House of Commons Hansard #237 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was s-7.

Topics

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The hon. member for Bourassa wants to raise a point of order.

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

April 22nd, 2013 / 4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a great deal of respect for the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst, but I would like to remind him that we are talking about Bill S-7 today. He does not need to talk about anything else. This matter is complex and serious enough.

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

I encourage all hon. members to speak to the matter before the House and trust the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst is doing so today.

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, all day, I have been listening to the Liberals whine about how their opposition day was cancelled. The NDP never stopped them to raise a point of order. The poor Liberals lost their entire opposition day, which they meant to use to protect democracy for the Conservatives. In my opinion, I had the right to talk about it, otherwise we should have called them to order a long time ago.

We are dealing with this bill today. Meanwhile, we saw what happened a month ago in London, Ontario. An incident occurred in our country a month ago, and we had to wait until today to examine Bill S-7. I listened to the speech the parliamentary secretary gave this morning. She said that, if there were problems with Bill S-7, we could talk about them and propose amendments. In my opinion, the parliamentary secretary is living on another planet, because 17 amendments were already proposed in committee and the majority government completely rejected all of them.

Today, some Conservative members are rising in the House and saying that they disagree. They are giving examples of Canadians who go to other countries and commit acts of terrorism. They are saying that something needs to be added to the legislation so that action can be taken in such cases. However, there is not just one problem with the bill. It is therefore important to examine the bill in committee so that amendments can be proposed, but it seems that this is not at all negotiable and that only the Conservatives are right.

The Liberals are saying that the professionals who testified before the committee said that they liked some aspects of the bill even though it is not perfect. In such a case, the bill should be rejected and just the good measures kept. Are we going to say that our only choice is to vote in favour of a bad bill because it contains some good measures? Is that how we create bills?

The Liberals are afraid. They are not in the middle for nothing. They are trying to please everyone, both on the right and on the left. They vote for everything for crying out loud.

I would like to talk about issues related to cuts. If the government is so serious about fighting terrorists and criminals, why is it making so many cuts?

For example, the Canada Border Services Agency has been on the receiving end of $143 million in cuts, which will affect 325 jobs. What good is it to pass laws if there is no one to enforce them and if the employees hired to protect people are losing their jobs?

On one hand, the government wants to pass a law that is supposed to fix all of these problems. On the other hand, it is cutting jobs across the country, including 325 at the Canada Border Services Agency.

Police in municipalities and communities are saying that they need help. Even RCMP officers are saying it. Their budgets are being cut in cities and towns. However, the people who are likely to commit these crimes will be caught on the ground. We need boots on the ground.

They love the idea of having tidy legislation in place. It looks great politically. They can say that they arrested someone and put him in prison, that they will build jails and throw people in there every once in a while, and that the story will make the national news. It will look good because they will have done their job.

Yet, in the meantime, jobs for border service agents and police officers will be cut all across the country. There is even a rumour that the government has cut funding for security at level three airports. Where there is smoke, there is fire.

That is what we are talking about. For instance, at a level 3 airport, like the Bathurst airport, there would no longer be any security. You would arrive at the airport, board the plane and away you go. It would be no problem. At the same time, police forces are trying to stop criminals and terrorists. The more the Conservatives think they are going in that direction, the more they make cuts to policing and security. They make cuts left, right and centre. Then they introduce a bill.

The Conservatives love spreading terror and fearmongering by introducing bills. They think the best thing to do is come up with laws and build prisons and other big buildings. For them, one prisoner per cell is not enough; they want three or four per cell. What a beautiful Canada.

Cuts to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service will total $24.5 million by 2015, while general inspector positions at the CBSA were eliminated in 2012. Yet that is crucial for accountability. Some $24.5 million is being cut. Furthermore, the RCMP is having its budget cut by $195 million. Now, the Conservatives would have everyone believe that this is all going to change on Monday, given what happened in Boston. Canadians are not stupid and they do not believe the Conservatives.

I spent the weekend in my riding and people told me that the Conservatives are not all that smart. The Conservatives wave this bill around while the Liberals are fighting to get a day to talk about democracy. Yet, at committee, they refused 17 amendments concerning Bill S-7. Even though they refused all of them, they want to vote in favour of the bill because it contains one good point. Come on.

