Canada, House of Commons Debates, “Emergencies Act”, 33rd Parl, 2nd Sess (18 November 1987)
By: Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Canada, House of Commons Debates, 33rd Parl, 2nd Sess, 1987 at 10935-10942.
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MEASURE TO ENACT
The House resumed from Tuesday, November 17, consideration of the motion of Mr. Beatty that Bill C-77, an Act to authorize the taking of special temporary measures to ensure safety and security during national emergencies and to amend other Acts in consequence thereof, be read the second time and referred to a legislative committee.
Mr. Hopkins: Madam Speaker, I have a question.
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Champagne): The Hon. Member for Spadina (Mr. Heap) had finished his intervention when the House rose last night. There would normally be a period for questions and comments. As Hon. Members will be aware, we cannot proceed with that right now. I am in a very difficult situation in that I do not like to say that a Member is or is not in the House. However, we are in the position that we cannot proceed with questions and comments.
Mr. Hopkins: I rise on a point of order, Madam Speaker. It is normal that after Members deliver a speech they are in the House for questioning. The Hon. Member for Brant (Mr. Blackburn) started off this debate by saying that he was the only one in the House to debate while I was on my feet when he was recognized.
Mr. Blackburn (Brant): Haven’t you got over that yet?
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Champagne): Order. I believe the
Hon. Member will agree with me that we have gone over this point of order on a previous day with regard to who was in the House and ready to debate this Bill. The Hon. Member for Spadina is not in the House to answer questions or hear comments on his speech. I believe that we should proceed with this debate.
Mr. Hopkins: I rise on a question of privilege, Madam Speaker.
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Champagne): The Hon. Member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke (Mr. Hopkins) on a question of privilege.
Mr. Hopkins: I simply want to put on the record, Madam Speaker, that it is a question of privilege that Members of this House are able to question other Members. The fact that the Hon. Member is not here inhibits debate in this House because he did make statements that should be answered. If they are not answered here, we will have to find other means of having them answered.
Mr. Friesen: Madam Speaker, I rise on the same point of order. I raised the same grievance several weeks ago after the Member for Kamloops—Shuswap (Mr. Riis) spoke. He spoke one evening and the period for questions and comments did not conclude that evening. I rose the next day to ask him questions but he had left the House. I rose on a question of privilege because I could not harass the Member from Kamloops. I thought that was terribly unfair and unjust. Nevertheless, I lost the question of privilege because there is plenty of precedent to establish that the Member does not have to be here. It is too bad that the Member for Spadina (Mr. Heap) is not here, but that is the way it is.
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Champagne): I believe that this point of order has been discussed thoroughly. We can all agree that the Hon. Member is not in his seat to answer questions. I believe that in the interests of the House we should go on with debate on the Bill before us at this time.
Mr. Les Benjamin (Regina West): Mr. Speaker, it is with some pleasure and sadness that I rise to speak on this Bill. Before beginning my remarks let me say that I read the speech made by the Hon. Member for Brant (Mr. Blackburn), and I thought it was good.
In the 120-year history of this country, Parliaments and governments have taken actions that we have later regretted. We must ensure that any legislation to replace the War Measures Act will not allow any government of any political stripe to repeat the errors of omission or commission that were committed before. There must be safeguards in the law to prevent a government or, for that matter, a Parliament from taking actions in a moment of panic or hysteria that we will all regret later.
We must ensure that there are safeguards in the Bill to prevent a repeat of what happened to Japanese Canadians, who are still awaiting redress and an apology, or of what was done during the Winnipeg general strike in 1919, when there was a hue and cry to get rid of what was called the foreign element in this country.
There must be safeguards in the law so that our police and security forces will not be able to carry on as they did between 1920 and 1950, following people who were not attempting a violent overthrow of the Government, but trying, through dissent and debate, to bring about a fundamental change in this nation and the purpose of our society.
