Speech on Bill C-22 An Act to establish the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians

March 13, 2017

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to rise in support of Bill C-22. This bill would create a national security and intelligence committee of parliamentarians. First, I would like to thank the members of the Standing Committee on Public Safety for its hard work on this file and for what I understand was a great discussion at committee level.

Our government is committed to protecting both the national security as well as Canadians’ rights and freedoms. By establishing the national security and intelligence committee of parliamentarians, this government is fulfilling the promise that we made to Canadians in 2015. The role of the committee will be to ensure that the national security framework is working effectively to keep Canadians safe and that the rights and freedoms of Canadians are also safeguarded.

Seventeen months ago, Canadians elected this government to produce real change in Canadian society. Bill C-22 is part of our plan to address the deficit of public trust between Canadians and the intelligence agencies that protect them. Restoring public trust will be no easy task. What it requires is a return to the basics of public service. We do not need to look hard to find these foundational principles. They are enshrined in our Constitution, now 150 years old. The phrase, peace, order, and good government has come to symbolize Canadian constitutional principles. These words hold truth today and are in fact fundamental to the mandate of this new committee.

Peace is a universally recognized Canadian value. This committee would have a hand in overseeing our military and intelligence agencies. Canadians have empowered their security agencies with the tools they need to keep Canada safe and to maintain public peace and security. Yet there must be measures in place to ensure these tools are not abused. This is why the committee will have a broad government-wide mandate, in fact, broader than other partners in the Five Eyes.

This will allow the committee members to review any national security matter in all government departments and agencies and if security allows, present their findings to the House. Assuring citizens that their privacy is respected is a challenge that persists for democracies around the world. This next step will help provide the transparency that Canadians overwhelmingly voted for in 2015.

Order, the second foundational virtue of our Constitution, is a crucial element to the bill. Every democracy struggles to strike the appropriate balance between collective security and individual liberty. MPs and senators on the committee will have access to classified information and a robust mandate to review and to complete the scope of our national security framework throughout the federal government.

All of our Five Eyes allies have similar committees and the broad scope of this committee’s mandate will make it a stronger body, as I mentioned earlier. Here too, the government has struck a reasonable balance between peace and order. MPs and senators on the committee will have access to classified information as well as the mandate to review the complete scope of Canada’s national security framework.

However, there are provisions in the bill that limit access to certain information such as ongoing military operations, cabinet confidences, and information related to ongoing law enforcement investigations. This balance ensures the security of classified information and the operational effectiveness of the DND, CSIS, and the RCMP while also providing MPs and senators adequate oversight so that we may properly protect our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Good government is the final reflected value in this phrase. It is best embodied when we here and those in the Upper House collaborate for the good of our country. With government amendments, the committee will be comprised of up to 11 members, eight from the House of Commons, three from the Senate, and up to five members of Parliament will be from the governing party.

This bill is an essential part of our national security strategy, which includes specific measures outlined in our platform, as well as consultations, so that Canadians can have their say about what other measures are needed.

Restoring public trust in Canada’s security institutions is of critical importance. This is by no means the only measure the government will take to rebuild the public’s confidence. The hon. Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness is currently reviewing Bill C-51, to make much-needed reforms.

There are many lessons that history has to teach. Perhaps the most important is the government’s role in society. Government is an instrument for good, where people can come together and work toward common goals. As MPs, we cannot forget this simple truth. We are tasked with protecting the rights of the people we serve, as well as for future generations. We must not become complacent and rely upon false comfort and assumptions. Constant vigilance by Canada’s leaders to maintain these freedoms is included in the review recommendations of this bill.

This past summer, the former president of the United States, Mr. Obama, addressed this House and emphasized the truth of this. He quoted the late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau when he said, “A country, after all, is not something you build as the pharaohs built the pyramids and then leave standing to defy eternity. A country is something you build every day.

If we are to keep building Canada as a monument to the world, we must take these words to heart.

To conclude, I urge my fellow MPs to support Bill C-22. The bill is a thorough and comprehensive piece of legislation. It would equip MPs with the resources they need to responsibly exercise their due diligence. I urge my colleagues to support the bill as a common-sense move to promote government accountability.