I thank hon. members for giving me the opportunity to speak. For all of these reasons—taking away people's freedoms, putting young people in prison for 12 months without anyone of age to protect them and possibly putting innocent people in prison—the NDP will not be supporting this bill, which fundamentally violates personal freedoms. We are not talking only about terrorists. There is one place where terrorists belong. In my opinion, we already have the legislation we need to protect Canadians.

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, if the member read the debates today, he would have found that a number of his New Democratic colleagues stood today and made comments on why the government brought forward Bill S-7. It is not only the Liberal Party but even some of his own colleagues who expressed concerns about Bill S-7. Maybe they can enlighten him.

The member referred to amendments and said that it is not a perfect bill and therefore should not pass. I would like to remind the member that literally a thousand-plus amendments have been brought forward on government legislation by opposition parties. I am wondering if the member would indicate how many of those amendments have actually passed. Does he believe that the only way a bill should be voted for inside third reading is if opposition amendments are adopted? If they are not adopted, then it is not perfect, and that means that the NDP will in future be voting against that legislation.

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, if the amendments are not adopted, the legislation could take the liberty of innocent people and put them in prison for 12 months without protection. Yes, we would vote against it.

We had 17 amendments. As my Liberal colleague said, even though it is not perfect, the Liberals did not put one amendment forward.

Do the Liberals not believe that committees should work? Do they not believe that we should still push the government, put pressure on the government, and leave Canadians to decide whether that is the government that should run this country?

The Liberals just sit there, not putting forward any amendments at all. They swallow everything. Even if it is not perfect, they vote for it, even if it takes people's liberty away, and I have a problem with that.

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my hon. colleague with respect to the Liberals putting zero amendments forward and then accusing the government of not listening to them. No wonder the government is not listening to them; it is because they are not speaking.

It was the Liberal government, under Jean Chrétien, that brought in the provisions that suspended habeas corpus under the so-called terrorist provisions. They were such onerous provisions that the government agreed to put in a sunset clause so that they would be removed after a time, because they were a fundamental threat to the legal landscape of the country.

In 2007, Parliament voted to ensure that those provisions for taking people without warrants and forcing them before investigative juries or judges would not be brought back. The Liberals, in 2013, are standing up and supporting the same provisions they promised to sunset in 2001.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague why he thinks it is that the Liberal members have offered zero amendments and have been rubber-stamping this from the get-go.

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I think the only answer is that right from the beginning they believed in that type of law we have in our country and in taking advantage of people. We see it now when they are not putting forward any amendments.

The sad part is that they get up in the House of Commons, and they say that the bill is not perfect. That is why we have committees where we are able to put forward amendments.

Today they cannot show us even one amendment. Saying that the bill is not perfect and not having one amendment means that they have not done their job on Bill S-7. They have done nothing. Then they come here and say that is it not perfect and that they are voting for it, but that the New Democrats are voting against it when they should be voting for it, even if it is not perfect and is doing something wrong.

It is the same party that is having an opposition day to save the Conservative backbenchers that have been told not to speak by their Prime Minister.

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Francine Raynault NDP Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak about the issues raised by Bill S-7. However, I would first like to offer my condolences to the families of the Boston Marathon victims and express my support for this extraordinarily resilient community.

Terrorism is a horrible thing, and we need a responsible approach to combat it without losing what defines us as a society. When Osama bin Laden launched the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001, he said that he wanted the North American way of life to disappear forever.

Since those attacks, Western countries have lost a little bit of their candour, and we have had to face our own limitations. At the centre of the lifestyle we share with our American neighbours is the rule of law and the civil liberties enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. These social markers are at the heart of Canadian identity, and we must protect them as our most precious treasure, because if we willingly abandon our fundamental rights, then what is the point of combatting terrorism?

This is the main question behind my opposition to Bill S-7. In my opinion, this bill is ineffective and pointless in the fight against terrorism and it directly threatens my constituents' freedom.

We all know that Bill C-36 was rushed through in 2001 following the attacks on New York, which made a deep impression on our minds. Who does not remember those events, even 12 years later? Yet very few people remember Bill C-42, which allowed the government to declare temporary military zones in which fundamental freedoms were suspended. This millennium opened with a new interpretation of our most fundamental freedoms.

