moved that Bill C-59, An Act respecting national security matters, be read the third time and passed.
Mr. Speaker, as I open this final third reading debate on Bill C-59, Canada's new framework governing our national security policies and practices, I want to thank everyone who has helped to get us to this point today.
Historically, there were many previous studies and reports that laid the intellectual groundwork for Bill C-59. Justices Frank Iacobucci, John Major, and Dennis O'Connor led prominent and very important inquiries. There were also significant contributions over the years from both current and previous members of Parliament and senators. The academic community was vigorously engaged. Professors Forcese, Roach, Carvin, and Wark have been among the most constant and prolific of watchdogs, commentators, critics, and advisers. A broad collection of organizations that advocate for civil, human, and privacy rights have also been active participants in the process, including the Privacy Commissioner. We have heard from those who now lead or have led in the past our key national security agencies, such as the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the RCMP, the Communications Security Establishment, the Canada Border Services Agency, Global Affairs Canada, the Privy Council Office, and many others. While not consulted directly, through their judgments and reports we have also had the benefit of guidance from the Federal Court of Canada, other members of the judiciary, and independent review bodies like the Security Intelligence Review Committee, and the commissioner for the Communications Security Establishment.
National security issues and concerns gained particular prominence in the fall of 2014, with the attacks in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and here in Ottawa, which spawned the previous government's Bill C-51, and a very intense public debate.
During the election campaign that followed, we undertook to give Canadians the full opportunity to be consulted on national security, actually for the first time in Canadian history. We also promised to correct a specific enumerated list of errors in the old Bill C-51. Both of those undertakings have been fulfilled through the new bill, Bill C-59, and through the process that got us to where we are today.
Through five public town hall meetings across the country, a digital town hall, two national Twitter chats, 17 engagement events organized locally by members of Parliament in different places across the country, 14 in-person consultations with a broad variety of specific subject matter experts, a large national round table with civil society groups, hearings by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, and extensive online engagement, tens of thousands of Canadians had their say about national security like never before, and all of their contributions were compiled and made public for everyone else to see.
Based upon this largest and most extensive public consultation ever, Bill C-59 was introduced in Parliament in June of last year. It remained in the public domain throughout the summer for all Canadians to consider and digest.
Last fall, to ensure wide-ranging committee flexibility, we referred the legislation to the standing committee before second reading. Under the rules of the House, that provides the members on that committee with a broader scope of debate and possible amendment. The committee members did extensive work. They heard from three dozen witnesses, received 95 briefs, debated at length, and in the end made 40 different amendments.
The committee took what all the leading experts had said was a very good bill to start with, and made it better. I want to thank all members of the committee for their conscientious attention to the subject matter and their extensive hard work.
The legislation has three primary goals.
First, we sought to provide Canada with a modern, up-to-date framework for its essential national security activity, bearing in mind that the CSIS Act, for example, dates back to 1984, before hardly anyone had even heard of the information highway or of what would become the World Wide Web. Technology has moved on dramatically since 1984; so have world affairs and so has the nature of the threats that we are facing in terms of national security. Therefore, it was important to modify the law, to bring it up to date, and to put it into a modern context.
Second, we needed to correct the defects in the old Bill C-51, again, which we specifically enumerated in our 2015 election platform. Indeed, as members go through this legislation, they will see that each one of those defects has in fact been addressed, with one exception and that is the establishment of the committee of parliamentarians, which is not included in Bill C-59. It was included, and enacted by Parliament already, in Bill C-22.
Third, we have launched the whole new era of transparency and accountability for national security through review and oversight measures that are unprecedented, all intended to provide Canadians with the assurance that their police, security, and intelligence agencies are indeed doing the proper things to keep them safe while at the same time safeguarding their rights and their freedoms, not one at the expense of the other, but both of those important things together.
What is here in Bill C-59 today, after all of that extensive consultation, that elaborate work in Parliament and in the committees of Parliament, and the final process to get us to third reading stage? Let me take the legislation part by part. I noticed that in a ruling earlier today, the Chair indicated the manner in which the different parts would be voted upon and I would like to take this opportunity to show how all of them come together.
Part 1 would create the new national security and intelligence review agency. Some have dubbed this new agency a “super SIRC”. Indeed it is a great innovation in Canada's security architecture. Instead of having a limited number of siloed review bodies, where each focused exclusively on one agency alone to the exclusion of all others, the new national security and intelligence review agency would have a government-wide mandate. It would be able to follow the issues and the evidence, wherever that may lead, into any and every federal department or agency that has a national security or intelligence function. The mandate is very broad. We are moving from a vertical model where they have to stay within their silo to a horizontal model where the new agency would be able to examine every department of government, whatever its function may be, with respect to national security. This is a major, positive innovation and it is coupled, of course, with that other innovation that I mentioned a moment ago: the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians created under Bill C-22. With the two of them together, the experts who would be working on the national security and intelligence review agency, and the parliamentarians who are already working on the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, Canadians can have great confidence that the work of the security, intelligence, and police agencies is being properly scrutinized and in a manner that befits the complexity of the 21st century.
