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

9:05 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Daryl Kramp


9:05 a.m.


Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

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—

9:10 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Daryl Kramp

I appreciate your consideration.

9:10 a.m.


Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Let me start by saying there are two experts in law, Kent Roach from Toronto and Craig Forcese from Ottawa, who have done a series of backgrounders on C-51 for the public, trying to let the public know what is actually in the bill. I think that's an important part of the function of Parliament.

We've had a lot of pointing to a poll that was done, which shows 80% support for the bill. But I would submit, as both Kent Roach and Craig Forcese have, that that poll was done before people had any idea of what was in the bill. I have no doubt that 80% of Canadians think we should do our best to combat terrorism, but I also have no doubt that among those 80%, at the time the poll was done, very few had any idea of what was in this bill.

One of the things that we need to look at is the new offence that that bill proposes of advocating or promoting terrorism offences in general. Here I think we have argued many times that existing legislation already makes promotion of specific terrorism offences illegal. I would like to hear evidence from legal experts on exactly what is changed by adding a new criminal offence of advocating or promoting terrorism offences in general.

We've asked many times for either the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Public Safety, or the Prime Minister to explain to us what is added to what's already illegal with this, in general, offence of promoting terrorism. We haven't had any answer. We've tried repeatedly to get someone to talk about that.

One of the reasons we need more witnesses here is so that we can call in those legal experts who can tell us what the content of the existing law is, and what issues would be raised by adding such a new offence to the Criminal Code. I know that Mr. Roach and Mr. Forcese believe that the scope of this offence is unclear, and I would like to have them before us to explain to us the consequences of having an offence with an unclear meaning. I know they believe it's very sweeping in its criminalization of advocacy and promotion of terrorist offences in general.

That concern leads back to something I talked about in my speech at second reading. I was one of the few opposition members who was actually able to deliver a speech before the government cut off debate. The problem that we have in combatting terrorism is that many law enforcement officials have described finding terrorists as looking for a needle in a haystack. I think that we need to hear testimony on this new broad offence because it raises the danger of adding the last thing we need, which is, adding more hay to that haystack. If you draw more people into these investigations, in general, you risk missing the real terrorist threats. You risk them slipping through, because you are so busy with this huge volume of people whom you've trapped in proceedings under this general offence.

The new offence appears to be even broader than some other offences that it seems to be related to. I think the government may have had in mind offences in the Criminal Code for advocating underage sex , or genocide, or the promotion of hatred. I really feel that, as a member of Parliament, I need people who have the legal expertise, people like Kent Roach and Craig Forcese, before the committee to explain to us the impacts of this change we are about to make.

From my point of view, the offence, at best, is ambiguous. If it's ambiguous, we risk lots of charter litigation about this, and wasting lots of time and money in court. We have legal experts in front of us who might be able to tell us, first of all, whether this is actually needed, and second, if it is needed, whether there is a way of writing this offence that would avoid the unnecessary time we would spend in court trying to deal with the poor wording or the poor definition of the scope of the intended offence.

That's just one of the major issues on which I would like to hear testimony, and I believe other members of this committee would benefit.

I would remind people that when time allocation was imposed at second reading, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Justice, and the Minister of Public Safety all said that they wanted to have debate in committee.

We're not looking to block the bill by full debate; we're looking to have full consideration of whether this bill meets the test of responding to terrorism in effective ways, at the same time as it protects our basic rights and freedoms.

A second area on which I think we do need some expert testimony and some reminding of what happened in the past is the new powers that the bill proposes to grant to CSIS. I would like to hear testimony on the idea that, as the bill says, CSIS can “take measures within or outside Canada, to reduce“ terrorism threats or threats to the security of Canada.

We heard quite often from the government that this proposed disruptive activity would require a warrant from the courts and that therefore this constitutes oversight of CSIS in exercising these new powers. I think we would benefit from hearing from such witnesses as former Supreme Court justices who have expressed a willingness to appear before this committee. I do not believe that this issuance of a warrant will constitute oversight.

Here's the key difference which I think we need to hear testimony from legal experts on: When the RCMP gets a warrant for something like a wiretap, it does that in the context of a criminal investigation. In a criminal investigation the results of that wiretap would then end up back before the courts. The courts then have the ability at that time to look at what was done with the warrant, to see if the warrant complied fully with the law, and whether the activities undertaken by the warrant were those specified in the warrant.

We have some unfortunate examples before us, including the case that ended up before Judge Mosley in the Federal Court. The judge said in the application for a warrant that CSIS lacked candour in providing information to the judge in asking for that warrant. Judge Mosley also expressed concern that activities undertaken under the warrant were other than those suggested to the Federal Court.

This is very serious both in terms of the respect by CSIS for the courts and the court process, but also for a bill like this where activities potentially disrupt things that may not be a threat to Canada in a direct sense in the sense of terrorism.

The problem again, which I would like to hear testimony about, is the scope of the disruptive activities. This bill appears to say that CSIS can undertake disruptive activities to deal with threats, not just terrorism, but to the economic and fiscal stability of Canada and to critical infrastructure. That makes the scope of these activities that we're looking at very broad. Whether or not this would withstand scrutiny under the charter I'm not sure. I would like to hear testimony from legal experts on that point.

The other question I raised in my speech at second reading, and on which I believe we do need testimony, is whether once a warrant is issued there is any further oversight. The problem that I see here is that the context of CSIS is different from that of the RCMP.

Disruptive activities for which a warrant would be asked are not criminal offences, so the warrant will never end up back in front of the court. The court will never have the opportunity to judge the results of what happened with that warrant, and whether the activities carried out under that warrant complied with the warrant itself or complied with the charter.

It's a very different context when we talk about the use of warrants in criminal proceedings by the RCMP and disruptive activities by CSIS. I believe we need to hear some very specific testimony on that.

This question of oversight takes place in a climate where the government chose to eliminate the inspector general of CSIS. One of the people we would very much like to have an opportunity to have before the committee is Eva Plunkett, the former inspector general of CSIS.

Again, I don't expect most people in the public to understand the importance of the former office of inspector general of CSIS. At the time it was eliminated in 2012, the government said it was to save money and prevent duplication. That actually misunderstood the function of the inspector general of CSIS.

