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View Greg Fergus Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Greg Fergus Profile
2018-06-18 19:18 [p.21189]
Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague from Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis was the minister of public safety and emergency preparedness for over two years. During that time, a certain phenomenon was taking place in Quebec. Young Quebeckers were leaving Quebec to go to Syria. Many of these young people returned after just a few months, when my colleague was minister.
What did the government of the day do to guarantee the safety of Canadians?
View Ralph Goodale Profile
Lib. (SK)
View Ralph Goodale Profile
2018-05-28 18:19 [p.19771]
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member began his question by wondering why, in a bill on national security, we would talk about the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
As I mentioned in my remarks, our objective through this whole process has been twofold: one, keep Canadians safe; two, safeguard their rights and freedoms. We need to protect national security, and we need to do so in a manner that is consistent with the charter.
I do not know if the hon. member sees a contradiction there, but quite frankly we do not. We think there is no contradiction in doing the right thing to keep Canadians safe, and also the right thing to safeguard Canadian rights, freedoms, and privacy. If the member sees that those two things are unalterably opposed to each other and that we have to choose either security or rights, then Canadians will be put in an invidious position.
Our determination is to achieve both together, and that is consistent with what we heard from Canadians in the last election. They said that they did not trust the Conservatives with their rights, and they did not trust the NDP with their safety. Canadians wanted both at the same time, and this legislation delivers both at the same time.
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2017-12-04 12:37 [p.15905]
Mr. Speaker, as I said in my question, there is not a person in the House who does not unequivocally condemn terrorism. There is not one person in this place who would not, at the first opportunity if evidence presented itself, pursue to the fullest extent of the law somebody who committed an act of terror. To make the outrageous assertion that a member of any party in the House of Commons feels otherwise is unbecoming of this place and it is disgraceful that anyone would stand and make such a statement. We all unequivocally condemn the horrific acts of Daesh. Although we may disagree about the policies and the mechanisms that we use to go after terrorists, each and every one of us wants to hunt down and find those that would do others harm.
The member opposite made a few points that are concerning and I have unfortunately heard others in his party making the same points. He said he was not disparaging anti-radicalization efforts and yet in his speech he talked about poetry readings and how people are soft on individuals who would do us harm. The poetry reading he is talking about is in fact being conducted by a university aimed at young people who committed no crime, young people who might be starting down a dark path. God forbid we should use the arts to try to reach somebody who might be heading down a bad path. Is that the assertion Conservative members are making?
The entire focus of Conservative members on attacking our efforts on anti-radicalization shows the fundamental problem with the 10 years that they occupied office and their complete unwillingness to look at the need and imperative nature of prevention in all of its forms, whether or not it is health, crime, or terrorism. Terrorist acts have already been committed and I have already said we must pursue the individuals who committed those acts with every ounce of our force.
There are all sorts of terrorism that have not happened yet, people who have not yet been victimized, people who have not yet been attacked. Is it not our job every day in every single possible way to use every tool at our disposal to ensure that those who would seek to do us harm are pulled from that pack? Is it not our job to stop acts from happening before they are ever committed?
For some reason members of the opposition cannot get their heads around the idea that there are two separate but equally important priorities. The first is going after those who have committed wrongs and have already broken the law and who, with our international partners, we must pursue. The second are those who have not yet done harm, who are misled, who are beginning to head down a dark path, but who could be pulled away from that direction. There is nothing at odds about pursuing those two objectives at the same time.
The other problem that I have with the rhetoric that we are hearing from members on the other side is that it does not match their record. The Conservatives are now talking about the importance of protecting our communities, and I agree with them, but over the 10 years that they were in power they cut $1 billion from the very agencies designed to protect us. Let us go over those: $430 million cut from the RCMP; $390 million cut from the CBSA; $69 million cut from CSIS; $42 million cut from the Canadian security agency; and, $171 million cut from CATSA. Not only did they not keep up with inflation during that period for this ultimate priority that we all share, they slashed funding during that period of time.
The Conservatives talk about how Liberals will not pursue those who have come back to Canada. Two matters are actively being pursued to convict individuals where we have evidence and a decade under the Conservatives that number is zero, not a single one. It is a little rich for them to stand up and say there has been a sea change and suddenly now we are not doing anything.
It is the cloak that is put around it, as if they and they alone walk the streets concerned with protecting Canadians from terror. It is unbecoming of this place, and I wish that we could spend more time in this place having the kinds of intelligent debates that, frankly, we saw with all members including Conservative members around the security and intelligence framework, the kinds of conversations we are having around Bill C-59 right now to create the best and most leading-edge policy framework and oversight mechanisms and resources for our police. That is the debate that is worthy of this place, not this motion that we are going to spend a day talking about. It is unfortunate to try to angle for whatever particular partisan gain. Of course, in this place every day we try to advance what our party does well and they do poorly, but when it is framed this way it is so cynical.
With that, I want to point out one last thing as just a rebuke to what we heard earlier around the notion of extremism and to point out that not only do we hear the Conservatives belittling it in their text, but that in the 10 years they were there, the work to stop people walking the path of violent extremism simply was not done. According to Dr. Lorne Dawson of the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society, “all the G20 nations...are convinced of the need to move into prevention program...” but “the previous conservative government had little or no interest in following up on this”. According to former CSIS analyst, Phil Gurski, the“previous government had an abysmal record when it came to countering violent extremism and early detection. The Conservative government didn't care.”
I do not know that the Conservatives did not care, I would not make that characterization, but I think their priorities were in the wrong place. I think that while they went after, rightfully, those who had committed acts, they did not do a fraction enough to go after those who were beginning to walk that dark path, and their lack of regard for it in their debate and their discussion on the motion is heavy evidence of it.
We recognize and condemn the depravity of groups like Daesh. That is why Canada has renewed our military commitment to the Global Coalition against Daesh until March 2019. In addition to training, advising, and assisting Iraqi security forces, we have expanded our intelligence capabilities, we are conducting aerial surveillance and recognizance to air-to-air refuelling, we are leading the coalition medical facility, and as the situation continues to evolve we will re-evaluate how the women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces could be most effective and ensure that we equip them with the resources they need to get the job done.
On the home front, when people have given support to Daesh and other terrorist groups and they return to Canada, whether they were active in combat, fundraising, propaganda, or in some other way, they are confronted with the full weight of Canadian intelligence and law enforcement agencies controlling and managing their return. Canadians can be assured that our world-class security and intelligence law enforcement agencies actively track and assess all potential threats. To this end, they work 365 days a year with domestic and international partners, including Five Eyes, the G7, the European Union, Interpol, and many others. These are professional, non-partisan agencies whose skills and expertise are sought all over the world. They work for us. They worked for a Conservative government. They would work for an NDP government. They would work constantly, vigilantly, ceaselessly for any government of any stripe. It is what they did, it is what they do.
They monitor returning extremists closely and gather and share intelligence in accordance with the law. They conduct investigations, collect criminal evidence, and lay criminal charges wherever possible. They use Criminal Code tools like peace bonds and terrorist listings as well as no-fly lists, passport revocations, and other authorized threat disruption measures wherever appropriate. Whichever tool they use, their work is apolitical, based on expert assessments and threats to public safety and national security.
At a recent gathering in Italy, G7 interior ministers, including our Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, committed to working together to address this very issue. This will involve multi-agency co-operation, risk assessment, and possible interventions, as our allies continue to deal with this shared threat.
To give a sense of the situation on a global scale, I would direct hon. members to the most recent public report on the terrorist threat to Canada. It shows, for example, that over 6,600 extreme travellers from western countries went to Syria since the start of that conflict in 2011. The number of Canadians involved is relatively small, about 250, with a nexus to Canada have gone abroad to participate in terrorist activity of some kind. Some went to Syria and Iraq, and many others went to countries in conflict zones. Around 60 of them have returned to Canada. These were the numbers at the end of 2015.
CSIS confirmed in its annual public report released this past February that the numbers stayed largely stable, and that remains the case.
We should neither underestimate nor overestimate that threat. We should not understate it, because there are people who have felt, and may continue to feel, so strong an affinity for the vile ideology and conduct of groups like Daesh that they travelled halfway around the world to get involved. Some of them may have been active participants in brutal violence. Certainly, as the motion before us states, people who team up with terrorists are complicit in atrocities, must be found, must be convicted, and must be put in jail.
