moved that Bill , be read the second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.
She said: Mr. Speaker, I rise to begin second reading of Bill C-22, which would establish the national security and intelligence committee of parliamentarians.
This bill is a tangible expression of our commitment towards meaningful engagement with parliamentarians and for enhanced accountability.
It would provide for a structured and responsible framework to share highly classified information with parliamentarians so that they can scrutinize national security activities, hold the government to account, and ensure that our national security agencies consistently act responsibly.
Canada is a free and just society. It is a beacon in the world when it comes to democratic principles. When this government took office, we made a strong commitment to uphold and advance these principles and to enhance our democratic institutions.
National security is one of the most important responsibilities of any government. Canadians expect their government to keep them safe. At the same time, Canadians also expect their government to pursue this objective in a way that respects our fundamental rights and freedoms. This government has always advocated that any renewed powers to government agencies to combat threats to the security of Canada, must be accompanied by strengthened accountability. The protection of both security and our rights and freedoms must be maintained or neither can truly be achieved. In fact, this became a central plank in the platform we set out for the people of Canada in the election held last October.
Within Canada's Westminster system, Parliament is where the opposition fulfills its obligation to hold the government to account. However, the open forum of the House of Commons and its standing committees present a challenge with respect to the review of national security activities. To be effective, such reviews require knowledge and understanding of classified information that, if publicly released, could harm the national interest. Our government found it unacceptable that among the Five Eyes allies, Canada is the only nation whose elected officials do not have a forum to review and examine the classified activities of our national security agencies.
We know the previous government was opposed to giving parliamentarians a role in overseeing the actions and conduct of our national security agencies. However, we believe otherwise. Our long ago recognized the need for increased scrutiny. It was a commitment he made during the last Parliament. It was a commitment he made during the election campaign. It was a commitment for which he asked the and me to work together so that Canadians could see real results. It is a promise made, a promise kept.
I also want to take this opportunity to thank the current for the hard work she did on this file in her previous role as the Liberal critic on national defence.
I also want to highlight the fact that my colleague, the hon. member for , introduced a private member's bill to create a committee of parliamentarians in 2013. This goes to show our long-standing commitment to protect both public safety and the rights of Canadians to privacy. The bill aims to establish an effective forum wherein parliamentarians can access classified information in a secure and responsible manner. Better information will lead to more informed parliamentary debate about national security activities and enhance accountability.
We have studied the national security parliamentary committee models of our Westminster allies, namely Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.
In fact, earlier this year, my colleague, the , travelled to the U.K. to see first-hand how their committee, the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament, is established.
While the models used by our allies where informative, ultimately, this is a made-in-Canada approach.
The bill would create a committee of parliamentarians comprising members from the House and the other place with a mandate to scrutinize our national security and intelligence activities in any department and agency, including ongoing operations, unless the responsible minister determines that the review would be injurious to national security. It would also be able to conduct strategic and systematic reviews of the framework that supports national security and intelligence activities, including legislation, regulatory policies, expenditures, and administrative procedures.
I would like to take a moment to discuss this broad mandate. Canada currently has a number of review bodies that examine the activities of specific government organizations engaged in national security operations and report to Parliament, such as the Security and Intelligence Review Committee, the commissioner of the Communications Security Establishment, and the RCMP's Civilian Review and Complaints Commission. These bodies play an important role in the accountability framework of our three main national security agencies: CSIS, CSE and the RCMP. I would be remiss not to highlight the particularly good work they do in investigating public complaints and ensuring that these agencies operate lawfully.
However, we recognize that something more is needed. That is why, unlike these review bodies, the mandate of the committee would not be limited to reviewing specific organizations but would instead encompass all national security activities conducted within the Government of Canada.
I would note that this government-wide mandate is unique to Canada, and no other international model we examined provides for such a broad scope. This government-wide perspective will enable the committee to perform strategic and systemic reviews of our national security apparatus and examine the legal, regulatory, policy, and expenditure framework under which it operates. This will help ensure that our national security system as a whole is functioning effectively and efficiently, all the while respecting Canadians' rights and freedoms.
Another key element of our made-in-Canada approach is the ability of the committee to initiative reviews of any national security operations, including ongoing operations. No other Westminster jurisdiction we examined provides this much scope for examination. This exceptional power requires a safeguard to ensure the committee's operational reviews would not disrupt or harm any active operation. The legislation would allow the responsible minister to stop a review if it would be injurious to national security.
To provide a secure venue for the consideration of proposed draft legislation, policy initiatives, or issues of high public interest that require the examination of classified information, the legislation would further allow the government to refer specific matters to the NSICOP for study.
The committee would have the legal right to access all government information it needs to conduct its reviews, including information subject to solicitor-client privilege, to ensure that it can effectively carry out this broad review mandate.
We have limited the exceptions to information access only to areas of absolute need, such as cabinet confidences, identities of informants, sources and persons protected under the witness protection program, and personal and commercially sensitive information relating to personal banking transactions and foreign investments. We also take seriously the need to guarantee the independence of police investigations and avoid harm to military operations.
Though the bill would provide an authority for ministers to withhold special operational information, I want to be clear. Ministers cannot withhold any information, but only special operational information, a specific legally defined category of the most covert national security information, and only if ministers believe it would be injurious to national security. In every instance, ministers must provide the committee with an explanation as to why special operational information must be withheld. In this way, ministers are held to account if they misuse or abuse this authority.
The committee's mandate and powers will be legislated and cannot be altered by the government. The committee will act with full independence from the government in deciding which matters to review, and in reporting its findings and recommendations. In any case where a minister has decided to stop a review or withhold information, and the committee is dissatisfied with the minister's decision, it would be able to report on these matters to Parliament. Ministers would be accountable to Parliament and Canadians for their actions.
I recognize that my colleagues opposite are not only interested in what this committee will do, but also how the membership of this committee will be determined.
The committee of parliamentarians would be a multi-party committee. Members would be appointed by the Governor in Council on the recommendation of the and would consist of nine members: two from the other place and seven from the House of Commons. Among those seven members from the House of Commons, a maximum of four members would be from the governing party. This allows sufficient flexibility to adapt to future changes in the composition of Parliament.
Of course, parliamentarians who would sit on this committee will have a great responsibility to ensure that they maintain the confidentiality of the information that they are provided. Each member of the committee will be a “person permanently bound to secrecy” under the Security of Information Act and may be prosecuted for disclosing special operating information. Members would be required to obtain a security clearance and swear an oath of secrecy before assuming his or her position.
The security requirements proposed in the bill are consistent with those imposed on public officials who have access to highly classified information. Nothing in the bill would limit members' ability to draw perceived deficiencies in government performance to the attention of Parliament and Canadians, so long as they do not disclose classified information.
The committee's annual reports would be tabled in Parliament, including its findings and recommendations. The committee would also have the power to issue special reports at any time if it considers it necessary to do so. The committee's reports would be provided to the prior to tabling for the sole purpose of ensuring that they do not contain classified information. It is important to underline that the Prime Minister would not have the ability to alter the committee's findings and recommendations.
The committee would be supported by a small secretariat that will be established as a separate departmental entity. The secretariat would help ensure that the committee members receive the support they need to perform their mandates. This would include providing research, briefings, and legal and technical advice. It would include preparing work plans, meeting agendas, and draft reports. The secretariat would also liaise with national security agencies and review bodies to facilitate access to information and the appearance of officials.
In short, we intend to provide the committee with the necessary resources and support it needs.
Bill would fulfill the government's commitment to establish a committee of parliamentarians. The committee would provide parliamentarians with direct access to classified information so that they could directly assess government activities, thus strengthening the democratic accountability of those activities. Through its reports and recommendations, it would help to ensure that national security and intelligence activities are carried out effectively and in a manner that respects our democratic values. The committee would act with full independence from the government in deciding which matters to review and in reporting its findings and recommendations.
This would be a significant addition to the review mechanisms. Compared to our allies in the other Westminster democracies, it goes further to review policies and operations across the spectrum of departments and agencies involved in the national security system. In these ways, Canada would set a new benchmark for parliamentary review.
The bill is exactly what we committed to achieving and what Canadians have asked us to do. We have waited a long time for this kind of committee. It is an idea whose time has come. I hope my colleagues across the way will recognize the importance of the legislation and will support our proposal to include members of their caucus in the review of our national security agencies.
During the campaign, Canadians rejected the politics of fear promoted by the opposition. They decided that openness and transparency were better than preying on people's anxieties. That is the mandate on which we were elected and that is exactly what the bill would help us achieve.
In closing, I want to take a few seconds to acknowledge and thank two more of my colleagues. First, the hon. , who previously as government House leader, did tremendous work to bring the bill to the House; and second, the hon. for his close collaboration and hard work on the bill before us. I know my colleague is looking forward to his own remarks on the bill, as am I.
Mr. Speaker, as the public safety critic for the Conservative Party, the opposition here in the House of Commons, it is my distinct honour to stand and begin to state our position in this debate on Bill .
I would like to thank the government for her remarks and to start by saying that I agree with one part of what she said in response to several questions and comments, that this is something that probably should have been in place for some time. If my friend looks back at it, she would know that in the past, in the last generation, this has been examined on several occasions by both Conservatives and Liberals.
The MP for from her caucus, and the former MP from Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, Peter MacKay, from our caucus were supportive of this concept, as was the retired Senator Hugh Segal. Moreover, a number of eminent parliamentarians and scholars have talked about how Canada, as one of the Five Eyes allies, should have some degree of parliamentary oversight of its intelligence and security operations.
That is a ground of agreement. That is hard to carve when there is a minority Parliament and the government is trying to do something that needs to be above politics, because the operations and, indeed, the safety of our security and intelligence personnel depend upon this committee of parliamentarians not being politicized or not being used to advance political ends.
