Interventions in Committee
 
 
 
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View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2016-11-29 15:48
We would certainly support that amendment, Chair. We would point out that it's entirely consistent with the 1981 report of the McDonald commission. Paragraph 38, page 897, is exactly in line with what Mr. Clement has proposed.
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2016-11-29 16:11
Thanks, Mr. Chair.
I think members will remember that Craig Forcese, among others, called the access provisions in this bill a “triple lock” that could “make the committee...stumble.” This is right in the middle of the mandate, giving any appropriate minister the ability to simply unilaterally determine that any review would be injurious to national security. I am pleased to see that an identical amendment has been moved by the Conservatives as CPC-4.
The objective of this amendment is to try to provide more credibility to this committee. It would grant the oversight committee essentially the same powers that the Security Intelligence Review Committee has had for many years and that the CSE commissioner enjoys today.
The issue of oversight interfering with operations is, indeed, a real concern—that's acknowledged—but it is hardly a new problem. SIRC and CSIS have testified that they resolve these disagreements routinely and have done so for decades. I am simply proposing that this committee conduct itself with the same powers and discretion that SIRC has had.
I just want to remind the committee of two key points of witness testimony. Ron Atkey, who was the first chair of SIRC, said that this ministerial veto “reflects a reluctance to have the committee...act as a true watchdog.”
Second, the Information Commissioner said this: “This override essentially turns the committee's broad mandate into a mirage. It will undermine any goodwill and public trust that may have been built up towards the committee and, by extension, the national security agencies it oversees.”
Mr. Chair, I would urge members to heed her warning and adopt this amendment, which is endorsed by Kent Roach, Craig Forcese, and the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2016-11-29 16:18
Thank you.
I certainly agree with what Ms. Watts has said. If you just look at the language, you see it's so different from other legislation. It's been around for 30 or 40 years. The Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act use words like “reasonably be expected to be injurious”, which gives a certain discretion and an ability to meet an objective test. Here it allows any appropriate minister—the Minister for CBSA, or the 17 agencies to which this bill is subject—to roll in and say, “This review would be injurious to national security.” There would be no opportunity to address that anywhere else. It could be a unilateral reason, which certainly this government wouldn't use to hide things simply because they were embarrassing, but other governments might do so, and this is a bill that's here for a long time. It's not going to be amended anytime soon.
It also has to be understood, in response to Mr. Mendicino, in the context of the existence of sections 14 and 16; hence the triple lock. Just to refresh the committee's memory about what Ron Atkey said, he said we've had this open-ended power, and it's not ever been abused. He said there have been tensions from time to time, but matters have been worked out, and to his knowledge, security operations have not been compromised.
I don't understand why the government wants a triple lock and why they would erode so dramatically the credibility of this entire exercise.
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2016-11-29 16:40
Thanks, Chair. I have just three quick points.
First, “activity” is undefined and it seems broader than “operation”.
Second, when the Security of Information Act talks about “special operational information”, it's clear what they are talking about. In paragraphs 14(a) through (g) it is sources, military plans, methods, targets, agents, and the like. I think in the community, under the security tent, there's a pretty good understanding of what that means.
Third, remember that the Information Commissioner came here and testified that CSIS refused to give information on a campus outreach program. It had nothing to do with operational information. That's precisely why we need to narrow this.
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2016-11-29 16:52
If the question is directed at me from Mr. Mendicino, I go to the Information Commissioner's story that she wanted information about a campus outreach program that CSIS was conducting. It's surely not an operation but surely an activity. That's, I would have thought, something a committee oversight of CSIS would want to be able to look at and not to let the government come in ab initio and simply say, “You can't go anywhere near there.” They have all of clauses 14 and 16 still outstanding, but to be able to say no to something like that.... I, for one, if I were on the committee, would like to know what they are doing on the campuses of our land. That is exactly what a parliamentarian should be doing, but it's not an operation. It's an activity.
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2016-11-29 17:14
If it's okay with the chair, we ask for that to be addressed later in the proceedings. I understand that has some better merit, as far as the government side is concerned. We would ask that it be deferred until later.
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2016-11-29 17:14
If it would help you, Chair, after Liberal-15, I think, would be the appropriate placement.
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2016-11-29 17:35
Thanks, Chair.
I guess this is pretty straightforward. In our view and the view of most witnesses who dealt with this issue, the committee lacks a very basic power, namely the power to compel witness testimony and the production of documents. Both the CSE commissioner and SIRC have that power. Indeed, this committee would have had that power, but as Ms. Sheehy pointed out, we're not a parliamentary committee. Since the committee we're creating here is not a parliamentary committee, it doesn't automatically inherit the powers of a parliamentary committee. We need to specify this very basic power.
