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Feb 23rd

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    Feb 23, 2015 8:15 am | British Columbia, Nanaimo—Cowichan

    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Ottawa—Vanier for so ably outlining the history of the anthem in English in this country. He has pointed out, of course, that the original version was “in all of us command” and that over the years it was changed to “all thy sons command”.

    As the member pointed out, this is a minor change in wording, and in some ways is largely symbolic in terms of recognizing gender equality in this country. I need only to point to the House of Commons, where women make up only roughly 21% of the members.

    I wonder if the member for Ottawa—Vanier could highlight the importance once again of this symbolic change, where women still do not have equality in this country.

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    Feb 23, 2015 8:20 am | Alberta, Edmonton—Strathcona

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for bringing this forward again. I know a number of members in this place previously brought this proposal forward, including the member for Vancouver East. I look forward to her comments on this bill.

    It is important for us to keep in mind, when we consider the bill and eventually vote on it, that many women society serve in our armed forces, many women are in senior positions in our armed forces, and they put their lives at risk.

    I am proud that I am from Alberta where the famous five were from. If they were here today, I think they would be cheering on the member and those who support the bill.

    What is really important, as the member has done, is going back to the original version but putting it into plain language, which we have undertaken to do in our law-making.

    Could the member speak to any conceivable reasons why on Earth we would only honour half of our population when we give honour to our country?

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    Feb 23, 2015 8:20 am | Ontario, Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing

    Mr. Speaker, we have to honour traditions because they are very important. However, we recognize that changes happen and that we have to make changes as we progress.

    Take, for example, Canada's flag, whose 50th anniversary we just celebrated. It has been changed over the years. When we take a look at that, we see that Canadian society has evolved, as have our policies, and if those policies are discriminatory or do not recognize the fundamental need for equality, we have to make changes.

    The Prime Minister said that there would have to be changes, but we doubt that he will be supporting this excellent bill.

    Can my colleague comment further on that?

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    Feb 23, 2015 8:30 am | British Columbia, Vancouver East

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Ottawa—Vanier for bring forward this important bill. He made wonderful comments in support of the bill, and I agree with everything that he said.

    I am proud of the fact that over the years several former members of the NDP, including Svend Robinson and Judy Wasylycia-Leis, and myself in the 40th Parliament, have had exactly the same bills. The bills tried to change the wording of our national anthem.

    As I stand here today, I have to ask myself if it is 2015. As I was getting ready for this speech, I noted that a Conservative member would be speaking to the bill before me. I wondered what Conservative members would say in opposition to the bill. What could it be? This is totally a no-brainer. This is about gender equality. This is about a minor word change in our national anthem that would reflect our whole country.

    I thought this would be a unanimous situation and that the bill would go through, which would have been great, but lo and behold, the parliamentary secretary stands up on his principle that no government could vote against the will of the people. Then I think back to that terrible omnibus bill on voter suppression; that bill was certainly against the will of the people.

    The Conservatives say they cannot vote for this legislation because it would mean that the opinion of Canadians does not matter. That is just utter nonsense. This is about reflecting the present-day nature of our society.

    I presume that the Conservative member is reflecting the general view of the government, although maybe not the view of individual members. What I find really disturbing is that the Conservatives seem to be resting their argument on upholding tradition, even though the original version from 1908 of our national anthem, as the member sponsoring the bill has pointed out, states “True patriot love thou dost in us command”. Even though the original version was gender-neutral, the Conservatives are stuck on the idea that when the wording was changed in 1980 to “True patriot love in all thy sons command”, those words suddenly became tradition, and they do not want to variate from that tradition.

    What is tradition? Tradition is something that we value, and it is important, but tradition also evolves. Tradition evolves based on the diversity of society. Some traditions are really bad. If we rested on tradition and we use that as the principle of an argument as to why we would vote against the bill, we would not have seen same-sex marriage or racial intermarriage. God help us, we would not have seen women or aboriginal people voting. That would have been sticking with tradition at the time when those issues were debated.

    This idea that somehow we cannot deal with this issue because it is about tradition and a legacy is absolute nonsense. I would hope that Conservative members, or at least every woman on the other side of the House, will support the bill before us today. It is offensive that the national anthem that we treasure, the national anthem that we sing on so many occasions, does not reflect who we are.

    O Canada is sung many times in my community in East Vancouver at community events. It is sung many times on Canada Day. I already incorporate this change, as do many other people. We heard from the member for Ottawa—Vanier about some of the choirs that already do that, which is wonderful. This practice is already taking place. This idea that Canadians are not behind this idea does not reflect what is taking place in practice across the country.

    We have noted that the change would not affect the French version and that this is a debate about the English version of our anthem, and I happen to think that the symbolism of the national anthem is important in this country. If we recognize the role and sacrifice of women in the Canadian Armed Forces and we recognize, support, and uphold the role and the value of women in our society generally as Canadians, then this kind of symbolic change is very important.

    I want to appeal to the Conservative members to stick to the plan they had in 2010 when this issue was mentioned in the Speech from the Throne by the Prime Minister. I appeal to them not to suddenly retreat from what was a good position, a logical position, a position of respecting tradition while also respecting diversity. They are not mutually exclusive. I want to encourage members of the Conservative side to look at the bill and to think about history and who we are as a society, and to remember that we are approaching the 150th year of this country. This is a very timely and appropriate debate as we approach that very important anniversary.

    I am very proud to say that members of the NDP get this. We understand that it is a very important symbolic but simple initiative, and it needs to be undertaken by this House. What are we here for? We are here to display leadership.

    If we listen to what our Conservative members are saying, at least the parliamentary secretary, every time there is a poll and somebody says, “I am not sure about that. Do not do that. It is about tradition”, we would just do nothing, is that it? We would just all pack it up and go home and do everything by poll, which I really have to wonder about, being from B.C., where polls have become pretty suspect when we look at elections, for example, and even here in Ontario.

    This is not legislation by poll. This is not about being a member of Parliament by poll. This is about reflecting on what our country is about and reflecting that it is 2015 and not 1980, and that women are not only prominent in this country but also need to be more prominent. If the national anthem cannot reflect us as women, then heck, we really have not come very far.

    Let us get rid of the illusions. Let us get rid of the smokescreen of these polls and the idea that the Conservatives do not wish to go against the will of the people. We can all think of examples of the Conservatives throwing in the face of the Canadian people anything that they believed in to motivate their own political agenda.

    I want to end on a positive note and say thanks to the member for Ottawa—Vanier for bringing this matter forward again. The fact that it has come forward on a number of occasions means that it is an enduring issue. It means that it is something that needs to be dealt with, and it will keep coming forward until the folks on the other side, or those who are nay-sayers, understand that we need to be in a modern-day society and that this change in our national anthem is long overdue.

    I really hope, because it is a private member's bill, that individual members from all sides of the House will think about the bill, think about who they are, think about women in this country, and think about what this national anthem actually says. On that basis, they will come to what I think is the only conclusion that one can come to, which is that we should be supporting this change. We should be going out and celebrating that change. We should be talking to our constituents and the people who are worried about tradition. We have so many arguments to show how tradition itself evolves and can represent the diversity of Canada.

    I thank the member for the bill. I look forward to hearing from other Conservative members and I hope very much that they will accept a modern-day bill and not be stuck in a sexist and discriminatory frame of mind. I hope that they will support the bill.

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    Feb 23, 2015 8:40 am | Quebec, Saint-Laurent—Cartierville

    Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House today and, as the Canadian heritage critic for the Liberal party, express my support for Bill C-624, An Act to amend the National Anthem Act (gender), sponsored by our indomitable colleague, the member for Ottawa—Vanier.

    It is a seemingly simple bill, perhaps one of the simplest bills we have ever debated in this House. It simply changes two little words in the English version of our national anthem. However, since that change will have immense symbolic significance, we would not expect it to receive unanimous support right away.

    I therefore want to examine the arguments made against this bill with an open mind, and demonstrate that they do not outweigh those in its favour.

    The bill proposes making the English version of the national anthem gender neutral by changing two little words in one of the verses. Thus, the verse “True patriot love in all thy sons command” would become “True patriot love in all of us command”. They are two small words, “thy sons” to “of us”, but they are an important symbol.

