Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the member for London—Fanshawe.
The iterative, in the sense of repetitive, nature of additions to the Criminal Code devised unilaterally by this government bring out my instincts as a litigator.
Introducing in the House arguments that call into question a tangent that resembles an edict and that would implement coercive measures can only contribute to maintaining an intrinsic balance in the rule of law in our country.
Bill S-7, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Canada Evidence Act and the Security of Information Act, currently before the House, is likely to feed a number of citizens' fears related to repeated attempts to circumscribe the spectre of civil liberties and human rights in our country, all under the cover of legislative initiatives associated with the repression of contingent and intangible threats to Canada.
I would like to emphasize the hypothetical nature of terrorism in Canada, and I think that my colleagues agree with me in this respect. The Criminal Code, the tool we are currently using, already contains many provisions related to terrorism. Based on my own analysis, which is fairly sound since I practised law for six years, I believe that we would be opening a Pandora's box by blindly delegating discretionary powers to peace officers. This would ultimately allow them to unilaterally determine which individuals pose a threat to national security and then simply proceed with interrogations and pre-charge detention.
Pre-charge detention already exists in France, where individuals can be detained for a certain period of time while an investigation is conducted. This is unprecedented in Canada, particularly for individuals who do not necessarily have a criminal record or links to organized crime or terrorist groups.
This type of addition to the Criminal Code will leave the door wide open to abuse. As a lawyer, my first instinct is often to look at how such decisions and legislative measures could be challenged in court. I know that the Canadian government has crown lawyers. I have sometimes wondered whether the government is really listening to these lawyers, because this type of measure can clearly be challenged.
The bottom line is that the exercise of such discretionary power can only result in abuse. We know that such measures have never been implemented in Canada. Adding them to the Criminal Code will only result in a significant number of court challenges. I strongly urge the government to re-evaluate its position and listen more closely to its own lawyers. The Government of Canada must have good lawyers on staff.
The notions of terrorism in the Criminal Code are always being revised, which means that the use of power could become more arbitrary and less evidence could be needed to determine the reasonableness of an interrogation or preventive detention.
I would like to give an example of the type of reasoning that could result from the implementation of the proposed measures if the bill is passed. The proposed amendments will result in many instances of individuals being arrested without a warrant because a peace officer believes that the arrest is necessary to prevent a terrorist attack. Ultimately, the individuals in question will be subject to recognizance with conditions. This all concerns individuals who were not suspected of terrorist activities.
Thus it will be possible to arrest someone who has no criminal record and no known links to terrorism or organized crime. That individual could be arrested based on suspicion, based on the perception of the officer responsible for the case who sees an act of violence. That individual could be questioned for 24 hours.
Then, also based on the peace officer's opinion, that individual could be brought before a judge and forced to appear outside the usual structure of criminal charges and penal and statutory rules. We are still talking about civil matters.
That individual, who should be presumed innocent until proven guilty, can be brought before a judge who will be called upon to determine if release conditions can be imposed on him.
If that individual does not want to meet those conditions or appears unwilling to do so, he could be imprisoned for up to 12 months. Accordingly, someone who is presumed innocent could be held in detention for 12 months, if he does not meet those conditions. Quite obviously, this leaves room for potential abuses of power. It is immediately obvious that this is unacceptable.
If the individual refuses, he can be imprisoned for up to 12 months. This imprisonment, not the result of a criminal conviction, is considered preventive detention.
I would like to say a few words about preventive detention. I would like to reiterate that I miss practising law. That said, over the years that I was a practising lawyer, some changes were made to preventive detention. When I began practising in 2006, if a client's case was treated according to normal criminal procedures, preventive detention counted for double time. In fact, judges applied this calculation de facto. In other words, time spent in remand custody was credited two-for-one for individuals who were not released following their bail hearing. That is no longer the case. The justice system has new instructions and that time simply no longer counts as double time.
This illustrates the trend towards applying harsher, more demanding measures when it comes to sentencing for criminal matters.
Seeking to include preventive detention of up to 12 months in the Criminal Code, coupled with eliminating the need to comply with the conditions of making an arrest without a warrant for the purpose of preventing a hypothetical terrorist act, clearly shows the highly questionable nature of the Conservatives' approach to national security.
As I said, I still have my lawyer's instinct. That is why I saw a case right away and the possibility of a court challenge against measures like these.
Actually, when I give training and I go to various first nations reserves and aboriginal communities across the country, I always make sure to tell them that people have the option to consider class action suits against unilateral decisions that are highly prejudicial and problematic.
I often encourage people to consider that option, given the possibility of pooling money and having a host of plaintiffs in a case. That reduces the financial burden for each plaintiff. In cases involving thousands of plaintiffs, they can put together a substantial amount of money and gain access to experts and their expertise, which would be difficult for an individual.
I submit all this respectfully.