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View Ed Fast Profile
CPC (BC)
View Ed Fast Profile
2018-06-07 12:16 [p.20428]
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to Bill C-59. Listening to our Liberal friends across the way, one would assume that this is all about public safety, that Bill C-59 would improve public safety and the ability of our security agencies to intervene if a terrorist threat presented itself. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Let us go back and understand what this Prime Minister did in the last election. Whether it was his youth, or ignorance, he went out there and said that he was going to undo every single bit of the Stephen Harper legacy, a legacy I am very proud of, by the way. That was his goal.
One of the things he was going to undo was what BillC-51 did. Bill C-51 was a bill our previous Conservative government brought forward to reform and modernize how we approach terrorist threats in Canada. We wanted to provide our government security agencies with the ability to effectively, and in a timely way, intervene when necessary to protect Canadians against terrorist threats. Bill C-51 was actually very well received across the country. Our security agencies welcomed it as providing them with additional tools.
I just heard my Liberal colleagues chuckle and heckle. Did members know that the Liberals, in the previous Parliament, actually supported BillC-51? Here they stand saying that somehow that legislation did not do what it was intended to do. In fact, it did. It made Canadians much safer and allowed our security agencies to intervene in a timely way to protect Canadians. This bill that has come forward would do nothing of the sort.
The committee overseeing this bill had 16 meetings, and at the end of the whole process, there were 235 amendments brought forward. That is how bad this legislation was. Forty-three of those amendments came from Liberals themselves. They rushed forward this legislation, doing what Liberals do best: posture publicly, rush through legislation, and then realize, “What have we done? My goodness.” They had 43 amendments of their own, all of which passed, of course. There were 20-some Conservative amendments, and none of them passed, even though they were intelligently laid-out improvements to this legislation. That is the kind of government we are dealing with here. It was all about optics so that the government would be able to say, “We are taking that old BillC-51 that was not worth anything, although we voted in favour of it, and we are going to replace it with our own legislation.” The reality is that Bill C-51 was a significant step forward in protecting Canadians.
This legislation is quite different. What it would do is take one agency and replace it with another. That is what Liberals do. They take something that is working and replace it with something else that costs a ton of money. In fact, the estimate to implement this bill is $100 million. That is $100 million taxpayers do not have to spend, because the bill would not do one iota to improve the protection of Canadians against terrorist threats. There would be no improved oversight or improved intelligence capabilities.
The bill would do one thing we applaud, which is reaffirm that Canada will not torture. Most Canadians would say that this is something Canada should never do.
The Liberals went further. They ignored warnings from some of our intelligence agencies that the administrative costs were going to get very expensive. In fact, I have a quote here from our former national security adviser, Richard Fadden. Here is what he said about Bill C-59: “It is beginning to rival the Income Tax Act for complexity.” Canadians know how complex that act has become.
He said, “There are sub-sub-subsections that are excluded, that are exempted. If there is anything the committee can do to make it a bit more straightforward, [it would be appreciated].” Did the committee, in fact, do that? No, it did not make it more straightforward.
There is the appointment of a new intelligence commissioner, which is, of course, the old one, but again, with additional costs. The bill would establish how a new commissioner would be appointed. What the Liberals would not do is allow current or past judges to fill that role. As members know, retired and current judges are highly skilled in being able to assess evidence in the courtroom. It is a skill that is critical to being a good commissioner who addresses issues of intelligence.
Another shortcoming of Bill C-59 is that there is excessive emphasis on privacy, which would be a significant deterrent to critical interdepartmental information sharing. In other words, this legislation would highlight privacy concerns to the point that our security agencies and all the departments of government would now become hamstrung. Their hands would become tied when it came to sharing information with other departments and our security agencies, which could be critical information in assessing and deterring terrorist threats.
Why would the government do this? The Liberals say that they want to protect Canadians, but the legislation would actually take a step backwards. It would make it even more difficult and would trip up our security agencies as they tried to do the job we have asked them to do, which is protect us. Why are we erring on the side of the terrorists?
We heard testimony, again from Mr. Fadden, that this proposed legislation would establish more silos. They were his nightmare when he was the national security director. We now have evidence from the Air India bombing. The inquiry determined that the tragedy could have been prevented had one agency in government not withheld critical information from our police and security authorities. Instead, 329 people died at the hands of terrorists.
Again, why are we erring on the side of terrorists? This proposed legislation is a step backward. It is not something Canadians expected from a government that had talked about protecting Canadians better.
There are also challenges with the Criminal Code amendments in Bill C-59. The government chose to move away from criminalizing “advocating or promoting terrorism” and would move towards “counselling” terrorism. The wording has been parsed very carefully by security experts, and they have said that this proposed change in the legislation would mean, for example, that ISIS propaganda being spread on YouTube would not be captured and would not be criminalized. Was the intention of the government when it was elected, when it made its promises to protect Canadians, to now step backward, to revise the Criminal Code in a way that would make it less tough on terrorists, those who are promoting terrorism, those who are advocating terrorism, and those who are counselling terrorism? This would be a step backward on that.
In closing, I have already stated that the Liberals are prepared to err on the side of terrorists rather than on the side of Canadian law enforcement and international security teams. The bill would create more bureaucracy, more costs, and less money and security for Canadians.
When I was in cabinet, we took security very seriously. We trusted our national security experts. The proposed legislation is essentially a vote of non-confidence in those experts we have in government to protect us.
Finally, the message we are sending is that red tape is more important than sharing information and stopping terrorism. That is a sad story. We can do better as Canadians.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2018-06-07 19:42 [p.20491]
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.
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