    Why change it? It is because the new gender-neutral wording would make Canada's anthem gender inclusive, thus catching up with the evolution of Canadian society and confirming one of the most important values espoused by Canadians, which is the equality of women and men.

    This is the only, but important, purpose of the bill.

    Who, then, would want to oppose such a change and why? Do all of us here in the House not support gender equality? Of course we may not always agree on how to promote equality, but I am quite certain that we all agree with the objective.

    Moreover, it would be completely unfair to accuse everyone who opposes the bill of also opposing gender equality.

    My understanding is that those who disagree with the proposed change argue that O Canada is a historical artifact that must be preserved in its current form for purposes of heritage and historical integrity. They argue that the past has contributed to the Canada of today and serves as an indicator of how far we have come as a society and a nation.

    We have to recognize that that is a valid argument. Take the French version of O Canada, for example.

    Some might say, and rightly so, that it is not inclusive enough for today's Canadian society. The French version of the anthem begins with making reference to the land of our ancestors, when the ancestors of many Canadians were not born on this land. It urges us to wear the cross, when many of us are not adherents of the Christian faith.

    Nevertheless, in response to those arguments, I think we might say that the beautiful poem written by Adolphe-Basile Routhier in 1880 is part of our heritage and must be respected. It reminds us where we came from and helps us determine together where we want to go.

    Let us call it the heritage argument. Today's Canada was born of yesterday's Canada and did not come out of nowhere. Our national anthem serves to remind us of that. That argument has merit. By the same token, it is not an absolute. There are other arguments to consider.

    When we weigh all sides of the issue, it seems that the small change proposed in Bill C-624 is quite justified. Better still, it is desirable and I have two arguments to back that up.

    Firstly, the heritage argument in this specific case supports changing the two words as proposed by Bill C-624. If we look at the heritage side of this matter, then it would be more accurate to say that we are reverting back to the original version rather than making a change.

    The original version, written in 1908 by Judge R. Stanley Weir, had “True patriot love thou dost in us command”. The bill proposes returning to this original historical form, though using contemporary English, so it would be “in all of us”.

    The English lyrics for O Canada have been amended a number of times since 1908. They were amended in 1913, 1914, 1916, 1927, and 1980. That does not mean they changed these lyrics without very valid justification, but it shows that they are not untouchable, particularly when the proposed amendment would, in one fell swoop, bring our national anthem closer to its original 1908 form.

    It also shows that while the words have been amended on various dates, what has stood the test of time is the spirit of patriotism that continues to be embodied by Canada's anthem and Canadians who rise to sing it.

    Secondly, the two-word change proposed in Bill C-624 is not only true to our heritage but it is also likely inevitable. If we do not make that change now, it will be made another time.

    It would be better for us to get on the right side of history by making this change ourselves right away rather than leaving it for the legislators of tomorrow to do.

    If “thy sons” does not become “of us” today, it will tomorrow.

    A similar evolution happened in Austria, where, in December 2011, legislators voted to add three little words to the first verse of their national anthem. Thus “homeland of great sons” became “homeland of great daughters and sons”.

    The English lyrics of Canada's anthem were adopted in 1980. They have been criticized ever since for excluding women, so if we do not fix the problem, the debate can only grow with time. Between 1984 and 2011, no fewer than nine bills have been introduced in Parliament to make these lyrics gender neutral.

    Even the current Conservative government, in the 2010 Speech from the Throne, proposed to amend the anthem to make the lyrics gender neutral. It stated, “Our Government will also ask Parliament to examine the original gender-neutral English wording of the national anthem”. The government supported reverting to the original 1908 poem, replacing the current “in all thy sons command” with “thou dost in us command”. Although the government changed its mind 48 hours later, general support for such a change has only increased since.

    In 2013, an online campaign entitled “Restore Our Anthem” was launched to make the English version of the national anthem gender neutral. Prominent Canadians such as Margaret Atwood, Kim Campbell, Vivienne Poy, Nancy Ruth, and Belinda Stronach have lent their support to the campaign.

    An increasing number of Canadians are willing to embrace this change because it is so simple and consistent with today's values of equality.

    Choirs and musical groups across the country, such as the Toronto Welsh Male Voice Choir, the Vancouver Children's Choir, and the Elektra Women's Choir, have already taken up the new language. It is inevitable that the words “thy sons” will be replaced with “of us”, if not today, tomorrow.

    Therefore, let us support Bill C-624 for all of us. Let us support the small but important change our colleague, the member for Ottawa—Vanier, rightly proposes. Our anthem will thus remain true to its original lyrics and most importantly, true to our daughters and sons both, who equally stand on guard for thee, the true north strong and free.

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    Feb 23, 2015 8:50 am | Ontario, Beaches—East York

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address Bill C-624, an act to amend the National Anthem Act with respect to gender.

    The purpose of the bill is to amend the act to make the lyrics of the anthem more gender neutral. Specifically, the bill seeks to replace the words “thy sons” with the words “of us” in the English version.

    The lyrics of the national anthem have remained unchanged since it was adopted as the official national anthem in 1980, as members have heard today. Several attempts have been made to change the lyrics, so we have been down this road before, but these attempts have not been successful.

    Additionally, as the media has reported and recent studies have demonstrated, Canadians have voiced their opinion that the anthem should not be changed. A 2013 study by Forum Research found that 65% of Canadians opposed the change, only 25% supported the change, and 10% had no opinion on the issue.

    First, let me mention the many ways the Government of Canada is recognizing women and their significant role in society. One of the ways Canadian women are celebrated across Canada is through the designation of special days, as the parliamentary secretary mentioned, such as International Women's Day and Women's History Month. Our government is also recognizing women through awards commemorations and investments in the economic action plan.

    International Women's Day has been celebrated since 1911. This global day of recognition and celebration provides an opportunity to highlight the contributions women have made and are continuing to make in society. It is also a time to reflect on the progress in advancing women's rights and equality and to reflect on the challenges that are still facing women, not only in Canada but all around the world.

    On March 8, 2015, Canada will once again participate in this special day with events and activities to raise awareness and to pay tribute to the economic, political, and social achievements of women. International Women's Day is celebrated not only by the government but also by organizations, charities, educational institutions, women's groups, corporations, and the media.

    Another form of recognition for women in Canada is the Governor General's Awards in Commemoration of the Persons Case, a landmark victory for Canadian women, which has also been mentioned this morning. These awards, which were created in 1979, the year in which Canada celebrated the 50th anniversary of the persons case, annually honour five recipients. The award continues the tradition of the famous five, and it recognizes Canadians who have made an outstanding contribution to the goal of equality for women and girls in Canada.

    The entire month of October is designated Women's History Month. It provides an opportunity to build understanding and to recognize women's achievements as a vital part of our heritage. We celebrate the accomplishments of Canadian women and recognize their contributions in this way.

    Activities for Women's History Month take many forms: events, exhibits, film screenings, and classroom activities. Canadians are encouraged to learn about and better appreciate women's contributions to history and their fight for equality, which is a powerful, ongoing social movement.

    It is another opportunity to bring to the forefront the work of the famous five: Emily Murphy, Nellie McClung, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Louise McKinney, and Irene Parlby, from Alberta. Their tireless efforts created a new precedent for women. It is also an opportunity to recognize other women in Canada's history who achieved important firsts or other significant accomplishments, women such as Cairine Ray Wilson, the first woman in the Senate of Canada, or Harriet Brooks, Canada's first woman nuclear physicist, or Roberta Bondar, Canada's first female astronaut.

    Canada is proud that women have the opportunity to participate in every aspect of Canadian life. From entrepreneurs to astronauts to world-class athletes, women are making their mark, changing their nation for the better, and inspiring future generations.

    This is not to say that equality has been fully realized, but Canada is making real progress toward this goal. As we look forward to Canada's 150th birthday, the Government of Canada is marking important milestones that have shaped our nation. The commemorations of the First and Second World Wars are under way. These commemorations are opportunities to celebrate Canada's heroines, who served their country with dedication and courage.

    Yes, today women are part of every aspect of military life. All of us in this House probably know of at least one or two or more strong women serving in the Canadian Armed Forces. However, in 1913, when military involvment was mandatory, that is, conscripted, only men were conscripted.

