Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in support of Bill C-6, an act to establish the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and to amend or repeal certain acts.
First, I would like to congratulate the chair and the members of the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.
Over the past few weeks, the committee has had in-depth discussions on Bill C-6. These discussions allowed us to better understand the issues relating to public safety and emergency preparedness.
It became clear that the members of all the parties represented in the House of Commons share a deep and unfailing commitment to the safety of our country and its citizens.
Even though the government did not always agree with the comments made and the amendments proposed, we were aware that committee members were trying to make the bill as effective as possible.
I would also like to acknowledge the participation of the Privacy Commissioner who appeared as a witness at the committee hearings and also wrote directly to the minister. The Privacy Commissioner raised concerns about protecting the privacy of Canadians in the context of examining Bill C-6. She reminded us about the constant tension between privacy and other rights, including the right to security and how we need to strike an appropriate balance.
I would like to reiterate the minister's response to the Privacy Commissioner because I know many Canadians are concerned that the priorities of public safety may somehow compromise the privacy of personal information.
It is worth reminding the House that, like all legislation, Bill C-6 is subject to the Constitution and the Charter of Rights. We have drafted the legislation carefully to ensure that in the delivery of public safety, personal privacy is protected appropriately.
The proposed legislation provides no new legal authorities to collect, disclose or share information within or outside the agencies that are part of the Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness portfolio.
Indeed, the sole purpose of the provisions on the exchange of information is to ensure that all relevant and authorized information on public safety is communicated as it should be.
As the Auditor General pointed out last spring, Canada must be more efficient in the exchange of critical and timely information between the bodies that are responsible for our safety.
The proposed legislation would contribute to a better sharing of that information without infringing upon the privacy rights of Canadians in any way.
I would now like to comment briefly on the three amendments to the bill approved by the committee.
The first amendment concerns clause 5, the coordination and leadership of the Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness portfolio. The committee saw fit to approve an amendment that includes a non-exhaustive list of entities for which the minister is responsible. The government did not support the amendment.
We contended that modern legislation does not include all the various organizations that a portfolio may include. There are good reasons to respect this legal convention, particularly in the context of the responsibilities of the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.
In a rapidly evolving security environment, where the government needs the flexibility to respond to emerging threats by adjusting structures or creating new ones, we believe it made more sense not to list any entities.
Even if the list had been clearly illustrative, we feared the casual reader may still believe such a list constituted the complete portfolio. We were concerned that, despite the best of intentions, an incomplete list might therefore lead to confusion rather than clarity. We also argued that other acts clearly spell out relationships between the minister and various agencies, such as the RCMP. As a result, we saw no value added to be gained by including the names of some entities in clause 5 of Bill C-6.
I would also like to make clear that Bill C-6 does not give the government authority to add or subtract names from such a list. This authority comes from the Public Service Rearrangement and Transfer of Duties Act.
All that said, the government does respect the will of the committee and accepts the amendment as approved.
The second amendment, which was proposed by the Bloc, was also problematic and once again the government did not support it. The amendment concerns clause 6, which explains the functions of the minister. The clause was amended at committee to state explicitly that the minister would exercise his or her powers “...with due regard to the powers conferred on the provinces and territories...”.
In fact, the government has sufficient concern about the amendment that we sought an amendment at report stage to strike the wording from Bill C-6.
I would emphasize very clearly, however, that despite our concerns with this amendment, the Government of Canada fully understands that respect for provincial jurisdiction is a fundamental principle of our Constitution. It goes without saying that the Minister of Public Safety will continue to respect provincial jurisdiction in the exercise of her powers.
The public safety file is one on which there has been a strong history of cooperation between the federal government and the provinces. In fact, Bill C-6 contains a provision expressly calling for continued cooperation between the two levels of government.
As I indicated in my remarks in support of the government's amendment at report stage, the Bloc amendment to clause 6, in the view of both the minister and the government, is redundant and unnecessary. It is redundant because ministerial powers must be exercised within federal constitutional jurisdiction in any event. It is unnecessary because clause 4(1) of Bill C-6 already sets out that “...the powers, duties and functions of the Minister extend to and include all matters over which Parliament has jurisdiction...”. This wording establishes the scope of the powers of the minister under the Constitution and is the standard limiting formulation in departmental statutes. Clause 4(1) is a legislative drafting convention.
As members are aware, this matter was given full consideration and debate during report stage. In keeping with the principles of democracy that Canadians hold dearly, the hon. members in the House voted down the government's amendment at report stage and the government respects their decision.
The government will, therefore, treat the Bloc amendment to clause 6 as, at most, a for greater certainty clause, a reminder that the minister cooperates with provincial authorities in the exercise of their respective jurisdictions in areas of national and local importance.
In speaking to this matter at report stage, hon. members of both the Conservative and New Democratic Parties emphasized that the amendment pertaining to jurisdiction should not be viewed as precedent setting for other legislation, but rather, as indicated by the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh, amendments of this nature must be considered on a case by case basis. The government also endorses this approach for, as I indicated previously, how such an amendment would affect other legislation depends upon the very nature of the matter being legislated.
The third amendment deals with the last clause of the bill. Clause 38 is about the coming into force of the act. The committee felt that the original wording of that clause could allow the government to give effect to certain sections of the act at different times.
The purpose of the amendment was to ensure that all the provisions of the act, with the exception of sections 35 and 36, would come into force at the same time.
I am pleased to say that the amendment received all party support. This unanimity, to my mind, stands as a positive symbol for the cordial nature of the entire deliberations.
On that note, I would like to thank the committee members for their thoughtful analysis. Even if the government did not agree with all the proposed amendments, we never doubted for a moment that the committee had the best interests of Canadians at heart.
There can be no doubt that we must create the department of public safety and emergency preparedness. Our world, with its vast range of natural and man-made threats, demands a strategic and effective response to protect the safety and security of Canadians. The proposed legislation provides the necessary legal foundation for the department and it is my hope that, in the interests of all Canadians, it receive the full support of members of the House.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the report stage debate on Bill C-6. It is an important bill, given the current climate around security. It is an enabling bill, legislation that in essence puts in the place the legislative framework for the new Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. It is worth noting that the department has been operating for six months or more. The legislation is somewhat late in coming.
