Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Winnipeg North, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I found the contribution made by the member for Thunder Bay—Superior North interesting with regard to what has become a very important issue in the House of Commons. We have heard members on both sides of the House talk about the importance of their right to speak, and they are very sympathetic to and supportive of what the member was talking about and how S. O. 31s are being used as a punishing tool from political parties.
It is one of the reasons we designated today as an opposition day. A motion was going to be brought forward by the leader of the Liberal Party with regard to democratic reform in the hope that it would pass, and that would have dealt, at least in part, with the member's concerns and with the concerns of the member for Langley.
That said, if I have enough time at the end of my speech, I would like to comment further on that issue, but for now I want to talk very briefly about Bill S-7, the combating terrorism act.
I received an email just prior to question period, which states:
|| Canadian police and intelligence agencies will announce later today they have thwarted a plot to carry out a major terrorist attack, arresting suspects in Ontario and Quebec, CBC news has learned.
|| Highly placed sources tell CBC News the alleged plotters have been under surveillance for more than a year in Quebec and southern Ontario.
|| The investigation was part of a cross-border operation involving Canadian law enforcement agencies, the FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The email goes on, and we will probably get more information coming from news media outlets as the day unfolds.
I have tried to put this matter in the form of questions to the New Democratic Party in particular. There is a heightened sense of awareness, and that awareness became very evident during the 9/11 crisis. There were a lot of issues at the time, but in essence I believe we can go back to that in terms of the public's need to have more information. There is a desire to feel that the government is doing what it can to combat terrorism.
The primary thing Bill S-7 is attempting to do is in regard to investigative hearings. This is something Liberals believe is important. The Supreme Court of Canada recognized this need back in 2004 and acknowledged that that conducting investigative hearings without warrant would be constitutional and that the government would have the ability to do so. That was done back in 2004; since then the government has attempted this measure and failed, but not because of opposition from our party, because the Liberal Party has been the only party that has been consistent on wanting this type of legislation to advance.
This is now the fourth rendition of this type of legislation. There have been some modifications over the years, but once again it is being brought to the attention of the House. The Liberal Party, at second reading and at the committee stage, indicated its support in principle for the legislation, and Liberals did that believing and understanding that some checks are being put in place to ensure that individual rights would be respected. Individual rights have always been very much a concern for the Liberal Party. It is one of the reasons we stand behind the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, something Canadians have adopted as their own and as one of those things for which we have a sense of pride.
At the end of the day, we are comfortable in knowing that those rights are in fact going to be protected with some of the checks.
Is it perfect legislation? No, it is not perfect legislation. It would be nice to see some modification, but we are very much aware, as I pointed out earlier, that the government is not sympathetic to amendments. It does not like amendments to its legislation to be brought forward, nor has it ever shown an interest, since it has been a majority government, in tolerating any form of amendments, which is unfortunate.
However, at the end of the day we look at it in terms of what our law enforcement officers from across Canada are saying. Some of the agencies making an announcement later today about something that has been uncovered in relation to terrorism have made presentations to the committees and have in fact lobbied not only our caucus but, I suspect, all caucuses inside the House. We ultimately recognize that, yes, it is something that is important, something that we are prepared to see pass. Our critic and others have had the opportunity to comment on the legislation, and we would like to ultimately see it pass.
That said, in the last few minutes I want to pick up on an issue that I believe the government has done a great disservice to.
We recognize, as I very clearly said in my earlier comments, the profound impact that events in Boston have had on all people living in North America. We have expressed our condolences and our best wishes and our prayers to the families of the victims. However, at the end of the day, we in the Liberal Party are very much disappointed by the manner in which the government has chosen to use that act of terror in order to advance a political agenda.
This legislation could have been brought forward long ago, months ago. However, the government has been sitting on it. Then, on Friday, we heard the government House leader stand in his typical fashion and say that because of the concern with respect to the Boston Marathon and the terrorist attack, we were now going to have Bill S-7 introduced on Monday, thereby bumping the Liberal opposition motion that was being proposed in relation to democratic reform.
We find that it is no coincidence. It is something that was done intentionally by the Prime Minister's Office. The PMO had the opportunity to bring it in on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday of last week. In fact, it has been sitting on it for months. The real reason it was brought it in is that the government did not want the Liberal Party to have its opposition day motion debated in the House.
What I find somewhat cowardly is that the government, the Prime Minister, is actually using the Boston Marathon as a tool to prevent a specific debate from occurring in the House, thus preventing a debate on democratic reform and forcing or imposing upon MPs a favourable response to Bill S-7.
The Liberal Party has always supported it in principle. We find it unfortunate that the government is using the terrorist attack that recently happened in Boston as an excuse to bring the bill forward today, because over the last couple of weeks we have seen the reaction from the Conservative backbenchers toward the Prime Minister's Office in terms of limiting their ability to speak.
The other way in which he is using the Boston tragedy is with regard to his negative attacks on the leader of the Liberal Party, which I would suggest is no coincidence. This horrific event takes place in Boston, and all that is on the mind of the Prime Minister is how he can attack the leader of the Liberal Party. He is supposed to be abroad, attending the funeral for former prime minister Margaret Thatcher.
We find it is somewhat suspicious, but the bottom line is that Bill S-7 is here today, whether we like it or not, and the Liberal Party has indicated its support of the bill in principle and for it to ultimately pass.
Mr. Jean Rousseau (Compton—Stanstead, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, first, I will be sharing my time with the member for British Columbia Southern Interior.
Today is Earth Day, and a debate on terrorism is wholly appropriate. The ordinary, unthinking actions of humans as a species are affecting the environment and, in turn, all life on the planet, but so are other, more deliberate actions. Terrorism targets innocent victims, men, women and children around the world. This saddens our mother nature, known to many as Gaia.
I truly believe that the earth senses all of these attacks against her. I wanted to make the connection here because I hope that all of my colleagues, no matter what their party, will realize the importance of our decisions and the collateral damage they cause.
Bill S-7, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Canada Evidence Act and the Security of Information Act, has four main objectives. The first is to amend the Criminal Code to allow investigative hearings and recognizance with conditions. Its second objective is to amend the Canada Evidence Act to allow judges to order that potentially sensitive information concerning a trial or an accused be made public once the appeal period has ended. The third objective is to amend the Criminal Code to create new offences for persons who leave or attempt to leave Canada to commit a terrorism offence. The fourth objective is to amend the Security of Information Act to increase the maximum penalties for harbouring a person who has committed or is likely to commit a terrorist act.
Once again, the government is going to get carried away with definitions, and we will have to turn to the superior courts to define some of the vocabulary. Who is “likely to commit”? How will these acts or suspected acts be judged?
We New Democrats believe that these measures violate the most fundamental human rights and civil liberties. Those rights, which are guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was adopted by the United Nations in 1948, are the principles recognized as the foundation for building a nation and a world where everyone will be treated justly and fairly, particularly in legal matters.
We are therefore opposed to this bill because it is an ineffective way to fight terrorism and because it is a pointless and inappropriate infringement of our civil liberties. We believe this bill therefore violates civil liberties and human rights, in particular the right to remain silent and the right not to be imprisoned without a fair trial.