The inspector general was an independent officer within the CSIS organization whose responsibility was oversight of activities in real time, not review like SIRC, which is looking at activities after they have taken place, or on the basis of complaints, but actually to monitor the ongoing activities of CSIS.

The inspector general then prepared confidential reports for the minister about whether CSIS was fully compliant with the law in any of its activities. That does two things. One, it protects the very important principle: parliamentary government and the minister having clear control of the activities which take place in his or her name as the minister. Two, it establishes the internal function that an internal inspector performs in any organization similar to the internal affairs of any police department. It ensures that members, in conducting their activities, keep their eye on the ball and keep to the highest standards knowing there is an office that is able and will check on their activities as they are taking place.

I'm very concerned and I know Mr. Forcese and Mr. Roach are very concerned about what will happen with this grant of new disruptive powers.

What the government seems to be thinking is that this is merely an expansion of what you might call the conventional role of judges in issuing things like search warrants or wiretap warrants.

Some of the stuff I have read on this and I would like to hear testimony on is that the purpose of those warrants in criminal law is to prevent charter violations. The way we judge charter violations in Canada is based on whether there is a violation of the basic right and is that reasonable and is it a reasonable violation that's proportionate?

Is it reasonable to sometimes restrict rights? It's part of the very fundamental concept of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms that it is sometimes reasonable to do so, but the second test under that, which the Supreme Court has used and established as part of our law, is that the violation must be proportionate. In other words, it has to show that it's both necessary to do so and related to the original purpose.

That is, again, what I would like to hear from constitutional lawyers and those with expertise.

The government seems to say in this bill that, at best, a special advocate will be invited to defend the public interest in cases where we're talking about judges issuing these kinds of warrants for disruptive activities.

From the very beginning, New Democrats have expressed concerns about the special advocate system because a special advocate is only an individual who is drawn into court to represent the public interest. It's not the person who would be the subject of the activities for obvious reasons.

Given the fact that's the case, we get into very difficult legal ground in our legal system with disruptive activities conducted in secret. The person who is the subject of those will have no right to even know that they are even taking place, no right to respond in any legal forum. A special advocate is supposed to fill that role without being able, of course, for obvious reasons—that's why this doesn't work with CSIS; the activities have to be secret, and I'm not implying there should be no CSIS activities—to consult with the subjects of that activity.

Perhaps we should have one of the existing special advocates in our system before this committee to talk to us about how that works in the existing context of security certificates and immigration refugee law so we could judge whether this is an appropriate way to deal with this question of disruptive activities.

Again I want to emphasize that disruptive activities are extremely important, because they potentially affect public confidence in our law enforcement and security agencies. As anyone who has worked closely with the police, as I have as a former police board member and in my professional career as a researcher in policing, knows and as any such person will be willing to tell the committee, the work of police and security agencies depends fundamentally on the confidence of the public. Disruptive activities by their very nature risk at best reducing and sometimes destroying that public confidence in the activities of law enforcement and security agencies.

A third area in which I think we need to hear very serious testimony is the area that was raised by the parliamentary secretary in her opening remarks: the sharing of information. What both the Minister of Public Safety and the parliamentary secretary did this morning I'm going to try to state simply as fact, not attributing motive; what they did was talk about the sharing of information about terrorism.

All of us of course would pass the nod test; it's the reason they are using that example. If we have information about a terrorist act, it should be shared. I believe it is already the case and I would like to hear testimony from experts on information sharing. They could tell us whether in fact there are barriers to information sharing concerning the most serious violent acts.

The problem in the bill as I see it—and I'm no expert on privacy law, so I would like to hear from witnesses such as the Privacy Commissioner to tell us in fact the scope of information that is proposed in this bill—is that it seems to be extraordinarily broad in scope. It seems to me to come very close to authorizing all government departments to share all information about a very broad list of things. It's not just violent terrorist acts—and this is where our concerns come in—but such phrases as “threats to the financial stability of Canada” or “threats to infrastructure”.

We've had very strong reaction after a 44-page RCMP document was made public that created a whole category of people or class of people called “anti-petroleum activists”, which I think was a term created by the RCMP memo. What we risk here again is that large net. The 44-page RCMP memo, which I have here with me and which I have read—the government accuses us of not reading things—and have read through carefully, mixes people about whom I think we should be genuinely concerned together with those who are legitimately in dissent.

We had a very interesting question asked in the House of Commons by the member for Burnaby—Douglas about the Mayor of Burnaby, whom I know quite well, who has taken a very strong stance against the Kinder Morgan pipeline and was very supportive of citizens of Burnaby who were in technical violation of a court injunction in their attempts to stop Kinder Morgan from drilling on protected parkland in Burnaby.

The government says there's an exemption in this law for “lawful” dissent. That's a change, and it's an important change in our law. The previous anti-terrorism definitions do not contain the word “lawful” in that exemption. In other words, they exempt dissent; they exempt artistic expression. Now, in this law, we have the addition of the word “lawful”. Would that capture the Mayor of Burnaby, in his support for his citizens who were in technical violation of a court injunction and authorize the sharing of all their personal information as a result of that?

I don't think it's an exaggeration. I think it's a legitimate concern. I think we need to hear testimony on this.

One of the problems about information is that once it's shared, you can't get it back. Clause 6 of this bill says that once information is shared among government departments, it can then be used for any legal purpose. Again I would like to hear from privacy law experts and information experts, because to me, what this appears to do is tear down one of the basic principles of our existing privacy law. That principle is that when the government chooses to collect information, it is bound to use that information only for the purpose for which it was collected, with certain narrow exemptions.

I think all of us and the public would look favourably on changes, if they're needed, to allow sharing of information about terrorist acts. But if it's the broader categories we're talking about of these nebulous threats to security—financial stability and infrastructure—then there's a great deal more of concern about what is before us in this bill.

There's a broader question here: is existing legislation adequate for meeting terrorism? If I were going to take the same tack as the parliamentary secretary this morning, I would be reading you a long list of arrests that have been made under existing legislation for terrorism. I think there's a legitimate argument for us to look at in this committee about whether the tools the government has at its disposal to combat terrorism are in fact adequate to the task. This is the purpose of study in committee; it is our responsibility as members of Parliament to look at questions such as these.

