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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 Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-59, an act respecting national security matters. This is a massive omnibus bill, more than 140 pages long. It seeks to amend five existing acts with significant amendments. It introduces four new acts. It overhauls Canada's national security framework.
Having regard for the breadth and scope of the bill and the important subject matter it touches, namely Canada's national security, it is extremely disappointing that the government has done just about everything to shut down debate in the House, to prevent and limit the ability of members of Parliament to speak and debate this piece of legislation.
Perhaps one of the reasons for this is that the government is really quite embarrassed by this piece of legislation. Before there was even a second reading vote on the bill, as a result of changes to our Standing Orders, it went to committee, where it was torn to shreds. It was such a sloppy bill that 235 amendments were brought forward at committee, including 43 amendments from Liberal MPs. The bill falls short in many respects.
The threat of terrorism is real. We know that September 11 really did change the world. While September 11 is now nearly 17 years ago and for many an increasingly distant memory, the threat of terrorism in Canada is as real today as it was the day after September 11.
We have seen terrorist attacks on Canadian soil, including here on Parliament Hill a few years ago. Just last year, an Edmonton police officer, Mike Chernyk, was killed when he tackled a terrorist, who then tried to run down Edmontonians. By the way, Edmonton is a city that I am very proud to represent, and this really hit home for many of my constituents.
We know that the threat of terrorism is real, and we know that we need to give our security, intelligence, and law enforcement agencies all the tools possible to be able to disrupt terrorist plots, to stem the flow of financing to terrorist groups and terrorist actors, and ultimately to keep Canadians safe.
That is why our previous Conservative government brought Canada's anti-terrorism and national security laws into the 21st century with BillC-51, legislation that, by the way, the Liberal Party, to its credit, supported. It is also true that the Liberals had some reservations about Bill C-51. During the last election, the Prime Minister promised that he would make revisions to Bill C-51, so we have Bill C-59, which is the government's response.
As I said, it falls short in a number of areas. Where it falls short is that instead of giving law enforcement and national security agencies more tools to keep Canadians safe, Bill C-59 takes away tools. What kinds of tools is Bill C-59 taking away that they otherwise had as a result of, among other measures, BillC-51?
One of those tools is the ability of CSIS to carry out disruption activities without a warrant. Under BillC-51, CSIS could undertake some very limited disruption activities, provided that those activities were consistent with Canadian law and respected the privacy rights of Canadians. Bill C-59 takes that tool away. In practical terms, what would that mean? One example would be that right now, as a result of Bill C-51, CSIS could contact the parents of a radicalized youth to seek parental intervention and advise them that their son or daughter has been radicalized. Under Bill C-59, CSIS would have to get a warrant. How does that make sense, and how does that make Canadians safer?
Another example would be to misdirect a potential terrorist who might be in the midst of carrying out a terrorist plot. Of course, in disrupting terrorist plots, time can so often be of the essence. It is not possible to run into court to get a warrant. Under Bill C-59, the government would be tying the hands of CSIS, even at a critical time when that could make a difference for stopping a terrorist attack by simply misdirecting the terrorist. How does that make sense, and how does that make Canadians safer?
There is another tool in the tool box that the government is taking away, namely preventive detention. It is true that it is not taking away the tool, in the sense that it is still there, but from a practical standpoint it is going to make preventative detention much more difficult. Preventative detention is an important tool. It is a tool that has been used and has kept Canadians safe. The threshold for law enforcement to use preventative detention is high. There must be evidence that using preventative detention would likely prevent a terrorist attack. Under Bill C-59, that threshold would be increased to detention being “necessary” to prevent a terrorist attack. Between “likely to prevent” and “necessary to prevent”, the threshold has increased considerably. There is a big difference in that regard. What it means is that it would be much more difficult for law enforcement to use preventative detention, even when there is evidence that preventative detention would likely prevent a terrorist attack. Again, how does that make sense, and how does that make Canadians safer?
Another tool the government is limiting in a significant way for law enforcement is the tool of a peace bond, where there are no reasonable grounds to charge someone with a criminal offence, but there is sufficient evidence that the individual needs to be monitored and subject to conditions whereby if the individual violates the order, he or she could be subject to criminal charges. The threshold is that a peace bond be likely to prevent a terrorist attack from occurring. Just as the government has done with respect to preventative detention, it has increased that threshold to “necessary to prevent” a terrorist attack. It basically defeats the entire purpose of a peace bond, because the evidentiary threshold that the government has set is more or less as high as reasonable grounds, which would result in delaying criminal charges. How does that make sense, and how does that make Canadians safer?
For these and other reasons, we cannot support this bill, because it would take too many tools away from our law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and it would make Canadians less safe.
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, before I address the question from the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader, I just want to make one correction. I made reference to Mike Chernyk from EPS and inadvertently said that he was killed, but he was injured, and I want to correct the record with respect to that.
With respect to BillC-51, it is true that the Liberals supported it, and it is true that their support was conditional on bringing subsequent changes. The problem is that the changes the government has brought forward would make Canadians less safe and take away important tools from law enforcement and from our intelligence agencies.
