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View Garnett Genuis Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, before I get into the substantive remarks, I want to respond to an interesting comment made by my friend from Hull—Aylmer, who was asking in a question about actions taken by the previous government. There were many provisions in BillC-51 that were aimed at making Canadians safer. However, one thing I do not think has come up yet in the debate was a specific proposal that the Conservative Party put forward in the last election to make it illegal to travel to specific regions. There were certain exceptions built into the legislation, travel for humanitarian purposes, and for journalistic purposes perhaps. That was a good proposal, because when people are planning to travel to Daesh-controlled areas in Syria and Iraq, outside of certain very clearly defined objectives, it is fairly obvious what the person is going there to do. This was another proposal that we had put forward, one that the government has not chosen to take us up on, that I think eminently made sense. It would have given prosecutors and law enforcement another tool. Hopefully, that satisfies my friend from Hull—Aylmer, and maybe he will have further comments on that.
Substantively on Bill C-59, it is a bill that deals with the framework for ensuring Canadians' security, and it would make changes to a previous piece of legislation from the previous Parliament, BillC-51. There are a number of different measures in it. I would not call it an omnibus bill. I know Liberals are allergic to that word, so I will not say it is an omnibus bill. I will instead say that it makes a number of disparate changes to different parts of the act. I am going to go through some of those changes as time allows, and talk about some of the questions that are raised by each one. Certainly some of those changes are ones that we in the Conservative Party do not support. We are concerned about those changes making us less safe.
Before I go on to the particular provisions of the bill, I want to set the stage for the kinds of discussions we are having in this Parliament around safety and security. We take the position, quite firmly, that the first role of government is to keep people safe. Everything else is contingent on that. If people are not safe, all of the other things that a government does fall secondary to that. They are ultimately less important to people who feel that their basic security is not preserved. Certainly it is good for us to see consensus, as much as possible in this House, on provisions that would genuinely improve people's safety. Canadians want us to do it, and they want us to work together to realistically, in a thoughtful and hard-headed way, confront the threats that are in front of us.
We should not be naive about the threats we face, simply because any one of us individually has not interacted with a terrorist threat, although many people who were part of the previous Parliament obviously have interacted directly with a terrorist threat, given the attack that occurred on Parliament Hill. In any event, just because there are many threats that we do not see or directly experience ourselves, it does not mean they are not there. Certainly we know our law enforcement agencies are actively engaged in monitoring and countering threats, and doing everything they can to protect us. We need to be aware that those threats are out there. They are under the surface, but they are having an impact. There is a greater potential impact on our lives that is prevented if we give our security agencies and our law enforcement the tools that they need.
Many of these threats are things that people are aware of. There is the issue of radicalization and terrorism that is the result of a world in which the flow of information is much more across borders than it used to be. Governments can, to some extent, control the entry of people into their space, but they cannot nearly as effectively control the ideas of radicalization that come easily across borders and that influence people's perceptions. People can be radicalized even if they have never had any physical face-to-face interactions with people who hold those radical views. These things can happen over the Internet much more easily today than they did in the past. They do not require the face-to-face contact that was probably necessary in the past for the dissemination of extreme ideas. People living in a free western society can develop romanticized notions about extremism. This is a challenge that can affect many different people, those who are new to Canada, as well as people whose families have been here for generations.
This growing risk of radicalization has a genuine impact, and it is something that we need to be sensitive to. Of course, there are different forms of radicalization. There is radicalization advanced by groups like Daesh. We also need to aware of threats that are posed from extreme racist groups that may advocate targeting minorities, for instance, the shooting we saw at the mosque in Quebec City, or the attack that just happened at a mosque in Edson. These come out of extreme ideas that should be viewed as terrorism as well. Therefore, there are different kinds of threats that we see from different directions as the result of a radicalization that no longer requires a face-to-face interaction. These are real, growing, emergent threats.
