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House of Commons Hansard #143 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was csis.

Topics

Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

The hon. member for Langley is rising on a point of order.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am listening carefully to the member across the way. We are neighbours, but it is important to have relevance. We are dealing with the protection of Canada from terrorists act, not with what he is talking about, so I would ask that he make his comments relevant.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

I have some difficulty with that. I can see the connection. It is a bit of a stretch, and I will recognize that, but there is a connection between the security he is referring to and the bill that is before the House.

I will give him some more leeway and ask him to try to rein it in a bit tighter.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am mentioning this because this is a critical piece of legislation that deals with Canadian civil liberties and also deals with Canadians' safety.

I am asking Parliament to consider fact-based, evidence-based arguments to ensure that we go through this legislation, Bill C-44, with a fine-toothed comb, to ensure that we as parliamentarians take our responsibilities seriously, to ensure that the legislation we pass is protecting not only Canadians but also civil liberties. It is fair to lay out the record of what the government has done in the past and, absolutely, what I am talking about is related to this bill.

Let us talk about what has been lacking when we think about giving broad powers to intelligence and security agencies, but equally Canadians expect us to look at the other side, the oversight of these agencies, how much power they have, and whether we have a civilian and parliamentary oversight of these agencies.

Let us take a look at CSIS. The oversight for CSIS is being provided by SIRC, which is a part-time committee not made up of parliamentarians, but the current chair is a former member of the Reform Party, which was the Conservative Party. It has an additional two members. Two of the seats are vacant. Those are the facts of what the committee is made up of today.

Not only that, but the inspector general, which was an internal position that used to look at the activities of CSIS, was eliminated by the Conservative government. Therefore, when we give more powers to these agencies, Canadians expect us to ensure that there is proper oversight. The oversight of CSIS is already lacking. The NDP has been calling for more civilian oversight of these agencies, yet the Conservatives have stonewalled on this issue many times. This is one of things that Canadians expect us to debate in the House to ensure not only their safety but equally the civil liberties component.

In the Maher Arar inquiry there were a number of recommendations brought forward by the committee for the government to implement an oversight of these civilian organizations. Yet, we have seen over a period of time that basically the Conservatives have failed to deliver on those recommendations that Canadians expect us to implement to make sure that not only do we have these agencies protecting us but there is also some sort of oversight to ensure that they are within the law and ensuring Canadians' safety in a manner that is expected of them.

There are many concerns with the bill, one of which I have just talked about. The Conservatives could have brought in better oversight, especially when bringing in additional powers. It is equally important that we have oversight to make sure the work is being done properly.

The other aspect of the intelligence and security apparatus is that we have seen unspent money in the last three years. Not only that, but we have seen budgets being cut for these intelligence agencies that are supposed to be protecting Canadians. We have seen budget cuts under the current government. Conservatives pretend they are concerned about the safety of Canadians, yet when it comes to actually delivering resources for these agencies, they have failed to do that.

I am talking about millions of dollars to ensure that security agencies have the proper tools to protect Canadians, which have been cut.

I will quote some of the validators for the particular position that New Democrats are taking with regard to oversight. The privacy and information commissioners of Canada, while attending their annual meeting, noted the events in Quebec and Ottawa, and stated:

We acknowledge that security is essential to maintaining our democratic rights. At the same time, the response to such events must be measured and proportionate, and crafted so as to preserve our democratic values.

To sum up, Conservatives want to give additional powers to CSIS and other security intelligence agencies, and Canadians expect us to equally protect their civil liberties. Previously the Liberals and now the Conservatives have failed to deliver on that.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, this came before the standing committee and the member said it was rushed through, which I do not believe is accurate.

He said he has concerns about changes to the census, about oversight, and regarding the Maher Arar commission. Were these issues that he or his colleagues brought up at the standing committee when this was thoroughly debated and sent back to the House?

Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, of course this is being rushed through. The government just moved time allocation on this bill this morning. I am glad the member has given me the opportunity to explain to Canadians what time allocation is. It is basically shutting down the debate. There are many members on this side of the House, as well as on the Conservative side of the House, who will not have the opportunity to represent their citizens. This is one aspect of it. When we look at the recommendations that were made by the Maher Arar commission, none of them have been implemented by the current government over the last eight or nine years.

