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Wayne Easter, MP

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Easter & Cotler: How the Liberals will fight terror

Posted on April 13, 2015

(As originally published in the National Post)

Wayne Easter and Irwin Cotler, National Post

Early in the debate about Bill C-51, the government’s omnibus anti-terror legislation, we joined four former prime ministers — including three Liberal prime ministers — and others to issue an open letter underscoring two fundamental responsibilities of government: ensuring the safety of Canadians, including by protecting Canada from terrorist attacks; and ensuring that initiatives in this regard are consistent with the rule of law and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and, particularly, are subject to comprehensive oversight, review and accountability mechanisms.

Individually and collectively, MPs have similar responsibilities. Thus, each parliamentarian has a duty to carefully scrutinize the measures in Bill C-51, and to propose and consider amendments in a constructive spirit.

Regrettably, during recently-concluded House of Commons committee hearings on Bill C-51, Conservative members rejected most amendments without serious consideration, prevented important witnesses — including the Privacy Commissioner — from testifying, continued the pattern of limited debate in the House by limiting the time for committee study, and responded to thoughtful concerns raised by eminent witnesses with hyperbole, petulance and scorn.

As stated in the open letter to parliamentarians by 100 law professors, “It is sadly ironic that democratic debate is being curtailed on a bill that vastly expands the scope of covert state activity, when that activity will be subject to poor or even non-existent democratic oversight or review.”

At committee, the Conservatives introduced and passed only a handful of amendments, most of which were similar to Liberal proposals. In particular, the reference to “lawful” protest was removed, so the legislation will not target individuals who engage in civil disobedience.

The Conservatives refused to accept other Liberal amendments that would have increased oversight of security and intelligence services, added sunset clauses and mandatory review provisions, limited overbroad language, and eliminated measures permitting judges to issue warrants allowing Canadians’ Charter rights to be violated.

In both process and substance, the Conservatives’ approach stands in sharp contrast to that of the Liberals following the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001. In considering Bill C-36, the first comprehensive Canadian legislation to address the threat of international terrorism, Liberals listened respectfully to substantive arguments by expert witnesses and opposition MPs, while engaging in spirited discussion and debate within our caucus. Consequently, the Liberal government altered course in significant respects, seeking to protect both Canadians’ security and civil liberties.

After Bill C-36 was enacted, it became clear that another element in the struggle against terrorism was required: robust and transparent oversight. By October 2004, an all-party group of parliamentarians — including the current Minister of Justice — presented Anne McClellan and Irwin Cotler, the ministers of Public Safety and Justice respectively, with a report recommending the establishment of a parliamentary committee with the authority to oversee and review the conduct of Canada’s intelligence-gathering agencies. This recommendation was based on an examination of similar bodies in the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States, and led to the introduction of Bill C-81 in 2005. Bill C-81 died with the election of the Harper government in 2006.

The Liberal party understands that Canada’s laws must evolve to meet changing threats. We support certain elements of Bill C-51, such as those that build on powers for preventative arrest, improve use of the no-fly list, and enable more co-ordinated information sharing, with limitations. However, enhanced powers for intelligence and security agencies must be met with improved oversight, Charter rights must be protected, and overbroad language must be refined.

As well, our response to terrorism must not be limited to legislative measures alone. It must include a robust plan for preventing radicalization before it occurs, and ensure that our security agencies are sufficiently resourced to fulfill their new responsibilities.

As a responsible opposition party, the Liberals proposed constructive amendments based on concerns raised by stakeholders, expert witnesses and ordinary Canadians. Regretfully, the Conservatives summarily dismissed them, rather than engaging in thoughtful and productive discussion and debate on an issue of vital importance to Canadians.

The Liberal amendments, including the establishment of comprehensive parliamentary oversight and review, will be included in our electoral platform. We trust they will contribute to public debate as Canadians seek to ensure that both our national security and our civil liberties have the protection they require.

Wayne Easter is the Liberal Public Safety critic, and former solicitor general of Canada. Irwin Cotler is Liberal critic for Rights and Freedoms and International Justice, and former justice minister and attorney-general of Canada.

Standing Order: P.E.I. Watershed Groups

Posted on April 1, 2015

March31Mr. Speaker, I rise to acknowledge the Prince Edward Islanders who are involved with the watershed groups of P.E.I. The efforts and contribution that these individuals and groups make toward protecting the environment, enhancing their communities and instilling environmental awareness in others are to be commended.

