There are many suggestions emerging from the House as to who some of these eminent Canadians might be.
The Deputy Prime Minister of Canada puts forward the proposition that we will not have a public inquiry, we will not have an investigation, we will not have it in public. Rather, we are going to have the spectre of her seeking the independent advice of an undetermined person who will identify the public interest questions and give her advice so that we, collectively she says, can all move forward.
It is a remarkable proposition that a public interest question would be resolved in private by the Deputy Prime Minister. What is wrong with a public inquiry? That is what the Indo Canadian families and the victims' families have been demanding for some time. That is what this House should be sensitive to. That is what all Canadians are interested in.
It is very noteworthy that in other circumstances this government and this Deputy Prime Minister have been prepared to embrace a public inquiry as exactly the way to get to the bottom of things. I quote the Deputy Prime Minister from February 16, 2004, speaking about the Gomery inquiry. She said:
Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister and the government have been absolutely clear. We want to get to the bottom of this matter for the Canadian public. That is why we have instituted what can only be described as the most comprehensive action plan that probably any government has ever put in place: a public inquiry...
On that same day she said:
That is why we called for a public inquiry. We want to get to the bottom of this. We all want to know what happened here. We believe that is what the Canadian public deserves to know.
By parity of reasoning, that is what the Canadian public wants to know in this case. That is what the Indo Canadian families of the victims want to know in this case. They want a public inquiry. They want sunlight as a disinfectant in this miscarriage of justice. They want to know what happened. They do not want to see someone described as an eminent Canadian meeting in private with the Deputy Prime Minister, investigating the very people who report to the Deputy Prime Minister, to conduct a review outside of public scrutiny, not in public.
Returning to the motion, there is really only one question before the House today, and that is whether we strike an independent judicial inquiry into the investigation itself, the bungled investigation. There is a real question that emerges from all of this. What is the Deputy Prime Minister, and her agencies, seeking to withhold from public scrutiny? What is the difficulty with a public inquiry?
There are many questions which remain unanswered. Why was this investigation bungled? What investigative errors of the government is the government attempting to hide from public scrutiny? What errors were made? Who made them? What steps have been taken since that time to ensure that those sorts of errors are never made again? Who was responsible? What has been done to change the situation?
Why were the working relationships between the RCMP and CSIS so strained that individuals destroyed investigative evidence, specifically tape recordings, wiretap evidence, as I understand it, of witnesses who were taped or in some cases interviewed? We are not speaking, as I understand it, of the inadvertent destruction of small portions of evidence. We are talking about the wholesale erasure of hundreds of hours of investigation, destroyed by the very agents who were supposed to be responsible for the investigation and the protection of Canadian public security.
What kind of law enforcement agency would take it upon itself in the context of the worst terrorist act in Canadian history, and at that time one of the worst in the world, to destroy the evidence? All Canadians are puzzled by that and ask themselves that question. The court described the destruction of the evidence as “unacceptable negligence”.
Returning to the eminent Canadian, the Deputy Prime Minister points out to the House that we need the assistance of an eminent Canadian to find out what questions we need to investigate. There is no need to hire anyone, eminent or otherwise, to determine what the questions are. The questions have been put right before this House by another eminent Canadian, Mr. Justice Josephson, who said very clearly that one of the reasons for acquittal was unacceptable negligence on the part of the investigative agencies.
That is the issue, that is the question and that is the matter that should be before a judicial inquiry. It has nothing to do with all the other matters that have been brought before the House today by the Deputy Prime Minister and the parliamentary secretary.
In addition to the questions surrounding the bungling of the evidence itself, there are, not surprisingly, accusations of a cover-up on the part of some of those who are involved, an intentional cover-up to make sure that this matter was not investigated. What we need to know is whether that is true.
The purpose of the inquiry would be to get to the bottom of that. Perhaps we will find that much of this has been put to rest. Perhaps we will find there has been no cover-up, but that in itself is of importance because these are important law investigative agencies. CSIS, in particular, is very important to the safety of Canadians. We need to go forward in the future knowing that sunlight has cleansed the situation, that Canadians have confidence in CSIS in its capacity to do its work and that there has not been a miscarriage of justice in this case.
Why is the government not prepared to convene a public inquiry? What is the issue? The Deputy Prime Minister's spokesperson says that cost is not an argument. Several weeks ago the minister's own spokesperson said publicly that the question of cost was not a consideration and not the reason for not having a public inquiry.
Several weeks ago the Deputy Prime Minister said that the reason we were not having an inquiry was that it was not possible for her to say that there would be any benefit from a public inquiry. If there is no benefit from a public inquiry, why is the Deputy Prime Minister hiring an eminent Canadian to investigate the situation? What is the benefit of hiring an eminent Canadian if there is no benefit to having an investigation or inquiry to begin with? The bottom line is that the government does not want to see a public inquiry. It does not want to see sunlight as a disinfectant getting to the bottom of this issue.
Justice Josephson, in his acquittal of the accused, said that there had been unacceptable negligence in the investigation. Those facts demand and cry out for some sort of investigation. The best way to get to the bottom of this for the sake of the victims, for the sake of the families who remain, for the sake of all Canadians and, indeed, for the sake of the law enforcement agencies, is a public inquiry, which is what the motion put forward by the member for Newton—North Delta is asking for.