House of Commons Hansard #206 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was csis.


The House resumed from March 12 consideration of the motion that Bill C-641, An Act to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActPrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.


John Barlow Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou for introducing this bill and prompting this important discussion. His passion on this issue was quite evident and I want to recognize him for that.

While I may oppose the passage of Bill C-641, I agree that issues related to aboriginal rights are an integral part of Canada's past and future. My southern Alberta riding of Macleod has a rich first nations history, and I am proud to represent them here today.

It is well known that our government has been working on reconciliation and the implementation of aboriginal rights across Canada. As a member of the aboriginal affairs and northern development committee, I am particularly pleased to have the opportunity to address this subject.

In 2010, it was this government that endorsed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples underscoring our commitment to reconciliation, to building a positive and productive relationship with first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, and to improving the well-being of aboriginal Canadians. As we said when we endorsed the declaration, the government's vision is a future in which aboriginal families and communities are healthy, self-sufficient and prosperous. Just as much as that vision remains true today, it has guided the actions of this government from the beginning.

The Prime Minister's 2008 historic apology to former students of Indian residential schools, to their families and communities remains the most public manifestation of this government's, indeed of any Canadian government's, commitment to reconciliation. The Prime Minister's heartfelt words will echo for generations, for they marked not a conclusion but a beginning of a new era of aboriginal relations in this country.

The creation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as part of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement was another watershed moment. The commission's activities and outreach have been fundamental to the process of reconciliation. As hon. members are aware, our government has extended the commission's mandate by an additional 12 months, to June of this year. This will ensure it can report fully on this historic injustice and start Canadians on the path of reconciliation. The work of the commission will stand as a lasting reminder that there is no place in Canada for the attitudes that inspired the Indian residential schools system to ever prevail again.

Even more than this, our government has redoubled its efforts to work in partnership with aboriginal peoples to foster opportunities for a better future for aboriginal peoples throughout Canada.

It must be said that this work is achieving real results. Our government is delivering on economic development, on housing, and on child and family services. We are producing results with respect to education, access to safe drinking water, and especially governance. We are making concrete developments related to sharing benefits of natural resources development in traditional aboriginal territories, on the extension of human rights protection, and on matrimonial real property protection to first nations on reserve.

We are accelerating efforts to resolve the past grievances of first nations relating to Canada's obligations under historic treaties with tools such as the expedited specific claims process. This new process brought in under our government allowed the minister to clear away a backlog of specific claims left behind by the Liberal government.

Progress in areas such as the settlement of specific claims is essential to advancing reconciliation while establishing a more predictable climate for economic investment and increased prosperity for aboriginal communities, things that work to the benefit of all Canadians. These treaty agreements provide aboriginal communities with the lands, resources and the tools they need to determine their own destiny and take advantage of opportunities for economic development in ways that they could not have been able to before.

Our government has committed to reach specific claim settlements fairly and expeditiously through negotiation with first nations, and the results cannot be denied. Since 2007, 125 specific claims have been negotiated, representing some $2.2 billion in settlements for first nation communities across the country. We are equally committed to negotiating fair settlements to self-government and comprehensive land claims, and we are responding to aboriginal groups and others who have long called for reforms to the federal approach.

In July of last year, the minister announced a number of measures to address key impediments to concluding modern treaties. This included making important changes to Canada's own source revenue policy and resuming negotiations related to the fisheries in British Columbia.

In addition, the minister also announced important new measures to promote reconciliation in advance of and outside of treaty. Canada will now consider proposals to negotiate incremental treaty and non-treaty agreements. These are two important new tools to help strengthen partnerships with aboriginal groups and help address their section 35 rights.

Incremental agreements could address one or more elements of an eventual treaty, or could exist as stand-alone agreements in the event a treaty is not concluded.

Moreover, our government has clarified Canada's approach to the resolution of shared territory disputes in the context of resource development, and we continue to take seriously our duty to consult with aboriginal groups, particularly those in priority areas of high resource development.

We are engaging aboriginal groups and other stakeholders in the renewal of federal consultation guidelines, including new industry guidance and a public statement to clarify Canada's approach to aboriginal consultation.

Our government is also working toward developing a new framework for addressing section 35 aboriginal rights through dialogue with aboriginal groups and other stakeholders.

As a first step in the development of this new framework, the minister appointed Douglas Eyford as ministerial special representative to lead engagement with aboriginal groups and key stakeholders on renewal of the comprehensive land claims policy. Over the past six months, Mr. Eyford has met with representatives from more than 100 aboriginal groups, federal, provincial and territorial governments, and industry.

Mr. Eyford's report is now in hand. Over the coming months, we will engage with aboriginal groups as well as other stakeholders to seek their feedback on Mr. Eyford's recommendations. At the end of the process, we hope to have an improved comprehensive claim policy that will ensure collaboration between parties and enhance the B.C. treaty process.

This is the Canadian way, to address these matters not unilaterally, but through a process of respectful partnership, consultation and negotiation, a process that supports reconciliation and one that leads to shared solutions that work for aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians alike.

We believe that much of the work our government has done with first nations is actually compatible with the spirit of UNDRIP. However, our government has also been very clear. We continue to have serious concerns regarding certain clauses of the declaration that go well beyond Canadian laws. Canada has a constitutionally entrenched framework in place that ensures the recognition with, and when appropriate, accommodation of potential or established aboriginal and treaty rights with respect to crown activity.

This is important for good governance, sound policy development and decision-making. This framework balances the interests of aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians and has served as a model for nations around the world.

However well-intended the bill may be, it is the view of this government that supporting Bill C-641 would run the risk of hindering our ability to balance these interests and realize solutions that work for all Canadians.

For these reasons, I urge the House to join me in voting against it.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, as has been indicated by the Liberal Party critic, we wholeheartedly support Bill C-641 moving forward. I think the vast majority of Canadians understand why it is important for us to deal with the issue of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This is something that I believe crosses the different party lines. In listening to debates on issues of this nature, at times they can become quite partisan. I want to reflect upon a couple of aspects, maybe something different from what the Liberal Party critic commented on, just to personalize it.

