Interventions in the House of Commons
 
 
 
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View Alistair MacGregor Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Speaker, in a moment, I will be seeking unanimous consent for a motion. I looked at the projected order of business for today in the House of Commons, and I am puzzled as to why we are debating anything other than the government's climate emergency motion. Is it an actual emergency, or is it just another PR stunt for the Liberals?
I would like to ask for unanimous consent that the orders of the day be resolved back to government Motion No. 29, which would declare that Canada is in a national climate emergency.
View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
View Bruce Stanton Profile
2019-05-17 10:04 [p.28029]
The hon. member is aware that the government, of course, has the discretion to make these decisions, but nonetheless, I will ask if there is unanimous consent for the hon. member's motion.
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Some hon. members: No.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2019-05-17 10:04 [p.28029]
Mr. Speaker, from the moment it was clear that the member was seeking unanimous support, I started to say “no” out loud, yet the member was able to continue. All I am asking for is consistency with the Chair, who might want to review this.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
View Bruce Stanton Profile
2019-05-17 10:05 [p.28029]
Order. We are not getting off to a good start here today.
I thank the hon. parliamentary secretary for his additional comments. Members should be reminded that certainly members can stand and raise points for the consideration for unanimous consent. Members should be advised not to use those occasions to enter into debate. These are not opportunities.
It is known to be common practice of the House to use the unanimous consent motion approach when there is known agreement among parties for the acceptance of these motions. Nonetheless, I would ask members to refrain from using those opportunities for debate. It is not what they are for. Members should quickly go to their point, put the motion before the House for unanimous consent consideration and then we will see what the House decides.
I thank both the hon. members for their interventions, and now we will go to orders of the day.
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
2019-05-17 10:07 [p.28029]
moved that Bill C-98, An Act to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act and the Canada Border Services Agency Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
2019-05-17 10:07 [p.28029]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by stating that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood this morning.
View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
View Bruce Stanton Profile
2019-05-17 10:07 [p.28029]
In that this is the first round of speeches for the bill, in the normal case, the members of parties wishing to split their time in those spots must seek the unanimous consent of the House in order to share their time.
Is there unanimous consent?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Some hon. members: No.
The Deputy Speaker: The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety.
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
2019-05-17 10:08 [p.28029]
Mr. Speaker, since the fall of 2016, our government has been dramatically reshaping Canada’s security and intelligence apparatus to ensure that it has the authorities and the funding it needs in order to keep Canadians safe. At the same time, we have been ensuring that those agencies, which we trust with tremendous power, have strong and robust independent review mechanisms so that the public can be confident that they are using their powers appropriately.
These mechanisms instill confidence in the public that these agencies are using their powers appropriately. Since 2018, following the passage of Bill C-22, the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, or NSICOP, has been reviewing classified national security information. The committee, which is formed of three senators and eight elected members of Parliament, recently released its first annual report. This brings Canada into line with all four of our other Five Eyes alliance allies when it comes to parliamentary or congressional review of national security activities.
Bill C-59, which is currently awaiting third reading debate in the Senate, would create a national security and intelligence review agency. This would be a stand-alone review body that would incorporate the existing Security Intelligence Review Committee, or SIRC, which reviews the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, CSIS, and the Office of the Communications Security Establishment Commissioner, which reviews the Communications Security Establishment, CSE.
The agency would also have the powers and authorities to review any department with a national security function. Some academics and experts have dubbed this idea a “super SIRC“. They have argued for years that such a body is needed so that it can follow the thread of evidence from one department to another rather than ending its investigation at the boundaries of a single agency. The Federal Court has also suggested that this kind of super review agency needs to be created. We have done all of this so that Canadians can be confident that our security and intelligence community has the tools it needs to keep Canadians safe.
This brings me to Bill C-98. The one piece missing from this review architecture puzzle, should Bill C-59 pass, of course, is an independent review body for non-national security-related reviews of the Canada Border Services Agency, or CBSA. Bill C-98 would fill in that gap by creating PCRC, or the public complaints and review commission.
The new agency would combine the existing review body for the RCMP, known as the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, CRCC, with the yet to be created review body for the Canada Border Services Agency. It would add a mandatory new deputy chair position to the new agency. Budget 2019 has provided nearly $25 million over the next five years to ensure there is enough staff to take on this new important role.
I would now like to walk members through how the PCRC would work in practice. A Canadian who has a complaint about the actions or behaviour of a CBSA member would lodge a complaint with either the Canada Border Services Agency itself or the PCRC. Regardless of where it is filed, one agency would alert the other to the complaint. There will be no wrong door for Canadians to knock on. The system will work for them in either case.
The CBSA would then be required to investigate every complaint, much like the existing CRCC does for the RCMP. If the chair believes it would be in the public interest to do so, the PCRC can initiate its own investigation.
The vast majority of complaints to the CBSA are already handled to the satisfaction of the complainant. For those who are not satisfied, complainants would be informed that they can request a subsequent complaint review from the fully independent PCRC. The review agency would have full access to documents and the power to compel witnesses in order to ensure it can undertake a thorough investigation. If, upon review, the PCRC were not satisfied with the CBSA's investigations and conclusions, it would make a report with any findings and recommendations.
