Thank you very much.
Good afternoon. It is such an honour and a privilege to appear before this committee again. On behalf of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, I wish to thank you for this opportunity to present on Bill S-7.
The BCCLA is a non-profit, non-partisan organization based in Vancouver, British Columbia. Since its incorporation in 1963 the mandate of the BCCLA has been to promote, defend, sustain, and extend civil liberties and human rights in Canada. We speak out on the principles that promote individual rights and freedoms, including due process and fundamental justice concerns in situations where individual interests are affected or engaged by the state.
Last year we appeared before this committee to express our serious concerns about the preventative detention and investigative hearing provisions in Bill C-17, the predecessor bill to the one under discussion today. At that time we highlighted our concerns that while it is far from clear that such measures would have any demonstrable effect on combatting terrorism, they would very likely result in eroding the democratic principles and ideals that all of us seek to protect.
Rather than repeat in detail those comments, I refer the committee to the BCCLA's submissions from February of last year, which are attached as an appendix to the speaking notes I have provided to the committee this morning. I would instead like to focus my remarks today on our concerns with the approaches to combatting terrorism reflected in this bill.
In the proposals to resurrect preventative detention and investigative hearings, we see an approach that looks to expand the scope and reach of state authority without accompanying expansion of accountability and oversight. In the provisions seeking to create new offences under the Criminal Code for leaving or attempting to leave Canada with the intent to take part in terrorism as it's very broadly defined already in the Criminal Code, we see an approach to national security that continues to focus primarily on criminal sanctions without sufficient consideration of rehabilitation.
Let me first address the issue of accountability and oversight. The preventative detention provision in Bill S-7 permits holding an individual without charge, or without even the intent to charge, for up to 72 hours based on mere suspicion of dangerousness. It strips an individual's liberty absent proof or even suspicion of an offence and runs counter to basic principles of fundamental justice.
The investigative hearing provision in turn transforms our courts into investigative tools of CSIS and the RCMP and is fundamentally inconsistent with the spirit of the right to silence, the right against self-incrimination.
Both of these provisions expand the power and the authority of the state to encroach on basic civil liberties. Indeed, the extraordinary nature of such proposed state powers is reflected in the fact that they, like their predecessor legislation from 2001, are accompanied by sunset clauses.
Yet, at the same time government seeks to expand the powers of our national security agencies, we see no similar efforts to ensure that accountability and oversight of the national security apparatus are any more robust.
Six years ago the Arar commission made clear that the accountability mechanisms for national security oversight had simply not kept pace with the scope and scale of national security operations. To that end, Justice O'Connor made a series of detailed recommendations directed at improving the accountability and review mechanisms for national security operations.
Chief among his recommendations, of course, was the integration of national security review across agencies and review bodies, and the creation of a national security umbrella committee, which would facilitate cross-agency accountability. It is an uncontroversial proposition that national security operations can only be effective if there is inter-agency cooperation. But what that means also is that there needs to be inter-agency review and oversight.
Six years after the close of the Arar inquiry, we are still very far from that integrated system of national security review. And to this day, notwithstanding Justice O'Connor's recommendations, there still is no mechanism for independent review of the national security activities of the CBSA, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Transport Canada, FINTRAC, or DFAIT.
The provisions in this bill contemplate an expansion of investigative powers. They also imply increased information sharing, not only between the various national security agencies such as CSIS, the RCMP, and the CBSA, but also between these agencies and foreign partners.
As with all national security matters, the exercise of these powers and the extent of this information-sharing will be largely kept secret.
These characteristics of national security operations—lack of transparency, increased information-sharing, increased international cooperation—were all highlighted by Justice O'Connor in 2006 as reasons why strong and effective review and accountability mechanisms are so crucial.
This observation has equal, if not greater, force today. The level of inter-agency integration and international cooperation is even more significant now than at the time of the Arar inquiry, yet conversely, in important respects, we have less accountability and oversight. Indeed, we have grave concerns that, with respect to national security accountability, what we are currently seeing is not only a failure to keep pace, but an actual deterioration of existing oversight and review mechanisms.
In particular, we are very troubled by the elimination of the office of the Inspector General of CSIS this year, given that it was one of only two accountability mechanisms specifically provided for in the CSIS Act. Meanwhile, SIRC, which is now expected to take up the duties of the inspector general, has had no corresponding increase in its resources. Though SIRC itself has said that its mandate should be broadened to allow for a review of national security matters that involve CSIS and go beyond the strict confines of that agency, this recommendation has yet to be taken up.
Accordingly, we urge the committee to refrain from further expanding the powers of our national security agencies until appropriate and effective accountability and review mechanisms have been established. We believe that strong and robust oversight mechanisms are important not only for protecting human rights and civil liberties; they are crucial for ensuring that our national security policies and practices are effective.
We raise the issue of efficacy in national security practices because we agree—again, we agree—that terrorist activities violate fundamental human rights. We must have counterterrorism strategies that work. To that end, however, our counterterrorism efforts cannot be singularly focused on criminalizing conduct. Our criminal laws relating to terrorism as they currently exist are already quite expansive and capture a very wide range of offences and activities, yet this bill proposes to widen the net even further by creating these so-called training camp offences.
This emphasis on criminalization ignores the fact that terrorism cannot be stopped simply by making it illegal. In his testimony before the Special Senate Committee on Anti-terrorism concerning this bill, Professor Kent Roach very rightly noted that we must start talking about rehabilitation of terrorists and reconsider our policy of “once a terrorist, always a terrorist”. Rehabilitation is particularly important in the context of who would be caught up in the ambit of these training offences: likely, young people. The failure to rehabilitate and reintegrate individuals engaged in terrorism or caught up in terrorism perpetuates the cycle of marginalization, disenfranchisement, and alienation that leads to further radicalization. In the end, none of us are safer.
Therefore, we would urge you to refrain from passing this legislation. We cannot afford to grant these extraordinary powers of detention and investigation while we still suffer from deficiencies in accountability and oversight. We cannot continue to expand the reach of the criminal law without making some commitment to ensuring proper and meaningful rehabilitation of those accused or convicted of terrorism offences. Safety and freedom must go hand in hand.
Thank you again for this opportunity. I look forward to your questions.