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View Arif Virani Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Arif Virani Profile
2018-06-18 18:07 [p.21179]
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Oakville North—Burlington this evening.
I rise today to speak in support of Bill C-59. With this bill, our government is entrenching our commitment to balancing the primacy of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms with protecting our national security. We are enhancing accountability and transparency. We are correcting the most problematic elements of the Harper government's old BillC-51.
Our government conducted an unprecedented level of public consultation with Canadians about our national security in order to effectively develop the bill. Canadians told us loudly and clearly that they wanted a transparent, accountable, and effective national security framework. That is exactly what we will accomplish with Bill C-59.
The minister took the rare step of referring Bill C-59 to the Standing Committee on Public Safety after first reading, underscoring our government's commitment to Canadians to ensure that we got this important legislation right. Prior to the bill returning to this chamber, it underwent an extensive four-month study, hearing from nearly 100 witnesses. I would like to thank the members of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security for their hard work in studying the bill extensively and for their comprehensive report.
Fundamental to our promise to bring our national security framework into the 21st century, we are fixing the very flawed elements of the old BillC-51, which I heard so much about from my constituents in Parkdale—High Park during the 2015 electoral campaign.
I am proud to support this evidence-based, balanced legislation, and I am reassured to see positive reactions from legal and national security experts right around the country, including none other than Professors Craig Forcese and Kent Roach, two of the foremost legal academics in Canada who have been at the centre of concerns about the overreach of the Harper government's old BillC-51.
Professors Forcese and Roach have said, “ Bill C-59 is the biggest overhaul in Canadian national security since the creation of the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) in 1984—and it gets a lot of things right."
Bill C-59 builds on our commitment to enhance accountability, which started with our government's introduction of BillC-22 in 2016. Bill C-22, which has received royal assent established an all-party committee of parliamentarians, representatives elected by the Canadian public, to review and critically analyze security and intelligence activities. For the first time in history, a multi-party group of members of this chamber as well as the Senate are now holding Canada's security apparatus to account.
We are building on BillC-22 with the current bill, Bill C-59, which would establish a national security and intelligence review agency. The NSIRA, as it would be known, would function as a new expert review body with jurisdiction across the entire government to complement the efforts of the recently established parliamentary oversight committee, which I just mentioned. This feature would incorporate one of the important recommendations of the Maher Arar inquiry, which called on the government to, and I am citing recommendation 16 from the Maher Arar inquiry, “develop a protocol to provide for coordination and coherence across government in addressing issues that arise” respecting national security.
With the establishment of a parliamentary oversight committee in BillC-22, and a new arm's-length review body in Bill C-59, we would be addressing the glaring gap that exists in our review bodies for national security agencies. Currently, some agencies do not have a review body or are in charge of reviewing themselves. We cannot allow the lack of such fundamental oversight to continue, especially with regard to the safety and security of Canadians.
As Professors Forcese and Roach have observed, with respect to Bill C-59:
the government is finally redressing the imbalance between security service powers and those of the review bodies that are supposed to hold them to account. Bill C-59 quite properly supplements the parliamentary review committee...with a reformed expert watchdog entity. Expert review will be liberated from its silos as the new review agency has a whole-of-government mandate.
This is a critical piece in our government's work, providing my constituents in Parkdale—High Park and indeed Canadians right around this country, with a comprehensive and responsible national security framework.
In addition to establishing the NSIRA, Bill C-59 calls for increased and improved communication between this organization and other relevant review bodies, such as the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. This will not only boost efficiency and avoid duplication and unnecessary use of resources, but also promote a more holistic approach to protecting privacy and security at the federal level.
While speaking with the residents of Parkdale—High Park in 2015, I heard about the Harper government's old BillC-51 over and over again at the doors. The major concern the residents expressed to me was about the threat posed by the previous government's Bill C-51 to their constitutional rights and freedoms. The residents of my community are an intelligent and engaged group of citizens, and they were on to something. The federal government, under the guise of “public security”, cannot be permitted to infringe on the rights and freedoms that are fundamental to our very society, to what it means to be Canadian.
