National Security Committee of Parliamentarians Act

An Act to establish the National Security Committee of Parliamentarians

This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.

Sponsor

Anne McLellan  Liberal

Status

Not active, as of Nov. 24, 2005
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment establishes the National Security Committee of Parliamentarians and sets out the composition, mandate and duties of the Committee.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

December 6th, 2016 / 4:40 p.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Rob Oliphant

Bill C-81 was yours.

December 6th, 2016 / 4:40 p.m.
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Assistant Secretary, Machinery of Government, Privy Council Office

Allen Sutherland

This oath was based on something the previous government did, Bill C-81. I don't know what the common practice is.

National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians ActGovernment Orders

September 27th, 2016 / 11:10 a.m.
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NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise to address this very important bill.

I want to thank my colleagues for their insightful contributions to the debate already. We agree on a great deal, and it gives me confidence that we will be able to work together to ultimately improve this bill.

Let me be clear: New Democrats support parliamentary oversight to finally bring Canada up to the standard of accountability that our closest allies have enjoyed for decades.

This bill would fulfill recommendations made some 35 years ago and ignored by successive Liberal and Conservative governments ever since. Neglecting that warning and ignoring our allies' examples has not enhanced Canadians' security or protected their rights.

Let us be clear: We face real threats to both our security and our rights. Canadians are concerned about the threat of foreign and domestic terrorism, they are concerned about cybersecurity, and they are concerned about armed violence and unrest around the globe, but they are also deeply concerned about their freedoms and their privacy. They are concerned about government secrecy and surveillance, and above all, they are wondering why, after nearly a year in power, their new government has maintained Bill C-51 as the law of the land without changing a single comma.

I support the principle of this bill and will be voting in favour of referring it to the committee so that it can get on with the study to get it right. However, I have deep concerns about many aspects of it.

I am concerned that this bill would fail to account for the lessons of the last decade and the experiences of our allies. Unless it is fixed, it will create a committee that is neither strong enough to be effective nor independent enough to be trusted.

I have solutions to propose for each of these flaws, and I welcome the input of all members on them, because this is no place for partisanship or politics.

Before we dive into the details of the bill, let us be clear on three important points of context. First, this bill is not a new idea. Rather, it answers a warning made 35 years ago in the wake of a string of high-profile scandals surrounding the RCMP.

One major recommendation coming out of the 1981 McDonald Commission of inquiry was the creation of CSIS as a separate intelligence gathering service. Another major recommendation was the creation of an overarching parliamentary oversight committee. That one has gathered dust for three decades, so the idea behind Bill C-22 is not new. In fact, our allies, including the United States, Britain, France, Germany, and Australia, each created similar oversight committees decades ago.

The second point of context is that we should all be clear that the bill before us today is far from a fresh proposal. It is nearly identical to an earlier Liberal bill, introduced in November 2005, in the final days of the Paul Martin government, by the public safety committee as Bill C-81. While the powers of security agencies have grown considerably since that time, the few minor differences between the 2005 oversight bill and this one would reduce the committee's powers and independence. For instance, Bill C-22 introduces security vetting for members and a new power for ministers to halt investigations.

An old bill is not necessarily a bad bill, but the government must surely accept that a proposal drawn up before the Snowden revelations, before the October 14 attack on this Parliament, and before the shocking overreach of the Harper government's Bill C-51 must be open to updates from members.

The third and last point of context is that we should all have a clear picture of how this proposal compares to the practices of our allies so we can learn from them, and, as the government House leader said, create a made-in-Canada solution that works for us.

The body proposed by Bill C-22 is essentially a weaker version of its closest analogue, namely Britain's intelligence and security committee.

In 2013, after public criticism of its many shortcomings, the British government significantly overhauled its committee, strengthening its powers and its independence. The committee emerged with an independently elected chair, operational oversight powers, and a shift in appointment power from the prime minister to Parliament. We heard a great deal about that in the speech from the hon. member for Durham.

These reforms are simply not reflected in the bill before us today, and I do not understand why. The British committee was in fact in Ottawa last week, and its chair warned us to work hard to earn public trust. We do not want to repeat the errors of our allies; we need to learn from them.

Last week, when the previous chair resigned, the head of a prominent British legal advocacy group responded in this way:

From UK complicity in CIA torture to mass-surveillance, the [committee] has missed every [single] major security-related scandal of the past 15 years. It has fallen to the press, the courts and NGOs to expose these events, with the [committee's] members only discovering them by reading the newspapers.

We do not want the same to be said of our committee a decade from now; rather, we should be aiming to be the leading edge of international practice. That was the advice in 2004 of the interim committee of parliamentarians on national security when that committee recommended granting complete access to information far beyond what is considered in the bill before us today. Here is what that committee said:

Though this arguably goes further than the legislation enacted by some of our allies, it is in line with developing practice....

We strongly believe that a structure which must rely on gradual evolution and expansion of access, power, and remit would be inappropriate for Canada.

Therefore, there are examples we can learn from around the globe. Could we give elected representatives a bigger role in operational oversight? Absolutely; in the United States, federal law requires intelligence agencies to keep congressional committees “fully and presently informed” of all covert actions and operations. In Germany, the group that authorizes each interception of private communications is controlled by a committee of parliamentarians.

Could we give the committee stronger investigative powers? Absolutely; Germany's oversight committee can conduct random site investigations, and subpoena witnesses and documents. Belgium's committee can even launch criminal investigations. The committee in our case would not even have subpoena powers.

I raise these comparisons not to disparage the bill before us, but to show that the door must be open to amendments. If the government shuts the door on amendments from other parties, we will be shackling ourselves to a blueprint that ignores the last decade of history and falls short of the current best practices of our allies. To me this is simply unacceptable when our safety and rights are at stake.

With that in mind, let me point to five weaknesses in the current draft and propose some solutions. I have amendments ready for each and would welcome the chance to work with members of all parties to craft a solution by consensus.

