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November 29th, 2016

Experts back NDP move to strengthen spy oversight committee

OTTAWA — Pressure is growing on the government to accept changes to Bill C-22 after a string of experts have backed NDP amendments that would expand the powers of the new security watchdog.

“Witness after witness is telling us to fix this bill,” said NDP House Leader and Justice Critic, Murray Rankin, “Our amendments implement precisely what we heard loud and clear from the experts.”

The NDP amendments have received the support of experts Kent Roach and Craig Forcese, the Privacy and Information commissioners, members of the Air India inquiry, the first chair of SIRC, the Canadian Bar Association, and others, the changes would give the Top Secret-cleared committee of parliamentarians unrestricted access to all necessary information, the power to issue subpoenas, and would remove the government’s ability to block investigations.

Last week, the Information Commissioner of Canada warned that allowing ministers to veto investigations would “turn the committee’s broad mandate into a mirage” and undermine public trust. Earlier, Ron Atkey, the first head of CSIS’ review body, called the blind spots in the new committee’s access to information “open-ended and dangerous.”

“I’m very optimistic that we can reach an agreement today on the oversight committee’s powers, independence and access. This is about public safety and protecting Canadians’ rights, it should be above party politics,” said Matthew Dubé, NDP Public Safety critic.
The Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security will conduct a clause-by-clause review of Bill C-22 today.