The House resumed from November 4 consideration of the motion 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.
Mr. Ted Opitz (Etobicoke Centre, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in this House to debate Bill C-44, the protection of Canada from terrorists act. I am confident that in the bill before us we have effective legislation that will go a long way toward improving our national security.
This bill contains two separate elements. Let me turn to the first part of the bill, which deals with the changes to the CSIS Act.
This act is the legislation that governs CSIS's activities. It was introduced three decades ago when CSIS was first established, and the act itself has not changed. Given what has occurred in the last few weeks, I would submit that it is certainly time.
When this was done 30 years ago, it was the era of the rotary phone. The Internet was just in the experimental stage. Social media did not exist, so social media were not applied toward the recruitment and radicalization of people across the world. Therefore, as all Canadians can appreciate, the nature of the environment in which CSIS must operate has changed. As an example, the terrorist threat has evolved considerably. All the way from the Cold War, we expected a peace dividend, but threats are more dangerous now, and with Mr. Putin and others threatening global borders, we have to be vigilant.
Mr. Speaker, please let me state that I am also splitting my time today with the great member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound.
Canada has had some notable successes in this country in detecting and disrupting terrorist plots, but the reality is that Canada is not immune to violent extremism. This is especially clear now that it has touched us on our very own soil, including on the very day and in the very place that we had planned to introduce this carefully considered legislation in this House.
While it is true that we have always been vigilant about the threat of terrorism, in recent months we have become particularly seized with the task of moving beyond vigilance to decisive action. This is something that we have an obligation to do for all Canadians. As parliamentarians, we can and we must take action to ensure that our security and intelligence agencies have the tools they need to protect Canada. Our government has been clear about its commitment to doing that.
With keen awareness of the challenges that CSIS faces in investigating threats to Canada, we have proposed measured yet critical amendments to the CSIS Act. It is evident to us, as I hope it will be to members on all sides of this House, that CSIS must have clear authority to investigate security threats to this country, whether they originate here or they originate abroad.
How would this bill allow for that? First of all, the bill would allow confirm CSIS's authority to carry out investigations outside of Canada. Specifically, it would amend the CSIS Act to state, for greater certainty, that CSIS has the authority to perform its duties within or outside of Canada for the purposes of investigating threats to the security of Canada or conducting security assessments.
Another important change would see to it that the Federal Court need only consider relevant Canadian laws, such as the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the CSIS Act, when issuing warrants authorizing CSIS to undertake certain intrusive activities in order to investigate a threat to the security of Canada outside of Canada.
In addition, the bill would address a shortcoming in the act as it stands with respect to the disclosure of human sources in court proceedings. At the present, there is no automatic protection for the identity of CSIS human sources similar to the common law privilege available to police informers. This is problematic, given that human source intelligence is so central to CSIS's work.
To address this problem, we have proposed an amendment that would create a prohibition on disclosing in court proceedings the identity of any CSIS human sources who have provided information to CSIS on the condition of confidentiality.
There are two exceptions that would allow this information to be disclosed. One is if a person is not in fact a confidential human source; the second is if the information is needed to demonstrate the innocence of the accused in a criminal proceeding. Overall, with these exceptions included, we believe that this amendment would successfully balance the need to protect the identity of CSIS human sources with the need to ensure fairness in legal proceedings.
Finally, we have proposed an amendment to safeguard the identity of CSIS employees who are likely to become involved in covert operational activities in the future. This is critical. Our operatives are serving in perilous situations on our behalf, so it is incumbent upon us to ensure that their families are safe as they do their very important work to ensure that our families remain safe.
Our government is convinced that these amendments are needed to ensure that the CSIS Act provides CSIS with the means to use reasonable and necessary measures to investigate threats to the security of Canada for the safety and security of our nation.
Nevertheless, as we make these carefully considered changes that will help CSIS investigate threats to Canada, I want to reassure Canadians that some fundamental elements will not change.
First and foremost, the rule of law applies. A judicial warrant is absolutely required in order to authorize CSIS's more intrusive activities. To be sure, this requirement serves as an important safeguard on the rights of Canadians. The CSIS Act clearly states that in order for a warrant to be issued, CSIS must satisfy a judge that, among other things, there is reason to believe the activity constitutes a threat to the security of Canada.
Second, I want to stress that CSIS's activities will continue to be consistent with the rule of law and Canadian values.
Last, CSIS will remain subject to robust oversight by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, just as it will remain subject to external arm's-length review by the Security Intelligence Review Committee, SIRC.
For the safety and security of Canadians, we need to move forward with these targeted and limited amendments to the CSIS Act to ensure that CSIS has the tools it needs to investigate threats to the security of Canada.
At the outset of my remarks, I mentioned that there were two elements to this legislation. Now I am going to turn to the second part.
The bill also contains technical amendments to the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, which received royal assent earlier this year.
These amendments will allow for quicker implementation of the citizenship revocation provisions in that act, including provisions to enable the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to revoke Canadian citizenship from dual citizens convicted of terrorism, treason, or spying offences. We believe that an earlier timeline to implement these important provisions is warranted.
