Mr. Speaker, we are only six days from the morning of September 11, 2001, a new date which we all know will live on in infamy. On that day, in a few harrowing hours, the world was changed forever.
None of us will ever forget where we were in the moments we first heard that planes had struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, but for many people, including hundreds of Canadians, that awful moment will never end. There will always be a missing daughter or son, husband or wife, or mother or father who will never return.
It is to the victims of these barbaric acts, to their families and to their loved ones that our hearts, our minds and our prayers must go first. We must let these families know, those who have suffered these losses, that we are with them, that this parliament is with them and that Canada is with them.
Last week's horrific attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania have shocked everyone in the civilized world. These mass hijackings and suicide attacks were more than a crime; they were barbaric acts of war. They were aimed straight at the heart of our society. I say society because these attacks were not aimed just at New York or even just at the United States. They were aimed at everyone in the world who believes in democracy and freedom. They were aimed at everything we hold dear here in Canada also.
Our first thoughts must turn to those who were lost in this horrific attack and to their grieving families: the passengers and crew of those airplanes, the men and women working in the office towers, the pedestrians below those towers, and the brave firefighters and police who rushed in only to be killed themselves. Our thoughts are with these brave souls. They died because they lived in freedom and freedom was targeted for attack.
The very next day following the awful attacks in New York, the people of New York, hurting and feeling great pain, returned to their jobs. Many opened their shops, some of which were covered in ashes, and with their hearts aching but their heads held high they said to a watching world “We are bruised but we will not be broken”.
Let us join them in that spirit to do what must be done to stop the forces of terror and tyranny and to keep open the doors of freedom and peace.
Our hearts go out to all our brave neighbours in the United States, that great beacon of hope and freedom to the world, our greatest ally and our closest friend. When Canada has needed it in the past the United States has been there for us. When the world has needed it, the United States has been there. Along with Canadians, the brave men and women of the United States crossed the Atlantic and Pacific in the second world war and stopped tyranny. Their determined valour was exceeded only by their friendship in the peace that followed.
Now is the time for Canada and Canadians to stand by our great friends and great allies as never before.
I want to thank the Prime Minister and the foreign affairs minister for their words of solidarity toward the United States. During this crisis it is important that MPs from all parties put forward a united front. I will do that. Others will do that.
Today I know that every member of parliament from every party would call himself or herself a Canadian, an ally, a friend, not just a member of a particular party.
The Prime Minister has my full support as we stand shoulder to shoulder with the United States.
I would also like to pay tribute to the thousands of Canadians, from RCMP officers and customs agents to airport personnel, firefighters, doctors, nurses, and citizens who donated blood, who responded with such compassion and concern in this crisis. They have shown that Canadians will stand with the United States, our greatest friend and ally, in its hour of need.
On behalf of Canadians, the Prime Minister called for a national day of mourning last Friday. We deeply appreciated that opportunity to express our sorrow and show our unshakeable support for our American neighbours and for Canadians who suffered loss. In a great show of Canadian solidarity and support on Parliament Hill last Friday and in similar ceremonies across the country, Canadians sent that message. The only element missing from that ceremony was the acknowledgment, in this time of sorrow and heartbreak, of our Creator, because in the days ahead it is only with divine wisdom, grace and understanding that we shall overcome.
As we join with the people of the United States and especially with the families of the victims to remember the dead, let us now dedicate ourselves to protecting the living. The events of September 11 were not merely tragic, like a train wreck or an earthquake. They were evil, as the Prime Minister has said. We must make sure that this kind of evil shall not prevail.
President Bush has rightly called this struggle the first war of the 21st century. Make no mistake. The war on terrorism is not merely the moral equivalent of war, like a war on drugs or a war on poverty. This is a genuine war, which can only be won, as Sir Winston Churchill said of another long struggle, with blood, toil, tears and sweat. Canada, in invoking article 5 of the NATO charter, has joined with our allies in declaring that this attack on the United States is an attack on ourselves, the first such declaration in the 50 year history of NATO.
This is not just an American struggle, for the terrorist war is aimed not only at America nor is it being fought only in America. It is being fought throughout the world, including here in Canada. The suicide bombing of the World Trade Center is an attack on Canada as well. Terrorists have declared war on the entire free world and the entire free world must declare war on terrorism.
This is a war not with ghosts but with real people. Osama bin Laden has been publicly identified as the prime suspect behind these murderous acts. He has been sheltered, if not aided and abetted, and time will tell on that question, by the Taliban regime of Afghanistan. The free world must tell all states that no matter what their ideology, supporting or condoning terror against civilians will never, ever be tolerated.
