moved that Bill , be read the third time and passed.
He said: Mr. Speaker, today as we enter the final debate after months of discussion and amendment that have been brought to the anti-terrorism bill, I am convinced more than ever that our country needs this bill. Our country needs tools for our police and those who are there to protect us and to keep us safe.
To begin today, I would like to quote from an article that was written in the National Post last week by Danny Eisen. He is the co-founder of the Canadian Coalition Against Terror, and lost a relative on the American Airlines flight on 9/11.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Steven Blaney: Mr. Speaker, I would invite the opposition members to listen to this important speech for the safety of our nation and to feel free to comment afterward during their period for questioning, and to show respect for someone who stands up for our country and who actually lost someone from an act of terrorism. I know the opposition members have a hard time calling a spade a spade, but in this very place on October 22 we were under attack by a terrorist.
Let me go back to my speech and quote Mr. Eisen. I thank him for coming to this Parliament in support of those important measures. I would invite those members who seem not to take the terrorism issue seriously to listen to what he said and what was written last week in the National Post:
The assaults on the World Trade Center; the slaughter in India’s business centre [in] Mumbai; the thwarted plans of the Toronto 18 (which included an attack on Toronto’s business district [here in Canada]); and the attacks on Kenyan malls, to name a few, were designed, not only to kill, but to target countries by undermining their economies.
Members have heard me many times saying that there is no liberty without security. I would add that there is no prosperity without security. That is why we are now being given the opportunity to support those anti-terrorism measures. This morning, I am given the opportunity to present them, and I would like to thank my colleague, the , who is the member for , as well as my Conservative colleagues who have been supportive through this journey where, since October 22, we have crafted measures that are specifically designed to face the international jihadi threat that our country is facing.
Through its actions and commitments, our government has demonstrated that it will stand up to those who want to spread fear, and that it will respond in a measured fashion. It will not remain idle against this threat. That is why we introduced measures to combat terrorism.
One of the first measures came from the recommendations made following the most serious terrorist-inspired aviation disaster Canada has ever experienced, the Air India crash. We are responding to a recommendation that was made at the time to allow the various federal government agencies to share information related to national security.
That is why we want to move forward with the security of Canada information sharing act. This legislation proposes much-needed changes to how federal departments and agencies can share information that could be crucial in identifying potential threats to national security.
Some critics have falsely claimed that this legislation would target protesters or would drastically expand the size and scope of the government. This is not the case.
Let me quote Justice John Major, the author of the Air India commission report, who said, “...citizens who are not validly under suspicion will not have some manufactured reason for their private lives to be interfered with”.
Our government organizations have always complied with privacy laws, as well they should. However, it has become very clear that legal impediments to information exchange can, in some cases, interfere with the government's ability to detect national security threats. The question is simple: are we going to let terrorists use the fact that the government operates in silos to attack Canadians?
The answer is clear: no.
We are doing this while respecting people's privacy and the Constitution and by giving federal agencies the ability to share information that could threaten national security. I would like to point out that in the amendments to the bill, it was made clear that protesters will not be affected by this ability to exchange information.
The threats we are facing today are increasingly diverse and complex. It is time we implemented a stronger security framework that will enable information exchange in support of our national security objectives. We know that government organizations will wield these powers responsibly, with respect for privacy and security, and in accordance with Canadian laws.
What is more, there are appropriate mechanisms already in place that would counterbalance the new authority created by this act, such as review by the Privacy Commissioner and the Auditor General.
I will turn now to the second improvement to the bill, the passenger protect program. There are two significant changes in this regard. The first is to put the program on its own solid, legal foundation—namely, the secure air travel act.
As the House has heard, so far the program has been operating under the authority of the Aeronautics Act because it has been used solely as a tool to ensure air security. Its current mandate is to identify individuals likely to pose a threat to air security and take measures to counter that threat, such as preventing them from boarding an aircraft.
Basically, right now, if a person wants to attack a plane, the law makes it possible to put that person on a high-risk passenger list and prevent him from boarding a plane. However, if we are in a situation such as the one we saw a few weeks ago, when some young Montrealers wanted to fly to the Middle East to commit terrorist acts, and that information comes to the attention of the relevant agencies, this law will make it possible to prevent them from boarding a plane. People leaving the country to commit terrorist acts is anathema to Canadian values. Moreover, if they return to Canada, they pose an even greater threat to our national security.
Jihadi terrorist travellers are now an increasing threat, both to populations abroad and to Canadians, if and when these jihadi extremists return home to Canada as hardened jihadi warriors.
That is the reason why we need to improve our current law; that is what our anti-terrorism measures are doing; and that is why I certainly invite all members to reconsider their position and support this important legislation.
This will strengthen our ability to respond to this growing concern by giving the authorities the ability to take action in cases where it is not yet possible to arrest people and lay charges.
This broader mandate will necessitate the use of appropriate security measures, such as refusing permission to board or carrying out additional inspections at the airport.
Of course these changes are supported by the airline industry. Let me quote Marc-André O'Rourke of the National Airlines Council of Canada, who said that they:
...understand the need to update Canada's passenger protect program in light of the evolving nature of security threats, and we continue to support the program under...
Bill , our anti-terrorism measures, which are so needed to increase the capability of our police and our intelligence officers to keep us safe from those threats.
Additionally, this bill would make an important enhancement to the mandate of CSIS. CSIS is the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, whose members are there to protect us. We want to help them have better tools to fight the modern terrorist threat.
At this time, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service's role is strictly limited to collecting intelligence concerning threats to our security. CSIS has been doing this in a very professional manner for over 30 years now. It collects intelligence and forwards it to the Canadian government. CSIS investigators do this by conducting their activities in Canada and abroad.
As a result, they are often the first to detect threats to the security of Canada. They are at an early stage of the process, which makes it possible to detect security threats, particularly terrorist threats.
However, as we speak, they have neither the mandate nor the legal authority to take action to disrupt threats that come to their knowledge in the course of their investigations.
I had the opportunity to clarify that the Canadian service is practically the only one among our allies that is unable to exercise this capacity to reduce the threat and take action early on to avoid unfortunate, if not disastrous or fatal, consequences.
Frankly, this limitation results in important missed opportunities to disrupt threats early, before they have had time to develop. It also neglects the full potential of CSIS' expertise at a time when we can least afford it.
Let me remind members of what Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, President of American Islamic Forum for Democracy said:
It is amazing to me that...disrupting...is...[currently] prohibited. Disrupting doesn't mean arresting these individuals or violating their personal property rights or taking them out of commission. You're actually just disrupting a plot.
Many Canadians believe that CSIS could do this, while it cannot. However, with this bill, CSIS would be able to disrupt the threat, like any other similar agency of our allies. Its officers will also be able, for example, to talk to the parents of young individuals who are lured by radicalization, to prevent them from falling into that path, even at a pre-criminalization sphere.
That is an important part of the bill that addresses the four pillars of our counter-terrorism strategy, the first of which is prevention. Anyone who would be willing to support prevention measures when talking about radicalization has a very good reason to support and be in favour of this bill, because CSIS officers will be able to disrupt this threat at an earlier stage.
These officers are another real example to show that the measures of the bill are sensible, reasonable and balanced. We currently have these resources and these officers, but they are prohibited by legislation from carrying out these actions. We are going to enshrine in law the capacity of service officers to act and, should there be a violation of privacy or rights, the officers, much like police officers in Canada have been doing for decades, can seek a warrant from a judge, who will have the latitude to authorize, modify or even refuse the requests.
Contrary to the many misleading statements that have been made in recent weeks and months, there is nothing really new in Canada, particularly since provisions already exist that allow the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and police forces to routinely gather intelligence. Do those who are opposed to these provisions lack confidence in our justice system? Do they lack confidence in Canadian judges? Are they questioning our judges' independence and skills? We need to ask them that. On this side of the House, we have confidence in our institutions, and we have complete confidence that Canadian judges will be able to continue to do what they have been doing for intelligence officers and police for decades with regard to intelligence gathering.
It is also clear in the bill that some activities, such as those that could cause death or bodily harm, are prohibited and will never be authorized or undertaken. It is important to remember that CSIS has been serving Canadians for 30 years. It is also important to remember that CSIS and its activities are very closely scrutinized by another Canadian body that is the envy of the world, the Security Intelligence Review Committee. The SIRC is an extension of parliament. During the debate, we heard some parliamentarians express the desire to address security issues. They can do that here. We have a security committee where parliamentarians are free to call any witnesses they see fit to call. They can also do that in the Senate. As we saw earlier, there is the Privacy Commissioner and the Auditor General. It is important to remember that other countries do not have the same model as Canada, which allows access to the field of operations. Other oversight bodies where parliamentarians are sometimes involved are only able to meet with senior officials and do not have the opportunity to observe what is happening on the ground. The Supreme Court recognized this model as one that strikes a balance between rights and national security.
Today and in the days ahead, parliamentarians will have the opportunity to rise and take action to ensure that those who protect us have the tools they need. For example, we are going to criminalize the promotion of terrorism. We have had hours of debate. I want to thank all of the witnesses who testified in committee and who spoke so eloquently, like Louise, the sister of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, who came to tell us that Canada needs Bill . Let us step up and not disappoint Canadians, who expect us to protect them from the terrorist threat.
That is exactly what the measures before us in the House today do.
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to stand and speak today to one of the most significant pieces of legislation to come before the House, certainly while I have been a member of Parliament. It is indeed a piece of legislation touching on the two most important topics that we ever deal with in this chamber: national security and our civil liberties.
I am proud to speak to Bill as the member of Parliament for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, a riding which plays a key role in our national security as the home of CFB Esquimalt and our Pacific fleet. I am also proud to speak today as the NDP public safety critic and as a member of the official opposition. Ours is a party whose leader has taken a strong and principled stance in opposition to Bill C-51, even when at the outset the bill appeared to be overwhelmingly popular.
I remember quite clearly the first scrum on Bill that I faced as the NDP public safety critic after we announced our opposition to the bill. Journalists asked me how we could oppose something that was so popular, when 82% of Canadians polled said that they supported the bill. My answer to the media that morning was that I believe it is the the role of the official opposition to inform public opinion, not to run away from it.
It was clear that the government intended to marshal the politics of fear to stampede Bill through the House. We knew this would be an uphill struggle, but I trusted at the time that few Canadians knew exactly what was in the bill. I also trusted that when they did know what was in the bill, they would likely not like what they saw.
