House of Commons Hansard #166 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was terrorism.

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The House resumed from January 28 consideration of the motion that Bill C-44, An Act to amend the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and other Acts, be read the third time and passed.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

10 a.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak about the protection of Canada from terrorists act. This is an important bill that would allow our government to move forward on our commitment to keep Canadians safe from terrorist threats.

The international jihadist movement has declared war on Canada and her allies. That is why our government has committed the Canadian Armed Forces to the broad international coalition against the so-called Islamic State. No Canadian government should ever stand on the sidelines while our allies act to deny terrorists a safe haven, an international base from which they could plot violence against us.

Recent events of terror around the globe, and particularly the two tragic attacks last October in Quebec and Ottawa and the recent attacks in Paris, have pushed this issue to the forefront of the government's agenda in a way never before seen in Canada's history. It is now abundantly clear to all Canadians that terrorism is no longer a threat in a faraway land. We must degrade and destroy the terrorists before they bring their barbaric, violent ideology to our shores.

In light of the atrocities carried out by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, ISIL, and the deteriorating situation in Iraq and Syria, the world is rallying against the threats of violent extremism. That is why we have introduced the protection of Canada from terrorists act. Now, more than ever, we must ensure that CSIS can undertake its work as it was originally intended by Parliament.

While this legislation is important, it is not lengthy or complicated. In fact, the proposed amendments are targeted and common sense. However, any time a government introduces legislation concerning national security, there are those who raise concerns, which can lead to misunderstanding. As a result, there has been some confusion about what this legislation would do.

Allow me to start with what it would not do. It would not, as some have suggested, hand broad, sweeping powers to CSIS. Just as importantly, it would not create new authorities or infringe on the rights of Canadians. We have been abundantly clear on these points. With this legislation, as with all bills that have passed through the House, our government has worked diligently to strike a proper balance between public safety and civil liberties.

Thirty years ago, when the CSIS act was passed, the Parliament of the day ensured that this balance was adhered to in the authorities given to CSIS. That is why the act put in place robust safeguards, oversight, and review mechanisms to ensure that CSIS's investigative work is done with full respect of its governing laws.

As we know, Bill C-44 responds to court decisions that are having a significant impact on CSIS operations. Before I go into the provisions of the bill, I would like to provide some context on these decisions and why they necessitate the amendments before us today.

Just last fall, the Federal Court of Appeal unsealed its July 2014 decision related to the government's appeal of Justice Mosley's decision that was issued by the Federal Court in November 2013. This decision has raised important questions about certain aspects of CSIS's mandate and investigative authorities, particularly in relation to CSIS's ability to conduct investigations outside of Canada.

It is self-evident that Parliament always intended CSIS to be able to take reasonable and necessary measures to investigate threats to the security of Canada outside of Canada. The protection of Canada from terrorists act introduces targeted amendments to the CSIS act to ensure that CSIS can continue to do just that and do so in a manner that is consistent with relevant Canadian law, the Charter, and Canadian values.

To start, the bill would confirm CSIS's authority to conduct investigations outside of Canada related to threats to the security of Canada and security assessments. At the same time, the bill would also confirm the authority of the Federal Court to issue warrants authorizing CSIS to undertake certain intrusive activities outside of Canada, and it would give the Federal Court authority to consider only relevant Canadian law, primarily the CSIS act and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, when issuing warrants for CSIS to undertake certain intrusive activities outside of Canada.

Why are these amendments important? It is because threats to the security of Canada do not stop at our border. Many threats, in fact, may develop entirely outside of Canada.

In order to fully investigate these threats, CSIS must be able to use intrusive investigative techniques outside of Canada, and it must have a clear means to obtain authorization to do so. The Federal Court of Appeal effectively found that, as currently written, the CSIS act may require CSIS to demonstrate that its activities will be lawful in the country where the activity will take place. This is not a reasonable threshold to require CSIS to meet. CSIS, and indeed the Federal Court, cannot reasonably expect to track the legislation of all 170 countries in the world to determine which kinds of activities are lawful in those countries and which ones are not. It is also unreasonable because subjects of investigation move around from country to country and CSIS cannot reasonably be expected to predict to which countries a subject of investigation might travel. It is clear that Parliament did not intend CSIS to meet such a threshold when it originally passed the CSIS act, and neither should we here today.

