another person. The term “likely” is far too speculative, but the amendment was defeated.

The third amendment we proposed was to ensure that testimony gathered from investigative hearings could not be used against the individual in any extradiction and deportation proceedings, not only criminal proceedings. We heard from the parliamentary secretary that this was implicit. The Supreme Court ruled on this almost 10 years ago and said that in order to be compatible with the charter, that evidence could not be used in extradiction and deportation proceedings. The Conservatives acknowledged this in committee and yet refused to write in the words that said this and made it clear.

We wanted this in bill simply because we believed that criminal law should be as clear as possible and that reasons of certainty, caution and respect for the rulings of the Supreme Court necessitated it. At the same time, it was specifically resisted. One can only ask whether the government is literally hoping that a newly-composed Supreme Court will eventually revisit that jurisprudence and that the only prohibition will be on using that evidence in criminal proceedings. Otherwise, it is impossible to fathom why it would have resisted including that amendment.

We also proposed that the right to counsel, which is written in Bill S-7, be extended to include a right to state-funded counsel, that is legal aid, if a person were dragged before an investigative hearing. Keep in mind that witnesses are brought before investigative hearings with no necessary and definitely no suspicion of wrongdoing on their own part. We felt that in this kind of context, it was important to ensure that people were not having to pay the costs of state investigation.

We also felt it was especially important to say that the right to counsel was a negative right. Those who can afford it will obviously be able to bring their lawyers and will have much greater protection in investigative hearings. For people who do not have the resources and cannot afford it, there is nothing in Bill S-7 that would allow them access to lawyers, despite the fact that elsewhere in the Criminal Code there is provision for federally-appointed, state-funded legal aid.

Another amendment revealed more information on the government's intent with the bill. We tried amending the provision on recognizance with conditions to ensure it was clear, and I want to emphasize this, that only persons determined to be potential participants in a terrorist activity could be subject to recognizance with conditions. Our concern was that people who were not themselves suspected of terrorist activity should not be the subject of the restrictions of liberty that were part of the recognizance with conditions regime. We thought this was a friendly amendment on a badly-written provision and were bowled over in the clause-by-clause process when what we thought was a friendly amendment was resisted. To our shock, the parliamentary secretary said that the government actually wanted to keep it broad precisely so recognizance with conditions could be imposed on someone who may not be suspected of any potential criminality themselves. The parliamentary secretary said:

The recognizance with conditions in its present form would provide the potential for a recognizance with conditions to be imposed to disrupt the nascent phase of a terrorist activity, even where the person who would be subject to the recognizance with conditions is not necessarily the person carrying out a terrorist activity.

The proposed amendment would seek to restrict the application of this measure.

That was the NDP-proposed amendment. She went on to say:

Because that is inconsistent with the policy intent underpinning the provision, we are opposed to it.

The government is on record as wishing to permit conditions to be imposed on perfectly innocent people. Failure to comply can lead to 12 months imprisonment. Is that a regime we want in our country?

There was a whole series of amendments we then proposed that dealt with trying to ensure that the reporting procedures in Bill S-7 were more robust and less general than found in the bill. We wanted detailed information on the statistical use of the provisions, for example. A lot of testimony suggested we needed to have clarity and standards with respect to what the reviews of the operation and the provisions would entail, and we were seeking to assist with that.

We also wanted information specifically written into the review that would talk about exit control and exit information systems. The reason for that was, before the Senate, the director of CSIS indicated that there were no such comprehensive systems in place in Canada. However, there was every sign during the committee hearings that the government intended one way or the other to move toward more comprehensive exit information which could lead to exit control systems.

It was very clear that, not in Bill S-7 but in other legislation, the Conservatives had created enabling conditions to enable exit information to be accessed earlier than was currently possible in the process so before a plane left the country, it would be known who was on the plane and Canadian officers could go onboard and arrest people. However, this was not put in Bill S-7, but in Bill C-45, which is a budget bill.

We were simply taking the cue from the director of CSIS who had indicated that, before the cabinet, our proposals to strengthen the no-fly list was precisely because of the new leaving the country offences. Yet, no information was presented to us on the nature of the debates going on. We felt it was extremely important to ensure that the review mechanisms down the road would ensure that exit information and exit control were taken into account.

