Mr. Speaker, I am indeed relieved to find an opportunity for a speaking slot when time allocation is imposed on such legislation. It is rare for any one of us who sits on this side of the House representing one of the smaller parties to have an opportunity.
Bill C-51, the anti-terrorism act, is such a dangerous piece of legislation that I am very relieved to have a chance to explain my concerns before it goes to committee.
First of all, let us set some context. We keep hearing here today in the context of this debate, and in fact when the Prime Minister launched this bill, not on the floor of the House of Commons, but in a campaign-style event, that we are in a dangerous world and that we must be terrified, that we must be afraid all the time of a monstrous terrorist threat. We are told we are at war.
The reality is that we are not at war. We are a country at peace. There is definitely a threat from a terrorist group, and terrorist groups around the world. They are particularly a threat in the regions in which they operate. ISIL and ISIS are despicable. There are not enough words in a thesaurus to sum up the brutality and the sadism of their acts.
However, the reality is that if Canada were at war, I do not think our Minister of Foreign Affairs would just have resigned his position, announcing to this House that things were in good shape as he left.
We are a country, thank God, that is at peace. I hate to remind colleagues, but there have been terrorist threats around world for a long time, and they have not always stayed far from Canada's shores. I think all of us remember the troubles with Great Britain and what they called “the Irish troubles”, the troubles of Northern Ireland, in which members of the royal family were blown up by IRA bombs. Terrorism operated in the Commonwealth then.
We have seen the threat of Tamil Tigers. We have seen the threat of FARC. There are, and continue to be, dreadful assaults by Boko Haram throughout Nigeria. We also know that these terrorist activities have come to Canada, the most extreme of these events being in 1985, when, in a Canadian airport, a plane was loaded with a bomb. As we all know, in the Air India disaster, 329 people died, most of them Canadians.
These things have taken place before, and I think it is a disservice to the people of Canada to ramp up the fear factor. Where there is a threat, we need to be clear-eyed, sober, sensible, and, above all, not fearful. People do not make good decisions when they are too afraid to think straight. This is a time when leadership requires that we think clearly and calmly, and that we do not exaggerate or torque the nature of the threat for partisan gain, which I think is what is happening here.
Let us all agree that where there are threats of terrorism, we take them seriously, that we do everything possible to reduce the risk of terrorism. In the context of Canada, that means reducing the threat of radicalizing Canadian citizens and Canadian residents to take up—inspired through all sorts of misguided, alienated, disenfranchised, and misinformed views—the cause of ISIS or other extremist groups. We must avoid the radicalization of Canadians by these monstrous organizations.
However, are we hopeless? Are we helpless right now? Have we not passed laws? In fact, we have. Since 9/11, there have been no fewer than eight laws passed which have expanded powers to fight terrorists. The RCMP has new powers, and has had them for more than a decade. Let us remember that the RCMP has been successful in locating, disrupting, and arresting people who had in mind a terrorist plot: the Toronto 18, and the VIA Rail plot.
Full credit is to be given to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for using the tools they have already been given by this place to monitor those who are extreme, to watch what they are planning, to move in to intercept them, and to arrest them and subject them to trial.
We already have security certificates, which it can be argued violate fundamental principles, like habeas corpus, that violate the right to know exactly the charges against a person and one's right to having a lawyer. These have been accepted in Canada.
The RCMP and CSIS have not yet used all the powers that existing laws have already given them to confront the terrorist threat, yet we are here today confronted with an omnibus bill that goes further than anything ever brought forward in a Parliament of Canada to trample on our rights and liberties, unlike in the U.K.
In the U.K., they just passed the Counter-terrorism and Security Act 2015, which proactively puts programs in schools, mental health institutions, and prisons to address the threat of radicalization. We now have good information that at least one of the factors in the terrible events recently in Paris and Copenhagen was radicalization in prison. Surely we should be following the lead of those countries that are using approaches to engage to preempt and avoid radicalization in those institutions. The bill before us does not do that.
We need mental health and addiction counselling. I do not subscribe to the view that I have heard repeated in this place over and over again that the events of the shooting of October 22 here in Parliament and earlier that week in Quebec were terrorist attacks. They were horrific. They were murders, like the attacks on RCMP officers in Moncton or in Alberta, where RCMP officers were shot by people who were either criminals or mentally ill and disturbed. We absolutely condemn such actions, but to describe them as terrorism is both to expand the reach and branding rights of despicable groups like ISIS and to misunderstand what took place.
We know that the man who broke into this place, having just murdered Corporal Nathan Cirillo, had just two years earlier gotten himself arrested by sharpening a stick and trying to rob a McDonald's. He then waited for the police to show up so he could beg a judge to send him to jail so that he could get addiction counselling, so that he could get help, because he knew he was a threat to himself and to others.
It is a failure of our system not because we did not have enough laws to put him in jail at that time or have surveillance on him as a potential terrorist; it is a condemnation of the system that he fell through the cracks for mental health counselling and addiction counselling. We could have saved two lives, Corporal Nathan Cirillo's and the shooter's, had we had a program in place. That is where we should be putting our attention.
To turn my attention to the bill before us and what is wrong with it, and there is so very much wrong with it, I will start with the fact that in its information sharing provisions, it is so over-broad and overreaching that it could require information collected about every Canadian. There is almost no one who could not be seen to be snagged at some point by this definition and the way in which information would be shared.
The Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Daniel Therrien, has expressed his concerns. Virtually every privacy expert in Canada thinks the information sharing contemplated by part 1 of the bill is extreme. It would essentially apply to every agency of Canada and could provide a complete profile of every citizen and everything they do. This must be tightened up. If we are going to have this kind of information provision in the interest of terrorism, then the definition should be about terrorism, not about things that could include dissent of all kinds.
Again, I have heard many Conservative members of Parliament say that there should be no concern about non-violent civil disobedience, but then they parrot back to me a definition that clearly excludes non-violent civil disobedience. It says:
For greater certainty, it does not include lawful advocacy, protest, dissent and artistic expression.
Well, the use of the word “lawful” at the beginning of that phrase has been interpreted by other legal analysts, not just me, but by numerous scholars who have been looking at this proposed law since it was brought forward, to apply to all aspects. If people violated a municipal bylaw, they would no longer be engaged in a lawful activity.
This needs to be clarified, and despite my efforts in asking the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, the Minister of Justice, and the Prime Minister, no one has yet said that it is not their intention to cover and criminalize non-violent civil disobedience, beyond a level that is already criminal, because people take an active conscience to break a law they find unjust.
There is more here than I can get to. However, moving ahead, in part 4 we have been told that there is judicial oversight. There is no such thing. It is only in instances where CSIS agents believe that what they are about to do will violate the charter that they would go to a judge to get a warrant. This is not judicial oversight. Are these CSIS agents going to be trained in the law? The Minister of Justice and the Supreme Court of Canada frequently disagree about what is a charter violation.
We have lost the inspector general for CSIS. That position of oversight was removed in an omnibus bill in 2012. This bill cannot be simply fixed with more oversight. It would be better to scrap it and start over, starting with an evidence-based question: What do law enforcement agencies tell us they need that they do not already have?