Yesterday in Parliament – May 30 & 31, 2019

Jun 3, 2019 | Uncategorized

Yesterday in Parliament – May 30 & 31, 2019

House of Commons

Private Members Bill

Mr. Scott Reid (Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, CPC):

National Day of Solidarity with Victims of Anti-religious Bigotry and Violence

That the House recognize that acts of violence and bigotry directed against religious believers, such as the June 23, 1985, bombing of Air India Flights 182 and 301, the September 15, 2001, firebombing of the Hindu Samaj Temple and the Hamilton Mountain Mosque, the April 5, 2004, firebombing of Montreal’s United Talmud Torah Jewish school, and the January 29, 2017, murder of Muslims at the Quebec City Islamic Cultural Centre, are inimical to a free, peaceful, and plural society and declare January 29 of every year as National Day of Solidarity with Victims of Anti-religious Bigotry and Violence.

He said: Mr. Speaker, the first of my remarks, which will take about 10 of the 15 minutes allocated to me, deal with why I believe Canada needs a national day of solidarity with the victims of anti-religious bigotry and violence, which I intend to be understood as bigotry and violence in both their international and their domestic manifestations.

The remainder of my remarks will present the case for demarcating January 29 as the date on which to annually express this solidarity. January 29, 2017 was, of course, the date of the attack on the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec. This was the worst act of Islamophobic violence in this country’s history, and it was the worst act of anti-religious violence against members of any religious group in over a generation, claiming the lives of six men and leaving 19 others wounded, some severely.

Let me turn now to the first of the two parts into which I have divided my remarks. It is my belief that the greatest human rights challenge of our century is the persecution around the world of religious minorities. The issue of state-sponsored anti-religious bigotry, sometimes rising to the level of ethnic cleansing or genocide, is as great a challenge in our times as were the issue of slavery in the 19th century and the challenge of avoiding global war in the 20th century.

There is also a non-state version of the same problem. It comes in the form of acts of bigotry and violence against persons who have been targeted solely because of their religious identity by organized groups which, when they are tolerated or semi-tolerated by state authorities, can be described as death squads, and when they operate without any such state approval, we call terrorist groups. Finally, there are isolated individuals operating outside of any command structure and without material assistance from any group, who are sometimes characterized as lone wolves. The acts undertaken by these groups and individuals can, in the worst cases, amount to mass murder.

Intolerance and oppression against religious groups take many forms around the world. Here are seven concrete examples with deadly consequences. First, the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar. Second, the ruthless treatment of Christians in North Korea. Third, the murder of thousands of Christians in African countries. Fourth, the rise of anti-Semitism in places where I never thought such a thing would be possible, including the United Kingdom and the United States. Fifth, the egregious and sometimes murderous treatment of small groups like the Yazidi in Syria and the Baha’i in Iran. Sixth, the long-standing oppression of Tibetan Buddhists in China, and now the mass internment and widespread surveillance of Uighur Muslims in northwestern China. Seventh, the ongoing oppression of Falun Gong practitioners in China.

The worst form of intolerance is, of course, murder, and in the past two months alone, we have witnessed terrifying examples of mass murders of peaceful worshippers at prayer in the world beyond our borders, such as the mosque shootings in Christchurch on March 21, the church bombings in Sri Lanka on April 21, and the synagogue shooting in San Diego County on April 27.

These three incidents alone left over 300 Muslims, Christians and Jews dead and over 500 injured.

Please note that I have not broken down the foregoing death toll by the religion of the victims. It should be an article of faith to all Canadians that the adherents of all religions are brothers and sisters, and I think it is our instinct as a nation to feel that an attack that targets the members of any identifiable part of civilian population is, in practice, an attack on society itself.

If we take a closer look at the seven-item list that I have just read aloud, an important fact becomes apparent. The state oppressors and terrorist murderers of course identify and abuse their victims based upon their religious affiliation. However, more often than not, these victims are targeted because, in the eye of the perpetrators, their religion is important primarily as a symbol of something else, something entirely non-religious, such as advocacy of regional autonomy or independence, being unwanted foreigners, being a demographic threat, being manipulators of the law or the financial system and so on.

The victims of the Christchurch shootings, for example, were targeted because their faith was seen as being symbolic of their otherness, of the status of many of the worshippers as immigrants and of being part of a group imagined to be inherently resistant to assimilation.

The shooter at the California synagogue likewise claimed to be motivated by what is being described as white replacement theory or white genocide theory, in which race, religion and place of birth are conflated in such a fashion that being an adherent to any religious tradition other than that of the European-derived majority is seen as marking a person as a perpetual outsider, an outgroup member with no right to be here. In consequence, that person also has no right even to be alive, if killing that person can serve the greater purpose of sending the supposedly important message that others have no place here.

There was another claim made by the California gunman that ought to attract our attention. He asserts that a month prior to the synagogue shooting, he attempted to set fire to a mosque.

In the ideology of white nationalism, being Muslim or Jewish makes a person a perpetual outsider. As Mustafa Farooq observed a few weeks ago in The Guardian, in 2019 it is now true that “Anti-semitism and Islamophobia are two sides of the same coin”.

There was a time not so long ago when this thesis would have seemed preposterous. Today, as the testimony of the California gunman reveals, it is an established protocol in a living, if alarming, ideology.

Now let us take a look at the victims of the Sri Lanka bombings. One of the motivations of the killers seems to have been retaliation for the Christchurch shootings, even though it would have been obvious to even the most deluded individual that none of the Sri Lankan victims were involved in that crime in any way. How could they have been? Another motivation, according to the Sri Lankan government, was to strike back against the western countries that had crushed ISIL in Syria and Iraq, although, again, not even the most delusional person could have imagined that any of the victims bore even the most peripheral responsibility.

The reduction of human life to being merely symbolic of some half-baked group association and the conflation of religious identity with national identity, or with the foreign policy of this or that nation, or with simple otherness, are features of these terrorist acts.

About 10 years ago, I was the co-chair, along with Liberal MP Mario Silva, of a parliamentary coalition to combat domestic and international anti-Semitism. At that time, I thought this kind of fantastical group association was a burden borne uniquely by Jews, who were, and unfortunately still are, held collectively responsible for the transgressions, real and imaginary, of the State of Israel. This collective responsibility extended all the way up to the point that, in the eyes of some extremists, every Jew could be regarded as a legitimate target for deadly retaliation against a state of which, in most cases, they were not even citizens.

However, now I realize that this phenomenon is true for other victim groups as well, and that, unfortunately, it is true in Canada as much as in the rest of the world. For example, this country’s worst act of domestic terrorism took place in 1985, when Air India flight 182 exploded in mid-air on its way from Canada to London. We would later learn that the goal of the conspirators had been to kill as many Hindus as possible, because the perpetrators had, simplistically and unfairly, conflated Hindus as a whole with the Indian state. One of the militants said, “The Indian Government is our enemy, the same the Hindu society is our enemy” and, “Until we kill 50,000 Hindus, we will not rest”.

In the event, the Air India bombers killed 329 people. This included 200 Hindus, but also over 30 Sikhs and a number of people of other faiths.

Then there was the attack at the Centre culturel islamique de Québec. People who interacted with the shooter reported that he was both aggressively anti-immigrant and aggressively anti-Muslim. His attitude and his apparent desire to make immigrants feel unwelcome are strikingly similar to the ideology of the New Zealand shooter who came along two years later.

I would urge the House to keep that in mind while I change direction and draw a comparison between January 29 and November 11, which, as we all know, is Remembrance Day.

Exactly a century ago, in 1919, His Majesty King George V instituted a number of measures to express his gratitude to the millions of brave young volunteers from Great Britain, Canada and the whole world who lost their lives in the Great War. Of all the commemorative actions the king initiated, the longest lasting was his decision to designate one symbolic day of the year when we, as a society, take the time to reflect on the sacrifices of our courageous dead.

Accordingly, even though our soldiers perished in battle every day of the year, November 11 was selected because November 11, 1918, was the day the killing ended. Thus was born Remembrance Day, which, over the decades, has become a day for paying tribute not only to those who died during the Great War, but also to those who lost their lives during all the wars that followed, as well as during peacekeeping missions.

While the Great War did not turn out to be, as the leaders at the time had hoped, the “war to end all wars”, the sense of unity that is renewed each year on November 11 in our country is an enduring source of strength and unity for all of us.

The same logic ought to apply to choosing a day on which to express our solidarity as a nation with the victims of anti-religious bigotry and violence. January 29, 2017, was not, of course, the only day on which Canadians faced acts of outrageous bigotry.

The text of the motion cites three other dates: April 5, June 23 and September 15. However, to me, January 29 is an important symbolic date. In part, I see its symbolism as lying in the fact that it happened in Canada. Every MP, regardless of party affiliation, shares the aspiration that our country, of all countries, should be the safe haven, where every person of every religion can feel free to worship in safety and security. In part, January 29 seems to me to have a special symbolism, because the events of 2017 represent such a fresh wound, just as the Great War was still so fresh a wound when King George led the first November 11 commemoration in 1919.

I also see the symbolism of January 29 as lying in the fact that it was an attack on people at prayer, the most essential, foundational act of any religion whatsoever. If we want to express our solidarity with the victims of anti-religious bigotry and violence, whether that be in the form of Islamophobic bigotry, anti-Semitic bigotry or any form of anti-religious bigotry and violence whatsoever, then I feel it is best to do so by showing that we stand by our fellow citizens when they are most clearly and completely expressing their religious faith.

Finally, I see the significance of January 29 in the fact that it is possible to hope, to hope at least, that the shootings of January 29, 2017, will turn out to be what November 11, 1918, failed to be, the tipping point toward peace and the event that ends all such tragedies in this country so we can return to the role that ought to be ours in the world: the safest, most welcoming home for every Muslim, every Jew, every Christian, every Hindu, every Buddhist, every Yazidi, every Bahá’i, every atheist and every believer in any other religion or philosophy of life whatever, full stop.

House of Commons, May 31, 2019 

Statements by Members

Mr. Kyle Peterson (Newmarket—Aurora, Lib.):

Mr. Speaker, National AccessAbility Week is a week when we celebrate Canadians with disabilities and raise awareness of the need for greater accessibility and inclusion. For millions of Canadians, barriers to access and inclusion still exist. We know that society benefits when all Canadians are included and have access to their workplaces and communities. Can the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibilitytell the House how our government is addressing and reducing barriers to inclusion for all Canadians?

Ms. Kate Young (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Science and Sport and to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility (Accessibility), Lib.):

Mr. Speaker, our government believes that all Canadians deserve to have the same opportunities and chances at success. Bill C-81, the accessible Canada act, was passed with unanimous consent this week. Once it receives royal assent, it will allows us to transition from a system where Canadians with disabilities have to fight for every basic access, to a new system that systematically identifies and prevents barriers from the start. This legislation reflects the work and commitment of those in the disability community who, for years, have been tireless advocates of an accessible Canada. This success is theirs.

Senate, May 30 2019

Third Reading- National Security Bill 2017

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Gold, seconded by the Honourable Senator Mercer, for the third reading of Bill C-59, An Act respecting national security matters, as amended.

Hon. Jean-Guy Dagenais: Honourable senators, today I am pleased to share my observations on Bill C-59, An Act respecting national security matters, with you.

This is a particularly important piece of legislation that I cannot support as written.

