Hon. Steven Blaney (Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, CPC)
moved that Bill C-44, An Act to amend the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to begin debate at second reading on Bill C-44, the protection of Canada from terrorists act. I hope that our government can count on the opposition parties' support to get this bill to committee.
I would like to start by thanking my colleagues from all parties who went to the National War Memorial this morning, especially my colleague here, the member for Vaughan and Minister of Veterans Affairs, to lay wreaths in tribute to the two soldiers who lost their lives in recent weeks.
All of my colleagues remember what happened. On October 22, we all witnessed events that shocked us in some way. I would like to join my voice to those of my colleagues from all parties who went to the National War Memorial this morning and extend our thoughts and our prayers to the families of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Corporal Nathan Cirillo.
On Saturday, I had the privilege of being in Longueuil to attend the funeral for Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent. His twin sister gave us a message of hope and peace, but she also asked us to ensure that her brother's death would not be in vain. Today, as parliamentarians, we have the opportunity to begin a debate on a bill that will ensure better protection for our country.
Before I begin the substance of my discussion today on this important legislation, I would like to address the horrific terrorist attack that happened just steps from where we stand today and make sure that we are all starting from the same point when we talk about what happened. It is important that we agree, for the sake of clarity, on what took place recently. That is why I would like to refer members to the Criminal Code, which defines terrorism as a violent and intentional act that aims to intimidate the public for political or religious reasons.
The Criminal Code defines terrorism as an act committed for a political, religious or ideological purpose, objective or cause with the intention of intimidating the public.
The two acts that were committed here—the attack on Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and the attack on Corporal Nathan Cirillo—fit within the definition of terrorism.
That is why President François Hollande said yesterday that these acts were terrorist-inspired. That is why the U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, said that when someone attacks an unarmed soldier guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and then storms Parliament with a loaded weapon, that is also an act of terrorism. That is also how it is defined in the Criminal Code.
I hope all parties will recognize that these acts were terrorist acts. We should call a spade a spade. Then we will be able to come up with solutions together to deal with the challenges we face.
Clearly, the terrorist acts committed here also have international repercussions. The Islamic State poses a threat not only to Canadians, but to populations in other countries that are being brutally suppressed and whose fundamental human rights are being violated.
That is why we are part of the coalition that is currently conducting air strikes against that terrorist group and why we are supporting the security forces in Iraq in their fight against this terrorist scourge.
However, we also need to take action within our borders, in Canada, to protect Canadians from anyone who might try to attack us, our values or innocent victims.
That is also why we are so determined to strengthen the tools available to police and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service when it comes to surveillance, detention and arrest. Bill C-44, the protection of Canada from terrorists act, which we are starting to debate today, is a first step in that direction.
We took action a long time ago. We are moving forward strongly, because we are facing a serious terrorist threat, one that we must address with strong measures.
As a government, we have already taken strong action to protect Canadians from the threat caused by terrorists.
Our government's response is based on Canada's counterterrorism strategy, which is a four-pillar approach. The first pillar, which is very important, is prevention. It is important that we promote and share our Canadian values with everyone, with every Canadian. That is why we are investing in numerous prevention measures involving police services, community groups and the government itself. My predecessors and I have engaged with ethnic and cultural communities, including at the cross-cultural roundtable. That is the first pillar. Then, we need to prevent, deny and detect individuals who may pose a threat, prevent them from taking action and, finally, respond to the threat if necessary.
Now we are dealing with another phenomenon: extremists who travel abroad and those who come back to Canada. That is a source of concern for us, which is why we intend to propose other measures in addition to the bill being introduced today.
Whether it is through legislation, policy, or investment, our government has taken strong action to give law enforcement and national security agencies the tools they need to keep us safe.
We have given law enforcement new tools by making it a crime to go overseas to engage in terrorist activities. We have given authorities tools to strip Canadian citizenship from those engaged in terrorist activities.
We have increased funding for our national security agencies, such as the RCMP and CSIS, each by a third.
We brought in the Combating Terrorism Act. We are prepared to revoke the citizenship of individuals who have dual citizenship and are convicted of acts of terrorism. We are also prepared to revoke the passports of individuals who want to incite violence outside our borders. Since 2006, we have increased the budgets of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service by more than one-third.
In practical terms, that means an additional $191 million for CSIS over the level that existed under the previous Liberal government.
Canada's counterterrorism legislation has been tried, tested and embraced by the highest courts.
Not only is law enforcement responding to the law we have put in force but the tribunal is as well by giving harsh sentences to those who are convicted of terrorist activities.
For example, Canada successfully prosecuted terrorism-related offences in the cases of Mohammad Momin Khawaja, alias Namouh, and 11 members of the so-called Toronto 18.
In July, Mohamed Hersi became the first Canadian convicted of attempting to travel abroad to join a terrorist group.
We tabled and implemented the Combating Terrorism Act. This act brought in important new criminal offences, including making it illegal to leave or attempt to leave Canada in order to commit certain terrorism offences outside Canada. This past July, the RCMP laid its first charges under the new act against an individual for leaving Canada to take part in terrorist activities. The bill is working. We need to take action to keep Canadians safe from terrorists.
Shockingly and unfortunately, we did not get support from the official opposition at that time for that common sense legislation. Hopefully this time we can count on their support and we can move the bill forward.
The government's terrorist listing also plays a key role in combatting terrorist financing, and under the Criminal Code, being listed has serious consequences, allowing for the seizure, restraint or forfeiture of a listed entity's property.
Again yesterday, we saw that another group was declared a terrorist entity. In other words, it is absolutely illegal in Canada, under the Criminal Code, to support or want to finance or associate with this entity. All the activities of this entity are prohibited in our country.
In April, we added IRFAN-Canada to the list of terrorist entities. IRFAN-Canada is a not-for-profit organization that transferred roughly $14.6 million in resources to Hamas, a terrorist entity that is on the Canadian list.
These measures help interrupt the flow of resources such as funds, weapons and new recruits to these entities. We also employ various mechanisms in order to deprive terrorists of the means and opportunities to carry out their activities. These mechanisms include the High Risk Travel Case Management Group, led by the RCMP, which is especially busy these days, and the revocation and suspension of passports of travellers who want to engage in terrorist activities abroad.
The prevention of violent extremism is a key element of our approach. I would like to share with you the important work accomplished in that regard. Preventing violent extremism is a key component of our strategy. At this time, I would like to commend the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, which has identified radicalism and radicalization as an area of concern, and which plans to examine this issue at its upcoming meetings and next year.
Our approach, “Responding to Violent Extremism”, is outlined in a document entitled 2014 Public Report On The Terrorist Threat To Canada. It is based on three interrelated strategies: building community capacity, which equates to prevention; building law enforcement capacity, which this bill will do by clarifying the powers of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service; and developing programs to stop radicalization resulting in violence through proactive early intervention. We must remember that preventing terrorism is our national security priority.
The counter terrorism information officer initiative, which is an RCMP responsibility, provides frontline police officers and other first responders with essential terrorism awareness training. Therefore, there are already resources, budgets and measures in place to deal with this threat of terrorism, but we have to adapt to this evolving threat.
Here we come back to the legislation at hand. The protection of Canada from terrorists act contains distinct elements that work toward a common goal, which is to protect the safety and security of Canadians. The bill also has some provisions regarding the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, which received royal assent in June.
There is really nothing new in this part, but let me just say the act made important changes at that time to the Citizenship Act, enabling the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to revoke Canadian citizenship from dual citizens who are convicted of terrorism, treason or spying offences. Such individuals would be permanently barred from acquiring citizenship again. While that act has already received royal assent, as members know, provisions in new legislation can come into force at different times.
Recent events around the world have brought to the forefront the need to address the threats of terrorism now. We are, therefore, proposing amendments to the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act that would allow provisions related to the revocation of Canadian citizenship to come into force earlier than anticipated. It is nothing new but it would ensure that those provisions could be used by law enforcement more rapidly.
The provisions that would come into force include new expanded grounds for revocation of Canadian citizenship and the establishment of a streamlined decision-making process. We are clear that Canadian citizenship is sacred. Our Canadian passport, wherever we go around the world, is of high value. It has to mean something. We do not want to share our Canadian passport with anyone who wants to cut off our heads because we disagree.
The Canadian passport is respected around the world. As parliamentarians, we will not accept that individuals with criminal intentions use Canadian passports to commit acts of terrorism.
Let us now examine the main part of the bill, which will make the necessary amendments to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act.
Ever since the CSIS Act was introduced more than 30 years ago, threats to Canada's security have become increasingly complex, as evidenced by the global nature of terrorism and the mobility of terrorist travellers.
We are aware of Canadians who have joined terrorist groups abroad. CSIS director Michel Coulombe has stated that more than 140 individuals with Canadian connections are suspected of engaging in terrorism-related activities abroad. It is more critical than ever that CSIS has the proper tools to investigate threats to the security of Canada and that its role and function is clear in terms of our Canadian laws. The bill before us proposes several targeted amendments to support CSIS in its mandate to investigate threats to the security of Canada.
First, the bill would confirm, clarify and strengthen the power of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service to conduct investigations abroad, by confirming that CSIS has clear, legislated authority to conduct investigations abroad related to Canada's security and security assessments.
Second, the bill will give the Federal Court the power to consider only the relevant Canadian law when issuing a warrant to authorize CSIS to investigate threats to the security of Canada.
Essentially, this bill clarifies the powers of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and protects witnesses, because information can only be exchanged if there is trust between the human source and the information service.
It is important to protect these sources and provide criteria for this legal protection, in order to make it possible to increase protection in certain situations.
I am pleased to introduce this important bill in Parliament. I look forward to following the debate, because this is an important and balanced bill.
I hope that we will be able to move forward and send this bill to committee, and that we develop a law that will protect Canadian citizens against the threat of terrorism. This threat is evolving and is unfortunately a reality.
Mr. Randall Garrison (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, as this may be my last opportunity to speak to the House before Remembrance Day, I really look forward to these Remembrance Day services. I know all members of Parliament are. We expect to be joined by record crowds of Canadians this year.