We have been screaming and yelling on this side of the House and were nudging the Conservatives in committee to ensure that there is proper civilian oversight of the intelligence agencies, and the Conservatives have failed on that.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I would put on the record that there are really no additional powers for CSIS in the bill that it does not already have. The bill responds to some court decisions and would allow CSIS to do legally what it has already been doing.

The member mentioned oversight, and he seems to be talking about civilian oversight. There already is SIRC, which is an after-the-fact oversight agency. I will admit that it is difficult for the government to find a balance between national security and civil liberties, but we have to find it and assure Canadians. I will ask for the member's comment on this. Would it not be better to have parliamentary oversight through a proper parliamentary oversight committee of all our national security agencies, as all our Five Eyes partners do? Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and the U.K. all have oversight.

There is a private member's bill, Bill C-551, before Parliament that would do that and on which there was all-party agreement. Mr. Speaker, you were on the committee, as was the Minister of Justice and the current Minister of State for Finance, where there was all-party agreement on parliamentary oversight. Would the member for Surrey North not see that as a good possibility?

Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the wonderful question from the member for Malpeque. I have had the chance to work with him on the public safety committee.

One thing is very clear. What we currently have is not independent. It is not civilian oversight. It is a committee that is appointed. It is a part-time committee. Not only that, but we only have three members when we should have five. In addition, the head of this interim or part-time committee is actually a former member of Parliament from the Reform Party.

What Canadians expect us to do is come together as a multi-party committee to ensure that we have proper oversight of these intelligence agencies, to ensure that the course they are following does not infringe on Canadians' rights and civil liberties, and to ensure that somebody is watching over them.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured today to rise to speak to Bill C-44, the protection of Canada from terrorism act.

It is important to begin this debate by acknowledging that all activities of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service are conducted in accordance with Canadian law. CSIS activities are also subject to full and complete review by the Security and Intelligence Review Committee, CSIS' dedicated review body. This seems to be something that my colleagues opposite are quite concerned about. They seem to think that we are in the movies where spies wantonly disregard our laws in order to put a stop to whatever threat may exist. While our security agencies do phenomenal work every day to keep us safe, it is not the content of a James Bond movie. Employees of CSIS follow the law, and that has constantly been found to be the case by the oversight bodies.

Let me put it quite simply for my friends across the way. This legislation would not change any of the robust review mechanisms that are currently in place. CSIS will continue to be subject to review and require judicial authorization for certain intrusive activities. CSIS will also continue to be accountable to its minister and to this Parliament. I say accountable to Parliament very deliberately. The director of CSIS, the commissioner of the RCMP, and the Minister of Public Safety recently appeared before a parliamentary committee for a frank and open discussion about the terrorist threat to Canada.

While some may call for these roles to be formalized and more bureaucracy to be created, we will continue to live by the old adage “if it ain't broke, don't fix it”.

This legislation would clarify elements of CSIS' mandate and address serious operational gaps, particularly for CSIS' international activities, by confirming its authority to operate abroad; clarify that the court can issue warrants for CSIS' international activities in consideration of relevant Canadian law; prohibit the disclosure of the identity of CSIS human sources, with narrow exceptions; and finally, protect the identity of the CSIS employees who are likely to be engaged in covert activities. These amendments to the CSIS Act are vital to address threats to the security of Canada.

For the sake of debate, I will focus my remarks on the aspect of this legislation that prohibits the disclosure of CSIS human sources. However, before doing that I would like to provide some historical and organizational context for this debate.

Like our allies, intelligence is collected in Canada through a range of sources, including open source research, signals intelligence, foreign reporting, authorized intercepts, and, important for us here today, human sources.

Human intelligence includes, but is not limited to, information provided to CSIS by individuals acting covertly and in confidence as human sources. All forms of intelligence collected are vital to Canada's national security interests. CSIS has its own distinct mandate and corresponding review and authorization regimes that reflect the nature of its investigative activities.

CSIS' mandate is clearly defined in law. The CSIS Act authorizes it to collect and analyze intelligence to the extent that is strictly necessary and to provide advice on threats to the security of Canada. CSIS must be able to conduct investigations within and outside of Canada in order to fulfill that mandate.

