House of Commons Emblem

Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics


NUMBER 029 
l
1st SESSION 
l
44th PARLIAMENT 

EVIDENCE

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

  (1205)  

[English]

     I call the meeting to order.

[Translation]

    Welcome to the 29th meeting of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics.

[English]

    Pursuant to Standing Order 106(4), the committee is meeting at the request of members to discuss their request to undertake a study of device investigation tools used by the RCMP.
    Interpretation is available, as you all know. We don't have any witnesses. I think all of you know how this all works, so I'll dispense with the rest of it and proceed to Monsieur Villemure, who, as I understand from the letter, has a motion that he would like us to entertain.
    With that, I will give the floor to Monsieur Villemure.

[Translation]

    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    I would like to introduce a motion, which reads as follows:
That the committee undertake a study of at least 4 meetings beginning no later than Monday, August 8th, 2022 to determine and identify which “device investigation tools” are being used by the RCMP, which have technological capabilities similar to Pegasus, and provide the committee with the name(s) of such software and the terms and conditions of its use;

That the committee request, by Thursday, August 4, 2022, that the RCMP provide a list of warrants obtained, if any, for each use of such software, as well as the scope of the warrants and the reasons for the monitoring;

That the committee also request, by Thursday, August 4, 2022, a list of warrants or any other information related to the wiretapping of Members of Parliament, Parliamentary Assistants or any other employee of the Parliament of Canada;

That, to this end, the witness list for this study include, but not be limited to:

RCMP officers who have decided on the use of “device investigation tools” or any other surveillance tools;

The Minister of Public Safety;

The current and former Privacy Commissioners of Canada;

Ms. Sharon Polsky, Privacy Specialist, Privacy & Access Council on Canada;

And that any additional witness lists be submitted to the Clerk of the committee within 7 days of the adoption of this motion;

And that the committee report its findings and recommendations to the House by September 19, 2022.

[English]

    Is there discussion?
    Iqra, go ahead.
    My apologies, but it's been a long time since I used these headphones. I'm wondering if Monsieur Villemure would be kind enough to also read out the motion in English just so we have it on record and in case there are any interpretation glitches.
    Before I ask Monsieur Villemure if he would care to do so, I note this is a bilingual committee and members are not obliged to read their motions in both languages. Using either language is an acceptable way to present a motion, so his motion as read is in order. It was actually circulated in the letter and was orally translated just now. I don't want us to go down a road where we ask committee members to translate their own work.
    René, I'll leave it up to you, but I would discourage this as a general practice.
    Go ahead, Mr. Bezan.
    On that point, I'd say that would be a dangerous practice to undertake, because I'd hate to have to read a motion in both English and French, knowing that my French capabilities are extremely limited. I think it's a dangerous precedent.
    I could see on my screen that Mrs. Shanahan was trying to get my attention. I would encourage members to please use the “raise hand” feature on Zoom. It's much easier for me as chair to do it that way.
    I did see you waving so go ahead, Mrs. Shanahan.

  (1210)  

     Just as a technical point of order, there's a lot of background noise. I didn't do a sound check either. I don't know if it's timely to do so now. It could avoid future problems.
    If there's a lag between the disconnection of my microphone, that would likely create some feedback. I hope everybody's audio is good now. If anybody is having trouble understanding me in either language, please let me know now.
    Mrs. Shanahan, you came through loud and clear. I was listening to you in English. I presume there was no translation problem. I would like to get to the substance of this. If there are problems, by all means identify them, but I don't want to go looking for them. With respect to the translation as well, if a problem has been identified, let us know. I'd like to continue with the meeting.
    I see you have your hand up again, Mrs. Shanahan. Would you like to speak to the motion?
    Yes, I would indeed.
     I would like to take this opportunity, Chair, to read out the motion, as I have it in English, and that the record be corrected if it's not the proper wording. The motion that Mr. Villemure has put before this committee is:
That the committee undertake a study of at least 4 meetings beginning no later than Monday, August 8, 2022 to determine and identify which “device investigation tools” are being used by the RCMP, which have technological capabilities similar to Pegasus, and provide the committee with the name(s) of such software and the terms and conditions of its use;
That the committee request, by Thursday, August 4, 2022, that the RCMP provide a list of warrants obtained, if any, for each use of such software, as well as the scope of the warrants and the reasons for the monitoring;
That the committee also request, by Thursday, August 4, 2022, a list of warrants or any other information related to the wiretapping of Members of Parliament, Parliamentary Assistants or any other employee of the Parliament of Canada;
That, to this end, the witness list for the study include but not be limited to:

    RCMP officers who have decided on the use of “device investigation tools” or any other surveillance tools;

    the Minister of Public Safety;

    the current and former Privacy Commissioners of Canada;

    Ms. Sharon Polsky, Privacy Specialist, Privacy & Access Council of Canada;

    And that any additional witness lists be submitted to the Clerk of the committee within 7 days of the adoption of this motion; And that the committee report its findings and recommendations to the House by September 19, 2022.
    Chair, I would like to ask the clerk to confirm that it is indeed the English translation of this motion.
    Yes, that indeed is correct. Thank you.
    Monsieur Villemure.

[Translation]

    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    I'm wondering what the purpose of that exercise is, given that we have all received the motion in writing, in advance, in both languages. I don't see the need for that exercise, unless it's an attempt to find a nit to pick somewhere.

[English]

    Thank you.
    Chair, may I answer?
     It's somewhat rhetorical, but go ahead, Mrs. Shanahan, if you care to answer.

  (1215)  

[Translation]

    I just want to reassure my colleague.
    In other committees, we have seen in the past that the translation was not accurate. It is perfectly reasonable, then, to engage in a little exercise when beginning the study of a motion to make sure it is understood properly, and mainly to make sure that the two versions of the motion are the same.

[English]

     Okay. Thank you.
    Is there any discussion on the motion itself?
    Go ahead, Ms. Khalid.
    Chair, I'm wondering if Monsieur Villemure could walk us through the intent of the motion, the purpose and the dates as proposed, as part of the discussion on the main motion. On our side, the Liberals have had discussions with all parties, and all parties know that we will be potentially moving three amendments. I would like to start this conversation by understanding Monsieur Villemure's objectives with this motion, if that's okay.
    Monsieur Villemure, you're welcome to address Ms. Khalid's questions if you'd like.