However, while bin Laden's al-Qaeda movement or other radical groups from the Middle East may be guilty of these infamous acts, we know that the overwhelming majority of Arabs and Muslims here in Canada and around the world deplore and abhor these attacks as strongly as we do.
I have discussed this matter with my colleague, the member of parliament for Edmonton--Strathcona, whom I believe is the only Muslim member of the House. He has told me of the sensitivity of this issue in Canada's Muslim community at this difficult time. The true meaning of Islam is surrender to God. The religion of Salaam, or peace, is diametrically opposed to these kinds of evil acts. The Islamic beliefs in peace and brotherhood are among the elements which make our Canadian communities strong and caring places in which to live. At this hour of darkness, let us reach out in a special way to our peaceful Arab and Muslim friends and neighbours here in Canada and let us reject any backlash against the innocent even as we strive to bring the guilty to justice.
The true teachings of Islam are diametrically opposed to the terrorists' interpretations of them. I am therefore calling upon the public to reach out to our Arab and Muslim friends here in Canada and to reject all forms of discrimination toward innocent individuals.
Let us not allow the barbarism of a few extremists to taint an entire community or religion. There must indeed be justice, but only for those who are guilty.
Canadians do not dwell often on thoughts of war. We are thankful for having enjoyed a long season of peace. When we consider our role in the world, we are more likely to think of Canadians keeping peace than waging war.
Some in this country have already begun to say that talk of war is overblown and irresponsible and that we must instead address the root causes of terrorism. This is true. Root causes must be addressed, but it is sheer folly, let there be no mistake, when we say that the root cause of terrorism is the terrorists themselves. The hatred that moves them to massacre the innocent can never be negotiated with or reasoned with.
It is not a matter of shades of grey when it comes to these barbarous acts of evil. It is set in black and white. This is not a time for moral ambiguity. It is a moment of moral clarity. As Canadians, as subjects of this peaceable land, we did not seek this conflict, but however much we might tell ourselves that we are not targets, that we really are not involved and that this is not our war, the reality is that we cannot avoid it. As I said last week, there are no rearguard positions in the struggle against terrorism, only front lines. Canada is on the front line whether we want to be there or not. In the words of Prime Minister Blair:
People of all faiths and all democratic political persuasions have a common cause: to identify this machine of terror and dismantle it as swiftly as possible.
In the past when summoned to action in World War I when we were a nation of only some eight million people, 625,000 soldiers went into action from Canada. In World War II we again made a huge effort, especially in relation to the size of our population. As well, in Korea and in the gulf, Canada proved itself ready. We joined with our allies and did our share, sometimes at great cost.
Now it is no different. The war on terrorism will require real sacrifices and new priorities. Now we must face the difficult question of whether Canada is ready to face this new struggle. Canada is a free and democratic society. It is precisely because we are a free and democratic society with values and desires to protect our way of life that we cannot avoid the awful responsibility of joining the war on terrorism.
The form of democracy we are privileged to enjoy is the Westminster parliamentary system. In our historic form of democratic government it falls to the leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition to ask difficult and at times painful questions and to pose alternatives as to what the government should do.
In my address today and in the speeches from Alliance and other opposition members of parliament, we will pose important questions as to whether Canada is sufficiently prepared to face this challenge that has been thrust upon us. For several years the official opposition has consistently raised issues of border security, the integrity of our refugee identification system and the need for more resources for military, security and intelligence purposes. We have drawn attention to terrorist activity within Canada. In our view the government unfortunately has not always responded as fully as it should have to these concerns, but the world has changed since September 11, 2001, and what was an important if sometimes overlooked concern before September 11 has now become an absolute moral imperative since September 11.
Addressing these issues of national security must now become the single highest priority of the Parliament and the Government of Canada.
Today, the official opposition does not wish to rehash the past, to dredge up past mistakes by the government; instead we wish to propose concrete and constructive solutions for the future.
The official opposition does not want to fix blame. We want to fix the problem.
Today I would like to propose three important changes that would better equip the Canadian government to engage in its battle against terrorism.
First, we must equip ourselves with anti-terrorist legislation.
Second, we must ensure that we have secure borders and airports, by protecting ourselves against professional terrorists.
Third, we must provide our army, police and security intelligence service with the needed resources to engage in this battle as well as a clear mandate.
If Canada was inadequately prepared in some of these areas before September 11, the question before us now is how to respond adequately, now that we know we cannot avoid this fight.
