, seconded by the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, moved for leave to introduce Bill C-507, An Act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act (obstruction).
He said: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to introduce a bill to improve government accountability in Parliament and to taxpayers regarding fiscal matters. As we have seen lately, there are currently no penalties for refusing to provide the Parliamentary Budget Officer with information needed for that officer to do her or his work. Neither are there any penalties for obstructing the Parliamentary Budget Officer's investigations or audits.
The bill I am introducing today would give our budget watchdog real teeth. This private member's bill will finally introduce consequences for failing to hand over requested information with regulatory penalties of up to $10,000 or six months in jail. I hope members from both sides of the House will support this basic accountability here in Parliament.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)
Mr. Speaker, we all listened with interest to our colleague's comments. Before I get to a question, I want to mention something that I think she misstated.
She talked about many things in this bill that are unrelated to the budget. I do not always agree with the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, but I know her to be extremely thorough. She mentioned in a question today in question period that everything in this bill is in fact related to items in the budget, so I would take exception to that misrepresentation.
I want to ask the member a more specific question about the forecasts by the minister widely acknowledged to be world's finest finance minister with respect to growth forecasts.
He says it is 1.6% and the IMF says it is 1.5%—close enough—for 2013, but that puts us well above the average for all advanced economies. We do not operate in a vacuum. We are about even with Japan. The only one we are behind in that group is the United States, which is clearly coming from much lower to start with. In 2014, it is the same story. We are behind only the U.S. and we are above the average in the advanced economies.
Would my hon. colleague admit that there is perhaps some context that could be put around the numbers, rather than just simply picking a number and saying that number is not good enough?
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for her interest in this. I want to assure the member that the allegations relating to Mr. Porter have absolutely nothing to do with the work he did as a member of the Security Intelligence Review Committee. There has been no suggestion whatsoever of any improper handling or disclosure of confidential information.
Prior to his appointment, Mr. Porter was subject to a series of security background checks coordinated by officials from the Privy Council Office. These checks were robust and included police, security and financial records. The government consulted with both the leader of the New Democratic Party and the leader of the Liberal Party. As the member is aware, Mr. Porter offered his resignation in 2011 and the government accepted it.
The allegations that Mr. Porter is currently facing do not have anything to do with his former responsibilities. The government has taken this opportunity, however, to strengthen the screening process as we feel that is important. Prospective Security Intelligence Review Committee members are now vetted in the same way as all other government officials who require access to highly-sensitive information through a clearance conducted by CSIS, in addition to a pre-appointment background check. This includes consideration of people with whom the prospective members are closely associated and connected with.
Importantly, CSIS does not assess individuals' qualifications to serve as members of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, also called SIRC, only their loyalty to Canada and their reliability. In addition, as part of new procedures, CSIS provides the results of its checks to the Privy Council Office, which, in consultation with the government, retains responsibility for deciding whether to appoint the individual. In this way, the independence of SIRC is preserved, which is incredibly important for all of us.
As the hon. member may know, in June 2012 the government appointed Chuck Strahl to replace Mr. Porter as chair of the Security Intelligence Review Committee. Mr. Strahl was subject to these new security measures.
We believe the steps we have taken in this matter have strengthened the screening process. They ensure the continued robustness and integrity of the process, as well as the protection of confidential government information.
It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, Employment Insurance; the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, Public Safety.
Resuming debate. The hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier.
Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-15, which would amend the National Defence Act to strengthen military justice. This is following a couple of studies and papers put forward, one in 2003 and one in 2009. The 2009 report was of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.
Among other things, the bill would provide greater flexibility in the sentencing process. It would provide for additional sentencing options. It would include absolute discharges for minor offences, intermittent sentences and restitution. It would modify the composition of a court martial panel in accordance with the rank of the accused person. It would modify the limitation period applicable to summary trials and would allow an accused person to waive the limitation periods. It would clarify the responsibilities of the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal and would make amendments to the delegation of the Chief of the Defence Staff's powers as the final authority in the grievance process.
As we heard earlier today, the New Democrats are supportive of this legislation because it would be a step forward. Unfortunately, and perhaps anticipating a question from the parliamentary secretary from Ajax—Pickering, why take one step when we could take two, three, four or more steps? It has been a pattern with the current government in legislation that comes forward. The member for Ajax—Pickering is a very intelligent and well-spoken man, and I am sure he understands more steps could be taken but is unwilling to take them. Perhaps in the question period we will have an opportunity to hear from the member about why he will not take that extra step.
