Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today.
I ask for the indulgence of the House and I hope no one will get up on a point of order on this, but because I am making a speech on a specific day, I did want to shout out to two of my biggest supporters.
The first is to my wife Chantale, whose birthday is today. I want to wish her a happy birthday. Even bigger news is that we are expecting a baby at the end of July. I want to shout out the fact that she has been working very hard at her own job, which is obviously a very exhausting thing, and so the patience she has for my uncomparable fatigue certainly is something that I really do thank her for and love her very much for.
I do not want to create any jealousy in the household, so I certainly want to give a shout-out to her daughter and our daughter Lydia, who is also a big supporter of mine. We are a threesome, and as I said at my wedding last year, I had the luck of falling in love twice. I wanted to take this opportunity, not knowing whether I will have another one before the election, to shout out to them and tell them how much I love them.
I thank my colleagues for their warm thoughts that they have shared with me.
On a more serious note, I would like to talk about the Senate amendments to Bill . More specifically, I would like to talk about the process per se and then come back to certain aspects of Bill C-59, particularly those about which I raised questions with the minister—questions that have yet to be answered properly, if at all.
I want to begin by touching on a more timely issue related to a bill that is currently before the House, Bill . This bill will give more authority to the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP so that it also covers the Canada Border Services Agency. That is important because we have been talking for a long time about how the CBSA, the only agency that has a role to play in our national security, still does not have a body whose sole function is to review its operations.
Of course, there is the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, which was created by Bill , and there will soon be a committee created by Bill that will affect the CBSA, but only with regard to its national security related activities.
I am talking about a committee whose sole responsibility would be to review the activities of the Canada Border Services Agency and to handle internal complaints, such as the allegations of harassment that have been reported in the media in recent years, or complaints that Muslim citizens may make about profiling.
It is very important that there be some oversight or further review. I will say that, as soon as an article is published, either about a problem at the border, about the union complaining about the mistreatment of workers or about problems connected to the agency, the minister comes out with great fanfare to remind everyone that he made a deep and sincere promise to create a system that would properly handle these complaints and that there would be some oversight or review of the agency.
What has happened in four whole years? Nothing at all.
For years now, every time there is a report in the news or an article comes out detailing various allegations of problems, I have just been copying and pasting the last tweet I posted. The situation keeps repeating, but the government is not doing anything.
This situation is problematic because the minister introduced a bill at the last minute, as the clock is winding down on this Parliament, and the bill has not even been referred yet to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.
I have a hard time believing that we will pass this bill in the House and an even harder time seeing how it is going to get through the Senate.
That is important because, in his speech, the minister himself alluded to the fact that in fall 2016, when the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, of which I am a member, travelled across the country to study the issue and make recommendations ahead of introducing Bill , the recommendation to create a committee tasked with studying the specific activities of the CBSA was one of the most important recommendations. As we see in Bill , the government did not take this opportunity to do any such thing.
It is certainly troubling, because Bill is an omnibus piece of legislation. I pleaded with the House, the minister and indeed even the Senate, when it reached the Senate, through different procedural mechanisms, to consider parts of the bill separately, because, as the minister correctly pointed out, this is a huge overhaul of our national security apparatus. The concern with that is not only the consideration that is required, but also the fact that some of these elements, which I will come back to in a moment, were not even part of the national security consultations that both his department and the committee, through the study it did, actually took the time to examine.
More specifically, coming back to and concluding the point on Bill , the minister does not seem to have acted in a prompt way, considering his commitments when it comes to oversight and/or a review of the CBSA. He said in his answer to my earlier question on his speech that it was not within the scope of this bill. That is interesting, not only because this is omnibus legislation, but also because the government specifically referred the legislation to committee prior to second reading with the goal of allowing amendments that were beyond the scope of the bill on the understanding that it did want this to be a large overhaul.
I have a hard time understanding why, with all the indicators being there that it wanted this to be a large, broad-reaching thing and wanted to have things beyond the scope, it would not have allowed for this type of mechanism. Instead, we find we have a bill, Bill , arriving at the 11th hour, without a proper opportunity to make its way through Parliament before the next election.
I talked about how this is an omnibus bill, which makes it problematic in several ways. I wrote a letter to some senators about children whose names are on the no-fly list and the No Fly List Kids group, which the minister talked about. I know the group very well. I would like to congratulate the parents for their tireless efforts on their children's behalf.
