Evidence of meeting #51 for Public Safety and National Security in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was chair.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Leif-Erik Aune

10:50 a.m.


Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Thank you very much.

10:50 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Daryl Kramp

We will now go back to committee proceedings.

First of all, we had the motion and then we had the amendment. We are now dealing with the subamendment from Ms. James.

Ms. James.

10:50 a.m.


Roxanne James Conservative Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, the subamendment calls for eight meetings in addition to the initial one, at which both the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the Minister of Justice plus officials will be in attendance. It indicates that at these meetings we would have well over 50 expert witnesses, including the officials, to give testimony before this committee that is so crucial to hear with regard to Bill C-51.

Mr. Chair, I find it quite disheartening. We have tried to negotiate and have come quite a distance to cooperate with the NDP to come to some sort of agreement on bringing this legislation before the committee. It's probably one of the most important bills to deal with our national security. We have seen recent events around the world, with a slew of countries that share the same democratic rights and freedoms as we have in this country—openness and tolerance—all being targeted by the international jihadist movement.

We see organizations, terrorist entities such as ISIL, whose goal is to either convert or to kill anyone who disagrees with the way they think, who don't share their beliefs. I think most Canadians understand what we're dealing with. You just have to look to the evening news. Yesterday a story broke. A young woman travelled overseas. Her family came home; she was gone. Many of us in the committee and maybe some of the staff and you, Mr. Chair, are parents, and I cannot imagine for a moment what that family would be thinking, what they would be going through.

Some of the comments I read in the newspaper indicated that there was some angst, a bit of concern about why CSIS did not stop this woman from travelling. The issue at hand, Mr. Chair, is clear. CSIS' mandate is to gather information. Some of the measures in this bill address this very issue to allow CSIS to intervene to stop threats, to stop someone from travelling overseas and so on, right down to the fact that CSIS right now is not able to even discuss with family members and tell them what is going to happen. Maybe they could ask the family member to destroy the passport. As the family member said, if they had known, they would have torn up the passport.

This is extremely troubling. This is a young woman. Some members in the committee are shocked because it's a woman, but I think we recognize that terrorism knows no gender. It is not simply young men who are being recruited; it's women as well. Young girls are being recruited. We're seeing this. There's a story alleging that three people may have left Quebec to also join ISIS—two women and one man, I believe the story was. It just came out yesterday.

The fact of the matter is that this is happening more often, threats against countries like Canada, and specifically here in this country. Obviously, the number one concern of the Canadian government is the safety and security of our national security and our citizens.

The threat is real, and it's evolving fast. This legislation, Bill C-51, is bringing in necessary measures to give our security agencies and our law enforcement agencies the tools they need to better protect Canada and my fellow Canadians.

I find it a little sad, to be honest, that we're sitting here debating a motion, amendment and subamendment on bringing in more than 50 expert witnesses to this committee. I hear from the opposition, the NDP, that they want to hear from their witnesses and they want to hear from CSIS. We want the exact same thing, and yet we have spent more than committee time today on this.

We're continuing on this to pass a motion that will actually start and bring this bill to committee, actually bring before the committee at the next meeting, on Tuesday after the break week, the Minister of Public Safety, the Minister of Justice, and officials to talk about the bill and why the measures are important, and to talk about and answer any technical questions, because the officials will be here to answer those technical questions.

The opposition has indicated concerns about various aspects of the bill. We've been very clear on this side that the legislation is clear. Some of the concerns have been that CSIS is going to be somehow tracking and monitoring protests and so on. It's simply not the case. The legislation is very specific. It excludes “lawful advocacy, protest, dissent and artistic expression”. It's right in the bill on page 3.

So we have a disagreement between the government—the Conservatives—and the NDP as to what the legislation means. Obviously the witnesses' expert testimony, when they come in to committee, will clarify that. On this side we are confident that they will clarify the bill and explain it appropriately and in enough detail to the opposition so that they fully understand it.

The problem we have now, Mr. Chair, is that instead of getting our witness lists to the clerks so that they can start calling people to come in at the next meeting, we're sitting here still in this meeting trying to come to terms on an agreement for getting this bill actually to committee.

I find this more than just sad. I'm actually rather shocked, knowing that the concern we have experienced in this country.... My constituents have called; I've met with many of them on this issue. They are frightened. They understand what is at stake. They see the news; they read the paper. They know what's going on and they want and expect the government to bring forward legislation that will protect national security, protect their families, protect our communities.

We've done that. We've brought forward a very common sense bill that has really five parts. On information sharing, when it comes to national security, one might think that is already being done. That is not the case. To set the record straight, it is not the case here in Canada that one body of government can speak to another when it comes to national security. Their hands are tied. We have to be able to allow them to communicate when there is a potential threat that could be stopped and that needs to be investigated. It's simply not the case today.

The measures in this bill are common sense. In fact, I've actually had people say to me, “Are you kidding me? Is this not already happening today?” I'm almost a little embarrassed to say no, it's not.

We need to get this legislation before committee. We have been very accommodating on this side in trying to negotiate and cooperate and come to terms with a reasonable number of witnesses. The subamendment calls for 48 expert witnesses to come in. That is a lot of witnesses. That is hours and hours of witness testimony.

There have been some comments from the opposite side that they're concerned about having three witnesses come in for every hour. That is the standard practice of this committee. For every other bill that has come before this committee, we've had three witnesses per hour.

You want to give the benefit of the doubt. You want to say that this is not obstructing the bill's coming to committee, but it's hard not to believe that such is the case.

Three witnesses can come to a panel of one hour. In the past, Mr. Chair, as you know, sometimes witnesses are given up to 10 minutes to speak, and occasionally there might be someone who cancels or can't make it and so we have two witnesses. But when there are three witnesses, we always limit the time. As the chair, as a committee, we could decide whether that time would be seven minutes, or five minutes.

In fact, if witnesses want to have more time to answer questions and less time for opening remarks, witnesses, at least in this committee, have always been free to submit their opening remarks or statements in both official languages, to come to the committee and sit down and say that the committee has their remarks and they would prefer to answer more questions, rather than just hear themselves talk. That is very possible, and if witnesses did that, it would leave a full hour for three witnesses. That is the normal standard practice in this committee.

The fact that it's now being raised on this bill, the fact that the opposition has publicly said they will not support this bill, the fact that they want 25 meetings.... Mr. Chair, correct me if I'm wrong, but I think we actually have fewer than 25 meetings left in this session.

When we made this subamendment, we extended it to an additional eight meetings, 16 hours of full witness testimony, questions and answers, and also 48 witnesses. That's in addition to the ministers' coming and all of the officials that will be here to answer the technical questions, so we're looking at more than 50 witnesses.

This is extremely reasonable. We're trying to negotiate. We're trying to cooperate. I find it hard to believe that the goal is not to bring this legislation to committee at the next available meeting, but it's hard to believe that is not the case from the NDP at this point in time.

It's absolutely important to get this legislation before us. We want to hear from expert witnesses. We have a slate of expert witnesses, but we want to hear from the best of the best. We want to hear from CSIS. We want to hear from the RCMP. We want to hear from the academic world. We want to hear from people who are experts in law on the charter. We want to hear all of those things, but the problem is that we're sitting here debating whether a list of 50 witnesses is adequate for the NDP.

