Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in this place on behalf of the good people of Davenport in the great city of Toronto.
The people in my community are watching this debate very carefully. I think it is fair to say that Canadians from coast to coast to coast are watching this debate carefully because we are in an era where we have a government that believes we can treat our civil liberties as a secondary thought to security. The position of New Democrats has always been that we must treat both in equal measure and be as vigilant in protecting civil liberties as we are in protecting security. It is not a question of balance; it is a question of what our values are as Canadians and who we believe we are. These values, which are the foundation of a liberal democracy, are what we are trying to protect and secure. We cannot trade them away in that pursuit.
The NDP's questions around some of the issues in this bill are around oversight, and the questions on oversight exist because we believe there is not a trade-off. This is not an either/or situation. It is not that we have to find a balance, that in order get security right, we may have to clamp down a bit on civil liberties. We do not believe that is the case, and Canadians share those concerns.
I want to focus on a couple of elements of the bill, which are concerns for the community I represent. This flows from other decisions that the government has made around the creation, in a way, of two-tiered citizenship in Canada, where people in Canada could be stripped of their citizenship. The government often says that the NDP is soft on these issues, but in fact, when people break laws in this country, they should go to jail. If they are citizens of Canada, they should go to jail.
I am proud to represent a riding in the west end of Toronto that has huge communities of immigrants. More than half of those who live in Toronto were born elsewhere. They take their belonging to Canada very seriously and are very proud of it. The notion is of grave concern that down the road their status in Canada, through no fault of their own, could be somehow diminished or lessened by legislation and the direction of the government. I hear it in my office; I hear it out on the street; I talk to people all the time who are really very concerned about the government. I am talking about immigrants in Toronto who are very concerned about the government's fixation on picking off certain communities and creating a climate of concern and fear. Quite frankly, it is our role as parliamentarians to elevate the debate, bring out the best in who we are, and bring people together.
The changes to the Canadian Citizenship Act in Bill C-44 would not really provide any major changes, other than accelerating the timelines for citizenship revocation for dual citizens involved in terrorist activities, the process for citizenship revocation that we debated in the House and I am proud that my party opposed. They remain unchanged; it is just the speed with which this can be achieved.
Our citizenship is a precious thing. We have laws in our country to deal with those in our society who break them. Our position has always been that our tinkering with citizenship is a slippery slope, and it is not what we should be doing, especially given the history of our country, the history of immigration in this country, and the successful history of our immigrant communities in Canada. We have a phenomenal story to tell. Our immigrant communities have a phenomenal story to tell.
In light of recent events, the Muslim community in particular in my riding is concerned about being targeted. It is a disturbing reflex of the Conservative government to try to place responsibility for individuals on a whole community. The concern in the Muslim community I represent is real. These are hard-working, honest, proud Canadians, and they abhor violence, just like anyone else in Canadian society. What we are talking about today connects to that concern. It is spoken about in a number of supporting documents, which I would like to underline.
I want to particularly point out comments made by former Justices O'Connor, Major, and Iacobucci at the October 29, 2014 conference called “Arar +10: National Security and Human Rights a Decade Later”:
Retired Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci, who investigated the overseas detentions and torture of three Muslim Canadians...warned that history has much to teach legislators....
Iacobucci cautioned about “the spillover effects” that any rush to expand police powers could have on freedom of religion, association and expression; the possible “tainting” of Canada's Muslim community, and the risk of “overreaching” by security intelligence agencies when sharing information in a global fight against terrorism.
It is important for us to bring the issue of what Justice Iacobucci refers to as tainting Canada's Muslim community close to home.
A couple of days after the shooting that took place here, I visited the mosque in my riding. As members may remember, Torontonians were in the middle of a municipal election in Toronto, and Muslim candidates in that election had signs vandalized that day. Muslim candidates were facing threats at public meetings.
It is incumbent upon us as legislators here in the Parliament of Canada to ensure that all Canadians, all people living in Canada, feel safe and feel that their civil liberties are protected and are as important as every other consideration in security.