Adjournment Proceedings – Public Safety (Bill C-51)

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I rise on adjournment proceedings to pursue a question I asked the Prime Minister on February 18. The response came from the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. The response was not responsive.


On February 18, having been opposing Bill C-51 in this place since February 2, I welcomed with open arms the decision of the official opposition to join me in opposing this quite terrible piece of legislation. I also rose to defend the official opposition, as I discovered through question period that every question was premised on the notion that if a member opposed Bill C-51, he or she was one of two things, either someone who had not read the bill or someone who was ideologically opposed to everything the Conservative Party stood for.

My point on February 18 was how the Conservative Party would reconcile the notion that people who opposed Bill C-51 had not read it or were ideologically opposed to the Conservative Party, when at that point, the editorial position of The Globe and Mail, based on having read the bill, based on the detail that was found in their editorials, and also as a newspaper that generally has endorsed the current leader of the Conservative Party, the Prime Minister, time and time again, did not seem to fit the talking points.

Since that time, the National Post editorial board has also come out against Bill C-51 as rushed and dangerous. Voices, hardly of the left, such as Conrad Black, on the pages of the National Post, said that if Bill C-51 was passed, this country would become, in his words, “an unrecognizable despotism”.

There have also been voices of caution from people such as Rex Murphy. Then, in a more non-partisan sense, we have had the warnings of four former prime ministers, five former Supreme Court justices, and over 100 legal scholars.

In the face of all that opposition, and more, such as the Canadian Bar Association and others, we had the travesty of what was considered a hearings process for Bill C-51. Witness after witness was pushed through quickly.

I would remind the House that back in 2001, when the first anti-terrorism legislation was passed, we certainly did not take a long time to do it after 9/11, but there were witnesses, and they were not insulted. There were witnesses, and they were heard. There were questions from parliamentarians, who were actually interested in the information, not in just shutting down debate, as the parliamentary secretary did over and over again, talking through the time when she might have asked a question to instead attack the people in the room or to presume that she could explain the bill away, explain the problems away.

Having been through this process, I have to say that it is the least respectful, most appalling, anti-democratic treatment of any bill in the history of this country. I have never seen such a travesty of a fake review of legislation, such a bulldozer to push something atrocious through this House.

As a member of Parliament, I am entitled to sit in committees. I then had to sit through clause by clause, where I was coerced into appearing because of a motion passed by that committee that insisted that members like me show up in committee to speak to each motion we make, each amendment, for 60 seconds, but then we were attacked and insulted and treated as though anyone who sees the flaws in this legislation must favour terrorists over Canadians.

This kind of insulting, offensive rhetoric in a parliamentary committee reviewing legislation that offends our Charter of Rights and Freedoms is completely unacceptable.

When will the Conservatives learn that it is not just voices of opposition parties but a wide consensus of Canadians, from the left, from the right, from legal professionals, and from former prime ministers, who say, “Do not pass this bill”?

Roxanne James: Mr. Speaker, it is certainly a pleasure to rise in the House this evening to discuss Bill C-51, the anti-terrorism act, 2015. As we heard from credible witnesses at committee, this is an important bill to ensure the safety and security of Canadians, which remains this government’s top priority. The threat of terrorism is all too apparent in the wake of events in Canada and around the world. The committee that studied the bill repeatedly heard that the threat was real, that it had grown and that it was evolving.

Our government needs to evolve with that threat, which is exactly what Bill C-51 proposes to do. The proposed measures in Bill C-51 will ensure that the government is better able to protect Canadians and Canadian values, such as freedom, democracy and tolerance. This is a comprehensive package of measures that will provide our security and law enforcement agencies with the tools and flexibility they need to more effectively detect and disrupt national security threats before they can harm Canadians.

First, it would ensure that information relevant to national security would be shared and actioned in an effective and responsible manner. Second, the bill would enhance the powers of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service in order to better address the threats to the security of our country. The bill would also bolster the protection of information in immigration proceedings when disclosing the information would be injurious to national security or endanger the safety of any person. Fourth, Bill C-51 would further mitigate threats to transportation security and prevent air travel for the purpose of engaging in terrorism.

Additionally, the legislation would better enable police to detain suspected terrorists and to prevent threats. This is a measure that every police representative and person in national security intelligence who appeared before the committee stressed was an important tool to all of them. Although the opposition and the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands have refused to listen to the police testimony regarding the importance of these tools, our government has, and we will provide them to our law enforcement and national security agencies to ensure they can prevent terrorist attacks from taking place in this country.

Finally, the bill would provide witnesses and national security proceedings with additional protection.

These legislative enhancements mirror many of the same authorities already available to our closest allies, including the United Kingdom and Australia.

Bill C-51 will serve as an important step forward in our country’s counterterrorism capabilities and reinforce our commitment to protecting Canadians at home and abroad. In doing so, it would also ensure that adequate safeguards would be in place to protect the rights of Canadians. Most important, the measures would be implemented under Canada’s already existing robust security review mechanisms and institutions.

Freedom and security go hand in hand. The provisions within Bill C-51 are designed to protect both. The highest responsibility of our government is to keep Canadians safe and keep our country secure. Although the opposition is unable to come to grips with the need to stop the terrorist plague known as the Islamic State, we will not stand on the sidelines as Canadians are threatened, either at home or from abroad.

Canada’s national security institutions require modern tools to counter modern threats. I urge all members to support Bill C-51 and stand behind the work of our law enforcement and national security agencies.

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I assure the hon. parliamentary secretary that I listened to the witnesses, although I was not allowed to ask them a single question. Even when the hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca gave up a point in his minutes to allow me to ask a question, the hon. parliamentary secretary denied me the opportunity. I do not know why the Conservatives were so afraid of my questions.

I have read the bill and I have studied it. I agree with the Canadian Bar Association and with security experts.

Let me stress this one point in the seconds I have left. The bill would not make Canadians safer. It would make us less safe. It would unleash CSIS as a secret agency to disrupt affairs without any obligation to report its activities to the RCMP, and with no pinnacle of security operations to ensure that Canadian border security, the RCMP, CSEC and CSIS know what each other are doing.

As the hon. former Justice John Major of the Supreme Court said, when we have agencies such as this operating in isolation and in silos, mistakes will happen. That is how Air India happened. This bill would make us less safe.

Roxanne James: Mr. Speaker, all members of this House believe strongly in Canadian values. Freedom, democracy, and the rule of law are bedrocks of Canadian society and so, too, is security.

The important functions of the Privacy Commissioner and Auditor General continue to be respected in ensuring accountability for government activities related to this bill. These are effective institutions, which have served Canadians well. Although, yesterday, the member dismissed as nonsense departmental officials’ clarifications regarding the misinformation being spread, we respect our hard-working officials and their expertise, along with the dozens of witnesses who appeared before the committee to explain why the legislation is absolutely critical.

While the opposition continues to work to handcuff our police and blindfold our national security agencies, and fails to support measures to protect Canadians, our government will continue to do the complete opposite to ensure that law enforcement and national security agencies have the tools necessary to protect national security and every single Canadian in this country.