Hon. Steven Blaney (Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, CPC)
moved that Bill C-51, An Act to enact the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act and the Secure Air Travel Act, to amend the Criminal Code, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to deliver on our government's firm commitment to fight and protect Canadians from jihadist terrorists who would destroy the very principles that make Canada, our country, a nation of freedom and democracy that is the envy of the world.
The international jihadist movement has declared war on Canada and our allies. As we have seen, terrorists are targeting Canadians simply because they despise our society and the values it represents. Let us not forget the October 20 attack in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and the attack that happened right here in our national capital. Those incidents are etched in our hearts and in our memory and show us how serious these issues are for us as a country.
These attacks, like the recent attacks against our allies in Sydney, Australia, Paris, France, and Copenhagen, Denmark, speak to the violence that can be committed by determined terrorists. These events reinforced our government's determination to take action. Our Prime Minister said that we would not react excessively, but we would not remain passive in the face of the evolving terrorist threat.
That is why I have the honour to introduce, with my honourable colleague the Minister of Justice, this important bill on behalf of our Conservative government. People worked tirelessly on this bill. They spared no effort to create a balanced bill. It is a bill that ensures that Canadians can count on the government to protect them from the threat of terrorism.
Like many people here in the House, I vividly remember the events at the end of October. I remember I was sitting in the caucus room when we heard gunfire and the terrorist being killed just steps away. Frantic moments followed, but we regrouped and have since reacted moderately. In the days that followed, I attended the funeral of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent. I still remember what his sister said at the funeral. She asked us to make sure that her brother did not die in vain, that he did not fall at the hands of a terrorist in vain.
There is no higher calling of any government than to keep its citizens safe. That is a responsibility that our Conservative government takes very seriously. That is why we have taken, and are taking today, strong action on this file. We have always said that the threat is real and that we must remain vigilant. We must also adjust to that evolving threat. That is why we are tabling this bill.
Indeed, our Conservative government passed the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act, which listed Syria and Iran as state sponsors of terror. More than a year ago, we passed the Combating Terrorism Act, which made it illegal to travel abroad to engage in terrorism or receive training to engage in barbaric and horrific acts here at home.
We took measures to strip the citizenship and passports of terrorists, despite the lack of support from the opposition. A few weeks ago, we passed the Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act in this House. This important legislation gives CSIS the tools it needs to investigate serious threats to Canada and confirms that it has the mandate to operate here and abroad, and to exchange information with our allies and partners.
We have also listed numerous entities as terrorist organizations, effectively cutting off the lifeblood of their resources.
Unfortunately, when it comes time to vote on these measures, Conservative members often stand alone while others play politics.
Our government has been very clear on the need to introduce new measures to guarantee our safety and ensure that our security and intelligence agencies have the tools they need to do their job.
The legislation before us today is an important step toward improving the means our intelligence gathering services and police forces have for effectively fighting the terrorist threat.
The anti-terrorism act, 2015 will give our national security agencies 21st century tools to combat jihadist terrorists, wherever they may be. There are five key elements to this important bill.
Although they are complementary in many respects, these measures will allow us to share the federal community's latest knowledge, expertise and work and to use them in a way that will enhance Canada's security.
The first element we must consider is very simple. When we take the time to explain this to people, they ask us why we did not do this sooner. I am talking about sharing information amongst the various federal agencies.
Canadians legitimately expect that if one branch of government is aware of a threat to their security that this information would be shared with other branches of government to protect Canadians. This is not the case and we need to fix this with this bill.
In many cases, barriers to effective information sharing are rampant across government, slowing the speed of this exchange to a crawl or acting as a total barrier. These barriers exist in the form of often well-intentioned legislation; however, in the national security context, they manifest themselves into unacceptable silos that put Canadians at risk.
Consider this example. A passport officer contacts an applicant's reference person as part of a routine check. Without being asked, the reference person expresses some concerns about the applicant's intentions abroad. The reference fears the applicant could go to Iraq to fight alongside ISIL, because he supports its goals. At this time, the passport officer can open an investigation in order to determine if the passport application should be denied for national security reasons. As we have seen, passports can be revoked or not issued for reasons of national security. However, that officer will have a hard time sharing information proactively for further investigation of that threat. This could push the individual to commit a terrorist act in Canada. Indeed, if we prevent him from travelling outside Canada, he becomes a threat here, since he did not get his passport. This increases the threat of a terrorist attack here on Canadian soil.
This situation is unacceptable. That is what we are trying to correct with the first of the five measures set out in this bill, in order to improve the means we have to reduce the terrorist threat here in this country. Under the anti-terrorism act, 2015, passport officers would be able to proactively share information with a national security agency in order to combat this possible terrorist threat.
These obvious changes, through the creation of the security of Canada information sharing act, are common sense solutions to real problems, and it is our duty to make it come through.
Contrary to dire suggestions by some members of the opposition, who should certainly read the bill before fearmongering, there are robust safeguards in place to protect the liberties of Canadians, such as review by the Privacy Commissioner, the Auditor General and various other oversight bodies. I will add at this point in time that we have consulted the Office of the Privacy Commissioner in the drafting of this bill.
However, I fundamentally reject the argument that protecting our security threatens our freedom. Indeed, there is no liberty without security.
Canadians I have spoken with about this legislation understand that their freedom and security go hand in hand. The fact of the matter is that our police and national security agencies are working to protect our rights and freedoms, and it is jihadi terrorists who endanger our security and would take away our freedoms.
The second element of this legislation that I would like to share with members is the secure air travel act, which finds its origin in the Air India inquiry action plan. We call it a passenger protect program, or the no-fly list. It currently relies on authorities found in the Aeronautics Act, but has never been given its own legal footing.
