Alan Tonks, the MP for York South–Weston has had a busy week in Parliament. Most of what he said was good: he spoke out against email spam and in favour of protecting immigrants from predacious ‘consultants’.
It is all the more worrying, then, that he spoke in favour of imprisoning people never found guilty of a crime.
Bill C-17 would allow the police to force people who may have foreknowledge of a terrorist act to appear in a hearing. While this doesn’t sound intimidating, a hearing differs from a trial in two important ways: the individual has no protection from self-incrimination, and he can be sentenced to up to 12 months in prison for refusing to testify.
A twelve-month “preventative” sentence for maintaining the right to silence is appalling. The detainee will have not have even stood trial, let alone been found guilty.
Tonks brought up the Air India trial, in which Inderjit Singh Reyat “lied or, by omission, circumvented the judicial proceedings”. Tonks wondered whether it wasn’t important for “legislators to find a way that would make the law capable of dealing with that kind of deliberate circumvention of judicial process”.
The law has a method for dealing with liars on the stand. It is the charge of perjury. Reyat was found guilty of it, and will be sentenced in November.