To the editor;
Following the introduction of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015, many Canadians have voiced their opinions on this important piece of legislation. Bill C-51 will protect our rights and freedoms by providing better tools to confront the twin challenges of our time: radicalization and terrorism.
As Canada’s Minister of Public Safety, I want to ensure the debate over C-51 is based on facts and not the alarmist mythology advanced by some critics of the Bill, including the Liberals, the NDP and certain academics.
Following terrorist attacks at Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, QC, and in the heart of our democracy, Parliament Hill, we have a moral imperative to act. The first duty of any government is the safety of its citizens. We must not fail in that duty.
The Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015 proposes the following measures to better protect Canadians:
• Criminalizing the promotion of terrorism, including websites promoting jihad;
• Granting authority to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) to disrupt threats while ensuring our courts exercise close oversight of such activities;
• Enhancing Canada’s Passenger Protect Program to prevent people seeking to participate in terrorist activities from travelling by air;
• Making it easier for law enforcement agencies to detain suspected terrorists before they can carry out attacks;
• Enabling the effective but responsible sharing of relevant national security information between federal departments and agencies.
Furthermore, the government continues to work with communities to prevent radicalization, particularly among Canada’s youth. The terrorist threat has greatly evolved in recent years and we have witnessed Canadians from all walks of life become radicalized. We must act to prevent this phenomenon. Therefore, we will criminalize the general promotion of terrorism to more effectively prevent radicalization and we will ask CSIS to disrupt terrorism by meeting the families and community leaders best positioned to intervene with individuals who have been radicalized.
Many allied countries’ intelligence agencies already have the capacity to disrupt threats in exactly the same way. As we said after the October 2014 terrorist attacks, we will not overreact, but neither can we afford to underreact. The Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015 achieves that fine balance.
Many Canadians I have spoken with shared concerns about their own security and that of their families. They can rest assured that, under Prime Minister Harper’s leadership, our government will take all necessary steps to safeguard our communities from terrorist threats.
Unlike the Liberals and NDP, who believe security and freedom are competing rights, our Government firmly believes these two values go hand-in-hand: there can be no freedom without security.
Like the vast majority of Canadians, I believe in the men and women of our police and security agencies who put themselves in harm’s way each day to protect us from danger. Moreover, I have full confidence in the independent, expert review bodies that watch over Canada’s law enforcement and security agencies.
As the Supreme Court of Canada wrote in 2007 about Canada’s Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC): “The SIRC process is…[an] example of the Canadian legal system striking a better balance between the protection of sensitive information and the procedural rights of individuals.”
Those words should inform and clarify the current debate over Bill C-51.
Unlike the Liberal and NDP parties, who would like politicians to interfere in the day-to-day operations of security agencies, we believe that receiving advice from independent experts, reporting to Canadians openly, is the best model.
In conclusion, we must remain vigilant against the threat of terrorism and adapt to protect our rights and freedoms. And that is exactly what the Anti-Terrorism Act 2015 does.
Steven Blaney, Minister of Public Safety and