Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee
Bill S-215, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (suicide bombings)
    The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill S-215, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (suicide bombings), as reported (without amendment) from the committee.
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The Acting Speaker (Ms. Denise Savoie):  
    There being no amendment motions at report stage, the House will now proceed without debate to the putting of the question on the motion to concur in the bill at report stage.
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Mrs. Kelly Block (Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, CPC)  
     moved that the bill be concurred in at report stage.
     (Motion agreed to)
[English]
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Mrs. Kelly Block  
     moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.
    She said: Madam Speaker, I wish to speak briefly in support to Bill S-215 for what I hope will be the last time.
    The bill has a long history. Bill S-215 was preceded by four earlier versions, commencing as Bill S-43, which was introduced in 2005 by Senator Grafstein.
    Today, after Senator Grafstein’s retirement, Bill S-215 is sponsored in the other place by Senator Frum, and I have the privilege of sponsoring it in the House.
    Bill S-215 is a short bill, but it has a very important purpose, and that is to denounce the barbaric practice of suicide bombing as a form of terrorism, an act which is contemptuous of the most fundamental values that Canadians hold dear, life, human dignity, liberty and security. The bill proposes to add a for greater certainty clause to the definition of terrorist activity.
    By enacting this clause, Parliament would achieve three results. It would specifically denounce suicide bombing as a particularly heinous form of terrorist activity. It would help to educate Canadians that suicide bombings that are designed to kill or cause harm in the context of terrorist activity are acts of terrorism to be abhorred, not praised. Perhaps most important, Canada would show leadership to the world, since, to my knowledge, no other country has specifically referred to suicide bombing in their legal definitions of terrorism.
    The bill has been carefully considered by both houses of Parliament and appropriate amendments have been made accordingly. It is time to pass the bill and I would strongly urge all members of the House to support its passage.
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Mr. Jim Maloway (Elmwood—Transcona, NDP):  
    Madam Speaker, the member is absolutely correct. In my time in politics, I have never seen a bill that has been supported unanimously by all parties in an assembly but has taken five years to get to this stage. In June, we were dealing with the issue of pardons for Karla Homolka and we managed to unanimously pass measures within a day and a half in this House that dealt with the issue.
    One of the important parts of this bill is that we are attempting to actually punish the organizers, teachers and sponsors of suicide bombing operations because, in my view, they are the real cowards. They will promote it, encourage families to get involved in it and finance it, and they will build the explosives but are not willing to put on the vest and carry out the act themselves.
    Could the member explain briefly how this bill would serve to get at the organizers, teachers and sponsors?
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Mrs. Kelly Block:  
    Madam Speaker, the member is absolutely correct. This bill would enable prosecutors to prosecute those who seek to educate, train and encourage individuals to commit these heinous acts.
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Mr. Jim Maloway:  
    Madam Speaker, I think the member would probably agree with me that suicide bombing is already covered under the Criminal Code. In fact, by passing this bill we will not only be establishing ourselves as a leader, the first nation in the world to specifically deal with this as a Criminal Code issue, but this should give leadership, at least on the part of Canada, to other jurisdictions in the world to perhaps look at doing the same sort of measure.
    While we have not had a history of suicide bombing in this country yet, it is possibly only a matter of time before we do. We could have looked at England 20 or 30 years ago. People would have been shocked if they had realized what the future of that sort of activity was to become in England. People would not have believed it in 1970, right? We saw all the different activity we had there.
    Would the member please expand on whether she believes it is a possibility that those activities could come to Canada?
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Mrs. Kelly Block:  
    Madam Speaker, absolutely. I think 9/11 demonstrated to North America and to all the world that we could be very vulnerable in terms of these kinds of violent attacks. I do believe that by passing this bill we would be showing leadership to the world and that other jurisdictions would then follow our lead and be willing to pass similar legislation.
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Mr. Brian Murphy (Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, Lib.):  
     Madam Speaker, I rise today with great pleasure to speak to Bill S-215.