Just to re-emphasize the fact that CSIS must have a clear authority to conduct investigative activities outside of Canada, let me say this. At a time when we are witnessing Canadians travelling abroad to take part in terrorist activities, we simply cannot have ambiguity or questions about CSIS's authority to take reasonable steps outside of Canada to investigate the threat to the security of Canada that they may pose.

Turning to the second court decision affecting CSIS operations, in May 2014, as part if its decision on Mohamed Harkat, the Supreme Court of Canada stated that CSIS human sources do not benefit from a common-law class privilege similar to the informer privilege applicable to police informants. While this does not necessarily mean that these CSIS sources will be revealed during court proceedings, it has weakened CSIS's ability to provide human sources—a critical source of information for CSIS—with a credible assurance that their identity would be protected. The implications of this are serious, as those human sources may decide not to provide CSIS with information that could be vital to an investigation of a terrorist threat to Canada. To address this issue, the bill provides that the identities of CSIS human sources would be prohibited from being disclosed in legal proceedings.

However, it is worth noting that this is subject to certain exceptions to preserve the right of Canadians to fair legal proceedings. To this end, the legislation includes three measures under which this protection could be lifted.

First, the human sources could, of their own accord, agree to the disclosure of their identity in court, subject to the consent of the director of CSIS.

Second, parties to the proceedings could ask a judge to make a ruling regarding the human source. For example, is the individual in fact a human source, and could the information in question actually reveal the identity of the human source?

Third, in criminal proceedings, defendants and any other party to the proceedings would be able to ask a judge to declare that the disclosure of the identity of a human source or information from which their identity might be inferred is essential to establish the innocence of the accused.

More important, these amendments would not in any way interfere with the ability of judges to take other measures to ensure the fairness of legal proceedings beyond revealing the identity of a CSIS human source. Judges also have broad discretion to determine the weight to give to information provided by CSIS human sources in legal proceedings. The proposed amendments would not affect this discretion in any way.

The protection of Canada from terrorists act would also make technical amendments to the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act. These amendments would allow earlier implementation of provisions that ensure that dual citizens who have been convicted of terrorist acts and sentenced to a prison term of at least five years would not continue to benefit from Canadian citizenship.

The amendments that our government has proposed through the protection of Canada from terrorists act are reasonable, necessary, and consistent with the values of Canadians. The Federal Court of Appeal and decisions from the Federal Court have raised important questions about CSIS's mandate and investigative authorities, and the Supreme Court of Canada's decision has weakened CSIS's ability to protect the identity of human sources.

Parliament must respond to these decisions by affirming CSIS's existing authority to conduct investigative activities outside of Canada, clearly stating that the Federal Court does have jurisdiction to issue warrants for activities outside of Canada, including certain intrusive activities that may be unlawful in the jurisdiction where they would take place, and stating that Parliament wishes the identity of CSIS human sources to be protected from disclosure in legal proceedings, subject to certain exceptions.

CSIS would, as always, continue to be required to obtain judicial authorization to undertake certain intrusive investigative techniques in relation to Canadians, and also remain subject to robust review by the Security Intelligence Review Committee, CIRC, which has access to all information in the possession of CSIS, except cabinet confidences.

CIRC's powers of review are among the most far-reaching of any body reviewing any intelligence agency in the western world. I believe that these amendments are critical to ensuring safety and security of Canadians.

Canadians expect us to ensure that our law enforcement and national security agencies have the tools to keep them safe. That is why we have trusted our Conservative government to deliver on these important issues. Unlike the NDP, whose leader has refused to call the atrocities that occurred in late October a terrorist attack, we have taken strong action, except when he asked for 24-hour, 7-day-a-week police protection.

I have a question for the NDP leader, and perhaps some of his colleagues could answer me today. If what happened in this place was merely caused by a drug addict who was mentally unstable, why did the NDP leader demand additional RCMP security? I can tell him why. It is because, despite his leftist rhetoric, he knows that there is a real and present terrorist threat.

I was pleased to see earlier this week that the Liberals have finally adopted our approach on national security. Hopefully they have rejected their ill-advised approach of looking for the root causes of terrorism, as their leader suggested after the bombing at the Boston Marathon. I can tell the Liberals exactly the root cause of terrorism in plain language that all Canadians can understand. The root cause of terrorism is terrorists.

I hope all members will join me in supporting this very important legislation.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague opposite for his speech. We have frequently worked together as members of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. Even though we have often disagreed about various bills, we have always preserved a sense of collegiality in the committee.