CSIS' role in Canada's national security community is to investigate threat-related activity and to advise the Government of Canada's partners so that decisions may be taken on the basis of all information available. This role is specifically provided for by Parliament. In this manner, CSIS intelligence, which by its very nature must remain secret, may inform decisions related to entry into Canada, immigration status, government security clearances, aviation security, and criminal investigations, just to name a few.

CSIS' human-source-based intelligence collection is a fundamental component of its investigations. One could question whether CSIS would even continue to be an intelligence agency without information from its human sources. CSIS human sources regularly provide CSIS with valuable information on threats to national security and, like any modern intelligence agency, the identities of these CSIS human sources are closely guarded secrets to protect their ongoing access to relevant information and, most importantly, to protect their personal safety.

When these sources share information with CSIS, they often do so at great risk to both themselves and their families, and do so out of a desire to keep Canada safe. These individuals should be lauded for their sense of duty to Canada and our way of life. I challenge members in the House to imagine what would befall these persons divulging information on the activities of such nefarious individuals should they be found out. Undoubtedly, such individuals would be viewed as traitors for sharing information with CSIS. Needless to say, the physical safety of CSIS sources is at risk should their status as informants become known. To ensure the safety and security of these CSIS human sources, it is essential that their identities remain confidential and that the government be able to provide a degree of certainty to secure their co-operation.

In that regard, the Supreme Court recently ruled that CSIS human sources do not benefit from a class privilege as police informants do. This means there is currently no guarantee that a human source's identity will be protected from disclosure in legal proceedings; therefore, there is the need for change. At the same time, the court acknowledged that the practice of putting CSIS sources before the courts, even in closed proceedings, could have a chilling effect on the willingness of citizens to come forward. Failing to protect the identity of CSIS human sources could undermine existing human-source operations, weakening the very foundation of CSIS' investigative tradecraft. That is why I support adding human-source protection amendments to the CSIS Act, and I hope others do too.

Without clarity on such measures, CSIS risks seeing its sources compromised, together with the investigations connected to them. We should be clear, however, that the proposed amendments were drafted to comply with the principles of fundamental justice and as such provide for narrow exceptions to this prohibition. At the order of a judge, the identity of a human source could be disclosed if that information were critical to prove the innocence of the accused at the criminal trial or, were the judge to determine that the individual was not a human source or that the information could not be revealed through a source's identity. That creates the balance that we are concerned about. While such provisions would likely be used infrequently, they balance the need for human-source-identity protection and the right of the accused to a fair trial.

Modern intelligence collection draws on a variety of sources, including open-source research, interviews, information from domestic and international partners, and warranted intercepts. However, the voluntary and confidential reporting of human sources remains the cornerstone of CSIS investigations. The complex terrorist threat that Canada faces, including events abroad and those here at home, demands careful consideration of all tools at our government's disposal to protect the safety and security of Canadians and our way of life. Protecting the identities of individuals who put their lives in jeopardy to assist our Security Intelligence Agency in this effort is a very important element in this response. That is why I call on all hon. members to support the important legislation of Bill C-44 before us today.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speakers, as members can see, we feel that this bill certainly does need to go to committee so that required changes to it can be discussed. On this side of the House, I do not think we feel that we should not be strengthening legislation when it comes to terrorism. However, at the same time, we have heard members on the other side talk about resources. They can put every legislative change under the sun in place, but if they do not provide the proper resources these are never going to be effective.

When I look at the appropriate resources section, it is important to note that the Conservatives actually cut funding for our public safety agencies for three straight years. There will be a total of $687.9 million in cuts by 2015. CSIS itself will be subject to ongoing cuts of $24.5 million by 2015, while Budget 2012 scrapped the CSIS position of inspector general altogether.

With that in mind, how can government members think we could take them seriously when they are cutting the very resources that need to be in place to protect Canadians?

Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her question, but unfortunately the comments she made are not accurate.

In fact, our government has increased funding to CSIS and the RCMP by over one-third. Our government has provided $700 million more than the last years of the Liberals. That is a lot of money. It is a priority for this government to make sure Canada is safe.

The bill before us, Bill C-44, provides that balance that the NDP has spoken about. I hope those members will be part of that balance to make sure that Canada is secure, and civil liberties and Canadians are protected.