[Translation]

    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    I have not received any amendments. Ms. Khalid and I had a discussion on Friday, but I have not received any amendments officially.
    Nonetheless, the motion arises out of a series of articles in the press and questions that were asked, and responded to, in the House of Commons that raised doubts concerning unauthorized surveillance by the RCMP of members of the public and parliamentarians.
    Committee members and regular participants know that I am not someone who engages in witch hunts. However, I believe that privacy is a fundamental matter, and in fact, it's something that the government strongly supports. This motion is not partisan; it is in the public interest.
    Given this kind of doubt regarding such an important subject, I think it is worthwhile to get to the bottom of things and put the question directly to the people involved. Was the Pegasus software used or not, and if so, how and for what purposes?
    For context, I should point out that Pegasus is Israeli software used by a number of countries for conducting surveillance. The software has a dubious reputation in several respects.
    When the journalist asked the RCMP whether it used Pegasus, the force replied that it used a program that had device investigation tools. The expression “device investigation tools” was not a direct answer to the question. That was not the question asked. I therefore want an opportunity to put the question directly: Is that the case, and if so, what is the situation?
    However, we have to be clear on why we are doing this study. The purpose of this motion is to make sure that the RCMP is complying with best practices in this area and, if that is not the case, to provide the force with best practices, by way of policies, so that we can continue to trust our national police force.
    So that's the background to the motion.

[English]

    Thank you.
    Next I have Mrs. Shanahan.
    Chair, I listened with great interest to the points being made by Monsieur Villemure and indeed there are concerns. We have heard about them. I was a member of this committee previously, so I know there have been concerns in the past. I do congratulate the committee on proceeding with the facial recognition study. I haven't followed it very closely, but I look forward to the report on that study. That's very important work for this committee.
    I fail to understand some of the requests in this motion, notably the request for the Minister of Public Safety to appear. I'm well aware, having served on other committees, that there is operational independence. The Minister of Public Safety's role is unique in that the agencies overseen by the Minister of Public Safety do not directly report. There is operational independence—I think we are familiar with that term—so this would not be pertinent.
    From what I can see, there isn't any information the Minister of Public Safety can offer us. I'm new to the committee this session, but I do think having the Minister of Public Safety here for this inquiry is not relevant.

  (1220)  

     Next I have Mr. Bezan.
    Mr. Chair, I want to thank our colleague Mr. Villemure for coming forward with this motion and requesting this emergency meeting, which we as Conservative members supported.
    This is an issue that I think we need to delve into. When you look at this Pegasus malware, it's not just a hacking application. This software also is spyware. It has the ability to turn on our microphones on our smart phones and turn on our cameras to spy on us and others. We know that the RCMP are saying that they have used it in the traditional sense of the wiretap, but this goes way beyond any wiretapping technology that's existed until the advent of Pegasus. We know there's other software out there as well.
    I think it is inherent upon us as committee members to dig into this, to see how the RCMP has been using it, and to even look at what other police agencies are doing with this type of technology across Canada and elsewhere. One thing that is concerning is whether or not it has been used against us as members of Parliament, to monitor us and to listen in to our conversations, and knowing whether or not the places we meet that aren't public are now being shared amongst people with malicious intent. I think we have to consider all those avenues.
    To go to Ms. Shanahan's comment about the Minister of Public Safety , I think ultimately the RCMP have to report to the Minister of Public Safety. When we're dealing in new technology that goes beyond the scope of what we have available under rules and regulations and legislation that we have as a country, then the Minister of Public Safety would be informed, I would have hoped, on what type of technologies are being used by the national police force.
    Having the Minister of Public Safety appear to give testimony to committee, to explain what the government does or does not know, is important to the overall work that we want to undertake. We need to know how this has been deployed across government agencies as well. It comes down to the Minister of Public Safety being responsible for it. Is CSE under national defence making use of this technology? Is it being deployed not only against adversaries, but also against our own citizens and us as national legislators, or even provincial and municipal politicians?
    We need to take a harder look at this. I think the sooner we get started, the better. We can do this over a short period of time, with multiple meetings per day or a couple of days. We should be able to get through all of these witnesses and not take up a lot of the summer and the time that we're spending in our constituencies right now, especially since this is the first summer back in our ridings since the mandates ended, which is allowing us to get out to our community events and meet with our constituents face to face.
    I will be supporting this. I'm not too crazy about making any major amendments to the motion.

  (1225)  

    Thank you, Mr. Bezan.

[Translation]

    Ms. Brière, the floor is yours.

[English]

    Mr. Chair, it's a pleasure to be with you this afternoon.

[Translation]

    For all the reasons referred to by Ms. Shanahan and Mr. Bezan, I would like to propose the following amendment:

That the motion be amended by deleting the words “The Minister of Public Safety”.

[English]

    Thank you, Madam Brière.
     The amendment is in order. I will now take debate on the amendment.
    I see Monsieur Villemure, who had his hand up before. We're now debating the amendment.
    Go ahead, Monsieur Villemure.

[Translation]

    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    For the reasons cited by Mr. Bezan, precisely because the minister is ultimately responsible, I think he must know, or ought to know, that it is relevant for him to appear.
    If, during the course of the examination, everything was made clear before he appeared, we could review the issue.
    I said at the outset that, since I wanted to conduct a public interest examination and not be partisan on this subject, I called the members of all parties. I now have three responses from the side of my colleagues opposite expressing their desire to limit the scope of the examination.
    I think that in the name of parliamentary friendship, we should not start reducing the scope of the examination before knowing the first thing, honestly.
    I think we might need a bit more good faith co‑operation in this matter.

