Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak again to Bill C-51, which is drawing to the conclusion of the parliamentary process.
I have had a lot of feedback from constituents in Vancouver Quadra. There has been positive feedback. There have been people who have said that the measured approach which the Liberals have taken gives them confidence, that the Liberal Party is the only party whose members are really talking about both the importance of improving security measures for our country and the importance of privacy and civil liberties, and how that balance would go forward together, hand in hand, under a potential Liberal government. Others have communicated with me their concerns about Bill C-51 and so I want to address those concerns.
Before I get into that, though, I do want to say that this bill is a signature strategy of the Conservative government and the Prime Minister. That strategy is to package some positive elements of public policy together with some negative elements of public policy in one bill for political and partisan reasons. The reason would be to make an effort to divide the progressive vote.
The government wants to fragment the centre-left voters for the purpose of holding onto power. That is the intention of the Conservatives' omnibus bills. They put positive elements in a bill that has some very negative elements, and they force other parties to choose apparently to reject the positive elements by voting against the bill because of its negative elements, or to choose to accept unacceptable elements in order to signal support for the positive elements. The Conservative government has taken the view that bad public policy of packaging bills this way is worthwhile to pursue its own partisan interests for its own potential re-electability.
I would say to any citizen who is following this debate to think very carefully about what the Conservative government and the Prime Minister are trying to do with this bill. What the Prime Minister wants the progressive voter to do is to split the centre-left vote so that the Prime Minister can be returned to power in the next election. Voters should think very carefully about whether they are falling into that trap, and whether their vote and campaigns on this bill are exactly what was intended by the Prime Minister, for whom partisan gamesmanship always trumps good public policy.
I can think of several other bills that were this kind of packaging of positive elements with negative elements in order to jam opposition members and to be able to later say that members voted against this, that and the other, should the opposition members decide not to support a bill because it has some landmines in it, some points of bad public policy.
One of the examples of that kind of tactic is what I would call the Internet snooping bill. That is the bill on which the Conservative minister of the day stood in this House and asserted that opposition members were either with the Conservatives or they were with the child pornographers. That kind of approach did not sit so well with the Canadian public. There was an outcry at that kind of partisan simplification, especially on a bill such as that, which had some real weakening of Canadians' rights and which eventually the government had to withdraw because of the outcry.
The government has done the same thing with the cyberbullying bill. Again, it packaged positive things, defending young people from cyberbullying, but also included attacks on their rights and privacy with respect to access to the Internet and social media.
In the first example that I gave, the Internet snooping bill, the Liberals were positioned to vote against the bill. In the second case, the cyberbullying bill, the Liberals elected to vote for the bill because of its positive elements to protect young people from cyberbullying, although we were not in favour of some of the elements of enhanced access to Canadians' private information.
This bill, Bill C-51, is part of that long lineage of the shamelessly bad public policy on the part of the Conservative government in order to pursue partisan objectives. The Liberals are voting for this bill because of the positive elements, and we have laid out our amendments, representing our concern about the undermining of charter rights and freedoms and privacy in Bill C-51.
Permit me first to reinforce that the Liberal Party of Canada is the party that brought in the first anti-terrorism legislation after the 9/11 attacks, so we do support reasonable provisions for our security services. The Liberals have been in government, unlike the NDP, so we have members who have been inside with top security clearance and who are aware that there are real security threats to Canadians, and that it is important for a government to respond to that. After all, it is a primary objective of any government to provide for the collective security of the members of its society, and the Liberals take that responsibility very seriously.
While the Conservatives may inflate the true risks to members of our society here in Canada based on the instances of the terrorist attacks last fall, there have been some real changes to the threats to Canadians, and the Liberals accept that. We acknowledge that, and we want to see security improved to reflect that.
It used to be that a terrorist threat was more like the one that occurred on 9/11, with an organized attempt to create damage here in our country. That is still a threat that we need to guard against. In addition, the use of social media and the kinds of campaigns to radicalize young people that are being conducted by Daesh, or ISIS, are new channels for terrorist activities and threats. Therefore, it is reasonable and appropriate, and I would say it is necessary, for the government to respond and to reduce access to those channels. That is what Bill C-51 would do. That is why the Liberals are supporting this bill.
The kinds of provisions that would be brought in by this bill include provisions which, had they been in place last fall, could well have saved the life of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent. In thinking about how to respond to a bill that deliberately puts security improvements in with other measures that are not respectful of the privacy and other rights of Canadians, it is important to think about human life. The provisions for privacy and for human rights could be amended by a future government that acknowledges the importance of those principles. Clearly, the Conservative government does not, because it has never talked about them as a priority in any way.
However, should someone die as a result of an incident that could have been prevented by improving security, that is something that can never be undone. That is one reason we believe that this bill should go forward.