To be misleading by discussing funding cuts when in fact funding has increased is very unfortunate, and I hope the member will get on board.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is aimed at trying to understand something here.

My hon. colleague spoke about the need in some cases to protect informants or sources. I can understand that intuitively, and the reasons he brought forward are logical, but at the same time I would like to better understand exactly what is involved.

I am not a lawyer, but if somebody is accused of an act of terrorism, for example, I assume there is some sort of proceeding in a court. Is it as simple as the prosecution saying that it has information from a source that the accused did this or that? Is that the way it would actually happen, where the informant's identity is hidden and what is put out by the prosecution is taken as fact? Is that the way it works?

Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question. It is a good one.

It is a fundamental condition of good democracy that we provide the judiciary with discretion, and that is built into Bill C-44. The courts would have the discretion to make an exception. At the order of a judge, the identity of a human source could be disclosed if that information were critical to proving the innocence of the accused at the criminal trial, or where the judge determines that the individual were not a human source or that information would not reveal the source's identity.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

November 18th, 2014 / 4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Conservative Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise here today to discuss the important measures contained in Bill C-44, the protection of Canada from terrorists act. Our government has a duty to keep Canadians safe, and the bill contains prudent and responsible measures that give our law enforcement and security agencies the support and tools they need to protect our national security.

Before I begin the substance of my speech today, I would like to reflect on a quote from a constitutional lawyer and author. Phyllis Schlafly once said:

In a world of inhumanity, war and terrorism...citizenship is a very precious possession.

That is a very important part of what we are here to talk about today. Several key measures designed to keep Canadians safe are in this legislation. I will touch on each of them.

However, first I would like to talk about the measures to give effect to legislation recently passed in Parliament. I am talking about the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act. The key part of this legislation was about stripping citizenship from Canadian citizens who are engaging in terrorist activity. The bill before us today would expedite this measure coming into force. That is a very good thing. We have seen, sadly, numerous instances in the past several weeks in which Canada has been afflicted by terrorism. These acts have highlighted some of the challenges of keeping our citizens safe in a changing world.

We just saw, this past weekend, some extremely gruesome footage of Islamic State terrorists beheading 18 men, including an American humanitarian aid worker and former U.S. Ranger, Peter Kassig. In cold blood, these terrorists cut off the heads of nearly two dozen fellow men simply because they disagree. This is the definition of barbarism and pure evil. Should any of those terrorists be Canadian citizens, I believe we would all agree they should not have the precious possession of Canadian citizenship.

I know that some of my colleagues opposite, specifically those from the Liberal Party, have previously disagreed with this notion. I hope that recent events will give them cause to realign their thinking.

My constituents do not agree with the leader of the Liberal Party when he says that taking the passport away from someone who is planning on travelling for a terrorist purpose is “an affront to Canadian values”.

The legislation before us today would do more than simply create a technical fix to bring legislation into force. It would also create, for the first time, protection for intelligence sources that is similar to that for law enforcement sources. Individuals on the ground in war-torn countries who work with CSIS are often putting themselves and their families at great personal risk. They do it simply because they know it is the right thing to do. We will not force their identities to be disclosed unless it impedes the right to a fair trial.

I make that point very deliberately. The bill before us today has a specific exemption to protect the rule of law, because we believe in the fundamental protection of individual freedoms, rights, and the rule of law. To do otherwise in the face of a threat would be allowing the terrorists to win. However, we must also strike the appropriate balance. We must not overreact, but we must not underreact to the threat of terrorism. These threats are real and must be taken very seriously in order to keep Canadians safe.

There are many common-sense solutions that can be brought to bear to combat terrorism, including those we are debating today. They include measures in the area of surveillance, detention, and arrest.

I am pleased to hear that the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and others are working on bringing these tools forward.

However, those tools are a matter for another day. I would like to discuss the next piece of the bill, which confirms that CSIS would have the authority to conduct investigations outside of Canada and which confirms that the Federal Court would only have to consider relevant Canadian law when authorizing these activities.

There are two points that underscore the importance of this measure. First, all intrusive activities conducted by CSIS are judicially authorized. There is no freelancing or haphazard violation of privacy. Second, it is important that only Canadian laws be considered in authorizing these warrants. Currently, and bizarrely, the courts consider whether the decrees of a foreign dictator would be broken when CSIS was engaging in an investigation to protect Canadian security. I would argue that the Canadian Constitution is the only relevant document.