Anyone who is watching this or maybe listening to this at home, thinking about more than 50 witnesses coming to a committee on one bill and what that would mean, and how that would delay and obstruct this legislation from coming back to the House.... Obviously we have x number of days before the House rises.

National security is the fundamental and top priority of this government. To protect our security, to protect our citizens, and to keep our communities safe are things that have brought me to Ottawa, actually, and why I am a Conservative member of government and why I am fulfilling my duties as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. This is an issue that I take very seriously, and there is nothing more that I want to see than this legislation come to this committee at the next available meeting, hear from the ministers, hear from officials on the legislation, and then hear from all of those expert witnesses, but unfortunately, here we are, well past the end of regular sitting hours for this committee.

We are prepared on this side to continue to sit here until we can come to some sort of an agreement.

I am actually going to be at a loss for words soon, because I cannot believe that we're at this point in this committee. I absolutely cannot believe it.

I hear from the opposition that there's not enough time, that there's not enough this, and yet we're willing to waste time today, possibly over the weekend, and maybe all the way through next week to come to terms with the fact that 50 witnesses are more than enough. Canadians find that reasonable.

Mr. Chair, I'm hoping that at some point today the opposition will be open to more communication on this. I hope that they're not going to simply say that no, they want 25 meetings and 120 witnesses. Canadians would think that is absolutely unreasonable. It's not necessary. We obviously have a slate of witnesses. We're going to be inviting the best of the best. We need to hear from the experts, the ones who can legitimately add to the conversation on this bill, and that is precisely what our subamendment does.

We're willing to sit in the evenings. Obviously, with the timeframe, having this come back to the House after Easter, we're willing to sit for additional meetings. That was clear; I made it clear earlier. Obviously, if we're on target and we can get an agreement today, we would start with the two ministers on the next Tuesday, that first meeting. We would have three regularly scheduled meetings of two hours a piece and a slate of witnesses, but in order to accommodate the timeframes, we're willing to sit in the evenings. I've made that perfectly clear.

Mr. Chair, I'm going to wrap it up. I'm hoping that the comments from all sides will be focused on not debating the merits of this bill. Again, that's why we need to bring in the witnesses. We need to bring in the witnesses to testify. Certainly saying that they disagree with a part of the bill or that they don't believe the bill is going to do this, if that's what the opposition wants to raise, it's actually debating the bill further here, which we already debated in the House.

Again, I'm hoping that we can come to some agreement. This is absolutely essential to the national security of this country.

There's a terrorist organization that has put Canada on a list as a target country for jihadist terrorists to carry out attacks. This is extremely serious. I can't think of any other issue since I've come to Ottawa that is more serious than this one. It's why our government joined the coalition to conduct air strikes to degrade that threat. It is why we brought forward legislation to stop people from travelling overseas to commit terrorist activity, and it is why we brought forward Bill C-51 to this House, to this committee, and hopefully, to get passed.

This bill is aimed at terrorism and terrorists and it will stop individuals from travelling overseas to engage in terrorism, to become fully trained, and to return to Canada. We always hear about individuals who are being monitored in this country. We've heard multiple stories in just the last few days, the last 24 hours: a young woman joining ISIL and going overseas; three people alleged to have gone overseas to join ISIL. Aside from the fact that these people may not return, because I think, obviously, the families are concerned they might not return, but imagine for a moment these individuals coming back to Canada fully trained, further radicalized. They are coming back to live in Canada. We're no longer looking at a few people that the RCMP might be monitoring, but now we're looking at hundreds of people.

This legislation has the ability and the measures in it to allow CSIS, our Canadian Security Intelligence Service, to disrupt threats to Canada, number one, and to disrupt the ability to travel overseas to receive this jihadist training to engage in terrorism. Certainly, we don't want to harbour and grow homegrown terrorists in this country—obviously, that's not what we want—but we don't want them coming back to Canada fully trained.

Another measure in this bill, Mr. Chair, that's so critical that we get this bill to committee has to do with expanding an already existing program that stops people from boarding an airplane if they're an imminent threat to the aircraft itself. For those listening, when we talk about that, when we say “imminent threat”, you think of a bomb, someone destroying the aircraft in mid-flight, but the legislation that we need to get to committee, that we need to hear testimony on, actually will expand this passenger protect program and will give the ability to actually do the same for those who want to travel overseas to engage in terrorist activities, receive training, and then come back. It will actually issue a no-board order. How important is that when we think about the recent stories that have come to light in the last 24 hours? Certainly, it would be pure speculation, but you can see very clearly from the stories that have emerged how these measures might have made a difference.

Again, we on this side believe the measures in this bill are common sense. We want to hear fulsome testimony and fulsome debate here in committee. Our goal, obviously, is to get this legislation to committee. I cannot believe that we are sitting here debating about 50 witnesses coming to testify on this particular bill. I'm absolutely shocked and disappointed. I'm hoping that at some point the obstruction that we're seeing from the opposition...that they will be able to be more open to negotiating, be more open and willing to actually get this bill to committee.

Again, you would think when it comes to national security and the protection of Canadians that this would be the number one priority of everyone at this committee, to hear more on this bill, to hear more witnesses, and to hear testimony. We have come back and increased the number of witnesses to accommodate some of the requests from the opposition, increased that number to more than 50 witnesses in total, and are willing to sit through evening sessions to get this bill before this committee.

I would ask that at some point we put this subamendment to the amendment to a vote so that we can get on with business, the same business that Canadians expect parliamentarians to do, the improvements and benefits that this legislation will do to the national security and the protection of all Canadians in this country.

12:05 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Daryl Kramp

Thank you very much, Ms. James. I do appreciate that.

The chair will just offer one brief comment before we go to the next member. It is unfortunate that on the sides here, we're actually discussing the issue. We're discussing the bill, when we are simply caught in the process of how to get to discussing the bill. The chair finds that extremely frustrating, but it is a reality we face here.

I've said my piece, so we will now move on.

Madam Doré Lefebvre.

12:05 p.m.


Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I am pleased to be able to add my voice to the debate on the sub-amendment to determine how many witnesses we will hear from during our study on Bill C-51.

We have raised our concerns, and I have listened attentively to the comments of all of my colleagues around this table, be they Conservatives, Liberals or my colleague Mr. Garrison. I noticed that there was a lot of overlap in what people were saying, no matter what party the person speaking was from.

One of the first things I noticed was that we are all aware that there is a real threat of terrorism and radicalization, that this is a global issue, that we all want to have the best tools possible and that we consider it critical to deal with this problem. As a parliamentarian, I find that this is already a good step forward. Protecting Canadians absolutely must be one of our priorities. Public safety must be a priority for any good government. I am pleased to see that this topic is being discussed around this table and that we at least have that common ground. It's refreshing.

However, I believe that Canadians do not have to make a choice. What they are being offered in Bill C-51 is extremely vague and broad. We are being asked to sacrifice some of our rights and freedoms, and to choose between security and freedom. That's something I'd like to speak out against here.

12:10 p.m.