This scrutiny would be for two key purposes: to safeguard rights and freedoms, yes absolutely, but also to ensure our agencies are functioning successfully in keeping Canadians safe and their country secure. As I said before, it is not one at the expense of the other, it is both of those things together, effectiveness coupled with the safeguarding of rights.
Then there is a new part in the legislation. After part 1, the committee inserted part 1.1 in Bill C-59, by adding the concept of a new piece of legislation. In effect, this addition by the committee would elevate to the level of legislation the practice of ministers issuing directives to their agencies, instructing them to function in such a manner as to avoid Canadian complicity in torture or mistreatment by other countries. In future, these instructions would be mandatory, not optional, would exist in the form of full cabinet orders in council, and would be made public. That is an important element of transparency and accountability that the committee built into the new legislation, and it is an important and desirable change. The ministerial directives have existed in the past. In fact, we have made them more vigorous and public than ever before, but part 1.1 would elevate this to a higher level. It would make it part of legislation itself, and that is the right way to go.
Part 2 of the new law would create the new role and function of the intelligence commissioner. For the first time ever, this would be an element of real time oversight, not just a review function after the fact. The national security and intelligence review agency would review events after they have happened. The intelligence commissioner would actually have a function to perform before activities are undertaken. For certain specified activities listed in the legislation, both the Canadian security intelligence agency and the Communications Security Establishment would be required to get the approval of the intelligence commissioner in advance. This would be brand new innovation in the law and an important element of accountability.
Part 3 of Bill C-59 would create stand-alone legislative authority for the Communications Security Establishment. The CSE has existed for a very long time, and its legislation has been attached to other legislation this Parliament has previously passed. For the first time now, the CSE would have its own stand-alone legal authorization in new legislation. As Canada's foreign signals intelligence agency, CSE is also our centre for cybersecurity expertise. The new legislation lays out the procedures and the protection around both defensive and active cyber-operations to safeguard Canadians. That is another reason it is important the CSE should have its own legal authorization and legislative form in a stand-alone act.
Part 4 would revamp the CSIS Act. As I mentioned earlier, CSIS was enacted in 1984, and that is a long time ago. In fact, this is the largest overall renovation of the CSIS legislation since 1984. For example, it would ensure that any threat reduction activities would be consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It would create a modern regime for dealing with datasets, the collection of those datasets, the proper use of those datasets, and how they are disposed of after the fact. It would clarify the legal authorities of CSIS employees under the Criminal Code and other federal legislation. It would bring clarity, precision, and a modern mandate to CSIS for the first time since the legislation was enacted in 1984.
Part 5 of the bill would change the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act to the security of Canada information disclosure act. The reason for the wording change is to make it clear that this law would not create any new collection powers. It deals only with the sharing of existing information among government agencies and it lays out the procedure and the rules by which that sharing is to be done.
The new act will clarify thresholds and definitions. It will raise the standards. It will sharpen the procedures around information sharing within the government. It will bolster record keeping, both on the part of those who give the information and those who receive the information. It will clearly exempt, and this is important, advocacy and dissent and protest from the definition of activities that undermine national security. Canadians have wanted to be sure that their democratic right to protest is protected and this legislation would do so.
Part 6 would amend the Secure Air Travel Act. This act is the legislation by which Canada establishes a no-fly list. We all know the controversy in the last couple of years about false positives coming up on the no-fly list and some people, particularly young children, being prevented from taking flights because their name was being confused with the name of someone else. No child is on the Canadian no-fly list. Unfortunately, there are other people with very similar names who do present security issues, whose names are on the list, and there is confusion between the two names. We have undertaken to try to fix that problem. This legislation would establish the legal authority for the Government of Canada to collect the information that would allow us to fix the problem.
The other element that is required is a substantial amount of funding. It is an expensive process to establish a whole new database. That funding, I am happy to say, was provided by the Minister of Finance in the last budget. We are on our way toward fixing the no-fly list.
Part 7 would amend the Criminal Code in a variety of ways, including withdrawing certain provisions which have never been used in the pursuit of national security in Canada, while at the same time creating a new offence in language that would more likely be utilized and therefore more useful to police authorities in pursuing criminals and laying charges.
Part 8 would amend the Youth Justice Act for the simple purpose of trying to ensure that offences with respect to terrorism where young people are involved would be handled under the terms of the Youth Justice Act.
Part 9 of the bill would establish a statutory review. That is another of the commitments we made during the election campaign, that while we were going to have this elaborate consultation, we were going to bring forward new legislation, we were going to do our very best to fix the defects in Bill C-51, and move Canada forward with a new architecture in national security appropriate to the 21st century.
We would also build into the law the opportunity for parliamentarians to take another look at this a few years down the road, assess how it has worked, where the issues or the problems might be, and address any of those issues in a timely way. In other words, it keeps the whole issue green and alive so future members of Parliament will have the chance to reconsider or to move in a different direction if they think that is appropriate. The statutory review is built into Part 9.
That is a summary of the legislation. It has taken a great deal of work and effort on the part of a lot of people to get us to this point today.
I want to finish my remarks with where I began a few moments ago, and that is to thank everyone who has participated so generously with their hard work and their advice to try to get this framework right for the circumstances that Canada has to confront in the 21st century, ensuring we are doing those two things and doing them well, keeping Canadians safe and safeguarding their rights and freedoms.