Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in support of the anti-terrorism act, 2015.
First, I am proud to note that our government's economic action plan 2015 included vital funding for national security measures, such as those found in the legislation. In particular, we have committed to doubling the budget of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, SIRC, which plays a critical role in reviewing the operations of CSIS. Beginning with this fiscal financial year, we will invest $12.5 million over five years and $2.5 million thereafter in ongoing funding.
Further, we have announced nearly $300 million in investments to combat terrorism. This is above and beyond the fact that we have increased national security budgets by one-third since coming to office.
We have done this because the international jihadi movement has declared war on Canada and her allies. Jihadi terrorists hate the fact that Canada is the best place in the world to work, live and raise a family. They would rather return to the seventh century. Contrary to what the Liberals and the NDP would have us do, we will not sit on the sidelines while we fight this terrorist scourge.
Turning to my remarks on the bill itself, I will focus on the provisions relating to the element that would create the security of Canada information sharing act.
Effective and responsible sharing of information between institutions is increasingly essential to the Government of Canada's ability to protect Canada's national security. This includes detecting, preventing and responding to phenomena such as terrorism, espionage, foreign-influenced activity, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and threats to Canada's cybersecurity and critical infrastructure.
In today's interconnected world, national security threats emerge, evolve rapidly and unpredictably, and often go beyond the mandate and capability of any single institution. In addition, information on threats can and often is found in different forms and locations across government. Therefore, in order to take the appropriate action to protect Canada and Canadians, this information must be gathered, analyzed and pieced together in order to form a coherent picture of the scope and nature of the threat. This means government institutions must work together and share information in a seamless and timely manner.
The ineffective sharing of information can lead to significant risks, such as failing to detect and prevent attacks. Of particular concern is the phenomenon of individuals travelling abroad to engage in terrorism-related activities. The threats posed by these individuals has reinforced the need to enhance the government's tools to identify them. While government departments and agencies already share a significant amount of information with each other every day, and more so during urgent circumstances, there are a number of legal requirements and limits that can delay or inhibit optimal information sharing for security of Canada purposes.
For example, some institutions lack clear lawful authority to share. Certain statutes contain explicit limits on how information can be shared and experience has shown that in some cases these limits are too restrictive. The complexity of the legal landscape can make it challenging for operators to determine the circumstances under which information can be shared, and rules are frequently misunderstood and interpreted on a case-by-case basis.
Allow me to provide a couple of real-life examples of how this works.
The Canada Border Services Agency and Citizenship and Immigration Canada rely on a “consistent use” provision under the Privacy Act to share information that is collected pursuant to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act with other institutions. However, this exception allows sharing only for a narrow purpose. In this case, it only allows information sharing for the administration and enforcement of immigration legislation and does not allow sharing for broader national security purposes.
Another example relates to the Canadian passport order, which does not currently contain an explicit information-sharing authority. As a result, CSIS relies on the investigative body exemption of the Privacy Act to access passport-related information to fulfill its own mandate. Not only can this create delays in accessing relevant information, but this exemption also does not allow for Citizenship and Immigration Canada to proactively disclose information to CSIS that could be useful in investigating and advising on threats to the security of Canada, for example, Canadians travelling abroad to engage in terrorism.
Information sharing can also be impeded by the ad hoc and complex nature of the legal regimes that govern it. In addition to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Privacy Act, institutions are also subject to their own specific legal regimes which govern their information-sharing practices. There may be, for example, explicit limits in departmental legislation on how information can be shared.
The overall result is a legislative patchwork that creates a difficult operating environment wherein the rules are difficult to interpret. Over time, this can make information sharing less effective and efficient than is required to prevent and address threats to Canada's national security.
This brings me to how the anti-terrorism act, 2015 will address the issues. First and foremost, it will provide clear authority to all Government of Canada institutions to disclose information in a responsible manner to designated recipient institutions. Only institutions with jurisdiction or responsibilities related to the security of Canada will be designated to receive information relevant to their responsibilities.
It is important to note that this authority will be carefully circumscribed to ensure that the sharing is both effective and responsible and that the new act respects the privacy of individuals.
We are introducing amendments to certain acts to resolve existing barriers. For example, we will amend the Customs Act to allow CBSA to share customs information. We will amend the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act to allow the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development to share information collected under the act using the new authority. We will amend the Income Tax Act and the Excise Act to allow for the disclosure of taxpayer information when it would be relevant to threats to national security, to a terrorism offence, or to a money-laundering offence related to a terrorism offence.
I want to stress, however, that if other acts that are not amended by the bill prohibit the sharing of information, those prohibitions will be respected. In other words, the new security of Canada information sharing act will not override prohibitions in law.
The proposed legislation will go a long way in helping to keep Canada more secure. It will allow information to be shared more easily in some circumstances where there is a gap in the lawful authority to do so. It will help resolve the confusion and risk aversion resulting from current and ad hoc complex policy and legal framework, and it will provide a solid foundation for future information-sharing practices.
I want to be clear here, however, that these changes are being done with the full consideration of Canada's privacy laws. Indeed, this is not about collecting new information; this is simply about improving how information already being collected by organizations is shared.
There will be a number of checks and balances in place. For example, each organization will share information at its own discretion, not as a requirement. Institutions can also be excluded from the application of the act through the Governor in Council process. This is important as we recognize there are instances where sharing between some institutions is not appropriate. Institutions that receive information must continue to respect any caveats attached to the information or originator controls. Independent review bodies as well as the Privacy Commissioner and Auditor General will continue to scrutinize information-sharing activities.
Those are some of the robust controls that are in place to ensure Canadians that we are safeguarding their right to privacy. For greater certainty and clarity, our government moved amendments at committee related to these measures. Among these, we are ensured that the security of Canada information sharing act will explicitly exclude information sharing related to all forms of advocacy, protest and dissent. It will only authorize sharing of information that is relevant to national security.
In this day and age of complex and sophisticated security threats, federal departments and agencies must have the ability to seamlessly share information with each other. This is paramount to keeping Canada safe. With that in mind, we must move forward with this legislation without further delay.