During meetings of that committee, whether attended by witnesses and experts or private citizens, people had lots of questions. There is one question in particular that the government never answered; it was about the constitutionality of Bill C-44. We repeatedly asked the Minister of Public Safety, his parliamentary secretary and his colleagues on the opposite side of the House whether they had received any legal opinions confirming that Bill C-44 is well and truly constitutional because we do not want to end up debating the constitutionality of a bill before the Supreme Court yet again.

Can my colleague across the way tell me for sure whether Bill C-44 is well and truly constitutional?

Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from across the way. We do work together well on the public safety committee. Certainly we have had the opportunity to have a lot of discussion on various issues, and I appreciate her presence and her question.

I can tell the hon. member that, in fact, any of the legislation that our government puts through the House of Commons has to go through a rigorous process to ensure that it does meet all constitutional requirements, as well as those ensuring the freedoms and protection of all Canadians.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the member might be able to respond to a letter, or it may have been an email, that was actually sent to one of his colleagues in regard to exploding targets. The letter says, “I continue to find it very surprising that the Conservative government seems unable to understand that the easy availability of this explosive [referring to exploding targets]—ammonium nitrate and aluminium powder that can be simply scaled up to a very powerful bomb—is a threat to the safety of Canadians. There is no control on a radicalized person acquiring a large quantity of this explosive, once they have obtained a firearms licence. I hope that someone in the existing government will realize the major blunder made by making this powerful explosive so widely and easily available before it results in the injury and death of Canadians.”

It is regarding exploding targets, and apparently the government has done something to make it more available, that one only requires a firearms possession certificate to acquire large quantities of it.

This is a letter that I just bring to his attention, and I would be interested in his thoughts on it.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would not mind getting a copy of that letter from my colleague across the way. It is an interesting concept that people can buy a whole bunch of different products to potentially make bombs. I do not believe that is in the interest of Canadians in ensuring the protection of all our citizens.

I have not seen anything in particular with respect to the legislation, but I would be more than happy to work with him on that issue and come to some resolution.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, there is absolutely no doubt that public safety and national security are a priority for every person here.

I think it is important to point out that this highly important question is, once again, being discussed in a hurry under a time allocation motion that restricts our speaking time. To me, that is completely unacceptable.

To be sure, we cannot pretend that we have not seen the Conservative Party's tasteless and partisan ads about these very issues.

I would like to know if the government introduced this bill for partisan reasons and is trying to ride roughshod over reason. We agree that the issue is pressing, but the government could make it a priority instead of limiting our speaking time.

If they did not do it for partisan reasons, then why is there once again no place for the amendments put forward in committee by, for example, the NDP official opposition, which, like the Conservatives, cares deeply about public safety?

Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

January 30th, 2015 / 10:20 a.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting that those members have suggested that this is a political manoeuvre. It is the responsibility of the government of the day, which happens to be our Conservative government, to ensure that Canadian citizens, whether they are parliamentarians or everyday citizens, are protected from terrorists. That is our prime concern.

If we do not get the legislation through, people will ask why. This is important legislation that would protect Canadians and our country from these jihadist terrorists. It is extremely important. I would not say that this is any kind of political move.

If we talk about a political move, the leader of the NDP and his colleagues suggested that the attack in the House was because of a drug addict. Let us get real. We know what it was. The real question is this. If the NDP members think this was just a drug addict, why did the NDP leader ask for 24-hour a day police protection? I do not see the reality in his question.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Adam Vaughan Liberal Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, as members know, we support this bill insofar as it explores and seeks to strengthen provisions to ensure the safety of all Canadians. However, we have concerns, when the Conservatives say “a robust debate” and “a robust process”, that closure will not be used, and that when it comes to committee, they will not be scoping the input from learned Canadians to ensure the bill is improved.

My question is centred on the concern that the member had about a political leader who talked about root causes as being somehow inappropriate. My understanding is that the Prime Minister is today announcing measures in Richmond Hill that explore how we stop the root causes from creating the dangerous circumstances and how we work with our friends and neighbours in the Muslim community, who seek peace and a just world, to ensure that radicalization does not happen, and that the elements and conditions that create radicalization and dangerous circumstances are addressed before terrorism exists.

Surely, terrorism does not just create terrorism. There are root causes. That is why the Prime Minister is making his announcement. Does the member not support his Prime Minister?

Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, that is an interesting question. Of course I support the Prime Minister.