When I look at the budgets for the RCMP and CSIS, which have been cut each year since 2012, the question I think we need to ask when we have officials before us is whether there is a question of not having the resources that would be necessary to use the tools that are available in the struggle against terrorism.

Also, there were two pieces of testimony before the Senate Standing Committee on National Security and Defence last October, one on October 20 by the director of operations of CSIS. The subject before that committee—and I was able to read the minutes and evidence several times of that committee—was responding to terrorism.

In particular, they were asking CSIS about the list of people who were a threat to go abroad to contribute to terrorist activity. At the time, there were various numbers depending on the day or week, of somewhere around 90 people who were on that list. What the CSIS director of operations very clearly said before that Senate committee was that they have to prioritize their activities and do not have enough resources to monitor all 90 of these people.

That is a concern that we have on this side. If the government has tools for monitoring, which they do, and don't have enough resources to actually do the monitoring—

9:35 a.m.


Roxanne James Conservative Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, I just have to raise a point of order on this particular thing. We keep hearing that there are no resources to do anything, and yet the member is trying to insinuate that somehow law enforcement and national security agencies are going to be monitoring all kinds of people, but that on the other hand there aren't enough resources to monitor terrorism. I find this completely lacking in any credibility and would prefer that the member actually discuss aspects of this particular bill and not come out with wild statements that imply something that is completely without merit.

9:35 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Daryl Kramp

I understand; however, the member has a right to make a statement. Whether or not it can be corroborated and whether it's accurate or not, of course, can in large part be directed as questions to the witnesses who may come here to give us that information. If his statement is meant as a prelude to soliciting a response from witnesses, his comments are in order. If it is simply meant to make, I suppose, a statement regarding information that he does not present factual information to back up or support, then it would not be in order.

I'm assuming the member would certainly be speaking relative to potential witnesses who might wish to deal with his topic, so I would ask him to continue.

9:35 a.m.


Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I would just like to point out that once again the parliamentary secretary is, at my most charitable, skirting the boundaries of privilege by implying that the things I say are untruthful. I must note that during my speech in the debate at second reading, she was called to order by the Speaker when she tried to do the same thing, that is, make the assertion that I was untruthful—

9:35 a.m.


Roxanne James Conservative Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, on a point of order, I actually did not say once “untruthful”. I just said that he's implying that there's this widespread lack of resources, and yet on the other hand somehow our national security agencies are going to be focusing on all these people who are doing lawful protests. I don't understand—

9:35 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Daryl Kramp

Thank you very much.

Of course, the chair has heard both discussions, and I would just suggest right now that points have been made that we can either like or dislike, but let's just get back to the issue at hand, please.

You have the floor, Mr. Garrison.

9:35 a.m.


Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Chair, I would submit that this is not a question of whether I like or dislike them. It's a question of privilege for members of Parliament, and it is unbecoming for the parliamentary secretary to suggest that material presented is untruthful. I say that she's skirting the boundaries by not actually using the word, but the vocabulary of “ insinuates” and “wild” certainly treads very close to the boundary.

I have not made such allegations about some of the things I've heard from the parliamentary secretary, and I would not do so because I think we must accord each other that respect here in the House of Commons.

As to the substance of what she just said, I think she just made my point inadvertently. What we're actually saying about this bill, and the reason I raise the issue of resources is when you have limited resources—and the government has limited the resources. That's a fact that you can see in the budget. It's not a wild statement I'm making. Since 2002 those resources have been reduced. So when a bill comes before us that suggests we're going to expand the activities of CSIS and that we're going to expand the number of people who are drawn into this net, then it's very clear to me that we do have a contradiction that we need to examine in the committee. How can we expect these agencies to take on larger tasks and broader tasks in the context of fewer resources? As I said earlier, this also goes back to the elimination of the position of inspector general because, as we see in the estimates that were just tabled, SIRC is given an increase of I think $10,000 in the new estimates. How is a review body like SIRC, which has been given big responsibilities to begin with, going to be able to provide review of these broad new activities of CSIS with a $10,000 budget increase? That's simply not to be believed.

The material I'm presenting is based in fact. Among the witnesses, and I'm going to go back to this because it's about witnesses before this committee, at the Senate Standing Committee on National Security and Defence—and everyone knows today why I'm not particularly happy about the Senate on a personal basis—was the CSIS director of operations who presented testimony saying they did not have enough resources. I think we need to have the benefit of having a witness like that. If the parliamentary secretary believes that the director of operations of CSIS was incorrect, then let's have CSIS officials here and ask those questions. She is entitled as a member to challenge what was presented as evidence before the Senate, that they lacked enough resources to monitor the 90 people.

9:40 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Daryl Kramp

Mr. Garrison, we're not talking about the Senate debate here. Please just come back to the—

9:40 a.m.


Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

We're talking about evidence that was presented—

9:40 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Daryl Kramp

Let us talk about the information relative to the study before us here, and the request for the meetings. I understand your point, and the chair certainly does not want to take away from your point, but I'm just asking you to please just get closer if you could to the witnesses for this particular study on terrorism.

9:40 a.m.


Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Chair, with respect, I'm speaking directly to that point. We need to have adequate time to have witnesses from CSIS here so that the parliamentary secretary can challenge the evidence that was presented in the Senate if she believes it was incorrect.

On the same note, on October 27, before the Senate Standing Committee on National Security and Defence, the Commissioner of the RCMP appeared, and that was after the very unfortunate incident here on October 22. The Commissioner of the RCMP said, in testimony there, that he found it necessary to transfer resources from organized crime and drug enforcement to national security because he did not have enough resources assigned to national security.

Let's have adequate time. That's one of the reasons that my original amendment said two witnesses per session rather than three, so that we would have adequate time when we have those witnesses before us to ask them these important questions. Again, if the parliamentary secretary thinks that the Commissioner of the RCMP was distorting the situation about his budget when he testified before the Senate committee, then that's something very important to get before this committee. At that time, she should challenge the Commissioner of the RCMP about his saying he had to transfer, I believe—and again, I don't have that testimony before me—resources for 200 personnel. It's very serious if we're talking about terrorism threats when we have the Commissioner of the RCMP saying in a public forum that he lacked enough resources to deal with that question.

