Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-59. As we know, it is the government's national security legislation. After months of debate, hearing from many witnesses, and reading expert briefs with respect to the bill, it is light on actions that will actually improve public safety and national security. I believe that Canada would be weaker because of this legislation, which hampers our agencies, cuts funding to intelligence and national security, and is more concerned about looking over the shoulder of those protecting us than watching those who seek to harm us. Let us be clear on this point. National security and intelligence officers and public servants are not a threat to public safety or privacy. They show dedication to protecting us and our country in a professional manner. However, Bill C-59 is more concerned with what someone might do in an effort to protect others than what criminals, extremists, and others might do to harm us.
In a world with growing international threats, instability, trade aggression, state-sponsored corporate cyber-espionage, and rising crime rates, Canada is weaker with the current Prime Minister and the Liberals in power. As I have said in the House before, public safety and national security should be the top priority of government and should be above politics so that the safety and security of Canadians are put ahead of political fortunes. This bill on national security fails to live up to its title.
Looking at the body of the Liberals' work, we see a continuous erosion of Canada's safety and security. Bill C-71, the recent gun legislation, ignores criminals who commit gun crimes. Bill C-75 softens sentences and rehabilitation for terrorists and violent crimes. The legalization of drugs is being done in a way that all but assures that organized crime will benefit and Canadians are put at risk.
As world hostility and hatred grows, we need stronger support for our way of life, not the erosion of it. That means empowering front-line national security and intelligence workers, stronger border protections, a better transfer of information between policing and security bodies, plus assured prosecution of criminals and threats to Canada. We need to be looking proactively at emerging technologies rather than reactively trying to put the genie back in the bottle, as we have done with cybersecurity.
What was the intent with this bill? Canadians and parliamentarians alike can tell a lot from the language used by the minister and the people who the Liberal majority called to testify. The bill was positioned by the Liberals as protecting Canadians from the public servants who work to protect Canada and our interests, and the majority of witnesses heard at committee were law professors, civil liberties groups, and privacy organizations. While they have important and valid views, they shared essentially one point: be scared of public servants. It is funny that after the many times the Prime Minister has used public servants as a political shield, stating that he “always trusts and respects them”, they are apparently more scary than threats of cyber-attacks from Chinese state-controlled hackers, ISIS extremists, white supremacists, and organized crime.
There is not much in this bill for security forces to do their work. With the Liberals' plan, there will now be four oversight bodies looking over the shoulder of our intelligence and security forces: first, a new parliamentary committee on security and intelligence oversight; second, the new national security and intelligence review agency; third, the expanded intelligence commissioner; and, finally, the existing oversights of Parliament and executive branches like the minister, the Prime Minister, and the national security advisor.
The Conservatives offered positive amendments. We asked the minister to tell us how these groups would work together to make it clear to Parliament, senior government officials, and those affected. This was turned down by the Liberals without any reason. It would seem reasonable that the minister would be happy to provide clarity to Canadians, and to those who need to work with the various boards, agencies, committees, and advisers, on how it will all work together. We also recommended that, as this new central intelligence and security agency would see information from a variety of departments and agencies, they play a role in identifying threats and providing a clear picture on the state of national security. The Liberals on the committee for some reason would prefer that the agency focus on only complaints and micromanaging our security professionals. If their goal had been to improve public safety, this suggestion would have been taken more seriously.
When we heard from security experts, they raised valid concerns. Dick Fadden, the former CSIS director, noted that the bill would send a message to security teams to be more restrictive with the information that they share. He said:
I haven't counted, but the number of times that the words “protection of privacy” are mentioned in this bill is really quite astounding. I'm as much in favour of privacy as everybody else, but I sometimes wonder whether we're placing so much emphasis on it that it's going to scare some people out of dealing with information relating to national security.
Information sharing between national security teams is essential to protecting Canadians and Canada. In fact, several inquiries, including one of the worst terrorism attacks in Canadian history, the Air India bombing, determined that information sharing was critical to stopping attacks.
Mr. Fadden stated that his worst nightmare scenario was an attack on Canada that was preventable; that being that information was withheld by one agency from other agencies. With Bill C-59, we would move toward more silos, less intelligence sharing, and more threats to Canadians. In his words, security professionals would have a clear message from the many repeated insertions of privacy and charter references, and, as he put it, to share less information lest they run afoul of their political masters.
The Conservatives offered a mild amendment that public servants be required to share information they thought was a threat to Canada with national security agencies. This was so all federal employees would have no fear of reprisal for sharing valid concerns with relevant authorities, like the new security review agency. This was turned down, again reaffirming that the Liberals on the committee were not focused on improving public safety and protecting Canadians.
Retired General Michael Day pointed out that there was nothing in the bill or in the government's policies to deal with emerging threats, real dangers today and tomorrow to our economic prosperity and our societal values. When he was asked by the Liberal MP from Mississauga—Lakeshore, “on the questions of artificial intelligence and potentially also quantum computing, how confident are you that Bill C-59,...is a flexible enough framework to address unknown unknowns that may come at us through the cyber domain in those two areas”, General Day replied, “Zero confidence”.
There continues to be clear threats, but dealing with current and emerging threats were not the focus of the government with this bill. We have already missed the emergence of cybersecurity threats and are playing catch-up at a cost of billions of dollars in government spending, lost economic opportunities through stolen commercial secrets, and personal losses through cybercrime. We have not looked forward at the next problem, so we are heading down the same path all over again.
