Mr. Speaker, I always appreciate the opportunity to share with members some of my personal thoughts and to express some thoughts and ideas from the Liberal Party.
It goes without saying that Canadians have a burning desire to see security measures in place that will allow them to feel safe in the communities in which they live, whether it is here in the parliamentary precinct or in communities throughout the country.
On that note, it would be a mistake not to pay tribute to all those individuals who put in the effort to make us safe. Whether it is the intelligence officers of CSIS, the RCMP, border patrols, or other policing agencies, there are so many individuals who play a proactive role in ensuring that we have a sense of security. I wanted to express my appreciation for that.
It is not easy to provide a 100% guarantee that Canada will never have to endure a terrorist attack. What we can do is work hard to prevent one, wherever possible, and adequately support the different agencies. In particular, today we are focusing on CSIS.
We can bring in new legislation, but at the end of the day, legislation is only one aspect. We have to challenge the government to ensure that it is putting in other types of resources to support the different agencies that are there to protect us. Whether the government is in fact doing enough can at times be called into question.
This is really the first opportunity I have had to comment on what we all experienced just a couple of weeks ago. In the days that followed, I happened to be on a flight to Ukraine. Whether it was at the airport in Frankfurt or in Ukraine itself, I saw our beautiful Parliament buildings on the news. What took place a couple of weeks ago made international news, as many people around the world were quite concerned about what was taking place in Canada. Constituents, family, and friends at the time also expressed a great deal of interest and concern and offered their prayers and best wishes.
As has been pointed out, from Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers all the way down, people did a phenomenal job, and they should all be applauded for their efforts in ensuring that there was minimal impact because of what took place.
We have heard some amazing speeches. There were political speeches from leaders and others who paid tribute to Corporal Cirillo, who ultimately made a sacrifice that has reached into the hearts and minds of all Canadians. I raise that because I want to put it in the context of Bill C-44.
The bill would do nothing to address the national security concerns related to the events in Quebec and Ottawa a couple of weeks ago. It would simply amend the present legislation to meet current CSIS practices and would expedite the CIC amendments in Bill C-24.
The government needs to explain why the provisions already in place in the Criminal Code have not been utilized in response to those individuals who represent a threat to this country.
The sections of the Criminal Code in question are section 83.181, relating to the laying of charges against an individual attempting to leave Canada to participate in terrorist activities; section 83.3, which could be used to place recognizance with conditions on those suspected of terrorist activities; and section 810, relating to peace bonds and possible detention.
I was intrigued by some of the discussions. One of the most interesting statements I came across was from the Minister of Public Safety on October 8 at the public safety committee. This is in regard to the 80 individuals who returned to Canada after having travelled abroad to take part in terrorism-related activities. This is what the minister stated to parliamentarians and Canadians at committee:
Let me be clear that these individuals posing a threat to our security at home have violated Canadian law.... These dangerous individuals, some skilled and desiring to commit terrorist activity, pose a serious threat to law-abiding Canadians.
This begs a number of questions with respect to whether we are acting on the current legislation that has been passed.
What would Bill C-44 actually do? There are three things I can detect. First, there would be protection for informants. I can appreciate why that would be necessary. Second, it would provide more clarity on the need for warrants. CSIS needs to investigate, and this legislation would provide more clarity with respect to warrants from judges to complete those investigations. Third is the issue of dual citizens. The House voted on this not that long ago, and it is being expedited.
The government needs to be aware of what is missing, and that is oversight. Oversight was mentioned today in questions.
In an hour, we will be voting on Bill C-622, an important piece of legislation. Bill C-622 was introduced by my colleague from Vancouver Quadra. She has done a wonderful job in recognizing the importance of parliamentary oversight. The government has been negligent on this issue, and I do not say that lightly.
What the member from Vancouver Quadra is asking of the government is already being done and is in place for our Five Eyes partners. In Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and the United Kingdom, it is already being done. They have recognized the value of having parliamentarians provide oversight.
I do not understand why the government is resisting that idea. This is not necessarily the first time, but it is definitely an opportune time for the government to recognize that the House of Commons and parliamentarians as a whole do have a role to play.
We hope that the Prime Minister will allow for an open vote on this issue. I would encourage the government to reflect, to seriously consider the benefits of accepting what the member for Vancouver Quadra, the Liberal Party defence critic, has put on the table for us today, and to vote for parliamentary oversight.
Oversight would go a long way in providing peace of mind, in many different ways. Oversight is a good way to ensure the protection of the rights of all Canadians. It is in our best interest, I would argue.
Parliamentary oversight is not just a Liberal Party proposal. As has been pointed out, our other partnering nations have already done this. Why would the government not respond in kind and recognize the value of oversight?
We in opposition recognize how important it is to provide protection for informants. It only stands to reason that there would be protection of informants, who provide critical, valuable information when a CSIS agent is doing an investigative report or conducting an investigation into the potential for some form of a terrorist act here in Canada or abroad. We have to depend on informants.
I have no sense of the actual number of informants out there, but I do understand and appreciate the need for us to protect them. In looking at this piece of legislation, we see that protection as a positive thing.
In terms of warrants and the need for warrants, again this concern does not come from any individual political party. Based on the discussions and comments I have heard here this afternoon and even previously, it seems there is virtual unanimity in recognizing how important it is that we provide additional clarity to CSIS as an organization and in terms of the role of warrants in ensuring that investigations are conducted in a proper fashion. There is an understanding that unusual circumstances come into play when terrorist activities and organizations are investigated.
As a whole, Canadians are very much aware of what terrorism is all about. We understand and appreciate that we are living in a very different world. Through the Internet and all forms of media outlets, we know there is a much higher sense of awareness. It is there and it is very real.
That, I believe, is one of the reasons that Canadians expect the Government of Canada to do what it can to ensure that they have a sense of security in the communities where they live, and I suggest many of my colleagues would concur. However, at the same time, there is an expectation that we will demonstrate leadership at the international level.
In bringing forward legislation such as we have before us today, it is very important that we consult with the different stakeholders and ensure that the legislation is, in many ways, a bit more inclusive in terms of having the right balance. I am not convinced that we have the right balance here. That is why, in my last 15 or 20 seconds, I would ask the government to recognize the importance that parliamentarians have when it comes to ensuring that Canadians feel much safer in their communities. Parliamentarians need to be, and should be, more engaged in the process. Whether it is oversight or whether it is parliamentary committees, we can make a difference.