House of Commons Speeches & Debates

Speech on S-7, Combating Terrorism Act

May 3, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak in support of Bill S-7, the combatting terrorism act. As the world unfortunately witnessed last week, terrorism is still a very real evil threat that continues to threaten the world. The horrific bomb blast at the Boston Marathon and the terrifying aftermath that crippled the city have again demonstrated what terrorists strive for, which is the deliberate infliction of death or suffering upon innocent people to further some misguided cause. These horrendous acts of violence must stop, and the perpetrators who commit them must be punished to the furthest extent of the law.
It is precisely to prevent the scourge of terrorism from wreaking havoc in Canada that all members of the House need to stand together and support the enactment of Bill S-7. The enactment of Bill S-7 would bring back the investigative hearing, which is a procedure whereby a peace officer may apply to a judge for an order for a person to attend before the judge and be questioned in order to gather information or to produce a thing before the judge. The order can only be made where the judge is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to believe that a terrorism offence has been or will be committed. Thus, it applies to past as well as future terrorism offences.
This power contains numerous safeguards, such as the right to counsel and strong protections against self-incrimination. The bill adds safeguards that are not present in the original legislation. One of the key new safeguards is that in all cases, before granting the order to gather information, the judge must be satisfied that reasonable attempts have been made to obtain the information by other means. This is an important safeguard.
Bill S-7 also proposes to re-enact the recognizance with conditions. This is intended to disrupt terrorist activity from occurring. This provision would allow a peace officer, who believes on reasonable grounds that a terrorist activity will be committed and suspects on reasonable grounds that the imposition of a recognizance with conditions on a person is necessary to prevent the carrying out of a terrorist activity, to go before a judge to have the judge compel the person to attend before him or her. At a hearing the judge then determines whether to impose the recognizance on the person. This tool is a modified variant of other peace bond provisions found elsewhere in the Criminal Code.
The bill also proposes to create new terrorism offences that are designed to focus on the problem of Canadians going abroad to commit terrorism outside Canada. Unfortunately, we are all too aware in recent months of examples of such heinous behaviour. Bill S-7 proposes to create four new terrorism offences to help address this issue. These are the following: leaving or attempting to leave Canada for the purpose of knowingly participating in or contributing to any activity of a terrorist group, for the purpose of enhancing the ability of any terrorist group to facilitate or carry out terrorist activity; knowingly facilitating a terrorist activity; committing an indictable offence for the benefit of, at the direction of or in association with a terrorist group; and committing an indictable offence that constitutes a terrorist activity.
These are very important new laws that need to come into place, as we have seen what has gone on over the last week in Boston as well as even here at home. These are really important amendments that need to happen.
Bill S-7 would bring these amendments forward. These new measures are intended to prevent a person from leaving the country to participate in certain terrorism offences. It would make more robust the legal authority to arrest and prosecute a person who has left Canada or who is attempting to leave Canada for the purpose of, for example, attending a terrorist training camp. Communities are asking us for this.
Communities across the country are concerned when young people are being radicalized and leaving the country for this purpose. They want Canada to have strong laws in place to stop this. We really appreciate the fact that communities are working together with us. The penalties for these offences would send a strong signal that leaving the country to engage in terrorist activity is unacceptable.
Bill S-7 also proposes amendments to fulfill parliamentary recommendations that were made following a parliamentary review of the Anti-Terrorism Act, and amendments to the Canada Evidence Act that are proposed in order to bring the act in line with court rulings. The provisions in Bill S-7 have been drafted with due regard for the Constitution of Canada. For example, the new terrorism offences found in the bill have stringent requirements, such as proof as purpose to do wrong. The investigative hearing and the recognizance with conditions have several due process guarantees built into them and require annual reporting on their use by all governments, federal and provincial. As well, Bill S-7 requires Parliament to review the investigative hearings and the recognizance with conditions. We can see that there are strong and numerous safeguards built into this important piece of legislation.
In closing, I would like to express my deepest condolences to all of those who have suffered as a result of the despicable acts that occurred in Boston this last week. I hope, as I know all members of the House hope, that Canada will never have to suffer as Boston as suffered over the last week. We can only hope, though, that if such a terrible event were to happen in Canada, or if Canada were to become a target of terrorism, we would act as Bostonians have, with great courage and great resolution. The way that the city has come together has been an inspiration for all of us. They have shown the world that fear would not define them. I would hope that Canadians, if such a thing would happen, would do the same thing.
I would like to commend the Bostonians and honour them for what they have done, as a city and as our American neighbours. At the same time, I would like to say that it is so important to ensure that Canada has the necessary laws and tools to prevent such a heinous attack. We want to make sure we are fully prepared and that we can combat terrorism and possible future terrorist acts, as well as making sure that anyone who has been involved in terrorist acts in Canada is dealt with. We have to ensure that the evildoers are met with the justice that they deserve. Otherwise, we as parliamentarians have failed our most basic duty, and that is to protect Canadians. Therefore, I urge all members of the House to support the immediate and long overdue enactments of this important bill.