National Security Committee of Parliamentarians Act

An Act to establish the National Security Committee of Parliamentarians

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.


Wayne Easter  Liberal

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)


Outside the Order of Precedence (a private member's bill that hasn't yet won the draw that determines which private member's bills can be debated), as of Nov. 7, 2013
(This bill did not become law.)


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.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians ActGovernment Orders

March 10th, 2017 / 10:05 a.m.
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Vancouver Quadra B.C.


Joyce Murray LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join this debate on Bill C-22, an act to establish the national security and intelligence committee of parliamentarians. It is a bill that would at long last enable Canadian parliamentarians to scrutinize our national security framework and our national security agencies, as our Five Eyes partners have been doing for years.

The creation of this committee would be part of achieving the dual objectives of keeping Canadians safe while safeguarding our rights and freedoms. It would also stand us in great stead among our international partners. In fact, the new Canadian committee would raise the bar for national security accountability worldwide.

I will touch on a bit of the history behind Bill C-22.

For many years, a great many Canadians, including me as an MP, have called for the creation of such a committee. The government of Paul Martin put forward a proposal that, unfortunately, died on the order paper.

Issues pertaining to the need for better oversight of national security organizations were discussed in 2008 in Justice Frank Iacobucci's Internal Inquiry into the Actions of Canadian Officials in Relation to Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad Abou-Elmaati and Muayyed Nureddin, and in 2006 in Justice Dennis O'Connor's Report of the Events Relating to Maher Arar.

While the Conservatives were in power, both the private member's bill, Bill C-551, from the member for Malpeque, and my own private member's bill, Bill C-622, were tabled, as was a bill with bipartisan support in the Senate, all of which would have seen this committee created years ago.

My bill, Bill C-622, which called for the creation of a parliamentary committee of oversight, built on the two previous bills and also included an additional set of measures to increase the transparency and accountability of the Communications Security Establishment. It would have put metadata under the law and created a framework of accountability for acquiring, storing, or sharing information inadvertently or advertently collected. However, the timing of my bill was very interesting, because the final discussion and vote took place one week after the attack on Parliament, which had been preceded by two deadly attacks on Canadian soldiers. At that time, there was a great deal of concern about the security of Canadians, due to radicalization and potential terrorism.

In the remarks following the attack on Parliament, it was remarkable that all party leaders confirmed their commitment to protect the rights, freedoms, and civil liberties of Canadians, even as security measures were to be analyzed and strengthened. Indeed, Canadians expect these fundamental aspects of their very democracy being guarded to be respected. That kind of attention to security measures and privacy is the underlying intention of Bill C-22.

At the time, in 2014, I invited members of all parties to support sending my bill to committee for further examination and to signal the authenticity of their commitment to protecting privacy at the same time as strengthening security in Canada. Unfortunately, instead, the previous prime minister instructed his Conservative members to vote against Bill C-622, even though all members of the Liberal Party and all other parties in the House, including one brave Conservative member, voted for it. The bill failed. It was not passed.

However, I am now happy to see the government following through on the spirit of Bill C-22. I was proud to campaign on the promise of delivering stronger national security oversight by parliamentarians, and Bill C-22 delivers on that promise.

It is regrettable that it has taken so long, but we can be proud as the members of Parliament who will, I am confident, finally bring this essential parliamentary body into being. After all, as the federal and provincial privacy commissioners stated in the fall 2014 communiqué, “Canadians both expect and are entitled to equal protection for their privacy and access rights and for their security. We must uphold these fundamental rights that lie at the heart of Canada’s democracy.”

I followed with interest as the members of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security studied this piece of legislation, proposed and debated amendments, and amended the bill, frequently with the support of several parties.

I want to emphasize what a pleasant change this is from working under the previous government, whose members viewed government bills as sacrosanct.

That was especially the case with laws concerning security measures. As we know, Bill C-51 followed shortly after the tragedies of the attacks on soldiers and on Parliament and was pushed through, essentially with no amendments, despite the deep concerns of Canadians.

I feel that many of the committee's amendments improve the bill and the new committee it will establish.

For example, the committee amended clause 8 to expand the scope of the committee's mandate. When it comes to examining activities carried out by national security or intelligence agencies, the power of a minister to determine that the examination would be injurious to national security would now be time limited to the period during which the activity was actually happening. Once it was no longer ongoing, the minister would be required to inform the committee and the committee could then undertake its examination. I support this change.

I also support the amendment that gives the committee chair a vote only in the case of a tie as well as the NDP's addition of a clause requiring the committee to inform the appropriate minister of the discovery of any activity that may not be in compliance with the law.

I also support some of the changes to the exemptions that were in clause 14 initially, the information to which committee members were not entitled.

I agree with the public safety committee that the new committee of parliamentarians should be able to receive information about ongoing defence intelligence activities supporting military operations. I support that it should have access to information considered privileged under the Investment Canada Act and that it should have access to information collected by FINTRAC, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada.

There were certain changes made by the committee that were not accepted by the government, for a variety of reasons. For example, there is the amendment currently before the House to reintroduce clause 16, which would allow a minister to prevent the release of information that constitutes special operating information under the Security of Information Act, when disclosing it could be injurious to national security. This kind of authority exists in the case of other equivalent committees in similar parliamentary systems around the world. Moreover, Bill C-22 would still require the minister to give written reasons for preventing the release of information, and Parliament would be informed of each occasion on which this authority was used.

This legislation is a major leap forward for Canadian national security accountability. The new committee of parliamentarians would not only provide Canadians with the assurance that their elected representatives, the MPs in Parliament, were on watch to strengthen the protection of their essential civil rights but would also help identify opportunities to improve on current mechanisms for defending their security. In fact, effective protection of individual privacy and effective delivery of national security measures are not a balance, a dichotomy, or a trade-off. They are complementary, and both are necessary.

The United States Department of Homeland Security, for example, considers safeguarding civil rights and liberties to be critical to its work to protect its nation from the many threats it faces. This third-largest department of the U.S. government now explicitly embeds and enforces privacy protections and transparency in all the department's systems, programs, and activities.

In 2014, deputy secretary Mayorkas confirmed in a Department of Homeland Security speech that not only is this an integral part of the DHS mission and crucial to maintaining the public's trust but it has resulted in Homeland Security becoming a stronger and more effective department.

The original version of Bill C-22, as presented by the government at first reading, was already lauded by experts, and it has only become stronger with the amendments accepted from the public safety committee. Crucially, the bill requires that the act be reviewed by Parliament five years after coming into force, so all of the discussions we are having here in Parliament can be reviewed and the bill can be changed as appropriate.

I am proud to have contributed to the conversation leading to Bill C-22. I am pleased that our government has taken this essential step forward in protecting fundamental Canadian security and freedoms. Ultimately, the bill before us today would make Canadians safer and help ensure that our rights and freedoms are better protected. It has been a long time coming. I invite all hon. members to join me in making it happen.

National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians ActGovernment Orders

September 27th, 2016 / 12:10 p.m.
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Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, today we are discussing Bill C-22, an act to establish the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians.

We do not support this bill because it is ineffective in its current form. The Prime Minister has all the authority. He chooses the members and the information the committee can have and present to the House of Commons. Having parliamentarians review the actions of the government when it comes to security and intelligence is very important, but this bill does not give us a realistic chance to do that.

This legislation demonstrates another Liberal smoke and mirrors show, another deviation from an election commitment.

I want to go through and in fairly precise detail talk about the mechanisms that this law would create.

I was in the House to listen to the government House leader's presentation. With great respect to the work she is doing, the reality is that many of the things she said, and I pointed one of them out in questions and comments, simply did not accord with the text of the legislation.

It is not sufficient for the minister to reassure us of the government's good intentions, or to somehow interpret what the government is trying to do, or wants to do or wants the legislation to mean. What is important is the substantive text of Bill C-22. If we think through the actual process in place, the mechanisms that the bill would provide, there is not any kind of seriousness in terms of parliamentary review or oversight being proposed.

I want to remind members of a commitment the government made during the election, and I found this on the Liberal Party website. It said that it would create an all-party committee to monitor and oversee the operations of every government department and agency with national security responsibility. Clearly, all-party was mentioned as well as providing meaningful review of past and oversight of present operations. This clearly was the commitment that was in place.

The House passed private members' bills that were proposed by members within the government. The parliamentary secretary who just spoke proposed Bill C-622 and the member for Malpeque previously proposed Bill C-551. It is interesting to look at what was being said by that party when in opposition in terms of structure and mechanism and what this would do, what those private members' bills proposed to do, and the slight of hand variations that were not even being acknowledged in the speeches but are present in Bill C-22. These are the major concerns we have.

Let us just go through it. I am going to talk about the limitations with respect to the appointment process as well as the provision of information, and then finally about the limitations in terms of the reporting process.

In terms of the existing appointment process, unlike Bill C-622 that was proposed previously by the now parliamentary secretary, this bill would provide for not only the appointment of the chair by the Prime Minister, but also the appointment of every member of the committee. It does say that not all of the members can come from the government, but the three members of the House of Commons who are not members of the governing party could be anyone who the Prime Minister chooses.

These could theoretically be independents recently departed from the government caucus. I do not know if that is likely but that is possible. There is nothing in this legislation to suggest that the official opposition would necessarily be represented. There is nothing to suggest that the committee structure should be reflective in some sense of the composition of the House or similar to some degree with what exists in parliamentary committees. This would be a committee where the Prime Minister could, at will, choose seven members of Parliament who he thought should be on that committee and then also two members of the other place.

