Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Vaughan—Woodbridge.
I am pleased to rise in the House today for this debate. I will begin by fully endorsing the sentiment expressed by Nadia Murad, the Yazidi Nobel laureate quoted in the opposition motion. Nadia and many others like her were subjected to unspeakable brutality at the hands of Daesh. We all want her tormentors to be brought to justice. We all want their actions brought to light. We all want them to face the consequences of their crimes.
While most members of Daesh were not Canadian, some of them were. They are rightly our focus today. Bringing them to justice involves taking a clear-eyed, fact-based look at the issue of terrorist travellers.
There are approximately 190 people with a connection to Canada who have gone to join a terrorist group somewhere in the world and they remain outside of our borders. According to the “2017 Public Report on the Terrorist Threat to Canada”, about 60 others have returned to Canada. That number has not changed much since 2015. Again, some of these people were involved with Daesh, while others were part of other terrorist groups.
If we compare Canada with many of our allies, the number is quite small. However, even one person can do a lot of damage, so it is a potential threat we must take very seriously.
I want to underline that taking it seriously involves being serious about it. Let us not pretend, for example, that prosecuting the activities committed in a war zone on the other side of the world is a simple thing. This is not CSI: Mosul. It is a significant challenge to get accurate and credible knowledge about who was in Iraq and Syria and what they did. There is a reason, for example, that even though our intelligence agencies were aware of some 60 people who had returned to Canada from terrorist involvement overseas, none of them were charged under the Harper government.
Today, four returnees have been charged. Two have been convicted and two cases remain before the courts.
Whenever possible, if information pertaining to criminal activity exists, and if that information can be expected to withstand the rigours of our criminal justice system, charges are laid. Investigating, building a case, conducting interviews and following leads take time and effort, and our law enforcement agencies are doing that work. In the meantime, our security agencies, including CSIS, the RCMP and many others, work to identify, investigate and respond to threats.
When an extremist returns, the person is carefully monitored by our intelligence and law enforcement agencies within the bounds of the law. Those agencies work around the clock all year, including with international partners. They keep extremely close tabs on returning extremists.
Surveillance is not the only tool they can use. They may also use, for example, peace bonds, public listings, the no-fly list and the revocation of passports.
The RCMP's National Security Joint Operations Centre works with all implicated departments and agencies to respond to high-risk travellers. The women and men of our security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies are trained professionals and they do a remarkable job of keeping us safe.
At the same time, I am proud that our government is focusing on counter-radicalization. I was particularly concerned about radicalization locally when I witnessed a protest in my community at the Alexander the Great Parkette that seemed to be directing hate toward specific communities. This happened within the past couple of months. I believe that counter-radicalization is important for the continued safety and security of our communities across Canada.
The Conservatives like to make fun of counter-radicalization, but the fact is, as University of Waterloo expert Dr. Lorne Dawson has said, “All the G20 nations are convinced of the need to move into prevention programming because, in the long term, it's our best bet. You can't arrest your way out of this problem. It's too big and pervasive around the world.”
Unfortunately, Canada has a lot of catching up to do. According to Dr. Dawson, “The previous Conservative government had little or no interest in following up on this”. The new Canada Centre for Community Engagement and Prevention of Violence helps communities build resilience against all forms of extremism, whether it is inspired by Daesh, white supremacism or any other ideology.
Just as an aside, when the Conservatives talk about fighting terrorism with poetry, they are referring to a program called Project Someone run out of Concordia University in Montreal. This program uses strategies, including the arts, to prevent youth from turning down the path of extremism. This program received $170,000 in funding from the Harper government.
To recap, we need police and prosecutors to bring charges whenever they can find the evidence to do so. We need our security and intelligence agencies, in keeping with their legal authorities, to monitor individuals who may pose a threat. We need to support prevention programs that help keep young Canadians from becoming radicalized in the first place. Finally, we need to support the survivors of extremism.
I am proud of the work our government has done to support and welcome refugees to our country. Under this government, over 40,000 Syrian refugees have arrived in Canada since November 4, 2015. Our government's commitment to bring 1,000 Yazidi women and girls and their families is well under way, something we have talked about today in this place.
This weekend, I attended an event in East York, which brought together members of local sponsorship groups which welcomed people seeking refuge to our country. I also met with one of the people they helped to welcome. It was beautiful to see how much we could help one another and learn from each other. My office worked with many of these private sponsorship groups, and it has been one of the most touching and important things we have done as a way to help and support our community.
A week and a half ago, I attended an event at the Metropolitan Community Church in my community, where we talked about the work this church is doing to support LGBTQ2 refugees coming to our country. It works with the Rainbow Railroad. It was an inspiring moment to talk about the work it is doing to help all these people who are seeking refuge in our country. It highlights our role as a country and what our government has taken on to help people who are escaping dangerous situations around the world.
Our government is working with community partners to ensure that when people come to our country from dangerous situations as refugees, they get the specialized support and treatment they need, including mental health services provided through the refugees health care program that had been cut by the Harper government. I am very glad we have been able to offer them safe haven, and I am so proud to be able to welcome them to our country.
Even though this motion contains some parts I do not agree with, I will vote for it as an act of solidarity with Nadia Murad, who is quoted in the preamble, and with all the Yazidi women and girls who have suffered at the hands of Daesh. I am sure, like most refugees, they will end up giving Canada more than Canada would ever hope to give them. That is certainly what we have seen in my community when we have welcomed refugees and have seen their commitment to make our country a better place. Certainly, we are better as a community for having welcomed them. I am happy we are giving them that support.