Throughout these activities, including this bill, we have talked about what we need to do to try to ensure that terrorists are stopped before they come to Canada. We already know we have about 130 individuals who have gone abroad to participate in terrorism.

I know the leader of the Liberal Party had suggested that the bombing in Boston was because we did not understand the Muslims and we needed to get to the root cause of that. The root cause of it is that those terrorists do not want to see Canadians and people across the globe have the freedoms and values that Canadians appreciate.

We have freedom of speech. We have the opportunity to work and travel abroad. These are the rights that Canadians want. In fact, our government, and all our agencies and legal authorities, such as the police, are working with Canadians right across the country to try to stop terrorism before it hits here.

I certainly do support our Prime Minister. I do not have the items that the Prime Minister will be releasing, but I am sure we will get that information in short order. However, it will be to ensure that Canadians are safe from terrorists.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to participate in the third reading debate on Bill C-44. Bill C-44 was introduced shortly after the events of October 22, 2014, which shocked us all.

I know that this bill was not a response from the government to those events, something that was not clear in the speech that my colleague just gave. It seemed like he was saying that it was a response to the attacks that took place in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Ottawa, but it was not. Bill C-44 had already been drafted well before those attacks took place. This bill is therefore not a response on the part of the government.

We expect better answers from the Conservative government on what it wants to do to combat terrorism today. There was talk of an announcement around noon. We are anxious to see whether the government is going to present a balanced approach. I am still holding out hope.

With regard to Bill C-44, which is before us today, I would like to say from the outset that the official opposition, the NDP, is going to oppose this bill at third reading. I will try to explain why in my remarks.

I have a few things to say to my colleagues opposite after listening to their speeches. I noted a few things that they said. The sad thing about Bill C-44 and the pressure that the government is putting on the Canadian Security Intelligence Service is that the government would have us believe that giving CSIS more power is a good thing. It would be if the government also gave the agency the resources and tools it needs. However, unfortunately, the Conservatives decided to go it alone and did not hold the necessary consultations on Bill C-44. There has also been talk about a balance between public safety and civil liberties, something that we do not see at all in Bill C-44.

The whole national security context is undergoing rapid changes. The nature of the attacks we are facing has changed, and in general, the attackers are not the same either. The problems are changing extremely quickly, particularly because of the new tools that terrorists have and their access to social media.

This brings me to the issue of resources within the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. This is a fundamental part of the problem, but the Conservatives refuse to address it. All departments have been affected by austerity measures over the past few years. For example, cuts totalling over $100 million have been made to the Department of Public Safety. In 2012-13, cuts totalling about $15 million were made to CSIS.

When my colleague talks about striking a balance between security and civil liberties, I also think about the fact that the inspector general of CSIS position was scrapped, even though it was crucial to accountability at CSIS. That was not done in 2012-13, but because of cuts totalling around $24.5 million that will be announced in future budgets, it will be done in 2014-15. That was an extremely important position that helped balance civil liberties and national security.

In addition, we were disappointed to hear about some questionable spending, to say the least and to avoid unparliamentary language, by Michel Coulombe, the director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

Here is just one example: during a trip, the director of CSIS actually spent over $750 on a hotel room for one night—this at a time when we are in the middle of an austerity program and his agency is suffering significant cuts. This kind of behaviour is unacceptable. The director of CSIS is spending more on himself right now than the Minister of Public Safety. It is totally unacceptable to see taxpayers' money spent like that. What are we hearing from the Conservatives right now? Nothing, radio silence. They have no response when we ask what will happen next. Will the director of CSIS be reprimanded for misusing public funds? We still do not know.

As far as Bill C-44 is concerned, many things were discussed in committee. In fact, I will come back to what happened, but to give my colleagues a sense of what is in Bill C-44, I would add that it does nothing to improve civilian oversight of CSIS, as promised. As the official opposition, we thought it was an excellent opportunity to correct the situation and work together to ensure that the government kept its promise and did more for civil liberties while sorting out the existing problems at CSIS.

Unfortunately, all of our amendments to that end were rejected. In fact, I will go even further: all the amendments that the official opposition, the third party and other members of the House proposed at the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security were rejected by the government. That is absolutely unacceptable after members said they would try to work together, especially at such an important stage as review in committee, where witnesses give extremely important opinions.