When these individuals return to Canada, they merit and receive the full attention of our security intelligence law enforcement agencies. At the same time, that is exactly why we should not overstate the threat. Our expert, highly-skilled, highly-trained security services are on the job. They lay charges when there is evidence to support charges. Even when there is not enough evidence for criminal prosecution, they keep a close tab on these individuals to ensure Canadians are kept safe. They evaluate the extent to which each returnee remains bent on radical violence and they take appropriate measures to keep us safe.
As for the 100 to 190 Canadians who remain abroad, experts do not necessarily expect a great influx back to Canada. For one thing, many of them may be dead. Of those who are still alive, it may not be easy to leave whatever country they are in, and some of them may not want to. For those who do come back and face the same full force of our security and intelligence, it will be exactly the same treatment as those who arrived here already.
That is how we deal with people who have been radicalized. It is, of course, far preferable to prevent radicalization from happening in the first place, which is why I spent so much of my initial conversation in my speech talking to this point.
That is why we have established the Canada Centre for Community Engagement and Prevention of Violence. Setting up this new centre was a commitment we made during the last election. We set aside funding for it in our very first budget, and it has been up and running since June. Canada has certain local initiatives, such as the Centre de prévention de la radicalisation menant à la violence, Montréal and the ReDirect program run by the Calgary Police Service. These programs and others like them engage in direct intervention with people at risk of being radicalized.
Our new federal centre is not meant to supplement. Rather, it is a coordinating body that helps local initiatives work to prevent violent extremism of all kinds. It includes Islamic extremism, white supremacy, and others.
The centre also facilitates the best practices and supports research to develop an evidence base about what approaches work best to combat radicalization in the Canadian context. This is important, and prevention is really the most effective way of reducing the threat posed by radicalization in the long run, not instead of a robust security and enforcement response, but in addition to it.
Therefore, I hope we are hearing, from the comments opposite, an approach that is misled. There is a need to ensure we approach both sides of the equation with equal vigour.
I would also like to address the motion's reference to the case of Omar Khadr.
Canadians obviously hold deeply divergent views about how he ended up on a battlefield in Afghanistan in 2002, and about what happened there. It was undoubtedly a tragic situation, particularly for the family and friends of Sergeant Christopher Speer, who was killed, and for Sergeant Layne Morris, who was injured.
There is conflicting evidence and commentary about what occurred on that day, 15 years ago. There is, however, no ambiguity about the fact that the Government of Canada violated Mr. Khadr's rights when he was in custody. The Supreme Court has been very clear on that point, on not one occasion but two.
Court proceedings have already cost upward of $7 million and prolonging them would have cost millions more, not to mention the cost of settlement itself, all to fight a case that was virtually unwinnable for reasons that were purely political. The settlement was the only sensible course of action. It saved taxpayers an enormous amount of money. It reminds us of the fundamental point that Canadian governments must apply the Constitution, follow the law, and respect the rights of citizens no matter how controversial they might be.
I am proud to be part of a government that upholds Canadian rights and I am proud to be part of a government that prioritizes the security of Canadians. We know that when there is a difficult case, when there is to be an arbiter of whether a Canadian citizen's rights were violated, it is not this place but the courts that make that determination. It is the courts that tell us whether our charter has or has not been upheld. When we violate fundamental rights, there has to be a consequence. Our charter is a document that protects each and every one of us. That is what can be so dangerous in this debate.
Each and every one of us has an incredible zeal to protect our fellow citizen. Probably all members here, if they were to list the top two or three things they wanted when the came to this place, was to make their communities safer, to make their families safer, to make their friends and neighbours safer. It is a prime motivator, I believe, for almost any person who runs in an election. However, when we get here, in our zeal to do so, we have to ensure we do it right. Yes, we go after those who perpetrate violence and create victims and ensure they are incarcerated and face justice. Similarly, we have to ensure those same actions do not transcend into violations of the rights of innocent people.
