Mr. Speaker, I rise today to contribute to the debate on the government's motion to extend for a further three years sections 83.28 to 83.3 of the Criminal Code, which is now part of the Anti-terrorism Act passed by Parliament following the terrible events of September 11, 2001. The events of that day will be forever indelibly stamped into the memories of many Canadians because they watched helplessly as terrorists, using commercial aircraft, deliberately ploughed into the World Trade Center killing hundreds of unsuspecting innocent people.
The Anti-terrorism Act was created after the September 11, 2001 tragedy to meet the United Nations requirements pursuant to the international convention of the suppression of terrorism bombings and the international convention of the financing of terrorism.
In the aftermath of such a tragedy, fear gripped the world. Fear gripped Canada as a nation, the public and its leaders, including the United Nations. As members who have spoken before me have said, Canada, along with other member states around the world, abided by the time limitations imposed by the United Nations in resolution 1373 dated September 28, 2001 requiring member states to adopt anti-terrorism legislation and policies within 90 days.
The obvious end result was to protect our countries and citizens against further acts of terrorism. If that protection meant that citizens might lose some of their rights, it was at that time a small price to pay for that type of security governments began to implement. Polls conducted during that period showed that Canadians were quite happy to sacrifice some of those rights for safety and security.
The Liberal government at that time followed constraints imposed by the UN under the prevailing circumstances and the air of deterrence that existed during that period. Do not misunderstand me. It is not my intent to say that those acts of deterrence may not exist today and that the climate is any different now than it was in 2001. We now live in a world of hyper-surveillance and constant threats to the individual safety and security of our citizens and even leaders. This does not mean that the human rights of our citizens must be taken away with impunity. It is important for us to shift our focus to more preventative intelligence and action.
Our country's law enforcement personnel have been doing an admirable job and they have not had to resort to the heavy-handed use of sections 83.28 to 83.3 of the Criminal Code in the last five years.
Mr. Speaker, in solidarity with my Liberal Party colleagues, I will vote against the government motion to maintain sections 83.28 and 83.3 of the Criminal Code, because not only were these sections not used in the five years they were in force, but our Criminal Code gives our legislation more than enough power to protect the people of Canada against real or imagined acts of terrorism. I am referring here to section 494. Consequently, these sections should cease to exist within the Anti-terrorism Act.
In the meantime, like my colleagues, I await the final report of the Subcommittee on the Review of the Anti-terrorism Act, once it has finished reviewing this extremely complex legislation.
This important legislation was so hastily drafted that it was impossible to conduct the exhaustive review warranted by the complexity of the subject matter. I believe that in 2002, my colleague from called it “a rational, proportional response to the transnational threat of terrorism by suicide bombers”.
Since this legislation received royal assent in 2001, there have been heated, contentious debates not only in the House of Commons, but across the country, involving human rights activists, community representatives and many other organizations.
The Anti-terrorism Act was created to respond to a substantial and emergency need. Although the legislation was necessary and reasonable to protect Canadians against terrorism, concerns have been raised that it violated constitutional rights such as the principle of the presumption of innocence, the principle of freedom of expression, freedom of association, protection against arbitrary detention, and protection against self-incrimination.
These are fundamental provisions enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and in other international instruments signed by Canada.
Fully aware of these inherent problems, Parliament included in the Anti-terrorism Act section 145, the requirement for a comprehensive review of its provisions and operations three years after it received royal assent. Also section 145, paragraph 2, requires a report containing any statement of changes.
Moreover, sunset clauses already found in the Criminal Code, section 83.32, were added again because of concerns stressed by many human rights activists that the provisions of the Anti-terrorism Act could be used in an inappropriate manner.
Pursuant to the Criminal Code subsection 83.32(1), sections 83.27, dealing with investigating hearings, and 83.3 dealing with preventative arrests, which we are dealing with today:
||--cease to apply at the end of the fifteenth sitting day of Parliament after December 31, 2006 unless, before the end of that day, the application of those sections is extended by a resolution--
Subsection 83.32(1) of the Criminal Code says that a motion for the adoption of the resolution cannot be amended.
We in the Liberal caucus at that time, of which I was a part, insisted on these safeguards, so members of Parliament could reflect on their decision at that time of crisis, and at a later time ask the question which I now pose to this House today. Can those contested provisions continue to be used in a free and democratic society? The answer is no.
If I may again borrow the words of my hon. colleague from , with which I fully agree, and with which I am sure my colleagues on both sides of the House will also agree:
|| All provisions should comply with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms without override by the “notwithstanding” clause 33.
This was stated on January 3, 2002.
I want to remind my colleagues that the pillar on which the charter stands is based on sections 1 and 33. In other words, there should be no limitation to the constitutional right of individuals unless this limitation is justified in a free and democratic society, and the test has been set in the leading case of R. v. Oakes -  1 S.C.R. 103.
The case goes back some 20 years, but it is still relevant today. According to the decision by the Supreme Court of Canada, and its explanation of a limitation to constitutional rights under the charter, section 1, these may be sustained after two conditions have been met, and I read here from paragraph 70 of R. v. Oakes.
First, the objective of the measure—in this case the legislation—must be pressing and substantial.