Why this aside when talking about Bill S-7? It is simply to show the House the risks of passing a bill such as this one in a time of emotional distress.

What happened in Boston has had an effect on all of us, but if Bill S-7 was so urgent, why did the Conservatives wait until now to introduce it? If I did not trust in the good faith of the members opposite, I would be tempted to say that they are trying to use this tragedy to conclude the debate on Bill S-7 so that they never have to hear about freedom of expression within their own caucus again.

Among other things, Bill S-7 would reinstate sunset provisions contained in Bill C-36, which expired in 2011. That is the case for recognizance powers, which the government is trying to put back on the table for no apparent reason. Other provisions, such as investigative hearings, are cause for concern.

The fact that these provisions were not applied between 2001 and 2007 does not seem to be of great concern to this government. Moreover, with respect to recognizance powers, the Conservatives insisted at report stage that this provision apply to individuals who are not suspected of conducting terrorist activities.

In summary, with Bill C-36, we introduced the idea of preventive detention and provisional judgments grounded in mere suspicion. Is there anyone here who wants to be the object of such suspicion? Bill S-7 goes even further. It reintroduces a sunset clause for an obvious purpose and, moreover, it tries to apply the provision to people who are not even suspected of being terrorists. It is not a mistake: the broad scope of the provision is intentional.

What are we doing? Are we going to put people in jail on the grounds of a suspected suspicion? I am sorry, but that is not the democracy in which I want my grandchildren to grow up. Suspending an individual's freedom because of a suspicion is very arbitrary. No longer requiring this suspicion would be utter madness. Furthermore, this provision could result in 12 months of preventive detention, 12 months of imprisonment without a conviction. What has happened to Canada?

The reading of Bill S-7 raises questions for me that I must ask. If the government wants to extend an anti-terrorist provision not only to terrorists, but also to those suspected of terrorism and, basically, everyone in general, where is this all leading to?

Anti-terrorism legislation like this is not worthy of a state governed by the rule of law. It is not actually used anyway, and our Criminal Code has up to now proved to be adequate for tracking down terrorists. With this type of legislation, we are opening the door to broader applications, which we are already seeing in Bill S-7.

Earlier, I was talking about Bill C-36 and Bill C-42. They have not been useful in protecting Canada from terrorism. The behaviour of our forces of law and order deteriorated as a result.

If memory serves, Bill C-42 was used when the government declared the community of Kananaskis to be under military jurisdiction for a G8 economic meeting in 2002. Who were the terrorists? Al-Qaeda, or the global justice movement? Bill C-36 may not have been able to defend the country, but it sure got the authorities all worked up in 2010 during the notorious “Torontonamo”, when the city centre was locked down and $1 billion was spent on security for a simple G8 meeting on the economy. The result was 1,000 Canadians imprisoned and convicted with no evidence, and civil liberties taken away, first inside the security perimeter, then around it, and finally all over the city.

If the authorities feel that they can act like that at a simple demonstration about the economy, what will they do in other situations? I firmly believe that anti-terrorist laws give quite the wrong message to our forces of law and order. “Torontonamo” was strongly criticized in official government reports, but the harm was done. How many other accidents like that are we going to have to deal with before we realize that anti-terrorist legislation can become “anti-Canadian” legislation?

If the Conservative government really wanted to improve security in Canada, why did it cut the budget of our border intelligence unit by half? Why did it end a program designed to recruit more police officers in our communities, and why did it abolish the position of Inspector General of the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service?

Furthermore, the NDP proposed a number of amendments that would have made Bill S-7, if not satisfactory, at least tolerable. But the Conservatives rejected all of our amendments. So we have to learn to live with investigative hearings, a technique worthy of medieval witch hunts, that could well pervert our justice system. Rather than confronting the potential threats hanging over our country, the Conservatives seem to be more interested in using them to significantly change the nature of justice in this country.

In my opinion, Bill S-7 is poorly designed and does not add anything substantial to the Criminal Code, other than the potential for misuse and abuse that we will all regret one day. Bill S-7 should be examined much more carefully before it is passed, since the issues this bill raises are much too important to be left to the whim of the government in power.

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher ConservativeMinister of State (Transport)

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member's comments, and I am very disappointed.

