An Act to establish the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians and to make consequential amendments to certain Acts

Sponsor

Dominic LeBlanc  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is, or will soon become, law.

Summary

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

This enactment establishes the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians and sets out its composition and mandate. In addition, it establishes the Committee’s Secretariat, the role of which is to assist the Committee in fulfilling its mandate. It also makes consequential amendments to certain Acts.

Elsewhere

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

Votes

April 4, 2017 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
April 4, 2017 Failed That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: “Bill C-22, An Act to establish the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians and to make consequential amendments to certain Acts, be not now read a third time but be referred back to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security for the purpose of reconsidering Clauses 8, 14, and 16 with a view to assessing whether the investigatory powers and limits defined in these clauses allow for sufficiently robust oversight of ongoing intelligence and national security activities”.
March 20, 2017 Passed That Bill C-22, An Act to establish the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians and to make consequential amendments to certain Acts, {as amended}, be concurred in at report stage [with a further amendment/with further amendments] .
March 20, 2017 Passed 16 (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. (2) If the appropriate Minister refuses to provide information under subsection (1), he or she must inform the Committee of his or her decision and the reasons for the decision. (3) If the appropriate Minister makes the decision in respect of any of the following information, he or she must provide the decision and reasons to, (a) in the case of information under the control of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police; (b) in the case of information under the control of the Communications Security Establishment, the Commissioner of the Communications Security Establishment; and (c) in the case of information under the control of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the Security Intelligence Review Committee.
March 20, 2017 Passed 14 The Committee is not entitled to have access to any of the following information: (a) a confidence of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada, as defined in subsection 39(2) of the Canada Evidence Act; (b) information the disclosure of which is described in subsection 11(1) of the Witness Protection Program Act; (c) the identity of a person who was, is or is intended to be, has been approached to be, or has offered or agreed to be, a confidential source of information, intelligence or assistance to the Government of Canada, or the government of a province or of any state allied with Canada, or information from which the person’s identity could be inferred; (d) information relating directly to an ongoing investigation carried out by a law enforcement agency that may lead to a prosecution.
March 20, 2017 Passed to sections 14 and 16, the Committee is entitled to have access to ed by litigation privilege or by solicitor-client privilege or the professional
March 20, 2017 Failed That Motion No. 3 be amended by deleting paragraph (a).
March 20, 2017 Passed and up to ten other members, each of whom must be a (2) The Committee is to consist of not more than three members who are members of the Senate and not more than eight members who are members of the House of Commons. Not more than five Committee members who
March 20, 2017 Passed That, in relation to Bill C-22, An Act to establish the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians and to make consequential amendments to certain Acts, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at report stage of the Bill and one sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at third reading stage of the said Bill; and That, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration at report stage and on the day allotted to the consideration at third reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the stage of the Bill then under consideration shall be put forthwith and successively without further debate or amendment.
Oct. 4, 2016 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.

National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians ActGovernment Orders

March 24th, 2017 / 10:05 a.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to stand today to talk about what I believe is a very important piece of legislation. Many members of the chamber will recall the debate on Bill C-51. That is where I would like to start this morning, to give a bit of perspective on why we have this bill before us today.

It is important to note that the former prime minister, Stephen Harper, brought in Bill C-51, a bill that had some fundamental flaws. At the time, the Liberal Party was the third party in the chamber, and we felt strongly, based on the feedback we were receiving and the research we were doing on the bill, that it was important to vote in favour of it. As the debate continued, many hours of debate in the House on that issue, I, for one, must have talked about the need for a parliamentary oversight committee at least a dozen times, possibly 15 or 20 times. That was when I was on the other side of the House.

The point is that it was a very important issue a couple of years ago. It raised quite a commotion outside the House. Many members, I suspect all 338 of us, can relate to Bill C-51, because it was an issue that was constantly being raised at the time. I even knocked on a few doors where people talked to me about the bill and how, if the Liberal Party leader was elected prime minister, he would respond to Bill C-51.

There was a commitment made by all members of the Liberal team, in particular the Prime Minister, that we would bring in a parliamentary oversight committee. Whether it was during the debates when Bill C-51 was in the House, in the lead-up to the campaign, through the media, in public meetings, or when we were going door to door throughout the last federal election campaign, Liberals were advocating how important it was to have an oversight committee made up of parliamentarians.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise to parliamentarians across the way that we are debating a bill that, in essence, captures the commitment the Prime Minister and every member of the Liberal caucus made as part of our election platform. No one should be surprised in the House of Commons, and I suspect that Canadians will look at this piece of legislation and see it as fulfilling an election promise.

I said yesterday that the Prime Minister says how important it is to him personally that when members of Parliament come to Ottawa they represent their constituents here. I can tell the Prime Minister and my caucus colleagues that this is something I believe the residents of Winnipeg North are behind 100%. I am convinced that this is good, solid legislation.

I would like to commend the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the government House leader for doing a phenomenal job in ensuring that this commitment is being fulfilled in such a timely fashion.

That is how I wanted to start my comments today. I know there has been concern among opposition members about how the bill would ultimately be passed. Maybe I could attempt to answer some of the questions they might have.

For example, we know that more than 40 members have been afforded the opportunity to give a 10- or 20-minute speech. Well over 100 have been afforded the opportunity to be engaged in one way or another on the floor of the House of Commons.

I also want to compliment the excellent standing committee that dealt with Bill C-22. I would argue that this was a fulfillment of one of the other aspects the Prime Minister has talked about. As a government, we want to bring more life to our standing committees. We want members on all sides of the House to be more engaged in a positive way in terms of trying to improve legislation. That is exactly what we have done here. After second reading, the bill went to committee, and in that committee, what did we see? A number of witnesses came before the committee, from different regions of the country, and made recommendations on how the legislation could be improved. A good number of those expert witnesses were very complimentary to the government about the legislation as it was presented to committee. They were very supportive of that legislation.