    The bill owes its origin to Senator Grafstein, who has since left the Senate and who has contributed so much to Canada in terms of its reputation abroad, internationally, through his great work on various United States-Canada committees and his great leadership in the Senate on issues of international human rights. What better way for us to honour his work than to talk about Bill S-215 today. Although he has left the Senate, his rather gravelly, loud and irresistibly strong voice can be heard in this chamber by echo today because this was his baby.
    It is important for us to start out with a framework. These terrorism sections that were instituted in the Criminal Code, or passed into law in part II.1 Terrorism, came into effect in January 17, 2002. We were, as Canadians, reacting to the horror of 9/11. We were looking at the loopholes and in fact at the complete vacancy of legislation in this area and, as parliamentarians, we all came together and enacted section 83.01 and so on. It bears saying that the sections are quite complete. There are some three pages in the Criminal Code that define what a Canadian is, what an entity is, what a listed entity or scheduled terrorist entity is and what a terrorist activity is.
     It is interesting that in that list of items that constitute terrorist activity is not the term “suicide bombing”. So that is what this bill attempts to do. It would not create a new offence. it is not saying that there was nothing in the field before. It is saying that we had better identify suicide bombing by the specificity that we know in common parlance where it to be.
    Why is the bill important then? A study completed in 2005, three years after this terrorism part of the code was enacted, conducted by Scott Atran, in the United States, declared that:
    Suicide attack is the most virulent and horrifying form of terrorism in the world today. The mere rumour of an impending suicide attack can throw thousands of people into panic.
    It is a growing phenomenon. In the 1980s, there might have been five suicide attacks per year. In the 1990s, there were on average 16 attacks per year. Then, in the five year period between 2000 and 2005, there were an average of 180 attacks each year. It is a growing problem.
    There will be some disagreement, perhaps, maybe even in the courts, as to whether the current definition of “terrorist activity” catches “suicide bombing” any way and whether this is superfluous and, in terms of vagueness, not legal.
    However, I think our language is something like a tree that grows with time. I think even though the term “suicide bombing” is not defined in the Criminal Code, it certainly is a common word or phrase that we all know it when we see it. It is such a recent growing phenomenon that we need to lay tracks in the Criminal Code to recognize it.
    In addition to paying homage to Senator Grafstein, I also want to pay homage to another great Canadian, Justice Reuben Bromstein, who is now head of an organization called Canadians Against Suicide Bombing. Judge Bromstein said that this bill, if passed into law, would:
…help build and strengthen the consensus in Canadian society on this issue; it will serve as a clear deterrent for those among us who might not be committed to this consensus; and it offers an opportunity for Canada to take the lead and send a message to further international commitment [to outlaw suicide bombing].
    Canada would be the first country to include a specific reference to suicide bombing in its criminal law. That would make us a leader in an era when Canada is finding its way in international relations, to say the least.
    Justice Bromstein went on to state:
…that the term “suicide bombing” is in common parlance. …[it] triggers an instantaneous response in your head. You do not have to describe it. People know what it means.
    This should allay the concerns of all courts of this country that when they see a suicide bombing, they know it is included as a terrorist offence under section 83.01 of the Criminal Code which says that terrorism shall be attacked by the Canadian justice system.
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    I want to render homage, as well, to the government of the day and the justice ministers of the day who recognized that this was a clear and immediate need within the Criminal Code and acted with lightning speed compared to how we get criminal legislation and Criminal Code amendments done in this era of minority Parliaments.
    I think we would all agree that this is a very important bill. We all want to listen to the importance of it, too, because it makes Canada a leader in defining what a suicide bomb is.
    In homage, again, to justice ministers, to Senator Grafstein and Judge Bromstein who went on to say that passing this legislation would send a signal about our values domestically, that we are a mixed society and that we cannot justify martyrdom to legitimize it.
[Translation]
    The concern has been raised that including this expression in the Criminal Code will mean that acts not usually considered to be terrorist acts will fall into that category in future. For example, someone who commits suicide by detonating a bomb in a vacant field will be labelled a terrorist.