Yes, ensuring public safety is the pre-eminent responsibility of any government, but it is simply not acceptable to pursue security at any cost. My constituents, and indeed all Canadians, expect a government that respects fundamental constitutional rights, a government that will put in place mechanisms and safeguards to protect those rights.
That is precisely what Bill C-59 would achieve. How? First, it would tighten the definition of what constitutes “terrorist propaganda”. The narrower and more targeted definition would ensure that the sacrosanct protection of freedom of expression under section 2(b) of our charter is observed, and that our security laws in Canada are not so overreaching as to limit legitimate critique and debate.
Second, as a corollary to this point, Bill C-59 would also protect the right of all Canadians to legitimate protest and advocacy. One of the most searing criticisms of the Harper government's old BillC-51 was that bona fide protestors who dared to disagree with the government of the day could be caught up in a web of security sweeps, all in the name of public safety.
That is not how our Liberal government operates. We respect the charter and the right of all Canadians to engage in legitimate protest and advocacy, whether they represent a group with charitable status that opposes a government policy, or a gathering of students on a university campus who take up the call for more aggressive investment of federal funds to support the expansion of women's rights internationally.
That kind of advocacy is not a threat to our public security. To the contrary, it is an enhancement of our democracy. It is civil society groups and public citizens doing exactly what they do best, challenging government to do, and to be, better.
In Bill C-59, we recognize this principle. We are saying to Canadians that they have constitutional rights to free speech and protest, and that we are going to affirm and protect those rights by correcting the balance between protecting safety and respecting the charter.
Third, Bill C-59 would also upgrade procedures as they relate to the no-fly list. We know that the no-fly list is an important international mechanism for keeping people safe, but its use has expanded to the point of encroaching on Canadians' rights. In Bill C-59, we are determined to address this imbalance.
Our changes to the no-fly list regime would do the following. They would require the destruction of information provided to the minister about a person who was, or was expected to be, on board an aircraft within seven days following the departure or cancellation of the flight. It would also authorize the minister to collect information from individuals for the purpose of issuing a unique identifier to them to assist with pre-flight verification of their identity.
This is a critical step that would provide us with the legislative tools needed to develop a domestic redress mechanism. The funding for a domestic redress mechanism was delivered by our government this year, specifically $81.4 million in budget 2018. However, in order to start investing this money in a way that would allow Canadians, including children, who are false positives on the no-fly list to seek redress, we need legislative authority. Bill C-59 would provide that legislative authority.
Finally, with Bill C-59 we would re-establish the paramountcy of the charter. I speak now as a constitutional lawyer who practised in this area for 15 years prior to being elected. It is unfortunate that the paramountcy of the Constitution needs to be entrenched in law. As a lawyer, I know, and we should all know, that the Constitution is always the paramount document against which all other laws are measured. Nevertheless, the previous government's disdain for the charter has made this important step necessary.
Through Bill C-59, we would entrench, in black and white, that any unilateral action by CSIS to collect data in a manner that might infringe on the Constitution is no longer permitted. Instead, under Bill C-59, any such proposals would have to come before a judge, who must evaluate the application in accordance with the law, where protecting charter rights would be the paramount concern. Our party helped establish the charter in 1982, and our government stands behind that document and all the values and rights it protects.
As I and many others have said before in the House, the task is to balance rights and freedoms while upholding our duty to protect the safety of Canadians. That is not an easy task, but I am confident that Bill C-59, in partnership with BillC-22, would provide a comprehensive and balanced approach to national security. It is respectful of the charter and our Constitution. That is why I support this bill, and I ask all members to do the same.
View Randall Garrison Profile
NDP (BC)
Madam Speaker, I rise tonight to speak against Bill C-59 at third reading. Unfortunately, it is yet another example of the Liberals breaking an election promise, only this time it is disguised as promise keeping.
