RALPH GOODALE’S REPORT
A commentary by the Member of Parliament for Regina-Wascana and Canada’s Minister of Public Safety & Emergency Preparedness
August 15th, 2016
Keeping Canadians and their Values Safe and Secure
Reflecting on last week’s failed terrorist attack, the first thing to note is that Canada’s police and security agencies, working closely with international allies (especially the FBI), foiled the would-be terrorist’s plot in a remarkably short span of time.
The FBI received “actionable information” in a video pertaining to Canada. Consistent with the robust security alliance that we have with the US, the Americans passed that material to the RCMP. Expert Canadian analysts were able to determine the likely identity and location of the suspect. Federal, provincial and local police forces were deployed immediately. The suspect was engaged and killed in a brief altercation. Public safety was secured.
The loss of any life is tragic, but the effective work of our security and police authorities, in partnership with the FBI, prevented a much more terrible outcome. On days like August 10th, Canadians unite in admiration for the skill and service of our public safety officers and first responders.
It’s important for Canadians to know that our agencies and their global partners are monitoring potential risks and threats all the time – 24-7, 365 days a year. When credible information is obtained about a possible terrorist situation, robust measures are in place to respond. It is important to say that despite this incident, based on all relevant information at the present time, the current terrorism threat level for Canada remains unchanged at “medium” where it has stood since October of 2014.
Events like last week’s and the tragic terrorist murders in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Ottawa in 2014 have led to a genuine appetite among Canadians for a serious examination of Canada’s current national security framework – what is it, where should it be improved, how can it become more effective in keeping us safe while safeguarding the essential values that make Canada, Canada?
The government is committed to meaningful national security consultations with parliamentarians, subject-matter experts and Canadians generally. Some of that work has already begun. It will intensify through this autumn with the publication of an updated report on the global risks and threats that affect Canada and a discussion paper that describes our current framework and asks questions about how Canadians want to reshape it.
As a minimum, the government has pledged to protect democratic rights to protest and advocate, to create a more responsive way to deal with no-fly list appeals and false positives, to apply more precise definitions to such things as “propaganda”, to ensure compliance with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and to have anti-terrorism legislation reviewed again in three years.
We have also introduced new legislation to create a statutory committee of parliamentarians with extraordinary access to classified information and a mandate to scrutinize the security and intelligence operations of all departments and agencies of the Government of Canada. The committee’s objectives will be two-fold – to make sure that all those departments and agencies are effective in keeping Canadians safe, and to make sure our values, our rights and freedoms, and the open, inclusive, democratic character of our country are fully respected. Canadians expect nothing less.
No one would think for one second that what marred Strathroy last Wednesday was at all representative of that peaceful, quintessentially Canadian community, as we heard so eloquently from Mayor Vanderheyden. But that event does make the point that in this uncertain world, no place is immune to the threat of terrorism. And the largest concern is about lone wolves who get sucked into perverse and extreme ideologies that promote violence.
Particularly relevant to what happened in Strathroy, we have also budgeted for a new national office and centre of excellence for community outreach and counter-radicalization. We need to get really good at this – to preserve our diversity and pluralism as unique national strengths.
Some work in this field is already being done in Canada – at various universities and in cities like Montreal and Calgary, for example – but there’s little national coherence. Our goal is to begin fixing that this year.
We need to access the best global research. We need to develop more of our own. We need to generate and coordinate talent and expertise. We need to mobilize and support community-based outreach agencies. We need to know how to identify those who could be vulnerable to insidious influences that draw certain people – especially young people – toward extremism leading to violence. We need to understand what positive messages can counteract that poison. We need to know how to intervene with the right tools at the right time in the right way – all to head-off tragedies before they happen, as much as humanly possible.
The consultations just ahead on national security will help inform all these items for government action. They will also help tell us what other steps and measures Canadians want their government to take – to keep them safe and to safeguard the way they want to live their lives.
You are welcome to participate. I hope you will.