It is also worth noting that the bill itself will, for all intents and purposes, do away with the very traditional name of the Solicitor General. I hasten to add that I am somewhat saddened to see that label disappear, given that my father served in that office in the years 1984-85. I know the member for Calgary Centre sat with my father in the House of Commons, and I am pleased to be speaking in his presence today.
The bill brings together a number of departments under one umbrella. It is intended clearly to create a more coordinated effort, and one would hope that information sharing would be improved as a result of the bill.
As I noted earlier, I am encouraged by the efforts made by the minister and the parliamentary secretary to consult more broadly within the House, within Parliament, to ensure that on legislative initiatives, even a bill as technical, and one that could be described as a housekeeping bill, as this, to include the opposition. Given the dynamic and the numbers in the House, in the committee and in the chamber, the opposition already has played a more effective role in amending the bill.
The legislation will bring together, under a single department, departments such as the RCMP. CSIS will have efforts made to include a more coordinated effort around response to provincial disasters, as we have seen in the Saguenay region and even in my own province of Nova Scotia as recently as last week with a devastating snowstorm. Similarly, just under a year ago we suffered the effects of hurricane Juan. The ability of the federal government to intervene in a more meaningful and expeditious way will hopefully be aided and abetted by a more coordinated department such as this.
I would also add that the Conservative Party, under then Prime Minister Kim Campbell, had proposed a similar bringing together of departments such as this and it was vigorously opposed by the Liberal Party of the day. Therefore, we are pleased once again to note that an idea that was proposed some years ago, much like free trade and some of the other initiatives that were taken by a previous government, has now been endorsed and very much embraced by the government.
The legislation brings into being the new department. The legislation also touches upon areas of Canada's border security, which is an extremely important entity at this time. We hope to have a more fulsome debate in the future around the issues of the border security officers themselves in terms of their own personal safety; the ability to carry firearms, for example sidearms, to issue vests and a more coordinated effort with their counterparts on the other side of the border.
The smart border initiative is something that will be the subject of further debate. More important, we hope to see implementation of some of the initiatives that have been discussed around the important issue of our border security, such as putting in place the necessary critical infrastructure and fast lanes, funding and resource allocation for the technology that will accompany the efforts to improve greater ease of traffic flow at the border and at the same time ensure the very critical level of security needed. In the future I would suspect we will also be engaging on the subject matter of a larger North American security perimeter.
Then we would get into the context of discussions around improving, in particular, our ports. This is perhaps the most vulnerable point of entry in the country today. I know there is reported activity of organized crime at ports like Halifax, Vancouver and even the port of Montreal . There is the ability currently, with the resources and technology, only to examine I believe it is in the range of 1% of the amount of container traffic that comes through the ports.
We had an incident in Halifax quite recently where an entire container went missing. That is alarming in the sense that those containers are large. We hear repeatedly of efforts made to bring contraband material and illegal immigrants into the country through the ports of entry.
While the airport security has been incredibly improved in the wake of 9/11, it is our ports now that need greater emphasis. The disbanding of the ports police by the Liberal government in 1994 has contributed to the vulnerability. That specialized police force was tasked solely with protecting and enhancing security in ports throughout Canada. I state simply for the record that this is an interest and a pursuit of the Conservative Party. We will continue to advocate for a greater degree of funding and protection of ports in Canada.
The Conservative Party and my colleague from Palliser as well as my colleague from Elgin—Middlesex—London have spoken out repeatedly against the proliferation of the long gun registry and the incredible waste that has flowed, now approaching $2 billion. Under the questionable guidance of the previous finance minister, this legislation was brought forward back in the early nineties in the wake of a terrible disaster in Montreal. It was done at that time, I would suggest, for political posturing rather than actual public safety.
It was stated at that point that the cost of such a registry would be somewhere in the range of $2 million. As it approaches $2 billion that has been identified by none other than the very impartial and very able Auditor General, this is probably the largest fraud ever perpetrated on the Canadian public in the history of this country.
The bill puts in place or brings along with the new department the Canadian Firearms Centre. The reason we moved an amendment was to ensure that there was actual clarity and actual enunciation of the various departments as opposed to the way in which it was referred to originally, simply as entities. We want to be able to track the activities and in particular the monetary shenanigans that we have seen in the past when it comes to the firearms registry, the long gun registry, which we continue to oppose on principle, not because in any way, shape or form should it ever be misconstrued as the Conservative Party not being for effective gun control.
That is a completely different issue. Hon. members know very well that the Conservative Party of the day brought in some of the most effective public safety gun control measures ever seen in this country: issues related to safe storage, to the storage of ammunition and keeping that separate from firearms.
We have had handgun registration in this country since the 1940s. The biggest problem today on the streets of large cities, even in small towns and communities, is not long guns; it is not rifles or shotguns. It is handguns; it is nine millimetres that are coming into this country illegally.
We know that the resources that have been put into this useless fiasco of a gun registry, this bureaucratic quagmire, if that money had been placed into front line policing, training or even a registry of sex offenders as opposed to inanimate objects, the public safety, the crime control, and the ability of police to enforce crime control would have increased exponentially.
The bill itself, as I indicated, is one that the Conservative Party supports in principle. It is enabling legislation that will bring together these various entities, referred to already as the firearms centre. I hope it will also lead to a greater degree of sharing of information, in particular between the RCMP and CSIS.
There is as well an effort to set up an oversight body in Parliament that will allow for a greater review by parliamentarians of the activities of CSIS, the activities of CSE, and security information gathering within the country.
I note as well that Bill C-36, the antiterrorism legislation, will be back before a committee for a mandatory review. That was put in place and will require a review of the provisions and in fact the use of those new enabling powers that were put in place under Bill C-36. I look forward to taking part in the discussions in committee on behalf of the Conservative Party along with my colleagues and members from all sides of the House. There is certainly a need for a vigorous and vigilant review of security measures in the country.