First, the government is proposing that the chair be selected by the Prime Minister rather than elected by the committee. As I say, that is what Britain originally did. It changed its way; why can we not? We have to earn the trust of Canadians. It seems like a pretty poor place to start when the government gets to control who runs the watchdog committee in the first place.

The bill should be amended to allow the election of a member from outside the governing party to chair this committee. That was exactly what Mr. Justice McDonald recommended 35 years ago to another Liberal government. It is not unprecedented, as I said; examples are Germany, Australia, and elsewhere. I fear we are going to lose the confidence of the public if we do not get this right.

Second, the committee's access to information, as has been said, is really limited. Full information is a prerequisite to effective oversight and to earning the public trust, which the British chair told us we must earn.

If the government can keep its secrets from the oversight committee, how can Canadians trust its findings? To call the committee's access rights broad, as the minister does, ignores many exemptions that make Swiss cheese of its powers. No fewer than seven different categories of information would be absolutely denied to the committee. Two more, including a catch-all category, could be denied at the discretion of any cabinet minister. Some of these are innocuous, but some of them are not.

The committee would be absolutely denied access to special operational information as defined in the Security of Information Act. This would mean that the intelligence oversight committee could be denied all information on intelligence sources, methods and targets, encryption systems, and information received from foreign partners. If this information is not relevant, indeed central, to the committee's mandate, I do not know what is. Is this not, in fact, the very type of information that the committee was designed to safely handle? Is that not why its members are to have security clearance and be sworn to eternal secrecy?

The worst is what security expert Professor Craig Forcese has called the Mack truck exception: the power of any cabinet minister to withhold information from the committee on the grounds that providing it—are members ready?—would be injurious to national security. This phrase is not defined anywhere, nor is it explained how sharing information with a group of top-secret-cleared individuals inside a secure facility could compromise Canada's security. These holes have simply got to be closed.

The committee must have complete access to information, as was recommended in 2004 by another parliamentary committee. As a solution, we should grant the committee that kind of access with the reasonable exception, I concede, of cabinet confidences, and the power to compel documents and testimony, a glaring omission in the bill. I am preparing amendments to this effect, and again, I would welcome input from members on all sides of the aisle.

Third, clause 8(b) of the bill would allow any cabinet minister to bury an investigation into his or her own department by claiming that the committee's confidential inquiry would be damaging to Canada's national security. The potential for abuse to cover up sloppy management or a scandal within a department is simply overwhelming. This line simply has to be removed if any credibility is to be retained.

Fourth, clause 21 of the bill currently would give the Prime Minister's Office complete power to censor the committee's reports before they are released. Let us pause on that. So far we have learned that the government would appoint the chair, control what information the committee sees, and stop it investigating certain areas. The government proposes to control what it can report to Canadians. It is easy to see how, as the chair of the British committee warned us, the public trust could be so easily lost.

The government has a responsibility to ensure that sensitive information is handled appropriately. We all agree. However, this must be balanced against the need to earn and maintain public trust, and that requires meaningful commitment to transparency and accountability, not verbiage.

I propose a compromise. I would propose an amendment that would require any revised report to indicate the extent of and reasons for any censorship by the Prime Minister's Office. Ideally, this would include a description of the type of information removed so Canadians can distinguish the redaction of confidential sources from the redaction of committee findings, for example.

I would ask the members on all sides to consider the utility of what I call an override clause, such as the power of the German oversight committee to publish a general assessment of an ongoing intelligence operation if supported by a supermajority of the committee. That is an idea we can look at.

Last, I would propose an amendment to give the committee a legal duty to report all suspected non-compliance or illegal activity to the Prime Minister and the Attorney General of Canada. There is a precedent for this. Section 273.63 of the National Defence Act imposes the same whistle-blowing obligation on the commissioner responsible for CSEC, the Communications Security Establishment of Canada.

That kind of duty would not only bolster Canadians' confidence; it would resolve any confusion within the committee over the proper course of action when non-compliance is suspected. To reject that kind of duty, in my view, would send a very worrying signal to Canadians.

As I said, I am prepared to introduce amendments proposing solutions to each of these five weaknesses, as I perceive them, in the current version of the bill. I would, of course, welcome the input of any member from any party. This is not a place for partisanship or ego. All parties have to work together on this committee, and we may as well begin now.

Before I close, I would also like to take the chance to flag one last issue for the government, which I believe requires further consideration but for procedural reasons cannot be addressed through amendments to this bill.

I would urge the government, as part of its broader security review, to amend the CSIS Act and the National Defence Act to require the Communications Security Establishment of Canada, CSEC, to inform the committee every time a ministerial authorization is granted to intercept private communications, and to require CSIS to inform the committee when it conducts threat reduction activities, as that term is defined, or when CSIS seeks a warrant to do so under section 21.1 of the CSIS Act.

Canadians are rightly concerned about the use and abuse of these powers. There is no justification for withholding their use from the oversight committee.

In closing, let me say again that New Democrats welcome this bill and commit to working together with any member of any party to improve it. I have identified five flaws, in my judgment, and proposed five solutions, but I know there are many more of both, and I welcome input from all.

As I said at the outset, this bill is crucial to protecting all Canadians' safety and upholding their rights. Oversight makes security services more effective, and it bolsters public trust in them. This committee will be equally as useful in closing gaps as in reining in excesses, but we cannot take its utility for granted. The bill before us is imperfect. Without amendments, it will fail to give the committee either the strength to be effective or the independence to be trusted.

We cannot settle for good enough when it comes to Canadians' security and rights. I call on every member and all parties to work together to improve this critically important bill. Above all, I urge the government to demonstrate openness to that input and to these amendments. The security and rights of Canadians are not places for partisanship.

If the government demonstrates that openness, all parties may be able to work together to craft a committee that is independent, secure, and effective at strengthening our security, protecting our rights, and upholding Canadian values. However, if the government refuses to work in good faith with other parties to make changes to this bill, I fear the support of parliamentarians and the trust of Canadians will be lost.

Three decades ago, the McDonald commission warned us as follows:

....security must not be regarded as more important than democracy, for the fundamental purpose of security is the preservation of our democratic system.

