Debates of the Senate (Hansard)
1st Session, 37th Parliament,
Volume 139, Issue 82
Thursday, December 13, 2001
The Honourable Dan Hays, Speaker
Third Reading—Motion in Amendment—Debate Continued
Hon. Mobina S.B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, I rise to oppose the amendment.
The September 11 terror attacks were a blow that struck all humanity.
On Tuesday, I was honoured to meet with Algeria’s new ambassador to Canada, His Excellency Youcef Yousfi, who, as the representative of a Muslim nation, most eloquently expressed how people throughout the world view the terrorist attacks.
Blind, cruel terrorism, which had been striking at various targets throughout the world, attacked the world’s most powerful nation in a spectacular and dramatic fashion. There are no terms strong enough to describe the horror of this attack, and the world was not wrong to denounce it unanimously.
Far be it from us to claim to have learned anything from these events, which showed just how precious and fragile security is, and that we must all work together to preserve and safeguard it. They also showed that the fate of humanity is most certainly one and indivisible and that what can happen in one country can very well happen in another. I also believe that no longer can anyone remain indifferent to the suffering of others.
Naturally, Algeria has condemned these terrorist attacks in the strongest terms and conveys its sympathy to the American people.
On a recent visit to New York City, I saw for myself the horrors of Ground Zero. It was like the United States with its heart ripped out. I heard the sound of the wrecking ball banging again and again and again against the steel beams of what was once the World Trade Center. Two storeys of wreckage stand defiantly. One is left with a vivid impression that the wreckage is staring back at you, refusing to disappear. The clinical images we have all seen on television cannot begin to describe the reality of the silently weeping people. The indescribable smell of that place is still lingering in my nostrils as I speak to honourable senators today.
Many of us have personal stories of friends and family affected by the tragedy of September 11. Therefore, I stand to oppose the amendment.
My most precious niece, Azra Nanji, an American citizen, was at the World Trade Center when the terrorists smashed the plane they had hijacked into the shimmering glass wall. The last words I heard from her over the telephone were these: “Auntie, I have to go. We are being evacuated. I can’t talk anymore.”
The remainder of the day passed very slowly. After many futile attempts to call New York City, we finally heard from her again. We wept tears of joy, but also of sadness, as she is still looking for many of her friends and for many others.
For people like my niece, I stand to oppose the amendment because I believe there has to be certainty.
From this tragedy in the U.S. came the birth of Bill C-36. This is a bill that could change forever our landscape, a bill that could lead a gentle nation of people who trust one another to become a suspicious nation where we spy on our neighbours.
On September 11, honourable senators, we lost our tenderness and our innocence.
Events like those of September 11 cause great paranoia, fear and anger to grow within us. When these mingle with misunderstanding, ignorance and intolerance, even the most peaceful communities of our great country can be shocked by crimes of hate. Terms like “backlash” and “revenge attacks” do not apply in these cases, as they suggest that the victims have done something to deserve the discrimination to which they are subjected.
As all honourable senators are aware, the overwhelming majority of Canadians in these communities have a deep love of our country. They desire no more than the peaceful and prosperous life that this great nation offers them. These are crimes of hate, pure and simple, and Bill C-36 contains new protections for minorities discriminated against in this way.
If this chamber passes the bill before us, a new crime relating to attacks on religious structures will be created. This provision will add to existing laws against hate crimes and further protect communities from attack on their spiritual core, such as those we saw in Hamilton and in my own province of British Columbia.
Canada’s churches, temples, mosques, synagogues and cemeteries will be protected by this bill. Those who would attack them may very well be deterred. Those who have attacked them will be punished severely.
Bill C-36 will also assist in mitigating the spread of the hate that gives birth to so many attacks, allowing a judge to order the removal of hate propaganda from the Internet. No longer will purveyors of these messages find an open forum to spread their lies. No longer will Canadians and their children be exposed to messages of hate.
This chamber, through the Special Senate Committee on Bill C-36, has devoted a great deal of time and energy to scrutinizing the bill that is now before us. Much of this was done even before the bill was passed to us from the other place, in the pre-study. This pre-study produced a report that made numerous recommendations for the improvement of the bill. Some of these have resulted in significant improvements to the current version of Bill C-36 over earlier drafts. There is now more room for oversight through the sunset clauses in the areas of preventive arrests and investigative hearings. There is more judicial authority over the Attorney General’s issuance of certificates as well as the provision for annual reports by not only the Minister of Justice and the Solicitor General but also their provincial counterparts.
