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View Erin O'Toole Profile
CPC (ON)
View Erin O'Toole Profile
2018-06-18 20:21 [p.21198]
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.
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.
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