We must have a law that will not allow the kind of discrimination that took place against Chinese immigrants, who are the only people on whom we levied a head tax. I still believe that tax can and should be refunded, because the records are still within the Department of Immigration. We owe the Chinese Canadians that money and an apology.
During the so-called October crisis of 1970, over 400 people were arrested, none of whom were ever charged and convicted. I believe those people deserve some kind of redress and apology. I believe it is proper for a government or a parliament to provide redress to correct a historical error because, not only does it correct a mistake that was committed many years before, it shows a sign of national maturity and allows the nation as a whole to display an element of conscience.
We must keep these events in mind as we debate this Bill, when we hear evidence in the committee and decide upon amendments before passing the legislation in its final form.
I believe this legislation should go to the appropriate standing committee rather than a legislative committee, unless the House is prepared to provide the authority for the legislative committee to travel. Otherwise, we will only hear form those who can afford to come to Ottawa. We should hear from others throughout the country who, either themselves, or their parents or grandparents, have been affected by the implementation of the War Measures Act or other discriminatory and uncivilized measures of a parliament or government.
I was a Member of Parliament in 1970 when every Member of the House went through a great deal of agony during the so-called October crisis. One of my very few regrets, which I will carry with me all my days, is that 1 missed the vote on the War Measures Act. I would have voted against the implementation of that Act if 1 had been here. My leader, the Hon. T. C. Douglas, was to speak at an NDP nominating convention in southern Manitoba on the day of the vote. Naturally, I thought it was more important for my leader to be here. Therefore, I took his place to speak to that nominating convention in southern Manitoba and missed the vote. There were two unfortunate consequences on that day. First, 1 missed the vote, and second, that overflow crowd in the hall in southern Manitoba came to hear Tommy Douglas but got me instead.
During that October crisis some of the over 400 Quebecers who were never charged or convicted spent from 24 hours to 96 hours in jail before being released. One humourous incident during those bitter days took place when one of those put in jail had the same name as a person on the RCMP list. That person turned out to be a Liberal organizer who ended up in jail in Hull. Many said at the time that he was more deserving of jail than an FLQ member.
The lengths to which the government went during that moment of hysteria and panic, generated primarily by the premier of one province, is illustrated by the fact that an 18- year old soldier carrying a loaded automatic rifle was assigned to follow my leader. It did not seem very suitable for a soldier to be following a clergyman, even to the washroom and to his home; my leader never did collect the bill for room and board. The implementation of that Act not only put the civil liberties of people in Quebec into jeopardy but the rights of people from coast to coast. Everyone was subject to arbitrary arrest, search without warrant, and being jailed without communication with anyone.
When we consider the lengths to which Parliament went in that moment of hysteria, surely it is incumbent upon this Parliament to ensure that there are safeguards in any legislation that replaces the War Measures Act.
The War Measures Act came into being in this country at a time when one can hardly say there was a great degree of tolerance, understanding and compassion among the population and our rulers of that day. We now have a great improvement in the attitudes of the the public and of the Government.
There is one section of the Bill to which I take particular exception, that is the section entitled “Public Welfare Emergency”. Should there be another national railway or postal strike, or a strike by the airlines, grain handlers or the St. Lawrence Seaway, the Government will not have to bring in back-to-work legislation and let Parliament decide each case on its own merits. It has only to invoke that clause of the Bill, which means that a fundamental right to strike or, for that matter, the fundamental right of an employer to lock out, is denied in advance and for all time. And this applies to anything the Government considers to be an essential public service.
Those kinds of circumstances must be decided individually as and when they occur. The Bill allows Government to bypass Parliament in such cases for 90 days and it must confirm it by motion within seven days. Thirty Members of Parliament can sign a motion for revocation. If it is passed, it can then be revoked, but many days, weeks or months will have gone by and great harm can be done to many people directly affected.
Part I of the Bill, Public Welfare Emergency, covers a breakdown in the flow of essential goods and services or resources as a result of a strike or lockout. I submit that that must deleted from the Bill and should not be covered in any way, shape or form in this legislation. I recommend to the committee that Clause 3(d) of the Bill should be deleted.
