Mlotion No. 1
That Bill C-59 be amended by deleting the short title.
Motion No. 2
That Bill C-59, in Clause 49.1, be amended:
(a) by replacing lines 13 to 15 on page 43 with the following:
“3 (1) The Governor in Council must issue written directions to all deputy heads prohibiting”
(b) by deleting line 25 on page 43 to line 2 on page 44.
Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate that the third motion, which pertained to one of my amendments, was not selected by the Chair, but I will still come back to the important points about it in a few moments. Just because it was not selected does not mean we cannot talk about it.
We are near the end of what has been a very long road with this government on an issue that dates back to even before the Liberals took office. Obviously, we must recognize that Bill C-59 is the result of the Liberals' approach. On one hand, during the last Parliament they supported Stephen Harper's draconian bill, Bill C-51, and on the other, they claimed that there were a lot of problems with the bill. The Liberals told people not to worry, however, because when they took office they would fix all of those problems. That was problematic for obvious reasons. If the bill was so flawed, posed so many problems with regard to national security matters, and violated Canadians' rights and freedoms, the Liberals should not have voted to pass it, and yet that is exactly what was happening with Bill C-51.
Let us fast forward a little. After the Liberals were elected, they waited two years to introduce the legislation. They said that they had to hold public consultations. I will come back to that.
Meanwhile, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, or CSIS, used the power to disrupt threats bestowed upon it by Bill C-51. CSIS confirmed that in committee.
While we waited those two years for the government to consult, even though the election promise had been to consult on a specific piece of legislation, this was open consultation, or so it would seem. However the problem was, and many experts decried this, the fact that the government's green paper seemed to indicate, through some of the notions that were put forward, that some of these aspects were already a foregone conclusion. There was a definite bent more toward the side of intelligence gathering and law enforcement, and certainly a lack of substantive points being made in favour of the other side of that, which was protecting Canadians' rights and privacy.
Too often the Liberals, in the committee in particular, like to put the word “balance” forward. As we heard from representatives of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, when they presented at committee, balance implies that something is being taken away from one side or the other to achieve said balance. For us, the question of rights and liberties, and certainly the protection of Canadians' privacy, is not something that can almost be a victim of that type of compromise required to achieve said balance.
The other aspect that was not included in the public consultations, but that eventually became a central topic in our committee study, is the Communications Security Establishment, or CSE.
CSE, as members will know, is under the purview of the Minister of National Defence and its mandate is given to it by the National Defence Act. However, despite promises to no longer come forward with omnibus legislation, the Liberals have taken something that is the purview of the Minister of National Defence, something that the national defence committee has the institutional memory to study, all due respect to me and my colleagues on the public safety committee, and put it into this legislation.
That ended up taking up inordinate amounts, and rightly so, of time at the committee. These new powers being given to CSC and the huge change being made to CSC's mandate took up a lot of space and led to the most questions, not just from members but also from some of the experts who were there. Quite frankly, as far as we are concerned, many of those questions still remain without answers.
For example, there is the issue of CSE's cyber defence capabilities, as well as its offensive and active capabilities. The experts asked many questions on that subject. I introduced an amendment in committee to eliminate these powers, but it was not intended to compromise the safety of Canadians or our cybersecurity. We still kept CSE's defensive powers and capabilities in place. However, we had the right to ask questions, as I did with the senior CSE officials, though I did not get satisfactory answers, especially about what all this means for our country's military future.
CSE is governed by the National Defence Act, but it is a civilian agency, not a military one. However, Bill C-59, and now the federal budget and the legislation that the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness says will be tabled this fall, is opening the door to capability sharing between CSE and Canadian Forces to improve our cyber capabilities in a military context or even in war zones.
I posed questions to the chief of the CSC and other officials who were present throughout different stages of the study. I said that there was some debate in the context of international law as to what sovereignty meant in this digital age. An act of war is when one infringes on someone's sovereignty, but is a server part of one's sovereignty? What is the role that data is playing in this? Certainly, colleagues who work on the trade file had similar concerns that they raised.
I asked these questions in the context of information-sharing capabilities with Canadian forces. All I was able to get as an answer was that this stuff was already being done and it was better that it be codified in the law with all the protections, oversight, and review. Pardon me for being glib, but that all comes with that. However, it is not enough. If a foreign state actor, as the bill describes, engages in some kind of activity, we are talking about the Minister of National Defence having the capability to interfere with intellectual property and to be engaged in an active way.
In this era, when the federal budget is talking about more and more capability sharing between police and intelligence services, which let us not forget is what CSC is, ultimately, as it is not any kind of offensive entity but rather deals with foreign intelligence, and then to involve the Canadian Armed Forces, we are going down a slippery slope. This is not an issue I raise. It was one that witnesses raised time and again throughout this study.
Part of the reason why I tabled amendments, which were unfortunately voted down by the Liberals at committee, was to remove these elements, not because we disagreed, although they certainly are concerning, but because they required proper study. They should not have been part of omnibus legislation. They had nothing to do with the previous Bill C-51. Nor were they part of the public consultations that both the minister did and the committee did.
That is important. I know the answer I will get is that all the issues relate to national security. That is not enough. We need to be able to examine these issues more thoroughly, and that is certainly not the feeling we got.
Lets continue to look at part three of the bill that has to do with CSE. One of my amendments was unfortunately deemed inadmissible by the Chair, because it was too similar to another amendment I had proposed and that my colleague, the leader of the Green Party, had also proposed. The motion was almost word for word what the experts had suggested. It had to do with publicly available information. We will come back to this concept.
The concept, as it currently exists, is important because it gives CSIS and CSE the power to collect publicly available information. With respect to CSE, we were told over and over again that its mandate does not concern Canadians, since the legislation explicitly prohibits it from targeting Canadians. We must be careful, though, and we have to read part three of the bill, subclause 23 and 24, and the next few subclauses.
Subclause 23 indicates that, despite the ban on targeting Canadians, the centre can collect publicly available information for study and research purposes. In short, it lists a number of things to advance its mandate. Even collecting information inadvertently is allowed. This is very problematic.
We tried to do a few things to fix that. The first was to change the definition of “publicly available information”. That is because when I asked representatives of the CSC if the information that Cambridge Analytica legally but immorally stole from Canadians and others throughout the world through Facebook would be part of publicly available information under the definition provided in this legislation, I got a one-word answer, which is rare in these parts. It was “yes”.
What does my amendment propose to do? The Liberals said not to worry, that they would deal with it. They put in the words “a reasonable expectation of privacy”. That is good. That was part of my amendment as well, as was it part of the amendment brought by the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands. However, there is a whole slew of information missing from that. Allow me to read it to the House, since unfortunately it was deemed inadmissible and voted down by Liberals at committee.
It states that it would also include, along with information where Canadians have a reasonable expectation of privacy, “information that is published or broadcast only to a selected audience or information that is subscribed to or purchased illegally”, in other words, the prohibition on information purchased illegally. That is the problem with these amendments sometimes when one is reading them without the rest of the text that follows. Why is that important? It is important because despite the assurances that we got, there are a lot of questions about this. These are questions and concerns that some of the foremost experts in the field all have as well.
I also proposed an amendment for a catch-and-release principle, for information acquired incidentally on Canadians by the CSC. If it truly does not need the information captured incidentally, I understand it. That happens sometimes when one is going to study the information infrastructure in Canada. Therefore, we had a reasonable compromise, which was that if it happens, the centre has a responsibility to get rid of it. That was another amendment that was voted down by the Liberals on the committee.
I could speak at length about the CSE aspects, but I have only 20 minutes for my speech. It just goes to show how complex and worrisome the new concepts are and how we are far from having enough time to address them today. I would even say that we had very little time in committee as well. I have been in Parliament for seven years, and for the first time since becoming an MP, even though I can be quite verbose, my mic was constantly cut off and not through any fault of the chair, but because we simply did not have enough time to get into the details. I am not blaming the committee chair, who does excellent work on this study. Unfortunately, we did not have enough time for this conversation.
I want to come back to something more specific that affects more than just CSIS. I am talking about one of my amendments that were deemed admissible. Amendments that go beyond the scope of a bill can be proposed when that bill is referred to committee before second reading, as this one was, and the Liberals took advantage of that.
The Liberals used that opportunity to essentially present a new bill into the legislation dealing with the question of information obtained under use of torture, which bafflingly the Conservatives voted against. However, we do not have time to get into that today.
I voted in favour of it, for two reasons, but it does not go far enough, and we are going to get to that. The first reason is because the fact that it was even on the table was an acknowledgement that the status quo is not good enough, that the ministerial directives right now are not good enough, and that having these concepts more explicitly enshrined in law is always a good thing. Even though some of these symbolic statements in legislation sometimes seem to be only that, symbolic, they guide the decisions made and the advice given when these agencies seek legal opinions and so forth. On that front, it is a good thing. The other reason I supported it was because it is better than nothing. However, the language that remains is that the Governor in Council “may” issue directives to deputy heads. At the end of the day, we remain in the same situation we were in before. These were all recorded votes, so Canadians can check them.
Let me say for the record that I offered more explicit amendments to nearly every section of the bill that dealt with one of these agencies, putting in an explicit prohibition on using information that may have been obtained under the use of torture. Every single Liberal and Conservative on the committee voted against them. That is absolutely shameful.
Here is the motion that is before us today: that “The Governor in Council must issue written directions to all deputy heads..”. At the very least, even though we are still dealing with ministerial directives, that obliges the government of the day to issue the directions, even though we already know that the directives themselves have loopholes. Even if the current directives, I will acknowledge, are stronger than the ones in the previous government, there are still holes in them, and those holes need to be addressed.
It is sad to see that my amendments, which would have at least done something to prohibit the use of that type of information, were defeated through the committee process.
Speaking of my amendments, I want to mention one thing I forgot at the beginning of my speech, since I think the Canadians watching us will find it interesting. The government said that it was open to suggestions from the opposition. I suggested 120 amendments, and just four of them were accepted by the Liberals Three were accepted on the condition that I use the Liberals' wording, and the other was accepted because it was just a preamble. Not a single one of the Conservatives' 25 or 29 amendments was accepted. Not a single one of the Green Party's 55 amendments was accepted either.
The Liberals proposed amendments. Anyone can look at them, they are public. The Liberals put forward one amendment and decided to withdraw the others because they had an inferior one to replace them. I therefore proposed the Liberals' amendments myself, and they voted against their own amendments. That speaks volumes about the process.
I have just three minutes left, and I have only spoken about one part of the bill. I just spent 20 minutes giving a speech on the flaws of a single part of a bill that has 10 parts. That tells you everything you need to know about the flaws in this bill, not to mention the fact that CSIS retains its power to disrupt and to detain without any right to counsel, as was the case with the former Bill C-51.
Without mentioning that apart from changing the word “sharing” to “disclosure”, even though the word “disclosure” was there, what was qualified by groups like the B.C. Liberties Association, among others, as a cosmetic change at best to the information sharing regime remains in place. It was one of the biggest criticisms we had, and a reason for voting against Bill C-51 in the previous Parliament.
We will get to that through a future point of order, but hopefully we can vote on different elements of the bill. There are two parts that are good, review and oversight. Despite the fact that we tried to make changes to the review body to make it more accountable to Parliament and less to the executive, it was rejected. With the real-time oversight of the intelligence commissioner, we tried to make that a full-time position. I was not able to propose those changes, as they would require royal prerogative, which I, as an opposition member, do not have. Perhaps I can enter a final plea, although at report stage it is probably too late for that.
It is all too clear that, on the one hand, the Liberals did not want the Conservatives to criticize them for standing up for the rights and freedoms of Canadians and, on the other hand, they wanted to try to protect their progressive image in light of our legitimate criticisms that they have failed in their duty to protect the rights and freedoms of Canadians. Despite all the time we were able to dedicate to the study, despite the public consultations, questions from experts, criticisms from members, and a grandiose announcement that the Liberals were going to do things differently in committee, still, all of our amendments were rejected. The same system will remain in place and not enough improvements are being made in terms of what the Conservatives proposed.
In conclusion, it is true that we are entering a brave new world. We certainly know that in this digital age. I acknowledge that the threats are evolving and we need to address them. There is no doubt about that. However, one thing is for sure: right now, the ability of these agencies to act is outpacing the protections that Canadians have for their rights and freedoms, and their privacy.
That, for me and my party, is completely unacceptable, because at the end of the day, if we truly want to defeat these threats and what they stand for, if we truly want to stand on the other side of that terror and on the right side of history, it means standing up for Canadians' rights and freedoms. This bill just would not do that, and we will continue to oppose it. It is absolutely unfortunate, because we heard that better is always possible, but it does not seem to be with this legislation.