The last element of the bill that I would like to touch on today is the protection of the identity of CSIS employees who are likely to become engaged in covert activities. Currently, it is an offence to disclose the identity of an employee who is engaged in these activities, but there is no protection for individuals who are training to become covert operators or those who are in between covert activities. These individuals are just as at risk as individuals actively engaged in surveillance work. They must also be protected, and the bill would fix that situation.

As we debate these measures today, it is important to place them in some context and make note of our Conservative government's strong record of enhancing public safety and national security. We have given law enforcement new tools by making it a crime to go overseas to engage in terrorist activity. We have given authorities tools to strip Canadian citizenship from those engaged in terrorist activities. We have increased the funding for our national security agencies, such as the RCMP and CSIS, by a third. We introduced new measures to allow our national security agencies to better track threats in Canada.

These are all important measures, but there still remains more work to be done. That is why I urge all of my colleagues in this place to join me in supporting this vital legislation, which represents another prudent and responsible step forward to protect our national security.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, again, I must reiterate this. They are trying to make it look as if they did not cut any funding out of public safety, but they did. They can take the money out and say that they have put some back in, but it does not change the fact that they have already taken some money out and that it has already been shortchanged.

My colleague spoke about the changes to the Citizenship Act, which are in this bill as well. That is interesting, because the amendments to the Citizenship Act would not actually provide any real change, other than accelerating the timelines for citizenship revocation for dual citizens involved in terrorist activities and other serious crimes.

We have had some debate on this with respect to the previous bill that they tabled about revoking citizenship. I am concerned that everything they are doing would remove some of the civilian oversight that should be in place. It would not protect the civilian oversight.

As we have mentioned before, with respect to the revocation of citizenship, the fact is that we have immigrants who are here and who do not know anything about any other country. We have to be mindful about how we do business, and we need to ensure that, when we put legislation in place, it will actually withstand the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Can the member tell me whether or not what they are putting in place would actually withstand a challenge under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Conservative Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me just say from the outset that in no way, shape, or form is civilian oversight diminished in the current bill we are discussing nor in any other bills that we have placed before Parliament that protect public safety.

I will again take issue with the member saying the opposite to what is actual fact, which is that we have increased the budgets for the RCMP and CSIS by a third. That is a fact and something that again needs to be clarified.

What we are talking about is taking steps to confirm that the existing powers of CSIS are the powers that are under the rule of law in this country. When citizens come to this country, they have to understand the laws of Canada and understand that if they are to live in this country they will need to abide by the laws of this country. That is what we are here for as legislators, to set those laws and make sure that the citizens who come here realize that we all abide by that rule of law.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Adam Vaughan Liberal Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is a fundamental mischaracterization of some of the challenges we are facing. This notion that people come to this country to create some of the challenges we are facing is not borne out by the fact that Canadian-born citizens have become responsible for some of the issues we are trying to deal with here.

The member opposite spoke about the Constitution being fundamental to this issue. He described this bill as something that would strengthen citizenship by in fact undermining its basic tenets—to take away someone's citizenship is to weaken the meaning of citizenship completely.

The issue that concerns us most is this way in which the Conservative Party speaks out of both sides of its mouth on the issues of judicial oversight. The Conservatives complain about activist judges, and they complain about judges who use too much discretion, yet now we are supposed to rely on those very same judges to use their discretion in a way that makes us safe.

I would like the member opposite to clarify his remarks. Does this party trust judicial discretion? If it does, why is it such a big fan of mandatory minimum sentences?

Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Conservative Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, with respect, the hon. member's last comment has nothing to do with the debate here today. It goes off into another area, which is typical of the Liberal members.

He talks about the fact that, if individuals in this country are known as terrorists who are intending to travel for the purposes of expanding their role as terrorists, somehow it infringes on their personal freedoms and rights that we would take citizenship away. That is the position of the Liberal Party. It is totally unacceptable.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to rise for the debate on this very important issue.

I would like to start with a pretty simple statement, one which I think may be a radical notion to some of my colleagues. Evil is real, and evil exists in the world around us today. Canadians listening to this debate at home may say that this is an obvious statement, but listening to some of the members opposite and beside me, this is one that bears repeating.