Second, the means chosen to implement this measure—the legislative purpose—must be reasonable in a free and democratic society.
In order to fulfill the second requirement, three criteria must be met:
First, the impairment of rights must be rationally connected to the objective of the legislation.
Second, the contested provision should impair as little as possible the guarantees of the Charter.
Third, there must be a proportionality between the effects of the measures and its objectives so that achieving the legislative objective does not supersede impairment of the right.
Although the provisions in question fulfill the first condition, I do not believe they fulfill the second, given that they do not meet any of its criteria.
In the wake of 9/11, events were sufficiently pressing and substantial to limit certain provisions of the Charter of Rights at the time and to affirm Canada's commitment to the safety and security of its citizens.
The Liberal government of the time firmly believed that security measures had to be taken, despite the concerns of individual members of the party, including myself, to the effect that citizens' rights could be infringed. It was exactly for this reason that the sunset clause was instituted enabling us to revisit the provisions of the Act and consequently review the anti-terrorist legislation as a whole.
I continue to believe that the provisions are neither necessary nor reasonable in a free and democratic society.
Very recently, in fact, in its October 2006 interim report, the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security revealed that there has been no recourse to these provisions. Since Criminal Code subsection 83.31(1) obliges the Attorney General of Canada to publish the usage of subsection 83.28(1), investigating hearings, and section 83.3, preventative arrests, not once in the past five years has there been a need to use these sections.
Why, then, does the government feel the need to extend the sunset clause for another three years? What evidence does the government have that the opposition and other members of the House are not privy to that justifies this law being kept on our books?
It is important that the government come clean and inform the House of why it needs to be overzealous in its approach to law and order. We saw recently the efficiency of our law enforcement agencies in the arrest of 17 young men living in and around Toronto who were suspected of possible acts against the state. Maybe my colleagues on that side of the House can tell me if, in the process of carrying out their duties, the police agencies involved felt it was necessary to invoke these sections of the Criminal Code as it applies to terrorism.
Is there something that members on this side of the House should know? If so, I would impress upon the minister responsible for safety and security the need to inform us. If it must be done behind closed doors for security reasons, I am sure we would all understand. In the meantime, I intend to vote against the government's motion to extend the sunset clause, and I call on all members to repeal these sections of the act completely.
At this point in Canada's development as a nation, measures that are perceived, for all intents and purposes, as violations of human rights cannot and must not survive in our society, unless they satisfy the review of which I spoke earlier. In the opinion of the Supreme Court, reviews are reasonable in a free and democratic society.
I cannot think of any measure that is so pressing as to lead this government to extend the life of these instruments.
Canada has met its international obligations in a time of crisis, as outlined by UN resolution 1373 requiring member states to take pre-emptive action, over and beyond what presently exists in our Criminal Code dealing with indictable offences. Our law enforcement personnel have not been constrained, nor have they had reason to resort to using these sections that govern the Anti-terrorism Act in carrying out their investigative work, which has led to arrests of possible terrorists.
Once again, I will be voting against the government motion to extend the application of sections 83.28, 83.29 and 83.3 of the Criminal Code, as they pertain to the Anti-terrorism Act.
Mr. Speaker, with respect to the motion to renew two provisions of the Anti-terrorism Act that are subject to a sunset clause, I suggest we are not faced with a difficult choice today.
As the House knows, the investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions provisions introduced by the act are due to expire very soon. I respectfully submit to the House that the way forward is clear. These provisions should be extended.
Some may remember last May when the Hon. John Howard addressed a joint session of Parliament. The Prime Minister of Australia reminded us that:
|| Terrorism will not be defeated by rolling ourselves into a small ball, going into a corner and imagining that somehow or other we will escape notice.
He went on to say that wishful thinking was not a policy and failure to act was not an option. He said that combating terrorism requires that we have tools that are appropriate to defend ourselves.
The investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions provisions provide police and prosecutors with those essential and appropriate tools.
At the same time, we should also remember our own history and experience with terrorism. Twenty-five years ago, the McDonald Commission said something that was reiterated by Justice O'Connor in his recent report:
|| Canada must meet both the requirements of security and the requirements of democracy; we must never forget that the fundamental purpose of the former is to secure the latter.
As parliamentarians, we are responsible for ensuring the safety and security of Canadians in the face of known threats. Canadians look to the federal government to protect them from terrorist violence.
When it comes to the terrorist threat, one thing is crystal clear: prosecution after the fact is simply not an adequate response. We need strategies that differ from the traditional reactive approach of ordinary criminal law investigation and enforcement.
The underlying principle of the Anti-terrorism Act is the prevention of terrorist activity.
It is worth noting that preventive legal mechanisms are used regularly in this country to protect our citizens and those mechanisms are absolutely essential in order to preserve our right in a free and democratic society.
For example, the described section 810 of the Criminal Code, which authorizes the use of a mechanism known as a peace bond. These are used in dealing with domestic violence, organized crime and serious sexual offences where the risk of particularly abhorrent forms of violence is such that we as a society have decided that it is preferable to take preventive measures rather than wait to prosecute after extreme violence has occurred.