Every parliamentarian will see that balance differently, but all of us must work together to get it right.

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015Government Orders

May 5th, 2015 / 11:15 a.m.
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Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to outline our position on Bill C-51 at the third reading stage of this debate.

We see areas of the bill which are important for the public safety of Canadians and we see areas of the bill where the government has gone much too far with respect to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and a fair balance with civil liberties and freedom of expression versus public safety and national security.

If Parliament were allowed to function the way it should, the bill could have come out of committee a much better one. There were four amendments at committee, three of which were along the lines of the Liberal Party's proposals, and I will get to those in a moment. However, there other amendments were direly needed, and we will propose those in our forthcoming our platform for the perceived election this fall.

Legislation similar to Bill C-51 is required and is in evidence in virtually every country with which Canada is allied or has shared values. Countering the growing threat of foreign and domestic terrorism is a reality that must be confronted by the modern state. In saying that, it must be confronted in a joint way by countries around the world as well.

However, in combatting that threat, it is important for any government to ensure that the steps taken to combat it do not propose a different threat to its citizens. That is partly what the debate was about with the NDP remarks as well, and I recognize that.

The Liberal Party supports provisions of Bill C-51 and has made that position clear from the outset.

We have also maintained there are provisions of Bill C-51 that are excessive and would, in our opinion, represent an intrusion by the state security agencies into the lives of Canadians, which are far too severe.

First, let me make note of those who have participated in a very public campaign and who are strongly opposed to Bill C-51. I think people who pay attention to their emails, and I have tried to respond to them all, have to recognize that we get thousands of letters, emails and phone calls from people across the country who are opposed to Bill C-51. Some of them, of course, do not know the amendments that have been made. I have asked them that question when I talked with them recently and they still think the bill is just as it originally was, and that is fine. However, I want to thank them for participation.

Even though we may be somewhat on opposite sides of the arguments, I am one who firmly believes that a demonstration of activism of opposing or supporting legislation is a good thing and it is important in a healthy democracy.

Here is one of the most important amendments made to the bill, because there are too many of those who are opposed to Bill C-51. Obviously some people, for political purposes, are saying that we should throw the bill out, to heck with security. Some continue to say that there have been no changes made to the bill. Yes, there have been.

One of the most egregious sections of the bill, under the interpretation section, states, “For greater certainty, it does not include advocacy, protest, dissent and artistic expression”. A lot of letters of concern were related to that.

What do we consider a lawful protest? I was also concerned, as a former activist in the farm movement. Everything we do in a demonstration, whether it is shutting down a highway with tractors or blocking a road in a union protest or demonstration, is not exactly lawful. We were concerned about that, as were other parties, and we moved an amendment to take the word “lawful” out, and that passed. That gives some certainty, or at least some satisfaction, to those who were opposed to that clause in the bill.

A lot of people have been writing us letters are saying that this is a new secret police. No, it is not. There is an infringement on liberties that go overboard, but this is not a new secret police. Therefore, an amendment was moved by the government, due to the concerns it and others had expressed, to clarify that. It reads, “For greater certainty, nothing in subsection (1) confers on the Service any law enforcement power”.

There was a narrowing of the no-fly list and on how information could be shared. Those were the two other amendments.

For those who been demonstrating and strongly opposing Bill C-51, congratulations, they did make some gains. Some of the amendments they asked for are in fact in the bill. To not recognize that would be wrong. I support all those amendments. I only wish the government would have gone further in some of the other areas that we would liked to have seen addressed in the bill, but it failed to do that.

When we look at the witnesses who came before committee, I would have liked there to have been a longer hearing process with greater time for each witness, and the government failed to allow that. We did hear from 46 to 48 witnesses. However, if people, both on the government side and the New Democrats, were really listening to the witnesses, none of those witnesses said that they wanted the bill as it was, and very few of them said that the bill should be thrown out. They wanted it balanced. Witnesses and Canadians believe, and I certainly believe, that it is possible for this chamber, the House of Commons, to find the balance, to do what needs to be done on the security side and balance it to ensure that the civil liberties and freedom of expression, and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms are enhanced and protected as well. That did not happen.

The New Democrats, just in their remarks, can be as pure as they like, but the fact is that even those who were opposed to the bill, also suggested that we needed to take measures on the national security side.

What do we do as parliamentarians when security agencies and police forces, both within Canada and around the world, say that to us that there needs to be additional measures taken to enhance the national security of Canadians? Do we ignore them, as the New Democrats do? I do not think we can. We have a responsibility in that regard. The government failed in its responsibility to make amendments to be absolutely sure that those powers did not go too far.

The government has absolutely failed in the past in not utilizing the already existing laws in section 110. It failed to use those authorities when, as the minister said, there were somewhere around 80 individuals who the government knew had violated Canadian law. What were they doing, and what are they still doing out there on the street, when the government already has some authority within the law to detain and arrest them?

My point is that witnesses asked for better balance. That did not happen, and that responsibility rests with no one else. I meant what I said earlier. The government is too far on the security side. For the Prime Minister to take the attitude, which he has taken with the promotion of this bill from the beginning, and to foster the fear that there is a terrorist under every rock is absolutely the wrong approach.

Fear will divide Canadians and pit them against each other. Yes, Canadians need to be watchful and ensure that there are no problems that could lead to terrorism or to individuals getting involved in terrorist activities. However, to use the fear factor is not the proper way to go.

The NDP, on the other hand, has taken the approach of saying “be very afraid of civil liberties”. People should not worry about national security. They should be afraid of their civil liberties. Both those parties have gone to extremes at both ends. Ours is, at least, a balanced position and would work if, under the Conservative regime, Parliament were allowed to exercise its rights, allow amendments, real debate and changes to legislation, as this place should work.

We do have an advantage, because there is an election, likely on October 19. Those measures that we were unsuccessful in getting through committee will be in our election platform. Canadians will have the opportunity at that time to decide if they want sunset clauses that would make the bill cease to exist in certain areas after three years, a mandatory statutory review after three years that would look at the good, the bad, and the ugly in the legislation, and national oversight of all of our security agencies, as all our Five Eyes partners do, by parliamentarians. I will come to that in a moment. We will have those measures in our election platform.