That is why am profoundly disappointed that the minister did not begin debate on this subject. Here I want to congratulate my friend, the MP for , the NDP critic on this subject, for his own extensive background working as a lawyer on national security matters, including as an adviser to the last Conservative government and with the Security Intelligence Review Committee, SIRC, some years ago.
That member from and I have collaborated on this subject from the beginning of this Parliament, because we want it to be above politics. Sadly, the government has not participated in that collaboration, despite several entreaties to take the politics out of this.
It is profoundly disappointing that the minister did not appear to introduce his own bill today on something that is supposed to be above politics. I am not overreacting. I have tried to speak to him on this. I wrote the minister on March 1, on behalf of our caucus, after consultations, and said that “the Conservative Party is willing to work with the Government to create this Committee”.
I laid out several recommendations that I thought should be part of a parliamentary oversight committee, a special committee of this unique nature. I got no response. In fact, I collaborated and shared my thoughts and ideas with the NDP critic, the member for . I wrote the minister again on April 15, outlining some additional considerations on how this committee of parliamentarians should work in conjunction with existing bodies like SIRC. I appreciate the amazing work that SIRC does, and the CSE commissioner, and the constellation of security oversight review that we already have. How can this committee fit within that constellation and not duplicate existing efforts and not to create a competitive oversight environment?
Finally, the minister gave me what I used to call a “thanks for coming out” response letter on April 20, after I had written him twice, and also the NDP member for , in trying to take the politics out of this. He said:
|| It remains the Government's intention to engage with parliamentary colleagues as the process of developing the committee of parliamentarians unfolds.
That never happened, despite the opposition's asking for this, to do this right, to do this the way the British, the Australians, and our Kiwi allies do. The minister has really failed in this department, because he has not sat down and taken advice. In fact, he has acted in a very cavalier manner.
As members will see, this bill violates the privileges of members of the House. That could easily have been remedied.
Proposed subparagraph 6(1) of the bill would designate the , not Parliament, as the controlling mind of the committee. I will remind members that the Prime Minister is just the MP for . He is a member of this chamber, like all of us. He does have a role within the government, but that is separate. Your office, Mr. Speaker, has considered this on several occasions. The Prime Minister should not have full control over this committee. What is ironic is that he also designates the members of the upper house, the Senate. Remember, he tossed the Liberal senators out. The Senate is now independent, according to the Prime Minister, except with respect to this committee. Those members are selected by him as well.
Why is this disappointing? Bill was dropped on Parliament about four days before we rose for the summer. Not only did the minister ignore opposition requests to discuss, it was tossed in before people left. However, months before that bill was tabled and before the structure of this committee was even understood, the Liberals appointed a chair to the committee.
I have a lot of respect for my friend from , but that has not left a good impression on how he will take the chairmanship role of this committee. If he wanted to be chair, he should have stood before this place or members of that committee and sought the position of chair. In fact, that was the position his party ran on in the election of last year. It was the 's position with respect to committees of parliamentarians. I will quote from the Liberals' election platform. It states, “To increase accountability, we will strengthen the role of Parliamentary committee chairs, including elections by secret ballot.”
The talks so much about sunny ways that the glare of the sun allows him to break a lot of promises and people do not see them, and they do not get reported. This is yet another broken promise. The committees are to be more accountable and responsible. If we ever want a committee to be beyond partisanship, it is this one. However, sadly, the Liberals picked the chair months before they even brought the originating legislation to the House of Commons. That is unparalleled in terms of contempt for the House. We did not even know the structure of the committee, yet the deemed chair was travelling around the world with the minister, talking about it.
What is interesting is that in the last Parliament, my friend whose riding was Saskatoon—Humboldt in the last Parliament, introduced Motion No. 431, a motion where the members of this chamber unanimously reaffirmed the desire to have elected chairs of committees. Something ironic about that motion from 2014 is that the voted for it. So did the MP for . Where was that good intention from that vote? They stood in this place and said that they wanted committee chairs elected. In fact, that motion from my friend and Conservative colleague was to elect the chairs from the entire chamber, not one person, the MP for .
This is pretty much everything the government does. It is set up with a facade of sunny ways, accountability, transparency, and it is a mug's game. It is actually not. Everything is done for the Liberals' own partisan advantage, but it is very much captured in a way that presents them in a positive fashion.
The Treasury Board president, the member for , spoke in favour of the election of chairs. He said that having the election of chairs “has the capacity to render committees more independent, potentially more constructive and less partisan”. Another member of the Liberals' caucus, the member for in Newfoundland and Labrador, went further and said that chairs of committees should be elected. However, is it not refreshing that all 308 members of the House have the chance to put themselves in a place where they are the chair of a committee based on their skill of being a member of Parliament and a decent chair?
It is not based on what kind of favours are owed to them in a party structure or a reward given for good behaviour. Quite frankly, that is essentially how it works. This takes control away from the executive and brings it back to the House of Commons.
That member is still in this caucus. I hope he referenced that in the way Bill has been handled, where the chair was not elected by this place. The chair was appointed before the committee was even struck, in fact, before the committee even existed. It was just an idea before Bill C-22 was tabled. It is profoundly disappointing that my friend for has to start under this cloud. I am quite sure he would have made the case for being the chair.
I will now switch to what renders the proposed legislation essentially ineffective and why we are still trying to work with the government on it. We want to see some substantive amendments, and I have talked to my NDP colleague on it as well.
There are seven exemptions under section 14, including that the committee cannot look at ongoing investigations that may lead to criminal charges. That is pretty much every investigation or operation of law enforcement or security agencies in the country. Defence intelligence cannot be looked at. The Investment Canada Act cannot be looked at. Then section 16, on top of those seven exemptions, piles on two broad “let's catch everything” exceptions. Special operational info is excluded and anything “injurious to national security”.
Once again, the appoints people and then he and his ministry decide. Those ministers are just members of the House like me. They decide what this committee sees. Therefore, the exceptions and outright control of all aspects of this committee by the Prime Minister's Office renders it ineffective and does not render it what my friend for or other parliamentarians wanted to see years ago, which was Parliament being supreme and actually conducting oversight of security and intelligence. It is a real missed opportunity.
I now want to show how the bill, particularly the ham-fisted way the minister has not worked with the opposition parties on this thing that should be above partisanship, actually violates the privilege of the members of the House. Who will support me in my argument? The , because I will be using some remarks from him.
The House leader tried to discount these exceptions by saying that ministers would have to justify why information could not go to the committee. With 20 different doors of exceptions to choose from, it will be simple to have this just as a token committee that will not be effective. I think all parliamentarians want it to be effective. It is supposed to be like it is in the U.K., a cabinet-like level of secrecy with a special room, and with special advisers. However, if they are not even seeing information relating to an ongoing investigation that may lead to charges, this is essentially window dressing.
Why I think this violates the privilege of members of the House of Commons is because your predecessor, Mr. Speaker, declared this, in Speaker Milliken's reading of April 27, 2010. In that widely-covered Speaker's ruling, the question of privilege was considered with respect to the production of documents regarding Afghan detainees.
Members will remember the positions were reversed at the time. The Conservative Party was in government and the was then a very upset member of the opposition, as many people were.
However, the issues and the privilege attaching to the decision of Speaker Milliken is on the mark for this very issue, because it is the balance of what the House and members of the House should be able to see to perform their job, and how we balanced off sensitive information.
I will quote Speaker Milliken dealing specifically with this sensitive information argument, that the House leader said they would have to justify why information would not be received. The Speaker said:
|| However, I cannot agree with his conclusion that this obviates the government's requirement to provide the documents ordered by the House. To accept such a notion would completely undermine the importance of the role of parliamentarians in holding the government to account.
He went on to say:
|| Before us are issues that question the very foundations upon which our parliamentary system is built. In a system of responsible government, the fundamental right of the House of Commons to hold the government to account for its actions is an indisputable privilege and in fact an obligation.
Remember, as members of the House, we are the members holding the government to account. Speaker Milliken was quite clear that the fact there was sensitive information, or intelligence documents, or information relating to an ongoing investigation did not remove the obligation of the government to share those documents with the House.
That is even more pronounced now that the government is setting up a specialized committee of parliamentarians with security oversights and an oath of secrecy. There are even more safeguards for the sensitive information with the committee that wants to be formed by Bill than that which existed over the Afghan detainee issue in 2010.
Speaker Milliken went on to say:
|| The right of Parliament to obtain every possible information on public questions is undoubted, and the circumstances must be exceptional, and the reasons very cogent, when it cannot be at once laid before the houses.
Speaker Milliken was talking before the House. There was not even consideration of this highly secret, highly confidential, and protected, designed committee of parliamentarians. However, Speaker Milliken said that members of the House, as it stands, were entitled to that information. Bill violates that privilege.
The minister could have raised this issue by working with the opposition. We expressed some concerns. He could have raised it with some of the leading experts. He refused to meet with them too. Once again, sunny ways is the slogan but not the conduct.
Finally, I will provide one last quote from Speaker Milliken's judgment, because it is germane to this discussion on why this violates privilege. He said:
|| The insinuation that members of Parliament cannot be trusted with the very information that they may well require to act on behalf of Canadians runs contrary to the inherent trust that Canadians have placed in their elected officials and which members require to act in their various parliamentary capacities.
Speaker Milliken was clear in saying there could be a balance struck on sensitive information and the absolute right of the House to review information and to hold the government to account. With the apparatus and security safeguards set up around a special committee of parliamentarians, it is even easier to ensure that balance is struck. Sadly, the minister has missed the mark.
Let us see what the minister himself said in 2010, some weeks after Speaker Milliken's ruling. The member from Wascana called the actions of the government of the day's holding back some documents unilateral, arbitrary, and contrary to parliamentary tradition. He then went on to say:
|| That series of questions of privilege resulted in your ruling on April 27, when, in very eloquent terms, you indicated that Parliament did have the right to information.
|| You indicated, at the same time, that there were sensitivities around issues related to national defence, national security, and international relations and that the House leaders and parliamentary critics should get together and arrive at a process to make information available to members of Parliament and Canadians for the purpose of holding the government to account and to do so in a way that would not imperil national security, national defence, or international relations.
