Interventions in Committee
 
 
 
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View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
Mr. Chair, I would pull up my motion, which is on the—
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
Mr. Chair, I will move my motion. I think the clerk has copies. I was going to move it during the last three meetings, but I didn't want to take the time of the committee. It is an important motion.
My motion is as follows:
That the committee urgently invite Suzanne Legault, Information Commissioner of Canada, Bob Paulson, Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the Honourable Steven Blaney, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, to discuss the special report to Parliament by the Information Commissioner, tabled in Parliament on May 14, 2015, entitled An Investigation into an access to information request for the Long-gun Registry, and that the meeting be televised.
I move the motion, Mr. Chair. It would be really nice to have this motion on the table for our 75th meeting of this committee.
The reason for the motion is straightforward. The Information Commissioner has presented a case in which the government, through the Minister of Public Safety's office, and through the chain of command of the RCMP, committed a crime by way of destruction of government documents.
The key questions that have to be resolved are as follows. One, who within the Minister of Public Safety's office, Public Safety Canada, or the RCMP gave an—
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Who within the Minister of Public Safety's office, Public Safety Canada, or the RCMP gave and who received any instructions and orders to destroy the documents in question between May 2, 2012, the day the former Public Safety minister gave his assurance records would be retained, and October 25, 2012, the date the destruction of government documents commenced? It's clear, Mr. Chair, that this is a violation within the law.
The second question is, was the Office of the Commissioner of the RCMP aware of the commitment made by the previous minister of Public Safety in a letter to the Information Commissioner that “the RCMP will abide by the right of access described in section 4 of the Act and its obligations in that regard”? If so, if they were aware, why were the documents destroyed?
The other question would be—really, I think you could call it a “firewall”—was the firewall between political involvement and RCMP day-to-day operations broken?
The Information Commissioner stated the following, which I want to be placed on the record of this committee, in a letter submitted by the Information Commissioner to the Speakers of both chambers of Parliament on May 13, 2015. In a quote from that letter, her concerns were put directly:
On April 13, 2012, I wrote to the then Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, the Honourable Vic Toews, to inform him that any records for which a request had been received under the Act were subject to the right of access and could not be destroyed until a response had been provided under the Act and any related investigation and court proceedings were concluded. Minister Toews responded on May 2, 2012 providing assurances that the RCMP would abide by the right of access described in section 4 of the Act. ...I also concluded that the RCMP destroyed records responsive to the request with the knowledge that these records were subject to the right of access guaranteed by subsection 4(1) of the Act. As a result, as well on March 26, 2015, I referred the matter to the Attorney General of Canada for possible obstruction of the right of access under section 67.1 of the Act. I have not received a response to this letter of referral. In order to preserve the rights of the complainant, pursuant to section 42 of the Act, I will also file a court application before the Federal Court.
She goes on to conclude by saying:
The proposed changes in Bill C-59 will deny the right of access of the complainant, it will deny the complainant's recourse in court and it will render null and void any potential liability against the Crown. Bill C-59 sets a perilous precedent against Canadians' quasi-constitutional right to know.
In the report itself, the Information Commissioner states the following, concluding with a specific course of action her office has taken:
The information and evidence obtained during the Information Commissioner's investigation has led her to conclude that the RCMP destroyed records responsive to the request with the knowledge that these records were subject to the right of access guaranteed by subsection 4(1) of the Act. In particular...that factual information relates to the elements of the offence set out in paragraph 67.1(1)(a)....
I'll not take the time to go through that, but to save time, Mr. Chair, I think that, simply put, the RCMP destroyed these records with the knowledge that they related to the outstanding access request as well as an ongoing investigation. The RCMP destroyed these records despite the Information Commissioner's letter dated April 13, 2012, to the Minister of Public Safety, copying the Commissioner of the RCMP, which clearly stated that these records are subject to the right of access guaranteed by the Access to Information Act and may not be destroyed until a response has been provided to the complainant and any related investigation and court proceedings are completed.
