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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was elections.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Toronto—Danforth (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 40% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Combating Terrorism Act October 15th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, my remarks today will be on a series of clauses in Bill S-7, clauses 4 through 8, which would add a number of sections dealing with the question of leaving or attempting to leave the country for purposes related to terrorism.

These proposed provisions that will make it a crime to leave or attempt to leave Canada to join a terrorist group or participate in a terrorist activity respond to very real concerns. Assuming the accuracy of testimony before the Senate, there are worries about a non-trivial number, even if a proportionately small number, of citizens or permanent residents contemplating leaving Canada for this reason or having already done so. There is reason to believe that male youth under age 18 or young men over age 18 in some diasporic communities are targeted, especially for recruitment to join in terrorist activities abroad. There is very much reason to be concerned.

All that noted, we are led, as we must always be when youth are highly likely to be the main subject of criminal law measures, to wonder if criminalization will be as productive a measure as its proponents hope. Let us assume that we all believe in preventive measures of a social, educational, mentoring sort alongside addressing root causes of alienation that lead to the kind of radicalization we are concerned about in this context. The question then becomes what the value would be of criminal charges against youth arrested at airports or other borders seeking to leave Canada.

At least for those under age 18, it is true that the Youth Criminal Justice Act will apply and that the act allows for holistic education-centred sentences, for example. That is a good thing, although everyone needs to be reminded of two caveats: one, that youth still receive criminal records; and two, that the Crown can always seek to apply for adult sentences. However, once one reaches that magic number of 18, we are left with the full-blown application of the criminal law. At minimum, we need to know that the approach of government is more multifaceted than reliance on these new Criminal Code provisions alone.

In this respect, there is one thing proponents have in common with those of us who are concerned about promoting non-criminal measures to divert people, especially youth, from radicalization of the sort that embraces violence, and that is prevention. If prevention could be achieved in ways short of the cumbersome and often clumsy invocation of the criminal law, I suspect that some productive consensus could be arrived at. The problem, however, is that it is very hard to design coercive measures to prevent a person's departure shy of using the criminal law while still remaining faithful to principles related to liberty and the rule of law that we cherish.

It might be thought that one way to use the criminal law in a way that falls short of full-scale criminalization would be for these new provisions to be used as the basis for detention by the Canada Border Services Agency and then arrest and charge by the RCMP, but then have the Crown decide not to prosecute. Keep in mind that when I say the Crown, I mean the Attorney General because these new provisions are among those in the Criminal Code that require the Attorney General's consent to prosecute.

When one reads the Senate committee records for Bill S-7, one gets the impression that there may be in part some who may mean, by the new provisions, this kind of idea in terms of the preventive purpose. If these new provisions allowed the state to prevent people, for example, youth, from joining terrorist enterprises while not resulting in criminal convictions and sentences, would this not be a defensible result? The answer seems clear. Criminal law will not be able to function within acceptable limits if it becomes a tool for disruption, whereby arrest is the end goal, but not prosecution. The more a system can be used with no real intention of prosecuting, the more it will over time be used in exactly that way.

For the Criminal Code to maintain its integrity, its implication must only ever be on the basis of good faith that each stage of decision-making is relevant, good faith that there is adequate evidence to sustain a prosecution. All this leads to the question of whether we actually do have a prosecution system in Canada that is willing and able to prosecute, considering that much of the evidence for the new offences will be produced from intelligence that CSIS and perhaps other agencies may well not be prepared to allow to go to court for fear of revealing sources and methods.

We know from the Air India inquiry how such considerations can inhibit effective prosecution. We have no reason to believe that the prosecution capacity has changed since the 2010 Air India report. Therefore, we may end up with a system that theoretically allows for proof of intention to leave the country for these purposes. We can all imagine the kinds of proof, ranging from emails, parents or community members, provision of information, information from foreign intelligence and so on. Therefore, a system that theoretically allows for proof of intention is possible but in practice may lead to charges being dropped because intelligence agencies will not want evidence made public. If so, we may inadvertently end up with the criminal law being used, in the way I talked about earlier, as a means to disrupt behaviour with limited prospect for use for its prescribed purpose of criminal prosecution. Therefore, in committee this may be an issue worth probing. Will the sort of evidence available actually usable before the courts?

