Update: Bill S-7 was adopted by the House of Commons on April 24, 2013.
The debate at 3rd reading on Bill S-7, the Combating Terrorism Act, is now on the Parliamentary agenda.
The proposed “anti-terrorism” legislation aims to re-introduce the two provisions of the 2001 Anti-Terrorism Act that were subject to a sunset clause and which Parliament refused to extend in February 2007: the “investigative hearings” and the “preventive arrest” provisions (section 10). We are opposed to this bill because:
– First, the Criminal Code, prior to the adoption of the Anti-Terrorism Act in 2001, was already an effective tool to counter terrorism. It allowed for lawful surveillance, evidence-gathering, prosecution, conviction and punishment while also upholding an individual’s Charter rights to the presumption of innocence, due process and a fair and transparent trial. These so-called anti-terrorism provisions do not maintain these basic legal standards.
– Second, Bill S-7 would allow persons to be detained for up to three days without charge (“preventive arrest”); strip individuals of their basic rights as accused under criminal proceedings to know and challenge evidence against them; threaten them with criminal punishment; and compel individuals to testify in secret before a judge in an “investigative hearing”. Further, the judge may impose imprisonment of up to 12 months if the person refuses to testify.
– Third, the preventive arrest and investigative hearing laws, in effect from 2001 to 2007, were never once used for their intended purpose, and every major criminal terrorism-related incident in Canada since 2001 has been disrupted and prevented without the need for preventive detention or investigative hearings.
– Fourth, the two provisions rest on the very broad definition of what constitutes a terrorist activity and of what constitutes participating in such an activity. As a result, they could allow for arresting and compelling to testify people involved in lawful activity and legitimate political dissent.
Reliance on arbitrary powers and a lower standard of evidence can never replace good, effective police work. It is highly likely that these provisions could target innocent individuals, lead to violations of rights and freedoms and bring into disrepute the administration of justice in Canada.
N.B.: The link opens a Word document. A new window should open to this effect but if it does not, please check your web downloads and double click on the “Model letter S-7” document to open it.
For more details:
Read lawyer Denis Barrette’s testimony here. He has testified on behalf of ICLMG before the Public Safety Committee of the House of Commons against the bill on December 3rd.
Read the Joint Statement against the Reintroduction of Anti-Terrorism Provisions signed by the ICLMG, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA), the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN), the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) and La Ligue des droits et libertés here.