We heard from the last speaker about the importance of consultation and working with first nations leaders, leaders of our aboriginal communities, and so forth. Over the last number of years, different pieces of legislation have been brought forward and ultimately passed, through time allocation, with very little real consultation taking place. There has been an exclusion of individuals who could be providing fantastic leadership on the issues which the House has to deal with in one form or another, but they have been excluded from the process in particular in the development of the legislation.

Working hand in hand and enabling the first nations leadership to develop good national legislation to empower different communities in all regions of the country is something that has been lost in good part because of the government's attitude toward working with the first nations.

I like to refer to what Paul Martin, a former prime minister, was able to achieve in a relatively short time span. I am referring specifically to the Kelowna accord. I look at the Kelowna accord as a model that could be achieved if government was prepared to focus its attention on dealing with the issue which I believe many Canadians want us to deal with.

The Kelowna accord was worked on for literally hundreds, if not thousands, of hours, at all different levels. It incorporated discussions between the federal government and first nations chiefs and councils, directly and indirectly. It incorporated provincial jurisdictions and territorial jurisdictions. There was a phenomenal amount of feedback. Ultimately, this led to an agreement which was signed off on. I believe there was a general consensus that that was the way in which we needed to operate.

It is with great pride that I look at Paul Martin not only as the prime minister who ultimately ensured that we had a Kelowna accord, but as someone who, even since being prime minister, has made a sincere and genuine effort to maintain many of the contacts and to continue to encourage co-operation in trying to improve and work with and support those who are trying to improve the conditions and the lifestyle of many of the first nations in all regions of Canada.

We look at the types of things and issues that are out there. We often hear about land claims and issues of that nature, but the issues that I believe do need to get more attention are issues specifically dealing with such things as housing, the quality of education, and employment opportunities.

From my perspective, those are some of the critical issues that we have to work with. We have to ensure and follow leadership from the first nations, and empower that leadership so we can move further on those important files.

I have had the good fortune of working with some fantastic individuals in the past, one being Elijah Harper. Elijah Harper, from the province of Manitoba, has been an inspiration to many, including first nations and Canadians as a whole. The late Mr. Harper and I had the opportunity to meet in 1988. We were able to work through and have discussions on the Meech Lake accord, in 1990, and we would visit in the lobby while I was a Liberal member of Parliament. Unfortunately, due to his untimely passing, I am no longer able to consult or work with Mr. Harper. However, I believe he left a lasting impression among first nations in particular, as he did with me. Many will look at the leadership he was able to provide, especially during the late 1980s and 1990s and the turn of the century.

Phil Fontaine is someone who has been absolutely critical in terms of his commitment in providing knowledge on important files. It is important for politicians to have an appreciation of that knowledge. This includes the issue of residential schools and where we should be going from here. I know first-hand how influential Mr. Fontaine was, whether within the Liberal Party or with political leaders of all stripes. I believe people had a decent understanding of issues after meeting with someone like Phil Fontaine.

I cite those names in particular because I believe there are many like Elijah Harper, Phil Fontaine, and Paul Martin out there who have a burning desire to make a difference. Given the opportunity and the platform to to do so, I believe we would have an impact on issues such as improving employment opportunities and the quality of education and housing. These are very important issues. It behooves all of us to get a better understanding of them in order to enable our communities to provide the leadership necessary to tackle the many problems and issues that need to be resolved.

This is something that I myself am committed to. I look to the Prime Minister as an example. On many occasions, I have had the opportunity to raise the issue of murdered and missing aboriginal first nations women and girls and the call for a public inquiry. The public inquiry is something that my leader and the Liberal Party are committed to. We believe that this not only has to be done, but that the broader community would benefit by having it conducted.

There is so much that can be done. At the end of the day, I would like to see an enabling of first nations and aboriginal leadership from within, to make decisions and assist and educate the rest of us.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, as always, it is a great honour to rise in the House representing the people of the Timmins—James Bay region. I am very proud to speak on the excellent work of my colleague from Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou on Bill C-641, an act that will ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

As I rise to speak today, 1,900 people from one of the communities that I represent, Kashechewan, are being put in evacuation centres across the province. Ten years ago I sat at the table with the federal government, senior representatives and all the key bureaucracies, and witnessed the signing of an agreement, a promise to move that community. When it came time for the chief to sign the piece of paper, we read the agreement, and none of the verbal promises that had been made were in writing. We were told that we could trust the honour of the Crown.

It shows the incredible power disconnect between the federal government, with all of its resources, and an impoverished community that had to trust the goodwill of the Crown. Well, we saw the goodwill and honour of the Crown. It ripped up the agreement. Ten years later, seven or eight evacuations later, the trauma continues in Kashechewan.

That is why we need to deal with this issue in the House of Commons. We are talking about the primary relationship on which this country is built, the primary relationship between the people who came here to settle and the indigenous people who lived here. In many areas, that was put in signed treaties. It was the agreement that told James Bay and Fort Albany, in 1905, that the agreement would last as long as the rivers run and the grass grows. The rivers are certainly running on the Albany River right now. However, the federal government has refused to recognize its obligations.

There is an unbroken line of abuse from those times until today, through successive Liberal and Conservative governments. It is to the point where bills are brought forward on which the justice department routinely does not bother to check if they are consistent with the basic treaty rights guaranteed under the Constitution. The response from the federal government, if it is challenged on this by any first nation community, is that it will take it to court. It has endless pockets and it knows that the communities that are standing up to this do not.

It is very interesting. In 2012-13, the legal costs in the Department of Indian Affairs were $106 million, while the government spent only $66 million for legal costs at Revenue Canada and $37 million for legal costs at the RCMP. Are we to understand that it spent double, maybe triple, the cost fighting indigenous rights than it did going after international tax fraud and criminals? That appears to be the issue.

It is not just issues of legal rights in terms of the obligation to consult. We see that every single time the government has gone to court, it has lost. There is an unbeaten string of victories recognizing the obligation to consult, the duty to consult, the need to recognize the constitutional land rights of first nation indigenous people in this country. Therefore, why do we have a Parliament that continues to pretend that those rights do not exist?

