Mr. Speaker, I was recently appointed the NDP critic for public safety and I am glad that Bill C-3 is the first legislation I will be speaking to in that capacity.
Ensuring public safety is essentially about protecting Canadians' quality of life, something that we all support regardless of political party. New Democrats believe that quality of life is about a balance between being free and being secure. With Bill C-3, the Conservatives have once again failed to find the balance in the process.
This legislation does not make Canadians any more secure, as I think the member across the way just stated, but it does undermine our fundamental freedoms. That is why the NDP opposes Bill C-3 and why we hope the other opposition parties in the House will do the same.
We have two major problems with security certificates. First, security certificates are simply the wrong way to fight suspected terrorists, because they do not actually punish people who are plotting terrorist acts. Under security certificates, suspected terrorists are detained and deported back to their country of origin. Do the Conservatives or does anyone really believe that makes Canadians safer?
We in the NDP believe terrorism is a serious crime. It is not a legal activity but a crime, and there should be serious consequences. If a person in Canada is plotting terrorist actions, he or she should be arrested, charged for the crimes, convicted, and put in jail. That will make Canada a safer place.
When the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety spoke to this legislation, he called security certificates an important public safety tool, but how are Canadians any safer when suspected terrorists are simply forced to leave the country but then continue their activities or their suspected activities?
The parliamentary secretary also said in his speech that the government wants what Canadians want: to protect the safety of the Canadian public. I think the parliamentary secretary and the Conservative government are just a bit out of touch. The NDP wants what Canadians want. We want to see terrorists arrested and put in jail. That is how the safety of the Canadian public would be protected.
The Conservatives' out of sight, out of mind approach to national security is just not good enough. The government uses tough language when it talks about protecting public safety, but if we listen closely to what the Conservatives are saying, we will realize that it is all about sounding good for the television cameras while trying to convince Canadians to give them the majority they are so desperately seeking.
Our national security is not a prop to be used in a show of political theatre. The NDP believes the Conservatives should walk their talk, do the right thing, abandon this flawed security certificate process and use the laws of our country to punish terrorists.
Terrorism is a crime. Terrorists are criminals and they should be vigorously pursued under the Criminal Code of Canada, not the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. I find it deeply disturbing that deporting terrorists is the best solution the government can imagine for keeping our country safe.
As I said earlier, the NDP has two major problems with Bill C-3. Our second issue with security certificates is that they seriously undermine core values of our justice system. Remember that public safety is about finding that balance between freedom and security, and this new legislation is just as imbalanced as the process that existed before the Supreme Court ruling.
With Bill C-3, the Conservatives are trying to implement a security certificate process that will not violate the charter, but there are many experts who believe this new proposal will be struck down by another Supreme Court challenge.
Security certificates undermine our justice system by circumventing due process that is a fundamental right in any democracy. The Conservatives have tinkered with a fundamentally flawed piece of Liberal legislation, but their tinkering is not enough to fix the problem. Because there are serious consequences facing those named and security certificates, strong procedural safeguards are required. This legislation does not go far enough in protecting civil liberties.
There are serious consequences to being named in a security certificate. These include loss of liberty, a deportation order and the possible removal to torture. One well recognized aspect of fundamental justice is the right of full answer and defence, the right to know the allegations against a person, and the opportunity to respond to those allegations. That right does not exist in the security certificate process.
Also, critical evidence may be presented to the presiding judge in the absence of detainees and their lawyer, and that is just not right. Even though this evidence is not disclosed to detainees or their counsel, the judge can consider the evidence in determining if the certificate is reasonable. Detainees may never know the reasons why they are being deported from Canada, let alone have a meaningful opportunity to challenge those reasons.
The Conservatives will try to say that they have improved on the mess the Liberals made of security certificates by introducing a special advocate into the process, but we already know that special advocates do not fix the fundamental problems with security certificates.
Special advocates are used in New Zealand and the United Kingdom, and the process in both of those places is seriously flawed. The United Kingdom is often cited by those who support modifying rather than abolishing the security certificate system, but these proceedings, where security-sensitive evidence is not disclosed, and a special advocate who has the right to attend and participate in in camera sessions, have been subject to several court cases that have ruled against the arbitrarily imposed limits.
Given that the U.K. lords of appeal ruled against provisions of the process on October 31 of this year, it is obvious that the system is flawed. That is the very reason that Ian Macdonald, a special advocate with over seven years experience in the U.K. system, quit over the failure of the British government to address these exact problems within the British system. The Conservatives know this. In fact, Mr. Macdonald even testified before the public safety committee to share his criticism of the special advocate process.
An excellent critique of Bill C-3 has been prepared by Craig Forcese and Lorne Waldman. I would like to recognize them for their excellent work opposing this flawed system. In their analysis, which I would be happy to forward to the Minister of Public Safety although I expect he may have had it and simply not acted on it, Forcese and Waldman conclude that special advocates suffer from a number of shortcomings.
Interestingly enough, some of these shortcomings have been mentioned in the House by the Liberal opposition party which I understand is going to support the bill with all of these shortcomings that were listed earlier by the Liberal justice public safety critic.
They criticized Bill C-3 for not allowing full disclosure, and for not allowing persons detained and their lawyers to know all the relevant information being used against them. They say the Conservatives are wrong in not allowing special advocates to be in contact with the detainee throughout the process. They condemn the government for not taking a strong stand against using information for security certificates that was obtained by torture.
The NDP strongly believes that a system that denies the right of full answer and defence cannot be corrected through mere procedural adjustments.
As I said at the beginning of my statement the NDP strongly opposes security certificates. We had hoped the other opposition parties in the House would do the same, but I was very disappointed to hear the Liberals say that they “won't stand in the way” of this legislation. That is hardly a ringing support.
I was also shocked to hear this, given the Liberal caucus has been divided on these issues in the past. It demonstrates once again where we are at in this Parliament.
We have a Conservative minority staging political theatre as best it can in a frantic quest for a majority and we have a Liberal opposition that is so afraid of its own shadow it will do anything to avoid an election. The Liberals abstain from votes or simply do not even show up and now they will even vote to support legislation that many of them fundamentally disagree with and have presented a long list of flaws with this legislation.
It seems the Liberals were in government so long they have forgotten how to do the job of an opposition. Perhaps they should look to the NDP for leadership, a party that is not afraid to oppose the Conservatives when they are taking Canada down the wrong road.
Let me wrap up my comments now by summarizing why the NDP is taking a stand in the House against Bill C-3. We are voting against this legislation because the Criminal Code already has all the tools we need to protect our national security while honouring our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
If the Conservatives were serious about protecting public safety, they would punish people who are suspected and convicted of terrorist acts, not simply deport them.
The NDP is also opposing Bill C-3 because it undermines fundamental Canadian values. Inserting special advocates into the security certificate process does not adequately address concerns around the right to due process.
However, even if all civil liberties were somehow protected in this legislation, security certificates under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which was stated a few moments ago have been around for a very long time, would still not be the right way to deal with threats to national security.
Unfortunately, because the Liberals have chosen to support the Conservatives on Bill C-3, it will likely pass and come to the public safety committee for examination. If that happens, the NDP will do everything in its power to ensure this fundamentally wrong legislation does as little harm as possible. But let us be clear with one another in this House and with Canadians who are watching today, Bill C-3 is the wrong way to go.