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


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.

Beyond the important changes brought by the SECU committee, the ICLMG has also pointed out other concerns with Bill C-22. This includes the fact that the Prime Minister will appoint the members of the committee, has already named the chair, and will have the power to vet all reports without any recourse to review. The coalition has also called for the establishment of a separate, expert and independent national review body, as recommended by Justice Dennis O’Connor at the end of the Commission of Inquiry into the case of Maher Arar.

Last Friday, the Government of Canada issued an official apology for the actions of Canadian officials that lead to the rendition, detention and mistreatment of Canadians Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad Elmaati and Muayyed Nurredin. But it is not enough. The cases of these three men and others demonstrate why we need a strong national security oversight committee in Parliament, and a strong and overarching review body, in order to prevent such human rights violations from happening again.

The coalition’s entire concerns regarding C-22 are included in a brief submitted to the House Committee on Public Safety, available here:

The ICLMG will continue to urge parliamentarians to improve Bill C-22 before third reading, which will most likely occur in April. The coalition is also urging members of the public to write to their MPs on the issue, and will be launching a tool to help them do so in the coming days.

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