Mr. Speaker, I would invite the opposition members to listen to this important speech for the safety of our nation and to feel free to comment afterward during their period for questioning, and to show respect for someone who stands up for our country and who actually lost someone from an act of terrorism. I know the opposition members have a hard time calling a spade a spade, but in this very place on October 22 we were under attack by a terrorist.
Let me go back to my speech and quote Mr. Eisen. I thank him for coming to this Parliament in support of those important measures. I would invite those members who seem not to take the terrorism issue seriously to listen to what he said and what was written last week in the National Post:
The assaults on the World Trade Center; the slaughter in India’s business centre [in] Mumbai; the thwarted plans of the Toronto 18 (which included an attack on Toronto’s business district [here in Canada]); and the attacks on Kenyan malls, to name a few, were designed, not only to kill, but to target countries by undermining their economies.
Members have heard me many times saying that there is no liberty without security. I would add that there is no prosperity without security. That is why we are now being given the opportunity to support those anti-terrorism measures. This morning, I am given the opportunity to present them, and I would like to thank my colleague, the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, who is the member for York—Simcoe, as well as my Conservative colleagues who have been supportive through this journey where, since October 22, we have crafted measures that are specifically designed to face the international jihadi threat that our country is facing.
Through its actions and commitments, our government has demonstrated that it will stand up to those who want to spread fear, and that it will respond in a measured fashion. It will not remain idle against this threat. That is why we introduced measures to combat terrorism.
One of the first measures came from the recommendations made following the most serious terrorist-inspired aviation disaster Canada has ever experienced, the Air India crash. We are responding to a recommendation that was made at the time to allow the various federal government agencies to share information related to national security.
That is why we want to move forward with the security of Canada information sharing act. This legislation proposes much-needed changes to how federal departments and agencies can share information that could be crucial in identifying potential threats to national security.
Some critics have falsely claimed that this legislation would target protesters or would drastically expand the size and scope of the government. This is not the case.
Let me quote Justice John Major, the author of the Air India commission report, who said, “...citizens who are not validly under suspicion will not have some manufactured reason for their private lives to be interfered with”.
Our government organizations have always complied with privacy laws, as well they should. However, it has become very clear that legal impediments to information exchange can, in some cases, interfere with the government's ability to detect national security threats. The question is simple: are we going to let terrorists use the fact that the government operates in silos to attack Canadians?
The answer is clear: no.
We are doing this while respecting people's privacy and the Constitution and by giving federal agencies the ability to share information that could threaten national security. I would like to point out that in the amendments to the bill, it was made clear that protesters will not be affected by this ability to exchange information.
The threats we are facing today are increasingly diverse and complex. It is time we implemented a stronger security framework that will enable information exchange in support of our national security objectives. We know that government organizations will wield these powers responsibly, with respect for privacy and security, and in accordance with Canadian laws.
What is more, there are appropriate mechanisms already in place that would counterbalance the new authority created by this act, such as review by the Privacy Commissioner and the Auditor General.
I will turn now to the second improvement to the bill, the passenger protect program. There are two significant changes in this regard. The first is to put the program on its own solid, legal foundation—namely, the secure air travel act.
As the House has heard, so far the program has been operating under the authority of the Aeronautics Act because it has been used solely as a tool to ensure air security. Its current mandate is to identify individuals likely to pose a threat to air security and take measures to counter that threat, such as preventing them from boarding an aircraft.
Basically, right now, if a person wants to attack a plane, the law makes it possible to put that person on a high-risk passenger list and prevent him from boarding a plane. However, if we are in a situation such as the one we saw a few weeks ago, when some young Montrealers wanted to fly to the Middle East to commit terrorist acts, and that information comes to the attention of the relevant agencies, this law will make it possible to prevent them from boarding a plane. People leaving the country to commit terrorist acts is anathema to Canadian values. Moreover, if they return to Canada, they pose an even greater threat to our national security.
Jihadi terrorist travellers are now an increasing threat, both to populations abroad and to Canadians, if and when these jihadi extremists return home to Canada as hardened jihadi warriors.
That is the reason why we need to improve our current law; that is what our anti-terrorism measures are doing; and that is why I certainly invite all members to reconsider their position and support this important legislation.
This will strengthen our ability to respond to this growing concern by giving the authorities the ability to take action in cases where it is not yet possible to arrest people and lay charges.
This broader mandate will necessitate the use of appropriate security measures, such as refusing permission to board or carrying out additional inspections at the airport.
