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QUESTION - C-22, National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians Bill

Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Adjourned

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate) moved second reading of Bill C-22, An Act to establish the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians and to make consequential amendments to certain Acts.

Senator Joyal: Thank you, Senator Harder, for your presentation. I was listening very carefully when you were reciting the number of initiatives that were taken in both places in relation to this proposal. In fact, I say this while looking at our colleague Senator Fraser, who was chair of the special committee that did this study on the anti-terrorism legislation introduced by the Chrétien government in 2001. In the report done at that time — if you read it — which was December 2001, there was already recommendation of an oversight. I remember very well our former colleague Senator Grafstein, myself, and others on the committee — and I'm looking at Senator Andreychuk and Senator Tkachuk, who was here a moment ago — were the first ones to propose that because there was an unbalance in the system. As you properly stated, it is essential on that committee that there is a balance.

But there is another element which in my opinion is peculiar to the Senate membership. It's the fact that senators stay while members pass on — not "pass on," but they jump off the cliff sometimes without a parachute, as you stated, and they disappear. The quality of the membership in this chamber is such that we survive governments. You have been a mandarin of the public service. You know very well that one of the key preoccupations of the security agencies is to speak to people they can trust, and not to speak to people in a tourniquet. If they share information and they know that in six months there will be different people with whom they will be dealing, you know exactly what will happen. They clam up. We knew that when we studied previous legislation.

The only membership on that 11-member committee that will stay there are the senators. Senators will develop the expertise, the institutional memory and the capacity to understand what has been done earlier. I am here in 2017 and I was there in 2001, like my colleague Senator Fraser and many other senators here. We remember what we were told in those days from representatives of security agencies. It seems to me that we have put the cart in front of the ox. Those who should be members on that committee in greater numbers are senators. We are here to stay. We survive governments. We develop the expertise. There are many more reliable persons in this chamber, in terms of professional commitment, than in the other place, where they are driven essentially by ambition. It's fair. That's the rule of the game here. Here we have no ambition. We are here to serve. We serve as much as we are committed to the objective of that committee.

I applaud the government initiative, but I think we need a sober second thought on the membership of this committee and on the role of senators because, as my colleague Senator Jaffer has mentioned, it's for the Prime Minister to choose up to three senators. What happens if the Prime Minister chooses only from his own group of senators whom he has appointed?

The Hon. the Speaker: Do you wish to enter the debate or are you going to ask a question?

Senator Joyal: I apologize; thank you. I need to be called back for discipline. I apologize to honourable senators.

I ask you to reopen that reflection on the membership on the committee and the role that senators should play in it.

Senator Harder: This is simply launching the discussion in second reading. We will have many occasions in committee, and in other debates on second or third reading. I just want to respond from the government's point of view that the intention is to have a balance that reflects the House of Commons and its elected and therefore democratic mandate. I dare say, in the hope that not everybody gets thrown out at the next election, that there would be stability. That has been the practice in the United Kingdom, by the way, in which there has been stability on the committee on both sides of the representation. I would also have to acknowledge that in my discussions with the Brits, the contribution of the lords that are involved is very much for the long-term institutional memory. That is the design that is expected with the presence of three senators in the bill that we have before us, so that there will be a longer term perspective from those senators who participate in this.