Salma Zahid

Your member of parliament for

Scarborough Centre

Salma Zahid

Your member of parliament for

Scarborough Centre


Involvement of Muslim community imperative to lasting security

On September 27, Salma Zahid spoke in the House of Commons about Bill C-22, which corrects the excesses of Bill C-51 and brings needed oversight to our national security regime. Please see video and text of her speech below.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C22, a piece of legislation that brings overdue changes to our country’s approach to national security and puts to lie once and for all that we need to make a choice between the desire to keep Canadians safe while and safeguarding the rights and freedoms that all Canadians cherish.

Since the tragic events of September 11, 2001, as Western governments and Western societies have struggled to respond to this new terrorist threat, this false argument has been presented. Yes, we must ensure that law enforcement and intelligence agencies have the tools and resources they need to counter these new and often rapidly emerging threats. But no, public safety need not come at the detriment of our fundamental freedoms and rights. I reject this false argument, and so does our government.

To quote Benjamin Franklin, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

It has often been said of the terrorist threat that “they hate us for our freedom.” While I find that a trite and simplistic statement, the fact is, if we do trade our freedoms for greater security then, in essence, those that use terror as a weapon have achieved their goals. For their mission is not merely death or destruction. It is terror. It is to fundamentally change our society for the worse. And we must not allow that to happen.

We cannot close our society to the world. Rather, we must remain an example to the world. A model of openness, of tolerance, of diversity. Let our diversity truly be our strength, and let Canada show that people of different religions, different languages and different cultures can live together in happiness and in security.

The world needs more Canada, Mr. Speaker. And at a time that countries are looking increasingly inward, at a time when countries are closing their doors — to trade, to refugees, to the rest of the world — it needs the Canadian example more than ever.

Mr. Speaker, let me turn to the specific measures in Bill C22. The centerpiece of this legislation is the establishment of a National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians that will play a crucial role of oversight and accountability over our national security system. The members of this committee will have access to classified information and a robust mandate to review all the national security framework and ensure it is working to keep Canadians safe while safeguarding our fundamental rights and freedoms.

Sunshine is always the best disinfectant, Mr. Speaker. And while it is only understandable that classified information cannot be shared with all Canadians, it is important that the people’s representatives, elected by and accountable to the people, have this access to ensure the people’s interests are safeguarded. This is a fundamental responsibility of a Member of Parliament, and this is an oversight model that has proven successful for Canada’s closest allies. I fully support this initiative.

As we design and debate a new national security framework for Canada, something that has been missing during previous debates is consultation. As you know, Mr. Speaker, I am a Canadian Muslim of Pakistani descent. There are more than one million Muslims in Canada. I am a member of a community that has often felt unfairly targeted by security agencies, and stigmatized as part of these security debates. From the attacks of September 11th forward, we have felt marginalized, profiled, and seen as part of the problem rather than as part of the solution.

I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that there are few Canadians more patriotic than my fellow Muslim Canadians, and I am honoured to be one of 11 Muslims that the people of Canada have elected to represent all citizens in this hollowed chamber.
Those of us that have chosen to come to Canada and make this our home did so for both the security that all Canadians value and the rights and freedoms that all Canadians cherish. Many of us have fled countries where personal liberties are severely limited or even non-existent, and come seeking safety from countries were violence and conflict are a daily fact of life.

Yet too often, as I said, we have been treated with suspicion and mistrust. It’s as if security agencies took a racial profiling approach to national security, rather than trying to work with the community. And that needs to change. We need to bring a community policing approach to national security.

We know this approach works in our cities, Mr. Speaker. When my colleague, the honourable Member for Scarborough Southwest, took over the Toronto Police Service division in Regent Park, relations between the community and the officers sworn to protect it were at record lows. By taking a community policing approach, treating the community as partners, the Member for Scarborough Southwest was able to establish trust with the community – a trust based on mutual understanding and mutual respect – and crime began to drop. People in the community knew they could turn to the police in times of trouble, or when someone was going down the wrong path.

In the same way, Mr. Speaker, national security agencies and the government must see communities like mine not as a problem, but as part of the solution. Security agencies must proactively engage with the Muslim and other communities and make us partners in building a safer and freer society. We are ready to be partners. Many of us have come to Canada to flee extremism and violence, and we want nothing more than to root it out in our new home.

That’s why I was happy, Mr. Speaker, to see that Budget 2016 included an investment of $35 million over the next five years to establish an Office of the Community Outreach and Counter-radicalization Coordinator, and that this commitment is reaffirmed in Bill C22.

There is already a lot of great work taking place in communities across the county on counter-radicalization initiatives, but these initiatives are lacking coordination and resources, and best practices are not being shared. This new Office will provide national leadership by coordinating federal, provincial, territorial and international initiatives, share those important best practices that have proven successful on the ground, and support community outreach and research.

Canada can, and must, become a world leader in counter radicalization and show that it is possible to build an open, pluralistic and democratic society. And that means engaging *all* Canadians in keeping our nation both safe and free.

Let us commit, here and now, to building a Canada where our youth never have to feel that they are different, that they don’t belong, or that they are worthy of suspicion, simply because of their religion, their ethnicity or the colour of their skin. That is my dream for the next generation.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to note that Bill C-22 also includes a number of other initiatives that seek to safeguard personal rights and freedoms that was missing from the previous government’s Bill C-51. For example, there are amendments to better protect the right to advocate and protest, and better definition of the rules regarding terrorist propaganda. The government is also introducing a statutory review of national security legislation to ensure that the people’s elected representatives have not only the opportunity, but the responsibility to regularly review national security legislation to ensure that it is still necessary, still effective, and is not unduly restricting the rights and freedoms of Canadian citizens.

These are all amendments that our party tried to make to Bill C-51 in the last Parliament to bring more balance to the legislation but, unfortunately, these amendments were rejected by the previous government.

I will be supporting this bill, Mr. Speaker, and I hope my colleagues on the other side of the aisle will join with us in supporting this important legislation. I believe Bill C-22 will strengthen our national security apparatus and help keep Canadians both more safe and more free.

Mr. Speaker, I am a Canadian by choice. I am a Canadian of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Growing up in Pakistan, one thing we all knew about Canada was about Pierre Trudeau and the Charter of Rights. It was a document that says every Canadian, and everyone within our borders, have certain fundamental freedoms. Freedom of conscience and religion, freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association.

I would not be here in this chamber and in this country were it not for this Charter, and these freedoms. I am committed to protecting and defending them, and Bill C22 does just that.

Thank you Mr. Speaker.