Unfortunately, this year, we have two new names to add to the Canadian heroes who have given their life in service to Canada. They are Corporal Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent. Once again, I would like to express my sympathies to their families. I know Canada will do them proud this Remembrance Day by showing how much we respect the sacrifices their families have made.
I rise today to speak to Bill C-44, an act to amend the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and other acts. In the aftermath of the two attacks at St-Jean-sur-Richelieu and in Ottawa just two weeks ago, concern about national security is certainly front and centre in the public mind and, indeed, in all of our minds. There is no doubt that concern already existed about the spread of extremist views and the radicalization of Canadians, whether on the basis of ideological or religious grounds.
As New Democrats, we have taken a strong stand, but we must not rush to judgment on any of the recent events until the full story is known. We have also argued that we cannot let fear warp who we are as a nation and distort our values. We should beware of falling into the trap of looking for solutions in some kind of trade-off, giving up some of our freedom for greater security. Instead, the New Democrats know that it is the responsibility of the government to protect both our civil liberties and public safety. There is no contradiction between the two. We believe Canadians expect the government to do no less.
We know that Bill C-44 was in preparation months before the events of October 22. In fact, if we look at its content, it is easy to see that there is no apparent connection with the events in Ottawa or St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, judging on the information we have before us so far.
In fact, Bill C-44 seems to be a legislative response to difficulties created for CSIS as a result of two court decisions. One is from the Supreme Court of Canada in 2007, called Regina v. Hape, and the other is from the Federal Court in the following year, known as Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act (Re), 2008.
In short, what seems to have happened is that these two decisions made it difficult for CSIS to co-operate and share information with allied spy services, the so-called “five eyes group”, made up of the United States, the U.K., Australia, New Zealand and Canada. At the heart of these two cases was the question of whether CSIS could use warrants obtained in Canada to conduct surveillance abroad, using methods that would have required the authorization of a judge if they were to take place in Canada.
By providing a clear framework for overseas surveillance work and express authority for the courts to issue warrants authorizing these activities in Bill C-44, the government is arguing that CSIS would be better able to protect national security. Indeed, this may be the case. We are certainly prepared to look carefully at this measure in committee.
This is what lies at the heart of Bill C-44, and it may indeed be the case that CSIS needs these new expanded or clarified powers, however we wish to describe them. The New Democrats are therefore prepared to support this legislation to go to committee, recognizing their potential importance for national security.
However, details matter very much in bills like this, so we will be asking tough questions about what the government proposes to accomplish in this bill and about whether and how this expansion of CSIS' powers will actually help keep Canadians safe.
Again, as we have said, just as it is important to protect public safety and national security, it is also necessary to protect civil liberties. What we see missing in this bill are any improved accountability measures to accompany the proposed expansion of the powers of CSIS. I will return to this question of accountability in just a moment.
Let me stop here to consider what else is in Bill C-44, in addition to clarifying the international mandate of CSIS and its ability to carry out surveillance abroad.
The third element in Bill C-44 is the provision of a blanket protection on the identity of the human sources of CSIS. Again, we will have some serious questions to ask in committee about this provision. Right now, judges can grant protection for the identity of CSIS sources on a case by case basis. The onus is on the government to show why this protection is actually needed. Bill C-44 would reverse that onus. The presumption would be that the identity of CSIS sources would always be protected.
Even the bill itself acknowledges that this could be a problem when it comes to using CSIS information as the basis for criminal charges. Our criminal justice system, quite rightly, does not look favourably on anonymous testimony or evidence whose validity cannot be challenged in court.
Bill C-44 would create an exception for criminal law, allowing the disclosure if the defence could establish that doing so would be necessary to establish the innocence of the accused. This would add a large potential complication to any such criminal cases, as it would require a separate process to be carried out in Federal Court. On this side of the House, we remain concerned that this provision may perversely make it more difficult to secure criminal convictions of those who threaten national security.
There is in the bill, however, no such exemption to the blanket provision for protection of identity of CSIS sources for immigration and refugee cases. In fact, Bill C-44 makes reference to the use of special advocates in cases where the identity of CSIS sources seems likely to affect the outcome of the case.
The fourth provision of Bill C-44 has nothing at all to do with CSIS and which we could say, in a way, makes Bill C-44 a mini omnibus bill. This is the provision that would advance the coming into force date for the provisions in the Citizenship Act, passed last year, that allow the revocation of Canadian citizenship for dual citizens convicted of terrorism or other serious offences. This is something the New Democrats opposed at the time, and continue to oppose, as creating two different classes of Canadian citizen.
When we look at the provisions of Bill C-44 in the current context, there are some other questions we need to ask ourselves, which may not fall neatly into the confines of a debate on legislation alone. We must ask ourselves if legislation is always the answer to every problem or, as the government sometimes seems to believe, the only answer to every problem.
We must ask ourselves if there are other things we can do when it comes to the question of how we respond to the use of violence at home by Canadians. Perhaps most important among these questions is how we respond to homegrown radicalization of youth, whether it is a young Canadian who murders three Mounties in New Brunswick or another who seeks to go abroad to join an armed religious or ideological movement. A lot of good work has been done on this question at the community level, and we need to reach out to those communities concerned and work with them on prevention and early intervention strategies.
Another serious question we must ask ourselves about national security is whether the the federal government assigned sufficient resources to the task of protecting national security. Testimony at the Senate Standing Committee on National Defence on two successive October Mondays cast doubt on whether the government had done this.
On October 20, the deputy director of Operations of CSIS told the Senate that CSIS was forced to prioritize its resources when it came to monitoring radicals returned from abroad or prevented from going abroad. The deputy director said that CSIS did not have the resources to monitor all 80 or 90 names on that shifting list and that this must be seen as a public safety concern.
Just a week later, RCMP Commissioner Paulson told the same Senate committee that in the wake of the October attacks, he was forced to expand the 170 personnel assigned to the integrated national security enforcement team, the front-line teams on national security, by seconding 300 personnel from organized crime and financial crime units, reassigning them to national security. This means weakening one important area of crime fighting in order to strengthen the fight against threats to national security, and is surely an indication of inadequate resources for the RCMP at this time.
Is this a choice the government really should be asking the Commissioner of the RCMP to make, protecting national security or continuing to fight organized crime? The record of the Conservatives on this issue is clear, despite the attempts of the minister again this morning to make historical references to funding going back, sometimes it seems, to the beginning of time.
In 2012, on page 277 of the economic action plan, the Conservatives clearly laid out their intention to cut $688 million from the public safety budget over the three fiscal years ending this year, 2014-15, and they have done this. We have seen cuts beginning in 2012 now amounting to $24.5 million annually for CSIS, something like a 5% cut in 2012. Never mind what the level was in 2006 or 2007, it is a cut from 2012.
There were $143 million cut from the Canadian Border Services Agency, a cut of nearly 10%, including cutting more than 100 intelligence staff from the CBSA, those who are charged with finding out who is trying to violate our borders and might potentially be a threat to national security. It includes a cut of $195 million from 2012 to the budget of the RCMP.
It also appears, from the tabling of the 2014 Public Accounts, that each of these agencies has also been subject to the same pressures from the Conservatives to underspend even those reduced budgets in the quest for an ever larger surplus on paper.
I want to return now to the question of the importance of oversight for our national security agencies.
We all in this House know good models for accountability when we see them, and we have many good examples, like the independent officers of Parliament who have special expertise and report directly to Parliament and not just the minister of the day. These are officers of Parliament like the Auditor General or the Privacy Commissioner, whose reports can be debated in Parliament, shining light on what the government has or has not done, and holding the government to account.
It is strange to think that the CBSA has no such oversight body. This is despite four specific recommendations for the establishment of an oversight body that I can think of: from the 2003 recommendation of the Auditor General to the 2006 O'Connor commission report, to the 2008 Canadian Council of Refugees recommendation, to the most recent 2014 calls for better accountability by both the Canadian Council of Refugees and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association in the wake of the death in custody in Vancouver of Lucia Vega Jimenez.
Now the government will be quick to respond that CSIS already has sufficient oversight in the form of the 30-year-old Security Intelligence Review Committee, but keep in mind that this is the same government that significantly reduced accountability in CSIS by eliminating the position of inspector general, the CSIS internal watch dog who reported directly to the minister each year on CSIS' record of complying with the law. Instead, this important function was transferred to SIRC, a part-time body of non-specialists, and that responsibility was transferred short of roughly $1 million of resources, which the Conservatives promptly booked as “savings”.
SIRC already has very important responsibilities, including investigating public complaints about the way CSIS deals with things like security clearances, their approval or revocation, which affects people's employment; dealing with public complaints about CSIS' exchange of information with foreign governments, and we know we have had problems where that exchange of information has led to mistreatment of Canadians abroad; and CSIS' functions in providing information in immigration and refugee cases.
The responsibility of the inspector general was added to the work SIRC was already doing, again, without the transfer of the full resources, and again, under the responsibility of a part-time, non-specialist committee.
In addition to the structural weaknesses of SIRC—as I mentioned, a part-time body of non-specialists—there are concerns about whether the Conservatives have taken SIRC seriously. It currently has only a temporary chair, and two of the five positions on the committee have been vacant for months. What was previously a serious consultation process, involving the opposition in appointments to SIRC, seems to have deteriorated to the point where we found SIRC was chaired by a patronage appointee, Arthur Porter, a former fundraiser for the Conservatives who is now facing fraud charges from a Panama prison.
Even with its current limitations, SIRC itself has tried to draw Parliament's attention and the attention of the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to the question of CSIS' accountability. In its recently tabled 2012-13 annual report, SIRC points to serious problems with CSIS in terms of accountability. SIRC reported serious delays in receiving information from CSIS, which impeded its investigations. SIRC even noted that CSIS had been less than forthright in its responses to questions from the accountability body.
The most serious concern raised in the 2012-13 annual report has to do with arming CSIS personnel in high-risk and dangerous operating environments abroad.
