2nd Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 149, Issue 147

Wednesday, June 3, 2015
The Honourable Leo Housakos, Speaker

Anti-terrorism Bill, 2015

Bill to Amend—Third Reading—Motion in Amendment—Debate Continued

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators I rise today to speak at third reading of Bill C-51. You have heard Senators Mitchell, Dawson and Cordy speak so convincingly and passionately about the challenges of this anti-terrorism bill. A few weeks ago, I also spoke at second reading of this bill. Nothing has changed in Bill C-51 since my second reading speech. We have had one long day of hearings in committee, and I would like to address the most pertinent question that arose: Will this anti-terrorism bill keep Canada safe?

There are some provisions that will give more tools and powers to the security authorities. While I agree that security authorities need some new powers, this could have been achieved without bringing in such a far-reaching anti-terror bill.

Honourable senators, for me nothing has changed since second reading. What is perhaps most troubling is that we did not hear from a single Muslim at committee stage, the community that will be most affected by passing this bill.

Honourable senators, I take the threat of terrorism very seriously, so much so that many years ago after I returned from Peshawar, Pakistan, I met with Senators Segal, Tkachuk, Joyal and Dallaire, who were the steering members of the Special Senate Committee on Anti-terrorism. I asked them to work with me to start a study on radicalization. They were open to the idea but, unfortunately, the Senate leadership did not agree to reconvene the committee.

What upsets me most is that over the years the Special Committee on Anti-terrorism has built an expertise on the issue of terrorism. That committee was not reconvened for this anti-terrorism bill, though I believe it should have been. I have also spoken with Ministers Blaney and MacKay, Commissioner Paulson of the RCMP, and Mr. Coulombe of CSIS about my work on terrorism, wanting to share with them what I have learned in many countries. I have offered to work with them, but I have yet to hear back from any of them.

I work on issues of terrorism around the world. A few weeks ago, I was in Oslo to deal with radicalization in the developed world. These experiences demonstrate how seriously I take the issue of terrorism. Why? I do not want people to usurp my faith of Islam for violent gains. As a politician, I believe our role is to create harmony in society. What is harmony, though?

For instance, let us think about a piano. You cannot obtain great harmony by playing only the white keys or only the black keys. Playing on both white and black keys is what is needed for real harmony. Honourable senators, to have harmony in Canada, we need to involve all members of our country. We all need to feel like we belong to our great country, Canada.

At second reading, I emphasized the profound problems with this bill. I stated my concerns with regard to information sharing, compensation, warrants that break our Charter, and the newly defined terrorist propaganda law. I requested that Bill C-51 have extensive hearings and that we, a chamber of sober second thought, give more thought to the implications of this bill, which has been described as the largest national security overhaul since 9/11. Unfortunately, my request was not heeded. After only one long meeting we are back in this chamber readying ourselves to vote on this anti-terrorism bill.

Today, I raise a question, one that I do not feel has been adequately examined with regard to not only this anti-terrorism bill but also with national security in general. What is happening in Canada that is causing our youth to be radicalized and in some cases to leave the country to fight with terrorist organizations? Why are Canadian citizens being radicalized to the point of violence?

This anti-terrorism bill does not deal with the root causes of radicalization, nor does any other bill or law deal with this issue. For this reason, I am certain that Bill C-51 will not keep us safe but it will most certainly infringe on many of our rights. If we truly want to stop the stem of violent extremism from growing, we must seek to understand it from all angles. To understand the grievances of our youth and visible minority groups is a much more difficult and introspective task than to point our fingers solely at outside influences as the bill suggests. If we are truly going to have a thoughtful conversation about this issue, then we must subject ourselves to the sometimes painful endeavour of self-examination.


Honourable senators, I would like to take some time to speak about what some Canadians are facing and then present what I believe to be a more thoughtful and effective response to the issue of violent extremism — one that will not involve putting our rights at risk and one that will achieve a balance between security and human rights.

There are three issues that I would like to raise. The first is systemic discrimination in Canada; the second is the effects of rhetoric; and the third is mental health.

First, on systemic discrimination, we can no longer deny that for many Canadians discrimination in many forms has become part of everyday life. Our policy of multiculturalism is one of the most advanced in the world. Yet, simply including multiculturalism in our Charter is not enough. To combat systemic discrimination, the spirit of multiculturalism must run through every policy that we make. This includes how Canadians are policed.