Let us now look at another challenge, which is the interface of acquiring evidence of intent to leave the country for this purpose and logistics. This is the issue of how all of this will work at the point of exit from Canada.

At the moment, we all know there are no exit controls at all the borders, notably at airports, other than no-fly lists for those deemed to be a threat to aviation. Testimony before the Senate made it clear that co-operation protocols or memorandums of understanding would be needed among CSIS, the RCMP and the CBSA.

Mr. Fadden, the director of CSIS, went further and noted that would have to extend likely to CATSA, the agency of the Department of Transport that regulates security. How these protocols will be developed and what kind of accountability there will be for their operation remains a concern especially because the RCMP, a key link in the inter-agency collaboration that will be needed here, has been shown by both the Arar and the Air India inquiries to be an agency that suffers from lack of accountability and inappropriate oversight mechanisms. Yet, with the government's Bill C-42, we see that it has no intention of acting on the Arar commission's carefully thought through recommendations for RCMP accountability and oversight.

However, there are two comments by Director Fadden that most definitely will need to be followed up in the House of Commons committee after second reading.

I will turn to the first one. He said:

—I emphasize that we have not developed the protocols yet. What we will need to do is work closely with the Mounties and make sure [that] we are communicating at all times with border services.

The other complicating that Canada has no system for controlling exits. We do not even have a system to be aware when people are leaving. This will involve more than the CBSA; it may well involve CATSA, the agency of the Department of Transport that regulates security.

I should not say much more because I will get myself into a situation I will not be able to get myself out of.

We will need to better understand what is being considered, what is being referred to here by the director of CSIS. Is some form of cross the border surveillance system to clock everyone's exits being contemplated? That seems to be hinted at within the statement, especially the sentence, “We do not even have a system to be aware when people are leaving”. The suggestion is that such a system of awareness is some sort of requirement, a sine qua non for the protocols to be implemented to give effect to these new Criminal Code provisions.

One way to be aware of someone exiting the country is to already have identified them as having the intention that this criminal provision talks about and then to track them to the airport. However, that kind of specificity may not be what Mr. Fadden is actually alluding to.

To return to the question I have already asked once, are we looking at a more general surveillance system that CATSA, for example, would operate? We need clear answers on this in committee.

It might also be that a revision of the no-fly list is part of what is being contemplated as a general surveillance mechanism.

At another point in his testimony before the Senate, Mr. Fadden discussed why no-fly lists would not currently provide the mechanism: (a) for being aware of when someone is seeking to leave; and (b) for preventing that person from boarding the aircraft. Here is his observation:

The current structure of the no-fly list program is such that you have to be a threat to aviation....My understanding is that officials are preparing a series of proposals for ministers to try to make this list a little more subtle, but I do not know where they are on it.

Is it possible that the government is considering a mechanism to put people on a no-fly list based on evidence, at whatever standard of proof, that the person intends to leave Canada in a way that would violate one of these new leaving the country provisions? If so, we need to know much more about how this would work in relation to enforcement of these new provisions in the code, how people would be put on this list and how they could get off.

Would this be an alternative to arrest and possible prosecution under the criminal law provisions? If so, is this possibly preferable to direct intervention of the RCMP to arrest, followed by possible prosecution? I think in particular of how this would avoid criminalization of youth where the primary concern with respect to the kind of radicalization that leads them to want to leave Canada to get involved with terrorism.

At the same time, however, what we know about how no-fly lists currently operate in a zone of non-accountability leaves me deeply doubtful that this approach would provide a preferable preventive mechanism.

Just for example, the experience of Maher Arar and other Canadians like Mr. Almalki, Mr. Elmaati and Mr. Nureddin create real worries about what could happen to a Canadian who ends up on a no-fly list for reasons related to CSIS or RCMP speculation about intentions to engage in terrorism.

The Canadian government's purpose might be to stop the person from leaving Canada. Perhaps the purpose is to get youth to think twice before trying to leave Canada by another means. However, foreign intelligence agencies that might get access to our no-fly list might act very differently on that very same information if the person in question ever did leave Canada and then showed up on the radar screen of some country when seeking to use that country's airport.