We see evil in many facets of our life. It endangers our communities, our homes and our families. The most recent manifestation of this evil has shown itself in the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, known as ISIL. It has engaged in untold and unbelievable atrocities, shocking the senses of ordinary Canadians and decent human beings around the globe.

This past weekend a video was released showing more than a dozen men being beheaded by ISIL terrorists, including the American aid worker and former U.S. army ranger, Peter Kassig. Kassig's parents wrote on Twitter that they were heartbroken to learn their son had lost his life as a result of his love for Syrian people and his desire to ease their suffering. However, I was heartened to see our Conservative government condemn the barbaric actions of these terrorists in the strongest possible terms.

In addition to these horrific scenes from Iraq and Syria, recent frightening terrorist attacks right here at home are a stark reminder that ISIL is a threat to every Canadian. Perhaps we were naive to think the atrocities happening in far off places, in areas of the world that we may never visit, could happen right here at home and could impact us.

Unfortunately they have happened here, and we must use all available means at our disposal to ensure this does not happen again. If we do not, we are simply failing in our duty.

We must take action. This is why we are taking part in the coalition currently conducting air strikes against ISIL and supporting the security forces in Iraq in their fight against this terrorist threat. It is also the reason we are working diligently to strengthen the tools available to the police and intelligence community in Canada. The protection of Canada from terrorists act is just the first step in our efforts to ensure police and intelligence services have the tools at their disposal to keep our communities and our families safe.

Let us take a moment to look back at what our government has already done in the area of protecting Canada and our national security from those who wish to harm us.

First, we have given law enforcement new tools by making it a crime to go overseas to participate in terrorist activity. We have also given authorities tools to strip Canadian citizenship from those engaged in terrorist activity. We have increased funding to our national security agencies, including the RCMP and CSIS, by one-third. Finally, we have introduced new measures to allow our national security agencies to better track threats against Canada.

This is a good foundation, and we should be proud of the work done by those entrusted to protect all of us. However, recent events, including those which took place just mere steps from where we are today, show more needs to be done to ensure our national security.

As I have stated, Bill C-44, the protection of Canada from terrorists act, is one tool which will allow us to achieve that goal. This legislation addresses four problems which have stymied CSIS over the years.

First, the bill would confirm CSIS would have the authority to conduct investigations outside of Canada. This is something that is common sense, but it really does need legal clarity.

Second, it would confirm that the Federal Court could issue warrants for CSIS to investigate, within or outside Canada's boundaries, any threat to the security of Canadians.

Third, this would give the Federal Court the authority to only consider relevant Canadian laws when issuing warrants authorizing intrusive activities conducted by CSIS abroad.

Last, it would create an automatic protection for the identity of CSIS human sources subject to the protection of the right to a fair trial.

I would like to take time to emphasize that last point.

Like all Canadians, our Conservative government values freedom, liberty and the rule of law. While some have accused this government of trying to use the horrific events of late October as a pretext to clamp down on civil liberates, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact the legislation before us today contains a clause that specifically enshrines the fundamental right to a fair trial.

Let me be abundantly clear. We will not overreact in response to the recent terrorist attacks. However, it is also time that we stop under reacting to the threats against us here in Canada. Bill C-44 would give our national security agencies some of the tools they would need to protect Canadians from terrorists, while at the same time respecting the rights of all of us.

We will never turn our back on the fundamental Canadian values to respect individual rights and the rule of law.

I am pleased to see my colleagues in the other parties will be supporting this legislation being studied by the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. This represents a major and positive step forward, and I applaud them for making an informed decision. I say that because previously the NDP voted against legislation making it illegal for individuals to travel abroad to engage in terrorist activities.

This is really quite relevant when we consider the media's reporting that some of those gruesome acts committed by ISIL over the last weekend, which I referenced earlier, were committed by a British medical student. All of us here have also seen radicalized Canadians who have gone overseas to participate in terrorist attacks and terrorist activities in Syria and Iraq.

Even further afield than that, the Liberal leader has said that he believes revoking a passport from a terrorist is an affront to Canadian values. I could not disagree more. What is more, the leaders of both major opposition parties refused to call the individual who killed Corporal Nathan Cirillo a terrorist, even though it was clear he had religious and ideological motives and despite the fact the Commissioner of the RCMP confirmed what all of us already knew, this was a terrorist act. Opposition members seemed to ignore the clear evidence that was in front of them.

