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House of Commons Emblem

Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security



Tuesday, June 4, 2024

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]



    Welcome to meeting number 111 of this House of Commons standing committee.
    Pursuant to the order of reference referred the committee on Wednesday, May 29, 2024, and the motion adopted by the committee on Monday, May 27, 2024, the committee resumes its study of Bill C-70, an act respecting countering foreign interference.
     Before we begin, I would like to ask all members and other in-person participants to consult the cards on the table for guidelines to prevent audio feedback incidents.
    Please take care to note the following preventive measures in place to protect the health and safety of all participants, including the interpreters: Use only the approved black earpiece. The former grey earpieces must no longer be used. Keep your earpiece away from all microphones at all times. When you're not using your earpiece, place it face down on the sticker placed on the table for this purpose.
    Thank you all for your co-operation.
    Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format.
    I'd like to make a few comments for the benefit of members and witnesses. Please wait until I recognize you by name before speaking, and I remind you that all comments should be addressed through the chair.
    I have some specific comments on BillC-70.
    I would like to remind members that amendments to Bill C-70 must be submitted to the clerk of the committee by 4 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Friday, June 7, 2024. It is important for members to note that pursuant to the order adopted by the House on May 30, the 4 p.m. deadline to submit amendments is firm. This means that any amendments submitted to the clerk after the deadline and any amendments moved from the floor during clause-by-clause consideration of the bill will not be considered by the committee.
    I would now like to welcome our witnesses for today.
    With us we have Mr. Thomas Juneau, associate professor of public and international affairs at the University of Ottawa. We have Mr. Dan Stanton, former manager, Canadian Security Intelligence Service. By video conference, we have Mr. Benjamin Fung, professor and Canada research chair at McGill University. We also have Mr. Javad Soleimani, director, Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims, also by video conference.
     Welcome to you all, and thank you for joining us today. Your interventions will be most helpful to us, I am certain.
     I now invite Mr. Juneau to make an opening statement of up to five minutes.
    Please go ahead, sir.


    Today, I'm going to analyze Bill C‑70 from the perspective of transparency.
    For three years, I chaired the National Security Transparency Advisory Group, an independent body that advises the deputy minister of Public Safety Canada and the intelligence community.
     We produced three reports between 2019 and 2022, one of which focused on relations between security and intelligence agencies and minority communities. This is a relevant topic for the committee. I have stepped down as chair of the group, but am continuing my research into transparency issues.
    In general, transparency is a tool that democracies underuse in the fight against their adversaries. More transparency, up to a point, of course, improves our national security. It's not an obstacle, quite the contrary.
    In the context of the fight against foreign interference, transparency must occupy a central place. Our first line of defence against interference is often societal resilience. Public trust in institutions is an essential ingredient of this, and transparency is key to building that trust. Transparency is also essential to raise awareness among the public, civil society and the private sector, all of whom have a role to play in the face of the threat of interference. Lack of transparency, a major issue today, undermines our ability to protect ourselves against interference.
    In Canada, the situation regarding transparency and national security is much better today than it was 10 or 20 years ago, but we can do much better.
     I will address part I of Bill C‑70 on the modernization of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act, or CSIS Act.
    The first element I'm interested in is enabling CSIS to better communicate with actors outside the federal government. The service is seriously handicapped, given that the targets of foreign interference are often outside the federal government. However, greater transparency is essential in the exercise of these potential new powers. As part of the work of the National Security Transparency Advisory Group, we heard from a number of civil society activists. Mistrust of CSIS remains very high. We must patiently build bridges.
    Concretely, what does this mean? Transparency must be practised more broadly. Communication with new partners, particularly in civil society, must be proactive and sustained, not just reactive or passive. This communication will be the result of exercising these new powers. We need to build trust, understand these new partners, and actually pass on information, not just symbolically. After the fact, CSIS must be transparent with Canadians and clearly explain what was done, why it was done, and disclose the results.
    It's easy to say, but I recognize that it's very difficult to put into practice. It takes additional resources, which CSIS is sorely lacking at the moment. It also takes a change of culture, without which it will only partially work at best, because CSIS, despite the progress it has made, remains today far too insular an organization.
    Bill C‑70 would also confer new powers on CSIS in terms of investigations, data collection and data management. Transparency is essential here, too. We must ensure that the relevant accountability mechanisms are adapted to the new powers. For example, the CSIS annual report should include as much information as possible on the use of these new powers. CSIS could also communicate proactively not only with the public and its partners, notably in civil society and the media, but also with parliamentarians, about the use of these new powers. This is essential, once again, to gain the public's trust and to enable accountability mechanisms to function properly.
    Next, Bill C‑70 will also lead to the creation of the position of foreign influence transparency commissioner. Here again, transparency is essential. In concrete terms, the procedures to be followed to register will have to be transparent, clear and simple, and not cumbersome and bureaucratic, including in terms of possible mechanisms for receiving and managing complaints. The National Security Transparency Advisory Group has often heard the criticism, particularly from minority communities, that various mechanisms of this kind are not sufficiently accessible. There will also need to be an important dimension of public education, for example, through newsletters and notices.
    Once again, it's much easier said than done. You need the right people with the right skills, authority and mandates. In reality, this isn't always available in Ottawa. All of these elements are essential for the proper functioning of accountability mechanisms, especially to help build awareness and, again, to improve societal resilience.
    Finally, it will be essential to review this law every five years to improve and adapt it. In addition, ideally, the review process will include a public and transparent element to satisfy, again, all the societal resilience and awareness objectives, which were mentioned earlier. This commitment must be binding, if possible, and respected.
    In the case of Bill C‑59 and the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, we passed the five-year period two years ago, and this review has still not taken place, which is very unfortunate.
    Thank you for your attention.



