TRU law professor says a new bill might follow the introduction of Bill C-44
Canadians have been told to expect more anti-terrorism measures from the federal government following Bill C-44, or the Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act, tabled early last week.
The bill was to be presented to Parliament just before Ottawa was rocked by the Oct. 22 shootings that killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo and ended in the halls of Parliament. Two days prior, a car hit two members of the Canadian Forces in Quebec, killing Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent. The driver was identified as Martin Couture-Rouleau, who was being monitored by the RCMP as a possible extremist.
The government did not have time to take either attack into account before presenting Bill C-44 to Parliament on Oct. 27.
Robert Diab, a TRU law professor specializing in constitutional law, human rights and national security, said it is too early to say how lawmakers in Ottawa will react to the attacks.
“It’s not clear that there’s much more we can do,” Diab said.
“Conversely, it’s not clear that what happened last week in Ottawa was a consequence of a lack of police powers…There seems to be a wide consensus that what happened is very difficult to prevent, given that it’s a lone individual, probably suffering mental health issues. There’s even debate on whether it was an act of terror, or was it just a crime.”
Diab added that the government might present a new bill in response to the attacks.
In his opinion, that bill could amend the Criminal Code to increase the time someone suspected of terrorist involvement can be held without charges being laid to one or two weeks, something Diab said may or may not be constitutional.
He also suggested new measures might include making it easier to place court-enforced conditions, called a recognisance, on those suspected of terrorist involvement or increasing the criminal consequence of encouraging radicalization.
Some activists and political experts are expressing concern that “further anti-terrorism measures” could translate into unconstitutional legislation.
Brigitte DePape, who made headlines three years ago after walking into the centre of the Senate chamber and holding up a “Stop Harper” sign to protest the Conservative majority, accused the Harper government of “using this crisis to push for laws that are threatening our own civil liberties.”
“I think this is precisely the time that we need to be having compassion and need to be challenging racism and need to be investing in social services,” DePape said. “We know a root cause of crime is inequality and unequal access to good social services, like around mental health, and that to me is really the response we need.”
DePape was on campus on Oct. 28 to speak on civil liberties and the “Stop Harper” campaign.
DePape wasn’t the only one calling for caution. On Oct. 29, the Privacy and Information Commissioners of Canada released a statement urging an “evidence-based approach” to new powers for intelligence and law-enforcement agencies, open and transparent dialogue on new anti-terrorism measures and “effective oversight [to] be included in any legislation establishing additional powers for intelligence and law enforcement agencies.”
“Canadians both expect and are entitled to equal protection for their privacy and access rights and for their security,” the statement said. “We must uphold these fundamental rights that lie at the heart of Canada’s democracy.”
Diab said that he would like to see better information networks at the community level, which he thinks would allow law enforcement to intervene earlier in the radicalization process.
“Concerns about what happened last week I think are better addressed, would be better addressed, if we put more energy and resources into understanding the process of radicalization,” Diab said.