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NDP MP for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke (B.C.)
Won his last election, in 2015, with 35% of the vote.
Statements in the House
National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians Act September 28th, 2016
Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles for his remarks. I very much enjoy working with him on the defence committee.
I think the member said something really important, which I hope people on that side have written down. What we are trying to do is to create a committee that will have the confidence of the public so that the public will believe it is an independent committee, believe it is an effective committee, and believe that the government will have no ability to cover up any excesses or inefficiencies in national security. The member said the best way to do that was to have a bill that had the unanimous consent of all parties. That is really important and I hope the Liberals are listening to it.
The Conservatives have chosen to oppose the bill at second reading. We have chosen to give it conditional support, but I think there is a lot of common ground on this side.
I want to know if the member agrees with me that there are a few things, like having an independent chair, having unrestricted access to information, and having the committee report to the House of Commons and not the Prime Minister, that would make it easy to get all of us onside if some of those elements were present in the bill. Would the member agree with me on that?
Madam Speaker, this committee has to be independent, and that means it has to have broad access to sensitive information. We cannot have a prime minister who is able to restrict what the committee is working on. Some parts of the bill are almost Orwellian. It says that the Prime Minister can stop an investigation by this committee into national security matters on the grounds of national security. That makes no sense to me whatsoever.
In addition, the committee has to be able to publicize that work without the government editing it in advance. By reporting to the Prime Minister and allowing the Prime Minister's Office to redact the reports, we will lose public confidence in the work of this committee.
Madam Speaker, certainly I acknowledge that the consultation is going on. My concern is that it is an excuse for inaction. Certainly, Bill C-22 is a crucial bill but is no substitute for action to fix or repeal Bill C-51. Oversight is not a burden. Good oversight will help build public trust and ensure that our security services are more effective in a dangerous and changing world.
Canadians expect a watchdog that is both independent and has teeth. Bill C-22 needs to be amended to ensure that this committee has full access to classified information, adequate resources, and the power to share its findings with Canadians in an informative and transparent manner, subject to justifiable limits.
The government will have to work hard to earn the trust of Canadians after failing to deal with the question of changing Bill C-51, and to rebuild that trust we need a strong, independent, and effective oversight committee.
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford.
I rise today in support of Bill C-22 at second reading. This should not be a surprise to anyone in the House, because New Democrats from the beginning of these debates about national security have always argued that effective oversight of our national security agencies is necessary in a free and democratic society.
We also know that independent and effective oversight is essential to ensuring that the government fulfills both its responsibilities: a responsibility to protect our civil liberties, and the responsibility to keep us safe. Just as all of us also cherish our civil liberties, none of us in the House doubts that the threat posed by terrorism is very real.
Therefore, I will begin my discussion of Bill C-22 today with what I am sure many members will find is a long preamble, both about my concerns about Bill C-22 being part of a larger government strategy to avoid action on fixing Bill C-51, now the Anti-terrorism Act, and about why the passage of Bill C-51 makes effective oversight even more crucial. I will then conclude with some remarks on why I fear that Bill C-22 will not provide the effective and independent oversight we need without significant amendments.
Bluntly stated, I fear the Liberals will use the passage of Bill C-22 as an excuse to avoid action on Bill C-51. The Liberals promised during the election that they would introduce a bill that would address their concerns regarding Bill C-51. They said they were voting for the bill at the time, but that it had problematic elements. Once again today, the minister listed about 10 things that he finds problematic in Bill C-51.
I appreciate the relisting of those concerns, but here we are one year later and the Liberals have failed to put any specific proposals before the House other than Bill C-22, which is only one aspect of the national security concerns, although the minister says that it is the centrepiece. Again, I would submit that the centrepiece really ought to be fulfilling the election promises to fix Bill C-51.
When the minister talks about his consultation, he skips over what I think is an important fact. What the Liberals said they would do was introduce a bill to amend Bill C-51 and then conduct consultations. In fact, what they have done is turned their promised changes into a list of things to discuss as part of a broad general consultation on national security.
