Mr. LaVar Payne (Medicine Hat, CPC)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak about the protection of Canada from terrorists act. This is an important bill that would allow our government to move forward on our commitment to keep Canadians safe from terrorist threats.
The international jihadist movement has declared war on Canada and her allies. That is why our government has committed the Canadian Armed Forces to the broad international coalition against the so-called Islamic State. No Canadian government should ever stand on the sidelines while our allies act to deny terrorists a safe haven, an international base from which they could plot violence against us.
Recent events of terror around the globe, and particularly the two tragic attacks last October in Quebec and Ottawa and the recent attacks in Paris, have pushed this issue to the forefront of the government's agenda in a way never before seen in Canada's history. It is now abundantly clear to all Canadians that terrorism is no longer a threat in a faraway land. We must degrade and destroy the terrorists before they bring their barbaric, violent ideology to our shores.
In light of the atrocities carried out by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, ISIL, and the deteriorating situation in Iraq and Syria, the world is rallying against the threats of violent extremism. That is why we have introduced the protection of Canada from terrorists act. Now, more than ever, we must ensure that CSIS can undertake its work as it was originally intended by Parliament.
While this legislation is important, it is not lengthy or complicated. In fact, the proposed amendments are targeted and common sense. However, any time a government introduces legislation concerning national security, there are those who raise concerns, which can lead to misunderstanding. As a result, there has been some confusion about what this legislation would do.
Allow me to start with what it would not do. It would not, as some have suggested, hand broad, sweeping powers to CSIS. Just as importantly, it would not create new authorities or infringe on the rights of Canadians. We have been abundantly clear on these points. With this legislation, as with all bills that have passed through the House, our government has worked diligently to strike a proper balance between public safety and civil liberties.
Thirty years ago, when the CSIS act was passed, the Parliament of the day ensured that this balance was adhered to in the authorities given to CSIS. That is why the act put in place robust safeguards, oversight, and review mechanisms to ensure that CSIS's investigative work is done with full respect of its governing laws.
As we know, Bill C-44 responds to court decisions that are having a significant impact on CSIS operations. Before I go into the provisions of the bill, I would like to provide some context on these decisions and why they necessitate the amendments before us today.
Just last fall, the Federal Court of Appeal unsealed its July 2014 decision related to the government's appeal of Justice Mosley's decision that was issued by the Federal Court in November 2013. This decision has raised important questions about certain aspects of CSIS's mandate and investigative authorities, particularly in relation to CSIS's ability to conduct investigations outside of Canada.
It is self-evident that Parliament always intended CSIS to be able to take reasonable and necessary measures to investigate threats to the security of Canada outside of Canada. The protection of Canada from terrorists act introduces targeted amendments to the CSIS act to ensure that CSIS can continue to do just that and do so in a manner that is consistent with relevant Canadian law, the Charter, and Canadian values.
To start, the bill would confirm CSIS's authority to conduct investigations outside of Canada related to threats to the security of Canada and security assessments. At the same time, the bill would also confirm the authority of the Federal Court to issue warrants authorizing CSIS to undertake certain intrusive activities outside of Canada, and it would give the Federal Court authority to consider only relevant Canadian law, primarily the CSIS act and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, when issuing warrants for CSIS to undertake certain intrusive activities outside of Canada.
Why are these amendments important? It is because threats to the security of Canada do not stop at our border. Many threats, in fact, may develop entirely outside of Canada.
In order to fully investigate these threats, CSIS must be able to use intrusive investigative techniques outside of Canada, and it must have a clear means to obtain authorization to do so. The Federal Court of Appeal effectively found that, as currently written, the CSIS act may require CSIS to demonstrate that its activities will be lawful in the country where the activity will take place. This is not a reasonable threshold to require CSIS to meet. CSIS, and indeed the Federal Court, cannot reasonably expect to track the legislation of all 170 countries in the world to determine which kinds of activities are lawful in those countries and which ones are not. It is also unreasonable because subjects of investigation move around from country to country and CSIS cannot reasonably be expected to predict to which countries a subject of investigation might travel. It is clear that Parliament did not intend CSIS to meet such a threshold when it originally passed the CSIS act, and neither should we here today.