He went on to say that Parliament was entitled to such information if safeguards could be in place. These are the minister's own words in 2010, saying that members of the House were entitled to that information.
I would ask the government, through its , the member from , why the seven exceptions? Why the two blanket exceptions in section 16 that would not allow parliamentarians to fulfill their duties? Why the absolute control by the 's Office?
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise to address this very important bill.
I want to thank my colleagues for their insightful contributions to the debate already. We agree on a great deal, and it gives me confidence that we will be able to work together to ultimately improve this bill.
Let me be clear: New Democrats support parliamentary oversight to finally bring Canada up to the standard of accountability that our closest allies have enjoyed for decades.
This bill would fulfill recommendations made some 35 years ago and ignored by successive Liberal and Conservative governments ever since. Neglecting that warning and ignoring our allies' examples has not enhanced Canadians' security or protected their rights.
Let us be clear: We face real threats to both our security and our rights. Canadians are concerned about the threat of foreign and domestic terrorism, they are concerned about cybersecurity, and they are concerned about armed violence and unrest around the globe, but they are also deeply concerned about their freedoms and their privacy. They are concerned about government secrecy and surveillance, and above all, they are wondering why, after nearly a year in power, their new government has maintained Bill as the law of the land without changing a single comma.
I support the principle of this bill and will be voting in favour of referring it to the committee so that it can get on with the study to get it right. However, I have deep concerns about many aspects of it.
I am concerned that this bill would fail to account for the lessons of the last decade and the experiences of our allies. Unless it is fixed, it will create a committee that is neither strong enough to be effective nor independent enough to be trusted.
I have solutions to propose for each of these flaws, and I welcome the input of all members on them, because this is no place for partisanship or politics.
Before we dive into the details of the bill, let us be clear on three important points of context. First, this bill is not a new idea. Rather, it answers a warning made 35 years ago in the wake of a string of high-profile scandals surrounding the RCMP.
One major recommendation coming out of the 1981 McDonald Commission of inquiry was the creation of CSIS as a separate intelligence gathering service. Another major recommendation was the creation of an overarching parliamentary oversight committee. That one has gathered dust for three decades, so the idea behind Bill is not new. In fact, our allies, including the United States, Britain, France, Germany, and Australia, each created similar oversight committees decades ago.
The second point of context is that we should all be clear that the bill before us today is far from a fresh proposal. It is nearly identical to an earlier Liberal bill, introduced in November 2005, in the final days of the Paul Martin government, by the public safety committee as Bill . While the powers of security agencies have grown considerably since that time, the few minor differences between the 2005 oversight bill and this one would reduce the committee's powers and independence. For instance, Bill introduces security vetting for members and a new power for ministers to halt investigations.
An old bill is not necessarily a bad bill, but the government must surely accept that a proposal drawn up before the Snowden revelations, before the October 14 attack on this Parliament, and before the shocking overreach of the Harper government's Bill must be open to updates from members.
The third and last point of context is that we should all have a clear picture of how this proposal compares to the practices of our allies so we can learn from them, and, as the government House leader said, create a made-in-Canada solution that works for us.
The body proposed by Bill is essentially a weaker version of its closest analogue, namely Britain's intelligence and security committee.
In 2013, after public criticism of its many shortcomings, the British government significantly overhauled its committee, strengthening its powers and its independence. The committee emerged with an independently elected chair, operational oversight powers, and a shift in appointment power from the prime minister to Parliament. We heard a great deal about that in the speech from the hon. member for .
These reforms are simply not reflected in the bill before us today, and I do not understand why. The British committee was in fact in Ottawa last week, and its chair warned us to work hard to earn public trust. We do not want to repeat the errors of our allies; we need to learn from them.
Last week, when the previous chair resigned, the head of a prominent British legal advocacy group responded in this way:
|| From UK complicity in CIA torture to mass-surveillance, the [committee] has missed every [single] major security-related scandal of the past 15 years. It has fallen to the press, the courts and NGOs to expose these events, with the [committee's] members only discovering them by reading the newspapers.
We do not want the same to be said of our committee a decade from now; rather, we should be aiming to be the leading edge of international practice. That was the advice in 2004 of the interim committee of parliamentarians on national security when that committee recommended granting complete access to information far beyond what is considered in the bill before us today. Here is what that committee said:
|| Though this arguably goes further than the legislation enacted by some of our allies, it is in line with developing practice....
|| We strongly believe that a structure which must rely on gradual evolution and expansion of access, power, and remit would be inappropriate for Canada.
Therefore, there are examples we can learn from around the globe. Could we give elected representatives a bigger role in operational oversight? Absolutely; in the United States, federal law requires intelligence agencies to keep congressional committees “fully and presently informed” of all covert actions and operations. In Germany, the group that authorizes each interception of private communications is controlled by a committee of parliamentarians.
Could we give the committee stronger investigative powers? Absolutely; Germany's oversight committee can conduct random site investigations, and subpoena witnesses and documents. Belgium's committee can even launch criminal investigations. The committee in our case would not even have subpoena powers.
I raise these comparisons not to disparage the bill before us, but to show that the door must be open to amendments. If the government shuts the door on amendments from other parties, we will be shackling ourselves to a blueprint that ignores the last decade of history and falls short of the current best practices of our allies. To me this is simply unacceptable when our safety and rights are at stake.
With that in mind, let me point to five weaknesses in the current draft and propose some solutions. I have amendments ready for each and would welcome the chance to work with members of all parties to craft a solution by consensus.
First, the government is proposing that the chair be selected by the rather than elected by the committee. As I say, that is what Britain originally did. It changed its way; why can we not? We have to earn the trust of Canadians. It seems like a pretty poor place to start when the government gets to control who runs the watchdog committee in the first place.
The bill should be amended to allow the election of a member from outside the governing party to chair this committee. That was exactly what Mr. Justice McDonald recommended 35 years ago to another Liberal government. It is not unprecedented, as I said; examples are Germany, Australia, and elsewhere. I fear we are going to lose the confidence of the public if we do not get this right.
Second, the committee's access to information, as has been said, is really limited. Full information is a prerequisite to effective oversight and to earning the public trust, which the British chair told us we must earn.
If the government can keep its secrets from the oversight committee, how can Canadians trust its findings? To call the committee's access rights broad, as the minister does, ignores many exemptions that make Swiss cheese of its powers. No fewer than seven different categories of information would be absolutely denied to the committee. Two more, including a catch-all category, could be denied at the discretion of any cabinet minister. Some of these are innocuous, but some of them are not.
The committee would be absolutely denied access to special operational information as defined in the Security of Information Act. This would mean that the intelligence oversight committee could be denied all information on intelligence sources, methods and targets, encryption systems, and information received from foreign partners. If this information is not relevant, indeed central, to the committee's mandate, I do not know what is. Is this not, in fact, the very type of information that the committee was designed to safely handle? Is that not why its members are to have security clearance and be sworn to eternal secrecy?
The worst is what security expert Professor Craig Forcese has called the Mack truck exception: the power of any cabinet minister to withhold information from the committee on the grounds that providing it—are members ready?—would be injurious to national security. This phrase is not defined anywhere, nor is it explained how sharing information with a group of top-secret-cleared individuals inside a secure facility could compromise Canada's security. These holes have simply got to be closed.
The committee must have complete access to information, as was recommended in 2004 by another parliamentary committee. As a solution, we should grant the committee that kind of access with the reasonable exception, I concede, of cabinet confidences, and the power to compel documents and testimony, a glaring omission in the bill. I am preparing amendments to this effect, and again, I would welcome input from members on all sides of the aisle.
Third, clause 8(b) of the bill would allow any cabinet minister to bury an investigation into his or her own department by claiming that the committee's confidential inquiry would be damaging to Canada's national security. The potential for abuse to cover up sloppy management or a scandal within a department is simply overwhelming. This line simply has to be removed if any credibility is to be retained.
Fourth, clause 21 of the bill currently would give the 's Office complete power to censor the committee's reports before they are released. Let us pause on that. So far we have learned that the government would appoint the chair, control what information the committee sees, and stop it investigating certain areas. The government proposes to control what it can report to Canadians. It is easy to see how, as the chair of the British committee warned us, the public trust could be so easily lost.
The government has a responsibility to ensure that sensitive information is handled appropriately. We all agree. However, this must be balanced against the need to earn and maintain public trust, and that requires meaningful commitment to transparency and accountability, not verbiage.
I propose a compromise. I would propose an amendment that would require any revised report to indicate the extent of and reasons for any censorship by the 's Office. Ideally, this would include a description of the type of information removed so Canadians can distinguish the redaction of confidential sources from the redaction of committee findings, for example.
I would ask the members on all sides to consider the utility of what I call an override clause, such as the power of the German oversight committee to publish a general assessment of an ongoing intelligence operation if supported by a supermajority of the committee. That is an idea we can look at.
Last, I would propose an amendment to give the committee a legal duty to report all suspected non-compliance or illegal activity to the and the . There is a precedent for this. Section 273.63 of the National Defence Act imposes the same whistle-blowing obligation on the commissioner responsible for CSEC, the Communications Security Establishment of Canada.
That kind of duty would not only bolster Canadians' confidence; it would resolve any confusion within the committee over the proper course of action when non-compliance is suspected. To reject that kind of duty, in my view, would send a very worrying signal to Canadians.
As I said, I am prepared to introduce amendments proposing solutions to each of these five weaknesses, as I perceive them, in the current version of the bill. I would, of course, welcome the input of any member from any party. This is not a place for partisanship or ego. All parties have to work together on this committee, and we may as well begin now.
