Libby speaking up for civil liberties

House of Commons
Bill C-17 An Act to amend the Criminal Code (investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions) (Combating Terrorism Act)

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP): Madam Speaker, first, it is very nice to see you back in the Chair. We know that your quiet way of responding to the House and keeping the necessary level of control is very well-respected by the members. Welcome back.

I am very pleased to rise today in the House to speak on this bill, as I have on a number of occasions. I have been listening to the debate this morning and feeling so proud to hear my colleagues from the NDP. We heard from our justice critic, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, yesterday. Today we heard from our public safety critic, the member for Vancouver Kingsway, who made a very compelling speech about what is wrong with this legislation and why we are opposing it. And we have just heard from the member for Burnaby—Douglas, again a New Democrat, who has been following this bill ever since he has been in Parliament.

I want to begin at that point because I was in the House in 2001 when this legislation was introduced very soon after the events of 9/11. I remember, and the member for Burnaby—Douglas spoke about this, the sense of panic and fear that did exist, even within this Parliament. I remember in debating the legislation at that time, almost 10 years ago now, the sense of the need to act, to bring in something to show that the government of the day, a Liberal government, was responding to these grotesque acts of terrorism and in having that debate back in 2001. It was finally passed in 2002. I was not on the justice committee, but I remember reading the testimony from the witnesses, people who do reflect upon the law and the state of our criminal justice system. Even back then there were dire warnings and concerns that were expressed about the anti-terrorism legislation, in the manner that it was rushed through, that it was ill thought out, but fundamentally a question as to whether or not we even needed the legislation.

Here we are now, so many years later, in what we could say is a sober second thought and yet, we are poised to move ahead again on those elements of the original bill that were sunsetted. I want to say that the reason that they were sunsetted, the five-year clause dealing with investigative hearings and preventative arrest, is they were so controversial that certainly the NDP and the Bloc, at the time, pressed very hard to get those measures included so there would be a proper and full parliamentary review on those very serious provisions in the original bill. As others have pointed out, when those sections came to their conclusion, at the end of February, a resolution that came forward in this House to actually extend those provisions for three years was actually defeated. I remember that debate, too, and I remember participating in that discussion.

I think at that point many of us were hopeful that we had had that serious second sober thought about the bill, about its consequences, how it had been used, the fact that it has not been used and that the time was really to make sure that those sunsetted clause remained that way.

Here we are again debating those same provisions and because of the reversal by the Liberal Party, the Liberal members, it appears that this bill will now continue on to committee. We will see what happens after that, but it does not bode well.

I guess what I want to focus on is the fact that it does strike me as very compelling that, on the one hand, we are dealing with a matter as serious as this legislation and anti-terrorism, some of us are trying to weigh up whether or not this kind of legislation is actually needed and yet, there is so little attention to it. That was my reason for asking t the member Burnaby—Douglas because it astounds me that there is so little. attention. There is no attention that I can see in the media, there is no awareness in the general public that we are debating this bill and are about to march forward with these kinds of provisions that would have such a deep impact on Canadian society, our fundamental rights to remain silent, to remain innocent until there are charges brought.

These are very basic things within the Canadian democratic society. Yet on the other hand we have the perfect storm around the gun registry which I will say the gun registry is important. I am someone who is going to be voting to support the continuation of the gun registry. However it is so ironic to me what gets attention and what does not.

Therefore this debate today is really important. As individual parliamentarians and within our caucuses we have to reflect on what it is that we are unleashing again, what we are allowing to unfold.

Hearing some of the debate one could be left with the impression that we have no laws in Canada to deal with terrorism and this is why we have to have it. I find that this is very much a disturbing trend that we see coming from the Conservative government. Their whole agenda is on formulating new laws, little boutique provisions, that they bring forward to the Criminal Code when in actual fact when we look at it in the cold light of day, when we look at it in terms of real evidence and factual information, many of these laws that have been brought forward actually are not required. Our justice system is very comprehensive. The laws that we have in the country are very comprehensive.

That is not to say that there are not changes that are needed but if we look at the drug bill that had in the House, if we look at the private member’s bill on trafficking, they were all proposals that were designed to give people the illusion that somehow we are tackling a major problem.

As my colleague pointed out earlier, in some instances what we needed to be focusing on was better policing, better intelligence gathering or better enforcement of the provisions that we have.

This idea that for every issue and problem that we have in our society we need a new and tougher law, and we need to keep bringing these on, it becomes like an assembly line of putting these laws one after the other and we end up debating them ad nauseam in the House I think there is a pattern here and the bill is very much disturbingly a key element in that pattern that is coming forward from the Conservative government.

We have heard today of some of the provisions there are already in the Criminal Code to deal with suspected acts of terrorism. I do not have a shadow of a doubt that within our existing framework we do have adequate provisions to deal with this issue. By allowing these two provisions to go ahead, the one dealing with investigative hearings where someone can be compelled to attend a hearing and to answer questions, and then secondly on preventative arrest whereby someone who might be do something with no evidence necessarily can be arrested and brought before a judge and then a decision can be made about whether or not to incarcerate someone for up to 12 months or whether they might be released on certain conditions, we have heard again and again that these provisions actually have not been used.

There was one situation with Air India inquiry where one of these provisions was used but the evidence was never brought forward. However, in a general sense over this many years the key provisions of the bill have actually not been used. It should tell us something about this legislation. It should tell us something about Canadian society.

It is very striking that we are again debating this legislation and about to move forward on these two very problematic clauses.

We have situations in Canada already where we have had serious movements within the justice system. The security certificate is one. The member for Burnaby—Douglas laid out very thoughtfully how even in that instance under the Citizenship and Immigration Act where these certificates were meant to be used to expedite deportation for people who were in violation of deportation, they too have been used in a very inappropriate way. We have seen cases where individuals have been imprisoned for years at a time, some of whom went on hunger strikes.

We have seen cases where individuals have been imprisoned for years at a time, some of whom went on hunger strikes. Their basic rights were violated and they lived in very difficult conditions.

In conclusion, I want to say that New Democrats again will firmly stand in opposition to this legislation. We believe that these two provisions need to be abandoned. They do not need to go ahead and we will remain steadfast in that opposition and alert people to what is going on and hope that other members of the House will come to that conclusion as well.