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OTTAWA, October 17, 2001 (LSN.ca) – An anti-terrorism bill entailing broad powers of arrest and detention and a massive loss of rights of the accused has pro-lifers concerned since the legislation’s definition of terrorism could be interpreted to include pro-life groups. The apprehension is warranted given a government intelligence agency document which includes the “pro-life movement” under the category of “single issue terrorism.” (see the Canadian Security Intelligence Service CSIS document: https://www.csis-scrs.gc.ca/eng/comment/com74_e.html)

Presented in the House of Commons Monday, the Liberal Government’s the Anti-Terrorism Act, Bill C-36, would allow for arrest and confinement by police for up to 72 hours on mere suspicion of criminal offense, and also remove the right of the accused to be silent so as to avoid self-incrimination. (see the bill at:  https://www.parl.gc.ca/37/1/parlbus/chambus/house/bills/government/C-36/C-36_1/C-36TOCE.html)  Whereas U.S. anti-terrorism legislation has a sunset clause with which the legislation will expire after 4 years the Canadian bill includes a review of the legislation in three years but not an expiry.

The definition of terrorism in bill C-36 includes “an act or omission…committed in whole or in part for a political, religious or ideological purpose, objective or cause” … “that is intended to…cause serious interference with or serious disruption of an essential service, facility or system, whether public or private.” Although this portion of the definition could be applied to legitimate forms of protest, the legislation’s definition exempts “lawful advocacy, protest, dissent or stoppage of work that does not involve an activity that is intended to result in” conduct causing death, bodily harm, endangering life, or risk to health or safety.

Given the wide-ranging powers of the proposed legislation and the broad interpretation that the bill would sustain, the legislation is being looked at critically by advocates of free speech. However, the government is pressing for quick passage of the bill before adequate analysis can be completed. Karen Murawsky, National Affairs Director for Campaign Life Coalition told LifeSite, “The enforcement of this legislation could be dangerous and possibly used against us without cause.”

One Liberal MP discussing the legislation in the House yesterday specifically mentioned pro-life protest as exempt from the legislation. Pat O’Brien (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Trade) supported the legislation saying it contained safeguards protecting “legitimate political activism and protest.” In a short list of legitimate protestors he mentioned Fr. Tony Van Hee, who has for years protested on Parliament Hill. In a reference to Fr. Van Hee, O’Brien mentioned “an individual priest here day after day expressing his strong pro-life views.”

See yesterday’s Hansard at:  https://www.parl.gc.ca/37/1/parlbus/chambus/house/debates/095_2001-10-16/HAN095-E.htm

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