They recognized, as many of us have, that there is always room for improvement. We have encouraged that, and what we saw was a series of amendments brought forward. The ideas were talked about. The standing committee did its job in terms of setting the agenda and inviting witnesses.

I look at the standing committees as the backbone of the fine work parliamentarians do. All we need to do is focus some attention on that standing committee. There was a great list developed for witnesses who presented their reports and came up with ideas. The committee took a number of those thoughts and presented amendments. It was not just amendments from the government side of the House. There were amendments suggested, and some were accepted, from the opposition side of the House. That demonstrates the changes we are seeing at the committee level. I bring that to people's attention, because it is worthy of note.

The legislation has come back to the House. The government has the opportunity to review some of the work that was done at committee. Yes, there was a need to make some changes to it. I will give an example of one of the changes.

The witness protection program is of critical importance. Canadians appreciate the importance of informants or individuals who might be testifying before a court of law, when their life or their family's lives may be put at risk. Because there is risk, we need to have a system that protects those witnesses. That is why we have a witness protection program.

The committee, for a number of reasons, felt that we should talk about the names of witnesses and drawing too much information from that. A caveat was put in, in the form an amendment, and the government, at this point, felt that we might have been going too far on that particular issue. That is one of the amendments and why it is that some amendments were made at third reading.

I raise that because I believe that is really what Parliament should be doing on its legislation. We had the opportunity to see the legislation through first reading. Members were able to be engaged. No one would have been surprised by the introduction of the bill, given the fact that it was something that was talked about. It was brought in for second reading. Dozens of members were able to speak to it. Even more were able to be engaged in that debate. It then went to committee. In committee, it received wonderful support, and a number of ideas that would improve it were incorporated into amendments. Ultimately it went to report stage, at which point there were a few modifications. Now we are into third reading and we are debating it again in anticipation of the legislation being ready to pass.

We have a government that has made a commitment to Canadians. It brought in the legislation. The legislation has been improved through the process, and ultimately, we are getting into a position where we will be seeing it pass. I see that as a very strong positive. We should all take some pride in the manner in which it has actually gone through.

I know there have been some concerns among the opposition members with respect to the legislation, specifically dealing with what sorts of exemptions there will be. They are indicating that we could have done better in terms of not allowing as many exemptions.

I would like to address that point. It is important to recognize that this is somewhat historical in the sense that Canada will have a parliamentary oversight committee, among many other things. I like to think of it as an oversight committee that will protect the rights and freedoms of all Canadians in a very respectful fashion. That is one reason I am such a strong advocate for Bill C-22, because I believe in the rights and freedoms of Canadians.

It is the first time Canada is going to have a parliamentary oversight committee that is going to be looking at all of our security agencies and ensuring that there is a higher sense of accountability, whether it is border controls, corporations, or the RCMP. This is good news.

I want to be sensitive in terms of what the opposition is saying, but I want to assure members that it is very robust legislation. In fact, even though we might be the last of the Five Eyes countries, countries that move together in dealing with issues of this nature, immigration and so forth, I would suggest that we could be very proud of how robust our legislation is in comparison with the other countries' legislation.

Let me give an example. When we talk about the exemptions of what cannot be talked about, or what can be withdrawn from the committee, this is something that comes from the New Zealand act, which is one of the Five Eyes countries. In New Zealand, the act allows for the government to inform the committee that the documents or information cannot be disclosed because, in the opinion of the chief executive of the relevant intelligence and security agency, the documents or information are sensitive. In all fairness, I suspect that if we were to ask even the members of the opposition, one would think that our legislation is more robust than that. I would challenge the members across the way, who are concerned about that aspect, to indicate to this House whether they believe that the New Zealand legislation is more robust than ours. I do not believe it is, but that is an issue that is raised.

That is not the only country that we can draw a comparison to, but before I leave the subject of New Zealand, there is another point related to this. I want to talk about the Prime Minister, because a number of members across the way have talked about the influence of the Prime Minister. I will get to that right away, because there is another good example with respect to New Zealand.

On the same thought, let us look at what is being done in the U.K. act. The government is able to inform the intelligence and security committee, which is the equivalent of what we are establishing, that the information cannot be disclosed because the secretary of state has decided that it should not be disclosed. Again, I would suggest that our legislation is more robust than that, yet this is a big issue that is being raised, in particular by the New Democrats, and other opposition members also. That is not to say that our legislation is 100% perfect. There is always room for improvement. That is one of the reasons we are saying that we will take another look at it in the years ahead, and that is within the legislation itself.

I made reference to the Prime Minister. The members across the way talk about the Prime Minister and the control from the PMO. I would encourage them not to be paranoid about that particular issue. In New Zealand, the prime minister actually sits on the security committee. In Canada, we have a parliamentary oversight committee where the government members of Parliament make up the minority of the committee. That is a fairly significant piece in the legislation. In fairness, the opposition should recognize that it reinforces that we have excellent legislation in comparison to other Five Eyes countries.

Not only that, but the good news continues. Within the framework, we have a Prime Minister who is obligated to work with the opposition to fill the opposition member spots on the committee. Let me suggest to members that if we were to talk to Canadians to get a better sense of what Canadians believe, I would like to think that our Minister of Public Safety has done a phenomenal job with respect to this legislation, in bringing it forward and defending it. If there is any doubt in the minds of members as to why or how they should be voting, if they read what the Minister of Public Safety has put on the record here, I am sure that their concerns will be addressed.

I would argue that this is one of those pieces of legislation that should be passed unanimously by this House, because I believe that all Canadians want to see a parliamentary oversight committee. Even under Stephen Harper, where there was some reluctance—actually there was a lot of reluctance—I know there are now many members across the way who understand the value of a parliamentary oversight committee. I hope that they will come on side and support this good legislation.

