Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak again to Bill S-7. I must agree with my colleagues on this side of the House, the timing is somewhat suspect.
The bill was reported back to the House of Commons on December 12 of last year and it was not until today, more than four months later, that it suddenly appeared. The only notice was given last Friday, by the government House leader, that the bill would be replacing an opposition day motion that dealt with Conservative backbenchers' rights to speak here in the House. Therefore, the timing of the bill is very deliberately political. We could not come to any other conclusion than there is a political method and madness in the timing of Bill S-7.
However, putting the timing aside, we in the NDP believe in the freedoms and rights of individuals in our country. We do not want to see unnecessary and unhelpful changes to our laws that make people in our country subject to unreasonable search, seizure, and detention. That is one of the core problems with the bill that the Conservatives have refused to consider amending. Every step of the way we have suggested that we could support the bill if some of the freedoms that were being taken away by the government were put back or protected in another way. They have refused at this stage to consider any amendment whatsoever.
When the Conservatives bring a bill before Parliament they have all the right answers in their minds. They believe everything they have written is perfect and cannot be improved upon. We take considerable umbrage at that approach. In fact, there are some serious problems with the bill that we would like to correct.
We would like to work with the government in preventing terrorism. No one on this side of the House would like anything more than to prevent terrorism in our country. There has not been a lot of it in our country. Of course, we have the recent events in Boston to remind us just how close it could be. However, the police have been successful, without these changes in the law, in preventing serious terrorist acts in the country and without using its predecessor in preventing serious terrorist acts in the country.
Why then is it necessary to create this new regime? Why is it necessary to withdraw some more Canadian fundamental rights and freedoms? The right not to be imprisoned unreasonably and the right not to have to give evidence against oneself in a trial are two fundamental rights that we believe Canadians think they enjoy. However, the government would take those rights away with Bill S-7 and in so doing remove some of the very fundamental protections that Canadians have.
Bill S-7 is very complicated and technical, so let us bring it down to a more reasonable and understandable level. When we talk about the notion of preventative detention, what the heck does that mean to an ordinary Canadian? What it means is that a peace officer, and that means a police officer, an RCMP officer, a border officer, or anyone who is classified as a peace officer, can, without a warrant, put someone in jail. That is now what the Conservatives would like us to accept, if that peace officer believes that doing so might help prevent a terrorist act from taking place. It is true that after a short period of time—we do not know how long exactly, but they suggest 24 hours—that person would have to go before a judge and the peace officer would have to justify the detention of that individual or, in the words of the act, “the preventative detention”, which means that individual would have restrictions placed on his or her ability to get around, on whether or not he or she could have firearms, for example, and whether or not her or she could leave the country.
We have a situation then, without any trial and without any conviction.
That individual is not a person suspected of being a terrorist, by the way. That is a person who is maybe a relative, maybe a friend. That person, then, would be subject, under the bill, to serious, preventative detention measures.
As it turns out, this kind of preventative detention was there in the previous act and was never used. Police have managed without this kind of measure to stop terrorism. So, what would its effect be?
I would like to refer to good, old Uncle Albert, in Moose Jaw, whose nephew, for whatever reason, is suspected of some kind of terrorist act. And so, because they cannot find the nephew, the police come to Uncle Albert's door, put him in jail for a day, then take him before a judge and argue that Uncle Albert might know where the nephew is, so we cannot let Uncle Albert have any more guns. We cannot let Uncle Albert leave the country because we have to be able to interrogate Uncle Albert, Uncle Albert in Moose Jaw, who has done nothing. The police do not suspect him of any terrorism. He just happens to be the uncle of the nephew they do suspect.
What happens? Uncle Albert says, because he is from Moose Jaw and because he is a farmer and has to keep the varmints off his property, “I can't give up my firearms. I'm not giving up my firearms. I refuse.” There would be no choice, then, but to put him in jail for up to 12 months.
That is the kind of thing that could happen to Uncle Albert in Moose Jaw, who has absolutely no terrorist inclination whatsoever. However, because he is related to somebody the police are only investigating because they suspect there might be some kind of terrorist activity, Uncle Albert would be put in jail for up to 12 months.
That is not the Canada that I want to be part of. That is not the Canada that Canadians have come to expect, to have as part of their rights and freedoms the right and freedom not to be imprisoned without conviction, with a trial, without a judge.
That is exactly what the Conservatives are suggesting should happen. That is one of the things to which the NDP said, “Whoa, that goes too far”, and the Conservatives said, “Too bad. This is the way we like it. We want this preventative detention to apply to anybody, not just people we suspect of being terrorists, but people who are peripherally related.” That would take the bill way too far.
With respect to the timing of the bill, people can read for themselves what The Globe and Mail has to say about the timing of the bill. They can suggest for themselves what the Conservatives are doing to create the timing of the bill.
However, the bill would not do what the Conservatives suggest it would and put Canada in a place where we could prevent the kinds of things that we all want not to happen. The bill would go too far in a number of respects.
The NDP supports the notion that we should be giving our police forces, our border protection people, the powers and the tools they need, and the resources to prevent crimes from being committed in Canada. The border services is having its budget cut. At the same time the Conservatives are suggesting that we want to prevent terrorism and we want to prevent terrorism from occurring overseas. We want to prevent terrorists from being trained overseas. At the same time we want to prevent those kinds of things from happening, we are in the position of having to say our border services it has to make do with less.
The Border Services Agency is already having a terribly difficult time preventing the huge influx of smuggled guns into this country, which I would suggest is doing more to harm our citizenry and to put people in a state of fear than the bill would ever solve. At the same that the bill is being presented as a necessary part of police officers' arsenal, we are taking away money from the Border Services Agency, which is trying to prevent illegal handguns from reaching this country. It is a two-faced system.
We in the NDP believe that there are things we should be doing and spending more time on than this one. This one is seriously flawed.