Every free and democratic society must retain an appropriate legal power properly supervised by the judiciary to investigate and to take preventive steps before criminal violence occurs. These provisions have consistently been found to comply with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
I will briefly outline the provisions of the Anti-terrorism Act at issue today if only to demonstrate why they are appropriate and necessary.
The investigative hearing is available when necessary to assist in the investigation of terrorism offences that have been or will be committed. Where there are reasonable grounds to believe that a terrorism offence has been or will be committed, a court may issue an order for the gathering of information. A peace officer may only apply for this order after obtaining the consent of the attorney general at the federal or provincial level, as the case may be.
Then the judge hearing the application must be satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to believe that a terrorism offence has been or will be committed and that information about the offence is likely to be obtained as a result of the order.
The investigative hearing power is unusual in some respects but it is not unique in Canadian law. There are investigations by coroners in Canada where this type of thing happens quite regularly. Someone who has been or may be accused takes the stand and gives evidence in open court.
There is another procedure under the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act that allows for an order for the gathering of evidence.
At an investigative hearing, the charter right against self-incrimination is fully enforced. The subject may be compelled to answer questions but anything entered into evidence or evidence derived from testimony given by the person cannot be used to prosecute the person for any offence except perjury or the giving of contradictory evidence.
The investigative hearing of the Anti-terrorism Act is a well-balanced measure that does not in any way diminish the liberties of witnesses. Compelled witness testimony at the investigative stage is new to Canadian criminal law but witnesses have always been compellable at trial.
Let me stress that investigative hearings are not criminal prosecutions. The person compelled to appear is not an accused but a witness. In that sense, it is very similar to the American grand jury system, which has been found to be constitutional over and over again.
In fact, if we were to put our own legislation alongside the anti-terrorism laws made in other free and democratic societies, such as the U.K., Australia or the United States, I think we would find that Canadian legislation is probably the least stringent. The measures we have taken are well within any constitutionally appropriate response.
Our legislation is replete with various safeguards to ensure an open and transparent process. I believe these safeguards demonstrate that Parliament has given due and proportionate recognition to the unique setting in which investigative hearings would take place.
For example, the provision explicitly states that the person appearing has the right to retain and instruct counsel at any stage of the proceeding. The judge can impose any conditions on the hearing to protect the witness, third parties and the integrity of the investigation.
The Supreme Court of Canada in June 2004 upheld the constitutional validity of the investigative hearing provision. The court noted the important role played by the judge and counsel in the hearing procedure, to ensure appropriate regard for due process and to uphold constitutional rights.
In a companion case, the Supreme Court held that there was a presumption that investigative hearings should be held in open court. The burden of demonstrating a need for secrecy in such proceedings rests with the government. The court also noted that the protection against self-incrimination afforded to witnesses at their hearings actually went beyond charter requirements.
The final safeguard that Parliament put in place with respect to this provision was to make it subject to a five year sunset clause. The five years are almost up and I respectfully submit that we are not able to take the position that it would be prudent to dispense with this provision.
this is well-designed legislation. It is uniquely Canadian. Canadians should take comfort that restraint and careful judgment have characterized the approach taken to these measures.
The other provision subject to the sunset clause of the Anti-terrorism Act is the recognizance with conditions. This has sometimes been called preventative arrest but in fact a more accurate term might be preventive release.
The purpose of this provision is not to arrest a person but to put that person under judicial supervision in order to prevent the carrying out of a terrorist activity. It is designed to assist law enforcement officers in disrupting terrorist attacks and the onus is always on the state to justify keeping a person in custody or imposing conditions. If a judge determines that there is no need for the person to enter into recognizance, the person will be released.
This provision is only available under strictly defined conditions and is also subject to numerous safeguards to ensure that individual rights are protected to the greatest extent possible.
Generally, the prior consent of the relevant attorney general is required before the person can become compelled to appear before a judge and a provincial court judge must be satisfied by the evidence presented that the police officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a terrorist activity will be carried out and suspects, on reasonable grounds, that the imposition of a recognizance with conditions is necessary to prevent the carrying out of a terrorist activity.
Once the hearing is complete, the judge may order that the person should enter into a recognizance, in which case the person will be bound to keep the peace and be of good behaviour and respect any other reasonable conditions for up to 12 months. Only if the person refuses or fails to enter into the recognizance can he or she be detained for up to 12 months.
Parliament has also provided for the possibility of arrest without warrant in certain circumstances. There has been a great deal of comment about this provision. I will only remind the House that it was designed to prevent a terrorist attack and save innocent lives.
If arrested without warrant, a person detained must be brought before a provincial court judge within 24 hours or as soon as possible if a judge is not available within that period. The consent of the relevant attorney general must be obtained by then. The presumption is always that the person will be released as soon as possible.
Upon being brought before a judge, there are four possible outcomes for the person for whom a recognizance is sought: First, the hearing takes place and the person is released without signing a recognizance; second, the hearing takes place and the person is released under a recognizance with various conditions as determined by the judge; third, the hearing is remanded to a later date and, under no circumstances can that be more than 48 hours later, however, the person can be detained in the interim; and fourth, the hearing takes place and the person can be detained for up to 12 months because of his or her refusal to sign the recognizance.
