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View Robert Aubin Profile
NDP (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I wish I could say that I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-59 this evening. However, I have to admit that what I am really feeling is more a sense of disappointment.
That is because, first of all, there is very little difference between the previous Conservative government's BillC-51 and the Liberal government's Bill C-59. They certainly have a lot in common. Not only do they look disturbingly alike, but they were also handled much the same way.
Those who were here in the previous Parliament will remember that BillC-51 was kind of rushed through, the better to capitalize on Canadians' strong emotional response to an increasing number of terrorist attacks, which continue to this day. There was hardly what could be considered a full debate.
As I recall, when discussions were in their infancy, the NDP was the only party resolutely opposed to BillC-51. The government was trying to sell the idea that we had to compromise between keeping Canadians safe, which is every government's top priority, and protecting the charter rights and freedoms we are all entitled to.
From the outset, the NDP said we should not be seeking a compromise. Rather, we should bring about an evolution with respect to these two fundamental aspects of Canadian rights that belong to every individual.
I feel like the government is taking a similar approach with Bill C-59 now. When we are debating a bill as important as this one, there should be no reason for a time allocation motion that limits MPs' right to speak.
The 338 members of the House represent 35 million Canadians. Each one of those MPs has something to say about this. They are all concerned about the prospect of terrorist attacks here and elsewhere, in people's workplaces, or while they are on vacation. This issue is on the minds of all Canadians, and the best and only way for them to be heard by the government is here in the House. Even so, the government is limiting the time for debate.
Members will also recall that when the NDP took a firm stand against Bill C-51, the Liberals, who were in opposition at the time, pulled a rabbit out of their hat by essentially saying that they would vote in favour of BillC-51 in order to replace it when they formed the government. If they want to replace a bill, they should vote against it. I may have been inexperienced at that time. The Conservatives' position was clear, the NDP's position was clear, and the Liberals' position was clear.
Over time, and in light of what the Liberal government has done in the past, I can clearly see that they tend to do things a certain way. For example, during the election campaign, this same government sincerely promised to reform our electoral system. As the months passed, this changed to a minor revision of certain election rules, but the overhaul of the electoral system was forgotten.
These same Liberals promised to cut taxes for the middle class. I admit that we may not have been in agreement on what the middle class is, because where I come from, the median salary is about $32,000 a year. To access the tax cuts, the threshold is at least $45,000 a year. Those who really benefit are people like me, who have a salary that is more than decent. How have middle-class taxes been cut? I am still struggling to understand that. These same Liberals promised to axe the EI reform that the Conservatives put in place to give people some time to recover when tragedy strikes.
At the moment, the figures are the same as during the Conservative era. Roughly six out of 10 Canadians who pay into EI do not qualify for benefits when times get tough. I could keep listing examples in almost every field. It is clear that this is a Liberal way to approach the big issues.
We could talk about greenhouse gas reduction, for example. “Canada is back” was the message trumpeted at the Paris conference. I thought that meant Canada was back on the world stage, but I later realized it meant Canada is at the back of the pack and staying there. That is the Liberal approach.
To sum up the issue at hand, Bill C-59 still has many flaws. I will give you some examples. The Liberals are using this bill to establish a legal framework that would allow the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, or CSIS, to store sensitive metadata on completely innocent Canadians. This is a practice that has already been rejected by the Federal Court. To back up my statements, and to show that this is not just my personal opinion, but based on testimony from people far better informed than me, allow me to quote Daniel Therrien. For those who have not heard of him, he is the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. He testified before the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics on November 22, 2016, and said:
Think of the recent judgment by the Federal Court that found that CSIS had unlawfully retained the metadata of a large number of law-abiding individuals who are not threats to national security because CSIS felt it needed to keep that information for analytical purposes.
These are not theoretical risks. These are real things, real concerns. Do we want a country where the security service has a lot of information about most citizens with a view to detecting national security threats? Is that the country we want to live in?
We have seen real cases in which CSIS had in its bank of information the information about many people who did not represent a threat. Is that the country we want?
We can already see that things have gotten out of hand, and there is a question that has people increasingly worried, as it pertains not only to the issue being debated this evening, but also to all this personal data that is being asked of us and that we often send against our will on the Internet. The question is: how will we protect this personal information? Because if it is truly personal, that means that it belongs to someone, and that someone is the only person that can consent to its use.
That is not the only problem. I see that I am running out of time, so instead of naming the problems, I will summarize the proposals presented by the NDP. The first was to completely repeal Bill C-51 and replace the current ministerial directive on the matter of torture to ensure that Canada stands for an absolute prohibition on torture. Absolute means that we will not allow through the back door what we would not allow to enter through the front door.