There is a requirement for consultation with the leaders of parties from which members are appointed if that party has recognized status in the House of Commons. There is no requirement for consultation with the leadership of Senate caucuses or with the leadership of a party in the context of appointments in the Senate. There is no requirement for consultation in the case of members being appointed who are not from recognized parties. Perhaps more importantly, there is no requirement that the consultation actually be meaningful.

The legislation does not say that the leader of another party has to agree. What would be much more sensible, I would argue, if this process were more serious, would be to have the leaders of the different parties put forward names of those within their parties, as is normal practice, and the committee would then select its own chair. However, there is not a meaningful requirement for the engagement of other parties. It is totally and completely up to the Prime Minister as to who gets appointed.

I want to draw the attention of members to subclause 4(3) of the legislation, subtitled “Not a committee of Parliament”. The committee would not be a committee of either House of Parliament or of both Houses. That is a distinction we need to appreciate. The legislation says very specifically that this would not be a parliamentary committee. It would be a committee that happens to include parliamentarians but parliamentarians who are appointed by the Prime Minister and who effectively report directly to him, which I will talk about.

It is interesting, as well, that the way the committee would operate is different from what those of us who participate in parliamentary committees are used to. I will just read a couple of other sections of the bill. These are important to read into the record, as people earlier in the debate were saying things about the bill that just do not reflect the substance of what we are seeing in the bill. Clause 18 states:

Meetings of the Committee are to be held in private if any information that a department is taking measures to protect is likely to be disclosed during the course of the meeting or if the Chair considers it to be otherwise necessary.

Therefore, it would not be up to the will of the committee to determine whether they move in camera, as is the normal practice. It would be solely at the discretion of the chair.

The voting rules would be different as well. The bill states:

The Chair may vote at meetings of the Committee and, in the case of an equality of votes, also has a deciding vote.

This is again different from the normal procedure. Effectively, the chair would always vote, as I understand this section, and in the case of a tie, the chair would vote again. This is a situation where although the government would have only four members from the House, and potentially two appointed members from its own side from the Senate, the chair would effectively have two votes. He or she—but we know who it is going to be; it is going to be a he—would have the ability to vote twice. That is unusual. That is a pretty substantial deviation from the way the process normally operates.

These are limitations in terms of appointments. It is very clear that the government has designed an appointment procedure that gives all the control over who sits on the committee, and by extension, over aspects of its deliberations, directly to the person who happens to be the Prime Minister. Clearly, it would not be a parliamentary committee. It would be a committee made up of some parliamentarians but would not at all be a parliamentary committee.

We go on to the issue of the provision of information in the bill. What information is to be provided, and how would that information then be considered and synthesized by the committee? Again, there are substantial limitations in terms of the work of the committee.

I attended the technical briefing last night, and we were told by the Minister of Public Safety that the goal is to include, as much as possible, both retrospective review and oversight of current operations.

Yet if we look at clause 14 of the legislation, which deals with exceptions, the exceptions would effectively include any possible scrutiny of ongoing operations. I draw the attention of members to clause 14:

(b) information respecting ongoing defence intelligence activities supporting military operations, including the nature and content of plans in support of those military operations;...

(e)information relating directly to an ongoing investigation carried out by a law enforcement agency that may lead to a prosecution;

Effectively then, it would be anything related to investigations that may hypothetically lead to prosecutions or anything related to military operations. I do not dispute the value of some exclusions, although these are people who are going to go through the process of getting security clearances. They are going to be approved for the purpose of doing these kinds of reviews. It is interesting that right at the outset, these exclusions would effectively seem to exclude most of the kinds of information that might be related to ongoing operations. Those exclusions would happen right at the outset.

That is not all. It is not just those automatic exclusions. In clause 16 we have sort of a discretionary exclusion for the minister involved that is extremely broad. It says:

(1) The appropriate Minister for a department may refuse to provide information to which the Committee would, but for this section, otherwise be entitled to have access and that is under the control of that department, but only if he or she is of the opinion that (a) the information constitutes special operational information, as defined in subsection 8(1) of the Security of Information Act; and (b) provision of the information would be injurious to national security.

Again, in the official opposition, we understand the importance of the sensitivity of this information, but this would be a matter of the opinion of the minister; this would not a matter of saying that in the opinion of experts there is a risk to national security. This would purely be a subjective determination by the minister saying that we do not want to give this information to this committee, because in the view of the minister, it is injurious to national security, but we do not actually have to justify that belief in any objective sense.

The legislation is clear that the committee would not have a mechanism, for instance, to challenge the exclusion in court.

The committee, already appointed by the Prime Minister, dominated by members of the government, where the chair, appointed by the Prime Minister, would effectively have two votes, could still be refused information solely on the basis of the opinion of the minister without any kind of review of that determination by the minister.

We talked about the limitations and exclusions in terms of appointments. It is clear that there are substantive limitations and exclusions in terms of the information an already secretive committee would receive itself privately.

Let us go on to the limitations in terms of reporting. Who would the committee report to? The Prime Minister would be appointing it, and the Prime Minister could determine that it would not receive information. Who should the committee report to? Well, let us keep it in the family. The committee would report to the Prime Minister. That is right. This committee of parliamentarians would not report to the House; it would report directly to the Prime Minister. Of course, the Prime Minister would then provide that information back to the House within a certain number of days. I believe it is within 90 days, but the Prime Minister would have total unfettered discretion in limiting what he tabled. I am going to read again from the legislation itself, subclause 21(5):

If, after consulting the Chair of the Committee, the Prime Minister is of the opinion that information in an annual or special report is information the disclosure of which would be injurious to national security, national defence or international relations or is information that is protected by litigation privilege or solicitor-client privilege or, in civil law, by immunity from disclosure or the professional secrecy of advocates and notaries, the Prime Minister may direct the Committee to submit to the Prime Minister a revised version of the annual or special report that does not contain that information.

I am sorry, it was not 90 days. The timeline between the Prime Minister receiving this and when he would be obliged to table it would be 45 days.

In terms of this section, it is very clear that, first of all, the Prime Minister would have full and complete discretion in terms of what is and is not tabled. He could go back to the committee and require it to make these kinds of changes before it was tabled. However, it is also clear from this section that he would not even need to invoke national security or national defence, because the section includes, as well, a reference to international relations.

In other words, if the Prime Minister believed that something in this report, which would then be tabled in the House, might have a negative impact on the reputation of the government and therefore would have some implications for our international relations, then on that basis, not even on the asserted basis of security, the Prime Minister could then go back to the committee and say that it needed to exclude that information.

What options would the committee have? Of course, in a normal situation, where we were not dealing with secrets, there would be an opportunity to publicly raise some objection. However, the committee could not do that. There would be no ability for the committee to then draw the attention of the public to this information in some other way, and quite appropriately, in this context.

However, we have to ask what is actually going on here. What is the effective check on the power of the government? Surely that is what is behind the very notion of parliamentary oversight, that there would be some opportunity for parliamentarians to meaningfully check the activities of the intelligence agencies that are accountable to the government.

However, there is no such check. The Prime Minister would fully dominate the appointment process. The Prime Minister and the cabinet would fully dominate the question of what information would flow to the committee, and the Prime Minister would be directly and fully in control of what information was or was not tabled in the House. This clearly is not in any sense a meaningful mechanism of scrutiny, at least as the bill presently stands. It is not a meaningful mechanism for checking the exercise of power by the government.

It is also worth looking at some of the differences between the legislation before us and the other private member's bills we have heard. Again, a few of them I have mentioned. Some of these other proposals refer to an all-party committee and not just to other members being chosen by the government. They also refer to the election of a chair by members.

Also, the legislation before us provides for significant remuneration not just for the chair of this committee but for all the members of the committee. That is a difference from what was promised in the past. The stipend available for the chair, and again the chair position has already been promised to someone, is substantially higher than the normal stipend for committee chairs.

We see these deviations, but we do not see a meaningful check in place.

I would very quickly mention that there are alternative models. The government has referred to our Five Eyes allies. It is worth underlining, for example, the British model, which does involve a parliamentary committee. It is not just a committee that happens to be made up of parliamentarians but is an actual parliamentary committee that reports to Parliament and is, of course, bound by all the same laws this committee would be bound by in terms of respect for secret information. However, it is ultimately accountable to the law and to Parliament, not to providing a report exclusively to a prime minister.

We also have a Canadian law that, frankly, has worked very well. The government has to explain how this addition would interact with our existing, highly effective Canadian model. It is not a parliamentary oversight model. It is a model of genuinely expert, independent oversight.

We have an intelligence review committee that is actually chaired by a former parliamentarian and has the expertise and the ability to provide an effective check, which this legislation just would not. Unfortunately, this is smoke and mirrors, not a substantive check on the power of the government.

November 26th, 2014 / 3:35 p.m.
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Wesley Wark Professor, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa, As an Individual

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Ladies and gentlemen of the committee, it's a privilege to appear before you. I'm grateful for the opportunity. I'm the long-winded witness, so I'm going to read a condensed version of my statement.

Since the 9/11 attacks, the role of intelligence in Canadian national security policy has been revolutionized. Canadian intelligence has become more significant, more powerful, better resourced, more closely aligned with allied partners, and more globalized in terms of its operations and capabilities. As an important constituent of what is called the Canadian security and intelligence community, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, CSIS, has undergone its share of revolutionary change since 2001. CSIS has become, de facto, a hybrid service, required to deal with an ever-expanding range of threats to national security and to operate both at home and abroad.