The reason this is of such concern is that the connection between a person and terrorism within this new leaving the country criminal law provision can be very attenuated. Intentionally attempting to leave becomes itself a terrorism offence and the evidentiary basis for being put on a no-fly list as opposed to being brought forward for prosecution may be far below the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt within our criminal law system. Yet on such a possible thin basis, someone's name could enter into the interconnected global system of surveillance that could lead to preventive arrest or worse in other countries on that basis alone.

I emphasize that those are concerns prompted by an admittedly very brief reference from Mr. Fadden, but in the context it is potentially a very telling reference. We must be aware how collaboration and information-sharing works between intelligence agencies between countries. This is something I have had the chance to study in some depth several years ago when preparing a report for the settlement process in Mr. Arar's lawsuit against Canada.

Unless we have confidence in how people would get on this new, more subtle, to use Mr. Fadden's language, no-fly list and confidence in whether, how and with whom the names on that list and the reasons for being on that list are shared, there is much to be worried about with respect to Mr. Fadden's revelation about a more subtle no-fly list.

In any event, I think the point is clear that, based upon the testimony of the director of CSIS before the Senate, this needs to have detailed testimony and scrutiny in committee after second reading in this House.

I will now turn to a few comments, one, in particular, made by Minister of Justice when he was testifying before the Senate. He talked about how investigative hearings could produce the evidence to discern the intent of a person to leave the country for purposes of terrorism. However, we know that investigative hearing provisions, which are being proposed to be restored in the Criminal Code by this bill, state that testimony cannot be used as evidence in court against the person giving that testimony.

This leaves us with one of two possibilities with respect to what the minister was referring to.

The first is that he is actually thinking about using this mechanism as a mode of detention and arrest but not necessarily going to prosecution. We return, therefore, to the problem of use of the criminal law system to allow for disruption with no real prospect for prosecution.

More likely, however, the minister could not have meant that. He must have meant that investigative hearings will be used to question people about other people's intentions and, thereby, use that as evidence for the attempt to leave provisions of the Criminal Code. If so, this would have profound implications with respect to how often and to which people these investigative hearings would be used as evidence-gathering tools. We need to discuss this in committee.

The minister also suggests evidence of intention to leave the country could come out of the hearings that deal with preventive recognizance with conditions. Presumably, again he means someone else is brought to such a hearing about some impending terrorist act and information is then revealed about another person and that evidence is then used to prove that person intends to leave the country for purposes of terrorism.

We need to ask the minister and his officials what he meant by reference to those two sunsetted provisions, if they come back into law, as being mechanisms to gather evidence of intention to leave the country.

That raises another question. Would the proposed new clause 83.3, resurrected from the 2001 Anti-terrorism Act, allow for recognizance with conditions if someone can be shown to be on the point of leaving? Because this would be a terrorist act, when people attempt to leave, they are now engaging in a terrorist act according to the new provisions. They can then be required to stay and their passport taken away for up to 12 months. Is this scenario possible? Is this in fact a planned sequence? Does the government have this in mind?

Keeping in mind how the United Kingdom actually uses control orders to prevent departures from the country, the question has to be asked whether or not this is something the government contemplates. This is a question to pursue, again in committee.

I will conclude with the overall comment that there is much to look at in committee if we are to fully appreciate and make judgments about the utility of these new attempting to leave or leaving the country Criminal Code provisions.

Combating Terrorism Act October 15th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I was particularly intrigued by my hon. colleague's suggestion that the House of Commons may need a committee of sworn MPs to hear intelligence matters so that we could be better informed about the state of threats to the country. Such a committee does not exist, apart from an external committee for overseeing CSIS, the Security Intelligence Review Committee.

Could you elaborate on how you see this connecting with the issues in the bill. Are you suggesting that without such a committee we will never have enough information to be able to determine whether these provisions are needed? I would like to hear a bit more.

Combating Terrorism Act October 15th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, my colleague mentioned, on several occasions in her speech, that children's' rights are something that we really need to take into account. The parliamentary secretary also invoked Professor Kent Roach of the University of Toronto as being supportive. That was the impression left.

What does the member think about the following exchange where Senator Dallaire asked Professor Roach about juvenile protection for those under age 18. He expressed his worries on that point. Professor Roach replied:

Senator Dallaire, that is an important and troubling question. ...[T]he Youth Criminal Justice Act will take precedence, [so that] is accurate as far as it goes. However, if adult sentences are sought, then I think there is danger of disproportionate forms of sentence.