Finally, the sunset clause referred to earlier, providing for the expiry after five years, also applies to the recognizance with conditions. It can only be extended by parallel resolution of the two Houses of Parliament.
These are not radically new powers. A similar capability is afforded by section 495 of the Criminal Code which permits a peace officer to arrest without warrant anyone he or she believes on reasonable grounds is about to commit an indictable offence. Some have asked how useful this power is. Can a peace bond for terrorists really prevent terrorist activity? Of course, it is unlikely to stop suicide bombers but that misses the point. The recognizance with conditions is designed to disrupt preparations for terrorist activity and prevent attacks from being carried out.
As chair of the subcommittee reviewing the Anti-terrorism Act, I have had the opportunity to review the complex public policy issues involved in formulating an appropriate response to a terrorist threat. I believe I speak for the majority of my colleagues on the subcommittee when I say that these provisions are important tools in support of the prevention and prosecution of terrorism.
Others have argued that they should not be renewed because they have hardly been used at all. While neither provision has been used to date, this should not suggest that they are not important or may not be needed in the future. We should not gauge the importance of these tools by how often we use them. Certain offences in our criminal law are rarely prosecuted, such as treason. Should we jettison those as well? I should think not.
I will now turn to the question of the sunset clause which applies only to the provisions of the Anti-terrorism Act at issue today.
We now face the very real prospect that these essential devices will be taken out of our hands. We have only a few days left to ensure that we are not left with a hole in our safety net or, as Prime Minister Howard put it, to ensure that we have the appropriate tools to defend ourselves.
To deprive the government and the people of Canada of these tools would not be prudent. I could compare it with an insurance policy. We would not cancel our insurance policy because we have not had any problems in our neighbourhood. Some day someone might break into our house and we would like to have an insurance policy in place at the time.
I share the 's desire to ensure that we as a country have the necessary legislative tools to protect the safety and security of all Canadians and to prevent, disrupt and deter terrorist activity in Canada. In fact, I believe Canada can do more and that we can play a stronger role in the global effort to defeat terrorism. By strengthening our own national security, we can contribute to the international fight against terrorism.
The House of Commons subcommittee on the review of the Anti-terrorism Act, of which I am the chair, released an interim report on these two provisions on October 23 last year. The recommendations in the majority report called for a five year extension as well as amendments to the investigate hearing power so that it could only be used to investigate imminent attacks and not past terrorist activity.
The Bloc Québécois and NDP members of the subcommittee issued a dissenting opinion in which they called for the abolition of the recognizance with conditions, but otherwise supported the recommendations of the majority. No government decision has yet been made with respect to the subcommittee's suggestions.
A three year extension, two years shorter than recommended, would provide the necessary time to consider the subcommittee's proposed changes and to introduce legislative amendments, if the government decides to do so.
In addition, the government has not yet received the recommendations of the subcommittee with regard to the other provisions of the Anti-terrorism Act. We expect a report to be adopted in the very near future. A three year extension would provide the necessary window of opportunity for adequate study and to table and pass legislation, if necessary.
As I mentioned a moment ago, the appropriate response to terrorism involves complex public policy issues. I believe the government would also benefit from a three year renewal of these provisions in the sense that it would provide adequate time to consider the outcome of other related reviews, such as the recommendations of Justice O'Connor in the Arar inquiry, the ongoing Air-India inquiry, and the Supreme Court's decision on the process used for security certificates. All of these other processes are related to and will, in some way, bear on the government's course of action on counter-terrorism.
It is no secret that Canada, like other democratic societies around the world, introduced these kinds of preventive measures in response to the 9/11 terror attacks. Five years later we unfortunately see that the threat of terrorism is more complex, extreme, sophisticated and more global than ever before.
Canada and Canadians are not immune from terrorist activity. We cannot roll ourselves up into a ball and hope it will all go away. Twenty-four Canadians died in the September 11 attacks. Two Canadians were victims in the bombings in 2002 and most of the 329 victims of the Air-India bombing were Canadians. Let us not forget that Ahmed Ressam, the so-called millennium bomber, was arrested as he left Canada on his way to bomb the Los Angeles airport.
Our intelligence services tell us that there are active terrorist cells in Canada and they provide information about their contacts around the world. Recent arrests in Canada and elsewhere suggest that there is an ongoing willingness on the part of groups and individuals to use violence in support of political, ideological and religious agendas. The pervasive nature of terrorist activities in the world today means we will continue to need the provisions of the act for some time to come.
I respectfully submit that the recognizance with conditions and the investigative hearing provisions enable Canada to continue to respond to the threat posed by terrorism. These two provisions should, at a minimum, be extended by resolution for another three years. I urge all hon. members to support these extension of these provisions.
Mr. Speaker, being the member for Etobicoke North, I will not be saying how I will be voting either on this matter.
I am pleased to enter the debate on this motion that has been brought before the House by the Conservative Party to extend for a period of three years the provisions related to preventive arrests and investigative hearings.