Based on what I have heard in the House today, all the parties agree and everyone is against torture. However, some parties seem to be saying that they might use the information obtained through torture by other countries if that information seemed pertinent. History has made it abundantly clear that not only is torture inhumane, but in most cases, the information turns out to be false, precisely because it was obtained by torture. I imagine that I would be willing to say just about anything if I were being tortured.
In closing, between Bill C-59 and BillC-51, we still have a long way to go. Under time allocation, I simply cannot vote in favour of this bill.
View Matthew Dubé Profile
NDP (QC)
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2018-05-28 17:13 [p.19788]
moved:
Mlotion No. 1
That Bill C-59 be amended by deleting the short title.
Motion No. 2
That Bill C-59, in Clause 49.1, be amended:
(a) by replacing lines 13 to 15 on page 43 with the following:
“3 (1) The Governor in Council must issue written directions to all deputy heads prohibiting”
(b) by deleting line 25 on page 43 to line 2 on page 44.
He said: Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate that the third motion, which pertained to one of my amendments, was not selected by the Chair, but I will still come back to the important points about it in a few moments. Just because it was not selected does not mean we cannot talk about it.
We are near the end of what has been a very long road with this government on an issue that dates back to even before the Liberals took office. Obviously, we must recognize that Bill  C-59 is the result of the Liberals' approach. On one hand, during the last Parliament they supported Stephen Harper's draconian bill, Bill C-51, and on the other, they claimed that there were a lot of problems with the bill. The Liberals told people not to worry, however, because when they took office they would fix all of those problems. That was problematic for obvious reasons. If the bill was so flawed, posed so many problems with regard to national security matters, and violated Canadians' rights and freedoms, the Liberals should not have voted to pass it, and yet that is exactly what was happening with Bill C-51.
Let us fast-forward a little. After the Liberals were elected, they waited two years to introduce the legislation. They said that they had to hold public consultations. I will come back to that.
Meanwhile, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, or CSIS, used the power to disrupt threats bestowed upon it by Bill C-51. CSIS confirmed that in committee.
While we waited those two years for the government to consult, even though the election promise had been to consult on a specific piece of legislation, this was open consultation, or so it would seem. However the problem was, and many experts decried this, the fact that the government's green paper seemed to indicate, through some of the notions that were put forward, that some of these aspects were already a foregone conclusion. There was a definite bent more toward the side of intelligence gathering and law enforcement, and certainly a lack of substantive points being made in favour of the other side of that, which was protecting Canadians' rights and privacy.
Too often the Liberals, in the committee in particular, like to put the word “balance” forward. As we heard from representatives of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, when they presented at committee, balance implies that something is being taken away from one side or the other to achieve said balance. For us, the question of rights and liberties, and certainly the protection of Canadians' privacy, is not something that can almost be a victim of that type of compromise required to achieve said balance.
The other aspect that was not included in the public consultations, but that eventually became a central topic in our committee study, is the Communications Security Establishment, or CSE.
CSE, as members will know, is under the purview of the Minister of National Defence and its mandate is given to it by the National Defence Act. However, despite promises to no longer come forward with omnibus legislation, the Liberals have taken something that is the purview of the Minister of National Defence, something that the national defence committee has the institutional memory to study, all due respect to me and my colleagues on the public safety committee, and put it into this legislation.
That ended up taking up inordinate amounts, and rightly so, of time at the committee. These new powers being given to CSE and the huge change being made to CSE's mandate took up a lot of space and led to the most questions, not just from members but also from some of the experts who were there. Quite frankly, as far as we are concerned, many of those questions still remain without answers.
For example, there is the issue of CSE's cyber defence capabilities, as well as its offensive and active capabilities. The experts asked many questions on that subject. I introduced an amendment in committee to eliminate these powers, but it was not intended to compromise the safety of Canadians or our cybersecurity. We still kept CSE's defensive powers and capabilities in place. However, we had the right to ask questions, as I did with the senior CSE officials, though I did not get satisfactory answers, especially about what all this means for our country's military future.
CSE is governed by the National Defence Act, but it is a civilian agency, not a military one. However, Bill  C-59, and now the federal budget and the legislation that the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness says will be tabled this fall, is opening the door to capability sharing between CSE and Canadian Forces to improve our cyber capabilities in a military context or even in war zones.