For the most part, Bill C-15 would be a step in the right direction. However, as we have heard from other speakers, it could go further. Let me speak to a couple of amendments that are coming forward at report stage from the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.
There are two amendments, and although they are not perfect, they could be amendments that need to be discussed. Canadians expect us to be in this place, to work in committees and to make legislation the best it can possibly be. That means putting forward amendments. Sometimes the amendments are not perfect, but if an amendment is not perfect as put forward, it should be the responsibility of the committee, and in particular of the parliamentary secretary on that committee, to ensure that there could be a counter-amendment, or other amendments or things that could make the legislation better in almost every instance as it comes before the committee. Canadians expect us to do that. Therefore, I hope these amendments from the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, which I will briefly outline, will be considered in the light in which they were given, which is to improve the legislation.
The member put forward two amendments at report stage regarding proposed subsections 18.5(3) and 18.5(5) of the National Defence Act. Clause 4, which would add section 18.5 to the National Defence Act, would give the Chief of the Defence Staff authority to direct military police investigations. The Green Party's amendments would amend that section of the act, which the NDP targeted as problematic and attempted to amend without success during committee.
The second amendment put forward by the member is a measure that would increase the transparency of this problematic authority that would be given to the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff by Bill C-15. While this amendment would be an improvement, we strongly believe that granting the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff this authority could be a violation of maintaining the independence of the Military Police Complaints Commission, so we will be looking at that.
When these amendments are put forward, we and all Canadians expect both opposition and government members of the committee to look at them, take them in the spirit in which they were brought forward and deal with them in an appropriate manner to make the legislation better.
What we as the opposition are hoping for, and what I hope the government members are also interested in with this bill, is to come up with a fairer military justice system. That is the bottom line on Bill C-15. It could be fairer than the final product is likely going to be, and it would be nice to have gone that extra step forward.
There are many important reforms in the bill, and the NDP supports this long overdue update to the military justice system. Members of the Canadian armed forces are held to a very high standard. In turn, they deserve a judicial system that is also of a very high standard. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to understand that this is a step forward, although there could be another step and another step.
Let us briefly talk about, in the time I have left, five items that either need to be looked at or that are included in the bill.
The first thing, and maybe one of the most important, is conducting an independent wall-to-wall review of the military justice system and providing a legislative response to the LeSage report within the year. One of the things that has not happened is a wall-to-wall review. Recently, a recently retired judge of the Federal Court of Appeal and Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada, Gilles Létourneau, outlined the need for such a review. Therefore, there are still things that will need to be done moving forward.
A reform of the summary trial system is another thing. Currently, a conviction of a service offence from a summary trial in the Canadian Forces may result in a criminal record without the proper procedural fairness for the Canadian Forces member. Summary trials are held without the ability of the accused to consult counsel. There are no appeals or transcripts of the trial and the judge is the accused person's commanding officer. These are things that will be looked at as we move forward.
Another item is expanding the service offences exempted from receiving criminal records. There are a number of minor service offences that result in criminal records right now and I believe this will be expanded by about 95%. That is certainly a good thing. I do not think that the military term is “goldbricking", but I know there is an official term and perhaps the parliamentary secretary will help me out with that in the questions. However, offences such as that should not lead to criminal records as often happens outside of the military duties of the Canadian Forces members. Certainly, outside of the Canadian Forces, it would not be an issue.
In my remaining time, let me talk about strengthening the Military Police Complaints Commission. I know, again, that the parliamentary secretary will have a comment on this. While a lot of Bill C-15 is a step forward, it does not move forward enough. Elements of clause 4 regarding the complaints commission are a clear step backward within the military justice system.
I have been listening to the debate over the course of today and the parliamentary secretary was commenting to some of the other speakers about this particular issue. The reason I am bringing it up at the end is that we might have an opportunity to speak to it further. He will probably be concerned about why we did not say or do anything about it earlier in the process of the bill. We moved amendments earlier in committee on Bill C-15 to remove the power to interfere with military investigations. This was after listening to the testimony of a number of witnesses. We opposed that power then and we still oppose it. However, we do support the bill on the whole because it is a step forward.
This is a dilemma that we have had since 2006 with the government putting forward legislation that may have something in it that would not allow us to vote for it in all good conscience. The government may also put something into a bill where it could have gone further and taken the steps necessary to make it good legislation, perhaps legislation that would not be challenged in court at a later date.