I believe I am nearly finished my time, although I have had to talk over an incredible hubbub and ruckus on the other side of the House.

Amendments also sought to ensure that a comprehensive review procedure expressly included the operation of the four leaving the country offences—

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.


The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. If members want to carry on conversations with their colleagues, they are free to do so in the lobby. However, the member for Toronto—Danforth still has the floor and it is becoming increasingly difficult for the Speaker to hear him.

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.


Craig Scott NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will sum up as I believe I am running toward the end of my time.

Once again, the government has exercised its strict policy that we have seen over the last two years of no amendments allowed in committee, especially if they come from the opposition. Conservatives voted down our suggestion for higher standards and they were not willing to discuss with us whether the chair's rulings on beyond the scope were correct. Those that were admissible were dismissed completely by the government members who had clear intentions going into the committee not to change a word. There was no interest in strengthening the rule of law or human rights beyond what the Conservatives had already decided was necessary.

It has become clear that the government has virtually no interest in legislative co-operation in Parliament. In committees, Conservative majorities routinely refuse to consider good faith points from opposition committee members on ways to improve legislation, even when they are in line with the government's own objectives, let alone listen to arguments on the serious problems with the bill that need to be fixed.

I also want to note one particular slap in the face of the House of Commons.

It is worth noting that we prioritized having the director of CSIS appear before the public security committee. He had already appeared before the Senate and gave testimony that was very important, which necessitated detailed follow-up on the part of the House. CSIS knew of the need because it was expressly stated in my second reading speech. CSIS officials came to committee twice, yet on neither occasion did Director Fadden appear. This sequence of events shows major disrespect to the House of Commons when a government official would readily appear before a Senate committee but decline to appear before a House committee.

I would also like to add that there was one ruling that rejected the legal aid funding amendment, which said that this was improper because the bill had originated in the Senate. It being a Senate bill, and the Senate not able to table money bills, any amendment in the House of Commons having financial consequences was ruled out of order. Therefore, the practice of the Conservative government of starting legislation in the Senate ties the hands of the House of Commons to engage in the kind of legislative practice that is the right and privilege of the House of Commons. The order in which governments introduce bills is something that very much needs to be addressed and fixed.

Finally, our Liberal friends on this side of the House voted in favour of this legislation both at second reading and in committee. I look forward to seeing whether the party, which likes to call itself the “party of the charter”, is ready to rectify this by voting against the unnecessary and fraught measures contained in Bill S-7.

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe New Brunswick


Robert Goguen ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I would like to read a quote from the hon. member's colleague from Brome—Missisquoi. He said: “I am confused about what motivated the government to introduce Bill S-7”, and he continued, “because since 2007, nothing has happened in Canada. The country has not even been subject to terrorist attacks.” This was October 17, 2012.

Does the hon. member agree with his colleague from Brome—Missisquoi that there is no risk of future terrorist attacks on Canada, and with his assumption that the government and Parliament should not pass legislation that would provide the necessary tools that would be needed if such an attack were to occur?

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


Craig Scott NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, obviously there is a serious concern with terrorism, both globally and in Canada. We had evidence before the committee that I have no reason to disbelieve about a tendency, however large it is, for young members of some communities to actually leave the country in order to be part of terrorist training, et cetera. There are real issues here.

Our point is that the bill goes too far. We had no evidence of the necessity of the bill beyond that one data item. That is the only thing that committee witnesses from CSIS, the RCMP and the government detailed as the necessity for re-enacting the sunset of provisions.

What I have set out is the interconnection between all the provisions and the failure by the government to consider beefing up the protections in a way that meets our concerns, but in terms of the seriousness of terrorism and the need to combat it, I have every reason to believe that we need to be vigilant.

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member makes reference to the fact that we do need to be vigilant. Canadians have an expectation that the government of the day will do what it can to prevent any form of terrorist attacks from occurring, whether in Canada or abroad. We need to recognize that Canada has a role to play not only in Canada but ultimately in a leadership role.