National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians ActGovernment Orders

March 24th, 2017 / 10:25 a.m.
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NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with astonishment and exasperation to the member's speech on Bill C-22. It included everything from reminding us that this is the only thing the Liberals have to say about Bill C-51, which I have a bill before the House to repeal—they have not presented anything other than this bill—to him saying that if we have objections to stand up and speak about them, when this is under time allocation and the NDP gets exactly one speaker at third reading. I am a bit exasperated.

The final thing I would say is that the member is somehow proud of a bill that, when the committee provided teeth, as the Liberal Prime Minister said he would allow committees to do, then the government proceeded to take the teeth out of this bill and put them in a glass by the Prime Minister's bed. We have a bill here that has absolutely no ability to do what it is supposed to do.

I am exasperated and astonished to hear a speech like this, which would revise history and tries to recast this in a way that is completely false. What we have here is the government taking control of a committee, overruling what was done, and producing a committee that is very important to this country, without any support from the opposition parties. What does the member have to say about that?

National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians ActGovernment Orders

March 24th, 2017 / 10:35 a.m.
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Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

A happy Friday to you, Mr. Speaker, and to all of my good friends.

I am very pleased to rise in the House today to speak in favour of Bill C-22. I will use my time to defend my point of view and common sense, which seems to be lacking across the way.

Before I get into the substance of the bill, I would like to comment on how the party in power always uses the same tactic when it knows the media and Canadians will take a dim view of its decisions. It sure likes to make itself look cute.

Here is an example of the government's sneaky tactics: it introduced Bill C-22 on June 16 of last year during the dying hours of the session to ensure that neither MPs nor the public would have much opportunity to debate it.

Here is another example. The Minister of Finance tabled a report indicating that the deficit would be $30 billion, not the modest $10-billion deficit they campaigned on. Any deficit at all is hard to swallow. My children and grandchildren will have to pay for it, but apparently the members opposite do not have grandchildren, so they do not care.

Finally, here is the last example. The Leader of the Government in the House of Commons tabled a document stipulating that the Prime Minister should have to be in the House to answer questions only one hour a week, and that the House should meet only four days week in order to balance work and family. Now that is what I call being a part-time prime minister.

I will now get into the substance of the debate, specifically, Bill C-22. I have no objection to the idea of creating a committee whose members would be tasked with examining and reviewing the legislative, regulatory, strategic, financial, and administrative frameworks of national security and intelligence. What bothers me is how this committee will be formed. I have some concerns about that.

First and foremost, public safety is a non-partisan issue. The fact that the Prime Minister's Office decided way back in January who would chair that committee, before the committee was even struck, says a lot about the Prime Minister's attitude towards the members of the House of Commons.

That decision was made by the Liberal Party alone and not as a result of discussions with the other parties. What is more, the Liberals made this decision without consulting the House, even though hon. members expressed interest in being part of the discussion to select the chair of this important committee. Public safety is very important and should never be a partisan issue.

For its part, the Prime Minister's Office will also be tasked with selecting the committee members, contrary to the election promise made by the member for Papineau, meaning that the committee members will be beholden to him and the committee will no longer able to do what it is asked to do. It will not meet the needs of Canadians, but rather those of the Prime Minister himself, as he sees fit. He will be lord and master as usual. Making the committee not as independent as it should be undermines its usefulness and legitimacy.

Under Bill C-22 the Prime Minister and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness will have the authority to change or simply block any report drafted by the committee members. The Prime Minister will therefore yet again be lord and master of the committee. I think he rather likes being lord and master. He should consider the fact that there are members in the House who like doing their job.

Perhaps he does not like it, but we like to speak on behalf of our constituents. Is that not why we were elected to the House? There is a song about the world's kings being at the top, but alone. The Prime Minister should think about that. Someone should buy him a mirror. I think he would like that.

I will elaborate. If the report contained information that the Prime Minister or the Minister of Public Safety considered to be sensitive, they would have the right to delete it from the report. That is unacceptable. By “sensitive information” I do not mean confidential information that would harm Canadians' safety if it were disclosed. I am talking about parts of the report that would reflect poorly on the Liberal Party because they would demonstrate its incompetence and bad judgment when making decisions. Our public safety critic gave a very good explanation of the situation.

He said:

If we are going to implement parliamentary oversight, we need to do it right. It needs to be real and substantial oversight. It needs to be parliamentary. Otherwise, this is simply a Liberal Party communications exercise, and this is not something the Conservative Party can support.

It is very important to remember that the Liberals want a committee of parliamentarians and not a parliamentary committee. There is a big difference. The committee should be an independent body that is not accountable to the party in power. Rather, it must guarantee Canadians that their safety is assured in a legal and professional manner.

I am extremely troubled by the fact that the Prime Minister and the Minister of Public Safety could have the last word on the reports of a so-called independent committee. Furthermore, it is truly important that the committee members already have experience handling secret information or experience with public safety, national security, intelligence, and defence issues.

That is one more reason why the leaders of all the parties should be consulted. They could ensure that we have the best parliamentarians for the important task they will be doing.

I would like to close by saying that I cannot support such a bill, unless some major changes are made. First, the opposition parties must be consulted before the committee members are chosen. Second, the committee's autonomy and independence from the Government of Canada must be respected in order to prevent the Prime Minister and the Minister of Public Safety from interfering. Finally, I think that strict criteria must be maintained and that parliamentarians with extensive experience in the fields that I mentioned earlier must be selected so that the committee can provide top-notch service to all Canadians.

We are talking here about public safety. That is extremely important, and this committee must be independent. It must be specialized and non-partisan. However, the Liberal government took the liberty of appointing the committee chair in January without any consultation. The Liberals refused to consult with the opposition parties before the legislative measure was even drafted, despite the willingness of the Conservative Party and the NDP to discuss this important committee.