Therefore, we have proposed the repeal of Bill C-51, as this is the quickest and simplest way to restore our rights. We know that Bill C-51 tramples our civil liberties without doing anything to make us safer.
We know that both the Liberals and the Conservatives have bought into the idea that national security requires a balance between our freedoms and safety, and that somehow we can purchase security by giving up some of our rights. New Democrats believe that the responsibility of the government is to protect both our rights and our security, at one and the same time. It is a difficult task, but one that we must undertake in a democratic society.
If the Liberals really believe parts of Bill C-51 should be kept as they are, then it is up to them to tell us in the House which parts and why. New Democrats would be happy to work with the Liberals to help defend the rights of Canadians by repealing, or at minimum, amending Bill C-51.
In the meantime, as these debates have gone on, the federal government, whether Liberal or Conservative, has failed to provide any additional resources for those things we know to be the most effective in fighting terrorism: effective investigation and enforcement, and de-radicalization programs.
During the hearings on Bill C-51 in the public safety committee, we heard from the RCMP commissioner and the director of CSIS about having insufficient resources to meet national security challenges, yet there have been no real increases in spending for CSIS, the RCMP, or the CBSA by either the Conservatives or the Liberals since 2012. De-radicalization programs still are not functioning at the community level, despite all the promises and despite some good preparatory work. They are still not out there running on the ground. If we are going to fight the threat of terrorism, we need to focus our resources on de-radicalization and on the traditional intelligence and enforcement work that have served us relatively well so far.
With all of this in mind, New Democrats have called for the repeal of Bill C-51. New Democrats have always believed that the Anti-terrorism Act is in fundamental conflict with our civil liberties, and that these infringements on our civil liberties do nothing to make us safer. This is why we voted against the bill at the beginning. In fact, the overall impact of Bill C-51 is to cast a net so wide that it may actually prevent enforcement authorities from focusing on what are in fact the very real threats to our safety.
This point was reaffirmed by several witnesses in the public safety committee when we had the discussion of Bill C-51, including the former head of national security for the Toronto Police Service. He said that when we were looking for a needle in the haystack, the last thing we needed was more hay.
A bill that requires collecting vast amounts of information on people who pose no threat at all, which is ordinary Canadians, and collecting information on those who are engaged in legitimate dissent may in fact make us less safe by providing too much hay to the enforcement authorities.
Indeed, the Anti-terrorism Act is being challenged in the courts in a case filed by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association jointly with Canadian Journalists for Free Expression. This case was filed just a month after the bill's passage. However, the backlog in our courts means that a decision from the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of Bill C-51 will not come for at least another three years. That is cold comfort to those whose rights may be breached in the interim. That is why independent and effective oversight becomes so crucial while Bill C-51 remains in force.
Bill C-51 has now been in place for more than a year without any additional oversight and without the Liberals' promised report to the House of Commons by the CSIS director on the use of its new powers. At this point, we are left with no evidence whatsoever to support the contention that Bill C-51 has done anything to make us safer. If that evidence exists, it should be presented in the House.
The reason Bill C-22 and having effective oversight of our national security agencies is so important is precisely because of the threats to civil liberties posed by Bill C-51. Let me talk about those briefly.
First, the definition of national security in Bill C-51 is so broad that it potentially captures many forms of legitimate dissent. First nations leaders and environmental activists in particular are concerned that they can be subject to surveillance and even disruption of their activities as a result of the broadening of the definition of national security in Bill C-51 to include the economic security of Canada and to include critical infrastructure, read pipelines. Only “lawful” dissent would be explicitly protected. Good luck to those who inadvertently violate a court injunction or trespass as part of a demonstration or other action in defence of aboriginal and treaty rights or in the fight against climate change.
Second, Bill C-51 conflicts with the fundamental principles of Canadian privacy law by allowing the widespread sharing of personal information with other departments and even foreign states. We have always lived in Canada with the assurance that information collected by the government in Canada will only be used for the purposes for which it has been collected, and that it will stay in Canada. Bill C-51 has changed all that, and those are the concerns the Privacy Commissioner was raising in his report today. Those are the concerns that he asserts, quite correctly I believe, are not raised in the government's discussion paper.