I think the question, again, that we need to hear testimony on, is whether any of the things in this bill, such as expanding the powers of CSIS and putting a new offence in the Criminal Code of promoting terrorism in general, are necessary. In that context, if they are necessary and we're going to add them, do we have enough resources for law enforcement and national security agencies to make use of the new powers this bill is offering them? I submit that when we hear that testimony, we will have important evidence before us from which to draw conclusions about this bill.

When challenged to give the relevance of that to the question in front of us today, again, one of the things the parliamentary secretary said in her opening remarks was that we need to lower the threshold for preventative arrest and detention, implying that the system does not work. One of the questions we have about the incident that took place in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and the very unfortunate loss of life there has to do with the fact that the police went to court and did not succeed in getting a peace bond. What I would like, which we still do not have, is any report, before Parliament or public, on that incident that would allow us to draw a conclusion. Was the reason they were unable to get a peace bond actually that the bar was too high or that they lacked evidence because they hadn't devoted enough resources to the case to gather that evidence? I have some questions, in general, and again, I think we could hear legal testimony about this, regarding whether a peace bond would have had any impact on the incident that took place in Saint-Jean. I'm doubtful that it would, because peace bonds don't normally include things like a restriction on the ability to drive. They had not foreseen the use of an automobile as a weapon.

Again, what we're lacking is a report on that incident. What I would hope we would have time for—

9:45 a.m.


Roxanne James Conservative Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, on a point of order, the issue that we're talking about is trying to get this study under way.

I keep hearing from the member opposite that he wants to hear from CSIS, that he wants to hear from witnesses. That's precisely what the subamendment was. We want to bring in almost 50 witnesses, Mr. Chair. If we can just get through this meeting and come to some sort of agreement, those witnesses will start coming in at the very next meeting. Obviously, we're hoping that we can come to some agreement, but again, I keep hearing that he wants to hear from all these witnesses. That's what we're talking about. We need to pass a motion to get this study under way. Fifty witnesses means a significant study. That's going to be hours and hours of listening to testimony, and I just hope that we're not going to obstruct forward movement of Bill C-51 and that we can come to some sort of agreement within the period of time set for this committee. I think Canadians would hope for that as well.

Thank you.

9:45 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Daryl Kramp

Thank you very much.

Mr. Garrison, certainly you may continue just obviously validating your reasons for bringing in particular witnesses. That is of course the purpose of the study.

9:45 a.m.


Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I think, again, what we're dealing with here is a certain intolerance for debate on the part of the government on topics like this, so we see the use of time allocation which is more pleasantly described as scheduling when we have debate, and it says that we should have a full debate here.

The government has decided in its subamendment how many are adequate, and we are saying that given the nature of what we're dealing with here, the very fundamental nature.... This is the most important bill, I would submit, that's been before this Parliament—the only Parliament of which, of course, I have been a member. But it deals with the most fundamental threats to our society, and at the same time, in doing so, I believe the government has endangered some of our most fundamental rights.

The question of the number of witnesses and the number per session is quite important. It's not just a trivial matter. It's quite important to have a full study of this. We have to get this right. We can't end up with a bill that's tied up in endless litigation in the courts. As I said yesterday in the House of Commons, this government does have a record of passing bills that have ended up in wrangling in court, and several of which have been declared unconstitutional.

If we limit the number of witnesses and are unable as a result of that to have the constitutional scholars before us who could prevent us from passing a law that would eventually be counterproductive because of the amount of time we'd have to spend before the courts, and which actually might—and I say this with all seriousness—allow some of those who might be involved in very dangerous activities to go free because of the flaws in the law, that's a problem.

We have heard several commentators saying that, in fact, expansion of the powers of CSIS has a hidden problem in it. That problem is that because of the previous bill we passed, Bill C-44, and the confidentiality of both CSIS informants and operatives, if we expand the activities of CSIS, we may in fact make it more difficult to actually prosecute those who are guilty of terrorism offences.

I would like to have the opportunity also to have those witnesses before this committee who could give us testimony on why that's a real threat that's contained within this bill. Again, I think that's something all members of this committee would wish to avoid. No one here wants to pass a law that would inadvertently make it more difficult to prosecute those who are actually involved in violent threats to the security of this country.

So once again, we have a list of more than 60 people who h ave approached us and the committee who would like to give testimony on this bill. In the debate on the subamendment, or the debate before she introduced the subamendment, the parliamentary secretary implied that this could not be done.

I want to submit once again that members on this side are prepared to sit in this committee in the evenings. We're prepared to sit during the break weeks. We're prepared to sit however many times a day it takes to hear the important witnesses we need to hear on this.

For that reason, I remain opposed to the subamendment. I still believe it's of questionable procedural validity, but I respect the chair, and so of course we will be voting against this subamendment.

9:50 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Daryl Kramp

Thank you very much, Mr. Garrison.

Now to the floor we have Mr. Norlock, please.

9:50 a.m.


Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Chair, I think I should have reversed my notes, but I'll start from the beginning.

I think it's important that Mr. Garrison laid out the number of witnesses and the length of time, and I'll address that near the end of my comments.

The parliamentary secretary has indicated that the government is prepared to have eight meetings, 48 witnesses, 16 hours of debate here or 16 hours of debate/witnesses.

It brings to mind my friend across the way in several other discussions on several other bills saying that he failed to see an air of cooperation and he really looked forward to seeing some cooperation from the government with regard to the number of meetings and witnesses.

I agree with him that this is an important piece of legislation. Having been on this committee, I do not agree that it is more important than the previous anti-terrorism bills to which I was a party in the debates and with the witnesses, etc. I think this bill adds to it.

I don't think it is quite accurate or necessary to say it should have the same number of hours, etc., because it adds to the tools in our tool chest as legislators to be able to provide those tools to our agencies that are there to keep us safe. I think that air of cooperation has been laid out before this committee through the amendments we've seen, and I'll give my friend an opportunity to answer why we couldn't meet somewhere in the middle.

I suspect the air of cooperation still exists, and if he wanted to take the time to sit with the parliamentary secretary, maybe we could even work a little more, but if he's intransigent that it has to be 25 and it has to be this number of hours, then a lot of what was said in the past rings hollow to those who might want to follow this committee.

