- MPlibMar 13, 2015 9:15 am | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
With regard to the Correctional Service of Canada: (a) what is the current policy on the use of administrative segregation; (b) what changes to this policy are being considered; (c) who has been consulted with regards to any proposed changes, and when did these consultations take place; (d) has the Correctional Service of Canada received any analysis or advice on the constitutionality of the current administrative segregation policy and, if so, (i) when was it received, (ii) who provided the advice, (iii) what were the results or recommendations; (e) what is the proposed timeline for announcing any such proposed policy change; (f) what is the proposed timeline for implementing any such proposed policy change; (g) how many inmates will be affected by any such proposed policy change, broken down by (i) facility type, (ii) location; (h) what additional public costs are projected to be incurred as a result of any such proposed policy change; and (i) what are the titles, dates, and file numbers of any reports, memoranda, briefing notes, dockets, studies, or other records pertaining to any such proposed policy change?
- MPlibMar 10, 2015 2:45 pm | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-637, an act to amend the Criminal Code with respect to firearms storage and transportation, which is a private member's bill put forward by the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette.
As is typical of the government, it is not part of a public safety package that brings together a number of areas for public safety from the government itself. We constantly believe, on this side of the House, that even though bills are coming forward as private members' bills, they are one-offs, often not well thought out, and often on small issues. In fact the member could not even give us the information whether any charges had ever been laid under this particular bill. They are coming forward as private members' bills and often they really complicate the criminal justice system and do not make for good public safety policies. Many of them come forward just to try to create some political discourse for internal objectives of the Conservative Party of Canada and to try to drive wedges between Canadians on different sides of the issues.
I am concerned, and we will oppose this legislation because any weakening of the provisions to store and transport these weapons—it is a strong word—is against the interest of public safety. Simply put, the legislation would take away the criminal liability for unsafe storage and transport of these weapons, which can and do inflict injury. This raises serious concerns related to public safety, particularly related mostly to children but to youth as well.
As others have said in the House, I expect there are many who have used BB guns and pellet guns as kids in their own life experience. I certainly have. They do cause harm. It is possible to lose an eye. I had a neighbour who in fact had that happen many years ago. That was not safe use.
The member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette mentioned himself that the use of BB guns and pellet guns is good training for later in life in the safe use, transport, and storage of these weapons. Having these restrictions there makes good sense for long-term lifetime use of other guns that may be used in hunting and experiences later in life. Therefore, it is important to keep these restrictions in place to ensure that happens, because it is a training ground for young people. They recognize then that the law is there.
The legislation seeks to ensure that BB guns, airguns, and most likely pellet guns are not deemed firearms for the purpose of their transportation and storage. Therefore, the Criminal Code provisions related to the transportation and storage of firearms would not apply to these weapons. That is basically what the bill does. We maintain though that, simply put, the legislation would take away the criminal liability for the unsafe storage and transportation of these weapons, which can and do inflict injuries. This raises serious concerns about public safety, especially as it relates to youth.
There appears to be no dispute of the fact that BB guns, pellet guns, and air guns are weapons and are fully capable of discharging a projectile, which can cause serious injury, if not death. Therefore, we believe it is against the interest of public safety to weaken provisions on weapons that are often used by children. The Liberal Party of Canada believes in a balanced gun control approach that prioritizes public safety while ensuring that law-abiding firearms owners do not face unfair treatment under the law. We do not believe the current situation is creating that unfair treatment.
It is important to note that in Justice Rosenberg's Ontario Court of Appeal decision of September 4, 2013, the following was stated, which raises serious public safety concerns:
If an airgun that otherwise meets the definition of “firearm” in s. 2 because of its dangerous nature and its capability for causing injury, is not found to be a firearm because it does not also meet the use and intended use requirements in the definition of “weapon”, it escapes regulation under s. 86. It would be lawful to leave such a dangerous object in an area where children might have access to it, or to shoot it in a dangerous manner. Liability would attach only if someone actually was injured or killed. Such an interpretation would not be consistent with the public safety objective of the legislation.
He makes the point that we on this side of the House believe is necessary to be made, and that is that these can cause harm. Transportation and storage is part of the regulatory requirements to ensure that they are done in a safe manner and consistent with the law. As I said earlier, that is good training ground for guns that may be used later.
An analysis by the Library of Parliament of Bill C-637 indicated the following with respect to the consequences of this legislation:
Bill C-637 adds s. 84(3.2) to the Criminal Code, which would extend the deeming provision to section 86 and the provisions of the Firearms Act as they relate to the transportation and storage of firearms. This means that air guns or BB guns with low muzzle velocities would not have to be treated like firearms and need not be stored and transported in the way firearms are required to be. Since air guns or BB guns do not fit within any of the other categories of weapons listed in section 86, it follows that these types of weapons would not be required, by this section of the Criminal Code at least, to be transported, stored, etc. with “reasonable precautions for the safety of other persons.”
That is a very important point.
The Library of Parliament goes on to say:
This does not mean, however, that more general provisions concerning criminal negligence could not be applied. Section 219 of the Criminal Code defines “criminal negligence” as showing “wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons.”
If they are used in that fashion, the other charges would apply.
I have no problem and, in fact, believe the use of BB guns and pellet guns is good training, but I do believe the current law should apply. Therefore, it does not need to be changed as this private member's bill would do.
I do not have time to quote the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, but it is very concerned about BB guns and pellet guns being used as weapons. They can be replica firearms and, therefore, used in criminal activity.
There is concern on the part of police associations. Basically, the bottom line for us is we do not believe this bill is necessary.
- MPlibMar 10, 2015 2:35 pm | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
You certainly wouldn't know.
- MPlibMar 10, 2015 2:30 pm | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
Mr. Speaker, I have somewhat the same concerns as raised by my colleague the critic for the NDP. Who has the member talked to with respect to the police? I am getting an entirely different story from the police organizations to which I have talked.
My question relates to the facts and why this bill is here. Has the member researched how many charges have already been laid against individuals under this section for BB guns and pellet guns? Is the member talking about a huge concern?
- MPlibFeb 27, 2015 9:10 am | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
With regard to changes to the Large Business Audit Program, whereby audits may be performed by Canada Revenue Agency offices in cities other than the location of the business audited: what has been the effect of these changes for audits conducted after the change compared to those conducted before, particularly in terms of penalties, fines, and revenue collected per audit?
- MPlibFeb 19, 2015 2:40 pm | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
Mr. Speaker, the member is absolutely correct. There are certain areas, and I cannot think of the section, in the original Combating Terrorism Act extended in 2007, that have not been utilized. One should note that some of the current arrests were made under the old legislation.
Be that as it may, the point she has raised comes back to my original point. What is really needed is a lot of oversight, and we have expressed this at committee. Questions can be raised of the national security agencies. Why are they not using current laws? Is there a reason? Is there a problem on the prosecution side? Is the law not strenuous enough? Is the threshold too high?
It comes back to the whole substance around my remarks in which we would put members of both Houses on an oversight committee with expertise in the field, who could see classified information, who could ask the hard questions on a day-to-day basis of those security agencies to ensure that they were using the laws available, that they were doing their job and that they were not overextending their powers and getting into civil liberties and undermining our freedoms and values.
- MPlibFeb 19, 2015 2:35 pm | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of areas of concern in the legislation that we think go too far.
The member for York West mentioned the fact that it says in the bill:
For greater certainty, it does not include lawful advocacy, protest, dissent and artistic expression.
The word “lawful” really changes the ability of certain activist groups to show their dissent in many ways. We are going to ask the experts. We may put forward an amendment to remove that word.
In fairness to the House, I think we have between 26 and 30 amendments at the moment on technicalities in the bill. Therein lies the reason we need sound, robust parliamentary hearings with legal experts and people who work in the security field. It is to make sure that we get the bill right in all areas.
I would again emphasize the three key areas we are asking for: sunset clauses to allow certain laws to cease to exist; a statutory mandatory review, so we can look at the good, the bad, and the ugly in the bill down the road; and parliamentary oversight, as our Five Eyes partners have in their democracies around the world.
- MPlibFeb 19, 2015 2:30 pm | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
Mr. Speaker, I respect the member immensely. I actually quite enjoy being on a number of panels with him.
I think all we really have to do in response to that question is go to the article with the extensive number of signatures in today's Globe and Mail, entitled: “A close eye on security makes Canadians safer”.
Four former prime ministers signed that paper. I did myself, as well as a number of others who have been justice ministers and solicitors general. It is actually calling for more oversight.
