Good morning, everyone, and thanks for the invitation to be here today. It's a pleasure.
We're studying the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act, which, as you all know, was introduced as part of Bill C-51, Anti-terrorism Act, 2015, and it is now law.
My general concern with the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act, or SCISA, and the Anti-terrorism Act 2015 is that it was essentially it was broad and unnecessary legislation in essence. The entire piece of legislation, including SCISA, was unnecessary, and the justification for it was not there.
Our national security sector is in need of significant change and reform, and we do need to share information. Those things need to happen in Canada, but Bill C-51 and SCISA were not the correct responses to address those very real concerns that have been festering away. Mr. Kapoor can talk about some of the commissions of inquiry. We can talk about that, but some of our commissions of inquiry have made excellent recommendations identifying the problems in our national security sector, and for various reasons those recommendations have gathered dust now for 10 or more years, even the O'Connor inquiry.
That's the context in which I put my comments forward.
The other piece is that the Anti-terrorism Act, 2015, which, as you see, is called the “anti-terrorism” act, was styled as an anti-terrorism law and sold as an anti-terrorism law, and that's not what it was. It was and is a broad national security bill, and it's quite far-ranging. We can talk about some of that today in this piece of legislation, and I'm happy to talk about the other elements as well, if you like.
Again, it was not necessary, because what we needed to do was reform a number of things in national security. There were specific and focused items that we needed to deal with, and we still have not dealt with those. The Anti-terrorism Act, 2015 does not address those concerns. In some cases, it actually makes those problems worse and actually diminishes the capacity of our national security services to find threats and neutralize them.
In general, I think Bill C-51 and SCISA fail on three essential elements that I like to talk about: legality, accountability, and effectiveness. These are the cornerstone principles that I look at when I'm assessing law.
In terms of legality, that would be a sense of the rule of law, that law and policy need to be compliant with the rule of law and the charter, need to be necessary, and need to be proportional. There needs to be a public justification and an explanation of why we need law, because we don't just make laws that are not required, and we need to be compliant with our international human rights obligations as well. I think ATA 2015 and SCISA fail on legality.
Let's talk about accountability. You're all parliamentarians. All of us went to school here, I assume, and learned about responsible government. To me, that's the nub of accountability: that we have a government that's responsible. Public justification comes into it, so that citizens know why we are doing things. You as legislators explain that and are transparent in that.
Bill C-51 lacks that. Public justification is not sound. It doesn't introduce transparency into the national security sector or into the law itself. The public justification in that process itself was a little broken. Again, in terms of a culture of accountability across government and in the notion of responsible government, that culture of accountability also needs to be in the national security sector. That is clearly lacking in Canada.
What we ought to have is an evergreen process of accountability in Canada, in national security but in government generally. I think that would make our national security system work better, be more accountable, and have public confidence, and at the end of the day, I think we'd be safer.
The last piece in my principles assessment, the lens I look at things through in terms of law and policy, is effectiveness. Is it effective? Does it work? I actually think ATA 2015 and SCISA are not effective in getting to what we want. We want a national security system that identifies threats, keeps Canadians safe, and complies with the rule of law and the charter, and so on. They actually don't make things better. They make things worse.
We spend a lot of money on national security. I put it to you that some of that money is not money well spent, because when we talk about SCISA, we'll talk about how we may be chasing red herrings, collecting too much information, and missing the point. That might make people feel safer, but I don't think it actually makes us safer.
We do need to share information and national security—don't get me wrong—and we do need to investigate threats and get at them, but we need to do it in the right way.
Bill C-51 and SCISA are not the right way to do this. Again, part of effectiveness is necessity. Did you need this law? I'm still scratching my head as to why Bill C-51 was needed. Purportedly, it was in response to the acts committed, one of which was in Ottawa—the killing of Corporal Cirillo—and the other of which pertained to a gentleman in Quebec. Those were terrorist attacks, criminal attacks, but although Bill C-51 was sold in that context, there's really no link to how it addresses those issues.
Those are operational problems. We can talk about that, and those need to be fixed, but Bill C-51 does not address those incidents of 2014.
Again, I come back to evergreen accountability. When it comes to national security, the first thing we need to do is prevent. The second thing we need to do is investigate. You prevent as much as you can, and that's front-end work. Not a lot of people know that. That's either community relations or working to move people off the road to violence.
If that doesn't work—in some cases, obviously some actors are committed—you want to investigate and interdict. That's where police come in. I have some serious concerns about the CSIS disruption powers, but the police need to be involved in interdiction and prosecution. Then we need to review—that's an important part—and reform, to improve the system.
That loop is the evergreen process that I'm talking about. We do not have that working well in Canada, and that's what we need to think about.
I have three minutes, so let me talk a little about SCISA itself.
As I said, information sharing is needed in Canada. We need to do that in policing and in national security, but it needs to be done right.
Mr. Kapoor is here and Mr. Cavalluzzo was supposed to be here. Mr. Kapoor was involved in the Air India inquiry and Mr. Cavalluzzo in the Arar inquiry. Those are two ends of the spectrum.
As a Canadian of Indian extraction, I can tell you first of all that it was not acknowledged for a long time that Air India was a Canadian tragedy. There was a failure of information sharing and institutional egos. That's one part of the problem.
The flip side is Arar, where reckless information sharing led to disasters.
What we need to do is learn from those lessons and get to the middle. Again, I'm not against information sharing, but it needs to be done right. SCISA is the wrong way to do this. It's overly broad, unbounded information sharing.
I usually use the analogy that if we're trying to catch terrorists, it's like finding a needle in a haystack. SCISA is adding a couple of trailer loads of hay to that pile. God forbid there's a disaster, a terrorist attack or something to that effect, and we find out that we had too much information and that what we needed to look at snuck through. What we really need to be focusing on are the real threats.
I have about a minute and a half left, and I know you're going to keep me to the 10 minutes. I'm happy to talk about the details and I'm sure we will, but I'll close with the broader context.
What we really need to do is reform national security, as I said. One piece of that, as you've heard from others, is review, proper review. I know some of our agencies don't have any reviews. Some do. They're siloed. You've heard all of that.
You've heard Kent Roach, Craig Forcese, and others echo those concerns. I really am an advocate. I believe you have my submissions from Bill C-51 previously. I'm an advocate of a unified, independent, national security review agency, the Canada national security review agency.
If there's integration in national security intelligence and operations, you need that counterweight. We can talk in detail about that, but that's one piece that needs to happen, and there are other pieces.
I'll be idealistic and tell you, “Let's repeal the ATA 2015. Let's start again and find those fixed pieces.” If you're willing to do that, I'm happy to work with you on that. If you're not willing to do that, then SCISA really needs significant reform, as do other pieces of Bill C-51. The biggest piece for me is the CSIS disruption power. CSIS should not have those powers, full stop. Those powers should be repealed.
I'll stop there. I'm happy to talk about the rest of it. Thank you for the opportunity.