Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to engage in the debate.
First and foremost, let me start by saying that this is the 25th year of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Unfortunately, the government has not made any celebratory comments about it. It has not made a point of letting Canadians know, because the government does not very much support the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that was enacted on April 17, 1982.
It is very appropriate, in some ways, that we are debating this piece of legislation, the amendment to the security certificate act, because this legislation, which has been used to hold people indefinitely, to hold them when they do not know what the charges are against them, has been illegal for 25 years.
All governments in the past 25 years have argued that the security certificate process was constitutional. It was not until the Supreme Court struck it down, saying that this is not good enough, that governments and the bureaucracies that support governments admitted to that.
When we talk about why it is so very important to have the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, perhaps we have to reflect for a minute. I am going to make this very short, but I am going to draw it into the question. We have to look at the history of this country. We have to look at how this country has evolved.
There is a huge number of cases where we have been very draconian in our actions toward various peoples who came to Canada, be they Canadians of Chinese background or Asian background. We had the Chinese head tax and the Asian exclusion act. We had the internment of Canadians who were from the Ukraine and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Specifically, a colleague of mine with whom I served in the House had one uncle who was serving with the Canadian armed forces during the second world war while another uncle was interned and in detention during the second world war. I can tell members that my colleague was highly emotional about it.
Of course, we had the internment of Japanese Canadians. We had the policy of “none is too many” for the Jews. We had the turning away of SS St. Louis. We had a racist immigration policy until 1977.
So when I talk about the importance of this debate and what the charter represents, it is important to look at the history. It is because of all those injustices that I believe the Charter of Rights and Freedoms came into play and was enacted by the House.
It was a recognition that Canada is not a nation of any majority but a collection of many minorities, to the extent that we can be on the side of majority public opinion one day and we could very easily be on the side of the minority the next. Essentially, we are all minorities.
The charter laid out fundamental rights. Nothing is more important in terms of fundamental rights than section 7 of the charter, which essentially states that every person “has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof, except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice”. The charter then sets out another seven sections on what those legal rights are. This is a very important piece of the covenant that we Canadians share. I very much wanted to make that point.
It really is unfortunate that when we talk about the bill dealing with the security certificates, which was introduced in the House, we are not also talking about the bill on the Anti-terrorism Act, which deals with preventive detention and investigative hearings, because that bill started off at the Senate. I think it would benefit us if we took a holistic look at these various pieces of legislation.
I think it would benefit us if we looked at these in that way, particularly in the context of what happened on 9/11, because so much of our legislation now seems to be responding to the attacks on the World Trade Center. We should look back. We should try to determine if the actions taken by democratic governments in the western world, and indeed in the rest of the world itself, are enhancing the security of Canadians and security in the western world. Or are they making matters worse? I think that kind of overview would be beneficial not only to members of Parliament but to the country as a whole.
Therefore, I regret that the government has introduced the ATA or Anti-terrorism Act legislation in the Senate while of course we are dealing with the security certificate section in the House of Commons. I think a holistic approach would have been more preferable.
Much has been said about one of the reasons for having the bill, which is that we want to protect the security of Canadians. I think this is something that is very important for all Canadians to understand when we are dealing with security certificates and detentions for an indefinite period of time. If we are dealing with such dangerous individuals as the government, the security forces and the bureaucracy would have us believe, I think it is important to understand that under the security certificates, these people can leave any time they want.
It is like having dangerous criminals here. Would we allow them to leave any time they wanted to if they really were dangerous? In essence, that is what the security certificate does. It is like they can get out of jail any time they want. What the government does not talk about, of course, is the point about the people who do not want to leave these inhumane conditions. They do not want to leave being confined to indefinite detention. Many of them are afraid that in the places to which they might be sent they are going to be tortured or killed. It is a kind of Hobson's choice.
However, the point of the matter is that if we focus on how dangerous these folks are, then surely to God, if they are guilty of committing terrorism or plotting terrorism, it would benefit all of us to have them in a secure custodial place where they cannot get out any time they choose.
I think that point is very important. I used this argument in the citizenship and immigration committee when we talked about security certificates. I said that if we were fortunate enough to capture Osama bin Laden surely it would not be beneficial to us or anybody else to send him back to the caves of Afghanistan. That would not make Canada safer. It would not make the western world safer. It certainly would not make the world a safer place.
Let us take the long view. I thought about this a fair amount, because I have had occasion to live under a totalitarian regime. As many members know, I was born in Budapest, Hungary. There is a particular place in Hungary to visit. It is called the Terror Museum. It is on Andrásy utca, Andrásy street. It documents the terror under the Nazis and the Communists.
