Madam Speaker, at the outset, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Scarborough Southwest.
Today, I am rising to speak against the motion brought forward by the Conservative opposition, and my reasons for doing so are straightforward.
Contrary to what this motion suggests, our government has already unequivocally condemned Daesh for committing acts of terrorism and genocide, as they should be. In addition, the Canadian Forces, law enforcement, and intelligent communities are fully engaged in combatting and preventing terrorism in all its forms, both abroad and at home. This is work of which we should all be proud.
Finally, Canadians can be confident that we have enacted a robust set of criminal laws, offences and preventative tools for law enforcement, to address terrorism, which are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, wherever and whenever appropriate.
In a moment, I will expand on how these measures are collectively working to keep Canadians safe, but first I need to express how regrettable it is to hear the opposition politicize national security time and again.
Far too often, we see the Conservatives wagging their fingers, lecturing Canadians, and pandering fear on this subject. However, one need only look at their record to see it is heavy on rhetoric and light on substance.
I hear hon. members heckling from the other side, and that will not change the facts. Let me tell everyone what some of those facts are.
During their 10 years in government, the Conservatives imposed dramatic cuts to national security. Indeed, in their last four years in power, they slashed close to $1 billion in resources to the RCMP, CBSA, CSIS, CATSA, and CSE. The opposition would do well to remember these figures, as I know Canadians will in sizing up the validity of this motion and the credibility of the Conservatives on the whole of national security.
Let me now say a few words about a number of the terrorism provisions within the Criminal Code that specifically apply to terrorist travel.
I would like to begin by acknowledging that thousands from around the world have indeed travelled to join terrorist groups and that this is indeed an important issue, which our government is grappling with domestically, internationally, and abroad with all our partners in the combat against terrorism.
Within the law as it exists in Canada, there are four specific offences of leaving Canada, or attempting to leave Canada, for the purpose of committing specific terrorism offences. In this way, the criminal law addresses the terrorist traveller phenomenon by having the substantive offence crystallize before the person leaves Canada and by applying the same maximum punishment to attempting to leave Canada, as well as leaving Canada, to commit these offences.
Over and above these targeted offences, the Criminal Code includes terrorism provisions designed to prevent the carrying out of terrorist activity and have a preventive focus. They are in large part designed to permit law enforcement to intervene and charge someone with a terrorism offence before a terrorist attack can take place. Such offences include knowingly facilitating terrorist activity and knowingly instructing someone to carry out a terrorist activity.
A particular example of this can be found in the participation offence, which is under section 83.18 of the Criminal Code. Terrorist travellers could be, and have in fact been, prosecuted under the offence of knowingly participating in any activity of a terrorist group for the purpose of enhancing the ability of any terrorist group to carry out a terrorist activity.
I will pause for a moment to say that in my former career as a federal prosecutor, I have first-hand experience dealing with these provisions. Again, I would draw the attention to Canadians that they can take great satisfaction and confidence in knowing we have a rigorous criminal law enforcement provision. I was honoured to serve with many prosecutors and members of the RCMP and CSIS, who continue to do a good job today in keeping our country safe.
As well, it is notable, in the current threat environment, individuals are often radicalized to violence and encouraged through online interactions and messaging. In Bill C-59, the national security act, 2017, the government proposes to revise the offence of advocating or promoting the commission of terrorism offences in general to be one of counselling the commission of a terrorism offence, whether a terrorism offence is committed and whether a specific terrorism offence is counselled. The advocacy or promotion offence has been much criticized since its enactment in 2015 for being vague or overbroad. Bill C-59 proposes to revise this offence to use well-known criminal law concepts and facilitate its prosecution.
The bill continues to support the view that the active encouragement of others to commit terrorism offences, even without being specific as to which terrorism offence is being encouraged, should be an offence in the same way as it is an offence to counsel a specific terrorism offence.
Some of these criminal offence provisions have already been successfully used in court. To date, there have been 26 terrorism convictions in Canada and three trials are currently in progress.
I will now speak about preventive enforcement tools.
Certainly one of the most fundamental tools police and prosecutors have to keep Canadians safe from individuals who may have associated with terrorism groups abroad is the terrorism peace bond. This is a powerful preventive tool that can help to protect Canadians from terrorism offences.
In situations where police may not have enough evidence to justify charging a person with a terrorism offence, the terrorism peace bond is available to bring the individual before a judge rather than wait until it is too late. In such cases, the court has the power to impose “any reasonable conditions” to counter the threat posed by the individual concerned.
The Criminal Code also sets out that the provincial court judge shall consider whether it is desirable, to prevent a terrorist activity from being committed, to include in the recognizance a condition that the defendant deposit, in the specified manner, any passport or other travel document issued in their name that is in their possession or control. If the judge decides that it is desirable, the judge shall add the condition to the recognizance and specify the period during which it applies.
Furthermore, the provincial court judge shall consider whether it is desirable, to prevent a terrorist activity from being committed, to include in the recognizance a condition that the defendant remain within a specified geographic area unless written permission to leave that area is obtained from the judge or any individual designated by the judge. If the judge decides that it is desirable, the judge shall add the condition to the recognizance and specify the period during which it applies. Furthermore, If the provincial court judge does not add a condition, the judge shall include in the record a statement of the reasons for not adding it.
With respect to the recognizance to keep the peace related to terrorism, this tool has been used by law enforcement agencies and by Crown prosecutors. The use of this tool has been on the rise since 2015. Specifically, there have been 19 applications for this recognizance in the past two years, compared to six between 2001 and 2014.
I would note that during the 2016 national security consultation, some called into question the threshold for a terrorism peace bond that was enacted in 2015 by former Bill C-51. That act lowered the threshold of the terrorism peace bond from “will commit” to “may commit”. After careful consideration, the government has determined that the lowered threshold is a balanced approach between the constitutional rights of Canadians and the need to protect the security of Canadians. This threshold has also been upheld as constitutional in the recent Manitoba case of Regina v. Driver in 2016.
Another preventive tool is the recognizance with conditions, which is available for law enforcement in the appropriate case to disrupt nascent terrorist activity.
The Canadian Passport Order contemplates that passports can be denied or revoked in certain instances of criminality and where necessary to prevent the commission of a terrorism offence or for the national security of Canada or a foreign country or state.
As can be seen, Canada already has a broad range of offences and tools to assist in the fight against terrorism. As the hon. Minister of Public Safety has said, we need them all and we use them all.
Opposition members have spent the last week criticizing national security, national defence, and deriding effective counter-radicalization measures that go a long way toward both combatting and preventing terrorism. Instead of that kind of partisanship we need a thoughtful debate that will strike the right balance between protecting Canadians as well as their charter rights.
I encourage all hon. members in the House to reject the opposition motion and to support the important measures this government is taking on this file.