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View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
Mr. Speaker, I find myself surprised to have a speaking spot tonight. For that I want to thank the New Democratic Party. We do not agree about this bill, but it was a generous gesture to allow me to speak to it.
I have been very engaged in the issue of anti-terrorism legislation for many years. I followed it when, under Prime Minister Chrétien, the anti-terrorism legislation went through this place immediately after 9/11. Although I was executive director of the Sierra Club, I recall well my conversations with former MP Bill Blaikie, who sat on the committee, and we worried as legislation went forward that appeared to do too much to limit our rights as Canadians in its response to the terrorist threat.
That was nothing compared to what happened when we had a shooting, a tragic event in October 2014, when Corporal Nathan Cirillo was murdered at the National War Memorial. I do not regard that event, by the way, as an act of terrorism, but rather of one individual with significant addiction and mental health issues, something that could have been dealt with if he had been allowed to have the help he sought in British Columbia before he came to Ottawa and committed the horrors of October 22, 2014.
It was the excuse and the opening that the former government needed to bring in truly dangerous legislation. I will never forget being here in my seat in Parliament on January 30. It was a Friday morning. One does not really expect ground-shaking legislation to hit without warning on a Friday morning in this place. There was no press release, no briefing, no telling us what was in store for us. I picked up BillC-51, an omnibus bill in five parts, and read it on the airplane flying home, studied it all weekend, and came back here. By Monday morning, February 2, I had a speaking spot during question period and called it the “secret police act”.
I did not wait, holding my finger to the wind, to see which way the political winds were blowing. The NDP did that for two weeks before they decided to oppose it. The Liberals decided they could not win an election if they opposed it, so they would vote for it but promised to fix it later.
I am afraid some of that is still whirling around in this place. I will say I am supporting this effort. I am voting for it. I still see many failures in it. I know the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Public Safety have listened. That is clear; the work they did in the consultation process was real.
Let me go back and review why BillC-51 was so very dangerous.
I said it was a bill in five parts. I hear the Conservatives complaining tonight that the government side is pushing Bill C-59 through too fast. Well, on January 30, 2015, BillC-51, an omnibus bill in five parts, was tabled for first reading. It went all the way through the House by May 6 and all the way through the Senate by June 9, less than six months.
This bill, Bill C-59, was tabled just about a year ago. Before it was tabled, we had consultations. I had time to hold town hall meetings in my riding specifically on public security, espionage, our spy agencies, and what we should do to protect and balance anti-terrorism measures with civil liberties. We worked hard on this issue before the bill ever came for first reading, and we have worked hard on it since.
I will come back to BillC-51, which was forced through so quickly. It was a bill in five parts. What I came to learn through working on that bill was that it made Canadians less safe. That was the advice from many experts in anti-terrorism efforts, from the leading experts in the trenches and from academia, from people like Professor Kent Roach and Professor Craig Forcese, who worked so hard on the Air India inquiry; the chair of the Air India inquiry, former judge John Major; and people in the trenches I mentioned earlier in debate tonight, such as Joseph Fogarty, an MI5 agent from the U.K. who served as anti-terrorism liaison with Canada.
What I learned from all of these people was BillC-51 was dangerous because it would put in concrete silos that would discourage communication between spy agencies. That bill had five parts.
Part 1 was information sharing. It was not about information sharing between spy agencies; it was about information sharing about Canadians to foreign governments. In other words, it was dangerous to the rights of Canadians overseas, and it ignored the advice of the Maher Arar inquiry.
Part 2 was about the no-fly list. Fortunately, this bill fixes that. The previous government never even bothered to consult with the airlines, by the way. That was interesting testimony we got back in the 41st Parliament.
Part 3 I called the “thought chill” section. We heard tonight that the government is not paying attention to the need remove terrorist recruitment from websites. That is nonsense. However, part 3 of BillC-51 created a whole new term with no definition, this idea of terrorism in general, and the idea of promoting terrorism in general. As it was defined, we could imagine someone would be guilty of violating that law if they had a Facebook page that put up an image of a clenched fist. That could be seen as promotion of terrorism in general. Thank goodness we got that improved.
In terms of thought chill, it was so broadly worded that it could have caused, for instance, someone in a community who could see someone was being radicalized a reasonable fear that they could be arrested if they went to talk to that person to talk them out of it. It was very badly drafted.
