Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to speak to this bill, since it is such an important one. I understand that all the bills in this House of Commons have a certain importance, but this one is extremely specific in character, and extremely important. It must be considered very wisely.
We need to look at Bill C-55, the purpose of which is to fight terrorism, keeping in mind that this important legislature must meet the expectations of the voters of Canada, and those of Quebec as well. Examination of this bill requires us to bear in mind all the other pieces of legislation in place in Canada, but in particular, the charter of rights and freedoms, which is in place and must be respected as well. We must meet the public's expectations, respect existing legislation as well as the charter, and strike a balance between individual and collective rights and national security.
The government has failed in its duty on at least two occasions, by attempting to get Bill C-42 through, which was divided up and enacted in part, and then by going back to the drawing board and tabling Bill C-55.
Upon examining this new legislation, one cannot help but notice that the government has not listened and is not responding to the expectations of constituents across Canada and Quebec. This is so evident, that at first reading of this bill, the person responsible for monitoring and protecting the privacy of individuals has said that this is legislation that could be found in totalitarian countries. Naturally, I am referring to the privacy commissioner.
I do not agree with the member for Ancaster--Dundas--Flamborough--Aldershot who said that the privacy commissioner should not be commenting. This is not the first time that the privacy commissioner has commented to the media about a bill, saying that it makes sense or does not.
I remember Bill C-36, to fight organized crime, because it is an issue that I was concerned about. This very same privacy commissioner supported it. The member opposite did not rise then to say “He should not comment on it”. No, then it was fine, because the privacy commissioner was supporting the government.
That is not how it works. He did not have to rise when the commissioner commented on Bill C-36, just like he did not have to rise and get offended by the fact that the privacy commissioner made his view on Bill C-55 clear. He described it as unacceptable. He said that it was legislation that could exist, but in totalitarian countries, not a country like Canada, where individual and collective rights are recognized. The privacy commissioner probably came to the same conclusions that the members of the Bloc Quebecois did, when we examined the bill.
Mr. Speaker, I know that I only have ten minutes. I cannot go into detail on each of the points, but you must understand that the whole issue of controlled access military zones worries us.
Incidentally, the words may have changed, but the nuts and bolts of Bill C-55 have not necessarily been changed, because it bears a curious resemblance to Bill C-42, which was plagued with problems. The military security zone is now called a controlled access military zone. This is the biggest change to this section. The whole issue of controlled access military zones is worrisome.
The interim orders that are included in a whole series of acts are also a major source of concern. When we look at the list, we may be surprised, because interim orders may be made under the Department of Health Act, the Explosives Act, the Export and Import Permits Act, the Food and Drugs Act, The Hazardous Products Act, The Marine Transportation Security Act, the Pest Control Products Act, and so on.
What is particular about these interim orders is that each of the ministers responsible for an act will have the authority to make such orders. If we look at these changes, we see that they are exempted from the application of sections 3, 5 and 11 of the Statutory Instruments Act.
A layperson who reads this without really knowing about it, or without the schedule to these acts, may not understand. I wonder if the Minister of National Defence himself understands these provisions, considering the replies that he gave us today.
If we look at the Statutory Instruments Act, we see that sections 3, 5 and 11 are those that are used to determine whether or not an act complies with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
I understand why Quebec did not sign the Constitution. Members opposite boast about this and they celebrate the 20th anniversary of the constitution. Incidentally, they are celebrating a little too soon, because it has not been 20 years, but they are celebrating the 20th anniversary simply to show that they are a little mixed up. This year is the 20th anniversary of the patriation of the Constitution. But the 20th anniversary of the coming into effect of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms will come later. They will eventually learn that in the history books, when they read them.
These sections will not be applied to the acts that I listed. In other words, the government will not check to see if these measures respect the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This is serious business. Yet, the government seems to be merrily going forward, oblivious of the fact that trouble may lie ahead because of these sections. But, as far as the government is concerned, there is no problem.
The very important part 2 of the bill, which deals with the National Defence Act, gives exceptional powers to the Minister of National Defence regarding the creation of the controlled access military zones to which I referred earlier.
My third concern has to do with the whole issue of damages. It will not be possible to sue the government in cases of abuse.
The amendments to the National Defence Act give excessive powers to the Minister of National Defence. One of these powers has to do with the dimensions of zones. He is the one who, at some point, is going to decide exactly what size of controlled access military zone is needed.
Right off the bat, we think that there should be very specific criteria in the bill so that the minister, whoever he is, cannot get carried away. A properly advised, open-minded legislator acting in good faith includes such criteria in a bill. The criteria in subsection 260.1 (4) are as follows:
The dimensions of a controlled access military zone may not be greater than is reasonably necessary to ensure the safety or security of any person, thing or property for which the zone is designated.
These are the criteria which the Minister of National Defence will use. This is the same Minister of National Defence who showed a lack of judgment in the Afghan prisoner affair.
Let us remember that Canadian troops captured prisoners. The minister knew this. He was told that they had during a briefing. But he did not feel the need to inform the Prime Minister, cabinet, or anyone else, while everyone in Canada was anxiously waiting to hear what would happen if prisoners were taken. He even told the House that none had been, when it fact some had, and so on. This is a flagrant lack of judgment, and this is the same minister who is going to implement this legislation.
It is ridiculous. I could give other examples, such as subsection (14) of this same section, which prevents taxpayers from taking the government to court.
I am being signalled that my time is up. I would have liked to speak at greater length about this bill, because it is extremely important. We in the Bloc Quebecois are naturally against it, because we defend ordinary citizens. That is why we were elected.