Mr. Marcel Proulx (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Lib.)
Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Minister of Transport, pursuant to section 85.1 of the Canada Transport Act, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Air Travel Complaints Commissioner for July 1, 2002 to December 31, 2002.
Hon. Wayne Easter (Solicitor General of Canada, Lib.)
Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to address the House on matters of national security. As parliamentarians, we have a duty to the people of Canada to represent, to serve and to debate. As a minister I have a responsibility to inform and that is my purpose here today.
We live in a world still scarred by the events of September 11, 2001. Since then, the world and Canada have taken great strides to enhance security. Terrorist networks have been disrupted, but they are still capable of striking. The attacks in Bali, Saudi Arabia and Morocco are proof of this. That is why it is more important than ever to ensure we do whatever we can to protect Canadians, our countries, and our friends from the threat of terrorism. That is why it is as important to understand what is going on halfway around the world as it is to understand what is happening in Canada.
Canada is not immune from the threat of terrorism. In fact, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, whose public report I have tabled today, is aware of emerging terrorist threats and tactics that could have severe consequences for Canadians. The possibility that chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons could be acquired and used by terrorist groups must be taken seriously. We cannot be complacent and simply believe that it could not happen.
In November last year, the media reported widely on a statement attributed to Osama bin Laden, including Canada among countries deserving, from his perspective, retribution for supporting the war on terror. We must acknowledge that Canada is threatened by terrorism. Simply wishing otherwise will not make it go away. That said, there is a need to balance the interests of the state and the broader community with the rights and freedoms of individuals.
Canada has become increasingly involved in the campaign against terror. From the listing of entities, to the freezing of assets, to the signing and ratification of international agreements, our efforts to combat terrorism have been both comprehensive and balanced. We continue to work with our international partners, especially those in the G-8. In fact, the Prime Minister just attended one such meeting in this ongoing effort.
On December 24, 2001, the Anti-Terrorism Act was brought into force. It has new and strong powers, and provides government with the ability to create a list of terrorist entities based on intelligence reports and information that the entity either has carried out, participated in or facilitated a terrorist activity. So far, we have listed 26 entities and work continues to identify and list more. The consequences of dealing with a listed entity are severe. In addition to seizure and forfeiture of property, penalties include up to 10 years imprisonment.
As required under the new legislation, the government has already reported to Parliament on the use of the new provisions in the act. As we have said before, we want to ensure our law enforcement and security intelligence agencies have the tools they need to protect Canadians, and we have done so while respecting the fundamental rights of Canadians to privacy. Safeguarding the public against the threat of terror remains the service's first priority, with Islamic extremism being at the top of the list in its counterterrorism program.
The September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States clearly demonstrated the threats posed by these groups. But the global security environment constantly changes and we must be aware of that. We must stand on guard against these dangers and adapt to the challenges they pose.
We must ensure we have the best people, the best information, and the most up to date technology and legislation to fight these threats. We have been active on all these fronts. Advances in communication and transportation as well as increased trade and migration have affected every part of our lives. They have also affected how we must protect ourselves against terror.
It is increasingly clear that no one agency or single government can fight this threat alone. Partnerships and cooperation are at the heart of our efforts to maintain safety and security. As far as CSIS is concerned, I am pleased to confirm that this cooperation already existed before, but has been solidified since, especially with agencies in the United States, our neighbour and friend. CSIS maintains relationships with departments and agencies at all levels of government in Canada and with more than 230 foreign agencies in over 130 countries.
Since September 11, 2001, CSIS has significantly increased its information exchange with its partners, but it has not changed the fundamental way it works. Security intelligence is still collected, analyzed, and reported to government according to the same methods and procedures laid down in the legislation that created the service as a separate, civilian, security intelligence organization nearly 20 years ago. However, the war on terror has intensified the pressures and demands on the service, and it has focused the attention of the world. We are part of a global effort to keep our countries and our communities safe, free, and free from fear.
Our war on terrorism is a war against those who create fear by murderous means, those who would indiscriminately inflict harm on our people, and those who seek to attack our way of life through violent means and hide in the very freedoms that our society provides.