The air transportation system is still a target for terrorists. That is why this list was established after the attacks on the World Trade Center towers. However, we must also take additional measures to address the growing number of people who fly with the intent of committing terrorist acts abroad. Even though they are not an immediate threat to the plane on which they are travelling, they could represent a direct threat to the country of destination or to Canadian allies abroad.
Canada cannot allow people to commit terrorist acts here or abroad. That is why we must improve the program's mandate in order to include those who travel to take part in a terrorist activity.
The government will thus have another tool to prevent travel for terrorist purposes, including in cases where it is impossible to go ahead with an arrest or legal action at this time. This second element of the bill will also allow the government to use gradual or proportional security measures, such as denying boarding or an additional physical search at the airport, as additional means of managing the risk posed by people who travel on aircraft to take part in terrorist activities.
This enhanced mandate would ensure that our skies are safe and secure, both from those who cause a risk to aviation security, which is actually the case, and from those seeking to travel to seek martyrdom or carry out other twisted ideological violence. That is why, as in the first part, which includes information sharing among federal agencies, we also need to protect our skies from terrorists.
I would now like to talk about the third element of this anti-terrorist bill, which is a proposed change in the mandate of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, an agency created 30 years ago to which no major changes have been made since then.
Unlike the security intelligence agencies of our closest allies, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service can only collect intelligence in order to help identify threats against security. However, it cannot take direct measures to protect Canadians and Canada's interests.
What does it mean in practice? I think this issue was raised during question period, so I hope my colleagues are listening carefully. Let us say that CSIS becomes aware of an individual in the process of becoming radicalized. Perhaps the person is acquiring jihadist propaganda or viewing radical material posted on YouTube and, in fact, individuals within the person's own close circle have advised CSIS that they are concerned the person may travel for terrorist purposes.
Currently, CSIS can investigate, but it cannot do anything to stop the individual from travelling. The furthest CSIS can go now is to advise the RCMP that it believes the individual is about to commit an offence, and then the RCMP would launch an investigation. Therefore, we are far from action.
Under the anti-terrorism act, 2015, CSIS could engage a trusted friend or relative to speak with the individual to advise them against travelling for terrorist purposes. Further, CSIS could meet with the individual to advise them that it knows what he or she is planning to do and what the consequences of taking further action would be.
These needless roadblocks have the potential to cost human lives. As I just explained, we have seen all our western allies providing their intelligence services with these kinds of tools.
With this strengthened mandate, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service could use a variety of techniques to counter threats in order to thwart plans or even alter behaviour.
For example, CSIS could talk to the family of a potential terrorist about his travel plans. This is a legal activity in which CSIS cannot currently participate because it does not fall within the service's intelligence gathering mandate.
Let me be very clear. As is currently the case with intelligence gathering, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service would have to seek a warrant from the court to make use of any more intrusive techniques.
What is more, as with all CSIS activities, activities to disrupt a threat would be subject to a rigorous external review by the Security Intelligence Review Committee.
Under its new mandate, CSIS would be required to conduct an annual review of at least one aspect of its performance and summarize its findings in its annual report, which is tabled here in Parliament. CSIS would also be required to present statistics on its use of warrants to disrupt threats.
I realize that many of the Liberal and NDP members have expressed concerns about the level of oversight of our national security agencies. On this side of the House, we believe in and are proud of our Canadian model. We have third-party, non-partisan, independent, and expert oversight that is bringing continuity to the monitoring of the intelligence community. We believe that it is much better than importing a made-in-America political intervention in the process.
I would reiterate the important point that often seems to be forgotten around this place, that it is the jihadis who represent a threat, not our own police officers and those protecting us.
I am glad that my colleague, the hon. Minister of Justice, will speak on the bill, because there are two very important measures in it. I see that my time is running out, so let me briefly mention those two measures.
The fourth element of the bill is an amendment to the Criminal Code to allow our police forces, in co-operation with the Attorney General of Canada and with a warrant from a judge, to intervene when an individual poses a threat.
The fifth element—and my colleague and those who speak after me can elaborate on this—deals with how we will increase our prevention efforts. We can do this by eliminating the sources of terrorist propaganda, or in other words, by putting an end to activity on websites that could constitute terrorist propaganda and criminalizing those who may be encouraging terrorist acts.
We have a robust bill here with five common-sense measures. Who could oppose the federal agencies sharing information among themselves to better protect Canadians with full respect for our charter and Constitution?
I was proud to work on that bill. Unfortunately, as we might expect, we have heard the opposition members engaging in a kind of rhetoric this afternoon, but I am certainly open and hope that we will have an open and fair debate and sound questions on this important bill for the safety of Canadians.
Hon. Thomas Mulcair (Leader of the Opposition, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I rise today as leader of Her Majesty’s loyal opposition to indicate that the New Democratic Party of Canada will oppose Bill C-51.
I do so with a deep sense of responsibility, because, as members know, over the last several months, horrific terrorist attacks have shocked the world. However, at the same time, mourning those events has brought people together and strengthened our resolve to defend our way of life against cowardly attackers who seek to intimidate us and erode our freedoms.
Canadians came together in grief and defiance the day after the Parliament Hill shooting, pledging that violence would not, even for a day, halt the work of our democracy. That day we were united. We were resolved to keep this land strong and free, to protect our freedoms, to stand by our principles.
The day after the Parliament Hill shooting, it was important to affirm our duty to stand on guard for Canada, loudly and clearly. Let us be clear: terrorism is a very real threat both at home and abroad. The events of September 11, 2001, changed the face of the world and forced countries to tighten surveillance and take threats seriously. The Canadian government has invested considerable resources over the last two decades and has taken forceful measures to strengthen its laws against terrorism.
Over the same years, many bills have come before the House. Every time, the New Democratic Party has provided a thoughtful and balanced analysis. We have supported some of these bills and opposed others, as we will oppose Bill C-51.
