Ms. Joyce Murray (Vancouver Quadra, Lib.)
moved that Bill C-622, An Act to amend the National Defence Act (transparency and accountability), to enact the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
She said: Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure to rise today to speak to my private member's bill, Bill C-622, the CSEC accountability and transparency act.
This legislation takes an important step forward in updating the framework for accountability and transparency for Canada's signals intelligence agency, and it tasks the public's representatives—that is, Canadian parliamentarians—with the responsibility to review and report on the intelligence and security activities of our government.
In the wake of the recent deadly attacks on our soldiers and on Parliament itself, all party leaders confirmed their commitment to protect the rights, freedoms, and civil liberties of Canadians, even as security measures are analyzed and strengthened. Indeed, Canadians expect these fundamental aspects of the very democracy being guarded to be respected, and that is the underlying intention of the bill.
I invite members of all parties to support sending it to committee for further examination and signal the authenticity of their commitment to these democratic freedoms.
Canada does have important guardians of privacy rights, both in law and in our provincial and federal privacy and information officers, and we have strong privacy protections in Canada, in general, although these must continue to contend with the fast pace of technological change.
Where they can be weak, though, is in the scrutiny of the activities of intelligence and security agencies like Communications Security Establishment, or CSE, and my bill aims to ensure sufficient privacy protections for CSE operations on the multiple fronts of its mandate, both abroad and at home.
As the federal and provincial privacy commissioners stated in a recent communique:
|| Canadians both expect and are entitled to equal protection for their privacy and access rights and for their security. We must uphold these fundamental rights that lie at the heart of Canada’s democracy.
I agree. In fact, the effective protection of individual privacy and the effective delivery of national security measures are not a dichotomy or a trade-off. They are complementary, and both are necessary.
The United States Department of Homeland Security is a good example. This department considers safeguarding civil rights and civil liberties to be critical to its work to protect the nation from the many threats it faces. This third-largest department of the U.S. government now explicitly embeds and enforces privacy protections and transparency in all the department's systems, programs, and activities.
Deputy Secretary Mayorkas confirmed in a recent speech that not only is this an integral part of DHS's mission and crucial to maintaining the public's trust, but it has resulted in homeland security becoming a stronger and more effective department. Bill C-622 reflects that very philosophy.
Now here is some information about Communications Security Establishment Canada. CSE is our national cryptology and signals intelligence agency. It functions within a global alliance of partners' signals intelligence agencies in the U.S., the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand, known as the Five Eyes. CSE intercepts and decodes foreign communications signals. It is the lead agency for cybersecurity for the federal government, and it uses its technological capacities and expertise to assist domestic law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
As its three-part mandate suggests, CSE is an important and powerful contributor to Canada's national security, and we want it to become a stronger and more effective department. Much of CSE's work today focuses on Internet and mobile phone communications between foreigners who might pose a threat to Canada.
CSE does not have the mandate to spy on Canadians, except when it is assisting other federal security and law enforcement agencies that have the appropriate permission, such as a warrant. However, its powers were extended in 2001 to allow it to inadvertently collect Canadian communications when it is targeting a foreign entity or conducting cybersecurity operations.
Here is the challenge: The capability of information and communications technologies has skyrocketed over the past 13 years. However, the laws governing CSE have not changed once in that time. That means that whether they are being used or not, CSE now has much greater powers to intrude into the privacy of people's personal lives and communications, unimpeded by the law.
It is time to update the law in this new environment of cloud computing and the Internet of everything.
This bill leaves in place all the important tools that our security agencies have available to them to protect Canadians. CSE has intrusive powers, but they are most often absolutely necessary.
However, Canadians want assurances that their privacy and the confidentiality of their communications will not be violated. Such violations would not even have been technologically possible just a few years ago.
One key concern of Canadians is government's access to their metadata, that is, their communication activities. It includes, for example, records of communications between one's electronic devices and the devices of others. On the surface, intercepting metadata may not seem terribly intrusive, but metadata is effectively the how, when, where, and with whom people communicate electronically.
As Ontario's Information and Privacy Commissioner, Dr. Ann Cavoukian, notes:
|| It has been said that the collection of meta-data is far more intrusive than reading someone's diary because not everything gets written down in a diary.