Public welfare emergencies should be in the Bill and I think the rest of Part I is legitimate. Clause 3(a)(b) and (c) provides that public welfare emergency means fire, flood, drought, storm, earthquake or other natural phenomenon, an epidemic of disease among human beings, animals or plants, or some horrendous accident or pollution, such as Chernobyl, for example. It seems to me it is legitimate for a province and the national Government to have the powers to declare an emergency within a matter of hours and act upon it. Therefore, I have no particular objection to that definition of public welfare emergency.
However, I would hope that the committee would take a good strong look at it in the sense of is it really needed in this Bill? Probably the same thing could be accomplished by a strengthening of legislation on emergency measures both by
the national Parliament and by the provinces and territories so that the ability to act quickly and call upon all sectors of the community to assist is there in place at all times.
It does not matter whether the Government leaves the part of the Bill in place regarding natural disasters or strengthens the emergency measures legislation, the fact is that we as a country are still not equipped to deal with an emergency, anyway. 1 hope the debate on this legislation and the discussion in committee will help to persuade the national Government and the provincial Governments to further enhance and strengthen the resources they have to deal with in emergencies of this kind. That includes, I submit, additional training for our Armed Forces so that they not only know how to handle guns, tanks, planes and ships, but will know how to put a city back together, be it to fix the sewer and water systems or establish a hospital. They should be prepared to deal with the electrical power distribution system, the direction of traffic and looking after refugees, the homeless. We, would always have that kind of training, resources and equipment to help in case of some disaster in our own country, and what makes it so worthwhile is that should we be called upon to assist in the event of another earthquake in Nicaragua, or Mexico, Yugoslavia or anywhere else in the world, we could send people there who had the equipment and know how to be of even better help than they are at the moment.
It is not enough just to have a law that allows a national Government to declare an emergency of a public welfare nature. Unless we have facilities and resources in which to carry out the requirements of the law and the regulations that will come thereafter, all we are doing is making symbolic gestures. This will cost a lot of money, but it seems to me it would be money well spent. That part of the Bill which the Government can invoke in the event of a national strike of something that is considered an essential public service should be deleted.
There is also the heading of “Public Order Emergency”; I think not only of the Winnipeg general strike of 1919 but of the Estevan strike and the Regina riot. People who were peacefully dissenting were victimized by a government which I can only say over-reacted in a paranoid fashion. If there is one thing we must guard against in this legislation it is that kind of paranoia; looking under the bed all the time for a Commie, a Bolshevik or whatever is uppermost in the minds of those who happen to be governing at the moment.
There are some measures in the Bill which I like. I have spent my time on the items in it that I do not like. I hope that the committee and the Government will address them and correct them as I have outlined.
Mr. Prud’homme: Madam Speaker, I am not sure I will take an active part in the debate this afternoon, but I would like to make a few comments. As a Member who experienced those tragic events that affected our lives as Canadians, Quebecers and residents of Montreal, I read and especially listened very carefully to yesterday afternoon’s proceedings. Yesterday and the day before, I had the privilege of attending festivities in honour of a visit to Canada by the Armenian Katholikos from Soviet Armenia, who received an enthusiastic welcome in Montreal. He was suppose to visit Parliament, but unfortunately, he was not well enough to come to Ottawa. So I was in Montreal, and this is just by way of explaining to my constituents why I was not in Ottawa. I attended the festivities, Monday night and last night until three o’clock this morning, but in my office I could not help watching what was going on in the House of Commons, and I heard a few speeches which quite frankly astonished me.
Mr. Blackburn (Brant): Glued to your television set!
Mr. Prud’homme: Yes indeed, but you may have something else to say when I finish.
I was particularly interested in some speeches by Hon. Members of the New Democratic Party, and especially some of their statements in French.
