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.