When I listen to a lot of what has been said, there are a few things our grandparents and folks always mention, that the greatest way for evil to persist is when good people do nothing. We see an evil in our world society called ISIS. Its tentacles have now reached well within the fabric of Canadian society. This bill adds to the other terrorism legislation to begin to cut off those tentacles, or at least to allow the agencies that are designed to keep us safe to do something about it.

It's not blind trust, but I trust the men and women in the RCMP, CSIS, and other agencies to keep us safe. I think some checks and balances are needed and I think this legislation has built within it the checks and balances needed for this particular piece of legislation. Then we have another agency that oversees it, and we know who they are.

My observation when we talk about oversight, and I've seen this a little throughout this entire Parliament, is that every time the government brings forward legislation to allow the men and women who work in our agencies, whether it's the RCMP or CSIS or other agencies...we have the opposition saying they really trust them, but we need to keep an eye on them a little more closely than we already do and then they vote against the legislation because it doesn't do that. I wonder if the average Canadian would agree with it.

I know it's anecdotal, but when it comes to the folks that I meet in the coffee shops and talk to at various meetings and functions that I go to, in all fairness some have concerns, but the vast majority feel that our agencies that are there have the right controls on them and in the end our court system will, if need be, be brought into play to make sure there are the checks and balances that need to be there.

My friend across the way talked about polls, etc., that if they know this, this will happen, but if they didn't know that, that will happen. I somewhat agree that we as politicians need to put less faith in polls. The poll I put my faith in will occur this October 19. I say to my friend, if we're so wrong and you're so right about the need, it won't be me, it will probably be you. Maybe the tables will be turned. We need to just take a big deep breath and stop looking at polls and begin to look at what's needed in our society. I believe we're living up to the mandate provided to us as a government to make sure....

I say this almost in all the meetings I have with my constituents when we talk about either health issues or public safety issues. The first responsibility of the government is the health and safety of the citizens. Because of that threat I referred to at the beginning, with its tentacles within the fabric of Canadian society, the government needs to do something about the health and safety of its citizens by bringing in legislation that allows....

We didn't dream this up. The government doesn't dream these things up. This is as a result of conversations with organizations such as CSIS, the RCMP, and other agencies, with their saying they'd like to do more but they don't have the tools to do it. That's why this legislation is being brought in.

For the folks at home, I'd like to remind them that on most of our legislation, such as the travel abroad and travel protect, and other legislation as I've mentioned, the folks across the way, Her Majesty's official opposition, generally votes against them. Then they say the reason they did is not necessarily because it's bad legislation, but because there are not enough checks and balances. As my teachers, my parents, and especially my grandparents have said, actions speak louder than words. What did you do? What was the result of what you did? It doesn't matter what you said. It's what did you do?

One of the other observations that I made is that the third party, having been in government, tends to, when it sees legislation, maybe not always like it precisely. In the past, on some of the legislation—and we're talking about Bill C-51 here, this piece of legislation—they've indicated that they have issues with it but generally they're prepared to vote for it because, having had the responsibility of government, they understand why the government is doing that. I think that is part and parcel of why they are voting for it: because they do see the value in the legislation and they do see some of the checks and balances they'd like to see. They also know that sometimes three-quarters of a loaf of bread is better than no bread at all, and in this case understand the need for this anti-terrorism legislation.

My friend mentioned that we have to be careful that we don't have court challenges. Well, I can tell you that if you have enough money, there's a plethora of legal firms and lawyers out there who will take any cause to court. If we were always afraid of legal challenges, we wouldn't pass any legislation other than what currently exists. The government has a responsibility and I as a legislator have a responsibility, and that is to meet the challenges of the day, the issues du jour if you want, if necessary with the appropriate legislation, as I previously mentioned, to keep the men and women in our society, my citizens, your citizens, our constituents, safe as best we can.

There are no ulterior motives other than that one simple motive. That's my motive. That's been my motive for now pretty close to 40 full-time years of public service. It is to ensure that I do everything in my power to keep those people for whom I am responsible as safe as I can.

That's why I'm suggesting once again that we take a little break as soon as we've talked ourselves out, hopefully, in a short period of time. The parliamentary secretary and the other two parties should get together and work in the interests of cooperation. So often it has been brought to our attention that we see that occur. If it can't occur, then I hope in the future, should we meet again on a piece of legislation, we don't get that thrown in our face.

I heard one of the comments was regarding disruptive activities and that we have to be careful what kinds of activities we're disrupting. I recall yesterday during question period the leader of Her Majesty's official opposition say throughout, well barn burnings, etc. If we bring that up and a few other things, this piece of legislation does have built within it, when it comes to disruptive activities, that CSIS has to go before a judge.

We're accused of judge bashing and not really paying attention to judges. Well, we've built into this legislation on purpose the requirement to have to go before a justice before some of these, I will admit, serious things such as disruptive activities allow those authorities to exercise their mandate. We just want that significant oversight and permission before they do it and are permitted to go ahead. I think it well covers that.

My friend across the way mentions that we need experts to come and tell us. Yes, that's why we're prepared to talk to 48 witnesses. We need warrants for disruptions, so we do have this judicial oversight in many of the instances where the government felt that there needed to be caution because of the nature of the action. That's why we bring in a third party who will make sure that the activities engaged in are appropriate to meet the circumstances.

As far as monitoring is concerned, I've talked about the judicial oversight. It's important for Canadians to know that—this is just off the top of my head; somebody can raise a point of order if they wish to correct me in the number of years, and please feel free to do so—for about 40 years or so, CSIS has exercised its mandate with very few instances where they have exceeded it.

The additional powers that are going to be given to CSIS and the RCMP.... I'd like to deal with CSIS in particular, because their track record—and remember I said actions speak louder than words—has been very good. There's no reason to believe that the men and women of CSIS are going to, on a regular basis, exceed the powers that they have been given in the past and that this proposed legislation gives them. Their track record is such that they deserve to have the tools they need to meet this new increasingly grave threat to Canadian society.

My friend mentioned that the role of judges has been changing over the past while and I agree with him. The role of judges has been expanding significantly over the past 20 to 25 years in order to meet the charter challenges.