We do the same when there are difficult international issues to deal with. We remember when this House was asked to vote on a mission to bomb Libya in the days of Moammar Gadhafi, and the NDP voted in favour of that mission because there was a mandate from the United Nations. When the mission evolved into an American one aimed at regime change, we withdrew our support. That is what it means to have principles and be consistent.
Some legislation that was created post-2001 is working well. Moreover, that is at the heart of some of our criticism of the government. It is as if these laws that are working well did not even exist. Members will remember that in June 2006, some 400 police officers were involved in the arrest of 18 people in Toronto who were planning attacks on public places such as the Peace Tower here in Ottawa and the CN Tower in Toronto. In 2013, so recently it is still in the news, the RCMP thwarted a planned attack on a VIA Rail train. Just since the beginning of 2015, police officers have laid charges against six individuals here in the Ottawa area for participating in and facilitating the activity of a terrorist group. There are laws in place already. The current system has proved its worth. It produces results. It works well.
The NDP believes that the laws that exist today enable police and intelligence officers to do their work properly. Providing new legislative tools is not the only solution. First and foremost, we must ensure that our officers have the financial resources they need in order to better enforce the law.
In addition, some of the laws enacted to combat terrorism are never used by the police. Nonetheless, the NDP has always stood up in the House to ask questions about each new bill, at each reading, and about the measures proposed by the government, because the NDP believes that security and freedom are fundamental values that must be preserved at all costs.
We also believe that they go hand in hand and that countries where the people have the most freedom are the safest countries. I believe, fundamentally, that the first duty of every government is to ensure that its citizens are safe. That includes the duty to ensure the safety of the food supply. Let us remember that for ideological reasons, we no longer have government inspectors in meat processing plants. We have a system of self-regulation where the company says whether it is doing a good job. That is not unrelated to the fact that a few years ago, under this government, dozens of Canadians died during the listeriosis crisis. Protecting the public is a duty, and the Conservatives failed in that task. They even made tasteless and inappropriate jokes at the expense of the people who died. Even worse, the person who made those inappropriate jokes is still the Minister of Agriculture. That is shameful.
The government has a duty to ensure that hazardous materials are transported safely. We have all seen the result. Once again, this government’s ideological vision means allowing the railway companies to self-regulate, to check off a box and tell the government whether they are doing a good job. We will never forget that one of the few railway companies to have special permission from the Conservative government allowing it to have only one engineer on board was the railway company whose train exploded in Lac-Mégantic. That too is about protecting the public. We are talking about 50 deaths.
The public must be protected in all realms of life. When a legislative framework is put in place, the appropriate financial resources to enable the police and intelligence services to preserve the public peace and protect the public must also be allocated. In fact, what happened in the meat processing plants was the result of a system of self-regulation and the elimination of millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. What happened with the railway companies is the same thing: a system of self-regulation where the government no longer plays the role that it is its job to play.
We can make a very long list of things that the government gave up on or did not have the courage to move forward with. The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights unanimously voted in favour of legislation to crack down on impaired driving. Nothing was done. We never heard about it again. The Conservatives love to chat with groups of mothers who lost their children or loved ones to impaired driving, but in all their years in power, they have never done anything to address this important issue. Compelling evidence shows that these changes alone would have saved hundreds of lives. This too is a way of protecting the public.
There is no question that terrorism is a real threat, both here at home and abroad. Taking effective action to protect public safety must be the top priority for any government, but we as parliamentarians also have an obligation to protect Canadians' way of life by standing up for our freedoms and our values.
Parliamentarians must come together to address this threat with responsible, effective measures that are targeted on the threat, rather than playing political games as we saw today.
At a time when we need a responsible and serious approach to this threat, an approach that protects Canadians' values and freedoms, we saw the Prime Minister playing games and putting the freedoms of Canadians at risk. Canadians saw it today. We asked him five times to provide one single example, and he was incapable of doing it. Why? It is because this is a political play more than anything else.
The Conservatives have even admitted it. They see the recent events, as one of their officials put it, as a “strategic opportunity” for them, so Canadians are right to suspect that the Prime Minister's new anti-terrorism bill, Bill C-51, goes too far.
The NDP team analyzed, examined and reviewed this bill from every angle. We consulted our civil society partners to see if the Conservatives' new approach would be effective in protecting Canadians and their civil liberties. We also asked for clarification from the Prime Minister and his ministers responsible for this portfolio, but to no avail. As we have seen, they are unable to answer us. That proves that the Conservatives are playing political games.
Unlike the Liberals, who supported this bill without even reading it and abdicated all power to negotiate amendments, the NDP took the time to read, think about and analyze this long and complex piece of legislation. The NDP will not support the Conservatives' Bill C-51 in its present form because it has too many flaws and will undermine the rights of Canadians.
After studying this complex piece of legislation, after consulting with experts, after talking with Canadians, and after lengthy democratic discussions in our own caucus, the NDP has come to the conclusion that the Prime Minister's approach is one we cannot and shall not support.
Bill C-51 is sweeping, dangerously vague, and ineffective. It does not do things that are proven to work, and it puts politics ahead of protecting Canadians.
Why do I say that? Well, instead of introducing this legislation right here in Parliament, as he should have, the Prime Minister chose to do it in an election-like campaign-style event. That is called tipping one's hand. He even went so far as to make remarks that singled out Canada's Muslim community. That is not leadership that unites Canadians, and he should be ashamed of himself.
Canadians are being told by the Prime Minister that they need to choose between their security and their rights, that safety and freedom are somehow, in the Conservatives' minds, mutually exclusive. It is the classic Conservative political approach, which is not based on good policy but entirely on what Conservatives see as good partisan politics: to drive wedges, to put one region against another and one community against another, and to create false choices.
The Prime Minister should know that it is not either the environment or the economy. It is both. It is not either free trade or human rights. It is both. It is not either public safety or freedom. It is both.