The spirit of those laws requires that the state never use its power against individuals to compel them to testify against themselves. The Supreme Court has nonetheless found investigative hearings to be constitutional, but it still needs to be said that the NDP would hope that whenever the House considers bills like this one, we pay a little more attention to human rights than the constitutional requirements necessarily demand, even if the Supreme Court does recognize certain situations. We have the power, and it is up to us to demonstrate leadership.
In addition, we believe that the Criminal Code contains the necessary provisions to investigate people who engage in criminal activities and to detain anyone who might present an immediate threat to Canadians. This very day, even without this bill being in effect, we witnessed the arrest of two individuals in Quebec and Ontario.
When it comes to terrorism, we have to remember that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the RCMP and the provincial police forces work together closely and are in constant communication, since combating the scourge of terrorism is a priority in North America, Canada and the United States.
We do not need Bill S-7 to build cases and make arrests.
The fact that the provisions in the earlier bill, which was passed in 2001, were never used between 2001 and 2007 proves it. Although it might be politically risky to oppose measures that clearly set out to strengthen national security, our opposition is rooted in the belief that the measures are pointless and ineffective. We believe that our position reflects values that Canadians hold dear. We know very well that all governments in the Americas, including in North America, are implementing many different measures to combat terrorism. In our opinion, this bill fails to strike a balance between security and fundamental rights. There was greater protection in the 2001 version, particularly with regard to the role of the Attorney General and the reporting process.
The original aim of the Combating Terrorism Bill was to update Canadian laws to bring them up to international standards, including the United Nations’ requirements, and to put forward a legislative response to the events of September 11, 2001. All the provisions in the Combating Terrorism Bill, except for those to do with investigative hearings and recognizance with conditions, are already in effect. And as we have seen, arrests were made today, just the same.
However, a sunset clause was added to the original bill because of major concerns that came up during the legislative process in 2001. For the most part, they were unprecedented in Canadian law and could easily have been abused.
The NDP also feels that this bill runs contrary to basic civil liberties and human rights, including the right to remain silent and the right not to be imprisoned without first having a fair trial.
In the spirit of these rights, the power of the state should never be used against an individual. I am repeating this because it is fundamental to twhat we are doing here. We must not forget that the bill would make it possible to imprison a person for up to 12 months or would impose strict parole conditions on individuals who have not been charged with any crime. Just the suspicion of a crime. We believe this is contrary to the fundamental values of our legal system and our free and democratic society.
In addition, the mere fact that these provisions were used only once, and unsuccessfully at that, shows that police forces in Canada have the tools they need to combat terrorism using existing procedures without the risk to our civil liberties posed by the bill.
The provisions of this bill could also be cited to target individuals taking part in activities such as demonstrations or acts of dissent that have nothing to do with a reasonable definition of terrorism. I referred to definitions a moment ago, and this is extremely important.
The right to demonstrate is guaranteed by the charter, like the right of association and the right of free speech. The right to demonstrate is a necessary counterweight that sometimes helps to focus politicians’ minds. That has to continue. If we start saying that demonstrations are acts of terrorism, it will not end there. That is why I said earlier that it is essential for these terms to be defined.
In conclusion, how can the government talk about national security and public safety and at the same time impose all these budget cuts on our protective agencies and institutions?
Over $700 million will be cut from the budgets of the RCMP, the Canada Border Services Agency and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. The response being offered is a law that will have no effect on activities on the ground, yet that is where we have to tackle terrorism. Cutting $700 million from the budgets of those institutions and police forces is not how we are going to produce results for our constituents when it comes to safety.
Mr. Alex Atamanenko (British Columbia Southern Interior, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, this is an interesting debate. I have been listening to a lot of the arguments that have been flowing around this place.
As a preamble to what I am going to say, it seems to me that we have another bill before us that we probably do not really need. The impression I am getting, via the events of today and the events that have happened in the past few years, is that we have sufficient means and sufficient legislation to work for the safety of our country.
The intent of the original Anti-terrorism Act was to update Canadian law to meet international standards, such as meeting the requirements of the United Nations, and as legislative reaction to 9/11. All the provisions of this act, except for the investigative hearings and the recognizance with conditions, remain law today.
The sunset clause was attached to the original bill because serious concern was expressed during the 2001 law-making process that these measures were largely unprecedented in Canadian law and could easily be used inappropriately.
What I find interesting is that, upon review of this legislation that was passed as a reaction to a specific event and in a state of panic, we have learned that there was in fact no need for that legislation.
As of the day of their sunset, a number of investigative hearings have been held. There were no instances when recognizance with conditions was required.
It is unfortunate that the mandated parliamentary reviews of legislation made a number of recommendations that were not incorporated into Bill S-7. It is my understanding that the NDP proposed 18 amendments. It is not unlike what happened to us on the food safety bill. We came and said we would work with the government to improve the bill that was before us—necessary at that time—and it then rejected all of our amendments.
As our colleagues are probably already aware, we have proposed amendments that would improve transparency and strengthen reporting requirements, to minimize the negative impact of the bill on Canadians’ civil liberties. This is an important point. These amendments are based on evidence we heard, so we did not just make them up. As I understand it, we drafted amendments on the basis of evidence heard in committee that reflect the values that we believe are dear to Canadians.
Among the issues dealt with in these amendments, there is first the addition of a SIRC review of a possible co-operation protocol between the agencies, to ensure its effectiveness and its respect for rights protected by legislation before the offences relating to leaving the country come into effect.
Second, we want to ensure that the evidence gathered during investigative hearings cannot be used against an individual during extradition or deportation proceedings, and not just during criminal proceedings.
Third, we want to ascertain the right to legal aid provided by the federal government if the individual is to appear at investigative hearings.
Fourth, we want to ensure that annual reports include detailed information about all changes to the legislation, to policies or to practices in terms of exit information or exit inspections.
Fifth, we want the comprehensive reviews to cover the implementation of the four new offences relating to leaving the country and for the issue to be dealt with by elected members of Parliament, not just by the Senate.
Other amendments have also been proposed, but they were all rejected by the Conservatives. This is the key point.
As this House has already heard, this bill has been in the works for months. It came from the Senate and all of a sudden the Conservatives decided to bring it forward today.
We have received the answer to our question; we know why we are discussing this bill today. I do not need to belabour this point.
I would like to point out that the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh spoke against Bill C-17 in the House in 2010. He said:
|| When facing a crisis, we as political leaders feel that we have to do something even when all the evidence shows that the structures we have, the strength of our society, the strength of our laws, are enough to deal with it. We passed legislation in early 2002 to deal with terrorism when we panicked. We have learned in the last eight years that there was no need for that legislation.
My colleague, the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh, is a lawyer. He spent many years in the field. He was our justice critic. He is always the person to whom many of us look, to this day, for his judgment when it comes to the various laws here, and he has basically said that we do have sufficient legislation to combat what we need to combat in regard to terrorism.
I mentioned the actions of today, and I would like to congratulate and thank all those law enforcement officers and those men and women who have put together the roundup today, that they were able to penetrate a terrorist cell. I am not sure of the details, but as a citizen I would like to thank them for that effort. We have professional people on the ground who collaborate, not only with other law enforcement agencies in our country but with other countries, and that goes on. What we need to do is give them more resources, not fewer resources as is happening now. We need more resources to beef up our borders, to ensure we do not have illicit guns coming across the border, and to have people on the ground to penetrate terrorist cells and to work with their counterparts in other countries, so that we in this country can continue to feel safe.