What the poll told us at the time was that Canadians believed that the threats from terrorism are very real, and we all acknowledge that fact. It also told us that Canadians believe that the government has a responsibility to do something about those threats. It told us nothing about what was actually in the bill.
I believe, as most Canadians do, that the government's responsibility is to protect both public safety and our fundamental freedoms. Instead, the Conservative government has chosen to risk sacrificing our freedoms for security.
What the Conservatives are proposing in Bill fails on two grounds. Incredibly, it manages at one and the same time to constitute a threat to our basic civil liberties while also putting forth measures, many of which would be either ineffective or unnecessary. Unfortunately, the government is pressing ahead, refusing to listen to legal experts, civil society organizations, and the tens of thousands of Canadians who have turned out at rallies across the country to express their concerns about Bill C-51.
Unfortunately, the Liberal Party wilted almost immediately in the face of the pressure created by the government to stand with it or stand with the terrorists. We heard yet another example of that this morning from the minister in his opening remarks. Before Canadians had any chance to find out what was in the bill, the Liberals had already promised to vote for the bill and to do so even if the Conservatives refused to amend the parts of the bill that the Liberals said they were concerned about. The Liberals were even heard saying publicly that they did not want to get on the wrong side of public opinion on terrorism. Well, I firmly believe that they now find themselves on the wrong side of Canadian public opinion.
As the debate on this bill draws to a close under the 94th use of time allocation by the Conservatives to limit debate, let me review my major concerns about both the ineffectiveness of Bill and the threats it poses to our civil liberties. In the time I have, I want to focus on four major problems that I see in this bill.
The first has to do with information sharing. The Conservatives pretend that Bill would correct problems with sharing information on the use of violence and involvement in terrorist activities. This information sharing within government is of a kind with which few would disagree. If someone is involved in terrorism or the use of violence, obviously, government organizations need to be able to share that information.
What Bill does instead is it creates sweeping new powers to share information among a vast array of government departments and agencies on almost anything, not just on terrorism and violence. Yes, there would be information sharing on terrorism, but also on national security, which is given a new and very broad definition, one which includes threats to Canada's economic stability, threats to Canada's infrastructure, such as pipelines, and even threats to Canada's diplomatic relations with other countries. The list goes on for an entire page of legal descriptions of the kinds of things about which information could be shared.
It is quite easy to see why Canadians are legitimately concerned that there would be a significant loss of their privacy contained under the excuse of necessary information sharing about terrorism. The information sharing proposed is so broad that the Privacy Commissioner concluded that it would potentially allow the government to create a personal profile on each and every Canadian.
We tried to have the Privacy Commissioner appear before the committee. He is an officer of Parliament. He is officially our advisor, as parliamentarians, on privacy rights. Therefore, we put the motion to the committee that he should come so we could discuss his concerns about the bill. The Conservatives blocked the Privacy Commissioner's appearance at the public safety committee.
Conservatives like to insist that legitimate dissent could not possibly be caught in this information sharing, yet we had a police witness testify in committee that this was exactly his concern. He also raised the question of the ineffectiveness of collecting too much information on Canadians. The argument is often made, especially in the law enforcement community, that looking for terrorists is like looking for a needle in a haystack, and the last thing the police need when they are doing this is more hay. Collecting information about all of us would pile up information so that we would risk missing the real threats to our public safety.
The Liberals, on this point, say that the bill could be fixed later, after the Conservatives are defeated. However, it is important to note that the information-sharing part of the bill is not one of the parts they propose to fix. They actually support this broad information-sharing, even though it presents a great threat to our civil liberties.
The second area about which I have great concern is the granting of new powers to CSIS to disrupt terror threats before they take place. This is also a provision of Bill supported by the Liberals. These activities of CSIS, first and most importantly, would conflict with the existing activities of the RCMP. The very reason CSIS was set up was to divide information-gathering from the disruption of terrorist threats. There is a redundancy created here that is a great danger, which even Justice Major, whom the government likes to cite, acknowledged might create confusion about who is actually responsible for what when it comes to disrupting terror threats.
What is most disturbing about this is the very broad granting of power to CSIS this bill proposes. Bill specifically says that CSIS's new powers would only be limited by prohibiting murder, sexual assault, and interference with the justice system. This is an amazing granting of power for secret activities in a democratic society and would be of great concern to all Canadians.
The government likes to say not to worry, because it requires a warrant. Well, these CSIS activities do not always require a warrant. It is left to CSIS to decide. If it believes its activities might violate a charter right, then it would apply for a warrant. What is allowed without a warrant? There are a whole range of things that would clearly be allowed.
One of the concerns that has been raised by those who work in the Internet industry is that it might involve CSIS going online and changing people's posts or deleting their posts, things that may not necessarily violate a charter right and therefore, in CSIS's mind, would not require any kind of warrant.
The government goes further and asks why we are concerned, as these warrants are just like the warrants now used by the police. The problem is that they are not at all like the warrants used now by the police. The warrants police seek now in criminal cases are to make sure that their activities comply with the charter. They are not warrants to violate the charter. What is proposed in the bill is exactly that: a judge would be asked to authorize, in advance, charter violations. This raises serious questions about the role of the judiciary in our society and very serious questions about the rule of law.
The other thing that is different in these warrants is that when police seek a warrant in a criminal case, that warrant ends up back in front of the courts as part of that criminal case, so there is supervision both at the front end and at the back end by police when it is a warrant under the Criminal Code. There is supervision at the front end by a judge and at the back end by a judge when it is a warrant under the Criminal Code. Neither of those things are true when it comes to these new warrants, which would authorize CSIS to violate the charter. They would be carried out in secret and judges would never see what has happened to a warrant should they grant one.
The third concern I want to talk about today is another favourite of the government. It would create a new offence of supporting terrorism in general and recklessly. “Recklessly” is a term we do find in the Criminal Code, but supporting terrorism “in general” is not a term we find anywhere in the Criminal Code. This would create a criminal offence lacking the basic requirements of a normal criminal offence. A criminal offence involves intent plus action. What is the intent involved in supporting terrorism in general? It is very difficult to see that there is an intent to do anything. What is the action? Clearly, there is no action involved here.
Some have concluded that this new offence really amounts to a kind of thought crime, that for one's opinions, one might be subject to a criminal prosecution. It is certainly an offence that would produce a chill on free speech in this country as Canadians tried to understand what on earth this new offence would mean.
It also raises a question about why it is needed. Given the record we have in Canada of successful prosecutions under the existing Criminal Code, why do we need a new offence that would produce such a chill on free speech? It has simply not been established.
In committee, I asked the Commissioner of the RCMP if he would have been able to prosecute the perpetrator of the attack here in Ottawa last October. He said very clearly that, yes, the existing legislation would have been sufficient to prosecute him.
We had successful prosecutions of the Toronto 18. We have a prosecution going on in British Columbia right now. Clearly, the police do not lack powers to pursue those who are actually involved in violence and terrorism.
A fourth concern I have is one that runs in several places in the bill. This is about lowering the standard for police action from reasonable grounds to suspicion. It particularly applies to the idea of preventative detention and recognizance with conditions.
Currently, for the police to detain someone, there have to be reasonable grounds. In common language, that means that there has to be evidence. However, the bill proposes to allow the police to detain someone preventatively on the basis of mere suspicion.
I think this is another element that is of great concern to many Canadians, because we have a disturbing record in Canada on detention in times of crisis. We need only look at the detention of Ukrainians, Germans, and Italians during World War I; or in World War II, at the detention of Japanese Canadians; or even in the 1970s in Quebec, at the detention of many people under the War Measures Act, some 500 people, who were never subsequently charged with any offence, let alone convicted.
Many of the concerns we have expressed about the bill involve this apparent conflict with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and many witnesses expressed those same concerns.
We asked the government to table in committee the advice it received on the constitutionality of the provisions in Bill . We expressly asked the , and he used a very strange excuse. He said that this advice could not be tabled in committee, because it would violate solicitor-client privilege. What he did was stand solicitor-client privilege on its head. He is not the lawyer; he is the client, and clients can always waive that privilege. He could have very easily tabled the advice, and it makes one wonder how firm the opinion of the Department of Justice experts was on the constitutionality of Bill C-51.
The Conservatives were clear, on Bill , from the beginning, about two things. The first, I would say, is that they really did not want Canadians to know what is in the bill. Second, they did not intend to listen to Canadians when they actually talked about what is in the bill.
When I allege that the Conservatives did not want Canadians to know, how do we know that? Well, they both rushed and limited the debate in this House. It is an important part of democracy that Parliament allows the public to know what the content of a bill is through the debate we engage in within this chamber. The debate was limited at second reading to three days. That sounds long, but when we look at how Parliament functions, it means that the official opposition, with 90-some members, was limited to six speakers on a very important bill.
The Conservatives attempted to limit the witnesses appearing at the public safety committee. They initially proposed three meetings and 18 witnesses. Now, I cannot, of course, talk about discussions that went on in camera, but at the end of those discussions, we ended up with eight meetings and 48 witnesses, but that was still fewer than half of those who wanted to appear before the committee. The Conservatives also insisted on a very short deadline for those witnesses to appear. In the end, we ended up having 36 witnesses appear before the committee in four days.
If we wanted the public to be able to follow the debate and understand what witnesses were saying about the bill, we would not schedule 36 witnesses in four days.
This schedule also meant that some very important witnesses were not able to appear before the committee, because they were given only a very limited choice of dates: four days. Some witnesses were not available because of personal and other obligations on those days. One very important witness had a medical procedure scheduled, while another had professional obligations outside the country. If they were not available during those four days, they could not appear as witnesses.
It was clear last Thursday, when we began report stage and third reading debate, that the government was determined not to have the full ability to debate this bill, because it introduced time allocation for the 94th time. Conservatives prefer to call this scheduling, but in fact, we know what it is. It is closure. Therefore, we ended up with only two days of debate at report stage and with only today for third reading debate on this bill. I know that many of my colleagues in the NDP caucus who would like to stand in the House and represent their constituents are going to be denied that opportunity because of this limit on the debate.
I have also alleged that the Conservatives did not intend to listen to what Canadians had to say. Let me give some examples of why I believe that to be the case.
First, there were limits on the number of witnesses and a refusal to hear some witnesses. I have already talked about the government blocking the Privacy Commissioner from appearing before the committee.
