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Defence Minister Jason Kenney speaks in the House of Commons on Feb. 17, 2015.SEAN KILPATRICK/The Canadian Press

Defence Minister Jason Kenney is warning Canada faces a high probability of another attack from homegrown jihadists as he plays down the threat to civil liberties from proposed anti-terror legislation.

Mr. Kenney, who just assumed his new post weeks ago in a cabinet shuffle, made the dire prediction during an address to a defence conference in Ottawa Thursday morning.

The Harper government intends to pass Bill C-51, legislation that would expand the powers of security agencies, including the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, to fight terrorism. But Ottawa is not establishing greater civilian oversight of these agencies as opposition parties are recommending.

The government says the fact that authorities will have to seek judicial consent for many of the new powers is a sufficient protection.

Mr. Kenney said Canadians can't ignore the rising threat after the deadly attacks on soldiers last October as well as similar events in Paris, Sydney and Copenhagen.

He said Canadians are wrong to assume this country's geographical remoteness and its protection within the "American security umbrella" will spare them from the growing risk of radicalization at home. "Homegrown terrorism is not a remote concept but a Canadian reality," Mr. Kenney said.

"There is a high probability of jihadist attacks from within," the minister told the Conference of Defence Associations. "The threat of terrorism has never been greater. Combating them becomes more difficult as they merge, morph and migrate."

Talking to reporters after his speech, Mr. Kenney was asked why he feels the risk of homegrown terrorism would still be high even if C-51 passes. He said the risk would keep evolving.

"The threat that is going to keep mutating. We have to be flexibile in addressing the needs of our police and security agencies to counter the threat."