We know that CSIS did first have armed agents abroad in Afghanistan. From 2002 to 2007, they were trained by Canadian Forces, and special forces close protection units provided protection to CSIS agents in the most dangerous operations. As well, DFAIT provided diplomatic accreditation to protect those armed CSIS agents against local accountability
After 2007, CSIS launched its own firearms program with its own policies, training, and armed operational support teams. SIRC, in 2010, expressed concern about the expansion of the use of armed CSIS agents beyond Afghanistan and said that this should be done: “...only after...consultation with, and approval of, the Minister of Public Safety”.
SIRC raised significant concerns about the liability of CSIS staff who might be armed abroad under the criminal and civil law of a foreign jurisdiction. It also raised concerns about how a CSIS staff member, if found negligent in the use of firearms, could be dealt with under our domestic legal regime. Of course, it raised concerns about the possibilities of violations of international law and the sovereignty and laws of foreign governments.
I am not arguing that perhaps CSIS agents do not sometimes need to be armed, but what SIRC asked for was that a written justification be supplied to the minister explaining the legal authority permitting CSIS staff outside Afghanistan to be armed. In 2012-13, SIRC found it unacceptable that there was no record of any meetings or discussions between the CSIS director and the minister on this topic.
As Bill C-44 attempts to clarify CSIS' authority to operate abroad, the question of CSIS officers carrying weapons abroad becomes a critical policy question as well as a critical accountability question.
The SIRC report clearly states that CSIS needs to:
||...provide a full explanation of how the arming of some of its employees is consistent with CSIS’s policy framework, which is rooted in the premise that activities are lawful and authorized, necessary and proportionate, and represent an effective and efficient use of public resources.
This demonstrates the point I am trying to make about the clear necessity of strengthening accountability along with any expansion of CSIS powers.
Bill C-44 presents the House of Commons with its first test of whether any new legislation on national security in the current climate will conform to Canadian values. This would require that the legislation aim to protect both public safety and civil liberties at the same time. The question should not be whether there will be some new balance where we give up some portion of our liberties for security, which unfortunately seems to be the position of both the Conservatives and the Liberals on this important question. Instead, Canadians expect us to take on the tougher task of protecting both freedom and security in a climate where extremists of all kinds are attacking the essence of our free and open society.
Equally unfortunate is the tendency to act as if legislation is the government's only tool. As the old saying goes, “If you only have a hammer, then everything looks like a nail”. The New Democrats will continue to urge the Conservative government to take a broader view. We will urge the government to examine whether the tools it already has are being used effectively. We will urge the government to skip its clever rhetoric about a mythical 30% increase in public safety budgets and ask serious questions about the impacts of three consecutive years of cuts on national security. We will ask the government to engage in a dialogue with Canadians from all communities on how else, other than legislation, we can respond to these new national security threats.
Above all, we are asking the government to consider what we can do together as a nation to respond to the need to protect both public safety and civil liberties.
I look forward to the debate we will have when we get to committee, but as I said, we have many serious questions to ask the government and we hope we will be given time to bring forward the expert witnesses we need at committee to have a full debate, as these are important questions to national security in Canada.
We have seen an unfortunate tendency in the public safety committee to limit the number of witnesses who appear, to limit the debate, and to limit the discussion of any necessary amendments. We will be asking tough questions about accountability because, as has been the theme of my remarks today, we believe that if there is a need for an expansion of powers for agencies like CSIS, then we must ensure that we have adequate accountability measures in place to protect civil liberties.
As I see my time is drawing to a close, I want to thank the minister for providing a briefing on this legislation for the opposition. It was quite a useful briefing, although I have to say it seems it is the first time we received such a briefing. I hope it indicates a new spirit of co-operation on any legislation coming forward in the future, because we have to make sure we get this right. Things that affect national security and civil liberties go to the very heart of who we are as Canadians.
Once again, New Democrats ask the government to consider very seriously not asking Canadians to give up some civil liberties for security, but consider how we can protect both civil liberties and public safety and keep this the nation that we all treasure so much.
Hon. Wayne Easter (Malpeque, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-44, an act to amend the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and other acts. It is a bill the government really had to introduce following two adverse court rulings on the activities of CSIS.
In beginning, I want to just spin off a little of that last question and answer. I would speak directly to the minister. I would hope, in this instance, given the concern about the balance between national security and civil liberties, that the minister would push the committee to allow a full list of witnesses, not the kind of stacked list we get sometimes from the Conservatives, and a full hearing, an in-depth hearing, so the committee can do its proper job and come back with the best legislation possible. I support the point raised a moment ago by my colleagues.
There are some serious questions related to the provisions in Bill C-44 that need to be raised when the bill is before committee, and we intend to raise those questions and those concerns at that time.
The Liberal Party will be supporting this bill going to committee. However, I hope that the committee is really allowed to do its job and get in the proper expert witnesses and have the proper balance so that we can come back with the best legislation possible.
We have to look not just at this bill but at CSIS and its connections to the RCMP, CSEC, Canada Border Services Agency, and our allies we work with abroad.
There are three points I would like to raise specifically on this issue and this bill. One is tools. The minister is suggesting that this bill provides more tools, but there are really not many.
The second area is resources, the financial, human, and technological resources, for CSIS to do its job.
The third area is oversight and the need for proper oversight, and not of just CSIS. We have after-the-fact oversight, but there really needs to be parliamentary oversight of all our national security agencies. I will talk about that in a moment.
Before looking at the specific provisions in Bill C-44, it is necessary to place on the record our concern about the government's response to the terrorist threat to Canada and from within Canada. I would begin by asking the government a direct question. Why is it that the legislation currently in place, the provisions in the Criminal Code, some of which were put forward by the government in the Combating Terrorism Act, have not been utilized?
On October 27, in the House, the Minister of Public Safety admitted that the response of his office and his government to the threat represented by homegrown terrorists was not quite what it should be. According to the minister at that time, it is “time we stop under-reacting to the great threats against us.”
Yet the government still fails to act. I submit that it possesses the necessary tools to react. In fact, under section 83.181 of the Criminal Code, there is all kinds of authority for anyone who “leaves or attempts to leave Canada” for the purpose of participating in any activity of a terrorist group outside Canada.
There are four different sections there. The penalties are maximum terms in prison of 10 to 14 years, depending on the severity of the act.
The Minister of Justice stated publicly last week that the laws currently in place to combat a terrorist threat are “robust measures” that provide the police with the tools necessary to take action in response to a terrorist threat. The minister specifically referred to sections 83.3 and 810 of the Criminal Code, either of which would enable authorities to detain individuals under the provisions of a peace bond and could impose specific recognizance on individuals. In other words, action to limit certain individuals from taking action could be imposed. I ask the minister why those provisions have not been utilized.
The Minister of Public Safety has to this day failed to clarify a statement made before the public safety committee on October 8 with respect to the 80 individuals who returned to Canada after travelling abroad to take part in terrorist-related activities. He stated:
|| Let me be clear that these individuals posing a threat to our security at home have violated Canadian law....These dangerous individuals, some skilled and desiring to commit terrorist activity, pose a serious threat to law-abiding Canadians.
The minister also reconfirmed the following at committee:
||...leaving or attempting to leave Canada to participate in terrorist activities is now a criminal offence.
The minister is quite correct on those points. There is authority under the Criminal Code to act. I have to again ask the question: Why has the government not acted with those authorities that are already there? Those authorities would not be changed in this particular legislation, other than confirming in law what CSIS already does.
I ask why section 83.181, which states that “Everyone who leaves or attempts to leave Canada” for terrorist acts abroad, is not being applied. It certainly was not in the case of the individual involved in the murder of the Canadian Forces member in Quebec earlier this month. According to public information, that individual had his passport revoked on the grounds of attempting to travel to Syria or Iraq to join known listed terrorist entities.
According to testimony by the Commissioner of the RCMP to the Senate national security committee on October 27, this individual was known to authorities to have intended to use his passport to leave Canada for Syria or Iraq to participate in “jihad”, yet the commissioner confirmed that the evidence the authorities had of this intent, while enough to have his passport revoked, was not enough to lay a charge. I ask the minister, and maybe he can answer this at committee, whether this bill will correct that shortcoming. I personally do not see it in the legislation, but I would ask the minister and his staff to come prepared to answer that question. Would this legislation correct that shortcoming the RCMP Commissioner seems to have outlined? We really do not know as yet, because the minister has not been specific on that point.
A great deal has been said by members of the government with respect to the provisions of the Combating Terrorism Act, which came into force in 2013. According to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety, one individual has been charged under the provisions of the Combating Terrorism Act. The minister confirmed, as well, when he testified before the public safety committee on October 8, that only a single individual has been charged under the Combating Terrorism Act.
However, what neither the minister nor the parliamentary secretary bothered to tell Canadians was that the single individual charged had left Canada six months prior to the charges being laid, and that individual's whereabouts are still unknown.
Could one of the reasons these provisions in the Criminal Code have not been acted upon be the limited resources available to our security and intelligence services? That was mentioned in a previous speech. What good are legal sanctions if our security agencies cannot utilize them? If the reason is that the current government has been starving those agencies' critical resources, who is responsible for the security failure?
I would submit that in many things that the current government has been doing in the last two years, it has been blindly focused. Good government requires it to provide services, security, and financial resources, and yes, it has to establish priorities. However, part of the problem with the current government is it is blindly focused on getting as huge a surplus as possible so it can throw out election goodies. Is part of the cost of doing that starving CSIS and the RCMP of the funds necessary to do their job? I really do not know, but it looks that way. Good government cannot be blindly focused just on achieving a surplus to provide goodies at the next election; it has to be focused on the needs and the services of Canadians. I see that as a problem.
There is another issue beyond this bill that the government must respond to, something that does not require legislation but requires the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness simply to do the job assigned to him. The most recent annual report of the Security and Intelligence Review Committee, the only oversight body for CSIS, raised a number of troubling concerns. The Commissioner of the RCMP told the Senate national security committee on October 27 that there were now 93 individuals identified as high-risk travellers. The director of CSIS informed the public safety committee on October 8 that there were 80 individuals who have returned to Canada after having engaged in terrorist activities abroad, and CSIS knows where they are.
