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View Arif Virani Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Arif Virani Profile
2018-06-18 18:07 [p.21216]
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 Erin O'Toole Profile
CPC (ON)
View Erin O'Toole Profile
2018-06-18 20:21 [p.21235]
Madam Speaker, it is a real pleasure for me to rise and speak to an important bill and issues related to public safety and security in general.
I would like to begin my remarks with a positive word of thanks for those men and women who are charged with keeping our communities safe, certainly the front-line police officers and first responders, but a lot of the people in the intelligence networks from CSIS, to CSE, to think tanks that analyze these things, to engaged citizens who are constantly advocating on issues related to public safety and security. These are probably some of the most important debates we have in this chamber because we are charged with making sure we have a safe community and finding the right balance between the remarkable freedoms we enjoy in a democracy like ours and the responsibility to ensure that there is safety for Canadians. We thank those who are charged with doing that both in uniform and behind the scenes and sometimes under the cloak of secrecy. All Canadians respect that work.
I am going to talk about Bill C-59 from a few vantage points, some of the things that I thought were positive, but I am also going to express three areas of very serious concern I have with this legislation. In many ways, Bill C-59 is a huge step back. It is taking away tools that were responsibly provided to law enforcement agencies to be used in accordance with court supervision. In a lot of the rhetoric we hear on this, that part has been forgotten.
I am going to review some of it from my legal analysis of it, but I want to start by reminding the House, particularly because my friend from Winnipeg, the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader is here, that here we are debating yet another omnibus bill from the Liberal Party, something that was anathema to my friend when he was in opposition. Omnibus bills of this nature that cobbled together a range of things were an assault on democracy, in his words then, but here we are in late night sittings with time already allocated debating yet another Liberal omnibus bill. The irony in all of this is certainly not lost on me or many Canadians who used to see how the Liberals would howl with outrage whenever this happened.
Bill C-59 came out of some positive intentions. My friend from Victoria, the NDP's lead on the parliamentary security oversight committee of parliamentarians is here. I want to thank him for the work that we did together recommending some changes to the minister ahead of what became Bill C-59. The NDP member and I as the public safety critic for the Conservative Party sent two letters to the minister providing some general advice and an indication of our willingness to work with the government on establishing the committee of parliamentarians for security and intelligence oversight.
My friend from Victoria ably serves on that committee now and as a lawyer who has previously practised in the area of national security and finding the right balance between liberty and security, he is a perfect member for that committee as are my friends from the caucus serving alongside the Liberal members. That is very important work done by that committee and I wish them well in their work. We indicated pre Bill C-59 that we would be supportive of that effort.
In those letters we also indicated the need for a super-SIRC type of agency to help oversee some of the supervision of agencies like CSIS and CSE. We were advocating for an approach like that alongside a number of academics, such as Professor Forcese and others. We were happy to see an approach brought in that area as well.
It is important to show that on certain issues of national safety and security where we can drive consensus, we can say we will work with the government, because some of these issues should be beyond partisanship. I want to thank my NDP colleague for working alongside me on that. It took us some time to get the minister to even respond, so despite the sunny ways rhetoric, often we felt that some of our suggestions were falling on deaf ears.
I am going to commit the rest of my speech tonight to the three areas that I believe are risks for Canadians to consider with Bill C-59. I am going to use some real-world examples in the exploration of this, because we are not talking in abstract terms. There are real cases and real impacts on families that we should consider in our debate.
The first area I want to raise in reference to the fact that when Bill C-59 was introduced, it was one day after a Canadian was convicted in a Quebec court in a case involving travelling abroad from Canada to join and work with a terrorist organization. Mr. Ismael Habib was sentenced the day before the government tabled this omnibus security legislation, and I think there is a certain irony in that. In his judgment, Justice Délisle said, “Did Ismael Habib intend to participate in or knowingly contribute to a terrorist activity? The entirety of the evidence demonstrates the answer is yes.” There is such an irony in the fact that the day before this debate there was a conviction for someone who was leaving Canada to train and participate with a terrorist organization.
Only a short time before Mr. Habib left Canada to do this, the previous government criminalized that activity. Why? Really, there was no need to have in the Criminal Code a charge for leaving Canada to train or participate in a terrorist organization, but this was a reaction to a troubling and growing trend involving radicalized people and the ability for people to go and engage in conflicts far from home. Mr. Habib's case was the first of its kind, and the charge he was convicted of by a Quebec court was for an offence that just a few years before did not exist. This is why Parliament must be seized with real and tangible threats to public safety and security. Unfortunately, a lot of the elements of Bill C-59 are going to make it hard for law enforcement to do that, to catch the next Mr. Habib before he leaves, while he is gone, or before he returns and brings that risk back home.
