Canada’s proposed anti-terrorism bill C51 passed its second reading on Monday, 23 Feb 2015 with a vote 176-87 in favour of its omnibus legislation. The act would empower law enforcing agencies to arrest somebody if they think a terrorist act ‘may be carried out’ and place them in preventive detention up to seven days. The bill recommends maximum sentence of five years in prison for any act that may promote terrorism. It further permits security officials to go online and challenge the communications sent to those suspected of becoming radicalized.
This new legislation would make it easier for police to detain suspected terrorists before they can harm Canadians. It would also assist national security agencies in preventing non-citizens who pose a threat from entering and remaining in Canada. This law would give the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) the ability to intervene against specific terror plots. This new legislation would provide the courts with the authority to order the takedown of terrorist propaganda – to interfere with terrorists’ efforts to radicalize and recruit others. This legislation would also enable the sharing of information related to national security, across federal departments and agencies, to ensure that authorities can better identify those with terrorist links and intentions. It would also stop them from travelling by air for terrorism purposes.
The terrorists attacks of 9/11 changed the way the world viewed terrorism. The first major terrorists act Canada witnessed was the devastating tragedy of the Air India bombing by the Sikh terrorists that killed 329 people, most of them Canadians.
In Canada, the definition of terrorist activity includes an act or omission undertaken, inside or outside Canada, for a political, religious or ideological purpose that is intended to intimidate the public with respect to its security, including its economic security, or to compel a person, government or organization (whether inside or outside Canada) from doing or refraining from doing any act, and that intentionally causes one of a number of specified forms of serious harm.
The first priority of the Government is to protect Canada and the safety and security of Canadians at home and abroad. Building Resilience Against Terrorism. Canada is not immune from terrorism. A number of international and domestic extremist groups are active in Canada—some engage in terrorist activity in Canada, or support terrorism beyond Canada’s borders. Some have worked to manipulate or coerce members of Canadian society into advancing extremist causes hostile to Canada’s peace, order and good government.
Today violent Islamist extremism is the leading threat to Canada’s national security. Several Islamist extremist groups have declared Canada as one of their targets. This includes Al Qaida affiliates and ISIS from abroad to homegrown Islamist extremists posing a threat of violence within Canada.
Threats are also posed by Canadians who support violent conflicts abroad, or by foreigners in Canada interested in using Canada for refuge, financing, recruitment or other forms of support. Canada has listed under the Criminal Code more than 40 terrorist entities that are considered a threat, having either knowingly engaged in or facilitated international terrorism. These entities include the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the Euskadi ta Askatasuna (ETA), the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT), Hamas and Hizballah.
The Canadian laws have been shaped by a deep attachment to democracy, the rule of law, respect for human rights and pluralism. Canada is an open-minded multi-cultural society which rejects intolerance and violent extremism. Security and laws coded to ensure security of the country will depend upon a respect for these values. When these are compromised, the safety and survival of every citizen would come under threat.
Extremism has many sources – from individuals to a diverse range of groups, who either actively participate in or who support violent extremist activities. Hence there is a need for identifying and isolating such individuals and groups. To achieve this, building partnerships with groups and individuals in Canadian communities must be the first step. This would facilitate in a better understanding of the communities and foster much better confidence in the security agencies. It would facilitate in implementing preventative and intervention methods to stop the process of radicalization leading to violence.
To succeed, the Government’s counter-terrorism efforts cannot be limited to operations to contain these groups or individuals involved in terrorist activities. They must also be reinforced by preventive measures, aimed at keeping vulnerable individuals from being drawn into terrorism. These measures call for a focus on individual motivations, and other factors contributing to recruitment into terrorist activities.
To effectively counter violent extremism, a culture of openness must exist between citizens and government. This will require the Government to share knowledge with Canadians about the nature of the terrorist threat. This would ensure better understanding of the need for these actions and develop better and effective responses. Every citizen has a responsibility to act—a responsibility to work with Government and security personnel, and a responsibility to build strong and supportive local communities. Only when these tasks are shared will a truly resilient Canada be achieved.
Capturing of biometric data, such as fingerprints and photographs, in the visa issuing process will accurately verify the identity and travel documents of foreign nationals who enter Canada. This will enhance the integrity of existing immigration programs by preventing criminals from entering Canada and facilitating the processing of legitimate applicants.
It will never be possible to stop all terrorist attacks. Nevertheless, Canadians can expect that their Government will take every reasonable step to prevent individuals from turning to terrorism, to detect terrorists and their activities, to deny terrorists the means and opportunities to attack and, when attacks do occur, to respond expertly, rapidly and proportionately.
The terrorist threat has evolved over the years, and Canada now faces ever more decentralized and diverse threats. This indicates that Canada’s Strategy must be adaptable and forward-looking—not just to react to emerging threats but to identify and understand emerging trends.