Something that disturbed me, and this is a result of one of the committee hearings, is that Reid Morden, former director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, stated in 2010:
|| Speaking strictly on those two particular provisions, I confess I never thought that they should have been introduced in the first place and that they slipped in, in the kind of scrambling around that the government did after 9/11....
|| It seemed to me that it turned our judicial system somewhat on its head. I guess I'm sorry to hear that the government has decided to reintroduce them.
Police and security services have “perfectly sufficient powers to do their jobs” and “they don't need any more powers”.This is the former director of CSIS, saying this in 2010. As I flipped through my notes and tried to prepare my speech, that disturbed me.
I will sum up by saying that I believe, as do members of my party, that we have the legislation in place. If we are going to improve, we need to improve the resources on the ground so we can equip those men and women to combat the potential terrorism threats to our country, which I feel confident they are capable of doing.
Ms. Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe (Pierrefonds—Dollard, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I will begin by saying that I will be sharing my speaking time.
Today, we are debating Bill S-7. Before beginning, I would like to wish everyone a very happy Earth Day. To mark the occasion, I was in Montreal yesterday, with 15,000 or 20,000 Montrealers who were marching together for the environment. It was a wonderful event, and I am happy to have been part of it.
The second announcement I want to make relates to the speech I am about to make. Today there have been arrests, crimes have been prevented, and I would like to take a few moments to congratulate the RCMP and the police on their important work.
Let us come back to Bill S-7, which is certainly connected with today’s events and with the tragic events that occurred in Boston last week, as the Conservatives take so much delight in saying.
We have before us a bill at third reading, and we have good reason to believe it may threaten the fundamental rights and freedoms of Canadians. The NDP believes it is important that we pay serious attention to it.
There is disagreement about Bill S-7, and the Conservatives have presented no analysis or evidence or studies to prove that the measures set out in this bill are necessary, useful or appropriate. There are many measures in effect already that allow us to take action against terrorism or any other crime, and they have been used on many occasions.
Are the provisions set out in Bill S-7 necessary and appropriate? Is it really going to provide the additional tools needed for combating terrorism? We have serious doubts in that regard.
If that were all the debate was about, it might take a very different direction. What concerns us is not only that we are not sure the bill will have an impact and be useful, but also that we have serious reasons for thinking it will jeopardize Canadians’ fundamental rights and freedoms, and therein lies the rub. Are we really going to agree to jeopardize fundamental rights and freedoms for a bill that may be neither useful nor effective?
The NDP wants the concerns that were raised to be addressed before moving on, no matter which bill is being considered. No matter the reasons for a bill or the good intentions behind it, as soon as a bill threatens fundamental rights and liberties, we must call a halt to the proceedings and make sure that the bill does not jeopardize the rights of Canadians.
This is where we come in, and this is why unfortunately the NDP cannot support Bill S-7 as it reads today, with all its flaws and all the doubts that still remain about the terms that I mentioned earlier. Even though the NDP had doubts and reservations about this bill, we still kept going. The NDP did not only say we had doubts.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Ms. Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe: Mr. Speaker, perhaps my speech is not very interesting to all the members of this House, but I would like to be allowed to finish, just the same. I thank the minister for leaving the House so I can continue with my speech.
As I was saying, the NDP did not simply stop at the fact that we had doubts about the bill before deciding to block it. The NDP members on the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security did a great deal of serious work, proposing nearly 18 amendments for debate, in order to try to improve the bill and ensure that it was not a threat to Canadians’ rights and liberties.
The members of the House can probably guess what happened: the 18 amendments were defeated for a number of different reasons without any counter-proposals being made to try to improve the amendments or respond to the concerns of the opposition parties. Just to support what I said a little earlier, I would like to give you two amendments as examples.
First, one of the amendments dealt with the addition of a comprehensive review of the implementation of the Arar Commission recommendations by the government in terms of accountability and oversight mechanisms, with particular attention to inter-agency activities and oversight.
Bill S-7 proposes granting discretionary powers. Someone could be imprisoned for a few days or a few months without being charged. It is cause for concern.
The NDP wanted to use amendments such as the one I mentioned to ensure that peoples' fundamental rights and freedoms would be respected. That amendment was not accepted.
Another amendment would have included the Canadian Human Rights Commission's opinion on questions about racial profiling and discrimination with respect to Bill S-7.
On that topic, I would like to talk about a church in my riding called the Church of God. Recently, I met some of its members: spirited seniors, parents and youth who spoke to me about several challenges. They spoke to me about profiling and their concerns, as well as about experiences their friends or loved ones have had with profiling. It affects the black community on Montreal's West Island, for one.
I want to echo their comments and let them know that I hear them. If the NDP feels that the discretionary powers set out in a bill could be used for racial profiling and discrimination, we will take a stand and make absolutely sure that every bill introduced in the House takes into consideration the concerns of those in the black community, such as the members of the Church of God.
I will continue by paraphrasing what one of my Conservative colleagues said today in the House about Bill S-7. She said that she was disappointed by the NDP's position and that someday the NDP would have to come to realize that a lot of work went into Bill S-7 in committee. She also said that the NDP needed to acknowledge all of the witnesses who were heard and who support Bill S-7. That is what she was trying to say.
I hate to have to contradict her, but a number of witnesses had concerns and did not agree with Bill S-7 as we are seeing it here in the House today.
I would like to quote two witnesses who appeared before the committee. First, I will quote Ms. Cheung, counsel for the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association:
||...we urge the committee to refrain from further expanding the powers of our national security agencies until appropriate and effective accountability and review mechanisms have been established.
This is not someone who simply does not agree. This is someone who has made suggestions and is urging us to put in place mechanisms to guarantee the rights and freedoms of Canadians, if that is the direction the government is taking.
According to Paul Calarco, member of the National Criminal Justice Section, Canadian Bar Association:
|| There is no question that the prevention of terrorist action is vital to preserving our society. This requires effective legislation, but also legislation that respects the traditions of our democracy. Unfortunately, this bill fails to achieve either goal.
In other words, the NDP is not alone in saying that we should wait and that we should perhaps be concerned.
The experts agree with us. They also believe that this bill, in its current form, poses risks and is not an effective measure.
I will close by repeating that the NDP and I are convinced that the fight against terrorism warrants special and serious consideration. We all agree on that in the House. However, at issue is the way in which we fight terrorism.
We believe that Bill S-7 is not appropriate because it poses threats to the fundamental rights and freedoms that Canadians cherish. We our proud of our rights and freedoms, and we must ensure that they are not threatened.
Are we supporting terrorism by voting against this bill? Of course not. It is completely ridiculous to say so.
We have to consider that, in the house, we all want to provide useful and significant tools to fight terrorism. Unfortunately, Bill S-7 is not one of them.
Mr. Yvon Godin:
Mr. Speaker, all day, I have been listening to the Liberals whine about how their opposition day was cancelled. The NDP never stopped them to raise a point of order. The poor Liberals lost their entire opposition day, which they meant to use to protect democracy for the Conservatives. In my opinion, I had the right to talk about it, otherwise we should have called them to order a long time ago.
