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Track Charmaine

Your Say


Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word is agencies.

NDP MP for Terrebonne—Blainville (Québec)

Won her last election, in 2011, with 49.30% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Canada Post November 19th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, pretty soon the people of Blainville will be the ones to lose their home mail delivery service. I have held public consultations on the matter and I know for a fact that the people of my riding will not accept this loss.

Furthermore, now private companies are offering to take over home mail delivery from Canada Post for $30 a month. It makes no sense.

Did the Conservatives put an end to home mail delivery as part of a scheme to privatize Canada Post?

Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act November 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the member's lead-up had very little to do with his question. I would like to talk about something that my colleagues have not talked about today.

We are not asking for one to be more important than the other. This is not about choosing between national security and our rights and freedoms. No. We want both, and the two can coexist. That is already the case in some countries, which already have enhanced oversight in place.

We can do it. We do not have to choose one or the other. We can choose both. If the government cannot understand that, it is a good thing we are going to study the bill in committee.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act November 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question. I would also like to congratulate the member on her excellent work as our deputy public safety critic.

I agree that we should invite all of the experts on protecting our rights and freedoms. We cannot be ministers or critics of everything. We cannot know everything. We have to rely on experts. We in Canada are very lucky to have amazing experts and world-renowned academics, so we have to invite them, have a genuine consultation with them and ask them good questions.

Given the quote I read from the Privacy Commissioner, I am sure that the experts will recommend increasing civilian oversight and implementing measures to ensure that the police and spies, among others, obey the law. I know that some things have to be done in secret, but that does not mean we should violate people's freedoms or privacy.

Therefore, let us invite the experts. I hope that all committee members will do their best to ensure that all of the experts come to the table, including the Privacy Commissioner, who has an important part to play in this debate.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act November 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in the House of Commons to speak to this bill. As my colleagues before me have already indicated, the NDP plans to vote in favour of this bill.

However, I am very disappointed that we are debating this bill under a time allocation motion. This is the 81st time that a gag order has been imposed on debate on a bill, even though this is a very important bill that deals with security and gives CSIS greater powers. It is therefore very important that we have an extensive debate on this, but a time allocation motion was adopted this morning. This is very frustrating. I think this may even be a record, for I cannot remember any other government having imposed as many gag orders in such a short time.

The bill before us, Bill C-44, makes three important changes regarding CSIS. The first change is that it clarifies the legal authority of CSIS to conduct security intelligence operations abroad in response to threats to the security of Canada. It also confirms the jurisdiction of the Federal Court to issue warrants that have effect outside Canada, and it protects the identify of CSIS human intelligence sources in judicial proceedings.

I think it is very important to talk about a number of cases that were brought before the Supreme Court, where warrants were issued that did not expand CSIS' capacity to spy or conduct national security related activities in other countries. A number of Supreme Court and Federal Court rulings raised that matter.

The amendments being presented are quite interesting. However, it is important to note that we are effectively telling CSIS that it can increase its co-operation activities in the Five Eyes community. I am not sure what the French term is for Five Eyes. We usually use the English term. We are allowing CSIS to seek warrants for this purpose. This process was clarified to some extent to respond to the legal void raised by the Supreme Court.

We are in the process of increasing CSIS' powers, but this bill completely misses the boat on strengthening oversight of CSIS' operations. This bill could have included better protections and better oversight, such as civilian oversight. Many people made requests to that effect. As far as oversight is concerned, we currently have the Security Intelligence Review Committee. This committee only meets part time and is made up of un-elected individuals appointed by the Prime Minister. At this time, there is an acting chair. There is no official committee chair. What is more, two out of the five seats on the committee are vacant. In other words, we have a group of three, un-elected, appointed people who are assuring us that everything is fine. I think that Canadians expect better than that, and rightly so, because this is totally inadequate.

We hear all kinds of stories about abuses. We want to ensure that their operations are justified. Of course, much of what they do is secret. Clearly, we cannot give away national secrets or jeopardize national security. We are well aware of that, but there are ways to put legitimate oversight systems in place in order to ensure that there are no abuses and that all operations comply with Canadian law. There is absolutely nothing about that in the bill. For years, both the opposition and the community at large have been calling on the government to increase oversight of CSIS operations.

For example, during the Maher Arar inquiry, recommendations were made for improving accountability at CSIS. However, eight years later—that was in 2006—nothing has been done.

As well, the Privacy Commissioner recommended that each time a bill that increases CSIS's powers is introduced, oversight measures should automatically accompany it. If the government wants to increase powers, it must also improve the system, the accountability mechanism that ensures there are no abuses. That is very important, yet it is very much lacking.

It is also important to point out something else. The government eliminated the position of inspector general, who played an internal role, ensuring that the service's activities complied with the law. Instead of increasing oversight—which is what should be happening—the government is decreasing it. That is very problematic.

I should point out that it is very important that our agencies have the tools they need to protect public safety. However, this is not a negotiation. We cannot completely ignore our civil liberties and rights just because more security is needed. That is not how it works. These aspects are very important, and we need to ensure they are protected. As parliamentarians, we have a duty to protect our country and to examine national security issues. However, we also have a duty to protect civil liberties and rights. That is why oversight is so important and why it should be a mandatory part of any proposal to increase powers. Even if we were not increasing CSIS's powers, civilian oversight would still be very important. This oversight certainly deserves more resources than three people sitting on a committee part time. It is is very important.

We absolutely want the appropriate resources. However, the Conservatives have cut funding for our public safety agencies for three straight years, since 2011. By 2015, this will represent a total of $687.9 million. As a result, CSIS will see $24.5 million in cuts in 2015, while budget 2012 scrapped the CSIS inspector general position altogether, as I already mentioned. We are concerned that these cuts also impact the government's ability to exercise appropriate oversight over these agencies. The service is being asked to do more and more, but its budget is being cut. It is a little hard for this agency to implement an adequate oversight system.

I want to share what Daniel Therrien, the Privacy Commissioner, had to say. He said that it was understandable that the government would want to consider boosting the powers of law-enforcement and national security agencies to address potential gaps, but that any new tools should be accompanied by a beefed-up role for the watchdogs who keep an eye on spies and police.

That is what the commissioner said, and that is what we are asking for today. It is all well and good to increase powers, but we also need to increase oversight, because we need to ensure that civil liberties and rights are not violated. As I mentioned, we cannot sacrifice one for the other. It is a two-for-one special, if you will. The protection of civil liberties and rights goes hand in hand with national security. They are both possible if there is meaningful, enhanced oversight.

Access to Information November 7th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is ridiculous for the Conservatives to say they are modernizing the administration of the act, when it is the law itself that needs to be fixed. The experts they consulted, and even their own advisory panel, told them so. The Information Commissioner has said that fixing the law is the one element that needed to be in the plan, and it is not there.

I would like to give the minister a chance for real openness. Why does he refuse to fix the Access to Information Act?

Access to Information November 7th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the action plan on open government that the Conservatives launched this week has some major flaws. They do not even have the nerve to modernize the Access to Information Act, which is the key to an open government. What is more, when the NDP introduced a bill to reform the Access to Information Act, the Conservatives voted against it.

How can the government claim to be more open when it refuses to modernize 32-year-old legislation?

Media Literacy Week November 5th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, we are right in the middle of Media Literacy Week, an annual event led by MediaSmarts and the Canadian Teachers' Federation. Activities will take place across the country until Friday to help Canadian youth understand the importance of using social media well.

We all know that digital platforms are powerful tools. They can promote worthy causes, but unfortunately, they can also be used for cyberbullying, cyber-misogyny and spreading hate messages. To combat the negative aspects of online communication, Media Literacy Week invites all participants to explore the positive uses of social networking.

This week, over 100 organizations across the country are working with young people to help them develop good media skills and make a positive contribution to progress in their community.

As the digital issues critic, I hope that all of my colleagues will help draw attention to Media Literacy Week so that together, we can encourage young Canadians to make good use of digital technology.

Digital Privacy Act October 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague on her excellent speech, which really highlighted the different problems with this bill.

I would like to hear her thoughts, because she said that the government could have taken advantage of the opportunity afforded by Bill S-4 to correct the flaws in the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, known as PIPEDA, which allow for a parallel system in which government agencies can simply ask Internet service providers to provide information on customers, such as their IP address. I would like her to talk some more about that and explain why it is important to correct these flaws in order to put an end to that non-consensual parallel system that has no oversight and no transparency.

Digital Privacy Act October 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, yet again, I listened with great interest to my Conservative colleague's speech.

I have a more specific question for him. I agree that a data breach notification requirement is essential. I even proposed a similar measure in my Bill C-475, which the member voted against.

In my model, I proposed an objective mechanism that would not make organizations themselves responsible for determining whether the data breach or leak was significant enough to notify the client concerned.

What Bill S-4 proposes is really subjective. It would have the organization make its own determination. Many lawyers, experts and academics have found this approach problematic. Does my colleague think that this approach is problematic?

Digital Privacy Act October 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to all of the Conservative members' speeches, but if memory serves and if I am in the right place on the agenda, we are debating a motion to refer Bill S-4 to committee before second reading. Every time a Conservative member rises, he says that he is talking about Bill S-4 and does not talk about the motion that we are supposed to be debating today. I understand that the two might be connected, but we are debating the motion and I think it is important to point that out.