I was also shocked by something else. This bill is only six or seven pages long, which is not very long. Under the Conservatives we have become accustomed to seeing bills that are often 100 or so pages long, so five or six pages is not very much. However, the Conservatives managed to create an omnibus bill out of those pages. I commend them. That is quite a feat. Bill C-44 affects not just CSIS, but also part of the Citizenship Act, which has nothing to do with what we are interested in here, namely the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

In fact, the Conservatives are playing petty politics. They passed legislation concerning the Citizenship Act and they want that legislation to come into effect sooner than they planned. They therefore included a provision in Bill C-44 to make the legislation they introduced come into effect sooner. In fact, no one in the House except for them agreed to that. This is absolutely unacceptable and illogical when we are dealing with something as important as our public safety and national security.

This brings me to the work in committee in general. We moved 12 very reasonable amendments to this bill. A number of expert witnesses were behind us. Our proposed amendments were mainly based on the evidence provided by experts to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security and also that of groups of stakeholders that we managed to meet with over what I must say was a short period of time. In fact, Bill C-44 was rushed through committee very quickly. The number of hours of debate in the House of Commons was reduced, as often happens with this government, and we did not have many committee meetings. There were only two meetings where we were able to listen to witnesses and experts. The Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, the director of CSIS, Michel Coulombe, and stakeholders associated with the minister and the director attended the first meeting. That left us with only two hours to question witnesses and experts not directly associated with the government.

As for the work in committee, I must say that the Conservatives allowed us to invite only a small number of witnesses. Clearly, you cannot have a large number of witnesses in two hours, but we had very limited time.

The committee did not hear from a lot of witnesses, and most of the witnesses came from the Conservative government. As a result, we heard very little from people who were not from the government side. This made the work very difficult because I would say that over the course of an hour, we had about six witnesses at once. This prevented us from really going into great detail on Bill C-44. The government had told us that we would all work together, that we would develop a good bill and come to a unanimous consensus on something. Unfortunately the government disappointed us yet again.

We voted in favour of this bill at second reading because we wanted to send it to committee. We thought that the Conservatives were serious about Bill C-44 and that they truly wanted to work together and put partisanship aside. There is no place for partisanship in discussions on public safety and national security or in discussions on civil liberties, when we are talking about CSIS.

It is sad to see that the government has disappointed us yet again and that we were not able to work together to create the best bill possible. Because the bill before us is not the best it could be, I want to talk about its constitutionality.

I asked the Conservative member who just spoke on Bill C-44 whether they had received legal opinions confirming that the bill is well and truly constitutional. He managed to evade the question just as well as the Minister of Public Safety and all the people who dealt with this bill. No one was able to offer any legal opinions to prove that this bill was constitutional.

This is therefore highly likely to be yet another bill that ends up before the courts in a test of its constitutionality. If that happens, millions of taxpayer dollars will be spent on something that could have been taken care of before the bill was introduced. The government is being irresponsible by introducing bills that it does not know for sure are constitutional. When we are trying to address public safety in the current global context, it is a very bad idea to introduce something that is not constitutional and that will probably be unusable until its constitutionality has been proven in court. This is extremely disappointing.

I talked about what is in Bill C-44. I would like to go back to that because I want to make one very important point about something in it. Bill C-44 contains one very important clause that will make significant changes to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, namely with respect to the protection of all the sources listed.

Bill C-44 ensures full protection of identity for all of CSIS's human intelligence sources. Those of you who know a little bit about the Canadian Security Intelligence Service will see that that is a very good thing: people doing secret work on the ground and sources will be protected. That is very important, and it is already being done. Sources involved in sensitive and delicate cases are already being protected. At any time, on a case-by-case basis, judges can already protect CSIS sources.

Under Bill C-44, all employees who are currently working, used to work, or may someday work for CSIS can be protected. That might seem right on the surface, but here is what is changing: this is directly related to what the government did not do, to the balance between public safety and civil liberties.

Should CSIS end up in court for criminal proceedings, CSIS human sources may well have to testify, if necessary. Legal experts have expressed concern that full protection of identity for human sources will make it more difficult to test CSIS evidence in criminal cases, which may create obstacles to the successful prosecution of those involved in threats to national security on the basis of CSIS information.

The ability of the accused to confront their accuser and to test evidence in court is a fundamental part of Canadian criminal law.

This will add complications, as it will require a separate process in Federal Court. This unnecessarily complicates many things. We can protect sources working on extremely important investigations on a case-by-case basis. This measure is then a rather grandiose way of protecting a lot of people at the head of CSIS.