     Thank you, Mr. Juneau.
    We now go to Mr. Stanton for an opening statement of up to five minutes.
     I'm going to talk about the disclosure of intelligence, the new regime that's proposed in Bill C-70, as well as the criminalization of foreign intelligence. I'm going to echo in some ways Thomas Juneau's remarks with respect to transparency, and I do confess we didn't have time to collaborate on this. It's purely coincidental.
    The proposal to amend section 19 of the CSIS Act is going to amplify the range and scope of disclosures from where they are currently. It is something I had some personal experience with. I was an intelligence officer in CSIS for 32 years and I was seized with the disclosure regime.
     The proposal, of course, under the rubric of building resiliency against threats, is that the service may disclose intelligence to those outside federal departments. We're hearing about the private sector. We're hearing about universities, particularly those engaged in sensitive research. We're hearing about other levels of government, including indigenous government bodies as well, and municipal government and law enforcement. A wider orbit is being proposed where intelligence will be shared in the interests of national security.
     This is going to be a significant overhaul in terms of both the mandate of CSIS and of national security. I do say that this is way beyond foreign interference. This covers other programs that CSIS collects intelligence on. The government is going to decide in some ways how this intelligence is going to be shared.
    Nobody's going to be opening taps and turning on spigots and declassifying information, but I think there's a lot of expectations in various sectors in Canada that this is actually going to be happening. We're still going to have the need-to-know principle. We're still going to have to have people who are security cleared to receive that intelligence. They're going to actually have to have a clearance. They're going to have to have background checks. We're going to have to ensure that this intelligence has the physical and IT protection to safeguard it. You can't have intelligence being provided to new partners and then a week later be reading it on social media.
     I'm enthusiastic about it. I think it's going to really enhance the government's more holistic view and assessment of threats. It gives CSIS a lot more leverage as well. Echoing my colleague's remarks, it makes more transparency clearly with government.
     The other aspect I wanted to make reference to is the criminalization of foreign intelligence and the measures to counter foreign intelligence. We're talking about clause 50. We're talking about the foreign interference and security of information act for the amendment. I'm very enthusiastic about this. When I testified at a committee a year ago in March, one of the comments I made was that unlike for terrorism and for espionage, there actually is no legislative hammer. There actually are no legal consequences of any significance for enablers of foreign interference. That's changing with this new legislation. I'm very excited about it. This will allow the government to basically prosecute, whether it's transnational repression or whether it's interference in our democratic processes.
     I also find it interesting that in this bill there's an extraterritorial application going into this foreign interference and transnational repression. This makes a lot of sense, because CSIS's mandate in security intelligence is not limited to Canada; CSIS works around the world. In many ways this will complement their subsection 2(b) activities in terms of intelligence collection on transnational repression as well as interference in an election so that it can actually be prosecuted.
    I'm going to quote specifically. They're saying that “Despite subsection 26(1), a person who commits an act referred to in subsection (1) while outside Canada is deemed to have committed it in Canada if...the victim is in Canada” or if the victim is abroad.
    Let's say they're in India or they're in the People's Republic of China; they can still be prosecuted in Canada. There's no sanctuary in the fact that this activity or an aspect of this activity is taking place outside of Canada.
    The legislation also calls for the same thing with consequences on influencing political government processes. Proposed subsection 20.4(1) reads:
20.‍4 (1) Every person commits an indictable offence who, at the direction of, or in association with, a foreign entity, engages in surreptitious or deceptive conduct with the intent to influence a political or governmental process
    and continues:
2) Every person who commits an offence under subsection (1) is liable to imprisonment for life.
     This is serious. This is what you get with espionage and this is what you get with terrorism. I'm delighted to see this coming into the foreign interference file. The particular SOIA amendments will offer criminal sanctions against clandestine foreign interference designed to benefit a foreign state in actions against the Canadian state, its interests or the exercise of democratic rights. This will open the way to laying foreign interference charges in Canada—something we have not seen and that I think we'd all agree is fairly relevant these days.


     Lastly, I want to mention that there have been some adjustments to CSIS authorities in section 16. That's the non-threat-related foreign interference. I'm very enthused about that. I know it's giving CSIS a lot more of a holistic view in terms of the foreign intelligence mandate they have. I know the bill has its limitations, but I would like to see, at some point, the government scrap section 12 and section 16, because it's an anachronistic classification we have from the Cold War. I think this change signifies that the government is recognizing that we don't need collection within Canada of what is considered to be foreign intelligence.
    That's it, and thank you.
    Thank you.
     We'll go now to Mr. Fung.
    Mr. Fung, please make an opening statement of up to five minutes.
    Good afternoon, Chair and committee members.
    As a professor and Canada research chair at McGill University, I focus my work on AI, cybersecurity and social media analytics. I would like to express my concern about foreign interference in Canadian academic institutions.
    I would like to begin by sharing a personal experience. Over the past few years, a prominent Chinese 5G enterprise, which I will refer to as “Company H,” has repeatedly approached me with various research collaboration proposals. They offered me a consulting position on their AI team with a salary that is three times my earning as a professor. Despite my rejecting their offers, they persistently contacted me every few years. Just last year, they explicitly expressed interest in my work on malware analysis. Let me emphasize this again: This company is specifically interested in computer viruses. Clearly, this raises national security concerns.
    Another tactic they use is offering research contracts through external organizations owned by professors. This would bypass any university or government approval processes. I'm sure Company H is not the only foreign state-controlled organization operating under the guise of a Canadian company.
    As a scientist, I really hope this bill can address this national security risk. I urge our government to disclose a list of organizations, or have some mechanism that allows universities to query which companies are controlled or influenced by foreign governments in Canada and pose a national security risk. This transparency will help Canadian researchers avoid compromising collaborations.
    In 2024, the Canadian government released a list of named research organizations in three foreign countries. This is a commendable step towards safeguarding our scientific contributions. However, it is crucial to understand that research projects conducted in any Chinese university can be repurposed for military use. The determining factor is not the collaborating organization but the potential application of the technology itself. Therefore, the assessment should be conducted at the country level regarding the sensitivity of research topics.
    The second concern I have is that Chinese consulates in Canada maintain close ties with many Chinese student associations in Canadian universities, as seen in their co-organized events. For instance, the first event of Chinese student orientation is often a meeting with the Chinese consulate, rather than the university administrators or professors. This arrangement sends a clear message to the international Chinese student: “Be compliant. Big Brother in China is watching you.” This pressure can lead students to disclose information about their research, schoolmates or professors to foreign governments. If this bill is passed, it is crucial for university administrations to inform international students of its provisions. This bill will empower students to confidently reject requests from foreign governments.
    I'm supportive of the bill with the following amendments.
    First, I suggest removing the administrative monetary penalty. Maybe I don't fully understand that part, but this punishment seems to be too weak.
    Second, currently, the CCP government purchases airtime from Chinese radio stations in Canada to broadcast their propaganda. I wonder whether these Chinese media should be registered in Canada.
    Third, I support the idea of having two-tier registrations like the U.K. model. This will allow the Canadian government to impose more accurate restrictions on selected entities.
    Fourth, with the advancement of AI technology, foreign interference activities are expected to change rapidly, so a more frequent periodic review of this act may be needed.
    Thank you very much.