    When the bill was drafted, care was taken to avoid expanding the definition of what constitutes a terrorist attack; the current definition was fine-tuned. Thus, someone who commits suicide by detonating a bomb on vacant land will not be covered by the definition of suicide bombing.
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[English]
    The reaction from stakeholders has been positive. The RCMP approves of the amendment to the Criminal Code and feels that it would be very much a useful tool for it. It is not just senators, justice ministers, parliamentarians and the RCMP who agree with the bill. We also have words of encouragement from the legal profession and the legal teaching profession.
    The dean of Osgoode Hall Law School, Patrick Monahan, who was very supportive of the legislation, had this to say in three points. First he said that Parliament should adopt the bill because it would signal Canada’s unequivocal condemnation of suicide bombing as the most virulent and horrifying form of terrorism in the world today.
    His second point was that the phenomenon of suicide bombing has risen dramatically, as I have said, since 2001. Thousands have been killed and tens of thousands have been wounded in these attacks. Suicide terror, which a decade ago was relatively rare, has become a global reality.
    His third point was that there is ongoing debate over the motivations and the psychology of suicide bombers. Evidence suggests that suicide bombers regard martyrdom for the sake of global jihad as life’s noblest cause. Today’s suicide bombers are increasingly as willing and eager to die as they are to kill.
     We, in a civilized society, need to really give that some clinical care and observation. A person who is willing to kill himself, equal to or more than others, to further his or her aim is indeed a very dangerous individual who can change our society. That is why we must support this bill and this amendment to the Criminal Code which grows on the good work done by previous parliamentarians in addressing terrorism.
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Mr. Jean Dorion (Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, BQ):  
    Madam Speaker, Bill S-215, which has been introduced in the House under various titles since 2005, should have been passed back in 2005.
    Incidentally, it is a shame that the Senate, where the bill languished for some time, did not heed the opinion expressed by the Barreau du Québec, which wrote to the Senate to point out that the French version of the bill referred to attentat suicide, suicide attack, whereas the English version referred to suicide bombing. “Attack” is a much broader term than “bombing”. Other sorts of attacks could also be targeted by this kind of bill.
    That being said, I believe that everyone in the House should vote in favour of this bill. I know that members of my party, the Bloc Québécois, will do so.
    We never lose sight of the fact that, when the Conservative government introduces amendments to the Criminal Code, its main goal is not necessarily to reduce crime rates, but to gain an electoral advantage by pretending that the Conservatives are the only ones fighting crime. We know their tactics, but that should not prevent us from supporting valid measures.
    Getting back to Bill S-215, I think it can be summarized as follows: it would include suicide bombings or suicide attacks in the definition of “terrorist activity” and crack down on those who organize such attacks. We must not forget that those who organize such terrorist activities, the instigators, come out unscathed in most cases and use other people, some of whom are mentally unstable and some of whom are women or children. The instigators come out relatively unscathed because they have not, so far, been considered the perpetrators of these acts.
    Our support for the measure before us rests on the fact that the Bloc Québécois cares about keeping all Quebeckers safe and protecting them from terrorist activities and suicide attacks in particular.
    Suicide attacks carried out against civilian populations are barbaric and contrary to the values of the Quebec society we represent in the House and to the respect for life that all human beings should feel.
    Terrorist attacks have been carried out again recently in various places around the globe and we need to bring in legislation before any such attacks happen on Canadian soil. Suicide attacks have become a more important weapon for terrorist organizations. We have seen many such examples in Afghanistan and Pakistan recently. How could we forget the recent suicide car-bomb attack on the Indian embassy in Afghanistan that killed 17 people and injured 63?
    There have also been terrible attacks in Iraq that have killed hundreds and wounded hundreds more. Now there are reports that the Taliban is recruiting children to commit these attacks, thus turning them into kamikazes.
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    Even developed western nations are not safe from these attacks. Many will recall the terrible situation in France in 1986 when that country was forced to impose visa procedures for visitors from Canada, Brazil and a number of other countries. Not to mention the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, the terrible train attacks in Spain and the subway attacks in London, England. No country is safe.
    Accordingly, it is extremely important that we pass this bill. It should have been passed five years ago. The members of my party will therefore vote in favour of this bill.
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The Acting Speaker (Ms. Denise Savoie):  
    I just want to remind hon. members that there are no questions in this private member’s debate, unless the hon. member for Mount Royal was rising on a point of order.
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Hon. Irwin Cotler:  
    Madam Speaker, I wanted to enter a certain response in terms of what was being said.
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The Acting Speaker (Ms. Denise Savoie):  
    I am afraid there is no time allocated for responses.
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Hon. Irwin Cotler:  
    Madam Speaker, it is just a point of clarification and I will tell you what it is, because my colleague from the Bloc just said that this should have been enacted in 2005. I just want to say, and it will take me one sentence, I felt at the time that we did not need–
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The Acting Speaker (Ms. Denise Savoie):  
    I am sorry–
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Hon. Irwin Cotler:  
    I just want to say that I support the legislation as it now stands.
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The Acting Speaker (Ms. Denise Savoie):  
    I appreciate that. I believe that is part of debate and there is no opportunity for debate at this time.
    Resuming debate, the hon. member for Windsor–Tecumseh.
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Mr. Joe Comartin (Windsor—Tecumseh, NDP):  
    Madam Speaker, I was actually prepared to give a moment of my time to my colleague from the Liberal Party given the amount of work he has done on this issue over the years, but he managed to usurp that time in any event. I really should not be making a joke as this is a very serious piece of legislation.
    As I said earlier when I first saw this private member’s bill, because we have seen it on a number of different occasions, I had some serious reservations from the perspective of whether this in fact would accomplish anything. In that sense, it seemed to me that the existing provisions within the Criminal Code, including the provisions under the Anti-terrorism Act which are part of the code now, would cover the eventuality of someone conducting himself or herself in such a way that it would amount to a suicide bombing. I suppose that was the lawyer in me coming out.
    The real reason for passing this bill, and I believe my colleagues in the NDP are overwhelmingly, if not unanimously, in support of it at this point, should not be approached so much on a legalistic basis insomuch as it is the power of the House to express its denunciation of the conduct that is entailed when someone contemplates or commits an act of suicide bombing.
    We have heard from other speakers this evening and on other occasions of the prevalence of this tool. As far as I am aware, it has never been used in Canada but has been used quite widely in a number of countries around the world. Because of my contact with Sri Lanka, I think immediately of the use of it there repeatedly. In fact, there is a strong argument that it may have been the first time it was used certainly on a consistent basis by a rebel force in that country and used repeatedly to great sacrifice to that society with very many deaths and real tragedies. Of course we have seen its use in the Middle East on a number of different occasions. We have also seen it in parts of Asia. We have seen it used repeatedly now in Europe.
    I am speaking now as a parent. Many suicide bombers are young people convinced oftentimes by other family members or organizations they become involved with that are led by people who are much older, much more mature, and I use that term advisedly, but certainly in age they are older than the suicide bombers. Because they are convinced of the validity of the ideology, sometimes religious based, they are convinced that they have an obligation to perform suicide attacks.
    I say as a parent, it really is beyond my comprehension how adults, no matter how fanatical they are about the issue and the goal they are pursuing, can bring themselves to convince a young person, a teenager in some cases but oftentimes people in their early twenties, to take this conduct to the extreme of committing suicide and killing oftentimes many other people. It seems to me no matter what organization we belong to or goals we are pursuing, that we could never justify taking that route. Counselling a young person to perform that type of act is as reprehensible as one can imagine.
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    I speak both personally and on behalf of our caucus in saying that we support this legislation. This Parliament has a responsibility to express our outrage, and as I said earlier, our denunciation, of this conduct. This is our opportunity to perform that responsibility.
    In terms of speaking to the rest of the country, we have to be clear that this provision by itself would not prevent suicide bombings. We have to be very clear on that. In my mind this piece of legislation has no deterrent value.