Second, there was the treatment of witnesses before the committee. Some of it was reminiscent of the tapes I have seen of the U.S. McCarthy hearings in the 1950s. Shamefully, government members asked representatives of Greenpeace if they were or were not a threat to national security, and then they were told there was no time for them to answer that question.
The first Muslim witness who appeared, from the National Council of Canadian Muslims, was accused of being soft on terror, and Amnesty International was accused of supporting terrorist organizations and was given no opportunity to reply to that smear on its reputation.
Finally, of course, I would cite the fact that all 112 opposition amendments put forward were rejected by the government. The only changes to Bill came when the government adopted three of its own very minor and deceptive amendments.
On information-sharing, the Conservatives agreed to an amendment that says that information will have to be shared according to law. Of course it does. That is a meaningless amendment to this bill. They agreed to put in a provision that said there would be no arrest powers for CSIS. Of course, no one ever thought there were arrest powers under the Criminal Code for CSIS.
New Democrats moved a subamendment to put a ban on detention and rendition by CSIS, the taking of people into custody abroad and turning them over to other powers. Government members said there was no intention to have CSIS have detention and rendition powers, so we asked them to vote for this amendment and put in the bill that CSIS would not have the power to detain Canadians inside or outside Canada and would not have the power to turn Canadians over to foreign governments. They voted against that amendment.
As to the no-fly list, which the minister mentioned in his speech, it is going to be expanded, but it remains just as ineffective, and without a good appeal process, as it is now.
On the amendment the minister talked about, representatives of the airlines appeared at committee and said they had some problems with the bill. First, they had not been consulted before it was introduced, and second, there was a clause in the bill saying that the minister would have the power to order airlines to do anything to meet threats to national security. The airlines felt that the power to order them to anything was just a bit broad, so the government's amendment now says that they can be ordered to do anything that is reasonable, in the opinion of the minister. It is not much of an amendment.
Here we are now under time allocation, just one day away from the passage of Bill . It is clear that the Conservatives have not been listening, but it is clear that Canadians have been listening. They have seen what is in the bill, and they do not like what they see.
The Conservatives are stubbornly pressing ahead with Bill despite ongoing opposition from four former prime ministers, five former Supreme Court justices, almost all witnesses at committee, including their own witnesses, and despite the clear opposition of the vast majority of Canadians. This will leave Canadians opposed to Bill C-51 little choice in October but to defeat the Conservatives while at the same time remembering that electing the Liberals will not help on this one, because it is only the NDP that has pledged to repeal this dangerous and ineffective bill.
The good news is that 2015 is here, and in a few months, Canadians will get a chance to replace the Conservatives with the first national NDP government.
In conclusion, New Democrats believe that Bill is unfixable in its current form. That is why we moved to delete all of its clauses at report stage and voted against the bill. It is also why I am going to move the following amendment.
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:
“this House decline to give third reading to Bill C-51, 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, because it:
(a) threatens our way of life by asking Canadians to choose between their security and their freedoms;
(b) provides the Canadian Security Intelligence Service with a sweeping new mandate without equally increasing oversight, despite concerns raised by almost every witness who testified before the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, as well as concerns raised by former Liberal prime ministers, ministers of justice and solicitors general;
(c) does not include the type of concrete, effective measures that have been proven to work, such as providing support to communities that are struggling to counter radicalization;
(d) was not adequately studied by the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, which did not allow the Privacy Commissioner of Canada to appear as a witness, or schedule enough meetings to hear from the many other Canadians who requested to appear;
(e) was not fully debated in the House of Commons, where discussion was curtailed by time allocation;
(f) was condemned by legal experts, civil liberties advocates, privacy commissioners, First Nations leadership and business leaders, for the threats it poses to our rights and freedoms, and our economy; and
(g) does not include a single amendment proposed by members of the Official Opposition or the Liberal Party, despite the widespread concern about the bill and the dozens of amendments proposed by witnesses.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to outline our position on Bill at the third reading stage of this debate.
We see areas of the bill which are important for the public safety of Canadians and we see areas of the bill where the government has gone much too far with respect to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and a fair balance with civil liberties and freedom of expression versus public safety and national security.
If Parliament were allowed to function the way it should, the bill could have come out of committee a much better one. There were four amendments at committee, three of which were along the lines of the Liberal Party's proposals, and I will get to those in a moment. However, there other amendments were direly needed, and we will propose those in our forthcoming our platform for the perceived election this fall.
Legislation similar to Bill is required and is in evidence in virtually every country with which Canada is allied or has shared values. Countering the growing threat of foreign and domestic terrorism is a reality that must be confronted by the modern state. In saying that, it must be confronted in a joint way by countries around the world as well.
However, in combatting that threat, it is important for any government to ensure that the steps taken to combat it do not propose a different threat to its citizens. That is partly what the debate was about with the NDP remarks as well, and I recognize that.
The Liberal Party supports provisions of Bill and has made that position clear from the outset.
We have also maintained there are provisions of Bill that are excessive and would, in our opinion, represent an intrusion by the state security agencies into the lives of Canadians, which are far too severe.
First, let me make note of those who have participated in a very public campaign and who are strongly opposed to Bill . I think people who pay attention to their emails, and I have tried to respond to them all, have to recognize that we get thousands of letters, emails and phone calls from people across the country who are opposed to Bill . Some of them, of course, do not know the amendments that have been made. I have asked them that question when I talked with them recently and they still think the bill is just as it originally was, and that is fine. However, I want to thank them for participation.
Even though we may be somewhat on opposite sides of the arguments, I am one who firmly believes that a demonstration of activism of opposing or supporting legislation is a good thing and it is important in a healthy democracy.
Here is one of the most important amendments made to the bill, because there are too many of those who are opposed to Bill . Obviously some people, for political purposes, are saying that we should throw the bill out, to heck with security. Some continue to say that there have been no changes made to the bill. Yes, there have been.
One of the most egregious sections of the bill, under the interpretation section, states, “For greater certainty, it does not include advocacy, protest, dissent and artistic expression”. A lot of letters of concern were related to that.
What do we consider a lawful protest? I was also concerned, as a former activist in the farm movement. Everything we do in a demonstration, whether it is shutting down a highway with tractors or blocking a road in a union protest or demonstration, is not exactly lawful. We were concerned about that, as were other parties, and we moved an amendment to take the word “lawful” out, and that passed. That gives some certainty, or at least some satisfaction, to those who were opposed to that clause in the bill.
A lot of people have been writing us letters are saying that this is a new secret police. No, it is not. There is an infringement on liberties that go overboard, but this is not a new secret police. Therefore, an amendment was moved by the government, due to the concerns it and others had expressed, to clarify that. It reads, “For greater certainty, nothing in subsection (1) confers on the Service any law enforcement power”.
There was a narrowing of the no-fly list and on how information could be shared. Those were the two other amendments.
For those who been demonstrating and strongly opposing Bill , congratulations, they did make some gains. Some of the amendments they asked for are in fact in the bill. To not recognize that would be wrong. I support all those amendments. I only wish the government would have gone further in some of the other areas that we would liked to have seen addressed in the bill, but it failed to do that.
When we look at the witnesses who came before committee, I would have liked there to have been a longer hearing process with greater time for each witness, and the government failed to allow that. We did hear from 46 to 48 witnesses. However, if people, both on the government side and the New Democrats, were really listening to the witnesses, none of those witnesses said that they wanted the bill as it was, and very few of them said that the bill should be thrown out. They wanted it balanced. Witnesses and Canadians believe, and I certainly believe, that it is possible for this chamber, the House of Commons, to find the balance, to do what needs to be done on the security side and balance it to ensure that the civil liberties and freedom of expression, and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms are enhanced and protected as well. That did not happen.
The New Democrats, just in their remarks, can be as pure as they like, but the fact is that even those who were opposed to the bill, also suggested that we needed to take measures on the national security side.
What do we do as parliamentarians when security agencies and police forces, both within Canada and around the world, say that to us that there needs to be additional measures taken to enhance the national security of Canadians? Do we ignore them, as the New Democrats do? I do not think we can. We have a responsibility in that regard. The government failed in its responsibility to make amendments to be absolutely sure that those powers did not go too far.
The government has absolutely failed in the past in not utilizing the already existing laws in section 110. It failed to use those authorities when, as the minister said, there were somewhere around 80 individuals who the government knew had violated Canadian law. What were they doing, and what are they still doing out there on the street, when the government already has some authority within the law to detain and arrest them?
My point is that witnesses asked for better balance. That did not happen, and that responsibility rests with no one else. I meant what I said earlier. The government is too far on the security side. For the to take the attitude, which he has taken with the promotion of this bill from the beginning, and to foster the fear that there is a terrorist under every rock is absolutely the wrong approach.
Fear will divide Canadians and pit them against each other. Yes, Canadians need to be watchful and ensure that there are no problems that could lead to terrorism or to individuals getting involved in terrorist activities. However, to use the fear factor is not the proper way to go.
The NDP, on the other hand, has taken the approach of saying “be very afraid of civil liberties”. People should not worry about national security. They should be afraid of their civil liberties. Both those parties have gone to extremes at both ends. Ours is, at least, a balanced position and would work if, under the Conservative regime, Parliament were allowed to exercise its rights, allow amendments, real debate and changes to legislation, as this place should work.
We do have an advantage, because there is an election, likely on October 19. Those measures that we were unsuccessful in getting through committee will be in our election platform. Canadians will have the opportunity at that time to decide if they want sunset clauses that would make the bill cease to exist in certain areas after three years, a mandatory statutory review after three years that would look at the good, the bad, and the ugly in the legislation, and national oversight of all of our security agencies, as all our Five Eyes partners do, by parliamentarians. I will come to that in a moment. We will have those measures in our election platform.
Early in the debate about Bill , my colleague, the member for and I joined four former prime ministers, including three Liberal prime ministers, and others to issue an open letter underscoring two fundamental responsibilities of government to ensure the safety of Canadians. These are:
—protecting Canada from terrorist attacks; and ensuring that initiatives in this regard are consistent with the rule of law and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and, particularly, are subject to comprehensive oversight, review and accountability mechanisms.
However, in the course of committee hearings, when we proposed amendments to those three essential areas, they were either ruled out of order or rejected.
In that letter, the former prime ministers said:
The four of us most certainly know the enormity of the responsibility of keeping Canada safe, something always front of mind for a prime minister.
They went on to talk about oversight more than anything else. That letter was signed by prime ministers, former attorney generals, ministers of justice, retired Supreme Court justices, and so on.