The Conservatives are once again offering us a false choice. We should not have to choose between our freedom and our safety. It is our duty to protect both for everyone at all times, at every opportunity and in every way.
We can and we must have both at the same time. We are convinced that we can have them both.
The Prime Minister could have decided to put forward concrete measures to make Canadians safer and protect our freedoms. Instead, the Conservatives have once again put politics over principle and have introduced a bill that is so broad it would allow CSIS to investigate anyone who opposes the government's economic, social, or environmental policies. Bill C-51 proposes to give CSIS a sweeping new mandate to disrupt the activities of people or groups it does not like or that it believes pose any kind of threat under any of those chapters.
What has happened to the rule of law in our country? We have been asking the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to explain what that means. He has been entirely incapable. Neither he nor his officials nor the Prime Minister, for that matter, have been willing or able to describe what activities this new mandate would cover. Anyone who was here today during question period saw what happened: a Prime Minister wholly incapable of providing a single example of what this bill was supposed to correct as mischief. That is because it is a political ploy.
However, according to the brilliant and oh so talented Minister of Public Safety, we must not get caught up in definitions.
As we just heard from his empty speech, however, he has no problem at all getting caught up in the platitudes and talking points written out for him by the Prime Minister's Office, which are completely meaningless.
The rule of law is the very essence of a state of law. It is the very wording of the law; it is the construction of the law; it is what is written in the law. That is why he is incapable of talking about it, because he does not understand what he just wrote in his own bill.
For absolute clarity and so that everyone has the same understanding and the same interpretation of the bill, let us be clear. If the Conservatives had wanted to do things right, they would have begun in Parliament and announced that experts would be given the time to clarify the bill and study it together.
Instead, we were treated to an election campaign-style announcement hundreds of kilometres away from Parliament, and that revealed their deepest thoughts. This is all a political game to them.
Those experts who are starting to write about this, those highly respected individuals, are warning that the broad measures in Bill C-51 could lump legal dissent together with terrorism and lump strikers together with violent anarchists. Bill C-51 proposes to make it an offence to advocate or promote terrorism “in general”. Can the minister even explain what the words “in general” are doing in a legal text?
Canada already has strong laws that make it an offence to incite a terrorist act. That is why the Conservatives cannot give a single example of what is taken care of by this new bill that is not already taken care of by existing legislation.
Those same experts, and we are seeing more and more of their papers appear, are saying that the language in this new provision is so vague and so open-ended that it could vastly expand the kind of statements that could get a Canadian arrested. Anyone who is genuinely inciting violence against others of course should be stopped. However, we need measures that keep Canadians safe without eroding our fundamental freedoms.
This government should be known as the “government of fear”.
When a government plays with people's fear and takes advantage of Canadians' sensitivity and raw emotions following a tragedy, there is a high risk of abuse.
Like many Quebeckers, I remember the improper arrest and detention of hundreds of innocent people when Trudeau's Liberal Party passed the War Measures Act during the October crisis. At the time, the NDP shrugged off criticism, had the courage of its convictions and stood firm against this attack on the rights and freedoms of all Canadians. It was difficult at the time, but history has proven us right, and we are proud of that.
All parliamentarians are responsible for ensuring that such abuses of power are never repeated. Never again. Those who do not learn from the mistakes of the past are condemned to repeat them, and that is what we are seeing with these people.
Today the Conservatives want to give significant new powers to CSIS without addressing serious deficiencies in oversight. We know that there are currently serious deficiencies in the oversight of CSIS. The last report of the under-resourced Security Intelligence Review Committee found that CSIS is “seriously” misleading the committee in one investigation after another, and it faced “difficulties”, which is their term, and “significant delays” in getting information about the spy agency's activities. In other words, they are hiding the information from the people who are supposed to be guaranteeing oversight, because the oversight is deficient, ineffective, and weak. That is the reality. That is before the enhanced responsibilities. It is already problematic.
We are concerned that the Conservatives want to give the Canadian Security Intelligence Service more powers without improving the inadequate oversight mechanisms currently in place, mechanisms that resulted in the Conservative government putting Arthur Porter in charge of that oversight. They seem to think that Arthur Porter is a model of ethical conduct.
To us, this is quite straightforward. If the government wants to give CSIS more powers, then it absolutely must increase oversight. That is crucial.
By the way, this is on top of the Conservative decision in 2012 to simply eliminate the position of CSIS inspector general. That, of course, further weakened the reviews, but that is exactly what the Conservatives wanted.
In view of these shortcomings, it is simply irresponsible to give the agency such broad new powers without providing additional oversight and without in any way attempting to prove what such new powers are supposed to do that are not already in the law. The bill also comes on the heels of cuts to our security agencies, cuts that sideline other public safety priorities, and the Prime Minister has yet to offer a plan to support Canadian communities that are combatting radicalization on the ground.
No stranger to the threat of terrorism, the United States of America, under President Obama, has taken a proactive approach to combatting radicalization. The White House has spearheaded work with at-risk communities to make them more resilient against the lure of radicalization. The U.S. government works to support community and faith leaders by connecting them with counter-radicalization experts, providing information on how to recognize the warning signs of radicalization and training in the kinds of tactics that are proven to actually work to diffuse radicalization.
Absolutely none of this is being done in Canada by the Conservatives. In fact, the Conservatives have chosen a very different approach. For example, the RCMP plan to work with communities to counter violent extremism has sat on the drawing board for years. Why? It is because it does not suit the Conservatives' purpose.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister has cut the budgets of both the RCMP and CSIS, and top officials have testified that they do not have the resources to monitor terrorism suspects and keep fully funding other areas of their policing. Why? It is because they prefer talking about it to doing anything about it.
Instead of doing the things that are proven to work, this bill sees the Conservatives once again putting wedge politics ahead of protecting Canadians.