     Thank you, sir.
    We will now go to Mr. Soleimani to make an opening statement of up to five minutes.
    Please go ahead, sir.
    Thank you for this opportunity.
    On January 8, 2020, I lost my wife, Elnaz, in the downing of Flight PS752 by the IRGC and the Iranian regime's missiles.
    Before this meeting, I reached out to several active members of the Iranian-Canadian community, and today I will share first-hand experiences concerning the Iranian regime's threats on Canadian soil.
    First, three months after the downing of Flight PS752 in March 2020, Hassan Rezaeifar, the lead investigator of the Flight PS752 case in Iran, contacted me. During a long conversation, which I recorded, he invited me to meet in Iran or France and later threatened me about removing an Instagram post criticizing the government of Iran. I refused, and shortly afterward my family was contacted by Iran's security intelligence services. Notably, Rezaeifar was one of the main individuals responsible for bulldozing the crash site and destroying evidence.
    Second, the families of Flight PS752 victims have endured immense pressure from the Iranian regime, including summonses, detentions and physical torture. Some families have been banned from leaving Iran, and a judge in Iran has explicitly stated that the regime in Iran could target and remove those in Canada who oppose it.
    Third, the IRGC perpetuates terror and threats both within Iran and globally. Members of the Basij, an IRGC branch, freely study, work and live here in Canada. Iranian Canadians across the country have been threatened by the regime's agents and supporters to remain silent or face consequences. The contact between IRGC and the families of Iranian Canadians in Iran who have protested against the regime clearly shows regime agents actively monitor and report on Iranian Canadians.
    Fourth, there is reliable evidence that the Iranian regime has been actively promoting its agenda in Canada through various Islamic centres and groups, both at universities and within communities across the country. This should be investigated.
    Fifth, Canadian officials have hesitated to list the IRGC as a terrorist organization and have explained that significant investments are made by the Iran regime and its members in Canadian real estate and businesses, which could potentially lead to chaotic conditions if they designate IRGC as a terrorist organization, so we shouldn't be surprised that the former head of the Tehran police, known for suppressing protests, stays freely in Canada.
    Sixth, in July 2021, following the disclosure that the Iranian regime planned to kidnap Masih Alinejad, a prominent Iranian-American activist, and three others in Canada, the Canadian security services contacted some Iranian Canadians, including me, to ensure our safety. This incident highlights that our security services were previously unaware of the threats on Canadian soil.
    Seventh, Canadian authorities have advised some active members of the Iranian-Canadian community to reduce their activities or maintain a low profile to avoid attracting attention. This advice raises serious concerns about public safety and national security in Canada.
    To conclude, foreign interference by the Iranian regime in Canada is undeniable. Despite clear evidence of a threat to national security, there has been hesitation among Canadian officials to designate the IRGC as a terrorist organization. It is crucial for Canada to designate the IRGC as a terrorist organization in practice, not just symbolically with non-binding motions.
    Thank you so much.


     Thank you, sir.
    We will start our questions at this point.
    We will go now to Mr. Caputo for six minutes, please.
    Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
    I want to thank our witnesses, both here in person and on video, for being here on short notice on such an important matter.
    I know it feels like I'm a really long way from our witnesses, but I'll try to direct my questions in as personable a way as possible.
    Before I begin, Mr. Soleimani, I offer my deepest condolences on your loss. I can't imagine what it's like to lose somebody so close to you and somebody you love and then come here and talk about it when you haven't seen the requisite change.
    I hadn't planned on asking you this, but I'm going to ask anyway: What impact do you think has occurred by virtue of the fact that we, as Canadian parliamentarians, despite multiple votes and the will of Parliament saying that it should be a terrorist entity and recognized as such, have not recognized the IRGC as a terrorist organization?
     Thank you so much.
    As I mentioned earlier, designating the IRGC with non-binding motions is not effective. That's why we see top IRGC commanders in Canada right now. We can easily see active members of Basij, an important branch of the IRGC, coming to Canada to study, work and live, as well as identify and report Iranian Canadians to the Iranian regime.
    Clearly, what we have done so far can't stop IRGC operations in Canada, and I don't understand why Canadian officials haven't listed the IRGC as a terrorist organization. Definitely there are some concerns about not affecting innocent people who had compulsory military service in Iran, but it's not rocket science. There are some legal ways to figure it out and list the IRGC as a terrorist organization without affecting innocent people.