Madam Speaker, it is always easy to judge history with today’s hindsight. After the fact we can do no wrong, we are perfect, we can make sweeping moral judgments and we are always right. This is more or less what our NDP friends wanted to do with a message that was obviously directed to the people of Quebec—that is why I will make my statement in French. What they said was more or less that the New Democratic Party knew what it was all about in 1970. And this despite the fact that 88 percent of Canadians—it’s true — were asking the Government to do something, and despite the impact these events had on me personally—anyone who is interested can read my speech—and the impact on our Quebec caucus. It also had an impact on our national caucus. We were divided on what should be done, and in the light of the information we had—that is the important point: Did we have all the information? That is another chapter I hope we will be able to write someday. However, in the light of the information we had at the time, we thought it was our duty, unfortunately, to vote in favour of a measure we found abhorrent. I found it abhorrent to have to vote in favour of the War Measures Act. I more or less said so in my speech at the time. And I think that trying to woo Quebecers by saying that a certain political party had virtue on its side from the word go is stretching the truth somewhat. It is a tarted-up version of the facts, because I have a clear memory of those important events. In fact, they say I still have an excellent memory for the important things in life. I remember that the party that today is trying to woo Quebecers was divided as well and that four Members of the New Democratic Party, and that is what Hon. Members forgot to tell us yesterday, four Members, including one as illustrious as the Members in the House today, and I am referring to Dr. Saltsman. Everybody always liked Dr. Saltsman. He was a distinguished, and a great parliamentarian.
Yet, he voted against it. Who does not remember—with your indulgence, Madam Speaker, I shall conclude by giving these four names—who does not remember the great parliamentarian, Mr. Winch? This member of the New Democratic Party and former member of the CCF also voted for the War Measures Act. He probably found this as repugnant as I did, but he still voted for the War Measures Act. I also recall that Barry Mather, a distinguished Member from Western Canada, also voted for it. I also recall one of our colleagues, who is now a member of a National Asembly, I believe, Frank Howard—
I do not know if Frank is still a Member in the provincial House in British Columbia or not.
Mr. Howard still sits in a legislature, but he now sits in the provincial legislature of British Columbia. He also voted for the War Measures Act. Even when you want to score political points and attract votes, you should still have to tell all the facts. I am not saying that my colleagues lied, but they would have done better to give the whole picture instead of giving us only part of it by suggesting as they did yesterday to Quebec, and it is to this that I object, that all NDP members opposed the War Measures Act when the fact is that they were very much divided. They remained divided up to the end since four of them voted for the War Measures Act, which was a repugnant gesture for which we shall one day have to offer reparation and excuses to those who were stupidly arrested by the police. All this will be said during the third reading debate, but I still wanted to state the facts, and 1 thank you for your patience, Madam Speaker.
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Champagne): I simply wish to point out to the Hon. Member for Saint-Denis (Mr. Prud’homme) that I certainly did not want to show any sign of impatience. I simply wanted, in the spirit of parliamentary reform, to remind the Hon. Member that the period for questions and comments is normally restricted to short exchanges to allow everyone to take part and to make the debate and exchanges as animated as possible. I am certain that the Hon. Member will want to get back to this issue during his own intervention. This is why I indicated that he should speed up his comments.
Mr. Prud’homme: Madam Speaker, as an experienced parliamentarian, I immediately accept your suggestion. Instead of going on, I shall ask the previous speaker whether he remembers—
Mr. Blackburn (Brant): You have had eight minutes out of ten. Sit down and let him answer.
Mr. Benjamin: Order, order.
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Champagne): The time will of course be added to the Hon. Member’s response.
Mr. Benjamin: I thought bootlegging was illegal, Madam Speaker.
Mr. Hopkins: You should have been here yesterday.
Mr. Benjamin: My hon. friend makes a bootlegger look like an honest man. If he wants to get up to give a diatribe against the NDP and what we did in 1970, then let him get up and make a 20-minute speech at second reading and not use up my time.
Mr. Prud’homme: It is not your time. I rise on a point of order, Madam Speaker.
Mr. Benjamin: There he goes again, Madam Speaker. He can get up right after me and make a 20-minute speech if he wants.