Part 4 is the part that has not been adequately fixed in this bill. This is the part that, for the first time ever, gave CSIS what are called kinetic powers.
CSIS was created because the RCMP, in response to the FLQ crisis, was cooking up plots that involved, famously, burning down a barn. As a result, we said intelligence gathering would have to be separate from the guys who go out and break up plots, because we cannot have the RCMP burning down barns, so the Canadian Security Intelligence Service was created. It was to be exclusively about collecting information, and then the RCMP could act on that information.
I think it is a huge mistake that in Bill C-59we have left CSIS kinetic powers to disrupt plots. However, we have changed the law quite a bit to deal with CSIS's ability to go to a single judge to get permission to violate our laws and break the charter. I wish the repair in Bill C-59 was stronger, but it is certainly a big improvement on BillC-51.
Part 5 of Bill C-51 is not repaired in Bill C-59. I think that is because it was so strangely worded that most people did not ever figure out what it was about. I know professors Roach and Forcese left part 5 alone because it was about changes to the immigration and refugee act. It really was hard to see what it was about. However, Professor Donald Galloway at the University of Victoria law school said part 5 is about being able to give a judge information in secret hearings about a suspect and not tell the judge that the evidence was obtained by torture, so I really hope the Minister of Public Safety will go back and look at those changes to the refugee and immigration act, and if that is what they are about, it needs fixing.
Let us look at why the bill is enough of an improvement that I am going to vote for it. By the way, in committee I did bring forward 46 amendments to the bill on my own. They went in the direction of ensuring that we would have special advocates in the room so that there would be someone there on behalf of the public interest when a judge was giving a warrant to allow a CSIS agent to break the law or violate the charter. The language around what judges can do and how often they can do it and what respect to the charter they must exercise when they grant such a warrant is much better in this bill, but it is still there, and it does worry me that there will be no special advocate in the room.
I cannot say I am wildly enthusiastic about Bill C-59, but it is a huge improvement over what we saw in the 41st Parliament in BillC-51.
The creation of the security intelligence review agency is something I want to talk about in my remaining minutes.
This point is fundamental. This was what Mr. Justice John Major, who chaired the Air India inquiry, told the committee when it was studying the bill back in 2015: He told us it is just human nature that the RCMP and CSIS will not share information and that we need to have pinnacle oversight.
There is review that happens, and the term “review” is post facto, so SIRC, the Security Intelligence Review Committee, would look at what CSIS had done over the course of the year, but up until this bill we have never had a single security agency that watched what all the guys and girls were doing. We have CSIS, the RCMP, the Canada Border Services Agency, the Communications Security Establishment—five different agencies all looking at collecting intelligence, but not sharing. That is why having the security intelligence review agency created by this bill is a big improvement.
View Ralph Goodale Profile
Lib. (SK)
View Ralph Goodale Profile
2017-11-20 12:05 [p.15289]
moved that:
Bill C-59, An Act respecting national security matters, be referred forthwith to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.
He said: Madam Speaker, the Government of Canada has no greater responsibility than keeping Canadians safe. We must fulfill that essential and solemn obligation while at the same time safeguarding Canadian rights and freedoms.
This double objective of protecting Canadians while defending their rights and freedoms was the basis of our commitments regarding national security during the last election, and it informed everything we have done in the area since we have been in government.
We have, for example, created a committee of parliamentarians with unprecedented access to classified information to scrutinize the activities of all national security and intelligence agencies. We have launched the Canada Centre for Community Engagement and Prevention of Violence to help Canada become a world leader in counter-radicalization.
We have issued new ministerial directions that more clearly prohibit conduct that would result in a substantial risk of torture. Our starting point was the most extensive and inclusive consultations about national security ever undertaken by the Government of Canada. Beginning in the spring of 2016, that effort involved individual stakeholders, round tables, town halls, various renowned experts, studies by parliamentary committees, and a broad solicitation of views online. More than 75,000 submissions were received.
All of this fresh input was supplemented by earlier judicial inquires by Iacobucci, O'Connor, and Major, as well as several parliamentary proposals, certain court judgments, and reports from existing national security review bodies. It all helped to shape the legislation before us today, Bill C-59, the national security act of 2017.
