Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to speak in the House today on Bill C-51. It is very important legislation that this House and the committee have been working on.
Canadians are worried about the threat the international jihadist movement poses to their communities and to Canada as a whole. The horrors committed by jihadi terrorists are well documented. We have all seen the pictures. We have heard the stories. We have read the articles. We know of the savage beheadings, of people being burned alive and being buried alive. We know that women are being raped, tortured, and enslaved. The list could go on.
These jihadi terrorists recognize no border, and if frustrated in their attempts to travel overseas to join the caliphate, they will seek to commit acts of terrorism right here in Canada. We do not believe in exporting terrorism, and that is why we need Bill C-51.
As Barry Cooper, from the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute, put it:
So let us state the obvious: 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. However, the opposition members are insisting that politicians be handed control of oversight of our national security agencies.
As a sitting member of the committee for public safety and national security, I sat through the vigorous study of this act. Witnesses testified that we needed to enhance oversight of our CSIS review body. I am pleased that our government listened and heard those concerns and has responded.
Economic action plan 2015 proposes to provide up to $12.5 million over five years, starting in the 2015-16 fiscal year, and then $2.5 million ongoing thereafter in additional funding to the Security Intelligence Review Committee to enhance its review of CSIS.
While we would ensure that our national security agencies have the tools they need to protect Canadians from the threat of terrorism, we would also ensure that these practices are governed by an effective and transparent framework that protects the rights of individual Canadians. The fact is, budget 2015 will almost double the resources of the Security Intelligence Review Committee. Unlike the opposition, we believe that third-party, non-partisan, independent expert oversight of our national security agencies is a better model than political intervention in the process.
Justice John Major had this to say about the plan to inject politics into national security oversight: “I don't think Parliament is equipped as a body to act as an oversight...which is what is being proposed” by the opposition.
Clare Lopez, of the Center for Security Policy, said, “the use of an intermediary review committee rather than direct parliamentary oversight, has advantages”.
The truth is that the opposition members have been trying to force their way into politicizing national security oversight. The opposition is on record as saying that it is concerned that its social policies might attract the attention of our security intelligence establishment. As Ray Boisvert, former assistant director of CSIS, put it, “anybody who had an issue they'd like to protest [who thinks they] will now become a target of the security establishment.... I think you should not...flatter yourself to that degree”.
Justice John Major also confirmed this reasoning, saying, “citizens who are not validly under suspicion will not have some manufactured reason for their private lives to be interfered with”.
Professor Salim Mansur of Western University also added, “Bill C-51 in my reading is not designed to turn Canada into some version of Hobbes' Leviathan or Orwell's 1984, despite at times the fevered imagination of its critics”.
Canadians understand that freedom and security go hand in hand. They understand that our police and our national security agencies are working to protect our rights and freedoms, and that it is the jihadi terrorists who endanger our security. I could go on, but I believe I have made my point clear.
I would like to read a very descriptive quote from Tom Stamatakis, president of the Canadian Police Association, because I believe it is a good reminder in this debate that those who threaten our freedom and our liberties are not the police officers and the intelligence community tasked with protecting Canadians. Those who threaten our freedoms are the jihadi terrorists.
Mr. Stamatakis stated:
I would take issue with calls for oversight bodies to take a more active role in the operational nature of the jobs we entrust to highly trained and very accountable professional law enforcement, whether a police officer employed by a federal, provincial, or municipal agency or an intelligence officer employed by the federal government. Those who have criticized the Security Intelligence Review Committee for only providing “after the fact” oversight often underestimate how difficult real-time operational oversight can be to achieve, particularly in the context of a fast-moving investigation with very real public safety consequences.
He went on to further say:
Those criticisms also undervalue the often positive effect that ex post facto oversight can have on our industry. Identifying where inappropriate actions may have been taken or where different and more positive decisions could have been made is the very foundation of our services and the training and education that comes from those service reviews.
Mr. Stamatakis clearly makes the point that we have strong oversight that allows them to draw lessons from their experience and continually improve themselves.
As to why we need Bill C-51, I would like to quote Ms. Raheel Raza, president of Muslims Facing Tomorrow. She said that legislation is important to combat radicalization and that we need better tools to track jihadists who travel overseas. She went on to say that “unfortunately we are living in a post-9/11 world and times are such that personal information needs to be shared. That's the reality and I don't have a problem with it.” She said that the “larger picture is that of the security and safety of Canada.”
I believe this quote is very interesting because it mentions the larger picture here and why the anti-terrorism act is needed.
When we talk about the security and safety of Canada as parliamentarians, we should understand that this means ensuring the safety and security of our families.
We intend to continue to work to keep Canadians safe by ensuring our law enforcement agencies have the tools to do the job they need to do to combat the threat of the international jihadi terrorist movement.
As Tahir Gora of the Canadian Thinkers' Forum said:
The government's proposed Bill C-51, when passed by Parliament, shall help Canadian Muslims to curb extremist elements....
The world is a dangerous place, as was most brutally demonstrated by last October's attacks in Ottawa and Quebec, and Canada is not immune to the threat of terrorism. The proposed legislation would provide Canadian law enforcement and national security agencies with additional tools and flexibility to keep pace with evolving threats and to better protect Canadians here at home.
We are ensuring our law enforcement and national security agencies can counter those who advocate terrorism, prevent terrorist travel, and the efforts of those who seek to use Canada as a recruiting ground. We are also making sure that our law enforcement agencies can prevent and disrupt planned attacks on Canadian soil.
We will continue to support this legislation because we believe the anti-terrorist act as being the appropriate response to the growing threat of jihadi terrorists that seek to further their radical ideology and their idea of totalitarian caliphate by murdering those who oppose them.