Mr. Prud’homme: On a point of order, Madam Speaker.
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Champagne): The Hon. Member for Saint-Denis (Mr. Prud’homme) on a point of order.
Mr. Prud’homme: Madam Speaker—
Mr. Benjamin: What is he up for now? He has had his turn on questions and comments.
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Champagne): The Hon. Member has risen on a point of order.
Mr. Benjamin: Another bootleg.
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Champagne): I will listen and rule afterwards.
Mr. Prud’homme: I assure you, Madam Speaker, that it is a point of order.
Madam Speaker, you know my respect for the Chair and the rules. I was not taking time away from the Hon. Member since he had finished his speech. According to the new rules, I am using the second part. Therefore, I was not bootlegging. I know that it was said in good spirits and was meant well, so I will not pursue the matter.
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Champagne): The Hon. Member for Regina West.
Mr. Benjamin: The hon. gentleman sitting beside my colleague rose a little while ago and complained that the Hon. Member who had just finished his speech was not present for questions and comments. Then this hon. gentleman rose and proceeded to direct comments, and I presume that they were comments to me. The Hon. Member did not need to use up the whole 10 minutes. He can make his own 20-minute speech.
I wish to respond to the remarks of my hon. friend who stated that the NDP always posed as the great moralists who are always right. Like everyone else, I hate people who say, “I told you so”. I cannot stand them. Therefore, I will not say it. It is not something that we are saying now in hindsight; we are not curling behind the glass. This is not hindsight, it is what we stated in October, 1970. Of course our caucus was divided. I believe there were two members of the Conservative caucus who also voted against the War Measures Act. We all knew that there were many members of the Liberal caucus who were very unhappy with the invocation of the War Measures Act. We tried to encourage them to have more courage of their convictions.
In any event, all I can say on that matter is that we felt then deeply, and just as easily we could have been wrong as we turned out to be right. I am not denying that. You have a position, you take it, and you take your chances. History will judge.
To the everlasting credit of a former Hon. Member of this place, whom I considered to be one of the finest human beings to ever grace this Chamber, one of God’s gentlemen and a real humanitarian, the former Leader of the Conservative Party, Robert Stanfield, who, even though he was unhappy about the desires of the overwhelming majority of his caucus, acceded to their wishes. But within a year or two of no longer being a Member of this place he had the grace and the humanity to say that of all the things that occurred during his tenure as Leader of the Official Opposition, he wished that he had done as Tommy Douglas did in October, 1970, and I will leave it at that, Madam Speaker.
Mr. Simon de Jong (Regina East): Madam Speaker, I too wish to participate in this very important debate. Unfortunately, this debate has not received much press, public attention, or very much attention in the House. We have debated it for a while, but it certainly does not seem to be on top of people’s agendas. Yet it is extremely important legislation, because surely in some ways how we are judged as a country is reflected by it.
First, I wish to congratulate the Government for bringing in a piece of legislation that will replace the War Measures Act. The War Measures Act was introduced at the beginning of World War I. It was found to be quite unacceptable to most Canadians, yet the ability and the opportunity to change or amend it never came forward. Despite former Prime Minister Trudeau having stated publicly on several occasions that the War Measures Act had to be replaced, that it was wrong for such tremendous powers to be placed in the hands of any Government, he failed in his long tenure as a Prime Minister to indeed bring forth the needed changes.
I do wish to commend the Government for taking this important step and fulfilling an important promise that it had made.
With a piece of legislation that gives tremendous emergency powers to a Government, great care must be taken with the type of powers that a Government is given over its citizens in times of emergencies. First, we must be concerned that the term “emergency” itself is properly defined; that the legislation has a very clear definition of what is meant by an emergency. We must be concerned that the powers that the Government takes upon itself and therefore takes away from its citizens are not abusive and will not be abused.