I want to emphasize that we do support Bill C-15, but it certainly could have been better.
Mr. Speaker, I want to correct the record.
The NDP did put forward a very similar amendment to what we are debating today. In my judgment, it is actually a better amendment. It was thoroughly debated, we had witnesses on the issue and it was rejected by the Conservatives, using their power of the majority. Therefore, the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands has put forward this amendment for debate today.
It is very difficult to support the government when generally speaking on this issue the Conservatives are actually moving in the right direction. Therefore, why, in heaven's name, do they continue to belittle the legitimate activities of the opposition members who are bringing forward what is a significant concern of numerous witnesses, expressed to the committee but ultimately rejected by the government? That is apparently what debate is for.
I would be interested in my hon. colleague's comments on doing the right thing.
Mr. Speaker, I am very honoured to answer that question, because it seems to me that it has been answered numerous times. The only question the parliamentary secretary has is the same one over and over again.
I thought we were in a debate. I thought we were listening to new ideas to try to find ways to make the bill better. I believe that at the top of this, the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands brought amendments forward to make it better. Perhaps the hon. parliamentary secretary is confused. We are in the House of Commons to try to create legislation that works for Canadians rather than to ask a simple question over and over again.
This question has been answered numerous times. I would actually like to ask him a question. Why has the government not recognized that we need to fix Bill C-15 to ensure that we have the same standards that all Canadians can expect from their legal system?
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in the House to speak to Bill C-15, an act to amend the National Defence Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts, and to speak to the amendments made by the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.
Let me begin by underscoring the fact that there are many important reforms in the bill, and the NDP will be somewhat reluctantly supporting this long, overdue update to the military justice system when it comes up for a vote at report stage.
That being said, New Democrats also recognize that the legislation is just a first step, with much more left to accomplish to effect the type of change we are seeking for Canada's military justice system. Members of the Canadian Forces are held to an extremely high standard of discipline, and they in turn deserve a judicial system that is held to a comparable standard.
At its core, Bill C-15 is similar to the version of Bill C-41, which came out of committee in the 40th Parliament. However, important amendments passed at committee stage in the last Parliament were not included by the government in Bill C-15. One such omission was the failure to include a measure to broaden the list of offences removed from the consequences of a criminal record.
Most Canadians would be shocked to learn that the people who bravely serve our country can receive a criminal record from a system that lacks the due process usually required in civilian criminal courts, which is why New Democrats fought relentlessly to ensure that the necessary changes were made to streamline and modernize Canada's military justice system.
When Bill C-15 was first presented in October 2011, New Democrats immediately recognized the deficiencies of the bill and set to work, both in the House and at committee, to ensure the legislation was the best it possibly could be to achieve the goal of modernizing Canada's military justice system. My colleagues at committee pressed for the necessary changes and amendments to reduce the effect of disciplinary offences, of possible criminal records, and challenge the failure of the legislation to grant full charter rights.
Thanks to the hard work of New Democrats on the defence committee, particularly the member for St. John's East, the list of offences and the number of cases that will not attract a criminal record has been broadened and now account for approximately 95% of offences. New Democrats additionally fought to ensure that previously convicted CF members would actually have their records expunged. We also moved a series of amendments to improve the bill, demonstrating our commitment to reform.
Some of the key amendments presented by my colleagues included: giving the Chief of Defence Staff the financial authority to compensate CF members in the grievance process; changing the composition of the grievance committee to include a 60% civilian membership and exclude active duty CF members, enhancing the independence of the board; a provision ensuring that a person who is convicted of an offence during a summary trial is not unfairly subjected to a criminal record; and clarifying the letter of the law, as recommended by Justice Lesage, to make it clear that a charge must be laid within a year of a service offence.
In spite of all of the successful amendments that New Democrats were able to make at committee stage, we recognize that much still needs to be done to ensure that Canada's military justice system is the best that it can be. Some of the changes New Democrats would still like to see include conducting an independent wall-to-wall review of the military justice system, and providing a legislative response to the Lesage report within a year.
Here the NDP stands with esteemed Justice Létourneau in calling for the Canadian government to end its one-off approach to amending the military justice system and to conduct a comprehensive and independent review of the entirety of the sections of the National Defence Act pertaining to the military justice system. In addition, the NDP is calling for the Conservative government to bring a legislative response to the Lesage report within one year.