Citizenship is a pledge of mutual responsibility and shared commitment to the values rooted in our history and to our fellow Canadians. Dual citizens convicted of serious crimes such as terrorism should not continue to benefit from Canadian citizenship, a citizenship that provides foundations of democracy, human rights, and the protections afforded to all Canadians in this great nation.
In closing, I would like to clearly state that it is imperative that all parties support this legislation. In the past, both the Liberals and the NDP have been guilty of under-reacting to the threat posed to Canadians by radical extremists. Clearly both parties, I hope, have now come to realize the true threat that we face and will work with us to ensure that all Canadians are protected and safe.
The Liberals opposed taking citizenship away from terrorists. Bizarrely, they claimed that it was an affront to Canadian values. I am quite sure that they may have re-evaluated that position. Even further afield, the NDP opposed the Combating Terrorism Act, which was well ahead of its time. It effectively criminalized what we have now come to know as foreign fighters. What is more, the NDP leader has rejected the assessments of the President of France, the U.S. Secretary of State, and even the Commissioner of the RCMP, who said what Canadians knew all along: that the horrific events of late October were the acts of deranged terrorists bent on establishing an Islamic caliphate.
I hope that in the coming days, all parties in the House will take this opportunity to stand up for security and to stand up for all Canadians. Our nation must be preserved, and to do so, we must ensure that we provide those who protect us with the right tools to enable them to do it.
Mr. Larry Miller (Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise to speak to Bill C-44, the protection of Canada from terrorists act.
The bill seeks to clarify elements of CSIS' mandate that address serious operational gaps at CSIS bases, including protecting the identities of CSIS's human sources and employees.
The bill would also confirm that CSIS can operate abroad to investigate the threats that have become all too common of late on the nightly news, threats such as the Islamic State, which has demonstrated particular brutality and is drawing individuals from all over the world to join its cause.
As we have now unfortunately seen over these past few weeks, events abroad can inspire radicalization at home with terrible consequences. The RCMP has been quite clear that both of the terrorists who committed these attacks against members of the Canadian Armed Forces had radical ideological motives inspired by extremist views.
The bill is important to ensuring CSIS remains able to investigate such threats to Canada's national security. Whether those threats be radicalized individuals at home, those seeking to travel abroad and cause harm to others, or Canadians abroad committing acts of terrorism, the Canadian public expects and rightly demands that CSIS have the legal authorities to take all necessary steps to investigate threats to the security of Canada and ensure our safety and security.
That said, Canadians also rightly expect that our security agencies be subject to proper review and accountability to ensure they operate within the law. Some members of the House have noted such concerns, and I would like to address these matters directly.
Just over 30 years ago the House passed the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act. CSIS was created on the basis of recommendations made by the McDonald commission, itself an independent commission of inquiry.
The McDonald commission spanned four years, from 1977 to 1981 and carefully examined complaints against the RCMP security service at the time. Notably for our discussion here today, its primary recommendation was to create a civilian security intelligence agency separate from law enforcement. This key recommendation is what led to the creation of CSIS.
At the time, the establishment of CSIS had bipartisan support. It is important that the legislation also created a sophisticated and extensive system of accountability and review. That review system is built on the function and role of the Security Intelligence Review Committee or SIRC, judicial authorization, and accountability to the minister and Parliament.
Canadians should be aware that historically SIRC's membership has consisted of individuals from diverse political backgrounds and walks of life. Such a varied membership helps to ensure the trust of all Canadians. It is also important to note that SIRC is one of the most robust review bodies in the western world.
SIRC's mandate is threefold. First, SIRC's review function allows it to make observations and provide recommendations in regard to CSIS' activities, operations and tradecraft. Such review helps ensure that CSIS' operations are effective, safe and legal.
Second, SIRC's complaints function mandates it to investigate formal complaints from members of the public in regard to specific activities of CSIS. Commonly, such complaints are in regard to the denial of a government security clearance by their deputy head, but SIRC can certainly examine any complaint regarding an activity of CSIS.
Third, SIRC is also charged with certifying that CSIS' investigative activities, as described in the director's annual report to the minister, are consistent with the CSIS Act and ministerial direction, and demonstrate a reasonable and necessary use of the service's powers. In that regard, in its most recent report, SIRC found that the operational activities of the service complied with the act and ministerial direction, and were reasonable and necessary in the execution of its mandate.
Canadians should be aware that SIRC's mandate knows no geographic boundary. In that regard, SIRC can and does review CSIS' foreign operations and stations abroad.
As CSIS has increasingly expanded its operations abroad in response to growing threats, particularly after 9/11, SIRC, too, has expanded its own review of those operations. SIRC's expansive mandate means that it provides a robust system of checks and balances on the powers and activities of the service. Canadians can be assured that SIRC continues to carefully review both CSIS' domestic and international activities.
In its 30 years of existence, CSIS has adopted or addressed the majority of SIRC's recommendations, and the director of CSIS has stated forthrightly and publicly that it is a better organization because of SIRC's recommendations. It should also be noted that CSIS' activities can be and regularly are reviewed by the Privacy Commissioner who can issue public recommendations. Members should also be aware that certain CSIS investigative activities require judicial authorization.
