Elizabeth May Report Stage Speech on Bill C-51

Monsieur le Président, je remercie mes collègues. Le projet de loi C-51 est non seulement affreux, mais il est également dangereux.

I want to pause for a moment because this is not an ordinary debate, this is not an ordinary bill and this is not about politics anymore. This is about the soul of the country and a question of whether we understand what Canada stands for, for ourselves and what we represent around the world.

We just bowed our head in prayer and the Supreme Court is taking a look at bowing our heads in prayer and we may be visiting that some day, but we just, through the words of the Speaker, asked us to pray that we make good laws and wise decisions. If we meant that prayer and then we pass Bill C-51, our words are blasphemy because it is neither a good law nor is it wise.

The story that the Prime Minister would like to have Canadians believe about this law is that in this place some members of Parliament, the ones in the Conservative Party, want to protect Canadians from terrorism and other members of Parliament, namely Greens, New Democrats, the Bloc, Independents and I certainly hope in future the Liberal Party will come to its senses and join us, but those of us who will vote against Bill C-51 do not care about security.

Certainly in the course of clause-by-clause, various Conservative members of that committee actually said what a shame the Green Party is willing to, I think the words used were “privilege the rights of terrorists above those of Canadians.” That is the story Conservatives want Canadians to hear, to think that we are so concerned with rights and freedoms and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and civil liberties that we would turn a blind eye to the threat of terrorism.

When the bill was first tabled and of course it was initially launched at a campaign style rally in Richmond Hill, Ontario and not in this place, something we are becoming all too familiar with as sort of a routine contempt of Parliament by launching big initiatives and laws outside of Parliament with cheering crowds and campaign banners, but when this was first launched, the Prime Minister said: “Violent jihadism is not a human right, it is an act of war”.

It is an extraordinary thing to say as if anyone had ever suggested that violent jihadism was a human right. It set up a frame in which those of us who oppose Bill C-51 are somehow associating ourselves with violent jihadism.

In response to that torqued campaign rhetoric, we have the words and the advice of some of the country’s leading constitutional and legal and operational security experts in relation to this notion of an act of war, the words from Professor Craig Forcese from the University of Ottawa and Kent Roach from the University of Toronto who said: “False analogies between crime and war can contort law”.

We need to look at this bill which is an omnibus bill of five different sections, five different laws, thrown together and rushed through Parliament and rushed through committee and ask the question, does this make us safer? I ask my colleagues not to fall into the trap of saying it is civil liberties versus protecting us from terrorism. Does the bill make us safer? Does it actually confront terrorism in a fashion that makes Canadians safer? Then we can have the discussion of whether we are willing to make compromises about civil liberties because the bill will make us safer. We see how cleverly the Conservatives’ spin puts us wrong-footed before we even begin.

The assumption is the bill makes us safer and I want to spend most of my time this morning at report stage to persuade as many colleagues as I can that the bill is dangerous because it makes us less safe while pretending that all of the losses of civil liberties that the bill represents, the violations of privacy and indeed the most unprecedented anti-constitutional, anti-democratic provision in any law that has ever come before this place, a law to allow a CSIS agent in a secret trial before a judge where the only evidence presented is from the government and the existence of the hearing will never be known to the public to provide a CSIS agent with a warrant to violate our Constitution. It is astonishing. A constitutional breach warrant. But let us look at the question of does the bill make us safer?

After the rush of witnesses through the House, they already began the hearings in the Senate. Therefore, before we had completed our review of the bill in this place, and here we are at report stage, the other place has already begun its review.

However, I think some of the most powerful testimony yet on Bill C-51 came up in the Senate from a British security expert who has worked as a liaison officer within the Canadian security establishment. In other words, he is an operational spy. He has worked for MI5 in security intelligence and he has worked in Canada as a liaison officer with Canadian security. He is an expert at what we need to do to make ourselves safer, which is find and stop terrorist plots. His name is Joe Fogarty. He introduced himself to the Senate and I have his testimony before me, from which I will quote. He said:
“The question I was asked to address was why it appeared to be the case that the relationship between the police service and MI5 in the United Kingdom was so close, with such easy sharing of information and with such a consistently strong outcome in terms of arrests, prosecutions and convictions in national security cases.”

He contrasts that, since 2001, in Canada there have been 30 terrorism-related arrests whereas in the U.K. there have been some 2,000, and these figures do not include Northern Ireland. However, it could just be that we do not have very much terrorism activity here, but it could also be that we have set up silos for security services and police operations, which do not work with each other and actually can trip each other up.

In that sense, Mr. Fogarty gave further testimony, which I found quite shocking. He put forward examples which are quite recent and said that, “These are in the public domain”, but are not that easy to find. He said:
“…CSIS discovered the location of a suspected terrorist training camp inside Canada…it decides not to tell the RCMP about it.”

Another example: “CSIS realized that the RCMP was following the wrong targets. So having identified certain people who are believed, by that stage, to be threats to public safety, realizing that the RCMP was following the wrong people, CSIS decided not to say anything.”

This evidence from Mr. Fogarty, which I will come back to, is directly relevant to testimony that the House of Commons committee did hear, because John Major, former Supreme Court Justice who chaired the Air India inquiry, pleaded with the committee not to pass the bill in its current form and not to pass it without oversight.

However, part 4 of the bill would create for CSIS new powers of disruption, and as I mentioned earlier, allow a CSIS agent to get a warrant from a judge to break domestic law and to violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Nowhere in Bill C-51 are CSIS agents required to share information with the RCMP.

Now, we will hear from Conservatives that we should not worry because part 1 of the bill is all about information sharing. Yes, the words “information sharing” are used, but they are not about sharing information between CSIS, Canadian Border Services Agency, CSEC and the RCMP. Those are the four different agencies that are collecting information and have a role in disrupting terrorist plots, but there is no oversight. There is no pinnacle command. There is nobody watching what each entity is doing, and there is no requirement to share information. On the contrary, we have set up a system where there are disincentives to sharing information.

Mr. Fogarty testified very clearly that in the U.K., due to a law that was passed back in 1996, a situation was created under that legislation that “…national security material is afforded third-party status in criminal proceedings as a matter of statute”.

With that assurance, in the case of the U.K., the police would then be working with MI5. However, in Canada, we do not do that. Therefore, Mr. Fogarty found that the legislation before us, like our current system, lacks any oversight. I cannot say that clearly enough. We have a review committee in SIRC, but that is not oversight.

Here we have a situation where a security expert came before Parliament and to the Senate committee and said:
“At the minute…with the greatest of regret, if you continue with the situation in which your security intelligence agency is reluctant, for very good reasons, to share with your law enforcement team, this is the equivalent of sitting on top of a tragedy waiting to happen.”

“I was asked this question a number of years ago… I was asked to have a look at which bits of the Canadian operational relationship I would incorporate into the U.K. because, as liaison officers, you were very acquisitive and looking for best practices all over the world…with the greatest of respect, I wouldn’t incorporate a single aspect of it, at the minute, because it’s dangerous.”

Here, we are being told by the Conservatives and the Prime Minister that we must accept a bill that would trample on the Constitution and our rights and freedoms, and that would violate our privacy rights, because it would make us safer. Here is the big lie. It would not make us safer. It is dangerous. It would make us less safe. It would create circumstances in which CSIS and the RCMP operate in silos. That led to the Air India disaster.

I plead with my colleagues to reject this bad law.