Based on the information that the Office of the Information Commissioner has gathered in the context of this investigation, the Information Commissioner is of the opinion that there is a possibility that an offence in contravention of section 67 of the act has been committed. As I said earlier, she has referred that matter to the Honourable Peter MacKay, Attorney General of Canada.
Mr. Chair, the government or law enforcement can't pick and choose the laws they want to enforce. The law is the law is the law, as people on this committee would know.
I will close, Mr. Chair, by adding the following from Ms. Legault's testimony before the access to information, privacy and ethics committee on May 25. In response to a question as to whether the retroactive application being used in the budget implementation act could be applied to make the $90,000 alleged bribe to Mike Duffy retroactively legal, the Information Commissioner stated the following:
I think that this retroactive application and the retroactive stripping of the application of the Access To Information Act is a perilous precedent. I think it could be used in any other file, of course.
There are two issues here, and we can't deal with one at this committee. One is the budget implementation act, in that it makes legal what was illegal at the time and takes that whole issue away by the retroactive amending of a law. As we are the public safety committee, I think it's important to us that the Information Commissioner, an officer of parliament, has alleged that the RCMP, our national police force, has violated the law.
Could there be political influence? I think possibly so. However, I would hope not, because there is supposed to be a firewall between day-to-day operations within the public safety minister's office and the RCMP.
However, Mr. Chair, the only way we can find that out is to invite the Information Commissioner of Canada, Suzanne Legault; Bob Paulson, the Commissioner of the RCMP; and Mr. Blaney, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to come before this committee and explain what happened. They're the ones who would be in the know. They're the ones between whom the conversations took place, if they did take place.
In any event, we do know that the information was destroyed. It's alleged to be a violation of the law, and I think we have a responsibility as the public safety committee to hear from those three folks and find out the facts.
I therefore move the motion.
Thank you very much.
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
I am going to run over to the finance committee—
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Hon. Wayne Easter:—because, obviously, the public safety committee doesn't want to deal with the issue, I'll have to go over there.
Seeing that we're not going to deal with this motion at the next meeting, which would be the 75th meeting, I do want want to say that there are going to be several members who will not back after the next election, and because those of us who are here don't know whether we'll be here or not, I do want to say that while it's not always a pleasure at this committee, it has been a good experience working with all the people on this committee, and I don't want to leave without saying that.
Thank you very much.
View John McCallum Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I'm a very temporary visitor to this place, but I also wanted to give my best wishes to those who will not be running in the next election. I will report back to Wayne the relatively nice things some of you have just said about him. That's quite something because since Mark Holland ceased to be a member of Parliament, Wayne is perhaps the Liberal that Conservatives most like not to like. I can say that publicly because Wayne wears that distinction as a badge of honour.
In any event, I know he wished you all well before he went off to the finance committee. I would like to echo that thought and wish everybody a good summer and a not so good, or possibly quite good, election coming up.
Thank you.
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to the witnesses.
To both of you, can you speak of the experience in other countries with the removal of passports. How successful has it been? Have the appeal processes worked? And based on that experience is there...?
I think one of the concerns here is whether or not there maybe needs to be a special advocate regarding security agencies and police forces when those are looking for judicial authority to remove someone's passport. I'm concerned that there isn't the balance of fairness under the law. Would it make sense to have a special advocate, or would it not?
From that perspective, could either or both of you speak to whether you have any knowledge of the experiences in other countries and whether it's worked well, if there need to be changes, and whether we should be learning from their experiences.
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
Dr. Leuprecht, do you have anything to add?
Then moving to your larger tool kit, I think, Dr. Leuprecht, in your remarks—and maybe you didn't intend it this way—but I wondered whether you had confidence in deradicalization programs.
I ask because I think Mr. Quiggin is right. I think this is one measure that's needed among many. Young people of 18 are wanting to leave—some of them are wanting to leave for just pure adventure I expect—and they are having their passports revoked. But I hope that there are ways and means for them to get their passport back, as things change over time and your life experiences change.