The measures in this bill cover three core themes, enhancing accountability and transparency, correcting problematic elements from the former BillC-51, and updating our national security laws to ensure that our agencies can keep pace with evolving threats.
One of the major advances in this legislation is the creation of the national security and intelligence review agency. This new body, which has been dubbed by some as a "super SIRC", will be mandated to review any activity carried out by any government department that relates to national security and intelligence, as well as any matters referred to it by the government. It will be able to investigate public complaints. It will specifically replace the existing review bodies for CSIS and the Communications Security Establishment, but it will also be authorized to examine security and intelligence activities throughout the government, including the Canada Border Services Agency.
In this day and age, security operations regularly involve multiple departments and agencies. Therefore, effective accountability must not be limited to the silo of one particular institution. Rather, it must follow the trail wherever it leads. It must provide for comprehensive analysis and integrated findings and recommendations. That is exactly what Canadians will get from this new review agency.
Bill C-59 also creates the brand new position of the intelligence commissioner, whose role will be to oversee and approve, or not approve, certain intelligence activities by CSIS and the CSE in advance. The intelligence commissioner will be a retired or supernumerary superior court judge whose decisions will be binding. In other words, if he or she says that a particular proposed operation is unreasonable or inappropriate, it will simply not proceed.
Taken together, the new comprehensive review agency, the intelligence commissioner, and the new committee of parliamentarians will give Canada accountability mechanisms of unprecedented scope and depth. This is something that Canadians have been calling for, and those calls intensified when the former BillC-51 was introduced. We heard them loud and clear during our consultations, and we are now putting these accountability measures into place.
Bill C-59 also brings clarity and rigour to internal government information sharing under the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act, or SCISA. This is the law that allows government institutions to share information with each other in respect of activities that undermine the security of Canada. Among other things, Bill C-59 would change the name of the law, in English, to the security of Canada information disclosure act, to be clear that we are talking only about the disclosure of existing information, not the collection of anything new. Government institutions will now be required to keep specific records of all disclosures made under the act, and to provide these records to the new review agency.
Importantly, Bill C-59 clarifies the definition of activities “that undermine the security of Canada”. For example, it is explicit in stating that advocacy, protest, dissent, and artistic expression are not included. The new legislation would also provide more precision in the definition of “terrorist propaganda”, in line with the well-known criminal offence of counselling.
The paramountcy of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is an overriding principle in Bill C-59. That is perhaps most evident in the updates that we are proposing to the CSIS Act. This is the law that created CSIS back in 1984, and it has not been modernized in any meaningful way since then.
The former BillC-51 empowered CSIS to engage in measures to reduce threats to the security of Canada without clearly defining what those measures could and could not include. We are now creating a specific closed list of measures that CSIS will have the authority to take to deal with threats. If any such activity might limit a charter right, CSIS will have to go before a judge. The activity can only be allowed if the judge is satisfied that it is compliant with the charter.
Another concern we heard during the consultations and more generally has been about the no-fly list, especially the problem of false positives, which affects people whose names are similar to listed individuals. This is due to long-standing design flaws in the way that the no-fly list was first created many years ago. Those flaws require legislative, regulatory, and technological changes to fix them.
Bill C-59 includes the necessary legislative changes and paves the way for the others that will be necessary. In essence, Canada's no-fly list currently piggybacks onto the airlines' computer systems, which means that the government does not control the fields to be included nor the way that the whole system works. This bill would give us the authority we need to allow the government, instead of airlines, to screen passenger information against the no-fly list. The people who have been affected by this, especially those with children, feel frustrated and stigmatized by their no-fly problems. That is entirely understandable, and that is why we are working so hard to get this fixed. Passing Bill C-59 is a necessary step toward that end.
There is much more in Bill C-59 than I could possibly deal with in these 10 minutes, but in keeping with the open and inclusive approach that we have taken with this legislation since before it was even drafted, we are sending it to committee before second reading to ensure that the examination of the bill is as thorough as possible.
Professor Craig Forcese, a respected expert in national security law from the University of Ottawa, said Bill C-59 “appears to be more carefully crafted than anything we've seen in this area in a long time..”. I appreciate that, but there is still more work to be done.
I certainly hope to hear ideas and advice from colleagues in the House. We are open to constructive suggestions as we work together to ensure that Canada's national security framework is as strong and effective as it can possibly be.
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