    Thank you for that.
    This is for Mr. Stanton, and perhaps Mr. Juneau can chime in.
    Professor Fung talked about what I would call an insidious mechanism of interference. It's somebody who's on a university campus, or.... I taught at a university in three different faculties, and this isn't something I ever saw, but from what Professor Fung was saying, this is happening fairly frequently.
    Is that something you've experienced, sir, as somebody who worked for some time at such a high level in CSIS?
     I guess the question is whether the individual on campus would be considered a threat to national security. They'd have to meet that criterion under part 2, with the service already them.
     I guess if something like what Mr. Fung raised came up, and then the service made some inquiries and was able to link it in any way to a foreign state, they would be investigating it. They would focus on the threat. There would have to be an individual that they would investigate.
     The fact that they're in university.... It's a sensitive institution, but sensitive institutions in Canada are not sanctuaries in any way for threats, so they would still be pursued, regardless of the sector they're in.
    Thank you.
    Professor Juneau, do you have anything to add to that?
    You don't. Okay.
    I've asked this question before, and I've heard a range of answers. It's about the commissioner who would be appointed under this act with respect to foreign influence and transparency.
    The commissioner would presumably be working at arm's length from the government, but may be a part of the government, as opposed to being fully independent. In this case, the commissioner would be appointed through an order in council. I believe there would be consultations with the House of Commons and the Senate, but approval would not be required through the House and the Senate.
     Do you have any comments on that and the independence of the potential commissioner that we're debating in this legislation?
    If I can jump in quickly on that, I think it is absolutely essential that the commissioner be fully independent and be perceived as being fully independent, given the sensitivity of the issue and the very negative consequences of perceptions of a lack of independence. Even if it's an inaccurate perception of a lack of independence, if it's still a dominant perception, it will be very damaging to the work of that commissioner, which will be so reliant on trust and a perception of independence.
     I would add that in terms of the nomination of that individual, consultations will be essential, but they should be public consultations. There should be some public and transparent elements to these consultations, again so that there's an element of consensus and legitimacy around that individual.
     Thank you, sir.
    We will go now to Mr. Dhaliwal. Please go ahead,
     Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    I want to thank the witnesses for appearing today on this very important matter.
    My questions will be for Mr. Stanton.
    Mr. Stanton, following the tragic killing of Mr. Hardeep Singh Nijjar—a Canadian on Canadian soil, my constituent—at a place of worship in my riding of Surrey—Newton, I introduced a private member's motion, M-112, for the government to take action to deal with foreign interference, whether it's intimidation, violence or interference that they create.
    Following that, the government brought in Bill C-70 to combat foreign interference. It is clear that there have been, and likely currently are, agents in Canada working on behalf of foreign states in order to undermine our sovereignty and our democratic institutions.
     Do you believe that the amendments to the Criminal Code and the Security of Information Act will sufficiently address concerns related to transnational threats and violence to Canadians? If not, what else can be done?


    That's a good question.
    I would say, sir, that, yes, the bill does address those, but when I look at the tragedy of what happened with Mr. Nijjar, I see that more as state assassination, state murder. I mean, I'll be blunt about it.
    We can call it transnational repression, but “foreign interference” is used pretty broadly. For a lot of Canadians, when you say “foreign interference”, all sorts of things come to mind. In this case, we're looking at a considerable shift in the operations of a hostile foreign intelligence service, at sovereignty issues with Canada, and, of course, at the murder of a Canadian.
    I can't say that the provisions that are going to come in with the legislation would have prevented that, but I would say they would probably mitigate the transnational threat environment, which was allowed to grow, develop, become sophisticated and become conducive to what they did.
    That's sort of a half answer. I think the measures are good, but I don't think they would have prevented the tragedy that happened.
     It's my understanding that agents of foreign governments may have played through a chain of command. It may be very difficult to trace that chain of command to individuals abroad. Does Bill C-70 do enough to address and deter foreign interference and to penalize those who are not in Canada but overseas, or would we do something to do that?
     I would say that in a perfect world, they would be subject to a law enforcement investigation and a prosecution in the courts. If those foreign agents or intermediaries were in any way tied to this through evidence, I would rather see that sanctioned through our due process and a good prosecution.
    I don't have enough understanding of the SOIA legislation to see where that would be a penalized. Maybe it could for someone who's not involved in the actual dirty work but maybe in some facilitation. Yes, they are abroad. That could be tied into it.
    I would hope that if there's going to be any justice in this case, it would be within our courts and through our Criminal Code.
     Mr. Stanton, under the proposed legislative framework, those who undertake activities to influence government or political processes in Canada would be required to register publicly. What types of penalties or consequences should be imposed on those who may deliberately or knowingly not register?
    I don't have a background on the registry. To be frank, in the past I've said that I don't see it as being a great mitigator of foreign interference. I have to be candid on that. I think it will be helpful in terms of buttressing the Lobbying Act and a few things like that.
    The more egregious acts of foreign interference, and certainly the interference in our democratic processes, are clandestine. The foreign agent registry provisions are to get people to identify as having agency with a foreign entity. However, they're not the clandestine actors; they're not the ones who are repressing our diaspora communities, tormenting people, harassing them, or meddling or interfering in our elections.
    I'm not an authority on the registry, but I wouldn't look to that for any threat reduction in the interference realm in our democracy.
     The legislation proposes to enhance the capability of CSIS to collect and utilize datasets, and protecting privacy and personal information will be very important. Could you please give your thoughts on the steps taken to ensure that the data is properly used and protected?


    I have to say humbly that I have absolutely no background on that. I'm mostly a human source guy. I really don't have any expertise on datasets or their privacy implications.
     In your opinion, do you believe that Bill C-70 does enough to ensure that the diaspora communities are not stigmatized and victimized by the efforts to combat foreign interference?
    I think that's the hope. I think one thing that's saddened me a bit in the last few years, with all the talk on foreign interference in committees and media and things like that, is that some Canadians are going to start profiling communities, which is fundamentally wrong.
    I think that's why the more education we have, the more we're talking, and the more we have things like this initiative, Bill C-70, and the reviews we've had, the less likely we are to see stereotyping and profiling. We've now had, I think, five commissions or inquiries related to national security, and Canadians are actually learning more about it.
    That has always been my concern. That's part of the reason I speak out publicly on this. I don't want Canadians to think , because of what we're hearing through the media, that a particular group or community is in any way of questionable loyalty or reliability.
    Thank you very much.


