Friday, September 24, 2010

Combating Terrorism Act passes 2nd reading

On the same day the nation was preoccupied with the national Con/Lib competition for votes to kill/preserve the long gun registry, the Libs and Cons got together to slip the Combating Terrorism Act through second reading in the House - 220 votes to 84 in a classic Con/Lib vs NDP/Bloc split -just ten minutes before the long gun vote.

The Libs and Cons may disagree on whether it is either useful or an egregious invasion of privacy and civil liberties that Canadians should have to spend a few minutes registering a long gun online, but when it comes to locking Canadians up for 12 months without a warrant or compelling them to appear before a court based on some anonymous tip, they're both just fine with that.

The right to remain silent, the right not to be jailed without charge, the right to know what the charges are against you - pfft!

In reintroducing Bill C-17 for the third time on Monday - to reinstate provisions from the Anti-terrorism Act of 2001 - Justice Minister Rob Nicholson emphasized a fabulous new feature:
"The key here is that the person required to attend an investigative hearing is treated as a witness, not someone who is accused of a crime."
True, as long as your definition of "witness" includes being arrested if you don't comply and being detained for 72 hours if you do.

But what if you are also suspected of being likely to commit a terrorist crime some time in the future. Well, then :
"a judge can order the person's detention for up to 12 months."
But no worries. A brand new civil rights safety provision in this regurgitated version of 9/11 law stipulates that every 12 months the Attorney General and the Public Safety Minister - that would be Nicholson himself and Vic lock-'em-up Toews respectively - must "provide their opinions, supported by reasons, as to whether the operations of these provisions should be extended."

Liberal critic for Public Safety & National Security Mark Holland made some noises about balancing national security with individual liberty and how :
"the government has completely ignored most of the key recommendations that came from Justice O'Connor [re Maher Arar], which were supported by Justice Iacobucci and were repeated by the RCMP Public Complaints Commissioner Paul Kennedy"
but then two days later, he voted for it along with the rest of the Libs.

There were hours and hours of speeches in the House this Monday and Tuesday :

Lib Marlene Jennings said right off the bat on Monday that the Libs would be voting for C-17 to proceed to committee.

NDP Joe Comartin noted "there is no crime related to terrorism not already included in the Criminal Code."

Bloc Maria Mourani : Arar. CSIS supports info gained via torture. Why would we give them even more secret powers?

NDP Wayne Marston worried we were regressing to pre Magna Carta sensibilities.

Con Colin Carrie accused "the coalition" of being "soft on terror".

Bloc Serge Ménard noted that under the War Measures Act "almost all candidates who ran against Mayor Drapeau [in the Montreal elections] were incarcerated. A law which goes so far as to incarcerate political opponents has already been used once in our history," he said.

NDP Don Davies brought up the "preventative arrest of 1,100 Canadians arrested at G20 for simply walking in the street" and asked why a government so against turning people into criminals for refusing to answer the long form census was at the same time happy to lock people up for refusing to answer questions based merely on suspicions?

Lib Derek Lee said Canadians already don't have the legal right to remain silent. (he's wrong about that.)

NDP Bill Siksay noted that security certificates were intended to expedite deportation of non-citizens yet they have been used instead to jail people for up to eight years without a trial. Slippery slope.

As I said - hours and hours of debate.
But then NDP Libby Davies wondered why there were hundreds of pages in newspapers across the country dealing with the gun registry but not one mention of the debate on the Combating Terrorism Act.

Good question, Libby.
The papers were full of the return of the House and Slagging Period, in which C-17 was not mentioned, yet whenever the Cons and Libs get together to pass something really draconian, like the Canada Colombia FTA or this Bill C-17, suddenly the media loses all interest.

Here's another question. After much initial fanfare about how important this bill is in the fight against 'terrists', and with the Libs onside since June 2009, the Cons have allowed it to languish in limbo for the last 15 months. Now it's the first government order to be put before the House this week. Why is that?


Anonymous said...

I think you answered your own question here. It's all a matter of clever timing. The vote on the CTA was obscured by all the hoopla about the gun registry.

West End Bob said...

The papers were full of the return of the House and Slagging Period, in which C-17 was not mentioned, yet whenever the Cons and Libs get together to pass something really draconian, like the Canada Colombia FTA or this Bill C-17, suddenly the media loses all interest.

But on a more positive note regarding the MSM today, Alison:

The CBC's noon news broadcast did spend one full minute on the potential of Lindsay Lohan going back to jail.

They've got their priorities, you know . . . .

skdadl said...

Brilliant and important post, Alison. I will be mining it in future. Damn their eyes.

Alison said...

Tah, Skdadl. So why no media or bloggy interest in this? Not in the bill, nor the timing. Bah.

Bob : A few hours ago LL was the first Guardian story mentioned on Google News.

Anon : Yup.

Penney said...

permission to reprint? I'm writing as Editor of Straight Goods, Canada's leading independent online newsmagazine. John Baglow works with us sometimes. I found this post on Dawg's Blawg (which I have permission to mine) and was about to post it to SG when I decided to doublecheck. Sure enough, this post is from you, not him. May we use it? We usually run a by-line and short bio. Would that be a problem for you? thanks for your attention and all your great incisive work. cheers, Penney Kome

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