My amendment to grant the power is supported by Craig Forcese, Kent Roach, and Ron Atkey, who testified, as well as others. If we don't pass this amendment, then we're forcing the oversight committee to rely entirely on requests to government minsters as their sole channel for getting information. In my view, as well as that of Messrs. Forcese, Roach, and Atkey, that places much too much power in the hands of the government of the day and undermines the faith Canadians would have in this new committee.
Lastly, Mr. Chairman, I note that this power is necessary on its own merits, regardless of the decisions we take in a few moments on amendments to the committee's access to information, proposed sections 14 and 16. To be clear, it is not inconsistent for the committee to fall short of unrestricted access to information and have the power to call and hear directly from witnesses.
Mr. Atkey said this, when he talked about the power to compel documents and testimony:
This may be necessary where public servants are reluctant to respond to reasonable requests by the committee, or in situations where private sector individuals have particular knowledge about a security activity being carried out by a particular department
For those reasons, Mr. Chair, I think this is perhaps an oversight, but I think it's necessary for us to correct this deficiency.
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2016-11-29 17:40
Thanks.
I appreciate the thoughtful comments of Mr. Di Iorio. I just want to say, though, that many of our parliamentary committees would never be seen as judicial or quasi-judicial, but they all enjoy the power to make sure people come and testify before them.
I was counsel to SIRC for many years, and I don't think they ever needed to use the power to compel, but the fact that it was there made it obvious that people would come and testify. Sometimes, Mr. Chair, the agency may choose to send the head honcho or they may send a public relations person, but what the committee needs is the Calgary analyst or some individual down the chain in order to do the job. If they choose to balk at that and we never get the person who is really at issue, then we can't do our job for Canadians.
I think Mr. Clement has nailed it. This is a common sense provision, without which I do not see the credibility of this committee.
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2016-11-29 17:43
I think that's an excellent suggestion, and I would be happy to proceed along those lines.
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2016-11-29 18:59
I fear we're pushing uphill here and may not be able to succeed, but I just would note—and the point was made by Mr. Clement—that there are all sorts of examples in which non-judicial or quasi-judicial bodies have the power to summon witnesses or to get information. Standing Order 108 would be a pretty good place to start.
Second, there appears to be nothing that would allow the committee to summon an individual here. Subclause 15(4) says that information may be provided orally—the official “may appear before the Committee”—but there is nothing to say that if an agency wanted to stonewall this committee and bring only somebody who is their PR person when the committee felt it needed to have an individual who knew what they were doing on the file, there's no way we can get that information that I can see in the bill, short of having a summons power. I don't see anything in the bill that would allow that.
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2016-11-29 19:00
All the lawyers on this committee surely know from your slip and fall at the Safeway store that to get the PR person for Safeway to come in, first it's a case of getting the janitor who caused that can that's broken to be on the floor, which caused me to break my back. You don't want the head honcho from head office; you want the person who knows what's going on. To not get that is to make this a joke.
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2016-11-29 19:01
With respect, I entirely disagree. Once we have before us a certain subject area that the committee thinks is important, it has the ability and should have the tools to delve into it, not simply to take the minister's idea as to who the most appropriate person to come would be. It's part of the mandate of the committee to do its job and to delve where it has to and to go where the evidence takes it.
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2016-11-03 16:10
I'd like to say thanks to both of you. It's terrific to have such eminent experts in front of us. I have only seven minutes, so I'm going to jump right in, starting with Mr. Atkey.
I just wrote down very quickly what I thought were some of the amendments to the bill that you thought were appropriate. Based on your experience in cabinet, and as the chair of SIRC, and with the Arar commission, do you think the following would strengthen this bill? I have the following five recommendations from what I think was in your testimony.
First, remove paragraph 8(b) that allows a minister to block investigations injurious to national security.
Second, narrow or remove the discretionary power of ministers to withhold information from the oversight committee.
Third, amend subsection 21(5) to require that any use of the redaction powers of the Prime Minister be transparent; in other words, so Canadians can see how much information was removed or revised and for what specific reasons.
Hon. Ron Atkey: It's not Canadians, but the committee of parliamentarians.
Mr. Murray Rankin: That's right.
Fourth—and this I'm not entirely sure about—have an elected chair rather than one appointed by the Prime Minister. I think you said that you didn't like notification and thought that at the very least ratification by Parliament made sense.
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