They know the need for accountability. They know that proper oversight actually protects the government and ministers from agencies that may go astray. I am disappointed that the government failed to recognize that fact.
When we listened to the responses of the minister and the parliamentary secretary at committee when we brought those issues up, it was as if they do not trust their own members. Every other country around the world thinks that parliamentarians are capable of doing those responsible tasks. Why is the Conservative government so opposed, especially when its own current , you, Mr. Speaker, and its own , along with myself and some others, sat on the committee and recommended just that, a parliamentary oversight committee of all security agencies, based on a study that we did in the U.K., the United States and Australia? Why has the changed his mind? He was one of the key promoters on that committee, and now for some reason he no longer believes in what he calls partisan oversight. It does not have to be partisan. It is really just in the last eight years under the current that this place has become a place of almost hate, fear and partisanship to no end, rather than looking at what good we can do for Canadians as a whole, and how to build legislation for Canadians as a whole. That is one of the sad realities of this particular Parliament.
The issue of oversight of our security intelligence agencies has long had the support of the Liberal Party. In the wake of 9/11 and the first anti-terrorism legislation, it was a Liberal government, with the support of the members of the government and the NDP, that brought forward Bill , legislation to create a committee of parliamentarians who would provide that oversight.
What did the current committee hear from witnesses with respect to that at the hearings which just concluded? Hugh Segal, a former Conservative senator and chair of the special anti-terrorism committee of the Senate, said:
Accountability on the part of our security services to the whole of Parliament is not needless red tape or excessive bureaucracy. In fact, it is the democratic countervail to the kind of red tape and bureaucracy which might unwittingly lose sight of the security mission appropriate to a parliamentary democracy, where laws and constitutional protections such as the presumption of innocence and due process must protect all citizens without regard to ethnicity or national origin.
Ron Atkey, a former Conservative MP and first chair of SIRC said:
I have been both a parliamentarian and a watchdog, a professional watchdog. The answer to whether Parliament or a specialized agency should have the power to review our security agencies is easy for me. Canadians should have both. Under our system of government, Parliament is the ultimate watchdog and is directly accountable to the people. The party having the most number of seats at each general election usually is called on to form the government, but Parliament itself remains the watchdog.
As I said earlier, the and the government as a whole rejected that particular proposal.
Let me conclude by saying that there is no question there is a lot of debate around this bill in the community, which is a good thing. As I said, I welcome that debate with those who have different views and are willing to express them. There have been some minor amendments proposed, I think some that would take the word “lawful” out, et cetera, which would go some distance to satisfying that expressed concern over an infringement on civil liberties.
I still believe there are some problems relative to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and at some point in time the court may in fact rule on that. Regarding those measures that the government failed to accept and put in the bill, such as oversight, sunset clauses and mandatory statutory review at the end of three years, the Liberal Party will put those measures in our election platform and Canadians can decide at that point in time.
We need a balance between national security and civil liberties. Parliament should be able to find and exercise that balance. The government failed to allow that to happen.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
It is my honour to be here today and to speak in support of this very crucial national security bill, the anti-terrorism act, 2015. I am proud of the manner in which our Conservative government has managed this important file of national security.
Whether it be the response to the tragedies of late October, which we along with Canadians recognized instantly as terrorist attacks, or our measures to protect the value of Canadian citizenship, it is an honour to stand with our government on issues of national security.
It is a privilege to advocate for measures that keep Canadians safe, which is of course the first priority of any government. Regardless of the bill or motion that has been up for debate in this House, I feel a strong sense of duty when advocating for positions that Canadians truly care about, such as the mission in Iraq and Syria. Canadians will not tolerate the scourge of terrorism on our shores, which is why we must not allow the evils of ISIL to spread.
I would like to take this opportunity to first thank the members of the Canadian Armed Forces, to whom we are all very grateful. I would also like to thank the men and women who keep us safe on our shores, the RCMP, CSIS and police authorities across the country, who work tirelessly to keep us safe.
We, as parliamentarians, have an obligation to do what we can to help them in that very important job that they have. We have passed the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act to protect the sacred values of Canadian citizenship. We have passed the Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act to clarify the ability of CSIS to operate overseas.
Now, we are advocating for the anti-terrorism act, legislation that would enable our national security agencies to keep pace with the ever-evolving threats to our national security. Canada, like our allies, needs to modernize our laws to arm our national security agencies in the fight against Jihadi terrorists who we know have declared war on Canada.
The anti-terrorism act would protect Canadians by allowing the federal government to share information that the government already has across departments, within government, for national security purposes. Today's threats evolve too quickly to risk vital information being trapped in bureaucracy. For example, if a consular services officer has information of suspicious activity that could actually prevent an attack, he or she must be able to inform the appropriate authorities.
The anti-terrorism act would protect Canadians by expanding the passenger protect program, also known as the no-fly list, to allow the government to deny boarding to all terrorist suspects, not merely those who we can prove are a risk to that specific flight. Today, radicalized individuals can board planes so long as they are not a risk to that aircraft. These people could disappear into terrorist training camps and fall off our radar, and then make their way back to Canada after receiving training. I do not know how the opposition could advocate against something so simple, something that makes so much sense.
The anti-terrorism act would protect Canadians by criminalizing the advocacy and promotion of terrorism and allowing the federal government to seize radical jihadi propaganda. Canada is a free and accepting society but that does not mean we must tolerate hateful propaganda that advocates violence against Canadians. Canadians recognize that terrorist propaganda is dangerous and contrary to Canadian values, and that the government should do all it can to ensure that it does not poison the minds of our young people.
The anti-terrorism act would also enable CSIS to disrupt threats to our nation. This is an important part of the bill that, again, just makes sense. In fact, when I speak to Canadians across the country in roundtable discussions, they cannot believe that CSIS does not already have the power to disrupt threats.
It is inconceivable that a CSIS agent cannot take a very minor action, such as intercepting mail to prevent a meeting between a radicalized individual and a known terrorist group, to protect Canadians. Again, this is a common sense policy proposal that the opposition willingly and wilfully exaggerates the powers being proposed.
CSIS is not and will never be a secret police force. The opposition members know that. CSIS cannot and will not operate without strict oversight and review. That is why disruption powers would be subject to judicial review and also why the government's new balanced budget that we proposed would double SIRC's resources. The Security Intelligence Review Committee, or SIRC, is a robust Canadian model that has provided effective expert oversight of CSIS for decades. CSIS agents are often in the right place at the right time to disrupt threats early. Given the increased number of foreign fighters and jihadi terrorists threatening our nation, it is very important that we empower the men and women of CSIS to keep Canada safe.
Finally, the anti-terrorism act would further strengthen Canadian citizenship by ensuring that national security agencies are better able to protect and use classified information when denying entry and status to non-citizens who pose a threat to Canada. Again, that is another proposal that Canadians would see to be very important and just makes sense. Canadians know that only the Conservative Party, led by this , can be trusted to keep Canadians safe from the threat of terrorism.
Whether it is on the issue of citizenship; our international security obligations; budget increases to national security agencies, which they continually vote against; or on a crucial bill that would modernize our security tools, the New Democrats and Liberals oppose, confuse and obstruct.
That is why I am proud to be a part of this Conservative government. I am proud of our strong record and the leadership of the on issues of national security. I will be voting in favour of this very important bill, and I encourage all other members to do the same, to help keep Canadians safe from terrorists who wish to do us harm.
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise in this House today to support the anti-terrorism act, 2015, because the international jihadist movement has declared war on Canada.
From the time I fought in Afghanistan as a military engineer in the Canadian Armed Forces in 2007, a lot of things changed on the international scene, with an increase in terrorist attacks against our civilization and freedoms. Canadians are being targeted by these terrorists simply because these terrorists hate our society and the values it represents.
Jihadi terrorism is not a human right. It is an act of war. This is why our government has put forward the measures we are discussing today to protect Canadians from these 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 ISIS.
I am very proud to stand in this place to support this historic legislation.
Our government has already increased the resources available to our police forces by one-third. The Liberals and the NDP voted against those increases each step of the way. Economic action plan 2015 would further increase the resources to CSIS, the RCMP, and CBSA by almost $300 million to bolster our front-line efforts to counter terrorism. Our government will continue to ensure that our police forces have the resources they need to keep Canadians safe.
Tom Quiggin, of the Terrorism and Security Experts of Canada Network, said that Canada has a series of deep networks whose aim is to create further extremism in Canada by recruiting young Canadians overseas to die in places like the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Somalia, and elsewhere. These networks have been set up by the Muslim Brotherhood. He said that confronting these extremist networks in Canada will be the work of a generation and that budgetary support for the RCMP, CSIS, and CBSA is a positive step in the right direction,
Canadians are speaking loud and clear. They know that our Conservative government, led by the , is on the right track to protect Canadians from the threat posed by the so-called Islamic State.
I would like to focus my comments on the first part of the bill, the security of Canada information sharing act.
Knowledge is power, as the old saying goes. In this day and age, the government has a lot of information about a wide swath of activities of the people of Canada. While some may argue that a succession of Liberal prime ministers expanded the size, scope, and reach of government far too intimately into the lives of Canadians, that is a question for a different day.
The fact of the matter is that whether it is an examination of tax records, information obtained by officers at the border, or things observed by consular officials, there is a great deal of information under the control of the Government of Canada that could be relevant to national security investigations.
Shockingly, right now it is prohibited for agencies of the Government of Canada to share most information with their counterparts in the national security field.
Let me give members an example given by the Commissioner of the RCMP.
An individual who has travelled abroad to engage in terrorism arrives at a Canadian embassy to seek consular assistance. The individual in question has recent bullet wounds and clearly looks as if he has been engaged in fighting. The individual asks for Canadian travel documents so he can return home immediately. The embassy employee is prohibited from passing on their concerns that this individual may be involved in terrorism to the RCMP. They have to orchestrate a chance meeting with their RCMP liaison officer in the hallway so that they can become aware of the risk posed by this individual.
It is completely ridiculous that the right hand of government cannot know what the left hand is doing. This is why I am pleased to support the bill.
Some, particularly members of the NDP, will tell us that this legislation would go too far. It would cause information to be given to CSIS regarding peaceful and legitimate dissent, and ordinary people would find themselves accused of being terrorists.
To that I respond with a question. How?
As I read the bill, it in no way targets protesters. In fact, it prohibits the sharing of information regarding protest or dissent.