Early in the debate about Bill C-51, my colleague, the member for Mount Royal and I joined four former prime ministers, including three Liberal prime ministers, and others to issue an open letter underscoring two fundamental responsibilities of government to ensure the safety of Canadians. These are:

—protecting Canada from terrorist attacks; and ensuring that initiatives in this regard are consistent with the rule of law and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and, particularly, are subject to comprehensive oversight, review and accountability mechanisms.

However, in the course of committee hearings, when we proposed amendments to those three essential areas, they were either ruled out of order or rejected.

In that letter, the former prime ministers said:

The four of us most certainly know the enormity of the responsibility of keeping Canada safe, something always front of mind for a prime minister.

They went on to talk about oversight more than anything else. That letter was signed by prime ministers, former attorney generals, ministers of justice, retired Supreme Court justices, and so on.

They know the need for accountability. They know that proper oversight actually protects the government and ministers from agencies that may go astray. I am disappointed that the government failed to recognize that fact.

When we listened to the responses of the minister and the parliamentary secretary at committee when we brought those issues up, it was as if they do not trust their own members. Every other country around the world thinks that parliamentarians are capable of doing those responsible tasks. Why is the Conservative government so opposed, especially when its own current Minister of Justice, you, Mr. Speaker, and its own Minister of State for Finance, along with myself and some others, sat on the committee and recommended just that, a parliamentary oversight committee of all security agencies, based on a study that we did in the U.K., the United States and Australia? Why has the Minister of Justice changed his mind? He was one of the key promoters on that committee, and now for some reason he no longer believes in what he calls partisan oversight. It does not have to be partisan. It is really just in the last eight years under the current Prime Minister that this place has become a place of almost hate, fear and partisanship to no end, rather than looking at what good we can do for Canadians as a whole, and how to build legislation for Canadians as a whole. That is one of the sad realities of this particular Parliament.

The issue of oversight of our security intelligence agencies has long had the support of the Liberal Party. In the wake of 9/11 and the first anti-terrorism legislation, it was a Liberal government, with the support of the members of the government and the NDP, that brought forward Bill C-81, legislation to create a committee of parliamentarians who would provide that oversight.

What did the current committee hear from witnesses with respect to that at the hearings which just concluded? Hugh Segal, a former Conservative senator and chair of the special anti-terrorism committee of the Senate, said:

Accountability on the part of our security services to the whole of Parliament is not needless red tape or excessive bureaucracy. In fact, it is the democratic countervail to the kind of red tape and bureaucracy which might unwittingly lose sight of the security mission appropriate to a parliamentary democracy, where laws and constitutional protections such as the presumption of innocence and due process must protect all citizens without regard to ethnicity or national origin.

Ron Atkey, a former Conservative MP and first chair of SIRC said:

I have been both a parliamentarian and a watchdog, a professional watchdog. The answer to whether Parliament or a specialized agency should have the power to review our security agencies is easy for me. Canadians should have both. Under our system of government, Parliament is the ultimate watchdog and is directly accountable to the people. The party having the most number of seats at each general election usually is called on to form the government, but Parliament itself remains the watchdog.

As I said earlier, the Minister of Justice and the government as a whole rejected that particular proposal.

Let me conclude by saying that there is no question there is a lot of debate around this bill in the community, which is a good thing. As I said, I welcome that debate with those who have different views and are willing to express them. There have been some minor amendments proposed, I think some that would take the word “lawful” out, et cetera, which would go some distance to satisfying that expressed concern over an infringement on civil liberties.

I still believe there are some problems relative to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and at some point in time the court may in fact rule on that. Regarding those measures that the government failed to accept and put in the bill, such as oversight, sunset clauses and mandatory statutory review at the end of three years, the Liberal Party will put those measures in our election platform and Canadians can decide at that point in time.

We need a balance between national security and civil liberties. Parliament should be able to find and exercise that balance. The government failed to allow that to happen.

Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015Government Orders

April 24th, 2015 / 12:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I cannot help in this debate but start by asking what could have been. What could have been done properly with respect to this institution and the people who operate in it, regardless of political stripe, and with respect to finding the balance between national security and civil liberties?

Based on the knowledge we now have of other countries in terms of their national security legislation, and the review agencies that provide oversight on their security agencies, this Parliament could have produced a model for the world in terms of anti-terrorism legislation. However, the bottom line is that we have done anything but that.

We have a piece of legislation that deals somewhat with security concerns, and we support that part of the legislation. However, we are the odd person out in terms of providing protection under the law, through a national oversight sunset clause and other means, to ensure that the citizens of Canada have their civil liberties and freedom of expression protected.

We also want assurance that the national security agencies in total, not just CSIS, but any agency or department that is involved in national security, are properly monitored by people who should have the responsibility, the parliamentarians, on a day-to-day basis. This would ensure that on the one hand these agencies are abiding by the law and doing everything they can within the law to keep Canadians safe, and on the other hand that they are not going beyond the law to impose or infringe on Canadian's civil liberties, or for that matter a foreigner's civil liberties.

Legislation similar to Bill C-51 is required, as is evidenced in virtually every country that Canada is allied with or has shared values with. There is no question that countering the growing threat of foreign and domestic terrorism is a reality which must be confronted by the modern state. However, in combatting that threat, it is important for any government to ensure that the steps taken to combat it do not impose a different threat to its own citizens.

The Liberal Party supports the needed security provisions of Bill C-51 and has made that position clear from the outset. We are not shy about taking a leadership position in that regard. It is easy to oppose, but if we oppose the bill, then we are not dealing with those immediate needs. The policing agencies, CSIS, and even witnesses who have opposed the bill, have come before the committee and said there is a need for security provisions at this time. However, I submit that there is a real problem on the other side.