CSIS' warrant powers are managed through a rigorous and comprehensive regime and require the prior approval of the Minister of Public Safety. The Federal Court has complete discretion whether to approve, deny or renew warrant applications from CSIS. Markedly the bill would clarify that the Federal Court can also issue warrants for certain intrusive investigative activities by the service abroad, and in consideration only of relevant Canadian law.
Members should also know that such a rigorous warrant regime for international intelligence operations is unprecedented among our closest allies and provides a level of assurance both for the legality and appropriateness of CSIS activities abroad. Further still, the service reports directly to the Minister of Public Safety who is accountable to Parliament for the activities of CSIS and tables an annual public report on CSIS' activities.
CSIS appears regularly before parliamentary committees to address concerns of members and senators. In fact, as recently as October 8, the CSIS director and RCMP commissioner appeared at the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security to provide members with a frank, open and candid discussion of the terrorist threat. I am quite sure that CSIS officials will appear at the public safety and national security committee to address any concerns and answer any questions on the bill before us today.
Simply put, CSIS' review and warrant regimes are robust and extensive. Canadians and members of the House can be assured that CSIS is acting well within its mandate to investigate threats to the security of Canada.
To me, this is all very impressive. It is reflective of our shared Canadian values of respect for individual rights and the rule of law. However, still the Liberals continue to bring forward proposals that would create duplicate oversight mechanisms. It seems that many, especially the members for Vancouver Quadra and Malpeque, seem focused on well-meaning proposals that have the unintended consequence of causing our national security agencies to go head to head with the terrorist threat with one hand tied behind their backs.
I would like to take this opportunity to encourage all members of the House to stop under-reacting to the terrorist threat and to support this important legislation.
Lastly, we all like our privacy and security, but we live in a different world today. I know that there is an expectation among most Canadians that the government has to take action. Some of the things that happened here in the last two weeks in this place and this city has made that reality very apparent to all of us. The Government of Canada will and has to respond to that threat.
Ms. Françoise Boivin (Gatineau, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise in the House to speak on behalf of the people of Gatineau concerning Bill C-44. Although their experience was very different than ours here in the House, the people of Gatineau were affected by the events of October. Many people will never be the same because of what happened. I am convinced that the Remembrance Day ceremonies, which will begin this weekend and culminate on November 11 in the national ceremony here in Ottawa, will take on quite a new, although similar, significance. In fact, what we celebrate every year is the fact that we must not forget. Perhaps this year more people will remember.
I know that I will be very happy to be with the people of Gatineau at the two cenotaphs in my riding. First, I will lay a wreath at the Legion on Baie Street. Then I will go to the cenotaph at the Norris Branch Legion. I try to alternate every year. Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Corporal Nathan Cirillo will certainly be in our thoughts.
That said, we have to keep things in perspective. The comments I sometimes hear from the Conservative benches are disconcerting, including the comments by the member for Etobicoke Centre.
He accused the opposition of being guilty of under-reacting to threats against the country and its citizens.
I take offence at that type of comment. It certainly does not encourage thoughtful debate in view of what is happening right now. What is more, it sheds a negative light on the picture that the Conservatives are trying to paint of Bill C-44.
As an aside, I am convinced that quite the opposite was true when the mass killing occurred at École Polytechnique. At the time, the government's response was to create a firearms registry. As I recall, the Conservatives were accusing the government in power of overreacting. Sometimes one has to be consistent in life to keep things logical.
The best tribute we can pay to Corporal Cirillo and Warrant Officer Vincent, if we want to honour their memory, is to continue to uphold the values that they staunchly defended by fulfilling their duties every day. That is what Corporal Cirillo and Warrant Officer Vincent would ask of this noble institution, which is supposed to represent our democracy. They would ask us to protect the security of Canadians, something they did valiantly and courageously. As I was saying, I will be pleased to honour them during my visits to the cenotaphs and the Greater Gatineau Elementary School, when the young children hold a Remembrance Day ceremony. They are going to talk about Corporal Cirillo and Warrant Officer Vincent. However, these individuals would also want us to remember the values that Canada has always stood for, the values of democracy and the protection of freedoms. We send our soldiers around the world to defend these principles. That has always been my understanding.
It is misleading to claim that Bill C-44 is a solution to a problem that could have caused the absolutely tragic events that took place in October. To expect people to believe that is to take them for fools and to try to take advantage of a situation, which I think is despicable and certainly flies in the face of our role here as legislators, which is to introduce sensible legislation that is in line with our Constitution, our charters, our rights and our values.
We lack confidence in this government because we often get information bit by bit.
The Conservatives give roundabout answers to specific questions. Then they accuse us of not supporting the solutions they are trying to shove down our throats.
Bill C-44 was already on the radar. The bill is exactly the same as it was when it was to be introduced on that day we all remember, Wednesday, October 22, the day of the tragic events that led to the death of Corporal Cirillo. The introduction was pushed back, in light of the circumstances, and the bill was introduced a short time later.