Before I close, I would also like to take the chance to flag one last issue for the government, which I believe requires further consideration but for procedural reasons cannot be addressed through amendments to this bill.
I would urge the government, as part of its broader security review, to amend the CSIS Act and the National Defence Act to require the Communications Security Establishment of Canada, CSEC, to inform the committee every time a ministerial authorization is granted to intercept private communications, and to require CSIS to inform the committee when it conducts threat reduction activities, as that term is defined, or when CSIS seeks a warrant to do so under section 21.1 of the CSIS Act.
Canadians are rightly concerned about the use and abuse of these powers. There is no justification for withholding their use from the oversight committee.
In closing, let me say again that New Democrats welcome this bill and commit to working together with any member of any party to improve it. I have identified five flaws, in my judgment, and proposed five solutions, but I know there are many more of both, and I welcome input from all.
As I said at the outset, this bill is crucial to protecting all Canadians' safety and upholding their rights. Oversight makes security services more effective, and it bolsters public trust in them. This committee will be equally as useful in closing gaps as in reining in excesses, but we cannot take its utility for granted. The bill before us is imperfect. Without amendments, it will fail to give the committee either the strength to be effective or the independence to be trusted.
We cannot settle for good enough when it comes to Canadians' security and rights. I call on every member and all parties to work together to improve this critically important bill. Above all, I urge the government to demonstrate openness to that input and to these amendments. The security and rights of Canadians are not places for partisanship.
If the government demonstrates that openness, all parties may be able to work together to craft a committee that is independent, secure, and effective at strengthening our security, protecting our rights, and upholding Canadian values. However, if the government refuses to work in good faith with other parties to make changes to this bill, I fear the support of parliamentarians and the trust of Canadians will be lost.
Three decades ago, the McDonald commission warned us as follows:
||....security must not be regarded as more important than democracy, for the fundamental purpose of security is the preservation of our democratic system.
Every parliamentarian will see that balance differently, but all of us must work together to get it right.
Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to speak to the proposed legislation before us as it would allow us to deliver on the commitment we made to Canadians to improve security and to include scrutiny and review when it comes to the national security and intelligence activities of the Government of Canada.
I was listening to the recent debate and the words of the critic for public safety from the NDP. It occurs to me that some of the concerns the member has assume that there is one right way and one right legislation. I would say that issues of privacy and security are so dynamic in our country and society that having, as he described it, parliamentarians of goodwill and open minds working together is the critical element. In terms of getting something on the table right now, the bill is critical. Therefore, I am very optimistic about the bill.
I want to remind the member for that the challenges around balancing security and privacy in an Internet age will not stop. There will never be a point where everything is exactly where we can freeze it in time and say, “That's it”. We will have to keep being aware of the issues as they arise and improving our responses to them. The bill is an excellent step forward on that.
As members have heard, Bill would allow for the establishment of the national security and intelligence committee of parliamentarians. It is a multi-party committee that would examine and report on the government's national security and intelligence activities across an array of departments and ministries. This is an area that many Canadians feel is far too opaque, and I certainly am one of those parliamentarians.
Before I get into the details of the bill, I think it is worth reminding hon. members about the many calls in the House for this kind of committee to be created, and this has been happening for well over a decade. There have also been repeated attempts to introduce legislation in the House as well as in the Senate in order to address the concerns that the bill would address.
For example, two years ago, I was pleased to create and introduce Bill , which would have created the intelligence and security committee of Parliament, very similar to the committee that we see in the bill today. However, my bill had an additional element of identifying measures that I felt were needed to increase the accountability and transparency of our Communications Security Establishment and link the operations of sharing information among agencies in a more structured and accountable way.
That bill was debated at second reading barely one week after the attack in this building and the tragic shooting of Corporal Nathan Cirillo down the street, and just 10 days after the tragedy of the killing of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent. Therefore, the timing of Bill was unfortunate. In fact, I had someone on Twitter say that my Bill C-622 was the worst-timed private member's bill in the history of the Canadian Parliament. I had to say that I agreed.
However, it was fully supported by all of the opposition party members, including one member of the Conservative Party as well, because of the need to address improving security and the protection of privacy, and the way that was embedded in Bill .
As I said in this place at that time:
|| In the wake of the recent deadly attacks on our soldiers and on Parliament itself, all party leaders confirmed their commitment to protect the rights, freedoms, and civil liberties of Canadians, even as security measures are analyzed and strengthened. Indeed, Canadians expect these fundamental aspects of the very democracy being guarded to be respected, and that is the underlying intention of the bill.
Unfortunately, the legislation, as I said, was defeated by the Conservative government of the day just a few short months before it introduced Bill . At the time, the Conservatives argued that the existing review mechanisms were adequate and that the creation of a committee of parliamentarians to scrutinize national security operations would be, to quote the former Conservative parliamentary secretary, “not in the best interests of national security” and “not in the best interests of Canadians”. I could not disagree more. Time after time, over many years, we have heard from experts, including the Auditor General, judges, MPs, and senators, and from ordinary Canadians that in fact just such a committee is in the best interests of Canadians and vital to our national security and our values as an open, inclusive, and rights-based democracy.
In the course of exploring this issue over a number of months and meeting with key members of the security and privacy networks in Ottawa and across the country, virtually no one thought that this committee of parliamentarians would not be an important and essential next step for the Government of Canada. The arguments made by the Conservatives at that time, that there were already surveillance mechanisms over our security agencies, were weak arguments because while some of those mechanisms were effective in their mandates and had very competent heads who were delivering on their mandates, their mandates were narrow and did not include thinking about the laws and policies being applied to the security agencies.
It was not within their mandates to comment on that, so if there were flaws, holes, or outdated elements of the laws or policies that the commissioners, such as the commissioner for CSEC, were applying in their review, they had no tools or teeth for recommending changes to policy. That meant that the oversight mechanisms had to accept the policies and legislation of the day and the limitations thereof, even though this is such a dynamic situation in our Internet age with the moving targets of the various threats of security breaches in our country. That is part of why it is so important to have a committee that has a broader mandate and looks across all of the security and intelligence functions of the Government of Canada.
The second key missing from the individual oversight mechanisms the previous government argued were adequate was that there was no looking across the board at the various approaches, policies, and operations to see where the gaps and duplications were. If there are gaps in the personal privacy safety net and in the security safety net, it could mean that we do not have adequate security for Canadians. It could also mean not having a robust enough approach to protecting the individual rights and privacy of citizens. If there is duplication, that means that resources are going unnecessarily to do work being done somewhere else and that those resources will not then be available for investing in the full application of the policies of the agencies to protect Canadians while respecting individual privacy and rights.
Indeed, the bill before us today is a key component of our government's ambitious national security agenda focused on achieving a dual objective, keeping Canadians safe and safeguarding the rights and freedoms that we all enjoy as Canadians, and which, indeed, are the hallmark of being Canadian and are looked at by countries around the globe as a model for what they aspire to in safeguarding rights and freedoms. That is why it was the central focus of the Liberal platform and has been put before the House.
I will now speak to the details of this legislation.
In terms of structure, the proposed committee would be a statutory entity whose members would be drawn from the ranks of current parliamentarians across party lines. That structure would create a non-partisan responsibility to other members of Parliament to report on our behalf on these matters in a way that crosses party lines and is in the best interest of Parliament's responsibility to the Canadian public to find the right way forward in balancing security and privacy rights.
The committee would be composed of nine members. That would include seven members of Parliament, with a maximum of four being from the government party, and two senators. Given the nature of its mandate, the committee would be granted unprecedented access to classified material. A dedicated professional and independent secretariat would support the work of the committee to ensure it had the tools and resources it would need to carry out its work.
That last sentence is critical. In some of the previous private members' bills that were proposed in the House, that function was not included. Therefore, the resources to get assistance to be able to dig into things and have research done and perhaps travel and all of the support the committee would need to be able to do its work without major constraints were elements that I added to my private member's bill, Bill . It built on the previous work done by the able Liberal members of Parliament who had put forward a bill to create a committee of parliamentarians. Having this dedicated professional and independent secretariat to support the work of the committee, as I said, is critical to its effectiveness.
Another way the committee would be proven effective is by having a broad mandate. This committee would be able to review the full range of national security activities and all departments and agencies across the Government of Canada. That is a key tenet of the bill and crucial to what we are trying to achieve. I mentioned earlier how important it is to be able to find those duplications and to be able to make our security safety net much stronger thereby.
The committee would be able to look at all of this work crossing some 20 different departments and agencies who all are involved to varying degrees in national security and intelligence activities. It would gain a full picture of what the government agencies and departments were doing in national security and intelligence matters. In terms of this mandate, the model we have envisioned goes even further than what exists in most countries with a similar type of committee.
I am proud that our supported a delegation going to London, Great Britain to look at the British committee of parliamentarians that provides oversight, so that we could learn from and build on that model and improve it based on what the delegation heard. We owe a great deal of thanks to the co-operation of the members of parliament of Great Britain who, over the years, have been willing to share their successes, challenges, and ideas on how to make better legislation. It is worth mentioning, incidentally, that this kind of parliamentary body exists in most western democracies, including all of our Five Eyes allies. That is one of the reasons I was so surprised at the previous Conservative government's intransigence in refusing to support this concept. However, that is water under the bridge, and I hope we will see support from Conservative members today under a different, albeit interim, leadership.
The committee would have the authority to self-initiate reviews of the legislative, regulatory, policy, financial, and administrative framework for national security in Canada. In other words, it would be able to analyze whatever it believed needed analyzing to ensure the effectiveness of the framework, as well as its respect for Canadian values.
That is so important, as I mentioned, and represents an evolution from what a previous Liberal government had contemplated for this committee. It is an evolution to a more effective and more multi-layered approach for the committee's responsibilities, which I felt was exceedingly important when I was doing my work on this issue.