Bill C-51 is silent on one element that we feel is essential to attacking terrorism at its root: Canada needs a strategy against radicalization right here at home. We want more measures to help communities. That is what communities are asking for. They want to be able to carry out major educational campaigns.
How we tackle the threats posed by radicalization, terrorism, and attacks by disturbed lone wolves merits a real debate, but by seeking to divide and score points, the Conservatives have succeeded in intimidating the Liberals into giving them a blank cheque to pass any laws, even before they are tabled and even when they go too far. They say that they are going to write a little something on the memo line, but it is still going to be a blank cheque.
The truth is that if we cannot protect our freedoms, we are sacrificing our freedoms. Freedom and public safety have to go hand in hand. We will hold true to our principles and oppose this overreaching legislation. Our rights and freedoms define our Canadian way of life, and as long as I am here, no one is going to undermine who we are and what we stand for as Canadians.
In the coming days, coming weeks, and coming months, we will urge the government to resist its normal urge to try to railroad legislation through. It has broken all records for using the guillotine to pass things more quickly. It has used time allocation and closure more than any other government in the history of Canada.
There are few things that we have ever looked at in this House that are more important than what we are looking at right now. It deserves serious analysis. It deserves the time to hear the experts who have a lot to bring to this debate. We will be proposing amendments, and we hope that the government will listen to our proposals and their merit and to the experts who come to the committee.
We hope that the government will invite not only experts to committee. We hope that it will invite community leaders as well. These are people we should also be listening to. These are people on the front lines who often have to deal with young people who are facing the siren song of radicalization. We should be listening to them, and we should be putting in place the types of solutions they will be talking to us about.
We also urge the Liberals to reconsider their position to support this bill unconditionally. We hope that we all, as parliamentarians, will take this bill seriously. Here, I want to salute the leader of the Green Party, who has also raised serious concerns about Bill C-51. We hope that Conservative MPs will be willing to consider practical amendments to strengthen oversight and to protect Canadians' freedoms.
Free societies are safe societies. Canadians can count on New Democrats to take a principled stand against this and any Conservative law that undermines the freedoms and values that define our Canadian way of life.
The day after the shooting here in Ottawa, I asked the Prime Minister if he would be able to resist his strong tendency to always attack anyone who speaks out against him and his positions.
I asked him if he understood, if he was able to broaden his perspective enough to realize that even though we do not agree on the approach, all parliamentarians want the same thing: to protect Canadians. Again today, the words that were used demonstrated that he is not able to broaden his perspective.
I know that all parliamentarians and all Canadians want to live in safety and peace. We all want to eradicate terrorism. In this sometimes emotional debate, no one should be playing political games, and the NDP therefore wants to do everything it can to get the government to improve its bill.
It is our duty as legislators to implement intelligent and effective policies to protect Canadians. We cannot make any compromises when it comes to safety and freedom. We need to protect both of these things at the same time and at all times.
In closing, I would simply like to say that if we give in to fear, the terrorists are the ones who win.
Mr. Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I do not have to tell anyone in the House today about the threat of terrorism and the fear it can instill within those who have witnessed it.
We all remember clearly the feelings we had in October as we heard and learned that an armed man had entered Centre Block with the intent to kill. We are still thankful for the heroism shown by our security services that day in keeping us safe during a difficult and confusing time.
Coming as it did only days after another, shameful, attack on members of our military, it was a horrible reminder of the murder in cold blood that some people are capable of doing.
No matter the motives, terrorism is designed to make us freeze in fear. It is designed to make us constantly question not only our own safety, but also the democratic institutions we have established to keep us safe. It is designed to make us question what is familiar and to suspect what would normally be insignificant.
Terrorism is designed to take us so far that we question everything we have built and everything that is good in our fair, just and open society.
That is the point of terrorism, and it is when we willingly walk over that edge of our own accord that terrorism is ultimately successful. So let us step back from that edge.
Make no mistake, the Liberal Party is alert to the threats and we know that keeping Canadians safe in a manner that is consistent with Canadian values is our most sombre responsibility as legislators and community leaders. To ensure that we never lose sight of our Canadian values and never forget who we are, we should always aim to have both the security of Canadians and the protection of their rights and freedoms in mind when we set out to combat those threats.
I believe that Bill C-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. However, Bill C-51 ought to be amended for a few reasons.
As I stated outside this House recently, the Liberal Party plans to bring forward amendments to Bill C-51, and I am happy to outline some of those proposed changes now.
One notable aspect of Bill C-51 is the changes it would make to the mandate of the Canadian Security Intelligence Services, or CSIS.
In its current form, Bill C-51 would amend CSIS's mandate, enabling the agency to intervene directly to address security threats, through clandestine and open operations.
That is a significant change to the current role of CSIS, which is to gather and analyze intelligence, while the RCMP is responsible for enforcing the law and taking action to counter security threats.
Yet we are now set to imbue CSIS with broad powers to disrupt not only real or perceived terrorist threats, but also real or perceived threats to economic and financial stability, critical infrastructure, and the security of other states.
The Liberal Party will be bringing forward amendments to narrow and clarify the overly broad scope of the new powers that have been a source of concern for many Canadians. If CSIS is given these new powers, we on this side believe that its mandate must be subject to much stricter supervision and review.
Canadians owe a lot to the security officials at CSIS, and the results of their work in the past have been evident. We know CSIS played key roles in disrupting plans to carry out violence against Canadians, including a plot to place bombs on VIA Rail passenger trains. However, we would now ask CSIS to do something new, and this new direction must be monitored so that we can be sure we are getting it right.
At the moment, the Security Intelligence Review Committee, or SIRC, reviews the work that CSIS does and reports to Parliament on those operations; but there seems to be some confusion in this house as to what SIRC actually does and what it does not do. This distinction is important, and it is the crux of a crucial change that we believe should be made to Bill C-51.
A couple of weeks ago, on February 4, the Prime Minister stated that “[SIRC] provides robust oversight”. However, this is not entirely correct.
