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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was kind.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as NDP MP for Burnaby—Douglas (B.C.)

Won his last election, in 2008, with 38% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Cracking Down on Crooked Consultants Act September 23rd, 2010

Madam Speaker, I am glad the member addressed in his speech things we could do to improve the system and ensure that people would get the assistance they need and were not necessarily driven to use an immigration consultant.

He mentioned that a lot of people come to MPs' offices now for those services. It is not the ideal situation that MPs should be immigration service centres, even though we are willing to offer that service.

One other idea, and something I put forward, is that we look at the office of the worker advocate in Ontario, which deals with problems surrounding worker compensation problems, and establish something similar federally, an arm's-length government funded office of the immigration advocate to do that kind of work for people to ensure the government takes responsibility to ensure people get that kind of assistance.

Does the member think this is another reasonable idea toward solving the problem that people have with the complications and the problems that arise as they engage our immigration application system?

Cracking Down on Crooked Consultants Act September 21st, 2010

Mr. Speaker, of course this kind of information would be helpful to have on the Citizenship and Immigration website so that we could be doing a better job of providing people with helpful information about the process they are engaging in and what that process requires. I think that we can always do a better job on that front.

Cracking Down on Crooked Consultants Act September 21st, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I am a little distant from my own personal experience of looking at immigration applications. I used to do that as a staff person, and now folks do that work for me, and I want to pay tribute, as the member mentioned, to the people who do that work for us in probably all the constituency offices of all members of Parliament.

Certainly in my office, and I suspect in most urban offices, immigration casework is probably the largest piece of work our staff do in terms of helping constituents with specific programs. I know that the circumstances of those cases are often the most difficult cases my staff deal with. I have great staff in terms of caseworkers who work on these issues for me. Ayesha Haider, Caren Yu, and sometimes Jane Ireland do this important work for me. They sit with people who are trying to figure out the immigration process. Often, even with their many collective years of experience, they are baffled by something that has happened in this process.

There is a lot of work that could be done to make the process simpler, to make it clearer to people, and to make it possible for them to understand exactly what the requirements are so that they can meet those requirements themselves, without the assistance of a third party, such as a constituency office or some kind of professional immigration consultant or lawyer or notary or those kinds of people. It would be really nice if our system could function so that people could make those applications directly, using their own skills and abilities. They would only engage those people in situations that were infinitely more complex or particularly special in some way.

Right now, too many people feel the need to seek out assistance, because the system is cumbersome in some way for them. I think we could make significant progress in simplifying both the requirements of the system and the basic forms and other information people are required to fill out and provide.

Cracking Down on Crooked Consultants Act September 21st, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for being part of the debate on this legislation. I know that it has been his practice for other legislation he has brought to the House. I appreciate that he uses his time in that way. I think it is a very important contribution he makes to the discussion this afternoon.

While I appreciate that steps have been taken to improve processing in some of the categories he mentioned, he does downplay a little bit the frustrations people have with the delays in family class applications. Certainly for people in my constituency, that is the point where they are most frustrated.

That has been one of the strong points of Canada's immigration system. That is the part of our immigration system that has a built-in settlement program. The family helps people settle into Canada. That is one of the points of our immigration process. We promised people that if they came to Canada, they would be able to bring family members after them. That is one of the places where we are still messing up. People are still very frustrated about the length of time it takes to have a family member join them here in Canada.

There is still work to be done. I am glad that there is progress being made in some of the categories, but if the minister talks to the people who contact my office, they are still waiting. I am sure that the folks who contact the minister's office and his constituency office are still waiting for action in those areas as well.

There is a lot more to be done on this very crucial aspect of Canadian policy when it comes to our immigration program.

Cracking Down on Crooked Consultants Act September 21st, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to participate in the debate on Bill C-35, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, or, as the refugees from the Hallmark greeting card operation that are in the Conservative caucus call it , the cracking down on crooked consultants act. I do not know where these snappy titles come from but I think the minister is taking direct responsibility for that. It is good to know that the minister has other job opportunities waiting for him should this one not work out.

However, it is important legislation and it is something for which many people in my constituency of Burnaby—Douglas have been hoping for a long time, that government would take the issue of the service that Canadians get from immigration consultants and the service that prospective Canadians get from immigration consultants seriously. There have been very many problems with this over a long period of time, so it is good that there is finally a specific proposal on the agenda as far as that proposal goes.

The bill would amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to change the manner of regulating third parties and immigration processes. Among other things, it would create a new offence by extending the prohibition against representing or advising persons for consideration for pay or offering to do so to all stages in connection with the proceeding or application under the act, including before a proceeding has been commenced or an application has been made.

The bill also would exempt from this prohibition members of a provincial bar or the Chambre Des Notaires Du Québec and students at law acting under their supervision. It would exempt member of a body designated by the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism and it would exempt entities and persons acting on the entities behalf acting in accordance with an agreement or arrangement with Her Majesty in right of Canada.

The bill would also give the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism the power to make transitional regulations in relation to the designation of a body to regulate the process of immigration consultants, to regulate immigration consultants, which is a very important piece of this legislation.

That is more the sort of legal language. The government has proposed that all advice supplied for a fee be provided by an authorized immigration representative. This individual would have to be either a member in good standing of a provincial or territorial law association or the body governing immigration consultants.

Unpaid third parties, as the government points out, such as family members and friends, would still be allowed to act on behalf of an applicant. Furthermore, under the new rules there would be exceptions for certain groups, for example, visa application centres and other service providers, when acting in accordance with an agreement arrangement with the Government of Canada.

The legislation would also provide the minister with the power by regulation to designate a body to govern immigration consultants. Also under these amendments, the onus would be on the current body governing immigration consultants to provide key information to assist in the minister's evaluation of whether the body is governing its members in the public interest and whether consultants are providing representation and advice in a professional and ethical manner.

There is an attempt to clean up loopholes in the system and to establish a new governing body or an effective governing body for immigration consultants in Canada.

When the government announced these measures, it also announced some non-legislative measures. We have heard from the minister again about those. The government has talked about strengthening public awareness, including raising awareness of the risks of engaging a crooked consultant and updating websites in Canada and abroad to carry warning messages for potential immigrants and various service improvement. Web based tools and videos are also being developed by CIC to make it easier for applicants to independently apply to immigrate to Canada.

The minister has also pointed out and reiterated again today the effort to co-operate with foreign governments to address the issues of fraud that happen not on Canadian soil but in countries, as the minister has indicated, like China, India and the Philippines, and to engage police authorities there to crack down on fraudulent activities by consultants operating in those countries. This is a very important aspect of it and I hope the government puts the appropriate resources toward ensuring co-operation between regulatory bodies and various police agencies to ensure that this kind of crackdown can occur and can occur both here in Canada and in countries where consultants are being hired.

It would be great if in some way we could cut down on the need for this industry, and there are a number of ways we could do that. One of them is by ensuring that we do not have the huge backlog in immigration applications that we currently face. One of the reasons we drive people to talk to a consultant is the fact that their applications take so long. When people see an application sitting for years with no action on it they begin to wonder if they have not done something wrong and begin to think they need assistance through this process. It drives them into the hands of immigration consultants, and often into the hands of an unscrupulous immigration consultant. If we were really serious about ensuring the effectiveness of our system, we would work to get rid of that backlog and to make sure that the system functioned smoothly and effectively.

We should also simplify the forms. We drive people to a consultant when we make the form difficult, when it is hard for them to understand. Maybe we need to make forms that are more appropriate in different cultural contexts and have different forms in different contexts that get us the same information, but we need to make sure that people find it easy to make the application and provide the information that is required. That is something we could do that would reduce their reliance on a third party to assist them.

Another route we could go to ensure that people feel that they have an alternative is visitor visa appeals. Often people apply to have a friend or relative visit them here in Canada and that is turned down with very little explanation. If there were an appeal system in place, people would feel less of a need to approach a third party to help them with that application for fear that they may have done something wrong, that they are missing something in the process, that there is information they should have to ensure a successful application. If they felt as well that there was recourse should they not have a successful application, it would also reduce the number of people who feel that it is absolutely necessary to engage a third party in dealing with their failed application or with an application that they perceive to be more difficult. So there are a number of things we should also be doing, as well as this legislation, and I hope some of those get the attention, and continued attention, in some cases, of the government.

We have looked at this for many years and there have been many attempts to deal with this issue of ghost consultants, of crooked consultants, of unscrupulous immigration consultants. I am glad that the government has apparently taken it seriously.