Some of the children are on the list simply because the list is racist. Basically, the fact that the names appear multiple times is actually a kind of profiling. We could certainly have a debate about how effective the list is. This list is totally outdated and flawed because so many people share similar names. It is absurd that there was nothing around this list that made it possible for airlines and the agents who managed the list and enforced the rules before the bill was passed to distinguish between a terrorist threat and a very young child.
Again, I thank the parents for their tireless efforts and for the work they did in a non-partisan spirit. They may not be partisan, but I certainly am. I will therefore take this opportunity to say that I am appalled at the way the government has taken these families and children hostage for the sake of passing an omnibus bill.
The minister said that the changes to the no-fly list would have repercussions on a recourse mechanism that would stop these children from being harassed every time they go to the airport. This part of the bill alone accounted for several hundred pages.
I asked the government why it did not split this part from the rest of the bill so it would pass sooner, if it really believed it would deliver justice to these families and their kids. We object to certain components or aspects of the list. We are even prepared to challenge the usefulness of the list and the flaws it may have. If there are any worthy objectives, we are willing to consider them. However, again, our hands were tied by the use of omnibus legislation. During the election campaign, the Liberals promised to make omnibus bills a thing of the past.
I know parents will not say that, and I do not expect them to do so. I commend them again for their non-partisan approach. However, it is appalling and unacceptable that they have been taken hostage.
Moreover, there is also Bill .
I will digress here for a moment. Bill , which we opposed, was a very troubling piece of legislation that dealt with the sharing of border information with the Americans, among others. This involved information on citizens travelling between Canada and the United States. Bill stalled in the Senate, much like Bill C-21.
As the 's press secretary was responding to the concerns of parents who have children on the no-fly list, he suddenly started talking about Bill as a solution for implementing the redress system for people who want to file a complaint or do not want to be delayed at the airport for a name on the list, when it is not the individual identified. I think it is absolutely awful that these families are being used as bargaining chips to push through a bill that contains many points that have nothing to do with them and warrant further study. In my view, those aspects have not been examined thoroughly enough to move the bill forward.
I thank the for recognizing the work I did in committee, even though it took two attempts when he responded to my questions earlier today. In committee, I presented almost 200 amendments. Very few of them were accepted, which was not a surprise.
I would like to focus specifically on one of the Senate's amendments that the government agreed to. This amendment is important and quite simple, I would say even unremarkable. It proposes to add a provision enabling us to review the bill after three years, rather than five, and make amendments if required. That is important because we are proposing significant and far-reaching changes to our national security system. What I find intriguing is that I proposed the same amendment in committee, which I substantiated with the help of expert testimony, and the Liberals rejected my amendment. Now, all of a sudden, the Senate is proposing the same amendment and the government is agreeing to it in the motion we are debating today.
I asked the why the Liberals were not willing to put partisanship aside in a parliamentary committee and accept an opposition amendment that proposed a very simple measure but are agreeing to it today. He answered that they had taken the time to reflect and changed their minds when the bill was in the Senate. I am not going to spend too much of my precious time on that, but I find it somewhat difficult to accept because nothing has changed. Experts appeared before the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, and it was very clear, simple and reasonable. Having said that, I thank the minister for finally recognizing this morning that I contributed to this process.
I also want to talk about some of what concerns us about the bill. There are two pieces specifically with regard to what was Bill under the previous government, and a few aspects new to this bill that have been brought forward that cause us some concern and consternation.
There are two pieces in Bill that raised the biggest concerns at the time of debate in the previous Parliament and raised the biggest concerns on the part of Canadians as well, leading to protests outside our committee hearings when we travelled the country to five major cities in five days in October 2016. The first has to do with threat disruption, and the second is the information-sharing regime that was brought in by Bill C-51. Both of those things are concerning, for different reasons.
The threat disruption powers offered to CSIS are of concern because at the end of the day, the reason CSIS was created in the first place was that there was an understanding and consensus in Canada that there had to be a separation between the RCMP's role in law enforcement, which is making arrests and the work that revolves around that, and intelligence gathering, which is the work our intelligence service has to do, so they were separated.
However, bringing us back closer to the point where we start to lose that distinction with regard to the threat disruption powers means that a concern about constitutionality will remain. In fact, the experts at committee did say that Bill C-59, while less unconstitutional than what the Conservatives brought forward in the previous Parliament, had yet to be tested, and there was still some uncertainty about it.
We still believe it is not necessary for CSIS to have these powers. That distinction remains important if we want to be in keeping with the events that led to the separation in the first place, namely the barn burnings, the Macdonald Commission and all those things that folks who have followed this debate know full well, but which we do not have time to get into today.