There is also the need for us to be vigilant about threats from foreign governments. More and more, we are seeing a world in which foreign authoritarian governments are trying to project power beyond their borders. They are trying to influence our democratic system by putting messages out there that may create confusion, disinformation, and there may be active interference within our democratic system. There is the threat from radical non-state actors, but there are also threats from state actors, who certainly have malicious intent and want to influence the direction of our society, or may attack us directly, and want to do these sorts of things to their advantage. In the interest of protecting Canadians, we need to be aware and vigilant about these threats. We need to be serious about how we respond to them.
As much as we seek consensus in our discussion of these issues, we sometimes hear from other parties, when we raise these real and legitimate concerns, the accusation that this is spreading fear. We should not talk in these sorts of stark terms about threats that we face, as that is creating fear. The accusation is that it also creates division, because the suggestion that there might be people out there with radical ideas divides us. However, I think there is a difference between fear and prudence. We need to know that difference as legislators, and we need to be prudent without being fearful.
Fear, I think, implies an irrational, particularly an emotional response to threats that would have us freeze up, worry incessantly, stop going about our normal activities, or maybe even lead to the demonization of other people who someone might see as a threat. These are all things that could well be manifestations of fear, which is not good, obviously. However, prudence is something quite different. Prudence is to be aware of threats in a clear-headed, factual, realistic way. It is to say that thoughtfully, intellectually, reasonably, we need to do everything we can to protect ourselves, recognizing that if we fail to be prudent, if we do not take these rational, clear-headed steps to give our law enforcement agencies the tools they need to protect us from real risks that exist, then we are more liable to violence and terrorism. Also, obviously from that flows a greater risk of people being seized with that kind of emotional fearful response.
It is our job as legislators to encourage prudence, and to be prudent in policy-making. Therefore, when we raise concerns about security threats that we face, illegal border crossings, radicalization, and Daesh fighters returning to Canada, it is not because we are advocating for a fearful response, but rather we are advocating for a prudent response. Sometimes that distinction is lost on the government, because it is often typical of a Liberal world view to, perhaps with the best of intentions, imagine the world to be a safer place than it is.
Conservatives desire a better world, but we also look at the present world realistically. Sometimes one of the problems with Liberals is that they imagine the world to already be the way they would like it to be. The only way we get to a better, safer world, on many fronts, is by looking clearly at the challenges we face, and then, through that, seeking to overcome them.
It was variously attributed to Disraeli, Thatcher, or Churchill, but the line “the facts of life are conservative” is one that sticks out to me when we talk about having a prudent, clear-sighted approach to the threats we face. My colleague, the member for Thornhill, may correct me on who originally said that. Disraeli lived first, so we will say it was probably him.
Now, having set the framework through which we view, and I think we ought to view this bill, I want to speak specifically to a number of the changes that have been put forward. One of points we often hear from the government is about changes it has made with respect to the issue of torture. An amendment was proposed at committee. I understand that this was not part of the original bill, but came through in an amendment. It restates Canada's position that torture is obviously not acceptable. There is no disagreement in this House about the issue of torture. Obviously, we all agree that torture is unacceptable. Some of the aspects of this amendment, which effectively puts into law something that was already in a ministerial directive, is obviously not a substantial change in terms of changing the place or the mechanism by which something is recognized that was already in place.
Of course, when it comes to torture, it is a great opportunity for people in philosophy classrooms to debate, theoretically, what happens if there is information that could save lives that could be gained that way. However, the reality is the evidence demonstrates that torture not only is immoral, but is not effective at gathering information. A commitment to effectiveness, to giving our law enforcement agencies all the tools that are necessary and effective, while also opposing torture, are actually quite consistent with each other. I do not think there is anything substantively new with respect to those provisions that we are seeing from the government.
It is important to be clear about that. There are areas on which we agree; there are areas on which we disagree. However, there are areas on which we agree, and we can identify that clearly.
There are some other areas. In the beginning, the bill introduces a new national security and intelligence review agency. There is a new administrative cost with this new administrative agency. One of the questions we have is where that money is going to come from. The government is not proposing corresponding increases to the overall investment in our security agencies.
