moved that Bill C-51, An Act to enact the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act and the Secure Air Travel Act, to amend the Criminal Code, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to deliver on our government's firm commitment to fight and protect Canadians from jihadist terrorists who would destroy the very principles that make Canada, our country, a nation of freedom and democracy that is the envy of the world.
The international jihadist movement has declared war on Canada and our allies. As we have seen, terrorists are targeting Canadians simply because they despise our society and the values it represents. Let us not forget the October 20 attack in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and the attack that happened right here in our national capital. Those incidents are etched in our hearts and in our memory and show us how serious these issues are for us as a country.
These attacks, like the recent attacks against our allies in Sydney, Australia, Paris, France, and Copenhagen, Denmark, speak to the violence that can be committed by determined terrorists. These events reinforced our government's determination to take action. Our Prime Minister said that we would not react excessively, but we would not remain passive in the face of the evolving terrorist threat.
That is why I have the honour to introduce, with my honourable colleague the Minister of Justice, this important bill on behalf of our Conservative government. People worked tirelessly on this bill. They spared no effort to create a balanced bill. It is a bill that ensures that Canadians can count on the government to protect them from the threat of terrorism.
Like many people here in the House, I vividly remember the events at the end of October. I remember I was sitting in the caucus room when we heard gunfire and the terrorist being killed just steps away. Frantic moments followed, but we regrouped and have since reacted moderately. In the days that followed, I attended the funeral of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent. I still remember what his sister said at the funeral. She asked us to make sure that her brother did not die in vain, that he did not fall at the hands of a terrorist in vain.
There is no higher calling of any government than to keep its citizens safe. That is a responsibility that our Conservative government takes very seriously. That is why we have taken, and are taking today, strong action on this file. We have always said that the threat is real and that we must remain vigilant. We must also adjust to that evolving threat. That is why we are tabling this bill.
Indeed, our Conservative government passed the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act, which listed Syria and Iran as state sponsors of terror. More than a year ago, we passed the Combating Terrorism Act, which made it illegal to travel abroad to engage in terrorism or receive training to engage in barbaric and horrific acts here at home.
We took measures to strip the citizenship and passports of terrorists, despite the lack of support from the opposition. A few weeks ago, we passed the Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act in this House. This important legislation gives CSIS the tools it needs to investigate serious threats to Canada and confirms that it has the mandate to operate here and abroad, and to exchange information with our allies and partners.
We have also listed numerous entities as terrorist organizations, effectively cutting off the lifeblood of their resources.
Unfortunately, when it comes time to vote on these measures, Conservative members often stand alone while others play politics.
Our government has been very clear on the need to introduce new measures to guarantee our safety and ensure that our security and intelligence agencies have the tools they need to do their job.
The legislation before us today is an important step toward improving the means our intelligence gathering services and police forces have for effectively fighting the terrorist threat.
The anti-terrorism act, 2015 will give our national security agencies 21st century tools to combat jihadist terrorists, wherever they may be. There are five key elements to this important bill.
Although they are complementary in many respects, these measures will allow us to share the federal community's latest knowledge, expertise and work and to use them in a way that will enhance Canada's security.
The first element we must consider is very simple. When we take the time to explain this to people, they ask us why we did not do this sooner. I am talking about sharing information amongst the various federal agencies.
Canadians legitimately expect that if one branch of government is aware of a threat to their security that this information would be shared with other branches of government to protect Canadians. This is not the case and we need to fix this with this bill.
In many cases, barriers to effective information sharing are rampant across government, slowing the speed of this exchange to a crawl or acting as a total barrier. These barriers exist in the form of often well-intentioned legislation; however, in the national security context, they manifest themselves into unacceptable silos that put Canadians at risk.
Consider this example. A passport officer contacts an applicant's reference person as part of a routine check. Without being asked, the reference person expresses some concerns about the applicant's intentions abroad. The reference fears the applicant could go to Iraq to fight alongside ISIL, because he supports its goals. At this time, the passport officer can open an investigation in order to determine if the passport application should be denied for national security reasons. As we have seen, passports can be revoked or not issued for reasons of national security. However, that officer will have a hard time sharing information proactively for further investigation of that threat. This could push the individual to commit a terrorist act in Canada. Indeed, if we prevent him from travelling outside Canada, he becomes a threat here, since he did not get his passport. This increases the threat of a terrorist attack here on Canadian soil.
This situation is unacceptable. That is what we are trying to correct with the first of the five measures set out in this bill, in order to improve the means we have to reduce the terrorist threat here in this country. Under the anti-terrorism act, 2015, passport officers would be able to proactively share information with a national security agency in order to combat this possible terrorist threat.
These obvious changes, through the creation of the security of Canada information sharing act, are common sense solutions to real problems, and it is our duty to make it come through.
Contrary to dire suggestions by some members of the opposition, who should certainly read the bill before fearmongering, there are robust safeguards in place to protect the liberties of Canadians, such as review by the Privacy Commissioner, the Auditor General and various other oversight bodies. I will add at this point in time that we have consulted the Office of the Privacy Commissioner in the drafting of this bill.
However, I fundamentally reject the argument that protecting our security threatens our freedom. Indeed, there is no liberty without security.