The other point is the sharing of information, which we are all familiar with. We opened the door to more liberal sharing of information, no pun intended, between the various government departments. That is worrisome. In Canada, one of the most highly publicized cases of human rights violations was the situation of Maher Arar while he was abroad, which led to the Arar commission. In such cases, we know that the sharing of information with other administrations is one of the factors that can lead to the violation of human rights or torture. There are places in the world where human rights are almost or completely non-existent. We find that the sharing of information between Canadian departments can exacerbate such situations, particularly when information is shared between the police or the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Department of Foreign Affairs.
There is an individual who was tortured abroad who is currently suing the government. His name escapes me at the moment. I hope he will forgive me. Global Affairs Canada tried to get him a passport to bring him back to Canada, regardless of whether the accusations against him were true, because he was still a Canadian citizen. However, overwhelming evidence suggests that CSIS and the RCMP worked together with foreign authorities to keep him abroad.
More information sharing can exacerbate that type of problem because, in the government, the left hand does not always know what the right hand is doing. Some information can fall into the wrong hands. If the Department of Foreign Affairs is trying to get a passport for someone and is obligated by law to share that information with CSIS, whose interests are completely different than those of our diplomats, this could put us on a slippery slope.
The much-criticized information sharing system will remain in place with Bill C-59. I do not have the time to list all the experts and civil society groups that criticized this system, but I will mention Amnesty International, which is a well-known organization that does excellent work. This organization is among those critical of allowing the information sharing to continue, in light of the human rights impact it can have, especially in other countries.
Since the bill was sent back to committee before second reading, we had the advantage of being able to propose amendments that went beyond the scope of the bill. We realized that this was a missed opportunity. It was a two-step process, and I urge those watching and those interested in the debates to go take a look at how it went down. There were several votes and we called for a recorded division. Votes can sometimes be faster in committee, but this time we took the time to do a recorded division.
There were two proposals. The Liberals were proposing an amendment to the legislation. We were pleased to support the amendment, since it was high time we had an act stating that we do not support torture in another country as a result of the actions of our national security agencies or police forces. Nevertheless, since this amendment still relies on a ministerial directive, the bill is far from being perfect.
I also proposed amendments to make it illegal to share any information that would lead to the torture of an individual in another country. The amendments were rejected.
I urge my colleagues to read about them, because I am running out of time. As you can see, 20 minutes is not enough, but I would be happy to take questions and comments.
Madam Speaker, for Canadians watching, it is not appropriate for a member of Parliament to refer to the presence or absence of a member in the House, and I certainly did not mention an individual member at all. Most of the Liberals were not here, so I certainly did not highlight anyone specifically.
Because Bill is one of the many omnibus bills we have seen in this Parliament, I am going to speak to three aspects of this bill. I need to remind Canadians and my friend, the , that the Liberals promised Canadians that they would never use omnibus legislation in this Parliament. I have lost count of the number of omnibus pieces of legislation, which my friend, the Liberal MP from Winnipeg, once called an assault on democracy. They have been regularly assaulting this democracy in this Parliament, and Bill C-59 is an example, because it is comprehensive. It would affect the Criminal Code, the Communications Security Establishment and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. There are multiple pieces of legislation referenced and amended. It is very comprehensive.
The Conservatives have tried to work with the government on it. There are two central concerns I have with Bill , which is why I and the Conservatives cannot support it, despite the good work by opposition members and despite the good work by the Senate, which agrees with much of what I am going to say.
I am going to talk about two critical pieces where the government is falling short, from a public safety standpoint, with Bill C-59. Then I am going to talk about the great advocacy work of No Fly List Kids and people like Sulemaan Ahmed and the families that have been some of the most sincere, thoughtful and creative advocates I have seen in my six years in Parliament trying to make public policy better. I am going to make a commitment to them right at the start of this speech. Conservatives will fix the problems with the no-fly list. We will make sure that there is a redress system to have false positives addressed, and we will do that within the first two years of government. We will have a process to get it fixed.
The government throws it into an omnibus bill and claims that it is going to cost far more than it is. We need a redress system, much like the one in the United States.
When the no-fly list was created under the Conservative government, and I am not suggesting that it was not under the Conservative government, there was no idea that there would be so many false positives. Families impacted by that, many families who have children sharing a name with someone who might be on a no-fly list, have no way to distinguish that or redress that, and that is unfair. It has affected many families from across the country.
I want to thank the no-fly list kids and their families and make that personal pledge to them. I have mentioned it many times in the House and in committee. If we win the election in the fall, which we are planning to, to get Canada back on track, we will make a commitment to fix that very quickly, faster than the government that still has not fixed the Phoenix pay system in the final months of its time in government.
