I appreciate the dedicated advocacy of the many engaged Canadians who have helped to prompt a number of important changes to the bill during the legislative process.
I voted in favour of Bill C-51 because it contains significant measures that will keep Canadians safe. The Liberal Party of Canada welcomes the measures that (1) lower the threshold for preventative arrests, (2) expand the no-fly list, and (3) allow for greater and more coordinated information sharing between government departments and agencies involved in security matters.
Experts, including witnesses from the House of Commons Public Safety Committee, agree that these measures are necessary to ensure Canadians’ collective security. Without collective security, the individual freedoms we cherish as Canadians cannot exist. This truth is supported by the great majority of witnesses presenting before the House of Commons Public Safety Committee, who, while raising concerns about civil liberties, also recognized the need for additional security measures during these times.
I understand Canadians’ concerns regarding oversight and accountability for this bill. Liberals know that if a government asks its citizens to give up even a small part of their liberty, they must ensure that there are legislated transparency and accountability safeguards so that these powers are not abused.
That is why we tried to work with the Conservatives to make this bill better, proposing amendments that balance security and civil liberties based on conversations with Canadians like you. These measures are found in legislation crafted by a Liberal government in response to heightened international security following 9/11 and are similar to measures that are standard internationally.
Following the C-51 committee process, the Government submitted the following amendments that address the issues raised in amendments put forward by the Liberal Party of Canada:
- Remove the word “lawful” prior to “advocacy”/ “protest”, so that legitimate forms of demonstration are not captured under this legislation;
- Narrow the scope of information sharing from “with any person for any purpose” to 17 government departments and agencies, therefore restricting the possibility for abuse; and
- Limit and clarify the Minister’s intervention powers over Canadian airlines.
Further, due to public pressure the government clarified in law that CSIS is not a police agency and has no power of arrest.
These were needed and welcomed changes, but not enough. Canada is the only nation of its kind without national security oversight being carried out by parliamentarians. Every one of Canada’s partners in the Five Eyes alliance (US, UK, NZ, and Australia) has oversight of this kind, but the Harper Government has stubbornly refused to act responsibly and legislate transparency and accountability measures into this bill. The Liberal Party of Canada will present these proposals as part of our platform in the upcoming federal election.