If a new administrative apparatus is added, with administrative costs associated with it, obviously that money has to come from somewhere. Likely it is a matter of internal reallocation, which effectively means a fairly substantial cut to the operational front-line activities of our security agencies. If that is not the case, I would love to hear the government explain how it is not, and where the money is coming from. It seems fairly evident that when something is introduced, the cost of which is about $97 million over five years, and that is an administrative cost, again that money has to come from somewhere. With the emergence and proliferation of threats, I know Canadians would not like to see what may effectively amount to a cut to front-line delivery in terms of services. That is clearly a concern that Canadians have.
Part 2 deals with the intelligence commissioner, and the Liberals rejected expedited timing requirements on the commissioner's office. This effectively means that security operations may be delayed because the commissioner is working through the information. There are some technical aspects to the bill, certainly that we have raised concerns about, and we will continue to raise concerns about them. We want to try to make sure that our security agencies, as my colleagues have talked about, have all the tools they need to do their job very effectively.
Now, this is something that stuck out to me. There are restrictions in part 3 to security and intelligence agencies being able to access already publicly available data.
Effectively, this bill has put in place restrictions on accessing that data, which is already publicly available. If security agencies have to go through additional hoops to access information that is already on Facebook or Twitter, it is not clear to me why we would put those additional burdens in place and what positive purpose those additional restrictions would achieve. That is yet another issue with respect to the practical working out of the bill.
Given the political context of some of these changes, one wonders why the government is doing this. It is because the Liberals put themselves in a political pickle. They supported, and voted for, BillC-51. The current Prime Minister, as a member of the then third party, voted in favour of that legislation. However, the Liberals then wanted to position themselves differently on it, and so they said they were going to change aspects of it when they got into government. Some of those changes serve no discernible purpose, and yet they raise additional questions regarding the restrictions they would put on our law enforcement agencies' ability to operate effectively and efficiently.
Part 4 of the proposed legislation puts additional restrictions on interdepartmental information-sharing. Members have spoken about this extensively in the debate, but there are important points to underline here.
The biggest act of terrorism in our country's history, the Air India bombing, was determined to have been preventable by the Air India inquiry. The issue was that one agency was keeping information from another agency that could have prevented the bombing. Certainly, if information is already in the hands of government, it makes sense to give our agencies the tools to share that information. It seems fairly obvious that people should be able to share that information. It is clearly in the national interest. If it can save lives to transfer information effectively from one department to another with regard to files about individuals who may present a security threat, and if CSIS already has that information and is going to share it with the RCMP, I think all Canadians would say that makes sense. However, Bill C-59 would impose additional restrictions on that sharing of information.
Through taking a hard-headed look at the threats we face and the need to combat them, parliamentarians should be concerned about those particular provisions in this bill.
Another issue raised in this bill is that of threat disruption. Should security agencies be able to undertake actions that disrupt a security threat? Previously, under BillC-51, actions could be taken to disrupt threats without a warrant if those actions were within the law. If there was a need to do something that would normally be outside of the law, then a warrant would be required, but if it was something ordinarily within the remit of the law, then agencies could proceed with it. It could be something like talking to the parents of a potential terrorist traveller, and alerting them to what was going on in the life of their child, or being present in an online chatroom to try to counter a radicalizing message. These things are presently legal under Bill C-51.
However, under Bill C-59, there would be a much higher standard with respect to the activities that would require a warrant, which include disseminating any information, record, or document. It seems to me that something as simple as putting a security agent in an online chatroom to move the conversation in a particular direction through the dissemination of information would require a warrant, which can create challenges if one wants to engage in an organic conversation so as to counter messages in real time.
All of us in the House believe in the need for parameters and rules around this, but BillC-51 established parameters that allowed for intervention by law enforcement agencies where necessary. It did keep us safe, and unfortunately Bill C-59 would make this more difficult and muddies the waters. That is why we oppose it.