    I believe this Liberal member's intentions are honourable but tend to the sentimental, if not revisionist. Women's contributions on the home front should be honoured and commemorated. Canadian women not only served in military roles but also assumed unprecedented roles, working in factories, offices, and volunteer organizations that supported the war effort.

    In my own riding of Mississauga South, a small arms building is still in existence. It was a factory for Lee-Enfield rifles and Sten machine guns. In fact, there were over 5,000 women working there at any one given time creating and making these Lee-Enfield rifles for the entire allied efforts. I know the contributions women made in the great wars.

    The 1914 change reflected the reality of the appalling toll in young male lives, reflected as the price paid for their so-called “true patriot love”. The reference to “thy sons” is clearly a military reference to the Great War. It is not about sexism or discrimination, as the NDP member opposite said. I see it as respect for Canada's history.

    It is not simple either, as one of the Liberal members mentioned. With two small words, the Liberals would have us believe that this is insignificant, but erasing history does not accomplish the goal of gender neutrality or equality for women. Concrete actions taken to improve the lives of Canadian women accomplish this goal.

    As I have said, our government recognizes women and their significant role in society in a variety of ways, including with special days, awards, commemorations, and investments through the economic action plan. These tangible forms of recognition show the value placed on women in Canadian society.

    We have heard from Canadians on this issue, and they have spoken loudly and clearly. They overwhelmingly do not want to open the issue. This is an issue for the Ottawa bubble, not for ordinary Canadians, including strong women from coast to coast to coast who want us to reject this bill.

    Our tradition of the anthem will remain intact in its current form, and the Government of Canada will continue to show its support for women in positive and tangible ways that celebrate their accomplishments, recognize their contributions, and support their future success in Canadian society.

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    Feb 23, 2015 9:00 am | Ontario, Windsor—Tecumseh

    The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

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    Feb 23, 2015 9:00 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to indicate at the outset that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Victoria.

    Bill C-51 is now before us so that we can debate something that is of great importance to the people of Canada. I think its short title is the “anti-terrorism act, 2015”. There is a real question as to what it is really about.

    In fact, The Globe and Mail, one of the oldest and most prominent newspapers in Canada, says:

    On close inspection, Bill C-51 is not an anti-terrorism bill. Fighting terrorism is its pretext; its language reveals a broader goal of allowing government departments, as well as CSIS, to act whenever they believe limply defined security threats “may”—not “will”—occur.

    That is a pretty fierce condemnation of a piece of legislation by what purports to be a serious government interested in dealing with terrorism.

    Let us make no mistake. Terrorism is a real threat and everyone agrees that public safety is a top priority for any government. However, Canadians do not have to choose between their security and their rights. This is in fact a false choice presented to the people of Canada by the current government and by the Prime Minister.

    When the member for Ottawa West—Nepean was announcing his retirement as foreign minister, he quoted John Diefenbaker that "Parliament is more than procedure—it is the custodian of the nation's freedom.”

    I believe that is right. What we are doing here today on this side of the House is what we can and must do as parliamentarians to protect the freedoms of Canadians, because that is the issue here. The issue is that we need to have concrete measures that would keep Canadians safe without eroding our freedoms and our way of life. Unfortunately, time and time again, the current Prime Minister and the current government is putting politics ahead of principle.

    Once again, The Globe and Mail stated, on February 1:

    Under the cloud of fear produced by his repeated hyperbole about the scope and nature of the threat, he [the Prime Minister] now wants to turn our domestic spy agency into something that looks disturbingly like a secret police force.

    Canadians should not be willing to accept such an obvious threat to their basic liberties.

    Where does that come from? It comes from the provisions in the bill itself, which would give additional powers to CSIS that it does not already have and, arguably, does not need; and which would allow for information-sharing broadly between 16 government departments. The bill does not specify this would be limited in nature. It would cause problems that have been described and outlined by many prominent citizens—former prime ministers, former leaders of political parties, academics, legal expects, former justices of the Supreme Court of Canada—all of whom have condemned the legislation as going too far and giving unnecessary and dangerous powers to government agencies with a profound lack of parliamentary oversight.

    The government's position on oversight is that we already have enough, that we have a robust system. We do not. We do not have any system of oversight for the Canada Border Services Agency. We have an appointed body, SIRC, that deals with CSIS, but it is not an oversight agency. It says so itself in its most recent report and it makes the distinction between oversight and review. It says it is a review agency that looks at things some time after the fact. It does not have oversight on a continuous basis over what is going on in the moment on the day. Therefore, it is not an oversight agency. It says so itself and recognizes that oversight is a different value and is required.

    Its provisions have been put before the House to provide the kind of oversight that we could use, oversight that some of our Five Eyes friends have over intelligence. Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America have robust parliamentary or congressional oversight with the power to know what is going on and to keep an eye on things.

    This has been rejected outright by the government. There was private member's bill, Bill C-622, that would have modernized a piece of legislation that was before the House in 2006, a piece of legislation that arose out of the committee that you, Mr. Speaker, sat on, along with the current Minister of Justice, who said at that time that this would be a desirable, necessary, and important measure to be undertaken. That bill died on the order paper, but Bill C-622, which proposed modernizing that legislation to some extent—which I am not saying we agreed with entirely—was before the House and was defeated by the government at second reading.

    Also before the House is Motion No. 461, a motion that I presented to the House on October 24, 2013, calling for a special select committee of the House, like the one the Speaker and the Minister of Justice sat on, to devise the best and appropriate form of oversight by Parliament that might be required given the change in circumstances since 2004 and the experiences of other jurisdictions, for us to devise the best system for our Parliament.

    Although it was offered up for debate, the government House leader refused to allow it to be debated, saying there was no necessity for any more oversight than already in place. That flies in the face of all the experts, the academic experts and people who have studied this time and time again, such as lawyers, judges, former leaders, and former prime ministers, who have all said that parliamentary oversight must be present in a system that protects the rights and freedoms of individuals in this country when we are dealing with this kind of legislation.

    The bill is is extremely intrusive. It gives significant police powers, including the power to disrupt activities. I heard the Minister of National Defence—who all of a sudden is the spokesperson for Public Safety, as I do not know what happened to the Minister of Public Safety, who seems to have disappeared off the map since the new Minister of Defence was appointed—say several times over the weekend in various interviews that “No, no, no, we're giving powers to the judiciary, not to CSIS”. That is wrong. The power to disrupt in section 42 of the bill would be given to CSIS directly. It would only be when CSIS decided that whatever it wanted to do would actually violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that it would have to go a judge, and the judge supposedly would be allowed to tell CSIS that it could break the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

    I do not think that is constitutional. I do not think a judge can have a licence by legislation to violate the Constitution of Canada, which is what the bill would allow. That is how bad this legislation is. that in itself is enough to say that the bill is bad, wrong, unconstitutional, and cannot be supported. I will leave it at that.

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    Feb 23, 2015 9:10 am | Alberta, Edmonton—Strathcona

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his address on this bill, which I am sure he could speak to for several hours with his concerns about it, but which he put very succinctly in the brief time he had.

    What the hon. member from Newfoundland and Labrador has raised is one of the most significant aspects of the bill, the misleading, uninformative statements by the Minister of National Defence on it. In fact, as the member pointed out, the bill would add very strong additional powers to the intelligence body. As the member said, the minister has said that the new powers would be only for the judges.

    Could he elaborate on my understanding? It would only be in the discretion of CSIS to choose to think that if it were maybe acting beyond the bounds of the law, then it could go to a judge.

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    Feb 23, 2015 9:10 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East

    Mr. Speaker, the discretion to decide whether there is a violation of the charter of rights is quite astonishing. In fact, clause 42 says, “The Service shall not take measures to reduce a threat to the security of Canada if those measures will contravene a right or freedom guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms”, unless they go to a judge.

    The determination would have to be made by CSIS officials that they would violate the charter. Who is CSIS to make these determinations in the first place? Only if the people at CSIS were sure that it would, would they then go to a judge.

    When we look at the experience of CSIS in dealing with the judiciary already, it has been found to have misinformed—in other words not told the truth—to Mr. Justice Mosley in an application in relation to getting secret powers. There is a real question here as to whether this would be abused, would likely be abused, or would be possible to abuse, particularly if there is no oversight.