We can look at the O'Connor and Iacobucci inquiries and the recommendations that came out of them. Serious failures in our intelligence and security led to innocent people facing dire circumstances. Freedom is delicate. It must be carefully guarded. Those who would attack us or commit terrorism hope we will suspend freedom, live in terror, and lead our lives differently. However, when we get the opportunity to be in a free country, we have to hold that responsibility close. That balance of prevention, enforcement, protection, and the guaranteeing of rights is one that we must debate with the utmost caution, weight, consideration, and lack of partisanship. I hate to say it, but this motion fails on that account.
View Marco Mendicino Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Marco Mendicino Profile
2017-12-04 15:36 [p.15937]
Madam Speaker, at the outset, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Scarborough Southwest.
Today, I am rising to speak against the motion brought forward by the Conservative opposition, and my reasons for doing so are straightforward.
Contrary to what this motion suggests, our government has already unequivocally condemned Daesh for committing acts of terrorism and genocide, as they should be. In addition, the Canadian Forces, law enforcement, and intelligent communities are fully engaged in combatting and preventing terrorism in all its forms, both abroad and at home. This is work of which we should all be proud.
Finally, Canadians can be confident that we have enacted a robust set of criminal laws, offences and preventative tools for law enforcement, to address terrorism, which are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, wherever and whenever appropriate.
In a moment, I will expand on how these measures are collectively working to keep Canadians safe, but first I need to express how regrettable it is to hear the opposition politicize national security time and again.
Far too often, we see the Conservatives wagging their fingers, lecturing Canadians, and pandering fear on this subject. However, one need only look at their record to see it is heavy on rhetoric and light on substance.
I hear hon. members heckling from the other side, and that will not change the facts. Let me tell everyone what some of those facts are.
During their 10 years in government, the Conservatives imposed dramatic cuts to national security. Indeed, in their last four years in power, they slashed close to $1 billion in resources to the RCMP, CBSA, CSIS, CATSA, and CSE. The opposition would do well to remember these figures, as I know Canadians will in sizing up the validity of this motion and the credibility of the Conservatives on the whole of national security.
Let me now say a few words about a number of the terrorism provisions within the Criminal Code that specifically apply to terrorist travel.
I would like to begin by acknowledging that thousands from around the world have indeed travelled to join terrorist groups and that this is indeed an important issue, which our government is grappling with domestically, internationally, and abroad with all our partners in the combat against terrorism.
Within the law as it exists in Canada, there are four specific offences of leaving Canada, or attempting to leave Canada, for the purpose of committing specific terrorism offences. In this way, the criminal law addresses the terrorist traveller phenomenon by having the substantive offence crystallize before the person leaves Canada and by applying the same maximum punishment to attempting to leave Canada, as well as leaving Canada, to commit these offences.
Over and above these targeted offences, the Criminal Code includes terrorism provisions designed to prevent the carrying out of terrorist activity and have a preventive focus. They are in large part designed to permit law enforcement to intervene and charge someone with a terrorism offence before a terrorist attack can take place. Such offences include knowingly facilitating terrorist activity and knowingly instructing someone to carry out a terrorist activity.
A particular example of this can be found in the participation offence, which is under section 83.18 of the Criminal Code. Terrorist travellers could be, and have in fact been, prosecuted under the offence of knowingly participating in any activity of a terrorist group for the purpose of enhancing the ability of any terrorist group to carry out a terrorist activity.
I will pause for a moment to say that in my former career as a federal prosecutor, I have first-hand experience dealing with these provisions. Again, I would draw the attention to Canadians that they can take great satisfaction and confidence in knowing we have a rigorous criminal law enforcement provision. I was honoured to serve with many prosecutors and members of the RCMP and CSIS, who continue to do a good job today in keeping our country safe.
As well, it is notable, in the current threat environment, individuals are often radicalized to violence and encouraged through online interactions and messaging. In Bill C-59, the national security act, 2017, the government proposes to revise the offence of advocating or promoting the commission of terrorism offences in general to be one of counselling the commission of a terrorism offence, whether a terrorism offence is committed and whether a specific terrorism offence is counselled. The advocacy or promotion offence has been much criticized since its enactment in 2015 for being vague or overbroad. Bill C-59 proposes to revise this offence to use well-known criminal law concepts and facilitate its prosecution.
The bill continues to support the view that the active encouragement of others to commit terrorism offences, even without being specific as to which terrorism offence is being encouraged, should be an offence in the same way as it is an offence to counsel a specific terrorism offence.