Further, even if somehow a peaceful protest spontaneously turned into a threat to national security, I fail to see what possible information the government could be sharing that would cause such great offence.
What seems to be happening here is that the New Democrats' continuing talking points about civil liberties are a fig leaf to hide their real agenda. They are simply opposed to any measure at all to increase national security. We do not have to look far to see this. Every time our government brings forward new financial resources for security, they vote against it. They voted against the Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act. They even voted against making it a criminal offence to travel overseas for the purpose of engaging in terrorism. I hate to say it, but I believe this stems from the fundamental NDP left-wing ideology.
The NDP member for was previously a candidate for the Communist Party of Canada, and part of his platform was the repeal of all national security laws, including the no-fly list. This is absolutely preposterous, but it does explain their opposition to the common-sense measures before us today.
Let us listen to what credible Canadians are saying about the bill. Ms. Raheel Raza, president of the Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow, said that this legislation is important to combat radicalization and that we need better tools to track jihadis who travel overseas. She said:
...unfortunately we are living in a post-9/11 world, and times are such that personal information needs to be shared. That's the reality and I don't have a problem with it.... Again, the larger picture is that of the security and safety of Canada.
Tahir Gora, of the Canadian Thinkers Forum, said:
The government's proposed Bill C-51, when passed by Parliament, shall help Canadian Muslims to curb ex2tremist elements
Canadian experts support this important legislation. I will vote in favour of this legislation, and I encourage all my hon. colleagues to do the same.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
I would say that it is a pleasure to rise to speak to Bill were it not for the contents of this bill and the direction in which the government is taking us in such a worrisome fashion.
Let me pre-empt my comments by confirming that the primary role of government is to keep its citizenry safe from threats, both domestic and foreign. Those are threats that can be borne out by groups. They can also be threats to our liberties and security borne out by a government itself that no longer has the ability to maintain any semblance of balance and understanding of what it is to live in a free and fair democracy.
The Conservatives were so concerned about privacy and freedoms that they cancelled the long form census because it was such an intrusion on the privacy and rights of Canadians, yet they are now embedding in Bill the right of the state to have warrantless search and seizure powers without any oversight from a judge. Consider that for a moment. The Conservatives did not want the government knowing how many bathrooms Canadians have in their homes, but now they say that they want to legitimize and legalize the act of a warrantless search not only on homes, but on people's emails and phone conversations in their very private lives. There was no extension of power granted of oversight to the public or to any oversight body at all when handing out these extraordinary powers to the spy agency of Canada.
The Conservatives have made no case whatsoever of the need for this bill. They have not been able to cite an incident where a terrorist activity took place but would have been prevented had this bill been in place. In fact, there have been a number of arrests in Canada over the last number of years involving potential terrorist threats well before they even happened, yet the Conservatives say that they need to hand CSIS these broad powers.
If it is not for legitimate security reasons, then what is it for? One does not have to go too far back into the Conservative history to realize that the Conservatives do have an agenda here.
The Conservatives time and time again have shown who their enemies are. We all recall the famous enemies list. The Prime Minister's Office called it the list of friends and enemy stakeholders, back in 2013. This was a memo from the Office of the of Canada asking government officials to compile a list of stakeholders who were friends and stakeholders who were enemies, in their words. Fast forward to the then natural resources minister, now the , who, in attacking opponents of his pipeline dreams in northern British Columbia, said that opponents were foreign-funded radicals and enemies of the state.
Take those two comments for what they are, that people are enemies of the state for opposing an industrial project, a pipeline that is highly controversial and in fact opposed by two-thirds of British Columbians. Is that what enemies of the state have become? Are they anybody who happens to have an opinion and anyone who happens to have the audacity to be against a government's policy or industrial proposal which, by the way, threatens our very way of life in northern British Columbia?
There are three points of this bill that are most worrisome.
First of all, the definition of terrorism has been vastly expanded to include things like economic interests and countering government policy. If the net is cast so broadly to include anything as a terrorist activity that happens to contravene something that the government of the day wants to push forward, we have to ask ourselves what type of country we are living in and what type of country is imagined by the Conservatives.
The second point is something that has already been struck down in court from a previous bill that tried to counteract money laundering and terrorism, but here the Conservatives go again with warrantless search and seizure. The ability to go in without a warrant and conduct searches was struck down recently by the Supreme Court, but here the Conservatives go again, trying it again. At the foundation of what this democracy and any free and right-thinking democracy stands for is that the state simply cannot, without the purview of a judge and without rational and proper discourse, go in and interfere with the private lives of Canadians.
The last point is an important one. The level of oversight is already so weak that we have heard from commission after commission looking into the Air India bombing, for example, that oversight needs to be improved. What have the Conservatives done? They have expanded powers but they have not improved any oversight.
After some tragic events in my riding, one involving Ian Bush, a young man who when interacting with the RCMP in a confrontation was killed, the Bush family and many right-thinking British Columbians fought for years to bring more public oversight to the RCMP. The Conservatives rallied against this saying that public oversight of our police forces was unnecessary and that we were somehow demeaning security and police forces by even asking for it. Lo and behold, British Columbia was able to bring in public oversight of the RCMP just as police oversight has been brought in in Alberta and Ontario. The United States is finally contemplating the very same thing. With extraordinary power comes extraordinary responsibility and it is right for the public to ask for some level and measure of oversight.
We see in this bill that if the lawyers for CSIS, the spy agency itself, determine that CSIS may contravene our charter or interfere with people's civil liberties by some action it is undertaking, such as spying on them, tapping their phone or breaking into their email accounts, then under this law CSIS may go to a judge and seek a warrant. Some would say that is enough for oversight, but the judge never sees CSIS again, and off it goes on its merry way. Did CSIS expand its search and investigation of Canadians or go beyond? The judge and the public would never know because Parliament has no oversight capacity.
We have implored the government through dozens of amendments to take on some of these basic and reasonable requests. Of the 48 witnesses who appeared before the committee, many of them called by the Conservatives, 43 said that this bill is flawed and needs major fixes. Many witnesses, experts in matters of security and civil rights, said that the bill had to be scrapped entirely. Former Supreme Court judges, former prime ministers, both Liberal and Conservative, called this bill what it is, which is an affront to basic Canadian values. For me, as someone who has great faith and pride in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to see the impact on those rights and freedoms proposed by this bill, with little to no justification at all, is incredibly worrisome.
We would think with all of the terrorist threats and certainly with all of the rhetoric we hear from the Conservatives that going after money laundering and terrorist financing would have been the first order of the Conservative government. In the last four years we have not seen any increase in CRA's budget to do just that, to go after money laundering and terrorist financing. There has been nothing, no increase at all. However, there has been an increase in Canada Revenue Agency's budget to go after charities, birdwatchers, environmental groups, first nations groups, anybody who had the audacity to suggest an opinion that was different from that of the government, who had the audacity to suggest that they disagreed with some Conservative policy or another. Here we are with a government that claims to have the security interests of Canadians, yet so often and so consistently it disregards our civil liberties, our rights and freedoms, and infringes on the values that Canadians so cherish.
Coming from the northwest of B.C., I will suggest this. The Conservatives have managed to pull off some rare feat. They have managed to bring gun owners, environmental groups, first nations, loggers, and groups from across the political spectrum in my part of the world to come to a place of agreement in their opposition to this bill. It is a rare feat in politics to bring so many different divergent groups together in unity in opposition to an idea. That idea is expressed in Bill . It is an idea that is abhorrent to Canadian values, is contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and is contrary to any sound policy-making.
If the intention is to protect Canadians, let us protect Canadians from true threats to our security and from threats by a government that wishes to abuse its powers.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill at third reading. Of course there was only ever one proper way to dispose of the bill and that was some time ago in the legislative process at second reading and as per the reasoned amendment put forward by my NDP colleague, the member for , which suggested that we decline to give second reading to the bill. I was pleased this morning to second another such reasoned amendment, which was in effect to throw the bill out so that we did not discuss this and the bill never became law.
I want to take a moment to thank the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca and the member for for leading our caucus in vigorous opposition to the bill, because the bill is unworthy of any Canadian government to lay before the House, as the Conservative government has done. Certainly it is unworthy of any opposition support, as the Liberals have done. It is so because what is rotten about the bill lies at its very heart, with the bill's premise that it is only by way of sacrificing the rights and freedoms of Canadians that we are able to make Canadians safe.
I have listened carefully to Conservatives and Liberals trying to rationalize this premise. They cannot. They compensate with hyperbole, with an extremism in their language, all of their own. Liberals, the self-proclaimed party of the charter are the Conservatives' allies in this. They are afraid of what the Conservatives might do to them if they disagree. They have turned on the charter and have agreed to support a bill in which our rights would not be rights anymore, because if we considered them so, goes the logic of the bill and of the Conservatives and Liberals who support it, we could not and would not be safe here in Canada.
This is what it has come to, their consent to a bill that would give the Canadian Security Intelligence Service new radically altered authorities. CSIS was originally charged with a broad mandate but limited power, certainly, no so-called kinetic powers, no powers to disrupt, arrest or, in the terms used by Forcese and Roach, “to do things to people in the physical world”. This is not only no longer the case, but through the bill CSIS would be provided with such kinetic powers with little constraint, restricted only from committing bodily harm, obstructing justice and violating a person's sexual integrity.
The provisions of Bill would provide CSIS with the authority to take measures both at home and abroad to disrupt threats when it has “reasonable grounds” to believe that “there is a threat to the security of Canada”. Activities to disrupt threats are not to contravene a right or freedom guaranteed under the charter, unless authorized by a warrant under the act. Here, the bill turns the idea of judicial warrants on its head. In the normal course, judicial warrants are designed to ensure the preservation or integrity of charter rights, specifically to protect against unreasonable searches and seizure. The special warrant system laid out in Bill C-51 would pre-authorize the violation of absolute rights such as, for example, the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.
This represents a departure from our constitutional tradition in Canada and the role of the judiciary in that tradition. Section 1 of the Charter allows rights to be violated where such violation is considered “reasonable” in a free and democratic society, but only when prescribed by law, which usually means specified by statute, which is something determined, democratically, here in the House. It depends in turn on some rigorous, legal justification. This tradition does not permit a judge to make a new exception to a charter right, but the bill would, or at least it seeks to.
Let me heap a few complications on top of this situation. First, the bill does not provide for any oversight of CSIS' own determinations of whether or not it ought to, or needs to, seek a special warrant. The bill leaves such decisions to CSIS absent any check or scrutiny of those decisions.
