Newspaper article The Canadian Press

As Feds Plan New Anti-Terror Laws, Some Ask Why Current Ones Aren't Being Used

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

As Feds Plan New Anti-Terror Laws, Some Ask Why Current Ones Aren't Being Used

Article excerpt

Anti-terror laws on books not being used


OTTAWA - The Conservative government is expected to give police and spies new tools to fight terrorism as early as next week.

But some point out that anti-terror laws already on the books aren't being fully used to stem the threat of attacks by homegrown radicals.

Under existing provisions, leaving Canada to take part in terrorism abroad is a criminal offence.

In addition, police have the power to make a preventive arrest of anyone suspected of planning a terrorist attack.

They can also require people with information relevant to the investigation of a past or future terrorist act to appear before a judge.

The Conservatives, however, are hinting more powers are needed to make pre-emptive arrests following deadly attacks on soldiers in Ottawa and St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que.

That would come in addition to long-planned legislation that would give the Canadian Security Intelligence Service more power to track terror suspects abroad and provide blanket identity protection for the agency's human sources.

University of Ottawa law professor Craig Forcese said Friday he hopes the government doesn't "rush to introduce a series of new bells and whistles" that don't actually achieve anything.

"All we're hearing from the government is that there's something wrong with the laws. And that's not uncommon," Forcese said. "It's the usual response to a crisis, especially from a federal legislature. There's a reason why the Criminal Code's as thick as it is."

Calm reflection might suggest that successive governments have developed workable anti-terror laws and have spent a lot of time and resources on improved security capabilities, said intelligence historian Wesley Wark.

The Conservatives must evaluate what's already at hand before making legislative changes, Wark said this week.

It's important to understand why police have been reluctant to use the existing pre-emptive measures -- originally brought in after the 9-11 attacks on the United States, said Forcese. …

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