Some of these criminal offence provisions have already been successfully used in court. To date, there have been 26 terrorism convictions in Canada and three trials are currently in progress.
I will now speak about preventive enforcement tools.
Certainly one of the most fundamental tools police and prosecutors have to keep Canadians safe from individuals who may have associated with terrorism groups abroad is the terrorism peace bond. This is a powerful preventive tool that can help to protect Canadians from terrorism offences.
In situations where police may not have enough evidence to justify charging a person with a terrorism offence, the terrorism peace bond is available to bring the individual before a judge rather than wait until it is too late. In such cases, the court has the power to impose “any reasonable conditions” to counter the threat posed by the individual concerned.
The Criminal Code also sets out that the provincial court judge shall consider whether it is desirable, to prevent a terrorist activity from being committed, to include in the recognizance a condition that the defendant deposit, in the specified manner, any passport or other travel document issued in their name that is in their possession or control. If the judge decides that it is desirable, the judge shall add the condition to the recognizance and specify the period during which it applies.
Furthermore, the provincial court judge shall consider whether it is desirable, to prevent a terrorist activity from being committed, to include in the recognizance a condition that the defendant remain within a specified geographic area unless written permission to leave that area is obtained from the judge or any individual designated by the judge. If the judge decides that it is desirable, the judge shall add the condition to the recognizance and specify the period during which it applies. Furthermore, If the provincial court judge does not add a condition, the judge shall include in the record a statement of the reasons for not adding it.
With respect to the recognizance to keep the peace related to terrorism, this tool has been used by law enforcement agencies and by Crown prosecutors. The use of this tool has been on the rise since 2015. Specifically, there have been 19 applications for this recognizance in the past two years, compared to six between 2001 and 2014.
I would note that during the 2016 national security consultation, some called into question the threshold for a terrorism peace bond that was enacted in 2015 by former BillC-51. That act lowered the threshold of the terrorism peace bond from “will commit” to “may commit”. After careful consideration, the government has determined that the lowered threshold is a balanced approach between the constitutional rights of Canadians and the need to protect the security of Canadians. This threshold has also been upheld as constitutional in the recent Manitoba case of Regina v. Driver in 2016.
Another preventive tool is the recognizance with conditions, which is available for law enforcement in the appropriate case to disrupt nascent terrorist activity.
The Canadian Passport Order contemplates that passports can be denied or revoked in certain instances of criminality and where necessary to prevent the commission of a terrorism offence or for the national security of Canada or a foreign country or state.
As can be seen, Canada already has a broad range of offences and tools to assist in the fight against terrorism. As the hon. Minister of Public Safety has said, we need them all and we use them all.
Opposition members have spent the last week criticizing national security, national defence, and deriding effective counter-radicalization measures that go a long way toward both combatting and preventing terrorism. Instead of that kind of partisanship we need a thoughtful debate that will strike the right balance between protecting Canadians as well as their charter rights.
I encourage all hon. members in the House to reject the opposition motion and to support the important measures this government is taking on this file.
View Bill Blair Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Bill Blair Profile
2017-12-04 15:50 [p.15940]
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to rise and join in this important debate, in part because of its timeliness, given the apparent winding down of combat activity against Daesh and the ongoing evolution of terrorist threats in this country. It is also because the myths and misperceptions that have been allowed to persist in this House over the last few weeks have misinformed Canadians. Not surprisingly, those misperceptions are now echoed at family dinner tables right across the country.
If the quality of recent debate is to be believed, Canadians would think that we are combatting returning terrorists with poetry. However, Canadians expect to know exactly what their government does to protect their safety without the distraction of irresponsible sound bites. Therefore, I will dispel some of these myths.
First of all, how are returning extremists treated? The idea persists that they are somehow akin to prisoners at the end of their sentence, being reintegrated into the community, which is certainly not the case. Canada's law enforcement, security, and intelligence departments and agencies actively assess and monitor the threat each individual poses. They may be charged with a criminal offence where the evidence warrants. Based on available information, they may have passports revoked. They may be denied travel or placed on Canada's no-fly list. They are monitored closely in every case, and their return is tightly controlled and managed. In some cases, they may be found suitable for programs designed to help disengage from violent extremism, but by no means does that replace, prevent, or exclude investigation and close monitoring.