I want to talk a bit about how some of these legal rights are being undermined, not so much about the treaties and land rights, but the rights of children. Canada is one of the 193 signatories to the rights of the child convention. It is the most ratified human rights treaty in the world and provides obligations for each signatory state to guarantee the rights of children. Article 4 of the convention requires that signatories take “all appropriate legislative, administrative, and other measures” for the realization of the rights of children. This is something that the justice department under the current government is very proud of. It is certainly willing to lecture other nations that sign this agreement.

The justice department website I was reading said the following:

Children...deserve special protection because of their particular vulnerability. This is the modem concept of the child on which the Convention on the Rights of the based.

....the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration in all actions concerning children.

In fact, the justice department says that signatories to this agreement cannot claim that domestic law supersedes the obligations of this international treaty.

It is very interesting that the government would take this position when it is talking about every other country in the world. However, when it comes to indigenous children in Canada, it has a bit of a different position.

I have a letter that was sent from civil litigation and advisory services of the Department of Justice to the Human Rights Tribunal that is dealing with the Conservative government's systematic discrimination against indigenous children. It talks particularly about the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The letter says:

The declaration is not a legally binding instrument. It was adopted by a non-legally binding resolution of the United Nations General Assembly. As a result of the status, it does not impose any international or domestic legal obligations upon Canada.

Therefore, the government will stand up and tell other countries that they have to protect the rights of children, but when it comes to protecting the rights of indigenous children in this country, the government will fight in court, spy on Cindy Blackstock, spend millions of dollars, and do whatever it takes to deny children their most basic rights.

What rights are we talking about? I will talk about the House of Commons standing in this House— and I was there on December 7, 2007—on the rights in Jordan's principle because the current federal government continually refuses to pay for basic medical care for children who are in care. The government will put them into foster care in the provincial system, but it will not pay for the most basic support.

In 2011, Maurina Beadle of Pictou Landing First Nation, in Nova Scotia, went to court to try to force the current government to get home care for her badly disabled son, 16-year-old Jeremy Beadle. Jeremy suffers from cerebral palsy, hydrocephalus, and autism. He only responds to feeding from his mother, and he can become physically abusive when other adults try to intervene. Jeremy's mother is the only person he responds to; otherwise, he could die. However, she has had to fight the government in federal court for years. In fact, the Pictou Landing First Nation's budget was going broke because it was trying to support this woman and her child at home.

The government lost the case. The courts noted that the current federal government stood up for Jordan's principle, yet had the nerve to go to court to fight its implementation. The Beadle family and Pictou Landing First Nation won, but the Conservative government appealed. Not only did it appeal, but it wanted the court costs of the federal government paid for by the family for having the nerve to stand up to it.

When that information got out, the government was forced to beat a hasty retreat because of the shame, people realizing that the government would go to this extent, go after a child who has the most basic need for support, and a mother who asking for what any mother in any community in this country would take for granted: the right to be able to look after her child in dignity.

We are talking about a fundamental breach that has existed. The current government has been militant in ensuring that this breach continues, which is the refusal to recognize the basic rights of indigenous people in this country.

My colleague has done great work on this at the United Nations level, but it is also about recommitting ourselves to the relationship that goes back to the royal proclamation that people could live in peace in this country. If members read the book Champlain's Dream, they would find it is a beautiful book about Champlain leaving France because he was tired of the violence and civil wars. He thought perhaps in Canada that there may be a different way to build a nation. We have to restore that fundamental relationship, because it is the relationship and it will continue regardless.

For my colleagues in the Conservative Party who believe that they can continue to treat the people on reserve as some kind of hostage population who stand in the way of access to resources, they are making a fundamental mistake. We will never be the nation we were meant to be until we restore that relationship.

We have to stop wasting enormous dollars fighting the rights of people in court. We have to respect those rights. Those are the rights on which our nation is founded.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for this chance to speak today to Bill C-641. The bill provides us with an opportunity to reassure the House of our government's sincere desire to work co-operatively with willing partners to improve the well-being of aboriginal peoples across Canada. Our government's actions on this front demonstrate an impressive record of achievement.

In 2010, we endorsed the underlying principles of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. However, it is important to remember that under this government Canada has been working to advance these rights and improve the quality of life on reserve since we were elected. As we endorsed the declaration, we made sure to issue a statement of clarification, because beyond the principles that guide the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, there is a far more serious concern regarding Bill C-641.

Fundamentally, certain provisions of the declaration are incompatible with existing Canadian law or our Canadian context. Certain sections of the declaration, depending on how they are interpreted, go beyond our country's laws. Therefore, while we endorse its guiding principles, Canada interprets these principles in a manner that is consistent with Canada's Constitution, legal framework and cultural realities. Our government's position on this issue is well-known and has not changed since our endorsement of the principles of the declaration in 2010.

More integral to today's discussion is the fact that the work we are carrying out in partnership with aboriginals is already achieving the intent of the declaration. There are numerous examples of our government's investments and initiatives to improve the quality of life and standard of living of aboriginal peoples in Canada. We have taken steps to ensure people have reliable access to safe drinking water with the passage of the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act. Our government is currently working with first nations to develop enforceable federal regulations, which will ensure residents on reserve have health and safety protections for drinking water that is the same as those enjoyed by other Canadians. We are matching this legislative step with the funding and the investments required to implement it. Since our government was elected, we have completed roughly 200 major water and waste water projects or upgrades in first nation communities across Canada.

In addition, our government's aboriginal entrepreneurship program and the procurement strategy for aboriginal business have proven to be effective and successful tools in helping aboriginal people participate in Canada's economy through entrepreneurial and business pursuits. Through the establishment and capitalization of the Aboriginal Financial Institutions network in the mid-1980s, over $2 billion has been loaned to aboriginal businesses. Since the launch of the procurement strategy for aboriginal business, contracts awarded to aboriginal businesses pursuant to the strategy have surpassed $1 billion. Over the last 5 years, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada has also helped aboriginal women to develop their business capacity development through 21 projects totalling just under $3 million.