View Erin O'Toole Profile
CPC (ON)
View Erin O'Toole Profile
2018-06-18 20:21 [p.21235]
Madam Speaker, it is a real pleasure for me to rise and speak to an important bill and issues related to public safety and security in general.
I would like to begin my remarks with a positive word of thanks for those men and women who are charged with keeping our communities safe, certainly the front-line police officers and first responders, but a lot of the people in the intelligence networks from CSIS, to CSE, to think tanks that analyze these things, to engaged citizens who are constantly advocating on issues related to public safety and security. These are probably some of the most important debates we have in this chamber because we are charged with making sure we have a safe community and finding the right balance between the remarkable freedoms we enjoy in a democracy like ours and the responsibility to ensure that there is safety for Canadians. We thank those who are charged with doing that both in uniform and behind the scenes and sometimes under the cloak of secrecy. All Canadians respect that work.
I am going to talk about Bill C-59 from a few vantage points, some of the things that I thought were positive, but I am also going to express three areas of very serious concern I have with this legislation. In many ways, Bill C-59 is a huge step back. It is taking away tools that were responsibly provided to law enforcement agencies to be used in accordance with court supervision. In a lot of the rhetoric we hear on this, that part has been forgotten.
I am going to review some of it from my legal analysis of it, but I want to start by reminding the House, particularly because my friend from Winnipeg, the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader is here, that here we are debating yet another omnibus bill from the Liberal Party, something that was anathema to my friend when he was in opposition. Omnibus bills of this nature that cobbled together a range of things were an assault on democracy, in his words then, but here we are in late night sittings with time already allocated debating yet another Liberal omnibus bill. The irony in all of this is certainly not lost on me or many Canadians who used to see how the Liberals would howl with outrage whenever this happened.
Bill C-59 came out of some positive intentions. My friend from Victoria, the NDP's lead on the parliamentary security oversight committee of parliamentarians is here. I want to thank him for the work that we did together recommending some changes to the minister ahead of what became Bill C-59. The NDP member and I as the public safety critic for the Conservative Party sent two letters to the minister providing some general advice and an indication of our willingness to work with the government on establishing the committee of parliamentarians for security and intelligence oversight.
My friend from Victoria ably serves on that committee now and as a lawyer who has previously practised in the area of national security and finding the right balance between liberty and security, he is a perfect member for that committee as are my friends from the caucus serving alongside the Liberal members. That is very important work done by that committee and I wish them well in their work. We indicated pre Bill C-59 that we would be supportive of that effort.
In those letters we also indicated the need for a super-SIRC type of agency to help oversee some of the supervision of agencies like CSIS and CSE. We were advocating for an approach like that alongside a number of academics, such as Professor Forcese and others. We were happy to see an approach brought in that area as well.
It is important to show that on certain issues of national safety and security where we can drive consensus, we can say we will work with the government, because some of these issues should be beyond partisanship. I want to thank my NDP colleague for working alongside me on that. It took us some time to get the minister to even respond, so despite the sunny ways rhetoric, often we felt that some of our suggestions were falling on deaf ears.
I am going to commit the rest of my speech tonight to the three areas that I believe are risks for Canadians to consider with Bill C-59. I am going to use some real-world examples in the exploration of this, because we are not talking in abstract terms. There are real cases and real impacts on families that we should consider in our debate.
The first area I want to raise in reference to the fact that when Bill C-59 was introduced, it was one day after a Canadian was convicted in a Quebec court in a case involving travelling abroad from Canada to join and work with a terrorist organization. Mr. Ismael Habib was sentenced the day before the government tabled this omnibus security legislation, and I think there is a certain irony in that. In his judgment, Justice Délisle said, “Did Ismael Habib intend to participate in or knowingly contribute to a terrorist activity? The entirety of the evidence demonstrates the answer is yes.” There is such an irony in the fact that the day before this debate there was a conviction for someone who was leaving Canada to train and participate with a terrorist organization.
