Today in Politics and Podcast: National Security Bill Returns to Commons

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Today in Politics and Podcast: National Security Bill Returns to Commons

UPDATED November 27, 2017 11:42amET


National Security Bill

The government’s sweeping national security and anti-terrorism bill is back in the House of Commons.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale calls Bill C-59 the “most significant overhaul of the national security framework ever undertaken in this country, certainly since the passage of the CSIS Act in 1984.”

Here’s what the legislation includes:

  • A new watchdog body to oversee all federal intelligence operations – a so-called “super SIRC” to replace the current Security and Intelligence Review Committee, which only monitors CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service)
  • Creation of an “Intelligence Commissioner” to replace the commissioner of the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) and review intelligence-gathering authorizations for both CSIS and CSE
  • A statutory definition of CSE’s mandate
  • More accountability for CSIS, including a limit to operations that violate the law or the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the requirement of a Federal Court warrant for security agencies to pre-emptively disrupt potential terrorist acts.
  • Tightening the definition of propaganda and advocacy of terrorism to counselling another person “to commit” a specific offence
  • Clarifying the definition of “activities that undermines the security of Canada” that can be investigated
  • Adjusting definitions of protest and dissent as they apply to national security investigations
  • A repeal of the investigative hearing process introduced in 2001

Normally, debate on a bill would begin at the “second reading” stage.

In this case, the government wants to formally refer Bill C-59 to committee before second reading.

That would give the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security more power to propose amendments on the scope of the bill, since the House of Commons has yet to vote on the principles and main object of the legislation.

Goodale called the plan an “open and inclusive approachlast week.

NDP MP François Choquette countered: “We are not even going to go to the second reading of the bill right away. We will be sending the government’s bill directly to committee, because it is so bad. Why did the government introduce the bill if it is so flawed? Why will it not withdraw the bill and introduce a better one? It makes no sense.

Here’s a sample of what MPs said about the national security bill last week in the House of Commons:

Ralph Goodale on accountability and anti-terrorism measures: “Effective accountability must not be limited to the silo of one particular institution. Rather, it must follow the trail wherever it leads. It must provide for comprehensive analysis and integrated findings and recommendations.

“We are now creating a specific closed list of measures that CSIS will have the authority to take to deal with threats. If any such activity might limit a charter right, CSIS will have to go before a judge. The activity can only be allowed if the judge is satisfied that it is compliant with the charter.

Pierre Paul-Hus, Conservative public safety critic, in response: “Either the Liberals are getting bad advice, or they are more concerned about the rights of criminals than those of law-abiding Canadians.

Terrorists will be free to spread all kinds of propaganda using social media, without any fear of being arrested or prosecuted. The vast majority of terrorist activities are generated from propaganda that is spread in a general way, rather than directed at a specific person.

All (CSIS) activities will require a warrant, which is not exactly convenient when the goal is to stop someone from committing an act of terror … Agents will just have to watch the threat develop and will have to get a warrant from a judge before they can take action.”

NDP public safety critic Matthew Dubé: “It is extremely worrying to see that someone can be so cavalier about an issue as fundamental as the rights of Canadians, their freedom, and their right to privacy.

New Democrats have always called for the full repeal of all elements that were brought in by the former Bill C-51. These cosmetic changes that are being proposed by the Liberals are not enough.

We have to understand that CSIS does not have threat reduction powers … These are the types of elements of the previous legislation under the previous government that need to be fully repealed. Unfortunately, CSIS was never given this responsibility, which is not part of its mandate and should never have been, to begin with.”

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan: “It clearly outlines how CSE will be authorized to operate in cyberspace, protecting Canadians at home and abroad from threats to our security, stability and economic prosperity.”

Alexandre Boulerice, NDP finance critic: “The new oversight and review mechanisms are limited and not offset the exchange and sharing of information and almost unlimited powers within our security agencies. This is a major concern.

People need to understand that if Bill C-59 is passed, CSIS will be able to collect huge amounts of metadata containing confidential information about Canadians that is not relevant to its investigations.”

Cannabis Bill 

MPs have third-reading votes on Bill C-45, with the legislation likely headed to the Senate for debate and committee work.

The Border

Goodale defends Bill C-23, the government’s legislation to expand U.S. border pre-clearance, at the Senate national security committee. The bill would expand the program currently in place at eight Canadian airports to land, water, and train locations.

LIVE ONLINE at 1pm ET / 10am PT

In Committee: Official Languages

Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly, the cabinet member responsible for the Official Languages Act, appears at the Senate languages committee to answer questions from MPs. LIVE ONLINE at 5pm ET / 2pm PT

-Andrew Thomson



Here’s Mark Sutcliffe with more Today in Politics: