Third reading of Bill C-70, Countering Foreign Interference Bill—Amendment by Senator Woo

By: The Hon. Pierre Dalphond

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Hon. Pierre J. Dalphond: I will say only a few words. Just to make some additional statements, though I agree with Senator Gold on all he said, including on the very relevant comments that were made by Senator Woo, which I respect very much.

What he said could be true in a different context, but we have to remember here that this bill could not lead to McCarthyism. Joseph McCarthy was running a United States Congress committee that was politically judging people who were charged with being communist, who were close to communism or who were sharing views that were considered to be communist views.

Here we are creating offences that will be dealt with by the Crown office that will have to charge somebody before a court of law. The accused appear before a judge — a woman or a man of certain qualifications who has to act impartially and not in the pursuit of political gains or opposing political enemies or political wins. We should not compare; there is no danger of McCarthyism here. I think this is, unfortunately, an overreach comment.

The second point I want to make is that “in association with” is not a new concept. It is a concept well-known to the criminal law. It is found in many places in the Criminal Code, and it was very useful to have in the fight against gangs, especially in Quebec with the biker gangs.

The term “in association with” is also used in the Security of Information Act , which is the first amendment that is on the list of proposed amendments, where the words “in association with” has been found since 2001. What the bill has been amended is to add intimidation to the provision but not the concept of “in association with.” This is not something new. This is something that has been there for 25 years, so far without a problem.

That said, my third and last comment is about the words “in association with.” As Senator Woo referred, very properly, the Supreme Court of Canada had to look at this concept in an appeal from the Court of Appeal of Quebec in 2001. The Supreme Court disagreed with the Court of Appeal of Quebec. I was not part of the panel, incidentally, but the court disagreed with the Court of Appeal of Quebec on one point: the definition of “in association with.” It was about biker gangs.

Just to summarize, that judgment reached exactly what Senator Patterson was aiming at. At paragraph 43 of the Supreme Court decision in Venneri which was unanimous and written by Justice Fish, a former colleague of the Court of Appeal:

The phrase “in association with” should be interpreted in accordance with its plain meaning and statutory context. It is accompanied here by the terms “at the direction of” and “for the benefit of.

That is exactly the same situation we have here.

These phrases are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, they have a shared purpose and will often overlap in their application. Their common objective is to suppress organized crime.

Here it is to suppress foreign interference. To this end, they especially target acts that are connected to the activities of foreign organizations and advance their interests. To this end, they especially target offences that are connected with the intent to interfere in the political process in Canada.

In my view, we should trust the system. I trust the courts. I trust what we are trying to do here. It is nothing new. I believe this: When the words “in association with” are read with “under the direction of” and “to the benefit of,” in the context of the bill they are clear: it is about foreign interference.

You have to read all these things together. I know Senator Woo doesn’t have to believe me all the way, and he is not paying me, so I’m giving free advice. Free advice is always worth the price you pay for it, but I’m giving the advice that I’m not concerned, and I will vote against the amendment and vote for the bill.

Senator Woo: Thank you. That was very helpful, Senator Dalphond. I see you believe in the importance of preserving the phrase “in association with” when it comes to the Criminal Code fighting against terrorists, gangs and so on, and you make a good point. I have already mentioned that the new offence of political interference is trickier because it’s about surreptitious and deceptive behaviour. It’s not about participating in the political process, but the case of Part 4 of the bill is even more egregious because the FITAA, which also uses the phrase “in association with,” is not about criminal activity. It’s about legitimate activity that people are required to register for. Would you feel differently about removing “in association with” from just Part 4?

Senator Dalphond: Are you suggesting I provide a subamendment to your amendment? In your speech, you referred mostly to the Criminal Code and the fact that people will go to jail and will be charged under the Criminal Code of very serious offences, so I’m addressing that concern about criminal law.

Regarding the other part of the bill, which is creating this new registry, if people have any doubts, I understand that the mandate of the commissioner will be to provide information and guidelines. I think this is maybe a new avenue that will have to be explored, and perhaps some people will have to register because they act in association with a foreign state for the benefit of that foreign state. But to visit Taiwan on a paid trip is not to act for the benefit of or in association with Taiwan, as you referred to in your speech. If you go to Israel on one of these paid trips, or to Taiwan — I did last year — you have to report it. It has to be disclosed to the Senate Ethics Officer and put on the website so that it is known to the public, to everybody.

The purpose of the registration in the proposed act is to make public what otherwise would be hidden from public view. It is not to prevent someone from saying, “I believe the French government is absolutely right on this policy, and I want to fight for it and I think it should be in Canadian law.” Yes, I could do that, but if I do it under the direction of or for the benefit of the French government, I should disclose it. It doesn’t prevent me from doing it; it just requires me to make it public.

What is the net and who should register — that’s the second part of your question — is an interesting question, but I won’t opine on that one. I’ll wait for the Supreme Court to give me guidance. Thank you.

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