Only a short time before Mr. Habib left Canada to do this, the previous government criminalized that activity. Why? Really, there was no need to have in the Criminal Code a charge for leaving Canada to train or participate in a terrorist organization, but this was a reaction to a troubling and growing trend involving radicalized people and the ability for people to go and engage in conflicts far from home. Mr. Habib's case was the first of its kind, and the charge he was convicted of by a Quebec court was for an offence that just a few years before did not exist. This is why Parliament must be seized with real and tangible threats to public safety and security. Unfortunately, a lot of the elements of Bill C-59 are going to make it hard for law enforcement to do that, to catch the next Mr. Habib before he leaves, while he is gone, or before he returns and brings that risk back home.
The first area that I have serious concerns with in the bill relates to preventative arrest. This was a controversial but necessary part of BillC-51 from the last Parliament. Essentially it moved a legal threshold from making it “necessary” to prevent a criminal activity or a terrorist act instead of “likely” to prevent. By changing the threshold to “necessary”, as we see in this bill, the government would make it much harder for law enforcement agencies to move in on suspects that they know present a risk yet do not feel they have enough proof to show that it is necessary to prevent an attack. I think most Canadians would think that the standard should be “likely”, which is on balance of probabilities. If we are to err on the reality of a threat that there is violence to be perpetrated or potential violence by someone, then err on the side of protection. We still have to have the evidentiary burden, but it is not too hard.
It is interesting who supported the preventative arrest portions of BillC-51 in the last Parliament. The Prime Minister did as the MP for Papineau. I loved BillC-51 in so many ways, because it showed the hypocrisy of the Liberal Party at its best. The Liberals were constantly critical of BillC-51, but they voted for it. Now they are in a position that they actually have to change elements of it, and they are changing some elements that the Prime Minister praised when he was in opposition, and they had this muddled position. My friends in the NDP have referred to this muddled position before, because now they think their Liberal friends are abandoning the previous ground they stood on.
What did the Prime Minister, then the leader of the third party and MP for Papineau, say about preventative arrest in the House of Commons on February 18, 2015? He said:
I believe that BillC-51, the government's anti-terrorism act, takes some proper steps in that direction. We welcome the measures in Bill C-51 that build on the powers of preventative arrest, make better use of no-fly lists, and allow for more coordinated information sharing by government departments and agencies.
What is ironic is that he is undoing all of those elements in Bill C-59, from information sharing to changing the standard for preventative arrest to a threshold that is unreasonably too high, in fact recklessly too high, and law enforcement agencies have told the minister and the Prime Minister this.
The Prime Minister, when he was MP for Papineau, thought these important powers were necessary but now he does not. Perhaps society is safer today. I would suggest we are not. We just have to be vigilant, vigilant but balanced. That is probably why in opposition he supported these measures and now is rolling them back.
Nothing illustrates the case and the need for this more than the case of Patrice Vincent. He was a Canadian Armed Forces soldier who was killed because of the uniform he wore. He was killed by a radicalized young man named Martin Couture-Rouleau. That radicalized young man was known to law enforcement before he took the life of one of our armed forces members. Law enforcement officers were not sure whether they could move in a preventative arrest public safety manner.
The stark and moving testimony from Patrice's sister, Louise Vincent, at committee in talking about BillC-51 should be reflected upon by members of the Liberal Party listening to this debate, because many of them were not here in the last Parliament. These are real families impacted by public safety and security. Louise Vincent said this:
According to Bill C-51, focus should be shifted from “will commit” to “could commit”, and I think that's very important. That's why the RCMP could not obtain a warrant from the attorney general, despite all the information it had gathered and all the testimony from Martin Couture-Rouleau's family. The RCMP did its job and built a case, but unfortunately, the burden of proof was not met. That's unacceptable.
It is unacceptable. What is unacceptable is the Liberals are raising the bar even higher with respect to preventative arrest. It is like the government does not trust our law enforcement agencies. This cannot be preventative arrest on a whim. There has to be an evidentiary basis for the very significant use of this tool, but that evidentiary basis should not be so high that it does not use the tool, because we have seen what can happen.