When we give this type of power to a Government, the nation and our civilization stands on the edge of falling into the abyss of a dictatorship with the very emergency powers that are called upon to attempt to protect us. There must be great consideration given that in the name of defending democracy we do not destroy it; that in the process of defending civil liberties and the rule of law we do not destroy them. That is why legislators are called upon to exercise great wisdom and care in drafting legislation that is needed in times of emergencies.
I underline the word “needed” because certainly there will be instances when emergency powers are needed by Government. We know that living in this day and age, not only will natural phenomena occur, for instance, tremendous storms, dust or drought, and various other natural disasters, but with modern technology there are man-made disasters.
There was the pesticide chemical plant in India and the melt-down in the nuclear plant in the Ukraine. Given modern technology and its power, a disaster can occur that would endanger the lives and well-being of thousands of citizens. In fact, when we talked about nuclear energy as the melt-down started in the Ukraine, we know that the radiation emitted from that plant was endangering the well-being of the globe. Because of modern technology, we do face those crises that endanger our global village.
In those circumstances, it is necessary for Governments to be able to act decisively and with speed; to be able to move and direct people and bring forth manpower without proper appropriation from Parliament and, at times perhaps, without care for due process because the well-being of the community at large, whether it is a village, a city, a province, a nation or the globe, is at risk.
I wish to warn again that, in drafting the type of legislation that gives that emergency power, great care and wisdom must be exercised. As various of my colleagues have pointed out, we have found the legislation brought in by the Minister of National Defence (Mr. Beatty), Bill C-77, to be wanting. We have major concerns, for example, that the reference that once the Government assumes any emergency powers, those powers shall be referred to Parliament within a certain period of time and passed by Parliament. This also means that it must be passed by the Senate. Is the Government serious in giving this extra power to the Senate, an unelected body? I urge the Government to rethink this provision and to consider seriously amendments in committee.
Four basic classes of emergency are described in the Bill. Each one is more severe than the previous one. The first one is an emergency based on public welfare—natural disasters, the outbreak of contagious diseases, man-made disasters, et cetera. The Government will be given the power to order persons. In other words, part of the possible interpretation of the emergencies power under public welfare is that an interruption in the flow of central services can be considered an emergency. This can be interpreted as giving the Government the power to break a legal strike or to use the legislation against strikebreakers.
I was encouraged to hear the Minister of National Defence (Mr. Beatty) state that that was not the intention of the Government. He indicated that the Government would seriously consider amendments to this section to ensure that the Act would not be used against a legal strike. I take the Minister at his word and I hope, when the legislation comes back from committee, that this section will be properly corrected.
The second level of emergency is public order. This would be similar to what was used in the October crisis of 1970. The Government would assume emergency powers at the appearance of an outbreak of civil unrest or civil disorder.
We also have some problems with this section. In part, the “threat to the security of Canada” definition comes from the Act which created CSIS. In terms of the record of CSIS, know that it has some difficulty from time to time being able to differentiate between legitimate and illegitimate protests. We are also concerned that the public order emergency provision might be used against legitimate protests or legitimate opposition to government.
Another concern is that the Act, taking the section from CSIS, would allow action on the part of the Government in a situation where there might be economic or political unrest in some area of the globe that it deems to be of vital interest not only to Canada but to a major ally of Canada. In such a situation the Government could use its emergency powers under the section dealing with public order emergencies to impose the Emergencies Act.
We could interpret that in such a way that indeed it would open the door to the Government imposing the Act at any time. I remember debating this point when the previous Liberal Government established CSIS. We in this Party—and I believe it was the case with members of the Conservative Party at that time—found this section wanting. We are facing a major global challenge with the outbreak of hostilities between Iran and Iraq. These potential hostilities certainly threaten the economic well-being of the United States, a major ally of Canada. In that event would the Government, under this section, impose these emergency powers? It does not seem to make much sense.
