Supreme Court Justice Beverley McLachlin warns against overzealous anti-terrorism measures
OTTAWA — Canada’s most senior judge cautioned Tuesday against going overboard in the fight against terrorism by putting too much emphasis on the 9/11 attacks in the U.S. at the expense of sacrificing civil rights and charter protections.
Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin’s warning that lawmakers, judges and citizens must heed the big picture comes as the federal government’s war on terror is taking a beating in the nation’s courts.
“The fear and anger that terrorism produces may cause leaders to make war on targets that may or may not be connected with the terrorist incident,” McLachlin told the Ottawa Women’s Canadian Club in a luncheon speech Tuesday.
“Or perhaps it may lead governments to curtail civil liberties and seek recourse in tactics they might otherwise deplore . . . that may not, in the clearer light of retrospect, be necessary or defensible.”
The chief justice, citing historic examples of terrorism over the decades, described it as “an ongoing phenomenon that neither started nor ended with 9/11″ and therefore must be dealt with in a broad, systemic and sustainable way.
“It’s not a do it once and it’s over situation,” McLachlin said of short-term efforts to crack down.
Nor is it an “either-or” situation in which society must choose between rights or terrorism, she said.
The challenge in putting civil liberties on equal footing is that terrorist acts themselves breed fear that “there is a terrorist around every corner” who must be caught at all costs, she said.
McLachlin delivered her comments in a week that federal counter-terrorism measures are in peril.
Only hours before her speech, Mohamed Harkat held a news conference a few blocks away to bask in his new freedom after a judge relaxed strict bail conditions that confined him to virtual house arrest since his release from detention three years ago.
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