Roxanne James Conservative Scarborough Centre, ON

On a point of order, I would like to know where exactly in this bill a law-abiding Canadian citizen is going to have to choose between security and their personal freedoms. There is absolutely nothing in this legislation that says that, and the NDP has been unable to pinpoint what personal freedom that might be.

I just wanted to get that on the record.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

12:10 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Daryl Kramp

Thank you very much.

We're obviously getting into debate now, and that is not the intention of, I think, either side here. The chair would just respectfully ask the member to carry on, and certainly, if there are either assertions or allegations, just to be mindful.

12:10 p.m.


Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I will try not to get into a debate. As you mentioned, we are discussing witness presentations and hours of debate. I think we have made our point on that and that it was relatively clear. I don't want to get into a debate. I think the parliamentary secretary knows very well where I am going with that.

However, this brings me to something the parliamentary secretary mentioned earlier. She said that she was a little concerned that our proposal would mean that we would not have enough time to study the bill before the election. Mr. Chair, I would like to mention that this has never been our intention.

As we mentioned and have said publicly, we absolutely must do a thorough study of this bill. Everyone around the table agrees that Bill C-51 is important. We don't all agree on the reasons why, but this bill is very broad and contains many measures that affect a number of acts. A full study is not too much to ask. I don't think it's unreasonable. It's about doing our job as parliamentarians.

That's the crux of the matter, and we truly want to strike a compromise with the Conservatives on this. Yes, we are asking for a comprehensive study of Bill C-51 because it's the job of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to properly study of all of its aspects.

Members on the other side mentioned that we haven't been given enough specific details on this bill. I think having experts come who will be able to answer our questions and perhaps provide solutions that hadn't been considered by the opposition or the government is essential when we're studying a bill of this scope and that may have an impact on several aspects of our standard of living as Canadians. In my opinion, it would not only be reasonable, but also necessary to do a full and very thorough study of Bill C-51.

Regarding concerns from members of the government party, with some wondering if we'll have enough time to pass this bill or finish studying it before the next election, I think that's in the hands of the committee to know whether we'll have enough time. I do hope so, and I expect that we'll be able to do our work as parliamentarians within a specific framework.

I've done some research to find out how other committees have conducted studies that require a full or more thorough study of various—

12:15 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Daryl Kramp

Excuse me.

Ms. James.

12:15 p.m.


Roxanne James Conservative Scarborough Centre, ON

Sorry, I just wanted to be put back on the list. Thank you.

12:15 p.m.


Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Other large bills have already been studied. I think it is possible to do so by getting out of our environment. We usually meet here Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 8:45 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. Actually, it's standard for most committees to hold two two-hour meetings a week.

I've noticed that many other committees have managed to find common ground to study bills relatively quickly, while ensuring that as many witnesses as possible were heard and that as many meetings as possible were held.

I've spoken about this a bit, but I think it should be noted. I've looked at details in this bill, details that I didn't have in the beginning. Last summer, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights studied Bill C-36, which followed on a Supreme Court decision on the legislative framework on prostitution in Canada. The Supreme Court had asked the House of Commons to study the legality of prostitution and to examine the issue as quickly as possible.

Thirteen meetings were held on the issue, and they were all held during the summer when the House wasn't sitting. There were a number of witnesses and several hours of meetings on the matter. The parties conducted this study in good faith because it was important to resolve the issue of the legislative framework on prostitution in Canada. Although it is a sensitive topic and the discussion may have been lewd at times, it was important for all the parties to study the bill in depth.

I remember because two of my very good colleagues sat on that committee, the hon. members for Gatineau and La Pointe-de-l'Île. This study was fairly significant. When we spend the summer in our ridings, we try to do our work as parliamentarians. That is when we can do it. We determined that this study was important and that we had to return to Ottawa. I don't have the exact information, but I think the committee sat for four or five days during the week. There were a number of meetings each day. If we think of that example, we can say that it's doable to hold several meetings in a short period of time.

I'll come back to the House calendar later. It could help us organize meetings in the evenings or on weekends, or even when the House isn't sitting. The calendar for the coming months indicates that it's possible. There are several weeks where we are going to return to our ridings. As the Conservatives mentioned as well, it is our duty as parliamentarians to ensure that we protect Canadians. I think we can make this sacrifice, be it in our personal schedules or in our schedules as MPs, when we meet with constituents in our ridings. It's a sacrifice worth making to ensure the bill is studied properly.

I think other colleagues of mine on this committee would be willing to make a compromise in this case. As has already been mentioned, the purpose of the sub-amendment proposed by the parliamentary secretary is to ensure that we hold eight meetings and that the clause-by-clause study be completed no later than March 31. That being said, we will have no choice but to sit in the evenings or on recess weeks to meet that deadline. If we are going in that direction, which is an opening by my Conservative colleagues, why not do our jobs as parliamentarians and conduct a full study?

Another study, which was on Bill C-23, was done in committee. If I'm not mistaken, it was done last year. We held some 20 meetings on the bill, which was put forward by the Conservatives and dealt with democratic reform. Some meetings took place at night, others were longer than normal. Some meetings lasted over four hours and others lasted three. The meetings usually run for two hours, but in this case, we had to deal with the large number of key witnesses. I think all the members of the committee would agree that the bill on democratic reform was large.

Furthermore, I'm wondering why the government chose to do more comprehensive studies of other bills. I don't want to minimize the importance of those ones, even though it was clear that all of us—and there's no point in denying it—had relatively diverse and differing opinions on Bill C-23. Among other things, it had to do with democratic reform and the legislative framework of prostitution in Canada, a rather sensitive debate. I'm wondering why so much interest and so many meetings were dedicated to these bills, while we are clearly not striking the same balance with the study of Bill C-51.

As I've mentioned already, I want to ensure that my colleagues and the people listening at home understand that we are willing to conduct the study in a fairly short period of time. We are truly willing to make concessions to ensure that the key witnesses and experts are indeed heard. Moreover, as we mentioned, we want to hear from representatives from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, as well as witnesses from academia and individuals interested in the matter because they are affected by the bill.

Our ideas come together very well. In fact, each side of the table will probably be happy to hear testimony from numerous witnesses on a panel and to have them answer our questions.

I think we can find some common ground here, in committee, and I am glad we can sincerely discuss this. I hope to be able to convince my Conservative colleagues of the importance of conducting a comprehensive study on this matter. Many pieces of legislation will be affected by Bill C-51. If it is passed, it will have a number of consequences. I think it is extremely important that experts explain to us what the impact of this bill may be on our way of life.

And we owe it to Canadians. In fact, it has been shown a number of times that most Canadians expect their government to tackle the terrorist threat and radicalization, which I think just makes a lot of sense. It's our job and the job of any good government.

But most Canadians do not know what's in Bill C-51. We've seen a number of reactions in recent weeks, especially in the media. There are many examples, but one of them is a letter signed by former Supreme Court justices and former prime ministers, both Liberal and Conservative. One of the things they expressed concerns about was one portion of Bill C-51.

That's just one example of many. In the last few days, the Assembly of First Nations raised many concerns about the impact of this bill. I think we owe it to those groups to conduct an in-depth study, and to Canadians who don't know exactly what Bill C-51 contains.

