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View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2018-06-18 19:20 [p.21189]
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that the hon. member for Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis has perhaps a more nostalgic and certainly more favourable view of what took place in the 41st Parliament, but I put it to him that my experience in studying BillC-51 convinced me that it made us much less safe. I will give an example and hope my hon. colleague can comment on it.
Far from creating silos, Bill C-59 would help us by creating the security and intelligence review agency because, in the words of former chief justice John Major who chaired the Air India inquiry, we have had no pinnacle review, no oversight over all the actions of all the agencies. This is a real-life example. When Jeffrey Delisle was stealing secrets from the Canadian navy, CSIS knew about it. CSIS knew all about it, but it decided not to tell the RCMP. The RCMP acted when it got a tip from the FBI. We know that in the Air India disaster, various agencies of the Government of Canada—CSIS knew things as did the RCMP—did not talk to each other. The information sharing sections to which the member refers have nothing to do with government agencies sharing the information they have about a threat. They have to do it by sharing personal information of Canadians, such as what occurred to Maher Arar.
To the member's last comment that nothing has gone wrong since BillC-51, my comment is: how would we know? Everything is secret. Rights could have been infringed. No special advocate was in the room. We have no idea what happened to infringe rights during Bill C-51's reign.
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 Pierre Paul-Hus Profile
CPC (QC)
At the time, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness decided not to give Bill  C-59 second reading and sent it directly to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. He said that committee meetings were needed to get additional information in order to improve the bill, so that is what we did.
During the committee's study of Bill  C-59, 235 amendments were proposed. The Conservative Party proposed 29 and the Green Party 45. The Liberals rejected all of them. Four NDP amendments and 40 Liberal amendments were adopted. Twenty-two of the Liberal amendments had more to do with the wording and with administrative issues. The Liberals also proposed one very important amendment that I will talk about later on.
The committee's mandate was to improve the bill. We, the Conservatives, undertook that work in good faith. We proposed important amendments to try to round out and improve the bill presented at second reading. The Liberal members on the committee rejected all of our amendments, even though they made a lot of sense. The Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security held 16 meetings on the subject and heard from a number of witnesses, including people from all walks of life and key stakeholders in the security field. In the end, the government chose to reject all of our amendments.
There were two key points worth noting. The first was that under Bill  C-59, our security agencies will have fewer tools to combat the ongoing terrorist threat around the world. The second was that our agencies will have a harder time sharing information.
One important proposal made in committee was the amendment introduced by the Liberal member for Montarville regarding the perpetration of torture. Every party in the House agrees that the use of torture by our intelligence or security agencies is totally forbidden. There is no problem on that score. However, there is a problem with the part about torture, in that our friends across the aisle are playing political games because they are still not prepared to tell China and Iran to change their ways on human rights. One paragraph in the part about torture says that if we believe, even if we do not know for sure, that intelligence passed on by a foreign entity was obtained through torture, Canada will not make use of that intelligence. For example, if another country alerts us that the CN Tower in Toronto is going to be blown up tomorrow, but we suspect the information was extracted through some form of torture, we will not act on that intelligence if the law remains as it is. That makes no sense. We believe we should protect Canadians first and sort it out later with the country that provided the intelligence.
It is little things like that that make it impossible for us to support the bill. That element was proposed at the end of the study. Again, it was dumped on us with no notice and we had to vote on it.
There are two key issues. The national security and intelligence review agency in part 1 does not come with a budget. The Liberals added an entity, but not a budget to go with it. How can we vote on an element of the bill that has no number attached to it?
Part 2 deals with the intelligence commissioner. The Liberals rejected changes to allow current judges, who would retire if appointed, and retirees from being considered, despite testimony from the intelligence commissioner who will assume these new duties. Currently, only retired judges are accepted. We said that there are active judges who could do the work, but that idea was rejected. It is not complicated. It makes perfect sense. We could have the best people in the prime of their lives who may have more energy than those who are about to retire and may be less interested in working 40 hours a week.
In part 3 on the Communications Security Establishment, known as CSE, there are problems concerning the restriction of information. In fact, some clauses in Bill C-59 will make capturing data more complicated. Our intelligence agencies are facing additional barriers. It will be more difficult to obtain information that allows our agencies to take action, for example against terrorists.
