Proceedings of the Special Senate Committee on the Anti-terrorism Act
Issue 1 – Evidence – Meeting of February 14, 2004 (morning meeting)
OTTAWA, Monday, February 14, 2005
The Special Senate Committee on the Anti-terrorism Act met this day at 10:30 a.m. to undertake a comprehensive review of the provisions and operations of the Anti-terrorism Act, (S.C.2001, c.41).
Senator Jaffer: Minister, I imagine what you are talking about, just to follow Senator Joyal’s issues, is where our financial information is being transferred to the U.S.
Ms. McLellan: The privacy legislation extends beyond financial information.
Senator Jaffer: Hopefully by the end of our committee’s mandate we will hear from you as to a fuller answer to what Senator Joyal has said.
Ms. McLellan: We can provide you with more information about that, absolutely, and the Privacy Commissioner herself may want to come.
Senator Jaffer: My own question focuses exclusively on the act in a bubble. To me, with the greatest of respect, if we do not examine the Public Safety Act, the Aeronautics Act, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Canada Border Services Agency, CSIS, FINTRAC, et cetera, it would be like asking us to look at the issue of same-sex marriage without taking the Charter into account. We cannot look at this in a bubble.
I have a concern about the effect of the legislation. You mentioned the Criminal Code is a warning. The difference between the criminal court and this legislation is that a certain group in our country feels that they are being identified. Everyone around here is aware that this is a very live issue. I would like you to give us, in writing, because there is not the time now, exactly what your department is doing in training on racial profiling. I can tell you just in your city, police have gone to California for racial profiling training. I will give you all that information in private. I am anxious to hear from you exactly and in what detail you are carrying out the training on racial profiling.
When the Anti-terrorism Act was passed, many of us were pleased that there were additional penalties if there were attacks on religious institutions. When the attack happened on the Talmud Torah in Montreal, at the Jewish school, it was sort of demonstrated that churches, mosques and synagogues are protected, but institutions used for purposes that may be related to religion are not protected. Has your department done any work to ensure there are additional penalties for institutions that are in that kind of situation?
Ms. McLellan: I am in fact very sensitive to the fact that after September 11, 2001 the Arab and Muslim communities very much felt vulnerable; just as, for example, the Sikh community felt vulnerable in this country after Air India. We learned from Air India in terms of how important it was to develop contacts and develop a sense of better communication and trust with the Indo-Canadian community. I would not say we did that perfectly at whatever level, but I think we have learned a lot since September 11, 2001, in terms of how important it is to ensure that we are working with communities, especially those who feel that they may be the focus of Canadians’ attention or anger or fear, for example. We as government need to ensure that we are helping all Canadians understand that, as I have said and I have said publicly and I will say over and over again, terrorists come in all colours and religions, and they speak all languages. This is not about any particular group or religion. It is about terrorism. It is about terrorists. As I say, they cover the waterfront.
Coming out of September 11, 2001, however, there was a particular sensitivity and sense of marginalization and vulnerability on the part of the Arab and Muslim communities. One thing I regret, quite truthfully, senators, is that I made a commitment in December, after the passage of this legislation, to create within the Department of Justice a committee that would work with communities and, in particular, the Arab-Muslim communities in this country. For better or worse, it remains to be seen. The Prime Minister chose to move me from the Department of Justice. On January 2002, I became Minister of Health and that commitment was not delivered on. I feel very bad about that, in the sense that the commitment should have been followed up on. I know my colleague Mr. Cotler, since becoming Minister of Justice, has had numerous meetings across the country with many multicultural groups and in particular, the Arab and Muslim community. It was a mistake not to create that process.
Now we have the cross-cultural round table where Minister Cotler and I hope to be able to meet on a regular basis. It has been established under the National Security Policy, but to meet with representatives from multicultural Canada to hear from them their fears, their aspirations, how things, like this legislation, how the Canadian Border Services Agency, how these things are perceived within their communities and how they believe they are impacted by these things. We want a two-way dialogue to explain why we are doing what we are doing to protect all Canadians including them, but for us to understand perhaps some of the unintended consequences for communities.
I agree with you, Senator Jaffer, there was a particular effect on Arab and Muslim Canadians. That is why it is so important that we continue to work conscientiously with that community, but beyond that community to ensure that we understand concerns and that they understand our goals. Hopefully we can work together so that everyone believes that they are part and parcel of creating a sense of collective security and safety for Canadians. We do not racially profile.
In fact, if anyone has any evidence of racial profiling, I would be very interested, because that would be a firing offence. We do not racially profile. What we do is on the basis of the best, and I think most sophisticated, risk management practises that are used globally. If there is evidence of racial profiling, I would be very interested in hearing examples of that. I will leave it there for now.
Senator Jaffer: Minister, with the greatest of respect, you say you do not racially profile, and knowing you, I know you really believe that. However, when your name is Mohammed and you are stopped every time, and every Mohammed is stopped, then you start wondering as to why just the Mohammeds are stopped.
Ms. McLellan: I understand.
Senator Jaffer: To say there is no racial profiling is not quite acceptable to the people who are being racially profiled. I think the best way to proceed with this is that you will be providing us with what kind of training you are doing with your officials.
Ms. McLellan: This is one point I forgot. Training is absolutely important. I have talked to the CBSA, for example, about this. It is so important that the people on the front lines are well trained. We use globally accepted risk management techniques. We are not in any way unusual in that. However, our front-line agents have to be trained appropriately. They have to understand the impact and that something that may be seemingly neutral to me or to Mr. Pentney may not be perceived as neutral if you happen to be an Arab Canadian whose name is Mohammed, for example. Part of the challenge is to ensure that the right kind of training is being done. I do want to reassure people that, again, we do not racially profile, but we use risk management techniques. Every country does. Every agency in every country does. Sometimes they will have unintended consequences, and absolutely, the people on the front lines as well as government have to be sensitive to that.
Senator Joyal, I forgot to mention that the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the constitutionality of investigative hearings. The only investigative hearing ever held was in the context of Air India, and the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the constitutionality of the tool in that context. Having said that, it is still in my view extraordinary, which is why it was sunsetted, and which is why we need to be constantly vigilant around those kinds of tools that are available.