moved that Bill C-36, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Official Secrets Act, the Canada Evidence Act, the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) Act and other acts, and to enact measures respecting the registration of charities in order to combat terrorism, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Madam Speaker, I want to thank members for the opportunity to rise in the House this morning to speak in support of Bill C-36, the Government of Canada's anti-terrorism act.
Before commenting on specific measures, I would like to highlight this government's commitment to the fight against terrorism. This bill represents an important component of the federal government's comprehensive strategy to strengthen national security.
The horrific terrorist acts of September 11 created suffering, fear and uncertainty. These events challenged Canadians' sense of safety and security and it is this that we must address as our first priority.
Terrorism seeks to undermine the rule of law and human rights. Terrorism seeks to undermine our values and way of life. Terrorism tries to turn one community against another, religion against religion, and race against race. Terrorism seeks all these things but it will achieve none of them, not here in Canada. This government has been clear but it is worth repeating over and over again: this is not a war against any one group or ethnicity but a war against terrorism.
The measures contained in this bill target persons and activities that undermine the security and welfare of Canadians. Our efforts are directed against terrorist acts, not against the members of a specific community, ethnicity, or religion. Diversity is one of Canada's greatest strengths and we are taking measures to protect it.
We are marshalling our resources against the forces of terror while still maintaining our commitment to the enduring values of democracy. Striking the proper balance has always been the challenge of democratic governments. This has never been more true than it is today. We are protecting our values and defining the threat that terrorism poses to free and civilized nations everywhere. These values receive an important part of their legal expression in the charter of rights and freedoms. We will protect the very thing that terrorism seeks to disrupt, namely, maintaining the balance between an open and just society and a safe and secure one.
Bill C-36 is one element of the Government of Canada's comprehensive action plan on Canadian security, a plan whose objectives are to stop terrorists from getting into Canada and protect Canadian citizens from terrorist acts, to bring forward tools to identify, prosecute, convict and punish terrorists, to keep our borders secure and to work with the international community to bring terrorists to justice and address the root causes of hatred.
In developing this legislation we have paid close attention to what other democratic countries are doing in their fight against terrorism. It is important that we act in a way that is consistent with the approach of other democratic nations and in conformity with international law.
The world changed on September 11 in a way that changed our collective sense of safety and security. Reviewing our legal framework was one component of a more thorough review undertaken by the federal government to strengthen our national security. Be assured that all democratic nations have undertaken a similar re-examination.
Canadians have much to be proud of and much to protect. This bill strikes a balance between our desire to maintain the values of freedom and individual rights and our collective determination to protect our citizens.
Canadians can rest assured that we kept in mind the rights and freedoms guaranteed in the charter when drafting our proposals.
The bill reaffirms the equal right of every citizen of whatever religion, race or ethnic origin to enjoy the security, protections and liberties shared by all Canadians.
Amendments to the criminal code would allow the courts to order the deletion of publicly available hate propaganda from computer systems such as an Internet site. Those who post material will be provided the opportunity to convince the court that the material is not hate propaganda. The provision would apply to hate propaganda that is located on Canadian computer systems regardless of where the owner of the material is located or whether he or she can be identified.
Further, criminal code amendments would create a new offence of mischief, motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on religion, race, colour, national or ethnic origin, committed against a place of religious worship or associated religious property.
In addition, the Canadian Human Rights Act will be amended to clarify that communication of hate messages using new technology, such as the Internet, constitutes a discriminatory practice. While such communication is already interpreted to be discriminatory, these amendments will add certainty and clarity to the law.
I should like to describe the approach we have developed in Bill C-36. The proposed legislative package focuses on three elements. Bill C-36 targets terrorist activity and those who would carry out or support such activity. The three main objectives of the new measures are as follows: first, to suppress the very existence of terrorist groups; second, to provide new investigative tools; and, third, to provide a tougher sentencing regime to incapacitate terrorists and terrorist groups.
The bill seeks to identify, dismantle, prosecute and punish terrorist activity. Bill C-36 includes criminal code amendments to ratify the remaining two United Nations conventions and protocols related to terrorism. The suppression of terrorist financing convention concerns the freezing of terrorist property.
It would prohibit dealing in any property of an individual involved in terrorist activities and it would prohibit making available funds and financial means or services to terrorists. These measures would allow a federal court judge to order the seizure and forfeiture of property used in or related to terrorist activity.