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    Feb 23, 2015 9:25 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East

    Mr. Speaker, I am glad my colleague from Victoria mentioned the matter of unlawful. The Minister of National Defence mentioned many times over the weekend that we should not worry, that lawful protests and dissent were okay.

    However, so many times, whether it be a strike that is not exactly in keeping with the existing labour laws, protest movements like Idle No More, or some of the matters that the member mentioned, they are clearly not authorized by law, which is the proper definition of “unlawful”. It seems to me that it is a very serious problem. It is fooling people into thinking that it is harmless, because if they are not breaking the law, they have nothing to worry about. However, the issue of lawfulness is a real problem for the application of this legislation.

    Would the member care to comment on that?

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    Feb 23, 2015 9:30 am | British Columbia, Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo

    Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to debate Bill C-51, the anti-terrorism act, 2015, and I want to mention at the outset that I will be sharing my time with the member for Yukon.

    This is a very important bill. Over the last few years, I have noticed a real change in what is happening across the world and in Canada. Hardly a week goes by that I, like many Parliamentarians, do not wake up to news of extreme incidents or threats somewhere in the world. A couple of days ago we heard that al Shabaab was threatening Canadians in malls, malls where our children go, malls where grandmothers go. The West Edmonton Mall was named specifically.

    Clearly, times have changed. Times are a lot different from what they were in the sixties and the seventies, before communication changed and before the Internet. If I mention places like Copenhagen, Brussels, Sydney, Paris, and Ottawa, one would think I was listing some of the freest cities in western democracies. Sadly, however, this is a list of the locations of the most recent jihadi terrorist attacks.

    Let us make no mistake: the international jihadi movement has declared war on Canada and war on our allies. That is important. We are seeking to degrade and destroy the so-called Islamic State through the committed and professional work of our Canadian Armed Forces, and I think everyone in this House should be very proud that when Canada calls, they do the job we ask of them and they do an amazing job. We are taking important measures to strengthen the protection of Canada.

    I have been listening carefully and I think the NDP has been sowing some confusion about what is contained in the bill. I will reflect on some of the comments made by the leader of the NDP and share some of the inaccuracies in his comments last week.

    The leader of the NDP has accused Bill C-51 of being both overly broad and not doing anything. That is a bit of a square circle. How can a bill be overly broad on one hand and not really do anything on the other?

    That in itself reflects an issue in terms of the approach of New Democrats to the bill, whose leader said that the provisions to criminalize the promotion of terrorism generally have no business in the criminal law.

    It is currently not a criminal offence to advocate or promote terrorism generally. The ability to arrest someone who is, in general terms, advocating or promoting the activity of terrorism does not exist. The threshold for arrest in the Criminal Code is specific to someone who knowingly instructs, directly or indirectly, any person to carry out a terrorist activity.

    As an example, the jihadists are saying, “Go hurt Canada.” In the case of the threat to the West Edmonton Mall, are the jihadists instructing specifically or more generally? We need to make sure we capture those sorts of threats to Canadians.

    The anti-terrorism act of 2015 would make it an offence to advocate or promote terrorism in broader terms. It states:

    Every person who, by communicating statements, knowingly advocates or promotes the commission of terrorism offences in general

    —which could mean malls or hurting Canadians—

    —other than an offence under this section—while knowing that any of those offences will be committed or being reckless as to whether any of those offences may be committed, as a result of such communication, is guilty of an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years.

    By way of example, if someone posts a video on YouTube calling for death to infidels wherever they may be, as was done by a recent Canadian-linked jihadist, it is not currently a criminal offence. I am sorry if the opposition does not believe that should be a criminal offence, but frankly, I believe that if someone makes that kind of threat, it clearly should be defined as a criminal offence. This legislation will change that.

    The leader of the NDP has also said that the legislation before us today would allow the targeting of legitimate protesters, and that too is inaccurate. Again, it is an attempt to fearmonger about this particular bill.

    Under the legislation, the threshold for CSIS to engage in disruption is met if there are reasonable grounds to believe that a particular activity constitutes a threat to the security of Canada. Previously, CSIS did not have disruption powers, allowing it only to collect and retain information. We previously heard that this was an issue. To be quite frank, if CSIS knows of an imminent threat, I want it to be able to act, not turn the information over to another agency so that maybe some action will be taken after whatever has been planned has been completed.

    “Threats to the security of Canada” are qualified by the following points, but “threats” do not include lawful advocacy, protests, or dissent unless carried on in conjunction with any of these listed activities, which would not be amended by Bill C-51: first, espionage or sabotage that is against Canada or is detrimental to the interests of Canada, or activities directed toward or in support of such espionage or sabotage; second, foreign-influenced activities within or relating to Canada that are detrimental to the interests of Canada and are clandestine or deceptive or involve a threat to any person; third, activities within or relating to Canada directed toward or in support of the threat or use of acts of serious violence against persons or property for the purpose of achieving a political, religious, or ideological objective within Canada or a foreign state; and four, activities directed toward undermining by covert unlawful acts or directed toward or intended ultimately to lead to the destruction or overthrow by violence of the constitutionally established system of government in Canada.

    What the leader of the NDP may be getting confused about is the power of the sharing of information between government institutions. The bill states:

    ...a Government of Canada institution may, on its own initiative or on request, disclose information to the head of a recipient Government of Canada institution whose title is listed in Schedule 3, or their delegate, if the information is relevant to the recipient institution’s jurisdiction or responsibilities under an Act of Parliament or another lawful authority in respect of activities that undermine the security of Canada, including in respect of their detection, identification, analysis, prevention, investigation or disruption.

    The NDP leader's claims are simply false. Absolutely no change would be made to what constitutes a threat to the security of Canada. The measures he is pointing to deal with information sharing between government departments.

    Further, the CSIS Act specifically states that threats to the security of Canada do not include lawful advocacy, protest, or dissent. The new legislation states that activity that would undermine the security of Canada does not include lawful advocacy, protest, dissent, and artistic expression. It is very clear, and again I think some fearmongering has gone on.

    We reject the arguments that every time we talk about our security, our freedoms are threatened. Canadians understand that freedoms and security go hand in hand. Canadians expect us to protect both, and there are protections in this legislation that would do exactly that. The fundamental fact is that our police and our national security agencies are working to protect our rights and our freedoms, and it is jihadi terrorists who would endanger our security and who would take away our freedoms.

    We have covered what the bill would not do, but we should look at what it would do. I have a lot of things to say about what it would do, but it looks as if I will not have time to discuss them all. I will quickly try to fit in a few.

    Bill C-51 is a comprehensive package that would criminalize the advocacy or promotion of terrorism. It would counter terrorist recruitment by giving our courts the authority to remove things that are online. It would enhance CSIS' power to address threats, in that we are not going to sit and wait for threats but are going to address them. The bill would provide law enforcement agencies with enhanced stability to disrupt terrorist offences and activities.

    Another issue is the passenger protect program related to people who are travelling by air for the purpose of engaging in terrorism. The bill would make it easier for our law enforcement agencies to do the job that we ask them to do and share relevant national security information.

    Many of my colleagues will speak to other components of the bill. This is important legislation, and we are doing the right thing for Canadians. We have hit the important balance between security and the protection of freedoms.

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    Feb 23, 2015 9:40 am | British Columbia, Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo

    Mr. Speaker, our government believes that independent, expert, third party oversight is absolutely critical. There is no question.

    However, even though every country does something one way, does the member actually think that we should not have the sovereignty to determine what a good way would be for Canada?

    I believe his party, back in the day, actually did not support changes to the system because at the time it believed that third party independent oversight was important. Obviously, the third party oversight does report through the normal parliamentary channels.

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    Feb 23, 2015 9:55 am | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor

    Mr. Speaker, in the past year, I have had many debates about democratic reform regarding the Senate and the judiciary, about how many of the members of the government, primarily the backbench, talk about being less keen on seeing people appointed as opposed to people who are elected as serving as some sort of oversight.

    The member talked about judicial review and how he has completely satisfied that. Although I appreciated many parts of his speech, the part of the package I am concerned about is this oversight that gives power to Parliament. Very specifically, why is parliamentary oversight not a good idea for this legislation?