First, let me say that the member had a very negative portrayal of our men and women in uniform, our police officers and our front-line public safety officials. I want to say that those people deserve respect, and we should honour them. They protect us every single day. That member should be ashamed for trying to run them down.

Second, the member said that this was somehow political, that the legislation is only here because of events of last week. That is ridiculous. The legislation has been before the various houses of Parliament for a very long time.

Today, we have to see how important it is that the government do its number one job, which is to protect the people who live within its boundaries. Why is the NDP always soft on crime and soft on terrorists?

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Francine Raynault NDP Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I did not negatively portray men and women in uniform. On the contrary, I think that they need help. They need more money and we must not be making cuts to jobs.

Furthermore, this bill has been around and has been studied for a long time, so why did the government only bring it up today? Why not months ago?

This bill may have been acceptable if at least one of our 18 amendments had been accepted.

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, first if I may, I would like to convey heartfelt congratulations to the men and women of our forces who did a fantastic job earlier today. We found out there was a plan being put into place to cause harm to citizens here in Canada in the 905 belt. We do not know exactly where. We applaud all of their energies and efforts in saving us from what could have been a fairly horrendous situation.

Having said that, it is important for us to recognize the fine work they do, and I tried to do this earlier today. We heard presentations at the committee stage in which they were very clear. They see Bill S-7 as a bill that would allow for an additional tool to combat terrorism. That is in essence the principle of why we assign value to the passage of the bill. The Liberal Party, in principle, has been supportive of the bill.

My question for the member is: Given that we have professionals, law enforcement agencies and experts saying there is merit to passing the legislation, why then would the NDP go against what they are saying, given that there are checks in place to protect private individuals' rights?

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Francine Raynault NDP Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

The purpose of this bill is to muzzle people and to send them to jail based on a mere suspicion. That is unacceptable. We live in a democracy, or at least I think we do. Putting that in a bill is unacceptable. We cannot vote for a bill that will muzzle people and send them to prison based on a mere suspicion. That makes no sense.

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

François Lapointe NDP Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today to speak to Bill S-7, on combatting terrorism.

The Conservative government's intellectual dishonesty knows no bounds, and today is no exception. They are trying to exploit a tragedy so recent—the Boston marathon attacks—that the victims' wounds are still bleeding.

Our thoughts are with the victims and the many people who risked their lives to protect the Boston area over the past few days. Because of the way the Conservatives do things, our agenda in the House of Commons has once again been flipped upside down without prior notice. Why? Mostly because the government in place lacks vision. It exploits hot-topic issues and uses them to impose its own agenda.

Countries in the G8 are not supposed to rush to pass legislation based on what is going on in the news, especially if the goal is simply to shove the government's own agenda down the public's throat. We must work for the common good, listen to what experts tell us and base decisions on the objectives of our international partners.

This makes it clear that the government cares more about its own agenda than anything else.

The morning after the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, did the government start a debate on crazed killers to help the American president, who has been fighting for tougher laws since then? No. That issue is not in line with this government's objectives.

Given that Bill S-7 has been back in the House since December, why is the government suddenly in such a hurry? Why did we not have this debate in February, for example? With a record number of 30 gag orders, we had plenty of time to debate what has now suddenly become a priority. The government is being purely opportunistic and exploiting current events.

So that we do not play into the government's hands, I would like to recap some facts about Bill S-7.

The committees heard testimony from a number of stakeholders in the legal community and civil liberties groups. They said that Canada's current laws are sufficient.

Immediately providing law enforcement and border services with better resources for field investigations would improve our chances of preventing a tragedy. We should not make a habit of using exceptional measures that threaten fundamental rights. For example, in the case of the Toronto 18, the worst-case scenario was avoided because of a successful investigation, and no exceptional measures were used.

Cuts in the hundreds of millions of dollars to border services and the RCMP make no sense, and they demonstrate this government's contempt for these people. The government loves them so much that it keeps making cuts. I would not wish this government's love and affection on any Canadian. Talk about bad news.

Bill S-7 is useless and disconcerting because it throws wide the doors to infringements of civil liberties and human rights.

Take, for example, the part of the legislation that is perhaps the most disturbing, which is recognizance with conditions or what are known as preventive arrests.