Let me be perfectly clear. The war on terrorism will continue and undergo even more changes in the future. Recent events remind us that Canada is not immune from the threat or from acts of terrorism. That is why CSIS and its partners will continue to work to disrupt support of terrorism financing networks in Canada, deny refuge in this country to members of terrorist organizations, and ensure the security of all Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the official opposition, the Canadian Alliance, I welcome this opportunity to respond to the Solicitor General's statement. I must question why the statement was made. The Solicitor General, other than tabling the Canadian Security Intelligence Service public report, provided us with absolutely no new information or updates on the status of security in this country. Repeatedly the Solicitor General stated:
We must acknowledge that Canada is threatened by terrorism. Recent events remind us that Canada is not immune from the threat or from acts of terrorism.
The Solicitor General and the government should have recognized this long before September 11. Canada is not immune and was not immune from terrorism.
I stood in the House together with many of my Canadian Alliance colleagues months prior to September 11 condemning the government and questioning it for its failure to take the threat of terrorism and the threat of organized crime in this country seriously. Since 9/11 we have repeatedly demanded that the government improve the intelligence capability of our security forces by providing them with the much needed resources to do their job effectively.
We have repeatedly condemned the government for the inordinate amount of time it took to compile the initial listing of terrorist entities and the snail's pace at which it brought other names forward to be added to that list. Bill C-36, the anti-terrorism act, received royal assent in December 2001. It is a year and a half later and only 26 entities are listed as terrorist organizations, while the United Nations' list includes and identifies some 200.
Once again I take great exception to the Solicitor General's contention that the government's efforts to combat terrorism have “been both comprehensive and balanced”.
If, as we have said repeatedly, the government is truly committed to the global war on terrorism, the Solicitor General should be doing much more, such as identifying and listing the entities at a much faster rate and significantly increasing the resources to both CSIS and the RCMP. The government should be tightening airport and port security. It should be providing CSIS with the power and the authority to operate abroad rather than relying and piggybacking on other foreign countries for intelligence information.
As a member of the Subcommittee on National Security, I have repeatedly questioned witnesses regarding whether or not the powers of CSIS should be expanded, or whether a new and separate agency should be established based on differing opinions and different individuals coming forward with different ideas regarding this.
In 2002 Richard Fadden, the former deputy clerk of the Privy Council, publicly questioned if it was “time to think about a formalized capacity to collect foreign intelligence”.
Although the director of CSIS disputes it, many experts claim that CSIS is limited by law from taking an offensive stance with overseas espionage, relying primarily on the help of spy services from other countries for its external intelligence. Furthermore, a federal study concluded that Canada needs overseas units to intercept and obstruct criminals and/or their illegal commodities from reaching Canadian shores.
The former foreign affairs minister, and one of the Liberal leadership hopefuls, is on record as stating that rather than expanding foreign intelligence capabilities to CSIS, he would prefer a separate agency established within foreign affairs, much like the United States' Central Intelligence Agency.
A number of security experts have strongly suggested that the government establish a formal ministry of national security headed by a single cabinet minister with foreign intelligence capabilities. This recommendation was made in respect to concerns raised in 1996 by the Auditor General that there was within our national security information systems “a pattern of inadequate information to support front line officials responsible for national security”. In other words, put it under one cabinet post, under one portfolio.
Many concerns have been raised regarding the lack of coordination and cooperation within the 17 different federal departments and agencies with national security responsibilities. Yet, the present Solicitor General and other solicitor generals have failed to address the Auditor General's 1996 findings. The Solicitor General has failed to initiate the debate regarding establishing a new national security ministry. He has failed to provide our security forces with the power and capabilities to collect foreign intelligence.
We continually hear how important it is that we rely on foreign countries. We agree it is important that we need to coordinate a network but we have no, or very little, capability to gather our own information.
Therefore, I take great exception to the Solicitor General's statement that CSIS has significantly increased its information exchange with its partners. I take great exception to the assertion that Canada has become increasingly more involved in the campaign against terror. More important, I take great exception to the Solicitor General coming to the House today and making a statement on security that provides absolutely no new information, no new announcements and no new updates as to the state of security in this country.
Mr. Speaker, in response to the statement made by the Solicitor General, I must echo the sentiments expressed by my colleague from the Canadian Alliance.
