Mr. Speaker, it is privilege for me to rise today to speak to Bill C-59, which deals with the anti-terrorism measures put in place by the previous government.
For obvious reasons, I do not intend to support Bill C-59, which was introduced by the Liberal government. First, this bill weakens the measures that we have available to us as a society to fight terrorism. It is important to remember that Bill C-51 was introduced in the wake of two terrorist attacks that occurred here in Canada, the first in Saint-Jean-Richelieu and the second here in Ottawa. That was in October 2014.
At the time, the Quebec minister of public security, Lise Thériault, called me and told me that there had been an accident in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu. I responded that that was unfortunate. Then she told me that someone had died. I told her that that was tragic. Finally, she told me that it was tragic but that they also suspected we were dealing with a terrorist attack.
We sometimes think that terrorist attacks occur only in other countries, but sometimes they happen in our communities, like Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, in the heart of Quebec. Hatred prompted an individual to attack a member of the Canadian Armed Forces, in this case Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent.
I remember the ceremony I attended in November 2014, before entering the House. We honoured Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent with members of his family. I remember the words of his sister, Louise Vincent, who said, “Patrice Vincent, my brother, the warrant officer, was a hero.”
Mr. Vincent had a successful career in the Canadian Armed Forces, although by no means an illustrious one. He was a good serviceman nonetheless, always ready and willing to serve. His plans for a well-deserved retirement were dashed when he was run down in a restaurant parking lot by an individual driven by extremist Islamist ideology. His sister also said she was surprised that Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent was targeted specifically because he was in uniform. She said, “Losing a brother is one thing, but knowing that it was due to a deliberate act is something else entirely.”
The attacker had a specific intention. We know the criteria for determining whether an attack qualifies as an act of terrorism. There was a political desire to commit murder in the name of an ideology, which obviously goes against our Canadian values. At the time, Prime Minister Harper said that “our country will never be intimidated by barbarians with no respect for the maple leaf or any other symbol of freedom”. He added:
When such cowards attack those who wear our uniform, we understand they are attacking all of us as Canadians...We are going to strengthen our laws here in Canada to stop those intent on importing an ideology that incites hatred, cruelty, and death in other parts of the world.
It is important to note that regardless of the speeches we given in the House and the partisan positions we may take, one of the overriding responsibilities of Parliament is to ensure the safety of Canadians, especially since in the past decade we have witnessed the emergence of ideologies that are increasingly spread by social media. That is why the anti-terrorism act was put in place. It provided certain tools to ensure that we were better prepared.
Clearly, when we think of the death of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, who was struck down by the vehicle of a radicalized young man in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu in 2014, we realize that it is important to ensure that our police forces, intelligence service, and the RCMP have all the tools they need to intervene.
This also impacts the legal aspect. While acting within the limits of the law and respecting fundamental freedoms, the police, with the co-operation and authorization of independent people such as judges, must have the legal tools to prevent terrorist attacks. That was the objective of the anti-terrorism measures introduced by Bill C-51.
Unfortunately, the Liberals decided to weaken this law. That is not surprising. As we saw during question period, the Liberals are showing a degree of spinelessness and indolence that is truly worrisome. For example, some jihadists, in particular members of ISIS, have created sites to spread propaganda in Canada. One of the pillars of the anti-terrorism act was to shut down websites promoting ideas that incite violence.
Unfortunately, the Liberals want to weaken these tools. There was the example mentioned in question period of a known terrorist who went to the Middle East and has now returned to Canada. We would expect the government to increase surveillance of this individual. However, we have learned that he parades in front of television cameras and boasts about his relations with ISIS terrorists. Furthermore, he even admits that he lied to CSIS so he could continue to conduct his activities.
This man's name is Abu Huzaifa. He is in contact with ISIS and appears to be fully in thrall to Islamic ideology. He is hiding information from the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and operates in such a way that our police officers do not necessarily have the tools to lay charges. He openly admits to having lied to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.
Here is our message to the government: we have these intelligence services, so the government has a political responsibility to signal zero tolerance for people who want to attack the pillars of our society. There have already been two tragic victims here in this country. We do not want that to happen again.
At this time, the government is lax and spineless, and that worries us. The individual in question, Abu Huzaifa, quotes the Quran and promotes all that hatred.
These people need to be kept under control. If charges are to be laid, that must be done so as to protect the people, because that is the government's job. A government's primary role is to protect its people. Unfortunately, Bill C-59 undermines the tools available to police forces and various other bodies to fulfill the state's primary responsibility.
For example, one of the provisions of the legislation would make it harder for the police to prevent a terrorist attack and would add red tape. When our intelligence services or police services are in the middle of the action and have sensitive information that could prevent a terrorist attack on Canadian soil, it is important that they can intervene. That is what the Anti-terrorism Act, 2015, provides for. There has been no major problem regarding the enforcement of that legislation, which the Liberals supported, I might add. At no time were the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the different statues that exist in Canada affected by the anti-terrorism legislation.
