It has been just over one week since the tragic events in Ottawa and Quebec occurred that have given us all pause to reflect, mourn and in many cases share personal feelings on these disturbing events. In turn I have also received a large amount of feedback from citizens on a variety of issues. Some of the issues I have heard from citizens on range from not repairing the bullet damage within the House of Commons for historical perspective, to ensuring that honor guard is armed and in some cases increased. Feedback I have also heard is for security to be increased within the House of Commons but generally not to the extent that Parliament Hill is off limits and inaccessible to Canadians. While many citizens have expressed an understanding for changes to occur most are also concerned that changes are measured and carefully implemented. The need to achieve a balance and not significantly compromise rights and freedoms of Canadians is another concern I have heard from many citizens. Lastly, I continue to receive supportive messages and well wishes from constituents that have been greatly appreciated throughout this ordeal. I am listening to these concerns carefully and ensuring that they are passed on in Ottawa.
One Bill that has been introduced this week is Bill C-44 “Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act”. It should be noted this Bill was not drafted in response to last week’s events; in fact the Bill was due to be tabled into the House of Commons on the very day the shooting occurred and as a result was delayed until this week. Ultimately Bill C-44 seeks to modernize Canada’s ability to collect foreign intelligence and investigate threats including the ability to provide security assessments. In order to achieve these objectives Bill C-44 proposes a number of measurers that in large part will increase the investigative tools available to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). Some of these measures include confirming the Federal Court can issue warrants for CSIS to investigate threats to our national security outside of Canada. Another measure is providing the Federal Court with “the authority to operate within the scope of relevant Canadian law when issuing warrants to authorize CSIS to undertake certain activities to investigate a threat to the security of Canada outside of Canada”. It is also proposed to protect the identity of CSIS sources from disclosure in a similar manner as would be afforded to informants to Canadian law enforcement agencies. This same protection would also apply to employees of CSIS. Although there was some speculation and concern raised that the identity provisions would be exempt from judicial oversight, the legislation does contain language that ensures judicial oversight is respected in this act. In more plan language this means that provisions within this act ensure a Judge ultimately has jurisdiction over identity protection.
Bill C-44 also proposes amendments to the “Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act” that will, and I quote directly “will enable the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to revoke Canadian citizenship from dual citizens who are convicted of terrorism, high treason, and treason or spying offences, depending on the sentence received.`` Although many citizens I have heard from are supportive of individuals with dual citizenship having Canadian citizenship revoked in the event they engage in acts of terrorism there are others who disagree with such measures. As always I welcome your comments, questions and concern on this or any Bill before the House of Commons.
Before I close this week I would like to sincerely thank the many citizens who have taken the time over the past week to share your concerns, thoughts and feelings. In times of great tragedy and loss, the ability of Canadians to come together and collectively mourn while standing proud for our values and what we stand for as a country has helped many through what is a difficult time. Last week I expressed my concern that we do not allow events such as these to change Canada. After the past week I have been reminded that brutal acts of senseless violence will never change who we are as Canadians. That is what sets us apart and is what we collectively celebrate together on the 1st day of July for over 147 years.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.