City Hall/Queen’s Park Reporter
The Harper government is moving ahead with its tougher anti-terrorism laws, critics be damned.
Federal Conservative House Leader Peter Van Loan stopped by Humber’s Lakeshore campus Thursday to promote Bill C-51, his government’s controversial new anti-terror legislation.
Van Loan said Canadian intelligence needs enhanced powers to catch up with enhanced threats to Canadian security.
He warned against the “rising tide of Islamic extremism coming to our shores with ISIS-inspired terrorist attacks.”
Canadian Security and Intelligence Services (CSIS) will now have the “ability to disrupt terrorist plots” before they come to fruition with judicial approval, Van Loan said.
He acknowledged this essentially allows judges to authorize breaches of the law by CSIS but insists it is necessary to keep Canadians safe.
Van Loan said it will also be a crime to advocate an act of terrorism, broadening the current prohibition against counseling terrorist offences.
He assured the audience this will have no effect on Canadians engaging in legitimate protest.
A Forum poll from March says 38 per cent of Canadians support the bill.
This almost matches the 39 per cent of votes the Tories received in the 2011 federal election, according to results from Elections Canada.
Van Loan dismissed criticisms of the bill by four former prime ministers including Joe Clark, a Conservative, and five former Supreme Court justices as politically motivated.
“We’re in pre-election mode and none of those prime ministers support the current government. None of them did when in office did any of the things they are saying should be done,” he said.
“Joe Clark has been telling everyone to vote Liberal. That’s his mistake,” Van Loan said.
Clark reluctantly endorsed Paul Martin for prime minister in the 2004 election, calling him “the devil we know” on CTV News.
Taha Ali, president of Humber’s Muslim Students Association and a criminal justice student at Guelph-Humber, sees much for concern in the anti-terror bill.
Ali said C-51’s overly broad definition of terrorism is troubling, as some Canadians conflate Islam with terrorism. He feels the Harper government is tapping into this sentiment and encouraging it.
“Just by having a certain passport, name, being of a certain background or holding certain religious beliefs, you are automatically under suspicion,” he said. “That’s the effect it has on Muslims by and large.”
The Charter already allows for limited violations on an individual basis. Ali said C-51 allows these violations to occur on a mass scale, targeting Muslims in particular.
“Right now the bill allows secret agencies to enforce the law in secret, grants them the power to violate the law and our constitution to do so, criminalizes dissent, criminalizes speech that is far removed from violence and virtually eliminates privacy rights,” comedian and Toronto Star columnist Scott Vrooman said in an e-mail.
“I would say the main part of the bill that needs a tuneup is the part with all of the words and laws,” he wrote.