Last January, Canadians learned that CSE collected, tracked, and analyzed the metadata of unsuspecting passengers who logged into the WiFi at an Canadian airport. Because the law is so outdated, this was probably legal, but it was certainly not respectful of privacy rights.
Both CSIS and the RCMP are required to get court approval to enlist CSE's help in wiretapping a phone, but no such approval is needed to collect metadata.
In June of this year, the Supreme Court ruling, R. v. Spencer, was a strong endorsement of Internet privacy, including the privacy of metadata.
A second concern is the defence minister's quasi-judicial power to issue blanket approvals for CSE operations that would likely capture the private communications of Canadians without needing to explain his or her reasoning to anyone. These ill-defined and overly broad ministerial authorizations have been criticized by CSE commissioners for almost a decade.
A further concern is the absence of accountability or reporting regarding information sharing between CSE and other security and intelligence agencies. In a 2014 ruling, Federal Court Justice Richard Mosley found that CSIS and CSE kept the court in the dark about how they were enlisting foreign intelligence agencies to help spy on Canadians. He noted that the information CSE had shared, without legal authorization, put two Canadians at risk while they were travelling abroad. Justice Mosley's findings underscore the need to reinforce CSE's accountability not only to the courts but also to the minister, to Parliament, and to Canadians.
Finally, the grab bag of various kinds of oversight of various Canadian security and intelligence agencies, including CSE, and the absence of parliamentary oversight or review, puts us definitely offside with Canada's main intelligence partners.
How do we support CSE and our other security functions by embedding better democratic accountability, clarity, reporting, and review, an update that would bring us in line with our Five Eyes allies?
First, Bill C-622 would strengthen judicial oversight by replacing ministerial authorization for the interception of Canadians' protected information with authorization by an independent judge of the Federal Court. This is consistent with the process used by the National Security Agency, CSE's American counterpart. In addition, in this bill, metadata would be included in the new definition of protected information.
Second, the bill would strengthen ministerial oversight. It would require the Chief of CSE to inform the minister of sensitive matters likely to have a significant impact on public or international affairs and any national security or policy issues. The chief would also have to inform the minister and the CSE Commissioner of any operational incidents that may have an impact on the privacy of Canadians.
Each fiscal year a detailed report would be provided to the minister and the national security adviser to the Prime Minister on the activities carried out by the agency during the fiscal year, including any requests to share information with other Canadian security agencies.
Third, the office of the CSE Commissioner will be strengthened. The Prime Minister will be required to consult the opposition leaders before choosing a commissioner. The appointment process will therefore be more independent.
The commissioner will have to verify that CSE's activities are within the law and that they are also reasonable and necessary. He will have to submit public reports that are detailed enough that Parliament and Canadians are properly informed about matters of public interest. The only information that may be excluded is confidential information pertaining to international affairs, defence or security.
Fourth, the bill provides for oversight that is accountable to the public for all Canada's security and intelligence agencies. This integrated overview of the functioning of these sometimes siloed agencies would bring new solutions to strengthen security measures and privacy protections alike. The specific mechanism would be a multi-party committee of security-cleared parliamentarians, the intelligence and security committee of Parliament.
The mandate of this committee would be to review the framework for intelligence and national security in Canada, to review the activities of federal departments and agencies in relation to intelligence and national security, and to issue an annual unclassified report that the Prime Minister would submit to Parliament.
Former CSE chief John Adams supports such a review committee, noting that Canadians are more likely to trust an MP saying that Canada's spy agencies are not violating their privacy than they are to trust the heads of the very spy agencies saying the same thing.
I want to thank my Liberal colleague from Malpeque, retired Conservative senator Hugh Segal, and Senator Romeo Dallaire for their hard work in writing legislation to customize a very successful British parliamentary oversight model for our unique Canadian needs.
The scope and magnitude of CSE's surveillance power have increased. Its accountability to the public has therefore increased accordingly. The current system is outdated and flawed. Parliament cannot perform its oversight duties, and the Minister of National Defence has too much latitude when it comes to authorizing CSE to monitor Canadians' communications.
