Mr. Speaker, I was hoping you were going to say 26, but I will try to get it done within 6 minutes.
Before question period I talked about how SIRC addressed the relationship between CSIS and the Communications Security Establishment. Certainly, their mandates are different and the review of their activities is carried out by different review bodies. However, they are very much alike in one regard: they work in compliance with the law as they carry out their mandates. CSIS has collaborated and will continue to collaborate with its partners to help protect Canada's national interests, consistent with its authorities. There is no question that two such organizations simply must work together to carry out these activities. The National Defence Act and the CSIS Act provide the authority for this collaboration to occur.
In today's complex global threat environment, national security must be a team effort if it is to succeed. This means that CSIS will work, has worked, and must work with many domestic partners, including CSEC. Both organizations are dedicated to protecting Canada and Canadian interests, and therefore must in many ways support each another while always respecting their distinct and separate mandates. Indeed, any and all activities are lawfully granted by the Federal Court and are directed only against those individuals who pose a threat. This is clearly specified in the CSIS Act, and Canadians should, and do, expect nothing less.
It is also important that we consider the evolving threat environment. This is a threat environment that did not use to exist, but now includes the prospect of Canadian citizens leaving the country for the purpose of engaging in terrorist activities while still wanting all the protections of Canada and its laws. Of course, that threat environment includes espionage and our economic interests, cybersecurity, et cetera. This is a threat environment that includes the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and is certainly an environment in which al-Qaeda continues to pose a very real threat to our safety and security, both at home and in many places around the globe.
Therefore, this is certainly a complex, multifaceted, and multidimensional environment. Through all of this, we rely on our intelligence community to help us prevent, to the extent possible, Canadians from travelling abroad to take part in terrorist activities. We also rely on them to provide us with information and advice that will help us protect our natural resources and our economy. There is no question that as they carry out their duties, there will be a continued and ongoing need for appropriate review.
While we certainly can continue to rely on the work of the various review bodies, our government will continue to explore options that would deliver continued, effective, and robust review and accountability of our national security activities. In other words, we should always be vigilant for improvement. However, what we will not entertain is a process that duplicates the great work already being done by officials in SIRC. Why would we simply add another bureaucratic level and added cost to give us the same results when we already have a competency in place? Therefore, rather than creating additional reams of red tape for those who work on the front lines keeping us safe, our government will continue to introduce new tools.
Our Conservative government passed the Combatting Terrorism Act, which created a new criminal offence for those who travel overseas to engage in terrorist activities. Shockingly, members of the House and the opposition voted against this very simple, common sense measure. Canadians know that our Conservative government can absolutely be trusted on matters of national security.
Mr. Speaker, as the member of Parliament for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, it is my pleasure to join the debate today.
As a Canadian Conservative, I view with alarm any development or operation of government that extends its reach into the daily lives of Canadians. Big government and faceless bureaucracies are the purview of the socialist, left-wing, left-of-centre governments and their supporters. It was Big Brother who implemented the hated long gun registry. Big Brother is responsible for forcing rural Canada, without consultation and at great cost to taxpayers, to accept industrial wind turbines in their rural communities. It is Big Brother who would be listening to private conversations.
I am pleased to assure my constituents in Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke that when it comes to the creep of Big Brother and big government, I will oppose anything that reduces their privacy and the privacy of all Canadians. Within limits, I will not, at the same time, compromise the safety and security of Canadians.
As the member of Parliament for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, which includes Canadian Forces Base Petawawa, I understand the importance of reliable intelligence in a dangerous world. This is particularly important when Canadian Forces personnel are sent overseas and put in harm's way. Our military require the proper intelligence to assess security threats. The women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces have a dangerous job. Let us make sure we do nothing to make it any more dangerous.
I thank the mover of today's motion for the opportunity to discuss the importance of the work done by the Communications Security Establishment Canada, CSEC, on behalf of the and all Canadians. In a perfect world, we would not need CSEC. However, it is a dangerous world, and in order to keep Canada safe, we have to keep one step ahead of those who would do us harm.
Canadians understand that CSEC was legislated by the mover of today's motion while his party was in power. Flawed legislation, Big Brother government, and not listening to the concerns of Canadians led to his party being reduced to third party status in the House of Commons.
If there were gaps or shortcomings in the way CSEC operated, as a right-of-centre Conservative, I would be one of the first to be critical. Under our Conservative government, CSEC respects and is bound by Canadian law, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Privacy Act, and the Criminal Code of Canada.
By law, CSEC can only undertake activities that fall within its mandate. CSEC fully respects these legal parameters and authorities under which it operates under the National Defence Act. CSEC cannot direct its foreign intelligence or cybersecurity activities at Canadians anywhere in the world or at any individual Canadian. CSEC is specifically required to apply measures to protect the privacy of Canadians in the execution of its foreign intelligence and information technology security activities.
CSEC may assist federal law enforcement and security agencies under their legal authorities, such as any applicable court warrant.
The independent CSEC commissioner, an esteemed retired or supernumerary judge, reviews all CSEC activities and has never found CSEC to have acted unlawfully. Among the former commissioners are Supreme Court justices and one chief justice of Canada's highest court. The current commissioner is the Hon. Jean-Pierre Plouffe, appointed on October 18, 2013. While he reports to the regarding CSEC's activities, he does not take direction from the minister, the government, or CSEC.
The office of the commissioner is independently funded by its own budgetary appropriation from Parliament. It is the CSEC commissioner who decides independently what activities will be reviewed. The resources of the office of the commissioner are comparable to other similar review bodies.
In order to review the agency's activities, the commissioner is supported by an expert staff. The office has 11 full-time employees and contracts additional subject matter experts as appropriate and when required.
The commissioner and his staff have full access to CSEC employees, records, systems, and data and have the power to subpoena if necessary. The resources of the commissioner are also solely focused on one organization.