In the climate of fear after the attacks on Parliament Hill and in St. Jean in 2014, the Conservative government brought forward BillC-51. I heard a speech a little earlier from the member for Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, and he remembers things slightly different than I. The difference is that I was in the public safety committee and he, as the minister, was not there. He said that there was a great clamour for new laws to meet this challenge of terrorism. I certainly did not hear that in committee. What I heard repeatedly from law enforcement and security officials coming before us was that they had not been given enough resources to do the basic enforcement work they needed to do to keep Canadians safe from terrorism.
However, when the Conservatives finally managed to pass their Anti-terrorism Act, they somehow managed to infringe our civil liberties without making us any safer.
At that time, the New Democrats remained firm in our conviction that it would be a mistake to sacrifice our freedoms in the name of defending them. BillC-51 was supported by the Liberals, who hedged their bets with a promise to fix what they called “its problematic elements” later if they were elected. Once they were elected in 2015, that determination to fix Bill C-51 seemed to wane. That is why in September of 2016, I introduced BillC-303, a private member's bill to repeal Bill C-51 in its entirety.
Some in the House at that time questioned why I introduced a private member's bill since I knew it would not come forward for a vote. In fact, this was an attempt to get the debate started, as the Liberals had already kept the public waiting for a year at that point. The New Democrats were saying, “You promised a bill. Well, here's our bill. It's very simple. Repeal all of C-51.”
Now, after more than two years and extensive consultations, we have this version of Bill C-59 before us, which does not repeal BillC-51 and fails to fix most of the major problems of Bill C-51, it actually introduces new threats to our privacy and rights.
Let me start with the things that were described, even by the Liberals, as problematic, and remain unfixed in Bill C-59 as it stands before us.
First, there is the definition of “national security” in the Anti-terrorism Act that remains all too broad, despite some improvements in Bill C-59. Bill C-59 does narrow the definition of criminal terrorism speech, which BillC-51 defined as “knowingly advocates or promotes the commission of terrorism offences in general”. That is a problematic definition. Bill C-59 changes the Criminal Code wording to “counsels another person to commit a terrorism offence”. Certainly, that better captures the problem we are trying to get at in the Criminal Code. There is plenty of existing case law around what qualifies as counselling someone to commit an offence. Therefore, that is much better than it was.
Then the government went on to add a clause that purports to protect advocacy and protest from being captured in the Anti-terrorism Act. However, that statement is qualified with an addition that says it will be protected unless the dissent and advocacy are carried out in conjunction with activities that undermine the security of Canada. It completes the circle. It takes us right back to that general definition.
The only broad definition of national security specifically in BillC-51 included threats to critical infrastructure. Therefore, this still raises the spectre of the current government or any other government using national security powers against protesters against things like the pipeline formerly known as Kinder Morgan.
The second problem Bill C-59 fails to fix is that of the broad data collection information sharing authorized by BillC-51, and in fact maintained in Bill C-59. This continues to threaten Canadians' basic privacy rights. Information and privacy commissioners continue to point out that the basis of our privacy law is that information can only be used for the purposes for which it is collected. Bill C-51 and Bill C-59 drive a big wedge in that important protection of our privacy rights.
Bill C-51 allowed sharing information between agencies and with foreign governments about national security under this new broad definition which I just talked about. Therefore, it is not just about terrorism and violence, but a much broader range of things the government could collect and share information on. Most critics would say Bill C-59, while it has tweaked these provisions, has not actually fixed them, and changing the terminology from “information sharing” to “information disclosure” is more akin to a sleight of hand than an actual reform of its provisions.
The third problem that remains are those powers that BillC-51 granted to CSIS to act in secret to counter threats. This new proactive power granted to CSIS by Bill C-51 is especially troubling precisely because CSIS activities are secret and sometimes include the right to break the law. Once again, what we have done is returned to the very origins of CSIS. In other words, when the RCMP was both the investigatory and the enforcement agency, we ran into problems in the area of national security, so CSIS was created. Therefore, what we have done is return right back to that problematic situation of the 1970s, only this time it is CSIS that will be doing the investigating and then actively or proactively countering those threats. We have recreated a problem that CSIS was supposed to solve.