Here are the substantive measures we cannot support in Bill . The no-fly list is part of this large omnibus bill.
The reason Conservatives cannot support it are central to public safety and security. I say this as a Canadian Armed Forces veteran, as a former minister of the Crown and as a former shadow minister for public safety. I have looked at this bill and the issues involved in great detail.
The first issue is the threat disruption threshold. The government's change is a risk to public safety. I never overstate risks. There is not a bogeyman around every corner. However, when we change the threshold for peace officers, law enforcement and our justice system from “likely to prevent” a terrorist act to “necessary to prevent” the commission of such an act, that is a threshold that will perplex police forces across this country and make it hard for them to detain risks to public safety and security.
Why is that critical? It is because, when we introduced a change to this power, following the attack on Parliament and following the attack and death of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, the , who was the member for and third party leader in the last Parliament, praised this preventative measure in that Parliament. In fact, he said that he “welcome[s] the measures [on] preventative arrest” that were contained in the bill. However, the Liberals are changing it, and law enforcement and security officials are telling them not to change it.
I would invite Liberal members who were not here in the last Parliament to read the committee transcripts from the last Parliament and the testimony from Patrice Vincent's sister. He was a warrant officer serving with distinction in Quebec who was run down and killed by a radicalized Canadian because of the uniform he wore. That is it. He was targeted. Police knew that the young man from Quebec was a risk, but they did not feel they had an evidentiary burden to make a preventative arrest to prevent what they thought might be the commission of a terrorist offence.
By making it “necessary to prevent”, the bill sets a high standard. As a lawyer, I worry about that standard. “Likely” does not mean that this power would allow law enforcement to willy-nilly preventatively arrest people. “Likely to prevent” the commission of an offence is an appropriate threshold. Changing this is a very poor and, quite frankly, dangerous public policy. Therefore, we have asked for that amendment, as have many Canadians and many law enforcement experts.
We, in the Conservative caucus, trust law enforcement officers. They have a difficult job to do whenever someone is caught on the way to committing an offence, as we saw in southwestern Ontario with Mr. Driver. Questions are asked by law enforcement. Look at how close we were. We have relied now two or three times in the last few years on FBI information to stop threats in our country. Therefore, this is a serious gap in Bill .
The second issue is the “counselling commission of terrorism” element of the bill and the criminal standard of the offence under our Criminal Code. Many groups appeared before committee in this Parliament saying that we cannot have ambiguity on the counselling the commission of terrorism issue in the bill. The old standard was “knowingly advocates or promotes the commission of terrorism”. Therefore, there is still an evidentiary threshold that is required. This is not some draconian power that people are suggesting. There is a threshold required. Making the threshold too high or too ambiguous is a risk, and that is unnecessary. In fact, the entire Senate agrees with our position on this. “Counselling” is way too broad and unclear.
In an age when a lot of threats are now online, advocating, pushing, promoting should be something for the commission of violence on another, so that we can avoid the next attack on the Hill, so that we can avoid the next horrible attack like the one we saw at the mosque in Quebec City. That horrendous killer went into the mosque, and if law enforcement had seen that he was knowingly advocating or promoting violence against an identifiable group, that would have been enough. In fact, combined with my last point, it would have been “likely to prevent”. That could have stopped someone in that circumstance.
All communities, particularly religious communities like the Muslim and Jewish communities that face threats and see horrific things online, should not want these aspects of Bill to pass, and that is what the Conservatives have consistently been advocating in the interest of public safety, in the interest of all Canadians. The Senate agrees on the issue of counselling the commission of an offence. Most advocacy groups agree that it is too ambiguous. In a time when we are seeing these threats emerge online, we are seeing people radicalized online.
In the last Parliament, I remember one of my early votes was to make travelling abroad for training with a terrorist organization a crime under the Criminal Code. Now, with social media, technology and YouTube, people do not need to travel. They can be radicalized, promote hate and violence and actually advocate for violence against an identifiable group online.
We have to give law enforcement the tools of preventative arrest and we have to criminalize some of that terror activity at its source, trusting our law enforcement and our courts. Preventative arrest is not trial and conviction. It is law enforcement, in conjunction often with the Crown, saying that it has ascertained there is a serious risk to public safety, to Canadian citizens, to people living in Canada, to people visiting Canada, and that preventative arrest will likely prevent it. That is a reasonable standard. That was the old standard.