Since 1996, the commissioner has regularly reviewed CSEC activities for compliance with the law and protection of privacy and has made helpful recommendations to improve CSEC's programs. In other words, the commissioner has a sharp focus on compliance with the law and the protection of Canadians' privacy.
The commissioner's findings and recommendations for each of the reviews he undertakes during the year are sent to the . The classified report is necessary to provide a full account to the minister while at the same time protecting sensitive operational information under the Security of Information Act. The commissioner also submits an annual unclassified report on his activities to Parliament.
In addition, the commissioner is also available to appear before Parliament at any time. He most recently appeared before the Senate Standing Committee on National Security and Defence in December to talk about his role. The commissioner spoke positively about his ability to fully review CSEC activities, his access to systems and staff, and the resources that are allocated to his office to undertake his important duties.
To date, CSEC has implemented all of the commissioner's recommendations related to privacy and is in the process of implementing recommendations from the most recent reviews.
If the commissioner encounters any activity that he believes may not be compliant with the law, he is obliged under our legislation to inform both the and the Attorney General, who will perform their own assessments of whether CSEC has broken the law. The commissioner also has a mandate to receive information from CSEC employees if they believe it is in the public interest to release special operational information about CSEC. This provides an avenue for employees to come forward with any concerns they may have without breaching the Security of Information Act. To date, no such complaints have been received.
To reiterate, the commissioner has never found CSEC to have acted unlawfully. In fact, he has specifically noted CSEC's culture of lawful compliance and genuine concern for protecting the privacy of Canadians. Like other departments, CSEC is subject to review by the Auditor General, the Privacy Commissioner, the Information Commissioner, the Commissioner of Official Languages, and the Canadian human rights commissioner. In addition to external review, CSEC's internal audit, evaluation, and ethics directorate also conducts regular reviews, and these reports are reviewed by an external departmental audit committee.
All of these forms of review help to reassure Canadians that CSEC and its staff respect and follow the law and protect the privacy of Canadians in performing the important roles in collecting foreign signals intelligence in addition to protecting the Government of Canada's important computer systems and networks.
CSEC's activities are also guided by legislation that was implemented through amendments to the National Defence Act in 2001. This legislation established CSEC's mandate in statute and included special measures to recognize the unique operating environment of CSEC.
Given the complex and global nature of cyberspace and telecommunications, CSEC's foreign intelligence and cyberprotection activities sometimes risk the incidental interception of the private communications of Canadians. This happens because there is no way to know in advance with whom foreign targets will communicate, including people in Canada.
The National Defence Act recognizes this. Under the law, and solely for the purpose of fulfilling CSEC's mandate to obtain foreign intelligence or protect Canadian networks, CSEC must obtain an authorization from the minister for any activity that may risk the incidental interception of private communications. These authorizations are valid for up to one year and are subject to strict conditions, which include measures to protect the privacy of Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, this is an important issue. Many Canadians are offended by the approach the government has taken in terms of protecting privacy.
Members will recall last year when a bill was introduced by the government. The government arguably wanted to snoop a little too much into the personal lives of Canadians all across our land. The resistance to that Conservative piece of legislation back in June was so significant that the government made the decision to let the bill die on the order paper, because it had offended so many Canadians with respect to the issue of privacy.
One would think that the Conservatives would be a little more sensitive to some of the reports related to privacy. Imagine being in the airport using Wi-Fi and finding out that it is being tapped into or monitored. I would argue that Canadians would be quite upset.
One must ask oneself what is actually being proposed. It is a very simple and straightforward motion that has been put on the agenda today by the Liberal Party:
That the House express its deep concern over reports that Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) has been actively and illegally monitoring Canadians and call on the government to immediately order CSEC to cease all such activities and increase proper oversight of CSEC, through the establishment of a National Security Committee of Parliamentarians as laid out in Bill C-551, An Act to establish the National Security Committee of Parliamentarians.
What has the Liberal Party actually done here today? One, we have recognized an issue that we believe Canadians are concerned about. We are asking all members of the House to provide input and share their thoughts on what we believe is a critically important issue, which is ensuring the privacy of Canadians.
Not only are we raising the issue, we are also coming up with a practical solution for the government if, in fact, it wanted to demonstrate that, like us, it is concerned about the privacy of Canadians. It is a constructive motion before the House today.
It is not as if the Conservatives would have to come up with their own piece of legislation. We have made reference to Bill , which already exists. In essence, that bill would make the law of Canada similar to what many other jurisdictions in the world are doing. I would suggest that it is something the government should be acting on.
I do not know why the Conservatives would oppose it. The member who spoke before me comes across as if she is against big government and does not believe that the government should be getting involved in these privacy issues. I do not understand why she would oppose the motion. The motion is trying to protect the privacy Canadians have and demand.
We talk about Bill , which the Liberal Party has had on the order paper for many months. What would it actually do? The bill would establish a parliamentary committee that would provide oversight of CSEC. That is the core of the legislation we are promoting.
What does that mean? At the end of the day, there would be elected officials from this House who would be responsible for ensuring that CSEC, among other things, actually follows the law to ensure that the privacy rights of Canadians are protected. What is wrong with that? The government cannot even argue from a cost perspective.
Mr. Speaker, I was so anxious to speak to the motion, I forgot to mention that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from .
We have 308 members. Actually, we will be increasing membership under the government. We will be spending $30 million-plus in tax dollars to increase the size of the House of Commons, so there will be more members of Parliament in the House. That is another debate for another day.
We have 308 members of Parliament today. We could designate a number of those MPs. I believe that the standard is ten. The cost would be marginal. The space for the meetings is already available at the House. Members of Parliament already have staff. There are apolitical analysts who are accessible. We could even look to the Library of Parliament. Cost is not an issue.
