We will call this meeting to order.
I would ask the media present to slip out now with the cameras. Thank you very much.
Welcome, colleagues, to meeting number 53 of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.
Today, under the orders of the day and pursuant to the order of reference of Monday, February 23, 2015, we are looking at Bill , an act to enact the security of Canada information sharing act and the secure air travel act, to amend the Criminal Code, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other acts.
Appearing as witnesses today, we have the Honourable Steven Blaney, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, and the Honourable Peter Gordon MacKay, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.
We have from the Department of Justice, William F. Pentney, deputy minister of justice and deputy attorney general of Canada, and Donald K. Piragoff, senior assistant deputy minister, policy sector.
We also have from the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, François Guimont, deputy minister. From the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, we have Michel Coulombe, director. From the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, we have Bob Paulson, commissioner.
On a point of order, Mr. Garrison.
Mr. Chair, as you know, I am very proud to speak French, which is my mother tongue. I will be pleased to do part of my speech in English.
I am happy to be here this morning to set the record straight on certain points. I am very proud to be here with my colleague and friend, the Honourable Peter MacKay, , whom I respect deeply. We prepared this bill with him. We are proud to be here to protect the rights of Canadians.
Let me first address the video produced by the criminal who attacked this very Parliament building and murdered Corporal Nathan Cirillo, which you viewed this past Friday.
The Petit Larousse definition is clear and it is used by Commissioner Paulson, the U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, or even President François Hollande, who described the act committed here as “terrorist-inspired”. It was an act of violence, a dramatic gesture driven by ideology.
Clearly, every time I appear here, I remember that I was here that day with Minister MacKay and several colleagues from the government caucus. We were witnesses to and victims of this attack. I had the opportunity to meet with all the members of the committee to tell them that we must remain vigilant and confident, and to take the necessary measures, while protecting the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and privacy to effectively fight the evolving terrorist threat. This is my primary duty as Minister of Public Safety.
That is why I am here today with Minister MacKay to present Bill . This bill includes measures to combat terrorism and will provide additional tools to our law enforcement agencies, intelligence services and organizations that follow up on and oversee our intelligence services.
Our anti-terrorism act, Bill , is ensuring a better protection of our rights and freedoms. This bill brings more tools for law enforcement and security agencies to tackle radicalization and track terrorists, and dramatically increases judicial oversight and review mechanisms to protect our rights and freedoms and the privacy of all Canadians.
Mr. Chair, the reality is that the international jihadist movement has declared war on Canada and most countries around the world. Canada and Canadians are being targeted by jihadist terrorists simply because these terrorists hate our society and hate our values. This is why our government has put forward measures that protect Canadians against jihadist terrorists who seek to destroy the very principles that make Canada the best country in the world in which to live.
That is also why Canada is not sitting on the sidelines, as some would have us do, and is instead joining our allies in supporting the international coalition in the fight against the evil ISIL, the terrorist organization Islamic State.
We saw it in Saint-Jean and even here in Ottawa. We also saw it in Paris, in Sydney, Australia, and in Copenhagen. The threat is complex and diffuse. It is our duty to take action to protect Canadians while protecting our rights and freedoms.
Violent international extremist groups, like the Islamic state and Al-Qaeda and its branches, represent a serious threat for Canada. That is why we must adapt and strengthen our capacity to protect our country and its people.
Because there is no liberty without security.
In order for freedom to flourish, security is crucial.
These principles protecting security while maintaining liberty are at the heart of our Conservative government's approach to national security. Canadians expect that if one branch of government is aware of a threat to their security, then this information would be shared with other branches of government to protect Canadians, not new information, but existing collected information. The security of Canada information sharing act, the first part of Bill , is a response to the Air India commission and to many other requests. Mr. Chair, we are doing it to better protect Canadians. The legislation has adequate safeguards built in to protect the privacy of Canadians. We are not interested in giving privileges to the rights of terrorists over the rights of Canadians.