We are dealing with this bill today. Meanwhile, we saw what happened a month ago in London, Ontario. An incident occurred in our country a month ago, and we had to wait until today to examine Bill S-7. I listened to the speech the parliamentary secretary gave this morning. She said that, if there were problems with Bill S-7, we could talk about them and propose amendments. In my opinion, the parliamentary secretary is living on another planet, because 17 amendments were already proposed in committee and the majority government completely rejected all of them.
Today, some Conservative members are rising in the House and saying that they disagree. They are giving examples of Canadians who go to other countries and commit acts of terrorism. They are saying that something needs to be added to the legislation so that action can be taken in such cases. However, there is not just one problem with the bill. It is therefore important to examine the bill in committee so that amendments can be proposed, but it seems that this is not at all negotiable and that only the Conservatives are right.
The Liberals are saying that the professionals who testified before the committee said that they liked some aspects of the bill even though it is not perfect. In such a case, the bill should be rejected and just the good measures kept. Are we going to say that our only choice is to vote in favour of a bad bill because it contains some good measures? Is that how we create bills?
The Liberals are afraid. They are not in the middle for nothing. They are trying to please everyone, both on the right and on the left. They vote for everything for crying out loud.
I would like to talk about issues related to cuts. If the government is so serious about fighting terrorists and criminals, why is it making so many cuts?
For example, the Canada Border Services Agency has been on the receiving end of $143 million in cuts, which will affect 325 jobs. What good is it to pass laws if there is no one to enforce them and if the employees hired to protect people are losing their jobs?
On one hand, the government wants to pass a law that is supposed to fix all of these problems. On the other hand, it is cutting jobs across the country, including 325 at the Canada Border Services Agency.
Police in municipalities and communities are saying that they need help. Even RCMP officers are saying it. Their budgets are being cut in cities and towns. However, the people who are likely to commit these crimes will be caught on the ground. We need boots on the ground.
They love the idea of having tidy legislation in place. It looks great politically. They can say that they arrested someone and put him in prison, that they will build jails and throw people in there every once in a while, and that the story will make the national news. It will look good because they will have done their job.
Yet, in the meantime, jobs for border service agents and police officers will be cut all across the country. There is even a rumour that the government has cut funding for security at level three airports. Where there is smoke, there is fire.
That is what we are talking about. For instance, at a level 3 airport, like the Bathurst airport, there would no longer be any security. You would arrive at the airport, board the plane and away you go. It would be no problem. At the same time, police forces are trying to stop criminals and terrorists. The more the Conservatives think they are going in that direction, the more they make cuts to policing and security. They make cuts left, right and centre. Then they introduce a bill.
The Conservatives love spreading terror and fearmongering by introducing bills. They think the best thing to do is come up with laws and build prisons and other big buildings. For them, one prisoner per cell is not enough; they want three or four per cell. What a beautiful Canada.
Cuts to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service will total $24.5 million by 2015, while general inspector positions at the CBSA were eliminated in 2012. Yet that is crucial for accountability. Some $24.5 million is being cut. Furthermore, the RCMP is having its budget cut by $195 million. Now, the Conservatives would have everyone believe that this is all going to change on Monday, given what happened in Boston. Canadians are not stupid and they do not believe the Conservatives.
I spent the weekend in my riding and people told me that the Conservatives are not all that smart. The Conservatives wave this bill around while the Liberals are fighting to get a day to talk about democracy. Yet, at committee, they refused 17 amendments concerning Bill S-7. Even though they refused all of them, they want to vote in favour of the bill because it contains one good point. Come on.
I thank hon. members for giving me the opportunity to speak. For all of these reasons—taking away people's freedoms, putting young people in prison for 12 months without anyone of age to protect them and possibly putting innocent people in prison—the NDP will not be supporting this bill, which fundamentally violates personal freedoms. We are not talking only about terrorists. There is one place where terrorists belong. In my opinion, we already have the legislation we need to protect Canadians.
Ms. Francine Raynault (Joliette, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup.
I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak about the issues raised by Bill S-7. However, I would first like to offer my condolences to the families of the Boston Marathon victims and express my support for this extraordinarily resilient community.
Terrorism is a horrible thing, and we need a responsible approach to combat it without losing what defines us as a society. When Osama bin Laden launched the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001, he said that he wanted the North American way of life to disappear forever.
Since those attacks, Western countries have lost a little bit of their candour, and we have had to face our own limitations. At the centre of the lifestyle we share with our American neighbours is the rule of law and the civil liberties enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. These social markers are at the heart of Canadian identity, and we must protect them as our most precious treasure, because if we willingly abandon our fundamental rights, then what is the point of combatting terrorism?
This is the main question behind my opposition to Bill S-7. In my opinion, this bill is ineffective and pointless in the fight against terrorism and it directly threatens my constituents' freedom.
We all know that Bill C-36 was rushed through in 2001 following the attacks on New York, which made a deep impression on our minds. Who does not remember those events, even 12 years later? Yet very few people remember Bill C-42, which allowed the government to declare temporary military zones in which fundamental freedoms were suspended. This millennium opened with a new interpretation of our most fundamental freedoms.
Why this aside when talking about Bill S-7? It is simply to show the House the risks of passing a bill such as this one in a time of emotional distress.
What happened in Boston has had an effect on all of us, but if Bill S-7 was so urgent, why did the Conservatives wait until now to introduce it? If I did not trust in the good faith of the members opposite, I would be tempted to say that they are trying to use this tragedy to conclude the debate on Bill S-7 so that they never have to hear about freedom of expression within their own caucus again.
Among other things, Bill S-7 would reinstate sunset provisions contained in Bill C-36, which expired in 2011. That is the case for recognizance powers, which the government is trying to put back on the table for no apparent reason. Other provisions, such as investigative hearings, are cause for concern.
The fact that these provisions were not applied between 2001 and 2007 does not seem to be of great concern to this government. Moreover, with respect to recognizance powers, the Conservatives insisted at report stage that this provision apply to individuals who are not suspected of conducting terrorist activities.
In summary, with Bill C-36, we introduced the idea of preventive detention and provisional judgments grounded in mere suspicion. Is there anyone here who wants to be the object of such suspicion? Bill S-7 goes even further. It reintroduces a sunset clause for an obvious purpose and, moreover, it tries to apply the provision to people who are not even suspected of being terrorists. It is not a mistake: the broad scope of the provision is intentional.
What are we doing? Are we going to put people in jail on the grounds of a suspected suspicion? I am sorry, but that is not the democracy in which I want my grandchildren to grow up. Suspending an individual's freedom because of a suspicion is very arbitrary. No longer requiring this suspicion would be utter madness. Furthermore, this provision could result in 12 months of preventive detention, 12 months of imprisonment without a conviction. What has happened to Canada?
The reading of Bill S-7 raises questions for me that I must ask. If the government wants to extend an anti-terrorist provision not only to terrorists, but also to those suspected of terrorism and, basically, everyone in general, where is this all leading to?
Anti-terrorism legislation like this is not worthy of a state governed by the rule of law. It is not actually used anyway, and our Criminal Code has up to now proved to be adequate for tracking down terrorists. With this type of legislation, we are opening the door to broader applications, which we are already seeing in Bill S-7.
Earlier, I was talking about Bill C-36 and Bill C-42. They have not been useful in protecting Canada from terrorism. The behaviour of our forces of law and order deteriorated as a result.