The government included a paragraph in its legislation specifically so that it could use preventive arrests even when individuals were not suspected of terrorist activities. NDP members tried to amend that provision to ensure that only those individuals identified as having potentially been involved in a terrorist activity could be placed under preventive arrest. Committee members were shocked to hear from a parliamentary secretary that the amendment would not be accepted because the government had intended for the provision to be far-reaching so that it would include individuals who authorities do not suspect will commit terrorist activities in the future.

The stage is set for abuse, and the government is promoting it. The fact that the anti-terrorist provisions were never used between 2001 and 2007 clearly illustrates that the government's haste is purely a tactic.

The NDP has gathered a great deal of support for this interpretation of the events. Paul Copeland, a lawyer and member of the Law Union of Ontario, said:

I wanted to comment first on the circumstances of the Air India case, because that is the only case in which this legislation that came in under the anti-terrorism bill was used, and it's a rather bizarre circumstance. It was described as a fiasco, and I think that's an appropriate description.

He concluded his speech with the following:

...the provisions you are looking at here change the Canadian legal landscape. They change it in a way that isn't useful. They should not be passed, and in my view they are not needed. There are other provisions of the code that allow for various ways of dealing with these people.

According to Reid Morden, a former director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, police officers and security forces have all the powers they need to carry out their duties and they do not need any additional powers.

We are talking about very competent people who have taken positions that are very similar to ours.

Further conclusions, also very similar to the NDP's, were expressed in today's Globe and Mail. I wanted to quote this, because I noted that the French-language press was not reporting this as much. These conclusions are quite justified:

“The debate politicizes the Boston Marathon bombings when few facts are known regarding the bombers' motives or inspiration.”

The Conservatives are forcing us to make decisions before the injured have even healed.

“More worrying is the fact that there are aspects of the proposed bill that raise questions about balancing civil liberties with the need to protect citizens.”

The Globe and Mail—and no one can say that it is a leftist leaflet—reached the same conclusion as we did: this raises some serious concerns about fundamental rights.

Here is another quote that made me smile, but bothered me at the same time:

“The government's sudden need to debate Bill S-7 seems more likely to have been prompted by Mr. Trudeau's unfortunate comments about 'root causes'—”

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Order. I would remind members not to refer to their colleagues by their given name.

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

François Lapointe NDP Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

I am sorry, Mr. Speaker.

Let us say they would have been written by the new chief of the Liberal Party, “—the day after the bombing than by a concern for public safety.”

This analysis is justifiable but troubling. Are we going to hold debates in the House based on the blunders of the new Leader of the Liberal Party? If that is the case, then we should cancel all the debates for the coming months. The young Liberal leader will provide the government with at least one blunder a week, that is for certain.

We will have to have debates on millionaires who, when they hit their forties, suddenly discover the needs of the middle class. We will have to hold debates to determine whether a striptease is a good idea for a fundraising campaign. We will therefore have at least one blunder a week in the coming months.

The purpose of this House is not to focus on the short term or on current events. On the contrary, the purpose of the House is to think about making the best possible decisions to protect our constituents in the long term.

Earlier, the hon. member for Bourassa had a very strong reaction with regard to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He said that the Liberals are thinking about supporting this bill even though there is very good reason to be concerned.

One of my colleagues spoke about an uncle who could be arrested without even knowing that his nephew was part of a group that could be involved in terrorism. These are fundamental rights that might not be upheld. The hon. member for Bourassa shouted: “The Charter of Rights! The Charter of Rights!” Clearly, we have a problem.

The member was adamant about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms because the government introduced a bill that flouts the charter and does not take into consideration the people on the ground, the customs officers, law enforcement and police officers who are put in untenable positions.

Who will have to deal with these untenable and completely contradictory decisions about certain key aspect of Canada's laws and regulations? It is law enforcement.

Making hasty decisions and showing up with something written on the back of a napkin—as the Conservatives like to say—shows a lack of respect for law enforcement and the work that these people do.

I will vote against Bill S-7 because this bill threatens rights and freedoms, contains useless provisions that are never used, and exploits current events and the all too recent suffering of some people to further the government's agenda.