The difference between the Liberals and the NDP is that we have been in government. We have made the hard decisions on public safety. We know that there are hard decisions, when the terrorist threat is higher, on public safety issues.
However, when we were in government, we also balanced that legislation. We believe this legislation can be balanced yet again. It can be amended to improve it. It can be balanced with sunset clauses, mandatory reviews, and oversight to make it better legislation to ensure that the security agencies really do what they ought to do.
If that does not happen, if the government does not accept our amendments, then we will put those three key amendments in our election platform, and Canadians will have the opportunity to decide on the balance of national security and civil liberties.
- MPlibFeb 19, 2015 2:10 pm | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
I am serious, Mr. Speaker, and the member knows that is what happens. It happens at my committee. Members follow that direction. They are members in their own right; they can stand on their own two feet. What I am saying is that the process has to change if we are going to make this legislation good legislation. I ask members to really look at this issue seriously and not to take direction in that fashion. There is concern about the civil liberties of Canadians and freedom of expression. We have to listen to those witnesses.
I want to give an example of what a couple of people I have talked to have to said, people whom we will put forward as witnesses. First, there is quite a series of articles in the press these days by two individuals, Craig Forcese and Kent Roach. They have a paper they sent us that is close to 40 pages long. They are doing a summary of the key concerns with the bill. This is what they say at the beginning of the summary:
If Bill C-51 passes, CSIS will be expressly authorized to “take measures, within or outside Canada, to reduce” very broadly defined “threats to the security of Canada”. Where authorized by Federal Court warrant, these “measures” may “contravene a right or freedom guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms” or may be “contrary to other Canadian law”.
It does not matter whether I agree or disagree with that statement. There is a concern expressed there that we should look at seriously. These two individuals admit it themselves. They add an additional word relevant to this in a document dealing with CSIS. They say:
We are legal academics who have been researching and writing on issues of national security law (Canadian, international and comparative) for a sum total of 26 person years (between the two of us).... We are, in other words, an occasional and minor part of the national security “accountability sector”, to the extent that such a thing exists in Canada.
These people have a point of view. They have an expression of interest that we ought to listen to.
I also met with the Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association, which also has concerns. That association was founded in 1998 by a small group of Toronto based Canadian Muslim lawyers. It has over 300 members across Canada and active chapters in Ontario and Quebec. The association states:
Bill C-51 is deeply flawed legislation that should not become law. Before we begin to integrate and concentrate power in government agencies on national security matters, we should first implement the remedial findings of many commissions of inquiry into the matter, most notably the Arar Inquiry.
As national security functions become more integrated it makes sense that there is a concomitant and effective counterbalance in terms of independent review and oversight. Such a body would have jurisdiction over all national security agencies and functions, including CSIS, CSEC, the RCMP and a host of other agencies (some of them currently have no oversight).
That is their opinion. They are suggesting that there needs to be much broader oversight.
These are just two examples of witnesses that we need to listen to. However, in order to make the proper amendments, accept them, and bring in those ideas, the government has to be willing to make some amendments.
To turn specifically to the issue of oversight itself, sadly, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Public Safety, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and, today, the Minister of Justice have been misinforming Canadians. Let me repeat that. Some of the highest officers and political ministers in this land have been misinforming Canadians on what exists, and what is and is not in this bill. It really is troublesome that the top political office in the land either does not know the limits of the Security Intelligence Review Committee or has not been totally forthright. I do not know which it is.
Let me turn to what the Security Intelligence Review Committee itself has said. It said that it is not an oversight body. Let me turn to its annual report for 2013-14. On page 12 of that report, in section 2, it says:
An oversight body looks on a continual basis at what is taking place inside an intelligence service and has the mandate to evaluate and guide current actions in “real time.” SIRC is a review body, so unlike an oversight agency....
SIRC itself admits that it is not an oversight agency, but even if it were an oversight agency, which it is not, it is not broad enough to really review national security. If we look at schedule 3 of Bill C-51, another seven agencies have been included there. I think some of them were here before. We are adding the likes of the departments of health, national defence, and transport to SIRC, CSIS, CSEC, the RCMP, and police forces of local jurisdictions, all of which are involved in these security matters, and transferring information across departments. There needs to be a much broader oversight that even a slightly improved SIRC could handle.
I mentioned earlier the protections that we as a Liberal government put in place on the extended powers in the anti-terrorism act of 2001. There were sunset clauses in which laws would cease to exist. There was a mandatory review. In 2004, we recognized that there was still a greater need, which was for the oversight of all security agencies. As a result, an all-party committee was proposed and put in place. It held hearings and made some recommendations, and Bill C-81 was introduced. However, it died on the order paper. I will come back to that in a moment.
Simply put, a previous Liberal government introduced legislation to provide for oversight by parliamentarians similar to that of our Five Eyes partners, the U.K., the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. Today, in The Globe and Mail, four former prime ministers put an article in the paper, signed by a number of justices and former attorneys general, et cetera, entitled: “A close eye on security makes Canadians safer”.
It starts by saying:
The four of us most certainly know the enormity of the responsibility of keeping Canada safe, something always front of mind for a prime minister.
They went on to say:
Yet we all also share the view that the lack of a robust and integrated accountability regime for Canada's national security agencies makes it difficult to meaningfully assess the efficacy and legality of Canada's national security activities. This poses serious problems for public safety and for human rights.
They went to say said:
Canada needs independent oversight and effective review mechanisms more than ever, as national security agencies continue to become increasingly integrated, international information sharing remains commonplace and as the powers of law enforcement and intelligence agencies continue to expand with this new legislation.
People who have been in the same position as the Prime Minister are calling on the need for oversight. Such a security oversight agency was called for by a former public safety committee while the current Prime Minister was in office. In a report dated June 2009, tabled in the House of Commons, it called for that, in recommendation 5:
The Committee recommends, once again, that Bill C-81, introduced in the 38th Parliament [by a Liberal government], An Act to Establish the National Security Committee of Parliamentarians, or a variation of it, be introduced in Parliament at the earliest opportunity.
That recommendation was supported by six members who currently sit in the House: the member for Yorkton—Melville, who chaired that committee; the member for Oxford; the member for Brant; the member for Northumberland—Quinte West; the member for Edmonton—St. Albert; and the member for Wild Rose.
The previous recommendation for Bill C-81 was supported by the current Minister of Justice and the current Minister of State for Finance. What has happened to those members since the leadership changed and we have the current Prime Minister? How come they are not still calling for oversight? They know that SIRC is not oversight. SIRC has claimed that it is not oversight. Did they lose their voice? Do they not stand by what they previously believed in, what they held hearings on? Oversight is important, and that is what we must implement in this bill, as well as a number of other amendments we will be putting forward.
As a final point, I will report on what the British Intelligence and Security Committee does. The members of the committee are subject to the Official Secrets Act. In their annual report, they say this:
The Committee sets its own agenda and work programme. It takes evidence from Government Ministers, the Heads of the intelligence and security Agencies, officials from the intelligence community, and other witnesses as required.
They monitor on a day-to-day basis. They keep intelligence agencies honest. They protect on two sides, as Bill C-81 would have done. It would have ensured that security agencies are doing what they are supposed to do and second, that they are not going too far in terms of infringing on civil rights and freedoms.
Let me close with a quote from my leader in yesterday's speech:
We are hopeful that the government is serious about reaching across the aisle to keep Canadians safe, while protecting our rights and our values.
It can be done. We need sunset clauses. We need a mandatory statutory review, and we definitely need oversight. I am sure both the NDP and Liberal Party will have many amendments to improve the bill in other ways, but the government has to reach across the aisle and allow Parliament to work.
- MPlibFeb 19, 2015 2:05 pm | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
Mr. Speaker, I am most pleased to speak today to Bill C-51, the anti-terrorism act, 2015. It is an important bill and all sides have expressed strong views about it. We saw that in the lead-off speeches yesterday and have seen it in some of the discussions here today.
The bill should not, and I underline this, become a wildly partisan debate. Let us show Canadians that in the House, the 300-plus of us who are here, we can make this a better bill. The government does not have all the answers, but collectively we can produce a better bill. I ask the government to allow amendments to improve the bill.
This is an extremely serious matter. It does indeed affect all Canadians. We have a responsibility as parliamentarians to find the proper balance between national security and civil liberties and freedom of expression.
In my remarks today I do not want to get into all the technicalities of the bill, the unlawful versus the lawful distinction, et cetera, but to focus on two key areas: one, process; and two, oversight, which is extremely important. The last speaker said there is oversight. There is not oversight in this bill and the Conservatives should know that.