I would argue that it would be more cost-efficient than what we currently have in place in terms of overview. We have an office established and a judge, who I believe is actually part-time, to deal with this particular issue.
A House of Commons committee would meet on an ongoing basis. It is not as if it would be meeting twice a week during a session, even though, potentially, it could do that. It could be easily implemented.
I do not understand why the government is opposing what the Liberal Party is trying to encourage the government to adopt. The real benefit would be to Canadians.
Given the phenomenal amount of change occurring within technology today, whether Wi-Fi, GPS, or Internet, the technology that our security agencies have to snoop and spy, more than ever there is a need for parliamentary oversight. That means that elected officials in Canada would be able to guarantee that laws are not being broken and that the privacy of Canadians is being respected on this very important issue.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to participate in this very important debate. Let me say from the outset that I completely understand the need for Canada to have the appropriate balance in monitoring communications and collecting information that is important when it comes to our collective security.
I say that because several years ago, I was commencing a three-week international visitor program in the United States. My first day of those three weeks was in Washington, which happened to be the morning of 9/11, and thus began my three weeks throughout America. I learned a lot about security and the evolution of security thinking, and apparatus, on a continental and global basis.
However, listening to the government views on this, and I have listened intently now for most of the day, I would like to remind the House that a lot of Canadians are deeply concerned and troubled by this. I have an international airport, the Ottawa Airport, in my district. I have received many comments and questions about what is going on in that airport as people fly in and out of our national capital, including, by the way, 65,000 foreign officials each and every year.
This motion today is a simple one. For Canadians who are watching, listening, or reading, it means simply that we would create an all-party committee to oversee the activities of the Communications Security Establishment Canada. This would, of course, be in keeping with what is already happening in other jurisdictions. A similar committee exists in the United States. There is one in the United Kingdom. One is in place in New Zealand, and yet another is operating in Australia. We are talking about having a fixed number of MPs, sworn to absolute secrecy, who would play an important role in monitoring the activities of this particular organization's agency, to make sure that Canadians' collective paramount right to privacy is maintained and upheld.
As I listened to the government members respond to this, I was perplexed. Only several years ago, all parties in the House came together, in a report of 2004, and agreed to create an all-party committee. In fact, the government brought in legislation saying it would do precisely that. The today was a member of that committee, who spoke perhaps most strongly in favour of doing this. Therefore, why has the government flipped its views in this regard? We have seen, as I just explained, other jurisdictions that are doing this. They are our partners, working with Canada on a daily basis with respect to security matters. Why would the government resist this?
If I could sum up the government's position, it would go something like, “We actually want more secrecy, but we cannot say why because that is a secret”. That is what we heard the say today during question period when he was asked precisely about this question. His answer was that he could not say anything about this because it was secret. That is not reassuring for Canadians.
I have to ask, where are all the Conservative libertarians? Where are all the former police officers, the remaining lawyers, or the military officers in the caucus, who all swore an oath to uphold the rule of law? Can they categorically look at each one of their constituents and say there is absolutely nothing wrong going on here, when we know there are committee reports that say “Houston, we may have a problem”? They cannot say that. Where are those voices? What has happened to those people? What has happened to the caucus? It is deeply troubling to hear what the government is saying.
One would think that the Conservatives, and the in particular, would be in favour of improving oversight. Here is one reason as to why, one incident to justify why they might be in favour of that. Let us all harken back to the Iraq war. Let us harken back to the former leader of the opposition, now , writing an open letter to major American dailies in New York City and Washington, attacking the Canadian government for not participating in the Iraq war when the former prime minister Jean Chrétien made the fact-based decision not to participate in the Bush war.
In contrast, one would think, knowing what we know now about the fact that there were no weapons of mass destruction, despite the assertions by the entire security apparatus of the United States, and that it was a construct and a fiction foisted on the world, which decimated America's security reputation for the decade that followed—
Mr. Speaker, I hear the former minister of defence asking for an answer. Let me explain it for him. We would think they would have learned their lesson. They should be demanding more oversight. They should be demanding more information, as parliamentarians, so they do not, to put it in blunt terms, get sucker-punched again.
It is quite astonishing to hear the Conservatives say that this is not a positive step for Canadians who are concerned. He is a part-time commissioner, a former judge. I know lots of former judges. I am sure he is a good person. A part-time commissioner is overseeing this entire apparatus. What is wrong with having a group of MPs, sworn to absolute secrecy, to ensure this is properly monitored on behalf of the Canadians who elected us into this House to do the job?
I do not want to see ghosts here. Canadians are very fair-minded. However, because there is no real answer forthcoming from the government, no real rationale, except that it is all okay and all works just fine, Canadians are going to conclude that maybe there is something wrong here, that maybe there is something being hidden by the Conservative government. The voices previously, who spoke strongly in favour of this, are now all silenced. Former ministers of defence, current ministers of defence, and former ministers of justice, have all sworn to uphold the rule of law, and they all know better. There has to be a reason, because a man or a woman always acts for a reason.
I would like to hear from the Conservatives sometime today as to what the real reasons are here. Why are they resisting setting in place a no-cost measure? The is looking for low-cost or no-cost measures. Other than my bill to eliminate his partisan advertising, which is no cost, here is an idea that is no cost: set up a committee of well-meaning, good-faith, hard-working MPs from all parties to give Canadians assurances that their communications in an airport establishment, or elsewhere, are not being monitored and tracked. That is a reasonable ask by any party; it is a reasonable ask by any citizen.
Earlier we heard a parliamentary secretary ask why they did not do it when they brought in the bill and the construct years ago. Well, it is interesting. As President Clinton once said in a speech that I was privileged to hear, “knowledge is doubling” every 18 months. The pace of knowledge and the change in knowledge is actually accelerating. For any members in this House to think that the technology, then, is anything approximating the technology today, clearly they are not following trends. Back then we could not do a quarter of what we can do today, perhaps 10%. Given these changes and this rapid evolution of technology, it is incumbent on us to keep up with the times. One of the ways to do that is to have an all-party committee that can transcend time, so to speak, and follow these developments and be briefed on a regular basis.