As we have heard, this piece of legislation will give the legal capacity to all the government departments and agencies to share information on activities that undermine the security of Canada, in a proactive manner or in response to requests from designated federal institutions with a mandate or responsibilities related to national security. The people in my riding are asking me why we have not done this until now.
By definition, under the new legislation, an activity that undermines the security of Canada means any activity that undermines the sovereignty, the territorial integrity of Canada, or the lives and the security of the people of Canada. Many observers have commented on this definition. This morning, I would like to point out that it refers strictly to the sharing of already existing information between federal agencies and organizations. Clearly, it does not relate to the mandate of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.
The second measure proposed by the bill has to do with the Secure Air Travel Act. This legislation would provide a legal framework to define the ministerial powers under the passenger protect program and to broaden the mandate of this program in order to identify, enumerate and mitigate threats posed by two categories of individuals.
The first category, which includes those suspected of posing a threat to transportation security, is already in place. The second category has not been set up yet. Yet our need for it is great. Those who try to go abroad in order to support terrorist activities are not covered by the legislation. Right now, we cannot prevent them from getting on a plane even though we have reasons to believe that their intent in so doing is to commit a terrorist act.
Once again, Mr. Chair, it is quite clear.
This would put an additional tool in the tool box for our national security agencies when they are combatting the threat of individuals travelling abroad to engage in criminal activities. The act would authorize the Canada Border Services Agency to collect information related to air travellers coming to or leaving Canada and to screen them against the list. Having Government of Canada law enforcement officials rather than airline workers screen passengers against the list would better protect the security and privacy of Canadians.
The bill will also enable individuals on the list who have been prevented from travelling under the program to make a request to be withdrawn from the list. The bill provides for an appeal mechanism. In fact, any person on the list could appeal to the Federal Court.
The third measure we are proposing will provide the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) with a new mandate to reduce threats to the security of Canada. It's about time.
Currently CSIS can detect security threats but is unable to take action unlike most allies are doing. With the new threat disruption mandate, CSIS would be authorized to take direct action to disrupt threats to the security of Canada at home and abroad like most of our allies, such as Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, France, United States, United Kingdom, and Australia. It's about time, Mr. Chair. For instance, CSIS could interfere with terrorists' travel plans or financial transactions, and even intercept weapons to prevent terrorist use.
It is important to note that this mandate is tied to the existing definition of “threats to the security of Canada” that can be found in section 2 of the CSIS Act. This definition has been in place for 30 years and has formed the basis for CSIS' primary intelligence collection mandate since its inception and would be applied the same to the threat disruption mandate.
With this new mandate, Bill sets rigorous limits and establishes a warrant mechanism for threat disruption. To my knowledge, we are the only country in the world to add this judicial oversight to the threat reduction mechanism. If the measures proposed might contravene a right guaranteed by the charter or another Canadian law, a Federal Court judge would have to authorize them in advance.
Bill also sets out new review requirements for the Security Intelligence Review Committee. We are giving this review committee the legal mandate to oversee CSIS' activities in order to increase responsibility, transparency and respect for the rights of Canadians.
Finally, the fourth proposed measure seeks to amend division 9 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. This would allow the government to use and protect classified information as part of immigration procedures, including security certificate cases before the Federal Court and applications for non-disclosure before the Immigration and Refugee Board. Those amendments would ensure the rigorous protection of classified information and would ensure that the proceedings are fair. That would also enable us to ensure that the discretion of the judge is retained in this case and that the special advocate or amicus curiae role is retained in order to protect the interests of non-citizens at in camera meetings.
Before I conclude my remarks today and hand the microphone to my honourable colleague, I would like to address three key misconceptions that have been put forward by members of the opposition, as well as so-called experts.
The has alleged that the legislation before us today means that legitimate dissent and protests would now be considered threats to Canadian security. These allegations are completely false, and frankly, ridiculous. Section 2 of the CSIS Act, which outlines exactly what is considered a threat to the security of Canada, is not being amended in any way by the new anti-terrorism legislation...again, sharing of information, threat disruption.