By passing my bill, Parliament will increase CSE's accountability and give Canadians privacy protections that are closer to those that the Americans and the British take for granted.
In essence, Bill C-622 seeks to modernize outdated laws and embed individual privacy rights within the framework of security and intelligence. Its accountability and transparency measures would restore Canadians' freedom to communicate with each other and with the world without the fear of unlawful or unethical access to their private communications.
The bill seeks to ensure that Canadians can have confidence in the work of CSE and can trust that the government's intelligence and security activities are held to account by the Parliament of Canada, whose duty it is is to ensure that Canadian democratic rights and interests are properly protected.
Public trust, the trust that our civil liberties are respected and that our rights and freedoms are embedded, are key ingredients in the strength and effectiveness of the critical work that security and intelligence agencies do to protect the safety and security of Canadians.
I would like to express my gratitude for the help and support of some of Canada's top experts in privacy, security, and intelligence, notably Professor Wesley Wark of the University of Ottawa and Stephen McCammon of the Ontario privacy commissioner's office, and the many others who helped me develop this essential step forward in protecting fundamental Canadian securities and freedoms.
Ms. Roxanne James (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to discuss Bill C-622, introduced by the Liberal member for Vancouver Quadra.
This is a well-intentioned private members' bill, and the member's interest in this area is certainly understandable, given the recent threats to our national security posed by radical terrorist groups, such as ISIL. Unfortunately, rather than bringing forward ideas for new tools to keep Canadians safe, such as those brought forward by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness in the protection of Canada from terrorists act, the member has brought forward measures that are needless and duplicative in nature. That is why the government will be opposing the bill.
Our Conservative government's opposition is based on very practical considerations. I would like to spend some time on the notion to create a parliamentary committee to further scrutinize Canada's national security intelligence activities. I emphasize the words “further scrutinize” quite intentionally.
We have debated this issue in the House several times, and our government has been clear and consistent. A robust review of our security agencies already exists. In the case of CSEC, for example, it is already one of the most highly scrutinized federal government departments. Indeed, in 1996, the Commissioner of CSEC was established for two reasons: to review the organization's activities and to hear complaints against it. Further, CSEC is subject to review by the Privacy Commissioner, the Information Commissioner, the Auditor General and the Canadian Human Rights commissioner.
In the case of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, its activities are subject to review by the Security Intelligence Review Committee, also referred to as SIRC, which has a similar mandate to that of the CSEC commissioner by focusing on the activities of CSIS.
Finally, in the case of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, I would like to remind all members that in 2013, it was our government that strengthened the mandate of the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission to review the national security activities of the Mounties.
These external review bodies, all of which operate at arm's-length from the government, provide a review function that works extremely well. Notably, they provide a window into the activities of these organizations, activities that often must be undertaken outside of the public eye.
That fact is critical to our discussion today, given the current focus on the threat of terrorism and how national security agencies take action to keep communities safe. Importantly, these review bodies produce annual reports. I know the member talked about her bill and that it would create reports, but there are already annual reports that are submitted to Parliament, summarizing their findings and recommendations, providing assurance of the legality and propriety of operational activities undertaken by these organizations.
I would also note that in the 2013-14 annual report of the CSEC commissioner, Commissioner Plouffe confirmed that all of CSEC activities reviewed complied with the law. He asserted the effectiveness of the review of the intelligence agencies in Canada and that in the interest of transparency, he made public as much as possible about his investigations.
What is more is the fact that SIRC, the Communications Security Establishment Commissioner and the Civilian Review and Complaints Commissioner are well-equipped to carry out their important work. For example, each review body benefits not only from the skilled staff in their employ, but from unfettered access to the information held by the respective agency in review. Further, the Federal Court is another important element of the overall review system.
Now that I have outlined the robust system of review that already exists and works well, I would briefly touch on how Bill C-622 would depart from the current system and why we cannot support this private members' bill.
First and foremost, the proposed committee's reviews of national security related activities would overlap with and be duplicate in nature to the system of review already in place. Additionally, this bill would not establish whether or how the committee would interact with the existing review bodies. In practical terms, the lack of such a mechanism over the committee's reviews could have serious implications, including gaps in accountability and inconsistent or different conclusions. This is clearly not in the best interests of national security, especially now, and it is certainly not in the best interests of Canadians.
