Thank you, Chair.
I'm pleased to have a chance to join in this discussion about how we, as parliamentarians, ought to deal with this legislation before us. I have to say, first of all, that it's important legislation. It's important because it's designed, or at least it purports to be, to help deal with the problem of terrorism, but—and there's a big but here—the question really is to what extent this legislation actually deals with that issue and what the quality is of that legislation. What we're debating here right now, with the amendment and the subamendment and the motion, is how much scrutiny this actually deserves.
There's talk opposite about a filibuster, but the last three speakers came from over there, so it seems to me we are really engaged in the discussion of how much scrutiny this bill actually needs. Mr. Payne gave his comments on certain other bits of evidence and incidents that were happening, and that's fair enough. He said some people who called his office hadn't read the bill but they seemed to be opposed to it. The reality is that we've seen some public opinion polls in the last number of days—some of them are a week old—saying that a great number of people seem to be supporting the legislation, but none of them have read it. That's quite all right with the other side, which is saying that the public is in favour of this legislation, so let's pass it. The reality is that the people in this room and the people in the room next door to the House of Commons are the ones whose duty it is to read the legislation, to study it, to go about the business of Parliament, to listen to the experts who know more about this than we do, and to determine whether the legislation is adequate, whether it oversteps its stated objectives, whether it's dangerous for civil liberties in this country, or whether the provisions in it are even necessary given the circumstances we're facing.
You know, I'm going to say something that doesn't come from me but comes from, in fact, one of the oldest and longest standing national newspapers in the country, by way of an editorial. I have to think that the editorial writers actually did read the bill, because the editorial talks about Bill C-51 and it says the following—and this is called the anti-terrorism bill, the short title:
On close inspection, Bill C-51 is not an anti-terrorism bill. Fighting terrorism is its pretext; its language reveals a broader goal of allowing government departments, as well as CSIS, to act whenever they believe limply defined security threats “may“—not “will”—occur.
Then it goes on to say:
Why does this bill exist? What is it fighting? And why is it giving intelligence officers powers that are currently reserved for the RCMP and other police forces?
These are fairly fundamental questions, not coming from somewhere out in—I'm not sure what Mr. Norlock called it—20 square miles of unreality but coming from the longest standing national newspaper in the country, with a fairly good reputation for being part of the establishment. They're not some fringe newspaper that managed to come alive one week and disappear the next. This is the establishment in Canada saying there's something wrong, fundamentally, with this legislation.
Then it talks about CSIS:
CSIS is an intelligence agency. It is secretive, and it is supposed to be. Why does it suddenly need police powers to do its job? Until now, police powers were reserved for the police—an organization that is public, and which in a democracy must be.
Have you ever met a CSIS agent? Was he in uniform, walking the beat? No. CSIS works in secret. It is furthermore immune from Parliamentary oversight.
Now if Bill C-51 passes, CSIS will be able to disrupt anything its political masters believe might be a threat. As the bill is currently written, that includes a lot more than terrorism.
That's why we're having this discussion today, Mr. Chairman, because fundamentally, the bill is being challenged for being something that it says it's not. We have ministers of the crown, like the Minister of National Defence, who was out last weekend saying, “Oh, no, this bill doesn't give any more powers to CSIS; this gives powers to the judiciary. If they ever want to disrupt anything, they have to go to a judge and get a warrant.”
That matter was just repeated by Mr. Payne, that it's only judges who give warrants that allow them to do that. However, that's not true. That's not the case. Anybody who says that either hasn't read the legislation or is misleading the public about what this bill says and does.
We talk about disrupting matters. The legislation doesn't actually do that. It doesn't talk about disrupting; it talks about taking action to reduce threats. I'll read the section, and the context is important. I'm not arguing—