After the events in Ottawa and the attacks on Charlie Hebdo or in Australia, a few weeks ago, people are worried and expect Canadian parliamentarians to work together to find the right solutions to national and international security problems. They expect us to work with our counterparts around the world to find tangible ways to deal with radicalization and terrorism.

Unfortunately, partisan measures and a box full of unnecessary tools are not going to be the solution. There are concrete ways to address radicalization and terrorism. First of all, we need to give more resources to people on the ground. Huge cuts are being made to important programs. For instance, the Conservative government did not renew the $400 million that used to go directly to police forces in Quebec. One of the things they used that funding for was to tackle the problem of radicalization in our street gangs. This is extremely serious.

In recent months, police forces have been telling us that they are seeing people become radicalized, but they do not have the resources to do anything about it. It is all well and good to give them a nice, big tool box, but if they do not have the personnel needed do something with it, it is pointless. We are not tackling the problem directly, and that is extremely serious.

We can also address radicalization and terrorism by working on the ground with people from certain communities, regardless of their nationality and their field of work. However, this government has never included this solution in any of its bills or plans. We need to look at what is happening on the ground and understand the needs that exist in order to come up with a consensus. The Conservative government does not do that.

I am very disappointed in this bill, which has many flaws and is probably unconstitutional. It does not improve civilian oversight of CSIS and only introduces measures to further protect CSIS when it finds itself in hot water.

I would like to stress how very disappointed I am, because I wanted to give the government the benefit of the doubt. Following the events that shocked us all, I thought we would be able to agree on a positive measure that would still allow us to preserve civil liberties. It is our duty as parliamentarians to ensure the public safety of the communities and people we represent.

Unfortunately, the official opposition cannot support this bill because of how it was put together and the blatant lack of consultation of experts and communities. I am saddened to see that we have once again been presented with an omnibus bill and, even worse, that the RCMP, the Canada Border Services Agency and CSIS employees are not being given the resources they need to address the real problem of radicalization. Their budgets keep getting cut, which decreases the number of employees on the ground who could do the work and properly use the tools.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Tarik Brahmi NDP Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Alfred-Pellan. I especially want to thank her for explaining what happened in committee because we are not necessarily privy to what happens at every meeting. She spoke of the abysmal process in committee.

That reminds me, for example, of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, where the deposition of the minister who appears before the committee is considered to be that of an actual witness, whereas in reality it is just the minister's statement.

I am pleased that she explained this flaw in the system and the Conservatives' use of this absolutely dishonest method.

I also thank her for reminding us that Bill C-44 was drafted before the incidents that took place in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and elsewhere.

That incident directly concerns my riding and so I would like the member to remind us that Martin Couture-Rouleau, who was dealing with mental health issues, was already being monitored by the RCMP. He was assessed just a few months before he committed this crime. In the assessment, the RCMP concluded that he was no longer a threat.

Can my colleague explain how amending a law that governs CSIS would not have prevented this tragedy or changed it in any way? In fact, this person was already being monitored, he had been assessed and the assessment had concluded that he was no longer a threat.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Saint-Jean for his question.

I know that these incidents have had a direct impact on the people that he represents and that this has been a very tough time for him. It is an extremely sensitive subject and for that reason, I thank him for asking that question in the House. I believe that this is an extremely important topic.

That brings me to the fact that the Conservatives are using these incidents to promote the idea that bills like Bill C-44 are very important.

We need to talk about this for the good of the people that we represent. If we do not look at the specifics of the bill and do not talk about exactly what it contains, people will not know. They will think that Bill C-44 is about CSIS and that it will actually have an impact should other other similar incidents occur.

My colleague from Saint-Jean is completely right: this bill has nothing to do with those incidents. It is sad that the Conservatives are using those incidents to promote this type of bill, which ultimately does not have the proper focus.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member's comments and the previous question.

One of the things we do need to emphasize is that even though there might be some concerns regarding Bill C-44, it is a step in the right direction. It does provide clarity on a number of different issues, in particular by allowing for a greater sense of comfort with CSIS and the individuals it has to deal with. It provides some greater sense of security.

As a whole, Canadians are very concerned about the issue of terrorism and want to see the government bring in necessary legislation that will to make a difference and allow CSIS and other security measures to be more effective. We in the Liberal Party recognize that this bill is somewhat of a step forward and therefore will be voting in favour of it.

