House of Commons photo

Elsewhere

Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was know.

Last in Parliament September 2008, as NDP MP for Surrey North (B.C.)

Won her last election, in 2006, with 46% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act February 5th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I always appreciate the opportunity to rise and speak again to something about which I care. I am not necessarily able to follow that question any more than I did the others, but the member is correct.

The Supreme Court said that if we did not fix this, it would be struck down. Legislation that is constitutional will not be struck down. The court has said that it is not in accordance with the Constitution of Canada. It has said that if we do not fix it within a year, it will be struck down.

If the Conservative members are saying that security certificates are constitutional and this is just suggestion by the Supreme Court to kind of make it better, then that is somewhat flawed, given the fact that they have said if we do not fix it in three weeks, the legislation will no longer exist. I do not think they would say that about legislation they consider to be constitutional.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act February 5th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure I understand the first question on why it is considered unconstitutional. I talked about why it is considered unconstitutional.

Let us be clear. The Supreme Court did strike it down. The Supreme Court said that it had to be changed to better reflect and meet the civil and justice rights of individuals. It did not send it back and said that if it were polished up a bit, it would be okay. The court said that it did not work for the people who were being detained.

The fact that the member is getting many letters asking questions about why more people are not appearing before the committee says Canadians are following this. People want to know where the evidence and information has come from, on which the committee has based its decision.

Yes, two people, who have been detained under Bill C-3 certificates and are on bail, came before committee. I did not suggest for a minute that there had not been an opportunity for those two people to be there. I found their presentations helpful, as I found the presentations of many people who came. I do not think anybody suggested that those people were unable to make presentations. It would seem to me reasonable that they were able to do so. If it is extraordinary that it has happened in Canada, then so be it and good for Canada.

The fact they appeared is fine. They have the right. We were talking about the impact on their lives and the lives of their families. I more than acknowledge that those people had the right to appear. Those are still the same people who do not have the right to know the information that is being used against them. I say it is unconstitutional because the Supreme Court did.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act February 5th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I was going to say that I am pleased to rise in the House, but I am not sure if I am pleased to rise in the House today over this particular discussion. However, it is important to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-3.

I am proud that the members of the NDP, along with some others, are standing in opposition to what is really fundamentally flawed legislation.

Others have spoken to this, but from the beginning, security certificates have been the wrong way to deal with an approach to terrorism, espionage and organized crime. The member for Vancouver South, although saying that his party will be supporting the bill, did say that a method such as the SIRC system would have been a preferable approach to take to this as opposed to this redone, renewed and recycled security certificate bill that we have before us.

When the security certificates were shut down in February 2007, I think many people were very pleased to see what they hoped would be the end of a really defective process. That did not happen. People are very disappointed that the government has chosen to reintroduce security certificates.

The Liberal opposition members have noted on a number of occasions that this is not the bill they would have brought forward, that it probably could have been a better bill and that there were other systems, but they are going to support it anyway because of the timeframe.

The bill was struck down in February of 2007. Its replacement was tabled on October 22, 2007. If this is such a grave and grievous threat to Canada, and I think we will all agree that terrorism, organized crime and espionage are such threats, why would the government wait nine months in order to bring this forward? Why would the government not have brought the House back in September when it was due to come back and allowed for further opportunity to debate it at committee and to call witnesses?

It is very puzzling that we found ourselves seeing it for the first time at the end of October. Witnesses who might have wished to present before the committee could not. Now I hear people suggest that it was not really what they would have done but that we have to pass it now because we have a time crunch. I understand the time crunch, but I am not sure that it is the best reason for passing flawed legislation. To me, the fact that it was not dealt with earlier is something that, to be quite honest, I simply fail to understand.

As well, I was bothered by the examination of the legislation at committee. Having waited nine months to reintroduce this, the minister then came to committee and said, “Please hurry up and pass this and please move it quickly through committee because it will expire in February”.

As a result, the Conservatives established a timeline at committee that excluded dozens of witnesses, among them experts, advocates and people with direct experience of the security certificate process. People spoke up. They said that this was not acceptable. They said that there were many more people from whom we needed to hear. Indeed, there were names added to the list of people testifying before the committee.

Again, what was interesting was that 17 witnesses testified before the public safety committee, of whom 13 were opposed to Bill C-3. There were 20 written submissions, and all but one said that Bill C-3 was flawed. Having heard that from all of these witnesses, for some members it was as if they thanked the witnesses very much for their information, but they had already decided the way they were going to go on it, and the way they were going to go was security certificates.

They had made up their minds, and while they said thanks to witnesses for coming in with their presentations, it was not going to influence their thinking. I think the Conservative members on the committee, and maybe the Liberals as well, although they acknowledged that there were some problems, ignored expert testimony and advice.