The Liberals' idea of keeping a promise, as we saw with their approach to legalizing marijuana, is to force it down the throats of Canadians. They are using the same approach with Bill C-59.
It is too bad because Canadians' safety is at stake. Again, the measures in Bill C-59 do not address an actual problem. There is an adage in English that says:
“If it ain't broke, don't fix it.”
If something is working, we must leave it alone, because the day we need it, the day the police learn of a potential terrorist attack, they will need all of the necessary tools to prevent this attack, in accordance with Canadian laws, of course.
I want to talk about another aspect of the bill that will muddy the waters even more. In Canada, the Security Intelligence Review Committee, or SIRC, is responsible for overseeing the operations of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. This body is the envy of all western democracies when it comes to the review of intelligence activities. The Security Intelligence Review Committee is an example to the world because it has the ability to dig through every nook and cranny of our intelligence agency. In other words, there is no spy in Canada who does not have SIRC constantly looking over his or her shoulder.
The current government created a committee that is so far off base. Canada already has a framework that allows for in-depth review of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. I must point out that the Anti-terrorism Act strengthened this power, even for threat reduction activities. When the measures in the Anti-terrorism Act were adopted, we not only ensured that police officers and agents at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service had more latitude, but we also ensured that all of these provisions would be covered by the Security Intelligence Review Committee. The act provides more powers, but there is also increased oversight.
We have a well-established and well-functioning system that is the envy of the world. It would have been smart for the government to expand the scope of that organization. The Liberals are obsessed with creating organizations and, as a result, they have just duplicated the Security Intelligence Review Committee and, in a way, created a new organization. We are talking about a new organization that has basically the same mission as the previous one, but it is not the same. In the end, they are undermining an excellent system in place for oversight of our intelligence agencies, and creating a new system that will duplicate it and cover other areas. They are creating confusion and more bureaucracy. What does this actually mean? Police officers are going to have more eyes looking over their shoulders. This will create confusion, more bureaucracy, and more red tape. The goal is for police officers and intelligence officers to be more accountable, but their primary mission is to protect Canadians.
Unfortunately, the Liberal approach is going to create more red tape and more obstacles. Meanwhile, we are learning that guys like Abu Huzaifa are free to roam this country, openly bragging about their associations with ISIS, and the government says it wants to welcome these people.
I think the government should be sending an important message, one that should convey zero tolerance for incitement to hate, for hate speech, and for anyone willing to use violence to achieve their ends. That is one of the flaws of this bill.
I mentioned the red tape and the duplication of an organization that, at the end of the day, is going to create confusion in the oversight of our intelligence activities.
On top of that, the government produced a huge document because it wanted to show that it supported the bill, but that there was still work to be done. It therefore added all kinds of regulations to the bill. In other words, it is creating a law and will make the regulations afterwards.
The regulations clarify the act. The advantage of that for the minister or the executive branch is that the regulations can be changed. The disadvantage of putting this sort of thing in an act is that then the government has to obtain the authorization of Parliament to change it, and we know how many steps are involved in that process. There is first reading, second reading, and third reading in the House of Commons, then the same in the Senate, and then Royal Assent. That is not to mention elections every four years, appointments, prorogations, and summer breaks.
Rather than having more flexible tools, the government is making the process unnecessarily cumbersome by putting most of the regulations for the Anti-terrorism Act into the grab bag it calls Bill C-59. That moves us further way from the main goal, which is to develop effective, legal tools to protect Canadians. That is another flaw.
Speaking of websites, as I was saying, one of the pillars of the Anti-terrorism Act is that it attacks the source of the violence, the hate speech that incites violence. Violent words lead to violent actions. That is why it is important to crack down on online content that incites violence. Once again, the government should be more vigilant and provide additional tools to accomplish that goal. There are provisions in the Criminal Code that deal with this sort of online content. Incitement to violence was a crime even before the Anti-terrorism Act came into force. In fact, the Criminal Code has been around since the beginning of time, or at least since the beginning of our parliamentary system. Incitement to violence goes against Canadian values.
Why interfere with the work of those responsible for protecting us and reducing violence at its source, where it really begins, on extremist websites, whether they be extreme left or extreme right? Right now, we are talking mainly about Islamist extremist websites, but that could change. The government could develop a tool to identify websites that incite people to violence.
I was honoured to be with the family of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent following his tragic death. During Patrice Vincent's funeral, Louise Vincent said that she hoped her brother's death would not be in vain. As parliamentarians, it is incumbent upon every one of us to ensure that the people who have sacrificed their lives so we can live freely and debate here in the House—always respectfully, whether we agree with one another or not—have not done so in vain. People have fought for our freedom. Some have even shed blood quite recently. As parliamentarians, we must ensure that those who are responsible for keeping us safe have the tools they need to take action. That is why the Anti-terrorism Act was enacted.
It is for those very reasons that I will oppose this Liberal bill. It undermines the tools we gave our police officers so they could protect the people of this country, which is the primary responsibility of any state.