Finally, I would note that this would also increase the cost to taxpayers. The government already spends approximately $14.8 million per year to review the activities of and hear complaints against CSEC, CSIS, and the RCMP.
Let me be clear. We believe this is money that is extremely well spent in support of the robust system of review that we have in place. However, the creation of the committee proposed in the bill, another committee, would require new expenditures, and as I have noted, would not provide added benefit to Canadians above what already exists. In fact, it could very well hinder the work of the existing review bodies.
One fact I would also wish to emphasize today is that the existing parliamentary committees are free to study issues related to national security and the related agencies, as needed. In fact, as members in the House and those on the public safety committee recall, just a few weeks ago, the Minister of Public Safety, accompanied by the head of CSIS and the Commissioner of the RCMP, appeared in that committee and spoke candidly about the terrorist threat to Canada.
I realize that my colleagues opposite may say that in light of the recent SIRC report, we must take strong action to enhance the oversight of intelligence agencies. To that, I would say that SIRC plays an important role in ensuring that our national security agencies are held fully and publicly accountable. I would also like to thank it for doing its job and preparing that report.
CSIS is reviewing the recommendations and will implement those that will best keep Canadians safe, while protecting the rights and privacy of Canadians.
In closing, and in light of the recent terrorist attack that happened just steps from this House, I would be remiss if I did not reiterate that the first responsibility of any government is the safety and security of its citizens. We will not overreact. We have said it time and time again. We will not overreact, but at the same time, as legislators we must not under react to the threats that are upon us. We will never turn our backs on the fundamental Canadian values of respect for individual rights and the rule of law. This is imperative.
I can assure the House that at all times our Conservative government will bring forward legislation that ensures Canadians are protected from terrorists who would seek to do us harm, while also ensuring the rights and freedoms of Canadians are protected.
For all of these reasons, our government will not be supporting Bill C-622. We continue to be confident that the review system we have in place serves our government and indeed all Canadians extremely well.
Mr. Jack Harris (St. John's East, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak to Bill C-622. I have to say I am not surprised by the remarks I just heard from the government, but let me first talk about the bill itself.
I want to thank, once again, the member for Vancouver Quadra for bringing forth Bill C-622. It seeks to do two things, as has been pointed out by her. It seeks to change the nature of the intelligence agency CSEC and Parliament's ability to oversee its activities, which are two separate things, divided in two parts.
The Minister of National Defence has a lot of control over the activities of CSEC, and in fact can make things legal that would otherwise be illegal in such a way that we actually do not know what the rules are. That also deals with the issue of metadata. However, part two seeks to establish an intelligence security committee of Parliament, not of any particular House of Parliament but of Parliament itself and not a parliamentary committee, with members of Parliament and senators together to provide oversight. Those are the two separate parts.
We know that there have been plenty of warnings that CSEC needs greater oversight and that as we move forward with changes to greater security measures and powers, we also need greater oversight. It is pretty clear that the Conservatives have been refusing to act, and we heard the same thing today.
Under the Conservative government, the spying activities of CSEC and its budget have ballooned to four times what it was in 1998, yet Canada remains the only member of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance that does not have parliamentary oversight of its intelligence activities. By “parliamentary oversight”, clearly we are talking about members of Parliament to whom the government is accountable, having oversight over the intelligence activities of the executive.
New Democrats support the spirit of Bill C-622 to establish this parliamentary oversight, but we do not think the bill is robust enough. We also think that it should not include senators because that destroys the democratic legitimacy of the kind of oversight that we are talking about. Our proposal, which I mentioned in my question to my colleague from Vancouver Quadra, was a plan to have comprehensive parliamentary oversight by a committee of Parliament of all intelligence activities, not just of CSEC, crafted to take into account the modern realities.
We know something was done 10 years ago and things have changed since then, but we want the whole thing evaluated and looked at afresh to craft the best possible committee, taking into account the changes and modern technology and hearing from experts about what is the best way to deal with the technology that we have.