Like our Five Eyes allies, we think that the members of this committee should have significant experience in dealing with secret information, public safety, national security, intelligence, and defence. The chair who has been appointed does not have that type of experience. The committee members are appointed by and accountable to the Prime Minister's Office.

They should be appointed by Parliament and report to Parliament. During the election campaign, the Prime Minister advocated for a reduced role for the Prime Minister's Office, but no action has been taken in that regard.

Bill C-22 would provide for numerous exceptions, and it permits government departments and agencies to opt out of providing certain information to the committee. This undermines the committee's oversight responsibilities and prevents it from fully carrying out its mandate.

Here on the Conservative benches, as the official opposition, we see public safety as a priority and believe that protecting our security and intelligence officers must be a primary concern. We will examine the bill closely, but we remain concerned about the attempts being made by the Prime Minister's Office and the Liberal Part to make this committee another arm of the Liberal government.

The Prime Minister's comments are becoming increasingly totalitarian, despite his promises to be more transparent. Members across party lines are being silenced, even though we were sent here to represent Canadians. He wants to shut us up. The Prime Minister of Canada will never, ever shut me up. If he ever has the nerve to try, I will go straight to the media and shout at the top of my lungs that this prime minister has become a dictator.

We have a committee that is working so hard for the measures that the leader implemented. It is unacceptable to me that the Prime Minister, who was duly elected by the people and who knew what he was in for when he ran for his party leadership, should sit for just one hour a week. That is ridiculous. Do we have a part-time Canadian Prime Minister on our hands? When will he be accountable to Canadians? This is his job; this is what he is supposed to be doing.

What about the unfortunate Quebeckers working on that side, the 40 members who have been skewered by the Quebec media because we never hear from them? Has the Prime Minister shut them up too? Are they expected to keep quiet about the things that bother them?

People can say what they want about Mr. Harper, they can love him or hate him, but he listened to his Quebec MPs. We sat down with him every day in the lobby. He was always asking us how things were going in Quebec.

Have you had that kind of conversation with your Prime Minister? I highly doubt it. Have you Quebeckers on that side of the House ever sat down with your Prime Minister? Has he ever paid attention to what is going on in your ridings—

National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians ActGovernment Orders

March 24th, 2017 / 10:55 a.m.
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Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her excellent speech. I have a lot of respect for her, especially when it comes to official languages.

I am having a hard time understanding her remarks on Bill C-22. I do not know if she was in the House in 2006, but I would like to remind her that the Conservative Party literally wrote the book on disrupting parliamentary committees. Mr. Harper's legacy was a set of instructions on how to disrupt parliamentary committees.

Now, back to Bill C-22. Does my colleague agree that creating a parliamentary committee is important? It will make for greater transparency in our security organizations. I would like her to comment on that.

National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians ActGovernment Orders

March 24th, 2017 / 10:55 a.m.
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Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was a member of the House from 2006 to 2011. I left when the orange wave washed over the House, but I came back stronger than ever.

As I said at the very beginning of my speech, I am not against Bill C-22, but nor am I in favour of it. There are some flaws in how it is being presented. I oppose the idea of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness leading the committee. For the sake of Canada's public safety, the committee should be independent and made up of people who have the necessary expertise. I do not want the committee to become the Prime Minister's puppet. That is not what an independent committee should be.

An independent committee, especially one dealing with Canada's public safety, should be made up of parliamentarians who have expertise in that area. Personally, I am a member of the Standing Committee on Official Languages, and I would not be the right person to sit on the independent committee we are talking about. I have no expertise when it comes to defence and public safety. In fact, I have no expertise in any areas as significant as that. We need to keep that in mind. I will never stand for such a committee to become the prime minister's puppet, no matter what party is in power.

National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians ActGovernment Orders

March 24th, 2017 / 12:25 p.m.
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NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise to address Bill C-22 at third reading stage. Unfortunately, this is the final day of debate on an issue of national security that has divided the government from every opposition party.

Government members have remarked on the extraordinary nature of the proposed committee. They note that it would end our laggard status among the so-called Five Eyes, that it would allow some parliamentarians extraordinary access to classified information, and that it would enjoy a whole-of-government mandate. These claims are all true, but they are also the bare minimum requirements. They are simply the essential features of an oversight committee.

I hope government members are unsettled when they notice that every opposition party, and respected experts from across the political spectrum, are all pointing to the same flaws in the government's bill. I have spoken about these flaws in detail in the public safety committee and in this chamber. My colleagues and I have consulted with non-partisan experts to craft more than one dozen amendments to resolve them.

Let me summarize these flaws as succinctly as I can for Canadians.

This committee's job is to oversee the functioning and classified operations of every government agency linked to intelligence and national security. This 11 member committee will face a multi-billion dollar array of some 20 government departments and agencies, some of which have never yet been subject to any oversight. When these 11 members sit down together for the first time, all they will have to rely on is a dedicated staff, a limited budget, and the powers laid out in black and white in the bill. That is where they will begin to hit roadblocks.

Despite their top secret security clearances, this bill would bar those parliamentarians from accessing certain operational information. They would find themselves unable to summon witnesses or order documents. Instead they could only request information from cabinet ministers, who are permitted to withhold it.

While it clips the committee's wings at every turn, the bill bestows sweeping powers on cabinet and on the Prime Minister. Ministers can shut down investigations. The Prime Minister can appoint every member of oversight committees and censor its reports.

Canadians might well ask this. With such little power for Parliament and so much power for the cabinet, can this oversight body actually do its job? It is precisely in that context that the government has now shut down debate, after barely one-tenth of Canadians' elected representatives have been permitted to participate. That is the context for today.

