Wayne Easter: Our Amendments

We believe that our amendments to the Anti-Terrorism Act, if accepted, will strike the right balance and address Canadians’ general concerns.

Today, the Liberal Party of Canada announced its amendments to Bill C-51, the Anti-Terrorism Act.

Liberals understand that there doesn’t have to be a contradiction between safeguarding our rights and freedoms, and protecting our collective security.

Our party supports this legislation because we believe it contains significant measures that will keep Canadians safe, a point echoed by many of the witnesses that have appeared before the House of Commons Public Safety Committee.

“If the current government does not accept that Canadians want greater oversight and accountability on Bill C-51, the Liberal Party of Canada is committed to presenting these proposals as part of its platform in the upcoming federal election.” — Wayne Easter

Specifically, we support measures that will lower the threshold for preventative arrests, expand the no-fly list, and allow for greater and more coordinated information sharing between government departments and agencies involved in security matters.

As four former Prime Ministers have said, “We know the enormity of the responsibility of keeping Canadians safe.” But, that said, they also recognize the need for “a robust and integrated accountability regime over Canada’s national security agencies” to guarantee the protection of Canadians’ rights and liberties.

We believe that our amendments to the Anti-Terrorism Act, if accepted, will strike the right balance and address Canadians’ general concerns. Our amendments fall into three categories: ensuring parliamentary oversight, instituting mandatory legislative reviews, and narrowing overly broad definitions.

On parliamentary oversight, our amendments will:

  • Establish a national security oversight committee of Parliamentarians, similar to our allies in the Five Eyes Alliance. Based on two Liberal Private Members’ Bills, this would provide regular, ongoing oversight of our national security agencies;
  • Ensure that the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) annually reviews all – as opposed to only some – operations performed by CSIS; and
  • Require the Privacy Commissioner to provide the government with an annual report on information sharing between departments and agencies, the result of which would then be made public.

On mandatory legislative review, our amendments will:

  • Institute a mandatory statutory review of the full Anti-Terrorism Act, after three years, similar to what a Liberal government brought in following 9/11; and
  • Institute a sunset clause on certain provisions of both the act itself and the Criminal Code after three years.

On narrowing overly broad definitions in Bill C‑51, our amendments will:

  • Remove the notion of “lawful” protest, so that legitimate forms of demonstration would not be captured under this legislation;
  • Limit information sharing done on the basis of national security in order to prevent the inappropriate disclosure of information about Canadians, as occurred in cases like Maher Arar’s;
  • Put the legal onus on the government to review any appeals by Canadians on the no-fly list; and
  • Remove the measures that permit judges to provide CSIS with warrants that violate Canadians’ Charter rights.

Additionally, we have reserved the right to present further amendments on Bill C-51.

We understand that our response to terrorism cannot be confined to legislative measures alone. It must also include a robust plan to prevent radicalization before it takes root, and it must ensure that our security agencies have the resources they need to carry out the tasks required of them.

Our leader, Justin Trudeau, has been very clear: if the current government does not accept that Canadians want greater oversight and accountability on Bill C-51, the Liberal Party of Canada is committed to presenting these proposals as part of its platform in the upcoming federal election.