Vancouver Town Hall National Security Framework - December 3, 2016

4:00 PM to 6:00 PM

This town hall public consultation took place on December 3rd, 2016 from 16:00 – 18:00 at the Morris J Wosk Centre for Dialogue, Simon Fraser University.

A total of 44 participants were present. The town hall was co-hosted by Sean Casey, Parliamentary Secretary for the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, and Member of Parliament for Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. The session was moderated by Manon Abud from Hill and Knowlton Strategies.

The session began with opening remarks from Parliamentary Secretary Sean Casey who expressed the government’s desire to hear Canadians’ priorities with respect to reshaping Canada’s national security framework and communicated the two main objectives of the consultation: to ensure that Canada’s national security framework is effective moving forward; and to safeguard the rights and freedoms of all Canadians.

To help frame the discussion, Manon Abud then reminded participants of the three over-arching questions presented in the background documentation: 

  1. Accountability: What steps should the Government take to strengthen the accountability of Canada's national security institutions?
  2. Preventing Radicalization to Violence: Are there particular prevention efforts that the Government should pursue?
  3. Protecting Security and Rights: How to best achieve the dual objective of keeping Canadians safe and safeguarding rights and freedoms?

Throughout the town hall, participants shared their views, experiences and ideas on these and other related topics, also taking the opportunity to ask questions to the Parliamentary Secretary. The most frequently discussed topics included calls to fully repeal Bill C-51 in favour of a new Bill that would strengthen privacy laws and protect Canadians’ rights and freedoms; a permanent, well-funded and independent judiciary/expert-run oversight body; and taking a proactive approach to preventing radicalization to violence.

Participants unanimously advocated for the full repeal of Bill C-51 and argued that Government should enact new legislation that focuses instead on strengthening privacy laws and protecting the rights and freedoms of Canadians. They argued that the current legal framework “instigates fear”, marginalizes minority groups and fosters racial discrimination, putting Canada on “slippery slope” towards a “police state”. Participants also cautioned the government to firmly distance itself from the policy discourse and rhetoric arising from the recent U.S. election, as these are not consistent with Canadian values.

With respect to accountability, participants discussed the importance of openness and transparency, the need to regain the trust of Canadians through the government’s actions, and the need to expand accountability measures beyond the proposed Committee of Parliamentarians. Participants called for the government to establish an independent, permanent, expert-based and well-funded oversight body to oversee national security issues, possibly founded in the judiciary. Some also argued that any oversight mechanism should ultimately be accountable to Parliament.     

A number of participants discussed issues relating to lawful intercept, suggesting that any attempts to create “back door” access to encrypted data would automatically undermine public safety as such solutions can and will eventually be used for harm.

Finally, attendees favoured a community-led approach to preventing radicalization to violence. For example, they suggested that community-based organizations like settlement agencies have established relationships with vulnerable populations, especially youth, and that they could be supported to play a greater role in prevention and early intervention. They also suggested that effective research and action would require greater collaboration and coordination between government departments (e.g., the departments of Justice, Public Safety and Immigration).

At the conclusion of the discussion, Parliamentary Secretary Sean Casey thanked attendees for their active participation and insightful comments. He reminded them that this is the first time in Canadian history that Canadians have been invited help shape the national security framework and that the Government of Canada is determined to safeguard both national security and the rights and freedoms of Canadians. The moderator concluded the session by inviting participants to fill out an optional Feedback Form and to share their views in more detail by participating in Public Safety’s national security framework online consultation.

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