Even though there are some concerns within the Liberal Party, we recognize that there is some value in passing the bill. I can sympathize to a certain degree with my New Democratic—

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. I will stop the hon. member there to give the member for Toronto—Danforth a very brief chance to respond. We do have to move on to members' statements.

The hon. member for Toronto—Danforth.

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


Craig Scott NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was not sure that the member had time to get to the question.

I understand that people are arriving at decisions on Bill S-7 in good faith from different perspectives. I feel, however, that it is more or less accepted in circles that take charter rights and the rule of law seriously that the Anti-terrorism Act went too far. So does this bill.

Canada PostStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, Canada Post is slowly but surely moving towards privatizing its services.

Quebec is once again being targeted for closures, cuts and downsizing. This comes 20 years after the post office in Saint-Clément was occupied, which resulted in a moratorium on the closure of rural post offices. Since then, the federal government has done nothing to stop the loss of essential services.

In 2011, Quebec fell victim to half of the closures and reductions in hours. Last year, 17 of the 31 closures happened in Quebec. In April of this year, three postal outlets in the Montreal area will close, and another seven will make staffing cuts.

In my riding, local mail will no longer be processed in Asbestos or Victoriaville; it will be processed in Montreal. The same is true for the post offices in Plessisville, Sherbrooke, Magog and Cowansville.

The Conservative government has already partially deregulated Canada Post, and it is doing everything in its power to undermine this universal public service that Quebec's regions want to preserve in order to avoid their decline.

The Bloc Québécois will fight the government's privatization efforts, and like mail carriers, we will be there come rain or shine, snow or sleet.

Outstanding Young Farmers of ManitobaStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Mr. Speaker, I recently attended the awards ceremony at which Tyler and Dorelle Fulton were chosen as Manitoba's outstanding young farmers for 2013.

Tyler and Dorelle farm in the Birtle area in my riding of Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette. The young couple are raising a family while working part-time off the farm, are full-time operators of a hay export business and manage a 450-head cow herd with Tyler's parents.

Their farming philosophy values a balance between family and work, environmental and economic sustainability, risk management and operational innovation.

I want to recognize and congratulate all the nominees: Allan and Carolyn Nykoliation, beef producers from Crandall; organic producer Bryce Lobreau, from Pipestone; dairy farmers Steven Boerchers and Ellen Gorter, from Beausejour. They are all outstanding young farmers.

These producers have faced many challenges over the years, but they have found ways to succeed, innovate and keep an industry and community strong. I want to commend these young family farmers for all their hard work for the benefit of their communities, Canada and the world.

Jean-François LépineStatements By Members

March 28th, 2013 / 11 a.m.


Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, some departures mark a turning point in the history of an organization.

Yesterday, the great international journalist Jean-François Lépine announced that he is leaving CBC/Radio-Canada to work on other projects. The international news division of our public broadcaster is turning a page.

A political science graduate of UQAM, Jean-François Lépine epitomized Quebeckers' and Canadians' thirst for international news.

Does his departure have something to do with the budget cuts made by this heavy-handed government? Mr. Lépine has too much class and respect for his colleagues to discuss this matter in public.

However, we have to have the courage to face the facts. This year, CBC/Radio-Canada will have to absorb cuts that are three times greater than those made in 2012. The Conservatives do not like the CBC and, consequently, the corporation will have to lower the bar. Watching the work of experienced journalists disappear is distressing, but it is something Quebeckers and Canadians will have to get used to, given that next year's cuts will be four times greater.

Thank you, Jean-François Lépine. We hope that each time you visit the Maison de Radio-Canada, you will rediscover the spirit of our public broadcaster's mandate, despite the pall cast by the Conservatives.

Chinese Cultural Heritage in Kitchener-WaterlooStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Peter Braid Conservative Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to congratulate the Central Ontario Chinese Cultural Centre and the Kitchener-Waterloo Chinese School as they celebrate their 40th anniversary.

Since 1973, these organizations have been serving Canadians of Chinese descent in the Waterloo region, preserving and promoting the rich culture and heritage of China.

The KW Chinese School plays an important role in passing down family traditions and values through the generations. In addition, the COCCC and the KWCS reach out to our wider community, sharing their festivals and celebrations and strengthening ties of friendship and mutual respect.