Just as vital, we are working in partnership with first nation communities and organizations, developing a range of initiatives to help young people lead more independent and self-sufficient lives by providing them with the skills and training they need to find and hold meaningful, sustainable employment. These initiatives include the income assistance reform. This will couple financial assistance to eligible on-reserve individuals, including pre-employment supports. These supports include life skills training, education upgrades, career counselling, apprenticeships, as well as wage subsidies aimed at encouraging employers to hire.

Our government understands that the best way to improve the quality of life on reserve is to give first nations people the tools they need to secure meaningful employment and fully participate in Canada's economy. Through this program, eligible first nation youth aged 18-24, through case management, develop individual action plans aimed at addressing existing barriers to employment. Youth can access a range of services and programs aimed at overcoming barriers to employment, increasing employability and providing support to transition into the workforce. Once job ready, first nations youth are referred to training programs that provide job coaching, skills assessments, personalized training and other activities geared to enable young men and women on reserve acquire good jobs and begin fulfilling careers.

Our government knows that a large portion of aboriginals in Canada live not on reserves but in urban centres.

To that end, on February 6, 2014, we announced the improved urban aboriginal strategy, investing $53 million in 2014-15 and in 2015-16 toward increased participation of urban aboriginal people in the economy. The improved strategy will support Canada's growing urban aboriginal population by ensuring that urban aboriginal people are provided with the training and skills they need to participate in the economy. This new, streamlined approach will result in savings by reducing the cost of administering and delivering the programs, resulting in more funding being available for aboriginal organizations, projects, initiatives and programs.

Over and above these measures, our government has strengthened legislation to strengthen economic development on first nations land. For example, the First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act enables communities to register reserve lands to make the most of their real estate. Meanwhile, the First Nations Fiscal Management Act empowers first nations to build stronger business environments to attract investment. These collective efforts and investments are focused on outcomes and results.

Economic development, access to training and supports, and urban investments are focused on the shared goal of achieving stable incomes. Stable incomes help to create stable families and, in turn, a better future.

Community infrastructure is an important element that allows individuals to be able to realize their potential. This is why our government has been investing in community infrastructure on reserve. For example, in November, 2014, the Prime Minister announced $5.6 billion in infrastructure funding across Canada. This included confirming the $500 million announced as part of budget 2014 for on-reserve schools. This investment builds upon the $1.9 billion invested between 2006 and 2014 to improve first nations school infrastructure.

Since being elected, our government has also provided $2.3 billion in on-reserve housing to first nations. Collectively, this funding contributed to the construction of almost 12,000 new units and approximately 22,000 renovations. These numbers translate into a higher quality of life for first nations people.

Especially promising is that we are working with aboriginal organizations, other governments, and industry engaged in the natural resources sector to identify the best ways to involve aboriginal communities in development projects. Over the next 10 years, more than $650 billion in new investments is planned for hundreds of major resource projects. Many of them are located within or close to aboriginal communities. Some 32,000 aboriginal people already work in energy, mining, and forestry jobs throughout Canada. With 400,000 aboriginal youth about to enter the labour force within the next decade, there will be unprecedented opportunities for aboriginal employment in the resource sector.

Speaking also to advancing economic development, our government is negotiating modern treaties and settling specific claims. Apart from creating certainty for investors, these settlements provide aboriginal communities with the lands, resources and authorities they need to determine their own destiny.

Taken together, these numerous and diverse actions hold the key to building a brighter future for aboriginal peoples in Canada.

Thus, while Bill C-641 is perhaps well intended, it is simply not necessary. Our government is already working with willing partners to improve the quality of life and prosperity of our aboriginal people in Canada, not because of the declaration but because of our government's commitment to the well-being of all Canadians. For this reason, I cannot support the proposed legislation.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to the bill introduced by my colleague from Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, because not only do I share his opinion regarding the bill, but we are also lucky enough to share a territory in the Abitibi area of his riding, namely Algonquin territory in Quebec.

Earlier we heard from my colleague from Timmins—James Bay, with whom I also share an Algonquin territorial borders. I am so glad that the two members with whom I share territorial borders have both had a chance to speak here today.

Before I speak directly to the bill, I would like to paint a picture of the aboriginal people of my riding. I feel it is important to do so because for the people of Abitibi—Témiscamingue, their relationships with the aboriginal communities of this area are very important. The principle of partnerships should be applied in all of our relationships with aboriginal communities.

In the administrative region of Abitibi-Témiscamingue, as opposed to the federal electoral district, there are seven aboriginal communities. There is the Abitibiwinni First Nation of Pikogan, which is in my riding, in the area near Amos. There is also the Timiskaming First Nation, the Wolfe Lake First Nation, the Eagle Village First Nation and the Long Point First Nation. All of those communities are located in the Témiscamingue area and in the territory of my colleague from Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou. The Abitibi area has two aboriginal communities: the Kitcisakik First Nation and the Lac Simon First Nation.

These communities are unusual in that they are often very young compared to the general population of Abitibi—Témiscamingue. Unfortunately, the level of education is often lower too. People struggle with various health and social problem that still need a lot of work. Communities are becoming increasingly aware of these problems. Often solutions come from within the communities themselves.

One of the most important features that characterizes the Algonquin communities of Abitibi—Témiscamingue is demographic growth. From 2009 to 2013, their demographic growth was 13.6%, compared to 1.5% in the general population. The population in some sectors, such as the RCM of Témiscamingue, would be shrinking if not for those aboriginal communities. However, because of the high birth rate in those communities, these RCMs are maintaining stable populations.

I would also like to remind everyone that, unfortunately, over 20% of the aboriginal people in Abitibi—Témiscamingue live below the poverty line. That is shameful, particularly considering the economic boom that the Abitibi—Témiscamingue region has experienced in recent years.

That should give everyone a sense of the communities that I represent. It is also interesting to note that “Abitibi” is an Algonquin word. Every time people say “Abitibi—Témiscamingue”, they are practising their Algonquin.

Ensuring that our federal bills respect the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples means, first and foremost, that we will be able to take action to enable first nations to become independent and emancipated. If we want to build a long-term and respectful relationship with first nations, the first thing we need to do is make sure we are relating as equals. I think we have some historical challenges to overcome after so many absolutely disastrous state interventions such as aboriginal residential schools. Many of the people I represent lived through that.

