October 04, 2016 - 3:20 PM
OTTAWA - An intelligence expert says a federal review of national security shouldn't be fixated solely on terrorism.
Wesley Wark, who teaches at the University of Ottawa, says Canadians need to have a discussion about other dangers, including cyberthreats and problems that could arise from climate change.
He told the Commons public safety committee that terrorism is just one of a number of security threats — and it may not be the most serious one society faces.
Wark was among the first witnesses as the committee kicked off hearings that will help shape the Liberal government's security policy.
The government also recently opened an online consultation soliciting feedback on issues ranging from sharing information and preventing attacks to conducting surveillance and ensuring intelligence agencies are accountable.
In last year's election campaign, the Liberals promised to repeal "problematic elements" of omnibus security legislation, known as Bill C-51, ushered in by the previous Conservative government.
The bill gave the Canadian Security Intelligence Service explicit powers to disrupt terrorist threats, not just gather information about them.
The legislation also created a new offence of promoting the commission of terrorist offences and broadened the government's no-fly list powers. In addition, it expanded the sharing of federally held information about activity that "undermines the security of Canada."
The Trudeau government has committed to ensure all CSIS warrants respect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, preserve legitimate protest and advocacy, and define terrorist propaganda more clearly.
The Liberals say they say will do a better job of balancing collective security with rights and freedoms.
Wark expressed concern the discussion is being framed too narrowly.
"I think it's vital that we begin to have a larger conversation about national security," he told the committee.
"The sooner we broaden that discussion, the better off we'll be."
Privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien said it is crucial that there be more transparency about national security so that Canadians can better understand the issues.
"Obviously there are limits to transparency when you talk about national security," he said during the committee meeting. "But there is no doubt in my mind that more can and should be done."
Therrien said his office would publish a written response to the government's consultation paper.
— Follow @JimBronskill on Twitter
News from © The Canadian Press, 2016