    We can use this piece of legislation as a way for all of us to speak out against violence in general and this type of violence in particular. We can use it as a tool, an educational tool, a political tool, to say not only to the residents of Canada but to the rest of the world that this type of conduct is totally unacceptable, that we absolutely reject this type of conduct. This is a crime that calls for a determination of first degree murder. This conduct is as reprehensible as any conduct one could perform in our criminal justice system.
    I have to say again, and I am saying this mostly to the rest of the world, that some people may have contemplated using this technique in Canada but it has never happened. I am speaking to the rest of the world, and those parts of the world in particular where this type of conduct is prevalent, that Canadians generally live in a peaceful way.
    People in Canada come from all over the world. They have all sorts of faith backgrounds, ethnocultural backgrounds, ideological and philosophical backgrounds. In Canada, with very few exceptions, we have been able to live together in harmony and peace and with minimal violence. By passing this bill we would be saying to the rest of the world that it is possible to bring that kind of mix together, that broad multiculturalism that is Canada now. We would be saying to the rest of the world that it is possible to live in peace and harmony. We would be a model for the rest of the world. One way to do that is to pass this bill.
    I am quite supportive of this legislation. I hope that the rest of Parliament will unanimously support it, get it through to royal assent, and get it on the books. We could then speak to the international community with one solid voice. We could unanimously say that this is where the House of Commons and Canada is coming from, that this is how we addressed this problem. We would be telling the rest of the world that we are the model to follow.
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Hon. Irwin Cotler (Mount Royal, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, I want to enter for the record that when I was the minister of justice and attorney general of Canada in 2005, I was approached both by the then Senator Jerahmiel Grafstein and by Justice Bromstein to enact what is now Bill S-215 as law. My response then, and I acknowledge it now, to both of them was, “Why should we be enacting a law to criminalize a terrorist act that is already criminal under our anti-terrorist law?”
     Indeed, it appeared to me at the time that to seek to enact such a law would not only be duplicative of what already existed in the Criminal Code, but might send the wrong signal, as if this horrendous terrorist activity of suicide bombing was somehow not criminal under the law and that it was not as horrendous as I took it to be and regarded it then as already being criminal under the law.
    Today, for the record, I support this legislation. I support it for the reasons given by my colleagues from all the parties, for the representations that were then made by Senator Grafstein and by Justice Bromstein, who attuned me as to why it should be enacted.
    At this point, five years later, there are growing incidents of this horrific activity of suicide terrorism and a universalization of this phenomenon. The fact is, we are, as my colleague, Professor Dr. Walid Phares, put it with respect to anti-terrorism law and policy, “In a war of ideas with the terrorists”.
     Therefore, enacting such legislation is not only an important substantive act at this point, but an important symbolic act. It would send a message and state clearly and unequivocally that we regarded this as a barbarous act and crime against humanity. We in the House need to stand up, condemn it, enact it as law and take leadership internationally with respect to combatting this horrific form of terrorism. I regarded it as being criminal then, but this needs to be reaffirmed, reasserted and enacted as law now to give it specificity that it requires, as my colleagues have put it.
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Mr. Jim Maloway (Elmwood—Transcona, NDP):  
    Madam Speaker, I want to join with the previous speakers in support of the legislation and also take the opportunity to thank former senator Grafstein for his great work, not only on this issue but on a lot of other issues, when he was in the Senate. I had the privilege of meeting him when I was elected in 2008. I certainly do wish him well in his retirement. My only regret is we could not have passed the bill while he was still here.
    The fact is, as the previous speaker pointed out, this type of activity is already covered in the Criminal Code, but he is absolutely correct that once we make the move, once we take the measure of passing the bill, getting it through the House and the Senate, we will be the first country in the world to have taken this action. It is very important that we do this. While suicide bombings have been going on for many years, and I will get to that in a few minutes, they are actually increasing in numbers.
    For example, the number of attacks using suicide tactics has grown from an average of fewer than five per year during the 1980s to 180 per year between 2000 and 2005 and from 81 suicide attacks in 2001 to 460 in 2005. A number of years ago, Israel seemed to be one of the favourite targets of suicide bombers, but there are many other areas of the world where these types of attacks occur. We have attacks in Kenya, Lebanon, Pakistan and Bangladesh. There has been a lot of recent activity in the former Soviet Union.