Sadly, there is a real dilemma here with the bill before us, as with many others. We get caught in what I could call a partisan vortex. We are accused by some, NDP members in particular, of supporting the government. We are not supporting the government. We are supporting certain aspects of Bill C-51. The government, on the other hand, is accusing the NDP and others of supporting terrorism. We all have national security concerns in this place. The problem is that the current Government of Canada does not allow this Parliament to work the way that it should.

We have also maintained that there are provisions in Bill C-51 that are excessive, and will in our opinion represent an intrusion by the state security agencies into the lives of Canadians. They are far too severe.

These provisions, as I have said, could have been narrowed; they could have been amended. There were decent amendments put forward by all parties, and most of them were rejected. Three of our amendments, and the NDP also had some, were indirectly accepted through the four amendments that came forward from the government.

Early in the debate on Bill C-51, my colleague, the member for Mount Royal, and I joined four former prime ministers, including three Liberal prime ministers and others, in issuing an open letter underscoring two fundamental responsibilities of government: ensuring the safety of Canadians, including protecting Canadians from terrorist attacks; and ensuring that initiatives in this regard are consistent with the rule of law and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and are particularly subject to comprehensive oversight, review, and accountability measures.

In the course of the committee hearings, we proposed many amendments, as did others. As I have said, three amendments were indirectly accepted within government amendments. One of the key ones was certainly taking the word “lawful” out before “protest”, et cetera, about which civil activists groups were rightly concerned.

Three critical amendments from our slate of amendments, though, were rejected: the need for oversight of our intelligence and security agencies; building in provisions in the bill for the review and sunsetting of certain provisions of Bill C-51; and the need to ensure that any new authorities given to CSIS and others under Bill C-51 are charter compliant. There is a very strong risk, and I believe a reality, that some of those provisions in the bill are not charter compliant.

The issue of oversight of our security and intelligence agencies has long had the support of the Liberal Party. In the wake of 9/11 and the first anti-terrorist legislation, it was a Liberal government, with the support of members of the government at the time and the NDP, that brought forward Bill C-81. It created a committee of parliamentarians that would provide that oversight. As I said, that came out of a committee report that the previous minister, Anne McLellan, appointed. I happened to be a member of that committee as well as one of the co-chairs, as were the current Minister of Justice and the current Minister of State for Finance.

It was a unanimous report of the committee. That legislation was proposed, but it died on the order paper. In June 2009, in a report on the review of the findings and recommendations arising from the Iacobucci and O'Connor inquiries, the public safety committee recommended that Bill C-51 be adopted. It provided for national oversight.

It is interesting that six members of the Conservative government were on that committee. The hon. member for Yorkton—Melville, the member for Oxford, the member for Brant, the member for Northumberland—Quinte West, the member for Wild Rose, and the previous member of the Conservative Party, the member for Edmonton—St. Albert were on that committee. What has happened to them that they are not now in favour of national oversight?

I recognize that my time is short, but at the very least I would encourage the government to bring forward a parallel bill, in terms of oversight, for national security agencies. There are private members' bills on the books that would do the trick and could be brought forward.

We need three things. We are saying that while we support the bill, we will put these three things in the election platform of the Liberal Party because the government has failed to do so.

First, we need a national oversight committee of parliamentarians similar to that of our Five Eyes partners. Second, we need to put in place sunset clauses to ensure that sections of the bill cease to exist in three years. Third is a statutory mandatory review so that the bill itself, the good, the bad, and the ugly, is looked at by future Parliament, in three years' time, to make the bill the best that it can be.

March 10th, 2015 / 10:40 a.m.
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Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

First, with regard to Mr. Norlock's question on Justice Mosley, I have the court decision here. Just to be clear, Justice Mosley found that CSIS breached its duty of candour to the court by not disclosing information that was relevant to the exercise of the jurisdiction of the court.

I do expect that CSIS is trying its best to ensure that it follows the rules of the court, and I'll grant it that, but that decision does make the point that when the minister claims that a judicial warrant is oversight, it is not. Let me turn to oversight for a minute. The minister talks about SIRC. We're not talking about oversight of just CSIS and by just SIRC. Canadians want oversight of all our national security agencies. This bill involves 10 other departments or agencies in terms of the flow of information. Canadians are basically demanding—and of course, the government, as usual, is not listening—to have oversight of all of these agencies.

I might say, too, Mr. Chair, that Minister MacKay tried to put words in my mouth. I do not agree with what he said. I'll turn to the June 2009 report of this committee, of which Mr. Norlock was a member, and which was chaired by a Conservative chair. In 2009 the committee recommended creating a parliamentary committee to review the activities of national security agencies.

It admits in there, Mr. MacKay, for your information, that a bill to establish a committee of parliamentarians, Bill C-81, was introduced on November 24, 2005. Who was the government then? It was indeed the Liberals, but that's partisan and that's beside the point. The fact of the matter is that Canadians believe, and Canadians need—and we support them—national oversight by parliamentarians of all of our national security agencies. Will the government consider that and stop playing this game by saying either judicial or SIRC or somebody else is doing the job? They aren't. Will the government consider that?

March 10th, 2015 / 9:45 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Minister, that is not oversight, and your colleague, Minister MacKay, knows that's not oversight.

He and I sat on a committee together. We did a lot of travelling together. I will admit, Minister MacKay, that at the time you were probably one of the most enthusiastic people for parliamentary oversight similar to our Five Eyes partners.

Minister Blaney, you can say that no other country provides the judicial warrants, but your explanation confirms what I claim, that it's only authorization to do a, b, c, or d. You also know that Judge Mosley's decision indicated that CSIS was not quite as upfront with Judge Mosley as they had indicated, and he corrected them on that. He came out quite angrily about their having gone further than they were authorized to do. These things happen. It makes the point that judicial authorization is not oversight. It's not adequate. Canadians want to see oversight.

I have to ask Minister MacKay, who sat on that committee with me in 2004, which ended up with Bill C-81.... We went to the U.K., Washington, etc. We called for that. Why were you so supportive then, Minister? Now you think with all these additional powers for CSIS, the RCMP, the Criminal Code, etc., that we don't need oversight in this country for all of our national security agencies. We need it. We need it more than we ever did before.