I think the comments by the member for Malpeque bear repeating:
The Tories lost the July court ruling on CSIS spying overseas.
Bill C-44 is nothing but a response to the July rulings by the Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal, by Justices Mainville, Dawson and Blais. Sometimes I lose a little confidence in this government, and that is the understatement of the year. We learned yesterday that this ruling had been made and had been partially redacted. That is understandable, since a government cannot disclose everything when it comes to national security.
I try to be familiar with court rulings, in light of my amazing and fascinating role as justice critic for the official opposition. However, I learned about this ruling from the papers. This is what Tonda MacCharles, a journalist with the Ottawa bureau of the Toronto Star, had to say:
|| The Conservative government revealed that it lost an important Federal Court of Appeal ruling that found CSIS hid the extent of its overseas spying activities from a judge.
|| A redacted version of the decision of the Federal Court of Appeal, dated July 7, 2014, was posted on the court’s website Tuesday with no notice to the media — a highly unusual move.
|| It upheld an earlier Federal Court ruling by Justice Richard Mosley that rebuked the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the federal government for hiding the fact that CSIS had turned to CSE, Canada’s electronic spy agency, and its allied partners in the “Five Eyes” international spying network to carry out intrusive surveillance abroad on two Canadians.
|| The ruling gives strong backing to CSIS’s power to operate abroad.
In light of the threats, we can understand that some powers are necessary.
|| But Justices Eleanor Dawson, Robert Mainville and Pierre Blais, the recently retired chief justice, declared that a judge’s decision to issue a warrant is “not the simple ‘box-ticking’ exercise the attorney general suggests.” And they said CSIS had to level with the courts.
|| “The duty of candour and utmost good faith required that CSIS disclose to the Federal Court the scope of its anticipated investigation, and in particular that CSIS considered itself authorized by...the CSIS Act to seek foreign agency assistance without a warrant. CSIS failed to make such disclosure.”
|| However, the appeal ruling disagreed with the lower court, and found that a Federal Court judge does have jurisdiction to issue a warrant that would authorize intrusive surveillance by CSIS overseas.
I will spare the House the rest, but that gives members an idea of the implications of Bill C-44.
Our colleagues in the House, especially the Conservatives, say that we must provide a proper response to what happened in October. They would have Canadians believe that this bill is part of that response. However, it is part of something even bigger than the tragic events of October that resulted in two deaths.
I do not believe that we are under-reacting to the threats to our country and our fellow Canadians when we clearly and explicitly say that we will support Bill C-44 in order to send it to committee to be studied. Canadians are asking not just the official opposition, but also the government, to take action in that regard.
Sometimes, good suggestions are made, and witnesses will be heard.
Just recently, at a conference on the O'Connor commission, there were speakers who know a lot more about espionage and international terrorism than I do, such as the Information Commissioner of Canada, the Privacy Commissioner and former justice O'Connor. Those are some high-powered speakers. Former justices Dennis O'Connor, John Major and Frank Iacobucci spoke at the October 29 conference, “Arar +10: National Security and Human Rights a Decade Later”.
I did say “and human rights” because for the Conservatives it is often a question of one or the other. They believe that human rights must be curtailed in order to protect security. Both can be maintained in a reasonable world, and that often happens with oversight mechanisms. In the House we often hear that organizations are given extensive powers to protect us.
Yesterday, on the local news, the reporter was asking, in a very straightforward manner, if the government should increase security in its buildings. That is like asking if the sky is blue. Of course everyone will answer yes.
The discussion really starts to get interesting when we start looking at the details. How do we make the buildings more secure? Everyone has an opinion on that. However, one fact remains: we have a starting point and the government wants to give certain powers to an organization
Sometimes, I feel as though the government is not taking the most logical action. I like logic, I like to be able to understand and I like to visualize what is happening. Like everyone, I want to feel safe. I do not want to walk down the street, afraid of my own shadow. That has never been the case in Canada, and I do not want that to change.
However, I am not naive. I know that there are people with bad intentions. I do not want to get into a discussion about their reasons because it will only be divisive. Instead, we need to find good solutions.
I am concerned when I hear people from CSIS tell us that they do not have the resources to use their powers while, at the same time, the government is getting ready to grant them more powers. I do not think anyone can get angry with me for saying that I am concerned when our major security institutions, such as the RCMP and CSIS, tell us that they need more resources.
Make no mistake. These agencies had their budgets cut and were asked to reduce their complement of police officers. It is not easy to deal with the Internet threat. Everyone has to adapt to these changes. At the same time, if we want to give these agencies powers, we also have to give them the means to exert those powers.
This bill is very technical in that it will make it possible for some people's identities to remain hidden, and likely with good reason. We therefore have to ensure that we have the means of overseeing these agencies since we are giving them a practically limitless mandate to protect our security.
No one wants to see what happened to Maher Arar happen again. Ten years later, we have to pay out tens of millions of dollars because of an illegal arrest and the government has had to apologize. We all want to avoid that.
At the same time, we want to ensure that Canadians here and abroad are safe. Let us do things right. That is the completely rational and logical message that the official opposition is sending to the government regarding Bill C-44.
