3 min

Rob Oliphant talks CSIS and human rights

I caught up with openly gay Liberal MP Rob Oliphant after Question Period today, and with the Easter Break just days away, asked him how things were going in this session – his first as an MP.

Q: How are things going so far this session?
A: Really well. As a new MP, it takes several months to figure out things, and I’m approaching the six-month time. You learn from your elders. The mood in caucus is so tremendously different than it was when I first came, that it’s great. Even this morning at caucus meeting, you can just sense that there is – it’s a unanimity that I think is quite rare in politics right now, people are quite behind the leader, and it feels good.

Q: You’re on the Public Safety Committee right now. How are things going with that?
A: It’s been a terrific learning experience for me, and I think I can contribute something there as well. The issues that I’ve taken on are some of the issues around accountability and oversight, particularly around the Iacobucci and O’Connor commissions. It’s interesting for me, and important for me, because one of the gentlemen involved in the Iacobucci commission, one of the people who was detained and tortured, is a constituent of mine in Don Valley West, and I have a significant Muslim population – it’s the largest Muslim population in Canada. So these are issues that affect them. They’re targeted often simply for being Muslim so I’ve been taking that issue on. There’s some important work on Tasers – we’re not finished there yet on misuse of Tasers, and whether or not the government has changed the directives or the RCMP has changed the directives that they should be using, and the other thing is some border issues. A group of Tamils in my riding were detained at the border coming back into the country – they were able to get into the United States, but not able to get into Canada easily, and I’ve raised the issue, and I think I’ve raised the awareness with the Canadian Border Services Agency. My thing is human rights, and I’m not on the human rights committee but I’m finding human rights coming up in this committee a lot, so I can be a human rights advocate there.

Q: The issue with CSIS has been in the news a lot this week. What’s your take on what happened in the committee there?
A: The committee met on Tuesday and I believe he’s a Director or Director General from CSIS was quite forthright, and may have been less political than some superiors might have been, and indicated that indeed there are still not clear directives ensuring that we do not promote any kind of torture being used to gather information, even if it’s not useful. Generally they’ve been saying well we can’t use it in prosecution anyway, why would we do it? He would not go that far, and so this is what we’re raising. We meet with the Minister tomorrow – Van Loan is coming, and you bet that will be an issue. He’s coming to talk about estimates, but we’re able to use the time on anything, so we’ll be doing something on that with him. And I think we’ll be calling CSIS to come in and explain themselves to us, because obviously if that very, very clear – both it’s a public opinion that’s clear in Canada, and also a pretty clear direction that the government said they would adopt all of the recommendations from the O’Connor commission, just shows us that there’s no will to do that, and I understand the need to balance security with individual rights, but never to condone any form of torture. That’s the easy one for me.