Just to re-emphasize the fact that CSIS must have a clear authority to conduct investigative activities outside of Canada, let me say this. At a time when we are witnessing Canadians travelling abroad to take part in terrorist activities, we simply cannot have ambiguity or questions about CSIS's authority to take reasonable steps outside of Canada to investigate the threat to the security of Canada that they may pose.
Turning to the second court decision affecting CSIS operations, in May 2014, as part if its decision on Mohamed Harkat, the Supreme Court of Canada stated that CSIS human sources do not benefit from a common-law class privilege similar to the informer privilege applicable to police informants. While this does not necessarily mean that these CSIS sources will be revealed during court proceedings, it has weakened CSIS's ability to provide human sources—a critical source of information for CSIS—with a credible assurance that their identity would be protected. The implications of this are serious, as those human sources may decide not to provide CSIS with information that could be vital to an investigation of a terrorist threat to Canada. To address this issue, the bill provides that the identities of CSIS human sources would be prohibited from being disclosed in legal proceedings.
However, it is worth noting that this is subject to certain exceptions to preserve the right of Canadians to fair legal proceedings. To this end, the legislation includes three measures under which this protection could be lifted.
First, the human sources could, of their own accord, agree to the disclosure of their identity in court, subject to the consent of the director of CSIS.
Second, parties to the proceedings could ask a judge to make a ruling regarding the human source. For example, is the individual in fact a human source, and could the information in question actually reveal the identity of the human source?
Third, in criminal proceedings, defendants and any other party to the proceedings would be able to ask a judge to declare that the disclosure of the identity of a human source or information from which their identity might be inferred is essential to establish the innocence of the accused.
More important, these amendments would not in any way interfere with the ability of judges to take other measures to ensure the fairness of legal proceedings beyond revealing the identity of a CSIS human source. Judges also have broad discretion to determine the weight to give to information provided by CSIS human sources in legal proceedings. The proposed amendments would not affect this discretion in any way.
The protection of Canada from terrorists act would also make technical amendments to the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act. These amendments would allow earlier implementation of provisions that ensure that dual citizens who have been convicted of terrorist acts and sentenced to a prison term of at least five years would not continue to benefit from Canadian citizenship.
The amendments that our government has proposed through the protection of Canada from terrorists act are reasonable, necessary, and consistent with the values of Canadians. The Federal Court of Appeal and decisions from the Federal Court have raised important questions about CSIS's mandate and investigative authorities, and the Supreme Court of Canada's decision has weakened CSIS's ability to protect the identity of human sources.
Parliament must respond to these decisions by affirming CSIS's existing authority to conduct investigative activities outside of Canada, clearly stating that the Federal Court does have jurisdiction to issue warrants for activities outside of Canada, including certain intrusive activities that may be unlawful in the jurisdiction where they would take place, and stating that Parliament wishes the identity of CSIS human sources to be protected from disclosure in legal proceedings, subject to certain exceptions.
CSIS would, as always, continue to be required to obtain judicial authorization to undertake certain intrusive investigative techniques in relation to Canadians, and also remain subject to robust review by the Security Intelligence Review Committee, CIRC, which has access to all information in the possession of CSIS, except cabinet confidences.
CIRC's powers of review are among the most far-reaching of any body reviewing any intelligence agency in the western world. I believe that these amendments are critical to ensuring safety and security of Canadians.
Canadians expect us to ensure that our law enforcement and national security agencies have the tools to keep them safe. That is why we have trusted our Conservative government to deliver on these important issues. Unlike the NDP, whose leader has refused to call the atrocities that occurred in late October a terrorist attack, we have taken strong action, except when he asked for 24-hour, 7-day-a-week police protection.
I have a question for the NDP leader, and perhaps some of his colleagues could answer me today. If what happened in this place was merely caused by a drug addict who was mentally unstable, why did the NDP leader demand additional RCMP security? I can tell him why. It is because, despite his leftist rhetoric, he knows that there is a real and present terrorist threat.
I was pleased to see earlier this week that the Liberals have finally adopted our approach on national security. Hopefully they have rejected their ill-advised approach of looking for the root causes of terrorism, as their leader suggested after the bombing at the Boston Marathon. I can tell the Liberals exactly the root cause of terrorism in plain language that all Canadians can understand. The root cause of terrorism is terrorists.
I hope all members will join me in supporting this very important legislation.
Subtopic: Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act