Elizabeth May on Bill C-51 (Adjournment Proceedings)

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, ironically, I am rising to pursue a question on a bill that has now passed the House but is still before the Senate, so I think it is relevant to take up the issues relating to Bill C-51.

It is ironic to revisit this question. Let me share with the House what transpired on February 6 in question period. I asked the hon. Minister of Justice about two aspects of Bill C-51. One aspect related to the use of the word “lawful” to qualify protests in describing those exclusions from activities that might be seen to threaten the security of Canada. The second dealt with the new powers given to CSIS agents.

I used the word “ironic” in referring to the first part, and it will become evident when I repeat my question of February 6 for the Minister of Justice relating to the use of the word “lawful”. I asked:

Will [the Minister of Justice] amend the act to ensure that non-violent civil disobedience is precluded from the ambit of the act?

To that part of my question, the Minister of Justice responded by saying:

…protections against lawful protest [are already] covered by the act. This would not pose a threat to individuals who engage in lawful assembly.

Of course, my question was very specifically about the question of non-violent civil disobedience and protest that was, by definition, not lawful.

Time has passed, and we are all aware that in the clause-by-clause study, it was the Conservative members of the committee who, anticipating that this was a simply untenable piece of legislation and that the language used in the section would not work, actually made the change that I was requesting. In a rare instance in this place, I can say that although the Minister of Justice on February 6 denied that there was any problem with the word “lawful”, in the end that word was removed to ensure, or at least to increase the likelihood, that people engaged in non-violent civil disobedience would not be caught up in the ambit of the act.

The second point remains quite relevant. The second question that I asked the Minister of Justice was:

…please explain to the House the purpose of part 4, clause 42, that in taking measures to reduce the threat to the security of Canada, CSIS shall not “violate the sexual integrity of an individual…”

I was cut off at the end of the question, but I was trying to ask him why such a section would be included. His response was to say that:

…the mandate of CSIS [is] not extending beyond its lawful authority and, of course, being subject to judicial oversight.

Let me pause for a moment on the Minister of Justice’s claim that Bill C-51 includes judicial oversight. It clearly does not. Many witnesses testified to this extent and to this point.

Judges are involved in the section that I related to the minister. Clearly, a judge is involved. A judge is allowed to grant a warrant to a CSIS agent to break domestic law or to violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but that is not judicial oversight. It means there would be secret hearings at which only government would be represented. There would be no special advocates to ensure that the public interest is protected. Moreover, there would be no opportunity for the judge to ensure that the warrant that he or she would issue would be executed properly or appropriately. As well, there would be no ongoing oversight of any kind over CSIS’ activities, now that they have been empowered by the House but not yet by the Senate to engage in disruption activities, nor would there be any oversight over security operations, in particular between the RCMP, CSIS, CSEC, and Canada Border Services Agency.

This is where the risk lies. These different security agencies would operate without knowledge of what the others are doing, thereby making us less safe.

Colin Carrie: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak tonight and address some of the misinformation that is still being spread about this bill. There was a lot of unusual stuff in that question from the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.

The international jihadist movement has declared war on Canada. Canadians are being targeted by jihadi terrorists simply because these terrorists hate our society and the values that our society represents. Jihadi terrorism is not a human right; it is an act of war. That is why our government has put forward 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.

That is also why Canada is not sitting on the sidelines, as some would have us do. Instead it is joining its allies in supporting the international coalition in the fight against ISIL.

The concept of a threat to the security of Canada is clearly defined in the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act. That definition has been there since the legislation was originally passed, and the anti-terrorism act, 2015 does not change that definition at all.

In the CSIS act, threats to the security of Canada comprise terrorism, espionage, sabotage, and foreign influenced activities. They also include violent or unlawful covert acts to overthrow our constitutional system of government.

To further clarify misinformation being spread by the opposition continually, I want to remind members that CSIS is not permitted by law to investigate lawful advocacy, protest, and dissent. Under its new mandate, it would not be able to disrupt these activities either.

In fact, it is our police forces that work to protect our rights and freedoms and it is the jihadist terrorists who threaten our security and want to take away our freedoms.

While I am on my feet I will take this opportunity to ask the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands to do the right thing. Several days ago, that member made ridiculous comments about admitted terrorist Omar Ahmed Khadr. He pleaded guilty to heinous crimes, including the murder of American army medic, Sergeant Christopher Speer, and our Conservative government has vigorously defended against any attempt to lessen his punishment for these admitted crimes.

While the Liberal leader refused to rule out special consideration for this convicted terrorist and the NDP actively tried to force Canadian taxpayers to compensate him, we believe victims of crime, not the perpetrators, are the ones who deserve compensation.

That is why the member opposite must apologize to Tabitha Speer, who was left without a husband, and Tanner and Taryn Speer, who were left without a father at the hands of this cold-blooded terrorist.

Elizabeth May:
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has created the impression that the issues I raised about Bill C-51 are taken in ignorance or denial of the risk of jihadi terrorists. It is quite the contrary. My point, which he would have heard had he been listening, was that by creating disruption activities by CSIS agents without proper oversight and with no requirement for pinnacle control between CSIS and the RCMP, we are in fact leaving ourselves more vulnerable to such terrorist attacks.

The advice to the public safety committee from John Major, the former Supreme Court judge who oversaw the Air India inquiry, was very clear. He advocated for a national security adviser to operate in pinnacle control. However, witness after witness urged that we have some way to ensure that CSIS agents and RCMP officers connect with each other, that they know what each other is doing, and that someone provide oversight. That is what is missing in this bill. That is what makes it more dangerous.

Colin Carrie: Mr. Speaker, I would encourage the hon. opposition member to read Bill C-51, the anti-terrorism act, 2015. I find that reading the bill is the best way to find answers to these questions.

Once again, I will repeat that CSIS is forbidden from investigating or disrupting lawful advocacy, protest, and dissent.

This bill would also place firm limits on what CSIS could do to disrupt threats.

Canadians expect security and intelligence agencies to have the tools they need not just to gather information, but also to prevent threats from being carried out against Canadians and Canadian interests. They also expect politicians not to glorify terrorists.