I saw a perfect example of that in my previous occupation. It used to be relatively easy to get a search warrant, but in this day and age, because of some of the history, the demands on police are increasingly such that in order to get a search warrant or other warrants—and this does tie directly into Bill C-51, and that's why we have this judicial oversight—you need to go before a justice.

I've seen pictures of information to obtain a search warrant that literally filled legal boxes, piled high. I won't go into the specific cases, but there was the case of the Church of Scientology and some of the search warrants and I can recall huge volumes.

When my friend indicates that the role of judges has been expanded, I agree that it has been. It is neither good nor bad, but it is necessary in most cases.

To say that this will increase their role, I don't think it will increase it any more than any other piece of legislation that we have brought in or that has been brought in in the past by both Liberal and Conservative governments.

When we deal with information sharing, my friend and the parliamentary secretary alluded to recent cases in Edmonton and some other places. If need be, I'll go into those, particularly to show three areas that this piece of legislation covers that I believe would have prevented these young folks from leaving Canada. The mother actually explained to the media what occurred, and had CSIS been able to provide information to her on exactly what they knew, if my memory serves me correctly—and I'm probably going to be looking at that particular case and informing my constituents and Canadians as to the specificity of it—she said she would have ripped up their passports.

I think this information sharing is necessary, and the opposition is saying that we need to give them a specific case. Well this is just one time when we can do that to show that this legislation is in fact needed in order to prevent young folks in the future.... Hopefully, it will provide their parents with the information necessary to work with authorities to de-radicalize and prevent some terrible things from happening.

When my friend said that he doesn't think it's an exaggeration to say generally...I find after that statement comes the exaggeration, albeit, if you listen closely, you'll hear the words “may”, “could”, “it's possible”. It's possible for anything to happen. All things are possible, but I would suggest, based on what I previously said about the responsible attitude of CSIS and the RCMP and their history surrounding those things, that they will probably not happen.

Again I go back to Canadians and their faith in organizations such as CSIS and the RCMP. I'm going to make this statement, and I don't think it's going to shock any of the people around this table. I think most Canadians trust CSIS, trust the RCMP, and trust the other agencies that are there to keep them safe and to keep all of us safe more than they trust politicians. I think that they trust judges and the judicial system more than they trust politicians. That's why in Bill C-51 we've put in judicial oversight to make sure that those authorities that Canadians trust have the tools and resources they need.

I made another note with regard to resources, and my friend's saying we need to provide more resources to those entities. Well, I would say we actually have done that in numerous budgets since 2011. Again I am recalling those famous words “actions speak louder than words” because in those budgets that have allocated more money towards our agencies, Canada's official opposition has historically voted against all of those budgets designed to do so. They'll say it was because it had too much of this, that, or the other thing, but once again I say that what you said is irrelevant and it comes down to what you actually did.

One of the other things is that I belonged to one of those agencies which, when asked, always said that it's not enough and we need more. We all know that especially when you talk to government or anyone else and you ask if they have enough, they always ask for a little bit more. Whether it's in a labour negotiation or in any kind of negotiation, we always want more, figuring that we're not going to get what we want, so we better ask for more.

When we come to resources, let's get those witnesses in here. Let's talk about those resources and let's talk about what is really needed and maybe, just maybe, as a result of Bill C-51, those additional resources will be provided. But first we have to get Bill C-51 in there.

We heard mention of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and some other very recent tragic events. Most of those events are still under investigation. Even though I would like to make comment, I do not like to make comments about incomplete investigations. Why? Because it's not respectful of the people who are engaged in the investigation. I know the media needs to fill the paper or the television time. They talk about the right of Canadians to know what's going on, but as legislators.... And I don't question it and I'm not making judgments on it; I'm just saying that, as legislators, I think we need to wait until we see the results of the investigation before we begin to say that somebody did too much and they shouldn't have or somebody didn't do enough. Let's wait until that's done.

Let's also make sure that when we do see the results of that investigation, we do give the investigative agencies the tools they need to do their job.

When we talk about the government showing intolerance to debate and they bring in closure—and I'm using the words that were used. Time allocation is the nice touchy-feely term. As my friend across the way said, he likes to use the word “closure” because it has that ring to it.

We are an offspring of our mother Parliament, Westminster. I didn't know this, at least it may have been told to me before, but occasions like this bring to mind that in Great Britain, most legislation is debated in the House for one day, and members have to indicate to the Speaker that they wish to speak to the debate. The more members, the less time they get, and in some cases, my little bit of research indicates that it could be two to three minutes. They have to get their point across and they have to stay in the House during the debate, or they get struck off the list. Now after they speak, I guess, they could sneak out because they've already said their piece. Then it goes before committee in much the same system as we have. I believe, but I haven't gone into the committee structure that much, at committee it doesn't stay there that long.

When Canadians hear that we want to have 25 meetings and talk these things out, I'll bet that the majority of people out there, other than the odd person who might think they'd like to watch especially if we televise this.... With 25 meetings, 50 hours of debate, I'll bet that the average Canadian would say, “You politicians talk things to death”. I hear that all the time. “Get on with it. Do your job, and every four years, in the case of a majority government, we'll decide if you did your job well enough and we'll kick your butt out of there if we don't think you did a good job”.

I say to the official opposition, take us up on that offer of eight meetings or let's take a little break and see if we can't come to a better decision, because Canadians expect us to do something.

Maybe in the enclaves in which you socialize they think we need 25 or 50 meetings, but I'm going to say that I doubt that very much. Most Canadians think that the hours of debate we've already had in the House and the time we're going to take at committee is more than enough. I risk their ire if I talk too long, because what they expect is action, and I go back to what I said: actions speak louder than words. So let's get on with the job. Let's show an era of cooperation. Let's take a break and let's talk about coming down from 25 meetings and let's talk about seeing if we can't come to providing a better service to the people who are paying the shot to keep the lights on in here and all the people working to make sure these meetings bear some fruit.