Mr. Chair, we reject the argument that every time we talk about security our freedoms are threatened. Indeed, we believe the opposite. Canadians understand that their freedom and security go hand in hand. The fundamental fact is that our police and national security agencies are working to protect our rights and our freedoms and it is the jihadi terrorists who endanger our security and who would take away our freedoms.
Further, the made allegations that I feel as Minister of Public Safety are unacceptable, because he said that CSIS, the security intelligence, has broken the law. This is an insult to the men and women who are protecting Canadians on a daily basis, who are risking their lives in unsafe places, Mr. Chairman. For 30 years there has been the report of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, which has always provided the certificate demonstrating that they complied with our Canadian law. I ask the member to bring coherent arguments, but not insult those who are protecting us. I ask him to apologize and to keep the debate among politicians focused on facts, truth, and reality.
Furthermore, some commentators have said that the scope of the definition of “activity that undermines the security of Canada” is too broad, and that the language used is too vague for security legislation. Well, this definition should not be read in isolation. Proposed section 5 of the security of Canada information sharing act further restricts what information can be shared by requiring that information be shared only if it is relevant to the national security jurisdiction or responsibility of the recipient. The definition was intended to cover any information that is relevant to the security of Canada.
I'm glad we have here the , who has said that the provisions to protect lawful advocacy, protest, and dissent do not go far enough. I would invite the member to further read the legislation carefully. The act clearly states that the definition of “activity that undermines the security of Canada” does not include lawful advocacy, protest, dissent, or artistic expression.
It should be noted that the carve-out is for greater certainty, and is intended to reflect the fact that these activities are not intended to be captured by this legislation. Once again, Mr. Chair, the information that is to be captured by this legislation, solely for sharing purposes, with no new information, has to undermine the security of Canada. “Lawful” is intended to be read narrowly and to exclude legitimate forms of protest that are not contrary to the Criminal Code. In other words, not having a municipal permit for a protest would not lead to an otherwise lawful protest being captured by this legislation.
Similarly, some have said that allowing CSIS to disrupt threats to national security would trample on the rights of legitimate protestors. Once again this is untrue, inaccurate and false. Under the legislation before us today, the threshold for CSIS to engage in disruption is reached if there are reasonable grounds to believe that a particular activity constitutes a threat to the security of Canada. This is the same definition that has been used for the last 30 years. Previously, CSIS did not have disruption powers, allowing them only to collect and retain information to the extent that is strictly necessary.
Security is essential to maintaining our democratic rights and freedoms, and the anti-terrorism act seeks to do exactly that. I hope that all members will support this legislation, with the trust and confidence that we are taking the appropriate measures to protect Canadians and our freedoms and rights.
Personally, Mr. Chair, I believe that if we were to stand still and not do anything to face this evolving threat, it would be morally irresponsible and immoral. It is our duty to avoid losing human lives because of bureaucratic silos. We can fix this. Canadians would be unforgiving should we fail to fix this dysfunctional information sharing system. We are probably one of the few countries that is not doing so. Better protecting the rights and freedoms of Canadians while tackling the threat of terrorism is exactly what Bill is accomplishing. To do so, we have worked in close conjunction with the Minister of Justice and his department, and I am pleased to let him make his remarks.
Mr. Chair and colleagues, it's an honour to be here before you. I thank you for your important work. I am honoured to be here with my colleague, Minister of Public Safety Steven Blaney and officials from both of our departments, Public Safety and Justice.
As you know, we're here to discuss Bill , the anti-terrorism act. This bill concentrates on the very real subject matter of terrorism, which is an increased global concern. The Government of Canada is taking steps, and you are taking steps, to examine the tools necessary and available to our intelligence and law enforcement agencies to respond effectively to this threat.
This bill represents the outcome that is crucially important in this assessment. I'm going to focus my remarks, as Minister Blaney has said, on the Criminal Code amendments found in part 3 of the bill.
Since 2001, the Criminal Code has helped us combat terrorism specifically, especially in terms of offences related to various forms of participation in and facilitation of a terrorist activity and in terms of charging a person for engaging in such an activity. Those measures were reinforced in 2013 with the addition of new offences related to the movements of terrorists and nuclear terrorism.