Another area of concern that we find unacceptable is that persons affiliated with a group which advocates the use of violence in another country could conceivably have their basic liberties and freedoms removed under this Act. As some of my colleagues have pointed out, the Secretary of State for External Affairs (Mr. Clark) and the Prime Minister (Mr. Mulroney) have met with representatives of the African National Congress. The National African Congress certainly advocates the use of violence to overthrow the racist regime in South Africa. We could think in terms of the President of the United States who addressed us and attempted to justify his support of the Contras. Certainly the Contras are involved in the use of violence to overthrow a legitimate regime, a legitimate Government. Perhaps, had this Act been in power, the President of the United States might have been arrested when he came to Canada.
Of course the President of the United States will not be arrested and our Prime Minister will not be censured for meeting with members of the ANC. It is ridiculous to assume that they would be. However, the point we are trying to make is that the Act would allow for that interpretation. We are asking the Government to tighten the interpretation so that major powers would not be used in an illegitimate way.
We have other concerns. The greatest level of power will be given to the Government under the section dealing with war emergencies. In essence, Cabinet will have carte blanche to do anything it wants to do. It is no different from the War Measures Act.
These are some of the concerns of my Party. I am happy to hear that the Minister of National Defence has expressed interest in our concerns and has sounded as though he would accept some of our amendments.
I hope the Minister would also give serious consideration to the area of compensating people who might have lost property, their civic liberties, or income during an imposition of the Emergencies Act. We are concerned that in this area where expropriation can occur it will be up to Cabinet to set the limits of compensation. It will be up to Cabinet to determine arbitrarily whether there will be any compensation whatsoever. As well, there will be no appeals to the courts, just an appeal to a person appointed by Cabinet as an assessor.
I think history has taught us that this is wrong in terms of the Japanese Canadians who were wrongfully treated under the War Measures Act at the outbreak of World War II. They lost property and economic opportunity. Under the War Measures Act they did not have legal opportunity to obtain compensation for this wrongful act. I think everyone in the country now recognizes that it was a wrongful act. Let us make certain that these wrongful acts will not happen in the future. Let us make certain, if they are applied in a wrongful way, that those people will have a chance of getting compensation for the wrongs committed to them.
When one thinks of the history of Canada one thinks of the Japanese Canadians and the October crisis of 1970 which should surely have taught us all some lessons. It is so easy in the name of national emergency to trample on the individual freedoms and rights of people. It is my belief that a country that cherishes its democratic tradition, freedoms and individual civil liberties would take great care to ensure that in the defence of those freedoms and liberties it does not destroy the freedoms and liberties of its citizens and others. That is why again I repeat that a great amount of wisdom is needed. In times of national emergencies there is a tremendous groundswell of public opinion by the majority wanting quick, decisive action. It is a wise government and wise legislators who are able to say no, that the preservation of individual rights and freedoms must be fully considered.
We heard earlier today from the Hon. Member for Saint- Denis (Mr. Prud’homme) stating that during the October crisis 80 per cent of the population wanted action. That must have been very difficult for legislators in this House to deal with. After all we are political animals. We do read our mail, and when 80 per cent of our constituents tell us to put this violence that was occurring in Quebec down and to put it down fast by giving consent to the War Measures Act, it was very difficult to stand up for one’s own feelings and one’s own sense of what is right.
Mr. Benjamin: In the face of hysteria.
Mr. de Jong: As my hon. colleague from Regina West (Mr. Benjamin) has stated, in the face of hysteria.
In addressing Bill C-77 today I wish to pay tribute to Members of this House. I understand that there were members of the Conservative Party who had misgivings. I understand that the Leader of the Opposition at that time had grave misgivings and there were numerous government Members who had grave misgivings about the measure. A large number of my colleagues from the New Democratic Party were able, in the face of that hysteria, to stand up and do a very nonpolitical thing in expressing opposition to the measures being taken. I hope all of us as legislators in the future, if ever situations like that occur again, will have the courage to exercise our wisdom.
I urge the Government to consider amendments to the proposed legislation so that when this legislation is passed by the House it will have the support of all Members.
