Madam Speaker, today we mark the fourth anniversary of the horrific attack here, on Parliament Hill. We lost corporal Nathan Cirillo. Two days ago was the anniversary of the attack in which Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent lost his life in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, not too far from my riding. I think this is fitting, in light of today's debate on terrorism—a difficult, complex issue that too often leads to loss of life—and on Canada's response to terrorism in order to maintain public safety. We remember these two men who served their country and who lost their lives in horrible circumstances not too long ago.
I would also like to take this opportunity to remind the House that the NDP was proud to support the motion moved by the Conservatives just over a year ago to recognize that these horrific, heinous crimes committed by ISIS constitute genocide. There is no doubt about the real nature of this horrific violence perpetrated against minorities, women, the LGBT community and all other victims. We support the Conservatives' motion.
We know that all parties want the to achieve the same end. Regardless of what we say, regardless of our differences of opinion as to the means to that end, our objective is to put criminals, to put terrorists, behind bars.
The question before us today is how a democratic, law-based society should go about achieving that end. We are facing a number of challenges, which I will address during my speech. Obviously, the fact that we acknowledge those challenges and that we have no easy ways to overcome them does not mean we are being soft on the issue or that we want these individuals, who may be living in Canadian communities, to threaten public safety.
I think it is worth looking at the two key pieces here in this motion. However, before I go any further, I would be remiss to not congratulate Nadia Murad for receiving the Nobel Peace Prize for the extraordinary work that she has done to bring this issue to the forefront.
The one thing I can agree on with my colleague for Calgary Nose Hill, although we do not agree on everything, is that the deafening silence that sometimes follows this kind of advocacy, that someone like Nadia Murad engages in, is troubling. We always want to do better as parliamentarians and as a country.
In that vein, I think it is also important to recognize that we cannot even begin to imagine the strength and courage required to go through the type of ordeal and horror that she has witnessed. However, it takes even more courage to relive that horror, to be an advocate and be part of the political process in seeking justice and change in the way that different countries engage in these difficult issues.
With that being said, I do want to address the two parts of this motion. I want to start with part (a) that specifically goes into this issue relating to rehabilitation.
I think the issue here is that we have to look at the fight to combat radicalization. It has been made clear by many national security experts and many experts who have worked in connected fields that one of the key challenges that is facing this era of social media, for example, where it is easy for an individual and in many cases individuals with mental health issues who are easily being manipulated through social media and other means by different individuals related to ISIS and others, is that a proper, comprehensive anti-radicalization strategy is required to tackle this issue. It is not an issue that is exclusive to ISIS. It is also when we see white supremacists or when we see other extremism that leads to violence.
I think that is the key is to counter radicalization that leads to violence. That is the key piece of how we ensure public safety with regard to these matters.
It is something the New Democrats brought up in the previous Parliament when we were debating then Bill C-51. We said to the government of the day that although there was an issue of addressing public safety, rather than adopting new, draconian legislation that does not actually address the issue and keep communities safe, why not give additional resources to the policing community, for example?
In 2012, the police recruitment fund was cut. It allowed provinces and municipalities to have additional resources to hire police and, in some cases, put together special units that could tackle, for example, organized crime and street gangs. It provided the kinds of resources that could allow police to do their work and complement the efforts being deployed by the RCMP to tackle the issue of terrorism and other forms of extremism that we unfortunately see in Canada and other countries today. We raised that issue.
We also raised the issue of radicalization and being preventative. I know sometimes “preventative” has a certain meaning, and rhetoric can be construed around it to make it mean something that it does not. The reality is that prevention is not about trying to use kid gloves with individuals who may commit heinous crimes. It is about making sure Canadians are safe and that these crimes and terrorist attacks are not being committed in the first place. After all, we can deploy all of the resources and legislative tools we can after the fact, but there is already a failure when we talk about things after the fact. How do we avoid getting to that point whenever possible? Countering radicalization is one way to do so.