It is only in the instance that something goes wrong or when its activities morph into criminal investigations led by the RCMP that such decisions may come under some scrutiny, potentially, it is worth noting, threatening the prosecution of the case. It is worth noting, too, that where warrants are brought forward by CSIS, seeking pre-authorization by the court of the violation of a charter right, such considerations are to be dealt with in secret.
Forcese and Roach illustrate the problem by way of their comparison of the open and public discussion in the British Parliament of the validity of exclusion orders for British citizens who have joined ISIS or ISIL. Whatever one might think of those exclusion orders, the fact of parliamentary debate stands in stark contrast to the provisions of this bill, which would have such discussions take place with only a judge and the government side present, and in the absence of any person or representative body to argue against the charter breach.
Perhaps a system of special advocates and advocacy will emerge or be adopted by the courts, to be seen. We are left most certainly, inevitably under this bill with the decisions of the judiciary to deny or permit violations of the absolute rights of Canadians being made in secret and being kept secret, far from the scrutiny of anybody.
Another problem is the matters before the judiciary, under this special warrants system, are not restricted to matters of terrorism. It is a far broader scope of matters and conduct that fall subject to this system. Terrorism is only one such form of activity that falls under broadly defined security concerns of the bill; so does interference with critical infrastructure, and so does interference with the capability of the government in relation to, for example, the economic or financial stability of Canada.
This broad language, potentially at least, brings first nations most obviously but also any civil society group making territorial claims in response to development projects, such as mining or other extractive activities, into the ambit of this bill and subject to the special disruptive activities of CSIS and special warrants process of the courts.
This broad language again, potentially at least, brings any civil society group, environmental groups for example, that Conservative ministers have been known to refer to as eco-terrorists, engaged in civil disobedience activities investigations with respect to energy infrastructure, for example, into the ambit of this bill and subject to the special disruptive activities of CSIS and special warrant processes of the courts.
None of this, none of what I have said today, is to deny the very real threat of terrorism to the safety and security of Canadians. How can we? From 9/11 onwards at least, we have recognized the threat, our vulnerability and the need to respond to protect ourselves.
Whatever that hate is that moves ISIL to do what it does, we cannot but acknowledge that it has inspired some Canadians to leave here and join them, and it has inspired at least a couple of Canadians to turn that hate on their own here at home. We cannot forget Corporal Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent. We cannot forget October 22, when all of us in this place wondered, for at least a moment, if that was to be our last moment.
The impossibility of supporting Bill was captured most simply and elegantly by the when he said that we cannot protect our freedoms by sacrificing our freedoms.
Our challenge is not to forsake who we are and what we believe in when we are afraid, when we are tested. Our challenge is to ensure that Canadians are safe and secure in a Canada that protects their rights and freedoms. That vision of Canada is the New Democrats' vision of Canada. It is different from the Conservative vision represented by Bill . It is different from the Liberals' vision represented by their fear of not supporting Bill and by their fear of Conservatives.
It is the only vision offered here today in this House that is consistent with the long, proud history of this country, and the only vision that will ensure that we have a long, proud future.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
I am very pleased to provide my views on the important subject of what our Conservative government is doing to combat terrorism. Terrorism is not some far-off problem for others to deal with. It hits us right here at home.
That is because the international jihadi movement has declared war on Canada and its allies. The members of that movement hate our values, our freedom, and our prosperity. In fact, Canadians have been targeted specifically for our values that make Canada the best country in the world to live, work, and raise a family. Tragically, we saw the most horrific manifestations of this in late October. Two brave members of the Canadian Armed Forces were killed in cold blood by jihadi terrorists. That is what brought about the legislation that is before us today, the anti-terrorism act, 2015.
I am proud to support this important legislation that builds on our strong record of protecting Canadians from violent terrorists. We have taken action to limit the ability of terrorist organizations to fund-raise within Canada, through the Criminal Code terrorist-listing process. We passed the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act, which allows victims of terrorism and their families to hold state sponsors of terror financially accountable. We passed the Combating Terrorism Act, which makes it a criminal offence to travel overseas to engage in terrorist activity. We also passed the Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act, which modernizes the tools available to our national security agencies. This is a record of which Canadians can all be proud.
It is shocking but certainly not surprising that the NDP has opposed us every step of the way.
There are four key elements in the legislation before us today: one, this bill would allow for information sharing internal to the government; two, it would enhance the passenger protect program, known as the “no-fly list”; three, it would criminalize the distribution of jihadi terrorist propaganda; and four, it would give CSIS the tools to disrupt terrorist plots before they end in tragedy. These are very common-sense changes that would protect us from the real jihadi terrorism threat. On this side of the House, we know that this threat is real. We have heard it in witness testimony. It has evolved, it is growing, and it is real.
We have also seen attacks planned and carried out both in Canada and in other western countries. I would remind this House of the chilling words of the Islamic State:
If you can kill a disbelieving American or European—especially the spiteful and filthy French—or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way however it may be.
That threat is very real, and we must take action to degrade and destroy this threat. That is why our government will not sit on the sidelines, as the Liberals would have us do, and why we are joining the international coalition to defeat ISIS. Credible Canadians know that we must take action to deal with this threat, specifically the action outlined in our bill, the anti-terrorism act, 2015.
Professor Elliot Tepper of Carleton University said:
Bill C-51 is the most important national security legislation since the 9/11 era.
[It] is designed for the post-9/11 era. It's a new legislation for a new era in terms of security threats. While it's understandable that various provisions of the legislation attract attention, we need to keep our focus on the fundamental purpose and the fundamental challenge of combatting emerging types of terrorism.
Professor Salim Mansur of the University of Western Ontario said:
Bill C-51 is directed against Islamist jihadists and to prevent or pre-empt them from their stated goal to carry out terrorist threats against the west, including Canada.
...the measures proposed in Bill C-51 to deal with the nature of threats that Canada faces, I believe, are quite rightly and urgently needed to protect and keep secure the freedom of our citizens.
Scott Tod, deputy commissioner, investigations, organized crime, Ontario Provincial Police, said:
Bill C-51 offers improvements for the federal police to share information among our justice sector partners, security partners, but more importantly and hopefully, with the community partners and government situational tables designed to reduce the terrorist threat and improve community safety and well-being.
It is clear that our measures would protect Canadians from those who wish to harm us.
The first duty of any government is to protect the safety of its citizens, and that is exactly what our Conservative government is doing. The anti-terrorism act 2015 would ensure that our police forces have the tools they need to protect Canadians against the evolving threat of jihadi terrorists. We reject the argument that every time we talk about security, somehow our freedoms are threatened. Canadians understand that their freedom and security go hand in hand. Canadians expect us to protect both, and that is exactly what we are doing with this legislation because there are safeguards in this bill.
The fundamental fact is that our police forces are working to protect our rights and freedoms and it is jihadi terrorists who endanger our security and would take those freedoms away. What is more, we will never apologize for taking jihadi propaganda out of circulation. In fact, if companies that provide website content hosting services or other businesses are profiting from this type of horrific material, they should seriously reconsider their business models and lack of commitment to the values we cherish here in Canada.
Across this country, businesses, large and small, depend on a strong economy, clear rules of marketplace conduct, dependable transactions, and secure data. The reality is that there is no profitability without a stable security environment, both physical and virtual. This legislation would strengthen our national security and would benefit businesses, as well as all consumers.
It is clear that our Conservative government can make the tough decisions necessary to keep all Canadians safe, and I hope that when this bill is voted on tomorrow night, all members of the House will stand with me in supporting this very important piece of legislation.
Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to participate in this important debate today.
Recent polls have shown us that national security and the fight against jihadi terrorism is one of the most important issues for Canadians from coast to coast. I regret that so many of my hon. colleagues on the other side of the House refuse to use that modifier to describe this new and very dangerous form of terrorism and they refuse to recognize this as one of the most important issues facing Canadians.
The vast majority of my constituents in share that concern. I have received any number of phone calls over recent months, from folks who want to know precisely what we will do to keep our communities safe from jihadi terrorists.
I am proud to respond to each and every one of those phone calls to explain the content of the bill before us today, the anti-terrorism act, 2015, because it gives me an opportunity to highlight the strong record of this Conservative government.
First, we tabled the economic action plan 2015, which would invest nearly $300 million in the fight against jihadi terrorism. This is above and beyond the fact that we have increased the resources available to our national security agencies by one-third since coming to office. We have listed dozens of new groups as terrorist entities to prohibit them from operating, from recruiting, from fundraising and from doing business in Canada. These include the Islamic State, Jabhat al Nusra, al Shabaab and al Qaeda.
We passed the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act to allow the families of those who had been killed in terrorist acts to seek compensation from state sponsors of terror.
We passed the Combating Terrorism Act to give new tools to stop individuals from travelling overseas to engage in terrorism.
We passed the Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act to modernize the tools available to CSIS when investigating threats to Canada.
Also, we introduced the bill which is before us today, the anti-terrorism act, 2015.
The bill, I would remind the House, would do four key things. It would create a system for internal government information sharing. It would improve the passenger protect program, colloquially known as the “no-fly list”. It would criminalize the dissemination of terrorist literature and propaganda. It would also give CSIS the ability to disrupt planned terrorist attacks before they happen.
These measures are just good old-fashioned common sense. It makes no sense that the right hand of government should be prohibited from knowing what the left hand is doing. That is why we are eliminating the silos and the roadblocks that potentially act as roadblocks to the safety of Canadians.
It makes no sense that individuals we suspect may be travelling abroad to engage in terrorism would be allowed to board an airplane. It makes no sense that we allow terrorist recruiters to post propaganda online with impunity. It makes no sense that we would prohibit our national security officials from taking action to foil a terrorist plot.
That is why we are moving forward with the legislation. It simply makes good, common sense. However, as the old saying goes, common sense is not always all that common.
The NDP member for said, “Bill C-51...will only increase this disproportionate representation in our prisons”. That is ridiculous.
Let me clear. The bill would be targeted at terrorists. It would not be targeted at protesters, or environmentalists or whatever other voter bloc the NDP wants to confect. To fearmonger by suggesting that the legislation would somehow lead to the incarceration of aboriginals is simply irresponsible. Any individual who is not engaging in terrorist activities or distributing jihadi propaganda would be able to continue to go about their daily lives without feeling the slightest impact of the legislation.
Members do not have to take my word for it. Former Supreme Court Justice John Major had this to say, “citizens who are not validly under suspicion will not have some manufactured reason for their private lives to be interfered with”.