The members of the Canadian Forces deserve no less.
Let us look at the reforming of the summary trial system. Although some progress has been made, we believe that further reforms are necessary and a review of the summary trial system is required. Currently, a conviction of a service offence from a summary trial in the Canadian Forces may result in a criminal record without proper procedural fairness for the CF member. Summary trials are held without the ability of the accused to consult counsel. There are no appeals or transcripts of the trial, and the judge is the accused person's commanding officer. This process can have an unduly harsh effect on the offender in question and lacks traditional judicial standards. New Democrats would like to see more reform in this area.
We would also like to see the expansion of the service offences exempted from receiving criminal records. The New Democrats understand that minor service offences should not lead to criminal records that impact CF members outside of their military duties. We fought for an expansion of these offences since Bill C-15 was first introduced and we will continue fighting on behalf of the service men and women whose post-military lives could be affected by minor service offences that result in criminal records.
We need to reform the grievance system. A major flaw in the military grievance system is that the Chief of Defence Staff presently lacks the authority to resolve any and all financial claims arising from a grievance, contrary to a recommendation in the Lamer report. Despite the fact that the Minister of National Defence agreed to this recommendation eight years ago, the matter is still not resolved. The New Democrats believe that the minister should finally implement this recommendation at the earliest possible date.
We also believe that the government needs to strengthen the Military Police Complaints Commission. Bill C-15 gives the Vice Chief of Defence Staff authority to direct military police investigations. This measure is inconsistent with existing arrangements in the accountability framework as a clear violation of maintaining the independence of the Military Police Complaints Commission. Allowing the chain of command to interfere with military police investigations is an irresponsible measure that flies in the face of the harsh lessons learned from the Somalia inquiry. Past and present chairs of the Military Police Complaints Commission have stated as much. Come 2015, the New Democrats will work to make the changes necessary to ensure the full independence of the MPCC.
In conclusion, with colleagues such as the member for St. John's East and the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore, and their continuing commitment to military families and our veterans, Canadians can be assured that the NDP will continue fighting to bring more fairness to the Canadian military justice system for the members of our armed forces who put their lives on the line for the service of Canada each and every day.
Mr. Speaker, as chair of the Standing Committee on National Defence, I want to thank all the members of the committee who did yeoman's service in getting our bill through and back here at report stage. I also appreciate the amendments from the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.
I have two main concerns about the motions being brought forward to amend Bill C-15 at report stage. One is making the reports and the rationale public. I am concerned about how that might impact upon the privacy information of those who were investigated. I am also concerned about how that could, in some situations, have an impact on national security matters that national defence and the Canadian Forces have to deal with from time to time. That is one set of concerns I have with Motion No. 2.
With Motion No. 1, we are setting a dangerous precedent. This is something where we would refer to a technical document in legislation. It could be expanded and become more of a policy document. Usually in legislation we only refer to regulations and never to technical documents. We are taking away the ability of parliamentarians to review everything that is legislatively responsible to Canadians, in this case the Canadian Forces. We are turning that technical document, which is a living, breathing entity that changes from time to time, depending on who the vice chief of defence staff is, and others are, into legislation. That management document should never be referred to in legislation.
I want to start my remarks by thanking you, Mr. Speaker, regarding the issue that was raised about relevancy. I think the various Speakers in this place are quite, pardon the term, liberal in the way that they allow us to put things into context, because each one of us brings to the House a particular life experience.
I hate to say this, but in my case it was 50 years ago that I was in the Canadian military for a couple of years. I recall one of the first things we were talked to about was good order and discipline. I want to take members back for a moment, again, in the sense of a context of the power and the control that is exercised within military circles. If we were in the military in 1914 and going through basic training, they would be firing live ammunition over the top of us as we crawled through a field. Obviously, over time, those kinds of things changed.
I was in the military in 1963-64. Two years before, a corporal would have had the right to strike me if I was doing something he was not satisfied with. That changed. At the time I was there, they still found ways to draw our attention to their dissatisfaction. As we stood at attention, they would come over and say, “Excuse me, I'm adjusting your tie” and then adjust it so tight that we would start to turn blue.