I will continue to oppose any cuts to the resources granted to customs officers and investigators. In fact, the real problem and the real threat Canadians are facing in 2013 are the cuts that the Conservatives are making to funding for the dedicated and courageous individuals who take risks every day in the field.

This bill does not respond to this threat. The threat will continue as long as these people are in office.

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher ConservativeMinister of State (Transport)

Mr. Speaker, as always when the New Democrats speak, there is an undercurrent that suggests some pretty negative attributes to our men and women in uniform. I just want to say that this government supports our men and women in uniform, be it the military, the police, the RCMP, or CSIS.

The New Democrats do not seem to understand that the number one responsibility of any government is to protect the country's sovereignty and ensure public safety. The Minister of Public Safety has said today that the examples of terrorism that we saw in Boston and, unfortunately, here in Canada today, and in the Toronto 18, and so on just demonstrate that this type of legislation, unfortunately, is necessary. The New Democrats seem to be so soft on terrorism, along with the hug-a-thug mentality. I just wish they would support us and do the right thing.

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

NDP

François Lapointe NDP Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, cutting hundreds of millions of dollars in resources for people whose mission it is to identify and combat terrorism is an excellent way of being soft on crime, or soft on terrorists. Who would dare to do such a thing? The last we heard, it was the people who are currently in government. Opposing these cuts is an excellent way to show that we respect and appreciate the work these people do. Who has been supporting the people who combat terrorism over the past two years? The people on this side of the House. Can I be any clearer?

I sometimes feel like I am arguing with a stubborn 12-year-old. If we want to support these people, we have to give them the resources they need. We might disagree about regulations but, in the end, the people who respect them want to maintain and increase their resources, and the people who make cuts do not respect them. We cannot make it any clearer.

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, one thing we never hear from the Conservatives is that a primary responsibility of Parliament is to respect the rule of law, and the rule of law is based on the rights of citizens. That is something that the Conservatives continually want to do away with.

We brought forward numerous amendments to fix this legislation. The Liberals brought zero. One of our proposed amendments was to clarify what would be defined under “terrorism” because individuals could be detained and held without warrant by authorities who think those individuals might do something. We tried to clarify that and the Conservatives refused to have clarification, because they said they wanted a broad sweep. We see the Liberals and Conservatives support a broad sweep against citizens.

My question for my hon. colleague is this. In light of the recent G20 where there were numerous abuses of civil rights, such that the police were left embarrassed and it has been brought to court, why do both the Liberals and Conservatives support this broad sweep against ordinary Canadian citizens?

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

NDP

François Lapointe NDP Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague. His question is a valid one.

Once again, let us return to the basic principle, which the government is not doing a good job of defending. Does the government respect the front-line workers, the investigators and customs officers? It is not helping them by introducing legislation that can have a very broad interpretation. They will find themselves in untenable situations where the decision to be made could violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. What is to be done in such cases?

The government is making an amendment to include a potential exception that could at times apply in the context of terrorism—without really defining what terrorism is—and that would be contrary to the charter. Then the government is asking them to find a way to do a good job. That is what it is telling them. That does not help them.

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party is the party of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is also the party of multiculturalism, pluralism, and respect for diversity. The charter is one of Canada's proudest achievements. All Canadians, whatever their origins, cultural or religious backgrounds, or affiliations, know where they stand under the charter. They stand as equals. In deciding how to vote on any piece of legislation, we in the Liberal caucus always employ a key criterion: Does the legislation respect the charter? At the same time, Liberals are unshakably committed to ensuring the physical safety of all Canadians.

As Justice Lamer once said, and I paraphrase, safety from imminent harm is at the core of the values of dignity, integrity, and autonomy of the individual. These are also the values at the core of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Therefore, the charter is consistent both with individual liberties and with the notion of protecting community and individual safety.

Like all members in this House, we in the Liberal caucus live in communities. We have families and neighbours. We want them and all fellow Canadians to be safe from violence. It is precisely because of our dual adherence to the charter and to the need for public safety that Liberals will be supporting Bill S-7 at third reading, as we have done throughout the legislative process surrounding this bill.

Bill S-7 contains a number of important provisions. First, it reintroduces two public security measures, investigative hearings and recognizance with conditions, that a Liberal government introduced in 2001 with sunset clauses that took effect five years later in 2006 and nullified these measures as originally planned.

