Mr. Speaker, at this point in the proceedings, we can get back to the topic of Bill C-59 for what is really, under our procedures, both a report stage debate and a second reading debate.
I am very pleased today to rise in support of Bill C-59, as it has emerged from the standing committee, the government's proposed legislation to update and modernize our country's national security framework. This landmark bill covers a number of measures that were informed very throughly by the views and opinions of a broad range of Canadians during extensive public consultations in 2016.
It was in that same spirit of openness, engagement, and transparency that Bill C-59 was referred to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security before second reading. The committee recently finished its study of the bill.
I want to thank members of that committee for their diligent and thorough examination of the legislation, both during their consideration of the bill, and indeed, during their pre-study of this subject matter in 2016, which contributed significantly to the drafting of Bill C-59 itself.
An even stronger bill, with over 40 amendments accepted, is now back before the House. The amendments would bring greater clarity, transparency, accountability, and public reporting. One of the major changes made by the committee was the addition of a new act in the bill, entitled avoiding complicity in mistreatment by foreign entities act.
Last fall we undertook to enhance and make public a previously secret 2011 ministerial directive to both CSIS and the RCMP that dealt with how those agencies should share and receive information with and from foreign entities when there was a risk that the information may have been derived by, or could result in, torture or mistreatment. Obviously, it is important to have ministerial directives governing such a serious topic.
The goal of my directive was to establish strong safeguards to ensure that information shared by Canada would not lead to mistreatment and that Canada would not use any information that could be tainted by mistreatment, with one exception. That is when it is essential to prevent the loss of life or serious injury.
The new avoiding complicity in mistreatment by foreign entities act would go a step further than ministerial directives. It would create a statutory requirement for such directives to exist in the form of orders in council, and not just for CSIS and the RCMP but for all departments and agencies that deal with national security. It would also require that each of those directives in the orders in council be made public.
This amendment, which is now in Bill C-59, is another example of how this legislation would strive constantly to achieve two things simultaneously. This bill would strengthen Canada's ability to effectively address and counter 21st-century threats while safeguarding the rights and freedoms we cherish as Canadians.
Bill C-59 is the result of the most comprehensive review of Canada's national security framework since the passing of the original CSIS Act more than 30 years ago. That review included unprecedented open and transparent public consultations on national security undertaken by Public Safety Canada and by the Department of Justice.
Several issues were covered, including countering radicalization to violence, oversight, and accountability, threat reduction and the Anti-terrorism Act, 2015, the former Bill C-51. All Canadians were invited and encouraged to take part in the consultations, which were held between September and December of 2016.
The response to the consultations was tremendous. Citizens, community leaders, experts, academics, non-governmental organizations, and parliamentarians alike made their views and ideas known over the course of that consultation period. In the end, tens of thousands of views were received, all of which were valuable in shaping the scope and the content of Bill C-59.
With almost 59,000 responses received, the online consultation was what generated by far the largest volume of input. In addition to that, there were nearly 18,000 submissions received by email. In addition, public town halls were held in five Canadian cities: Halifax, Markham, Winnipeg, Vancouver, and Yellowknife. This gave citizens across the country a chance to share their thoughts and opinions in person.
The Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security held numerous meetings on the consultations. It even travelled across the country to hear testimony not only from expert witnesses, but also general members of the public who were invited to express their views.
A digital town hall and two Twitter chats were also organized.
Members of the public also had the opportunity to make their voices heard at 17 other engagement events led by different members of Parliament at the constituency level.
In addition, 14 in-person sessions were held with academics and experts across the country, as well as a large round table with experts from civil society.
I simply make the point that there was an extensive effort to be open, to be inclusive, to ensure that every Canadian who had something to say on this topic could have the opportunity to do that. This was not a process reserved for politicians in Parliament or for experts in ivory towers. This was an open, public, inclusive process, and Canadians let their voices be heard.
After all of that information was collected, the next step was to carefully analyze every comment, every submission, every letter, and all of the other forms of input. All of the views that had been expressed to the various consultative mechanisms have now been published on the Government of Canada's open data portal, so anyone interested in actually seeing who said what to whom throughout the whole consultation process can look it up and see what the dialogue was like.
In addition to that, an independently prepared report provides an overview of what was heard during the consultations.
While it would be difficult to summarize everything that we heard from Canadians in a consultation process that massive, I can speak to a few of the key themes and ideas that emerged.
As one might expect, given the thousands of submissions, there were widely differing opinions. That is what we would expect from Canadians who are very engaged in an important discussion. Certainly that was the case in these consultations.
The results make one thing perfectly clear. Canadians want accountability. They want transparency and effectiveness from their security and intelligence agencies. They want all three of those things, accountability, transparency, and effectiveness, together. They want the government and Parliament to achieve all of those things at once. Bill C-59 goes farther and better than any other piece of legislation in Canadian history to accomplish those three things together.
Canadians expect their rights, their freedoms, and their privacy to be protected at the same time as their security is protected.
Consistent with what we heard, Bill C-59 would modernize and enhance Canada's security and intelligence laws to ensure our agencies would have the tools they needed to protect us and it would do so within a clear legal and constitutional framework that would comply with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
There is no doubt in my mind that the legislation before the House today has been strengthened and improved by the result of the close work that was done by the standing committee. All the scrutiny and clause-by-clause analysis and consideration, all the debate around all of those various amendments has resulted in a better product.
When we tabled this legislation, and before the committee did its work, many of the most renowned experts in the country said that it was very good legislation and that it accomplished more in the field of national security than any other proposal since the CSIS Act was first introduced. That was a great compliment coming from the imminent experts who made those observations. However, now, after the debate, after all of the input, after all of the amendments, the legislation is even better.
One of the things I am most proud of with respect to Bill C-59 is how it represents a dynamic shift in the review and accountability structure for our entire national security apparatus. Currently, some of our agencies that deal in national security have a review body that examines their work. CSIS of course has the Security Intelligence Review committee, SIRC. The RCMP has the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, CRCC. Those are a couple of examples. However, there is no unified review body that can look beyond one agency at a time and actually follow the evidence as it moves across government from agency to agency.
For the first time, Bill C-59 would fix this problem by creating the national security and intelligence review agency, or NSIRA. NSIRA is largely modelled on the often discussed idea of a “super SIRC”, which would have the authority to review all matters of national security, whether they are with CSIS, or CBSA, or IRCC, or the RCMP, or Global Affairs, or DND, or anywhere else in the Government of Canada.
When we link that to the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, which was recently created by the passage of Bill C-22, Canadians can be assured that we have a review architecture in place that is required for the 21st century. It involves parliamentarians, through the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians. It involves expert review through NSIRA. In addition to that, it involves, for the first time ever, a brand new innovation that we have introduced, a new element of actual real-time oversight, which has never existed before, through the work of the new intelligence commission, which is also created by virtue of this legislation, Bill C-59.
We also worked to ensure that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is the central principle behind Bill C-59. This is perhaps nowhere more evident than the changes we have made to the former Bill C-51's threat reduction measures.
When Bill C-51 created these threat reduction measures, it created an open-ended, seemingly limitless course of possible action for CSIS to take. This bill would create a closed list of specific actions that CSIS could apply to a federal court for permission to undertake. It is open, it is transparent, while at the same time gives CSIS the tools it needs to keep Canadians safe.
Another part of the former Bill C-51 that we have undertaken to dramatically improve is the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act, or SCISA. After Bill C-59 is enacted, this new legislation will be renamed to the security of Canada information disclosure act, and it will not grant any new powers to collect information on Canadians. Rather it is a roadmap for how existing information related to a threat to the security of Canada can and should be shared between departments and agencies in order to mitigate or eliminate that threat.
It clarifies that advocacy, protest, dissent, or artistic expression are not activities that undermine the security of Canada, and it creates a robust review framework to ensure that information is being disclosed to other departments appropriately, with proper record-keeping at both ends of the process.
Next I want to touch on an issue that I believe almost every member of the House supports, and that is the fixing of the passenger protect program, or what is sometimes known as the “no-fly list”.
I imagine that virtually every member of the chamber has met with a member of the group called “No-Fly List Kids” at some point during this Parliament. To be clear, there are currently no children on Canada's passenger protect list. However, there are children and adults who may share a name with someone who is on the list. Former defence minister Bill Graham famously had to deal with this very problem when someone sharing his name was actually listed.
Fixing the problem involves both funding and new legislation. Bill C-59 will play an important role, allowing the government to collect domestic passenger manifests and screen the list itself, rather than sharing our passenger protect list with over 100 airlines around the world. What this means is that once the government is collecting the passenger manifests, it will be able to issue redress numbers to people who share a name with a listed individual. Anyone who has booked a flight to the United States in the past few years has probably noticed that their system has a box for a unique redress number. Once Canada's system is up and running, it will operate in a very similar fashion.
I would also note that we got the necessary funding to develop this new system this past March, in the most recent budget. This measure is another excellent example of ensuring that the rights of Canadians are respected while at the same time safeguarding national security.
There are many other important parts of Bill C-59 that I will not have the time in 20 minutes to go through in detail. However, I would like to just mention some of the others—for example, the new stand-alone legislation to modernize Canada's Communications Security Establishment. It has needed this modernization. It has needed this new legislation for a long time. Bill C-59 introduces that legislation.
There are also important changes to the Youth Criminal Justice Act, which ensures that protections are afforded to young Canadians in respect of recognizance orders.
Changes in the Criminal Code would, among other things, require the Attorney General to publish an annual report setting out the number of terrorism recognizances entered into during the course of the year. Also, there are very important changes to the CSIS Act that would ensure that our security agents are confident they have the legal and constitutional authority to undertake their essential work on behalf of all Canadians, including, for example, the complex matter of handling data sets, taking into account the advice and judgments of recent decisions in the federal courts.
Should Bill C-59 pass, this historic piece of legislation would enhance Canada’s national security, keep its citizens safe, and safeguard Canadians’ constitutionally protected rights and freedoms.
For all these reasons, I would encourage all hon. colleagues to join me in supporting Bill C-59. I am glad it enjoys strong support among Canadians generally and among some of our country's most distinguished experts in national security and civil liberties. We have been very fortunate to have the benefit of their advice as we have moved this legislation through the parliamentary process.