Do the New Democratic members recognize that our security agency is also looking at what is being provided through this legislation? Do they recognize that at the very least, even though there are shortcomings in the legislation, it has some value and that Canadians as a whole recognize that value and want to see the bill passed?

Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is an example of the difference between the NDP and the Liberals. At the beginning of his remarks, the member said that Bill C-44 provides clarity on a number of issues. I strongly disagree with that statement simply because most experts that we heard from told us that they did not know whether the bill was constitutional or whether it could even be used.

What is happening with Bill C-44 is not necessarily clear. It does not necessarily address all of the issues associated with radicalization and terrorism in Canada and throughout the world. I would like to talk a bit more about the lack of clarity concerning the direction the Conservatives and the Liberals want to take. What is their position on the tools and resources available to ensure public safety and national security?

I do not think that we can talk about clarity here because the bill does not address civil liberties, does not protect Canadians from CSIS and does not allocate the necessary resources. What is more, the bill deals with issues that are not necessarily even related to the general subject of the bill.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague on her speech. On matters of public safety and civil liberties, the NDP is at the forefront and will do everything in its power to ensure that a bill such as Bill C-44 helps as many people as possible. We will make sure that there is a truly democratic dialogue among all members to further this very important cause.

Regarding the relationship between radicalization and terrorist acts, my colleague showed that this bill lacks concrete measures to create conditions that will prevent radicalization from taking root in our communities.

Can my colleague comment further on that and give the House some ideas for dealing with the phenomenon of radicalization?

Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Saint-Lambert for raising that question in the House. I think it is very important because the time is right. We will be talking about public safety and national security a lot in 2015. This issue is extremely important to most Canadians. It is important to talk about it now in the House, to try to find a consensus and to come up with good ideas for the solutions we need.

The first step is to look to our communities to see what is happening there. Many of our colleagues want to know what is going on in their community. Is radicalization happening? Are things different on the ground? There are also people who go to observe what is happening outside the country. The Charlie Hebdo attacks had a profound impact on us. The French are going through similar experiences to ours. People went to see what was happening there and to talk to people in these communities, and they realized, in the end, that the problems we are seeing here are very similar to those experienced by our French colleagues, friends and cousins across the ocean. Our fight against radicalization should be founded on an understanding of exactly what is happening on the ground .

Furthermore, we need to place more trust in our police forces, whether we are talking about the RCMP, provincial police forces, border services officers or CSIS agents. These people work on the ground and they understand the dynamics. We must give them the tools they need.

In conclusion, my colleague mentioned at the beginning of her comments that the NDP is a champion of balancing public safety and civil liberties. We demonstrated this in committee with the various amendments we proposed to ensure that there would be a balance between the two.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Before we resume debate with the hon. member for Malpeque, I will let him know that there are only five minutes remaining before we go to statements by members at 11 o'clock, but he will get started and will have the remaining time in his 20 minutes when the House next resumes business on the question.

The hon. member for Malpeque.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I assume that the House is continuing the discussion on this bill following question period. My remarks then will certainly be curtailed because for some reason the government has called a briefing on the new combating terrorism act, or whatever it may call it, at 11:30, which is halfway through question period, and that will go through to 12:30 p.m. Because of the actions of the government, I will not be able to conclude my speech. It is startling that the Conservatives would call a briefing during question period when members are supposed to be here.

Instead of taking time to duplicate the discussion, the member for Alfred-Pellan talked about what happened at committee. I agree with her comments. The ability of the committee to do its work was certainly curtailed. I think we had six witnesses, which is just not adequate to do the job, especially with all the pomp and ceremony by the government and its line that it is fighting terrorism and that the bill is so important. We will see what is in the new bill coming forward this afternoon.

This bill really does absolutely nothing to address the national security concerns that resulted from the recent events in Quebec and Ottawa. It simply amends legislation to meet current CSIS practices and expedites amendments to citizenship and immigration from Bill C-24. We raised with the minister in the House and at committee the point that the government must explain why it is not using existing legislation and the relevant provisions of the Criminal Code. Here I refer to preventive arrest and section 83 of the Criminal Code, whereunder someone, if they are planning, attempting to, or leaving the country to operate with a terrorist entity abroad, can face from 10 to 14 years in prison. We have never had an answer from the government why those sections of the law are not being utilized, specifically subsection 83.18(1). Peace bonds have only been used very rarely, but they are another way of taking people off the streets.