I will start with a statement by the leader of the Liberal Party yesterday:
...keeping Canadians safe in a manner that is consistent with Canadian values is our most sombre responsibility as legislators and community leaders. To ensure that we never lose sight of our Canadian values and never forget who we are, we should always aim to have both the security of Canadians and the protection of their rights and freedoms in mind when we set out to combat those threats.
The question is, how do we do that? How do we find that balance? We can do that, certainly by allowing witnesses from a strong cross-section of Canadian society to be heard, and when they speak at committee, we all have to listen.
The government must be prepared to accept amendments based on legal expertise, based on human concerns, and based on evidence-based testimony. I will in a moment outline some of those concerns, just to touch base with the concerns expressed in that area by individuals and groups and to make the point why they must be heard.
May I also say in fairness to the cabinet that I and a number of colleagues in this corner in the Liberal caucus understand the pressures that one is subject to when looking at an intelligence briefing in the morning about a terrorist threat. We understand the pressure that pushes government to give security and police agencies greater power and authority to challenge those threats.
I hope those threat assessments coming to the government are brutally honest, telling the facts as they are and are not exaggerated. I was not impressed, to be quite honest, by the Prime Minister's speech in Richmond Hill, where I do think he went over the top in terms of the threat to Canadian society. However, only those who have those assessments would really know what that threat is.
I can remember in my own caucus, as my colleagues here with me can recall, and certainly the member for Mount Royal, the strenuous debate we had and how fortunate we were to have that both there and within Canadian society and in committee when we brought in the Anti-terrorism Act of 2001 and expanded on it later.
However, because of that debate we put in sunset clauses to ensure that certain authorities granted to the police and CSIS would cease to exist at a certain point in time. We put in place a mandatory statutory review so that this chamber and the committee could review the good, the bad, and the ugly of that legislation at a certain period in time.
We do not see any of that in Bill C-51. Hopefully, amendments can be made that will draw in those points. However, in order to have amendments, the process has to change. Let us not fool anyone here. We all know what happens at committees. I talked about it earlier today. The parliamentary secretary sits fairly near to the chair of the committee on the government side. Government members are lined up in a row. Over against the back wall is the staff for the government side. Sitting among them is the staff for the whip's office. In there too is the staff for the PMO. Mike Duffy called them “The boys in short pants”. Well, they are both boys and girls because I have seen them, women and men. It is as if that guy or gal against the back wall is pulling the string of the parliamentary secretary.
- MPlibFeb 19, 2015 1:50 pm | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
Mr. Speaker, where did the member get the information from about my time as solicitor general? I was the solicitor general who named Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist entities. I know a lot of members over there like to think otherwise. I can table a document in the House tomorrow to prove that point, if the member desires.
This is not the first time. Over a year ago, the member for Winnipeg South Centre, in a Standing Order 31, made the same comments. Two weeks ago, the member for Wetaskiwin made a personal attack against me, saying the same thing again.
The member's information is incorrect. This is an important debate. We are talking about national security in our country. Some of us are trying to balance that against civil liberties. Some of us have been in the position of some of those people in the front row on the other side.
Why do you lower your honour by using those talking points that are—
- MPlibFeb 19, 2015 1:45 pm | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. As solicitor general, I named Hezbollah and Hamas as terrorist entities. This kind of misinformation cannot continue. Call the member to order for that misinformation. That is absolute—
- MPlibFeb 19, 2015 1:20 pm | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Churchill for her remarks. I do not know what exactly was said on the other side, but it was something along the line that she has a great imagination. These are serious concerns of serious people that need to be addressed. I agree with the member for Churchill in that respect. I know she made a great effort to get here to make this speech. I ran into her at the door when she was coming in, huffing and puffing, but she still made her remarks to the House.
I come from of an organization that has been involved in many demonstrations, the National Farmers Union. To make a political point, it dissented, it demonstrated, it put tractors on the road, and maybe stretched the line in terms of whether or not it was sometimes lawful. That word worries me in the bill, where the latter states, “For greater certainty, it does not include lawful advocacy, protest, dissent and artistic expression”. Liberals will be asking that this word be taken out.
From the perspective of the member for Churchill, if that word were removed from the bill, would it make a difference or would she still have a lot of concern? I know there have to be a lot of amendments, but I would like her to answer on that particular point.
- MPlibFeb 19, 2015 1:05 pm | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member for York Centre talk about how the powers in this are similar to those in the U.K., and that is true. In fact, in some instances, they do not go as far. However, in the U.K., as in the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand, there is strong parliamentary oversight. I could quote from the British document all the areas that are surveilled, but I will leave that for a later time. If we are going to compare this bill to the U.K., then let us compare it in all of its aspects. The U.K. has strong parliamentary oversight. I ask the member if he would agree that we need that strong parliamentary oversight.
Second, he talked about sunset clauses in the bill and that they would continue. That is true. Some would, but the new sections of the bill would not sunset. Proposed sections 83.221, 83.222, and 83.223 would not be sunsetted, and they ought to be.
If the member is talking about how he agrees with the sunset clauses continuing, will he agree to amendments to sunset those other clauses that are new and would not be covered?
- MPlibFeb 19, 2015 12:45 pm | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary should know that we are supporting the bill, but we are very hopeful that Parliament will be allowed to work. There are a lot of clauses in the bill around which there are questions, on which we need expert testimony, and on which we need legal advice.
Could the parliamentary secretary assure us that the amendments will indeed be allowed?
She went on at length about judicial oversight. However, anybody who is watching this debate knows that judicial oversight is not enough.
Judicial oversight is between the judge and CSIS, and there might be a special advocate at times protecting the public interest, which might be different every time, but CSIS is arguing why it needs the warrant. Too many mistakes have happened in the past, and Judge Mosely, on December 20, 2013, came down with a decision. He said that CSIS breached its duty of candour to the court by not disclosing information that was relevant to the exercise to the jurisdiction by the court:
...the Court...determined that the execution of the type of warrants at issue in Canada has been accompanied by requests made by CSEC, on behalf of CSIS, to foreign agencies...for the interception of the telecommunications of Canadian persons abroad.
The court concluded that this is “not authorized under any warrant issued by CSIS...”.
The point is that there is pressure on the judges. What we need in addition to that is parliamentary oversight. Will the parliament secretary support that?
- MPlibFeb 18, 2015 12:55 pm | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
Mr. Speaker, I will come back to my question on oversight. I know that the minister and his parliamentary secretary try to make the point that they want a non-partisan committee. As the current Minister of Justice knows, the other oversight committees among our Five Eyes partners are from all parties. Their interest is national security and they do it in a non-partisan way.
I will quote from the SIRC report:
To establish and maintain the confidence of both chambers of Parliament and the trust of Canadians, Parliament’s role in this area must be, and be seen to be, independent of the Executive (Cabinet).
Why, in heaven's name, would the minister not allow Parliament to do its job and provide proper oversight to all the security agencies, including CSIS and the others? Why is the signature of the Minister of Justice not worth much?
- MPlibFeb 18, 2015 12:50 pm | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
Mr. Speaker, the minister said that the bill is well balanced. We certainly question that.
Moreover, the minister stated that SIRC, the Security Intelligence Review Committee, provides third-party oversight. Sadly, at the beginning of this debate, the minister has already misinformed the House. Let me quote from SIRC's annual report:
An oversight body looks on a continual basis at what is taking place inside an intelligence service and has the mandate to evaluate and guide current actions in “real time.” SIRC is a review body, so unlike an oversight agency....
SIRC claims that it is not an oversight agency. Why is the minister continuing to claim that it is? His seconder to this bill, the current Minister of Justice, was part of a report in 2004 that called for proper oversight, similar to what our Five Eyes have. He, at the time, refuted that SIRC is a proper oversight agency. Why did the minister leave oversight out of this bill?
- MPlibFeb 17, 2015 1:25 pm | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question. He made the point himself that in so many areas that the government operates in, it really does not look at evidence-based research in its approach to policy. It has an ideology and goes with that. It will cost us substantially down the road.
In fact, when we compare the Conservatives' tough-on-crime agenda with being smart on crime, we are seeing them going in the opposite direction from some of the states in the United States. They realized that punishment and penalties alone are not the answer and that they have to get offenders into rehabilitation.
In direct answer to the member's question, the Correctional Investigator has said time and time again that there needs to be money for programming, but the money has been reduced. Research shows that it is programming, not penalties, that actually gets people off their addictions and makes the prison population safer as a result. It also gives those people a better opportunity to become contributors to Canadian society when they get out of prison.