I think that this study and the proposal of my colleague Mr. Garrison to hold 25 meetings with the possibility of doing so relatively flexibly, outside normal meeting hours, just makes a lot of sense.

I'm aware of the urgency of acting, and I know it's common practice for the government party to rush to pass bills. I think we can find some common ground so that we can study the bill relatively quickly by putting a little water in our wine. The government wants the study done quickly. So let's set up some full-day meetings if necessary. It's important, and we were elected to do this.

When I was elected in 2011, the first thing I said to myself was that I needed to represent the people who elected me as best as possible, that I was going to try to make them proud of having elected me, and that I was going to do my best as a parliamentarian. There is no denying it, this work isn't always easy, but it's our duty. I would also say that it's a privilege to be able to put forward the best legislation possible. I think we can all agree on the fact that we are very privileged to be here to study a bill. Why not do it properly?

When I was researching various studies, be they bills or studies in committee, certain things intrigued me. For example, the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security recently did a study called The Economics of Policing. We did that study last year. We devoted 12 meetings to it. I don't want to minimize the excellent study we were able to do together despite our differences of opinion, but we still spent a lot of time in comparison to what the Conservatives want to give the committee to study Bill C-51.

I have another obvious example that isn't from this committee. I don't always follow the debates of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. I should more often, because I was surprised to learn that they began a study on safety last year, and it's relatively interesting. So far, they have held 31 meetings in this study, and they aren't done yet. They're still studying it. So there's a lot of latitude we could have as parliamentarians and as a committee. I think it's important not to go full steam ahead and not to prevent certain key witnesses from appearing before the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security in the context of this study.

Just before I move on to another topic, many witnesses have themselves asked—without being invited because we haven't yet submitted our witness lists to the clerk—to appear and to testify on Bill C-51. These witnesses are from all walks of life and are addressing different aspects of the impacts of the Conservatives' anti-terrorism bill.

I don't think anyone here can say that these witnesses and experts aren't good witnesses. It will be extremely difficult to choose. If I could ask my colleagues opposite a question, I would ask them why they don't want these people to appear before the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. Who do they not want to appear for the study of Bill C-51? As I mentioned, former Supreme Court justices, former prime ministers, First Nations leaders and the Privacy Commissioner of Canada have raised concerns. These people come from all backgrounds. They want to talk about the impact of the use of the Internet and social media.

These people, including former members of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, are concerned about the impact of this bill.

The parliamentary secretary mentioned that it would be worthwhile to hear from people from academia, which I greatly appreciated. Many individuals from several Canadian universities have asked to appear to discuss the impacts that this bill could have. These people are from various backgrounds, including constitutional law—

12:30 p.m.


Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Chair, on a point of order, I can assist my friend across the way by saying we want to hear from them, too. That's the whole point. But we don't need to hear the same thing from 50 people. We need to hear from a broad base of witnesses. If you recall, our motion allows for more than 50 people from across Canada to give testimony.

If the point is that we need to hear from x number of people more to only repeat what others said, I will be addressing the committee with some of the groups that will be here. I'll wait until that happens, because it's not part of my point of order. But the more we talk about needing to hear from witnesses, the less time we're going to have to hear from witnesses because those members just keep talking about needing to hear from witnesses. We will hear from 50.

Mr. Chair, I don't think there are many Canadians out there.... There will be some, and we know what part of the spectrum they're from, that will think 150 is not enough, but quite frankly, for the average reasonable Canadian, 50 people talking about it, as well as all the parliamentarians talking about it, would be sufficient.

12:30 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Daryl Kramp

Thank you very much, Mr. Norlock.

Back to you, Madam Doré Lefebvre.

12:30 p.m.


Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I don't necessarily want to come back to the point of order raised by my Conservative colleague Mr. Norlock. I think that's more suited to a debate.

I don't think the witnesses will all say the same thing. It's pushing it a bit to far to say that all the individuals mentioned or those who have concerns about Bill C-51 will say exactly the same thing before the committee.

A number of people who have concerns about this bill have indicated the lack of civilian oversight at CSIS, and it's been raised relatively often. People have also wondered if the powers that would be given to CSIS to tackle terrorism and radicalization are too broad.

Other concerns have been raised by other witnesses. For example, the vague definition of “promoting terrorism”.

As an aside, for the general public, the expression “promoting terrorism” seems to be self-explanatory, but its impact is much broader from a legal standpoint and when it comes to legal texts. That's why it's an in-depth study of Bill C-51 is important.

There's also the prevention of radicalization and the community approach adopted by many of our allies and by community leaders across Canada. These are interesting issues. There are various practices in this respect around the world. I know that some witnesses from the United States, Australia or Great Britain could come and speak to us about their good practices and how they operate.

All that to say to my colleague that I don't think the witnesses would all have the same expertise and would say exactly the same thing to the committee. That would be underestimating the impact that a panel of experts may have when they come to talk about this bill. I'm not targeting my colleague directly by saying that, but I don't think it's right to criticize the testimony of key witnesses and experts on various topics relating to Bill C-51.

If I may, I would like to come back to the request to hear three witnesses an hour. The way we normally operate, hearing a panel of witnesses takes an hour. There will be two panels of witnesses per meeting.

There's a difference between hearing two witnesses and hearing three. It's already been noted that having three witnesses at a time was standard for the committee. I would say that it's been common practice since the Conservatives have had a majority. I have discussed this with various MPs who have more experience than I do with how committees worked with panels of witnesses before the Conservatives had a majority. I think there's a stark difference here.

Currently, the committee gives each witness 10 minutes for a presentation. Since we would be hearing from three experts, that would use up half an hour right there. According to the blues from a number of our meetings, and based on my experience on this committee, most of the witnesses use the full 10 minutes to make their presentation, which is to their credit.

That's an extremely important point. Witnesses want to express their own opinions. As parliamentarians, we like to consider certain aspects of a bill in order to move it forward. We have specific expertise.

I think it's extremely important for a witness to be able to deliver a 10-minute presentation on their area of expertise. I am here to learn from witnesses and experts who appear before the committee. Often, when they make a 10-minute presentation—and I would like the committee to determine what percentage of witnesses use the 10 minutes they are given for their presentation; I think that could be of interest to my colleagues—it opens a door and leads us to ask new questions, express concerns or recognize that the direction taken is logical. That adds some questions and answers others, depending on the case and the witnesses testifying.

That's very important for me and for most of my colleagues, I think. When we have three witnesses, their presentations take up an entire half an hour. As you know, Mr. Chair, since you're the one who manages the meetings, you often have to interrupt witnesses or parliamentarians when they go over their time limit. What can I say, we really like to talk in committees. These things happen and I don't think it's a problem, especially when we are conducting an important study.

The Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security is here for a reason. This is where we carry out exhaustive studies or specific analyses on both government and private members' bills.

I don't think we can proceed arbitrarily when it comes to witness presentations and the 10 minutes they need to deliver them. The number of key witnesses and the quality of those who want to appear before the committee to discuss Bill C-51 will help not only open the door to questions, but also give rise to new questions, or so I would hope.