The issues that arise with regard to Bill C-44 reflect the fact that CSIS’ functions have changed enormously since the 9/11 attacks, and also, clearly, since the passage of the original CSIS Act itself, and have changed both in terms of the kinds of threats that CSIS must operate against and in terms of its geopolitical scope.

In my specific remarks on C-44 I intend to focus on what I think are its key provisions regarding CSIS overseas operations, including those targeting Canadians. C-44 would add clarifying language to section 12 of the act, indicating that in the performance of its security intelligence function it can operate both within and outside Canada. It further adds that Federal Court judges may issue warrants to allow CSIS to collect threat-related intelligence on Canadians abroad under its section 12 powers. C-44 also stipulates, in amendments to section 21 of the CSIS Act, that CSIS may apply for warrants to conduct section 16 operations, that is, the authorized collection of foreign intelligence within Canada.

To understand the key elements of Bill C-44 we need to put these in the context of a series of judgments made by the Federal Court with regard to CSIS extraterritorial warrant applications. This history begins in 2005 and follows a winding and complex path down to the present. There is not time in these hearings to adequately summarize this history, but let me note that the current stage was set by a ruling from the Federal Court of Appeal this past summer, which has been followed by an appeal by the Attorney General to the Supreme Court that remains pending.

In his application for leave to appeal, originally dated September 29, 2014, and unsealed in November of this year, the Attorney General summarized what was at stake as follows, “This case is about how the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) may lawfully enlist the aid of foreign security agencies in monitoring the activities of that small number“ of Canadians who leave the country to engage in activities that threaten national security.

Whatever is ultimately decided by the courts with regard to the lawful enlistment by CSIS of foreign security agencies, there are other issues of principle and practice at stake. The most important such issue concerns sovereign control. To enlist the aid of foreign security partners, such as the Five Eyes countries, in intelligence sharing is one thing. To outsource intelligence collection to a foreign partner, no matter how close and trusted an ally, is another. Outsourcing means potential loss of control of an operation, loss of control of Canadian intelligence, and loss of control over outcomes. The Security Intelligence Review Committee commented on this matter by saying:

The risk to CSIS, then, is the ability of a Five Eyes partner to act independently on CSIS-originated information. This, in turn, carries the possible risk of detention or harm of a target based on information that originated with CSIS. SIRC found that while there are clear advantages to leveraging second-party assets

—that is, the Five Eyes countries—

in the execution of this new warrant power

—the so-called CSIS 30-08 warrants—

—and, indeed, this is essential for the process to be effective—there are also clear hazards, including the lack of control over the intelligence once it has been shared.

C-44 cements the evolution of CSIS into a hybrid agency that conducts both domestic security intelligence and foreign intelligence missions. Clarification of the legal standing of CSIS in these regards poses the danger of closing off discussion of the eventual need for a separate foreign intelligence service as a better solution to Canada’s intelligence needs, and a solution much more in keeping with the practices of our close Five Eyes partners.

More important than what C-44 does is the question of what it does not do. What it does not do is provide any sensible underlying definition of the kind of hybrid agency that CSIS has now become, and it does not provide any added controls, accountability measures, cooperative frameworks, or transparency measures around increased overseas operations by CSIS.

I want to conclude with a selection of some of the issues that I see arising from Bill C-44.

Bill C-44 applies legal band-aids to the conduct of section 12 and section 16 operations, only because we persist with a wholly artificial legacy distinction between security intelligence and foreign intelligence. CSIS officials used to make the distinction between security intelligence and foreign intelligence in terms of security intelligence being what Canada needed to have and foreign intelligence being a category of knowledge that it might be nice to have.

In a post-9/11 world, I would suggest that a distinction between foreign and security intelligence is meaningless for Canada, and the fact of its meaninglessness underscores the need for a more root-and-branch redrafting of the CSIS Act itself.

Having decided to appeal to the Supreme Court, the Federal Court of Appeal's ruling with regard to the Mosley judgment on CSIS' use of extraterritorial warrants, the legislative provisions of Bill C-44 may be rendered null or may require further amendments, depending on whether the Supreme Court agrees to hear the appeal and depending on the nature of its findings.

The Federal Court of Appeal's decision was available to the government long before Bill C-44 was tabled. Why the government decided go down two separate forks of the road, with partial amendments to the CSIS Act and with an appeal to the Supreme Court, when these two forks might well bring them to a collision at a future junction, remains a mystery to me.

Bill C-44 does not add any new provisions to the CSIS Act to ensure proper consultation between the service and its minister, the Minister of Public Safety, and the two departments most likely to be impacted by expanded CSIS overseas operations—the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development and the Department of National Defence. Both of these departments engage in their own overseas intelligence and information collection through dedicated branches.

Bill C-44 does not add any statutory requirements on the part of the CSIS director to inform the minister with regard to the undertaking of sensitive overseas intelligence collection. The most recent SIRC annual report found that CSIS needed to keep the minister more fully informed about foreign operations and section 16 investigations. SIRC, in a special study of what it calls a “sensitive CSIS activity” also urged that CSIS reporting to the minister be done in a “formal and systematic manner”.

These are indications that not all is well in terms of the relationship between the service and the minister, and that ministerial accountability for CSIS may be less rigorous than it should be.

Bill C-44 does not restore the functions of the Inspector General's office, originally established in the CSIS Act in 1984, and closed down by the government as part of an omnibus budget implementation bill in 2012. The role of the Inspector General as the “eyes and ears of the Minister” might be considered all the more critical in an age of expanding CSIS overseas operations. As the former long-serving CSIS IG, Eva Plunkett stated that the abolition of the IG function was a “huge loss” for ministerial accountability.

Bill C-44 adds no new clarifying mandate or resources for the Security Intelligence Review Committee, in keeping with the statutory provisions authorising CSIS collection under section 12 abroad.

Last but not least, Bill C-44 is silent on the issue of the need for a dedicated, security-cleared parliamentary committee to ensure the ability of Parliament to properly scrutinize the activities of CSIS and related Canadian intelligence agencies in an age of globalized operations and diverse threats to national security. Such a committee of Parliament was recently proposed by Joyce Murray in her private member's Bill C-622, and has also been proposed in the Senate Bill S-220 advanced by now-retired Senators Hugh Segal and Romeo Dallaire. And Wayne Easter of this committee earlier offered the House a similar version of proposed legislation, Bill C-551. The government continues to deny the need for such a new structure, despite all-party support for just this thing in 2005.

In conclusion, Bill C-44 in my view is a poor quality band-aid. It may also be a very temporary one, depending on a future Supreme Court ruling. It is unimaginative and it fails to address the most significant legacy issues around the CSIS Act, which is now 30 years old and was created for a different threat environment, in a different technological age, and in a different climate of democratic legitimacy.

It persists with an artificial statutory distinction between security and foreign intelligence, offers insufficient clarity about CSIS powers, and offers no new measures of transparency and accountability concomitant with the new and increased role being played by CSIS.

Thank you.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

November 18th, 2014 / 4:10 p.m.
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Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I would put on the record that there are really no additional powers for CSIS in the bill that it does not already have. The bill responds to some court decisions and would allow CSIS to do legally what it has already been doing.

The member mentioned oversight, and he seems to be talking about civilian oversight. There already is SIRC, which is an after-the-fact oversight agency. I will admit that it is difficult for the government to find a balance between national security and civil liberties, but we have to find it and assure Canadians. I will ask for the member's comment on this. Would it not be better to have parliamentary oversight through a proper parliamentary oversight committee of all our national security agencies, as all our Five Eyes partners do? Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and the U.K. all have oversight.

There is a private member's bill, Bill C-551, before Parliament that would do that and on which there was all-party agreement. Mr. Speaker, you were on the committee, as was the Minister of Justice and the current Minister of State for Finance, where there was all-party agreement on parliamentary oversight. Would the member for Surrey North not see that as a good possibility?

Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

November 4th, 2014 / 1:45 p.m.
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Arnold Chan Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I noted in my friend's contribution to the debate her concern about parliamentary oversight with respect to CSIS.

Of course, before this House there are two private members' bills. They are Bill C-551, introduced by the hon. member for Malpeque, and Bill C-622, introduced by the hon. member for Vancouver Quadra.

I would like my friend's thoughts with respect to these two particular private members' bills, and an indication of whether she and her party will be supporting that legislation when it comes before the House.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

November 4th, 2014 / 11:35 a.m.
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Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-44, an act to amend the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and other acts. It is a bill the government really had to introduce following two adverse court rulings on the activities of CSIS.

In beginning, I want to just spin off a little of that last question and answer. I would speak directly to the minister. I would hope, in this instance, given the concern about the balance between national security and civil liberties, that the minister would push the committee to allow a full list of witnesses, not the kind of stacked list we get sometimes from the Conservatives, and a full hearing, an in-depth hearing, so the committee can do its proper job and come back with the best legislation possible. I support the point raised a moment ago by my colleagues.

There are some serious questions related to the provisions in Bill C-44 that need to be raised when the bill is before committee, and we intend to raise those questions and those concerns at that time.

The Liberal Party will be supporting this bill going to committee. However, I hope that the committee is really allowed to do its job and get in the proper expert witnesses and have the proper balance so that we can come back with the best legislation possible.

We have to look not just at this bill but at CSIS and its connections to the RCMP, CSEC, Canada Border Services Agency, and our allies we work with abroad.

There are three points I would like to raise specifically on this issue and this bill. One is tools. The minister is suggesting that this bill provides more tools, but there are really not many.

The second area is resources, the financial, human, and technological resources, for CSIS to do its job.

