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View Pierre Paul-Hus Profile
CPC (QC)
Madam Speaker, I rise this morning to speak to Bill  C-59, an omnibus bill that is over 260 pages long and has nine major parts. I listened to the minister's speech, which addressed the Senate amendments, but I would first like to focus on Bill  C-59 itself.
As I have been saying from the outset, the problem is that most parts of Bill  C-59 are administrative in nature. They make changes to the various intelligence and communications agencies. That is fine, but the main goal of Bill  C-59 was to respond to Bill C-51, which was implemented by the Conservatives following the attacks that took place here in Ottawa. Bill C-51 was specifically designed to counter terrorism and ensure that anyone seeking to commit terrorist acts in Canada was stopped to avert disaster.
Overall, the omnibus bill has some parts that are fine. They contain the sort of changes that need to be made from time to time. However, other parts are very administratively heavy and will be very costly for the public purse. Essentially, this is a bill on national security. The public expects the government to protect people properly and ensure that the offenders and would-be terrorists of this world are stopped.
Despite what the minister says, we believe that Bill  C-59 limits CSIS's ability to reduce terrorist threats. It also limits the departments' ability to share information in order to protect national security. It removes the offence of advocating or promoting the commission of terrorism offences in general and raises the threshold for obtaining terrorism peace bonds and recognizance with conditions.
At the end of the day, Bill C-59 is going to make life difficult for CSIS agents and telecommunications services people. The bill makes it harder to exchange information. It will once again clog up a system that is already burdensome. People working on the ground every day to ensure Canada's security and safety will be under even more restrictions, which will prevent them from doing their jobs.
Here is a snapshot of the nine parts. Part 1 establishes the national security and intelligence review agency.
Part 2 enacts the intelligence commissioner act. It deals with everything pertaining to the commissioner and the various tasks he or she will have, but abolishes the position of the Commissioner of the Communications Security Establishment and provides for that commissioner to become the intelligence commissioner. It transfers the employees of the former commissioner to the office of the new commissioner and makes related and consequential amendments to other acts. In other words, it shuffles things around.
Part 3 enacts the Communications Security Establishment act. CSE's new mandate includes the ability to conduct preventive attacks against threats in addition to its role in signals intelligence and cyber defence. We really do not have a problem with that, provided it remains effective. That is an important point.
Part 4 amends the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act. It changes the threat reduction powers by limiting them to seven types of measures, one of which gives rise to the issue of whether non-invasive actions require a warrant. The measure in question is described as interfering with the movement of any person. This could mean that a CSIS officer requires a warrant to give misleading information to someone on the way to meeting with co-conspirators.
During operations, officers will sometimes provide individuals with false information to be passed on to those organizing terrorist or other plots. That is one of the work methods used in the field. Henceforth, warrants will have to be obtained, making the work more complicated. The officers will have to spend more time in the office doing paperwork and submitting applications instead of participating in operations.
Part 5 amends the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act, which was enacted by the Conservative government's Bill  C-51. Individuals and privacy groups were unhappy that government institutions could, on their own initiative or at the request of another institution, share information on activities that undermine the security of Canada. BillC-51 was criticized for permitting the sharing of citizens' personal information.
Although Bill C-59 maintains part of the departments' ability to share information, it is much more restrictive. This means that the departments operate in silos, which was harshly criticized by the national security experts who testified.
Part 6 is the most positive part, and we fully support it. This part deals with the Secure Air Travel Act and the problems with the no-fly list. When travellers have the same name as a terrorist, they encounter major problems, especially when it happens to children and they are not allowed to travel. This part will help fix this problem, and we fully support it.
Part 7 amends the Criminal Code by changing the offence of advocating or promoting terrorism offences in general to one of counselling the commission of a terrorism offence, which carries a maximum sentence of five years.
I will read the next part, which does not pose any problems:
Part 8 amends the Youth Criminal Justice Act to, among other things, ensure that the protections that are afforded to young persons apply in respect of proceedings in relation to recognizance orders, including those related to terrorism, and give employees of a department or agency of the Government of Canada access to youth records, for the purpose of administering the Canadian Passport Order.
Finally, here is the last part:
Part 9 requires that a comprehensive review of the provisions and operation of this enactment take place during the sixth year after section 168 of this enactment comes into force.
These are additional administrative measures.
In short, of the nine parts of Bill  C-59, we fully support part 6 on the no-fly list. The other parts contain a lot administrative provisions that will make the system more cumbersome. Part 7 is the most problematic.