[English]

    We have Ms. Khalid.
    Chair, I just want to echo what Mr. Bezan said and what Mr. Villemure said as well, that this is definitely an important issue. If members are bringing this up, I'm sure it is important for us to find out exactly the kinds of operational challenges of the RCMP in endeavouring to ensure the protection of privacy of Canadians. That, to me, based on my reading of this motion, is what the ultimate intent is, although it's not very clear.
    If we're going to try to receive as much information as possible, in my opinion, given all the points that the motion is asking for, I really think that these are decisions in the day-to-day operations of the RCMP, which the minister would just not be involved in. If we are going to go down the path of this motion, I would rather we spend that time dealing with the operational piece of it and getting the information that Monsieur Villemure really wants to get. I would rather spend the time in questioning and receiving that information from those who are relevant to the topic of this motion.
    Obviously I'll support the amendment to remove the Minister of Public Safety from the list of witnesses.
    Now we have Mr. Naqvi, and after him, it will be Mr. Bezan.
    Thank you very much, Chair.
    I also want to build on what both Monsieur Villemure and Ms. Khalid are saying. This is a non-partisan issue, and I totally agree with Monsieur Villemure on that. This is an important issue. Canadians should know whether or not the police services are complying with all the legislation that exists as it relates to their privacy.
    In order for this committee to do that work, it is important that we focus on the operational aspect of what the RCMP does or does not do. As soon as you inject bringing somebody like the Minister of Public Safety into that conversation, I think you're trying to make the issue a partisan issue. All of us have sat on many committees. We know the line of questioning that takes place, and especially when we know that the Minister of Public Safety will not have any information or knowledge as to the kind of software, if it's being used by the RCMP, for instance, in this particular matter, because it is an operational matter.
    I have had the opportunity to serve as minister of public safety in the Province of Ontario, which Ontario Provincial Police reports to. I can tell you that is the kind of information a minister, even at the provincial level, will have no information on or will not be privy to at all, because it is so down to operational. Even if a minister asked the commissioner of a police service, whether it's the RCMP, OPP or Sûreté du Québec, the likelihood that the commissioner would tell the minister, “Sorry, sir or madam, you do not have the right to ask me those questions because these are operational matters”, is extremely high. That would be the response, because the minister would be out of place, out of bounds, in asking that type of operational question.
    I do support Ms. Brière's amendment that we remove the Minister of Public Safety from this proceeding, given this is a highly operational matter. It's probably best that those who are aware of how those operations work, i.e., members of the RCMP, for example, be the ones who are asked to testify as opposed to bringing in the minister, who is more on the executive side or on the political side and is responsible for policies, not the actual operations of our national police service.

  (1230)  

    Thank you.
    We have Mr. Bezan, followed by Monsieur Villemure.
    Mr. Chair, I'm opposed to this amendment, and mainly to the issue the Liberal members keep arguing, that this is an operational question. There is a policy backing here, and that is why we need to talk to the Minister of Public Safety. Ultimately, the RCMP reports to him, or whoever the Minister of Public Safety is at the time. This goes back over a number of years. We're not concerned about the current Minister of Public Safety; it's about the general policy direction that was given by the Government of Canada through the Minister of Public Safety's office to the RCMP about how to deal with privacy issues around this technology. This spyware, Pegasus in particular, has huge, sweeping impacts on the privacy of Canadians. We also want to make sure that charter rights have been protected.
    This comes down to the responsibility of the minister to ensure that warrants have been issued or ministerial authorization is given in extreme circumstances if they are investigating an individual at a certain point in time who was a national security threat or someone who is a threat to the public safety of Canadians. Whether we're talking about transnational criminal organizations, drug gangs or terrorist organizations, the Minister of Public Safety has a huge role to play and has ministerial authority over all those things. If they had to do a wiretap, in a lot of cases they would have gone to the Minister of Public Safety for authorization, if a judge wasn't available, to make the warrants applicable.
    There is a major role for the Minister of Public Safety to play in the policy and in the issuing of authorizations to wiretap, spy and use malware such as Pegasus. We need to hear from the Minister of Public Safety.
    Now we'll go to Monsieur Villemure.

[Translation]

    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    All of the arguments made are valid.
     However, it must be noted that in the case of facial recognition, we have not asked to meet with the Member of Parliament. It is strictly operational.
    However, while it is operational, the use of software like Pegasus is of concern because of the scope of this kind of tool, which goes beyond anything we have seen up to now. If the minister is aware of it, I would like to know. If he is not, I would like to make him aware, in any event.
    The use of a tool called a “device investigation tool” is not something innocuous in operational terms or even in political terms. I don't think the RCMP can decide this by itself, without talking to anyone.
    Above all, the minister should know about it, because it falls into another category. This isn't facial recognition or geolocating people. We're virtually in Minority Report territory.
    For the purposes of public policy, accountability and the trust we need to have in government, I think we have to retain the option of calling the minister to appear.

[English]

    Thank you.
    Now we'll go to Madam Brière.
    Thank you again, Mr. Chair.

[Translation]

    I would simply like to remind everyone that the commissioner of the RCMP has complete authority over that.
    The commissioner is accountable to the minister, but she has operational independence. No elected official has any influence over her or directs her in any way. This is a line that we must not cross.

  (1235)  

[English]

    René, do you have something you need to get in or can we proceed to the vote?

[Translation]

    I would like to add a point to Ms. Brière's comment.
    The minister is not supposed to be informed by the commissioner of the RCMP. I can be in partial agreement with you on that point, Ms. Brière. However, when it came to the convoy movement we saw earlier this year, the minister nonetheless admitted he had been informed.
    I think that line is porous. I'm not accusing anyone, but it is porous and it exists.

[English]

     With that, I will go to the question on the amendment. We're voting on the amendment.
    We're in hybrid, so I'm wondering about the easiest way to do this. I guess I'll just put it out. Is anyone opposed to the amendment?
    I am opposed.
    Madam Clerk, we'll have a recorded vote on the amendment.
    There is a tie. I will vote against the amendment.
    (Amendment negatived: nays 6; yeas 5 [See Minutes of Proceedings])
    The Chair: The amendment is defeated, which returns us to the main motion.
    I have Mr. Naqvi first, followed by Ms. Khalid.
    Chair, I also want to move an amendment. I move that the main motion be amended by replacing “at least four meetings” with “no more than two meetings” in the first line of the motion.
    The amendment is in order.
    Madam Clerk, do you have the amendment?
    It's “no more than two meetings” instead of “at least four meetings”. Is that correct?
    Yes.
    Thank you.
    Is there discussion?
    Ms. Khalid.
    Chair, maybe I'll let Mr. Bezan go first, if that's okay.
    Yes, you may.
    Go ahead, Mr. Bezan.
    Thanks, Ms. Khalid.
    I do believe we want to be productive in our time when we meet. I would suggest that we do this in a matter of days rather than meetings.
     I'll move a subamendment that we undertake a study of no more than two days.
    This would give us the ability to have meetings in the morning and afternoon on two days, so we could get the four meetings in, at a bare minimum. Instead of two-hour meetings, we could go with three-hour time frames in the mornings and afternoons, so that we could call the appropriate witnesses and get the information. That way we would be productive with our time. For those of us who might want to travel to Ottawa for these hearings, we would maximize the time we spend in Ottawa. We would be able to call all the witnesses Mr. Villemure has proposed, as well as any additional witnesses that other committee members want to call to the committee meetings.