I mentioned, of course, the incident in Edmonton. The woman said, “I would have ripped her passport up. There is no way I would have let her leave if I knew she was going to the craziest war zone in the world”. She further said, “If they had shown me the e-mails...”. I repeat to Canadians, CSIS is not permitted to show those e-mails. She said, “If they had shown me the e-mails between my sister and this girl, if they had let me listen to the recordings of them planning on going places”—and I'm leaving out a name here—“it would have given the family more to act on”. Then she said, “They told us she had been interacting with people they thought were dangerous and were influencing her in a negative way, but they didn't give us enough information. It was very vague”.

It had to be vague.

My friend across the way says that well, they did talk to the family. Yes, they did, but they weren't permitted to give them all that information. That's why we need to have information sharing. That's why that is necessary. It gives them more freedom rather than taking it away. It gives the parents the freedom and the ability to do that which parents want to do, which is to protect their children.

That's one perfect example, just one, of why this legislation is necessary, so I implore my friend to remember what he said at previous meetings about previous legislation and do be prepared to meet us halfway and Canadians will be well served.

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

10:15 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Daryl Kramp

Thank you very much, Mr. Norlock.

Now we will go to the next person on the list, Mr. Payne.

10:15 a.m.


LaVar Payne Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Chairman, I just want to reiterate that I believe we're actually discussing the subamendment put forward by our parliamentary secretary, and that on March 10 we will have Minister MacKay and Minister Blaney here as witnesses on this very important bill.

If we look at it, the subamendment says that we should have eight meetings. That will obviously take us through to some time in March. We're going to have 16 hours of expert testimony and two hours with the ministers. We're looking at a total of 48 witnesses. I know that our colleagues across the way have asked for 25 meetings. To me, that shows they're not being responsible in terms of trying to work with us as government. This is extremely important legislation. Quite frankly, I'm flabbergasted and find it quite outrageous that they're not prepared to make any changes, or even to work with us in terms of coming closer to what we're suggesting.

I think that the highest priority for our government, and for any government, is to make sure we protect our citizens and that our country is safe and secure. This is what this bill does.

What we're trying to do is to bring in some good legislation that is going to help us with what we see around the world, with ISIS, ISIL, and the terrorist activities that are happening.

On a regular basis, we see the videos coming from them trying to recruit. Here we have the latest one, Mr. Chairman. The Somalis have asked that they attack the West Edmonton Mall. I have family in Edmonton who regularly go to the West Edmonton Mall. My wife and I go to the West Edmonton Mall on occasion when we go to visit family.

The whole question is, if we don't have this legislation, how is it possible for CSIS, which is tracking this information, to share information with organizations and the police forces to stop these terrorist attacks? I find that extremely difficult.

My colleagues on this side of the House talked about sharing information and about terrorists. We have these people who have left Canada to join ISIS, to become terrorists, and then they want to come back home. What happens if they come back home and they have to be interviewed by, say, a passport officer in whatever country they're trying to come back from? This officer cannot share that information with law enforcement agencies. Even if you have an RCMP officer sitting right next door, he can't share that information. Law enforcement can't interview the individual, so they can't really do a follow-up. All the passport officer could do is to file something so that at some point in time, perhaps the RCMP or somebody in national security might be able to follow up on this individual. At the same time, if this is a Canadian citizen, we cannot stop him from coming back into the country.

That's another important reason that we need to have these tools, that our law enforcement and CSIS have these tools, so that they can actually share information. That sharing of information is to protect Canadians. It's to protect our country.

We've seen two terrorist attacks here in Canada. Two of our military people died as a result of those attacks. We actually have scars here in the House of Commons just down the hall, right here at this door, where we saw terrorist attacks. We know that we need to make sure that the tools are available to help protect our country, and to protect us politicians. I know we have security here. It's an important aspect to protect our citizens as well as our politicians, who make the laws for this country. I see that as an extremely important aspect of this bill.

I just have such difficulty in terms of knowing that the opposition appears to be stalling. They appear not to want to have any kind of negotiation to move this forward. I'm taking it that they just want to filibuster this whole process.

Our colleagues across the way have talked about protecting Canadian rights and freedoms. In this bill I believe that is already covered. CSIS is strictly prohibited from undertaking threat disruption activities against individuals engaged in lawful protest or dissent. That means if they're not doing anything illegal, it's highly unlikely they would be arrested or charged. If they are doing something illegal, should they not be charged and arrested?

I just wrote an article on this whole issue on Bill C-51; it should probably be in the local paper in the next day or so. That was one of the conclusions I came to, that if you're doing something unlawful, you should be charged. If I do something unlawful, I should be charged and arrested. To me, a peaceful demonstration has nothing to do with that.

I know my colleague across the way; I've been on the same committees as him. I can understand some of his concerns. One of the things he talked about was resources. My colleague Mr. Norlock already talked about increased funding that we have provided, I think by a third, since 2006.

My colleague across the way mentioned that they have to shift resources. We know that crime, in terms of ISIS and this whole terrorist activity, has been evolving. It's changing on a regular basis. Sometimes you need to change some of your priorities while you get additional resources in place. To me, that's not an unreasonable approach.

I would expect that if needed, the RCMP must move people, or if CSIS needs additional people, if they have the funding resources available to them.... You can't just hire them overnight. This does take time. I was the human resources manager for an organization and I recruited people from around the world to work in our business. The same kind of process is needed whether you're hiring for national security or national defence or CSIS. You actually have to go through a process to find people.

I certainly don't expect that they could do this overnight. To my recollection, it usually took us several months to get in place a process where we could decide on exactly what we needed and when we needed it. Then, of course, there was the recruiting process. I see that being no different for CSIS or the RCMP or even our Canadian Forces. My son is in the Canadian Forces, and he tells me about the recruiting there as well. It does take time.

I guess I'm a bit flustered by my colleague's comment that we have to shift resources. This is an evolving process. This is evolving. With ISIS, the threat is evolving not only here in Canada, but it's evolving across the globe.

I'm in contact with my communities and the citizens within those communities. I can tell you they are extremely worried about what's happening. I get e-mails on a regular basis from them saying that we have to do something to make sure that Canadians are safe and that our country is safe and secure. This bill is what we want to do to make sure that happens.

My colleague also talked about critical infrastructure. My recollection is that rail lines would be critical infrastructure. We did see some arrests made as a result of some planning to bomb a train or a tunnel on the way to New York, or in New York. For goodness' sake, that would be critical.