Mr. Prud’homme: Madam Speaker, I have listened with a great deal of attention to my esteemed colleague who has just spoken. It is always very difficult to talk about a subject that dates back so far. I agree with the Hon. Member that it took a lot of courage to vote against the measure. I agree that when hysteria hits the fan it is always difficult to make a decision. But I have to remind him that what was happening was happening in the Province of Quebec so the people in Quebec were right in the middle of the turmoil. This turmoil did not happen overnight. I am pleased to be still here today because it was an unbelievable debate, I admit that, and it was a terrible decision to take.
I have not looked at the speech I made in 1970 since then but I think I could repeat it today. I was not part of student life at that time. I was a leader in a way at many universities. I had in mind Kent University. My colleague is well aware of that. Kent University had a youth rebellion, a rightful one. I was a protector of American deserters and draft dodgers. It is written in many books in the United States what I did then, so I have no lesson to learn from anybody for having taken a tough decision then.
I do not know if the Hon. Members know the Van Doos in Quebec, but that regiment was given the task. I was afraid that if a student from my province had jumped on the military in Quebec, someone could have been shot. I repeat again that the agony I personally and others went through was terrible. I had a choice to make, being an elected person. My duty was to stop something that may take place, never knowing if the event would take place. If one does nothing and something happens one is forever sorry for not having acted. That was the agony many Members had to go through then. We will never know in our conscience if we were right. In our conscience some of us, as repugnant as it was, voted for the War Measures Act because we thought we were stopping something from taking place.
I just want to tell Hon. Members something before I sit down. Someone from my own family attended the meeting of the youth at l’aréna Paul Sauvé. They were being warmed up to go out in the streets. My relative called and said that they were about to go out in the streets. She was convinced that terrible events would take place. So I voted for the measure. The Member was very kind in saying that it was repugnant for some, but I noticed that all people from Quebec then voted for the measure.
Mr. de Jong: Could I have one minute before we recognize it being 5 o’clock, Madam Speaker?
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Champagne): The Hon. Member for Regina East.
Mr. de Jong: I thank my colleague, the Hon. Member for Saint-Denis, for his comments. I understand the internal turmoil and difficulty that he faced and which many faced at that time. I also remember the October crisis in 1970. I was in Vancouver working with a youth agency. We had a mayor called Tom Campbell who wanted to impose the War Measures Act against the Georgia Strait, against the organization I was working for called Kool-Aid as well as against a number of other people. Had people of the ilks of Tom Campbell had the power of the War Measures Act within their hands they would have thrown into jail hundreds of young people who were involved in legitimate, democratic organizations. That showed me how power in the wrong hands could have done
tremendous harm to the democracy, the freedom and the rights of ordinary Canadians.
Mr. Prud’homme: The Hon. Member is right.
Mr. de Jong: Living in the late 1960s and early 1970s was a period of tremendous social upheaval and unrest. I predict in this day and age that there will continue to be periods of tremendous unrest. We are living in tremendous social, economic, cultural and psychological changes. Pieces of society do not fit in as nicely as they did before. The social glue that has held communities, families, and societies together is dissolving in many ways. I am afraid that it will be an easy cop-out to use the Draconian powers of a War Measures Act to impose order while what is needed is the freedom and wisdom to allow for organic changes and searches for solutions to the problems which society faces today.
The constant fear I have is that as we are thrown into tumultuous changes in our lifetime the forces which fear progress, the future, and change, will use these powers to impose a political order that will be unacceptable and, of course, anti-democratic. They will do it all, of course, in the name of preserving democracy. That, unfortunately, is the greatest fear I have for this legislation.
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Champagne): Is the House ready for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Question.
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Champagne): Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Some Hon. Members: No.
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Champagne): All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.
Some Hon. Members: Yea.
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Champagne): All those opposed will please say no.
Some Hon. Members: No.
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Champagne): In my opinion the yeas have it.
And more than five Members having risen:
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Champagne): Call in the Members.
The House divided on the motion (Mr. Beatty) which was agreed to on the following division:
(Division No. 292)
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Champagne): I declare the motion carried.
Motion agreed to, Bill read the second time and referred to a legislative committee.
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