Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-44, especially after my colleagues have been speaking very eloquently with respect to the concerns we have with the bill. As I was reading through the notes on the bill, it struck me that it is a similar pattern to one we experienced on Bill C-2, which was also before the public safety committee very recently, having to do with safe consumption sites.
The bill was only approved at second reading on November 18. Here we are in early December, and already we are at report stage. That means the bill was rushed through the House and it was then rushed through the committee. In fact, there were three committee meetings. Witness testimony happened over two days, and then there was clause-by-clause at the third meeting. We have to remember that committee hearings are only two hours. We basically had four hours of testimony from witnesses and one meeting of clause-by-clause consideration.
I want us to stop and think about that.
What has happened to the legislative process in Parliament is really quite shocking. I do remember the days when a bill would have adequate debate in the House. When a bill went to committee, it was considered a very serious proposition. We might hear witnesses for a couple of weeks, over several meetings.
I know that you, Mr. Speaker, would remember. You were part of the justice committee and a very able representative for the NDP. I know you dealt with umpteen bills. Even when you were dealing with them, they were being rushed through. However, prior to that, there was a sense that as parliamentarians, as legislators, we were doing our job and we were really examining a bill.
Now we have come to this place where the attitude and the pattern of operation is to basically rush everything through, and if we dare to criticize and say that something needs a little more time, then we are told we are holding something up, that we are doing it for political reasons.
However, these are very significant bills that we debate. This one in particular has to do with the powers of CSIS. This is an organization that Canadians read about from time to time when something might come forward in terms of a particular case or situation. However, basically Canadians have very little knowledge about CSIS and how it operates, other than individuals who may have had direct contact with the organization because they were being investigated in some way.
When we look at the modernization of CSIS, and we understand that is what the bill is meant to be about, that is certainly very important. After 30 years, there is no question that it needs to be modernized. However, it does require full scrutiny. It absolutely requires full scrutiny by members of Parliament, by a committee, and by the witnesses who are called to committee.
It is shocking that of all the amendments that were put forward—I believe the NDP put forward 12, the Liberals put forward 5, and the Green Party put forward 6—as was similar to Bill C-2, none were approved. Not one.
I think we have a very serious situation. We have a majority government that basically calls the shots and does not even pretend to be interested in a legislative process and examining a bill as to whether it might be improved upon, or whether there are legitimate criticisms, flaws in a bill. In fact, what is concerning about the bill is that, as we have heard with other bills that have been before the House, if it goes through in its current form, it too may end up in some kind of constitutional challenge. Again, it is a pattern that is emerging.
I did want to put that on the record because it worries me. We come to work here to represent our constituents. We come into the House to participate in a process in good faith, but we find out that the process has been completely jigged. There is no space, no room, no engagement, to have a constructive review of an important piece of legislation. That bothers me.
In my riding of Vancouver East, I was at a very important gathering of aboriginal people, who were speaking about the missing and murdered aboriginal women and the need for a national inquiry. We think of the impact of that issue in terms of public safety, and yet we see very little movement from the government on the issue. We see a bill being rushed through here that would also have an impact on public safety and an impact on the public interest, and we see virtually no debate. It is a very sad day.
As many of my colleagues have pointed out in the debate at report stage today, the NDP did support this bill at second reading. New Democrats actually agreed that it should go to committee, that we should take a look at it. We worked diligently at committee, and I certainly want to congratulate my colleagues on the committee who brought forward the amendments. It takes a lot of time to bring forward amendments. They heard the witnesses. The witnesses themselves made a number of suggestions to improve the modernization of CSIS. With any expansion of powers, the most critical thing is to ensure that there is proper oversight.
We can go back as far as the Maher Arar commission, which surely is one of the pivotal moments in Canadian political history in terms of security. I was in the House when that travesty took place, trying to understand what happened to Maher Arar and calling for a national inquiry. Of course, that finally did happen and the recommendations of the commission of inquiry came out in 2006. I wonder what happened to those recommendations. In fact, we know that the inquiry called for a number of recommendations and urgently pointed out that measures needed to be put in place to have oversight of Canada's intelligence agencies. That was eight years ago. No one can forget the Maher Arar inquiry. No one can forget what happened to that Canadian, and the hell that he went through. If we have learned anything, surely it is an examination of our own intelligence procedures and methodologies. We have to live up to the recommendations of the commission of inquiry, and yet they have not been implemented. How awful is that?
Here we are with another bill that would change the way that CSIS operates overseas, and yet we have not addressed the fundamental question with CSIS that has been pointed out to us again and again, which is the need for proper oversight. We hear this, as well, from the privacy and information commissions of Canada. These are folks who need to be paid attention to. These are folks who pay close attention to privacy and information in Canada, and they know the balance on what is required in terms of privacy and information. Yet at their annual meeting, they also brought forward the need to have effective oversight included in any legislation established for any additional powers for intelligence and law enforcement agencies. Where is it? Why are we dealing with this bill in isolation?
Now we are at report stage, and suffice it to say that New Democrats will be opposing this bill because the oversight has not been brought in. The Security Intelligence Review Committee, which has ended up being a part-time committee, is not adequate. We have seen that the position of inspector general of CSIS was eliminated in 2012, so even the internal monitoring of CSIS has greatly diminished. We are in a bad state of affairs.
We want to ensure that if there is any expansion of CSIS, that it be done by protecting civil liberties and it be be done with proper oversight. This bill would do neither, and therefore it deserves to be voted down. There should be a proper examination that takes place.