At the most dramatic spot in the museum there is a mannequin, one half of which is a person in a Arrow Cross Nazi uniform. As it turns around, we see a person wearing a Soviet uniform. What is so interesting about the museum is that it shows that the terrorism committed by either the Communists or the Nazis was equally horrible. There was no difference. They were the flip side of the same coin. When we look through the museum at the various exhibits, we realize that state terror can be very dangerous.
Yet we would deport some people to countries such as that, where human rights are not respected and executions are an everyday occurrence. If anybody has a chance to focus on that, it might give people a different perspective.
In Canada, there are six people presently under security certificates. Five of them are out on bail. One is being held in the Kingston immigration holding cell. One person is being held. It cost $3.2 million to build the facility. It costs $2 million to operate the facility. It seems to me it would be much more prudent to have that one individual released on conditions. If the government really believes it has something, then I think that person should be kept under surveillance instead of us spending that kind of money.
The parliamentary secretary would have us believe that there are many safeguards built into the security certificate. He mentioned that the security certificate has to be signed by the Minister of Public Safety and the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration before going in front of a judge.
The reality is that the present-day Minister of Public Safety, on November 19, 2002, slandered Mr. Maher Arar by implicating him as a terrorist. It is this minister, who did not have the facts and was a critic in the official opposition, who could stand up and make that kind of charge. Surely that does not give a member of Parliament any comfort on the objectivity that he will bring to the job.
The other person is the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, who, I am sad to say, is lacking in knowledge of that portfolio. I dare say that I would not trust her judgment a great deal.
Then, to have a judicial process that is so draconian, that does not allow for any appeal and that can keep evidence away from the person being charged under the certificate, is not right.
We also have to look at the role various security organizations have played. I am going to bring up two cases because they show how the United States security service and the FBI are not in sync with our security organizations.
Let us take the case of Maher Arar, which obviously many Canadians know about. This gentleman has undergone the most exhaustive inquiry in Canadian history in terms of an individual. He was cleared of all charges and any suspicion, but the United States of America keeps him on a no fly list. That is one case.
The next case I am going to cite I saw while going through the report of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, which made a submission to members of the House on security certificates and anti-terror legislation. It is the case of Ernst Zundel, a great nuisance and an undesirable person who was dealt with by the security certificate process as a matter of convenience. It was convenient. Yet the government made the case, with which Justice Blais agreed, that he was a security threat, even though under freedom of information it was discovered that the FBI charge concluded that this man was not a security threat.
Here we have two security services in operation in two democracies, one in Canada and one in the United States, coming to totally different conclusions.
Much has been made about this applying only to people with no status in Canada and people who are residents in Canada but are not citizens of Canada. I remind the House that in 2002 a proposed citizenship act was tabled in this chamber, under which the security certificate process was going to apply to Canadian citizens. It was going to use it against Canadian citizens as well. I say that because the way we treat people different from ourselves, be they residents, immigrants or visitors, at the end of the day is the way we can end up being treated. I invite all members to revisit that proposed citizenship act that would have placed Canadian citizens under a security certificate regime.
I mentioned that in a time of tension and fear, such as the time after 9/11 and also during times of war, is when basic human rights need to be guaranteed by the charter more than ever.
When everything is going well, it is not a problem, but it is as soon as times get tough, that we need the guarantees. It was at that type of point in time when the decision was made to get rid of Canadians of Ukrainian background. It was at that type of point in time that racist decisions were made to get rid of Canadians of Japanese background, to put them through an inhumane process for which we ended up apologizing.
There is a lot of scaremongering going on in the name of security. We have to realize that in doing this, we are essentially undermining our own security. The best way to fight terror is to build an inclusive country, where everybody feels a part of the country. We must recognize that Canadians have all sorts of backgrounds and come from all over the world. We will always find an example of someone who breaks the law. It does not just apply to Muslims. I remind members in the House that Timothy McVeigh was a Christian. He was a Caucasian. After he blew up the federal buildings in the United States, we did not do an inquisition into Christianity.
Every Canadian has a stake in making sure that Canada does not become a them and us society. If it became a them and us society, we would have built a society like that in the United States of America where O. J. Simpson was not going to be convicted by a black jury. There are centuries of reasons of discrimination for that happening.
Disturbing incidents have happened in this country of ours. We could look at the debates on reasonable accommodation in Quebec. Appealing to intolerance does not help. It does not help security. It did not help security when the Prime Minister of Canada while in Australia played that division card, played the card of suspicion, when he intervened in the whole issue of veiled voting to divert attention, to change the channel on in and out funding of elections by the Conservative Party.
If we want a Canada that is safe and secure, we have to make sure all of us are treated equally and that we do not differentiate between the way we might treat immigrants and the way we might treat citizens, because that would be wrong and counterproductive.