The third area is oversight and the need for proper oversight, and not of just CSIS. We have after-the-fact oversight, but there really needs to be parliamentary oversight of all our national security agencies. I will talk about that in a moment.

Before looking at the specific provisions in Bill C-44, it is necessary to place on the record our concern about the government's response to the terrorist threat to Canada and from within Canada. I would begin by asking the government a direct question. Why is it that the legislation currently in place, the provisions in the Criminal Code, some of which were put forward by the government in the Combating Terrorism Act, have not been utilized?

On October 27, in the House, the Minister of Public Safety admitted that the response of his office and his government to the threat represented by homegrown terrorists was not quite what it should be. According to the minister at that time, it is “time we stop under-reacting to the great threats against us.”

Yet the government still fails to act. I submit that it possesses the necessary tools to react. In fact, under section 83.181 of the Criminal Code, there is all kinds of authority for anyone who “leaves or attempts to leave Canada” for the purpose of participating in any activity of a terrorist group outside Canada.

There are four different sections there. The penalties are maximum terms in prison of 10 to 14 years, depending on the severity of the act.

The Minister of Justice stated publicly last week that the laws currently in place to combat a terrorist threat are “robust measures” that provide the police with the tools necessary to take action in response to a terrorist threat. The minister specifically referred to sections 83.3 and 810 of the Criminal Code, either of which would enable authorities to detain individuals under the provisions of a peace bond and could impose specific recognizance on individuals. In other words, action to limit certain individuals from taking action could be imposed. I ask the minister why those provisions have not been utilized.

The Minister of Public Safety has to this day failed to clarify a statement made before the public safety committee on October 8 with respect to the 80 individuals who returned to Canada after travelling abroad to take part in terrorist-related activities. He stated:

Let me be clear that these individuals posing a threat to our security at home have violated Canadian law....These dangerous individuals, some skilled and desiring to commit terrorist activity, pose a serious threat to law-abiding Canadians.

The minister also reconfirmed the following at committee:

...leaving or attempting to leave Canada to participate in terrorist activities is now a criminal offence.

The minister is quite correct on those points. There is authority under the Criminal Code to act. I have to again ask the question: Why has the government not acted with those authorities that are already there? Those authorities would not be changed in this particular legislation, other than confirming in law what CSIS already does.

I ask why section 83.181, which states that “Everyone who leaves or attempts to leave Canada” for terrorist acts abroad, is not being applied. It certainly was not in the case of the individual involved in the murder of the Canadian Forces member in Quebec earlier this month. According to public information, that individual had his passport revoked on the grounds of attempting to travel to Syria or Iraq to join known listed terrorist entities.

According to testimony by the Commissioner of the RCMP to the Senate national security committee on October 27, this individual was known to authorities to have intended to use his passport to leave Canada for Syria or Iraq to participate in “jihad”, yet the commissioner confirmed that the evidence the authorities had of this intent, while enough to have his passport revoked, was not enough to lay a charge. I ask the minister, and maybe he can answer this at committee, whether this bill will correct that shortcoming. I personally do not see it in the legislation, but I would ask the minister and his staff to come prepared to answer that question. Would this legislation correct that shortcoming the RCMP Commissioner seems to have outlined? We really do not know as yet, because the minister has not been specific on that point.

A great deal has been said by members of the government with respect to the provisions of the Combating Terrorism Act, which came into force in 2013. According to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety, one individual has been charged under the provisions of the Combating Terrorism Act. The minister confirmed, as well, when he testified before the public safety committee on October 8, that only a single individual has been charged under the Combating Terrorism Act.

However, what neither the minister nor the parliamentary secretary bothered to tell Canadians was that the single individual charged had left Canada six months prior to the charges being laid, and that individual's whereabouts are still unknown.

Could one of the reasons these provisions in the Criminal Code have not been acted upon be the limited resources available to our security and intelligence services? That was mentioned in a previous speech. What good are legal sanctions if our security agencies cannot utilize them? If the reason is that the current government has been starving those agencies' critical resources, who is responsible for the security failure?

I would submit that in many things that the current government has been doing in the last two years, it has been blindly focused. Good government requires it to provide services, security, and financial resources, and yes, it has to establish priorities. However, part of the problem with the current government is it is blindly focused on getting as huge a surplus as possible so it can throw out election goodies. Is part of the cost of doing that starving CSIS and the RCMP of the funds necessary to do their job? I really do not know, but it looks that way. Good government cannot be blindly focused just on achieving a surplus to provide goodies at the next election; it has to be focused on the needs and the services of Canadians. I see that as a problem.

There is another issue beyond this bill that the government must respond to, something that does not require legislation but requires the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness simply to do the job assigned to him. The most recent annual report of the Security and Intelligence Review Committee, the only oversight body for CSIS, raised a number of troubling concerns. The Commissioner of the RCMP told the Senate national security committee on October 27 that there were now 93 individuals identified as high-risk travellers. The director of CSIS informed the public safety committee on October 8 that there were 80 individuals who have returned to Canada after having engaged in terrorist activities abroad, and CSIS knows where they are.

The problem there is that in terms of the RCMP doing its job, Commissioner Paulson said before a committee:

...we are reallocating the necessary funds and personnel from other priority areas to combat this threat. In recent months, and over the past week, over 300 additional resources were transferred in to enhance the capacity of INSET [Integrated National Security Enforcement Teams] from other federal policing priority areas such as organized crime and financial crime.

That tells me that the RCMP is indeed short of resources.

The deputy director of CSIS told the same committee on October 20:

...we work within the budget that is assigned to us. We do have to prioritize.

I would be foolhardy to say we have all the bases covered. We do what we can with the budget we have, sir.

There are clearly some concerns over financing.

There is another problem that the minister can deal with as well, and that is the operational mandate within CSIS. The most recent SIRC report, entitled “Lifting the Shroud of Secrecy: Thirty Years of Security Intelligence Accountability”, the annual report for 2013-14, said the following on page 16:

With surveillance teams spread across Canada all sharing identical job functions, SIRC expected to see solid communication among surveillance practitioners. Instead, SIRC found that, for the most part, regional surveillance teams operate in total isolation from one another and communicate only sporadically with their HQ counterparts.

That is worrisome, because if CSIS is not communicating properly within regions and between regions and headquarters, there is a serious problem. That is something that the minister can deal with.

The other point in the report that I just mentioned—and I am pretty sure that the minister knows this—is that at page 19, SIRC also found that with respect to the activities of CSIS:

...the Minister of Public Safety is not always systematically advised of such activities, nor is he informed of them in a consistent manner.

Those are two areas the minister can deal with without needing a bill. The minister just needs to ensure that the job is getting done within his own department.

The government has placed within Bill C-44 the enactment provisions of Bill C-24, which the minister talked about earlier. Bill C-24 would revoke the citizenship of dual nationals. We are concerned about that. The minister said in his remarks that it is included so as to enact that section faster. In an earlier question for the minister I said, and I will say again, that it is not enough to have something in legislation; it has to stand up to the courts. Some of us are concerned that this section just may not do that.

If the government, RCMP, CSIS, and other authorities are spending a lot of time on that particular area of taking away dual citizens' citizenship, it needs to be time well spent. I asked the minister to provide legal opinion to the committee to show that it is, in fact, charter-proof.

In an earlier question to the minister, I also raised the point that there is fairly strong wording in this particular bill. Subclause 8(2) reads:

Without regard to any other law, including that of any foreign state, a judge may, in a warrant...authorize activities outside Canada to enable the Service to investigate a threat to the security of Canada.

This would basically allow for a warrant to be issued to allow agents to break the law in a foreign country. We have checked the wording extensively, and similar wording is not found in the relevant legislation of our Five Eyes counterparts. I ask the minister why we need that specific wording when other countries do not, and I hope he could report the answer to committee,

An important part of the legislation deals with protecting our sources and informants abroad. At committee we would want to have more specific information on that aspect and know how it would be accomplished. I look forward to the government providing that information to the committee.

I will move on to the last point that I would like to make. I said first of all that I would deal with tools, resources, and oversight. One of the major shortcomings of this bill is the fact that the government did not bring accompanying legislation to provide proper parliamentary oversight to all of our national security agencies in Canada, as is done by all of our Five Eyes counterparts.

My colleague, the member for Vancouver Quadra, has a private member's bill, Bill C-622, as one option that the government could consider. I have a private member's bill, Bill C-551, which could be considered.

To find the balance between national security, civil liberties, and individual rights and freedoms in Canada, the government should be bringing in accompanying legislation that provides that parliamentary oversight. On the one hand, it would ensure that the agencies are doing their jobs, and on the other, it would ensure they are not going too far and violating the civil liberties of Canadians.

Opposition Motion--Communications Security Establishment CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2014 / 4:25 p.m.
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Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, on the issue of parliamentary oversight and the benefits of parliamentary oversight, we have members of Parliament who would be able to ensure that no Canadian laws were being broken. It would be cost-efficient, because the committee would be here in the House, where we have all sorts of resources. However, the biggest beneficiaries would be Canadians because of the privacy assurances that would be provided.

Given how technology has changed over the last number of years, providing that oversight has become that much more important. For example, at one time, we did not have Wi-Fi. That is the example used today with respect to why we need to institute parliamentary oversight. At the time legislation was first brought in, we did not even have GPS. More and more, it is the right thing to do. Supporting Bill C-551 is the best way to ensure for Canadians that we have good oversight in dealing with privacy issues.

Opposition Motion--Communications Security Establishment CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2014 / 3:30 p.m.
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Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, this is an important issue. Many Canadians are offended by the approach the government has taken in terms of protecting privacy.