If memory serves, Bill C-42 was used when the government declared the community of Kananaskis to be under military jurisdiction for a G8 economic meeting in 2002. Who were the terrorists? Al Qaeda, or the global justice movement? Bill C-36 may not have been able to defend the country, but it sure got the authorities all worked up in 2010 during the notorious “Torontonamo”, when the city centre was locked down and $1 billion was spent on security for a simple G8 meeting on the economy. The result was 1,000 Canadians imprisoned and convicted with no evidence, and civil liberties taken away, first inside the security perimeter, then around it, and finally all over the city.
If the authorities feel that they can act like that at a simple demonstration about the economy, what will they do in other situations? I firmly believe that anti-terrorist laws give quite the wrong message to our forces of law and order. “Torontonamo” was strongly criticized in official government reports, but the harm was done. How many other accidents like that are we going to have to deal with before we realize that anti-terrorist legislation can become “anti-Canadian” legislation?
If the Conservative government really wanted to improve security in Canada, why did it cut the budget of our border intelligence unit by half? Why did it end a program designed to recruit more police officers in our communities, and why did it abolish the position of Inspector General of the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service?
Furthermore, the NDP proposed a number of amendments that would have made Bill S-7, if not satisfactory, at least tolerable, but the Conservatives rejected all of our amendments. So we have to learn to live with investigative hearings, a technique worthy of medieval witch hunts, that could well pervert our justice system. Rather than confronting the potential threats hanging over our country, the Conservatives seem to be more interested in using them to significantly change the nature of justice in this country.
In my opinion, Bill S-7 is poorly designed and does not add anything substantial to the Criminal Code, other than the potential for misuse and abuse that we will all regret one day. Bill S-7 should be examined much more carefully before it is passed, since the issues this bill raises are much too important to be left to the whim of the government in power.
Mr. François Lapointe (Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today to speak to Bill S-7, on combatting terrorism.
The Conservative government's intellectual dishonesty knows no bounds, and today is no exception. They are trying to exploit a tragedy so recent—the Boston Marathon attacks—that the victims' wounds are still bleeding.
Our thoughts are with the victims and the many people who risked their lives to protect the Boston area over the past few days. Because of the way the Conservatives do things, our agenda in the House of Commons has once again been flipped upside down without prior notice. Why? Mostly because the government in place lacks vision. It exploits hot-topic issues and uses them to impose its own agenda.
Countries in the G8 are not supposed to rush to pass legislation based on what is going on in the news, especially if the goal is simply to shove the government's own agenda down the public's throat. We must work for the common good, listen to what experts tell us and base decisions on the objectives of our international partners.
This makes it clear that the government cares more about its own agenda than anything else.
The morning after the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, did the government start a debate on crazed killers to help the American president, who has been fighting for tougher laws since then? No. That issue is not in line with this government's objectives.
Given that Bill S-7 has been back in the House since December, why is the government suddenly in such a hurry? Why did we not have this debate in February, for example? With a record number of 30 gag orders, we had plenty of time to debate what has now suddenly become a priority. The government is being purely opportunistic and exploiting current events.
So that we do not play into the government's hands, I would like to recap some facts about Bill S-7.
The committees heard testimony from a number of stakeholders in the legal community and civil liberties groups. They said that Canada's current laws are sufficient.
Immediately providing law enforcement and border services with better resources for field investigations would improve our chances of preventing a tragedy. We should not make a habit of using exceptional measures that threaten fundamental rights. For example, in the case of the Toronto 18, the worst-case scenario was avoided because of a successful investigation, and no exceptional measures were used.
Cuts in the hundreds of millions of dollars to border services and the RCMP make no sense, and they demonstrate this government's contempt for these people. The government loves them so much that it keeps making cuts. I would not wish this government's love and affection on any Canadian. Talk about bad news.
Bill S-7 is useless and disconcerting because it throws wide the doors to infringements of civil liberties and human rights.
Take, for example, the part of the legislation that is perhaps the most disturbing, which is recognizance with conditions or what are known as preventive arrests.
The government included a paragraph in its legislation specifically so that it could use preventive arrests even when individuals were not suspected of terrorist activities. NDP members tried to amend that provision to ensure that only those individuals identified as having potentially been involved in a terrorist activity could be placed under preventive arrest. Committee members were shocked to hear from a parliamentary secretary that the amendment would not be accepted because the government had intended for the provision to be far-reaching so that it would include individuals who authorities do not suspect will commit terrorist activities in the future.
The stage is set for abuse, and the government is promoting it. The fact that the anti-terrorist provisions were never used between 2001 and 2007 clearly illustrates that the government's haste is purely a tactic.
The NDP has gathered a great deal of support for this interpretation of the events. Paul Copeland, a lawyer and member of the Law Union of Ontario, said:
|| I wanted to comment first on the circumstances of the Air India case, because that is the only case in which this legislation that came in under the anti-terrorism bill was used, and it's a rather bizarre circumstance. It was described as a fiasco, and I think that's an appropriate description.
He concluded his speech with the following:
||...the provisions you are looking at here change the Canadian legal landscape. They change it in a way that isn't useful. They should not be passed, and in my view they are not needed. There are other provisions of the code that allow for various ways of dealing with these people.
According to Reid Morden, a former director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, police officers and security forces have all the powers they need to carry out their duties and they do not need any additional powers.
We are talking about very competent people who have taken positions that are very similar to ours.
Further conclusions, also very similar to the NDP's, were expressed in today's Globe and Mail. I wanted to quote this, because I noted that the French-language press was not reporting this as much. These conclusions are quite justified:
“The debate politicizes the Boston Marathon bombings when few facts are known regarding the bombers' motives or inspiration.”
The Conservatives are forcing us to make decisions before the injured have even healed.
“More worrying is the fact that there are aspects of the proposed bill that raise questions about balancing civil liberties with the need to protect citizens.”
The Globe and Mail—and no one can say that it is a leftist leaflet—reached the same conclusion as we did: this raises some serious concerns about fundamental rights.
Here is another quote that made me smile, but bothered me at the same time:
“The government's sudden need to debate Bill S-7 seems more likely to have been prompted by Mr. Trudeau's unfortunate comments about 'root causes'—”
Mr. François Lapointe:
I am sorry, Mr. Speaker.
Let us say they would have been written by the new chief of the Liberal Party, “—the day after the bombing than by a concern for public safety.”
This analysis is justifiable but troubling. Are we going to hold debates in the House based on the blunders of the new Leader of the Liberal Party? If that is the case, then we should cancel all the debates for the coming months. The young Liberal leader will provide the government with at least one blunder a week, that is for certain.
We will have to have debates on millionaires who, when they hit their forties, suddenly discover the needs of the middle class. We will have to hold debates to determine whether a striptease is a good idea for a fundraising campaign. We will therefore have at least one blunder a week in the coming months.
The purpose of this House is not to focus on the short term or on current events. On the contrary, the purpose of the House is to think about making the best possible decisions to protect our constituents in the long term.
Earlier, the hon. member for Bourassa had a very strong reaction with regard to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He said that the Liberals are thinking about supporting this bill even though there is very good reason to be concerned.
One of my colleagues spoke about an uncle who could be arrested without even knowing that his nephew was part of a group that could be involved in terrorism. These are fundamental rights that might not be upheld. The hon. member for Bourassa shouted: “The Charter of Rights! The Charter of Rights!” Clearly, we have a problem.