SIRC is a review body and it does not fulfill an oversight role. The difference between the two is not merely a quibble over language. The two words are not synonymous. In fact, SIRC states so publicly itself. On page 12 of its annual report, SIRC clearly lays out the difference between a review function and that of oversight. It says:
|| An oversight body looks on a continual basis at what is taking place inside an intelligence service and has the mandate to evaluate and guide current actions in “real time.”
That is crucial and must be amended, if we are giving CSIS the new powers proposed in Bill C-51 in its current form.
Right now, SIRC can only examine the past activities of CSIS. It does not conduct any real-time monitoring to ensure that those activities are in line with our expectations and fall within the parameters that have been set.
There is no mechanism for fully transparent oversight of what is done for Canadians and against Canadians by our intelligence and security agencies. A part-time oversight agency is unable to keep up with CSIS's rapidly changing operational environment, and it is unable to provide the necessary oversight.
One may ask what kind of change would ensure that these new powers CSIS is to be granted in Bill C-51 would be properly monitored. A solution can be found not far beyond our borders, as our closest allies have already addressed this issue, and I feel that we can mirror their experience to suit our needs.
Great Britain, our partner in the Five Eyes intelligence community, has established a working and viable oversight body that we can emulate here in Canada. Over there, they call it the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament. It is a committee of parliamentarians that has been tasked with the direct oversight of intelligence and security matters in the U.K., including the “expenditure, administration, policy and operations” of things like MI-5, MI-6, and GCHQ, the Government Communications Headquarters. This committee is also able to scrutinize work carried out by other parts of the U.K. intelligence community, including Britain's Joint Intelligence Organisation and the National Security Secretariat in the Cabinet Office, Defence Intelligence in the Ministry of Defence, and the Office of Security and Counter-Terrorism in the Home Office. This is exactly the kind of committee we should be establishing here in Canada.
Fundamentally, our discussion of Bill C-51 is about what we are trying to protect. In that discussion, we should at all times be doing our best to protect the fundamental tenets of our democratic system: responsible government, and Parliament as the trustee of the people. This means that the only way an oversight body of this nature would be legitimate is if it were composed of elected officials. However, at the moment, Canada is the only nation of its kind without national security oversight being carried out by parliamentarians.
That should have been corrected a long time ago. Therefore, we cannot emphasize enough the importance of making this correction now, when we are giving new and broader powers to our intelligence and security agencies.
Consequently, the Liberal Party is proposing to create this oversight body. We believe that there should be a committee composed of parliamentarians to provide appropriate oversight—and not just review—of the activities of various agencies, including CSIS, the Communications Security Establishment, the RCMP and the Department of National Defence.
Therefore, we propose the following: first, that the members of this committee be sworn to a lifetime oath of secrecy; second, that the members be unable to claim immunity based on parliamentary privilege with regard to the use of the communication of information that comes into their possession or knowledge as members of this committee; and third, that this committee should not be a parliamentary committee, but a committee of parliamentarians.
I will note here that this is not the first time Parliament has discussed introducing a committee like this. Back in 2004, it was the Liberal government that introduced Bill C-81, which would have established a national security committee composed of parliamentarians. Again, in 2009, after the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security reviewed Justice O'Connor's report, it was again recommended that Bill C-81 be reintroduced to establish such a committee. The Conservative government at that time did not follow through on that recommendation.
We also believe that Bill C-51 requires changes to ensure that its provisions are not granted in perpetuity. This means that Bill C-51 ought to be subject to mandatory review. There is a precedent for this too. In 2001, following the attacks of 9/11, the Liberal government at the time introduced an anti-terrorism act that contained changes to our Criminal Code and to other relevant statutes. One of those changes was to lower the thresholds for police to be able to detain and monitor, with conditions, someone suspected of planning a terrorist activity.
This change to the law was subject to a mandatory review by Parliament and a sunset clause. In fact, the last time that these provisions were reinstated, in 2013, it was agreed that they would be subject once again to a review in future by a committee that would report to Parliament.
This is necessary for Bill C-51, because, like the anti-terrorism legislation introduced in 2001, it also makes changes to our Criminal Code. This is why Liberals plan to introduce an amendment to have a mandatory review of Bill C-51 in its entirety after three years. This has been the way we have responsibly introduced anti-terrorism legislation in the past and it strikes me that there is no credible reason to break this pattern.
Finally, Liberals believe that Parliament should consider the resources Canada currently allocates to combatting terrorism. The government should ensure that our security services have what they need to do their jobs, without the risk of depriving them of key resources in other areas.
As I said earlier, there are elements of the bill that we support. However, there are changes that should be made before the bill becomes law. Bill C-51 can be improved. This is why, though we support the bill, Liberals will propose the amendments I have highlighted on oversight, on review, and on narrowing the overly broad definition of national security.
We are prepared to work with our colleagues from the other parties to ensure that Canadians have the best, fairest and clearest legislation to keep us safe. Issues such as those that affect national security should not be partisan.
That is why we want to take a constructive approach and improve this bill. That is what the Liberals are prepared to do, and we will act in good faith to that end. We hope that the government is serious in its approach and that it will set aside partisanship in order to keep Canadians safe while protecting our rights and values.
Concerns about this bill have been expressed outside and inside the House, and I would like to reassure those who expressed them that they have been heard. We are confident that we have the necessary tools and plan to improve this bill, and we will do everything we can to achieve that goal.
Further, I want to affirm once again to our friends and fellow citizens in the Muslim community that Canadians everywhere know that recent acts of terror committed in the name of Islam are an aberration of their faith. We believe that continued mutual co-operation and respect are critical. The government should develop and fund a structured community process that brings people together and helps prevent the influence of distorted ideological propaganda posing as religion.
