In 2015, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government passed a draconian Anti-Terrorism Act which has had a negative effect over Canadians’ constitutional rights. Here are a half-dozen ways:
- The new law defines threats to the “security of Canada” so broadly that it gives Ottawa the power to secretly define almost any activity as a threat. This impedes freedom of expression and freedom of association.
- The law authorizes Federal Court judges to issue warrants from secret hearings letting Canada’s spy agency violate Canadian law and the Constitution.
- With its overbroad and legally vague provision banning the advocacy or promotion of “terrorism offences in general,” the law criminalizes constitutionally protected free speech and other communications.
- The law lets Canada’s spies, the RCMP and border agents share our personal information with other government agencies without our knowledge, putting personal privacy and data at risk.
- The law makes it easier to detain people on security certificates by allowing the government to withhold information from the special advocates who defend their interests.
- Officials are allowed to add people to the no-fly list on mere suspicion.
It is reasons such as these that the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and Canadian Journalists for Free Expression are putting up challenges. They have just asked Ontario Superior Court to declare these and other unsavoury aspects of the law unconstitutional.
The Harper government has failed to justify the need for so hugely flawed a set of laws. “It creates broad and dangerous new powers, without commensurate accountability, and this can result in serious mistakes,” warns Sukanya Pillay, the CCLA’s executive director.
After the recent attack on Parliament and other outrages, no one suggests that Canadians should be blind to the threats we face. But Ottawa spends $6 billion a year on security services, prisons and the like. The authorities don’t lack the tools, the budgets or the staff to keep us safe. We shouldn’t have to surrender our rights as well.
Before the new law was passed the police neutralized the so-called Toronto 18 who wanted to bomb targets in Toronto, the VIA Rail/Amtrack plotters and the duo who planned to bomb the British Columbia legislature, to cite just three high-profile cases. All of this was achieved without criminalizing free speech, co-opting judges or jailing people on mere suspicion.
Source: The Star