Beyond the power to look at the national security framework, it will be empowered to review specific national security and intelligence operations, including, notably, those that are still ongoing. Due to the inherently sensitive nature of the material examined by the committee, there will be reasonable limits on what the committee can share with the public. Committee members will still be able to bring pressure to bear on the government of the day by telling Canadians if they have uncovered something problematic and by letting Canadians know, thereafter, if the problem had been adequately addressed.
Those are incredibly important accountability mechanisms built into this bill. It is not enough to have parliamentary committee members review and find things that are problematic, and then have those buried under a blanket of security without the public ever knowing there was is an issue that needs to be attended to.
As I noted at the outset, several parliamentarians, past and present, have tried to address these matters with other legislative proposals. We certainly look forward to hearing their input, just as I look forward to providing my own input as one of those members. Indeed, all members, through this legislative process, are welcome to give their input.
I have already addressed the point by some that review and accountability mechanisms are already in place when it comes to national security. We have the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP, the Security Intelligence Review Committee for CSIS, and the CSE Commissioner. However, as I have mentioned, it is incumbent on parliamentarians to be able to meaningfully review Canada's overarching national security framework, to make sure they can identify key gaps and duplications and also ministries that are doing important work on this but in isolation because their key mandate happens to be something completely other than security and privacy.
We will be encouraging the new committee to co-operate and collaborate with the existing review bodies to avoid overlap and to build on the great work already being done. In fact, in the research I did for Bill , I spoke with former heads of the Communications Security Establishment, who supported the idea of a review committee of parliamentarians. I spoke with former and present commissioners for oversight of CSE, who are also doing very important work. I have to say that our current commissioner has really extended, over the last few years, the kinds of information he is providing in his reports, far beyond what was happening in the commissioner's office before.
These are important mechanisms and oversight initiatives. I am delighted that we will be building on the work they do. They will remain autonomous institutions with distinct mandates, and such collaboration that they will provide with this committee is desirable and will be voluntary.
This committee is going to go far in helping us re-establish the balance between democratic accountability and national security that is so hugely desired by the Canadian public. It is of crucial importance to our government. We heard about it throughout the recent election campaign in 2015. It is of crucial importance to Canadians. We look forward to engaging in constructive and thoughtful debate with members on all sides of the House on this and other issues related to improving our national security while defending and supporting the civil liberties and privacy rights of Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, today we are discussing Bill , an act to establish the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians.
We do not support this bill because it is ineffective in its current form. The has all the authority. He chooses the members and the information the committee can have and present to the House of Commons. Having parliamentarians review the actions of the government when it comes to security and intelligence is very important, but this bill does not give us a realistic chance to do that.
This legislation demonstrates another Liberal smoke and mirrors show, another deviation from an election commitment.
I want to go through and in fairly precise detail talk about the mechanisms that this law would create.
I was in the House to listen to the presentation. With great respect to the work she is doing, the reality is that many of the things she said, and I pointed one of them out in questions and comments, simply did not accord with the text of the legislation.
It is not sufficient for the minister to reassure us of the government's good intentions, or to somehow interpret what the government is trying to do, or wants to do or wants the legislation to mean. What is important is the substantive text of Bill . If we think through the actual process in place, the mechanisms that the bill would provide, there is not any kind of seriousness in terms of parliamentary review or oversight being proposed.
I want to remind members of a commitment the government made during the election, and I found this on the Liberal Party website. It said that it would create an all-party committee to monitor and oversee the operations of every government department and agency with national security responsibility. Clearly, all-party was mentioned as well as providing meaningful review of past and oversight of present operations. This clearly was the commitment that was in place.
The House passed private members' bills that were proposed by members within the government. The parliamentary secretary who just spoke proposed Bill C-622 and the member for previously proposed Bill . It is interesting to look at what was being said by that party when in opposition in terms of structure and mechanism and what this would do, what those private members' bills proposed to do, and the sleight of hand variations that were not even being acknowledged in the speeches but are present in Bill . These are the major concerns we have.
Let us just go through it. I am going to talk about the limitations with respect to the appointment process as well as the provision of information, and then finally about the limitations in terms of the reporting process.
In terms of the existing appointment process, unlike Bill C-622 that was proposed previously by the now parliamentary secretary, this bill would provide for not only the appointment of the chair by the , but also the appointment of every member of the committee. It does say that not all of the members can come from the government, but the three members of the House of Commons who are not members of the governing party could be anyone who the Prime Minister chooses.
These could theoretically be independents recently departed from the government caucus. I do not know if that is likely but that is possible. There is nothing in this legislation to suggest that the official opposition would necessarily be represented. There is nothing to suggest that the committee structure should be reflective in some sense of the composition of the House or similar to some degree with what exists in parliamentary committees. This would be a committee where the Prime Minister could, at will, choose seven members of Parliament who he thought should be on that committee and then also two members of the other place.
There is a requirement for consultation with the leaders of parties from which members are appointed if that party has recognized status in the House of Commons. There is no requirement for consultation with the leadership of Senate caucuses or with the leadership of a party in the context of appointments in the Senate. There is no requirement for consultation in the case of members being appointed who are not from recognized parties. Perhaps more importantly, there is no requirement that the consultation actually be meaningful.
The legislation does not say that the leader of another party has to agree. What would be much more sensible, I would argue, if this process were more serious, would be to have the leaders of the different parties put forward names of those within their parties, as is normal practice, and the committee would then select its own chair. However, there is not a meaningful requirement for the engagement of other parties. It is totally and completely up to the as to who gets appointed.
I want to draw the attention of members to subclause 4(3) of the legislation, subtitled “Not a committee of Parliament”. The committee would not be a committee of either House of Parliament or of both Houses. That is a distinction we need to appreciate. The legislation says very specifically that this would not be a parliamentary committee. It would be a committee that happens to include parliamentarians but parliamentarians who are appointed by the Prime Minister and who effectively report directly to him, which I will talk about.
It is interesting, as well, that the way the committee would operate is different from what those of us who participate in parliamentary committees are used to. I will just read a couple of other sections of the bill. These are important to read into the record, as people earlier in the debate were saying things about the bill that just do not reflect the substance of what we are seeing in the bill. Clause 18 states:
|| Meetings of the Committee are to be held in private if any information that a department is taking measures to protect is likely to be disclosed during the course of the meeting or if the Chair considers it to be otherwise necessary.
Therefore, it would not be up to the will of the committee to determine whether they move in camera, as is the normal practice. It would be solely at the discretion of the chair.
The voting rules would be different as well. The bill states:
|| The Chair may vote at meetings of the Committee and, in the case of an equality of votes, also has a deciding vote.
This is again different from the normal procedure. Effectively, the chair would always vote, as I understand this section, and in the case of a tie, the chair would vote again. This is a situation where although the government would have only four members from the House, and potentially two appointed members from its own side from the Senate, the chair would effectively have two votes. He or she—but we know who it is going to be; it is going to be a he—would have the ability to vote twice. That is unusual. That is a pretty substantial deviation from the way the process normally operates.
These are limitations in terms of appointments. It is very clear that the government has designed an appointment procedure that gives all the control over who sits on the committee, and by extension, over aspects of its deliberations, directly to the person who happens to be the . Clearly, it would not be a parliamentary committee. It would be a committee made up of some parliamentarians but would not at all be a parliamentary committee.
We go on to the issue of the provision of information in the bill. What information is to be provided, and how would that information then be considered and synthesized by the committee? Again, there are substantial limitations in terms of the work of the committee.
I attended the technical briefing last night, and we were told by the that the goal is to include, as much as possible, both retrospective review and oversight of current operations.
Yet if we look at clause 14 of the legislation, which deals with exceptions, the exceptions would effectively include any possible scrutiny of ongoing operations. I draw the attention of members to clause 14:
||(b) information respecting ongoing defence intelligence activities supporting military operations, including the nature and content of plans in support of those military operations;...
||(e)information relating directly to an ongoing investigation carried out by a law enforcement agency that may lead to a prosecution;
Effectively then, it would be anything related to investigations that may hypothetically lead to prosecutions or anything related to military operations. I do not dispute the value of some exclusions, although these are people who are going to go through the process of getting security clearances. They are going to be approved for the purpose of doing these kinds of reviews. It is interesting that right at the outset, these exclusions would effectively seem to exclude most of the kinds of information that might be related to ongoing operations. Those exclusions would happen right at the outset.
That is not all. It is not just those automatic exclusions. In clause 16 we have sort of a discretionary exclusion for the minister involved that is extremely broad. It says:
|| (1) The appropriate Minister for a department may refuse to provide information to which the Committee would, but for this section, otherwise be entitled to have access and that is under the control of that department, but only if he or she is of the opinion that (a) the information constitutes special operational information, as defined in subsection 8(1) of the Security of Information Act; and (b) provision of the information would be injurious to national security.
Again, in the official opposition, we understand the importance of the sensitivity of this information, but this would be a matter of the opinion of the minister; this would not a matter of saying that in the opinion of experts there is a risk to national security. This would purely be a subjective determination by the minister saying that we do not want to give this information to this committee, because in the view of the minister, it is injurious to national security, but we do not actually have to justify that belief in any objective sense.
The legislation is clear that the committee would not have a mechanism, for instance, to challenge the exclusion in court.
The committee, already appointed by the , dominated by members of the government, where the chair, appointed by the Prime Minister, would effectively have two votes, could still be refused information solely on the basis of the opinion of the minister without any kind of review of that determination by the minister.
We talked about the limitations and exclusions in terms of appointments. It is clear that there are substantive limitations and exclusions in terms of the information an already secretive committee would receive itself privately.
