This is a very important bill. Over the last few years, I have noticed a real change in what is happening across the world and in Canada. Hardly a week goes by that I, like many Parliamentarians, do not wake up to news of extreme incidents or threats somewhere in the world. A couple of days ago we heard that al Shabaab was threatening Canadians in malls, malls where our children go, malls where grandmothers go. The West Edmonton Mall was named specifically.
Clearly, times have changed. Times are a lot different from what they were in the sixties and the seventies, before communication changed and before the Internet. If I mention places like Copenhagen, Brussels, Sydney, Paris, and Ottawa, one would think I was listing some of the freest cities in western democracies. Sadly, however, this is a list of the locations of the most recent jihadi terrorist attacks.
Let us make no mistake: the international jihadi movement has declared war on Canada and war on our allies. That is important. We are seeking to degrade and destroy the so-called Islamic State through the committed and professional work of our Canadian Armed Forces, and I think everyone in this House should be very proud that when Canada calls, they do the job we ask of them and they do an amazing job. We are taking important measures to strengthen the protection of Canada.
I have been listening carefully and I think the NDP has been sowing some confusion about what is contained in the bill. I will reflect on some of the comments made by the leader of the NDP and share some of the inaccuracies in his comments last week.
The leader of the NDP has accused Bill C-51 of being both overly broad and not doing anything. That is a bit of a square circle. How can a bill be overly broad on one hand and not really do anything on the other?
That in itself reflects an issue in terms of the approach of New Democrats to the bill, whose leader said that the provisions to criminalize the promotion of terrorism generally have no business in the criminal law.
It is currently not a criminal offence to advocate or promote terrorism generally. The ability to arrest someone who is, in general terms, advocating or promoting the activity of terrorism does not exist. The threshold for arrest in the Criminal Code is specific to someone who knowingly instructs, directly or indirectly, any person to carry out a terrorist activity.
As an example, the jihadists are saying, “Go hurt Canada.” In the case of the threat to the West Edmonton Mall, are the jihadists instructing specifically or more generally? We need to make sure we capture those sorts of threats to Canadians.
The anti-terrorism act of 2015 would make it an offence to advocate or promote terrorism in broader terms. It states:
Every person who, by communicating statements, knowingly advocates or promotes the commission of terrorism offences in general
—which could mean malls or hurting Canadians—
—other than an offence under this section—while knowing that any of those offences will be committed or being reckless as to whether any of those offences may be committed, as a result of such communication, is guilty of an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years.
By way of example, if someone posts a video on YouTube calling for death to infidels wherever they may be, as was done by a recent Canadian-linked jihadist, it is not currently a criminal offence. I am sorry if the opposition does not believe that should be a criminal offence, but frankly, I believe that if someone makes that kind of threat, it clearly should be defined as a criminal offence. This legislation will change that.
The leader of the NDP has also said that the legislation before us today would allow the targeting of legitimate protesters, and that too is inaccurate. Again, it is an attempt to fearmonger about this particular bill.
Under the legislation, the threshold for CSIS to engage in disruption is met if there are reasonable grounds to believe that a particular activity constitutes a threat to the security of Canada. Previously, CSIS did not have disruption powers, allowing it only to collect and retain information. We previously heard that this was an issue. To be quite frank, if CSIS knows of an imminent threat, I want it to be able to act, not turn the information over to another agency so that maybe some action will be taken after whatever has been planned has been completed.
“Threats to the security of Canada” are qualified by the following points, but “threats” do not include lawful advocacy, protests, or dissent unless carried on in conjunction with any of these listed activities, which would not be amended by Bill C-51: first, espionage or sabotage that is against Canada or is detrimental to the interests of Canada, or activities directed toward or in support of such espionage or sabotage; second, foreign-influenced activities within or relating to Canada that are detrimental to the interests of Canada and are clandestine or deceptive or involve a threat to any person; third, activities within or relating to Canada directed toward or in support of the threat or use of acts of serious violence against persons or property for the purpose of achieving a political, religious, or ideological objective within Canada or a foreign state; and four, activities directed toward undermining by covert unlawful acts or directed toward or intended ultimately to lead to the destruction or overthrow by violence of the constitutionally established system of government in Canada.
What the leader of the NDP may be getting confused about is the power of the sharing of information between government institutions. The bill states:
...a Government of Canada institution may, on its own initiative or on request, disclose information to the head of a recipient Government of Canada institution whose title is listed in Schedule 3, or their delegate, if the information is relevant to the recipient institution’s jurisdiction or responsibilities under an Act of Parliament or another lawful authority in respect of activities that undermine the security of Canada, including in respect of their detection, identification, analysis, prevention, investigation or disruption.
The NDP leader's claims are simply false. Absolutely no change would be made to what constitutes a threat to the security of Canada. The measures he is pointing to deal with information sharing between government departments.
Further, the CSIS Act specifically states that threats to the security of Canada do not include lawful advocacy, protest, or dissent. The new legislation states that activity that would undermine the security of Canada does not include lawful advocacy, protest, dissent, and artistic expression. It is very clear, and again I think some fearmongering has gone on.
We reject the arguments that every time we talk about our security, our freedoms are threatened. Canadians understand that freedoms and security go hand in hand. Canadians expect us to protect both, and there are protections in this legislation that would do exactly that. The fundamental fact is that our police and our national security agencies are working to protect our rights and our freedoms, and it is jihadi terrorists who would endanger our security and who would take away our freedoms.
We have covered what the bill would not do, but we should look at what it would do. I have a lot of things to say about what it would do, but it looks as if I will not have time to discuss them all. I will quickly try to fit in a few.
Bill C-51 is a comprehensive package that would criminalize the advocacy or promotion of terrorism. It would counter terrorist recruitment by giving our courts the authority to remove things that are online. It would enhance CSIS' power to address threats, in that we are not going to sit and wait for threats but are going to address them. The bill would provide law enforcement agencies with enhanced stability to disrupt terrorist offences and activities.
Another issue is the passenger protect program related to people who are travelling by air for the purpose of engaging in terrorism. The bill would make it easier for our law enforcement agencies to do the job that we ask them to do and share relevant national security information.
Many of my colleagues will speak to other components of the bill. This is important legislation, and we are doing the right thing for Canadians. We have hit the important balance between security and the protection of freedoms.