On Friday of last week, the Federal Government introduced Bill C-51– “The Anti-Terrorism Act”. This is a bill that proposes a number of changes to enhance the abilities of our security agencies to better protect Canadians against terrorists and acts of terrorism. There are eight key measures proposed in this bill.
The first measure is to increase the mandate of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) to include the ability to disrupt potential threats to Canadians when there are believed to be reasonable grounds to do so. In the event that disrupting a potential terrorist act may be in contravention to the Charter or of other Canadian laws, a court order issued by a Judge would be required to authorize such actions. CSIS will also have the ability to issue a temporary threat disruption order that is intended to be limited to a maximum of 120 days. The intent of this provision is to prevent individuals from engaging in acts of terrorism, sabotage, or other serious criminal acts.
Another provision proposed in this anti-terrorism Bill is the criminalization against those who knowingly promote or otherwise encourage terrorist attacks against Canadians. Under Canada’s current laws a specific terrorism offence must be referenced in order to be a criminal act; under the new definition, any instructions to carry out terrorist attacks against Canadians can be a criminal offence subject to a maximum of five years in prison if convicted.
Another such proposal as is the ability to seize terrorist propaganda. This is a change that would be made to the Criminal Code (and be subject to an order by a Judge) that would allow materials to be seized if they promote or encourage attacks against Canadians or otherwise recruit those who would do Canadians harm. These changes would work in a similar manner as current provisions that enable child pornography to be seized.
Changes to Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act are also proposed as part of these eight key measures. It proposed that the Government can use and protect classified information to determine if non-Canadians can enter Canada or in other cases remain in Canada. Other proposed changes include modifications to Canada’s Passenger Protect Program (PPP). This is an air travel program that was created in 2007 and the proposed changes seek the removal of potential threats from commercial flights in a more expedited manner.
Aside from the measures already mentioned, the final key points cover a range of other initiatives such as increased information sharing between Canada’s national security agencies while adhering to the Privacy Act.
Other measures this bill introduces enhancements to witness protection and strengthened enforcement prevention provisions. The enhanced prevention provisions include the ability to detain suspected terrorists before they can harm Canadians. Although the threshold to make an arrest is lowered in these changes, they remain subject to judicial oversight by necessitating an authorization by a Judge for detention. Lastly Bill C-51 proposes enhancements to witness protection. Currently the witness protection program is structured to protect those who provide evidence in criminal matters. The changes proposed in the anti-terror bill similarly ensure that witnesses in matters involving national security are also protected.
This is a brief summary of the measurers proposed in Bill C-51 “The Anti-terrorism bill”. The Federal Liberals have indicated support for this Bill while the NDP position is still unclear (from my perspective). Although there were other items I had intended to include in this week’s report, as this is a very important bill it has been the focus for my report this week. We’ve learned this week of arrests being made in Ottawa relating to terrorism by the RCMP and also of the disturbing execution of a pilot who savagely burned alive by the terror group ISIL, it is important that our Canadian laws allow our enforcement agencies to keep pace protecting Canadians and our way of life. If you have further comments, questions or concerns on this or any Bill before the House of Commons do not hesitate to contact my office. I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.