Finally, I would like to thank Chinese Canadians in the Waterloo region and across Canada for their significant contributions to the social, economic and cultural fabric of our society and our country.

Hugh TweedieStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Mark Eyking Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

Mr. Speaker, this past weekend in Cape Breton, hundreds attended a funeral for a great humanitarian, Mr. Hugh Tweedie.

He was well respected for his dedication and commitment in business and community initiatives. Hughie was a champion for Cape Breton in every sense, from his business investments to his numerous charities and the organizations he supported.

He loved this island, from the landscape to the people to the endless opportunities it possessed. He was proud to call it home.

Hughie offered his time and expertise to many boards on which he served around the island. He was an integral part and a driving force for several community fundraisers, such as the multi-million-dollar expansion of the YMCA in Sydney.

He supported me and gave me good advice and words of encouragement I will never forget. I ask this House to join with me in extending our deepest condolences to his wife Sharon, his sons Loran and Craig, his daughter Patricia, his grandchildren and a great-grandchild.

Cape Breton has lost a true ambassador, and he will be dearly missed.

PassoverStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Jim Hillyer Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to wish the Jewish community a happy Passover. The tragic history of the Jews over the centuries shows us how important religious freedom and tolerance are to the cause of freedom itself.

The secret to religious tolerance is to tolerate religious expression, even in public, and not to condemn it in fear that someone who does not share the same belief might overhear it.

Jews commemorate Passover, when the children of Israel were led by the hand of God out of captivity. It is also Easter, and Christians believe that Jesus died on the cross and that he rose again on the third day. This is a tremendous time of hope and trust for Jews and Christians as they commemorate the miracles that happened thousands of years ago and that are central to their faith. Their faith in the future is renewed.

Whatever we believe, I wish everyone peace and joy this spring. May we all embrace the spirit of hope and new beginnings that this season brings.

Holocaust Remembrance DayStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, on April 8, New Democrats will join with people across Canada, in Israel and around the world commemorating Yom Hashoah, Holocaust remembrance day.

For 68 years, since the end of the Second World War, we have memorialized the victims of one of the darkest periods of history.

During Yom Hashoah, we remember those whose lives were so brutally taken during the Holocaust. They died solely because they were Jewish or Roma, disabled, or members of the gay and lesbian community. Each was a victim of Nazi hatred. Today we remember the survivors, women and men whose profound courage and example taught us that love and life are possible, even after facing the most unspeakable of horrors.

History tells us that those who promote bigotry for political advantage plant the very seeds for crimes against humanity. When we say “never again”, we must also pledge to ensure that the seeds of bigotry and hate are not allowed to grow ever again.

Infrastructure in Calgary EastStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Deepak Obhrai Conservative Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, last week I was very pleased to announce federal government funding for infrastructure improvement projects supporting a local community centre and two athletic centres in my constituency of Calgary East. The funding announced was for Marlborough Park community centre, for the East Calgary Twin Arenas and for the Bob Bahan Aquatic and Fitness Centre.

Since forming the government, we have worked hard to see community investments such as these shared equally and fairly across Canada, unlike the previous Liberal governments. With a continued focus on job creation, economic growth and long-term prosperity, which will see Canada return to balanced budgets in 2015, our economic action plan 2013 will be good news for my constituents in Calgary East and all Canadians alike.

I wish everyone a happy Easter.

Trailblazing NHL Hockey PlayerStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Michael Chong Conservative Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honour a great Canadian. Long ago, and almost forgotten, Larry Kwong shattered barriers 65 years ago by becoming the first coloured player in the National Hockey League.

On March 13, 1948, Larry Kwong was called up by the New York Rangers to play in the famed Madison Square Garden. While his National Hockey League career lasted only one minute, his impact was lasting. The man known as the “China Clipper” continued to play hockey, leading to a distinguished 18-year career.

Born in 1923 to Chinese immigrant parents in British Columbia, Larry Kwong overcame racial barriers and poverty. He always remained proud of his Asian heritage. My generation owes a great deal to Larry Kwong. He blazed a trail so that others could follow.

I stand here today because I stand on the shoulders of giants like Larry Kwong. I ask all members in the House to join me in recognizing this great Canadian.