Mr. Chair, the threat environment in Canada we know is global and volatile and consistently evolving. Accordingly, this investigative package of enforcement tools available to the criminal justice system should be commensurate to detect, stop, and prosecute those responsible. Of course, the Criminal Code reforms that are found in Bill do just that. It is an effort to modernize, to keep pace. As Minister Blaney has said, this is about giving law enforcement the ability to meet this evolving threat, and to put them in a position to detect, deter, and prevent the type of terrorism that we see and sadly expect in the 21st century.
I'll speak now to those parts of the bill that fall directly under the purview of the Department of Justice.
First, section 83.3 of the Criminal Code, which targets individuals who may be involved in a terrorism activity either directly or indirectly, currently requires two tests to be met for a court to impose a recognizance against an individual. This bill proposes to lower the threshold of both these tests, from requiring police to have reasonable grounds to believe that a terrorist activity “will—with emphasis on “will”—be carried out”, to “may be carried out”—imminent, to possible—and from reasonable grounds to suspect that conditions are necessary to prevent the carrying out of terrorism activity, to “likely to prevent the carrying out of the terrorist activity”.
Lowering the threshold seeks to make it easier to obtain the recognizance, for police to do so and then appear before a judge. It's important to emphasize the judicial oversight component of this.
Bill would also increase the maximum period of time that a judge can remand an individual awaiting a recognizance hearing from a total of two days to six days, with the 24-hour police detention period remaining the same. In other words, it would expand that period of time in which investigations can occur and certain conditions can be in place to protect the public, so up to seven days.
This bill also proposes to strengthen the existing terrorism peace bond in the Criminal Code. The bill proposes to lower the threshold from the current requirement that a person must fear on reasonable grounds that someone “will” commit a terrorism offence, to fear that they “may” commit a terrorism offence. This change seeks to make it easier to obtain the peace bond. There is a scale here. We are lowering the threshold to allow the police, with judicial oversight, to put in place conditions to protect the public based on evidence. It would also extend the maximum duration of the peace bond from two to five years for those previously convicted of a terrorism offence.
Furthermore, for both recognizance with conditions and peace bonds, the court would be authorized to impose sureties and to require judges to consider geographical conditions and passport surrender, so behavioural controls, if you will. The penalties for breaches of these court orders would also be increased from the current two years maximum to four years.
Bill would also propose to amend the Criminal Code to create a new indictable offence for knowingly advocating or promoting the commission of terrorism offences in general. The offence would require that the person either know that any of those offences will be committed or be reckless as to whether any of those offences may be committed as a result of that communication. This new offence would be punishable with up to five years' imprisonment. The new offence would fill what we believe to be a current gap in the law and would respond to a current threat that exists.
Currently it's a crime to counsel someone to commit a specific crime like murder. It is not a crime, however, to counsel somebody to commit a broad category of criminal activity like terrorism, one lacking specific detail as to which offence is being encouraged to be committed. Therefore, the focus of the proposed new offence is to cover the situation where the active encouragement lacks the specific detail that would link the encouragement to the commission of a specific terrorism offence, although in the circumstances it is clear that someone is actively encouraging to commit any of the terrorism offences in the Criminal Code. In other words, it would not matter whether a specific terrorism offence is advocated or promoted for criminal liability to attach. To be clear, this is not a glorification of terrorism offence.
Related to this new offence is the proposal to create two new warrants of seizure in relation to terrorist propaganda. One is for terrorist propaganda in a tangible form such as a poster or a flyer, and the other is for removing terrorist propaganda disseminated and stored in a website located in Canada.
Obviously, we work within our own jurisdiction. This does not afford us the ability to capture this material from outside the country.
Similar powers already exist for other materials that Parliament has determined to be harmful, including hate propaganda and child pornography. It mirrors Criminal Code sections already in existence
Most parents, I think, would know we are doing this in the best interest of removing material that could be used to radicalize or recruit a young person. In fact, in talking to people about this particular section of the Criminal Code, some were alarmed to know that we don't already have the ability to remove this offensive material.