    It's now Mr. Villemure's turn.
    You have the floor for six minutes.
    Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
    I thank all the witnesses who are with us today, those who are present virtually as well as those who are here in person.
    Mr. Juneau, I'll start by addressing you.
    You made an impressive case for transparency that fosters trust, which is, at its core, the ability to rely on others without always having to exercise control.
    As for the registry, what do you think of the idea of dual registration for foreign agents? So the agent himself would have to register, as would the person who is the subject of the solicitation, transaction, whatever you want to call it.
    The purpose of this double registration would obviously be to enable us to better identify the people involved in the event that someone declared something at one end, but not at the other.
    For transparency purposes, do you think this dual registration could be an additional tool?
    It's a good question, and I have to admit, in all humility, that it's not an aspect I understand well. So I don't have a firm position, either for or against. I think I'd need more details on how the process works.
    I know you put this question last week to officials from the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness during a meeting of this committee, and their response referred to the workload it would involve.
    As I said, I don't understand this specific issue well enough to take a position and say I'm for or against it. However, I must still express some sympathy, in general, for the answer they gave you, insofar as this department, like the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, or CSIS, like other departments or community agencies, suffers from a serious lack of human, financial and other resources, and not only in terms of their powers; this is what Bill C‑70 will improve, in part.
    Any new initiative, such as Bill C‑70, and particularly this notion of dual registration, implies an additional burden, and it's a very real problem.
    In general, I'd like to point out to the committee that this issue of resources is a major problem.
    I'm glad you recall that answer that was given last week, because the idea of double registration is a bit…. The lobbyist registers with the Lobbyists Registry, but the other person doesn't; so the aim is to establish a more direct relationship. The answer that had been given was the fact that it was a financial and organizational burden.
    Subsequently, looking at the report released yesterday by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, I said to myself that we couldn't afford not to do it. I understand the department's response. However, it surprised me.
    In fact, if we deal with foreign interference the way we want to, the financial burden cannot be the only criterion that will counterbalance the issue.
    I quite agree, in general, that this cannot be the only criterion. However, it still reflects a reality and I think it represents a constraint on public comment and ideas that are expressed in the media or by governments, by the opposition or by civil society. This constraint, which is very often ignored, is, in practice, very real.


    Indeed, the constraint is real.
    Of that, we can be sure.
    I'd like to continue on the subject of the registry. I really like Mr. Stanton's comment that foreign undercover agents are obviously not registered. For the moment, I'm ignoring that.
    Do you think that, for holders of public office, a three-year post-tenure restriction period, for example, would be a laudable thing? It would mean, for example, prohibiting cabinet members from being on the payroll—I don't like that expression—or rather from working for a foreign entity and benefiting from information that only they can have.
    I fully agree with the notion of a restriction period, in general, and specifically in this case. I think it's necessary. Again, to draw a parallel with a point mentioned earlier in response to your colleague's question, there's the issue of perception. Public trust is essential, especially when there is no restriction period. Is the ideal restriction period one, three or five years? We could argue about that, but generally speaking, I think the principle is fundamental.
    I agree with your notion of perception and reality when it comes to trust. It's all very well to say that the commissioner is independent, that there's a registry and certain provisions, but if the perception isn't there, reality doesn't matter.
    With regard to the independence of the commissioner, you've stated quite clearly that he or she must be truly independent and perceptibly so.
    At the moment, the way the commissioner is appointed is problematic. In my opinion, the three parties should be involved in the choice rather than simply consulted.
    You mentioned the five-year review. If I remember correctly, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act came into force in 1984, and was reviewed in 1990. The Privacy Act of 1983, on the other hand, has not been reviewed. It seems to me that governments don't tend to do these revisions.
    This is problematic because the Privacy Act existed before the Internet was created.
    What could be done to ensure that this is done? Should an annual report be requested from the commissioner?
    I think the production of an annual report by the commissioner is essential. If there isn't one, there's a serious problem. In addition to the review every five years or at some fixed period, the commissioner must produce an annual report, table it in Parliament and set out all his activities and everything that is normally in an annual report.
     The five-year review is essential. Bill C‑59, which was passed, established the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians. I'm still looking for the French acronym. The bill provided for a review every five years. It was due in 2022 and it hasn't happened yet. For me, this is a problem, because when the committee was created, the world was a bit different. It's going to be even more different in three, seven and twelve years' time. These reviews are fundamental to adapting, reforming the law and making even minor changes. What's more, it's an opportunity to ask ourselves whether we have the right resources or the right powers.
    I know I'm repeating myself, but the public dimension of these revisions is crucial to show the public, civil society and parliamentarians that we're thinking about these issues, making the necessary changes, among other things. When we don't, we miss important opportunities.
    Thank you very much.


     Thank you, sir.
    We go now to Mr. MacGregor. You have six minutes, please.
     Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
     I appreciate all of the witnesses being here today. Thank you very much for your testimony thus far.
     Mr. Stanton, I'll start with you. I'm glad that you clarified for the committee a bit more about the CSIS disclosure process. There are still some very important safeguards in there requiring security clearance, the safety of the information transmitted and so on.
    Very briefly, when I'm looking at this section, can you just walk me through the process within CSIS? Is this a director-level decision on making a disclosure ruling?
     That's a good question.
    Let me start with how it begins. For example, when I was a field officer in the region—I worked in three regions—I would want to talk to someone, and let's say they had an interesting contact with someone, so I would make a disclosure. I would say what organization I'm with and, “I'm Dan.” At some point during an interview, without my saying too much, they're going to know that I'm interested in “Mr. Blah-blah”.
    In order to carry out their mandate, CSIS people themselves, in various capacities, can make disclosures. In many ways it's to carry out the mandate; it could be a bit of gaining someone's confidence or at some point getting support and maybe even eventually having a source relationship. They can do that. However, the day-to-day stuff that's reported to government is going to government readers, and it won't be a high-up sign-off, really. It will be just a regular process, as we've seen with these inquiries, in which there are all sorts of intelligence products going to various government departments—assessments, raw material—and it won't be much higher than a middle manager decision.
     It gets really dicey when you get into things like intelligence being provided to law enforcement. That's when people start getting nervous and when you're going to have higher involvement. A director general will have input into it, or something even more sensitive is obviously going to be bounced up to the executive level.
    There are protocols in place.


