Making sense of what happened
What to consider and question in the wake of Ottawa
Jean Chretien’s Liberals introduced the Canadian Anti-Terrorism Act in the wake of the attacks of 11 September 2001. The act named groups as “terrorist entities,” created a legal definition of terrorism, and provided penalties for those inciting others to commit so-called terrorist acts.
In direct contradiction of Stephen Harper’s words on Oct. 22, “We will not be intimidated. Canada will never be intimidated,” it seems the Prime Minister’s Office has been intimidated. RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson said on Oct. 23, “Now we have adopted a condition where we will stay with the prime minister in his protective detail 24/7, no matter where he is,” at an Ottawa press conference.
The Carillon spoke with Dr. Lee Ward of Campion College about the nature of Canadian domestic security legislation and how that relates to the attack on the Parliament building on Oct 22.
The 2001 act was modified by Parliament last year.
“The basic structure has remained intact, although the Conservative government under Harper added new elements to it last year. One of them is a different kind of investigative hearing process where witnesses would be compelled to testify or face charges, themselves. The controversy here was the secrecy surrounding these hearings.”
The Canadian state’s decision to monitor an individual as a potential terrorist hinges on a number of factors, “It’s primarily intelligence work that determines that – membership in certain groups or chat rooms. Also your travel patterns – if you have travelled to various hot zones in the world with no other non-suspicious business there, it will raise some suspicions.”
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was introduced in 1982. Many cannot help but wonder if this kind of legislation contradicts the spirit or legality of Canada’s existing human rights legislation, “There are some questions about whether detention, the secret hearings, and investigative process violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is really the most important document. I don’t know if it means the same as prior to 1982. Since 1982, with the Charter, the rights of the accused took on new meaning. There is some question with respect to security certificates and whether it breeches the Charter, although to my knowledge, there is no case where the court has ruled that the updated versions of the acts were unconstitutional.” Said Ward.
In the wake of this, several Canadians have had their passports and legal status revoked.
“I think there were ninety suspects who have had their passports either taken away or denied – they effectively can’t travel.” Ward said.
“You have to have some kind of due process for that.”
“The other interesting and controversial aspect of the updated legislation was the move to anticipate terrorist actions.” Ward explained. “In particular, to seize travel documents from Canadians suspected of going overseas, even though they haven’t actually committed a terrorist act in Canada – and it’s built on suspicion.”
This suspicion was enough to alert authorities to Michael Zehaf-Bibeau’s attempts to get both a Canadian passport and a Libyan one. Also, Martin Couture-Rouleau, the assailant in the hit-and-run involving two Canadian soldiers, had his passport seized by the government.
It remains to be seen what will be done by the Canadian state in the wake of last week’s events. There is little question that governments have capitalized on events such as this to introduce repressive legislation under the guise of preventing future incidents.