Canadians from all walks of life have raised concerns with Bill C-51, the proposed Anti–Terrorism Act – from the Privacy Commissioner, to security experts, organizations such as Amnesty International, Aboriginal Peoples, former Prime Ministers and Supreme Court Justices to the hundreds of people participating in anti-Bill C-51 rallies. As it is currently drafted, there is no question the Bill has serious implications for the fundamental rights of all Canadians. Some have gone so far as to say in its current form it makes our country less safe. The leader of the Liberal Party of Canada (LPC) has also raised his very serious concerns with the Bill and has proposed ways to mitigate them. I too have raised my concerns with respect to this Bill with the LPC, and I have carried forward those from constituents in Vancouver-Granville who have written to me, or contacted me, on this subject.
Before this Bill becomes law there is a need for fulsome debate about how far we are prepared to go as a country to limit individual freedoms in the name of national security. Any Bill, and particularly a Bill of this nature, should not be rushed. Policy should not be driven by fear. As we adapt to a changing global landscape we need to ensure that security does not run roughshod over the fundamental tenets of our democracy. I know this Bill does not have the balance right and leaves far too much to the interpretation of those with power or exercising discretion. Oversight is required – “Who is watching the watchers?”
While the LPC does support certain aspects of this Bill, (namely building on the powers of preventative arrest, making better use of no-fly lists, and allowing for more coordinated information sharing by government departments and agencies) we are proposing substantive and significant amendments to the Bill. These include the critical need for accountability, review and oversight mechanisms, as well as narrowing the broad definitions (i.e., “activity that undermines the security of Canada ”) that have caused so much of the concern. However, these amendments, along with those proposed by other parties, are not likely going to be accepted. I hope I am wrong but past practice will no doubt dictate – the conservatives will pass it anyway. In this event, the LPC has committed to include these changes in our election platform.
As Canadians are aware, the Liberal Party was responsible for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which ultimately, as with all laws, Bill C-51 must comply. The fact the Bill requires judges to consider requests by security agencies to essentially breach the Charter probably makes these provisions of the Bill unconstitutional. Even where constitutionally valid, Bill C-51 still makes us all consider the serious trade-offs between personal liberty and public safety. But I, like most Canadians who recognize the complexity of these issues, know we must strive to find a balanced position in the middle of extremes.
I am proud of the Liberal values of fairness, justice and the rule of law. And I agree with Justin Trudeau when he said recently,, “keeping Canadians safe – in a way that is consistent with Canadian values – is one of our highest responsibilities as leaders and elected officials. In order to do that, we must ensure both the security of Canadians and the protection of their rights and freedoms”.
There is no question these are important and complex issues. I have never shied away from tackling complex problems. My commitment to fulfill my responsibility to defend our rights and freedoms will never change. I will continue to advocate for a more systematic approach to address the problems with the Bill and work towards fixing them, as well as to address, in other ways, the prevention of radicalization, for whatever cause, before it takes root.
Liberal Party of Canada