I want to focus on what I see as the essential question for each member now, and that is this. Are the powers granted by this bill sufficient to create the degree of rigorous operational oversight that Canadians expect in the era of Bill C-51, and the extraordinary powers now granted to our security services? That is the important question because the test for this committee is not whether it can monitor uncontroversial activities. The true test is whether it can stand up to a government that is violating the law in certain circumstances, failing to protect Canadians, or encroaching on their hard-earned rights and liberties.

Let me be clear. I cannot support this bill in that context, in its current form. I believe it would fail that test and it would fail Canadians. At the very moment when they need it to be strong, independent, and effective, it would fail the test because it chooses to sacrifice transparency for secrecy, and favour executive authority over accountability.

In the wake of an intelligence failure that cost thousands of innocent lives, the American 9/11 commission report warned as follows: “Secrecy stifles oversight...current organizational incentives encourage overclassification. This balance should change...”. It also warned, “So long as oversight is undermined...we believe the American people will not get the security they want and need.”

That is what this is all about: giving Canadians not just empty assurances but hard proof that their security is protected and their rights upheld. Does this bill meet that standard when it comes to operational oversight?

In arguing against strengthening the committee, the public safety minister compared it to counterpart committees in the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. He correctly noted that each of those allies allows the government to withhold sensitive information from the oversight committee, but he left out an important fact, and that is that none of them is an operational oversight committee. Canada's would be, and it would be only second among the Five Eyes.

How would its powers compare to those American congressional committees? What do the Americans require for the same kind of job we are asking our committee to do? In the United States, special committees of the House and Senate are kept informed in real time of all intelligence operations. They can cut funding and even overrule the White House to order the release of previously classified information, if it serves the national interest. This goes far beyond even what the opposition parties have proposed for Canada.

If we passed this bill without fixing it, we would be giving the committee a mandate but not the tools required to get the job done. Yet, the government resists all calls by the opposition and non-partisan experts to grant these tools to the oversight committee. This gets to the central question of trust.

To justify cabinet's sweeping powers to obstruct oversight, the government has hidden behind a straw man, the one limit to which nobody has ever objected, and that is the safeguard to protect individuals in the witness protection program. We heard all about that earlier today. One government member referred to the need to segregate especially sensitive information. With respect, this misses the point. Everything this committee would work on is, by definition, especially sensitive. Nothing should leak, and I am confident that nothing will leak, just as it has not in Britain in the 22 years that it has had a similar committee under way.

If the identities of protected witnesses were this committee's only blind spot, I would welcome it, but alongside the others, it has begun to serve as a litmus test for the government's trust in this committee. I say that because there is no meaningful distinction between that information and anything else within the committee's unique mandate. All of it is potentially damaging to national security and individuals' safety. It makes us wonder, if the government cannot trust the committee with the names of witnesses, why would it hand over operational details? The answer, I fear, is that it will not. If we passed the current bill, we would give the government the power to withhold that information at every turn. We would give the government the power to deny Canadians the operational oversight they were promised, and we would fatally undermine Canadians' faith in this new institution, because if cabinet does not trust the committee, why should Canadians?

Of course, the government insists that it would use these powers sparingly and only with the best intentions. The Liberals' faith in their own good intentions I believe is sincere, but it blinds them to the actual wording of the bill. Take clause 21 as an example. Several amendments have targeted cabinet's power to filter the flow of information from this committee to Canadians. No fewer than six government members have repeated the claim that the sole purpose of that power is to screen out classified information. Again, if that were true, I would support it, but it is simply not true. In fact, the relevant clause does not even use the word “classified”. In fact, it empowers the Prime Minister to censor any information he believes may be injurious to national security or defence, or even international relations. All he has to do is believe it and it is so, and it is not available.

A similar claim, repeated by five government members, is that this revision power could not be applied to the committee's findings. Again, I would support that clause, but it is not in the bill.

This has become a theme. Too often, government members assure us of the good intentions of this bill's authors and simply forget that legislation must be built to outlast the authors of the bill. We are making law not just for this regime but for the future.

The current Prime Minister may not intend to use his powers to suppress embarrassing committee findings, but another one may. The current cabinet may not intend to use its power to quash investigations or to hide mismanagement or scandal, but another one may. The current government may not intend to ban the official opposition from the committee or use appointments to control the agenda or hide illegal surveillance by withholding operational details on security grounds, but another government may.

Consider, for instance, the investigations taking place right now south of the border into President Trump's ties to Russia and his wiretapping claims. If Bill C-22 were the law there, President Trump could revise the reports of congressional intelligence oversight committees to remove information he felt could harm foreign relations. His cabinet could obstruct, and even shut down, investigations simply by asserting security privilege.

That is why Canadians are demanding that this committee be built to a higher standard of strength and independence, so that when the time comes, it can stand as a genuine check on the executive overreach and end operations that violate Canadians' rights or mismanagement that undermines their security. As it stands, it is simply not built to that standard.

However, I do want to recognize the progress that has been made and acknowledge the good work done by the members of the public safety committee. Because of an amendment from the NDP, the new oversight committee would now have a legal duty to alert the Attorney General to any potentially illegal activity within the entire national security apparatus.

While future prime ministers would still be able to censor reports on broad grounds, Canadians could now see exactly how much text had been revised in a particular report and the reasons the revision occurred. While cabinet ministers unfortunately retain the power to withhold information and even shut down investigations, Canadians could now monitor the use of those powers each year.

I want to personally recognize the hard work of every member of the public safety committee. They showed that progress is possible when the government is willing to work with opposition parties. However, before the government congratulates itself for accepting a handful of ideas from other parties, let us be clear about what it rejected.

The plan we proposed gave the oversight committee full access to information and the power to summon witnesses and order documents. It offered freedom to investigate any issue without interference by cabinet ministers. It let the committee choose its own chairperson from among the membership that would actually match the partisan balance of the House. It allowed the free flow of insights back and forth within the existing expert review bodies. Every last one of those proposals was rejected by the government.

