Thank you to everyone who took the time to share their opinions on Bill C-51, the Government’s Anti-Terrorism Act.
Canadians understand that we must always balance our collective security with the rights and freedoms we cherish. For me, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is at the centre of what it means to be a Liberal.
The Liberal Party of Canada voted in favour of Bill C-51 because it contains significant measures that will keep Canadians safe. We welcome the measures that (1) lower the threshold for preventative arrests to allow police forces to thwart potential terrorist activities, (2) make better use of our no-fly list to prevent suspected terrorists from leaving the country, and (3) allow for greater and more coordinated information sharing between government departments and agencies involved in security matters.
Without collective security, the individual freedoms we cherish as Canadians cannot exist. This was supported by the great majority of witnesses presenting before the House of Commons Public Safety Committee—as well as four former Prime Ministers—who, while raising concerns about civil liberties, also recognized the need for additional security measures during these times.
From the outset, Liberals raised concerns with Bill C-51 regarding accountability and oversight. This is why our support of this legislation was paired with a commitment that a Liberal government would create safeguards to ensure the powers in this legislation are not abused.
Following the C-51 committee process, the Government submitted the following amendments that address the issues raised 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 the relevant 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 and political pressure from the Liberal Party of Canada, the government clarified in law that CSIS is not a police agency and has no power of arrest. We helped change that.
These were needed changes, but not enough. The Conservative government refused to implement a national security oversight body and other necessary changes to the bill. The Liberal Party of Canada is committed to presenting the following amendments as part of our platform in the upcoming federal election:
- Focus and clarify the overly broad scope of the new powers;
- Create a national security oversight body of parliamentarians, as have every one of Canada’s partners in the Five Eyes alliance (US, UK, NZ, and Australia); and
- Require a mandatory review of Bill C-51, in its entirety, after three years.
We are also concerned that NDP has refused to acknowledge that there are tools in Bill C-51 that are necessary to protect Canadians. While the NDP has stated it would repeal this legislation, they have failed to provide Canadians with any details about what measures they would introduce to improve and advance public safety.
Liberals also know that Canada’s response to terrorism should go beyond legislative measure alone; it must include a robust plan for preventing radicalization before it takes root. This means that our security agencies must be adequately resourced so that they can carry out these new tasks required of them.
Thank you again to everyone who took the time to share their opinions. It is through dialogue with Canadians like you that we can continue to ensure that the policies we support and create are representative of the values and needs of Canadians.