When I spoke to Bill C-59 last year at second reading, I highlighted many of the measures proposed therein. Among them are the creation of a new organization to oversee national security called the national security and intelligence review agency. Along with the new organization comes the creation of a new position, the intelligence commissioner, who would be tasked with review and oversight duties in certain security- and intelligence-related fields.

Bill C-59 also enacts the Communications Security Establishment Act and gives it new powers. It also amends the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act to limit the exercise of CSIS’s power when it comes to addressing threats to Canada’s security. There are other amendments as well.

Furthermore, this legislation amends certain provisions of the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act dealing with Canada’s security, going as far as to limit the sharing of information in some cases

In the airline sector, Bill C-59 amends the Secure Air Travel Act in relation to the collection of information from air carriers and operators of airline reservation systems to identify individuals on certain flights and prohibit them from flying.

Bill C-59 also, and more importantly, amends the Criminal Code to water down the provisions on the offence of advocating or promoting the commission of terrorism offences and raises the threshold for imposing a recognizance with conditions under the Criminal Code. Lastly, it repeals sections relating to an investigative hearing into a terrorism offence.

I said that these measures required a careful review, which the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence has now completed. The review was shorter than we would have liked given the importance of the provisions. Fortunately, the committee heard from numerous very well-informed witnesses and many amendments were proposed as a result of their testimony.

As it is the duty and responsibility of senators to examine and improve the bills passed in the other place, some of us worked hard to propose changes based on the testimony of the experts who participated in our work. I believe it is important that senators realize that many of these witnesses were very knowledgeable about these matters because they have built careers in security and intelligence.

Other witnesses represented communities that have been directly affected by the scourge of terrorism. Some were forthright about their concerns with certain parts of the bill as drafted, which will weaken certain provisions of our current national security legislation. Events in recent years, and, I will say, as recently as last month, have shown us how important it is for Canada to do all it can to ensure the safety of its citizens.

Unfortunately, many of the provisions that we could and should have amended together, for reasons of security, are still part of Bill C-59. Allow me to give some examples of what Bill C-59 seeks to implement despite the testimony that was heard: it raises the threshold and introduces complexities for CSIS when conducting operations to curb terrorist threats; it raises the threshold for the courts to impose a “recognizance with conditions” on those who may be involved in terrorist activities; and it repeals Criminal Code provisions relating to investigative hearings, even though the Supreme Court of Canada upheld them in 2004.

I fear that these measures, taken together, undermine our national security. This is serious, if not outright unacceptable.

Canadians expect their political leaders to have their safety and security at heart. That is certainly not what Bill C-59 has to offer. We have before us a bill that puts new controls in place and new barriers to organizations that are tasked with fighting terrorism. I am not saying that all of this is unnecessary, but I question the political agenda underlying these measures.

I recognize that some provisions, including those that confer new powers to the Communications Security Establishment, make real improvements to our country’s security. However, I find it a shame that the government also included in the bill provisions that I fear will have the opposite effect.

Thankfully, the Senate committee fought to make some small amendments to this bill, one of which will really improve the bill, in my opinion. We are proposing making it an offence to counsel another person to commit a terrorism offence. I think this is the logical minimum. Our government could not downplay terrorism and those who encourage it. I’ve been looking and I still don’t understand why the current government thought it was a good idea to eliminate the offence of “advocating or promoting terrorism offences in general.” Canada cannot stand for such a soft approach in this era of quick and easy communications that often influence people at risk of taking such actions. Encouraging terrorism must be considered an unacceptable and reprehensible act in our country.

This amendment would therefore ensure that those who advocate or promote terrorism offences in general are targeted and subject to procedures that are now clear and consistent with the definition of the word “advocate,” with respect to the commission of a criminal offence.

a number of groups who appeared before the committee called for this amendment, including the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and B’nai B’rith.

I can’t stress this enough. I believe that this new provision is absolutely essential, at a time when the promotion and use of terrorism will be extremely dangerous unless we seriously tackle the root cause of the problem. It is obvious that these networks are known to intelligence services and have inspired horrific attacks around the world, and we need to do everything in our power to ensure that our law enforcement agencies have the tools they need to fight the threat. It would be sad if we someday came to realize that we, the Senate of Canada, did not do everything we could to fight terrorism and its proponents. Governments too often wait for incidents to happen before tightening their laws.

On another note, I am pleased that the committee adopted another amendment, one that I myself had proposed. This amendment will require the government to report on the implementation of the bill within four years of its entry into force. These reports will be extremely important, particularly because the bill will create a plethora of new review bodies, and, despite the good intentions of every stakeholder, this could undermine our security agencies’ flexibility and their ability to respond swiftly to threats.

In that regard, many witnesses raised serious concerns about the role of the intelligence commissioner, who would be responsible for approving operational decisions made by the minister on matters of national security. Bill C-59 requires the commissioner to assess the “reasonableness” of ministerial authorizations. Former CSIS director Richard Fadden and Professors Wesley Wark and Errol Mendes expressed serious concerns about both the appropriateness of the provisions and their potential impact. Could there be any more powerful testimony? These are people with extensive experience in operations and surveillance. The bill was already proposing such reporting, but after six years, which was much too long. In my opinion, the amendment is not a factor.

Unfortunately, the senators opposite rejected another amendment that would have limited the commissioner’s role to assessing the legality of an authorization and would have taken away his authority to assess the “reasonableness” of such an authorization. However, expert witnesses clearly explained how important it is that the minister responsible assess the reasonableness of an authorization based on the information submitted to him by the security agencies.

Honourable senators, the fact that this amendment was rejected does nothing to strengthen the bill.

Some of the amendments we adopted certainly did improve the bill, but I’m still concerned about provisions that I fear could compromise national security despite all the warnings expressed in the other place and in our Senate committee. Nevertheless, I hope the government will agree to the modest amendments the Senate made to Bill C-59.

I listened to Senator Gold describe Bill C-59 as “a reasonable, responsible and necessary response to genuine threats to Canada’s national security,” a bill that will “improve the operational effectiveness of our security agencies while also respecting the constitutional rights and freedoms of Canadians.”

However, I continue to fear that this government is tipping the scales too far in favour of too many reviews, while not paying enough attention to threats to our national security. We must remember that terrorists don’t follow any rules, but readily take advantage of the rules we impose on our security agencies.

In its current form, this bill further tightens the exercise of legitimate powers. However, considering our rapidly changing security reality, where threats can arise without notice, I think we need to give our security agencies the means to respond to threats quickly and effectively. Our allies recognize this need.

Australia’s security and intelligence agency has the authority to take all kinds of measures, with warrants, to protect national security, measures that would otherwise be illegal. For instance it can interview and detain individuals, enter and search premises, intercept and examine mail, and conduct electronic surveillance. In the United Kingdom, security and police services can arrest individuals suspected of planning an attack. Anyone arrested under the Terrorism Act can be detained without charge for 14 days.

Some of our allies enjoy powers that are much more sweeping than those of CSIS and Canadian police forces. That was already the case before the current government introduced Bill C-59. Yet, this bill will further weaken the limited powers of Canada’s security organizations.

As I stated in my speech at second reading, the government continues to claim that it “will improve the operational effectiveness of our security agencies,” when we are doing the exact opposite. In my opinion, suggesting that weakening the powers of our security agencies will enhance their role does not make any sense.

Honourable senators, I am concerned that this bill still has many weaknesses, despite the amendments we made. Consequently, I oppose Bill C-59 and I hope that a government, in the near future, will address some of the shortcomings being created by this government. Thank you.


The Hon. the Speaker: Are senators ready for the question?

Hon. Senators: Question.

The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.

An Hon. Senator: On division.

(Motion agreed to and bill, as amended, read third time and passed, on division.)

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