What are the capacities of the agency now? No one here is attacking the agency, or the goodwill and the good faith of the people who are working there. I am sure we would all agree that they are motivated by the desire to do right by Canadians, to follow within the four corners of the statute that empowers them to do what they are doing. However, when Canadians hear about their communications being perhaps followed, monitored, and acted upon when they are inside airports, and the airport authorities reveal, as the Ottawa airport authorities revealed to me, that they knew nothing and have nothing to do with this, that is a problem.
For the life of us on this side, we cannot understand the resistance or reluctance of the Conservative government to ensuring that Canadians' privacy is paramount and that it is protected today and going forward.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
I rise today to speak in favour of the motion from the hon. member for , and I thank him for giving members of Parliament the opportunity of raising in this House of Commons, once again, the important issue of public oversight of Canada's intelligence activities.
Over the past year, we in the opposition have repeatedly tried to bring the need for action on this issue to the attention of the Conservatives, and each time we have been rebuffed. A number of very specific incidents over the past year have pointed to the need for Parliament to act to protect the privacy rights of all Canadians and to ensure that our national security agencies are acting within the law.
The fact that concerns have been revealed in a variety of ways, for me, only strengthens the arguments for action by parliamentarians as a necessary part of our role as elected representatives in a democratic system. It matters little whether the information has been revealed as part of access to information requests in Canada, through the revelations of the U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden, or through information revealed as part of court cases. What is important is the consistency of the problems identified.
We live in an increasingly wired world where each day more and more of our personal communication and personal business takes place through electronic means. It is a world where governments have acquired the ability to conduct surveillance on their citizens not even imaginable in the past.
Even if we narrow our concern to those agencies that deal strictly with public safety and national security, a central work that no one would argue should be neglected, Canada has grown a large number of arms to deal with this task: from the RCMP, CBSA, and CSIS, to an agency now within the Department of Foreign Affairs, to the Communications Security Establishment Canada or CSEC. We have an increasing number of Canadians employed in these national security functions, and they have increasingly sophisticated technology at their disposal. Yet, our legislation and oversight mechanisms have not kept up with these rapid changes so that we can be assured that protecting national security does not unnecessarily trample on our basic freedoms, including the right to privacy.
This is why last October the official opposition defence critic, the member for , introduced a motion calling for the creation of an all-party parliamentary committee to determine the appropriate oversight for Canada's national security and intelligence community. New Democrats have been raising this issue in letters to ministers and in questions in the House since the previous June, without receiving any substantive response from the government.
Unfortunately, the Conservatives rejected the idea of an all-party parliamentary committee, like the one we are considering today, and they have continued to engage in pretzel-like logic to explain away the obvious concerns about the protection of privacy and whether intelligence agencies are in fact operating within the law.
I am happy that the member for has resurrected an old Liberal motion dealing with the same issue, because it gives us a chance to ask the government to focus on solutions to this complex problem rather than on elaborate evasions. While I might differ on some of the details of this Liberal motion, I can support it as it would allow us to tackle the problem directly.
Now, of course, I do not expect the Conservatives to have a change of heart and suddenly reverse position and support this motion. The very fact that it is an opposition motion mitigates against that, as the government is not in the habit of adopting ideas from this side of the House no matter how practical and sound they might be. However, if the government will not listen to the opposition on this, it might listen to some others with expertise in the areas of national security and privacy, who are calling for the very same thing: improved parliamentary oversight of intelligence activities to ensure protection of basic rights and especially the right of privacy.
One person who many might be surprised to know agrees with the position of this motion is John Adams, the former chief of CSEC. He said in a rare interview last October that the secretive agency he headed for more than seven years needs more parliamentary oversight. He said in the interview that CSEC had deliberately kept Canadians in the dark about its operations and that the government needs to do more “...to make Canadians more knowledgeable about what the intelligence agencies are trying to do on their behalf”.
Ontario's Privacy Commissioner, Ann Cavoukian, said in two different interviews this month that action by Parliament is needed. She said:
It is really unbelievable that CSEC would engage in that kind of surveillance of Canadians. Of us.
I mean that could have been me at the airport walking around.... This resembles the activities of a totalitarian state, not a free and open society.
In another interview, Cavoukian also said:
Our silence on this is unacceptable as we are now vulnerable to both indiscriminate data collection and warrantless surveillance. The federal government needs to respond by ensuring that CSEC's surveillance powers are transparent and accountable so that our right to privacy remains protected. We can, and indeed, must have both privacy and security.
These are serious and stern warnings that ought to convince the Conservatives to take this issue seriously. I want to spend the remaining time I have left focusing on CSIS rather than CSEC, which has taken up most of the debate here today. I want to do that because of two very serious things that have happened with regard to CSIS, which are directly relevant to this debate about civilian oversight of intelligence activities. One of those is the weakening of accountability in CSIS resulting from the elimination of the inspector general of CSIS.
For a savings of just around $1 million, in 2012, the minister of public safety eliminated the independent officer within CSIS who was responsible for making sure CSIS operates within the law. The very person who reported to the minister on the activities that would guarantee to Canadians that our intelligence agencies are not breaking the law was eliminated by the Conservatives. Instead the Conservatives passed this responsibility on to the Security Intelligence Review Committee, a part-time body of ex-politicians whose last two chairs were forced to resign, one for conflict of interest and the other for fraud.
The second concern related to accountability and CSIS is very serious indeed. Last November in a written decision, Federal Court Justice Richard Mosley concluded that CSIS had withheld key information from the court when requesting surveillance warrants. The information withheld included the fact that CSIS was asking for assistance from foreign intelligence agencies to carry out surveillance that is clearly illegal under Canadian law if performed by CSIS.
