We suggested two witnesses per panel because of the complexity and size of this bill.
I know that for many members of the public these are details of what goes on in the House of Commons. However, if you have three witnesses presenting in a committee and they each present for seven minutes, or sometimes as much as ten minutes, you take up thirty minutes of the time with presentations, and out of an hour you're left with very little opportunity to explore and get down to the actual substance of the bill.
I'd like to address some of the things that the parliamentary secretary raised in her opening remarks broadly about terrorism, and her attempt to use the news to create pressure to limit the amount of study that this bill gets.
Both the Minister of Public Safety and the parliamentary secretary talked about youth going abroad and acted as if there's nothing that can be done under present law to prevent that. It's very clear that Canadian law prevents going abroad to engage in terrorist activities. Absolutely there is power in the existing law to prevent that from happening.
She talked about the very unfortunate case of a family in Edmonton whose daughter has gone abroad. She asked whether it wouldn't be better if CSIS could inform families. The thing that's wrong with her point is that CSIS did talk to this family; it's very clear that they do have the ability to do that under existing legislation.
When she talks about the no-fly list in the same context, the no-fly list is limited right now to specific threats to flights. However, you can prevent someone from boarding a plane to go abroad to engage in terrorist activity. That's clearly part of the law already.
When she talks about the disruptive activities that she calls preventative, which they may or may not be, the RCMP already has the ability to engage in those kinds of activities. I would submit that this legislation forgets the very important lessons that we learned from the McDonald commission. That led to the founding of CSIS, and that was to separate the collecting of information from those enforcement activities, and indeed from those disruption activities. We had a very unfortunate series of events at that time, where I think most of the public lost confidence in those kinds of activities that were taking place.
The Minister of Public Safety has tried to imply that somehow in asking these tough questions about the bill and looking at its content, the opposition is expressing some kind of disdain or disrespect for those who work in the security agencies and the police. There is no such disrespect intended or delivered by our criticisms of this bill.
This is a bill that is about two very important things. We all accept that Canada faces a new climate that includes terrorist threats, both at home and abroad, and we need to make sure we address those in the best manner possible. However, in doing so, the government has the responsibility to also protect our basic rights and freedoms and our way of life. I think it's more than just a cliché to say that if we give up or restrict our basic rights and freedoms in ways that are probably not going to make a contribution to the actual fight against terrorism, then in many ways those who seek to use violence have won.
I will reject the subamendment that has been placed by the government and simply state that we are very intent on having a full study of this bill. I'd like to turn to the reasons for having that full study.
One of those reasons is on the number of people we would like to see as witnesses. Again, it's a combination of people who have approached us, who have approached the committee, and whom we have approached because we believe they have expertise on these issues.
Rather than talking about specific witnesses, which the chair is frowning at me about because it might be repetitious of other things that might have been said in another meeting, although that will place the chair in a very interesting position—