In 1996, in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, the United States brought in comprehensive anti-terrorism legislation in the form of the anti-terrorism and effective death penalty act signed by President Clinton. In Canada the interdepartmental intelligence policy group reviewed the U.S. legislation but concluded “that the need for such a scheme or its potential effectiveness could not be established”.
In 2000 the United Kingdom, which already had strong anti-terrorism legislation on its books to deal with the threat of the IRA, brought in new sweeping anti-terrorism legislation to deal with international terrorism operating within the U.K.
The official opposition has pointed to the British terrorism act 2000 as an example of the kind of effective legislation that we feel Canada needs to deal with the threat of terrorist groups operating within our borders.
Both the U.S. anti-terrorism act of 1996 and the British anti-terrorism act of 2000 took concrete steps to name and outlaw specific terrorist organizations operating within those countries and to ban any fundraising or other support activities on their behalf.
Yet in Canada the government has avoided the approach of naming and banning specific terrorist organizations and their front groups. This is a step that no longer can be put off.
Canada is a signatory to and indeed helped to draft the 1999 United Nations international convention for the suppression of the financing of terrorism, which calls for a complete ban on all forms of fundraising for terrorist organizations. Unfortunately Canada has not ratified this convention and has not yet tabled legislation to give it force and effect.
Bill C-16 which allows the government to strip charitable status from groups raising funds for terrorism is a first tentative step, but it falls short of an outright ban on terrorist fundraising.
Bill C-16, which is being debated in this parliament, would make it possible for certain groups financing terrorism to be stripped of their not for profit organization status.
This is a step in the right direction, but we are still a long way from having true anti-terrorist legislation that would ban the financing of terrorism in Canada and eliminate such groups from this country.
We know that terrorist groups such as Babbar Khalsa, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the Kurdistan Workers Party and the Irish Republican Army have all raised large amounts of money in Canada and continue to do so. Indeed in 1998 CSIS reported that there were some 50 terrorist groups operating in Canada. In testimony that year before a Senate committee, CSIS Director Ward Elcock said:
As only a partial list, individuals and groups here have had direct or indirect association with: the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, suicide bombings in Israel, assassinations in India, the murder of tourists in Egypt, the Al Khobar Towers attack in Saudi Arabia and the bombing campaign of the Provisional IRA.
He went on to say that we cannot become, through inaction or otherwise, what might be called an unofficial state sponsor of terrorism. We cannot allow that to happen.
Giving the solicitor general and the CCRA the power to strip charitable status from these organizations and their front groups is not good enough. Governments must name these groups, define them, publicly outlaw them and ban all fundraising on their behalf.
The government should have the power to freeze and seize the assets of terrorist organizations and their front groups. We look forward to more input in this particular area of legislation and we look forward to the government response in this particular area. We must deal with this issue.
The second broad area I will address is the security of our borders and airports and how we can better screen people arriving in Canada to prevent possible terrorists from reaching Canada in the first place.
The security of Canada's borders and airports is a vital national and international security issue, but it is also a vital economic issue. Canada relies on a billion dollar a day flow of trade to and from the United States as a linchpin of our economy. Last week's airport and border shutdowns and delays will likely cost our economy tens of millions of dollars.
The fact that our two countries share the world's largest undefended border is not a right but a privilege. If we expect to maintain the kind of access to the United States and it to us that we have enjoyed in the past, we must now take steps to show our American neighbours that we are every bit as concerned as they are about maintaining security and preventing terrorism and organized crime.
We remember the threat posed to the Canadian economy by the illegal immigration reform and immigrant responsibility act passed by the U.S. Congress in 1997. It was only significant and hard lobbying by the Canadian embassy and others that won changes to the legislation to exempt the Canadian-U.S. border. Will that be the case after September 11, 2001? We must work in this regard with all diligence.
What kind of measures may be necessary to ensure security at our points of entry? Our critics in that area have been working diligently with security forces and others to help identify the things that must be done. We will consider the various ideas being brought forward and suggested, whether it is increased implementation of electronic passport screening or the idea of air marshals and other steps that must be taken to grant security on our airlines.
At our land borders Canada customs officers should be issued the right training and equipment to deal with the increased security that will be required there. Our critics in that area will bring forward specific items related to those areas.
There is no question that these steps and others will cost more money. The United States Congress has already authorized $40 billion in spending as simply a first instalment on clean up measures and anti-terrorist activities.
The official opposition will support new spending in these areas, even if it means going beyond certain current spending plans, as long as we are assured that other spending in low and falling priority areas is carefully pruned.
Most of these changes can be done through a reallocation of resources and an attack on wasteful spending. This type of scrutiny is difficult with a government which has refused to table a full budget, but that will be the subject of another day. We are focused on these issues. We are focused on solutions.