Rest assured that as a Liberal, I believe that when a government asks its citizens to give up even a small portion of their liberty, it is that government's highest responsibility to guarantee that its new powers will not be abused. It is not enough, especially after all we have learned in the past 14 years since 9/11, for governments to simply say, “Trust us.” That trust must be earned, it must be checked, and it must be renewed.
This is what Canadians expect of us at all times, but it is perhaps never so important as it is with issues of national security. If we are indeed engaged in a fight of good versus evil, as has been said, we should remember that the side of good cannot win by ceasing to be good. In much the same way, our democratic laws and values will not win out if they stop being based on the fundamentals of democracy: fairness, justice, and the rule of law. Let us not walk over the edge to which terrorism tries to push us.
We are a proud democracy. We are welcoming and peaceful, a country of open arms, open minds, and open hearts. Nobody should be allowed to intimidate us into changing. Instead, we must continue to rely upon these values and principles to guide us forward responsibly in our actions.
Hon. Peter MacKay (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and take part in what is obviously a very important debate on Bill C-51, the government's comprehensive counterterrorism package. This bill, which is titled the anti-terrorism act, 2015, deals, first and foremost, with public safety and efforts by our government to embrace methods that would improve and enhance safety for all Canadians.
The bill builds upon concrete legislative steps this government has already taken to combat terrorism, including through the Combating Terrorism Act, the Nuclear Terrorism Act of 2013, as well as more recent proposals found in Bill C-44, the protection of Canada from terrorists act. Therefore, members can see there is a litany of legislative action already demonstrated by this government.
We can make no mistake about it, these are real dangers, not theoretical or hypothetical scenarios. As we have seen in places like Paris, Australia, Brussels, and in Canada, these acts have deadly effects. This is why there is simply no denying the existence of the threat and the necessity to take practical steps to improve the way in which our security forces operate, coordinate and respond to acts of terrorism. This is also to increase our capacity to learn from international examples. The ability for CSIS to operate outside of our borders is the security capacity that is found in most of our allies, certainly most of our Five Eyes partners.
The government is involved in broad-based efforts to counter domestic and international terrorism in order to protect our country, our citizens and our interest in our allies. This is consistent with our counterterrorism strategy, which is to build resilience against terrorism. Therefore, clearly working through partnerships, including with all levels of government and community leaders, is key to effectively implementing this strategy.
As the Speaker may know and members may be aware, we have an outreach effort at the Department of Justice that involves a cultural round table where we regularly consult and receive input from various communities around the country. This is an effective way to gain insight and understanding of how Canadians perceive this issue of terrorism.
As well as implementing this strategy, we are including our efforts to counter violent extremism. Engaging with the cross-cultural round tables on security-related issues is of great benefit in getting the balance right. There is also significant collaboration with international partners in addressing the terrorist threat.
As the Minister of Justice, I am responsible for ensuring that Canada's laws remain robust, fair and just. This is particularly important in the area of criminal law. Canada, like its friends and allies, must ensure that our laws remain responsive and effective in combatting the scourge of terrorism, while at the same time ensuring our laws respect our fundamental rights and freedoms.
Bill C-51 contains a suite of criminal law reforms that will do just that by amending the Criminal Code to strengthen terrorism recognizance with conditions and peace bond provisions; create a new criminal offence for abdicating or promoting the commission of terrorism offences in general; provide courts with the powers to seize, forfeit and remove terrorist propaganda, including from web sites located inside our borders; and to better protect individuals participating in national security proceedings and prosecutions.
These steps, in addition to those discussed earlier by my colleague the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, will go a long way to closing any real or perceived gaps in our ability to respond to terrorist acts.
I would like to take a closer look at each of the four pillars of criminal law reform in this bill. However, I would like to begin by pointing out that these four pillars of reform have common denominators.
The Criminal Code reforms individually and collectively seek to provide law enforcement agencies with appropriate tools to thwart the activities of terrorists who actively engage in terrorism. Within these reforms, and with these in place, police officers will now be able to intervene sooner, more effectively, and achieve better results before the matters get more serious. This aims to provide our protection for all Canadians through enabling the police to pre-empt and prevent acts of terrorism.
I want to emphasize here that judicial oversight is the backbone of these criminal reforms consistent with Canada's values and principles, including, as the Supreme Court of Canada has often repeated and I will emphasize again today, the values of democracy, constitutionalism and the rule of law. This is the type of oversight that should provide considerable comfort and relief to those who have criticized the bill at its early stage.
I would suggest that this type of insight that comes from the courts in enabling our security agents to make those types of interventions prior to acts of terrorism is at the very crux of what we are attempting to do. It is not just to be responsive; it is to be pre-emptive in protecting Canadians from acts of terrorism.
The first area of criminal law reform found in Bill C-51 would strengthen the existing provisions on the recognizance with conditions and terrorism peace bonds contained in sections 83.3 and 810.01, respectively, of the Criminal Code. Let me go further. This Criminal Code recognizance with conditions is already a tool that can be used. It is designed to disrupt and prevent terrorist activity from occurring in the first place. For example, this provision allows a peace officer, with the consent of the Attorney General, a prosecutor acting with delegated authority, to bring an individual before the court with evidence to determine whether there are sufficient grounds to require the individual to abide by specific conditions designed to prevent terrorist activity from occurring.
It bears noting that the individual in question would not necessarily be the person who might carry out that activity. In other words, the person could be a party to the offence or enabling the offence. It is important to note here that the provisions currently require that the court be satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to believe that a terrorism activity will occur and that there be reasonable grounds to suspect that the recognizance with conditions is necessary to prevent that activity from occurring.
To move to the reforms, those introduced in section 83.3 of the Criminal Code found in Bill C-51 would lower the threshold required to obtain the recognizance from reasonable grounds to believe that terrorist activity will be carried out to the test of may be carried out. This threshold is also lowered from reasonable grounds to suspect that conditions are necessary to prevent the carrying out of the terrorist activity to are likely to prevent the carrying out of the terrorist activity.