Of course there are challenges. For instance, Montreal's Centre for the Prevention of Radicalization Leading to Violence lacks funding. I will not get into detail because there is also an internal management issue related to Government of Quebec programs. However, Montreal's mayor, Valérie Plante, raised an important point in this debate. She said that Montreal's government is reluctant to provide ongoing funding to the centre because the population it serves extends well beyond the greater Montreal area. It is, after all, the only organization in North America whose mission is to prevent radicalization leading to violence.
As part of a study by the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, we met with representatives of the Centre for the Prevention of Radicalization Leading to Violence. They told us they are getting calls from all across Canada and even the American east coast. For example, parents and members of a vulnerable community in New York have been calling the centre for assistance. This shows that there is a desperate need, not only in Canada but also in the U.S. and around the world. Strategies have been deployed in Europe to solve the problem, but here in Canada and North America, there is an appalling lack of initiatives.
Of course I welcome the funding allocated by the federal government to try to address the issue, but obviously, it is not enough. If that were the case, there would be more than just one centre. If I am not mistaken, the government will fund only individual projects. What we need are broad, generalized efforts.
Let us also not forget the importance of providing additional training to our police forces and especially the RCMP to support their work with communities that are vulnerable to all kinds of extremism, whether from ISIS or the far right. Right-wing extremism is a growing threat, according to an article published by the Toronto Star a few weeks ago. I encourage all my colleagues to read it.
All of this shows that we must not only do more, but also think about the types of strategies being used. This is essential to ensuring public safety. When we talk about crime and terrorism, some people and some political parties might think that the word “prevention” means being gentle with those who are about to commit the most horrendous crimes in the history of humanity. Let us be clear: prevention means ensuring public safety and avoiding the loss of more lives like that of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Corporal Nathan Cirillo, whom we lost four years ago.
The other element of course concerns the intelligence-to-evidence gap, more specifically dealing with part (b) of this motion, which is the issue of how we prosecute these individuals, particularly those who are returning to Canada. It is a huge challenge that we face, and we are not alone in facing it.
There are different reasons why this intelligence-to-evidence gap exists. One of the reason is the additional powers given to CSIS. When we look at the threat-reduction powers given to CSIS under Bill C-51, they continue to exist despite the amendments I presented at the public safety committee during debate on Bill C-59, which essentially represents the Liberals' attempt at correcting and failing to correct many of the outstanding issues. The big issue is that those threat-reduction powers are, in a word, and I am sure some lawyers will cringe hearing me say this because it is probably not the correct terminology, essentially extra-constitutional powers. CSIS is going to judges and asking them for judicial authorization to use its threat-reduction powers in a way that can contravene the charter.
What we saw in Bill C-59 is that while those powers still exist, they have become, as I like to put it, less unconstitutional than they were under Bill C-51. However, the big problem in the debate today is the issue relating to information that is gleaned through the powers CSIS is using, because at the end of the day, the RCMP, in its responsibilities as a law enforcement entity in working with Crown prosecutors to bring these returning foreign fighters to justice and making sure they find themselves behind bars, cannot use the information CSIS has. Therefore, it is deploying its own own efforts. It cannot simply cherry-pick what CSIS has obtained through a whole different regime of judicial authorization than using its own powers as the RCMP under the Canada Evidence Act and, of course, nationally under the Constitution, first and foremost.
The other challenge relating to that is not just the powers being exercised by CSIS and the RCMP in their own individual silos but also how we use information obtained through international conflict, the consequences of that conflict, and how we use that in a constitutional way in fair trials. It is interesting when we say “fair trials”, because I am sure many Canadians listening to us and some members of other parties might say, “Who cares about fairness? These people have perpetrated some of the most horrible crimes known to humanity. They have committed genocide.” However, fairness is important in ensuring public safety, because it ensures the sanctity of the proceedings. Therefore, if we want successful proceedings that properly prosecute and convict these individuals, and hopefully in the cases where obviously it is appropriate and the findings are such, we need fairness, or else the proceedings will get thrown out and we will be right back to square one.