The problem there is that in terms of the RCMP doing its job, Commissioner Paulson said before a committee:
||...we are reallocating the necessary funds and personnel from other priority areas to combat this threat. In recent months, and over the past week, over 300 additional resources were transferred in to enhance the capacity of INSET [Integrated National Security Enforcement Teams] from other federal policing priority areas such as organized crime and financial crime.
That tells me that the RCMP is indeed short of resources.
The deputy director of CSIS told the same committee on October 20:
||...we work within the budget that is assigned to us. We do have to prioritize.
|| I would be foolhardy to say we have all the bases covered. We do what we can with the budget we have, sir.
There are clearly some concerns over financing.
There is another problem that the minister can deal with as well, and that is the operational mandate within CSIS. The most recent SIRC report, entitled “Lifting the Shroud of Secrecy: Thirty Years of Security Intelligence Accountability”, the annual report for 2013-14, said the following on page 16:
|| With surveillance teams spread across Canada all sharing identical job functions, SIRC expected to see solid communication among surveillance practitioners. Instead, SIRC found that, for the most part, regional surveillance teams operate in total isolation from one another and communicate only sporadically with their HQ counterparts.
That is worrisome, because if CSIS is not communicating properly within regions and between regions and headquarters, there is a serious problem. That is something that the minister can deal with.
The other point in the report that I just mentioned—and I am pretty sure that the minister knows this—is that at page 19, SIRC also found that with respect to the activities of CSIS:
||...the Minister of Public Safety is not always systematically advised of such activities, nor is he informed of them in a consistent manner.
Those are two areas the minister can deal with without needing a bill. The minister just needs to ensure that the job is getting done within his own department.
The government has placed within Bill C-44 the enactment provisions of Bill C-24, which the minister talked about earlier. Bill C-24 would revoke the citizenship of dual nationals. We are concerned about that. The minister said in his remarks that it is included so as to enact that section faster. In an earlier question for the minister I said, and I will say again, that it is not enough to have something in legislation; it has to stand up to the courts. Some of us are concerned that this section just may not do that.
If the government, RCMP, CSIS, and other authorities are spending a lot of time on that particular area of taking away dual citizens' citizenship, it needs to be time well spent. I asked the minister to provide legal opinion to the committee to show that it is, in fact, charter-proof.
In an earlier question to the minister, I also raised the point that there is fairly strong wording in this particular bill. Subclause 8(2) reads:
|| Without regard to any other law, including that of any foreign state, a judge may, in a warrant...authorize activities outside Canada to enable the Service to investigate a threat to the security of Canada.
This would basically allow for a warrant to be issued to allow agents to break the law in a foreign country. We have checked the wording extensively, and similar wording is not found in the relevant legislation of our Five Eyes counterparts. I ask the minister why we need that specific wording when other countries do not, and I hope he could report the answer to committee,
An important part of the legislation deals with protecting our sources and informants abroad. At committee we would want to have more specific information on that aspect and know how it would be accomplished. I look forward to the government providing that information to the committee.
I will move on to the last point that I would like to make. I said first of all that I would deal with tools, resources, and oversight. One of the major shortcomings of this bill is the fact that the government did not bring accompanying legislation to provide proper parliamentary oversight to all of our national security agencies in Canada, as is done by all of our Five Eyes counterparts.
My colleague, the member for Vancouver Quadra, has a private member's bill, Bill C-622, as one option that the government could consider. I have a private member's bill, Bill C-551, which could be considered.
To find the balance between national security, civil liberties, and individual rights and freedoms in Canada, the government should be bringing in accompanying legislation that provides that parliamentary oversight. On the one hand, it would ensure that the agencies are doing their jobs, and on the other, it would ensure they are not going too far and violating the civil liberties of Canadians.
Hon. Chris Alexander (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to discuss this very important piece of legislation, legislation that is timely, that is consequential, that will help the House and this government uphold its principle duty to Canadians, which is to ensure their safety and to protect them from threats that we know to be all too real.
The protection of Canada from terrorists act gives our security agencies the vital tools they need to keep Canadians safe. So far in the debate, we are pleased to see the emerging recognition from parties opposite that these tools are needed, that they are part of our national response to the threat of terrorism and that it is time we took action to make sure that the agencies on which we rely to carry out that duty on behalf of government, on behalf of our democratic institutions, have these tools available to undertake the reasonable activity required to, once again, keep Canada and Canadians safe.
Before I begin my remarks on the substance of the legislation, let me remind us all once again why these measures, which were contemplated long before the attacks of last month, are doubly warranted and doubly relevant given the events that occurred at the National War Memorial and in our Hall of Honour just steps from where we are today.
Those events are a reminder that ISIL and other terrorist groups are a very real threat to Canadians. That is why we are taking part in air strikes against ISIL this week. That is why we are supporting the security forces of Iraq in their fight against the scourge of terrorism. All of these measures go together to ensure that Canada and Canadians are kept safe, that we work in concert with allies and partners in NATO and in the region to ensure that this threat that is principally victimizing the people of Iraq and Syria does not become an even greater threat to them or to our population further afield.
It is also the reason why we are working with great determination to strengthen the tools, to strengthen the effectiveness of the tools already available to police, to the intelligence community in the areas of surveillance, detention and arrest. The legislation before us today is just the first step in our efforts to do that and as the Prime Minister has been clear, so are we all clear on this side of the House that we will not overreact to these events. We will not be intimidated by ISIL or any other group, but at the same time, Canadians want us to stop under-reacting to a threat that is indeed very real.
Section 83 of the Criminal Code of Canada defines terrorist activity as an act committed for a political, religious or ideological purpose with the intention of intimidating the public and that intentionally causes death or serious bodily harm to a person by the use of violence or disrupts an essential service, facility or system.
Given that definition, I think we can all agree that last week in late October, Canada was a victim of terrorist attacks. This was the view confirmed in the immediate aftermath of those attacks by Bob Paulson, Commissioner of the RCMP. It was shared by the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry during his visit shortly after the attacks. He said, “...anybody who walks up in a premeditated way with a loaded rifle and attacks someone in uniform then purposely goes to a parliament, is committing, by common sense standards, a terrorist act”.
Unfortunately, we still have the leader of the NDP on record disagreeing with this assessment, despite the fact that it was reinforced yesterday by another important visitor to Canada.
The President of the French Republic had no doubt about the nature of the terrorist attacks two weeks ago. We agree with him and are grateful for the show of solidarity from France, other European allies, the U.S., and dozens of other countries that recognize that the acts committed here in Ottawa two weeks ago were related to terrorism.
I would like to quote a recent Toronto Star editorial on the leader of the NDP's position. It states:
|| Most people grasp it instinctively—what occurred last week and the ongoing risks in our midst. That NDP Leader Tom Mulcair cannot admit this, even now, drawing an irrational, pedantic distinction between the deadly attack in Ottawa and a terrorist assault, reflects abysmally on his judgment and aspirations of political statesmanship.
That is a strong statement coming from a newspaper that I, for one, do not often quote in this place. I think it speaks for itself.
Ambiguities in the CSIS Act have been impeding the ability of our national security agencies to investigate threats to the security of Canada. The bill would address these problems by confirming that CSIS has the authority to conduct investigations outside of Canada, confirming that the Federal Court can issue warrants for CSIS to investigate targets outside of this country, giving the Federal Court the authority to consider only relevant Canadian laws when issuing warrants for CSIS, and creating automatic protections of the identities of CSIS employees who may engage in clandestine operations.
The bill would also make technical amendments that would allow our government to seek quicker implementation of the new citizenship revocation provisions under the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, the former Bill C-24, which received royal assent earlier this year on June 19. While it is important to ensure that citizenship revocation provisions come into force as soon as possible, the pith and substance, the main motive for the legislation, relates to our national security agencies.
Let me remind the House that there are three challenges being met. The first is to clarify that for greater certainty CSIS may perform its duties and functions within or outside of Canada. It has been doing this since its foundation, but as we all know, there has been an inability, particularly in recent months, for it to fully execute those functions outside of Canada to the degree required by its mandate to counter threats to Canada, above all, the threat of terrorism.
It would also clarify that the courts may issue warrants for certain investigative activities within or outside Canada and for that purpose, warrants may be issued without regard to the law of a foreign state. In other words, these warrants would be in full conformity to Canadian law, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, all aspects of our legal system, but not necessarily with regard to the law of a foreign state.
Second, the legislation would create a statutory prohibition on disclosure of identities or information from which identities could be inferred of individuals who provide CSIS with information in return for a promise of confidentiality. In other words, we need to ensure in this day and age that those in a position to provide the most sensitive information, the most time-sensitive information, information of the highest delicacy, can do so safely and have their identities protected under our legal system.
Third, the CSIS Act makes it an offence to disclose the identities of CSIS employees who are or were engaged in covert operational activities. The legislation would expand this protection to also cover CSIS employees who are likely to become engaged in such activities, making it possible for those recruited to do these jobs, being trained to do these jobs, being retasked to do these jobs, to have their identities protected as well.
All of these changes, as I think the House now understands, are vital to the protection of our national security. They would help stop individuals from travelling for terrorist purposes, especially given recent global events. Our government remains seized, like dozens of other governments around the world, with the issue of foreign fighters, individuals from Canada, from our European partners, from the United States, from the Middle East itself, travelling to places such as Iraq, Syria, Somalia or Pakistan, which is still well known, unfortunately, as a training ground for Sunni extremist terrorist groups, to engage in terrorist activities.
These individuals often pose a direct danger to the countries where they are operating. Any country that has experienced terrorist violence on a large scale, as is the case, obviously, for Iraq and Syria, but also for Pakistan, Somalia, Libya, many countries of the Maghreb and even sub-Saharan Africa, fall into this category. They, too, have the threat of terrorist training, recruiting, financing of terrorist activities in their territory and of foreign fighters flowing into their borders to join those training efforts and that fight.