It is our hope that this new department will continue in the same vein of cooperation that we have seen thus far. We hope that continues. We hope that the minister will continue to come before the committee, as she has already done in this Parliament.
We call upon all parliamentarians to be very vigilant and serious in their examination of issues such as this that pertain to the critical area of security, given the heightened degree of threat that exists in the world today. Canada has been specifically named by none other than Osama bin Laden as a potential target. We know that there continue to be active threats in this country. The raising of funds to support terrorism continues, sadly, in Canada today.
There is much to do. There is much that we and the government can do with respect to our security forces in Canada today. Providing them with the proper resources, tools and support, first and foremost, should factor very highly on the parliamentary agenda. This legislation is now giving this department the mandate to do just that.
I see in this legislation wherein subclause 6(2) a commission or advisory committee will be set up. Given past practices, we have reason for skepticism, but it is certainly our hope that this will not become another area of patronage or an area in which the government will simply put people into positions without any form of consultation, at least not the token consultation that we saw in the appointment of Supreme Court judges. That is one other area that I highlight that appears in the bill itself.
We look forward, on behalf of the Conservative Party, to participating fully in the further discussion around this legislation.
Mr. Speaker, at first glance, one might think that, basically, all this bill is about is a change of designation, from Solicitor General Canada to Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada. Even just that would be an improvement. The responsibilities of the new department are certainly better defined.
As this bill is introduced, with the importance it is clearly given by the Prime Minister by putting in charge of this new department his Deputy Prime Minister, I think that it represents a significant change and I hope that it will continue to be considered as such within the government.
Before making my point, I will say that this is certainly a topic on which Quebec and the rest of Canada think very much alike. In fact, I think that the cooperation that we should be getting and that I hope to be getting in this respect would be a good example of the kind of cooperation that could exist between two sovereign nations within a real confederation, which is the objective I have pursued throughout my political career.
The reason this particular bill is so important is precisely because it is being introduced at a time when great challenges have to be met. After World War II—I was born in the early days of the war—I spent my life dreading another world war or, worse yet, an atomic war that might spell death for the planet. The greatest threat at the time was indeed clashes between the Communist bloc and the free world, while other countries stood by. That was the main military threat.
Canada, at the time, with the second largest landmass in the world but a fraction of the world's population and wealth, was perfectly aware of the fact that it was unable to provide adequate protection for this huge landmass and its inhabitants. Therefore, throughout the 20th century, Canada consistently relied on its participation in major international alliances, in which it has played a heroic part on occasion and many Canadians have also played a part. In this spirit, it continues to support UN operations conducted under an international flag.
What is the greatest threat to the security of Canadians and Quebeckers in this 21st century? Which countries are likely to threaten to invade us and deprive us of our freedom? Clearly, the cold war is over. There are new alliances. Unfortunately, at the dawn of the 21st century, more precisely on September 11, 2001, we discovered a new threat to civilized countries, and countries as a whole, namely terrorism.
Consequently, since terrorism is the greatest threat, we must refocus our forces and our defence system to counter this new threat.
As a matter of fact, it could even strike here. Terrorists who struck Bali could just as well strike Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver. Moreover, even if there is no immediate threat here, I think we all see it as our role to cooperate in the fight against terrorism and make sure that nobody on our territory is planning terrorist attacks on our allies or even other countries.
Essentially we do not fight terrorism with traditional weapons. If we take the terrorist threat seriously, we should expect a significant transfer of resources from the Department of National Defence to the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.
Whatever resources we devote to intelligence gathering, the fight against terrorism mainly involves the systematic gathering of information, secret information of course, since by definition terrorists operate in secrecy. Occasionally countries harbour terrorists. In such cases, the world community has every right to forcefully remove any government that is encouraging the spread of terrorism from its territory. That is what we did in Afghanistan with our allies under the United Nations flag.
Once that has been done, terrorism remains a secret activity and the way to fight terrorism is to establish networks of informants and to develop our secret services.
No matter what the resources we are going to devote to security information, we can be pretty well sure that they will never be enough to provide us with the assurance that we will never fall victim to terrorist attacks.
The only way to gain that assurance would be to live in an environment similar to the former communist regimes, with their multiple controls and lack of freedom. That, obviously, no one wants. I might add that the terrorists would have scored a great victory if they had managed to change us into that kind of a society.
We must therefore expect a major increase in undercover surveillance activities. This, of necessity, puts the respect of fundamental rights at risk. Even cooperation with our allies presents risks to individual freedom as we see it, and our respect for privacy.
We have seen the disastrous effects on Canadians of giving information to allied undercover services, disastrous effects we had not intended. The major challenge is to find a happy medium between increased security information gathering activities and the respect of human rights
There is a great fascination for such undercover activity. It has inspired numerous popular novels and films. It is far removed from reality, however. The reality is patient information gathering, it is patience, intelligence, the ability to link scattered information together so as to eventually identify groups, guess what they are planning, gather evidence, and take timely action. There is no room for failure.
Nevertheless, people involved in the secret service are a source of fascination for people. The fascination of seeing into others' lives, somewhat the way people are now fascinated with reality TV. There is a tendency to abuse this ability, which is why it is very important to set effective controls, not only to protect people's privacy and the values we subscribe to—freedom and respect of privacy—but also simply for the sake of efficiency.
As I said, there will likely never be enough resources. So the best use must be made of the ones we have. They are not to be used for frivolous purposes not to restrict the activities and freedom of people who have no intention of resorting to violence. We have to know when enough is enough.
It is also dangerous because it provides the government with powerful tools they can use against their political opponents. Since these activities are kept secret, the government might be tempted to use the resources put at its disposal to fight terrorism to get information about its political foes, which would give it an edge.
This is one of the concerns the committee on which I sat noted in Australia, New Zealand, Norway, the United States and England. Parliamentary controls were developed. So, there is a risk that we need to address here. The huge challenge facing the minister today has to do with balance.
Let me say, in all honesty, that I think the Prime Minister probably chose the best person he could to try to achieve that balance. As a former justice minister, a former law professor, a great supporter of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms adamant about its enforcement, she has maintained balance in her public life.