We heard from Professor Leuprecht, a national security expert who teaches at the Royal Military College. He raised a number of concerns. The first was that the increased regulation and administrative work needed to report to new oversight groups would effectively be a cut to those agencies, shifting money away from protecting Canadians. We did find out eventually how much that cost would be. Nearly $100 million would be cut from national security in favour of red tape. Sadly, we only received this information a few weeks after the committee finished with the bill. The minister had knowingly withheld that information from my request for over six months. Once again, a lot of lip service to open and transparent government but very little actual transparency.
Dick Fadden, Professor Leuprecht, and Ray Boisvert, a former assistant director of CSIS and security expert with the Government of Ontario, also raised concerns of the overt hostility of China against Canada. When I asked him about our readiness for dealing with China's aggressions, he said:
I think that the answer is no. I don't think that we're oblivious to the threat...
I would argue that we do not really understand, in all of its complexity, how much China is different from Canada and how it aggressively uses all of the resources of the state against not just Canada but against any number of other countries in pursuit of its objectives.
At one meeting they noted that Chinese agents freely intimidated and threatened Canadians of Chinese descent, pushing them to support communist party initiatives. They or their families back in China could face the backlash of a highly oppressive regime and there was nothing that Canada did to protect them from such threats. China continues this trend, recently ordering Air Canada to call Taiwan part of China.
Mr. Boisvert said:
There's also the issue that China is now in the age of self-admitted “sharp power”, and they exercise that power with very little reservation anymore. There's no longer even a question of hiding their intentions. They are taking a very aggressive approach around resources and intellectual property, and they also are very clear in dealing with dissidents and academics. They've arrested some of them, and they punish others, including academic institutions in North America, at their will, so I think there's a value challenge that Canadians have to consider along with the economic opportunities discussion. The Cold War is over, but a new version is rapidly emerging, and I think our focus on counterterrorism is not always our best play.
We did not have the right people, the right information, and the right issues at committee to have a comprehensive law that would enhance national security. It appears that yet again the Liberals are bringing out legislation to deal with perceived threats at the expense of not dealing with actual threats.
If Canadians were being well served by the government, we would have dealt with serious questions ignored by the Liberals in this legislative process.
Canada has at least 60 returned ISIS terrorists in Canada. That number is likely low, as we have heard that as many as 180 or more Canadians have left our country to fight for ISIS. After the Liberals revoked Canada's ability to strip citizenship from such a heinous and despicable group as ISIS, Canada is now stuck simply welcoming them back with no repercussions and acting like nothing has gone wrong. We will likely never be able to prosecute them or extradite them because we cannot easily transfer intelligence; that is information gathered in other countries of these murders and rapists into evidence suitable for prosecutions in this country.
Canada needs to join the ranks of other modern countries in bringing known crimes conducted by Canadians abroad into our courts without compromising security agents and intelligence sharing agreements. We need to deal with the obvious intelligence to evidence gap that continues to exist in this legislation. This legislation has failed to do this, with Liberal MPs voting against Conservative amendments that tried to address this exact issue.
If we were serious about dealing with national security, we would have treated privacy and security as a single policy, not the competing interests that many civil groups suggested. Protecting Canadians includes protecting their privacy in addition to their economic opportunities, public safety, national security, and social values. These are a single policy, and for the most part those professionals who protect us know this.
Professor Leuprecht said:
We are not here because there's in any way some large-scale violation of the professionalism or the capabilities in which the community does its job....In the Five Eyes community, we have, by far, the most restrictive privacy regime. This is a choice that we have made as Canadians...other countries that have more rigorous parliamentary and other review mechanisms than Canada have also given their community more latitude in terms of how it can act, what it can do, and how it can do it.
Retired Lieutenant-General Michael Day stated:
...the trade-off between privacy and security, between the charter and the reasonable measures to protect Canadians. This is not, from my perspective obviously, a binary issue, or one that should be looked at as absolutes, but rather a dynamic relationship that should remain constantly under review. We should embrace that tension as opposed to pretending it doesn't exist, with a conversation being seen to have value in and of itself.
This is crystal clear when we look at the growing issue of cybercrime, such as identity theft, fraud, corporate espionage, and hacking. Privacy and other interests, social and financial, are one, and yet throughout this legislative process the Liberals presented this bill as a choice between one and the other.
The bill ignores the massive shift in issues with Canada's border security. Canada lacks the assets, people, and facilities to deal with the current threat to our borders. We know that an open border, which is internationally known as unprotected, is currently being exploited. It is being exploited not only by those who are shopping for a new home, but by human traffickers, smugglers, drug cartels, and other organized crime rings. While this issue is new, it is real and needs to be managed better than just hoping everything will sort itself out.
If we were serious about national security, we would be dealing more seriously with Canada's most important law enforcement agency, the RCMP. Beyond a glaring gap in personnel, failing equipment, and an increased lack of faith in its leadership, the RCMP is headed toward a crisis level of challenges: a growing opioid crisis; legalized marijuana; influx of ISIS terrorists; open borders without a plan to manage illegal border crossers; and increasing cybercrime, just to name a few. The RCMP is overwhelmed, while the Liberals present false information and sidestep questions on what to do.
The Liberals may have called this a national security law, but it is more like a regulatory bill. It would erode rather than help public safety. It deals with security from the federal government's perspective rather than from protecting Canadians first and foremost.