I serve on the subcommittee and in fact I served on the subcommittee in the previous Parliament as well. We agreed to revive the former testimony from the last Parliament so that we could get on with the recommendations. We are working still very feverishly on the main body of the report. Unfortunately we had to uncouple the provisions related to investigative hearings and preventive arrests because they have the sunset clauses. I believe they will sunset this week. Those provisions had to be uncoupled from the main body of the report and that is why they are on the floor of the House today.
I know that the committee is doing a lot of hard work on the Anti-terrorism Act generally. There will be a report at some point, hopefully in the not too distant future, which I think will respond to many of the concerns raised by many Canadians.
I am disappointed that the government has chosen to ignore the 10 recommendations of the subcommittee and has brought in only two of the recommendations. In fact, the two recommendations with respect to extending the provisions differ from the recommendations of the subcommittee. The subcommittee recommended that they be extended for five years. We did that because we know how long it takes to review these provisions. These are very complex matters. They require a lot of testimony and witnesses on both sides of the issue. If there was a three year review, I would suggest that some subcommittee would have to begin that review almost immediately.
Some of the other recommendations were more of a housekeeping nature, but there were a couple of recommendations that were important and the government has chosen to ignore them. I raise the same concern as my colleague from the Bloc. I am hoping that as we are putting in this effort at the subcommittee that the government will actually listen to what the subcommittee has to say.
On a general theme, it is very difficult to get balance in life. That could be at a personal level. How does one balance one's professional life and career with a family? How do we balance so many different competing demands on us as citizens? That is very true, in fact more profoundly true, for governments and parliaments when they have to find the right balance between protecting their citizens against threats to their security, whether those threats are internal or external, and balancing that against the legitimate rights of Canadians to have their civil liberties protected and respected, for their privacy rights to be respected, and for their rights and freedoms to be protected. It is never an easy task and it will never be an easy task. It was not an easy task in 2001 and it is not an easy task here today when we are presented with these issues.
It would be easy for me to hide behind the fact that I was on the subcommittee in both Parliaments. I heard all the testimony. In fact, I had the great honour to serve as parliamentary secretary to the minister of public safety and emergency preparedness in the last parliament. I am not going to hide behind all that because I think all of us in this House know what the issues are.
There are questions around the fight against terrorism and the protection of civil liberties. That is what it is about. At the committee we heard from both sides. We heard from civil libertarians that these provisions were excessive and we heard from many other witnesses that the provisions were necessary or in fact did not go far enough.
This is what life is about. We have to wrestle with these issues and we have to make some decisions.
What I would like to do first of all is to come back to the recommendations that the government, at this point and perhaps forever, has chosen to ignore.
What the subcommittee recommended was that investigative hearings only be available when there is a reason to believe there is imminent peril that a terrorist offence will be committed. It surprised me to learn that right now an investigative hearing can be called into play when a terrorist act has already been committed. We challenged the government members at the time to bring forth evidence that would justify that provision, not just looking forward, but looking backward. We were not able to get that evidence, so we made that a recommendation.
With respect to preventive arrest, we said that a peace officer must have reasonable grounds to believe a terrorism offence will be committed. The government has chosen at this point not to deal with that one. It is difficult, when the government comes in with two out of ten recommendations and two of the recommendations are different from what the subcommittee recommended, to respond to that.
In a general theme, my view is that since 2001, nothing much has changed. We still face the threat of terrorism. I would agree with my colleague from that perhaps a terrorist threat is more complicated, more intense, more sophisticated than ever before. I do not think much has changed since 2001. If anything, the terrorist threat could be worse.
It is no secret that our forces are fighting in Afghanistan. That has many people not very happy with us. We are on the al-Qaeda list, not necessarily because of Afghanistan, but perhaps for other reasons as well. I do not believe that the terrorist threat has diminished very much, if at all. In fact, I think it has probably increased.
I can certainly respect the judgment of my colleagues in the House on this side and the other side that 2001 was a grand compromise. Many in the House felt that preventive arrest and investigative hearings were instruments that were too severe and, as a compromise, the sunsetting provisions were written into . Today, five years later, the debate is if they have not been used, they are not needed, and therefore that is why we did sunset them. That was the purpose of it. Because we were not comfortable with them back in 2001, and therefore we should be sunsetting them.
I certainly respect that point of view. It is not a point of view I agree with, but that is what this place is all about, having debate. I do not agree with it because I believe that the other argument is equally or, in my judgment, more valid. If those provisions have not been used, then clearly the concerns of those in 2001 that maybe law enforcement or authorities would abuse these provisions has not been borne out. They have not been used. For me, that makes the case that we should extend them.
We know that with respect to investigative hearings there was a time during the Air-India inquiry when an investigative hearing was requested, but by the time the Supreme Court ruled, and the Supreme Court ruled that it was an appropriate instrument, it was too late because the Air-India work had been completed. That was a decision of the Supreme Court. The investigative hearings as a function have never been used, nor have preventive arrests.
Last summer 15 young people were arrested in the Toronto area. Some ask if the provisions of , the anti-terrorism legislation, were used. They were not used. Some argue that if they were not used, then why do we need them. It is a good debate.
