Mr. Speaker, first of all I want to clarify that we are discussing Bill C-44 today. Bill C-51 was recently tabled, and we look forward to some very important debate on this complementary legislation for protecting Canadians.
I rise in support of the protection of Canada from terrorists act, which is another important step taken by our government to protect Canada against terrorism. We are looking at amending two key pieces of legislation. This bill would strengthen our response to so-called extremist terrorist travellers and confirm the tool kits of our security agencies.
Before highlighting the most important amendments, let me situate this legislation within a global context and explain how it would build on our existing legislation and policy.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, has become a household name around the world. It is destabilizing Iraq and Syria while carrying out horrific acts against innocent people. As members know, as part of international coalition, Canada's CF-18 fighter jets are targeting ISIL forces in Iraq. We have joined our allies in this fight because we know that groups like ISIL pose a serious threat not just to regional security but to the citizens of Canada as well.
However, the fight against terrorism does not take place only under foreign skies. Every day, along our borders, in front of our computer screens, within our communities, and with our partners, Canada's intelligence security and law enforcement agencies are standing on guard against terrorism. They carry out their work guided by the four tenets of Canada's counterterrorism strategy, which are prevent, detect, deny, and respond. They are supported by legislation passed by Parliament, which includes the Combating Terrorism Act, for example, which makes it illegal to leave or attempt to leave Canada with a view to committing certain terrorism offences outside the country. Indeed, the RCMP laid its first charges under that act last summer.
The landscape for terrorism, however, is rapidly evolving, and our agencies need better tools to keep Canadians safe and secure. Members may want to consider the findings of the 2014 Public Report on the Terrorist Threat to Canada. In 2013, Canada added six groups to the list of terrorist entities, bringing the total to 53. Moreover, as early as 2014, the government had identified approximately 145 individuals with terrorism connections who may have been involved in terrorism-related activities in foreign countries. These are Canadians that groups like ISIL are trying to recruit through sick propaganda.
When Canadians are lured into fighting for a terrorist cause, they can inflict harm on innocent people in a foreign country. What is more, with the training that they receive and the propaganda that they are subjected to, extremist travellers may return home motivated to carry out terrorist acts on our own soil. Thus, while our brave men and women take part in combat missions overseas, it is our responsibility here to prevent, detect, deny, and respond to terrorism in all of its forms.
This brings me to Bill C-44, the protection of Canada from terrorists act.
This act addresses two key pieces of legislation that are essential in our fight against terrorism. As members will recall, the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act received royal assent in June and expanded the grounds for the revocation of Canadian citizenship. It also streamlined the process for making those decisions. Once in force, there will be authority to revoke Canadian citizenship from dual citizens convicted of terrorism, high treason, and treason or spying offences, depending on the sentence that is imposed. It will also provide authorities with the authority to revoke citizenship from those who have served as members of an armed force of a country or an organized armed group engaged in an armed conflict against Canada.
Those convicted cannot get time off for good behaviour. These individuals will never be allowed to become Canadian citizens again.
The amendments of Bill C-44 introduced technical changes to the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act that would allow the government to bring into force the revocation provision of the act earlier than, and separate from, the remaining provision.
I would also note that there is a second important change included in the strengthening Canadian citizenship bill. It relates to the process for revoking citizenship. Without these new provisions, the process for revoking citizenship can take up to three years, which I believe, and I believe many Canadians believe, is much too long. Let us imagine a dual citizen who has been radicalized. We may have the evidence to revoke citizenship, but we cannot do it in a timely way because the process is so lengthy. It was vital to streamline the process for revoking citizenship, while respecting the rights of the people involved.
To that end, depending on the grounds for the decision, once the provisions are in force, there would be authority for the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration or the Federal Court to decide on revocation cases.
These amendments to our citizenship laws introduced in the strengthening Canadian citizenship bill would protect the safety and security of Canadians and value and safeguard of value of Canadian citizenship.
Bill C-44 would also amend another piece of legislation, the CSIS Act. We heard earlier that when the CSIS Act was introduced 30 years ago, the expression “extremist traveller” was not part of our lexicon, and neither was “social media.” Who could have imagined that messages of intolerance and hate would one day be transmitted without filters to a mobile telephone? Who could have foreseen how this propaganda could turn someone with mainstream views into an extremist?
However, this is the world we now live in. We must adapt, and adapt quickly, to ensure that CSIS has the tools it needs to investigate threats in a new world. To do this, we must affirm key elements of CSIS' mandate that have been brought into question by recent court decisions. That is really what Bill C-44 is all about. It is not about new powers.
First, this bill would confirm CSIS' existing authority to undertake investigative activities outside of Canada in relation to the security of Canada or to security assessments.
Second, it would confirm the existing jurisdiction of the Federal Court to issue warrants to authorize CSIS to undertake certain intrusive investigative activities outside of Canada.
Third, it would clarify that in determining whether to issue warrants for activities outside of Canada, the Federal Court need only consider relevant Canadian law.
Fourth, it would ensure that the identities of CSIS' human sources would not be disclosed in legal proceedings, except in certain circumstances. This provision is similar to the common law privilege protections that already exist for front-line police informers.
In addition to protecting the identity of CSIS sources during legal proceedings, it would also protect the identity of CSIS employees who are likely to become involved in future covert operations.
Taken together, the amendments proposed in Bill C-44 address recent court decisions related to CSIS and ensure that CSIS has the tools it needs to fulfill the mandate it was given by Parliament 30 years ago.
Canadians depend on our government to protect them from terrorist activities, and we must not fail them. I urge all members to join me in offering unconditional support for Bill C-44, a much-needed response to a rapidly changing security environment.