I posed questions to the chief of the CSE and other officials who were present throughout different stages of the study. I said that there was some debate in the context of international law as to what sovereignty meant in this digital age. An act of war is when one infringes on someone's sovereignty, but is a server part of one's sovereignty? What is the role that data is playing in this? Certainly, colleagues who work on the trade file had similar concerns that they raised.
I asked these questions in the context of information-sharing capabilities with Canadian Forces. All I was able to get as an answer was that this stuff was already being done and it was better that it be codified in the law with all the protections, oversight, and review. Pardon me for being glib, but that all comes with that. However, it is not enough. If a foreign state actor, as the bill describes, engages in some kind of activity, we are talking about the Minister of National Defence having the capability to interfere with intellectual property and to be engaged in an active way.
In this era, when the federal budget is talking about more and more capability sharing between police and intelligence services, which let us not forget is what CSE is, ultimately, as it is not any kind of offensive entity but rather deals with foreign intelligence, and then to involve the Canadian Armed Forces, we are going down a slippery slope. This is not an issue I raise. It was one that witnesses raised time and again throughout this study.
Part of the reason why I tabled amendments, which were unfortunately voted down by the Liberals at committee, was to remove these elements, not because we disagreed, although they certainly are concerning, but because they required proper study. They should not have been part of omnibus legislation. They had nothing to do with the previous BillC-51. Nor were they part of the public consultations that both the minister did and the committee did.
That is important. I know the answer I will get is that all the issues relate to national security. That is not enough. We need to be able to examine these issues more thoroughly, and that is certainly not the feeling we got.
Lets continue to look at part three of the bill that has to do with CSE. One of my amendments was unfortunately deemed inadmissible by the Chair, because it was too similar to another amendment I had proposed and that my colleague, the leader of the Green Party, had also proposed. The motion was almost word for word what the experts had suggested. It had to do with publicly available information. We will come back to this concept.
The concept, as it currently exists, is important because it gives CSIS and CSE the power to collect publicly available information. With respect to CSE, we were told over and over again that its mandate does not concern Canadians, since the legislation explicitly prohibits it from targeting Canadians. We must be careful, though, and we have to read part three of the bill, subclause 23 and 24, and the next few subclauses.
Subclause 23 indicates that, despite the ban on targeting Canadians, the centre can collect publicly available information for study and research purposes. In short, it lists a number of things to advance its mandate. Even collecting information inadvertently is allowed. This is very problematic.
We tried to do a few things to fix that. The first was to change the definition of “publicly available information”. That is because when I asked representatives of the CSE if the information that Cambridge Analytica legally but immorally stole from Canadians and others throughout the world through Facebook would be part of publicly available information under the definition provided in this legislation, I got a one-word answer, which is rare in these parts. It was “yes”.
What does my amendment propose to do? The Liberals said not to worry, that they would deal with it. They put in the words “a reasonable expectation of privacy”. That is good. That was part of my amendment as well, as was it part of the amendment brought by the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands. However, there is a whole slew of information missing from that. Allow me to read it to the House, since unfortunately it was deemed inadmissible and voted down by Liberals at committee.
It states that it would also include, along with information where Canadians have a reasonable expectation of privacy, “information that is published or broadcast only to a selected audience or information that is subscribed to or purchased illegally”, in other words, the prohibition on information purchased illegally. That is the problem with these amendments sometimes when one is reading them without the rest of the text that follows. Why is that important? It is important because despite the assurances that we got, there are a lot of questions about this. These are questions and concerns that some of the foremost experts in the field all have as well.
I also proposed an amendment for a catch-and-release principle, for information acquired incidentally on Canadians by the CSE. If it truly does not need the information captured incidentally, I understand it. That happens sometimes when one is going to study the information infrastructure in Canada. Therefore, we had a reasonable compromise, which was that if it happens, the centre has a responsibility to get rid of it. That was another amendment that was voted down by the Liberals on the committee.
I could speak at length about the CSE aspects, but I have only 20 minutes for my speech. It just goes to show how complex and worrisome the new concepts are and how we are far from having enough time to address them today. I would even say that we had very little time in committee as well. I have been in Parliament for seven years, and for the first time since becoming an MP, even though I can be quite verbose, my mike was constantly cut off and not through any fault of the chair, but because we simply did not have enough time to get into the details. I am not blaming the committee chair, who does excellent work on this study. Unfortunately, we did not have enough time for this conversation.
I want to come back to something more specific that affects more than just CSIS. I am talking about one of my amendments that were deemed admissible. Amendments that go beyond the scope of a bill can be proposed when that bill is referred to committee before second reading, as this one was, and the Liberals took advantage of that.