In the face of such examples, if we want to establish a real relationship with these communities and encourage their development, then we must respect their rights. That way they can become independent because they are not subjected to government decisions. They become involved in the decision-making. That is how to establish a relationship of equality.

Unfortunately, we have seen a lack of political will on the part of the Conservative government and the Prime Minister since they came to power. Just look at how the government turns a deaf ear to the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women.

The problems in the communities can be resolved by taking the time to have an open discussion with them instead of focusing on meeting a deadline. Asking the first nations to help us find and develop solutions is the way to establish egalitarian and autonomous relationships and allow these communities to become independent.

These relationships will be established in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It is extremely important to understand all this in order to understand the importance of this bill.

It is also important to note that this declaration was issued even before the current Conservative government took office. It is therefore high time to act. This Parliament is coming to an end and the government still has not done anything, when it could have done something a long time ago.

A great gift we could give Canadians for the 150th anniversary of Confederation would be to decide that from now on, we will maintain egalitarian relationships with aboriginal communities. That would be a very good goal, and we have time before the 150th anniversary of Confederation to build the egalitarian framework on which our future relationships would be based. This is a wonderful opportunity to show our willingness to learn from our mistakes in order to build a promising future for our aboriginal communities.

Another key element of this declaration is the nation-to-nation relationship. As it now stands, many aboriginal communities have never ceded their rights to their traditional lands. The Conservative government is not respecting the nation-to-nation relationship when it imposes laws without respecting the rights of aboriginal peoples and without consulting them. If we want to build the nation-to-nation relationship, we need to sit down with aboriginal governments and the organizations that represent aboriginal communities and build an egalitarian relationship.

Instead, the Conservative government spends its time challenging court decisions, often ones that are good for aboriginal people. We cannot build an egalitarian nation-to-nation relationship by behaving like that. We need to be prepared to show some humility and say that we can build a Canada that people will be proud of and happy to share.

By including aboriginal communities, we can also build a Canada where there will be sustainable development for everyone, with all the nations. In that way, aboriginal communities, other Canadians and new immigrants will be proud of the country that we build together.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by acknowledging the very good work of the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou and how important it has been for the House to consider Bill C-641.

I have been around for a number of years now. When many countries throughout the world endorsed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Canada was a laggard. It was only through sustained public pressure and perhaps some international shaming that Canada finally came on board and agreed to endorse the declaration.

I want to put this a little bit in context. In the actual declaration itself there is a statement from the Chair of the UN Permanent Forum at the General Assembly on the occasion of the adoption, September 13, 2007. In this statement, the Chair said:

This Declaration has the distinction of being the only Declaration in the UN which was drafted with the rights-holders, themselves, the Indigenous Peoples. We see this is as a strong Declaration which embodies the most important rights we and our ancestors have long fought for; our right of self-determination, our right to own and control our lands, territories and resources, our right to free, prior and informed consent, among others.

Further on in the statement, the Chair went on to say:

Effective implementation of the Declaration will be the test of commitment of States and the whole international community to protect, respect and fulfill indigenous peoples collective and individual human rights.

That is the important statement in this opening of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I would argue quite strongly that the Conservative government has absolutely failed in terms of any efforts to work toward implementation when it initially endorsed what it promised was to take next steps, and we have seen virtually no activity.

I was not surprised, unfortunately, to hear the member for Wild Rose talk about the Conservative government issuing a clarification statement after it agreed to support the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In their clarification statement, the Conservatives continue to claim, despite substantial legal analysis to the contrary, that the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples continues to undermine Canadian law and Canadian sovereignty.

I would like to point them to article 46 in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Article 46 says:

Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, people, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act contrary to the Charter of the United Nations or construed as authorizing or encouraging any action which would dismember or impair totally or in part, the territorial integrity or political unity of sovereign and independent States.

This UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is so important for our country moving forward in the 21st century in a more mature relationship.

I would argue that the colonialist and patriarchal approach that successive governments, since Canada's inception and before, have undertaken in terms of relationship with first nations, Inuit and Métis should truly be a thing of the past in the 21st century. Unfortunately what we continue to see, in case after case, is the continued lack of respect for the founding peoples of this country and the way forward in terms of free, prior, informed consent.

There are numerous examples of why this is important, but in my very brief time I want to briefly mention the New Prosperity mine. In an article written by Bill Gallagher, he said, “Native Legal Win # 191”.

That highlights the fact that there is court case after court case largely to do with resource development or consultation and accommodation, which continue to reaffirm that first nations in this country do have the right to free, prior and informed consent, and do have to be included when decisions are made. In the New Prosperity mines, it was just one more example of how, if governments and business would come together and recognize that first nations have the right to determine what happens on their territories, then we would not have millions of dollars tied up in court cases where we continue to see industry not moving forward.

When we are speaking to leadership with first nations, Inuit and Métis, we find that the leaders and communities continue to say, “We are not opposed to development. We want to see our communities prosper. We want to see jobs created, but you need to include us.”

In the most recent Tsilhqot’in decision, it is not just about consultation and accommodation, it is actual consent.

A number of others have talked about some of the ongoing problems, and I want to talk briefly about Jordan's principle, and the latest Auditor General report 2015: access to health services for remote first nations communities. Jordan's principle was unanimously passed in this House many years ago. In 2015, we continue to have a complete and utter failure in terms of providing health care services to first nations communities, and rural, remote communities and many other communities.

It is just one more example of how we are failing to respect those very important relationships. I would encourage every member in this House to support Bill C-641.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I now invite the hon. member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou for his right of reply. The hon. member has five minutes.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


Romeo Saganash NDP Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, meegwetch. Today I am proud to rise again to defend Bill C-641, an act to ensure that the laws of Canada respect the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I would first like to thank the other opposition parties for their express support of this bill.

As a jurist, I have deep respect for integrity and the rule of law. Last month, I spoke here about the legal reasons why the Canadian government must pass this bill. However, the federal government once again demonstrated its contempt for the rule of law.

