Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-59, an act respecting national security matters. This is a massive omnibus bill, more than 140 pages long. It seeks to amend five existing acts with significant amendments. It introduces four new acts. It overhauls Canada's national security framework.
Having regard for the breadth and scope of the bill and the important subject matter it touches, namely Canada's national security, it is extremely disappointing that the government has done just about everything to shut down debate in the House, to prevent and limit the ability of members of Parliament to speak and debate this piece of legislation.
Perhaps one of the reasons for this is that the government is really quite embarrassed by this piece of legislation. Before there was even a second reading vote on the bill, as a result of changes to our Standing Orders, it went to committee, where it was torn to shreds. It was such a sloppy bill that 235 amendments were brought forward at committee, including 43 amendments from Liberal MPs. The bill falls short in many respects.
The threat of terrorism is real. We know that September 11 really did change the world. While September 11 is now nearly 17 years ago and for many an increasingly distant memory, the threat of terrorism in Canada is as real today as it was the day after September 11.
We have seen terrorist attacks on Canadian soil, including here on Parliament Hill a few years ago. Just last year, an Edmonton police officer, Mike Chernyk, was killed when he tackled a terrorist, who then tried to run down Edmontonians. By the way, Edmonton is a city that I am very proud to represent, and this really hit home for many of my constituents.
We know that the threat of terrorism is real, and we know that we need to give our security, intelligence, and law enforcement agencies all the tools possible to be able to disrupt terrorist plots, to stem the flow of financing to terrorist groups and terrorist actors, and ultimately to keep Canadians safe.
That is why our previous Conservative government brought Canada's anti-terrorism and national security laws into the 21st century with Bill C-51, legislation that, by the way, the Liberal Party, to its credit, supported. It is also true that the Liberals had some reservations about Bill C-51. During the last election, the Prime Minister promised that he would make revisions to Bill C-51, so we have Bill C-59, which is the government's response.
As I said, it falls short in a number of areas. Where it falls short is that instead of giving law enforcement and national security agencies more tools to keep Canadians safe, Bill C-59 takes away tools. What kinds of tools is Bill C-59 taking away that they otherwise had as a result of, among other measures, Bill C-51?
One of those tools is the ability of CSIS to carry out disruption activities without a warrant. Under Bill C-51, CSIS could undertake some very limited disruption activities, provided that those activities were consistent with Canadian law and respected the privacy rights of Canadians. Bill C-59 takes that tool away. In practical terms, what would that mean? One example would be that right now, as a result of Bill C-51, CSIS could contact the parents of a radicalized youth to seek parental intervention and advise them that their son or daughter has been radicalized. Under Bill C-59, CSIS would have to get a warrant. How does that make sense, and how does that make Canadians safer?
Another example would be to misdirect a potential terrorist who might be in the midst of carrying out a terrorist plot. Of course, in disrupting terrorist plots, time can so often be of the essence. It is not possible to run into court to get a warrant. Under Bill C-59, the government would be tying the hands of CSIS, even at a critical time when that could make a difference for stopping a terrorist attack by simply misdirecting the terrorist. How does that make sense, and how does that make Canadians safer?
There is another tool in the tool box that the government is taking away, namely preventive detention. It is true that it is not taking away the tool, in the sense that it is still there, but from a practical standpoint it is going to make preventative detention much more difficult. Preventative detention is an important tool. It is a tool that has been used and has kept Canadians safe. The threshold for law enforcement to use preventative detention is high. There must be evidence that using preventative detention would likely prevent a terrorist attack. Under Bill C-59, that threshold would be increased to detention being “necessary” to prevent a terrorist attack. Between “likely to prevent” and “necessary to prevent”, the threshold has increased considerably. There is a big difference in that regard. What it means is that it would be much more difficult for law enforcement to use preventative detention, even when there is evidence that preventative detention would likely prevent a terrorist attack. Again, how does that make sense, and how does that make Canadians safer?
Another tool the government is limiting in a significant way for law enforcement is the tool of a peace bond, where there are no reasonable grounds to charge someone with a criminal offence, but there is sufficient evidence that the individual needs to be monitored and subject to conditions whereby if the individual violates the order, he or she could be subject to criminal charges. The threshold is that a peace bond be likely to prevent a terrorist attack from occurring. Just as the government has done with respect to preventative detention, it has increased that threshold to “necessary to prevent” a terrorist attack. It basically defeats the entire purpose of a peace bond, because the evidentiary threshold that the government has set is more or less as high as reasonable grounds, which would result in delaying criminal charges. How does that make sense, and how does that make Canadians safer?
For these and other reasons, we cannot support this bill, because it would take too many tools away from our law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and it would make Canadians less safe.