Changing that to arresting the person preventatively to prevent this or to stop it is too high a threshold. That could mean law enforcement would spend three more weeks looking into the suspect. In the case of Patrice Vincent, we heard that in committee in particular. I would invite Canadians to look at the committee transcripts. I will tweet his sister's testimony out later. Law enforcement knew that gentleman in Quebec. I cannot remember his name right now. He was a young Québécois who had been racialized and law enforcement knew he was a risk.
Those are the two elements why the Conservatives cannot support Bill . It is bad for public safety and security. There are other elements in the bill we like. However, an omnibus bill, as my friend from Winnipeg used to say, is an assault on democracy. I have tried in my speech to commit to two key things on why the legislation is flawed.
I cannot understate enough how impressed I am by the thoughtful and informed advocacy of the no-fly list kids. I know members on all sides of the House have heard from these people and have seen their commentary.
My friend Sulemaan will laugh when he hears I am promoting going to a Montreal Canadiens game, as a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, but I am. When young people are prevented from going to a hockey game of the Montreal Canadiens because they share a name with someone who is a threat, not only is it unfair to them, it shows that our no-fly list is full of garbage. In public safety and security that is not enough. If someone has to sort through dozens, hundreds and thousands of false positives, is there really security at all?
This is a commitment from my leader and our caucus. We want to thank the no-fly list group and their families for the advocacy they have done with all the members of the House and commit to them. We are the party that delivers. We are not the hashtag party. We are not the photo ops party. We are the party that will deliver. We give our commitment that this will be a priority early in our government.
I can see a resolution. I have often said that this is not as complex as the has suggested. I do not even believe it is an accurate statement that it will cost $80 million to fix it.
The U.S. has a redress list. This is about data. This is about ensuring we constantly review the no-fly list . If people who are not threats are crowding out the one or two who may be, the system is not working. I think all Canadians will agree with our pledge to commit that.
I praised the government when it finally addressed the issue, after listening to the families of the no-fly list kids. However, by putting it into an omnibus bill, it prevents us from addressing it immediately. I am not suggesting bad faith on the part of the government. I think it listened to the advocacy and found this was the most appropriate bill to put it into. However, I do not think it even requires legislation. It could have been done through a ministerial directive. Most of the entries on the no-fly list are known to be false positives.
I remember when retired Senator David Smith was on the list. He was a prominent Liberal senator, or whatever those types of senators are called these days, Liberal or independent. I am not sure. How many David Smiths would there be in Canada? There would be roughly a thousand, so the list is garbage.
Then we saw that a number of young Canadians were on the list because they shared common names in certain communities. How do the hundreds of people with the same name but no biometric information redress that? How can we get the newborn babies off that list? The minister could fix that under his or her own authority. If that had been done, as I said at the time, there would have been full support for the government.
I acknowledge that when we brought this measure in, even prior to my time in Parliament we did not anticipate this false positive issue. I think we have much to learn from the redress system in the U.S., because if there are problems with their no-fly list there, we could avoid some of those pitfalls and make ours world class. That is a commitment we want to make as part of the debate on Bill .
I will go on to say that we generally support other aspects of the bill, those related to security and intelligence oversight, and we have been trying to participate in that work. At various times during our time in government, we talked about a super SIRC and more coordination and oversight with respect to the agencies that collect data. However, one challenge that was faced in minority parliaments was that it was very hard to set up a committee of parliamentarians that would have been devoid of politics. So far, from what I have seen from that committee, although we have not had much in the way of reports from it, it does not seem that politics have been impacting the process. That is a good thing that has come out of this.
There are elements of Bill that we support. However, when they are included in an omnibus bill, we have to weigh the elements we support on the intelligence side, such as the redress system for the no-fly list, against the elements we do not support. During my speech, I tried to outline the two very serious ones. I cannot underscore enough the fact that preventive arrest is a rare power provided to law enforcement, but it is there because we live in a dangerous and uncertain world. Many of us will remember the day when Nathan Cirillo was killed and the gunman came into the old building, and Patrice Vincent, and the shooting in the mosque in Quebec City, and the Aaron Driver case, when law enforcement stopped this person in southwestern Ontario when he was on his way to commit an offence. We cannot set the burden so high for law enforcement officers that they know there is a risk but are debating for weeks on whether preventive arrest will stop that risk from harming Canadians.
One of our most fundamental duties as parliamentarians is to provide a safe, secure, rules-based system that respects diversity and human rights. Law enforcement officers have a tough job to do, so the last thing we can do, as this Parliament wraps up, is support a bill that will make their job harder.