Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to this important issue and to stand in opposition to the motion before us. Let us be very clear. Jihadi terrorists have declared war on us. They have specifically targeted Canada. They have urged supporters to attack what they call disbelieving Canadians in any manner, and they have vowed that we should not feel secure, even in our homes.
As the government, we know that our ultimate responsibility is to protect Canadians from those who would do harm to us and do harm to our families. That is why Canada is not sitting on the sidelines, as the Liberals and the NDP would have us do, and is instead a proud member of the international coalition fighting ISIL.
The first duty of any government is to protect the safety of its citizens. That is why we introduced the anti-terrorism act, 2015, to ensure that our national security agencies have the tools they need to protect Canadians against the evolving threat presented by jihadi terrorists.
The NDP member for Burnaby—New Westminster has raised concerns regarding oversight and review of our national security agencies. We believe that independent, non-partisan oversight of our national security agencies is a better model than political intervention in this process.
Further, the key powers of the new legislation are subject to judicial review and judicial authorization. This is the role of judges. There is no better authority to review these matters. Judges in Canada already approve or reject applications from police and national security authorities to conduct certain activities to keep Canadians safe. This has been a long-standing practice in Canada.
CSIS will only be able to undertake this activity if a judge from the Federal Court believes it is necessary to keep Canadians safe and specifically approves it. This provides sufficient oversight and robust review.
We must not lose sight of the fact that it is the jihadi terrorists who seek to take away our rights, and it is our national security agencies that are standing up to protect us. There has been much discussion about the legislation at the public safety committee. Many prominent Canadians have appeared to express their support for this legislation.
Louise Vincent, for example, the sister of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, who was the victim of a horrific terrorist attack last October, said: “If C-51 had been in place on October 19...Martin Couture-Rouleau would...have been in prison and my brother would not be dead” today.
Marc-André O'Rourke of the National Airlines Council of Canada said, “The NACC and our member airlines understand the need to update Canada's passenger protect program in light of the evolving nature of security threats, and we continue to support the program under” Bill C-51.
Professor Elliot Tepper of Carleton University said: “Bill C-51 is the most important national security legislation since the 9/11 era.” He continued:
[It] is designed for the post-9/11 era. It's a new legislation for a new era in terms of security threats. While it's understandable that various provisions of the legislation attract attention, we need to keep our focus on the fundamental purpose and the fundamental challenge of combatting emerging types of terrorism.
Barry Cooper, another witness, a research fellow at the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute said:
Bill C-51 is aimed at violent Islamic jihadi terrorists, and those are the persons against whom its provisions are to be enforced. The reasons are clear enough provided one makes reference to facts and events of the real world, today. [...] Unlike their critics, the authors of Bill C-51 are sensible enough to have recognized the danger.
Finally, another witness I will refer to, Professor Salim Mansur of the University of Western Ontario, said:
Bill C-51 is directed against Islamist jihadists and to prevent or pre-empt them from their stated goal to carry out terrorist threats against the West, including Canada....
...the measures proposed in Bill C-51 to deal with the nature of threats that Canada faces, I believe, are quite rightly and urgently needed to protect and keep secure the freedom of our citizens.
Therefore, it is clear that there is widespread support among Canadians to give tools to our national security agencies to combat the rapidly evolving threat of terrorism. That is why we will be opposing the motion introduced by the NDP.
As members know, on February 23, the House voted to refer the anti-terrorism act 2015 to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. This vote is an approval in principle of the legislation. There is a process in place for the committee to study the legislation, hearing from expert witnesses, of course. However, there is not an opportunity to expand or change the scope of the legislation.
Had the NDP members expressed a desire to do that, they could have moved a motion to refer the legislation to committee before second reading. They did not do so. Therefore, I think the motion before us is a purely procedural tactic to continue their opposition to a bill that will keep Canadians safe.
We reject the argument that, every time we talk about security, our freedoms are threatened. Canadians understand that their freedom and security go hand in hand. Canadians expect us to protect both, and there are safeguards in this legislation to do exactly that.
There have been many misconceptions surrounding this legislation, primarily put forward by members of the NDP. Some have alleged that the Conservative government is not correct in stating that the other allies allow their national security agencies to disrupt threats. Well, that is patently not true.
In the United States, the Central Intelligence Agency can, pursuant to the National Security Act, conduct domestic threat disruption with an executive order. In the United Kingdom, MI5 can, pursuant to section 1 of the Security Service Act, conduct any activity to protect national security. The Norwegian Police Security Service has a mandate to prevent and investigate any crime against the state, including terrorism. The Finnish Security Intelligence Service is mandated to prevent crimes that may endanger the government or political system and internal or external security, pursuant to section 10 of the act on police administration.
We must ensure that CSIS has the same tools to keep Canadians safe. Some have said that this will transform CSIS into a secret police force with no accountability, while also violating our basic freedoms and Charter rights. Everything about this statement is wrong.
Bill C-51 would give no law enforcement powers to CSIS. CSIS cannot arrest any individual. It cannot charge any individual. What is proposed in Bill C-51 is efforts to stop terrorist attacks while they are still in the planning stages.
The NDP has said many times that choosing between liberty and security is a false choice, and we could not agree more. However, at every turn, the NDP chooses to vote against measures that increase our security.
As we have said many times, without security there can be no liberty. That is why we will vote against this motion and continue the good work of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security to pass this important legislation.
I now move, seconded by the member for Selkirk—Interlake:
That the debate be now adjourned.