Prior to sunsetting, section 83.28 of the Criminal Code, which referred to investigative hearings, permitted a peace officer to apply to a judge for an order requiring a witness believed to have information concerning a terrorism offence, past or imminent, to appear before the judge to answer questions. This measure was accompanied by important safeguards. Among other things, the witness in an investigative hearing was protected against self-incrimination in reference to a future criminal proceeding and had the right to retain and instruct legal counsel. Also, the presiding judge could impose conditions on hearings in the interest of protecting the witness. For example, the judge could order that the witness' identity not be made public. The Supreme Court has ruled investigative hearings to be constitutional. In other words, they are charter-compliant.

Recognizance with conditions, in other words, preventative arrests under section 83.3 of the Criminal Code with a view to preventing a potential act of terrorism, also contains safeguards. Invoking this measure required the prior consent of the Attorney General and a provincial court judge unless the peace officer suspected immediate detention was necessary, in which case the detained individual had to be brought before a judge within 24 hours or as soon as feasible.

This section was slightly amended in its reintroduction through Bill S-7 to ensure conformity of the original provision with the Supreme Court decision in Regina v. Hall, a case related to detention without bail. The amended version in Bill S-7 is meant to narrow the scope of reasons for which the individual could be detained.

I should mention for the benefit of those who doubt whether the government's attitude to combatting terrorism is constitutional that this past December the Supreme Court unanimously rejected claims that the 10-year-old terrorism sections of the Criminal Code had defined terrorist activity so broadly that these sections threatened free expression. The court said that the anti-terrorism law is “...respectful of diversity, as it allows for the non-violent expression of political, religious or ideological views.”

The court also found that the definition of terrorist activity is not so broad as to capture innocent individuals in its legal net. The court specified that:

For example, the conduct of a restaurant owner who cooks a single meal for a known terrorist is not of a nature to materially enhance the abilities of a terrorist group to facilitate or carry out a terrorist activity.

Therefore, it would not constitute a terrorism offence.

A second feature of Bill S-7 is that it introduces a new offence that security experts have told the public safety committee they need to be effective in fighting terrorism in the present-day context, which is, the offence of leaving or attempting to leave Canada for the purpose of engaging in terrorist activity, whether to attend a terrorist training camp, or to take part in any kind of terrorist-related action. As we know, Canadians have been implicated in terrorist incidents overseas, namely in Algeria and Bulgaria.

Richard Fadden, the director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, recently testified that while this new offence was perhaps not needed a few years ago, he is now more concerned about the radicalization of individuals in Canada who become inspired, often through the Internet, by the extremist narrative.

Furthermore, as mentioned in the CBC report on the subject:

Ray Boisvert, former assistant director of intelligence with CSIS..., said radicalization is a "growing pattern" in Canada. CSIS has identified up to 50 people who have left Canada to fight abroad.

For those who might fall prey to generalizations about the source of extremism in Canada, the path to violent extremism does not originate in particular communities. This is according to CSIS.

Since 2001, there are communities that have been the object of suspicion. This saddens me because distrust of newcomers is not a new phenomenon. Different cultural and religious groups have been held in suspicion throughout history, and across societies. Such treatment has created hurt and frustration in these communities. Sometimes persons and property in these communities have suffered harm.

Even when this has not been the case, community members, especially the young, otherwise excited about opportunities for growth and success, often understandably passionate about contributing to the greater societal good, believe their opportunities to be limited because of their identification with their cultural group of origin.

This is why I was so interested and pleased to learn of the conclusions of a CSIS intelligence assessment branch study on radicalization in Canada. The study affirms that the path to violent zealotry is ultimately “an idiosyncratic individual process”.

Allow me to refer to some of the study's conclusions, as reported in a Globe and Mail column by Doug Saunders, entitled “Canada's looking for terrorists in all the wrong places”.

I will quote and paraphrase:

[Canadian extremists] are almost always native-born Canadians, rarely immigrants, and never refugees.

Not only are they not immigrants, but they don't tend to be found within “parallel society” immigrant enclaves. And they aren't radicalized by attending a mosque.