When the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration looked at the whole question of immigration consultants and studied the situation of the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants it noticed a number of issues that needed to be addressed about the operation of CSIC, about that body that currently attempts to have some role in the regulation of immigration consultants in Canada. There was a long list of observations the committee made about the functioning of that and we have heard this afternoon in this debate some of those issues that were observed. It noticed that CSIC membership fees were too high and that it was prohibitive and was interfering in the effectiveness of the organization. It said that CSIC membership examinations were prepared and marked in a questionable way, so that there were questions raised about the viability of the examination process. It said that CSIC failed to develop an industry plan, something that is crucial especially in this new and developing industry, this expanding industry where so many people's hopes about their future are caught up and can easily be manipulated by unscrupulous people.

The Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration also noticed that CSIC decision-making lacked transparency and was not conducted democratically. So internal functioning of the organization was a concern, as well as the fact that the CSIC board of directors was not accountable to anyone. It noted that there was no possibility for CSIC members to call a special meeting of the society. It said that compensation for and the spending of CSIC board members was extravagant, ill-advised and unaccounted for. It pointed out that CSIC board members are in conflict of interest because they created and currently serve on the board of the Canadian Migration Institute, a related for-profit corporation. So there were many concerns raised about the governance of the current organization, CSIC.

The standing committee also noted that many members of CSIC had little choice but to pay $800 each to buy an outdated educational video in order to obtain sufficient continuing professional development points to maintain their CSIC membership. Even the upgrading of skills, the ongoing professional development of the organization and how it provided that, was a concern.

It noted that CSIC does not communicate with members or provide services to members equally in French and English, which is a very serious problem for any national organization seeking to regulate an industry dealing with immigration in Canada.

The ability of members to voice concerns about CSIC was limited since the CSIC rules of professional conduct were amended to make it a professional offence to undermine CSIC and compelling members to treat CSIC with dignity and respect. Even trying to deal with problems within the organization became a problem in itself, and the ability of members to raise concerns was limited by the operation of the organization.

The Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration finally noted that the CSIC website was set up in such a way that members could not send bulk email messages to all other members. The inability of CSIC members to correspond with other members of their profession was limited by the organization itself.

Clearly there are serious problems with the existing organization. I think many people will be relieved that the government is now seeking to establish a different organization and the minister has put out a request for proposals to deal with the establishment of a new regulatory organization, because there are very serious issues that need to be addressed in how such an organization would operate to best serve Canadians who are engaged with the immigration process.

We know the standing committee made recommendations out of its study of ghost immigration consultants. It made nine recommendations and we have heard some discussion of them this afternoon.

Earlier I talked about the need to simplify immigration applications, and that was one of the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration in its report on ghost consultants. The committee recommended that Citizenship and Immigration Canada review existing processes related to the most common types of immigration applications, with a view to simplifying them whenever possible.

That goes hand in hand with making sure that the application forms themselves are easily understood. Again it goes to the hope that most people could engage this process without the assistance of a third party, without the need for some kind of professional to shepherd their application through the process.

Staff in my office have seen many problems with immigration consultants over the years. Like the member for Trinity—Spadina, I spent many years as a constituency assistant before I became a member of Parliament and worked with many people on immigration problems. I was often appalled by the bad advice, bad assistance and expensive bad advice that people had received.

In checking with my office today to ask staff members what was their sense of the problem of unscrupulous immigration consultants or immigration consultants in general, they pointed out many problems that have come up in terms of their work with constituents who have immigration applications under way.

In terms of some general concerns, they noted that immigration consultants seem to hold on to information until they are paid, sometimes meaning that people miss important deadlines in the application process. My staff has experienced the situation where immigration consultants have asked for additional amounts that they had not indicated earlier, so there were new charges and expenses that had never been explained to their clients.

Staff members noted that sometimes immigration consultants give bad information, sometimes obviously bad information that anyone who was appropriately trained or had even minimal experience with the immigration system would know the answer to. My staff also pointed out that, in their experience, often immigration consultants have delayed relaying information to the embassies and sometimes back to constituents and the people applying.

Staff members noted that they have seen no consistency in the amount that people are charged for the services of an immigration consultant and that there does not seem to be any clear standard. Sometimes people have paid very large amounts of money for very simple services. They particularly note the significant charges that people have paid in a number of cases for assistance with visitor visas, which is a fairly direct and simple process.

My staff have seen a number of cases where immigration consultants have been problematic for people in my constituency and their families and friends who have been engaging with the immigration process. My staff have related some specific stories to me and I will relate them to the House to give some sense of the kind of situation that people are facing.