I do hope she realizes the importance and enormity of the task ahead. I also hope that she is aware she will have a tough time keeping abreast of the secret activities of her department, since secret services are usually wary about political leaders. What will make her work even harder is that the management of all the increased resources she is getting is too much for one person. It would be naive to assume that there will not be any abuses, hence the need to have monitoring agencies whose resources are already too limited.
We have them, but many people complain that budgets and resources are insufficient. They will obviously need even more resources if we increase the resources given to the secret services. Their increase must be proportional to the increase of the resources provided to these secret services.
It is also necessary to establish, as in other democracies, a parliamentary control, as promised by the Prime Minister. This committee must be representative of Parliament, thus of the people, of those who, although they want major changes to current institutions, pursue and have always pursued their action in a democratic and peaceful context.
It is not against even the major changes that the secret services must work, but against the use of violence to provoke changes. This is certainly an objective shared by all of us who are democrats in the first place.
This is why I am still a bit concerned when I see the minister's attitude toward the suggestions made by the privacy commissioner, Ms. Stoddart. She has rejected a little too lightly her suggestion to have an officer dedicated to assessing the unavoidable infringements on privacy that intelligence activities require.
For my part, I believe that having such an officer may be useful not only to ensure the necessary protection of privacy or limit the unnecessary violation of privacy, but also to ensure the efficiency of the secret service. As I said earlier, when you start to unnecessarily encroach on privacy, it means that you are not doing your work properly, that resources are not focussed where they should be focussed, resources that are, as I said, probably always scarce and should be entirely dedicated to counter plotting by those wanting to use violence to bring about changes. We are a democratic society able to bring about changes.
The minister is a good choice, but only time will tell if she is up to the important task she has been given.
Similarly, her ability to have important resources transferred from the Department of National Defence will be an indication of her political weight. It will also be an indication of whether or not the Prime Minister is truly aware of the new security challenges of the 21st century.
I will now go to the specifics. We put forward an amendment the government seems to say it will reluctantly accept. Let us be clear. If the federal government had never encroached on provincial jurisdictions, this amendment would not have been necessary.
I might elaborate on that at another time, but I sincerely believe that federal encroachment in provincial jurisdictions is somewhat of a natural phenomenon since it is the manifestation of the Canadian anglophone nation's will to give the government it controls the means to tackle problems it perceives as the most pressing.
Quebec also acts as a nation. Quebec would like its government, which it controls, to look after what it considers the most pressing problems.
I think the federal government's mentality also goes against the spirit of a true federation. According to its way of thinking, it is the senior government and, in areas where we have to work together, it has to take initiative and establish the rules. I do not want things to be that way. I want, as the parliamentary secretary to the minister said, for there to be cooperation between the provincial and federal governments. However, I want even more. I want there to be respect between the two parties.
It is certainly not impossible. I have seen this respect myself when we were working on the fight against biker gangs and we established the Carcajou squad. It was directed alternately by an officer from the Sûreté du Québec and an officer from the Montreal police, and RCMP investigators agreed to cooperate. I think they were proud of the work that was accomplished. We are one of the only places in the world that has succeeded not in completely eliminating, but in truly breaking up the dangerous Hell's Angels organization.
As the crown prosecutor said—and I agree with him—the fight against organized crime is like housework: it never ends. However, with the new legislation the Minister of Justice has given us, it will be more difficult to establish such a powerful organization.
Thus, it is possible for the federal government to act, cooperate and find its place while respecting provincial organizations.
In conclusion, we already have teams to fight against a biological, chemical, radiological or nuclear attack and we have here a good example for making these teams available to all Canadians.
Now you can understand our full agreement with this department's creation and our view of this department's importance. We are prepared to cooperate, but rest assured we will keep a close eye on you.
Mr. Speaker, the bill before us has the unanimous support of all parties. It did not require a great deal of work to achieve that consensus. All of us have felt for some time that the need to deliver our security services efficiently, both domestically and internationally, has been wanting. When the bill was brought forward at the start of this session, all opposition parties with an open mind were willing to accept it with some minor changes.
Before I go to those, however, I would like to address why we needed this so badly. As a result of the terrible tragedy that occurred on September 11, 2001, we have learned that there are significant flaws in our system. These flaws have been documented by reports across all of our allies: the 9/11 report in the United States, the Bali report in Australia and the Butler report in England. Each one of those reports has shown that the services that we have show a significant tendency, and this may even be a human tendency, to build those traditional silos and then hide behind those silos, in fact defend them in a very territorial fashion.
Unfortunately, as much as one might admire some of the loyalty that is shown within those agencies to that silo defence, it leads inevitably, in each of those jurisdictions I just mentioned, to a lack of cooperation so that the loyalty that we see in terms of defending the agency is extended to the degree that it becomes dysfunctional. In fact, it prevents those agencies from cooperation. We have seen that in all three of those countries.
There is some indication, most of it anecdotal here in Canada, that similar things have happened. We certainly saw some evidence come out in the course of the Air India trial where because of the lack of cooperation, it would appear, and a reduction in the effectiveness of our intelligence services and security services in the investigation of that crime, it has caused the trial to be dragged out over a much longer period than it would have been otherwise had there been more cooperation. I do not want to overemphasize that particular case because it is, of course, still before the courts and we may get some indication at some point whether that is a complete reality.
However, we know that this is a problem. From my experiences in another committee on which I sat this past summer, our services are conscious of it. The committees and the inspector general that oversee this are very conscious of it. Attempts are being made to eradicate that lack of cooperation and, as a member of the NDP, I applaud those efforts.
This bill is one of the methodologies that we are deploying as a government to facilitate cooperation and to downplay any of this territoriality that leads to a dysfunctional service.
As a party we are quite pleased to support the bill and will be voting in favour of it once debate at third reading is complete. However I want to acknowledge that there were some flaws identified when the bill went to the committee and amendments were moved. I want to draw the House's attention to the amendments that were moved to clauses 5 and 6.
