Bill C-59: Overreaching powers for CSIS agents

Elizabeth May

Mr. Speaker, I thank and commend the hon. member for Windsor West for his thoughtful speech. I certainly thank the New Democratic Party caucus for joining me in the 41st Parliament in opposing Bill C-51.

I think there have been substantial improvements made in Bill C-59. I think we would all agree with that, but I remain very concerned that the powers are overreaching for CSIS agents to seek a court order from a single judge that would allow a warrant for a constitutional breach. I have raised this in briefings we have had with officials. Officials claim that the language in Bill C-59 would mean that they could not get a warrant that violated the Constitution and the charter, but the language in the bill itself appears to negative that proposition. It appears that it would still allow CSIS agents to receive a warrant that would allow them to violate our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

I know that I am diving into the details of the bill, but it would take a lot of study. Many sections are very much improved, and the government deserves commendation for those sections, but these are the ones that chill me to the bone in terms of how our democracy functions and whether we allow security agents to obtain a warrant to violate our Constitution.

I wonder if my friend for Windsor West has any comments.

Brian Masse – Windsor West

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is getting into some of the details, but I think the details are very important. When we start to look at the practical applications of those details and how it affects people’s lives, it is a very pertinent and important question and very much germane to what I am concerned about with regard to personal privacy.

The member is absolutely correct with regard to the language. There is a contradiction there, which can become a discretionary call. We saw this before with the Maher Arar case and then other cases. If there are no clear, explicit rules for understanding how to move on an actual item of information or an individual, it can create immense complications for them. I know for a fact that when CSIS agents have decided, for whatever reason, and sometimes they are good reasons, I am assuming, to interview or intervene with a family in Canada, it is almost impossible to do so without the community knowing in one way or another. Even the most innocent elements can have a disastrous effect on a family and the perception of that family in the community. This is one of the reasons we cannot have these grey areas or contradictions that are in the legislation right now.

I come from a community of 200,000 in the general Windsor area. The greater Windsor area is larger than that. I can tell members that if there is some type of engagement with a family by CSIS, it gets beyond the personal boundaries, which can be quite complicated. Fishing expeditions, if they become that way, can have traumatic repercussions for families, including their children.