The first area that I have serious concerns with in the bill relates to preventative arrest. This was a controversial but necessary part of BillC-51 from the last Parliament. Essentially it moved a legal threshold from making it “necessary” to prevent a criminal activity or a terrorist act instead of “likely” to prevent. By changing the threshold to “necessary”, as we see in this bill, the government would make it much harder for law enforcement agencies to move in on suspects that they know present a risk yet do not feel they have enough proof to show that it is necessary to prevent an attack. I think most Canadians would think that the standard should be “likely”, which is on balance of probabilities. If we are to err on the reality of a threat that there is violence to be perpetrated or potential violence by someone, then err on the side of protection. We still have to have the evidentiary burden, but it is not too hard.
It is interesting who supported the preventative arrest portions of BillC-51 in the last Parliament. The Prime Minister did as the MP for Papineau. I loved BillC-51 in so many ways, because it showed the hypocrisy of the Liberal Party at its best. The Liberals were constantly critical of BillC-51, but they voted for it. Now they are in a position that they actually have to change elements of it, and they are changing some elements that the Prime Minister praised when he was in opposition, and they had this muddled position. My friends in the NDP have referred to this muddled position before, because now they think their Liberal friends are abandoning the previous ground they stood on.
What did the Prime Minister, then the leader of the third party and MP for Papineau, say about preventative arrest in the House of Commons on February 18, 2015? He said:
I believe that BillC-51, the government's anti-terrorism act, takes some proper steps in that direction. We welcome the measures in Bill C-51 that build on the powers of preventative arrest, make better use of no-fly lists, and allow for more coordinated information sharing by government departments and agencies.
What is ironic is that he is undoing all of those elements in Bill C-59, from information sharing to changing the standard for preventative arrest to a threshold that is unreasonably too high, in fact recklessly too high, and law enforcement agencies have told the minister and the Prime Minister this.
The Prime Minister, when he was MP for Papineau, thought these important powers were necessary but now he does not. Perhaps society is safer today. I would suggest we are not. We just have to be vigilant, vigilant but balanced. That is probably why in opposition he supported these measures and now is rolling them back.
Nothing illustrates the case and the need for this more than the case of Patrice Vincent. He was a Canadian Armed Forces soldier who was killed because of the uniform he wore. He was killed by a radicalized young man named Martin Couture-Rouleau. That radicalized young man was known to law enforcement before he took the life of one of our armed forces members. Law enforcement officers were not sure whether they could move in a preventative arrest public safety manner.
The stark and moving testimony from Patrice's sister, Louise Vincent, at committee in talking about BillC-51 should be reflected upon by members of the Liberal Party listening to this debate, because many of them were not here in the last Parliament. These are real families impacted by public safety and security. Louise Vincent said this:
According to Bill C-51, focus should be shifted from “will commit” to “could commit”, and I think that's very important. That's why the RCMP could not obtain a warrant from the attorney general, despite all the information it had gathered and all the testimony from Martin Couture-Rouleau's family. The RCMP did its job and built a case, but unfortunately, the burden of proof was not met. That's unacceptable.
It is unacceptable. What is unacceptable is the Liberals are raising the bar even higher with respect to preventative arrest. It is like the government does not trust our law enforcement agencies. This cannot be preventative arrest on a whim. There has to be an evidentiary basis for the very significant use of this tool, but that evidentiary basis should not be so high that it does not use the tool, because we have seen what can happen.
This is not an isolated case. I can recite other names, such as Aaron Driver. Those in southwestern Ontario will remember that thanks to the United States, this gentleman was caught by police on his way to commit a terror attack in southwestern Ontario. He was already under one of the old peace bonds. This similar power could be used against someone like Alexandre Bissonnette before his horrendous attack on the mosque in Quebec City. This tool could be used in the most recent case of Alek Minassian, the horrific van attack in Toronto.
Preventative arrest is a tool that should be used but with an evidentiary burden, but if the burden is too high necessary to prevent an attack, that is reckless and it shows the Prime Minister should review his notes from his time in opposition when he supported these powers. I suggest he did not have notes then and probably does not have notes now.
The second issue I would like to speak about is the deletion of charges and the replacing with a blanket offence called counselling commission of a terrorism offence.
What would that change from BillC-51? It would remove charges that could be laid for someone who was advocating or promoting a terrorism attack or activity. Promotion and advocation are the tools of radicalization. If we are not allowing charges to be laid against someone who radicalized Mr. Couture-Rouleau, do we have to only catch someone who counsels him to go out and run down Patrice Vincent? Should we be charging the people who radicalized him, who promoted ISIS or a radical terrorist ideology, and then advocated for violence? That should be the case. That actually conforms with our legal test for hate speech, when individuals are advocating or promoting and indirectly radicalizing.
Therefore, the government members talk about the government's counter-radicalization strategy, and there is no strategy. They have tried to claim the Montreal centre, which was set up independently of the government, as its own. The government would not tour parliamentarians through it when I was public safety critic, but it tours visiting guests from the UN and other places. That was an initiative started in Montreal. It has nothing to do with the Liberals' strategy. I have seen nothing out of the government on counter-radicalization, and I would like to.
The same should be said with respect to peace bonds, another tool that law enforcement agencies need. These have been asked for by law enforcement officials that we trust with their mandate. They are peace officers, yet the government is showing it does not trust them because it is taking away tools. The peace bond standard is now in a similar fashion to the preventative arrest standard. Agencies have to prove that it is necessary to prevent violent activity or terrorism, as opposed to the BillC-51 standard of “likely to prevent”. A protection order, better known as “a peace bond”, is a tool, like preventative arrest, that can set some constraints or limitations on the freedom of a Canadian because that person has demonstrated that he or she is a potential threat. To say the individuals have to be a certain threat, which a “necessary” standard promotes, is reckless and misguided.
I wish the MP for Papineau would remember what he said a few years ago about the reduction of the high burden on law enforcement in preventative arrest situations. Sadly, there are going to be more Aaron Drivers out there. I always use the case of Aaron Driver, because sometimes members of specific groups, some Muslim Canadians, have been unfairly targeted in discussions about radicalization. This is a threat that exists and not just in one community. Aaron Driver's father was in the Canadian Armed Forces, a career member of the military. Their son was radicalized by people who advocated and promoted radical ideology and violence. With this bill, we would remove the ability to charge those people who helped to radicalize Aaron Driver. However, this is a risk that exists.
Let us not overstate the risk. There is not a bogeyman around every corner, but as parliamentarians we need to be serious when we try to balance properly the freedom and liberties we all enjoy, and that people fought and died for, with the responsibility upon us as parliamentarians to give law enforcement agencies the tools they need to do the job. They do not want a situation where they are catching Aaron Driver in a car that is about to drive away. We have to find the right balance. The movement of standards to “necessary” to prevent the commission of a terrorism offence shows that the Liberals do not trust our law enforcement officers with the ability to collect evidence and lay charges, or provide a peace bond, when they think someone is “likely” to be a threat to public safety and security.
I started by saying that there were elements I was happy to see in Bill C-59, but I truly hope Canadians see that certain measures in this would take away tools that law enforcement agencies have responsibly asked for, and this would not make our communities any safer.
View Erin O'Toole Profile
CPC (ON)
View Erin O'Toole Profile
2018-06-18 20:48 [p.21239]
Madam Speaker, I wonder if that member would invite the same approach that the British use? Literally, if they walk out of their house, they are on television in Britain. With CCTV, the intrusion into lives is unparalleled. Is that what that member might be suggesting? Their security forces have a totally different landscape, which cannot even be connected to our law enforcement and the tools they have here. To compare it to the United Kingdom is quite frankly irresponsible.
Law enforcement has asked for tools with respect to preventative arrest. There needed to be an evidentiary threshold. Allegations that we were going to have some police state, and ridiculous arguments that I heard around BillC-51, were embarrassing. Why I quoted the Prime Minister was because he supported these preventative arrest powers in BillC-51. As I said, the Liberals criticized BillC-51 in a bland and undetailed way, but they voted for it. One of the specific areas where the Prime Minister was willing to stand up and say “where necessary” was on preventative arrests.
This is about balance. Some on the left have used an unbalanced approach to talking about public safety and security, and I think it diminishes responsible debate in this chamber.
View Mark Gerretsen Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments made by my colleague across the floor in relation to this particular debate, but I took particular exception when he made reference to the Liberals using BillC-51 as a political tool in the last election. The reality of the situation was that the Conservatives brought forward that piece of legislation in a timely manner to specifically start pitting Canadians against each other, driving division among Canadians. Liberals actually took a very difficult position, a position that said, “Yes, we need to give the resources and tools necessary, but at the same time, we need to protect Canadians' rights.” It was a position that was very difficult to explain and to take politically.
I take great exception to the fact that the member made that particular comment.
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