That is why I began my speech today to remind all of us that evil does exist in this world today. This is not merely a piece of political rhetoric. Nor is it something drawn up in the backrooms by Conservatives. It represents issues facing all of us as legislators. If we are being responsible, if we are respecting the office we hold and if we are standing up for those who sent us here, we will take this issue seriously.

I am truly glad to see that both of the opposition parties have rejected their previous position and now support providing our police and intelligence officials with the tools they need to keep all of us safe, tools they must have to protect our communities, our homes and, speaking as a father and husband, to protect our families. I hope the support for our Conservative government's common sense and balanced approach to national security continues in the future.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, this bill certainly needs to have that discussion. As I said, we will be making some recommendations for changes at committee stage.

What we are disappointed about is the bill does not include improved civilian oversight of CSIS, and that is very important. Over and over again, we heard the need for that to occur. If the government wants to enhance the powers of CSIS, it must also act on recommendations to strengthen the civilian oversight. As we indicated, civil liberties are at stake and we need to ensure we get it right if we are to make such drastic changes.

Some of the proposed changes could significantly impact the judicial proceedings and that is why it needs to be looked at quite closely. We also need to examine the government's safeguards around information sharing with allies to ensure appropriate safeguards are in place.

There have been people who have ended up on the no-fly list, but they had done nothing wrong. They were not terrorists or had never been charged. One of my colleagues had been on the no-fly list. We need to ensure that all of those safeguards are in place. More important, we need to ensure that civilian oversight is in place.

Could the member confirm that civilian oversight will not be an either/or, that there will be civilian oversight in the bill to protect civilians?

Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague brought up some good points, but I want to reiterate what I said earlier. The bill does enshrine the rule of law and that CSIS, as in the past, must act strictly by Canadian law. The bill would further strengthen that Canadians and people around the world who CSIS might deal with, whether it is within our borders or outside our borders, it must act and follow Canadian law. That is an important aspect of the bill which is further solidified in this document.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Adam Vaughan Liberal Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, we all share a desire to make our country safer for our families and all Canadians. I do not think that is in dispute.

If we look at the laws that are on the books, for example, it is illegal to go abroad to participate in a terrorist organization. Those laws already exist. What has been extended is the ability of judges to use their discretion and police forces to use their investigative techniques to prosecute those individuals differently. That happens under a cloak of judicial discretion and there is no way of checking to see whether discretion is being applied properly.

A cornerstone of good lawmaking is civilian oversight. It is why we are here. Yet we find ourselves in a situation of being asked to support legislation that makes it extremely difficult to get a passport, while at the same time contemplating making it easier to get assault weapons. Individuals are deemed too dangerous to get a passport, but not dangerous enough to be prevented from getting semi-automatic weapons. In fact, the party opposite is actually proposing to take the RCMP out of the equation when it comes to accessing very dangerous weapons.

Why is a passport more dangerous to the safety of Canadians than semi-automatic weapons?

Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, comparing the ability to access a passport and a semi-automatic weapon is a pretty far reach. If we were to ask almost any law-abiding gun owner about some of the issues they face in getting licences and using their firearms, they are quite extensive compared to what it takes to get a passport.

The opportunity for us to revoke citizenship and passports from those who we know, and our security forces have identified, as either planning terrorist acts or going abroad to participate in terrorist acts is something we need to do. As I said before, CSIS will be governed by the rule of law and our courts, and everybody will have an opportunity for a fair trial.

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4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Maguire Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, today I as well rise to speak in support of Bill C-44, the protection of Canada from terrorists act. The bill aims to make amendments to the way CSIS, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, does business.

CSIS was created in 1984 in response to the McDonald commission's identifying a need for an intelligence service independent from the RCMP. Thirty years later, the nature of the work CSIS does has changed dramatically, and Bill C-44 is about having our laws reflect these changes.

As evidenced by recent events, be it the acts of terrorism on Canadian soil, the barbarism of ISIL in Iraq and Syria, or the actions of jihadist groups such as Boko Haram in Africa, it is clear that the threats we face have evolved.

