Hansard, Nov. 27, 2001

Mr. Andrew Telegdi (Kitchener--Waterloo, Lib.): Madam Speaker, I rise in the House to express the concerns I have about certain aspects of Bill C-36. The bill impacts on the civil liberties of individuals. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states:

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

Bill C-36 changes the normal judicial process and accountability. An open trial might go out the window if a person or organization is suspected of terrorism. It lacks transparency. Individuals have no right to know why they were listed as an entity suspected of terrorism or to contest whether the source used to make these accusations was reliable. One judge made this determination in camera.

Bill C-36 undermines the security of a person. Under the bill individuals need only to be found to have made a financial donation to a charity that is suspected of supporting terrorism to have their reputation and life ruined. Individuals are listed as supporting a possible terrorist entity whether that charity is indeed found to be supporting terrorism. A shadow of suspicion has been cast that can never be removed.

We all recognize that one of the most important things we need is to dedicate more resources to policing, immigration and other agencies that enforce existing laws. I trust we will be doing that in the next budget. We can protect Canadians by keeping out those who would do us harm by developing the shared North American protection perimeter to screen out terrorists with our friend and ally to the south.

However the legislation we are debating gives extraordinary powers to the solicitor general, the courts and the police. It must contain at the very least a feature of accountability.

I notice that the motion for a parliamentary oversight committee will not be voted on since it was ruled out of order. I regret that because the amendment would have protected one of our most basic tenets of democracy: accountability to this Chamber. This accountability is absolutely necessary because without it we lose an essential element of the democratic process. If we fail to protect the process we will lose it.

The motions in Group No. 4 ask for a three year sunset clause, except for those provisions implementing United Nations conventions; a multi-party oversight committee annual report to the House; and a time limit to be placed on the sections dealing with changes to the Canada Evidence Act as it relates to the registration of charities. These amendments, along with those accepted by the government arising from the deliberations of the standing committee, represent the minimum acceptable standards of accountability.

I am intimately aware of the value of civil liberties as someone who has lived under the repressive heel of a totalitarian regime. I have a very deep and abiding fear that in the name of national security we may sacrifice civil liberties unnecessarily and in so doing endanger our democracy and the democratic process. We rely upon this process to ensure that the security of person, citizenship and basic human rights and freedoms are maintained and protected.

In their submission to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights civil liberties, law associations and groups representing Muslim, Arab and other ethnic communities expressed deep concerns about the danger of sacrificing civil liberties for the purposes of national security.

The member for Edmonton--Strathcona, the only Muslim member in the House, put forward those concerns very eloquently. I share those concerns that in times of political and social stress such as the threat of terrorism civil liberties and human rights must not be discarded. It is during times of crisis that they are most needed.

I have been following with keen interest the debate in the House and the submissions and representations of witnesses to the standing committee. I observed media commentaries, debates and town hall style meetings that took place across the country regarding the anti-terrorism bill.

My impression is that Canadians are asking us, their representatives, to remain vigilant, to ensure that accountability is retained and that the duration of the extraordinary powers of the bill be limited. The government is saying to trust it to reduce civil liberties in the name of security and trust it not to abuse human rights.

� (1745)

Members of the House know of my battle against the current citizenship revocation process. I consider it to be a gross abuse of human rights and in contravention of section 7 of the charter. The decision to revoke citizenship is made by cabinet in star chambers using the rationale that it does not want Canada to become a haven for war criminals or people who have committed crimes against humanity. This appears to be a most worthy objective.

Unfortunately the reality is quite different. Through this process the government tars people with the brush of being war criminals or human rights violators without producing a shred of evidence in court to back up these charges. It does not allow those accused to properly defend themselves.

It subjects people to a process of citizenship revocation under the guise of fighting violators of rights and freedoms and ultimately deportation which tramples on their civil liberties and human rights. It is a horror story for those involved and their families. With one notable exception the process of citizenship revocation was opposed by every one of over 50 groups because of their concern about the revocation process.

Last weekend in British Columbia at its biennial policy convention the federal Liberal Party passed a resolution moved by Diane Recalma, the policy chair of the Nanaimo-Alberni federal Liberal riding association. It asked for the right to appeal in the case of citizenship revocation so that the decision would be taken out of the hands of a political body, namely the cabinet.

In the last number of days we have had another example of a human rights abuse caused by this flawed process. It is against a 92 year old man suffering from Alzheimer's disease who lives in a nursing home and is incompetent to stand trial. However under the guise that he was involved in war crimes, a charge that the government will not back up in court, this man will in all probability be stripped of his citizenship. If he lives long enough he may be deported under a process that I consider fraudulent. I do not want this brand of terrorism to be applied against individuals unless they have the right to defend themselves.

The government introduced the anti-terrorism bill because of the terrorist acts of September 11 and I support that. What the government is saying in the bill is to let it curtail some of our civil liberties and rights in the name of the war on terrorism.

The fact that the government introduced an anti-terrorism bill in light of September 11 was the right thing to do. However cutting off debate on the bill is not in the interest of producing the best possible legislation.

Members should make no mistake that the bill would negatively impact on civil liberties. Canadians are ready to accept some curtailment of their rights in the name of collective security. However Canadians are concerned that their civil liberties are impacted only to the extent necessary for collective security. We must get it right. Canadians do not want their rights abused.

It is important to remember our history of human rights abuses. In the course of our history relatives of members now sitting in the House were interned in detention camps. There are members in the House who belong to ethnic and religious minorities who were discriminated against by past governments. It is the result of these collective experiences that we created our cherished charter of rights and freedoms.

The more we disrupt our way of life, the more the terrorists win. We must never sacrifice the principles that form the basic foundation of our democratic state.

It is important to remember that the war we are pursuing in Afghanistan is against terrorism, but we are also fighting for human rights including the right of women to take their place in society and little girls to be able to go to school. It would be ironic that we win the war against terrorism at the expense of Canadian human rights and civil liberties.