I do not want to blow things out of proportion or ascribe motives to anyone, but it makes my blood boil when I hear people say that we under-react to threats against the country and its citizens. It hits close to home for me because we want everyone to be safe. That is part of the mandate of everyone here.
We do not want people to have to relive events like what happened here in October when they hear explosions, as we did three or four times this morning during our caucus meeting. We want to do things right.
All the experts agree: a committee is needed. I think this committee should be as independent as possible. I listened to the member who spoke before me, and he did not know that there are still two vacant positions. I would say there is even a third: there is an interim chair, a former Reform Party colleague, Deborah Grey. I am sure she is very nice, but does she have much experience in this area? Two of the five seats on that committee are vacant. As an oversight committee, it has an extremely important role to play, and yet no one seems to take it very seriously.
We are being accused of all kinds of things, blamed for every evil under the sun, as though we could not care less about what happens in terms of security. It is as though only the government cares about this, cares about our soldiers and remembers the sacrifices our veterans made on our behalf. I would be inclined to say that our veterans deserve more. It is all well and good to send them off somewhere, but how they are welcomed home at the end of their mission is also very important, I think. However, I digress.
That being said, I think this bill deserves serious consideration. Many provisions of the bill seem quite all right, such as providing the courts with certain mechanisms. We shall see. I have already talked to a number of legal experts about this, because it is not my area of expertise. Three people I consulted had different opinions or differences in opinion on certain interpretations and certain clauses. I would say to my colleagues on the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, who will have the extremely important task of studying Bill C-44, to pay close attention and be as open-minded as they can. They should not do as the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons sometimes does and say that they have to pass the bill quickly.
When we consider the circumstances in which Bill C-44 must have been drafted during the summer, following the unfavourable rulings on the government's position on this issue, it is easy to see that we have to spend more than just a few hours reviewing this bill in committee. I hope that my official opposition colleagues who sit on that committee will be able to make their voices heard calmly and make the other members realize that we are all in the same boat. We all live under the same flag, a flag that is dear to all our hearts, perhaps now more than ever. That is what should unite us and make that sense of camaraderie that we felt on October 23 last. I am not saying that we should all be singing Kumbaya. I know that we may not always agree, but we have to at least study the bill with respect, because the issue is extremely important.
In conclusion, I do not think that Corporal Cirillo and Warrant Officer Vincent would want us to be creating a police state. That is not at all what these individuals—now national heroes—were protecting. With all due respect for their memory, that is what I will keep in mind when I lay my wreath at the cenotaph and visit with young people at the Greater Gatineau school for their annual ceremony. I hope that my colleagues will examine Bill C-44 not with a tough-guy attitude, but with respect for the security, rights and freedoms of Canadians.
Mr. Mike Wallace (Burlington, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Calgary Centre.
It is my honour this afternoon to speak to Bill C-44, the protection of Canada from terrorists act. As the House knows, this measure was introduced before the events on the Hill on October 22.
Before I start my speech, I want to say one thing. First, I am glad to be anywhere to give a speech after the events on October 22, but what surprised me was the outpouring of concern and affection for my family back home, not just for me but to find out how my wife and kids were doing that day. There were hundreds of calls and contacts and emails to my wife and family. I appreciate the outpouring of concern for my family and myself on that day from the people of my riding. It was very heartwarming. I sent a letter off to the local newspaper thanking people for their concern.
It is my privilege, as I said, to rise today to voice my opinion in this debate on the protection of Canada from terrorists act. As we have seen over the last number of weeks, acts of terror are not limited to troubled areas of the world, such as Syria, Iran, and Iraq. They are carried out by individuals and groups in cities and regions around the world. All of these actions are done for a variety of motives and by different means, but they all have a common goal, which is to strike terror and fear into the hearts of governments and citizens and all of the people they affect.
We will not be intimidated by those cowardly acts. In late October, terrorism hit Canada twice in the span of only a few days. In our typical Canadian fashion, we picked ourselves up, got back to work in the House, came together to grieve for our fallen heroes, and carried on.
The one thing I will never forget is the opportunity I had to attend Corporal Cirillo's funeral in Hamilton. My riding of Burlington is a neighbouring riding to Hamilton, where Corporal Cirillo and his family are from, and many of his colleagues in his regiment live and work in my riding. It was a great honour to be at the funeral to pay my respects on behalf of my community and of the House.
We will continue to strive to protect individuals' rights and stand up for the rule of law, because that is who we are. However, it is clear that our national security agencies need new tools, particularly in the areas of surveillance, detention, and arrest. We will not overreact to threats against us, as some have suggested, but it is high time that we stop under-reacting. We need to be more proactive and start taking terrorist threats seriously, because nothing is more important than keeping Canadians safe from harm and fear, whether in the streets of their communities or when they are travelling or living abroad.
No government can guarantee that it will be able to stop every terrorist act from occurring, but we can make every effort to prevent, detect, deny, and respond to terrorist threats. At its most basic, this means reaching out to communities and religious leaders who will help law enforcement identify individuals who are threats to our collective peace and security.