These changes have the practical effect of making it easier to disrupt terrorist plans before they are executed. Therefore, going before a judge and making the case, based on evidence collected, that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the terrorist activity may be carried out lowers the threshold, thus allowing police to act more efficiently and, in many cases, quicker.
In the bill, our government would also increase the possible maximum period of preventive detention from a total of three days to seven days, with safeguards, including periodic judicial review of the detention, to ensure that it is still required. Again, if we look at international examples, in the United Kingdom, it is twice that period of detention. As it currently stands in Canada, it is three days. We would extend that to allow the police agencies to ensure that they are doing everything in their power to prevent the terrorist act from occurring on Canadian soil.
The bill, through the Criminal Code, would also provide similar measures with respect to preventing the commission of terrorist offences. Terrorism peace bonds, as we know, are preventive tools used to disrupt and prevent individuals from committing terrorism offences. Peace bonds and recognizance are used in the domestic criminal justice system as well, but here there are specific provisions found in this bill that expand the use of recognizance and peace bonds. An application to impose a peace bond can be brought even where there has been no criminal charge or no prior conviction, but enables a judge to impose any reasonable conditions in order to prevent the commission of an offence.
What we are talking about here is enabling the judiciary, the police and the prosecution, to put in place preventive measures, such as requiring the person to forfeit their passports, requiring them to report to police or authorities, or staying away from certain individuals, staying away from certain public places, for example, like a military base.
All of these might be seen as extraordinary in normal circumstances, but I would suggest that in the context of this entire debate, we are talking about an elevated threat assessment based on what occurred here in October, 2014, based on what is happening around the world and based on the assessment of our security forces. These are practical steps that allow our security forces, with judicial oversight, to take preventative steps.
Currently, the Criminal Code provides that any person who fears on reasonable grounds that the individual will commit a terrorism offence, with the consent of the attorney general or a prosecutor in his or her stead, can apply to the court to have a terrorism peace bond imposed requiring the individual to keep the peace and be of good behaviour, or to comply with any other reasonable condition that the court believes necessary to ensure their good conduct, some of the provisions I mentioned. These conditions can be for a period of up to one year or, in the case of a person who has previously been convicted of a terrorism offence, up to two years.
These amendments would strengthen the terrorism peace bond by lowering the threshold to obtain that peace bond to where a person believed an individual “may” commit a terrorism offence, instead of the current “will” commit a terrorism offence. The bill would extend the duration of a terrorism peace bond from two to five years for those previously convicted of a terrorism offence.
More generally, in respect of both recognizance conditions and terrorism peace bond conditions, the bill would authorize the imposition of sureties, which is someone who agrees to take the responsibility of ensuring that the person subject to the court order complies with the conditions imposed. The bill would also require judges to specifically consider the desirability of imposing geographic limitations. I mentioned earlier surrendering passports or other conditions that the judge deems appropriate.
Moreover, these reforms would increase the penalty for breaches of these court ordered conditions from two to four years of imprisonment, consistent with similar conditions imposed found in Bill C-26, the tougher penalties for child predators act.
Finally, I suggest that these reforms would have the added benefit of improving the efficiency and effectiveness of recognizance with conditions and peace bonds across the country by allowing for the use of video conferencing when necessary and interprovincial transfers of any peace bonds on the consent of the appropriate attorney general.
The proposed reform with respect to recognizance with conditions and recognizance to keep the peace relating to a terrorist offence would also apply to adolescents in accordance with the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
In short, the proposed amendments, which I have just referred to and described, seek to facilitate the use of the provisions to make them easier to obtain and to make them more effective in preventing terrorism, all with the backdrop of judicial oversight.
It is important to emphasize that the improvements we want to make to our terrorism prevention tools are compatible with what like-minded countries have in place.
For example, the United Kingdom uses similar measures to protect the public by subjecting individuals believed to pose a threat to public safety to conditions.
Australia also uses these control orders to prevent terrorist acts from occurring, which is to help enable the imposition of conditions on individuals. It is important because it shows that countries with strong democratic conditions, such as ours, and strong institutions which respect the rule of law, like ours, have also recognized that they can take measures that are firm in their response to terrorism, but fair in their approach to citizens, respecting the rights of those who are subject to these preventative tools.
Let us remind ourselves again of what we are trying to prevent: mass casualties, attacks on our institutions and the planting of bombs. What we see in other countries on the nightly news is no longer something that we are protected from merely because of our geography.
There are individuals who have sworn to cause us harm and who continue to make very pointed and prescribed threats against Canadian citizens. That is the backdrop in which we must remind ourselves this bill is rooted.
I pause here to emphasize that we are mindful of the concerns expressed by many stakeholders about these changes. Some have suggested that these proposals pose an unjustified and unnecessary infringement on fundamental charter rights. In response, I would note that there are many safeguards associated with the tools I have just described. I mentioned judicial oversight, the discretion exercised by our judiciary, and the requirement of the Attorney General's consent in their use. We have prosecutors now specifically trained in the use and application of this type of legislation.
In addition, there are reports to Parliament from our security agencies that refer specifically to recognizance with conditions. In addition, there is the requirement of a mandatory parliamentary review in 2018 and a sunset clause with respect to the recognizance with conditions I mentioned. This would all result in an ability to have eyes on and insight into the way the legislation would be applied.
Let us remember the objective of these tools: namely, the imposition of reasonable conditions on persons by the courts with a view to preventing terrorism activity and the commission of terrorism offences.
Our government takes the position that these measures are necessary to protect public safety. They are not to be used arbitrarily, and they are based on genuine concerns that put the public at risk.
The second area of the Criminal Code reform contained in Bill C-51, which would indicate a new indictable offence for advocating or promoting the commission of terrorism offences in general, is again an area of the law we think is necessary.