This is not an isolated case. I can recite other names, such as Aaron Driver. Those in southwestern Ontario will remember that thanks to the United States, this gentleman was caught by police on his way to commit a terror attack in southwestern Ontario. He was already under one of the old peace bonds. This similar power could be used against someone like Alexandre Bissonnette before his horrendous attack on the mosque in Quebec City. This tool could be used in the most recent case of Alek Minassian, the horrific van attack in Toronto.
Preventative arrest is a tool that should be used but with an evidentiary burden, but if the burden is too high necessary to prevent an attack, that is reckless and it shows the Prime Minister should review his notes from his time in opposition when he supported these powers. I suggest he did not have notes then and probably does not have notes now.
The second issue I would like to speak about is the deletion of charges and the replacing with a blanket offence called counselling commission of a terrorism offence.
What would that change from BillC-51? It would remove charges that could be laid for someone who was advocating or promoting a terrorism attack or activity. Promotion and advocation are the tools of radicalization. If we are not allowing charges to be laid against someone who radicalized Mr. Couture-Rouleau, do we have to only catch someone who counsels him to go out and run down Patrice Vincent? Should we be charging the people who radicalized him, who promoted ISIS or a radical terrorist ideology, and then advocated for violence? That should be the case. That actually conforms with our legal test for hate speech, when individuals are advocating or promoting and indirectly radicalizing.
Therefore, the government members talk about the government's counter-radicalization strategy, and there is no strategy. They have tried to claim the Montreal centre, which was set up independently of the government, as its own. The government would not tour parliamentarians through it when I was public safety critic, but it tours visiting guests from the UN and other places. That was an initiative started in Montreal. It has nothing to do with the Liberals' strategy. I have seen nothing out of the government on counter-radicalization, and I would like to.
The same should be said with respect to peace bonds, another tool that law enforcement agencies need. These have been asked for by law enforcement officials that we trust with their mandate. They are peace officers, yet the government is showing it does not trust them because it is taking away tools. The peace bond standard is now in a similar fashion to the preventative arrest standard. Agencies have to prove that it is necessary to prevent violent activity or terrorism, as opposed to the BillC-51 standard of “likely to prevent”. A protection order, better known as “a peace bond”, is a tool, like preventative arrest, that can set some constraints or limitations on the freedom of a Canadian because that person has demonstrated that he or she is a potential threat. To say the individuals have to be a certain threat, which a “necessary” standard promotes, is reckless and misguided.
I wish the MP for Papineau would remember what he said a few years ago about the reduction of the high burden on law enforcement in preventative arrest situations. Sadly, there are going to be more Aaron Drivers out there. I always use the case of Aaron Driver, because sometimes members of specific groups, some Muslim Canadians, have been unfairly targeted in discussions about radicalization. This is a threat that exists and not just in one community. Aaron Driver's father was in the Canadian Armed Forces, a career member of the military. Their son was radicalized by people who advocated and promoted radical ideology and violence. With this bill, we would remove the ability to charge those people who helped to radicalize Aaron Driver. However, this is a risk that exists.
Let us not overstate the risk. There is not a bogeyman around every corner, but as parliamentarians we need to be serious when we try to balance properly the freedom and liberties we all enjoy, and that people fought and died for, with the responsibility upon us as parliamentarians to give law enforcement agencies the tools they need to do the job. They do not want a situation where they are catching Aaron Driver in a car that is about to drive away. We have to find the right balance. The movement of standards to “necessary” to prevent the commission of a terrorism offence shows that the Liberals do not trust our law enforcement officers with the ability to collect evidence and lay charges, or provide a peace bond, when they think someone is “likely” to be a threat to public safety and security.
I started by saying that there were elements I was happy to see in Bill C-59, but I truly hope Canadians see that certain measures in this would take away tools that law enforcement agencies have responsibly asked for, and this would not make our communities any safer.
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