The member was adamant about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms because the government introduced a bill that flouts the charter and does not take into consideration the people on the ground, the customs officers, law enforcement and police officers who are put in untenable positions.
Who will have to deal with these untenable and completely contradictory decisions about certain key aspect of Canada's laws and regulations? It is law enforcement.
Making hasty decisions and showing up with something written on the back of a napkin—as the Conservatives like to say—shows a lack of respect for law enforcement and the work that these people do.
I will vote against Bill S-7 because this bill threatens rights and freedoms, contains useless provisions that are never used, and exploits current events and the all too recent suffering of some people to further the government's agenda.
I will continue to oppose any cuts to the resources granted to customs officers and investigators. In fact, the real problem and the real threat Canadians are facing in 2013 are the cuts that the Conservatives are making to funding for the dedicated and courageous individuals who take risks every day in the field.
This bill does not respond to this threat. The threat will continue as long as these people are in office.
Mr. Francis Scarpaleggia (Lac-Saint-Louis, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party is the party of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is also the party of multiculturalism, pluralism, and respect for diversity. The charter is one of Canada's proudest achievements. All Canadians, whatever their origins, cultural or religious backgrounds, or affiliations, know where they stand under the charter. They stand as equals. In deciding how to vote on any piece of legislation, we in the Liberal caucus always employ a key criterion: Does the legislation respect the charter? At the same time, Liberals are unshakably committed to ensuring the physical safety of all Canadians.
As Justice Lamer once said, and I paraphrase, safety from imminent harm is at the core of the values of dignity, integrity, and autonomy of the individual. These are also the values at the core of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Therefore, the charter is consistent both with individual liberties and with the notion of protecting community and individual safety.
Like all members in this House, we in the Liberal caucus live in communities. We have families and neighbours. We want them and all fellow Canadians to be safe from violence. It is precisely because of our dual adherence to the charter and to the need for public safety that Liberals will be supporting Bill S-7 at third reading, as we have done throughout the legislative process surrounding this bill.
Bill S-7 contains a number of important provisions. First, it reintroduces two public security measures, investigative hearings and recognizance with conditions, that a Liberal government introduced in 2001 with sunset clauses that took effect five years later in 2006 and nullified these measures as originally planned.
Prior to sunsetting, section 83.28 of the Criminal Code, which referred to investigative hearings, permitted a peace officer to apply to a judge for an order requiring a witness believed to have information concerning a terrorism offence, past or imminent, to appear before the judge to answer questions. This measure was accompanied by important safeguards. Among other things, the witness in an investigative hearing was protected against self-incrimination in reference to a future criminal proceeding and had the right to retain and instruct legal counsel. Also, the presiding judge could impose conditions on hearings in the interest of protecting the witness. For example, the judge could order that the witness' identity not be made public. The Supreme Court has ruled investigative hearings to be constitutional. In other words, they are charter-compliant.
Recognizance with conditions, in other words, preventative arrests under section 83.3 of the Criminal Code with a view to preventing a potential act of terrorism, also contains safeguards. Invoking this measure required the prior consent of the Attorney General and a provincial court judge unless the peace officer suspected immediate detention was necessary, in which case the detained individual had to be brought before a judge within 24 hours or as soon as feasible.
This section was slightly amended in its reintroduction through Bill S-7 to ensure conformity of the original provision with the Supreme Court decision in Regina v. Hall, a case related to detention without bail. The amended version in Bill S-7 is meant to narrow the scope of reasons for which the individual could be detained.
I should mention for the benefit of those who doubt whether the government's attitude to combatting terrorism is constitutional that this past December the Supreme Court unanimously rejected claims that the 10-year-old terrorism sections of the Criminal Code had defined terrorist activity so broadly that these sections threatened free expression. The court said that the anti-terrorism law is “...respectful of diversity, as it allows for the non-violent expression of political, religious or ideological views.”
The court also found that the definition of terrorist activity is not so broad as to capture innocent individuals in its legal net. The court specified that:
|| For example, the conduct of a restaurant owner who cooks a single meal for a known terrorist is not of a nature to materially enhance the abilities of a terrorist group to facilitate or carry out a terrorist activity.
Therefore, it would not constitute a terrorism offence.
A second feature of Bill S-7 is that it introduces a new offence that security experts have told the public safety committee they need to be effective in fighting terrorism in the present-day context, which is, the offence of leaving or attempting to leave Canada for the purpose of engaging in terrorist activity, whether to attend a terrorist training camp, or to take part in any kind of terrorist-related action. As we know, Canadians have been implicated in terrorist incidents overseas, namely in Algeria and Bulgaria.
Richard Fadden, the director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, recently testified that while this new offence was perhaps not needed a few years ago, he is now more concerned about the radicalization of individuals in Canada who become inspired, often through the Internet, by the extremist narrative.
Furthermore, as mentioned in the CBC report on the subject:
|| Ray Boisvert, former assistant director of intelligence with CSIS..., said radicalization is a "growing pattern" in Canada. CSIS has identified up to 50 people who have left Canada to fight abroad.
For those who might fall prey to generalizations about the source of extremism in Canada, the path to violent extremism does not originate in particular communities. This is according to CSIS.
Since 2001, there are communities that have been the object of suspicion. This saddens me because distrust of newcomers is not a new phenomenon. Different cultural and religious groups have been held in suspicion throughout history, and across societies. Such treatment has created hurt and frustration in these communities. Sometimes persons and property in these communities have suffered harm.
Even when this has not been the case, community members, especially the young, otherwise excited about opportunities for growth and success, often understandably passionate about contributing to the greater societal good, believe their opportunities to be limited because of their identification with their cultural group of origin.
This is why I was so interested and pleased to learn of the conclusions of a CSIS intelligence assessment branch study on radicalization in Canada. The study affirms that the path to violent zealotry is ultimately “an idiosyncratic individual process”.
Allow me to refer to some of the study's conclusions, as reported in a Globe and Mail column by Doug Saunders, entitled “Canada's looking for terrorists in all the wrong places”.
I will quote and paraphrase:
|| [Canadian extremists] are almost always native-born Canadians, rarely immigrants, and never refugees.
|| Not only are they not immigrants, but they don't tend to be found within “parallel society” immigrant enclaves. And they aren't radicalized by attending a mosque.
|| Britain's MI5 analyzed several hundred violent extremists and found similar non-immigrant...backgrounds—and that, as in Canada, these extremists don’t come from religious backgrounds. “Most are religious novices,” the security service concluded, and, in fact, “there is evidence that a well-established religious identity actually protects against violent radicalization”.
U.S. experts have come to the same conclusions. Mark Fallon, formerly with U.S. counterterrorism, has confirmed that migration experiences, religious traditions, and theology almost never cause radicalism.
To quote Doug Saunders in conclusion:
|| The path from strict religious faith to violence simply doesn't exist—in fact, the most religious are among the least likely to become extremists.
|| [Terrorism] is a criminal tendency, neither imported nor theological, not rooted in communities or faiths.
This new offence of leaving or attempting to leave Canada for the purposes of engaging in a terrorist-related activity, similar to many of the current terrorism offences in the Criminal Code, is designed to allow for arrests and charges at the early planning stage of terrorist attacks outside Canada, before a person even leaves Canada to commit terrorist acts.