The suppression of terrorist bombings convention contains provisions relating to the targeting of public places, government or infrastructure facilities or transportation systems with explosives or other lethal devices including chemical or biological agents. The term explosive or other lethal device is defined broadly to include toxic chemicals, biological agents and radioactive substances. Ratification of these two conventions would reflect Canada's commitment to work together with the international community.
Let there be no doubt. Whether we are in North America or somewhere else in the world, terrorism represents a global threat, the force of which reverberated in the cities of New York and Washington on September 11. We shall take all legitimate means necessary to undermine the forces of terrorism. We must without hesitation work with our neighbours and with our allies to ensure that those who seek to terrorize the innocent and support terrorists understand that we will cut off their money. We will find them and we will punish them for their acts of violence.
The legislation before the House would provide a definition of terrorist activity for the first time. This definition is critical, as many of the legal implications under the bill are tied to the concept of terrorist activity. The first element of the definition outlines the offences that are established in the 12 international conventions related to terrorism, all of which we have signed.
Equally important, however, is a general definition that refers to acts or omissions undertaken for political, religious or ideological purposes and which are intended to intimidate the public, force governments to act and cause serious harm.
We have carefully restricted the definition to make it clear that property damage and disruption of an essential service are not in and of themselves sufficient to constitute a terrorist activity. The action taken must also endanger lives or cause serious risks to the health and safety of the public.
This is an important issue about which some of my colleagues have expressed concern. To respond to their concerns let me assure the House and all Canadians that this definition shall in no way include legitimate forms of political dissent. It would not impinge upon the lawful activities of legitimate political groups or lobby organizations. In addition, the legislation would permit the designation of groups whose activities meet the definition of terrorist activity.
I will speak now to the issue of new offences as laid out in the legislation and as targeted to acts of terrorism. Comprehensive new terrorism offences under the criminal code have been created. These include offences relating to participating in, facilitating or instructing terrorist activity and harbouring others who carry out terrorist activity.
These offences would criminalize a full range of activities related to terrorism. For example, a person who helps to train another person in an otherwise legal activity such as flying an aircraft would commit a crime if the trainer knew it would help the other person carry out a terrorist activity. This would be the case regardless of whether the trainer knew when, where or how the terrorist activity might be carried out.
The new offences related to direction of or instruction in terrorist activity would allow us to go after the leaders of terrorist organizations. The most severe penalties, up to life imprisonment, are attached to these offences.
I have spoken about the effort demonstrated in the bill to maintain a balance between a firm commitment to eradicate terrorism and the protection of civil liberties for all Canadians. There are safeguards built into these new terrorism offences throughout the bill. Notably the required proof includes specific intent or actual knowledge in relation to the prohibited conduct.
We are all aware that the lifeblood of terrorist organizations is money. Bill C-36 proposes new measures under the criminal code to combat the financing of terrorism. It includes measures related to the seizure, restraint and forfeiture of terrorist property. The new measures related to financing would allow us to effectively go after the heart of terrorist financing networks.
For example, it would be an offence to collect or provide cash knowing that it would be used to facilitate or carry out an offence that constitutes terrorist activity. It would be an offence to provide financial services knowing that they would be used to facilitate or carry out terrorist activity or to benefit a terrorist group. Persons in the financial services industry who knowingly engage in transactions related to terrorism could find themselves charged criminally.
These measures are also subject to safeguards including substantive and procedural requirements governing seizure, restraint and forfeiture. Third party interests including those of the innocent families of those involved would be protected.
I should like to turn now to the element of the bill that would provide for preventive arrest as a way of assisting law enforcement officers to disrupt terrorism acts. The September 11 events heightened our awareness of the highly sophisticated nature of terrorist activity.
Sophisticated communications, modified organizational structures and an ability to evade traditional investigative methods require us to examine what other tools may be available to help security and enforcement officers carry out their investigations. The preventive arrest is one such tool.
If an officer believes on reasonable grounds that a serious terrorist offence is about to take place and suspects that the arrest of a particular person would prevent it, then that person can be detained and brought before a judge. These measures would only be available under strictly defined conditions and would be subject to numerous procedural safeguards.
The consent of the attorney general would be required as a prerequisite, save for emergency circumstances. The person would be brought before a provincial court judge within 24 hours or as soon as possible, and a maximum further period in detention of 48 hours would be possible if a judge so orders.