There are several areas that the CCRC would not be able to investigate because there are already existing bodies which could handle those types of complaints. For instance, officers of Parliament like the Privacy Commissioner and the Commissioner of Official Languages are best suited to deal with complaints that fall within their jurisdiction.
Should someone file a complaint with the CBSA or the CCRC that falls within those realms, either body would decline the complaint but inform that individual of the proper course of action.
The chair of the new PCRC would be able to conduct reviews of CBSA activities, behaviours, policies, procedures and guidelines not related to national security. National security reviews would, of course, be handled by NSIRA. The Minister of Public Safety could also ask the agency to undertake such a review.
In addition, the PCRC would be notified of any serious incident in which the actions of a CBSA officer may have resulted in serious injury or death. This includes immigration detainees who are being held in provincial corrections facilities on behalf of the CBSA. Further, the Minister of Public Safety or the president of the CBSA may deem that in incidents of such significance, the PCRC must investigate.
Bill C-98 would complete the review architecture for the public safety portfolio by creating a review body similar to the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP, or the Office of the Correctional Investigator for Correctional Service Canada. This is another important step that would ensure Canadians have confidence in our border agency. However, it is far from the only improvement that our government has made over these past four years.
Let us take, for instance, the new immigration detention framework and its focus on best rights of the child, increased resources to combat gun and opioid smuggling at the border, and new money for detector dogs that will help to ensure African swine fever-contaminated meat does not enter Canada and decimate the stock of pork producers.
There is the new entry-exit legislation, which closes a major security gap by allowing us to know when someone is leaving the country, and the new Preclearance Act, which allows for the expansion of pre-clearance sites in all four modes: air, land, marine and rail. In addition, this act provides cargo pre-clearance to reduce wait times at the border.
Our government takes the security of Canada’s border seriously and knows that it not only needs to be secure from threats that would enter, but also be open to the legitimate travel and trade that drives our economy.
The time left in the 42nd Parliament is, unfortunately, growing short, and I am convinced that this piece of legislation would be, by leaps and bounds, an improvement over the status quo. There is a reason we committed to doing this particular action. We know that having independent oversight bodies will make a difference. We have worked hard to make that happen with the RCMP, and now our other national security agencies have the same kind of mechanisms. It is all about instilling confidence in the public that the powers our national security agencies have are being used appropriately and that their privacy, rights and freedoms are being respected. At the same time, our national security agencies are working hard to keep them safe.
One of the most significant steps forward was the implementation of Bill C-22 and the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, because now we have representatives from Parliament actually having access to classified security information and making judgments about where we should go, what the priorities are and what the major threats are, and the committee members can share that information among themselves in a non-partisan way.
The chair of the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians went before committee and talked about the work it does. It has issued its first annual report. The chair talked about the ability of this committee of parliamentarians to act in a non-partisan nature. That is what allows it to do the kind of work we need it to do. There are three senators and eight elected members of Parliament, and it is working. The other Five Eyes alliance countries have a parliamentary or congressional review body, and now Canada does too.
Bill C-59, which we have talked about, would create the national security and intelligence review agency. This stand-alone body would incorporate the existing Security Intelligence Review Committee, which reviews CSIS, and the Office of the Communications Security Establishment Commissioner, which reviews CSE. Having this review function under one single umbrella would give it the flexibility and ability to focus where it believes it needs to be done. It would also have the power and authority to review any department with a national security function.
I like the name super-SIRC. I think it is representative of what we are trying to do, which is create an oversight organization that has the bandwidth and authority to review any national security agency's work to make sure that it is being done in terms of the legal authorities it has and that also has the ability to go across national security agencies if it needs to find information that pertains to a particular issue.
We have argued for years that we needed such a body that could follow a thread of evidence from one department to another, from one national security agency, across boundaries, to another. Even the Federal Court agrees that this kind of review agency needs to be created.
It comes back to having national security agencies that have the confidence of their people. I believe that now, with these independent oversight agencies that have been put in place, Canadians can be confident that our security and intelligence community has the tools to keep them safe while at the same time respecting their privacy, respecting their freedoms and respecting their rights.
The Canada Border Services Agency was the last piece. In Bill C-98, we would create the public complaints and review commission, the PCRC. This new agency would combine the existing review body for the RCMP, known as the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, with the yet to be created review body for the CBSA. It would add a mandatory new deputy chair position to the new agency.
I would like to walk the members through how the PCRC, the public complaints and review commission, would work in practice.
A Canadian who had a complaint about the actions or behaviour of a CBSA member would lodge a complaint with either the CBSA itself or with the public complaints and review commission. There would be two options to file a complaint. The system would be designed so that once a complaint was filed with one agency, it would automatically be transferred to the other agency. Both would know what was going on, and both would be responsible for addressing the particular complaint. On top of that, even if a complaint had not been issued, if the chair of the public complaints and review commission believed that it was in the public interest to do so, the public complaints and review commission could initiate its own investigation.
If one submitted a complaint to the CBSA and was not happy with the result, one could request a subsequent complaint review by the fully independent public complaints and review commission. This would give the agencies two opportunities to address complaints from the public. This review agency would have full access to documents and the power to compel witnesses to ensure that it could make a thorough investigation.