Members will recall last year when a bill was introduced by the government. The government arguably wanted to snoop a little too much into the personal lives of Canadians all across our land. The resistance to that Conservative piece of legislation back in June was so significant that the government made the decision to let the bill die on the order paper, because it had offended so many Canadians with respect to the issue of privacy.

One would think that the Conservatives would be a little more sensitive to some of the reports related to privacy. Imagine being in the airport using Wi-Fi and finding out that it is being tapped into or monitored. I would argue that Canadians would be quite upset.

One must ask oneself what is actually being proposed. It is a very simple and straightforward motion that has been put on the agenda today by the Liberal Party:

That the House express its deep concern over reports that Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) has been actively and illegally monitoring Canadians and call on the government to immediately order CSEC to cease all such activities and increase proper oversight of CSEC, through the establishment of a National Security Committee of Parliamentarians as laid out in Bill C-551, An Act to establish the National Security Committee of Parliamentarians.

What has the Liberal Party actually done here today? One, we have recognized an issue that we believe Canadians are concerned about. We are asking all members of the House to provide input and share their thoughts on what we believe is a critically important issue, which is ensuring the privacy of Canadians.

Not only are we raising the issue, we are also coming up with a practical solution for the government if, in fact, it wanted to demonstrate that, like us, it is concerned about the privacy of Canadians. It is a constructive motion before the House today.

It is not as if the Conservatives would have to come up with their own piece of legislation. We have made reference to Bill C-551, which already exists. In essence, that bill would make the law of Canada similar to what many other jurisdictions in the world are doing. I would suggest that it is something the government should be acting on.

I do not know why the Conservatives would oppose it. The member who spoke before me comes across as if she is against big government and does not believe that the government should be getting involved in these privacy issues. I do not understand why she would oppose the motion. The motion is trying to protect the privacy Canadians have and demand.

We talk about Bill C-551, which the Liberal Party has had on the order paper for many months. What would it actually do? The bill would establish a parliamentary committee that would provide oversight of CSEC. That is the core of the legislation we are promoting.

What does that mean? At the end of the day, there would be elected officials from this House who would be responsible for ensuring that CSEC, among other things, actually follows the law to ensure that the privacy rights of Canadians are protected. What is wrong with that? The government cannot even argue from a cost perspective.

Mr. Speaker, I was so anxious to speak to the motion, I forgot to mention that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Ottawa South.

We have 308 members. Actually, we will be increasing membership under the government. We will be spending $30 million-plus in tax dollars to increase the size of the House of Commons, so there will be more members of Parliament in the House. That is another debate for another day.

We have 308 members of Parliament today. We could designate a number of those MPs. I believe that the standard is ten. The cost would be marginal. The space for the meetings is already available at the House. Members of Parliament already have staff. There are apolitical analysts who are accessible. We could even look to the Library of Parliament. Cost is not an issue.

I would argue that it would be more cost-efficient than what we currently have in place in terms of overview. We have an office established and a judge, who I believe is actually part-time, to deal with this particular issue.

A House of Commons committee would meet on an ongoing basis. It is not as if it would be meeting twice a week during a session, even though, potentially, it could do that. It could be easily implemented.

I do not understand why the government is opposing what the Liberal Party is trying to encourage the government to adopt. The real benefit would be to Canadians.

Given the phenomenal amount of change occurring within technology today, whether Wi-Fi, GPS, or Internet, the technology that our security agencies have to snoop and spy, more than ever there is a need for parliamentary oversight. That means that elected officials in Canada would be able to guarantee that laws are not being broken and that the privacy of Canadians is being respected on this very important issue.

Opposition Motion—Communications Security Establishment CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2014 / 1:40 p.m.
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Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the motion standing in the name of my colleague, the member for Malpeque, expressing the House's concern over reports that Communications Security Establishment Canada has engaged in improper practices, including the monitoring of Canadians, and calling for parliamentary oversight of CSEC through the measures outlined in Bill C-551, the national security committee of parliamentarians act. Indeed, I was one of those who, some 10 years ago, recommended the establishment of such a committee.

Others have risen to contextualize today's debate, citing recent media reports that CSEC accessed the metadata of passengers at airports in Canada using airport Wi-Fi, an activity which would be beyond CSEC's mandate and which would infringe upon the privacy rights of Canadians. Rather than discuss these reports at length or dwell on the technical questions surrounding the proper use of metadata, I will organize my remarks around a discussion of the foundational principles that should exist in our discussion of anti-terrorism law, practice, and policy, and their impact on matters of privacy, personal and collected.

As I have written elsewhere, the foundational principle should be that of human security, which does not see security and rights as a zero-sum or trade-off exercise, but which is inclusive of both security and human rights and is organized around a dual perspective. The first principle is that transnational terrorism constitutes an assault on the security of a democracy such as Canada, and on the individual and collective rights of our inhabitants, our rights to life, liberty, and security for the person. In that context, anti-terrorism law and policies are designed to protect the security of democracy and the rights of its inhabitants.

At the same time, the enactment, enforcement, and application of our anti-terrorism law and policy must always comport with the rule of law. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms must always be respected; individuals and groups must never be singled out for differential and discriminatory treatment; torture must always be condemned; and vulnerable and visible minorities must always be protected, be it as targets of incitement to racism and hatred or targets of racial profiling. In the promotion and protection of human security, we must never undermine our individual and collective rights, which are a fundamental component of that human security itself.

As the Supreme Court of Canada has put it, the question is not whether to respond to acts of terror but rather how we respond. “The Constitution”, it added, “is not a suicide pact”. Therefore, anti-terrorism law and policy is clearly necessary. Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the centrepiece of our Constitution, and the proportionality principle, the linchpin of any purported limitation on any charter right, must always be adhered to and respected. The same goes for our privacy rights, which are concretized in two federal statutes, primarily the Privacy Act and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.

Constitutional democracies such as Canada can and should address the dilemma of how to respond to terrorism in an informed and principled way rather than in any political or politicized fashion. As such, I wholeheartedly support the bill referenced in this motion, which would allow for oversight by a committee of parliamentarians, both senators and members of the House of Commons, sworn to secrecy, to receive briefings and updates on the activities of Canada's security services, and to do so in as secure a setting as needed. The importance of this issue cannot be understated. Just last week, Interim Privacy Commissioner of Canada Chantal Bernier tabled a report entitled, “Checks and Controls: Reinforcing Privacy Protection and Oversight for the Canadian Intelligence Community in an Era of Cyber-Surveillance”, which states:

While secrecy may be an inherent aspect of many intelligence activities, so is accountability. Reporting, review and appropriate legal controls lead to accountability on the part of decision-makers and institutions.

I believe I can speak for all members of this place when I say that we seek accountability and come to expect it. This holds even in the national security context.

As Ms. Bernier's report states:

National security claims do not reduce accountability obligations and security bodies must account to Canadians for what they do with personal information. Independent review mechanisms ensure this accountability of security agencies, safeguard public trust and verify demonstrable respect for individual rights.

The report of the interim Privacy Commissioner is a fascinating look at the interplay between national security and the protection of Canadians' personal information and data. There are also recommendations therein for the government. I hope it will implement some of them in the near future.

However, a more serious debate needs to happen wherein parliamentarians can help define and fashion the contour between what is acceptable in the pursuit of safety and what behaviours infringe upon our civil liberties in ways that we would deem inappropriate and improper, particularly with respect to the rights of privacy.

Regrettably, it is not the government that has asked for this open dialogue. Thus, I am thankful that my Liberal colleague from Malpeque has initiated this debate. It is important that Canadians play their part in this discussion as well.

Elizabeth Renzetti, in yesterday's Globe and Mail, put it quite well in her column, aptly titled “As government snoops, Canadians...take a nap”. Indeed, we have been lacking here in that sense of urgency about what has been happening, compared with the sense of urgency in matters of this kind in the United States and European parliaments.

Alarm bells are now going off. The interim Privacy Commissioner has sounded the alarm. We ought to heed her advice. She is not the only one, however. It is useful here to recall the Auditor General's report of March 2009, wherein he declared:

For Canadians to have confidence in their security and intelligence organizations, they need to know that government agencies and departments maintain a balance between protecting the privacy of citizens and ensuring national security.

It is precisely that balance that we strive for through an informed debate on CSEC's activities and through the creation of a parliamentary oversight committee for Canada's security infrastructure, as outlined in my colleague's bill.

Moreover, some of the answers the government has offered leave much to be desired. For example, the top national security adviser to the Prime Minister, at a committee of the other place, testified yesterday that he is “not totally persuaded” that CSEC had “tapped into” Canadians' communications via airport Wi-Fi.

Saying that one is not persuaded is not a categorical denial. It is not a definitive no. Should not the top security adviser to the Prime Minister know for sure? We, as parliamentarians, on behalf of Canadians, have an obligation to discover fully what happened and why, and to pronounce ourselves thereupon.

In its statement on the recent media reports, CSEC noted:

The CSEC Commissioner is currently conducting another review of CSEC’s metadata activities. We welcome that review.

I am hopeful that this review will be made public and that we will require more transparency from CSEC, including, as the Privacy Commissioner has recommended, the publication of annual statistics of interception and the tabling of a non-classified report in Parliament.

In closing, it is not only possible but also necessary to work together to ensure the protection of both security and rights. While it is a challenging matter to resolve, I believe that parliamentarians are capable of co-operating across party lines to ensure that Canadians enjoy both a robust security infrastructure, on the one hand, and the fullest expression of the principles underpinning the charter and privacy legislation, on the other.