I think about what would happen if we didn't protect nuclear facilities. We could be in a big mess. Oil and gas production, hospitals; there is so much important, critical infrastructure around this country that needs to be protected. If there is somebody who is doing a legal protest around those, I don't see that as a big problem, but it is critical we make sure that those infrastructures are protected on a long-term basis from terrorists and terrorism.

We know that they will disrupt and do whatever they can. We talked about how the larger piece is that they want to be very dramatic to get their point across. Some of the terrorists talked about Mumbai and what's happened there. We've seen it in Europe. We've seen it in Australia. It doesn't seem to end.

It's another important aspect that we continue to fight these terrorists. That means not just here at home. That doesn't mean just with CSIS or the RCMP. We're also working with our allies. That's an important aspect, because if we don't work with our allies to stop these terrorists where they are in Syria and Iraq...it's spreading everywhere. From my point of view, it is extremely important that we work in cooperation.

We've heard from the Minister of National Defence that we are working with our allies. We have had some very good successes in trying to disrupt ISIS, these terrorists. We know they're planning to come to North America. They're here in North America. They're planning on trying to bring down our western values. For us and our allies, the western values and the freedoms we have and appreciate are important.

Freedom comes also with security. We want to make sure we have security here in Canada, as well as in North America, and as well as in our allied countries. It's so important that we stop this terrorist movement where we can, when we can, and with all the resources that are available to us. That's another important aspect of it.

I'd like to reiterate to my colleague, Mr. Garrison, who talked about all the witnesses they want to have, that I know they're going to have witnesses here. Does he want to have 100 or 200? I don't know. This could go on forever. I think a reasonable approach is the recent suggestion in the subamendment of having eight meetings and 48 witnesses. I don't see that as a big issue.

Another point I want to make, and my colleagues have already talked about it, is judicial oversight. In order for CSIS to do some things, they're going to have to go before a judge and get a warrant. Certainly that means they will have to convince the judiciary that in fact what they want to do is legal and that they can go ahead and do it.

My colleague across the way talked about disruption in other countries. You know what? I think it's important that we've seen disruption take place in other countries because if we don't stop it where we can, then we're going to see it come here in greater numbers. I think Canadians, at least the people in my communities, don't want to see terrorists here. It is a huge concern for all Canadians, particularly the citizens that I represent.

I know that I am not going to be running for re-election again, which in some ways is difficult for me not to do, particularly when we have such an important bill before us. I know that the people in my community are supporting this. They want to make sure that Canada is safe and that they continue their way of life and the freedoms that we have. We can go anywhere. We don't have to have permission. We're free to believe in our religion, and some don't have one, and that's okay too. But what we're concerned about is what we've seen from ISIS. I think we need to make sure that we get this bill passed as soon as possible. I would certainly ask for the cooperation of our colleagues on the other side.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

10:35 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Daryl Kramp

Thank you very much, Mr. Payne.

Now we will go to Mr. Casey.

10:35 a.m.


Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Chair, when I heard Mr. Norlock speak about the trust and faith that Canadians and, I think, he have in judges, it made me as the vice-chair of the justice committee wish that he had been on that committee when we were discussing matters of sentencing. Indeed, if that were the prevailing view among him and his colleagues, we'd have a lot more consensus on that committee.

Mr. Chair, this is essentially a negotiation about process. There are two issues: the number of meetings and the number of witnesses per meeting. That's what the motion is about. There is certainly a willingness on this side of the table for extra meetings, extra sittings, and extended hours. I haven't heard that on the other side, but I would expect that we could probably get consensus on that.

We do have a precedent. In the fall of 2001, when the twin towers and the Pentagon were smouldering, Parliament was faced with a very serious situation. Parliament was faced with a piece of legislation to deal with the terrorist threat. The committee studying that piece of legislation in the fall of 2001 held 19 meetings, heard from 80 witnesses, and had its business done within a month. The situation that we face today is no less serious, no less complex, and no less worthy of our time and effort.

The government motion and the amendment do not, in my respectful submission, allow adequate examination. The number of witnesses, 48, quite frankly, Mr. Chair, is a bit of a mirage, because when you put three witnesses on a panel, six witnesses per meeting, it does not allow for the depth of examination and the detailed questioning that this matter warrants. Liberals cannot support the subamendment. We do support the NDP amendment. I am encouraged by what we've heard from Mr. Norlock and also from Mr. Payne, that there appears to be some room for compromise. I would urge both the official opposition and the government to put some water in their wine. Canadians expect us to get on with this and to deal with it in a reasonable manner. We have a precedent, and we would be doing this a great disservice not to be the adult in the room and come to a reasonable conclusion.

Thank you.

10:40 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Daryl Kramp

Thank you very much, Mr. Casey.

Now we will go to Ms. James please.

10:40 a.m.


Roxanne James Conservative Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, I want to go back to comments that were just made by my Liberal colleague across the way and comments made by Mr. Garrison with regard to the number of witnesses per panel.

The standard practice in this committee is to have three witnesses per panel. It is misleading to say that those witnesses speak for up to 10 minutes, because the ability for witnesses or the Chair to reduce the number of minutes for opening remarks has always been there.

For example, when we have three witnesses, they may only speak for seven minutes, or five minutes. Certainly witnesses who may be coming from all sides, whether it be Conservative, NDP, or Liberal, could choose not to have any opening remarks. They could submit their remarks in both official languages for the committee members to review ahead of time or have with them, and just be present to answer questions. We've seen that happen in the past. That particular argument, that we will not have enough time to hear directly from the witnesses, is not valid. We will have plenty of time to hear from witnesses.

The subamendment that I put forward is increasing the number of witnesses to 48. That's in addition to the first meeting, which will have officials and the two ministers, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the Minister of Justice. We are actually going to have well over 50 witnesses during the entire study. We have been very cooperative. We are trying to accommodate and negotiate with the opposition on this matter.

It is unreasonable, Mr. Chair, to hold 25 meetings, considering the fact that we have fewer than 25 meetings in the rest of the session. We are in fact extending regular committee hours with the subamendment I put forward. We are not just meeting at the regular times on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. We are actually going to schedule meetings in the evening. We are willing to schedule those meetings so they work with all timetables and all schedules from all members of the party.