We believe that the Prime Minister and the minister are weakening Canada's national security agencies and their ability to keep Canadians safe. This legislative measure will make it more difficult for law enforcement and security agencies to prevent attacks on Canadian soil because it takes away their authority to counter threats. The information silos this bill will create within our federal agencies are dangerous and foolish. Rather than countering radicalization, the Liberals are creating loopholes that could be exploited by those who want to radicalize our young people.
The Conservatives take the safety of Canadians very seriously. That is why the previous government brought Canada's national security laws into the 21st century and aligned them with those of our allies. While all of the Five Eyes allies are taking measures to strengthen national security, this government is bringing in legislation that will eliminate our intelligence service's ability to reduce terrorist threats. The Liberals' irresponsible approach will put Canadians' safety at risk.
I was pleased with the four amendments proposed by the senators, who also took the time to work on Bill C-59 and hear witnesses. We know that the independent Liberals have a majority in the the Senate, so we would not normally expect to see amendments that reflect the Conservatives' views. This time, however, we think all four amendments are excellent and deserve our support. We waited for the government's response.
Two of the amendments had been proposed by me and my Conservative colleagues on the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, but the Liberals had rejected them. One of them sought to clarify the definition of the phrase “counselling commission of terrorism offence”. This short phrase really embodies the problem we have with Bill C-59. For the benefit of our viewers, I would like to quote the specific wording.
The bill would amend the Criminal Code by changing the following existing definition:
Every person who knowingly instructs, directly or indirectly, any person to carry out a terrorist activity is guilty....
The bill would change it to the following:
Every person who counsels another person to commit a terrorism offence...is guilty....
What is the Liberals' real goal here, if not to just strike out the Conservative government's Bill C-51 so they can say they made a change?
Did they make this change with the intention of improving the legislation? No. Even the senators advised the government to preserve the essence of the definition set out in the Conservatives' Bill C-51.
The minister says that in 2015, when Bill C-51 was introduced by the Conservative government, no charges were ever laid. Is it not possible that no charges were laid because people got scared and decided not to run any risks, in light of the legislation and resources that were in place, as well as the enforcement capability?
Maybe that was why nothing happened. Does watering down and changing this—
An hon. member: Oh! Oh!
View Pierre Paul-Hus Profile
CPC (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for his speech.
On June 20, 2017, almost a year ago to the day, the minister introduced Bill C-59 in the House. Shortly after that, he said that, instead of bringing it back for second reading, it would be sent straight to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security so the committee could strengthen and improve it. Opposition members thought that was fantastic. We thought there would be no need for political games for once. Since this bill is about national security, we thought we could work together to ensure that Bill C-59 works for Canadians. When it comes to security, there is no room for partisanship.
Unfortunately, the opposition soon realized that it was indeed a political game. The work we were asked to do was essentially pointless. I will have more to say about that later.
The government introduced BillC-71, the firearms bill, in much the same way. It said it would sever the gun-crime connection, but this bill does not even go there. The government is targeting hunters and sport shooters, but that is another story.
Getting back to Bill C-59, we were invited to propose amendments. We worked very hard. We got a lot of work done in just under nine months. We really took the time to go through this 250-page omnibus bill. We Conservatives proposed 45 specific amendments that we thought were important to improve Bill C-59, as the minister had asked us to do. In the end, none of our amendments were accepted by the committee or the government. Once again, we were asked to do a certain job, but then our work was dismissed, even though everything we proposed made a lot of sense.
The problem with Bill C-59, as far as we are concerned, is that it limits the Canadian Security Intelligence Service's ability to reduce terrorist threats. It also limits the ability of government departments to share data among themselves to protect national security. It removes the offence of advocating and promoting terrorist offences in general. Finally, it raises the threshold for obtaining a terrorism peace bond and recognizance with conditions. One thing has been clear to us from the beginning. Changing just two words in a 250-page document can sometimes make all the difference. What we found is that it will be harder for everyone to step in and address a threat.
The minister does indeed have a lot of experience. I think he has good intentions and truly wants this to work, but there is a prime minister above him who has a completely different vision and approach. Here we are, caught in a bind, with changes to our National Security Act that ultimately do nothing to enhance our security.
Our allies around the world, especially those in Europe, have suffered attacks. Bill C-51 was introduced in 2014, in response to the attacks carried out here, in Canada. Right now, we do not see any measures that would prevent someone from returning to the Islamic State. This is a problem. Our act is still in force, and we are having a hard time dealing with Abu Huzaifa, in Toronto. The government is looking for ways to arrest him—if that is what it truly wants to do—and now it is going to pass a law that will make things even harder for our security services. We are having a hard time with this.