Bill C-59 also maintains the overly narrow list of prohibitions that are placed on those CSIS activities. CSIS can do pretty much anything short of committing bodily harm, murder, or the perversion of the course of democracy or justice. However, it is still problematic that neither justice nor democracy are actually defined in the act. Therefore, this would give CSIS powers that I would argue are fundamentally incompatible with a free and democratic society.
The Liberal change would require that those activities must be consistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That sounds good on its face, except that these activities are exempt from scrutiny because they are secret. Who decides whether they might potentially violate the charter of rights? It is not a judge, because this is not oversight. There is no oversight here. This is the government deciding whether it should go to the judge and request oversight. Therefore, if the government does not think it is a violation of the charter of rights, it goes ahead and authorizes the CSIS activities. Again, this is a fundamental problem in a democracy.
The fourth problem is that Bill C-59 still fails to include an absolute prohibition on the use of information derived from torture. The member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan made some eloquent statements on this with which I agree. What we have is the government saying that now it has included a cabinet directive on torture in Bill C-59, which gives the cabinet directive to force of law. The cabinet directive already has the force of law, so it absolutely changes nothing about this.
However, even worse, there is no absolute prohibition in that cabinet directive on the use of torture-implicated information. Instead, the prohibition says that information from torture can be used in some circumstances, and then it sets a very low threshold for when we can actually use information derived from fundamental rights violations. Not only is this morally repugnant, most likely unconstitutional, but it also gives us information that is notoriously unreliable. People who are being tortured will say precisely what they think the torturer wants them to say to stop the torture.
Finally, Bill C-59 would not do one of the things it could have done, and that is create a review agency for the CBSA. The CBSA remains without an independent review and complaints mechanism. It is one of our only law enforcement or security agencies that has no direct review agency. Yes, the new national security intelligence review agency will have some responsibility over the CBSA, but only in terms of national security questions, not in terms of its basic day-to-day operations.
We have seen quite often that the activities carried out by border agencies have a major impact on fundamental rights of people. We can look at the United States right now and see what its border agency is doing in the separation of parents and children. Therefore, it is a concern that there is no place in Canada, if we have a complaint about what CBSA has done, to file that complaint except in a court of law, which requires information, resources, and all kinds of other things that are unlikely to be available to those people who need to make those complaints.
The Liberals will tell us that there are some areas where they have already acted outside of Bill C-59, and we have just heard the member for Winnipeg North talk about BillC-22, which established the national security review committee of parliamentarians.
The New Democrats feel that this is a worthwhile first step toward fixing some of the long-standing weaknesses in our national security arrangements, but it is still only a review agency, still only an agency making recommendations. It is not an oversight agency that makes decisions in real time about what can be done and make binding orders about what changes have to be made.
The government rejected New Democrat amendments on the bill, amendments which would have allowed the committee to be more independent from the government. It would have allowed it to be more transparent in its public reporting and would have given it better integration with existing review bodies.
The other area the Liberals claim they have already acted on is the no-fly list. It was interesting that the minister today in his speech, opening the third reading debate, claimed that the government was on its way to fixing the no-fly list, not that it had actually fixed the no-fly list. Canada still lacks an effective redress system for travellers unintentionally flagged on the no-fly list. I have quite often heard members on the government side say that no one is denied boarding as a result of this. I could give them the names of people who have been denied boarding. It has disrupted their business activities. It has disrupted things like family reunions. All too often we end up with kids on the no-fly list. Their names happen to be Muslim-sounding or Arabic-sounding or whatever presumptions people make and they names happen to be somewhat like someone else already on the list.
The group of no-fly list kids' parents have been demanding that we get some effective measures in place right away to stop the constant harassment they face for no reason at all. The fact that we still have not fixed this problem raises real questions about charter right guarantees of equality, which are supposed to be protected by law in our country.
