Bill C-51 heads back to the House as committee review wraps up

After listening to more than 16 hours of expert testimony from nearly 50 witnesses, the House public safety committee has finished its review of the government's proposed anti-terror legislation.

Conservatives make minor changes to controversial bill, but all opposition proposals rejected

The government's proposed anti-terror bill has sparked widespread concern among civil libertarians, privacy advocates and activists. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

The House public safety committee has completed its review of the government's proposed anti-terror legislation, after listening to more than 16 hours of expert testimony from nearly 50 witnesses. 

The painstaking process, which requires MPs to consider each of the 61 clauses that make up the bill as well as any proposed amendments, got underway Tuesday morning and continued throughout the afternoon and evening.

Late last week, the Conservatives indicated they were prepared to rework several contentious provisions, most notably by removing the word "lawful" from the section that exempts protests from being captured under the bill.

Critics had objected to the word "lawful" because they feared it would target First Nations and environmental protests that ran afoul of bylaws or included civil disobedience.

With the backing of the government, Conservative MPs also voted to impose some limits on the new information-sharing powers, clarified that CSIS agents do not have the power to make arrests and reduced the power of the public safety minister to order airlines to take any action he or she might deem necessary to prevent a terrorist attack. 

But they rejected each of the dozens of proposed changes submitted by opposition members — including 60 amendments from Green Party Leader Elizabeth May and Green MP Bruce Hyer.

The bill will now go back to the House in its amended form for report stage debate, which will likely begin when MPs return from the Easter break.

NDP thwarts Tory attempt to block House motion

Although none of their proposed amendments made it through committee, the New Democrats did manage to score a small but morale-boosting victory in the Commons this morning when they successfully thwarted government House leader Peter Van Loan's attempt to block their bid to expand the scope of the bill during the review process.

The New Democrats want the committee to be able to add new oversight mechanisms to C-51, as well as anti-radicalization measures, neither of which are included in the original bill.

Van Loan had attempted to persuade House Speaker Andrew Scheer to rule the motion out of order, as it could increase the cost of implementing the bill, which requires a royal recommendation.

Scheer, however, disagreed, and let the debate proceed — which it did for just under an hour, at which point the Conservatives used their majority to bring it to an end.

Although the motion is still technically active, the government's move will effectively quash it, as it drops to the bottom of the order paper, and will likely not be called before the summer recess.


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