Britain's MI5 analyzed several hundred violent extremists and found similar non-immigrant...backgrounds—and that, as in Canada, these extremists don’t come from religious backgrounds. “Most are religious novices,” the security service concluded, and, in fact, “there is evidence that a well-established religious identity actually protects against violent radicalization”.

U.S. experts have come to the same conclusions. Mark Fallon, formerly with U.S. counterterrorism, has confirmed that migration experiences, religious traditions, and theology almost never cause radicalism.

To quote Doug Saunders in conclusion:

The path from strict religious faith to violence simply doesn't exist—in fact, the most religious are among the least likely to become extremists.

[Terrorism] is a criminal tendency, neither imported nor theological, not rooted in communities or faiths.

This new offence of leaving or attempting to leave Canada for the purposes of engaging in a terrorist-related activity, similar to many of the current terrorism offences in the Criminal Code, is designed to allow for arrests and charges at the early planning stage of terrorist attacks outside Canada, before a person even leaves Canada to commit terrorist acts.

As usual, the offence comes with safeguards. To quote Donald Piragoff, senior assistant deputy minister, policy sector, Justice Canada:

[The leaving or attempting to leave Canada offences] require the consent of the Attorney General before charges are laid. It's not simply a police officer who makes the determination; you have to get the consent of the Attorney General to say that the prosecution or an arrest would be appropriate.

Moreover, this new offence is not so broad that it would prevent someone from, say, going to a survival camp in Colorado or in the Middle East.

As Mr. Piragoff also noted before committee:

It's not an offence to go to a survival camp...to learn how to shoot an AK-47. However, if the person is going to learn how to shoot an AK-47 for the express purpose of helping improve the capacity of a terrorist group, that makes it an offence.

Finally, Bill S-7 would introduce legislative guarantees of greater government transparency and accountability in dealing with matters of national security that come before the courts or an administrative proceeding. It would introduce amendments to the Canada Evidence Act that would make it more difficult for the government to use national security concerns as a routine justification for suppressing information that is in the public interest of a democracy, information that is often essential to permitting a fair trial for an accused.

Some of the changes to the Canada Evidence Act in Bill S-7 implement the decisions of the Federal Court in Toronto Star Newspaper Limited v. Canada, and Ottawa Citizen Group v. Canada. In essence, it would no longer be in the power of the Attorney General to determine, even against the opinion of the court, whether information relating to a case or a proceeding must remain confidential. That discretion would now belong to the presiding judge, who must presumptively abide by the open court principle and allow only very limited exceptions.

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5:45 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher ConservativeMinister of State (Transport)

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member's comments and I thought they were well thought out. He certainly addressed many of the nonsensical arguments brought forward by the NDP, for example, issues around the charter, that the legislation is sound.

Would the member comment on why the NDP would not support legislation that would help bring more tools to protect Canadians? This is the House of Commons. The laws of the land are determined here to protect, improve, and ensure that the quality of life of Canadians gets better. Why is the NDP against that?

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5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my hon. colleague's kind words regarding my own words, but I really cannot speak for the NDP. I can only speak for Liberals as our public safety critic. I really do not know for what reason the NDP is not supporting the bill, but I am sure other hon. colleagues, namely in the NDP, will provide the answer.

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5:45 p.m.

NDP

Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe NDP Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to stress the concerns of the NDP about Bill S-7 and its threats to fundamental rights. I have a press release sent by CAIR-CAN that said it shares the same concern:

CAIR-CAN joined several other prominent Canadian civil liberties organizations, including the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, in opposing the controversial bill.

I would like to know how the Liberals will answer CAIR-CAN and many other organizations that are scared about the threat that Bill S-7 might be to fundamental rights.

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5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, as we know, whatever the issue, whatever the bill we are debating, there are opposing points of view that are expressed by expert witnesses at committee stage and that are expressed in the House. That is very healthy. It is always important, as I said in my speech, that we question every piece of legislation that comes before us against the standards that are contained in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This is a part of our Constitution. It contains the fundamental principles at the core of our democracy.

However, I sat at committee and I listened to the arguments of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. They were good arguments. But at the end of the day, other arguments prevailed over myself, speaking as a member of the Liberal Party. I go back to the very beginning of my speech where I mentioned that to be free of intimidation, to be safe is also at the core of the values of individual dignity and one of the core values in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I do not think we can ignore that.