National Newswatch

CALGARY - Federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose made an unexpected leap Friday from talking about health-care innovation to fears over the threat of the Islamic State.

Ambrose was discussing health care in a speech to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce when she abruptly changed topics.

"We're also proud of our record of making careful, principled choices reflecting the values of Canadians whether it's economic and financial security or creating and protecting jobs but also keeping Canada and Canadians safe in a dangerous and an uncertain world," Ambrose said.

"I know it's on a lot of people's minds and the truth is we are again at war with a very dangerous enemy, ISIL's campaign of what is unspeakable atrocities, whether it's beheadings or rape or slavery on the most innocent of people including women and children."

Her comments come as Ottawa pushes ahead with Bill C-51, which seeks to increase the powers of police and spy agencies in the name of fighting terrorism.

Ambrose lauded actions the Conservative government is taking, including changes to the Citizenship Act as well as the new anti-terrorism bill.

"We don't believe the Canadian government should ever sit on the sidelines — we didn't in Afghanistan and we won't in Iraq while our allies are actually acting to deny these terrorists a safe haven to plot against us," Ambrose said in a three-minute segment.

"Canada has been attacked now twice on our own soil. We won't allow Canadians to live in fear of going to West Edmonton Mall or allow our own citizens to travel abroad for terrorists purposes to actually fight our own soldiers and own allies."

The Conservatives brought in the bill — which would significantly expand the Canadian Security Intelligence Service's mandate — following the daylight murders of two Canadian soldiers last October.

The bill would give CSIS the ability to disrupt terror plots, make it easier to limit the movements of a suspect, expand no-fly list powers, crack down on terrorist propaganda, and remove barriers to sharing security-related information.

The House of Commons public safety committee plans to hear from more than 50 witnesses on the bill beginning next month.

Opposition MPs have repeatedly criticized the government for boosting security powers in the legislation but not giving watchdogs more bite.

Ambrose said her discussion about terrorism was not part of a strategy where the government is encouraging MPs to tout the new legislation.

"No. Not at all. It's just at the top of everyone's mind. It's what my parents ask me about. It's what I get asked about everywhere I go," she told reporters.

"People are afraid. I mean, I'm from Edmonton. We just had a direct threat on West Edmonton Mall by a terrorist entity. This is something that is topical and people want to know what's happening. It's important to let Canadians know what we're doing on the terrorism issue because people are afraid and people are worried."

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The Canadian Press
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