The context and the reason I am saying this is that it shows the thinking of those people in power and why there has to be some kind of limitation. Rights have evolved for all Canadians in this country over a number of years, particularly the last 50 to 75 years. Other speakers today have talked about the fact that Canadians, average Canadians on the street, would believe that those rules and rights apply to all citizens. Therefore, we find ourselves in a situation, and I will not give the history as others have done, where corrective measures were started in previous houses of Parliament. We did not succeed at those times in concluding them. Then we got to the point where Bill C-15 was brought forward. I understand it was a year, roughly, since the last report calling for change had been received.
There are other remarks I would like to make but I want to speak directly to the amendments that have been proposed today. I want to say very clearly that we do not agree all the time with the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands. However, in these two amendments, she is attempting to go further than the members of the committee were allowed to go by the government, because some of the amendments we proposed in that committee were voted down by the government.
This, at least, affords us all the opportunity to discuss at length some important aspects of the bill that are missing. If we give consideration to the requirement of the Vice Chief of Defence Staff to make a relevant rationale available to the public regarding his or her instructions or guidelines given to the Provost Marshal, that is a very serious application of accountability.
When I describe the things that have changed within the military from those past years, from the live fire in training to striking people and all those things, over time people came to clearly understand what improper usage is.
This is one of those cases where now we have the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff put in the public purview where the public will be able to see what his rationale was. I think that would improve the situation. It would require a level of due diligence that is not required today. Therefore, I certainly support that amendment.
The second amendment would require that instructions or guidelines given by the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, again, to the Provost Marshal, be in accordance with the respective roles, responsibilities and principles set out in the accountability framework, signed by the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff and Provost Marshal back in 1998. Think of that date. We hear government members on the other side talk about how long it has taken to accomplish changes. It certainly has been a while.
Again, I want to stress that the NDP supports these amendments.
The accountability framework states that the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff shall not direct the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal with regard to military police operational decisions relative to an investigation. We have an area here where we are going to have a contradiction in the framework resulting from the amendment, which could be problematic going forward. From our perspective, that whole provision should have been removed. Hopefully I am being clear in the sense of the relationship between these things.
We do believe, though, that the amendment is an improvement. It does not go where we would like it to go totally, but it is an improvement on what is in the bill. We strongly believe that granting the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff the authority is in clear violation of that previous aspect. Very clearly, that just means, to the government side, that there is going to be more work required here on this.
I would like to go back to some of the notes I put together a little earlier. I had added those additional thoughts as I was sitting and listening to the debate here. In this place we often comment, particularly across to the other side, about the limitations on debate and the fact that time allocation, over and over, has prevented us from properly looking at a bill.
In this place we all know that sometimes when we are sitting here on House duty that there are debates that do not have the depth that they should have. Most times there is something we can learn from listening to the other members of Parliament. For example, for myself, the first few minutes of my presentation today came about because of the reminders coming from the statements from the government side and from previous members who spoke before me. The value of having that open debate is so important to this place and to what we are able to do.
Let us go back to a previous bill, Bill C-41, which I have not studied to the depth that committee members would have. When it came out of committee it had some recommendations that had passed at the committee stage but were left out of Bill C-15. We are kind of struggling on this side of the House to understand why that was necessary. When there was agreement in the previous committee on Bill C-41, why would the government not say, “We have looked at this. We have studied it. We will advance it forward in Bill C-15”? The government chose not to.
I would suggest a major omission was the failure to include a broadened list of offences, removed from the consequences of a criminal record. During the process on Bill C-15, New Democrats, both in the House and in committee, pressed for changes and amendments in that area. The purpose of that was to reduce the effect of disciplinary offences regarding possible criminal records.
We also challenged the failure of full charter rights in these cases. Full charter rights are as fundamental as it gets. There is no excuse or justification in my mind for a person who is serving their country, in some instances putting their lives at risk, to not have the value of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as every other Canadian has. Our military members, if anyone, who defend our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, who defend our very freedom, should have the absolute rights of all Canadians. I think it is incumbent upon this place to ensure that happens.
Mr. Speaker, I know that I have already risen once on the issue of relevance and that chapter 13 of O'Brien and Bosc is quite clear that when we are dealing with issues, especially amendments, at report stage, the discussions should be focused upon those amendments.
I respect my friend from across the way considerably for the input that she has on committee, but I do not believe that it is a good use of our time here in the chamber to be discussing a lengthy history of the entire process of getting to where we are today on Bill C-15, when we are dealing with the amendments by the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands on her Motions Nos. 1 and 2. We are to deal specifically with those amendments for clause 4 of Bill C-15 and I ask that you enforce the rules.