While progress was made at the margins, the government is now asking Parliament to approve an oversight committee with only partial access to the information it needs to do the job for Canadians: a committee that can only request information from cabinet, not order it directly; a committee whose entire membership is selected by the Prime Minister, with no requirement that it even include members from the biggest opposition parties. This committee would not be out of place in Australia, New Zealand, or France, where there is no expectation of operational oversight, but it is entirely inappropriate in Canada.

I cannot accept the design set by the government for two fundamental reasons: first, it tilts the balance too far toward executive power at the expense of parliamentary accountability; and, second, it fails to meet the high standard of operational oversight that the Liberals made necessary when they joined with the Conservatives to dramatically expand security powers through Bill C-51.

It is against these two standards that the government's attitude toward this bill is so very disappointing. The government has adopted an approach which says that something is better than nothing insofar as parliamentary oversight is concerned, and that we should just be happy we got a little bit. It suggests to me the belief that national security is the exclusive domain of the executive branch and that Parliament is somehow an ungrateful guest on the government's turf. That is dead wrong.

Members will remember this question was addressed and answered by Speaker Milliken in 2010 when he ruled on the government's attempt to deny Parliament documents relating to the Afghan detainee affair. In denying Parliament's role as a watchdog for Canadians, the executive claimed that Parliament's general right of inquiry was limited by the executive's countervailing interest in protecting national security. Parliament, the government argued, was overreaching by demanding information on security matters and threatening the constitutional separation of powers. The parallels to our current debate are clear.

What was the outcome? After an exhaustive analysis, Speaker Milliken ruled that Parliament's right to access information, to do its job, to perform its duties is “absolute”. In fact it was the executive that jeopardized the proper separation of powers by attempting to censor information provided to Parliament.

The Canadians' elected representatives in Parliament must be named the ultimate watchdog in our system. That should be a point of unanimous agreement for everyone in this place. We all recognize, as Speaker Milliken did, that special safeguards must be put in place to allow Parliament to exercise that oversight role in sensitive domains like national security and intelligence.

That is why New Democrats supported many safeguards to protect sensitive information. For example, we supported security vetting for every member. That was a step that was rejected by the British Parliament. We agreed. Similarly, we think it is reasonable that members waive parliamentary immunity from prosecution should they leak information. We think that is entirely reasonable. That step, however, was rejected by another of our Five Eyes allies, namely, New Zealand.

These additional safeguards should be used to facilitate the greater flow of classified information required for operational oversight, but the bill turns those safeguards into shackles. It asks Parliament to accept that oversight cannot be exercised through a parliamentary committee, but only through an adjunct to the executive, the Prime Minister's Office. It asks Parliament to grant the executive veto power over its access to information against the advice of experts and the Speaker's analysis of parliamentary procedure as well. It asks Parliament to legislate limits on its own authority to investigate how well the government of the day serves the security interests of Canadians and defends their civil liberties.

Because we believe in upholding Parliament's place as the final watchdog, and because we cannot accept inadequate operational oversight of the powers that Liberals and Conservatives granted to our security agencies in Bill C-51 over the protests of so many Canadians, the New Democratic Party cannot support Bill C-22 as it stands.

However, we have everything we need to fix the bill. We have consensus among the opposition parties. We have the willingness to work together to compromise. We have all the tools we need. We just need the time.

I am asking all members to do what the members of this committee will soon be asked to do, and that is to set partisanship aside and consider whether this bill, with all the flaws agreed upon by so many security experts, meets the standards of operational oversight that Canadians rightfully demand in the context of Bill C-51, and if they have any doubt that it might fail to meet that test for Canadians, I would ask them to support the following amendment. I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:

“Bill C-22, An Act to establish the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians and to make consequential amendments to certain Acts, be not now read a third time but be referred back to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security for the purpose of reconsidering Clauses 8, 14, and 16 with a view to assessing whether the investigatory powers and limits defined in these clauses allow for sufficiently robust oversight of ongoing intelligence and national security activities.”

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March 24th, 2017 / 12:45 p.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I will ask a direct question related to one of the comments made by the member in just a moment, but I want to express a bit of disappointment. Bill C-22 is a piece of legislation that has received accolades, even before it went to committee. Experts said it was good, solid, sound legislation.

Once it went to committee, a number of amendments were made that were accepted by the government as a whole, making the legislation that much stronger. Not all amendments were accepted, and I think that should be no surprise, but that is what took place. We have very robust legislation. I would compare this legislation to that in other jurisdictions.

The specific question I have relates to some comments the member expressed during his discussion. I want to make sure I get as close as I can to interpreting what the member said. During his speech, the members stated something to the effect that the committee should have operational control of police and intelligence agencies. Does the member across the way truly think the power to direct security and intelligence operations is a good idea? That is how I interpreted what the member said.

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March 24th, 2017 / 12:50 p.m.
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, we have heard time and again from the government that it wants to respect the role of committees and that it wants to respect the work of its backbenchers and opposition MPs. When it comes to this piece of legislation, the Liberals are not doing that.

There was a good working relationship in committee. The committee came up with good amendments for what ultimately really needs to be a nonpartisan venture.

On a parallel track, the government members are saying that they want to have a discussion about the Standing Orders of the House and that we should just trust them to engage in good-faith discussions, and not ram things through, and that they will operate under a sunny model to make laws better here in Parliament. Does the behaviour of the government with respect to Bill C-22 not give members of this place cause to worry that perhaps the government is not acting in good faith when the government members say they just want to have a simple discussion about the Standing Orders of the House?

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March 24th, 2017 / 12:50 p.m.
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NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. friend and colleague from Winnipeg for connecting the dots between what is happening here with Bill C-22 and what is happening all this week, as Canadians have observed, as the government decides to change the rules of democracy in this place on its own. The Liberals are calling it a discussion paper, putting a happy face on it, and using words like “modernization”, as if somehow Canadians will miss the fact that they are changing it without the support of other parties.