  (1240)  

    The subamendment is also in order.
    We are going to debate the subamendment now.
    The next hand I see is Ms. Khalid's.
     You have the floor.
     Chair, in principle, I'm okay with the subamendment, just given that we get it all done all at once.
    I do have some questions with respect to timing as it relates to the critical infrastructure upgrades that are happening in the next week, I believe, in the House, also, with respect to how many hours in the day Mr. Bezan seems to propose.
     I would like to run meetings as efficiently as possible. If something can be covered within four hours—for example, if we have four witnesses for the first morning and then four for the afternoon—then just four hours, in my opinion, would be more than sufficient to exhaust the list of witnesses in the motion. I don't think we need a span of eight meetings. I don't know how Mr. Bezan feels about that.
    Maybe you, Chair, and then maybe the clerk could find out if the upgrades in the House are going to impact the outcome of this conversation.
     Before I turn to the clerk to answer the question about meeting availability, I'm going to note that Mr. Bezan's subamendment is still an “up to” proposal, as was the original motion, so regarding your point of—
    I'm sorry, Mr. Chair. I don't understand. Exactly what subamendment are we looking at right now?
    The subamendment is that the four meetings contained in the original motion be conducted over a period of not more than two days. We would condense the time and not stretch the study out during the summer period.
    It is the subamendment to clarify that, if we have up to four meetings, they be conducted over only two days by having a meeting in the morning and a meeting in the afternoon. Meeting number one would be the morning of one day; meeting number two would be the afternoon of the same day. On the second day of the study, we would also have one meeting in the morning and one meeting in the afternoon. That's what the subamendment would do. It would restrict the number of days over which “up to four meetings” could be spread.
    I hope that clarified Mr. Bezan's motion.
    I'm sorry, Mr. Chair, that sounds more like an amendment than a subamendment because the amendment Mr. Naqvi has proposed is asking for no more than two meetings, and we know that each meeting is two hours.
    In principle, I'm not opposed to having both of those meetings on the same day, morning and afternoon, but I think dragging this on for eight hours is a bit much given the list of witnesses we have before us. I think we can get it done in four if we're judicious with our time and ensure that our witnesses are lined up, obviously while being very mindful of House resources, as I know there are other committees meeting as well.
    Before I ask the the clerk to answer the second part of your question, I want to go back to whether or not this subamendment is in order the way I understood it, because Ms. Khalid is correct. The amendment says no more than two meetings, yet the subamendment still talks about having four.
    Madam Clerk, could you—
    Actually, Mr. Chair, my subamendment was to change it to no more than two days, so the word “meetings” would change to “days”. That's the only change in the subamendment to the amendment.
     I don't want to try to micromanage the work the chair, clerk and analysts have to do to organize witnesses and panels of witnesses, so I want to keep that open and provide that flexibility. This is so we can be targeted and focused when we are sitting together. This would include how many hours we sit during those two days, and I'll leave that to the discretion of the chair.

  (1245)  

    Thank you.
    The subamendment is in order.
    I'm just going to throw this out there. Madam Clerk, are you in a position to comment on the system upgrades and any of the blackout days? Do we know what those dates are as far as availability is concerned?
     No, I couldn't comment on that.
    I may have a suggestion. I'm not sure how we'd do this because we already have a subamendment and an amendment on the floor, but the words “subject to availability of meeting resources” would be a way for us to deal with that.
    Add that later, Mr. Chair, to another amendment to the motion.
    All right. Mr. Bezan, as chair, I'm going to seek unanimous consent to add the words “subject to the availability of House resources” to the subamendment.
    Are there any opposed to adding those words to Mr. Bezan's subamendment?
     Chair, do you mind if I seek clarification from the clerk on this?
    I realize that the blackout dates are August 2 to 5, which means that we need to hold our meetings before the end of this week so that we can meet the August 8 timeline that is proposed in the motion. Is that correct?
    I am not sure if the first part of that is correct, that those blackout dates in fact preclude us from holding a meeting during that time, and I don't believe the clerk is prepared to comment on that. According to the motion, we would need to commence the study by August 8. That is contained in the motion.
    Again, I thank Mr. Bezan for his confidence in the chair and the clerk to manage the schedule, if we get to it. I don't want to do a whole committee discussion around dates and scheduling the actual meetings. I'm going to strongly discourage that.
    I didn't hear an objection to the words in my proposal—
    I did object.
    Mr. Chair, I'm getting a lot of feedback here, so I'll just say this. We should add that, but we should do that as a separate amendment, because that affects more than just the first part of the motion. It affects the entire motion.
    Fair enough. There is no consent to my proposed change to the subamendment. We are still on the subamendment.
    The next speaker I have for debate on the subamendment is Monsieur Villemure.
    You have the floor.

[Translation]

    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    I think we have to avoid confusing these two things: the organizing of the meetings and the number of meetings. They are actually two different things.
    The four meetings that were provided for totalled eight hours' work. I have no objection to those eight hours being condensed into two days.
    However, we mustn't paint ourselves into a corner. It's possible that if we offer the witnesses only two options at this time of year, they will also not be able to participate. That means additional organization, but we have to be aware of it.
    My main comment is about the fact that the four meetings we proposed totalled eight hours and it's not a problem for me if we divide them differently, but I don't want there to be less than eight hours.

