Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the official opposition, the Canadian Alliance, I welcome this opportunity to respond to the Solicitor General's statement. I must question why the statement was made. The Solicitor General, other than tabling the Canadian Security Intelligence Service public report, provided us with absolutely no new information or updates on the status of security in this country. Repeatedly the Solicitor General stated:
We must acknowledge that Canada is threatened by terrorism. Recent events remind us that Canada is not immune from the threat or from acts of terrorism.
The Solicitor General and the government should have recognized this long before September 11. Canada is not immune and was not immune from terrorism.
I stood in the House together with many of my Canadian Alliance colleagues months prior to September 11 condemning the government and questioning it for its failure to take the threat of terrorism and the threat of organized crime in this country seriously. Since 9/11 we have repeatedly demanded that the government improve the intelligence capability of our security forces by providing them with the much needed resources to do their job effectively.
We have repeatedly condemned the government for the inordinate amount of time it took to compile the initial listing of terrorist entities and the snail's pace at which it brought other names forward to be added to that list. Bill C-36, the anti-terrorism act, received royal assent in December 2001. It is a year and a half later and only 26 entities are listed as terrorist organizations, while the United Nations' list includes and identifies some 200.
Once again I take great exception to the Solicitor General's contention that the government's efforts to combat terrorism have “been both comprehensive and balanced”.
If, as we have said repeatedly, the government is truly committed to the global war on terrorism, the Solicitor General should be doing much more, such as identifying and listing the entities at a much faster rate and significantly increasing the resources to both CSIS and the RCMP. The government should be tightening airport and port security. It should be providing CSIS with the power and the authority to operate abroad rather than relying and piggybacking on other foreign countries for intelligence information.
As a member of the Subcommittee on National Security, I have repeatedly questioned witnesses regarding whether or not the powers of CSIS should be expanded, or whether a new and separate agency should be established based on differing opinions and different individuals coming forward with different ideas regarding this.
In 2002 Richard Fadden, the former deputy clerk of the Privy Council, publicly questioned if it was “time to think about a formalized capacity to collect foreign intelligence”.
Although the director of CSIS disputes it, many experts claim that CSIS is limited by law from taking an offensive stance with overseas espionage, relying primarily on the help of spy services from other countries for its external intelligence. Furthermore, a federal study concluded that Canada needs overseas units to intercept and obstruct criminals and/or their illegal commodities from reaching Canadian shores.
The former foreign affairs minister, and one of the Liberal leadership hopefuls, is on record as stating that rather than expanding foreign intelligence capabilities to CSIS, he would prefer a separate agency established within foreign affairs, much like the United States' Central Intelligence Agency.
A number of security experts have strongly suggested that the government establish a formal ministry of national security headed by a single cabinet minister with foreign intelligence capabilities. This recommendation was made in respect to concerns raised in 1996 by the Auditor General that there was within our national security information systems “a pattern of inadequate information to support front line officials responsible for national security”. In other words, put it under one cabinet post, under one portfolio.
Many concerns have been raised regarding the lack of coordination and cooperation within the 17 different federal departments and agencies with national security responsibilities. Yet, the present Solicitor General and other solicitor generals have failed to address the Auditor General's 1996 findings. The Solicitor General has failed to initiate the debate regarding establishing a new national security ministry. He has failed to provide our security forces with the power and capabilities to collect foreign intelligence.
We continually hear how important it is that we rely on foreign countries. We agree it is important that we need to coordinate a network but we have no, or very little, capability to gather our own information.
Therefore, I take great exception to the Solicitor General's statement that CSIS has significantly increased its information exchange with its partners. I take great exception to the assertion that Canada has become increasingly more involved in the campaign against terror. More important, I take great exception to the Solicitor General coming to the House today and making a statement on security that provides absolutely no new information, no new announcements and no new updates as to the state of security in this country.