February 17, 2012

Government of Canada Strengthens Counter-Terrorism Legislation

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Feb. 15, 2012, 2:20 p.m. EST
OTTAWA, ONTARIO, Feb 15, 2012 (MARKETWIRE via COMTEX) -- The Government of Canada today introduced amendments to the Criminal Code that would ensure that Canada has the tools it needs to combat crime and terrorism and protect its citizens.
"Our Government remains committed to keeping our streets and communities safe. Terrorism will continue to be a threat for the foreseeable future," said the Honourable Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Niagara Falls, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. "The Government needs to provide law enforcement officers with the means to anticipate and respond effectively to terrorism."
"These important amendments will compliment the Counter-Terrorism Strategy announced last week," said the Honourable Vic Toews, Minister of Public Safety.
"The Strategy explains how we work with our partners at home and abroad to prevent individuals from turning to terrorism, to detect threats as early as possible, to deny terrorists the means and opportunities to attack, and to respond rapidly and effectively should an incident occur."
The provisions of the Combating Terrorism Act (Bill C-17 from the previous Parliament), which proposed to re-enact the investigative hearings and recognizance with conditions measures, are being re-introduced. New offences of leaving or attempting to leave Canada to commit a terrorism offence are also being proposed.
Holding an investigative hearing would allow the Courts to compel a witness who may have information regarding a terrorism offence to appear in court and provide information. The proposed recognizance with conditions provision would require a person to enter into an agreement before a judge to abide by certain conditions, in order to prevent the carrying out of a terrorist activity. These proposed amendments, which expand upon the many safeguards contained in the original Act, are designed to help disrupt plans and preparations for terrorist attacks and investigate past acts of terrorism.
The new offences of leaving Canada, or attempting to leave Canada, to commit a terrorism offence are intended to deter persons from leaving Canada to attend terrorist training camps or engage in other terrorist activity abroad.
Some of the proposed amendments fulfill Parliamentary recommendations that were made following the Parliamentary review of the Anti-Terrorism Act.
An online version of the legislation can be found at www.parl.gc.ca .
Building Resilience Against Terrorism: Canada's Counter-Terrorism Strategy can be found at www.publicsafety.gc.ca .
Internet: www.canada.justice.gc.ca
(Version francaise disponible)
BACKGROUNDER:
STRENGHENING COUNTER-TERRORISM LEGISLATION
Canada's counter-terrorism framework will be strengthened by amending the Criminal Code to provide strong judicial tools that will help fight terrorism and safeguard Canada's national security.
Criminal law is largely designed to prosecute those responsible for acts that have already occurred. This approach is often inadequate when dealing with acts of terrorism which are aimed at creating fear and social instability by targeting the general population and institutions. The focus of these amendments is on helping law enforcement officers disrupt planned terrorist attacks before they occur.
Proposed legislation will reintroduce provisions from the Combating Terrorism Act (Bill C-17 from the previous Parliament), to re-enact the investigative hearing and recognizance-with-conditions measures. These two provisions expired in 2007 and subsequent bills that were introduced to re-enact these provisions died on the Order Paper at the dissolution of Parliament. Also being proposed are new offences of leaving or attempting to leave Canada to commit a terrorism offence.
Investigative Hearings
This provision seeks to re-enact the power to hold investigative hearings. The investigative hearing provision is not designed to charge or convict an individual with a criminal offence, but to facilitate the gathering of information that may be relevant to the investigation of past or future terrorism offences. This would give a judge the power, on application by a peace officer, to require someone who is believed to have information about a terrorism offence that has been, or may be, committed, to appear before the court to answer questions. If the person does not comply with the order, the same judge may issue a warrant for their arrest.
Recognizance with Conditions
The recognizance-with-conditions measure would assist law enforcement in disrupting terrorist attacks. For example, if a peace officer believes on reasonable grounds that a terrorist activity will be carried out, and suspects on reasonable grounds that the imposition of recognizance with conditions on a particular person would be necessary to prevent that from happening, then the officer could apply to a judge to have the person appear before the court.
Bringing the person before the court allows the judge to consider whether it is desirable to impose reasonable conditions on him or her. The court could impose such conditions or could release the person without conditions. The burden would be on the government to show why conditions should be imposed. If the person refuses to accept conditions, the court could commit him or her to prison for up to 12 months.
Procedural Safeguards
The use of investigative hearings and recognizance with conditions would be available under strictly defined conditions, and subject to numerous procedural safeguards. For example, the investigative hearing would (a) require the consent of the Attorney General; (b) provide the person compelled to appear in court with the ability to retain and instruct counsel at any stage of the proceedings; (c) require that reasonable attempts first be made to obtain the information by other means and (d) make the information provided by the person, or anything derived from that information, generally inadmissible against them in any criminal proceeding. By applying the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court of Canada, the last safeguard would also apply to extradition and deportation proceedings. In addition, the proposed legislation would set out clear limits on how long a judge could detain an uncooperative witness.
The use of the recognizance-with-conditions provision would also be available under strictly defined conditions and would be subject to numerous procedural safeguards, including requiring the consent of the Attorney General.
The investigative hearing and recognizance-with-conditions provision would be scheduled to expire or "sunset" after five years, subject to renewal by Parliament. The annual reporting requirements for both of these provisions would also require the Attorney General of Canada and the Minister of Public Safety to provide their opinion, supported by reasons, on whether these provisions should be extended.
Leaving Canada to Commit a Terrorism Offence
The bill proposes the creation of new offences for leaving or attempting to leave Canada for the purpose of committing a terrorism offence. For example, leaving Canada to participate in the activity of a terrorist group, such as attending a terrorist training camp, would become a specific criminal offence. The proposed maximum penalty for this offence, or an attempt to commit this offence, would be 10 years imprisonment.
Other offences of leaving Canada to facilitate a terrorist activity, leaving Canada to commit an offence for the benefit of a terrorist group and leaving Canada to commit an offence that is also a terrorist activity would all carry a maximum penalty of 14 years.
These new measures are intended to prevent a person from leaving the country to participate in terrorist activities or to commit an offence for a terrorist group.
Contacts:
Office of the Minister of Justice
Julie Di Mambro
Press Secretary
613-992-4621
Department of Justice
Media Relations
613-957-4207
Public Safety Canada
Media Relations
613-991-0657
SOURCE: Department of Justice Canada
read more:
http://www.marketwatch.com/story/government-of-canada-strengthens-counter-terrorism-legislation-2012-02-15
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