- MPlibFeb 17, 2015 1:20 pm | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
Mr. Speaker, the $9 million figure that the parliamentary secretary indicated they are spending on these issues is, I would expect, correct, but $9 million of what? How does it relate to the year before?
We cannot get any real numbers from the government, no matter how hard we try. Even the Parliamentary Budget Officer cannot get the numbers from the current government, because if there is anything it does not want to believe, whether it is about marijuana or prisons or anything else, it does not want to get into evidence-based research that might tell the real facts. I will re-quote what the Correctional Investigator said in his testimony:
We've seen a decrease in the actual dollars being spent on substance abuse programming this year over last year.
That is what is important. The Correctional Investigator is telling us that the Conservative government is not spending the dollars it ought to be in dealing with the drug addiction problems within our prison system.
- MPlibFeb 17, 2015 1:00 pm | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-12, the drug-free prisons act. The place to begin is to acknowledge a straightforward fact, which is that the bill will have hardly any consequence in ensuring that prisons are drug free. It is a much bigger issue than that. Even one of the members, one of the backbench Conservative members who was there for one meeting, in discussing the bill at committee, indicated as much himself. It is a name; it is not action in terms of this particular bill.
I am always amazed, and I have said this before, at the deception of the government. They think that if it can name a bill a certain way, it will happen. It will leave the perception in the public that the Conservatives are actually doing something, but they are not. What is really required is action.
The government somehow believes that if we can treat addictions by threatening those who suffer from addiction we are actually doing something. Research has shown that on the drug issue, threats alone are not enough.
The previous member who spoke talked about drug addiction as being a health problem. Somewhere around 75% to 80% of the people who go into prison actually go in with either a drug or alcohol addiction, and many of them have mental issues as well, so there has to be treatment beyond the penalties the government is talking about imposing.
The government somehow believes that it will achieve drug-free prisons if it coerces even further those offenders about to qualify for parole. There will be some people who do not achieve parole as a result of this decision. Is that the right thing to do? Is there a better way of handling that? Those are issues that need to be looked at.
Somehow the public is to believe that this legislation will actually accomplish something new. It really will not, and that became clear from the evidence presented at committee.
The title of the bill is misleading in the extreme, while the contents of the legislation actually add little, if anything, to the situation relative to those inmates on parole. I will come to that in a little bit.
Bill C-12 is another in a long line of government legislation, some of it private members' bills from the Conservative side as well, that use victims and offenders for their ideological ends.
The first point is this: Does the bill actually bring forward new policy related to the issue of drug use and those applying for parole? The answer is a simple no. Bill C-12 actually adds nothing to the parole process that does not already exist.
In direct answer to a question I posed to the chair of the Parole Board with respect to the Parole Board being able to exercise its full discretion as it has so far, the chair responded, “That is right”. Let me rephrase that. What I was really asking the chair of the Parole Board was whether this bill would take discretion away from the chair, and it does not. The Parole Board would still have the discretion it has always had, although the bill tries to make it look otherwise.
The Conservatives have said that there was a substantial change in that regard. The fact is, Bill C-12 does not alter the ability of the Parole Board to do the job it has been doing all along. The chair of the Parole Board actually went even further when asked whether any new requirements in this legislation will add anything to the current practices of the board.
I will quote his answer. He stated:
The new information that will be provided with the legislation will trigger a review by the board, as is currently the case when any new information regarding an offender is provided to the Parole Board of Canada prior to an offender's release, which we obtain from CSC.
Again, what is contained in Bill C-12 is already in practice. It has been the practice of the Parole Board.
That is why the bill is more perception. In my view, it is not just perception, but the way the government named this bill, the drug-free prisons act, is deception to the very core when it has very little to do with that and does not deal with the real issue of drugs in prisons.
If we are to stop drugs in prisons, we have to stop the market. If we are to get people off drugs, penalties are will not do it alone. It requires programming, treatment and constant follow up. That is the only way to get people off these addictions. There is no question that people face drug and alcohol addictions. Some people do small break and enters and some get into greater crimes as they get hooked on drugs. It is a serious problem and we have to reduce the market both in prisons and in Canadian society.
I will tell a story about the correctional system. I will give the government some credit for maintaining some of the programs that were started years ago to get people off drugs.
A constituent of mine had a son who was terribly addicted to drugs, got caught doing a small crime, and was going to be sentenced to two years less a day. That parent came to me to see if I could advise her in any way on how to get her son committed to a federal institution, which is a very tough place to spend time. Of course, there was nothing I could do.
Her concern was that her son would go into a provincial institution for a small crime. Because he was so addicted to drugs, he would commit bigger crimes over time. She felt if she could get him committed to a federal institution for two years or more, maybe her son would be able to take part in the programming to get him off drugs and become a better contributor to Canadian society.
I raise that point to indicate how serious the drug issue is and just imposing penalties, as this bill would try to do based on a urine sample, is certainly not in any way going to make prisons drug free.
When the Correctional Investigator testified before the committee, he too expressed his observation that Bill C-12 added nothing to the process and procedures currently in use with respect to the parole of offenders. He stated:
The window of opportunity targeted by this bill is very narrow....As members might be aware, the parole board already takes into consideration positive urinalysis results or refusal to provide a sample when making parole eligibility decisions. The board also frequently imposes a “do not consume” or “abstain from drugs and alcohol” prohibition on those on parole or statutory release and temporary absences. Bill C-12 would simply put these practices into legislation.
The Office of the Correctional Investigator, whose specific role is the environment within which federal offenders are maintained and hopefully rehabilitated, has issued report after report with direct reference to the issue of drug use within our federal institutions.
Again, with respect to Bill C-12, the Correctional Investigator was clear about the obvious intent motivating the legislation. He said:
—Bill C-12 contemplates cancelling a parole grant on the basis of a positive drug test regardless of when the drug was ingested. Without condoning drug use, we should be clear-sighted about the consequences of proposed legal measures. This is not about making federal prisons drug-free or treating substance abuse. It is about punishing illicit drug use in prison.
That is a pretty serious charge from the Correctional Investigator. It is about punishment; it is not about cure. We will not make prisons drug-free unless we find ways to establish a cure.
I would remind the government that the objective of drug-free prisons is not something that the legislation before us would even faintly achieve.
In its 2011-12 annual report, the Office of the Correctional Investigator made the following observation with respect to the prevalence of drugs within our federal prisons. It reads:
A “zerotolerance” stance to drugs in prison, while perhaps serving as an effective deterrent posted at the entry point of a penitentiary, simply does not accord with the facts of crime and addiction in Canada or elsewhere in the world.
According to that same annual report of the Correctional Investigator, “Almost two-thirds of federal offenders report being under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicants when they committed the offence that led to their incarceration”. The current population is about 15,000, so that would mean about 10,000 people. However, what is more disturbing is that a very high percentage of the offender population that abuses drugs is also concurrently struggling with mental illness.
My point in raising these facts is that it is a much bigger issue than urine testing. As the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca said earlier, it is a health issue. It is a huge issue in our society and in our prisons. We have to use programming that actually deals with the addiction problem to get to the bottom of this issue.
Yes, these people in prison have committed a crime, but in most cases, they will come out and be on our streets again. How do we give them the best opportunity to become good citizens and contribute to our economy, raise families and live in communities? That is what we should focus on here and not just the punishment aspect that the bill tries to portray.
The Correctional Investigator in his 2013-14 annual report was critical of the government's continued refusal to develop a comprehensive program to respond to continued drug use in penitentiaries and to undermining a key program within Correctional Services Canada, CSC, to address the addiction program
With respect to the former, the report found that:
Interdiction and suppression in the absence of a more comprehensive range of treatment, prevention and harm reduction measures will not eliminate the demand (or supply) of contraband drugs or alcohol.
According to the evidence provided to the public safety committee by the commissioner for CSC, upon admission, “about 80% of offenders arrive with a serious substance abuse problem”. He went on to inform the committee that anywhere up to 90% of a standing prison population would have a lifetime problem of substance misuse or dependence and that “this dependency does not magically disappear when they arrive at our gates”, meaning the prison gates.
Members can see how big the issue really is.
The critical issue then is that of therapy for those incarcerated with substance abuse problems. On this point, the record is clear. Again, the Correctional Investigator confirmed in his testimony before the committee that “We've seen a decrease in the actual dollars being spent on substance abuse programming this year over last year”. I want to emphasize that quote because it is something the parliamentary secretary earlier indicated might have been untruthful.