The basic premise of the right to defend oneself is interesting. It is one that has been raised here frequently. It is one that people who are opposed to this legislation are very concerned about. I heard an earlier speaker say that normally we assume that people are innocent until proven guilty, except in this case, where people are presumed guilty until proven innocent, except that we do not give them the tools to prove themselves innocent. They are not given access to the information to prove that they might be innocent, but we know that in at least one situation there was information that would have caused a different outcome.

It is interesting to know what we are saying about somebody who, we have said, is involved in terrorism. Terrorism is the example that gets used the most, but it could be espionage or gang crime as well. It is interesting to know that what we are saying is that we will send the person back to his or her own country to continue his or her work, so to speak. If that indeed is the individual's work, then he or she will perpetuate that, perhaps teach other people, come back to Canada and try again.

How Canada would be any safer as a result of that I do not know. Why would Canada not be safer if it used the Criminal Code to put people in jail? Surely that is what Canadian citizens expect of us in terms of protecting this country: that if people commit or are about to commit a crime of that nature, a crime that is a danger to the citizens of our country, they would be put in jail for a very long time so that their activity is cut off and they will not be engaged in that activity. I think that the right to defend has been totally suspended for this piece of legislation.

Another issue the NDP has with this legislation is the one around civil liberties. Public safety seems to me to be about a balance between freedom and security. There is no question about it: Canadians want to know that they are secure. They have every right to know that, but it is a balance. This legislation is just as imbalanced as the last piece of legislation, which was struck down by the Supreme Court.

Most lawyers who have expertise in this area have said they believe the legislation will be struck down again if it is taken before the Supreme Court. I am quite certain there are lawyers who will be prepared to take this back to the Supreme Court and we will be back here having the discussion again about why this does not work and why we should be including this in the Criminal Code with a different kind of system.

The provision of a special advocate, as is done by the U.K. and New Zealand, is, people have said, a compromise that will work, but in the U.K. there have been many challenges as to the effectiveness of the special advocates and the resources they have.

As for the lawyers here, 50 lawyers have applied here and I think people are expecting that many more, but the lawyers I have talked to do not want be in the position of knowing that if they see something in the file which would be of benefit to the detainee but needs further clarification, they cannot do it. Yes, lawyers can speak with the detainee and the detainee's counsel and then they have the right to see the file, but if they see something in the file that would be of benefit to the detainee and needs further clarification, they cannot do it. For one thing, they do not have the resources to do the research. Second, they do not have the ability to have that discussion with the detainee.

There are ways, and most lawyers will tell us that, of asking questions without giving away that information which other speakers indicated they were concerned about, information that would indicate to others that their cover had been blown or who had reported on them. We know that lawyers are able to ask questions. We saw that in the Maher Arar case, where they discovered later that some very simple questions would have been able to clarify the fact that he indeed was not involved in the activities that they thought he was.

Others have spoken of Ian MacDonald. Mr. MacDonald was a special advocate in the U.K. system. He quit over the failure of the British system to address the civil, justice and human rights needs of people who had been detained. Knowing that, the government still has chosen to adopt that system. People have said that under this system, we will still be able to ensure evidence will be brought forward that will not keep somebody in detention because we will not make errors in that way.

I was at an event last night where Maher Arar and his wife, Monia Mazigh, were awarded the British Columbia Civil Liberties Award. As people have read, Maher Arar was rendered back to Syria by U.S. border agents where he faced torture until his return to Canada a year later. Thanks to the work of Commissioner Dennis O'Connor and the Arar inquiry, Canadians now know that Mr. Arar's experience was due to errors by Canadian officials who placed excessive emphasis on national security at the expense of civil liberties and human rights. As a result of the work of many people and Monia Mazigh and his children, that was rectified. However, not everybody has that kind of support system available to them.

We know errors are made. We know information can be suddenly condensed. The original proceedings are gone and are now in a more modified form. Perhaps some evidence that could be used is suddenly not available to people. We see a bit of that now in the case in front of the court.

The Conservatives know the special advocate system is flawed. Mr. MacDonald has spoken in front of committee. He has shared his criticism of the special advocate process.

Five individuals have been confined under security certificates. One person, Mr. Almrei, is still in detention. The other four men, Mohammad Mahjoub, Mahmoud Jaballah, Adil Charkaoui and Mohamed Harkat , are on bail with sureties on conditions that are set up almost to fail. If the men go to a mall and they have to go to the bathroom, their sureties have to go with them. It does not matter if it is the women's washroom or where it is. They have no breathing room. It is almost as if these conditions are set to fail.