Not only does Bill C-59 fail to correct the problems in BillC-51, it goes on to create two new threats to fundamental rights and freedoms of Canadians, once again, without any evidence that these measures will make it safer.
Bill C-59 proposes to immediately expand the Communications Security Establishment Canada's mandate beyond just information gathering, and it creates an opportunity for CSE to collect information on Canadians which would normally be prohibited.
Just like we are giving CSIS the ability to not just collect information but to respond to threats, now we are saying that the Communications Security Establishment Canada should not just collect information, but it should be able to conduct what the government calls defensive cyber operations and active cyber operations.
Bill C-59 provides an overly broad list of purposes and targets for these active cyber operations. It says that activities could be carried out to “degrade, disrupt, influence, respond to or interfere with the capabilities, intentions or activities of a foreign individual, state, organization or terrorist group as they relate to international affairs, defence or security.” Imagine anything that is not covered there. That is about as broad as the provision could be written.
CSE would also be allowed to do “anything that is reasonably necessary to maintain the covert nature of the activity.” Let us think about that when it comes to oversight and review of its activities. In my mind that is an invitation for it to obscure or withhold information from review agencies.
These new CSE powers are being expanded without adequate oversight. Once again, there is no independent oversight, only “after the fact” review. To proceed in this case, it does not require a warrant from a court, but only permission from the Minister of National Defence, if the activities are to be domestic based, or from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, if the activities are to be conducted abroad.
These new, active, proactive measures to combat a whole list and series of threats is one problem. The other is while Bill C-59 says that there is a still a prohibition on the Canadian Security Establishment collecting information on Canadians, we should allow for what it calls “incidental” acquisition of information relating to Canadians or persons in Canada. This means that in situations where the information was not deliberately sought, a person's private data could still be captured by CSE and retained and used. The problem remains that this incidental collecting, which is called research by the government and mass surveillance by its critics, remains very much a part of Bill C-59.
Both of these new powers are a bit disturbing, when the Liberal promise was to fix the problematic provisions in BillC-51, not add to them. The changes introduced for Bill C-51 in itself are minor. The member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan talked about the changes not being particularly effective. I have to agree with him. I do not think they were designed to be effective. They are unlikely to head off the constitutional challenges to Bill C-51 already in place by organizations such as the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. Those constitutional challenges will proceed, and I believe that they will succeed.
What works best in terrorism cases? Again, when I was the New Democrats' public safety critic sitting on the public safety committee when BillC-51 had its hearings, we heard literally dozens and dozens of witnesses who almost all said the same thing: it is old-fashioned police work on the front line that solves or prevents terrorism. For that, we need resources, and we need to focus the resources on enforcement activities at the front end.
What did we see from the Conservatives when they were in power? There were actual cutbacks in the budgets of the RCMP, the CBSA, and CSIS. The whole time they were in power and they were worried about terrorism, they were denying the basic resources that were needed.
What have the Liberals done since they came back to power? They have actually added some resources to all of those agencies, but not for the terrorism investigation and enforcement activities. They have added them for all kinds of other things they are interested in but not the areas that would actually make a difference.
We have heard quite often in this House, and we have heard some of it again in this debate, that what we are talking about is the need to balance or trade off rights against security. New Democrats have argued very consistently, in the previous Parliament and in this Parliament, that there is no need to trade our rights for security. The need to balance is a false need. Why would we give up our rights and argue that in doing so, we are actually protecting them? This is not logical. In fact, it is the responsibility of our government to provide both protection of our fundamental rights and protection against threats.
The Liberals again will tell us that the promise is kept. What I am here to tell members is that I do not see it in this bill. I see a lot of attempts to confuse and hide what they are really doing, which is to hide the fundamental support they still have for what was the essence of BillC-51. That was to restrict the rights and freedoms of Canadians in the name of national security. The New Democrats reject that false game. Therefore, we will be voting against this bill at third reading.
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