Let us call the bill for what it is. Unless the addiction issue is addressed, a problem acknowledged by public safety itself, titling a bill a drug-free prison act is really an act of fraud. It is deception, deception to the core. A drug-free prison act means nothing. The only way to get drug-free prisons is if we do the programming inside prisons. CSC admits 80% of the people have a drug or alcohol addiction before they come into the prison. That may have been part of the reason why they did the crime that put them there in the first place, or there may have been other background issues.
Yes, they have to do their time and pay the penalty and pay the price to society for the crime that they undertook, but if we are to have a better society as a country, we have to make prisons places of rehabilitation, not universities for crime. Make them places of rehabilitation that these individuals can come out, be gainfully employed and contribute to our society.
I am running out of time, but let me make one last point. I want to emphasize the fact that we will support the bill. The bill will not do any harm because the Parole Board still has discretion at the end of the day, although there will be some pressure on the Parole Board as a result of the legislation maybe to deny parole where it otherwise might not have. However, the bill will not do a whole lot of harm, but it sure as heck will not do a whole lot of good either.
I would encourage the government to do this. Instead of giving bills fancy titles and taking up House and committee time with a bill that really would do very little, it would be better off to come in with rehabilitation programs for individuals, stronger programs, to get off drug and alcohol addiction so when they have done their time, they can contribute to society in a way that will help our economy and communities. The objective ought to be that.
- MPlibFeb 17, 2015 12:55 pm | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca on his remarks. I think they were honest and to the point. One thing I have found about the member is that his research is good. It is evidence-based research, not the kind of lines we get from the government. There is good research there.
There are many concerns. I hear them too. They are about double bunking and about families fearful of the kind of search they may have to go through when visiting prisons. There are lots of problems the government fails to recognize, so I appreciate it when the member puts those concerns forward. A government that was doing its job instead of attacking those with concerns would try to learn from them.
The bill is called the drug-free prisons act. What would the member recommend we do to make prisons drug free? What needs to be done? We know this act will not do it. It is an act of deception. What really needs to happen to assist inmates to become more drug free?
- MPlibFeb 17, 2015 12:20 pm | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
Mr. Speaker, like the critic from the NDP, I too wondered if the minister was really talking about a different bill than Bill C-12, in the way he basically painted it all out of proportion. The bill's title shows the kind of deception that comes forth from the government. The drug-free prisons bill is not going to make prisons drug free.
The minister, in answer to a question, said that the bill was to empower the offender to get free of drugs. The Correctional Investigator, in his 2011-12 annual report, said the following, which I think is the way one empowers an offender:
...a comprehensive and integrated drug strategy should include a balance of measures— prevention, treatment, harm reduction and interdiction.
Will the minister come forward with a program in this area? Does the minister not agree that to really make prisons drug free, these are the kinds of programs that we need, rather than just more punishment, that we really need a drug strategy in prisons to assist people to get off drugs, rather than just penalties?
- MPlibFeb 16, 2015 11:50 am | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
Mr. Speaker, let us come back to the Minister of Justice, who seems to believe that judicial appointments under his purview are to place friends into high placed, high-paying jobs. Nine judges were appointed and six are his friends: the best man at his wedding; his best man's wife; two past Conservative vice-presidents of riding associations; a former vice-president of the Nova Scotia PC association; a friend from law school. Why the ethical lapse? What happened to integrity in appointing judges, or is the minister just exercising patronage heaven for his friends?
- MPlibFeb 16, 2015 10:20 am | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to the remarks from my colleague from Ottawa South.
It seems to me that when we look at the history of the government, we see a certain mentality in the corporate sector now that they really do not need to negotiate with the unions, whether it was Canada Post or the railways in the past or others the government has a certain mandate for. The corporate sector knows that if it negotiates poorly, the government will eventually order employees back to work. That is part of the problem we have.
The member talked about the safety and security of Canadians and the Canadian workforce and about our need for this transportation sector. I wonder if the member could expand a little on why we got to this stage. Is it, as I suggested, that there is a mentality out there that the government will take the side of corporations and order people back to work? Are there other things that the government should have done to prevent this strike so that we would not have had the effect of this two-day loss to our economy?
- MPlibFeb 05, 2015 12:05 pm | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
Mr. Speaker, the member for Malpeque was in fact the solicitor general who named Hezbollah and Hamas as terrorist entities, and why the member for Wetaskiwin—
- MPlibJan 30, 2015 7:55 am | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
Mr. Speaker, I assume that the House is continuing the discussion on this bill following question period. My remarks then will certainly be curtailed because for some reason the government has called a briefing on the new combating terrorism act, or whatever it may call it, at 11:30, which is halfway through question period, and that will go through to 12:30 p.m. Because of the actions of the government, I will not be able to conclude my speech. It is startling that the Conservatives would call a briefing during question period when members are supposed to be here.
Instead of taking time to duplicate the discussion, the member for Alfred-Pellan talked about what happened at committee. I agree with her comments. The ability of the committee to do its work was certainly curtailed. I think we had six witnesses, which is just not adequate to do the job, especially with all the pomp and ceremony by the government and its line that it is fighting terrorism and that the bill is so important. We will see what is in the new bill coming forward this afternoon.
This bill really does absolutely nothing to address the national security concerns that resulted from the recent events in Quebec and Ottawa. It simply amends legislation to meet current CSIS practices and expedites amendments to citizenship and immigration from Bill C-24. We raised with the minister in the House and at committee the point that the government must explain why it is not using existing legislation and the relevant provisions of the Criminal Code. Here I refer to preventive arrest and section 83 of the Criminal Code, whereunder someone, if they are planning, attempting to, or leaving the country to operate with a terrorist entity abroad, can face from 10 to 14 years in prison. We have never had an answer from the government why those sections of the law are not being utilized, specifically subsection 83.18(1). Peace bonds have only been used very rarely, but they are another way of taking people off the streets.
The bill contains provisions related to clarifying CSIS' ability to operate internationally, although according to the deputy commissioner of CSIS in testimony to the Senate national security committee, it will not alter its ability to operate internationally, which it has been doing historically. The bill as well does provide protections to sources abroad. These are similar to the protections provided to informants in domestic cases. We are supportive of that. We have to be supportive of those who work with CSIS in carrying out its duties.
I will close by saying that we will be supporting the bill. We have some concerns about the bill in that the Minister of Public Safety is not required to inform the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of National Defence on activities abroad. That is a concern we raised and we stand by it, but we will be supporting the bill.
- MPlibJan 29, 2015 9:55 am | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
I am good at short answers, Mr. Speaker. The key point is whether it is nationally or internationally. There are ways and means of not allowing our differences to become conflicts, but allowing our complexities and differences to become strengths. Our country can be stronger than the sum of its parts if we have the national leadership to bring the folks around the table to try to find the compromises and solutions to move us there.
The member raised the point on Alberta and energy. Right now we are seeing how important it would have been to have listened to the Council of the Federation and developed a national energy strategy, not having all our eggs in one basket in one energy source or one big industry in the country but having diversity in our manufacturing sector in Ontario, agriculture, fisheries, tourism elsewhere in the country, energy and on and on. We can see that and gain that understanding by bringing first ministers together.
- MPlibJan 29, 2015 9:50 am | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
Mr. Speaker, the member makes an absolutely excellent point. Of course, the first nations should be at the table. When Paul Martin was prime minister, that in fact happened, and out of that came the Kelowna accord. I remember that in caucus, the minister, Andy Scott, worked strenuously to develop that accord. The prime minister and others were brought in, and we got the Kelowna accord. The sad reality is that the government across the way destroyed it right off the bat.
The member makes an important point. We need the players at the table. All the key leaders in the nation affected by policies can unite the nation and make it stronger, and that sector has to be involved.
- MPlibJan 29, 2015 9:40 am | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Bourassa.
It is indeed with great pleasure that I stand in the House today to support this motion:
That, in the opinion of the House, the Prime Minister of Canada should hold annual First Ministers' Conferences.
My background is in the farm movement. As the national president of the National Farmers Union, I had the opportunity to travel in Canada, to all regions of this country, to stay in people's homes, to see the diversity, and to see the opportunity there is across Canada as a whole.
In those travels I learned that regions are very different, and all have their strengths and weaknesses. However, that diversity can be a good thing. In our diversity we can find many strengths. However, to find those strengths and seize them, we need national leadership.