As usual, the offence comes with safeguards. To quote Donald Piragoff, senior assistant deputy minister, policy sector, Justice Canada:
|| [The leaving or attempting to leave Canada offences] require the consent of the Attorney General before charges are laid. It's not simply a police officer who makes the determination; you have to get the consent of the Attorney General to say that the prosecution or an arrest would be appropriate.
Moreover, this new offence is not so broad that it would prevent someone from, say, going to a survival camp in Colorado or in the Middle East.
As Mr. Piragoff also noted before committee:
|| It's not an offence to go to a survival camp...to learn how to shoot an AK-47. However, if the person is going to learn how to shoot an AK-47 for the express purpose of helping improve the capacity of a terrorist group, that makes it an offence.
Finally, Bill S-7 would introduce legislative guarantees of greater government transparency and accountability in dealing with matters of national security that come before the courts or an administrative proceeding. It would introduce amendments to the Canada Evidence Act that would make it more difficult for the government to use national security concerns as a routine justification for suppressing information that is in the public interest of a democracy, information that is often essential to permitting a fair trial for an accused.
Some of the changes to the Canada Evidence Act in Bill S-7 implement the decisions of the Federal Court in Toronto Star Newspaper Limited v. Canada, and Ottawa Citizen Group v. Canada. In essence, it would no longer be in the power of the Attorney General to determine, even against the opinion of the court, whether information relating to a case or a proceeding must remain confidential. That discretion would now belong to the presiding judge, who must presumptively abide by the open court principle and allow only very limited exceptions.
Mr. Charlie Angus (Timmins—James Bay, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour, as always, to rise in the House and represent the great people of Timmins—James Bay, who put their trust in me to address issues in the House.
Today on the Hill outside Parliament, I was reminded why I love this country so much. I think of Parliament Hill, that great public space where people go to demonstrate, play drums, play Frisbee and, yes, smoke pot to draw attention on 4/20. This is a public space and in that great public space today, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people gathered in support of the people of Boston. It shows that, fundamentally, we are a world community and care for each other in those moments. I watched the crowd go off to the sounds of Sweet Caroline, one of the great songs I used to sing at weddings, but that is another story.
I thought of Fenway Park in Boston, where Neil Diamond showed up and sang Sweet Caroline, showing that Boston has great spirit and that senseless violence will not deter us from being a civil society. Whether it is the horrific killings in Boston or the crazy gun nuts in Newtown or Colorado, a fundamental principle of our society is that we are not going to let them win by growing in fear and undermining the basic principles on which our society has been based. That principle is based on the right of citizens to be protected from terrorists, but also from arbitrary arrest and detainment. That is the principle for which the House of Commons stands.
It is unfortunate that, as we saw the great outpouring of goodwill on the Hill, we see this debate being brought forward again in the House. I refer to The Globe and Mail editorial that stated:
|| The two-day debate in Parliament on the Harper government’s proposed anti-terrorism legislation smacks of political opportunism, and it is regrettable that it will take place. The debate politicizes the Boston Marathon bombings....
It goes on to say:
|| More worrying is the fact that there are aspects of the proposed bill that raise questions about balancing civil liberties with the need to protect citizens. A wise course of action would be to postpone the bill’s final reading so that any emotional fallout from the Boston bombings doesn’t colour an important debate about public safety in Canada.
It is incumbent upon us when we see this political opportunism in the face of such tragedy that we do not just bend with the wind when the Conservatives say to bend. Our colleagues in the Liberal Party bent long ago on this issue. We need to raise the fundamental issues that are facing Canadians. We are talking about legislation that takes away basic fundamental rights: that people can be detained without trials and be made to go before special investigative judges without the right to remain silent. Those are fundamental principles.
If Parliament is going to undermine those basic rights on which democratic freedoms are based, there have to be some damn good reasons for it to take place. These original measures were brought forward by the Liberal government in the post-9/11 era. In the horror after 9/11, many people said that our traditional freedoms were outdated, that in the 21st century, torture, rendition and detention without trial were what we needed to do to protect society.
We saw many abuses of citizens' rights in the public realm under this sense of fear and panic, and the Liberal government at the time went along with that George Bush analysis and brought in the provisions that are being brought back. However, even at that time they were so unpalatable to the Canadian public that it had to guarantee there would be a sunset clause, that they would only be in effect for a period of time. Within that period of time, those provisions were never found to be necessary; not once. Yet the Liberals still want to break the promise they made to Canadians when they said they would sunset these clauses because they were such a threat to basic democratic and legal rights.
Now the Liberals are saying, “Let us do it; let us forget that sunset clause; let us forget the debate that happened in 2007 when the House of Commons said that those kinds of provisions would take away from people the fundamental rights of legal protection”. The House of Commons rejected that in 2007 and the Liberals voted with New Democrats. Now they are going back to where they wanted to be.
This is the party that always wraps itself in it. It was them; they represented the charter. However, these are fundamental charter issues.
They used the word "terrorism". It is certainly a very loaded word and a very dangerous issue we are facing. However, the issue with this bill is that, as parliamentarians, we have to make sure due diligence is done so that innocent people will not be drawn up into this net.
It was really telling that we brought forward a number of amendments to try to fix the bill and to work with the government to fix the bill, yet the Liberal members brought zero amendments. They just went along to rubber-stamp it. One of the motions we tried to bring forward was the issue of recognizance with conditions, where a person could be held by preventive arrest based on the word of a peace officer. That person could be held without a warrant and without charges. A person who knew somebody who may be a threat could also be held.
We tried to clarify the language so that we were really clear about what was intended, so that it was terror suspects and not just average citizens who were out there protesting in the streets or would get caught up in a sweep. The government refused that amendment, because it said it wanted a broad sweep. That is something that my hon. colleagues in the Liberal Party are supporting. They are saying that would pass a charter challenge. I certainly do not think so.
What preventive arrest and recognizance with conditions really mean is that we have to look at where it has been done. In the post-9/11 era, Maher Arar was arrested without any real evidence, went through rendition and was tortured. That was done under the nose of the then Liberal government, which thought that was the price we had to pay for freedom. We found out later that Maher Arar was completely innocent.
The Liberals are saying this does not mean that, if individuals serve a meal in a restaurant to a supposed terrorist, they will be arrested without a warrant. That is a ridiculous example. A more telling example would be to look at England during the 1970s and the horrific bombing campaigns that hit London and Birmingham. The Parliament at that time felt it had to get rid of the basic principles of habeas corpus and detention and trial. They arrested numerous innocent people, including Annie Maguire, whose story I have already mentioned today. She was just a housewife.
Not only Annie Maguire but seven members of her family were put in jail for 15 years based on no evidence, because they were thought to somehow be associated with people who were terrorists. The people they were associated with, their cousins, were innocent. We saw that a great miscarriage of justice was done with the Guildford bombings. People's lives were ruined, but it was considered okay at the time because they were all a threat. The crime then, of course, was that they were Irish in England.
However, civil society is based on the rule of law. It is based on ensuring that those situations do not happen.