     Thank you.
    Also during your opening statement, you made mention of the term “transnational repression”, which is what we heard from our witnesses yesterday representing Uyghurs and, of course, Tibetans. They were urging the committee to include a definition of transnational repression. In my opinion, we're probably looking at the SOIA section of the bill, given that we already have amendments here that deal with intimidation and threats or violence. There are numerous sections that go after foreign interference from the clandestine foreign operations in our country.
     Do you have thoughts on a definition of transnational repression, or do you think the way the SOIA amendments are currently written addresses that in its entirety?
    I think it addresses it. I have to say, first of all, that I don't have a legal background, so I'm looking at it from a threat perspective, and most of my career was in counter-intelligence.
    CSIS has their definitions, for example, from the CSIS Act. In this case, it would fall under section 2. What we call transnational repression is foreign interference that actually targets the émigré communities, manipulating and threatening and potentially killing. I don't know if a definition is going to give CSIS any more authorities that they don't need. I don't think, in terms of indictable offences and the criminalization of transnational repression, that it's really going to make a difference. Then again, I'm not a lawyer.
    As I was following their testimony, everything they thought should be included in the definition of transnational repression seemed to already be included in this bill, just in different sections. I appreciate your thoughts on that.
    Professor Juneau, I'm going to reference part 4 of the bill, which sets up the new commissioner.
    There have been a few different opinions about this bill being country-agnostic. Other private members' bills have opted for a scheduled list, because some countries certainly are worse, in our opinion, than others, given what they're trying to do here on Canadian soil.
    Do you have any thoughts about this bill being country-agnostic and just leaving it open to any country?
     I find that there are good arguments on both sides. I'm not avoiding the question, but I wouldn't say that there's one really good and one really bad option in country-agnostic or not. I would tend to very cautiously lean on being against the country-agnostic approach, but barely, if only for what we were discussing in one of the previous questions, which is the issue of workload.
    The reality is that the community as a whole is overstretched. It's hollowed out. Threats are proliferating. We all know that. Would it simplify or streamline it a bit by having a list of countries that pose a threat at this level? I think the answer might be yes to that. That might be a good argument. Building that list would obviously be controversial. There would be disagreements, but I still think it could be doable.
     Government does complicated things all the time, and establishing a list of countries that pose a foreign interference threat is something that I think we should be able to do and adopt, even if it means changing it every six months or every year as situations change.
     I mentioned that because right now we have a very complicated relationship with India. Sometimes there can be trade interests versus national security interests, and I'm wondering about that.
    In a way, having a country-agnostic list is a way of avoiding that debate.
    Thank you for that.
    Thank you, Mr. MacGregor.
    We'll start our second round. We will end this round with Mr. MacGregor down the way.
    We'll go now to Mr. Genuis for five minutes, please.


     This is a really strong panel, with people with diverse experience. I'm sorry to those I don't get to with questions. So many interesting and important things were said.
     Mr. Soleimani, thank you for highlighting the need to list the IRGC as a terrorist organization and to use our existing laws to combat foreign interference. As the proposer of two of those non-binding motions in Parliament, I completely agree with you: Non-binding motions are not enough. We want to see executive action listing the IRGC as a terrorist organization.
    As opposition members, we use the tools we have to try to highlight the issue, and the goal is to push the government to act. The government has, while voting in favour of both of those motions, sadly still not acted.
    Conservatives have also tabled Bill C-350, which would list the IRGC as a terrorist organization. We've tried to expedite that bill, but Liberals have blocked those efforts.
     Mr. Soleimani, I was particularly struck by something you revealed in your testimony. It was that law enforcement in Canada—if I heard correctly—are asking activists in the Iranian community to keep a low profile, essentially encouraging them not to speak out about important issues, not to be doing their important work of highlighting human rights issues in Iran for fear of their safety here in Canada.
    Can you clarify if I understood that right and speak to who is delivering these messages and who is receiving them?
     Thank you so much, Garnett.
    It was my personal experience and that of some other active members of the Iranian Canadian communities. It was in the middle of the Woman, Life, Freedom revolution that I was contacted by a person from security services. He clearly mentioned to me that maybe the best way to avoid attraction from the Iranian regime was to keep a low profile.
    Then where is freedom of speech? Here in Canada, should we be afraid of the Iranian regime? This is exactly what the Iranian regime wants. Many Iranian Canadians do not feel safe in Canada. Why? It is because agents and supporters of the Iranian regime are here. Obviously, they identify and report active members of the Iranian Canadian community to the Iranian regime. Then the Iranian regime contacts their families inside Iran.
    It's so clear that the Iranian regime agents are here among us. It's a national security threat. We don't feel safe.
    Yes, absolutely.
    Moreover, of course people don't feel safe if the message they're getting from law enforcement, instead of “Exercise your rights and we'll have your back”, is “Don't exercise your rights; be quiet. That's the only way you'll be protected”. That is shocking and horrifying to me.
    If I were told as a member of Parliament by security services that I should be quiet about certain issues and keep a low profile for my own safety, that would clearly be unacceptable. Members of the public and citizens and activists, regardless of their background, must be free to exercise their charter-guaranteed rights and know that they will be protected in doing so.
    Could you clarify specifically which security agency delivered that message?
    It was CSIS.
    That's very troubling. I think that's something we'll need to follow up on.
    Very quickly, Mr. Fung, I think you mentioned in your opening statement that foreign state-controlled media outlets are here. There's a private member's bill, Bill C-281, from my colleague Philip Lawrence, that would seek to limit the ability of foreign state-controlled media to get broadcasting licences in certain kinds of situations when those are hostile authoritarian states.
    What would be your view on such provisions? Should we consider restricting broadcasting licences from entities that are controlled by hostile foreign states?
     Yes, definitely we should control that. Currently, basically the Chinese government is buying airtime from some popular Chinese radio stations in the Vancouver and Toronto areas to broadcast their propaganda.
    Of course, another channel that we should consider is social media, such as WeChat and TikTok. Those are creating even more problems in terms of propaganda from foreign governments.