Honourable senators, many of you are aware that in Toronto, a Black or Brown male is five times more likely to be stopped, and in some cases searched, for no reason. We all know about this through the well-documented statistics on carding.

In our prisons, Black individuals make up 9.3 per cent of the population, while outside of prisons they make up only 2.9 per cent of the population. Black Canadians are also more frequently placed in maximum security institutions, even if the justice system rates them as unlikely to be violent or to reoffend.

I would like to quote Desmond Cole, a resident of Toronto, who wrote in Toronto Life about what it feels like to be over-policed in this manner:

I have been stopped, if not always carded, at least 50 times by the police in Toronto, Kingston and across southern Ontario. By now, I expect it could happen in any neighbourhood, day or night, whether I am alone or with friends. These interactions don’t scare me anymore. They make me angry. Because of that unwanted scrutiny, that discriminatory surveillance, I’m a prisoner in my own city.

Honourable senators, Chief Saunders was stopped on his way to his swearing-in ceremony as Chief of Police of Toronto. Nobody is immune from this.

If that level of discrimination exists in the everyday policing of individuals, then we can only imagine the discrimination that Canadians would face in areas that are not as well documented — for example in housing, in the job market, at the airport and in everyday actions like being followed around in a supermarket simply because you are Black or Brown.

This makes one feel like a prisoner in one’s own city and can lead to feelings of alienation. Individuals can quickly feel as if they do not belong here and begin searching for outside places and communities by which they believe they will be more accepted. We all have a need to be part of a community.

Honourable senators, it is no stretch to say that systemic discrimination of visible minority individuals plays a role in radicalization. If we are serious about combatting radicalization, then we must first look at the systemic discrimination that runs through our society to start with — for instance, stop carding in Ontario.

Second and closely related, I would like to speak about the effects of rhetoric that we use which leads to the marginalization of some visible minority communities. Senator Mitchell has also raised this issue several times in his speech and I would like to delve into it further.

In the interest of time, I will give only one example of this, but to the discernible eye many more examples can easily be found. Since the introduction of this anti-terror bill, the government has insisted on using the words “violent jihadism” or “violent jihadi terrorists.” In what way does co-opting the Islamic term of “jihad,” which is a term ripe with multiplicity of meanings and nuances, help the government combat violent extremism here at home?

When asked about the meaning of “jihad,” His Highness the Aga Khan, an honorary Canadian, said:

To begin with, I think there are several interpretations today. I do not think that there is in the Muslim world only one definition of Jihad. The word is used too frequently and in too many fields. But the Jihad is, before anything else, a personal discipline. To begin, it is the search for personal improvement, which means that it is a personal effort in life.

According to His Highness the Aga Khan that is the premier definition of “jihad,” yet the government seems keen on co-opting the term and using it in a manner that they see fit, which can have far-reaching effects on Canadian Muslim communities.

First, it shows a lack of respect for the faith of over one million Canadians by making undue associations with Islam and the radical extremist elements that Muslims themselves are combatting. We Muslims do not want our faith to be co-opted for violent extremist means. We are peace-loving citizens, just like any other Canadians.

Second, it puts anyone who has any association with the term “jihad” under increased scrutiny — even if the term is not used to denote violence.

During our pre-study of this anti-terror bill, I asked two experts on radicalization, J.M. Berger and Haras Rafiq, about the effects of rhetoric on radicalization. They said:

A very small number of Muslims are Islamists . . . . They will say that the West is at war with Islam. Well, the far right will say the same argument, rotated by 180 degrees, and say that Islam is at war with the West. This polarization, if we’re not careful, is going to get worse and actually help to drive more young Muslims into the hands of Islamist recruiters.

I think it’s very important that we get Bill C-51 right. It’s important that we don’t see the Muslim communities in Canada purely through the lens of extremism, radicalization and terrorism, and work on the other parts of society because it’s the right thing to do. Those are things like social cohesion, integration, getting people into jobs and getting them an education.

Rhetoric, when compounded with other factors — such as preventing women from wearing their hijab while taking their citizenship oath — can lead to the marginalization of individuals and simultaneously play into the world view that groups like ISIS use to recruit. Instead, we should be using neutral terminology which is thoughtful and does not paint everyone with the same brush.

