Canada, Senate Debates, “Emergencies Bill”, 33rd Parl, 2nd Sess (5 May 1988)

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Date: 1988-05-05
By: Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Canada, Senate Debates, 33rd Parl, 2nd Sess, 1988 at 3318-3319.
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On the Order:

Resuming the debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Kelly, seconded by the Honourable Senator Bielish, for the second reading of the 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.-(Honourable Senator Hicks).

Hon. William M. Kelly: Honourable senators, I wonder if I may have leave to respond a little more fully than I felt I did the other day to Senator Stewart’s questions after I moved the second reading of Bill C-77.

Hon. William J. Petten: Honourable senators, I will agree to that if the order remains standing in Senator Hicks’ name. He is travelling with a committee this week, but will be back next Tuesday.

The Hon. the Speaker: Is leave granted, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Senator Kelly: Honourable senators, my remarks will be very brief. Senator Stewart’s questions are recorded at pages 3258 and 3259 of the Hansard of April 28 and relate to the situation in the United Kingdom with respect to emergency legislation.

I tried to make two points in my remarks on emergency legislation in other countries, including the U.K. The first point was that, as a practical matter, because of past experience with our own War Measures Act, we do not really have access to federal emergency legislation to respond to anything less than a wartime situation or to an insurrection akin to a coup d’etat. As such, we are at a distinct disadvantage compared to every other western industrialized country, including the U.K.

The second point I tried to make was that the substantive and procedural civil rights safeguards proposed in Bill C-77 are as good as or better than those in analogous emergencies legislation in the U.K., Germany, the United States or Australia.

In direct response to Senator Stewart’s questions, let me turn briefly to my understanding of the current situation in the U.K.

Senator Stewart is correct in his assertion that the U.K. does not have on its statute books emergencies legislation analogous to the War Measures Act, and has not had any since the Second World War. Britain does have, however, on the shelf, as it were, a bill entitled Defence of the Realm Act, first passed in 1914, and the Emergency Powers Defence Act of 1939. Both acts were allowed to lapse at the end of hostilities after the Second World War. The government would have to bring forward these bills in response to a wartime situation or a pending declaration of war, and Parliament would have to approve them at that time. The Defence of the Realm Act and the Emergency Powers Defence Act, when in force, are analogous to our War Measures Act.

In addition, the British have in place emergencies legislation to allow a response to other types or “lesser” types of emergencies.

The principal statute dealing with peacetime emergencies is the Emergencies Powers Act, enacted in 1920 and substantially amended in 1964. Under this act, successive governments have drafted and revised comprehensive codes of regulations to deal with various types of emergencies under the act. Since 1964 the act has been invoked 12 times, each time in response to an industrial dispute.

The United Kingdom has had an unfortunate experience relating to domestic terrorism arising largely out of the Northern Ireland problem. In response, the British government revised and re-enacted in 1984 the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act and approved in 1978 the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act.

In addition, there are on the statute books what I would refer to as subsidiary acts giving the government power to respond to public order and, perhaps, other types of emergencies. These statutes include the Public Order Act of 1936 and the Reserve Forces Act of 1966.

Obviously, being a unitary state, the United Kingdom’s approach to emergencies does not have to deal to the same extent as ours with the role and function of other levels of government. Furthermore, the problems faced by the U.K. in scope and nature, particularly the terrorist threat, are also quantitatively and qualitatively different from those of Canada in many respects.

Honourable senators, I did not want to get involved in a discourse about the British emergencies situation. I have sent to Senator Stewart some papers that I have accumulated on the subject and would be happy to provide copies to any other senator who is interested.

Having done so, I think I have said enough. I thank Senator Stewart for his question and his interest, and I hope he finds my response satisfactory.

Hon. John B. Stewart: Honourable senators, the statement that Senator Kelly has made conforms to my understanding of the situation in the United Kingdom. As I indicated, the Defence of the Realm Act expired at the end of World War I and the Emergency Powers Defence Act, enacted in 1939,


expired at the end of World War II. So they have nothing on their statute books that is comparable to the Canadian War Measures Act, which has been on our books since 1914, when it was passed in approximately ten minutes in the House of Commons.

There is one point in what Senator Kelly has said that is a little hazy. I am sure he can clear it up in one or two sentences. Senator Kelly says that the United Kingdom bas the Defence of the Realm Act and the Emergency Powers Defence Act “on the shelf.” What does that mean? Does it mean that they can be brought back simply by an Order in Council, or does it in fact mean that their copies of the old statute have expired and the matter would have to be brought back into Parliament as a bill and enacted de novo?

Senator Kelly: Honourable senators, the last part of Senator Stewart’s statement is quite correct, they would have to be enacted anew. Perhaps the use of the words “on the shelf” was careless. What I meant to say was that the statutes are drafted. The time normally needed for drafting would in this case be saved. They could be brought forward in that form and passed, but they would have to be passed anew.

On motion of Senator Petten, for Senator Hicks, debate adjourned.

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