One of my constituents had a spouse who was a refugee claimant in Canada. The immigration consultant first charged her around $5,000 to put in a humanitarian and compassionate application and an extension application. When those applications failed, the consultant advised the spouse to fly back to the country of origin and return to Canada by air without actually having an authorization to return, which can take up to a year in any case. Since the person was advised to do this, he tried it and he was deported again from the airport, complicating his case in a very serious way. When the sponsor tried to contact the immigration consultant again, the consultant retracted his original advice, saying he had never advised that. So the situation this family ended up in is a very serious one. Once someone is deported, it is a very serious matter and something that was completely unnecessary. It is very expensive to get this kind of bad advice.

Another story that was important to my staff from their experience of working with people was another couple whose permanent resident application from South Asia was being done through a consultant. The consultant held on to important information because there was a delay in the receipt of a payment.

The applicants' medicals were expiring in three weeks and the embassy asked the consultant if they wanted medicals redone or if it should issue a three-week validity visa in the hope that the people could reach Canada within that time. Because there was a delay by a relative of the couple in making a payment to the consultant, the consultant told the embassy to issue three-week visas, which expired by the time they reached the applicants. This meant that the applicants had to start the application process over completely from the beginning. It was incredibly frustrating for that family who had gone through a rather lengthy immigration process, successfully as it turns out, only to have it messed up at the end by an immigration consultant who was less than helpful to them when push came to shove, when they really needed assistance from someone who they anticipated knew the Canadian immigration system, had some professional ethics and professional standards, was well trained and could assist them appropriately in this process, a process that is so crucial to so many families and to our communities and our society.

There is a lot that we could be doing, and I am pleased that we are debating this bill today. I am glad that it is going to go to committee where witnesses can be called and where further discussion can be had about it. It is absolutely crucial that we get our act together on this. The situation with immigration consultant regulation in Canada has gone on too long and it has caused too many problems for too many people. So it is good that the government has placed this on the agenda.

I hope that through the process of committee hearings and continued debate on this legislation we can end up with a bill and a regulatory body that will serve the needs of Canadians and the needs of those people who want to come to Canada to start a new life and contribute to the building of this country.

Combating Terrorism Act September 21st, 2010

Madam Speaker, the member for Vancouver East has raised an important issue about what does seize our attention.

I am thankful that here in this place there are members who are prepared to engage this important issue. I am thankful that the member for Vancouver Kingsway, our New Democrat public safety critic, is working very hard on this issue, that our justice critic, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, and so many other New Democrat members are working hard on this issue and are prepared to participate in debate.

We know the central importance of the issues that are being challenged by this legislation. We will continue to do that work. We will continue to be on the record about our opposition to this legislation. Hopefully, that opposition will be noticed. Hopefully, we will change a few minds in the process of speaking publicly on this issue and that other Canadians will also come to realize the very serious nature of what the government is proposing and will come to understand that these measures are useless, dangerous and that we should not proceed with them.

Combating Terrorism Act September 21st, 2010

Madam Speaker, it brings me back to the question of what is the threat we are facing that requires these extraordinary measures.

The government has not presented any evidence that there has been a failure of the Criminal Code to deal with terrorist activity in Canada. In fact, since 9/11 there have been people charged with terrorist activity in Canada and there have been convictions. People have been sent to jail for those activities.

It seems to me that the system is capable of functioning without violating human rights and without violating civil liberties in Canada and using the existing provisions of the Criminal Code. It seems to me that if there were evidence that somehow people were getting away with these crimes in Canada at the present time or since 9/11, there might be reason to consider other measures. I am not sure that these measures would be worthy of consideration even in those circumstances, but in the absence of any evidence that there is a problem, I do not know why we are considering these measures again.

I think Parliament made the right decision when, after five years of these provisions being present in our criminal law, they were allowed to sunset and were passed over. Parliament realized at that time they were not necessary and were not helpful. I do not believe the government should be reintroducing them at this point.

Parliament has debated this issue in the past and I think the appropriate decision was made at that time.

Combating Terrorism Act September 21st, 2010

Madam Speaker, my colleague's question brings me back to my point that there is no substitute for charges under the Criminal Code, for engaging the justice process, for getting somebody into court and proving the allegations or allowing that individual to disprove them, and for getting that person convicted and jailed.