There are a number of initiatives and programs in place to help governments and law enforcement build those relationships, and we have seen that trust and collaboration flourish over the past few years. This type of interaction is invaluable in terms of helping to uncover potential threats.
We often hear the terms “lone wolf” and “radicalized individuals” used to describe people who may become radicalized to violence without law enforcement having any signals or warnings. While these individuals may be hidden from view, they are often inspired by terrorist entities that are strong in number and loud in their calls for death. Terrorist groups often are happy to let the world know who they are, what they believe in, and what their plans are. Through the Internet in particular, groups like ISIL and al Qaeda broadcast their message of hate and terror, calling on new recruits and followers to carry out their acts of violence against innocent civilians.
Members of the House know the influence the Internet can have on individuals and organizations. We do not need to talk about terrorism to see the effect it has. We all get emails that are inaccurate and tell the wrong story about all kinds of issues. They all end up on our desks, and we all have to respond about inaccuracies and so on. It is this kind of access to information—even erroneous, poorly informed information—that causes individuals who are not being radicalized to make inaccurate statements, believing what they are reading on the Internet. Unfortunately, for individuals who are lost in terms of their place in this world, the Internet is a source of radicalization. Terrorist organizations are able to do this through countless online outlets that are easily accessible and available throughout the globe. We need to be very diligent in that area.
However, these large groups need more than cheap communications, which the Internet provides. They need money, weapons, explosives, people, and other types of resources to carry out their work. That is why our government is taking decisive action, through legal means, to stop terrorist groups.
One way is to cut off their source of funds and resources. We know that global terrorist groups actively seek funds and resources internationally. Under Canada's Anti-terrorism Act, our government can list an entity under the Criminal Code if it has knowingly carried out, attempted to carry out, participated in, or facilitated a terrorist activity, or if it is knowingly acting on behalf of, at the direction of, or in association with any entity involved in a terrorist activity.
The listing process requires analysis of intelligence and criminal information. These reports are submitted to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness for consideration. If the minister has reasonable grounds to believe that the entity's activities fall within the parameters I just mentioned, the minister can place that organization on the list of terrorist entities. Once on the list, the entity is effectively denied its source of critical funding from Canadian sources. Its assets are frozen and subject to seizure, restraint, or forfeiture.
As a further measure, the listing makes it a criminal offence for any Canadian, at home or abroad, to knowingly participate, directly or indirectly, in the activities of a listed entity for the purpose of enhancing its ability to carry out a terrorist activity.
Which entities are on the list? They include aI Qaeda, which serves as the strategic hub and driver for the global Islamist terrorist movement; al Shabaab, a group that is waging a campaign of violence and terror in Somalia; and, of course, ISIL. As we know, this barbaric group has carried out prominent attacks involving suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, improvised explosive devices, armed attacks, hostage takings, and beheadings.
This is just one way we are able to use legal means to address threats to our safety and security.
As I have heard from all the parties, it appears that the bill is going to go to committee, which I think is appropriate. There we can discuss the issues further and gain a better understanding of them.
I hope all parties can accept the legislation put before us today. It is balanced, reasonable, and effective. It would create new and important tools to allow CSIS to continue to operate successfully. It is the first step in keeping Canadians safe.
Ms. Joan Crockatt (Calgary Centre, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Burlington for sharing his time, so I can speak to Bill C-44, the protection of Canada from terrorists act.
This legislation includes amendments to the CSIS Act as well as the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act and today I am going to address my comments to the CSIS Act.
Before I begin, let me explain why we have introduced this important piece of legislation. Recent events both here and in Quebec really serve as a very stark reminder that ISIL is a very real threat to Canadians. It is all too real to the people who sit in this House and I want to take a moment to thank everyone who personally called, emailed or texted me to express their concern for me.
Because of these and other threats, our Conservative government is working very determinedly to strengthen the tools that are available to the police and to our intelligence community in the areas of surveillance, detection and arrest.
The protection of Canada from terrorists act is just the first step in our efforts to do that. Canadians can be assured that we will not overreact in response to these terrorist acts, but it is also time, as the member for Burlington stated, that we stop under-reacting. To do this, we must give those who are investigating these threats to the security of Canada the tools that they need to ensure that they can investigate these threats wherever they might occur.
For the past 30 years, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service has played a key role in helping to ensure the safety and security of Canadians. Today, CSIS investigates and analyses a really wide range of threats from terrorism, to countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and foreign espionage.
CSIS has evolved into a world-class professional intelligence service that is respected and relied upon both here at home and globally. That achievement is ultimately due to the really high calibre of people who have chosen to work there. These are men and women who have joined CSIS because they really wanted to make a difference and they wanted to protect the safety and security of Canada. That is in the face of evolving national security threats.
However, those threats have changed dramatically since CSIS was created with the CSIS Act in 1984. The threat of terrorism is now a lot more complex and it is a lot more diffuse. Radical individuals or groups of extremists with the motivation and access to certain kinds of technology can really do significant harm to Canada. Global conflict, particularly the abhorrent violence that is perpetuated by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant serve as a reminder of our obligation to address these threats and this was underscored and echoed by the President of France here in the House this week.