The amendment to clause 5 was to specify the agencies that would now be consolidated under one department and under one minister. They are: the RCMP, CSIS, the Canada Border Services Agency, the Canada Firearms Centre, the Correctional Service of Canada and the National Parole Board. These are the existing agencies and departments that will be incorporated.
I want to make this point because on this amendment there was criticism coming from the government side that it somehow would hamstring the minister. I want to be very clear that the amendment, and the bill as it is before the House, particularly clause 5, allow for additional agencies to be added. I have to say, again based on some of the experiences I had this summer, that I believe this should be happening fairly soon. I am not sure the government members are on side with that, but if they do come to that realization and wish to add additional agencies under the purview of the minister, they in fact are able to do so without amendments to the law that will flow out of this bill.
I want to perhaps applaud the opposition parties. In the course of that amendment coming forward, all three opposition parties supported it. There was a good discussion. It was a good example, if I can put it that way, of the parliamentary committee system working.
Similarly, with clause 6, the amendment was brought forth provides for a direction, in effect, to the minister to exercise his or her authority and powers under this law in compliance with the constitutional jurisdiction of the provinces and the territories. Again there was a good discussion. The opposition parties, after listening to that discussion, are all supporting this amendment.
It is one that I believe is particularly important if one begins to appreciate what is going on in Canada at the present time in terms of the police forces of the provinces and the municipalities cooperating extensively with our national agencies in gathering evidence. In some cases, what has been traditional intelligence gathering is being assisted if not outright conducted by our provincial and municipal police forces in cooperation with and generally under the direction of our federal agencies such as the RCMP and CSIS.
The cause for concern as a result of this is that we want to be very clear that the provinces and the territories retain their traditional jurisdiction in the areas of enforcement, at the same time recognizing that right across the country we have been cooperating with the federal agencies and in fact taking on additional workloads since September 11, 2001.
We wanted that workload to be conducted in such a way that it always remained within the control of the provinces and the territories and that protocols were worked out with the federal government and its agencies on an ongoing basis. We did not want the jurisdiction of the provinces and the territories impugned. I believe that this amendment brought forward on clause 6 takes into account the reality of what is going on in the country right now within our police forces. It protects that jurisdiction of the provinces and territories. Again there was a good discussion in the committee, in the way that committees are supposed to function, we all believe, and perhaps in practice do not as often as they should. The committee did function well here.
Both of these amendments were put through and are now back before the House with what I believe to be an improved bill.
Along the same lines of the conduct of the committee, other amendments were proposed and were turned down. I want to draw to the attention of the House the fact that the Privacy Commissioner came before the committee as a witness and proposed two amendments, one that I would say she was not pressing for but one that she felt was in fact necessary.
After listening to her testimony, questioning her and having a thorough discussion in the committee, we determined in regard to the proposal she was making, although it was in its essence very valid, that is, concerns over privacy and how information was being used or could be used and in fact abused, it was not appropriate to deal with it at this time in this bill.
I think we all felt we had a sense of responsibility to the Privacy Commissioner to be very clear with her that we appreciated her initiative in this regard and that it is one she should pursue in other legislation, either in existing law or in fact some amendments to new legislation that should be forthcoming in the next while. We appreciated the initiative, but we felt that it was not in this law that it should be dealt with.
In that regard, there certainly was a good deal of discussion about the fact that a lot of our information at the international level is being shared. There were concerns expressed about whether the proper protocols are in place to protect Canadians from that information being abused in other countries.
Obviously the case that comes to mind is the Maher Arar case, and there are the suspicions we all have as to whether that happened in his case. Certainly at the superficial level it would now appear quite clear that it did. Who was at fault is unclear and that of course is the major subject as I see it of the O'Connor inquiry that is going on at the present time. Coming out of this, we may in fact get some recommendations that will invoke that concern of the Privacy Commissioner and we may pursue this at some point down the road. Certainly that is the intention of my party and it is one that we will follow quite closely once we have that report.
The additional point I would like to make is that this bill is just the start of the work that needs to be done to make sure that we do not end up as so many other countries have. Our traditional allies, the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia, all have demonstrated that within their services there is a need for ongoing vigilance, that the services are working at their peak efficiency, if I can put it that way. We as members of this House have a responsibility to see that there is an infrastructure in place which maximizes the likelihood of that occurring. This is one bill that we are quite happy to support as the first step in achieving that result, but it is certainly not the end.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Ahuntsic.
I rise to speak in support of Bill C-6, which establishes the new Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. The legislation is essential to ensuring the safety of Canadians and our communities. It will help give police and other first responders the tools they need to make the right decisions at the right time on the front lines where it matters most.
Bill C-6 provides that one department, the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, will take a leadership role and coordinate the setting of priorities with other departments and with the agencies in the portfolio, in order to act as a central point for issues of public security and emergency preparedness and to strengthen accountability for the way the government assumes its security responsibilities.
Simply put, the legislation provides greater support for police and other law enforcement personnel. This is where I would like to focus my attention today.
This summer Statistics Canada released a study that found that 82% of Canadians said that they had a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the police. This fall an Ekos survey showed that a full 90% had moderate or high confidence in the RCMP. These are numbers of which we should be very proud.
We need to ensure that Canadians continue to respect and trust these organizations and do so with good reason. We need to support our police and law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to do the job right.
We operate in a much different criminal environment than we did 50, 20 even 5 years ago. We are also entering a new frontier in law enforcement that requires us to think about policing and law enforcement much differently.
As a government, we must re-examine how we approach our safety and security responsibilities on a local, national and international level. We know that increasingly, situations that happen in one part of the world have far-reaching ramifications in other areas. In today's environment a small drug dealer who is arrested in a Canadian community could have links to a terrorist group halfway around the world.
This reinforces the need for governments and law enforcement agencies to work together locally, nationally and internationally to properly address common issues with a unified approach. Bill C-6 provides the foundation for our government to do exactly that.
Since the Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness portfolio was created nearly a year ago, the department and agencies have worked more cohesively to ensure the security of Canada and the Canadian public.
This bill will not change these new working relationships. In fact, it will provide an opportunity to solidify them and give clear direction to the department and the agencies within the portfolio.