Part 4 concerns the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, or CSIS. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the privacy issue often come up in connection with CSIS. A common criticism of BillC-51 is that this bill would allow agencies to breach people's privacy. Witnesses representing interest groups advocating for Canadians' privacy and people whose daily work is to ensure the safety of Canadians appeared before the committee. For example, Richard Fadden said that the agencies are currently working in silos. CSIS, the CSE, and the RCMP work in silos, and the situation is too complex. There is no way to share information, and that is not working.
Dr. Leuprecht, Ph.D., from the Royal Military College, Lieutenant-General Michael Day from the special forces, and Ray Boisvert, a former security adviser, all made similar comments. Conservative amendment No. 12 was rejected. That amendment called for a better way of sharing information. In that regard, I would like to remind members of the Air India bombing in 1985. We were given the example of that bombing, which killed more than 200 people on a flight from Toronto to Bombay. It was determined that this attack could have been prevented had it been easier to share information at the time.
The most important thing to note about part 7, which deals with the Criminal Code, is that it uses big words to increase the burden for obtaining arrest warrants to prevent terrorist acts. Amendments were made regarding the promotion of terrorism. Section 83.221 of the Criminal Code pertains to advocating or promoting the commission of terrorism offences. The Liberals changed the wording of that section with regard to unidentified terrorist offences, for example, ISIS videos on YouTube. They therefore created section 83.221.
That changes the recognizance orders for terrorism and makes it more difficult to control threats. Now, rather than saying “likely”, it says “is necessary”. Those are just two little words, but they make all the difference. Before, if it was likely that something would happen, our security agencies could intervene, whereas now, intervention must be necessary. It is a technicality, but we cannot support Bill C-59 because of that change in wording. This bill makes it harder for security agencies and police to do their work, when it should be making it easier for them.
We are not opposed to revising our national security legislation. All governments must be prepared to do that to adapt. BillC-51, which was introduced at the time by the Conservatives, was an essential tool in the fight against terrorist attacks in Canada and the world. We needed tools to help our agents. The Liberals alluded to BillC-51 during the election campaign and claimed that it violated Canadians' freedoms and that it did not make sense. They promised to introduce a new bill and here it is before us today, Bill C-59.
I would say that Bill C-59, a massive omnibus bill, is ultimately not much different from Bill C-51. There are a number of parts I did not mention, because we have nothing to say and we agree with their content. We are not against everything. What we want, no matter the party, is to be effective and to keep Canadians safe. We agree on that.
Nevertheless, some parts are problematic. As I said earlier, the government does not want to accept information from certain countries on potential attacks, because this information could have been obtained through torture. This would be inadmissible. Furthermore, the government is changing two words, which makes it harder to access the information needed to take action. We cannot agree with this.
Now the opposite is being done, and most of the witnesses who came to see us in committee, people in the business of privacy, did not really raise any issues. They did not show up and slam their fists on the desk saying that it was senseless and had to be changed. Everyone had their views to express, but ultimately, there were not that many problems. Some of the witnesses said that Bill C-59 made no sense, but upon questioning them further, we often reached a compromise and everyone agreed that security is important.
Regardless, the Liberals rejected all of the Conservatives' proposed amendments. I find that hard to understand because the minister asked us to do something, he asked us to improve Bill C-59 before bringing it back here for second reading—it is then going to go to third reading. We did the work. We did what we were supposed to do, as did the NDP, as did the Green Party. The Green Party leader had 45 amendments and is to be commended for that. I did not agree with all her amendments, but we all worked to improve Bill C-59, and in turn, to enhance security in Canadians' best interest, as promised. Unfortunately, that never happened. We will have to vote against this bill.
Since I have some time left, I will give you some quotes from witnesses who appeared before the committee. For example, everyone knows Richard Fadden, the Prime Minister's former national security adviser. Mr. Fadden said that Bill  C-59 was “beginning to rival the Income Tax Act for complexity. 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 help. Mr. Fadden said that to the committee. If anyone knows security, it is Canada's former national security adviser. He said that he could not understand Bill  C-59 at all and that it was worse than the Income Tax Act. That is what he told the committee. We agreed and tried to help, but to no avail. It seems like the Liberals were not at the same meeting I was at.
We then saw the example of a young man who goes by the name Abu Huzaifa. Everyone knows that two or three weeks ago, in Toronto, this young man boasted to the New York Times and then to CBC that he had fought as a terrorist for Daesh in Iraq and Syria. He admitted that he had travelled there for the purposes of terrorism and had committed atrocities that are not fit to be spoken of here. However, our intelligence officers only found out that this individual is currently roaming free in Toronto from a New York Times podcast. Here, we can see the limitations of Bill  C-59 in the specific case of a Canadian citizen who decided to fight against us, to go participate in terrorism, to kill people the Islamic State way—everyone here knows what I mean—and then to come back here, free as a bird. Now the Liberals claim that the law does not allow such and such a thing. When we tabled Bill C-51, we were told that it was too restrictive, but now Bill  C-59 is making it even harder to get information.