Opposition Motion—Communications Security Establishment CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2014 / 12:55 p.m.
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Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, one of the things the motion refers to is Bill C-551, about which the NDP has some concerns.

In particular, one part of the bill gives the Prime Minister the right to exclude certain parts of the committee report before that report is made public. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister's indebtedness to the people is even more abysmal than this government's past debts.

Considering his leader's decision to release all Liberal senators from the caucus, my colleague has himself faced similar arbitrary action. Given what must have happened within the caucus as a result, is he not concerned that this arbitrariness will keep us in the dark?

Opposition Motion—Communications Security Establishment CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2014 / 12:45 p.m.
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Ted Hsu Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, as this is a chamber of debate, I would like to start by responding to an implication that I heard from the Conservative side. It was that we have had oversight for many years now, so why do we need something new?

In response, I would say that technology is a wonderful thing. It is something, however, that changes. We have had many changes in technology in the last 10 or 20 years, amazing changes. For example, I can contact someone with the push of a few buttons. All of us can. We have these great smartphones and all sorts of other ways of contacting people around the world instantaneously. There is no need to remember email addresses, no need to remember phone numbers or any other contact information. All that information is available at the touch of a button.

It is also around us, and it moves. That information moves from place to place as well. That is why it is always handy. I can start an app on my smartphone that can tell my family in real time where I am on a road, what my velocity is, and what my estimated time of arrival home for dinner might be. I could also run another app, a much more recent one, that can figure out where I am in a store, a museum, or a shopping mall and, by using the ambient Wi-Fi signals that are now ubiquitous in large buildings, send me content depending on where I am.

Technology changes, and that is the thing that has changed. That is why we have to look at what kinds of risks come out of the opportunities that are being exploited by technology. Technology can be used to serve people and can be used to protect Canadians, but it can also threaten privacy, and there is no reason that we should not have the public participate in a review of how the government uses technology to protect us from potential foreign threats.

Last week we learned from a leaked document that was obtained by the CBC that the Communications Security Establishment Canada, CSEC, may have illegally intercepted and tracked the personal information of ordinary Canadians who were using public Wi-Fi at Canadian airports, and then tracked those people or the devices that used the Wi-Fi as they travelled elsewhere.

The problem is that this happened at a Canadian airport, where undoubtedly many Canadians were using the public Wi-Fi and then became part of the tracking that was alleged to have taken place. The problem is that the Communications Security Establishment Canada is supposed to be keeping track of potential foreign threats, not monitoring Canadians.

Canadians, having heard about this story and having heard about what the NSA was doing in the United States, are worried about privacy and worried about the rule of law. They are wondering if we as Canadians need to rely on leaks from people like Edward Snowden in order to know how their government actually does its work.

Canadians are wondering what sort of information is private. They are wondering about the digital economy and what will happen if people fear using the Internet. They are worried about online government services. We know that the government is trying to move more and more government services to websites. It is very commendable to have good government websites that provide service to Canadians, but now it is very fair for Canadians to ask what the risks are and how they can know that their privacy is being respected.

What we are not hearing from the government is a flat denial and that Canadians' privacy is being respected. I know there is a conversation about the difference between data, which is, for example the content of an email, and metadata, which is information about who sent the email, who received the email, and what time the email was sent.

I know there is a difference, but Canadians are worried. The way that members of the public can and should respond to this concern is to have their elected representatives, parliamentarians, oversee what the government is doing. This is a way for Canadians to be assured that there is some sort of check on what the government is doing by people who are accountable to the public. This right that Canadians have is expressed through what their elected members of Parliament ask for, in this case today for oversight and accountability.

It is important to talk about the difference between aggregate data and private data. Here it is important for good government and smart government to know, for example, how many Canadians live where. Even a municipality needs to know what sort of sewage system to put in place and what capacity is required. We need to know the aggregate data on how many Canadians live in a certain place. We need to know how many people travel down a certain street, even for the simple reason that we want to manage the traffic or parking. We need to know how many people work in a certain industry, or how many people are out of work, so that we can be good economic managers. That is something that Statistics Canada, for example, has done very well, both protecting individual privacy but also providing aggregate numbers so that government can have a good idea of the country it is supposed to be governing.

What Canadians are worried about is information about individuals, about where a particular person lives, where that person goes, what time of day that person goes to a certain place, whom that person goes with, and how long someone stays in a certain place. These sorts of pieces of information about individuals are what Canadians worry might get into the wrong hands or be used for purposes that are not legitimate. Or, they simply want their privacy respected and do not want that information out there.

That is why the member for Malpeque has introduced Bill C-551 in this Parliament, which would create a national security committee of parliamentarians to oversee what the government, in particular the CSEC, is doing and to oversee from legislative, regulatory, government-policy, and administrative points of view what the agencies responsible for national security are doing. That parliamentary committee would be representing the public and giving the okay from the public for what the government decides to do regarding national security and privacy. This is not a particularly new idea. It has certainly been championed by Liberals for many years in government and in opposition, but it is something that is important to do. Canadians, directly or through their elected representatives, have a fundamental need to understand what their government is doing and to have confidence that their government is doing the right thing. A parliamentary committee is the right way to express that oversight.

I would also add that we have international partners, the U.K. and Australia, who have parliamentary oversight to protect the privacy of their citizens. Looking at it from CSEC's point of view, I am sure there are people in CSEC who want to do the right thing, so it would be very appropriate for them to consult with Parliament and say what they are doing and why they think they are addressing privacy concerns, just to get an okay from people of Canada.

I call on all members to support the motion today that the Liberal Party has proposed.

Opposition Motion—Communications Security Establishment CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2014 / 11:50 a.m.
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Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in support of our Liberal motion today.

Canadians understand and appreciate that part of their government's responsibility is to defend the realm and protect Canadians and our interests against terrorism and cyberattack. Part of the way we do this is through intelligence gathering. However, the way we gather intelligence has changed dramatically in recent years, and our structures for protecting privacy need to catch up.

I have no doubt that the men and women of Canada's security and intelligence agencies carry out their duties honourably. I do not doubt their loyalty or their commitment to the safety of our citizens. However, their job is hard and the world has changed. The very nature of national security threats facing open and democratic nations like Canada have changed. Gone are the days when our greatest security threats were adversarial states such as existed during the Cold War. Today, intelligence agencies operate in a rapidly evolved field of information gathering, where having and analyzing as much data as possible is essential. This need to collect data can potentially conflict with our fundamental right to privacy.

We have seen this several times recently, including with the Communications Security Establishment of Canada, an agency that is part of National Defence, which has been collecting the personal information of Canadian travellers who were transiting through Canadian airports. The member for Malpeque did a good job of explaining why this is a concern. This data was used to help conduct surveillance operations for weeks afterward and to track people's activities for the weeks before the data was collected through Wi-Fi users in the airport. That is seemingly a contradiction to CSEC's legal mandate. This was done without a warrant.

An analogy could be a government spy agency that begins to track individuals' mail, who is sending them mail, who they are sending mail to, where those letters are originating from, where they are sending their letters to, and where they are when they send those letters. It tracks people's mail, steams open the envelopes, but claims it is not reading the contents or opening it up and pulling out the letter. I do not think Canadians are comfortable with the idea of that kind of tracking. That kind of intrusion on the liberty and privacy of citizens is counter to the principles of our fundamental democracy. Therefore, to balance the need to acquire data and respect people's privacy and liberty creates a pressing need for a robust oversight of CSEC. It also means we need to have a detailed discussion about how we balance those interests in our society. That is the importance of our motion.

That the House express its deep concern over reports that Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) has been actively and illegally monitoring Canadians and call on the government to immediately order CSEC to cease all such activities and increase proper oversight of CSEC, through the establishment of a National Security Committee of Parliamentarians as laid out in Bill C-551, An Act to establish the National Security Committee of Parliamentarians.

It is unfortunate that the government appears to want to block proper oversight, such as is being proposed in Bill C-551, put forward by the member for Malpeque.

What is happening in Canada is unique in the western world. Ann Cavoukian, the Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner, talked about the response by the United States president, which demonstrates the kind of free, open, and candid discourse that society is undertaking on the subject of surveillance powers of intelligence agencies. However, while the U.S. is doing that, to quote the commissioner, “...our government is maintaining a wall of silence around the activities of the...(CSEC). This silence is putting our freedoms at risk”.

I ask why the Minister of National Defence is not listening to those who are raising red flags and sounding alarms about this intrusion and this wall of secrecy.

CSEC is an agency that is not being given proper direction by the government. At the Senate committee hearing last night, the director of CSEC made it clear that, should instructions by the government come that there should be a proper oversight and review by some other mechanisms, it would accept that. He was not arguing against the need for that; he was saying there was no political direction to do that. So that is a failure on the part of the Prime Minister and his defence minister.

Canadians need to have faith in their government that is elected to serve and represent them; so this is an issue of Canadians' trust in the government. I believe Canadians want to be free of unwarranted intrusion into their personal affairs. Right now they cannot trust that this is the case.

One of the senators at the committee hearing last night said that not only do Canadians need to trust but they need to be able to verify that the trust is warranted, and right now they are not able to verify and not able to have trust.

The Conservative members of Parliament in this debate have again and again repeated the idea that there is robust oversight, but that is simply not the case, and a range of people with expertise in this matter have commented on that.

One of them is Dr. Wesley Wark, who is a professor at the University of Ottawa. I am going to read a few comments that he made with respect to our current oversight situation, which is the CSEC commissioner.