Let us go on to the limitations in terms of reporting. Who would the committee report to? The would be appointing it, and the Prime Minister could determine that it would not receive information. Who should the committee report to? Well, let us keep it in the family. The committee would report to the Prime Minister. That is right. This committee of parliamentarians would not report to the House; it would report directly to the Prime Minister. Of course, the Prime Minister would then provide that information back to the House within a certain number of days. I believe it is within 90 days, but the Prime Minister would have total unfettered discretion in limiting what he tabled. I am going to read again from the legislation itself, subclause 21(5):
|| If, after consulting the Chair of the Committee, the Prime Minister is of the opinion that information in an annual or special report is information the disclosure of which would be injurious to national security, national defence or international relations or is information that is protected by litigation privilege or solicitor-client privilege or, in civil law, by immunity from disclosure or the professional secrecy of advocates and notaries, the Prime Minister may direct the Committee to submit to the Prime Minister a revised version of the annual or special report that does not contain that information.
I am sorry, it was not 90 days. The timeline between the receiving this and when he would be obliged to table it would be 45 days.
In terms of this section, it is very clear that, first of all, the would have full and complete discretion in terms of what is and is not tabled. He could go back to the committee and require it to make these kinds of changes before it was tabled. However, it is also clear from this section that he would not even need to invoke national security or national defence, because the section includes, as well, a reference to international relations.
In other words, if the believed that something in this report, which would then be tabled in the House, might have a negative impact on the reputation of the government and therefore would have some implications for our international relations, then on that basis, not even on the asserted basis of security, the Prime Minister could then go back to the committee and say that it needed to exclude that information.
What options would the committee have? Of course, in a normal situation, where we were not dealing with secrets, there would be an opportunity to publicly raise some objection. However, the committee could not do that. There would be no ability for the committee to then draw the attention of the public to this information in some other way, and quite appropriately, in this context.
However, we have to ask what is actually going on here. What is the effective check on the power of the government? Surely that is what is behind the very notion of parliamentary oversight, that there would be some opportunity for parliamentarians to meaningfully check the activities of the intelligence agencies that are accountable to the government.
However, there is no such check. The would fully dominate the appointment process. The and the cabinet would fully dominate the question of what information would flow to the committee, and the Prime Minister would be directly and fully in control of what information was or was not tabled in the House. This clearly is not in any sense a meaningful mechanism of scrutiny, at least as the bill presently stands. It is not a meaningful mechanism for checking the exercise of power by the government.
It is also worth looking at some of the differences between the legislation before us and the other private member's bills we have heard. Again, a few of them I have mentioned. Some of these other proposals refer to an all-party committee and not just to other members being chosen by the government. They also refer to the election of a chair by members.
Also, the legislation before us provides for significant remuneration not just for the chair of this committee but for all the members of the committee. That is a difference from what was promised in the past. The stipend available for the chair, and again the chair position has already been promised to someone, is substantially higher than the normal stipend for committee chairs.
We see these deviations, but we do not see a meaningful check in place.
I would very quickly mention that there are alternative models. The government has referred to our Five Eyes allies. It is worth underlining, for example, the British model, which does involve a parliamentary committee. It is not just a committee that happens to be made up of parliamentarians but is an actual parliamentary committee that reports to Parliament and is, of course, bound by all the same laws this committee would be bound by in terms of respect for secret information. However, it is ultimately accountable to the law and to Parliament, not to providing a report exclusively to a prime minister.
We also have a Canadian law that, frankly, has worked very well. The government has to explain how this addition would interact with our existing, highly effective Canadian model. It is not a parliamentary oversight model. It is a model of genuinely expert, independent oversight.
We have an intelligence review committee that is actually chaired by a former parliamentarian and has the expertise and the ability to provide an effective check, which this legislation just would not. Unfortunately, this is smoke and mirrors, not a substantive check on the power of the government.
Mr. Speaker, before I begin my remarks, I would like to indicate that I will be splitting my time with my friend and colleague, the member for .
I am honoured to speak today to Bill , which would create, for the first time, a national security and intelligence committee of parliamentarians. There can be no more important obligation of government than the responsibility to protect the safety and security of its citizens, both at home and abroad. However, there is another equally important obligation for government in a country like Canada that values our hard-earned freedoms, democracy, and the rule of law, an obligation to uphold the Constitution of Canada and ensure that all laws respect the rights and freedoms we enjoy as people who live in a free and democratic society.
The need to balance these two obligations simultaneously lies at the heart of the bill before us today. The legislation responds to the threats and attacks that have afflicted countries around the world, including Canada and some of our closest allies, in the face of which we must remain clear-eyed and ever vigilant.
Bill also responds to the many calls over many years for enhanced accountability of departments and agencies with national security responsibilities. Hon. members will remember that these calls intensified last year when the previous government introduced the Anti-terrorism Act, 2015, also known as Bill at the time.
Then, the Liberal party made the argument that Canada's approach to national security legislation should avoid both naïveté, on the one hand, and fearmongering, on the other. The threats are real, and so is the need to protect civil liberties. That is why we included improvements to our national security framework, including the creation of a national security and intelligence committee of parliamentarians as a major part of our campaign platform in the last election.
The bill before us would establish a committee with nine members. Seven of the committee members would be drawn from the House of Commons, of which only four can be government members. Two members would be drawn from the other place. This committee will be different from other committees and offices established to review security and intelligence matters.
In the accountability system now in place, some review bodies can access classified documents, but only for a specified department or agency. The members of these committees are not sitting parliamentarians. Where parliamentarians do have a role, they do not have access to classified documents.
None of the existing independent review bodies, including the Security Intelligence Review Committee that reviews CSIS, the Office of the Communications Security Establishment Commissioner, and the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP, includes sitting parliamentarians. On the other hand, parliamentary committees examine security and intelligence matters, but carry out their mandates primarily through listening to testimony at public meetings.
In the other place, the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence has a broad mandate to examine any legislation or issues related to national defence or security. In the House, the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security studies legislation or issues related to Public Safety Canada and the other agencies in the public safety portfolio. They do exceedingly valuable and good work, but as a rule, neither of these committees has access to classified information. They have neither the mandate nor the resources to dig deep into the details of national security matters in order to hold the government and national security agencies truly accountable.
Under the bill before us today, members of the national security and intelligence committee of parliamentarians would obtain the appropriate level of security clearance and would, therefore, have access to highly classified security and intelligence information regarding national security and intelligence activities across the Government of Canada.
I would also point out that our Five Eyes partners have review bodies that function in similar ways. In those countries, select parliamentarians have access to highly sensitive intelligence so that they can help to protect the public interest with regard to civil rights while also helping to protect public safety by ensuring that national security organizations are functioning effectively.
Until now, Canada has been alone among the Five Eyes partners in not having a committee where parliamentary representatives can access classified information. This bill would close that gap. In fact, in some regards, our proposal goes further than our allies in the Westminster democracies. This committee would review any and all government departments and agencies that are involved in security and intelligence. It would also have the authority to investigate ongoing operations.
When it comes to establishing a national security accountability mechanism, the bill before us sets a new standard that some of our allies might well follow. The powers given to this committee, its members, and its secretariat are robust. The committee would be able to access any information it needs to conduct its reviews, subject to some specific and reasonable limitations. As is the case with similar committees in other countries, while committee members would not be able to publicly divulge the classified information to which they would have access, they would be empowered to bring tremendous pressure to bear on a particular agency or on the government of the day by letting Canadians know if something is not right.
Clearly, this new committee represents a major step forward in strengthening the accountability of our national security and intelligence system. It would give the people's representatives a true opportunity to evaluate our national security policies and operations, and ensure that both Canadians' safety and their civil liberties are protected.
For those reasons, I urge hon. members to join me in supporting this very important and historic bill.
Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to speak to the proposed legislation before us today to deliver on the commitment we made to Canadians to improve the scrutiny and review of the national security and intelligence activities of the Government of Canada. It is in answer to what Canadians wanted and what was reflected when I knocked on doors in my riding of Surrey Centre.
As members have heard, Bill would allow for the establishment of a national security and intelligence committee of parliamentarians, a multi-partisan committee that would examine and report on the government's national security and intelligence activities, an area that many Canadians feel is far too opaque.
This important bill is a key component of our ambitious national security agenda, one that is focused on achieving the dual objectives of keeping Canadians safe and safeguarding the rights and freedoms we all enjoy as Canadians. As I will explain today, the work of the committee will be vital in helping us achieve both of those objectives.
In terms of structure, the proposed committee would be a statutory entity whose members would be drawn from the ranks of current parliamentarians across party lines. It would be composed of nine members, which includes seven members of Parliament, with a maximum of four being from the governing party, and two from the Senate.
Given the nature of its mandate, the committee would be granted unprecedented access to classified material. A dedicated, professional, and independent secretariat would support the work of the committee to ensure it has the tools and resources it needs to carry out its work.
The next element I want to touch upon is the proposed mandate of the committee. Indeed, one of the ways in which we would ensure that the committee is effective is by giving it a broad mandate. It would have the ability to review the full range of national security activities in all departments and agencies across the Government of Canada. That is a key tenet of the bill and is crucial to what we are trying to achieve.
Some 20 different agencies and departments are involved, albeit to varying degrees, in national security and intelligence activities. The committee would be able to look at all of this work to gain a full picture of what government agencies and departments are doing in national security and intelligence matters.
In terms of this mandate, the model and vision go even further than that which exists in most countries in the world where a similar type of committee currently exists. The committee would have the authority to self-initiate reviews of the legislative, regulatory, policy, financial, and administrative frameworks for national security in Canada; in other words, it would be able to look at the matters it wants to look at. Its goal would be to ensure the effectiveness of the framework, as well as its respect for Canadian values.
Beyond this power to look at the national security framework, it would also be empowered to review specific national security and intelligence operations, notably including those that are still ongoing. Understandably, this power would not be entirely unfettered. The appropriate minister for a department or agency may refuse to provide information if the information constitutes special operational information and the provision of information would be injurious to national security. This is a necessary provision to ensure the integrity of our national security operations, which can be highly sensitive. However, committee members would be able to bring pressure to bear on the government of the day by telling Canadians if they have uncovered something problematic, without discussing the specifics.