    Thank you, Mr. Genuis.
     We'll go now to Mr. Gaheer for five minutes, please.
     Great. Thank you, Chair.
    I'm very appreciative of the witnesses for appearing before the committee.
     Mr. Stanton, my questions are largely for you. They're actually along the lines of what Mr. MacGregor was asking about. I want to talk about disclosure and how it currently works at CSIS.
    You mentioned a range of disclosures in your opening testimony. If there is pertinent information—let's say with regard to foreign interference—who can that information be shared with? Is there a limitation on who it can be shared with? Who decides whether that disclosure should be made or not?
     It depends on the purpose.
    CSIS is collecting intelligence all the time. Their mandate is to collect, report to government, provide advice and then do some other activities. They're not hard-wired in such a way that they have to always disclose or need to. Obviously, if it's threat-related, and certainly if it's a physical threat or anything like that, they will do everything they can to make sure that it's disclosed, either directly from them or maybe through law enforcement for something like that, if it's something involving a physical threat. We call it “life or limb”.
    If it's something like the issue that came up earlier in some House committees about members of Parliament, for example, and things like that, obviously they're looking at a better way of giving CSIS the authority to make the disclosure. That's the point. That's the reason I raised section 19 amendments. The reason CSIS hasn't been making those disclosures isn't that they lack imagination or they're obsessed with secrecy; it's because it's the law. They're actually prohibited from disclosing intelligence to the outside. You will be in non-compliance, and there are all sorts of things like that.
    There are disclosures that will be made as part of carrying through an investigation, for example. A bit of information is given to get information in an interview, and things like that, but this will be new. This will be new for the service. This will be new territory. They'll have to come up with strategic reasons that it is in the interest of Canada, basically, the public interest, to make these disclosures of intelligence.
     I guess one of my fears is that perhaps CSIS has a few pieces of that puzzle and perhaps other law agencies also have a few, but it's only when you combine all of that information that you see a full picture, or enough of the picture, that it can be raised to a certain level where perhaps charges are laid or an investigation is launched.
    Do you think the bill will change this regime so that more information is shared?
    If more is shared or provided to those traditional non-partners....
    However, let's forget if there are any changes coming. There's constant co-operation and sharing going on with various entities. You don't have to have a disclosure regime if they're meeting with a municipal police force or a provincial police force or whatever. There's information shared and assessed. They don't necessarily have to have a framework and authorities to pass it on. What we're talking about here is when they're not going to that typical orbit of partners, we'll say—those that aren't part of that normal group of sharing to whom you can actually give intelligence—and they give them something, for example, in a university.
    However, in terms of a threat, let's say, in a community, CSIS would be liaising with everybody, with all levels of government or entities that might have, I guess you could say, an equity in these investigations.
     This was raised in earlier testimony as well. Would there ever be a situation in which CSIS could share information with a foreign entity—perhaps a consulate or an embassy?
    They have arrangements with hundreds of foreign agencies—security and intelligence agencies, police agencies internationally, in various scopes and ranges of co-operation—so there's a lot of sharing going on, and of course there's a lot of care from a human rights perspective with sharing.
    Yes, they share with many international partners in whatever venue or means. It's whatever is, I guess you could say, secure and convenient.
    Could you talk a little bit about what checks and balances are in place so that the wrong information is not shared with a foreign actor, which could be used against a Canadian or perhaps their families overseas?


     Yes, absolutely.
    CSIS exercises a lot of due diligence in terms of information they're going to pass to a foreign agency that has, for example, a terrible human rights record, and there are lots of them overseas. In many cases CSIS won't pass anything if that person could be subject to all sorts of things.
    It's the same in receiving information. They're very skeptical about whether that information came from coercion or financial incentives—all sorts of things. It depends on the relationship and the reliability of that foreign agency. They're very careful about any information that's going to go over into intelligence channels in another state and the implications of how it's going to be handled are beyond their control.
    Great. Thank you so much.
    Thank you, Mr. Gaheer.


    Mr. Villemure, you now have the floor for two and a half minutes.
    Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
    Mr. Stanton, in your opinion, would the passage of Bill C‑70 have prevented the situation that occurred at the National Microbiology Laboratory located in Winnipeg?


     I don't think so, because my take on that, just from what I've read—and it's no different from anyone in the public—is that there were very shoddy security practices, to say the least. That was conducive to somebody possibly committing economic espionage or possibly taking advantage of the situation.
    I think the pressure there is more on that department's internal security and physical security practices for signalling that there was a problem here, and then CSIS coming in, as you know, in the security clearance assessment. It wasn't as though CSIS came in on some big investigation; they were just doing a clearance assessment, and they discovered all this was there.
     I think that's probably a breakdown outside the CSIS mandate in a way, and more of a government problem.