What do Canadians think of that? Canadians are sitting at home, watching the news, and they are thinking that something must be done. They are wondering what exactly we MPs in Ottawa are being paid for. We often see people on Facebook or Twitter asking us to do something, since that is what we are paid for. We in the Conservative Party agree, and we are trying; the government, not so much. Liberal members are hanging their heads and waiting for it to pass. That is not how it works. They need to take security a little more seriously.
This is precisely why Canadians have been losing confidence in their public institutions and their politicians. This is also why some people eventually decide to take their safety into their own hands, but that should never happen. I agree that this must not happen. That would be very dangerous for a society. When people lose confidence in their politicians and take their safety into their own hands, we have the wild west. We do not want that. We therefore need to give our security officers, our intelligence officers, the powerful tools they need to do their jobs properly, not handcuff them. Handcuffs belong on terrorists, not on our officers on the ground.
Christian Leuprecht from Queen's University Royal Military College said that he respected the suggestion that CSIS should stick to its knitting, or in other words, not intervene. In his view, the RCMP should take care of some things, such as disruption. However, he also indicated that the RCMP is struggling on so many fronts already that we need to figure out where the relative advantage of different organizations lies and allow them to quickly implement this.
The questions that were asked following the testimony focused on the fact that the bill takes away our intelligence officers' ability to take action and asks the RCMP to take on that responsibility in CSIS's place, even though the RCMP is already overstretched. We only have to look at what is happening at the border. We have to send RCMP officers to strengthen border security because the government told people to come here. The RCMP is overstretched and now the government is asking it to do things that it is telling CSIS not to do. Meanwhile, western Canada is struggling with a crime wave. My colleagues from Alberta spoke about major crimes being committed in rural communities.
Finland and other European countries have said that terrorism is too important an issue and so they are going to allow their security agencies to take action. We cannot expect the RCMP to deal with everything. That is impossible. At some point, the government needs to take this more seriously.
After hearing from witnesses, we proposed amendments to improve Bill  C-59, so that we would no longer have any reason to oppose it at second reading. The government could have listened to reason and accepted our amendments, and then we would have voted in favour of the bill. However, that is not what happened, and in my opinion it was because of pure partisanship. When we are asked to look at a bill before second or third reading and then the government rejects all of our proposals, it is either for ideological reasons or out of partisanship. In any case, I think it is shameful, because this is a matter of public safety and security.
When I first joined the Canadian Armed Forces, in the late 1980s, we were told that the military did not deal with terrorism, that this was the Americans' purview. That was the first thing we were told. At the time, we were learning how to deal with the Warsaw Pact. The wars were highly mechanized and we were not at all involved in fighting terrorism.
However, times have changed. Clearly, everything changed on September 11, 2001. Canada now has special forces, which did not exist back then. JTF2, a special forces unit, was created. Canada has had to adapt to the new world order because it could also be a target for terrorist attacks. We have to take off our blinders and stop thinking that Canada is on another planet, isolated from any form of wickedness and cruelty. Canada is on planet Earth and terrorism knows no borders.
The G7 summit, which will soon be under way, could already be the target of a planned attack. We do not know. If we do not have tools to prevent and intercept threats, what will happen? That is what is important. At present, at the G7, there are Americans and helicopters everywhere. As we can see on the news, U.S. security is omnipresent. Why are there so many of them there? It is because confidence is running low. If Americans are not confident about Canadians' rules, military, and ability to intervene, they will bring everything they need to protect themselves.
That is why we need to take a position of strength. Yes, of course we have to show that we are an open and compassionate country, but we still need to be realistic. We have to be on the lookout and ready to take action.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2018-06-07 12:01 [p.20427]
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise and speak to such an important piece of legislation. I do not say that lightly. While we were in opposition, Stephen Harper and the government of the day brought in BillC-51. Many Canadians will remember Bill C-51, which had very serious issues. I appreciate the comments coming from the New Democrats with respect to Bill C-51. Like many of them, I too was here, and I listened very closely to what was being debated.
