Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned in my questions to the parliamentary secretary, it goes without saying that we condemn the terrorist and violent acts committed by ISIS as well as by neo-Nazi groups, for example; we are disgusted by them.
Not only should all forms of terrorism be condemned, but we also find that our measures provide sufficient evidence to lay criminal charges. The parties all agree on that.
Mr. Speaker, with all due respect to the fantastic interpreters here in the House, it is worth repeating in both official languages that we find any violence committed by any terrorist group, whether it is ISIS or neo-Nazis, to be abhorrent and something we denounce. Insofar as we have the evidence required to go ahead with criminal proceedings and press charges, it should absolutely be done. That is not something up for debate, no matter which party is in power. On that, I certainly agree with the parliamentary secretary.
The sad part about trying to politicize a situation that is obviously very worrisome for all Canadians, as it pertains to their safety and security, is that when it comes to radicalization we have to ask ourselves what is the best way to address it. I heard the Conservatives say that this is not about people who are in the process of being radicalized, but about those who already were and have now returned.
With that in mind, it is very important to remember that the problem does not lie with our legislation or political will; in fact, we are talking about the justice system and not a political decision. It is about adapting to the standards of proof.
The way evidence is admitted in court is extremely important when we look at this particular issue of foreign fighters returning to Canada, in particular in what way intelligence gathered can be admissible as evidence in court. Even experts have had a hard time grappling with how we can lay charges with that evidence. That is something we acknowledge the government needs to look at and work on. It is certainly something that could help law enforcement press charges when they may be required.
When we are looking at pressing charges, it is not just what evidence is admissible. It is also the question of even laying terrorism charges, which is something we did not see in the previous Parliament under the previous government and that we have now seen twice under the current government. It is complicated, because as experts have said, often terrorism charges do not relate to the violence in and of itself, which usually falls under another part of the Criminal Code. Terrorism charges usually relate to the planning of said violence, which makes it very difficult, especially when we fall into the trap, as with this motion, of targeting specific groups.
I will explain why. Members will recall the horrible massacre in Moncton. By all accounts, this man committed a terrorist act. In fact, he confirmed that he wanted to attack the RCMP because it supported a government he thought was corrupt. I do not think this can be described as anything other than a terrorist act, and yet no one calls it that.
The attack at the Métropolis against a newly elected Quebec premier could also be considered a terrorist act.
However, in both of these cases, no terrorism-related criminal charges were laid. Criminal charges were obviously laid, but these charges fell under other parts of the Criminal Code.
This is a very important point, because it shows how difficult it is to judge motives and to define terrorism. This is unfortunately extremely complicated, and we need to work on that.
I also think it is important to trust the men and women who work for our national security agencies and police forces—in the case, the RCMP. It goes without saying that if they collect enough evidence, we can, and should, be confident that they will file criminal charges. The problem is how to obtain this evidence and whether the evidence is admissible. There is no point laying criminal charges if the person ends up being released because of a lack of evidence. This may be annoying, but this is the reality of our legal system, and we must respect that. This is exactly what terrorists want to attack. If we cannot respect this pillar of our democracy, we are doomed. This is very important here.
The other point is the question of resources, which is extremely important and which we raised over the course of the debate on what was Bill C-51 in the previous Parliament.
We can change the law. We can make the strictest laws possible. We can say we are going to throw everyone in jail and throw away the key, but if the men and women in uniform do not have the human and financial resources to do the work, the law is useless. That is a key issue here.
The commissioner of the RCMP has said that the focus on radical Islam has taken away from other investigations at a time when we are seeing a rise in hate crimes, a rise in anti-Semitism, which are also forms of radical violence and are, in some cases, forms of radical terrorism.
It is important to keep in mind that it is not always a legal issue. It is sometimes the political will to provide the appropriate resources to the national security agencies and police bodies, something that, unfortunately, certainly was not done in the last Parliament, and there is more work to be done in the current Parliament. That is important to keep in mind if we actually want the RCMP, among others, to have the resources to do the work they need to do to keep Canadians safe.
Getting back to the subject of radicalization, which is at the heart of today's motion, I asked the sponsor why the Conservatives have been so intent on disparaging anti-radicalization efforts. I was told that this is not about being for or against radicalization, but right after his speech, his colleague spent at least five minutes sneering at anti-radicalization efforts. That makes absolutely no sense.
During the last Parliament, nothing of substance was done to fight radicalization. Although I frequently disagree with the public safety minister's stance on issues, I am pleased to see that something is finally being done at the community level to fight radicalization through a centre set up to fund local projects. The Conservatives scoffed at those projects in their motion, as did their critics in their speeches on the subject. That is a shame.
If we really want to keep our communities safe, we have to fight radicalization and make sure people do not leave in the first place. Extremist groups such as Islamic State and far-right groups such as neo-Nazis often exploit young people with mental health problems. We need to help those young people not because they should be treated as victims but to ensure public safety, which requires a concerted, community-wide approach.
I asked the parliamentary secretary a question about what is being done in prisons.
I overheard a comments from a Conservative that we are saying to not put them in jail, because they are going to be radicalized there. That is not what we are saying. We are saying that we cannot do one without the other. The experts all say that one of the worst places for being radicalized is in prison. If there are criminal charges brought and people are found guilty, certainly no one is debating whether they should be in prison. The issue is that when they are in prison, we need to make sure that the programs are there to get to the root of that radicalization that is taking hold and leading them to be a threat to national security and public safety. That is what is at stake here. If we just want to incarcerate and forget about it, to see no evil and hear no evil, those people, if they ever get out, will have slipped through the cracks and will not only be people society has not come in aid of but will be people who will pose a threat to public safety. If the objective here is to protect public safety, then let us make sure we are cutting the evil that is radicalization off at the root, and that means providing the proper programs.