Then there is the whole issue of radicalization. Instead of cracking down on it, the government is trying to put up barriers to preventing it. The funny thing is that at the time, when they were in the opposition, the current Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and Prime Minister both voted with the government in favour of BillC-51. There was a lot of political manoeuvring, and during the campaign, the Liberals said that they would address Bill C-51, a bill they had supported. At the time, it was good, effective counter-terrorism legislation. However, the Liberals listened to lobby groups and said during the campaign that they would amend it.
I understand the world of politics, being a part of it. However, there are certain issues on which we should set politics aside in the interest of national security. Our allies, the Five Eyes countries are working to enhance their security and to be more effective.
The message we want to get across is that adding more red tape to our structures makes them less operationally effective. I have a really hard time with that.
Let me share some examples of amendments we proposed to Bill C-59. We proposed an amendment requiring the minister to table in Parliament a clear description of the way the various organizations would work together, namely, the NSIC, CSE, CSIS, the new committee of parliamentarians, as well as the powers and duties of the minister.
In our meetings with experts, we noticed that people had a hard time understanding who does what and who speaks to whom. We therefore drafted an amendment that called on the minister to provide a breakdown of the duties that would be clear to everyone. The answer was no. The 45 amendments we are talking about were not all ideological in nature, but rather down to earth. The amendments were rejected.
It was the Conservative government that introduced Bill C-51 when it was in office. Before the bill was passed, the mandate of CSIS prevented it from engaging in any disruption activities. For example, CSIS could not approach the parents of a radicalized youth and encourage them to dissuade their child from travelling to a war zone or conducting attacks here in Canada. After Bill C-51 was passed, CSIS was able to engage in some threat disruption activities without a warrant and in others with a warrant. Threat disruption refers to efforts to stop terrorist attacks while they are still in the planning stages.
Threat disruption activities not requiring a warrant are understood to be any activities that are not contrary to Canadian laws. Threat disruption activities requiring a warrant currently include any activity that would infringe on an individual's privacy or other rights and any activity that contravenes Canada's laws. Any threat disruption activities that would cause bodily harm, violate sexual integrity, or obstruct justice are specifically prohibited.
Under BillC-51, warrants were not required for activities that were not against Canadian law. BillC-51 was balanced. No one could ask to intervene if it was against the law to do so. When there was justification, that worked, but if a warrant was required, one was applied for.
At present, Bill C-59 limits the threat reduction activities of CSIS to the specific measures listed in the bill. CSIS cannot employ these measures without a warrant. At present CSIS requires a warrant for these actions, which I will describe. First, a warrant is required to amend, remove, replace, destroy, disrupt, or degrade a communication or means of communication. Second, a warrant is also required to modify, remove, replace, destroy, degrade, or provide or interfere with the use or delivery of all or part of something, including files, documents, goods, components, and equipment.
The work was therefore complicated by the privacy objectives of Canadians. BillC-51 created a privacy problem. Through careful analysis and comparison, it eventually became clear that the work CSIS was requesting was not in fact a privacy intrusion, as was believed. Even the privacy commissioners and witnesses did not analyze the situation the same way we are seeing now.
BillC-51 made it easier to secure peace bonds in terrorism cases. Before BillC-51, the legal threshold for police to secure a peace bond was that a person had to fear that another person will commit a terrorism offence.
Under BillC-51, a peace bond could be issued if there were reasonable grounds to fear that a person might commit a terrorism offence. It is important to note that Bill C-59 maintains the lower of the two thresholds by using “may”. However, Bill C-59 raises the threshold from “is likely” to “is necessary”.
Earlier when I mentioned the two words that changed out of the 250 pages, I was referring to changing “is likely” to “is necessary”. These two words make all the difference for preventing a terrorist activity, in order to secure a peace bond.
It would be very difficult to prove that a peace bond, with certain conditions, is what is needed to prevent an act of terrorism. This would be almost as complex as laying charges under the Criminal Code. What we want, however, is to get information to be able to act quickly to prevent terrorist acts.
We therefore proposed an amendment to the bill calling for a recognizance order to be issued if a peace officer believes that such an order is likely to prevent terrorist activities. The Liberals are proposing replacing the word “likely” with the words “is necessary”. We proposed an amendment to eliminate that part of the bill, but it was refused. That is the main component of Bill  C-59 with respect to managing national security.
