In the Chamber -- Grant Mitchell's Blog

Update on Bill C-51: observations and amendments

Posted 5/29/2015 by Grant Mitchell

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On Tuesday, May 26, the Senate Defence committee moved to clause-by-clause analysis of Bill C-51, Anti-terrorism Act, 2015.

In order to address concerns about the bill, I introduced four amendments which would have:

  • ensured the guarantee of the protection of Charter rights;
  • implemented a sunset clause of five years on the entire bill so that we could re-examine the usefulness of the legislation in time;
  • ensured that Special Advocates would have access to the information they needed; and
  • ensured that government departments only have access to information which is necessary to their mandate, not more.

Unfortunately the Conservative dominated committee voted against those amendments and I voted against the bill.

The legislation is now at third reading stage and next week, on Tuesday, June 2nd, I will speak to the bill and introduce additional amendments to address other flaws in the legislation. As a whole, I believe these amendments, and the others that I introduced, would strengthen the bill.  In the absence of support for my amendments, I will vote against the bill.

As the critic of the bill in the Senate and the Deputy Chair of the committee studying the legislation, I agreed to observations which the committee made in its report because if the government were to accept them, it would at least improve the bill. These included, amongst others:

  • The government should develop statutory authorities among the national security bodies, in order to provide for the exchange of operational information, referral of investigations, conduct of joint investigations and coordination in the preparation of reports; and
  • the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence will, with the approval of the Senate, conduct a review of Bill C-51 within five years of it receiving Royal Assent.

In addition to the observations that we agreed to as a committee, there are a number of other issues that I continue to pursue in debates at Third Reading and with amendments that I moved in committee and will move in Third Reading, including:

1. Definition of threat:

  • That the definition of “National Security” be consistent across all agencies so that there is no confusion of what constitutes a threat to national security.

2. Lack of Strategy:

  • That the government develop a comprehensive anti-radicalization strategy that moves beyond legal powers to the pre-criminal space of prevention and rehabilitation at the community level.

3. Privacy:

  • That all agencies sharing or receiving information create Memorandum of Understanding (MOU’s) covering its use and that the same be done with all foreign agencies with whom information might be shared; and that the privacy commissioner have the power and resources to audit MOU’s and audit the shared information on a regular basis.

4. Rights:

  • That the definition of ‘terrorist propaganda’ be more clearly delineated and include defences to exclude legitimate public interest, education and religious discussion so as to limit the potential chill on freedom of speech.
  • That changes be made to the judicial warrant provisions under the CSIS part of the bill to ensure they are consistent with Canada’s rights' guarantees.
  • That individuals placed on the no-fly list have access to the allegations against them and to all related information or, where necessary, the right to a Special Advocate who can represent their interests in proceedings where information cannot be revealed for national security reasons.

5. Oversight and Review:

  • That a Parliamentary oversight body be created.
  • That the powers and resources of SIRC be extended to permit SIRC to review all national security and intelligence-related agencies that currently have no independent review agency.
  • That there be a five year sunset clause in Bill C 51.
  • That the regulations which will be developed to facilitate the implementation of the bill be reviewed by Parliament before the bill is proclaimed.

6. Resources:

  • That the government perform a comprehensive analysis of the budgetary requirements of the country’s national security and intelligence agencies and departments to determine the adequate level of funding for them to perform their duties and fulfil their responsibilities.
  • That the government analyze the budgetary requirements of a Parliamentary oversight body and the extension of SIRC’s powers of review over all national security and intelligence agencies.

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