This bill would update the CSIS Act to allow our intelligence community to operate and investigate threats to Canadian national security much better. It would clarify the investigative functions under sections 12 and 15 of the CSIS Act within or outside of Canada.
Keep in mind that section 12 already authorizes CSIS to investigate threats to Canada's security, and terrorism is very high if not continuously at the top of the list in terms of those threats.
Section 15 relates to the security assessments that CSIS performs for departments like mine to allow us to take responsible decisions about visa issuance and to prevent foreign fighters, terrorist kingpins, those who have been involved in terrorist violence or committed atrocities abroad from coming to Canada either as visitors or permanent residents.
The bill would also clarify that the courts may issue warrants for investigative activities, once again, within or outside Canada but without regard to the law of a foreign state.
Indeed, if there is one central advantage to this proposed legislation, strength in this legislation, it is that it will help our government meet its security priority of securing convictions for those who engage in terrorist activity. This is the solution to the global phenomenon of terrorism. These people and groups need to be fought, as we are fighting them in Iraq, but they also need to be brought to justice not only in Canada but in all the states where these crimes are committed.
As members know, in May 2014, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the constitutionality of the security certificate process in a decision on the case of Mohamed Harkat. This helped to show that we could gather evidence in a way that would allow it to be used in court proceedings without compromising operations.
However, as part of this decision, the Supreme Court also found that, unlike police informers, the identity of CSIS sources were not automatically protected from disclosure. CSIS obviously relies heavily on such information from human sources. Without such assurances, human sources may simply stop co-operating with CSIS, stop-co-operating with Canada, and we would operate blind and open ourselves to threats that we would have a duty to combat.
To address this issue, the bill would create a statutory prohibition on disclosure of the identities or information from which the identities could be inferred of individuals who provided CSIS with information in return for a promise of confidentiality.
As with all of our legislation, this act would continue to respect the Canadian values of individual rights and the rule of law. All of the investigative activities of CSIS must take place in accordance with its mandated authorities under the CSIS Act, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, ministerial direction and internal policy.
When threats demand more intrusive investigative measures, the service requires judicial authorization for each and every one of those activities. CSIS is also subject to a full review by the Security Intelligence Review Committee, which has access to all information held by the service.
We have heard the Liberals and others call for more oversight or review by parliamentary committees. However, the issue at hand today is not whether CSIS is carrying out its mandate in accordance with the law. There is no evidence of CSIS not having done that. Our supervisory process is working well in our view and in the view of independent third parties that assess that performance. The issue is whether CSIS has the mandate, the authority under the law to perform its mandate, which is to keep us safe from threats to our national security, including terrorism.
The bill would also speed up the process of implementing legislation to revoke citizenship of dual nationals engaged in terrorist activities or who would engage in combat against the Canadian Armed Forces.
I am struck, as the Minister of Immigration, by the contrast between the approach of the opposition parties to this issue in April/May of this year, when we debated Bill C-24, and their approach today, which seems to be much more accommodating of the idea that Canadian citizenship be allegiance to our institutions, the willingness to uphold our laws and fulfill one's duties as a Canadian citizen. This is incompatible with taking violent action to murder people or commit bodily harm in the name of an ideology or political agenda that seeks to intimidate the whole population. That is why we brought forward these measures to revoke citizenship in cases of gross acts of disloyalty. We are pleased to see support for this idea growing on the opposition benches.
These proposed provisions will also provide the Federal Court with the authority to revoke Canadian citizenship from dual citizens for membership in an armed force or organized armed group engaged in armed conflict with Canada. Today, that would include ISIS. It is both a terrorist group and an armed group engaged in conflict with our forces now in combat in Iraq.
These provisions would bring Canada in line with peer countries, such as Australia, the United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand and the vast majority or our allies in NATO and beyond, by providing that citizenship could be revoked under very strict conditions from dual nationals convicted of terrorism, high treason, spying offences or who take up arms against Canada.
This underscores our commitment to protecting the safety and security of Canadians, but also to promoting Canadian interests and values. They also reinforce the value of Canadian citizenship.
The amendments on the revocation of citizenship are merely technical. There is no cost to pursuing these amendments as a revocation decision-making model is more efficient and less costly to the government.
While we are adding grounds to revoke citizenship upon conviction of dual nations for terrorism, treason or espionage, we have long had the power, and the House has supported it, to prevent terrorists, criminals, those who would do harm to our country and those who embrace violent ideologies from becoming citizens. Indeed, if they acquire citizenship without disclosing a terrorist affiliation and that comes to light, we have had the power to revoke that citizenship on the basis of misrepresentation
Now we are simply adding a power to revoke on the basis of a terrorist conviction, a much more serious and much higher threshold of proof of terrorist activities, all of which hangs together very coherently. All of these provisions will work together to keep Canada safer.
Last, I would like to emphasis the oversight of our national security agencies. The security intelligence review committee provides a robust and comprehensive review of CSIS. The recent annual report shows, once again, the level of access it has to all aspects of CSIS operations. It plays a key role in ensuring our national security agencies are held fully and publicly to account. CSIS is reviewing the latest recommendations and will implement those that will keep Canada safe, while protecting the rights and privacy of Canadians.
I see my time is drawing close, and I would like to leave all members of the House with key points to consider before voting on this important legislation.
First, Canada is a beacon of freedom and opportunity in a turbulent and uncertain world, a world that in recent years has become more violent, especially in the Middle East and especially because of the escalating conflict in Iraq. For that very reason, those who despise freedom and democracy, those who reject modernity, who reject our way of life, who reject the very idea of the prosperity we have so painstakingly built in our country, want to cause harm and wreak havoc on Canada and Canadians.
I can say this first hand, as 40,000 of our fellow Canadians who served in Afghanistan can tell the House and all Canadians, that these threats are real. They were in control of Afghanistan before the fall of the Taliban. They remain all too present and dangerous a reality in Iraq and Syria today.
The threat of domestic terrorism is heightened to a point that we have not seen in many years. The bullet holes in the Hall of Honour stand as a sober reminder of this threat. In light of this reality, it is important we take the steps provided for in this bill as quickly as possible.
Second, it is important to remember that in doing so we will respect the Canadian values of individual rights under the rule of law, while ending the practice of under-reacting to the terrorist threat.
Our freedom and our commitment to the rule of law are not an either or choice and are not choices that are mutually exclusive. We choose to be free as Canadians and to work for freedom in the world by having a standard of the rule of law in our country that is second to none. These measures will help to keep it that way.
Ms. Rosane Doré Lefebvre (Alfred-Pellan, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I feel privileged to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-44, which was introduced by the Conservative government.
I would first like to say that I feel honoured to be able to participate in the Remembrance Day ceremonies to be held this weekend in Laval, which are being organized as part of a joint effort by the City of Laval and the Laval cadets and police force. It is extremely important for all parliamentarians to be present in their communities over the coming days for the Remembrance Day ceremonies.
Like every year, I will also be at Résidence Le Patrimoine on November 11 for a ceremony to honour our veterans, which is always very touching. We are lucky because a number of our World War II veterans live in that residence. Their presence makes the ceremony even more moving, and I am honoured to participate in it.
Last week, I participated in the ceremony held in Laval by the Correctional Service of Canada to pay tribute to correctional officers who died in the line of duty. This ceremony is always very emotional because the families are there and the correctional officers in attendance bring honour to the Correctional Service of Canada by extending their sympathy and showing their devotion to their deceased colleagues, whether they knew them or not.
I mentioned the Remembrance Day events because, as a result of the incidents that occurred on October 20 in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and on October 22 here in Parliament, which affected all of my colleagues from every party, we felt a certain sense of co-operation between the various parties.
In this spirit of co-operation, the official opposition decided to support Bill C-44 so that it can be examined more closely in committee. I will come back to the details of Bill C-44 and the reasons why we want to look at it in committee. It is important to hold a debate, not only here in the House, but also in committee to make sure that we come up with the best law possible. That is why it is important that the parties work together.
The events of October 20 and 22 deeply affected Canadians. We, as parliamentarians, witnessed them firsthand but we felt as though all Canadians were behind us. When the incident occurred in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu on October 20, we also felt that all Canadians were behind our Canadian Armed Forces.
Words cannot express my appreciation for and my feelings about the incredible work that the constables and the RCMP did.
Top of mind are Kevin Vickers and his team of constables here at the House of Commons who take care of our safety every day.
I am also thinking of Constable Alain Gervais, who single-handedly blocked the NDP caucus room doors to protect us. It was an act of heroism, but he did it just because it is his job. We are lucky that nothing happened to him even though a bullet headed straight for him was blocked by the second door. We cannot thank Alain Gervais enough for leaping up to keep us safe.
My thoughts are also with Constable Son, who was at the front door of the Parliament building and gained precious seconds for his colleagues by grabbing the hunting weapon carried by the individual who entered Parliament. Unfortunately, he was shot in the foot, but he gave RCMP officers and Parliament Hill staff a chance to react, which they did in spades.
We are now studying Bill C-44 against that backdrop. However, it is important to point out that this bill is not a response to the events that took place two weeks ago, even though we cannot help but think about such events when studying this kind of bill. This bill is not a new law; it makes changes to existing laws.
Most of the subjects covered in Bill C-44 have to do with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. We were supposed to debate this on October 22, so it had to be put off.
I would like to point out a few things about Bill C-44. Basically, it makes three important changes regarding the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and it is important to point them out here. First of all, it clarifies CSIS's legal authority to conduct security intelligence operations outside our borders in order to address threats to Canadian security. Second, it confirms the jurisdiction of the Federal Court to issue warrants that have effect outside Canada. Third, it ensures greater protection during legal proceedings for human sources that provide information to CSIS.
I would like to mention from the outset that we did have a briefing on Bill C-44. I would like to thank the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the parliamentary secretary who attended that briefing. It was very informative, as it was extremely important for us to have more details on this bill. I hope this practice will continue in the future, because in order for us, parliamentarians, to be able to do our jobs, it is absolutely crucial that we have all pertinent information from our colleagues, regardless of party affiliation. We very much appreciated it.
At the briefing, when we talked about the clarification regarding the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and its operations abroad, we were told that they would still be subject to current Canadian laws and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I thought it was important to emphasize this point.
I must say that I still have a lot of questions about CSIS and that is why I very much look forward to welcoming public safety experts at committee to discuss this case in particular. However, there are other so-called minor changes to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act. Among other things, they would help protect the identity of CSIS employees who are likely to conduct secret activities in future. For example, there is mention of future undercover agents. Currently, only the identity of employees who are engaged or were engaged in covert activities is protected.
There is an example. There is mention of future undercover agents, but there is also specific mention of employees likely to conduct covert activities in future. I have a lot of questions about that point in particular because the definition is quite broad. What exactly is meant by this? Does this simply mean people who are training to become undercover agents? Are we talking about a person who, in a year or two, depending on senior CSIS officials, might be a candidate for becoming an undercover agent? Is that all that is included? Could this apply to anyone at CSIS? I look forward to getting more clarification on this because I believe this is a rather important point to which we are not paying enough attention.
Nonetheless, it is very important for the people who are engaged in undercover activities to be protected and I would like us to pay attention to that. I do not think that any party in this House is against that idea. It is important to say that.
There is another surprise in this bill. This may be a five- or six-page bill—I hope I have this right—but unfortunately it still is an omnibus bill. It is true that most of the things we are legislating in Bill C-44 have to do with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, but there is a small item that amends the Citizenship Act to fast-track the revocation of Canadian citizenship in the case of dual citizens who are linked to terrorist activities and other serious offences, as provided for in Bill C-24, which received royal assent on June 19, 2014.
I really do not understand why that provision is in this bill. We tried to obtain more information at the briefing, but, unfortunately, we were unable to determine exactly what the link is between CSIS and Bill C-24, which was passed. I hope that the government will respond and explain why it wants to include that provision in Bill C-44. I would also like to see the bill go to committee and have experts tell us what the inclusion of this provision in Bill C-44 will bring to CSIS.
I listened to the speech by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. I agree with him on several points, but not on how we should do things. He spoke about radicalization in Canada, and that is a very important point. As parliamentarians, we must ensure not only that we have the appropriate tools in place, but also that we have the people required to counter radicalization in Canada. That is what we have been asking for on this side of the house for several months. Today, the government seems to be more open-minded about that. I am very pleased to hear it.
The minister talked about preventing threats and responding to them. Once again, this is consistent with efforts to combat radicalization within the country. I am eager to see what he will propose here, because he talked about other measures. What are these other measures? There are a lot of questions about this. We have heard a lot about tools to combat radicalization or to combat terrorism, but what exactly does that mean? Do the RCMP and CSIS, for example, or still the Canada Border Services Agency, need more tools and personnel?
This brings me to a topic that may be a sore spot for my colleagues. We do not seem to agree on some aspects of the budget, and I want to mention that in my speech. One aspect concerns the cuts being made to Public Safety Canada, which affect the Canada Border Services Agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. We are very worried about this because these cuts will affect many things, including the Correctional Service of Canada and the budgets of our police forces in Quebec, for example for the Eclipse squad, which works to combat street gangs. However, that is a whole other subject and I will focus on the cuts in the first three cases I mentioned.
Why is this important? Because those cuts had an impact on very real jobs. In 2012, the government announced $143 million in cuts to the Canada Border Services Agency alone. Unfortunately, when there are cutbacks of that magnitude, jobs have to be cut somewhere. Of course, personnel can be shuffled, but at some point there is no wiggle room left and something has to give.
Unfortunately, the Canada Border Services Agency had to eliminate about 100 positions. It should be noted that those 100 jobs were part of the agency's intelligence service. Those employees shared important information with our various international allies, and that included information about allegedly radicalized individuals who were travelling abroad. It is crucial work. There is talk of radicalization, and Conservative government ministers are talking about preventing people from fighting overseas and revoking passports. If there are no people to use those tools—as the individuals in those 100 abolished positions would have done—it is a very serious issue. We need to act on this. If there is talk of reinstating those positions, I will be more than happy to hear what the Conservative government has to say.
The RCMP's budget was cut by approximately $200 million, $195.2 million to be exact.
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service lost about $25 million, and the inspector general's office, which was so important for overseeing what was going on, was also abolished. There is a lot of talk about security in relation to civil liberties, but they abolished this CSIS office. That is extremely sad.
Unfortunately, at the Border Services Agency, they eliminated 19 teams of detector dogs, sniffer dogs that find weapons and drugs at our borders, for example. Nineteen of those positions were eliminated. That is extremely important.
Canine units came to Parliament Hill during the events of October 22. They were among the first to arrive, right after the RCMP and the constables. The canine unit was mobilized. If the government cuts 19 canine unit positions from our Border Services Agency, that will surely have an impact on the services provided and our public safety and national security. That is an extremely important point.
One other thing really caught my attention, and I really want to talk about it in the House today. The Department of Public Safety released what is called a report on plans and priorities for 2013-14, which announced cuts, particularly in the area of public safety. I would like to read part of it, if I may.
The department itself stated as one of its risks:
|| That the Government Operations Centre (GOC) infrastructure may be unable to support a coordinated response to large-scale or multiple significant events affecting the national interest
That is extremely serious, and according to the report, it is directly related to the cuts to public safety and national security. I hope that the Conservative government will take the time to read that report. It is rather disturbing that it makes a direct correlation between the cuts to public safety and something that could endanger our national security and the fact that we would not likely be capable of responding to multiple attacks or a large-scale generalized attack on our country. I believe that we need to consider that.
I would also like to mention a few other little things. As I indicated at the beginning of my speech, we are starting from the premise that everyone wants to work together to ensure that we have the best laws possible. What is more, we want to ensure that the committee does the necessary work and does it properly. I understand that these laws need to be implemented and that we cannot wait forever. However, we need to get the advice of experts on this bill because it raises a lot of unanswered questions. Given that the bill amends a few laws, the people who will be using this legislation need to tell us what impact those changes will have on their work.
I also sincerely hope that the members of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security from different parties will be able to work together in a spirit of co-operation. When it comes to national security, as is the case here, there is no room for partisanship. It is extremely important that we work together and do our job as effectively as possible in committee.
I can assure the House that I will be happy to work with all of the parties represented on the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security to make the best laws possible. That has always been the case, but I will take that job even more seriously when it comes to Bill C-44.
In this spirit of co-operation, I sincerely hope that the Conservative government will not move any time allocation motions regarding this bill. I just wanted to mention that.
It is important to point out that we still have many unanswered questions. We want the parties to co-operate in order to make sure that we have the best laws possible. We support this bill at second reading but there are still a lot of grey areas.
In closing, I would like to mention that it is very important to strike a balance between public safety and civil liberties.
That being said, I still have a lot of things I would like to say about this.
Mr. Robert Sopuck (Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Edmonton Centre.
It is a great privilege for me to stand today to speak to Bill C-44, the protection of Canada from terrorists act. As we have heard in these debates, the bill includes amendments to the CSIS Act and technical amendments to the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act. My remarks today will focus on the amendments to the CSIS Act and why we must take steps to give this vital agency the tools it needs to conduct investigations outside of Canada related to threats to the security of Canada itself.
First, I would like to speak to the global terrorist threat, its impact here at home, and the steps Canada is taking to address that threat. Acts of terror and murder have been carried out across the globe by extremist groups that have no regard for the lives of innocent people. In fact, as we all witnessed in the past weeks, Canada was a victim of two terrorist attacks within the span of one week. Due to radical Islamist terrorism, we lost two fine soldiers, Corporal Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, who was laid to rest this past weekend.
Terrorists kill people from all walks of life, including people from communities they claim to represent. Significant work has been done over the last decade, particularly since September 11, 2001, to counter terrorist activities. Canada has been a leader in global counterterrorism efforts. We have seen citizens and civil society organizations representing people of all faiths and beliefs work among themselves and with our government to prevent terrorism by building stronger and more resilient communities.
All of these measures are captured within the four pillars of Canada's counterterrorism strategy: prevent, detect, deny and respond. That strategy will serve us well on the difficult road we face ahead as our Canadian Armed Forces engage in a campaign to degrade and destroy the threat that ISIL poses to western civilization, and it is a threat to western civilization.
Indeed, our security agencies have been monitoring groups such as al Qaeda and ISIL closely for years and we have taken concrete measures to disrupt and prevent violent and extremist activities. This takes a comprehensive approach. While we join our allies in air strikes, we are also taking other measures that are working to isolate ISIL and deny it and its partners resources, including funds and new recruits. Let me explain.
As we know, terrorists need money, media access, weapons and explosives, among other resources, to sustain themselves. We want to make sure that all groups that would assist terrorist organizations are restricted from doing so. Preventing terrorists from using the global financial system to commit their acts of terror is essential to help suppress these groups. Therefore, we have certain provisions under the Criminal Code that we can use to deal with the assets and operations of groups that support terrorist activities.
Listing an entity under the Criminal Code is a public means of identifying a group or individual as being associated with terrorism. It carries significant consequences. Once listed, an entity's assets are frozen and may be subject to seizure, restraint or forfeiture. Further, it is an offence for Canadians at home or abroad to knowingly participate in or contribute to, directly or indirectly, any activity that facilitates the activities of a listed terrorist entity.
We know that terrorist groups are inspiring some westerners to take up arms with their cause. In order to reach these individuals and guard against these tactics, we work closely with diverse communities, including through the cross-cultural round table on security. We are working with leaders and communities right across the country to help engage Canadians in a long-term dialogue on matters related to national security, particularly in countering violent extremism.
Through the round table, we have reached out to hundreds of respected cultural and religious leaders who have their fingers on the pulses of their communities. These leaders have been integral in helping law enforcement and security agencies address threats and identify the best ways to reach individuals who may be leaning toward violent behaviour and to redirect them from pathways of radicalization leading to violence. However, the rapid changes in technology, the ease of communications, and mobility of terrorist travellers have created new and complex challenges for Canada and all of our allies as we work to keep our citizens safe.
