Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise today to speak in this important debate on Bill C-59. I want to thank my colleagues on the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, both past and present, who contributed to the in-depth study of our national security framework, as well as those who provided testimony on this bill. Thanks to that work, over 40 amendments were adopted by the committee, and I would like to highlight some of them.
First, there is an amendment that would add provisions enacting the avoiding complicity in mistreatment by foreign entities act, which was introduced by my colleague, the MP for Montarville. Canadians find torture abhorrent and an affront to their values. In the past, the Minister of Public Safety, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Minister of National Defence have issued directions to ensure that the Canadian government does not use, share, disclose, or request information that could put someone at risk of being tortured by a foreign entity. This amendment would enshrine in law a requirement for directions to be issued on using, disclosing, or requesting information. These directions would be made public and reported on annually to the public, to review bodies, and to the newly constituted National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians to ensure transparency and accountability.
I know that Canadians want to feel confident that their government is not complicit in foreign entities' use of torture, as it is well documented that information obtained through torture is unreliable. This amendment is a welcome reassurance, and I am proud that the committee adopted it, despite objections from the official opposition.
Second, the amended bill would strengthen privacy protections. Since referring the bill to committee before second reading, we have heard many stakeholders call for the strengthening of protections for information shared under the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act, and we introduced rigorous new standards. The amended bill specifies that the receiver of information would be required to destroy or return any personal information that is not necessary for it to carry out its responsibilities related to national security.
I was personally proud to put forward an amendment that would formalize the relationship between the newly created national security and intelligence review agency and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, which would ensure that the two agencies are not duplicating work. I was also proud to introduce an amendment that would require a ministerial authorization when CSE is collecting from foreign actors information that could inadvertently compromise a Canadian's privacy. I believe that these changes would help to get the mix right when it comes to ensuring Canadians' safety and security and preserving their rights.
Bill C-59 is a much-needed overhaul of our national security framework. The passage of this bill would mark the largest overhaul of our national security infrastructure since 1984, when CSIS was created. It is fair to say that we are at a critical turning point in how government approaches national security. That is why I am pleased that the government has introduced this bill, not only to add better protections for privacy but also to bring our framework up to speed with the realities of the 21st century. There is an urgent need to shed the old ways of doing business, integrate security efforts, and harness all the tools at our disposal to prevent and mitigate threats.
When Justice Noël released his decision last year on the Canadian Security Intelligence Service's retention of associated data, he laid bare the challenge for us as parliamentarians. To quote Justice Noël, “the CSIS Act is showing its age. World order is constantly in flux...and priorities and opinions change. Canada can only gain from weighing such important issues once again.”
With Bill C-59, the government is showing that it is up to the challenge. It recognized that the CSIS Act of 1984 may have been an appropriate response at the time it was written, but it is outdated given the realities of today's world. Today, the government has recognized that appropriate, responsible, and comprehensive legislation for the 21st century would mean altering that act substantially.
Bill C-59 makes changes in three key ways: by addressing the collection of datasets, by making important amendments to threat reduction measures under the act, and by addressing outdated legal authorities.
First, on data analytics, acquiring large volumes of information for analysis, when it is relevant to an agency's mandate, is an indispensable tool in intelligence work. However, data collection and analysis require a strong framework, and this bill provides that framework.
The bill lays out a legal authority for CSIS to collect, retain, and use datasets, and, to ensure transparency, provisions would include safeguards on its collection and use. For example, the personal information of Canadians that is not publicly available would require Federal Court authorization to retain. When it comes to foreign datasets, approval from the proposed new independent intelligence commissioner would be required. The new national security and intelligence review agency would have the authority to refer its findings to the Federal Court if it takes the view that CSIS has not acted lawfully when querying or exploiting datasets. I also introduced an amendment to Bill C-59 that was adopted at committee stage, ensuring that CSIS could retain the results of a query of a dataset in exigent circumstances to protect life or acquire intelligence vital to national security.
Bill C-59 would provide the accountability and transparency on dataset collection that is needed in the technological reality of today. It would modernize the CSIS Act, enhance judicial oversight where needed, and strengthen review and accountability. The bill also addresses the fact that today's threats are fast, complex, dynamic, highly connected, and mobile. CSIS can and does play a role in addressing these threats, often behind the scenes, but the original CSIS Act could never have imagined the threats we face today. As Justice Noël noted, that leaves security bodies in an unreasonably difficult situation when it comes to interpreting the law while continuing to protect Canadians' rights.
Bill C-59 would more clearly define the current threat reduction mandate of CSIS. It lays out what types of measures could be authorized by judicial warrants to ensure full compliance with the charter. CSIS would be required to seek a warrant for any threat reduction measure that would put a charter-protected right or freedom at risk. What is more, a warrant would only be issued if a judge is satisfied the measure specifically complies with the charter.
Bill C-59 would also establish in law an authorization regime for certain CSIS activities required to investigate the complex threats we face today. This would be modelled on the regime that already exists in the Criminal Code for law enforcement officers, adapted to the particular context of security intelligence investigations. It would ensure more transparent, lawful, and modernized authorities for CSIS that would ensure effective intelligence collection operations, and it would it ensure robust accountability by clearly articulating reporting and review requirements.
Accountability, transparency, and respect for rights are at the heart of these proposals. That is what Canadians said they wanted; the government listened and it acted. During the consultation process, Canadians repeatedly emphasized the need for enhanced accountability and transparency. The Security Intelligence Review Committee, CSIS's current review body, pressed for enhancements as well. The new national security review agency and intelligence commissioner would ensure the most robust oversight and scrutiny possible.
We heard, loud and clear, from many witnesses and members of the public that protecting privacy and safeguarding human rights were missing under the Harper Conservatives' BillC-51. With Bill C-59 further strengthened by amendments made at committee, I am confident that Canadians' privacy rights would be reinforced alongside the strengthening of our national security. Bill C-59 is a comprehensive and visionary plan for Canada in today's world. It is my hope that colleagues will join me in supporting Bill C-59.