Our government proposes to amend the CSIS Act to allow CSIS to better operate and investigate these threats to Canada's national security. I want to highlight the most recent measures taken by our government to continue to improve our counterterrorism tools, to face this evolving threat environment we are in.
The Combating Terrorism Act, which came into force in May 2013, created new criminal offences of leaving or attempting to leave Canada for the purpose of committing certain terrorism offences outside Canada. This is close to home for me because there have been people radicalized from Calgary who have done this.
This last July, a B.C. man was charged with leaving Canada to take part in a terrorist activity under this new act for the first time. Our government also employs many means to deny terrorists the opportunity to be able to carry out terrorist activities. This includes the RCMP-led high risk travel case management group and revoking and suspending passports of these prospective travellers.
However, our law enforcement people need more tools. We are committed to doing everything in our power to prevent Canadians from becoming either victims or perpetrators of terrorism-related activities.
That is why in our government's 2014 Public Report on the Terrorist Threat to Canada, it lays out our actions to address terrorism in all of its forms, including addressing this phenomenon of extremist travellers and returnees. Though the numbers are fluctuating, as early as 2014, the government was aware of more than 130 people who had Canadian connections, who had travelled abroad and were suspected of terrorism-related activities. This is real.
More recently, CSIS indicated that it is aware of 50 Canadians directly involved with activities being undertaken by ISIL and other extremist groups in the region.
Our government believes that prevention is really fundamental to combat violent extremism and that all key players, including community members who are very important, government and law enforcement and intelligence agencies, have to share a common and comprehensive understanding of violent extremism. We have to all work together to stop people from being radicalized into violence. Some of the methods are intervention and building community and law enforcement capacity.
While we are working here at home, we also have to take action on the international front. This is why we are collaborating with our allies on global efforts to counter violent extremism and to address this threat of extremist travellers.
More recently, as we know, our government voted in favour of joining our allies in the global military action in Iraq. In doing so, we are going to work to destroy the ISIL threat and its barbaric actions, which have resulted in the deaths and displacement of innocent civilians across the region and caused a global security concern.
While we are continuing to take strong action against this despicable organization, we must give our intelligence agencies the tools that they are going to need to really confront these kinds of threat to our security.
That is why we have introduced Bill C-44, the protection of Canada from terrorists act. Through this legislation, our government would amend the existing CSIS Act to confirm that CSIS does have the necessary methods and tools that it needs to investigate these threats and protect the security of Canada.
The legislation governing CSIS really does need to keep pace with this evolving terrorism threat to ensure that CSIS can investigate these threats, no matter where they occur. To that end, the protection of Canada from terrorists act would specifically confirm CSIS's authority to conduct investigations outside of Canada. These would have be to related to threats and to the security of Canada and security assessments.
It would confirm that the Federal Court can issue warrants for CSIS to investigate, within or outside Canada, threats to the security of Canada.
It would give the Federal Court the authority to consider only relevant Canadian law when issuing these warrants to authorize CSIS to undertake certain intrusive activities to investigate a threat to the security of Canada or outside of Canada.
It would protect the identity of CSIS human sources from disclosure, which is very important, and it would also protect the identity of CSIS employees who might engage in covert activities in the future.
It is important to note that CSIS would continue to require judicial authority to conduct certain investigative activities both within and outside of Canada. It would still remain subject to independent review by the Security Intelligence Review Committee.
The protection, safety and security of Canadians and our interests are a top priority for the Government of Canada, and should be for all members in the House. To that end, the important role that CSIS plays cannot be overstated. We will continue to equip it with the tools that it needs to investigate threats to the security of Canadians in what we are facing right now, which is an increasingly complex global environment.
I would encourage all members of the House to ensure that they vote for this very important and needed legislation.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Winnipeg North, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I always appreciate the opportunity to share with members some of my personal thoughts and to express some thoughts and ideas from the Liberal Party.
It goes without saying that Canadians have a burning desire to see security measures in place that will allow them to feel safe in the communities in which they live, whether it is here in the parliamentary precinct or in communities throughout the country.
On that note, it would be a mistake not to pay tribute to all those individuals who put in the effort to make us safe. Whether it is the intelligence officers of CSIS, the RCMP, border patrols, or other policing agencies, there are so many individuals who play a proactive role in ensuring that we have a sense of security. I wanted to express my appreciation for that.
It is not easy to provide a 100% guarantee that Canada will never have to endure a terrorist attack. What we can do is work hard to prevent one, wherever possible, and adequately support the different agencies. In particular, today we are focusing on CSIS.
We can bring in new legislation, but at the end of the day, legislation is only one aspect. We have to challenge the government to ensure that it is putting in other types of resources to support the different agencies that are there to protect us. Whether the government is in fact doing enough can at times be called into question.