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    Feb 23, 2015 9:55 am | Ontario, Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing

    Mr. Speaker, the previous government speaker talked about fearmongering. It is the Conservatives who are fearmongering. Now this colleague talks about the fight evolving on global terrorism threats and that they need to evolve as well. What Conservatives need are dollars to use the current legislation already in place, and they can only do that if they have enough staffing in place. We saw last week, with respect to the fight against sexual exploitation for children, where the government held back $10 million in unspent funding, basically to take down the deficit.

    We have current laws in place that are not being used, which would help to protect that. The Conservatives are the ones who are trying to instill fear in Canadians, in believing that they need to look over their shoulder day after day. That is wrong. We should ensure that the RCMP and police officers have the right tools, which takes dollars. The Department of Public Safety has seen a total of $688 million in cuts over the past three consecutive years.

    Does my colleague not believe that these cuts by the government are negatively impacting the ability of our public safety agencies to conduct their work and keep Canadians safe?

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    Feb 23, 2015 10:00 am | British Columbia, British Columbia Southern Interior

    Mr. Speaker, let me start by saying how proud I am of our leader and our party for taking a principled stand against this flawed piece of legislation.

    As I move closer to retirement, I have been reflecting on my past nine years here in Ottawa. I often think about all those individuals, not only in my riding but right across this country, who are deeply committed to the cause of social justice. As a member of Parliament, it has been an honour for me to work with them in our common struggle for a better world. The issues have been many: world peace, food sovereignty, climate change, the environment, poverty, violence against women, and many others.

    As a party, we have taken principled stands against the ideologically driven policies of the current Conservative government, such as its so-called tough-on-crime agenda, the abandonment of environmental protection, and anti-labour legislation. Today our position on Bill C-51 is consistent with this proud NDP tradition.

    I should say that with all this anti-terrorism and anti-Muslim hype generated by the Conservatives, it would have been easy to come out in support of this draconian piece of legislation. After all, it appears, as the polls are saying, that Canadians are afraid, and they want tougher laws to protect them against terrorists. However, as the official opposition, that would not be in the best interests of Canadians.

    I believe that my party has taken the responsible approach, and I am very proud of it. After carefully listening to experts and studying Bill C-51 in detail, we have determined that the bill would be a direct threat to the rights and freedoms we currently enjoy in this country. Here I would like to offer my sincere thanks to my colleagues from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca and Alfred-Pellan and the research team for their due diligence on Bill C-51.

    The following points summarize our concerns.

    This bill threatens our way of life by asking Canadians to choose between their security and their freedoms. The bill was not developed in consultation with the other parties, all of whom recognize the real threat of terrorism and support effective, concrete measures to keep Canadians safe.

    What is more, the bill irresponsibly provides CSIS with a sweeping new mandate without equally increasing oversight. It contains definitions that are broad, vague and threaten to lump together legitimate dissent with terrorism. It does not include the type of concrete, effective measures that have been proven to work, such as working with communities on measures to counter radicalization of youth.

    We agree that terrorism is a real threat and everyone agrees that public safety should be a top priority for any government, but Canadians should not have to choose between their security and their rights. The Prime Minister is offering them a false choice.

    We need concrete measures that protect Canadians without eroding our freedoms and undermining our way of life. However, time and time again, the Prime Minister goes too far and puts politics before principles.

    As I endeavoured to study this bill, I read through various articles that appeared in our mainstream media. A number of them, such as the National Post editorial of February 19, dealt with the efforts of university professors and national security specialists Craig Forcese and Kent Roach, who have produced three exhaustive analyses of Bill C-51. They are concerned about the new powers granted to CSIS to engage in disruptive activities.

    We have also recently learned from an internal RCMP document that the environmental movement is already being targeted as a national security threat. According to the National Post, “that does not require a particularly paranoid mind to be interpreted as evidence that the environmental movement is already being targeted as a national security threat”.

    Prior to CSIS being created in 1984, the RCMP had engaged in disruptive activities that were illegal. That is why the McDonald Commission was created and why CSIS was given a mandate to collect and analyze information and produce intelligence about potential national security threats to Canada. Now, under Bill C-51, they would be able to do legally what the RCMP was doing illegally in the 1960s and 1970s. This is a direct threat to the rights and freedoms we currently enjoy.

    As our leader stated:

    Bill C-51 would expand CSIS’s mandate to spying on ‘interference with infrastructure and interference with economic or financial stability.

    The language is so broad that it would allow CSIS to investigate anyone who challenges the government’s social, economic or environmental policies. What is to stop this bill from being used to spy on the government’s political enemy?

    We have also learned that former CSIS officer Francois Lavigne is alarmed by this bill. According to an article that appeared in The Windsor Star:

    He believes the measures proposed in C-51 are unnecessary, a threat to the rights of Canadians and that the prime minister is using fascist techniques to push the bill.

    Mr. Lavigne was part of the barn burning, off-the-leash Mounties group whose law-breaking ways led to the McDonald Commission and the eventual establishment of CSIS in 1984. He spent years tracking dangerous radicals without the powers the government wants to give CSIS. He said:

    I find it a little convenient that in the past few years that these radicalized people are the biggest threat to ever hit us. There are more people dying because of drunk drivers or because of gang violence.

    It would also appear that the Conservative government is using terror to deflect us from real problems facing Canadians, such as the loss of jobs, the growing disparity between the rich and the poor, and climate change, to name a few. History is full of examples of irresponsible leaders rallying their citizens by exaggerating threats to their security. As Mr. Lavigne goes on to say:

    Some of these tactics are taken right out of the fascist playbook. Create an enemy that is hard to identify. Make it an enemy that is nebulous and seems to be able to do things that nobody else can. Don't define the enemy. Just identify. Generate fear around that enemy. Then send out the message that the only people who can deal with this enemy are us.

    This is totally irresponsible and, I would say, immoral on the part of the Conservative government.

    As our leader said, the NDP believes that current laws, at this time, allow the police and intelligence officers to do a good job. Providing new legislative tools is not the only solution. We must first ensure that our officers have the financial resources they need to better enforce laws.

    In the end, any legislative measure to fight security threats must satisfy the following principle: the legislative measure must protect both Canadians and their civil liberties. The protection of civil liberties and public safety are both fundamental Canadian values. What is needed is a more rigorous legislative approach to fight terrorism based on evidence and facts, an approach that provides for strict monitoring of security agencies.

    There is a lot of concern that this bill has been rammed through with the typical time allocation, not giving enough time for experts and the public to consult with the government, as happened in 2001 after what happened in New York City, when it took time, and committee meetings and hearings were held. This is being rammed through under the guise of fear.

    I would like to quote from a disturbing article I read this morning in The Globe and Mail by Campbell Clark, which said:

    Two things are clear: First, the Conservatives think this bill will help them win an election, and second, they don't want people to understand it. That's a bad combination for a bill that will change things in secret, in ways we won't know for years.

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    Feb 23, 2015 10:10 am | Ontario, Windsor—Tecumseh

    We are going to be resuming debate, but I would draw to the House's attention the fact that we have used up the five hours allowed for speeches of 20 minutes and questions and comments of 10 minutes. We are now down to speeches that would only be for 10 minutes and questions and comments for five minutes.

    Resuming debate.

    The hon. member for Nipissing—Timiskaming.

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    Feb 23, 2015 10:10 am | British Columbia, British Columbia Southern Interior

    Mr. Speaker, one would think that when we had a new perceived or real threat, we would do our homework. One would think we would look at the existing legislation to see what was working and what was not. One would think we would look at the resources that should be there, and if they were not there, one would think a responsible government would add additional resources, using the current system we have. One would also think there would be good parliamentary oversight of a new piece of legislation we were trying to put in. None of this has happened.

    The bill is being rammed through without any kind of oversight. It is being rammed through as a fear tactic. It is meant to kind of wield all this hype and fear of so-called jihadists and Muslims, all lumped into one, as a fear tactic, and, I am afraid, as an election platform for the next election.

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    Feb 23, 2015 10:20 am | Alberta, Edmonton—Strathcona

    Mr. Speaker, I listened to the hon. member's speech on this bill, but I remain very puzzled by the member's comments.

    The Minister of National Defence has been quoted as saying that none of the new powers in Bill C-51 accord new powers to CSIS, that the new powers are only accorded to the courts.

    I am wondering if the hon. member can elaborate for us. Would the member agree with the minister that in all cases where CSIS officials take down material that is is explained publicly or posted on a website, or intervenes directly in an activity where they fear that there are “terrorism activities” taking place, those are not new powers for CSIS? Does the member agree with the Minister of National Defence, or is he taking another position that the bill in fact accords specific new powers to CSIS?

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    Feb 23, 2015 10:35 am | Ontario, Lambton—Kent—Middlesex

    Mr. Speaker, I found it interesting that yesterday all the newscasts reported that al Shabaab members had come out and threatened areas of our great country of Canada where a great deal of innocent people gather every day. They hate the freedoms we have in our great country every day.

    I know my colleague wants to sit down with those people and talk to them about not doing that. These threats are coming through on the Internet and social media from other parts of the world.

    The member talked about the need to put resources on the ground. In fact, we have increased our resources for security. We may have stopped some from the top, but we have increased the numbers. The unfortunate part is that NDP members talk about that, but they never stand and support giving them any money or adding people to our security forces.

    My question is about our freedoms and at the same time protecting our security. Does the member see any way that they can run in parallel?

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    Feb 23, 2015 10:40 am | British Columbia, Langley

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to add my voice to the debate on Bill C-51, the anti-terrorism act, 2015.

    The international jihadist movement has declared war on Canada. We have tabled this important legislation to stop terrorists dead in their tracks before they can harm law-abiding Canadians. The legislation before us contains a number of provisions that work toward a common goal, which is to protect Canada and Canadians. It is a broad approach to a global program that has reached our doorsteps.

    I will focus my remarks today on important amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, commonly known as IRPA, and specifically to Division 9 of the act.

    As members of the House know, IRPA sets out the legal framework for Canada's immigration and refugee programs. Our immigration programs serve a number of purposes, including enriching the social and cultural fabric of Canada, reuniting families, and strengthening our economy.

    However, the immigration program also plays a fundamental role in maintaining the integrity of our borders and safeguarding our national security. In this respect, the government must sometimes turn to Division 9 of IRPA, which contains mechanisms that allow the government to use and protect classified information when deciding whether a non-citizen can enter or remain in Canada.

    Indeed, Division 9 mechanisms and their predecessors have been used for more than three decades. These include security certificates before the Federal Court and applications for non-disclosure before the Immigration and Refugee Board and the Federal Court.

    Certificates commonly known as “security certificates” are perhaps the most well-known proceeding under Division 9. They are used in exceptional circumstances when classified information is required to establish that a non-citizen is inadmissible to Canada for serious grounds of security, human or international rights violations, or serious or organized criminality.

    The information involved in these cases, which we commonly refer to as “classified information”, cannot be disclosed publicly because doing so would injure national security or endanger the safety of a person. The certificate is signed by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and by the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. It is then referred to the Federal Court. If the Federal Court determines the certificate is reasonable, it becomes a removal order that is in force.

    The system includes strong safeguards. There is broad judicial discretion to ensure the overall fairness of the proceedings. Furthermore, since 2008, special advocates who are non-governmental lawyers with the required security clearance to handle classified information protect the interests of non-citizens during the closed portions of the proceedings.

    In 2014 the Supreme Court of Canada found that the security certificate regime provides for a fair and constitutional process. Today we see that the recent phenomenon of individuals travelling abroad to engage in terrorist-related activities reinforces the need for Division 9 proceedings. In some of these cases, Division 9 may be the only mechanism available to pursue immigration proceedings against non-citizens so that they are unable to obtain or retain an immigration status, such as a permanent residency, and pursue their removal from Canada.

    Given the nature of the global threat environment, it is critical that the government be able to rely on effective and fair mechanisms to protect classified information in immigration proceedings before the courts and the Immigration and Refugee Board. Therefore, we believe that it is important to make limited and targeted changes to Division 9.

    Recent Division 9 cases have shown that there are times when classified information has become part of a case, even when it was irrelevant, repetitive, or not used by the government to prove its allegations. It also did not allow the persons subject to the proceedings to be reasonably informed of the case against them. The lack of clarity in Division 9 with respect to what information needs to form part of a case has increased the length of time needed to complete these proceedings. This is inconsistent with the legislative obligation to ensure expediency in these cases.

    Classified information must always be handled according to specific procedures distinct from those used to handle unclassified information. These procedures are meant to protect the classified information and reduce the risk of its being compromised. The current lack of clarity in Division 9 has also resulted in classified information becoming part of the court proceedings even though it was not used or needed. This is inconsistent with the need to reduce the risk of information being compromised.

    Furthermore, as it stands now, an appeal or judicial review of an order to publicly disclose classified information can only take place at the end of the proceedings. By the time this appeal could take place, it would be too late, as the information could have already been disclosed publicly. This disclosed information then could result in injuring national security or endangering people.

    To avoid releasing information, the government may elect to withdraw from the proceedings the classified information that has been ordered to be publicly disclosed, which could potentially weaken the case. The government could also withdraw the allegations against the person, but this is inconsistent with the need to ensure that we pursue all avenues to deny entry and status to individuals who are inadmissible to Canada, especially for serious reasons such as treason.

    That brings me to the amendments found within Bill C-51, which are designed to address these challenges.

    First, we intend to amend Division 9 to clarify what classified information forms part of a security certificate before the federal courts in cases involving classified information before the Immigration and Refugee Board.

    This would include information that is relevant to the case, that forms the basis of the case—in other words, information upon which the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration rely—and that allows the person to be reasonably informed of the case against them.

    Relevant information that is not relied upon would also be provided to specific advocates, but this information would not automatically be included as evidence in the case. To ensure fairness, special advocates would have discretion to review this information and determine if some of it should also be included as evidence.

    This would codify a practice that has evolved over time in Division 9 cases since the Supreme Court's decision on security certificates in 2008. It would help provide more certainty as to how these cases are being conducted, thus reducing the amount of time needed for these cases and making the process more expedient and fair for the person.

    The regime would also be amended to allow the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to ask a judge to be exempted from providing some relevant classified information to the special advocates that is now relied on and which does not reasonably inform the person of the ministers' case.

    To be clear, a judge would make this decision and would have broad discretion to communicate with special advocates as required. Special advocates could also make submissions to the court as to whether the exemption should be granted. The judge would only grant the exemption if he or she were satisfied that the information did not enable the person to be reasonably informed of the ministers' case.

    The final measure we are taking is to allow the government to appeal or to seek judicial review of orders to publicly disclose information that it considers injurious to national security or the safety of any person during Division 9 proceedings rather than at the end of those proceedings. This will provide another opportunity to argue before the court that this information should not be made public.

    The changes we are making to protect Canadians are important. I encourage all members of the House to support Bill C-51.

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    Feb 23, 2015 10:50 am | Ontario, Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing

    Mr. Speaker, we need to reiterate that Canadians do not have to sacrifice security over their rights. It has to be both. I am wondering if the member is aware that there is already legislation in place under the Criminal Code, in section 46, that takes on all of the concerns the Conservatives are indicating are their reasons for bringing the bill forward.

    The Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness says Canada will not be intimidated. Why is it, then, that today we are debating a bill that actually says, yes, we are being intimidated? I think that is atrocious.

    The government says it is investing all of this money. All the Conservatives are talking about is how much they have invested. They are not talking about how much they spent, because if we look at how much they spent, we see that it certainly is not the appropriate amount of money that they have actually invested.

    On that note, it is about security and about the proper tools. Those tools are currently in place and can be used. Could the member tell me how many times since 2001 the government has resorted to the recognizance with condition provisions that allow police to make preventive arrests?

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    Feb 23, 2015 10:55 am | British Columbia, Langley

    Mr. Speaker, I do acknowledge that the Liberal member is consistent in believing that national security will work out, that everything will work out, that the economy will manage itself and everyone will live in harmony and love. However, that is not reality.

    War has been declared against Canada and we are taking appropriate action. Creating a carbon tax and hiring more bureaucracy to manage this would be irresponsible. It would not protect Canadians. What we would do as a result of this this legislation, Bill C-51, needs to be supported by every member of the House.

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    Feb 23, 2015 11:00 am | Ontario, Newmarket—Aurora

    Mr. Speaker, February 15 was an exciting day in Newmarket—Aurora. Not only was it the 50th birthday of Canada's national flag, it was also the Battle of York charity hockey game between the Newmarket Hurricanes and the Aurora Tigers.

    The annual matchup between the junior A hockey club rivals, hosted by the Newmarket Hurricanes, has raised an impressive $111,000 to date. Dozens of individuals donated their time and resources to make the Battle of York 2015 one of the most successful yet. This year's proceeds will go toward the cancer centre at Southlake Regional Health Centre.

    It was a thrilling game, played during this Year of Sport in Canada. With hundreds of fans cheering players on both sides, it was more than just a game; it was sport at its finest, bringing hockey lovers and community together together for a tremendous cause.

    I congratulate all the players involved and to the Newmarket Hurricanes and the Aurora Tigers junior A hockey clubs on a job well done.

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    Feb 23, 2015 11:00 am | Ontario, Kitchener—Waterloo

    Mr. Speaker, my riding is well-known for its innovative and entrepreneurial culture. One of the key drivers of our success is the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce. Its annual Business Excellence Awards celebrate outstanding companies, individuals, and organizations.

    I am pleased to recognize this year's recipients and their awards, as announced at last week's gala: Maureen Cowan, community leader; Al Hayes, volunteer of the year; Lesley Warren, young entrepreneur; Wilfrid Laurier University, environment and sustainability; Economical Insurance, employee engagement; Drayton Entertainment, tourism; St. Mary's General Hospital, innovation; Chicopee Ski & Summer Resort, non-profit; Kitchener-Wilmot Hydro, workplace health and wellness; and in the three business of the year categories: Zoup!, Caudle's Catch Seafood, and Ontario Drive & Gear.

    I congratulate all winners and I thank the chamber for promoting business excellence in our community.

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    Feb 23, 2015 11:00 am | Newfoundland, Random—Burin—St. George's

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize three young men from Marystown, in my riding of Random—Burin—St. George's.

    The heroic actions of 18-year-old TJ Fitzpatrick and Justin Saunders and 17-year-old James Stapleton saved the lives of three people from almost certain death in a blaze that destroyed a hotel in the early morning of February 16.

    When TJ noticed smoke coming from the hotel, he alerted the local fire department. While waiting for the fire department to arrive, he and his two friends forced their way into the building. Once inside the smoke-filled hotel, the trio made their way into rooms, looking for sleeping guests.

    It was because of their efforts that two guests staying at the hotel and the receptionist were safely led from the building. Just 20 minutes after TJ came upon the scene, the hotel was completely engulfed in flames.

    When asked about their actions, they said they just did what anyone else would do in the same situation: “You don't think about yourself. You just think about who might be inside.”

    I ask all members to join me in recognizing the bravery shown by TJ Fitzpatrick, Justin Saunders, and James Stapleton.

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    Feb 23, 2015 11:05 am | British Columbia, Langley

    Mr. Speaker, Canadians are shocked to find out that an organization is attempting to deny Canada's brightest students the right to work in Canada because of their religious views.

    The Bank of Montreal has been discriminating against Trinity Western University students. BMO has aggressively opposed TWU law school graduates from practising law in Canada. This is one of Canada's largest banks. Why is it attacking religious freedoms?

    Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms confirms and protects our religious freedoms. Both the Supreme Court of Canada and the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia have upheld these democratic rights. The Supreme Court has said that our religious freedoms should be permitted to exist and should be encouraged to thrive.

    Canadians want their rights and freedoms to be taken seriously. They do not want a big national bank to bully a small private university. Canadians want their banks to focus on what they are there for, to focus on the economy and to provide financial assistance to Canadians.

    We call on the Bank of Montreal to reverse its discriminatory position and respect the religious freedoms of all Canadians.

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    Feb 23, 2015 11:05 am | Ontario, Welland

    Mr. Speaker, Welland Hospital, in my riding, is under threat of closure. Last month, about 70 people gathered at the Welland Civic Square for a meeting organized by the Niagara Health Coalition and launched a petition to save Welland Hospital.

    I fully support the efforts being made to save Welland Hospital and the services people rely on. I would like to thank the many people who have taken the initiative and been involved in the campaign.

    Welland Hospital serves 51,000 city residents, as well as the communities of Port Colborne, Fort Erie, Pelham, and Wainfleet, meaning that almost 100,000 people rely on Welland Hospital.

    The Niagara Health System says it is too expensive to maintain the number of existing hospitals in the Niagara region. Having two hospitals or maybe just one will save millions of dollars in operating costs, it says. It might be true, but it shows that we are not making health care the priority it really deserves to be.

    We are beginning to see in Welland and Niagara the impact of the continuing neglect of health care by successive governments, both Liberal and Conservative, here in Ottawa. The Conservative government's $36 billion cut to health care transfer payments is affecting real lives in my community.

    We need better health care. We need to give it the attention it deserves. A healthy, productive community relies on easily—

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    Feb 23, 2015 11:05 am | Ontario, Oakville

    Mr. Speaker, the world is waking up to the potential health risks of electromagnetic radiation from cellular phones, Wi-Fi, baby monitors, iPads, and other tablets.

    France banned Wi-Fi in daycare centres and elementary schools and, for older children, teachers must turn off Wi-Fi when it is not being used for teaching. The Israeli Knesset has ordered radiation testing in all Israeli schools, banned Wi-Fi from preschools and kindergartens, and restricted its use to one hour a day for students up to Grade 3. Taiwanese lawmakers have banned the use of electronic devices for children under two altogether, and parents who allow older children to use iPads and smart phones face fines.

    Oakville-based Canadians 4 Safe Technology is on the Hill today with cancer expert Dr. Anthony Miller to address the potential harms from wireless radiation.

    Manufacturers' safety warnings are hidden in fine print in tiny booklets that most users never see. My private members' bill, Bill C-648, would make sure that Canadians can see the safety warnings they deserve to see so that they can use wireless devices safely.

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    Feb 23, 2015 11:15 am | British Columbia, Beloeil-Chambly

    Mr. Speaker, from the day the Prime Minister announced Bill C-51 in a campaign-style event, this has been about politics and not about protecting Canadians.

    Bill C-51 is a 62-page omnibus bill that amends no fewer than 13 acts, and despite ministers not being clear and sometimes even contradicting each other on the bill, the Conservatives still want to force it through after only a few hours of debate.

    If the government is so confident about the bill, why is it ramming it through to avoid debate? Why is it trying to keep it away from public scrutiny?

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    Feb 23, 2015 11:15 am | Quebec, Lévis—Bellechasse

    Mr. Speaker, as we saw again this weekend, the threat from extreme jihadists is real and is targeting places here in Canada. That is why I encourage all members to support Bill C-51.

    For us, safety and freedom go hand in hand. Indeed, we have a bill that will ensure that there is even greater judicial oversight and that the attorney general must give his or her consent. Let us send this bill to committee and get the job done for Canadians.

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    Feb 23, 2015 11:15 am | Ontario, Beaches—East York

    Mr. Speaker, mothers and fathers should be able to make the important decisions that affect their own children. That is why our new family tax cut and enhanced universal child care benefit will give 100% of families with kids an average of nearly $2,000 per child. That is nearly $12,000 over the child's first six years. Our government trusts that parents know what is best for their kids.

    However, both the Liberals and the NDP are against putting back money into the pockets of hard-working families. In fact, the Liberals would reverse our tax cuts and impose more taxes on middle-class Canadian families.

    On this side of the House, we will not hike taxes like the Liberals and NDP will. On the contrary, we are proud to ensure that mom and dad have the final say in where their money goes.

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    Feb 23, 2015 11:20 am | British Columbia, Beloeil-Chambly

    Mr. Speaker, we all agree public safety is important, but it must never be used as an excuse for dividing Canadians.

    There is growing criticism that Bill C-51 goes too far. First nations in particular are sounding the alarm about how the bill would impact them. Grand Chief Terrance Nelson spoke out, saying, “Treaty rights, land rights, natural resource development, any protest like that, they could be considered eco terrorists”.

