Anti-terror act crosses line, warns former spymaster – Government plan to revive post-9/11 powers threatens individual rights: ex-CSIS boss
Two contentious anti-terrorism powers the government intends to revive are unnecessary, potentially dangerous and cross the line between state security and individual rights, Canada’s former spymaster charged Saturday.
“We should think very carefully before we take that step,” Reid Morden said of the government’s proposed Combating Terrorism Act, unveiled Friday by federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson.
Police and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service have, “perfectly sufficient powers to do their jobs,” said the former director of CSIS. “If they’re properly resourced … they don’t need more powers.”
The bill would re-introduce two lapsed laws to the Criminal Code giving police extraordinary powers to apprehend imminent terrorist threats.
“Preventive arrest” would allow individuals to be arrested without warrants in the belief that the arrest will disrupt terrorist activity and prevent a looming attack. Those arrested need not have committed any crime and can be detained for up to 72 hours. A judge can also impose conditions on their release, with violators liable to up to a year in jail.
The other power, investigative judicial hearings, would allow police and prosecutors to bring a person before a court and compel them to disclose information related to possible terrorism. Self-incriminating evidence cannot directly be used against them in any legal actions, but judges also could order the hearings be held in secret, a move critics likened to a Star Chamber.
The powers were introduced by Jean Chrétien’s Liberals in November 2001 following the 9/11 attacks. Criticism from civil libertarians and others forced the government to impose a five-year sunset clause.
But when the Harper government proposed a three-year extension in February 2007, the Commons was engulfed by days of bitter debate, finally voting 159-124 against the resolution.
Now the government will try again. “These provisions are necessary to protect our country from the threat of terrorism,” Nicholson said in a press release.
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