    We have to come to grips with this. We cannot just ignore the problem and think that somehow it will resolve itself and go away. We can say, at this point, that there have been no attacks in Canada, but we know this will not hold forever. We can look at England in 1970. When I was hitchhiking around Europe, there was no indication of any suicide attacks or bombings until the conflict in Ireland caused all kinds of activities in England. There was the bombing of subway. I believe Lord Mountbatten was killed when his boat was blown up. This type of activity knows no political boundaries. It can move very quickly. It can happen anywhere.
     On the availability of the materials, I am told that Semtex, which is a very cheap explosive and I believe manufactured in Czechoslovakia, is widely available around the world and very easy to obtain. All one has to do is have cheap explosives available and people out there selling it to these terrorist organizations, combined with the fact that we have round-the-clock media. Twenty or thirty years ago, we did not have CNN on site around the world. It does not take a lot of imagination to know that a small terrorist organization that wants to get noticed and wants to get its message out there has a willing press that it can exploit. It has cheap explosives available.
    Some organizations have the financial wherewithal to help buy the materials, train the suicide bombers and take care of the families. A lot of people are involved in suicide bombing, and that is what is very good about this bill.
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    We are dealing with the promoters, the teachers, the inspirers of this type of activity. They are the real problem. They are the real cowards. They do not strap on the explosives and blow themselves up. They stay in the background. They are the people who recruit these poor kids, finance the families, brainwash them and convince them that they are going to become martyrs. Then they get them to blow themselves up on the basis that their families will be taken care of.
    It is about time we started to look into the financing of terrorism. It has taken the experience of 9/11 to finally have the American government make a concerted effort to look at terrorism financing and to start cracking the Swiss and other banking systems that have been the holders of banking secrecy, where this illegal drug money has been laundered for many years and where terrorism money is being laundered, as well.
    It has taken a long time for us to react positively to this situation. However, we are seeing some successes with the effort to crack the system of terrorist money flowing around the world. I think that will be a positive thing, too. However, in some respects it is a losing battle, because already we are seeing an expansion of this type of activity.
    I did want to indicate that this is something that has not just begun recently. I went back in history to look at some of the previous instances of terrorism. We had Dutch soldiers fighting for control of Taiwan in 1661, who used gun powder to blow themselves and their opponents up rather than being taken prisoner.
    However, most of the examples in history involved military people in military situations. We did not have the situations of innocent men, women and children in supermarkets and restaurants experiencing people who are civilians themselves, young people strapped with explosives, walking into a market or a restaurant and detonating a bomb, blowing themselves and everybody else up.
    In my view, this is a totally different situation from all the military examples throughout history that I could cite. There were the Japanese kamikaze pilots who we all learned about in school. Once again, that was a military situation. That was soldiers of one nation fighting a war. They were paid to do their job. At the end of the day, it is an extreme measure, but they flew those bombers into the ships in a last ditch effort to save their country.
    Once again, it is far and away a totally different situation than recruiting innocent people, brainwashing them and sending them out with explosives to kill more innocent people. That is an absolutely terrible situation. I do not see it getting any better over time.
    When we look at the situation involving airplanes, who would have thought that the 9/11 attacks would have happened? In retrospect or hindsight, it is easy to see how this terror was done and to wonder why it was not done earlier.
    Now we have a whole country, a whole world terrorized. Flyers are terrorized. We have tied ourselves up in knots, spending billions on security. At the end of the day, these terrorists have actually won. They have won something. They have managed to spread fear, and that is what their intention is.
    We have taken a step here today. I applaud what the member has done. Let us just get this bill through both Houses.
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The Acting Speaker (Ms. Denise Savoie):  
    Is the House ready for the question?
    Some hon. members: Question.
    The Acting Speaker (Ms. Denise Savoie): The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Acting Speaker (Ms. Denise Savoie): I declare the motion carried.
    (Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)