New Report Calls on Federal Government to Respect Civil Liberties

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The Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security presented a report to the House of Commons last week, “Protecting Canadians and Their Rights: A New Road Map to Canada’s National Security”. Amongst other findings, the report calls on the Minister of Public Safety, Ralph Goodale, to follow through on the government’s election commitment to make amendments to aspects of Bill C-51 that may infringe civil liberties.

Included in the report’s 41 recommendations were calls on the federal government to: establish judicial oversight and the authorization of the responsible minister for any counter-terrorism measures that violate Canadian law; require that all warrants for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) comply with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms; protect lawful protest by clarifying vague Criminal Code definitions like “terrorist propaganda”; develop a community-based strategy to prevent radicalization leading to terrorism; and protect privacy of Canadians by clarifying definitions in the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act.

The committee’s chair, Liberal MP Rob Oliphant, said that the essence of the report is that there “need be no tradeoff between national security and the rights of Canadians. In fact, they both can only be fully realized if they are both fully respected.”

Conservative MPs on the committee issued their own dissenting report on some matters covered by the report. The Conservatives supported the committee majority’s recommendations on addition oversight for the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), but their report “There Can Be No Liberty without Security” defended C-51 measures empowering police to preventively arrest terror suspects (page 61 and following of committee report). As Conservative MP Tony Clement noted in the House of Commons, Conservatives found that the committee’s prescriptions focused too much “on ways to handcuff our security services and take away necessary powers.”

The NDP members of the committee, meanwhile, supported the proposal for a community-based anti-radicalization strategy but claimed that the committee’s report did not go far enough in other areas (page 65 and following of committee report). Consistent with their party’s past election platform position, NDP MPs recommended a wholesale repeal of provisions brought in under C-51.

Nonetheless, the committee’s main report recommendations go beyond the proposals in the Liberal’s 2015 election platform. Minister Goodale has stated that he plans to review the report and bring his proposals for national security changes before the House of Commons rises for the summer.

This blog post was written by a CCLA summer student. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the view of the CCLA.