We also know that the or minister would not want to be the one defending his or her position to block an inquiry unless it is absolutely necessary. Therefore, I feel that this on its own would be an adequate deterrent to prevent the unnecessary blocks to inquiries.
Our government is incredibly proud of this bill because it would fill a gap in the national security accountability framework in our country, an assessment with which I know many members of this House would agree.
I would note that it is a shortcoming that several past and present parliamentarians have tried to address with other legislative proposals in the past. We certainly look forward to hearing any input from them, and indeed all members, throughout this legislative process.
At the same time, there may be some who would say that the review and accountability already exist when it comes to national security. It is true, of course, that a number of review bodies already provide a review function for their own specific organization, as the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission does for the RCMP and the Security and Intelligence Review Committee does for CSIS.
However, at a time when departments and agencies have been granted new mandates and new powers to disclose national security related information to each other, it is incumbent on parliamentarians to be able to meaningfully review Canada's overarching national security framework, as well as the operations of our national security agencies, so that we can make informed decisions about our laws and the effective use of our resources in protecting our national security.
Thankfully, Canada's security agencies have not been abused by the ministers or governments that run them, but in countries where there is an absence of parliamentary oversight, the security and intelligence review agencies have become political tools for the powers that govern them. Therefore, the prudent thing to do is to create a parliamentary oversight committee prior to such events occurring here in Canada.
That is also why we will be encouraging the new committee to co-operate and collaborate with existing review bodies, to avoid overlap and build on the great work that has already been done. For example, receiving copies of the reports that the review bodies draft would be beneficial for the committee for a number of reasons, including avoiding inadvertent duplication of effort, keeping abreast of potential areas of concern, and being able to follow up with its own reviews when deemed necessary. It is important to note, however, that the existing review bodies would remain autonomous institutions with distinct mandates, and such collaboration, while desirable, would be voluntary.
In terms of reporting, the committee would be required to prepare a minimum of one annual report. After the appropriate vetting to safeguard classified information, that report would be tabled in Parliament. It would also have latitude to issue other reports on any topics it deemed urgent and in the public interest.
On that note, I suggest that when the committee is struck, it be a committee that ensures that Canadians from all walks of life, races, creeds, cultures, and minority groups be protected and included.
Canadians must have faith in our security operations that are designed to protect us from the very real threats that we face in 2016. That said, it is important to maintain the dignity and the trust in the government departments and agencies whose mandates include security, and the bill before this House does exactly that.
At the helms of our law enforcement and intelligence agencies are Canada's best and brightest. Canadians are proud of the hard work and sacrifice they make to protect our country. However, it is common when organizations work in silos that the big picture may be omitted.
Retired Justice John Major once said that it was a cascading series of errors in response to the early interactions between the RCMP and the newly created security agency, CSIS, that resulted in a security breech. We have come a long way since and have made significant improvements in that relationship, and the bill represents the next step in that progress.
I ask the House to monitor and scrutinize this legislation as necessary in the years ahead. As parliamentarians, it is our job to ensure that the legislation is up to date and that it is always in the best interests of Canadians.
We look forward to engaging in constructive and thoughtful debate with members on all sides of the House on this and other issues related to improving our national security.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill , Today, I would like to focus my remarks on four main areas of concern I have with the legislation as currently drafted.
However, before I begin, I would like to take a few moments to recognize the important work done by the men and women who serve our country's national security agencies. The work done by these agencies is paramount to the public safety of all Canadians, and I commend those who work tirelessly to keep us all safe. Like you, Mr. Speaker, and anyone else who was in the House two years ago on October 22, I have a lot of respect and admiration for those who kept us all safe that day. It could have been a different outcome. To all of those who were here that day and kept us all safe and able to go home to our families, I thank them very much.
We are not immune to the threats our allies are facing around the world from terrorism and homegrown radicalization. In fact, we all witnessed the tremendous work of our national security agencies this summer when they were able to stop a potential terror attack in Strathroy, Ontario, a community just a few hours south of my riding of Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound. My colleague here beside me represents that area and knows how the situation could have turned out much worse. Our security agencies were able to identify and intercept a threat from a radicalized individual before he was able to place homemade explosive devices in public locations. Without our security agencies, this could have ended in disaster. Again, I thank those who work around the clock to keep us all safe from threats like these and all others.
I would like to highlight four main areas of concern that I have with the legislation. They include the timing of the legislation and appointment of the chair; the membership of the national security and intelligence committee of parliamentarians, which I will refer to as the committee; the level of access that the committee will have to important information; and the channels through which the committee will release its reports.
First and foremost, I feel that the timing of the legislation is strange. The government introduced the legislation in the final days before the House rose for the summer last session. This is fine and dandy, but we found out during the summer that the would be launching a cross-country consultation on Canada's national security framework. The Department of Public Safety listed the topics for discussion at this consultation as accountability, prevention, threat reduction, domestic national security information sharing, the passenger protect program, the Criminal Code's terrorism measures, the terrorist entry listing procedures, and others as part of the scope of the consultation. It seems to me there are a number of aspects of the legislation that could be significantly impacted by what is heard from Canadians as the government carries out these consultations.
Furthermore, the minister has written to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, which I am a member of, to ask that the committee also engage in cross-country consultations with Canadians on Canada's national security framework. As vice-chair of this committee, I am looking forward to travelling across Canada to hear from interested Canadians on what they think about these very important topics. However, what I am concerned about is that the government once again has put the cart before the horse. I do not understand why or how it makes sense to anyone to table this legislation and several other pieces of legislation before the House when we have not yet consulted Canadians, unless of course the government is just carrying out these consultations to pretend it is actually consulting. I sincerely hope that that is not the case, but it certainly appears that it is exactly what it is doing.
Furthermore, I find it deeply concerning that the government named the chair of the committee before it even put the legislation before the House. The member for was named as the chair of the committee more than five months before the legislation was brought before the House.
I respect the member for as I do all colleagues in the House. I sat for a few years on the transportation committee with him. It is not about him so much as the process, and some other points that I will mention.
I have served on many different committees since I became a member of Parliament back in 2004, and never, not once, have I joined a newly-formed committee that already has had a chair for months. The chair is always selected by the committee members through an election at the first meeting of the committee.
We all know, and I am not naive, that when the Liberals are in power, or whichever party is in power, that it will be one of them that gets elected. However, we still have the election, and that is not happening in this case.
I actually find it very ironic that the government has already named the chair of this important committee, given that it was the Liberal Party during the election campaign that called and screamed for more accountability for parliamentary committees. Where is it?
The Liberal Party platform states on the increase on accountability that “...we will strengthen the role of Parliamentary committee chairs, including elections by secret ballot”. Does that sound like what we are doing? Not at all.
Why should the process be any different for this new committee? The chair should have never been appointed before the membership was even consulted.
This leads to my second concern with the legislation as it is currently drafted. I have several concerns with how the membership of this new committee will be formed.
The legislation states that the committee will be composed of the chair, up to seven members of Parliament, and up to two senators, and will become members of the committee through a Governor in Council appointment on the recommendation of the .
My concern is that membership on the committee is at the discretion of the rather than Parliament. Indeed, it has been expressed by many Canadians that they want parliamentary oversight of their national security agencies. What they do not want is for the to basically bypass Parliament and have full control of the committee, because that is the way it is designed.
If this committee is going to provide parliamentary oversight, then the membership of the committee should be approved by Parliament and not the . This committee should not be seen as an extension of the PMO.
Furthermore, in reading the legislation further, I note that the bill does outline security and confidentiality guidelines for the members of the committee, with each member having to obtain and maintain a security clearance, which is all good. They also have to take an oath or solemn affirmation, and comply with procedures and practices. Additionally, members are prohibited from knowingly disclosing information that was obtained in the course of exercising their under the act, and no member of the committee may claim immunity based on parliamentary privilege. I totally agree with that.
These provisions are very important, and I am delighted to see them in the bill. However, it is very unfortunate that there is not one measure or clause that would require members who are appointed to the committee to have at least some type of former experience related to the national security environment. The current chair does not have any previous such experience. I find it very difficult to believe that this committee will be able to effectively carry out important work related to our national security agencies if this is the very first time it has ever worked in such a field. It simply does not add up.
The reason for oversight is actual and legitimate oversight. We are not going to get that. I do not know how someone who is still getting his or her feet wet on the file is able to provide proper and actual oversight. This is a significant flaw in the legislation which I hope will be addressed as we move forward on the bill.
My third area of concern with the legislation relates to the level of access that the committee would have to important documents regarding the operation of Canada's national security and intelligence agencies.
As the legislation is currently drafted, it is extremely limiting with respect to the information that the committee will have access to and it entrusts a lot of power to the and several ministers to limit access to information for the committee when they see fit. It is totally inappropriate and absolutely unacceptable.
If we want this committee to provide true, independent oversight of our national security agencies, then the bill will need some amending. I hope the government is open to constructive criticism.
As it stands, the bill would give the government far too much power to block the committee at every turn and to limit what it would be able to investigate. This would significantly limit the ability of the committee to fulfill its mandate. Again, this is supposed to be a committee of parliamentarians, not an arm of the Liberal Party of Canada.
My final area of concern deals with the way in which the committee would report its findings to the House and by extension, the public.
The legislation is clear in stating that the committee will be required to submit annual reports on a yearly basis and special reports as required. This is great. The only problem is that these reports are given directly to the , rather than to all of us in Parliament. Again, that is totally unacceptable.
These reports are to contain the committee's findings and recommendations, and the then has the ability to remove any information that he may deem harmful to national security or defence before the report is tabled in the House of Commons. Essentially, the legislation would give the Prime Minister a final say on what is reported to the House.
I know members have sat on various committees. That is not how it works and that is not how it is supposed to work. However, under the current government, it seems to be the way it wants to do some things.
