In recent weeks there has been some confusion regarding Bill C-51, the Anti-terrorism Act, 2015.
I want to take this opportunity to provide you with more information on the purpose of this legislation.
On many occasions, the work of our national security agencies and police forces has foiled attempts to terrorize Canadians. Recent attacks around the world, however, reveal that terrorism is evolving.
Our government introduced the Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015 to keep up with the ever-changing terror tactics which now confront us.
This past week, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson came before the House of Commons Committee on Public Safety and National Security. He testified that Bill C-51 does clearly fill the gaps with our current legislation and would be very helpful as they change their policing focus towards a more proactive approach to intervening in counter radicalization initiatives.
Even with these reassurances, unfortunately, I feel there has been a degree of fear mongering in regards to the act from the Opposition.
Many have described the legislation as providing Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) with “nearly unlimited” or “secret police” powers, as well as using unclear language so as to apply to political protest and dissent and to define security threats as including activities that interfere with Canada’s infrastructure and economic stability.
The CSIS Act specifically states that “threats to the security of Canada do not include lawful advocacy, protest or dissent.” Bill C-51 states that “activity that undermines the security of Canada does not include lawful advocacy, protest, dissent and artistic expression.”
The government’s focus, as provided for in the CSIS Act, is on serious threats to the security of Canada, such as espionage, sabotage and foreign-influenced clandestine operations. Our security agencies are interested only in those who pose a serious threat to Canada’s security.
There are also those claiming that new powers granted to national security agencies tasked with protecting Canadians are not subject to proper oversight. They seek to increase parliamentary oversight of these institutions – putting Canada’s national security oversight in the hands of politicians.
Our government believes the best way to protect the fundamental freedoms of Canadians is to rely on our independent judiciary. This oversight is further strengthened by the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), which provides independent, non-partisan, expert, third-party advice regarding compliance with the law.
Included in the Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015 are other concrete measures to assist our security agencies, including: facilitating the sharing of information; pre-emptive measures to detain an individual who has demonstrated a degree of dangerous behaviour; and removing material likely to radicalize or recruit terrorists.
These measures also require judicial oversight and are similar to those found in major allied states.
Our police and national security agencies are working to protect our rights and our freedoms. Freedom and security go hand in hand. Canadians expect us to protect both, and there are protections in this legislation to do exactly that.
Cathy McLeod is the Conservative MP for Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo.