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  • His favourite word is process.

Liberal MP for Ajax (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 56% of the vote.

Statements in the House

National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians Act March 20th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, parliamentary oversight is essential. I certainly pushed for it as a critic. We ran on it in the last election. We are delivering it here in Bill C-22. It is a massive step forward.

As I said, we have not held this out as the sole component of the solution. There are other pieces that are coming. I referenced the committee's work and impending legislation that the government will table as well. However, the spirit of what the member asked is dead on: the importance of oversight, the importance of rigorously maintaining that protection of Canadian rights as guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We are also ensuring at the same time that our security and intelligence apparatus has the tools it needs effectively to keep Canadians safe.

National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians Act March 20th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I share my hon. colleague's concerns. Before I address the concerns as they relate to Bill C-51, I will speak to the bill that is in front of us, Bill C-22. It is important to note that there would be a five-year mandatory review. While we are ahead of the Commonwealth and while we think, after the committee's recommendations and the listening that we did across the country, that we have a very good bill, there is a mandatory review process to make sure we could look at how effective this committee is being and how we could improve it. We do not hold this out as perfection, but we do feel that this is the right place to start.

On the issue of changes and when we can expect them, the committee at this very moment is considering a report on the security and intelligence framework. We want to hear from that committee. It has done incredibly important work. It has heard from witnesses across the country. That committee report is going to be a very important input into the minister's overall process on responding. We have very clear platform commitments on what we feel needs to be changed and improved to get right that simultaneous work that needs to be done to protect Canadians and also to ensure that their rights are also protected.

The committee report is coming out. I would expect action by the government very shortly thereafter, informed by that process.

National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians Act March 20th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise to speak to this bill.

There are few responsibilities more important to government than ensuring the safety of the Canadian population while at the same time ensuring the protection of its rights as enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This became a dominant theme in the last campaign, and we said that these two issues are not mutually exclusive. They are not things that are traded off against each other. They are things that must be considered equally and simultaneously, and both must be done with full force and effect.

What we see in Bill C-22 is the beginning of an effort to finally address some major problems we have within our security and intelligence framework, the biggest one being oversight.

I go back to my time on the other side of the aisle as critic for public safety and national security, and harken back to the reports of Justice Iacobucci and Justice O'Connor and the imperative nature of oversight in ensuring that our security and intelligence agencies are operating effectively and within the proper bounds of Canadian law. Unfortunately, over the last decade, despite many recommendations from parliamentary committees, these recommendations languished and were not acted upon, which meant that these key provisions were not put into effect.

Why is that required? Let us look at the fact that right now the oversight for our security and intelligence, if it exists, exists in silos. For example, the RCMP public complaints commission looks at the RCMP but is not able to follow evidence as it pertains to or deals with other agencies. CSIS has SIRC. To take the other extreme, the Canada Border Services Agency has no form of oversight.

Right now, the parliamentary committee, in an all-party way, is very effectively looking at our national security framework. A piece of the answer that we have seen in other jurisdictions and that has been talked about in many of the recommendations I spoke to earlier is the need to have a parliamentary committee made up of members of the House that would be able to follow information no matter where it goes. There may be a single incident involving intelligence that moves from the RCMP to the Canada Border Services Agency and that is also involved with immigration and many other agencies.

This new committee would have the power to look into all corners of security and intelligence. From the government's perspective, it was incredibly important to bring it in early and set it up. I am very encouraged that the bill is before the House, and I am anxious for this new committee to get to work.

Even before the committee saw this, experts rang in on the efficacy of what was proposed. Of course, we improved it, but it is a good idea to take a look at what some experts were saying about the state of the bill in its improvement, the leap forward that we made even prior to the amendments made at committee stage.

Craig Forcese, a professor of law at the University of Ottawa and a renowned expert in this area, said, “this will be a stronger body than the U.K. and Australian equivalents, and a dramatic change for Canadian national-security accountability”. He went on to call it “a good bill” and gave it “a high pass”.

His colleague Wesley Wark said, “I fully support Bill C-22”. He noted some improvements, but he basically issued a warning not to let perfect be the enemy of the good.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association supported the bill, saying, “This new accountability mechanism is crucial”.

In the media, there were many positive comments. The Toronto Star said that this is “an important first step toward accountability” and that it “would provide an essential check” on the security establishment. That was before the committee made its recommendations.

In the Commonwealth, we have gone much further. This is particularly noteworthy given the fact that the testimony the committee heard from the United Kingdom, for example, was to go slowly at the beginning because the committee, as it establishes itself and its work, needs to earn the trust of both the Canadian public and the institutions it is reviewing.

Notwithstanding that, we thought we would start aggressively, start ahead of everyone else in the Commonwealth, because we recognize, particularly with the dearth of action over the last decade, that there is an imperative nature to get these oversight mechanisms that had been ignored in place.

In the course of testimony, the committee did what it should do. It reviewed the material, heard from expert witnesses, and made a number of recommendations. The government was happy to get behind and support a number of those recommendations which are reflected in the bill that is before the House today. I will run through some of those quickly.

There is a whistle-blower clause requiring the committee to alert the appropriate minister and Attorney General if it uncovers something that may be illegal. There is a requirement that the annual report indicate where redactions have been made and why. The chair only votes to break ties; in other words, the chair does not have a double vote. It limits a minister's authority to determine that an examination would be injurious to national security and therefore outside the committee's mandate to ongoing operations, and requires the minister to alert the committee when the operation is no longer ongoing or when examining it would no longer pose a national security problem. Finally, it allows the committee access to information about ongoing defence intelligence activities in support of military operations, privileged information under the Investment Canada Act, and information collected by FINTRAC. That is all in the amendment to clause 14.

It can be seen that a great number of recommendations that were made by the committee were accepted by the government and are reflected in the bill. I think they are important improvements. They certainly go well beyond the standard that we see in any other Commonwealth country. I will come to an examination of those in a minute, but let us take a look quickly at some of the clauses that were rejected.

Reinserting in clause 14 giving information about human intelligence sources and witness protection was rejected, and I think for very sensible grounds. If somebody is in a witness protection program, as an example, we do not want to be sharing that name any more than is absolutely necessary. Even for the agencies that are sharing that information, not everybody in those agencies has access to it. We want to limit how much those names go out. That just makes prudent and good sense.

There is also restriction around information on ongoing law enforcement investigations. This is to avoid perceptions of political interference in an ongoing criminal investigation. This does not mean after the investigation that they cannot look into what has transpired to ensure that everything was as it should be, but when that matter is ongoing and current, certainly there is cause for concern around whether or not that would constitute interference and whether or not police would have to divert resources, to pull it off a case in order to work with the committee, so retrospectively instead of while it is ongoing.

Briefly I want to talk about some of the differences, because they are important, about Canada and some of our Commonwealth comparators. If we look at Britain, for example, in order to look beyond MI6, MI5, or GCHC, a memorandum of understanding is actually required between the committee and the Prime Minister. In Australia there is a limit strictly to statutory reviews of legislation and administration and expenses of particular agencies. It would actually be a parliamentary resolution or a ministerial referral to look at any other issue. It would require that level of depth, but that is not the case here. There are no such restrictions. There is the ability for the committee to look in every corner.

With respect to access to information, every single one of the Commonwealth partners, and I will not list them all but I can say the U.K., New Zealand, Australia and so forth, all put in restrictions around information sharing that deal with operational sensitivity and things that pose a threat to national security.

Much has been made of this, but the fact remains, obviously, that there needs to be the ability for the minister to protect national security when it is appropriate, and if there is a disagreement between the committee and the minister, then there is the ability for the committee to file a report of all the accumulated instances where they feel the government has not provided that information, and that could be aired publicly. Of course, that committee would have a very strong pulpit from which to speak.

The bottom line is that the bill is the beginning, an incredibly important first step on a journey ensuring we have appropriate oversight for our security intelligence framework. I look forward to this bill passing and for the work to come that we committed to in the platform.

Freedom of the Press March 6th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, again, let us be very clear. This is not happening at the federal level. This has been stated unequivocally by not only the directors of CSIS and the RCMP, but by the Prime Minister and the minister.

Let me go one step further. Not only is this government relying on the fact that it has not happened, not only are we relying on the vigorous and strong mechanisms to protect freedom of the press, we are going further, both in Bill C-22, which will be before the House and which allows for political oversight of our security and intelligence framework, and in the review we are doing. In fact, very soon the committee will be tabling its recommendations on the security and intelligence framework to ensure there is vigorous oversight of all departments, so that not only are the powers in place but also the oversight mechanisms to ensure oversight is effective and is as strong as it can be.

Let me state unequivocally our support for freedom of the press, and to ensure that it is guarded in all forms with the utmost protection.

Freedom of the Press March 6th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, freedom of the press is a fundamental Canadian value enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Democracy depends on the ability of the media to freely and independently collect information and share it with the public, so that members of the public can develop informed opinions and make informed choices. Our government has therefore been and will remain a vigorous and unremitting champion of press freedom.

The recent reports about police activity in Quebec are troubling, and I note that these reports about the Sûreté du Québec and the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal investigating journalists in an effort to identify their sources have led to action by the provincial government.

Let us be clear. As has been confirmed by the commissioner of the RCMP, the director of CSIS, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, and the Prime Minister, this is not happening at the federal level. I will reiterate for clarity, this is not occurring at the federal level. There are safeguards in place regarding federal national security investigations to ensure that journalistic freedom is protected. The RCMP, for example, is governed by a ministerial directive on sensitive sector investigations that outlines the special care required for investigations that impact fundamental institutions of Canadian society, including the media, academia, religion, and unions.

So too is CSIS subject to ministerial direction in this regard. Accordingly, the rules governing CSIS require a similar level of care, and indeed, a review by the Security Intelligence Review Committee summarized in its 2009-10 annual report found that CSIS has long exercised special care in the conduct of operations that affect, or even appear to affect, fundamental institutions like the media.

Nevertheless, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness is reviewing these safeguards to ensure that they are appropriate and sufficient to protect freedom of the press in Canada. As he has said, and as our Prime Minister has said, our government welcomes input about any possible adjustments that might be required, including from the hon. member opposite, all hon. members and senators, as well as from members of the media. In fact, the minister has been quite clear that long before these reports in Quebec, he was reviewing all ministerial directives to ensure that they safeguard the rights and freedoms of Canadians.

Indeed, it has been a fundamental principle of our government since before we became the government that public safety and rights and freedoms must be protected simultaneously. We know that our national security and law enforcement agencies must have the tools and resources they need to keep Canada safe, and that these agencies must also be subject to effective and vigorous oversight, to hold the highest standards when it comes to respect for civil liberties and the rights and freedoms protected by the charter.

Among these fundamental rights and freedoms is certainly freedom of the press. It is critical for the open and democratic character of our country that press freedom be passionately and effectively defended. Our government has done that and will continue to do so.

Preclearance Act, 2016 February 21st, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I would say to my hon. colleague that this would absolutely expand it to all modes of transportation. When we look at the Preclearance Act of 1999, it only contemplated aviation, which meant that we were not able to confer those benefits to matters such as rail, boats, or any other modes of travel. This would confer those benefits and should mean reduced lines and reduced waiting times, which should mean not only more convenient travel but greater economic activity and greater opportunity for trade.

Preclearance Act, 2016 February 21st, 2017

Mr. Speaker, the reality is that nothing could be further from the truth. I would say to the member that he needs to go directly back to his constituents and talk about each one of those points.

For the sake of brevity, I will not reiterate all the incredible benefits this bill would facilitate. However, I will go back to the really important point that pre-clearance would be totally subject to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Canadian law, and when people were travelling, we could say to them that when they had pre-clearance, they would have the opportunity on Canadian soil to have the protection of Canadian law. If those people were otherwise travelling to the United States in the absence of pre-clearance, they would be sitting on U.S. soil, with none of those protections. Therefore, I would say that there is a strong argument that their rights, far from being diminished, would be expanded as a result of pre-clearance. We could also say that if they wanted to directly travel to a place like Columbus, Ohio, this bill would ensure that they were given that opportunity to do so directly as a personal benefit. We could also say that the industry and trade that supports any of the jobs we are lucky enough to hold in this country would also be expanded by this bill.

Preclearance Act, 2016 February 21st, 2017

Mr. Speaker, it exists in a limited capacity, but the bill would expand it much more broadly. It would make it much more easy to facilitate and would expand it greatly.

The reason I touched upon that example particularly is just to show how in one small facet we have so much economic activity that is driven by it. I think wherever we can remove red tape and barriers and help move those folks more easily when they are coming to visit in Canada or a Canadian citizen looking to do a cruise that is multinational between Canada and the U.S., then I think we have to get on it.

However, we can look beyond the cruise ship industry to all of the industries. It is not hard to imagine the thousands of jobs and the tens of millions of dollars that it would help facilitate.

I thank the member for both her question and her support of the bill, which is incredibly important.

Preclearance Act, 2016 February 21st, 2017

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member. I appreciate the opportunity to speak on this incredibly important bill, Bill C-23, Preclearance Act, 2016.

One of the largest priorities of our government is ensuring that our border runs smoothly, efficiently, and securely. Indeed, the relationship between Canada and the United States is a fundamentally important one to our economy. There is $2.2 billion in trade daily between our two economies. Of course, our friendship extends over many decades, and our border is often referred to as the envy of the world.

The meetings that were recently had in Washington with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to deepen that relationship obviously included the issue of pre-clearance, making it easier for goods, services, and people to move across our borders, and to improve security, the state of our economy, and the ability for us to do commerce with one another.

On the American side, they have already legislated the necessary measures to enhance pre-clearance. They did so in the Promoting Travel, Commerce, and National Security Act of 2016. It is essential that we follow suit and do the same thing. Indeed, the Preclearance Act of 1999 only contemplates pre-clearance for air travel. I will be talking in a moment about why it is so essential that we expand that to other areas.

Already, folks would have used pre-clearance. I used it this weekend. There are around 30,000 Canadians a day who use it, and 12 million travellers annually at eight different locations. When we are talking about it, it is important to note that this is something that is already taking place with enormous success. I think it is important to contemplate what are some of the benefits, both of what is happening today but also what is being contemplated with this legislation.

There would be an increase in security. The ability to block somebody who should not be travelling from travelling in the first place is a massive advantage. It makes sense that we do not want somebody who should not be travelling to board that plane or that train or that ship in the first place. Pre-clearance gives us the opportunity to stop that from happening.

It also means that when it is on our side, if there is an incident where we have encountered some sort of violation, that we get the opportunity for prosecuting that domestically.

There is also an opportunity for greater border integrity along the same lines, because this would expand pre-clearance to also happen in the United States, something that has long been sought. That means that we could stop somebody from entering Canada, somebody who does not belong. Currently, that person would arrive in Canada, and we would then have to deal with them, removing them after the fact. Certainly that is a significant benefit.

To travellers and to our economy, there would be a great deal of benefit. Let us start with the benefit of being able to directly travel where one wants to go. Right now, as an example, at Jean Lesage in Quebec, if people want to go to Nashville, they have to go through a connection. There is no opportunity to fly directly.

By expanding this and by allowing pre-clearance to happen in Quebec City, the number of cities would be expanded from 27 to 50. It would give direct access to a number of different airports that we would not otherwise not have and, by the way, that no one else in the world does have. It could include LaGuardia or Reagan or Columbus, Ohio, or Milwaukee, or Richmond or, as I said, Nashville and many other locations.

This would be a tremendous benefit that I think is easily understood by anybody, for travellers to get directly where they want to go. I know everybody wants to avoid layovers wherever possible. That is not only a convenience factor, it makes the attractiveness of doing commerce between our two countries much greater as well.

The other thing that might surprise folks is, already, Pearson in Toronto is the fourth largest point of entry into the United States. Let us think about what that means. Imagine somebody is looking to do a cruise. They are coming from Europe and they want to see the B.C. coastline and go up to Alaska. It means that they can board that cruise ship in Vancouver, get pre-cleared, and be able to go to small towns in Alaska without having to go through any sort of border process or any sort of rigamarole. That is an enormously attractive thing for people who want to come and visit our two countries, to only have to go through one border process and be able to go through it in a much more efficient way in a place that would be larger and more capable of being able to process people effectively.

When we think about the cruise ship industry specifically, let us look at the size of it. It is $435 million of economic benefits just to the B.C. coastal region alone, and that includes 4,600 local jobs. Therefore, if we can use this to facilitate a greater movement of folks and be able to encourage that industry, obviously that is a tremendous benefit.

There have been some folks who have raised an issue of concern around security. I think one of the biggest points to consider on this is to imagine ourselves as travellers and we want to go to the United States. Where would we rather be checked? Would it be on U.S. soil or on Canadian soil where we have the protection of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the protection of the Canadian Bill of Rights, the protection of the Human Rights Act, and the broader protections of Canadian law, period? If something goes wrong, I would imagine, as Canadian citizens, we would want to be on the Canadian side of the border. It is important, when all the powers are contemplated, that we have the full protection, force, and effect of Canadian law. Therefore, when one is travelling, I would think that one would feel a lot safer, a lot more secure, in having that pre-clearance happen on Canadian soil and under Canadian law.

We can look at some of the places we would like to be able to expand to. Obviously, we already have expansion possibilities of Billy Bishop, I mentioned Jean Lesage, Central Station, and Rocky Mountaineer Station in Montreal and B.C. specifically. I hope that this is only the beginning.

The vision of pre-clearance is one that allows travellers to move quickly and efficiently, and this bill would expand it as well to cargo so that we could see a greater exchange of goods and services moving more easily across our border. Canadians could know when they arrive at the border that they are doing so with the full protection of Canadian law.

Last, I would indicate that on the broader issue of the Canada Border Services Agency, we are committed to looking at oversight and making sure that we do an ever better job of delivering the services at the border. However, the more I get to know this file and have an opportunity to work with the minister, I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to thank the incredible men and women who work at our border every day to help facilitate that trade between our two countries. I think this bill only furthers to support them in their noble goal to move goods and services between our countries and to deepen the trade that exists between Canada and the U.S.

Public Safety February 17th, 2017

Madam Speaker, I have tremendous regard for the member opposite, but his question, frankly, is just inaccurate in the way it has posed the information.

The reality is that pre-clearance already happens for 12 million Canadians every year at eight locations. Everybody who crosses the border is protected by the Canadian charter and Canadian law. The result of not having pre-clearance would mean that these individuals would be on U.S. soil, where they would not have the protection of the charter and they would not have the protection of Canadian law. This is the right way to proceed.