The biggest difference between us and the New Democrats is that we understand very clearly that we have to ensure Canadians are safe while at the same time protecting our rights and freedoms. As such, when we assessed BillC-51, we made a commitment to Canadians to address the major flaws in the bill. At a standing committee on security, which was made up of parliamentarians, I can recall our proposing ways to address the whole issue and concerns about the potential invasion of rights and freedoms. It went into committee, and it was a really long debate. We spent many hours, both in the chamber and at committee, discussing the pros and cons of BillC-51.
What came out of it for us as the Liberal Party back in 2015 was that we made a commitment to Canadians. We said we would support BillC-51, but that if we were to form government we would make substantial changes to it.
That is why it is such a pleasure for me to stand in the House today. Looking at Bill C-59, I would like to tell the constituents I represent that the Prime Minister has kept yet another very important promise made to Canadians in the last election.
We talk a lot about Canada's middle class, those striving to be a part of it, and how this government is so focused on improving conditions for our middle class. One could ultimately argue that the issue of safety and rights is very important to the middle class, but for me, this particular issue is all about righting a wrong from the past government and advancing the whole issue of safety, security, freedoms, and rights.
I believe it is the first time we have been able to deal with that. Through a parliamentary committee, we had legislation that ultimately put in place a national security body, if I can put it that way, to ensure a high sense of transparency and accountability from within that committee and our security agencies. In fact, prior to this government bringing it in, we were the only country that did not have an oversight parliamentary group to look at all the different aspects of security, rights, and freedoms. We were the only one of the Five Eyes that did not have such a group. New Zealand, Australia, the U.S., and the U.K. all had them.
Today, Canada has that in place. That was a commitment we made and a commitment that was fulfilled. I look at Bill C-59 today, and again it is fulfilling a commitment. The government is, in fact, committed to keeping Canadians safe while safeguarding rights and freedoms.
We listen to some of my colleagues across the way, and we understand the important changes taking place even in our own society, with radicalization through the promotion of social media and the types of things that can easily be downloaded or observed. Many Canadians share our concern and realize that at times there is a need for a government to take action. Bill C-59 does just that.
We have legislation before us that was amended. A number of very positive amendments were brought forward, even some from non-government members, that were ultimately adopted. I see that again as a positive thing.
The previous speaker raised some concerns in terms of communications between departments. I remember talking in opposition about how important it is that our security and public safety agencies and departments have those links that enable the sharing of information, but let us look at the essence of what the Conservatives did. They said these agencies shall share, but there was no real clear definition or outline in terms of how they would share information. That was a concern Canadians had. If we look at Bill C-59, we find more detail and clarity in terms of how that will take place.
Again, this is something that will alleviate a great deal of concern Canadians had in regard to our security agencies. It is a positive step forward. Information disclosure between departments is something that is important. Information should be shared, but there also needs to be a proper establishment of a system that allows a sense of confidence and public trust that rights and freedoms are being respected at the same time.
My colleague across the way talked about how we need to buckle down on the promoting and advocating of terrorism. He seemed to take offence to the fact that we have used the word “counselling” for terrorism versus using words like “promoting” and “advocating”. There is no doubt the Conservatives are very good when it comes to spin. They say if it is promoting or advocating terrorism, that is bad, and of course Canadians would agree, but it is those types of words. Now they are offended because we replaced that with “counselling”. I believe that "counselling" will be just as effective, if not more effective, in terms of the long game in trying to prevent these types of actions from taking place. It will be more useful in terms of going into the courts.
There is no doubt that the Conservatives know the types of spin words to use, but I do not believe for a moment that it is more effective than what was put in this legislation. When it comes to rights and freedoms, Canadians are very much aware that it was Pierre Elliott Trudeau who brought in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We are a party of the charter. We understand how important that is.
At the same time, we also understand the need to ensure that there is national safety, and to support our security agencies. It was not this government but the Stephen Harper government that literally cut tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars out of things such as border controls and supports for our RCMP. This government has recognized that if we are not only going to talk the line, we also have to walk the line and provide the proper resources. We have seen those additional resources in not only our first budget, but also our second budget.
We have ministers such as public safety, immigration and citizenship, and others who are working together on some very important files. When I think of Bill C-59 and the fine work we have done in regard to the establishment of this parliamentary oversight committee, I feel good for the simple reason that we made a commitment to Canadians and the bill is about keeping that commitment. It deals with ensuring and re-establishing public confidence that we are protecting freedoms and rights. At the same time, it ensures that Canada is a safe country and that the terrorist threat is marginalized as much as possible through good, sound legislation. That is what this is.
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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