I want to just talk about the term "terrorist". I was called a terrorist. I was denounced by the government of Mike Harris as an eco-terrorist because I was standing up against a massive garbage dump that many of the frontbenchers supported. As a citizen, when I was speaking up and protesting, I was being called an eco-terrorist. We see that the government uses that word all the time. If a person does not like a pipeline, he or she is an eco-terrorist.
What about all the young aboriginal activists who are on the streets? What about the people at the G20, who came from all over and got off the buses to participate in their demonstrations at the G20, which is their fundamental right? Under this law, a peace officer could believe that these people are possibly thinking of terrorist activity, and they could be held in detention for 24 hours without charges. Then, the peace officers could decide whether to let them go.
We saw what happened at G20 and that is exactly what they were doing. They were detaining people. They were kettling people. Of course, they missed all the bad guys who were running up and down Queen Street with black masks on. I do not know how they missed them, but they managed to run from Queen and Spadina all the way up Yonge Street, and a lot of innocent people were detained.
We have to be careful and we have to define exactly what we mean.
If police officers or people in authority are allowed to decide that they do not like a person and they think he or she poses a threat, then that person could be detained without a trial. In this bill, a person could be held for 12 months without a conviction.
The government says it needs this. However, in the years that these provisions were in effect, they were never used once. Under article 495 in the code, already, an order can be brought to have people appear before a judge, and a judge already has the ability to detain them, without releasing them on bail if he or she feels they are a threat. Those powers already exist.
We are talking about new powers that are much more arbitrary, that are much more subjective, that allow for people to be picked up and held without charges. That is a fundamental threat.
I would like to quote Paul Copeland, a lawyer with the Law Union of Ontario, who said in his opinion the provisions we were examining in committee would unnecessarily change our legal landscape in Canada. He said we must not adopt them. In his opinion they are not necessary. Other provisions of the code provide various mechanisms for dealing with such individuals.
It is unfortunate that within the opposition, the Liberals did not think to even challenge, not even clarify. There are some other amendments that are very much needed but that the government refused. For example, Bill S-7 is a law of general application. It cuts right across. The Young Offenders Act does not supercede Bill S-7. That is very concerning.
What happens to people who are under 18? Can they be detained? Can they be held? That happened in the case of Annie Maguire in Ireland. To say it would not happen is absurd. It has happened. Canada has legal obligations under the international Convention on the Rights of the Child to protect children.
The Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children proposed amendments to the bill to ensure that the implementation for children under 18 would consider the convention on the rights of children, including detention as a last resort. The government did not accept those amendments, and neither did the Liberal Party. That is serious.
What we are told here, and I have been here for a number of years, is that we are soft on this. What I find the government is soft on is the basic principle of the rule of law. If someone says “Hey, let us get rid of the rule of law; it will be more effective”. Certainly it would be more effective. Totalitarian states are always very effective in a certain thing because they do not have the rule of law.
We are different because we have the rule of law. I will point to Bill C-30 in this last Parliament, where the government came in with massive provisions to allow it undefined legal authorities to demand personal information on Internet users and cell phone users without warrants. The government thought that was perfectly okay. It needed this, and if we did not support it, then it said we were soft on child pornography.
What an ugly statement, considering the fact that the one who came forward, who was very soft on child pornography, was the architect of the whole Conservative revolution, Tom Flanagan. Tom Flanagan was soft on child pornography.
However, average Canadians who wanted to protect their privacy rights were attacked by the government. The other provisions within Bill C-30 at that time were forcing telecoms to put in spyware so that they could track people whenever they wanted.
My colleagues in the Liberal Party said nothing about it, because those were actually provisions that were brought forward under the Liberals.
At that time we saw a huge backlash, publicly. It was very impressive. Canadians care about their privacy rights. Canadians are not soft on child pornography. Canadians are not soft on terrorism. However, they were not going to sit back and allow the government to undermine basic rights, including the issue that if individuals are going to wiretap, they need warrants.
Recently we have seen the government come back with Bill C-55, which is on wiretap provisions. The government recognized the need to have warrants.
None of this precludes the issue that already within the court system of this country, if officers believe a life is danger, they can act. They can act without a warrant. That is a reasonable provision. If something is an emergency, if a child's life is at stake, they can act and they can then explain to the judge.
However, we are talking about something different. We are talking about someone who feels that a bunch of young activists from Montreal who come to Toronto for the G20 and get off the bus could be up to no good, and it is perfectly okay to grab them and put them in detention for 24 hours and then decide to maybe let them go. Maybe the demonstration will be over by then.
CSIS has been keeping tabs on young, aboriginal activists. Will they be drawn up in this because CSIS wants a broad sweep? Those were their terms: they wanted a broad sweep.
I tell people back home to really reflect on what the House is being asked to push through. The provisions of law have served us for hundreds of years. They are not arbitrary. We did not just come up with them. They exist because we have seen the abuse of civil rights. We have seen the abuse of individual rights, and we need the clear rule of law.
Even in the case of terrorism, we in the New Democratic Party say that we need the tools. If the government wants tools to go after cyber-terrorists, it should bring in a bill that goes after cyber-terrorists, but it should not bring in a bill that allows it to grab any information on anybody it wants at any time just because. Just because is not good enough.
I find it unfortunate that in the wake of the Boston bombing, that incoherent, horrific act, the government has been widely seen to be trying to force this through. It is wrapping itself in the grief of Boston to push through a bill, with its friends in the Liberal Party, that is undermining the basic rights of Canadians without having ever proven just cause.
In the years these provisions existed under the Liberals, before the Liberals agreed to a sunset clause, they were never used. We see that within the Criminal Code we have numerous provisions to give police the powers they need to go after the bad guys.
We as parliamentarians do not need to be frightened, told by the Conservatives that we all have to jump when they say jump, otherwise we are soft. We are not soft, and we are not soft-headed, unlike our colleagues over in the third party. We stand for the rule of law in this country, and if the government tries to fundamentally alter the political landscape of this country, it needs to prove it.
Second, it needs to stop politicizing it so that when amendments are brought before the committee to ensure, for example, that children are not drawn up in this wide sweep, the Conservatives will say that it is reasonable and that they will protect children.
We asked for amendments to clarify what are terrorists so that a guy in a uniform is not just picking some kid out of a crowd because he looks like he is about to do something. That is not the rule of law. That is what exists in totalitarian countries, and it is the difference between us and them.
Paul Calarco, of the national criminal justice section of the Canadian Bar Association, put it very clearly at committee. He said:
|| There is no question that the prevention of terrorist action is vital to preserving our society. This requires effective legislation, but also legislation that respects the traditions of our democracy.
Unfortunately, the bill fails to meet either goal.
The issue is the investigative hearings. Someone could be brought before a special judge, and the right to remain silent, which is a fundamental principle, would be taken away without any justification, without a necessary explanation as to why the individual was being stripped of these rights. It would just be on the subjective word of a legal authority.
As well, there is recognizance with conditions and preventative arrest, not just of the people who are suspected but of people who may know them, people who may be their relatives. A peace agent could arrest an individual without a warrant if he or she believed it was necessary and could hold the person for 24 hours. People could then be held for up to a year.
It is incumbent upon us, in the aftermath of this horrific and senseless act in Boston, to say that in civil society, we will not give in to knee-jerk reactions. We will not give in to fear. We will stand with the victims, but we will ensure that they are not used to undermine the very basis of what makes us a civil and progressive and democratic society.