Law could be abused to target “anti-abortion activities” and other non-terrorists

OTTAWA, October 30, 2001 ( – Commentators from inside and outside Canada have expressed serious concerns regarding the anti-terrorist legislation being proposed in Canada. Writing in the Nov. 5 edition of Macleans, Barbara Amiel states, “As for the new offence of ‘mischief motivated by bias, prejudice or hate’, it can only tie up the courts and encourage frivolous prosecutions and political correctness…Finally, all these proposed laws should have sunset provisions. Otherwise, like the U.S. anti-racketeering statutes they will spill over and end up aimed not at terrorists or organized crime, but at people who injure the environment, or get involved in anti-abortion activities.”

The Oct. 26 Ottawa Citizen reports that the head of the federal spy watchdog called on the government to amend its anti-terrorism bill so that controversial provisions allowing pre-emptive arrests expire after a few years. Paule Gauthier, chairwoman of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, said the new powers, which would allow police to arrest terrorism suspects and send them for questioning, should last only between “three and five years.”

CP reported Oct. 23 that Terry Davis, a British Labour MP and chairman of the political affairs wing of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, said he was surprised at the reluctance of the government to place time limits on its anti-terror law. “If I was to be so bold to give unsolicited advice to Canadian ministers, it would be that they should not act in haste,” David said in an interview Tuesday after addressing the Commons foreign affairs committee. “Legislate in haste, and you repent at leisure.” … So far, the government has only committed to a three-year review of the legislation.

In a Globe and Mail article, Oct 25, it is reported that Alan Borovoy of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association told the House of Commons committee studying the bill the government has not shown that existing laws are inadequate to fight terrorism. His assertions are backed up by Wesley Wark of the University of Toronto who said the major problem security agencies have is a lack of resources not a lack of legislative tools.

Government employees in roles related to anti-terror work are questioning the need for the Liberals drastic new legislative measures. The civil servants are instead are emphasizing that their effectiveness could be dramatically improved by simply addressing the serious staff shortages and poor funding that the RCMP, CSIS and immigration services have had to endure the last several years.

Despite the almost two month’s old controversy, however, serious work still needs to be done in checking Canadian immigration. This especially applies to the shockingly loose rules regarding unknown persons who arrive at Canada’s borders declaring themselves to be refugees. Diane Francis wrote in the Financial Post Oct 23 that former FBI official Oliver Buck Revell, said: “Unless and until Canada can tighten its controls on immigration and refugees, these controls will have to be imposed at the border. Washington has great concern about Canada. In another interview, Francis reports that a high-ranking FBI spokesman told her “We estimate that anywhere from 50,000 to 70,000 dangerous criminals and terrorists are in Canada right now and are wanted for deportation or criminal charges.”