When it comes to policing and law enforcement, there have been a number of recent accomplishments that I would like to highlight as evidence of this new and improved working relationship. These success stories are proof positive that when the Prime Minister created this new department last December, he did the right thing for Canada and for Canadians.
This October the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness met in Ottawa with then U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft for the eighth annual Canada-U.S. cross-border crime forum.
At this year's forum, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and Mr. Ashcroft made a number of important announcements that would reinforce the new era of more and better collaboration among law enforcement agencies at home and with our U.S. counterparts.
First, the two officials released the 2004 Canada-U.S. border drug threat assessment. This report examined the nature of drug trade between our two countries, highlighted successes achieved together and looked at how to better respond to this shared problem.
As a result of better international cooperation arising from the cross-border crime forum, this past March law enforcement officials from both sides of the border executed the largest single binational enforcement action ever taken against ecstasy traffickers. Over 130 individuals were arrested in 19 cities. Officers seized over 877,000 ecstasy pills, 120 kilograms of powder and $6 million.
The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and Mr. Ashcroft also announced new measures to enhance intelligence gathering and information sharing to combat cross-border crime and terrorist activity. At four of our integrated border enforcement team, or IBET, locations, Canada and U.S. law enforcement intelligence officers will now be co-located. At two locations here in Canada and two locations across the border in the United States, Canadian and American intelligence staff will literally and figuratively work shoulder to shoulder to secure our shared border.
The cross-border crime forum is an innovative vehicle to promote collaboration with our Canadian and American partners. It is co-led by the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada and the U.S. department of justice. It has been showcased as a model for cross-border law enforcement collaboration by other organizations, including the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and the Organization of American States.
The accomplishments of this forum are but a few examples of the excellent work being done thanks to a better targeted approach that has made increased collaboration possible since the creation of the new department.
Among the very important questions for police forces, for this government and in fact, for the entire Canadian public, are the identification, disruption and dismantling of organized crime groups.
Organized crime is an issue that affects ordinary Canadians. While many of its activities seem to have no direct bearing on the lives of law-abiding citizens, the consequences of organized crime are far-reaching. For example, we are seeing a rise in marijuana grow operations, most of which have a direct link to organized crime groups. Grow ops defraud hydro and insurance companies. They are a serious fire risk and threaten the lives of citizens who live nearby. Proceeds from the sale of drugs are often used to buy weapons and allow criminal groups to branch into other illicit businesses.
Furthermore, the days of these organizations operating as independent, mutually hostile factions is ending. We are seeing a new level of collaboration among organized crime groups that calls for, in fact demands, a response that is even more cohesive.
Simply put, the security, intelligence and law enforcement communities must continue to collaborate, and in fact look to enhance this integrated approach if we as a country and as a society are to succeed in fighting larger, more sophisticated organizations.
The creation of the public safety and emergency preparedness portfolio brings greater collaboration and focus to the government's efforts. It provides a vehicle and foundation for the department and its portfolio agencies to work together more and work together more effectively in combating shared threats like organized crime.
Our police and law enforcement community has benefited from the leadership of one department and one minister who is dedicated to greater cohesion within our borders and greater collaboration with our allies around the world.
We must do what we can to enshrine this leadership and accountability into law. We must provide our policing and law enforcement community with the tools they need to continue to fight against issues like drugs and organized crime and whatever other challenges come our way. We must do what we can as a government to ensure our nation is secure from threats, natural or man-made, and our citizens are safe in their communities.
Finally, we must ensure we are reaching out to all of those with a vested interested and a role to play in our safety and security mandate with one voice, under one minister, with a clear set of priorities and a decisive path forward.
I am confident that with the passage of Bill C-6 we can do just that.
Madam Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise in this House to support this very important legislation, namely Bill .
We all know that this bill is part of the government's strategy in response to the September 11, 2001, events, which raised public safety concerns all over the world, and particularly on the North American continent, to unprecedented levels.
I want to draw the attention of all members of this House by asking how we could contemplate imposing limits on the relentless fight against international terrorism.
All Canadians know that national safety knows no borders. We all know that the obligation imposed on all levels of government, in this country and in every other country, is to promote cooperation, partnership and the exchange of critical information to ensure the success of our common fight against terrorism.
The same is true in all areas of public safety and emergency preparedness. The fight against organized crime, drug trafficking and money laundering, for example, cannot stop at the borders of a country, a province or a state. On the contrary, all the authorities involved have an obligation to cooperate, to unite their efforts in order to succeed in deterring criminals, intercepting them and prosecuting them.
When we say that we are living in an era of globalization, we are not only referring to the economy, to trade or to the assistance provided to developing countries. No municipality, province or country can successfully overcome threats to public safety by acting alone.
This applies to emergency preparedness as well. If a natural disaster occurs, the primary responsibility lies with the provinces and local authorities, and the Government of Canada has never disputed that fact. We get involved when asked to do so by these authorities, under protocols that have been in place for a number of years.
This gradual response system works well, as we saw, for example, when the Quebec government, through then premier Lucien Bouchard, requested the presence of the Canadian army to help deal with the terrible effects of the ice storm in January 1998.
Natural disasters know no borders. Last summer, fires destroyed forests in British Columbia, Alberta, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories. I saw that with my children, because I had an opportunity to be there, and it was an unmitigated disaster. This is the most telling example that collaboration between all authorities, local, provincial, territorial and national, is required, and it must be effective, in order to combat such disasters and assure the safety of all citizens.
Public safety and emergency preparedness are two components of the name for the entirely new department the government intends to create through the bill under consideration in this House.
Security concerns of all Canadian women and men, of all ages, and of all regions of our vast land have become global concerns, eliminating the traditional distinctions between national security and international security.
That this the great lesson, the unavoidable legacy of the September 11, 2001, attacks against the Americans, their territory and their institutions. We have all been called to reflect, no matter where we live on this planet, no matter what what our ties are at the local, provincial or national levels.
Since these sad events, the Government of Canada has been working relentlessly to ensure the safety of Canadian women and men, together with all its neighbours, allies and provincial and municipal partners, non-governmental and private. It really is collaboration at all levels.