Should deradicalization programs or other programs be necessary to accommodate that? You spoke about that a little earlier.
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
A number of us on the committee are familiar with the hub model, and I think we recommended that it be expanded in our economics of policing report. I appreciate your comments.
I have a last question, Mr. Chair, and then you can move on.
I asked earlier whether there is a need for a special advocate at the front end to obtain authority to take someone's passport. Do either of you have a view on that? Yes or no?
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
It would be an individual with experience in the area, who would try to bring balance. When security officials are before a judge saying that they have evidence to believe such and such, and it is classified information to a certain extent, there's no one to advocate on the other side. Should there be?
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Wayne Easter Profile
2015-05-28 10:31
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to the three witnesses for coming.
Mr. Lapensée, I also certainly want to compliment the professionalism of your organization. In all my time in Parliament—and at this table, probably Diane and I have been here the longest—I have never seen anything but professionalism from your folks and, indeed, friendship over time, with the recognition factor that's always there. I want to state that, because you don't see that in too many workplaces. Everybody has a bad day, even the chair does, from time to time, with some of the members on the committee, though not with me of course. But I've never seen anybody express their bad day.
In any event, I think part of the problem we have here with this new proposal is that the security issue, which is an extremely important issue, has taken precedence. There are really two issues at play here. One is the security issue in terms of the parliamentary precinct itself, and the other is the independence of Parliament. By the independence of Parliament, I mean the independence of Parliament from the executive branch of government, which is the Prime Minister, cabinet, etc.
It was interesting when we were doing our research into this issue. You have the Clerk and you have the Sergeant-at-Arms, and when they were here the other day, the Privy Council Office could not answer a question about the role of the Sergeant-at-Arms under this new arrangement. That's worrisome.
But it's interesting that when you actually go to House of Commons Procedure and Practice, it says:
Prior to the creation of the House of Commons Security Services in 1920, security was the responsibility of the Dominion Police (which in 1920 was merged with the Royal North West Mounted Police to create a new national force, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police).
In a certain fashion, we're going back to the arrangement that existed in 1920 and we're going back to the 1920 model. Is it for better or worse? I don't know. I will admit that I am concerned about the independence of Parliament from the executive branch because of the connection to the Minister of Public Safety and the Commissioner of the RCMP.
Does either of you, as a witness, know what the new role of the Sergeant-at-Arms will be, if any, and who that individual is ultimately responsible to? Earlier somebody else said that you couldn't have three bosses, and you can't. Under this new arrangement, who is that individual ultimately responsible to?
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Wayne Easter Profile
2015-05-28 10:35
One of the difficulties we're having here—and I brought this up at a previous meeting—is that although we're dealing to a great extent with the security side, we really don't have the benefit on this committee of making a decision on this in terms of a measure in the budget bill, and we have not had the benefit of a report on the incident of October 22. That's a problem in and of itself. We've read some media reports and we question what happened and who was negligent in terms of that happening. But we do know that at the end of the day, the Sergeant-at-Arms dealt with the issue.
You believe, Mr. Lapensée, that the Sergeant-at-Arms could be involved in just the ceremonial side.
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Wayne Easter Profile
2015-05-28 10:37
The way Parliament works now, there's the clerk, the Speaker, and a number of parliamentary officers, the Sergeant-at-arms being one. Can anybody tell me the flow of authority as it relates to the clerk of the House of Commons in this new arrangement?
There's no question in my mind that on the security side I agree with the Auditor General's report. Having been Solicitor general at one point in time, I would agree that there needs to be better coordination on the security side of the operation. All those things I agree with 100%. I'm looking at the parliamentary privilege side, and the implications of that for these new security measures and the independence of Parliament from the executive branch. The clerk is independent of the executive branch. Does anybody know the flow of authority from the new person in charge, through the clerk to the Speaker?
My point, Mr. Chair, is that there are too many unknown implications of this decision that we're making here relative to this new set-up in Parliament.
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