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—