We have rules in the House to improve decorum and to improve the use of time for all members of the House, as well as making valuable use of taxpayers' resources. Members need to be focused on what matters as business, which is what has been put forward through orders of the day. Currently, we are dealing with the amendments at report stage on Bill C-15.
The Chair thanks the hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake for his intervention and the members for St. John's East and Saanich—Gulf Islands for their subsequent interventions.
In terms of general context, the hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake is correct that the Standing Orders state that when members rise to speak to a matter before the House, their comments ought to be relevant to that matter.
It is also fair to say that historically and consistently the Chair has granted what some would consider significant latitude to members in the points they make in their presentations. From time to time, members take very indirect ways to come to their point. It is a good reminder for all members that they need to keep their comments relevant to the matter before the House.
On the second point, the hon. member is technically correct in that the parameters or leeway granted ought to be narrower when the House is considering amendments as opposed to general legislation potentially during second reading or third reading. However, once again I would suggest the Chair recognizes that in the course of a 10- or 20-minute speech, hon. members need to provide context to the comments they wish to make that are relevant to a matter before the House.
As an editorial comment, there are certainly times when members wander far afield from the matter before the House and are possibly beyond the grey area. However, in this case, I would suggest that has not happened. The hon. member for St. John's East is certainly talking in the context of the bill. I trust that before his 10 minutes expires, he will make all of the context relevant to the points that have to do with the amendments currently being debated.
The hon. member for St. John's East.
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for bringing forth these amendments. It gives us another opportunity to talk about this important issue.
I wonder if she would comment on the fact that the parliamentary secretary said that the idea was to bring the accountability framework into the legislation, but in fact the amendment actually refers, specifically, to the existing accountability framework bringing it into legislation and it says that in fact the VCDS shall not direct the CFPM with respect to specific military police operational decisions of an investigative nature. That would clearly give legislative effect to the accountability framework that was brought forward, so I do not understand why the parliamentary secretary is saying he wants the accountability framework in legislation and does not seem to be supportive of an amendment that would do just exactly that, by specifically referring to it.
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to respond to the question posed on November 30 by the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands regarding foreign investment. While she has been talking to one very specific point, my answer is part of a much broader context.
First, I would like to reaffirm this government's commitment to welcoming foreign investment that benefits Canada. The fact is that foreign investment is crucial to the Canadian economy and the prosperity of Canada. It introduces new technologies and practices that promote growth, employment and innovation here at home. Foreign investment brings some of the most productive and specialized firms in the world to Canada and results in some of the highest paying jobs for Canadians.
This government also recognizes that Canadian businesses must compete in a globalized economy, and we are committed to creating the right conditions for Canadian business to succeed internationally. Canada has signed foreign investment promotion and protection agreements, or FIPAs, with numerous countries, which helps connect our firms to the rest of the world and creates a stable, secure environment for two-way investment between Canada and other countries.
FIPAs accomplish their objectives by setting out the respective rights and obligations of the countries that are signatories to the treaty with respect to the treatment of foreign investment. FIPAs seek to ensure that foreign investors will not be treated worse than similarly situated domestic investors or other foreign investors. They will not have their investments expropriated without prompt and adequate compensation, and in any case, they will not be subject to treatment lower than the minimum standards established in customary international law. As well, in most circumstances, investors should be free to invest capital and repatriate their investments and returns.
We will continue our work to secure access to foreign markets in order to ensure the success of our own Canadian businesses abroad. Most recently, Canada entered into a FIPA with China. The agreement will be tabled in the House of Commons pursuant to the government's treaty tabling policy. It will then come into force once the order in council has been approved by the Governor General of Canada and the ratification process in the People's Republic of China has been completed.
With respect to foreign investments, our government has a sound process in place to ensure they benefit Canadians. We have made targeted amendments to the Investment Canada Act that provide greater transparency to the public, more flexibility in enforcement and an alternative to costly and time-consuming litigation. As well, in December, the Prime Minister announced clarifications related to state-owned enterprises to ensure our foreign investment review processes continue to carefully examine investments to ensure they are of benefit to Canada.
Before we move on to questions and comments, it is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Employment Insurance; the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, Foreign Investment; the hon. member for Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, The Environment.
The hon. member for Winnipeg North.
Mr. Speaker, at the risk of repeating a lot of what has been said here today, I want to elaborate on a few things, notably part VI of the Criminal Code, which deals with the activity of intercepting communications and thwarting crime as a result of that.