Third, I would like to speak about mental health. There is little doubt that mental health plays a significant role in some of the most recent cases of terrorism that we have seen. It also plays a role in the lives of some of those individuals who left Canada to fight with foreign terrorist organizations.

Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, the individual who attacked Parliament last fall, was known to have a history of mental health issues. There is no doubt that those issues played a role in developing the conviction that he should attack Canada’s Parliament.

At some point, while living in Vancouver, my city, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, because of his disruptive behaviour — and nothing to do with issues of terrorism — was asked to leave the mosque. I do not fault that community for turning him away. I fault our mental health regime which did not provide the adequate resources for this community to help this man before his mental health issues made him a danger to others.

In the same vein, I would like also to suggest that these faith-based communities have adequate resources to bring individuals who are on the fringes into the mainstream. Faith communities should feel comfortable to work with authorities, which this anti-terror bill would discourage.

Early converts who may have a predisposition to being radicalized should be contacted, reached out to and be taught about the religion and the community that they have joined. This should be viewed through the lens of national security. This is the suggestion that I have made for many years to anybody who would listen. We need to stop our children from being radicalized. I believe the first step is to recognize that they are our Canadian children.

Communities should have the resources to connect with those individuals and provide them with opportunities to create relationships in the community and get any sort of mental health or scholarly knowledge which would help their personal development.

Honourable senators, there are many ways in which individuals are radicalized. I have presented three: systemic discrimination, untamed rhetoric and untreated mental health issues. These are issues that can be dealt with if we have the political will. Dealing with just these three issues would allow us to reduce the emphasis on domestic spying and over-policing of visible minority groups. It would allow us to reduce the emphasis on criminalizing free speech. It would allow us to reduce the emphasis on secret courts and no-fly lists. If we deal with these issues thoughtfully, it becomes more difficult to justify putting the rights of Canadians at risk.

Honourable senators, as you know, I lost my father, Sherali Bandali Jaffer, just a few months ago. He was a politician of many years who had to flee our homeland. He had many choices of where we could live because of who he was, but he chose Canada. He chose Canada because he always said that in Canada people are treated fairly. He wanted his grandchildren and great-grandchildren to live in a country where all people were treated equally, irrespective of their colour or faith. I’m sure he will be turning in his grave over this anti-terror bill.

My father taught me many things, but one profound idea that he spoke of often was that a politician is the most powerful person in society. By a politician’s work on passing laws, he can cut up societies or sew up societies, by the legislation they work on. Politicians have the power to cut up or sew Canada.


Honourable senators, this anti-terror bill is like scissors. It will divide our communities at this very critical juncture in the life of our country. I urge you not to be scissors but needles and help to sew up our country so that we can live harmoniously. Our great country of Canada needs us all to work hard to create a harmonious society. Let us, for the sake of all our grandchildren and great grandchildren, including my grandchildren, make Canada a country that belongs to all of us.

May I have five more minutes? I have an amendment.

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Motion in Amendment

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Therefore, honourable senators, I move:

THAT Bill C-51 be not now read a third time, but that it be amended in clause 16,

(a) on page 25, by replacing lines 36 to 41 with the following:

“nicating statements, wilfully advocates or promotes the carrying out of a terrorist activity for the purpose of inciting an act or omission that would be a terrorism offence — other than an offence under this section — “; and

(b) on page 26,

(i) by deleting line 1, and

(ii) by adding after line 4 the following:

“(1.1) No person shall be convicted of an offence under subsection (1)

(a) if the person establishes that the statements communicated were true;

(b) if, in good faith, the person expressed or attempted to establish by an argument an opinion on a religious subject or an opinion based on a belief in a religious text; or

(c) if the statements were relevant to any subject of public interest, the discussion of which was for the public benefit, and if on reasonable grounds the person believed them to be true.”.

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, is there leave to stack amendments at third reading for the purpose of debate?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Hon. the Speaker: It is moved by the Honourable Senator Jaffer, seconded by the Honourable Senator Fraser, that Bill C-51 be not now read a third time but that it be amended in clause 16 — dispense?

Some Hon. Senators: Dispense.