Bill C-51: Maher Arar but no ex-PMs on committee's draft witness list

Four former Security Intelligence Review Committee chairs, three retired judges, two former public safety ministers, Canada's best-known torture victim and the creator of CBC-TV's Little Mosque on the Prairie may soon get the chance to share their thoughts on the government's proposed anti-terror measures.

According to a draft list obtained by CBC News, committee staff are currently working their way through the names of as many as 70 potential witnesses who could be called to testify over the course of eight sessions allotted to expert testimony, including retired politicians, academics, security experts, First Nations and environmental activists and privacy advocates.

Among those who may be on the final witness list:

- Former Security Information Review Committee chairs Ron Atkey, Bob Rae, Deb Grey and Chuck Strahl.

- Retired Supreme Court justices Louise Arbour and John Major.

- Former public safety ministers Anne McLellan and Stockwell Day.

- Maher Arar, Canadian victim of torture at the hands of Syrian authorities and human rights activist.

- Former associate chief justice of Ontario Dennis O'Connor, who chaired the inquiry into the events that led to Maher Arar being handed over and tortured by Syrian authorities.

- Little Mosque on the Prairie creator Zarqa Nawaz, who also works with the Islamic Association of Saskatchewan.

- Mi'kmaq lawyer and professor Pam Palmater and Grand Chief of Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs Stewart Phillip.

- Greenpeace Canada campaigner Keith Stewart.

- Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs chair David Cape.

- Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association research chair Ziyaad Mia.

- Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien.

- Toronto lawyer Clayton Ruby.

- Ukrainian Canadian Congress executive director Taras Zalusky.

- Western University professor Salim Mansur.

The committee is also expected to extend invitations to senior representatives from Canada's "Five Eyes" intelligence allies, including U.K. Home Office Secretary Theresa May, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and New Zealand Attorney General Chris Finlayson.

Former PMs not on the list

Initially, the Conservatives had planned to allot just three sessions to witness testimony, but a New Democrat-driven filibuster forced the government to expand its initial offer to a total of nine meetings, including one that will be devoted to Justice Minister Peter MacKay, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney and other government officials.

Even so, it's not known whether everyone on the long list will be invited to appear in person, as even the extended sitting schedule agreed to by the government would allow a maximum of 48 slots.

The New Democrats had hoped to hear from former prime ministers Joe Clark, John Turner, Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin — signatories of an open letter calling for the bill to include greater civilian oversight — but those names don't seem to have made the short list, which is typically compiled from lists provided by the various parties.

The hearings are expected to get underway next Tuesday.