We have long passed the time in history when it was thought acceptable for the Canadian government to make paternalistic decisions on behalf of indigenous peoples. Multiple international and national legal decisions reflect the shift society is making back towards the original spirit, intent and letter of the first treaties between our nations.

It is time for this Chamber to move forward honourably by respecting the Constitution and its promises.

In his response to my bill, the parliamentary secretary followed the well-established pattern used by federal government spokespersons when they address the rights of indigenous peoples. His speaking notes were filled with inaccuracies, showed a misunderstanding of the law and highlighted the government's ignorance of the will of indigenous peoples and, may I add, of all Canadians.

On April 13, a detailed legal response to the parliamentary secretary's comments was published by a coalition of organizations. It is a long list, and I will spare the House. However, I would like to take this opportunity to raise some of their points in the defence of my bill.

Contrary to the member's understanding, implementation of the declaration is a political, moral and, yes, legal imperative, without qualification. This was confirmed by a former special rapporteur, James Anaya. Since 2006, the Government of Canada has not fundamentally changed its adverse strategies and positions in relation to indigenous peoples' rights. Consistent with its international and constitutional obligations, the government has a crucial opportunity here to embark together with indigenous peoples on a collaborative and principled process supporting and adopting Bill C-641.

Yet, and this is troubling, the Canadian government applies a different and lesser standard to democracy, human rights, security and the rule of law when addressing the rights of indigenous peoples. That is shameful. This double standard is highly discriminatory.

In opposing Bill C-641, the federal government claims it is upholding core values and principles, and defending Canada's Constitution in the interests of all Canadians. It also insists that it is devoted to safeguarding aboriginal rights. Such claims do not withstand careful scrutiny.

In reality, the government willfully ignores the rule of law. This includes crucial rulings of the Supreme Court of Canada, which affirms indigenous peoples' right to give or withhold consent.

The government appears to view the declaration as a threat to the government's ongoing colonial domination. However, as underlined by a former special rapporteur on the rights indigenous peoples, “ country has ever been diminished by supporting an international human rights instrument.”

I am happy to say that my Bill C-641, if fairly implemented in close collaboration with indigenous peoples, could mark a new beginning. Canada could be tremendously strengthened for the benefit of all.

Again, as a country, we need to be consistent. We need to be consistent in our application of such principles and values as democracy, human rights, the rule of law and security. We cannot insist on upholding these principles in the face of terrorism while not doing so in the face of fundamental rights of indigenous people. There is a name for that, discrimination, and that is prohibited under international law and prohibited under our Constitution.

I urge all members of this House to support Bill C-641.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActPrivate Members' Business



The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

It being 12:03 p.m., the time provided for debate has expired. Accordingly the question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActPrivate Members' Business


Some hon. members



United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActPrivate Members' Business



The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActPrivate Members' Business


Some hon. members


United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActPrivate Members' Business



The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

All those opposed will please say nay.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActPrivate Members' Business


Some hon. members


United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActPrivate Members' Business



The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, May 6, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015Government Orders



François Lapointe NDP Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I could have spoken for 20 or even 30 minutes on this bill. It is always a great honour to be able to address the House; however, I cannot say that I am pleased about the subject we are addressing here today, Bill C-51.

The bill has a very long title because, basically, it is an omnibus bill related to security issues that affect all Canadians. Of course, I am referring to 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.

The government in power is going to ram this very cumbersome piece of legislation down our throats this week, even though the bill is being criticized to a virtually unprecedented extent in the history of committees, as we will see later.

Bill C-51 would considerably expand the mandate of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. That is what people at home need to understand, aside from the fact that this bill has a ridiculously long title and that it is an omnibus bill. We are once again faced with the same problem with this government. A majority of Canadians, and even a majority of representatives from the official opposition, could support the main objective of the bill, which is to improve protections for Canadians, especially in light of some recent, troubling events associated with the threat from the Islamic State. In principle, we can understand the desire to do better.

Once again, the problem is in how the government is going about it. Once again, the government has introduced an excessively large bill, manipulated the debate, moved time allocation and presented positions that are completely out of touch with what Canada's leading experts are saying. The official opposition will therefore present 64 amendments to try to give a voice to the overwhelming number of experts who are systematically demanding that Bill C-51 either be withdrawn altogether or be significantly amended.

I am skeptical though. I doubt that the government will even look at our amendments. Unfortunately, there is no mistaking its intention to steamroll the bill through this week. Even so, I will try to bring forward some of the arguments these experts have made in the hope that the government in power will set aside its overly strong tendency to show contempt for the work of Parliament. In making an effort to present these legitimate arguments, I hope that someone on the other side will adjust even slightly his or her position on a bill that so many say is bad.

I would like to highlight the attempts that my NDP colleagues on the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security have been making in recent weeks to do what I am trying to do today. I particularly want to draw attention to the work of my colleague from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca. We are now at third reading, and we will soon run out of ways to try to prevent Bill C-51 from being passed. Nevertheless, my colleague from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca has been proposing amendments ever since second reading. He made a number of very good points that, unfortunately, still apply after the committee's study.

Bill C-51 threatens our way of life by asking Canadians to choose between their security and their freedoms. There is something my friend, the leader of the NDP, often says. He points out, and rightly so, that in the French version of Canada's national anthem, it says that we must “protect our homes and our rights”. They are given the same priority. Even our national anthem notes the importance of applying our collective intelligence to ensure that we protect these two aspects of our lives. The remarks from across the way are veering more and more off track, suggesting that in order to protect our homes, some of our rights, including our right to privacy, may have to be negotiated or diminished. Let us not forget the wisdom of our national anthem, which emphasizes that the government has a duty to balance these two aspects and must never promote one at the expense of the other.

Another point that was made at second reading, is that Bill C-51 irresponsibly provides the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, CSIS, with a sweeping new mandate without equally increasing oversight. Later we will see how dire this problem really is. The bill also contains definitions that are broad and vague and that threaten to lump together legitimate dissent with terrorism. This point comes up all the time. The bill gives CSIS tremendous powers. If the net is cast that wide, are we really responding to an imminent problem of a potential terrorist threat or are we facilitating abuses that could violate Canadians' rights? The answer to that question is quite worrisome.