As I said, I recognize the efforts the government has made to begin working with and funding best practices in some of those efforts, but more needs to be done. Again, prisons are one example. I appreciate the openness the parliamentary secretary has shown to recognizing that this is an issue and to working on it, but more needs to be done.
Let us move on to the matter of counter-radicalization, which is something else that is of great concern to me. What are we talking about? Some people go abroad and are labelled as “fighters”. In some cases, they do not commit any acts of violence, which is why it is so important to have evidence. In fact, sometimes these people are victims. Some of them are taken over there by their families. They are vulnerable people who quickly realize after arriving that they have made a mistake, and who then come back to Canada without committing any acts of violence.
Will some of these individuals be criminally prosecuted? Of course, but evidence is needed. Rather than heckling and shouting “yes”, we must understand the nuances of the situation. We have to understand that our system is a system of law. I am not talking about rights and freedoms. I am talking about a system of law, the rule of law. It is important to understand that simply making a list of people and sending them all to prison is not an effective approach to public safety. We have to have evidence, and we have to understand the challenges associated with that evidence, challenges that experts have told us about.
The Conservative member is heckling me by shouting “yes, we have to do it”. If we move forward with these criminal charges, we need to make sure that they will result in prison sentences. Rather than blaming the government and engaging in a senseless dialogue by claiming that some people in the House are seeking to jeopardize the safety of Canadians, we need to understand that there is work to do to ensure that the national security agencies and police forces that have the evidence they need to successfully prosecute will do so. Everyone would be pleased if that happened, because it would help keep Canadians safe.
Let us engage in a positive dialogue. That is the approach that we are advocating today. It is no secret that I disagree with the approach of the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, but one thing is certain and leaves no room for debate: we want keep to Canadians safe and ensure public safety.
In that context, when we are looking at such an important issue as this one, to engage in dog-whistle politics and use expressions like “welcomed with open arms” and to throw things out about reading poetry, to denigrate counter-radicalization efforts, does a disservice to the men and women doing the serious work of making sure Canadians are safe, does a disservice to this House where we all believe in the importance of ensuring Canadians' safety, and does a disservice to the real efforts and debate that need to happen over the proper way of dealing with the situation.
As part of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security's review of Canada's national security framework, we travelled for one week, stopping in five cities in five days. We stopped in Montreal, where we had the opportunity to visit the Centre for the Prevention of Radicalization Leading to Violence. This centre is one of a kind in North America. It is so unique that it receives calls from families in New York who are worried about the possible radicalization of a friend, a family member, or even a child in some cases.
We sat down with the team at the centre and had a nuanced discussion. It was clear that these people fully understood that in many cases, the RCMP and our national security agencies have a role to play and a job to do if they are to catch those who pose a threat to public safety and security.
The collaboration between our police forces and national security agencies has been outstanding. They have also made an effort to reach out to the community and to concerned families and individuals. This work did not focus on any community more than another. An attack like the one committed at the Islamic cultural centre in Quebec City is just as troubling as an attack like the one that took place in Edmonton. Both are equally troubling, and the centre acknowledges that.
The people who fight against radicalization fully understand what we are saying today in the House. Yes, we need to consider prosecution. Yes, we need to make sure that anyone we can press charges against is actually prosecuted. However, we must also recognize that simply acknowledging one facet of an extremely complicated and important issue does not diminish the need to hold this debate and offer concrete solutions. Not only would concrete solutions help us ensure public safety, but they would also keep youth from falling through the cracks and possibly save them from the scourge of radicalization.
In closing I want to say, as I have said several times in my speech, that the minister and I certainly have our differences, and it is no secret in this place, but there is one thing to which we will always commit, and that is working together to ensure the safety of Canadians, no matter what the partisan issue is.
To do that, there is a lot that needs to be done. I have mentioned some of it: getting terrorism charges right, getting the peace bond process right, getting the evidentiary process right with regard to intelligence gathering. These are all challenges that we have in getting the counter-radicalization efforts right.
The government has taken some good steps. We think we can do more, including doing it in federal prisons, and making sure that, in some instances where there are best practices, there is more robust federal leadership despite the importance of supporting those grassroots efforts.
Those are all things on which we are ready to work with the government. It is part of the reason why it is so disappointing to hear the kind of hyperbole we hear today. When it comes to ensuring public safety, there are important measures that need to be taken. It is not about stoking and fanning the flames of fear, but rather about standing in this place and having the courage to take on these important challenges that we face, and that all experts agree are challenging but are at the core of the mandate we have as parliamentarians.
I am very happy to say that the NDP is committed to working with the government on all the points that I mentioned.
No proposal, whether Bill C-51, introduced during the last Parliament, or Bill C-59, should ever implement more draconian public safety legislation at the expense of rights and freedoms. However, that does not preclude concrete efforts from being made, for instance, providing more resources to the RCMP and other national security agencies and strengthening our counter-radicalization efforts. We have to do what we can to truly put an end to this scourge instead of simply focusing on one aspect of the issue and moving on.
There is still a lot of work to be done. Let us set aside this kind of rhetoric and ensure that we are doing our job properly because that is what Canadians expect from us.