  (1250)  

[English]

    Thank you.
    Ms. Khalid, your hand is still up. I don't know if you're trying to get back in or if that was from before.
    Mr. Chair, again, I'm just seeking clarity. The subamendment right now says “two days” as a replacement for “two meetings”. Are we contemplating how long these two days are going to be? Is that at your discretion, Chair, and the discretion of the clerk, or is that based on the number of witnesses?
    I obviously would like to have a bit of clarity as to what exactly we're going to be voting on soon.
    It is exactly what Mr. Bezan said. Indeed, if we have them over two days, then I, as chair, would have the flexibility, if we can get all the witnesses and we need eight hours of meetings to accommodate all of them, to do it over two days. We could meet morning and afternoon over those two days, with the flexibility to have meetings that go longer than two hours. Many committees will meet for three.
    I think you are correct in that Mr. Bezan's amendment would merely give flexibility to the chair over exactly how many hours would be required to do this study, but that it be limited to two days rather than two two-hour meetings.
    Mr. Bezan, you're welcome to comment further if I didn't capture that accurately.
    Otherwise, I see no other hands up.
    If that is good for you, Iqra, and there are no other comments, we'll go to a vote on the subamendment.
    Give me a second to confer with my colleagues, if that's okay, Chair.
     Yes, that's fair. Just make it quick. Our time is marching on, particularly if you have other amendments that you wish to propose.
    Chair, we're ready to vote.
    We're voting on the subamendment.
     I presume there's a general desire for a recorded vote, so go ahead with the vote, Madam Clerk.
    Chair, we see that Madam Brière has logged off. I think she's having technical problems.
    I'll invite her to contact technical support, but I can't stop a vote once it's commenced. I'll have the clerk continue with the vote, and we'll hopefully get Madam Brière back on.
    (Subamendment agreed to: yeas 10; nays 0 [See Minutes of Proceedings])
    The Chair: Thank you.
    Has anybody been able to find out what happened to Madam Brière?
    A voice: The technical team is reaching out to her.
    The Chair: I'm going to carry on with the meeting because we simply don't have a lot of extra time available to lose to a technical issue like this. Hopefully she can get back on as soon as possible. I see her image appearing, so that's good.
    With that, we are now on the amendment itself. Moving to the amendment as amended, I will ask the clerk to read it now for clarity on the amendment.

  (1255)  

    It's just the first line, “That the committee undertake a study of no more than 2 days beginning no later than Monday, August 8th, 2022,” and the rest remains the same.
    There seems to be no further discussion on the amendment, so we'll go to the vote on the amendment.
    Are there any opposed to the amendment?
    I'm sorry, Chair. My Internet went out, and I missed exactly what the wording of the motion was. I offer my sincerest apologies.
    We are voting on the amendment as amended.
    Go ahead, Madam Clerk.
    “That the committee undertake a study of no more than 2 days beginning no later than Monday, August 8th, 2022,” and the remainder of the motion remains unchanged.
     Is there discussion?
    Seeing none, we'll go to the vote on the amendment.
    (Amendment as amended agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])
    The Chair: We are now on the main motion as amended. Is there any further discussion on the main motion?
    Ms. Khalid, please go ahead.
    Chair, please let me know if I'm frozen on the screen. There's a lot of Internet use happening in my constituency office today and I notice that it's lagging at my end.
    As I mentioned earlier, I've been having discussions with a number of our colleagues with respect to where we are going with this motion and what our objectives are.
    I agree with my colleagues that it's important to hold institutions to account, but it's important to ensure that trust in public institutions is maintained at the same time. We, as committee members, are obligated and responsible for ensuring that we're walking that balance. We have great responsibility for not only protecting this public institution, but also for holding it to account. This is why I agree with the principle from Mr. Villemure and a lot of the conversations that have been happening today with respect to this debate.
    I did mention to all of my opposition colleagues that if we really do want to get to the crux of what we're trying to accomplish here with the RCMP and holding them to account—and I've suggested this in an informal setting to all of the members here—the study or certain aspects of it may be better suited if they're indeed placed in NSICOP, the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, where classified documents can be looked at. Classified conversations can happen while still maintaining the importance of public trust in institutions and while still holding organizations like the RCMP to account.
    I understand that members would like to have that conversation in a more public forum, which obviously restricts our ability to ask those classified questions, which we may not get answers to, or to receive those classified documents, which we may not receive because of the sensitive nature of this.
    I have had these conversations with members of the opposition, specifically when it comes to two paragraphs in the main motion. I will move that we remove those two paragraphs from the main motion. I would love to hear all sides of this conversation in this meeting. Therefore, Chair, without further ado, I move that the main motion be amended by deleting:
That the committee request, by Thursday, August 4, 2022, that the RCMP provide a list of warrants obtained, if any, for each use of such software, as well as the scope of the warrants and the reasons for the monitoring;
That the Committee also request, by Thursday, August 4, 2022, a list of warrants or any other information related to the wiretapping of Members of Parliament, Parliamentary Assistants, or any other employee of the Parliament of Canada.
    I would like to draw your attention to a number of issues that I think are pertinent here. One is that this is overly broad. I could go through a list of members of Parliament in the past who have had warrants against them, but the list would also include Bruce Carson, Arthur Porter, Patrick Brazeau and Pamela Wallin. There are a number of senators like Finley, Gerstein and Mike Duffy. There are Michael Sona and Jack Layton. I could continue on and on.
    I really think we need to understand where we're trying to go with this. Having a list of all members of Parliament who have ever had a warrant put out for them or have gone to jail in the history of our Parliament is not going to lead to the objectives that we're trying to get to. The objective is, from my understanding—I would love for Mr. Villemure to correct me if I'm wrong—to make sure that the RCMP is respecting the privacy rights of Canadians.
    It's kind of a long stretch for that to happen based on the wording of this motion.

  (1300)  

     Obviously we have the ability to add witnesses, as may be, depending on how this warrants section plays out, which is something to be considered at a later time. I also think this really hits at the crux of our public institutions and the trust in them.
    I've heard members today talk about Pegasus like it was a fact of usage. I'm not saying it is or isn't. That's what this whole exercise is about. If there is information out there that members are privy to about the usage of this, I would like to know about it, because the text of the motion seems really direct—that yes, this is happening and we would like this committee to see a list of all the warrants that have been put out. To me that seems a little disingenuous in that we haven't received that information yet from the RCMP.
    At the same time, I understand that we've not had a pleasant experience with the RCMP with respect to the facial recognition study that has been going on. I am in no way defending their practices. In fact, I agree with members who say the RCMP should be held to account. However, at the same time, I don't want to create a fear frenzy, or to use fear to put forward or expand partisan issues, or to have somebody's head, as other members have said to me off the record.
    What I would like to see those two paragraphs removed. On principle, I would like to see that moved to NSICOP so that we can have fulsome, truthful discussions in a setting that is good for our public security, our national security, while also holding the RCMP to account. I don't think this committee is the right place for that.
    Mr. Chair, given all the arguments I've made, I put it to you to let me know if my amendment is in order. I'm looking forward to debate on this from other members.