He went on to say:

Internationally, we lag behind many other countries because our official policy is that once a terrorist, always a terrorist. That is why convicted terrorists are all together in [one unit] at Ste-Anne-des-Plaines Institution, and that is why the security certificates have lasted as long as they have.

I think the issue of a youthful person raises an issue that we should be discussing more generally, which is rehabilitation.

He went on to elaborate. I wonder what the member thinks about those comments, which are actually comments expressing his concerns about parts of the bill.

Combating Terrorism Act October 15th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, is the parliamentary secretary aware of whether or not any of the witnesses during of the Senate proceedings specifically made the case for the necessity of reinvigorating these two provisions, versus invoking generally the idea that tools are helpful and that extra tools, therefore, are also helpful? Is there specific testimony explaining why these are necessary, when in fact they have never been needed before?

I understand the parliamentary secretary's answer just now, but was there testimony on the necessity of these provisions?

Criminal Code October 4th, 2012

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-448, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (consent).

Mr. Speaker, I rise with pride to introduce this private member's bill, and I thank the hon. member for Vancouver East for seconding. I would note that the hon. member is the health critic, which is actually very relevant to this motion to introduce the bill.

The bill would repeal an outdated provision of the Criminal Code that unconstitutionally discriminates against members of the LGBTQ community. Essentially the goal is to repeal section 159 of the Criminal Code, which discriminates against the gay community with regard to sexual activity and the age of consent.

As far back as 1995 with the Ontario Court of Appeal and 1998 with the Quebec Court of Appeal, this provision had been deemed unconstitutional. For that reason, this is essentially a constitutional cleanup, something that should have happened under successive Liberal and Conservative governments. It has not happened. It is the fourth time that an NDP member has risen to table a bill to repeal this provision.

I would like to end by reading a short quote from Jeremy Dias of JersVision, who says:

During the Senate debate of Bill 22 some years ago, requested equalization of ages of consent for gay sex. The current legislation creates a double standard for gay youth, not only discriminating, but also leading to other challenges. One we are seeing is that safer gay sex is not talked about in schools. The existing legislation is not reflective or effective of the realities of youth, and Mr. Scott's bill is urgently need to empower youth, and support them in making healthier and safer decisions in their live.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Canada Elections Act October 3rd, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I am grateful to the hon. member who has introduced the bill.

I just have one question for the member. He noted that B.C., Ontario and Nunavut have a similar mechanism. I want to ensure that he has had a chance to determine whether injecting the Chief Election Officer's role into the Canada Elections Act fits with the scheme of the act and the existing roles of the Chief Election Officer, or whether he thinks there might be some reticence on the part of the officer to actually undertake this function given how he might understand the act.

Helping Families in Need Act September 27th, 2012

I will end my question because I was trying to catch what the peanut gallery behind me was saying.

Helping Families in Need Act September 27th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, would my hon. colleague from Pontiac comment a bit on the structural situation we find ourselves in financially with employment insurance?

We have talked a lot about inconsistencies and about the need to have a broader federal approach that is humane, but it is the case that we lost a huge amount of money from the employment insurance fund under previous governments, Liberal and Conservative. It was only in 2010 that the employment insurance fund went back to a separate operating fund. A surplus of $57 billion was drawn down and not put back in before the Conservative government created a new, slightly better system than the Liberals had left.

I wonder if the hon. member could comment on our ability to make employment insurance work in terms of--

Helping Families in Need Act September 27th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, there is no need to correct the record. I was actually complimenting the government for that exact change. What I was speaking about at the beginning of my speech was the current law. Until this bill is passed, it is not the current law. I was saying the current law is as the member described but that the law will change, and I was thanking the minister.

There is no need to correct the record, because I was completely accurate.

Helping Families in Need Act September 27th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I would have to agree that that is generally the case.

On behalf of my party, I would ask that, as we continue with question period, we get some straight answers from the minister on what the latest changes in the EI system actually mean. We have heard some backing away from her earlier statements to make it look like the new system is 100% good with respect to receiving income while on employment insurance, only to have some fudging in the last question period.

This is an example of why Canadians are losing trust in our political system. We are getting answers that appear to be inaccurate, and then we are not hearing a straightforward acknowledgement when a mistake has been made. If the minister continues to mislead Canadians, I think we are going to have a problem.