While it is very important that there are checks and balances, and I do not have an issue with that, to ensure that nothing in the committee reports harms our national security, I am definitely sure that giving the Prime Minister's Office a veto power over the contents of this report is not the best way to go about this. That is the committee's responsibility.
As I have stated a number of times throughout my remarks today, this is supposed to be a committee that provides parliamentary oversight. In this regard, the committee should be reporting directly to Parliament and should not have to get a stamp of approval from the PMO.
This truly removes the ability of the committee to act independently and gives the PMO a significant amount of influence over the committee, which I find ironic since the promised during the campaign to decrease the role of the PMO. I guess that was 2015 then. It is 2016 now.
Having highlighted my main areas of concern with the legislation, I want to take just a few moments to highlight how the United Kingdom has formed its own committee for parliamentary oversight of its national security agencies.
I know the minister and the chair of the committee have done some travel to do some fact-finding, but I am not sure the best practices from other countries have made their way into this legislation. We should learn from other countries when possible. We do not need to reinvent the wheel.
It is important to only make comparisons between Canada and other Westminster parliaments because, as I have repeatedly stated today, this is to be a committee of parliamentarians that reports to and for Parliament. This leads into the comparison that I want to make.
The Parliament of the United Kingdom established its intelligence and security committee of Parliament in 1994 to examine policy, administration, and expenditures of the security service, secret intelligence service, and the government communications headquarters.
In 2013, three years ago, and some nineteen years after the original legislation, it made very significant reforms to make this a committee of Parliament, with a number of greater powers. The members of this committee are appointed by Parliament, and it reports directly to Parliament. Issues of national security are reported directly to the . Furthermore, the members are given access to highly classified material.
To me, this seems like a committee that has much more independence from the prime minister's office and has the appropriate level of access to classified material to truly provide proper oversight.
The most important fundamental difference between the committee proposed in Bill and the committee that operates in the United Kingdom is that members are appointed by, and report to, Parliament and Parliament alone.
Again, as I have stated, if this is to be a committee of parliamentarians that provides parliamentary oversight, then the committee should be beholden to Parliament and not to the or the Prime Minister's office.
I would be very curious to know this. When the minister travelled to the United Kingdom, was he advised against making this committee an extension of the PMO? Was he encouraged to adopt the committee structure that came out of the reforms in the United Kingdom in 2013?
The reason this is a key point is that we have been a little away from some of the hot spots in the Middle East, where terrorism seemed to blossom. However, England and Britain saw this a lot quicker than we did, so their legislation has been there for some time. The longer a piece of legislation is place, no matter what it has to deal with, we learn things from it. I do not care how smart any of us in the House are, or any government, It would be wrong to say that every bill we draft is perfect. That is not the case. As things evolve and change, we adapt and make changes, which is what the Brits did in 2013.
The other bill seemed to be very similar to what the government is putting in place today. The United Kingdom realized that after 19 years, or 17 years, whatever it turned out to be, that it was not doing the job, that it was not right. Therefore, it has been changed to make it right. We should have followed those changes, and it is obvious we did not.
The Parliaments of Australia and New Zealand also have parliamentary committees that provide oversight over their national security agencies, though they are much different than what is proposed by Bill . The United Kingdom offers the closest comparison to Bill C-22.
Therefore, we should learn from the experience of the United Kingdom. It has had some form of parliamentary oversight since 1994. Clearly the reforms that were made back in 2013 were brought about for a reason. We should, to the greatest extent possible, offer a similar model that reflects the lessons learned in the UK from having such a body in place for more than 20 years now.
Finally, I hope the minister and his department consulted all of the current oversight agencies when drafting this legislation to ensure that there would not be a duplication of work on this committee. The committee should respect the agencies already in place and work alongside them in providing parliamentary oversight.
I look forward to hearing from oversight agencies, such as the Office of the Communications Security Establishment Commissioner, Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP, and the Security Intelligence Review Committee on this legislation.
In closing, I look forward to the rest of the debate that is going to take place today and in the coming weeks and months. I look forward to taking some questions from my hon. colleagues.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for .
I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill , a piece of legislation that would bring overdue changes to our country's approach to national security and put the lie to, once and for all, the idea that we need to make a choice between the desire to keep Canadians safe and the desire to safeguard the rights and freedoms that all Canadians cherish.
Since the tragic events of September 11, 2001, as western governments and western societies have struggled to respond to this new terrorist threat, this false argument has been presented. We must ensure that law enforcement and intelligence agencies have the tools and resources they need to counter these new and often rapidly emerging threats. However, no, public safety need not come as a detriment to our fundamental freedoms and rights. I reject this false argument and so does our government. To quote Benjamin Franklin, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
It has often been said of the terrorists that they hate us for our freedom. While I find that a trite and simplistic statement, the fact is that if we do trade our freedom for greater security then, in essence, those who use terror as a weapon have achieved their goals, for their mission is not merely death or destruction; it is terror. It is to fundamentally change our society for the worse and we must not allow that to happen.
We cannot close our society to the world, but rather, we must remain an example to the world, a model of openness, of tolerance, of diversity. Let our diversity truly be our strength and let Canada show that people of different religions, different languages, and different cultures can live together in happiness and in security. The world needs more Canada, and at a time when countries are looking increasingly inward, at a time when countries are closing their doors to trade, to refugees, and to the rest of the world, it needs the Canadian example more than ever.
Let me turn to the specific measures in Bill . The centrepiece of this legislation is the establishment of a national security and intelligence committee of parliamentarians that would play a crucial role of oversight and accountability over our national security system. The members of this committee would have access to classified information and a robust mandate to review all the national security framework and ensure it is working to keep Canadians safe while safeguarding our fundamental rights and freedoms.
Sunshine is always the best disinfectant, and while it is only understandable that classified information cannot be shared with all Canadians, it is important that the people's representatives, elected by and accountable to the people, have this access to ensure the people's interests are safeguarded. This is a fundamental responsibility of a member of Parliament, and this is an oversight model that has proven successful for Canada's closest allies. I fully support this initiative.
As we design and debate a new national security framework for Canada, something that has been missing during previous debates is consultation. I am a Canadian Muslim of Pakistani descent. There are more than one million Muslims in Canada. I am a member of a community that has often felt unfairly targeted by security agencies and stigmatized as part of these security debates. From the attacks of September 11th forward, we have felt marginalized, profiled, and seen as part of the problem rather than as part of the solution.
I can assure the House that there are few Canadians more patriotic than my fellow Muslim Canadians, and I am honoured to be one of eleven Muslims whom the people of Canada have elected to represent all citizens in this hallowed chamber.
Those of us who have chosen to come to Canada and make this our home did so for both the security that all Canadians value and the rights and freedoms that all Canadians cherish. Many of us have fled countries where personal liberties are severely limited or even non-existent, and come seeking safety from countries where violence and conflict are a daily fact of life. Yet too often, as I said, we have been treated with suspicion and mistrust. It is as if the security agencies took a racial profiling approach to national security rather than trying to work with the community, and that needs to change.
We need to bring a community policing approach to national security. We know this approach works in our cities. When my colleague, the hon. member for , took over the Toronto Police Service division in Regent Park, relations between the community and the officers sworn to protect it were at a record low. By taking a community policing approach, and treating the community as partners, the member for was able to establish trust with the community, a trust based on mutual understanding and respect, and crime began to drop. People in the community knew they could turn to the police in times of trouble or when someone was going down the wrong path.
In the same way, national security agencies and the government must see communities like mine not as a problem but as part of the solution. Security agencies must proactively engage with all of the community and make us partners in building a safer and freer society. We are ready to be partners. Many of us have come to Canada to flee extremism and violence. We want nothing more than to root it out in our new home. That is why I was happy to see that budget 2016 included an investment of $35 million over the next five years to establish an office of the community outreach and counter-radicalization coordinator. This commitment is reaffirmed in Bill .
There is already a lot of great work taking place in communities across the country on counter-radicalization initiatives. However, these initiatives are lacking coordination and resources, and best practices are not being shared. This new office would provide national leadership by coordinating federal, provincial, territorial, and international initiatives, share those important best practices that have proven successful on the ground, and support community outreach and research. Canada can, and must, become a world leader in counter-radicalization, and show that it is possible to build an open, pluralistic, and democratic society. That means engaging all Canadians in keeping our nation both safe and free.
Let us commit here and now to building a Canada where our youth never have to feel that they are different, that they do not belong, or that they are worthy of suspicion simply because of their religion, their ethnicity, or the colour of their skin. That is my dream for the next generation and for my two sons.
I am pleased to note that Bill also includes a number of other initiatives that seek to safeguard personal rights and freedoms that were missing from the previous government's Bill . For example, there are amendments to better protect the right to advocate and protest, and a better definition of the rules regarding terrorist propaganda.
The government is also introducing a statutory review of national security legislation to ensure that the people's elected representatives have not only the opportunity but the responsibility to regularly review national security legislation to ensure that it is still necessary, still effective, and is not unduly restricting the rights and freedoms of Canadian citizens.
These are all amendments that our party tried to make to Bill in the last Parliament to bring more balance to the legislation. Unfortunately, these amendments were rejected by the previous government.
I will be supporting the bill. I hope my colleagues on the other side of the aisle will join with us in supporting this important legislation. I believe that Bill will strengthen our national security apparatus to help keep Canadians more safe and more free.
I am a Canadian by choice. I am a Canadian of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. While growing up in Pakistan, the one thing we all knew about Canada was Pierre Trudeau and the Charter of Rights. It is a document that states that every Canadian and everyone within our borders have certain fundamental freedoms: freedom of conscience and religion; freedom of thought, belief, opinion, and expression; freedom of peaceful assembly; and freedom of association.
I would not be here in this chamber, and in this country, were it not for this charter and these freedoms. I am committed to protecting and defending them, and Bill does just that.