Of course these changes are supported by the airline industry. Let me quote Marc-André O'Rourke of the National Airlines Council of Canada, who said that they:
...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, our anti-terrorism measures, which are so needed to increase the capability of our police and our intelligence officers to keep us safe from those threats.
Additionally, this bill would make an important enhancement to the mandate of CSIS. CSIS is the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, whose members are there to protect us. We want to help them have better tools to fight the modern terrorist threat.
At this time, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service's role is strictly limited to collecting intelligence concerning threats to our security. CSIS has been doing this in a very professional manner for over 30 years now. It collects intelligence and forwards it to the Canadian government. CSIS investigators do this by conducting their activities in Canada and abroad.
As a result, they are often the first to detect threats to the security of Canada. They are at an early stage of the process, which makes it possible to detect security threats, particularly terrorist threats.
However, as we speak, they have neither the mandate nor the legal authority to take action to disrupt threats that come to their knowledge in the course of their investigations.
I had the opportunity to clarify that the Canadian service is practically the only one among our allies that is unable to exercise this capacity to reduce the threat and take action early on to avoid unfortunate, if not disastrous or fatal, consequences.
Frankly, this limitation results in important missed opportunities to disrupt threats early, before they have had time to develop. It also neglects the full potential of CSIS' expertise at a time when we can least afford it.
Let me remind members of what Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, President of American Islamic Forum for Democracy said:
It is amazing to me that...disrupting...is...[currently] prohibited. Disrupting doesn't mean arresting these individuals or violating their personal property rights or taking them out of commission. You're actually just disrupting a plot.
Many Canadians believe that CSIS could do this, while it cannot. However, with this bill, CSIS would be able to disrupt the threat, like any other similar agency of our allies. Its officers will also be able, for example, to talk to the parents of young individuals who are lured by radicalization, to prevent them from falling into that path, even at a pre-criminalization sphere.
That is an important part of the bill that addresses the four pillars of our counter-terrorism strategy, the first of which is prevention. Anyone who would be willing to support prevention measures when talking about radicalization has a very good reason to support and be in favour of this bill, because CSIS officers will be able to disrupt this threat at an earlier stage.
These officers are another real example to show that the measures of the bill are sensible, reasonable and balanced. We currently have these resources and these officers, but they are prohibited by legislation from carrying out these actions. We are going to enshrine in law the capacity of service officers to act and, should there be a violation of privacy or rights, the officers, much like police officers in Canada have been doing for decades, can seek a warrant from a judge, who will have the latitude to authorize, modify or even refuse the requests.
Contrary to the many misleading statements that have been made in recent weeks and months, there is nothing really new in Canada, particularly since provisions already exist that allow the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and police forces to routinely gather intelligence. Do those who are opposed to these provisions lack confidence in our justice system? Do they lack confidence in Canadian judges? Are they questioning our judges' independence and skills? We need to ask them that. On this side of the House, we have confidence in our institutions, and we have complete confidence that Canadian judges will be able to continue to do what they have been doing for intelligence officers and police for decades with regard to intelligence gathering.
It is also clear in the bill that some activities, such as those that could cause death or bodily harm, are prohibited and will never be authorized or undertaken. It is important to remember that CSIS has been serving Canadians for 30 years. It is also important to remember that CSIS and its activities are very closely scrutinized by another Canadian body that is the envy of the world, the Security Intelligence Review Committee. The SIRC is an extension of parliament. During the debate, we heard some parliamentarians express the desire to address security issues. They can do that here. We have a security committee where parliamentarians are free to call any witnesses they see fit to call. They can also do that in the Senate. As we saw earlier, there is the Privacy Commissioner and the Auditor General. It is important to remember that other countries do not have the same model as Canada, which allows access to the field of operations. Other oversight bodies where parliamentarians are sometimes involved are only able to meet with senior officials and do not have the opportunity to observe what is happening on the ground. The Supreme Court recognized this model as one that strikes a balance between rights and national security.
Today and in the days ahead, parliamentarians will have the opportunity to rise and take action to ensure that those who protect us have the tools they need. For example, we are going to criminalize the promotion of terrorism. We have had hours of debate. I want to thank all of the witnesses who testified in committee and who spoke so eloquently, like Louise, the sister of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, who came to tell us that Canada needs Bill C-51. Let us step up and not disappoint Canadians, who expect us to protect them from the terrorist threat.
That is exactly what the measures before us in the House today do.