According to Dr. Wark, who is an academic analyst on national security and cybersecurity issues, there has been no commitment on the part of the commissioner to conduct a specific investigation into the airport Wi-Fi project that is so concerning. The commissioner did not indicate the timeline for his “ongoing review of CSEC”. It has taken three years for the CSEC commissioner to conduct his first full review of metadata activities. That is three years, and it is important to note that this was never discussed in the commissioner's public annual report.

According to Dr. Wark:

The CSEC Commissioner's inability to bring any urgency to an investigation of metadata collection, his apparent unwillingness to engage in an targeted investigation of the Airport Wi-Fi project, alongside an abysmal prior failure to challenge CSEC's desire to keep even the term metadata secret, considerably (if not completely) undermines the value of that office as a watchdog.

This is not a robust watchdog. This is a starving, ineffective watchdog.

That is why the B.C. Civil Liberties Association has filed a lawsuit, the first yet on this issue, because it is concerned that “...unrestrained government surveillance presents a grave threat to democratic freedoms”. It is filing this lawsuit to force the government to enact specific safeguards to protect the rights of Canadians. These are the very kinds of safeguards that our motion is proposing and that the member for Malpeque's bill would provide.

According to the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, “There is no court or committee that monitors CSEC's interception of...private communications and metadata information, and there is no judicial oversight of its sweeping powers. CSEC's operations are shrouded in secrecy”.

It is ironic, as the member for Mount Royal noted, that the government cancelled the long form census based on supposed privacy concerns, a critical tool for understanding the demographics of our country and yet is defending the secrecy of an organization that is affecting Canadians' privacy.

Most Canadians would be far more comfortable telling the government how many rooms they have in their house than having government tracking their smart phone data and location and following them for weeks.

The government must listen to the concerns of the Canadians who want their agencies to respect the law and protect their privacy, and I call on all members to support this motion.

Opposition Motion—Communications Security Establishment CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2014 / 11:45 a.m.
See context


Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I recommend that the parliamentary secretary read Bill C-551. We are not talking about a partisan parliamentary committee but a committee composed of members from all parties, both MPs and senators. If the bill goes forward, we are certainly open in committee to looking at what the optimal structure of this would be. This is not another standing committee; this is a special committee. These people would be very carefully chosen and held to secrecy for life. This is a very important and delicate undertaking they would be doing.

I am sure the other countries in the Five Eyes are very proud and happy with the work being done by their respective agencies. Nevertheless, they have felt the need to have additional oversight, and that is not calling into question any aspect of the competence of the organizations themselves. It is just to ensure on an ongoing, proactive basis that CSEC, CSIS, and the RCMP are sticking within their mandates so that we can be sure they are doing their job while also respecting the law.

Opposition Motion—Communications Security Establishment CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2014 / 11:20 a.m.
See context


Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to the motion moved by the second opposition party. The motion reads as follows:

That the House express its deep concern over reports that Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) has been actively and illegally monitoring Canadians and call on the government to immediately order CSEC to cease all such activities and increase proper oversight of CSEC, through the establishment of a National Security Committee of Parliamentarians as laid out in Bill C-551, An Act to establish the National Security Committee of Parliamentarians.

How did we come to the point where we are debating such a motion in the House? It all started on June 10, 2013, when the previous minister of national defence approved a CSEC program to monitor the telephone and Internet activities of Canadians by collecting metadata. The program was first created by the Liberals in 2005, but was later suspended because of the concerns raised by the organization responsible for overseeing CSEC.

The minister at the time denied that statement. The law is very clear in that regard: CSEC does not have the right to spy on Canadians. The legislation that sets out its mandate explicitly states that its activities:

273.64(2)(a) shall not be directed at Canadians or any person in Canada; and

(b) shall be subject to measures to protect the the use and retention of intercepted information.

There is only one exception to that provision. If the Minister of National Defence authorizes it, CSEC can get around that provision, which happened 78 times between 2002 and 2012.

In June 2013, the minister said that he had authorized nothing of the sort. However, in August 2013, Justice Robert Décary indicated in his annual report that Canadians had been the target of some spying activities. Unfortunately, the saga does not end there. In the months that followed, numerous documents revealed that CSEC had been spying illegally on Canadians. The latest revelations are probably the most troubling. On January 30, 2014, CBC uncovered information indicating that CSEC was able to track the movements of passengers at Canadian airports who used the free Wi-Fi networks on their mobile devices, including phones, tablets and computers. Not only did CSEC track them in the airport, but it continued spying on their devices for several weeks.

Those kinds of discoveries about CSEC's actions are alarming. What happened to abiding by the law and upholding the public trust in our intelligence systems? What happens when the system is broken and the public becomes distrustful?

That is why the NDP will be supporting today's motion. We need to take action before this problem gets even worse. However, I must point out that there are some significant flaws in this motion, particularly in relation to some of the provisions in Bill C-551.

Bill C-551 proposes to establish a committee made up of members of the House of Commons and senators who would be mandated to review national security activities of federal government departments and agencies. First, this committee would report to the Prime Minister, and he would be entitled to hide information from Parliament. It is crucial that the Prime Minister not be able to conceal national security information from parliamentarians under Bill C-551.

Second, this bill would give unelected senators a seat on the review committee. Honestly, I am not entirely sure where the Liberals stand, with their Liberal senators who are sitting outside of the caucus, or their independent Liberal senators, or their Liberal sympathizers who happen, by sheer coincidence, to be senators. It is all rather confusing. The NDP feels that only individuals duly elected by Canadians should be part of the committee.

That is why, last October, my colleague from St. John's East moved a motion to that effect. The motion reads as follows:

That (a) a special committee on security and intelligence oversight be appointed to study and make recommendations with respect to the appropriate method of parliamentary oversight of Canadian government policies, regulations, and activities in the area of intelligence, including those of all departments, agencies, and review bodies, civilian and military, involved in the collection, analysis, and dissemination of intelligence for the purpose of Canada’s national security;

(b) in the course of its work the committee should consider the methods of oversight adopted by other countries and their experiences and make recommendations appropriate to Canada's unique circumstances;

(c) the Committee be composed of 12 members, 7 from the Conservative Party, 4 from the New Democratic Party, and 1 from the Liberal Party, to be named following the usual consultations with the Whips and filed with the Clerk of the House...;

The committee's makeup would reflect that of the House. The motion also provided that:

(i) the special committee report its findings and recommendations to the House no later than May 30, 2014.

Canada is not the only country to consider parliamentary oversight of national security issues. The United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand all have well-established systems that enable parliamentarians to ask the government for reports on national security issues. That is not the case in Canada. The only thing this Conservative Prime Minister has created is a cabinet committee on national security whose job is to supervise Canadian national security activities. However, this is a cabinet committee, not a parliamentary one, so it is not accountable to anyone.

If the Conservatives had really taken national security issues, protection of Canadians' privacy and problems related to CSEC disclosures seriously, they would have paid attention to this motion as soon as it was presented in the House, and we would already have a committee of elected representatives in place to deal with this kind of situation. Instead, the government is letting the problem persist and shows no interest in managing it. Worse still, in a recent report, the Privacy Commissioner suggested that privacy protection was not a priority for this government. That is shameful.

People have become distrustful. About 80% of Canadians are now connected to the Internet. People spend an average of 41 hours on the Internet a month. In terms of Internet use, we rank second in the world. In addition, the digital economy is growing fast. In 2012, Canadians spent $22.3 billion online. They already have serious doubts about how well their privacy is protected. Some 13% of people believe that their information is well protected on the Internet. If people can no longer trust that their own government will not spy on them, what or who can they turn to?

My colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville had also introduced an interesting bill on this, Bill C-475 on privacy protection. Canadian privacy laws have not kept pace with rapidly changing technologies, which is rather alarming. Those laws have not been updated since the first generation of iPods.

The purpose of Bill C-475 was to correct the situation by updating these laws and taking personal information protection seriously. We have the right to know when our personal information is gathered, used or communicated in any type of digital format. We have the right to feel safe. In that regard, this bill gave Canada's Privacy Commissioner increased law enforcement powers and made it mandatory to inform the persons concerned of any data leaks that might affect their privacy.

Canadians should not have to worry about the confidentiality of their personal information online. We must enhance our protection measures for children, for seniors and for all Canadians.

The NDP takes privacy protection and national security very seriously. We must protect the integrity of our country and ensure that people are safe. It is a matter of maintaining a delicate balance between liberty and security. National security is a top priority.

The government has a responsibility to make and apply policies to protect the country and its citizens, and not break its own laws and spy on the public. The fundamental problem with this government is the lack of openness and counterbalance. With our current institutional structure, we must make decisions for the common good and be more transparent to ensure that the right decisions are being made.

A number of the questions we have asked the Conservative government remain unanswered. Who authorized spying on Canadians through free Wi-Fi at a Canadian airport? Was the minister aware of this metadata collection program? Were these data saved? More worrisome yet, does this spying program still exist?

We sincerely hope that the Conservative government will go public with its legal reasoning and rationale behind CSEC's metadata collection operations. The Conservatives' vague answers will not do. We need clear answers.

Opposition Motion—Communications Security Establishment CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2014 / 10:05 a.m.
See context


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE


That the House express its deep concern over reports that Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) has been actively and illegally monitoring Canadians and call on the government to immediately order CSEC to cease all such activities and increase proper oversight of CSEC, through the establishment of a National Security Committee of Parliamentarians as laid out in Bill C-551, An Act to establish the National Security Committee of Parliamentarians.

Mr. Speaker, I am most pleased to take lead off in this debate. I will not reread the motion, other than to say that the motion is critical of what we believe to be the illegal monitoring of Canadians by CSEC and that the House sees that issue as such.