    Thank you.
    My next question is for Mr. Juneau.
    Mr. Juneau, we've talked a lot about transparency. I'd like to talk to you about the report that was released yesterday by the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians.
    Today, people were asking for the names of parliamentarians to be released. However, the law on the classification of information, among other things, does not allow this.
    We're talking about the necessary secrecy to accomplish the mission of the committee of parliamentarians and the desire for transparency. How can we reconcile these two imperatives, which may seem paradoxical?
    That is an excellent question, one that arises in all contexts as soon as we talk about national security and intelligence, not just in the context of the work of the committee of parliamentarians.
    There are several elements to this answer. While respecting the imperatives of the different levels of classification, there is a great deal of information that I believe can be made public. However, it isn't by the community at large, for all sorts of reasons: a culture of secrecy, a—
    Is overclassification one of the possible reasons?
    That's my next point. Absolutely. Overclassification is an epidemic within the Canadian government and other governments, too. We are by no means unique in this regard.
    Another reason is, notably, the risk-averse culture, where—I'm simplifying this massively—you get penalized for mistakenly releasing information that shouldn't have been, whereas you don't get penalized for overclassifying any. So the incentive system is completely tilted in that direction.
    Also, there can be a lack of clarity. It's one thing to tell employees of CSIS, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, or the RCMP to be transparent, but what does that mean in practice? Under whose authority must they be transparent? What do we say? What don't we say? Are you protected by your bosses? Are you protected by politics? Sometimes, it's not the bureaucracy that shows resistance, but rather the political milieu, not for security reasons, but to avoid the political embarrassment to which disclosure of information could lead.
    The question you raise is therefore extremely important, and is at the heart of all debates on transparency. In several respects, there is the cultural aspect and there is the aspect linked to the authorities in place.
    Thank you very much.
    Thank you, gentlemen.


     We will end with Mr. MacGregor.
    You have two and a half minutes, please.
     Thank you, Chair.
    Very briefly, Professor Juneau, I want to talk about part 4 and the definition of “arrangement” in the new act that's going to be enacted. It's talking about whether “a person undertakes” some of these things “under the direction of or in association with a foreign principal”.
    Some people have raised concerns about “association”. Do you have any concerns about that? You brought up the theme of transparency. Do you think we need to further clarify this?


     With apologies, that gets into a level of technical detail that is beyond my expertise. I'm sorry.
     Okay, that's understood.
    I'd like to take a moment just to thank all of our witnesses for helping guide us through this study.
    Mr. Chair, I have to move a motion for some housekeeping for committee business. This was a motion that I gave notice of last Friday, May 31. I'll just read it:
That, in relation to its study of Bill S-210, An Act to restrict young persons’ online access to sexually explicit material—
    I have a point of order.
     Mr. Caputo, go ahead on a point of order.
    I believe that we're operating under a House order that would supersede any other motion. Can the clerk provide input on that, please?
    I don't believe this would be out of order, but I'll ask the clerk.
    Mr. MacGregor has the floor. He's entitled to move his motion.
    Thank you for checking that.
     We received notice of the motion some time ago, so it is in order—
    Chair, can I speak to the same point of order?
    Go ahead on a point of order.
    I would have to disagree.
    If you look at the actual order from the House, this committee is to be seized with no other committee business until this matter is done. The fact that the motion's on the table and has been already presented to the committee doesn't matter; we can't be talking about that until we're done with this particular issue. That's the point that Mr. Caputo was trying to make and that I'll be making again, because that's the position we're at.
    We have to honour the direction we received from the House that our time should not be taken up with anything but this.
    The House order does not preclude us from dealing with other matters. It asks us to deal with this in a concentrated manner. I forget the exact wording.
    Was there someone else who wished to speak on this point of order?


     Mr. Villemure, you have the floor.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    Mr. MacGregor used his time to table his motion, so I don't think there's a problem.


     Thank you, Chair.
    Now that we've dealt with that, I'd like to resume and—
    Just briefly, sir, I believe this brings our questioning to an end.
    I would like to thank the witnesses for their presence and their contributions to this meeting and to our study. I would invite them to leave if it is their wish to do so.
    Thank you very much.
    Mr. MacGregor, please go ahead.
     Thank you, Chair.
    I'll read it into the record officially. I move:
That, in relation to its study of Bill S-210, An Act to restrict young persons' online access to sexually explicit material, and pursuant to Standing Order 97.1(1), the committee request the approval of the House for a 30-sitting-day extension in order to properly and adequately study the bill, hear from witnesses, and conduct clause-by-clause consideration of the bill with amendments, before it is otherwise deemed reported back to the House without amendment on June 7, 2024.
     I'll be very brief here, Mr. Chair. This is a simple housekeeping motion. If we get to June 7, this bill will be deemed reported back to the House. I think it would be a dereliction of duty for us to not study the bill and hear from additional witnesses.
     I'm not going to speak any further on this motion. I have canvassed the room. I believe the majority of this committee is willing to vote, and vote in the affirmative, on this motion. I'd appreciate it if we could keep our remarks to a minimum and arrive at a quick vote so that we can then proceed with the business of Bill C-70 for the remainder of the week.
    Thank you.
    I'm sorry. I was getting advice—not that I'm always going to take my advice, but I get it.
    Mr. MacGregor, have you finished your point?
     Mr. Caputo, the floor is yours.
     Consistent with what Mr. MacGregor just said, I would move that we adjourn debate at this time.
    A motion to adjourn debate has been made. I guess we'll take a recorded vote.
    Just ask. We support it.
    Is it on division?


    No. I want a recorded vote.
    Yes. Okay. We'll have a recorded vote.
    (Motion agreed to: yeas 9; nays 2)
    The Chair: Thank you. The debate is adjourned.
     That wraps up our business for today.
     I'd like to let the committee know that notices will be going out for tomorrow. At this point, it looks like there will be two panels. At this point, the notice will show two individuals on the second panel, but that's expected to change as we get confirmation over the next little while. It will be right after the votes, so around 4:30.
     Remember, Simon, there are supposed to be eight or nine votes. That will take two hours, so we should probably plan so that we don't have a resource issue. Maybe it should be from 5:00 to 7:00, or something like that, as opposed to 4:30, and then we would have to get permission to extend.
     We have all the resources we need for tomorrow.
    Then on Thursday, the current expectation at this point is for three panels. We'll start at our regular time of 8:15, with three panels. Those panels are still being shaken down as we speak, as well.
     They're being shaken down by foreign actors.
    An hon. member: It's a shakedown.
     There you go. There are no foreign actors here.
     Anyway, thank you all. We are now adjourned.
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