Report from the Hill – Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015
I write to you today to present the details of and motivations behind Bill C-51 – Anti-Terrorism Act 2015. This new legislation that the Federal Government has introduced in the House of Commons, aims to keep Canadians safe from terrorist activities taking place in Canada. Two separate attacks in Canada in October 2014 prove that our nation is not immune to terrorist attacks. Furthermore, terrorist groups around the world, like ISIL, have explicitly declared war on Canada and our allies. We now live in a different time and consequently the Government must take action to try and prevent terrorist attacks and keep all Canadians safe.
Having been in Centre Block on Parliament Hill when the events of October 22nd took place, I can say that these threats are very real and very traumatic. Thankfully, due to the response of law enforcement and Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers, no-one, except for the shooter, was killed inside the Parliament buildings. However, the events of that day still trouble many of my colleagues on the Hill. Unfortunately, Corporal Nathan Cirillo was killed and our thoughts and prayers are with his friends and family as well as the friends and family of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, the victim of an attack in Saint-Jean-Sur Richelieu just 2 days earlier.
As I have stated above, times have changed and as a country, we must adapt to that change. This is why the Government is taking action to ensure that law-enforcement and national security agencies have the tools and powers they need to keep us all safe. Bill C-51 – The Anti-Terrorism Act 2015 will: criminalize the promotion of terrorism, ensure that powers exist to remove terrorist propaganda from the internet, ensure that CSIS has the ability to proactively stop terrorist plots before being carried out, prevent terrorists from travelling, ensure that law-enforcement has the tools needed to detain suspected terrorists, and ensure that Government agencies have the capacity to share information freely when there are threats to national security. These measures will ensure that those responsible for protecting us have the tools they need to do their job.
In the case of Martin Rouleau-Couture, the terrorist who murdered Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent in Saint-Jean-Sur-Richelieu, he had been on the RCMP’s radar for some time before committing this act. But, due to current legislation, the RCMP had no power to intervene and prevent Rouleau-Couture from carrying out his fateful plan. Under this new legislation, police will have the proper tools to proactively intervene, detain terrorists such as Rouleau-Couture and ultimately would have prevented this attack.
Recent arrests and charges laid in Ottawa in relation to the recruitment of Canadian citizens to fight for terrorist organizations highlight the need for measures contained within Bill C-51. The RCMP has arrested Awso Peshdary and have charged John Maguire and Khadar Khalib in absentia with terrorism related offences. Peshdary is believed to be the recruiter in this faction of the terror organization while Khalib is believed to be currently fighting with ISIL in Syria and John Maguire is believed to have been killed while fighting for ISIL. Had the new measures proposed within Bill C-51 been in place, the RCMP would have increased authority to intervene earlier and halt the recruitment of Canadians such as John Maguire and Khadar Khalib. Police would be able to proactively intervene in their investigation and prevent these suspected terrorists from travelling for the purposes of committing acts of terrorism or fighting against Canada with a terrorist organization.
There has been some recent misinformation and criticism presented on this bill that has caused some concern as to what exactly this legislation will do. These concerns are related to privacy and to oversight of national security agencies. I would like to be very clear that the measures contained within this bill related to the privacy of personal information will only be invoked when there is a threat to national security. Furthermore, these measures relate only to the sharing of information amongst different Government agencies. An example of this would be if a passport official who was performing a background check found that an individual could be linked to known terrorists in Canada or abroad. Under the current rules, it would be difficult for the official to share this information with other security agencies. Under this legislation, the sharing of this information would be simplified to ensure that security agencies have all of the information they need to prevent terrorist activity in Canada. The case of Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, the terrorist who murdered Corporal Cirillo and forcefully entered the Parliament buildings in Ottawa is a clear example of this. Zehaf-Bibeau was denied a passport due to suspected ties to terrorists in Canada and overseas. Under the new measures in Bill C-51, it would have been much simpler for Passport Canada officials to be able to alert national security agencies of the potential threat that he posed.
In regards to concerns about the oversight of national security agencies, it should be noted that there is currently a third-party, non-partisan, expert oversight framework in place to monitor these agencies. Furthermore, the key powers of this legislation will be subject to judicial review and authorization. There will therefore be a tremendous amount of oversight on these and all measures related to national security.
I would like to conclude by stating that terrorism is not simply a future possibility; it is a present reality. We live in a time where every day there are those planning to destroy the very foundations of who we are. During these times, it is the responsibility of any Government to keep its citizens safe. That is why the Canadian Government and Governments around the world are introducing legislation such as the Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015 to ensure that our law-enforcement and security agencies are able to proactively combat these threats.
In closing, like most Canadians, I value my privacy very much. However, I also believe that a minor infringement on my privacy is a small sacrifice to make in the effort to keep my family, friends, and neighbours safe from would-be terrorists. Again, it is not a matter of if or when terrorists in Canada will become a reality. That train left the station on October 20th and 22nd, 2014 and when the international terrorist movement declared war on our country.
Larry Miller, MP