The Liberals voted against these amendments—and that is typically the Liberal way—despite the fact that former Liberal prime ministers wrote a letter stating that they strongly disagree with Bill C-51. From the beginning, the current Liberal leader painted himself into a corner by saying that he would vote for the bill, probably for a very sad reason. In fact, the first poll showed that 80% of Canadians were in favour of the bill. Support for the bill has subsequently collapsed and now 60% of Canadians do not support Bill C-51. However, the Liberal leader painted himself into a corner and unfortunately will vote for the bill.

There are some worrisome observations in the amendments presented by my colleague, and they are now shared by more than 60% or 70% of Canadians. I have never seen that. This is one of those rare bills that people know by name. In federal politics, it is very rare for people to ask me to assure them that I will vote against Bill C-51. It is obvious just how much Canadians are interested in and concerned about this bill, given that they are calling it by its official name.

In our opinion, not enough leading experts on privacy and personal information were invited to appear before the standing committee. However, most of the witnesses who did appear said that this bill should be struck down or heavily amended.

The debate on Bill C-51 is so important that I want to highlight some of what the witnesses said because this is an issue that goes beyond party lines. We need to have an opportunity to raise awareness of the fact that Bill C-51 should not be passed, particularly as it now stands. I will begin by quoting Daniel Therrien, the Privacy Commissioner. He said:

...the proposed changes to information sharing authorities are not accompanied by measures to fill gaps in the national security oversight regime.

That is what he said and he is very knowledgeable about the subject. The truth of his statement is obvious given that, in the 2012 budget, the Conservatives eliminated the position of inspector general of CSIS, who was responsible for internal oversight by ensuring that all of CSIS's activities complied with the law.

When an organization is granted vast surveillance powers, we always have to ask ourselves who watches the watchers, when their powers could, for example, threaten a person's right to privacy. Who watches them? Experts agree that the minister's and the government's answers are completely inadequate.

The Minister of Public Safety rejected the need for additional oversight of CSIS, calling it needless red tape. I fell off my chair. It is unbelievable that the minister would consider the need for proper oversight of those who have surveillance powers to be red tape. I am prepared to work 60 hours a week to ensure that business owners do not lose too much time to red tape. However, referring to the need to watch the watchers as red tape floored me. That is unacceptable.

Here is one last quote from the commissioner:

This Act would...allow departments and agencies to share the personal information of all individuals, including ordinary Canadians who may not be suspected of terrorist activities.

This is what the NDP and my colleague fear. Those were the words of the Privacy Commissioner. Canada's top privacy official concluded that there were some serious concerns with Bill C-51.

To conclude, in the debate on Bill C-51, we were faced with a string of time allocation motions and we had a limited number of witnesses in committee, despite the fact that almost all the experts demanded that Bill C-51 be withdrawn or significantly amended. I fear that this is not what will happen this week.

Bill C-51 will be rammed through the House and will be a threat to Canadians' privacy.

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Scarborough Centre Ontario


Roxanne James ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, a wide array of information has been pushed out by the NDP, whether it be intentionally or through a complete lack of understanding of the bill. Even in committee, when we were going through clause by clause, the critic for the NDP actually felt that the information sharing act, not the CSIS Act, would determine the subject of CSIS's activity. The officials who were on hand at that committee had to correct him, on the record, and tell him he was wrong.

The fact that the NDP still is pushing out information that is inaccurate is very harmful to this country with respect to national security and the protection of Canadians.

I will just ask the member a very brief question. Is that member intentionally pushing out information that is inaccurate, or is it because he has a complete lack of understanding of the bill?

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015Government Orders

12:15 p.m.


François Lapointe NDP Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, when more than 80% or 90% of the competent individuals and experts associated with matters relating to protection of privacy and personal information strongly criticize the bill, the government has to start reconsidering how it sees things.

It is not people like the NDP members who are spreading false information. There is a huge amount of information from competent individuals about how Bill C-51 is troubling and inadequate and should be amended or withdrawn.

I wish I had the exact number from my colleague's last count, which was about 14 of the first 15 witnesses. They stated that Bill C-51 should not be passed as is and asked the government not to pass it.

The last ones on the list—who could in no way be described as far left—were part of an association of entrepreneurs in emerging technology and said that Bill C-51 as currently written is completely unacceptable. That is factual information.

Will I repeat that so all Canadians hear it? Yes, I will keep saying it until the election and make sure that we take power and overturn these decisions that are literally a threat to the privacy of Canadians and small and medium-sized businesses working in emerging technology.

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015Government Orders

12:15 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I believe that the NDP is confused on this issue. The member just finished saying that if it forms government, the NDP is going to dismiss it, implying that it is going to get rid of it.

Let me tell him what his leader says about the bill. Tom Clark, on Global TV, asked, “If you become the government, would you scrap this piece of legislation?” That is what he asked the leader of the New Democratic Party. His response was, “We would change it for sure”.

That does not mean they are going to scrap it. In fact, members of this House have stated that when they form government, they are going to change it.

I believe that the NDP is in a very awkward position. It recognizes that this legislation would build on powers of preventive arrest and that it would make better use of the no-fly list.

There is no doubt that there is a need for serious amendments, and in about 15 minutes, I am going to talk about that. However, my question is this: Who is right here, the member of who just made his statement or the leader of his party?

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015Government Orders

12:15 p.m.


François Lapointe NDP Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, one expression that I have never used in the House is “a desperate attempt”. This looks very much like a desperate attempt.

The Liberals now totally disagree with former Liberal prime ministers. They realized in committee that this bill cannot be supported by basically anyone who has expertise in this field.

For the benefit of those at home, there is no question that we will change a law and that my friend the Leader of the Opposition will continue to say that we will change a law, because that is how Parliament operates. You have to take the existing law and turn it into something completely different, even if we want to transform it altogether.

There is no inconsistency in the NDP's position on this issue, not at all. The most—

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Alain Giguère


Anti-terrorism Act, 2015Government Orders

12:15 p.m.


François Lapointe NDP Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Yes, Mr. Speaker, pathetic.