Bill C-6 marks an essential step in the effective integration of efforts by the Government of Canada to meet that fundamental objective of reassuring Canadians.
I also want, at this point, to reassure other people from the cultural communities who have some concerns about this bill. Yesterday, I had the opportunity of meeting some representatives of the Canadian Arab Federation who came to Parliament Hill. I informed them that all the members of the House will make sure that this bill is not used to the detriment of any specific community or minority.
As for the debates at the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, even if I do not sit on this committee, I was given the assurance that this is the type of issue discussed by all members. We will ensure that this bill provides protection and respects the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the other laws of this country. I simply wanted to reassure all Canadians from other ethnocultural backgrounds because some of them are concerned about this bill.
Canadians, including those of other national origins, know very well that we need a collective security that goes well beyond our borders, real and imaginary. They know that cooperation from all stakeholders and governments as well as from all departments and agencies of the same government, must necessarily converge to be effective.
The establishment of the new Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness confirms this approach taken since the Prime Minister's announcement on December 12 last. This is a department integrating all federal efforts in these matters of security and protection, a department providing the leadership required for effective federal-provincial-territorial cooperation as well as the indispensable collaborative national and international efforts.
Crime, in any form, knows no borders. There are no borders defined where crime is concerned. It is well known that, today, with the new technology, there are fewer and fewer borders. Crime dictates that we cooperate in our efforts to fight crime beyond all borders, so that together we can efficiently flush out those criminals who are trying to hide behind them.
In matters of air safety, maritime safety, threats to public health, protection of essential infrastructure, cybersecurity, emergency measures management in the event of natural disasters, in all these matters, the security of all Canadians knows no borders, as I said. In all these matters, open and efficient cooperation between all the authorities is critical at the global, continental, national, provincial and local level.
All of our allies, neighbours, and national partners must join forces, be extremely vigilant and respond quickly, in the best interest of all the citizens of this country. In the moments following the events of September 11, 2001, all strengthened their ties of solidarity and networks of cooperation. We all worked together to ensure the safety and security of our fellow citizens.
The best examples I can give are very simple to understand. Just last weekend, another severe snow storm swept across Nova Scotia. Every effort was made by the authorities to ensure the safety and security of everyone. The hospitals, the streets, tens of thousands of people in shelters, no effort was spared to provide heat, food and comfort to Nova Scotians.
We are going to work on this bill. This is a bill that will not only ensure safety and security but also, at the same time, ensure that our rights and freedoms are respected, should some of our fellow citizens wonder.
Such is the price of efficiency, of safety and security, and even of freedom when under threat from malicious individuals or natural disasters.
For all these reasons, I encourage all the members of this House to support Bill C-6.
Madam Speaker, I would like to start by congratulating my colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin for his presentation. He talked like an expert on the topic.
I am pleased to rise today in the House to speak to Bill C-6, which seeks to establish the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.
My party supports the bill. However, it has some concerns regarding measures that could jeopardize the delicate balance between security and the freedom of Quebeckers and Canadians.
We will recall that on December 12, 2003, the Prime Minister created the portfolio of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, which combines the activities of the solicitor general aimed at protecting Canada from natural disasters. The department ensures policy cohesion among six agencies, namely the RCMP, CSIS, the Canada Border Services Agency, the Canada Firearms Centre, Correctional Service Canada and the National Parole Board.
Looking at Bill C-6, we realize that the minister has huge powers. He plays a leadership role relating to Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness while respecting the Prime Minister's prerogative in matters relating to national security and the statutory authorities of other ministers.
The minister establishes strategic priorities for and coordination of portfolio agencies, while respecting their distinct mandates, cooperates with provinces and foreign states, and facilitates the sharing of information among public safety agencies as authorized under current Canadian law.
I will now talk about emergency measures in case of disasters. In 1996, I personally lived through the Saguenay floods. When a major disaster happens, concrete measures must be taken quickly.
I speak about them first hand having spent all my professional life in Chicoutimi where I was involved in emergency measures planning. In case of an emergency or a disaster, my role was to coordinate.
We all remember the July 1996 flood in the Upper Saguenay, the Lower Saguenay and the majority of the municipalities of my riding, Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, including Chicoutimi, La Baie, Laterrière, Lower Saguenay, Anse-Saint-Jean, Ferland-et-Boileau and other cities and communities outside my riding, like the city of Jonquiere and other surrounding municipalities, with a population of about 160,000 persons. This area includes two large basins collecting water used to produce electricity. I am of course talking about the big Lake Kénogami and the big Lake Ha! Ha!
For almost a week, we had heavy rains in the region covering the Upper Saguenay, all the cities that I just mentioned, and the Lower Saguenay. The two basins overflowed of course. They filled up just like this glass would fill up if I were to put it under a tap. It would of course fill up, and then it would overflow.
Rivers and waterways helped to drain off the water, but because of the dams holding back the waters, the basins were flooded and expanded. Large communities located on those waterways and basins were flooded. We had to relocate a lot of people. That brings me to the importance of quick emergency response.
This happened on a Saturday when I was on holiday. The public safety authorities in my area and the emergency planning committee called me. We got together to evaluate the situation. After a few hours, of course, the situation was so bad that already there was a real overflow. We immediately contacted the mayor of Chicoutimi who was an active participant in emergency planning.
A few hours after becoming aware of the situation, he declared emergency measures in Chicoutimi because of the flooding and the overflow of the main reservoir. In the case of Chicoutimi, it was Lake Kénogami. Other municipalities in similar locations made the same decisions at about the same time: to implement emergency measures or to implement an emergency plan, which meant evacuating the population, setting up structures to accommodate and feed them, and all the other details such a plan requires.