It's clear that, in its current form, Bill C-51 is unacceptable to us. That's not negotiable. We don't want this bill to become law. I am still holding out hope that, by proposing amendments, we will manage to find some common ground. That's our job as parliamentarians and especially as members of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. I know it's not common practice to open the door to amendments from the official opposition or the third party, but since we are talking about issues as important as terrorism and radicalization, I am still hoping that we will manage to pass the best possible legislation. That's my job as a parliamentarian, but it's also the job of all other parliamentarians

That's why I think it's important to have more time for discussions with witnesses. My Liberal colleague will probably be happy to hear this. Unfortunately, with three witnesses in a one-hour meeting, the Liberals have only one opportunity to speak. I don't really agree with all their views, but I think all parliamentarians should be able to voice their opinions and ask questions during committee discussions on certain bills.

That's why I think the proposal to include two witnesses per group makes sense for the study on Bill C-51. Be that as it may, the number of meetings we will be able to hold is still the central issue.

It's important to reiterate that we can hold that number of meetings within a short period of time. I sincerely hope that my Conservative colleagues are open to having however many meetings we need to carry out a comprehensive study and to hear from various experts on a great variety of topics. Indeed, the provisions of Bill C-51 are very broad.

I also hope to convince my colleagues opposite of the importance of conducting a comprehensive study. I sincerely believe we can find common ground in that regard.

Following today's deliberation on the number of witnesses, the number of hours and the schedule that should be established by the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, I am sure we will be able to begin the specific debate on the repercussions of Bill C-51.

Mr. Chair, I would support you if I could. It's extremely important for us to find common ground in order to conduct this study in a short time span, since we want it done fairly quickly. I really hope that the government members are open to coming to an agreement and increasing the number of hours devoted to the study of this bill, within an appropriate amount of time.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

12:40 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Daryl Kramp

Thank you very much, Ms. Doré Lefebvre.

Ms. Ablonczy.

February 26th, 2015 / 12:40 p.m.


Diane Ablonczy Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Chair, we need to be honest here. The NDP do not support this bill. That's not a secret. They've said they don't support the bill. They made up their minds before we heard a single witness, before we had a single committee meeting, that they were not going to support the bill.

Their leader attacks the bill every time he gets a chance. Now we see NDP members of this committee attacking the bill, casting doubt upon the bill, bringing forward far-fetched scenarios that might happen under the bill to try to discredit the bill.

All of this talk about how much they want to have a great study and how we need to hear from more witnesses is smoke and mirrors. I'm sorry to say that, to be so blunt, but it's true: the New Democratic Party does not want this bill to pass. They do not support the bill under any circumstances. They've made that abundantly clear.

The New Democratic Party is ideologically opposed to this bill and it is clear that they don't want the bill to pass. All of this talk is fairly insincere on the part of the New Democratic Party.

I listened carefully to my colleague opposite who said they're aware of the urgency, that they want to find common ground quickly, and yet this is the second extended meeting we've spent going on and on about how we're going to go about studying the bill instead of getting on with it.

You can't square that circle any other way but point out that the NDP is a party that doesn't want this bill to pass. The NDP is a party that basically says that in order to protect our values and freedoms, we must not go too far against those who clearly and explicitly threaten those values and freedoms. If this makes sense to anybody, I'd like to hear from them because it certainly doesn't make sense to me. All of these things that have been said by the New Democratic Party....

I really urge the Canadian public to read the bill. The bill isn't long. It can be found at www.parl.gc.ca. It's Bill C-51. It's also called the anti-terrorism act, 2015. Canadians should read this rather than let overheated rhetoric on the part of the New Democratic Party lead them to form an opinion that's not warranted about a very sensible piece of legislation.

This bill does the most sensible self-evident things. I don't believe that very many objective Canadians would disagree with them. In fact, most of them would be shocked to know they're not already happening.

I don't want to go on as long as some others have done, but I just want to point out a few things that this bill does.

One example would be if a passport official in a routine check calls a reference on a passport application, and the reference says to the passport official, “You know, I'm kind of worried that he or she is going to use their passport to travel to support ISIL fighting in Syria or Iraq because it's just the way they've been talking”. Did you know that the passport official cannot inform any national security agency of that communication because of privacy laws? The NDP says we can't interfere with privacy. How many Canadians would feel that, if you have someone close to a passport applicant saying that there is a concern, this can't be investigated?

Here's another example. We have some military equipment and under a routine inspection there are ammunition rounds that aren't accounted for. Public Works, which has control and oversight over this military equipment in that inspection, can't share that information with security officials because of privacy from the manufacturer. What's that about?

At some point we have to use some common sense if we're going to protect the freedoms and values that are important to us, if we're going to protect our kids from being lured into these situations.

Here's another example. If someone wants to board a plane, even if there's evidence that they are supporting ISIL and these terrorist fighters, they have to be found to be an immediate risk before they can be kept off the plane. We want to change that so that if we believe there are individuals who are travelling by air to take part in terror activities, they can be kept off the plane. They don't have to be an immediate risk to the people on the plane. How sensible is that?

Here's another one. Right now if someone was to be kept off a plane, there has to be a no-board order, but those are difficult to get. Now there is another tool that's going to be an ability to send that person for additional screening. We have to start getting realistic about protecting ourselves, our country, and our people.

Here's another one. Right now the police can only arrest somebody if they have grounds to believe that a terrorist activity will be carried out, even though there might be people downloading bomb-making instructions from the Internet or perusing jihadist material. There still has to be some kind of proof that they will create a terrorist activity before you can arrest them. We want to change that to say that if there are reasonable grounds that they may be involved in this, then they can be pursued and prevented from doing that. Again, it's something entirely reasonable.

We want to be able to have a little bit more time for authorities to investigate these individuals. Right now they only have 72 hours. We want to extend that to a few more days in case there's more time needed for an investigation.

By the way, the court has to agree to all of these things. Security forces don't just run amok and decide in a back room somewhere they are going to do that. They have to have a court order.

These are all very transparent, very legal, and very carefully thought-out initiatives.

Again, I don't want to give too many, but we know that ISIL does a lot of recruiting over the Internet. We know that. We have heard that from witnesses here. All of us have heard that; everyone around the table has heard that. Do you know right now that this material cannot be taken down and it has to stay on the Internet for more and more of our Canadian kids to read because the police have their hands tied? They can't take it down.

We want to change that so that with the prior consent of Canada's Attorney General and an order from a judge they can remove that terrorist propaganda from the Internet. The NDP said, “Oh, that would interfere with privacy”. Well, I'm sorry, but if we have to leave material on the Internet that is going to harm our children and lure them into terrorist activity, I don't think there are very many Canadians who would believe that it should not be removed. In fact, most Canadians would be appalled to know that it can't be removed right now.

Again, right now you can only charge somebody if they are inciting someone to commit a specific terrorist act such as to kill the Leader of the Opposition or blow up the West Edmonton Mall.

If someone is just saying, “You should attack Canadians wherever you find them, wherever you can, because they're against our values”, you can't arrest that person. You can't stop that person from making those kinds of broad-based threats. It has to be something specific. We want to change that to say that if you are in any way exhorting, encouraging, or urging people to engage in terrorist activities, you can be stopped. Who would disagree with that, Mr. Chair?

