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RELIGIOUS BELIEFS = TERRORISM

1st Session 37th Parliament Volume 139
Anti Terrorism Bill
Third Reading of Bill C-36

Speech by: The Honourable Marjory LeBreton

Tuesday, December 18, 2001

Hon. Marjory LeBreton: Honourable senators, I have sat in my seat this entire day because I want to be able to reflect on this day after the weeks and months have gone by. I am terribly troubled by Bill C-36. Like Senator Andreychuk and many of my colleagues, I could have supported it had there been a proper oversight provision and a sunset clause. Like my colleague Senator Forrestall, I happened to be around here in the early 1970s. To leave my office on the fourth floor of the Centre Block, I had to step over a young corporal who sat at my door with a machine gun lying across his lap. At the time, I worked with Mr. Stanfield. Public opinion was incredible during the October Crisis, similar to what we have been witnessing as a result of the horrific acts in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania on September 11.

Horrific acts took place in the province of Quebec, with the kidnapping of Mr. Cross and the murder of Mr. Laporte. I remember the public saying "Do something." They were panicking. The government of the day and the Prime Minister brought in the War Measures Act. Of course, we are all familiar with the famous "Just watch me" quote of Prime Minister Trudeau. In two years, just-watch-me just about watched himself get defeated out of government. In a short two-year period, public opinion had turned against the government. Senator LaPierre says that he trusts the system. He asks us in the Senate to act as the oversight. That is a very nice concept. However, if Senator LaPierre believes that he can convince his colleagues of that he must also believe in the tooth fairy.

I was also struck by Senator Carstairs' admonishment of those of us on this side for what she thought was a rather lengthy amount of time for this debate. She talked about how many times the bells rung several nights ago. Just making such a statement is an affront to democracy. We on this side fought the good fight. I am standing here because it is my duty to express the thoughts of the hundreds of people who have e-mailed me and written to me on this matter.

Honourable senators, I am very proud of my colleagues on this side of the chamber. In committee, as well as here in this chamber, they have conducted themselves in a very constructive way. We have always been a constructive opposition. We have never been an obstructive opposition. The ringing of the bells and votes are democratic procedures of this chamber. We have not gone around blowing horns in the ears of senators opposite, or blowing kazoos in their faces. We have not had senators starve themselves on benches outside the Senate to make their point. Those acts are the reason the Senate fell into such disrepute. We have such a bad reputation because people remember and think about those acts. We on this side at least must give ourselves some credit for having tried. We can count. There are 60 senators opposite and there are 30 of us, along with 5 independents. I thank the independents for supporting us on this. I am like Senator Tkachuk - I hope I will not be able to say "I told you so." I hope I am wrong about this bill, but I believe that in a very short period of time the Canadian public will be very concerned about what they have seen happen in this Parliament. I do not think they will like what they see.

I find myself wondering how many times Parliament has to make such a terrible mistake before the public finally wakes up. Let us consider the history of this very institution. Boatloads of Jewish people, who came to our shore seeking refuge from Nazi oppression, were sent back to certain death; we interned the Japanese; we invoked the War Measures Act; we trampled on the rights of students during the APEC meetings; and now Bill C-36 will give government, ministers and the police extraordinary powers. By the way, all of those acts happened under a government of the Liberal stripe. I have to ask myself: Are we not within our right to question some of these decisions?

Honourable senators, as the process went along I ran into the three young Muslim lawyers who appeared before the committee on Bill C-36, and I was most impressed. They were fine young men. I talked to them for 15 minutes on the street in front of the Victoria Building, and I was struck by what they said. They were all expressing the same concerns that we are trying to address in this chamber. My good friend, Mr. Goldy Hyder, is the Right Honourable Joe Clark's former chief of staff and a Muslim. He told me about some of the things that are happening in the community. We are on the horns of a dilemma in that we all, of course, abhor terrorist acts, but we must balance our efforts to protect our citizens and the human rights of our citizens. Someone may say that we have two issues and one vote, and this is troubling, but sooner or later partisanship has to be put aside. I am as partisan as the next person, and I have supported the government on issues such as the gun control bill because I felt that it was the right thing to do.

Honourable senators, I urge you to at least acknowledge and care about what the witnesses said when they testified before the committee. I think of those young Muslim lawyers who appeared as witnesses. Senate committees are a good venue for witnesses to express their opinions, and our witnesses are right to think that their evidence will make a difference to the outcome of this bill. Let us be honest with them at the beginning and tell them that they are wonderful witnesses; that we have read their briefs; that we agree with everything they have said; but that what they have said will not count, and we do not care. That is the message we are sending to them.

Honourable senators, I did not have a vote during the enactment of the War Measures Act because I was a staffer then. However, I do remember Mr. Stanfield being railroaded by his caucus into supporting it because they believed that public opinion was so strong that we would be committing political suicide to do otherwise. As my colleague, Senator Forrestall, said: It was a decision that Mr. Stanfield regrets to this day. I will vote against Bill C-36. As Senator Tkachuk said, I hope I am wrong, but I rather think that I will not be wrong about this: This government will rue the day they enacted Bill C-36.

[Unlike other jurisdictions, Canada's Anti-Terrorism legislation does not define terrorism but defines "terrorist activity" as activity with a "political, religious or ideological purpose".]

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