There are a few elements to that. One was brought up. Here I will refer my colleagues to the fantastic podcasts by Craig Forcese and Stephanie Carvin called “Intrepid”, where there was an interview with Solomon Friedman, a criminal defence attorney. As he put it in the interview, these people are not always the most popular individuals when it comes to considering the victims of horrible crimes. However, he brought up an important point. When we look at the fantastic reporting by Stewart Bell, for example, on what is going on with these fighters who have been detained in Kurdish facilities, we will see that those facilities have abhorrent conditions and that the RCMP cannot just walk into facilities that are potentially engaging in less-than-savoury practices, whether it is torture or other things, or where the conditions are far below the standards that Canadians would expect for incarcerated offenders in our corrections facilities. The big issue there is that it would be easy for a judge, as a result of the arguments of a defence attorney, to look at that Kurdish facility and say that there clearly is an argument to be made as to whether the information before the court is true or not, because it is a result of confessions obtained under duress. Certainly that is not for me to say, but I want to make sure, as a legislator, that we are ensuring the maximum fairness in a process to maximize the success rate so that we find ourselves in safer communities and achieve the public safety and the justice objectives of our system based on the rule of law.
I admit, that is not always what the public wants to hear.
Ultimately, we have to acknowledge that we all want the same thing. The big question is how to go about fixing this problem. It is a challenge.
A reporter asked me a question following an excellent Global News report by journalist Stuart Bell. The reporter asked me whether the government should be taking steps to bring these people back to Canada.
It is a question for which I have no answer. Obviously, as the minister mentioned, I do not want diplomats to put themselves in danger to bring back these individuals. Nor do I want individuals to come back to Canada and be a threat to public safety.
That said, we also have a responsibility towards those people who hold Canadian citizenship. If they have committed horrible crimes, we must ensure that they are prosecuted in Canada and put behind bars in Canada. Not only do we have a responsibility to protect law-abiding citizens, but we also must prosecute those who are not. It is not always a very popular concept, but it is one of the underlying principles of Canadian citizenship.
We are not just talking about the cartoonish characters the Conservatives have made up, usually frightening men in their twenties who return home and threaten our safety. There are also extremely complex cases, such as the women who went abroad. In some cases, because of their movements and activities with ISIS, they could be prosecuted.
Those kinds of cases are much more complicated, because they may involve women who have gone through rape, spousal violence, and all sorts of other, more nebulous situations abroad, which we may not have information about. These are highly complex cases. Women are, of course, one of the groups that has been victimized by ISIS. Why would we want to abdicate our responsibility towards Canadian women who have been victimized by ISIS?
I can understand how, in some cases, some women may be found guilty of certain offences under the Criminal Code provisions regarding travelling and supporting a terrorist group. However, we must not neglect the women who are victims.
The government has a job to do. It needs to use the information at its disposal to make sure everything possible is being done to protect victims who are Canadian citizens.
That goes for children as well. I think all Canadians, everyone tuning in at home and everyone here in the House, would agree that it is unacceptable for Canadian children, some under the age of five, to end up in camps in a conflict zone abroad. By failing to bring these women back to Canada, we are also leaving their children stranded in a foreign country under execrable conditions.
I will come back to the quote from Nadia Murad included in this motion. She mentions brainwashing. Children as young as five years old, sometimes younger, can be turned into child soldiers abroad, as we often see in war zones where genocide is committed. Radicalization can turn them into future threats to public safety in their own right, and we do not want that to happen.
Protecting a child and also protecting public safety are extremely commendable goals that anyone can get behind, even though this is happening in war zones where situations can become extremely tricky and difficult to handle.
In conclusion, while I certainly recognize Canadians' concerns in wanting to ensure public safety, let me be clear that while we might differ on the methods to be deployed and how we hone the tools that we have to prosecute returning foreign fighters and to counter radicalization, all in the House agree that more can be done to close the intelligence-to-evidence gap to ensure public safety. However, we do ourselves a disservice when we do so in a way that sometimes brushes aside the fact that not all of these individuals are coming from the same situation. There is a huge challenge when it comes to women and children, in particular, which cannot be ignored. For that reason, more needs to be done. We look forward to collaborating with the government as it tries to seek solutions to this issue.
It would be naive to say that this is not the most complicated public safety issue we are currently dealing with. We therefore have to tackle it head on. I am pleased to work with my colleagues from all parties to try to resolve this issue and keep the public safe.