Bill  C-59 has nine parts. My NDP colleague wanted to split the bill, and I thought that was a very good idea, since things often get mixed up in the end. We are debating Bill  C-59 here, but some parts are more administrative in nature, while others have to do with young people. Certain aspects need not be considered together. We believe that the administrative parts could have been included in other bills, while the more sensitive parts that really concern national security could have been dealt with publicly and separately.
Finally, the public and the media are listening to us, and Bill C-59 is an omnibus bill with so many elements that we cannot oppose it without also opposing some aspects that we support. For example, we are not against reorganizing the Communications Security Establishment. Some things could be changed, but we are not opposed to that.
We supported many of the bill's elements. On balance, however, it contains some legislation that is too sensitive and that we cannot support because it touches on fundamental issues. In our view, by tinkering with this, security operations will become very bureaucratic and communications will become difficult, despite the fact the the main goal was to simplify things and streamline operations.
The Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security heard from 36 witnesses, and several of them raised this concern. The people who work in the field every day said that it complicated their lives and that this bill would not simplify things. A huge structure that looks good on paper was put in place, but from an operational point of view, things have not been simplified.
Ultimately, national security is what matters to the government and to the opposition. I would have liked the amendments that we considered important to be accepted. Even some administrative amendments were rejected. We believe that there is a lack of good faith on the part of the government on this file. One year ago, we were asked to work hard and that is what we did. The government did not listen to us and that is very disappointing.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, before I get into the substantive remarks, I want to respond to an interesting comment made by my friend from Hull—Aylmer, who was asking in a question about actions taken by the previous government. There were many provisions in BillC-51 that were aimed at making Canadians safer. However, one thing I do not think has come up yet in the debate was a specific proposal that the Conservative Party put forward in the last election to make it illegal to travel to specific regions. There were certain exceptions built into the legislation, travel for humanitarian purposes, and for journalistic purposes perhaps. That was a good proposal, because when people are planning to travel to Daesh-controlled areas in Syria and Iraq, outside of certain very clearly defined objectives, it is fairly obvious what the person is going there to do. This was another proposal that we had put forward, one that the government has not chosen to take us up on, that I think eminently made sense. It would have given prosecutors and law enforcement another tool. Hopefully, that satisfies my friend from Hull—Aylmer, and maybe he will have further comments on that.
Substantively on Bill C-59, it is a bill that deals with the framework for ensuring Canadians' security, and it would make changes to a previous piece of legislation from the previous Parliament, BillC-51. There are a number of different measures in it. I would not call it an omnibus bill. I know Liberals are allergic to that word, so I will not say it is an omnibus bill. I will instead say that it makes a number of disparate changes to different parts of the act. I am going to go through some of those changes as time allows, and talk about some of the questions that are raised by each one. Certainly some of those changes are ones that we in the Conservative Party do not support. We are concerned about those changes making us less safe.
Before I go on to the particular provisions of the bill, I want to set the stage for the kinds of discussions we are having in this Parliament around safety and security. We take the position, quite firmly, that the first role of government is to keep people safe. Everything else is contingent on that. If people are not safe, all of the other things that a government does fall secondary to that. They are ultimately less important to people who feel that their basic security is not preserved. Certainly it is good for us to see consensus, as much as possible in this House, on provisions that would genuinely improve people's safety. Canadians want us to do it, and they want us to work together to realistically, in a thoughtful and hard-headed way, confront the threats that are in front of us.
We should not be naive about the threats we face, simply because any one of us individually has not interacted with a terrorist threat, although many people who were part of the previous Parliament obviously have interacted directly with a terrorist threat, given the attack that occurred on Parliament Hill. In any event, just because there are many threats that we do not see or directly experience ourselves, it does not mean they are not there. Certainly we know our law enforcement agencies are actively engaged in monitoring and countering threats, and doing everything they can to protect us. We need to be aware that those threats are out there. They are under the surface, but they are having an impact. There is a greater potential impact on our lives that is prevented if we give our security agencies and our law enforcement the tools that they need.
Many of these threats are things that people are aware of. There is the issue of radicalization and terrorism that is the result of a world in which the flow of information is much more across borders than it used to be. Governments can, to some extent, control the entry of people into their space, but they cannot nearly as effectively control the ideas of radicalization that come easily across borders and that influence people's perceptions. People can be radicalized even if they have never had any physical face-to-face interactions with people who hold those radical views. These things can happen over the Internet much more easily today than they did in the past. They do not require the face-to-face contact that was probably necessary in the past for the dissemination of extreme ideas. People living in a free western society can develop romanticized notions about extremism. This is a challenge that can affect many different people, those who are new to Canada, as well as people whose families have been here for generations.