The Liberals used that opportunity to essentially present a new bill into the legislation dealing with the question of information obtained under use of torture, which bafflingly the Conservatives voted against. However, we do not have time to get into that today.
I voted in favour of it, for two reasons, but it does not go far enough, and we are going to get to that. The first reason is because the fact that it was even on the table was an acknowledgement that the status quo is not good enough, that the ministerial directives right now are not good enough, and that having these concepts more explicitly enshrined in law is always a good thing. Even though some of these symbolic statements in legislation sometimes seem to be only that, symbolic, they guide the decisions made and the advice given when these agencies seek legal opinions and so forth. On that front, it is a good thing. The other reason I supported it was because it is better than nothing. However, the language that remains is that the Governor in Council “may” issue directives to deputy heads. At the end of the day, we remain in the same situation we were in before. These were all recorded votes, so Canadians can check them.
Let me say for the record that I offered more explicit amendments to nearly every section of the bill that dealt with one of these agencies, putting in an explicit prohibition on using information that may have been obtained under the use of torture. Every single Liberal and Conservative on the committee voted against them. That is absolutely shameful.
Here is the motion that is before us today: that “The Governor in Council must issue written directions to all deputy heads...” At the very least, even though we are still dealing with ministerial directives, that obliges the government of the day to issue the directions, even though we already know that the directives themselves have loopholes. Even if the current directives, I will acknowledge, are stronger than the ones in the previous government, there are still holes in them, and those holes need to be addressed.
It is sad to see that my amendments, which would have at least done something to prohibit the use of that type of information, were defeated through the committee process.
Speaking of my amendments, I want to mention one thing I forgot at the beginning of my speech, since I think the Canadians watching us will find it interesting. The government said that it was open to suggestions from the opposition. I suggested 120 amendments, and just four of them were accepted by the Liberals. Three were accepted on the condition that I use the Liberals' wording, and the other was accepted because it was just a preamble. Not a single one of the Conservatives' 25 or 29 amendments was accepted. Not a single one of the Green Party's 55 amendments was accepted either.
The Liberals proposed amendments. Anyone can look at them, they are public. The Liberals put forward one amendment and decided to withdraw the others because they had an inferior one to replace them. I therefore proposed the Liberals' amendments myself, and they voted against their own amendments. That speaks volumes about the process.
I have just three minutes left, and I have only spoken about one part of the bill. I just spent 20 minutes giving a speech on the flaws of a single part of a bill that has 10 parts. That tells you everything you need to know about the flaws in this bill, not to mention the fact that CSIS retains its power to disrupt and to detain without any right to counsel, as was the case with the former Bill C-51.
Without mentioning that apart from changing the word “sharing” to “disclosure”, even though the word “disclosure” was there, what was qualified by groups like the B.C. Liberties Association, among others, as a cosmetic change at best to the information sharing regime remains in place. It was one of the biggest criticisms we had, and a reason for voting against BillC-51 in the previous Parliament.
We will get to that through a future point of order, but hopefully we can vote on different elements of the bill. There are two parts that are good, review and oversight. Despite the fact that we tried to make changes to the review body to make it more accountable to Parliament and less to the executive, it was rejected. With the real-time oversight of the intelligence commissioner, we tried to make that a full-time position. I was not able to propose those changes, as they would require royal prerogative, which I, as an opposition member, do not have. Perhaps I can enter a final plea, although at report stage it is probably too late for that.
It is all too clear that, on the one hand, the Liberals did not want the Conservatives to criticize them for standing up for the rights and freedoms of Canadians and, on the other hand, they wanted to try to protect their progressive image in light of our legitimate criticisms that they have failed in their duty to protect the rights and freedoms of Canadians. Despite all the time we were able to dedicate to the study, despite the public consultations, questions from experts, criticisms from members, and a grandiose announcement that the Liberals were going to do things differently in committee, still, all of our amendments were rejected. The same system will remain in place and not enough improvements are being made in terms of what the Conservatives proposed.
In conclusion, it is true that we are entering a brave new world. We certainly know that in this digital age. I acknowledge that the threats are evolving and we need to address them. There is no doubt about that. However, one thing is for sure: right now, the ability of these agencies to act is outpacing the protections that Canadians have for their rights and freedoms, and their privacy.
That, for me and my party, is completely unacceptable, because at the end of the day, if we truly want to defeat these threats and what they stand for, if we truly want to stand on the other side of that terror and on the right side of history, it means standing up for Canadians' rights and freedoms. This bill just would not do that, and we will continue to oppose it. It is absolutely unfortunate, because we heard that better is always possible, but it does not seem to be with this legislation.
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