This statement is useless. It contains no new information. A year and a half after the events of September 11, 2001, the government tells us that terrorism could affect Canada and Quebec. Everyone knows this, this statement contains nothing new.
This statement simply takes up time in the House to tell us what everyone knows. We know that terrorism could strike Canada and Quebec. Why bother making a statement about it? Again, it is so the minister can use time use time in the House to say nothing.
At some point, whether in committee or in the House, he needs to answer instead of making statements that are obvious to everyone. We do not have certain information on specific issues. I have been asked questions about the sponsorships program. We asked him how many files were under investigation. How many files were transferred to the RCMP? How many charges have been laid in relation to the sponsorship program?
Yet, the Solicitor General never has anything to say about these issues. That is when he should be making statements. But today, what new policy did he announce? What is the organization or department that he could have created to deal with the problem of national security?
There was nothing new. He just wanted to take time in the House to make a statement in front of the television cameras. That is about the only time we get to see him these days, on television. He needs to answer our questions about various situations we ask him about, but when we do, he says nothing.
During a meeting of ministers of justice at the G-8 summit in Paris, he was ridiculed. All of the other countries were asking him, “What are you going to do about the national security situation in your country?” All the Solicitor General did was mention the measures he has taken, such as Bill C-36, the Anti-terrorism Act, or Bill C-17.
He takes his orders from the United States. We have lost some fundamental rights and we also have a problem with privacy rights. The Solicitor General has created nothing new. All he has done is tell us what has been done over the last year and a half. Is this a situation that should continue or should it improve?
In his statement we see that CSIS is doing some new work, that it is dealing with more information, which is completely false. Whenever he is asked questions on this subject in committee, the Solicitor General can say nothing. He hides behind the confidentiality of CSIS and we cannot get any information out of him.
This Solicitor General took up his position at a very critical time, but since then he has been very quiet, except for coming here to announce that another organization has been put on the list of terrorist entities. Today, he has told us absolutely nothing new in terms of policy.
Why is it that we cannot use codes like the United States does, if there are threats or dangerous situations on the horizon? They talk about code red, code orange, code yellow, to let the public know whether the threats are real or not. The Solicitor General has no vision and he does not inform the public, except to deliver a completely meaningless statement. I repeat: his statement is meaningless. All he has done is make a statement about something we have all known about for a year and a half.
When the G-8 justice ministers met, he could have been more specific. This Solicitor General said: “Before an identity card including biometrics and fingerprints, is issued, privacy issues will have to be considered”.
I was there and I can tell the House that when the Solicitor General raised this point, he was rebuffed by the representatives of the seven other countries, as well as the European Union. He did not even get up; he did not take up the torch and say, “We have to be careful when dealing with a misconception; we must not give the public a false impression”.
They are undermining fundamental rights; they are vindicating Bin Laden, who orchestrated a totally senseless act on September 11. Is Canada truly threatened? No one knows. We are told that there are potential threats.
However, in making useless statements and addressing this issue yet again, one year and one-half years after the fact, the purpose is not to alarm the public, it is merely an attempt to keep people informed, to ask them to stay on their guard and to tell them that we absolutely have to pass legislation to protect our nation and keep it safe. Come on.
The Solicitor General is only making these statements to open the door to other antiterrorism bills, such as Bills C-36 and C-17. Consider Bill C-17. Whenever people, whether it is you, I or one of my hon. colleagues, travel outside or inside Canada or Quebec, their personal information is collected just in case an officer suspects that such individuals have ties to terrorists. Come on.
Once again, the RCMP will use these lists to obtain information blindly, which goes against our privacy. No one here, in Canada or Quebec, will be able to ask that this information be removed if no such link to terrorists is found. The assumption here is that any of us could be a terrorist.
But once again, today, I am obliged to comment on such a hollow statement. Other things could have been discussed today, instead of this.
We know that there are potential terrorists throughout the world, particularly in free countries such as ours. But there is an attempt here to cost this country and Quebec all their hard-earned freedom and democracy because the current argument is based on hypothesis. If such situations do exist, we would ask that such information be provided when we ask for it. The same goes for the sponsorship program. The Solicitor General should answer questions, when asked.
