Madam Speaker, I rise today to address this very important anti-terrorism bill, Bill C-36. I happen to believe that this is historic legislation and certainly one of the most important we will deal with in this the 37th parliament.
Many people have said, and I very much agree with them, that society and the world have changed as a result of the events on September 11. We watched in horror as 6,000 people lost their lives. We watched in horror at the kind of terrorist attacks that were perpetrated on our friend, neighbour and ally to the south, the United States. We all wondered what was going to happen next.
I was pleased to see, in concert with my constituents in Waterloo--Wellington, that there was a kinship of grief around the world that developed in concert with the victims and their families in New York, Washington, D.C. and the surrounding states, as well as Pennsylvania.
I believe that in our effort to deal with grief we pass through a number of stages. I think it is fair to say that sadness and despair, fear and anger are some of those stages but after a while we come to resolve, and I think that is where we are now at.
One of the ways to deal with tragedy, especially in this fashion, is to become determined and resolved to make sure it never happens again. That is why I thought the Prime Minister spoke very well the other day when he talked about getting together the kind of resolve necessary to carry forward in a very meaningful way and to act on behalf of all Canadians in concert with what they believe are fundamental and core values, not only for this country and the people of this great country but for other freedom loving people around the world.
As members know, the member states of the United Nations have joined in a common purpose, and that is to shut down terrorism. Canada, like our international partners, must move on all fronts. It is important to note that we are prepared to do that.
In recent days we have seen increased security measures adopted at our airports. The assets of Osama bin Laden and his associates, the people who have brought about such destruction, have been frozen. The United Nations Security Council unanimously passed a resolution on September 28 calling on states to work together urgently to prevent and suppress terrorist acts, including increased co-operation and full implementation of the important and relevant international conventions relating to terrorism, such as the convention on the financing of terrorism.
In response, the Canadian government has acted and acted with caution, noting full well that we need to think through our actions, and has implemented new regulations to target terrorist financing. The proposed anti-terrorism act that we are debating today further criminalizes the act of contributing to terrorist groups.
I said that it is essential to act on all fronts if we are going to defeat terrorism, and I meant that. Where do legislative strategies fit into this picture? We need new and more focused tools to allow the justice system to fight terrorism. We are not dealing here with ordinary criminals. We need to build a new legal framework that will disable terrorist networks and prevent them from developing the capability of financing, planning and carrying out their attacks on society and, by extension, on democracy.
The proposed anti-terrorism act that we are debating today implements the international convention on the suppression of terrorism and the international convention on the suppression of terrorist bombings. These are important measures in keeping with our international obligations.
New criminal code offences are created for participating in, facilitating or carrying out terrorist activities. Procedures are established for the seizure, the restraint and the forfeiture of property belonging to terrorist groups. We mean it when we say it. That is the point. We are getting tough because we need to. We need to act accordingly because that is what Canada needs to do to defend the precious system that we have.
Bill C-36 also proposes criminal code provisions to establish, by establishment and by regulation, a list of terrorist entities.
This measure will allow identification of entities that are clearly involved or associated with terrorist activities. The notion of listing terrorist organizations has its precedent in the United Nations and, indeed, Canada's United Nations Act already adopts lists of terrorists and terrorist organizations identified by the United Nations last year, including those of Osama bin Laden. The point is that we have the precedent and we are acting accordingly.
I want to go into this listing procedure a little more if I may, because this measure is one of the most important elements of the bill. I urge all members of the House as well as the members of the justice committee to examine this measure closely.
The placing of any organization or purpose on the list of terrorist groups is a very elaborate procedure, as it should be. Section 83.05 of the criminal code as proposed in Bill C-36 provides that the ultimate decision to add a name to the list is made by the governor in council. There must be “reasonable grounds” to do so, to believe that the entity, a group, a person or whatever, either “has carried out, attempted to carry out, participated in or facilitated a terrorist activity” or has acted “on behalf of, at the direction of or in association with” such an entity.
Thus the clear focus of this procedure is on establishing that the group or individual has been engaged in terrorism. This is how it should be, because this clarifies in a way that is consistent with what I believe to be the values of Canada and consistent with the values of the great charter of rights and freedoms that we in this country enjoy.
I want to emphasize too that additional safeguards are built into this process. Before the governor in council makes a decision the solicitor general must first be satisfied, again on reasonable grounds, that there is such terrorist activity occurring. Furthermore, a group that wishes to challenge its presence on the list may apply to the solicitor general to have its name removed. If the solicitor general does not remove the name, the group can apply to a judge for a review of that decision. Mechanisms are also established to address cases of mistaken identity. In any event, the solicitor general must review the list every two years in order to recommend that a listed entity remain on the list or in fact be removed.
It should be noted also that the bill also contains a detailed definition of terrorist activity and a specific offence related to participating in, facilitating, harbouring and instructing terrorist activity. Again, I urge my colleagues to look closely at the details of this definition since it is at the very heart of what the bill does. Expressed another way, Bill C-36 is premised on a clear focus on terrorist crimes and it breaks new ground in Canadian law in its willingness to embrace a distinct set of definitions. It is important, therefore, that we find consensus on these very important concepts.
A terrorist activity as described in proposed section 83.01 includes acts that would amount to an offence under one of the international anti-terrorist conventions to which Canada is committed, but it is also defined as “an act or omission” inside or outside Canada that is committed “in whole or in part, for a political, religious or ideological purpose, objective or cause”. It is evident that having such a religious or ideological purpose should not in itself be an offence. It is only when this purpose is linked with an intention to intimidate the public or a segment of the public with regard to its security and is also linked to an intention to cause death or serious bodily harm by the use of violence that it becomes a terrorist activity. There are also other factors that come into play, including an intention to endanger a person's life or to cause substantial property damage with serious harm resulting to a person.
Finally, I would like to return to my original question: What is the role of our laws in fighting terrorism and increasing our sense of security from terrorists? I suggest that the law, or more precisely the rule of law, is an important reference point for Canadians in assessing what needs to be done to protect our society from those who indeed do not respect the law or civilized values.
At the end of the day, Bill C-36, the bill we are debating today, is an effective measure that should be looked at closely and in fact will be looked at closely at the justice committee. There may or may not be amendments based on what the members think and the witnesses say, but when it comes down to it, I hope we will act as one, as the Parliament of Canada, in a way consistent with the values not only of the charter of rights and freedoms but the values of all Canadians.
We will do so in the best interests of this great country of ours, based on safety and security for the citizens of Canada and for those in the wider world and in that community who believe in the fundamental rights of liberty, freedom and democracy.