Given the indication from the other side that the government will not be supporting the bill, it is not likely to even get to committee, so we will not have the opportunity, unfortunately, to deal with the questions of the bill itself. However, I want to indicate that New Democrats support the measures included in it that would make a change, particularly in the role that the minister has in terms of authorities under the existing National Defence Act to allow the collection of metadata and other kinds of information without the oversight or even the knowledge of the Canadian public of what the authorities are.
It is easy enough for the commissioner for CSEC to say that in all of the matters that he reviewed the law was complied with. We do not even know what the rules were, but we do know that he did not review all of the things that CSEC did.
Although I know the member for Vancouver Quadra did not have time to deal with all the questions that I had, one area of significant concern is the relationship between CSEC and other agencies of government, whether they be law enforcement agencies such as the RCMP, the Canada Border Services Agency or provincial and municipal police forces.
Part of the role of Communications Security Establishment Canada, CSEC, is to provide technical and operational assistance to federal law enforcement and security agencies in the performance of their lawful duties. Although we constantly hear that CSEC is not allowed to spy on Canadians or look at the activity of Canadians, clearly under that provision, that is almost all it does, look at the activity of Canadians. Unfortunately, the bill does not go far enough to deal with that relationship.
We had an earlier report this year that the government agencies requested the involvement of CSEC on many occasions. This is something we need to have proper oversight of as well.
We do not get the right answers for this either, but we also found out that CSEC had a relationship with telecommunication companies, which is problematic. In fact, it was also reported that government agencies in general, including CSEC, requested user data from telecommunication companies 1.2 million times in 2011 alone.
When CSEC officials who came before the parliamentary committee, because this is one of the alternatives that was suggested by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, were asked questions about the relationship with telecommunication companies and if they got information from telecommunication agencies, we were not given an answer. They refused to answer those questions. Therefore, we do not have oversight from parliamentary committees. There is not oversight by Parliament as a whole.
The Conservatives, who despite their claims of accountability and transparency, and in fact bringing in legislation when they became government, have refused to co-operate with parliamentary committees and the requests such as we are bringing forth now to have a more robust system of parliamentary oversight.
I do not think I will go into too many of the details, but I know that the model of the bill is based on former Senator Segal's work, who did a good job slightly adapting the U.K. legislation model, which has members of the House of Lords and members of the U.K. parliament not sitting as members of that parliament, but sitting as so-called parliamentarians outside of that parliament, and incorporating the terms “House of Commons” and the “Senate”.
However, that is not the model we like. It would not report to Parliament, but to the Prime Minister who would have the right to veto anything in the report before it would be tabled in the House of Commons or in the Senate on the grounds of his opinion.
In the opinion of the Prime Minister, it would be injurious to what? It is the three things that this activity is all about: injurious to defence, international affairs and security. If the Prime Minister had the ability to prevent a report from getting to Parliament on that basis, members can be sure that the report would be significantly truncated and not contain the kind of information that we would want. There needs to be some discussion about that.
The parliamentary committee that we are talking about would need to have significant security clearances, and perhaps members of the Privy Council. All this is a matter of discussion that would take place in the kind of robust all-party committee that would have the authority to compare and get advice from all parts, particularly our five eyes, the countries that we deal with on these matters.
However, we need more robust oversight of activity, because the job of our security agencies is to keep Canada safe and also protect our rights in the process. That requires good laws for the authorities and powers of the intelligence agencies. It also requires robust and comprehensive parliamentary oversight.
Mr. Sean Casey (Charlottetown, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-622, proposed by my honourable colleague from Vancouver-Quadra. The bill, on a technical level, seeks to amend the National Defence Act to improve the transparency and accountability and provide for an independent review in respect of the operations of the Communications Security Establishment, and to enact an act to establish the intelligence and security committee of Parliament. It seeks to strike an important balance between national security, the privacy of Canadians, and parliamentary scrutiny.
There was justifiable concern earlier this year when Canadians learned that CSEC was monitoring Wi-Fi services at Canadian airports. In fact, there seems to be a bit of a preoccupation with privacy rights under this government.