Right now, if people are going to travel overseas or look like they're getting ready to travel overseas, CSIS can investigate them but can't do anything to stop them. Others have mentioned that. They can't even talk to the parents about it in specific ways and say, “These are the e-mail messages that we have. These are recordings that we have.” They have to be very careful not to infringe on the NDP's favourite character: privacy rights. Now we want to change it so that CSIS can actually engage with a trusted friend or relative and meet with the individual and say, “We know you're planning this. We want to try to dissuade you from doing that.”

Mr. Chair, it's just common sense things. Here is another example. Let's say that the police know that a group of would-be jihadists is meeting in an apartment building in Edmonton. They have a court order to put a wiretap in the building, but the owner is concerned about the NDP's favourite character, privacy rights. He doesn't want to be charged with breaching privacy rights by letting CSIS into the building, into the apartment. CSIS' hands are tied. They know this is happening. They have good reason to believe it. They have a court order, so the court has good reason to believe it, but CSIS can't go in and get the evidence.

We want to change that so that the building owner can be given an assistance order from the court—again, the court has to be convinced this is needed—that would legally require the owner to allow them to go in and get this necessary evidence. How could this possibly be anything but a helpful tool to protect Canadians?

I could go on, but I don't want to give an exhaustive list. Canadians should read this bill on parl.gc.ca, or wherever else they can get it—any member of Parliament's office can direct Canadians to this bill—and see for themselves how sensible this is.

The NDP says, “You're saying you're protecting infrastructure, but you're really going to stop protests.” Mr. Chair, that is just not the case. I urge Canadians to look at page 3 of the bill for themselves. Here is what it says about activity that undermines the security of Canada: “For greater certainty, it does not include lawful advocacy, protest, dissent and artistic expression.”

Those values of Canada are protected. Not only are they protected, but the bill increases the powers of the Attorney General of Canada and the judges by having the tools that are going to be provided to security forces approved first by a judge. There are checks and balances, fairly stringent ones actually. Here we have enhancements to any legislation on terrorism that's already in place. It will allow the sharing of important information so different agencies can work together to stop terrorist threats.

It will be able to better prevent terrorists from boarding our planes, even if they're not an “immediate threat”. It will allow intelligence officers to try to work especially with young people, young Canadians, and try to reason with them so they won't fall prey to radicalization, and to have some measures to prevent radicalization.

When people say to me that they just want to make sure this is studied right but they've already made up their minds, I don't believe it. I think that the parliamentary secretary keeps offering more and more time. Already now we're going to hear from over 50 witnesses. I believe that would give us an extremely good, broad view of this bill. I think that there has been enough talk about this. Canadians can look at the bill for themselves. I hope they will. We want to hear from witnesses and we want to get these measures in place, because this threat is not going away. This threat is not going away.

If anybody on the other side thinks that somehow magically by our good intentions and long procedure this threat is going to lessen, I have news for them. It's not going to lessen. It's up to us as the leaders of this country, as people in positions of responsibility around this table, to do our part in making sure that we protect the lives and property of our citizens and that we take prudent, responsible measures in light of an increasing threat to give our security forces the tools they need to push back and to better protect us.

Mr. Chair, I think that we should not hear a lot more about this, but I think we should start hearing from witnesses.

1 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Daryl Kramp

Thank you very much, Ms. Ablonczy.

That unfortunately does not exist, as the chair still has a group of people who wish to speak to the issue yet.

1 p.m.


Diane Ablonczy Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

They don't want to speak anymore now.

1 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Daryl Kramp

We will, regretfully in some way, but of course, welcome the further speakers, and our first one, is, of course, Mr. Garrison.

You have the floor, sir.

1 p.m.


Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Chair, I'm going to start with something which I think is normally not appropriate, but since the parliamentary secretary opened up the question of negotiations around this.... It's an odd strategy to me, because in my experience negotiations work best when you don't conduct them in public and through the media. But since she has, it has allowed the other side to characterize our position, so I want to be clear from the beginning.

We made a large compromise offer at the beginning of this in recognition of the seriousness of the threat of terrorism and in recognition that this is a majority government. We said that we will agree to start the hearings. We will not delay the hearings from starting when we come back, and we will agree that we will finish by the deadline that the government feels is necessary. That's an enormous concession on behalf of the opposition. But we said that what we need in return for that is an assurance from the government that we will conduct full, open, and broad hearings on this bill and that those Canadians who wish to appear here to have their voices heard will be given that chance.

We believe that this requires a very significantly larger number of meetings than the government has put on the table. They are now saying there will be 50 witnesses. The government likes to cite numbers and call them big. What I would say is that it's actually 48 witnesses by my count, but that's a bit of a quibble. When you divide those between parties, it means that the opposition parties would have something like 16 for the official opposition and something like 8 for the Liberals.

We have had, as we've said from the beginning, more than 60 people contact us who want to have their voices heard on this. It is not, as Mr. Norlock says, the same people and their cousins appearing 60 times; it is 60 people representing a broad spectrum of Canadian society, everyone from former prime ministers to former Supreme Court judges to a former inspector general of CSIS to first nations leaders to civil liberties organizations to concerned Muslims who wish to appear and talk about what they're already doing to help prevent radicalization of youth and talk about the major gap in this bill that's not being addressed.

So 50 sounds big until you divide it up and try to figure out how many Canadians can actually be heard in that time. We have said from the beginning on our side that we will sit as much time and work as hard as we must in this committee in order to make sure that those Canadian voices can be heard.

I heard the suggestion on the other side that no one really cares about this at this point. I would like to say that I just got a message from my office that since this went into public session this morning, we have had 200 calls—we just passed the 200-call mark—asking us to keep up the fight to have full hearings on this bill. So 200 members of the public have already contacted our office saying that they think it's important that everyone who wants to be heard on this bill be heard in this committee.

The honourable Diane Ablonczy says this is a charade. It is not a charade. It is an important part of our legislative duties in this Parliament to make sure that we give full examination especially to the most important pieces of legislation, such as the one in front of us now.

Again, numerous groups have contacted us now that they know what we're talking about in this committee. What they are saying I would like to relay to the committee.

We received communication from eight groups: Amnesty International Canada, English-speaking branch, Amnesty International Canada, francophone branch, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the Ligue des droits et libertés, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association, the National Council of Canadian Muslims, the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group. Here's what they're saying about the attempt to limit the number of hearings.

I'll quote first from Alex Neve, secretary general, Amnesty International Canada, English-speaking branch:

Canadians are being told they should embrace Bill C-51 without question because it will make us safer. Overlooked is that this bill contains deeply worrying challenges to human rights protection, including the unprecedented proposition of empowering Federal Court judges to authorize violations of the Charter of Rights. To cut short the opportunity for these enormously consequential changes to be thoroughly examined is itself a grave human rights concern.

Again, that's Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International's English-speaking branch, pointing to the need to examine this bill very carefully.

I'll also quote Carmen Cheung, senior counsel, British Columbia Civil Liberties Association. She said:

The Committee needs not only to examine what is in the Bill, but what is not in the Bill. It has become clear that a majority of Canadians, including four former Prime Ministers, are deeply concerned that there is no proposal in Bill C-51 to strengthen oversight and review of national security agencies. That critical issue cannot be considered in any meaningful way under this truncated schedule.