The third challenge to our civil liberties are the new powers that were given to CSIS to act illegally and in secret without any additional oversight. CSIS is prohibited only from using murder, sexual assault, and interference with the justice system as tactics. This hardly fits with the idea of a democratic society and rule of law that most Canadians hold dear. If, and only if, CSIS sees it as necessary, then it can seek a warrant from the courts to violate charter rights. I am sure this provision will be found unconstitutional.
This provision gives CSIS and the courts a role in deciding when it is okay to limit charter rights, and that is a power that constitutionally belongs to this Parliament and only this Parliament. It is not the purview of CSIS to decide what are reasonable limits on free expression, and it is not even the purview of the courts to decide that. The courts have left that to legislation passed in Parliament, and rightly so.
The fourth threat to our civil liberties is the creation of this new broad criminal offence of supporting terrorism “in general”. This lacks the element of intent that is normally required for a criminal offence. We do not impose criminal penalties in Canada unless harm was intended. This therefore infringes on rights to free speech in terms of things like fair comment by journalists who might wish to cite writings by someone advocating terrorism as part of their investigation. It interferes with the rights of authors of fiction, of satirists, and with all kinds of people who have legitimate reasons to make statements about terrorism in general with absolutely no intention of inspiring terrorist acts, but they will fall under the purview of this new definition.
The fifth threat is that Bill C-51 lowers the standard applied to police action in national security cases in several different parts of the bill, from reasonable grounds based on evidence to mere suspicion. I find this disturbing in light of Canada's record of the detention of literally thousands of Canadians in times of crisis who were later found to have committed no offence whatsoever. This includes Japanese Canadians, Ukrainian Canadians, German Canadians, and Italian Canadians in World War II, and even Quebeckers in the 1970s.
Although there are more, I will deal with the no-fly list. Bill C-51 expanded the no-fly list to include all persons posing threats to this broader definition of national security. It did so without fixing the underlying problems in the list. This list still results in many Canadians being denied the right to travel in error because their name is similar to someone else's. It even has resulted in multiple instances of children being denied the right to fly. The list needs to remain focused on those who threaten aviation. What Bill C-51 has done again is to expand that list to include everyone who might be a threat to national security.
This is another example of the needle in the haystack and providing way to much hay to be dealt with at the airport. Therefore, we need to keep the focus on those who actually threaten our flights. All of the outstanding problems with the no-fly list could have been fixed by regulation. However, that task has been made much more difficult by expanding the list and using the new broader definition of national security.
Turning to the bill before us very quickly, I think there are some gaps here. We find a bill that is clearly necessary but I would argue is fundamentally flawed. We need a truly independent committee that would report to the House of Commons and not the Prime Minister. This would affect the confidence the public can place in the committee's reports. At minimum, there needs to be limits placed on the power of the Prime Minister to sensor and redact committee reports.
A truly independent oversight committee should also elect its own chair. Instead, the bill proposes that the Prime Minister choose the chair, and indeed the Prime Minister has already designated a chair for the committee before it has even been constituted. This means that the chair owes his job to the Prime Minister and not his fellow members of the committee. Electing a chair is a practice of our allies in all the other jurisdictions.
If I can just take—
Madam Speaker, I was quite surprised to hear the minister describe the centrepiece of Liberal national security policy as this piece of legislation. Canadians are under the impression that the centrepiece of the Liberal national security policy would be fixing Bill C-51, which they promised to do in the campaign. It is important to have oversight and review but what the Liberals made front and centre during the campaign was to fix the problematic elements of Bill C-51.
My specific question deals with the Privacy Commissioner's report. With all due respect, the minister has mis-characterized his concerns about the consultation process. The Privacy Commissioner did not say it is impossible to raise concerns about privacy. He said he was disappointed that the government did not make privacy issues a part of the consultation process.