If we go back to the Vic Toews bill, we all remember the e-snooping legislation, which fortunately did not see the light of day, but many of the provisions were then imported into a new piece of legislation and bundled with the rights of victims of cyberbullying in Bill C-13. The most recent example is the digital privacy bill, Bill S-4, which seeks to open the door a little wider, allowing the entities that can receive private information to walk through the door that had been opened by Bill C-13. The compromising of privacy rights in Canada has been a recurring theme under this government.
Mr. Speaker, before I get too far ahead of myself, please allow me to outline the role of CSEC for those following the debate and also for members of this place who may not be as familiar as necessary to adequately engage in the debate this evening.
CSEC, or Communications Security Establishment Canada, has a three-part mandate. First, it is responsible for the collection of foreign intelligence from the global information web. Second, it is the lead agency for cybersecurity for the federal government. Third, it can use its technological capacities and expertise to assist domestic law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
There is no argument that CSEC is a vital piece of Canada's national security puzzle. Additionally, CSEC functions within a global alliance known as the Five Eyes, an alliance of partner signals intelligence agencies within the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.
Following the 9/11 attacks in the United States, the mandate of CSEC was expanded. That was 13 years ago, and we are in a rapidly evolving world in terms of national security. It seems more than reasonable to assess the mandate, effectiveness, and accountability of CSEC and its activities.
My colleague, the hon. member for Malpeque, has been quite vocal about the need for parliamentary oversight. In his capacity as public safety critic, he has repeatedly pointed out the important fact that, although Canada functions within the Five Eyes alliance I just spoke about, it is the only country that does not have proactive parliamentary oversight.
In February of 2014, my hon. colleague from Malpeque asked a question that I think deserves an answer. I am not sure he has ever received a genuine or relevant answer, so I'll pose the question here again today. I am quoting from the member for Malpeque:
|| The key point here is that I really cannot understand the government's unwillingness to look at proper parliamentary oversight when two of its key cabinet ministers were in fact part of a report at one point in favour of such oversight.
|| We know that with this particular government, if an organization that depends on government funding comes out against the government, its funding will probably be cut.
|| The member went to great lengths explaining the Five Eyes and the other countries that are our allies in these issues. Where does the government get the idea that Canadians are less at risk of invasion of privacy and do not need proper parliamentary oversight, when all our allies do?
Mr. Ryan Leef: We're different.
Mr. Sean Casey: Mr. Speaker, from across the aisle, I am being told we are different. However, we can learn a lot from best practices.
As I understand it, the original Five Eyes alliance was formed in 1946. It is the result of strategic bilateral agreements that allow each country to conduct independent intelligence gathering within its own jurisdiction and ensure that it is shared with the other four members of the alliance by default.
This alliance between the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand is long-standing. I am curious as to why the Conservative government is reluctant to join the other four members of the Five Eyes alliance in their efforts to maintain sufficient oversight. I think the explanation that we just heard, that we are different, does not quite cut it. At this time, under the current government, Canadians would be well served by additional parliamentary oversight.
Yesterday in the House, the leader of the Liberal Party, the hon. member for Papineau, urged the Prime Minister to strike a proper balance between security and civil liberties. The member for Papineau also correctly indicated that Canada is not facing this issue alone. We are certainly not the only western democracy that struggles to simultaneously protect the security and the rights of its citizens.
There is no doubt in my mind that this debate will reference the tragic events that took place here last week, in fact it already has, and also in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu. Those awful events should remain with us as legislators and we should seek to prevent more tragedies.
With that being said, the atrocities committed last week should not be the only guiding thought when we deal with issues of terrorism and national security. We need to remain committed to striking the balance I keep referring to and to be careful not to rush into knee-jerk reactions, to borrow a phrase from Justice John Major, when it comes to something so important.
