Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise and speak to Bill C-51, the anti-terrorism act, 2015. I will most certainly be supporting it.
First, I would like to digress and congratulate the Minister of Finance on economic action plan 2015. This is a balanced budget, but it also invests in one of the key priorities of my constituents, namely, national security. The budget set aside almost $300 million to counter terrorism in Canada, funds which our security and law enforcement agencies will use to keep all Canadians safe.
During my time today, I would like to speak about the threat environment in Canada and globally, how it has changed since the inception of CSIS and why we must respond accordingly, particularly by allowing CSIS to disrupt and prevent terrorist threats from developing further.
Let me be perfectly clear. The international jihadi movement has declared war on Canada and her allies. Jihadi terrorists have stated their intent to target Canadians because they hate our values, our freedom, and our prosperity.
In 1984, when the CSIS Act entered into force, the primary national security concerns were cold war era espionage. The actors were well known. The threat environment today is much more complex. Enhanced by technology, the threats are global and can develop very quickly. While this applies to the full range of threats, espionage, foreign interference and proliferation concerns, we know all too well that the twin spectres of violent extremism and international jihadi terrorism in particular require a robust, and very importantly, flexible response.
Our Conservative government is tackling this important issue. That is why we have tabled the legislation which is before us. It is why we have made significant investments in the budget to protect national security.
The legislation contains a critical new tool for the government to improve our capacity to act, to deter and to diminish threats at an early stage. It is a threat disruption mandate for CSIS.
Creating a new threat disruption mandate for the service to take authorized and focused action against threats would increase the range of response options that may be brought to bear against those who would do us harm. However, let us be clear. In no way does threat disruption amount to police powers. This is a complete falsehood spread by the opposition. Policing would rightly remain with the RCMP and local law enforcement. The amendment adopted by the public safety and national security committee provides even greater clarity on this point, which I strongly support.
For 30 years, CSIS has been singularly charged with investigating, assessing and advising on threats to Canada's national security. In doing so, it has proven itself to be a respected and highly professional Canadian institution. In fulfilling the new mandate to disrupt threats to the security of Canada, CSIS would build upon its existing capabilities and expertise. CSIS develops and maintains unique and unparalleled access to intelligence on threats to Canada, which provides it with unique insights and operational leads.
The director of CSIS has been quite clear in his appearances before parliamentary committees, stating that the jihadi terrorist threat to Canada has never been as direct and immediate as it is today. Unfortunately, this is no longer simply a threat. In recent months and years, Canada and most of our close allies have been directly impacted by the scourge of terrorism. Our citizens have been both perpetrators and victims of terrorist attacks here at home as well as in allied countries and in conflict zones.
Canada has a responsibility to the international community to prevent and deter our citizens from engaging in such activities both at home and abroad, and the anti-terrorism act, 2015 would accomplish these tasks. As we have seen, such activities can destabilize countries and whole regions and cause significant harm.
We must also be concerned about individuals who return to Canada after having spent time abroad engaging in terrorist activities. While their terrorist experience abroad may vary greatly, we must consider their radicalizing influence on others, their ability to facilitate other people's terrorist activities, or the potential for such individuals to engage in attacks here.
We should not be so naive to think that Canada is immune to such threats in this age of global travel and ubiquitous communications technologies. It is incumbent upon us in such an environment to reassess our approach and ensure appropriate authorities are in place so that we may take reasonable and necessary steps to protect the safety of Canadians.
Many of our closest allies already exercise similar authorities and view them as vital to their own investigations. We must ensure that the tools at our agencies' disposal keep pace so that Canada can work effectively to address threats and contribute to global efforts to combat terrorism. To do so, we are harnessing all relevant capacity and expertise to build a robust and agile system that allows us to bring the right tools to bear at the right time.
I think all members can agree that preventing terrorist acts proactively is certainly preferable to a reactive posture, and this bill would ensure that.
While I have focused my remarks on terrorism, I would remind members that authorizing CSIS to diminish threats would allow it to take measures to address all threats to national security identified in the CSIS Act. These threats include not just terrorism, but also proliferation, espionage, sabotage and foreign interference. This new mandate would allow CSIS to take authorized measures to disrupt the threat posed by sophisticated and determined cyberspies whose activities are contrary to the security of Canada.
These measures could also be used against proliferation networks active in Canada which seek to covertly and illicitly export our technologies and expertise to weapons programs.
When CSIS was created, the threats we faced as a country and as a global community were markedly different from those we must combat today, threats that are agile, diffuse and evolving rapidly. The terrorists' ability to use modern social media is becoming very well known, as we see on almost a daily basis around the world.
I think all my colleagues must agree that we cannot expect CSIS to fulfill its duties and functions with dated legislation crafted for another era, another environment, and indeed, a more innocent time.
I would also remind members opposite that CSIS is not the enemy. ISIS is the enemy. It is important that we focus on who the real enemies are in these threats to our country.
We must take the necessary steps now to ensure that we as a government and as a nation can protect the safety and security of our citizens at home and abroad. This new legislation creates a clear mandate for CSIS within a well-established and rigorous system of accountability and review by the Security Intelligence Review Committee, or SIRC, whose budget our government doubled through economic action plan 2015. Yet again, this is another measure from one of the finest budgets that a government in Canada has ever brought in, as is evidenced by the widespread support for economic action plan 2015. Such an increase in funding for SIRC will provide it with greater capacity in order to assure both Parliament and Canadians that CSIS will appropriately exercise its threat disruption mandate.
It never ceases to amaze me that members in the opposition view this as a zero-sum game. They automatically assume any measures that we take to protect Canadian security come at the expense of personal liberties. Clearly, this is nonsense. The measures we are taking under Bill C-51 would not only improve security, but they would also increase the freedom of Canadians.
Most important, the bill would provide the necessary tools for CSIS to play its part in protecting Canadians and in being a responsible international partner in the fight against global terrorism.
I am very proud to be part of a party that labels terrorism and terrorists for what they actually are, and we are not afraid to use those words.
In conclusion, I hope all members will rise in this House to support the bill.