What we are missing here is that there will be occasions when there is enough evidence to arrest people under the normal provisions of the Criminal Code, but we do know that with terrorism offences, sometimes all that the security people or the law enforcement people are seeing is maybe email messages, sometimes encoded, but they have a very strong feeling that some terrorist attack might be imminent. In a case like that, they might not have all the evidence they need to arrest people under the current provisions of the code and they may need the provisions under .
I recall the testimony of the ombudsman from the United Kingdom who came to our committee. He basically oversees the anti-terrorism regime within the United Kingdom. When pressed about why these provisions were necessary, he used the analogy of when the police believe that a bank robbery is imminent, but they do not have a lot of evidence and they just put two and two together. The police have been around and have seen it all and can figure things out sometimes that something is about to happen. With a bank robbery, if they thought that something might be happening, they could stake out the bank and just watch for signs of suspicious activity.
This witness from the United Kingdom said, and I think he is so right, that with a terrorist attack we cannot stake out the place. If someone comes in with a bomb and blows up a building, it is too late because the person, who probably would look like any of us, would walk in and might have bombs or other terrorist instruments and therefore we cannot stake out the joint. We have to deal with it.
That is why these provisions were put into and that is why I believe that they are still required.
I think there is misinformation circulating with respect to these provisions. There are already provisions in Canada's law that are equivalent for example to investigative hearings. Investigative hearings are investigatory and not intended to determine criminal liability within the context of the law related to public inquiries, competition, income tax and mutual legal assistance in criminal matters. There are already provisions for investigative hearings in those areas.
With respect to recognizances with conditions, that is preventive arrest, there are equivalents with respect to peace bonds that are issued to deal with anticipated violent offences, sexual offences and criminal organization offences.
Both these legislative measures, preventive arrest and investigative hearings, already have some grounding in the criminal law of Canada. Unfortunately, these provisions themselves do not apply to terrorism offences so they had to be written into the law to be applicable to terrorism offences.
The member for chaired the subcommittee. I was surprised that he was not able to have all 10 recommendations dealt with by his government. That is a disappointing aspect for me.
With the reports coming out of the Maher Arar inquiry, we are anticipating increasing demands for oversight over the RCMP and over CSIS. In fact, it was our Liberal government in the last Parliament that tabled a bill to set up a committee of parliamentarians to oversee our national security policy and agenda. I am hoping the government proceeds with that legislation or something akin to it because I think it is appropriate to have these oversights.
The drafting of the bill was worked out with all the parties in the House in the last Parliament. Whether it would have the support of all parties in this Parliament I do not know, but I suspect many of the same people are around and that we could reach some agreement on what should be in a national security committee of parliamentarians. I think more oversight is needed and that would be an important step.
Also, the Maher Arar inquiry has recommended certain initiatives to increase the oversight of our agencies: CSIS, the RCMP and perhaps the Canada Border Services Agency.
We also need to deal with some concerns by Canadians about the sort of star chamber aspects of some of the provisions of and also the security certificates. Even though security certificates are outside the realm of Bill C-36, the subcommittee, in its wisdom or lack thereof, decided to include security certificates. I know that these are of much concern to many Canadians. The government refers to them as a three-walled cell. People can be detained under security certificates if they pose a national security threat to Canada but they are free to leave at any point in time. There are star chamber elements about that and I would like to see those dealt with.
There are also questions from various charitable organizations, and I think rightfully so, that feel they could be delisted when something inadvertently happens even though they applied the due diligence that would normally be expected.
There are many things that we can do to deal with the balance between civil liberties and the need to protect society against threats. In fact, I think there is a lot of outreach that the government and all parliamentarians should be doing. Under the previous Liberal government, we started a major dialogue with the Muslim community in Canada. I attended a meeting with the then prime minister, the member for , when we met with 35 imams from across Canada. These imams were speaking out against the violence in the United Kingdom in which terrorists bombed buses and innocent people lost their lives.
These imams spoke out against that violence, so the then prime minister and my colleagues and I met with these imams, first to thank them and congratulate them for speaking out against violence and the injuries to and deaths of innocent bystanders, but also to begin a dialogue on how to reach and connect with the Muslim community in Canada. In my riding of , I have the third largest Muslim community in Canada. These people are very much against violence and against injury to and the death of innocent bystanders. The imam there spoke out against that as well.
We need to do more. I think we need to do more at our border. We know what the policy is: no racial profiling. But we know about, and I have heard of, real life experiences of people coming across our border who have been treated unjustly, unfairly and with a discriminatory sort of bent. That is why our government launched the fairness initiative, which would have given everybody coming across our border an outlet to go to if they felt they were treated unjustly or discourteously at our border. They would have had an objective observer to complain to, where those matters would be dealt with and disciplinary action would be taken if that was what was uncovered. I hope the Conservative government introduces that.
We started a consultation process under the previous Liberal government, but I do not see anything coming forward to give people dignity and respect at our borders and to cut out racial profiling. Threat profiling? Absolutely. Racial profiling? Never. We should not allow that. We can take measures to start to deal with that.
We need to do more work. The government needs to orchestrate this with CSIS, the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency to redo the outreach to these communities, because there is a lot of misinformation. There is a lot of miscommunication. I do not mean to single out the Muslim community, but the Muslim community is affected. We have to deal with that. Muslims are largely affected. There are some misunderstandings. There is some miscommunication going on. We need to deal with it.