We also must look at tougher screening systems being put in place to keep people who pose security risks to Canadians and others from entering the country in the first place. For those currently in the refugee identification system who have not yet received landed status or citizenship we need better tracking to make sure we are able to locate possible security risks. To do that rapidly this should be an immediate priority. We need the resources and the will to do that.
We are known as a country which welcomes with open arms refugees who are seeking freedom and democracy. Unfortunately we are also known somewhat to be soft in not identifying and dealing rapidly with those who are a risk. Refugee claimants who break the law or people who enter this country illegally, especially where there are concerns about security risks, should be immediately detained or deported, not simply asked to check in at an Immigration Canada office once or twice or month.
We must take the proper steps in this regard. We need to do this and we need to do it with all diligence.
Bill C-11 which is currently before the House does not address many of these concerns. It represents in some ways a step backward from the previous Bill C-31 which died on the order paper before the last election. Bill C-11 should be amended to include broader measures to ensure the security and integrity of our refugee system and should be returned to the House.
As U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has pointed out, the war against terrorism in which we are now engaged will be unlike other wars. The enemy is both at home and abroad. They do not take openly to the battlefield but hide in shadows. While this effort may involve conventional warfare against states who harbour or sponsor terrorist cells, we must recognize, as has been identified, that they are also present inside Canada and the United States.
Fighting the multi-headed monster of terrorism means attacking all its operations and doing it simultaneously. We will address in detail the area and concerns of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service which has lost 28% of its personnel in the last decade. We will address the areas of the RCMP and its situations related to lost resources. Of course the largest infusion of resources will have to go to the beleaguered Canadian armed forces.
Over the last year the Canadian forces has declined from 90,000 to 55,000 personnel and is on track for further declines. This is a dereliction of our duty. We must support our armed forces and send that message to our NATO partners around the world.
Last week NATO invoked article 5 for the first time in its history. President Bush made it clear that he is building an international coalition to combat not only terrorist cells but their state sponsors. We must work with and be part of that coalition. Unfortunately the Taliban regime in Afghanistan has resorted to belligerent rhetoric about its support for Osama bin Laden rather than co-operating with the United States. The prospect of a conventional military campaign is not remote.
If and when the need arises for military action, the United States and NATO will expect Canada to provide a commitment. We must be willing and prepared to provide it. It is for this reason that I am asking the Prime Minister to be crystal clear regarding our commitment to the United States and NATO up to and including, if necessary, military involvement within our capacity to do so.
NATO is perhaps the most successful military and political alliance in history. Its decisions on military action are made with both care and deliberation. We are obliged to be part of that. Now more than ever Canada's voice and vote of commitment needs to be heard in the clearest of terms, both in the camps of our friends and the hidden dens of our enemies.
This weekend we have heard the menacing threats. We have heard warnings against freedom loving nations not to assist the United States in any military action. Our government must be clear. It is not the time to give any signal to the barbaric enemies of freedom and democracy that we will do anything less than stand shoulder to shoulder with our friends, the Americans and our NATO partners, in the face of this insidious threat.
This is not a time for half measures. It is not a time to bring forward previously announced initiatives and relabel them as anti-terrorist measures. There are some positive elements in current proposals like Bill C-16 and Bill C-11, but they do not go far enough. We must carry them forward. We must do everything that is within our power and will to do.
We will continue to bring forward constructive criticisms and suggestions. They will be put forward in a spirit of unity and solidarity with the Prime Minister and his cabinet as we enter this first war of the new century.
I hope the Prime Minister will accept these constructive criticisms and suggestions in the spirit in which they are given: for the furtherance of our common goal to defeat terrorism at home and abroad.
Over the next few weeks there will be times to discuss and debate whether we are moving fast enough or far enough in certain areas. There will be times to debate whether Canada could have or should have been more prepared. However today is a day to show unity and resolve.
We show unity in standing with our American neighbours, especially the families of the victims of these horrible attacks. We show unity in mourning our own Canadian dead. We show resolve in facing the enemy of international terrorism and announcing that terror in all its forms will not be allowed to stand.
Last week the world saw the face of evil. However good may yet be able to arise out of the evil if the citizens of the free countries of the world rise as one, say that this evil shall not stand, and work together to eliminate it from the earth.
In closing, I would like to say that I am proud to join with the government in supporting this motion. I trust it will be first of many actions we will take together as parliamentarians and as Canadians, united in this war against terrorism.
In these next days and weeks may God grant wisdom to our Prime Minister and to this parliament. God save our Queen. God keep our land glorious and free.