Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in this House to debate Bill C-44, the protection of Canada from terrorists act. I am confident that in the bill before us we have effective legislation that will go a long way toward improving our national security.
This bill contains two separate elements. Let me turn to the first part of the bill, which deals with the changes to the CSIS Act.
This act is the legislation that governs CSIS's activities. It was introduced three decades ago when CSIS was first established, and the act itself has not changed. Given what has occurred in the last few weeks, I would submit that it is certainly time.
When this was done 30 years ago, it was the era of the rotary phone. The Internet was just in the experimental stage. Social media did not exist, so social media were not applied toward the recruitment and radicalization of people across the world. Therefore, as all Canadians can appreciate, the nature of the environment in which CSIS must operate has changed. As an example, the terrorist threat has evolved considerably. All the way from the Cold War, we expected a peace dividend, but threats are more dangerous now, and with Mr. Putin and others threatening global borders, we have to be vigilant.
Mr. Speaker, please let me state that I am also splitting my time today with the great member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound.
Canada has had some notable successes in this country in detecting and disrupting terrorist plots, but the reality is that Canada is not immune to violent extremism. This is especially clear now that it has touched us on our very own soil, including on the very day and in the very place that we had planned to introduce this carefully considered legislation in this House.
While it is true that we have always been vigilant about the threat of terrorism, in recent months we have become particularly seized with the task of moving beyond vigilance to decisive action. This is something that we have an obligation to do for all Canadians. As parliamentarians, we can and we must take action to ensure that our security and intelligence agencies have the tools they need to protect Canada. Our government has been clear about its commitment to doing that.
With keen awareness of the challenges that CSIS faces in investigating threats to Canada, we have proposed measured yet critical amendments to the CSIS Act. It is evident to us, as I hope it will be to members on all sides of this House, that CSIS must have clear authority to investigate security threats to this country, whether they originate here or they originate abroad.
How would this bill allow for that? First of all, the bill would allow confirm CSIS's authority to carry out investigations outside of Canada. Specifically, it would amend the CSIS Act to state, for greater certainty, that CSIS has the authority to perform its duties within or outside of Canada for the purposes of investigating threats to the security of Canada or conducting security assessments.
Another important change would see to it that the Federal Court need only consider relevant Canadian laws, such as the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the CSIS Act, when issuing warrants authorizing CSIS to undertake certain intrusive activities in order to investigate a threat to the security of Canada outside of Canada.
In addition, the bill would address a shortcoming in the act as it stands with respect to the disclosure of human sources in court proceedings. At the present, there is no automatic protection for the identity of CSIS human sources similar to the common law privilege available to police informers. This is problematic, given that human source intelligence is so central to CSIS's work.
To address this problem, we have proposed an amendment that would create a prohibition on disclosing in court proceedings the identity of any CSIS human sources who have provided information to CSIS on the condition of confidentiality.
There are two exceptions that would allow this information to be disclosed. One is if a person is not in fact a confidential human source; the second is if the information is needed to demonstrate the innocence of the accused in a criminal proceeding. Overall, with these exceptions included, we believe that this amendment would successfully balance the need to protect the identity of CSIS human sources with the need to ensure fairness in legal proceedings.
Finally, we have proposed an amendment to safeguard the identity of CSIS employees who are likely to become involved in covert operational activities in the future. This is critical. Our operatives are serving in perilous situations on our behalf, so it is incumbent upon us to ensure that their families are safe as they do their very important work to ensure that our families remain safe.
Our government is convinced that these amendments are needed to ensure that the CSIS Act provides CSIS with the means to use reasonable and necessary measures to investigate threats to the security of Canada for the safety and security of our nation.
Nevertheless, as we make these carefully considered changes that will help CSIS investigate threats to Canada, I want to reassure Canadians that some fundamental elements will not change.
First and foremost, the rule of law applies. A judicial warrant is absolutely required in order to authorize CSIS's more intrusive activities. To be sure, this requirement serves as an important safeguard on the rights of Canadians. The CSIS Act clearly states that in order for a warrant to be issued, CSIS must satisfy a judge that, among other things, there is reason to believe the activity constitutes a threat to the security of Canada.
Second, I want to stress that CSIS's activities will continue to be consistent with the rule of law and Canadian values.
Last, CSIS will remain subject to robust oversight by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, just as it will remain subject to external arm's-length review by the Security Intelligence Review Committee, SIRC.
For the safety and security of Canadians, we need to move forward with these targeted and limited amendments to the CSIS Act to ensure that CSIS has the tools it needs to investigate threats to the security of Canada.
At the outset of my remarks, I mentioned that there were two elements to this legislation. Now I am going to turn to the second part.
The bill also contains technical amendments to the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, which received royal assent earlier this year.
These amendments will allow for quicker implementation of the citizenship revocation provisions in that act, including provisions to enable the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to revoke Canadian citizenship from dual citizens convicted of terrorism, treason, or spying offences. We believe that an earlier timeline to implement these important provisions is warranted.
Citizenship is a pledge of mutual responsibility and shared commitment to the values rooted in our history and to our fellow Canadians. Dual citizens convicted of serious crimes such as terrorism should not continue to benefit from Canadian citizenship, a citizenship that provides foundations of democracy, human rights, and the protections afforded to all Canadians in this great nation.
In closing, I would like to clearly state that it is imperative that all parties support this legislation. In the past, both the Liberals and the NDP have been guilty of under-reacting to the threat posed to Canadians by radical extremists. Clearly both parties, I hope, have now come to realize the true threat that we face and will work with us to ensure that all Canadians are protected and safe.
The Liberals opposed taking citizenship away from terrorists. Bizarrely, they claimed that it was an affront to Canadian values. I am quite sure that they may have re-evaluated that position. Even further afield, the NDP opposed the Combating Terrorism Act, which was well ahead of its time. It effectively criminalized what we have now come to know as foreign fighters. What is more, the NDP leader has rejected the assessments of the President of France, the U.S. Secretary of State, and even the Commissioner of the RCMP, who said what Canadians knew all along: that the horrific events of late October were the acts of deranged terrorists bent on establishing an Islamic caliphate.
I hope that in the coming days, all parties in the House will take this opportunity to stand up for security and to stand up for all Canadians. Our nation must be preserved, and to do so, we must ensure that we provide those who protect us with the right tools to enable them to do it.