  (1305)  

    Your amendment is indeed in order, so we will debate the amendment henceforth.
    If you're finished, I will go to Monsieur Villemure.

[Translation]

    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    The amendment that has been proposed strips the motion of any substance. There would be nothing left.
    Certainly, if we transfer the investigation to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, the RCMP might answer the questions a little more freely. However, as members of Parliament know, trust doesn't thrive in the shadows. If we want to maintain, increase or restore trust, we can't work in camera, in the shadows. That is impossible. It has no meaning.
    Documents produced by the House of Commons confirm that the RCMP did not obtain warrants in ten or so cases. Those documents are available and the committee can consult them. I have access. They are official documents of the House of Commons.
    We aren't asking for a list of all parliamentarians who have been wiretapped since the dawn of time, just since the Pegasus software started being used. We want to know what is going on, whether there is a problem. I think the two paragraphs should be kept in, because the heart of the motion is to study the possibility that the RCMP engaged in warrantless surveillance of Canadian citizens and maybe of parliamentarians. If we remove the part about warrants, we may find out who was under surveillance, but nothing more. We will not be able to find out whether the surveillance was legal or illegal. I think the amendment strips the motion of any substance. For that reason, I certainly cannot support it.
    There is also another point.
    We all agree to work in the public interest, and since the meeting started, we have all confirmed that. However, I see amendments being proposed by our Liberal colleagues that move us away from the public interest and aim to protect who knows what. There may be nothing blameworthy in it, and if that's the case, I will be happy to shout it from the rooftops.
    However, we can't start limiting the scope, the number of witnesses or the rest of it, and hope to have the desired effect. For that reason, I would like us to work in good faith, and not try to use delaying tactics to move us away from the spirit of the motion.

[English]

     Next we have Mr. Bezan.
    Mr. Chair, I want to keep these two paragraphs intact. I do believe that, if we talk about trust in public institutions, as Ms. Khalid has presented as her argument as to why these paragraphs should be deleted, I think it actually undermines our democratic institutions. People want to know that when parliamentarians ask for the production of documents, especially from the RCMP, who, as Ms. Khalid pointed out, in our study on facial recognition technology and on their metadata monitoring that's happened in the past.... We also talk about the Public Health Agency of Canada monitoring movements of Canadians using technology.
    We need to know what's happening. We have to be completely transparent here. By removing these paragraphs, it will look more like a cover-up rather than being accountable. I want to make sure that we bring this all forward. The parliamentarians and parliamentary staff, the Liberals pointed out, are all... It's public information. It's out there. People know about it.
    I don't want to be undermining any active criminal investigations that are happening right now. That is something that I am cognizant of, and I don't want that information public. That's why this is going to be submitted to the committee. The committee can decide what we release to the public. I think that's covered off through the motion. I think we want to be very cautious on how we deal with it, including on issues of national security, but we don't want the RCMP to use the guise of national security or public safety as a way to pull a veil over this information and hide it from parliamentarians and ultimately the findings that we have in this committee and report back to Parliament and to Canadians in general.
    Let's leave it as is. Then we can move forward on how we best discern that information and put it into our report.

  (1310)  

    Thank you.
    Go ahead, Ms. Khalid.
    Chair, to be completely honest, I didn't really understand where Mr. Bezan was going with that argument. As I've said before, it's really important for us as parliamentarians to be responsible for what we're saying. It's one thing to make accusations and then recall them later. I think it's more responsible for us to actually ask these questions of the RCMP before the committee before we say, “Okay, now produce these documents.” We don't know if these documents exist.
    I know that members have spoken of Pegasus, or these documents or those documents, or those warrants, like they're matters of fact. We in fact don't know that they're matters of fact. I think we are able to revisit whether or not these documents are needed after we've had those conversations in our committee, in a public setting, with the RCMP before us.
    There's a second thing I want to outline about something Mr. Bezan said about the potential confidentiality of these documents being covered in the motion. I don't think the confidentiality of these documents is indeed covered in the text of the motion as it is presented before us. If that is a conversation that we need to have, then we should definitely be having it.
    There is a responsibility that comes with parliamentary privilege. I think we should be very, very judicious in the accusations we make without proof, without a shred of evidence, before making these accusations or saying that this is actually a matter of fact. In reality, maybe we should be bringing in the RCMP first and saying, “All right, guys; these are our concerns.” Based on what they respond with, we can then say, “You know what? We need these documents from you guys.” Then we can discuss under what circumstance and what parameters we'd be receiving those documents.
    I absolutely agree with my colleagues that we need to hold public institutions to account within that whole framework of privacy and ethics and access to information. I think we should be doing it in a more responsible way, in a more reasonable way, as opposed to whatever sticks first and then ask questions later. I think we should be asking the questions first and then requesting what documents need to be requested.
    We try to be as collaborative as possible on this committee to ensure that the non-partisan important work for the protection of rights of Canadians is maintained through this committee. I hope we can continue to work in that way as these two days progress for this study specifically.
    Thanks, Chair.
     Mr. Williams is next.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair.

[Translation]

    Good afternoon, I have taken French courses in Quebec.

[English]

    Mr. Villemure, I'm in your province and learning a little bit, not too much.
    I want to add in a word we haven't used or heard yet, which is “regulation”. We heard about general operations, and we just came off of a study where we talked about regulations. I think, from our perspective, the whole purpose of this study is to look at regulations that may not exist at all, the use and perhaps the exploitation of privacy. That's why some of those witnesses have been called forward and the public safety minister, because that still is under his purview.
    I disagree with the notion that this is a witch hunt. Our whole premise in this committee is to look at what regulations we can recommend to Parliament to protect Canadians as a whole. We've seen from the last study or two that, when technology advances, the government does not keep up with it. We do see exploitation, and we see problems with that, and that affects Canadians. That's the whole committee's work.
    To that end, when we have witnesses, and we ask for certain witnesses or evidence, that evidence becomes part of what we make for recommendations to correct that and to correct any exploitation or anything else that may be perceived as happening or may be happening. I don't agree that we should be putting that aside, on a back burner or taking it away from public view. The public is absolutely entitled to see what is there.
    Further to that, the premise and the background of the actual ask for this committee report is from already public information that was reported. To that end, keeping that main topic of regulation at the forefront and looking to make sure we as parliamentarians are making recommendations of regulations to protect privacy of Canadians and perhaps parliamentarians is the reason for the study. I think we need to be cognizant of that. It needs to be public in that regard so that when we make recommendations the public understands why and where they came from.