This growing risk of radicalization has a genuine impact, and it is something that we need to be sensitive to. Of course, there are different forms of radicalization. There is radicalization advanced by groups like Daesh. We also need to aware of threats that are posed from extreme racist groups that may advocate targeting minorities, for instance, the shooting we saw at the mosque in Quebec City, or the attack that just happened at a mosque in Edson. These come out of extreme ideas that should be viewed as terrorism as well. Therefore, there are different kinds of threats that we see from different directions as the result of a radicalization that no longer requires a face-to-face interaction. These are real, growing, emergent threats.
There is also the need for us to be vigilant about threats from foreign governments. More and more, we are seeing a world in which foreign authoritarian governments are trying to project power beyond their borders. They are trying to influence our democratic system by putting messages out there that may create confusion, disinformation, and there may be active interference within our democratic system. There is the threat from radical non-state actors, but there are also threats from state actors, who certainly have malicious intent and want to influence the direction of our society, or may attack us directly, and want to do these sorts of things to their advantage. In the interest of protecting Canadians, we need to be aware and vigilant about these threats. We need to be serious about how we respond to them.
As much as we seek consensus in our discussion of these issues, we sometimes hear from other parties, when we raise these real and legitimate concerns, the accusation that this is spreading fear. We should not talk in these sorts of stark terms about threats that we face, as that is creating fear. The accusation is that it also creates division, because the suggestion that there might be people out there with radical ideas divides us. However, I think there is a difference between fear and prudence. We need to know that difference as legislators, and we need to be prudent without being fearful.
Fear, I think, implies an irrational, particularly an emotional response to threats that would have us freeze up, worry incessantly, stop going about our normal activities, or maybe even lead to the demonization of other people who someone might see as a threat. These are all things that could well be manifestations of fear, which is not good, obviously. However, prudence is something quite different. Prudence is to be aware of threats in a clear-headed, factual, realistic way. It is to say that thoughtfully, intellectually, reasonably, we need to do everything we can to protect ourselves, recognizing that if we fail to be prudent, if we do not take these rational, clear-headed steps to give our law enforcement agencies the tools they need to protect us from real risks that exist, then we are more liable to violence and terrorism. Also, obviously from that flows a greater risk of people being seized with that kind of emotional fearful response.
It is our job as legislators to encourage prudence, and to be prudent in policy-making. Therefore, when we raise concerns about security threats that we face, illegal border crossings, radicalization, and Daesh fighters returning to Canada, it is not because we are advocating for a fearful response, but rather we are advocating for a prudent response. Sometimes that distinction is lost on the government, because it is often typical of a Liberal world view to, perhaps with the best of intentions, imagine the world to be a safer place than it is.
Conservatives desire a better world, but we also look at the present world realistically. Sometimes one of the problems with Liberals is that they imagine the world to already be the way they would like it to be. The only way we get to a better, safer world, on many fronts, is by looking clearly at the challenges we face, and then, through that, seeking to overcome them.
It was variously attributed to Disraeli, Thatcher, or Churchill, but the line “the facts of life are conservative” is one that sticks out to me when we talk about having a prudent, clear-sighted approach to the threats we face. My colleague, the member for Thornhill, may correct me on who originally said that. Disraeli lived first, so we will say it was probably him.
Now, having set the framework through which we view, and I think we ought to view this bill, I want to speak specifically to a number of the changes that have been put forward. One of points we often hear from the government is about changes it has made with respect to the issue of torture. An amendment was proposed at committee. I understand that this was not part of the original bill, but came through in an amendment. It restates Canada's position that torture is obviously not acceptable. There is no disagreement in this House about the issue of torture. Obviously, we all agree that torture is unacceptable. Some of the aspects of this amendment, which effectively puts into law something that was already in a ministerial directive, is obviously not a substantial change in terms of changing the place or the mechanism by which something is recognized that was already in place.
Of course, when it comes to torture, it is a great opportunity for people in philosophy classrooms to debate, theoretically, what happens if there is information that could save lives that could be gained that way. However, the reality is the evidence demonstrates that torture not only is immoral, but is not effective at gathering information. A commitment to effectiveness, to giving our law enforcement agencies all the tools that are necessary and effective, while also opposing torture, are actually quite consistent with each other. I do not think there is anything substantively new with respect to those provisions that we are seeing from the government.