The object of bringing the person before the court is for the court to consider whether conditions should be imposed upon the person's movements and associations. The court may impose such conditions or may release the person without conditions. If the person refuses to accept conditions the court may commit him or her to prison for up to 12 months.
The bill also amends the proceeds of crime or money laundering legislation. Fintrac's mandate would be expanded to gather, analyze and disclose information on terrorist money laundering. The safeguards built into the Fintrac process would be maintained.
The charities registration act would be enacted as part of the bill to allow for the denial or removal of charitable status from organizations that provide resources directly or indirectly to terrorists. This would be subject to both ministerial and judicial review.
Bill C-36 would also provide for investigative hearings under the criminal code. These hearings would permit the gathering of evidence in investigations of terrorism offences prior to the laying of charges. There is an existing procedure under the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act that allows us to do this for other countries, but there is nothing comparable for our own investigations. The United States has investigative grand juries that perform a similar function.
This investigative hearing would not be a trial of an offence. Evidence given could not be used afterward in criminal proceedings against the person. The right to counsel would apply, as would the rights of privilege and other rights of non-disclosure under the law.
The bill would also amend the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act to clarify its mandate and enable it to investigate threats to Canada, including those arising from religious or ideological objectives in addition to political causes that it now covers. As we have seen, terrorists may be driven by motives other than the purely political.
The bill would amend the National Defence Act to continue and clarify the mandate of the Communications Security Establishment, CSE, to collect foreign communications. The CSE's functions of collecting foreign intelligence and of protecting Government of Canada communications systems are particularly important in the context of action against sophisticated terrorist networks that use computers and satellite telephone systems.
Subject to strict conditions the bill would empower the Minster of National Defence to authorize interceptions in limited circumstances. Safeguards to ensure the privacy of Canadians are built into the legislation.
Other provisions of the bill include the updating and refinement of the Official Secrets Act. This act would be renamed the security of information act and would better address national security concerns.
The amendments cover threats of espionage by foreign powers and by terrorist groups, espionage against Canada's national security, defence, international relations and economic interests. They also address the intimidation and coercion of any émigré community in Canada.
The Canada Evidence Act would be amended to allow for better protection of sensitive information during legal proceedings. One of the key reasons we need this improved protection is to be able to assure our allies that sensitive information they provide to us can be protected from release.
The Access to Information Act, the Privacy Act and Personal Information Protection Act would be amended to allow the Attorney General of Canada to issue certificates prohibiting disclosure of information for the purpose of protecting national security, national defence or international relations. This would be consistent with Canada Evidence Act provisions respecting the protection of such information in court proceedings.
I want to say a few words about the sentencing regime. The bill would implement an aggressive sentencing and parole regime for terrorism offences including a maximum of life imprisonment for many offences and restricted parole eligibility. Those who instruct anyone to carry out a terrorist activity would be subject to a maximum of life imprisonment.
In addition, the criminal code would stipulate that sentences imposed for terrorist offences are to be served consecutively to any other offence imposed relating to the same activity or event.
These are the main elements of our legislative proposals. Legislation alone is not the complete answer to the security challenge we are facing. Rather, it is one element of the government's plan to deal effectively with terrorists and those who support them.
It is incumbent on us to ensure that our laws meet our present day needs. As such, this package includes a three year parliamentary review clause because we acknowledge the fact that our needs may change in the weeks, months and years ahead.
Today I want to reassure Canadians that their government has listened to them and acknowledged their desire for action. It is responding with a legislative package that I believe meets their expectations not only in relation to combating terrorism but in its commitment to protecting individual rights and freedoms.
Our world changed dramatically on September 11 but not in the manner that the terrorists who planned and carried out the horrific attacks had hoped. They aimed to frighten us, disrupt our lives and force us to question our most basic democratic values of freedom and liberty. They did not succeed. Our commitment to democracy is stronger than ever. Together all Canadians are committed to increasing public security while maintaining our core values.
Bill C-36 represents an appropriate legislative balance to reflect Canadian values. Though our allies may have designed different legislative means to suit their legislative and constitutional frameworks, we nevertheless share a collective goal: to provide our citizens with security for themselves, their families and their communities.
I welcome review of the legislation by the House. I encourage all members to participate in the review and to support passage of the legislation.