I would like to know what the minister intends to do now to correct that oversight in the consultation process, because Bill C-51 raises serious concerns about our privacy rights in Canada. How was that not included in the consultation he is doing?
Public Safety September 27th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, Canadians still overwhelmingly oppose Bill C-51, and the Liberals promised a major rollback, even though they voted for this Conservative legislation. Yesterday, I introduced a bill that would repeal each and every section of Bill C-51. If the Liberals want to keep any part of that bill, I invite them to make their case here in the House. However, today the Privacy Commissioner criticized the government for not doing enough to review the impacts of Bill C-51 on democratic and privacy rights.
Will the Liberal government implement all of the Privacy Commissioner's recommendations, or will it support my bill to repeal Bill C-51?
Anti-terrorism Act, 2015 September 26th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, today I am introducing a private member's bill that would repeal all aspects of Bill C-51, a bill in force for more than a year now, which still manages to infringe our civil liberties without making us safer.
This private member's bill is about doing away with the overly broad definition of national security contained in Bill C-51 that allows surveillance of those engaged in legitimate defence of their rights, including aboriginal people and environmentalists. It is about restoring the fundamental principles of Canadian privacy law. It is about doing away with the powers Bill C-51 gave to CSIS to act illegally in secret without oversight. It is about eliminating the prohibition on free speech contained in the new broad definition of supporting terrorism in the Criminal Code. It is about restoring the previous standard that required reasonable grounds for police action in national security, instead of the grounds of mere suspicion as contained in Bill C-51.
We are putting forward our proposal today for what to do about the infringement of civil liberties in Bill C-51, and we await the government's putting a specific proposal forward.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns September 19th, 2016
With regard to human rights concerns in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) of China and in Tibetan areas of China including in Sichuan, Qinghai, Yunnan, and Gansu: (a) how many requests have been made by Canadian officials and diplomats for access to the TAR and Tibetan areas of Sichuan, Qinghai, Yunnan, and Gansu since 2008, and of those requests, how many were (i) rejected by the Government of China and on what basis, (ii) accepted, and on what dates did Canadian officials and diplomats visit Tibet or Tibetan areas since 2008, (iii) accepted and what restrictions, if any, were imposed by Chinese authorities on these visits; (b) of the requests made by Canadian officials and diplomats for access to the TAR and Tibetan areas of Sichuan, Qinghai, Yunnan, and Gansu since 2008, how many were made for the explicit purpose of monitoring or investigating reports about human rights violations and, of those requests, how many were (i) rejected by the Government of China and on what basis, (ii) accepted, on what dates did Canadian officials and diplomats visit Tibet or Tibetan areas for human rights-related purposes since 2008, (iii) accepted and what restrictions, if any, were imposed by Chinese authorities during those visits; and (c) how many visas to visit Canada have been requested by Chinese or Tibetan officials and diplomats representing the TAR or Tibetan areas of China since 2008 and, of those, how many were (i) rejected by the Government of Canada, (ii) accepted, on what dates did Chinese or Tibetan officials and diplomats representing the TAR or Tibetan areas of China visit Canada, (iii) accepted and what restrictions, if any, were imposed by Canadian authorities during those visits?
National Defence June 7th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, everyone agrees we need to replace the CF-18s. However, sole-sourced procurement is costly, bad for accountability and often ends up taking even longer to deliver the equipment we need.
In opposition, the Liberals complained about the Conservatives when they sole-sourced procurement for the F-35s. Instead, they promised Canadians an open, transparent competition to replace the CF-18s.
Why are the Liberals now doing an about-face, breaking their promise, and behaving just as badly as the Conservatives on procuring fighter jets?
National Defence June 6th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, during the campaign, the Liberals said that they would not purchase the F-35, but right after being elected, they said maybe yes, maybe no. Now it looks like they may have already decided on another fighter jet, but still without the promised open and transparent competition. In fact, it looks like the Liberal government is running procurement as an inside job, just like the Conservatives. Why have they abandoned an open tender process to replace our aging CF-18s, and when will they put in place a procurement system that can actually deliver the equipment our military needs?