Second, the myth persists that somehow we can and should paint each returning extremist with the same brush through immediate action. However, we cannot, and we should not. Threat assessment is made to measure. Their places of travel, experience, and motivations may be entirely different. Criminal investigations are unique from case to case, and these, I can say from experience, can take time. They take a herculean effort on the part of many agencies in collaboration with international allies.
Third, there is a myth that our security agencies cannot possibly keep tabs on each and every returning extremist, which is also untrue. There are approximately 60 who have returned to Canada, and that is over the past decade. This has not changed significantly over the years. The full range of counterterrorism tools are in use, including surveillance, monitoring, and ongoing investigations. Once they return, agencies are well aware of them and aware of appropriately managing the threat they present to our citizens.
Fourth, there is a perception that these returnees pose Canada's largest security threat. This is also an unfortunate mischaracterization. Let us remember that the Strathroy and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu attacks in Canada were made by homegrown terrorists. They never left the country. They were radicalized right here in Canada. The same goes for attacks in Berlin and Nice. Those terrorists had not been trained in Syria or Iraq, but fought from their home countries, inspired by groups like Daesh. The risks that homegrown terrorists pose can be just as great as those posed by returning extremists.
There is no neat and simple solution to the complex problem that terrorism poses in a rapidly changing world, but we have in place effective and world-class professionals. Canada's full range of counterterrorism tools are in use, and these include ongoing investigations, surveillance and monitoring, intelligence gathering and sharing, the collection of criminal evidence, criminal charges, and prosecution where the evidence exists. Other Criminal Code tools, like peace bonds, public listings, expert threat assessments, no-fly lists, the revocation of passports, and legally authorized threat destruction measures, are all in use. The government and Canada's top-notch security agencies continue to use all the tools at their disposal to address the threat of Canadians joining or returning from terrorist activities.
The National Security Joint Operations Centre helps to coordinate an effective and timely operational response to high-risk travellers. G7 interior ministers recently redoubled their commitment to sharing information and working closely together to deal with returning extremists, and the process has worked.
We must now focus our attention on what lies ahead. Daesh, for one, continues to aggressively target the Internet to push an evil ideology and to recruit new adherents. Those who were on the battlefield may now be attempting to move perhaps to Africa, Asia, or Europe, and even to Canada. Yet, as the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness has said, the terror threat is now morphing into other forms, and we must not be complacent.
As I have noted, homegrown terrorism is one of our most urgent threats. It can come in many forms, from right- and left-wing extremism to religious motivations.
In Bill C-59, the overhaul of national security legislation currently at committee, we intend to provide the framework through which we can act on these threats, moving forward. We need to play the long game. International experts recognize that a key part of that means getting to the roots of the problems on our own turf, and that is why the government recently launched a new centre to coordinate, bolster, and help fund and share the counter-radicalization programming that exists across the country. It is called the Canada Centre for Community Engagement and Prevention of Violence. It is based on the fact that early intervention in dangerous situations to prevent radicalization to violence can and does work. The centre takes a broad approach to this issue, recognizing that the process of radicalization to violence occurs differently for different people.
It provides national leadership to support local efforts, and a key part of that work is through the community resilience fund. This fund was created to enhance those partnerships and to promote innovation in research on countering radicalization to violence, and domestic programming. We have recently announced a renewed call for proposals under this fund, with $1.4 million available to approved projects starting in 2018 and $7 million annually for the balance of the program. The centre is ensuring that resources are in place to facilitate disengagement from violent ideologies. In particular, children are served who return from combat zones and require tailored support to recover from their traumatic experiences.
From every angle, the Government of Canada continues to carefully monitor trends in extremist travel, and our national security agencies work extremely well together to ensure our response reflects the current threat environment. Canadians can be assured that our agencies are carefully monitoring returning extremists and that our law enforcement agencies are doing the difficult work of collecting the evidence required for convictions in Canadian courts. This remains a priority for our government and for all of our national security agencies. We must work together, alert at all times to the threats posed by terrorism at all levels, buoyed by solid facts and a shared commitment to act.
View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2017-12-04 16:45 [p.15947]
Madam Speaker, let me begin by saying that I am somewhat frustrated to be involved in this debate today.