The reason we are here is the decision in R. v. Tse. When it came down, it seemed kind of odd at the time. It was just on the other end of the fiasco we had with Bill C-30, when it was introduced in the House. At that time there was a huge public campaign to thwart Bill C-30 because of the overarching measures contained within it and how it went against the spirit of privacy. When it comes to section 8 of the charter, and the charter itself, the charter challenges would have been ad nauseam for a lot of this bill.
Why the government did not wait in this particular case until after the decision is beyond me. It knew it was coming. Nonetheless, as a result of that it brought the bill into the House and then took it back out because of the public campaign against it, I would assume. As a result, we now have this bill, which complies with the judgment that came down from the court case in April 2012.
Here we find ourselves at the last minute on the eve of April 2013. We were given ample notice and yet here we are, up to the last minute. Why the Conservatives would push the envelope like this, I am not quite certain. However, in doing that, Bill C-55 now looks at the decision that came down and how it goes against the Constitution.
Many of my colleagues have already brought up section 184.4, which in this particular situation allows the police officers to intercept imminent communications. In other words, in any particular situation they do not need the paperwork to get that done.
Section 184.4 was originally composed as follows:
A peace officer may intercept, by means of any electro-magnetic, acoustic, mechanical or other device, a private communication where
(a) the peace officer believes on reasonable grounds that the urgency of the situation is such that an authorization could not, with reasonable diligence, be obtained under any other provision of this Part;
It goes on to state:
(b) the peace officer believes on reasonable grounds that such an interception is immediately necessary to prevent an unlawful act that would cause serious harm to any person or to property;
The final point under (c) of section 184.4 states:
(c) either the originator of the private communication or the person intended by the originator to receive it is the person who would perform the act that is likely to cause the harm or is the victim....
Here we have a situation where some people may feel we are circumventing the privacy issue for the sake of the immediacy of what is happening; we are able to intercept without certain legal authorities.
There is no doubt that for us and for millions of Canadians, on the surface this would cause a lot of concern, certainly for privacy. Police officers do not need that particular authorization under certain circumstances in order for them to intercept the communications, and therefore this is what we are struggling with right now.
The question was put forward and an opinion is now with us regarding this particular case.
The principal amendment addresses the fatal flaw identified by the Supreme Court. In this situation, Bill C-55 provides that after-the-fact notice be sent, as is the case for other forms of interception. That is what this is coming down to. The court decided this is not congruent with the charter because of the fact that the after-notice was not present in this particular situation. This is where the court has asked us to have a look at it and this is why we have Bill C-55. I certainly agree and voted in favour of it during second reading.
Essentially, this comes down to part VI of the Criminal Code. At the very crux of this is how we deal with the centrepiece of federal legislation on electronic surveillance by law enforcement agencies.
The court summarized the current scheme of part VI of the code as follows, and I would like to thank the Library of Parliament for providing some of this information, the legislative summary:
Part VI of the Code makes it an offence under s. 184(1) to intercept private communications. Sections 185 and 186 set out the general provisions governing the application and the granting of judicial authorizations for the interception of private communications.
There we have it. The interception of these private communications, electronic surveillance of a potential unlawful act, is written in part VI, and it talks about the legal authority to do so, whether it be authorizations or judicial authorizations. Section 184.2 is the other part of that, providing for judicial authorization with the consent of one of the persons being intercepted for up to 60 days.
Let us get to the crux of what we are talking about today. In 1993, Parliament introduced two provisions to permit interceptions without judicial authorization in two exceptional cases. Those would be section 184.1, which permits interception with a person's consent, and what we are talking about here today, which was ruled upon, section 184.4, which authorizes the power to intercept private communications in an emergency for the purpose of preventing serious harm. Neither of these two sections is subject to the requirement to report to Parliament or to provide after-the-fact notice.
This bill is going to change this, so that after-notice is sent to the particular people involved in the investigation, which is incongruent with other sections where other people were surveyed under judicial authorizations or had their communications intercepted.
The other part they got into on this particular case, which was very interesting, was about reporting to Parliament, as well as changing “peace officer” to “police officer”. As many of my colleagues have already pointed out, within the code itself, the idea or definition of a peace office as described is very broad indeed. We are talking about, as my colleague from the NDP pointed out, mayors, reeves and court officers. It is a very broad description. What has happened here is that the bill has taken it and defined it down to a police officer.