As in other countries, despite everyone's best efforts, a small but significant number of individuals have left Canada to join terrorist groups in the Middle East. Denying ISIL its new recruits also means using Canadian law to crack down on these so-called extremist travellers. We brought forward the Combating Terrorism Act to make it an offence to leave Canada to take part in terrorist acts. We have laws in place to revoke the passports of Canadians who travel abroad to join extremist groups.
Both the Prime Minister and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness have stated clearly that our government will continue to look at ways to help our national security agencies investigate and track the activities of terrorists at our borders and beyond. One of these ways is the legislation that is before us today to amend the existing CSIS Act so that we are better able to provide CSIS with the tools it needs to investigate threats to the security of Canada, wherever they occur, and ultimately to protect the security of Canadians.
It is important to note that the CSIS Act was created three decades ago. That was in the age of rotary phones, when our world was under the shadow of the Cold War. This act is in need of updates and upgrades that would confirm CSIS' authority to investigate Canadian extremists and other threats abroad. That is why I urge the House to support the bill that is before us today.
The protection of Canada from terrorists act would confirm that CSIS has the authority to operate outside Canada when investigating threats to the security of Canada or conducting investigations for the purpose of security assessments, and that the Federal Court has the authority to issue warrants authorizing CSIS to conduct activities outside of Canada without regard to the laws of other states. This new legislation would also reinforce CSIS' statutory authority to investigate threats abroad and to ensure that judges would only need to consider relevant Canadian law, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the CSIS Act, and not foreign laws when issuing a warrant.
Clearly there are a number of ways our government protects the safety and security of Canada against terrorism, but first we must ensure that we have the right tools in place for our security intelligence agency to do so. There is no time to waste. We must amend the CSIS Act and allow this vital agency to continue its work. I urge members of the House to join me in supporting the bill.
Hon. Laurie Hawn (Edmonton Centre, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in favour of Bill C-44, the protection of Canada from terrorists act. The legislation is both necessary and timely.
As members know, this House recently expressed its support of the government's decision to join the alliance to strike at the heart of Daesh, or as it is most commonly called, ISIL or ISIS. However, there are many other ways that the Government of Canada addresses terrorism at home and abroad.
The proposed legislation includes two distinct elements that work together toward one common goal, that of keeping Canadians and Canadian interests safe from the threat of terrorism.
First, the legislation includes amendments to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act, and this act is three decades old. Since that time, through its analysis, assessment, and intelligence work, CSIS has helped to protect our country from a wide variety of threats. In the process, it has become a central player in Canada's national security system and a respected member of the international intelligence community.
However, the nature of these threats has evolved dramatically since the 1980s. The 2014 public report on the terrorist threat to Canada makes it clear that we can never take our safety and security for granted. Around the world, there were more than 9,700 terrorist incidents in 93 countries reported in 2013 alone. More than half of those occurred in Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
That said, Canadians should not think that our country is immune to the scourge of terrorism. In fact, as we all know only too well, just steps from where we stand today we witnessed a horrific terrorist attack that cost a young Canadian Armed Forces member his life at the hands of a radicalized violent extremist. That cowardly act was preceded two days earlier by another senseless attack by a radicalized extremist, one that claimed the life of another member of the Canadian Armed Forces.
Indeed, the legislation we are debating today is designed to address a disturbing trend: the involvement of Canadians who travel abroad to get involved with terror-related activities. These so-called extremist travellers pose a threat not only to innocent people in foreign countries but to Canadian citizens as well, because those travellers who survive their adventures in foreign countries often return armed with more tools to engage in violence and to spread hate here at home.
Fighting terrorism and violent extremism requires the concerted efforts of many players on many different levels. One way to prevent violent extremism is to build good will and trust between law enforcement and Canadian communities. Another way is to improve how we gather intelligence, and that is why we are proposing changes to the CSIS act.
A measure in the protection of Canada from terrorists act is to specifically confirm that CSIS has the authority to conduct investigations outside of Canada related to threats to the security of Canada and security assessments.
Another key measure in the act would clarify the jurisdiction of the Federal Court to issue warrants authorizing CSIS to undertake certain intrusive activities outside of Canada. To enable CSIS to properly investigate threats outside of Canada, we are proposing amendments that would clarify that the Federal Court need only consider relevant Canadian laws, namely the CSIS act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, when it is determining if a warrant is required.
A third important measure of the bill would protect the identity of human sources. As members know, the confidentiality of police informants is protected by common law. However, while this has long been the practice in the law enforcement context, the Supreme Court of Canada recently ruled that the protection afforded to police informants does not extend to CSIS' human sources. At the same time, there are no provisions in the CSIS act to protect people who provide vital information related to a threat to Canada's national security. Bill C-44 would include protection for CSIS' human sources during legal proceedings. This protection would be consistent with Canadian law.
In doing so, the protection could be challenged under two conditions: if the protection does not apply to the person or information in question, or if the information is needed for a criminal trial to demonstrate the innocence of the accused.
While it is vital to CSIS to protect human sources, it is equally important for the service to protect its employees. Existing legislation protects the identities of CSIS employees who are or have been involved in covert operations. It does not, however, protect employees who are training to be engaged in covert activity. This is a small but essential gap that must be filled. The legislation before us proposes to protect the identity of all CSIS employees who have been, are, or are likely to be involved in covert activities.
I will turn now to the second part of this proposed legislation, which relates to Canadian citizenship.
Revocation is an important tool to safeguard the value of Canadian citizenship and to protect the integrity of the citizenship program.
The proposed technical amendments would allow our government to proceed with quicker implementation of the new revocation provisions under the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, which received royal assent June 19, 2014.
A number of the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act provisions have already come into force. Based on how the coming into force provisions of that act are written, the majority of the remaining provisions are required to come into force at the same time.
With these technical amendments, we can move ahead with doing what is necessary to protect our country and ensure the safety and security of Canadians by enabling early implementation of provisions related to citizenship revocation. These provisions expand the grounds for revocation of Canadian citizenship and establish a streamlined decision-making process for revocation.
The new provisions would enable the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to recommend to Treasury Board the revocation of Canadian citizenship from dual citizens who are convicted of a terrorism, high treason, treason, or spying offence, depending on the sentence.
They would also provide the Federal Court with the authority to revoke Canadian citizenship from dual citizens for membership in an armed force or organized armed group engaged in armed conflict with Canada.
The revocation provisions underscore our government's commitment to protecting the safety and security of Canadians and promoting Canadian interests and values. They also reinforce the value of Canadian citizenship.
These technical amendments would also allow for faster implementation of other supporting provisions, including those related to renunciation, resumption, prohibitions, regulatory authorities, changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, and the delegation of authority provision for the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.
This earlier implementation would help better protect the safety and security of Canadians.
The provisions contained in this bill are critical to Canadian safety. We must move swiftly to strengthen our citizenship program and remove any questions about CSIS' ability to conduct investigations outside of Canada, as well as the authority of the Federal Court to issue warrants authorizing CSIS to undertake certain intrusive activities outside of Canada.
It is imperative that we stop this outmoded mindset of underreacting to the terrorist threat.
There are other aspects to the challenge that we face writ large. We all know that a minority of violent extremists from any religious or other group should not cause us to discriminate against the majority.
We need to find ways to work together to prevent radicalization, to nip it in the bud where possible, and to deal with it firmly and swiftly when necessary.
I would point to the Phoenix Multi-Faith Society for Harmony, a non-profit organization founded in Edmonton and dedicated to the promotion of interfaith co-operation.
Its objectives are to create a forum through which dialogue and discussion can take place, with a view to facilitating understanding and respect for all faiths; to seek continued peaceful co-existence and positive relations, through open communication, interfaith dialogue, education, and participation across our communities; and to carry out initiatives to address negative stereotyping, hatred, bias, and prejudice.
The Phoenix Society is an excellent example of a community initiative, but despite its best efforts, it will not stop all radicalization.
I believe that the majority of members of any religious or other group are peaceful and law-abiding. I also believe that unless the majority takes action to control the violent minority within its ranks and actively co-operate with security authorities, then we will continue to face growing threats from within.
There are many historical examples of peaceful majorities being led into extremely violent international actions by obsessed leaders with murderous and illegitimate intent.
Canada has a heart and a soul. The heart of Canada is our freedom and our democracy. That is represented in no better place than this House.
A week and a half or so ago, our heart was attacked and wounded, but it certainly was not killed. In fact, our heart will continue stronger than ever before.
Canada has a soul. That soul is embodied in the kind of people who make the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms, to protect the democracy and freedom we cherish so much. That soul is represented in no better place than the people who wear the uniform and the people who have worn the uniform in the past, as represented by the National War Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
A week and a half ago our soul was wounded, too. Our souls will survive, stronger than ever.
It is in all Canadians' interest to be part of that solution, to keep the heart and soul of Canada alive and well. That is why I ask all hon. members to join me in supporting the protection of Canada from terrorists act as the first step to keeping our land strong, glorious, and free.
Ms. Peggy Nash (Parkdale—High Park, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Timmins—James Bay.
I am pleased to participate in this debate today on Bill C-44, an act to amend the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and other acts. I understand that it is a bill the government had on the books and was preparing to introduce, and it is doing so now, following the recent events here in the House and another tragedy in the province of Quebec.
In short, it makes three substantive changes to CSIS. It would clarify the legal authority of CSIS to conduct security intelligence operations abroad in response to threats to the security of Canada. It had run into some difficulties in the courts with respect to this, so it now wants clarification and changes because of that.
It also confirms the jurisdiction of the Federal Court to issue warrants that have effect outside Canada. It provides for the protection of the identify of CSIS human intelligence sources in judicial proceedings. It also amends the timeline for changes to the Citizenship Act with respect to the revocation of dual citizenship for dual citizens who are involved in terrorism or other serious offences. That bill was passed this past June.