It is important to be clear about that. There are areas on which we agree; there are areas on which we disagree. However, there are areas on which we agree, and we can identify that clearly.
There are some other areas. In the beginning, the bill introduces a new national security and intelligence review agency. There is a new administrative cost with this new administrative agency. One of the questions we have is where that money is going to come from. The government is not proposing corresponding increases to the overall investment in our security agencies.
If a new administrative apparatus is added, with administrative costs associated with it, obviously that money has to come from somewhere. Likely it is a matter of internal reallocation, which effectively means a fairly substantial cut to the operational front-line activities of our security agencies. If that is not the case, I would love to hear the government explain how it is not, and where the money is coming from. It seems fairly evident that when something is introduced, the cost of which is about $97 million over five years, and that is an administrative cost, again that money has to come from somewhere. With the emergence and proliferation of threats, I know Canadians would not like to see what may effectively amount to a cut to front-line delivery in terms of services. That is clearly a concern that Canadians have.
Part 2 deals with the intelligence commissioner, and the Liberals rejected expedited timing requirements on the commissioner's office. This effectively means that security operations may be delayed because the commissioner is working through the information. There are some technical aspects to the bill, certainly that we have raised concerns about, and we will continue to raise concerns about them. We want to try to make sure that our security agencies, as my colleagues have talked about, have all the tools they need to do their job very effectively.
Now, this is something that stuck out to me. There are restrictions in part 3 to security and intelligence agencies being able to access already publicly available data.
Effectively, this bill has put in place restrictions on accessing that data, which is already publicly available. If security agencies have to go through additional hoops to access information that is already on Facebook or Twitter, it is not clear to me why we would put those additional burdens in place and what positive purpose those additional restrictions would achieve. That is yet another issue with respect to the practical working out of the bill.
Given the political context of some of these changes, one wonders why the government is doing this. It is because the Liberals put themselves in a political pickle. They supported, and voted for, BillC-51. The current Prime Minister, as a member of the then third party, voted in favour of that legislation. However, the Liberals then wanted to position themselves differently on it, and so they said they were going to change aspects of it when they got into government. Some of those changes serve no discernible purpose, and yet they raise additional questions regarding the restrictions they would put on our law enforcement agencies' ability to operate effectively and efficiently.
Part 4 of the proposed legislation puts additional restrictions on interdepartmental information-sharing. Members have spoken about this extensively in the debate, but there are important points to underline here.
The biggest act of terrorism in our country's history, the Air India bombing, was determined to have been preventable by the Air India inquiry. The issue was that one agency was keeping information from another agency that could have prevented the bombing. Certainly, if information is already in the hands of government, it makes sense to give our agencies the tools to share that information. It seems fairly obvious that people should be able to share that information. It is clearly in the national interest. If it can save lives to transfer information effectively from one department to another with regard to files about individuals who may present a security threat, and if CSIS already has that information and is going to share it with the RCMP, I think all Canadians would say that makes sense. However, Bill C-59 would impose additional restrictions on that sharing of information.
Through taking a hard-headed look at the threats we face and the need to combat them, parliamentarians should be concerned about those particular provisions in this bill.
Another issue raised in this bill is that of threat disruption. Should security agencies be able to undertake actions that disrupt a security threat? Previously, under BillC-51, actions could be taken to disrupt threats without a warrant if those actions were within the law. If there was a need to do something that would normally be outside of the law, then a warrant would be required, but if it was something ordinarily within the remit of the law, then agencies could proceed with it. It could be something like talking to the parents of a potential terrorist traveller, and alerting them to what was going on in the life of their child, or being present in an online chatroom to try to counter a radicalizing message. These things are presently legal under Bill C-51.
However, under Bill C-59, there would be a much higher standard with respect to the activities that would require a warrant, which include disseminating any information, record, or document. It seems to me that something as simple as putting a security agent in an online chatroom to move the conversation in a particular direction through the dissemination of information would require a warrant, which can create challenges if one wants to engage in an organic conversation so as to counter messages in real time.
All of us in the House believe in the need for parameters and rules around this, but BillC-51 established parameters that allowed for intervention by law enforcement agencies where necessary. It did keep us safe, and unfortunately Bill C-59 would make this more difficult and muddies the waters. That is why we oppose it.
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.
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