A great deal of cooperation is also required among all levels involved. Since I am here in this Parliament, which has responsibility for the federal services available in my region, I can state that I am aware of this great collaborative effort and the great responsibility these emergency plans entail. They are implemented by Quebec emergency preparedness, by a delegation in each region. The emergency plan, under the direction of the mayor of the municipality and all the municipal departments, is where the responsibility remains. The federal services in that area were the army—we have a base at Bagotville, in Haut-Saguenay—and the RCMP and weather services. These all put themselves under the leadership and responsibility of the emergency measures plan. As far as the army was concerned, more specific measures were involved, and it was mandated to look after a specific area of intervention.
All this shows the need for collaborative efforts, and there certainly was cooperation. An emergency measures plan was put in place, and put in place promptly. As a result, the population was spared a good many problems.
I was also able to see what help was provided by the various players in society. As you remember, all of Canada was made aware. In my region of Quebec, the population was mobilized to help our community, our people. When a disaster hits, political allegiance does not count any more.
I can bear witness: there is simply cooperation and it is important in this type of situation.
Indeed, who is in a better position than the people who live in regional county municipalities and who work with the Government of Quebec to monitor the arrangements made to ensure the safety and the operation of those emergency measures.
Let me go back to the emergency measures. In municipalities, they are periodically reviewed. Needless to say, when an emergency plan is redone, it is as if, tomorrow morning, a disaster will happen. That means that some people are in charge in that structure and their telephone number and address must be available so that they can be contacted rapidly.
The Government of Quebec has established public emergency measures in cooperation with community stakeholders in order to have in place the means to better forecast such incidents. The Government of Quebec has the tools to manage the procedures to be followed in case of a disaster in the province.
At home, we had the flood, the flood of 1996 and the ice storm of 1998, which have contributed to making the population aware that it was exposed to certain risks.
These two events also gave rise to serious questions as to the ability of the Quebec civil security system to ensure adequate protection of people and property in the case of major disasters.
The Quebec government thus elected to have both these events analyzed by a scientific and technical commission called the Nicolet commission. This body made recommendations, of a technical, as well as a legal and legislative nature. It led, on December 20, 2001, to the creation of a new law which replaced the Act respecting the protection of persons and property in the event of disaster. The implementation of this legislation concerned citizens as well as businesses, municipalities as well as the government.
Today, Bill C-6 seek to create a national security structure. Its objectives are legitimate and we understand them. We simply want to stress that the Government of Quebec possesses a department of public safety which is already in tune with the situation in Quebec and that public safety comes under the jurisdiction of Quebec.
Nonetheless, the Bloc Québécois is in favour of Bill C-6. We remain concerned, however, by measures which could imperil the balance between the security and freedom of Quebeckers and Canadians, as well as by intrusions into the public safety activities of the Government of Quebec.
Today, I ask the Liberal government to explicitly recognize in this bill respect for the jurisdiction of Quebec. On June 28, Quebeckers and Canadians demanded changes in the way the country is being governed and more compromise in our policies.
The availability of a Canada national safety policy might lead the federal government to interfere in areas of Quebec's jurisdiction. It is time for federal intrusions in the areas of jurisdiction of the provinces and of Quebec to stop.
Today, the federal government spends more in areas under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces than in its own areas of jurisdiction. We must draw a line somewhere to avoid confusion.
Fortunately, concerning emergency plans, as I was saying, this has not happened, nor will it, I hope. Emergency plans come under the jurisdictions of municipalities, and municipalities are the creatures of the Quebec government. Emergency plans become the responsibility of the Quebec government.
We believe in the principle of Bill C-6, because it will allow for better cooperation between the various government organizations. It will facilitate the exchange of information between the various public safety organizations that enforce Canadian laws.
However, we have some concerns about the exchange of information between organizations and states, because this may have an effect on Canadians' right to privacy.
Since 1993, the Bloc Québécois has steadfastly denounced the ever-increasing federal interference in Quebec's areas of jurisdiction. We were elected by the people to represent their interests. We are in favour of this bill, but we will ensure the respect of jurisdictions and of citizens' individual freedom.
I conclude by reminding members of the House that the Quebec government must still be responsible for the implementation of emergency plans. Under these plans, there must be cooperation and integration of the federal government services that we find in a region affected by a disaster.
Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord very much for his comments.
I followed the member's discussion about the degree of cooperation that exists between the federal government and the provinces and territories when it comes to dealing with natural disasters or emergencies. I was very interested in the way that he described that.
I know it is consistent with his colleague, the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, and his role and the degree of cooperation that exists with the Quebec government. When people are threatened, they throw down all their political alliances, all their other thoughts, and they work together to alleviate pain, suffering and threats.
I had the great opportunity a few months ago to visit Washington, D.C. and the department of homeland security. It has an operations centre where it evaluates threats on an ongoing basis. It collects information from all the various agencies around the United States. The level of participation and involvement ramps up depending on the threat assessment and the risk profile. All the various agencies would be there.
If it was a very large threat, it would involve the department of defence, the coast guard, and the people that are dealing with infrastructure. In fact, here in Canada we have a parallel or similar operation in our operations centre and threat assessment unit. There we bring together these various agencies and departments. So there is a coordinated response to the threats.
The member might recall that a couple of years ago we had the big power outage in the northeastern U.S., parts of Ontario, and I think parts of Quebec were affected as well. However, I would not swear to that. It would be fair to say that the impression created was that there was a lack of coordination. We had various departments and governments saying various different things. The citizens of this country were confused.
Therefore, the intent of this operations centre is to have a more coordinated response to threats such as that, so that everyone is on the same page, if I can use that expression, and that there is a balance between the amount of information that is needed to communicate to Canadians and Quebeckers in a reasonable fashion. There is also the demand to have timely information.
It is a careful balance. I do not imagine it is a science. It is more of an art. However, if there is a better coordination where the people are together and sharing the same information and doing that kind of analysis, I am sure that helps. I know the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord has some very specific experience with the flooding of the Saguenay and the toll that it took and the level of cooperation with the various agencies dealing with it.
We now hear for example in Nova Scotia that people are upset with the power corporation. They say that the corporation should have anticipated the kind of snowfall and the effect it would have on the transmission lines and the trees. Has the member studied at all the situation in Nova Scotia? Does he think that the citizens there have a right to be angry at their public utility for not anticipating and preparing for this type of emergency?