Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-371, the prevention of radicalization through foreign funding act, introduced by my colleague from Parry Sound—Muskoka.
Organized criminal and terrorist networks are constantly evolving to find new ways to finance their crimes. New opportunities for criminal networks to exploit things like funding chains and programs offered through non-governmental organizations are constantly surfacing and it is our job as legislators not only to recognize this pattern but to shut them down. Today I would like to talk about some of the gaps in our current law and what it means for Canadians and why I think this bill is a step in the right direction.
There are numerous scenarios that currently allow terrorist organizations to infiltrate Canadian networks. These are often wealthy foreign influencers who funnel funds from their propaganda machines into Canadian charities and institutions. Imam Syed Soharwardy told the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence that this problem has been largely ignored, stating:
The money comes in different ways, in secret ways. Money comes through institutions. There are two organizations in Canada. Basically they are U.S. organizations that are operating in Canada. One is called AlMaghrib Institute, the other is called AlKauthar Institute. Both work in universities, not in mosques. Both give lectures. Both organize seminars. They are the ones who brainwash these young kids in lectures.
These are not amateur actors. They know where to find impressionable kids and how to pull them in using complex programs for recruitment through Canadian institutions like those based in education and faith. Richard Fadden, national security adviser to our ex-PM, and a former director of CSIS, explained that a major difficulty for managing this crisis in oversight is that money is coming from individuals and NGOs and not just foreign governments, which makes it more difficult to track. We know that between 2009 and 2014, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada identified 683 terrorist financing incidences, and yet we have not prosecuted any of these. Listed entities noted as operating are the Tamil Tigers, Hamas, and Hezbollah. A colleague on the Liberal side stated that there is no real need for improvement right now. However, there has not been a single charge in the 683 incidences of money coming in to terrorist organizations. It is clear the government does not take this issue seriously.
What happens when the funding network goes unchallenged or unchecked, and what does it mean for radicalization? Groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, al Qaeda, and Daesh have developed complex campaigns that seek out gullible audiences around the world, and any funding that these organizations get, whether through criminal activity or collusion with foreign governments, goes toward growing their network, enhancing their capabilities, and spreading their message to indoctrinate people beyond their borders.
Let us be clear here. Canada has been directly threatened by terrorist groups. Calls to action from these groups for domestic fighters have been made. These groups have a vested interest in using the funds they make and collect abroad for international recruitment because their existence goes as far as their message will carry it. Daesh alone has the participation of over 100 Canadians so far that we know of, and with the advancement of digital communication and the increasing use of the Internet, that number will continue to grow. A National Post story cited in the Senate committee report stated that it takes about 30 seconds to create a Twitter account and connect to somebody in Syria and then Facebook's algorithm suggests similar sites and friends with the same interests. These connections are used to establish contacts, create shell organizations, and nurture relationships with newly radicalized groups. Because this funding is being funnelled into existing local institutions, they can recruit en masse, making it a much more lucrative investment for time and resources.
This bill seeks to apply a framework that stops this from happening by setting out a schedule of foreign states and, by extension, for individuals and entities that suppress religious freedom, impose punishments for religious beliefs, or have engaged in or facilitated activities that promote radicalization. As an added protection, there is a built-in review and appeal process that ensures accountability and transparency throughout the process of assessment. This spurs a further need with regard to foreign funding and especially why we are not doing more to enhance transparency and accountability in funding that Canada looks after and puts toward incoming and outgoing funds from Canada.
The most glaring example right now was the Liberals' decision to return funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, an organization that is known to be infiltrated and used by Hamas. UNRWA, while operating as a non-governmental organization, has provided facilities directly to terrorist organizations that commit crimes against children, women, and the population as a whole. It even allows Hamas to build tunnels underneath schools for launching rockets at Israel. I have to ask why this is right. Why are Canadian taxpayers funding an organization that is contributing to violence against innocent people?
Let us talk about the main source of illicit funding coming into Canada and across the world: Saudi Arabia.
The following is from a Robert Fife article on the Saudis. It reports on a task force report on terrorist financing by the Council on Foreign Relations, which included former White House counterterrorist czar Richard Clarke and David Cohen, the CIA's former director of operations.
...Saudi Arabia is funding radical Islamic extremism in...Canada, where the Saudis have contributed millions of dollars to a mysterious...centre in Toronto....
“Saudi Arabia funds the global propagation of Wahabism, a brand of Islam that, in some instances, supports militancy by encouraging divisiveness and violent acts against Muslims and non-Muslims,” the report said.
“This massive spending is helping to create the next generation of terrorists and therefore constitutes a paramount strategic threat to the United States” [and other neighbouring countries].
Saudi Arabia has spent hundreds of millions of dollars...around the world, including in Canada.
The article goes on to cite an official Saudi report that stated that the Saudis have donated millions in Canada, including for the Salaheddin centre, which runs “a mosque and private elementary school where the Khadr family and other...radicals linked to [Al Qaeda] belong, and where the organization's website preaches against Jews and Christians.”
Here is a delightful statement from that website, which is funded with help from the Saudis:
Why do we hate the Jews? We hate them for the sake of our Lord, we hate them for the sake of Allaah because they slandered Allaah and they killed and slandered His Prophets.
Here we have Saudi funding coming into Canada promoting hate.
I want to chat more about the Saudis for a moment. Saudi attacks in Yemen have led to over 4,000 civilian casualties, hitting homes, hospitals, and schools as well as civilian factories, warehouses, and other protected sites. Its forces have admitted using banned cluster munitions.
Saudi law allows flogging, stoning, executions, and brutal jail time for supporting demonstrations or for merely harming the reputation of the kingdom. Women must obtain permission from a male guardian to marry, divorce, travel, get a job, or have elective surgery or any other health care treatment.
Here we have Saudi groups poisoning minds in Canada and around the world, and the response from the Liberal government is to happily bring in blood oil on the east coast of Canada at the same time it shuns Alberta oil by killing off energy east.
More than 122,000 oil workers have been without jobs in Alberta since the price of oil collapsed, and Alberta's unemployment rate sits at a 22-year high, yet here we are knocking on Saudi Arabia's door for access to a resource we have plenty of at home.
Why are we pouring funds into countries that act in direct violation of rights we strive to uphold and that commit violence and discriminatory practices against women, minority groups, the LGBT community, and all demographic groups the Liberal government claims to support? I suppose saying that we are promoting human rights is easier than actually promoting them, yet here we are.
We need to preserve the integrity of our local institutions, such as our churches, our mosques, and our schools, and ensure that they and the people who rely on them are protected. We need to cut off this funding at the head. We know it is happening. We know who is doing it. We are not doing anything to stop it.
The bill is an essential way for governments to ensure that radical groups are not able to use local and domestic institutions as a means of growing their networks and committing atrocities around the world.
We need to ensure accountability and fiscal transparency in the foreign funding coming into Canadian schools and places of worship.
I thank my hon. colleague for bringing this private member's bill forward, and I will proudly support it.