I never thought we would be here. I honestly did not think we would be here on Bill C-22. I cannot believe that a compromise that was achieved in a committee to say yes to this would somehow now be the subject of 11th-hour changes that take away our ability to agree to this. I was so hopeful that we could get this together as Canadians and put together a committee, security-cleared, in a non-partisan way, to review classified information and other information and get to the bottom of operational activities of some agencies that have never had any oversight whatsoever. Yet here we are, and that is why we are so disappointed.

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March 24th, 2017 / 12:50 p.m.
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NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his passionate, thoroughly fact-based speech.

Given that he was the only NDP member to speak, how does my colleague respond to the assertion that this bill will enable members to participate in the conversation and improve security? My colleague from Victoria is an excellent MP, but that is not a very democratic way to start things off. What is more, that is the only time we will get.

With respect to security, one of the government's last-minute proposals for Bill C-22 was to remove the committee's power to subpoena witnesses and documents even though Kent Roach, Craig Forcese, and the first chair of the Security Intelligence Review Committee recommended the committee have that power.

Another proposal would let ministers refuse to disclose information simply by citing national security privilege. I named just two, but there are at least three more that are very serious. In effect, these proposals would strip the committee of some of its powers.

What does my colleague think of that? Does he think this enhances or undermines oversight over Canada's security services?

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March 24th, 2017 / 12:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Majid Jowhari Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Etobicoke Centre.

I am very pleased to stand in the House today in support of Bill C-22, an act to establish the national security and intelligence committee of parliamentarians and to make consequential amendments to certain acts. Bill C-22 fulfills the commitment made by our government to Canadians that it will bring forward legislation to create a national security and intelligence committee of parliamentarians, otherwise known as NSICOP.

Throughout this speech, I will highlight three key points that outline the importance of the creation of NSICOP, namely: first, strengthening the accountability and transparency of our government; second, providing a comprehensive and reactive security framework through a wide-ranging mandate; and third, having extraordinary access to classified information in order to closely examine intelligence and security operations.

Bill C-22 is an essential component in the Government of Canada's efforts to ensure our country's national security is not beyond parliamentary oversight while simultaneously respecting the rights and freedoms of Canadians. This, I believe, is one of the most important fundamental duties our government can perform.

Many western democracies, including our Five Eyes allies—the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand—have parliamentary oversight bodies on national security similar to what is being proposed in the bill. Just like those parliamentary bodies, Bill C-22 permits an examination of the national security work of federal departments and agencies, and holds them accountable as concerns their actions and responsibilities.

Canada currently has several oversight bodies that examine the activities of government organizations and agencies involved in national security operations. While each body does important work, they are organization specific and do not engage parliamentarians directly with their reviews.

The creation of NSICOP would strengthen transparency, accountability, ensure the possibility for government-wide reviews, and warrant greater effectiveness and efficiency throughout the larger review framework. In addition, it would allow for the complete independence of a parliamentary body in reviewing matters while not impeding on national security.

I would also like to point out that our government remains committed to addressing the problematic features and concerns of Canadians surrounding Bill C-51, which was introduced by the former government, and present new legislation that better balances our collective security with our rights and freedoms. Bill C-22 is one step towards addressing that.

The first key message that highlights the importance of the creation of this committee is that it would fill the accountability gap that has been outlined for more than 10 years by private sector experts, commissions of inquiry, and the Auditor General regarding the lack of an independent parliamentary body to scrutinize security and intelligence operations.

To give the committee the time and opportunity to learn the serious task it is undertaking and to get to know and understand the security and intelligence context on both a national and international level, our government has built an automatic review of NSICOP after five years to ensure it can accurately instill all the lessons it has learned in a timely and appropriate manner. This shows that our government understands the ever evolving nature of security threats and shows that we are remaining vigilant, responsive, and accountable to our security framework.

The government put forward the bill. The bill was studied at committee and amendments were proposed. The government, after careful consideration, has agreed to accept a majority of what the standing committee has requested.

One of these amendments is to add a whistle-blower clause, clause 31.1, which requires the committee to inform the appropriate minister, as well as the Attorney General, if it uncovers any activity that may not be in compliance with the law. I believe that this amendment adds to Bill C-22's already strong legislation, as it ensures Canadians that we are remaining vigilant to further enhance our capacity to keep Canadians safe through increased responsibility and accountability.

Second, the committee itself would have a broad government-wide mandate to scrutinize any national security matter.

The committee would also have the power to perform reviews on national security and intelligence activities, including ongoing operations, and the ability to conduct strategic and systemic reviews of legislative, regulatory, policy, expenditure, and administrative frameworks under which such activities are conducted.

Additionally, the committee would conduct reviews of matters specifically referred to it by a minister.

Given its broad mandate to review any operation, including an ongoing operation, the minister would have the authority to stop a review if it was deemed to be detrimental to national security.

It is important to note that the minister would have discretionary authority to withhold special operational information on a case-by-case basis should it also be believed that disclosure would be injurious to national security.

While these ministerial powers are within reason, I want to stress that ministers would not be able to withhold just any information. They are only permitted to do so in special and specific circumstances involving legally defined categories involving the most sensitive national security information where disclosure would have harmful national security implications for Canada.

Our government has recently agreed to adopt the amendment put forth by the public safety committee regarding the narrowing of the minister's authority to determine that a study of the committee is injurious to national security, which applies only to ongoing operations. The minister would have to explain that decision to the committee and would need to alert the committee as soon as the decision changed or as soon as the operation was no longer ongoing.