I hope this government seizes upon those opportunities to dialogue with the Muslim community, because the vast majority of the Muslim community is made up of peace-loving people. They too want peace and security in Canada. They tell me, “We live in this country as well, and we want peace and security for ourselves and our children and our children's children”. We need to do more dialogue and outreach. As I said, our Liberal government started that process, but I think much more needs to be done.
Twenty or more years ago now, in Canada we witnessed the Air-India terrorist attack, so anyone who argues that Canada is immune from a terrorist attack just simply does not get it, in my judgment. We cannot be naive about these things. These terrorist organizations are very organized. They are prepared to do whatever it takes to make their point.
To wrap up, nothing much has changed since 2001, in my judgment. I think we still have terrorist threats. While we do not like to infringe on civil liberties, in my judgment the balance is still appropriate. It is not Draconian in my view. I think it is still necessary to ensure that we protect our citizens, give them peace and security and, at the same time, reach a good balance with their civil liberties.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the members of the opposition who took part in the subcommittee report. The broader community should know that a great deal of the study was done before this Parliament convened. The members on this side of the House were all new to the committee and we received a great deal of assistance from the opposition, for which we are thankful.
I am pleased to stand today to show support for the three year extension of the provisions of the Anti-terrorism Act that deals with preventive arrest and investigative hearings. I do so with the knowledge of the critical importance of these provisions for the work of law enforcement agencies across the country.
As a former police officer, I understand what a difficult job it can be to keep Canadians safe. I also understand the need to do everything possible to get that job done. Canada's new government has made the safety of Canadians one of its top priorities.
Over the past few months, the government has taken many steps to bolster the security of Canadians. We provided more funding to hire more federal police officers, to enact new measures to enhance the security of passenger rail and urban transit, to improve Canada's anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing regime, and to strengthen Canada's capacity to respond to catastrophes and emergencies of any kind.
We have also begun the process to arm border guards and to eliminate work alone border crossings. All these measures and others demonstrate the significance that we place on the security of Canadians. The Anti-terrorism Act is important to our efforts and those of all stakeholders involved in keeping our country safe.
The Anti-terrorism Act was enacted in response to the tragic events that befell our American neighbours on September 11, 2001. On that day we realized that we were not as prepared as we had thought to deal with such devastating acts of terrorism.
The Anti-terrorism Act provided some of the tools we needed to root out terrorists and prevent our nation from falling victim to their cowardly crimes. We needed them then and we still need them now, measures to allow us to stop such events before they happen. That is why, in my opinion, recognizance with conditions and investigative hearings are crucial.
There is an old adage that definitely fits this bill, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. I believe most Canadians would agree and they would do so because they understand that these provisions are not used every day, that they are to be used in extreme circumstances.
To use recognizance with conditions and investigative hearing provisions, law enforcement professionals must adhere to precise criteria. In the case of recognizance with conditions, it can only be used where there are reasonable grounds to believe that a terrorist activity will be carried out and reasonable grounds to suspect that imposing conditions or arrest is necessary to prevent the carrying out of the terrorist activity.
The threat must be credible and involve a specific individual. The consent of the attorney general must be obtained. In all cases, the person in question must be brought before a judge within 24 hours or as soon as possible. In order for the investigative hearing provisions to be used, the judge must be satisfied that the consent of the attorney general is obtained and that, among other things, there are reasonable grounds to believe that a terrorist offence has been or will be committed.
In addition, during the hearing the witness is protected from self-incrimination and laws relating to privilege and the non-disclosure of information, as well as the right to counsel, continue to apply.
As all members of the House can see, these provisions are subject to strict checks and balances. This is consistent with our values. The rights and freedoms that we hold dear as a nation have been integrated into the development of these measures.
The fact that these provisions are not used often does not mean they are not needed. Some people may believe that because we use these provisions so infrequently they are not necessary. That is dangerous and even irresponsible reasoning. We do not pass laws against grievous crimes in the hopes of having to use them. We, rather, hope that we never need to use them.
However, there are instances where these laws are necessary. Having ways of dealing with the most extreme of events, however infrequent, is vital to keeping our society safe. Removing these provisions because we have not used them is like saying that we do not need air bags in our cars because we are very good drivers. These provisions are there against the eventuality that using them will save lives and will bring those who commit or plan to commit these cowardly, indiscriminate acts of destruction to justice.
Keeping these provisions is the responsible thing to do and the right thing to do. Should something terrible happen on our soil I do not believe Canadians would accept the excuse that we got rid of preventive measures because they had not been used enough in the past. I know I would not.
Extending the sunset provisions of the Anti-terrorism Act for a period of three years is a necessary part of our duty as legislators. Back in 2001, members of Parliament understood the tremendous need for this act and all of its provisions. The tragic events of September of that same year were fresh in our minds. Images of the collapsing towers were burned in our minds. We remember the thousands of innocent Americans and 25 Canadians who lost their lives needlessly.
While those wounds run deep, time has passed and we have healed a great deal. However, since that time, 30 countries have been victims of terrorism: England, Spain, Russia, and the list goes on. We have a duty to our people to learn from these terrible events, to be prepared and to take steps to keep Canadians safe in light of the horrific nature of terrorist crimes. We cannot be complacent. We cannot let ourselves believe that our country is immune. We have been mentioned as a possible target by certain groups.