The Liberals brought forward a number of amendments to make this bill better and to address our concerns with respect to security and civil liberties. After all, we are the party of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We are the party that brought in the charter, and celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2012, unlike the Conservatives who refused to acknowledge the anniversary of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
What many citizens are not aware of is that the government did approve a number of amendments in response to issues raised by the public and by the Liberal Party of Canada. The government removed the word “lawful” from before the words “advocacy and protest” so that legitimate forms of demonstration are not captured by this legislation.
The government's amendments narrowed the scope of information sharing from “with any person for any purpose” to 17 government departments and agencies, therefore restricting the possibility for abuse. It amended this bill to limit and clarify the minister's intervention powers over Canadian airlines. Furthermore, the government clarified in law that CSIS is not a police agency and has no power of arrest.
The government has come partway toward the public's and the Liberals' concerns about lack of protection of privacy and charter rights. These are necessary and welcome changes, but they are not enough. Additional changes are needed to protect citizens' rights and privacy.
Canada is the only nation of its kind without national security oversight being carried out by parliamentarians. Canada's response to terrorism must also include a robust plan for preventing radicalization before it takes root.
The current government has not adequately legislated transparency and accountability measures into this bill. The Liberal Party is committed to making those improvements. We are committed to providing national security oversight, not just for CSIS but for the collection of government agencies and departments that have security and intelligence responsibilities.
We are committed to bringing in a robust form of prevention so that young people, usually young men but more and more young women, who are at risk of being attracted to radical ideologists and promoting terrorism here at home can actually have the support that is needed to change that path. Engaging with rather than marginalizing communities, for example the Muslim community, is a very important objective of the Liberal Party. Our party has committed funds, as well as having a plan to strengthen protection and prevention of radicalization in Canada.
Furthermore, the Liberal Party would sunset this entire bill in three years. That would provide a time period to see which of the concerns the public and the experts have are actually real concerns and which ones are theoretical. Within three years, there would be a full review of this bill under a Liberal government with improvements put in place as necessary.
I would like to point out that when the Liberals brought forward stronger security measures after 9/11, it was a completely different approach than the one taken by the Conservative government. It was an approach based on good public policy. It was an approach based on really addressing the weaknesses in the security regime in Canada, but working with members of the public and opposition to ensure that that balance with privacy and human rights and freedoms was protected.
The Liberal government of the day had a robust set of committee hearings. I believe there were 19 separate days of hearings. It brought in a full set of amendments to reflect any concerns that were heard. That contrasts directly with the Conservative government's approach of cutting off debate, using time allocation in debate and in committee, and essentially adopting a few amendments but ignoring others that are necessary changes.
That is why the Liberal Party will campaign with a commitment to address the full range of concerns of experts and Canadians alike, should Liberals form government.
What should be underpinning this kind of legislation are principles, such as democracy, and the role of the Canadian public in engaging in public policy changes that would affect them. That principle was not respected by the government's process. The government is tipping the scales away from the principle of humanity and of thinking about the rights and freedoms of Canadian citizens. That is part of a pattern with the government. It eliminated the mandatory long form census, which provides real data on which to found public policy changes and address human needs in our society, reflecting the needs of newcomers, people of various cultures, religions and languages. The mandatory long form census was an important tool that we no longer have.
The government has muzzled scientists, the very people who provide evidence on how to move forward with good public policy to address the issues that face us as a society. The government has the responsibility to work with citizens and respond with law and policy to address the evidence.
I am pleased to say that it was a Liberal initiative to strengthen privacy and rights in a private member's bill. That was my private member's bill, Bill C-622. I invite anyone following this debate to go to my website and find the material on Bill C-622. It was a bill whose timing coincided with the attacks last fall, in October, so it is not surprising that it did not receive the support needed to pass. I will acknowledge the opposition members who supported this bill. One Conservative member supported it as well, but the rest of the Conservatives did not. It was a bill intended to increase the accountability and transparency of our signals intelligence agency, CSE.
Bill C-622 was developed in concert with the very experts who have been providing commentary in committee on Bill C-51, so I had the privilege of working for a number of months with experts in security in the Canadian Armed Forces, the intelligence community and the privacy community to develop Bill C-622. I am grateful for the support that I received by all Liberal members in the House.
Bill C-622 would have taken away the minister's power to secretly authorize the interception of Canadians' protected information, including metadata. It would have placed the authority in the hands of an independent judge of the court. It would have strengthened accountability and transparency internally at CSE, and established new requirements, a new mandate for the commissioner and a list of improvements for privacy and rights. It would have established the intelligence and security committee of Parliament to oversee our security agencies.
The Liberal Party is the only party committed to both strengthening security provisions as needed, as the world changes around us, and protecting and enhancing privacy and charter rights of Canadians. I invite members of the public concerned about this bill to look at the Liberals' record and the reasons for supporting Bill C-51 so that we can prevent the death of a Patrice Vincent in the future.