We on this side of the House are quite happy to work with the government in a non-partisan way on an issue that should not be partisan, which is the safety and security of Canadians. However, instead of striking the right balance between protecting the collective security of Canadians and protecting the rights and freedoms of Canadians, this legislation would tilt the balance in a way that undermines the ability of law enforcement and our security agencies.
View Arnold Viersen Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin my speech this evening by talking about public safety and national security matters.
Whenever I stand up in this place, on whatever we are talking about, I always like to think about whether this is the job of the federal government. Typically, in broad sweeps, I can rarely get past the end of one hand when it comes to things the federal government should be dealing with. I usually think of things like border security, the justice system, and the military as things that definitely the federal government should be taking care of.
The issue we are dealing with tonight is one of those issues the federal government definitely needs to take care of. It is definitely something that is timely. Folks from where I come from, in Peace River—Westlock, in northern Alberta, often mention this to me when I am driving around meeting with folks. They are concerned about national security. They are concerned about terrorism issues. It is one of the top 10 things people talk to me about. Therefore, I think this is a timely debate.
I would hearken back to some of the speeches we heard earlier this evening. September 11 was a significant turning point in western civilization. I think every one of us in this place remembers that day. I remember listening to the news on 630 CHED in Alberta. My alarm clock had gone off, and I was listening to the news, when the normal broadcast was interrupted to tell us that the twin towers had been run into by an airplane. I remember that day well, as I am sure everyone in this place does. Since that day, the entire western world has had to look at how we defend our national security. Before that point, we were looking at our national security from the perspective of nation states. However, this brought a whole new protocol. We needed new laws. Frankly, I think we are still learning all of that.
I do not think the Liberals have necessarily taken serious consideration of public safety and national security in this bill. They basically looked at what we did when we were in government. They thought that the Conservatives were aggressive on this and took the bull by the horns, and they would just turn it back a notch. It does not seem to me that they are giving it adequate weight by saying that they just have to change a bunch of things in BillC-51. The Liberals heard over and over again that Bill C-51 was bad, and they would just turn it back. That does not seem to me to be grappling with the issues we need to deal with.
Public safety and national security is hard work. We need to create a culture in Canada so that people feel safe. That is what I hear over and over again in my riding. They do not feel that the government is creating a culture in Canada where people feel safe. For example, advocating or promoting terrorism is something that has been touched on in this debate. We need to talk about that in terms of what it means when it comes to BillC-75, which is another bill that will be debated tonight. I believe that in that particular bill, advocating or promoting terrorism, even if one is found guilty of it, would be downgraded as well.
When we look at the bill before us, I am disappointed that the Liberals have not grabbed the bull by the horns. Bill C-51 came out a number of years back, and the landscape has changed since then. I was looking forward to having a robust debate on this issue. I know that it was something in the LIberal campaign and something I was challenged on over and over again. I knew that after the election, Bill C-51 would be up for debate, and I was looking forward to having that debate on some substantive changes that could improve it.
I think we got it right with BillC-51, but every piece of legislation is open to improvement and I was happy to come here to debate this. I do not think Bill C-59 improves on Bill C-51 at all. In fact, all it seems to do is to just turn everything back a few notches, which does not seem to make an effect. It is the exact same philosophy that we are seeing with BillC-75. The Liberals say we have backlogs in the justice system, rather than their addressing some of the underlying causes and doing the hard work of digging into it. They say, turn the dial back a little, lower the thresholds, push people out of the system more easily rather than dealing with the actual justice system.
When I do surveys in my riding, people do not think the Liberals are taking our national security seriously. People do not think they are securing our borders properly. All of this plays into the world view of the Liberals.
Whenever I am discussing national security or justice issues, I say that people have the ability to do evil. That is a fact of life and we need to have a justice system that recognizes that. Most people lock their doors at night. Why? Because people are capable of evil. That is the truth. It would be great if we all could leave our doors open and nothing ever went missing. It would be great if we could all give up our firearms and everyone would be safe, but that is not the reality. That is the underlying philosophy that is lacking on the Liberal side. They are not convinced that people are capable of evil and they think that the justice system is being mean to people and that if we just hug the thug, so to speak, everything would be better.
There is a philosophy in this bill that if we just turn down the justice element, if we trusted people a little more, this country would be a safer place. That is definitely not the case. We need to ensure that our police officers and our intelligence community have the resources and tools they need to ensure that Canada is a safe place.
My riding is a long way from the border, and I cannot say that the border crossing issue has directly affected my riding, but it is amazing how many times people in my riding have asked, when is the government is going to do something about the border crossings? Why are the Liberals jeopardizing our public safety? We are seeing that here, as well with the terrorism issue.
One of the things people in my riding are concerned about is the growing threat of terrorism in the world. In this regard, in the bill we see that for advocating and promoting terrorism, the threshold is being lowered, and that in BillC-75 the sentencing is being lowered. It is being taken from an indictable offence to a summary offence. The Liberals need to do the hard work that it takes to make sure that we have a national security regime that people in Canada trust. That is an important point that I wanted to make here tonight. Whatever the Liberals are doing, people need to have trust in that system that their safety is being upheld, that Canada will remain the safe place it has been in years past, and that people can sleep safely in their beds.
With that, I look forward to any questions that people may have.
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