Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-51 at third reading. Of course there was only ever one proper way to dispose of the bill and that was some time ago in the legislative process at second reading and as per the reasoned amendment put forward by my NDP colleague, the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, which suggested that we decline to give second reading to the bill. I was pleased this morning to second another such reasoned amendment, which was in effect to throw the bill out so that we did not discuss this and the bill never became law.
I want to take a moment to thank the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca and the member for Alfred-Pellan for leading our caucus in vigorous opposition to the bill, because the bill is unworthy of any Canadian government to lay before the House, as the Conservative government has done. Certainly it is unworthy of any opposition support, as the Liberals have done. It is so because what is rotten about the bill lies at its very heart, with the bill's premise that it is only by way of sacrificing the rights and freedoms of Canadians that we are able to make Canadians safe.
I have listened carefully to Conservatives and Liberals trying to rationalize this premise. They cannot. They compensate with hyperbole, with an extremism in their language, all of their own. Liberals, the self-proclaimed party of the charter are the Conservatives' allies in this. They are afraid of what the Conservatives might do to them if they disagree. They have turned on the charter and have agreed to support a bill in which our rights would not be rights anymore, because if we considered them so, goes the logic of the bill and of the Conservatives and Liberals who support it, we could not and would not be safe here in Canada.
This is what it has come to, their consent to a bill that would give the Canadian Security Intelligence Service new radically altered authorities. CSIS was originally charged with a broad mandate but limited power, certainly, no so-called kinetic powers, no powers to disrupt, arrest or, in the terms used by Forcese and Roach, “to do things to people in the physical world”. This is not only no longer the case, but through the bill CSIS would be provided with such kinetic powers with little constraint, restricted only from committing bodily harm, obstructing justice and violating a person's sexual integrity.
The provisions of Bill C-51 would provide CSIS with the authority to take measures both at home and abroad to disrupt threats when it has “reasonable grounds” to believe that “there is a threat to the security of Canada”. Activities to disrupt threats are not to contravene a right or freedom guaranteed under the charter, unless authorized by a warrant under the act. Here, the bill turns the idea of judicial warrants on its head. In the normal course, judicial warrants are designed to ensure the preservation or integrity of charter rights, specifically to protect against unreasonable searches and seizure. The special warrant system laid out in Bill C-51 would pre-authorize the violation of absolute rights such as, for example, the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.
This represents a departure from our constitutional tradition in Canada and the role of the judiciary in that tradition. Section 1 of the Charter allows rights to be violated where such violation is considered “reasonable” in a free and democratic society, but only when prescribed by law, which usually means specified by statute, which is something determined, democratically, here in the House. It depends in turn on some rigorous, legal justification. This tradition does not permit a judge to make a new exception to a charter right, but the bill would, or at least it seeks to.
Let me heap a few complications on top of this situation. First, the bill does not provide for any oversight of CSIS' own determinations of whether or not it ought to, or needs to, seek a special warrant. The bill leaves such decisions to CSIS absent any check or scrutiny of those decisions.
It is only in the instance that something goes wrong or when its activities morph into criminal investigations led by the RCMP that such decisions may come under some scrutiny, potentially, it is worth noting, threatening the prosecution of the case. It is worth noting, too, that where warrants are brought forward by CSIS, seeking pre-authorization by the court of the violation of a charter right, such considerations are to be dealt with in secret.
Forcese and Roach illustrate the problem by way of their comparison of the open and public discussion in the British Parliament of the validity of exclusion orders for British citizens who have joined ISIS or ISIL. Whatever one might think of those exclusion orders, the fact of parliamentary debate stands in stark contrast to the provisions of this bill, which would have such discussions take place with only a judge and the government side present, and in the absence of any person or representative body to argue against the charter breach.
Perhaps a system of special advocates and advocacy will emerge or be adopted by the courts, to be seen. We are left most certainly, inevitably under this bill with the decisions of the judiciary to deny or permit violations of the absolute rights of Canadians being made in secret and being kept secret, far from the scrutiny of anybody.
Another problem is the matters before the judiciary, under this special warrants system, are not restricted to matters of terrorism. It is a far broader scope of matters and conduct that fall subject to this system. Terrorism is only one such form of activity that falls under broadly defined security concerns of the bill; so does interference with critical infrastructure, and so does interference with the capability of the government in relation to, for example, the economic or financial stability of Canada.
This broad language, potentially at least, brings first nations most obviously but also any civil society group making territorial claims in response to development projects, such as mining or other extractive activities, into the ambit of this bill and subject to the special disruptive activities of CSIS and special warrants process of the courts.
This broad language again, potentially at least, brings any civil society group, environmental groups for example, that Conservative ministers have been known to refer to as eco-terrorists, engaged in civil disobedience activities investigations with respect to energy infrastructure, for example, into the ambit of this bill and subject to the special disruptive activities of CSIS and special warrant processes of the courts.
None of this, none of what I have said today, is to deny the very real threat of terrorism to the safety and security of Canadians. How can we? From 9/11 onwards at least, we have recognized the threat, our vulnerability and the need to respond to protect ourselves.
Whatever that hate is that moves ISIL to do what it does, we cannot but acknowledge that it has inspired some Canadians to leave here and join them, and it has inspired at least a couple of Canadians to turn that hate on their own here at home. We cannot forget Corporal Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent. We cannot forget October 22, when all of us in this place wondered, for at least a moment, if that was to be our last moment.
The impossibility of supporting Bill C-51 was captured most simply and elegantly by the Leader of the Opposition when he said that we cannot protect our freedoms by sacrificing our freedoms.
Our challenge is not to forsake who we are and what we believe in when we are afraid, when we are tested. Our challenge is to ensure that Canadians are safe and secure in a Canada that protects their rights and freedoms. That vision of Canada is the New Democrats' vision of Canada. It is different from the Conservative vision represented by Bill C-51. It is different from the Liberals' vision represented by their fear of not supporting Bill C-51 and by their fear of Conservatives.
It is the only vision offered here today in this House that is consistent with the long, proud history of this country, and the only vision that will ensure that we have a long, proud future.