Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak today in support of Bill C-51, the anti-terrorism act, 2015. This important and timely legislation, as many of our colleagues have said, fills important gaps in Canadian law relating to threats to our national security. This bill is comprehensive and would address, among other things, improved information sharing so that national security and law enforcement agencies can more effectively share information relating to threats, and improved security for air transportation. It would also strengthen the tools available to our intelligence and law enforcement communities.
The anti-terrorism act, 2015, would help prevent, detect, and respond to terrorist threats and activities. There are two important prevention measures in the bill that I would like to speak to today, namely, the terrorist propaganda seizure and take-down powers. Prevention can come in various forms, and this legislation has a number of measures that would support this pillar, including improved information sharing.
As we all know, the international jihadist movement has declared war on Canada and her allies. As we have seen in Copenhagen, Brussels, Sydney, Paris, and even right here at home in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Ottawa, jihadi terrorists are attempting to destroy the values that make Canada the best country in the world to live, work, and raise a family. Clearly, Canada is not immune to homegrown terrorist threats. Therefore, the legislation before us today also includes, in support of the terrorism prevention pillar, measures to address the radicalization of these homegrown threats.
Bill C-51 proposes two provisions that would address the proliferation and availability of terrorist propaganda that can contribute to the radicalization of our youth and turn them toward terrorism. These new powers would complement the proposed indictable offence of promoting and advocating the commission of terrorism offences in general.
Specifically, the proposal is to create two warrants that would allow for the seizure of terrorist propaganda. “Terrorist propaganda” would be defined to mean any writing, sign, visible representation, or audio recording that advocates or promotes the commission of terrorism offences in general—other than the proposed new offence of advocating terrorism offences, which I just mentioned—or counsels the commission of a terrorism offence. The effect of this change would be to authorize courts to order the seizure and forfeiture of terrorist propaganda material, whether in a tangible form, such as a poster, or in electronic form, such as a website.
Currently there exists a shocking gap. The Criminal Code does not presently authorize the confiscation of terrorist propaganda produced for sale or distribution in Canada, or that is stored on or made available by a Canadian server. The first new warrant would be similar to the provision in the Criminal Code governing the seizure and forfeiture of hate propaganda in a hard-copy format, such as in books or magazines.
Terrorist use of websites and social media to recruit and radicalize youth to violence is a growing concern. Currently, police can only ask that a website host voluntarily remove the material, which would usually only occur after a conviction. However, when the person who posted the material cannot be found because they are abroad or have posted it anonymously, the removal of such offensive material is very difficult, and it may be available to the public for some time thereafter.
The anti-terrorism act, 2015, proposes to authorize a court to order the removal of terrorist propaganda from Canadian Internet services, even when the person who posted it cannot be found. This proposed power is similar to ones that already exist for other materials that Parliament has deemed harmful, such as hate propaganda, child pornography, voyeuristic material, and most recently with the passage of Bill C-13, the protecting Canadians from online crime act, intimate images.
Some of these provisions have been in the Criminal Code since 2002 and help facilitate the removal of such harmful content from Canadian Internet services, which in turn limits Canadian exposure to such harmful content.
Courts must have the power to order the removal of such terrorist propaganda when posted online. That is exactly what this new take-down provision is designed to accomplish. Under this new provision, judges may order both the person who posted the terrorist propaganda and the Internet service provider to remove the material that is terrorist propaganda. It is focused only on the removal of the material that is available to the public, so that even in the absence of a prosecution, police will still be able to remove this material from Canadian servers.
As I mentioned earlier, these types of warrants are not new to the Criminal Code. They are also not new to the international community. For example, the United Kingdom has had similar powers in place since 2006, and Australia provides for the takedown of restricted online material, such as terrorist propaganda, through its Broadcasting Services Act.
As an additional complementary amendment to these new tools, Bill C-51 also proposes changing the customs tariff to include the new concept of terrorist propaganda. This change would ensure that Canada Border Services Agency officers would be authorized to inspect and seize terrorist propaganda material.
These new tools are not only complementary to the proposed new offence of advocating and promoting the commission of terrorism offences in general, but they are also consistent with Parliament's past approach relating to content that we have deemed harmful to Canadian society.
As I have said, these tools are designed to help address the radicalization of Canadian youth toward violence by assisting in the removal of terrorist propaganda material. I would like to quote Avi Benlolo, the president and CEO of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre, who says:
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.
I hope that all members of the House heed these words and support these proposals in Bill C-51 as a positive step toward making Canada and the world a safer place.