I am convinced that this piece of legislation is, by leaps and bounds, an improvement over the status quo. While some may want to improve some parts, I think most of us would agree that Canadians would be better off if this bill were to receive royal assent before we rise this summer. As we all know, Parliament can move quite expeditiously when we are all of a mind to do something in the public interest. If any of my colleagues in this chamber, on either side of the aisle, would like to discuss the prospects of this bill's passage, I would be pleased to have that conversation with them.
View Pierre Paul-Hus Profile
CPC (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech. I can see that the government is in a hurry to pass Bill C-98.
Can my colleague tell us why the government waited nearly four years to introduce this bill? It introduced the bill at the eleventh hour, even though it was a 2015 election promise.
I would also like to know why the government did not consult the Customs and Immigration Union while drafting this bill.
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
2019-05-17 10:28 [p.28032]
Mr. Speaker, if we look at the list of bills that have come forward on public safety, it really is quite substantial. Yes, after the 2015 election, the mandate letter given to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness was quite significant. We believe that we tackled the most difficult and contentious issues first and fit those pieces of the puzzle together. We had to create a framework within which this particular initiative would fit. That is the reason behind the order with which we brought legislation forward to this House.
View Alistair MacGregor Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to start off by acknowledging the incredible work CBSA officials do on behalf of our country every day. They are often in very difficult situations and have to make difficult decisions at our ports of entry. However, overall, they do a fantastic job.
I want to follow up on the question from my Conservative colleague about the timing of this bill. I do not think the parliamentary secretary is going to find any opposition in the House on the merits of this bill. I look forward to sending it to committee. Of course, we do not know what will happen in the other place. That is the big question. We only have four weeks left.
Back in 2014, my colleague, the member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, when he was our party's public safety critic, raised this issue. It was an issue raised by the 2015 Senate Standing Committee on National Security and Defence and again in a 2017 report by the standing committee of the House of Commons.
With all the vast resources that a majority government has at its disposal, why only on May 7 did we see this important oversight bill brought forward with so little runway left? I would like to understand the process that was involved and why the government could not have brought something in far sooner for us to consider and hopefully pass.
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
2019-05-17 10:30 [p.28032]
Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, if we look at the minister's mandate letter and the amount of work that needed to be done to improve our national security agencies and independent oversight, there was quite a bit of work to do, and we felt that we needed to put the most significant pieces of that puzzle together first.
If we could get buy-in from this House and the other place on the most substantive pieces, based on the principles that underlie those pieces of law, people could say that the government explained, up to now, why we needed these kinds of oversight bodies and they could agree. We felt that we had to build the case for these kinds of oversight bodies incrementally.
View Colin Carrie Profile
CPC (ON)
View Colin Carrie Profile
2019-05-17 10:31 [p.28032]
Mr. Speaker, with all due respect, this is a last-ditch effort to get a piece of legislation through that was promised over three and a half years ago. It is incomprehensible for me, being from Oshawa, why the Liberal government did not even bother to consult the union and union members who this piece of legislation would be affecting.
My colleague from the NDP was quite right. We owe a debt of gratitude to the men and women who stay at our borders to keep us safe and who make sure that it is run efficiently. This is a testament to how poorly the current government is running. At this stage of the game with our government, there were 50% more bills passed. In other words, right now, the Liberals have about 63 bills that have received royal assent, and at the same time, we had 97. Here they are bringing this important piece of legislation in at the last minute.
First, why did the Liberals not bother to consult with the union? Second, if this is not passed, who is it going to help before the next election, because the timeline is very short?
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
2019-05-17 10:32 [p.28032]
Mr. Speaker, as I said, we had a very ambitious timetable. We knew we had to make some substantive and really challenging changes to our national security agencies and the way they operate. We committed to Canadians to do just that. Piece by piece incremental change was the approach we decided to take to bring Canadians along. It was also to explain, educate and consult on how we are actually making our national security agencies work better for them, which is going to keep them safe and at the same time respect their rights and freedoms.
The member is right. We have been having these discussions for three and a half years. However, now I think we are at the point where people understand what the strengths and opportunities are. Of course, people always want to do more, and so do we, but it was important to do this in an incremental way to get the buy-in from Canadians, and that is the approach we took.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2019-05-17 10:34 [p.28033]
Mr. Speaker, I was listening to members in the unholy alliance of the New Democratic Party and the Conservative Party asking why the government did not bring in this legislation earlier. The first thing that came to my mind is that we have had a very busy government, as the parliamentary secretary indicated, from day one when we brought in Bill C-2 dealing with the tax cut for Canada's middle class. However, no matter what piece of legislation this government brings in, the opposition always believes it has to talk more about it. The difference between the Liberal government and the opposition, the combined opposition, is that we actually believe in working, and there are still 20 days left.
My question to my colleague is: Would she not agree that 20 days still allow us to continue to work hard, as we have done from day one, on an important piece of legislation? Just because there are only 20 days does not mean that everyone gets a break. We work to the end. Would the parliamentary secretary not agree?
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