Mr. Speaker, it is my great pleasure to rise today to speak to Bill C-51, the anti-terrorism act.
The anti-terrorism act, 2015, contains a range of needed anti-terrorism measures, including, for example, provisions that will enable important improvements to the passenger protect program. The proposed legislation complements measures included in the Combating Terrorism Act, which came into force in July 2013. It enhances Canada's ability to address threats to air transportation security, while also establishing strong safeguards to protect civil liberties.
The Combating Terrorism Act created four new offences of leaving or attempting to leave Canada for the purpose of committing certain acts of terrorism. Leaving Canada to participate in terrorist training, for example, is now an offence punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Shockingly, the NDP voted against these measures. Evidently it does not believe that travelling for terrorist purposes ought to be criminal.
The changes we are making to the passenger protect program would complement this by allowing the government to potentially prevent certain people from travelling by air under specific circumstances where arrest and prosecution may not yet be possible.
Let me explain. It was this government that established the passenger protect program in 2007 to screen air passengers more effectively. The program uses measures such as denial of boarding when necessary to respond to threats to aviation security.
While the program currently operates on the basis of authorities in the Aeronautics Act, Bill C-51 would create a stand-alone framework to support the passenger protect program. This new framework would expand the program's mandate in a very important way to address both individuals who posed a threat to aviation and security and those who attempted to travel to engage in terrorist offences.
I wish to emphasize here that it would also establish safeguards with respect to information sharing and find mechanisms for review and appeal of decisions.
To accomplish all this, the bill would define new authorities for two ministers.
The Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness would establish a list of persons under two categories: first, those who may pose a threat to transportation security; and, second, those who may travel by air to engage in terrorist offences. Having the Government of Canada, not international air carriers, screen passengers against the list would better protect the security of the program and the privacy of those on the list.
Under the anti-terrorism act, 2015, the minister would also have the authority to respond to such threats in a reasonable and appropriate manner. Operational directions would be tailored to the specific threat. For example, in some cases, the minister could direct an air carrier to designate an individual for additional screening at the security check point. In other more high-risk cases, the minister could direct the carrier to prevent a listed person from boarding a flight.
In implementing these authorities, the Minister of Transport would serve as the primary contact with air carriers, including responsibility for: first, disclosing the list to air carriers for the purpose of screening passengers; second, collecting information on listed persons from air carriers; third, communicating response directions to air carriers on behalf of the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness; and, finally, overseeing industry compliance with the new legislation
In response to concerns raised in committee, our government moved an amendment that would clarify the minister's authority when giving direction to air carriers. We believe the amendment would respond to those concerns, while ensuring the original intent of the bill would remain intact.
Let me say a few more words about information sharing.
For security and privacy reasons, the names of people who are, or were, on the list would not be disclosed, except when authorized for specific purposes. Specifically, it would authorize certain entities to disclose and collect information to help the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness administer and enforce the act. For example, under the act, the Canada Border Services Agency would be able to collect information related to air travellers who were coming to or leaving Canada, as well as screen them against the list.
The act would also authorize the minister to enter into written arrangements to share information with foreign states. Such disclosure, however, would always be subject to applicable Canadian law.
There are other safeguards that would respect the privacy of individuals and would give them a fair process to challenge the minister's decisions. For example, any listed person who has been denied the right to board an aircraft could apply within 60 days to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to be removed from the list. The minister would have 90 days, or a longer period agreed upon by the minister and the applicant, to review the case. If after this review the minister decided to keep the individual on the list, that individual could apply to the Federal Court for a review of the minister's decision.
Given the national security objectives behind this legislation, decisions made under the new authorities could involve sensitive information that, if disclosed, would be injurious to national security or endanger the safety of a person. Therefore, the legislation would define special streamlined procedures for judges to review decisions that relied on sensitive information, similar to the procedures that are used to review other national security programs, such as the terrorist entity listings under the Criminal Code.
Finally, let me highlight compliance and enforcement provisions.
For consistency with the existing regulatory framework for civil aviation, the bill would mirror the Minister of Transport's inspection and enforcement authorities under the Aeronautics Act. Contraventions of the new act, whether they relate to the duties of air carriers, the prohibition on disclosure of information, or the obligation for passengers to undergo screening, are all offences punishable on summary conviction. Contravening the clause related to obstruction can be punished either as an indictable offence or by means of summary conviction.
An individual who contravenes the provisions under the act could be fined up to $5,000 or be liable to up to a one-year imprisonment term, or both. Meanwhile, a corporation that is convicted of an indictable offence is liable to a fine of up to $500,000.
The proposed legislation would balance the need to address air transportation security and terrorist travel by air with safeguards that give individuals the right to administrative recourse and appeal. These amendments are also in line with the recent UN Security Council resolution on foreign terrorist fighters, aimed at stemming the flow of extremist travellers, as well as the measures being put in place by many of our international partners to address this threat.
The anti-terrorism act 2015 is an important step in expanding our tools to address extremist travellers who participate in terrorist activities, and I call on all members of this House to support it.