CAIRO - A new anti-terror law passed earlier this week by Canada's parliament giving security agencies exceptional powers to probe terror plots has been widely criticized by opposition and civil liberty groups as trampling freedoms.
We don't feel this has the proper balance between protecting rights and the things we need to do to prevent terrorism, Randall Garrison, New Democratic Party (NDP) MP, told Toronto Star on Friday, April 26.
Garrison was criticizing the anti-terror legislation passed last Wednesday by the Canadian parliament.
The new measures, contained in Bill S-7, the Combating Terrorism Act, will enable preventive arrests, meaning Canadians can be held for up to three days without charge.
It also opens the door to investigative hearings, where people can be compelled to testify under threat of detention.
Approved by 183-93 vote, the bill was supported by Conservative government along with the Liberals. New Democrats opposed it.
Terrorism and violent extremism are real threats to Canada, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said in a statement.
Bill S-7 will provide additional tools for law enforcement to help in the investigation of terrorism offences and thereby help to protect the safety of Canadians.
Garrison said the government's focus should be on boosting frontline resources, such as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Canada Border Services Agency, which are both being squeezed by shrinking budgets.
He added that the police have conducted successful terror investigations; including Monday's break-up of an alleged plot to attack a Toronto-bound train, without these special powers.
Garrison said the arrests, combined with last week's fatal bombings at the Boston Marathon, have created an emotional backdrop for debate.
I think the government was hoping that at a time of heightened emotions, people might not look so closely at the bill, Garrison said.
We don't need extra legislative measures to do this, Garrison said.
When people are given the resources in law enforcement and security agencies, they can produce the results.
The new law revives preventive arrests and investigative hearings which were introduced by the Liberals in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks.
Renewing these provisions would normalize exceptional powers inconsistent with established democratic principles and threaten hard-won civil liberties, an alliance of civil liberties organizations said in a statement.
The alliance includes the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Every major criminal terrorism-related incident in Canada since 2001 has been disrupted and prevented without the need for preventive detention or investigative hearings, their release added.
Muslims make around 2.8 percent of Canada's 32.8 million population, and Islam is the number one non-Christian faith in the Roman Catholic country.
Following the 9/11 attacks, the Canadian parliament passed tough laws to fight terrorism.
Under one provisions of the laws, police had the power to arrest suspects without a warrant and detain them for three days without charges.
Another provision allowed a judge to compel a witness to testify in secret about past associations or perhaps pending acts under penalty of going to jail if the witness didn't comply.
Last August 2010, the Canadian Prime Minister angered Muslims after associating them with terrorism as well as declaring plans to reintroduce draconian anti-terror powers.