POLITICS

Anti-terrorism powers: What's in today's legislation?

01/30/2015 01:25 EST | Updated 04/01/2015 05:59 EDT
Canada's government today introduced its new anti-terror legislation, a sweeping range of measures inspired by an attack on two soldiers in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., and in Ottawa at the National War Memorial and on Parliament Hill in October.

Despite the strength of the proposed new powers, however, officials at a briefing weren't able to say which measures would have prevented the attacks. Prime Minister Stephen Harper would only say that the police would have had "more and better" tools had they had these measures. 

1. Lower the threshold for arrest

The new measures would let law enforcement agencies arrest somebody if they think a terrorist act "may be carried out," instead of the current standard of "will be carried out." It would also increase the period of preventive detention from three days to seven.

Another measure would provide for a terrorism peace bond that would detain someone on a peace bond if the police believe that person "may commit" a terrorism offence. The current provision allows for a peace bond on someone the police think "will commit" a terrorism offence.

A peace bond under the new measures would require the person to surrender a passport and would apply for five years if that person had been previously convicted of a terrorism offence.

It would further sever the terrorism peace bond from the organized crime peace bond provision in the Criminal Code.

The bill would also impose a requirement on judges to consider imposing conditions on the person, including passport surrender, electronic monitoring or not leaving the jurisdiction.

2. CSIS could 'counter-message' or 'disrupt' activities

The bill would also give CSIS the ability to "counter-message" or "disrupt" radical websites and Twitter accounts, whether in Canada or elsewhere.

That means security officials could go online to challenge the online communications sent to those suspected of becoming radicalized. That includes interfering with travel plans and financial transactions or intercepting goods, according to background documents.

If there were a threat to the subject’s legal rights, a court order would be needed – if it involves a Canadian or permanent resident. For non-Canadians outside the country, officials said it would depend on a legal analysis of the situation.

One example of disruption would be to interrupt a phone call between subjects. It could also mean CSIS could involve a subject's family and friends in deterring that person from participating in terrorism and inform the RCMP of its suspicions. However, there is no definition of "to disrupt" in the legislation, leaving it open to interpretation.

3. Remove terrorist material from the internet

The "seizure of terrorist propaganda" measure would let officials apply to a court to order the seizure, or force a website to remove, "any materials that promote or encourage acts of terrorism against Canadians in general, or the commission of a specific attack against Canadians," according to background material provided to journalists.

This would expand a measure that currently allows a court to order the removal of child pornography and hate propaganda. However, the information provided at the background briefing did not say specifically which officials would be able to apply for the order – whether it would be CSIS, police or other officials.

The consent of the attorney general would be necessary for the court to consider the request.

4. Allow for court proceedings to be sealed

Currently, Division 9 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act allows the government to ask the court to protect classified information in immigration proceedings to protect investigation techniques and witnesses. But that application comes at the end of a proceeding. The measure would allow the government to ask for proceedings to be sealed at any point in the process.