Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. It's good to see you again.
I'd like to thank the committee for the invitation to appear before you with respect to this very important Bill C-59. I've had the opportunity to follow some of the proceedings and to read some of the transcripts, and it's very encouraging to see the depth and substance of the questions asked of the individual witnesses who are appearing, including with different perspectives.
I've had a long history, and I was thinking about it before I came here today. It's been almost 30 years, I guess, since I first testified before a parliamentary committee. I was a crown prosecutor from Alberta, and as I put it, I got tired of tripping over the mistakes of the parole system in my courtroom, and realized that the only way to try to change it was to change the laws. That meant coming to Ottawa, because we were dealing with federal correctional legislation. I was appearing before parliamentary committees where I exposed what had happened in a couple of cases.
The important work of the legislative branch struck me then, and it has remained with me throughout. That sometimes gets overlooked, and depending on how things are being handled at the executive branch of government, the really important and critical analysis that committees can do is quite significant. A bill like this is a very good example of that, because you can have different opinions about things on different subjects, but you have the ability to ask questions and to try to elicit information to analyze whether or not the intended results are going to be achieved by the legislation in the way that it's drafted or if other things need to be done. That is particularly true, I think, in relation to legislation like Bill C-59, which is obviously pretty complex legislation and deals with a whole lot of subjects.
In fairness, the discussion itself has raised issues that are not contained in Bill C-59. I think a very encouraging sign was the way that the government sent the bill here in advance of second reading so that you could have input and suggestions on other subjects. I have some suggestions to make on things like that. I must admit, though, that I would suggest that it probably is a better idea, simply from a procedural perspective, to confine your recommendations to the specifics of the bill, and perhaps, in an ancillary report, make suggestions on other subjects rather than adding huge new amendments to sections and opening up different issues that are not specifically contained in Bill C-59. There's so much of value in Bill C-59 that it's a good idea to move it forward.
My presentation today will touch on essentially three aspects. The first is just to take some examples of things that I think are notable and quite important in Bill C-59. I also have a couple of comments on things, and one in particular I have a problem with, but I suppose, to put it in a larger sense, they're just ones where I would suggest you may want to ask some questions and make sure you understand that what you are anticipating is the case is, in fact, the case. Then, because the minister has invited suggestions on other issues, if we have time—and probably not in the opening statement, but during questions and answers—I have some suggestions on other issues that I think might be of interest.
Let me just give you a little bit of background as well on my personal experience in this, because it impacts on the insights. As I mentioned, I was a crown prosecutor in Alberta. Ultimately, because of one of the cases I was involved in, in 1992 I became the executive officer of the Canadian Police Association. This is the rank-and-file police officers, the unions. We were involved very heavily from 1992 to 1998 in criminal justice reform, policy advocacy. It was from that, in particular, and my work as a crown prosecutor, that I got the sense of the importance of learning from front-line operational insights how you can then shape legislative or policy tools so as to achieve desired outcomes.
Also, not everything needs to be done by legislation. There are frequently instances—and I was struck by this as I was watching some of the evidence from some of the witnesses that you've had—where we don't necessarily need new laws. We need to enforce the ones we already have, and we need to make sure that the tools are in place to use them appropriately. There are some examples of that, I think, in Bill C-59 specifically.
I ended up working with the Ontario government in 1998 as an order in council appointment. That government had intended to achieve some criminal justice reforms, and they weren't getting it done, so they wanted some people with some understanding of the justice system.
After 9/11, I was appointed as the special security adviser on counterterrorism because of some work I had previously been involved in. I had significant interactions with Americans in relation to that. In the old days, it was the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit, which became INSET. I had a role, essentially, in being the provincial representative in some of the discussions, and I saw the inter-agency interactions, or lack thereof, and the impact that potentially had.
Since then, I'm actually one of the guys who did the review that led to the arming of the border officers. I still do work with the union on policy stuff. I also do some stuff with security technology committees. The value of that is that you get an understanding of some of the operational insights and what is necessary to achieve the intended outcomes.
I should add, I suppose, the final thing. Last year, I accepted a position at Simon Fraser University as an adjunct professor. I know you'll be shocked to hear that. It's for a course they offer, a master's program, the Terrorism, Risk, and Security Studies program. The course I teach is balancing civil liberties and public safety and security. To go on from a point that the general made, I think the case is that these are not either-or situations. We are fully capable of doing both, and there is a balance involved in this. As a general principle, it is a very good idea, when you're looking at what is proposed in legislation, especially in legislation like this which has national security implications, to keep in mind the general principles of protecting civil rights.
There are two points about that. You'll notice that in “civil rights”, “rights” is modified by “civil”. In other words, they are rights that exist in the context of a civil society. That has ramifications in the sense, I think, of what citizens are entitled to expect of their government. I don't want government intruding on my privacy, but, at the same time, if government has the capability of accessing relevant information and acting on someone who is a threat to me and my family, I expect, under my civil right, that, in fact, government will do what it needs to do to extend that protection.
The other side of that—and I know, Monsieur Dubé asked many questions about this, as did other members of the committee—is the importance of looking at it generally, at what is proposed, to see that there is, in effect, oversight initially and, as well, appropriate review so that the balancing can take place. In my opinion, and more accurately in my experience, having the executive branch reporting to itself for authorization is something that should raise a red flag. There are provisions within the act that ultimately address that, although there are some that raise some questions about it.
In the very brief time left, let me just say that I think that among the important things in the legislation are the extensive use of preambles and definitions about the importance of privacy and what we would generally call civil rights in consideration of why we're doing things. That, I think, was a deficiency in BillC-51. I can tell you that it is critically important in today's charter world to make sure that is included so that the courts can consider whether or not what was being done by legislative authority in fact took into account the charter issues. A rule of statutory interpretation is “thou shalt consider the preamble in a statute when actually drafting it”.
With one minute left, I think probably the most important operational aspect of this bill is the proactive cyber-activity authorized to CSE. That is a reality of the world in which we live. We are totally cyber-dependent, which also means we have enormous cyber-vulnerabilities. Cybersecurity, in effect, has been an afterthought. This is a step; it is not the complete answer. I do some work in the cyber field as well, and that is something that I think is extremely important.
The one issue I would raise, in closing, which I have a concern about specifically, is in relation to the change in what I think is the evidentiary threshold in the terrorism propaganda offence. I can get into that in more detail, but my concern is, essentially, that it may be making it, for no good reason, no justifiable reason that I can see, harder to use that section, which has extreme relevance now in the changing domestic terrorism environment in which we are living.
I look forward to answering any questions and, hopefully, touching on the other subjects.