In light of recent events, this week our Government has moved up 3rd reading debate on Bill S-7: Combating Terrorism Act. Although the Liberals have indicated they will be supporting this act, the NDP made the disappointing accusation that the move to bring this act into law in an expedient manner was a political one and in making this comment, ignored the important provisions contained within this act for the benefit of our law enforcement agencies. It should be noted that the Combating Terrorism Bill S-7 is not newly drafted legislation, having been introduced into our current session of Parliament over a year ago and in the previous Parliament as Bill C-17.
Rather than questioning the timing of the debate on Bill S-7, I believe it is more important to discuss the Bill’s contents. Bill S-7 proposes a number of changes to our current Criminal Code that has largely been designed to focus on criminal acts after they have occurred. Bill S-7 recognizes that law enforcement officers need more improved legal tools that will enable them to disrupt planned acts of terrorism before they occur. One of the amendments in this Bill would allow investigative hearings and provide judges with the power to require someone who is believed to have information about a planned act of terrorism, to appear before a court to answer questions. If the person does not comply with the order, the same judge may in turn issue a warrant for their arrest. A similar new provision involves the creation of "recognizance with conditions". This means that in the event law enforcement agencies have reason to believe that terrorist activity will be carried out, application may be made to a judge for the imposition of conditions on suspects that would be necessary to prevent terrorist acts from occurring, including having said suspects appear in person before the court. Having a suspect appear in court allows a judge to consider whether it is desirable to impose reasonable conditions with the burden on government to establish why the requested conditions should be imposed. In the event an individual refused the conditions set by a judge, the court in turn could commit the individual to prison for up to 12 months.
In addition Bill S7 would also create a new offence for leaving or attempting to leave Canada in order to commit terrorism offences. This new offence would also include leaving Canada to participate in a terrorist training camp. Offences in this area could be subject to imprisonment for up to 14 years. In all of the above proposed amendments to the Criminal Code it should also be pointed out that strict conditions would need to be met for any of these tools to be utilized by law enforcement and would include the consent of the Attorney General.
Recent world events including those within United States and Canada have given us all reason to pause and reflect on those who seek to use terror against innocent victims. It is unfortunate that Bills like S-7 are necessary to protect Canadians and keep Canada strong as a nation however, it should not be overlooked that these amendments involve strong judicial oversight for each new measure that is proposed. Canada is a country that follows the rule of law including fair process and judicial overview. In balance I believe these measures will enhance the tools of law enforcement in maintaining public safety with sufficient independent judicial oversight to ensure that the values we hold as Canadians will be maintained. For these reasons, will be voting in support of this Bill.
I welcome your comments and questions on this or any Bill before the House of Commons. I can be reached at 1-800-665-8711 or via email at [email protected]
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.