I will get to the amendments from my colleague from Saanich—Gulf Islands in a moment.
In doing so, the other part would be that the court examines the text of section 184.4 closely, with particular attention to phrases that limit its scope. The court concluded that Parliament had incorporated objective standards and strict conditions into the provision itself. That part was fine. The onus would remain on the Crown to show in any particular case that the conditions for the use of section 184.4 had been met. Nonetheless, as I pointed out, the court was concerned that there was no requirement that authorities notify individuals after the fact that their private communications had been intercepted. That is not congruent with other means of judicial authorizations to find and intercept people's private communications.
The final thing was whether to report to Parliament or not. In other places and in other sections, the court considered reading in a notice of requirement, but determined that this would not be appropriate. That is one of the measures it considered. However, because of the notification, the court ruled it to be against the charter. The section on reporting to Parliament was something it added. In it, the court says that “electronic surveillance under the Code is an effective investigation technique used especially by law enforcement agencies” and therefore requires a reporting to Parliament from the Minister of Public Safety and the Attorney General of Canada. Currently, they prepare an annual report on law enforcement's use of warrants for video surveillance and certain authorizations to intercept private communications pursuant to part VI. The ruling here is, and this particular bill addresses, that incongruent with part VI, it allows the reporting within Parliament procedure to continue as well.
I did not have much of a chance to talk about the amendments currently here. My colleague talks about the record keeping, which I have some trouble with, particularly because of the machinations involved. This is an immediate situation, in cases of using section 184.4, and I will therefore be voting against this particular measure, as well as other measures, which I am sure I will get into in questions.
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for her interest in this subject, and I wish her good luck in maybe reaching a better understanding of it.
I know that she is new to this House and may not be aware that prior to our forming government in 2006, treaties such as the FIPA with China were never brought to this place. There was no opportunity to debate them. There was no discussion about them. I think it was around 2007 that we brought in the rule that treaties would be tabled in the House of Commons for 21 sitting days. Of course, the hon. member did not take advantage of those 21 days. Unfortunately, her party is not large enough to take advantage of those 21 days to force debate. The official opposition did not take advantage of that opportunity to force debate on this issue, and the Liberal Party of Canada did not take the opportunity to force debate on this issue.
What we have, quite frankly, is a whole lot of innuendo, rumour and some misinformation, although I will be fair to the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands. She has not come anywhere near the rumour and innuendo the NDP have put onto this issue.
The principle of a FIPA, or the Canada-China Foreign Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement, is to make sure that Canadian investments in China are protected and that there is reciprocity so that Chinese investments in Canada are protected. The member was quite right when she said that it is over a 15-year period and that at the end of that period, either side, either China or Canada, can opt out of it.
Obviously, those investments already made need some longevity and protection, so another 15 years for those investments that have already been made is not untoward or unreasonable. I suspect, with the hon. member's background as a lawyer, that she probably wrote a number of agreements similar to that herself in the past.
This is about giving Canadian companies investing in China the same rights and privileges a Chinese company would have. This is about protecting Canadian foreign direct investment in China. We cannot do that without allowing those same rights and privileges to the Chinese. It is called reciprocity. It is called fairness. It is called reasonable, rules-based trading.
I appreciate that the hon. member did not go along with the fear-mongering of the NDP. This treaty in no way impedes Canada's ability to regulate and legislate on such areas as the environment, culture, safety, health and conservation, which is another thing that needs to be brought up.
What this does is establish a clear set of rules for trading and investment between Canada and China. It promotes trade, helps the Canadian economy, and provides jobs and opportunities for Canadian workers. It is a good agreement.
Before we resume debate, and pursuant to Standing Order 38, it is my duty to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue, National Defence; the hon. member for Winnipeg North, Citizenship and Immigration; the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, Foreign Investment.
Resuming debate, the hon. member for Louis-Saint-Laurent.
Mr. Speaker, as is often the case, the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands has an unusual ability to integrate details that many of us miss within a much broader context of social and legal implications. I learned a lot from what she just said. It concerns me as well.
I would like her to take this a bit broader and talk not about the impact of victims within prison walls but about their families and what implications there might be for actually increasing the cost to society in a variety of ways.
The electoral district of Saanich--Gulf Islands (British Columbia) has a population of 115,724 with 91,822 registered voters and 228 polling divisions.
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