Harper announces anti-terrorism measures, BCCLA says it’s not sound security policy

PMO photo by Jason Ransom
PMO photo by Jason Ransom

PRIME Minister Stephen Harper on Friday announced that the government has introduced legislation to protect Canadians from the evolving threat of terrorism and keep our communities safe.

But the B.C. Civil Liberties Association said that this “radical” expansion of national security powers was not sound security policy and presented a real danger to Canadians.

Harper said that the world is a dangerous place and, as most brutally demonstrated by last October’s attacks in Ottawa and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Canada is not immune to the threat of terrorism. The proposed legislation will provide Canadian law enforcement and national security agencies with additional tools and flexibility to keep pace with evolving threats and better protect Canadians here at home.

In line with measures taken by Canada’s allies, the government is taking additional action to ensure the law enforcement and national security agencies can: counter those who advocate terrorism; prevent terrorist travel and the efforts of those who seek to use Canada as a recruiting ground; and disrupt planned attacks on Canadian soil.

The proposed legislation includes checks and balances to ensure it respects the rights of Canadians and complements other legislation passed by the government in order to better protect Canadians and secure institutions, including the Combating Terrorism Act and the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act.

The proposed legislation includes a comprehensive package of measures that will:

* criminalize the advocacy or promotion of terrorism offences in general;

* counter terrorist recruitment by giving our courts the authority to order the removal of terrorist propaganda online;

* enhance the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS)’s powers to address threats to the security of Canada while ensuring that courts maintain oversight;

* provide law enforcement agencies with enhanced ability to disrupt terrorism offences and terrorist activity;

* enhance the Passenger Protect Program by further mitigating threats to transportation security and preventing travel by air for the purpose of engaging in terrorism;

* make it easier for law enforcement agencies to detain suspected terrorists before they can harm Canadians and to toughen penalties for violating court ordered conditions on terrorist suspects;

* enable the effective and responsible sharing of relevant national security information across federal departments and agencies to better identify and address threats;

* Although not part of this proposed legislation, the government is also working with communities to prevent radicalization and intervene when individuals show signs of becoming radicalized.

* ensure that national security agencies are better able to protect and use classified information when denying entry and status to non-citizens who pose a threat to Canada; and,

* provide witnesses and other participants in national security proceedings and prosecutions with additional protection.

Harper said: “Our government is serious about taking action to keep Canadians safe. Recent attacks in Canada, which led to the deaths of Corporal Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, as well as attacks in France and Australia, are reminders that the world is a dangerous place and that Canada is not immune to the threat of terrorism. Recent terrorist actions in Canada are not only an attack on our country, but also our values and our society as a whole.

“Our government understands that extreme jihadists have declared war on us, on all free people, and on Canada specifically. Our Government will continue to protect the rights and safety of all Canadians. We will not, however, privilege the so-called rights of terrorists and others who would harm Canadians over the rights of law-abiding citizens. The proposed legislation would provide our security and law enforcement agencies with the required tools and flexibility they need to effectively detect and disrupt national security threats before they happen, keeping Canadians safe.”


MICHEAL Vonn, Policy Director of the BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA), said: “This radical expansion of national security powers is not sound security policy and presents a real danger to Canadians.  Our national security agencies have shamefully inadequate oversight and are hostile to accountability.  Canada has utterly failed to respond to the urgent need for national security oversight and instead, proposes an unprecedented expansion of powers that will harm innocent Canadians and not increase our public safety.”

Josh Paterson, BCCLA Executive Director, said: “Preventive detention permits holding an individual without charges based on mere suspicion of dangerousness. Expanding police powers to detain people without charges must be examined with the utmost scrutiny. Stripping an individual’s liberty where no criminal offence has been found to be committed – or where no offence is even suspected to have been committed – runs against the most basic principles of fundamental justice.”

Vonn added: “Criminalizing people’s words and thoughts is misguided and won’t make Canadians any safer. We will be less free, less democratic and less likely to know who to keep an eye on. This new law will impose a broad chill on legitimate political speech without enhancing public safety, and is likely unconstitutional.”