The most pathetic inconsistency that we have seen in this House in quite some time is the Liberals' inconsistency. They plan to stand up and vote for Bill C-51 even though the greatest leaders in the history of their own party have said that we should not vote for such a thing.

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley Nova Scotia


Scott Armstrong ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment and Social Development and Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-51, the anti-terrorism act, 2015. During my time today I will be addressing the elements of part 4 of the bill. These elements would broaden CSIS's mandate to include the authority to disrupt threats to Canada's national security. In particular, I would like to outline the legal parameters of this new authority as well as the robust accountability framework from which threat disruption measures would be taken by CSIS and how these would be authorized and reviewed.

I want to be clear. The international jihadi movement has declared war on Canada and its allies. Canadians are being targeted by terrorists simply because these terrorists hate our society and the values it represents. That is why our government has put forward these measures to protect Canadians against jihadi terrorists who seek to destroy the very principles that make Canada the best country in the world in which to live.

Throughout its history, CSIS has played a vital role in investigating and advising the government on national security threats, but it has also been limited to those functions of collection and advice, even as it has encountered early opportunities to disrupt threats in the course of these investigations. How frustrating that must be.

Today we must reconsider this narrowly constructed mandate and the tools required to protect Canadians. The threats from terrorism we face today demand that we do this. These threats are also the reason we are investing $292 million over the next five years in our intelligence and law enforcement agencies, as announced in this year's budget.

In the context of this bill, and specifically of the new mandate for CSIS, we must consider the rigorous framework in which CSIS's threat disruption activities would take place.

CSIS has established a 30-year history as an intelligence service. It is respected globally and is known for its rigorous framework of ministerial accountability, judicial authorization, and independent review. I want to expand on that point.

Canada is unique in that judicial, not executive, authorization is currently required for CSIS to engage in intrusive investigative techniques. That means, for example, that for the past 30 years, before CSIS has tapped a phone, it has been required to seek a warrant from the Federal Court, which is a rigorous and thorough process. The key tenets of the current warrant process are laid out in the CSIS Act. Among other things, the law requires that warrant applications to the Federal Court first be approved by the minister.

All of the activities of CSIS are also subject to ministerial direction, and the minister is kept apprised of CSIS's operations, routinely and through a detailed annual report. These reporting requirements are laid out in both the CSIS Act and through ministerial direction. In addition, as set out by the CSIS Act, all CSIS activities are subject to review by SIRC. This model of judicial authorization review is routinely cited as embodying the best practices in the area of intelligence service governance.

I would like to direct members to the 2010 report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on good practices in legal and institutional frameworks for intelligence agencies, in which CSIS received positive mention several times. It is in this context, and in today's threat environment, that we introduce this legislation to expand CSIS's mandate.

Pursuant to this bill, CSIS would have the authority to disrupt threats to our national security. This would provide the government with an invaluable and flexible new tool to combat threats to our security and safety, which we know have now increased, both in tempo and in complexity. We saw another tragic attack in the United States today.

Make no mistake, this bill would not give CSIS a blank cheque to do whatever it wishes; far from it, in fact. This legislation, in numerous provisions, would require that all threat disruption measures undertaken by the service be reasonable and proportionate. These measures would not be arbitrary, and they would be narrowly focused on disrupting a particular activity that constituted a threat to the very security of our nation. This threshold is clearly articulated in law.

Ray Boisvert, the former assistant director of CSIS, said:

...the warrant process is the most onerous warrant process of its kind, in my estimation, around the world.... The enhancements being proposed will add layers of requirements, giving direction to the judiciary and...those who are composing the warrant.... [Seizure] warrants typically go on for hundreds of pages per target, explaining the rationale and making the case to be able to obtain those powers that allowed lawfully intercept some of these communications.... I am still encouraged that this will not change. My sense from reading the legislation is that those safeguards are protected and are further enhanced.

I would also like to point out the key differences between CSIS's collection mandate and the proposed disruption mandate of this legislation.

CSIS may investigate activities suspected of constituting threats to the security of Canada, an entirely appropriate threshold for its investigative mandate. The threshold for engaging any threat diminishment activity, however, would be much higher. For CSIS to disrupt a threat, the bill states that there would have to be reasonable grounds to believe that a given activity constituted a threat to the security of Canada. That is an important distinction between those two roles and those two activities.

Let me be frank. Some have raised the spectre of what are, quite frankly, disturbing scenarios or outcomes due to this legislation. I want to put those concerns to rest here and now.

The legislation would specifically prohibit certain activities. Let me emphasize that this bill would also not make CSIS a law enforcement body. Our Conservative amendments have reinforced this point for greater clarity.

Further, this new threat disruption mandate would be subject to new ministerial direction, managed within a rigorous framework and subject to an independent review by SIRC.

The bill clearly states that when a warrant was required, a judge would determine if a measure was reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances in regard to the nature of a threat, the nature of the measures, and the reasonable availability of other means.

In addition, the judge could include any terms or conditions deemed advisable in the public interest: judicial authority; judicial power. Further, these warrants would be narrowly time bound, with a maximum duration of 120 days, and would only be able to be renewed twice, as they would be time limited.

To provide added assurance about the nature and implementation of the threat disruption measures, this legislation would also impose specific reporting requirements on both CSIS and SIRC. CSIS would be specifically required to report to the minister on the measures it has taken. SIRC would then be required to annually review at least one aspect of the service's performance in taking these measures and to report on the number of warrants issued for these activities.

For added assurance, as members will know our government just announced its intention to double the budget of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, providing an additional $12.5 million over five years to further strengthen SIRC's capacity to review the activities of CSIS. This is on top of announcing $300 million that we put in place to combat terrorism here at home. These elements combined, namely our rigorous system of judicial authorization, enhanced independent review by SIRC, and specific statutory prohibitions, are designed to assure Canadians that this mandate would be exercised by CSIS responsibly.

This is a regime Canadians can feel confident is in keeping with their values and is a framework in which the imperatives of national security will always be duly balanced with the rights of an individual.

This legislation would protect Canadians, enhance our national security, and keep in place what we value dearly: our rights and freedoms.