This is the Federal Court of Canada saying that CSIS violated the law, and this incident raises the important question of what happens when a federal court concludes that CSIS was not operating within the law. What are the consequences? To this point, there are apparently none, but it also raises the murky question of the legalities of Canadian intelligence agencies co-operating with foreign intelligence agencies.
In its annual report last year, SIRC concluded that it had no power to look into those co-operating activities. It had no ability to examine whether co-operation with foreign intelligence agencies resulted in violations of Canadian law.
Of course, concerns about this trend toward a surveillance state are not just limited to the collection of information, but they also apply to its use. Therefore, not only do we need civilian oversight to ensure privacy rights are respected and that intelligence agencies operate within the law; but we also need to protect citizens against the misuse of information or damages resulting from false information.
Not only do some of our agencies lack basic oversight mechanisms, as is the case with both CSEC and CBSA, but they also lack any complaint or dispute resolution process. The no-fly list is a good example of a security measure based on intelligence collection activities that was clearly not envisioned by existing legislation or our institutional structures.
Some individuals clearly belong on such a list. I would never dispute that, but when individuals end up on the no-fly list incorrectly, they suffer a large penalty with no recourse. An all-party committee has suggested that this motion could play a useful role in finding fair solutions for those who wrongly end up on no-fly lists, while still protecting an essential tool for protecting the travelling public.
Seeing my time is drawing to a close, let me conclude by urging all members in the House to support actions like that proposed in the motion before us today. It is time for us to make sure that democracy catches up with technological and organizational change and, in doing so, to make sure that basic rights of Canadians are fully protected, both the right to security and the right to privacy. That is the challenge that we as parliamentarians are called upon to meet.
New Democrats are up to that challenge and if the Conservatives are not, as it appears from this debate today, then on this issue they will surely be called upon to explain themselves to their constituents in the coming election.
Mr. Speaker, this is a highly important debate that we are having in the House today and I greatly appreciate the opportunity to participate.
I want to thank my colleague for his eloquent speech. He expressed our concerns over what is currently happening at CSEC and how important national security is to the NDP. We have heard certain comments, and according to what the Conservatives keep saying, New Democrats are friends of the terrorists. We are here to defend Canadians' right to privacy, while ensuring that the necessary information and communications services and resources are in place to protect Canadians' national security. That is a tricky balance to achieve and that is why today's speeches are so important.
The latest revelations concerning the activities of Communications Security Establishment Canada are particularly troubling. For two weeks, in direct violation of its mandate and the law, CSEC allegedly spied on thousands of Canadian travellers at the country's airports by using the free Wi-Fi network at a major Canadian airport. CSEC was able to use the information gathered through mobile devices to track the movements of thousands of individuals, thousands of Canadians, for days after they left the airport.
There is nothing ambiguous about the current legislation governing CSEC's mandate, quite the contrary. The legislation explicitly indicates that Communications Security Establishment Canada has no right to spy on Canadians, period. The and the head of CSEC are using semantics to try to convince Canadians of the legality of their actions, which I frankly find deplorable.
For days now, they have been saying that no Canadian citizen was the target of surveillance, that Canadian communications were neither directly targeted nor collected, and that metadata are simply technical information that can legally be compiled. Such answers border on intellectual dishonesty and fool nobody. We know what metadata is composed of and all the information that people can get from those bits of data. Unfortunately, that information is too easily accessible through wireless networks and co-operation among various states around the world attempting to get more of this information.
In this case, we are talking about a pilot project. They were trying something on a large scale. Sure, they did not directly target Canadians, but that does not mean Canadians were not under surveillance afterward. We know that the activities of certain Canadians were tracked using information collected in airports. The 's attempt to nuance this whole thing is worrisome. This all borders on half-truths.
As I was saying, we know that metadata provides an incredible amount of information on individuals: who they talk to, when they go places, where they go, what kind of information they look up on the Internet and when. Collecting that kind of information is spying, pure and simple.
The can play with words as much as he wants, but Canadians are not fools. They know that their minister is not telling them the whole truth, even though it is his responsibility to demand accountability of CSEC and to ensure that Canadians' privacy is protected.
Canadians have every right to expect that our intelligence services carry out their activities in full compliance with the law and that the minister responsible for these services bring them back into line when they go too far. Last week, we found out that this is what happened in 2012. Unfortunately, the minister refused to honour his responsibilities.
The latest CSEC spying incidents, as revealed in the documents released by Edward Snowden, are the latest in a long line of Conservative government national security disasters. Since the summer of 2013, a lot of troubling information about CSEC's spying practices has come to light and many alarms have been sounded, but the government has done nothing. In June 2013, we learned that the former minister of national defence had authorized a program to track Canadians' phone and electronic communications by collecting their metadata.
Of course, the Conservatives first denied the fact categorically, and then they just refused to debate it in the House, despite the NDP's request to do so.
In August 2013, Justice Robert Décary stated that Canadians had been targeted by illegal spying practices. Once again, what has this government done to avoid such an attack on the rights and freedoms of the citizens of this country? It has done absolutely nothing.
Based on the information we are getting from a variety of sources, between October and December 2013, Canada conducted intelligence activities without any clear and strict rules. The Conservatives have been spying on Canadians, companies and foreign powers, and are now intercepting data over the wireless network of a major airport. I am talking about the incidents reported last week.
In light of all those abuses, what is the Conservative government doing to rectify the situation? Nothing, of course. The situation is even more worrisome since we know that the former minister of national defence said last summer that CSEC was not spying on Canadians. Could he rise in the House today and say the opposite is true?
The minister rose in the House and said that there was no spying, that CSEC was complying with the legislation and that the organization's culture respects the privacy of Canadians. However, more and more information is emerging and proving otherwise. Frankly, that is a concern.