Next, I'd like to quote from the general counsel and executive director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. Again, these are people communicating with us exactly on what we're discussing in this committee today. These are not general comments for or against the bill; these are comments about the process which we're about to embark on. Sukanya Pillay said:

This is the most significant overhaul of Canadian laws dealing with national security since 2001. At that time there were 19 sessions in Committee allowing 80 expert witnesses to be heard. It has come forward without any accompanying review of existing laws, policies, and resources and an analysis of where they fall short. To allow such little time for scrutiny of its provisions runs counter to the expectation Canadians have that their elected representatives will consider legislation carefully before it is adopted.

Ziyaad Mia from the Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association said:

Already, lawyers across Canada have raised serious concerns about Bill C-51's compatibility with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and with the rule of law. Cutting back on the time for the Committee to study those concerns and hopefully rectify those deeply problematic aspects of the Bill leaves open instead the prospect of years of time-consuming and expensive court challenges after the fact.

Roch Tassé, national coordinator of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, said:

Our coalition is made up of 41 organizations across the country. They come from many different sectors and have, over the course of many years, developed varied expertise in a range of issues with respect to national security and civil liberties. They are ready to share that input with MPs and have a legitimate expectation that they should be able to do so. Many will have no opportunity to do so with so little time on offer.

Nicole Filion, coordinator of the Ligue des droits et libertés, said:

Bill C-51 is complex and very technical legislation that proposes two entirely new statutes and extensive amendments to three others. Each of those should receive thorough consideration. Four two-hour sessions of Committee...will not even begin to offer MPs an opportunity to grapple with and understand its implications.

Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, said:

Bill C-51 should be of concern to all Canadians as it has the potential to impact on all of our rights given its stunningly far-reaching definitions of what constitutes a threat to Canada’s security. As we have learned from past and recent experiences, without robust oversight, review and redress mechanisms security agencies have abused the powers ceded to them. Given the disproportionate impact of anti-terrorism legislation in recent years on Canadian Muslims, these new proposals are of particular interest in our community. Such limited time for study by the Committee offers scant opportunity for those views to be meaningfully shared with Parliamentarians.

This is just a sample of eight groups that represent literally hundreds of thousands of Canadians who are expressing their concern not just about the bill, but about what we're actually talking about here today: that this committee faces the prospect of not allowing Canadians who want to be heard to be heard by their Parliament.

One last person whom I wish to cite and for whom I have enormous respect is Grand Chief Stewart Phillip from the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs. He issued a press release and I think it's important to the debate we're having today. He talked about the introduction of the bill and how it “will radically and dangerously expand the powers of Canada’s national security agencies and greatly infringe upon the rights of all citizens without making us any safer or secure.”

I will quote what he said further:

It is absolutely appalling that as Indigenous Peoples protecting our territories we may be faced with the many insidious, provocative and heavy-handed powers that are granted by this omnibus Bill C-51. The Harper Government has dramatically changed internal government practices, policymaking structures and decision-making processes to serve an explicit natural resources development agenda. We have witnessed the gutting of environmental legislation, clamp-down of scientific analysis and comprehensive surveillance programs of Indigenous and environmental opposition.

He concluded:

As an act of civil disobedience, I was arrested at Burnaby Mountain because I believe mega-projects, like Kinder Morgan and Enbridge pipelines, do not respect the Indigenous laws and inherent authority of Indigenous Peoples to protect their territories, land and waters from the very real potential and increased risk of oil spills and increased coast tanker traffic along our coast. I believe under the draconian measures of Bill C-51, I would be identified as a terrorist. Regardless, I will continue to do what is necessary to defend the collective birthright of our grandchildren.

Whether or not you agree with Grand Chief Stewart Phillip's analysis of the impact on indigenous people and indigenous rights, certainly, it is the obligation of this committee to make sure that voices like his are heard before the committee takes action on any such bill.

Quite often we hear things from the other side that imply we're naive about terrorism on this side of the table. Again and again we have assured people that we do believe this is a serious and urgent problem, and as I said, we have agreed that the hearings should commence when we come back from our break. We have agreed that the government's original deadline can be met, but we believe it requires much more time in this committee than the Conservatives seem willing to put in. I'm sorry but I can't find the explanation for why. What is the obstacle? What is the reason for refusing to hear people who so clearly want to make their voices heard in this Parliament?

I often reflect on my own experience working in conflict zones where terrorism was a problem. I was in East Timor in 1999 as the co-chair of the international human rights observer mission for the independence referendum, where militias that had been armed by the Indonesian government carried out terror attacks on an almost daily basis. In the end, after the Timorese population refused to be intimidated, they did in fact vote at a rate of 80% for independence, but the result was terror attacks which destroyed the entire infrastructure of the country, and killed more than 1,500 people. I was present and saw that take place. I can tell you that what I learned from that, first of all, is that terrorism doesn't have to win, and second, that what was most effective in combatting terrorism was practical hard work by front-line policing agencies.

I also served as chair of a peace-building project between Christians and Muslims in Ambon in Indonesia. When we arrived in that community, both sides were using terror against the other side. We had a series of over 100 bombing attacks. Eventually—I say that somewhat jokingly, although it's a serious topic; our peacekeeping project was a bit premature—on a particular day, the main market in town where my partner had just gone, was bombed. Fortunately, he was late, and therefore he wasn't present. But that was the day we were withdrawn from Ambon. I've seen the effects of this kind of terror up close and personally.

I served for more than four months in Afghanistan working for Amnesty International as a human rights observer in a period when the Taliban was carrying out very odious attacks on the civilian population, including on women and teachers.

My final experience with this, my most recent experience other than the one we all faced here on Parliament Hill, was in the Philippines in 2010. I served as an election observer in Muslim Mindanao which has been an area of the Philippines riven by terror attacks and separatist movements using terror against the population. On that day, a young woman was shot and killed at the polling place where I was.

So I will not have the other side saying that I don't know anything about terrorism, that I don't take terrorism seriously. I have extensive personal experience of the damage that terror does, and I take this very seriously.

What I'm most concerned about in this bill—and I am somewhat different from some of my colleagues—is that we do what's most effective in meeting terrorism, and that we not do things which will be ineffective and, in fact, interfere with our ability to meet the terrorist threats that we face.

I've used the analogy again and again that police will tell you that finding a terrorist is like finding a needle in a haystack. I always say, let's not do things that will add extra hay to that stack. Let's not cast the net so broadly that we don't have the resources to ferret out the real terrorist threats from all those people who are inadvertently caught up in those nets.

I think it's extremely important that we hear from Canadians about the aspects of this bill that concern them. That's our obligation as members of Parliament. That's why we have a hearing process.

Again, I don't understand, if we're going to talk about each other's negotiating positions, what the obstacle is to the government in accepting the number of hearings we're asking for, so that people who have already contacted us and said they wanted to appear have the opportunity to present their views on this bill.

Earlier Mr. Norlock said, I guess as somewhat complimentary, that we have in the past worked cooperatively in this committee and that he's disappointed that we're not doing that now. I would assert that I'm making every effort to do so. When the government tells me that its primary interests are in starting these hearings when we come back from the break, I say yes to that. When they say that this is urgent enough that we must complete this process by the end of March, I say yes to that—these are major concessions from an opposition party—but again, only on the condition that we do the hearings we need to do.