Secondly, it is to propose a solution, which is better oversight in Canada of our intelligence gathering agencies. We are the only country in the so-called “five eyes” that does not have an agency of parliamentarians that provides that oversight in a proactive way.

The purpose of this debate is twofold. The first is to draw attention to the very possible, at worst, illegal activities, and at best questionable activities, of the Communications Security Establishment, or CSEC, and the government's response to the obvious excessive behaviour of our intelligence services. Second, it is to outline for Canadians the proposal for the creation of a proactive oversight body of parliamentarians of our security and intelligence agencies and organizations.

I would like to put on the record that the structure of such an oversight body was developed by members of the House and the Senate. Among those who participated in the creation of this proposed oversight agency were the current Minister of Justice and the current Minister of State for Finance. At the time, they were members of the opposition, and along with you, Mr. Deputy Speaker of the House, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, we were all a part of that committee that made that recommendation.

To be clear, what is proposed in the legislation, brought forward as Bill C-551, is the result of a non-partisan initiative. It was neither a government nor an opposition party effort. We in this place were all involved, and I will come to that later in my remarks.

However, allow me to come back to why the need for such oversight has become an urgent matter for Canadians. According to media reports and Snowden documents, as has been reported in the media, CSEC has been, and apparently continues to be, actively intercepting and retaining information related to individuals, Canadians and otherwise, who are transiting through major Canadian airports. That is where that information has been gathered. We are led to believe that this activity was done without the co-operation of the airports involved.

I think Wesley Wark, who is the visiting professor with the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, at the University of Ottawa, summed it up best. I will go to a document that he prepared and quote what he states in that document, the CSEC defence of its airport metadata project:

CSEC issued a statement on January 30, 2014, immediately following the reporting of the Airport Wi-Fi project document by CBC. That statement noted, “CSEC is legally authorized to collect and analyze metadata”.

That statement, according to Mr. Wark, may be misleading, insofar as there is no independent and external legal authorization for CSEC's metadata activities. There is no special court similar to the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that has authorized CSEC metadata. All one can say is that CSEC metadata activities are conducted under a secret ministerial directive and in accordance with secret Department of Justice interpretations of the application of the provision of CSEC's legislative mandate. There is no internal legal interpretation of whether CSEC is able to collect and analyze metadata that has ever been made public.

I think Mr. Wark lays out the issue and the concern.

Yesterday in this House, and on Friday as well, several MPs from opposition parties raised questions with the Minister of National Defence on this particular issue. His answers, as all who listened know, were not very forthcoming. He fell back on the Communications Security Establishment Commissioner for cover, and basically said, in a number of different words, that CSEC operated within the law, using the words “continues to act lawfully”.

In terms of what the commissioner said, I say to the minister, “Not so fast. Maybe. Maybe not”.

When we go to the last report of the Communications Security Establishment Commissioner, the report for 2012-13, presented to the minister in June of last year, the commissioner says, on page 20, under “Findings and Recommendations”:

However, a small number of records suggested the possibility that some activities may have been directed at Canadians, contrary to law. A number of CSEC records relating to these activities were unclear or incomplete. After in-depth and lengthy review, I was unable to reach a definitive conclusion about compliance or non-compliance with the law.

There is a concern. The Communications Security Establishment Commissioner raises that concern in his report.

It should be also noted that when Mr. Chuck Strahl, the former chair of SIRC, which is the oversight agency for CSIS, who has now stepped down—we will not to get into the reasons why he stepped down, but I will say that I do think he was a good chair for that committee—appeared before the national security and defence committee of the Senate, on December 9, 2013, this is what he had to say:

What we're finding, increasingly is that CSIS is having to engage other partners in order to get the information they want. We can examine anything that CSIS does. What we have highlighted and made note of is that we are increasingly nervous or wary of the fact that you come up to an imaginary wall, if you will, where we examine everything that CSIS does, but now it involves other departments. It might involve a no-fly list. It night involve CBSA or CSEC, and so on, but our authority extends only to CSIS in our review process. So I think the committee is, and the government would be, wise to look at—and it's a modern reality—how we can make sure that we don't, when we're chasing a thread and trying to make sure that Canadians' rights are being protected, run up into the legislative wall of saying, “Well, yes, but you can only look at CSIS, even if the new thread continues on into CSEC,” as an example. That is one thing I would encourage you to think about.

There was a worry there, on the part of Mr. Strahl.

Yesterday, because of the publicity around this issue and the concerns of Canadians, we had the Prime Minister's security advisor, a man who many of us in this place did not even know, and the heads of CSIS and CSEC, called before the Senate committee over this very issue.

Mr. Rigby spoke, and I listened to his remarks, as I was at the committee, of how broad and global security matters are now. We understand that. We understand that security is an important file.

However, we also have to understand the counterbalance: how important the privacy of Canadians is.

In response to questions from the chair, Senator Lang, about the Wi-Fi airport metadata, Mr. Rigby said, “It is data about data”. He said that several times, “It is data about data”. Well what does that mean? Stating that it is data about data leaves the impression that there is not much to worry about. Anybody who reads history knows how those with power and authority can gain personal information and use it for ulterior motives. We do not want to see that happen in this country.

Let me turn to this metadata issue. Many of us do not understand what “It is data about data” means. The best information on that really comes from the Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner, Ms. Ann Cavoukian. She produced an article for the Big Surveillance Demands Big Privacy conference that was held about a week ago. I will cite a fair bit of that article, published on July 17 of last year, because we need to understand that metadata is not just data about data. Metadata is much bigger and could be much more intrusive into Canadians' lives. Indeed, the BlackBerry or cellphone of some member on the other side may have been one of those surveyed, when going through the airport. Do people want to know where he or she went? Did they want to follow that thread? That is worrisome.

Ms. Cavoukian stated:

Senior government officials have defended the seizure of our personal information on the basis that “it's only metadata.” They claim that gathering metadata is neither sensitive nor privacy-invasive since it does not access any of the content contained in associated phone calls or emails.

She went on to say:

Metadata is information associated with other information—generated by our smartphones, personal computers and tablets. This information can reveal the time and duration of your communications, the particular devices used, email addresses or numbers contacted, and at what locations. Since virtually every device has a unique identifying number, all of your communications and Internet activities may be linked together and traced, with relative ease.

The digital trail can reveal a great deal about you as an individual. Information about where you live, work, travel, what you purchase online, who you associate with, even what time you go to sleep, wake up and leave home.

Government surveillance programs, however, gather and analyze our metadata for different purposes. Armed with this data, the state has the power to instantaneously create a detailed digital profile of the life of anyone swept up in such a massive data seizure. Once this data is compiled and examined, detailed pictures of individuals begin to emerge. The data can reveal your political or religious affiliations, as well as your personal and intimate relationships.

She goes on from there, but that is the important point.

I have to ask a question for the government representatives. Is metadata really just data? Is it data about data?

What worries me is that maybe Big Brother is just sitting to the right of the Speaker. That is worrisome, if Big Brother with the current government gets out of hand.

In a press release, the Minister of Natural Resources said:

Unfortunately, there are environmental and other radical groups that would seek to block this opportunity to diversify our trade....

These groups threaten to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda.

Are they environmental radicals or are they just citizens who are protesting?

In the early seventies, when there were blacklists created from some organizations in this country, I happened to be in one of those organizations. Those threats are real. In today's information age, we cannot let this get out of hand. We have to worry that security is not used to cross the line into privacy matters.

I want to make another point on the conference I attended, with respect to the statements by Andrew Clement, who is the co-founder of the Identity, Privacy and Security Institute. He said in his remarks that so much Canadian data passes through the United States in this day and age. He explained that if we were in a downtown Toronto office sending a packet of information across the street to another office, with the three major telecom companies, that information does not just cross the street. Rather, it goes from Toronto, to New York, to Chicago, and back to Toronto; so other authorities can pick up that information, analyze it, and see what we are up to. There is a lot to worry about here. We do not want to scare people, but the reality is that something could be going on that should not be going on.

Let me now turn to the proposed legislation. However, there is one other point I should make before I go there.

Canadians have a right to expect that their government and government agencies act legally and that their right to privacy is respected. In the case of CSEC, we are faced with an agency that has enormous powers to intrude upon the lives of all Canadians and those who are visiting the country. The appearance of three very powerful folks before the Senate committee yesterday is a case in point. Those faces are not known by Canadians, yet they could be involved in our everyday lives in many ways. However, we must not forget that they also do a great service for Canadians in protecting our security as a nation.

Therefore, I believe that we in this place have a duty to ensure that our intelligence-gathering agencies are acting within the law and that we also have the assurance from the government that there has been no abuse of the authority granted to the minister under the provisions of the National Defence Act.

I see I am running out of time so I will make this last point. What is proposed here is an oversight agency made up of parliamentarians. We are the only country in the western world that does not have a proactive oversight agency. The proposed legislation has come out of an all-party committee that travelled to London, Washington, and Australia to look at their oversight agencies. Parliamentarians would have to take the Privy Council oath, would have to maintain that secret, and would have access to classified information to ensure Canadians, in a proactive way, that our intelligence-gathering agencies are operating within the law and not above or around the law. It is important that we do that. I call upon government members to take this opportunity to take action to ensure that our security agencies are operating as they should, not with a review after the fact but by holding parliamentarians responsible for doing their duty to ensure that intelligence-gathering agencies are abiding by the law. That bill is there right now. The government can pick it up and we can ensure that it is implemented.