Going even a step further, Ray Boivert, a former senior official at CSIS, said, “anybody who had an issue they'd like to protest will now become a target of the security establishment. I think you should not...flatter yourself to that degree”.
A fundamental fact is that we are taking action to prevent Canadians from being targeted by jihadi terrorists.
Not long ago, barely six months ago now, we suffered two terrorist attacks on our own soil. We lost two brave members of the Canadian Armed Forces. We must never forget those attacks, particularly in the context of discussing the modernization of our national security legislation.
While the NDP and the Liberals put their collective heads in the sand and wish that national security was not an issue that we are faced with, our Conservative government will continue to make the tough decisions.
While the NDP leader has fantasized any number of times of conspiracy theories, most notably his skepticism over the death of Osama bin Laden, and while the leader of the official opposition has refused to accept that Canada has in fact been attacked by terrorists, our Conservative government will continue to make the tough decision.
While the Liberal leader makes juvenile one-liners about whipping out CF-18s, our Conservative government will continue to make the tough decision.
The fact is that Canadians know they can only count on the Conservative government to make the tough decisions to keep Canadians safe from terrorists threats, from specifically jihadi threats.
As my times draws to a close, I am reminded of comments at the public safety committee by Louise Vincent, the sister of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, who was killed in cold blood by a jihadi terrorist. She said:
If C-51 had been in place on October 19...Martin Couture-Rouleau would...have been in prison and my brother would not be dead today.
When I vote on this important legislation, I will be keeping those words in mind. I hope my NDP, Liberal and other opposition colleagues will do the same.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to talk about Bill . It will be an honour for me to represent the people of Pierrefonds—Dollard over the next 10 minutes. I have received many emails and inquiries about this bill.
I recently visited the Gérald-Godin CEGEP. I was surprised at how interested the students there were in certain political issues, including federal ones. Sometimes we get the feeling that this stuff is not very relevant to their everyday lives. I was especially surprised to see that they know this bill by name and were able to provide a brief summary of Bill when I mentioned it. This means that the bill is quite important to them and that people in the community are talking about it.
Before I continue, I would just like to say that I will be sharing my time and that I will give a 10-minute speech on Bill .
Today, as I have done for the past four years, I am speaking on behalf of the people I represent. I would like to share their concerns with the House and the Conservative government.
I was in this place, with my baby, during the shooting last fall. The next day, I even returned to this place with my baby, because I knew that it was important not to give in to fear and intimidation. I was also confident in Parliament's ability to protect the parliamentarians, tourists and Canadians who were here. If there was one hope that sustained us following those tragic events, it was the hope that parliamentarians would work together to find a solution that was really in line with the seriousness of the situation, while avoiding a knee-jerk response to this threat, this intimidation, this fear.
Unfortunately, I get the impression—and I am not the only one—that Bill is the kind of response that many of us were hoping to avoid following those tragic events. It is a reaction that makes use of arguments based not only on fearmongering and partisan politics, but also—and this is the most important part—arguments that have not swayed the official opposition and that ignore all of the criticisms, comments and suggestions made by experts and community groups across Canada.
In such an important and sensitive debate, a responsible government has a duty to unite people around a fight and intelligent measures, instead of creating divisions and spreading information that can seem partisan and inflammatory.
Earlier I mentioned my constituents, those who have written to me.
I have received approximately 50 emails, letters and phone calls in the last few weeks from people I represent in the House of Commons who are concerned about Bill . I want to thank them for participating in their democracy, but also for sharing their concerns with me.
Madam Fine wrote:
I'm writing to call on you to take a firm stand against the government's reckless, dangerous and ineffective Bill C-51. I'm asking you to side with Canadians and vote against this legislation.
I will do just that. I will vote against Bill . She said also:
If this bill passes, the government could spy on anyone, at any time, and we wouldn't even know when we've been a victim. Surely we don't want to create a shadowy and unaccountable secret police force that will trample on our freedoms.
I thank Madam Fine for writing to me. She is not the only who wrote to me with those kinds of concerns. Those concerns are based not only on what the opposition is saying, because the government tried to blame the opposition for scaring people about Bill , but experts and groups have also raised concerns and informed the Canadian population about Bill C-51.
There was a study done at committee recently. It is a shame that the government did not consider or pay more attention to the advice that was given by our Canadian experts on that matter.
I have another email from someone who does not live in my riding, which is interesting. He lives in Baie d'Urfé, which is a municipality represented by a Liberal member of Parliament. Of course, he did not have an open discussion with his member of Parliament because the Liberals said vaguely that although they were not in favour of Bill , they would indeed vote in favour of the bill. We do not necessarily understand why, but we know that his member of Parliament would not support him.
Mr. Lahey writes:
Many people--I include myself--are deeply concerned about Bill C-51 passing.
I have reviewed the bill itself and have concerns over the loss of privacy that will be hard to reverse, the implications for active covert operations...and even the allowance of torture seems covered.
Further on he writes:
The bill is clearly taking advantage of that event—
He is talking about the tragedy that happened last fall in Parliament.
—to drive this massive redesign of the intelligence system, at the expense of every citizen's personal sovereignty and privacy.
Further on he wrote:
Please--make a bit of noise over this issue during this final reading and debate period.
The nation does not need and does not WANT this bill to pass. Of this I am pretty sure.
I thank Mr. Lahey for taking the time to look at the consequences. I fully agree with him that this bill has to be stopped.
Mr. Mojtahedi wrote, “I wanted to thank you and the NDP for standing against Bill ”.
We should not remain silent when the government spends massive amounts of public resources and most importantly limits our civil liberties instead of fighting more serious threats to public security.
Another constituent wrote:
I note now that certain polls are indicating that support for the bill is falling, and that continued criticism is increasing. Mr. Allan Gregg, former Conservative pollster, has just come out strongly against it. Could you reassure me that you are continuing the good fight in Parliament and would you please inform me of any further actions on a local level that might help you?
I can assure Mr. Roloff that I will continue to fight against Bill with my NDP colleagues. The fight is not over.
We went door to door with a lot of volunteers to inform people about Bill . We asked them what they thought about it, and we showed them a petition. One man specifically told me that he was totally against Bill C-51 but he did not want to sign the petition. He was scared to give his personal contact info, because he was scared that the government would spy on him with the passage of Bill C-51. That shows that people are scared of those new powers and the impact of Bill C-51.
Many other people wrote to me to share their concerns. They want Parliament to oppose Bill . They at least want parliamentarians to think carefully and listen to the concerns of Canadians and experts. That is why the NDP is here, and that is why we want the Conservatives to pay closer attention to the concerns raised all across the country.
Mr. Speaker, this week we are commemorating the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, in which the allies fought to defend freedom and democracy. I cannot help but make a link to the bill we are debating, because it will reduce our hard-won freedoms. Did we learn nothing from those ordeals? Today, this government is showing all Canadians that it thumbs its nose at the central tenets of democracy. The government is muzzling the opposition by shortening debate on a bill about something as important as security.
The reason for this gag order is simple: in committee, 45 witnesses indicated that the bill as it now stands is flawed and should be amended. We are talking about 45 witnesses. That is a lot, particularly when we know that most of them were government witnesses. Given this testimony and such overwhelming opposition from civil society and experts, the and the should have understood that Bill was not the best solution to the public safety issues we are facing. This bill was not developed in consultation with the other parties, all of which recognize the terrorist threat and support the adoption of effective, concrete measures to keep Canadians safe. That is not what Bill does. Instead, it violates our rights and freedoms, the fundamental rights of first nations and the right of various groups in civil society to protest, just to give a few examples.
When we received the budget, almost two months late, I was hoping to see a big envelope for the fight against terrorism. When I looked to see what was allocated in the budget I was surprised to see that the money was not there. For the Canada Border Services Agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the envelope was a little less than $300 million over five years. Five years. Before 2017, these agencies will collectively receive less than $20 million to combat terrorism. That is a drop in the bucket and it is an insult to the work being done by our police services. These agencies are overburdened and are being forced to reassign staff to do the work they are being asked to do. This budget gives them nothing but crumbs to do their job.
When a government claims to want to protect our communities, our cities and our entire country, in order to serve Canadians and to protect our national security, it needs to put its money where its mouth is. It needs to allocate the money needed. The government needs to redirect money and ensure that our law enforcement agencies have the funding they need to take action. However, there is nothing to this effect in Bill or in the 2015 budget tabled by the Conservative government. I am extremely disappointed to see the lack of leadership from this government and its obvious failure to take seriously the fight against terrorism and radicalization. There are a lot of things missing in the Conservatives' botched approach. For example, it would have been nice to see the Conservatives propose ways to combat radicalization. Various stakeholders have spoken about this. This kind of work is being done in some of our regions and communities, as well as in the United States.
The language of the act is both extremely vague and extremely broad at the same time. It is so broad that any act of protest could be considered an act of terrorism.
The bill defines terrorism as:
...any activity...if it undermines the sovereignty, security or territorial integrity of Canada...interfere[s] with critical infrastructure...or the economic or financial stability of Canada.
At first glance, it is hard to see terrorism in there. This definition casts its net far too wide, so much so, that anyone in the House could be convicted of terrorism for opposing a pipeline. The problem is similar to the one with preventive detention. I have to hand it to them, the Conservatives know how to play with words.
More specifically, a judge could authorize preventive detention, and not just when he is absolutely certain that it is a matter of terrorism, because a suspicion will do: “believes on reasonable grounds that a terrorist activity may be carried out”. The judge can thereby order the arrest of a person if it “is likely to prevent the carrying out of the terrorist activity”.
Therefore, absolute certainty will no longer be needed to determine the action to be taken. Instead, that decision will be based on suspicions. That is not how the legislation is supposed to work. Intelligence on law-abiding citizens will be compiled and forwarded to the police. What we have here is the listing of people. People will be listed! One of the worst instruments of totalitarian regimes is indeed seeing the light of day here, in Canada. Big brother is watching us. What about the right to privacy set out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?
I am hearing members on the other side of the House argue that it is for the security of Canadians. However, who will provide strict control over this collection of information if no judge verifies the practices and if no mechanism or authority controls the agency's work? It is like having a fox guarding the henhouse. Countermeasures and safeguards need to be put in place to prevent any excesses and abuse.
With this bill, the Conservatives want us to believe that there is a conflict between security and freedom. They want Canadians to have to choose between their rights and their security, claiming that the two do not go together.
