Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-51, the anti-terrorism act, 2015. During my time today I will be addressing the elements of part 4 of the bill. These elements would broaden CSIS's mandate to include the authority to disrupt threats to Canada's national security. In particular, I would like to outline the legal parameters of this new authority as well as the robust accountability framework from which threat disruption measures would be taken by CSIS and how these would be authorized and reviewed.
I want to be clear. The international jihadi movement has declared war on Canada and its allies. Canadians are being targeted by terrorists simply because these terrorists hate our society and the values it represents. That is why our government has put forward these measures to protect Canadians against jihadi terrorists who seek to destroy the very principles that make Canada the best country in the world in which to live.
Throughout its history, CSIS has played a vital role in investigating and advising the government on national security threats, but it has also been limited to those functions of collection and advice, even as it has encountered early opportunities to disrupt threats in the course of these investigations. How frustrating that must be.
Today we must reconsider this narrowly constructed mandate and the tools required to protect Canadians. The threats from terrorism we face today demand that we do this. These threats are also the reason we are investing $292 million over the next five years in our intelligence and law enforcement agencies, as announced in this year's budget.
In the context of this bill, and specifically of the new mandate for CSIS, we must consider the rigorous framework in which CSIS's threat disruption activities would take place.
CSIS has established a 30-year history as an intelligence service. It is respected globally and is known for its rigorous framework of ministerial accountability, judicial authorization, and independent review. I want to expand on that point.
Canada is unique in that judicial, not executive, authorization is currently required for CSIS to engage in intrusive investigative techniques. That means, for example, that for the past 30 years, before CSIS has tapped a phone, it has been required to seek a warrant from the Federal Court, which is a rigorous and thorough process. The key tenets of the current warrant process are laid out in the CSIS Act. Among other things, the law requires that warrant applications to the Federal Court first be approved by the minister.
All of the activities of CSIS are also subject to ministerial direction, and the minister is kept apprised of CSIS's operations, routinely and through a detailed annual report. These reporting requirements are laid out in both the CSIS Act and through ministerial direction. In addition, as set out by the CSIS Act, all CSIS activities are subject to review by SIRC. This model of judicial authorization review is routinely cited as embodying the best practices in the area of intelligence service governance.
I would like to direct members to the 2010 report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on good practices in legal and institutional frameworks for intelligence agencies, in which CSIS received positive mention several times. It is in this context, and in today's threat environment, that we introduce this legislation to expand CSIS's mandate.
Pursuant to this bill, CSIS would have the authority to disrupt threats to our national security. This would provide the government with an invaluable and flexible new tool to combat threats to our security and safety, which we know have now increased, both in tempo and in complexity. We saw another tragic attack in the United States today.
Make no mistake, this bill would not give CSIS a blank cheque to do whatever it wishes; far from it, in fact. This legislation, in numerous provisions, would require that all threat disruption measures undertaken by the service be reasonable and proportionate. These measures would not be arbitrary, and they would be narrowly focused on disrupting a particular activity that constituted a threat to the very security of our nation. This threshold is clearly articulated in law.
Ray Boisvert, the former assistant director of CSIS, said:
...the warrant process is the most onerous warrant process of its kind, in my estimation, around the world.... The enhancements being proposed will add layers of requirements, giving direction to the judiciary and...those who are composing the warrant.... [Seizure] warrants typically go on for hundreds of pages per target, explaining the rationale and making the case to be able to obtain those powers that allowed us...to lawfully intercept some of these communications.... I am still encouraged that this will not change. My sense from reading the legislation is that those safeguards are protected and are further enhanced.
I would also like to point out the key differences between CSIS's collection mandate and the proposed disruption mandate of this legislation.
CSIS may investigate activities suspected of constituting threats to the security of Canada, an entirely appropriate threshold for its investigative mandate. The threshold for engaging any threat diminishment activity, however, would be much higher. For CSIS to disrupt a threat, the bill states that there would have to be reasonable grounds to believe that a given activity constituted a threat to the security of Canada. That is an important distinction between those two roles and those two activities.
Let me be frank. Some have raised the spectre of what are, quite frankly, disturbing scenarios or outcomes due to this legislation. I want to put those concerns to rest here and now.
The legislation would specifically prohibit certain activities. Let me emphasize that this bill would also not make CSIS a law enforcement body. Our Conservative amendments have reinforced this point for greater clarity.
Further, this new threat disruption mandate would be subject to new ministerial direction, managed within a rigorous framework and subject to an independent review by SIRC.
The bill clearly states that when a warrant was required, a judge would determine if a measure was reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances in regard to the nature of a threat, the nature of the measures, and the reasonable availability of other means.
In addition, the judge could include any terms or conditions deemed advisable in the public interest: judicial authority; judicial power. Further, these warrants would be narrowly time bound, with a maximum duration of 120 days, and would only be able to be renewed twice, as they would be time limited.
To provide added assurance about the nature and implementation of the threat disruption measures, this legislation would also impose specific reporting requirements on both CSIS and SIRC. CSIS would be specifically required to report to the minister on the measures it has taken. SIRC would then be required to annually review at least one aspect of the service's performance in taking these measures and to report on the number of warrants issued for these activities.
For added assurance, as members will know our government just announced its intention to double the budget of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, providing an additional $12.5 million over five years to further strengthen SIRC's capacity to review the activities of CSIS. This is on top of announcing $300 million that we put in place to combat terrorism here at home. These elements combined, namely our rigorous system of judicial authorization, enhanced independent review by SIRC, and specific statutory prohibitions, are designed to assure Canadians that this mandate would be exercised by CSIS responsibly.
This is a regime Canadians can feel confident is in keeping with their values and is a framework in which the imperatives of national security will always be duly balanced with the rights of an individual.
This legislation would protect Canadians, enhance our national security, and keep in place what we value dearly: our rights and freedoms.