Since receiving the bill from the other place, we have had an opportunity to hear many of the witnesses who testified during the pre-study as well as from many new voices. The issue that I have concerned myself with since we were first presented with the task of examining Bill C-36 is that of racial profiling. It is a concern of many in my own community, and others, that they may be singled out for persecution under sections of this bill.
One witness before the special committee, Mr. Mia, a member of the Muslim Lawyers Association and the Coalition of Muslim Organizations, speaking of the plight of Muslims since the events of September 11, noted that the fear they feel has doubled. They not only fear terrorism, as most Canadians do, but also fear that they will be targeted unfairly by the police.
Canada’s police, however, are among the best in the world when it comes to sensitivity to minority groups. I am confident that that tradition will continue. I have received numerous assurances that the police forces are committed to continuing sensitivity training. I am also assured that funding is in place to ensure that, as officers are trained to implement Bill C-36, funding will be given to ensure that they are made aware of other cultures’ need for fair and considerate treatment. When I posed the question of racial profiles to RCMP Commissioner Zaccardelli, he told us:
We do not do race profiling. We investigate criminal act or acts that we believe are criminal in nature. We investigate those and try to prosecute those as best we can. We do not look at a person, the gender, the colour or religion of the person. We simply investigate criminal acts.
I believe and trust the assurances that Commissioner Zaccardelli has given us. When I posed a similar question to the Director of CSIS, Ward Elcock, he explained:
We do in fact do some profiling. The profiling that we do is essentially to provide Immigration with an essential set of things to look out for in respect of particular groups or organizations. That is not a racially-profiled list.
I believe and trust the assurances that Director Elcock has given us.
When I asked the Solicitor General what was being done to ensure that those enforcing laws such as those contained in Bill C-36 are sensitive to cultural differences, Minister MacAulay said:
Any training that needs to be done, it has been indicated quite clearly that it will be done.
He has gone on the record several times in the other place with this promise. I trust and believe the assurance that Solicitor General MacAulay has given us.
Most of all, honourable senators, I stand here in front of you as a refugee that no one else wanted — except Canada. I have faith that a country that has given me refugee status and has now appointed me to be a senator in this great chamber will not let the people that I represent down.
On Monday, in his budget, the Minister of Finance said:
If ignored, intolerance can threaten the fabric of our nation and we must answer it. It can divide our communities and we must stop it. That is why the Government will provide new funding, aimed at fostering respect and promoting our values which have allowed us to welcome so many to Canada, so many who have enriched us so much.
I believe and trust Canada’s government.
I believe and have confidence in our government.
There are many who speak of the need for oversight provisions in this bill. It does contain significant room for oversight, including the annual reports, judicial oversight, the five-year sunset clause and the thorough review that will be undertaken by Parliament three years after this bill comes into force. That is why I respectfully submit that there is no need for an expiration date and oppose this amendment.
We also have the capabilities of other oversight bodies including the Privacy Commissioner, the Information Commissioner, the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the RCMP Public Complaints Commission, the Security Intelligence Review Committee, the commissioner with respect to the Communications Security Establishment, and the complaint and review mechanisms that apply to police forces under provincial jurisdiction to exercise their respective mandates over areas of this bill.
We as Canadians will be vigilant. We will keep a close watch on our rights and freedoms. Nothing in this bill or any other piece of legislation can take away or reduce our basic human rights that are an irrevocable and essential part of our beloved Canada. I myself vow to be vigilant in the scrutiny of the enforcement of this bill and in safeguarding the safety and liberty of all Canadians.
We are a nation of people that has always worked hard to be a harmonious nation and a nation that has a strong multicultural policy to ensure all people feel included in the life of our nation. We place great value on the harmony of our nation. What do I understand as harmony? Let me explain.
We have a great piano player amongst us — Senator Banks. He will tell us that on a piano we can get some kind of harmony if we play just on the white keys and some kind of harmony if we just play on the black keys, but to have real harmony we have to play both on the black and white keys. We are a nation that believes we must have all people included to have real harmony.
I oppose this amendment because I believe that we have to stand with our neighbours, because on September 11 the heart of America was suddenly and brutally ripped out. It is now up to us to start the healing.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!