This reflects the Conservative government's attitude. Just like with the Senate scandal and the F-35 affair, the government refuses to shed light on inappropriate and downright scandalous practices. The government refuses to shed light on the acts of espionage that it itself approved. Enough is enough.
It is clear that Canada is facing terrorist threats and that they need to be taken seriously. Not one of my NDP colleagues would argue otherwise. We all realize that measures must be taken to protect Canadians within our borders, and that this involves gathering intelligence. However, it cannot be done any which way. It requires oversight mechanisms and some form of accountability, which does not currently exist.
We are being told that commissioners and other individuals will independently review CSEC's activities, but as my colleague said, the reports that will be produced by those independent authorities will be reviewed by CSEC, which could delete any information that it deems to be a bit too inconvenient. The same problem keeps coming up: there is no accountability mechanism in place at this time.
National security must be a priority for every government. We agree on that point. However, it should not come at the expense of people's basic rights or privacy.
The various events that we have recently learned about clearly demonstrate that there is a dire need to monitor CSEC more closely. With that in mind, the NDP will be supporting the motion that was moved by the Liberal member for .
The motion is consistent with some of the demands put forward by the NDP in the past, in particular the creation of a special parliamentary committee on security and intelligence surveillance that would determine the most appropriate method of ensuring parliamentary oversight of intelligence policies, regulations and activities.
Of course, the committee that the NDP envisioned would not include unelected senators, nor would it allow the to withhold certain information from Parliament, as is the case with the Liberal Party proposal. However, this is a step in the right direction. That is why we will be supporting the motion before us today.
Defending Canadians' basic rights and their privacy is crucial to the NDP. It is what we have always done and will continue to do. My colleague from moved a motion before the Standing Committee on National Defence calling on the and the head of CSEC to appear before the committee to answer questions regarding their spying practices.
I hope the Conservative members of the Standing Committee on National Defence will support that motion and help us finally shed some light on the troubling events that were recently revealed.
Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the enthusiastic applause, particularly from the opposite side.
This is an important debate. I am glad my colleague from Malpeque suggested it to the House as a day devoted to what is essentially a conflict between two fundamental issues: the right we all have to privacy and the expectation that those of us who live in this country need to be protected from those who would do us harm, whether it is criminality harm or terrorism harm, etcetera.
In anticipation of the government's line of questioning, I would say that is a fundamental issue that it needs to address. It is a core issue. Every Canadian has a right to be protected by his or her government, period. End of sentence. The question then becomes how intrusive we allow the government to be in pursuing our fundamental right to protection.
Mr. Speaker, our environment has changed. You and I are from a similar vintage, and might I say it was a very good vintage.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Hon. John McKay: I hear some heckling on the other side from junior members of Parliament, who may be more familiar with the era in which they were raised, which was with the BlackBerry, the iPhone, and all kinds of technology, which possibly you and I barely understand.
The issue is that there is a capacity in government agencies now to do things we could not possibly have imagined when you and I were in law school or practising law or when we came to this House. The concept of metadata was not anything other than for pointy heads at the University of Waterloo in third year engineering. We did not understand it.
We are only now starting to realize that when we get into an airport or any Wi-Fi zone, because of the capacity of CSEC and other agencies, they can get an electronic footprint. As one writer put it, it is as though a BlackBerry becomes a dog tag that follows us.
On Monday, I landed at the Ottawa airport. I went to Starbucks to get a coffee. There is an electronic print of my attendance there. On the way into Ottawa, I stopped at my favourite bank machine. There is an electronic footprint there. In the process of getting through Ottawa, I passed probably two or three Tim Hortons, one or two Starbucks, and a Bridgehead, which I would suggest is probably the finest coffee Ottawa has to offer. Indeed, all of those are Wi-Fi zones. All of those are places where I and other members of this chamber have left electronic footprints. The system is so sophisticated that not only do they know what I did today, yesterday, or Monday, they can actually track back what I or anyone else did weeks ago, because we went through various Wi-Fi zones and left electronic footprints. Therefore, we are all involved in this collection of metadata.
This digital dog tag we carry with us on a daily basis is a way those who wish to track our movements can track them. While they may not engage in finding out who we talked to on our BlackBerrys or iPhones or what the contents of the texts were, they know that we sent out an electronic signal from the Ottawa airport, down Metcalfe Street, into my office in the Justice Building, to here. Because this is a zone, we are giving off electronic signals as we speak.
In some respects, it is like the great game “Where's Waldo?” You and I are from a similar era, Mr. Speaker, and raised our children in a similar period. “Where's Waldo?” was one of my kids' favourites.
It is frequently hidden in plain sight. Our electronic signal, which we think is private, is actually hidden in plain sight.
We get to the government's position, which is essentially, “trust us”. Most Canadians would prefer to trust the government. They would prefer to believe that while it is protecting us from criminality, terrorism, and various other bad things that can happen to citizens, it is respecting our right to privacy. On that issue, the government is actually losing the confidence of Canadians, which could be redeemed by the suggestion from my hon. friend from .
I regret to say that some of the words coming from the members of the government, particularly the minister and some of the representatives of the agencies, are words that might be described as weasel language. The point is that the government says that it did not actually target them. It is okay if it did not target them. If we have 1,000 people going through the Ottawa airport, and the government picks up thousands of signals, it is okay, because the government did not pick me or him while it was gathering all of this data.
The minister says in response to various questions in the House that it is his understanding that Canadian communications were not the target. Apparently, if they were not the target, it is okay. They can find out my entire journey from the Ottawa airport to my chair here, and it is okay, as long as I was not the specific target.
CSEC then says that it obeys the law. That is an interesting concept. It obeys the law. It says that as long as it obeys the law, that is perfectly fine, as long as we are not the targets of an intercept. The minister then goes on to say that no laws were broken and that the commissioner reported no breach. However, Canadians are asking who is looking after the spies. Who is looking into these things?