If these people are guilty, they should be on strict bail conditions, but not on conditions set to fail. We do not do that to people in our justice system. If these people are guilty, we must have an opportunity to prove they have done what they are accused of doing.

Even if all civil liberties were protected in the legislation, security certificates are still legally the wrong way to go. Why would this not be done under criminal legislation? Can we not change our criminal legislation? It has a very different level of evidence. It has a very different level of seriousness in terms of how evidence is presented and the standard which one has to meet. It would be a much better method to deal with these instances.

We have seen the consequences of those kinds of allegations. We owe it to people to subject them to the highest possible standards of our justice system, not a lesser process. This is why I and the NDP caucus are fundamentally oppose to the legislation, as are the Bloc Québécois and at least a couple of members of the Liberal opposition.

In further debate I hope other people will be able to expand on some of these points. For these men and their families, to deny them the right to defend themselves, to not tell someone why they are charged, to be unable to produce the evidence for them or their counsel and to expect a special advocate to look at it and then be unable to use it in any significant way for that detainee is outside the realm of any understanding I think Canadians have of human and civil rights and the responsibilities of the justice system.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act February 5th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, given that the member has made comments that this was not the bill that the Liberal opposition would have brought forward, that it could have been better, I would say that it could have been made better if the government had not waited until October 22, 2007 to table the bill, if committee had been given more time to hear the other witnesses who wanted to present and if it had been given more time to explore how to make it better.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act January 31st, 2008

Mr. Speaker, in spite of the changes to the act with which the official opposition is pleased, does the member think there will be enough financial resources for the special advocate to not only do administrative work, but further investigative work if it is necessary? Will the special advocate have the kind of freedom to information that he would want to see available if he were in the position?

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act January 31st, 2008

Mr. Speaker, this is not intended at all to be a filibuster. It is intended to show that the NDP, as we have said all along, is opposed to this bill. We did not make amendments at committee stage because that would have been trying to fix what we consider to be a fundamentally flawed piece of legislation.

This was our way of demonstrating and saying to the people of Canada that we cannot support any piece of this legislation and that we do not have an amendment to bring forward to tinker with it, to try to change part of it, or to do any of that. The Chair chose to group the amendments from one to twelve. This is the only way that we saw for being able to do this.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act January 31st, 2008

Mr. Speaker, this will not make anybody safer. That is part of the issue. This is not going to make Canada safer.

On the minister saying earlier that releasing criminals across the country would not be considered acceptable, I agree with him. It would not, but I ask, please, for it to be proven that someone is a criminal. We cannot say that we are not going to release criminals across the country but also say that we cannot prove someone is a criminal, so we are just going to hold that person as long as we possibly can or send him or her back to be tortured or potentially to continue terrorist activities in his or her own country.

Not only will Canada not be safer, but as well, our justice system will not be made safer by this kind of legislation, which does not--I repeat does not--uphold the basic tenets of our justice system around the ability for full answer and defence.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act January 31st, 2008

Mr. Speaker, the concern that the NDP and I as the critic have with this, and the reason for putting forward all of these amendments, is that we have considered this to be completely the wrong way to go about dealing with the issues of terrorism. We are as concerned as anyone else that this country is protected, that its citizens are safe and that terrorism has absolutely no place and no acknowledgement in our country.

I think most Canadians would consider safety to be some kind of balance between freedom and security. They expect security in the country in which they live and raise their children but also they have a certain expectation of freedom.

I am a bit puzzled, I have to say, by the motions today to sit until the bill has finished report stage and by the rush to get it through. I understand perfectly well the deadline of February 23, but that was a year ago. If we had come back in September when we were due to come back, we would have had an extra month to work on this. Instead, we have had nine weeks.

It seems to me rather inconsistent that a bill that is of such great importance, and, by the way, I think it is, is left to the last two months of the year, because it has to go to the Senate as well, which has been known since the date was established last February. It seems to me that unless there is some other motive, the action does not reflect the gravity of the issue the bill has presented.

From the beginning, we have always seen this as the wrong way to go about dealing with terrorism, espionage and organized crime, and let us be sure that we are talking about all three things. Although terrorism is the phrase that is used most frequently, this is about also espionage and organized crime.

As members can see, we believe that if one has come to Canada to commit a terrorist act one should be charged and punished. To consider an act of terrorism in any country, but speaking of our own country, is one of the worst things imaginable. We have seen those examples in other countries as well as countries to the south of us.

So why would we not put in place legislation that would allow punishment of people instead of sending them back to their country of origin, where they may very well wish to go, and where they can or may continue their activities? I think in many cases they do continue to engage in the planning of terrorist activities, again, perhaps toward Canada, and it may not be them but somebody else they have trained.