What are the results of not doing an adequate set of hearings? If we think about what we might hear from a former Supreme Court justice, we might have the expertise to point out potential problems in the law. This could allow us to make amendments that would avoid endless future litigation and that just might—and these are not outlandish suggestions—point to things in the bill, which I think exist, that actually make it more difficult to prosecute the real terrorists.

We know that many have raised the issue, which I continue to raise, that expanding the role of CSIS, with its regime of keeping confidential both its staff and its informants, means that quite often the information they discover would not be available for criminal prosecutions. I firmly believe that we may be making a big mistake in assigning a larger role to CSIS of the kind that is contemplated in this bill.

Mr. Norlock also talked about his goal being to keep the country as safe as he can and to do everything he can to do that. That's obvious; no one around this table has any other agenda.

We come to limits on disruptive activities. Again, this is the power that's being handed to CSIS, which we learned was very dangerous from the McDonald commission which resulted in the establishment of CSIS. It's the broad definition.

The government likes to say that the ordinary Canadian will understand if we have to disrupt a terrorist act that's about to take place that it is necessary. Of course it is, and it's allowed. But this bill, as I read it, says that CSIS can undertake disruptive activities for threats to the economic or financial security of the country or threats to critical infrastructure.

This raises the issue that Chief Stewart Phillip raised in his press release. How far does the disruptive power of CSIS go?

The government likes to say that there's a clause in the bill that disrupts “lawful” protest. Well, that's a change. The initial terrorism legislation doesn't have the word “lawful” in it. There is an exemption in the original terrorist legislation for dissent; it doesn't say “lawful” dissent.

That raises the question, as Chief Stewart Phillip did, what about people who are technically in violation of a court injunction when they're protesting against a pipeline, which is a piece of infrastructure? They weren't acting strictly legally, because they were technically in violation of that injunction, although the court chose to take no action in the end. Does that make them subject to disruptive activities? Does it make them subject to the information-sharing parts of this bill?

I would like to have those who feel that they're being affected by this bill come here and talk to us about those concerns, and I would like to hear the legal experts who can give us the technical advice we need to know whether these things are actually possible.

Mr. Norlock raised the two unfortunate incidents, in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and here in Ottawa, in October. He says he doesn't want to comment on them because the investigations are incomplete. That is something I agree with him on completely.

It is very difficult for us to know how this bill might have affected or prevented those incidents when we do not yet have complete reports on those incidents. We have lots of speculation about what motivated the perpetrators in both cases, and I always try to keep from mentioning the names of perpetrators just in case their motivation was fame. I think it's important that if we are proceeding with a bill like this, we have some idea whether it would actually help meet the real threats we face.

Mr. Payne pointed out quite rightfully that the threat is evolving, so I would like to have sufficient time to have those experts on threats here to talk to us about how things are evolving and whether this bill meets the needs of dealing with those threats. Also, as Mr. Payne raised the example of the arrests around the threats to trains heading to New York, I would like to hear whether we actually have gaps there. We were able to arrest the people who were planning an attack on the train. Again, Mr. Payne concluded by saying that we want to stop terrorism where we can, using all the resources we need. I wouldn't disagree with that, but what we need to do is make sure that we get this right.

I have some concerns remaining about this bill, and I think they're serious concerns. As I said, most of mine are on effectiveness grounds. If you look at the bill, on page 51 for those who are following along at home, clause 44, proposed subsection 21.1(3) indicates what can be done in terms of disruption. Here is what the bill actually says. It says that CSIS is authorized:

(a) to enter any place or open or obtain access to any thing; (b) to search for, remove or return, or examine, take extracts from or make copies of or record in any other manner the information, record, document or thing; (c) to install, maintain or remove any thing; or (d) to do any other thing that is reasonably necessary to take those measures.

This requires a warrant. This is where a warrant is clearly required, but the difference, as I've said before here, is that this is a warrant for secret activities by CSIS, which have no active oversight, and this matter does not come back to the court for oversight of what was done with the warrant. That's the difference from a warrant in a criminal case, which will eventually be examined, if not by the judge who issued it then by another judge competent in the criminal law, to see whether the use of that warrant met the standards of the charter and the requirements that were specified in that warrant.

I find that section a concern because it doesn't have that active oversight.

Just before that, on page 49, the bill talks about “prohibited conduct”. I'm glad it has these prohibitions in clause 42, proposed section 12.2, and I want to read those out because, again, I find them kind of disturbing, because if these are the only things prohibited—

1:25 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Daryl Kramp

Mr. Garrison, I'm just going to interrupt for a second. What you are quoting from, of course, is directly in the content of the bill, and I would just remind both sides that we are not here at this point discussing the actual bill itself. We will be bringing in witnesses, and we will have the opportunity on both sides to offer our opinions and our thoughts, but in terms of discussing the bill directly from a point of argument at this particular point, right or wrong, I would just remind the member that, if at all possible, he should swing his discussion around closer to the issue we're talking about, which is the actual scheduling of the process for a study on Bill C-51.

You still have the floor, sir.

1:25 p.m.


Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and I appreciate the reminder.

I'd just like to finish quoting this section of the bill, and then I will draw it directly to the motion in front of us.

What the bill says in proposed subsection 12.2(1) is:

In taking measures to reduce a threat to the security of Canada, the Service shall not (a) cause, intentionally or by criminal negligence, death or bodily harm to an individual—

1:25 p.m.


Roxanne James Conservative Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, on a point of order, you were very clear with your reminder to the committee that we are not here to actually talk about the contents of the bill. I'm guessing that the member is going to say that we need to bring in someone from CSIS to answer questions. That's precisely what we are trying to do here. We are hopeful that we are going to come to some sort of a reasonable agreement with the other side. More than 50 witnesses are coming in to testify. Of course, at the first meeting we will have officials here to answer those types of questions.

Again, I would like to ask the chair to make sure we keep on point to the number of witnesses without being repetitive in our arguments.

1:25 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Daryl Kramp

Of course, the chair has suggested something along that line on both sides. I would once again draw the attention....

You did go on about the bill, and that's fine, Mr. Garrison, and I allowed you some time to complete that; however, let us not go down the road too far here.

I remind all colleagues that should we repeatedly run into a situation in which we are not discussing the issue at hand, the chair has the liberty to move on to the next speaker, but I would do that in a most reluctant fashion.

You have the floor, Mr. Garrison.

1:25 p.m.


Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair, for your ruling. I have to say that I'm surprised the parliamentary secretary is able to anticipate what I'm going to say about this; it means she understands my argument.

I would like to finish reading from this proposed subsection, and only this subsection, Mr. Chair, on what is prohibited, just to remind people what I'm reading:

(b) wilfully attempt in any manner to obstruct, pervert or defeat the course of justice; or (c) violate the sexual integrity of an individual.

The only things, it seems to me, that are listed here are very extreme. I would like to hear testimony, then, on what is actually permitted to CSIS to do. If these are the only things prohibited, I need to hear testimony about what is actually allowed under this bill. This is why I'm raising it in terms of both the number of people we have and the number of witnesses per panel.