The motion on the floor purports to be about the interplay between national security, human rights, and fighting terrorism, to some degree. However, its spirit is to divide Canadians, in my opinion, for political gain by praying on fears. Its effect is to scare Canadians into positions, rather than to engage them in a nuanced debate.
We live in a time in our global history right now of ultra-divisive politics that has seen many issues that were not legitimate policy discussions turn into an exercise in fearmongering designed to secure the support of a political base. Once-healthy democracies across the world have become sick with a virus of anti-intellectualism that is spreading rapidly across our planet.
In the age of social media, the phenomenon is even worse, as individuals prone to one idea or another on various points of the political spectrum more easily find validation in the echo chambers of the Internet. However, we cannot let Canada fall victim to this deeply worrying trend. People need to step away from the computer, find a human being, and talk to each other. They should not get sucked into the kind of nonsense that so many politicians around the world would have them engage in, without informing themselves, without facts.
I cannot let another motion like this, which I believe is designed to spread fear amongst Canadians, go unchallenged. I believe that, at the end of the day, I am responsible as a parliamentarian not only for my own actions and decisions but also for the opportunity, when I have the chance, to confront an injustice and not choose to stand idly by instead.
I will not be supporting the motion on the floor of the House of Commons.
Over the course of my remarks, I hope to cover a few themes. First is the importance of protecting the rule of law, then the issue of extremist travellers returning to Canada, then a brief conversation about the settlement involving Omar Khadr, and I will conclude with the need to combat the politics of fear and division.
The rule of law, in my opinion, is a fundamental pillar of our democracy. It separates our country from dictators and despots, and ensures that our government is subject to the law and that our citizens are protected by it, not the other way around. It prevents the possibility of a given leader or government eroding protections enshrined in our legal system for political advantage, and prevents them from operating without scrutiny or accountability.
The rule of law is the linchpin to our democracy. Our entire system depends on this. Without it protecting our rights, our society would break down. At times, protecting the rights of Canadians can be extremely difficult. It is very easy to give away the rights of other people, but we need to stand up for the rights of our neighbours, not only when it is convenient but when it is difficult. In fact, that is when it is most important.
It can be very hard to defend the rights of another person when seeking to balance those rights with such heavy concepts as security or such immense threats as terrorism. Those words have extraordinary power.
When we fear for our safety, the easy thing to do is to give away the rights of our neighbour. However, my friends, our neighbours' rights are our collective rights. To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, any society that would give up a little freedom to gain a little security deserves neither and will lose both.
The erosion of our freedoms and our security will not come at the hands of tyrants and terrorists half a world away. The threat is far nearer. It is going to come by the decisions and actions of some future government, a generation from now, empowered by an erosion of our rights today, and it is going to happen in our own communities, right here at home, if we do not take a stand to protect our rights.
The fact is that we can protect our rights and our security at the same time. There is immense interplay between these two concepts, but they are not mutually exclusive. There are, in fact, very serious issues of national security that any government needs to address in the 21st century. Our government is addressing those matters. Given the changing nature of the global order and the rise of well-organized, well-financed sub-state terror entities like Daesh, we need to adapt our traditional model of national security to address the changing nature of the threats we face, and the world faces.
With respect to the first aspect of the motion on the floor today, I anticipate every member of Parliament joining me in condemning the horrific acts of violence committed by Daesh against innocent people around the world. I readily acknowledge, without equivocation, that we must work as part of the global community to eradicate these acts of senseless violence from our planet altogether.
Notwithstanding my agreement with the first part of the motion on the floor of the House, I take sincere exception to the other parts, which seek to stoke fear of extremist travellers returning to Canada. We have to formulate policy on issues of national security from a place of reason. The Conservatives have not taken a rational approach to this issue and are seeking to form policy from a place of fear, which in my opinion is very dangerous and creates an unreasonable apprehension of risk, not just amongst their caucus members but amongst Canadians as well.
We need the tools to address these kinds of threats, and in fact, we are in the midst of ensuring that we have those tools. I note the efforts that have been raised today to pass Bill C-59, which would eliminate many of the superfluous measures that were contained in the prior iteration under Bill C-51, to which I had great objection.