Mr. Peter MacKay (Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, PC)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to comment on the minister's statement on security, which is a very important issue in this country at this time.
Unfortunately, the minister's statements this morning do not give any indication that the country's security has improved.
It is wonderful the minister has come here this morning to tell us that he recognizes his obligation to report to this House and to report to Canadians about the state of security. Unfortunately, he has not provided the necessary assurances that we are looking ahead. This seems to be very much a status quo report of what has happened since the time of the threat to North America being augmented by the attacks on Washington and New York City. We need to be as cognizant of the fact that the world has changed substantially and that with these changes we must be proactive in meeting the challenges head on.
The threat of terrorism is real, as the minister said, but it exists beyond our own borders. The attacks on the United States have been a harsh reality check for everyone. We need to work cooperatively with all elements of security around the world. We have to be very proactive, as the minister has recognized by ending financing of terrorism. We must ensure that no one is left with the inaccurate opinion that Canada is a safe haven for terrorists.
As we have witnessed in the past number of days with a warning from our closest ally south of the border, the United States, we must work cooperatively to enhance the exchange of information among nations if we are to succeed in eradicating terrorism. We must be diligent in our own security forces in ensuring the sharing of information between our forces here at home, and finding ways of intensifying and accelerating the exchange of operational information, especially regarding the movement of terrorism, forged travel documents, traffic in arms, the use of communication technology and the possession of weapons of mass destruction by terrorist groups. This is an ongoing challenge, admittedly, and our intelligence agencies in Canada have worked very diligently but under sometimes strained circumstances. I would suggest their resources do have to be increased significantly.
As American Ambassador Paul Cellucci said quite recently, security trumps trade. We must be cognizant of the broader implications for not acting upon the current situation. We must commit to work closely with the United Nations and other international organizations, including the G-8, in the fight against terrorism. Clearly, it does not stop at our border. In so doing, the ultimate goal should be the protection of the Canadian public and a warning system that provides advance notice against threats to North American security.
The national extension of NATO is a security perimeter, a North American security perimeter, and is a policy I believe we should examine. CSIS works with over 230 foreign agencies in over 130 countries, but this government can do more to facilitate action against terrorism. I believe we should certainly be examining the need for CSIS to have a presence abroad that would include foreign intelligence gathering capability.
The Anti-terrorism Act, Bill C-36, which is now in effect, does give the government strong powers, powers which provide the government the ability to create the list of terrorist entities that are currently based on intelligent reports and information. A balanced approach must be always be taken, however I believe this capability has not been used effectively since this act's inception. The information must be accurate at all times and acted upon to serve its basic purpose.
This alone is not enough. We must see the inclusion of the 26 terrorist entities on the list as a positive move, but Canada must embrace a spirit of cooperation with other countries to regard this as a very real action against terrorism. A strong North American security perimeter will be needed and Canada must work closely with our North American partners to develop such a plan.
There are a number of ways in which we can build upon the excellent work of the men and women who are tasked with the security of Canada. Ports police should be examined. We should very much move toward securing the ports of North America and Canada. This alone is perhaps the biggest threat to North American security, with the number of container ships that move into Canada every day, the amount of traffic that comes into these ports and the ability to bring anything from child pornography to a nuclear bomb into this country. I do not want to sound alarmist but with the number of containers coming into Canada we have to do more to secure our ports.
Targeted resources for our Coast Guard, military and frontline law enforcement must be pursued. This is a strong priority at this time in our country's history. We need strong, effective leadership on this account. I would urge the Solicitor General to make strong representations to his cabinet colleagues to increase resources in these areas. This will be the basis for providing Canadians with a plan of action, a plan of action in response to the cowardly acts of terrorism at home and abroad.
We applaud the job of CSIS but we realize as a nation that we must maintain our resolve and we must stand with those individuals; stand on guard for all Canadians.
The Solicitor General has an important historic role to play in Canada's future on this file. We wish him well in this regard. We appreciate him bringing this information before the House.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise in the House today to respond to the statements made by the Solicitor General on the question of national security, and the report that is being tabled in the House.