These Individuals, who are often volunteers, promote public awareness of healthy streams and buffer zones, assist with stream restoration activities, and contribute to stream enhancement. They spend days working in streams to remove excessive debris and reduce sediment using innovative techniques so as to improve water channels and fish habitat. With their knowledge and experience, they help create water-related policies and strategies for the future.

All efforts for watershed protection and enhancement take time and commitment. I commend those islanders who support their local watershed groups and contribute in so many ways to improving our brooks, our streams and our environment. Our thanks for their hard work and dedication.

QP March 27 – RCMP Preparedness and Equipment Cuts

Posted on March 30, 2015

March 27The Government continues to rob money from critical programs. The symptoms of this are now being seen in RCMP members who are lacking the proper training and equipment to feel they can safely respond to national security threats. The answer from the government was lacking and barely relevant.

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE
Mr. Speaker, the government’s preoccupation to basically rob money from critical programs in order to give a tax break to the rich is beyond comprehension. One example are the cuts to the RCMP. Commissioner Paulson informed us the RCMP had to take 300 personnel off of criminal investigations and transfer them to anti-terrorism. Rank and file RCMP officers are calling for more training and better equipment, yet the minister has forced budget cuts of $290 million since 2012.
Why is the government compromising the RCMP so it can give a tax break to the rich?

Roxanne James Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
Mr. Speaker, that is absolutely false. We have actually increased resources to our national security agencies.
What is clear is that the international jihadist movement has declared war on Canada and our allies because of the values that we share. We only need to turn on the six o’clock news, or read in the paper of another attack around the world or of more people leaving countries like Canada to join ISIL.
We heard credible witness testimony in committee this week that has confirmed that the threat is real, it has evolved and it is growing. The number one priority of any responsible government is the safety and security of its citizens. That is why this Conservative government will pass this legislation and why the RCMP is supporting it.

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE
Mr. Speaker, of course the threat is real, but the government cut $290 million from the RCMP since 2012. That is unacceptable and it is doing it in order to give a tax break to the rich.
Beyond that, the RCMP rank and file members are now speaking out. They are mad and are feeling betrayed. They lack training. They lack equipment. The government has failed to honour the commitments it made to the Mayerthorpe recommendations, which cost RCMP lives. That comes out of the Moncton report.
Why does the minister force cutbacks, put Canadians at risk and even risks the lives of RCMP officers? Why?

Roxanne James Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
Mr. Speaker, that is similar to the rhetoric we heard in committee this past week.
Let me talk about one of the witnesses who did appear before committee. Inspector Irwin has more than 30 years of experience in law enforcement and intelligence gathering. What did this credible witness say about Bill C-51? He said that existing laws “are too restrictive” and that there was an absolute need for the new measures contained within this bill. What else did he say about the need for information sharing? He said that it was absolutely crucial. In general, with respect to the bill, contrary to what the opposition parties like to put out, he said that it provided the necessary safeguards.
In the same meeting, we heard opposition witnesses say that the bill had absolutely nothing to do with—

NFU Youth in Ottawa

Posted on March 26, 2015

In the middle of a busy day, it was great to have a chance to meet with the young members of NFU Youth. Some excellent discussion […]

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Standing Order – Recognizing Wayne Dickeson

Posted on March 25, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I rise to recognize Wayne Dickieson for his induction into the Atlantic Agricultural Hall of Fame. A resident of North Rustico, P.E.l., Wayne graduated […]

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Statement: P.E.I. Power Cable Funding Announced

Posted on March 20, 2015

HUNTER RIVER – Wayne Easter, MP for Malpeque, welcomes today’s federal government announcement of $50 million dedicated to placing two new electrical cables to Prince Edward […]

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Statement: Islanders Show Concern for Bill C-51

Posted on March 13, 2015

CHARLOTTETOWN – Wayne Easter, MP for Malpeque made the following statement: “I was glad to be able to engage in discussion with Islanders who rallied through […]

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2015 Tax Tips

Posted on March 11, 2015

Please note: To avoid fees and penalties, submissions are due April 30. For further information, please consult www.cra-arc.gc.ca. First time house buyer? Did you know you can […]

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Family Skate in Crapaud – March 15

Posted on March 10, 2015

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Dairy Farmers of Canada on the Hill

Posted on February 25, 2015

Was great meeting with the Dairy Farmers of Canada here in Ottawa. Liz Maynard joins us in this picture after a very informative discussion. 

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