Mr. Speaker, we are a country that holds a strong belief in equality, human rights, and the rule of law. Therefore, I would like to begin my comments today by making a statement that may seem obvious but that some in this House would deem to be controversial. The international jihadist movement has declared war on Canada. Canadians are being targeted by jihadi terrorists simply because these terrorists hate our society and the values we represent.
That is why our Conservative government has put forward the bill we are talking about today. It is a bill that would protect Canadians from jihadi terrorists who seek to destroy the very principles that make Canada the best country in the world in which to live.
Be it the brutal and merciless attacks on Canadian soil in October or abroad in Sydney, Paris, and Copenhagen in recent weeks, terrorism attacks core values and what we as Canadians hold dear: our freedoms and our democracy. As the Prime Minister indicated following the violent attacks, “We will not be intimidated”. It is therefore essential that we provide those entrusted to investigate, analyze, and respond to terrorism with all the necessary tools to degrade and destroy threats to our national security in whatever form they may take. This is exactly what the anti-terrorism act, 2015 would do.
I would like to spend my time discussing the parts of this bill that have been the subject of considerable interest; namely, the amendments that would strengthen the terrorism recognizance with conditions and the terrorism peace bond provisions.
The ability to prevent terrorism before it happens is critically important in our overall approach to responding to terrorism at home and abroad. Preventative arrest provisions, as they are more commonly known, do just that. They are rapid response tools that can be sought even where there has been no criminal charge and no prior convictions, enabling a judge to impose any conditions.
The anti-terrorism act, 2015 would reduce the red-tape burden required to obtain a recognizance with conditions. Under the current law, a peace officer must believe, on reasonable grounds, “that a terrorist activity will be carried out”. That is an incredibly high threshold. The bill would change this and instead require that a peace officer believe that a terrorism offence “may be carried out”. This is far more reasonable. It would also replace the additional requirement that a police officer suspect, on reasonable grounds, that the recognizance is “necessary to prevent the carrying out of the terrorist activity” with a requirement that the police officer suspect on reasonable grounds that the recognizance “is likely to prevent the carrying out of the terrorist activity”.
Other important changes to the terrorism recognizance are contained in this bill. Currently, a person may be detained under these provisions for a maximum of three days. The bill would increase the maximum period of detention to seven days. I support this change, because we need to ensure that Canadians are safe from terrorist activity. I also support this change because the law would also ensure that the constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms of those detained would be fully respected by requiring police to go before a judge after the first 24 hours, and generally every 48 hours thereafter, to justify the need for continued detention.
It is important to understand how these provisions work. Under the current law, if a police officer has arrested someone without a warrant, he or she is required to bring that person before a judge within 24 hours. Once brought before the judge, the person can be ordered detained for up to an additional 48 hours if justified on various grounds, including where it is necessary to protect the safety of the public.
The anti-terrorism act, 2015 would not change this process but would allow for detention beyond this three-day period only where the continued detention remained necessary on various grounds, such as protecting the public, and where there was evidence to show that the investigation was being conducted diligently and expeditiously. In other words, there would be ongoing and meaningful judicial oversight concerning the detention of a person under these powers.
The proposed reforms would also allow young persons to be subject to recognizance with conditions under the provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act, as is currently the case for terrorism peace bonds.
I would like to discuss the improvements to the existing terrorism peace bond contained in the anti-terrorism act, 2015. The proposed changes would make this tool easier to obtain. The evidence would have to demonstrate that a person believed, on reasonable grounds, that another person “may commit” a terrorism offence, instead of the current “will commit” a terrorism offence requirement.
For both the terrorism recognizance with conditions and the peace bond, the bill would authorize a court to require sureties from a defendant. A surety is someone who agrees to take responsibility for ensuring that a person subject to the court order complies with the conditions imposed.
The bill would also require a judge to specifically consider whether geographical restrictions and temporary passport surrender conditions should be imposed to prevent the carrying out of a terrorist activity or the commission of a terrorism offence.
In situations where an individual subject to a peace bond has been previously found guilty of a terrorism offence, a judge would have the authority to order the duration of the peace bond to be up to five years, up from the current limit of two years.
Finally, the bill would increase the maximum sentence of imprisonment for a breach of these court orders in relation to the recognizance with conditions and terrorism peace bonds from two years to four years.
Now, it is important to note that existing safeguards on the use of these preventative tools are maintained in Bill C-51. First, before police can use these provisions, they will be required to obtain the consent of the Attorney General, meaning that a full review of the facts will occur to ensure that there are justifiable grounds to proceed. Second, although a police officer may arrest and detain someone under these provisions without having first obtained the Attorney General's consent, they can only do so in exigent circumstances where the grounds for laying an information exist but it would be impracticable to lay the information, for example, because it is necessary to arrest someone immediately due to a concern that terrorist activity will occur unless the person is arrested.
Third, the provisions require judicial oversight. Fourth, the use of the recognizance will continue to be the subject of annual reports to Parliament by the Attorney General of Canada and the Minister of Public Safety. Parliament will, for example, be informed of how many applications were brought, how many detentions occurred, and whether the new additional periods of detention were sought and obtained. Finally, the recognizance with conditions will still have to be brought before Parliament for mandatory review and will still be subject to a sunset clause, as required by the Combating Terrorism Act of 2013.
Before concluding, it is worth noting that the proposed enhancements to our terrorism prevention tools are consistent with similar tools in place in like-minded jurisdictions. For example, the United Kingdom has used similar measures to protect the public by imposing conditions on people who have been determined to pose a threat to the safety of the community. Australia uses control orders to prevent terrorist acts from occurring and that enable the imposition of conditions on individuals.
I think this is important, because it shows that countries with strong democratic traditions and institutions and that respect the rule of law have also recognized that they can take measures that are firm in their response to terrorism and fair in their approach, respecting the rights of those subject to these preventative tools.
We have a strong set of anti-terrorism laws. Proposals in this bill would enhance these laws to enable law enforcement to intervene earlier and more effectively in terrorist investigations.
If there is a moment when I believe we can stand together, it is now. Initiatives such as those put forth in Bill C-51 send a clear message to the world that Canada is and remains a leader in implementing measures that contribute to global security and in a way that respects the rights, freedoms, and values that define our country.