First off, the NDP has been a party in this Parliament that has stood up time and again to speak out and express what I think are the really very deep concerns of Canadians around issues of security as well as the increasing use of very substantive strong legislative powers, such as Bill C-36, which go far beyond the purview of dealing with security and which move us into the environment of fundamental civil liberties, a right to privacy and respect for the rights of individuals.
In our party, our former House leader, the member for Winnipeg—Transcona, our former justice critic, our current justice critic, the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle, as well as the member for Windsor—St. Clair, in fact all of us in our caucus, have really monitored and analyzed the government's performance and progress or lack thereof on the issue of national security.
Since the passage of Bill C-36, the anti-terrorism legislation, in December 2001, we have had increasing concerns about what is happening as a result of this legislation, as well as other legislation that has been approved and is currently in the process of being debated, legislation such as Bill C-17, the public safety act which is currently before the House and Bill C-18, the new citizens act. What holds these pieces of legislation together is they all contain extraordinary powers that when used by organizations like CSIS or the RCMP, can fundamentally violate the rights of individual Canadians.
While the minister has said today that there is a threat against Canada in terms of terrorism, it is most important that we ensure the war on terrorism does not also become a war on targeted minorities, especially those Canadians of Middle Eastern background or from the Muslim community.
We have been monitoring various cases that have taken place in Canada. We are very aware of the fact that there has been an increase in problems at border crossings for Canadians. They are being held up, being fingerprinted, having mug shots taken and being turned back. We are seeing an increase of racial profiling take place.
The whole question of the harmonization of our borders with the U.S. under the guise of security is something that should be of deep concern to us. One of the fundamental problems is whether we have adequate civilian oversight in terms of what is taking place as a result of this legislation being implemented and others that are now about to be approved through the House.
Even over the last few days, in the House of Commons in question period, the Solicitor General has been questioned by members of the opposition, including our party, about the role that CSIS has played. While in his statement today the minister claims that this department acts in full cooperation with all other federal departments, clearly what is coming out of the trial which is underway in Vancouver on the Air India case are some very serious questions about the lack of cooperation and the territorialism between the RCMP and CSIS.
We have a very significant concern about the nature of the work of CSIS as it is implemented as a result of legislation like Bill C-36, and who is actually protecting the civil liberties of Canadians.
I notice that today in the minister's statement that he barely mentioned that element. It seems to us that this is a fundamental question which the government needs to monitor in terms of, as he himself has argued today in the House, legislation that has incredibly strong powers.
We want to know why the Solicitor General is not taking the necessary steps to ensure there is proper civilian oversight of Canada's secret police. We want to know why there is not adequate civilian oversight on legislation like Bill C-36. We want to know how groups can be added to lists and yet there is not adequate disclosure for the reasons behind it.
However the biggest concern we have and one which has been expressed by many Canadians is that the legislation would create a political and social environment where people become suspect on the basis of how they look, where they come from or what their religion is.
I see the Solicitor General smiling at this but this is a very serious question. We have cases in Canada, such as the case of Mohamed Harkat who has been in jail since December 2002. We have the case of Mahmoud Jaballah who has been in jail since August 2001 on the basis of security certificates. A couple of cases were recently shut down by a judge as not having merit.
Today I will be going to the citizenship committee where we are beginning clause by clause debate on Bill C-18 where the use of security certificates will now be extended into possible use against citizens. The net is widening and the powers are widening and it is done, we hear from the government, on the basis of protecting Canadian security.
What about the protections of our democratic rights? Who in the government, what agency, what body is providing that kind of accountability so Canadians can be assured that the legislation, which was previously approved, does not go so far down the road that we have fundamentally changed the nature of our society?
We appreciate the fact that the report has been tabled today but we want to say in response that we have deep fears and concerns about the report, about the powers that have been given to CSIS and other law enforcement agencies, and about the continual undermining and erosion of democratic rights and civil liberties in the country based on the guise of security. This is something that we will continue to speak out on in the House to ensure that the government is held to account.
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The standing orders do not provide for a government member to comment on a ministerial statement as we have before the House. Therefore I would seek unanimous consent to be allowed about three minutes to make a comment on the Solicitor General's statement.