Mr. Speaker, perhaps I misheard and referred to Bill C-69 and not Bill C-59 when I rose to speak earlier.
I am pleased to rise again to support Bill C-59, the government's proposed legislation to update and modernize the country's national security framework. This landmark bill covers a number of measures that were informed by the views and opinions of a broad range of Canadians during public consultations in 2016.
It was in that same spirit of openness, engagement, and transparency that Bill C-59 was referred to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security before second reading, and the committee recently finished its study of this bill. I want to thank the committee members for their diligent and thorough examination of the legislation. An even stronger bill, with over 40 adopted amendments, is now before the House, thanks to their great work.
The measures would do two things at once. They would strengthen Canada's ability to effectively address and counter 21st-century threats while safeguarding the rights and freedoms we cherish as Canadians.
This is where I get into some new material. Rather than elaborate on any specific proposed measure, I will focus my remarks today on the high level of engagement, consultation, and analysis that contributed to the legislation we find before us today.
Bill C-59 is a result of the most comprehensive review of Canada's national security framework since the passing of the CSIS Act more than 30 years ago. That public review included unprecedented open and transparent public consultations on national security undertaken by Public Safety Canada and the Department of Justice. Canadians were consulted on key elements of Canada's national security laws and policies to ensure that they reflected the rights, values, and freedoms of Canadians. Several issues were covered, including countering radicalization to violence, oversight and accountability, threat reduction, and the Anti-terrorism Act, 2015, which is the former Bill C-51.
All Canadians were invited and encouraged to take part in the consultations, which were held between September and December 2016. The response was tremendous. Thousands of people weighed in through a variety of avenues, both in person and online. Citizens, community leaders, experts and academics, non-governmental organizations, and parliamentarians alike made their views and ideas known over the course of the consultation period. In the end, tens of thousands of views were received, all of which were valuable in shaping the scope and content of Bill C-59.
With almost 59,000 responses received, the online consultation is what generated by far the largest volume of input, using a questionnaire consisting of more than 60 questions organized into 10 themes.
Nearly 18,000 submissions were also received by email. These consisted mainly of letters and other pieces of communication submitted by individuals. In addition, public town halls were held in five Canadian cities: Halifax, Markham, Winnipeg, Vancouver, and Yellowknife. This gave citizens across the country a chance to share their thoughts and opinions in person.
The Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security also held numerous meetings and consultations. It even travelled across the country to hear testimony not only from expert witnesses but also from members of the Canadian public, who were invited to express their views.
A digital town hall and two Twitter chats were also organized. Members of the public also had the opportunity to make their voices heard at 17 engagement events led by members of Parliament at the constituency level. In addition, 14 in-person sessions were held with academics and experts across the country, as well as one round table of civil society experts.
A total of 79 submissions were received from stakeholders, experts, and academics. The Canadian Bar Association, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, and the Information Technology Association of Canada are just a few of the organizations that participated in the consultations.
A great deal of time, effort, and expertise was spent not only to ensure that engaged citizens and interested parties were heard, but also to painstakingly collect and consider all input received from the public. All data collected during the consultation process was reviewed and prepared for analysis. The next step was to carefully analyze every comment, submission, letter, and other forms of input.
These views have been published on the Government of Canada's open data portal, so anyone interested in learning more about what was said can see what was said.
In addition, an independently prepared report provides an overview of what was heard during the consultation. The results are summarized in 10 sections, one for each of the themes explored in both “Our Security, Our Rights: National Security Green Paper, 2016” and the online questionnaire.
While it would be difficult to summarize everything we have heard from Canadians, I can speak to a few key themes that emerged. First of all, I can attest that in any large volume of input, there will be widely different opinions. That was certainly the case in the public consultation on national security. However, the results made one thing perfectly clear. Canadians want accountability, transparency, and effectiveness from their security and intelligence agencies. They also expect their rights, freedoms, and privacy to be protected at the same time as their security.
Consistent with what was heard, Bill C-59 would modernize and enhance Canada's security and intelligence laws to ensure that our agencies have the tools they need to protect us. It would do so with a legal and constitutional framework that complies with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Taken together, the proposed measures in Bill C-59 represent extensive improvements to Canada's national security framework. They also reflect thousands upon thousands of opinions expressed by this country's national security community, Parliamentarians across party lines, and the Canadian public writ large.
I firmly believe that it is important for all Canadians to be informed and engaged on Canada's national security framework. I am proud to stand behind a government that shares that belief.
The input received during the public consultation process in the pre-study period at committee was both considerable and instrumental in the development of Bill C-59 itself. There is no doubt in my mind that the legislation before this House today has been strengthened and improved as a result of the committee's close scrutiny and clause-by-clause consideration of the bill. To highlight just one example, the bill would now include provisions enacting the avoiding complicity in mistreatment by foreign entities act. This act would have to do with the ministerial directions issued last fall to Canada's national security and intelligence agencies. To ensure transparency and accountability, those directions would be made public under an amended Bill C-59. They would also be reported on annually to the public, to review bodies, and to the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians.
I encourage all members of this House to vote in favour of Bill C-59. Should Bill C-59 pass, this important piece of legislation would enhance Canada's national security, keep its citizens safe, and safeguard Canadians' constitutionally protected rights and freedoms. For all these reasons, I urge my honourable colleagues to join me in supporting Bill C-59.
With the bit of extra time that remains to me after my prepared remarks, I would just like to talk a little bit about my experience at the door during the election in 2015.
In the early part of June and July, many Canadians were concerned about Bill C-51. It was a hot topic of conversation. What the former Liberal third party opposition had attempted to do at committee in the previous session of Parliament was at least get some amendments into Bill C-51 to encourage and strengthen oversight and make sure that the bill not only protected security but made sure that Canadians' privacy and freedoms were being respected.
That led to a lot of difficult conversations, because during the campaign, the three parties were really divided on this particular issue. The Conservatives were adamant that they had struck the right balance. The New Democratic Party wanted to repeal it entirely. The Liberal Party stuck to its guns and said that it was a difficult conversation to have with people, but the legislation was needed. They said we needed this legislation but we needed to fix it, we needed to do it right, and we needed to make sure that it had the safeguards we promised and attempted to achieve at the amendment stage for Bill C-51 in the last Parliament.
That is what we have done. However, we have done even more than that. We have gone back to the drawing board and have let many different groups participate to make sure that we got it right.
I just want to provide one little quote, from national security experts Craig Forcese and Kent Roach, who have said that this legislation is “the real deal: the biggest reform in this area since 1984” and that it comes “at no credible cost to security.”
I believe that through all the consultations, the drafting of the bill by the minister and his staff, the review of the bill at committee, and the help of all members of the House, we now have a piece of legislation that strikes the right balance that will make Canadians safer and will also protect their rights and freedoms, which is what we promised in the 41st Parliament we would do if elected, and we are doing it now.