Mr. Chair, I think I should have reversed my notes, but I'll start from the beginning.
I think it's important that Mr. Garrison laid out the number of witnesses and the length of time, and I'll address that near the end of my comments.
The parliamentary secretary has indicated that the government is prepared to have eight meetings, 48 witnesses, 16 hours of debate here or 16 hours of debate/witnesses.
It brings to mind my friend across the way in several other discussions on several other bills saying that he failed to see an air of cooperation and he really looked forward to seeing some cooperation from the government with regard to the number of meetings and witnesses.
I agree with him that this is an important piece of legislation. Having been on this committee, I do not agree that it is more important than the previous anti-terrorism bills to which I was a party in the debates and with the witnesses, etc. I think this bill adds to it.
I don't think it is quite accurate or necessary to say it should have the same number of hours, etc., because it adds to the tools in our tool chest as legislators to be able to provide those tools to our agencies that are there to keep us safe. I think that air of cooperation has been laid out before this committee through the amendments we've seen, and I'll give my friend an opportunity to answer why we couldn't meet somewhere in the middle.
I suspect the air of cooperation still exists, and if he wanted to take the time to sit with the parliamentary secretary, maybe we could even work a little more, but if he's intransigent that it has to be 25 and it has to be this number of hours, then a lot of what was said in the past rings hollow to those who might want to follow this committee.
When I listen to a lot of what has been said, there are a few things our grandparents and folks always mention, that the greatest way for evil to persist is when good people do nothing. We see an evil in our world society called ISIS. Its tentacles have now reached well within the fabric of Canadian society. This bill adds to the other terrorism legislation to begin to cut off those tentacles, or at least to allow the agencies that are designed to keep us safe to do something about it.
It's not blind trust, but I trust the men and women in the RCMP, CSIS, and other agencies to keep us safe. I think some checks and balances are needed and I think this legislation has built within it the checks and balances needed for this particular piece of legislation. Then we have another agency that oversees it, and we know who they are.
My observation when we talk about oversight, and I've seen this a little throughout this entire Parliament, is that every time the government brings forward legislation to allow the men and women who work in our agencies, whether it's the RCMP or CSIS or other agencies...we have the opposition saying they really trust them, but we need to keep an eye on them a little more closely than we already do and then they vote against the legislation because it doesn't do that. I wonder if the average Canadian would agree with it.
I know it's anecdotal, but when it comes to the folks that I meet in the coffee shops and talk to at various meetings and functions that I go to, in all fairness some have concerns, but the vast majority feel that our agencies that are there have the right controls on them and in the end our court system will, if need be, be brought into play to make sure there are the checks and balances that need to be there.
My friend across the way talked about polls, etc., that if they know this, this will happen, but if they didn't know that, that will happen. I somewhat agree that we as politicians need to put less faith in polls. The poll I put my faith in will occur this October 19. I say to my friend, if we're so wrong and you're so right about the need, it won't be me, it will probably be you. Maybe the tables will be turned. We need to just take a big deep breath and stop looking at polls and begin to look at what's needed in our society. I believe we're living up to the mandate provided to us as a government to make sure....
I say this almost in all the meetings I have with my constituents when we talk about either health issues or public safety issues. The first responsibility of the government is the health and safety of the citizens. Because of that threat I referred to at the beginning, with its tentacles within the fabric of Canadian society, the government needs to do something about the health and safety of its citizens by bringing in legislation that allows....
We didn't dream this up. The government doesn't dream these things up. This is as a result of conversations with organizations such as CSIS, the RCMP, and other agencies, with their saying they'd like to do more but they don't have the tools to do it. That's why this legislation is being brought in.
For the folks at home, I'd like to remind them that on most of our legislation, such as the travel abroad and travel protect, and other legislation as I've mentioned, the folks across the way, Her Majesty's official opposition, generally votes against them. Then they say the reason they did is not necessarily because it's bad legislation, but because there are not enough checks and balances. As my teachers, my parents, and especially my grandparents have said, actions speak louder than words. What did you do? What was the result of what you did? It doesn't matter what you said. It's what did you do?
One of the other observations that I made is that the third party, having been in government, tends to, when it sees legislation, maybe not always like it precisely. In the past, on some of the legislation—and we're talking about Bill C-51 here, this piece of legislation—they've indicated that they have issues with it but generally they're prepared to vote for it because, having had the responsibility of government, they understand why the government is doing that. I think that is part and parcel of why they are voting for it: because they do see the value in the legislation and they do see some of the checks and balances they'd like to see. They also know that sometimes three-quarters of a loaf of bread is better than no bread at all, and in this case understand the need for this anti-terrorism legislation.
My friend mentioned that we have to be careful that we don't have court challenges. Well, I can tell you that if you have enough money, there's a plethora of legal firms and lawyers out there who will take any cause to court. If we were always afraid of legal challenges, we wouldn't pass any legislation other than what currently exists. The government has a responsibility and I as a legislator have a responsibility, and that is to meet the challenges of the day, the issues du jour if you want, if necessary with the appropriate legislation, as I previously mentioned, to keep the men and women in our society, my citizens, your citizens, our constituents, safe as best we can.
There are no ulterior motives other than that one simple motive. That's my motive. That's been my motive for now pretty close to 40 full-time years of public service. It is to ensure that I do everything in my power to keep those people for whom I am responsible as safe as I can.
That's why I'm suggesting once again that we take a little break as soon as we've talked ourselves out, hopefully, in a short period of time. The parliamentary secretary and the other two parties should get together and work in the interests of cooperation. So often it has been brought to our attention that we see that occur. If it can't occur, then I hope in the future, should we meet again on a piece of legislation, we don't get that thrown in our face.
I heard one of the comments was regarding disruptive activities and that we have to be careful what kinds of activities we're disrupting. I recall yesterday during question period the leader of Her Majesty's official opposition say throughout, well barn burnings, etc. If we bring that up and a few other things, this piece of legislation does have built within it, when it comes to disruptive activities, that CSIS has to go before a judge.
We're accused of judge bashing and not really paying attention to judges. Well, we've built into this legislation on purpose the requirement to have to go before a justice before some of these, I will admit, serious things such as disruptive activities allow those authorities to exercise their mandate. We just want that significant oversight and permission before they do it and are permitted to go ahead. I think it well covers that.
My friend across the way mentions that we need experts to come and tell us. Yes, that's why we're prepared to talk to 48 witnesses. We need warrants for disruptions, so we do have this judicial oversight in many of the instances where the government felt that there needed to be caution because of the nature of the action. That's why we bring in a third party who will make sure that the activities engaged in are appropriate to meet the circumstances.
As far as monitoring is concerned, I've talked about the judicial oversight. It's important for Canadians to know that—this is just off the top of my head; somebody can raise a point of order if they wish to correct me in the number of years, and please feel free to do so—for about 40 years or so, CSIS has exercised its mandate with very few instances where they have exceeded it.
The additional powers that are going to be given to CSIS and the RCMP.... I'd like to deal with CSIS in particular, because their track record—and remember I said actions speak louder than words—has been very good. There's no reason to believe that the men and women of CSIS are going to, on a regular basis, exceed the powers that they have been given in the past and that this proposed legislation gives them. Their track record is such that they deserve to have the tools they need to meet this new increasingly grave threat to Canadian society.
My friend mentioned that the role of judges has been changing over the past while and I agree with him. The role of judges has been expanding significantly over the past 20 to 25 years in order to meet the charter challenges.
I saw a perfect example of that in my previous occupation. It used to be relatively easy to get a search warrant, but in this day and age, because of some of the history, the demands on police are increasingly such that in order to get a search warrant or other warrants—and this does tie directly into Bill C-51, and that's why we have this judicial oversight—you need to go before a justice.
I've seen pictures of information to obtain a search warrant that literally filled legal boxes, piled high. I won't go into the specific cases, but there was the case of the Church of Scientology and some of the search warrants and I can recall huge volumes.
When my friend indicates that the role of judges has been expanded, I agree that it has been. It is neither good nor bad, but it is necessary in most cases.
To say that this will increase their role, I don't think it will increase it any more than any other piece of legislation that we have brought in or that has been brought in in the past by both Liberal and Conservative governments.
When we deal with information sharing, my friend and the parliamentary secretary alluded to recent cases in Edmonton and some other places. If need be, I'll go into those, particularly to show three areas that this piece of legislation covers that I believe would have prevented these young folks from leaving Canada. The mother actually explained to the media what occurred, and had CSIS been able to provide information to her on exactly what they knew, if my memory serves me correctly—and I'm probably going to be looking at that particular case and informing my constituents and Canadians as to the specificity of it—she said she would have ripped up their passports.
I think this information sharing is necessary, and the opposition is saying that we need to give them a specific case. Well this is just one time when we can do that to show that this legislation is in fact needed in order to prevent young folks in the future.... Hopefully, it will provide their parents with the information necessary to work with authorities to de-radicalize and prevent some terrible things from happening.
When my friend said that he doesn't think it's an exaggeration to say generally...I find after that statement comes the exaggeration, albeit, if you listen closely, you'll hear the words “may”, “could”, “it's possible”. It's possible for anything to happen. All things are possible, but I would suggest, based on what I previously said about the responsible attitude of CSIS and the RCMP and their history surrounding those things, that they will probably not happen.
Again I go back to Canadians and their faith in organizations such as CSIS and the RCMP. I'm going to make this statement, and I don't think it's going to shock any of the people around this table. I think most Canadians trust CSIS, trust the RCMP, and trust the other agencies that are there to keep them safe and to keep all of us safe more than they trust politicians. I think that they trust judges and the judicial system more than they trust politicians. That's why in Bill C-51 we've put in judicial oversight to make sure that those authorities that Canadians trust have the tools and resources they need.