But to send them back with no repercussions whatsoever is not acceptable. I expect people to be punished for such an odious type of crime. I also, by the way, expect people to prove that the odious crime is in the process of being committed or that there is a demonstration of its planning.

I think we know that significant numbers of members in this House will publicly say they think this bill is flawed. Some will privately say they know this bill is flawed. We know that members of the legal community believe that this bill will not withstand, albeit its rewriting, a constitutional challenge again, and there will indeed be another constitutional challenge. I do not think we should mistake that at all.

The human rights issue within this bill is a concern for all Canadians, I would hope, because human rights are something that we hold dear. Standards, procedural fairness and due process are things we consider to be inherent in human rights.

The ability to fully answer and defend ourselves is a basic human right. That is not reflected at all in this piece of legislation, unless we say there is a level of human rights and we believe only certain people have human rights, but I do not think that is what most Canadians believe. I think they believe people have a right to know fully what they have been accused of and to be able to defend themselves against it.

The NDP believes, and many community organizations who made presentations to the public safety committee said the same thing, that the use of what we would call secret evidence is a grave threat to fundamental justice. This bill proposes that if a special advocate were to be put in place, the advocate could speak to the detainee and his or her counsel and then see the full file, but could not talk to the detainee again, or at least have any conversation about what is in the file, even if it might be helpful to the detainee.

We know it is a flawed system because there have been other circumstances where we have used information without the full advantage of having all of it. We have seen the kind of prosecution people have been put through.

The special advocate is being championed by this piece of legislation, but it does not explicitly give any kind of special powers to the special advocate to seek and obtain other government records that might be believed to be relevant. If the advocate reads in a file something that refers to another record that he or she thinks would be helpful, there is nothing that explicitly states the advocate has the right to see that information.

Certainly there are other models that people have suggested, such as the SIRC model, where there has been full disclosure of information that CSIS has available. That kind of process was used and was in place before the current process.

There also is a concern about how long people can be detained without any charge being laid at all. One individual has been in detention for seven years. Other individuals have been in detention for somewhat shorter lengths of time, but certainly not short lengths of time. There is nothing to protect them. Yes, detainees can have their cases reviewed on a regular basis, but that does not mean they cannot continue to be told no for some indefinite length of time.

They can be kept in prison-like settings that I think are built for two or three people, without any idea of why they are there, and without anybody presenting the charges to them. If we were to even consider that as a principle we would use anywhere else, Canadians would rise up in anger, as they should.

It is a basic premise. If we are charged with something or detained in jail, we have a right to know why. We have a right for our counsel to see the evidence and a right to defend ourselves. Under this piece of legislation, which we do believe is completely flawed in dealing with the issue of terrorism, which we believe should be criminally punished, we do not have that.

I look forward to other speakers.

Community Development January 31st, 2008

Mr. Speaker, at every level of government much of our work is dedicated to creating liveable neighbourhoods. A liveable neighbourhood is not just a safe place to live. It is a community where people know one another, look out for their neighbours and work together for common causes.

Across my riding of Surrey North, there are people who have come together in residents' associations and community groups to build liveable neighbourhoods.

These groups participate in neighbourhood cleanups and other environmental restoration projects. They organize block watches and community picnics. This year in my neighbourhood we took great joy in going out Christmas carolling.

Some of the organizations dedicated to building a better Surrey are groups such as Bridgeview, Bolivar Heights, Whalley, Guildford and others. Some even have websites that provide current information around events.

Every day, organizations like these are taking action to improve the quality of life for people living in Surrey, building vibrant and liveable communities and neighbourhoods across our city.

Today, as the member of Parliament for Surrey North, I would like to honour and thank each one of them for their commitment to making Surrey an increasingly better place to live.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act January 31st, 2008

moved:

Motion No. 1

That Bill C-3 be amended by deleting Clause 1.

Motion No. 2

That Bill C-3 be amended by deleting Clause 2.

Motion No. 3

That Bill C-3 be amended by deleting Clause 3.

Motion No. 4

That Bill C-3 be amended by deleting Clause 4.

Motion No. 5

That Bill C-3 be amended by deleting Clause 5.

Motion No. 6

That Bill C-3 be amended by deleting Clause 6.

Motion No. 7

That Bill C-3 be amended by deleting Clause 7.

Motion No. 8

That Bill C-3 be amended by deleting Clause 8.

Motion No. 9

That Bill C-3 be amended by deleting Clause 9.

Motion No. 10

That Bill C-3 be amended by deleting Clause 10.

Motion No. 11

That Bill C-3 be amended by deleting Clause 11.

Motion No. 12

That Bill C-3 be amended by deleting Clause 12.