Thank you, Chair, and I want to say that I would never even attempt the eloquence of my esteemed colleague Randall Garrison, so I would not want to copy what he said at all. What I have to say actually comes from my own two brain cells.
Amnesty International, BC Civil Liberties Association, National Council of Canadian Muslims, International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association, the LDL, Ligue des droits et libertés—and my French is not that great, so I apologize—and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association as well: these are not small groups with very tiny memberships that are raising concerns. I'm not planning to read what they said, because I do know that it was read into the record this morning. I could, but I'm not going to.
When you have organizations as esteemed and well thought of as these out there raising concerns, surely then the government could take one deep breath and say the sky is not going to fall; they're still going to get to achieve our agenda before Parliament rises, and they're going to give the opposition the very limited number of extra witnesses and committee time they have asked for.
We could easily have left it open-ended and asked that we would carry on until we had heard anybody who wanted to be a witness, but that would be irresponsible. I actually, when I was discussing it with Mr. Garrison, said to put in for 50 meetings. That seemed very reasonable to me considering the bill.
Does anybody have the piece of legislation in front of them? I looked at that legislation. I wasn't here last week when it was debated, but I was here this week. Looking at the bill itself and at the title of the bill, I think even looking at amendments to one part of this bill could take 10 or 20 public hearings.
Listen to what is actually in the title of the bill: an act to enact the security of Canada information sharing act and the secure air travel act, to amend the Criminal Code, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other acts.
How can we be taking a look at a piece of legislation that is going to dig deep and wide into such different pieces of legislation and then think we can skate through it in eight sessions? That is so irresponsible. I think if the opposition did not speak up at this time we would be abdicating the job we were elected to do. We're not going to abdicate that job, because we're going to fight for Canadians to hear the debate on this, to hear the experts' testimony, so that they can eventually make a judgement about this bill as well.
Therefore the eight hours, even though it seems like a baby step in the right direction, and it is, just doesn't go far enough when we're looking at what is in the bill. I'm still hopeful. You never could stay in teaching if you weren't optimistic and hopeful, so I am still hopeful that we will be able to proceed and get an agreement to have the 25 meetings we have requested. Then we will be able to get on with the job and end up examining the legislation.
At the end of hearings, we may not be happy with the end result, because the government has a majority. We may not be happy with the end result, but do you know something? You would have gained something big. We would have gained something too. At least we would have the feeling that our perspective was heard and that we heard from the expert witnesses.
That's not a bad thing to do in politics. Sometimes things are rushed through just so you can get things your own way, but when you can get things your own way even by going a bit slower, it makes no sense to make people including me and others out in Canadian society feel that their voices are being shut out just because the government has decided that not only are they going to have their own way but they're going to make sure that others don't get to shine a light on the problems in the bill and perhaps also the strengths in the bill.
Believe it or not, I have sat in the House sometimes, and even at committee, and changed my mind based on expert testimony. I would think it's in the government's favour to have that debate, hoping they can persuade some of us that the amendments we produce—and that they're going to accept—are going to lead to improved legislation and could actually end with a better product.
As I said in a previous lifetime, one of the pleasures I had in teaching was to teach the government unit on how a piece of legislation goes through Parliament to become law. What I taught as to how things are supposed to work in Parliament has turned out to be a little delusional on my part because that has not been my experience.