Third, our government is also supporting amendments to clause 14, which is the section that lists the type of information to which the NSICOP would not have access. This amendment expands the level of access to the different types of information available to the committee. We have removed from this exclusions list information about ongoing defence intelligence activities supporting military operations, privileged information under the Investment Canada Act, and information collected by the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada.

I believe the bill is stronger as a result, and I thank the members of the public safety committee for suggesting this amendment.

The committee will also decide on which national security and intelligence matters it will review. Additionally, the government may also refer matters for discussion at the committee.

The government is committed to protecting Canadians from national security threats. Bill C-22 would ensure that our national security framework will be working effectively to keep Canadians safe while not overriding the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Such an accountability mechanism is crucial to Canada, and it represents what Canadians asked for. That is exactly what our government is delivering. Canada is taking a step forward so that Canadians can see real and positive results on the serious issue of national security.

Bill C-22 would provide parliamentarians with extraordinary access to classified information and bring Canada in line with similar parliamentary oversight bodies that are already in place in the countries of our national security allies.

Bill C-22 represents a promise made and a promise kept.

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March 24th, 2017 / 1:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member opposite for his speech, but I am puzzled by one of the statements he made.

He said that Bill C-22 had gone to committee and that the majority of the amendments had been adopted. That is exactly opposite of what the member for Victoria just said. He said that the committee had come together and amendments had been proposed and accepted by all committee members, but at the eleventh hour the bill had been gutted and all those things had been taken away, such that the opposition could not support it.

Would the member explain, please, why there is such a difference in those stories?

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March 24th, 2017 / 1:05 p.m.
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NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to hear the member opposite explain how the bill currently before the House, Bill C-22, can be transparent and require more accountability, given that the last minute changes made by the government seek to do the following: take away the committee's power to subpoena witnesses and documents; exempt ministers from the duty to disclose information—so much for accountability and transparency; and, among other things, give the Prime Minister the power to redact the committee reports and the discretion to compel the committee to revise its reports, to take out sensitive information without requiring the final report to specify which passages have been redacted or what kind of information was erased, where, or to what extent.

How can the Liberals talk about transparency and accountability when it is adding these measures, which totally undermine the effectiveness of the oversight committee?

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March 24th, 2017 / 1:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak at the third reading of Bill C-22, which will create a committee of parliamentarians to oversee Canada's security bodies.

In Canada, our security apparatus and oversight must be constructed in ways that protect our freedoms and rights. Our Canada, strong and free, is the best country on the planet, and these are mutually reinforcing qualities that make our country. The recent terror attacks in Quebec, Strathroy, and indeed here on Parliament Hill in 2014, remind us that no country is immune to actions by those who would seek to challenge that freedom and security. While our strong global relationships, solid crisis response plans, and interconnected law enforcement networks are among the world's finest and meet rapidly changing global threats, we must guarantee independent parliamentary oversight to stand on guard of Canadians' individual rights and freedoms.

Canada is behind our international allies in this regard, and has been for far too long. Bill C-22 will help us catch up, better inform the public on crucial national security issues, and eliminate a weak link in the national security chain of accountability. In fact, the version of this bill introduced last June would already have put us far ahead of many other countries in terms of parliamentary oversight of national security. With the amendments adopted by the House earlier this week, Canada is poised to become a world leader in the area of national security and accountability.

It is worth remembering the history that accompanies the inception of this new committee of parliamentarians and the spirit of debate that has brought us to this point in its creation. We have certainly come a long way. Thirty years ago, the McDonald commission proposed an independent security review committee, in part as a result of public demands to make sure that mechanisms were in place to enforce the enforcers. There was widespread and growing concern that law enforcement operations carried out in secret but left unchecked could result in an above-the-law mentality and illegal activities by our paramilitary policing and security agencies. However, neither did the public want any parliamentary or government body with powers that were too broadly defined.

Fast-forwarding to 2005, only a few years after the tragedy of 9/11, an uncertain and changing environment meant growing demands for increased protection and stronger security measures. Prime Minister Paul Martin's government introduced legislation to create a parliamentary committee on national security and intelligence, reflecting renewed public demand for stronger oversight. That bill, as we know, died on the Order Paper.

In the last decade, the public and parliamentary debate in this area has intensified, and the issue of how to protect our security and our rights has become a major point of interest and now a driver of public policy. In recent years, we have discussed and debated stronger accountability for national security and intelligence agencies, following internal judicial inquiries and events surrounding the Maher Arar case.

Various bills have come and gone, including one introduced by the hon. member for Vancouver Quadra, which was rejected by the Conservative government of the day mere months before Bill C-51 was introduced.

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March 20th, 2017 / 12:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Bardish Chagger Liberal Waterloo, ON

Madam Speaker, I have appreciated the opportunities to work with the member as well. The member has to understand that as a government, we have a responsibility to have meaningful debate as well as to advance legislation.

When it comes to the important work the committee did, the government has more than considered the recommendations. This government actually has advanced legislation that is different from what was introduced at committee, because we took the work of the committee very seriously. The committee had eight meetings and 41 witnesses. Within this place, we have had more than 17 hours of debate.

It is important to note that this was an election promise that we are delivering on. Witnesses at the public safety and national security committee were all pleased to see us moving forward with this committee of parliamentarians and made some suggestions to improve it.

The committee made some of these changes to improve the bill. We have accepted many of them. During clause by clause on Bill C-22, the following amendments were made and included by the government: the Liberal amendment to broaden the committee's mandate in section 8, further sub-amended by the NDP and agreed to by all parties; the removal of the chair's double-vote from clause 19, ensuring that the chair would only cast a deciding vote in the event of a tie; and a whistle-blower clause that would require the committee to inform the appropriate minister of any activity it discovered that was not conducted in compliance with the law, proposed by the NDP and accepted by the government.

When it comes to a commitment to work together, this government is being very reasonable. I believe we can continue working together, and I encourage the members opposite to really consider these amendments seriously.