I am not here to be a fearmonger but I want to make it clear that we need to have these provisions. Police officers must be able to count on effective tools when they carry out their work. They need to know that they can indeed take steps to keep us all safe.
The government does support our police forces and all those who work tirelessly to track down terrorists, uncover plots and protect our families. These provisions make that work easier. We should not create unnecessary challenges and burdens for our law enforcement officials.
The question before us today is simple: Do we continue to provide the tools needed by police to counter terrorism or do we take those tools away and help stack the deck against our own country? I know where I stand. I stand with the country, with Canadians and with our security professionals who put their lives on the line in what is the most civic of duties, the protection of our security and our prosperity.
I urge all members of the House to stand with me as we extend the preventive arrest and investigative hearing provisions of the Anti-terrorism Act.
I will end with a quote by the former minister of justice and public safety dealing with the Anti-terrorism Act. She said:
|| We have reviewed the legislation in detail. It has gone through the most intense scrutiny in terms of whether or not it is consistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We believe that this law is consistent.
That was taken from Hansard, November 27, 2001.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this motion to extend investigative hearings and preventive arrest under the sunset clause introduced in 2002.
I was not here at the time, but after listening to the little bit of debate held on the matter, these measures seem to me to be the product of an overreaction, which occurred in a moment of panic following the events of September 11, 2001.
It is the responsibility of parliamentarians to do everything in their power to protect Canadians, taking whatever effective measures are needed to do so.
Today, we must first ask ourselves if these measures are effective or necessary. It seems increasingly clear to me that they are neither effective nor necessary, nor even desirable. This bill does nothing to combat terrorism.
It must be fought in a different way. It has been suggested that it could be more useful to fight with coordinated intelligence services. Evidence has demonstrated it just was not present. One of the things we saw clearly at the time, for example, in the Air-India investigation was that our investigative and intelligence services were not only not coordinated, but they were working at cross purposes with each other.
We learned many things through this process that, among other things, coordinated services and intelligence services were necessary on the ground along with combined appropriate police work.
This kind of terrorist action must be fought internationally and nationally. Internationally, I might say, by charting a path for peace. Pre-emptive actions, such as these measures provide, are not only disruptive, but they have been shown, as in the case of the pre-emptive strikes in Iraq, to be unsuccessful in calming or mitigating terrorism. They have only served to inflame it.
Have these measures been effective or even necessary? We found out that they have not been successfully used. One attempt was made, but was unsuccessful and only served to further draw out a legal process. That, perhaps, is indicative of the lack of need.
As leading peace advocate Ursula Franklin has described, such measures are maybe effective, but effective to create a climate of fear, and that is surely not the basis on which our country is founded. We should be looking instead at terrorism from a wider perspective and reassess how it is that we can best protect our citizens without ceding ground to terrorists.
It has been suggested by some of my colleagues that better coordinated intelligence services, as I have already mentioned, would be the first step where we need to put more resources. We have also learned that what we really need is more people on the ground, on the street, doing traditional intelligence gathering. That may be something that we should be looking at instead of invoking these extraordinary measures that strike at the very core of our rights and freedoms in Canada.
It has been shown by a minority report at the time of the discussion that this legislation is perhaps not only not effective, but not necessary, that according to section 495 of the Criminal Code, peace officers may arrest without warrant a person who, on reasonable grounds, they believe is about to commit an indictable offence. The arrested person must then be brought before a judge, who may impose the same conditions as those imposable under the Anti-terrorism Act. Judges may even refuse bail if they believe that the person's release might jeopardize public safety.
We have clear indications that we have presently, within the Criminal Code provisions, effective actions in the case of suspected plots. I just want to continue from the minority report. It states that if police officers believe that a person is about to commit an act of terrorism, then they have knowledge of the plot, obviously.
They probably know, based on wiretap or other surveillance information, that an indictable offence is about to be committed. Therefore, they have proof of a plot or attempt, and need only lay a charge in order to arrest the person in question. It would therefore seem that the kinds of measures that are being asked for, one of which is an extension, are not necessary.
Considering the infringement on our rights and freedoms, I believe that there must be more than just reasonable grounds. We need to see conditions that do not exist at this time. The measures required today or that the government is asking us to adopt could in no way help to resolve the much more serious problem of terrorism.
It would be better to focus on finding a path towards peace. On an international scale, Canada should take steps in that direction, with its allies, including the United States. Instead of investing heavily in the war industry, as is currently the case, we should instead be thinking of finding ways to work together in order to discover the underlying causes of terrorism.
It seems clear that those who give way to terrorism are those who are also facing an injustice. If Canada were to perhaps look at the commitment that it has not yet fulfilled with respect to foreign aid, that would be one way of addressing some of these issues.
If we really want to give a sense of security to our citizens and to the residents of Canada, then we must do so by applying some of the methods that are already at our disposal according to the Criminal Code, looking beyond the traditional framework, and really considering some of the causes of terrorism and addressing some of the profound causes of injustice.