News from ICLMG

Press release: Senate must act to strengthen national security oversight, says ICLMG

C-22 vote 3rd readingOttawa, April 4, 2017 —The Canadian Senate must take action to ensure the credibility and effectiveness of national security oversight in Canada, says the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG), a coalition of more than 40 Canadian organizations dedicated to defending civil liberties from the impact of national security and anti-terrorism laws.

“We are gravely disappointed and concerned that the Canadian government has allowed flawed national security oversight legislation to pass through the House of Commons,” said Tim McSorley, national coordinator of the ICLMG. “We are urging the Senate to take action to improve the proposed Committee of Parliamentarians, giving it the tools and capabilities necessary to carry out its crucial duties.”

The ICLMG’s statement came as the House of Commons voted at third reading in favour of Bill C-22, sending it to the Senate. Bill C-22 aims to create a Committee of Parliamentarians to oversee national security and intelligence laws and activities in Canada, and was introduced in June 2016 by Liberal House Leader Bardish Chagger.

The coalition is asking senators, including the Senate Committee on National Security and Defense, to amend C-22 to:

  • Allow the committee access to all documents and information necessary for its members to accomplish their work;
  • Restrict the ability of the Canadian government, including ministers and the Prime Minister’s Office, to block investigations – especially on broad grounds of national security;
  • Grant the Committee of Parliamentarians the same power as parliamentary committees to compel people to appear and for documents to be provided;
  • Allow the committee to seek judicial review of government decisions that would restrict the committee’s access to information, deny their ability to carry out specific investigations, or block sections of committee reports from being made public.

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Press release: Liberal government walking away from commitment to strong, effective national security oversight, says ICLMG

Ottawa — The International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG) is disappointed that the Liberal government continues to refuse to make important changes to Bill C-22, which would create a Committee of Parliamentarians to oversee national security activities and policies. Last Friday, March 24, the government voted down an NDP motion to send Bill C-22 back to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security (SECU) for further study.

Earlier that week, amendments moved by Liberal House Leader Bardish Chagger were adopted by the government,  undoing important changes brought to C-22 by the SECU committee after thorough study, and bipartisan debate and discussion.

The improvements brought by the SECU committee were based on expert testimony, significant consultation, and were supported by many rights and civil liberties groups who studied the bill. The amendments served to strengthen the future Committee of Parliamentarians’ ability to access the information they required, to call witnesses, to investigate national security matters in a timely manner, and to generally conduct effective oversight.

“The government has repeatedly stated their commitment to establishing a committee that will bring strong, effective oversight to Canada’s national security policies and agencies,” said Tim McSorley, ICLMG national coordinator. “It is frustrating to see the government walk away once again from an opportunity to meet that commitment.” At the same time, he pointed out that while SECU’s amendments improved the bill, the coalition was hoping for further changes, including making the committee responsible to Parliament, as opposed to the Prime Minister.

Bill C-22 is slated for third reading in the House on Monday, April 3, after which it will most likely go on to be studied by the Senate.

“We cannot support this bill in its current form,” said McSorley. “Not only will it not create a Committee of Parliamentarians capable of real and strong oversight over our national security apparatus, its mere creation will give Canadians the impression that proper parliamentary oversight exists – which will not be the case. The bill is irresponsible.”

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Press release: Amendments to Bill C-22 weakens oversight committee before it even begins, says civil liberties watchdog

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Ottawa, March 21, 2017 — The International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG) is expressing its deep concern over amendments to Bill C-22 passed last night in the House of Commons. Bill C-22 aims to create a Committee of Parliamentarians to oversee national security activities and policies.

The amendments, moved by Liberal House Leader Bardish Chagger, undid important changes brought to the proposed legislation by the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security (SECU).

The improvements brought by the SECU committee served to strengthen the future Committee of Parliamentarians’ ability to access the information they required, to call witnesses, and to generally conduct effective and timely oversight.

Instead of agreeing to these amendments, adopted through bipartisan debate and discussion, the government has struck the most important changes from the bill, which will now go to third reading in the House.

“We need a national security oversight committee in Canada. That is clear,” says Tim McSorley, ICLMG national coordinator. “We are disappointed, though, that the government would not ensure that we start with the strongest possible committee, with sufficient powers to access information and carry our timely, in-depth reviews.”

“We believe that the amendments passed tonight will serve to tie the hands of the committee, before it is even officially formed,” he adds.

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