We should be focusing our attention on that. We should allow our system to do that. We should make sure that our system has the resources it needs to engage that process fully without compromising the basic tenets of our criminal justice system, without inventing ways of short-circuiting it because we believe there is some kind of emergency or special circumstances.

Our system has proven its value over and over again. We have experience with it. We have the precedents to know how it works. We know its strong points and its failings. We do not need to invent new exceptions to that process. I believe the ones in this legislation are serious exceptions to that process.

This legislation is saying that somebody is compelling an individual to testify. Arresting and detaining and putting conditions on an individual for preventive reasons are serious abrogations of basic civil rights and basic elements of the process that we have in place in this country.

I do not think there is any evidence to show us that these provisions are useful, that they have been more effective in dealing with terrorism. We have not really engaged them. We may have used the compulsion to testify once in the Air India court case. I do not believe that any of the evidence gleaned in the requirement to testify by one of the witnesses was ever used or was found to be useful in the ongoing court case.

There is no evidence to my understanding that these provisions are useful, that they have been used, that this departure from the normal process is helpful in any way. It is very unhelpful. They go to a diminution of the important and basic values of our society and of our justice system. That is why I think this is dangerous legislation.

Combating Terrorism Act September 21st, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak in this debate on Bill C-17, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions). The short title is the Combating Terrorism Act.

It is important that we review what this bill actually sets out to do, because sometimes when we are debating it, we lose track of this over the course of the debate, and people who might be listening could lose track as well.

Specifically, what this bill will do is establish investigative hearings under the provisions of the Anti-terrorism Act, whereby individuals who may have information about past or future terrorism offences can be compelled to attend a hearing and to answer questions. No one attending a hearing can refuse to answer a question on the grounds of self-incrimination. Information gathered at such hearings cannot be used directly in criminal proceedings against the individual, but derivative evidence may be.

The other significant provision of this legislation is a provision for preventive arrest, whereby individuals may be arrested without a warrant in order to prevent the carrying out of a terrorist act. Detention in this case would be based on what someone might do in a certain situation. The arrested individual must be brought before a judge within 24 hours, or as soon as it is feasible. The judge determines whether the individual is to be released unconditionally or released under certain conditions, recognizance with conditions, which are in effect for up to 12 months. If the conditions are refused, the individual may be imprisoned for up to 12 months.

The bill also contains a five-year sunset clause, requiring a resolution of both the House and Senate for it to be renewed.

This is indeed significant legislation, and it is not the first time we have seen it come before the House. It came out of the Anti-terrorism Act that was enacted after the 9/11 events. At that time, when there were serious concerns about what had recently happened, everybody was worried and fearful, which is not too strong a word to use, about what was actually going on at that time.

These two provisions were included in that legislation, albeit with a sunset clause requiring that they be reviewed within five years. If Parliament did not re-approve them, they would come to an end. In fact, that is exactly what happened. When they were put to Parliament, Parliament did not agree to their extension.

Since that time, there have been several attempts by the Conservative government to reintroduce these provisions into our criminal law, into the Anti-terrorism Act. One was short-circuited by an early prorogation of the House, and others have not been given the priority that, if they were sufficiently important, they should certainly have received.

This is not the first time, in my term as a member of Parliament, that we have debated these issues. I have to wonder why, if this is so important, it was not given a higher priority by the government. It belies the importance of these issues that the government has not made sure this legislation got through earlier.

I also have to wonder why this legislation is necessary. I do not believe that we are responding to any serious failure of the Criminal Code of Canada to deal with terrorism, or any of the crimes that might be related to terrorism in Canada. I have not heard that we have failed to convict people who have committed terrorist acts or who are considering terrorist acts. In fact, post 9/11, we have convicted people under the provisions of the Criminal Code, without using these special provisions of crimes related to terrorism. We have seen the group in Toronto. We have seen others who have been convicted. This would say to me that there is not a problem with the existing Criminal Code legislation, that there is not a problem in investigating and actually charging and convicting people in the usual process of crimes related to terrorism.

I have to ask, then, regarding these special provisions, which go way beyond the normal provisions of our justice system, and which violate fundamental human rights in Canada, why we would want to go down that road. To my knowledge, no proof has ever been presented to the House or to one of the committees of the House, that the current provisions of the Criminal Code are not functioning when it comes to dealing with acts of terrorism or conspiracy to commit terrorism. Why do we have these provisions before us?

It is important to consider the serious nature of these provisions. They have a serious effect on what Canadians have come to know as basic human rights, basic civil liberties. The proposal to compel testimony from individuals, to force people to testify in court, violates the right to remain silent. It violates the right not to incriminate oneself before the law. That is a serious violation. It is something that most Canadians appreciate in our criminal law. Before we go down this road, we need to consider carefully why all this is necessary.

The investigative hearing proposals in this legislation would force someone to testify before a judge if he or she were suspected of having information about terrorist activity that has already occurred or that might occur. It directly compromises the right to remain silent, one of the fundamental principles of our justice system. The refusal to testify at an investigative hearing can lead to one year of jail time. It can also reduce the right to silence for persons who are questioned by the RCMP or CSIS: if they are uncooperative with a police investigation, the possibility of having to go to an investigative hearing can be used to compel cooperation and compromise their right to remain silent.

We have to realize that not everyone who chooses to remain silent in such circumstances is guilty, that choosing to remain silent is not an admission of guilt or proof of guilt. People may have legitimate fears and concerns. For instance, they might be concerned about their personal safety. Given the broad definition of terrorism in the Anti-terrorism Act, I believe that this provision is a problem. The definition itself has come in for criticism in the past.

This provision and the one on preventive detention are serious departures from our justice process. They could be used against people who are legitimately protesting or who are viewed as dissidents by our society. These provisions could be used to harass or even imprison such people.

A number of people today have mentioned the G20 protest and the mass arrests that were held. For the most part, they appeared to be carried out for preventive reasons. In my opinion, this process violated the rights to peaceful assembly, protest, and the expression of political views.

The whole question of investigative hearings raises another serious issue about how we do justice in this country. It puts judges in the position of having to oversee an investigation, which is a real departure from the normal process in our system. It is not the practice of our justice system and it is not something that most judges have experience with. It is a major departure since investigations in our system are normally undertaken by police authorities.

In hearings the Senate had on the previous incarnation of this bill, Jason Gratl, the president of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, put this concern in this way:

The primary difficulty with investigative hearings is that they distort the functions of the judiciary and the Crown. In essence, the course of order-making power of the judiciary is brought to bear on an investigation. That power places prosecutors in the role of investigators, which is unlike their usual role. It also places the judiciary in a position of presiding over a criminal investigation.

This is a serious consideration that we need to look at with this legislation and this proposal.

There is also the matter of preventive detention. Preventive detention, or recognizance with conditions, is the other key part of the bill. It compromises a key principle of our justice system, namely, that one should be charged, convicted, and sentenced in order to be jailed. This provision would allow for the arrest and detention of people without ever proving any allegation against them. It could make people subject to conditions on release with severe limitations on their personal freedom, even if they have never been convicted of any crime. That is a serious departure from what we would normally expect from our justice system.

Some folks may say this is necessary, but I believe that jailing people because we think they might do something is extremely problematic, to say the least. It is easily apparent how such a measure can be abused.

There is a good example to be found in our practice already, and I think it is a very bad practice. It relates to the question of security certificates, which is a measure under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. We have seen this in the post-9/11 period. It was intended to expedite deportation of non-citizens. Under this legislation, we have seen it used as a method of detaining people, a method of preventive detention for people that the state suspected may have been involved in terrorist activity. The most recent cases were the five men who were detained for years, some up to eight years, without ever being charged or convicted of a crime.

I think this was a distortion of the intention of the security certificate legislation. I also think it was a process that violated basic human rights in Canada. Some of these men are still subject to release conditions as a result of the security certificate that this government issued against them and that the previous Liberal government initiated.

There are serious problems, and we have seen some of these problems emerge in the court processes that these men have been involved in over the years. In fact, a number of the security certificates have now been thrown out because of the length of time they have been used and problems related to evidence.

I have to emphasize that these people have never been charged or convicted of any crime in Canada. The security certificate process has had nothing to do with that. I think this is an indication of how a legal measure can be distorted. Security certificates were intended to expedite deportation for people who had violated the conditions of their stay in Canada. But they have been used for other purposes. That is something we need to consider when we are looking at extraordinary measures like the ones in this legislation.

I point out that there is no issue related to terrorism that is not already covered by the Criminal Code. I think the NDP's justice critic, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh has said this loud and clear on a number of occasions. The last time we were debating this issue in the House he put it very eloquently. I want to quote from his speech at that time. He said:

There is no act of terrorism that is not already a criminal offence punishable by the most stringent penalties under the Criminal Code. This is obviously the case for premeditated, cold-blooded murder; however, it is also true of the destruction of major infrastructure.

