Continuing my search for a candidate or a party, I’m looking at security this week. According to the Public Safety Canada web site, “The first priority of the Government of Canada is to protect the safety and security of Canadians both at home and abroad.” Within all of the publicly available documentation including web sites, annual reports, policy statements, plans, and legislation it is obvious that our Federal Government sees security as counterterrorism. Do I? I’m still thinking about that.
The major changes to the Canadian Security and Intelligence Community (CSIC) have been the products of Liberal governments starting with Trudeau-Senior’s Bill C-157 (1983-4) and Trudeau-Junior’s Bills C22 and C59. Looking at the what, how, and why could help me make my choice for the next election.
The primary purpose of C-157 was to remove responsibility for national security from the RCMP and to create CSIS. The roles of Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Forces (CF) – two separate entities – were unchanged. Personally, I found the Trudeau-Senior legislation unnecessary but mostly harmless. It was pure politics and arose from the McDonald Commission (not MacDonald). C-157 was opposed only by the NDP.
The legislative foundation of counterterrorism then went largely unchanged until 22 June 2017 – two years ago – when Royal Assent was given to Bill C-22, “An Act to establish the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians” (NSICOP). Bill C-22 was adopted on 4 April 2017 by a vote of 167 to 128 – Liberals and Greens versus Conservatives, Bloc, and NDP. Our current MP did not vote. It established the super committee based upon what the UK model used to be but not what it is today.
The UK model used to be, and the Canadian model is today, a Committee of Parliamentarians (COP). The members are chosen by the PM and the COP reports to the PM. The UK model today is a Parliamentary Committee. The members are chosen by the Parties and the committee reports to Parliament. The difference is huge! The UK made a deliberate, thoughtful change based upon their experience.
Bill C-59 “An Act respecting national security matters” followed on 21 June 2019 – two months ago. C-59 implements significant changes and it is a difficult read. C-59 would not have happened without C-22 and NSICOP. Bill C-59 was adopted by a vote on 11 June 2019 by a vote of 155 to 93 – supported by the Liberals and the Greens, opposed by the Conservatives, the NDP, and the Bloc Quebecois.
Bills C-22 and C-59 from Trudeau-Junior are, in my opinion, both unnecessary and harmful. The fact that both were written and passed during a single Parliamentary mandate – largely without fanfare – is without precedent. The fact that Bill C-22 was the direct result of a Liberal Party election pledge tells me that I was not paying enough attention five years ago.
I question whether there should even be a super committee. The old accountability structure for our big three: CFINTCOM (part of CF, roots back to 1941), CSE (under National Defence since 1975, roots back to 1946), and CSIS (under Public Safety since 1984, roots in the RCMP Security Service from 1950) worked.
Why did the Trudeau-Junior government want C-22, NSICOP, and C-59? They said oversight, accountability, lawfulness, and privacy. Same for Trudeau-Senior in 1983. I’m not convinced. The Liberal Party of Canada – by their actions while in power – and the Green Party – by their votes – are making it really difficult for me to vote for either of them in the coming election. We have fundamental differences over security legislation, policy, purpose, and practice. NDP and Conservatives both voted as I would.
I’m still looking.