Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you, Ministers and officials, for coming.Minister Blaney, before I get to the more substantive issue, I have a minor but important issue. You mentioned the appeals process for the no-fly list. Most of us as members of Parliament have had some experience with trying to get people off the no-fly list. You talked about the appeals.In the legislation, it says, “If the Minister does not make a decision in respect of the application within 90 days”—then there's a little wording—“the Minister is deemed to have decided not to remove the applicant's name from the list.”That's really not much of an appeals process, Minister. You do not even have to respond. I think you need to consider an amendment in that regard and go the other way, that the minister must respond within 90 days.
Yeah. That sounds like a good point.
To the more substantive issue, you said in your remarks that you're dramatically increasing judicial oversight and review. In response to Mr. Garrison's remarks, you said a warrant is required every time there's legal authorization. I submit that a judicial submission to carry out a certain act is not, in any sense of the word, oversight. It's authorization before the action happens.
Hon. Steven Blaney:
I thank you for your question. Once again, I think it's another opportunity to clarify oversight versus review.We would be, in terms of threat diminishment, the only country that is involving this warrant issued by a judge when conducting activities that could have an impact on the rights of Canadians or their privacy. The fact that the judge is involved.... In the warrant, the activity that would be conducted will be described. The judge could even ask for a third party to bring some different views. We are actually the only country.... All the others are strictly keeping only—what could I say?—administrative oversight. So this is oversight.
Aside from the fact that I'm not even sure if Blaney is telling the truth here, ... it's pretty weak reasoning to say that increased powers for CSIS are unproblematic because other countries have even less control over their secret police.
Then, as you know, we have a review mechanism, but once again, we have a warrant. There's a judge who has to be consulted and who has to authorize. The judge can also modify the mandate if he has any concerns. He can refuse or modify. He can ask a third party. He can also ask for third party reviews.
Minister, that is not oversight, and your colleague, Minister MacKay, knows that's not oversight.He and I sat on a committee together. We did a lot of travelling together. I will admit, Minister MacKay, that at the time you were probably one of the most enthusiastic people for parliamentary oversight similar to our Five Eyes partners.Minister Blaney, you can say that no other country provides the judicial warrants, but your explanation confirms what I claim, that it's only authorization to do a, b, c, or d. You also know that Judge Mosley's decision indicated that CSIS was not quite as upfront with Judge Mosley as they had indicated, and he corrected them on that. He came out quite angrily about their having gone further than they were authorized to do. These things happen. It makes the point that judicial authorization is not oversight. It's not adequate. Canadians want to see oversight.
Right. All excellent points.
I have to ask Minister MacKay, who sat on that committee with me in 2004, which ended up with Bill C-81.... We went to the U.K., Washington, etc. We called for that. Why were you so supportive then, Minister? Now you think with all these additional powers for CSIS, the RCMP, the Criminal Code, etc., that we don't need oversight in this country for all of our national security agencies. We need it. We need it more than we ever did before.
Let me begin by stating, Mr. Easter, I well recall being part of that committee as an opposition member. You, of course, were a member of the government and didn't take the opportunity to act on those recommendations.
Yes, we did. We introduced Bill C-81.
In fact, you were in government for, I believe, 14 years and as a government never enacted those oversight recommendations that you so enthusiastically embrace today.
However, in 2004 you were a member of the government, so you had a mandate to do something about it, and you didn't. You failed.
Well, that was a highly unedifying spectacle wasn't it? This is what makes politics such a sordid topic. MacKay doesn't dispute Easter's criticisms that he's now backing off judicial oversight guarantees that he championed while in opposition. He's just pointing out that Easter is as full of shit as he was. C-81 never got past first reading. The Liberals stayed in power until 2006, so I can't say that there wasn't enough time to have implemented that legislation.
"Liberal, Tory, same old story?" Both parties are beholden to the ridiculous premises that are behind the Anti-Terrorism Act. Corporate capitalism wants the rights of the citizenry to resist corporate plundering to be eviscerated. BOTH of these parties are eager accomplices. (Fucking leading Liberal John Manley going on to head the Canadian Council of Chief Executives is evidence enough of that!) One party is just more wedded to actually imbecilic social policies and thuggery. (Hint: It's the "Conservatives.") But they all insist on going through this trite political theatre. Sigh.
The truth of the matter is, looking at those examples around the world today, the real oversight comes.... I think you as a former solicitor general would be quick to agree that the real oversight comes from those with expertise in the area of security—I think you would agree with that—those who have had experience in the field, those who have had legal experience, training, or judicial experience.
What meaningless twaddle!
I would suggest to you that when you examine some of those examples, including in the U.K.... I was recently in London, and you're seeing now their parliamentary oversight committee coming under a fair degree of criticism, because they've been subject to political interference, scandal in fact, that has undermined that parliamentary committee's objectivity, perhaps, and the ability to do the actual job that was asked of them.I also note, on the area of expertise, that you, yourself, were quoted in the paper, in the context of this examination of the bill, as saying, “We’re not the experts, we’re there to listen and learn”.
No question you're a shit-head Peter MacKay. But you've just basically denigrated the entire principle of democracy right there. (BTW: The only references to a scandal involving a UK parliamentary intelligence committee scandal that I can find refer to INSUFFICIENT oversight of government spying. It wouldn't surprise me if that's what MacKay is referring to. Because he's a shameless, not-too-bright bull-shitter.)
I think, on balance, if we want to have true oversight, we need not only to have a mandate but also to have people in those oversight positions, such as SIRC, that have the ability to ask the proper questions, to delve into the detail that's necessary, and are able to report—
Former politicians on SIRC, Minister? Come on; former politicians on SIRC?
Whether his concerns are genuine or not, Easter is referring to criticisms of SIRC that I've mentioned in a recent post. "Ex-Spy Watchdog Plunkett Calls CSIS Civilian Review 'A Joke":
The Chair: Mr. Easter, we're over time.Hon. Wayne Easter: Yes, we need expertise. You have it—
Thank you very much
With the IG gone, that left SIRC as the only agency that occasionally takes a glance over the shoulders of our spies. But, as Plunkett rightly points out, SIRC’s mandate does not include oversight of CSIS — nor is it much of a review agency.So, ... at the end of the day, whatever his defects, Easter had some valid complaints about this legislation.
SIRC is a limp, ineffectual body that, from time to time, administers complaints about CSIS it receives from the public. Its five-member part-time executive committee — the current committee has been short one member for ages — meets a few times every other month, and tends to be comprised of ex-politicians looking for something to do with their spare time.
SIRC’s acting chair is Deborah Grey, the former Reform Party MP who — ironically — once agreed with her ex-boss, Preston Manning, when he denounced SIRC in the House of Commons as a useless dumping ground for surplus government hacks.
For her part, Plunkett’s current assessment of SIRC is simple, clear and absolutely bang-on.
“This government, even though they go on and on about security, they have no interest in accountability so they put their political hacks in that joke of a committee called SIRC,” Plunkett told me.
“It really is a complaints body … They have a small office who they present their reports to, are all political appointees who come to Ottawa for a day and half every two months. So where is the oversight there?
“You know, no one is going to present a report in those offices that is going to ruffle feathers.”