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015Government Orders

February 19th, 2015 / 5:10 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

I am serious, Mr. Speaker, and the member knows that is what happens. It happens at my committee. Members follow that direction. They are members in their own right; they can stand on their own two feet. What I am saying is that the process has to change if we are going to make this legislation good legislation. I ask members to really look at this issue seriously and not to take direction in that fashion. There is concern about the civil liberties of Canadians and freedom of expression. We have to listen to those witnesses.

I want to give an example of what a couple of people I have talked to have to said, people whom we will put forward as witnesses. First, there is quite a series of articles in the press these days by two individuals, Craig Forcese and Kent Roach. They have a paper they sent us that is close to 40 pages long. They are doing a summary of the key concerns with the bill. This is what they say at the beginning of the summary:

If Bill C-51 passes, CSIS will be expressly authorized to “take measures, within or outside Canada, to reduce” very broadly defined “threats to the security of Canada”. Where authorized by Federal Court warrant, these “measures” may “contravene a right or freedom guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms” or may be “contrary to other Canadian law”.

It does not matter whether I agree or disagree with that statement. There is a concern expressed there that we should look at seriously. These two individuals admit it themselves. They add an additional word relevant to this in a document dealing with CSIS. They say:

We are legal academics who have been researching and writing on issues of national security law (Canadian, international and comparative) for a sum total of 26 person years (between the two of us).... We are, in other words, an occasional and minor part of the national security “accountability sector”, to the extent that such a thing exists in Canada.

These people have a point of view. They have an expression of interest that we ought to listen to.

I also met with the Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association, which also has concerns. That association was founded in 1998 by a small group of Toronto based Canadian Muslim lawyers. It has over 300 members across Canada and active chapters in Ontario and Quebec. The association states:

Bill C-51 is deeply flawed legislation that should not become law. Before we begin to integrate and concentrate power in government agencies on national security matters, we should first implement the remedial findings of many commissions of inquiry into the matter, most notably the Arar Inquiry.

As national security functions become more integrated it makes sense that there is a concomitant and effective counterbalance in terms of independent review and oversight. Such a body would have jurisdiction over all national security agencies and functions, including CSIS, CSEC, the RCMP and a host of other agencies (some of them currently have no oversight).

That is their opinion. They are suggesting that there needs to be much broader oversight.

These are just two examples of witnesses that we need to listen to. However, in order to make the proper amendments, accept them, and bring in those ideas, the government has to be willing to make some amendments.

To turn specifically to the issue of oversight itself, sadly, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Public Safety, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and, today, the Minister of Justice have been misinforming Canadians. Let me repeat that. Some of the highest officers and political ministers in this land have been misinforming Canadians on what exists, and what is and is not in this bill. It really is troublesome that the top political office in the land either does not know the limits of the Security Intelligence Review Committee or has not been totally forthright. I do not know which it is.

Let me turn to what the Security Intelligence Review Committee itself has said. It said that it is not an oversight body. Let me turn to its annual report for 2013-14. On page 12 of that report, in section 2, it says:

An oversight body looks on a continual basis at what is taking place inside an intelligence service and has the mandate to evaluate and guide current actions in “real time.” SIRC is a review body, so unlike an oversight agency....

SIRC itself admits that it is not an oversight agency, but even if it were an oversight agency, which it is not, it is not broad enough to really review national security. If we look at schedule 3 of Bill C-51, another seven agencies have been included there. I think some of them were here before. We are adding the likes of the departments of health, national defence, and transport to SIRC, CSIS, CSEC, the RCMP, and police forces of local jurisdictions, all of which are involved in these security matters, and transferring information across departments. There needs to be a much broader oversight that even a slightly improved SIRC could handle.

I mentioned earlier the protections that we as a Liberal government put in place on the extended powers in the anti-terrorism act of 2001. There were sunset clauses in which laws would cease to exist. There was a mandatory review. In 2004, we recognized that there was still a greater need, which was for the oversight of all security agencies. As a result, an all-party committee was proposed and put in place. It held hearings and made some recommendations, and Bill C-81 was introduced. However, it died on the order paper. I will come back to that in a moment.

Simply put, a previous Liberal government introduced legislation to provide for oversight by parliamentarians similar to that of our Five Eyes partners, the U.K., the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. Today, in The Globe and Mail, four former prime ministers put an article in the paper, signed by a number of justices and former attorneys general, et cetera, entitled: “A close eye on security makes Canadians safer”.

It starts by saying:

The four of us most certainly know the enormity of the responsibility of keeping Canada safe, something always front of mind for a prime minister.

They went on to say:

Yet we all also share the view that the lack of a robust and integrated accountability regime for Canada's national security agencies makes it difficult to meaningfully assess the efficacy and legality of Canada's national security activities. This poses serious problems for public safety and for human rights.

They went to say said:

Canada needs independent oversight and effective review mechanisms more than ever, as national security agencies continue to become increasingly integrated, international information sharing remains commonplace and as the powers of law enforcement and intelligence agencies continue to expand with this new legislation.

People who have been in the same position as the Prime Minister are calling on the need for oversight. Such a security oversight agency was called for by a former public safety committee while the current Prime Minister was in office. In a report dated June 2009, tabled in the House of Commons, it called for that, in recommendation 5:

The Committee recommends, once again, that Bill C-81, introduced in the 38th Parliament [by a Liberal government], An Act to Establish the National Security Committee of Parliamentarians, or a variation of it, be introduced in Parliament at the earliest opportunity.

That recommendation was supported by six members who currently sit in the House: the member for Yorkton—Melville, who chaired that committee; the member for Oxford; the member for Brant; the member for Northumberland—Quinte West; the member for Edmonton—St. Albert; and the member for Wild Rose.

The previous recommendation for Bill C-81 was supported by the current Minister of Justice and the current Minister of State for Finance. What has happened to those members since the leadership changed and we have the current Prime Minister? How come they are not still calling for oversight? They know that SIRC is not oversight. SIRC has claimed that it is not oversight. Did they lose their voice? Do they not stand by what they previously believed in, what they held hearings on? Oversight is important, and that is what we must implement in this bill, as well as a number of other amendments we will be putting forward.