    Does the government not understand that the bill is not just about terrorism? Is it really blind to the fact it can also target legitimate dissent and take away fundamental rights of Canadians?

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    Feb 23, 2015 11:20 am | British Columbia, Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam

    Mr. Speaker, Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association says that budget 2014 “demonstrates the government’s continued recognition of the importance of the auto sector to Canada’s economy..”.

    Add to that, news just last week that both Ford and GM are going to be building new cars in Canada. Add to that, the fact that Chrysler has announced that it is investing $2 billion into its plant. Add to that, the fact that Ford is expanding its footprint in Oakville, adding 1,200 new jobs. Add to that, the fact that Honda is expanding. Add to that, the fact that Toyota is expanding. It shows, again and again, that our government gets, supports, and is building the Canadian auto sector.

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    Feb 23, 2015 11:20 am | Quebec, Lévis—Bellechasse

    Mr. Speaker, we have seen again this weekend how the jihadi extremists' threat is real. That is why we need to move on and put measures in place to keep Canadians safe.

    Under his leadership, our Prime Minister, in one of the largest communities in our country, was proud to announce a bill that would fix the issue we face in our country, and when in this very place, we were attacked.

    I invite the member to support the bill and to send it to committee. I will be more than happy to answer all the questions he has on the bill so we can keep Canadians safe.

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    Feb 23, 2015 11:20 am | British Columbia, North Vancouver

    Mr. Speaker, at the height of the recession, our government took decisive action to support the automotive industry, including purchasing shares of General Motors. This decisive action helped to save over 52,000 jobs in Canada.

    Our government is committed to selling more shares at a time and place that is in the best interests of all Canadians.

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    Feb 23, 2015 11:20 am | New Brunswick, Beauséjour

    Mr. Speaker, since the Conservatives were elected to power, job creation has been half of what it used to be, and economic growth has been anaemic.

    In response to that, the Conservatives are eliminating programs that help veterans and cutting funding to security agencies and the RCMP. Why? They are doing that in order to provide tax cuts to which 86% of Canadians are not entitled.

    Why are the Conservatives refusing to come up with a real plan for job creation and economic growth, one that will help all Canadians, not just the richest ones?

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    Feb 23, 2015 11:20 am | Ontario, Parkdale—High Park

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are apparently considering selling off General Motors shares in order to balance the budget, even though Canadians would lose $600 million in the process.

    Can the Minister of Finance tell us whether he is really planning to sell the GM shares at a loss in order to balance the upcoming budget?

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    Feb 23, 2015 11:25 am | Quebec, Lévis—Bellechasse

    Mr. Speaker, at a time when we are facing a terrorist threat from jihadist extremists who are targeting Canada, it is completely irresponsible to want to just sit back and do nothing.

    Today, members will have an opportunity to rise and support protecting Canada against terrorism by voting for Bill C-51. This balanced bill has five measures. We can debate them in committee with experts and representatives and study the bill clause by clause. The responsible thing to do today is to support it and take action to protect Canadians.

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    Feb 23, 2015 11:25 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana

    Mr. Speaker, the government's own former employment minister said “wage rates have barely kept pace with inflation...”.

    Economic growth is also crucial to balancing the government's books. Conservatives have failed to generate growth, so they have to concoct a balance: 70% of infrastructure funds get punted into 2019, $1 billion gets clawed back from veterans, $10 billion is gone from DND, and the Mounties cannot keep up with child porn. Why? It is so that those earning $233,000 can get the biggest tax break. How smart is that?

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    Feb 23, 2015 11:25 am | Ontario, Nepean—Carleton

    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has it wrong, but that is not surprising coming from a party whose leader thinks that budgets balance themselves.

    Obviously, we have a plan not just to balance the budget, but also to create jobs. We have already created 1.2 million net new jobs through our tax cuts.

    The Liberals want to increase taxes for the middle class. It is clear that that will kill jobs, and we are going to stop them from doing that.

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    Feb 23, 2015 11:30 am | Ontario, London—Fanshawe

    Mr. Speaker, we will always support legislation that protects children, but police need resources too. The Conservatives do not get it. The parliamentary secretary dismissed millions in lapsed funding to stop child sexual exploitation as “accounting issues”. It is much more than that.

    This police unit receives more than 40,000 tips on child pornography every year, and there is already a huge backlog.

    Does the minister not understand that child sexual exploitation is a critical public safety issue, not something on which to balance his books?

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    Feb 23, 2015 11:30 am | Quebec, Lévis—Bellechasse

    On the contrary, Mr. Speaker, we have doubled the human resources dedicated to tackling child and sexual exploitation. It so happens that we have increased the budget so much that the RCMP is having difficulty finding the human resources to fill the positions. Why? It is because those of us on this side of the House are taking action despite the lack of support from the opposition.

    Canadians can count on the Conservative government to protect Canadians, to protect victims, and to protect children from sexual exploitation.

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    Feb 23, 2015 11:35 am | Alberta, Jeanne-Mance-Viger

    Mr. Speaker, let us be clear: we have special forces in Iraq to help the Kurdish peshmerga forces. We also have the air force hitting Daesh and ISIL targets in Iraq. Thanks to our contribution, we have stemmed the growth of the Islamic State in Iraq.

    We will consider the success and effectiveness of our military mission there shortly, as a government, before making any decisions. If we decide to extend the mission, we will move a motion in the House.

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    Feb 23, 2015 11:35 am | Newfoundland, St. John's East

    Mr. Speaker, we are looking for a bit of clarity from this government, not just more and more rhetoric.

    The Minister of National Defence knows that he should not be publicly musing about becoming militarily involved in Libya or Syria. He knows full well that Canada has not made a legal case for bombing in Syria. The Prime Minister has said that it would require the support of the Assad regime to do so.

    Can the minister assure the House that there are no plans for military operations in Syria or Libya?

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    Feb 23, 2015 11:35 am | Saskatchewan, Blackstrap

    Mr. Speaker, Canada continues to call for the immediate and full release of Mohamed Fahmy. The prospect of Mr. Fahmy continuing to stand trial is unacceptable.

    Canada advocates for the same treatment of Mr. Fahmy that other foreign nationals have received. I, the former minister of foreign affairs, and the Prime Minister have been raising this case with Egyptian officials at the highest level for some time. We will continue to do so. Our officials are providing consular assistance to Mr. Fahmy to ensure his well-being.

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    Feb 23, 2015 11:35 am | Ontario, Hamilton East—Stoney Creek

    Mr. Speaker, Mohamed Fahmy showed up this morning for the beginning of his retrial, only to find that it was postponed for another two weeks.

    Earlier this month, because of strong and personal advocacy from the Prime Minister of Australia, Australian citizen, Peter Greste, who had been convicted with Mr. Fahmy, was released and deported from Egypt.

    The obvious question: Will the Prime Minister personally call President el-Sisi to push for the immediate release of Mr. Fahmy?

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    Feb 23, 2015 11:40 am | Manitoba, Portage—Lisgar

    Mr. Speaker, we know that Canadians have to balance their budgets each and every day. That is why we are focused on making sure that we have strong jobs, a strong economy, low taxes, and more actual dollars in the pockets of Canadian families. We want Canadian families to know about that. As they are filing their income taxes this year, they can access our family tax cut retroactive to 2014. They can access, starting January 1, our expanded universal child care benefit.

    They are going to increase taxes. They are going to create a bigger burden on Canadian families. We are going to make life easier for Canadian families.

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    Feb 23, 2015 11:40 am | Nova Scotia, Kings—Hants

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are ignoring the challenges faced by middle-class families. They have cut funding for veterans. They have cut public health funding to educate Canadians about the importance of vaccinations. Meanwhile, the Conservatives are shovelling more money into economic action plan ads.

    When will the Conservatives lay off the action plan ads and start focusing on the things that really matter to Canadians, like supporting veterans or protecting children?

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    Feb 23, 2015 11:40 am | Alberta, Edmonton—Spruce Grove

    Mr. Speaker, the member might want to check the Constitution. The reality is that we are now transferring more money for health care to the provinces than ever in the history of Canada, and it is the provinces' responsibility to decide what vaccinations they cover in their public systems. Basic vaccinations are covered by the provincial system, and we encourage all parents to vaccinate their children.

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