From my experience, I believe that Canada can be stronger than the sum of its parts. We have seen that under previous leaders. They might have been of different political stripes, but they seized that opportunity to make Canada stronger than the sum of its parts by building national programs, be it medicare or pensions. We have seen that strength under various political stripes.
We are certainly not getting it today, not from this Prime Minister. We are a much weaker nation than when this man came to power.
I am old enough to remember the first ministers' conferences, especially those held by Pierre Elliott Trudeau on the Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the Mulroney conferences that tried to deal with some of the problems as a result of the initial constitutional conferences.
Many Canadians, and I was one, watched those discussions. We actually became involved in the debates in our communities. I remember a lot of those first ministers: Peter Lougheed, Allan Blakeney, Bill Davis, René Lévesque, Hatfield, Alex Campbell, Gerald Regan, and others. They had their differences, but they were all trying to build a better nation.
They represented their regions and their provinces, but also out of the discussion there was that theme that they wanted to build a better country. They wanted to build understanding and have their intense debates, some of them behind the curtains, but out of it all we could sense that they were trying to build a better nation.
All the different parties, the Parti Québécois, the NDP, the Liberals, and the Conservatives, were represented at those meetings. They had different ideologies, but they came together to find compromises and to build the nation.
There is none of that today. The government is doing the opposite. It is using its spending authority and the big whip of federal laws to often cause divisions. Here is a prime example. When Prime Minister Martin developed the health accord in 2004, we all benefited. The current government has benefited from that health accord, because every year it talks about the 6% escalator in terms of funding. That all came out of the health accord Paul Martin designed. It was nothing the current government did. In fact, when the health accord was about to end, the minister of finance at the time went to the ministers of finance meeting, which I believe was held in western Canada at the time, and said, “Folks, this is the way it is going to be”. There was no discussion, just the big whip of the federal government with its spending power and authority. That was the end of the discussion.
That is no way to build a country, but that is the way this Prime Minister works.
As well, we have seen changes to the employment insurance system, which has hurt us in Atlantic Canada. We have seen changes to the foreign workers program, which has hurt industry right across the country.
There is no engagement by the current government and the Prime Minister to involve the others to build a nation. It is all based on the Prime Minister's ideology, and I am saddened to say that backbench members over there just stand up and say “yea, yea” rather than think about the concerns of their constituents and what could be better for the country as a whole.
My province of Prince Edward Island is a small province whose main industries are agriculture, fisheries, and tourism. Those industries are seasonal, but when they are operating in season, the economy from those industries spreads across the country. Whether it is inputs like fertilizer, fuel, and transportation or their production moving across the country to spread the economy elsewhere, those industries, although they are in a small province and are seasonal, add to the whole of the country. Given the seasonality of these industries in Prince Edward Island, we require federal equalization payments. Those programs are discussed at some of those first ministers' meetings.
First ministers' meetings provide premiers of both the have and have-not provinces with the opportunity to state the people's case for funding for their provinces directly to the Prime Minister, and to other premiers across the country, and to develop an understanding of how we can pull this country up together.
The success in Prince Edward Island of its industries can change from year to year, given that there may be a drought in the agriculture sector or poor landings in fisheries. Even a low dollar in the United States in terms of the tourism industry can have an impact. In those discussions with other premiers and the leader of Canada, they can try to find ways and measures to accommodate those problems that may develop in an industry.
There was an article in The Globe and Mail by Peter McKenna, a political scientist who was formerly from the University of Prince Edward Island. The article is headlined “It’s beyond time for [the current Prime Minister] to call a First Minister’s Conference”. He said this:
It is worth emphasizing here that one of the unique characteristics of Canada’s federal system is something dubbed “executive federalism.” The key component of summit federalism is commonly known as the First Ministers’ Conference or Meeting, which brings together the prime minister, provincial premiers and territorial leaders (along with their officials)....
The point of these conferences is to discuss ideas of pressing federal-provincial concern, to exchange notes and best practices, and to avoid misunderstandings, a misallocation of resources and even duplication. The hope, of course, is to build a consensus, to craft a common policy response, and to work co-operatively to make Canada a more united and stronger federation. But it is critical that these intergovernmental deliberations should be chaired by the prime minister of all Canadians – and thus guided by a broader, national perspective.
He went into the reasons why the current Prime Minister is avoiding meetings, such as that there is usually the provincial demand for money, and we can understand that. However, Mr. McKenna also said the Prime Minister “...detests these meetings because he can’t control the conferences or those sitting around the table”. In other words, the Prime Minister loses control, and we know that the current Prime Minister believes in control. He believes in controlling the message, although it is not always the facts. As a result, because the Prime Minister is so based on his ideology rather than on looking at the country as a whole, we are all losers in this country.
I encourage backbench members to support this motion and build a better Canada by basically forcing the Prime Minister to do what he ought to have done long ago.
- MPlibJan 29, 2015 8:55 am | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
Mr. Speaker, in saying the Prime Minister is basically hiding in his office, my colleague lays the issue out fairly well. That is what we are seeing.
However, would the member not agree that what is worse than hiding in his office, where he maybe could not do too much damage, is that the Prime Minister's Office has a message machine fully staffed by the bureaucracy of Canada in every department to put out messages that are really deceptions in many ways?
I will use one example that the member talked about, and that is infrastructure. The government announced the biggest infrastructure spending program in Canadian history. It was to take place over 10 years. The problem is the spending really does not start to take place until 2019.
What a first ministers' meeting would do is give premiers the opportunity to lay out before Canadians some of the deception that the current first minister is involved in. I wonder what the member's thoughts might be on that aspect.
- MPlibJan 28, 2015 2:20 pm | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to the remarks by the member for Prince Edward—Hastings, who is also chair of the public safety committee. I enjoy working with him, and he did a good analysis of the various authorities that CSIS has.
I would say that he took a lot of liberty in his remarks about the Liberal leader's comments, and the things he quoted are simply not true. It does not do much for the integrity of the member or his party when they constantly misquote people in the House.
The question I want to raise with the member is a serious concern. As he knows, the Liberal Party will be supporting this bill. Wesley Wark, when he was before the committee, had this to say about Bill C-44:
Bill C-44 does not add any new provisions to the CSIS Act to ensure proper consultation between the service and its minister, the Minister of Public Safety, and the two departments most likely to be impacted by expanded CSIS overseas operations—the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development and the Department of National Defence.
Liberals proposed an amendment. With the additional protection of sources and the additional powers granted in this act for work overseas, does the member not see it as a problem if activity takes place by CSIS abroad that could impact our trade relationship or the Minister of Foreign Affairs? If CSIS folks are caught in illegal activities, or whatever, as a result of a warrant issued in Canada, does he not see the dangers that situation could cause, such as trade and diplomatic problems? Why not put into the act a requirement that consultation has to take place?
- MPlibJan 28, 2015 1:25 pm | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
Mr. Speaker, those were great remarks by the Minister of Public Safety. The problem is that the remarks do not relate to Bill C-44, on which the government has introduced closure. The bill he is talking about sounds to me more like the bill that may be coming on Friday.
This bill really does nothing to address the national security concerns that have been raised as a result of the Quebec activity, the incident in Ottawa, or what has happened in Paris. We expect that to be in a new bill. This bill basically brings into law some of the practices that CSIS is now utilizing and protects CSIS sources. What the minister is trying to put urgency on is not in this bill.
This is advice for the government. If the government would work with us at committee and seriously look at some of the recommendations and the amendments we make, take them seriously to improve the bill and allow us to bring in more than just a couple of witnesses to try to satisfy our needs, bring in witnesses with expertise, then it might find the opposition parties more accommodating. It would allow Parliament to operate like it is supposed to rather than running roughshod over the opposition parties with closure when it wants.
My key point, Mr. Minister, is the bill is not talking about the issues you have been talking about in response to the last questions. It is different from that.
- MPlibJan 28, 2015 11:05 am | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
Mr. Speaker, today I pay tribute to the late Don Harron, an unforgettable Canadian actor, comedian, cartoonist and writer. He entertained generations of Canadians with his contagious passion and light heart.
Notably, Don performed as his comic alter ego Charlie Farquharson, a folksy storyteller, poking fun at almost anything Canadian, often making politicians the target. He showed us the joy of laughing at ourselves.
As Charlie, he performed on Canadian radio, TV and a variety of shows like Hee Haw in the United States. His serious side had him hosting CBC's Morningside and in theatre acting on stages from London, England to Stratford, Ontario. His most celebrated work was helping to bring the Island classic Anne of Green Gables alive to the stage, having been performed for 50 consecutive years at the Charlottetown Festival.
As Charlie would say in his tattered sweater, “Hee-haw, on to the next chapter”.
On behalf of the House, I thank Don for his wit, his passion and his love for this country.
- MPlibJan 27, 2015 10:15 am | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to the member's remarks that whipping up rhetoric when an election is close is not the way to manage the economy. If we hear any rhetoric, we heard it in that speech and we hear it from the Minister of Finance daily. We hear it from the Prime Minister, because he and Conservatives are always talking about balancing the books.
Is it not true that the Prime Minister has never had a surplus on his own, other than the one transferred to him by the previous Liberal government? We could call the Prime Minister “deficit king”. Is it not true that under the Prime Minister's watch in the last eight years the debt load of the country has increased at minimum by $133 billion and at maximum by $160 billion? He has added that to the debt of Canadians. Is that not true?
Now Conservatives are saying that they will balance the books. What will the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance cut in terms of value from taxes from Canadians in order to do that? They have cut EI and pretty nearly every service known to mankind in this country during their watch. Canadians are getting less value for their taxes, and that is not rhetoric; those are the facts.
- MPlibJan 26, 2015 2:15 pm | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
Mr. Speaker, the member talks about reducing red tape, but with so much of what the current government does, it is more deception than reality.
For example, the member talked about the infrastructure program. The government did announce the biggest infrastructure program in Canadian history, but the problem is that the money does not really flow until about 2019, and so that will not do a lot of good for Canadians.
The Conservatives have been talking about reducing red tape for years, but when I talk to small businesses they are still complaining about the burdens they face in terms of paperwork.
My last point is that the member mentioned that the Conservatives will not undermine Canadians' health and safety. However, we have seen recently on the safety side, with the RCMP, that the recommendations from the reports on Mayerthorpe and Moncton were not acted on. The reason they were not acted on is that the resources were not there in terms of personnel and finances to put in place the equipment, training, and weaponry for the RCMP to do its job.
There is a lot of deception on that side and not much reality.
- MPlibJan 26, 2015 12:20 pm | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
With regard to the Canada First Defence Strategy (CFDS): (a) does the strategy include (i) acquisition of three strategic air transport aircraft and stationing them at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Trenton, (ii) doubling the size of the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART), (iii) acquisition of three armed naval heavy icebreakers, and stationing them in the area of Iqaluit, (iv) building a new civilian-military deepwater docking facility to accommodate the three armed naval heavy icebreakers mentioned in (iii), (v) establishing a new underwater sensor system, (vi) building a new army training centre in the area of Cambridge Bay, (vii) stationing new long-range unmanned aerial vehicle squadrons at both CFB Goose Bay and CFB Comox, (viii) stationing new fixed-wing search and rescue aircraft in Yellowknife, (ix) increasing the size of the Canadian Rangers by 500, (x) establishing a 650-member regular forces battalion at CFB Comox, CFB Goose Bay, CFB Trenton, and CFB Bagotville respectively, (xi) adding 1,000 regular force and 750 reserve force personnel to the army in Quebec, (xii) establishing a territorial defence unit in Vancouver, Calgary, Regina, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, Saint John, St. John's, Halifax and the Niagara-Windsor corridor respectively, (xiii) recruiting 1,000 regular force personnel for the purpose of improving and enlarging the Atlantic fleet, (xiv) increasing the number of personnel in CFB Gagetown, (xv) stationing new aircraft and personnel at CFB Greenwood, (xvi) increasing the numbers of Pacific navy regular force personnel by about 500, (xvii) deploying new fixed-wing search and rescue aircraft at CFB Comox and CFB Winnipeg, (xviii) upgrading fighter aircraft at CFB Cold Lake; (b) what is the rationale for the inclusion or exclusion, from the CFDS, of each of the items mentioned in (a)(i) to (a)(xviii); and (c) for each item mentioned in (a)(i) to (a)(xviii) that is not a part of the strategy, (i) has the government taken any steps since January 1, 2012, to carry out or implement the item, (ii) if the government has not taken any such steps, does it intend to do so, (iii) if the government does intend to implement the item, when does it intend to do so, (iv) if the government does not intend to implement the item, when was this decision made, and what are the titles, dates, and file numbers of any document related to that decision?
- MPlibDec 12, 2014 9:05 am | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
Mr. Speaker, the second petition calls on Parliament to change the charge of impaired driving causing death to the offence of vehicular manslaughter.
- MPlibDec 12, 2014 8:40 am | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
Mr. Speaker, the fact is that the government rejected the key recommendation. Beyond Justice Arbour's point that solitary confinement was a barbaric cultural practice, the Correctional Investigator said that using solitary confinement to manage mental illness was unsafe and should be prohibited. His finding showed 14 of the 30 suicides reviewed occurred in segregation cells.
When will the minister realize the correctional action he allows is killing people under his care and custody?
- MPlibDec 12, 2014 8:35 am | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
Mr. Speaker, the government's response yesterday, with respect to the Ontario coroner's inquest into the death of Ashley Smith, was nothing short of shameful. How many reports, how many inquiries will it take to get the government out of the dark ages?
Retired Supreme Court Justice Arbour slammed the practice of solitary confinement as a barbaric cultural practice. The inquiry recommended that indefinite solitary confinement be abolished.
How could the government reject that key recommendation?
- MPlibDec 12, 2014 8:25 am | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
Mr. Speaker, the treatment of our veterans by Conservatives is a national disgrace. The minister has clawed back over $1 billion from veterans. He has gutted the department, firing 1,000 front-line staff who delivered critical health services. He told those who suffered from PTSD to take a number. He closed nine specialized service centres. Canadians are appalled by this shameful Conservative neglect of veterans.
The government has a sacred obligation to veterans, and it failed. When will the Prime Minister stop defending and fire this minister?
- MPlibDec 09, 2014 11:55 am | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
Mr. Speaker, we continue to ask but fail to receive answers from the Minister of Public Safety on why agencies under his authority are failing to act to protect Canadians from known terrorists who have returned home to Canada. The minister confirmed that they violated the law. This definitely is not about a lack of laws. It is about a lack of government resolve to enforce the law.
Why is the government failing to act to keep Canadians safe from such terrorists returning home to Canada?
- MPlibDec 08, 2014 1:50 pm | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
Mr. Speaker, I think the member's remarks show clearly why more time needed to be taken at committee, because the member does raise some very valid points.
I want to put into the record what Wesley Wark had to say in his testimony. Wesley Wark is a professor at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa and is a quite well-known expert on these matters.
The member said there is certainly reason to bring the bill forward, but I think, as he indicated in his speech, there is so much more that we could have done. As Wesley pointed out before committee:
Bill C-44 does not add any new provisions to the CSIS Act to ensure proper consultation between the service and its minister, the Minister of Public Safety, and the two departments most likely to be impacted by expanded CSIS overseas operations—the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development and the Department of National Defence. Both of these departments engage in their own overseas intelligence and information collection through dedicated branches.
Does the member believe that we should have looked into that area and ensured that there is more information exchanged between government branches?
- MPlibDec 08, 2014 1:25 pm | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
Mr. Speaker, the minister's answer, as usual, was basically a non-answer.
The question related to the fact that the minister claimed, some two months ago now, that a number of individuals had returned to Canada after engaging in suspected terrorist activities abroad. At that time it was 80. It is now up to about 93. He said at the time, “These individuals...have violated Canadian law”.
The minister is very clear on the violation. He is also the top cop. He is in charge of law enforcement in our country. The agencies that are under his authority, CSIS and the RCMP, work with other law enforcement agencies. If the minister claims these individuals have violated Canadian law, then why has the government, with all its authority, not taken these terrorists off Canadian streets?
That is the issue here. It does have the authority, in my view, under section 83.181 of the Criminal Code, which states that leaving or attempting to leave Canada for the purpose of participating in any activity of a terrorist group outside of Canada is indictable for 10 to 14 years. Why has the government not used that section? It has not answered that question. It continues to go around it. We need some answers.
- MPlibDec 08, 2014 1:20 pm | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service is, I believe, one of the better security agencies in the world. What is in the bill is required as a result of court decisions and to give CSIS the authority to do what it has done in the past, protecting Canadian citizens who are informing the ministry of some serious endeavours that may be going on in Canada or around the world
The member asks a good question. In terms of oversight, there is at the moment SIRC, which does, after the fact, review the activities of CSIS. It has reported on that.