As a final point, I will report on what the British Intelligence and Security Committee does. The members of the committee are subject to the Official Secrets Act. In their annual report, they say this:

The Committee sets its own agenda and work programme. It takes evidence from Government Ministers, the Heads of the intelligence and security Agencies, officials from the intelligence community, and other witnesses as required.

They monitor on a day-to-day basis. They keep intelligence agencies honest. They protect on two sides, as Bill C-81 would have done. It would have ensured that security agencies are doing what they are supposed to do and second, that they are not going too far in terms of infringing on civil rights and freedoms.

Let me close with a quote from my leader in yesterday's speech:

We are hopeful that the government is serious about reaching across the aisle to keep Canadians safe, while protecting our rights and our values.

It can be done. We need sunset clauses. We need a mandatory statutory review, and we definitely need oversight. I am sure both the NDP and Liberal Party will have many amendments to improve the bill in other ways, but the government has to reach across the aisle and allow Parliament to work.

November 19th, 2012 / 4:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Well, I think I read somewhere that there was Bill C-81, but I defer to you, Chair, because you have more lengthy experience on this committee.

But what do you think of that idea? It would empower MPs, for example, to know what the level of security threat was. I've been on this committee for over a year, and I don't think we've ever met in camera on anything, much less on issues of national security.

I'm wondering if you think it would be a good counterweight, really, for MPs to be able to look at, in camera, what the real security threats are—in other words, to have some of the same information that you have when you bring out legislation like this so that we could judge as well the extent to which these provisions are absolutely necessary.

Would you be in favour of that kind of thing?

November 19th, 2012 / 4:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

If I'm not mistaken, in 2005 the Liberal government, under Paul Martin at the time, introduced Bill C-81.

Am I correct that there was a bill introduced, the idea of which was to create a committee of Parliament, a kind of national security...?

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

October 15th, 2012 / 1:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, there can never be too much information to inform point of view. I believe that firmly. There is always new information that comes forward and it is our duty as parliamentarians, and indeed as citizens, to access the greatest amount of information possible. Sometimes when we access that information, we change our minds. That is certainly how a democracy should work.

There was a bill before the House in 2005, Bill C-81, An Act to establish the National Security Committee of Parliamentarians. The intent of the bill was to create this kind of committee. SIRC, the Security Intelligence Review Committee, is not made up of parliamentarians so it is not directly connected to us here in the House, to the elected representatives of the people. It would benefit all parties if some of our representatives, under oath of course, could have access to a clearer picture of what is really going on.

Are we overreacting? Are we under-reacting? It is very hard for us to know. We read the papers. I have been sitting on the public safety committee now for over a year and I have not had an in-camera briefing on security matters.

National Security Committee of Parliamentarians ActRoutine Proceedings

March 27th, 2009 / 12:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-352, An Act to establish the National Security Committee of Parliamentarians.

Madam Speaker, this bill is the same as the one introduced by me in the last Parliament and as government Bill C-81 introduced in 2005. The bill would create a committee of the House and Senate in the field of security and intelligence, capable of receiving and protecting classified information in the national security envelope. This is for the purpose of better assuring accountability effectiveness and civil liberties.

The components of the bill were composed and agreed to by an all party committee, a special committee which reported in 2004. The current government has told me it intends to proceed with such a bill, but so far, and it has been three years, it has not done the job.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Emergency Management ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2006 / 12:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to engage in the debate today on the bill dealing with emergencies and the federal response to emergencies.

The bill actually replicates a bill that was introduced into the House in the last Parliament, with a couple of tweaks here and there I guess, but the bill is recognized as being needed. Those needs arise from the evolution of public awareness and government awareness that the prospect of significant emergencies and disasters, and perhaps exacerbated by the possibility of a terrorist incident that would be the equivalent of a disaster, that requires the federal government, as well as the provinces and municipalities, to be ready, able and willing to deal with these types of emergencies. They evolve out of climate change, natural disasters, just bad things that can happen in the world today.

The world media certainly make us aware of all of those things. We would like to think that Canada will be lucky and avoid the huge earthquake, the meteorite from space that drops the huge flood, the terrible hurricane and tornado, but these things do happen. It is worth noting that most of these events, when they do occur, would normally be seen as falling within provincial jurisdiction. I will address that later in my remarks because there is a practical and legal issue that arises from the bill.

However, the bill would allow the federal government to refocus and better coordinate the organization of its response to emergencies. Perhaps we can all note that there is arguably a difference between what is called an emergency and what we might regard as a security related incident. They are not always the same. Most of what the bill would deal with is emergencies involving natural disasters with some component of a man-made contribution in it.

First, I want to note the reference to the leadership and mandate of the public security emergency preparedness minister. This is a concept that the government has been slow to get to. The predecessor of the PSEP minister was the solicitor general and over time it became apparent that some federal minister had to take responsibility for a federal government response to emergencies.

In the old days, I think Canadians felt that the minister of national defence could probably handle that. Canadians have always had a feeling that its armed forces were capable of rendering assistance wherever it was really needed. The armed forces have jumped in from the beginning of Canada to assist Canadians, as have other government institutions. However, as with other things in life, emergencies and natural disasters have evolved and become more complex I suppose, and we simply needed a government minister, aside from the Department of National Defence, who could coordinate these things. Now it would be the federal minister of public safety and emergency preparedness. That is one thing the bill does.

The second thing worth noting is the imposition of a protection for private information of third parties in the hands of government. That information would have been supplied to government as part of the preparation of an emergency management plan. It really is, in my view, quite reasonable that third parties who supply that information to government to assist in the creation of an emergency management plan should have that information protected within government and not have it accessible through the Access to Information Act. That is quite a reasonable proposal and I am not aware of any difficulties in law with that.

