Elizabeth May on Bill C-51 (adjournment proceedings)

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I rise tonight at adjournment proceedings to pursue a question that I initially asked earlier this year. I asked the question on February 17. It relates to the current debate, Bill C-51, the so-called anti-terrorism act but it is actually an omnibus bill with a much longer title, five bills rolled into one.

The Prime Minister gave me the courtesy of actually responding to my question and this is his entire response. He said: “I think it is very well known that the anti-terrorism act, 2015, is designed to deal with the promotion and actual execution of terrorist activities, and not other lawful activities.”

Having heard that very sensible sentence from the Prime Minister, now let me say what the question was and why the Prime Minister’s response formed no answer at all.

What I have been trying to ascertain from the Minister of Public Safety, from the Minister of Justice and, indeed, from the Prime Minister, is how this bill would affect dissent in this country if it should fall outside of the modifying word “lawful”. We will find that phrase in the bill, in part 1, following a great long list, which I must emphasize. In describing activities that undermine the security of Canada, the list that is provided in that section from (a) to (i) is not an exhaustive list. It comes under a list that has the preface, “including any of the following activities”.

It is not exclusively just this list of activities, but it is quite overbroad in its definition. In the list, (a), for example, is: “interference with the capability of the Government of Canada in relation to intelligence, defence, border operations, public safety, the administration of justice, diplomatic or consular relations, or the economic or financial stability of Canada;”

It goes on from there to list, “interference with critical infrastructure”. However, this is just a list. It could be almost anything. At the end of this list, comes this phrase, “For greater certainty, it does not include lawful advocacy, protest, dissent and artistic expression”.

As I said on three occasions in question period when my questions were responded to by the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Public Safety and the Prime Minister, what I have been trying to point out is this. How will that phrase protect the kind of dissent that falls outside the word “lawful”; such as an activity that does not have a permit, such as an activity that is a conscious and deliberate decision to conduct non-violent civil disobedience, knowing that the activity is not lawful, knowing that one may be arrested, but also knowing that one has no intention whatsoever to do anything that is violent or a threat to anyone except to make a statement of conscience? When Rosa Parks sat down in the whites-only section of the bus, that was illegal and under this language we are in trouble.

In 2001, when the previous government first put forward an anti-terrorism act in response to 9/11, this same debate took place. The word “lawful” appeared as a modifier in front of “protest”. It took then Minister of Justice, Anne McLellan, some considerable time to agree with the opposition that the word “lawful” would make illegal wildcat strikes the subject of security and intelligence operations.

The word “lawful” should be removed from Bill C-51; and I wonder when Conservatives will understand the question.

Rick Dykstra: Mr. Speaker, I will attempt to respond to the member’s question, although I think it is fairly straightforward and understandable. It is in the notes here, but I am surprised she would not actually realize it.

The international jihadist movement has declared war on Canada. Canadians are being targeted by jihadist terrorist simply because they hate our society and the values that we hold dear.

We reject the argument that every time we talk about security, our freedoms are threatened. Canadians understand that their freedom and security go hand in hand. Canadians expect us to protect both, and there are safeguards in the legislation to do exactly that.

There is the fundamental fact that our police and national security agencies are working to protect our rights and freedoms, and it is jihadist terrorist who endanger our security and want to take away those very rights and freedoms. Under our government, Canada is not sitting on the sidelines, as the Liberals and NDP would have us do. Instead, we are joining our allies in the international coalition to fight ISIL.

I would like to take this opportunity to dispel some serious misconceptions about the important bill.

First, the definition of activities that undermine the security of Canada applies only to part 1 of Bill C-51, which would enact the security of Canada information sharing act. Under the security of Canada information sharing act, information could only be shared if it related to a specific activity that would undermine the sovereignty, security or territorial integrity of Canada, or the lives or the security of the people of Canada. Information that meets this threshold may only be shared if it is relevant to the recipient organization’s jurisdiction or responsibilities for national security.

First and foremost is national security. The security of Canada information sharing act notes for clarity that lawful advocacy, protest, dissent and artistic expression do not fall within the definition of activities that undermine the security of Canada. Even if some activities of advocacy, some that the member spoke about, protest, dissent or artistic expression are unlawful if they violate the Criminal Code, they would also need to have a national security impact to qualify. Therefore, in addition to being criminal, they would actually need to undermine the sovereignty, security or territorial integrity of Canada. As Rosa Parks did by sitting in her seat, while it may at the time have been deemed unlawful, it certainly would not have met any of those three thresholds.

The act would not authorize any new collection or use of personal information, and recipient institutions would still limited by their lawful mandate in the collection and use of information, including information received under the act. The act does not override specific limitations respecting collection or sharing of information and recipient institution statutes.

Part 4 of Bill C-51 would amend the CSIS Act. This is not linked to the security of Canada information sharing act. In fact, part 4 of the bill would mandate CSIS to disrupt threats to the security of Canada. The concept of a threat to the security of Canada is clearly defined in the act and includes terrorism, espionage, sabotage and foreign-influenced activities. It also includes violent or unlawful covert acts to overthrow our system of government.

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, once again, I am dismayed on the point that the word “lawful” was removed in 2001, because it inevitably does include non-violent civil disobedience, wildcat strikes and perhaps events that take place without a permit.

The language to which the parliamentary secretary referred is the very definition that I just read out, which numerous legal experts, including 100 law professors in our country, four former prime ministers and five former Supreme Court justices, have said is vague and over broad. In particular, the Privacy Commissioner for our country has said it would actually blow a hole through privacy rights. That is why it is a very scandalous reality that the Privacy Commissioner is not allowed to testify at the Bill C-51 public safety hearings that are taking place just now.

I will also add for anyone listening that the act would allow the sharing of information “to any person, for any purpose”. This is a dangerous provision for information sharing and it should be removed.

Rick Dykstra: Mr. Speaker, we could stand here and do this all day and all night. The fact is that it is clear that the member is trying to find specific issues. I have relayed them back. She gave an example. I stated the example. In this case, it was an American example, Rosa Parks, who certainly would not have been arrested under any kind of conspiracy or any kind of national security act. The member knows it.

Instead, I would love to hear her speak about the issue of national security we face here in this country from a jihadist movement that has actually acted here in Canada on two occasions that we know of. We have prevented other terrorist activities from happening. What I would like to hear from her, instead of getting into the intangibles of the legislation, which it is clear she has an opinion on, is whether she supports the direction this government is moving in. That is certainly the direction most Canadians believe we should be moving in.