The protection of Canada from terrorists act would help our intelligence service better identify and respond to the threats we face today. This would ultimately protect both Canadians and Canadian values.

Presently CSIS operates in a much more limited scope than many Canadians realize. I believe many Canadians would be appalled to discover that CSIS agents cannot protect their identities when they travel outside of Canada.

It is equally unthinkable that their human sources, the individuals upon which national security cases may be depend, are not protected to the same level as informants in cases such as organized crime.

I also believe Canadians would be shocked to learn that CSIS has not been mandated to work outside of Canada.

The protection of Canada from terrorists act aims to fix all this. It would essentially work by providing our intelligence services the tools most Canadians believe they already have and always should have had.

CSIS does a remarkable job in protecting Canadians. I thank the women and men of the service for the work they do every day in keeping Canadians safe. They truly are unsung heroes when it comes to protecting this country.

It is time to give them a hand. CSIS agents should not have to risk their safety and security when working abroad. Bill C-44 aims to correct all this. It represents the modernization of CSIS, the first major changes to the operation of the organization since its establishment.

In 1984, when CSIS was created, the Cold War was still raging. Russia was in Afghanistan, and Communism was the greatest threat to world peace. Much has changed since this time and, yet the legislative structure of CSIS has remained the same.

While the Leader of the Opposition may be debating what constitutes terrorism—and indeed, will not even utter the words—on this side of the House, it is clear. The past month has plainly demonstrated the terrorist threat to Canadians, and when terrorists threaten the Canadian way of life, we must take reasonable and responsible measures to strike back.

As my colleague, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, has said, we must not under-react or overreact; however, the reality is that freedom is not free. Our military's actions in Iraq have struck multiple terrorist targets, including equipment being used to divert a river in order to force civilians onto roads that are more easily attacked.

The threat is more diffuse than it once was. The ranks of ISIL and other terrorist organizations are filled with foreign fighters, brainwashed and converted westerners who travel to these regions to engage in war crimes and acts of barbarism. These individuals are often converted at home before travelling abroad.

The bill would help ensure that our intelligence service can gather intelligence on these individuals while they are abroad, so as to ensure they face the full weight of our justice system if they return.

The radicalization of individuals often occurs in their homes. As such, it is often members of the family who first see the signs that could alert authorities to potential threats. Whether they are family, friends, or co-workers, it is important to remove all the obstacles from the path of those willing to testify against those who would commit acts of terrorism against all Canadians.

That is why the provision in the bill that would provide for the protection of human sources is so important. Those taking this step should be commended and be provided the best protection we can offer, in hopes that they and others would be encouraged to testify and put dangerous individuals behind bars.

Witnesses should not face the uncertainty of their identity potentially being exposed to the media and those who would do them harm. By providing all witnesses protection in these sensitive cases, we can ensure that others will be willing to come forward, in turn ensuring that dangerous individuals are put behind bars.

While there are those who have expressed concern regarding the anonymity of sources, I note that there is a provision in the bill that would protect the right to a fair trial. I would draw members' attention to proposed subsection 18.1(4) in the bill.

This subsection would provide for an amicus curiae, which literally means “friend of the court”, who is charged to act as a special advocate to determine the validity of maintaining the source's anonymity when there is belief that it is essential to establishing the innocence of the accused. In this way, a neutral third party is used to ensure that the Canadian value of a right to a fair trial is properly balanced with the safety and security of those who would testify to make Canada a safer place.

While I am not a lawyer, I believe this provision would successfully navigate tricky constitutional waters to deliver Canadians a remarkably well-balanced and effective bill. Bill C-44 would protect Canadians from terrorists and make Canada a safer place.

The tools that Bill C-44 would provide our intelligence service are long overdue and a necessary part of modern intelligence gathering. Let us bring our spy agency up to date and in doing so protect all Canadians.

I therefore urge members of all parties to send this bill to committee, where they can study it and come to the same realization that I have: Canadians deserve the protection of Canada from terrorists act.

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5 p.m.

Scarborough Centre Ontario

Conservative

Roxanne James ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Brandon—Souris for that speech as well as for his previous work on the public safety and national security committee.

It is interesting to note that in one of the last statements in your speech, you said, “It is time to bring the spy agency”—