Moreover, when judges exercise their discretion during sentencing, they will consider the terrorist motive as an aggravating factor. They will find that the potential for rehabilitation is very low, that the risk of recidivism is very high and that deterrence and denunciation are grounds for stiffer sentencing. This is what they have always done in the past and there is no reason to think they will do differently in the future.

It is clear that there is no crime related to terrorism that is not already included in the Criminal Code. I can think of no circumstance of a crime committed as part of an act of terrorism that would not be dealt with in the strictest, toughest way by our courts. Some specific examples might be helpful. For instance, counselling to commit murder is already an offence under the Criminal Code. Being a party to an offence is also a crime. The crime of conspiracy is well established under the Criminal Code and deals with the planning of criminal activity.

Let us be clear. In the conspiracy category, no crime actually has to be committed for someone to be found guilty of conspiracy under the Criminal Code. A charge is possible even when no crime has been committed under the existing provisions of the Criminal Code of Canada.

We also have hate crime legislation that outlaws the promotion of hatred against a particular group, which may have some relevance in situations of terrorist activity.

The whole question of preventive detention also has an existing parallel in some ways in the Criminal Code. It should be noted that peace bonds provisions already exist in the Criminal Code and can be exercised where there are reasonable grounds to believe that a person's life or well-being is threatened by another person. This provision has similar power to preventive detention, as discussed in this bill, but more significant safeguards are built into the Criminal Code provision.

No one has demonstrated to my satisfaction that this existing provision will not meet the needs of dealing with terrorist activity. It is crucial to be very clear about that. We have not seen any evidence that there is a failure of the Criminal Code to deal with acts of terrorism or the planning of terrorist acts in Canada. We have not seen that the existing provisions of the Criminal Code of Canada need these extraordinary measures, which are an affront to some basic and long accepted and long established, for hundreds of years, principles of our justice system in Canada.

We need to be clear that when it comes to dealing with terrorism and conspiracy to commit terrorism, we really need to focus on and put our energy into police and intelligence work. We have seen in the past that Canada was ill-prepared when it met the challenge of a terrorist act. The Air India bombing comes to mind. Canada did not have the ability to appropriately investigate that situation. Police authorities did not have the resources, staff or people with the skills they needed to appropriately investigate that kind of crime.

We have to make sure in this process that our police and intelligence services have the personnel and resources they need to investigate potential terrorist acts and to charge those responsible. That has to be the flow. We have to do the investigations and lay the charges and ensure the full gamut of our justice system is engaged in that process.

I do not think it is appropriate to say that we are going to do the investigation and come up with some evidence but shut down the rest of the process of charging and hopefully convicting someone who is alleged to have committed those crimes. The conviction is very necessary in all of that. For me that is one of the failings in the security certificate process.

We have to be aware that these provisions were first proposed in a time of fear, after the attacks of 9/11. People were not exactly sure what was happening at that time. We have to also be aware that legislating in a time of fear and uncertainty like the period immediately after 9/11 can lead to bad legislation. It can lead to unintended consequences, ultimately, such as labelling and stereotyping individuals and groups in our society.

There is much evidence that says when we do that kind of thing, we do not make good legislation. Denis Barrette, the spokesperson for International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, said at the Senate hearings on Bill S-3:

These laws are used in emergencies, where fear and panic are at the forefront—somewhat like what happened at the time of September 11, 2001.

Fear is never a good adviser. It is rather in moments of peace and quiet that the importance of preserving rights and freedoms should be rationally assessed. It is obviously important to defend them in difficult times, but we must plan for how to protect them in difficult times.

It is easy to protect rights and freedoms in peaceful times. We must provide for the unpredictable and ensure that, in a moment of panic, legislation does not result in innocent victims because it was poorly conceived or because it was dangerous or useless.

I believe that is what we have before us in Bill C-17, and that is why I strongly oppose this legislation.

Combating Terrorism Act September 21st, 2010

Mr. Speaker, during the hearings into the former bill, Bill S-3 at the Senate, the previous incarnation of this legislation, some folks raised issues about investigative hearings saying that it was a change in how our judicial system worked, that it put judges in the position of having to lead an investigation which was not their usual role and that that was problematic in our system of justice.

I wonder if the member could comment on that change in the role of judges should this legislation pass.