That is not the NDP's position. We feel there is no choice to be made. Both are possible. They always have been, and they always will be.
Ultimately, terrorism has won. By using fear, the Conservatives have succeeded in making us give up our freedom. If the Conservatives believe they are acting in the public interest, they are completely wrong. They are headed in the wrong direction, and it is our duty to take a stand against any measure that will be detrimental to our most fundamental principles.
More security, yes, but at what cost? The Conservative government is betraying this country's most fundamental commitments, betraying our historic values and betraying all Canadians.
What will we tell our children?
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
Tonight we vote on this important legislation, the , and I am very proud today to stand in support of it. This is really an important bill that would protect Canadians from those who have openly vowed to do us harm, particularly the international jihadi movement.
This bill has strong support from my constituents in Calgary Centre and from Canadians from coast to coast to coast in every province and in every single demographic. Still, there are a lot of myths being perpetuated about this bill, many of them by the opposition, and we have heard that today. Today I would like to debunk them.
Here is the reality. Unfortunately, we all know that the threat environment we face in Canada today has escalated considerably from what it used to be. We have seen the recent ISIS-inspired acts of terror against soldiers in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and here in Ottawa. In the House, we all lived through the shooting on Parliament Hill on October 22, 2014. Believe me, it brought home to me and to many Canadians the need to take these threats on our soil very seriously.
Thankfully, authorities have foiled planned attacks in places as close to home, for my constituents, as the West Edmonton Mall.
This bill would protect our security by giving CSIS the authority to act on serious threats to protect Canadians.
In the past, if CSIS had information on a planned terrorist attack that was about to take place in Canada, it had no authority to go out and disrupt that terrorist plot. This legislation would not only give it the power to disrupt terror plots but would allow the security agencies to receive information from other government departments so that they could protect Canadians from terrorists. It is important to note that CSIS's actions are subject to a review afterward by a committee of experts in the field, SIRC, the Security Intelligence Review Committee.
Contrary to what we keep hearing from the NDP, the right to protest would be protected. In fact, we have listened to Canadians, and we specifically excluded protests from this legislation right from the get-go. To make it crystal clear, in response to feedback from Canadians, after the fearmongering of the opposition, when the anti-terrorism act, 2015 came to committee, we reviewed it and reworded the bill. The bill was changed from allowing lawful advocacy, protest, and dissent to removing the word “lawful” so that Canadians' right to protest in general or to participate in civil disobedience would not be affected.
We listened. The right to protest is an important freedom to Canadians, and this bill and our government fully recognize that.
We also recognize our duty to update our laws in the face of new threats so that we can keep Canadians safe.
There are four key measures contained in this bill. The first would create a system for internal government information-sharing. The second would improve our passenger protect program, known as the no-fly list. The third would make it a crime to disseminate jihadi terrorist propaganda. The fourth would give CSIS the ability to disrupt planned terrorist attacks before they happen. This is absolutely common sense, and Canadians get that.
People in my riding are concerned about the threat to Canada by the jihadi terrorist movement, and they told me again as recently as last weekend. They are also concerned, frankly, about the response of the NDP and the Liberals to terrorists.
The NDP has consistently put its head in the sand about the fact that Canadians are being directly targeted by jihadi terrorists that oppose our values and our way of life. The NDP leader even refused to call the horrific attacks in October what they were, jihadi terrorism, despite very clear evidence. The Liberal leader made juvenile jokes about Canada wanting to show the size of its CF-18s when it moved to confront this terrorist threat.
Let us debunk some other misconceptions advanced by the NDP and the Liberals. If it is through lack of doing the homework Canadians expect of them, I can help them with that.
Some have said that aboriginal and environmental protests could come under surveillance by CSIS, so let us read the text in the bill. It says that information could be shared between government institutions regarding “interference with critical infrastructure”. If one read that and only that, one might suppose that protesting the construction of a pipeline could, in theory, meet that definition.
However, if one read slightly further, one would see that it would not meet the core of the definition, which is an activity, or activities, that “undermines the sovereignty, security or territorial integrity of Canada or the lives or the security of the people of Canada”. That is a very different measure and distinguishes between peacefully protesting against a pipeline, which is protected, and bombing a pipeline and endangering the lives of Canadians, which is not.
I have already debunked the myth that CSIS would not require warrants to disrupt this kind of serious threat. That is just not true.
Right now, CSIS is restricted from engaging in any disruption activities. It could not even approach parents of a suspected radical and encourage them to dissuade their son from his radical beliefs. Without Bill , CSIS can only talk to parents to gather intelligence. Under Bill C-51, CSIS could talk to parents and ask them to speak to their children to help stop a threat or to stop their engaging in conversations in online chat rooms.
This hits really close to home for me and my riding of Calgary Centre. In my riding, several young men, born and raised there, have been radicalized into flying to Syria to join jihadist terrorist groups, including ISIL. Their parents are understandably distraught and have asked for help from the government. Christianne Boudreau, one of those distraught mothers, whose son went to Syria to fight with ISIS, where he was killed, called on the government to go further than just taking away the passports of radicalized young people. While she does not like all aspects of this bill, as I have said, she has called on Canada to start educating families so they can intervene before young people get to the point of radicalization. This bill would enable that.
She she has said that the propaganda is out there on social media and on the Internet and it is readily accessible.
This bill would tackle that problem by removing terrorist materials from the Internet. It would make promoting or advocating a terror act a crime, punishable by up to five years in prison. By the way, the RCMP has also been embarking on deradicalization strategies to help combat youth being lured onto a deadly path.
Here is another myth. Some people have said that this bill would curb free speech. Canada already has hate laws, but they apply only to hate speech against an “identifiable” group and as such can exclude general threats against Canada or all Canadians. These are exactly the kinds of threats used by ISIS and al Qaeda when referring to “the west” or “infidels” in their hate propaganda. The new definition would allow us to pursue the people who are radicalizing others through their propaganda and are advocating violence.
These are the tools our law enforcement agencies say they really need to face down this terrorist threat. Credible experts have widely come out in support of this bill. Scott Tod, the Deputy Commissioner of Investigations and Organized Crime for the OPP, had this to say:
Bill C-51 offers improvements for the federal police to share information among our justice sector partners, security partners, but more importantly and hopefully, with the community partners and government situational tables designed to reduce the terrorist threat and improve community safety and well-being.
That is something we all want.
Professor Salim Mansur, of the University of Western Ontario, said, “the measures...I believe, are quite rightly and urgently needed to protect and keep secure the freedom of our citizens”.
The Heritage Foundation said that Bill C-51 is, “a balance between greater physical protection without loss of civil liberties.... There is transparency and openness”.
This is an excellent bill that would help to protect Canadians. I am proud of this legislation. I am proud of the new investments we made in the budget, and I am grateful for the nearly $300 million earmarked to fight jihadi terrorism, which the NDP seems to pooh-pooh. I am pleased that we have doubled the budget of SIRC to allow for more robust review and accountability.
I believe that Bill would give Canadians what they want and expect from our government: a law that would protect both their safety and their freedom. The majority of Canadians support this bill, and when it comes to a vote tonight, I urge everyone in the House to vote in favour of it.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House to speak in favour of this very important bill before us today.
The anti-terrorism act, 2015, is all about making Canadians safer. We must remember that the international jihadi movement has declared war on Canada and her allies. We heard my hon. colleague say that a little earlier in her speech. Canadians are being attacked; we have been attacked. We are being targeted solely because the jihadi terrorists hate our values. They hate our freedom and they do not want us to have it.
We must also remember what brought about this discussion. If we had asked most Canadians a year ago or more whether they wanted more action to protect our national security, they would likely have said that the previous strong actions by our Conservative government would have been enough. However, October 22 changed all of that. We were attacked twice in three days by admitted jihadi terrorists, in their own words.
Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Corporal Nathan Cirillo were killed in cold blood by jihadi terrorists. These attacks made it clear that our security legislation had to change and evolve with the times. Evidently, that is not clear to some.
The NDP member for said that these attacks were merely unfortunate events. These comments are shocking and quite frankly offensive. I hope the member or the NDP leader will do the right thing and stand in his place and apologize to the families of the victims of these attacks.
Back to the topic at hand, I would like to highlight the fact that budget 2015 has invested nearly $300 million to combat jihadi terrorism. This is above and beyond the fact that we have increased our funding for national security agencies by one-third since coming to office.
Given that there has been a substantial amount of misinformation spread by the opposition, I would like to highlight, in the simplest terms, what exactly Bill would do.
The bill would allow for information possessed by one agency of the government to be shared by another agency of the government when national security would be at risk. It would modernize the passenger-protected program, colloquially known as the no-fly list. It would criminalize the production and distribution of jihadi terrorist propaganda. It would also give CSIS new tools to stop terrorist attacks before they happen. These are very common-sense measures that strike the right balance.
As members know, there is no liberty without security. Contrary to what has been suggested by many members of the NDP, it is ISIS and not CSIS that poses a threat to the lives and security of Canadians, and we in the House have a duty to look to that.
The first duty of any government is to protect the safety of its citizens, and that is exactly what our government will do. The bill would ensure that our police forces would have the tools they need to protect Canadians against the evolving threat of jihadi terrorists. I have spoken to police officers in Toronto and they have told me just that. They need this bill to pass. They need these tools.
We reject the argument that every time we talk about security, our freedoms are threatened. Canadians understand that their freedom and security go hand in hand. Canadians expect us to protect both, and there are safeguards in the legislation that would do exactly that.
The fundamental fact is that our police forces are working to protect our rights and our freedoms, and it is the jihadi terrorists who endanger our security, who would take away our freedoms in a heartbeat. We have only to look overseas to see what ISIS has been doing.
What is more, we will never apologize for taking jihadi propaganda out of circulation. In fact, if websites that provide content hosting services or other businesses are profiting from the dispersal of this type of horrific material, they should seriously reconsider their business model and their lack of commitment to the values that bind us as Canadians.
Across the country, businesses, large and small, depend on a strong economy, clear rules of marketplace conduct, dependable transactions and secure data. The reality is that there is no profitability without a stable security environment, both physical and virtual. The bill would strengthen our niche in security and would benefit businesses as well as consumers.
I have heard the members of the NDP say that no experts support this important legislation, and that is simply not true. I would ask them if they do not believe that Justice John Major is an expert. He said, “I don't think Parliament is equipped as a body to act as an oversight, which is what is being proposed.”