I note that leading experts Kent Roach and Craig Forcese have referred to some of those measures as overkill and have since said that the revisions made under Bill C-59 are the real deal and pose no credible threat to security.
The motion today no doubt arises as a result of our public safety minister sharing in question period the fact that approximately 60 extremist travellers have returned to Canada. The opposition members have seemingly implied in the House and previously that they have returned under the Liberal government's watch, when in fact this same number had returned to Canada prior to the last election when they were still in power.
We cannot forget that, under both Canadian and international law, citizens have the right to return to their country of citizenship. My own view is that I would rather have a dangerous person who is a Canadian citizen detained or being monitored within our own country than being part of an international terror organization abroad where they could more easily escape scrutiny and pose a greater danger to innocent people around the world and in our country.
In fact, the heavy irony of the opposition's calls for enhanced prosecution of returning ISIS fighters is a difficult one to swallow when we consider that, under its government, precisely zero prosecutions actually took place. Moreover, in its last term in office alone, the Harper government cut over $1 billion from the budgets of the very agencies that seek to protect us against the kind of harm that they now raise in the House.
Since the Conservatives were ousted from power by Canadians, prosecutions of extremist travellers have actually taken place and a conviction has been obtained not too long ago. The fact is that groups such as Daesh are to be treated seriously, and I know every member of the House shares that opinion.
However, Canadians need not live in fear, as the Conservatives would have us do, because these matters have the fullest possible attention of our world-class security agencies. We know that safety and security of our citizens is a top priority for any government of any party. To suggest otherwise is a distasteful display of fearmongering that seeks to take advantage of Canadians, who need not be afraid.
To any Canadians who may be listening, do not fall into this trap. They do not need to fear that terrorists are running rampant through our communities, unchecked. CSIS, CBSA, and the RCMP work with global partners to monitor security threats through surveillance, intelligence gathering, and many tools that are available under the Criminal Code, including prosecutions where there is evidence that a crime has actually been committed.
In fact, we are significantly more likely to be killed while walking, riding a bike, or experiencing a heat wave than we are to die in a terrorist attack in our country. I am not going to let groups like Daesh hold the power of fear over me from the other side of the world as other members of the House would. Let us provide our security agencies with the tools that they need to protect us, while upholding the values enshrined in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and let us move on with living our lives free of fear.
The motion on the floor today also makes passing reference to what the opposition has called the “unnecessary financial payout” to Omar Khadr. This position is a choice by the Conservatives to ignore the world around them when the facts are readily available to demonstrate the Government of Canada's inevitable liability in the litigation that was before the courts.
The opposition seeks to undermine the rule of law and erode our Charter of Rights and Freedoms to once again divide Canadians on the basis of fear, not facts or evidence. It has gone to incredible lengths to demonstrate Mr. Khadr is evil in order to justify gross miscarriages of justice and to excuse unconscionable conduct that demonstrates a moral and legal failing by the Government of Canada.
I do not know Mr. Khadr, nor do I need to in order to understand what was going on in this piece of litigation. The settlement in this case has nothing to do with his quality as a person or his actions in Afghanistan. Instead, it addresses the sole question of the Government of Canada's conduct and responsibility to make amends for its breach of legal duties it owed to one of its citizens.
Many Canadians were upset upon learning the details of the settlement with Mr. Khadr. I have been watching this file unfold for years. I have been deeply disturbed by it for quite some time. The fact that our country would demonstrate such a disregard for one of its citizens is the real shame in this matter, and we all need to wear that as Canadians.
To conclude, there are reasoned debates to be had about the interplay between human rights and national security. Our national interest compels it. However, our citizens are more intelligent than this motion gives them credit for. They deserve a nuanced debate. However, the quality of our politics cannot possibly be so low that a party's political fortunes depend on the fear or ignorance of the electorate.
I have now watched the opposition use politics of fear and division repeatedly without shame, not just in this motion but when it came to the niqab ban and the immigrant snitch line. I received promotional materials in a prior election that promised to deny dental benefits to refugees.
I am sick of the fearmongering that is invading Canadian politics. Liberals do not like it. New Democrats do not like it. Progressive Conservatives in my riding do not like it, and they do not deserve to be painted with that brush. The failed—
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