A letter from Dr. Hedy Fry on the government's Bill C-51

Media/Press Release
Friday, May 15, 2015

A letter from Dr. Hedy Fry on the government's Bill C-51

Dear constituents,
 
Thank you for taking the time to share your opinion on Bill C-51, the Government’s Anti-Terrorism Act.
 
I agree that we must always balance our collective security with the rights and freedoms we cherish. For me, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, passed by Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, is at the heart of what it means to be a Liberal. The Liberal Party therefore understands that legislators do not have to sacrifice rights and freedoms in order to increase legislative powers necessary to address security threats. We achieved that balance in our first Anti-Terrorism law post 9/11.
 
From the outset, Liberals raised concerns about certain provisions of the Bill that could have an impact on the civil liberties of Canadians. We, therefore, proposed amendments to ensure that the Charter is upheld and rights respected.  
 
At the same time, we were aware there was need for new measures to deal with the new threat of home-grown terrorism that jeopardizes the safety of Canadians. These included the need to lower the threshold for preventative arrest to allow police to thwart potential terrorist activities. Previous legislation was unable to do so; prosecutors felt this change was necessary to lay charges in order to prevent potential terrorist acts. Witnesses at the Parliamentary Committee testified that this threshold might have been helpful in preventing the death of Corporal Vincent in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, who was killed in a hit-and-run terror attack by a radicalized Canadian citizen who had been arrested and released under the previous laws.
 
The amendments, tabled by the Liberal Party of Canada, before the all-Party Parliamentary committee hearings on C-51, were: 
 
Remove the word “lawful” prior to “advocacy”/ “protest”, so that people are still free to protest and demonstrate peacefully;
Narrow the scope of information sharing‎ to the relevant 17 government security departments, therefore restricting the possibility for abuse; and 
Clarify, in law, that CSIS is not a police agency and has no power of arrest
Limit and clarify the Minister’s intervention powers over Canadian airlines.
 
The Liberal Party of Canada was successful in amending the Bill. So the new version of Bill C-51, finally voted on in the House of Commons, now contains these changes.
 
The NDP has been irresponsible and inconsistent in its approach to the Bill. We are concerned that the NDP did not inform the public of the changes, nor acknowledge some tools in Bill C-51 that are necessary to protect Canadians. They have not been clear in what, if anything, they would do to change the Bill.
 
The Liberal Party of Canada has clearly said, from the beginning, we would like to see more done and commit to presenting the following changes to C-51 in our platform in the upcoming federal election:
 
Focus and clarify the overly broad scope of the new powers;
Create a national security oversight body of parliamentarians, as have every one of Canada’s partners in the Five Eyes alliance (US, UK, NZ, and Australia); and
Require a mandatory review of Bill C-51, in its entirety, after three years.
 
Liberals also know that Canada’s response to terrorism should go beyond legislative measures; it must also include a robust plan for preventing radicalization before it takes root.  This means that our security agencies must be adequately resourced so that they can carry out these new tasks required of them. The world has changed. The concept of terrorism has evolved significantly. This is a new development, and one may argue about the reasons for that change, but it is a reality.
 
Thank you again for taking the time to share your opinion. It is through discussion and dialogue with Canadians that we can continue to ensure that policies and legislation, initiated by governments, represents the needs and values of Canadians. 
 
Sincerely,
 
Hon. Dr. Hedy Fry, P.C., M.P.
Vancouver Centre
Liberal Party of Canada Critic for Health