Canadians I have spoken with about this legislation understand that their freedom and security go hand in hand. The fact of the matter is that our police and national security agencies are working to protect our rights and freedoms, and it is jihadi terrorists who endanger our security and would take away our freedoms.
The second element of this legislation that I would like to share with members is the secure air travel act, which finds its origin in the Air India inquiry action plan. We call it a passenger protect program, or the no-fly list. It currently relies on authorities found in the Aeronautics Act, but has never been given its own legal footing.
The air transportation system is still a target for terrorists. That is why this list was established after the attacks on the World Trade Center towers. However, we must also take additional measures to address the growing number of people who fly with the intent of committing terrorist acts abroad. Even though they are not an immediate threat to the plane on which they are travelling, they could represent a direct threat to the country of destination or to Canadian allies abroad.
Canada cannot allow people to commit terrorist acts here or abroad. That is why we must improve the program's mandate in order to include those who travel to take part in a terrorist activity.
The government will thus have another tool to prevent travel for terrorist purposes, including in cases where it is impossible to go ahead with an arrest or legal action at this time. This second element of the bill will also allow the government to use gradual or proportional security measures, such as denying boarding or an additional physical search at the airport, as additional means of managing the risk posed by people who travel on aircraft to take part in terrorist activities.
This enhanced mandate would ensure that our skies are safe and secure, both from those who cause a risk to aviation security, which is actually the case, and from those seeking to travel to seek martyrdom or carry out other twisted ideological violence. That is why, as in the first part, which includes information sharing among federal agencies, we also need to protect our skies from terrorists.
I would now like to talk about the third element of this anti-terrorist bill, which is a proposed change in the mandate of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, an agency created 30 years ago to which no major changes have been made since then.
Unlike the security intelligence agencies of our closest allies, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service can only collect intelligence in order to help identify threats against security. However, it cannot take direct measures to protect Canadians and Canada's interests.
What does it mean in practice? I think this issue was raised during question period, so I hope my colleagues are listening carefully. Let us say that CSIS becomes aware of an individual in the process of becoming radicalized. Perhaps the person is acquiring jihadist propaganda or viewing radical material posted on YouTube and, in fact, individuals within the person's own close circle have advised CSIS that they are concerned the person may travel for terrorist purposes.
Currently, CSIS can investigate, but it cannot do anything to stop the individual from travelling. The furthest CSIS can go now is to advise the RCMP that it believes the individual is about to commit an offence, and then the RCMP would launch an investigation. Therefore, we are far from action.
Under the anti-terrorism act, 2015, CSIS could engage a trusted friend or relative to speak with the individual to advise them against travelling for terrorist purposes. Further, CSIS could meet with the individual to advise them that it knows what he or she is planning to do and what the consequences of taking further action would be.
These needless roadblocks have the potential to cost human lives. As I just explained, we have seen all our western allies providing their intelligence services with these kinds of tools.
With this strengthened mandate, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service could use a variety of techniques to counter threats in order to thwart plans or even alter behaviour.
For example, CSIS could talk to the family of a potential terrorist about his travel plans. This is a legal activity in which CSIS cannot currently participate because it does not fall within the service's intelligence gathering mandate.
Let me be very clear. As is currently the case with intelligence gathering, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service would have to seek a warrant from the court to make use of any more intrusive techniques.
What is more, as with all CSIS activities, activities to disrupt a threat would be subject to a rigorous external review by the Security Intelligence Review Committee.
Under its new mandate, CSIS would be required to conduct an annual review of at least one aspect of its performance and summarize its findings in its annual report, which is tabled here in Parliament. CSIS would also be required to present statistics on its use of warrants to disrupt threats.
I realize that many of the Liberal and NDP members have expressed concerns about the level of oversight of our national security agencies. On this side of the House, we believe in and are proud of our Canadian model. We have third-party, non-partisan, independent, and expert oversight that is bringing continuity to the monitoring of the intelligence community. We believe that it is much better than importing a made-in-America political intervention in the process.
I would reiterate the important point that often seems to be forgotten around this place, that it is the jihadis who represent a threat, not our own police officers and those protecting us.
I am glad that my colleague, the hon. Minister of Justice, will speak on the bill, because there are two very important measures in it. I see that my time is running out, so let me briefly mention those two measures.
The fourth element of the bill is an amendment to the Criminal Code to allow our police forces, in co-operation with the Attorney General of Canada and with a warrant from a judge, to intervene when an individual poses a threat.
The fifth element—and my colleague and those who speak after me can elaborate on this—deals with how we will increase our prevention efforts. We can do this by eliminating the sources of terrorist propaganda, or in other words, by putting an end to activity on websites that could constitute terrorist propaganda and criminalizing those who may be encouraging terrorist acts.
We have a robust bill here with five common-sense measures. Who could oppose the federal agencies sharing information among themselves to better protect Canadians with full respect for our charter and Constitution?
I was proud to work on that bill. Unfortunately, as we might expect, we have heard the opposition members engaging in a kind of rhetoric this afternoon, but I am certainly open and hope that we will have an open and fair debate and sound questions on this important bill for the safety of Canadians.