On the point of the legal interpretation, I want to direct the attention of the House to the words of Wesley Wark, who I believe is associated with the University of Toronto. He is a renowned authority on international security and intelligence, and he said, “I cannot see any way in which it fits CSEC's legal mandate”.
In all, we have a pretty sophisticated opinion, which says that the gathering of data on us and thousands of other Canadians is fine, as long as we are not the target. That is the government's position. Professor Wark, on the other hand, takes the view that just the gathering of the information, targeted or otherwise, is contrary to the mandate of CSEC.
We have a fairly significant divergence of opinion just on the legal issue alone, but it kind of gets worse because Canadians are saying the minister does not seem to have any great enthusiasm for protecting our privacy, CSEC does not seem to have any great enthusiasm for protecting our privacy, the commissioner, within a narrow legalized interpretation of his mandate, says no laws were broken, we have a conflicting opinion from Professor Wark, and then we get on to Judge Mosley. I will quote from The Huffington Post, which states:
CSIS assured Judge Richard Mosley the intercepts would be carried out from inside Canada, and controlled by Canadian government personnel, court records show.
Mosley granted the warrants in January 2009 based on what CSIS and...CSEC—had told him.
However, Canadian officials then asked for intercept help from foreign intelligence allies without telling the court.
I repeat, “without telling the court”.
Mosley was unimpressed, saying the courts had never approved the foreign involvement.
“It is clear that the exercise of the court's warrant issuing has been used as protective cover for activities that it has not authorized,” Mosley wrote in redacted reasons.
That means, Mr. Speaker, that you and I cannot read his full reasoning as to why he is upset with CSEC and CSIS on the abuse of the warrant that he issued.
Judge Mosley further stated:
“The failure to disclose that information was the result of a deliberate decision to keep the court in the dark about the scope and extent of the foreign collection efforts that would flow from the court's issuance of a warrant.”
Mr. Speaker, you and I may have gone to law school a long time ago and we may have practised law a long time ago, but nevertheless, one cannot mislead a judge. One cannot withhold basic information from a judge or use the issuance of a warrant for a purpose for which it was not intended. Therefore, he was a very upset judge, who was not able to fully communicate the extent and nature of his upset because his courtroom is in a situation where it is subject to the Official Secrets Act and various other matters and, therefore, his reasoning is fully redacted.
One does not have to get too far past the first year of law school to know that this is not a happy judge, who feels that he is being abused by the authorities, and that his warrant has been taken far beyond its intention.
This is the core issue. There is a sense in which, with all of the new technology and this collection of metadata, our laws have not kept up with the advances in technology. As I say, even 10 years ago, we did not even discuss metadata. Metadata was simply a rarefied concept among engineers, particularly computer engineers. Now they have the ability to follow people anywhere because they are continuously giving off electronic signals, and the minister seems to be fairly relaxed about it. He seems to be saying that, as far as he knows, they are staying within the law. I guess there is that kind of three blind mice approach to that. We would have hoped the minister would have had a bit more of an aggressive attitude toward protection of Canadians' interests.
Along comes the member for , who has had government experience as a solicitor general. I dare say he was solicitor general at a time when metadata was simply a gleam in somebody's eye. He recognizes now that something needs to be done, and his proposal is that we as members of Parliament from both houses take some supervisory jurisdiction with respect to this kind of data collection and these kinds of activities.
It is human. The people who are authorized to protect us are doing that, and they are doing an exemplary job. However, sometimes somebody needs to blow the whistle and say that in their enthusiasm to protect us, they have actually crossed the privacy line. I do not know of any other body that would be more capable of doing that than those people who are the representatives of the people. It is quite a core concept that we either guard our privacy or we lose it.
Here we have almost a cultural distinction between our friends in the United States and Canadians. Frankly, Canadians justifiably feel a bit relaxed. We live in that peaceable kingdom. Canada is obviously the best country in which to live. There is a certain lulling aspect of that, and therefore not as many Canadians are as concerned as they should be about that little trip that I described from Ottawa airport to this chamber.
Our American colleagues are very upset, on the other hand, partly driven by the Snowden revelations, partly driven by the nature and extent of those revelations, and partly driven by their own cultural bias for privacy, freedom, and the American way, as it were.
Our colleagues in the U.S. are actually pointing the way. Their government and President Obama, who has been dragged kicking and screaming to the table, are getting hold of this issue and are insisting on a supervisory jurisdiction for members of Congress and members of the Senate, because they are the people's representatives, after all.
I dare say that is the core of my colleague from 's motivation, which is that the people's representatives are the ones who get to decide where the line is and whether it has been breached, not the government, not the commissioners or the representatives of the various agencies, not even the defence department.
I have given the House a number of illustrations where thoughtful people have serious concerns about this kind of potential and breach of that kind of data, and that data is not just simply rarefied data that goes off into the middle of nowhere, but serious data as to what we do, where we do it, who we do it with, and a whole bunch of information that Canadians have every right to expect is private.
We either guard our privacy or we lose it, and that is what this debate is all about.
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak against the Liberal motion before us today.
I grew up at a time when, as a youngster, I played street and ball hockey with my friends in the evening. I knew it was time to go home when the siren at the local fire hall rang at 9 o'clock in the evening and my parents expected me home. I also walked to school in the morning and my parents expected that probably sometime around 4:30 or 5 o'clock, I would again be home for dinner.
Our world has changed. Even in rural Manitoba, where I grew up, we would be hard pressed today to see groups of street-hockey enthusiasts playing late into the evening without parental supervision. Parents drive their children or walk their children to school and pick them up at the end of the day. Our world has changed, and therefore I speak against the Liberal motion before us today.