  (1315)  

    Go ahead, Mr. Villemure.

[Translation]

    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    I would just like to correct one point. We aren't accusing anyone; we want to understand. It's not the same thing.
     The statements made earlier are taken from a House of Commons document—it's on House letterhead—published on June 22, dealing with wiretaps carried out between January 1, 2020 and May 6, 2022, so it's not a witch hunt going back indefinitely into the past. In that 132-page document, a number of things are explained and we learn a lot of things. In some passages, we also learn that warrantless wiretapping was carried out. The reasons are not provided. They may be good reasons. However, for the moment, that document should be clarified, and the questions I will ask flow directly from it.
    The motion therefore does not make any accusations; it allows a study to be done. It is not groundless. It is based on the report submitted to the House of Commons on June 22. We need the information requested in the motion to answer the questions raised by the document. I urge the committee to retain the two paragraphs in question.

[English]

    Ms. Khalid, you have the floor.
    Chair, I want to read out a portion of what I'm proposing be deleted from the motion:
    That the Committee also request, by Thursday, August 4, 2022, a list of warrants or any other information related to the wiretapping of Members of Parliament, Parliamentary Assistants or any other employee of the Parliament of Canada;
    To me, that is not a question. That is a statement that says, “RCMP, you have been doing this. Now show us the paper trail or the paperwork to go behind this.”
    When I read this motion—and please correct me if I'm wrong—I see that this is making a statement of fact, or that's how it reads.
    I again stand by what I'm saying. This is not seeming to be a fact-finding expedition. It seems like opposition members have already set their minds on what the facts are and are now looking to back them up with documents that we know are not going to be provided. We know that this is not the right forum for these conversations to happen.
    Again, to the members, folks, we need to walk that fine balance. Trust in public institutions is important to Canadians. Yes, we need to hold them to account. I do not think we should be making these kinds of accusations, because that is what it reads from the motion, without first having those discussions, those conversations, with the RCMP, the people involved. Based on those discussions, we can ask for whatever documents we want. I feel that those discussions need to happen first before we make these accusatory comments about them.
     Mr. Villemure.

[Translation]

    I reject the argument that we are making accusations.
    We are not accusing anyone. We simply want to shed light on facts that were presented in a report that was made public and to which the RCMP will have to respond publicly. It is a question of pure responsibility.
    Details could be kept confidential, but the very essence of the study is to find out whether Pegasus was used or not. If not, we want to know what system was used, for what purposes, when and for whom. That has a direct impact on Canadians' privacy. Since this is the privacy committee, it is the ideal forum for examining the question.
    The motion does not contain any accusation. Members can see an accusation in it if they want to, but it doesn't contain any, properly speaking. What it contains is a request for a study, an examination, but not an accusation.
    I want to start this exercise by saying that I want to know, not that I accuse. That is very important. Members have to be careful about the vocabulary they use on this subject. To my very insistent colleague, whom I hold in very high regard, I want to clarify that no accusation is being made.

  (1320)  

[English]

     I think we've exhausted the speaking list, so I will put the question on the motion to the committee.
    Are there any opposed to the motion?
    I'm opposed, and I request a recorded vote.
    Isn't the question on the amendment?
    I'm sorry. We're on the amendment.
    Mr. Villemure, go ahead.

[Translation]

    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    For clarification, I would like a recap of what we're voting on. We have to be sure of the implications of our vote.

[English]

    I almost lost my sense of clarity around that too, so thank you.
    We are voting on the amendment to delete the second and third paragraphs. I heard a request for a recorded vote, so I'll now turn it over to the clerk for a recorded vote on the amendment to the motion.
    (Amendment negatived: nays 6; yeas 5 [See Minutes of Proceedings])
    The Chair: We're back to the main motion. Is there any further discussion or amendments to the main motion?
    Ms. Khalid.
    Mr. Chair, I was wondering, in that case, as we look to submit additional witnesses as is contemplated in the motion, what the timeline is for getting those names. If I wanted, for example, to invite Mr. Harper to come to talk about his involvement in AI and Pegasus, how much of a time frame would we need to make sure he's available to come to this committee?
    Given that you've suggested the intention to do so publicly, perhaps you're giving the maximum time that could be allowed, so thank you for doing so. I would suggest that, if anybody has any other suggestions for witnesses that they've already contemplated, supply them to the clerk as soon as possible.
    As always, the sooner that is done, the better. I don't see a deadline for witnesses built into the motion, and I don't believe that one is necessary. I will put it out there to all members that you will have the greatest odds of getting your witness, I think, if you give the maximum amount of time for the clerk to contact them.
    I'll leave it at that, although I do see Mr. Bezan and Mr. Villemure.
     Mr. Chair, I know that in some of the discussions we're having there's a concern that this is a witch hunt and maybe we should limit the information we're getting. I would suggest, because of what's been made publicly available, that Pegasus started getting used by the RCMP.... It was using spyware starting in 2018. That's what they've said. Maybe we could set that as a time limit.
    We know from public information that Pegasus has been around since 2016. We may want to use those as the dates to start with and just say that the information we're looking for starts at x day until the current time so that we don't have the RCMP going back historically through a pile of records and combing through them to see how many wiretaps it's issued since the advent of the telephone. It would be a more productive use of RCMP time, and better for us, to be more focused.
    I'd like to propose the amendment that all information that's been requested by the RCMP include the time frame from January 1, 2016, until present.