I want to state that I join with all my colleagues in this House, and in fact all Canadians, in paying tribute to Corporal Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent. We joined many of our colleagues today at the cenotaph in Ottawa to lay wreaths. The veterans minister was there as well. It was a very moving time. I think Remembrance Day, in a few short days, will be a moving time for our country. My dad and my grandfather fought in the First and Second World Wars. I know how emotional, painful, and deep these experiences are for the entire Canadian psyche.
The violence that took place here in Canada a couple of weeks ago was something that certainly touched the hearts of Canadians and was something we need to take very seriously. I believe we will do that.
I have had a tremendous number of constituents contact my office and encourage us as parliamentarians to react in a measured, considered way and to not overreact to the events that took place, which indeed were terrible and terrifying. I am hopeful that as parliamentarians, we will do that, because we believe that defending both public safety and civil liberties is important. This is not a balancing act, where we shave off a little of one to gain some of the other. We believe, on this side of the House, that we can do both. We can move forward and ensure the safety and security of Canadians while guarding our shared values of freedom, tolerance, and an inclusive democracy. That is why we are all here as parliamentarians. It is because we value that democracy.
We must carefully review our laws in light of the tragic circumstances of the last two weeks and ensure that our laws and security measures are adequate and appropriate for the needs of our country while ensuring, at the same time, that our civil liberties are protected. We have to make sure that this work is done responsibly and with careful study based on the evidence we have at hand. Of course, we do not have all the evidence in yet, because investigations are ongoing.
On this particular legislation, details matter a great deal. We will support the bill going to committee, because we would like a thorough, rigorous, detailed study to take place.
I want to spend a bit of time on the notion of improved civilian oversight of CSIS. We are disappointed that the bill does not include that additional civilian oversight.
I had the great privilege of sitting on the finance committee in 2012, when under yet another budget implementation act, there was a debate about CSIS oversight. Members might well ask why the finance committee would be debating CSIS oversight, and that is a very good question. It was a measure included in the budget implementation act, 2012. The measure specifically included the elimination of the inspector general, a position I am sure most Canadians did not know we had, and if they did know, they were not sure what it did.
We had the terrific privilege of having as a witness at committee one of the key people responsible for setting up that position, Mr. Paul Kennedy. Mr. Kennedy has a long history of over 20 years in the public service. He has advised ministers. For a number of years, he was the senior assistant deputy minister of public safety responsible for national security activities. He spent five years as senior chief counsel to CSIS and four years as chair of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP. He was the senior general counsel of justice and coordinated all the legal advice among intelligence agencies. I am sure members would agree that he was an eminently qualified person to speak about CSIS and advise the committee.
I want to tell the House some of the facts he gave us. We had heard from officials that eliminating the position of inspector general would save $1 million of the public purse and that this was good value for money. We heard that SIRC would be able to take up the slack and take on the monitoring responsibilities.
Mr. Kennedy told the committee that we would save $1 million in a $7-billion public safety department budget but that ultimately, it could cost the government, and therefore Canadians, a great deal more when there were problems. He said there would inevitably be problems. For example, he said that the Arar inquiry, about the illegal arrest, imprisonment, and torture of Mr. Arar, was a $30-million inquiry, $10 million of which the government paid in compensation. It was tremendously expensive, and that $30 million did not include all the hours public servants spent on that inquiry.
There was the ongoing investigation of the Robert Dziekanski case at the Vancouver airport. There have been many other inquiries.
Mr. Kennedy pointed out that if we were talking about a consolidation of the responsibilities of this oversight position and SIRC, then we should have a transfer of staff and files and money to make that happen. None of that happened. In spite of many inquiries recommending greater oversight and more resources, that simply has not happened.
This is the direct responsibility of the Minister of Public Safety. The buck stops with the minister. Without the inspector general in place, who can keep an eye on the spies, Canadians have no guarantee that their public interests are protected.
We need that position. We need greater oversight. At committee, parliamentarians should make sure that this happens.
Mr. Charlie Angus (Timmins—James Bay, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, as always, it is a great honour to stand in the House representing the people of Timmins—James Bay, who put their trust in me to speak for them.
I am very pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-44. This is the first time I have spoken in the House in debate since the brutal attack at the cenotaph and the attack on Parliament Hill. I would like to begin by reflecting a little of what I experienced on that terrible day.
I certainly experienced a sense of relief when I found that we were safe. I experienced thankfulness for the incredible security people who literally put their lives on the line to make sure that we were safe. I felt an enormous sense of pride—not a bullish beating of the chest pride, but a quiet pride—watching the Canadians around me who went about their day unafraid and helped each other. It reminded me that no matter what our differences in this nation are, there is a sense of community that will not be intimidated.
The last thing I felt that day was a real anger, an anger that the House of the people had been desecrated by violence. I felt it when I went out in the early morning about 5 a.m. and went to the cenotaph and saw a crime scene tape. I was very angry that such a symbol of who we are as a nation could be cut off from us and suddenly become a crime scene of mindless, hateful violence. It made me feel very angry.
When we reflect on how we deal with this kind of violence, it is incumbent upon us to take that sense of anger, that sense of pride, that sense of relief, and step back and ask ourselves what the Canadian people expect from us to ensure that they are safe. We are dealing with some very complex issues that are now being thrust before us.
Bill C-44 is not a response to what happened last week. This is a bill that has been on the order paper for some time, and it is important to look at it in that light. There are certainly specific elements that will need to be examined clearly, which is why we want the bill to go forward to committee.
One aspect is the international role of CSIS in in spying on and maintaining coverage of potential perpetrators who may be overseas. Certainly we see the issue of radicalization of people who have gone overseas, but this is a question that does confront the House, and we need to address it.
We know that CSIS has been found to have breached the courts and the laws of our land on numerous occasions, as reported in the 2007 Hape decision. In 2008, Justice Blanchard found that section 12 of the CSIS act did not contain extraterritorial provisions with respect to covert intelligence. In 2013, Justice Mosley said that the practice of seeking warrants for foreign surveillance was not legal. Therefore, the bill needs to look at how the actions of CSIS will be done within a legal frame.
To put this in context, maintaining legal provisions that will protect the Canadian people has to be seen in terms of the resources that exist or do not exist to follow through on whatever laws we bring forth.
There is also the issue of oversight. The issue of oversight means that when we debate laws in this country to offer police more tools, we make sure that these tools are being applied where they were intended and that they are not opening the door to all manner of warrantless intervention in the lives of ordinary Canadians.
In terms of oversight, the government has a fundamental problem. The government may feel that CSIS needs the tools and that CSIS has to be the front-line fighter in terms of international terrorism, but the oversight mechanisms have been abysmal.
The Prime Minister appointed Arthur Porter, a notorious international criminal who is sitting in a jail in Panama, to sit on the oversight body of CSIS. I would think that Canadians who witnessed the attacks last week would not be comfortable knowing that the man who was supposed to be making sure that our spy agency followed the laws and had the tools necessary was now sitting in a Panamanian jail on all manner of charges and allegations.
The replacement for him was Chuck Strahl, a former minister in the House. We found later that he was acting as a lobbyist for Enbridge at a time when CSIS was apparently spying on anti-Enbridge activists. There is damage to credibility here.
Maher Arar was sent to a foreign jurisdiction, wrongly, and tortured. He was an innocent man. One of the recommendations from the Arar report was to have better oversight of these provisions. This oversight is important in making sure there are no more cases like Maher Arar's, cases of people who are innocent but are in the wrong place at the wrong time and are rendered because the feeling of the day is that we do not need to follow the rule of law. The rule of law is essential. It keeps us separate from the kinds of bandits who want to attack who we are as a nation.
In terms of resources, the government is cutting $687.9 million from its overall security in the coming years, and $180 million is being cut from border security. Telling us it is going to get tougher in terms of protecting us while at the same time limiting the resources being used to protect us certainly raises questions about the government's overall credibility.
There is the recent Privacy Commissioner's ruling on the RCMP and its warrantless access provisions. The RCMP does not even have an ability to track how it is gathering information and under what circumstances it is gathering it.
Do we need to look at rules that may provide better tools to go after potential threats? That is certainly the discussion we should have. However, when every 72 seconds we have a request made to a telecom by a government agency that wants personal information on Canadians, that is certainly not within justification.
The fact is, contrary to what the Prime Minister said, the killers of Warrant Officer Vincent and Corporal Cirillo were not killers who washed up on our shores, as we were told last week. These were home-grown Canadian men. The Prime Minister said that our international allies would be standing with us as we went after the men who brutally killed Corporal Cirillo. Where were our international allies when he was going into a McDonald's with a stick, trying to get himself arrested?
Clearly, the rhetoric does not match the reality here. The reality is that we are not talking about what happens when people fall through the cracks and become increasingly marginalized. We had the snow plough killer and the bus beheader. We have people who, in mental instability, do terrible, brutal crimes. In the case of Zehaf-Bibeau, we were glad that the RCMP was able to seize his passport to prevent him from going anywhere else, but he was not on their terror watch list because he was considered mentally unstable. We need to understand that if we are to respond to the brutal crimes we saw, we must put provisions in place that protect us.
In terms of Bill C-44, the reasonable step here is to move it to committee to see what provisions CSIS needs to deal with international radicalization, especially in the case of someone who is trying to go to a place like Syria or Iraq to engage in the murderous activities there. What provisions would still be within the laws of our country? What oversight will be there to ensure that CSIS does not abuse its function within Canada? What role will we take, as a federal House of Commons, to address the fact that there is clearly a problem when Canadian men, born and bred in our country, can fall so far from the norm that they can pick up any kind of murderous death cult ideology because of all manner of instability, drugs, broken lives, and the fact they were living on the streets?
There are other people out there who may be in that same situation, whether they identify themselves as radical or not. What provisions are we going to put in place to ensure public security?
This is a long, ongoing discussion that we need to have in the House. However, we need to have it within the context of figuring out what works, what resources are in place, and what will maintain the overall standards we have for the rule of law in our country and the fact that we are an open, democratic, and unafraid society.