moved that Bill C-44, An Act to amend the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to begin debate at second reading on Bill C-44, the protection of Canada from terrorists act. I hope that our government can count on the opposition parties' support to get this bill to committee.
I would like to start by thanking my colleagues from all parties who went to the National War Memorial this morning, especially my colleague here, the member for Vaughan and Minister of Veterans Affairs, to lay wreaths in tribute to the two soldiers who lost their lives in recent weeks.
All of my colleagues remember what happened. On October 22, we all witnessed events that shocked us in some way. I would like to join my voice to those of my colleagues from all parties who went to the National War Memorial this morning and extend our thoughts and our prayers to the families of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Corporal Nathan Cirillo.
On Saturday, I had the privilege of being in Longueuil to attend the funeral for Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent. His twin sister gave us a message of hope and peace, but she also asked us to ensure that her brother's death would not be in vain. Today, as parliamentarians, we have the opportunity to begin a debate on a bill that will ensure better protection for our country.
Before I begin the substance of my discussion today on this important legislation, I would like to address the horrific terrorist attack that happened just steps from where we stand today and make sure that we are all starting from the same point when we talk about what happened. It is important that we agree, for the sake of clarity, on what took place recently. That is why I would like to refer members to the Criminal Code, which defines terrorism as a violent and intentional act that aims to intimidate the public for political or religious reasons.
The Criminal Code defines terrorism as an act committed for a political, religious or ideological purpose, objective or cause with the intention of intimidating the public.
The two acts that were committed here—the attack on Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and the attack on Corporal Nathan Cirillo—fit within the definition of terrorism.
That is why President François Hollande said yesterday that these acts were terrorist-inspired. That is why the U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, said that when someone attacks an unarmed soldier guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and then storms Parliament with a loaded weapon, that is also an act of terrorism. That is also how it is defined in the Criminal Code.
I hope all parties will recognize that these acts were terrorist acts. We should call a spade a spade. Then we will be able to come up with solutions together to deal with the challenges we face.
Clearly, the terrorist acts committed here also have international repercussions. The Islamic State poses a threat not only to Canadians, but to populations in other countries that are being brutally suppressed and whose fundamental human rights are being violated.
That is why we are part of the coalition that is currently conducting air strikes against that terrorist group and why we are supporting the security forces in Iraq in their fight against this terrorist scourge.
However, we also need to take action within our borders, in Canada, to protect Canadians from anyone who might try to attack us, our values or innocent victims.
That is also why we are so determined to strengthen the tools available to police and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service when it comes to surveillance, detention and arrest. Bill C-44, the protection of Canada from terrorists act, which we are starting to debate today, is a first step in that direction.
We took action a long time ago. We are moving forward strongly, because we are facing a serious terrorist threat, one that we must address with strong measures.
As a government, we have already taken strong action to protect Canadians from the threat caused by terrorists.
Our government's response is based on Canada's counterterrorism strategy, which is a four-pillar approach. The first pillar, which is very important, is prevention. It is important that we promote and share our Canadian values with everyone, with every Canadian. That is why we are investing in numerous prevention measures involving police services, community groups and the government itself. My predecessors and I have engaged with ethnic and cultural communities, including at the cross-cultural roundtable. That is the first pillar. Then, we need to prevent, deny and detect individuals who may pose a threat, prevent them from taking action and, finally, respond to the threat if necessary.
Now we are dealing with another phenomenon: extremists who travel abroad and those who come back to Canada. That is a source of concern for us, which is why we intend to propose other measures in addition to the bill being introduced today.
Whether it is through legislation, policy, or investment, our government has taken strong action to give law enforcement and national security agencies the tools they need to keep us safe.
We have given law enforcement new tools by making it a crime to go overseas to engage in terrorist activities. We have given authorities tools to strip Canadian citizenship from those engaged in terrorist activities.
We have increased funding for our national security agencies, such as the RCMP and CSIS, each by a third.
We brought in the Combating Terrorism Act. We are prepared to revoke the citizenship of individuals who have dual citizenship and are convicted of acts of terrorism. We are also prepared to revoke the passports of individuals who want to incite violence outside our borders. Since 2006, we have increased the budgets of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service by more than one-third.
In practical terms, that means an additional $191 million for CSIS over the level that existed under the previous Liberal government.
Canada's counterterrorism legislation has been tried, tested and embraced by the highest courts.
Not only is law enforcement responding to the law we have put in force but the tribunal is as well by giving harsh sentences to those who are convicted of terrorist activities.
For example, Canada successfully prosecuted terrorism-related offences in the cases of Mohammad Momin Khawaja, alias Namouh, and 11 members of the so-called Toronto 18.
In July, Mohamed Hersi became the first Canadian convicted of attempting to travel abroad to join a terrorist group.
We tabled and implemented the Combating Terrorism Act. This act brought in important new criminal offences, including making it illegal to leave or attempt to leave Canada in order to commit certain terrorism offences outside Canada. This past July, the RCMP laid its first charges under the new act against an individual for leaving Canada to take part in terrorist activities. The bill is working. We need to take action to keep Canadians safe from terrorists.
