Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to discuss Bill C-51, anti-terrorism act, 2015.
This is important legislation that was developed with much consultation. In the wake of the horrific terrorist attacks this past October, our Conservative government, led by the Prime Minister, the Minister of Public Safety, and the Minister of Justice, consulted with Canadians from coast to coast while they were developing the legislation before us today.
We saw the results of those consultations when statistics come out last week: four out of every five Canadians fully support this legislation. That is because they know that the international jihadist movement has declared war on Canada. Canadians are being targeted by jihadi terrorists simply because they hate our society and the values it represents.
That is why our government has put forward these measures that protect Canadians against the jihadi terrorists, who seek to destroy the very principles that make Canada the best country in the world in which to live. That is also why Canada is not sitting on the sidelines, as some would have us do, and is instead joining our allies and supporting the international coalition in the fight against ISIL. In line with measures taken by our allies, these new measures will specifically ensure that our law enforcement and national securities agencies of Canada counter those who would advocate terrorism, prevent terrorist travel and the efforts of those who seek to use Canada as a recruiting ground, and disrupt planned attacks on Canadian soil.
I reject the argument that every time we talk about security our freedoms are threatened. Canadians understand that their freedom and security go hand in hand. Canadians expect us to protect both, and there are protections in this legislation to do exactly that.
It is currently not a criminal offence to advocate or promote terrorism. The ability to arrest someone who in general terms is advocating or promoting the activity of terrorism does not exist. The threshold for arrest under the Criminal Code is specific to someone who knowingly instructs, directly or indirectly, any persons to carry out terrorist activity.
The anti-terrorism act, 2015, makes it an offence to advocate or promote terrorism in broader terms, a measure that is supported by 90% of Canadians, according to a survey done by the Angus Reid Institute. The fundamental fact is that our police and national security agencies are working to protect our rights and our freedoms, and it is jihadi terrorists who endanger our security and would take away our freedoms.
CSIS currently does not have the legal mandate to take action to disrupt threats to Canada in order to keep Canadians safe. When the CSIS Act was originally developed, Soviet espionage was the greatest threat to our national security. Today, violent jihadists are the greatest threats to Canada and Canadians, and the threat continues to evolve. It is imperative that we provide our national security agencies with the tools they require to face this evolving global threat.
Let us look at a case study. A terrorist entity puts up a terrorist-promoting propaganda video on YouTube, which concludes with the words “Attack Canada” on the screen. No description of the kind of attacks to be carried out is given. Under the current law, counselling the commission of a terrorism offence is criminal, whether the attack is carried out or not. However, the counselling must relate to committing a specific terrorist offence, for example, counselling someone to kill someone for a political, religious, or ideological purpose.
In the case study, there is insufficient detail to allow one to conclude that the person was counselling to do a specific terrorism offence in the Criminal Code to kill someone, as opposed to disrupting an essential service. Under the new anti-terrorism act, posting such a video, with its call to carry out attacks in Canada in general, which is a form of active encouragement, would now be caught by the criminal law.
With respect to oversight, I think third-party, non-partisan, independent expert oversight of our national security agencies is a better model than political intervention in the process. Furthermore, the key powers of the new legislation are subject to judicial review and authorization. In fact, any activity that infringes on a person's privacy or charter rights would require a warrant, such as entering a person's home to remove their passport, or tampering with a possible chemical weapon to render it harmless.
I would like to acknowledge the concerns raised by the Liberals and the NDP regarding resources for national security agencies.
Our Conservative government has already increased the resources available to our national security agencies by one third. The Liberals and the NDP voted against these increases each step of the way. Seven times our Conservative government brought forward proposals for more funds for these agencies, and seven times the NDP and the Liberals voted against these measures.
Despite the Liberals' and the NDP's votes against these increases, our government will continue to ensure that our national security agencies have the resources they need to keep Canadians safe.
I mentioned earlier in my comments that Canadians had expressed strong support for the legislation. I would like to take this time to discuss what some prominent Canadians think about the legislation before us today.
CSIS director, Michel Coulombe, said:
Last fall, two terrorist attacks took place in Canada, the first one in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and the second in downtown Ottawa. Since then, the threat has accelerated as extremist groups call for additional attacks on Canada.
[...] CSIS welcomes the introduction of legislation to better enable the government to safeguard the nation's security interests. The new legislation will help CSIS protect Canadian lives from a terrorist threat unprecedented in our country's history.
What is more, Bob Paulson, the Commissioner of the RCMP said, “The recent terrorist attacks on Canada and against our allies have shown us that the threat can materialize rapidly and that we cannot be complacent when it comes to terrorism. The proposed legislation would provide the RCMP with new tools to carry out its national security criminal investigations and, ultimately, to keep Canadians safe”.
Members opposite may say it is a certainty that the national security agencies whose powers would be enhanced would be supportive. They may say that they are interested in a view from the academics.
Queen's University professor, Christian Leuprecht, said:
There's a balance to be struck here between civil liberties and between protecting individual, public, and community safety [...] I think the government is trying very hard to strike a fine line and find a middle ground....
The opposition may say that none of that which I have cited speaks to oversight.
To that, I would answer with comments from Ron Atkey, the first chairman of the Security Intelligence Review Committee. He said:
Some of the instant critics [...] have missed the mark in decrying lack of oversight. [...]
But regarding new powers of terrorism disruption to be given to CSIS, oversight is alive and well.
I would also like to cite S.A. McCartan, a criminal prosecutor, in Ontario. He said:
Canada is alone amongst Western countries in not allowing its spy agencies any powers whatsoever to prevent terror. It is alone in having a spy agency still operating 30 years in the past. It's time to fix that.
Last, I would like to quote two esteemed members of Canada's Jewish community.
David Cape, chair of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said:
We welcome this legislation which enhances the capacity of authorities to address a growing threat in our society. We are supportive of the Government of Canada's efforts to respond to the terrorist threat in as comprehensive and forceful a way as possible.
Avi Benlolo, of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, said:
It is especially significant that this new legislation will enable the removal of websites promoting jihad and related materials on the Internet. Jewish communities are a favourite target of jihadis, and the provisions of this bill will do a great deal to help ensure the safety and security of all Canadians as we continue to fight this threat to western democracies [...]
As I said earlier, 82% of Canadians support the legislation.
I am proud to be part of a government that is standing up for the wishes of Canadians, as well as delivering important measures to keep them safe.