Mr. Speaker, yesterday this House presented a united front. All MPs deplored the terrible attacks against innocent victims that took place a week ago.
We were united in our grief. We were united in our compassion. We were united in our desire to solve the problem. Now, however, we must move from those emotions that united us to concrete policies that will help us to move on.
We will still be united as far as some of those solutions are concerned, but others will find us less so.
One thing in which there was unanimity was that the events of September 11 have changed the world and now we must ask the tough question of how these tragic events must change our laws and our policies.
The acts that launched this debate were committed in the United States. The perpetrators may have come from many countries in the Middle East and Europe and their deeds may yet lead to Canadian forces fighting overseas, but the war against terrorism begins here at home in Canada.
After last week, even a country like Canada, which is used to thinking of itself as a peaceful and non-violent country, finds itself at risk. Of course, we are not immune. We did have the tragic Air India bombing which killed 329 people. That originated in Canada. Thankfully we have not often seen lethal acts of terrorism on our soil.
However other countries have not been so fortunate. They have had the bitter experience of dealing with terrorism and have been forced to modernize their laws to deal with these threats. Two countries with very similar democratic values to our own, the United Kingdom and the United States, have already brought in comprehensive anti-terrorism legislation. While the events of last week show strong laws alone will not in all cases stop determined terrorists, they can at least give to police, prosecutors, border security and others the tools they need to fight terrorists and terrorism. We must examine and learn from the experience of our British and American allies and see where their legislation could possibly be a model for our own.
In 1996 in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, the United States did bring in comprehensive anti-terrorism legislation in the form of the anti-terrorism and effective death penalty act which was signed by President Clinton.
In Canada the interdepartmental intelligence policy group reviewed the U.S. legislation in 1997 and made a conclusion saying that the need for such a scheme could not be established.
In 2000 the United Kingdom, which already had strong anti-terrorism legislation on the books at that time to deal with the threat of the IRA, brought in new sweeping anti-terrorism legislation to deal with international terrorism that could possibly be operating within the U.K.
The official opposition has pointed to the British terrorism act of 2000 as an example of the kind of effective legislation that Canada should look at, but so far the government has not chosen to emulate the example of our British friends and our allies. The U.S. and the U.K. governments under the Clinton Democrats and Tony Blair's Labour Party felt that it was possible to bring in comprehensive terrorism legislation without endangering the democratic values that are important to us.
We believe that Canada can do no less. We want to support our Prime Minister and the government in terms of this type of legislation and approach. This is not about posturing politically. This is about being able to stand tall together and protect our citizens and answer their concerns and their cry for security. This is one of a number of areas. Security of markets is something we will also be pursuing but we need to look at this in terms of security of the person and the people of Canada.
Therefore it must contain a comprehensive definition of terrorism. We need a way to distinguish between genuine acts of terrorism, whether committed at home or abroad, from political protest and dissent. Those are two very clearly different things. While the CSIS act does not have a definition of terrorism, we do need a comprehensive definition of terrorism and specific charges associated with it in the Criminal Code of Canada.
Second, effective anti-terrorism legislation must name and outlaw specific terror groups. Both the U.S. and the U.K. legislation do this. It also must take steps to not just outlaw the organizations but to ban fundraising or other support activities. It is not enough just to take away the charitable status, we must ban fundraising for these activities. The government so far has avoided this approach of naming and banning specific terrorist organizations and their front groups. I believe it is the will and the hope of the government to do that. I am optimistic.
In reply to questions from the official opposition on fundraising activities of various groups, we did not always receive favourable responses. We even had a response that CSIS does not provide a list of terrorist organizations and it does not provide a list of people or other organizations that it is targeting. Clearly that needs to change. The solicitor general has implied that the strength of Canadian law and policy is to not name those groups. In fact I think we would all agree now that it is a weakness.
The U.K. and the U.S. legislation provide specific lists of terror groups and outlaws their activities. We must do the same.
In 1998 CSIS stated that some 50 international terrorist groups were operating in Canada and that the names included some of the most deadly enemies of peace and democracy in the world today.
Some of the groups that were banned by the British terrorism act of 2000 and are known to have operated and do operate in Canada, according to CSIS documents, are the Babbar Khalsa, the International Sikh Youth Federation, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil , Hisbullah, Hamas, the Kurdistan Workers Party and the Irish Republican Army.
The Kelly report, a recent report from the Senate special committee, stated in 1999 that “Canada is a primary venue of opportunity to support, plan, or mount terrorist attacks”. Contrary to what some people wishfully think, what happened in New York can happen here, perhaps even worse. Attacks like the New York attack could be planned and orchestrated from Canadian soil by groups attempting to take advantage of the weaknesses of our legislation.
Canada signed the UN International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism of 1999. We need to do more. We need to take extra steps in that regard.
Bill C-16, which is before parliament, would make it possible to strip of their not for profit status certain groups that are financing terrorism. This is, of course, a good start, but we are still very far from true anti-terrorism legislation that would ban fundraising in support of terrorism in Canada and would eliminate the presence of such groups within this country.
Anti-terrorism legislation should not simply ban terrorist fundraising but all kinds of support activities. That would include training activities, recruiting, propaganda or communications. Terrorist groups should not be permitted to use Canadian Internet web servers to promote their cause or communicate through their supporters.
The British legislation calls and creates new crimes for members of terrorist groups. We need to look at these areas.
We must also change our laws regarding the extradition of suspected terrorists. Terrorism is a world without borders. We cannot let Canada become a safe haven for those who would rely on the humanitarian compassion of Canadian laws and yet avoid justice in their own countries or the countries where they have committed crimes.
If a government like the United States seeks people accused of terrorism in Canada we must be convinced that there is reasonable evidence. This is a very important point and I know some of our colleagues in the House have some sensitivity on this. If there is reasonable evidence, we should turn terrorists over regardless of the fact that they may face a penalty in that country, for instance in the United States, that would not apply here. That move would require a change in Canadian law to send a signal to terrorists that they cannot take advantage of Canada to avoid facing justice for their crimes.
One can only imagine the outrage if one of the perpetrators of the acts in New York and Washington, perhaps even the criminal mastermind who so carefully co-ordinated the flight schedules of the terrorists, found his way to Canada and we found ourselves unable to extradite such a person to the United States to face justice. Canadian law must address this possibility now because Canadian citizens will demand it.
These are only some of the areas that we must address. Over the weeks ahead the official opposition will continue to ask for the kinds of changes that we feel are necessary to restore confidence to our citizens, confidence in safety and security, confidence in the markets and confidence that we continue to grow both socially and economically. However the one thing we cannot afford is complacency. As Edmund Burke famously said “all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”.
Changing laws alone will not stop terrorism. We are legislators and drafting and changing laws is what we do. Let it not be said after the next horrific terrorist incident that it happened because the good men and good women of the House chose to do nothing.
Mr. Speaker, at this point I would propose an amendment to the motion. I move:
That the motion be amended
a) by replacing the words “to introduce” with the words “to send to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights no later than November 1, 2001 draft” and
b) by adding after the last line “and that the committee report back to the House no later than February 12, 2002”.