This is really the first opportunity I have had to comment on what we all experienced just a couple of weeks ago. In the days that followed, I happened to be on a flight to Ukraine. Whether it was at the airport in Frankfurt or in Ukraine itself, I saw our beautiful Parliament buildings on the news. What took place a couple of weeks ago made international news, as many people around the world were quite concerned about what was taking place in Canada. Constituents, family, and friends at the time also expressed a great deal of interest and concern and offered their prayers and best wishes.
As has been pointed out, from Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers all the way down, people did a phenomenal job, and they should all be applauded for their efforts in ensuring that there was minimal impact because of what took place.
We have heard some amazing speeches. There were political speeches from leaders and others who paid tribute to Corporal Cirillo, who ultimately made a sacrifice that has reached into the hearts and minds of all Canadians. I raise that because I want to put it in the context of Bill C-44.
The bill would do nothing to address the national security concerns related to the events in Quebec and Ottawa a couple of weeks ago. It would simply amend the present legislation to meet current CSIS practices and would expedite the CIC amendments in Bill C-24.
The government needs to explain why the provisions already in place in the Criminal Code have not been utilized in response to those individuals who represent a threat to this country.
The sections of the Criminal Code in question are section 83.181, relating to the laying of charges against an individual attempting to leave Canada to participate in terrorist activities; section 83.3, which could be used to place recognizance with conditions on those suspected of terrorist activities; and section 810, relating to peace bonds and possible detention.
I was intrigued by some of the discussions. One of the most interesting statements I came across was from the Minister of Public Safety on October 8 at the public safety committee. This is in regard to the 80 individuals who returned to Canada after having travelled abroad to take part in terrorism-related activities. This is what the minister stated to parliamentarians and Canadians at committee:
|| 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.
This begs a number of questions with respect to whether we are acting on the current legislation that has been passed.
What would Bill C-44 actually do? There are three things I can detect. First, there would be protection for informants. I can appreciate why that would be necessary. Second, it would provide more clarity on the need for warrants. CSIS needs to investigate, and this legislation would provide more clarity with respect to warrants from judges to complete those investigations. Third is the issue of dual citizens. The House voted on this not that long ago, and it is being expedited.
The government needs to be aware of what is missing, and that is oversight. Oversight was mentioned today in questions.
In an hour, we will be voting on Bill C-622, an important piece of legislation. Bill C-622 was introduced by my colleague from Vancouver Quadra. She has done a wonderful job in recognizing the importance of parliamentary oversight. The government has been negligent on this issue, and I do not say that lightly.
What the member from Vancouver Quadra is asking of the government is already being done and is in place for our Five Eyes partners. In Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and the United Kingdom, it is already being done. They have recognized the value of having parliamentarians provide oversight.
I do not understand why the government is resisting that idea. This is not necessarily the first time, but it is definitely an opportune time for the government to recognize that the House of Commons and parliamentarians as a whole do have a role to play.
We hope that the Prime Minister will allow for an open vote on this issue. I would encourage the government to reflect, to seriously consider the benefits of accepting what the member for Vancouver Quadra, the Liberal Party defence critic, has put on the table for us today, and to vote for parliamentary oversight.
Oversight would go a long way in providing peace of mind, in many different ways. Oversight is a good way to ensure the protection of the rights of all Canadians. It is in our best interest, I would argue.
Parliamentary oversight is not just a Liberal Party proposal. As has been pointed out, our other partnering nations have already done this. Why would the government not respond in kind and recognize the value of oversight?
We in opposition recognize how important it is to provide protection for informants. It only stands to reason that there would be protection of informants, who provide critical, valuable information when a CSIS agent is doing an investigative report or conducting an investigation into the potential for some form of a terrorist act here in Canada or abroad. We have to depend on informants.
I have no sense of the actual number of informants out there, but I do understand and appreciate the need for us to protect them. In looking at this piece of legislation, we see that protection as a positive thing.
In terms of warrants and the need for warrants, again this concern does not come from any individual political party. Based on the discussions and comments I have heard here this afternoon and even previously, it seems there is virtual unanimity in recognizing how important it is that we provide additional clarity to CSIS as an organization and in terms of the role of warrants in ensuring that investigations are conducted in a proper fashion. There is an understanding that unusual circumstances come into play when terrorist activities and organizations are investigated.
As a whole, Canadians are very much aware of what terrorism is all about. We understand and appreciate that we are living in a very different world. Through the Internet and all forms of media outlets, we know there is a much higher sense of awareness. It is there and it is very real.
That, I believe, is one of the reasons that Canadians expect the Government of Canada to do what it can to ensure that they have a sense of security in the communities where they live, and I suggest many of my colleagues would concur. However, at the same time, there is an expectation that we will demonstrate leadership at the international level.
In bringing forward legislation such as we have before us today, it is very important that we consult with the different stakeholders and ensure that the legislation is, in many ways, a bit more inclusive in terms of having the right balance. I am not convinced that we have the right balance here. That is why, in my last 15 or 20 seconds, I would ask the government to recognize the importance that parliamentarians have when it comes to ensuring that Canadians feel much safer in their communities. Parliamentarians need to be, and should be, more engaged in the process. Whether it is oversight or whether it is parliamentary committees, we can make a difference.