However, I believe there must be more robust oversight of all our national security agencies, CSIS, CSEC, et cetera, and even in terms of policing as it relates to terrorism and international affairs. All of our other Five Eyes partners have parliamentary oversight. The committee members are sworn to secrecy when seeing classified information. They would have information in a proactive way to ensure that our security agencies are doing their job under the law and are also not overreaching and violating the privacy of citizens.
- MPlibDec 08, 2014 1:10 pm | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin this debate at report stage of Bill C-44 by registering the concerns of the Liberal Party with respect to the manner in which the government has proceeded with this legislation. This was mentioned by my colleague from the NDP a moment ago as well.
The Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness has made a great deal about the importance of this legislation, and suggests that it is well thought out. I will mention a couple of points in that regard in a moment.
However, first, the minister has left the impression that if we adopt this legislation, it will be effective in dealing with the situation we are currently facing. On page 14 of the minister's own report, “2014 Public Report On The Terrorist Threat To Canada”, it states:
The Government is aware of about 80 individuals who have returned to Canada after travel abroad for a variety of suspected terrorism-related purposes.
That number ranges from 80 to 93 individuals. The fact is that although the government tries to leave the impression with the public that Bill C-44 would deal with that issue, it would not.
What I cannot understand for the life of me is why the government is not using the current authority that it has to get these terrorists off of Canadian streets. I asked the minister that question in the House today. I believe the government has the authority under section 83.181 of the Criminal Code, which covers leaving or attempting to leave Canada for the purpose of participating in any activity of a terrorist group outside of Canada. Under that section, they are eligible for a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years, and that can go up to 14 years, depending on the offence.
It is very specific. It says “leave or attempt to leave Canada”. The minister went on at length, talking about the individual who released the video over the weekend. He is a Canadian who became radicalized abroad and is trying to inspire other Canadians to join ISIL and fight Canadians. I cannot understand why that authority has not been used to get those individuals off the streets. It is somewhere between 80 and 93 people.
The legislation we are dealing with would not deal with that problem, so why are the minister and the agencies he is responsible for not using what is currently available to them and at least testing it in the courts? Get these people off the streets and test it in the courts. If we have to fix something else, let us fix it, and ensure that we do not have terrorists operating within our own borders who were either home-grown radicalized or radicalized abroad. I have to make that point.
Bill C-44, on the other hand, is basically a bill that would ensure that CSIS, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, has the authority to do what we always thought it could do. Its authority has been somewhat jeopardized, though that may not be the right word, by previous courts' decisions. This bill, to the government's credit, would try to address the concern outlined by the courts, and I believe that it does. As my colleague in the NDP said earlier, the government is overreaching in some aspects of the bill, which we tried to have amended and were not successful in doing.
The other aspect of the bill relates to protecting informants who are necessary for CSIS in order to operate.
The bill deals with those points, and not the current crisis that we face within Canada as a result of radicalized individuals taking on terrorist acts.
I said that I would note two things relating specifically to what happened during the process in bringing this legislation back to here.
First, the committee process was rigged by the government to prevent any serious consideration of the legislation. Canadians will note that no amendments were passed, even though it would have made good sense to pass some of the amendments that either the Liberal Party, the NDP, or the Green Party put forward. We all had one amendment, and it was the same amendment. The government did not see the wisdom in adopting those points.
The bill would enshrine in Canadian law, provisions that declare that our lead intelligence agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, will be empowered to seek a warrant from a federal court to conduct operations in any foreign country that would be in violation of the laws of those countries. That is an undertaking that requires far more scrutiny.
Incredibly, the committee, more precisely the Conservative majority on committee, permitted only two hours for witnesses to appear on this legislation. For example, we did not hear from the Security Intelligence Review Committee, which oversees CSIS, in spite of the fact that this legislation would broaden the powers of the service. It would have been interesting to hear from SIRC, considering that in its most recent annual report for 2013-14, the review body found that “[...] the Minister of Public Safety is not always systematically advised of such activities”, referring to sensitive intelligence gathering, “nor is he informed of them in a consistent manner”.
Of even greater concern, and an issue on which the committee was denied the ability to question SIRC, is that the bill could permit possible illegal international operations. This was of great concern. We tried to propose an amendment that the Minister of Foreign Affairs be informed. We felt we needed to hear from SIRC on that issue. There could be an illegal operation that violates the laws of another country and our operatives are found out. If we are in a trading relationship or a security relationship or whatever with that country and the Minister of Foreign Affairs is not even informed, would it not put our country's trade and commerce in a bad position?
The Conservatives would not accept a simple amendment asking for the Minister of Foreign Affairs to be informed of such illegal activities by CSIS in other countries. SIRC was making the point that before Bill C-44 was even tabled, the Minister of Public Safety was apparently willing to be kept ignorant of much of what CSIS might actually be doing.
The last point I would make is that there needs to be national oversight over all of our security agencies, as all of our Five Eyes partners have in place. Parliamentary oversight makes sense. We would be doing our job and being held responsible for the oversight of these national security agencies.
We have some concerns with the bill, in that the amendments were not accepted, but for the greater interest of our country and the authorities of CSIS, the bill does need to go through in order to protect our sources and to implement the other measures in it.
- MPlibDec 08, 2014 1:05 pm | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
Mr. Speaker, before I ask my question, I do not think it is helpful for the minister to suggest that there is anyone in this House who is opposed to tracking terrorists who are putting Canadians at risk. I do not think the minister should be saying that, and he should apologize for making that statement. Although the statement was not directed at me, it was directed at MPs elected in this House, and I think it is wrong. For this kind of discussion, we should be able to have a legitimate debate with legitimate concerns. I ask the minister to withdraw that statement and apologize to whomever it was directed towards.
The minister talked about the video and the need for Canadians to be vigilant. We agree, but there is also a need for law enforcement authorities to be more aggressive against those individuals who have returned home after being involved in terrorist activities abroad. The minister is so often called the top cop in the country, but the legislation before us would do nothing to deal with that or add more authority. However, there are authorities now. Why is the minister not using them?
- MPlibDec 08, 2014 12:50 pm | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the remarks and the work of the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca on the committee. He went to fairly substantial lengths in his remarks to talk about how democracy is basically failing at committee.
There were substantive amendments brought forth at committee, all of which were rejected out of hand. I want to ask the member this question with respect to one of those amendments. I think all opposition parties—the Green Party, the Liberal Party, and the NDP—agreed on an amendment to proposed subsection 3.1 that would have removed the words “Without regard to any other law, including that of any foreign state,” and commenced that subsection with “A judge...”.
I wonder if the member would talk about the implications of the government not listening to the opposition parties on a very well-thought-out and needed amendment in terms of our reputation on the international stage, as well as about the possibility of a charter challenge as a result of the government leaving that clause in.
- MPlibDec 08, 2014 12:35 pm | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member's remarks as well. I know he was at the committee.
He made mention of this quote in the legislation, and I will quote it again. It is under subclause 8(2), proposed subsection 21(3.1). It states:
Without regard to any other law, including that of any foreign state, a judge may, in a warrant issued....
That, as the member said in his speech, is extremely extraordinary language. We know for a fact, and it was stated at committee, that none of our Five Eyes partners—New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom, or the United States—have that kind of language, although they do the same endeavours abroad as we do.
Could the member comment further on that? Does he think maybe that could even cause us problems internationally with some of our allies, and with some countries that are not our allies, or whether there could even be a challenge under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms with that kind of clause in this bill? We issued a warning to the government.
- MPlibDec 08, 2014 11:50 am | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
Mr. Speaker, today there is another ISIS video calling for attacks on Canadians. This video is by a Canadian who has been known to the RCMP for two years.
Months ago we asked why, of the 80 individuals returned to Canada after suspected terrorist acts abroad, none have been arrested. The minister claims he cannot interfere, yet he has, stating that these individuals have violated Canadian law.
He is clear on the violation, and he is Canada's top law enforcement officer. Why has this minister not acted and taken these terrorists off Canada's streets?
- MPlibDec 04, 2014 3:35 pm | Prince Edward Island, Malpeque
Mr. Speaker, I know this is not the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture, but clearly from the remarks, the government, or whoever is talking to the industry, is certainly talking to different players in the industry than we are. The story the member purports to tell on behalf of the government is not what we are hearing from industry.
Industry believes it needs a perishable commodities act that would do the same as the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act in the U.S. did. What is on the table, as industry tell us clearly, will not do what was previously in place. This is what industry is asking for.
However, what we see in the exchange here is that the government seems to go by its own agenda and does not really listen to producers. I am saying that the government should listen to what producers are saying and help them out.
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