The bill contains provisions related to clarifying CSIS' ability to operate internationally, although according to the deputy commissioner of CSIS in testimony to the Senate national security committee, it will not alter its ability to operate internationally, which it has been doing historically. The bill as well does provide protections to sources abroad. These are similar to the protections provided to informants in domestic cases. We are supportive of that. We have to be supportive of those who work with CSIS in carrying out its duties.

I will close by saying that we will be supporting the bill. We have some concerns about the bill in that the Minister of Public Safety is not required to inform the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of National Defence on activities abroad. That is a concern we raised and we stand by it, but we will be supporting the bill.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Malpeque will have 15 minutes remaining in his time for his speech when we return to this question, likely later this day.

Mental HealthStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Pat Perkins Conservative Whitby—Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, this week Bell ran another successful Let's Talk campaign to raise money and awareness for mental health.

During this campaign, I was reminded of the veterans who have fought and sacrificed for this country and who suffer from a mental illness. Our veterans need to have easily accessible facilities where they can talk to qualified professionals about mental health.

Our Conservative government supports the existing 17 mental health clinics across Canada, soon to be joined by eight additional ones. Our government has also partnered with the True Patriot Love Foundation, which has now given the largest single philanthropic donation to mental health research in Canadian history.

When we talk of mental health, I call on all members of the House to please remember and support our veterans.

SeniorsStatements By Members

11 a.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, last Saturday a resident of the Jazz Longueuil seniors home jumped from the ninth floor of her building. This act of desperation has shaken the entire city of Longueuil and everyone in my riding.

With National Suicide Prevention Week just around the corner, this terrible tragedy reminds us of the scope of the problem among seniors. Every year some 150 seniors in Canada, feeling isolated and abandoned and with nowhere to turn, commit suicide. The situation is urgent and is getting worse.

In my riding alone, the number of seniors will increase by 80% in the next 10 years. Community organizations in my riding such as Action-services aux proches aidants de Longueuil and Les Petits Frères are doing remarkable work, but they have been abandoned by the federal government.

The NDP is not turning its back on this problem. That is why we are the only party to have proposed a national aging strategy.

Everyone has a right to age with dignity. We need to act now.

Veterans AffairsStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

David Wilks Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, when I think of veterans, I am often reminded of many of the elderly men and women who march proudly on Remembrance Day in my riding of Kootenay—Columbia.

Many of our veterans now include young men and women who also have sacrificed for our country. The age of a veteran now spans from 19 to 100, with the majority being younger. That is why our government has cut red tape and worked to accommodate our younger veterans by making access to many of the Veterans Affairs benefits easier.

We have moved to digitize veterans' medical records. We have sped up adjudication and access to benefits. We have launched the My VAC Account, an online portal giving veterans more information than ever before.

These are some of the ways our government is cutting red tape, and under the current Minister of Veterans Affairs, we will continue to do so.

Tom Miller Human Rights AwardStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the human rights work done by Archbishop Vincent Waterman from my riding.

Mr. Waterman ministers to St. Philip's African Orthodox Church in Whitney Pier, which is the only African Orthodox Church in Canada and is designated a provincial heritage property. He volunteers as a chaplain at the Royal Canadian Legion branch 28, as well as the Cape Breton Naval Veterans Association and countless other community organizations.

Mr. Waterman's dedication to promoting human rights is truly an inspiration. In 1983, he came to Cape Breton to take over from his father-in-law, George Francis, who was the longest-serving rector of St. Philip's Church, from 1940 to 1982. Mr. Waterman exemplifies a strong work ethic, and he has brought great pride not only to his family and friends but also to Cape Breton at large.

I ask my colleagues to join me in congratulating Archbishop Waterman on being awarded the Tom Miller Human Rights Award and I thank him for his many years of tireless service to our community.

Veterans AffairsStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and pay tribute to the hard work and sacrifice of our veterans. Our veterans have sacrificed and fought for our freedom, our democracy, and this great country. I think all of us in the House know a veteran.

Under our Conservative government, we have worked to assist our veterans to make the transition from the Canadian Forces to Veterans Affairs Canada easier. Among our government's many initiatives, we have hired more staff to help transfer medical files more quickly and more efficiently from National Defence to Veterans Affairs. We have significantly reduced the number of pages on the application forms, thus reducing red tape, and through eight successive budgets, our government has earmarked over $5 billion in new funding to improve the benefits and services we provide to our veterans and their families.

We listen to veterans and we deliver results.