I was impressed by the measured, respectful joint statement by the Privacy and Information Commissioners of Canada. I would like to read it into the record before continuing with my own thoughts on this matter. I quote:
|| The following days, weeks and months will be critical in determining the future course of action to ensure not only that Canada remains a safe country, but also that our fundamental rights and freedoms are upheld. Legislative changes being contemplated may alter the powers of intelligence and law enforcement agencies.
|| We acknowledge that security is essential to maintaining our democratic rights. At the same time, the response to such events must be measured and proportionate, and crafted so as to preserve our democratic values.
|| To that end, the Privacy and Information Commissioners of Canada call on the federal Government:
|| To adopt an evidence-based approach as to the need for any new legislative proposal granting additional powers for intelligence and law enforcement agencies;
|| To engage Canadians in an open and transparent dialogue on whether new measures are required, and if so, on their nature, scope, and impact on rights and freedoms;
|| To ensure that effective oversight be included in any legislation establishing additional powers for intelligence and law enforcement agencies.
|| Canadians both expect and are entitled to equal protection for their privacy and access rights and for their security. We must uphold these fundamental rights that lie at the heart of Canada’s democracy.
I am sure members can understand why I felt it was so important to read that statement into the record. The third recommendation from the Privacy and Information Commissioners of Canada is most important to the subject of the bill. The commissioners are requesting effective oversight. Effective oversight consists of a parliamentary committee. We are all here in the House to, I hope, uphold the fundamental rights that lie at the heart of Canada's democracy. We do that on behalf of our constituents and on behalf of our country.
Let me say in closing, we cannot simply accept short-term political considerations based on a reaction to fear to be our guiding principle in matters of national security and intelligence gathering. Likewise, fear should not and cannot trump our fundamental rights as Canadians. Our rights do not flow from security laws; they flow from our fundamental values and freedoms and our ability to exercise those rights even when our sense of security is under attack.
We should not, we must not, subjugate our rights to the ebb and flow of circumstances or tragedy. I hope that some of my colleagues on the other side of the House will take note of the support from the National Firearms Association and break away from their traditional “just vote no” mentality to this opposition private members' bill and that they demonstrate that they understand the true merit of a bill of this nature.
Ms. Joyce Murray (Vancouver Quadra, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for this additional opportunity to speak to this very important matter, which is how we can embed civil liberties and rights and freedoms within the framework of our security and intelligence agencies and thus make them stronger and more effective.
I would like to respond to a few of the comments that the parliamentary secretary for the government made in her remarks. I acknowledge and appreciate the respectful tone of her remarks. It would be great if this debate were to continue.
I would again invite the members of the Conservative Party to take a look at the bill for themselves and consider voting to support it and bring it to committee.
The parliamentary secretary talked about the various oversight capacities of organizations and agencies such as CSIS, CSEC, and the RCMP. Each of them is very different, and the overall set of security and intelligence activities of the Canadian government also includes the Canada Border Services Agency, the Department of Citizenship and Immigration, and the RCMP.
The parliamentary secretary proved my point that there is a grab bag of different oversight, none of it having parliamentarians, who are responsible to the public, playing a primary role. Given that grab bag of varying oversight, it is clearly a challenge to have an integrated look at the security and privacy of Canadians.
A citizen is one citizen, and whether it is one agency or another out of the six or seven agencies, it is that citizen's right to privacy and security that we are talking about. Without any integration of the oversight, there can only be gaps and duplications. That is one of the very strong arguments is for a committee of parliamentarians.
Our Five Eyes partners have adopted that model because a committee of parliamentarians can look at that entire landscape of security and intelligence activities. That is not happening now. Each of those organizations has some oversight by commissioners or committees, but to look at it in its entirety and identify where there are gaps and duplications is exactly how this parliamentary committee can add value to the ministers responsible.
This morning we heard from a former minister of national defence who had been a member of the SIRC committee for seven years. He said that the key value of a parliamentary committee looking at all of these agencies is that it can identify pitfalls and barriers and can alert the ministers to them so that the ministers can be stronger and more effective in doing their job of ensuring the security and privacy of Canadians. That is a very strong argument.
In addition, the fact that the committee members would be parliamentarians who have a responsibility to the public is a far more powerful approach than we currently have with SIRC or with CSE, in which a commissioner has little requirement to bring any detail forward to the public. I believe the current commissioner is doing a good job, but much of what he is doing is voluntary. That is why the strengthening of the CSEC commissioner is an important element.
One last point I want to make is that the prior commissioners of CSEC and prior chiefs of CSEC or CSE have called for this very committee themselves. Therefore, I am wondering why the Conservatives disagree with those who should know best what the most effective oversight model would be for our security and intelligence agencies in Canada.