  (1325)  

    Are you proposing this as an amendment to the motion?
    Yes. It would follow after the third paragraph.
    I'm wondering if the third paragraph, “That the committee request, by Thursday, August 4, 2022, that the RCMP provide a list of warrants obtained, if any, for each use of such software”, almost has that built in, if we're talking about software that's existed since 2016, but never mind. I point that out just for clarity.
    That's in the second paragraph. That's not in the third.
    I take your point.
    Well, your amendment is in order. I'm going to ask you to repeat the precise amendment you're proposing.
    I'm actually going to modify that. I'll just add “for each use of such software” into the third paragraph. It would read the same way: “a list of warrants or any other information related to the wiretapping, for each use of such software, of Members of Parliament”. It's right there. It's just so we adopt the same wording that was in the second paragraph and insert into the third “for each use of such software”. I think that would cover it off well.
    After the comma, where it says “Members of Parliament”—sorry. I guess it could be at the end of that sentence: “wiretapping of Members of Parliament, Parliamentary Assistants or any other employee of the Parliament of Canada, for each use of such software”.
    Yes.
    Okay. We have an amendment that is in order.
    I see Monsieur Villemure, followed by Ms. Khalid.
    Go ahead, Mr. Villemure.

[Translation]

    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    I just wanted to mention that the motion already asked that a list of witnesses be provided within seven days of the adoption of the motion. That was already included, so I don't think we need to specify it.
     I'm less familiar with the procedure. Since I don't necessarily agree with the date of January 1, 2016, should I vote against the amendment or should I propose another subamendment? I'm not entirely sure how to proceed.

[English]

    Thank you.
    I'm not using that date in the amendment to the motion. I'm just saying that “for each use of such software” should be added to the end of the third paragraph. There's no date involved. Is that clear as mud?
    Just a moment on the second point....
     René, thank you for clarifying.
    The additional witness list in your motion is to be submitted to the clerk within seven days of the adoption of this motion. If the motion is adopted today, members will have seven days to supply the names to the clerk, but the sooner the better, as is always the case.
    You're not limited. If you have a witness already in mind who you wish to call, you may do so, but that doesn't preclude you from adding witnesses afterward. Of course, the clerk will do her best to give any potential witness as much notice as possible to have the greatest possible participation in our meetings.
    For discussion on the amendment, I have Ms. Khalid.

  (1330)  

    Chair, I'm just trying to understand if there is or is not a timeline on this. Are there two...? I'm sorry, but could you read what is before us? I'd appreciate that.
    With regard to the witnesses, or with regard to which—
    Whatever the amendment is proposing.
    The amendment had nothing to do with witnesses, or it didn't have to do with supplying the list of witnesses. The amendment was to add the words “for each use of such software” to the third paragraph. What that does is capture how far back the RCMP has to go with respect to warrants. We're only dealing with these types of software. We are not going back deep into history and into old—
    Governments?
    —wiretaps that are not related to this software that we're studying.
    Okay. So, it's not limiting the RCMP as to....
    My apologies, Mr. Chair. I'm a little bit confused because we're not exactly sure what kind of software we're talking about initially. Are we talking about Pegasus or Pegasus-like software? I see Mr. Bezan is nodding his head about Pegasus-like software.
    What we're saying is that we're not setting a timeline on where those motions are produced as long as they are linked to some software that is used by some RCMP officers with respect to some wiretapping of members of Parliament. Is that accurate?
    The motion uses the word “spyware” in its first sentence, and it carries on.... Sorry, that's in the letter. The motion itself, in the first paragraph, says “device investigation tools”, which I understand is a term used by the RCMP, so that would hopefully capture whatever they would consider to be a device investigation tool.
    Also, in the same sentence, it refers to “technological capabilities similar to Pegasus”, so we've identified Pegasus and similar to Pegasus, device identification tools similar to Pegasus. I think that's all right there in the motion for clarity.
    Again, for further clarity, Chair, my understanding is that the Pegasus spyware was developed in 2011, and that is not the same date as Mr. Bezan had initially said, 2016. Just so everybody is clear, that's what the expectation is as to when the software was developed, and that's how far back we're going.
    In reading this motion, I would presume that, in order to comply with this motion, if it's passed, if the RCMP used such software at any time going back to 2011—if that is the development date of this software—then that would be captured by this motion. I think that's why using that phrase of “for each use of such software” is better than a date, so we're not guessing when these things were adopted or came into existence.

  (1335)  

     That sounds great.
    Thank you, Chair.
    You're welcome.
    Is there any other discussion on the amendment?
    Is everyone in favour of the amendment? Is anyone opposed to the amendment?
    Seeing no opposition to the amendment—
    Sorry, Chair. I just wanted to canvass my members to see how they felt about it.
    None of them put their hand up or looked at me when I asked if anyone was opposed. I don't see any opposition to the amendment. Unless—
    Sorry. I just want to clarify one last time, Chair, that there are no dates proposed in this amendment.
    There's no explicit date in the amendment. We've just used the same language that's in the second paragraph into the third.
    Thank you, Chair.
    Do you object to the amendment, Mr. Naqvi?
    No, I also want to be absolutely clear on what I'm voting on right now. Perhaps the clerk could read the precise language of the suggested amendment to the motion so that we're all clear on what we're voting on.
    The Chair: Go ahead, Madam Clerk.
     Would you like me to read the whole motion?
    Just the relevant part would be sufficient. Thank you.
    The relevant part is after the third paragraph, which begins with, “That the Committee also request, by Thursday, August 4, 2022, a list of warrants”. At the end of that paragraph, after “employee of the Parliament of Canada”, we would add “for each use of such software”.
    I still have not seen any objection to the amendment. Seeing none, nor a request for a recorded vote, I declare the motion amended.
    (Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])
    The Chair: We are now back to the main motion as amended.
    Is there any further discussion, debate or additional amendment to the main motion?
    Seeing no hands up and nobody wishing to speak, I will put the main motion to a vote.
    Is there anyone opposed to, or requesting a recorded division on, the main motion?
    Ms. Iqra Khalid: I would request a recorded division, Chair.
    The Chair: I would ask the clerk to record the vote on the motion.
    We have a tie. I vote in favour of the motion.
    (Motion as amended agreed to: yeas 6; nays 5 [See Minutes of Proceedings])
    The Chair: I declare the motion carried.
    The purpose of this meeting was to deal with this motion. Unless there's any urgent business that would be in order and that members would like to discuss, I'm going to declare the meeting adjourned.
    Is there any other urgent related or relevant business?
    Seeing none, the meeting is adjourned.