The third thing I would like to point out relates to something I mentioned earlier. There is a provision in the bill, I believe it is clause 7(c), that allows the federal government by regulation to declare a provincial emergency to be of concern to the federal government. I take it from this that it is the intention of the bill to put a federal thumb print on what is a provincial emergency. I think the committee that looks at this bill will need to ask whether that particular provision is relying on the peace, order and good government section of our Constitution, section 91. I think it does.

Clause 7(c) involving the regulations is also related to clause 6(3) of the bill. Clause 6(3) states:

A government institution may not respond to a provincial emergency unless the government of the province requests assistance....

That seems to say that the federal government will not get itself into a provincial emergency. The wording is important because it refers to a provincial emergency. However, if the federal government, in which legislation has paramountcy to provincial legislation, has a regulation that says a provincial matter is of concern to the federal government, that matter may cease to be simply a provincial emergency and may become a matter of concern to the federal government. This is a constitutional issue and I am not too sure that the statute has made it clear in its wording and I am not too sure that we here have taken note of that implication.

The concept of the federal government declaring a provincial emergency to be of concern to the federal government should be distinguished from what we normally refer to here as aid to the civil power by the armed forces. If there is a problem, the province requests the federal government for assistance from the armed forces and the armed forces are made available to the provincial jurisdiction. That is a separate mechanism and concept from what we are dealing with here.

I suggest that the bill does create something new that should be addressed and clarified if necessary because as I stand here today I suppose I am not prepared to say that it is real clear from the statute that the intent of clause 7(c) as it interrelates with clause 6(3) is exactly the way I have described it. That has to be clarified.

What are some other issues in the bill? Clause 5 raises the matter of dealing with emergencies involving the United States of America. We have a long common border. We probably have a border with Denmark and with Russia but we certainly have enough border interface with the United States to make this a matter of concern. It does have a place in legislation. It is a picky issue perhaps but I think I should note it for the record.

Clause 5 would authorize the development of what is called a joint emergency management plan. The other clauses of the bill deal with developing emergency management plans. This clause refers to a joint emergency management plan, which is okay, but it does not say with whom the joint plan should be arranged. It just says with United States authorities. It does not mention whether it should be with state jurisdictions in the United States, municipal jurisdictions or U.S. federal agencies. It just talks about United States authorities. That may be a concept that is a little too naive for our purposes here in doing legislation. This can be looked at later as well.

However, there is another clause of the bill that deals with the making of regulations and that is on the issue of whether we have any statutory jurisdiction in the United States of America. Of course we do not. That would involve an extraterritorial application of our law. However, it would not prevent us from developing an emergency management plan, but does it involve Canada spending money, resourcing, in the United States?

Clause 7 of the bill creates the authority to make regulations and it seems to indicate that we anticipate spending money in the United States of America. For example, subclause 7(b) says regulations “respecting the use of federal civil resources in response to civil emergencies”. Does that include assistance in response to U.S.A. emergencies? If we do respond to an emergency management plan that we have developed with the U.S.A., are we just talking about the border, or are we talking Laredo, Texas on the border with Mexico? Are we talking about an emergency similar to the hurricane damage in New Orleans? Are we talking about a tsunami in Hawaii? It is not clear if there are any constraints on this extraterritorial spending of resources.

In addition, subclause 7(a) says that the government may make orders or regulations “respecting the preparation, maintenance, testing and implementation of emergency management plans”. Emergency management plans are referred to in the bill, but there is the second type of emergency management plan called the joint emergency management plan, found in clause 5, dealing with the U.S.A.

I am suggesting, on a very technical basis, that if it is intended that the minister or the governor in council make regulations about joint emergency management plans, that should also be set out in the statute. The way it is worded in the bill it is evidently a separate concept.

This too can be dealt with, if necessary, at the committee level. I am sure members would like to debate that one for 5 or 10 minutes. It is better to fix these problems now than to have a lack of clarity and have issues arise later with our American friends, or our Canadian provincial friends or our municipalities. Also, we never know when the official opposition will raise an objection to the government's actions.

Those are most of my comments on the bill.

There is a related matter of dealing with our border relations with the U.S.A.. I want to make note of that because it may have implications for the bill.

Our joint efforts with the United States include border security, intelligence gathering and counterterrorism operations. This does not always happen at the border. I would point out that although we have integrated border enforcement teams at work now through much of the Canada-U.S. border system, and those integrated border enforcement teams operate very well, do a good job and involve our police, their police, our agencies and their agencies, we also have integrated national security enforcement teams. They do not operate at the border. They operate in Canada's larger cities.

Those joint operations bring together the RCMP, CSIS, municipal and provincial police, some Canadian ministries and American representatives from the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the U.S. Border Patrol and generally now the Department of Homeland Security. These institutions and liaison people are at work in Canada, which raises issues. Just as in emergency preparedness and resourcing of cross-border emergencies, it raises issues about efficacy of spending and, in some cases, issues involving scrutiny for civil liberties.

We have not yet in the House nailed down, with precision, how we will take steps to ensure that these new constructs, put together for public safety and security, are properly operating, spending efficaciously, operating within the law and are not unduly threatening to civil liberties. This is a huge unreconnoitred piece. These new constructs have just come up in the last three or four years and we have not done our homework.

I know there was a bill in the last Parliament, Bill C-81, that had developed, with all-party consensus, support for a new construct for a committee of parliamentarians who would have access to the appropriate classified material in order to scrutinize these types of operations. That bill has not been reintroduced yet. I believe it is the intention of the minister to do so.

I and a number of members have worked hard on this envelope for a number of years and we would like to see that bill introduced quickly so Parliament may respond and get on with its important work on behalf of Canadians.

I look forward to seeing the bill referred to committee to deal with these relatively technical issues to which I have made reference, all of it being for the purpose of providing better planning, foresight and ultimately protection for Canadians for seen and unforeseen emergencies should they arise.

Security Committee of Parliamentarians ActRoutine Proceedings

November 24th, 2005 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

Newmarket—Aurora Ontario

Liberal

Belinda Stronach Liberalfor the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-81, An Act to establish the National Security Committee of Parliamentarians.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)