Shockingly and unfortunately, we did not get support from the official opposition at that time for that common sense legislation. Hopefully this time we can count on their support and we can move the bill forward.
The government's terrorist listing also plays a key role in combatting terrorist financing, and under the Criminal Code, being listed has serious consequences, allowing for the seizure, restraint or forfeiture of a listed entity's property.
Again yesterday, we saw that another group was declared a terrorist entity. In other words, it is absolutely illegal in Canada, under the Criminal Code, to support or want to finance or associate with this entity. All the activities of this entity are prohibited in our country.
In April, we added IRFAN-Canada to the list of terrorist entities. IRFAN-Canada is a not-for-profit organization that transferred roughly $14.6 million in resources to Hamas, a terrorist entity that is on the Canadian list.
These measures help interrupt the flow of resources such as funds, weapons and new recruits to these entities. We also employ various mechanisms in order to deprive terrorists of the means and opportunities to carry out their activities. These mechanisms include the High Risk Travel Case Management Group, led by the RCMP, which is especially busy these days, and the revocation and suspension of passports of travellers who want to engage in terrorist activities abroad.
The prevention of violent extremism is a key element of our approach. I would like to share with you the important work accomplished in that regard. Preventing violent extremism is a key component of our strategy. At this time, I would like to commend the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, which has identified radicalism and radicalization as an area of concern, and which plans to examine this issue at its upcoming meetings and next year.
Our approach, “Responding to Violent Extremism”, is outlined in a document entitled 2014 Public Report On The Terrorist Threat To Canada. It is based on three interrelated strategies: building community capacity, which equates to prevention; building law enforcement capacity, which this bill will do by clarifying the powers of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service; and developing programs to stop radicalization resulting in violence through proactive early intervention. We must remember that preventing terrorism is our national security priority.
The counter terrorism information officer initiative, which is an RCMP responsibility, provides frontline police officers and other first responders with essential terrorism awareness training. Therefore, there are already resources, budgets and measures in place to deal with this threat of terrorism, but we have to adapt to this evolving threat.
Here we come back to the legislation at hand. The protection of Canada from terrorists act contains distinct elements that work toward a common goal, which is to protect the safety and security of Canadians. The bill also has some provisions regarding the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, which received royal assent in June.
There is really nothing new in this part, but let me just say the act made important changes at that time to the Citizenship Act, enabling the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to revoke Canadian citizenship from dual citizens who are convicted of terrorism, treason or spying offences. Such individuals would be permanently barred from acquiring citizenship again. While that act has already received royal assent, as members know, provisions in new legislation can come into force at different times.
Recent events around the world have brought to the forefront the need to address the threats of terrorism now. We are, therefore, proposing amendments to the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act that would allow provisions related to the revocation of Canadian citizenship to come into force earlier than anticipated. It is nothing new but it would ensure that those provisions could be used by law enforcement more rapidly.
The provisions that would come into force include new expanded grounds for revocation of Canadian citizenship and the establishment of a streamlined decision-making process. We are clear that Canadian citizenship is sacred. Our Canadian passport, wherever we go around the world, is of high value. It has to mean something. We do not want to share our Canadian passport with anyone who wants to cut off our heads because we disagree.
The Canadian passport is respected around the world. As parliamentarians, we will not accept that individuals with criminal intentions use Canadian passports to commit acts of terrorism.
Let us now examine the main part of the bill, which will make the necessary amendments to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act.
Ever since the CSIS Act was introduced more than 30 years ago, threats to Canada's security have become increasingly complex, as evidenced by the global nature of terrorism and the mobility of terrorist travellers.
We are aware of Canadians who have joined terrorist groups abroad. CSIS director Michel Coulombe has stated that more than 140 individuals with Canadian connections are suspected of engaging in terrorism-related activities abroad. It is more critical than ever that CSIS has the proper tools to investigate threats to the security of Canada and that its role and function is clear in terms of our Canadian laws. The bill before us proposes several targeted amendments to support CSIS in its mandate to investigate threats to the security of Canada.
First, the bill would confirm, clarify and strengthen the power of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service to conduct investigations abroad, by confirming that CSIS has clear, legislated authority to conduct investigations abroad related to Canada's security and security assessments.
Second, the bill will give the Federal Court the power to consider only the relevant Canadian law when issuing a warrant to authorize CSIS to investigate threats to the security of Canada.
Essentially, this bill clarifies the powers of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and protects witnesses, because information can only be exchanged if there is trust between the human source and the information service.
It is important to protect these sources and provide criteria for this legal protection, in order to make it possible to increase protection in certain situations.
I am pleased to introduce this important bill in Parliament. I look forward to following the debate, because this is an important and balanced bill.
I hope that we will be able to move forward and send this bill to committee, and that we develop a law that will protect Canadian citizens against the threat of terrorism. This threat is evolving and is unfortunately a reality.