I made another note with regard to resources, and my friend's saying we need to provide more resources to those entities. Well, I would say we actually have done that in numerous budgets since 2011. Again I am recalling those famous words “actions speak louder than words” because in those budgets that have allocated more money towards our agencies, Canada's official opposition has historically voted against all of those budgets designed to do so. They'll say it was because it had too much of this, that, or the other thing, but once again I say that what you said is irrelevant and it comes down to what you actually did.
One of the other things is that I belonged to one of those agencies which, when asked, always said that it's not enough and we need more. We all know that especially when you talk to government or anyone else and you ask if they have enough, they always ask for a little bit more. Whether it's in a labour negotiation or in any kind of negotiation, we always want more, figuring that we're not going to get what we want, so we better ask for more.
When we come to resources, let's get those witnesses in here. Let's talk about those resources and let's talk about what is really needed and maybe, just maybe, as a result of Bill C-51, those additional resources will be provided. But first we have to get Bill C-51 in there.
We heard mention of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and some other very recent tragic events. Most of those events are still under investigation. Even though I would like to make comment, I do not like to make comments about incomplete investigations. Why? Because it's not respectful of the people who are engaged in the investigation. I know the media needs to fill the paper or the television time. They talk about the right of Canadians to know what's going on, but as legislators.... And I don't question it and I'm not making judgments on it; I'm just saying that, as legislators, I think we need to wait until we see the results of the investigation before we begin to say that somebody did too much and they shouldn't have or somebody didn't do enough. Let's wait until that's done.
Let's also make sure that when we do see the results of that investigation, we do give the investigative agencies the tools they need to do their job.
When we talk about the government showing intolerance to debate and they bring in closure—and I'm using the words that were used. Time allocation is the nice touchy-feely term. As my friend across the way said, he likes to use the word “closure” because it has that ring to it.
We are an offspring of our mother Parliament, Westminster. I didn't know this, at least it may have been told to me before, but occasions like this bring to mind that in Great Britain, most legislation is debated in the House for one day, and members have to indicate to the Speaker that they wish to speak to the debate. The more members, the less time they get, and in some cases, my little bit of research indicates that it could be two to three minutes. They have to get their point across and they have to stay in the House during the debate, or they get struck off the list. Now after they speak, I guess, they could sneak out because they've already said their piece. Then it goes before committee in much the same system as we have. I believe, but I haven't gone into the committee structure that much, at committee it doesn't stay there that long.
When Canadians hear that we want to have 25 meetings and talk these things out, I'll bet that the majority of people out there, other than the odd person who might think they'd like to watch especially if we televise this.... With 25 meetings, 50 hours of debate, I'll bet that the average Canadian would say, “You politicians talk things to death”. I hear that all the time. “Get on with it. Do your job, and every four years, in the case of a majority government, we'll decide if you did your job well enough and we'll kick your butt out of there if we don't think you did a good job”.
I say to the official opposition, take us up on that offer of eight meetings or let's take a little break and see if we can't come to a better decision, because Canadians expect us to do something.
Maybe in the enclaves in which you socialize they think we need 25 or 50 meetings, but I'm going to say that I doubt that very much. Most Canadians think that the hours of debate we've already had in the House and the time we're going to take at committee is more than enough. I risk their ire if I talk too long, because what they expect is action, and I go back to what I said: actions speak louder than words. So let's get on with the job. Let's show an era of cooperation. Let's take a break and let's talk about coming down from 25 meetings and let's talk about seeing if we can't come to providing a better service to the people who are paying the shot to keep the lights on in here and all the people working to make sure these meetings bear some fruit.
I mentioned, of course, the incident in Edmonton. The woman said, “I would have ripped her passport up. There is no way I would have let her leave if I knew she was going to the craziest war zone in the world”. She further said, “If they had shown me the e-mails...”. I repeat to Canadians, CSIS is not permitted to show those e-mails. She said, “If they had shown me the e-mails between my sister and this girl, if they had let me listen to the recordings of them planning on going places”—and I'm leaving out a name here—“it would have given the family more to act on”. Then she said, “They told us she had been interacting with people they thought were dangerous and were influencing her in a negative way, but they didn't give us enough information. It was very vague”.
It had to be vague.
My friend across the way says that well, they did talk to the family. Yes, they did, but they weren't permitted to give them all that information. That's why we need to have information sharing. That's why that is necessary. It gives them more freedom rather than taking it away. It gives the parents the freedom and the ability to do that which parents want to do, which is to protect their children.
That's one perfect example, just one, of why this legislation is necessary, so I implore my friend to remember what he said at previous meetings about previous legislation and do be prepared to meet us halfway and Canadians will be well served.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.