Finally, changes are proposed to better protect those involved in national security prosecutions and proceedings. Among other things, these changes would provide better discretion of the courts to make orders that reflect the security needs of witnesses. In particular, we're talking about participants in the justice system who might find themselves vulnerable as a result of the individuals we are dealing with. This is not unlike what we've seen in prosecutions of gangs or organized crime. It takes into account their role in relation to national security matters while at all times respecting the fair trial rights of the accused.
These legislative proposals and those of my colleague Minister Blaney are reasonable and are a proportionate response to the threat of terrorism in Canada. They contain a number of safeguards, including judicial oversight and discretion for the many tools we have discussed and presented here this morning, the requirement to obtain Attorney General consent before proceedings, and annual reporting requirements on the use of recognizance with conditions. These are tabled in Parliament, as I did recently in December. Also, these peace bond and recognizance conditions are subject to sunsetting; that is to say that the law, when it came into effect in 2007, will be reviewed with respect to those recognizance and peace bond conditions in 2017.
In providing these new, enhanced and judicially approved measures which respond to terrorism at home and abroad, we believe we are doing so within the existing and overarching legal framework that respects the charter and includes important checks and balances.
To conclude, from a criminal justice perspective, this bill will address gaps in the law, only target extremely serious conduct, and clearly define offence elements in a high level of mens rea.
Mr. Chair, I would just end with a quote from the Queen and Khawaja, which is an Ontario Court of Appeal case where, writing for the majority, Mr. Justice Moldaver, as he then was, said:
|| To be sure, terrorism is a crime unto itself. It has no equal. It does not stop at, nor is it limited to, the senseless destruction of people and property. It is far more insidious in that it attacks our very way of life and seeks to destroy the fundamental values to which we ascribe – values that form the essence of our constitutional democracy.
Mr. Chair, I thank you for your important deliberations on this legislation. We look forward to the committee's questions. Again, we're very appreciative of the work that you're undertaking.
Maybe I could begin with two examples of what is the current situation now.
As we heard recently, in Montreal two young girls allegedly said that they left the country to commit terrorist attacks abroad. They showed up at the passport office and they asked for an accelerated process within 48 hours. They said that they had lost their passports. They said that they wanted to go to the Middle East, to a region, as you are well aware, where there are many conflicts. This information should raise some concerns in terms of national security. Canada is not and does not want to become an exporter of terrorism. As we speak, this information cannot be shared with relevant authorities such as the RCMP or the security agency, CSIS. This bill would enact the department to undertake this kind of action.
The other example is on the other side. Take a wounded person who goes to a consulate in the Middle East, is willing to come back, and is seeking some information. Being obviously wounded or having spent some weeks out there in the desert, this may raise some reasonable doubts, but again, this information may not be shared with the police officers or the Canada Border Services Agency, nor with our intelligence. An individual, a potential high-terrorist traveller who has had combat experience, could come back into our country, and we could hardly prevent it.
These two examples demonstrate clearly the need to make sure that the left hand of government knows what the right hand is doing, but in doing so, let me assure you that there are many mechanisms to protect privacy and also the Constitution.
First, I think I've stated clearly that it has to be information that would undermine the security of Canada. Before the information is transferred, there has to be a risk, and it has to be transferred to an organization that is relevant. Again, this is not new information. This is information that is already being collected by the government but is not being shared.
Are we to let silos be used by terrorists to harm Canadians? Frankly, I think this is totally irresponsible. That's why when I speak to people in my riding or elsewhere, people are asking me why we have not done this before and why we are not sharing the information in a respectful and lawful process.
Well, this is what we do. Also, it is important to specify—and it's in the bill—that the information has to be done in respect of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and also the protection of privacy. This is actually in the enactment of the act. We already have much legislation, but we felt it was important to specify this in the bill.
I can comment further, but I think you want to ask more questions.