There is no task more critical for a government than to ensure the safety and security of its law-abiding citizens. Our government has a robust system of agencies and departments that, despite having separate mandates and areas of responsibility, work closely together on issues of national security to protect the safety of Canadians. Securing Canadian life and property requires a multi-partner approach and a clearly defined review structure. Our government recognizes the importance of independent reviews and ensures that Canadians feel confident in their government and know that their best interests are at the forefront.
Today we face complex and shifting threats across the globe, and we must continue to adapt and evolve how we detect, disrupt, and prevent attacks from happening. Indeed, our government's efforts to keep Canadians safe do not stop when they leave the country. We work with our international security partners to protect our citizens abroad. Indeed, Canada has in place a number of national strategies and international agreements that are founded on solid partnerships across all levels of government, non-governmental organizations, business and private sector, and community groups.
Of particular note, Canada's counter-terrorism strategy guides more than 20 federal departments and agencies to better align them to protect, detect, deny, and respond to terrorist threats. Among these federal agencies are the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, CSIS; and the Communications Security Establishment Canada, CSEC. The mandates of these two bodies are established in the CSIS Act and the National Defence Act. They obligate both organizations to carry out their activities in strict adherence to Canadian laws. The statutes that created both CSIS and CSEC also established independent review bodies to provide external arm's-length review of those critical national security functions.
As we have heard in this debate, the Communications Security Establishment Canada plays a very important security and intelligence role, helping to protect Canada and Canadians against foreign-based terrorism, foreign espionage, cyberattacks, terrorism, kidnappings of Canadians abroad, and other serious threats with a significant foreign involvement.
Another critical national security agency I will discuss is the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. Governed by the CSIS Act, 1984, the service acts to collect and analyze information and security intelligence from across the country and abroad, and reports to and advises the Government of Canada on national security issues and activities that threaten the security of Canada. Again, this mandate carries great responsibility and implications for Canadians. The responsibility for review of CSIS activities rests primarily with the Security Intelligence Review Committee, or SIRC, which was created under the CSIS Act also in 1984.
The Security Intelligence Review Committee is an independent external review body that reports on the service's operations. To perform its functions, the Security Intelligence Review Committee has access to all information held by the service, with the exception of cabinet confidences. Furthermore, the committee meets with and interviews CSIS staff regularly and formally questions CSIS witnesses in a quasi-judicial complaints process.
The results of Security Intelligence Review Committee reviews and complaints are regularly discussed among members of the CSIS executive, and the service has adopted most of the committee's recommendations over the years.
The SIRC annual report, also tabled in Parliament by the , plays an important role in providing Parliament and the Canadian public with a broad understanding of CSIS operations.
As members of the House will see, our government takes the security of Canadians very seriously. The fact remains that terrorism is a multi-faceted phenomenon. The national security threat environment has evolved dramatically over the past several decades. Indeed, the terrorist attacks of 9/11 forced a fundamental shift in the way we think about public safety. Moreover, the exponential growth of the Internet has meant another shift in focus to protecting our citizens and interests from sophisticated cybercriminal activity that threatens our critical infrastructure, economic growth, and public safety.
Canada is well positioned to meet these serious threats because we have a robust national security system in place, one that involves transparency, accountability, and strong checks and balances to keep Canadians safe while protecting their rights and freedoms.
Canadians expect and deserve to live in a country in which their government is working with its allies to create a strong and robust national security system that is ready to prevent, detect, deny, and respond to any type of emergency.
Canadians want to know that their streets and communities are safe. That is why our Conservative government passed the Combating Terrorism Act, which made it a criminal offence to travel overseas to engage in terrorist activity. Shockingly, the NDP opposed this important legislation. That is why we are bringing forward entry and exit information sharing.
The Liberals also continue to vote against any measures that will keep Canadians safe, which should come as no surprise from a party led by someone who said he would not rule out ending mandatory minimum sentences for anyone. Canadians know that only our Conservative government can be trusted to keep them safe from those who wish to harm us.
In a statement by the CSEC Commissioner, the hon. Jean-Pierre Plouffe, on January 30, reported by the CBC, he said the following:
Past commissioners have reviewed CSEC metadata activities and have found them to be in compliance with the law and to be subject to comprehensive and satisfactory measures to protect the privacy of Canadians. CSEC is providing full cooperation to my office in the conduct of another ongoing in-depth review of these activities, which was formally approved in the fall of 2012.
He goes on to say:
...my predecessor issued a statement referring to CSEC metadata activities. Many reviews of CSEC activities conducted by the Commissioner’s office include examination of CSEC use of metadata. For example, we verify how metadata is used by CSEC to target the communications of foreign entities located outside Canada, and we verify how metadata is used by CSEC to limit its assistance to federal law enforcement and security agencies to what is authorized by a court order or warrant.
He added that as commissioner he was independent of the government and CSEC, and as such did not take direction from any minister of the crown or from CSEC. He truly is an independent review individual.
We do not comment on specific CSEC methods, operations, or capabilities. To do so would undermine CSEC's ability to carry out its mandate. It would also be inappropriate to comment on the activities or the capabilities of our allies. That being said, CSEC is prohibited from targeting the communications of persons in Canada or Canadians anywhere under its foreign intelligence and cyber-protection mandates.
CSEC is required to operate within all Canadian laws, including the Privacy Act, which has legislated measures in place to protect the privacy of Canadians. Protecting the privacy of Canadians is the law and CSEC follows the letter and the spirit of the law. As well, CSEC's activities are reviewed by the independent CSEC Commissioner, who has specifically noted CSEC's continued adherence to lawful compliance and genuine concern for protecting the privacy of Canadians. In fact, the CSEC Commissioner praised CSEC's chiefs, who “have spared no effort to instill within CSEC a culture of respect for the law and for the privacy of Canadians”. I can say with pride and confidence that CSEC is truly being watched.<