Canadian Anti-Terrorism Law News

Big news:

The court said the men, who are accused of having ties to al-Qaeda, have the right to see and respond to evidence against them. It pointed to a law in Britain that allows special advocates or lawyers to see sensitive intelligence material, but not share details with their clients.

In its ruling, the court said while it's important to protect Canada's national security, the government can do more to protect individual rights.

But the court suspended the judgment from taking legal effect for a year, giving Parliament time to write a new law complying with constitutional principles.

Critics have long denounced the certificates, which can lead to deportation of non-citizens on the basis of secret intelligence presented to a Federal Court judge at closed-door hearings.

Those who fight the allegations can spend years in jail while the case works its way through the legal system. In the end, they can sometimes face removal to countries with a track record of torture, say critics.

And that's not the only piece of good news from Canada. Two provisions from an anti-terrorism law passed at the end of 2001 were due to expire at the end of February. The House of Commons has voted against extending them:

One of the anti-terrorism measures allows police to arrest suspects without a warrant and detain them for three days without charges, provided police believe a terrorist act may be committed. The other measure allows judges to compel witnesses to testify in secret about past associations or pending acts. The witnesses could go to jail if they don't comply.

The two measures, introduced by a previous Liberal government in 2001, have never been used.

"These two provisions especially have done nothing to fight against terrorism," Dion said Tuesday. "[They] have not been helpful and have continued to create some risk for civil liberties."

Another article here.

Posted on March 2, 2007 at 6:54 AM • 11 Comments

Comments

AlexMMarch 2, 2007 8:00 AM

I don't like the british way either. If there are wrong "facts" in the secret material, how does the special lawyer know without asking his client about it?

How would I feel being convicted without seeing the facts the judgement bases on? With anonymous witnesses testifying against me?

Yvan BoilyMarch 2, 2007 8:12 AM

These changes have been fantastic news and a reversal of the erosion of Canadian Charter Rights. Canada has a history of passing laws similar to American laws to facilitate business, and this is cited in reports from 2001 in relation to why these laws were originally passed.

Unfortunately new laws will likely be passed in an effort to influence the upcoming election (Canada government has been a minority leadership since 2004), but hopefully if they are passed by the minority, they will receive more attention and critical analysis will prevail over a desire to provide Canadians (and our American trading partners) with an securtiy blanket that does nothing to impede terrorism.

Chris SMarch 2, 2007 8:31 AM

@Yvan;

Given the time required to draft new legislation, especially given that there appeared to be a consensus that it should be different than the current legislation, it is highly unlikely that new legislation will appear anytime this year.

It is much more likely there will be an election this year. The current government's strong points include its "law and order" stance, while the opposition is stronger on the "green issue". The government would likely prefer NOT to pass legislation, and go into an election blaming this on the opposition. If legislation were actually passed, the government would lose that leverage against the opposition parties.

Carlo GrazianiMarch 2, 2007 9:40 AM

I wish that in the U.S., senators running for the presidency were questioned as critically about their votes for the many and various outrages in the Patriot Act as they are now being questioned about their votes to authorize the Iraq war.

The trouble is that the Iraq war vote is an embarassment to them because the public has now changed its alleged mind and decided the war was a bad idea after all. Unfortunately, the majority of the public doesn't even understand the rights being sacrificed to the permanent, institutionalized "war" on terror, and certainly won't miss them until it's too late to get them back.

Yvan BoilyMarch 2, 2007 10:01 AM

@Chris;

I would tend to agree regarding the passage of legislation, however, the media is spinning up the hype on the impact of these decisions [both for & against] around the country. This close to an election, where the media goes, the politicians follow.

I hope that you are correct, but if the current Conservative government [for the non-Canadian readers, that is its name, not an ideological description ;)] wishes to pursue the strong Law & Order stance, I can see them taking a stab at this before the election.

My thoughts on this are reinforced by the fact that the Supreme Court gave the politicians one year to address the shortcomings in the security certificate laws, which basically forces the incumbant government to deal with it before an election, or have their lack of action used against them during the election. Likewise, attempts to stonewalling such legislation by the current opposition would be used in the future should the Conservatives lose the election.

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